Allied Headquarters, 1812
Whilst marching to Portugal to a position which commands the approach to
Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying
with your requests which have been sent by H.M. ship from London to Lisbon
and then by dispatch rider to our headquarters.
We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all
manner of sundry items for which His Majesty’s Government holds me
accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, and spleen of
every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two
regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.
Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for
in one infantry battalion’s petty cash and there has been a hideous
confusion as to the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry
regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This reprehensive carelessness
may be related to the pressure of circumstance since we are at war with
France, a fact which maycome as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in
This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my
instructions from His Majesty’s Government, so that I may better understand
why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce
it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue
either one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both.
1. To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of
the accountant and copy boys in London or, perchance,
2. To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.
Your most obedient servant,