October 1836: Duncan Allez of the Anglo-Spanish Legion
A letter from the Star, October 31, 1836, describing a skirmish at Emetza. The Adjutant-General of this Legion at this time was Gaspard Le Marchant, son of Major General John Gaspard Le Marchant, and it is presumably he who had his horse killed under him, as the letter describes. The Priaulx Library recently acquired an Order Book of this regiment which covers the period during which the Legion was at San Sebastian, a town on the north coast of Spain; Le Marchant signs all the orders. The Anglo-Spanish Legion was a voluntary force put together by the British army at the request of the Spanish to help them in a civil war which arose because of a contested succession to the Spanish throne. The Orders in our book are dated 4 Jun 1836, until 30 March 1837 and are all issued from San Sebastian.
The following letter, from Mr Duncan Allez, (son of Mr John Allez, of this island), who is at present Lieut. 4th Regiment of the Anglo-Spanish Legion, was received here by yesterday’s packet. It will no doubt prove interesting to most of our readers:
SAN SEBASTIAN, October 8th, 1836.
My dearest friend—You see that I have not forgot to write to you, indeed I could not neglect the opportunity of giving you some information with respect to the last engagement. The Emetza is a large hill occupied by the enemy: we, the 4th regiment, are stationed pistol shot from it. We generally get one or more of our men knocked off in the course of the day, for the moment we show ourselves at our breastworks we get a hundred shots whizzing in our ears and sometimes in our heads.
On Saturday, the 1st October, the enemy opened a tremendous cannonading in our Picket House; they took us by surprise, for during the night they brought four heavy pieces of artillery on the Emetza, and before the Legion had time to come up they had actually battered the house about the pickets’ ears. They might have come into the house at all quarters. But the intrepidity of the Englishmen withstood their charge; it was a party of the third or Westminster Grenadiers who maintained this place of importance, while the brains, legs, arms, &c. &c lay scattered about the rooms in every direction. This, thank God, was our heaviest loss. Lieut. Jackson of the 3rd was shot dead. It was at this time we relieved the 3rd in their house, and the sight of the place was appalling. I had the honour of commanding a company on the occasion, and that company was one of the two that relieved the third regiment.
We had hardly been in the square of the yard when we got on the breastwork.—Captain Askey and myself standing on a large cask. We had not been there more than a minute when a cannon shot (a 32 pounder) struck the cask and sent Captain Askey and myself flying into the ditch. Captain A. was very severely hurt, but I escaped with a few bruises. The same ball killed three men belonging to my company, and then went through our adjutant’s horse. He was sitting on his back at the time, and escaped without an injury, the ball having taken his horse’s head off, entered his chest and came out of his rump, bursting the girts of the saddle as it passed through him. Thank God for that escape. To return to the skirmish—the 8th, 9th, 10th and Rifles were as hard at it as they could for a couple of hours. The men of the Legion take the shine out of the Spaniards altogether; 100 of our men took a hill where 200 Spaniards had been driven from. We lost several officers killed and wounded. The Officer commanding our Rocket Brigade was shot dead while pointing a rocket. The firing had nearly ceased by two o’clock, and the Carlists had taken their guns from the hill. Their intention that day was to have driven us in to the sea. What a mistake. They were totally defeated in their intention.
The loss of the Legion and Spanish that day was 240 killed and wounded. One of the enemy’s bulletins fell into our hands, and they state their loss at 750 killed and wounded. Among the killed the Carlists had 1 Brigadier-General, 2 Colonels, 2 Lieut.-Colonels, and 50 other officers of different ranks. News has just reached us that VILLAREAL, a Carlist chieftain, is advancing on St Sebastian, with 20,000 men.
My brother and I are very well.
I remain your most sincere and affectionate friend,
D. ALLEZ, Lieutenant, 4th Regiment, Queens’ Own Fusiliers.