Sunday, March 30

Waters escape - «He would not be long absent!»

Massena entered Portugal with sixty-five thousand men, his reenforcements while at Santarem were about ten thousand, and he repassed the frontier with forty-five thousand ; hence the invasion of Portugal cost him about thirty thousand men, of which fourteen thousand might have fallen by the sword or been taken.
Not more than six thousand were lost during the retreat; but had Lord Wellington, unrestrained by political considerations, attacked him vigorously at Redinha, Condeixa, Casal Nova, and Miranda de Corvo, half the French army would have been lost. It is unquestionable that a retreating army should fight as little as possible.

When the French reached the Agueda, their cavalry detachments, heavy artillery, and convalescents, again augmented the army to more than fifty thousand men, but the fatigues of the retreat and the want of provisions would not suffer them to show a front to the allies; wherefore, drawing two hundred thousand rations from Ciudad, they fell back to Salamanca, and Lord Wellington invested Almeida.
The light division occupied Gallegos and Espeja, the rest of the army were disposed in villages on both sides of the Coa, and the head-quarters were transferred to Villa Formosa.

Here Colonel Waters, who had been taken near Belmonte during the retreat, rejoined the army. Confident in his own resources, he had refused his parole, and, when carried to Ciudad Rodrigo, rashly mentioned his intention of escaping to the Spaniard in whose house he was lodged.
This man betrayed him, but a servant, detesting his master's treachery, secretly offered his aid; Waters only desired him to get the rowels of his spurs sharpened, and when the French army was near Salamanca, he being in the custody of gendarmes, waited until their chief, who rode the only good horse in the party, had alighted, then giving the spur to his own beast, galloped off!

An act of incredible resolution and hardihood, for he was on a large plain, and before him, and for miles behind him, the road was covered with the French columns.

His hat fell off, and, thus distinguished, he rode along the flank of the troops, some encouraging him, others firing at him, and the gendarmes, sword in hand, close at his heels; nevertheless he broke at full speed, between two columns, gained a wooded hollow, and, having baffled his pursuers, evaded the rear of the enemy's army.

The third day he reached head-quarters, where Lord Wellington had caused his baggage to be brought, observing that he would not be long absent!

History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France
from A.D. 1807 to A.D. 1814
By Sir William Francis Patrick Napier

«Send me Waters»


 The Duke held Waters in the highest estimation; and, whenever any important information during the Peninsular war, as to the movements of the French, was required, the services of the gallant Waters were appealed to. It was his report of the motions of the French army that led to the battle of Bussaco.

 It was Waters whom the Duke asked, when on the opposite side of the Douro, if he thought he could cross the river and see how matters stood with the French, then in possession of Oporto. No sooner said than done. Waters got a boat of some sort, worked himself across and returned with an additional boat; and, with this small beginning, the Duke, at a lower part of the river, got over a sufficient force to drive the French out of the city.

 On another occasion it was reported at head quarters that Waters was captured, to which the Duke replied, "Waters will join us ; I know him too well. Bring on his baggage. "The Duke was right ; for, that same day, Waters was seen galloping into camp, bare-headed.

John Waters of the Royal Scots was known as a wily and capable man
behind enemy lines. Despite his skill and stealth, he was caught by the
French and given up for dead by his regiment.
When Wellington was told about his capture and probable execution, he
delayed the usual splitting up of a lost soldier's personal possessions,
saying that "Waters would be back and would want his things."
Wellington was right, for Waters eventually returned. 


 At the end of May, or the beginning of June, 1815, a letter was received at the Horse Guards by one of the officials, from his Grace, at Brussels, in which he says, "Send me Waters;" and in a postscript to the same letter, " Be sure to send me Waters." Accordingly, a messenger was despatched to his club, to ask for Colonel Waters' address. The only information that could be obtained was, that the gallant colonel was fishing somewhere in Wales, but the whereabouts unknown. The messenger was then despatched to the residence of his brother, the late Mr. Edward Waters. The same answer, "Fishing in Wales;" but no address. Application was next made to his brother-in-law, the late Mr. Bainbridgo, a banker: a similar reply. Fortunately, however, the weather in Wales became unpropitious for his piscatory enjoyments. He wended his way slowly to London, where he found note after note awaiting his arrival, to go down immediately to the Horse Guards. The precise day we forget, but it was close upon that which led to a thirty-seven years' peace. The duke's note was skimmed over by Waters; and that night saw him off to his illustrious chief, arriving in time to act as deputy adjutant-general of the forces, and signing the returns of the killed and wounded at Waterloo, being himself one of the latter.

  in Wellington anecdotes