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PTE JOHN GREEN

Private John Green served with the 68th Light infantry in the battle against Napoleon's forces in Spain. He published his reminiscences in 1827. This extract describes what happened after he was wounded at St Sebastian in August 1813.

The enemy having obtained a strong reinforcement, now advanced in close column, their drums beating in order to keep them together. We again retreated, and I narrowly escaped being taken prisoner; for I was almost exhausted with running. As we retreated, we kept up a steady and welt-directed fire, and gained the summit of the hill in good order, not having a single man taken prisoner ... I had only fired one shot, when a ball struck me, entering my left side, a little below my heart. At first, I felt nothing; in about ten seconds, however, I fell to the ground, turned sick and faint, and expected. Every moment to expire having an intolerable burning pain in my left side Mr. Raid, our regimental surgeon , came to me, and ran his little finger into my side, to clear it of any substance that might be lodged in the wound. 1 cried aloud by reason of the pain it occasioned. "Silence!" said the surgeon, "it is for your good." The ball could not be extracted. A little dry lint was put over the, wound, and a bandage bound tight round my body: my clothes were put on, and I was laid on the ground, but was so full of pain, that I could not rest more than two minutes in any one posture ... In the afternoon, an old soldier, who had been used to the hospitals, came round and dressed our wounds: the old man did very well, for after he had dressed my wound I seemed easier. We sent a man to headquarters, to draw ' provisions, and procure medical assistance: he returned -on the 3 rd September with our bread and meat, but had drunk and sold the rum: had he been with the regiment, he would have paid dear for his base conduct. A surgeon arrived with thirty mules to carry us to the general hospital: he dressed our wounds, and then gave orders for us to march at two o'clock in the afternoon. This being the fourth day since we had been wo unded, our wounds were very sore: some were crying by reason of excessive pain in their fractured limbs. As for myself; I wept like a child. We were the worst off in descending the mountains: the mules slide down for three or four yards together; and how I got to the end of my journey I can scarcely tell... Our sufferings while descending these lofty hills were indescribable: I really never expected to reach the bottom alive; it was like cutting my body to pieces. I cried, screamed, prayed and wished to die: my companions were in the same way; some were praying others weeping and moaning; and we presented a scene of the completest misery and wretchedness. We at length arrived at the bottom of the mountains, and were quartered at General Graham's headquarters, where, we had again to lie on the bare floor without a covering. Here we heard of the fall of St. Sebastian: it was taken by storm. On the 31st of August, the very day on which I was wounded, after a severe conflict. After remaining a short time in the hospital, I was put into a ward, consisting of fifteen wounded men belonging to different regiments: nothing could exceed the miserable appearance of the patients, for some of us were almost lost with vermin, not having been able to clean ourselves for several days. Everyman had a kind of bed made of two biscuit-bags sewed together, and filled with fern, or what we call brackens, which was very comfortable in comparison with what we had been accustomed to. On the 8th of September the hospital stores arrived from England, and we were served out with everything that could conduce to our comfort and health. Each man was provided with a harden bed-tick filled with straw, two blankets, one pair of sheets and one mug; this happy change caused us partly to forget our late misfortunes.

John Green, Vicissitudes of a Soldier's Life

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