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To Lt. Nathan Mitchell, HMS Courageous

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To Lt. Nathan Mitchell, HMS Courageous

Post  Edward Torrington on Sat Sep 17, 2011 7:44 am

June, 13th, 1809
Field camp, 3 Coy, 5/60th Rifles

My dear Mitchell,

Your appreciation of her food basket was duly conveyed to my mother. Expect to receive another one when next you put into Portsmouth. Please accept it gracefully: She will greatly appreciate any opportunity to help speed this war along, even if it is only by directing cook to prepare and pack a couple of things for some gluttonous sailors. I directed her to have all letters, packages and supplies send to the Crown and Bell; I would of course be eternally grateful if you would not only take your food along, but my letters as well.

I've acquired a batman. He's a most absurd creature and makes me feel a hundred years old. If he isn't on duty with his company, he's constantly brushing, polishing or cleaning up. I certainly have the best-groomed horse in the regiment and sometimes I wonder whether I should develop some untidy habits just to give him a broader scope for his talents. He also cooks splendidly and shares my mother's belief that I need to be fattened like a goose before St. Michael. If he goes on like this, sooner or later both my nerves and his health will be in ruins. I will need to temper him down a notch or two, but at the moment I'm still at a loss on how to do it.

On my first morning here, he had everything prepared for me to break fast, wash and shave even before I was properly awake. Thinking that he surely not had eaten himself yet and must be ravenous by now, I thanked him and told him to go off and get some breakfast himself. It took a moment for him to understand - his English is still rather patchy and my German no better, although I hope that both will change soon - and then such a look of despair came into his face, it would have been almost comical if it hadn't been so heart-wrenching.
He didn't say anything, just started to slink out like a beaten puppy, and I was at a complete loss what I might have done. The only thing I could think of was that it had been some misunderstanding, so I called him back. In the course of the following, rather ragged conversation I had extracted and understood the confession that he had believed I hadn't liked what he had done as a batman so far.

With some effort I set him right on that score; future study of his reactions since then have revealed that either he is terrified of me and thinks me a cruel master who will find fault with everything and have him flogged for the smallest reason, or that he really believes that he can only be an adequate batman if he works himself to death. I seem to be unable to make him understand that both would not be to my credit and that I would prefer neither to happen. I'm nearly desperate enough to ask my mother for advice.

My work here appears to be mainly survey (although the quartermaster has been unable to supply a proper theodolite) and reconnaissance at the moment. I'm drawing up one or two small proposals for Cpt. Vickery to consider, he being the commanding officer of the company I'm attached to; but these are only minor improvements of the camp's defences. There is little use for larger measures at the moment, as we still do not know whether we'll have to retire further, fight on the spot or advance again. Plans for each case are of course under preparation.

The brief infantry training we engineers get is really rather inadequate, it would seem. For nearly everything the rifles have another and better way of doing it. Fortunately some of them seem to be willing to overlook my two grave deficiencies of being an officer and having only been trained in the line.

My watch tells me that I have to suspend the pleasure of writing to you. I have invited a fellow officer to dinner, a guardsman I had met in London before. He came into the camp yesterday at the same time as I did, after a serious encounter with some French troops.







Last edited by Edward Torrington on Sat Sep 17, 2011 8:27 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : killed an unnecessary d.)

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