The First Day
"Eleven past eleven, sir." stated Colonel Matthew O' Connors, General Johnathan O' Reilly's Chief of Staff, as he placed his pocket watch back in his jacket. The opening artillery shot had just whistled over their heads, landing itself into the ridge behind them. Two miles in front of them, on the opposite ridge, the Spanish artillery was loading for the first broadside. Behind them rested the score of divisions lined up, standing in their ranks as if no battle was coming, as if there would be no killing. The Royal Marines, all 11 Corps, were in turn formed in their respective units, staring at the ridges and hills before them. To their right and ahead of them was a small farm that had been occupied by the 17th and 52nd Regiments that morning. The forests on either side of the battlefield were filled with British light infantry, hidden under bushes and behind trees, awaiting the command to flank their Spanish counterparts. The silence was broken by the roar of the Spanish salvo, sending 176 cannonballs flying wildly towards the sturdy ranks of British soldiers.
The untouched Royal Marines were roused by an orderly galloping along behind them, shouting, "Whose the boy that slaughtered the Spanish?"
A thunderous cheer went up from the Marines, "Our Johnny!" O' Reilly grinned, sitting on his horse in the cold morning air.
"Whose the boy that gave us a name?" cried the orderly.
"Our Johnny!" came the reply, accompanied by another Spanish broadside.
"Whose the boy that beat em' at Falmouth?"
"Whose the boy that cackled at them when they struck him down?"
"Our Johnny!" screamed the Marines, cheerfully roused by the orderly galloping behind them. Every soldier and officer struck up a cheer then, and immediately following came the fifes and drums of the musicians playing The British Grenadiers. "Huzzah!" they shouted, cheering madly for their commander. The British flags fluttered gently in the wind, providing a feeling of pride for the regiments standing at attention on the hill. O' Reilly turned towards the farm on the right, with the strange name of La Granja Hermosa, Spanish for "The Beautiful Farm". A misfitting name if there ever was one, thought O' Reilly, staring at the remains of the stone wall surrounding it. To the north east of it were the fields, a tempting spot for the Spanish to flank the farm. Another broadside of Spanish guns roared, and for the first time in the battle the British guns replied. The scarlet line was silent now; the battle had begun.
Drums began to beat and trumpets blared out from the Spanish lines, and the infantry began to advance. Out of the corner of his eye, O' Reilly glanced at a regiment of light infantry dash off into the wheat field, no doubt to assault La Granja Hermosa. At the time, the little farm was nothing more than a strategic point being kept out of hands in the enemy. What was not known, however, was that it was going to become one of the most heated points in the battle.