On April 4 1815, John Cam Hobhouse reaches Tournay, where he spends the day with his brother Captain Hobhouse. He writes in his diary:
Tuesday April 4th 1815: I got up at five and, drinking tea, set off for Tournay – four posts – at a quarter to seven. The road is reckoned bad, but we found it not intolerably so. It is more open than [the one] we passed yesterday, but apparently equally fruitful. We were stopped by the advance posts a mile from Tournay – an officer of the German legion asked for my passport, and told me the 69th were about to depart to Ath – I must make haste. I was again stopped before the gates, where many were throwing up works and again within them. Arriving at the post-house, I ran to the place d’armes where the 69th were parading to go off. An officer kindly offered to show me where Captain Hobhouse lived. He was ill, and [the officer] did not expect him to march with the regiment. I went to his billet and found him gone to the Colonel, where the same officer, a Captain Colte,161 showed me, and there I found this aimiable and gallant (not in the vulgar meaning) officer and brother of mine, who immediately got leave for him[self] to stay one day behind with me, as accordingly he did.
We walked about Tournay, and he took me to the heights, where they are repairing the mound works of the citadel, a miserable defence just enough to prevent a coup de main, which is all there [is] to be said of the other preparations of this old fortification, which was blown up by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle The peasants and soldiers were working in great numbers – as we walked round some work fell in and buried a man.
From the citadel, Ben showed me the site of the battle of Fontenoy, [and] the wood and the windmill where the English guards were stationed. It is a plain intricate, with two [ ] now ploughed and sowed. We walked from the citadel to that part of the town through which the Scheldt runs, a small Avon-like stream between stone banks, along which runs the public promenade. I observed, or rather my brother made me observe, that French is the language of this town and neighbourhood, which is so French that the Belgian troops are sent up into Holland at present. Two or three batallions of [the] German legion are in the town.
When the news came of Napoleon’s advance they half-cried “Vive l’Empereur!” My brother was at Menin when the French King Louis came from Lille – his regiment was there, but Colonel Morris, after consulting Ben, and being in great consternation, did not think fit to allow that portion of the cuirassiers, about two hundred, who came from Lille with the King, to pass the barrière. At this place the soldiery [and] cuirassiers took leave of Louis, kissing his hand – an officer had advanced on full gallop to Menin to tell Colonel Morris that the King was coming immediately. Luckily the regiment was just ready for parade. The King was not allowed to bring any troops past the barrière, and he was told he should command an English garrison, but when Louis came into the town, the regiment was drawn up, dropped its colours, played the proper points of war and gave “Vive le Roi!” as a reception to the monarch just departed from his own dominions at half a mile distance. There were no post-horses ready, so that Louis was obliged to wait for some time in his carriage at the door.
My brother, as the best Frenchman, was deputed to ask Louis whether he would like a guard of honour and he said yes, he should be obliged for some dragoons, as also for a dispatch to be sent on to order thirty horses at the next post.165 The officers said he was crying. Ben said he could not see it. The cuirassiers wished to follow him in, but only one drunken dragoon with a lame horse at last pushed through against Ben’s injunction and toppled into Menin crying “Vive le Roi!”
What an exit from his dominions, more sneaking than the entrance of
him who has driven him out of them. The whole 4,000 of the Maison du Roi insisted upon following Louis but were sent to their homes and indeed refused entrance into Bethune by the duc de Berri except about two hundred, with a major-general at their head, who after great difficulties have been allowed to pass into Dutch Flanders – yet the pretence of fighting on the part of the Allies is the inclination of France to Louis, when they will not allow 4,000 men, because they are Frenchmen, to be enrolled in their force!!!
Ben was also employed to announce to a General Recard, who came with the King in the crowd without a passport, that he must have a guard of honour to conduct him to Courtray, to General Vandeleur,168 to whom by the way Morris had sent Ben on full gallop to know what he should do with Louis XVIII. The Duc de Berri told Colonel Morris that Mortier had positive orders to arrest Louis at Lille, but sent to him to get away. The young men of the bourgeoise had positively sent a detachment to march to help the royal
cause. They were congédied [NOTE] also by Count d’Artois. [The] duc de Berri told Colonel Morris that if they could have got fifty men to fire they had been saved – but that the moment Napoleon appeared the soldiers rushed to him. The Count D’Arcy169 told Ben that Madame Montmorency told him that the whole conspiracy was organised by a Senate: Cambacères,Fouché, &c., who used to meet at Eugene Beauharnais’ sister’s, and that these meetings were known. The Duke added in presence of Captain Barlow,173 who breakfasted with him, and Morris’ old aide-de-camp at Menin, that if they could hold Paris two days longer the royal cause would have been saved by the northern volunteers who were marching from Lille – also Monsieur mentioned the story of the Abbé de Montesquiou not opening the letters sent by the prefect of La Var de Bouthilliers relative to the landing of Napoleon.
By the way, Dick Prime told me at Ostend that John Macnamara, my friend, asked Napoleon at Elba whether ’twas true he had a clap when [he] took his abdication tour to Elba – and that Napoleon at first did not understand him, but on hearing “chaude pisse” smiled, and said he never had those sort of things. However, Campbelland Keller swear he had, and I believe say they saw him inject. Prime told me Napoleon said Douglas was the pleasantest Englishman he had seen, not Fazakerley, as
we heard in England.
Here everything looks warlike. The inhabitants are not allowed to go out of town without a pass. Ben thinks my plan of going to Paris not feasible. We dined together at my hotel, the Imperial. Bad dinner, and drank two bottles of champagne, one good, one bad, then walked about the town, and into a billiard-room filled with vulgar bucks and officers of the German legion – then we came to my room, had red wine and water, and anchovies, hich Ben dressed in the shovel for me.
Dear fellow, he looks very unwell and has been so three months, of a sort of rheumatism in his side. He would not tell us at home of it. He showed me the grapeshot through and through his cap, which he got at Berghen-opZoom.
He has fought a duel since his being in the 69th, with a man who was killed at Berghen. He fired twice – his antagonist’s pistol missed the first time in the pan,182 Ben not observing this – when he did, he wished him to have another chance, and when the seconds said no – to give him one, fired again, his pistol being in both cases averted from him. At Berghen, this man was under sentence of court-martial, but asked leave to be allowed
to go to action. Morris told him he could not give him leave – he must take it – he did, and was killed. Benjamin went out with a man of the 57th who tried to bully him, and went so far as having the ground measured, but then gave in – he was killed at Albuera.
Benjamin tells me Skerrett, who was killed at Berghen-op-Zoom, said to him an hour or so before he died, “Well, I think Graham186 has done for his troops at last.” By common consent this Scotch old woman ought to be shot – cowardice is by no means uncommon in the army – one of the 87th [NOTE] turned fright at Berghen. Tournay has two or three large churches – a bishop’s palace, and the largest tapestry manufacturer and best next to the Gobelins. It contains about
I am in doubt what to do just now – whether, to Brussels, Paris, or Geneva direct – however, I will go to bed directly – half past eleven.