I have always been interested in my family and where they came from. During a search for more information, I came across this story that was a true account of an heroic deed:
A Daring Escape
While serving under Wellington’s command during the Napoleonic Wars, my 4th great grandfather, Josias William Tayler served and fought in many of the small towns in Portugal always driving back the encroachments of Napoleon’s army.
In December of 1810, young Lt. Tayler was sent on a mission to carry information from General Beresford’s command at Alentejo to the headquarters where Wellington was encamped some distance away. He was given nothing in writing but was told the message that he memorized to deliver to Wellington.
He travelled in the dark of night and slept in thickets during the day to escape being captured by Napoleon’s troops. His journey was arduous, stealing food from gardens along the way and clean water from small creeks and lakes and capturing small game.
On the third day after leaving his command post and around mid December of 1810, he was spotted by Napoleon’s advance troops and encircled by a ring of soldiers on horseback. He was taken into custody and force marched to Napoleon’s headquarters on the Portuguese and Spanish border by the ocean.
During this imprisonment, he was questioned by Napoleon’s commanders but just kept saying he was but a poor Lieutenant and not privy to any information as to the whereabouts of Wellington, only where his regiment was stationed near Lisbon and that he had been ordered to scout the area. He told his captors that they were on a relief leave and not involved in any fighting which was not the truth but the French accepted his word. He was thankful every day that he spoke French fluently…an insistence by his parents to learn the language.
One night after being questioned he overheard a conversation about a planned attack on General Beresford’s command at Alentejo. He was kept in a lightly guarded room and having seen that if he was careful and quiet, he could easily escape his imprisonment, for several days he kept back a small amount of food and carefully preserved it in his kit bag as he knew he would need food to get back to Alentejo.
When he was finally ready he waited until after the guard fell asleep. Lt. Tayler managed to remove the small window and crawl out of the room into a dimly lit courtyard. He crawled on his belly to the garden wall and carefully climbed over and into the countryside.
He ran all night and the next two days until he reached General Beresford’s camp. He was given a few minutes with the General and told him of the coming attack. General Beresford gave the news to his Commanders and ordered Tayler to stand down and rest after his arduous journey back to his Command Post.
For his bravery, he was given one month leave in Lisbon and it was at this time that he went back and married our Princess Maria Brito! They were married by the Army Chaplain December 31, 1810.
For the record, Lt. Josias William Tayler was of slight build but quick on his feet. For his bravery he was given 700 acres of land in Canada when he decided to exchange his British regiment for the Canadian Fencibles where he was put in charge of building a road through the wilderness from Sand Point to Penetanguishene used for carrying supplies to the troops.He was given the commission of Colonel which he kept throughout his life.