July 21 1812: Harry's Wife's Horse

On July 21, 1812, Henry ("Harry") George Wakelyn Smith is preoccupied with his wife's horse, as they both cross the Tormes. Earlier in the year, he had married fourteen year old Juana Maria de Los Dolores de León. She is accompanying him as the army prepares for battle in Salamanca. Harry writes:

My wife could not ride in the least at first, and oh, the difficulty I had! although she had frequently ridden a donkey on her pilgrimage to Olivença, once to avoid the siege of Badajos, and at other times to her grandmother's at Almendrajos. However, ever, I had one of my saddles turned into a side-saddle most ably by a soldier of Ross's Troop of Horse Artillery, and at first made her ride a great brute of a Portuguese horse I had; but she so rapidly improved, took such pains, had so much practice and naturally good nerves, that she soon got ashamed of her Portuguese horse, and wanted to ride my Spanish little fellow, who had so nobly carried me at Redinha and in many other fights. I always said, "When you can ride as well as you can dance and sing, you shall," for in those accomplishments she was perfect. In crossing the Tormes [21 July], the very night before the battle of Salamanca (there are quicksands in the river), her Portuguese horse was so cowardly he alarmed me, and hardly had we crossed the river when a clap of thunder, louder than anything that can be described, burst over our heads. The Portuguese horse was in such a funk, she abjured all Portuguese, and insisted hereafter on riding her own gallant countryman, as gallant as any Arab. He was an Andalusian, which is a thorough-bred descendant of the Moosul horse, which is literally an Arab. The next day she mounted her Tiny, and rode him ever afterwards over many an eventful field, until the end of the war at Toulouse. She had him afterwards at my father's house. The affection between them was of the character of that between spaniel and master. The dear, gallant horse lived to twenty-nine years of age, and died a happy pensioner on my brother Charles's estate.


The autobiography of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith, baronet of Aliwal on the Sutlej, G.C.B. by Sir Henry (Harry) George Wakelyn Smith (1788-1860). Ed. with the addition of some supplementary chapters by George Charles Moore Smith (1858-1940). London: J. Murray, 1903)at chapter VIII

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