Ramsay's Gallop


In Sir William Napier's History of the Peninsula War there is a well-quoted passage that describes in poetic terms Captain Ramsay's break-out from the cavalry melee:

"A great commotion was observed in their main body. Men and horses there closed with confusion and tumult towards one point, a thick dust arose, and loud cries, and the sparkling of blades, and the flashing of pistols, indicated some extraordinary occurrence. Suddenly the multitude became violently agitated, an English shout pealed high and clear, the mass was rent asunder, and Norman Ramsay burst forth at the head of his battery, his horses breathing fire, stretched like greyhounds along the plain, the guns bounding behind them as things of no weight, and the mounted gunners followed in full career. Captain Brotherton of the 14th Dragoons seeing this, rode forth with a squadron and overturned the head of the pursuing troops, and General Stewart, joining in the charge, took the French General Lamotte, fighting hand to hand."

This earned the RHA the rarest of artillery distinctions, an Honour Title. The painting, by R Caton Woodville was inspired by Napier's words and shows the moment the battery broke through. The 14th Light Dragoons are relegated to a tiny shape in the middle of the white cloud of dust on the extreme right.


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by Stephen Luscombe