Copyright © 2016
Thomas was awakened by the sound of the Sergeant Major outside his tent. Hurriedly he put on his pants and vest and walked outside. The Sergeant Major was standing and watching Carmelo and the boys working on the small fire with Thomas cafe and breakfast.
"Ah yes Drum Corporal. Word has come that the General will see you at 9 of the clock. Tell me Corporal, what is that the boys are making?"
Thomas glanced over at the fire.
"Umm. My breakfast Sergeant Major."
"Not the food Corporal, that drink. It smells right nice at this hour of the morning."
"Would you like to join me Sergeant Major?"
"That's right kindly of you Corporal. I have little to do just now and it does smell right nice. What do they call it?"
"Carmelo told me the Spanish call it 'cafe'. It is very good for waking up in the morning."
"Hmm...cafe, eh. I will have to look into that closer."
Thomas called for Carmelo to bring an extra cafe for the Sergeant Major. He noticed that Carmelo did not forget to add his white cubes and a shot from his ever full flask.
Thomas watched the Sergeant Major take the fist sip. The look on the older man's face said it all and the smile widened as the Sergeant Major took a second and deeper swallow.
"Now that, Corporal, is the way to wake a man in the morning. Right lucky you is to have these boys."
"Yes Sergeant Major. I am truly beginning to realise that. Sergeant Major, I have not seen Corporal Creasy around today. I noticed his tent was empty last night before bed."
"Ah, Corporal, unfortunately Corporal Creasy fell at the crest yesterday. We will sadly miss him. It was a day the devil worked his magic. We lost many good men and true to the guns yesterday. I have heard it said that some heads may roll after the losses were counted. I am told we will be in camp here for a little while waiting for reinforcements before we move against the French again."
"That's sad to hear Sergeant Major. He was a good friend to me."
"Well Corporal, there is something the men would like me to ask you."
"Of course Sergeant Major. I will do what I can if it will help."
"Well you see it's like this Corporal. It has been some time since the men have had good fresh meat. Now some have noticed that your Spanish boys seem to find fresh meat for each day. Now don't get me wrong, there is no jealousy in the ranks. You got your boys fair and square. Now what the men were wondering, that, if they were to put a little coin together, do you think those boys of yours might find a little fresh meat that is not horse meat. You well know how tough that can be or perhaps a good bird or two. It would like break up the slop the army serves for a change."
"I will look into it Sergeant Major and the men of the 33rd certainly do not need to worry about coin. I am sure the boys would be glad to help. I will ask Carmelo and see what he can do for you."
"You're a good lad Corporal. Much like your Da was. He would be right proud of you he would."
The Sergeant Major finished his cafe and then nodded to Thomas and walked back to the main lines of the troops. It was time for Thomas to eat and dress for the Officers. The General would not want him to be late.
Thomas arrived at the General's tent on the dot. Captain Lewis was waiting outside for him and showed him inside immediately. Thomas was surprised to once again see the General alone except for a short rotund man sitting off to the side. Thomas had seen the man before. He had been the one talking to Lieutenant Grey the few times Thomas had seen him.
Thomas marched up to the table and gave his best form of attention and then saluted.
"Drum Corporal Marking reporting as ordered Sir."
"At ease Drum Corporal. Now let me hear about this defence of yours. It was a damn fine job Drum Corporal. I have grown men in the ranks that could not have done better. You saved a lot of lives with your actions."
"Thank you Sir, but we were just doing our duty, Sir."
"Duty! Bosh, you are drummers and yet you stood against some of Napoleons finest and defeated them with cunning and tactics. Now continue with your report Drum Corporal."
Thomas gave his personal report, explaining what he was thinking and how he came up with some of his ideas. At the end of it, the General sat and thought for a little and often glanced over at the impassive face of the strange civilian who had made no comment as Thomas gave his report.
Finally the General, again after glancing at the rotund man, said to Thomas.
"Well Drum Corporal, you have certainly put the cat among the pigeons. I have half my Officers applauding your actions and fighting skills and the other half wondering if you should not be cashiered from the army as an upstart who disregards the King's Regulations. Fortunately for you, I am on the side of those who are applauding you. Without you and your rag tag army of drummer boys, we would all be retreating back to the coast in disgrace. Now having said that I want to know how you knew to double charge your muskets for the extra range and how did your boys have such accuracy at that range."
"It was drummer Prattly Sir. He had some experience with muskets and suggested the double loads. He also told the boys to aim for the Frenchmen's heads as the ball would drop at that range and hit them either in the chest or stomach. Prattly was responsible for all the officers and NCO's. He is a very good marksman Sir."
"Is he indeed, Prattly you say?"
"Good, the Sharpshooters can always do with a good man. I will see he is transferred to them. Now then, what about this fast loading you were doing. Where did you learn about that? The Officers could not believe your boys were firing at six rounds per minute. It was quite a feat Corporal."
"I had some help from friends in the Sharpshooters Sir."
"I would hazard a guess two of the names were Grey and O'Rourke?"
Thomas just smiled in answer as he waited for the General to continue.
"Well Drum Corporal, I suppose I should pass on a few words and things to you."
The General pushed a blue velvet box over the table and then stood up and handed a set of three chevrons to Thomas.
"Congratulations Drum Sergeant. It is fitting that you receive the Service Medal for Valour and are now promoted to the rank of Drum Sergeant. The Quartermaster is arranging for your new tent and other kit befitting a Sergeant of His Majesties Army including a rise in wages to ten shillings per month. Keep this up Sergeant and you will be earning more than the Officers. Now then, this Gentleman's name is Cruikshank. He works for the Government and would like a word with you in private. So if there is nothing more Drum Sergeant, you may be dismissed. Oh, one more thing, if somehow those rapscallions of yours came across a brace of quail, I know of a certain Officer that would appreciate them."
Before Thomas could reply or salute, Captain Lewis entered the tent looking a little flustered.
"Sir, there are a number of women from the town, they are insisting on seeing someone called El Toro. We don't know what they are on about but they refuse to move until they have seen him."
"Well I don't know anyone by that name. Blast it Captain, get some troops in and move them along. We have a war to fight."
"I have called in troops Sir but the women just sat on the ground and refused to move. All they kept saying was "Patron El Toro" over and over again."
The gentleman civilian stood up. Thomas saw that he was almost as short as himself and looked much like an ale barrel.
"I believe it may be an idea to send our young Sergeant out to talk to them if you want to defuse the situation."
"What makes you think that will work Mister Cruikshank?"
"Just a hunch General."
Wellesley turned towards a blushing Thomas.
"Drum Sergeant, do you know something about this?"
"Sir, my servants have a habit of making outlandish statements. Sometimes they...well they call me...Patron."
"Damn it to hell. I was going to raise that subject about your servants and non regulation footwear. Well too late now. Go out there Drum Sergeant and see what you can do to get those damn women away from my tent."
Thomas saluted and blushing heavily and followed by the civilian Mister Cruikshank, stepped outside the tent. The moment he showed himself, the women stood and came forward. Each one wanted to hold his hand as they patted him and chattered away even though he did not understand a word. Fortunately for Thomas a familiar young voice called for quiet in Portuguese. The women became silent as Carmelo spoke to them and then translated their words back to Thomas.
"Patron, these are the widows of Vimeiro. Each has lost their families to the French pigs and wish to offer you a small token of thanks for freeing them from the French yoke."
While Thomas blushed even more, Carmelo turned and spoke to one of the women. Another woman from the back came forward with a black shafted staff, on the top was a small silver Eagle and there was a flag wrapped in a plain brown cotton cover to keep it from being damaged.
Thomas heard a few comments from the watching guards outside the tent but ignored them as Carmelo continued speaking.
"Patron, the women of Vimeiro worked all night to make this banner for you. They say that for each great man there must be a banner so that his enemies would know fear when they saw it on the battle field. This is your banner and it will fly above us when we meet the French once again, and again we will defeat them. They give thanks to you for being the Patron of the homeless and poor and they will send prayers in your name every night so that God watches over you."
Thomas could not find any words to say. He just did not know how to answer the women and the faith they seemed to have in him. Thomas could think of no reason why they would select him for the honour. The more he tried to think about it the less it made any sense. Carmelo saw his discomfort and spoke rapidly to the women.
With nods of understanding, each of the woman came forward and clasped his hands one more time before turning and walking back towards the small town on the hill. Thomas was left still wondering what had happened.
"Perhaps we should take a slow walk back to your tent Drum Sergeant." Said Mister Cruikshank as he slipped in beside Thomas. Carmelo took the staff and hefted it onto his shoulder as he followed behind the pair.
It was Cruikshank that opened the conversation.
"I have been keeping an eye on you for some time Sergeant. Damn it to hell, I hate these military titles. Do you mind if I call you Thomas and you can call my Percival, or more better, Percy as all my friends do. Now then, I have it on very good authority that you are a trustworthy young man and knows when to keep his mouth closed. Is this true Thomas?"
"I would hope so Mister Percy. It was my Da's saying that a man should not open his mouth before giving his head time to catch up."
"A wise man your Father. You take after him in many ways if my research is correct. Now then, as we walk I am going to tell you a few things that must not pass your lips again. Do you know what I am saying?"
"Yes Mister Percy."
"Really Thomas, you are just too damn polite for your own good. I hope this war never changes you but unfortunately war has a habit of making good men bad. Now then for our little secret. There are things afoot that may change things as we know them today. Whatever happens I want you to keep your head down and try to stay out of it. If, however, things turn from bad to worse, I would like to know that you did the right thing. You are fortunate to have made good friends among the Spanish and Portuguese people. If things do turn bad, I would like you to use that outstanding head of yours and break from this man's army. I can see by the look on your face that you think it would be a terrible idea but I can assure you that you would be fully protected from any attempts by others to discredit you. Tell me Thomas, do you know what a Guerrilla is?"
"No Mister Percy."
"Well Thomas, it is a group of people that fight in a way that is not conventional. They use the land and forests to hide from the enemy and use it to ambush them when the opportunity arises. What I am saying is, that if things go bad I would like you to take as many boys as you can and form a Guerrilla force to fight the French behind their lines. Don't think it will be easy. It is extremely dangerous and takes a special type of person to be able to do it. I think you are one of those people. Now it may not come to this, but at the moment all indications are that it will. There are steps afoot that may change the command structure of this army. If that happens, then the new commanders will make a mess of things. Most are political buffoons and have little idea of mounting a campaign as large as this. Do you understand what I am saying Thomas?"
"I think so Mister Percy."
"Good, then let it sit inside your head and you think about it. You have all the makings and thinking of the right type of person for this job. Now then Thomas, I have heard through the grapevine, that you set a very good table. Any chance you would invite a new friend to sup with you?"
"Certainly Mister Percy, you will be made welcome."
"Good, then I can answer any questions you might think of over dinner. Ah I see we are nearly at your tent and there seems to be some sort of altercation going on."
Thomas looked at where his tent was standing. Across the front of the tent his three young boys were standing defiantly with their knives in their hands and facing down two older soldiers. As neither one could understand the other, there was a lot of arm waving and threatening moves by the three armed boys. Thomas turned back to Carmelo.
"Carmelo can you see what's going on?"
Carmelo ran forward with the flag staff on his shoulder and yelled loudly at the three boys. At the arrival of the Drum Corporal, the two soldiers stepped back a pace and looked to him.
"What's going on Private?"
"Drum Sergeant. I haven't had a chance to put my stripes up yet."
"Sorry Drum Sergeant. We come from the Quartermaster with your new tent Sergeant, but these rats won't let us change them over. Won't lets us near your tent Sergeant. We got to take it back or there will be hell to play."
Thomas looked at the three boys as they nodded their heads while Carmelo spoke to them. Soon the three boys looked and then smiled at Thomas before shrugging their shoulders and slipping the knives out of sight. Carmelo came over to Thomas after giving the flag staff to one of the boys.
"Patron, the boys thought these soldiers were trying to steal the tent of the Patron. They were not going to allow them to invade your home. I have told them you are now an important Sergeant and you are having a larger tent because now you are more important. They all agree, you are more important and must have a better tent. They have gone now to make the dinner ready for you. Tonight Patron we have two very nice plump pheasant, very good for eating."
"Thank you Carmelo. Mister Cruikshank is eating with us. How many pheasants did the boys get?"
"Oh four Patron. perhaps two for tomorrow?"
"I think it would be a good thing to send the other two up to the Generalissimo. He did say he would like a change."
"The Generalissimo. But of course Patron, it is always good to keep the important ones happy. I will get Sergio to take them right away Patron."
Carmelo disappeared as Thomas turned back to the soldiers.
"Tell me Private, do you think the Quartermaster may consider leaving the smaller tent. My servants have nowhere to sleep and it would make for more harmony around the camp. I would of course consider that the Quartermaster would be entitled to a small repayment for such an expensive tent. Perhaps you could ask him to come and see me if he thought it practical."
"Yes Drum Sergeant, I will just leave this one ere and go tell him, if it please you Drum Sergeant?"
"Thank you Private. I won't forget your help in this matter."
Thomas watched the two privates walk away. He then heard the amused voice of Cruikshank.
"It would appear young Thomas, you have more skills than just on the field of battle. I must say you handled that like a professional. It would not surprise me to know the Quartermaster would be happy to let you have the extra tent. If what General Wellesley has been saying, you may well need the extra very soon."
As Mister Cruikshank finished, Carmelo appeared with the folding table and stool and two glasses with the half full bottle of brandy which he placed on the table once it was open.
Thomas indicated that Mister Cruikshank should take the stool while he rolled one of the logs over that were used as extra seating. With the two glasses now filled with brandy, both of them toasted the King and then took a sip. Before a word could be exchanged, a familiar voice filled the late afternoon air.
"Well now Mister Grey, did I not tell ye that if there was good food around that Percy would find it. And did I not tell ye that if his nibs was going to be feeding on fine plump pheasant then we would find same at Sergeant Thomas Marking's tent?"
"You did indeed O'Rourke. Percy, how did you talk your way into our family home?"
"Afternoon Grey, O'Rourke. So it's your home now is it. Well Grey you stock a fine brandy and keep good company. Perhaps the Sergeant might invite you to dinner also."
"Don't give me that Percy. I know damn well you're up to something. I've known you far too long Mister so you can cut the 'Oh so nice' act and come out with it before you get more brandy or a meal."
"Speaking of brandy lad, where the hell is that bloody boy. I don't even have a glass yet."
"Coming Papa. Today is busy day, many things for the Patron to do."
"Aye scally lad and you would be the cause of most of it. Don't think I don't know about your little trip to the town last night while all were asleep."
"Ah Papa it was for only good things."
"Just go get me a glass before I tan your skinny hide."
"And don't forget Mister Grey neither ya bloody heathen."
"I would never forget the Senor Grey Papa."
While the three men started on the brandy, Thomas went into his tent and removed his helmet and jacket. Next he untied the waist belt and placed the two pistols on his cot before going back outside to join the others.
When Thomas reappeared, Mister Cruikshank looked at the two pocket pistols slung under his arms.
"Now that's a novel idea Thomas. How did you come up with that?"
"It's not my idea Mister Percy. Carmelo made it for me."
"Well I hope your Carmelo does not mind me pinching his idea. I can see something like that being very helpful for some people I know."
"I'm sure he would not mind Mister Percy."
They each had another brandy, although Thomas made sure his was well watered, and then were getting ready to sit for dinner. The plump pheasant was surrounded by vegetables and the fluffy white rice that was new to Thomas but he had found he liked the taste of. The second pheasant was for the three boys.
As they were about to eat, a voice came from behind Thomas but was addressed to Grey.
"Captain, I was looking for the Drum Sergeant. Is he here?"
The first thing Thomas looked for was the new rank on Mister Grey. Sure enough he now wore the three pips of a Captain. Next he turned and looked at the thick set man with Sergeant stripes on the dark blue uniform of the Quartermasters store.
"I'm the Drum Sergeant. I believe we have to discuss the extra tent."
"Uhm...you are the Sergeant...well I was expecting someone a little older. As to the tent, well I am sure we can come to some understanding."
As the Sergeant finished speaking, Captain Grey jumped to his feet with a thunderous look on his face, turning to the Sergeant he bellowed in his loudest voice.
"Sergeant, are you trying to sell off His Majesties property in a time of war? I'll have you strung up and whipped for this and then have you placed in the front line of the next advance. Do you not know who you are talking to Sergeant?"
"Don't you go Sir-ring me Sergeant. You are in flagrant disobedience of Army Regulations. I will see you court marshalled for this. Drum Sergeant Marking has the full approval of General Wellesley to have the extra tent to provide accommodations for important visitors, to wit, Mister Cruikshank who is a valuable member of His Majesties Government. If I were you Sergeant, I would make myself very scarce and forget you ever had a tent on your shelves. I would also make sure that the Drum Sergeant had another four good chairs instead of one measly stool fit only for a child's nursery. Do you understand Sergeant?"
"Yes Sir, very good Sir. I will arrange better chairs for the Drum Sergeant Sir."
The Sergeant smartly saluted and almost ran from the quartet. They only hoped he was well out of earshot when they broke up laughing. O'Rourke turned to Captain Grey.
"Well Mister Grey, you aint lost none of your roar I see. Bloody cheeky sod. I hope he sleeps badly tonight."
Thomas could only look at the two friends in wonder. By the calm look on Mister Cruikshank's face, this had happened before and he showed no dismay at all.
"Well now that bloody scoundrel is out of the way, let's see what this pheasant tastes like. Carmelo, where's me bloody wine you lazy heathen?"
"Coming Papa, a fine French wine tonight Papa."
"And just where did you find it scally?"
"Ah Papa, when Marcelo explained to the French that the great El Toro would let them sleep peacefully in their beds tonight, they willingly sent these bottles to him in gratitude."
"Bejesus scally, don't give me that horse droppings of a story. Just tell me where you nicked it from. It would make life much more easy."
"Papa, would I make up such a story? It is just as I said."
"Well scally lad, I believe you this time only because I saw three pigs flying off to the moon last night. Now get that bloody bottle open before my mouth feels like a bloody desert."
The meal and wine carried the four long into the night. It was only broken half way through by the arrival of four wood backed chairs delivered by two sweating Privates. It was very late before they were ready for their beds. Cruikshank turned to Thomas and said.
"Remember what I told you Thomas and if it should come to pass, you could do far worse than coming back to the town above and disappearing there. Keep that in the back of your mind."
"Thank you Mister Percy. I will remember everything you have said."
"Good night Thomas and good luck for your future."
Thomas watched Cruikshank walk away with the other two. All three had their heads together and were talking in very subdued voices as they moved off into the dark night.
The next morning was a little quieter. The camp was in more of a sombre mood as the burial details finished the last of their grizzly tasks. Thomas had just finished breakfast when he heard what sounded like a number of carts coming towards their small tent lines. Carmelo was suddenly by his side with a wide smile of satisfaction as he saw the four large carts that were being pulled by strong mules.
"Ah Patron, your wagons arrive. They will soon have them unloaded so you can have a little comfort."
"What the hell is going on now Carmelo?"
"A few gifts and buyings from the town Patron."
Before much else could be said a Corporal ran up to Thomas.
"Drum Sergeant, the General requests your presence at his tent immediately."
"Damn, wait for me Corporal. I need to dress."
The conversation with Carmelo was forgotten as he ran inside to dress properly for the General. He did not see the happy smile on Carmelo's face as the boy went to look over the four carts.
Thomas followed the Corporal back to the ring of Officer's tents. Standing outside the tent of Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley was Captain Lewis. From inside the large tent, Thomas could hear a number of raised voices arguing. Captain Lewis placed a finger to his lips and stepped a little further away signalling for Thomas to join him.
"Thank you for coming so quickly Sergeant. It would appear we have some little time to wait. The Generals are not in a good mood today."
Thomas just nodded and stepped over beside the quiet Captain. For Thomas the loud voices were hard to ignore, as much as he tried to not listen, the volume only increased and he was left in little doubt as to what was going on.
"Sir Arthur, both General Dalrymple and myself outrank you. We will not condone a pursuit of General Junot. You may have been fortunate to repel his attack but to continue to harass him will only bring defeat down on our heads."
"General Burrard are you mad Sir. We have Junot on the run. If we follow up now, Napoleon will be out of Portugal for good. Do not forget Sir, that any error we make today will eventually come back to haunt us."
"Tosh Sir Arthur, you are over reacting. I have already sent word to General Junot as the Senior Officer of the Empires Forces, to meet and arrange a convention at a small town called Sintra. If we are successful then Junot will leave Portugal to us and this war will be over. I would suggest Sir Arthur, that you listen well. I have influence in the War Office that could make your position in His Majesties Forces somewhat untenable. If you wish to pursue this insane idea of yours and also try to continue to harass General Junot, General Dalrymple and I will have little alternative but to inform His Majesties Government."
"General Burrard, do not try to threaten me with your friends in high places. You are not the only one here who can call on such. If we do not follow up on our victory here at Vimeiro, Napoleon will see it as a weakness and will try to exploit it. Generalissimo Cuesta has already routed Dupont at Bailen. His success there has meant a final defeat for Junot. It could bring the campaign to an end and Napoleon will be out of both countries."
"That Sir Arthur, it's pure speculation and I don't give a damn what the Spanish are doing. It is better to accept the convention. As I am Senior Officer here you will follow orders and as to those ideas of yours to change the regulations concerning those waifs and strays you call drummers, I am fully against such changes. I would take note of that Sir Arthur. I know you have already sent the proposals to the War Office to be Gazetted and there is little I can do about it at this stage but I will oppose them in time. Now if there is nothing more Sir Arthur, we will return to our duties. You will accompany General Dalrymple and myself to Sintra next week for the signing of the convention. There is only one thing more Sir Arthur, from this date I will be taking overall command of the army here in Portugal. Should a time come when a need arises then General Dalrymple will take over. The convention at Sintra will be signed Sir Arthur, whether you like it or not."
"There is one thing more General. Winter is coming and we cannot continue to fight then. If we leave Junot until after winter it will be too late. The army will have to go into winter bivouac soon. Our advantage will be lost for good."
"Frankly Sir Arthur, I do not give a damn. Under my agreement with Junot, he will also go into winter bivouac and after the signing of the convention, take all his forces out of Portugal. It will still be our victory. As senior Officer I will state once and for all, there will be no continuation of the advance to harass Junot. Now Sir Arthur, if there is nothing more, this meeting is closed. We will return to our tents and prepare for the convention. Good day Sir."
Thomas watched as the two Senior Officers left the tent with a gaggle of Junior aides following along behind. Captain Lewis turned to Thomas.
"Well you had better cover your ears, the General is definitely going to be in a bad mood now. I shouldn't say this in front of an NCO, but those men are damn fools. They are going to cost us a lot of lives. Now then Sergeant, let's see if Sir Arthur is ready for you."
Thomas heard the gruff voice of Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley form inside the tent.
"Well Captain, show him in. At least this day will not be a total waste of time."
Captain Lewis came out and nodded to Thomas. Following the Captain into the tent, Thomas saw the General sitting behind his large paper filled table. Coming to attention, Thomas saluted the General and waited for the man to speak first.
"Sergeant Marking, I have some orders here for you and a little advice for later. I assume you did not hear anything from earlier?"
"No Sir, my ears were closed Sir."
"Good, there are some things a man should not know, if you get my meaning. Now then." Thomas watched as the General picked up a sheaf of papers, taking one from the pile he handed it to Thomas. "This is the order for you to form a drum troop. You will select the members from the incoming replacements. There will be a force of sixty drummers. I suggest you break them up into two troops. You will need two Drum Corporals, do you have any suggestions?"
"Lead drummers Clement and Perrin Sir."
"Captain Lewis! Write out the order for those two to be promoted to Drum Corporal. I will sign it before the Sergeant leaves. Next Sergeant, did Mister Cruikshank explain things to you about if we were to lose ground here in Portugal?"
"Yes Sir, he did."
"Right Sergeant, later today you will be awarded the King's Colours. Your new formation will then be named His Majesties Drum and Auxiliary Corps. The new name is so that you can use the time to train your new drummers in the arts they may need if Mister Cruikshank's theory comes true. It will also allow for your drummers to advance in battle fully armed as supplementary reinforcements. It will be a new day for British arms. You will need to do what Cruikshank suggested for those other times that may come and have your corps ready for that day."
The General took another sheet of paper from the pile.
"These are the orders for the armoury. I have spoken to them already and you will ask for Sergeant Major Crooks. He will see that you get everything you need for your new Corps."
Another paper joined the first ones.
"This is the order to the Quartermaster. He is to supply whatever you need in the way of equipment. If you wish to change the uniforms a little then do so but remember, you are still a part of His Majesties Army and will follow Regulations."
"Now finally, this is the orders for you to fly your new flag that those damn women saw fit to invade my tent over. The King's Colours will be flown beside or above those you now have at all times, is that clear Sergeant?"
"Now do you have any questions Sergeant?"
"Uhm...a lot Sir but I don't quite know where to start."
"Very well Sergeant, go ahead and start getting your kit together. I will send Captain Lewis to you later in the day when you have had time to consider your options. He will be authorised to answer anything you may need to know. Now one last thing Sergeant. Thank your boys for those pheasants. They made a splendid meal. Tell them so from me if you would not mind."
Thomas smiled as he saluted.
"Yes Sir, I will pass it on Sir."
"There is one thing more Sergeant. We will probably be moving into winter camp shortly. I would advise that you devise a training plan for your new corps. the winter will give you time to get them ready for when we advance on the French once again in spring. You will also make your own lines away from the other Regiments; make sure you find a place where you have space for a parade ground."
"I shall do that Sir."
Thomas about turned and left the tent, the thick pile of orders in his hand. He was going to have a busy time from now on.
Returning to his lines, Thomas saw that his new six man tent was erected and the smaller four man tent was off to the side a little. Sitting at a somewhat large table under the tent flap was the Sergeant Major and three other Sergeants. They all had a glass in front of them filled with what looked like brandy. The four Sergeants looked very happy with themselves as he walked up.
"Ah lads, here's our new Sergeant. Come and join us Sergeant Marking and partake of some of your fine French brandy. We have things to discuss."
Thomas could only shake his head as he saw the smiling face of Carmelo peak out from the other tent and then duck back again before anything could be said.
Thomas sat in a nice high-backed chair he had never seen before. He almost feared going into the larger tent. The large table was definitely from a big house and was more ornate than he had ever seen a table be. What it was doing sitting outside his new tent he had no idea of.
The Sergeant Major smiled at Thomas.
"Sergeant you are going to have the Officers right jealous of you. Your Spaniards seem to think you worthy of the finest of everything and that includes the brandy."
The Sergeant Major lifted his half empty glass in a mocking toast then sipped deeply before continuing.
"We have noticed that you do not have a Baton. Every Sergeant must have one so we have got one made for you."
The Sergeant Major produced a baton of dark black wood, on the top was a silver bull's head and at the bottom was a brass point. The Sergeant Major twisted the silver top and pulled it up to reveal and small dagger fitted to the top.
"As you seem to have a small thing for weapons. We thought we should add this little pig sticker to it. Never know when you will need another one. We had the armourer make it for you. Here you are Sergeant, now you are officially one of us and don't forget. We will expect to see you in the Sergeants mess from time to time, although we may just make this our new mess. You have a far superior brand of liquor here."
Thomas looked with awe at the Baton, although it was more commonly known as a 'swagger stick' by the rank and file. It was taking him a little time to adjust to the reality of his new position. He knew he would feel uncomfortable carrying the swagger stick around like the others did with such familiarity.
"Thank you Sergeant Major. I don't know quite what to say."
"Say nothing Sergeant. You've earned it all by right of arms. You not only saved our colours, you went and saved the officers from a likely shame they would not get over in a hurry. Now then, any chance of a refill?"
Thomas called for Carmelo and a new bottle of brandy miraculously appeared on the table. Had it not been for the arrival of a large troop of new drummers, the drinking may have gone on all the rest of the day and Thomas would not have seen the sun set.
With the arrival of the replacements, the four sergeants took the hint and left Thomas to his new duties. The new drummers looked like a rag tag lot. Some had come from other regiments and some were new arrivals to Portugal. For the new arrivals to see that a young boy stood with the stripes of a Sergeant on his arm was, to say the least, a strange experience made all the more difficult to understand when they saw he had no less than eight young foriegn teens as servants or so they appeared to be.
Thomas stood and straightened his uniform, tucked his new Baton under his left arm like he had seen the other Sergeants do, and called out.
"Drummers! On parade."
From all the surrounding tents came the drummers that had always been a part of his troop. Once they had formed ranks, the new boys formed up at the end to complete the full line-up. Thomas was now looking at three ranks of sixty two boys, much to the amusement of his Spanish boys as they looked on with interest at the workings of their Patron.
Thomas strode to the table where he had left the sheaf of orders. Picking up one paper, he turned about and called out.
"Lead Drummer Clement, Lead Drummer Perrin will take one step to the front."
When he saw the two friends standing alone at the front of the massed ranks, he continued after reading from the paper.
"By the order of His Majesty King George the 3rd; Drummers Clement and Perrin are hereby promoted to Drum Corporal, rank is effective of today's date 24th August 1808, signed in his name by Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley. Corporal Clement, Corporal Perrin, you will have your stripes sewn on before parade tomorrow morning, in the mean time you will divide the drummers that are on parade at this moment into two troops. When you have completed this order you will begin to decamp and pack all tents and equipment in preparation to move to a new site. Carry on Corporals."
Thomas could feel the faint dribble of sweat run down his face as his nerves took a hit from having to actually issue orders to not only his two friends but an entire corps of drummers, many of whom did not know who he was and many were much older than he was.
Thomas felt the presence of Carmelo by his shoulder. That he got a few strange looks from the new arrivals did not even register with him.
"Patron, we are moving, yes?"
"Yes Carmelo, but where I don't know yet."
"Perhaps if Carmelo knew what it is the Patron wants he can find a good place for the Patrons new army?"
Thomas nodded his head and began to tell Carmelo what he would need and what he had been told by the General. It did not take long for Carmelo to call out to the other boys and within a minute the camp became a hive of activity as the others, including four new boys that Thomas had not seen before, began to strip down his tents and begin to pile two of the four large wagons with the equipment.
Thomas saw that the old hand cart that was now a small donkey cart, was being loaded with what looked like a field kitchen but one that he had never seen the likes of before. The four man tent was also added to the small cart. He could only shake his head as he started out to follow up on the other orders he had received.
There was going to be a lot to do. His new Drum Corps would need tents and other equipment as well as now having to arm them with something suitable for the younger and smaller boys. A full sized musket would be beyond most of the drummers to carry or use. He only hoped the armourer would be able to help him.
Thomas asked Carmelo to accompany him as he made the long trip to the centre of the huge encampment where the Quartermaster was situated. The armourers were out towards the far side of the encampment.
As they walked, Thomas took Carmelo into his confidence about the possibility of them being cut from the English army if things went wrong and the fact he had been told about becoming something called a guerrilla group against the French.
Carmelo seemed to be overjoyed at the thought of not only fighting the French but tricking them as well. He began to make suggestions to Thomas as the two friends walked through the camp in search of the Quartermaster.
When he finally found the large tents that made up the Quartermaster's stores, Thomas entered and looked around. The first person he saw was the same Sergeant that Captain Grey had threatened. The Sergeant looked a little subdued when he saw Thomas standing there.
Gruffly the Quartermaster Sergeant said.
"What are you doing here Sergeant?"
Thomas took out the orders from the General and laid them on the rough table that served as the counter for the stores.
"I wish to have this order filled for the new Corps of Drummers. It is a direct order from Lieutenant General Wellesley. I will detail what I need and you will have it filled. I have sixty troops without tents and equipment."
"And how do you plan to carry it all Sergeant? I don't have enough hand carts to cover sixty tents and equipment?"
Thomas looked at the very unhappy man. His run in with Captain Grey had left him with a bad taste in his mouth but he also did not want to tempt fate to much by totally denying the boy in front of him, Sergeant or not.
"I will arrange my own transport of their equipment."
Thomas turned to patiently waiting Carmelo.
"Carmelo, can you run back and get the other two wagons here? Tell Corporal Perrin to get a few extra boys to help with the loading and bring them all here."
Carmelo smiled widely as he saw how positive his Patron was in front of the large man with bad manners. Perhaps Carmelo and some of his young friends should visit the man late one night, he thought to himself. Instead Carmelo gave his Patron and exaggerated low bow and said.
"Si Patron, we will return soon."
Thomas heard the Sergeant mumble under his breath about Spanish Papists but he let it slide for now. He needed the equipment for his new drummer Corps.
"Very good Quartermaster Sergeant, I will need the following. Ten six man tents, sixty single cots, one hundred and twenty blankets, complete mess kits for sixty and rain sheets for sixty. Tomorrow I will need you to deliver a set of four duck boards for each tent. You will see our banner at our new camp site in the morning. Please have your men get this ready while we wait for my wagons. You can also add two hundred candles and sixty flint fire starters as well as one hundred and twenty cakes of soap."
"Anything else Sergeant?" The voice was totally noncommittal and it was plain to Thomas the Sergeant was not a happy man but with the General's orders in his hand, there was little he could do about it and the Sergeant did not want another meeting with the rough Captain again.
"That's all thank you Sergeant. I will wait outside for my wagon. I hope the equipment will not be long in coming out to be loaded?"
Thomas left the insinuation of further problems in the Sergeants hands and walked out of the tent to wait for Carmelo and the wagons. He did not have long to wait. Next would be the armoury. He hoped it was easy and more pleasant than dealing with the Quartermaster.
When both wagons were loaded to overflowing, Thomas took Carmelo with him to the far off armoury. Once there he was surprised by the helpfulness of the Sergeant Major in charge. Thomas watched as the Sergeant Major had his men running around stacking a mass of powder and equipment on one side of his large tent armoury.
The Sergeant Major had just received thirty of the new type of rifle. He told Thomas he could have them and then the armourers would work on cutting down some of the older muskets to fit smaller boys. They would not have the range of others but at thirty paces they would be just as effective. The last item Thomas thought of was for each drummer to be armed with a good knife. He had seen that all the Spanish boys carried one for protection and a plan was developing in his mind.
When the Sergeant Major showed Thomas his stock of knives, Thomas was overwhelmed. He had little to no experience with them apart from his little dirk. Even the ones he now carried habitually were still strange to him. Thomas looked at Carmelo.
Without pause, Carmelo pointed to the style he thought his Patron should have. While the handles were only of wood, that could be changed in little time or effort. When Carmelo saw how many of the knives his Patron wanted, he immediately realised what they were for and smiled as the two wooden boxes of slightly rusted knives were put with the large pile of rifles and equipment to carry musket balls and powder. There were then added ten small barrels of powder to the final tally. Thomas told the Sergeant Major they would have their wagon at the stores early in the morning to collect everything.
Once done, Thomas led Carmelo all the way back to the tent. They were just in time to see the new Corps beginning to move out further from the main encampment. The place selected for their new camp was behind a small rise away from where the battle was fought. It was just out of sight of the main camp and gave them some solitude to do what they wanted without interference.
No one had eaten for the entire day since breakfast. It was time to get the tents set and let the new boys settle in. For the next two hours the new camp site was a flurry of activity. For the drummer boys to see they would now have six man tents instead of the small and uncomfortable two man ones, was a welcome bonus. There fears and doubts about the youth of their new sergeant quickly disappeared.
Thomas finally had time to take note of the four new boys that had driven the large wagons earlier that morning. He knew that one had been filled with very good quality furniture, but what the others held had as yet not been seen.
While his first three boys set about organising the kitchen that had somehow appeared as if from nowhere, Thomas called Carmelo to find out about the newcomers.
"Ah, Patron, these are some new friends who wish to fight with El Toro. They have heard that he will chase the French pigs from Portugal and Espanola and so have come all the way from Andalucía."
Carmelo called for the four teens to join them both. When the boys arrived, Thomas could easily see the similarities in the three younger ones. He thought that they would have to be brothers and about a year apart. The oldest was obviously their leader and had to be about seventeen or perhaps a little older. He had a definite air of authority about him.
Carmelo continued with the introductions and explanations.
"Patron, it gives me honour to introduce to you, Estaban Colosio, only son of Don Colosio of Andalucía. His family are very famous for many generations for...how you say...making the bulls?"
Thomas thought for a few seconds and could only come up with the word Breeding. When he told Carmelo the boy's eyes lit up and he continued.
"Si Patron, they are the Breeder's of the finest fighting bulls in all of Espanola. These other three are his...uhm...cousins. They are how you say, learning the way of the Picador."
"What's a Picador and do you mean, Apprentice?"
"Si Patron, apprentices. A Picador is the bravest of the brave. They make the bull go where they would like as well as make it angry to fight the Toreador in the ring. They are the riders of those fine Andalucían Horse that followed the wagons. They too are very brave like the bull."
Thomas nodded as he tried to understand everything that was being said, Carmelo continued.
"Estaban was at home when the French were coming. His father knew what they were like and he had spoken out against them many times. His father told him to gather his three cousins and take the wagons, Mules and horses as far away as they could and to find a place to stay away from the French. When Estaban heard of the execution of his father, the burning of his home and that the French had slaughtered all the fine fighting bulls for their food, he set out to find one who could fight back. He heard of the great Patron, El Toro in another village and has now sought you out. They wish to fight alongside the one who is so brave like the great bulls of Andalucía."
"What is in all the wagons Carmelo?"
"Patron, as you can see the boys now have a good kitchen. They can now feed many and with two ovens they will bake very much bread for all who fight under your banner. In the wagon of Estaban, you have already seen it. The fine furniture was from his own home. It was what little his father could give him. In the third wagon is something that will make the defeat of the French pigs even more easy but they must remain hidden for now. The less people who know about them the better. The fourth wagon carries the equipment for the horses and the three cousins along with one or two small things to help beat the French. Estaban will reveal all in time."
Carmelo called out to the four newcomers. Within moments they were standing before the two boys with large smiles on their faces. After the formal introduction of Estaban, Carmelo continued with the other three.
"Patron, this is Pablo. He is the oldest, a great horseman and fighter with knives. Next his brother Thomasino. He is like his brother on the horse and the last is the Diego. He is one who plays many tricks but is fearless with the great bulls."
The four new teens bowed and greeted Thomas who smiled and then put out his hand to shake with each of them. What he was going to do with them in his situation he had no idea. His orders were to train for some type of Irregular army but they had said nothing about civilian fighters. It was time to look for advice. He knew he did not have a clue about training others to fight. They were just drummers.
Seemingly from nowhere came long planks that were soon set up on cut logs as seating. The boys had cooked a lot of food which was enough to feed everyone in the new camp. For Thomas, Carmelo and Estaban there was the fine heavy table that had come from the back of the wagon in four pieces and put together. The single large high backed chair was given to Thomas at the head of the table.
Thomas could see the looks on the faces of the new replacements as they were first allowed to fill their tin plates with the wild assortment of food and then to sit around the fire eating. The new drummers were amazed at the variety. The real army just never ate like they were doing this first night in the strange new Corps of Drummers.
As they ate, Thomas tried to get some ideas on how to train for the future. Their duty as drummers was easy but if what Mister Percy had said was true, then he needed a different type of training altogether and he had no clue what that was or how to do it.
The three boys talked over their meal as they tried to think of a way to get help. Thomas knew if they were to be successful in what Mister Percy asked them to do, they would need new ideas and new ways of fighting and none of them had a clue on how it was to be done.
It was again late when Thomas made his way to his new tent. Inside was a large bed, more cabinets and a few chests. In one side of the tent was the still folded banner the woman of the town had given him. He had still not seen it yet.
Much to Thomas surprise, he was soon joined by Carmelo and the other three boys. Carmelo took Thomas old cot at the foot of Thomas Bed and the three younger boys rolled out their bedrolls near the entrance to the tent. No one would get inside without walking over the three boys. It was to be the morning when Thomas saw that the four man tent had been given over to the newcomers. He had little complaint as all the new furniture was given to him by Estaban.
Thomas awoke early to see Carmelo already up. He was sitting on the small stool brushing out the black fur on Thomas helmet. There was no sign of the three boys but the chatter outside told him they were preparing breakfast for him. It was time to start some form of training, but where to start.
A loud familiar voice outside came as a god send for Thomas.
"Where are ye Sergeant? A bloody man could die of starvation waiting for you to get out of your bed?"
Thomas smiled widely as the strong brogue interrupted the usual calm of the morning. Carmelo looked up and also smiled. Placing the helmet carefully back on its stand, he ran outside calling.
Thomas hastily dressed but without his jacket and walked outside to see the smiling face of O'Rourke already sitting at the table.
"Well about bloody time Sergeant. I been waiting here for ages and none of these snipes would feed me until you got up. Bloody cheek they have to say no to a starving man. Now then Sergeant, what's this scallywag spouting about?"
"Morning O'Rourke, well you know what Mister Percy said about things might change?"
"Well I don't have clue how to train men. How am I going to get them ready for fighting if I don't know what to do?"
"Now then lad, you mayhap have come to the right man. I just happen to know a few good men who can help you for a bit. We are all going to be here for some time yet. There are no plans to leave this bivouac for a while. Now as it happens, Cooper and Jones are sitting around on their asses with nothing to do and I just may have a few things to help you along. You should also make use of those around you."
"Those around me O'Rourke?"
"The Spaniards lad, don't underestimate those boys. They are bought up in ways that may curl the hairs on your head. Of course you should not trust them an inch either. Some would take the teeth right out of your mouth while you was chewin on a bone but they do seem to have taken a liking to you so your teeth maybe safe for now."
O'Rourke laughed as he sat back and watched while Carmelo worked at getting the cafe ready for them both. The camp around them was just beginning to stir as the first pale light of a new morning was breaking over the hills on the horizon.
Carmelo joined them for breakfast and the three ate in silence as the drummer boys began to ready their kit for the morning inspection. Once ready they would eat their own breakfast which the three young boys were getting ready. It seemed that the three youngest had decided they would feed everyone in the new small camp now that they had a good kitchen to work with.
If you are enjoying this story let Arthur know what you think of it: firstname.lastname@example.org