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[AITCHISON, John]

Armée d’Espagne. Instruction Générale sur la Comptabilité en matières des Gardes Magasins et autres préposés comptables des services réunis.

[Spanish Army. General instructions on accounting for quartermasters and other accountants of the armed forces.]

Published: ?Burgos: c.1809

Stock code: 102200

Price: £1,500

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Presumed first edition of these detailed instructions for the accounting of stores for the French Army in Spain, no other copy traced. This copy with a wonderful provenance having been looted by John Aitchison with his manuscript note to the verso of the front free endpaper – “Taken from the quarters of the Intendant General of the French Army of Spain in the Palace of the Duke of Medina-Coli at Madrid, 16th August 1812, J. Aitchison” – and his ink-stamp to the first leaf, a few pencilled notes to the text. The British Army entered Madrid on 12 August, following a brief and vicious skirmish between a small French reconnaissance party and the cavalry of the advancing Allied forces at Majalahonda/Las Rozas, described by Digby Smith as “a drawn match” (The Napoleonic Wars Data Book, p.385) and by Aitchison himself as an “unfortunate affair” (p.186); “Wellington entered Madrid unopposed next day – vexed that his arrival should have been marred by the untoward business at Majalahonda, ‘a devil of an affair’ as he described it in a private letter … But the inhabitants of the Spanish capital took little heed of the mishap – the departure of the French was the only thing that mattered. Their enthusiasm was unbounded. ‘I have never witnessed’ wrote [Private Wheeler], ‘such a scene before. For a distance of five miles from the gates the road was crowded with the people who had come out to meet us, each bringing something – laurel boughs, flowers, bread, wine, grapes, lemonade, sweetmeats, &c. The road was like a moving forest from the multitude who carried palms, which they strewed in the way for us to march over … Wellington himself rode at the head of our regiment, we were flushed with victory, and a defeated enemy was flying in our front: proud of the honour paid us by the people, we entered Madrid, the air rent with cries of ‘Long live Wellington, Long live the English'” (Oman, V, p.514). In his letters Aitchison himself describes the army’s reception in similarly extravagant terms; “The joy of the inhabitants at our appearance has been excessive, and they have given vent to their feelings with all that extravaganza which could be imagined of a people on finding themselves free after bondage of four years. Lord Wellington is regarded as a Demi-God and the army under him looked upon as invincible” (p.186). John Aitchison, (1789-1875), later General Sir John Aitchison KCB GCB, served as an ensign in the 3rd Foot Guards throughout the War. Present at the Passage of the Douro, wounded in the arm while carrying the King’s colour at Talavera; he also saw action at Busaco, Salamanca, Vittoria, San Sebastian, Nivelle, Nive and Bayonne and took part in the capture of Madrid and the Siege of Burgos. His later service was in India, 1845-51, as Major General on the staff of the Madras Presidency. His letters from the Peninsula were published in 1981 as An Ensign in the Peninsular War : The Letters of John Aitchison. He is buried in Kensal Rise cemetery

Quarto (278 200 mm). Contemporary half calf on drab boards, double ruled compartments to flat spine. Tables to the text. A little rubbed, particularly on the spine, the contents, foxed, browned with occasional staining, but overall very good.

Bibliography: Sandler 78 for Aitchison's letters

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