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Title: A History of the Peninsula War - Vol. II, Jan. - Sep. 1809. From the Battle of Corunna to - The End of the Talavera Campaign
Author: Oman, Charles
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A History of the Peninsula War - Vol. II, Jan. - Sep. 1809. From the Battle of Corunna to - The End of the Talavera Campaign" ***


  * Italics are denoted by underscores as in _italics_, and small caps
    are represented in upper case as in SMALL CAPS.

[Illustration: _General Joseph Palafox_
  _From the Portrait by Goya in the Prado Gallery._
  _Walker & Cockerell Ph. Sc._]





  JAN.-SEPT. 1809






The second volume of this work has swelled to an even greater bulk
than its predecessor. Its size must be attributed to two main
causes: the first is the fact that a much greater number of original
sources, both printed and unprinted, are available for the campaigns
of 1809 than for those of 1808. The second is that the war in its
second year had lost the character of comparative unity which it
had possessed in its first. Napoleon, on quitting Spain in January,
left behind him as a legacy to his brother a comprehensive plan for
the conquest of the whole Peninsula. But that plan was, from the
first, impracticable: and when it had miscarried, the fighting in
every region of the theatre of war became local and isolated. Neither
the harassed and distracted French King at Madrid, nor the impotent
Spanish Junta at Seville, knew how to combine and co-ordinate the
operations of their various armies into a single logical scheme. Ere
long, six or seven campaigns were taking place simultaneously in
different corners of the Peninsula, each of which was practically
independent of the others. Every French and Spanish general fought
for his own hand, with little care for what his colleagues were
doing: their only unanimity was that all alike kept urging on their
central governments the plea that their own particular section of the
war was more critical and important than any other. If we look at
the month of May, 1809, we find that the following six disconnected
series of operations were all in progress at once, and that each
has to be treated as a separate unit, rather than as a part of one
great general scheme of strategy--(1) Soult’s campaign against
Wellesley in Northern Portugal, (2) Ney’s invasion of the Asturias,
(3) Victor’s and Cuesta’s movements in Estremadura, (4) Sebastiani’s
demonstrations against Venegas in La Mancha, (5) Suchet’s contest
with Blake in Aragon, (6) St. Cyr’s attempt to subdue Catalonia.
When a war has broken up into so many fractions, it becomes not only
hard to follow but very lengthy to narrate. Fortunately for the
historian and the student, a certain amount of unity is restored in
July, mainly owing to the fact that the master-mind of Wellesley has
been brought to bear upon the situation. When the British general
attempted to combine with the Spanish armies of Estremadura and La
Mancha for a common march upon Madrid, the whole of the hostile
forces in the Peninsula [with the exception of those in Aragon and
Catalonia] were once more drawn into a single scheme of operations.
Hence the Talavera campaign is the central fact in the annals of
the Peninsular War for the year 1809. I trust that it will not be
considered that I have devoted a disproportionate amount of space to
the setting forth and discussion of the various problems which it

The details of the battle of Talavera itself have engaged my special
attention. I thought it worth while to go very carefully over the
battle-field, which fortunately remains much as it was in 1809. A
walk around it explained many difficulties, but suggested certain
others, which I have done my best to solve.

In several other chapters of this volume I discovered that a
personal inspection of localities produced most valuable results.
At Oporto, for example, I found Wellesley’s passage of the Douro
assuming a new aspect when studied on the spot. Not one of the
historians who have dealt with it has taken the trouble to mention
that the crossing was effected at a point where the Douro runs
between lofty and precipitous cliffs, towering nearly 200 feet above
the water’s edge! Yet this simple fact explains how it came to pass
that the passage was effected at all--the French, on the plateau
above the river, could not see what was going on at the bottom of the
deeply sunk gorge, which lies in a ‘dead angle’ to any observer who
has not come forward to the very edge of the cliff. I have inserted a
photograph of the spot, which will explain the situation at a glance.
From Napier’s narrative and plan I am driven to conclude that he had
either never seen the ground, or had forgotten its aspect after the
lapse of years.

A search in the Madrid _Deposito de la Guerra_ produced a few
important documents for the Talavera campaign, and was made most
pleasant by the extreme courtesy of the officers in charge. It
is curious to find that our London Record Office contains a good
many Spanish dispatches which do not survive at Madrid. This
results from the laudable zeal with which Mr. Frere, when acting
as British minister at Seville, sent home copies of every Spanish
document, printed or unprinted, on which he could lay his hands.
Once or twice he thus preserved invaluable ‘morning states’ of the
Peninsular armies, which it would otherwise have been impossible to
recover. Among our other representatives in Spain Captain Carroll
was the only one who possessed to a similar degree this admirable
habit of collecting original documents and statistics. His copious
‘enclosures’ to Lord Castlereagh are of the greatest use for the
comprehension of the war in the Asturias and Galicia.

Neither Napier nor any other historian of the Peninsular War has gone
into the question of Beresford’s reorganization of the Portuguese
army. Comparing English and Portuguese documents, I have succeeded
in working it out, and trust that Chapter III of Section XIII, and
Appendix No. V, may suffice to demonstrate Beresford’s very real
services to the allied cause.

It is my pleasant duty to acknowledge much kind help that I have
received from correspondents on both sides of the sea, who have
come to my aid in determining points of difficulty. Of those in
England I must make particular notice of Colonel F. A. Whinyates,
R.A., a specialist in all matters connected with the British
artillery. I owe to him my Appendix No. XI, which he was good enough
to draw up, as well as the loan of several unpublished diaries of
officers of his own arm, from which I have extracted some useful
and interesting facts. I must also express my obligation to Mr.
E. Mayne, for information relating to Sir Robert Wilson’s Loyal
Lusitanian Legion, of which his relative, Colonel W. Mayne, was in
1809 the second-in-command. The excerpts which he was kind enough to
collect for me have proved of great service, and could not have been
procured from any other quarter. Nor must I omit to thank two other
correspondents, Colonel Willoughby Verner and the Rev. Alexander
Craufurd, for their notes concerning the celebrated ‘Light Division,’
in which the one is interested as the historian of the old 95th, and
the other as the grandson of Robert Craufurd, of famous memory.

Of helpers from beyond the Channel I must make special mention of
Commandant Balagny, the author of _Napoléon en Espagne_, who has
supplied me with a great number of official documents from Paris,
and in especial with a quantity of statistics, many of them hitherto
unpublished, which serve to fix the strength and the losses of
various French corps in 1809. I also owe to him my Appendix VI (iii),
a most interesting _résumé_ of the material in the French archives
relating to the strange ‘Oporto conspiracy’ of Captain Argenton
and his confederates. This obscure chapter of the history of the
Peninsular War is, I think, brought out in its true proportions
by the juxtaposition of the English and French documents. It is
clear that Soult’s conduct was far more sinister than Napier will
allow, and also that the plot to depose the Marshal was the work
of a handful of military intriguers, not of the great body of
highly-placed conspirators in whose existence the mendacious Argenton
has induced some historians to believe.

At Madrid General Arteche placed at my disposal, with the most
bountiful liberality, his immense stores of knowledge, which I had
learnt to appreciate long before, as a conscientious student of his
_Guerra de la Independencia_. He pointed out to me many new sources,
which had escaped my notice, and was good enough to throw light on
many problems which had been vexing me. For his genial kindness I
cannot too strongly express my obligation.

Of the officers at the Madrid _Deposito de la Guerra_, whose courtesy
I have mentioned above, I must give special thanks to Captain Emilio
Figueras, from whom (just as these pages are going to press) I have
received some additional figures relating to the Army of Estremadura
in 1809.

Finally, as in my first volume, I must make special acknowledgement
of the assistance of two helpers in Oxford--the indefatigable
compiler of the Index, and Mr. C. E. Doble, whose corrections and
suggestions have been as valuable in 1903 as in 1902.

  C. OMAN.

  _June 20, 1903_.



  CHAPTER                                                         PAGE

  I. The Consequences of Moore’s Diversion: Rally of the
  Spanish Armies: Battle of Ucles                                    1

  II. Napoleon’s departure from Spain: his plans for the
  Termination of the War: the Counter-Plans of the
  Junta: Canning and Cadiz                                          15


  I. The Siege of Rosas                                             37

  II. St. Cyr relieves Barcelona: Battles of Cardadeu and
  Molins de Rey                                                     58

  III. The Campaign of February, 1809: Battle of Valls              76


  I. The Capture of the Outworks                                    90

  II. The French within the Walls: the Street-fighting: the
  Surrender                                                        115


  I. The Rout of Ciudad Real                                       143

  II. Operations of Victor and Cuesta: the Battle of Medellin      149


  I. Soult’s Preliminary Operations in Galicia (Jan.-March
  1809)                                                            170

  II. Portugal at the moment of Soult’s Invasion: the Nation,
  the Regency, and Sir John Cradock                                196

  III. The Portuguese Army: its History and its Reorganization     208

  IV. Combats about Chaves and Braga: Capture of Oporto
  (March 10-29, 1809)                                              223

  V. Soult’s halt at Oporto: Operations of Robert Wilson and
  Lapisse on the Portuguese Frontier: Silveira’s defence
  of Amarante                                                      250

  VI. Intrigues at Oporto: the Conspiracy of Argenton              273


  I. Sir Arthur Wellesley: the general and the man                 286

  II. Wellesley retakes Oporto                                     312

  III. Soult’s Retreat from Oporto                                 343


  I. Ney and La Romana in Galicia and the Asturias                 367

  II. The French abandon Galicia                                   390

  III. Operations in Aragon: Alcañiz and Belchite
  (March-June 1809)                                                406


  I. Wellesley at Abrantes: Victor evacuates Estremadura           433

  II. Wellesley enters Spain                                       449

  III. Wellesley and Cuesta: the interview at Mirabete             463

  IV. The March to Talavera: Quarrel of Wellesley and Cuesta       483

  V. Concentration of the French Armies: the King takes
  the offensive: Combats of Torrijos and Casa de Salinas           494

  VI. The Battle of Talavera: the Preliminary Combats
  (July 27-28)                                                     507

  VII. The Battle of Talavera: the Main Engagement (July 28)       527

  VIII. The Retreat from Talavera                                  559

  IX. The end of the Talavera Campaign: Almonacid                  599


  I. The ‘Army of the Centre,’ Jan. 11, 1809. The Spanish Army
  at the Battle of Ucles                                           621

  II. The Garrison of Saragossa                                    622

  III. The French Army in Spain, in Feb. 1809                      624

  IV. The Spanish Army at Medellin                                 627

  V. The Portuguese Army in 1809: organization and numbers         629

  VI. Papers relating to the intrigues at Oporto,
  April-May 1809                                                   632

  VII. Strength of Wellesley’s Army, May 6, 1809                   640

  VIII. Soult’s Report on Galicia, June 25, 1809                   642

  IX. Suchet’s and Blake’s Armies, May and June 1809               643

  X. Papers relating to the Talavera Campaign: strength and
  losses of the British, Spanish, and French Armies                645

  XI. The British Royal Artillery in the Peninsula, 1809           654

  XII. Venegas’s Army of La Mancha in June-July 1809               655

  INDEX                                                            657


  I. UCLES AND ROSAS                                     _To face_  54


  III. SARAGOSSA, THE SECOND SIEGE                            ”    134

  IV. MEDELLIN                                                ”    166

  V. BRAGA (LANHOZO) AND OPORTO                               ”    248

  CAMPAIGNS OF 1809                                           ”    360

  VII. ALCAÑIZ AND MARIA                                      ”    426

  VIII. TALAVERA                                              ”    550

  THE TALAVERA CAMPAIGN                                       ”    596



  A PORTUGUESE CAVALRY SOLDIER, 1809                               212


  CROSSING                                                         336



The following facts I discovered in Madrid and Lisbon when it was too
late to correct the chapters in which the mis-statements occur.

(1) Page 82, note 93. I have found from a Madrid document that part,
though not the whole, of the Regiment of Baza was present at Valls.
One battalion was left behind with Wimpffen: one marched with Reding:
about 800 men therefore must be added to my estimate of the Spanish

(2) Page 318, note 394. I found in Lisbon that the regiments which
marched with Beresford to Lamego were not (as I had supposed) nos. 7
and 19, but nos. 2 and 14, with the 4th cazadores. Those which joined
from the direction of Almeida were two battalions of no. 11 (1st of
Almeida) and one of no. 9.

(3) Page 366. A dispatch of Beresford at Lisbon clears up my doubts
as to Silveira’s culpability. Beresford complains that the latter
lost a whole day by marching from Amarante to Villa Pouca without
orders; the dispatch directing him to take the path by Mondim thus
reached him only when he had gone many miles on the wrong road. The
time lost could never be made up.






With the departure of Napoleon from Madrid on December 21, the
offensive action of the French army in central Spain came to a
stand. The Emperor had taken away with him the field army, which
had been destined to deliver those blows at Lisbon and Seville
that were to end the war. The troops which he had left behind him
in the neighbourhood of Madrid were inadequate in numbers for any
further advance, and were forced to adopt a defensive attitude. The
only regions in which the invaders continued to pursue an active
policy were Aragon and Catalonia, from which, on account of their
remoteness, the Emperor had not withdrawn any troops for his great
encircling movement against Sir John Moore. In both those provinces
important operations began on the very day on which Bonaparte set out
to hunt the English army: it was on December 21 that Lannes commenced
the second siege of Saragossa, and that St. Cyr, after relieving
Barcelona, scattered the army of Catalonia at the battle of Molins de
Rey. But the campaigns of Aragon and Catalonia were both of secondary
importance, when compared with the operations in central Spain. As
the whole history of the war was to show, the progress of events in
the valley of the lower Ebro and in the Catalan hills never exercised
much influence on the affairs of Castile and Portugal. It is not,
therefore, too much to assert that it was Moore’s march on Sahagun,
and that march alone, which paralysed the main scheme of the Emperor
for the conquest of Spain.

Between December 21 and January 2 the central reserves of the French
army had been hurried away to the Esla and the plains of northern
Leon. It was not till the new year had come that the Emperor began
to think of sending some of them back to the neighbourhood of
Madrid. The 8th Corps had been incorporated with the 2nd, and sent
in pursuit of Moore: the corps of Ney and the division of Lapisse
were left to support Soult in his invasion of Galicia. The Imperial
Guard marched back to Valladolid. Of all the troops which had been
distracted to the north-west, only Dessolles’ division of the Central
Reserve returned to the capital. Such a reinforcement was far from
being enough to enable Joseph Bonaparte, and his military adviser
Jourdan, to assume the offensive towards the valleys of the Tagus
and Guadiana. The consequences of Moore’s diversion were not only
far-reaching but prolonged: it was not till the middle of March
that the army of the king was able to resume the attempt to march
on Seville, and by that time the condition of affairs had been
profoundly modified, to the advantage of the Spaniards.

The intervening time was not one of rest for Joseph and his army.
Their movements require careful attention. When Napoleon hurried
the main body of his troops across the Somosierra in pursuit of
the British, he left behind him the corps of Victor, shorn of
Lapisse’s division, the whole of the corps of Lefebvre[1], and the
three independent cavalry divisions of Lasalle, Latour-Maubourg and
Milhaud--in all 8,000 horse and 28,000 foot with ninety guns. There
was also the Royal Guard of King Joseph, four battalions of foot,
and a regiment of horse, beside two skeleton regiments of Spanish
deserters, which the ‘Intrusive King’ was raising as the nucleus of a
new army of his own[2].

  [1] Save two Dutch and one German regiment of Leval’s division,
  which had been left behind on garrison duty in Biscay and Old

  [2] This was done by the Emperor’s orders. The _cadres_ of these
  regiments, called _Royal-Étranger_ and _Royal-Napoléon_, were
  formed partly of Frenchmen, partly of Spanish _Afrancesados_. The
  rank and file of the first regiment were to be raised from the
  Swiss and Germans who had served in the old Spanish army: some
  of them had adhered to the French, others, when taken prisoners
  in the late campaign, had offered to serve King Joseph. The
  second regiment was to be composed of native Spaniards. See
  _Correspondance de Napoléon_, 14,531.

Of these troops the incomplete German division of Leval (2nd of the
4th Corps) and King Joseph’s guards formed the garrison of Madrid.
This force seeming too small, the division of Ruffin (1st of the 1st
Corps) was ordered in to reinforce them. The rest of the army lay
in two concentric semicircles outside Madrid: the inner semicircle
was formed of infantry: there was a regiment at Guadalajara[3], a
whole division under Marshal Victor himself at Aranjuez[4], and two
divisions of the 4th Corps under Marshal Lefebvre at Talavera[5].
Outside these troops was a great cavalry screen. In front of
Victor the three cavalry brigades of Latour-Maubourg’s division
lay respectively at Tarancon, Ocaña, and Madridejos, watching the
three roads from La Mancha. West of them lay Milhaud’s division
of dragoons, in front of Talavera, in the direction of Navalmoral
and San Vincente, observing the passes of the Sierra de Toledo.
Lastly, as a sort of advanced guard in the direction of Estremadura,
Lasalle’s light cavalry had pushed on to the great bridge of Almaraz,
behind which the wrecks of the mutinous armies of Belvedere and San
Juan were beginning to collect, under their new commander Galluzzo[6].

  [3] The 55th, a stray remnant left behind by Dessolles.

  [4] Division of Villatte. It had one battalion detached, along
  with the 26th Chasseurs, at Toledo.

  [5] Division of Valence and Sebastiani.

  [6] Lasalle’s division (often altered in composition) now
  consisted of the 10th and 26th Chasseurs, 9th Dragoons and Polish

The Emperor’s parting orders to Jourdan had been to send forward
Lasalle and Lefebvre to deal a blow at the Estremaduran army. They
had, he wrote, twice the numbers necessary to break up the small
force of disorganized troops in front of them. On December 24,
Lefebvre was to cross the Tagus, scatter Galluzzo’s men to the winds,
and then come back to Talavera, after building a _tête-de-pont_ at
Almaraz. Lasalle’s cavalry would be capable of looking after what was
left of this force, for it would not give trouble again for many a
week to come. Victor, on the side of La Mancha, must keep watch on
any movements of the Spaniards from the direction of Cuenca or the
Sierra Morena. He would have no difficulty in holding them off, for
‘all the débris of the insurgent armies combined could not face even
the 8,000 French cavalry left in front of them--to say nothing of the
infantry behind[7].’

  [7] See for all these details _Nap. Corresp._, 14,609.

The first portion of the orders of the Emperor was duly carried out.
On December 24 the Duke of Dantzig advanced from Talavera upon the
bridges of Arzobispo and Almaraz, behind which lay 6,000 or 7,000 of
Galluzzo’s dispirited levies. He made no more than a feint at the
first-mentioned passage, but attacking the more important bridge of
Almaraz carried it at the first rush, and took the four guns which
Galluzzo had mounted on the southern bank to command the defile.
The Spaniards, scattered in all directions, abandoned the banks of
the Tagus, and placed themselves in safety behind the rugged Sierra
de Guadalupe. So far the Emperor’s design was carried out: but
Lefebvre then took a most extraordinary step. Instead of returning,
as he had been ordered, to Talavera, and remaining in that central
position till further orders should be sent him, he went off on an
inexplicable adventure of his own. Leaving only Lasalle’s cavalry
and two Polish battalions on the Tagus, he turned north, as if
intending to join the Emperor, crossed the mountains between New
and Old Castile, and on January 5 appeared at Avila in the latter
province[8]. Not only was the march in complete contravention of the
Emperor’s orders, but it was carried out in disobedience to five
separate dispatches sent from Madrid by Jourdan, in the name of King
Joseph. Lefebvre paid no attention whatever to the ‘lieutenant of the
Emperor,’ in spite of vehement representations to the effect that
he was exposing Madrid by this eccentric movement. It was indeed
an unhappy inspiration that led him to Avila, for at this precise
moment the Spaniards were commencing a wholly unexpected offensive
advance against the Spanish capital, which Lefebvre, if he had
remained at Talavera, might have aided in repelling. Much incensed
at his disobedience Napoleon deprived him of the command of the 4th
Corps, and sent him back to France. ‘This marshal,’ he wrote to King
Joseph, ‘does nothing but make blunders: he cannot seize the meaning
of the orders sent him. It is impossible to leave him in command of
a corps;--which is a pity, for he is a brave enough fellow on the
battle-field[9].’ Sebastiani, Lefebvre’s senior divisional general,
replaced him in command of his corps.

  [8] Napier misrepresents this move in the strangest way, saying
  (i. 364) merely that ‘the Duke of Dantzig recrossed the Tagus and
  took post between Talavera and Plasencia.’ Avila is fifty miles
  north of these places, and on the other side of the Guadarrama.

  [9] Napoleon to Joseph from Valladolid, Jan. 9, _Nap. Corresp._,

The new Spanish advance upon Madrid requires a word of explanation.
We have seen that the weary and dilapidated Army of the Centre, now
commanded by the Duke of Infantado, had reached Cuenca on December
10, after escaping from the various snares which Napoleon had set for
it during its march from Calatayud to the valley of the upper Tagus.
When he had escaped from Bessières’ pursuit, the duke proceeded to
give his army a fortnight’s much-needed rest in the mountain villages
round Cuenca. He sent back to Valencia the wrecks of Roca’s division,
which had originally been raised in that kingdom. It had dwindled
down to 1,455 men, from its original 8,000[10]. The other troops, the
2nd, 3rd, and 4th divisions of the old army of Andalusia[11], had not
suffered quite so much, as they had not been seriously engaged at
Tudela, but they were half-starved and very disorderly. Infantado was
forced to shoot an officer and two sergeants for open mutiny before
he could restore the elements of discipline[12].

  [10] See the figures furnished by the Valencian Junta in
  Argüelles, ii. 74. It must he remembered that 4,800 of the
  division had escaped to Saragossa, and took part in its defence.

  [11] The 1st division had only four battalions present, the
  others having been at Madrid, in the army of San Juan.

  [12] The officer, a Lieutenant Santiago, had refused to march on
  Cuenca, and when the order was repeated, unlimbered his battery
  across the road and threatened to fire on the troops who were
  marching in that direction. See Arteche, iii. 12.

The province of Cuenca is the most thinly peopled and desolate of
all the regions of Spain[13], and though some stores and food were
procured from Valencia, it was impossible to re-equip the army in
a satisfactory way. Winter clothing, in particular, was absolutely
unprocurable, and if the men had not been placed under roofs in
Cuenca and the villages around, they must have perished of cold.
But a fortnight’s rest did much for them: many stragglers came
up from the rear, a few reinforcements were received, and to the
surprise of the whole army the brigade of the Conde de Alacha, which
had been cut off from the rest of the troops on the day of Tudela,
turned up intact to join its division. This detachment, it will
be remembered[14], had been left in the mountains near Agreda, to
observe the advance of Marshal Ney: after the rout it had nearly
fallen into the hands of the 6th Corps, and had been forced to turn
off into obscure by-paths. Then, passing in haste between the French
divisions in New Castile, it had finally succeeded in reaching Cuenca.

  [13] It had only 311 inhabitants to the square league in 1803, as
  compared with 926 in Andalusia, and 2,009 in Guipuzcoa.

  [14] See vol. i. p. 437.

Infantado, finding that the French still hung back and advanced
no further into his mountain refuge, proceeded to reorganize his
army; the three weakened battalions of the old line regiments were
consolidated into two or often into one. The four divisions of the
original Andalusian host were amalgamated into two, with an extra
‘vanguard’ and ‘reserve’ composed of the best troops[15]. This
rearrangement had not yet been fully completed when the duke made
up his mind that he would venture on an advance against Madrid. He
could learn of nothing save cavalry in his front, and he had received
early notice of the departure of Napoleon to the north. Giving the
command of his vanguard and the greater part of his cavalry to
General Venegas, he bade him descend into the plains, and endeavour
to surprise the brigade of dragoons which lay at Tarancon[16]. This
task Venegas attempted to execute on Christmas Day: he had already
turned the town with half his force, and placed himself across the
line of retreat of the dragoons, before they knew of his approach.
Warned, just in time of his danger, the French brigadier resolved to
cut his way through: he charged down on the enemy, who fell into a
line of battalion squares with long intervals between them. Dashing
between the squares the two regiments got through with the loss of
fifty or sixty men. The Spanish cavalry, which arrived late on the
field, made no attempt to pursue. On the same day Infantado had sent
out another column under General Senra, with orders to march on
Aranjuez: finding that it was held not only by cavalry but by a heavy
force of infantry, the Spanish brigadier wisely halted at a discreet
distance, for which he was sharply taken to task by his chief. It is
certain that if he had gone on, Victor would have made mincemeat of
his little force of 4,000 men.

  [15] For these changes see Appendix I.

  [16] Perreimond’s brigade of Latour-Maubourg’s division.

Although the advance of Venegas and Senra soon stopped short, the
news that the Spaniards were descending in force into the plain
of New Castile was most discomposing to King Joseph, who was at
this moment very weak in troops. Lefebvre had just started on his
eccentric march to Avila: Dessolles was not yet back from the north,
and there was no disposable reserve at Madrid save the single
division of Ruffin, for the king’s guards and Leval’s Germans were
barely enough to hold down the capital, and could not be moved. The
situation was made worse by the revolt of several of the small towns
of the upper Tagus, including Chinchon and Colmenar, which rose under
the belief that Infantado’s army would soon be at their gates. There
was nothing between the duke and Madrid save the single infantry
division of Villatte, which lay with Marshal Victor at Aranjuez, and
the six dragoon regiments of Latour-Maubourg, a force of little more
than 9,000 sabres and bayonets.

Fortunately for King Joseph, Infantado was a most incapable general,
and allowed his opportunity to slip by. By driving in the French
cavalry screen, he had given notice of his existence, and spread
alarm up to the gates of Madrid. But in order to profit by the
situation he should have dashed in at once, before the enemy had time
to draw together. If he had marched from Cuenca with his reserves, in
the wake of Venegas, he could have brought 20,000 men to bear upon
Victor, before the latter could receive the very moderate succours
that King Joseph could send him. Instead of doing anything of the
kind, he remained quiescent at his head quarters, and did not even
send Venegas any further orders, either to advance or to retreat.
From December 26 to January 11, the Spanish vanguard lay at Tarancon,
as if with the express intention of giving the French time to
concentrate. The duke meanwhile, as his dispatches show, was drawing
up a grandiose plan of operations, which included not only the
eviction of King Joseph from Madrid, but the cutting of Napoleon’s
communication and the raising of the siege of Saragossa! He was
most anxious to induce the Central Junta to move forward all their
other forces to aid him. But they could do nothing, so deplorable
was the state of their army, but bid the weak division of 6,000 men,
which was guarding the Sierra Morena, to begin a demonstration in
La Mancha. In pursuance of this order Del Palacio made a forward
movement, as dangerous as it was useless, to Villaharta on the upper

Jourdan and the Intrusive King, meanwhile, were for ten days in a
state of great anxiety, expecting every moment to hear that the whole
Spanish army had descended from the mountains and thrown itself upon
the upper Tagus. They ordered Victor to move from Aranjuez to Arganda
to parry such a blow, and made preparations for reinforcing him with
Ruffin’s division, while the rest of the garrison of Madrid, with
the French civilians, and the mass of _Afrancesados_, were to shut
themselves up in the forts on the Retiro, being too few to hold the
entire city. But the expected advance of Infantado never occurred,
and Jourdan and Victor were able to put down the insurrection of the
little towns in the plain without any interruption. Chinchon was
stormed, and the whole male population put to the sword; at Colmenar
there were executions on a large scale, and a fine of 50,000 piastres
was levied. The rest of the insurgents fled to the hills[17].

  [17] Jourdan confesses to this massacre in the most open way.
  ‘Le 27e Léger s’étant présenté aux portes de Chinchon, fut
  reçu à coups de fusil. Cette provocation occasionna la perte
  des habitants: ils furent _tous_ tués, et la ville incendiée.’
  _Mémoires du Maréchal Jourdan_, 139.

On January 8, 1809, the fears of Joseph and Jourdan came to a happy
end, for on that day the division of Dessolles marched in from Old
Castile, while on the 10th the 4th Corps appeared, having been sent
back in haste from Avila by the Emperor. This reinforcement of more
than 20,000 men completely cleared the situation. The French line of
defence could now be re-established: Valence’s Polish division was
placed at Toledo: Leval’s Germans, completed by the arrival of their
belated Dutch brigade, were sent to Talavera. Sebastiani’s division,
with Dessolles and the king’s guard, remained to garrison Madrid.
Ruffin was sent out to join Victor, who was ordered to march at once
on Tarancon and fall upon the Spanish corps which had remained there
in such strange torpidity since Christmas day[18]. The Emperor,
sending these orders from Valladolid, expressed himself in a somewhat
contemptuous strain as to his brother’s fears. ‘The army of Castaños’
(i.e. of Infantado) ‘was as great a fiction as that of La Romana:
rumour made them 20,000 strong, while really there were not more than
5,000 of them[19]. Victor had ten times as many men as were necessary
for clearing off the Spaniards. The panic at Madrid had been absurd
and discreditable: all that was wanted was to catch and hang a dozen
_mauvais sujets_, and the capital would keep quiet.’

  [18] All these movements are most clearly set forth in Jourdan’s
  _Mémoires_, by far the best authority for the campaign of Ucles.

  [19] _Nap. Corresp._, 14,637 and 14,684.

On January 12 Victor marched from Aranjuez with the twenty-one
battalions of Villatte’s and Ruffin’s divisions, the squadrons of
light horse which formed his corps-cavalry, and the three brigades
of dragoons composing the division of Latour-Maubourg--in all some
12,000 foot and 3,500 horse. He did not find Venegas at Tarancon: on
hearing that the French were massing in front of him, that officer
had called in the outlying brigade of Senra, and had retired ten
miles to Ucles, in the foot-hills of the mountains of Cuenca. He sent
news of Victor’s approach to Infantado, but the latter gave him no
definite orders either to fight or to retreat. He merely forwarded to
him three or four more battalions of infantry, and announced that he
was coming up from Cuenca with the reserves: he fixed no date for his
probable arrival.

Much troubled by the want of definite orders, Venegas doubted
whether he ought to hold his ground and await his chief, or fall
back into the mountains. After some hesitation he resolved to take
the more dangerous course, tempted by the fine position of Ucles,
which offered every advantage for a defensive action. He had with
him about 9,500 infantry in twenty-two very weak battalions, some of
which had no more than 250 or 300 bayonets. Of cavalry he had nine
incomplete regiments, giving only 1,800 sabres[20]. There were but
five guns with the army, of which one had broken down, and was not
fit for service. The town of Ucles lies in the midst of a long ridge
stretching north-east and south-west, with a steep slope towards
the plain, from which the French were approaching. Venegas drew up
his men in a single long line, with the town in the centre. Four
battalions were barricaded in Ucles: six took post to the left of
it, eight to the right. Only one was held back in reserve, but three
with four regiments of cavalry were left out in front, to observe the
French advance, in the neighbourhood of the village of Tribaldos.
The four guns and the remainder of the cavalry were drawn up before
the town. It is almost needless to point out the faults of this
order-of-battle--over-great extension and the want of a reserve. The
position was too long for the numbers available. Moreover the men
were not in good fighting trim: though several of the old regiments
from Baylen were among them, their spirits were low: they had not yet
recovered from the dreadful fatigues of the retreat from Tudela, and
they had little confidence in their leaders.

  [20] Beside the twenty battalions given in the Appendix to
  Arteche, iv, Venegas’s narrative shows that at least two more
  (Baylen and Navas de Tolosa) were present.

Victor marched from Tarancon at daybreak on January 13, with one
division on each of the two routes which lead eastward from that
place, Villatte’s on the southern road which goes directly to Ucles,
Ruffin’s on the longer and more circuitous path, which, running
parallel to the other, ultimately rejoins it at Carrascosa some
way behind that town. The majority of Latour-Maubourg’s cavalry
accompanied the former column.

Already on the previous night Victor’s vedettes had discovered the
Spanish outpost at Tribaldos: very early on the following morning it
was driven in by the advance of Villatte’s column, and joined the
main body of the army of Venegas. The Marshal then pushed forward to
the foot of the hills, to reconnoitre the enemy’s position. Having
discerned the lie of the ground, and the distribution of the Spanish
forces, his mind was soon made up. Orders were promptly sent to
Ruffin to leave the road on which he was advancing, and to close in
upon the right flank and rear of Venegas’s army. Meanwhile Villatte
and the cavalry drew up in front of Ucles, with a strength of about
7,000 bayonets and 2,500 sabres. The dragoons were placed in the
centre; in front of them was ranged a battery, which commenced to
shell the town and the Spanish horse drawn up before its gates.
This was only a demonstration: the real blow was to be given by an
attack on the Spanish left, where the hillside was of easier access
than on the steep and rocky northern end of the ridge. Villatte’s
second brigade, the 94th and 95th regiments, executed a circular
march under the eyes of the enemy, and having turned their extreme
flank, rapidly climbed the hill and formed up at right angles to the
Spanish line. These six battalions fell upon the exposed wing and
rolled it up without much difficulty, till they arrived under the
very walls of Ucles, driving the enemy before them. Venegas, who was
watching the fight from the court of the monastery which dominates
the town, had tried to hurry up reinforcements from his right wing:
but they arrived too late to be of any use. When the attack on the
enemy’s left was seen to be making good progress, and the attention
of the Spaniards was distracted to that point, Victor directed the
first brigade of Villatte’s division to assail the steep hill on the
Spanish right. They carried it with ease, for half the defenders had
been withdrawn to reinforce the left, and the rest were demoralized
by the evident disaster on the other flank. The whole of Venegas’s
army fled eastward without any further endeavour to hold their
ground, the considerable force of cavalry in the centre making no
attempt, as it would appear, to cover the retreat of the foot. Such
rearguard as there was consisted of two or three infantry battalions
under General Giron.

Suddenly the Spaniards of the right wing and centre saw rising up in
front of them, as they fled, an imposing line of French infantry,
barring their further progress. This force consisted of the nine
battalions of Ruffin’s division. They had lost their way while
seeking for the Spanish flank, and (like Ferguson at Roliça) made too
wide a circle to enable them to intervene in the actual fighting.
But the very length of their turning movement proved advantageous,
as they had now got into the direct rear of the retreating army.
Driven on by the pursuing dragoons of Latour-Maubourg, the Spaniards
found themselves rushing into the very arms of Ruffin’s division.
The disaster was complete, and more than half of Venegas’s army was
encircled and captured. Most of the cavalry, indeed, escaped, by
dispersing and riding rapidly round the flanks of Ruffin’s line. But
the slow-moving infantry was trapped: a few battalions from the left
wing got off to the south-east, and General Giron with a remnant of
his brigade cut his way through a gap between two French regiments.
All the rest had to surrender.

Of Venegas’s 11,000 men, about 1,000 had been killed or wounded: four
generals, seventeen colonels, 306 other officers and 5,560 rank and
file were captured[21]. The French secured the four guns which formed
the sole artillery of the beaten army, and twenty standards[22].
Their own loss was insignificant--Victor returned his total
casualties at 150 men, and probably did not much understate them, as
he had met with no serious resistance.

  [21] These numbers are probably exact: Jourdan quotes them
  from his own official report to Berthier of Jan. 20. See his
  _Mémoires_, p. 144.

  [22] As the wrecks of fifteen or sixteen battalions had
  surrendered, there seems no reason to doubt the number of
  standards. But the Spaniards asserted that Victor eked out his
  trophies, by taking down the old battle-flags of the knights of
  Santiago from their church in Ucles.

Though they had suffered so little, the French showed great ferocity
after the fight. They not only sacked the town of Ucles, but executed
in cold blood sixty-nine of its notables, including many monks, who
were accused of having fired on the assailants from their convent
windows. When the column of Spanish prisoners was sent off to Madrid,
orders were given (it is said by Victor himself) that those who would
not keep up with the rest should be shot, and we have good French
authority to the effect that this was regularly done; thirty or more
a day, mostly the wounded and the sick, were shot by the wayside when
they dropped behind[23].

  [23] Cf. the _Mémoires_ of Rocca (of the 2nd Hussars, Victor’s
  corps-cavalry), p. 68, and Schepeler.

What, meanwhile, had happened to the Spanish Commander-in-chief, and
the 9,000 men whom he had retained at Cuenca? Infantado had started
to join Venegas on January 12: he slept that night at Horcajada,
fifteen miles to the east of Ucles. Resuming his march next morning,
he had got as far as Carrascosa, when a disorderly mob of 2,000
routed infantry hurtled into his vanguard. Questioning the fugitives,
he learnt the details of the battle of Ucles, and found that the
victorious army of the French was only five miles away. Then with a
promptitude very different from his torpor of the last three weeks,
the duke turned his column to the rear, and made off with all speed.
He first returned to his base at Cuenca to pick up his baggage and
stores, and then marched by vile cross-roads and in abominable
weather to Chinchilla in the kingdom of Murcia, which he reached on
January 20. His artillery, forced to go at a snail’s pace among the
hills and torrents, and escorted by a single cavalry regiment only,
was surprised and captured by Digeon’s dragoons at Tortola, a few
miles to the south of Cuenca (Jan. 18). Fifteen guns were lost on
this occasion: several of the French authorities ingeniously add them
to the trophies of Ucles, and write as if they had all been taken
from Venegas in open battle[24].

  [24] Notably the ever-inaccurate _Victoires et Conquêtes_, and
  Thiers. The usually-sensible Belmas makes the Spanish prisoners
  amount to 13,000 men, two thousand more than Venegas ever put in

Victor after occupying Cuenca, and finding that Infantado was now
too far away to be pursued with any chance of success, turned down
into the plains of La Mancha, to strike at the small Andalusian
force which had advanced under Del Palacio, to lend countenance to
Infantado’s projects for a march on Madrid. This division, some 6,000
strong, had reached Villaharta on the upper Guadiana, but when the
news of Ucles arrived, its commander hastily drew it back to the foot
of the passes. Finding no enemy to attack, Victor, after crossing La
Mancha unopposed, took up his post at Madridejos, on the high-road
between Madrid and the Despeña Perros, and waited for further orders
from Head Quarters.

It was only after the victory of Ucles that King Joseph was permitted
by his brother to make his formal entry into Madrid. Up to this
moment he had been told to stop at the Palace of the Pardo, far
outside the walls, and only to pay furtive and unostentatious
visits to his official abode in the city. When the inhabitants of
the capital had been sufficiently impressed by the arrival of the
numerous columns of the 4th Corps and of Dessolles, and had seen
the banners and the prisoners taken at Ucles paraded through their
streets, their king was once more sent among them. Joseph made his
appearance on January 22, passed through a long lane of French
bayonets to the church of San Isidro, where a _Te Deum_ was chanted
for the late victories, and then entered his palace. Here he received
numerous deputations of Spaniards who swore him fealty. But the moral
effect of these oaths was not very great, for the local notables
attended under the pressure of the bayonet. Napoleon had sent orders
that every town in Castile of more than 2,000 souls must dispatch
delegates to Madrid, or the consequences would be unpleasant[25]. The
delegates appeared, but it may be guessed with what feelings they
mouthed their oaths and their protestations of joy and loyalty. Yet
Joseph, determined to play the part of the benevolent monarch, took
the whole farce seriously, and answered with lavish declarations of
his love and sympathy for the great Spanish nation. Sentiments of
the kind were to be the staple of his fruitless and copious oratory
for the next four years. His heart would have sunk within him if
only he could have recognized their futility: but 1809 was but just
beginning, and he was far from realizing the full meaning of his
position: it took a very long time to thoroughly disenchant this
hard-working and well-meaning prince.

  [25] _Nap. Corresp._, 14,729, from Valladolid, Jan. 16.



Four days after the battle of Ucles Napoleon quitted Spain. He had
rested at Valladolid from January 6 to January 17, after his return
from the pursuit of Sir John Moore. Though he had failed to entrap
the British Army he was not discontented with his achievements.
He was fully convinced that he had broken the back of the Spanish
insurrection, and that he could safely return to France, leaving
the completion of the work to his brother and his marshals. He was
anxious to hear that Saragossa had fallen, and that the English had
been driven out of the Peninsula. When these two events should have
come to pass, his armies might resume, under the guidance of his
subordinates, the original advance against Portugal and Andalusia
which had been so effectually frustrated by Moore’s daring move.

Meanwhile he spent full eleven days at Valladolid, busy with all
manner of desk-work, connected not merely with Spain, but with the
affairs of the whole continent. He was evidently anxious to leave
an impression of terror behind him: he hectored and bullied the
unfortunate Spanish deputations that were compelled to come before
him in the most insulting fashion. His harangues generally wound up
with the declaration that if he was ever forced to come back to Spain
in arms, he would remove his brother Joseph, and divide the realm
into subject provinces, which should be governed by martial law. Some
French soldiers (probably marauders) having been assassinated, he
arrested and threatened to hang the whole municipality of Valladolid,
finally releasing them only when three persons accused (rightly
or wrongly) of the murders were delated to him and executed. He
sent advice to King Joseph to deal in the same way with Madrid:
nothing would keep the capital quiet, he wrote, but a good string
of executions[26]. It was to be many years before he realized that
hanging did no good in Spain, and was only repaid by additional
assassinations. In return for this good advice to his brother, he
extorted from him fifty of the choicest pictures of the royal gallery
at Madrid; but in compensation Joseph was invited to annex all that
he might choose from the private collections of the exiled Spanish
nobility and the monasteries of the capital[27].

  [26] ‘Faites donc pendre une douzaine d’individus à Madrid: il
  n’y manque point de mauvais sujets, et sans cela il n’y aura rien
  de fait.’ _Nap. Corresp._, 14,684. Compare Lecestre, _Lettres
  inédites de Napoléon_, i. 275, where orders are given that thirty
  persons, who had already been acquitted by the civil tribunals,
  should he rearrested, tried again before a court martial, and
  promptly shot! Napoleon to Joseph, Jan. 16, 1809.

  [27] ‘Je préfèrerais que vous prissiez tous les tableaux qui
  se trouvent dans les maisons confisquées et dans les couvents
  supprimés, et que vous me fissiez présent d’une cinquantaine de
  chefs-d’œuvre. Vous sentez qu’il ne faut que de bonnes choses.’
  _Nap. Corresp._, 14,717.

Suggestions have sometimes been made that Napoleon hastened his
departure from Spain, because he saw that the suppression of the
insurrection would take a much longer time than he had originally
supposed, and because he wished to transfer to other hands the
lengthy and inglorious task of hunting down the last armies of the
Junta. This view is certainly erroneous: his three months’ stay in
Spain had not opened the Emperor’s eyes to the difficulties of the
business that he had taken in hand. Though many of his couriers and
aides-de-camp had already been ambuscaded and shot by the peasantry,
though he was already beginning to see that a blockhouse and a
garrison would have to be placed at every stage on the high-roads,
he believed that these sinister signs were temporary, and that the
country-side, after a few sanguinary lessons had been given, would
sink down into the quiet of despair.

His final legacy to his brother, on departing, was a long dispatch
giving a complete plan of operations for the next campaign. Soult,
after forcing the English to embark, was to march on Oporto. Napoleon
calculated that he ought to capture it on February 1, and that on
February 10 he would be in front of Lisbon. The Portuguese levies he
practically disregarded as a fighting force, and he was ignorant that
there still remained 8,000 or 10,000 British troops on the Tagus, who
would serve to stiffen their resistance.

When Soult should have captured Oporto, and be well on the way
to Lisbon, Victor was to go forward with his own 1st Corps, the
division of Leval from the 4th Corps, and the cavalry of Milhaud,
Latour-Maubourg, and Lasalle. He was to strike at Estremadura, occupy
Merida and Badajoz, and join hands with Soult along the Tagus.
Lisbon being reduced, Victor was to borrow a division from Soult and
march on Seville with 40,000 men. With such a force, as the Emperor
calculated, he would subdue the whole of Andalusia with ease.

Meanwhile Saragossa must (as Napoleon rightly thought) fall some
time in February. When it was disposed of, the 3rd and 5th Corps
would provide a garrison for Aragon, and then march on Valencia,
which would be attacked and subdued much about the same time that
Victor would arrive at Seville. St. Cyr would have made an end of
the Catalans long before. Thus the whole Peninsula would be subdued
ere the summer was over. There was nowhere a Spanish army that could
make head against even 10,000 French troops. The only possible
complication would be that Moore’s army might conceivably take ship,
not for England, but for Lisbon or Cadiz. If the English, ‘the only
enemy who could create difficulties,’ took this course, the Emperor
might have to give further orders. But it does not seem that he
regarded this as a likely contingency, since he had conceived an even
exaggerated idea of the losses and demoralization which the British
had suffered in the retreat to Corunna. To Joseph he wrote, ‘reserve
yourself for the expedition to Andalusia, which may start three weeks
hence. With 40,000 men, marching by an unexpected route [i.e. by
Badajoz, not by La Carolina], you will surprise the enemy and force
him to submit. This is an operation which will make an end of the
war: I leave the glory of it to you[28].’ To Jerome Napoleon he wrote
in the most laconic style, ‘the Spanish affair is done with[29],’ and
then proceeded to discuss the general politics of the Continent, as
if his whole attention could now be given to the doings of Austria
and Russia. On January 18 he rode out of Valladolid, and after
six days of incessant travel reached Paris on the 24th. His first
care after his arrival was to scare the intriguers of the capital
into good behaviour. His second was to endeavour to treat Austria
after the same fashion. He had not yet made up his mind whether the
ministers of Francis II meant mischief, or whether they had merely
been presuming on his long absence in Spain: on the whole he thought
that they could be reduced to order by bold language, and by the
ostentatious movement of troops on the Rhine and upper Danube. But he
was not sure of his conclusion: in his correspondence letters stating
that Austria has been brought to reason, alternate with others
in which she is accused of incorrigible perversity, and a design
to make war in the spring[30]. The Emperor’s suspicions are most
clearly shown by the fact that in February he ordered the whole of
the Imperial Guard, except two battalions and three squadrons, to be
brought up from Spain and directed on Paris[31]. In the same month he
sent secret orders to the princes of the Confederation of the Rhine,
to bid them be ready to mobilize their contingents at short notice.

  [28] Napoleon to Joseph, Jan. 11, 1809, _Nap. Corresp._, 14,684.

  [29] Almost the same words are found in a dispatch to Mollien
  of Jan. 24, ‘Aujourd’hui les affaires d’Espagne sont à peu près
  terminées.’ This was written _after_ the Emperor had returned to

  [30] Cf., for example, _Nap. Corresp._, 14,741 and 14,749,
  where Austria is said to have changed her tone and stopped her
  preparation, with 14,721 and 14,779, which show a most hostile
  spirit against her.

  [31] For the details, see _Nap. Corresp._, 14,780, written to
  Bessières from Paris on Feb. 15.

It is clear that as regards the affairs of Spain the Emperor was in
January and February, 1809, as much deluded as he had been seven
months before, in June, 1808. The whole plan of campaign which he
dictated at Valladolid, and sent as his parting gift to Joseph and
Jourdan, was absolutely impracticable, and indicated a fundamental
ignorance of the character of the Spanish war. It would have been a
perfectly sensible document if the struggle had been raging in Italy
or Germany, though even there the calculations of distance and time
would have been rather hazardous. Twenty-three days were given to
Soult to expel the English, to pacify Galicia, to take Oporto, and
to march on Lisbon! Even granting that all had gone as the Emperor
desired, the estimate was too short by half. It was midwinter;
Galicia and northern Portugal form one of the most mountainous
regions in Europe: their roads are vile; their food supplies are
scanty; their climate at that season of the year detestable. Clearly
the task given to Soult could not be executed in the prescribed

  [32] As a matter of fact, as has been stated elsewhere, Soult
  though working his hardest did not leave Corunna till Feb. 20,
  1809, nor take Oporto till March 29.

But this is a minor point: it was not so much in his ‘logistics’ that
the Emperor went wrong as in his general conception of the character
of the war. He imagined that in dealing with Spain he might act as
if he were dealing with Austria or Prussia--indeed that he had an
enormous extra advantage in the fact that the armies of Ferdinand VII
were infinitely inferior in mere fighting power to those of Francis
II or Frederick William III. By all the ordinary rules of modern
warfare, a nation whose capital had been occupied, and whose regular
armies had been routed and half-destroyed, ought to have submitted
without further trouble. The Emperor was a little surprised that
the effect of Espinosa and Gamonal, of Tudela and Ucles, had not
been greater. He had almost expected to receive overtures from the
Junta, asking for terms of submission. But somewhat disappointed
though he might be, he had not yet realized that Spain was not as
other countries. The occupation of Madrid counted for little or
nothing. The insurrectionary armies, when driven into a corner, did
not capitulate, but dispersed, and fled in small parties over the
hills, to reunite on the first opportunity. Prussian or Austrian
troops under similar circumstances would have quietly laid down their
arms. But to endeavour to grasp a Spanish corps was like clutching
at a ball of quicksilver: the mass dispersed in driblets between the
fingers of the manipulator, and the small rolling pellets ultimately
united to form a new force. Large captures of Spaniards only took
place on the actual battle-field (as at Ucles or Ocaña), or when an
army had shut itself up in a fortress and could not get away, as
happened at Saragossa and Badajoz. Unless actually penned in between
bayonets, the insurgents abandoned cannon and baggage, broke their
ranks and disappeared, to gather again on some more propitious day,
either as fresh armies or as guerrilla bands operating upon the
victor’s lines of communication.

Nor was this all: in Italy, Germany, and Austria Bonaparte had dealt
with regions where the population remained quiescent when once the
regular army had been beaten. Risings like that of Verona in 1797, or
of the Tyrol in 1805, were exceptional. The French army was wont to
go forward without being forced to leave large garrisons behind it,
to hold down the conquered country-side. A battalion or two placed in
the chief towns sufficed to secure the communication of the army with
France. Small parties, or even single officers bearing dispatches,
could ride safely for many miles through an Italian or Austrian
district without being molested. It was not thus in Spain: the
Emperor was to find that every village where there was not a French
garrison would be a focus of active resistance, and that no amount of
shooting or hanging would cow the spirits of the peasantry. It was
only after scores of aides-de-camp had been murdered or captured, and
after countless small detachments had been destroyed, that he came to
realize that every foot of Spanish soil must not only be conquered
but also held down. If there was a square of ten miles unoccupied, a
guerrilla band arose in it. If a district thirty miles long lacked a
brigade to garrison it, a local junta with a ragged apology for an
army promptly appeared. Three hundred thousand men look a large force
on paper, but when they have to hold down a country five hundred
miles broad they are frittered away to nothing. This Great Britain
knows well enough from her recent South African experience: but it
was not a common matter of knowledge in 1809. If the Emperor had been
told, on the day of his entry into Madrid, that even three years
later his communication with Bayonne would only be preserved by the
maintenance of a fortified post at every tenth milestone, he would
have laughed the idea to scorn. Still more ridiculous would it have
appeared to him if he had been told that it would take a body of 300
horse to carry a dispatch from Salamanca to Saragossa, or that the
normal garrison of Old Castile would have to be kept at 15,000 men,
even when there was no regular Spanish army nearer to it than Oviedo
or Astorga. In short he, and all Europe, had much to learn as to the
conditions of warfare in the Peninsula. If he had realized them in
March, 1808, there would have been no treachery at Bayonne, and the
‘running sore,’ as he afterwards called the Spanish war, would never
have broken forth.

Meanwhile the conquest of Spain was hung up for a month and more
after the victory of Ucles. The Emperor had bidden Joseph and Jourdan
to wait till the February rains were over, before sending out the
great expedition against Andalusia; the siege of Saragossa was
prolonged far beyond expectation, and Soult in Galicia (as we shall
presently see) found the time-allowance which his master had set him
inadequate to the verge of absurdity. The French made no further move
of importance till March.

The Central Junta, therefore, were granted three full months from the
date of their flight from Aranjuez to Seville, in which to reorganize
their armies for the oncoming campaign of 1809--a respite which they
gained (as we have already shown) purely and solely through Moore’s
splendid inspiration of the march to Sahagun.

The members of the Junta trailed into Seville at various dates
between December 14 and December 17. Their rapid journey at midwinter
through the Sierra de Guadalupe and the still wilder Sierra Morena
had been toilsome and exhausting[33]. It proved fatal to their
old president, Florida Blanca, who died of bronchitis only eleven
days after he had arrived at Seville. In his stead a Castilian
Grandee of unimpeachable patriotism but very moderate abilities,
the Marquis of Astorga, was elected to the presidential chair. The
Junta had no enviable task before it: the news of the disasters
on the Ebro and the fall of Madrid had thrown the nation into a
paroxysm of unreasoning fury. Ridiculous charges of treason were
being raised against all those who had been in charge of the war.
Blake and Castaños (of all people!) were being openly accused of
having sold themselves to Napoleon. There were a number of political
assassinations in the regions to which the French had not yet
penetrated: most of the victims were old friends of Godoy. It looked
at first as if the central government would be unable to restore any
sort of order, or to organize any further resistance. Some of the
local juntas, whose importance had disappeared with the meeting of
the Supreme Junta, showed signs of wishing to resume their ancient
independence. Those of Seville and Jaen were especially disobliging.
But the evils of disunion were so obvious that even the most
narrow-minded particularists settled down after a time into at least
a formal obedience to the central government.

  [33] It will be remembered (see vol. i. p. 529), that they went
  via Talavera, Merida, and Llerena.

The enforced halt made by the French after Napoleon’s departure for
Madrid was the salvation of Spain. By the month of January things
were beginning to assume a more regular aspect, and some attempt
was made to face the situation. The most favourable part of that
situation was that money at least was not wanting for the moment. The
four or five millions of dollars which the British Government had
distributed to the provincial Juntas and to the ‘Central’ had long
been spent, and in 1809 no more than £387,000 in specie was advanced
to Spain. Spent also was the enormous amount of money accruing from
patriotic gifts and local assessments. But there had just arrived
at Cadiz a large consignment of specie from America. The Spanish
colonies in the New World had all adhered without hesitation to the
cause of Ferdinand VII, and their first and most copious contribution
had just come to hand. Not only had the Governors of Mexico and
Peru and the other provinces strained every nerve to raise money,
but a vast patriotic fund had been collected by individuals. There
were rich merchants and land-holders in America who made voluntary
offerings of sums as large as 100,000 or 200,000 dollars apiece.
The money which came to hand early in 1809 amounted to more than
£2,800,000, and much more was received ere the close of the year. It
was with this sum, far more than with British money, that the Spanish
armies were paid and fed: but their equipment mainly came from
England. The stores of arms, clothing, and munition which had existed
in the arsenals of the Peninsula when the war broke out, had all been
exhausted in the autumn, and had not even sufficed to equip fully the
unfortunate armies which were beaten on the Ebro. The government and
the local juntas had set up new manufactories at Seville, Valencia,
and elsewhere, which were already turning out a large quantity of
weapons, accoutrements, and uniforms: it was now that the armies
began to appear in the rough brown cloth of the country and in
leather shakos, abandoning the old white uniform and plumed hat
which had been the garb of the Spanish line. But the reclothing and
rearmament of the troops could never have been completed without the
enormous consignments of cloth, powder, muskets, lead, and leather
work which came from England. It is true that much was lost by the
fortune of war before it could be utilized--notably the considerable
amount of muskets, ammunition, and cloth which had been landed in
Galicia for La Romana’s army. This, as we have seen, was either
destroyed by Sir John Moore’s army or captured by Soult, because
the Galician Junta had kept it waiting too long at the base. But
all that went to Andalusia, Valencia, and Catalonia came safely to
hand. Palafox’s army was re-equipped, just before the second siege of
Saragossa began, with British stores sent up by Colonel Doyle from
Tarragona. The armies of the south and east also received enormous
consignments of necessaries.

It remains to speak of the purely military aspect of the Junta’s
position. When January began, the wrecks of the Spanish armies were
distributed in a wide semicircle reaching from Oviedo to Gerona,
while the French lay in their midst. In the Asturias there were still
14,000 or 15,000 men under arms: the relics of Acevedo’s division of
Blake’s army had fallen back, and joined the other levies which the
local Junta had assembled. The whole force was watching the two lines
on which the French could conceivably move during the winter--the
coast route from Santander to Gijon, and the pass of Pajares which
leads from Leon to Oviedo.

In Galicia, La Romana’s army, now engaged in the miserable retreat
from Astorga to Orense, had fallen into the most wretched condition.
Of the 22,000 men who had been assembled at Leon in December only
6,000 or 7,000 were now to be found: the Galician battalions had
melted home when the army fell back among their native mountains.
They cannot be much blamed, for they were suffering acute starvation:
in the spring they came back to join the colours readily enough.
The regulars, who still hung together, were famished, naked,
typhus-ridden, and incapable of any great exertion. Their general’s
only care was to keep them as far as possible from Soult and Ney,
till the winter should have passed by, and food and clothing be

Between La Romana’s men at Orense and the army of Estremadura on
the Tagus there was no Spanish force in the field. When Lapisse
and D’Avenay had occupied Zamora and Salamanca, the only centre of
resistance in Leon was the fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo, which was held
by a handful of local militia. Portuguese troops were beginning to
collect in its rear at Almeida, but with them the Junta had nothing
to do.

The Estremaduran army had now passed from the hands of Galluzzo to
those of Cuesta. The Junta, in spite of the memories of Cabezon
and Rio Seco, had once more given the obstinate and incapable old
soldier an important command. Apparently they had been moved by the
widespread but idiotic cry imputing treachery to the generals who
had been beaten on the Ebro, and gave Cuesta an army because (with
all his faults) no one ever dreamed of accusing him of treachery or
sympathy with the French. His forces consisted (1) of the wrecks
of Belvedere’s army from Gamonal, (2) of the débris of San Juan’s
army from Madrid, (3) of new Estremaduran levies, which had not gone
forward to Burgos in October, but had remained behind to complete
their organization, (4) of the four dismounted cavalry regiments from
Denmark, which had been sent to the south when La Romana landed at
Santander, in order to procure equipment and horses. In all, the army
of Cuesta had no more than 10,500 foot and 2,000 or 2,500 horse. The
spirit of the old troops of San Juan and Belvedere was still very
bad, and they were hardly recovered from their December mutinies and
murders. After Lefebvre had driven them back from the Tagus, and
occupied the bridges of Almaraz and Arzobispo, the Estremadurans had
retired to Merida and Truxillo: on January 11 their most advanced
position was at the last-named place.

To the east of Estremadura lay the weakest point of the Spanish line:
Andalusia and its mountain barrier of the Sierra Morena were almost
undefended in January, 1809. It will be remembered that all through
the autumn of the preceding year the local juntas, intoxicated
with the fumes of Baylen, had let the months slip by without doing
much to organize the ‘Army of Reserve,’ of which they had spoken
so much in August and September. It resulted that, when Reding had
marched for Catalonia, and the last belated fractions of Castaños’
army had been forwarded to Madrid, Andalusia was almost destitute
of troops. When the Junta fled to Seville, it looked around for an
army with which to defend the passes of the Sierra Morena. Nothing
of the kind existed: the only force available consisted of nine or
ten battalions, mainly new levies, which were dispersed through the
‘Four Kingdoms’ completing their armament and organization. They were
hastily mobilized and pushed forward to the Sierra Morena, but not
more than 6,000 bayonets and 500 sabres could be collected. This was
the sole force that lay between the French at Madrid and the Junta at
Seville. The charge of the division, whose head quarters were placed
at La Carolina, was given to the Marquis del Palacio, who in the
general shifting of commanders had just been recalled from Catalonia.

The British Government’s knowledge of the danger to which Andalusia
was exposed, from the absolute want of troops to defend it, led to an
untoward incident, which did much to endanger its friendly relations
with the Junta. On hearing of the fall of Madrid, and of Moore’s
retreat towards Galicia, Canning harked back to one of his old ideas
of the previous summer, the notion that British troops might be
sent to the south of Spain, if a safe basis for their operations
were secured. This, as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
believed, would best be provided by the establishment of a garrison
in Cadiz. It was all-important that this great centre of commerce
should not fall into the hands of the French, and early in January it
was known in London that there was no adequate Spanish force ready to
defend the passes of Andalusia. If Napoleon had an army large enough
to provide, not only for the pursuit of Moore, but for the dispatch
of a strong corps for an attack on Seville, it seemed probable that
the French might overrun Southern Spain as far as the sea, without
meeting with serious opposition. Accordingly, Canning wrote to Frere,
on the fourteenth day of the new year, 1809, to offer the assistance
of a considerable British force for the defence of Andalusia, if
Cadiz were placed in their hands.

‘The question of the employment of a British army in the south
of Spain,’ he wrote, ‘depends essentially upon the disposition
of the Spanish Government to receive a corps of that army into
Cadiz. Without the security to be afforded by that fortress, it is
impossible to hazard the army in the interior, after the example of
the little co-operation which Sir John Moore represents himself to
have received from the Spaniards in the north.... In consequence of
the imminent danger, and of the pressing necessity for immediate
decision arising from Sir John Moore’s retreat, and from the
defenceless state in which you represent Andalusia to be, His
Majesty’s Government have deemed it right (without waiting for the
result of your communication with the Central Junta) to send a force
direct to Cadiz, to be admitted into that fortress. Four thousand
men under Major-General Sherbrooke are directed to sail immediately,
and he is informed that he is to expect instructions from you on
his arrival, containing the determination of the Spanish Government
respecting his admission into Cadiz.... In the event of a refusal
of the Junta to afford this proof of confidence, Major-General
Sherbrooke is directed to proceed to Gibraltar[34].’

  [34] Canning to Frere, Jan. 14, 1809 (Record Office).

The last paragraph of this dispatch shows that Canning’s intentions
were perfectly honourable, and that he did not intend to bring any
pressure to bear upon the Junta in the event of their refusing to
admit a British garrison into Cadiz. His views were founded upon the
information available in London when he wrote, and he was under the
impression that a French army might probably be marching upon Seville
at the moment when his letter would reach Frere’s hands. But--as we
have seen--the diversion of the main force of Napoleon’s army of
invasion against Moore, had rendered any such expedition impossible,
and no immediate danger was really to be apprehended.

The same idea, however, had entered into Frere’s mind, and long
before he received Canning’s dispatch he had been sounding members
of the Central Junta as to the way in which they would look on
a proposal to send British troops to Cadiz. The answer which he
received from their secretary, Martin de Garay, was not reassuring:
Don Martin ‘energetically repudiated’ the project: there would be
no objection, he said, to admit a garrison, if Cadiz became ‘the
ultimate point of retreat’ of the armies and government of Spain.
But the danger that had appeared so pressing some weeks before had
passed by, the French had stopped their advance, and the Junta were
now hoping to defend Estremadura and the course of the Tagus. The
invaders, as they trusted, would be met and checked on the line
of Alcantara and Almaraz. They deprecated any sending of British
troops to Cadiz, and hoped that Lisbon would be the point to which
reinforcements would be dispatched, as its evacuation would have
deplorable results. De Garay, in a second letter, spoke of rumours
to the effect that Cradock was proposing to evacuate Portugal, and
trusted that they were not true. As a matter of fact they were, and
that timid commander was already making secret preparations to embark.

Frere gave up for the present any idea of pressing the project
further, unless the French should recommence their advance on
Andalusia. He had not yet received Canning’s dispatch from London,
and did not know that the home government had taken to heart the plan
for occupying Cadiz and sending a large expedition to Andalusia. But
on February 2, before any hint of the kind had reached him, he was
informed by a dispatch from Lisbon that troops had been already sent
off to Cadiz[35]. This step was the work of Sir George Smith, one of
the numerous British military agents in the Peninsula, who had taken
upon himself to force events to an issue, without first taking the
precaution of communicating either with the home government or the
British ambassador at Seville. Smith was a hasty and presumptuous
man, full of zeal without discretion. The defencelessness of
Andalusia had impressed him, just as it had impressed Canning and
Frere. But instead of opening communications with the Junta, as
they had both done, he had merely written in very urgent terms to
Cradock, and adjured him to detach troops from the scanty garrison of
Portugal in order to secure Cadiz. The general, when thus pressed,
consented to fall in with the scheme, and set aside a brigade under
Mackenzie, which he shipped off from Lisbon at twenty-four hours’
notice (February 2). He also ordered the 40th regiment, then in
garrison at Elvas, to march on Seville. Both Cradock and Smith were
gravely to blame, for they had no authorization to attempt to occupy
Cadiz, without obtaining the consent of the Spanish Government[36].
They should have consulted both Frere and the Junta before moving a
man: but it was only when the troops had actually embarked that they
thought fit to notify their action to the ambassador at Seville.

  [35] The 29th, 3/27th, and 2/9th regiments.

  [36] As Canning wrote to Frere, after receiving the news of the
  abortive expedition, ‘The enclosed copy of the instructions under
  which Sir G. Smith was sent out, will show you that the step
  taken by that officer was not to have been taken _except at the
  direct solicitation of the Spanish authorities_.... He has been
  directed to leave Cadiz at once, and you may assure the Junta
  that no separate or secret commission was, has been, or ever will
  be entrusted to any officer or other person,’ Feb. 26 (Record

On receiving their letters Frere was placed in an unenviable
position. Having just seen his own proposals negatived by the Junta
in polite but decisive terms, he now learnt that a British force had
been sent off to carry out precisely the plan which the Spaniards had
refused to take into consideration. Four days later he was informed
that Mackenzie’s brigade, which had chanced upon a favourable wind,
was actually lying in Cadiz harbour, and that Sir George Smith was
endeavouring to induce the local authorities of the place to permit
them to land. The Junta, as was inevitable, suspected Frere of having
been in the plot, and imagined that he was trying to force their hand
by the display of armed force. Cadiz was at Smith’s mercy, for it
was only garrisoned by its urban guards; and the populace were by no
means unwilling to see the British land, for the fear of the French
was upon them, and they welcomed the approach of reinforcements of
any kind.

The supreme authority in Cadiz at this moment was the Marquis of
Villel, a special commissioner sent down by the Central Junta, of
which he was a member. He refused to be cajoled by Smith, and very
properly referred his demand for permission to disembark to the
government at Seville. The latter, not unnaturally incensed, turned
for explanations to Frere. The ambassador’s conduct when placed in
this dilemma was by no means wise or straightforward. Instead of
frankly disavowing Smith’s action, he adopted the tortuous course[37]
of pretending that the expedition from Lisbon had been sent with
his knowledge and consent, but that he would not allow it to land
without the leave of the Junta. The Spaniards replied in terms of
some indignation, and returned a frank negative to the demand. Their
secretary, de Garay, wrote that the unexpected appearance of General
Mackenzie’s force was ‘painful and disagreeable intelligence, Cadiz
being no longer in danger from the French, and two Spanish regiments
being already on their way to reinforce the garrison. The measure
which had been taken would admit of a thousand interpretations, and
a consent to hand over the fortress to the British would compromise
the Central Junta with the whole nation.’ The fact was that Spanish
public opinion was strongly opposed to allowing the British to obtain
a foothold in Cadiz; there was a deeply-rooted notion abroad that, if
once occupied, the place might be kept permanently in our hands, and
be turned into a second Gibraltar.

  [37] Frere, by his own showing, exceeded the bounds of diplomatic
  evasion. He writes to Canning (Feb. 9) to say that the dispatch
  of the Lisbon troops had been a complete surprise to him, as he
  had not received any information on the subject. ‘It occurred
  to me, however, that it was best to take it upon myself, and to
  affect to consider it a thing of course, and to say that I had
  sent orders in conformity with the note which I had received from
  Mr. de Garay. In order to give this some semblance of truth, I
  did afterwards write a letter to Lisbon to this effect, and sent
  it off before I dispatched my note to Mr. de Garay. This did not
  prevent me from being assailed by remonstrances.’ Finally he
  proceeded to tell the Junta ‘that he only wished to see Cadiz
  occupied in the extreme case of an immediate attack by the
  French’ (Record Office).

Unfortunately for the credit of Great Britain with her allies,
tumults broke out at Cadiz within a few days of the arrival of
Mackenzie’s army, which supplied an excuse to malevolent Spaniards
for attributing the worst motives to their allies. As a matter of
fact they were not stirred up by Sir George Smith or any other
emissary of the British Government, but were the results of the
eccentric behaviour of the Marquis de Villel[38]. This personage
was a very strange character, a sort of nineteenth-century Spanish
Puritan, with a taste for playing the benevolent despot. He
attributed the misfortunes of his country (and not without much
reason) to her moral decadence. His idea of the way to commence her
regeneration was peculiar, considering the circumstances of the
time. He issued an edict commanding all married pairs living apart,
to reunite, issued laws repressing theatre-going, late hours, and
gambling, legislated concerning the length of ladies’ skirts, and
organized a grand _battue_ against women of light reputation, of whom
he imprisoned some scores. When he proceeded to engage in a sort of
moral inquisition into the private life of all classes, he naturally
became very unpopular, and on the first opportunity the populace rose
against him. He had ordered into the city a newly-embodied ‘Swiss’
battalion, raised from the prisoners of Dupont’s army and other
deserters of all nationalities. The cry was raised by his enemies
that he was admitting Frenchmen in disguise into the sacred fortress,
with the purpose of betraying it to the enemy. Other rumours were
put about to the effect that he was deliberately neglecting the
fortifications, and supplying the batteries with powder adulterated
with sand[39].

  [38] For Villel’s eccentricities in detail see Toreno, i. pp.
  375-6, and Arteche, v. p. 107.

  [39] See Col. Leslie (of the 29th), _Memoirs_, p. 94.

When the foreign battalion drew near to Cadiz on February 22, and
began to march up the long spit which connects the city with the Isla
de Leon, the storm burst. A mixed multitude of rioters shut the gates
against the troops, and then swept the streets, maltreating Villel’s
subordinates, and slaying Don José Heredia the commander of the
coast-guard, a person very unpopular with the smugglers, who formed
an appreciable element in the crowd. The High Commissioner himself
was besieged in his house, hunted from it, and nearly murdered: he
only escaped by the kind offices of the head of a Capuchin convent,
who took him within his gates, and made himself responsible to the
rioters for keeping the refugee in safe custody. The mob next tried
to break open the state prison, for the purpose of slaying General
Caraffa and other political captives. Fortunately Felix Jones, the
military Governor, succeeded in saving these unhappy persons, by the
not over-willing aid of the urban guards, many of whom had joined in
the outbreak.

The rioters expressed great friendliness for the British, and many of
them kept inviting the troops in the offing to come ashore. It was
very lucky that no attention was paid to these solicitations[40],
for if they had landed the worst suspicions of the Junta would have
appeared justified, and the insurrection would have been attributed
to the machinations of Frere or Smith. Fortunately the latter had
died, only a few days before the troubles broke out, the victim of
a fever which carried him off after no more than twenty-four hours
of illness. If he had survived till the twenty-second, he would have
been quite capable of taking the fatal step of listening to the
appeals of the rioters, and ordering the troops ashore.

  [40] Mackenzie wrote that ‘it was evident that the people were
  favourable to our landing and occupying the town, for it was
  frequently called for during the tumult.’ But ‘the utmost care
  was taken to prevent our officers or soldiers from taking any
  part whatever on this occasion, and except when I was applied to
  by the Governor for the interference of some British officers as
  mediators, we stood perfectly clear.’ Dispatch to Castlereagh in
  the Record Office, dated Lisbon, March 13, 1809.

As it turned out the whole expedition ended in an absurd fiasco.
When the riots had died down, the Junta recalled the eccentric de
Villel, but they would not listen to any proposals from Frere for
admitting British troops into Cadiz, even when he suggested that
only two battalions should remain there, while the rest, including
Sherbrooke’s division, which was expected to arrive in a few days,
should come up and join the 40th regiment at Seville, with the
ultimate purpose of marching into Estremadura. The Junta replied
that ‘the loyalty of the British Ministry and the generosity of its
efforts to assist Spain were beyond suspicion: but the National
Government must respect national prejudices, and avoid exposing
itself to censure. If there were any urgent danger, they would have
no hesitation in admitting the troops of their allies into Cadiz. But
the French were still far away, and there was no immediate prospect
of their approach. The British expedition would be more usefully
employed in Catalonia, or in some other theatre of war, than in
Cadiz[41].’ By March 4, when this final answer was sent to Frere, the
state of affairs had so much changed, that the representations made
by the Junta were more or less correct. The imminent danger which had
existed in January had passed away.

  [41] Martin de Garay to Frere, March 4 (Record Office).

Accordingly, after lying idly for four weeks in their transports,
and gazing with much unsatisfied curiosity on the white houses, the
green shutters, and the flat roofs of Cadiz, across the beautiful
bay, Mackenzie’s regiments set sail again for Lisbon on March 6. As
they ran out of the harbour, they met Sherbrooke’s belated convoy,
whose arrival had been delayed by fearful tempests in the Bay of
Biscay. The whole force, 6,000 bayonets strong, was brought back to
Portugal. It might have been of infinite service to Cradock if it had
remained at Lisbon and had never been sent to Cadiz, and its presence
might have induced him to adopt measures less timid and futile than
those which (as we shall see) he had pursued during January and

  [42] Napier enlarges on this incident at great length in pages
  14-19 of his second volume. In his persistent dislike for
  Canning, Castlereagh and Mr. Frere, as well as for the Spaniards,
  he concludes that the business ‘indicated an unsettled policy,
  shallow combination, and had agents on the part of the British
  Cabinet, and an unwise and unworthy disposition in the Supreme
  Junta,’ while Smith was ‘zealous and acute’ and Cradock ‘full of
  zeal and moral courage.’ It is hard to give an unqualified assent
  to any one of these views. Smith was wrong in acting without
  giving any notice of his intentions to the Junta: Cradock’s zeal
  was equally untempered by discretion. The British Cabinet, acting
  on the information available in the end of December, was right to
  be anxious about Cadiz, and equally right to abandon its attempt
  to occupy the place in March, when the conditions of the war had
  changed, and the Junta had shown its dislike to the proposal.
  As to the Spaniards, the matter was only broached to them in
  February, when the danger of an immediate French advance had
  passed away, and they were entirely justified in their answer,
  which was framed as politely as could be contrived. We must not
  blame them overmuch for their suspicion: England, though now a
  friend, had long been an enemy--and the fate of Gibraltar was
  always before their eyes.

But this unfortunate incident has detained us too long; we must
return to the state of the Spanish armies at the end of the month of
January. Beyond the levies of the Marquis Del Palacio at La Carolina,
there was a long gap in the Spanish line of defence. The next force
under arms was the army of Infantado, now engaged in its exhausting
winter march from Cuenca to the Murcian border. After the rout of
Ucles it was still 12,000 strong, though destitute of all supplies
and not fit for immediate service. The Junta ordered it to march from
Chinchilla to join Del Palacio’s force at the mouth of the Despeña
Perros, and so to strengthen the defences of Andalusia. This was
done, and the two forces were safely united, so that when a few more
new battalions had been brought up from Granada, 20,000 men were
placed between Victor and Andalusia. The Junta removed Infantado from
command, rightly judging that he had sacrificed Venegas at Ucles by
his neglect to send orders and his sloth in coming up to join his
subordinate. The charge of the force at La Carolina (still called
‘the Army of the Centre’) was made over to General Cartaojal.

Beyond Infantado’s depleted corps lay the army of Valencia. Its
nucleus was the remains of the old division of Llamas and Roca, which
had served with Castaños at Tudela. The local Junta rapidly recruited
this skeleton force from 1,500 up to 5,000 men[43]. They added to
it several new regiments raised during the winter in Valencia and
Murcia, and by February had 10,000 men available for succouring
Aragon and Catalonia, though their quality left much to be desired.

  [43] See the table in Argüelles on p. 74 of his Appendix-volume.

A little further north Palafox was still holding out with splendid
desperation in Saragossa, where he had shut himself up with the whole
army of Aragon. His original 32,000 men were already much thinned
by pestilence and the sword, but in January their spirit was yet
unbroken, and though it was clear that they were doomed to final
destruction, if they were not relieved from the outside, yet they
were still doing excellent work in detaining in front of them the
whole of the 3rd and 5th French Army Corps.

There yet remains to be described the strongest of all the Spanish
armies, that of Catalonia. In addition to the original garrison of
the province, and to its gallant _miqueletes_ and _somatenes_, there
had been gradually drafted into the principality (1) the greater
part of the garrison of the Balearic Isles, some 9,000 men; (2)
Reding’s Granadan division which started from its home over 10,000
strong; (3) 2,500 men of Caraffa’s old division from Portugal; (4)
the Marquis of Lazan’s Aragonese division from the side of Lerida,
about 4,000 bayonets. Thus in all some 32,000 men in organized corps
had been massed in Catalonia, and the _somatenes_ added some 20,000
irregulars. Of course the Spanish strength in January did not reach
these figures. Many men had been lost at the siege of Rosas and in
the battles of Cardadeu and Molins de Rey: yet there were still
40,000 troops of one sort or another available; the spirit of the
country was irritated rather than lowered by the late defeats; the
French only occupied the ground that was within the actual circle of
fire of their garrisons. If the Catalans had been content to avoid
general engagements, and to maintain an incessant guerrilla warfare,
they might have held their own. Though the enemy had a very capable
commander in General St. Cyr, they had as yet accomplished nothing
more than the capture of the antiquated fortress of Rosas, the relief
of Barcelona, and the winning of two fruitless battles. Catalonia
remained unsubdued till the very end of the struggle.

Reckoning up all their armies, the Junta had in the end of January
some 135,000 men in arms,--a force insufficient to face the French in
the open, for the latter (even after the departure of the Imperial
Guard) had still nearly 300,000[44] sabres and bayonets south of the
Pyrenees, but one quite capable of keeping up the national resistance
if it were only conducted upon the proper lines. For, as Napoleon
and his marshals had yet to learn, no Spanish district could be
considered conquered unless a garrison was left in each of its towns,
and flying columns kept in continual motion through the open country.
Of the 288,000 French who now lay in Spain more than half were really
wanted for garrison duty. A district like Galicia was capable of
keeping 40,000 men employed: even the plains of Old Castile and Leon
swallowed up whole divisions.

  [44] 288,000 on Feb. 15. See Napier’s extracts from the Imperial
  muster rolls, i. 514. These numbers include the sick and detached.

But, unfortunately for Spain, the mania for fighting pitched battles
was still obsessing the minds of her generals. Within a few weeks
three wholly unnecessary and disastrous engagements were to be
risked, at Valls, Ciudad Real, and Medellin. Instead of playing a
cautious defensive game, and harassing the French, the Spaniards
persisted in futile attempts to face the enemy in general actions,
for which their troops were wholly unsuited. The results were so
deplorable that but for a second British intervention--Wellesley’s
march to Talavera--Andalusia would have been in as great peril in
July, 1809, as it had been in January.

The Central Junta must take its share of the responsibility for this
fact no less than the Spanish generals. It still persisted in its old
error of refusing to appoint a single commander-in-chief, so that
each army fought for its own hand, without any attempt to co-ordinate
its actions with those of the others. Indeed several of the generals
were at notorious enmity with their colleagues--notably Cuesta and
Venegas. It was to no purpose that the Central Government displayed
great energy in organizing men and collecting material, if, when
the armies had been equipped and sent to the front, they were used
piecemeal, without any general strategical scheme, and led ere long
to some miserable disaster, such as Ucles, or Medellin, or Ocaña. The
Junta, the generals, and the nation were all alike possessed by the
delusion that with energy and sufficient numbers they might on some
happy morning achieve a second Baylen. But for such a consummation
Duponts and Vedels are required, and when no such convenient
adversaries were to be found, the attempt to encompass and beat a
French army was certain to end in a catastrophe.

The only Spanish fighters who were playing the proper game in 1809
were the Catalonian _somatenes_, and even they gave battle far
too often, and did not adhere with a sufficient pertinacity to
the harassing tactics of guerrilla warfare. General Arteche has
collected in his fourth volume something like a dozen schemes for
the expulsion of the French from Spain, which were laid before the
Junta, or ventilated in print, during this year. It is interesting to
see that only one of them advocates the true line of resistance--the
avoiding of battles, the harassing of the enemy’s flanks and
communications, and the employment of numerous flying bands instead
of great masses[45]. Some of the other plans are the wild imaginings
of ignorant fools--one wiseacre wished to run down the French
columns with pikemen in a sort of Macedonian phalanx, another to arm
one-sixth of the troops with hand-grenades! But the majority of the
Junta’s self-constituted advisers thought that numbers were the only
necessary thing, and proposed to save Spain by crushing the invaders
with levies _en masse_ of all persons between sixteen and fifty--one
enthusiast makes the age-limit fourteen to seventy!

  [45] See Arteche, iv. 115-51: the advocate of the guerrilla game
  was a certain Faustino Fernandez.

These were the views of the nation, and the generals and the Junta
were but infected with the common delusion of all their compatriots.
They would not see that courage and raw multitudes are almost
helpless when opposed by equal courage combined with skill, long
experience of war, superior tactics, and intelligent leading.





Before we follow further the fortunes of Southern Spain, it is
necessary to turn back and to take up the tale of the war on the
Eastern coast at the point where it was left in Section V.

The same torpor which was notable in the operations of the main
armies of the Spaniards and the French during the months of September
and October was to be observed in Catalonia also. On the Ter and the
Llobregat the inability of the French to move was much more real, and
the slackness of the Spaniards even more inexplicable, than on the
Ebro and the Aragon.

In the early days of September the situation of the invaders was
most perilous. After the disastrous failure of the second siege of
Gerona, it will be remembered that Reille had withdrawn to Figueras,
close to the French frontier, while Duhesme had cut his way back to
Barcelona, after sacrificing all his artillery and his baggage on the
way. Both commanders proceeded to report to the Emperor that there
was need for ample reinforcements of veteran troops, or a catastrophe
must inevitably ensue. Meanwhile Reille preserved a defensive
attitude at the foot of the Pyrenees; while Duhesme could do no more
than hold Barcelona, and as much of its suburban plain as he could
safely occupy without risking overmuch his outlying detachments.
He foresaw a famine in the winter, and devoted all his energies to
seizing and sending into the town all foodstuffs that he could find
in the neighbourhood. His position was most uncomfortable: the late
expedition had reduced his force from 13,000 to 10,000 sabres and
bayonets. The men were demoralized, and when sent out to forage saw
_somatenes_ behind every bush and rock. The populace of Barcelona
was awaiting a good opportunity for an _émeute_, and was in constant
communication with the insurgents outside.

The blockade was not as yet kept up by any large section of the
Captain-General’s regular troops, nor had any attempt been made to
run lines around the place. It was conducted by an elastic cordon of
four or five thousand _miqueletes_, supported by no more than 2,000
infantry of the regular army and possessing five or six field-guns.
The charge of the whole line was given to the Conde de Caldagues,
who had so much distinguished himself in the previous month by his
relief of Gerona. He had been entrusted with a force too small to
man a circuit of twelve or fifteen miles, so that Duhesme had no
difficulty in pushing sorties through the line of Spanish posts,
whenever he chose to send out a sufficiently strong column. But any
body that pressed out too far in pursuit of corn or forage, risked
being beset and mishandled on its return march by the whole of the
_somatenes_ of the country-side. Hence there was a limit to the power
to roam of even the largest expeditions that Duhesme could spare
from his depleted garrison. The fighting along the blockading cordon
was incessant, but never conclusive. On September 2 a strong column
of six Italian battalions swept aside the Spaniards for a moment
in the direction of San Boy, but a smaller expedition against the
bridge of Molins de Rey was repulsed. The moment that the Italians
returned to Barcelona, with the food that they had scraped together
in the villages, Caldagues reoccupied his old positions. There were
many skirmishes but no large sorties between September 2 and October
12, when Milosewitz took out 2,000 men for a cattle-hunt in the
valley of the Besos. He pierced the blockading line, routing the
_miqueletes_ of Milans at San Jeronimo de la Murtra, and penetrated
as far as Granollers, twenty miles from Barcelona, where he made an
invaluable seizure, the food dépôt of the eastern section of the
investing force. But he was now dangerously distant from his base,
and as he was returning with his captures, Caldagues fell upon him
at San Culgat with troops brought from other parts of the blockading
line. The Italians were routed with a loss of 300 men[46], and their
convoy was recaptured. After this Duhesme made no more attempts to
send expeditions far afield: in spite of a growing scarcity of food,
he could not afford to risk the loss of any more men by pushing his
sorties into the inland.

  [46] So Vacani. Laffaille gives the incredible figure of 48!

Meanwhile Reille at Figueras was in wellnigh as forlorn a situation.
His communications with Perpignan were open, so that he had not,
like Duhesme, the fear of starvation before his eyes. But in other
respects he was almost as badly off: the _somatenes_ were always
worrying his outposts, but this was only a secondary trial. The main
trouble was the want of clothing, transport, and equipment: the
heterogeneous mob of _bataillons de marche_, of Swiss and Tuscan
conscripts, had been hurried to the frontier without any proper
preparations: this mattered comparatively little during the summer;
but when the autumn cold began Reille found that troops, who had
neither tents nor greatcoats, and whose original summer uniforms were
now worn out, could not keep the field. His ranks were so thinned by
dysentery and rheumatic affections that he had to put the men under
cover in Figueras and the neighbouring towns, and even to withdraw
to Perpignan some of his battalions, whose clothing was absolutely
dropping to pieces. His cavalry, for want of forage in the Pyrenees,
were sent back into Languedoc, where occupation was found for them
by Lord Cochrane who was conducting a series of daring raids on
the coast villages between the mouth of the Rhone and that of the
Tech[47]. Reille continued to solicit the war minister at Paris for
clothing and transport, but could get nothing from him: all the
resources of the empire were being strained in September and October
to fit out the main army, which was about to enter Spain on the side
of Biscay, and Napoleon refused to trouble himself about such a minor
force as the corps at Figueras.

  [47] See Cochrane’s _Autobiography_, pp. 269-85.

The Spaniards, therefore, had in the autumn months a unique
opportunity for striking at the two isolated French forces in
Catalonia. Two courses were open to them: they might have turned
their main army against Barcelona, and attempted to besiege instead
of merely to blockade Duhesme: or on the other hand they might have
left a mere cordon of _somatenes_ around Duhesme, and have sent all
their regulars to join the levies of the north and sweep Reille
across the Pyrenees. The resources at their disposition were far
from contemptible: almost the whole garrison of the Balearic Isles
having disembarked in Catalonia, there were now some 12,000 regulars
in the Principality, and the local Junta had put so much energy
into the equipment of the numerous _tercios_ of _miqueletes_ which
it had raised, that the larger half of them, at least 20,000 men,
were more or less ready for the field. Moreover they were aware that
large reinforcements were at hand. Reding’s Granadan division, 10,000
strong, was marching up from the south, and was due to arrive early
in November. The Aragonese division under the Marquis of Lazan, which
had been detached from the army of Palafox, was already at Lerida.
Valencia had sent up a line regiment[48], and the remains of the
division of Caraffa from Portugal were being brought round by sea to
the mouth of the Ebro[49]. Altogether 20,000 men of new troops were
on the way to Catalonia, and the first of them had already come on
the scene.

  [48] Two battalions of the 2nd of Savoia: the old regiment
  of the name had been completed to four battalions, two were
  with Castaños and called 1st of Savoia, the other two came to

  [49] Four battalions of Provincial Grenadiers of Old and New
  Castile had already come up.

Unfortunately the Marquis Del Palacio, the new Captain-General
of Catalonia, though well-intentioned, was slow and undecided to
the verge of absolute torpidity. Beyond allowing his energetic
subordinate Caldagues to keep up the blockade of Barcelona he did
practically nothing. A couple of thousand of his regulars, based
on Gerona and Rosas, lay opposite Reille, but were far too weak
to attack him. About 3,000 under Caldagues were engaged in the
operations around Barcelona. The rest the Captain-General held back
and did not use. All through September he lay idle at Tarragona,
to the great disgust of the local Junta, who at last sent such
angry complaints to Aranjuez that the Central Junta recalled him,
and replaced him by Vives the old Captain-General of the Balearic
Islands, who took over the command on October 28.

This gave a change of commander but not of policy, for Vives was as
slow and incapable as his predecessor. We have already had occasion
to mention the trouble that he gave in August, when he refused to
send his troops to the mainland till actually compelled to yield by
their mutiny. When he took over the charge of operations he found
20,000 foot and 1,000 horse at his disposition, and the French
still on the defensive both at Barcelona and at Figueras. He had a
splendid opportunity, and it was not yet too late to strike hard. But
all that he chose to attempt was to turn the blockade of Barcelona
into an investment, by tightening the cordon round the place. To
lay siege to the city does not seem to have been within the scope
of his intentions, but on November 6 he moved up to the line of the
Llobregat with 12,000 infantry and 700 horse, mostly regulars. He
had opened negotiations with secret friends within the walls, and
had arranged that when the whole forces of Duhesme were sufficiently
occupied in resisting the assault from outside, the populace should
take arms and endeavour to seize and throw open one of the gates.
But matters never got to this point: on November 8 several Spanish
columns moved in nearer to Barcelona, and began to skirmish with the
outposts of the garrison. But the attack was incoherent, and never
pressed home. Vives then waited till the 26th, when he had received
more reinforcements, the first brigade of Reding’s long-expected
Granadan division. On that day another general assault on Duhesme’s
outlying posts was delivered, and this time with considerable
success: several of the suburban villages were carried, over a
hundred Frenchmen were captured, and the line of blockade was drawn
close under the walls. Duhesme had no longer any hold outside the
city. But Barcelona was strong, and its garrison, when concentrated
within the place, was just numerous enough to hold its own. Duhesme
had thought for a moment of evacuating the city and retiring into the
citadel and the fortress of Montjuich: but on mature consideration
he resolved to cling as long as possible to the whole circuit of the
town. He had heard that an army of relief was at last on the way,
and made up his mind to yield no inch without compulsion.

Thus Vives wasted another month without any adequate results: he
had, with the whole field army of Catalonia, done nothing more than
turn the French out of their first and weakest line of defence. The
fortress was intact, and to all intents and purposes might have been
observed as well by 10,000 _somatenes_ as by the large force which
Vives had brought against it.

Meanwhile the enemy, utterly unopposed on the line of the Pyrenees,
was getting together a formidable host for the relief of Barcelona.
When he had recognized that Reille’s extemporized army was
insufficient alike in quantity and in quality for the task before
it, the Emperor had directed on Perpignan (as we have already
seen[50]) two strong divisions of the Army of Italy, one composed of
ten French battalions under General Souham, the other of thirteen
Italian battalions. The order to dispatch them had only been given
on August 10, and the regiments, which had to be mobilized and
equipped, and then to march up from Lombardy to the roots of the
Pyrenees, did not begin to arrive at Perpignan till September 14: the
artillery, and the troops which came from the more distant points,
only appeared on October 28. Even then there was a further week’s
delay, for the Emperor had monopolized for the main army, on the
side of the Bidassoa, all the available battalions of the military
train: the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees had no transport save that
which the regiments had brought with them, and it was with the
greatest difficulty that a few hundred mules and some open carts were
collected from the French border districts. It was only on November
5 that the army crossed the Pyrenees, by the great pass between
Bellegarde and La Junquera.

  [50] Vol. i. p. 333.

The officer placed in command was General Gouvion St. Cyr, who
afterwards won his marshal’s bâton in the Russian war of 1812. He was
a general of first-rate ability, who had served all through the wars
of the Revolution with marked distinction: but he disliked Bonaparte
and had not the art to hide the fact. This had kept him back from
earlier promotion. St. Cyr was by no means an amiable character: he
was detested by his officers and his troops as a confirmed grumbler,
and selfish to an incredible degree[51]. He was one of those men who
can always show admirable and convincing reasons for not helping
their neighbours. _C’était un mauvais compagnon de lit_, said one of
the many colleagues, whom he had left in the lurch, while playing
his own game. From his morose bearing and his dislike for company he
had got the nickname of ‘_le hibou_.’ He was cautious, cool-headed,
and ready of resource, so that his troops had full confidence in
him, though he never commanded their liking. Even from his history
of the Catalonian war, one can gather the character of the man. It
is admirably lucid, and illustrated with original documents, Spanish
no less than French, in a fashion only too rare among the military
books of the soldiers of the Empire. But it is not only entirely
self-centred, but full of malevolent insinuations concerning Napoleon
and the author’s colleagues. In his first chapter he broaches the
extraordinary theory that Napoleon handed over to him the Catalonian
army without resources, money, or transport, in order that he might
make a fiasco of the campaign and ruin his reputation! He actually
seems to have believed that his master disliked to have battles won
for him by officers who had not owed to him the beginning of their
fortunes[52], and would have been rather pleased than otherwise to
see the attempt to relieve Barcelona end in a failure.

  [51] For several curious and interesting stories concerning
  St. Cyr, the reader may search the third volume of Marbot’s
  _Mémoires_. Marbot is not an authority to be followed with much
  confidence, but the picture drawn of the marshal is borne out by
  other and better writers.

  [52] ‘On ne pourra pas échapper à la pensée que Napoléon, avec sa
  force immense, a été assez faible pour ne vouloir que des succès
  obtenus par lui-même, ou du moins sous ses yeux. Autrement on eût
  dit que la victoire était pour lui une offense: il en voulait
  surtout à la fortune quand elle favorisait les armes d’officiers
  qui ne lui devaient pas leur élévation.’ _Journal de l’Armée de
  Catalogne_, p. 26.

These are, of course, the vain imaginings of a jealous and suspicious
hypochondriac. It is true that Napoleon disliked St. Cyr, but he
did not want to see the campaign of Catalonia end in a disaster. He
gave the new general a fine French division of veteran troops, and,
as his letter to the Viceroy Eugène Beauharnais shows, the picked
regiments of the whole Italian army. The Seventh Corps mustered
in all more than 40,000 men, and 25,000 of these were concentrated
under St. Cyr’s hand at Perpignan and Figueras. It is certain that
the troops were not well equipped, and that the auxiliary services
were ill represented. But this was not from exceptional malice on
Napoleon’s part: he was always rather inclined to starve an army with
which he was not present in person, and at this moment every resource
was being strained to fit out the main force which were to deliver
the great blow at Madrid. Catalonia was but a ‘side show’: and when
St. Cyr tries to prove[53] that it was the most important theatre of
war in the whole peninsula, he is but exaggerating, after the common
fashion of poor humanity, the greatness of his own task and his own

  [53] St. Cyr, p. 23.

Before starting from Perpignan St. Cyr refitted, as best he could,
the dilapidated battalions of Reille, which were, he says, in
such a state of nudity that those who had been sent back within
the French border had to be kept out of public view from motives
of mere decency[54]. The whole division had suffered so much from
exposure that instead of taking the field with the 8,000 men which it
possessed in August, it could present only 5,500 in November, after
setting aside a battalion to garrison Figueras[55].

  [54] Ibid., p. 19.

  [55] For composition see the table of the 7th Corps in Appendix
  of vol. i. The figures given by St. Cyr are Pino 8,368, Souham
  7,712, Chabot 1,988, Reille 4,000. The last is an understatement,
  as shown by the morning state of Reille’s division in Relmas, ii.
  456, which shows 4,612 excluding the garrison of Figueras, more
  than 1,000 strong.

But though Reille was weak, and the division of Chabot (a mere corps
of two Neapolitan battalions and one regiment of National Guards)
was an almost negligible quantity, the troops newly arrived from
Italy were both numerous and good in quality. Souham’s ten French
battalions had 7,000 bayonets, Pino’s thirteen Italian battalions
had 7,300. Their cavalry consisted of one French and two Italian
regiments, making 1,700 sabres. The total force disposable consisted
of 23,680 men, of whom 2,096 were cavalry, and about 500 artillery.
In this figure are not included the National Guards and dépôts left
behind to garrison Bellegarde, Montlouis, and other places within
the French frontier, but only the troops available for operations
within Catalonia.

On his way to Perpignan, St. Cyr had visited the Emperor at Paris,
so as to receive his orders in person. Napoleon informed him that he
left him _carte blanche_ as to all details; the one thing on which he
insisted was that Barcelona must be preserved: ‘si vous perdiez cette
place, je ne la reprendrais pas avec quatre-vingt mille hommes.’
This then was to be the main object of the coming campaign: there
were about two months available for the task, for Duhesme reported
that, though food was growing scarce, he could hold out till the end
of December. To lessen the number of idle mouths in Barcelona he
had been giving permits to depart to many of the inhabitants, and
expelling others, against whom he could find excuses for severity.

The high-road from Figueras to Barcelona was blocked by the fortress
of Gerona, whose previous resistance in July and August showed
that its capture would be a tedious and difficult matter. St. Cyr
calculated that he had not the time to spare for the siege of this
place: long ere he could expect to take it, Duhesme would be starved
out. He made up his mind that he would have to march past Gerona,
and as the high-road is commanded by the guns of the city, he would
be forced to take with him no heavy guns or baggage, but only light
artillery and pack-mules, which could use the by-paths of the
mountains. It was his first duty to relieve Barcelona by defeating
the main army of Vives. When this had been done, it would be time
enough to think of the siege of Gerona.

But there was another fortress which St. Cyr resolved to clear
out of his way before starting to aid Duhesme. On the sea-shore,
only ten miles before Figueras, lies the little town of Rosas,
which blocks the route that crawls under the cliffs from Perpignan
and Port-Vendres to the Ampurdam. The moment that the French army
advanced south from Figueras, it would have Rosas on its flank, and
even small expeditions based on the place could make certain of
cutting the high-road, and intercepting all communications between
the base and the field force that had gone forward. But it was more
than likely that the Spaniards would land a considerable body of
troops in Rosas, for it has an excellent harbour, and every facility
for disembarkation. Several English men-of-war were lying there; it
served them as their shelter and port of call while they watched for
the French ships which tried to run into Barcelona with provisions,
from Marseilles, Cette, or Port-Vendres. Already they had captured
many vessels which endeavoured to pierce the blockade.

St. Cyr therefore was strongly of opinion that he ought to make
an end of the garrison of Rosas before starting on his expedition
to aid Duhesme. The place was strategically important, but its
fortifications were in such bad order that he imagined that it might
be reduced in a few days. The town, which counted no more than 1,500
souls, consisted of a single long street running along the shore. It
was covered by nothing more than a ditch and an earthwork, resting
at one end on a weak redoubt above the beach, and at the other upon
the citadel. The latter formed the strength of the place: it was a
pentagonal work, regularly constructed, with bastions, and a scarp
and counterscarp reveted with stone. But its resisting power was
seriously diminished by the fact that the great breach which the
French had made during its last siege in 1794 had never been properly
repaired. The government of Godoy had neglected the place, and, when
the insurrection began, the Catalans had found it still in ruins,
and had merely built up the gap with loose stones and barrels filled
with earth. A good battering train would bring down the whole of
these futile patchings in a few days. A mile to the right of the
citadel was a detached work, the Fort of the Trinity, placed above a
rocky promontory which forms the south-eastern horn of the harbour.
It had been built to protect ships lying before the place from being
annoyed by besiegers. The Trinity was built in an odd and ingenious
fashion: it was commanded at the distance of only 100 yards by the
rocky hill of Puig-Rom: to prevent ill effects from a plunging fire
from this elevation, its front had been raised to a great height,
so as to protect the interior of the work from molestation. A broad
tower 110 feet high covered the whole side of the castle which faces
inland. ‘Nothing in short, for a fortress commanded by adjacent
heights, could have been better adapted for holding out against
offensive operations, or worse adapted for replying to them. The
French battery on the cliff was too elevated for artillery to reach,
while the tower, which prevented their shot from reaching the body
of the fort, also prevented any return fire at them, even if the fort
had possessed artillery. In consequence of the elevated position of
the French on the cliff, they could only breach the central portion
of the tower. The lowest part of the breach they made was nearly
sixty feet above its base, so that it could only be reached by long
scaling ladders[56].’ It is seldom that a besieger has to complain of
the difficulty caused to him by the possession of ground completely
dominating a place that he has to reduce: but in the course of
the siege of Fort Trinity the French were undoubtedly incommoded
by the height of the Puig-Rom. The garrison below, hidden in good
bomb-proofs and covered by the tower, suffered little harm from their
fire. To batter the whole tower to pieces, by a downward fire, was
too long and serious a business for them; they merely tried to breach

  [56] Lord Cochrane’s _Autobiography_, i. 303. He adds ‘A pretty
  correct idea of our relative positions may be formed if the
  unnautical reader will imagine our small force placed in the nave
  of Westminster Abbey, with the enemy attacking the great western
  tower from the summit of a cliff 100 feet higher than the tower,
  so that the breach in course of formation corresponds to the
  great west window of the Abbey. It was no easy matter to them to
  scale the external wall of the tower up to the great window, and
  more difficult still to get down from the window into the body
  of the church. These were the points I had to provide against,
  for we could not prevent the French either from breaching or from

If the ground in front of Fort Trinity was too high for the French,
that of the town of Rosas was too low. It was so marshy that in wet
weather the ditches of their siege works filled at once with water,
and their parapets crumbled into liquid mud. The only approach
on ground of convenient firmness and elevation was opposite a
comparatively narrow front of the south-eastern corner of the place.

The garrison of Rosas, when St. Cyr undertook its siege, was
commanded by Colonel Peter O’Daly, an officer of the Ultonia, who
had distinguished himself at Gerona; it was composed of a skeleton
battalion (150 men) of the governor’s own Irish corps, of half the
light infantry regiment 2nd of Barcelona, of a company of Wimpffen’s
Swiss regiment, and 120 gunners. These were regulars: of new levies
there were the two _miquelete tercios_ of Lerida and Igualada, with
some companies of those of Berga and Figueras. The whole force
was exactly 3,000 strong. It would be wrong to omit the mention of
the British succours which took part in the defence. There lay in
the harbour the _Excellent_, 74, and two bomb-vessels: when the
_Excellent_ departed on November 21 she was replaced by the _Fame_,
another 74-gun ship, and during the last days of the siege Lord
Cochrane in his well-known frigate the _Impérieuse_ was also present.
It is well to remember their exact force, for the French narrators of
the leaguer of Rosas are prone to call them ‘the British squadron,’
a term which seems rather too magnificent to apply to a group of
vessels never numbering more than one line-of-battle ship, one
frigate, and two bomb-vessels.

St. Cyr moved forward on November 5, with the four divisions of
Souham, Pino, Reille, and Chabot, which (as we have seen) amounted in
all to about 23,000 men. He had resolved to use Pino and Reille--some
12,000 men--for the actual siege, and Souham and Chabot for the
covering work. Accordingly the weak division of the last-named
officer was left to watch the ground at the foot of the passes, in
the direction of Figueras and La Junquera, while Souham took up the
line of the river Fluvia, which lay across the path of any relieving
force that might come from the direction of Gerona. St. Cyr remained
with the covering army, and gave the conduct of the siege to Reille,
perhaps because he had already made one attack on the town in August.

On November 6 Reille marched down to the sea, driving before him
the Spanish outlying pickets, and the peasantry of the suburban
villages, who took refuge with their cattle in Rosas. On the seventh
the investment began, Reille’s own division taking its position on
the marshy ground opposite the town, while Pino encamped more to the
left, upon the heights that face the fort of the Trinity. The head
quarters were established at the village of Palau. A battalion of the
2nd Italian light infantry was placed far back, to the north-east, to
keep off the _somatenes_ of the coast villages about Llanza and Selva
de Mar from interfering in the siege.

Next day the civil population of Rosas embarked on fishing-vessels
and small merchantmen, and departed to the south, abandoning
the whole town to the garrison. They just missed seeing some
sharp fighting. The covering party who had been detached to the
neighbourhood of Llanza were beset during a dense mist by the
_somatenes_ of the coast: two companies were cut to pieces or
captured; the rest were saved by General Fontane, who led out
three battalions from Pino’s lines to their assistance. While this
engagement was in progress, the garrison sallied out with 2,000 men
to beat up the main camp of the Italians; they were repulsed after
a sharp fight; the majority got back to the citadel, but one party
being surrounded, Captain West of the _Excellent_ landed with 250 of
his seamen and marines, cut his way to them, and brought them off in
safety. West had his horse shot under him (a curious note to have to
make concerning a naval officer), and lost ten men wounded.

After the eighth there followed seven days of continuous rain, which
turned the camp of Reille’s division into a marsh, and effectually
prevented the construction of siege works in the low-lying ground
opposite to the town. The only active operation that could be
undertaken was an attempt to storm the fort of the Trinity,
which the French believed to be in far worse condition than was
actually the case. It was held by eighty Spaniards, under the Irish
Lieutenant-Colonel Fitzgerald, and twenty-five of the _Excellent’s_
marines[57]. The six voltigeur and grenadier companies of the 2nd
Italian light infantry delivered the assault with great dash and
resolution. But as the strong frontal tower of the fort was high
and unbreached, they could make no impression, their ladders proved
useless, and they were repulsed with a loss of sixty men. Their
leader, the _chef-de-bataillon_ Lange, and several other officers
were left dead at the foot of the walls.

  [57] James’s _Naval History_, v. p. 90.

Seeing that nothing was to be won by mere escalade, Reille had to
wait for his siege artillery, which began to arrive from Perpignan
on November 16. He at once started two batteries on the Puig-Rom to
breach the Fort of the Trinity, and when the ground had begun to grow
dry in front of the town, opened trenches opposite its north-eastern
angle. When a good _emplacement_ had been found a battery was
established which played upon the citadel, and commanded so much
of the harbour that Reille hoped that the British ships would be
compelled to shift their anchorage further out to sea. The Spaniards
and the _Excellent_ replied with such a heavy fire that in a few
hours the battery was silenced, after its powder magazine had been
exploded by a lucky shell [November 19].

Next day, however, the French repaired the damage and mounted more
guns, whose fire proved so damaging that Captain West had to move
further from the shore. The assailants had established a marked
superiority over the fire of the besieged, and availed themselves of
it by pushing out parallels nearer to the town, and building four
more breaching batteries. With these additional resources they began
to work serious damage in the unstable bastions of the citadel. They
also knocked a hole in the Fort of the Trinity: but the breach was so
far from the foot of the wall that it was still almost inaccessible,
the heaps of rubbish which fell into the ditch did not even reach the
lowest part of the gap.

On the twenty-first the _Excellent_ was relieved by the _Fame_, and
Captain West handed over the task of co-operating with the Spaniards
to Captain Bennett. The latter thought so ill of the state of
affairs, that after two days he withdrew his marines from the Trinity
Fort, an action most discouraging to the Spaniards. But at this
juncture there arrived in the bay the _Impérieuse_ frigate, with her
indefatigable commandant Lord Cochrane, a host in himself for such a
desperate enterprise as the defence of the much-battered town. He got
leave from his superior officer to continue the defence, and manned
the Trinity again with his own seamen and marines. They had hardly
established themselves there, when the Italian brigade of Mazzuchelli
made a second attempt to storm the fort: but it was repulsed without
even having reached the foot of the breach.

Cochrane, seeing that the battery which was playing on the Trinity
was on the very edge of a precipitous cliff, resolved to try whether
it would not be possible to surprise it at night, by landing
troops on the beach at the back of the Puig-Rom; if they could get
possession of the guns for a few minutes he hoped to cast them over
the declivity on to the rocks below. O‘Daly lent him 700 _miqueletes_
from the garrison of the town, and this force was put ashore with
thirty of the _Impérieuse’s_ marines who were to lead the assault.
The Italians, however, were not caught sleeping, the attack failed,
and the assailants were beaten back to the rocks by the beach, with
the loss of ten killed and twenty wounded, beside prisoners[58].
The boats of the frigate only brought off 300 men, but many more
escaped along the beach into the hilly country to the east, and were
neither captured nor slain [November 23]. The sortie, however, had
been disastrous, and the Governor, O’Daly, was so down-hearted at
the loss of men and at the way in which the walls of the citadel
were crumbling before his eyes, that he began to think of surrender.
Nor was he much to blame, for the state of things was so bad that
it was evident that unless some new factor was introduced into the
siege, the end was not far off. The utter improbability of relief
from without was demonstrated on the twenty-fourth. Julian Alvarez,
the Governor of Gerona and commander of the Spanish forces in the
Ampurdam, was perfectly well aware that it was his duty to do what he
could for the succour of Rosas. But his forces were insignificant:
Vives had only given him 2,000 regular troops to watch the whole
line of the Eastern Pyrenees, and of this small force half was shut
up in Rosas. Nevertheless Alvarez sallied out from Gerona with
two weak battalions of Ultonia and Borbon, and half of the light
infantry regiment of Barcelona. Picking up 3,000 local _miqueletes_
he advanced to the line of the Fluvia, where Souham was lying,
with the division that St. Cyr had told off to cover the siege.
The Spaniards drove in the French outposts at several points, but
immediately found themselves opposed by very superior numbers, and
brought to a complete stand. Realizing that he was far too weak to
do anything, Alvarez retreated to Gerona after a sharp skirmish. If
he had pushed on he would infallibly have been destroyed. O’Daly
received prompt news of his colleague’s discomfiture, and saw that
relief was impossible. The fact was that Vives ought to have brought
up from Barcelona his whole field army of 20,000 men. With such a
host Souham could have been driven back, and Reille compelled to
relax the investment, perhaps even to raise the siege. But the
Captain-General preferred to waste his men and his time in the futile
blockade of Duhesme, who could have been just as well ‘contained’ by
10,000 _somatenes_ as by the main Spanish army of Catalonia. The only
attempt which Vives made to strengthen his force in the Ampurdam was
to order up to Gerona the Aragonese division of 4,000 men under the
Marquis of Lazan, which was lying at Lerida. This force arrived too
late for the skirmish on the Fluvia, and when it did appear was far
too small to accomplish anything. Alvarez and Lazan united had only
8,000 bayonets, while St. Cyr’s whole army (as we have already seen)
was 25,000 strong, and quite able to maintain the siege, and at the
same time to provide a covering force against a relieving army so
weak as that which now lay at Gerona.

  [58] Compare the narrative of Lord Cochrane, i. 299-300, with
  those of Belmas, ii. 441, and St. Cyr. The latter is, of course,
  wrong in saying that the whole sortie was composed of British
  seamen and marines. It is curious that Cochrane states his own
  loss at more than the French claimed to have killed or taken.

The siege operations meanwhile were pushed on. Fresh batteries were
established to sweep the harbour, and to render more difficult the
communication of the citadel and the Trinity fort with the English
ships. A new attack was started against the eastern front of the
town, and measures were taken to concentrate a heavier fire on the
dilapidated bastion of the citadel, which had been destroyed in the
old siege of 1794 and never properly repaired. On the twenty-sixth
an assault was directed by Pino’s division against the town front.
This was defended by no more than a ditch and earthwork: the
Italians carried it at the first rush, but found more difficulty in
evicting the garrison from the ruined houses along the shore. Five
hundred _miqueletes_, who were barricaded among them, made a very
obstinate resistance, and were only driven out after sharp fighting.
One hundred and sixty were taken prisoners, less than a hundred
escaped into the citadel: the rest perished. The besiegers at once
established a lodgement in the town, covering themselves with the
masonry of the demolished houses. It was in vain that the _Fame_ and
_Impérieuse_ ran close in shore and tried to batter the Italians out
of the ruins. They inflicted considerable loss, but failed to prevent
the enemy from finding shelter. Next night the lodgement in the town
was connected with the rest of the siege works, and used as the base
for an attack against a hitherto unmolested front of the citadel.

Just after the storming of the town, the garrison received the
only succour which was sent to it during the whole siege; a weak
battalion of regulars from the regiment of Borbon was put ashore near
the citadel under cover of the darkness. It would have been more
useful on the preceding day, for the defence of the outer works.
After the arrival of this small succour the Governor, O’Daly, sent
eighty men of the Irish regiment of Ultonia to reinforce Cochrane in
the Trinity fort, withdrawing a similar number of _miqueletes_ to the

The guns established by the besiegers in their new batteries among
the ruins of the town made such good practice upon the front of the
citadel that Reille thought it worth while on the twenty-eighth to
summon the Governor to surrender. O’Daly made a becoming answer,
to the effect that his defences were still intact and that he
was prepared to continue his resistance. To cut him off from his
communication with the sea, the only side from which he could expect
help, Reille now began to build batteries along the water-front of
the town, which commanded the landing-places below the citadel. The
English ships proved unable to subdue these new guns, and their power
to help O’Daly was seriously diminished. It was only under cover of
the darkness that they could send boats to land men or stores for
the citadel. On the thirtieth they tried to take off the sick and
wounded, who were now growing very numerous in the place: but the
shore-batteries having hit the headmost boat, the rest drew off and
abandoned the attempt. The prospects of the garrison had grown most

Meanwhile the Trinity fort had been perpetually battered for ten
days, and the hole in the great frontal tower was growing larger.
It can hardly be called a breach, as owing to the impossibility of
searching the lower courses of the wall by the plunging fire from the
Puig-Rom, the lowest edge of the gap was forty feet from the ground.
The part of the tower which had been opened was the upper section
of a lofty bomb-proof casemate, which composed its ground story.
Lord Cochrane built up, with the débris that fell inwards, and with
hammocks filled with earth and sand, new walls inside the bomb proof,
cutting off the hole from the interior of the tower: thus enemies
entering at the gap would find that they had only penetrated into the
upper part of a sort of cellar. The ingenious captain also set a long
slide or shoot of greased planks just under the lip of the hole, so
that any one stepping in would be precipitated thirty feet into the
bottom of the casemate. But the mere sight of this mantrap, as he
called it, proved enough for the enemy, who never pushed the attack
into it.

On November 30 Pino’s division assaulted the fort, the storming
party being composed of six grenadier and voltigeur companies of the
1st and 6th Italian regiments. They came on with great courage, and
planted their ladders below the great hole, amid a heavy fire of
musketry from the garrison. The leaders succeeded in reaching the
edge of the ‘breach,’ but finding the chasm and the ‘mantrap’ before
them, would not enter. They were all shot down: grenades were dropped
in profusion into the mass at the foot of the ladders, and after a
time the stormers fled back under cover, leaving two officers and
forty men behind them. They were rallied and brought up again to the
foot of the breach, but recoiled after a second and less desperate
attempt to enter. The garrison lost only three men killed and two
wounded, of whom four were Spaniards. They captured two prisoners,
men who had got so far forward that they dared not go back under the
terrible fire which swept the foot of the tower. These unfortunates
had to be taken into the fort by a rope, so inaccessible was the
supposed breach. After this bloody repulse, the besiegers left Lord
Cochrane alone, merely continuing to bombard his tower, and throwing
up entrenchments on the beach, from which they kept up an incessant
musketry fire on the difficult landing-place by which the fort
communicated with the ships.

[Illustration: BATTLE OF UCLÉS
  JANUARY 13TH 1809]

[Illustration: SIEGE OF ROSAS
  NOV. 6 TO DEC. 5 1809]

Their main attention was now turned to the citadel, where O’Daly’s
position was growing hopeless. ‘Their practice,’ says Cochrane, ‘was
beautiful. So accurately was their artillery conducted that every
discharge “ruled a straight line” along the lower part of the walls.
This being repeated till the upper portion was without support, as
a matter of course the whole fell into the ditch, forming a breach
of easy ascent. The whole proceedings were clearly visible from the
Trinity[59].’ On December 3 the Governor played his last card: the
worst of the damage was being done by the advanced batteries placed
among the ruins of the town, and it was from this point that the
impending assault would evidently be delivered. O’Daly therefore
picked 500 of his best men, opened a postern gate, and launched
them at night upon the besiegers’ works. The sortie was delivered
with great dash and vigour: the trench guards were swept away, the
breaching batteries were seized, and the Spaniards began to throw
down the parapets, spike the guns, and set fire to the platforms and
fascines. But heavy reserves came up from the French camp, and their
attack could not be resisted. Before any very serious damage had been
done, the besieged were driven out of the trenches by sheer force of
numbers, and forced to retire to the citadel, leaving forty-five dead
behind them. Reille acknowledged the loss of one officer and twelve
men killed, and nineteen men wounded.

  [59] Cochrane, _Autobiography_, i. 307.

On the fourth the siege works were pushed forward to within 200 yards
of the walls of the citadel, and the breach already established
in the dilapidated bastion was enlarged to a great breadth. After
dark the French engineers got forward as far as the counterscarp,
and reported that an assault was practicable, and could hardly
fail. The same fact was perfectly evident to O’Daly, who sent out a
_parlementaire_ to ask for terms. He offered to surrender in return
for leave to take his garrison off by sea. Reille naturally refused,
as the Spaniards were at his mercy, and enforced an unconditional

The state of things being visible to Lord Cochrane on the next
morning, he hastily evacuated the Trinity fort, which it was useless
to hold after the citadel had fallen. His garrison, 100 Spaniards and
eighty British sailors and marines, had to descend from the fort by
rope ladders, as the enemy commanded the proper point of embarkation.
They were taken off by the boats of the _Fame_ and _Impérieuse_ under
a heavy musketry fire, but suffered no appreciable loss. The magazine
was left with a slow match burning, and exploded, ruining the fort,
before the garrison had got on board their ships.

St. Cyr, in his journal of the war in Catalonia, suggests that
Bennett and Cochrane ought to have tried to take off the garrison of
the citadel in the same fashion. But this was practically impossible:
the communication between the citadel and the sea had been lost
for some days, the French batteries along the beach rendering
the approach of boats too dangerous to be attempted. If Captain
Bennett had sent in the limited supply of boats that the _Fame_, the
_Impérieuse_ and the two smaller vessels[60] possessed they would
probably have been destroyed. For they would have had to make many
return journeys in order to remove 2,500 men, under the fire of heavy
guns placed only 200 or 300 yards away from the landing-place. It
was quite another thing to remove 180 men from the Trinity, where
the enemy could bring practically nothing but musketry to bear, and
where the whole of the garrison could be taken off at a single trip.
Another futile charge made by the French against the British navy, is
that the _Fame_ shelled the beach near the citadel while the captive
garrison was marching out, and killed several of the unfortunate
Spaniards. If the incident happened at all (there is no mention of
it in Lord Cochrane or in James) it must have been due to an attempt
to damage the French trenches; Captain Bennett could not have known
that the passing column consisted of Spaniards. To insinuate that the
mistake was deliberate, as does Belmas, is simply malicious[61].

  [60] These were the two bomb-vessels _Meteor_ and _Lucifer_. The
  _Magnificent_ 74 came up the same day, but after the evacuation
  of the Trinity.

  [61] St. Cyr does not say so (p. 50), but only that the Spaniards
  imagined that it was done deliberately. Belmas (p. ii. 453) asks
  if it was not irritation on the part of the British. Arteche does
  not repulse the silly suggestion, as he reasonably might (iv.

O’Daly went into captivity with 2,366 men, leaving about 400 more
in hospital. The total of the troops who had taken part in the
defence, including the reinforcements received by sea, had been about
3,500, so that about 700 must have perished in the siege. The French
loss had been at least as great--Pino’s division alone lost thirty
officers and 400 men killed and wounded[62], besides many sick. It
is probable that the total diminution in the ranks of Reille’s two
divisions was over 1,000, the bad weather having told very heavily on
the ill-equipped troops.

  [62] Belmas, ii. 454, and Vacani, ii. 315, agree in these figures.

So ended an honourable if not a very desperate defence. The place
was doomed from the first, when once the torpid and purblind Vives
had made up his mind to keep his whole force concentrated round
Barcelona, and to send no more than the insignificant division of
Alvarez and Lazan to the help of O’Daly. Considering the dilapidated
condition of the citadel of Rosas, and the almost untenable state of
the town section of the fortifications, the only wonder is that the
French did not break in at an earlier date. The first approaches of
Reille’s engineers were, according to Belmas, unskilfully conducted,
and pushed too much into the marsh. When once they received a right
direction, the result was inevitable. Even had the artillery failed
to do its work Rosas must nevertheless have fallen within a few days,
for it was insufficiently provisioned, and, as the communication
with the sea had been cut off since November 30, must have yielded
ere long to starvation. The French found an ample store of guns
(fifty-eight pieces) and much ammunition in the place, but an utterly
inadequate supply of food.

[N.B.--Belmas, St. Cyr, and Arteche have all numerous slips in their
narration, from not having used the British authorities. Vacani’s
account is, on the whole, the best on the French side. Much may be
learnt from James’s _Naval History_, vol. v, but more from Lord
Cochrane’s picturesque autobiography. From this, e.g., alone can
it be ascertained that the column which attacked the Puig-Rom on
November 23 was composed of _miqueletes_, not of British soldiers.
Cochrane is represented by several writers as arriving on the
twenty-fourth or even the twenty-sixth, while as a matter of fact
he reached Rosas on the twenty-first. It may interest some to know
that Captain Marryat, the novelist, served under Cochrane, and
was mentioned in his dispatch. So the description of the siege of
Rosas in Marryat’s _Frank Mildmay_, wherein his captain is so much
glorified, is a genuine personal reminiscence, and not an invention
of fiction.]



When Rosas had fallen St. Cyr was at last able to take in hand the
main operation which had been entrusted to him by Napoleon--the
relief of Barcelona. While the siege was still in progress he had
received two letters bidding him hasten to the relief of Duhesme
without delay[63], but he had taken upon himself the responsibility
of writing back that he must clear his flank and rear before he dared
move, and that he should proceed with the leaguer of Rosas, which
could only last a few days longer, unless he received formal orders
to abandon the undertaking. He ventured to point out that the moral
and political effects of taking such a step would be deplorable[64].
Napoleon’s silence gave consent, and St. Cyr’s plea was justified by
the fall of the place on December 5.

  [63] Berthier to St. Cyr, Burgos, Nov. 13. ‘Si Roses tarde à être
  pris, il faut marcher sur Barcelone sans s’inquiéter de cette
  place, &c.,’ and much to same effect from Coubo, Nov. 16 [wrongly
  printed in St. Cyr, Nov. 10].

  [64] St. Cyr to the Emperor, Nov. 17, from Figueras.

Rosas having been captured, the French general had now at his
disposition all his four divisions, those of Souham, Pino, Reille,
and Chabot, which even after deducting the casualties suffered in
the siege, and the losses experienced by the covering troops from
the bad weather, still amounted to 22,000 men. After counting up
the very considerable forces which the Spaniards might place in his
way, he resolved to take on with him for the relief of Barcelona
the troops of Souham, Pino, and Chabot, and to leave behind only
those of Reille. With about 5,000 or 5,500 soldiers of not very good
quality that officer was to hold Figueras and Rosas, watch Gerona,
and protect the high-road to Perpignan. St. Cyr himself with the
twenty-six battalions and nine squadrons forming the other three
divisions, a force of some 15,000 infantry and 1,500 horse, took his
way to the south.

The first obstacle in his way was Gerona: but if he stopped to
besiege and take it, it was clear that he would never reach Barcelona
in time to save Duhesme from starvation: that general had reported
that his food would only last till the end of December, and Gerona
would certainly hold out more than three weeks. Indeed, as we shall
see, when it was actually beleaguered in the next year, it made a
desperate defence, lasting for nearly six months[65]. St. Cyr saw
from the first that he must leave the fortress alone, and slip past
it. As it commanded the high-road, this resolution forced him to
abandon any intention of taking forward his artillery and his wheeled
transport. They could not face the rugged by-paths on to which he
would be compelled to throw himself, and he marched without a single
gun, and with his food and provisions borne on pack-horses and mules,
of which he had a very modest provision.

  [65] May 30 to Dec. 10, 1809.

St. Cyr was quite well aware that if General Vives were to resign
the blockade of Barcelona to his _miqueletes_ and _somatenes_, and
to come against him with his whole army, the task of relieving
Duhesme would be dangerous if not impossible. There are but two
roads from Gerona to Barcelona, and across each of them lie half a
dozen positions which, if entrenched and held by superior numbers,
he could not hope to force. These two routes are the coast-road
by Mataro and Arens de Mar--which the French had used for their
first march to Gerona in August--and the inland road up the valley
of the Besos by Hostalrich and Granollers. But the former had
been so conscientiously destroyed by Lord Cochrane and the local
_somatenes_[66] that St. Cyr regarded it as impassable; there were
places where it had been blasted away for lengths of a quarter or
a half of a mile. Moreover, at many points the army would have to
defile under the cliffs for long distances, and might be shelled by
any British men-of-war that should happen to lie off the coast[67].
Accordingly the French general determined to try the inland road,
though he would have to march round Gerona and the smaller fortress
of Hostalrich, and though it was cut by several admirable positions,
where the Catalans might offer battle with reasonable prospects of
success. It was all-important that Vives should be left as long as
possible in uncertainty as to his adversary’s next move, and that the
Catalans should be dealt with in detail rather than in mass. St. Cyr
resolved, therefore, to make a show of attacking Gerona, and to try
whether he could not catch Lazan and Alvarez, and rout them, before
the Captain-General should come up to their assistance.

  [66] See vol. i. p. 331.

  [67] St. Cyr, _Journal de l’Armée de Catalogne_, p. 58.

On December 9, therefore, St. Cyr had his whole corps, minus the
division of Reille, concentrated on the left bank of the river Ter.
On the next day he manœuvred as if about to envelop Gerona. He had
hoped that this move would tempt Lazan and Alvarez to come out and
meet him in the open. But fully conscious that their 8,000 men would
be exposed to inevitable defeat, the two Spanish officers wisely kept
quiet under the walls of their stronghold. Having worked round their
flank, St. Cyr on the eleventh sent back the whole of his artillery
and heavy baggage to Figueras, and plunged into the mountains; at La
Bispal he distributed four days’ biscuit to his men, warning them
that there would be no further issue of rations till they reached
Barcelona. The light carts which had been dragged thus far with the
food were burnt. As to munitions, each soldier had fifty cartridges
in his pouch, and the pack-mules carried 150,000 more, a reserve
of only ten rounds for each man[68]. The equipment of the army, in
short, was such that if it failed to force its way to Barcelona
within six days it must starve, while if it was forced to fight
three or four heavy engagements it would be left helpless, without
a cartridge for a final battle. The general, if not the men in the
ranks, fully realized the peril of the situation.

  [68] St. Cyr says that Napoleon falsified his report, when
  reprinting it in the _Moniteur_, and put 150 instead of 50 rounds
  per man, to disguise the risk that had been run (p. 58).

On the twelfth St. Cyr pushed along the mountains above Palamos and
San Feliu, brushing away a body of _miqueletes_ from the coast-land
under Juan Claros, who tried to hold the defile. On the thirteenth
the French reached Vidreras, where they were again on a decent road,
that which goes from Gerona to Malgrat. They now perceived that
they were being followed by Lazan and the garrison of Gerona, whose
camp-fires were visible on the heights to the north, while troops,
evidently detached from the blockade of Barcelona, were visible in
front of them. It was clear that St. Cyr had at least succeeded in
placing himself between the two main forces which the enemy could
oppose to him, and might engage them separately. He might also count
on the Spaniards looking for him on the Malgrat-Mataro road, on
which he was now established, while it was his intention to abandon
it, in order to plunge inland once more, and to fall into the main
_chaussée_ to Barcelona, south of Hostalrich. That a path existed,
along which such a movement could be carried out, was only known to
the general by the report of a Perpignan smuggler, who had once kept
sheep among these hills. But when exploring parties tried to find
it, they lost their way, and reported that no such route existed. If
this was the fact, St. Cyr was ruined: but he refused to believe the
officers who assured him that the smuggler had erred, and pushing
among the rocks finally discovered it himself. During his exploration
he was nearly cut off by a party of _somatenes_, and his escort had
to fight hard in order to save him.

But the road was found, and on the fifteenth the army followed it,
almost in single file, while the dragoons had to dismount and lead
their horses. They saw the fortress of Hostalrich in the valley below
them, and passed it in sight of the garrison. Some of the latter came
out, and skirmished with the rearguard of St. Cyr’s long column,
but they were too weak to do much harm, while Lazan, whose advent
from the north would have caused more serious difficulties, had been
completely eluded, and never came in sight.

In the afternoon the whole expeditionary force safely descended into
the Barcelona _chaussée_ near San Celoni, from which place they drove
out four battalions of _miqueletes_, the first troops that the tardy
Vives had detached from his main army. The men were much fatigued,
and the _somatenes_ were beginning to give trouble both in flank and
rear, but St. Cyr insisted that they should not encamp by San Celoni,
but push southward through the difficult defile of the Trentapassos,
so that they might not find it held against them on the following
morning. This was done, and the best of the many positions which
the Spaniards might have held to oppose the march of the invaders
was occupied without the least resistance. St. Cyr encamped at the
southern end of the pass, and saw before him, when the night had
fallen, a line of watch-fires far down the valley of the Besos which
showed that the Spaniards from the leaguer of Barcelona had at last
come out to oppose him.

The conduct of Vives during the last six days had been in perfect
keeping with the rest of his slow and stupid guidance of the
campaign. He had received in due course news of the fall of Rosas,
and soon after the additional information that St. Cyr had crossed
the Ter and was threatening Gerona. Opinion was divided in the camp
of the Catalans as to whether the French were about to lay siege to
that fortress, or to pass it by and make a dash for the relief of
Duhesme. If they sat down before Gerona there was no need to hurry:
if they should pass it by, it would be necessary to move at once,
in order to occupy the defiles against them. The opinion of the
more intelligent officers was that St. Cyr would be forced to march
to aid Duhesme, whose want of provisions was well known by secret
intelligence sent out from Barcelona. Unfortunately Vives inclined
to the other side: he preferred to believe the alternative which did
not impose on him the necessity for instant and decisive action. He
did nothing, and pretended to be waiting for further news. It reached
him on the night of December 11-12, in the form of a message from the
Junta of Gerona, to the effect that the French had sent back their
artillery and were plunging into the mountains in the direction of La
Bispal, so that it was clear that they must be marching to relieve
Duhesme. It might have been expected that the Captain-General would
now at last break up from his lines, and hasten to throw himself
across the path of the approaching enemy. But after holding a long
and fruitless council of war he contented himself with sending
out Reding, with that part of the newly-arrived Granadan division
which had reached Catalonia. On the twelfth therefore the Swiss
General started by the inland road with seven battalions of his own
Andalusian levies and a regiment of cavalry. Next day he reached
Granollers and halted there. At the same time Francisco Milans, with
four tercios of _miqueletes_, was sent out to guard the coast-road,
the other possible line of approach by which St. Cyr might arrive.
Reding had 5,000 men, Milans 3,000: but Vives still lay before
Barcelona with two-thirds of his army, at least 16,000 or 17,000
bayonets. It was in vain that Caldagues, the preserver of Gerona,
implored him to leave no more than a screen of _miqueletes_ in the
lines, and to sally forth to fight with every regular soldier that he
could muster. The Captain-General refused to listen, supporting his
inactivity by pleading that the advice sent from Gerona did not speak
of the enemy’s force as very large: the defiles, he urged, were so
difficult that Reding and Milans, aided by Lazan, ought to be able to
hold them against any small expeditionary force.

Thus St. Cyr was left to work out his daring plan without any serious
opposition. The only force with which he came in contact was Milans’
brigade of _miqueletes_, who, finding the coast-road clear, had
crossed the mountains and occupied San Celoni. These were the troops
whom St. Cyr drove away on the afternoon of the fifteenth, before
entering the defile of the Trentapassos.

On receiving news of this combat, which had taken place only
twenty-one miles from his lines, Vives at last set out in person.
But persisting in his idiotic notion of blocking Barcelona to the
last moment, he left Caldagues before the place with 12,000 men,
and marched with a single brigade of 4,000 bayonets to join Reding.
Moving all through the night of the fifteenth-sixteenth he joined
the Granadans at daybreak at Cardadeu on the high-road. Their united
strength was only 9,000 men, of whom 600 were cavalry, and seven
guns[69]. This was the whole force which fought St. Cyr, for Lazan,
moving with culpable slowness, was still far north of San Celoni,
when he should have been pressing on the rear of the French, while
Milans with the _miqueletes_, who had been beaten on the previous
day, was some miles away in the mountains on the right, and quite out
of touch with his commander-in-chief. Nine thousand Spaniards, in
short, were within ten miles of the field, yet took no part in the
battle. St. Cyr in his central position kept them apart, and they
failed to combine with Vives and his force at Cardadeu.

  [69] Cf. Cabanes, with Arteche, iv. 276.

The valley of the Besos at this point has broadened out, and is
no longer the narrow defile that is seen a few miles further to
the north. But there is much broken ground on both sides of the
high-road. A little way north of Cardadeu is a low hill covered with
pines, lying to the right of the _chaussée_: at the foot of the hill
is a ravine which the road has to cross at right angles, and which
falls into the stream called the Riera de la Roca. The country-side
was composed partly of cultivated ground, partly of thickets of pine
and oak, which rendered it difficult for either side to get a general
view of its adversaries’ movements.

Vives, who had only reached his fighting-ground at dawn, had no time
to reconnoitre his position, or to make any elaborate scheme for
getting the best use out of the _terrain_. He hastily drew up his
army in two lines across the high-road: the front line was behind
the ravine, the second higher up on the pine-clad hill. Reding’s
troops held the right wing on the lowest ground, and extended as
far as the river Mogent, a branch of the Besos. Vives’ own Catalan
regiments formed the centre and left: they were mainly placed on the
hill commanding the road, with three guns in front of their centre,
and two further to the left on a point from which they could enfilade
a turn of the _chaussée_. The _miqueletes_ of Vich, on the extreme
left, held a spur of the higher mountains which bound the valley of
the Besos. The reserve drawn up on the high-road, behind the main
position, consisted of two guns, two squadrons of horse (Husares
Españoles, lately arrived from Majorca) and two battalions.

St. Cyr could make out very little of his adversaries’ force or
position; the woods and hills masked the greater part of the
Spanish line. But he knew that he must attack, and that promptly,
for every hour that he delayed would give time for Lazan to come
up in his rear, and Milans on his left flank. He left behind him
at the southern outlet of the Trentapassos the three battalions
of Chabot’s division, with orders to hold the defile at all costs
against Lazan, whenever the latter should appear. With the other
twenty-three battalions forming the divisions of Pino and Souham
he marched down the high-road to deal with Vives. It was necessary
to attack at once: ‘the biscuit distributed at La Bispal was just
finished: the cartridges were running low, for many had been spent
in the preceding skirmishes. There was, in fact, only ammunition
for one hour of battle[70].’ St. Cyr saw that he must win by one
short and swift stroke, or suffer a complete disaster. Accordingly,
he had resolved to form his two strong divisions--more than 13,000
men--into one great column, which was to charge the Spanish centre
and burst through by its own impetus and momentum. Pino’s thirteen
Italian battalions formed the head of the mass: Souham’s ten French
battalions its rear. The General’s plan is best expressed in his
own words: his orders to Pino, who was to lead the attack, ran as

  [70] St. Cyr, _Journal de l’Armée de Catalogne_, p. 64.

‘The corps must fight in the order in which I have arranged it this
morning. There is neither time nor means to make dispositions to
beat the Spaniards more or less thoroughly. The country-side is so
broken and wooded that it would take three hours to reconnoitre
their position, and in two hours Lazan may be on the spot attacking
our rear. Not a minute can be lost: we must simply rush at and
trample down[71] the corps in our front, whatever its strength may
be. Our food is done, our ammunition almost exhausted. The enemy
has artillery, which is a reason the more for haste: the quicker we
attack, the less time will he have to shell us. There must be no
attempt to feel his position; not one battalion must be deployed.
Though his position is strong we must go straight at it in column,
and burst through the centre by striking at that one point with our
whole force. The enemy must be given no time to prepare his defence
or bring up his reserves. You must not change the disposition in
column in which we march, even in order to take great numbers of
prisoners. Our sole end is to break through and to get as close as we
can to Barcelona this evening. Our camp-fires must be visible to the
garrison by night, to show that we are at hand to raise the siege.’

  [71] ‘Il faut passer sur le ventre au corps de troupes en face,
  quel que soit son nombre.’ St. Cyr, p. 66.

This order of battle was most hazardous: if St. Cyr had found in
front of him two steady English divisions instead of Reding’s raw
Granadan levies and the gallant but untrained Catalan _miqueletes_,
it is certain that affairs would have gone as at Busaco or Talavera.
Dense columns attacking a fair position held by good troops in line
are bound to suffer terrible losses, and ought never to succeed. But
St. Cyr knew the enemies with whom he had to deal, and his method
was well adapted to his end. If he ran some risk of failing at the
commencement of the action, it was simply because his subordinates
did not follow out his directions.

General Pino, on whom the responsibility of opening the attack
devolved, started with every intention of obedience. But when he
arrived at the foot of the Spanish position, and the balls began to
fall thickly among his leading battalions, he lost his head. His
column only faced the Spanish right centre, and the heavy flanking
fire from the hostile wings daunted him. Instead of pushing straight
before him with his whole force, as St. Cyr had ordered, he threw
out five battalions of Mazzuchelli’s brigade to his left[72], and
two battalions under General Fontane to his extreme right[73]; the
six battalions of his rear brigade were not yet up to the front,
and took no part in the first assault. Thus he attacked on a front
of three-quarters of a mile, instead of at one single point. His
columns, after driving in the Spanish front line, came to a stand
half-way up the hill, in a very irregular array, the flanks thrown
forward, the centre hanging somewhat back. Reding, against whom the
main attack of Mazzuchelli’s brigade had been directed, brought up
his second line, and when the Italians were slackening in their
advance hurled at them two squadrons of hussars, and led forward his
whole division. The assailants broke, and fell back with loss.

  [72] Three battalions of the 4th of the line, and two of the 2nd
  Light Infantry.

  [73] One battalion of the 2nd Light Infantry and one of the 7th
  of the line.

St. Cyr, coming up to the front at this moment, was horrified to
mark the results of Pino’s disobedience of his orders. But he had
still Souham’s division in hand, and flung it, in one solid mass of
ten battalions, upon Reding’s right; at the same time he commanded
Pino to throw the two regiments of his intact rear brigade upon
the Spanish centre[74], while Fontane’s two battalions continued
to demonstrate against the enemy’s left. The result was what might
have been expected: the column of Souham burst through the Granadan
division, and completely routed the right wing of the Spanish army:
at the same moment Pino’s main column forced back Vives and the
Catalans along the line of the high-road. All at once fell into
confusion, and, when St. Cyr bade his two Italian cavalry regiments
charge up the _chaussée_, the enemy broke his ranks and fled to
the hills. Five of the seven Spanish guns were captured, with two
standards and some 1,500 unwounded prisoners. Reding, who stayed
behind to the last, trying to rally a rearguard for the protection
of the routed host, was nearly taken prisoner, and had to draw his
sword and cut his way out. Vives, whose conduct on this day was
anything but creditable, scrambled up a cliff after turning his horse
loose, and came almost alone to the sea-shore near Mongat, where he
was picked up by the boats of the _Cambrian_ frigate, and forwarded
to Tarragona. Besides the prisoners the Spaniards lost at least a
thousand men, and many of the _miqueletes_ dispersed to their homes.
St. Cyr acknowledged 600 casualties, nearly all of them, as might
have been expected, in Pino’s division.

  [74] Three battalions each of the 1st and 6th of the line.

Reding at last succeeded in rallying some troops at Monmalo near San
Culgat, and covered the retreat of the main mass of the fugitives
to join the troops who had been left in the lines before Barcelona.
As to the detached Spanish corps under Milans and the Marquis of
Lazan, the former never came down from the hills till the fighting
was over, though it was only four or five miles from the scene of
action[75]. The latter, which was following in St. Cyr’s rear, moved
with such extreme slowness that it had not yet reached San Celoni
when the battle was fought, and did not even get into contact with
Chabot’s division, which had been left behind to guard against its
approach[76]. On learning of the defeat the Marquis marched back to
Gerona, and rejoined Alvarez. Thus Vives got no assistance whatever
from his outlying corps: if Lazan is to be trusted, this was largely
the fault of the Commander-in-chief himself, for no dispatch from
him reached his subordinates after December 14, and they had no
knowledge of his movements or designs.

  [75] See the account of Cabanes, who was with Milans this day, in
  his _History of the War in Catalonia_.

  [76] See the narrative of an officer in the division of Lazan,
  printed by Cabanes as an appendix.

Meanwhile Caldagues, who had been left in charge of the blockade, had
maintained his post, and repulsed a heavy sortie which Duhesme and
the garrison had directed against his posts on the sixteenth. But
when the news of the battle of Cardadeu reached him in the evening,
he evacuated all the parts of his line which lay to the east of the
Llobregat, and concentrated his 12,000 men at Molins de Rey and San
Boy, on the further bank of that river. He was forced to abandon at
Sarria the large dépôt of provisions from which the left wing of the
investing force had been fed.

The road from Cardadeu and San Culgat to Barcelona being thus left
open, St. Cyr marched in triumph into Barcelona on the morning of the
seventeenth. He complains in his memoirs that he did not discover
one single vedette from the garrison pushed out to meet him, and
that Duhesme did not come forth to receive him, or give him a single
word of thanks. Indeed, when the Governor at last presented himself
to meet the commander of the Seventh Corps, he spent his first words
not in expressing his appreciation for the service which had been
rendered him, but in demonstrating that he had never been in danger,
and could have held out for six weeks more. He was somewhat abashed
when St. Cyr replied by presenting him with a copy of one of his own
former dispatches to Berthier, which painted the condition of the
garrison in the blackest colours, and asked for instant succours lest
the worst might happen[77].

  [77] St. Cyr, as any reader of his _Mémoires_ can see, was
  malicious and sarcastic. But Duhesme has a bad reputation for
  carelessness and selfishness, and his writings make an even worse
  impression than those of St. Cyr. Probably the latter’s narrative
  is fairly correct.

It was clear that the two generals would not work well together, but
as St. Cyr held the supreme command, and was determined to assert
himself, Duhesme could do no more than sulk in silence. The conduct
of the operations against the Catalans had been taken completely out
of his hands.

St. Cyr’s daring march to Barcelona had been crowned with complete
success. It was by far the most brilliant operation on the French
side during the first year of the war. That it was perilous cannot
be denied: if the commander of the Seventh Corps had found the
whole army of Vives entrenched at the passage of the Tordera, or
across the defile of the Trentapassos, it seems impossible that he
could have got forward to Barcelona. Thirty thousand men, of whom
half were regular troops, might have been opposed to him, and they
could have brought artillery against him, while he had not a single
piece. If once checked he must have retreated in haste, for he had
only ammunition for a single battle. But the rapid and unexpected
character of his movements entirely puzzled the enemy, and he was
fortunate in having a Vives to contend against. ‘When the enemy has
no general,’ as Schepeler remarks while commenting on this campaign,
‘any stroke of luck is possible.’ Against a capable officer St. Cyr
would probably have failed, but he had a shrewd suspicion of the
character of his opponent from what had happened during the siege
of Rosas: he dared much, and his daring was rewarded by a splendid

The campaign, however, was not yet completed. Barcelona had been
relieved, but only a fraction of the Spanish army had been met and
beaten. Caldagues lay behind the Llobregat with 11,000[78] men who
had not yet been engaged. Reding had joined him with the wrecks of
the troops which had fought at Cardadeu, some 3,000 or 4,000 men.
They lined the eastern bank of the river, only six or seven miles
from the suburbs of Barcelona, occupying the entrenchments which
had been constructed to shut in Duhesme during the blockade. These
were strengthened with several redoubts, some of them armed with
heavy artillery, and the positions were good, but too extensive
for a force of 14,000 or 15,000 men. Their weak point was that the
Llobregat even in December is fordable in many places, and that if
the French attacked in mass at one point they were almost certain
of being able to force their way through the line. Reding, and his
second-in-command Caldagues, were both of opinion that it would be
wise to evacuate the lines, if St. Cyr should come out in force
against them, and to fall back on the mountains in their rear,
which separate the valley of the Llobregat from the coast-plain of
Tarragona. Here there was a strong position at the defile of Ordal,
where it was intended to construct an entrenched camp. But there was
a strong temptation to hold on in the old lines for as long a time
as possible, for by retiring to Ordal the army would leave open the
high-road to Lerida and Saragossa, and give up much of the plain to
the incursions of the French foragers. Reding sent back to Vives,
who had now landed in his rear and placed himself at Villanueva de
Sitjas, to ask whether he was to retreat at once, or to hold his
ground. The Captain-General sent back the inconclusive reply that
‘he might fall back on Ordal if he could not defend the line of the
Llobregat.’ Thus he threw back the responsibility on his subordinate,
and Reding, anxious to vindicate his courage before the eyes of the
Catalans, resolved after some hesitation to retain his positions,
though he had grave doubts of the possibility of resistance.

  [78] Some of his _miqueletes_ had absconded during the withdrawal
  from the eastern half of the river.

He was not allowed much time to ponder over the situation. The reply
of Vives only reached him on the night of December 20-21. On the next
morning St. Cyr came out of Barcelona and attacked the lines. He
had brought with him every available man: Duhesme had been left to
hold the city with Lecchi’s Italians alone: his other division (that
of Chabran), together with the three which had formed the army of
succour--those of Souham, Pino, and Chabot--were all directed against
the lines. The plan of St. Cyr was to demonstrate against the bridge
of Molins de Rey, the strongest part of the Spanish position, with
Chabran’s 4,000 men, while he himself crossed the fords lower down
the Llobregat with the 14,000 bayonets of the other three divisions,
and turned the right flank of the enemy.

At five o’clock on a miserable gusty December morning the French
came down towards the river: Chabran led off by making a noisy
demonstration opposite the redoubts at the bridge, on the northern
flank of the position. This, as St. Cyr had intended, drew Reding’s
attention to that flank: he reinforced his left with troops drawn
from his right wing on the lower and easier ground down stream. An
hour later the other attacking columns advanced, that of Souham
crossing the ford of San Juan Despi, while Pino and Chabot passed
by that of San Feliu. No proper attempt was made to dispute their
advance. Outnumbered, and strung out along a very extensive position,
the Catalans soon saw their line broken in several places. The only
serious opposition made was by the centre, which advanced down hill
against Souham and tried to charge him, but gave back long before
bayonets had been crossed.

The most fatal part of Reding’s position was that on his extreme
right Chabot’s three battalions had got completely round his flank,
and kept edging in on the rear of his southern wing, which abandoned
hill after hill as it saw its retreat threatened. Pino and Souham
had only to press on, and each regiment in their front gave way in
turn when it saw its exposed flank in danger. At last the whole of
the Spanish right and centre was pushed back in disorder on to the
still intact left behind the bridge of Molins de Rey. Now was the
time for Chabran to turn his demonstration into a real attack: if
he had crossed the river and advanced rapidly, he would have caught
the shaken masses in front, while the rest of the army chased them
forward into his arms. But being timid or unenterprising, he let the
flying enemy pass across his front unmolested, and only forded the
river when they had gone too far to be caught. The unhappy Vives came
up at this moment, just in time to see his whole army on the run, and
headed their flight to the hills.

Thus the Spaniards got away without any very crushing losses,
though their historian Cabanes confesses that if Chabran had moved
a quarter of an hour earlier he would have captured half the army
of Catalonia. As it was, St. Cyr took about 1,200 prisoners only,
though his dragoons pursued the routed enemy for many miles. It was
a great misfortune for the Catalans that among these captives was
the Conde de Caldagues, the one first-rate officer in their ranks.
He was taken by the pursuers at Vendrell, many miles from the field,
when his exhausted horse fell under him. St. Cyr captured the whole
artillery of the Spaniards, twenty-five cannon[79], of which several
were pieces of heavy calibre, mounted in redoubts. The field-pieces
were more useful to him, as he was very short of artillery; he had
brought none with him, while Duhesme had been obliged to destroy the
greater part of his during the retreat from Gerona in August. He
also made prize of a magazine of 3,000,000 cartridges and of many
thousands of muskets, which the routed enemy cast away in their haste
to escape over the hills. Some of the fugitives fled south, and did
not stop till they reached Tortosa and the Ebro: others dispersed in
the direction of Igualada and Lerida, but the main body rallied at

  [79] St. Cyr says twenty-five in his report to Napoleon, but
  increases the number to fifty in his _Mémoires_, p. 87.

The victorious French divisions were pushed far out from the
battle-field so as to occupy not only the whole plain of the
Llobregat, but also the defiles over the hills leading to Tarragona.
Chabran was placed at Martorell, Chabot at San Sadurni, Souham at
Vendrell, and Pino at Villanueva de Sitjas and Villafranca. Thus the
pass of Ordal was in the victor’s hands, and he had it in his power
to march against Tarragona without having any further positions to
force. But the siege of that place did not form, at present, any part
of St. Cyr’s designs. His aim was first to collect such magazines at
Barcelona as would feed his whole army of 25,000 men till the harvest
was ripe, and secondly to reopen his communication with France. The
sea route was rendered dangerous by the English ships, which were
continually hovering off the coast. The land route was blocked by
the fortresses of Hostalrich and Gerona. St. Cyr imagined that it
was more important to make an end of these places, and open his
route to Perpignan, than to attack Tarragona. The latter place was
strong, and the greater part of the Catalan army had taken refuge in
it. The siege would need, as he supposed, many months, and could not
be properly conducted till a battering-train and a large store of
ammunition had been brought down from France.

It is possible that the French general might have come to another
conclusion if he had been aware of the state of panic and
disorganization among the Catalans at this moment. The _miqueletes_
had mostly dispersed to their homes, the regular troops were
mutinous, and the populace was crying treason and looking for
scape-goats. The incapable Vives was frightened into resignation,
and finally replaced by Reding, whose courage at least was beyond
suspicion, if his abilities were not those of a great general. The
smaller towns were full of tumults and assassination: at Lerida
a certain Gomez declared himself dictator and began to seize and
execute all suspected persons. He did not stop till he was caught
and beheaded by a battalion which Reding sent out against him. In
short, anarchy reigned in Catalonia for ten days, and it is possible
that if St. Cyr had marched straight to Tarragona he might have
taken the place, though its inhabitants were working hard at their
fortifications, and vowing to emulate Saragossa. Many historians of
the war have blamed the French general for not making the attempt:
but there was much to urge in his defence. It is perfectly possible
that the Tarragonese might have made a gallant stand, in spite of
all their troubles, for the garrison was large if disorderly. If
they held out, St. Cyr had neither a siege equipage nor sufficient
magazines to feed his army when concentrated in a single spot. The
French troops were exhausted, and suffering dreadfully from the
inclement winter weather. Lazan and Alvarez were in full force in the
Ampurdam, and were giving Reille’s weak division much trouble.

Probably therefore St. Cyr was justified in halting for a month,
which he employed in clearing the whole country-side for thirty miles
round Barcelona, and in collecting the stores of food which his army
required before it could make another move. The halt allowed time
for the Catalans to rally, and for Reding to reorganize his army:
by February he was ready once more to try his fortune in the field.
Indeed, he was ere long more formidable than St. Cyr had expected,
for he was joined by the second brigade of his own Granadan division,
which came up from Valencia not long after the battle of Molins de
Rey, and the last reserves from Majorca had also sailed to aid him,
after giving over the fortifications of the Balearic Isles to the
marines of the fleet, and the urban guards of Palma and Port Mahon.
The _miqueletes_, too, returned to their standards when the first
panic was over, and in a month Catalonia could once more show an army
of 30,000 men. The first incident which occurred to encourage the
insurgents was that on January 1. Lazan fell upon and very severely
handled a detached battalion of Reille’s division at Castellon in
the Ampurdam[80], and when Reille came up against him in person with
2,500 men, inflicted on him a sharp check at the fords of the Muga.
Not long after, however, the Marquis withdrew from this region, and
marched back toward Aragon, taking with him his own division and
leaving only the weak corps of Alvarez to deal with Reille. His
retreat was caused by the news of his brother’s desperate position
in Saragossa. Hoping to make a diversion in favour of Palafox, Lazan
marched to Lerida, where he began to gather in all the men that he
could collect before moving back to his native province. Thus the
pressure on Reille was much reduced.

  [80] This was the 4th battalion of the 2nd of the line, which had
  joined Reille in the late autumn, and did not form part of his
  original division as detailed in the Appendix to vol. i. St. Cyr
  says that it only lost sixty prisoners besides some casualties.
  Lazan wrote that he took ninety prisoners, and killed or wounded
  over 200 more Frenchmen.

St. Cyr’s men, meanwhile, made many expeditions into the valleys
above Barcelona. They cleared the defile of Bruch leading into the
upper valley of the Llobregat, which the _somatenes_ had held so
gallantly against Schwartz and Chabran in June. They took, but did
not hold, the almost inaccessible peak of Montserrat, and on the
coast-road dominated the country as far as Mataro. But they could not
reopen the communications with France: their general did not dare to
set about the siege of Gerona while Reding had still the makings of
an army in the direction of Tarragona. It was not till that brave but
unfortunate officer had received his _third_ defeat in February that
St. Cyr was able to turn his attention to the north, and the road to
Perpignan. For the present, the French general found himself mainly
occupied by the imperious necessity for scraping together food not
only for his own army, but for the great city of Barcelona, where
both the garrison and the people were living from hand to mouth.
For the resources of the neighbouring plain were nearly exhausted,
and the only external supply came from occasional merchantmen from
Cette or Marseilles, whose captains were tempted to run the British
blockade by the enormous price which they could secure for their
corn if it could be brought safely through. It was only somewhat
later that the Emperor directed the naval authorities in Provence to
dispatch regular convoys to Barcelona under a strong escort, whenever
the British cruisers were reported to have been blown out to sea.
Meanwhile the problem of food supplies remained almost as urgent
a question for St. Cyr as the movements of his adversaries in the



More than a month had elapsed since the battle of Molins de Rey
before any important movements were made in Catalonia. Early in
February St. Cyr drew in his divisions from the advanced positions
in the plain of Tarragona, which they had taken up after the victory
of Molins de Rey. They had eaten up the country-side, and were being
much harassed by the _miqueletes_, who had begun to press in upon
their communications with Barcelona, in spite of all the care that
was taken to scour the country with small flying columns, and to
scatter any nucleus of insurgents that began to grow up in the French
rear. Owing to the dispersion of the divisions of the 7th Corps these
operations were very laborious; between the new year and the middle
of February St. Cyr calculated that his men had used up 2,000,000
cartridges in petty skirmishes, and suffered a very appreciable
loss in operations that were practically worthless[81]. Accordingly
he drew them closer together, in order to shorten the dangerously
extended line of communication with Barcelona.

  [81] St. Cyr, _Campagne de Catalogne_, p. 98.

Reding, during this period of waiting, had been keeping quiet in
Tarragona, where he was reorganizing and drilling the harassed
troops which had been beaten at Cardadeu and Molins de Rey. He had,
as we have already seen, received heavy reinforcements from the
South[82] and the Balearic Isles[83]; but it was not in numbers only
that his army had improved. St. Cyr’s inaction had restored their
_morale_. They were too, as regards food and munitions, in a much
better condition than their adversaries, as they could freely draw
provisions from the plain of the Lower Ebro and the northern parts
of Valencia, and were besides helped by corn brought in by British
and Spanish vessels from the whole eastern Mediterranean. Reding had
also got a good supply of arms and ammunition from England. As he
found himself unmolested, he was finally able to rearrange his whole
force, so as not only to cover Tarragona, but to extend a screen of
troops all round the French position. He now divided his army into
two wings: he himself, on the right, kept in hand at Tarragona the
1st Division, consisting mainly of the Granadan troops: while General
Castro was sent to establish the head quarters of the 2nd Division,
which contained most of the old battalions of the army of Catalonia,
at Igualada. Their line of communication was by Santa Coloma,
Sarreal, and Montblanch. This disposition was probably a mistake:
while the French lay concentrated in the middle of the semicircle,
the Spanish army was forced to operate on outer lines sixty miles
long, and could not mass itself in less than three or four days. By
a sudden movement of the enemy, either Reding or Castro might be
assailed by superior numbers, and forced to fall back on an eccentric
line of retreat before he could be succoured by his colleague.

  [82] Regiments of Santa Fé, and 1st of Antequera, three
  battalions with 3,600 men in November, and probably 3,000 in

  [83] Swiss Regiment of Beschard, about 2,000 strong, and Majorca
  Militia [sometimes called ‘Palma’], 600 strong.

It would seem that, encouraged by St. Cyr’s quiescence, his own
growing strength, and the protestations of the Catalans, Reding had
once more resolved to resume the offensive. The extension of his left
to Igualada was made with no less ambitious a purpose than that of
outflanking the northern wing of the French army, and then delivering
a simultaneous concentric attack on its scattered divisions as they
lay in their cantonments. Such a plan presupposed that St. Cyr would
keep quiet while the preparations were being made, that he would
fail to concentrate in time, and that the Spanish columns, operating
from two distant bases, would succeed in timing their co-operation
with perfect accuracy. At the best they could only have brought some
30,000 men against the 23,000 of St. Cyr’s field army--a superiority
far from sufficient to give them a rational chance of success. It is
probable that at this moment Reding’s best chance of doing something
great for the cause of Spain would have been to leave a strong
garrison in Tarragona, and march early in February with 20,000 men to
the relief of Saragossa, which was now drawing near the end of its
powers of resistance. Lannes and Junot would have had to raise the
siege if an army of such size had come up against them. But, though
intending to succour Saragossa in a few weeks, Reding was induced
by the constant entreaties of the Catalans to undertake first an
expedition against St. Cyr. He sent off no troops to aid the Marquis
of Lazan in his fruitless attempt to relax the pressure on his
brother’s heroic garrison, but devoted all his attention to the 7th

St. Cyr was not an officer who was likely to be caught unprepared by
such a movement as Reding had planned. The extension of the Spanish
line to Igualada and the upper Llobregat had not escaped his notice,
and he was fully aware of the advantage which his central position
gave him over an enemy who had been obliging enough to draw out his
fighting strength on an arc of a circle sixty miles from end to end.
Without fully realizing Reding’s intentions, he could yet see that
the Spaniards were giving him a grand opportunity of beating them
in detail. He resolved to strike a blow at their northern wing,
convinced that if he acted with sufficient swiftness and energy he
could crush it long ere it could be succoured from Tarragona.

It thus came to pass that Reding and St. Cyr began to move
simultaneously--the one on exterior, the other on interior
lines--with the inevitable result. On February 15 Castro, in
accordance with the instructions of the Captain-General, began to
concentrate his troops at Igualada, with the intention of advancing
against the French divisions at San Sadurni and Martorell. At the
same time orders were sent to Alvarez, the Governor of Gerona,
to detach all the men he could spare for a demonstration against
Barcelona, in order to distract the attention of Duhesme and the
garrison. Reding himself, with the troops at Tarragona, intended to
march against Souham the moment that he should receive the news that
his lieutenants were ready to strike.

At the same moment St. Cyr started out on his expedition against
Igualada. He took with him Pino’s Italian division[84], and ordered
Chabot and Chabran to concentrate with him at Capellades, seven or
eight miles to the south-east of Castro’s head quarters. By taking
this route he avoided the northern bank of the Noya and the defiles
of Bruch, and approached the enemy from the side where he could most
easily cut him off from reinforcements coming from Tarragona.

  [84] Troops from Barcelona under Lecchi came out to replace Pino
  at Villafranca.

The concentration of the three French columns was not perfectly
timed, those of Pino and Chabran finding their way far more difficult
than did Chabot. It thus chanced that the latter with his skeleton
division of three battalions, arrived in front of Capellades many
hours before his colleagues. His approach was reported to Castro at
Igualada, who sent down 4,000 men against him, attacked him, and beat
him back with loss[85] into the arms of Pino, who came on the scene
later in the day [Feb. 17]. The Spaniards were then forced to give
back, and retired to Pobla de Claramunt on the banks of the Noya,
where they were joined by most of Castro’s reserves. St. Cyr had now
concentrated his three divisions, and hoped that he might bring the
enemy to a pitched battle. He drew up in front of them all his force,
save one of Pino’s brigades, which he sent to turn their right [Feb.
18]. The Spaniards, having a fine position behind a ravine, were at
first inclined to fight, and skirmished with the enemy’s main body
for some hours. They narrowly missed capturing both St. Cyr and Pino,
who had ridden forward with their staff to reconnoitre, and fell into
an ambush of _miqueletes_, from which they only escaped by the speed
of their horses[86].

  [85] Chabot lost a Neapolitan colonel (Carascosa) and many other

  [86] St. Cyr says nothing of his own danger, but the incident
  is given at length by Vacani, iii. 93, who mentions that one of
  Pino’s aides-de-camp was wounded.

But late in the day the Spanish General received news that
Mazzuchelli, with the detached Italian brigade, was already in his
rear and marching hard for Igualada. He immediately evacuated his
position in great disorder, and fell back on his head quarters,
closely pursued by St. Cyr. The main body of the Spaniards, with
their artillery, just succeeded in passing through Igualada before
the Italians came up, and fled by the road to Cervera. The rear was
cut off, and had to escape in another direction by the path leading
to Manresa. Both columns were much hustled and lost many prisoners,
yet they fairly outmarched their pursuers and got away without any
crushing disaster[87]. But their great loss was that in Igualada
the French seized all the magazines which had been collected from
northern Catalonia for the use of Castro’s division. This relieved
St. Cyr from all trouble as to provisions for many days: he had now
food enough not only to provide for his field army, but to send back
to Barcelona.

  [87] ‘Si nous ne fîmes pas dans cette affaire le nombre de
  prisonniers que nous eussions dû y faire,’ says St. Cyr, ‘c’est
  que dans cette journée l’ennemi fit plus usage de ses jambes que
  de ses armes. Quelques centaines seulement, la plupart blessés,
  tombèrent entre nos mains’ [_Campagne de Catalogne_, p. 107].

St. Cyr had now done all the harm that was in his power to the
Spanish left wing--he had beaten them, seized their magazines,
driven them apart, and broken their line. He imagined that they were
disposed of for many days, and now resolved to turn off for a blow at
Reding and the other half of the Catalonian army, who might meanwhile
(for all that he knew) be attacking Souham with very superior numbers.

Accordingly on Feb. 19 he started off with Pino’s division to join
Souham and fall upon Reding, leaving Chabot and Chabran, with all
the artillery of the three divisions, to occupy Igualada and guard
the captured magazines from any possible offensive return on the
part of Castro. He marched by cross-roads along the foot-hills of
the mountains of the great central Catalonian sierra, intending
to descend into the valley of the Gaya by San Magin and the abbey
of Santas Cruces, where (as he had learnt) lay the northernmost
detachments of Reding’s division[88]. Thus he hoped to take the enemy
in flank and beat him in detail. He sent orders to Souham to move
out of Vendrell and meet him at Villarodoña, half-way up the course
of Gaya, unless he should have been already attacked by Reding and
forced to take some other line.

  [88] The details of this cross-march in a badly-surveyed country,
  where the maps are very deficient, are more easily to be made
  out from Vacani’s narrative (pp. 95-8) than from St. Cyr’s own

At San Magin the French commander came upon some of Reding’s troops,
about 1,200 men with two guns, under a brigadier named Iranzo.
They showed fight, but were beaten and sought refuge further down
the valley of the Gaya in the fortified abbey of Santas Cruces. So
bare was the country-side, and so bad the maps, that St. Cyr found
considerable difficulty in tracking them, and in discovering the best
way down the valley. But next day he got upon their trail[89], and
beset the abbey, which made a good defence and proved impregnable
to a force unprovided with artillery. St. Cyr blockaded it for two
days, and then descended into the plain, where he got in touch with
Souham’s division, which had advanced from Vendrell, and was now
pillaging the hamlets round Villarodoña, in the central valley of the
Gaya[90] [February 21].

  [89] St. Cyr (p. 109) has a curious story to the effect that he
  had failed entirely to find the road, but ultimately discovered
  it by giving leave to a wounded Spanish officer to return to
  Tarragona. He was followed at a discreet distance by scouts, who
  noted the way that he took, and he thus served as a guide of
  Pino’s division as far as the convent of Santas Cruces.

  [90] Souham had anticipated St. Cyr’s orders, and started to
  advance from Vendrell before his chief’s dispatch from Igualada
  came to hand.

Meanwhile Reding was at last on the move. On receiving the news of
the combat of Igualada, he had to choose between the opportunity
of making a counter-stroke at Souham, and that of marching to the
aid of his lieutenant, Castro. He adopted the latter alternative,
and started from Tarragona on February 20 with an escort of about
2,000 men, including nearly all his available cavalry[91]. It was
his intention to pick up on the way the outlying northern brigades
of his division. This he succeeded in doing, drawing in to himself
the troops which were guarding the pass of Santa Cristina, and
Iranzo’s detachment at Santas Cruces. This force, warned of his
approach, broke through the blockade at night, and reached its
chief with little or no loss [February 21]. Thus reinforced Reding
pushed on by Sarreal to Santa Coloma, where Castro joined him with
the rallied troops of his wing, whom he had collected when the
French attack slackened. They had between them nearly 20,000 men, an
imposing force, with which some of the officers present suggested
that it would be possible to fall upon Igualada, crush Chabot and
Chabran, and recover the lost magazines. But Reding was nervous
about Tarragona, dreading lest St. Cyr might unite with Souham and
fall upon the city during his absence. After holding a lengthy
council of war[92] he determined to return to protect his base of
operations. Accordingly, he told off the Swiss General Wimpffen,
with some 4.000 or 5,000 of Castro’s troops, to observe the French
divisions at Igualada, and started homeward with the rest of his
army, about 10,000 infantry, 700 cavalry, and two batteries of field
artillery[93]. He had made up his mind to return by the route of
Montblanch and Valls, one somewhat more remote from the position
of St. Cyr on the Gaya than the way by Pla, which he had taken in
setting out to join Castro. Reding could only have got home without
fighting by taking a circuitous route to the east, via Selva and
Reus: the suggestion that he should do so was made, but he replied
that having baggage and artillery with him he was forced to keep to
a high-road. He chose that by Valls, though he was aware that the
place was occupied: but apparently he hoped to crush Souham before
Pino could come to his aid. He was resolved, it is said, not to
court a combat, but on the other hand not to refuse it if the enemy
should offer to fight him on advantageous ground. [February 24.] The
truth is, that he was bold even to rashness, could never forget the
great day of Baylen, in which he had taken such a splendid part, and
was anxious to wash out by a victory the evil memories of Cardadeu
and Molins de Rey. He set out on the evening of February 24, and by
daybreak next morning was drawing near the bridge of Goy, where the
high-road to Tarragona crosses the river Francoli, some two miles
north of the town of Valls. His troops, as was to be expected, were
much exhausted by the long march in the darkness[94].

  [91] Two battalions of _miqueletes_ (Lerida and 1st of
  Tarragona), 300 cavalry, a field-battery, and a battalion of
  Reding’s own regiment of Swiss, about 2,100 men in all.

  [92] Col. Doyle was present at this council: his account of it
  is in the Record Office. He declares that he himself was all for
  fighting, that Reding wavered, and the majority refused to take

  [93] There is a detailed estimate of Reding’s army given by St.
  Cyr in his Appendix no. 11. He says that the figures were given
  him by ‘a Spanish general taken prisoner at Valls,’ which must
  mean the Marquis of Casteldosrius, the only officer of that rank
  captured. The names of nearly all the battalions cited in this
  list are to be verified, either in Reding’s dispatch or in the
  narrative of Cabanes--all indeed except the regiment of Baza,
  and the three Miquelet Tercios, 1st and 2nd of Tarragona and
  Lerida. But it is probable that Casteldosrius gave St. Cyr a
  morning state of the whole army collected at Santa Coloma on the
  twenty-fourth, and that these corps (with a total force of 3,000
  men) formed part of the force left with Wimpffen at Santa Coloma.
  I am driven to this conclusion by the statement of Doyle in his
  letter written from Santa Coloma, on the day before the battle,
  that Reding was marching “with 500 horse and a little over 10,000
  foot,” for Tarragona. Doyle is arguing in favour of fighting, and
  has no object in understating the numbers. His figures are borne
  out by all the Spanish narratives. The force must have stood as


  Granadan Division:

  Reding’s Swiss (one batt.)                          500
  Iliberia (or 1st of Granada)                      1,860
  Santa Fé (two batts.)                             2,300
  1st of Antequera                                  1,100

  From the Old Catalan Army:

  Guards [150 Spanish, 280 Walloons]                  430
  Soria                                             1,000
  2nd of Savoia                                       800
  Provincial Grenadiers of Old and New Castile      1,300
  Wimpffen’s Swiss (two batts.)                     1,140
  Palma Militia                                       350


  Husares of Granada                                  450
  Husares Españoles                                   250

  2 batteries, 8 guns                                 200


  1 Company                                           100
                                  Total            11,800

  [Erratum from p. xii: I have found from a Madrid document that
  part, though not the whole, of the Regiment of Baza was present
  at Valls. One battalion was left behind with Wimpffen: one
  marched with Reding: about 800 men therefore must be added to my
  estimate of the Spanish infantry.]

  [94] These details are from Doyle’s letter of Feb. 24, in the
  Record Office.

St. Cyr, meanwhile, had not been intending to strike a blow at
Tarragona. He regarded it as much more necessary to beat the
enemy’s field army than to close in upon the fortress, which would
indubitably have offered a long and obstinate resistance. When he
got news of Reding’s march to Santa Coloma he resolved to follow
him: he was preparing to hasten to the succour of his divisions at
Igualada, when he learnt that the Swiss general had turned back,
and was hurrying home to Tarragona. He resolved, therefore, to try
to intercept him on his return march, and blocked his two available
roads by placing Souham’s division at Valls and Pino’s at Pla. They
were only eight or nine miles apart, and whichever road the Spaniards
took the unassailed French division could easily come to the aid of
the other.

Reding’s night march, a move which St. Cyr does not seem to have
foreseen, nearly enabled him to carry out his plan. In fact, as we
shall see, he had almost made an end of the French division before
the Marshal, who lay himself at Pla with the Italians, arrived to
succour it[95].

  [95] The French forces engaged at Valls were:--

  Souham’s Division:
    1st Léger (three batts.).
    42nd of the Line (three batts.).

  Provisional regiment:
    [One batt. each of 3rd Léger and 67th Line, two batts.
      7th Line.]

  10 battalions, about 5,500 men.
    24th Dragoons, about 500 men, two batteries.

  Pino’s Division:
    1st Italian Light Regiment (three batts.).
    2nd Italian Light Regiment (three batts.).
    4th Line (three batts.).
    6th  ”      ”     ”
    7th  ”   (one batt.).

  13 battalions, about 6,500 men.
    7th Italian Dragoons (‘Dragoons of Napoleon’) and Italian
      Royal Chasseurs, together about 800 men.

  Total about 13,800 men, a force somewhat superior to that of the
  Spaniards, if the latter had only the corps given in the last

In the early morning, between six and seven o’clock, the head of the
long Spanish column reached the bridge of Goy, and there fell in
with Souham’s vedettes. The sharp musketry fire which at once broke
out warned each party that a combat was at hand. Souham hastily
marched out from Valls, and drew up his two brigades in the plain
to the north of the town, placing himself across the line of the
enemy’s advance. Reding at first made up his mind to thrust aside the
French division, whose force he somewhat undervalued, and to hurry
on his march toward Tarragona. The whole of his advanced guard and
part of his centre crossed the river, deployed on the left bank,
and attacked the French. Souham held his ground for some hours, but
as more and more Spanish battalions kept pressing across the bridge
and reinforcing the enemy’s line, he began after a time to give
way--the numerical odds were heavily against him, and the Catalans
were fighting with great steadiness and confidence. Before noon the
French division was thrust back against the town of Valls, and Reding
had been able to file not only the greater part of his army but all
his baggage across the Francoli. The way to Tarragona was clear, and
if he had chosen to disengage his men he could have carried off the
whole of his army to that city without molestation from Souham, who
was too hard hit to wish to continue the combat. It is even possible
that if he had hastily brought up all his reserves he might have
completely routed the French detachment before it could have been

But Reding adopted neither one course nor the other. After driving
back Souham, he allowed his men a long rest, probably in order to
give the rear and the baggage time to complete the passage of the
Francoli. While things were standing still, St. Cyr arrived at full
gallop from Pla, where he had been lying with Pino’s division, to
whom the news of the battle had arrived very late. He brought with
him only Pino’s divisional cavalry, the ‘Dragoons of Napoleon’ and
Royal Chasseurs, but had ordered the rest of the Italians to follow
at full speed when they should have got together. As Pla is no more
than eight miles from Valls, it was expected that they would appear
within the space of three hours. But, as a matter of fact, Pino did
not draw near till the afternoon: one of his brigades, which lay far
out, received contradictory orders, and did not come in to Pla till
past midday[96], and the Italian general would not move till it had
rejoined him. Three hours were wasted by this _contretemps_, and
meanwhile the battle might have been lost.

  [96] Vacani, iii. 105-6. This fact is mentioned by no other

On arriving upon the field with the Italian cavalry, St. Cyr rode
along Souham’s line, steadied it, and displayed the horsemen in his
front. Seeing the French rallying, and new troops arriving to their
aid, the Spanish commander jumped to the conclusion that St. Cyr had
come up with very heavy reinforcements, and instead of continuing his
advance, or pressing on his march toward Tarragona, suddenly changed
his whole plan of operations. He would not stand to be attacked in
the plain, but he resolved to fight a defensive action on the heights
beyond the Francoli, from which he had descended in the morning.
Accordingly, first his baggage, then his main body, and lastly his
vanguard, which covered the retreat of the rest, slowly filed back
over the bridge of Goy, and took position on the rolling hills to the
east. Here Reding drew them up in two lines, with the river flowing
at their feet as a front defence, and their batteries drawn up so as
to sweep the bridge of Goy and the fords. The right wing was covered
by a lateral ravine falling into the Francoli; the left, facing the
village of Pixamoxons, was somewhat ‘in the air,’ but the whole
position, if long, was good and eminently defensible.

St. Cyr observed his adversary’s movement with joy, for he would have
been completely foiled if Reding had refused to fight and passed on
toward Tarragona. Knowing the Spanish troops, a pitched battle with
superior numbers was precisely what he most desired. Accordingly he
took advantage of the long time of waiting, while Pino’s division
was slowly drawing near the field, to rest and feed Souham’s tired
troops, and then to draw them up facing the southern half of Reding’s
position, with a vacant space on their right on which the Italians
were to take up their ground, when at last they should arrive.

When St. Cyr had lain for nearly three hours quiescent at the foot
of the heights, and no reinforcements had yet come in sight, Reding
began to grow anxious. He had, as he now realized, retired with
unnecessary haste from in front of a beaten force, and had assumed a
defensive posture when he should have pressed the attack. At about
three o’clock he made up his mind that he had committed an error,
but thinking it too late to resume the fight, resolved to retire on
Tarragona by the circuitous route which passes through the village
of Costanti. He sent back General Marti to Tarragona to bring out
fresh troops from the garrison to join him at that point, and issued
orders that the army should retreat at dusk. He might perhaps have
got off scatheless if he had moved away at once, though it is equally
possible that St. Cyr might have fallen upon his rearguard with
Souham’s division, and done him some damage. But he waited for the
dark before marching, partly because he wished to rest his troops,
who were desperately fatigued by the night march and the subsequent
combat in the morning, partly because he did not despair of fighting
a successful defensive action if St. Cyr should venture to cross the
Francoli and attack him. Accordingly he lingered on the hillside in
battle array, waiting for the darkness[97].

  [97] Arteche, v. 207-9, makes Reding deliver a second attack
  on Souham in the early afternoon. This is, I think, an error,
  caused by a misreading of Cabanes’ somewhat confused account of
  the fight, from which it might be possible (if no other sources
  existed) to deduce a second Spanish advance. But Cabanes is
  really dealing with the later phases of the first combat only.
  It is conclusive that neither Reding himself, in his official
  dispatch, St. Cyr, Doyle, nor Vacani mention any engagement in
  the early afternoon.

This gave St. Cyr his chance; at three o’clock Pino’s belated
division had begun to come up: first Fontane’s brigade, then, an hour
and a half later, that of Mazzuchelli, whose absence from Pla had
caused all the delay. It was long past four, and the winter afternoon
was far spent when St. Cyr had at last got all his troops in hand.

Allowing barely enough time for the Italians to form in order of
battle[98], St. Cyr now led forward his whole army to the banks
of the Francoli. The two divisions formed four heavy columns of a
brigade each: and in this massive formation forded the river and
advanced uphill, driving in before them the Spanish skirmishers. The
Italian dragoons went forward in the interval between two of the
infantry columns; the French cavalry led the attack on the extreme
right, near the bridge of Goy.

  [98] St. Cyr in his Memoirs (p. 123) makes the curious statement
  that he silenced his artillery after it had fired only three
  rounds, lest he should frighten off the Spaniards before he
  could reach them with his infantry, and so prevent the latter
  from closing and winning as decisive a victory as possible. One
  is almost prone to doubt the story, and to suppose that the
  cessation of fire was due to the fear of killing his own men when
  they were getting close to the Spanish line. Arteche puts this
  incident too early in the fight, during Reding’s supposed second

For a moment it seemed as if the two armies would actually cross
bayonets all along the line, for the Spaniards stood firm and opened
a regular and well-directed fire upon the advancing columns. But St.
Cyr had not miscalculated the moral effect of the steady approach of
the four great bodies of infantry which were now climbing the hill
and drawing near to Reding’s front. Like so many other continental
troops, who had striven on earlier battle-fields to bear up in line
against the French column-formation, the Spaniards could not find
heart to close with the formidable and threatening masses which were
rolling in upon them. They delivered one last tremendous discharge
at 100 yards’ distance, and then, when they saw the enemy looming
through the smoke and closing upon them, broke in a dozen different
places and went to the rear in helpless disorder, sweeping away the
second line, higher up the hill, which ought to have sustained them.
The only actual collision was on the extreme left, near the bridge
of Goy, where Reding himself charged, with his staff, at the head of
his cavalry, in a vain attempt to save the desperate situation. He
was met in full career by the French 24th Dragoons, and thoroughly
beaten. In the _mêlée_ he was surrounded, three of his aides-de-camp
were wounded[99] and taken, and he himself only cut his way out
after receiving three sabre wounds on his head and shoulders, which
ultimately proved fatal.

  [99] Among them was an English officer named Reid.

If there had not been many steep slopes and ravines behind the
Spanish position, nearly the whole of Reding’s army must have
perished or been captured. But the country-side was so difficult that
the majority of the fugitives got away, though many were overtaken.
The total loss of the Spaniards amounted to more than 3,000 men, of
whom nearly half were prisoners[100]. All the guns of the defeated
army, all its baggage, and several stands of colours fell into the
hands of the victors. The French lost about 1,000 men, mostly in the
early part of the engagement, when Souham’s division was driven back
under the walls of Valls.

  [100] Including Colonels Dumont and Antunez commanding
  respectively the Walloon and Spanish guards, the Marquis of
  Casteldosrius commanding the cavalry brigade, three of Reding’s
  aides-de-camp, and eighty other officers. Two colonels were
  killed, a brigadier-general (Saint Ellier) and many other
  superior officers wounded.

[Illustration: PART OF CATALONIA
  NOV. 1808 TO MARCH 1809]

[Illustration: BATTLE OF VALLS
  FEB. 25 1809]

The Spaniards had not fought amiss: St. Cyr, in a dispatch to
Berthier, acknowledges the fact--not in order to exalt the merit of
his own troops, but to demonstrate that the 7th Corps was too weak
for the task set it and required further reinforcements[101]. But
Reding did not give his men a fair chance; he hurried them into the
fight at the end of a long night march, drew them off just when they
were victorious, and altered his plan of battle thrice in the
course of the day. No army could have done itself justice with such
bad leading.

  [101] ‘Votre Altesse me dit qu’il n’y a rien autour de nous
  qui puisse résister à 6,000 hommes. Je lui demande pardon. La
  division Souham a été quelque temps seule le 25, et nous avons
  vu qu’il était temps que l’autre division arrivât.... On ne peut
  nier que les troupes espagnoles gagnent tous les jours, et nous
  sommes forcés de leur rendre justice; à la bataille de Valls
  elles se sont très-bien battues.’ St. Cyr to Berthier, Valls,
  March 6, 1809.

The wrecks of the beaten force straggled into Tarragona, their
spirits so depressed that it was a long time before it was possible
to trust them again in battle. When they once more took the field it
was under another leader, for Reding, after lingering some weeks,
died of his wounds, leaving the reputation of a brave, honest, and
humane officer, but of a very poor general.

St. Cyr utilized his victory merely by blockading Tarragona. He
moved Souham to Reus, and kept Pino at Valls, each throwing out
detachments as far as the sea, so as to cut off the city from all
its communications with the interior. An epidemic had broken out in
the place, in consequence of the masses of ill-attended wounded who
cumbered the hospitals. It would seem that the French General hoped
that the pestilence might turn the hearts of the garrison towards
surrender. If so, he was much deceived: they bore their ills with
stolid patience, and being always victualled from the sea suffered
no practical inconvenience from the blockade. It seems indeed that
St. Cyr would have done far better to use the breathing time which he
won at the battle of Valls for the commencement of a movement against
Gerona. Till that place should be captured, and the high-road to
Perpignan opened, there was no real security for the 7th Corps. Long
months, however, were to elapse before this necessary operation was
taken in hand.






While Napoleon was urging on his fruitless pursuit of Sir John
Moore, while St. Cyr was discomfiting the Catalans on the Besos and
the Llobregat, and while Victor was dealing his last blow to the
dilapidated army of Infantado, there was one point on which the war
was standing still, and where the French arms had made no great
progress since the battle of Tudela. Saragossa was holding out, with
the same tenacity that she had displayed during the first siege in
the July and August of the preceding summer. In front of her walls
and barricades two whole corps of the Emperor’s army were detained
from December, 1808, till February, 1809. As long as the defence
endured, she preserved the rest of Aragon and the whole of Valencia
from invasion.

The battle of Tudela had been fought on November 23, but it was not
till nearly a month later that the actual siege began. The reason
for this delay was that the Emperor had called off to Madrid all the
troops which had taken part in the campaign against Castaños and
Palafox, save Moncey’s 3rd Corps alone. This force was not numerous
enough to invest the city till it had been strengthened by heavy
reinforcements from the North.

After having routed the Armies of Aragon and the Centre, Marshal
Lannes had thrown up the command which had been entrusted to him,
and had gone back to France. The injuries which he had suffered
from his fall over the precipice near Pampeluna[102] were still far
from healed, and served as the excuse for his retirement. Moncey,
therefore, resumed, on November 25, the charge of the victorious
army: on the next day he was joined by Ney, who, after failing
to intercept Castaños in the mountains[103], had descended into
the valley of the Ebro, with Marchand and Dessolles’ divisions of
infantry, and Beaumont’s light cavalry brigade. On the twenty-eighth
the two marshals advanced along the high-road by Mallen and Alagon,
and on the second day after appeared in front of Saragossa with
all their troops, save Musnier’s division of the 3rd Corps and the
division of the 6th Corps lately commanded by Lagrange, which had
followed the retreating army of Castaños into the hills on the road
to Calatayud. They were about to commence the investment of the city,
when Ney received orders from the Emperor, dispatched from Aranda,
bidding him leave the siege to Moncey, and cross the mountains into
New Castile with all the troops of the 6th Corps: he was to find
Castaños, and hang on his heels so that he should not be able to
march to the help of Madrid.

  [102] See vol. i. p. 436.

  [103] See vol. i. pp. 446-7.

Accordingly the Duke of Elchingen marched from the camp in front
of Saragossa with the divisions of Marchand and Dessolles, and
the cavalry brigades of Beaumont and Digeon. At Calatayud he
came up with the force which had been dispatched in pursuit of
Castaños,--Musnier’s division of the 3rd Corps, and that of the 6th
Corps which Maurice Mathieu had taken over from Lagrange, who had
been severely wounded at Tudela[104]. Leaving Musnier at Calatayud
to protect his communications with Aragon, Ney picked up Maurice
Mathieu, and passed the mountains into New Castile, where he fell
into the Emperor’s sphere of operations. We have seen that he took a
prominent part in the pursuit of Sir John Moore and the invasion of

  [104] Few of the French historians mention these changes, but
  they are quite certain. On Nov. 23 ‘the division Maurice Mathieu’
  means the 1st of the 3rd Corps; on Dec. 1, it means the 2nd of
  the 6th Corps.

Moncey, meanwhile, was left in front of Saragossa with his 1st, 3rd,
and 4th Divisions--the 2nd being still at Calatayud. This force
consisted of no more than twenty-three battalions, about 15,000 men,
and was far too weak to undertake the siege. The Marshal was informed
that the whole corps of Mortier was to be sent to his aid, but it
was still far away, and with very proper caution he resolved to draw
back and wait for the arrival of the reinforcements. If the Spaniards
got to know of his condition, they might sally out from Saragossa and
attack him with more than 30,000 men. Moncey, therefore, drew back
to Alagon, and there waited for the arrival of the Duke of Treviso
and the 5th Corps. It was not till December 20 that he was able to
present himself once more before the city.

Thus Saragossa gained four weeks of respite between the battle of
Tudela and the commencement of the actual siege. This reprieve was
invaluable to Palafox and the Aragonese. They would have been in
grave danger if Lannes had marched on and assaulted the city only two
days after the battle, and before the routed army had been rallied.
Even if Ney and Moncey had been permitted to begin a serious attack
on November 30, the day of their arrival before the place, they would
have had some chance of success. But their sudden retreat raised the
spirits of the defenders, and the twenty extra days of preparation
thus granted to them sufficed to restore them to full confidence,
and to re-establish their belief in the luck of Saragossa and the
special protection vouchsafed them by its patron saint Our Lady of
the Pillar. Napoleon must take the blame for all the consequences of
Ney’s withdrawal. He had ordered it without fully realizing the fact
that Moncey would be left too weak to commence the siege. Probably he
had over-estimated the effect of the defeat of Tudela on the Army of
Aragon. For the failure of Ney’s attempt to surround Castaños he was
only in part responsible, though (as we have seen) he had sent him
out on his circular march two days too late[105]. But to draw off the
6th Corps to New Castile (where it failed to do any good), before the
5th Corps had arrived to take its place before Saragossa, was clearly
a blunder.

  [105] See vol. i. pp. 446-7.

Palafox made admirable use of the unexpected reprieve that had been
granted him. He had not, it will be remembered, taken part in person
in the battle of Tudela, but had returned to his head quarters on the
night before that disaster. He was occupied in organizing a reserve
to take the field in support of his two divisions already at the
front, when the sudden influx of fugitives into Saragossa showed him
what had occurred. In the course of the next two days there poured
into the place the remains of the divisions of O’Neille and St.
March from his own Army of Aragon. With them came Roca’s men, who
properly belonged to Castaños, but having fought in the right wing
had been separated from the main body of the Andalusian army[106].
In addition, fragments of many other regiments of the Army of the
Centre straggled into Saragossa. At least 16,000 or 17,000 men of
the wrecks of Tudela had come in ere four days were expired. To help
them, Palafox could count on all the newly organized battalions of
his reserve, which had never marched out to join the field army: they
amounted to some 10,000 or 12,000 men, but many of the regiments had
only lately been organized and had not received their uniforms or
equipment. Nor was this all: several belated battalions from Murcia
and Valencia came in at various times during the next ten days[107],
so that long ere the actual siege began Palafox could count on
32,000 bayonets and 2,000 sabres of more or less regularly organized
corps. He had in addition a number of irregulars--armed citizens
and peasants of the country-side--whose numbers it is impossible to
fix, for though some had been collected in _partidas_ or volunteer
companies, others fought in loose bands just as they pleased, and
without any proper organization. They may possibly have amounted to
10,000 men at the time of the commencement of the siege, but so many
were drafted into the local Aragonese battalions before the end of
the fighting, that when the place surrendered in February, there were
less than a thousand[108] of these unembodied irregulars under arms.

  [106] By far the larger part of Roca’s division reached
  Saragossa; the Spanish returns show that 4,500 men joined
  Palafox, and only 1,500 escaped to Cuenca with the rest of the
  ‘Army of the Centre.’

  [107] Among these were the 1st and 2nd Tiradores de Murcia, the
  regiment of Florida Blanca, the 3rd and 5th Volunteers of Murcia,
  and the 3rd Volunteers of Valencia, all of which had arrived too
  late for Tudela.

  [108] To be exact, 756 was the number of _paisanos_ as opposed to
  _tropa_ in the return of the garrison on Feb. 20. See Arteche,
  Appendix to vol. iv.

But it was not so much for the reorganization of his army as for the
strengthening of his fortifications that Palafox found the respite
during the first three weeks of December profitable. During the first
siege it will be remembered that the fortifications of Saragossa
had been contemptible from the engineer’s point of view: the flimsy
mediaeval _enceinte_ had crumbled away at the first fire of the
besiegers, and the real defence had been carried out behind the
barricades. By the commencement of the second siege everything had
changed, and the city was covered by a formidable line of defences,
executed, as was remarked by one of the French generals[109],
with more zeal and energy than scientific skill, but presenting
nevertheless most serious obstacles to the besieger.

  [109] See Cavallero’s criticism of this statement of Rogniat on
  p. 17 of his interesting little work.

After the raising of the first siege by Verdier, the Spaniards had
been for some time in a state of such confidence and exultation
that they imagined that there was no need for further defensive
precautions. The next campaign was to be fought, as they supposed,
on the further side of the Pyrenees. But the long suspension of
the expected advance during the autumn months began to chill their
spirits, and, as the year drew on, it was no longer reckoned
unpatriotic or cowardly to take into consideration the wisdom of
strengthening the inland fortresses in view of a possible return of
the French. In September, Colonel San Genis, the engineer officer who
had worked for Palafox during the first siege, received permission
to commence a series of regular fortifications for Saragossa. The
work did not progress rapidly, for the Aragonese had not as yet
much belief in the possibility that they might be called on once
again to defend their capital. San Genis only received a moderate
sum of money, and the right to requisition men of over thirty-five
from the city and the surrounding villages. The labour had to be
paid, and therefore the labourers were few. The new works were
sketched out rather than executed. Things progressed with a leisurely
slowness, till in November the dangers of the situation began to be
appreciated, and the approach of the French reinforcements drove the
Saragossans to greater energy. But it was only the thunderclap of
Tudela that really alarmed them, and sent soldiers and civilians,
men, women, and children, to labour with feverish haste at the
completion of the new lines. Between November 25 and December 20 the
amount of work that was carried out was amazing and admirable. If Ney
and Moncey had been allowed to commence the regular siege before the
month of November had expired, they would have found the whole system
of works in an incomplete condition. Three weeks later Saragossa had
been converted into a formidable fortress.

The only point where San Genis’ scheme had not been fully developed
was the Monte Torrero. It will be remembered that this important
hill, whose summit lies only 1,800 yards from the walls of Saragossa,
overlooks the whole city, and had been chosen during the first siege
as the _emplacement_ for the main breaching batteries. To keep the
French from this commanding position was most important, and the
Spanish engineer had intended to cover the whole circuit of the
hill with a large entrenched camp, protected by continuous lines of
earthworks and numerous redoubts, with the Canal of Aragon, which
runs under its southern foot, as a wet ditch in its front. But, when
the news of Tudela arrived, little or nothing had been done to carry
out this scheme: the fortification of the city had absorbed the main
attention of the Aragonese, and while that was still incomplete
the Monte Torrero had been neglected. In December it was too late
to begin the building of three or four miles of new earthworks,
and in consequence nothing was constructed on the suburban hill
save one large central redoubt, and two small works serving as
_têtes-de-pont_, at the points where the Madrid and the La Muela
roads cross the Canal of Aragon. St. March’s Valencian division,
still 6,000 strong, was told off for the defence of the hill, but had
no continuous line of works to cover it. The only strength of the
position lay in the canal which runs round its foot: but this was not
very broad, and was fordable at more than one point. In short, the
Monte Torrero constituted an outlying defence which might be held for
some time, in order to keep the besiegers far off from the body of
the place, rather than an integral part of its line of defence.

It was on the works of Saragossa itself that the energy of more
than 60,000 enthusiastic labourers, military and civilian, had
been expended during the month that followed Tudela. The total
accomplished in this time moves our respect: it will be well to take
the various fronts in detail.

On the Western front, from the Ebro to the Huerba, there had been
in August nothing more than a weak wall, many parts of which were
composed of the rear-sides of convents and buildings. In front of
this line there had been constructed by November 10 a very different
defence. A solid rampart reveted with bricks taken from ruined
houses, and furnished with a broad terrace for artillery, and a ditch
forty-five feet deep now covered the entire western side of the
city. The convents of the Augustinians and the Trinitarians, which
had been outside the walls during the earlier siege, had been taken
into this new _enceinte_ and served as bastions in it. There being
a space 600 yards long between them, where the curtain would have
been unprotected by flanking fires, a great semicircular battery had
been thrown out, which acted as a third bastion on this side. Strong
earthworks had also been built up to cover the Portillo and Carmen
gates. As an outlying fort there was the castle of the Aljafferia,
which had received extensive repairs, and was connected with the
_enceinte_ by a ditch and a covered way. It would completely enfilade
any attacks made on the north-western part of the new wall.

On the Southern front of the defences the work done had been even
more important. Here the new fortifications had been carried down
to the brink of the ravine of the Huerba, so as to make that stream
the wet ditch of the town. Two great redoubts were pushed beyond
it: one called the redoubt of ‘Our Lady of the Pillar’ lay at the
bridge outside the Santa Engracia gate. It was provided with a deep
narrow ditch, into which the water of the river had been turned, and
armed with eight guns. The corresponding fort, at the south-east
angle of the town, was made by fortifying the convent of San José,
on the Valencia road, just beyond the Huerba. This was a quadrangle
120 yards long by eighty broad, furnished with a ditch, and with a
covered way with palisades, cut in the counterscarp. It held twelve
heavy guns, and a garrison of no less than 3,000 men. Between San
José and the Pillar redoubt, the old town wall above the Huerba had
been strengthened and thickened, and several new batteries had been
built upon it. It could not well be assailed till the two projecting
works in front of it should be reduced, and if they should fall it
stood on higher ground and completely commanded their sites. The
convent of Santa Engracia, so much disputed during the first siege,
had been turned into a sort of fortress, and heavily armed with guns
of position.

On the eastern front of the city from San José to the Ebro, the
Huerba still serves as a ditch to the place, but is not so steep or
so difficult as in its upper course. Here the suburb of the Tanneries
(Las Tenerias), where that stream falls into the Ebro, had been
turned into a strong projecting redoubt, whose fire commanded both
the opposite bank of the Ebro on one side, and the lower reaches of
the Huerba on the other. Half way between this redoubt and San José
was a great battery (generally called the ‘Palafox Battery’) at the
Porta Quemada, whose fires, crossing those of the other two works,
commanded all the low ground outside the eastern front of the city.

It only remains to speak of the fortifications of the transpontine
suburb of San Lazaro. This was by nature the weakest part of the
defences, as the suburb is built in low marshy ground on the river’s
edge. Here deep cuttings had been made and filled with water, three
heavy batteries had been erected, and the convents of San Lazaro and
Jesus had been strengthened, crenellated and loopholed, and turned
into forts. The whole of these works were joined by palisades and
ditches. They formed a great _tête-de-pont_, requiring a garrison
of 3,000 men. As an additional defence for the flanks of the suburb
three or four gunboats, manned by sailors brought up from Cartagena,
had been launched on the Ebro, and commanded the reach of the river
which runs along the northern side of the city.

Yet great as were the works which now sheathed the body of Saragossa,
the people had not forgotten the moral lesson of the first siege.
When her walls had been beaten down, she had resisted behind her
barricades and the solid houses of her narrow streets. They fully
realized that this might again have to be done, if the French
should succeed in breaking in at some point of the long _enceinte_.
Accordingly, every preparation was made for street fighting. Houses
were loopholed, and communications were pierced between them, without
any regard for private property or convenience. Ground-floor windows
were built up, and arrangements made for the speedy and solid closing
of all doors. Traverses were erected in the streets, to guard as
far as was possible against the dangers of a bombardment, and an
elaborate system of barricades, arranged in proper tactical relation
to each other, was sketched out. The walls might be broken, but the
people boasted that the kernel should be harder than the shell.

Outside the city, where the olive groves and suburban villas and
summer houses had given much cover to the French during the first
siege, a clean sweep had been made of every stone and stick for 800
yards around the defences. The trees were felled, and dragged into
the city, to be cut up into palisades. The bricks and stones were
carried off to revet the new ramparts and ditches. The once fertile
and picturesque garden-suburbs were left bald and bare, and could be
perfectly well searched by the cannon from the walls, so that the
enemy had to contrive all his cover by pick and shovel, or gabion and

The soldiery, whose spirits had been much dashed by the disaster of
Tudela, soon picked up their courage when they noted the enthusiasm
of the citizens and the strength of the defences. Indeed, it was
dangerous for any man to show outward signs of doubt or fear, for the
Aragonese had been wrought up to a pitch of hysterical patriotism
which made them look upon faintheartedness as treason. Palafox
himself did his best to keep down riots and assassinations, but his
followers were always stimulating him to apply martial law in its
most rigorous form. A high gallows was erected in the middle of the
Coso, and short shrift was given to any man convicted of attempted
desertion, disobedience to orders, or cowardice. Delations were
innumerable, and the Captain-General had the greatest difficulty in
preserving from the popular fury even persons whom he believed to
be innocent. The most that he could do for them was to shut them
up in the prisons of the Aljafferia, and to defer their trial till
the siege should be over. The fact was that Palafox was well aware
that his power rested on the unlimited confidence reposed on him by
the people, and was therefore bent on crossing their desires as
little as he could help. He was careful to take counsel not only
with his military subordinates, but with all those who had power
in the streets. Hence came the prominence which is assigned in all
the narratives of the siege to obscure persons, such as the priests
Don Basilio (the Captain-General’s chaplain) and Santiago Sass, and
to the demagogues ‘Tio Jorge’ and ‘Tio Marin.’ They represented
public opinion, and had to be conciliated. It is going too far to
say, with Napier, that a regular ‘Reign of Terror’ prevailed in
Saragossa throughout the second siege, and that Palafox was no
more than a puppet, whose strings were pulled by fanatical friars
and bloodthirsty gutter-politicians. But it is clear that the
Captain-General’s dictatorial power was only preserved by a careful
observation of every gust of popular feeling, and that the acts
of his subordinates were often reckless and cruel. The soldiers
disliked the fanatical citizens: the work of Colonel Cavallero, the
engineer officer who has left the best Spanish narrative of the
siege, is full of this feeling. He sums up the situation by writing
that ‘The agents of the Commander-in-chief sometimes abused their
power. Everything was demanded in the name of King and Country,
every act of disobedience was counted as high treason: on the other
hand, known devotion to the holy cause gave unlimited authority, and
assured impunity for any act to those who had the smallest shadow of
delegated power. Even if the citizens had not been unanimous in their
feelings, fear would have given them an appearance of unanimity.
To the intoxication of confidence and national pride caused by
the results of the first siege, to the natural obstinacy of the
Aragonese, to the strength of a dictatorial government supported
by democratic enthusiasm, there was added an exalted religious
fanaticism. Our Lady of the Pillar, patroness of Saragossa, had, it
was supposed, displayed her power by the raising of the first siege:
it had been the greatest of her miracles. Anything could be got from
a people in this frame of mind[110].’

  [110] Cavallero, pp. 68-9. Belmas translates the paragraph almost
  word for word in ii. 144-5 of his work, without acknowledgement.

Palafox knew well how to deal with his followers. He kept himself
always before their eyes; his activity was unceasing, his supervision
was felt in every department. His unending series of eloquent, if
somewhat bombastic, proclamations was well suited to rouse their
enthusiasm. He displayed, even to ostentation, a confidence which he
did not always feel, because he saw that the strength of the defence
lay in the fact that the Aragonese were convinced in the certainty of
their own triumph. The first doubt as to ultimate success would dull
their courage and weaken their arms. We cannot blame him, under the
circumstances, if he concealed from them everything that was likely
to damp their ardour, and allowed them to believe everything that
would keep up their spirits.

Meanwhile he did not neglect the practical side of the defence. The
best testimony to his capacity is the careful accumulation which
he made of all the stores and material needed for a long siege.
Alone among all the Spanish garrisons of the war, that of Saragossa
never suffered from hunger nor from want of resources. It was the
pestilence, not starvation, which was destined to prove the ruin of
the defence. Before the French investment began Palafox had gathered
in six months’ provisions for 15,000 men; the garrison was doubled by
the arrival of the routed army from Tudela: yet still there was food
for three months for the military. The citizens had been directed
to lay in private stocks, and to feed themselves: this they had
done, and it was not till the end of the siege that they began to
run short of comestibles. Even when the place fell there were still
large quantities of corn, maize, salt fish, oil, brandy, and forage
for horses in the magazines[111]. Only fresh meat had failed, and
the Spaniard is never a great consumer of that commodity. Military
stores had been prepared in vast quantities: there was an ample
stock of sandbags, of timber for palisading, of iron work and spare
fittings for artillery. Instead of gabions the garrison used the
large wicker baskets employed for the vintage, which were available
in profusion. Of artillery there were some 160 pieces in the place,
but too many of them were of small calibre: only about sixty were
16-pounders or heavier. Of these more than half were French pieces,
abandoned by Verdier in August in his siege-works, or fished out of
the canal into which he had thrown them. Of cannon-balls there was
also an ample provision: a great part, like the siege-guns, were
spoil taken in the deserted camp of the French in August. Shells,
on the other hand, were very deficient, and the workmen of the local
arsenal could not manufacture them satisfactorily. The powder was
made in the place throughout the siege: the accident in July, when
the great magazine in the Seminary blew up with such disastrous
results, had induced Palafox to order that no great central store
should be made, but that the sulphur, saltpetre, and charcoal should
be kept apart, and compounded daily in quantities sufficient for
all requirements. So many thousand civilians were kept at work on
powder-and cartridge-making that this plan never failed, and no great
explosions took place during the second siege.

  [111] Cavallero, pp. 81 and 148.

It will be remembered that want of muskets had been one of the chief
hindrances of the Aragonese during the operations in July and August.
It was not felt in December and January, for not only had Palafox
collected a large store of small arms during the autumn, to equip his
reserves, but he received, just before the investment began, a large
convoy of British muskets, sent up from Tarragona by Colonel Doyle,
who had gone down to the coast by the Captain-General’s desire,
to hurry on their transport. As the siege went on, the mortality
among the garrison was so great that the stock of muskets more than
sufficed for those who were in a state to bear arms.

Such were the preparations which were made to receive the French,
when they should finally present themselves in front of the walls.
All had been done, save in one matter, to enable the city to make
the best defence possible under the circumstances. The single
omission was to provide for a field force beyond the walls capable
of harassing the besiegers from without, and of cutting their
communications with their base. From his 40,000 men Palafox ought
to have detached a strong division, with orders to base itself upon
Upper Aragon, and keep the French in constant fear as to their
supplies and their touch with Tudela and Pampeluna. Ten thousand
men could easily have been spared, and the mischief that they might
have done was incalculable. The city had more defenders than were
needed: in the open country, on the other hand, there was no nucleus
left for further resistance. Almost every available man had been
sent up to Saragossa: with the exception of Lazan’s division in
Catalonia, and of three other battalions[112], the whole of the
32,000 men raised by the kingdom of Aragon were inside the walls.
Outside there remained nothing but unorganized bands of peasants to
keep the field and molest the besiegers. The only help from without
that was given to the city was that supplied by Lazan’s small
force, when it was withdrawn from Catalonia in January, and 4,000
men could do nothing against two French army corps. Even as it was,
the French had to tell off the best part of two divisions to guard
their communications. What could they have done if there had been a
solid body of 10,000 men ranging the mountains, and descending at
every favourable opportunity to fall upon some post on the long line
Alagon-Mallen-Tudela-Pampeluna by which the besiegers drew their food
and munitions from their base?

  [112] The battalions of Alcañiz, Tauste, and _Tiradores de
  Doyle_; the last were at Jaca, and afterwards served with Blake’s
  army at Maria and Belchite. They are wrongly put in Saragossa, in
  Arteche, iv. Appendix.

It would seem that the neglect of Palafox to provide for this
necessary detachment arose from three causes. The first was his
want of real strategical insight--which had been amply displayed
during the autumn, when he was always urging on his colleagues his
ridiculous plan for ‘surrounding’ the French army, by an impossible
march into Navarre and the Pyrenees. The second was his conviction,
well-founded enough in itself, that his troops would do much better
behind walls than in the open[113]. The third was a strong belief
that the siege would be raised not by any operations from without,
but by the rigours of the winter. In average years the months of
January and February are tempestuous and rainy in Aragon. The low
ground about Saragossa is often inundated: even if the enemy were not
drowned out (like the besiegers of Leyden in 1574), Palafox thought
that they would find trench-work impossible in the constant downpour,
and would be so much thinned by dysentery and rheumatism that they
would have to draw back from their low-lying camps and raise the
siege. Unfortunately for him the winter turned out exceptionally
mild, and (what was worse) exceptionally dry. The French had not
to suffer from the awful deluge which in Galicia, during this same
month, was rendering the retreat of Sir John Moore so miserable.
The rain did no more than send many of the besiegers to hospital: it
never stopped their advance or flooded their trenches.

  [113] See the remarks in defence of Palafox in Arteche, iv. 332-4.

When Palafox had nearly completed his defences--the works on the
Monte Torrero alone were still hopelessly behindhand--the French at
last began to move up against him. On December 15 Marshal Mortier
arrived at Tudela with the whole of the 5th Corps, veterans from
the German garrisons who had not yet fired a shot in Spain. Their
ranks were so full that though only two divisions, or twenty-eight
battalions, formed the corps, it counted 21,000 bayonets. It had also
a brigade of two regiments of hussars and chasseurs as corps-cavalry,
with a strength of 1,500 sabres. The condition of Moncey’s 3rd Corps
was much less satisfactory: it was mainly composed of relics of the
original army of Spain--of the conscripts formed into provisional
regiments with whom Napoleon had at first intended to conquer the
Peninsula[114]. Its other troops, almost without exception, had
taken part in the first siege of Saragossa under Verdier, a not very
cheerful or inspiriting preparation for the second leaguer[115]. All
the regiments had been thinned by severe sickness in the autumn; on
October 10 they had already 7,741 men in hospital--far the largest
figure shown by any of the French corps in Spain. The number had
largely increased as the winter had drawn on, and the battalions
had grown so weak that Moncey consolidated his four divisions into
three during his halt at Alagon. The whole of the 4th division was
distributed between the 2nd and 3rd, so as to bring the others up
to a decent strength. On December 20 the thirty-eight battalions
only made up 20,000 effective men for the siege, while more than
10,000 lay sick, some with the army, some in the base hospitals
at Pampeluna. The health of the corps grew progressively worse
in January, till at last in the middle days of the siege it had
15,000 men with the colours, and no less than 13,000 sick. We find
the French generals complaining that one division of the 5th Corps
was almost as strong and effective at this time as the whole
combined force of the 3rd Corps[116]. Nevertheless these weary and
fever-ridden troops had to take in charge the main part of the siege

  [114] The 114th, 115th, 116th, 117th, 121st, and 2nd Legion of
  Reserve were all formed in this way.

  [115] These were the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of the Vistula, 44th and
  14th of the line, and one battalion each of the 70th and 5th

During the twenty days of his halt at Alagon, Moncey had employed
his sappers and many of his infantry in the manufacture of gabions,
wool-packs, and sandbags for the projected siege. He was continually
receiving convoys of heavy artillery and ammunition from Pampeluna,
and when Mortier came up on December 20, had a sufficiency of
material collected for the commencement of the leaguer. The two
marshals moved on together on that day, and marched eastward towards
Saragossa, with the whole of their forces, save that four battalions
were left to guard the camp and dépôts at Alagon, and three more
at Tudela to keep open the Pampeluna road[117]. Gazan’s division
crossed the Ebro opposite Tauste, to invest the transpontine suburb
of Saragossa: the rest of the army kept to the right bank. Late in
the evening both columns came in sight of the city. They mustered,
after deducting the troops left behind, about 38,000 infantry,
3,500 cavalry, and 3,000 sappers and artillerymen. They had sixty
siege-guns, over and above the eighty-four field-pieces belonging to
the corps-artillery of Mortier and Moncey. The provision of artillery
was copious--far more than the French had turned against many of
the first-class fortresses of Germany. The Emperor was determined
that Saragossa should be well battered, and had told off an extra
proportion of engineers against the place, entrusting the general
charge of the work to his aide-de-camp, General Lacoste, one of the
most distinguished officers of the scientific corps.

  [116] See the table in Belmas, ii. 381.

  [117] These were all detached from Moncey. The Alagon garrison
  consisted of four battalions of the 2nd Legion of Reserve, 2,500
  strong. At Tudela were three battalions of the 121st regiment,
  1,800 bayonets.

When the reinvestment began, Gazan on the left bank established
himself at Villanueva facing the suburb of San Lazaro. Mortier
with Suchet’s division took post at San Lamberto opposite the
western front of the city. Moncey, marching round the place, ranged
Grandjean’s troops opposite the Monte Torrero, on the southern front
of the defences, and Morlot further east near the mouth of the
Huerba. His other division, that of Musnier, formed the central
reserve, and guarded the artillery and the magazines. The Spaniards
made no attempt to delay the completion of the investment, and kept
quiet within their walls.

On the next morning the actual siege began. It was destined to last
from December 20 to February 20, and may be divided into three
well-marked sections. The first comprises the operations against the
Spanish outworks, and terminates with the capture of the two great
bridge-heads beyond the Huerba, the forts of San José and Our Lady of
the Pillar: it lasted down to January 15. The second period includes
the time during which the besiegers attacked and finally broke
through the main _enceinte_ of the city: it lasts from January 16 to
January 27. The third section consists of the street-fighting, after
the walls had been pierced, and ends with the fall of Saragossa on
February 20.

Having reconnoitred the whole circuit of the Spanish defences on
the very evening of their arrival before the city (December 20),
Moncey and Mortier recognized that their first task must be to evict
the Spaniards from the Monte Torrero, the one piece of dominating
ground in the whole region of operations, and the spot from which
Saragossa could be most effectively attacked. They were rejoiced to
see that the broad hill was not protected by any continuous line
of entrenchments, but was merely crowned by a large open redoubt,
and defended in front by the two small bridge-heads on the Canal of
Aragon. There was nothing to prevent an attempt to storm it by main
force. This was to be made on the following morning: at the same
time Gazan, on the left bank of the Ebro, was ordered to assault the
suburb of San Lazaro. Here the marshals had underrated the strength
of the Spanish position, which lay in such low ground and was so
difficult to make out, that it presented to the observer from a
distance an aspect of weakness that was far from the reality.

At eight on the morning of December 21 three French batteries, placed
in favourable advanced positions, began to shell the redoubts on the
Monte Torrero, with satisfactory results, as they dismounted some of
the defender’s guns and exploded a small dépôt of reserve ammunition.
An hour later the infantry came into action. Moncey had told off for
the assault the divisions of Morlot and Grandjean, twenty battalions
in all[118]. The former attacked the eastern front of the position,
fording the canal and assailing the left-hand _tête-de-pont_ on
the Valencia road from the flank. The latter, which had passed the
canal far outside the Spanish lines, and operated between it and
the Huerba, attacked the south-western slopes of the hill. The
defence was weak, and when a brigade of Grandjean’s men pushed in
between the main redoubt on the crest and the Huerba, and took the
western part of the Spanish line in the rear, the day was won. St.
March’s battalions wavered all along the line; and as his reserves
could not be induced to fall upon the French advance, the Valencian
general withdrew his whole division into the city, abandoning the
entire circuit of the Monte Torrero. The assailants captured seven
guns--some of them disabled--in the three redoubts, and a standard
of the 5th regiment of Murcia. They had only lost twenty killed and
fifty wounded; the Spanish loss was also insignificant, considering
the importance of the position that was at stake, and hardly any
prisoners were taken[119]. The besiegers had now the power to bombard
all the southern front of Saragossa, and dominated, from the slopes
of the hill, the two advanced forts of San José and the Pillar. The
leaders of the populace were strongly of opinion that the Valencian
division had misbehaved, and they were not far wrong. Palafox had
great difficulty in protecting St. March, whose personal conduct
had been unimpeachable, from the wrath of the multitude, who wished
to make him responsible for the weakness shown by his men[120]. The
officer who lost the Monte Torrero in the first siege had been tried
and shot[121]: St. March was lucky to escape even without a reprimand.

  [118] Morlot’s division was short of the 121st and the 2nd Legion
  of Reserve, left behind at Alagon and Tudela, and had only nine
  battalions present.

  [119] Moncey to Berthier, Dec. 23.

  [120] Cavallero, pp. 89-90.

  [121] See vol. i. p. 153.

Meanwhile things had gone very differently at the other point where
the French had tried to break down the outer defences of the city.
The attack on the transpontine suburb of San Lazaro had been allotted
to Gazan’s division. This was a very formidable force, 9,000 veterans
of the best quality, who were bent on showing that they had not
degenerated since they fought at Friedland. Owing to some slight
mistake in the combination, Gazan only delivered his attack at one
o’clock, two hours after the fighting on the Monte Torrero had
ceased. His leading brigade, that of Guérin, six battalions strong,
advanced against the northern and eastern fronts of the defences
of the suburb. The Spaniards were holding as an outwork a large
building called the Archbishop’s Tower (Torre del Arzobispo)[122]
on the Villanueva road, 600 yards in front of the main line of
entrenchments. This Gazan’s men carried at the first rush, killing
or capturing 300 men of a Swiss battalion[123] which held it. They
then pushed forward towards the inner fortifications, but were taken
in flank by a heavy artillery fire from a redoubt which they had
overlooked. This caused them to swerve towards the Barcelona road,
where they got possession of a house close under the convent of
Jesus, and threatened to cut off the garrison of that stronghold
from the rest of the defenders of the suburb. At this moment a
disgraceful panic seized the defenders of the San Lazaro convent,
which lay directly in front of the assailants. They abandoned their
post, and began to fly across the bridge into Saragossa. But Palafox
came up in person with a reserve, and reoccupied the abandoned post.
He then ordered a sortie against the buildings which the French
had seized, and succeeded in driving them out and compelling them
to retire into the open ground. Gazan doubted for a moment whether
he should not send in his second brigade to renew the attack, for
the six battalions that had borne the brunt of the first fighting
had now fallen into complete disorder. But remembering that if this
force failed to break into the suburb he had no reserves left, and
that Palafox might bring over the bridge as many reinforcements as
he chose, the French general resolved not to push the assault any
further. He drew back and retired behind the Gallego stream, where he
threw up entrenchments to cover himself, completely abandoning the
offensive. For two or three days he did not dare to move, expecting
to be attacked at any moment by the garrison. A sudden rise of the
Ebro had cut off his communication with Moncey, and he could neither
send the marshal an account of his check, nor get any orders from
him[124]. His casualty-list was severe, thirty officers and 650 men
killed and wounded: the Spaniards lost somewhat less, even including
the 300 Swiss who were cut to pieces at the Archbishop’s Tower.

  [122] Belmas calls it a factory (ii. 151), but Palafox in his
  dispatch gives the name above.

  [123] ‘Suizos de Aragon.’

  [124] An officer of sappers named Henri, and one of his privates,
  tried to reopen communication by swimming the river on an
  ice-cold night. They reached the further bank, but died of
  exhaustion among the reeds, where their corpses were found next
  morning: thus the message was never delivered. Belmas, ii. 153.

Palafox next morning issued a proclamation, extolling the valour
shown in the defence of the suburb, treating the loss of the Monte
Torrero as insignificant, and exaggerating the losses of the French.
The Saragossans were rather encouraged than otherwise by the results
of the day’s fighting, and spoke as if they had merely lost an
outwork by the unsteadiness of St. March’s Valencians, while the main
hostile attack had been repulsed. But it is clear that the capture
of the dominating heights south of the city was an all-important
gain to the French. Without the Monte Torrero they could never have
pressed the siege home. As to the failure at the suburb, it came
from attacking with headlong courage an entrenched position that had
not been properly reconnoitred. The assault should never have been
delivered without artillery preparation, and was a grave mistake.
But clearly Mortier’s corps had yet to learn what the Spaniards were
like, and to realize that to turn them out from behind walls and
ditches was not the light task that they supposed.

Moncey so thoroughly miscalculated the general effect of the fighting
upon the minds of the Spaniards, that next morning he sent in to
Palafox a flag of truce, with an officer bearing a formal demand for
the surrender of the city. ‘Madrid had fallen,’ he wrote: ‘Saragossa,
invested on all sides, had not the force to resist two complete
_corps d’armée_. He trusted that the Captain-General would spare the
beautiful and wealthy capital of Aragon the horrors of a siege. Ample
blood had already been shed, enough misfortunes already suffered by
Spain.’ Palafox replied in the strain that might have been expected
from him--‘The man who only wishes to die with honour in defence of
his country cares nothing about his position: but, as a matter of
fact, he found that his own was eminently favourable and encouraging.
In the first siege he had held out for sixty-one days with a garrison
far inferior to that now under his command. Was it likely that
he would surrender, when he had as many troops as his besiegers?
Looking at the results of the fighting on the previous day, when
the assailants had suffered so severely in front of San Lazaro, he
thought that he would be quite as well justified in proposing to the
Marshal that the besieging army should surrender “to spare further
effusion of blood,” as the latter had been to make such a proposition
to him. If Madrid had fallen, Madrid must have been sold: but he
begged for leave to doubt the truth of the rumour. Even at the worst
Madrid was but a town, like any other. Its fate had no influence on

  [125] The two letters may be found in full in the appendices to
  Belmas, vol. ii.

Having received such an answer Moncey had only to set to work as fast
as possible: his engineer-in-chief, General Lacoste, after making a
thorough survey of the defences, pronounced in favour of choosing two
fronts of attack, both starting on the Monte Torrero, and directed
the one against the fort of San José and the other against that of
the Pillar. These projecting works would have to be carried before
any attempt could be made against the inner _enceinte_ of the town.
At the same time, Lacoste ordered a third attack, which he did not
propose to press home, to be made on the castle of the Aljafferia,
on the west side of the town. It was only intended to distract the
attention of the Spaniards from the points of real danger. On the
further bank of the Ebro, Gazan’s division was directed to move
forward again, and to entrench itself across all the three roads,
which issue from the suburb, and lead respectively to Lerida, Jaca,
and Monzon. He was not to attack, but merely to blockade the northern
exits of Saragossa. Communications with him were established by
means of a bridge of boats and pontoons laid above the town. Gazan
succeeded in shortening the front which he had to protect against
sorties by letting the water of the Ebro into the low-lying fields
along its banks, where it caused inundations on each of his flanks.

On the twenty-third the preliminary works of the siege began,
approaches and covered ways being constructed leading down from the
Monte Torrero to the spots from which Lacoste intended to commence
the first parallels of the two attacks on the Pillar and San José.
Preparations of a similar sort were commenced for the false attack on
the left, opposite the Aljafferia. Six days were occupied in these
works, and in the bringing up of the heavy artillery, destined to arm
the siege-batteries, from Tudela. The guns had to come by road, as
the Spaniards had destroyed all the barges on the Canal of Aragon,
and blown up many of its locks. It was not till some time later that
the French succeeded in reopening the navigation, by replacing the
sluice-gates and building large punts and floats for the carriage of
guns or munitions.

Just before the first parallel was opened Marshal Moncey was recalled
to Madrid [December 29], the Emperor being apparently discontented
with his delays in the early part of the month. He was replaced in
command of the 3rd Corps by Junot, whose old divisions had been made
over (as we have seen in the first volume) to Soult’s 2nd Corps. This
change made Mortier the senior officer of the besieging army, but he
and Junot seem to have worked more as partners than as commander and
subordinate. Junot, in his report to the Emperor[126] on the state in
which he found the troops, enlarges at great length on the deplorable
condition of the 3rd Corps. Many of the battalions had never received
their winter clothing, hundreds entered the hospitals every day, and
there was no corresponding outflow of convalescents. No less than 680
men had died in the base hospital at Pampeluna in November, and the
figure for December would be worse. He doubted if there were 13,000
infantry under arms in his three divisions--here he exaggerated
somewhat, for even a fortnight later the returns show that his
‘present under arms,’ after deducting all detachments and sick, were
still over 14,000 bayonets: on January 1, therefore, there must
have been 15,000. He asked for money, reinforcements, and a supply
of officers, the commissioned ranks of his corps showing a terrible
proportion of gaps. On the other hand, he conceded that the 5th
Corps was in excellent condition, its veterans suffering far less
from disease than his own conscripts. Either of Gazan’s and Suchet’s
divisions was, by itself, as strong as any two of the divisions of
the 3rd Corps.

  [126] Junot to Berthier, Jan. 1, 1809.

On the night of the twenty-ninth--thirtieth, within twelve hours
of Moncey’s departure, the first parallel was opened, both in the
attack towards San José and in that opposite the Pillar fort. When
the design of the besiegers became evident, Palafox made three
sallies on the thirty-first, but apparently more with the object of
reconnoitring the siege-works and distracting the workers than with
any hope of breaking the French lines, for there were not more than
1,500 men employed in any of the three columns which delivered the
sorties. The assault on the trenches before San José was not pressed
home, but opposite the false attack at the Aljafferia the fighting
was more lively; the French outposts were all driven in with loss,
and a squadron of cavalry, which had slipped out from the Sancho
gate, close to the Ebro, surprised and sabred thirty men of a picket
on the left of the French lines. Palafox made the most of this small
success in a magniloquent proclamation published on the succeeding
day. He should have sent out 15,000 men instead of 3,000 if he
intended to get any profit out of his sorties. An attack delivered
with such a force on some one point of the lines must have paralysed
the siege operations, and might have proved disastrous to the French.

Meanwhile the besiegers, undisturbed by these sallies, pushed forward
their works on the northern slopes of the Monte Torrero. The attack
opposite San José got forward much faster than that against the
Pillar: its second parallel was commenced on January 1, and its
batteries were all ready to open by the ninth. The other attack was
handicapped by the fact that the ground sloped down more rapidly
towards the Huerba, so that the trenches had to be made much deeper,
and pushed forward in perpetual zigzags, in order to avoid being
searched by the plunging fire from the Spanish batteries on the other
side of the stream, in the _enceinte_ of the town. To get a flanking
position against the Pillar redoubt, the left attack was continued
by another line of trenches beyond the Huerba, after it has made its
sharp turn to the south.

Before the engineers had completed their work, and long ere the
breaching batteries were ready, a great strain was thrown upon the
besiegers by fresh orders from Napoleon. On January 2, Marshal
Mortier received a dispatch, bidding him march out to Calatayud
with one of his two divisions, and open up the direct communication
with Madrid. Accordingly he departed with the two strong brigades
of Suchet’s division, 10,000 bayonets. This withdrawal threw much
harder work on the remainder of the army: Junot was left with not
much more than 24,000 men, including the artillerymen, to maintain
the investment of the whole city. He was forced to spread out the
3rd Corps on a very thin line, in order to occupy all the posts from
which Suchet’s battalions had been withdrawn. Morlot’s division
came down from the Monte Torrero to occupy the ground which Suchet
had evacuated: Musnier had to cover the whole of the hill, and to
support both the lines of approach on which the engineers were busy.
Grandjean’s division remained on its old front, facing the eastern
side of the city, and Gazan still blockaded the suburb beyond the
Ebro. As the last-named general had still 8,000 men, there were
only 15,000 bayonets and the artillery available for the siege, a
force far too small to maintain a front nearly four miles long. If
Palafox had dared to make a general sortie with all his disposable
men, Junot’s position would have been more than hazardous. But
the Captain-General contented himself with making numerous and
useless sallies on a petty scale, sending out the most reckless and
determined of his men to waste themselves in bickering with the
guards of the trenches, when he should have saved them to head a
general assault in force upon some weak point of the siege lines. The
diaries and narratives of the French officers who served at Saragossa
are full of anecdotes of the frantic courage shown by the besieged,
generally to no purpose. One of the strangest has been preserved by
the very prosaic engineer Belmas, who tells how a priest in his robes
came out on January 6 in front of Gazan’s lines, and walked among
the bullets to within fifty yards of the trenches, when he preached
with great unction for some minutes, his crucifix in his hand, to the
effect that the French had a bad cause and were drawing down God’s
anger upon themselves. To the credit of his audience it must be said
that they let him go off alive, contenting themselves with firing
over his head, in order to see if they could scare him into a run.

At daybreak on January 10, the whole of the French batteries opened
upon San José and the Pillar fort. The fire against the latter was
distant and comparatively ineffective, but the masonry of San José
began to crumble at once: its walls, solid though they were, had
never been built to resist siege artillery. The roofs and tiles came
crashing down upon the defenders’ heads, and most of their guns were
silenced or injured. The besiegers suffered little--Belmas says
that only one officer and ten men fell, though two guns in the most
advanced battery were disabled. The loss of the Spaniards on the
other hand was numbered by hundreds, more being slain by the fall
of stones and slates than by the actual cannon balls and shells of
the assailants. At nightfall Palafox withdrew most of the guns from
the convent, but replaced the decimated garrison by three fresh
battalions. It was clear that the work would fall next day unless the
besiegers were driven off from their batteries. At 1 A.M., therefore,
300 men made a desperate sally to spike the guns. But the French were
alert, and had brought up two field-pieces close to the convent,
which repressed the sortie with a storm of grape.

Next morning the bombardment of San José recommenced, and by the
afternoon a large breach had been established in its southern wall.
At four o’clock General Grandjean launched a picked force, composed
of the seven voltigeur companies of the 14th and 44th regiments,
upon the crumbling defences[127]. The garrison had already begun
to quit the untenable post, and only a minority remained behind to
fight to the last. The storming column entered without much loss,
partly by laying scaling-ladders to the foot of the breach, partly by
using a small bridge of planks across the ditch, which the Spaniards
had forgotten to remove. They only lost thirty-eight men, and made
prisoners of about fifty of the garrison who had refused to retire
into the city when the rest fled.

  [127] Belmas, ii. 175.

Though San José was thus easily captured, it was difficult to
establish a lodgement in it, for the batteries on the _enceinte_
of Saragossa searched it from end to end, dominating its ruined
quadrangle from a superior height. But during the night the besiegers
succeeded in blocking up its gorge, and in connecting the breach with
their second parallel by a covered way of sandbags and fascines.
The convent was now the base from which they were to attack the
town-walls behind it.

But before continuing the advance in this direction it was necessary
to carry the fort of Our Lady of the Pillar, the other great
outwork of the southern front of Saragossa. The main attention of
the besiegers was directed against this point from the twelfth to
the fifteenth, and their sapping gradually took them to within a
few yards of the counterscarp. The Spanish fire had been easily
subdued, and a practicable breach established. On the night of the
fifteenth-sixteenth the fort was stormed by the Poles of the 1st
regiment of the Vistula. They met with little or no resistance, the
greater part of the garrison having withdrawn when the assault was
seen to be imminent. A mine under the glacis exploded, but failed
to do any harm: another, better laid, destroyed the bridge over the
Huerba, behind the fort, when the work was seen to be in the power of
the assailants. Lacoste reported to Junot that the Poles lost only
one killed and two wounded--an incredibly small casualty list[128].

  [128] Lacoste to Junot, Jan. 16, in Belmas, ii. 378.

The fall of the fort of the Pillar gave the French complete
possession of all the ground to the south of the Huerba, and left
them free to attack the _enceinte_ of the city, which had now lost
all its outer works save the Aljafferia: in front of that castle the
‘false attack’ made little progress, for the besiegers did not press
in close, and contented themselves with battering the old mediaeval
fortress from a distance. On that part of the line of investment
nothing of importance was to happen.



Lacoste’s first care, when the Pillar and San José had both fallen
into his hands, was to connect the two works by his ‘third parallel,’
which was drawn from one to the other just above the edge of the
ravine of the Huerba. In order to assail the walls of the city that
stream had to be crossed, a task of some difficulty, for its bed was
searched by the great batteries at Santa Engracia along the whole
front between the two captured forts, while north of San José the
‘Palafox Battery’ near the Porta Quemada completely overlooked the
lower and broader part of the river bed. The Spaniards kept up a fast
and furious fire upon the lost works, with the object of preventing
the besiegers from moving forward from them, or constructing fresh
batteries among their ruins. In this they were not successful:
the French, burrowing deep among the débris, successfully covered
themselves, and suffered little.

The second stage of the siege work, the attack on the actual
_enceinte_ of Saragossa, now began. The two points on which it was
directed were the Santa Engracia battery--the southern salient of
the town--and the extreme south-eastern angle of the place, where
lay the Palafox Battery and the smaller work generally known as the
battery of the Oil Mill (Molino de Aceite). The former was less than
200 yards from the Pillar fort, the latter not more than 100 from San
José, but between them ran the deep bed of the Huerba.

From the twelfth to the seventeenth the French were busily engaged
in throwing up batteries in the line of their third parallel, and on
the morning of the last-named day no less than nine were ready. Five
opened on Santa Engracia, four on the Palafox battery: at both points
they soon began to do extensive damage, for here the walls had not
been entirely reconstructed (as on the western front of the city),
but only patched up and strengthened with earthworks at intervals.
The masonry of the convent of Santa Engracia suffered most, and began
to fall in large patches. Palafox saw that the _enceinte_ would
be pierced ere long, and that street-fighting would be the next
stage of the siege. Accordingly he set the whole civil population
to work on constructing barricades across the streets and lanes of
the south-eastern part of the city, in the rear of the threatened
points, and turned every block of houses into an independent fort by
building up all the doorways and windows facing towards the enemy.
The spirits of the garrison were still high, and the Captain-General
had done his best to keep them up by issuing gazettes containing
very roseate accounts of the state of affairs in the outer world.
His communication with the open country was not completely cut, for
thrice he had been able to send boats down the Ebro, which took their
chance of running past the French batteries at night, and always
succeeded. One of these boats had carried the Captain-General’s
younger brother, Francisco Palafox, who had orders to appeal to
the Catalans for help, and to raise the peasants of Lower Aragon.
Occasional messengers also got in from without: one arrived on
January 16 from Catalonia, with promises of aid from the Marquis of
Lazan, who proposed to return from Gerona with his division, in order
to fall upon the rear of the besiegers. Palafox not only let this be
known, but published in his Official Gazette some utterly unfounded
rumours, which the courier had brought. Reding, it was said, had
beaten St. Cyr in the open field: the Duke of Infantado was marching
from Cuenca on Aragon with 20,000 men. Sir John Moore had turned to
bay on the pursuing forces of the Emperor, and had defeated them at
a battle in Galicia in which Marshal Ney had been killed[129]. To
celebrate this glorious news the church bells were set ringing, the
artillery fired a general salute, and military music paraded the
town. These phenomena were perfectly audible to the besiegers, and
caused them many searchings of heart, for they could not guess what
event the Saragossans could be celebrating.

  [129] Was this a distorted rumour of the combat of Cacabellos,
  and the death of General Colbert, the commander of Ney’s
  corps-cavalry, on Jan. 3?

The garrison needed all the encouragement that could be given to
them, for after the middle of January the stress of the siege began
to be felt very heavily. Food was not wanting--for, excepting fresh
meat and vegetables, everything was still procurable in abundance.
But cold and overcrowding were beginning to cause epidemic disorders.
The greater part of the civil population had taken refuge in their
cellars when the bombardment began, and after a few days spent in
those dark and damp retreats, from which they only issued at night,
or when they were called on for labour at the fortifications, began
to develop fevers and dysentery. This was inevitable, for in most of
the dwellings from twenty to forty persons of all ages were crowded
in mere holes, no more than seven feet high, and almost unprovided
with ventilation, where they lived, ate, and slept, packed together,
and with no care for sanitary precautions[130]. The malignant fevers
bred in these refuges soon spread to the garrison: though under
cover, the soldiery were destitute of warm clothing (especially the
Murcian battalions), and could not procure enough firewood to cook
their meals. By January 20 there were 8,000 sick among the 30,000
regular troops, and every day the wastage to the hospital grew more
and more noticeable. Many officers of note had already fallen in
the useless sorties, and in especial a grave loss had been suffered
on January 13, when Colonel San Genis, the chief engineer of the
besieged, and the designer of the whole of the defences of the
city, was killed on the ramparts of the Palafox battery, as he was
directing the fire against the new entrenchment which the French were
throwing up across the gorge of the San José fort[131]. He had no
competent successor as a general director, for his underlings had no
grasp of siege-strategy, and were only good at details. They built
batteries and barricades and ran mines in pure opportunism, without
any comprehensive scheme of defence before their eyes.

  [130] For the description of these miserable and most
  insalubrious refuges, see Cavallero, pp. 90-100.

  [131] I give the date of San Genis’ death from Arteche, iv.
  Belmas, on the other hand, puts it on Jan. 26, and Cavallero
  apparently on Jan. 28, for he says that it was three days before
  that of Lacoste, who was shot on Feb. 1.

The French meanwhile were very active, though the constant increase
of sickness in the 3rd Corps was daily thinning the regiments,
till the proportion of men stricken down by fever was hardly less
than that among the Spaniards. On the seventeenth and eighteenth
Lacoste began to contrive a descent into the bottom of the ravine
of the Huerba, by a series of zigzags pushed forward from the third
parallel, both in the direction of Santa Engracia and in that of the
Palafox battery. The latter was repeatedly silenced by the advanced
batteries of the besiegers, but they could not subdue the incessant
musketry fire from windows and loopholes which swept the whole bed
of the Huerba, and rendered the work at the head of the new sap most
difficult and deadly. Sometimes it had to be completely abandoned
because of the plunging fire from the city[132]. Yet it was always
resumed after a time: the French found that their best and easiest
work was done in the early morning, when, for day after day, a
dense fog rose from the Ebro, which rendered it impossible for the
Spaniards to see what was going on, or to aim with any certainty
at the entrenchments. Irritated at the steady if slow progress of
the enemy, Palafox launched on the afternoon of January 23 the most
desperate sortie that his army had yet essayed against the advanced
works of the French. At four o’clock on that day[133] three columns
dashed out and attacked the line of trenches: one, as a blind, was
sent out opposite the Aljafferia, to distract the attention of
Morlot’s division from the main sally. The other two were serious
attacks, but both made with too small numbers--apparently no more
than 200 picked men in each. The left-hand column became hotly
engaged with the trenches to the north of San José, and got no
further forward than a house a little beyond the Huerba, from which
they expelled a French post. But the right-hand force carried out
a very bold programme. Crossing the Huerba below Santa Engracia,
they broke through the third parallel, and then made a dash at two
mortar-batteries in the second parallel which had particularly
annoyed the defence on that morning. The commander of the sortie,
Mariano Galindo, a captain of the Volunteers of Aragon, led his
men so straight that they rushed in with the bayonet on the first
battery and spiked both its pieces. They were making for the second
when they were overwhelmed by the trench guard and by reinforcements
hurrying up from Musnier’s camp. Of a hundred men who had gone
forward with Galindo from the third parallel twelve were killed and
thirty, including their brave leader, taken prisoners. The French
stated their loss at no more than six killed and five wounded, a
figure that seems suspiciously low, considering that the first line
of trenches had been stormed by the assailants, and a battery in the
second line captured and disabled. Galindo had gone forward more than
500 yards, into the very middle of the French works, before he was
checked and surrounded. It was a very gallant exploit, but once more
we are constrained to ask why Palafox told off for it no more than a
mere handful of men. What would have happened had he thrown a solid
column of 10,000 men upon the siege-works, instead of a few hundred

  [132] Belmas, ii. 198.

  [133] Oddly enough, Belmas places this sortie on Jan. 21, on
  which day, as Arteche shows, none of the Spanish accounts speak
  of a sortie, while the latter give at great length details of the
  fighting on the twenty-third. Probably the Spanish date is the
  correct one.

On the twenty-second, the day before Galindo’s sortie, Junot was
superseded in command of the besieging army by Lannes, who had been
restored to health by two months’ holiday, and was now himself
again. He arrived just in time to take charge of the important task
of storming the main _enceinte_, for which Junot’s preparations
were now far advanced. But though the siege operations looked not
unpromising, he found the situation grave and dangerous. Belmas and
the other French historians describe this as the most critical epoch
of the whole Saragossan episode[134]. The fact was that at last
there were beginning to be signs of movement in the open country of
Aragon. During the month that had elapsed since the siege began, the
peasantry had been given time to draw together. Francisco Palafox,
after escaping from the city, had gone to Mequinenza, and was
arming the local levies with muskets procured from Catalonia. He
had already a great horde assembled in the direction of Alcañiz.
On the other bank of the Ebro Colonel Perena had been organizing
a force at Huesca, from northern Aragon and the foot-hills of the
Pyrenees. Lastly, it was known that Lazan was on his way from
Gerona to aid his brothers, and had brought to Lerida his division
of 4,000 men[135], a comparatively well-organized body of troops,
which had been under arms since October. Even far back, on the way
to Pampeluna, insurgents had gathered in the Sierra de Moncayo, and
were threatening the important half-way post of Tudela, by which the
besieging army kept up its communication with France.

  [134] Belmas, ii. 203.

  [135] Napier (i. 376) calls them ‘Catalonians’: but they were all
  Aragonese, sent to aid Catalonia in October.

Hitherto these gatherings had looked dangerous, but had done no
actual harm. General Wathier, with the cavalry of the 3rd Corps, had
scoured the southern bank of the Ebro and kept off the insurgents;
but now they were pressing closer in, and on January 20 a battalion,
which Gazan had sent out to drive away Perena’s levies, had been
checked and beaten off at Perdiguera, only twelve miles from the camp
of the besiegers.

Lannes could not fail to see that if he committed himself to
the final assault on Saragossa, and entangled the 3rd Corps in
street-fighting, he might find himself assailed from the rear on
all points of his lines. There were no troops whatever in front of
Saragossa to form a ‘covering-force’ to beat off the insurgents, if
they should come down upon his camps while he was storming the city,
for the 3rd Corps and Gazan’s division had now only 20,000 infantry
for the conduct of the siege.

Accordingly the Marshal resolved to undo the Emperor’s arrangements
for keeping up the line of communication with Madrid, and to draw in
Mortier, with Suchet’s strong and intact division, from Calatayud,
where he had been lying for the last three weeks. This was the
only possible force which he could use to provide himself with a
covering army. The touch with Madrid, a thing of comparatively minor
importance, had to be sacrificed, except so far as it could be kept
up by the division of Dessolles, which had now come back from the
pursuit of Sir John Moore, and had pushed detachments back to its old
posts at Sigüenza and Guadalajara.

Mortier therefore evacuated Calatayud by the orders of Lannes, and
came back to the Ebro: passing behind the besieging army he crossed
the river and took post at Perdiguera with 10,000 men, facing the
levies of Perena in the direction of Huesca. It was only when he
had made certain of having this powerful reinforcement close at
hand, ready to deal with any interference from without, that Lannes
dared to proceed with the assault. At the same time that Mortier
arrived at Perdiguera, he sent out Wathier, with two battalions and
two regiments of cavalry, to deal with the insurgents of the Lower
Ebro, where Francisco Palafox had been busy. Four or five thousand
peasants with one newly-levied regiment of Aragonese volunteers tried
to resist this small column, but were beaten on the twenty-sixth
in front of the town of Alcañiz, which fell into Wathier’s hands,
and with it 20,000 sheep and 1,500 sacks of flour, which had been
collected for the revictualling of Saragossa, in case the investment
should be broken. They were a welcome windfall to the besieging army,
where food was none too plentiful, since the plain country where it
lay encamped had now been eaten bare, and convoys of food from Tudela
and Pampeluna were rare and inadequate.

On January 24 the French had succeeded in pushing three approaches
across the Huerba, and were firmly established under its northern
bank. Two days later they made lodgements in ruins, cellars, and
low walls where buildings had been pulled down, in the narrow space
between the town wall and the river bank, below the Palafox battery.
The cannon of the defenders could only act intermittently: every
night the parapets were repaired, but every morning after a few hours
of artillery duel the Spanish guns were silenced by the dreadful
converging fire poured in upon them. Meanwhile Palafox was heaping
barricade upon barricade in the quarters behind the threatened
points, and fortifying the houses and convents which connected them.

The final crisis arrived on the twenty-seventh. There were now
three practicable breaches,--two were on the side of the Palafox
battery, one in the convent of Santa Engracia. To storm the first and
second Lannes told off the light companies of the first brigade of
Grandjean’s division; to the third was allotted the 1st regiment of
the Vistula from Musnier’s division. Heavy supports lay behind them,
in the third parallel, with orders to rush in if the storming parties
should prove successful.

The assault was delivered with great dash and swiftness at noon on
the twenty-seventh. On two points it was successful. At the most
northern breach the assailants reached the summit of the wall, but
could not get down into the city, on account of the storm of musketry
from barricades and houses that swept the gap into which they had
advanced. They merely made a lodgement in the breach itself, and
could penetrate no further. But in the central breach, close beneath
the Palafox battery, the voltigeurs not only passed the walls, but
seized the ‘Oil Mill’ which abutted on them, and a triangular block
of houses projecting into the town. At the Santa Engracia breach they
were even more fortunate: the Poles carried the convent with their
first rush: its outer wall had been battered down for a breadth of
thirty yard and entering there the stormers drove out the Spaniards
from the interior buildings of the place, and got into the large
square which lies behind it, where they seized the Capuchin nunnery.
Thus a considerable wedge was driven through the _enceinte_, and the
Spaniards had to evacuate the walls for some little distance on each
side of Santa Engracia. From the stretch to the west of that convent
they were driven out by an unpremeditated assault of Musnier’s
supports, who ran out from the trenches on the left of the Huerba,
and escaladed the dilapidated wall in front of them, when they saw
the garrison drawing back on account of the flanking fire from Santa
Engracia. They got possession of the whole outer _enceinte_ as far as
the Trinitarian convent by the Carmen gate.

These successes were bought at the moderate loss of 350 men, of
whom two-thirds fell in the fighting on the Santa Engracia front;
the Spaniards lost somewhat more, including a few prisoners. In any
ordinary siege the day would have settled the fate of the place, for
the besiegers had broken through the _enceinte_ in two places, and
though the space seized inside the Palafox battery was not large, yet
on each side of Santa Engracia the assailants had penetrated so far
that a quarter of a mile of the walls was in their possession. But
Saragossa was not as other places, and the garrison were perfectly
prepared with a new front of defence, composed of batteries and
crenellated houses in rear of the lost positions. Two wedges, one
large and one small, had been driven into the town, but they had to
be broadened and driven further in if they were to have any effect.

On the twenty-eighth, therefore, a new stage of the siege began, and
the street-fighting, which was to last for twenty-four days more,
had its commencement. Lannes had heard, from those who had served
under Verdier in the first siege, of the deplorable slaughter and
repeated repulses that had followed the attempt to carry by main
force the internal defences of the city. To hurl solid columns of
stormers at the barricades and the crenellated houses was not his
intention. He had made up his mind to advance by sap and mine, as
if he were dealing with regular fortifications. His plan was to use
each block of houses that he gained as a base for the attack upon the
next, and never to send in the infantry with the bayonet till he had
breached by artillery, or by mines, the building against which the
assault was directed. This form of attack was bound to be slow, but
it had the great merit of costing comparatively little in the way of
casualties. The fact was that the Marshal had not the numbers which
would justify him in wasting lives by assaults which might or might
not be successful, but which were certain to prove very bloody. The
whole Third Corps, as we have already seen, did not now furnish much
more than 13,000 bayonets, while Gazan’s men were all occupied in
watching the suburb, and Suchet’s lay far out, as a covering corps
set to watch Perena and Lazan.

There was no one single dominating position in the city whose
occupation was likely to constrain the besieged to surrender. The
whole town is built on a level, and its fifty-three solidly-built
churches and convents formed so many forts, each of which was
defensible in itself and could not be reduced save by a direct
attack. All that could be done was to endeavour to capture them one
by one, in the hope that at last the Saragossans would grow tired
of their hopeless resistance, and consent to surrender, when they
realized that things had gone so far that they could only protract,
but could not finally beat off, the slow advance of the besieging

The work of the French, therefore, consisted in spreading out from
their two separate lodgements on the eastern and southern sides of
the city, with the simple object of gaining ground each day and of
driving the Spaniards back towards the centre of the place. On the
right attack the most important objective of the besiegers was the
block of monastic buildings to the north of the Palafox battery,
the twin convents of San Augustin and Santa Monica, which lay along
the northern side of the small wedge that they had driven into the
north-eastern corner of the town. As these buildings lay on ground
slightly higher than that which the French had occupied, it was
difficult to attack them by means of mines. But an intense converging
fire was brought to bear upon them, both from batteries outside the
walls, playing across the Huerba, and by guns brought inside the
captured angle of the _enceinte_. The outer walls of Santa Monica
were soon a mass of ruins: nevertheless the first attack on it
[January 29] was beaten off, and it was only on the next day, after
twenty-four hours more of furious bombardment, that Grandjean’s men
succeeded in storming, first the convent and then its church, after a
furious hand-to-hand fight with the defenders.

After establishing themselves in Santa Monica the French were able
to capture some of the adjoining houses, and to turn their attention
against its neighbour San Augustin. They ran two mines under it, and
at the same time battered it heavily from the external batteries
beyond the Huerba. On February I the explosion took place: it opened
a breach in the east end of the convent church, and the storming
party, entering by the sacristy, got possession of the choir chapels
and the high altar. But the Spaniards rallied in the nave, ran a
barricade of chairs and benches across it, and held their own for
some time, firing down from the pulpit and the organ loft with
effect. Some climbed up into the roof and picked off the French
through the holes which the bombardment had left in the ceiling.
For some hours this strange indoor battle raged within the spacious
church. But at last the French carried the nave, and at night only
the belfry remained untaken. Its little garrison pelted the French
with grenades all day, and saved themselves at dusk by a sudden and
unexpected dash through the enemy.

In the first flush of success, after San Augustin had been stormed,
the 44th regiment, from Grandjean’s division, tried to push on
through the streets towards the centre of the town. They captured
several barricades and houses, and struggled on till they had nearly
reached the Coso. But this sort of fighting was always dangerous
in Saragossa: the citizens kept up such a fierce fire from their
windows, and swarmed out against the flanks of the column in such
numbers, that the 44th had to give back, lost all that it had taken
beyond San Augustin, and left 200 dead and wounded behind. Even
the formal official reports of the French engineers speak with
respect of the courage shown by the besieged on this day. The houses
which they had lost in the afternoon they retook in the dusk, by
an extraordinary device. Finding the French solidly barricaded in
them, and proof against any attack from the street, hundreds of the
defenders climbed upon the roofs, tore up the tiles and entered by
the garrets, from which they descended and drove out the invaders by
a series of charges which cleared story after story[136]. Many monks,
and still more women, were seen among the armed crowds which swept
the assailants back towards Santa Monica. It was especially noticed
that the civilians did far more of the fighting than the soldiers.
This was their own special battle.

  [136] Report of General Laval (commanding-in the trenches this
  day) to Lannes, in Appendix xxvi, of Belmas, vol. ii. Cf. von
  Brandt, p. 34.

Irritated at his losses on this day, Lannes issued a general order,
expressly forbidding any attempts to storm houses and barricades by
main force. After an explosion, the troops were to seize the building
that had been shattered, and to cover themselves in it; they were not
to go forward and fall upon intact defences further to the front.

While the struggle was raging thus fiercely from January 28 to
February 1, in the eastern area of street-fighting, there had been a
no less desperate series of combats all around Santa Engracia, on the
southern front of attack. Here Musnier’s division was endeavouring
to drive the Spaniards out of the blocks of houses to the right and
left of the captured convent. They worked almost entirely by mines,
running tunnels forward from beneath the convent to blow down the
walls of the adjoining dwellings. But even when the mines had gutted
the doomed buildings, it was not easy to seize them: the few men who
survived the explosion did not fly, but held out among the ruins,
and had to be bayonetted by the assailants who rushed out from the
convent to occupy the new lodgements. Time after time the defenders,
though perfectly conscious that they were being undermined, and that
by staying on guard they were courting certain death, refused to
evacuate the threatened houses or to retire into safety. Hence their
losses were awful, but the French too suffered not a little, while
pushing forward to occupy each building as it was cleared by the
explosion. The constant rain of musket balls from roofs and church
towers searched out the ruins in which they had to effect their
lodgements, and many of the assailants fell before they could cover
themselves among the débris.

On the thirty-first the Spaniards made a sudden rush from the
Misericordia buildings, to recover the Trinitarian convent, the most
western point on the _enceinte_ which had fallen into the hands of
the French at the assault of the twenty-seventh. They charged in upon
it with the greatest fury, and blew open the gate with a four-pounder
gun which they dragged up by hand to the very threshold. But the
French had built up the whole entrance with sandbags, which held
even when the doors had been shattered; and, after persisting for
some time in a fruitless attempt to break in, the Saragossans had to
retire, foiled and greatly thinned in numbers.

On the following day (February 1) the French began to move forward
from Santa Engracia towards the Coso, always clearing their way by
explosions, and risking as few men as possible. Nevertheless they
could not always keep under cover, and this day they suffered a
severe loss: their chief engineer, General Lacoste, was shot through
the head, while reconnoitring from a window the houses against which
his next attack was to be directed[137]. He was succeeded in command
by Colonel Rogniat, one of the French historians of the siege. That
officer, as he tells us, discovered that his sappers were using too
large charges of powder, which destroyed the roofs and four walls of
each house that they undermined, so that the infantry who followed
had no cover when they first took possession. He therefore ordered
the substitution of smaller measures of powder, so as to throw down
only parts of the wall of the building nearest to the French lines,
and to leave the roof and the outer walls uninjured. In this way it
was much more easy to establish a lodgement, since the storming-party
were covered the moment that they had dashed into the shattered
shell. The only plan which the Spaniards could devise against this
method of procedure, was to set fire to the ruins, and to prevent
the entry of the assailants by burning down all that was left of the
house. As the buildings of Saragossa contained little woodwork, and
were not very combustible[138], the besieged daubed the walls with
tar and resin to make them blaze the better. When an explosion had
taken place, the surviving defenders set fire to the débris of floors
and roofs before retiring[139]. In this way they sometimes kept the
French back for as much as two days, since they could not make their
lodgement till the cinders had time to cool. Countermining against
the French approaches was often tried, but seldom with success,
for there were no trained miners in the city: the one battalion of
sappers which Palafox possessed had been formed from the workmen of
the Canal of Aragon, who had no experience in subterranean work. On
the other hand the French had three whole companies of miners, beside
eight more of sappers, who were almost as useful in the demolition of
the city. They maintained a distinct ascendent underground, though
they not unfrequently lost men in the repeated combats with knife and
pistol which ensued when mine and countermine met, and the two sides
fought for the possession of each other’s galleries.

  [137] There is a full account of his death in Legendre, i.
  149; that officer was in the room with him, when he and his
  aide-de-camp, Lalobe, were simultaneously shot through the head
  as they peered out of a side window where they thought themselves

  [138] The ceilings in all the better sort of houses were made of
  vaulted arches, not of beams and boards.

  [139] See Cavallero, p. 120, and compare Belmas, ii. 253.

The first week of February was now drawing to its close, and the
advance of the French into the city, though steady, had been
extremely slow. Every little block of five or six houses cost a day
to break up, and another to entrench. The waste of life, though not
excessive, was more than Lannes could really afford, and he waited
impatiently, but in vain, for any signs that the obstinacy of the
defence was slackening. But though he could not see it, the garrison
were being tried far more hardly than the besiegers. It was not so
much the loss by fire and sword that was ruining them as the silent
ravages of the epidemic fevers. Since the French had got within the
walls, and the bombardment of the city was being carried on from a
shorter range than before, the civilian population had been forced to
cling more closely than ever to its fetid cellars, and the infectious
fever which had appeared in January was developing at the most
fearful rate. Living under such insanitary conditions, and feeding
on flour and salt fish, for the vegetables had long been exhausted,
the Saragossans had no strength to bear up against the typhus. Whole
families died off, and their bodies lay forgotten, tainting the air
and spreading the contagion. Even where there were survivors, they
could not easily dispose of the dead, for the urban cemeteries were
gorged, and burials took place in trenches hastily opened in streets
or gardens. Outside the churches there were hundreds of corpses,
some coffined, others rolled in shrouds or sheets, waiting in rows
for the last services of the church, which the surviving clergy were
too few to read. The shells from the incessant bombardment were
continually falling in these open spaces, and tearing the dead to
pieces. Ere the siege was over there was a mass of mutilated and
decaying bodies heaped in front of every church door. Hundreds more
lay in the debatable ground for which the Spaniards and French were
contending, and the whole town reeked with contagion. The weather
was generally still and warm for the time of year, with a thick fog
rising every morning from the low ground by the Ebro. The smoke from
the burning houses lay low over the place, and the air was thick
with the mingled fumes of fire and pestilence. If it nauseated the
French, who had the open country behind them, and were relieved by
regiments at intervals, and allowed a rest in their camps outside
the walls, it was far more terrible to the Spaniards. The death rate
rose, as February drew on, from 300 up to 500 and even 600 a day.
The morning state of the garrison on the fourth day of the month
showed 13,737 sick and wounded, and only 8,495 men under arms. As the
total had been 32,000 when the siege began, nearly 10,000 men must
already have perished by the sword or disease. The civil population,
containing so many women, children, and aged persons, was of course
dying at a much quicker rate. Yet the place held out for sixteen
days longer! Palafox himself was struck down by the fever, but still
issued orders from his bed, and poured out a string of hysterical
proclamations, in which his delirium is clearly apparent.

The terrible situation of the Saragossans was to a large extent
concealed from the besiegers, who only saw the line of desperate
fighting-men which met them in every house, and could only guess at
the death and desolation that lay behind. Every French eye-witness
bears record to the low spirits of the troops who were compelled to
fight in the long series of explosions and assaults which filled the
early weeks of February. The engineer Belmas, the most matter-of-fact
of all the historians of the siege, turns aside for a moment from his
traverses and mining-galleries, to describe the murmurs of the weary
infantry of the 3rd Corps. ‘Who ever heard before,’ they asked, ‘of
an army of 20,000 men being set to take a town defended by 50,000
madmen? We have conquered a quarter of it, and now we are completely
fought out. We must halt and wait for reinforcements, or we shall all
perish, and be buried in these cursed ruins, before we can rout out
the last of these fanatics from their last stronghold[140].’ Lannes
did his best to encourage the rank and file, by showing them that the
Spaniards were suffering far more than they, and by pointing out that
the moment must inevitably come when the defence must break down from
mere exhaustion. He also endeavoured to obtain reinforcements from
the Emperor, but only received assurances that some conscripts and
convalescents for the 3rd Corps should be sent to him from Pampeluna
and Bayonne. No fresh regiments could be spared from France, when
the affairs of Central Europe were looking so doubtful[141]. The
best plan which the Marshal could devise for breaking down the
resolution of the Spaniards was to lengthen his front of attack, and
so endeavour to distract the attention of the besieged from the main
front of advance towards the Coso.

  [140] Belmas, ii. 294. Cf. Rogniat and Legendre.

  [141] Berthier to Lannes, Paris, Feb. 10.

This was only to be done by causing the division of Gazan, which had
so long remained passive in front of the suburb, to open an energetic
attack on that outlying part of the fortress. The advantage to be
secured in this direction was not merely that a certain amount of
the defenders would be drawn away from the city. If the suburb were
captured it would be possible to erect batteries in it, which would
search the whole northern side of Saragossa, the one quarter of the
city which was still comparatively unaffected by the bombardment.
Here the bulk of the civil population was crowded together, and
here too Palafox had collected the greater part of his stores and
magazines. If the last safe corner of the city were exposed to a
bombardment from a fresh quarter, it would probably do much to lower
the hopes of the defenders.

During the last days of January Gazan’s division had pressed back
the Spanish outposts in front of the suburb, and on the thirtieth of
that month Lannes had sent over two companies of siege artillery, to
construct batteries opposite the convents of Jesus and San Lazaro.
It was not till February 2-3, however, that he ordered a serious and
active attack to be pressed in this quarter. From the trench which
covered the front of Gazan’s investing lines a second parallel was
thrown out, and two breaching batteries erected against the Jesus
convent: on the fourth an advance by zigzags was pushed still further
forward, and more guns brought up. Some little delay was caused by
an unexpected swelling of the Ebro, which inundated that part of the
trenches which lay nearest to the river: but by the eighth all was
ready for the assault. The Jesus convent, as a glance at the map
will readily show, was the most projecting point of the defences of
the suburb, and was not well protected by any flanking fire from the
other works--indeed it was only helped to any appreciable extent by
a long fire across the water from the northern side of Saragossa,
and by the few gunboats which were moored near the bridge. It was a
weak structure--merely a brick convent with a ditch beyond it--and
the breaching batteries had found no difficulty in opening many large
gaps in its masonry. On the eighth it was stormed by Taupin’s brigade
of Gazan’s division: the garrison made a creditable resistance,
which cost the French ninety men, and then retired to San Lazaro
and the main fortifications of the suburb. The French established
themselves in the convent, and connected it with their siege-works,
finally turning its ruins into part of the third parallel, which they
began to draw out against the remaining transpontine works. They
would probably have proceeded to complete their operations in this
direction within the next two or three days, if it had not been for
an interruption from without. The two brothers, Lazan and Francisco
Palafox, had now united their forces, and had come forward to the
line of the Sierra de Alcubierre, only twenty miles from Saragossa,
the former with his 4,000 men from Catalonia, the latter with a mass
of peasants. Mortier, from his post at Perdiguera, reported their
approach to Lannes, and the latter went out in person to meet them,
taking with him Guérin’s brigade of Gazan’s division, and leaving
only that of Taupin to hold the lines opposite the suburb. Faced by
the 12,000 veteran bayonets of the 5th Corps, the two Palafoxes felt
that they were helpless, and retreated towards Fraga and Lerida,
without attempting to fight. On the thirteenth, therefore, Lannes
came back to the siege with the troops that he had drawn away from
it. While he was absent Palafox had a splendid opportunity for a
sortie on a large scale against Taupin and his isolated brigade, for
only 4,000 men were facing the suburb. But the time had already gone
by in which the garrison was capable of such an advance. They could
not now dispose of more than 10,000 men, soldiers and peasants and
citizens all included, and none of these could be drawn away from the
city, where the fighting-line was always growing weaker. Indeed, its
numbers were so thinned by the epidemic that Palafox was guarding
the Aljafferia with no more than 300 men, and manning the unattacked
western front with convalescents from the hospitals, who could
hardly stand, and often died at their posts during the cold and damp
hours of the night. All his available efficients were engaged in the
street-fighting with the 3rd Corps.

For while the attack on the suburb was being pressed, the slow
advance of the besiegers within the walls was never slackened.
On some days they won a whole block of houses by their mining
operations: on others they lost many men and gained no advantage. The
right attack was extending itself towards the river, and working
from the convent of San Augustin into the quarter of the Tanneries.
At the same time it was also moving on toward the Coso, but with
extreme slowness, for the Spaniards made a specially desperate
defence in the houses about the University and the Church of the
Trinity. One three-storied building, which covered the traverse
across the Coso to the south of the University, stood _ten_ separate
assaults and four explosions, and held out from the ninth to the
eighteenth, effectually keeping back the advance of the besiegers
in this direction[142]. Nor could the French ever succeed in
connecting their field of operations on this front with that which
centred around Santa Engracia. Down to the very end of the siege the
Saragossans clung desperately to the south-eastern corner of the
city, and kept control of it right down to the external walls and the
bank of the Huerba, where they still possessed a narrow strip of 300
yards of the _enceinte_.

  [142] Belmas, ii. 314, and before.

The left attack of the French, that from the Santa Engracia side,
made much more progress, though even here it was slow and dearly
bought. On February 10, however, in spite of several checks, the
besiegers for the first time forced their way as far as the Coso,
working through the ruined hospital which had been destroyed in the
first siege. On the same day, at the north-western angle of their
advance, they made a valuable conquest in the church and convent of
San Francisco. A mine was driven under this great building from the
ruins of the hospital, and filled with no less than 3,000 pounds of
powder. It had not been discovered by the Spaniards, and the convent
was full of fighting-men at the moment of the explosion. The whole
grenadier company of the 1st regiment of Valencia and 300 irregulars
were blown up, and perished to a man[143]. Nor was this all: in
the northern part of the building was established the main factory
for military equipment of the Army of Aragon: it was crammed with
workpeople, largely women, for Palafox had forgotten or refused to
withdraw the dépôt to a less convenient and spacious but more safe
position. All these unfortunate non-combatants, to the number of at
least 400, perished, and the roof-tops for hundreds of yards around
were strewn with their dismembered limbs.

  [143] In Lejeune, i. 169, the reader will find some horrible
  anecdotes of this explosion.

It might have been expected that, as the immediate consequence of
this awful catastrophe, the French would have made a long step
forward in this direction. But such was not the case: before the
smoke had cleared away Spaniards rushed forward from the inner
defences, and occupied part of the ruins of San Francisco. A body
of peasants, headed by the _émigré_ colonel de Fleury, got into the
bell-tower of the convent, which had not fallen with the rest, and
kept up from its leads a vigorous plunging fire upon the besiegers,
when they stole forward to burrow into the mass of débris. But
with the loss of some thirty men the French succeeded in mastering
two-thirds of the ruins: next day they cleared the rest, and stormed
the belfry, where de Fleury and his men were all bayonetted after
a desperate fight on the winding stairs. It was first from the
commanding height of this steeple that the French officers obtained a
full view of the city. The sight was encouraging to them: they could
realize how much the inner parts of the place had suffered from the
bombardment, and noted with their telescopes the small number of
defenders visible behind the further barricades, the heaps of corpses
in the streets, and the slow and dejected pace of the few passengers
visible. Two great gallows with corpses hanging from them especially
attracted the eyes of the onlookers[144]. Other circumstances united
on this and the following day (February 11-12) to show that the
defence was at last beginning to slacken. A great mob of peasants,
mainly women, came out of the Portillo gate towards Morlot’s
trenches, and prayed hard for permission to go through the lines to
their villages. They were not fired on, but given a loaf apiece, and
then driven back into the city. It was still more significant that at
night, on the eleventh, four or five bodies of deserters stole out
to the French; they were all foreigners, belonging to the ‘Swiss’
battalion[145] which was shut up in Saragossa: several officers
were among them. To excuse themselves they said that Palafox and
the friars were mad, and that they judged that all further defence
had become impossible. Yet the siege was to endure for nine days

  [144] Lejeune, i. 177.

  [145] The ‘Suizos de Aragon,’ of which the unfortunate Fleury had
  been colonel, had not all perished on Dec. 21.

  [146] Arteche, iv. 472, and Lejeune, i. 179.

Though the two main attacks continued to press slowly forward, and
that on the left had now reached the Coso and covered a front of
100 yards on the southern side of that great street, it was not on
this front that the decisive blow was destined to be given. On the
eighteenth Lannes determined to deliver the great assault on the
suburb, where the batteries in the third parallel and about the
Jesus convent had now completely shattered the San Lazaro defences.
All Gazan’s men being now back in their trenches, since Mortier’s
expedition had driven off the Marquis of Lazan, Lannes considered
that he might safely risk the storm. Fifty-two siege-guns played on
San Lazaro throughout the morning of the eighteenth, and no less
than eight practicable breaches were opened in it and the works to
its right and left. At noon three storming columns leaped out of the
trenches and raced for the nearest of these entries. All three burst
through: there was a sharp struggle in the street of the suburb, and
then the French reached and seized a block of houses at the head of
the bridge, which cut the defence in two and rendered a retreat into
Saragossa almost impossible. The Spaniards, seeing that all was lost,
split into two bodies: one tried to force its way across the bridge;
but only 300 passed; the rest were slain or captured. The main part,
consisting of the defenders of the western front of the suburb,
formed in a solid mass and, abandoning their defences, tried to
escape westward up the bank of the Ebro, into the open country. They
got across the inundation in their front, but when they had gone thus
far were surrounded by two regiments of French cavalry, and forced to
surrender. They numbered 1,500 men, under General Manso, commanding
the 3rd division of Palafox’s army, the one which furnished the
garrison of the suburb. The officer commanding the whole transpontine
defence, Baron de Versage, had been killed by a cannon-ball on the

  DEC. 1808 TO FEB. 1809]

This was not the only disaster suffered by the Saragossans on the
eighteenth: at three in the afternoon, when the news of the loss
of the suburb had had time to spread round the town, and the
attention of the besieged was distracted to this side, Grandjean’s
division attacked the houses and barricades in the north-eastern part
of the city, which had so long held them at bay. A great mine opened
a breach in the University, which was stormed, and with it fell the
houses on each side, as far as the Coso. At the same time another
attack won some ground in the direction of the Trinity convent, and
the Ebro. Next day the Spaniards in this remote corner of the town,
almost cut off from the main body of the defenders, and now battered
from the rear by new works thrown up in the suburb, in and about San
Lazaro, drew back and abandoned the quarter of the Tanneries, the
quays, and the outer _enceinte_ looking over the mouth of the Huerba.

On the nineteenth it was evident that the end had come: a third of
the ever-dwindling force of effective men of which Palafox could
dispose had been killed or captured at the storm of San Lazaro. The
city was now being fired on from the north, the only side which had
hitherto been safe. The epidemic was worse than ever--600 a day are
said to have died during the final week of the siege. The last mills
which the garrison possessed had lately been destroyed, and no more
flour was issued, but unground corn, which had to be smashed up
between paving-stones, or boiled and eaten as a sort of porridge.
The supply of powder was beginning to run low; not from want of
material to compound it, but from the laboratories having been mostly
destroyed and from the greater part of the arsenal workmen having
died. Only about 700 pounds a day [six quintals] could now be turned
out, and the daily expenditure in the mines and barricades came to
much more.

On this morning the French noted that at many points the defence
seemed to be slackening, and that parts of the line were very
feebly manned. They made more progress this day than in any earlier
twenty-four hours of the siege. Their main work, however, was to run
six large mines under the Coso, till they got below the houses on its
further side, somewhat to the right of San Francisco. Rogniat placed
3,000 pounds of powder in each, a quantity that was calculated to
blow up the whole quarter.

It was not necessary to use them. The spirits of the defenders had
at last been broken, and surrender was openly spoken of--though its
mention ten days earlier would have cost the life of the proposer.
Palafox on his sick bed understood that all was over; he sent for
General St. March and resigned the military command to him. But in
order that he might not seem to be shirking his responsibility, and
trying to put the ignominy of asking for terms on his successor,
he sent his aide-de-camp Casseillas to Lannes, offering surrender,
but demanding that the troops should march out with the honours of
war and join the nearest Spanish army in the field. Then he turned
his face to the wall, and prepared to die, for the fever lay heavy
upon him, and broken with despair and fatigue he thought that he
had not many hours to live. St. March’s appointment not being well
taken--the loss of the Monte Torrero was still remembered against
him--Palafox’s last act was to give over charge of the city to a
Junta of thirty-three persons[147], mainly local notables and clergy,
to whom the finishing of the negotiations would fall.

  [147] Their names can be found on p. 494 of Arteche, vol. iv.

Of course Lannes sent back the Captain-General’s aide-de-camp with
the message that he must ask for unconditional surrender, and that
the proposal that the garrison should be allowed to depart was
absurd. The fighting was resumed on the morning of the twentieth,
and the French were making appreciable progress, when the Junta
once more sent to ask terms from the besiegers. It was not without
some bitter debate among themselves that they took this step, for
there was still a minority, including St. March and the priest Padre
Consolation, who wished to continue the resistance. They were backed
by a section of the citizens, who began to collect and to raise angry
cries of Treason. But the whole of the soldiery and the major part
of the civilian defenders were prepared to yield. At four o’clock in
the afternoon they sent out to ask for a twenty-four hours’ truce to
settle terms of surrender. Lannes granted them two hours to send him
out a deputation charged with full powers to capitulate, and ordered
the bombardment and the mining to cease. His aide-de-camp, who bore
the message, was nearly murdered by fanatics in the street[148], and
was rescued with difficulty by some officers of the regular army.
But the Junta sent him back with the message that the deputation
should be forthcoming, and within the stipulated time eleven of its
members came out from the Portillo gate[149], to the Marshal’s head
quarters on the Calatayud road. There was not much discussion: Lannes
contented himself with pointing out to the Spaniards that the place
was at his mercy: he had the plan of his siege-works unrolled before
them, and pointed out the position of the six great mines under the
Coso[150], as well as those of the advanced posts which he had gained
during the last two days. The deputies made some feeble attempts to
secure that the name of Ferdinand VII should appear in the articles
of capitulation, and that the clergy should be guaranteed immunity
and undisturbed possession of their benefices. Lannes waved all such
proposals aside, and dictated a form of surrender which was on the
whole reasonable and even generous. The garrison should march out
on the following day, and lay down its arms 100 yards outside the
Portillo gate. Those who would swear homage to King Joseph should
have their liberty, and might take service with him if they wished.
Those who refused the oath should march as prisoners to France.
The city should be granted a general pardon: the churches should
be respected: private property should not be meddled with. The
citizens must surrender all their weapons of whatever sort. Any civil
magistrates or employés who wished to keep their places must take the
oath of allegiance to King Joseph.

  [148] In Lejeune, i. 194-5, will be found a most picturesque
  account of the interview of the French envoy with the
  fever-ridden and despairing Junta, almost hysterical with rage
  and shame, but accepting the inevitable.

  [149] It is notable that there was not a single churchman among
  them, though there were eight among the thirty-three members
  of the Junta. The clergy represented to the last the fighting

  [150] Lejeune, in his interesting narrative of this interview,
  says that he saw one of the deputies pore over the map and
  recognize his own house among the mined buildings; he crossed
  himself five or six times, and cried in accents of bitter grief
  ‘_Ah la Casa Ciscala_.’ The name of Don Joachim Ciscala does
  occur among the eleven signatures, so the story is probably true.
  Lejeune, i. 198.

On the following morning the garrison marched out: of peasants and
soldiers there were altogether about 8,000 men, 1,500 of whom were
convalescents from the Hospitals. ‘Never had any of us gazed on a
more sad or touching sight,’ writes Lejeune; ‘these sickly looking
men, bearing in their bodies the seeds of the fever, all frightfully
emaciated, with long black matted beards, and scarcely able to hold
their weapons, dragged themselves slowly along to the sound of the
drum. Their clothes were torn and dirty: everything about them bore
witness to terrible misery. But in spite of their livid faces,
blackened with powder, and scarred with rage and grief, they bore
themselves with dignity and pride. The bright coloured sashes, the
large round hats surmounted by a few cock’s-feathers which shaded
their foreheads, the brown cloaks or _ponchos_ flung over their
varied costumes, lent a certain picturesqueness to their tattered
garb. When the moment came for them to pile their arms and deliver up
their flags, many of them gave violent expression to their despair.
Their eyes gleamed with rage, and their savage looks seemed to
say that they had counted our ranks, and deeply regretted having
surrendered to such a small army of enemies[151].’

  [151] Lejeune, i. 202.

Another and more matter-of-fact eye-witness adds, ‘They were a most
motley crowd of men of all ages and conditions, some in uniform, more
without it. The officers were mostly mounted on mules or donkeys, and
were only distinguished from the men by their three-cornered hats and
their large cloaks. Many were smoking their _cigarillos_ and talking
to each other with an aspect of complete indifference. But all were
not so resigned. The whole garrison, 8,000 to 10,000 strong, defiled
in front of us: the majority looked so utterly unlike soldiers,
that our men said openly to each other that they ought not to have
taken so long or spent so much trouble in getting rid of such a
rabble[152].’ The column was promptly put in motion for France, under
the escort of two of Morlot’s regiments. Many died on the way from
the fever whose seeds they carried with them. Few or none, as might
have been supposed, took advantage of the offer to save themselves
from captivity by taking the oath to King Joseph.

  [152] Von Brandt, _Aus meinem Leben_, pp. 43-4.

It is sad to have to confess that the French did not keep to the
terms of the capitulation. That Lannes could not restrain his men
from plunder, as he had promised, was hardly surprising. There were
so many empty houses and churches containing valuables, that it was
not to be wondered at that the victors should help themselves to all
they could find. But they also plundered occupied houses, and even
stole the purses of the captive officers. What was worse was that
many assassinations took place, especially of clergy, for the French
looked upon the priests and friars as being mainly responsible for
the desperate defence. Two in especial, Padre Basilio Bogiero, the
chaplain of Palafox, and Santiago Sass, a parish priest, were shot
in cold blood two days after the surrender[153]. Public opinion in
the French ranks was convinced that they, more than any one else,
had kept the Captain-General up to the mark. Palafox himself was
treated with great brutality. As he lay apparently moribund, the
French officer who had been made interim governor of Saragossa came
to his bedside, and bade him to sign orders for the surrender of
Jaca and Monzon. When he refused, this colonel threatened to have
him shot, but left him alone when threats had no effect. Ere he was
convalescent he was sent off to France, where the Emperor ordered
that he should be treated, not as a prisoner of war, but as guilty
of treason, and shut him up for many years as a close captive in the
donjon of Vincennes.

  [153] For details, see Arteche, iv. 512-3.

The state in which Saragossa was found by the French hardly bears
description. It was a focus of corruption, one mass of putrefying
corpses. According to a report which Lannes elicited from the
municipal officers, nearly 54,000 persons had died in the place
since the siege began[154]. Of these about 20,000 were fighting-men,
regular or irregular, the rest were non-combatants. Only 6,000 had
fallen by fire and sword: the remainder were victims of the far more
deadly pestilence. A few days after the siege was ended Lannes stated
that the total population of the town was now only 15,000 souls,
instead of the 55,000 which it had contained when the siege began.
But his estimate does not include some thousands of citizens who had
fled into the open country, the moment that they were released from
investment, in order to escape from the contagion in the city. ‘Il
est impossible que Saragosse se relève,’ wrote the marshal; ‘cette
ville fait horreur à voir.’ It was weeks indeed before the dead were
all buried: months before the contagion of the siege-fever died out
from the miserable city. Even after five years of the capable and
benevolent government of Suchet it was still half desolate, and no
attempt had been made to rebuild the third of its houses and churches
which had been reduced to ashes by the mines and the bombardment.

  [154] Lannes to Berthier, March 19, 1809.

The French losses in front of Saragossa are not easy to calculate.
Belmas says that the total of casualties was about 3,000 in the
infantry, but he takes no notice of the losses by siege-fever, except
to say that many died from it. He does not give the losses of the
artillery, except of that small part of it which was not attached
either to the 3rd or to the 5th Corps. Considering that the 3rd Corps
alone had 13,123 sick on January 15, and that typhus is a notoriously
deadly disease, it is probable that the total losses of the French
during the siege amounted to 10,000 men. It is hard otherwise to
explain the difference between the 37,000 men that the 3rd Corps
counted in October, and the 14,000 men which it mustered when Suchet
took over its command in April. The sufferings of the 5th Corps
were small in comparison, for till February began it took no very
serious part in the siege, and its health was notoriously far better
than that of Junot’s divisions[155]. But we cannot be far wrong in
concluding with Schepeler and Arteche that the total French loss must
have been 10,000 men, rather than the 4,000 given by Napier, who is
apparently relying on Rogniat. That officer gives only the casualties
in battle, and not the losses in hospital.

  [155] It seems quite clear that the ‘1,500 men in hospital’ which
  Belmas mentions on ii. 327 is a misprint for 15,000. For his own
  figures show that (p. 381) there were 13,000 invalids six weeks
  earlier, and before the deadly street-fighting had begun. How
  many died we cannot say, but Suchet in April had only 10,527 men
  present in nineteen battalions (_Mémoires_, i. 331), with eight
  more battalions ‘on command,’ which would give another 4,000. Von
  Brandt (p. 50) carefully says that the total of 3,000 dead does
  not include ‘the thousands who perished in hospital.’

So ended the siege of Saragossa--a magnificent display of civic
courage, little helped by strategy or tactics. For Palafox, though a
splendid leader of insurgents, was, as his conduct in October and
November had shown, a very poor general. He made a gross initial
mistake in shutting up 40,000 fighting-men in a place which could
have been easily defended by 25,000. If he had sent one or two
divisions to form the nucleus of an army of relief in Lower Aragon,
with orders to harass, but not to fight pitched battles, it is hard
to see how the siege could have been kept up. His second fault was
the refusal to make sorties on a large scale during the first half
of the siege, while he was still in possession of great masses of
superfluous fighting-men. He sent out scores of petty sallies of a
few hundred men, but never moved so many as 5,000 on a single day.
Such a policy worried but could not seriously harm the French, while
it destroyed the willing men of the garrison; if the Captain-General
had saved up all the volunteers whom he lost by tens and twenties in
small and fruitless attacks on the trenches, he could have built up
with them a column-head that would have pierced through the French
line at any point that he chose. Anything might have been done during
the three weeks while Mortier was at Calatayud, and especially during
the days when Gazan with his 8,000 men was cut off by the floods, and
isolated on the further bank of the Ebro.

The Captain-General’s conduct, in short, was not that of a capable
officer. But it is absurd to endeavour to represent him as a coward,
or as a puppet whose strings were pulled by fanatical friars. He knew
perfectly well what he was doing, and how to manage the disorderly
but enthusiastic masses of the population[156]. There can be no doubt
that his personal influence was all-important, and the effect of his
constant harangues and proclamations immense. It would be quite as
true to say that the friars and the mob-orators were his tools, as
that he was theirs. He had to humour them, but by humouring them he
got out of them the utmost possible service. Against the stories that
his proclamations were written for him, and that he had to be goaded
into issuing every order that came from his head quarters, we have
the evidence of Vaughan and others who knew him well. It is unanimous
in ascribing to him incessant activity and an exuberant fluency in
composition. Arteche has preserved some minutes on the siege which he
wrote long after the Peninsular War was over: they are interesting
and well-stated, but more creditable to him as a patriot than as a
military man[157]. There can be no doubt that the garrison might have
been much more wisely handled: but it is doubtful whether under any
other direction it would have shown so much energy and staying power.
There is certainly no other Spanish siege, save that of Gerona, where
half so much resolution was shown. If the defence had been conducted
by regular officers and troops alone, the place would probably have
fallen three weeks earlier. If the monks and local demagogues had
been in command, and patriotic anarchy alone had been opposed to
the French, Saragossa would possibly have fallen at an even earlier
date, from mere want of intelligent direction. Palafox, with all his
faults, supplied the connecting link between the two sections of the
defenders, and kept the soldiery to work by means of the example of
the citizens, while he restrained the citizens by dint of his immense
personal influence over them, won in the first siege. In short, he
may have been vain, bombastic, and a bad tactician, but he was a good
Spaniard. If there had been a few dozen men more of his stamp in
Spain, the task of the French in 1808-9 would have been infinitely
more difficult. The example of Saragossa was invaluable to the nation
and to Europe. The knowledge of it did much to sicken the French
soldiery of the whole war, and to make every officer and man who
entered Spain march, not with the light heart that he felt in Germany
or Italy, but with gloom and disgust and want of confidence. They
never failed to do their duty, but they fought without the enthusiasm
which helped them so much in all the earlier wars of the Empire.

  [156] The foundation for most of the stories against Palafox
  seems to be Lannes’ letter to Napoleon of 19 mars: ‘Ce
  pauvre misérable prêtait seulement son nom aux moines et aux
  intrigants.’ I cannot find anywhere the source from which Napier
  draws his statement that Palafox hid himself in a bomb-proof, and
  lived ‘in a disgusting state of sensuality,’ shirking all the
  dangers of the siege (i. 389).

  [157] Arteche, iv. 507-8.





By the middle of the month of February, as we have already seen,
Andalusia was once more covered by two considerable Spanish armies:
Cartaojal, with the wrecks of Infantado’s host and the new levies of
Del Palacio, was holding the great passes at the eastern end of the
Sierra Morena. Cuesta had rallied behind the Guadiana the remains
of the army of Estremadura. He was at present engaged in reducing
it to order by the only method of which he was master, the shooting
of any soldier who showed signs of disobedience or mutiny[158]. The
army deserved nothing better: its dastardly murder of its unfortunate
general in December justified any amount of severity in his successor.

  [158] There are details in the diary of a citizen of Badajoz in
  the _Vaughan Papers_.

Meanwhile Victor, after his victory at Ucles, and his vain attempt
to surprise Del Palacio, had passed away to the west, leaving
nothing in the plains of La Mancha save the dragoons of Milhaud and
Latour-Maubourg, who were placed as a cavalry screen across the
roads to the south, with their divisional head quarters at Ocaña and
Madridejos respectively.

The Marshal drew back to the valley of the Tagus, and marched by
Toledo on Almaraz; this was in strict execution of the plan dictated
by Napoleon before he left Spain. It will be remembered that he had
directed that, when the February rains were over, Victor should
move on Badajoz, to assist by his presence in that direction the
projected attack of Soult on Lisbon. Only when Estremadura and
Portugal had been subdued was the attack on Andalusia to be carried
out. Soult, as we shall see, was (by no fault of his own) much slower
in his movements than Napoleon had expected, and Victor waited in
vain at Talavera for any news that the invasion of Portugal was in
progress. Hence the Spaniards gained some weeks of respite: the ranks
of their armies were filled up, and the spirits of their generals

Cartaojal remained for some time at La Carolina, reorganizing and
recruiting the depleted and half-starved battalions which Infantado
had handed over to him. He had expected to be attacked by Victor,
but when he learnt that the Marshal had gone off to Toledo, and that
La Mancha was covered only by a thin line of cavalry, he began to
dream of resuming the offensive. Such a policy was most unwise: it
shows that Cartaojal, like so many other Spanish generals, was still
possessed with the fatal mania for grand operations and pitched
battles. He had in his head nothing less than a plan for thrusting
back the cavalry screen opposite to him, and for recovering the whole
of La Mancha. If Victor’s corps had been the only force available
to oppose him, there would have been something to say for the plan.
An advance on Toledo and Madrid must have brought back the Duke of
Belluno from his advance towards Estremadura. But, as a matter of
fact, Jourdan and King Joseph had not left the roads to La Mancha
unguarded: they had drafted down from Madrid two infantry divisions
of the 4th Corps, whose command Sebastiani had now taken over from
Lefebvre. The first division lay at Toledo: the third (Valence’s
Poles) at Aranjuez; thus the former supported Latour-Maubourg, the
latter Milhaud.

Ignorant, apparently, of the fact that there was anything but cavalry
in his front, Cartaojal resolved to beat up the French outposts.
With this object he told off half his infantry and two-thirds of his
horse, under the Duke of Albuquerque, a gallant and enterprising,
but somewhat reckless, officer, of whom we shall hear much during
the next two years of the war. Marching with speed and secrecy,
Albuquerque, with 2,000 horse and 9,000 infantry, fell upon Digeon’s
brigade of dragoons at Mora on February 18. He tried to cut it off
with his cavalry, while he attacked it in front with his foot. But
Digeon saw the danger in time, and fell back in haste, after losing a
few men of the 20th Dragoons and some of his baggage. His demand for
assistance promptly brought down Sebastiani, with the 1st division of
the 4th Corps, and the two remaining brigades of Latour-Maubourg’s
cavalry. The moment that he heard that a heavy force had arrived
in his front, Albuquerque retired as far as Consuegra, where the
French caught up his rear, and inflicted some loss upon it. He then
fell still further back, crossed the Guadiana, and took post at
Manzanares. Sebastiani did not pursue him beyond Consuegra, giving as
his excuse the exhausted condition of the country-side[159].

  [159] For these operations compare Jourdan’s _Mémoires_, pp.
  178-9, and Arteche, v. 228-31.

Cartaojal meanwhile, with the rest of his army, had come up from the
passes to Ciudad Real, following in wake of Albuquerque’s advance.
When he met with his lieutenant they fell to quarrelling, both as to
what had already occurred, and as to what should now be done, for
the Duke was anxious to induce his chief to make a general advance
on Toledo, while Cartaojal desired him to take a single division of
infantry and to try the adventure himself. While they were disputing,
orders came from the Supreme Junta that troops were to be detached
from the Army of La Mancha to strengthen that of Estremadura.
Cartaojal took the opportunity of getting rid of Albuquerque, by
putting him at the head of the detachment which was to be sent to
Cuesta. The Duke, not loth to depart, went off with a division of
4,500 infantry and a regiment of cavalry[160], and marched down the
Guadiana into Estremadura.

  [160] The cavalry regiment had only 264 sabres: the infantry
  battalions were Campomayor, Tiradores de Cadiz, Granaderos
  del General, militia of Cordova, Guadix and Osuna. Only the
  first-named was an old regular corps.

Cartaojal remained for the first three weeks of March at Ciudad Real
and Manzanares with the main body of his force, about 2,500 horse
and 10,000 foot, keeping behind him, at the foot of the passes, a
reserve of 4,000 men under La Peña. This was tempting providence,
for he was now aware that the whole 4th Corps, as well as a great
mass of cavalry, was in front of him, and that he might be attacked
at any moment. His position, too, was a faulty one; he had descended
into the very midst of the broad plain of La Mancha, and had occupied
as his head quarters an open town, easy to turn on either flank, and
with a perfectly fordable river as its sole defence. As if this peril
was not sufficient, Cartaojal suddenly resolved that he would make
the dash at Toledo which Albuquerque had proposed to him, though he
had refused to send his whole army against that point when the scheme
was pressed upon him by his late second-in-command. The nearest
hostile troops to him were a regiment of Polish lancers, belonging
to Lasalle’s division, which lay at Yébenes, twenty miles outside
Toledo. Making a swift stroke at this force, while it was far from
expecting any advance on his part, Cartaojal drove it in, killing
or taking nearly 100 of the Poles (March 24). But Sebastiani came
up to their aid with an infantry division and three regiments of
Milhaud’s dragoons. The Spaniard refused to accept battle, and fell
hastily back to Ciudad Real, where he established his whole army
behind the river Guadiana, in and about the open town. He was most
unsafe in the midst of the vast plain, and was soon to rue his want
of caution. Sebastiani had been joined by his Polish division and by
part of his corps-cavalry, and having some 12,000 or 13,000 men in
hand[161], had resolved to pay back on Cartaojal the beating up of
his outpost at Yébenes. On March 26, Milhaud’s division of dragoons
seized the bridge of Peralvillo, close to Ciudad Real, and crossed
to the southern bank of the Guadiana. The Spanish general called
up all his cavalry, and some of his foot, and marched to drive the
dragoons back. They withdrew across the water, but still held the
bridge, behind which they had planted their artillery. Next morning
Sebastiani’s infantry came up, and he determined to attack Ciudad
Real. Cartaojal, who was taken completely off his guard, was suddenly
informed that column after column was pressing across the bridge and
marching against him. He did not dream for a moment of fighting,
but gave orders for an instant retreat towards the passes. He threw
out his cavalry and horse artillery to cover the withdrawal of his
infantry, who hurried away in half a dozen small bodies across the
interminable plain. Sebastiani charged the Spanish horse with his
Polish lancers and Dutch hussars, supported by Milhaud’s dragoons.
The covering force broke and fled, and the pursuers came up with
several of the columns of the retreating infantry. Some of them were
dispersed, others were surrounded and taken prisoners. The pursuit
was continued next morning, till it was interrupted by a fearful
burst of rain, which darkened the horizon, hid the fugitives, and
stopped the chase, or Cartaojal’s army might have been entirely
destroyed. He lost in this rout, which it would be absurd to call a
battle, five guns, three standards, and more than 2,000 prisoners,
among whom were sixty-one officers. The loss in killed and wounded
was probably not very great, for there had been no attempt at a
stand, and the troops which were cut off had surrendered without
resistance[162]. The loss of the French was insignificant, probably
less than 100 men in all. They had stayed their pursuit at Santa Cruz
de Mudela, from whence they returned to Ciudad Real, where they lived
on the magazines which Cartaojal had collected before his unfortunate
march on Yébenes. Sebastiani dared not follow the fugitives into the
mountains, as he had received orders to clear La Mancha, but not to
invade Andalusia: that was to be the task of Victor.

  [161] He had his own original division of the 4th Corps (twelve
  batts.), Valence’s Poles (six batts.), the 3rd Dutch Hussars
  (part of his corps-cavalry), the regiment of Polish lancers, and
  Milhaud’s three regiments, the 12th, 16th and 21st Dragoons:
  apparently in all 12,744 men.

  [162] It seems clear that the 2,000 killed and wounded, given by
  Jourdan (p. 186) and _Victoires et Conquêtes_, is merely a rough
  estimate. Belmas’ figures (i. 69) are still more absurd: he makes
  the Spaniards lose 9,000 men from an army which did not exceed
  16,500 all told, including the rear division of La Peña.

Cartaojal recrossed the Despeña Perros, and established his head
quarters at Sta Elena, in front of La Carolina. His army had been
more frightened than hurt, and when the stragglers came in, still
numbered 2,000 horse and 12,000 infantry. But he was not allowed
to retain its command. Justly indignant at the carelessness with
which he had allowed himself to be surprised in front of Ciudad
Real, and at his general mismanagement, the Supreme Junta deposed
him, and replaced him by Venegas, though the record of the latter’s
operations at Ucles was hardly encouraging to the soldiery. By the
middle of April the army had been reinforced by new Granadan levies,
and could take the field, although its state of discipline was bad
and its _morale_ much shaken by the late events.



While Cartaojal and his Andalusian levies were faring so ill in La
Mancha, the army of Estremadura and its obstinate old general were
going through experiences of an even more disastrous kind. Cuesta,
it will be remembered, had rallied about Badajoz and Merida the
demoralized troops that had served under San Juan and Galluzzo. He
was, contrary to all expectation, allowed to remain unmolested for
some weeks. The irrational movement of Lefebvre to Plasencia and
Avila[163] had left him for the moment almost without an enemy in
his front. Along the middle Tagus he had nothing opposed to him save
Lasalle’s four regiments of light cavalry, supported by Leval’s
German division at Talavera. While Victor was engaged in the campaign
of Ucles, and in his subsequent circular march through La Mancha to
Toledo, the army of Estremadura enjoyed a time of complete rest.
Cuesta’s fault was not want of energy: after shooting a competent
number of mutineers, and disgracing some officers who had shown signs
of cowardice, he distributed his troops into three new divisions
under Henestrosa, Trias, and the Duke Del Parque, and began to move
them back towards the Tagus. As there was nothing in his way except
Lasalle’s light horse, he was able to take up, at the end of January,
the same line which Galluzzo had been forced to evacuate in December.
The French cavalry retired behind the river to Oropesa, abandoning
the great bridge of Almaraz, the main passage of the Tagus, on
January 29. Thereupon Cuesta broke the bridge, a difficult task, for
his mines failed, and the work had to be completed with the pick. It
was so badly managed that when the key-stone at last gave way, an
engineer officer and twenty-six sappers were still upon the arch,
and were precipitated into the river, where they were every one
drowned. The Captain-General then established his head quarters at
Deleytosa, a central point in the mountains, from which he commanded
the two passages of the Tagus, that at Almaraz and that by the
Puente del Conde, near Meza de Ibor. He arranged his 15,000 men with
advanced guards at the water’s edge, opposite each of the possible
points of attack, and reserves on the high ground to the rear. This
forward position gave much encouragement to the peasantry of New
Castile, and bands of guerrillas began (for the first time) to be
seen on the slopes of the Sierra de Gredos and the Sierra de Toledo.
There was a feeling of uneasiness even up to the gates of Madrid.

  [163] See pp. 4-5 of this volume.

To restrain the advances of the Spaniards, King Joseph sent out
Lasalle’s cavalry and Leval’s Germans on February 19, with orders
to clear the nearer hills. They crossed the Tagus at the bridge of
Arzobispo, a little below Talavera, and forced back the division of
Trias, which was watching this flank of Cuesta’s position. But the
country was almost impassable for cavalry, a mere mass of ravines and
spurs of the Sierra de Guadalupe, and after advancing as far as the
pass of San Vincente, and seeing the Spaniards begin to gather in
force on his front and flank, Lasalle retreated, and recrossed the
Tagus without having effected anything of importance.

It was not till a month later that the French took the offensive
in earnest. Victor was now returned from his excursion into La
Mancha, with his two divisions of the 1st Corps, and the six dragoon
regiments of Latour-Maubourg, whom he had drawn off to Toledo,
handing over the charge of observing Cartaojal to Milhaud and
Sebastiani. Uniting these forces to those of Leval and Lasalle, he
massed at Talavera an army of some 22,000 or 23,000 men, of whom
5,000 were admirable cavalry[164].

  [164] This is the estimate of Jourdan (_Mémoires_, p. 181), and
  exactly agrees with the figures which I give on p. 152.

Joseph and Jourdan were now of the opinion that it was time for
Victor to move forward on Estremadura, in accordance with the great
plan for the conquest of southern Spain, which the Emperor had left
behind as his legacy when he departed from Valladolid. It was true
that this movement was to have been carried out in co-operation with
the advance of Marshal Soult upon Portugal; but no news could be got
of the Duke of Dalmatia’s present position. The last dispatch from
him was nearly a month old. Writing from Orense on February 24 he
had stated that he hoped to be at Chaves by March 1, and should then
march on Oporto and Lisbon. According to Napoleon’s calculations he
was to be at the last-named city within ten days of the capture of
Oporto. It was therefore, in the opinion of Joseph and Jourdan, high
time that Victor should start, in order to get in touch with Soult
when the Portuguese capital should be occupied.

The Duke of Belluno, however, raised many difficulties, even when he
had been shown the Emperor’s orders. He complained that he ought to
have the help of Lapisse’s division, the second of his own Corps,
which still lay at Salamanca. He doubted whether he could dare to
take on with him, for an expedition into Estremadura, the German
division of Leval: he ought, perhaps, to leave it at Talavera and
Almaraz, in order to keep up his communications with Madrid. If this
were done he would muster only 16,000 men for his great forward
movement, and he had the gravest doubt whether Soult could or would
give him the assistance of which the Emperor had written, even if he
seized Lisbon within the appointed time. Finally, he was short of
engineer officers, sappers, horses, and reserve ammunition.

Much of what the Duke of Belluno wrote was true: in particular, the
idea of co-operation with Soult was perfectly chimerical: Napoleon
had worked out all his logistics to an erroneous result, from want of
a real conception of the conditions and difficulties of war in the
Peninsula. But some of the pleas which Victor urged merely serve to
show his disinclination to accept the task which had been set him;
and in especial he underrated the numbers of his troops beyond the
limit of fair statement. He had with him nine battalions of Ruffin’s
division, twelve of Villatte’s, eight of Leval’s; of cavalry he had
six regiments of Latour-Maubourg’s dragoons, three of Lasalle’s
light cavalry[165], two regiments of his own corps-cavalry, and the
Westphalian regiment of the 4th Corps which was attached to Leval’s
Germans. The total must have amounted to 15,000 infantry, and about
5,500 cavalry: he had also sixty guns with 1,600 artillerymen[166].

  [165] 26th and 10th Chasseurs and 9th Dragoons; the fourth
  regiment, the Polish lancers, was with Sebastiani (see pp. 146-7).

  [166] The February figures for Victor’s men _présents sous les
  armes_ are:--

  1st Division, Ruffin                       5,429
  3rd Division, Villatte                     6,376
  German Division [deducting one battalion]  3,127
  Corps-cavalry [two regiments]              1,386
  Latour-Maubourg’s dragoons                 2,527
  Lasalle’s three regiments                  1,121
  Westphalian _Chevaux-Légers_                 487
  Artillery of 1st Corps                     1,523
  Leval’s artillery (two batteries)            184
                                  Total     22,160

In spite of his reluctance Victor was forced to yield to the pressure
of Jourdan and the Emperor’s explicit orders. On March 14 he began to
make his preparations to cross the Tagus and to attack Cuesta: it was
reported to him that the roads starting from the two bridges which
were in his power, those of Talavera and Arzobispo, were neither of
them practicable for artillery, and that only the route by Almaraz
was suitable for the guns and heavy baggage. But the bridge of
Almaraz was broken, and beyond it were visible entrenchments thrown
up by the Spaniards, and a considerable body of troops--the division
of General Henestrosa. The Duke of Belluno determined to clear the
way for a crossing at Almaraz, by sending infantry across the Tagus
by the passages higher up-stream, with orders to sweep the southern
bank till they came opposite to the broken bridge. They were to
dislodge the force behind it, and then the artillery, the baggage,
and cavalry were to cross on a bridge of rafts, which was being
prepared close to Almaraz, in order to be ready the moment that it
should be wanted.

On March 15, therefore, Leval’s Germans crossed the Tagus by the
bridge of Talavera, with some of Lasalle’s cavalry, while on the
next morning Victor himself passed at Arzobispo with the divisions
of Villatte and Ruffin. The combined column pushed westward by a bad
road on the hillside overhanging the river, in a difficult country
of rocks and woods, seamed with countless ravines, where cavalry
could barely act and artillery would have been perfectly useless.
Cuesta, on hearing of this movement to turn his flank, threw back
his right wing, and bade it make a stand behind the ravine of the
little river Ibor, which falls into the Tagus half-way between
Arzobispo and Almaraz. His force in this direction consisted of the
division of the Duke del Parque, about 5,000 strong, with six guns.
On the seventeenth Victor’s columns, with the Germans of Leval at
their head, arrived before the defiles of Meza de Ibor, and found
themselves confronted by the Duke, who was firmly established on
the other side of the ravine, in a fine position, with his guns on
a projecting rock which enfiladed the high-road. Victor directed
Leval’s eight[167] battalions to cross the ravine, and storm the
heights on the other side. This they did in very gallant style, but
not without heavy losses, for the Estremadurans, confident in the
strength of their rugged fighting-ground, made a long and vigorous
resistance, till the Germans actually came to close quarters with
them and ran in with the bayonet. Del Parque’s line then crumpled
up, and dispersed over the hillsides: finding it impossible to bring
off his guns, he cast them over the precipice into the ravine below.
The Germans lost seventy killed and 428 wounded while climbing the
difficult slopes: Del Parque’s men probably suffered far less, as
they absconded when the enemy closed, and had been under cover till
that moment. The supposition of some French authorities that the
defenders of Meza de Ibor lost 1,000 men is most improbable. The
country was one exactly suited for a cheap defence, and for an easy
scattering over the hills in the moment of defeat.

  [167] One Hessian battalion was still absent, in garrison at
  Segovia, so the total of the division was not much over 3,000.

The Duke fell back on Deleytosa, higher up the side of the Sierra de
Guadalupe, where Cuesta had established his head quarters. Here he
was joined by another of the Estremaduran divisions, that of General
Trias, nearly 5,000 strong. Henestrosa, with the rest of the army,
was still watching the passage at Almaraz, where Cuesta had made up
his mind that the main attack of the French would be delivered. He
persisted for some time in believing that Victor’s movement across
the Talavera and Arzobispo bridges was merely a feint; and thus it
was that Del Parque had been left alone to bear the first brunt of
the attack. When he was at last convinced that the bulk of Victor’s
infantry was on his flank, and that Almaraz was hopelessly turned,
the old Captain-General hastily sent orders to Henestrosa to abandon
his entrenchments opposite the bridge, and to retreat on Truxillo
across the mountains. He himself took that path without delay, and
got off in safety with his two leading divisions, but Henestrosa had
to brush across the front of the advancing French, and was in some
danger. Luckily for him Victor was more set on clearing the road from
Almaraz than on pursuing the enemy.

When Henestrosa had disappeared, the passage was open, and the
cavalry of Latour-Maubourg and Beaumont, guarding the artillery and
baggage-train of the 1st Corps, crossed on the rafts which had been
prepared long before, and joined the infantry and the Marshal. The
passage presented more difficulties than had been expected, for it
proved impossible to construct a permanent bridge; the stream was
very fierce, and the anchors by which the floats were moored found
no hold in the smooth rocky bottom. The guns passed either by being
sent over on rafts or by means of a rope ferry, which was with some
difficulty rigged up. It was not till some time later that a solid
bridge of boats was built at this most important passage[168]. One
cavalry regiment was left behind to protect it[169].

  [168] Jourdan’s _Mémoires_, p. 182.

  [169] Apparently the Westphalian _Chevaux Légers_, which had
  hitherto been attached to Leval’s German division.

Cuesta, when he had united his three divisions, would have dearly
loved to give battle to Victor behind Truxillo, in the excellent
position of the Puerto de Santa Cruz, where the _chaussée_ from
Madrid to Badajoz crosses the Sierra de Guadalupe. His love for
general engagements was by no means cured by the event of his
experiments at Cabezon and Medina de Rio Seco. But he was withheld
from offering battle not by mere prudence, but by the fact that
he was expecting to receive two considerable reinforcements. The
Marquis de Portago was bringing up a detachment from Badajoz--three
battalions[170] which had been intended to form the nucleus of a
new Fourth division that was being organized in that fortress. At
the same moment Albuquerque was expected from the east, at the head
of the 4,500 men whom the Supreme Junta had detached from the
army of La Mancha, and had sent down the Guadiana to join that of
Estremadura. Cuesta wished to pick up these 7,000 men before he gave

  [170] Four more had to be left behind in the fortress.

Accordingly he evacuated the pass of Santa Cruz, and fell back
southward towards his reinforcements, leaving Henestrosa with the
bulk of his cavalry to act as a rearguard. That officer carried out
his duty with a dash and a vigour that were rare in Spanish armies
at this date. When the fiery Lasalle came pressing up against him
with his usual fury, the Spanish general contrived to inflict on him
two distinct checks. At Berrocal, half-way down the defile of Santa
Cruz, he made a sudden halt and drove in the leading squadron of the
French by a charge of his Royal Carbineers, a small remnant of the
Guard-Cavalry which had been serving with the Army of Estremadura
since its formation [March 20]. The French lost ten killed and
fifteen wounded[171].

  [171] Jourdan, p. 182.

This was a trifle, but on the next day Henestrosa scored a far more
tangible advantage. Noting that Lasalle’s leading regiment, the 10th
Chasseurs, had got far ahead of the rest of the division, and was
pushing on with reckless haste, he laid a trap for it in front of
the village of Miajadas. Presenting a small body of cavalry on the
high-road, he hid on each side of it a strong regiment of his own
horse, with orders to fall upon the flank and rear of the French when
they should have passed the ambush. The two corps set aside for this
surprise were Infante and Almanza, both regiments of La Romana’s army
from Denmark, which had not yet drawn their sabres since the war

Colonel Subervie of the 10th Chasseurs, advancing with heedless
confidence to charge the body of Spaniards in front of him, suddenly
saw himself enveloped and surrounded by the two regiments placed
in ambush. There was a furious _mêlée_, in which the chasseurs
lost one officer and sixty-two men killed and about seventy more
wounded, before they could cut their way out of the snare. The
sight of Lasalle’s main body coming up in haste to the rescue made
Henestrosa give the order for a prompt retreat, which he accomplished
without loss. ‘We arrived,’ writes a French officer of one of the
supporting regiments, ‘too late, and saw nothing but a cloud of dust
in the distance, made by the Spaniards as they rode away, and the
colonel of the 10th tearing his hair at the sight of his numerous
wounded[172].’ This lesson taught Lasalle more caution: it was
creditable to Henestrosa, though it must be confessed that he had two
men to one in the skirmish, in addition to the advantage of taking
his enemy by surprise. Oddly enough the regiments which accomplished
this successful _coup_ on the twenty-first were the same which
behaved worst in the great battle of the next week[173].

  [172] Rocca, p. 268.

  [173] See pp. 162-3.

At Miajadas, where this skirmish had taken place, the road descending
from the pass of Santa Cruz forks in two directions. One branch goes
towards Merida and Badajoz, the other and less important to Medellin,
La Serena, and the upper Guadiana. It would have been natural for
Cuesta to take the former route, which brought him nearer to his
base at Badajoz, and at the same time enabled him to cover the main
road to Andalusia, at which Victor was presumably aiming. But the
old general left this line unprotected, and retired by the eastern
path to Medellin. His main object was to secure his junction with the
reinforcements from La Mancha, which Albuquerque was bringing to him.
They were nearing La Serena, and would be cut off from him if he took
the road to Badajoz. At the same time he argued that, as he had thus
placed himself on the flank of the French, they could not afford to
march past him, since the moment that they left Merida behind them he
would be enabled to cut their communications with Madrid. He imagined
that Victor would prefer to fight him, and would not dare either to
take in hand the siege of Badajoz, or to advance against Andalusia,
without clearing his flank by a general action. The moment that he
should have picked up Albuquerque, Cuesta was prepared to indulge the
enemy with a fight, and if he were not attacked himself he intended
to take the offensive. This was sheer madness; even when he had drawn
in his last reserves the old general had but 20,000 foot and 3,000
horse[174], a number which only exceeded Victor’s total by three or
four thousand men because the latter had been dropping detachments
between Almaraz and Merida. Considering the relative value of the
individual soldiery of the two armies, Cuesta’s behaviour was that of
a criminal lunatic. We shall see that his tactics were as bad as his

  [174] The Spanish statements that Cuesta had only 2,200 horse
  seem disproved by a letter from Cuesta’s camp, Col. D’Urban to
  Cradock (April 7), to the effect that Cuesta had already rallied,
  after Medellin, fully 3,000 horse, but only 6,000 or 7,000 foot
  [Record Office].

The Marshal had left the two Dutch battalions of Leval’s division
at Truxillo, in charge of his sick: he dropped the 1st Dragoons of
Latour-Maubourg’s division at Miajadas, to guard the cross-roads,
and sent out the 4th and 9th from the same division along the upper
Guadiana, where they soon learnt of Cuesta’s presence on the other
side of the river. Lasalle’s light horse rode down to Merida, and
occupied the old Roman capital of western Spain without having to
strike a blow. Learning that the Spaniards had not retreated in
this direction, but by the eastern road, the Marshal (as Cuesta had
supposed likely) directed the bulk of his infantry on Medellin;
only the division of Ruffin remained behind, at the cross-roads of

Meanwhile Cuesta had evacuated Medellin, and fallen back to La
Serena, where Albuquerque joined him on the twenty-seventh. The
moment that the army was united, he turned back, and retraced his
steps towards his former position. On the twenty-eighth he reached
the town of Don Benito, only five miles from Medellin, and learnt
to his great pleasure that Victor was before him and quite ready to
fight. The Marshal had swept the whole country-side with his numerous
cavalry during the last four days, and discovering that there was no
Spanish force opposite him in any direction save that of La Serena,
had ordered Lasalle and Ruffin to march up and join him from Merida
and Miajadas. On the morning of the twenty-ninth he had his entire
army united, save the two Dutch battalions left at Truxillo, two
more of Leval’s battalions left at Merida[175], the 1st Dragoons at
Miajadas, and one other cavalry regiment which had been told off to
guard the bridge of Almaraz. He cannot have had less than 13,000
infantry and 4,500 horse, even when allowance is made for the sick
and the losses at Meza de Ibor and Miajadas. Cuesta outnumbered him
by 6,000 infantry, but was overmatched in cavalry by more than three
to two, since he had but 3,000 sabres, and even more hopelessly in
artillery, since Victor had brought over fifty guns to the field,
while he had only thirty.

  [175] Frankfort and the 1st of Hesse. See Sausez’s _Régiment de
  Francfort_, p. 30.

Having been joined in the early morning by Lasalle’s and Ruffin’s
detachments, Victor had drawn out his army in front of Medellin, when
his cavalry brought him the news of the approach of the Spaniards.
Medellin, an ancient town dominated by a Moorish citadel on a lofty
hill, lies in the angle between the river Guadiana and the Hortiga
torrent. The latter, easily fordable in March and dry in June, is
an insignificant stream but flows at the bottom of a steep ravine.
The Guadiana, on the other hand, is a river of the first class: the
great bridge which leads into Medellin is no less than 450 yards
long. There were several fords up-stream from the bridge, but in
March, when the river was high, it is doubtful whether they were
practicable. Victor’s line, drawn in a quarter of a circle from the
Hortiga to the Guadiana, was well protected on either flank by the
broad river and the steep ravine. His order of battle was rather odd:
its front line was composed of a division of infantry (Villatte’s of
twelve battalions) in the centre, with two projecting wings, each
composed of a cavalry division supported by two battalions of Leval’s
Germans. On the right, near the Hortiga, was Latour-Maubourg with
five of his six regiments of dragoons[176] and ten horse artillery
guns. On the left, beside the Guadiana, was Lasalle with three of
his own light cavalry regiments, and the 2nd Hussars of Victor’s
corps-cavalry. The remaining battalion of Leval’s division[177] was
with Villatte in the centre. Ruffin’s division, forming the reserve,
lay far to the rear on the further side of the Hortiga. He had with
him one cavalry regiment[178] and a reserve of artillery: one
battalion was detached to guard the baggage, which was parked at the
bridge-head below the town.

  [176] The sixth regiment (1st Dragoons) was still absent at

  [177] The division had started with nine battalions, but two (as
  will be remembered) were left behind at Truxillo, and two more
  at Merida. Those with Lasalle were the two Baden battalions,
  those with Latour-Maubourg a Nassau battalion, and one formed of
  the united light companies of the division. The second Nassau
  battalion was to the rear, with Villatte. See Sémélé’s narrative,
  p. 463.

  [178] 5th Chasseurs, of the corps-cavalry of the 1st Corps.

Victor’s army, therefore, formed a short and compact arc of a circle,
a mile and a half outside of Medellin. Facing him, three or four
miles away, was the Spanish army, ranged in a much larger arc, also
extending from the Hortiga to the Guadiana, in front of the town of
Don Benito. It was deployed along a series of gentle heights, on
either side of the main road from Medellin. The position, though
rather long for the Spanish numbers, presented many advantages for a
defensive battle: but it was Cuesta’s intention to go forward, not
to receive the attack of the French. He saw with pleasure that the
enemy had come half-way to meet him, and was about to fight with a
difficult defile (the bridge of Medellin) in his rear. Secure from
being outflanked by Victor’s numerous cavalry, for the two streams
covered his wings, he resolved to march straight before him and to
bear down the French line by a direct frontal attack. On his left
were the divisions of Del Parque and Henestrosa, eight battalions in
a single line, all deployed four deep. They had no supports whatever,
save one battalion of grenadiers which marched behind their centre.
On their outside flank rode three regiments of cavalry, close to
the ravine of the Hortiga[179]. The centre was composed of the four
battalions of the division of Trias, all drawn up in the same fashion
as the left wing. The right was formed by Portago’s incomplete
division[180] (only three battalions) and by the contingent from La
Mancha which Albuquerque had just brought up--seven strong battalions
with 4,500 bayonets. Outside Albuquerque’s extreme right, and on the
banks of the Guadiana, was placed a cavalry force corresponding to
that on the extreme left, and also formed of three regiments[181].
A few remaining squadrons of cavalry were posted in the intervals
between the wings and the centre[182]. The artillery went forward,
each battery with the division to which it was attached. This was a
most extraordinary order of battle: with the object of securing his
flanks and of covering the whole space between the rivers, Cuesta
was advancing with a front of nearly four miles and a depth of only
four men! There is no parallel in modern history for such a dangerous
array. If any single point in the long line gave way, there was no
reserve with which to fill the gap and save the day. And it was
morally certain that a weak point would be found somewhere, for many
of the battalions were raw troops which had never seen fire, and the
greater part of the others had graduated in the school of panic under
Belvedere and San Juan.

  [179] These were the regiments Infante and Almanza (from Denmark)
  and the new cavalry regiment of Toledo. Letter of Sir Benjamin
  D’Urban to Cradock, April 8, 1809 (Record Office).

  [180] Its remainder was garrisoning Badajoz. Those on the field
  were Badajoz (two batts.), and 3rd of Seville (one batt.).

  [181] Apparently these regiments were Albuquerque’s regiment
  from the Andalusian army, with the Cazadores de Llerena (a new
  Estremaduran corps) and Del Rey (one of the Baltic regiments).

  [182] These were the two hussar regiments, Voluntarios de España,
  and Maria Luisa, the latter of which had been re-named ‘Hussars
  of Estremadura’.

Cuesta, however, was eminently satisfied with himself and with his
order of battle: he intended to envelop the shorter French line with
converging fire, to thrust it back on to the defile of Medellin,
and if possible to seize the bridge behind its left flank, and to
endeavour to cut off its retreat. Blind self-confidence could go no

When Victor advanced from Medellin he was aware of the proximity of
the Spaniards, and could see their cavalry vedettes on all the hills
in front of Don Benito, but it was not till his army had marched some
distance across the bare and level fields, that Cuesta revealed his
order of battle. When the French were well advanced in the plain,
the whole Army of Estremadura crowned the heights, and then swept
downward from them, in one continuous line forming an exact quarter
of a circle. The infantry was well closed up; each regiment had its
mounted officers in front, and the generals were riding up and down
the line, perpetually supervising the dressing of their battalions,
for they were quite conscious that in the order which Cuesta had
chosen any gap or wavering in the line would be ruinous. Each
division had its battery in front, and in the long intervals between
the guns a very thick line of skirmishers covered the advance of the
main body.

Facing this imposing line, as it will be remembered, the French had
the five dragoon regiments of Latour-Maubourg on the right, and the
four light cavalry regiments of Lasalle on the left, each supported
by two of Laval’s German battalions. The centre under Villatte was
somewhat ‘refused,’ and was much farther from the Spaniards than were
the two powerful wings of cavalry. As the enemy advanced, Victor
bade Latour-Maubourg and Lasalle to seize any good opportunity for
a charge, but not to risk, unless circumstances favoured them, a
general attack on the Spaniards, until they should have begun to lose
their order. The wings of the enemy being covered by the two rivers,
there could be no question of flank attacks, and frontal charges by
cavalry on unbroken infantry are proverbially dangerous.

When, however, the armies drew near, Latour-Maubourg thought that he
saw his chance, and bade one of his brigades (2nd and 4th Dragoons)
charge Del Parque’s infantry in the Spanish left-centre. The attack
completely failed: a fortunate discharge of the Duke’s divisional
battery blew a gap in the centre of the charging line; the battalions
on each side stood firm and opened a heavy fire, and the dragoons
went to the rear in disorder. Their flight exposed the flank of the
two German battalions which formed the centre of Latour-Maubourg’s
line. The Spanish infantry pressed forward, and engaged them with
vigour. This determined Victor to order his right wing to fall back
and to get into line with Villatte, before making another stand.
Accordingly Latour-Maubourg retired, his unbroken regiments moving
off in very good order, but suffering considerably from the fire of
the Spanish skirmishers, who ran forward with great rapidity and
pressed them hard.

The retreat of the right wing made it necessary for Lasalle on the
left to conform to the general movement. He also began to draw back
towards Medellin. ‘For two hours,’ writes one of his officers[183],
‘we gave back slowly and quietly, facing about at every fifty yards
to show a front, and to dispute the ground. Amid the endless whizzing
of bullets flying over our heads, and the deafening roar of the
shells, which rent the air and tore up the earth around us, we heeded
only the voice of our commanders. The further we retired the louder
shouted our foes. Their skirmishers were so numerous and daring that
they sometimes compelled ours to fall back for protection into our
ranks. They kept calling to us from a distance that no quarter should
be given, and that Medellin should be the Frenchman’s grave. General
Lasalle was riding backward and forward in front of his division,
with a lofty, fearless air. In the space which separated us there
might be seen the horses of disabled friends and foes, running on
every side, most of them wounded, some of them dragging their dead
masters by the stirrup, and struggling to free themselves from the
unmanageable load.’

  [183] Rocca (of the 2nd Hussars), _Mémoires de la Guerre
  d’Espagne_, 80.

In this fashion the French retired before the advancing army of
Cuesta, till they drew near the point where Victor intended to make
his stand. The right wing reached the new line of defence first: it
halted on the crest of the rising-ground to the north of the point
where Villatte’s infantry stood. The Marshal placed ten guns in
line, ordered the two German battalions to stand firm on each flank
of the artillery, and sent up the 94th of the Line from Villatte’s
division to aid them, as well as a battalion of picked grenadiers.
Latour-Maubourg’s horsemen, now all in good order again, covered
their flanks.

Then came the critical moment of the battle. If the Spaniards could
still push their advance, and thrust back the French infantry,
Victor’s position would be very serious. For a moment it seemed that
they might succeed. The battalions of Henestrosa and Del Parque came
forward with a steadiness that Spanish troops had not yet often
shown during the war. They closed upon the guns, in spite of their
rapid fire, and attacked the three battalions on their flanks, which
had been thrown into square for fear of cavalry attacks, and were
therefore not in very good order for defending themselves against

The leading Spanish officers had actually ridden into the
battery[184], and were cutting down the gunners, when Latour-Maubourg
ordered his dragoons to charge. The moment that he saw them on the
move, Cuesta, who had been riding on this flank, with the three
regiments of cavalry which covered the end of his line, ordered a
counter-charge against the flank of the advancing French. Then
followed a disgraceful scene: the Spanish squadrons rode forward in
an irresolute way for a few score yards, and then suddenly halted,
turned, and galloped to the rear in a disorderly mass before they had
arrived anywhere near the French dragoons. They collided with Cuesta,
upset him and rode over him[185]: the old man was with difficulty
saved and set upon his horse by his aides-de-camp. The fugitives
never drew rein, and fled far away to the north, almost without
losing a man. Their conduct was all the more disgraceful, because
two of the three regiments were old troops from the Baltic, which
had come back with La Romana and had not shared in any of the early
disasters of the Spanish armies.

  [184] Cuesta in his dispatch mentions that General Henestrosa,
  Captain Yturrigarey, and the English Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin
  D’Urban were the first three into the battery.

  [185] In a dispatch in the Record Office, Cuesta says that the
  particular corps which rode down himself and his staff was the
  raw ‘Toledo’ regiment.

The result of this shameful panic was instant disaster to the whole
Spanish right wing. Of Latour-Maubourg’s division one brigade went
off in pursuit of the routed cavalry, but the other three regiments
charged in flank the battalions of Henestrosa and Del Parque, just
as they stormed the French battery on which they were intent. A
long line without supports, such as that which these two divisions
presented, was helpless when attacked by cavalry on the flank--it
suffered exactly the same fate which befell Colborne’s brigade at
Albuera two years later. While engaged in front with the three
battalions already before it, and with the regiment which Villatte
had sent up to aid them, it could not throw back its flank to face
the horsemen: nor had it any reserve whatever that could be utilized
to hold off Latour-Maubourg. The whole line was rolled up, and dashed
into atoms. Many men were cut down, a few captured, the remainder
fled in utter disorder towards the north. The French urged the
pursuit with cruel vigour, merciless all the more because they had
for a moment doubted of their victory.

While this struggle was raging on the northern part of the field,
Lasalle had been still falling back before the divisions of
Albuquerque, Portago, and Trias, across the plain which borders the
Guadiana. The Spanish line were still moving forward with great
steadiness, but had begun to fall into a sort of _échelon_ formation,
with the cavalry near the river most in advance, the infantry of
Albuquerque a little behind, and the Estremaduran battalions of the
centre still further to the rear. The fact was that General Eguia, to
whom Cuesta had given the charge of his whole right wing, was trying
to edge his cavalry between Lasalle and the Guadiana, in order to cut
him off from the bridge of Medellin. This end of the line, therefore,
was pushing forward very rapidly, while Trias, on the other hand, was
coming forward rather slowly, from a desire not to lose touch with
Del Parque’s division, the nearest troops to him in the other half of
the army.

Lasalle was keeping an anxious eye on the development of the action
further to the north, and the moment that he saw Latour-Maubourg
halt and prepare to charge, followed his example. His first blow was
delivered at the cavalry next the river: he flung against them the
2nd Hussars, with a chasseur regiment in support. These two corps,
charging with great fury, easily broke the Andalusian lancers,
who were leading the pursuit, and hurled them back upon the other
squadrons of the Spanish right. The whole body was thrown into
disorder and driven off the field, leaving the flank of Albuquerque’s
division completely uncovered. Lasalle then re-formed his men and
prepared to charge the infantry. He had been reinforced meanwhile
by one of Villatte’s brigades (63rd and 95th of the Line) and by
the one battalion of Leval’s Germans, which had hitherto remained
with the centre. While these seven battalions of fresh troops
delivered a frontal attack on Albuquerque and Trias, Lasalle hurled
his four regiments of cavalry upon their unprotected right flank.
The Spaniards were doomed to destruction, but for some time kept
up a show of resistance; Albuquerque had got two or three of his
battalions out of line into column, and for a moment these held back
Lasalle’s chasseurs. But the fight lasted for a few minutes only:
a new French force was coming up. Latour-Maubourg, returning from
the pursuit of Cuesta with two of his dragoon regiments, appeared
upon the flank and rear of Trias’ division and charged in upon it
from behind. This last assault was decisive: the whole Spanish line
broke up and fled eastward over the open ground along the river.
The six regiments of French cavalry were soon in pursuit, and rode
in among the flying horde, using the sabre with reckless cruelty,
and far more intent on slaughter than on taking prisoners. Lasalle’s
chasseurs were specially savage, having to avenge the bloody check
which they had received at Miajadas in the preceding week[186].
‘Our troops,’ says a French witness, ‘who had been threatened with
no quarter by the Spaniards if they had been overpowered, and who
were enraged by five hours of preliminary fighting, at first spared
no one. The infantry, following behind at a distance, dispatched
the wounded with their bayonets. Most of all they were pitiless to
such of the Spanish regiments as were without a proper military
uniform[187].’ Another eye-witness describes the pursuit as ‘one
continuous slaughter till night fell.’ Some of the Spanish battalions
dispersed in the most helpless confusion, and fled in all directions
when the line was broken. Others tried to close up and to defend
themselves: this made their flight slower, and sometimes led to their
complete extermination. Rocca says that he saw the two regiments of
Spanish and Walloon Guards lying dead _en masse_ in the order which
they had occupied at the moment of the breaking of the line[188].
The statement is borne out, at least as to the Walloons, by the fact
that the next morning-state of Cuesta’s army which has been preserved
shows that regiment with only 300 men surviving out of two whole
battalions[189]. If any of the infantry of the Spanish right wing
escaped at all, it was partly owing to the fact that the two cavalry
regiments in the centre of the line[190] showed a much better spirit
than their comrades on the wings, and protected the flight of some
battalions. Moreover a frightful thunderstorm swept over the plains
late in the afternoon, darkened the whole horizon, and caused the
French squadrons to halt and cease their pursuit.

  [186] Half-a-dozen French authorities speak of the wrath of the
  chasseurs as justifiable, because their comrades at Miajadas had
  been murdered (_égorgés_, or _lâchement assassinés_). But the
  Spaniards had killed them in fair fight.

  [187] Rocca, _Mémoires_, p. 82.

  [188] Ibid., p. 84.

  [189] See the Table in Arteche, vi. 476.

  [190] These were the hussar regiments ‘Volunteers of Spain’ and
  ‘Estremadura’ (late Maria Luisa). Cuesta says in his dispatch
  that they saved the battalions of Merida, and Provincial of
  Badajoz, which had been surrounded and nearly cut off.

  MARCH 28TH 1809]

The slaughter, nevertheless, had been terrible. Of the 10,000 men
whom the Spaniards lost on this fatal day three-fourths fell by the
edge of the sword: only 1,850 prisoners were sent back to Talavera,
and even if some others had succeeded in escaping during their march
to the rear, it is certain that the Spanish casualty-list amounted
to at least 7,500 men. Nine standards were taken--less than might
have been expected, for the twenty-three Spanish battalions present
must have brought forty-six to the field. Twenty pieces of artillery
fell into the hands of the French, out of the thirty which Cuesta had
possessed. Some few batteries therefore (perhaps the horse artillery
of the evasive cavalry brigades) had succeeded in escaping from the

Most French authors unite in stating that the total loss on their
side was only 300 men[191]. This figure is as absurd as that given
for Soult’s losses at Corunna: there were five hours of fighting,
and for a long time the battle had gone by no means in favour of
Victor’s men. It is improbable that they suffered less than 1,000
casualties, and the figure may have been higher, for one brigade
of Latour-Maubourg’s dragoons was beaten back while charging
guns--always a bloody business for cavalry--while the German
battalions which retired across the plain in column, played on by
artillery and harassed by skirmishers, must also have suffered

  [191] This is the figure given by Jourdan, and General Sémélé,
  who ought to have known the facts. It is, of course, reproduced
  by Thiers, and the other historians. But I agree with Napier
  (ii. 71) in considering the figure ‘scarcely credible.’ Rocca
  says that the French lost 4,000 men, but from the context, I
  suspect this to be a misprint for 400. Schepeler, always a very
  well-informed and impartial writer, guesses at 2,000, and he may
  not be far wrong.

Cuesta’s cavalry, owing to the disgraceful cowardice shown by the
majority of the regiments, had got off comparatively intact. The
whole of his dreadful losses had fallen on his infantry, and they
had been scattered so far and wide over the Estremaduran plain that
it was many days before he could get together a respectable force.
He took refuge at Monasterio[192] in the mountains in the direction
of Andalusia, and sent urgent appeals for reinforcements to the
Central Junta. It might have been expected that the Junta would
disgrace him and remove him from command, as they had Cartaojal,
Infantado, and Castaños. But apparently they were rather cheered
by the fact that Cuesta had seriously disputed the victory with
the French, than angered with the want of generalship which he had
shown. They voted that he and his army had deserved well of the
State, and distributed honours and promotion to all the officers whom
he recommended for good conduct during the action. Rocca remarks
that they must have had in their minds the doings of the Romans
after Cannae, when the steadfast Senate thanked the consul Varro
‘for not having despaired of the republic,’ instead of removing him
for rashness and incompetence[193]. At any rate, they conferred on
Cuesta the post of Captain-General of Estremadura, and hurried up to
reinforce him all the troops that they could spare, a strong brigade
of new Granadan levies[194], and a division drawn from the army of
Cartaojal consisting of nine old battalions of regular troops with a
force of 6,000 bayonets[195]. Thus reinforced the host of Cuesta was
as strong as on the eve of Medellin, and once more mustered 20,000
foot and 3,000 horse. By the middle of April the whole had been drawn
together, and reorganized into five divisions of foot and two of
horse. This was the army that was to co-operate with Wellesley in the
campaign of Talavera.

  [192] By April 8 he had collected there 3,000 horse and 6,000 or
  7,000 foot. Letter of D’Urban to Cradock, April 8.

  [193] Rocca, _Mémoires_, p. 86.

  [194] Regiment of Velez-Malaga (three batts.), and 2nd battalion
  of Antequera, 3,600 bayonets in all.

  [195] Also some stray squadrons of cavalry which had gone to the
  rear to get horses in Andalusia (Letter of Frere to Castlereagh
  in Record Office).

‘In any other country of Europe,’ wrote Marshal Jourdan, ‘the gaining
of two such successes as Medellin and Ciudad Real would have reduced
the country-side to submission, and have enabled the victorious
armies to press forward to new conquests. In Spain the reverse was
the case: the greater the disaster suffered by the national troops,
the more willing were the population to rise and take arms. Already
the communications between Victor and Sebastiani were cut: several
bearers of dispatches were massacred, and even some detachments cut
off. An insurrection almost burst out at Toledo, where a garrison
of insufficient strength had been left. It was only averted by the
providential arrival of an officer with a reinforcement of 500 men.
The communications of the 1st Corps with Madrid were in no better
state: bands of insurgents gathered in the valley of the Tietar, and
threatened to fall upon Almaraz and to break the bridge of boats. The
King had to send down in haste 600 bayonets from Madrid to preserve
this all-important post[196].’ At the same time the road from Almaraz
to Salamanca was closed by a trifling Spanish force of two battalions
under the brigadier Carlos d’España which had been levied about
Caceres and Bejar, and occupied the pass of Baños. It was aided by
a battalion of the Loyal Lusitanian legion, which Sir Robert Wilson
had sent forward from Almeida. Thus Lapisse at Salamanca could only
communicate with Victor at Merida by the circuitous route of Arevalo,
Madrid, and Almaraz.

  [196] Jourdan, _Mémoires_, pp. 187-8.

The Duke of Belluno had been ordered by the Emperor to beat the Army
of Estremadura, and then to get into touch with Soult, who should
have been due at Lisbon long ere this. But no news of the 2nd Corps
had come to hand: it was known to have penetrated into northern
Portugal, but its exact position could not be learnt. Victor,
refusing to move till he had news of his colleague, cantoned his
army at Merida and Medellin, and put the old castles of both these
places, as well as that of Truxillo, in a state of defence. He would
probably have done well to utilize the time of necessary waiting in
laying siege to Badajoz. But he contented himself with watching that
fortress and observing the reorganized army of Cuesta, which had
now grown once more to a respectable force, and might have harassed
considerably any part of the 1st Corps which should attempt to molest
the capital of Estremadura. Instead of attacking the place, Victor
contented himself with sending to it vain summonses to surrender, and
with endeavouring to discover whether it might not contain traitors
ready to negotiate with King Joseph. He brought down from Madrid,
as his agent, a Spanish magistrate named Sotelo, who had become a
zealous _Afrancesado_. Through this person he addressed letters both
to the governor of Badajoz and to the Central Junta at Seville.
After setting forth all the evils which the continuance of the war
was bringing upon Spain, Sotelo stated that his king was ready to
grant the most liberal and benevolent terms to the Junta, in order
to spare further effusion of blood. The letter was duly forwarded
to Seville, where it was laid before the government. The ironical
answer was promptly returned ‘that if Sotelo possessed full powers to
negotiate for peace on the basis of the restoration of Ferdinand VII,
and the prompt evacuation of Spain by the French armies, peace would
be possible. If not, the Junta must continue to carry out the mandate
conferred upon it by the nation; according to which it could conclude
no truce or treaty except on the two conditions stated above.’ Sotelo
tried to continue the negotiation, but his offers were disregarded,
and Victor soon realized that he would obtain no further advantages
save by his sword. He remained at Merida waiting in vain for the news
of Soult’s advance on Lisbon, which was, according to Napoleon’s
orders, to be the signal for the 1st Corps to resume its advance.

N.B.--For the campaign of Medellin I have used the narratives of
Rocca and Sémélé (the latter often very inaccurate), the _Mémoires_
of Jourdan, the day-book of the Frankfort regiment of Laval’s
division, and Victor’s correspondence with King Joseph, and on the
Spanish side the dispatches of Cuesta, also two letters from D’Urban
(British attaché on Cuesta’s staff) to Cradock, and some enclosures
sent by Frere to Castlereagh.





(JANUARY 19-MARCH 6, 1809)

After the departure of Bonaparte for Paris there were, as we have
already shown, only two points in the Peninsula where the strength
of the French armies was such as to allow them to continue the great
movement of advance which their master had begun. We have already
seen how Victor, after advancing from the Tagus to the Guadiana,
found his initiative exhausted, even after his victory at Medellin.
He had halted, and refused to take the offensive against Lisbon or
Andalusia till he should be heavily reinforced.

It remains to be seen how the other French army available for
immediate field operations had fared. Moore’s daring march and
the ensuing retreat had drawn up into the extreme north-west of
the Peninsula the 2nd, 6th, and 8th _corps d’armée_. Of these the
last-named had been dissolved at the new year, and the bulk of its
battalions had been transferred to Soult’s corps, which on January
20 had a nominal effective of more than 40,000 men. Ney’s Corps, the
6th, was much smaller, and does not seem to have amounted to more
than 16,000 or 18,000 sabres and bayonets. But between Astorga, the
rearmost point occupied by Ney, and Corunna, which Soult’s vanguard
had entered on January 19, there were on paper 60,000 men available
for active operations. Nor had they to guard their own communications
with Madrid or with France. Lapisse’s numerous division had been
left at Salamanca; there was a provisional brigade at Leon[197];
Bonnet held Santander with another division; there were detachments
in Zamora, Valladolid, and the other chief towns of the Douro valley.
Somewhat later, in April, the Emperor moved another whole army
corps, that of Mortier, into Old Castile, when it became available
after the fall of Saragossa. Even without this reinforcement he
thought that the rear of the army in Galicia was adequately covered.
The parting instructions of Bonaparte to Soult have already been
cited: when the English should have embarked, the Duke of Dalmatia
was to march on Oporto, and ten days later was to occupy Lisbon.
We have already seen that the scheme of dates which Napoleon laid
down for these operations was impossible, even to the borders of
absurdity: Oporto was to be seized by February 1, and Lisbon by
February 10! But putting aside this error, which was due to his
persistent habit of ignoring the physical conditions of Spanish roads
and Spanish weather, the Emperor had drawn up a plan which seemed
feasible enough. Ney’s corps was to move up and occupy all the chief
strategical points in Galicia, taking over both the garrison duty
and the task of stamping out any small lingering insurrections in
the interior. This would leave Soult free to employ the whole of his
four divisions of infantry and his three divisions of cavalry for the
invasion of Portugal. Even allowing for the usual wastage of men in a
winter campaign, the Emperor must have supposed that, with a nominal
effective of 43,000 men, Soult would be able to provide more than
30,000 efficients for the expedition against Lisbon[198]. Considering
that the Portuguese army was still in the making, and that no more
than 8,000 British troops remained in and about Lisbon, the task
assigned to the Duke of Dalmatia did not on the face of it appear

  [197] It was composed of the few battalions of the 8th Corps
  which had not been drafted into the 2nd.

  [198] When the Emperor looked at the half-monthly returns of the
  army, which were forwarded to him as regularly as possible, and
  which pursued him wheresoever he might go, he must have seen
  the following statistics--those of Jan. 15 in the French War
  Office--for the 2nd Corps, taking the gross totals:--

  Infantry: Merle 12,119; Mermet 11,810; Delaborde 5,038; Heudelet
  6,592: Total 35,559.

  Cavalry: Lorges 1,769; Lahoussaye 3,087; Franceschi 2,512: Total
  7,368. Artillery and Train 1,468.

  Total of the whole corps 44,395. By Jan. 30, it had risen to

But in Spain the old saying that ‘nothing is so deceptive as
figures--except facts,’ was pre-eminently true. No map--those of 1809
were intolerably bad--could give the Emperor any idea of the hopeless
condition of Galician or Portuguese mountain-roads in January. No
tables of statistics could enable him to foresee the way in which
the population would receive the invading army. We may add that
even an unrivalled knowledge of the realities of war would hardly
have prepared him to expect that the campaign of Galicia would, in
one month, have worn down Soult’s available effectives to a bare
23,000 men. Such was the modest figure at which the 2nd Corps stood
on January 30, for it had no less than 8,000 men detached, and the
incredible number of over 10,000--one man in four--in hospital.
For this figure it was not the muskets of Moore’s host which were
responsible: it was the cold and misery of the forced marches from
Astorga to Corunna, which seem to have tried the pursuer even more
than the pursued. The 8,000 ‘detached’ were strung out in small
parties all the way from Leon to Lugo--wherever the Marshal had been
obliged to abandon stores or baggage that could not travel fast, he
had been forced to leave a guard: he had also dropped small garrisons
at Villafranca, Lugo, and Betanzos, to await Ney’s arrival; but the
most important drain had been that of his dismounted dragoons[199].
In his cavalry regiments half the horses had foundered or perished:
the roads so deadly to Moore’s chargers had taken a corresponding
toll from the French divisions, and at every halting-place hundreds
of horsemen, unable to keep up with the main body, had been left
behind. In any other country than Spain these involuntary laggards
would have found their way to the front again in a comparatively
short time. But Soult was commencing to discover that one of the main
features of war in the Peninsula was that isolated men, or even small
parties, could not move about in safety. The peasantry were already
beginning to rise, even before Moore’s army took its departure; they
actually cut the road between Betanzos and Lugo, and between Lugo
and Villafranca, within a few days after the battle of Corunna. This
forced the stragglers to mass, under pain of being assassinated.
Hundreds of them were actually cut off: the rest gathered in small
wayside garrisons, and could not get on till they had been formed
into parties of considerable strength. The rearmost, who had been
collected at Astorga by General Pierre Soult, the Marshal’s brother,
did not join the corps for months--and this body was no less than
2,000 or 2,500 strong. The other detachments could not make their way
to Corunna even when Marshal Ney had come up: it was only by degrees,
and after delays covering whole weeks, that they began to rejoin.
The only solid reinforcement received by Soult, soon after the
departure of the English army, consisted of his rear division, that
of Heudelet, which came up from Lugo, not many days after the battle
of January 16.

  [199] The state of the cavalry of the 2nd Corps on Jan. 30 gives
  the following astounding result:--

              _Present under Arms._  _Absent._      _Sick._
  Lorges               809               617          108
  Lahoussaye         1,130             1,400          256
  Franceschi         1,120               991          208
                     -----             -----          ---
                     3,059             3,008          572

  The drain under the second column represents mainly the men who
  had dropped to the rear, from losing their horses or being unable
  to take them on.

Soult was still far from suspecting the full difficulty of the
task that was before him. He had been much encouraged by the tame
way in which the Governor of Corunna had surrendered on January
19. If Alcedo had made the least semblance of fight he could have
detained the Marshal before his walls for an indefinite time. The
city was only approachable by a narrow and well-fortified isthmus,
and the French could not have battered this formidable front to any
effect with the six-pounders which formed their only artillery.
The surrender of the place gave Soult some food, the considerable
resources of a rich harbour town, and (most important of all) a
large number of guns of position, suitable for use against the other
fortress which he must take ere he moved on against Portugal.

This place was Ferrol, the second naval arsenal of Spain, which
faces Corunna across the broad inlet of Ares Bay--only thirteen
miles distant by water, though the land road thither by Betanzos,
round the head of the fiord, is forty miles long. To make sure of
this place was obviously Soult’s first duty: if left unmolested it
would prove a dangerous nucleus round which the Galician insurgents
could concentrate. For it contained a regular garrison, consisting
of the dépôts and half-trained recruits of La Romana’s army, and
of 4,000 or 5,000 sailors. There were lying in the harbour, mostly
half-dismantled and unready for sea[200], no less than eight
line-of-battle ships and three frigates. Their crews, much depleted,
but still numerous, had been landed to assist the soldiers in
garrisoning the forts[201]. In addition several thousand citizens
and peasants had taken arms, for muskets abounded in Ferrol, from
the stores lately received from England. With these resources it is
clear that a governor of courage and resolution might have made a
long defence; they were far greater than those with which Palafox
had preserved Saragossa; and Ferrol was no open town, but a fortress
which had been kept in good repair for fear of the English. But,
for the misfortune of Galicia, the commander of Ferrol, Admiral
Melgarejo, was a traitor at heart. He was one of the old bureaucrats
who had only followed the patriotic cause because it seemed for
the moment to be in the ascendant; if patriotism did not pay, he
was perfectly prepared to come to terms and to do homage to Joseph

  [200] For the state of this squadron see the report by Admiral De
  Courcy in the _Parliamentary Papers_ for 1809, Spain, March 29,
  1809, p. 4.

  [201] The marines had been taken away in July, 1808, and formed
  half a brigade in the division of the Army of Galicia. But the
  seamen were available.

On January 23 Soult marched against Ferrol with the infantry division
of Mermet, the dragoons of Lorges, and the heavy guns which he
had found in Corunna. He left Delaborde in garrison at the latter
place, posted Merle at Betanzos, a half-way house between the two
fortresses, and directed Franceschi’s cavalry division on Santiago
and Lahoussaye’s on Mellid, in order to see whether there was any
Spanish field-force visible in western Galicia. On the twenty-fifth
the Marshal presented himself in front of Ferrol, and summoned the
place to surrender. Melgarejo was determined not to fight, and
several of his chief subordinates supported him. The armed citizens
persisted in their idea of defending the place, but when the French
broke ground in front of the walls and captured two small outlying
redoubts, they allowed themselves to be overpersuaded by their
treacherous chief. On January 26 the place surrendered, and on the
following day Soult was received within the walls. The capitulation
had two shameful clauses: by the first the civil and military
authorities undertook to take the oath of allegiance to King Joseph.
By the second the splendid men-of-war in the harbour were handed over
intact, a most valuable acquisition for the Emperor if Galicia was
to remain under his control. Any one but a traitor would have burnt
or scuttled them before surrendering. But Melgarejo, after receiving
high testimonials from Soult, hastened up to Madrid and took office
under the _Rey Intruso_[202]. Along with the squadron 1,500 naval
cannon, an immense quantity of timber, cordage, and other stores, and
20,000 muskets newly imported from England, fell into the hands of
the French.

  [202] The Supreme Junta very properly condemned him and Alcedo,
  the governor of Corunna, to the penalties of high treason.

On the day after Ferrol was occupied, Soult received the last
communication from the Emperor which was to reach him for many a
day[203]. It was dated from Valladolid on January 17. We have already
had occasion to refer to it more than once, while dealing with the
controversies of King Joseph and Marshal Victor. This dispatch
repeated the Emperor’s former orders, with some slight concession in
the matter of dates. Instead of reaching Oporto on February 1 the
Marshal was to be granted four extra days, and after taking Oporto
on February 5, he was to reach Lisbon on the sixteenth instead of
the tenth. Soult was also told that he would not have to depend
on his own resources alone: Victor with the 1st Corps would be at
Merida by the time that the 2nd Corps was approaching the Portuguese
capital: he would be instructed to send a column in the direction of
Lisbon, to make a diversion in favour of the attack from the north,
and at the same time Lapisse from Salamanca should move on Ciudad
Rodrigo and Almeida. Bessières was, so the Emperor said, under strict
orders to send Lapisse forward into Portugal the moment that the
news should reach him that the 2nd Corps had captured Oporto. This
combination sinned against the rules of strategy, as they had to be
practised in Spain. The Emperor had yet to realize that in order
to make operations simultaneous, when troops starting from bases
several hundred miles apart are to co-operate, it is necessary that
their generals should be in free communication with each other. But
Soult, when he had advanced into Portugal, was as much out of touch
with the other French corps as if he had been operating in Poland or
Naples. It was literally months before accurate information as to his
situation and his achievements reached Salamanca, Merida, or Madrid.
The movements of Victor and Lapisse being strictly conditioned by
the receipt of news concerning Soult’s progress, and that news being
never received, or received too late, the combination never did and
never could take place. Napoleon had forgotten to reckon with the
ubiquitous Spanish insurgent: here, as in so many cases, he was
unconsciously assuming that the bearer of dispatches could ride
freely through the country, as if he were in Saxony or Lombardy;
and that Soult could make known his movements and his desires as
often as he pleased. French critics of the Emperor generally confine
themselves to censuring him for sending the 2nd Corps to attempt
unaided a task too great for it[204]; this is not quite fair, for
he had intended to support Soult by two strong diversions. The real
fault lay in ignoring the fact that in Spain combined operations,
which presuppose constant communication between the participants,
were practically impossible. The same error was made in 1810, when
Drouet was told to co-operate in Masséna’s invasion of Portugal, and
in 1811 when Soult was directed to lend a helping hand to that same
invasion. It is impossible to give effective aid to a colleague whose
condition and whose whereabouts are unknown.

  [203] Compare _Instructions de l’Empereur_ of Jan. 17, with
  Berthier to Soult of Jan. 21.

  [204] ‘Il faut croire,’ says St. Chamans, Soult’s senior
  aide-de-camp, ‘que Napoléon, au moment où il ordonna une pareille
  opération, était possédé d’un esprit de vertige. Comment
  pouvait-il risquer, au milieu d’un royaume insurgé, un si faible
  corps d’armée, sans communication avec ses autres troupes
  d’Espagne?’ [_Mémoires_, p. 117]. ‘Tout était en erreur,’ says Le
  Noble, another 2nd Corps writer, ‘dans le projet de soumettre le
  Portugal en 1809 avec une armée si faible et dépourvue de moyens.
  L’Empereur a montré une confiance aveugle’ (p. 65).

On January 29 the Duke of Dalmatia set to work to reorganize his
army for the great expedition that had been assigned to him. It was
impossible to march at once, as the Emperor had commanded, because
Ney had not yet arrived at the front, and it was necessary to turn
over the charge of Corunna and Ferrol to him before departing further
south. Moreover, there were many other arrangements to be made:
a base hospital had to be organized at Corunna for the thousands
of sick and wounded belonging to the 2nd Corps. Its transport had
to be reconstructed, for most of the animals had died during the
forced marches in pursuit of Moore[205]. A new stock of munitions
had to be served out from the stores so fortunately captured at
Ferrol. The military chest of the corps had been left behind at
Astorga, and showed no signs of appearing: to provide for the more
urgent day-by-day needs of the army, the Marshal had to squeeze
forced contributions out of the already exhausted towns of Corunna,
Ferrol, and Santiago, which had long ago contributed all their
surplus resources to the fitting out of Blake’s army of Galicia.
These same unhappy places had to submit to a heavy requisition of
cloth and leather, for the replacing of the garments and boots worn
out in the late marches. But even with the aid of 2,500 English
greatcoats discovered in store at Corunna, and other finds at Ferrol,
the wants of the army could not be properly supplied; it started
on the campaign in a very imperfectly equipped condition[206]. The
most dangerous point in its outfit was the want of mules: most of
the valleys of inner Galicia and northern Portugal are destitute
of carriage roads. To bring up the food and the reserve ammunition
pack-animals were absolutely necessary, and Soult could only collect
a few hundreds. Even if his men should succeed in living on the
country, and so solve the problem of carrying provisions, they could
not hope to pick up powder and lead in the same way. When, therefore,
the heavy baggage on wheels had to be left behind, the 2nd Corps was
only able to carry a very insufficient stock of cartridges: twice,
as we shall see, it almost exhausted its ammunition and was nearly
brought to a standstill on the way to Oporto.

  [205] The authors, English and French, who express a humanitarian
  horror at the shooting of 3,000 horses and mules before the
  embarkation of Moore’s army, forget what a godsend these would
  have been to Soult, if the English had left them to fall intact
  into his hands. The slaughter was dreadful, but perfectly
  necessary and justifiable.

  [206] All these details come from Le Noble, who as
  _Ordonnateur-en-Chef_ of the 2nd Corps, had full experience of
  the difficulty of equipping it for the Portuguese expedition.

It was not till February had already begun that Soult was able to
move forward the whole of his army, for he refused to withdraw
Delaborde’s division from Corunna and Mermet’s from Ferrol, till Ney
should have brought up troops of the 6th Corps to relieve them. The
Duke of Elchingen, though apprised of the Emperor’s orders, lingered
long at Lugo, and it was not till he came down in person to the
coast that Soult could call up his rear divisions. Meanwhile a small
exchange of troops between the two corps was carried out: Ney, being
short of cavalry, received a brigade of Lorges’ dragoons to add to
his own inadequate force of two regiments of light horse. In return
he made over to the 2nd Corps three battalions of the 17th Léger,
which had accompanied him hitherto. They were added to Delaborde’s
division, which had been only eight battalions strong.

Even before the troops from Ferrol and Corunna were able to move,
Soult had put the rest of his army on the march for Portugal. On
January 30 Franceschi’s light horsemen started along the coast-road
from Santiago to Vigo and Tuy, while further inland Lahoussaye’s
division of dragoons, quitting Mellid, took the rough mountain path
across the Monte Testeyro, by Barca de Ledesma and Cardelle, which
leads to Rivadavia and Salvatierra on the lower Minho. Merle’s and
Heudelet’s infantry started several days later, and were many miles
behind the advanced cavalry.

Lahoussaye’s division met with no opposition in the rugged
region which it had to cross, and occupied Salvatierra without
difficulty. Franceschi scattered a few peasants at the defile of
Redondela outside Vigo, and then found himself at the gates of that
harbour-fortress. The governor, no less weak and unpatriotic than
those of Ferrol and Corunna, surrendered without firing a shot. His
excuse was that he had only recruits, and armed townsfolk, to man
his walls and handle his numerous artillery. But his misconduct
was even surpassed by that of the Governor of Tuy, who capitulated
to Franceschi’s 1,200 horsemen three days later in the same style,
though he was in command of 500 regular troops, and was implored
to hold out by the local junta. Throughout Galicia, in this unhappy
month, the officials and military chiefs showed a most deplorable
spirit, which contrasted unfavourably with that of the lower classes,
both in the towns and the country-side.

The way to the frontier of Portugal had thus been opened, with an
ease which seemed to justify Napoleon’s idea that the Spaniards
would not hold out, when once their field armies had been crushed.
Franceschi and Lahoussaye reported to the Duke of Dalmatia that
they had swept the whole northern bank of the Minho, and that there
was nothing in front of them save the swollen river and a few bands
of Portuguese peasantry, who were observing them from Valenza, the
dilapidated frontier fortress of the neighbouring kingdom.

Both the French and the Galicians of the coast-line might well have
forgotten the fact that there was still a Spanish army in existence
within the borders of the province. It is long since we have had
occasion to mention the fugitive host of the Marquis of La Romana.
After being hunted out of Ponferrada by Soult on January 3, he had
followed in the wake of Craufurd’s brigades on their eccentric
retreat down the valley of the Sil. But while the British troops
pushed on to Vigo and embarked, the Spaniards halted at Orense.
There the Marquis endeavoured to rally his demoralized and starving
host, with the aid of the very limited resources of the district. He
had only 6,000 men left with the colours, out of the 22,000 who had
been with him at Leon on December 25, 1808. But there were several
thousands more straggling after him, or dispersed in the side valleys
off the road which he had followed. Most of these men had lost
their muskets, many were frost bitten, or suffering from dysentery.
The surviving nucleus of the army was composed almost entirely of
the old regulars: the Galician militia and new levies had not been
able to resist the temptation to desert, when they found themselves
among their native mountains. The Marquis hoped that, when the
spring came round, they would find their way back to the army: in
this expectation, as we shall see, he was not deceived. For nearly
a fortnight the wrecks of the army were undisturbed, and La Romana
was able to collect enough efficients to constitute two small corps
of observation, one of which he posted in the valley of the Sil, to
watch for any signs of a movement of the French from the direction
of Ponferrada, while the other, in the valley of the Minho, kept
a similar look out in the direction of Lugo. The latter force was
unmolested, but on January 17 General Mendizabal, who was watching
the southern road, reported the approach of a heavy hostile column.
This was Marchand’s division of Ney’s corps: the Marshal had divided
his force at Ponferrada; he himself with Maurice Mathieu’s division
had kept the main road to Lugo, while Marchand had been told off to
clear the lateral valleys and seize Orense. La Romana very wisely
resolved that his unhappy army was unfit to resist 8,000 French
troops. On January 19 he evacuated Orense, and fled across the Sierra
Cabrera to Monterey on the Portuguese frontier. Here at last he found
rest, for Marchand did not follow him into the mountains, but, after
a short stay in Orense, marched to Santiago, where he was directed to
relieve Soult’s garrison.

The Marquis was completely lost to sight in his frontier fastnesses,
and was able to do his best to reorganize his battered host. By
February 13 he had 9,000 men under arms, nearly all old soldiers,
for the Galician levies were still scattered in their homes. His
dispatches during this period are very gloomy reading: he complains
bitterly of the apathy of the country-side and the indiscipline of
his officers. What could be expected of subalterns, he asks, when
a general (Martinengo of the 2nd division) had absconded without
asking leave or even reporting his departure? ‘I know not where the
patriotism, of which every one boasted, is now to be found, since
on the smallest reverse or misfortune, they lose their heads, and
think only of saving themselves--sacrificing their country and
compromising their commander.’ Much harassed for want of food, La
Romana kept moving his head quarters; he was sometimes at Verin and
Monterey, sometimes at Chaves just inside the Portuguese frontier,
more frequently at Oimbra. He had only nine guns left; there was
no reserve of ammunition, and the soldiers had but few cartridges
remaining in their boxes. The strongest battalion left in the army
had only 250 bayonets--many had but seventy or eighty, and others
(notably the Galician local corps) had completely disappeared. He
besought the Central Junta to obtain from the British money, muskets,
clothing, and above all ammunition, or the army would never be fit to
take the field[207]. A similar request in the most pressing terms was
sent to Sir John Cradock at Lisbon.

  [207] Most of these details are from two interesting dispatches
  of La Romana in the Foreign Office papers at the Record Office.
  They are dated from Chaves on Jan. 28 and Feb. 13. They are
  unpublished and seem to be unknown even to General Arteche, who
  has made such a splendid collection of the materials in the
  Spanish archives which bear on this obscure corner of the war.
  There was an English officer, Captain Brotherton, with the army
  of La Romana: but his reports, which Napier had evidently seen,
  are now no longer to be found. No doubt they were bound up in the
  January-March 1809 book of Portuguese dispatches, which since
  Napier’s day has disappeared from the Record Office, leaving no
  trace behind.

Soult could not but be aware that La Romana’s army, or some shadow
of it, was still in existence: but since it sedulously avoided any
contact with him, and had completely evacuated the coast-land of
Galicia, he appears to have treated it as a ‘negligible quantity’
during his first operations. Its dispersion, if it required any
further dispersing, would fall to the lot of Ney and the 6th Corps,
not to that of the army sent against Portugal.

Franceschi and Lahoussaye, as we have already seen, reached the Minho
and the Portuguese border on February 2. It was only on the eighth
that the Duke of Dalmatia set out from Santiago to follow them, in
company with the division of Merle. Those of Delaborde and Mermet,
released by the arrival of Ney, took the same route on the ninth and
tenth respectively. The rear was brought up by the reserve and heavy
artillery, and by that brigade of Lorges’ dragoons which had not
been handed over to the 6th Corps. The coast-road being very good,
Soult was able to concentrate his whole army within the triangle
Tuy, Salvatierra, Vigo by the thirteenth, in spite of the hindrances
caused by a week of perpetual storm and rain.

It was the Marshal’s intention to enter Portugal by the great
coast-road, which crosses the Minho at Tuy and proceeds to Oporto
by way of Valenza and Braga. But as Valenza was a fortress, and its
cannon commanded the broad ferry at which the usual passage was made,
it was clearly necessary to choose some other point for crossing
the frontier river. After a careful survey Soult fixed on a village
named Campo Saucos, only two miles from the mouth of the Minho,
as offering the best starting-point. He established a battery of
heavy guns on his own side of the river, and collected a number of
fishing-boats[208], sufficient to carry 300 men at a voyage. As he
could not discover that the Portuguese had any regular force opposite
him, he resolved to attempt the passage with these modest resources.

  [208] These boats were brought to Campo Saucos overland, for
  a full mile and more. They came from La Guardia and other
  fishing-villages on the coast; but finding it impossible to
  get them over the bar of the Minho in such furious weather,
  and against the swollen stream, Soult dragged them from the
  beach north of the mouth to the crossing-point on rollers, much
  as Mohammed II did with his galleys at the famous siege of
  Constantinople in 1453. But Soult’s vessels were, of course, much

There would have been no great difficulty in the enterprise during
ordinary weather. But the incessant rains had so swelled the Minho
that it was now a wild, ungovernable torrent, which it was hard to
face and still harder to stem. When the heavy Atlantic surf met
the furious current of the stream, during the rising of the tide,
the conflict of the waters made the passage absolutely impossible.
It had to be attempted at the moment between the flow and the
ebb--though there was at that hour another danger--that the boats
might be carried past the appointed landing-place and wrecked on
the bar at the mouth of the river. But this chance Soult resolved
to risk: on February 16, long before daybreak, his twenty or thirty
fishing-boats, each with a dozen men on board, launched out from
the northern shore, and struck diagonally across the stream, as
the current bore them. They were at once saluted by a heavy but
ill-directed fire from the Portuguese bank, where hundreds of
peasants were at watch even during the hours of darkness. The
soldiers rowed and steered badly--Soult had only been able to give
them as guides a mere handful of men trained to the water[209]. The
furious current swept them away: probably also their nerve was much
tried by the fusillade, which, though more noisy than dangerous,
yet occasionally picked off a rower or a helmsman. The general
result was that only three boats with thirty-five or forty men got
to the appointed landing-place, where they were made prisoners by
the Portuguese. The rest were borne down-stream, and came ashore at
various points on the same side from which they had started, barely
avoiding shipwreck on the bar.

  [209] Soult had got together a few dozen seamen, French prisoners
  of war, found at Corunna and Ferrol, who had been captured at sea
  by Spanish cruisers. They were not ‘marines’ as Napier calls them
  (ii. 38), but _marins_ (see Le Noble, p. 75, and again p. 78).

The attempt to pass the Minho, therefore, ended in a ridiculous
fiasco: it showed the limitations of the French army, which among
its numerous merits did not possess that of good seamanship. Soult
was deeply chagrined, not because of the insignificant loss of men,
but because of the check to his prestige. He resolved that he would
not risk another such failure, and at once gave orders for the whole
army to march up-stream to Orense, the first point where there was a
bridge over the Minho. This entailed a radical change in his general
plan of operations, for he was abandoning the good coast-road by Tuy
and Valenza for a very poor mountain-way from Orense to Chaves along
the valley of the Tamega. There was another important result from
the alteration--the new route brought the French army down upon La
Romana’s camp of refuge: his cantonments in and about Monterey lay
right across its path. But neither he nor Soult had yet realized
the fact that they were about once more to come into collision. The
Marshal did not know where the Marquis was; the Marquis did not at
first understand the meaning of the Marshal’s sudden swoop inland.
Some of the Spanish officers, indeed, were sanguine enough to imagine
that the French, after their failure on the lower Minho, would
abandon Galicia altogether[210]!

  [210] Letter of Captain Brotherton [now lost] quoted in Napier,
  ii. 438, and dated from Oimbra on Feb. 21.

The whole French army had now made a half-turn to the left, and
was marching in a north-easterly direction. Lahoussaye’s dragoons,
starting from Salvatierra, led the advance, Heudelet’s division
marched at the head of the infantry; Delaborde, Mermet, and Merle,
each at a convenient interval from the preceding division, stretched
out the column to an interminable length. The heavy artillery and
wagon train brought up the rear. Nine hundred sick, victims of the
detestable weather of the first fortnight of February, were left
behind at Tuy under the guard of a half-battalion of infantry.

It was on the march from Tuy to Orense that Soult began to realize
the full difficulties of his task. He had already met with small
insurgent bands, but they had been dispersed with ease, and he had
paid little attention to them. Now however, along the steep and
tiresome mountain road above the Minho, they appeared in great force,
and showed a spirit and an enterprise which were wholly unexpected
by the French. The fact was that in the month which had now elapsed
since the battle of Corunna, the peasantry and the local notables
had found time to take stock of the situation. The first numbing
effect of the presence of a large hostile army in their midst had
passed away. Ruthless requisitions were sweeping off their cattle,
the only wealth of the country. Although Soult had issued pacific
proclamations, and had tried to keep his men in hand, he could not
restrain the usual plundering propensities of a French army on the
march. Enough atrocities had already been committed to make the
Galicians forget the misconduct of Moore’s men. La Romana, from his
refuge at Monterey, had been dispersing appeals to the patriotism
of the province, and sending out officers with local knowledge
to rouse the country-side. These probably had less effect on the
Galicians--the Marquis was a stranger and a defeated general--than
the exhortations of their own clergy. In the first rising of the
peasantry most of the leaders were ecclesiastics: in the region
which Soult was now traversing the peasantry were raised by Mauricio
Troncoso, Abbot of Couto, and a friar named Giraldez, who kept the
insurgents together until, some weeks later, they handed over the
command to military officers sent by La Romana or by the Central
Junta. In the valley of the Sil, beyond Orense, it was Quiroga,
Abbot of Casoyo, who first called out the country-side[211]. Every
narrative of the Galician insurrection, whether French or Spanish,
bears witness to the fact that in almost every case the clergy,
regular and secular, were the earliest chiefs of the mountaineers. It
was characteristic of the whole rising that many of the bands took
the field with the church-banners of their parishes as substitutes
for the national flag.

  [211] All the details of the Galician insurrection may be found
  in the very interesting _Los Guerrilleros Gallegos de 1809_, of
  Pardo de Andrade, reprinted at Corunna in 1892. It is absolutely
  contemporary and mainly composed of original documents written by
  men who shared in the rising. But naturally it contains errors
  and exaggerations.

This much is certain, that as soon as the violent February rains
showed signs of slackening, the whole of rural Galicia flew to arms.
From Corcubion on the surf-beaten headland of Finisterre, to the
remote headwaters of the Sil under the Sierra de Penamarella, there
was not a valley which failed to answer the appeal which La Romana
had made and which the clergy had circulated. From the weak and
sporadic movements of January there sprang in February a general
insurrection, which was all the more formidable because it had no
single focus, was based on no place of arms, and was directed not by
one chief but by fifty local leaders, each intimately acquainted with
the district in which he was about to operate.

The first result of this widespread movement was to complete the
severance of the communications between the various French divisions
in Galicia. From the earliest appearance of the invaders, as we
have already seen, there had been intermittent attempts to cut the
lines of road by which the 2nd and 6th Corps kept touch with each
other and with Madrid. But hitherto a convoy, or escort of a couple
of hundred men, could generally brush aside its assailants, and get
through from post to post. In February this power of movement ceased:
the insurgents became not only more numerous and more daring, but
infinitely more skilful in their tactics. Instead of endeavouring
to deliver combats in the open, they broke the bridges, burnt the
ferry-boats, cut away the road in rocky places, and then hung
persistently about any corps that was on the move, as soon as it
began to get among the obstacles. They fired on it from inaccessible
side-hills, attacked and detained its rearguard so as to delay its
march, thus causing a gap to grow between it and the main body, and
only closed when the column was beginning to get strung out into a
series of isolated groups. The convoys which were being sent up from
Astorga to the 2nd and 6th Corps were especially vulnerable to such
tactics: the shooting of a few horses in a defile would hopelessly
block the progress of everything that was coming on from behind. The
massing of men to repair or rehorse disabled wagons only gave the
lurking insurgent a larger and an easier target. Hence the bringing
up to the front of the heavy transport of the French army became such
a slow and costly business, that the attempt to move it was after
a time almost abandoned. Another point which the insurgents soon
perceived was the helplessness of the French cavalry among rocks
and defiles. A horseman cannot get at an enemy who lurks above his
head in precipitous crags, refuses to come down to the high-road,
and takes careful shots from his eyrie into the squadron below. If,
worried beyond endurance, the French officers dismounted some of
their men to charge the hillside, the lightly-equipped peasants fled
away, and were out of sight before the dragoons in their heavy boots
could climb the first fifty yards of the ascent. The copious annals
of the Galician guerrilla bands almost invariably begin with tales of
the annihilation of insufficiently guarded convoys, or of the defeat
and extermination of small bodies of cavalry caught in some defile. A
very little experience of such petty successes soon taught them the
right way to deal with the French. The invaders could not be beaten
_en masse_, but might be cut off in detail, harassed into exhaustion,
and so isolated one from the other that it would require the sending
out of a considerable expedition to carry a message between two
neighbouring garrisons, or to forward a dispatch down the high-road
to Madrid.

In a very short time intercommunication between the various sections
of the French army in Galicia became so rare and uncertain, that each
commander of a garrison or chief of a column found himself in the
condition of a man lost in a fog. His friends might be near or far,
might be faring ill or prosperously, but it was almost impossible
to get news of them. Every garrison was surrounded with a loose
screen of insurgents, which could only be pierced by a great effort.
Each column on the march moved on surrounded by a swarm of active
enemies, who closed around again in spite of all attempts to brush
them off. In March and April Ney, on whom the worst stress of the
insurrection fell, could only communicate with his outlying troops
by taking circular tours at the head of a force of several thousand
men. Sometimes he found, instead of the post which he had intended
to visit, only a ruined village full of corpses. Ere the Galician
rising was three months old, the bands had become bold and skilful
enough to cut off a strong detachment or to capture a place held by a
garrison several hundreds strong. In June they actually stopped the
Marshal himself, with a whole division at his back, in his attempt to
march from Santiago to recapture Vigo.

But these times were still far in the future: and when, on February
17, Soult started on his march along the Minho from Tuy to Orense,
the peasantry were far from being the formidable opponents that
they afterwards became. Nevertheless, the progress of the 2nd Corps
was toilsome and slow in the extreme. The troops had been divided
between two paths, of which the so-called high-road, a mile or
two from the river, was only a trifle less impracticable than the
rougher path along the water’s edge. Lahoussaye’s dragoons had been
put upon the latter track; Heudelet’s infantry division led the
advance on the upper road. All day long the march was harassed by
the insurgents, who descended from the hills and hung on the left
flank of Heudelet’s column, delivering partial attacks whenever
they thought that they saw an opportunity. The French advanced with
difficulty, much incommoded by the need of dragging on their cannon,
which could hardly be got forward even with the aid of the infantry.
Lahoussaye, on the other path, was assailed in a similar way, besides
being molested by the Portuguese, who moved parallel to him on the
south side of the Minho, taking long shots at his dragoons wherever
the path was close enough to the water’s edge to be within range of
their own bank. If the peasantry had confined themselves to these
tactics, they might have harassed Soult at small cost to themselves.
But they had not yet fully learnt the guerrilla’s trade. At Mourentan
on the path by the river, and at Francelos on the high-road, they
had resolved to offer direct resistance to the enemy, and so put
themselves within reach of the invader’s claws. At each place they
had barricaded the village, had run a rough entrenchment across the
road, and stood to receive the frontal shock of the French attack.
They were, of course, routed with great slaughter when they thus
exposed themselves in close combat: several hundred perished, among
whom were many of their clerical leaders. Thus Soult was able
to push on and occupy Rivadavia, which he found evacuated by its
inhabitants. His soldiery had sacked and burnt all the villages on
the way, and (according to the Spanish narratives) shot all adult
males whom they could catch, whether found with arms or not[212].

  [212] Long details of all this fighting may he found in the
  narrative of the Alcalde of Rivadavia, on pp. 130-44 of vol.
  ii. of _Los Guerrilleros Gallegos_. The details are probably
  exaggerated, but the reader can hardly refuse to believe that
  there is a solid substratum of truth. The Alcalde notes that the
  infantry were far better behaved than Lahoussaye’s dragoons, of
  whom he tells tales of quite incredible ferocity, even alleging
  that they burnt the wounded.

On the eighteenth, having cut his way as far as Rivadavia, the Duke
of Dalmatia came to the conclusion that it was hopeless to endeavour
to carry on with him his heavy artillery and his baggage. On such
roads as he had been traversing, and amid the continual attacks
of the insurgents, they would be of more harm than use. In all
probability they would ere long fall so far behind that, along with
their escort, they would become separated from the army, and perhaps
fall into the hands of the Spaniards. Accordingly he sent orders to
the rear of the column that Merle’s division should conduct back to
Tuy all the heavy baggage and thirty-six guns of large calibre. Only
twenty pieces, mostly four-pounders, were to follow the expedition.
When the wagons had been turned back, there were only pack-horses
and mules sufficient to carry 3,000 rounds for the guns, and 500,000
cartridges for the infantry. This was a dangerously small equipment
for an army which had a whole kingdom to conquer, and which was
forced to waste many shots every day on keeping off the irrepressible
insurgents. But Soult was determined that he should not be accused
of shrinking from the task imposed on him, or allowing himself to be
thwarted by bands of half-armed peasants.

The heavy guns and the train, therefore, were deposited at Tuy, along
with the large body of sick and wounded who had already been left
there. General Lamartinière, an officer in whom Soult placed much
confidence, was left in command. He was warned that he would have to
take care of himself, as his communication with the army would be
cut the moment that Merle’s troops resumed their march to join the
rear of the advancing column. Nor did Soult err in this: when the
2nd Corps had gone on its way, Tuy and the neighbouring post of Vigo
were immediately beset by a thick swarm of peasants, who kept them
completely blockaded.

Having thus freed himself from every possible incumbrance, the Duke
of Dalmatia pushed briskly on for Orense and its all-important
bridge. The insurgents had not fallen back very far, and on the
nineteenth Heudelet’s division had two smart engagements with them,
and drove them back to Masside, in the hills to the left of the road.
The valley was here wider and the route better than on the previous
day, and much more satisfactory progress was made. On the twentieth,
still pushing on, Soult found that the ferry of Barbantes, ten miles
below Orense, was passable. The Galicians had scuttled the ferry-boat
in an imperfect fashion: some voltigeurs crossed on a raft, repaired
the boat, and set it working again. Soult then pushed across the
river some of Mermet’s battalions, intending to send them to Orense
by the south bank, if it should be found that the bridge was broken.
Meanwhile Heudelet continued to advance by the road on the north
side: his column arrived at its goal, and found Orense undefended and
its bridge intact. The townsfolk made no attempt to resist: they had
not left their dwellings like the peasants, and their magistrates
came out to surrender the place in due form. They appealed to Soult’s
clemency, by showing him that they had kept safe and properly cared
for 136 sick French soldiers, left behind by Marchand when he had
marched through the town in the preceding month.

Where, meanwhile, it will be asked, was the army of La Romana? The
Marquis had now 9,000 men collected at Oimbra and Monterey, and it
might have been expected that he would have moved forward to defend
the line of the Minho and the bridge of Orense, as soon as he heard
of the eastward march of the 2nd Corps. He made no such advance: his
dispatches show that the sole precautions which he took were to send
some officers with fifty men to aid the peasants of the lower Minho,
and afterwards to order another party, only 100 strong, to make sure
that the ferry-boats between Tuy and Orense were all destroyed or
removed--a task which (as we have already seen) they did not fully
perform. If he had brought up his whole force, instead of sending
out these paltry detachments, he would have made the task of Soult
infinitely more bloody and dangerous, though probably he could not
have prevented the Marshal from carrying out his plan. His quiescence
is not to be explained as resulting from a reluctance to fight,
though he was fully conscious of the low _morale_ of his army, and
was at his wits’ end to complete its dilapidated equipment. It came
from another cause, and one much less creditable to his military
capacity. Underrating Soult’s force, which he placed at 12,000
instead of 22,000 men, he was labouring under the idea that the 2nd
Corps was about to retire from Galicia altogether, in face of the
general insurrection and the want of food. The march of the French to
Orense appeared in his eyes as the first stage of a retreat up the
valley of the Sil to Ponferrada and Astorga, and he imagined that the
province would soon be quit of them. Hence he contented himself with
stirring up the peasantry, and left to them the task of harassing
Soult’s columns, being resolved to make the proverbial ‘bridge of
gold’ for a flying enemy. From this vain dream he was soon to be

From the 21st to the 24th of February the Duke of Dalmatia was busily
employed in bringing up the rear divisions of his army to Orense.
None of them reached that place without fighting, for the bands which
had been driven off by Heudelet and Lahoussaye returned to worry
the troops of Delaborde, Merle, and Mermet, when they traversed the
route from Salvatierra to Orense. Jardon’s brigade of the last-named
division had a sharp fight near Rivadavia, and Merle had to clear
his way at Crecente by cutting to pieces a body of insurgents which
had fortified itself in that village. When the whole army was
concentrated between Rivadavia and Orense, the Marshal sent out large
detachments to sweep the valleys in the immediate neighbourhood of
those places. They found armed peasantry in every direction, but in
each case succeeded in thrusting them back into their hills, and
returned to Orense driving before them large herds of cattle, and
dragging behind them country wagons with a considerable amount of
grain. The longest and most important of these expeditions was one
made by Franceschi, who marched, with his own horsemen and one of
Heudelet’s brigades, along the road which the whole army was destined
to take in its invasion of Portugal. They routed one band of peasants
at Allariz, and another at Ginzo, half way to Monterey [February 23].
Still there was no sign of La Romana’s army, which remained behind
the mountains of the Sierra Cabrera in complete quiescence, though
Franceschi’s advanced posts were only twenty miles away[213].

  [213] Le Noble says (p. 96) that at Ginzo the peasants had with
  them General Mahy and La Romana’s vanguard division. But General
  Arteche gives documentary evidence (p. 347) to prove that on that
  day Mahy and his troops were at Baltar, twenty miles away behind
  the mountains. If there were regulars present they were only
  detachments or stragglers.

Soult kept his head quarters at Orense for nine days, during which
he was busied in collecting stores of food, repairing his artillery,
whose carriages had been badly shaken by the villainous roads, and in
endeavouring to pacify the country-side by proclamations and circular
letters to the notables and clergy. In this last scheme he met with
little success; from the bishop of Orense downwards almost every
leading man had taken refuge in the hills, and refused to return.
Silence or defiant replies answered the Marshal’s epistolary efforts.
His promises of protection and good government were sincere enough;
but the commentary on them was given by the excesses and atrocities
which his troops were committing in every outlying village. It was
not likely that the Galicians would come down from their fastnesses
to surrender[214].

  [214] For the bishop of Orense’s sarcastic reply see Arteche, v.
  351. For the general effect of the proclamation see St. Chamans:
  of the atrocities of the French, _Los Guerrilleros Gallegos_ give
  ample and sometimes incredible accounts.

The general advance of the army towards Portugal had been fixed for
March 4. It was not made under the most cheerful conditions. Not
only were the neighbouring peasantry still defiant as ever, but
bad news had come from the north. An aide-de-camp of Marshal Ney,
who had struggled through to Orense in despite of the insurgents,
brought a letter from his chief, which reported that the rising had
become general throughout the province, and apparently expressed
strong doubts as to the wisdom of invading Portugal before Galicia
was subdued. The Duke of Elchingen, as it would seem, wished his
colleague to draw back, and to aid him in suppressing the bands of
the coast and the upper Minho [215]. He might well doubt whether the
6th Corps would suffice for this task, if the 2nd Corps marched far
away towards Oporto, and got completely out of touch. Soult, however,
had the Emperor’s orders to advance into Portugal in his pocket. He
knew that if he disobeyed them no excuse would propitiate his master.
Probably he was not sorry to leave to Ney the unenviable task of
dealing with the ubiquitous and irrepressible Galician insurgents.
He sent back the message that he should march southward on March 4,
and continued his preparations. This resolve was not to the liking
of some of his subordinates: many of the officers who had served
with Junot in Portugal by no means relished the idea of returning to
that country. They did not conceal their feelings, and made the most
gloomy prophecies about the fate of the expedition. It was apparently
Loison who formed the centre of this clique of malcontents: he found
many sympathizers among his subordinates. Their discontent was the
basis upon which, two months later, the strange and obscure ‘Oporto
Conspiracy’ of Captain D’Argenton was to be based. At the present
moment, however, they contented themselves with denunciations of
the madness of the Emperor in planning the expedition, and of the
blind obedience of the Marshal in undertaking it. They told their
comrades that the numbers, courage, and ferocity of the Galicians
were as nothing compared with those of their southern neighbours, and
that during the oncoming operations those who found a sudden death
upon the battle-field would be lucky, for the Portuguese not only
murdered but tortured the prisoners, the wounded, and the stragglers.
It was fortunate for Soult that the majority of his officers paid
comparatively little attention to these forebodings, which they
rightly ascribed to the feelings of resentment and humiliation with
which the members of Junot’s army remembered the story of their
former disasters[216]. But it did not make matters easier for the
Marshal that even a small section of his lieutenants disbelieved in
the feasibility of his undertaking, and expected disaster to ensue.
Yet the opening scenes of the invasion of Portugal were to be so
brilliant and fortunate, that for a time the murmurs of the prophets
of evil were hushed.

  [215] See Le Noble (p. 98) for this dispatch and its effect on
  the _morale_ of the army.

  [216] For the malcontents and their views see Le Noble, pp.
  98-9. St. Chamans, on the other hand (p. 119), says that the
  army started in good spirits and with a great contempt for all
  insurgents, Spanish or Portuguese. As a trusted staff officer of
  the Marshal, he no doubt represents the optimistic view at head

On March 4 the Marshal’s head quarters were moved forward from Orense
to Alariz, on the road to Monterey and the frontier. The main body of
the army accompanied him, but Franceschi and Heudelet were already
far in front at Ginzo, only separated from La Romana’s outposts by
the Sierra Cabrera. From that point there are two difficult but
practicable roads[217] into Portugal: the one descends the valley of
the Lima and leads to Oporto by Viana and the coast. It is easier
than the second or inland route, which after crossing the Sierra
Cabrera descends to Monterey and Chaves, the frontier town of the
Portuguese province of Tras-os-Montes. But every military reason
impelled Soult to choose the second alternative. By marching on Viana
he would leave La Romana, whose presence he had now discovered, far
in his rear. The Marquis would be a bad general indeed if he did not
seize the opportunity of slipping back into Galicia, reoccupying
Orense, and setting the whole country-side aflame. It was infinitely
preferable to fall upon him from the front, rout him, and fling him
back among the Portuguese. Accordingly Franceschi, leading the whole
army, crossed the mountains on the fifth, and came hurtling into La
Romana’s cantonments long ere he was expected. Heudelet was just
behind him, Mermet and Delaborde a march further back: Merle brought
up the rear, guarding a convoy of 800 sick and wounded whom the
Marshal had resolved to bring on with him, rather than to leave them
at Orense to fall a prey to the insurgents. The dragoons of Lorges
and Lahoussaye were kept out on the right and left respectively,
watching the one the valley of the Lima, the other the head waters of
the Tamega.

  [217] There was also a third road, that by Montalegre and
  Ruivaens, by which Soult ultimately evacuated Portugal; but as it
  was not available for wheeled traffic, it could not be used by an
  army with artillery.

Down to the last moment the Marquis had been giving out his intention
of retiring into Portugal and co-operating with General Silveira, the
commandant of the Tras-os-Montes, in the defence of Chaves and the
line of the Tamega. But he was on very strained terms with his ally,
who showed no great alacrity to receive the Spaniards across the
frontier: his troops had been quarrelling with the Portuguese, and
he was very reluctant to expose his half-rallied battalions to the
ordeal of a battle, which Silveira openly courted.

On the very day on which Soult started from Orense, La Romana made
up his mind that, instead of joining the Portuguese, he would
escape eastwards by the single road, over and above that of Chaves,
which was open to him. Accordingly his army suddenly started off,
abandoning the meagre magazines which it had collected at Oimbra
and Verin, and made for Puebla de Senabria, on the borders of the
province of Leon, by the road which coasts along the north side of
the Portuguese frontier, through Osoño and La Gudina. This sudden
move bore the appearance of a mean desertion of the Portuguese in
their day of peril: but it was in other respects wise and prudent.
It discomfited all Soult’s plans, since he failed to catch the
army of Galicia, which escaped him and placed itself on his flank
and rear instead of on his front. It was small consolation to the
Marshal that Franceschi came on the rearguard of the Spaniards at
La Trepa near Osoño and routed it. Seven skeleton regiments, only
1,200 bayonets in all, under General Mahy, were caught retiring along
a hillside and completely ridden down by the French cavalry. Three
standards and 400 prisoners were captured, 300 men more were killed,
the rest dispersed. But La Romana’s main body, meanwhile, had got
away in safety, and Soult had failed to strike the blow which he
intended[218]. He was soon to hear of the Marquis again, in quarters
where he little expected and still less desired to find him[219].

  [218] Compare the narrative of the colonel of the Barcelona Light
  Infantry, printed by Arteche in v. 359-61 of his _Guerra de la
  Independencia_, with the highly-coloured account in Le Noble,
  104-5. The seven Spanish Corps engaged were Segovia, Zamora,
  Barcelona, Majorca, Orense, Betanzos, Aragon. None of them had
  more than 200 bayonets in line: the Galician regiments far less.
  The three last-named corps lost a flag each. [Betanzos should be
  substituted for Tuy in the list in Le Noble, p. 105, line 10.]

  [219] Napier (ii. 47) is wrong in saying that La Romana escaped
  via Braganza; he did not enter Portugal, but kept on his own side
  of the frontier, on the Monterey-La Gudina-Puebla de Senabria

Meanwhile the Portuguese were left alone to bear the brunt of the
attack of the 2nd Corps. It is time to relate and explain their
position, their resources, and their designs.



Soult’s vanguard crossed the Portuguese frontier between Monterey and
Chaves on March 9, 1809: it was exactly five months since the last
of Junot’s troops had evacuated the realm on October 9, 1808. In the
period which had elapsed between those two dates much might have been
done to develop--or rather to create--a scheme of national defence
and a competent army. Unhappily for Portugal the Regency had not
risen to the opportunity, and when the second French invasion came
upon them the military organization of the realm was still in a state
of chaos.

During the autumn months of 1808 the Portuguese Government had been
almost as sanguine and as careless as the Spanish Supreme Junta.
They had seen Junot beaten and expelled: they still beheld a large
British army in their midst; and they did not comprehend the full
extent of the impending danger, when the news came that Bonaparte was
nearing the Pyrenees, and that the columns of the ‘Grand Army’ were
debouching into the Peninsula. It was not till Moore had departed
that they began to conceive certain doubts as to the situation: nor
was it till Madrid had fallen that they at last realized that the
invader was once more at their gates, and that they must prepare to
defend themselves.

There were still two months of respite granted to them.
Portugal--like Andalusia--was saved for a moment by Moore’s march to
Sahagun. The great field army which Napoleon had collected for the
advance on Lisbon was turned off northwards to pursue the British,
and on the New Year’s day of 1809 the only French force in proximity
to the frontier of the realm was the division of Lapisse, which
Bonaparte had dropped at Salamanca to form the connecting link
between Soult and Ney in Galicia, and the troops under Victor and
King Joseph in the vicinity of Madrid.

But the danger was only postponed, not averted, by Moore’s daring
irruption into Old Castile. This the Portuguese Regency understood;
and during the first two months of 1809 they displayed a considerable
amount of energy, though it was in great part energy misdirected.
Their chief blunder was that instead of straining every nerve to
complete their regular army, on which the main stress of the invasion
was bound to fall, they diverted much of their zeal to the task of
raising a vast _levée en masse_ of the whole able-bodied population
of the realm. This error had its roots in old historical memories.
The deliverance of Portugal from the Spanish yoke in the long war of
independence in the seventeenth century, had been achieved mainly
by the _Ordenanza_, the old constitutional force of the realm,
which resembled the English _Fyrd_ of the Middle Ages. It had done
good service again in the wars of 1703-12, and even in the shorter
struggle of 1762. But in the nineteenth century it was no longer
possible to reckon upon it as a serious line of defence, especially
when the enemy to be held back was not the disorderly Spanish army
but the legions of Bonaparte. When there were not even arms enough
in Portugal to supply the line-battalions with a musket for every
man, it was insane to summon together huge masses of peasantry, and
to make over to them some of the precious firearms which should
have been reserved for the regulars. The majority, however, of the
_Ordenanza_ were not even supplied with muskets, they were given
pikes--weapons with which their ancestors had done good service in
1650, but which it was useless to serve out in 1809. The Regency
had procured some 17,000[220] from the British Government, and had
caused many thousands more to be manufactured. Both on the northern
and the eastern frontier great hordes of country-folk, equipped with
these useless and antiquated arms, were gathered together. Destitute
of discipline and of officers, insufficiently supplied with food,
the prey of every rumour, true or false, that ran along the border,
they were a source of danger rather than of strength to the realm.
The cry of ‘treachery,’ which inevitably arises among armed mobs,
was always being raised in their encampments. Hence came tumults and
murders, for the peasantry had a strong suspicion of the loyalty of
the governing classes--the result of the subservience to the French
invader which had been displayed by many of the authorities, both
civil and military, in 1808. Orders which they did not understand,
or into which a sinister meaning could be read by a suspicious mind,
generally caused a riot, and sometimes the assassination of the
unfortunate commander whom the Regency had placed over the horde.
In Oporto the state of affairs was particularly bad: the bishop,
though a sincere patriot and a man of energy, had drunk too deeply
of the delights of power during his rule in the summer months. After
being made a member of the Regency by Dalrymple, he should have
remained at Lisbon and worked with his colleagues. But returning to
his own flock, he reassumed the authority which he had possessed
during the early days of the insurrection, and pursued a policy of
his own, which often differed from that of his Regency at large, and
was sometimes in flagrant opposition to it. His position, in fact,
was similar to that of Palafox at Saragossa, and like the Aragonese
general he often practised the arts of demagogy in order to keep
firm his influence over the populace. He was all for the system of
the _levée en masse_; and summoned together unmanageable bands which
he was able neither to equip nor to control. He praised their zeal,
was wilfully blind to their frequent excesses, and seldom tried to
turn their energies into profitable channels. Indeed, he was so
ignorant of military matters himself, that he had no useful orders
to give. He ignored the advice of the Portuguese generals in his
district, and got little profit from that of two foreign officers
whom the British Government sent him--the Hanoverian General Von
der Decken and the Prussian Baron Eben. These gentlemen he seems to
have conciliated, and to have played off against the native military
authorities. But if they gave him good counsel, there are no signs in
his actions that he turned it to account. All the British witnesses
who passed through Oporto in January and February 1809, describe the
place as being in a state of patriotic frenzy, and under mob law
rather than administered by any regular and legal government[221].
The only fruitful military effort made in this part of Portugal was
that of the gallant Sir Robert Wilson, who raised there in November
and December his celebrated ‘Loyal Lusitanian Legion.’ This was
intended to be the core of a subsidiary Portuguese division in
British pay, distinct from the national army. When Wilson arrived
in Oporto the bishop welcomed him, and forwarded in every way the
formation of the corps. In a few days the Legion had 3,000 recruits
of excellent quality, of whom Wilson could arm and clothe only some
1,300, for the equipment which he had brought with him was limited.
He soon discovered, however, that the bishop’s zeal in his behalf was
mainly due to the desire to have a solid force at hand which should
be independent of the Portuguese generals. He wished the Legion to
be, as it were, his own body-guard. Sir Robert was ill pleased, and
being unwilling to mix himself in the domestic feuds of the bishop
and the Regency, or to become the tool of a faction, quitted Oporto
as soon as his men could march. With one strong battalion, a couple
of squadrons of cavalry, and an incomplete battery--under 1,500 men
in all--he moved first to Villa Real (Dec. 14), and then to the
frontier, where he posted himself near Almeida and took over the task
of observing Lapisse’s division, which from its base at Salamanca
was threatening the Portuguese border. Of his splendid services in
this direction we shall have much to tell. The unequipped portion of
the Legion, left behind at Oporto, was handed over to Baron Eben,
and became involved in the tumultuous and unhappy career of the

  [220] List of Arms sent to Portugal on p. 9 of _Parliamentary
  Papers_ for 1809.

  [221] The Portuguese volume for December 1808 and
  January-February 1809 in the Record Office being mysteriously
  lost, Cradock’s correspondence and that of the other British
  officers in Portugal is no longer available. But Napier took
  copious notes from it, while it was still forthcoming; they will
  be found on pp. 425-31 of his vol. ii, and bear witness to a
  complete state of anarchy in Oporto.

  [222] The first battalion used to call the second ‘Baron Eben’s
  runaways’ when they met again, as Mayne assures us in his
  _History of the Loyal Lusitanian Legion_.

Meanwhile Lisbon was almost as disturbed as Oporto, and might
have lapsed into the same state of anarchy, if a British garrison
had not been on the spot. The mistaken policy of the Regency had
led to the formation of sixteen so-called ‘legions[223]’ in the
capital and suburbs. These tumultuary levies had few officers and
hardly any arms but pikes. They were under no sort of discipline,
and devoted themselves to the self-imposed duty of hunting for
spies and ‘_Afrancesados_.’ Led by demagogues of the streets, they
paraded up and down Lisbon to beat of drum, arresting persons whom
they considered suspicious, especially foreign residents of all
nationalities. The Regency having issued a decree prohibiting this
practice [January 29], the armed levies only assembled in greater
numbers next night, and engaged in a general chase after unpopular
citizens, policemen, and aliens of all kinds. Many fugitives were
only saved from death by taking refuge in the guard-houses and the
barracks where the garrison was quartered. Isolated British soldiers
were assaulted, some were wounded, and parties of ‘legionaries’
actually stopped aides-de-camp and orderlies carrying dispatches,
and stripped them of the documents they were bearing. The mob was
inclined, indeed, to be ill-disposed towards their allies, from the
suspicion that they were intending to evacuate Lisbon and to retire
from the Peninsula. They had seen the baggage and non-combatants
left behind by Moore put on ship-board; early in February they
beheld the troops told off for the occupation of Cadiz embark and
disappear. When they also noticed that the forts at the Tagus mouth
were being dismantled[224] they made up their minds that the British
were about to desert them, without making any attempt to defend
Portugal. Hence came the malevolent spirit which they displayed. It
died down when their suspicions were proved unfounded by the arrival
of Beresford and other British officers, at the beginning of March,
with resources for the reorganization of the Portuguese army, and
still more when a little later heavy reinforcements from England
began to pour into the city. But in the last days of January and the
first of February matters at Lisbon had been in a most dangerous and
critical condition: the Regency, utterly unable to keep order, had
hinted to Sir John Cradock that he must take his own measures against
the mob, and for several days the British general had kept the
garrison under arms, and planted artillery in the squares and broader
streets--exactly as Junot had done seven months before. The ‘legions’
were cowed, and most fortunately no collision occurred: if a single
shot had been fired in anger, there would have been an end of the
Anglo-Portuguese alliance, and it is more than likely that Cradock--a
man of desponding temperament--would have abandoned the country.

  [223] They were raised by a decree of Dec. 23, 1808.

  [224] This was a proper precaution, as the sea-forts could be of
  no use for defending Lisbon from a land attack, while, if Lisbon
  got into French hands again, they would have been invaluable for
  resisting an attack from the side of the sea. But Cradock was far
  too precipitate in commencing an operation which betrayed such
  want of confidence.

His force at this moment was by no means large: when Moore marched
for Salamanca in October he had left behind in Portugal six
battalions of British and four of German infantry[225], three
squadrons of the 20th Light Dragoons (the regiment that had been so
much cut up at Vimiero), one of the 3rd Light Dragoons of the King’s
German Legion, and five batteries, only one of which was horsed.
From Salamanca, when on the eve of starting on the march to Sahagun,
Sir John had sent back two regiments to Portugal, in charge of his
great convoys of sick and heavy baggage[226]. To compensate for this
deduction from his army he had called up a brigade of the troops left
in Portugal; but only one battalion of it--the 82nd--reached him
in time to join in his Castilian campaign[227]. The net result was
that seven British infantry regiments from Moore’s army were left
behind, in addition to the four German corps. Two more had arrived
from England in November[228], and a fresh regiment of dragoons in

  [225] These were the 2/9th, 29th, 1/40th, 1/45th, 82nd, 97th,
  and 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 7th line battalions of the King’s German

  [226] The 1/3rd and 5/60th. The last battalion was mainly
  composed of foreigners, and had received more than 200 recruits
  from the deserters of Junot’s army. Moore would not trust it, and
  sent it back. It afterwards did splendid service under Wellesley.

  [227] The battalions that did not get up in time were the 1/45th
  and 97th.

  [228] These were the 3/27th and 2/31st, which had sailed with
  Baird from Portsmouth, but were sent on from Corunna to Lisbon
  when the rest of Baird’s expedition landed in Galicia.

  [229] The 14th Light Dragoons.

Thus when Sir John Cradock took over the command at Lisbon on
December 14, 1808, he had at his disposal in all thirteen battalions
of infantry, seven squadrons of cavalry, and five batteries, a force
of about 12,000 men[230]. But not more than 10,000 were effective,
for Sir John Moore had left behind precisely those of his regiments
which were most sickly, when he marched for Spain. He had moreover
discharged more than 2,000 additional sick upon Portugal ere he began
field operations: they were encumbering the hospitals of Almeida and
Lamego when Cradock appeared. The 10,000 men fit for service were
scattered all over Portugal: the two battalions, which had just come
back from Spain, and the two others which had been too late to join
Moore, were in the north, at Almeida and Lamego[231]. One battalion
was in garrison at Elvas[232]. Six lay in Lisbon, as also did the
whole of the cavalry and guns[233]: two were on the march from
Abrantes to Almeida[234].

  [230] Napier (ii. 5) much under-estimates when he calls the
  whole ‘10,000 including sick.’ Cradock’s regiments add up to
  about 12,133 men including those in hospital. In addition there
  were all Moore’s sick, who, though many had died in the interim,
  presented on Feb. 18 in Portugal convalescents to the number of
  2,000 men.

  [231] The 1/3rd, 1/45th, 5/60th, and 97th.

  [232] The 1/40th.

  [233] The four German battalions, the 3/27th and 2/31st.

  [234] The 2/9th and 29th.

Such a dispersion of forces would have appalled the most enterprising
of generals, and this was a title to which Cradock had certainly no
claims. The two obvious courses between which he had to choose, were
either to concentrate his little army on the frontier and make as
much display of it in the face of the French as might be possible,
or to abandon all idea of protecting exterior Portugal, and collect
the scattered regiments in or about Lisbon. Cradock chose the second
alternative. He argued that he was too weak to be of any effectual
service on the frontier, and moreover found that there would be a
vast difficulty in moving forward even the Lisbon garrison, for
nearly all the available transport had been requisitioned for the
use of Moore’s army, and had been carried off into Spain. Neither of
these pleas is convincing: with regard to the first, it is merely
necessary to point out that Sir Robert Wilson, with 1,500 men of
the Lusitanian Legion, not yet three months old, made his presence
felt on the frontier, checked Lapisse, and kept the whole province
of Salamanca in a state of unrest. Ten thousand British bayonets
and sabres could have done much more. As to the food and supplies,
Cradock was arguing in the old eighteenth-century style, as if a
British army was bound to move with all its baggage and impedimenta,
its women and children. If he had chosen to ‘march light,’ and to
take the route through the fertile and well-peopled Estremadura, he
could have reached Abrantes or Almeida or any other goal that he

The fact was that the reasons for refusing to adopt a ‘forward
policy’ were moral and not physical. Cradock, in common with Sir John
Moore and many other British officers, believed that Portugal could
not be defended, and was thinking more of securing himself a safe
embarkation than of exercising any influence on the main current of
the war.

When Moore’s army had passed out of sight, and was known to be
retiring in the direction of Galicia, it seemed to Cradock that
his own position was hopeless. Even if granted time to concentrate
his scattered battalions, he would be forced to fly to the sea and
take shipping the moment that any serious French force crossed the
frontier. He had not sufficiently accurate information to enable him
to see that both Lapisse at Salamanca, and the weak divisions of the
4th Corps which lay in the valley of the Tagus, could not possibly
move forward against him. It would have been insane for either of
these forces to have attacked Portugal--the one was at this moment
less than 10,000, the other about 12,000 strong--they were without
communications, and separated by 100 miles of pathless sierras.
Moreover the troops in the valley of the Tagus were fully occupied in
observing the Spanish army of Estremadura. At the opening of the New
Year, therefore, Cradock was in absolutely no danger, and might have
gone forward either to Abrantes or to Almeida in perfect security. In
the first position he would have menaced the flank of the 4th Corps:
in the second he would have exercised a useful pressure on Lapisse.
In either case he would have encouraged the Portuguese and lent moral
support to the Spaniards.

But Cradock was possessed by that miserable theory which was so
frequently expounded by the men of desponding mind during the
early years of the Peninsular War, to the effect that Portugal was
indefensible, and would have to be evacuated whenever a strong French
force approached its frontier[235]. It was fortunate for England and
for Europe that Wellesley had other views. The history of the next
three years was to show that a British general could find something
better to do than to pack up his baggage and prepare to embark,
whenever the enemy came down in superior strength to the Portuguese

  [235] Sir John Moore himself ventilated this view in a letter
  to Lord Castlereagh from Salamanca, Nov. 25, 1808. It is this
  fact that explains Napier’s very tender treatment of Cradock,
  who quoted Moore as his justifying authority. Moreover Cradock
  had been very obliging in placing all his papers at Napier’s
  disposal, a fact which prepossessed the historian in his favour.

No doubt Cradock would have had to take to his transports if the
French had possessed on January 1, 1809, an army of 40,000 men
available for the invasion of Portugal, and ready to advance. They
did not happen to own any such force; and till he was certain that
such a force existed, Cradock was gravely to blame for ordering every
British soldier to fall back on Lisbon, and for openly commencing to
destroy the sea-forts of the capital. It is true that the dispatches
which he received from home gave him many directions as to what he
was to do if the enemy appeared in overpowering strength: he was to
blow up the shore batteries, destroy all military and naval stores,
and embark with the British troops and as many Portuguese as could
be induced to follow. But this was only to take place ‘upon the
actual approach of the enemy towards Lisbon in such strength as may
render all further resistance ineffectual[236].’ To commence these
preparations when the nearest troops of the enemy were at Salamanca
and Almaraz was premature and precipitate in the highest degree. Till
the French began to move, every endeavour should have been made to
encourage the Portuguese and to maintain a show--even if it were but
a vain show--of an intention to defend the frontier. If Lapisse had
heard that Cradock was at Almeida he would have been nailed down to
Salamanca: if Victor had heard that he was at Alcantara, or even at
Abrantes, he would never have dared to pursue Cuesta into southern

  [236] Castlereagh to Cradock, Dec. 24, 1808. Napier makes on
  this the curious remark that the ministry gave contradictory
  orders when they told Cradock to make a show of preparation for
  resistance, yet to get ready for embarkation if it should prove

Cradock, however, drew into Lisbon every available man: Brigadier
Cameron, with the troops from Almeida and Oporto, started back on a
weary march from the north, via Coimbra, bringing not only his own
four battalions, but 1,500 convalescents and returned stragglers from
Moore’s army. Richard Stewart, with the two battalions that had been
at Abrantes, also came in to the capital, and all the British troops
were concentrated by the beginning of February, save the 40th regiment,
which still lay at Elvas. Having thus got together about 10,000 men,
Cradock, with almost incredible timidity, began to draw them back to
Passo d’Arcos, a place behind Lisbon near the mouth of the Tagus, from
which embarkation was easy. When Villiers, the British minister at
Lisbon, remonstrated with him on the deplorable political consequences
of assuming this ignoble position on the water’s edge, Cradock replied,
“I must object to take up a ‘false position,’ say Alcantara, or to
occupy the heights in front of Lisbon, which would only defend a
certain position, and leave the remainder [of Portugal?] to the power
of the enemy, one which we must leave upon his approach, and seek
another, bearing the appearance of flight, and yet not securing our
retreat. The whole having announced the intention of defending Lisbon,
but giving up that idea upon the approach of the enemy, for positions
liable to be turned on every side cannot be persevered in by an
inferior force.”

On the day [February 15] upon which Cradock wrote this extraordinary
piece of English prose composition, whose grammar is as astounding
as its argument, the nearest French troops were at Tuy in Galicia,
Salamanca in Leon, and the bridge of Arzobispo on the central Tagus,
points respectively 230, 250, and 240 miles distant from Lisbon as
the crow flies, and infinitely more by road. Further comment is
hardly necessary.

At this moment Cradock might have had at his disposal 2,000 more
British troops, but he had chosen to fall in with Sir George Smith’s
hasty and unauthorized scheme for the occupation of Cadiz[237],
and had sent off to that port a whole brigade[238], under General
Mackenzie. He also dispatched orders to Colonel Kemmis of the 40th
to hand over Elvas to the Portuguese, and march to Seville. The
battalion moved into Andalusia, and placed itself at the disposition
of Mr. Frere, who found it as useless as the force which Smith had
drawn off to Cadiz. It was several months before the 40th rejoined
the army of Portugal.

  [237] See p. 27.

  [238] The 3/27th, 2/9th, 29th, and some small details of
  artillery, &c.

Influenced by the remonstrances of Mr. Villiers, and somewhat
comforted by the fact that the French armies had nowhere crossed the
Portuguese frontier, Cradock was at last persuaded to give up his
position at Passo d’Arcos; he fixed his head quarters at Lumiar, left
2,000 men in garrison at Lisbon, and cantoned the remainder of his
army at Saccavem and other places a few miles in front of the city.
This was better than leaving them on the sea-shore; but the move was
no more than a miserable half measure. It was almost as indicative
of an intention to depart without fighting as the retreat to Passo
d’Arcos had been. In short, from January to the end of April the
British army exercised no influence whatever on the military affairs
of the Peninsula. Yet by March it was beginning to grow formidable
in numbers: early in that month all the troops which had been drawn
off to Cadiz were sent to Lisbon, and by the addition of seven good
battalions to his corps[239] Cradock found himself at the head of
over 16,000 men. There were but 800 effective cavalry, and of the six
batteries only two, incredible as it may seem, were properly horsed,
though three months had passed by since the general had begun his
first complaints on this point[240]. But 16,000 British troops were
a force not to be despised, and if Wellesley or some other competent
officer had been in command, we cannot doubt that they would have
been turned to some profitable use. Under Cradock they remained
cantoned in the suburbs of Lisbon for the whole time during which
Soult was completing his conquest of Oporto and northern Portugal,
and Victor executing his invasion of Estremadura. It was not till
Soult’s advanced guard was on the Vouga [April 6] that Hill and
Beresford[241] succeeded in inducing the general to carry forward his
head quarters to Leiria and his outposts to Thomar[242]. Fortunately
his tenure of command was at last drawing to an end. On April 22 Sir
Arthur Wellesley arrived in Lisbon and took over charge of the troops
in Portugal. How startling were the consequences of this change of
generals we shall soon see: ere May was out the whole Peninsula
realized once more that there was a British Army within its limits--a
fact that might well have passed unnoticed during the last four

  [239] Not only Mackenzie’s brigade, but also Tilson’s brigade,
  the 2/87th and 1/88th, and the stronger battalions of H.
  Campbell, which had gone to Cadiz directly from England--the
  first battalions of the 2nd (Coldstream) and 3rd (Scots Fusilier)

  [240] In a letter of March 20 to Mr. Villiers, Cradock makes the
  astounding statement that after scouring all Portugal for horses
  for three months, he was still unable to provide them for four
  out of his six batteries.

  [241] Cradock’s controversial letters to Lord Londonderry,
  printed in the latter’s history (ii. 286-7), do no more than bear
  out Londonderry’s accusations of torpidity against Sir John.

  [242] Cradock contended that before the arrival of Hill and
  Sherbrooke and the return of Mackenzie from Cadiz, he had only
  10,225 men, and, deducting sick and garrisons for the Lisbon
  forts, could only have marched out with 5,221. [Letter to
  Londonderry on p. 302, vol. ii. of the latter’s work.] He had
  sent 3,500 men to Cadiz and Seville, on Sir George Smith’s
  unhappy inspiration, or his force would have been much larger.
  As to the resolution to march against Soult, which he afterwards
  claimed to have made, it is sufficient to say that Wellesley on
  his arrival wrote to Castlereagh that ‘Sir John Cradock does
  not appear to have entertained any decided intention of moving
  forward: on the contrary he appears (by his letters to Mr.
  Villiers) to have intended to go no further till he should hear
  of Victor’s movements.’ [_Well. Corresp._, Lisbon, April 24.]



While the Regency was wasting much of its energy on the arming of
the undisciplined masses of the _Ordenanza_, and while Cradock sat
supine at Passo d’Arcos and at Saccavem, one useful piece of work at
least was being taken in hand. This was the reorganization of the
Portuguese regular army, a task which the Regency determined, though
only so late as February, 1809, to hand over to a British general

To explain the chaotic condition of the force at the moment when
Soult was just about to enter Portugal, a short account of its
previous history is necessary. It had received its existing shape
from a foreign hand, that of the well-known ‘Conde de La Lippe,’
i.e. the German Marshal, Frederick Count of Lippe-Bückeburg, who
had been entrusted with its command during the short war with Spain
in 1762. He it was who first gave Portugal an army of the modern
type, modelled on the ordinary system of the eighteenth century,
and showing many traces of adaptations from a Prussian original.
The Marshal was a great organizer and a man of mark: his name is
perhaps best remembered in connexion with the citadel of Elvas,
which he rebuilt, and christened La Lippe after himself: under that
designation we shall repeatedly have to mention it while describing
the early years of the Peninsular War.

As he left it, the Portuguese army consisted of twenty-four regiments
of the line, each forming a single battalion of seven companies and
806 men. There were twelve regiments of cavalry, each originally
composed of no more than 240 sabres, and three regiments of artillery
of eight batteries each, besides a few garrison companies of that
arm. After La Lippe’s departure the army had shared in the general
decay of strength and organization in the kingdom, which prevailed
during the reign of the mad queen Maria, and her son the feeble
Prince-Regent John. But the lack of mere numerical strength was not
nearly so fatal to its efficiency as the rustiness and rottenness of
its internal machinery. Under an octogenarian commander-in-chief, the
Duke of Alafoens, every department of the army had been decaying in
the latter years of the eighteenth century. All the typical faults
of an army of the _ancien régime_ after a long period of peace were
developed to the highest possible pitch. Commissions were sold, or
given away by intrigue and corruption, often to persons of unsuitable
rank and education[243]: promotion was slow and perfectly arbitrary:
the pay of the officers was very low, while every incentive to petty
jobbing and embezzlement was afforded by the vicious system under
which the colonel contracted with the government for his regiment,
and the captain with the colonel for his company. In the Portuguese
army, as in all others where this antiquated practice prevailed, the
temptation to fill the muster-rolls with ‘dead-heads’ and absentees,
so that the contractor might save their food and pocket their pay,
had been too strong for the ordinary officer to resist. Hence came
the empty ranks of the battalions, the ludicrous disproportion
of horses to men in the cavalry, the depleted condition of the
regimental stores and equipment.

  [243] All authorities agree as to the inferior character and
  status of a great part of the Portuguese officers. Dumouriez
  remarks [1766] that ‘their pay does not enable them to live
  better than the common soldiers, whose comrades and relatives
  they often are. The subaltern ranks are filled from the
  inferior classes, and their hatred of foreigners prevents their
  association with, or receiving any improvement from, them: hence
  it is that they remain in such ignorance and wretchedness’ (p.
  17). Halliday remarks (p. 106) that ‘even captains had not
  the rank of gentlemen.’ Compare with this Patterson’s curious
  note (vol. i. p. 250), ‘The familiarity that subsists between
  the native officers and their men renders ineffective all
  the authority of the former, at the same time defeating the
  object to be attained by discipline. They eat, gamble, and
  drink together. I have even seen them waltzing and figuring
  off in the _contra-danza_, captains with corporals, majors
  with drumboys--all Jack-fellows well met, and excellent boon
  companions. They will not of themselves do anything, their good
  qualities must be elicited by strangers. I know of nothing that
  stamps the character of Lord Beresford as a man of energy and
  perseverance, more than the way in which he has organized them,
  and from a miserable undisciplined rabble produced, in course of
  time, a fair body of fighting troops, who performed (encouraged
  by their English officers) some spirited service during the war.’

The short Spanish war of 1801-2 had revealed the complete
disorganization of the army. Hasty measures were taken to strengthen
it: in the moment of panic every infantry regiment was ordered to
raise a second battalion, and though the number of companies per
battalion was lowered from seven to five, yet as each of them was
now to consist of 150 instead of 116 men, the total strength of each
infantry corps was raised to 1,500 officers and men. At the same time
the cavalry regiments were supposed to have been increased to 470
sabres[244], and a fourth regiment of artillery was created. Nor was
this all: an ‘Experimental Legion’ for light infantry service, eight
companies strong, with a couple of squadrons and a horse-artillery
battery attached to it, was soon afterwards raised by the Marquis

  [244] Of these, twelve squadrons were originally cuirassiers
  (Dumouriez, p. 18), but their armament had been discarded before
  1800, and one regiment only was light horse.

But after the peace of Badajoz had been signed the army was allowed
to sink back into its old sloth and inefficiency. When Junot entered
Portugal in December, 1807, it is doubtful if there were as many
as 20,000 troops really embodied, though the nominal total of the
national army reached nearly 50,000 men[245].


  Twenty-four regiments of infantry of two battalions each   36,000
  twelve regiments of cavalry at 470                          5,640
  four regiments of artillery at 989                          3,956
  ten garrison companies of artillery (veterans)              1,300
  ‘Experimental Legion,’ engineers, &c.                       1,500
                                                      Total  48,396

  Halliday gives an even larger figure, 52,204.

Portugal had a few keen soldiers (such as Gomez Freire de Andrade,
and the renegade D’Alorna), who had received abroad a good military
education, and had even written military books. But the majority of
the officers were slack, ignorant, and incompetent; while the men
were half-drilled, badly disciplined, and ill-equipped. The only
attempt which had been made to introduce any of the modern military
discoveries which had been worked out in the wars of the French
Revolution, consisted in the creation of the already-mentioned
‘Experimental Legion’ which D’Alorna had been allowed to raise and
to train with a new light-infantry drill, adapted by himself from
French models. The main body of the army looked with some jealousy
and suspicion on this corps, and had made no effort to copy it.

The French invasion of Portugal had dashed to pieces the old regular
army. Junot, it will be remembered, had disbanded the greater part
of the men, and formed with the remainder a few battalions, which he
had begun to send off to France ere the insurrection of June, 1808,
broke out. Some of them took an involuntary share in the first siege
of Saragossa: others were hurled into the red holocaust of Wagram.

When Portugal rose against the invader, the local juntas endeavoured
to call back to arms all the dispersed officers and men, to serve as
a nucleus for the insurrectionary hosts. The system of recruiting
which La Lippe had introduced made this comparatively easy: he had
instituted regimental districts in a very complete form. Each corps
was named after a particular town or region[246], drew its conscripts
from that locality, and was usually quartered in it. When Junot
disbanded the old army, the men naturally returned to their homes.
It resulted that when, for example, the Oporto Junta summoned out
to service the late members of the 6th and 18th regiments of the
line, the two units belonging to the Oporto district, it could be
certain of finding the greater part of the rank and file without much
difficulty. To reconstitute in a hurry the corps of officers was a
much harder matter: a disproportionate number of the more competent
holders of commissions had been drafted into the contingent sent
to France: comparatively few resided in their proper regimental
districts, many in Lisbon, which was still in Junot’s hands. Hence
the battalions which fought under Leite at Evora, or accompanied
Wellesley to Vimiero, bore their old names indeed, but were not
merely ill-equipped and low in numbers, but lacked a due supply of
officers. Considering the inefficiency of the regiments even before
they were destroyed by Junot, they might now be described as no more
than ‘the shadow of a shade.’

  [246] Except two Lisbon regiments, named Viera Tellez and Freire,
  from former colonels of distinction [Nos. 4 and 16].

When the French had been driven out of Portugal, and the Junta of
Regency took in hand the reconstruction and enlargement of the army,
the problem of organization seemed almost insoluble. The government
decreed that the regiments of infantry of the line should be raised
to their full establishment of 1,500, a figure which they had never
really attained in the old days. It was also decided to create six
new battalions of riflemen (Cazadores), a class of infantry of
which D’Alorna’s ‘Experimental Legion’ had hitherto been the sole
representatives in Portugal. As to the cavalry and artillery, it was
an obvious fact that the dearth of horses in the kingdom made it
impossible to enlarge the number of units. The twelve old regiments
of horse[247], the thirty-two old batteries of artillery were to be
reconstructed, but no new ones were to be created.

  [247] It was intended, however, to give each cavalry regiment an
  extra squadron.

Considering that the old corps of officers in Portugal was
notoriously incompetent, it was hard to see how the expanded army was
to be drilled and disciplined. About 25,000 recruits were suddenly
shot into the old _cadres_; they could be readily procured, for
not only were volunteers forthcoming in great numbers, but if they
ran short a stringent conscription law was in existence. But how
were the regiments to be officered? It was true that a considerable
amount of the raw material for officers was obtainable, for patriotic
enthusiasm was driving the young men of the upper classes into the
army, in a way that had never before been seen--the service had not
hitherto been popular, owing to its poor pay and prospects. But one
cannot officer raw recruits with equally raw ensigns, and call the
result a regular army. Moreover, arms and equipment were lamentably
deficient: Junot had confiscated and destroyed almost all the store
of arms belonging to the old army: it is said that the insurgents
had not 10,000 serviceable muskets among them when Wellesley landed.
The British had distributed some 42,000 more between August and
December[248]; but what were these among so many? There were to be
over 50,000 regulars, when the establishment was completed, and
the Regency hoped to call out some 40,000 militia when the first line
of defence had been equipped, and after that to arm the vast masses
of the _Ordenanza_.

  [248] _Parliamentary Papers_, 1309. Return No. 5, p. 9.

[Illustration: _Portuguese Dragoon of the 1st (Alcantara) Regiment_
  _From a drawing of 1809._
  _Walker & Cockerell Ph. Sc._]

The natural results followed. In obedience to the decree issued by
the Regency, a considerable number of men were collected at each
regimental dépôt. Of these about one-third, on an average, were old
soldiers: but the proportion varied, for some corps had suffered more
than others from the drafts of trained men which Junot had sent off
to France. A good many of the regiments succeeded, so far as numbers
went, in constituting their two battalions without much difficulty.
Others were less fortunate, and could only raise one: two were so
hopelessly incomplete that Beresford distributed the few hundred men
whom they could produce among other corps, and temporarily disbanded
them[249]. It was the same with the cavalry, of which two regiments
were wholly without horses, and several were so absurdly short of
mounts that they could not be used[250]. Even of the corps which
were not dissolved, several were so weak that they had not recruited
themselves up to half their nominal strength even by September[251].
This was more especially the case in the Alemtejo, where the
population displayed an apathy that contrasted strongly with the
turbulent enthusiasm prevalent in Lisbon and in the North.

  [249] The 8th and 22nd, both Alemtejo regiments, were entirely
  drafted off, and were raised again afresh with recruits in the

  [250] The 2nd and 3rd, both Alemtejo regiments, were never horsed
  during the whole war, and did foot-service in garrisons of the

  [251] In September the 3rd, 5th, 15th, 21st, and 24th had not
  raised their second battalions. Of these the 5th and 15th were
  Alemtejo regiments.

Two invaluable sets of Returns, in the Record Office, show us that,
as far as mere numbers went, the Regency had not done so much as
it should, in the way of increasing the total of men under arms,
during the two months that followed the Convention of Cintra. On
September 13, according to a report from Baron Decken, who had
gone round the insurrectionary armies of Freire, Leite, and the
Monteiro Mor, there were under arms 13,272 line infantry, 3,384 light
infantry (Cazadores), 1,812 cavalry, and 19,000 militia: the force
of artillery is not given. But of these 37,000 men only 13,600
had serviceable weapons and equipment, and were fit to take the

  [252] Report of Baron Decken, Sept. 13, 1808 (Record Office).

On November 26 these figures had risen to 22,361 infantry, 3,422
cavalry, 4,031 artillery, and 20,880 militia. But, owing to the
importation of English muskets during the last two months, there were
now 31,833 men properly equipped, of whom 2,052 were mounted men. The
remaining 19,000 had still nothing more than pikes, or non-military
firearms, such as fowling-pieces and blunderbusses: 1,400 cavalry
were still without horses[253].

  [253] Return of the Portuguese army, Nov. 26 (Record Office).

The figures are very moderate, but the worst part of the situation
was that a collection of 1,000 or 1,500 men does not constitute
a regiment, even if 300 or 400 of them chance to have been old
soldiers. There were not, it is clear, muskets enough to arm more
than two-thirds of the rank and file: belts, pouches, knapsacks, and
other equipment were still more deficient. Yet the really fatal point
was that there was a wholly inadequate number of officers, and that
of those who were forthcoming the elder men were mostly incompetent,
and the younger entirely untrained. In the official correspondence of
the early months of 1809 the most prominent fact that emerges is the
difficulty that was found in discovering colonels and majors capable
of licking into shape the incoherent mass of men at the regimental
head quarters, and of teaching the newly-appointed junior officers
their duty. It seemed that their long peace-service in small garrison
towns had taken all energy and initiative out of the seniors of the
army of the _ancien régime_. They gazed with despair on the task
before them, and seemed quite incapable of coping with it. When a
British general took over the command of the Portuguese army, he
complained that ‘Long habits of disregard to duty, and consequent
laziness, make it not only difficult but almost impossible to induce
the senior officers of this service to enter into any regular and
continued attention to the duties of their situations, and neither
reward nor punishment will induce them to bear up against the
fatigue[254].’ It was only when a whole generation of colonels had
been cleared away that the army grew efficient, and the reorganized
regiments began to distinguish themselves in the field.

  [254] Beresford to Wellesley, _Wellington Supplementary
  Dispatches_, vi. p. 774.

For the purpose of mobilization every regiment had been sent in the
autumn of 1808 to its proper head quarters, in the centre of its
recruiting district. There they still lay in the end of February,
when Soult was drawing near the frontier. There was absolutely no
Portuguese army in the field, only a number of battalions, squadrons,
and batteries, in a more or less imperfect state of organization,
scattered broadcast over the country. They were, as we have already
seen, still insufficiently supplied with arms and equipment. Of
transport and train, to enable them to move, there was hardly a
trace. The only thing approaching a concentration of force was that
in Lisbon and its immediate vicinity there were seven regiments
of foot and three of horse, which were there assembled simply
because their head quarters and their recruiting ground lay in this
quarter[255]. Of the remainder of the infantry two regiments were in
Algarve, in the far south; five in the Alemtejo; four in Beira; two
in the Tras-os-Montes, four in Oporto and the adjoining province of
Entre-Douro-e-Minho. It was with the last six alone that Soult had to
deal when he invaded northern Portugal[256]: not one of the others
was moved up to aid the northern regiments in holding him back.

  [255] These were the 1st, 4th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 16th, 19th of the
  line, and the 1st, 4th, and 7th cavalry. Of the foot the 1st,
  4th, 10th, and 16th were Lisbon regiments, the 7th was named from
  and belonged to Setubal, the 13th to Peniche, the 19th to Cascaes.

  [256] These were the 6th, 9th, 12th, 18th, 21st, and 24th. The
  6th and 18th belonged to Oporto, the 9th to Viana, the 12th to
  Chaves, the 21st to Valenza, the 24th to Braganza.

Impressed with the state of hopeless disarray in which their army
lay, and conscious that for stores and weapons to equip it, and money
to pay it, they could look only to Great Britain, the Regency asked
in February for the appointment of a British commander-in-chief. This
was the best pledge that they could give of their honest intention
to place all their military resources at the disposition of their
allies. It had another obvious advantage: Bernardino Freire, Leite,
Silveira, the Monteiro Mor, and the other Portuguese generals
commanding military districts were at feud with each other. It would
be very difficult to place one above the rest, and to secure for
him loyal co-operation from his subordinates. It was probable that
an Englishman, a stranger to their quarrels and intrigues, would be
better obeyed.

The Regency, it would seem, suggested that they would be glad to see
the post of commander-in-chief given to Sir Arthur Wellesley. But
the victor of Vimiero refused to accept it, probably because he had
already secured from Lord Castlereagh the promise that he should be
sent out again to Portugal to supersede Cradock. When he had declined
the offer it was, to the surprise of most men, passed on to General
Beresford. This officer had the advantage of knowing Portuguese; he
had commanded one of Moore’s brigades during the Corunna retreat,
and had seen much service on both sides of the Atlantic. He was a
comparatively young man, being only in his forty-first year, and
was very junior in his rank, having only become a major-general in
1807. Many officers who were his elders had coveted the post, and
some friction was caused by the fact that with his new Portuguese
commission he outranked several of his seniors in Cradock’s army.
Beresford was a good fighting-man, and a hard worker; but he was
neither a tactician nor a strategist, and did not shine when placed
in independent command--as witness Albuera. When Wellington had
learnt his limitations, he never gave him a task of any great
difficulty, and in the later years of the war either kept him under
his own eye or sent him on errands where it was not easy to go
wrong. For really responsible work in 1812-14 he always used Hill,
Hope, or Graham. But in 1809 Beresford was, but for his undoubted
courage, more or less of an unknown quantity to his colleagues and
his subordinates. Fortunately he turned out a good organizer, if a
mediocre general. For what he did in the way of reforming, and almost
recreating, the Portuguese army he deserves considerable credit.
Every one will remember the quaint story of how he was received by
his army after a short absence, with the ingenuous cry of ‘Long live
Marshal Beresford--who takes care of our stomachs[257].’ This in
one way was a high compliment--it was not every general, English,
French, or Spanish, who succeeded in filling his soldiers’ bellies
during the Peninsular War. The power to do so was not the least among
the qualities necessary for a commander-in-chief.

  [257] The same story is told of General Robert Craufurd and his
  cazadores, in Costello’s _Memoirs_.

Why the British cabinet chose Beresford, from among many possible
candidates, for the very responsible post now put in his charge, it
is hard to see. Castlereagh knew him, as being (like himself) one of
a powerful Anglo-Irish family connexion, with strong parliamentary
influence. This may have told in his favour: it was perhaps also
remembered that he was a personal friend of Wellesley, whom
Castlereagh was intending to send out to command the British army
in Portugal, and moreover his junior. This would facilitate matters
when the two generalissimos had to act together; Beresford would
probably prove a more tractable colleague and subordinate to the
self-confident, autocratic, and frigid Wellesley, than any officer
who was a stranger to him or his senior in years and service. It is
by no means impossible that Castlereagh nominated him at Sir Arthur’s
private suggestion. But into the secrets of ministerial patronage it
is useless to pry.

Appointed to his new post in February, only a month after he had
returned from the Corunna expedition, Beresford at once set sail for
Lisbon, and took up the command ere three weeks had expired since
his appointment. He arrived at the very moment at which Soult was
about to pass the northern frontier, and was at once gazetted as a
Portuguese field marshal. After a short survey of those parts of his
command which lay in and about Lisbon, he reported to the Regency
that the dearth of officers, and especially of competent superior
officers, was so great, that he could not hope to reorganize the
army unless he were allowed to give commissions in the Portuguese
service to many foreigners. As a preliminary measure he asked for
volunteers from Sir John Cradock’s army, and obtained about enough
English officers to give three to each regiment. The main inducement
which attracted candidates was Beresford’s pledge that every one
accepted for the Portuguese service should gain a step--a lieutenant
would become a captain, a captain a major. The Marshal at once
placed all the battalions with notoriously inefficient commanders
in charge of British officers, and drafted into them a larger
proportion of his volunteers than was given to those which were in
better state. He also got leave from the British cabinet to offer
Portuguese commissions to officers serving in corps on the home
station. This gave him by the end of the year some scores of men of
the sort required, and it was by them that the new army was mainly
formed and disciplined[258]. The British drill was introduced, and
to teach it Beresford was allowed to borrow many non-commissioned
officers from Cradock’s regiments[259]. As was but natural, there
arose considerable friction between the new comers and the native
Portuguese officers, over whose heads they were often placed. This
was inevitable, but led to less harm than might have been expected,
because the rank and file, quick to recognize soldierly qualities,
took kindly to their new commanders, and served them loyally and well.

  [258] For notes on the difficulties and friction caused by
  clashing pretensions of British and Portuguese seniority in rank,
  see _Wellington Dispatches_, vol. iv. pp. 368-81, 394-5, and
  several other letters to Castlereagh and Beresford.

  [259] Largely from the 1/3rd foot. See _Wellington Dispatches_,
  vol. iv. p. 463. Other regiments also contributed.

In the beginning Beresford’s reorganization only extended to the
regiments in Lisbon and the south. Those stationed beyond the Douro
were already in the field, and actively engaged with Soult. They had
hardly received any assistance, either of officers or of arms and
equipment, before they became involved in the campaign of March,
1809[260]. In fairness to them this must be borne in mind, when their
conduct in battle is compared with that of the reorganized army in
the following year. The Portuguese Regency, in their report on the
Oporto campaign sent to their Prince on May 31, 1809, pleaded with
truth ‘that the armies formed in the northern provinces were motley
assemblies, whose numbers and good will bore witness to the zeal of
the people, and their determination not to accept the French yoke,
but which could not with any propriety be called regular troops.
They were composed of incomplete and fractional regiments, and the
larger proportion of the rank and file consisted of recruits, many
of whom had not been a month under arms. Some of the corps were
short of muskets: those which had them were armed with weapons of bad
quality[261], and various calibre. All were deficient in the most
essential articles of equipment. It was not fair to expect that such
troops could oppose with any prospect of success a well-armed and
well-disciplined veteran army like that of France[262].’

  [260] A few British officers had arrived, such as Col. Patrick
  who commanded the 12th of the line in Silveira’s army.

  [261] Some of the muskets sent by the British were in the hands
  of the Oporto troops, but none had reached the Tras-os-Montes
  regiments of Silveira’s army.

  [262] All this is analysed from the Portuguese historian Da Luz

The regular troops, and the totally undisciplined _Ordenanza_ levies,
did not form the whole military force of Portugal. There also
existed, mainly on paper, another line of defence for the kingdom.
This was the militia: according to the old military system of the
realm each regimental district had to supply not only its line
battalion, but also two (or sometimes one) battalions of militia.
There should have been forty-three such regiments in existence in
1808, and early in 1809 the Regency ordered that they should be
raised to forty-eight, and that each should consist of two battalions
of 500 men each[263]. This force, however, was purely a paper army:
the militia had not been called out since the war of 1802; there were
a few officers bearing militia commissions, but no rank and file.
When the Regency decreed its mobilization, all that could be done was
that the local authorities should tell off such eligible young men
as had not been embodied in the regular army, for militia recruits.
But as there were neither officers to drill them, nor muskets to
arm them, the conscription was but a farce. The men were not even
called out in many districts, since it was useless to do so till arms
could be procured for them. But in the two northern provinces, when
Soult crossed the frontier, the militia-men took the field alongside
with the _Ordenanza_, from whom they were distinguished by name
alone, for they were almost as destitute of uniform, weapons, and
officers as the _levée en masse_ itself. It would seem that most of
the other border regiments of militia were also mobilized in the
spring of 1809, in the neighbourhood of Almeida, Castello Branco,
and Elvas. That they were perfectly useless was shown in Mayne’s
fight with Victor at the bridge of Alcantara (May 14), when their
conduct contrasted shamefully with the steady and obstinate fighting
of the Lusitanian Legion[264]. In June, Wellesley ordered that all
men for whom there were no arms should be sent home on furlough, and
that the regiments should endeavour to drill and exercise their men
by relays of 200 at a time, each batch being kept two months under
arms. This was apparently because there were not arms, officers, or
drill-sergeants enough to provide for more than a small proportion
of the available number of militia-men[265]. In this way between
8,000 and 10,000 militia were to be out during the times of the year
when the country-side could best spare them from the labour of the
fields. The rest were to be left at home, unless an actual invasion
of Portugal should occur. From the modest scope of this plan, it may
easily be guessed what the state of the militia had been four months
earlier, when Soult was in the Tras-os-Montes, and Beresford had
barely begun his work of reorganization.

  [263] For the local organization and nomenclature of the
  militia regiments, the reader is referred to the table of the
  Portuguese army in Appendix II. It will be seen that there were
  theoretically sixteen regiments in the provinces invaded by
  Soult, beyond the Douro.

  [264] See Mayne, _History of the Loyal Lusitanian Legion_, p.
  231, and _Wellington Dispatches_, vol. iv. p. 350.

  [265] _Wellington Dispatches_, vol. iv. pp. 389-90 and 478 [June,

The militia-men were supposed to provide their own uniforms, the
result of which was that few save the officers ever owned uniforms at
all. In 1810 Wellesley had to make formal representation to Masséna
that they were part of the armed force of the Portuguese kingdom,
and not banditti, as the Marshal threatened to deny the rights of
regular combatants to any prisoners not wearing a military dress.
The officers, however, had a blue uniform similar to that of the
line, save that they had silver instead of gold lace on their collars
and wrists. The militia were not entitled to any pay when mobilized
within the limits of their own province. When taken over its border
officers and men were supposed to draw half the pay of the regulars
of corresponding rank, but did not find it easy to obtain the modest
stipend to which they were entitled.

Throughout the war the Portuguese militia were only intermittently
in the field: the longest continuous piece of service which they
performed was that during Masséna’s invasion, when they were all
mobilized for more than a year on end, from June 1810 to July 1811.
At other times, the whole or parts of various regiments were under
arms for periods of varying length, either to relieve the regulars
from garrison duty, or to watch the less-exposed frontier points
in times when the French were active in the neighbouring districts
of Spain. They were very seldom exposed to the ordeal of battle,
as their presence in the line would have been a source of danger
rather than a help. But they were useful for secondary work, such as
guarding convoys, maintaining lines of communication, and (most of
all) restraining minor raids by small bodies of the enemy. During
Masséna’s invasion the greater part of them were not drawn within the
lines of Torres Vedras, like the Portuguese regulars, but left out in
the country-side, to shift for themselves. Here they did invaluable
service in cutting the Marshal’s line of communication with Spain,
and harassing all his detachments. It was they who surprised and
captured his wounded and his dépôt at Coimbra, who worried Drouet,
and who turned back Gardanne, when he tried to push forward from
Almeida in order to join the main French army.

But all this was in the far future when the spring campaign of
1809 began. At that date, as we have already seen, the militia
were as undisciplined, as ill-armed, and as useless as the mass of
_Ordenanza_ levies, with which they were confused.

A word must be added as to the theoretical organization of this last
force. It dated back to the Middle Ages, and had been regularly used
during the days of the enfranchisement of Portugal from the yoke of
the Spanish Hapsburgs, in the seventeenth century. The ‘ordinance’
was a Royal decree summoning to arms all males between sixteen and
sixty with the exception of ecclesiastics. In districts owning a
feudal lord, that person was ex-officio declared chief-captain
(_capitão mor_) of his fief, and charged with the summoning of his
vassals to the field. Where manorial customs had disappeared, the
senior magistrate of the town, village, or district had to take
up the post of _capitão mor_, unless a substitute was named by
the crown. It was the duty of this commander to call out all the
able-bodied men of his region, to divide them into companies of 250
men, and to name a captain, ensign, sergeant, clerk (_meirinho_),
and ten corporals for each of these bodies. Persons able to provide
a horse were to serve apart, as cavalry, under separate commanders;
but no one ever saw or heard of mounted _Ordenanza_ troops during
the Peninsular War; all the horses of the country did not suffice
to provide chargers even for the twelve regiments of the regular
army. The whole levy was supposed to be called out twice a year by
the _capitão mor_, in order that it might be seen that every man
was properly enrolled in a company. But as a matter of fact the
_Ordenanza_ had not been summoned out, save in 1762 and 1802, since
the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. Nor had any care been
taken to see that every householder possessed a weapon of some sort,
as the law directed. When they mustered in 1809, the men with pikes
outnumbered those with fowling-pieces or blunderbusses, and the men
furnished with no more than scythes on poles, or goads, or such-like
rustic weapons, were far more numerous than the pikemen.

The whole mass was perfectly useless; it was cruel to place it in the
field and send it against regular troops. Tumultuous, undisciplined,
unofficered, it was doomed to massacre whenever it allowed the enemy
to approach. It would have been well to refrain from calling it
out altogether, and to turn over the few serviceable arms which it
possessed to the militia.

NOTE.--By far the best account of the Portuguese army and military
system is to be found in Halliday’s _Present state of Portugal and
the Portuguese Army_, an invaluable book of 1812. Something can
be gleaned from Dumouriez’s _Essay on the military topography of
Portugal_ [1766]. A little information comes from Foy, but many of
his statements in his vol. ii. are inaccurate. The Wellington and
Beresford dispatches in the Record Office are, of course, full of
information, but would be very unintelligible but for Halliday’s
explanatory memoir, as they presuppose knowledge of the details of
organization, but do not generally describe them. For the Lusitanian
Legion, see Mayne’s monograph on that corps, and the dispatches of
Sir Robert Wilson. I have inserted in an appendix a table of the
reorganized army as it stood in the autumn of 1809.

[Illustration: _Portuguese Infantry
  a Private of the Lisbon Regiment
  and a man of the Algarve Ordenanza.
  From a drawing of 1809.
  Walker & Cockerell Ph. So._]



When La Romana marched off to the east, and abandoned his Portuguese
allies to their own resources, the duty of defending the frontier
fell upon General Francisco Silveira, the military governor of the
Tras-os-Montes. He had mobilized his forces at Chaves the moment that
Soult’s departure from Orense became known, and had there gathered
the whole levy of his province. The total amounted to two incomplete
line regiments[266] four battalions of disorderly and ill-equipped
militia[267], the skeletons of two cavalry regiments, with hardly 200
horses between them[268], and a mass of the local _Ordenanza_, armed
with pikes, goads, scythes, and fowling-pieces. The whole mass may
have numbered some 12,000 men, of whom not 6,000 possessed firearms
of any kind[269]. Against them the French marshal was marching at the
head of 22,000 veterans, who had already gained experience in the art
of mountain-warfare from their recent campaign in Galicia. The result
was not difficult to foresee. If the Portuguese dared to offer battle
they would be scattered to the winds.

  [266] The 12th and 24th regiments--Chaves and Braganza.

  [267] Militia of Chaves, Villa Real, Miranda, and Braganza.

  [268] The 6th and 9th cavalry.

  [269] Brotherton to Castlereagh, March 13.

Silveira’s levies were not the only force in arms on the frontier.
The populous province of the Entre-Douro-e-Minho[270], roused to
tumultuous enthusiasm by the bishop of Oporto, had sent every
available man, armed or unarmed, to the front. A screen of militia
and regulars under General Botilho was watching the line of the lower
Minho: a vast mass of _Ordenanza_, backed by a very small body of
line troops lay in and about Braga, under General Bernardino Freire;
another multitude was still thronging the streets of Oporto and
listening to the windy harangues of the bishop. But none of these
masses of armed men were sent to the aid of Silveira. He was not one
of the bishop’s faction, nor was he on good terms with his colleague
Freire. Neither of them showed any inclination to combine with him,
and their followers, in the true spirit of provincial particularism,
thought of nothing but defending their own hearths and homes, and
left the Tras-os-Montes to take care of itself. Yet they had for
the moment no enemy in front of them but the small French garrison
of Tuy, and could have marched without any risk to join their

  [270] Entre-Douro-e-Minho had a population of 500,000 souls,
  Tras-os-Montes only 180,000.

Relying on the aid of La Romana, General Silveira had taken post
at Villarelho on the right bank of the Tamega, leaving the defence
of the left bank to the Spaniards, whom he supposed to be still
stationed about Monterey and Verin. On the very day upon which the
Army of Galicia absconded, the Portuguese general sent forward a
detachment, consisting of a line regiment and a mass of peasants, to
menace the flank of the French advance. This force, having crossed
the Spanish frontier, got into collision with the enemy near Villaza.
Since Franceschi’s horsemen and Heudelet’s infantry had turned off
to the east in pursuit of La Romana, the Portuguese fell in with
the leading column of Soult’s main body--a brigade of Lahoussaye’s
dragoons supported by Delaborde’s division. This force they ventured
to attack, but were promptly beaten off by Foy, the brigadier of
the advanced guard, who routed them and captured their sole piece
of artillery. The shattered column fell back on the main body at
Villarelho, and then Silveira, hearing of the departure of the
Spaniards, resolved to retire and to look for a defensive position
which he might be able to hold by his own unaided efforts. There
was none such to be found in front of Chaves, for the valley of
the Tamega widens out between Monterey and the Portuguese frontier
fortress, and offers no ground suitable for defence. Accordingly
Silveira very prudently decided to withdraw his tumultuary army to
the heights of San Pedro, a league to the south of the town, where
the space between the river and the mountains narrows down and
offers a short and compact line of resistance. But he waited to be
driven in, and meanwhile left rear-guards in observation at Feces de
Abaxo on the left, and Outeiro on the right bank, of the Tamega.

Soult halted three days at Monterey in order to allow his rearguard
and his convoy of sick to close up with the main body. But on March
10 he resumed his advance, using the two parallel roads on the two
banks of the Tamega. Franceschi’s light horse and Heudelet’s division
pushed down the eastern side, Caulaincourt’s brigade of dragoons[271]
and Delaborde’s infantry down the western side of the river. Merle
and Mermet were still near Verin. As the Tamega was unfordable in
most places, the army seemed dangerously divided, but Soult knew well
that he was running little or no risk. Both at Feces and Outeiro the
Portuguese detachments, which covered Silveira’s main body, tried to
offer serious resistance. They were of course routed, with the loss
of a gun and many prisoners.

  [271] Of Lahoussaye’s division.

On hearing that his enemy was drawing near, Silveira ordered
his whole army to retreat behind Chaves to the position of San
Pedro[272]. This command nearly cost him his life; the ignorant
masses of militia and _Ordenanza_ could only see treason in the
proposed move, which abandoned the town to the French. The local
troops refused to march, and threatened to shoot their general:
he withdrew with such of his men as would still obey orders, but
a mixed multitude consisting of part of the 12th regiment of the
line (the Chaves regiment), and a mass of _Ordenanza_ and militia,
remained behind to defend the dilapidated town. Its walls had never
been repaired since the Spaniards had breached them in 1762; of
the fifty guns which armed them the greater part were destitute of
carriages, and rusting away in extreme old age; the supply of powder
and cannon-balls was wholly insufficient for even a short siege. But
encouraged by the advice of an incompetent engineer officer[273], who
said that a few barricades would make the place impregnable, 3,000
men shut themselves up in it, and aided by 1,200 armed citizens,
defied Soult, and opened a furious fire upon the vedettes which he
pushed up to the foot of the walls. The Marshal sent in a fruitless
summons to surrender, and then invested the place on the evening of
the tenth; all night the garrison kept up a haphazard cannonade,
and shouted defiance to the French. Next morning Soult resolved
to drive away Silveira from the neighbouring heights, convinced
that the spirits of the defenders of Chaves would fail the moment
that they saw the field army defeated and forced to abscond. The
divisions of Delaborde and Lahoussaye soon compelled Silveira to
give ground: he displayed indeed a laudable prudence in refusing to
let himself be caught and surrounded, and made off south-eastward
towards Villa Real with 6,000 or 7,000 men. The Marshal then summoned
Chaves to surrender for the second time; the garrison seem to have
tired themselves out with twelve hours of patriotic shouting, and to
have used up great part of their munitions in their silly nocturnal
fireworks. When they saw Silveira driven away, their spirits sank,
and they allowed their leader, Magelhaes Pizarro, to capitulate,
without remonstrance. In short, they displayed even more cowardice
on the eleventh than indiscipline upon the tenth of March. On the
twelfth the French entered the city in triumph.

  [272] Brotherton to Cradock, from Povoa de Aguiar, March 13.

  [273] He was called Magelhaes Pizarro, but cannot be said to
  have shown either the endurance of the Portuguese seaman, or the
  reckless courage of the Spanish _conquistador_, whose historic
  names he bore.

Soult was much embarrassed by the multitude of captives whom he had
taken: he could not spare an escort strong enough to guard 4,000
prisoners to a place of safety. Accordingly he made a virtue of
necessity, permitted the armed citizens of Chaves to retire to their
homes, and dismissed the mass of 2,500 _Ordenanza_ and militia-men,
after extracting from them an oath not to serve against France during
the rest of the war. The 500 regulars of the 12th regiment were
not treated in the same way. The Marshal offered them the choice
between captivity and enlisting in a Franco-Portuguese legion, which
he proposed to raise. To their great discredit the majority, both
officers and men, took the latter alternative--though it was with the
sole idea of deserting as soon as possible. At the same moment Soult
made an identical offer to the Spanish prisoners captured from Mahy’s
division at the combats of Osoño and La Trepa on March 6: they
behaved no better than the Portuguese: several hundred of them took
the oath to King Joseph, and consented to enter his service[274].

  [274] See Naylies, p. 81; St. Chamans, p. 120; Le Noble, p. 120;
  and Des Odoards, p. 213.

The Duke of Dalmatia had resolved to make Chaves his base for
further operations in Portugal. He brought up to it from Monterey
all his sick and wounded, including those who had been transported
from Orense; the total now amounted to 1,325, of whom many were
convalescents already fit for sedentary duty. To guard them a single
company of a French regiment, and the inchoate ‘Portuguese Legion,’
were detailed, while the command was placed in the hands of the _chef
de bataillon_ Messager. The flour and unground wheat found in the
place fed the army for several days, and the small stock of powder
captured was utilized to replenish its depleted supply of cartridges.

From Chaves Soult had the choice of two roads for marching on Oporto.
The more obvious route on the map is that which descends the Tamega
almost to its junction with the Douro, and then strikes across to
Oporto by Amarante and Penafiel. But here, as is so often the case
in the Peninsula, the map is the worst of guides. The road along
the river, frequently pinched in between the water and overhanging
mountains, presents a series of defiles and strong positions, is
considerably longer than the alternative route, and passes through
difficult country wellnigh from start to finish.

The second path from Chaves to Oporto is that which strikes westward,
crosses the Serra da Cabrera, and descends into the valley of the
Cavado by Ruivaens and Salamonde. From thence it leads to Braga, on
the great coast-road from Valenza to Oporto. The first two or three
stages of this route are rough and difficult, and pass through ground
even more defensible than that on the way to Amarante and Penafiel.
But when the rugged defiles of the watershed between the Tamega and
the Cavado have been passed, and the invader has reached Braga,
the country becomes flat and open, and the coast plain, crossed by
two excellent roads, leads him easily to his goal. It has also to
be remembered that, by adopting this alternative, Soult took in
the rear the Portuguese fortresses of the lower Minho, and made it
easy to reopen communications with Tuy and the French forces still
remaining in Galicia.

If any other persuasion were needed to induce the Marshal to take the
western, and not the eastern, road to Oporto, it was the knowledge of
the position of the enemy which he had attained by diligent cavalry
reconnaissances. It was ascertained that Silveira with the remains of
his division had fallen back to Villa Pouca, more than thirty miles
away, in the direction of Villa Real. He could not be caught, and
could retreat whithersoever he pleased. Freire, on the other hand,
was lying at Braga with his unwieldy masses, and had made no attempt
to march forward and fortify the passes of the Serra da Cabrera.
By all accounts that the horsemen of Franceschi could gather, the
defiles were blocked only by the _Ordenanza_ of the mountain villages.

This astounding news was absolutely correct. Freire’s obvious course
was to defend the rugged watershed, where positions abounded. But
he contented himself with placing mere observation posts--bodies
of thirty or 100 men--in the passes, while keeping his main army
concentrated. The truth was that he was in a state of deep depression
of mind, and prepared for a disaster. Judging from the line which he
adopted in the previous year, while co-operating with Wellesley in
the campaign against Junot, we may set him down as a timid rather
than a cautious general. He had no confidence in himself or in his
troops: the indiscipline and mutinous spirit of the motley levies
which he commanded had reduced him to despair, and he received
no support from the Bishop of Oporto and his faction, who were
omnipotent in the province. Repeated demands for reinforcements of
regular troops had brought him nothing but the 2nd battalion of the
Lusitanian Legion, under Baron Eben. The Bishop kept back the greater
part of the resources of which he could dispose, for the defence of
his own city, in front of which he was erecting a great entrenched
camp. Freire had also called on the Regency for aid, but they had
done no more than order two line battalions under General Vittoria
to join him, and these troops had not yet crossed the Douro. When he
heard that the French were on the march, and that he himself would
be the next to receive their visit, he so far lost heart that he
contemplated retiring on Oporto without attempting to fight. Instead
of defending the defiles of Ruivaens and Salamonde, he began to send
to the rear his heavy stores, his military chest, and his artillery
of position. This timid resolve was to be his ruin, for the excitable
and suspicious multitude which surrounded him had every intention of
defending their homes, and could only see treason and cowardice in
the preparations for retreat. In a few days their fury was to burst
forth into open mutiny, to the destruction of their general and their
own ultimate ruin.

Soult meanwhile had set out from Chaves on March 14, with Franceschi
and Delaborde at the head of his column, as they had been in all the
operations since their departure from Orense. Mermet and Lahoussaye’s
dragoons followed on the fifteenth: Heudelet, with whom were the head
quarters’ staff and the baggage, marched on the sixteenth: Merle,
covering the rear of the army, came in from Monterey on that day,
and started from Chaves on the seventeenth. Only Vialannes’ brigade
of dragoons[275] was detached: these two regiments were directed to
make a feint upon Villa Real, with the object of frightening and
distracting Silveira, lest he should return to his old post when
he heard that the French army had departed, and fall upon the rear
of the marching columns. They beat up his outposts at Villa Pouca,
announced everywhere the Marshal’s approach with his main body,
and retired under cover of the night, after having deceived the
Tras-os-Montes troops for a couple of days.

  [275] Lorges’ other brigade, that of Fournier, had been (as it
  will be remembered) left behind in Galicia with Marshal Ney.

The divisions of Delaborde and Franceschi, while clearing the passes
above Chaves, met with a desperate but futile resistance from the
_Ordenanza_ of the upper Cavado valley. Practically unaided by
Freire, who had only sent to the defile of Salamonde 300 regular
troops--a miserable mockery of assistance--the gallant peasantry did
their best. ‘Even the smallest villages,’ wrote an aide-de-camp of
Soult, ‘tried to defend themselves. It was not rare to see a peasant
barricade himself all alone in his house, and fire from the windows
on our men, till his door was battered in, and he met his death on
our bayonets. The Portuguese defended themselves with desperation,
and never asked for quarter: if only these brave and devoted fellows
had possessed competent leaders, we should have been forced to give
up the expedition, or else we should never have got out of the
country. But their resistance was individual: each man died defending
his hamlet or his home, and a single battalion of our advanced
guard easily cleared the way for us. I saw during these days young
girls in the fighting-line, firing on us, and meeting their death
without recoiling a step. The priests had told them that they were
martyrs, and that all who died defending their country went straight
to paradise. In these petty combats, which lasted day after day, we
frequently found, among the enemy’s dead, monks in their robes, their
crucifixes still clasped in their hands. Indeed, while advancing
we could see from afar these ecclesiastics passing about among the
peasants, and animating them to the combat[276].... While the columns
were on the march isolated peasants kept up a continual dropping fire
on us from inaccessible crags above the road: at night they attacked
our sentries, or crept down close to our bivouacs to shoot at the
men who sat round the blaze. This sort of war was not very deadly,
but infinitely fatiguing: there was not a moment of the day or night
when we had not to be upon the _qui vive_. Moreover, every man who
strayed from the ranks, whether he was sick, drunk, tired, or merely
a marauder, was cut off and massacred. The peasants not only murdered
them, but tortured them in the most horrid fashion before putting
them to death[277].’

  [276] Every French diarist of Soult’s army has tales of the stoic
  courage displayed by the Portuguese clergy. A story from Naylies
  of Lahoussaye’s dragoons may serve as an example. Near Braga he
  came on a cart escorted by a single priest with a gun on his
  shoulder. He was the chaplain of a convent, who was taking out
  of harm’s way a party of nuns. When he saw himself overtaken, he
  quietly waited in the middle of the road, shot the first dragoon
  dead, and was killed by the second as he was trying to reload his

  [277] St. Chamans, _Mémoires_, pp. 119-21.

Among scenes of this description Franceschi and Delaborde forced
their way down the valley of the Cavado, till they arrived at the
village of Carvalho d’Este, six miles from Braga, where they found
a range of hills on both sides of the road, occupied by the whole
horde of 25,000 men who had been collected by Freire. The division
which followed the French advanced guard had also to sustain several
petty combats, for the survivors of the _Ordenanza_ whom Delaborde
had swept out of the way, closed in again to molest each column, as
it passed by the defiles of Venda-Nova, Ruivaens, and Salamonde.
Mermet’s division, which brought up the rear, had to beat off a
serious attack from Silveira’s army[278]. For that general, as soon
as he discovered that he had been fooled by Lorges’ demonstration,
sent across the Tamega a detachment of 3,000 men, who fell upon
Soult’s rear. But a single regiment drove them off without much
difficulty: they drew back to their own side of the mountains, and
did not quit the valley of the Tamega.

  [278] For combats waged by Lahoussaye’s dragoons, who were in the
  middle of the long column, see the journal of Naylies (pp. 83-4).
  For attacks on Mermet, in the rear column, see Fantin des Odoards
  (p. 214).

It was on March 17 that Franceschi and Delaborde pushed forward
to the foot of the Portuguese position, which swept round in a
semicircle on each side of the high-road. Its western half was
composed of the plateau of Monte Adaufé, whose left overhangs the
river Cavado, while its right slopes upward to join the wooded Monte
Vallongo. This latter hill is considerably more lofty than the
Monte Adaufé and less easy of access. In front of the position, and
bisected by the high-road, is the village of Carvalho d’Este: at the
foot of the Monte Vallongo is another village, Lanhozo, whose name
the French have chosen to bestow on the combat which followed. To the
left-rear of the Monte Adaufé, pressed in between its slopes and the
river, is a third village, Ponte do Prado, with a bridge across the
Cavado, which is the only one by which the position can be turned.
The town of Braga lies three miles further to the rear. The invaders
halted on seeing the whole range of hills, some six miles long,
crowned with masses of men in position. Franceschi would not take
it upon himself to attack such a multitude, even though they were
but peasantry and militia, of the same quality as the horde that had
been defeated near Chaves a few days before. He sent back word to the
Marshal, and drew up in front of the position to await the arrival of
the main body. But noting that a long rocky spur of the Monte Adaufé
projected from the main block of high ground which the enemy was
holding, he caused it to be attacked by Foy’s brigade of infantry,
and drove back without much difficulty the advanced guard of the
Portuguese. The possession of this hill gave the French a foothold on
the heights, and an advantageous _emplacement_ for artillery such as
could not be found in the plain below.

It was three days before the rest of Soult’s army joined the leading
division--not until the twentieth was his entire force, with the
exception of Merle’s infantry, concentrated at the foot of the
enemy’s position, and ready to attack. This long period of waiting,
when every mind was screwed up to the highest pitch of excitement,
had completely broken down the nerve of the Portuguese, who spent the
hours of respite in hysterical tumult and rioting. Freire, as we have
already seen, had been planning a retreat on Oporto, but he found the
spirit of his army so exalted that he thought it better to conceal
his project. He pretended to have abandoned the idea of retiring,
and gave orders for the construction of entrenchments and batteries
on the Monte Adaufé, to enfilade the main approach by the high-road.
But he could not disguise his down-heartedness, nor persuade his
followers to trust him. Presently the wrecks of the _Ordenanza_
levies, who had fought at Salamonde, fell back upon Braga, loudly
accusing him of cowardice, for not supporting them in their advanced
position. The whole camp was full of shouting, objectless firing in
the air, confused cries of treason, and mutinous assemblies. On the
day when the French appeared in front of the position Freire grew so
alarmed at the threats against his life, which resounded on every
side, that he secretly quitted Braga to fly to Oporto. But he was
recognized and seized by the _Ordenanza_ of Tobossa, a few miles to
the rear. They brought him back to the camp as a prisoner, and handed
him over to Baron Eben, the colonel of the 2nd battalion of the
Lusitanian Legion, who had been acting as Freire’s second-in-command.
This officer, an ambitious and presumptuous man, and a great ally of
the Bishop of Oporto, played the demagogue, harangued the assembled
multitude, and readily took over the charge of the army. He consigned
his unfortunate predecessor to the gaol of Braga, and led on the
mutineers to reinforce the array on Monte Adaufé. When Eben had
departed, a party of _Ordenanza_ returned to the city, dragged out
the wretched Freire, and killed him in the street with their pikes.
The same afternoon they murdered Major Villasboas, the chief of
Freire’s engineers, and one or more of his aides-de-camp. They also
seized and threw into prison the _corregidor_ of Braga, and several
other persons accused of sympathy with the French. Eben appears to
have winked at these atrocities--much as his friend the Bishop of
Oporto ignored the murders which were taking place in that city. By
assuming command in the irregular fashion that we have seen, he had
made himself the slave of the hysterical horde that surrounded him,
and had to let them do what they pleased, lest he should fall under
suspicion himself[279].

  [279] I agree with General Arteche in thinking that Eben’s
  dispatch to Cradock, from which this narrative is mainly drawn,
  does him no credit. Indeed, it is easy to adopt the sinister
  view that Eben was aiming at getting the command, did nothing to
  discourage the mob, and was indirectly responsible for Freire’s
  murder. As Arteche remarks ‘with a little more resolution and
  a little less personal ambition, the Baron could probably have
  prevented the catastrophe’ (vol. v. p. 393). But Freire’s conduct
  had been so cowardly and incapable that the peasants were
  reasonably incensed with him. Why had he not defended the rugged
  defiles of Venda Nova and Salamonde, and what could excuse his
  absconding and abandoning his army?

It would seem, however, that Eben did the little that was possible
with such material in preparing to oppose Soult. He threw up more
entrenchments on the Monte Adaufé, mounted the few guns that he
possessed in commanding situations, and did his best to add to the
lamentably depleted store of munitions on hand. Even the church roofs
were stripped for lead, when it was found that there was absolutely
no reserve of cartridges, and that the _Ordenanza_ had wasted half
of their stock in demonstrations and profitless firing at the French
vedettes. On the morning of the nineteenth he extended his right
wing to some hills below the Monte Vallongo, beyond the village of
Lanhozo, a movement which threatened to outflank and surround that
part of the French army which was in front of him, and to cut it off
from the divisions still in the rear. This could not be tolerated,
and Mermet’s infantry were dispatched to dislodge the 2,000 men who
had taken up this advanced position. They were easily beaten out of
the village and off the hill, and retired to their former station
on the Monte Vallongo. The French here captured two guns and some
prisoners. Soult gave these men copies of a proclamation which he had
printed at Chaves, offering pardon to all Portuguese who should lay
down their arms, and sent them back into Eben’s lines under a flag
of truce. When the _Ordenanza_ discovered what the papers were, they
promptly put to death the twenty unfortunate men as traitors, without
listening to their attempts to explain the situation.

On the morning of March 20, Soult had been joined by Lorges’
dragoons and his other belated detachments, and prepared to attack
the enemy’s position. To defend it Eben had now, beside 700 of
his own Legion[280], one incomplete line regiment (Viana, no. 9),
the militia of Braga and the neighbouring places, and some 23,000
_Ordenanza_ levies, of whom 5,000 had firearms, 11,000 pikes, and the
remaining 7,000 nothing better than scythes, goads, and instruments
of husbandry. There were about fifteen or twenty pieces of artillery
distributed along the front of the six-mile position, the majority
of them in the entrenchments on the Monte Adaufé, placed so as to
command the high-road.

  [280] Eben’s dispatch is in the Record Office, in the
  miscellaneous volume at the end of the Portugal 1809 series.

Knowing the sort of rabble that was in front of him, Soult made no
attempt to turn or outflank the Portuguese, but resolved to deliver a
frontal attack all along the line, in the full belief that the enemy
would give way the moment that the charge was pushed home. He had now
about 3,000 cavalry and 13,000 infantry with him--Merle being still
absent. He told off Delaborde’s division with Lahoussaye’s dragoons
to assail the enemy’s centre, on both sides of the high-road, where
it crosses the Monte Adaufé. Mermet’s infantry and Franceschi’s
light horse attacked, on the left, the wooded slopes of the Monte
Vallongo. Heudelet’s division, on the right, sent one brigade to
storm the heights above the river, and left the other brigade as a
general reserve for the army. Lorges’ dragoons were also held back in

As might have been expected, Soult’s dispositions were completely
successful. When the columns of Delaborde and Heudelet reached
the foot of the enemy’s position, the motley horde which occupied
it broke out into wild cheers and curses, and opened a heavy but
ineffective fire. They stood as long as the French were climbing up
the slopes, but when the infantry debouched on to the plateau of
Monte Adaufé they began to waver and disperse[281]. Then Soult let
loose the cavalry of Lahoussaye, which had trotted up the high-road
close in the rear of Delaborde’s battalions, the 17th Dragoons
leading. There was no time for the reeling mass of peasants to
escape. ‘We dashed into them,’ wrote one officer who took part in
the charge[282]; ‘we made a great butchery of them; we drove on
among them pell-mell right into the streets of Braga, and we pushed
them two leagues further, so that we covered in all four leagues
at full gallop without giving them a moment to rally. Their guns,
their baggage, their military chest, many standards fell into our

  [281] Eben, in his report, says that at the moment of the French
  assault one of his guns in the battery commanding the high-road
  burst, and killed many of those standing about, and that the rout
  commenced with the stampede caused by this explosion.

  [282] Naylies [of the 19th Dragoons], p. 87.

  [283] Even while flying through the streets of Braga, some of
  the routed horde found time to pay a visit to the town gaol, and
  to murder the _corregidor_ and the other prisoners who had been
  placed there on the eighteenth.

Such was the fate of the Portuguese centre, on each side of the
high-road. Further to the right, above the Cavado, Heudelet was
equally successful in forcing his way up the northern slopes of the
Monte Adaufé; the enemy broke when he reached the plateau, but as
he had no heavy force of cavalry with him, their flight was not so
disastrous or their loss so heavy as in the centre. Indeed, when they
had been swept down into the valley behind the ridge, some of the
Portuguese turned to bay at the Ponte do Prado, and inflicted a sharp
check on the Hanoverian legion, the leading battalion in Heudelet’s
advance. It was not till the 26th of the line came up to aid the
Germans that the rallied peasantry again broke and fled. They only
lost 300 men in this part of the field.

Far to the left, in the woods on the slope of the Monte Vallongo,
Mermet and Franceschi had found it much harder to win their way to
the edge of the plateau than had the troops in the centre. But it
was only the physical obstacles that detained them: the resistance
of the enemy was even feebler than in the centre. By the time that
the infantry of Mermet emerged on the crest of the hill, the battle
had already been won elsewhere. The Portuguese right wing crumpled up
the moment that it was attacked, and fled devious over the hillsides,
followed by Franceschi’s cavalry, who made a dreadful slaughter among
the fugitives. Five miles behind their original position a body of
militia with four guns rallied under the cliffs on which stands the
village of Falperra. The cavalry held them in check till Mermet’s
leading regiment, the 31st Léger, came up, and then, attacked by both
arms at once, the whole body was ridden down and almost exterminated.
‘The commencement was a fight, the end a butchery,’ wrote an officer
of the 31st; ‘if our enemies had been better armed and less ignorant
of the art of war, they might have made us pay dearly for our
victory. But for lack of muskets they were half of them armed with
pikes only: they could not manœuvre in the least. How was such a mob
to resist us? they could only have held their ground if they had been
behind stone walls[284].’

  [284] Fantin des Odoards, p. 216.

The rout and pursuit died away in the southern valleys beyond Braga,
and Soult could take stock of his victory. He had captured seventeen
guns, five flags, and the whole of the stores of Eben’s army: he had
killed, according to his own estimate, some 4,000 men[285], and taken
only 400 prisoners. This shocking disproportion between the dead and
the captives was caused by the fact that the French in most parts
of the field had given no quarter. Some of their historians explain
that their cruelty resulted from the discovery that the Portuguese
had been murdering and mutilating the stragglers who fell into their
hands[286]. But it was really due to the exasperation of spirit that
always accompanies guerrilla warfare. Constantly worried by petty
ambushes, ‘sniped’ in their bivouacs, never allowed a moment of rest,
the soldiers were in a state of nervous irritation which found vent
in needless and unjustifiable cruelty. In the fight they had lost
only forty killed and 160 wounded, figures which afford no excuse for
the wholesale slaughter in the pursuit to which they gave themselves

  [285] Eben, in his report to Cradock at the Record Office, says
  1,000 only, of whom more than 200 belonged to the Lusitanian

  [286] Le Noble, p. 142. St. Chamans, p. 121. Naylies and Fantin
  des Odoards, though both mentioning the slaughter in which they
  took part, do not give this justification for it. The latter says
  that the French gave no quarter save to men in uniform.

In the first flush of victory the French supposed that they had made
an end of the _Ordenanza_, and that northern Portugal was at their
feet. ‘Cette journée a été fatale à l’insurrection portugaise,’ wrote
one of the victors in his diary[287]. But no greater mistake could
have been made: though many of the routed horde dispersed to their
homes, the majority rallied again behind the Avé, only ten or twelve
miles from the battle-field. Nor did the battle of Braga even open
the way to Galicia: General Botilho, with the levies of the Valenza
and Viana district, closed in behind Soult and blocked the way to
Tuy, the nearest French garrison. The Marshal had only conquered the
ground on which he stood, and already his communication with Chaves,
his last base, had been intercepted by detachments sent into the
passes by Silveira.

  [287] Fantin des Odoards, p. 216.

Soult halted three days at Braga, a time which he utilized for the
repair of his artillery, and the replenishing of the cartridge boxes
of his infantry from the not too copious supply of munitions captured
from the Portuguese. His cavalry scoured the country down the Cavado
as far as Barcelos, and southward to the line of the Avé, only to
find insurgents everywhere, the bridges broken, and the fords dredged
up and staked.

The Marshal, however, undaunted by the gloomy outlook, resolved to
march straight for his destined goal, without paying any attention to
his communications. He now made Braga a temporary base, left there
Heudelet’s division in charge of 600 sick and wounded, and moved on
Oporto at the head of his three remaining infantry divisions and all
his cavalry.

Two good _chaussées_, and one additional mountain road of inferior
character, lead from Braga to Oporto, crossing the Avé, the one
four, the next six, the third twenty-four miles from the sea. The
first and most westerly passes it at Ponte de Avé, the second at
Barca de Trofa, where there is both a bridge and a wide ford, the
third and least obvious at Guimaraens not far from its source in the
Serra de Santa Catalina. Soult resolved to use all three for his
advance, wisely taking the difficult road by Guimaraens into his
scheme, since he guessed that it would probably be unwatched by the
Portuguese, precisely because it was far less eligible than the other
two. He was perfectly right: the Bishop of Oporto, the moment that
he heard of the fall of Braga, pushed up some artillery and militia
to aid the _Ordenanza_ in defending both the Ponte de Avé and the
Barca de Trofa bridges. Each was cut: batteries were hastily thrown
up commanding their approaches, and entrenchments were constructed in
their rear. At Barca de Trofa the ford was dredged up and completely
blocked with _chevaux de frise_. But the remote and secondary passage
at Guimaraens was comparatively neglected, and left in charge of such
of the local _Ordenanza_ as had returned home after the rout of Braga.

Soult directed Lorges’ dragoons against the western road: he himself
with Delaborde’s and Merle’s infantry and Lahoussaye’s cavalry took
the central _chaussée_ by Barca de Trofa. On the difficult flanking
path by Guimaraens he sent Franceschi’s light horse and Mermet’s
infantry. On both the main roads the Portuguese positions were so
strong that the advancing columns were held back: Soult would not
waste men--he was beginning to find that he had none to spare--in
attempting to force the entrenched positions opposite him. After
feeling them with caution, he pushed a column up-stream to a small
bridge at San Justo, which had been barricaded but not broken. Here
he established by night a heavy battery commanding the opposite bank.
On the morning of the twenty-sixth he opened fire on the Portuguese
positions across the water, and, when the enemy had been well
battered, hurled the brigade of General Foy at the fortified bridge.
It was carried, and Delaborde’s division was beginning to pass, when
it met another French force debouching on the same point. This was
composed of Mermet and Franceschi’s men: they had beaten the local
_Ordenanza_ at Guimaraens, crossed the Avé high up, and were now
pushing along the southern bank to take the Barca de Trofa position
in the flank. Thus Soult found that, even if his frontal assault at
San Justo had failed, his left-hand column would have cleared the way
for him a few hours later, being already across the river and in the
enemy’s rear. Indeed his lateral detachment had done all that he had
expected from it, and at no great cost. For though the _Ordenanza_
had opposed it bravely enough, they had never been able to hold it
back. The only notable loss that had been sustained was that of
General Jardon, one of Mermet’s brigadiers, who had met his death by
his own recklessness. Finding his men checked for a moment, he had
seized a musket and charged on foot at the head of his skirmishing
line. This was not the place for a brigadier-general, and Jardon died
unnecessarily, doing the work of a sub-lieutenant.

Finding the French across the river at San Justo, the Portuguese, who
were defending the lower bridges, had to give way, or they would have
been surrounded and cut off. They yielded unwillingly, and at Ponte
de Avé actually beat off the first attempt to evict them. But in the
end they had to fly, abandoning the artillery in the redoubts that
covered the two bridges[288].

  [288] Le Noble (pp. 157-8), and Napier following him, say that
  the Portuguese murdered their commander, Brigadier-General
  Vallongo, when the bridges were forced, tore him in pieces, and
  buried his scattered members in a dunghill. It is a relief to
  know from Da Luz Soriano, the Portuguese historian, that nothing
  of the kind occurred, and that there was no officer of the name
  of Vallongo in the Portuguese army.

On the twenty-seventh, therefore, Soult was able to press close in
to Oporto, for the line of the Avé is but fifteen miles north of the
city. On approaching the heights which overhang the Douro the French
found them covered with entrenchments and batteries ranged on a long
front of six or seven miles, from San João de Foz on the sea-shore
to the chapel of Bom Fin overlooking the river above the town. Ever
since the departure of the French from Orense and their crossing of
the frontier had become known, the whole of the populace had been at
work on the fortifications, under the direction of Portuguese and
British engineer officers. In three weeks an enormous amount of work
had been done. The rounded summits of the line of hills, which rise
immediately north of the city, and only half a mile in advance of
its outermost houses, had been crowned with twelve redoubts armed
with artillery of position. The depressions between the redoubts had
been closed by palisades and abattis. Further west, below the city,
where the line of hills is less marked, the front was continued by
a deep ditch, fortified buildings, and four strong redoubts placed
in the more exposed positions. It ended at the walls of San João da
Foz, the old citadel which commands the mouth of the Douro, and had
in this direction an outwork in another ancient fort, the castle of
Quejo, on the sea-shore a mile north of the estuary. There were no
less than 197 guns of various calibres distributed along the front of
the lines. Nor was this all: the main streets of the place had been
barricaded to serve as a second line of defence, and even south of
the river a battery had been constructed on the height crowned by the
Serra Convent, which overlooks the bridge and the whole city.

To hold this enormous fortified camp the Bishop of Oporto had
collected an army formidable in numbers if not in quality. There
was a strong nucleus of troops of the regular army: it included the
two local Oporto regiments (6th and 18th of the line), two more
battalions brought in by Brigadier-General Vittoria, who had been too
late to join in the defence of Braga, a battalion of the regiment
of Valenza (no. 21), a fraction of that of Viana (no. 9), with the
wrecks of the 2nd battalion of the Lusitanian Legion, which had
escaped from Eben’s rout of the twentieth, and the skeleton of an
incomplete cavalry regiment (no. 12, Miranda). In all there cannot
have been less than 5,000 regular troops in the town, though many of
the men were recruits with only a few weeks of service. To these may
be added three or four militia regiments in the same condition as
were the rest of the corps of that force, i.e. half-armed and less
than half-disciplined[289]. But the large majority of the garrison
was composed of the same sort of levies that had already fought
with such small success at Chaves and Braga--there were 9,000 armed
citizens of Oporto and a somewhat greater number of the _Ordenanza_
of the open country, who had retired into the city before Soult’s
advancing columns. The whole mass--regulars and irregulars--may have
made up a force of 30,000 men--nothing like the 40,000 or 60,000 of
the French reports[290]. Under the Bishop the military commanders
were three native brigadier-generals, Lima-Barreto, Parreiras,
and Vittoria. Eben had been offered the charge of a section of
the defences, but--depressed with the results of his experiment
in generalship at Braga--he refused any other responsibility than
that of leading his battalion of the Lusitanian Legion. The Bishop
had allotted to Parreiras the redoubts and entrenchments on the
north of the town, to Vittoria those on the north-east and east, to
Lima-Barreto those below the town as far as St. João da Foz. The
regulars had been divided up, so as to give two or three battalions
to each general; they were to form the reserve, while the defences
were manned by the militia and _Ordenanza_. There was a lamentable
want of trained gunners--less than 1,000 artillerymen were available
for the 200 pieces in the lines and on the heights beyond the river.
To make up the deficiency many hundreds of raw militia-men had been
turned over to the commanders of the batteries. The natural result
was seen in the inferior gunnery displayed all along the line upon
the fatal twenty-ninth of March.

  [289] Apparently the regiments of Oporto, Baltar, Feira, and
  Villa de Conde.

  [290] I draw these deductions from Beresford’s and Eben’s reports
  in the Record Office. Beresford (writing to Castlereagh on March
  29, the day of the storm) complains that he can get no proper
  ‘morning states’ out of the officers at Oporto, but says that
  the Bishop has there nos. 6 and 18 of the line, Vittoria’s two
  battalions and the wrecks of the 2nd Lusitanian Legion. He speaks
  of two or three militia regiments, 9,000 armed citizens, and
  an indefinite number of _Ordenanza_. Eben gives some details
  concerning his own doings. Da Luz Soriano mentions Champlemond
  and his battalion of the 21st of the line. As to the _Ordenanza_,
  9,000 seems a high estimate for the local Oporto horde, for that
  town with 70,000 souls had already supplied two regiments of the
  line, two battalions of the Lusitanian Legion, and a militia
  regiment, 6,500 men in all.

To complete the picture of the defenders of Oporto it must be
added that the anarchy tempered by assassination, which had been
prevailing in the city ever since the Bishop assumed charge of the
government, had grown to a head during the last few days. On the
receipt of the news of the disaster at Braga it had culminated in a
riot, during which the populace constituted a sort of Revolutionary
Tribunal at the Porto do Olival. They haled out of the prisons all
persons who had been consigned to them on a charge of sympathizing
with the French, hung fourteen of these unfortunates, including
the brigadier-general Luiz da Oliveira, massacred many more in
the streets, and dragged the bodies round the town on hurdles.
The Bishop, though he had 5,000 regular troops at hand, made
no attempt to intervene--‘he could not stand in the way of the
righteous vengeance of the people upon traitors.’ On the night of
the twenty-eighth he retired to a place of safety, the Serra Convent
across the river, after bestowing his solemn benediction upon the
garrison, and handing over the further conduct of the defence to the
three generals whose names we have already cited.

The town of Oporto was hidden from Soult’s eyes by the range of
heights, crowned by fortifications, which lay before him. For the
place was built entirely upon the downslope of the hill towards
the Douro, and was invisible till those approaching it were within
half a mile of its outer buildings. It is a town of steep streets
running down to the water, and meeting at the foot of the great
pontoon-bridge, more than 200 yards long, which links it to the
transpontine suburb of Villa Nova, and the adjacent height of the
Serra do Pilar. The river front forms a broad quay, along which
were lying at the time nearly thirty merchant ships, mostly English
vessels laden with port wine, which were wind-bound by a persistent
North-Wester, and could not cross the bar and get out to sea.

Although his previous attempts to negotiate with the Portuguese had
not been very fortunate, the Marshal thought it worth while to send
proposals for an accommodation to the Bishop. He warned him not
to expose his city to the horrors of a sack, pointed out that the
raw levies of the garrison must inevitably be beaten, and assured
him that ‘the French came not as enemies, but as the deliverers
of Portugal from the yoke of the English. It was for the benefit
of these aliens alone that the Bishop would expose Oporto to the
incalculable calamities attending a storm[291].’ The bearer of the
Marshal’s letter was a Portuguese major taken prisoner at Braga, who
would have been massacred at the outposts if he had not taken the
precaution of explaining to his countrymen that Soult had sent him
in to propose the surrender of the French army, which was appalled at
the formidable series of defences to which it found itself opposed!
The reply sent by the Bishop and his council of war was, of course,
defiant, and bickering along the front of the lines immediately
began. While the white flag was still flying General Foy, the most
distinguished of Soult’s brigadiers, trespassed by some misconception
within the Portuguese picquets and was made prisoner. While being
conducted into the town he was nearly murdered, being mistaken
for Loison, for whom the inhabitants of Oporto nourished a deep

  [291] Le Noble, p. 161.

  [292] Some of the French writers say that Foy was taken prisoner
  while carrying a flag of truce and a second letter for the
  Bishop’s eye. But what really seems to have happened was that he
  conceived a notion that one of the Portuguese outposts wished
  to surrender, rode in amongst them, and began to urge them to
  lay down their arms. But they seized him and sent him to the
  rear; his companion, the _chef de bataillon_ Roger, drew his
  sword and tried to cut his way back to his men, whereupon he was
  bayonetted. One cannot blame the Portuguese, for officers, in
  time of truce, have no right to come within the enemy’s lines,
  still less to urge his troops to desertion. Foy proved that
  he was not Loison by holding up his two hands. Loison being
  one-handed (as his nickname _Maneta_ shows), the populace at once
  saw that they had made a mistake. I follow the narrative in Girod
  de l’Ain’s new life of Foy (p. 78), corroborated by Le Noble (p.
  162). Napier (ii. p. 57), of course, gives a version unfavourable
  to the Portuguese.

On finding that the Portuguese were determined to fight, Soult began
his preparations for a general assault upon the following day. He
drove in the enemy’s outposts outside the town, and captured one or
two small redoubts in front of the main line. Having reconnoitred the
whole position, he told off Delaborde and Franceschi to attack the
north-eastern front, Mermet and one brigade of Lahoussaye’s dragoons
to storm the central parts of the lines, due north of the city, where
the fortifications were most formidable, Merle and the other brigade
of Lahoussaye to press in upon the western entrenchments below the
city. There was no general reserve save Lorges’ two regiments of
cavalry, and these had the additional task imposed upon them of
fending off any attack on the rear of the army which might be made
by scattered bodies of _Ordenanza_, who were creeping out into the
woods along the sea-coast, and threatening to turn the Marshal’s
right flank.

Soult had but 16,000 men available,--of whom 3,000 were cavalry,
and therefore could not be employed till the infantry should have
broken through the line of fortifications which completely covered
the Portuguese front. Nevertheless he had no doubts of the result,
though he had to storm works defended by 30,000 men and lined with
197 cannon. He now knew the exact fighting value of the Portuguese
levies, and looked upon Oporto as his own.

The Marshal’s plan was not to repeat the simple and simultaneous
frontal attack all along the line by which he had carried the day
at Braga. There was a good deal of strategy in his design: the two
flank divisions were ordered to attack, while the centre was for
a time held back. Merle, in especial, was directed to do all that
he could against the weakest point of the Portuguese line, in the
comparatively level ground to the west of the city. Soult hoped that
a heavy attack in this direction would lead the enemy to reinforce
his left from the reserves of his centre, and gradually to disgarnish
the formidable positions north of the city, when no attack was made
on them. If they committed this fault, he intended to hurl Mermet’s
division, which he carefully placed under cover till the critical
moment, at the central redoubts. A successful assault at this point
would finish the game, as it would cut the Portuguese line in two,
and allow the troops to enter the upper quarters of the city in their
first rush.

The French were under arms long ere dawn, waiting for the signal to
attack. The Portuguese also were awake and stirring in the darkness,
when at three o’clock a thunderstorm, accompanied by a terrific
hurricane from the north-west, swept over the city. In the midst of
the elemental din some of the Portuguese sentinels thought that they
had seen the French columns advancing to the assault: they fired, the
artillery followed their example, and for half an hour the noise of
the thunderstorm was rivalled by that of 200 guns of position firing
at nothing. Just as the gunners had discovered their mistake, the
tempest passed away, and soon after the day broke. So drenched and
weary were the French, who had been lying down under the torrential
rain, that Soult put off the assault for an hour, in order to allow
them to dry themselves and take some refreshment; the pause also
allowed the sodden ground to harden.

At seven all was again ready, and Merle’s and Delaborde’s regiments
hurled themselves at the entrenchments above and below the city. Both
made good progress, especially the former, who lodged themselves
in the houses and gardens immediately under the main line of the
Portuguese left wing, and captured several of its outlying defences.
Seeing the position almost forced, Parreiras, the commander of the
central part of the lines, acted just as Soult had hoped, and sent
most of his reserve to reinforce the left. The Marshal then bade
Merle halt for a moment, but ordered Delaborde, on his eastern flank,
to push on as hard as he could. The general obeyed, and charged right
into the Portuguese entrenchments, capturing several redoubts and
actually breaking the line and getting a lodgement in the north-east
corner of the city. Parreiras, to aid his colleague in this quarter,
drew off many of his remaining troops, and sent them away to the
right, thereby leaving his own section of the line only half
manned. Thereupon Soult launched against the central redoubts his
main assaulting column, Mermet’s division and the two regiments of
dragoons. The central battalion went straight for the main position
above the high-road, where the great Portuguese flag was flying on
the strongest redoubt. The others attacked on each side. This assault
was decisive: the Portuguese gunners had only time to deliver two
ineffective salvos when the French were upon them. They charged into
the redoubts through the embrasures, pulled down the connecting
abattis, and swept away the depleted garrison in their first rush.
The line of the defenders was hopelessly broken, and Mermet’s
division hunted them down the streets leading to the river at full

The centre being thus driven in, the Portuguese wings saw that all
was lost, and gave way in disorder, looking only for a line of
retreat. Vittoria, with the right wing, abandoned his section of
the city and retreated east along the Vallongo road, towards the
interior: he got away without much loss, and even turned to bay and
skirmished with the pursuing battalions of Delaborde when once he
was clear of the suburbs. Far other was the lot of the Portuguese
left wing, which had the sea behind it instead of the open country.
General Lima-Barreto, its commander, was killed by his own men:
he had given orders to spike the guns and double to the rear the
moment that he saw the central redoubts carried. Unfortunately for
himself, he was among a mass of men who wished to hold on to their
entrenchments in spite of the disaster on their right. When he
reiterated his order to retreat, he was shot down for a traitor.
But Merle’s division soon evicted his slayers, and sent them flying
towards St. João da Foz and the sea. There was a dreadful slaughter
of the Portuguese in this direction: some escaped across the river
in boats, a large body slipped round Merle’s flank and got away to
the north along the coast (though Lorges’ dragoons pursued them among
the woods above the water and sabred many): others threw themselves
into the citadel of St. João and capitulated on terms. But several
thousands, pressed into the angle between the Douro and the ocean,
were slaughtered almost without resistance, or rolled _en masse_ into
the water.

The fate of the Portuguese centre was no less horrible. Their
commander, Parreiras, fled early, and got over the bridge to report
to the Bishop the ruin of his army. The main horde followed him,
though many lingered behind, endeavouring to defend the barricades
in the streets. When several thousands had passed the river, some
unknown officer directed the drawbridge between the central pontoons
to be raised, in order to prevent the French from following. This was
done while the larger part of the armed multitude was still on the
further bank, hurrying down towards the sole way of escape. Nor was
it only the fighting-men whose retreat was cut off: when the news
ran round the city that the lines were forced, the civil population
had rushed down to the quays to escape before the sack began. It was
fortunate that half the people had left Oporto during the last two
days and taken refuge in Beira. But tens of thousands had lingered
behind, full of confidence in their entrenchments and their army of
defenders. A terrified mass of men, women, and children now came
pouring down to the bridge, and mingled with the remnants of the
routed garrison. The pontoons were still swinging safely on their
cables, and no one, save those in the front of the rush, discovered
that there was a fatal gap in the middle of the passage, where the
drawbridge had been raised. There was no turning back for those
already embarked on the bridge, for the crowds behind continued to
push them on, and it was impossible to make them understand what had
happened. The French had now begun to appear on the quays, and to
attack the rear of the unhappy multitude: their musketry drowned the
cries of those who tried to turn back. At the same time the battery
on the Serra hill, beyond the river, opened upon the French, and
the noise of its twenty heavy guns made it still more impossible to
convey the news to the back of the crowd. For more than half an hour,
it is said, the rush of fugitives kept thrusting its own front ranks
into the death-trap, forty feet broad, in the midst of the bridge.
If anything more was needed to add to the horror of the scene, it
was supplied by the sudden rush of a squadron of Portuguese cavalry,
which--cut off from retreat to the east--galloped down from a side
street and ploughed its way into the thickest of the crowd at the
bridge-head, trampling down hundreds of victims, till it was brought
to a standstill by the mere density of the mass into which it had
penetrated. So many persons, at last, were thrust into the water that
not only was the whole surface of the Douro covered with drowning
wretches, but the gap in the bridge was filled up by a solid mass of
the living and the dead. Over this horrid gangway, as it is said,
some few of the fugitives scrambled to the opposite bank[293].

  [293] Le Noble, and Napier following him, state that the breach
  in the bridge was caused merely by some of the central pontoons
  sinking under the weight of the passing multitude. Hennegan,
  who was present in Oporto that day, says the same. But it seems
  safer to follow Da Luz Soriano and other Portuguese witnesses,
  who state that no such accident occurred, but that the early
  fugitives pulled up the drawbridge in order to stay the pursuit,
  reckless as to the fate of those who were behind them. Historians
  telling a story to the discredit of their own party may generally
  be trusted.

At first the French, who had fought their way down to the quay, had
begun to fire upon the rear of the multitude which was struggling to
escape. But they soon found that no resistance was being offered, and
saw that the greater part of the flying crowd was composed of women,
children, and non-combatants. The sight was so sickening that their
musketry died down, and when they saw the unfortunate Portuguese
thrust by thousands into the water, numbers of them turned to the
charitable work of helping the strugglers ashore, and saved many
lives. The others cleared the bridge-head by forcing the fugitives
back with the butt ends of their muskets, and edging them along the
quays and into the side streets, till the way was open. In the late
afternoon some of Mermet’s troops mended the gap in the bridge with
planks and rafters, and crossed it, despite of the irregular fire of
the Portuguese battery on the heights above. They then pushed into
the transpontine suburb, expelled its defenders, and finally climbed
the Serra hill and captured the guns which had striven to prevent
their passage.

Meanwhile the parts of Oporto remote from the pontoon-bridge had
been the scene of a certain amount of desultory fighting. Many
small bodies of the garrison had barricaded themselves in houses,
and made a desperate but ineffectual attempt to defend them. In the
Bishop’s palace at the south end of the town 400 militia held out
for some hours, and were all bayonetted when the gates were at last
burst open. Street-fighting always ends in rapine, rape and arson,
and as the resistance died down the victors turned their hands
to the usual atrocities that follow a storm. It was only a small
proportion of them who had been sobered and sickened by witnessing
the catastrophe on the bridge. The rest dealt with the houses and
with the inhabitants after the fashion usual in the sieges of that
day, and Oporto was thoroughly sacked. It is to the credit of Soult
that he used every exertion to beat the soldiers off from their prey,
and restored order long ere the following morning. It is to be wished
that Wellington had been so lucky at Badajoz and San Sebastian.

[Illustration: COMBAT OF BRAGA
  MARCH 20TH 1809]

[Illustration: OPORTO
  MARCH-MAY 1809

The French army had lost, so the Marshal reported, no more than
eighty killed and 350 wounded, an extraordinary testimony to the
badness of the Portuguese gunnery. How many of the garrison and
the populace perished it will never be possible to ascertain--the
figures given by various contemporary authorities run up from
4,000 to 20,000. The smaller number is probably nearer the truth,
but no satisfactory estimate can be made. It is certain that some
of the regiments which took part in the defence were almost
annihilated[294], and that thousands of the inhabitants were drowned
in the river. Yet the town was not depopulated, and of its defenders
the greater proportion turned up sooner or later in the ranks of
Silveira, Botilho, and Trant. The slain and the drowned together may
perhaps be roughly estimated at 7,000 or 8,000, about equally divided
between combatants and non-combatants.

  [294] E.g. the 21st of the line had even in September, nearly
  six months after the storm, only 193 men under arms.

Soult meanwhile could report to his master that the first half of
his orders had been duly carried out. He had captured 200 cannon, a
great store of English ammunition and military equipment, and more
than thirty merchant vessels, laden with wine. He had delivered Foy
and some dozens of other French captives--for it would be doing the
Portuguese injustice to let it be supposed that they had killed or
tortured all their prisoners. In short, the victory and the trophies
were splendid: yet the Marshal was in reality almost as far from
having completed the conquest of northern Portugal as on the day
when he first crossed its frontier. He had only secured for himself
a new base of operation, to supersede Chaves and Braga. For the next
month he could do no more than endeavour ineffectually to complete
the subjugation of one single province. The main task which his
master had set before him, the capture of Lisbon, he was never able
to contemplate, much less to take in hand. Like so many other French
generals in the Peninsula, he was soon to find that victory is not
the same thing as conquest.

N.B.--The sources for this part of the Portuguese campaign are very
full. On the French side we have, besides the Marshal’s dispatches,
the following eye-witnesses: Le Noble, Soult’s official chronicler;
St. Chamans (one of the Marshal’s aides-de-camp); General Bigarré,
King Joseph’s representative at the head quarters of the 2nd Corps;
Naylies of Lahoussaye’s dragoons; and Fantin des Odoards of the 31st
Léger. On the Portuguese side we have the lengthy dispatches of Eben,
the narrative of Hennegan (who had brought the British ammunition to
Oporto), some letters from Brotherton, who was first with La Romana
and then with Silveira, and a quantity of official correspondence in
the Record Office, between Beresford and the Portuguese.



Oporto had been conquered: the unhappy levies of the Bishop had been
scattered to the winds: by the captures which it had made the French
army was now, for the first time since its departure from Orense,
in possession of a considerable store of provisions and an adequate
supply of ammunition. Soult was no longer driven forward by the
imperative necessity for finding new resources to feed his troops,
nor forced to hurry on the fighting by the fear that if he delayed
his cartridges would run short. He had at last leisure to halt and
take stock of his position. The most striking point in the situation
was that he was absolutely ignorant of the general course of the war
in the other regions of the Peninsula. When he had been directed
to march on Oporto, he had been assured that he might count on the
co-operation of Lapisse, who was to advance from Salamanca with his
9,000 men, and of Victor, who was to stretch out to him a helping
hand from the valley of the Tagus. It was all-important to know how
far the promised aid was being given: yet the Marshal could learn
nothing. More than two months had now elapsed since he had received
any dispatches from the Emperor. It was a month since he had obtained
his last news of the doings of his nearest colleague, Ney, which had
been brought to him, as it will be remembered, just as he was about
to leave Orense. At that moment the Duke of Elchingen had been able
to tell him nothing save that the communications between Galicia and
Leon had been broken, and that the insurrection was daily growing
more formidable. After this his only glimpse of the outer world had
been afforded by Portuguese letters, seized in the post-offices of
Braga and Oporto, from which he had learnt that his garrisons left
behind at Vigo and Tuy were being beleaguered by a vast horde of
Galician irregular levies. ‘The march of the 2nd Corps,’ wrote one of
Soult’s officers, ‘may be compared to the progress of a ship on the
high seas: she cleaves the waves, but they close behind her, and in a
few moments all trace of her passage has disappeared[295].’ To make
the simile complete, Fantin des Odoards should have compared Soult to
the captain of a vessel in a dense fog, forging ahead through shoals
and sandbanks without any possibility of obtaining a general view of
the coast till the mists may lift. To all intents and purposes, we
may add, the fog never dispersed till May had arrived, and Wellesley
hurtled down in a dreadful collision on the groping commander, ere he
had fully ascertained his own whereabouts.

  [295] Fantin des Odoards, _Journal_, April 28, p. 226.

When the whole country-side is up in arms, as it was in Galicia and
northern Portugal in the spring of 1809, it is useless to dispatch
small bodies of men in search of news. They are annihilated in a
few hours: but to make large detachments and send them out on long
expeditions, so weakens the main army that it loses its power of
further advance. This was the fate of the 2nd Corps after the fall of
Oporto. Soult, compelled to seek for information at all costs, had
to send one of his four infantry divisions back towards Galicia, to
succour Tuy and Vigo and obtain news of Ney, while another marched
eastward to the Tras-os-Montes, to look for signs of the advance of
Lapisse from Salamanca. When these detachments had been made, the
remainder of the army was too weak to resume the march on Lisbon
which the Emperor had commanded, and was forced to remain cantoned in
the neighbourhood of Oporto.

The details of Soult’s disposition of his troops after the fall of
Oporto were as follows: Franceschi’s cavalry, supported by Mermet’s
division of infantry, were pushed forward across the Douro on the
road to Coimbra, to watch the movements of the wrecks of the Bishop’s
army, which had retired to the line of the Vouga. Merle’s division
and half Delaborde’s remained in garrison at Oporto, while Lorges’
and one brigade of Lahoussaye’s dragoons were kept not far from
them, in the open country north of the city, about Villa de Conde
and Vallongo. The other brigade of Lahoussaye’s division, supported
by Foy’s infantry, was sent out on an expedition towards the
Tras-os-Montes, with orders to brush away Silveira and seek for news
of the expected approach of Lapisse. Loison was placed in command
of this detachment. Finally, Heudelet’s division, which had been
guarding the sick and the stores of the army at Braga, was ordered to
send on all the _impedimenta_ to Oporto, and then to prepare to march
northward in order to relieve Tuy and Vigo, and to get into touch
with Ney and the 6th Corps.

It was clear that the further movements of the Duke of Dalmatia would
depend on the intelligence which Loison and Heudelet might obtain. If
Ney should have crushed the Galician insurgents, if Lapisse should be
met with somewhere on the borders of Spain, matters would look well
for the resumption of the advance on Lisbon. It was also to be hoped
that Lapisse would be able to give some information as to the doings
of Victor and the 1st Corps. For it was necessary to find out how the
Duke of Belluno had been faring in Estremadura, and to know whether
he was prepared to co-operate in that general movement against the
Portuguese capital which the Emperor had prescribed in his parting
instructions from Valladolid.

As a matter of fact, Victor, having beaten Cuesta at Medellin on the
day before Soult captured Oporto (March 28), had reached the end of
his initiative, and was now lying at Merida, incapable, according to
his own conception, of any further offensive movement till he should
have received heavy reinforcements. Ney in Galicia was fighting hard
against the insurgents, and beginning to discover that though he
might rout them a dozen times he could not make an end of them. He
had not a man to spare for Soult’s assistance.

There remained Lapisse, who in his central position at Salamanca
should have been, according to Napoleon’s design, the link between
Ney, Victor, and Soult. He had been directed, as it will be
remembered[296], to move on Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida, to capture
both these fortresses, and then to advance into Portugal and to
strike at Abrantes: when he arrived there it was hoped that he would
find Soult on his right and Victor on his left, and would join them
in the general assault on Lisbon. There can be no doubt that Napoleon
was giving too heavy a task to Lapisse: he had but a single division
of infantry--though it was a strong one of twelve battalions--and
one provisional brigade of cavalry[297], in all about 9,000 men.
This was ample for the holding down of the southern parts of the
kingdom of Leon, or even for the attack on Almeida and Rodrigo:
but it was a small force with which to advance into the mountains
of central Portugal or to seize Abrantes. If he had carried out
his instructions, Lapisse would have had to march for nearly 200
miles through difficult mountain country, beset every day by the
_Ordenanza_, as Soult had been in his shorter route from Orense to
Oporto. And if he had ever cut his way to Abrantes, he ought to have
found himself faced by Cradock’s 9,000 British troops and by the
reorganized Portuguese regular army, which lay in and about Lisbon,
with a strength which even in February was not less than 12,000 men.

  [296] See p. 175.

  [297] On Feb. 1 the force was, _présents sous les armes_, 7,692
  infantry, about 1,000 cavalry, and 200 gunners.

Napoleon had given Lapisse too much to do: but on the other hand that
general performed far too little. Though he could never have reached
Abrantes, he ought to have reached Almeida, where his presence would
have been of material assistance to Soult, more especially if he had
from thence pushed exploring columns towards Lamego and Vizeu, before
plunging into the mountains on the road to the south. As a matter of
fact, Lapisse in February and March never advanced so much as fifty
miles from Salamanca, and allowed himself to be ‘contained’ and
baffled, for two whole months, by an insignificant opposing force,
commanded by a general possessing that enterprise and initiative
which he himself entirely lacked.

The officer who wrecked this part of Napoleon’s plan for the invasion
of Portugal was Sir Robert Wilson, one of the most active and capable
men in the English army, and one who might have made a great name
for himself, had fortune been propitious. But though he served with
distinction throughout the Napoleonic war, and won golden opinions
in Belgium and Egypt, in Prussia and Poland, no less than in Spain,
he never obtained that command on a large scale which would have
enabled him to show his full powers. It may seem singular that a man
who won love and admiration wherever he went, who was decorated by
two emperors for brilliant feats of arms done under their eyes, who
was equally popular in the Russian, the Austrian, or the Portuguese
camp, who had displayed on a hundred fields his chivalrous daring,
his ready ingenuity, and his keen military insight, should fail to
achieve greatness. But Wilson, unhappily for himself, had the defects
of his qualities. When acting as a subordinate his independent and
self-reliant character was always getting him into trouble with his
hierarchical superiors. He was not the man to obey orders which he
believed to be dangerous or mistaken: he so frequently ‘thought for
himself’ and carried out plans quite different from those which had
been imposed upon him, that no commander-in-chief could tolerate him
for long. His moves were always clever and generally fortunate, but
mere success did not atone for his disobedience in the eyes of his
various chiefs, and he never remained for long in the same post. All
generals, good and bad, agree in disliking lieutenants who disregard
their orders and carry out other schemes--even if they be ingenious
and successful ones[298]. It must be added that Wilson dabbled
in politics on the Whig side, and was not a favourite with Lord
Castlereagh, a drawback when preferments were being distributed.

  [298] Wellington, e.g., writes to him on August 5, 1809, ‘It
  is difficult for me to instruct you, when every letter that I
  receive from you informs me that you have gone further off, and
  are executing some plan of your own.’

But when trusted with any independent command, and allowed a free
hand, Wilson always did well. Not only had he all the talents of an
excellent partisan chief, but he was one of those genial leaders
who have the power to inspire confidence and enthusiasm in their
followers, and are able to get out of them double the work that an
ordinary commander can extort. He was in short one of those men who
if left to themselves achieve great things, but who when placed in a
subordinate position quarrel with their superiors and get sent home
in disgrace. From the moment when Beresford assumed command of the
Portuguese army his relations with Wilson were one long story of
friction and controversy, and Wellesley (though acknowledging his
brilliant services) made no attempt to keep him in the Peninsula.
He wanted officers who would obey orders, even when they did not
understand or approve them, and would not tolerate lieutenants who
wished to argue with him[299].

  [299] It is most unfortunate that while Wilson wrote and
  published admirable narratives of his doings in Prussia and
  Poland in 1806-7, and of his Russian and German campaign of
  1812-3, he has left nothing on record concerning Portugal in
  1808-9. Moreover the life, by his son-in-law, breaks off in 1807,
  and was never finished. My narrative is constructed from his
  dispatches in the Record Office, the correspondence of Wellesley
  and Beresford, and Mayne and Lillie’s _Loyal Lusitanian Legion_.

It was Wilson who first showed that the new levies of Portugal
could do good service in the field. While Silveira and Eben were
meeting with nothing but disaster in the Tras-os-Montes and the
Entre-Douro-e-Minho, he was conducting a thoroughly successful
campaign on the borders of Leon. From January to April, 1809, he,
and he alone, protected the eastern frontier of Portugal, and with a
mere handful of men kept the enemy at a distance, and finally induced
him to draw off and leave Salamanca, just at the moment when Soult’s
operations on the Douro were becoming most dangerous.

The force at his disposal in January, 1809, consisted of nothing
more than his own celebrated ‘Loyal Lusitanian Legion.’ We have
already had occasion to mention this corps while speaking of the
reorganization of the Portuguese army (see page 199). On December 14,
as we have seen, he had led out his little brigade of Green-coats
towards the frontier[300].

  [300] It will he remembered that it was only the first division
  of the Legion that marched. The second, which could not go
  forward for want of uniforms and arms, was left behind in charge
  of Baron Eben. That officer had strict orders to move out to
  Almeida the moment that he should receive the muskets, &c. that
  were on their way from England. Eben, however, disregarded his
  instructions, became one of the Bishop’s clique, and involved his
  men in the campaign against Soult, thereby marring Wilson’s plans
  and depriving him of half his proper force.

Wilson’s reasons for moving forward were partly political,
partly military: on the one hand he wished to get away from the
neighbourhood of the Bishop of Oporto, whose intrigues disgusted
him; on the other he saw that it was necessary to bring up a force
to cover the frontier of Portugal, when Moore marched forward into
Spain. As long as Moore had remained at Salamanca, there was a strong
barrier in front of Portugal: but when he departed it was clear that
the kingdom must defend itself. Wilson therefore advanced to Pinhel,
near Almeida, and there established his little force in cantonments.

He was at this place when the startling developments of the campaign
in the last ten days of December, 1808, took place. Moore retired on
Galicia, Napoleon’s army swept on into Leon, and Wilson found himself
left alone with the whole defence of the north-eastern frontier
of Portugal thrown on his hands. He soon heard of the storming of
Zamora and Toro, and learnt that Lapisse’s division had arrived at
Salamanca. Three marches might bring that general to the border.

A few days later Wilson received from Sir John Cradock the news that
he had ordered the British garrison to evacuate Almeida[301], and
to retire on Lisbon, as the whole remaining force in Portugal would
probably have to embark in a few days. The new commander-in-chief
added that he should advise Wilson to bring off his British officers
and depart with the rest, as the Portuguese would be unable to make
any head against Bonaparte, and it would be a useless sacrifice
to linger in their company and be overwhelmed. This pusillanimous
counsel shocked and disgusted Wilson: he called together his
subordinates, and found that they agreed with him in considering
Cradock’s advice disgraceful. They resolved that they could not
desert their Portuguese comrades, and were in honour bound to see
the campaign to an end, however black the present outlook might

  [301] It consisted of the 45th and 97th regiments.

  [302] Napier, who is very friendly to Cradock, makes no mention
  of this extraordinary dispatch. But it is fully substantiated by
  Mayne and Lillie, who were both present at Wilson’s council of
  war, and heard the matter discussed. See their _History of the
  Lusitanian Legion_, p. 43.

When therefore the British garrison of Almeida was withdrawn, Wilson
entered that fortress with the Legion and took charge of it. He
obtained from the Regency leave to appoint his lieutenant-colonel,
William Mayne, as the governor, and also received permission to
assume command of the local levies in the neighbourhood. These
consisted of the skeletons of two line regiments (nos. 11 and 23)
whose reorganization had but just begun. There were also two militia
regiments (Guarda and Trancoso) to be raised in the district, but at
this moment they existed only in name, and possessed neither officers
nor arms. For immediate action Wilson could count upon nothing but
the 1,300 men of the Lusitanian Legion.

Nevertheless he resolved to advance at once, and to endeavour to
impose on Lapisse by a show of activity. Leaving the Portuguese
regulars and 700 men of the Legion to garrison Almeida, he crossed
the frontier with his handful of cavalry (not 200 sabres), two guns,
and 300 men of his light companies. Passing the Spanish fortress
of Ciudad Rodrigo he advanced some distance on the Salamanca road,
and took up his position behind the Yeltes river, with his right
resting on the inaccessible Sierra de Francia, and his left at San
Felices, half way to the Douro. His whole force constituted no more
than a thin line of pickets, but he acted with such confidence and
decision, beating up the French outposts with his dragoons, raiding
well forward in the direction of Ledesma and Tamames, and stirring up
the peasants of the mountain country to insurrection, that Lapisse
gave him credit for having a considerable force at his back. The
French general had expected to meet with no opposition on his way
to Almeida, believing that Cradock was about to embark, and that
the Portuguese would not fight. He was accordingly much surprised
to find a long line in his front, occupied by troops dressed like
British riflemen, and commanded by British officers--whose strength
he was unable to ascertain. He halted, in order to take stock of his
opponent, when a bold push would have shown him that only a skeleton
army was before him. In an intercepted dispatch of February[303] he
reported that the peasantry informed him that Wilson had 12,000 men,
and that as many more were in garrison at Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida.

  [303] See the _Lusitanian Legion_, p. 47.

As the weeks wore on, and the winter drew to an end, Wilson obtained
some slight reinforcements. When he first advanced the Spaniards
could give him no help, for the garrison of Ciudad Rodrigo itself
consisted of nothing but its six companies of urban militia, and
a new battalion of 500 men, which had been on the point of setting
out to join La Romana when its way to Leon was intercepted by the
French. There were 1,400 men to man a fortress which required a
garrison of 4,000[304]! But before January was out, Pignatelli, the
captain-general of Castile, had sent into the place a regiment which
he had raised in the mountains of Avila, and Carlos d’España[305] had
begun to form some new battalions from the peasantry of the Ciudad
Rodrigo district, stiffened by stragglers from La Romana’s army[306].
In February the Central Junta gave Wilson a provisional command over
the Spanish forces in Leon, and he used his authority to draw upon
the garrison of Rodrigo for detachments to strengthen his outposts.
He also requisitioned men from Almeida, when the Portuguese regiments
there placed had begun to fill up their ranks to a respectable
strength. A few cavalry of the re-formed 11th of the line were
especially useful to him for scouting work.

  [304] This fact comes from a letter of Ramon Blanco, governor
  of Ciudad Rodrigo, dated Jan. 13, which Frere sent home to
  Castlereagh, and which is therefore now in the Record Office.
  Blanco complains that he is absolutely without trained
  artillerymen of any sort.

  [305] Carlos d’España, whose name we shall so frequently meet
  during the succeeding years, was no Spaniard, but a French
  _émigré_ officer of the name of D’Espagne. Englishmen, on account
  of his name, sometimes took him for a prince of the Spanish royal

  [306] Sir Robert Wilson to Frere, dated Jan. 29, in the Record
  Office. The regiment sent by Pignatelli was called ‘Volunteers of

With this small assistance, Wilson, whose total force never exceeded
400 horse and 3,000 infantry, kept Lapisse employed throughout
February and March. He beat up the French quarters on several
occasions, and twice captured large convoys of provisions which
were being directed on Salamanca; to fall upon one of these, a
great requisition of foodstuffs from Ledesma, he dashed far within
Lapisse’s lines, but brought out all the wagons in safety and
delivered them to the governor of Ciudad Rodrigo. At last, emboldened
by his adversary’s timidity, he extended his right beyond the Sierra
de Francia, and established part of the Legion under Colonel Mayne in
the Puerto de Baños, the main pass between Salamanca and Estremadura.
Thus Lapisse was completely cut off from all communication with
Victor and the French army on the Tagus, save by the circuitous route
through Madrid.

Jourdan, writing in the name of King Joseph, had duly transmitted to
Lapisse the Emperor’s orders to march on Abrantes, the moment that
it should be known that Soult had arrived at Oporto. He had even
reiterated these directions in February, though both he and the King
doubted their wisdom. Victor had written to Madrid to suggest that
Alcantara would be a much better and safer objective for the division
to aim at than Abrantes[307]. He wished to draw Lapisse’s troops
(which properly belonged to the 1st Corps) into his own sphere of
operations, and repeatedly declared that without them he had no hope
of bringing his Estremaduran campaign to a happy end, much less of
executing any effective diversion against Portugal. Jourdan agreed
with him, opining that Lapisse would miscarry, if he invaded central
Portugal on an independent line of operations. But no one was so
convinced of this as Lapisse himself, who, with his exaggerated ideas
of the strength of Wilson, was most reluctant to move forward. As
late as the end of March the Emperor’s orders were still ostensibly
in vigour[308], and the general only excused himself for not
marching, by pretending that he could not venture to advance till he
had certain news of Soult’s movements. This the Galician insurgents
were obliging enough to keep from him.

  [307] Victor to King Joseph, from Toledo, Feb. 3, 1809.

  [308] This is shown by a letter of March 23 from Solignac, one of
  Lapisse’s brigadiers, which was intercepted by guerrillas. The
  general writes to his friend Raguerie that the march on Abrantes
  is certain, and that letters for him had better be readdressed to
  Lisbon [Record Office].

At last, however, Jourdan yielded to Victor’s wishes, and authorized
Lapisse to drop down on to Alcantara, keeping outside the limits of
Portugal, instead of making the attack on Rodrigo and the subsequent
dash at Abrantes which the Emperor had prescribed[309]. Overjoyed
at escaping from the responsibility which he dreaded, Lapisse first
prepared to march southward by the Puerto de Baños. But when he
found it held by Mayne and the troops of Wilson’s right wing, he made
no attempt to force the passage, but resolved to carry out his design
by stratagem. Massing his division, he marched on Ciudad Rodrigo upon
April 6. He pierced with ease the feeble screen of Wilson’s outposts
and appeared in front of the Spanish fortress, which he duly summoned
to surrender. But though the place might easily have been carried by
a _coup de main_ in January, it was now safe against anything but
a formal siege, and Lapisse had neither a battering-train nor any
real intention of attacking. When the governor returned a defiant
answer, the French division made a show of sitting down in front
of the walls. This was done in order to draw Wilson to the aid of
the place, and the move was successful. Calling in all his outlying
detachments from the nearer passes and collecting some of Carlos
d’España’s levies, Sir Robert took post close to the walls of Ciudad
Rodrigo, with a battalion of the Legion under Colonel Grant, some
other Portuguese troops and four guns[310].

  [309] Jourdan’s _Mémoires_, p. 189, show that he and Joseph
  authorized the move, at Victor’s instance, and prove that it was
  not made on Lapisse’s own responsibility, as Napier supposes [ii.
  72], but in obedience to superior orders.

  [310] This narrative is from Mayne and Lillie, supplemented by
  Jourdan and other French sources. Wilson thought that he had
  foiled a real attack on Rodrigo, but was mistaken: Lapisse was
  only feinting.

Having thus lured Wilson away from the passes, the French general
suddenly broke up by night, and made a forced march for the Puerto
de Perales, the nearest mountain-road to Alcantara. He thus obtained
a full day’s start, and got off unmolested. Sir Robert and Carlos
d’España followed on his track as soon as they discovered his
departure, and Mayne also pursued, from the Puerto de Baños, but none
of them could do more than harass his rearguard, with which they
skirmished for three days in the passes. It would not have been wise
of them to attempt more, even if they could have got into touch with
the main body, for the French division was double their strength.
Meanwhile the peasantry of the Sierra de Gata endeavoured to stop
Lapisse’s progress, by blocking the defiles; but he swept them away
with ease, and they never succeeded in delaying him for more than a
few hours. Their incessant ‘sniping’ and night attacks exasperated
the French, who dealt most ruthlessly with the country-side as they
passed. When they arrived at Alcantara, and found the little town
barricaded, they not only refused all quarter to the fighting-men
when they stormed the place, but committed dreadful atrocities on the
non-combatants. Not only murder and rape but mutilation and torture
are reported by credible witnesses[311]. After the houses had been
sacked, the very tombs in the churches were broken open in search of
plunder. Leaving Alcantara full of corpses and ruins [April 12], the
division marched on by Caceres and joined Victor in his camp near
Merida[312] [April 19].

  [311] It is impossible to make out why Alcantara was treated so
  much worse than other places taken by storm, but the facts are
  well vouched for. The report of the local authorities to Cuesta
  says that not only all peasants taken with arms in their hands,
  but more than forty non-combatants were butchered, and that not
  a woman who had remained in the place escaped rape. Lillie,
  the historian of the Lusitanian Legion, who was with the force
  that pursued Lapisse from Rodrigo, says that he saw the traces
  of ‘acts of barbarity that would disgrace the most savage and
  uncivilized of mankind’--corpses deliberately mutilated and laid
  out to roast on piles of burning furniture, with the bodies of
  domestic animals, such as pigs and dogs, placed on the top of the
  pile as if in jest [_Lusitanian Legion_, pp. 66-7]. The German
  historian Schepeler gives very similar details, adding the note
  about the dragging up of bones and coffins from the churches.

  [312] All Napier’s criticism (ii. 85-6) on Lapisse’s movement to
  Alcantara is vitiated by his ignorance of the fact that Jourdan
  and the King, at Victor’s instance, had sent him orders to go
  there. But nothing can excuse his previous inaction in February
  and March. He ought to have attacked Rodrigo before the end of
  January, when it was still almost without a garrison, and in a
  state of great disrepair.

Since Lapisse, then, had moved off far to the south, and thrown
in his lot with his old comrades of the 1st Corps, it was in vain
that Soult sought for news of him on the Douro after the fall
of Oporto. When Loison set out to cross the Tamega and to enter
the Tras-os-Montes, in order that he might obtain information of
the movements of the division at Salamanca, that division was
making ready for its march to Alcantara; a fortnight later it had
disappeared from the northern theatre of operations altogether, and
Soult’s last chance of obtaining external help for his invasion of
Portugal was gone. This section, in short, of Napoleon’s great plan
for the march on Lisbon had been foiled, and foiled almost entirely
by Sir Robert Wilson’s happy audacity and resourceful generalship.
But for him, the timidity of Cradock, the impotence of the
Spaniards, and the disorganization of the Portuguese army might have
brought about the fall of Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida, at the same
moment that Soult was entering Portugal on its northern frontier. His
services have never received their proper meed of praise, either from
the government which he served so well, or from the historians who
have told the annals of the Peninsular War.

We must now return to the details of the Duke of Dalmatia’s
operations. His movements were clearly dependent on the results of
the two expeditions under Heudelet and Loison, which he had sent out
to the north and the east after his victory of March 29.

Heudelet, after discharging on to Oporto the sick and wounded and the
stores which he had been guarding at Braga, started out northward
on April 6, with the 4,000 infantry of his own division and Lorges’
dragoons, whom the Marshal had ordered up to his aid from Villa de
Conde. Heudelet was ordered to disperse the insurgents in the valleys
of the Lima and Minho, and to relieve Tuy and Vigo, where the French
garrisons were known to be in a state of siege. To reach them it was
necessary to pierce through the screen of militia and _Ordenanza_
under General Botilho, which had cut off all communication between
Galicia and the army of Portugal since the month of February.

On April 7 the French general neared the line of the Lima, only to
find the bridges barricaded and Botilho’s horde entrenched behind
them. After some preliminary skirmishing, fords were discovered,
which Heudelet’s infantry passed upon the following morning, sending
the unfortunate Portuguese flying in every direction and capturing
the three guns which formed their sole artillery. On the tenth
the frontier fortress of Valenza was reached: it was found to be
in a dilapidated condition, and garrisoned by only 200 men, who
surrendered at the first summons. Tuy, where General Lamartinière had
been shut up for the last seven weeks, faces Valenza across the broad
estuary of the Minho, so that Heudelet was now in full communication
with it.

Lamartinière, as it will be remembered[313], had been left behind,
with Soult’s heavy artillery, wheeled transport, and sick, when the
2nd Corps marched for Orense on February 16. He had gathered in
several belated detachments which had started from Santiago in the
hope of joining the rear of the marching column, so that he had the
respectable force of 3,300 men, though 1,200 of them were invalids or
convalescents. The walls of Tuy were in a bad state of repair, but
the governor had found no great difficulty in maintaining himself
against the Galician insurgents on his own side of the Minho, and
the Portuguese levies from the other bank which Botilho sent to
the aid of the Spaniards. But he had been completely shut in since
Soult’s departure, and could give no information concerning Ney’s
operations in northern Galicia, or the general progress of the war
in the other parts of Spain. The only news which he could supply was
that Vigo, the next French garrison, had fallen into the hands of the
enemy. On his way to Portugal Soult had dropped a force of 700 men
at that fortress, lest its excellent harbour should be utilized by
the British for throwing in supplies to the Galician insurgents. The
paymaster-general of the 2nd Corps, with his treasure and its escort,
had lagged behind during the Marshal’s advance, and, being beset by
the peasantry, had entered Vigo instead of pushing on to Tuy.

  [313] See p. 188.

When Soult had passed out of sight on the way to Orense, the
Galicians of the coast-land, headed by Pablo Morillo, a lieutenant
of the regular army whom La Romana had sent down from the interior,
and by Manuel Garcia Del Barrio[314], a colonel dispatched by the
Central Junta from Seville, had taken arms in great numbers, and
blockaded Vigo. The French commander, Colonel Chalot, found himself
unable to defend the whole extent of the fortifications for sheer
want of men, and could not prevent the insurgents from establishing
themselves close under the walls and keeping up a continual fire upon
the garrison. He believed that a serious assault would infallibly
succeed, and only refused to surrender because he was ashamed to
yield to peasants. On March 23 two English frigates, the _Lively_
and _Venus_, appeared off the harbour mouth, and began to supply the
insurgents with ammunition, and to land heavy naval guns for their
use. On the twenty-seventh one of the gates was battered in, and the
Galicians were preparing to storm the place, when Chalot surrendered
at discretion, only stipulating that he and his men should be handed
over to the British, and not to the Spaniards. This request was
granted, and Captain Mackinley received twenty-three officers and
nearly 800 men as prisoners, besides a number of sick and several
hundred non-combatants belonging to the train, and camp-followers.
The plunder taken consisted of sixty wagons, 339 horses, and more
than £6,000 in hard cash, composing the military chest of the 2nd
Corps [March 28].

  [314] Napier’s ‘Colonel Barrois.’

The Galicians had somewhat relaxed the blockade of Tuy in order to
press that of Vigo, and on the very day when Chalot surrendered,
General Lamartinière had sent out a flying column to endeavour to
communicate with his colleague. It returned pursued by the Spaniards,
to report to the governor that Vigo had fallen[315]. On its way back
to Tuy it suffered a loss of seventy prisoners and nearly 200 killed
and wounded.

  [315] Most of these details as to the fall of Vigo come from
  a contemporary account in Andrade’s collection, printed in
  _Los Guerrilleros Gallegos_, pp. 129-37. Le Noble asserts that
  only 794 men were captured, but Captain Mackinley says that he
  received nearly 1,300 prisoners, including 300 sick and many
  non-combatants. He had the best opportunities of knowing, and
  must be followed. Le Noble and the Spaniards do not give the
  French commander’s name, but I find that of Chalot as the senior
  officer among the prisoners in the list in the Record Office.
  Next to him is the paymaster-general Conscience. Toreno and
  Schepeler agree with Captain Mackinley in giving the number of
  the prisoners at over 1,200.

Heudelet and Lamartinière had now some 7,000 men collected at Tuy,
a force with which they could easily have routed the whole of
the insurgents of the Minho, and forced them to retire into the
mountains. But Soult’s orders to his lieutenants were to avoid
operations in Galicia, and to concentrate towards Portugal. Tuy was
evacuated, and its garrison transferred across the frontier-river
to the Portuguese fortress of Valenza. Before the transference was
completed, the French generals received an unexpected visit from
some troops of the 6th Corps. Ney, disquieted as to the condition of
Tuy and Vigo, had sent a brigade under Maucune to seek for news of
their garrisons. This force, cutting its way through the insurgents,
came into Tuy on April 12. Thus Heudelet was at last able to get
news of the operations of Ney. The information received was not
encouraging: the Duke of Elchingen was beset by the Galicians on
every side: La Romana had cut off one of his outlying garrisons, that
of Villafranca, and his communications with Leon were so completely
cut off that he had no reports to give as to the progress of affairs
in the rest of Spain. Finding that Vigo was lost, and the garrison of
Tuy relieved, Maucune retraced his steps and returned to Santiago,
harassed for the whole of his march by the insurgents of the

Meanwhile Heudelet’s communication with Oporto had been interrupted,
for the Portuguese, routed on the Lima a week before, had come back
to their old haunts, seized Braga, and blocked the high-road and
the bridges. Soult only got into touch with his expeditionary force
by sending out Lahoussaye with 3,000 men to reopen the road to the
North. When this was done, he bade Heudelet evacuate Valenza (whose
fortifications turned out to be in too bad order to be repaired
in any reasonable space of time), and to disperse his division in
garrisons for Braga, Viana, and Barcelos. The whole of the convoy and
the sick from Tuy were sent up to Oporto.

The net result of Heudelet’s operations was that the Marshal,
at the cost of immobilizing one of his four infantry divisions,
obtained a somewhat precarious hold upon the flat country of
Entre-Douro-e-Minho. The towns were in his hands, but the _Ordenanza_
had only retired to the hills, and perpetually descended to worry
Heudelet’s detachments, and to murder couriers and foraging parties.
Meanwhile 4,000 men were wasted for all purposes of offensive action.
Vigo, Tuy, and Valenza had all been abandoned, and touch with the
army of Galicia had been completely lost.

Even this modest amount of success had been denied to Soult’s
second expedition, that which he had sent under Loison towards the
Tras-os-Montes. The enemy with whom the French had to deal in this
region was Silveira, the same officer who had been defeated between
Monterey and Chaves in the early days of March, when the 2nd Corps
crossed the Portuguese frontier. He had fled with the wrecks of
his force towards Villa Real, at the moment when Soult marched on
Braga, and the Marshal had fondly hoped that he was now a negligible
quantity in the campaign. This was far from being the case: the
moment that Silveira heard that the French had crossed the mountains
and marched on Braga, he had rallied his two regular regiments and
his masses of _Ordenanza_, and pounced down on the detachment under
Commandant Messager, which Soult had left in garrison at Chaves.
This, it will be remembered, consisted of no more than a company
of infantry, a quantity of convalescents and stragglers, and the
untrustworthy Spanish-Portuguese ‘legion,’ which had been formed
out of the prisoners captured on March 6 and 12[316]. On the very
day upon which Soult was routing Eben in front of Braga, Silveira
appeared before the walls of Chaves with 6,000 men. Messager retired
into the citadel, abandoning on the outer walls of the town a few
guns, which the Portuguese were thus enabled to turn against the
inner defences. After a siege of five days and much ineffective
cannonading, the governor surrendered, mainly because the native
‘legion’ was preparing to open the gates to Silveira. Twelve hundred
men were captured, of whom only one-third were Frenchmen capable of
bearing arms, the rest being sick or ‘legionaries.’

  [316] Le Noble, though he mentions the formation of the legion
  (p. 120), omits to state that it was left at Chaves. But St.
  Chamans establishes this fact (p. 120); he calls the corps
  ‘les Espagnols et Portugais qui se disaient de notre parti.’
  Des Odoards (p. 212) also speaks of the ‘legion,’ as does
  Naylies (p. 81). Its existence explains both the feebleness
  of Messager’s defence, and the large number of prisoners whom
  Silveira captured. The fighting force of the garrison was only
  the one company, plus some hundreds of convalescents, who in the
  fortnight since Soult’s departure had been able to resume their

Having made this successful stroke, Silveira marched down the Tamega
to Amarante, making a movement parallel to Soult’s advance on Oporto.
His recapture of Chaves brought several thousands more of _Ordenanza_
to his standard, and at Amarante he was joined on the thirtieth by
many of the fugitives who had escaped from the sack of Oporto on the
previous day. He spread his army, now amounting to 9,000 or 10,000
men, along the left bank of the Tamega, whose bridges and fords he
protected with entrenchments. Advanced guards were pushed out on the
further side of the river on the three roads which lead to Oporto.

When, therefore, the troops under Loison, which Soult had sent out
towards the Tras-os-Montes, drew near the Tamega, they found the
Portuguese in force. The cavalry could get no further forward than
Penafiel; when Foy’s infantry came up (April 7) Loison tried to
force the enemy back, both on the Amarante and on the Canavezes
road. He failed at each point, and sent back to the Marshal to ask
for reinforcements. Seeing him halt, Silveira, whose fault was not a
want of initiative, actually crossed the river with his whole army,
and fell upon the two French brigades. He was checked, but not badly
beaten, and Loison remained on the defensive (April 12).

At this moment Soult heard of the fall of Chaves, full seventeen
days after it had happened. Realizing that Silveira was now growing
formidable, he sent to Loison’s aid General Delaborde with the second
of his infantry brigades, and Lorges’ dragoons. These reinforcements
brought the troops facing Silveira up to a total of some 6,500
men--nearly a third of Soult’s whole disposable force. As Heudelet
was still absent on the Minho with 4,000 men more, the Marshal had
less than 10,000 left in and about Oporto. It was clear that the
grand march on Lisbon was not likely to begin for many a long day.

On April 18 Loison advanced against Silveira, who boldly but unwisely
offered him battle on the heights of Villamea in front of Amarante.
Considering that he had but 2,000 regulars and 7,000 or 8,000
half-armed militia and _Ordenanza_, his conduct can only be described
as rash in the extreme. He was, of course, beaten with great loss,
and hustled back into the town of Amarante. He would have lost both
it and its bridge, but for the gallantry of Colonel Patrick, an
English officer commanding a battalion of the 12th of the line, who
rallied his regiment in the streets, seized a group of houses and a
convent at the bridge-head and beat off the pursuers[317]. Patrick
was mortally wounded, but the passage of the river was prevented.
This saved the situation: Silveira got his men together, planted his
artillery so as to command the bridge, and took post in entrenchments
already constructed on the commanding heights on the left bank. Next
day Loison stormed the buildings at the bridge-head, but found that
he could get no further forward. The town was his, but he could
not debouch from it, as the bridge was palisaded, built up with a
barricade of masonry and raked by the Portuguese artillery. Soult
now sent up to aid Loison still further reinforcements, Sarrut’s
brigade of infantry from Merle’s division and the second brigade of
Lahoussaye’s dragoons. Thus no less than 9,000 French troops, nearly
half the army of Portugal, were concentrated at Amarante.

  [317] Silveira to Beresford (Record Office). Cf. Foy’s dispatch
  to Loison (April 19), in which he owns that he failed to hold the
  convent, and retired with a loss of ninety-one men of the 17th

The fact that twelve whole days elapsed between the arrival of these
last succours and the forcing of the passage of the Tamega had
no small influence on the fate of Soult’s campaign. Hitherto the
initiative had lain with him, and he had faced adversaries who could
only take the defensive. This period was nearly at an end, for on
April 22 Wellesley had landed at Lisbon, the English reinforcements
had begun to arrive, and an army, differing in every quality from
the hordes which the Marshal had encountered north of the Douro, was
about to assume the offensive against him. By the time that Loison at
last forced the bridge of Amarante, the British were already on the
march for Coimbra and Oporto.

Silveira and his motley host, therefore, were doing admirable service
to the cause of their country when they occupied 9,000 out of Soult’s
21,000 men from April 20 to May 2 on the banks of the Tamega. The
ground was in their favour, but far stronger positions had been
forced ere now, and it was fortunate that this one was maintained for
so many days. The town of Amarante, it must be remembered, lies on
comparatively low ground: its bridge is completely commanded by the
heights on which Silveira had planted his camp and his batteries. The
river flows in a deep-sunk ravine, and was at this moment swollen
into an impassable torrent by the melting of the mountain snows.
Loison more than once sent swimmers by night, in search of places
where the strength of the current might be sufficiently moderate
to allow of an attempt to pass on rafts or boats. Not one of these
explorers could get near the further bank: they were swept off by
the rushing water and cast ashore far down stream, on the same side
from which they had started. There had been bridges above Amarante
at Mondim and Aroza, and below it at Canavezes, but reconnaissances
showed that they had all three been blown up, and that Portuguese
detachments were watching their ruins, to prevent any attempt to
reconstruct them. Loison found, therefore, that he could not turn
Silveira’s position by a flanking movement: there was nothing to do
save to wait till the river should fall, or to attempt to force the
bridge of Amarante at all costs. Continual rains made it hopeless to
expect the subsidence of the Tamega for many days, wherefore Loison
devoted all his energies to the task of capturing the bridge. Even
here there was one difficulty to be faced which might prove fatal:
the French engineers had discovered that the structure was mined. It
was necessary, therefore, not only to drive back the Portuguese, but
to prevent them from blowing up the bridge at the moment of their

Loison had entrusted the details of the attack on the bridge to
Delaborde, whose infantry held the advanced posts. That officer
first tried to approach the head of the bridge by means of a flying
sap; but when it had advanced a certain distance the fire of the
Portuguese from across the river became so deadly, that after many
men had been killed in the endeavour to work up to the palisades
on the bridge, the attempt had to be abandoned. The next device
recommended by the engineers was that an attempt should be made to
lay a trestle bridge at a spot some way below the town, where a
mill-dam contracted the width of the angry river. This was found to
be impossible, the stream proving to be far deeper than had been
supposed, while the Portuguese from the left bank picked off many of
the workmen [April 25].

Soult was now growing vexed at the delay, and sent two guns of
position from Oporto to Loison, to enable him to subdue the fire of
the enemy’s batteries. He also offered to call up Heudelet’s division
from Braga, even at the cost of abandoning his hold on the northern
part of the province of Entre-Douro-e-Minho. But a mere increase
of his already considerable force would have been of no service to
Loison; it was a device for passing the Tamega that he needed.

Such a scheme was at last laid before him by Captain Bouchard, one
of his engineers[318]. The French officers had discovered, by a
careful use of their glasses, that the Portuguese mine, which was
to destroy the bridge, was situated in its left-hand arch, and that
the mechanism by which it was to be worked was not a ‘sausage’ or a
train of powder[319], but a loaded musket, whose muzzle was placed
in the mine, while to its trigger was attached a cord which ran to
the nearest trenches beyond the river. The musket was concealed
in a box, but its cord was visible to those provided with a good
telescope. Bouchard argued that if the cord could be cut or broken,
the enemy would not be able to touch off the mine, and he had thought
out a plan for securing his end. He maintained that an explosion at
the French side of the bridge would probably sever the cord without
firing the mine, and that a sudden assault, made immediately after
the explosion, and before the Portuguese could recover themselves,
might carry the barricades. In spite of the strongly-expressed doubts
of Foy and several other generals, Bouchard was finally permitted to
carry out his scheme.

  [318] Napier, ii. pp. 80-1, consistently mis-calls him Brochard.

  [319] Either of these might easily have been fired by a casual
  shot, during the long cannonading which had been in progress. The
  Portuguese, therefore, avoided them.

He executed it on the night of May 2, when a dense fog chanced to
favour his daring and hazardous proceedings. Having first told off
some _tirailleurs_ to keep up a smart fire on the enemy’s trenches
and distract his attention, he sent four sappers, each provided with
a small powder-barrel, on to the bridge. The men, dressed in their
grey _capotes_, crawled on hands and knees, each rolling his barrel
(which was wrapped in cloth to deaden the sound) before him. They
kept in the shadow, and getting close under the parapet of the bridge
crept on till they reached the outermost Portuguese palisade. One
after another, at long intervals, each got forward unobserved, left
his barrel behind, and crawled back. The fourth sapper, starting to
his feet on his return journey, was observed by the Portuguese and
shot down, but Silveira’s men did not realize what he had been doing,
and merely took him for some daring explorer who was endeavouring
to spy out the state of the defences. After waiting for an hour,
Bouchard sent out a fifth sapper, who dragged behind him a ‘sausage’
of powder thirty yards long, which he successfully connected with the
four barrels. All was now ready, and a battalion of picked grenadiers
from Delaborde’s division, filed silently down into the street near
the bridge-head: a whole brigade came behind them.

At two o’clock Bouchard fired his sausage, and the explosion
followed. There were two chances of failure--one that the apparatus
for firing the mine might not be disturbed by the concussion, the
other that the shock might prove too strong, reach the mine, and
destroy the bridge. Neither of these fatalities took place: the
explosion duly broke the cord, shattered the nearest palisades,
but did not affect the mine. Before the smoke had cleared away
Delaborde’s grenadiers had dashed out on to the bridge, scrambled
over the barricades, and driven off the guard on the further
side. Regiment after regiment followed them, and charged up the
mountain-side towards Silveira’s batteries and entrenchments. None
of the Portuguese were under arms, save the few companies guarding
the debouches from the bridge. These were swept away, and the French
columns came storming into the bivouacs of the enemy before he was
well awake. Hardly half a dozen cannon shots were fired on them from
the batteries, and the greater part of the army of the Tras-os-Montes
fled without firing a shot. Silveira escaped almost naked by the back
window of the house above the bridge in which he had been sleeping.

All the ten guns in the Portuguese batteries, five standards, and
several hundred prisoners fell into the hands of the victorious
French, who lost (it is said) no more than two killed and seven
wounded. Their good fortune had been extraordinary: without the
opportune fog which hid their advance, their preliminary operations
would probably have been discovered. If their explosion had done
a little more or a little less than was hoped, the bridge might
have been totally destroyed, or its barricades left practically
uninjured--either of which chances would have foiled Bouchard’s plan.
But the luck of the army of Portugal was still in the ascendant, and
all went exactly as had been intended.

Thus the Tamega was passed, and Silveira decisively beaten: his
levies had fled in all directions, and Soult opined that it would
take a long time to rally them. The day after the fight Loison
was joined at Amarante by Heudelet’s division from Braga, which,
in obedience to the Marshal’s orders, had marched to join the
expeditionary force, leaving only a single battalion behind to hold
Viana. This was an unfortunate move, as on Heudelet’s departure the
_Ordenanza_ came down from the Serra de Santa Catalina, and overran
the district which had been evacuated, in spite of Lorges’ dragoons,
who had been directed to keep the roads clear after the infantry had
been withdrawn.

Meanwhile there were far more troops at Amarante than were needed
for the pursuit of Silveira, so Soult called back to Oporto the
division of Delaborde, leaving to Loison the infantry of Heudelet
and Sarrut, with Lahoussaye’s two brigades of dragoons, a force of
about 7,000 men. He ordered his lieutenant to scour the country as
far as Villa Real, and to send reconnaissances on the roads toward
Chaves and Braganza, with the object of frightening the insurgents
to retreat as far as possible. But Loison was not to advance for
more than two days’ march into the Tras-os-Montes, for rumours were
beginning to arrive concerning the appearance of British troops in
the direction of Coimbra, and the Marshal wished to keep his various
divisions close enough to each other to enable them to concentrate
with ease. If there were any truth in the news from the south, it
would be dangerous to allow a force which formed a third of the
whole army of Portugal to go astray in the heart of the mountains
beyond the Tamega. Loison accordingly marched off on May 8 towards
Villa Real, which he occupied without meeting with resistance. He
learnt that Silveira and his regulars had crossed the Douro, and gone
off in the direction of Lamego; but Botilho had fled up the Tamega
towards Chaves, and the _Ordenanza_ were lurking in the hills. He
then returned to Amarante, where we may leave him, at the end of his
tether, while we describe the state of affairs in Oporto.



It will have occurred to every student of the operations of the army
of Portugal during the month of April, that it was strange that
Marshal Soult should have remained quiescent at Oporto, while the
fate of his entire campaign was at stake during the fighting on the
Tamega. His head quarters were only thirty miles from Amarante--but
one day’s ride for himself and his staff--yet he never paid a single
flying visit to the scene of operations, even after he had come to
the conclusion that Loison was mismanaging the whole business. He
sent his lieutenant many letters of reproach, forwarded to him guns
of position, and ample reinforcements, but never came himself to
the spot to urge on the advance, even when ten and twelve days had
elapsed since the first unsuccessful attempts to force the passage of
the Tamega.

The explanation of this persistent refusal of the Marshal to quit
Oporto is to be found in the political not the military state of
affairs. At Chaves he had proclaimed himself Viceroy of Portugal:
his viceroyalty at that moment embraced only just so much soil as
was covered by the encampments of his battalions. But after the
capture of Oporto and the occupation of the neighbouring towns of
the Entre-Douro-e-Minho, his position assumed an air of reality, and
he himself allowed the duties of the viceroy to trespass on those of
the commander of the Second Corps d’Armée. Nay more, there is good
reason to believe that he was not merely dreaming of setting up a
stable government in northern Portugal, but of something else. The
evidence as to his intentions is hard to weigh, for most of it comes
from the letters and diaries of men who disliked him, but there are
certain facts which cannot be disguised, and the inference from them
is irresistible.

With the example of Murat’s exaltation before them, the more
ambitious and capable of Napoleon’s marshals could not refrain from
dreaming of crowns and sceptres. Nothing seemed impossible in those
astounding days, when the Emperor was creating sovereigns and realms
by a stroke of the pen, whenever the notion seized him. The line
between an appanaged duke and a vassal prince was a very thin one--as
the case of Berthier shows. Junot had dreamed of royalty at Lisbon
in 1808, and there seems little doubt that the same mirage of a
crown floated before Soult’s eyes at Oporto in 1809. The city itself
suggested the idea: in the Treaty of Fontainebleau Napoleon had put
on paper the project for creating a ‘king of Northern Lusitania,’
with Oporto as his capital and the Entre-Douro-e-Minho as his realm.
Soult was cautious and wary, but he was also greedy and ambitious.
If, on the one hand, he had a wholesome fear of his master, he had
on the other good reasons for believing that it might be possible to
force his hand by presenting him with a _fait accompli_.

There was in the city the nucleus of a party which was not wholly
indisposed to submit to the French domination. It was mainly composed
of those enemies of the Bishop of Oporto who had been suffering from
his anarchical rule of the last two months. They were the friends
and relatives of those who had perished by the dagger or the rope,
during the mob-law which had prevailed ever since Dom Antonio
returned from Lisbon. To these may be added some men of purely
material interests, who saw that the insurrection was ruining them,
and a remnant of the old corrupt bureaucracy which had submitted once
before to Junot--whose only thought was to keep or gain profitable
posts under the government of the day, whatever that government might
be. The whole body of dissidents from the cause of patriotism and
independence was so small and weak, that it is impossible to believe
that they would have taken any overt action if they had not received
encouragement from Soult.

This much is certain--that when the disorders which accompanied the
capture of Oporto were ended, Soult showed himself most anxious to
conciliate the Portuguese, not only by introducing a regular and
orderly government, but by going out of his way to soothe and flatter
any notable who lingered in the city. In his anxiety to win over
the clergy he caused new silver vessels and candelabra to be made
to replace those which had been stolen from the churches in the
sack[320]. He filled up all civil appointments, whose holders had
fled, from the small number of persons who were ready to adhere to
the French. He again, as already at Chaves, endeavoured to enlist
a native military force, by putting tempting offers before those
officers of the regular army who had been made prisoners. All this
might have had no other cause than the wish to build up a party
of _Afrancesados_, such as already existed in Spain, and Soult
openly declared that such was his object[321]. This was the only
purpose that he avowed in his dispatches to the Emperor, and in his
communications with his colleagues.

  [320] See Le Noble (Soult’s partisan and official vindicator), p.
  207, and Fantin des Odoards, p. 227.

  [321] See his conversation with his aide-de-camp, St. Chamans,
  in the latter’s _Mémoires_, p. 139. The Marshal said that he was
  in a hazardous military position and that ‘je ne puis m’en tirer
  qu’en divisant les Portugais entre eux, et j’emploie pour cela le
  meilleur moyen politique qui soit en mon pouvoir.’ Compare Fantin
  des Odoards, p. 227.

But if the Marshal had no ulterior object in view, it is singular
that all his native partisans concurred in setting on foot a movement
for getting him saluted as king of northern Portugal. The new
municipal authorities, whom he had established in the half-deserted
towns occupied by his troops, sent in petitions begging him to assume
the position of sovereign. Documents of this kind came in from Braga,
Barcelos, Guimaraens, Feira, Oliveira and Villa de Conde. In Oporto
proclamations were posted on the walls declaring that ‘the Prince
Regent by his departure to Brazil had formally resigned his crown,
and that the only salvation for Portugal would be that the Duke of
Dalmatia, the most distinguished of the pupils of the great Napoleon,
should ascend the vacant throne[322].’ A priest named Veloso and
other persons went about in the street delivering harangues in favour
of the creation of the ‘kingdom of Northern Lusitania.’ A register
was opened in the municipal buildings to be signed by all persons
who wished to join in the petition to the Marshal to assume the
regal title, and a certain number of signatures were collected. A
newspaper, called the _Diario do Porto_, was started, to support
the movement, and ran for about a month. It is said that Soult’s
partisans even succeeded in gathering small crowds together, before
the mansion where his head quarters were established, to shout
_Viva o Rei Nicolao!_ and that the acclamations were acknowledged
by showers of copper coins thrown from the windows[323]. The latter
part of this story is no doubt an invention of Soult’s enemies, but
it was believed at the time by the majority of the French officers,
and ‘_Le Roi Nicolas_’ was for the future his nickname in the army
of Portugal[324]. On April 19 the Marshal ordered his chief of the
staff, General Ricard, to issue a circular letter to the generals
of divisions and brigades[325], inviting their co-operation in the
movement, and assuring them that no disloyalty to the Emperor would
be involved even if the Marshal assumed regal powers[326]. This
document is the most convincing piece of evidence that exists as to
Soult’s intentions. In it there is no attempt made to conceal the
movement that had been set on foot: the writer’s only preoccupation
is to show that it was not directed against Napoleon. When, five
months later, Ricard’s circular came under the Emperor’s eye, it
roused his wrath to such a pitch that he wrote in the most stinging
and sarcastic terms to Soult. ‘He is astounded,’ he says, ‘to find
the chief of the staff suggesting to the generals that the Marshal
should be requested to take up the reins of government, and assume
the attributes of supreme authority. If he had assumed sovereign
power on his own responsibility, it would have been a crime, clear
_lèse-majesté_, an attack on the imperial authority. How could a
man of sense, like Soult, suppose that his master would permit him
to exercise any power that had not been delegated to him? No wonder
that the army grew discontented, and that rumours got about that the
Marshal was working for himself, not for the Emperor or France. After
receiving this circular, it is doubtful whether any French officer
would not have been fully justified in refusing to obey any further
orders issued from Oporto[327].’

  [322] Fantin des Odoards, writing at Oporto under the date May 5,
  says that he had just read this proclamation on the walls, and
  was astounded at it, for the great bulk of the population was so
  hostile that the project seemed absolutely insane.

  [323] St. Chamans, aide-de-camp to Soult, speaks of the crowds
  assembled by Veloso and others (p. 134): Bigarré says that
  General Ricard threw money to the crowd for seven days running
  from the Marshal’s balcony, and then stopped because the harvest
  of _vivas_ was not large enough (p. 245).

  [324] See Fantin des Odoards, p. 229, and Jourdan, p. 218.

  [325] This strange document will be found printed in the Appendix.

  [326] See Chamans, pp. 134 and 140. He ends with observing that
  Soult ‘aurait voulu se faire demander pour roi de Portugal par
  les habitants, qu’alors, le premier pas fait, il aurait sollicité
  les suffrages de l’armée, ils auraient été consignés sur des
  registres pour chaque corps, et il aurait mis toutes ces pièces
  sous les yeux de l’Empereur, en lui demandant son approbation.’

  [327] Napoleon to Soult from Schönbrunn, Sept. 26, _Nap.
  Corresp._, 15,871.

This was written from Vienna, before the Emperor had received any
full and exact account of the details of Soult’s intrigues. Had he
but known them all, it is doubtful if he would have granted his
lieutenant the complete pardon and restoration to favour with which
his dispatch concludes[328].

  [328] Napier’s conclusions as to Soult’s conduct are wholly
  warped by his strong predilection for the Marshal--which dated
  back to the time when the latter dealt kindly with his wounded
  brother on the day after Corunna. He understates Soult’s
  encouragement of the movement, and will have us believe that
  it was purely the work of the Portuguese. He omits all mention
  of Ricard’s circular, and finally suppresses all mention of
  Napoleon’s angry upbraidings except the following (ii. p. 75):
  ‘The Emperor wrote to Soult that the rumour had reached him,
  adding, with a delicate allusion to the Marshal’s previous
  services, “I remember nothing but Austerlitz.”’ Now it was not
  a _rumour_ which had reached Schönbrunn, but a copy of Ricard’s
  circular, which the Emperor quotes _verbatim_. Therefore Napoleon
  was writing with tangible evidence, not with camp reports,
  to guide him. How far Napier’s sentence above gives a fair
  impression of the tone of the dispatch which I have reproduced,
  I leave the reader to judge. It was a surprise to myself when I
  put the two together. Once and for all, it must be remembered
  that Napier can never be trusted when Soult is in question--the
  Marshal’s intrigues, his greed, his shameful plundering of
  Andalusian churches, are all concealed.

There can be no doubt that the Duke of Dalmatia might have put a
stop to all the activity of his Portuguese friends by merely raising
his hand. It would have sufficed for him to assure the deputations
which visited him that his duty as the lieutenant of the Emperor
forbade him to listen to their proposals. He could have caused
the proclamations to be torn down, and have silenced the street
orators. ‘They could not have made him king against his own will,’
as one of his officers remarked[329]. But no action of the kind
was taken; and the movement was openly encouraged. The Marshal’s
explanation, that he was only taking the best means in his power to
build up a French party in Oporto, will not stand examination. Why
should the scheme involve his own promotion to the throne, if his
views were disinterested, and his actions merely intended to serve
his master’s ends? Is it conceivable that the Portuguese should, of
their own accord, and without any suggestion from without, have hit
upon the idea of crowning a conqueror whose very name was strange
to them three weeks before, and whose hands were red with the blood
of thousands of their fellow countrymen? Clever and cautious though
the Marshal was, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that he
had for once allowed his ambition to take the bit between its teeth,
and to whirl him off into an enterprise that was worthy of the most
hair-brained of adventurers.

  [329] Fantin des Odoards, p. 220.

Meanwhile the consequences of his intrigue were strange and various.
The army received the news of what was going on at Oporto with
puzzled surprise. Of those who were not present at the centre of
affairs, some refused to believe the stories that reached them, and
merely observed that the Marshal was not such a fool as to take in
hand a plan that was both treasonable to his master and preposterous
in itself[330]. Others, particularly his personal enemies, not only
credited the information but began to concert measures for resisting
him if he should try to carry out his scheme. This party was very
strong among the officers of Junot’s old army of Portugal, who had
been transferred in large numbers to the 2nd Corps. They disliked the
expedition, had been prophesying disaster from the first, and had
criticized every move of the Marshal. Now they found in the news of
his intrigue another excuse for running counter to his orders. There
is good reason for believing that Loison and Delaborde had actually
conferred on the necessity for seizing and imprisoning the Marshal
if he should take the final step and allow himself to be proclaimed
king. Both these generals were faithful adherents of Napoleon,
and had no thought save that of serving their master. But there
were other officers who watched the progress of affairs with very
different eyes.

  [330] So writes Naylies, of Lahoussaye’s dragoons, who, being
  absent at Amarante and elsewhere, never saw the doings in Oporto:
  ‘Il s’est répandu dans l’armée qu’il aspirait à la souveraineté
  du pays: on en conçut d’abord quelques inquiétudes, qui furent
  bientôt dissipées’ (p. 119).

There had existed in the French army from the day when the empire was
first proclaimed, a party of malcontents who still regarded Bonaparte
as a usurper, and were only biding their time till it might be safe
to deal a blow at him. Hitherto his career had been so uniformly
successful that no opportunity had arisen. But secret societies, of
which the _Philadelphes_ was the best known, were at work all through
the years of the Emperor’s reign: their one object was to be ready
for a _coup d’état_ when the favourable moment should arrive. The
history of these associations is so obscure that it is impossible to
estimate their strength at any given time--no trustworthy historian
ever arose from their ranks to tell the story of their schemes, when
lips were unsealed by the fall of Napoleon[331]. It is only by the
sudden appearance of phenomena like Malet’s conspiracy of 1812, and
the plot which we are now about to describe, that the reality of the
existence of these secret societies is proved.

  [331] Charles Nodier’s _Histoire des conspirations militaires
  sous l’Empire_ is unfortunately quite untrustworthy. He was
  never among the _Philadelphes_, and writes as a credulous and
  ill-informed outsider. Nevertheless there is a basis of fact
  underlying his work.

In the army of Portugal there was a group of officers who belonged to
the band of the discontented, and were perfectly prepared to execute
a _pronunciamiento_ against the empire if the times and circumstances
proved propitious. We know the names of four[332]: Donadieu, colonel
of the 47th of the line; Lafitte, colonel of the 18th Dragoons; his
brother, a captain in the same regiment, who was serving on Soult’s
staff; and Argenton, another captain, who was adjutant of Lafitte’s
regiment; two other plotters are hidden under the assumed names of
‘Dupont’ and ‘Garis,’ by which they were introduced to Wellesley.
There were _certainly_ other officers implicated, for it is
inconceivable that six men could have planned an insurrection unless
they were sure of a certain measure of support. At this moment they
were carrying on an active propaganda of discontent, especially among
the officers of Delaborde’s division and of Lahoussaye’s dragoons.
There were many men who saw the full iniquity of the Spanish War,
and were disgusted at finding themselves involved in it[333]. Others
loathed the hanging and burning, the shooting of priests and women,
the riding down of half-armed peasants, which had been their lot for
the last two months. Still more were simply discontented at being
lost in a remote corner of Europe, where glory and profit were both
absent, and where ignominious death at the hands of the lurking
‘sniper’ or the midnight assassin came all too frequently--sometimes
death accompanied by torture. It was three months since the army had
received a mail from France; they might as well have been in Egypt
or America, and they felt themselves forgotten by their master. In
many a mind the question arose whether the game was worth playing:
must they for ever persist in this wretched interminable campaign, in
order that the Duke of Dalmatia might become a king, or even in order
that the Emperor might be able to apply the Continental System in its
full rigour to this land of brutish peasants and fanatical monks? A
speedy return to France seemed the one thing desirable.

  [332] The names of Argenton, Lafitte, and Donadieu are public
  property. Napier gives them, as does Bigarré. The names of
  ‘Dupont’ and ‘Garis’ are in suppressed paragraphs of the
  _Wellington Dispatches_ which Gurwood chose to omit, and are also
  found in the minutes of Argenton’s trial at Paris.

  [333] The reader may trace this feeling in Foy’s diaries, and
  Naylies (p. 67).

It is easy to understand that the conspirators found many
sympathizers, so long as they confined themselves to setting forth
the miseries of the campaign, and to criticizing the Marshal and the
Emperor. But they erred when they took a general readiness to grumble
for a sign that the army was ripe for revolt. However discontented
the officers might be, there were very few of them who were prepared
to engage in the game of high treason. The vast majority were still
unable to dissociate the idea of the Emperor from the idea of
France. It was only a few who could rise (or sink) to the conception
of turning their arms against Bonaparte in order to free France
from autocracy. This bore too close a resemblance to treachery to
be palatable to men of honour. None save exalted Jacobins, or men
of overweening ambition and few scruples, could contemplate the
idea with patience. When we find that the plans of the conspirators
included not merely a _pronunciamiento_, but the conclusion of a
secret pact with the enemies in arms against them, we are driven to
conclude that they belonged to the last-named of these classes--that
their heads were turned with the grandiose notion of getting an army
into their power and changing the fate of Europe.

The conspirators, observing the course of affairs at Oporto, were
fully convinced that Soult would within a few days declare himself
‘King of Northern Lusitania.’ This act would produce an outburst of
wrath in the army, and they hoped to turn the inevitable mutiny to
their own profit. They intended to seize the Marshal, and then to
make an appeal to the soldiery, not in the name of Napoleon but in
that of France. They were also prepared to lay hands on any general
who might attempt to assume command of the troops in the Emperor’s
interest[334]. Donadieu and Lafitte had secured some of the officers
of their own regiments, and believed that the men would follow them.
The other corps, as they hoped, would be drawn away after them, and
the cry of liberty and the promise of an instant return to France
would lure the whole army into rebellion. So far the plot, though
rash and hazardous, might conceivably have been carried out. But
their next step was to be the issue of an appeal to Ney’s divisions
and the other French troops in northern Spain to join them, and
march upon the Pyrenees. Even though there were members of the
secret societies scattered all through the army, it seems absolutely
impossible to believe that they could have carried away with them
into open revolt the whole of their companions. The movement of
protest against Napoleon would have begun and ended with the 2nd
Corps, if even it got so far as the initial _pronunciamiento_[335].
To be effective it would have required a strong backing in France,
and the list of the leaders in that country, on whom the conspirators
said that they relied for aid, does not give us a high opinion of
the strength and organization of the plot. The persons named were
the old Jacobin general Lecourbe, Macdonald who--though they did not
know it--had just been taken back into favour by the Emperor, and
Dupont, who was in prison and incapable for the moment of helping
himself or any one else[336]. They also spoke of sending for Moreau
from America, and placing him at the head of the whole movement.
But it is clear that they were not in actual communication with the
generals in France, much less with the exiled victor of Hohenlinden.
The whole plan was ill-considered; it was the result of the intense
irritation against Soult and Bonaparte felt by the officers of the
army of Portugal, acting upon the disordered ambition of a knot
of intriguers. Anger and vain self-confidence blinded them to the
inadequacy of their resources.

  [334] Napier and Le Noble both hint that Loison was in the
  plot, and perhaps Delaborde, though they do not actually name
  these officers. But I think that their innocence is proved by
  Argenton’s declaration to Wellesley (Wellesley to Castlereagh,
  May 7, Record Office), that Loison was attached to Bonaparte, and
  would certainly seize Soult if he proclaimed himself king for
  ‘ambitious abuse of his authority and disobedience to his master.’

  [335] This, at the time, was Wellesley’s eminently sensible
  conclusion. He wrote to Castlereagh on April 27, ‘I doubt whether
  it will be quite so easy as their emissary thinks to carry their
  intentions into execution: I also doubt whether it follows that
  the successful revolt of this one corps would be followed by
  that of others, and I am convinced that the method proposed
  by M. D’Argenton would not answer that purpose.’ _Wellington
  Dispatches_, iv. 276.

  [336] These are the names omitted in the printed version of the
  _Wellington Dispatches_: that of Moreau does not occur there, but
  is to be found in the confession which Argenton made to Soult:
  see Le Noble, p. 236.

It was a main condition of the projected outbreak that Soult’s
position should be made impossible: the most favourable course of
events, so the conspirators held, would be that he should persist
in his monarchical ambitions and proclaim himself king. When he did
so, the party loyal to Bonaparte among his officers would make an
attempt--successful or unsuccessful--to seize his person. Chaos and
civil strife within the army would result, and it was then that the
conspirators intended to show their hand. It would seem that their
Machiavellian foresight went so far that they proposed to wait till
the Marshal should be imprisoned, or should find himself involved
in hostilities with the Bonapartists, and then offer him the aid of
their regiments, on condition that he should put himself at the head
of the anti-imperialist movement. All this was too ingenious for
practical work. But the next development of the plot was even more
astonishing in its futile cunning.

The conspirators wished to draw the English commander at Lisbon into
their scheme--it was Cradock whom they had in view, for Wellesley
was in England when the plot began, and when it developed he had
landed indeed, but his arrival was not known. The part which they had
allotted to Cradock was twofold--he was to be asked to send secret
advice to the Portuguese notables of the north, ordering them to
feign an enthusiastic approval of Soult’s designs on the crown, and
to join with all possible clamour in the demonstrations at Oporto.
When this unexpected outburst of devotion to his person should be
forthcoming, they supposed that the Marshal would not hesitate any
longer to assume the crown. Then would follow civil strife and the
desired opportunity for intervention by the conspirators. The second
request which they intended to make was that Cradock should bring
up the British army to the front, and place it so as to make it
dangerous or impossible for Soult to force his way out of Portugal in
the direction of the middle Douro and Salamanca. They suggested Villa
Real in the Tras-os-Montes as a suitable position for him. Their
idea in making this proposal was that the army would be filled with
despair at seeing its best line of retreat cut off (that by Galicia
was growing to be considered impossible), and would therefore be more
incensed against Soult, and at the same time more inclined to secure
safety by coming to a pact and agreement with the enemy[337].

  [337] It must be remembered that the whole plot was far advanced,
  and that Argenton had placed himself in treasonable communication
  with the British, before Wellesley landed. Sir Arthur came ashore
  on the night of April 22. On the morning of the twenty-fifth,
  he received a visit from Beresford, who came down from Coimbra
  to tell him that a French officer, bearing the message of the
  conspirators, had come within the Portuguese lines on the Vouga
  on the twenty-first. Argenton arrived at Lisbon the same night,
  and had his first interview with the new commander-in-chief,
  whom he found in charge of the British army, and not (as he had
  expected) Sir John Cradock. The three requests made were (1)
  that Wellesley would ‘press upon Soult’s Corps’--the seizure of
  Villa Real being suggested, (2) that he would give passports to
  Argenton and two others to go to France, (3) that he would stir
  up the Portuguese to flatter and deceive Soult into taking overt
  steps of treason. Cf. _Wellington Dispatches_, iv. 274 [Lisbon,
  April 27] and 308 [Coimbra, May 7].

The officer who volunteered for the dangerous task of going within
the English lines was Captain Argenton, the adjutant of Lafitte’s
regiment of dragoons. He was a vain, ready, plausible man, full of
resources but destitute of firmness: his character is sufficiently
shown by the fact that he ultimately wrecked the plot by his
indiscretion in tampering with loyal Bonapartists, who delated him,
and that when seized he betrayed the whole scheme to Soult in the
hope of saving his life. Clearly he was deficient both in the caution
and in the stoic courage required for a conspirator--successful or

We must note that he started from the camp of Lahoussaye’s dragoons,
near Amarante, on April 19, that he reached the French outposts on
the Vouga and got into communication with Major Douglas, one of
Beresford’s officers in the Portuguese service, on the twenty-first,
finally, that at the invitation of Douglas and Beresford he came
into Lisbon and reached that city on the twenty-fifth, just in time
to meet the newly-landed Wellesley. The plot meanwhile stood still
in his absence, for the Duke of Dalmatia did not take the overt step
which would have given the plotters their opportunity--he refrained
from accepting the crown which his Portuguese partisans were so
continually pressing him to assume. Nothing decisive had occurred,
when the situation was suddenly changed by the appearance of the
British army upon the offensive on May 7[338].

  [338] It is to these days, and probably to some date about May
  4-7, that belongs General Bigarré’s curious story about the
  conspirators (see his _Mémoires_, p. 235, and Le Noble, p. 238;
  the latter printed the story in 1821 without names, the former’s
  version was only given to the light a few years ago; they agree
  in every point). The story is too good to be omitted. Bigarré
  says that, walking the quay of Oporto on a moonlight night,
  he came on Lafitte and Donadieu, muffled in their cloaks and
  vehemently discussing something in a dark corner. He stole up
  to them unnoticed, slapped his friend Donadieu on the back, and
  suddenly shouted in their ears ‘_Ah! je vous y prends, Messieurs
  les conspirateurs_.’ Lafitte whipped out a pistol, and had nearly
  shot the practical joker, before Donadieu could reassure him that
  this was only a boisterous piece of fun and that Bigarré knew
  nothing. It was not till much later that the latter found out
  what had been brewing.

N.B.--For some documents bearing on Argenton’s conspiracy see
Appendix at the end of this volume.



(MAY 1809)



On Nov. 25, 1808, Sir John Moore, in answer to a question from Lord
Castlereagh, wrote the following conclusions as to the practicability
of defending Portugal[339]:

  [339] In common fairness to Moore, it is necessary to quote
  Wellesley’s own words on their fundamental difference of opinion
  as to the possibility of defending Portugal. ‘I have as much
  respect as any man can have for the opinion and judgement of Sir
  J. Moore, and I should mistrust my own (if opposed to his) in
  a case where he had an opportunity of knowing and considering.
  But he positively knew nothing of Portugal, and _could_ know
  nothing of its existing state.’ Yet he says that ‘The greatest
  disadvantage under which I labour is that Sir John Moore gave an
  opinion that the country could not be defended by the army under
  his command.’ Wellington to Lord Liverpool, from Vizeu, April 2,

‘I can say generally that the frontier of Portugal is not defensible
against a superior force. It is an open frontier, all equally rugged,
but all equally to be penetrated. If the French succeed in Spain it
will be vain to attempt to resist them in Portugal. The Portuguese
are without a military force ... no dependence can be placed on any
aid that they can give. The British must in that event, I conceive,
immediately take steps to evacuate the country. Lisbon is the only
port, and therefore the only place from whence the army, with its
stores, can embark.... We might check the progress of the enemy while
the stores are embarking, and arrangements are being made for taking
off the army. Beyond this the defence of Lisbon or of Portugal should
not be thought of.’

Four months later, on March 7, 1809, Sir Arthur Wellesley answered
the same question, put to him by the same minister, in very different

‘I have always been of opinion that Portugal might be defended,
whatever might be the result of the contest in Spain, and that in
the meantime measures adopted for the defence of Portugal would be
highly useful to the Spaniards in their contest with the French. My
notion was that the Portuguese military establishment ought to be
revived, and that in addition to those troops His Majesty ought to
employ about 20,000 British troops, including about 4,000 cavalry.
My opinion was that, even if Spain should have been conquered, the
French would not be able to overrun Portugal with a smaller force
than 100,000 men. As long as the contest may continue in Spain, this
force [the 20,000 British troops], if it could be placed in a state
of activity, would be highly useful to the Spaniards, and might
eventually decide the contest.’

Between these two divergent views as to the practicability of
defending Portugal, Lord Castlereagh had to make his decision. On
it--though he could not be aware of the fact--depended the future
of Britain and of Bonaparte. He carefully considered the situation;
after the disasters of the Corunna retreat it required some moral
courage for a minister to advise the sending of another British
army to the Peninsula. Moore’s gloomy prognostications were echoed
by many military experts, and there were leading men--soldiers and
politicians--who declared that the only thing that now remained to
be done was to withdraw Cradock’s 10,000 sabres and bayonets from
Lisbon, before the French came near enough to that city to make their
embarkation difficult.

Castlereagh resolved to stake his faith on the correctness of
Wellesley’s conclusions: all through these years of contest he had
made him his most trusted adviser on things military, and now he did
not swerve from his confidence. He announced to him, privately in the
end of March, and officially on April 2[340], that the experiment of
a second expedition to Portugal should be tried, and that he himself
should have the conduct of it. Reinforcements should at once be sent
out to bring the British army at Lisbon up to a total of 30,000
men--the number to which Wellesley, on consideration, raised the
original 20,000 of which he had spoken. Beresford had already sailed,
with orders to do all that he could for the reorganization of the
disorderly native forces of Portugal. The few regiments in England
that were ready for instant embarkation were sent off ere March
ended, and began to arrive at Lisbon early in April[341]. Others were
rapidly prepared for foreign service; but it was a misfortune that
the Corunna battalions were still too sickly and depleted to be able
to sail, so that troops who had seen nothing of the first campaign
had to be sent out. The majority of them were ‘second battalions’
from the home establishment[342], many of them very weak in numbers
and full of young soldiers, as they had been drained in the previous
year to fill their first battalions up to full strength. Finally,
just behind the first convoys of reinforcements, Wellesley himself
set sail from Portsmouth, after resigning his position as Under
Secretary for Ireland, which, by a curious anomaly, he had continued
to hold all through the campaign of Vimiero, and the proceedings of
inquiry concerning the Convention of Cintra. He sailed upon April
14, in the _Surveillante_ frigate, had the narrowest of escapes
from shipwreck on the Isle of Wight during the first night of his
voyage, but soon obtained favourable winds and reached Lisbon on the
twenty-second, after a rapid passage of less than eight days. Just
before he started there had been received from Portugal not only
the correct intelligence that Soult had stormed Oporto upon March
29, but a false rumour that Victor had been joined by the corps of
Sebastiani[343] and had after his victory at Medellin laid siege to
Badajoz[344]. If this had been true, the Duke of Belluno would have
been strong enough to move against Portugal with 25,000 men, after
detaching a competent force to watch the wrecks of Cuesta’s army.
Fortunately the whole story was an invention: but it kept Wellesley
in a state of feverish anxiety till he reached Lisbon. His fears are
shown by the fact that he drew up a memorandum for Lord Castlereagh,
setting forth the supposed situation, and asking what he was to do
on arriving, if he should find that Cradock had already embarked his
troops and quitted Portugal[345]. The Secretary of State, equally
harrassed by the false intelligence, replied that he was to make an
effort to induce the Spaniards to let him land the army at Cadiz,
and, if they should refuse, might reinforce the garrison of Gibraltar
to 8,000 men, and bring the rest of the expeditionary force back to

  [340] The official notice is dated April 2 (_Wellington
  Supplementary Dispatches_, vi. p. 210), but several letters dated
  late in March show that the matter had been already settled.

  [341] The troops from the abortive expedition to Cadiz, under
  Mackenzie, Sherbrooke and Tilson, turned up about the middle of
  March at Lisbon. But Hill, with the first body of the second
  batch of reinforcements, only appeared upon April 5.

  [342] Of the first ten battalions to appear, seven were 2nd
  battalions--those of the 7th, 30th, 48th, 53rd, 66th, 83rd, 87th
  regiments. Some were very weak, with less than 750 bayonets, e.g.
  the 7th (628 men), 30th (698 men), 66th (740 men).

  [343] This came from Beresford at Lisbon (see _Wellington
  Supplementary Dispatches_, vi. p. 219).

  [344] Wellesley to the Duke of Richmond, April 14 (_Supplementary
  Dispatches_, vi. 227).

  [345] _Wellington Supplementary Dispatches_, vi. 221-2. It
  is very creditable to Sir Arthur that, adverting to another
  possibility, viz. that Cradock may have plucked up courage to go
  out against the French, and have successfully beaten them off, he
  declares that ‘he could not reconcile it with his feelings’ to
  supersede a successful general. He remembered his own state of
  mind when supplanted by Burrard on the day of Vimiero.

  [346] Castlereagh to Wellesley, _Supplementary Dispatches_, vi.
  222 and 228.

It was therefore an immense relief to Wellesley to find, when he
landed, that the news from Estremadura was false, that Victor had
not been reinforced, and that the 1st Corps was lying quiescent at
Merida. Soult was still at Oporto, Cradock had not been molested, and
the French invasion was at a standstill.

It is comparatively seldom that the historian is able to compare in
detail a general’s original conception of a plan of campaign with the
actual scheme which he carried out. Still less common is it to find
that the commander has placed on record his ideas as to the general
policy to be pursued during a war, before he has assumed charge of
his army or issued his first orders. It is therefore most fortunate
that we have three documents from Wellesley’s hand, written early
in 1809, which enable us to understand the principles on which he
believed that the Peninsular War should be fought out. These are
his _Memorandum on the Defence of Portugal_, which we have already
had occasion to quote, and the two dispatches to Lord Castlereagh
and to Mr. Frere which he wrote immediately after his arrival in
Lisbon. The first gives us his general view of the war. He believed
that an English army of 20,000 or 30,000 men, backed by the levies
of Portugal, would be able to maintain itself on the flank of the
French army in Spain. Its presence there would paralyse all the
offensive actions of the enemy, and enable the Spaniards to make
head against the invaders as long as Portugal remained unsubdued.
The news that a British army had once more taken the field would,
he considered, induce the French to turn their main efforts against
Portugal[347], but he believed that considering the geography of the
country, the character of its people, and the quality of the British
troops, they would fail in their attempt to overrun it. They could
not succeed, as he supposed, unless they could set aside 100,000
men for the task, and he did not see how they would ever be able
to spare such a large detachment out of the total force which they
then possessed in the Peninsula--a force whose numerical strength
(in common with all British statesmen and soldiers of the day) he
somewhat underrated. Being in the secrets of the Ministry, he was
already aware in March that a new war in Germany was about to break
out within the next few months. When Austria took the field, Napoleon
would not be able to spare a single battalion of reinforcements for
Spain. If the Spaniards pursued a reasonable military policy, and
occupied the attention of the main armies of the French, the enemy
would never be able to detach a force of 100,000 for the invasion of
Portugal. He would underrate the numbers required, make his attempt
with insufficient resources, and be beaten. When Wellesley landed at
Lisbon, and found that Soult had halted at Oporto, that Victor lay
quiescent at Merida, and that Lapisse with the troops from Salamanca
had gone southward to join the 1st Corps, and so severed the only
link which bound together the army in Northern Portugal and the army
in Estremadura, he was reassured as to the whole situation. Soult and
Victor, isolated as they now were, would each be too weak to beat the
Anglo-Portuguese army. They were too far apart to make co-operation
between them possible, considering the geography of Central Portugal,
and the fact that the whole country behind each was in a state of

  [347] Memorandum of March 7, ‘As soon as the newspapers shall
  have announced the departure of officers for Portugal, the French
  armies in Spain will receive orders to make their movements
  towards Portugal, so as to anticipate our measures for its
  defence,’ &c.

  [348] It is noteworthy that Wellesley, when he was placed in
  communication with Argenton three days later, considered that
  one of the few useful facts which he had got from the plotter
  was that Soult and his army had no knowledge of where Victor
  might be, or of what he was doing. This was a far more precious
  piece of information than any details as to the conspiracy, which
  Wellesley regarded from the first as doomed to failure: see
  _Wellington Dispatches_, iv. 274.

But ‘the best defensive is a vigorous local offensive,’ and Wellesley
saw the advantage of the central position of the British army upon
the Tagus. A few marches would place it at a point from which it
could fall either upon Victor to the right or Soult to the left,
before either marshal could be in a position to lend help to his
colleague, probably long before he would even be aware that his
colleague was in danger. Wellesley could strike at the one or the
other, with almost perfect certainty of catching him unreinforced.
Ney, it was true, lay behind Soult, but he was known to be entangled
in the trammels of the vigorous Galician insurrection. Victor had
Sebastiani in his rear, but the 4th Corps was having occupation
found for it by the Spanish army of La Mancha. It was improbable
that either Soult or Victor, if suddenly attacked, could call up any
appreciable reinforcements. Victor, moreover, had Cuesta to observe,
and could not move off leaving 20,000 Spaniards behind him. Soult
was known to be distracted by Silveira’s operations on the Tamega.
Wellesley, therefore, saw that it was well within his power to strike
at either of the marshals. He would, of course, be obliged to place
a ‘containing force’ in front of the one whom he resolved to leave
alone for the present. But this detachment need not be very large,
and might be composed for the most part of Portuguese troops: its
duty would be to distract, but not to fight the enemy.

On the whole Wellesley thought it would be best to make the first
onslaught on Soult. ‘I should prefer an attack on Victor,’ he wrote,
two days after landing, ‘in concert with Cuesta, if Soult were not
in possession of a fertile province of this kingdom, and of the
favourite town of Oporto, of which it is most desirable to deprive
him. Any operation upon Victor, connected with Cuesta’s movements,
would require time to concert, which may as well be employed in
dislodging Soult from the north of Portugal, before bringing the
British army to the eastern frontier[349].... I intend to move
upon Soult, as soon as I can make some arrangement, on which I can
depend, for the defence of the Tagus, to impede or delay Victor’s
progress, in case he should come on while I am absent.’ ‘I think it
probable,’ he wrote on the same day but in another letter, ‘that
Soult will not remain in Portugal when I pass the Mondego: if he
does, I shall attack him. If he should retire, I am convinced that it
would be most advantageous for the common cause that we should remain
on the defensive in the North of Portugal, and act vigorously in
co-operation with Cuesta against Victor[350].’

  [349] Wellesley to Castlereagh, from Lisbon, April 24. I have
  ventured to substitute ‘before bringing’ in the last sentence for
  the unmeaning ‘and to bring’ which is clearly a _lapsus calami_.

  [350] Wellesley (to Mr. Frere, at Seville) from Lisbon, April
  24. In many sentences this dispatch is only a repetition of that
  to Castlereagh. But in others Sir Arthur makes his meaning more
  clear, by a more detailed explanation.

Further forward it was impossible to look: a blow at Soult, followed
by another at Victor, was all that could at present be contemplated.
Wellesley was directed, by the formal instructions which he had
received from Castlereagh, to do all that was possible to clear
Portugal and the frontier provinces of Spain from the enemy, but
not to strike deep into the Peninsula till he should have received
permission from home to do so. Nevertheless he had devoted some
thought to the remoter possibilities of the situation. If Portugal
were preserved, and Soult and Victor beaten off, more ambitious
combinations might become possible. He expressed his conviction that
the French occupation of Spain would only be endangered when a very
large force, acting in unison under the guidance of a single mind,
should be brought together. The co-operation of the English army and
that of Cuesta ‘might be the groundwork of further measures of the
same and a more extended description[351].’ He was under no delusions
as to the easiness of the task before him: he did not hurry on in
thought, to dream of the expulsion of the French from the Peninsula
as a goal already in sight. But he believed that he and his army
‘might be highly useful to the Spaniards and might eventually decide
the contest[352].’

  [351] Wellesley to Frere, Lisbon, April 24, 1809.

  [352] _Memorandum on the Defence of Portugal_, of March 7.

It is the survey of documents such as these that enables us to
appreciate Wellesley at his best. He had gauged perfectly well the
situation and difficulties of the French. He saw exactly how much
was in his own power. The whole history of the Peninsular War for
the next two years is foreseen in his prophetic statement, that with
30,000 British troops and the Portuguese levies he would guarantee
to hold his own against any force of less than 100,000 French, and
that he did not think that the enemy would find it easy to collect
an army of that size to send against him. This is precisely what he
accomplished: for the first fifteen months after his arrival he held
with ease that frontier which Moore had described as ‘indefensible
against a superior force.’ When at last Napoleon, free from all
other continental troubles, launched against him an army under
Masséna, which almost reached the figure[353] that he had described
as irresistible in 1809, he showed in 1810-11 that he had built up
resources for himself which enabled him to beat off even that number
of enemies. Though four-fifths of Spain had been subdued, he held his
own, because he had grasped the fundamental truth that (to use his
own words) ‘the more ground the French hold down, the weaker will
they be at any given point.’ In short, he had fathomed the great
secret, that Napoleon’s military power--vast as it was--had its
limits: that the Emperor could not send to Spain a force sufficient
to hold down every province of a thoroughly disaffected country,
and also to provide (over and above the garrisons) a field army
large enough to beat the Anglo-Portuguese and capture Lisbon. If the
French dispersed their divisions, and kept down the vast tracts of
conquered territory, they had no force left with which to take the
offensive against Portugal: if they massed their armies, they had to
give up broad regions, which immediately relapsed into insurrection
and required to be subdued again. This was as true in the beginning
of the war as in the end. In 1809 the army that forced Wellesley
to retreat after Talavera was only produced by evacuating the
whole province of Galicia, which passed back into the hands of the
insurgents. In 1812, in a similar way, the overpowering force which
beat him back from Burgos, had been gathered only by surrendering to
the Spanish Government the whole of the four kingdoms of Andalusia.
On the other hand, during the long periods when the enemy had
dispersed himself, and was garrisoning the whole south and centre of
Spain, e.g. for the first six months of 1810, and for the last six
months of 1811, Wellesley held his own on the Portuguese frontier
in complete confidence, assured that no sufficient force could be
brought up against him, till the enemy either procured new troops
from France or gave up some great section of the regions which he was
holding down. A detailed insight into the future is impossible to
any general, however great, but already in April 1809 Wellesley had
grasped the main outlines of the war that was to be.

  [353] If to Masséna’s field army of 60,000 men we add the troops
  on his communications (viz. the 9th Corps and the garrisons of
  Rodrigo and Almeida) and also the force which Soult and Mortier
  brought up against Badajoz and Elvas--a force against which
  Wellesley had to provide, by making large detachments--the full
  number of 100,000 is reached.

Before passing on to the details of the campaign on the Douro, with
which Wellesley’s long series of victories began, it is well to
take a glance at the man himself, as he sat at his desk in Lisbon
dictating the orders that were to change the face of the war.

Arthur Wellesley was now within a few days of completing his fortieth
year. He was a slight but wiry man of middle stature, with a long
face, an aquiline nose, and a keen but cold grey eye. Owning an iron
constitution on which no climate or season seemed to make the least
impression, he was physically fit for all the work that lay before
him--work more fatiguing than that which falls to most generals. For
in the Peninsula he was required, as it soon appeared, to be almost
as much of a statesman as of a general; while at the same time, owing
to the inexperience of the British officers of that day in warfare on
a large scale, he was obliged for some time to discharge for himself
many of the duties which properly fall to the lot of the chief of
the staff, the commissary-general, the paymaster-general, and the
quartermaster-general in a well organized army. No amount of toil,
bodily or mental, appeared too much for that active and alert mind,
or for the body which seven years of service in India seemed to have
tanned and hardened rather than to have relaxed. During the whole of
his Peninsular campaigns, from 1808 to 1814, he was never prostrated
by any serious ailment. Autumn rains, summer heat, the cold of
winter, had no power over him. He could put up with a very small
allowance of sleep, and when necessary could snatch useful moments of
repose, at any moment of the twenty-four hours when no pressing duty
chanced to be on hand. His manner of life was simple and austere in
the extreme; no commander-in-chief ever travelled with less baggage,
or could be content with more Spartan fare. Long after his wars were
over the habit of bleak frugality clung to him, and in his old age
men wondered at the bare and comfortless surroundings that he chose
for himself, and at the scanty meals that sustained his spare but
active frame. Officers who had long served in India were generally
supposed to contract habits of luxury and display, but Wellesley
was the exception that proved the rule. He hated show of any kind;
after the first few days of the campaign of 1809 he discarded the
escort which was wont to accompany the commander-in-chief. It was on
very rare occasions that he was seen in his full uniform: the army
knew him best in the plain blue frock coat, the small featherless
cocked hat, and the short cape, which have been handed down to us
in a hundred drawings. Not unfrequently he would ride about among
his cantonments dressed like a civilian in a round hat and grey
trousers[354]. He was as careless about the dress of his subordinates
as about his own, and there probably never existed an army in which
so little fuss was made about unessential trappings as that which
served in the Peninsula from 1809 to 1814[355]. Nothing could be less
showy than its head-quarters’ staff--a small group of blue-coated
officers, with an orderly dragoon or two, riding in the wake of the
dark cape and low glazed cocked hat of the most unpretentious of
chiefs. It contrasted in the strangest way with the plumes and gold
lace of the French marshals and their elaborately ornate staffs[356].

  [354] See, for example, the anecdote in Sir G. L’Estrange’s
  _Reminiscences_, p. 194. Picton was equally given to the use (or
  abuse) of _mufti_, and fought Quatre Bras in a tall hat!

  [355] ‘Provided we brought our men into the field well appointed,
  and with sixty good rounds in their pouches, he never looked to
  see whether our trousers were black or blue or grey. Scarcely any
  two officers dressed alike. Some wore grey braided coats, others
  brown, some liked blue: many from choice or necessity stuck to
  the “old red rag.” We were never tormented with that greatest of
  _bores_ on active service, uniformity of dress.’ _Grattan’s With
  the 88th_, p. 50.

  [356] To find a humorous contrast to Wellington’s staff, the
  reader might consult Lejeune’s account of that of Berthier, who
  had allowed him to design a special and gorgeous uniform, all
  fur feathers and braid, for his aides-de-camp. Lejeune dwells
  with the enthusiasm of a tailor on his efforts and their glorious
  effect on parade [Lejeune, i. p. 95].

Considered as a man Wellesley had his defects and his limitations;
we shall have ere long to draw attention to some of them. But from
the intellectual point of view he commands our undivided admiration
as a practical soldier[357]. A careful study of his dispatches
leaves us in a state of wonder at the imbecility of the school
of writers--mostly continental--who have continued to assert for
the last eighty years that he was no more than a man of ordinary
abilities, who had an unfair share of good luck, and was presented
with a series of victories by the mistakes and jealousies of the
generals opposed to him. Such assertions are the results of blind
ignorance and prejudice. When found in English writers they merely
reflect the bitter hatred that was felt toward Wellesley by his
political opponents during the second and third decades of the
nineteenth century. In French military authors they only represent
the resentful carpings of the vanquished army, which preferred to
think that it was beaten by anything rather than by the ability of
the conqueror. In 1820 every retired colonel across the Channel
was ready to demonstrate that Toulouse was an English defeat, that
Talavera was a drawn battle, and that Wellesley was over-rash or
over-cautious, a fool or a coward, according as their thesis of the
moment might demand[358]. They were but echoing their Emperor’s
rancorous remark to Soult, on the hillside of La Belle Alliance, when
after telling the Marshal that he only thought his old adversary a
good general because he had been beaten by him, he added, ‘Et moi, je
vous dis que Wellington est un mauvais général, et que les Anglais
sont de mauvaises troupes[359].’

  [357] Lord Roberts, in his _Rise of Wellington_, only slightly
  overstates his case when he observes that the more we study
  Wellesley’s life in detail, the more we respect him as a general
  and the less we like him as a man. If we come upon much that is
  hard and unsympathetic, there are too many redeeming traits to
  justify the statement in its entirety.

  [358] The reader curious in such things may find as much as he
  desires of this sort of stuff in Thiébault, Marbot, Le Noble and
  Lemonnier Delafosse.

  [359] These phrases are preserved in the notes of Soult’s
  aide-de-camp Baudus.

Bonaparte consistently refused to do justice to the abilities of
the Duke. He regarded him as a bitter personal enemy, and his whole
attitude towards Wellesley was expressed in the scandalous legacy to
Cantillon[360] which disgraces his last will and testament. In strict
conformity with their master’s pose, his followers, literary and
military, have refused to see anything great in the victor of June
18, 1815. Even to the present day too many historians from the other
side of the straits continue to follow in the steps of Thiers, and to
express wonder at the inexplicable triumphs of the mediocre general
who routed in succession all the best marshals of France.

  [360] Cantillon was the assassin who fired on Wellington in Paris
  on Sept. 10, 1818.

To clear away any lingering doubts as to Wellesley’s extraordinary
ability, the student of history has only to read a few of his more
notable dispatches. The man who could write the two Memoranda to
Castlereagh dated September 5, 1808, and March 7, 1809[361], foresaw
the whole future of the Peninsular War. To know, at that early
stage of the struggle, that the Spaniards would be beaten when--and
wherever they offered battle, that the French, in spite of their
victories, would never be able to conquer and hold down the entire
country, that 30,000 British troops would be able to defend Portugal
against any force that could be collected against them, required the
mind of a soldier of the first class. When the earliest of those
memoranda was written, most Englishmen believed that the Spaniards
were about to deliver their country by their own arms: Wellesley saw
that the notion was vain and absurd. When, on the other hand, he
wrote the second, the idea was abroad that all was lost, that after
Corunna no second British army would be sent to the Peninsula, and
that Portugal was indefensible. Far from sharing these gloomy views
he asks for 30,000 men, and states that though Spain may be overrun,
though the Portuguese army may be in a state of hopeless disarray,
he yet hopes with this handful of men to maintain the struggle, and
eventually to decide the contest. How many generals has the world
seen who could have framed such a prophecy, and have verified it?

  [361] Wellington to Castlereagh, Zambujal, Sept. 5, 1808, and
  London, March 7, 1809.

To talk of the good fortune of Wellesley, of his ‘lucky star,’ is
absurd. He had, like other generals, his occasional uncovenanted
mercies and happy chances: but few commanders had more strokes of
undeserved disappointment, or saw more of their plans frustrated
by a stupid subordinate, an unexpected turn of the weather, an
incalculable accident, or a piece of false news. He had his fair
proportion of the chances of war, good and bad, and no more. If
fortune was with him at Oporto in 1809, or at El Bodon in 1811, how
many were the occasions on which she played him scurvy tricks? A few
examples may suffice. In May 1809 he might have captured the whole
of Soult’s army, if Silveira had but obeyed orders and occupied
the impregnable defile of Salamonde. On the night of Salamanca he
might have dealt in a similar fashion with Marmont’s routed host, if
Carlos d’España had not withdrawn the garrison of Alba de Tormes,
in flat disobedience to his instructions, and so left the fords
open to the flying French. It is needless to multiply instances of
such incalculable misfortune; any serious student of the Peninsular
War can cite them by the dozen. Masséna’s invasion of Portugal in
1810 would have been checked by the autumn rains, and never have
penetrated far within the frontier, but for the unlucky bomb which
blew up the grand magazine at Almeida, and reduced in a day a
fortress which ought to have held out for a month. In the autumn
of 1812 the retreat beyond the Douro need never have been made, if
Ballasteros had obeyed orders, and moved up from Granada to threaten
Soult’s flank, instead of remaining torpid in his cantonments 200
miles from the theatre of war.

Wellington was not the child of fortune; he was a great strategist
and tactician, placed in a situation in which the military dangers
furnished but half his difficulties. He had to cherish his single
precious British army corps, and to keep it from any unnecessary
loss, because if destroyed it could not be replaced. With those
30,000 men he had promised to keep up the war; the home government
was reluctant to risk the whole of its available field army in one
quarter, and for years refused to raise his numbers far above that
total. It was not till the middle of 1810 that his original five
divisions of infantry were increased to six, nor till 1811 that his
seventh and eighth divisions were completed[362]. Right down to 1812
it was certain that if he had lost any considerable fraction of his
modest army, the ministry might have recalled him and abandoned
Portugal. He had to fight with a full consciousness that a single
disaster would have been irreparable, because it would have been
followed not by the sending off of reinforcements to replace the
divisions that might be lost, but by an order to evacuate the
Peninsula. His French opponents fought under no such disabilities;
when beaten they had other armies at hand on which to fall back, and
behind all the inexhaustible reserve of Napoleon’s conscription.
Considering the campaigns of 1809-10-11 it is not Wellington’s
oft-censured prudence that we find astonishing, but his boldness.
Instead of wondering that he did not attempt to relieve Rodrigo or
Almeida in July-August 1810, or to fall upon Masséna at Santarem
in January 1811, we are filled with surprise at the daring which
inspired the storming of Oporto, and the offering of battle at Busaco
and Fuentes d’Oñoro. When a defeat spelt ruin and recall, it required
no small courage to take any risks: but Wellesley had the sanest
of minds; he could draw the line with absolute accuracy between
enterprise and rashness, between the possible and the impossible.
He had learned to gauge with wonderful insight the difficulties and
disabilities of his enemies, and to see exactly how far they might
be reckoned upon in discounting the military situation. After some
time he arrived at an accurate estimate of the individual marshals
opposed to him, and was ready to take the personal equation into
consideration, according as he had to deal with Soult or Masséna,
Marmont or Jourdan. In short, he was a safe general, not a cautious
one. When once the hopeless disparity between his own resources and
those of the enemy had ceased to exist, in the year 1812, he soon
showed the worth of the silly taunts which imputed timidity to him,
by the smashing blows which reduced Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz,
and the lightning-stroke which dashed to pieces Marmont’s army at
Salamanca. In the next year, when for the first time he could count
on an actual superiority of force[363], his irresistible march to
Vittoria displayed his mastery of the art of using an advantage to
the uttermost. Napoleon himself never punished a strategic fault on
the part of the enemy with such majestic ease and confidence.

  [362] The Fifth Division was not completed till Oct. 8, 1810, the
  Sixth and Seventh on March 8, 1811.

  [363] Though even then the superiority, such as it was, consisted
  entirely of Spanish troops of doubtful quality.

Of Wellington as a tactician we have already had occasion to speak in
the first volume of this work[364]. It is only necessary to repeat
here that the groundwork of his tactics was his knowledge of the
fact that the line could beat the column, whether on the offensive
or the defensive. The _data_ for forming the conclusions had been in
possession of any one who chose to utilize them, but it was Wellesley
who put his knowledge to full account. Even before he left India, it
is said, he had grasped the great secret, and had remarked to his
confidants that ‘the French were sweeping everything before them
in Europe by the use of the formation in column, but that he was
fully convinced that the column could and would be beaten by the
line[365].’ Yet even though the epoch-making, yet half-forgotten,
fight of Maida had occurred since then, the first Peninsular battles
came as a revelation to the world. After Vimiero and Talavera it
became known that the line was certainly superior for the defensive,
but it was only the triumphant line-advance of Salamanca that
finally divulged the fact that the British method was equally sure
and certain for the attack. If Wellesley’s reputation rested on the
single fact that he had made this discovery known to the world, he
would have won by this alone a grand place in military history. But
his reputation depends even more on his strategical than on his
tactical triumphs. He was a battle-general of the first rank, but
his talents on the day of decisive action would not have sufficed to
clear the French out of Spain. His true greatness is best shown by
his all-embracing grasp of the political, geographical, and moral
factors of the situation in the Peninsula, and by the way in which
he utilized them all when drawing up the plans for his triumphant

  [364] See pp. 114-22 of vol. i.

  [365] The same idea is well marked in a conversation reported by
  Croker, which took place in London, on the eve of Wellesley’s
  departure to assume command of the troops at Cork with whom he
  was about to sail for the Peninsula. After a long reverie, he
  was asked the subject of his thoughts. ‘To say the truth,’ he
  replied, ‘I am thinking of the French I am going to fight. I
  have not seen them since the campaign in Flanders [1794-5] when
  they were capital soldiers, and a dozen years of victory under
  Buonaparte must have made them better still. They have besides a
  new system of strategy, which has outmanœuvred and overwhelmed
  all the armies of Europe. ’Tis enough to make one thoughtful; but
  no matter, the die is cast: they may overwhelm me, but I don’t
  think they will outmanœuvre me. First, because I am not afraid
  of them, as everybody else seems to be; and secondly, because,
  if all I hear of their system be true, I think it a false one
  against steady troops. I suspect all the continental armies are
  half beaten before the battle begins. I, at least, will not be
  frightened beforehand.’ Croker’s _Diary and Correspondence_, vol.
  i. p. 13, under the date June 14, 1808.

As to tactics indeed, there are points on which it would be easy to
point out defects in Wellesley’s method--in especial it would be
possible to develop the two old, but none the less true, criticisms
that he was ‘pre-eminently an infantry general,’ and that ‘when he
had won a battle he did not always utilize his success to the full
legitimate end.’ The two charges hang closely together, for the one
defect was but the consequence of the other; a tendency to refrain
from making the greatest possible use of his cavalry for breaking up
an enemy who had already begun to give ground, and for pursuing him
_à outrance_ when he was well on the run, was the natural concomitant
of a predilection for the use of infantry in the winning of battles.
If Napoleon had commanded the British army at Salamanca, Marmont’s
troops would have been annihilated by a rapid cavalry pursuit,
instead of merely scattered. If Wellington had commanded the French
army in the Jena-Auerstadt campaign, it is reasonably certain that
Hohenlöhe’s broken divisions would have escaped into the interior,
instead of being garnered in piecemeal by the inexorable and untiring
chase kept up by the French horse. The very distrust which Wellington
expressed for the capacities of the British cavalry[366], who after
all were admirable troops when well handled, is but an illustration
of the fact that he was no true lover of the mounted arm. But of this
we have already spoken, and it is unnecessary to dwell at greater
length on his minor deficiencies than on his numerous excellencies on
the day of battle.

  [366] See vol. i. p. 119.

A far more serious charge against Wellesley than any which can
be grounded on his tactical faults, is that, though he won the
confidence of his army, he could never win their affection. ‘The
sight of his long nose among us on a battle morning,’ wrote one
of his veterans, ‘was worth ten thousand men, any day of the
week[367].’ But it was not personal attachment to him which nerved
his soldiers to make their best effort: he was feared, respected,
and followed, but never loved. He was obeyed with alacrity, but not
with enthusiasm. His officers and his men believed, and believed
rightly, that he looked upon them as admirable tools for the task
that had been set him, and did his best to keep those tools unbroken
and in good repair, but that he felt no deep personal interest in
their welfare. It is seldom that the veterans who have served under a
great commander have failed to idolize as well as to respect him. But
Wellesley’s men, while acknowledging all his greatness, complained
that he systematically neglected both their feelings and their
interests[368]. It was but too true: he showed for his army, the
officers no less than the rank and file, a certain coldness that was
partly bred of intellectual contempt, partly of aristocratic hauteur.
There are words of his on record concerning his men which can never
be forgiven, and words, too, not spoken in the heat of action or the
moment of disappointment, but in the leisure of his later years.
Take, for example, the passage in Lord Stanhope’s _Conversations
with the Duke of Wellington_, where he is speaking of the rank and
file: ‘they are the scum of the earth; English soldiers are fellows
who have enlisted for drink. That is the plain fact--they have _all_
enlisted for drink[369].’ He described the men who won Talavera as ‘a
rabble who could not bear success,’ and the Waterloo troops as ‘an
infamous army’--the terms are unpardonable. His notions of discipline
were worthy of one of the drill sergeants of Frederic the Great. ‘I
have no idea of any great effect being produced on British soldiers,’
he once said before a Royal Commission, ‘by anything but the fear of
immediate corporal punishment.’ Flogging was the one remedy for all
evils, and he declared that it was absolutely impossible to manage
the army without it. For any idea of appealing to the men’s better
feeling, or moving them by sentiment, he had the greatest contempt.

  [367] See Kincaid, chap. v, May 3, 1811.

  [368] The feelings, expressed more or less clearly in a hundred
  memoirs, may be summed up in a paragraph by Wm. Grattan of the
  88th. ‘In his parting General Order to the Peninsular army he
  told us that he would never cease to feel the warmest interest
  for our welfare and honour. How this promise was kept every one
  knows. That the Duke of Wellington is one of the most remarkable
  (perhaps the greatest) man of the present age, few will deny. But
  that he neglected the interests and feelings of his Peninsular
  army, as a body, is beyond all question. And were he in his grave
  to-morrow, hundreds of voices that now are silent would echo what
  I write’ (p. 332).

  [369] _Conversations with the Duke of Wellington_, p. 14. [Nov.
  4, 1831.]

The most distressing feature in Wellington’s condemnation of the
character of his soldiery is that he was sinning against the light:
officers, of less note but of greater heart, were appealing to the
self-respect, patriotism, and good feeling of their men, with the
best results, at the very moment that Wellesley was denouncing them
as soulless clods and irreclaimable drunkards. It was not by the
lash that regiments like Donnellan’s 48th or Colborne’s 52nd, or
many other corps of the Peninsular army were kept together. The
reminiscences of the Napiers, and many other regimental officers of
the better class, are full of anecdotes illustrating the virtues of
the rank and file. There are dozens of diaries and autobiographies
of sergeants and privates of Wellesley’s old divisions, which prove
that there were plenty of well-conditioned, intelligent, sober and
religious men in the ranks--it is only necessary to cite as examples
the books of Surtees, Anton, Morris, and Donaldson[370]. If there
were also thousands of drunkards and reckless brutes in the service,
the blame for their misdoings must fall to a great extent on the
system under which they were trained. The ruthless mediaeval cruelty
of the code of punishment alone will account for half the ruffianism
of the army.

  [370] It is often forgotten that there was a strong religious
  element in the rank and file of the Peninsular army. In a letter
  from Cartaxo [Feb. 3, 1811], Wellington mentions, with no great
  pleasure, the fact that there were three separate Methodist
  meetings in the Guards’ brigade alone, and that in many other
  regiments there were officers who were accustomed to preach and
  pray with their men. For the spiritual experiences of a sergeant
  in the agonies of conversion, the reader may consult the diary of
  Surtees of the 95th during the year 1812.

The same indiscriminate censure which Wellesley poured on his men he
often vented on his officers, denouncing them _en masse_ in the most
reckless fashion. There were careless colonels and stupid subalterns
enough under him, but what can excuse such sweeping statements as
that ‘When I give an order to an officer of the line it is, I venture
to say, a hundred to one against its being done at all,’ or for his
Circular of November, 1812, declaring that all the evils of the
Burgos retreat were due ‘to the habitual inattention of the officers
of regiments to their duty.’ It was a bitter blow to the officers of
the many battalions which had kept their order and discipline, to
find themselves confused with the offending corps in the same general
blast of censure. But by 1812 they were well accustomed to such
slashing criticism on the part of their commander.

Such a chief could not win the sympathy of his army, though he might
command their intellectual respect. Equally unfortunate were his
autocratic temper and his unwillingness to concede any latitude of
instructions to his subordinates, features in his character which
effectually prevented him from forming a school of good officers
capable of carrying out large independent operations. He trained
admirable generals of division, but not commanders of armies, for
he always insisted on keeping the details of operations, even in
distant parts of the theatre of war, entirely under his own hand.
His preference for Hill as a commander of detached corps came
entirely from the fact that he could trust that worthy and gallant
officer to make no movements on his own initiative, and to play a
safe waiting game which gave his chief no anxiety. In his younger
days, while serving under other generals, Wellesley had been by no
means an exponent of blind obedience or unquestioning deference to
the orders of his superiors. But when placed in command himself he
was autocratic to a fault. He was prone to regard any criticism of
his directions as insubordination. He preferred a lieutenant on
whom he could rely for a literal obedience to orders, to another
of more active brain who possessed initiative and would ‘think for
himself.’ There was hardly an officer in the Peninsular army to whom
he would grant a free hand even in the carrying out of comparatively
small tasks[371]. His most trusted subordinates were liable to
find themselves overwhelmed with rebukes delivered in the most
tempestuous fashion if they took upon themselves to issue a command
on their own responsibility, even when the great chief was many
leagues away. Sometimes when their inspirations had been obviously
useful and successful, he would wind up his harangue, not with an
expression of approval, but with a recommendation to the effect
that ‘matters had turned out all right, but they must never again
act without orders[372].’ This was not the way to develop their
strategical abilities, or to secure that intelligent co-operation
which is more valuable than blind obedience. It may be pleaded in
Wellesley’s defence that at the commencement of the war he had many
stupid and discontented officers under him, and that their carpings
at his orders were often as absurd as they were malevolent. But it
was not only for them that he reserved his thunders. They fell not
unfrequently on able and willing men, who had done no more than think
for themselves, when an urgent problem had been presented to them.
He was, it must be confessed, a thankless master to serve: he was
almost as pitiless as Frederic the Great in resenting a mistake or
an apparent disobedience to orders. The case of Norman Ramsay may
serve as an example. Ramsay was perhaps the most brilliant artillery
officer in the Peninsular army: the famous charge of his guns through
a French cavalry regiment at Fuentes d’Oñoro is one of the best-known
exploits of the whole war. But at Vittoria he made an error in
comprehending orders, and moved forward from a village where the
commander-in-chief had intended to keep him stationed. He was placed
under arrest for three weeks, cut out of his mention in dispatches,
and deprived of the brevet-majority which had been promised him. His
career was broken, and two years later he fell, still a captain, at

  [371] Robert Craufurd and Hill were perhaps the only exceptions.

  [372] Take, for example, his behaviour to Sir James MacGrigor,
  perhaps the most successful of his chiefs of departments.
  MacGrigor, being at Salamanca, while Wellesley was at Madrid [Aug.
  1812], ordered on his own authority the bringing up of stores for
  the mass of wounded left behind there after the battle. He then
  came to bring his report to Madrid. ‘Lord Wellington was sitting
  to a Spanish painter [Goya] for his portrait when I arrived, and
  asked me to sit down and give him a detail as to the state of the
  wounded at Salamanca. When I came to inform him that for their
  relief I had ordered up purveying and commissariat officers, he
  started up, and in a violent manner reprobated what I had done.
  His Lordship was in a passion, and the Spanish artist, ignorant
  of the English language, looked aghast, and at a loss to know
  what I had done to enrage him so much. “I shall be glad to know,”
  he asked, “who is to command the army, I or you? I establish one
  route, one line of communications for the army; you establish
  another, and order up supplies by it. As long as you live, sir,
  never do that again; never do _anything_ without my orders.” I
  pleaded that there was no time to consult him, and that I had
  to save lives. He peremptorily desired me “never again to act
  without his orders.” ... A month later I was able to say to him,
  “My Lord, recollect how you blamed me at Madrid for the steps
  which I took on coming up to the army, when I could not consult
  your Lordship, and acted for myself. Now, if I had not, what
  would the consequences have been?” He answered, “It is all right
  as has turned out; but I recommend you still _to have my orders
  for what you do_.” This was a singular feature in the character
  of Lord Wellington.’ MacGrigor’s _Autobiography_, pp. 302-3 and

It would almost seem that Wellesley had worked out for himself some
sort of general rule, to the effect that incompetent being more
common than competent subordinates, it would be safer in the long
run to prohibit all use of personal initiative, as the occasions on
which it would be wisely and usefully employed would be less numerous
than those on which it would result in blunders and perils. He had a
fine intellectual contempt for many of the officers whom he had to
employ, and never shrank from showing it. When once he had made up
his mind, he could not listen with patience to advice or criticism.
It was this that made him such a political failure in his latter
days: he carried into the cabinet the methods of the camp, and could
not understand why they were resented. His colleagues ‘started up
with crotchets,’ he complained: ‘I have not been used to that in the
early part of my life. I was accustomed to carry on things in quite
a different manner. I assembled my officers and laid down my plan,
and it was carried into effect without any more words[373].’ For
councils of war, or other devices by which a weak commander-in-chief
endeavours to discharge some of the burden of responsibility upon the
shoulders of his lieutenants, Wellesley had the greatest dislike. He
never allowed discussion as long as he held supreme authority in the
field: he would have liked to enforce the same rule in the cabinet
when he became prime minister of England. Sometimes he had glimpses
of the fact that it is unwise to show open scorn for the opinion of
others, especially when they are men of influence or capacity[374].
But it was not often that the idea occurred to him. His reception of
an officer who came with a petition or a piece of advice was often
such that the visitor went away boiling with rage, or prostrated
with nervous exhaustion. Charles Stewart is said to have wept after
one stormy interview with his chief, and Picton, whose attempts at
familiarity were particularly offensive to the Duke, would go away
muttering words that could not be consigned to print[375]. A passage
from the memoir of the chief of one of his departments may suffice to
paint the sort of scene which used to occur:--

  [373] Salisbury MSS., 1835. Quoted in Sir Herbert Maxwell’s
  _Wellington_, ii. 194.

  [374] Take, as a rare instance of recognition of this fact, his
  remark in 1828 that ‘When the Duke of Newcastle addressed to me a
  letter on the subject of forming an Administration, I treated him
  with contempt. No man _likes_ to be treated with contempt. I was
  wrong.’ Ibid. ii. 213.

  [375] For a record of such an interview by an eye-witness see
  Gronow’s _Reminiscences_, p. 66.

‘One morning I was in his Lordship’s small apartment, when two
officers were there, to request leave to go to England. A general
officer, of a noble family, commanding a brigade, advanced, saying,
“My Lord, I have of late been suffering much from rheumatism--.”
Without allowing him time to proceed further, Lord Wellington rapidly
said--“and you must go to England to get cured of it. By all means.
Go there immediately.” The general, surprised at his Lordship’s
tone and manner, looked abashed, while he made a profound bow. To
prevent his saying anything more, his Lordship turned to address me,
inquiring about the casualties of the preceding night[376],’ &c.

  [376] Sir James MacGrigor’s _Memoirs_, pp. 304-5.

Hardly less humiliating to many of Wellesley’s subordinates than
personal interviews of this kind, were the letters which they
received from him, when he chanced to be at a distance. He had not
the art, probably he had not the wish, to conceal the fact that he
despised as well as disliked many of those whom the fortune of war,
or the exigencies of home patronage, placed under his command. The
same icy intellectual contempt which he showed for the needy peers,
the grovelling place-hunters, and the hungry lawyers of Dublin, when
he was under-secretary for Ireland, pierces through many of his
letters to the officers of the army of Portugal. Very frequently
his mean opinion of their abilities was justifiable--but there was
no need to let it appear. In this part of the management of men
Wellesley was deficient: he failed to see that it is better in the
end to rule subordinates by appealing to their zeal and loyalty
than to their fears, and that a little commendation for work well
performed goes further in its effect on an army than much censure
for what has been done amiss. When he has to praise his officers in
a dispatch, the terms used are always formal and official in the
extreme--it is the rarest thing to find a phrase which seems to come
from the heart. The careful reader will know what importance to
attach to these expressions of approval, when he notes that the names
of subordinates whom Wellesley despised and distrusted are inserted,
all in due order of seniority, between those of the men who had
really done the work[377]. All commanders-in-chief have to give vent
to a certain amount of these empty and meaningless commendations,
but few have shown more neglect in discriminating between the really
deserving men and the rest than did the victor of Salamanca and
Waterloo. Occasionally this carelessness as to the merits and the
feelings of others took the form of gross injustice, more frequently
it led to nothing worse than a complete mystification of the readers
of the dispatch as to the relative merits of the persons mentioned

  [377] He honourably mentioned Murray in his Oporto dispatch, and
  Tripp in his Waterloo dispatch! Both had behaved abominably.

  [378] Take, for example, the case of Baring of the K. G. L. at
  Waterloo. In a dispatch, not written immediately after the battle
  (when accurate information might have been difficult to procure),
  but _two months_ later, Wellesley says that La Haye Sainte was
  taken at two o’clock, ‘through the negligence of the officer
  who commanded the post.’ Yet if anything is certain, it is that
  Baring held out till six o’clock, that his nine companies of the
  K. G. L. kept back two whole French divisions, and that when
  he was driven out, the sole cause was that his ammunition was
  exhausted, and that no more could be sent him because the enemy
  had completely surrounded the post. If Wellington had taken any
  trouble about the ascertaining of the facts, he could not have
  failed to learn the truth.

The explanation of this feature in Wellesley’s correspondence is a
fundamental want of broad sympathy in his character. He had a few
intimates to whom he spoke freely, and it is clear that he often
showed consideration and even kindness to his aides-de-camp and other
personal retainers; there were one or two of his relatives to whom he
showed an unswerving affection, and whose interests were always near
his heart[379]. Among these neither his wife nor his elder brother
Richard, the great Governor-General of India, were to be numbered. He
quarrelled so bitterly with the latter that for many years they never
met. No doubt there were faults on both sides, yet Wellington might
have borne much from the brother who started him on his career. But
for him the position of Resident in Mysore would not have been given
to so junior an officer, nor would the command of the army that won
Assaye and Argaum have been placed in his hands. It is small wonder
that the grievances and petty ambitions of the average line officer
never touched the heart of the man who could be estranged from his
own brother by a secondary political question.

  [379] See especially his charming letters to his niece, Lady
  Burghersh, lately published.

It has often been noted that when the wars were over he showed little
predilection for the company of his old Peninsular officers. Some of
his most trusted subordinates hardly looked upon his face after 1815:
he clearly preferred the company of politicians and men of fashion to
that of the majority of his old generals. They only met him at the
formal festivity of the annual Waterloo Banquet.

The remembrance of the countless panegyrics upon Wellington, not
only as a general but as a man, which have appeared during the last
sixty years, has made it necessary, if painful, to speak of his
limitations. For two whole generations it seemed almost treasonable
to breathe a word against his personal character--so great was the
debt that Britain owed him for Salamanca and Waterloo. His frigid
formalism was regarded with respect and even admiration: his lack
of geniality and his utter inability to understand the sentimental
side of life were even praised as signs of Spartan virtue. Certain
episodes which did not fit in too happily with the ‘Spartan hero’
theory were deliberately ignored[380]. The popular conception of
Arthur Wellesley has been largely built up on laudatory sketches
written by those who knew him in his old age alone. He lives in our
memories as a kind of Nestor, replete with useful and interesting
information, as Lord Stanhope drew him in his _Conversations with the
Duke of Wellington_. This was not the man known to his contemporaries
in the years of the Peninsular War.

  [380] His relations with the other sex were numerous and
  unedifying. From his loveless and unwise marriage, made on
  a point of duty where affection had long vanished, down to
  his tedious ‘correspondence with Miss J.,’ there is nothing
  profitable to be discovered. See Greville’s _Diaries_ [2nd
  Series], iii. 476.

Yet there was much to admire in Wellesley’s personal character.
England has never had a more faithful servant. Though intensely
ambitious, he never allowed ambition to draw him aside from the most
tedious and thankless daily tasks. When once convinced that it was
his duty to undertake a piece of work, he carried it through with
unswerving industry and perseverance, if not always with much tact
or consideration for the feelings of others[381]. He was unsparing
of himself, careless of praise or blame, honest in every word and
deed. He was equally ready to offend his king or to sacrifice his
popularity with the multitude, when he thought that he had to face a
question in which right and wrong were involved. He was essentially,
what he once called himself, using a familiar Hindustani phrase,
‘a man of his salt.’ In spite of all his faults he stands out a
majestic figure in the history of his time. It is the misfortune of
the historian that when he sees so much to admire and to respect, he
finds so little that commands either sympathy or affection.

  [381] When we read Wellington’s interminable controversies with
  the Portuguese Regency and the Spanish Junta, we soon come to
  understand not merely the way in which they provoked him by their
  tortuous shuffling and their helpless procrastination, but still
  more the way in which he irritated them by his unveiled scorn,
  and his outspoken exposure of all their meannesses. A little
  more diplomatic language would have secured less friction, and
  probably better service.



On arriving at Lisbon, Wellesley, as we have already seen, was
overjoyed to find that the situation in Portugal remained just as it
had been when he set sail from Portsmouth: Victor was still quiescent
in his cantonments round Merida: Soult had not moved forward on
the road toward Coimbra, and was in the midst of his unfruitful
bickerings with the army of Silveira. Lapisse had disappeared
from his threatening position in front of Ciudad Rodrigo, and had
passed away to Estremadura. All the rumours as to an immediate
French advance on Badajoz and Abrantes, which had arrived just as
the new commander-in-chief was quitting England, had turned out to
be baseless inventions. There were reassuring dispatches awaiting
him from the English attachés with the armies of Cuesta and La
Romana[382], which showed that Galicia was in full insurrection, and
that a respectable force was once more threatening Victor’s flank.
Accordingly it was possible to take into consideration plans for
assuming the offensive against the isolated French armies, and the
defensive campaign for the protection of Lisbon, which Wellesley had
feared to find forced upon him, was not necessary.

  [382] Monro to Beresford, April 15, and MacKinley’s inclosure from
  Vigo of April 16, 1809.

Within thirty-six hours of his arrival the British commander-in-chief
had made up his mind as to the strategy that was incumbent on him.
He resolved, as we have already seen, to leave a containing force
to watch Victor, while he hastened with the main body of his army
to strike a blow at Soult, whose corps was clearly in a state of
dispersion, which invited attack. The Duke of Dalmatia was operating
at once upon the Minho, the Tamega, and the Vouga, and it seemed
likely that a prompt stroke might surprise him, in the midst of the
movement for concentration which he would be compelled to make, when
he should learn that the British were in the field.

The forces available for Wellesley’s use consisted of some 25,000
British[383] and 16,000 Portuguese troops. Cradock, urged on by
Hill and Beresford, had advanced with the main body of his army to
Leiria and lay there upon the twenty-fourth, the day upon which he
received Wellesley’s notification that he had been superseded and
was to sail to take up the governorship of Gibraltar. But four or
five newly arrived corps still lay at Lisbon, and more were expected.
The army was very weak in cavalry, there were but four regiments and
fractions of two others available[384]. Of the infantry there were
only present five of the battalions[385] which had served at Vimiero
and knew the French and their manner of fighting. The rest were all
inexperienced and new to the field, and the majority indeed were
weak second battalions, which had not originally been intended for
foreign service, and had been made up to their present numbers by
large and recent drafts from the militia[386]. Even at Talavera, six
months after the campaign had begun, it is on record that many of the
men were still showing the names and numbers of their old militia
regiments on their knapsacks. The battalions which had joined in
Moore’s march into Spain only began to reappear in June, when Robert
Craufurd brought back to Lisbon the 1/43rd, 1/52nd and 1/95th, which
were to form the nucleus of the famous Light Division. The remainder
of the Corunna troops, when they had been rested and recruited, were
drawn aside to take part in the miserable expedition to Walcheren.
When Wellesley first took the field therefore, these veterans of the
campaign of 1808 were only represented by the two ‘battalions of
detachments’ which General Cameron had organized from the stragglers
and convalescents of Moore’s army.

  [383] Excluding troops that arrived at Lisbon just after
  Wellesley’s arrival.

  [384] The 3rd Dragoon Guards, 4th Dragoons, 14th and 16th Light
  Dragoons, with one squadron of the 3rd Light Dragoons of the K.
  G. L., and two of the 20th Light Dragoons.

  [385] The 2/9th, 1/45th, 29th, 5/60th and 97th.

  [386] Of Wellesley’s twenty-one British battalions, ten were 2nd
  battalions, [of the 7th, 9th, 24th, 30th, 31st, 48th, 53rd, 66th,
  83rd, 87th], two were single-battalion regiments [the 29th and
  97th], three first battalions [of the 3rd, 45th and 88th], two
  Guards’ battalions [1st Coldstreams and 1st Scots Fusiliers], two
  ‘battalions of detachments,’ one a 3rd battalion (27th), one a
  5th battalion [60th].

The Portuguese troops which Wellesley found available for the
campaign against Soult consisted entirely of the line regiments
from Lisbon and the central parts of the realm, which Beresford had
been reorganizing during the last two months. The troops of the
north had been destroyed at Oporto, or were in arms under Silveira
on the Tamega. Those of the south were garrisoning Elvas, or still
endeavouring to recruit their enfeebled _cadres_ at their regimental
head quarters. But Beresford had massed at Thomar and Abrantes
ten[387] line regiments, some with one, some with their statutory two
battalions, three newly raised battalions of Cazadores, and three
incomplete cavalry regiments, a force amounting in all to nearly
15,000 sabres and bayonets. Though Wellesley considered that they
‘cut a bad figure,’ and that the rank and file were poor and the
native officers ‘worse than anything he had ever seen,’ he was yet
resolved to give them a chance in the field. Beresford assured him
that they had improved so much during the last few weeks, and were
showing such zeal and good spirit, that it was only fair that they
should be given a trial[388].

  [387] These regiments were the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 10th, 13th,
  15th, 16th, 19th, raised respectively at Lisbon (1st, 4th, 10th,
  16th), Estremoz (3rd), Setubal (7th), Peniche (13th), Villa
  Viciosa (15th), Cascaes (19th), Campomayor (20th), the 1st, 4th
  and 5th Cazadores, and 1st, 4th and 7th Cavalry.

  [388] It is fair to the Portuguese to note that other witnesses
  of May 1809 speak much more favourably of them. Londonderry (i.
  p. 305) writes that ‘they had applied of late so much ardour to
  their military education that some were already fit to take the
  field, and it only required a little experience to put them on a
  level with the best troops in Europe. There was one brigade under
  General Campbell (the 4th and 10th regiments), which struck me as
  being in the finest possible order: it went through a variety of
  evolutions with a precision and correctness which would have done
  no discredit to our own army.’

Accordingly Wellesley resolved to brigade certain picked battalions
among his English troops, and to take them straight to the front,
while he told off others to form part of the ‘containing force’
which was to be sent off to watch Victor and the French army of
Estremadura. The remainder, under Beresford himself, were to act as
an independent division during the march on Oporto.

Five days of unceasing work had to be spent in Lisbon before
Wellesley could go forward, but while he was making his arrangements
with the Portuguese regency, drawing out a new organization for
Beresford’s commissariat, and striving to get into communication
with Cuesta, the British troops were already being pushed forward
from Leiria towards Coimbra, and the Portuguese were converging
from Thomar on the same point, so that no time was being lost.
It was during this short and busy stay at Lisbon that Wellesley
was confronted with the conspirator Argenton, who had come up to
the capital in company with Major Douglas. He did not make a good
impression on the commander-in-chief, who wrote home that he had no
doubt as to the reality of the plot against Soult, and the discontent
of the French army, but thought it unlikely that any good would come
from the plot[389]. He refused to promise compliance with Argenton’s
two requests, that he would direct the Portuguese to fall in with
Soult’s plans for assuming royal power, and that he would bring the
British army forward to a position in which it would threaten the
retreat of the 2nd Corps on Leon. The former savoured too much of
Machiavellian treachery: as to the latter, he thought so little of
the profit likely to result from the plot, that he would not alter
his plans to oblige the conspirators. The only information of certain
value that he had obtained from the emissary was that Soult had
no idea of Victor’s position or projects. All that he granted to
Argenton was passports to take him and his two friends, ‘Captains
Dupont and Garis,’ to England, from whence they intended to cross
into France, in order to set their friends in the interior on the
move. Great care was taken that Argenton on his return journey to
Oporto should see as little as possible of the British army, lest he
should be able to tell too much about its numbers and dispositions.
He was conducted back by Douglas to the Vouga, by a circuitous route,
and safely repassed Franceschi’s outposts[390].

  [389] _Wellington Dispatches_, iv. 273-5, 276. To Castlereagh.
  Wellesley says that the plot will probably fail, and that even
  if the 2nd Corps mutinied, they would not carry away the other
  French armies, as Argenton hoped. He had therefore refused to
  commit himself to anything.

  [390] _Wellington Dispatches_, ii. 306.

On the twenty-ninth Wellesley at last got clear of Lisbon, where the
formal festivities and reception arranged in his honour had tried him
even more than the incessant desk-work which had to be got through
before the organization of his base for supplies was completed. On
April 30 he pushed forward to Leiria, on May 1 to Pombal, on the
second he reached Coimbra and found himself in the midst of his army,
which had only concentrated itself at that city during the last five

All was quiet in the front: Trant, who was holding the line of the
Vouga with 3,000 disorderly militia and some small fragments rallied
from the line regiments which had been dispersed at Oporto, reported
that Franceschi and the French light cavalry had remained quiescent
for many days. The same news came in from Wilson, who, after pursuing
Lapisse to Alcantara, had come back with part of his troops to the
neighbourhood of Almeida, and had a detachment at Vizeu watching the
flank of the French advance. Silveira reported from Amarante that he
was still holding the line of the Tamega, and had at least 10,000
enemies in front of him. All therefore seemed propitious for the
great stroke.

Wellesley’s plan, as finally worked out in detail, was to push
forward his main body upon Oporto with all possible speed, while
sending a flanking column under Beresford to cross the Douro near
Lamego, join Silveira, and intercept Soult’s line of retreat upon
the plains of Leon by way of the Tras-os-Montes. If he could move
fast enough, he hoped to catch the Marshal with his army still
unconcentrated. His design, as he wrote to Castlereagh, was ‘to
beat or cripple Soult,’ to thrust him back into Galicia; he doubted
whether it would be possible to accomplish more with the force that
was at his disposal, but if any chance should occur for destroying or
surrounding the enemy he would do his best. Rumours that the Marshal
was preparing to evacuate Oporto were in the air: if they were true,
and the French were already making ready to retreat, it was unlikely
that they would stand long enough to run into danger.

The detailed arrangements for the distribution of the troops were as

It was first necessary to provide a ‘containing force’ to hold back
Victor, in case he should make an unexpected move down the Tagus
or the Guadiana. For this purpose Wellesley told off one of his
brigades, that of Mackenzie, together with two regiments of heavy
cavalry and one of infantry which had lately arrived at Lisbon, and
were now on their march to Santarem. With these four battalions, one
field battery, and eight squadrons, Mackenzie was to take post at
Abrantes, and behind the line of the Zezere[391]. There he was to
be joined by the larger half of Beresford’s reorganized Portuguese
army--seven battalions of line troops, three of Cazadores, five
squadrons of cavalry, and three batteries[392]. He would also have
three regiments of militia at his disposal, to garrison the fortress
of Abrantes. His whole force, excluding the militia, would amount
to 1,400 British and 700 Portuguese cavalry, nearly 3,000 British
infantry, 6,000 Portuguese infantry, and four batteries. These 12,000
men ought to be able to hold back any force that Victor could detach
for a raid along the Tagus: for, having Cuesta’s army in his front,
it was absolutely impossible that he could march with his whole corps
into Portugal. If the Marshal moved forward south of the Tagus, that
river should be held against him, and since it was in full flood it
would be easy to keep him back, as all the boats and ferries could
be destroyed, and it would be useless for him to present himself
opposite Vella Velha, Abrantes, or Santarem. If he advanced north of
the Tagus, the line of the Zezere was to be maintained against him
as long as possible, then those of the Nabao and Rio Mayor. But the
main army would be back from the north, to reinforce the ‘containing
force,’ long ere the Marshal could push so far. As an outlying post
on this front Wellesley ordered Colonel Mayne, with the part of
Wilson’s Lusitanian Legion that had not returned to the north and a
militia regiment, to occupy Alcantara. He was to break its bridge if
forced out of the position.

  [391] The regiments were, giving their force present with the
  colours from the return of May 5:--

  3/27th Foot                           726
  2/31st  ”                             765
  1/45th  ”                             671
  2/24th  ” [From Lisbon]               750

  3rd Dragoon Guards                    698
  4th Dragoons                          716
  One battery Field Artillery
    [Captain Baynes’s], six-pounders    120

                               Total  4,446

  [392] The Portuguese regiments were:--1st Foot [La Lippe] one
  batt., 3rd and 15th Foot [1st and 2nd of Olivenza] each one
  batt., 4th Foot [Freire] and 13th Foot [Peniche] two batts. each.
  1st, 4th and 5th Cazadores, one batt. each. Five squadrons of
  the 4th and 7th cavalry. Total, 6,000 foot, 700 horse, and three
  field-batteries, about 7,100 men.

Victor being thus provided for, Wellesley could turn the rest of
his army against Soult at Oporto. For the main operation he could
dispose of 17,000 British and 7,000 Portuguese troops present with
the colours, after deducting the sick, the men on detached duty, and
one single battalion left in garrison at Lisbon. He divided them, as
we have already stated, into a larger force destined to execute the
frontal attack upon Soult, and a smaller one which was to cut off his
retreat into central Spain.

The flanking column, 5,800 men in all, was entrusted to Beresford:
it was composed of one British brigade (that of Tilson) consisting
of 1,500 bayonets[393], a single British squadron (the 4th of the
14th Light Dragoons) with five battalions[394], three squadrons[395],
and two field-batteries of Portuguese. These troops were originally
directed to join Silveira at Amarante, and co-operate with him in
defending the line of the Tamega. But on May 3 there arrived at
Coimbra the unwelcome news that Loison had forced the bridge of
Amarante, and that Silveira in consequence had retired south of the
Douro and was lying at Lamego with the wrecks of his army, some 4,000
men at most. This untoward event did not cause Wellesley to change
the direction of Beresford’s column, but rendered him more cautious
as to pushing it beyond the Douro. He ordered his lieutenant to pick
up Sir Robert Wilson’s small force at Vizeu[396], to join Silveira
at Lamego, and then to guide his further operations by the attitude
of the French. If they tried to pass the Douro he was to oppose
them strenuously; if they still clung to the northern bank and had
not advanced far beyond Amarante, he might cross, and occupy Villa
Real, if he thought the move safe and the position behind that town
defensible. But he was to risk nothing; if the whole of Soult’s corps
should retreat eastward he was not to attempt to stop them, ‘for,’
wrote Wellesley, ‘I should not like to see a single British brigade,
supported by 6,000 or 8,000 Portuguese, exposed to be attacked by
the French army in any but a very good post[397].’ If Loison alone
were left on the Tamega, Beresford might take post at Villa Real
and fight: if, however, Soult should appear at the head of his
entire force, it would be madness to await him: the column must fall
back and allow him to pass. ‘Remember,’ added Wellesley in another
letter[398], ‘that you are a commander-in-chief _and must not be
beaten_: therefore do not undertake anything with your troops if you
have not some strong hope of success.’ Beresford’s column was sent
off a day before the rest of the army, in order to allow the flanking
movement time to develop before the frontal attack was pushed home.
He left Coimbra on May 6, was at Vizeu on the eighth, and joined
Silveira at Lamego on the tenth; all his movements passed completely
unobserved by the enemy, owing to the wide sweep to the right which
he had been ordered to make.

  [393] Viz. 2/87th, 669 bayonets, 1/88th, 608 bayonets, five
  companies of the 5/60th, 306 bayonets.

  [394] Two battalions each of the regiments nos. 7 (Setubal),
  19 (Cascaes), and one of no. 1 (La Lippe), as far as I can
  ascertain, composed this force.

  [Erratum from p. xii: I found in Lisbon that the regiments which
  marched with Beresford to Lamego were not (as I had supposed)
  nos. 7 and 19, but nos. 2 and 14, with the 4th cazadores. Those
  which joined from the direction of Almeida were two battalions of
  no. 11 (1st of Almeida) and one of no. 9.]

  [395] Regiment, no. 1.

  [396] Wilson had been removed by Beresford from his own
  Lusitanian Legion, and told to take up the command of the Brigade
  at Almeida: it was, apparently, with two battalions drawn from
  the garrison of that fortress that he now joined Beresford.

  [397] Wellesley to Beresford, Coimbra, May 7. _Wellington
  Dispatches_, iv. 309.

  [398] Ibid. iv. 320.

The infantry of Wellesley’s main force, with which the frontal attack
on Oporto was to be made, consisted of six brigades of British,
one of the King’s German Legion, and four picked battalions of
Portuguese who were attached respectively to the brigades of A.
Campbell, Sontag, Stewart, and Cameron. Of cavalry, in which he was
comparatively weak, he had the whole of the 16th, three squadrons
of the 14th, and two of the 20th Light Dragoons, with one squadron
more from the 3rd Light Dragoons of the King’s German Legion. The
artillery, twenty-four guns in all, was composed of two British and
two German field-batteries. No horse artillery had yet been received
from England, though Wellesley had been urging his need for it on the
home authorities, at the same time that he made a similar demand for
good light infantry, such as that which had formed the light brigade
of Moore’s army[399], and for remounts to keep his cavalry up to full
fighting strength. The army was not yet distributed into regular
divisions, but the beginnings of the later divisional arrangement
were indicated by the telling off the brigades of Richard Stewart
and Murray to serve together under Edward Paget (who had commanded
Moore’s reserve division with such splendid credit to himself during
the Corunna retreat), while those of H. Campbell, A. Campbell, and
Sontag were to take their orders from Sherbrooke, and those of Hill
and Cameron to move under the charge of the former brigadier. The
cavalry was under General Cotton, with Payne as brigadier; the senior
officer of artillery was General E. Howorth[400].

  [399] _Wellington Dispatches_, iv. pp. 270, 281, 305.

  [400] The whole force consisted of the following, present with
  the colours:--

  CAVALRY:                _Officers._  _Men._

    14th Light Dragoons          20     471
    16th   ”      ”              37     673
    20th   ”      ”               6     237
    3rd    ”      ”  K.G.L.       3      57


  H. Campbell’s brigade:
    Coldstream Guards            33   1,194
    3rd Foot Guards              34   1,228
    One company 5/60th            2      61

  A. Campbell’s brigade:
    2/7th Foot                   26     559
    2/53rd Foot                  35     787
    One company 5/60th            4      64
    1/10th Portuguese            --      --

  Sontag’s brigade:
    97th Foot                    22     572
    2nd Batt. Detachments        35     787
    One company 5/60th            2      61
    2/16th Portuguese            --      --

  R. Stewart’s brigade:
    29th Foot                    26     596
    1st Batt. Detachments        27     803
    1/16th Portuguese            --      --

  Murray’s brigade:
    1st Line Batt. K.G.L.        34     767
    2nd     ”        ”           32     804
    5th     ”        ”           28     720
    7th     ”        ”           22     688

  Hill’s brigade:
    1/3rd Foot                   28     719
    2/48th Foot                  32     721
    2/66th Foot                  34     667
    One company 5/60 Foot         2      61

  Cameron’s brigade:
    2/9th Foot                   27     545
    2/83rd Foot                  29     833
    One company 5/60 Foot         2      60
    2/10th Portuguese            --      --

  With Lawson’s battery of 3-pounders, and Lane’s, Heyse’s, and
  Rettberg’s of 6-pounders. Allowing 600 each for the Portuguese
  battalions, the total comes to 16,213 infantry, 1,504 cavalry,
  and 550 gunners, also sixty-four men of the wagon train, and
  thirty-nine engineers. Total, 18,370.

It will be noted that of the total force with which Wellesley was
about to assail the 2nd Corps, about 16,400 were British troops
and 11,400 Portuguese. Considering that Soult had at least 23,000
sabres and bayonets, of whom not more than 2,200 were in his
hospitals, and that over three-eighths of the allies were untried
and newly-organized levies, it cannot be denied that the march on
Oporto showed considerable self-confidence, and a very nice and
accurate calculation of the chances of war on the part of the British

On the very day on which the vanguard marched out from Coimbra
upon the northern road, Wellesley received a second visit from the
conspirator Argenton, who had returned from consulting his friends
at Oporto and Amarante. He brought little news of importance: Soult
had not yet proclaimed himself king, and therefore the plotters
had taken no open steps against him. The French army had not begun
to move, but it appeared that the Marshal was pondering over the
relative advantages of the lines of retreat available to him, for
Argenton brought a memorandum given him by (or purloined from) some
staff-officer, which contained a long exposition of the various
roads from Oporto, and stated a preference for that by Villa Real
and the Tras-os-Montes[401]. He had a number of futile propositions
to lay before Wellesley, and especially urged him to make sure of
Villa Real and to cut off the Marshal’s retreat on Spain. The traitor
was sent back, with no promises of compliance; and every endeavour
was made to keep from him the fact that the allied army was already
upon the move. Unfortunately he had passed many troops upon the
road from Coimbra to the Vouga, and had guessed at what he had not
seen. On the following day he passed through the French lines on his
return journey, and by the way endeavoured to spread the propaganda
of treason. One of the infantry brigades which lay in support of
Franceschi’s cavalry was commanded by a general Lefebvre, with whom
Argenton had long served as aide-de-camp. Knowing that his old chief
was weak and discontented[402], the emissary of the malcontents
paid a midnight visit to him, revealed to him the outlines of the
conspiracy, and endeavoured to enroll him as a fellow plotter. He
had misjudged his man: Lefebvre listened to everything without
showing any signs of surprise or anger, but hastened to bear the
tale to Soult, and arranged for Argenton’s arrest on his return to
Oporto upon the following morning. Confronted with the Marshal, the
traitor held his head high, and boasted that he was the agent of a
powerful body of conspirators. He invited Soult to declare against
the Emperor, and deliver France from servitude. He also warned him
that Wellesley had arrived at Coimbra, and told him that 30,000
British troops of whom 3,000 at least were cavalry, would fall upon
Franceschi that day. Thus, owing to his conference with Argenton,
Wellesley lost the chance of surprising Soult, who was warned of the
oncoming storm exactly at the moment when it was most important that
he should still be kept in the dark as to the force that was marching
against him [May 8].

  [401] Wellington to Beresford, from Coimbra, May 7, 1809.

  [402] He told Wellesley that the general was ‘a man of weak
  intellect,’ and that he thought that he had won him over to the
  plot from the way in which he received the news of it. Wellesley
  to Castlereagh, May 15, from Oporto.

Soult sent back Argenton to his prison, after threatening him with
death: but uncertain as to the number of the conspirators, he was
thrown for a moment into a state of doubt and alarm. He probably
suspected Loison and Lahoussaye of being in the plot against him, as
well as the real traitors--possibly Mermet also[403]. Feeling the
ground, as it were, trembling beneath his feet, he began to make
instant preparations for retreat: orders were sent to Franceschi to
fall back on Oporto, and not to risk anything by an attempt to hold
off Wellesley longer than was prudent. Loison was informed that he
must clear the road beyond Amarante, as the army was about to retire
by the Tras-os-Montes, and he would now form its advanced guard.
Lorges at Braga was directed to gather in the small fractions of
Heudelet’s division which had been left at Viana and other places
in the north, and to march in their company upon Amarante by the
way of Guimaraens. The Marshal saw, with some dismay, that these
isolated detachments would not be able to join the main body till the
fourteenth or fifteenth of May; it was necessary to hold Oporto as
long as possible in order to give them time to come up.

  [403] This may be perhaps inferred from Soult’s letter to King
  Joseph, written after the retreat, in which he says that he had
  intended to pack off Lahoussaye and Mermet from the front: ‘À
  cette époque j’ai voulu faire partir ces généraux, qui n’ont
  pas toujours fait ce qui était de leur pouvoir pour le succès
  des opérations; mais j’ai preféré attendre d’être arrivé à
  Zamora, afin de ne pas accréditer les bruits d’intrigues et de
  conspirations qui eurent lieu à Oporto, auxquels ils n’ont pas
  certainement pris aucune part.’ [Intercepted letter in Record

Next day Soult contrived to extort some more information from the
unstable Argenton. Receiving a promise of life for himself and pardon
for his fellow conspirators (which the Marshal apparently granted
because he thought that accurate information concerning the plot
would be worth more to him than the right to shoot the plotters), the
captain gave up the names of all the leaders. Much relieved to find
that none of his generals were implicated, Soult did no more than
arrest the two colonels, Lafitte and Donadieu, leaving the smaller
fry untouched[404]. He kept his promise to Argenton by hushing up
the whole matter. The colonels suffered no harm beyond their arrest:
Argenton escaped from custody (probably by collusion with the officer
placed in charge of his person)[405], and got back to the English
lines the day after the capture of Oporto[406]. Some months later he
secretly revisited France, was recognized, captured, and shot on the
Plain of Grenelle[407].

  [404] Soult so far managed to forget the whole business that
  he, two years later, sent the younger Lafitte to present to the
  Emperor the English flags captured at Albuera! [See St. Chamans,
  p. 133.]

  [405] Most of this comes from Argenton’s confession to Wellesley
  on May 13. See _Wellington Dispatches_, iv. p. 339. He said that
  he slipped away from the gendarmes at the advice of Lafitte, who
  told him that his friends would come to no harm if the chief
  witness against them vanished.

  [406] The extraordinary clemency shown to the conspirators by
  Soult, the providential escape of Argenton, the favours which the
  Marshal afterwards lavished on Lafitte, and the trouble which
  he took to hush up the whole matter, led many of his enemies to
  suspect that he himself had been in the plot, and had intended
  to combine his scheme for Portuguese kingship with a rising
  against Bonaparte at the head of his _corps d’armée_: Argenton’s
  confession made this impossible.

  [407] For further details on Argenton’s fate, see the Appendix.

At the very moment when Soult was cross-examining Argenton, issuing
hurried orders for the concentration of his troops, and preparing
for a retreat upon Amarante, Wellesley’s advanced guard was drawing
near the Vouga and making ready to pounce upon Franceschi. Two roads
lead northward from Coimbra, the main _chaussée_ to Oporto which
runs inland via Ponte de Vouga and Feira, and a minor route near the
coast, which passes by Aveiro and Ovar. Five of Wellesley’s brigades
and the whole of his cavalry marched by the former route. Moving
forward under the screen of Trant’s militia, which still held the
line of the Vouga, they were to fall on the enemy’s front at dawn
on May 10. The five squadrons of the 14th and 16th Light Dragoons
under Cotton led the advance: then followed the infantry of Edward
Paget--the two brigades of Murray and Richard Stewart. Sherbrooke’s
column marched in support, ten miles to the rear. It was intended
that the whole mass should rush in upon Franceschi’s pickets, and
roll them in upon his main body before the advance from Coimbra was
suspected. Unhappily Soult had already warned his cavalry commander
of the coming storm upon the ninth, and he was not caught unprepared.

Meanwhile the remaining two infantry brigades of Wellesley’s army,
those of Hill and Cameron, were to execute a turning movement against
Franceschi’s flank. Orders had been sent to the magistrates of the
town of Aveiro, bidding them collect all the fishing-boats which were
to be found in the great lagoon at the mouth of the Vouga--a broad
sheet of shallow water and sandbanks which extends for fifteen miles
parallel to the sea, only separated from it by a narrow spit of dry
ground. At the northern end of this system of inland waterways is
the town of Ovar, which lay far behind Franceschi’s rear. Hill was
directed to ship his men upon the boats, and to throw them ashore at
Ovar, where they were to fall upon the flank of the French, when they
should be driven past them by the frontal advance of the main body.

If all had gone well, the French detachment might have been
annihilated. Franceschi had with him no more than the four weak
cavalry regiments of his own division[408], not more than 1,200
sabres, with one light battery, and a single regiment of infantry.
But not far behind him was the rest of Mermet’s division, eleven
battalions of infantry with a strength of some 3,500 men. One
regiment, the 31st Léger, lay at Feira, near Ovar, while Ferrey’s
brigade was five miles further back, at Grijon.

  [408] 1st Hussars, 8th Dragoons, 22nd Chasseurs and Hanoverian

On the night of the ninth the British advanced guard reached the
Vouga: after only a few hours’ repose the cavalry mounted again at 1
A.M., and pushed forward in order to fall upon the enemy at daybreak.
The night march turned out a failure, as such enterprises often do in
an unexplored country-side seamed with rocks and ravines. The rear
of the cavalry column got astray and fell far behind the leading
squadrons: much time was lost in marching and countermarching, and at
dawn the brigade found itself still some way from Albergaria Nova,
the village where Franceschi’s head quarters were established[409].
It was already five o’clock when they fell in with and drove back
the French outlying pickets: shortly after they came upon the whole
of Franceschi’s division, drawn out in battle array on a rough
moor behind the village, with a few companies of infantry placed
in a wood on their flank and their battery in front of their line.
General Cotton saw that there was no chance of a surprise, and very
wisely declined to attack a slightly superior force of all arms with
the 1,000 sabres of his two regiments. He resolved to wait for the
arrival of Richard Stewart’s infantry brigade, the leading part of
the main column. When Franceschi advanced against him he refused to
fight and drew back a little[410]. Thus some hours of the morning
were wasted, till at last there arrived on the field Lane’s battery
and a battalion of the 16th Portuguese, followed by the 29th and
the 1st Battalion of Detachments. Like the cavalry, the infantry
had been much delayed during the hours of darkness, mainly by the
impossibility of getting the guns up the rocky defile beyond the
Vouga, where several caissons had broken down in the roadway. It
was only after daylight had come that they were extricated and got
forward on to the upland where lies the village of Albergaria.

  [409] For details of this fatiguing night march and its gropings
  in the dark see Tomkinson’s (16th Dragoons) _Diary_, pp. 4-5, and
  Hawker’s (14th Light Dragoons) _Journal_, p. 47.

  [410] The Light Dragoons, says Hawker (_Journal_, p. 48),
  ‘finding ourselves opposed by a heavy column of cavalry, retired
  a little.’ Their total loss was one officer and two men wounded,
  and one man missing. On this slender foundation Le Noble founds
  the following romance (p. 240). ‘Le général Franceschi charge à
  la tête de sa division ceux qui l’attaquent en front, renverse
  la première ligne, et tandis qu’elle se rétablit, se retire,
  et fond avec 6 pièces et deux régiments sur la colonne qui le
  tournait par sa droite. L’ennemi est culbuté, la colonne recule,
  et le général se retire sur Oliveira avec quelques prisonniers.’
  All this fuss produced _four_ casualties in the two English
  regiments. See official report of casualties for May 10, 1809.

Wellesley himself came up along with Stewart’s brigade, and had
the mortification of seeing all his scheme miscarry, owing to the
tardiness of the arrival of his infantry. For at the very moment
when Franceschi caught sight of the distant bayonets winding up the
road, he hastily went to the rear, leaving the 1st Hussars alone in
position as a rearguard. This regiment was charged by the 16th Light
Dragoons, and driven in with some small loss. Under cover of this
skirmish the French division got away in safety through the town of
Oliveira de Azemis, which lay behind them, and after making two more
ineffectual demonstrations of a desire to stand, fell back on the
heights of Grijon, where Mermet’s infantry division was awaiting them.

The whole day’s fighting had been futile but spectacular. ‘I must
note,’ says an eye-witness, ‘the beautiful effect of our engagement.
It commenced about sunrise on one of the finest spring mornings
possible, on an immense tract of heath, with a pine wood in rear
of the enemy. So little was the slaughter, and so regular the
manœuvring, that it all appeared more like a sham-fight on Wimbledon
Common than an action in a foreign country[411].’ The picturesque
side of the day’s work must have been small consolation to Wellesley,
who thus saw the first stroke of his campaign foiled by the chances
of a night march in a rugged country--a lesson which he took to
heart, for he rarely, if ever again, attempted a surprise at dawn in
an unexplored region.

  [411] Hawker, pp. 49-50. Tomkinson has words to much the same
  effect, ‘it was more like a field-day than an affair with the
  enemy: all the shots went over our heads, and no accident
  appeared to happen to any one’ (p. 6).

An equal disappointment had taken place on the flank near the
sea. Hill’s brigade had marched down to Aveiro, where the local
authorities had worked with excellent zeal and collected a
considerable number of boats, enough to carry 1,500 men at a trip.
During the night of the ninth-tenth the flotilla was engaged in
sailing up the long lagoon which leads to Ovar. It was quite early
in the morning when the brigade came to land, and if Franceschi had
been driven in at an early hour he would have found Hill in a most
threatening position on his flank. But the French cavalry was still
ten or twelve miles away, engaged in its bloodless demonstration
against Cotton’s brigade. Finding from the peasants that there were
French infantry encamped quite close to him, at Feira, and that the
English main column was still at a distance, Hill kept his men within
the walls of Ovar, instead of engaging in an attempt to intercept
Franceschi’s retreat. He was probably quite right, as it would have
been dangerous to thrust three battalions, without cavalry or guns,
between Mermet’s troops at Feira and the retiring columns of the
French horsemen. Hill therefore sent back his boats to bring up
Cameron’s brigade from Aveiro, and remained quiet all the morning.
At noon his pickets were driven in by French infantry: Mermet had at
last heard of his arrival, and had sent out the three battalions of
the 31st Léger from Feira to contain him and protect Franceschi’s
flank. The _voltigeur_ companies of this force pressed in upon Hill,
but would not adventure themselves too far. The afternoon was spent
in futile skirmishing, but at last the retreating French cavalry went
by at a great pace, and the English Light Dragoons, following them
in hot pursuit, came up with the 31st Léger. Hill, seeing himself
once more in touch with his friends, now pushed out of Ovar in force,
and pressed on the French _voltigeur_ companies, which hastily
retired, fell back on their regiment, and ultimately retired with
it and rejoined Mermet’s main body on the heights above Grijon. The
skirmishing had been almost bloodless--Hill lost not a single man,
and the French infantry only half-a-dozen wounded[412].

  [412] The best account of this little skirmish is in the
  _Journal_ of Fantin des Odoards of the 31st Léger (p. 230).
  Napier does not mention that the reason why Hill did not move
  in the afternoon was simply that he was already ‘contained,’
  and engaged with a force of French infantry of nearly his own

On the morning of May 11, therefore, Hill’s troops on the left
and Cotton’s and Paget’s on the right lay opposite the position
which Mermet and Franceschi had taken up. Sherbrooke was still more
than ten miles to the rear, having barely crossed the Vouga, while
Cameron had not yet sailed up from Aveiro. Wellesley had therefore
some 1,500 cavalry and 7,000 infantry under his hand, with which to
assail the 1,200 horse and 4,200 foot of the two French divisions.
The enemy were strongly posted: Grijon lies in a valley, with woods
and orchards around it and a steep hillside at its back. The French
_tirailleurs_ held the village and the thickly-wooded slopes on each
side of it: behind them the fifteen battalions of Mermet were partly
visible among the trees on the sky-line of the heights.

Wellesley was anxious to see whether the enemy intended to hold his
ground, or would retire before a demonstration: he therefore threw
the light companies of Richard Stewart’s brigade into the woods
on each side of Grijon. A furious fire at once broke out, and the
advancing line of skirmishers could make no headway. Realizing that
the French intended to fight a serious rearguard action, Wellesley
refused to indulge them with a frontal attack and determined to
turn both their flanks. While Cotton’s cavalry and the two English
battalions of Stewart’s brigade drew up opposite their centre,
Murray’s Germans marched off to the left, to get beyond Mermet’s
flank, while Colonel Doyle, with the battalion of the 16th Portuguese
which belonged to Stewart’s brigade, entered the woods on the extreme
right. Hill’s brigade, a mile or two to the left of Murray, pushed
forward on the Ovar-Oporto road, at a rate which would soon have
brought them far beyond the enemy’s rear.

The meaning of these movements was not long hidden from the French:
the 1st and 2nd battalions of the King’s German Legion, led by
Brigadier Langwerth, were soon pressing upon their right flank, while
the Portuguese battalion plunged into the woods on the other wing
with great resolution. Wellesley himself was watching this part of
the advance with much interest: it was the first time that he had
sent his native allies into the firing line, and he was anxious to
see how they would behave. They surpassed his expectations: the 16th
was a good regiment, with a number of students of the University
of Coimbra in its ranks. They plunged into the thickets without a
moment’s hesitation, and in a few minutes the retiring sound of the
musketry showed that they were making headway in the most promising
style. This sight was an enormous relief to the Commander-in-chief:
if the Portuguese could be trusted in line of battle, his task became
immeasurably more easy. ‘You are in error in supposing that these
troops will not fight,’ he wrote to a down-hearted correspondent:
‘one battalion has behaved remarkably well under my own eyes[413].’

  [413] Wellesley to Mackenzie [the latter had written that
  he dared not trust his Portuguese battalions], _Wellington
  Dispatches_, iv. p. 350.

Mermet and Franceschi did not hesitate for long, when they saw their
flank guard beaten in upon either side, and heard that Hill was
marching upon their rear. They gave orders for their whole line to
retire without delay: the plateau behind them was so cut up with
stone walls enclosing fields, that the cavalry could be of no use in
covering the retreat, so Franceschi went to the rear first at a round
trot. Mermet followed, leaving the three battalions of the 31st Léger
to act as a rearguard[414].

  [414] See Fantin des Odoards. Le Noble (incorrect as always) says
  that the 47th brought up the rear.

The whole British line now pressed in as fast as was possible in the
woods and lanes: the infantry could never overtake the enemy, but
two squadrons of the 16th and 20th Light Dragoons, galloping along
the high road, came up with Mermet’s rear a mile beyond the brow of
the hill. Charles Stewart, who was leading them on, was one of those
cavalry officers who thoroughly believe in their arm, and think that
it can go anywhere and do anything. He at once ordered Major Blake of
the 20th to charge the enemy, though the French were retiring along
a narrow _chaussée_ bordered with stone walls. Fortunately for the
dragoons their opponents were already shaken in _morale_: the three
battalions were not well together, isolated companies were still
coming in from the flanks, and the colonel of the 31st had completely
lost his head. On being charged, the rearguard fired a volley, which
brought down the front files of the pursuing cavalry, but then
wavered, broke, and began scrambling over the walls to escape out of
the high road into the fields. There followed a confused _mêlée_, for
the English dragoons also leaped the walls, and tried to follow the
broken enemy among thickets and ploughland. Of those of the French
who fled down the high road many were sabred, and a considerable
number captured: indeed the eagle of the regiment was in considerable
danger for some time. But the British had no supports at hand; they
scattered in reckless pursuit of the men who had taken to the fields,
and many were shot down when they had got entangled among trees and
walls. However, the charge, if somewhat reckless, was on the whole
successful: the dragoons lost no more than ten killed, one officer
and thirty troopers wounded, with eight or ten missing, while the
French regiment into which they had burst left behind it over 100
prisoners and nearly as many killed and wounded[415].

  [415] There are two excellent accounts of this charge in the
  diaries of Tomkinson of the 16th Light Dragoons and Fantin des
  Odoards of the 31st Léger. The former (pp. 9-11) holds that the
  charge was indefensible, and blames Charles Stewart for ordering
  it, and Major Blake for carrying it out. A different impression
  is received from the French diarist, who speaks of it as a
  complete rout of his regiment and very disastrous. ‘Assaillis
  en détail nous avons été facilement mis en désordre, attendu
  notre morcellement et la confusion que des charges audacieuses
  de cavalerie mettaient dans nos rangs. Les trois bataillons ont
  lâché pied et se sont enfuis à vau de route. Si le pays n’avait
  pas offert des murs, des fossés et des haies, ils auraient été
  entièrement sabrés.... Peu à peu les débris du régiment se sont
  ralliés a la division, qui était en position à une lieue de
  Porto. Notre perte a été considérable, mais notre aigle, qui a
  couru de grands dangers dans cette bagarre, a fort heureusement
  été sauvée.... Les dragons étaient acharnés a nous poursuivre,
  et mal a pris ceux qui au lieu de gagner les collines out suivi
  le vallon et la grande route’ (p. 231). It seems probable (a
  thing extremely rare in military history) that Tomkinson and Des
  Odoards, the two best narrators of the fight, actually met each
  other. The former mentions that he chased an isolated French
  infantry man, fired his pistol at his head, but missed, and that
  he was at once shot in the shoulder by another Frenchman and
  disabled. Then turning back, he was again fired at by several men
  and brought down. Des Odoards says that he was chased by a single
  English dragoon, who got up to him, fired at him point blank and
  missed, whereupon a corporal of his company, who had turned back
  to help him, shot the dragoon, who dropped his smoking pistol at
  Des Odoards’ feet, and rolled off his horse. The narratives seem
  to tally perfectly.

For the rest of the day Mermet and Franceschi continued to fall back
before the advancing British, without making more than a momentary
stand. At dusk they reached Villa Nova, the transpontine suburb of
Oporto, which they evacuated during the night. The moment that they
had crossed the bridge of boats Soult caused it to be blown up,
and vainly believed himself secure, now that the broad and rapid
Douro was rolling between him and his enemy. The total loss of the
French in the day’s fighting had been about 250 men, of whom 100
were prisoners. That of the British was two officers and nineteen
men killed, six officers and sixty-three men wounded, and sixteen
men missing. Nearly half the casualties were in the ranks of the
two squadrons of dragoons, the rest were divided between the light
companies of the 1st Battalion of Detachments, the 1st and 2nd
battalions of the German Legion, and the 16th Portuguese[416].

  [416] The officers killed were Captain Detmering of the 1st K.
  G. L., and a Portuguese ensign of the I/16th. Those wounded were
  Captain Ovens and Lieutenant Woodgate of the 1st Battalion of
  Detachments, Lieutenants Lodders and Lahngren of the K. G. L.,
  Cornet Tomkinson of the 16th Light Dragoons, and a Portuguese
  lieutenant of the 1/16th. It would seem that some of the fourteen
  ‘missing’ were infantry killed in the woods, whose bodies were
  never found, but several belonged to the maltreated dragoon
  squadrons, and were taken from having pursued too fast and far.

On the night of the eleventh-twelfth, when Mermet and Franceschi
had joined him, Soult had collected in Oporto the main body of his
army: he had in hand of cavalry Franceschi’s four regiments, and of
infantry fifteen battalions of Mermet’s division, seven battalions
of Merle’s (forming Reynaud’s brigade), and seven of Delaborde’s, a
force in all of about 10,000 bayonets and 1,200 sabres. Only a few
miles away, at Baltar, on the road to Amarante, were Caulaincourt’s
dragoons and the remaining regiment of Delaborde’s division, an
additional force of somewhat over 2,000 men. With 13,000 men at his
disposal and a splendid position behind the Douro, he imagined that
he might retreat at leisure, maintaining the line of the impassable
river for some days more. He intended to hold Oporto long enough to
enable Loison to clear the road to Villa Real, and to allow Lorges
and the belated troops from the north time to march in to Amarante.
He was somewhat vexed to have received no news from Loison for four
days, but, when last heard of [on May 7], that general was moving
forward into the Tras-os-Montes, with orders to push on and open
a way for the army as far as the Spanish border. Silveira having
retired to the south bank of the Douro, the Marshal had no doubt that
Loison would easily brush away the _Ordenanza_, and open for the
whole _corps d’armée_ the passage to Zamora and the plains of Leon.

Meanwhile the only danger which the Marshal feared was that Wellesley
might send forward the fleet of fishing-boats which had carried
Hill to Ovar, bring them to the estuary of the Douro, and use them
to pass troops across its lowest reach, just within the bar at
its mouth. Accordingly he told Franceschi to patrol carefully the
five miles of the river that lie between Oporto and the sea. The
infantry was comfortably housed in the city, with pickets watching
the quays: every boat on the river, as it was supposed, had either
been destroyed or brought over to the north bank. Wellesley would, as
Soult calculated, be compelled to spend several days in making his
preparations for passing the Douro, since he had no means of pushing
his army across the broad stream, save the fishing-smacks which he
might bring round from the lagoon of Ovar.

The Marshal therefore was quite at his ease, even though he knew that
Wellesley’s vanguard was at Villa Nova in force. He imagined that he
could count on ample time for the evacuation of Oporto, and began
to make arrangements for a leisurely retreat. His first care was to
send off eastward all his convalescents, his reserve ammunition,
and his wheeled vehicles, of which he had collected a fair supply
during his seven weeks’ halt at Oporto. These were to march, under
the convoy of Mermet’s division, during the course of the morning.
The other troops from Merle’s and Delaborde’s divisions, together
with Franceschi’s horse, were to watch the lower Douro and check any
attempt of the British to cross. The Marshal was himself lodged at a
villa on the high ground west of the city, from which he commanded
a fine view of the whole valley from Oporto to the sea: the view
up-stream was blocked by the hill crowned by the Serra Convent, where
the river makes a slight bend in order to get round the projecting
heights on the southern bank. So thoroughly were both Soult and his
staff impressed with the idea that Wellesley would endeavour to
operate below, and not above, the city, that while the lower reaches
of the Douro were watched with the greatest care, a very inefficient
look-out was kept on the banks above Oporto: there would seem to
have been but a single battalion placed in that direction, and this
small force was lying far back from the river, with no proper system
of pickets thrown forward to the water’s edge. Yet the opposite bank
was full of cover, of thickets, gardens and olive groves, screening
several lanes and by-paths that had led down to ferries. Such of the
boats as had not been scuttled had been brought over to the north
bank, but they were not all protected by proper guards. All this was
inexcusably careless--the main blame must fall on the Marshal for his
_parti pris_ in refusing to look up-stream: though some must also
be reserved for General Quesnel, the governor of Oporto, and for
Foy, the brigadier whose battalions were in charge of the eastern
suburb of the city. But the fact was that none of the French officers
dreamed of the possibility that Wellesley might make an attempt, on
the very morning of his arrival, to cross the tremendous obstacle
interposed in his way by the rolling stream of the Douro. That he
would deliver a frontal attack on them in full daylight was beyond
the limits of the probable. They had no conception of the enterprise
of the man with whom they had to deal.

There was this amount of truth in their view, that the British
General would not have made his daring stroke at Oporto, unless
he had ascertained that the carelessness of his adversaries had
placed an unexpected chance in his hands. By ten o’clock in the
morning Wellesley had concentrated behind Villa Nova the whole of
his force--the three columns of Paget, Hill, and Sherbrooke were now
up in line. They were kept out of sight of the enemy, some in the
lateral lanes of the suburb, but the majority hidden behind the back
slope of the hills, where orchards and vineyards gave them complete
cover from observers on the northern bank.

While the troops were coming up, Sir Arthur mounted the Serra
height, and reconnoitred the whole country-side from the garden
of the convent. He had with him Portuguese notables who were well
acquainted with Oporto and its suburbs, including several persons
who had come over the river on the preceding day, and could give him
some notion of the general disposition and emplacement of the French
army. Sweeping the valley with his glasses he could see Franceschi’s
vedettes moving about on the heights down-stream, and heavy columns
of infantry forming up outside the north-eastern gates of the city.
At eleven o’clock this body moved off, escorting a long train of
wagons--it was Mermet’s division starting for Amarante in charge of
Soult’s convoy of sick and reserve artillery. On the quays, below the
broken bridge, many French pickets were visible, ensconced at the
openings of the streets which lead down to the water. But turning
his glass to the right, Wellesley could note that up-stream matters
looked very quiet, the rocky banks above the deep-sunk river were
deserted, and nothing was visible among the gardens and scattered
houses of the south-eastern suburb. It was possible that French
troops might be ensconced there, but no sign of them was to be seen.

Many intelligence-officers had already been sent off, to scour the
southern bank of the river, and to ascertain whether by any chance
the enemy had overlooked some of the boats belonging to the riverside
villages. In a short time two valuable pieces of news were brought up
to the Commander-in-chief. The large ferry-boat at Barca d’Avintas,
four miles above the city, had been scuttled, but not injured beyond
the possibility of hasty repairs. It was already being baled out
and mended by the villagers. Nearer at hand a still more important
discovery was made. Colonel Waters, one of the best scouts in the
army, had met, not far south of the suburban village of Cobranloes,
an Oporto refugee, a barber by trade, who had crossed over from the
north bank in a small skiff, which he had hidden in a thicket. The
man reported that the opposite bank was for the moment unguarded by
the French, and pointed to four large wine-barges lying stranded
below the brink of the northern shore, with no signs of an enemy
in charge. Yet the position was one which should have been well
watched: here a massive building, the bishop’s Seminary, surrounded
by a high garden wall, lies with its back to the water. It was an
isolated structure, standing well outside the eastern suburb, in
fairly open ground, which could be easily swept by artillery fire
from the dominating position of the Serra heights. Waters had with
him as guide the prior of Amarante, and by his aid collected three or
four peasants from the neighbouring cottages. After some persuasion
from the ecclesiastic, these men and the barber consented to join the
British officer in a raid on the stranded barges on the further bank.
It was a hazardous undertaking, for one French picket had lately been
seen to pass by, and another might appear at any moment. But the
necessary half-hour was obtained; Waters and his fellows entered the
barber’s skiff, crossed the river unseen, got the four barges afloat,
and returned with them to the southern bank. They turned out to be
big clumsy vessels, capable of holding some thirty men apiece. The
explorer had noted that the Seminary buildings above were perfectly

On receiving this intelligence, Wellesley resolved to take the chance
which the fates offered him. If the French had shown themselves
alert and vigilant, he could not have dared to throw troops across
the river into their midst. But they seemed asleep at high noon, and
their manifest negligence encouraged him. His mind was soon made up:
he ordered Murray with two battalions of his brigade[417], two guns,
and two squadrons of the 14th Light Dragoons, to march hard for Barca
d’Avintas, cross on the ferry, and seize a position on the opposite
bank capable of being defended against superior numbers. But this
(as the small force employed sufficiently demonstrates) was only
intended as a diversion. The main blow was to be delivered nearer
at hand. Wellesley had resolved to endeavour to seize the abandoned
Seminary, and to throw his main body across the river at this point
if possible. The local conditions made the scheme less rash in fact
than it appears on the map. The east end of the Serra hill completely
commands all the ground about the Seminary: three batteries[418]
were quietly pushed into the convent garden and trained upon the
roads leading to that isolated building--one along the shore, the
other further inland. If the place could once be seized, it would
be possible to protect its garrison by fire across the water. There
were only two artillery positions on the French bank, from which
the Seminary could be battered: one, close to the water’s edge, was
completely under the guns of the Serra convent. The other, on the
heights by the chapel of Bom Fin, was rather distant, and could not
be used against boats crossing the river, as they would be invisible
to gunners working on this emplacement. Cannon placed there might
do some damage to the Seminary buildings, but could not prevent the
garrison from being reinforced. Realizing all this at a glance,
Wellesley hurried down Hill’s brigade to the water’s edge, and the
moment that the leading company of the Buffs had got on board the
barges, bade them push off. In a quarter of an hour the first vessel
was over, and a subaltern and twenty-five men rushed up into the
empty enclosure of the Seminary, and closed the big iron gate opening
into the Vallongo road, which formed its only land-exit. The men from
the other barges were just behind: they set themselves to lining the
garden wall and to piling up wood and earth against it, in order to
give themselves a standing-place from which they could fire over the
coping. The barges went back with all speed, and were again loaded
and sent off. Meanwhile Wellesley and his staff were looking down in
breathless anxiety on the quiet bend of the river, the silent suburb,
and the toiling vessels. At any moment the alarm might be given, and
masses of the enemy might debouch from the city and dash in upon the
Seminary before enough men were across to hold it. For the best part
of an hour the Commander-in-chief must have been fully aware that
his daring move might end only in the annihilation of two or three
companies of a good old regiment, and a check that would appear as
the righteous retribution for recklessness.

  [417] 1st and 2nd Line battalions of the K.G.L., also a
  detached company of rifles of the K.G.L.

  [418] Lane’s and Lawson’s British guns, and one K.G.L., battery.

But no stir was seen in Oporto: the barges crossed for a second time
unmolested: on their third trip they carried over General Edward
Paget, whom Wellesley had placed in command of the whole movement.
More than half the Buffs had passed, and the Seminary was beginning
to be adequately manned, when at last some shots were heard outside
the gates, and a few minutes later a line of French _tirailleurs_,
supported by three battalions in column, came rushing down upon the
enclosures. A full hour had passed between the moment when the first
boatload of British soldiers had been thrown across the river, and
the time when the French discovered them!


N.B. The trees on the cliff to the right are close outside the
enclosure of the Serra Convent: the roof of the Seminary is just
visible over the crest of the hill on the other bank. In the
background are the low slopes above Avintas.]

The fact was that the enemy’s commander was in bed, and his staff
breakfasting! The Duke of Dalmatia had sat up all night dictating
dispatches, and making his arrangements for a leisurely flitting,
for he intended to stay two days longer in Oporto, so as to cover
the march of his other divisions towards Amarante and Villa Real.
His desk-work finished, he went to bed at about nine o’clock[419],
in full confidence that he was well protected by the river, and that
Wellesley was probably engaged in the laborious task of bringing up
boats to the mouth of the Douro, which would occupy him for at least
twenty-four hours. The staff were taking their coffee, after a late
_déjeuner_, when the hoof-beats of a furious rider startled them,
and a moment later Brossard, the aide-de-camp of General Foy, burst
into the Villa shouting that the English had got into the town. Led
to the Marshal’s bedside, he hurriedly explained that Foy had just
discovered the enemy passing by boats into the Seminary, and was
massing his brigade for an attack upon them. The Marshal started
up, sent his staff flying in all directions to warn the outlying
troops, ordered all the remaining _impedimenta_ to be sent off on
the Vallongo road, and dispatched Brossard back to Foy to tell him
to ‘push the English into the river.’ He was hardly dressed and on
horseback, when the noise of a distant fusillade, followed by heavy
artillery fire, gave the news that the attack on the Seminary had
already begun.

  [419] Soult’s doings on this day are best told by his
  aide-de-camp St. Chamans, who was with him all the morning. No
  attention need be paid to the narrative of his panegyrist Le
  Noble, who tells a foolish story to the effect that a commandant
  Salel came at six o’clock (more than four hours before the Buffs
  began to pass), and assured some of Soult’s staff that the
  English were already crossing the river. ‘On hearing this,’ says
  Le Noble, ‘the Marshal sent for Quesnel, the governor of Oporto,
  and asked if there was any truth in the rumour. The latter denied
  it and Soult was reassured. If only Salel had been believed,
  all the English who had then passed might have been killed or
  captured,’ and a disaster avoided. As a matter of fact Quesnel
  was right, and not a British soldier had yet crossed [_Campagne
  de Galice_, p. 247].

It had been only at half-past ten that Foy, riding along the heights
by the Chapel of Bom Fin, had been informed that there were boats
on the river, filled with red-coated soldiery. It took him wellnigh
three-quarters of an hour to bring up his nearest regiment, the
17th Léger, and only at 11.30 did the attack on the Seminary begin.
The three battalions beset the northern and western sides of the
Seminary, and made a vigorous attempt to break in, while some guns
were hurried down to the river bank, just below the building, to fire
upon the barges that were bringing up reinforcements.

Wellesley, from his eyrie on the Serra heights, had been watching
for the long-expected outburst of the French. The moment that they
came pressing forward, he gave orders for the eighteen guns in the
convent garden to open upon them. The first shot fired, a round of
shrapnel from the 5½-inch howitzer of Lane’s battery, burst just
over the leading French gun on the further bank, as it was in the
act of unlimbering, dismounted the piece, and by an extraordinary
chance, killed or wounded every man and horse attached to it[420].
A moment later came the blast of the other seventeen guns, which
swept the level ground to the west of the Seminary with awful effect.
The French attack reeled back, and the survivors fled from the open
ground into the houses of the suburb, leaving the disabled cannon
behind them. Again and again they tried to creep forward, to flank
the English stronghold, and to fire at the barges as they went and
came, but on every occasion they were swept away by the hail of
shrapnel. They could, therefore, only attack the Seminary on its
northern front, where the buildings lay between them and the Serra
height, and so screened them from the artillery. But in half an
hour the 17th Léger was beaten off and terribly mauled; they had to
cross an open space, the Prado do Bispo, in order to get near their
adversaries, and the fire from the garden wall, the windows, and the
flat roof of the edifice, swept them away before they could close.

  [420] This interesting fact I owe to the diary of Captain Lane,
  still in manuscript, of which a copy has been sent me by Col.
  Whinyates, R. A., a specialist on the history of the British
  artillery in the Peninsula.

Meanwhile the English suffered little: the only serious loss
sustained was that of General Edward Paget, whose arm was shattered
by a bullet. He was replaced in command by Hill, who (like him) had
crossed in one of the earlier barges. The number of troops in the
building was always growing larger, the Buffs were all across, and
the 66th and 48th were beginning to follow.

After a short slackening in the engagement, General Delaborde came
up, with the three battalions of the 70th of the line, to support
his brigadier. This new force executed a far more sustained and
desperate attack on the Seminary than had their predecessors.
Hill in his letters home called it ‘the _serious_ attack.’ But it
had no better fortune than the last: a thousand English infantry,
comfortably ensconced behind stone walls, and protected on their
flanks by the storm of shot and shell from the opposite bank of the
river, could not easily be moved. So well, indeed, were they covered,
that in three hours’ fighting they only lost seventy-seven men[421],
while the open ground outside was thickly strewn with the dead and
wounded Frenchmen.

  [421] Viz. 1/3rd, fifty men, 2/48th, seventeen men, 2/66th, ten
  men, killed and wounded. The French 17th alone lost 177 [Foy’s

Soult was now growing desperate: he ordered up from the city
Reynaud’s brigade, which had hitherto guarded the quays in the
neighbourhood of the broken bridge. His intention was to make one
more attack on the Seminary, and if that failed to draw off in the
direction of Vallongo and Amarante. This move made an end of his
chances; he had forgotten to reckon with the Portuguese. The moment
that the quays were left unguarded, hundreds of citizens poured out
of their houses and ran down to the water’s edge, where they launched
all the boats that had been drawn ashore, and took them over to the
English bank. Richard Stewart’s brigade and the Guards who had been
waiting under cover of the houses of Villa Nova, immediately began
to embark, and in a few moments the passage had begun. The 29th was
first formed up on the northern bank, and dashed up the main street
into the city, meeting little or no opposition; the 1st Battalion of
Detachments and the Guards’ brigade soon followed. In half an hour
they had come upon the flank of the French force which was attacking
the Seminary, and had taken in the rear and captured one of Soult’s
reserve batteries, whose horses were shot down before they could
escape along a narrow lane. As the British went pouring through
Oporto the whole population, half mad with joy, stood cheering at the
windows and on the roofs, waving their handkerchiefs and shouting
_Viva_. The rabble poured down into the streets, and began to attack
the French wounded, so that Sherbrooke had to detach a company to
protect them from assassination[422].

  [422] All this is well described by Leslie of the 29th (p. 113),
  Stothert of the Scots Fusilier Guards (p. 41), and Cooper of the
  2/7th, who crossed later.

When Soult found himself thus attacked in the flank, he saw that
there was no more to be done, and bade the whole army retreat at
full speed along the road to Vallongo and Baltar. They went off in a
confused mass, the regiments all mingled together, and the artillery
jammed in the midst of the column. Hill came out of the Seminary and
joined in the pursuit, which was urged for three miles. ‘They made
no fight,’ writes an eye-witness, ‘every man seemed running for his
life, throwing away their knapsacks and arms, so that we had only
the trouble of making many prisoners every instant, all begging for
quarter and surrendering with great good humour[423].’

  [423] Leslie, ibid.

The French army might have been still further mauled, and indeed
almost destroyed, if Wellesley’s detached force under Murray had
been well handled by its commander. The two battalions of the German
Legion, with their attendant squadrons of the 14th Light Dragoons,
had crossed the Douro at the ferry of Barca d’ Avintas wholly
unopposed. It was a slow business, but the detachment was over
long ere Soult had abandoned his attack on the Seminary. Advancing
cautiously along the river bank, Murray suddenly saw the whole French
army come pouring past him in total disorder on the line of the
Vallongo road. He might have made an attempt to throw himself across
their path, or at least have fallen upon their flank and endeavoured
to cut the column in two; but thinking them far too strong for his
small force, and forgetting their demoralization, he halted and
allowed them to go by. When all had passed, General Charles Stewart,
who had been sent in search of Murray by the Commander-in-chief,
came galloping up to the force, and took from it a squadron of the
14th[424], with which he made a dash at the enemy’s last troops. The
French had now formed a sort of rearguard, but the dragoons rode
into it without hesitation. The French generals were bringing up the
rear, and trying to keep their men steady. Delaborde was unhorsed
and for a moment was a prisoner, but escaped owing to his captor
being killed. Foy received a sabre cut on the shoulder. The infantry
broke, and nearly 300 of them were cut off and captured. But the
dragoons also suffered heavily; of about 110 men who took part in the
charge no less than thirty-five men were killed and wounded. Murray,
who watched the whole skirmish from his position on a neighbouring
hillside, gave no assistance to his cavalry, though the intervention
of his two battalions would have led to the capture of the whole of
Soult’s rearguard. It was to infantry of Sherbrooke’s division that
the dragoons turned over their prisoners before rejoining their other

  [424] So Hawker of that regiment, who took part in the charge,
  and describes it well. In Wellesley’s dispatch, _two_ squadrons
  are wrongly named.

  [425] The best account of this charge is the diary of Hawker;
  it runs as follows: ‘After going at full speed, enveloped in a
  cloud of dust for nearly two miles, we cleared our infantry, and
  that of the French appeared. A strong body was drawn up in close
  column, with bayonets ready to receive us on their front. On each
  side of the road was a stone wall, bordered outwardly with trees.
  On our left, in particular, numbers of the French were posted
  with their pieces resting on the wall, which flanked the road,
  ready to give us a running fire as we passed. This could not but
  be effectual, as our men (in threes) were close to the muzzles of
  their muskets, and barely out of the reach of a _coup de sabre_.
  In a few seconds the ground was covered with our men and horses.
  Notwithstanding this we penetrated the battalion in the road, the
  men of which, relying on their bayonets, did not give way till
  we were close upon them, when they fled in confusion. For some
  time the contest was kept up hand to hand. After many efforts
  we succeeded in cutting off 300, of whom most were secured as
  prisoners. But our loss was very considerable. Of fifty-two
  men in the leading troop ten were killed, and eleven severely
  wounded (besides others slightly), and six taken prisoners.’ (Of
  the last all save one succeeded in slipping off and got back.)
  Out of four officers engaged three were wounded: Hervey, the
  major in command, lost an arm. Foy called the attack ‘une charge

So ended the battle of Oporto, daring in its conception, splendidly
successful in its execution, yet not so decisive as it might have
been, had Murray but done his duty during the pursuit. The British
loss was astoundingly small--only twenty-three killed, ninety-eight
wounded, and two missing: among the dead there was not a single
officer: the wounded included a general (Paget) and three majors.
The casualties of the French were, as was natural, much greater:
the attacks on the Seminary had cost them dear. They lost about 300
killed and wounded and nearly as many prisoners in the field, while
more than 1,500 sick and wounded were captured in the hospitals of
Oporto[426]. The trophies consisted of the six field-pieces taken
during the fighting, a great number of baggage wagons, and fifty-two
Portuguese guns, dismounted but fit for further service, which were
found in the arsenal. Soult had destroyed, before retreating, the
rest of the cannon which he had captured in the Portuguese lines on
March 29.

  [426] Fantin des Odoards (p. 233) says that the French left
  1,800 men in the hospitals. This is probably a little too high
  an estimate: there were only 2,150 French sick in Braga, Viana,
  and Oporto on May 10--five-sixths of them at Oporto. But many
  convalescents had marched with Mermet early on the eleventh.
  Wellington in his first dispatch merely says that he had taken
  700 sick in the hospitals. But three days later, in a letter
  to Admiral Berkeley, he writes that he has 2,000 sick, wounded
  and captured French in his hands, and must send them to England
  at once (_Wellington Dispatches_, iv. 337). He therefore asks
  for shipping for them at the rate of two tons per man. Allowing
  for 300 unwounded prisoners at Oporto, and 100 at Grijon, there
  remain 1,500, or somewhat more, for the men in hospital.



The headlong charge of Hervey’s squadron of the 14th Light Dragoons
was the last molestation which fell to the lot of Soult’s retreating
column on the afternoon of May 12. Marching till dark, the disordered
infantry encamped at Baltar, ten miles from Oporto, where they
fell in with the detached regiment of Delaborde’s division and
with Caulaincourt’s dragoons, who had been guarding this half-way
stage between Amarante and Oporto, ever since Loison had marched on
into the Tras-os-Montes ten days before. Of the rest of the French
army, Franceschi (always in the post of danger) covered the rear at
Vallongo, just west of Baltar. Mermet, with the division that had
marched from Oporto before Wellesley’s attack was developed, had
encamped on the Souza river, four miles ahead of the main column.
The Marshal had thus nearly 13,000 men concentrated, and proposed
next day to push on for Amarante, in the wake of Loison, who (as he
supposed) must now be well ahead in the Tras-os-Montes, clearing
for him the way into Spain. It was disquieting, however, to find
that no news from that general had yet come to hand--indeed he had
not been heard of since May 7, when he was just starting out on his
expedition. Wherever Loison might be, the Marshal was bound to follow
him in haste, since it was certain that Wellesley would be close at
his heels, and that no time was to be lost in lingering.

At half-past one in the morning Soult was roused from sleep, and
informed that the long-expected messenger from Loison had at last
arrived[427]. The news which he brought was nothing less than
appalling: the French detached corps had been not only checked but
beaten, the bridge of Amarante had been lost, and Loison was hastily
retreating to the north-west at the moment that his chief was moving
eastward to join him.

  [427] See Le Noble, _Campagne de Galice_, pp. 250-2.

Beresford’s turning movement, in fact, had been completely
successful--far more so than Wellesley had thought likely; he had not
only succeeded in placing himself across the French line of retreat
into Spain, but had beaten Loison and thrown him back into Soult’s

What had happened was shortly this. On May 8 Beresford had picked
up Wilson’s detachment at Vizeu: on the tenth he had met Silveira
at Lamego. He had thus concentrated some 10,500 or 11,000 men, all
Portuguese save Tilson’s brigade and the single squadron of the
14th Light Dragoons. Learning at Lamego that, as late as the ninth,
Loison was still in the neighbourhood of Amarante, and had not yet
penetrated far into the Tras-os-Montes, Beresford resolved to take
the risk of passing the Douro and to throw his army directly across
the path of the advancing French. On the tenth, the same day on
which the force from Coimbra reached Lamego, he sent Silveira over
the river by the bridge of Peso da Regoa, which had never passed out
of the hands of the Portuguese and had a strong _tête-de-pont_ on
its northern side. Silveira had barely crossed when Loison, who had
spent the previous day at Mezamfrio, ten miles away on the Amarante
road, came up against him with Heudelet’s and Sarrut’s infantry and
Marisy’s dragoons--about 6,500 sabres and bayonets. Emboldened by
having entrenchments to help him, and by knowing that Beresford was
close behind, Silveira stood firm at the _tête-de-pont_ and accepted

Loison was somewhat discouraged by his adversary’s confidence, and
did not fail to note the masses of troops on the southern bank of
the Douro, which were moving up to the bridge to support Silveira.
However, late in the afternoon he attacked the Portuguese, but was
steadily met and beaten off with some loss[428]. Thereupon he drew
back and retired to Mezamfrio. On the following day (May 11) he
continued his retreat to Amarante, closely pursued by Silveira, who
kept driving in his rearguard wherever it attempted to make a stand.

  [428] Loison reported to Soult that he lost only a _chef de
  bataillon_ and eighty men, but that the horses of himself and
  Generals Heudelet and Maransin were killed under them. The
  figures given are probably an understatement.

Beresford meanwhile brought his own troops across the Douro on May
11, in the wake of Silveira’s division. On the twelfth he pushed
forward to Amarante, intending to fight Loison if the latter should
try to hold his ground beyond the bridge. But on his approach he
found that the French rearguard (Sarrut’s brigade) had already been
driven across the water by the Portuguese[429]. The bridge, however,
still remained in Loison’s hands, and as it was no less defensible
from the eastern than from the western bank, the army could get no
further forward.

  [429] The British brigade of Tilson was to have led the attack.
  They were burning for a fight. ‘I never witnessed so much
  enthusiasm,’ writes an eye-witness, ‘as was shown by the men.
  The advance was a perfect trot, but on our arrival we found the
  enemy had fled.’ (From an unpublished letter of Lord Gough,
  then colonel of the 87th regiment, which has been placed at my
  disposal by the kindness of Mr. R. Rait of New College, who is
  preparing a life of that officer.)

Matters were now at a deadlock, for if Beresford could not cross
the Tamega, it was clear that Loison, even if heavily reinforced
from Oporto, would not be able to force the imposing position on
the heights commanding the bridge, which was now held by 11,000
men, including a British brigade. But he might, and should, have
continued to hold the town and the bridge-head, till further orders
reached him from Soult. Instead of doing so, he made up his mind
to retreat at once, and marched off early on the evening of May 12
along the road to Guimaraens and Braga. Thus at the moment when
Soult was retiring on Amarante, Loison abandoned the position which
covered his chief’s chosen line of retreat. Moreover, he was so
tardy in sending news of his intentions to head quarters, that the
aide-de-camp who bore his dispatch only reached Baltar after midnight
on the twelfth-thirteenth: this was the first report that Soult had
received from him since May 8. It was a military crime of the highest
magnitude that he had neither informed his chief of the check at
Peso da Regoa on the tenth, nor of his retreat to Amarante on the
eleventh. Knowledge of these facts would have been invaluable to
the Marshal, since it would have shown him that the route through
the Tras-os-Montes was blocked, and that he must not count upon an
undisturbed retreat into Spain. If he had known of this, he would not
have evacuated Oporto by the Baltar road, but would have been forced
to march northward on Braga or Guimaraens, instead of due east. So
strange, in fact, was Loison’s slackness, that Soult’s advocates
have not hesitated to accuse him of deliberate treachery, and have
hinted that he was engaged in Argenton’s plot--a hypothesis which
would have explained his conduct clearly enough. But, as a matter
of fact, Argenton’s revelations to Wellesley show that this was not
the case, and that the conspirators looked upon Loison and Delaborde
as the two officers who were most likely to give them trouble. It
must therefore have been sheer military incapacity, and disgust at
the whole Portuguese expedition, which lay at the bottom of Loison’s
misbehaviour. Disbelieving in Soult’s plan of campaign, he was
probably bent on compelling his chief to retire to Braga, and was (of
course) quite ignorant of the fact that Wellesley’s capture of Oporto
had changed the whole face of affairs, and that the retreat in that
direction was no longer open.

Despondent, tired out by the work of the preceding day, and suffering
physically from a heavy fall from his horse during the retreat, Soult
was roused from his slumbers to read Loison’s disastrous dispatch.
When he had made out its full meaning he was appalled. All his plans
were shattered, and he was clearly in imminent danger, for Wellesley
from Oporto and Beresford from Amarante might converge upon him in
the morning, with nearly 30,000 men, if it should chance that they
had made out his position. No help could come from Loison, who,
having now reached Guimaraens, was separated from the main body by
the roadless expanse of the rugged Serra de Santa Catalina. Eastward
lay one hostile force, westward another, to the south was the
impassable Douro, to the north the inhospitable mountains. It was
useless to think of making a desperate dash at Beresford’s army: in
open ground an attack on the Portuguese might have been practicable,
but the bridge of Amarante was a post impossible to force in a hurry,
and while the attack on it was in progress, it was certain that
Wellesley would come up from the rear. The situation and the results
of Baylen would inevitably be reproduced.

Realizing this, the Duke of Dalmatia came to the conclusion that
the only course open to him was to abandon everything that could
not be carried on his men’s backs, and to make a desperate attempt
to cross the Serra de Santa Catalina before the news of his straits
had reached the enemy. He imagined that there must be some sort
of a footpath from Baltar or Penafiel to Guimaraens: in a thickly
peopled country like Northern Portugal, the hill-folk have short cuts
of their own--the only difficulty for the stranger is to discover
them. Hasty inquiries in the bivouac of the army produced a Navarese
camp-follower, who said that he knew the localities and could point
out a bad mule-track, which climbed the hillside above the Souza
torrent, and came down into the valley of the Avé, not far south of
Guimaraens[430]. It was the kind of path in which the army would meet
every sort of difficulty, and where the head of the column might be
stopped by a couple of hundred _Ordenanza_, if it should chance that
the Portuguese peasantry were on the alert. But it seemed the only
practicable way out of the situation, and the Marshal resolved to try

  [430] ‘Un de ces Navarrins, qui vont tous les ans en Portugal
  parcourir les villages pour y couper les cochons qu’on veut
  engraisser,’ says Le Noble [p. 254]. ‘Une espèce de contrebandier
  que le général Dulauloi avait trouvé,’ says St. Chamans, Soult’s
  aide-de-camp (p. 147).

At daybreak the army was warned of its danger; and wasting no time
on councils of war or elaborate orders, Soult sent round word that
the troops were to abandon everything that could not be carried on
the backs of men or horses, and to take to the hills. An immense mass
of baggage and plunder had to be left on the banks of the Souza,
including the whole of the heavy convoy which Mermet had escorted
out of Oporto on the previous day. The Marshal even decided that the
infantry should turn out of their knapsacks everything except food
and cartridges, an order which those who had in their possession
gold plate and other valuable plunder of small bulk took care to
disobey. The cannon were destroyed by being placed mouth to mouth
and discharged simultaneously in pairs. As much of the reserve
ammunition for infantry as could be packed in convenient bundles
was laden on the backs of the artillery horses. The rest, with all
the powder wagons, was collected in a mass, ready to be fired when
the army should have absconded. One curious circumstance, which
displays better than anything else the hurry of the retreat, is worth
mentioning. The military chest of the 2nd Corps was well filled--it
is said to have contained nearly £50,000 in Portuguese silver. The
Marshal ordered the paymaster-in-chief to serve out all that he could
to the regimental paymasters. Only two of these officials could be
found, and they were unable to carry off more than a fraction of the
money. Soult then ordered the treasure-chests to be broken open, and
sent word that the men, as they passed, might help themselves. But
hardly a soldier took advantage of the offer: they looked at the
bulky bags of _cruzados novos_, shook their heads, and hurried on.
Those who were tempted at first were seen, later in the day, tossing
the weighty pieces into the ravine of the Souza. Perceiving that
there was no way of getting rid of the mass of silver, Soult at last
ordered the _fourgons_ containing it to be dragged alongside of the
powder wagons. When the train was exploded, after the rearguard had
passed, the money was scattered to the winds. For years after the
peasants of Penafiel were picking up stray coins on the hillside[431].

  [431] Several of the French diarists relate this curious
  incident. ‘L’argent blanc ne tentait personne,’ says Fantin des
  Odoards, p. 234, ‘à cause de sa pesanteur et de son inutilité
  momentaire. On permit le pillage des fourgons du payeur, et chose
  inouïe, il n’y fut presque pas touché. Les soldats regardaient
  en passant les sacs, secouaient la tête et s’éloignaient sans y
  mettre la main. Pour moi, je m’emparai d’un sac de 2,400 francs;
  cette lourde somme m’embarassait: elle aurait blessé mon cheval,
  et après l’avoir portée pendant une lieue je l’abandonnai’ [p.
  234]. ‘Les grenadiers du 70e servaient d’escorte au trésor,’ says
  Le Noble, ‘l’intendant-général les invita de prendre des fonds.
  Ayant rencontré leur officier, le lieutenant Langlois, à Toro,
  il lui demanda ce qu’avaient pu emporter ses soldats. “_Rien_,”
  répliqua-t-il, “ils portaient la caisse à tour de rôle pour
  quelque distance, et la jetèrent ensuite.”’ Naylies also mentions
  the dispersion of the treasure. The reader will compare this
  incident with the rolling of Moore’s treasure down the cliffs of
  Herrerias during the Corunna retreat. Soult certainly scattered
  his cash more widely.

As the French army was beginning its weary climb over the Serra de
Santa Catalina a heavy drenching rain commenced to fall. It lasted
for three days, and added much to the miseries of the retreat; but
it was not without its advantages to the fugitive host, for it kept
the Portuguese peasantry indoors, and it would seem that no one in
the mountain villages got wind of the movement for many hours. It
was not till the French had crossed the ridge and descended, late
in the dusk, on to the village of Pombeiro in the valley of the Avé
that they began to be molested by the _Ordenanza_. After a few shots
had been fired the peasants were driven off. Next morning [May 14]
Soult got into communication with Loison, who was still lying at
Guimaraens with all his troops. On the same day Lorges’ dragoons and
the garrison of Viana came in from the north, and the whole army,
still over 20,000 strong, was reconcentrated. The first danger, that
of destruction piecemeal, had been avoided. But Soult’s desperate
move had only warded off the peril for the moment: he had still to
fear that Wellesley and Beresford might close in upon him before he
could get clear of the mountains.

It remains to be seen how the two British generals had employed the
day during which the French were scaling the heights of the Serra
de Santa Catalina. Wellesley had crossed in person to Oporto long
ere the fighting was over, and had established his head quarters
in Soult’s villa on the heights, where he and his staff thought
themselves fortunate in finding ready for their consumption the
excellent dinner which had been prepared for the Marshal. As long
as daylight lasted the British infantry continued to be ferried
over to the city, but they were not all across when night fell. The
artillery, the train, and all the regimental baggage were still on
the wrong side of the river, and as the great bridge was destroyed
beyond hope of repair, all the _impedimenta_ had to be brought over
in boats and barges. It was mainly this fact that delayed Wellesley
from making an early move on the thirteenth. He could not advance
without his guns and his reserve ammunition, and did not receive them
till the day was far spent and the natural hour for marching was
past. There were other circumstances which hindered him from pressing
on as he would have liked to do. The infantry were tired out: they
had marched more than eighty miles during the last four days, and
had fought hard at Grijon and Oporto. Human nature could do no more
without a halt, and Wellesley was forced to grant it. Moreover,
there was the question of food to be taken into consideration. The
troops had outrun their supplies, and the provision wagons were still
trailing up from Coimbra. In Oporto no stores of any importance were
discovered, for Soult had stopped collecting more than he could
carry, the moment that he made up his mind to retreat, and had been
living from hand to mouth during the last few days of his sojourn in
the city. The only thing that abounded was port wine, and from that
the soldiers had to be kept away, or results disastrous to discipline
would have followed[432].

  [432] When the troops got at the wine they drank only too well:
  Hartmann in his _Journal_ records that twenty of his German
  Legion gunners drank forty-one bottles of port at a sitting (p.

With great reluctance, therefore, Wellesley resolved to halt for
a day, only sending forward Murray and the German Legion, with a
couple of squadrons, along the Baltar road. This brigade did not come
up with Soult’s rearguard, though they found ample traces of his
passage in the shape of murdered stragglers and abandoned plunder.
No doubt the Commander-in-chief would have directed them to push on
further, and have supported them with every battalion that could
still march ten miles, if only he had been aware of the fact that
Beresford had got possession of the bridge of Amarante, and that the
enemy was therefore in a trap. But he was only in communication with
his lieutenant by the circuitous route of Lamego and Mezamfrio, and
the last news that he had received of the turning column led him to
believe that it was still in the neighbourhood of Villa Real, and
that Loison continued to hold the passage of the Tamega. Writing to
Beresford on the night of the capture of Oporto, he desired him to
make every effort to hold on to Villa Real, and to keep Soult in
check till he himself could overtake him[433].

  [433] _Wellington Dispatches_, iv. 327. To Marshal Beresford,
  from Oporto, night of the twelfth.

It was not till the afternoon of the thirteenth that Wellesley
obtained information that put him on the right track. The
intelligence officer with Murray’s column[434] sent him back word
that heavy explosions had been heard at Penafiel, and that the smoke
of large fires was visible along the hillside above it. This gave
a strong hint of what was probably taking place in that direction,
but it was not till five in the afternoon that full information came
to hand. This was brought by the Portuguese secretary of General
Quesnel, who had deserted his employer and ridden back to Oporto,
to give the valuable news which would save him from being tried for
treason for serving the enemy. He gave an accurate and detailed
account of all that had happened to Soult’s column, and had seen it
start off on the break-neck path to Guimaraens. Only about Loison was
he uncertain--that officer, he said, was probably still at Amarante,
holding back Silveira and Beresford[435].

  [434] A Captain Mellish, _Wellington Dispatches_, iv. 330 [to
  Murray] and 332 [to Beresford].

  [435] Deposition of the Secretary to the late Governor of
  Oporto. _Wellington Supplementary Dispatches_, vi. 262 [May 13,

On receipt of this important intelligence Wellesley sent orders to
Murray to press on his small force of cavalry, and some mounted
rifles (if he could secure horses or mules) as far as Penafiel, to
verify the secretary’s information[436]. A later dispatch bade him
press on to Amarante, if Loison was still there, in order to take
that officer in the rear; but if he were gone, the Legionary brigade
was to follow Soult over the hills towards Guimaraens and Braga, and
endeavour to catch up his rearguard[437]. The orders arrived too
late: Murray, on the morning of the fourteenth, learnt that Loison
had long ago departed, and that Soult was far on his way. He followed
the Marshal across the Serra de Santa Catalina, but never got near
him, though he picked up many French stragglers, and saw the bodies
of many more, who had been assassinated by the peasantry[438].

  [436] _Wellington Dispatches_, iv. 330, afternoon of May 13.

  [437] Ibid. iv. 332, morning of May 14.

  [438] It is astonishing to find that Murray succeeded in taking
  two light three-pounder guns over this difficult path. The fact
  reflects great credit on his gunners.

Meanwhile Beresford had acted with great decision, and with an
intelligence which he did not always display. When, on the morning
of the thirteenth, he found that the French had disappeared, and
that Amarante (after having been thoroughly sacked)[439] had been
abandoned to him, he did not waste time in a fruitless pursuit of
Loison in the direction of Guimaraens, but resolved to endeavour
to cut off the retreat of the whole French army towards the north.
If they had absconded by way of Braga, the chase would fall to
Wellesley’s share, but if they had taken the other road by Chaves,
all would depend on his own movements. Accordingly he resolved to
march at once on the last named town, without waiting for orders
from the Commander-in-chief. Having hastily collected three days’
provisions, he moved off himself by the high-road up the valley of
the Tamega, detaching Silveira and his division to strike across
country, and occupy the defiles of Ruivaens and Salamonde on the
Braga-Chaves road, where it would be possible to detain, if not to
stop, the retreating columns of Soult if they should take this way
[May 14]. While on his march Beresford received Wellesley’s letters,
which prescribed to him exactly the line of conduct that he had
already determined to pursue[440]. After three difficult marches in
drenching rain, which turned every rivulet into an almost impassable
torrent, and spoilt the inadequate provision of bread which had been
served out to the men, the division reached Chaves about 12 p.m.
on the night of the sixteenth-seventeenth. The men were absolutely
exhausted; though the distance covered had not exceeded some fourteen
or fifteen miles per day, yet the rain, the starvation, and the bad
road had much thinned the ranks, and those who had kept up with the
colours were dropping with fatigue. The slowness of the column’s
advance was certainly not Beresford’s fault; he had allowed only a
six hours’ halt each day on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth,
and had been pushing on as hard as was, humanly speaking, possible.
Nevertheless he was too late: on the seventeenth, the all-important
day of the campaign, he held Chaves, but his troops were too tired
to start early or to march far. The bad weather which made the French
retreat so miserable, had at least saved the flying army from its

  [439] The state of Amarante was dreadful. ‘I was never witness to
  such a scene of misery and horror as here presented itself,’ says
  Lord Gough in an unpublished letter to his father. ‘Every house
  and public building of every description, with the exception of a
  monastery which covered the passage of the bridge, a chapel, and
  about five detached houses, was burnt to the ground, with many of
  the late inhabitants lying dead in the streets.’

  [440] The best testimony to Beresford’s good conduct is that
  Wellesley (_Wellington Dispatches_, iv. 343) says that he had
  exactly anticipated the instructions sent him, and carried them
  out on his own initiative. Napier’s criticism (ii. 116-7) is
  unfair and misleading.

  [441] The best account of Beresford’s forced march is to be found
  in the unpublished letter of Lord Gough (then major of the 87th)
  which, as I have already mentioned, has been shown me by Mr. R.
  Rait of New College. He says: ‘The business of crossing the river
  took the Brigade (Tilson’s) four hours: the evening set in with
  a most dreadful fall of rain, which continued all night, and the
  next three days and nights. Our road lay over almost impassable
  mountains, made more so by the rain that swelled the mountain
  rivulets into rivers. In the dark many men lost the column,
  several fell into pits excavated by the falling water: many lay
  down in the road from fatigue and hunger, and the greater part
  lost their shoes.... Next day we pursued our melancholy march at
  five o’clock, the men nearly fainting with hunger: about twelve
  we fell in with some cars of bread belonging to a Portuguese
  division, which Gen. Tilson pressed for the men; this (with
  some wine) enabled us to proceed, and that night at twelve we
  reached Chaves, after a forced march of three days, with only
  twelve hours’ halt. The men were without a shoe to their feet,
  and hundreds fallen out from fatigue and hunger.... The 88th had,
  of 700 with which they joined us, only 150 in the ranks.... Part
  of the officers and nearly all the men had their feet cut to the
  bone for want of shoes.’

Soult meanwhile had gathered in Loison and Lorges, and his whole army
was concentrated at Guimaraens on the morning of the fourteenth. From
the point where he now lay, in the upper valley of the Avé, there
are only two carriage roads, that to Amarante by which Loison had
arrived, and that to Braga. There was a bare chance that if Wellesley
had received his information late, and moved slowly, it might be
possible to escape from him by the road to Braga. If, however, he
had marched promptly from Oporto, he would be able to intercept the
retreating army at that place. Soult refused to take this risk, and
resolved instead to plunge once more into the mountains, and to cross
the watershed between the Avé and the Cavado by a rugged hill-path,
no better than that which had served him between Penafiel and
Guimaraens. It was accordingly necessary to sacrifice all the guns,
munitions, and baggage belonging to Loison and Lorges, just as those
of Mermet and Delaborde had been destroyed on the banks of the Souza.
The guns were burst, the ammunition exploded, the baggage piled in
heaps and burned. After this second holocaust the army struck up a
track by the Salto torrent, which ultimately brought them over the
crest, and down upon the village of Lanhozo, eight miles from Braga,
and just at the foot of the position which Eben had occupied during
his unhappy battle on March 20. The weather had been abominable, and
the rearguard had been forced to bivouac in misery on the hills,
the darkness having come down upon them before the descent into the
valley of the Cavado was completed.

Next morning Soult sent out Lahoussaye’s dragoons down the valley
of the Cavado towards Braga, to see if that city was already in
Wellesley’s hands or whether it was still possible to escape across
his front and gain the high road to Galicia. As the Marshal had
feared would be the case, they met British light cavalry pushing
briskly up the road towards them; it was clear that the pursuers were
already in Braga, and Soult at once ordered his columns to turn their
faces to the north-east, and follow the road up the Cavado towards
Salamonde and Ruivaens. The British were ere long visible in close

Sir Arthur had quitted Oporto on the fourteenth with his whole force
except the brigade of Murray, which had already gone forth on the
eastern line of pursuit, and the 20th Light Dragoons, which he had
been ordered to send back to Lisbon. On that day his army covered
twenty-two miles of road in vile weather, and slept at Villa Nova de
Famelicção. On the fifteenth the British started early, and their
vanguard had already marched twelve miles and reached Braga when
the French dragoons were descried. The latter, seeing themselves
forestalled, retired on their main body, and when Wellesley’s men
mounted the crest of the Monte Adaufé (Eben’s old position in the
battle of March 20), they caught a glimpse of the whole French
army retiring up the valley. Soult, immediately on hearing that
the pursuers were in Braga, had commenced a new retreat. He had
rearranged his order of march. Loison now led the column, with
Heudelet’s division and Lorges’ dragoons: then came the droves of
artillery horses and pack-mules, with the reserve ammunition and the
little baggage that had been saved, followed by Delaborde and Mermet.
Merle’s infantry and Franceschi’s horse were in the rear, under the
Marshal’s own command. In this order the French remounted the stream
of the Cavado as far as Salamonde, where the broad valley narrows
down to a defile. They were followed by the British light dragoons,
but the infantry of the pursuing column had not got far beyond Braga,
where Wellesley’s head quarters were established that night. Murray’s
German brigade, which had crossed the mountains from Guimaraens in
Soult’s wake, joined the main body on this evening.

On reaching Salamonde Soult was informed by the cavalry in his front
that they had been brought to stand at the bridge of Ponte Nova, a
few miles up the defile, by a body of _Ordenanza_, who had taken up
the wooden flooring of the bridge, torn down its balustrades, and
barricaded themselves upon the further side. Unless they could be
dislodged ruin stared the Marshal in the face: for the British were
close in his rear, and there was no lateral line of escape from the
precipitous defile. Surrender next morning must follow. In this
crisis Soult saw no chance of safety before him save a dash at the
half-demolished bridge. When darkness had fallen he sent for Major
Dulong, an officer of the 31st Léger, who enjoyed the reputation of
being the most daring man in the whole army, and told him that he
must surprise the Portuguese by a sudden rush at midnight, and win
the passage at all costs. He was allowed to pick 100 volunteers from
his own regiment for the enterprise.

The safety of a whole army has seldom depended upon a more desperate
venture than that which Dulong took in hand. Nothing remained of the
bridge save the two large cross-beams, no more than three or four
feet broad; they were slippery with continuous rain, and had to be
passed in complete darkness under the driving sleet of a bitter north
wind. Fortunately for the assailants the same cold and wet which
made their enterprise so dangerous had driven the _Ordenanza_ under
cover: they had retired to some huts a little way beyond the bridge.
If they left any one on guard, the sentinel had followed his friends,
for when Dulong and his party crept up to the passage they found it
absolutely deserted. They crossed in single file, and reached the
further side unobserved, losing one man who slipped and fell into the
fierce river below. A moment later they came on the Portuguese, who
were surprised in their sleep: many were bayonetted, the rest fled
in dismay--they were but a few score of peasants, and were helpless
when once the passage had been won.

For six hours Soult’s sappers were working hard to replace the
flooring of the ruined bridge with tree trunks, and boards torn from
the houses of the neighbouring village. At eight it was practicable,
and the troops began to cross. It was a long business: for 20,000
men with 4,000 cavalry horses and a great drove of pack-animals had
to be passed over the narrow, rickety, and uneven structure, whose
balustrades had not been replaced. All the day was spent in hurrying
the troops across, but they got forward so slowly that Soult saw
himself forced to place a strong rearguard in position, to hold back
the pursuers till the main body was safe. He left behind a brigade of
Merle’s division, and two of Franceschi’s cavalry regiments, ranged
behind a lateral ravine which crosses the road some distance below
the bridge. They were placed with their right on the rough river bank
and their left on the cliffs which overhang the road; orders were
given to the effect that they must hold on at all costs till the army
had completed the passage of the Ponte Nova. At half-past one the
British light dragoons arrived in front of the position, saw that
they could not force it, and started a bickering fire with the French
pickets, while they waited for the main body to come up.

Owing to the long distance which Wellesley’s infantry had to cover,
the day wore on without any serious collision on this point. But
meanwhile Soult found that another and more serious danger lay ahead
of him. After crossing the Cavado at the Ponte Nova there were two
paths available for the army--the main road leads eastward to Chaves
by way of Ruivaens, a branch, however, turns off north to Montalegre
and the sources of the Misarella, the main affluent of the Cavado.
The former was the easier, but there was a grave doubt whether Chaves
might not already be in the hands of Beresford and his turning
column--as a matter of fact it only arrived there a few hours after
Soult stood uncertain at the parting of the ways. Bearing this in
mind, the Marshal resolved to take the more rugged and difficult
path; but when Loison and the vanguard were engaged in it they found
that the bridge over the Misarella, the _Saltador_ as it was called
from the bold leap which its single arch makes across the torrent,
was held against them. Again it was only with _Ordenanza_ that the
army had to deal: Beresford had just reached Chaves, but his troops
were some miles further back; Silveira, who ought to have been at
Ruivaens that morning, had not appeared at all. But Major Warre,
an officer of Beresford’s staff, had ridden ahead to rouse the
peasantry, and had collected several hundred half-armed levies at
the _Saltador_ bridge, which he encouraged them to hold, promising
that the regulars would be up to support them before nightfall.
Unfortunately he could not persuade them to destroy the bridge, on
which all the cross-communications of the Misarella valley depend.
But they had thrown down its parapets, built an _abattis_ across its
head, and thrown up earthworks on each side of it so as to command
the opposite bank. This, unhappily, was not enough to hold back
20,000 desperate men, who saw their only way of salvation on the
opposite bank.

When Loison found his advance barred, he made an appeal to that same
Major Dulong who had forced the Ponte Nova on the preceding night.
Again that daring soldier volunteered to conduct the forlorn hope:
he was given a company of _voltigeurs_ to lead the column, and two
battalions of Heudelet’s division to back them. Forming the whole in
one continuous mass--there was only room for four men abreast--he
dashed down towards the bridge amid a spluttering and ineffective
fire from the Portuguese entrenchments on the opposite bank. The
column reached the arch, passed it, was checked but a moment while
tearing down the _abattis_, and then plunged in among the scared
_Ordenanza_, who fled in every direction, leaving the passage free.
Dulong was wounded, but no more than eighteen of his companions were
hit, and at this small sacrifice the army was saved. Late in the
afternoon the whole mass began to stream up the Montalegre road;
they had no longer anything more to fear than stray shots from the
scattered _Ordenanza_, who hung about on the hillsides, firing into
the column from inaccessible rocks, but doing little damage.

If Dulong had failed at the Saltador Soult would have been lost,
for just as the passage was forced the rumbling of cannon began to
be heard from the rear. Merle was attacked by the British, and was
being driven in. At five o’clock the Guards’ brigade, forming the
head of Wellesley’s infantry, had come up with the French rearguard.
It was formidably posted, but Sir Arthur thought that it might be
dislodged. Accordingly he placed the two three-pounders, which
accompanied the column, on the high road, and began to batter the
French centre, while he sent off the three light companies of the
brigade[442] to turn the French left flank on the cliffs to the
south. When the crackling of their musketry was heard among the
rocks, he silenced his guns and flung the Guards upon the enemy’s
main body. They broke, turned, and fled in confusion, though the
regiment on the road, the 4th Léger, was considered one of the best
in the French army[443].

  [442] The brigade had a company of the 5/60th attached, so had
  three instead of two light companies.

  [443] ‘Il y avait à l’arrière-garde un excellent régiment
  d’infanterie légère, qui (vu la nature du terrain) pouvait
  facilement braver une armée entière: et bien, à l’apparition
  de l’ennemi, il s’est débandé sans qu’on ait pu lui faire
  entendre raison. La confusion qui a été le résultat de cette
  terreur panique a été épouvantable. Fantassins et cavaliers se
  précipitaient les uns sur les autres, jetaient leurs armes, et
  luttaient à qui courrait le plus vite. Le pont étroit et sans
  parapet ne pouvait suffire à l’impatience des fuyards, ils se
  pressaient tellement que nombre d’hommes furent précipités et
  noyés dans le torrent ou écrasés sous les pieds des chevaux. Si
  les Anglais avaient été en mesure de profiter de cette épouvante,
  je ne sais pas en vérité ce que nous serions devenus, tant la
  peur est contagieuse, même chez les plus braves soldats.’ Fantin
  des Odoards, p. 236.

The chase continued as far as the Ponte Nova, which the broken
troops crossed in a struggling mass, thrusting each other over the
edge (where the balustrades were wanting) till the torrent below was
choked with dead men and horses. The British guns were brought up
and played upon the weltering crowd with dreadful effect. But the
night was already coming on, and the darkness hid from the pursuers
the full effect of their own fire. They halted and encamped, having
slain many and taken about fifty prisoners, of whom one was an
officer. It was only at daybreak that they realized the terrors
through which the French had passed. ‘The rocky bed of the Cavado,’
says an eye-witness, ‘presented an extraordinary spectacle. Men and
horses, sumpter animals and baggage, had been precipitated into
the river, and literally choked its course. Here, with these fatal
accompaniments of death and dismay, was disgorged the last of the
plunder of Oporto. All kinds of valuable goods were left on the road,
while above 300 horses, sunk in the water, and mules laden with
baggage, fell into the hands of the grenadier and light companies of
the Guards. These active-fingered gentry found that fishing for boxes
and bodies out of the stream produced pieces of plate, and purses and
belts full of gold money. Amid the scenes of death and desolation
arose their shouts of the most noisy merriment[444].’

  [444] Lord Munster’s _Campaign of 1809_, pp. 177-8.

On the night of the 17th Soult’s army poured into Montalegre, a
dilapidated old town on the edge of the frontier, from which all the
inhabitants had fled. Little or no food could be procured, and the
houses did not suffice to shelter more than a part of the troops.
Next morning the 2nd Corps took to its heels once more, and climbed
the Serra de Gerez, which lies just above the town. On descending
its northern slope they had at last entered Spain, and had reached
safety. But the country was absolutely desolate: for twenty miles
beyond Montalegre there was hardly a single village on this rugged
by-path. Still dreading pursuit, the Marshal urged on his men as fast
as they could be driven forward, and in two long marches at last
reached Orense.

Wellesley, however, had given up any hope of catching the 2nd
Corps, when once it had passed the Saltador and reached the Spanish
frontier. He had halted the British infantry at Ruivaens, and only
sent on in chase of the flying host the 14th Light Dragoons and the
division of Silveira, which had at last appeared on the scene late
in the evening of the seventeenth. What this corps had been doing
during the last forty-eight hours it is impossible to discover. It
had started from Amarante on the same day that Beresford marched for
Chaves, and ought to have been at Ruivaens on the sixteenth, when it
would have found itself just in time to intercept Soult’s vanguard
after it had passed the Ponte Nova. Apparently the same wild weather
and constant rain which had delayed Beresford’s column had checked
his subordinate. At any rate it is certain that Silveira, though he
had a shorter route than his chief, only got to Ruivaens late on
the seventeenth, while the other column had reached Chaves more than
twelve hours earlier.

The French had disappeared, and it was only next morning that
Silveira followed them up on the Montalegre road. He captured a few
laggards by the way, but on reaching the little town found that
Soult’s rearguard had quitted it two hours before his arrival[445].
By Wellesley’s orders he pushed on for one day more in pursuit, but
found that the enemy was now so far ahead that he could do no more
than pick up moribund stragglers. On the nineteenth, therefore, he
turned back and retraced his steps to Montalegre[446].

  [445] The French rearguard actually saw Silveira arriving.
  Naylies, p. 90.

  [446] For this part of the pursuit see the diary of Hawker
  [of the 14th Light Dragoons], who returned to Montalegre with
  Silveira’s men.

Much the same fortune had befallen Beresford’s column. By Wellesley’s
orders Tilson’s brigade and their Portuguese companions marched from
Chaves by Monterey on the eighteenth, on the chance that Soult, after
passing the Serra de Gerez, might drop into the Monterey-Orense
road. But the Marshal had not taken this route: he had kept to
by-paths, and marched by Porquera and Allariz, to the left of the
line on which Beresford’s pursuit was directed. At Ginzo the cavalry
of the pursuing column picked up fifty stragglers, and came into
contact with a small party of Franceschi’s _chasseurs_, which Soult
had thrown out to cover his flank. Learning from the peasantry that
the French had gone off by a different route, Beresford halted and
returned to Chaves. His men were so thoroughly worn out, and the
strength of the column was so much reduced, that he could have done
little more even if he had come upon the main body of the enemy[447].

  [447] These details are mainly from the letter of Gough of the
  87th, which I have already had occasion to quote, when dealing
  with Beresford’s movements. I cannot find any corroboration for
  Napier’s account of Beresford’s and Silveira’s pursuit in ii. pp.
  112-3 of his history.


On May 19 Soult’s dilapidated and starving host poured into Orense,
where they could at last take a day’s rest and obtain a decent meal.
The Marshal caused the troops to be numbered, and found that he had
brought back 19,713 men. As he had started from the Spanish frontier
with 22,000 sabres and bayonets, and had received 3,500 more from
Tuy, when Lamartinière’s column joined him, it would appear that he
had left in all some 5,700 men behind him. Of these, according to the
French accounts[448], about 1,000 had fallen in the early fighting,
or died of sickness, before Wellesley’s appearance on the Vouga.
About 700, mostly convalescents, had been captured at Chaves by
Silveira[449]. After the storm of Oporto the British army found 1,500
sick in the hospitals of that city, of Braga and of Viana[450]. They
also took some 400 unwounded prisoners at Oporto and at Grijon[451].
It results therefore that the losses of the actual retreat from
Baltar to Orense, between the thirteenth and the nineteenth of May,
must have been rather more than 2,000 men. But all these had been
able-bodied fighting-men--the sick, as we have seen, were abandoned
before the break-neck march over the mountains began: adding them and
the prisoners of the eleventh-twelfth, to the actual casualties of
the retreat, on the same principle which we used when calculating the
losses of Moore’s army in the Corunna campaign, we should get a total
of 4,000 for the deficiency in the French ranks during the nine days
which elapsed between Wellesley’s passage of the Vouga and Soult’s
arrival at Orense. Thus it would seem that about one-sixth of the
2nd Corps had been destroyed in that short time--a proportion almost
exactly corresponding to that which Moore’s force left behind it in
the retreat from Sahagun to Corunna, wherein 6,000 men out of 33,000
were lost.

  [448] See mainly Le Noble’s calculation on pp. 353-4 of his
  _Campagne de 1809_.

  [449] The rest of Silveira’s prisoners were Hispano-Portuguese
  ‘legionaries,’ see p. 266.

  [450] Napier (ii. 113) says, ‘1,800 at Viana and Braga, 700 at
  Oporto,’ figures that should be reversed, for at the two last
  places only the sick of Heudelet’s and Lorges’ divisions were
  captured, while at Oporto the main central hospital fell into the
  hands of the British. Le Noble says that there were 2,150 men in
  hospital altogether on May 10.

  [451] See p. 341.

In other respects these two famous retreats afford some interesting
points of comparison. Moore had an infinitely longer distance to
cover: in mere mileage his men marched more than twice as far as
Soult’s[452]: their journey occupied twenty days as against nine. On
the other hand the French had to use far worse roads. From Benavente
to Corunna there is a good _chaussée_ for the whole distance:
from Baltar to Orense the 2nd Corps had to follow impracticable
mule-tracks for more than half the way. As to the weather, there
was perhaps little to choose between the two retreats: the nine
days of perpetual rain, during which Soult effected his passage of
four successive mountain chains, was almost as trying as the cold
and snow through which the British had to trudge. Moore’s men were
not so hardly pressed by starvation as the 2nd Corps, and they were
moving through a country-side which was not actively hostile, if it
could scarcely be described as friendly. On the other hand they were
pursued with far greater vigour than the French: their rearguard
was beset every day, and had constantly to be fighting, while
Soult’s troops were hard pressed only on two days--the sixteenth and
seventeenth of May. This advantage the Marshal gained by choosing an
unexpected line of retreat over obscure by-paths: if he had taken
either of the high-roads by Braga and Chaves his fate would have been
very different. On this same choice of roads depends another contrast
between the two retreats: to gain speed and safety Soult sacrificed
the whole of his artillery and his transport. When he arrived at
Orense, as one of his officers wrote, ‘the infantry had brought
off their bayonets and their eagles, the cavalry their horses and
saddles--everything else had been left behind--the guns, the stores,
the treasure, the sick.’ Moore, in spite of all the miseries of his
march, carried down to Corunna the whole of his artillery, part of
his transport, and the greater number of his sick and wounded. If
he lost his military chest, it was not from necessity but from the
mismanagement of the subordinates who had charge of it. His army was
in condition to fight a successful battle at the end of its retreat,
and so to win for itself a safe and honourable departure.

  [452] The respective distances seem to be about 255 and 120 miles.

Both generals, it will be observed, were driven into danger by causes
for which they did not regard themselves as responsible. Soult was
placed in peril by attempting to carry out his master’s impracticable
orders. Moore thought himself bound to run the risk, because he had
realized that there was a political necessity that the English army
should do something for the cause of Spain, for it could not with
honour retire to Portugal before it had struck a blow. In their
management of their respective campaigns both made mistakes. Moore
hurried his men too much, and did not take full advantage of the many
positions in which he could have held off the pursuer by judicious
rearguard actions. Soult’s faults were even greater: nothing can
excuse his stay at Oporto during the days when he should have been
directing Loison’s movements at Amarante. That stay was undoubtedly
due to his vain intrigues with the Portuguese malcontents; it was
personal ambition, not any military necessity, which detained him
from his proper place. Still more worthy of blame was his disposition
of his forces at the moment when the British troops crossed the
Vouga: they were scattered in a dangerous fashion, which made
concentration difficult and uncertain. But the weakest feature of his
whole conduct was that he allowed himself to be surprised in Oporto
by Wellesley on May 12. When an army in close touch with the enemy is
taken unawares at broad midday, by an irruption of its opponents into
the middle of the cantonments, the general-in-chief cannot shift the
blame on to the shoulders of subordinates. It was Soult’s duty to see
that his officers were taking all reasonable precautions to watch the
British, and he most certainly did not do so. Indeed, we have seen
that he turned all his attention to the point of least danger--the
lower reaches of the Douro--and neglected that on which the British
attack was really delivered. It was only when he found himself on
the verge of utter ruin, on May 13, that he rose to the occasion,
and saved his army, by the daring march upon Guimaraens which foiled
Wellesley’s plans for intercepting his retreat. To state that ‘his
reputation as a general was nowise diminished by his Portuguese
campaign’ is to do him more than justice[453]. It would be more true
to assert that he showed that if he could commit faults, he could
also do much towards repairing their consequences.

  [453] Napier, ii. 113.

As to Wellesley, it is not too much to say that the Oporto campaign
is one of his strongest titles to fame. He had, as we have already
seen, only 16,400 British and 11,400 Portuguese troops[454], of
whom the latter were either untried in the field or demoralized by
their previous experiences beyond the Douro. His superiority in mere
numbers to Soult’s corps of 23,000 men was therefore small, and he
was lamentably destitute of cavalry and artillery. It was no small
feat to expel the enemy from Northern Portugal in nine days, and to
cast him into Galicia, stripped of his guns and baggage, and with a
gap of more than 4,000 men in his ranks. This had been accomplished
at the expense of no more than 500 casualties, even when the soldiers
who fell by the way from sickness and fatigue are added to the 300
killed and wounded of the engagements of May 11, 12, and 17. There is
hardly a campaign in history in which so much was accomplished at so
small a cost. Wellesley had exactly carried out the programme which
he had set before himself when he left Lisbon--the defeat of the
enemy and the deliverance of the two provinces beyond the Douro. He
had expressly disclaimed any intention or expectation of destroying
or capturing the 2nd Corps[455], which some foreign critics have
ascribed to him in their anxiety to make out that he failed to
execute the whole project that he had taken in hand.

  [454] See p. 321.

  [455] ‘In respect to Soult, I shall omit nothing that I can do
  to destroy him--but I am afraid that with the force I have at my
  disposal, it is not in my power to prevent him retreating into
  Spain.’ Wellesley to Frere, May 9, 1809.

There was, it is true, one short moment at which he had it in his
power to deal Soult a heavier blow than he had contemplated. On the
night of May 12-13, when the Marshal in his bivouac at Baltar learnt
of Loison’s evacuation of Amarante, the main body of the 2nd Corps
was in a deplorable situation, and must have been destroyed, had
the British been close at hand. If Wellesley had pursued the flying
foe, on the afternoon of the victory of Oporto, with all his cavalry
and the less fatigued regiments of his infantry, nothing could have
saved the French. But the opportunity was one which could not have
been foreseen: no rational officer could have guessed that Loison
would evacuate Amarante, and so surrender his chief’s best line
of retreat. It was impossible that Wellesley should dream of such
a chance being thrown into his hands. He constructed his plans on
the natural hypothesis that Soult had still open to him the route
across the Tamega; and he was therefore more concerned with the idea
that Beresford might be in danger from the approach of Soult, than
with that of taking measures to capture the Marshal. His men were
fatigued with the long march of eighty miles in four days which had
taken them from the Mondego to Oporto: his guns and stores had not
yet passed the bridgeless Douro. It was natural, therefore, that he
should allow himself and his army a night’s rest before pressing on
in pursuit of Soult. It will be remembered that he did push Murray’s
brigade along the Baltar road in the tracks of the Marshal, but that
officer never came up with the French. If blame has to be allotted to
any one for the failure to discover the unhappy situation of the 2nd
Corps upon the morning of the thirteenth, it would seem that Murray
must bear the burden rather than the Commander-in-chief. He should
have kept touch, at all costs, with the retreating French, and if
he had done so would have been able to give Wellesley news of their
desperate plight.

As to the pursuit of Soult, between the fourteenth and the
eighteenth, it is hard to see that more could have been done than
was actually accomplished. ‘It is obvious,’ as Wellesley wrote to
Castlereagh, ‘that if an army throws away all its cannon, equipment,
and baggage, and everything that can strengthen it and enable it
to act together as a body; and if it abandons all those who are
entitled to its protection, but add to its weight and impede its
progress[456], it must be able to march by roads on which it can
not be followed, with any prospect of being overtaken, by an army
which has not made the same sacrifices[457].’ This puts the case in
a nutshell: Soult, after he had abandoned his sick and destroyed
his guns and wagons, could go much faster than his pursuers. The
only chance of catching him was that Beresford or Silveira might be
able to intercept him at the Misarella on the seventeenth. But the
troops of the former were so exhausted by their long march in the
rain from Amarante, that although they reached Chaves on the night
of the sixteenth-seventeenth, they were not in a condition to march
eighteen miles further on the following morning. Whether Silveira,
who had taken a shorter but a more rugged route than Beresford,
might not have reached Ruivaens ten or twelve hours earlier than
he did is another matter. Had he done so, he might have held the
cross-roads and blocked the way to Montalegre. We have no details of
his march, though we know that he had a bad mountain-path to traverse
in abominable weather. All military critics have joined in condemning
him[458], but without a more accurate knowledge of the obstacles that
he had to cross, and of the state of his troops, we can not be sure
of the exact amount of blame that should fall upon him. It is at any
rate clear that Wellesley was not responsible for the late arrival of
the Portuguese division at Ruivaens and the consequent escape of the

  [456] From Montalegre, May 18, 1809.

  [457] i.e. its sick and wounded.

  [458] Napier, Arteche, and Schepeler all agree in this, the
  former only making the excuse that Silveira may not have fully
  understood Beresford’s orders, owing to the difficulty of
  language. But Beresford spoke and wrote Portuguese fluently.

[Erratum from p. xii: A dispatch of Beresford at Lisbon clears up my
doubts as to Silveira’s culpability. Beresford complains that the
latter lost a whole day by marching from Amarante to Villa Pouca
without orders; the dispatch directing him to take the path by Mondim
thus reached him only when he had gone many miles on the wrong road.
The time lost could never be made up.]

Beyond Montalegre it would have been useless to follow the flying
French. An advance into Galicia would have taken the British army
too far from Lisbon, and have rendered it impossible to return in
time to the Tagus if Victor should be on the move. That marshal, as
we shall see, was showing signs of stirring from his long spell of
torpidity, and it was a dispatch from Mackenzie, containing the news
that the 1st Corps was on the move, that made Wellesley specially
anxious to check the pursuit, and to draw back to Central Portugal
before matters should come to a head in Estremadura. He could safely
calculate that it would be months rather than weeks before Soult
would be in a condition to cause any trouble on the northern frontier.

N.B.--There are admirable accounts of the horrors of Soult’s retreat
in the works of Le Noble, St. Chamans, Fantin des Odoards, and
Naylies. The pursuit of the main body of the English army is well
described by four eye-witnesses--Lord Londonderry, Stothert, Hawker,
and Lord Munster. For the march of Beresford’s corps I have only the
details given by Lord Gough’s letter, cited heretofore.





While following the fortunes of Soult and the 2nd Corps in Northern
Portugal, we have been constrained to withdraw our attention from
Galicia, where we left Marshal Ney busied in a vain attempt to beat
down the insurrections which had sprung up in every corner of the
kingdom, at the moment when the melting of the snows gave notice
that spring was at hand. It was with no good will that the Duke of
Elchingen had seen his colleague depart from Orense and plunge into
the Portuguese mountains. Indeed he had done his best to induce
Soult to disregard the Emperor’s orders, and to join him in a
strenuous effort to pacify Galicia before embarking on the march to
Oporto[459]. When he found that his appeal had failed to influence
the Duke of Dalmatia, and that the 2nd Corps had passed out of sight
and left the whole of Galicia upon his hands, he was constrained to
take stock of his position and to think out a plan of campaign.

  [459] See p. 192.

Ney had at his disposal some 17,000 men, consisting of the
twenty-four infantry battalions of his own corps, which formed the
two divisions of Marchand and Maurice Mathieu, of the two regiments
of his corps-cavalry, and of Fournier’s brigade of Lorges’ dragoons,
which Soult, by the Emperor’s orders, had transferred to him before
crossing the Minho. Among his resources it would not be fair to count
the two garrisons at Vigo and Tuy which the 2nd Corps had left
behind it. They numbered more than 4,000 men, but were so placed as
to be more of a charge than a help to Ney. They failed to keep him in
touch with Soult, and their necessities distracted some of his troops
to their aid when he was requiring every man for other purposes.

On March 10, when he was left to his own resources, Ney had
concentrated the greater part of his corps in the north-western
corner of Galicia. He had placed one brigade at Lugo, a second with
Fournier’s dragoons at Mondonedo, in observation of the Asturias,
a third at Santiago, the remainder at Corunna and Ferrol. The
outlying posts had been called in, save a garrison at Villafranca,
the important half-way stage between Lugo and Astorga, where the
Marshal had left a battalion of the 26th regiment, to keep open his
communication with the plains of Leon. The insurgents were already so
active that touch with this detachment was soon lost, the peasants
having cut the road both east and west of Villafranca.

The whole month of March was spent in a ceaseless endeavour to keep
down the rising in Northern Galicia: the southern parts of the
kingdom had been practically abandoned, and the French had no hold
there save through the garrisons of Tuy and Vigo, both of which (as
we have seen in an earlier chapter) were blockaded by the local
levies the moment that Soult had passed on into Portugal.

Ney’s object was to crush and cow the insurgents of Northern Galicia
by the constant movement of flying columns, which marched out from
the towns when his brigades were established, and made descents on
every district where the peasantry had assembled in strength. This
policy had little success: it was easy to rout the Galicians and to
burn their villages, but the moment that the column had passed on
the enemy returned to occupy his old positions. The campaign was
endless and inconclusive: it was of little use to kill so many scores
or hundreds of peasants, if no attempt was made to hold down the
districts through which the expedition had passed. This could not
be done for sheer want of numbers: 16,000 men were not sufficient
to garrison the whole of the mountain valleys and coast villages of
this rugged land. The French columns went far afield, even as far
as Corcubion on the headland of Cape Finisterre, and Ribadeo on the
borders of Asturias: but though they scathed the whole region with
fire and sword, they made no impression. Moreover, they suffered
serious losses: every expedition lost a certain number of stragglers
cut off by the peasantry, and of foragers who had wandered too far
from the main body in search of food. All were murdered: for the
populace, mad at the burning of their homes and the lifting of their
cattle--their only wealth--never gave quarter to the unfortunate
soldiers who fell into their hands.

It is curious and interesting to compare Ney’s actual operations
with the orders which the Emperor had sent to him[460]. In these he
was directed to establish his head quarters at Lugo, and to leave no
more than a regiment at Ferrol and another regiment at Betanzos and
Corunna. He was to keep a movable column of three battalions at work
between Santiago and Tuy, to ‘make examples’ and prevent the English
from landing munitions for the insurgents. With the rest of his
corps, five regiments of infantry and a brigade of cavalry, he was
to establish himself at Lugo, and from thence to send out punitive
expeditions against rebellious villages, to seize hostages, to lend
aid if necessary to Soult’s operations in Portugal, and finally ‘to
utilize the months of March and April, when there is nothing to fear
on the Galician coasts, for an expedition to conquer the Asturias.’
Here we have all Napoleon’s illusions concerning the character of the
Peninsular War very clearly displayed. He supposes that a movable
column of one regiment can hold down a rugged coast region one
hundred miles long, where 20,000 insurgents are in arms. He thinks
that punitive expeditions, and the taking of hostages, will keep a
province quiet without there being any need to establish garrisons
in it. ‘Organize Galicia,’ he writes, ‘make examples, for severe
examples well applied are much more effective than garrisons....
Leave the policing of the country to the Spanish authorities. If you
cannot occupy every place, you can watch every place: if you cannot
hold every shore-battery to prevent communication with the English,
you can charge the natives with this duty. Your movable columns will
punish any of the people of the coast who behave badly.’

  [460] Napoleon to Ney, from Paris, Feb. 18, 1809.

To Ney, when he received this dispatch, many weeks after it had been
written, all this elaborate advice must have appeared very futile.
Considering the present attitude of the whole population of Galicia,
he must have been much amused at the proposal that he should entrust
them with the task of keeping off the British, should ‘organize’
them, and ‘make them police themselves.’ As to ‘severe examples’ he
had now been burning villages and shooting monks and alcaldes for two
months and more: but the only result was that the insurrection flared
up more fiercely, and that his own stragglers and foragers were being
hung and tortured every day. As to the idea of movable columns, he
had (on his own inspiration) sent Maucune to carry out precisely the
operations that the Emperor desired in the country between Santiago
and Tuy. The column had to fight every day, and held down not one
foot of territory beyond the outskirts of its own camp. And now, in
the midst of all his troubles, he was ordered to attempt the conquest
of the Asturias, no small undertaking in itself. The Emperor’s letter
ended with the disquieting note that ‘no further reinforcements can
be sent to Galicia. It is much more likely that it may be necessary
to transfer to some other point one of the two divisions of the Sixth

  [461] ‘Ne comptez sur aucun renfort: croyez plutôt qu’on pourrait
  être dans le cas de porter ailleurs une de vos divisions.’

We have hitherto had little occasion to mention the two Spanish
regular armies on which Ney, in addition to all his troubles with
the insurgents, had to keep a watchful eye. The first was the force
in the principality of Asturias, which had been lost to sight since
the day on which it fled homeward after the battle of Espinosa. The
second consisted of the much-tried troops of La Romana, who since
their escape from Monterey had enjoyed some weeks of comparative
rest, and were once more ready to move.

The Asturian force was far the larger in point of numbers, and ought
to have made its influence felt long ere now. But even more than
the other Spaniards, the Asturians were given over to particularism
and provincial selfishness. In 1808 they had done nothing for
the common cause save that they had lent the single division of
Acevedo--comprising about half their provincial levy[462]--to
the army which Blake led to defeat in Biscay. After Espinosa this
corps had not retired with La Romana to Leon, but had fallen back
within the frontier of its native principality, and had joined the
large reserve which had never gone forward from Oviedo. During the
three winter months, the Asturians had contented themselves with
reorganizing and increasing the numbers of their battalions, and with
guarding the passes of the Cantabrian chain. They had refused to send
either men or money to La Romana, thereby provoking his righteous
indignation, and furnishing him with a grudge which he repaid in due
season. When he was driven away from their neighbourhood, and forced
to retire towards Portugal, they still kept quiet behind their hills,
and made but the weakest of attempts to distract the attention of the
enemy. There were at first no French forces near them save Bonnet’s
single division at Santander, which was fully occupied in holding
down the Montaña, and a provisional brigade at Leon consisting of
some stray battalions of the dissolved Eighth Corps[463]. As neither
of these forces had any considerable reserves behind them[464], when
once Ney and Soult had passed on into Galicia, it is clear that a
demonstration in force against Santander or Leon would have thrown
dismay along the whole line of the French communications, and have
disarranged all the Emperor’s plans for further advance.

  [462] Acevedo’s division, deducting the regular troops [Hibernia
  (two batts.), and Provincial of Oviedo], had some 6,000 men:
  while 5,200 remained behind in Asturias. See pp. 632 and 637 of
  vol. i.

  [463] Apparently consisting in February of three battalions and a
  Spanish Legion which Napoleon had organized out of the prisoners
  of Blake’s and La Romana’s armies: 2,998 men in all. The
  Legion waited till it had received arms and clothing, and then
  deserted _en masse_ and went to join the insurgents. For angry
  correspondence on this incident see Napoleon to King Joseph, Feb.
  20, and King Joseph to Napoleon, March 7, 1809.

  [464] The total of French troops in Old Castile, garrisoning
  Valladolid, Soria, Palencia, and Burgos, &c., was only 5,342 men.
  Nothing was disposable for field operations save Kellermann’s
  division of dragoons. In Biscay, behind Bonnet, there were only
  1,762 men, and in Alava 876. Practically nothing could have been
  sent to reinforce Leon or Santander, till Mortier’s corps came up.

The only operation, however, which the Asturians undertook was a
petty raid into Galicia with 3,000 or 4,000 men, who went to beat
up Ney’s detachment at Mondonedo on April 10, and were driven off
with ease[465]. The Junta had fully 20,000 men under arms, but they
contrived to be weak at every point by trying to guard every point.
They had sent, to observe Bonnet, the largest body of their troops,
nearly 10,000 men, under General Ballasteros: he had taken up the
line of the Deba, and lay with his head quarters at Colombres,
skirmishing occasionally with the French outposts. At the pass of
Pajares, watching the main road that descends into the plain of
Leon, were 3,000 men, and 2,000 more at La Mesa guarded a minor
defile. Another division of 4,000 bayonets was at Castropol, facing
Ney’s detachment which had occupied Mondonedo: this was the column
which had made the feeble advance in April to which we have already
alluded. Finally, a Swiss Lieutenant-General named Worster lay at
Oviedo, the capital of the principality, with a small reserve of
2,000 men[466]. It does not seem that Cienfuegos, the Captain-General
of Asturias, exercised any real authority, as the Junta took upon
itself the settling of every detail of military affairs[467]. Thus
a whole army was wasted by being distributed all along the narrow
province, awaiting an attack from an enemy who was far too weak to
dream of advancing, and who, as a matter of fact, did not move till
May. La Romana might well be indignant that the Asturians had done
practically nothing for the cause of Spain from December to March,
especially since they had obtained more than their share of the
British arms and money[468] which had been distributed in the autumn
of 1808.

  [465] For this fiasco see Toreno, i. pp. 400-1.

  [466] These dispositions of the Asturian army, which have never
  before been published, are taken from a dispatch from the Junta
  at Oviedo, which Mr. Frere sent to Lord Castlereagh on March 24
  [Record Office]. The regiments were:--

  At Colombres, under Maj.-General F. Ballasteros:
    Luanco, Castropol, Navia, Luarca, Villaviciosa, Llanes, Cangas
    de Oñis, Cangas de Tineo, Don Carlos.

  At Pajares and Farna, under Brigadier Don Christoval Lili:
    Siero, Provincial of Oviedo, Covadonga.

  At La Mesa, under Brigadier Don F. Manglano:
    Riva de Sella, Pravia.

  At Castropol, under Colonel T. Valdez:
    Lena, Grado, Salas, Ferdinando VII.

  At Oviedo, under Lieut.-General Worster:
     Gijon, Infiesto.

  The Junta report that they have over 20,000 men, the regiments
  being very strong, some of them reaching 1,200 bayonets, or even

  [467] Carrol to La Romana, March 28, ‘The Junta, in fact, command
  the armies in every respect. They have absolute power, and
  have rendered themselves highly obnoxious to the people of the
  province, and are at present entirely guided by the will and
  caprice of three or four individuals...’

  [468] Such also was the opinion of Captain Carrol, the British
  representative at Oviedo. He writes to Castlereagh on Feb. 10 in
  the following terms: ‘I am sorry to have to represent that the
  supplies hitherto granted to this province have not been applied
  (to use the mildest expressions) with that judgment and economy
  that might have been expected, and that the benefits resulting to
  this province and the common cause are by no means proportionate
  to the liberality with which those supplies were granted by the
  British Government’ [Record Office]. Toreno, as a patriotic
  Asturian, hushes up all these scandals.

Ney’s new troubles in April did not spring from the activity of the
Asturian troops, but from that of the much-battered army of Galicia,
which was destined in this month to achieve the first success that
had cheered its depleted ranks since the combat of Guenes. When
La Romana, on March 8, had found himself free from the pursuit of
Franceschi’s cavalry, he had marched by leisurely stages to Puebla de
Senabria on the borders of Leon. He doubted for a moment whether he
should not turn southward and drop down, along the edge of Portugal,
to Ciudad Rodrigo, the nearest place of strength in Spanish hands.
But, after much consideration, he resolved to leave behind him the
weakest of his battalions and his numerous sick, together with his
small provision of artillery, and to strike back into Galicia with
the best of his men. It would seem that he was inspired partly by the
desire of cutting Ney’s communications, partly by the wish to get
into touch with the Asturians, whose torpidity he was determined to
stir up into action. Accordingly he left at Puebla de Senabria his
guns and about 2,000 men, the skeletons of many ruined regiments,
under General Martin La Carrera, while with the 6,000 infantry that
remained he resolved to cross the Sierra Negra and throw himself
into the upper valley of the Sil. The road by Corporales and the
sources of the Cabrera torrent proved to be abominable; if the army
had possessed cannon or baggage it could not have reached its goal.
But after several hard marches La Romana descended to Ponferrada on
March 16. He learnt that the insurrection had compelled the French to
concentrate all their small posts, and that there was no enemy nearer
than Villafranca on the one hand and Astorga on the other. Thus he
found himself able to take possession of the high-road from Astorga
to Lugo, and to make use of all the resources of the Vierzo, and
of Eastern Galicia. He might have passed on undisturbed, if he had
chosen, to join the Asturians. But learning that the French garrison
at Villafranca was completely isolated, he resolved to risk a blow at
it, in the hopes that he might reduce it before Ney could learn of
his arrival and come down from Lugo to its aid. He was ill prepared
for a siege, for he had but one gun with him--a 12-pounder which he
had abandoned in January when retreating from Ponferrada to Orense,
and which he now picked up intact, with its store of ammunition, at a
mountain hermitage, where it had been safely hidden for two months.

Marching on Villafranca next day he fell upon the French before
they had any conception that there was a hostile force in their
neighbourhood. He beat them out of the town into the citadel after a
sharp skirmish, and then surrounded them in their refuge, and began
to batter its gates with his single gun. If the garrison could have
held out for a few days they would probably have been relieved, for
Ney was but three marches distant. But the governor, regarding the
old castle as untenable against artillery, surrendered at the first
summons. Thus La Romana captured a whole battalion of the 6th Léger,
600 strong[469], together with several hundreds more of convalescents
and stragglers who had been halted at Villafranca, owing to the
impossibility of sending small detachments through the mountains[470]
when the insurgents were abroad[471].

  [469] The number of unwounded prisoners was 574, that of killed
  and wounded nearly 700.

  [470] The captives were sent off immediately into the Asturias.
  Carrol saw them arrive at Oviedo.

  [471] There is a long dispatch of Mendizabal to La Romana in the
  Record Office, giving details of the storm of Villafranca, which
  was all over in four hours.

Having accomplished this successful stroke La Romana was desirous
of pursuing his way to the Asturias, where he was determined to
make his power felt[472]. He took with him only one regiment (that
of La Princesa, one of his old corps from the Baltic), and handed
over the temporary command of the army to General Mahy, with orders
to hold on to the Vierzo as long as possible, but to retire on the
Asturias if Ney came up against him in force. The Marshal, however,
did not move from Lugo; when he heard of the fall of the garrison of
Villafranca, he was already so much entangled with the insurrection
that he could spare no troops for an expedition to the Vierzo. In
order to reopen the communication with Astorga he would have had to
call in his outlying brigades, and at the present moment he was more
concerned about the fate of Tuy and Vigo than about the operations of
La Romana. Accordingly, Mahy was left unmolested for the greater part
of a month in his cantonments along the banks of the Sil; it was a
welcome respite for the much-wandering army of Galicia.

  [472] Captain Carrol had written to him a few days before to beg
  him to hasten to Oviedo: ‘I strongly advise your Excellency’s
  repairing to this city (Oviedo), and adopting such plans and
  measures for the better government of the province and the active
  operations of the army as your Excellency shall think meet.’
  There were similar appeals from Spanish officers discontented
  with the Junta.

Romana meanwhile betook himself to Oviedo with his escort, and on
arriving there on April 4 entered into a furious controversy with
the Junta. Finding them obstinate, and not disposed to carry out
his plans without discussion, he finally executed a petty _coup
d’état_[473]. It bears an absurd resemblance to Cromwell’s famous
dissolution of the Long Parliament. Coming into their council-room,
with Colonel Joseph O’Donnell and fifty grenadiers of the Princesa
regiment, he delivered an harangue to the members, accusing them of
all manner of maladministration and provincial selfishness. Then he
signed to his soldiers and bade them clear the room[474].

  [473] It may be worth while to quote the opening clauses of
  La Romana’s proclamation explaining his _coup d’état_; it is
  dated the day after his ‘purge’ of the Junta: a copy exists in
  the Record Office, forwarded to Castlereagh by Carrol:--‘Me es
  forzoso manifestar con mucho sentimiento que la actual Junta
  de Asturias, aunque de las mas favorecidas por la generosidad
  britannica en toda classe de subsidios, es la que menos ha
  coadyuvado a la grande y heroyca empresa de arrojar a los
  enemigos de nuestro patrio suelo. Formada esta Junta por intriga,
  y por la prepotencia de algunos sugetos y familias conexionadas,
  se propuse arrogarse un poder absoluto e indefinido: serven los
  individuos mutuamente en sus proyectos y despiques, desechan con
  pretextos infundidos y aun calumniosos al que no subscribiese a
  ellos, y contentan a los menesterosos con comisiones o encargos
  de interes,’ &c.

  [474] Carrol, who was an eye-witness of the scene, thought that
  the Marquis ‘had re-formed the Junta in the most quiet, peaceable
  and masterly manner.’ The last epithet seems the most appropriate
  of the three. Carrol to Castlereagh, April 10, 1809 [in Record

La Romana then, on his own authority, nominated a new Junta; but
many of its members refused to act, doubting the legality of his
action, while the dispossessed delegates kept up a paper controversy,
and sent reams of objurgatory letters to the Government at Seville.
Ballasteros and his army, at the other side of the Principality,
seem to have paid little attention to La Romana, but the Marquis so
far got his way that he began to send much-needed stores, medicines,
munitions, and clothing to his troops in the Vierzo. He even
succeeded in procuring a few field-pieces for them[475], which were
dragged with difficulty over the passes viâ Cangas de Tineo.

  [475] Letters of La Romana to Mahy in Appendix to Arteche, vol.
  vi. p. 145.

Thus strengthened Mahy, much to his chief’s displeasure, advanced
from the Vierzo towards Lugo, with the intention of beating up the
French brigade there stationed. He took post at Navia de Suarna, just
outside the borders of the Asturias, and called to his standards all
the peasantry of the surrounding region. La Romana wrote him urgent
letters, directing him to avoid a battle and to await his own return.
‘He should remember that it was the policy of Fabius Maximus that
saved Rome, and curb his warlike zeal[476].’ It is satisfactory to
find that one Spanish general at least was free from that wild desire
for pitched battles that possessed most of his contemporaries.

  [476] Ibid., p. 146.

Mahy, thus warned, halted in his march towards Lugo, and remained in
his cantonments in the valley of the Navia. His chief should have
returned to him, but lingered at Oviedo till April was over, busy
in the work of reorganization and in the forwarding of supplies.
Meanwhile the French hold on Southern Galicia had completely
disappeared: Vigo had fallen in March, Tuy had been evacuated.
Maucune’s column had cut its way back to Santiago with some
difficulty, bringing to Ney the news of Soult’s capture of Oporto,
but also the assurance that the whole valley of the Minho and the
western coast-land had passed into the hands of the insurgents.

What the Duke of Elchingen’s next move would have been, if he had not
received further intelligence from without, we cannot say. But in the
first week in May the long-lost communication with Madrid was at last
reopened, and he was ordered to take his part in a new and broad plan
of operations against La Romana’s army and the Asturias.

Ever since La Romana had stormed Villafranca, and all news from
Galicia had been completely cut off, King Joseph and his adviser
Jourdan had been in a state of great fear and perplexity as to the
condition of affairs in the north-west. Soult had long passed out of
their ken, and now Ney also was lost to sight. In default of accurate
information they received all manner of lugubrious rumours from
Leon and Astorga, and imagined that the Sixth Corps was in far more
desperate straits than was actually the case. Fearing the worst, they
resolved to find out, at all costs, what was going on in Galicia.
To do so it was necessary to fit out an expedition sufficiently
strong to brush aside the insurgents and communicate with Ney.
Troops, however, were hard to find. Lapisse had already marched
from Salamanca to join Victor. In Old Castile and Leon there were
but Kellermann’s dragoons and a few garrisons, none of which could
leave their posts. Marshal Bessières, to whom the general charge of
the northern provinces had been given by the Emperor, could show
conclusively that he was not able to equip a column of even 5,000 men
for service in Galicia.

The only quarter whence troops could be procured was Aragon, where
everything had remained quiet since the fall of Saragossa. The
Emperor had issued orders that of the two corps which had taken part
in the siege, the Third only should remain to hold down the conquered
kingdom: hence Mortier and the Fifth should have been disposable to
reinforce the troops in Old Castile. But, with the Austrian war upon
his hands, Napoleon was thinking of withdrawing Mortier and his
15,000 men from Spain. In a dispatch dated April 10, he announced
that the Marshal was to retire from Aragon to Logroño in Navarre,
from whence he might possibly be recalled to France if circumstances
demanded it[477]. At the same moment King Joseph was writing to
Mortier to summon him into Old Castile, and pointing out to him that
the safety of the whole of Northern Spain depended upon his presence.
Much perplexed by these contradictory orders, the Duke of Treviso
took a half-measure, and marched to Burgos, which was actually in Old
Castile, but lay only three marches from Logroño and upon the direct
route to France. A few days later the Emperor, moved by his brother’s
incessant appeals, and seeing that it was all-important to reopen
the communication between Ney and Soult, permitted Mortier to march
to Valladolid, where he was in a good position for holding down the
entire province of Old Castile. He also gave leave to the King to
employ for an expedition to Galicia the two regiments of the Third
Corps, which had escorted the prisoners of Saragossa to Bayonne, and
which were now on their homeward way to join their division in Aragon.

  [477] Napoleon to Joseph, from Paris, April 10, 1809.

It was thus possible to get together enough troops to open the
way to Galicia. The charge of the expedition was handed over to
Kellermann, who was given his own dragoons, the two regiments from
Bayonne, a stray battalion of Leval’s Germans from Segovia, a Polish
battalion from Buitrago, and a provisional regiment organized from
belated details of the Second and Sixth Corps, which had been lying
in various garrisons of Castile and Leon[478]. He had altogether
some 7,000 or 8,000 men, whom he concentrated at Astorga on April
27. Marching on Villafranca he met no regular opposition, but was
harassed by the way by the peasantry, who had abandoned their
villages and retired into the hills. Mahy had moved off the main
road by making his advance to Navia de Suarna, and was not sighted
by Kellermann, nor did the Spaniard think fit to meddle with such a
powerful force as that which was now passing him.

  [478] For details concerning the composition of this expedition
  see Jourdan’s _Mémoires_, p. 196.

On May 2 the column reached Lugo, where it fell in with Maurice
Mathieu’s division of the Sixth Corps, and obtained full information
as to Ney’s position. The Marshal was absent at Corunna, but sent his
chief of the staff to meet Kellermann and concert with him a common
plan of operations. It was settled that they should concentrate their
attention on La Romana and the Asturians, leaving southern Galicia
alone for the present, and taking no heed of Soult, of whom they had
received no news for a full month.

For the destruction of the Spanish armies of the north a concentric
movement was planned. Ney undertook to concentrate the main body
of his corps at Lugo, and to fall on the Asturians from the west,
crushing Mahy on the way. He stipulated, however, that he should
be allowed to return to Galicia as quickly as possible, lest the
insurgents should make havoc of his garrisons during his absence.
Kellermann was to retrace his steps to Astorga and Leon, and from
thence to march on the Asturias by the pass of Pajares, its great
southern outlet. At the same moment Bonnet at Santander was to be
requested to fall on from the east, and to attack Ballasteros and the
division that lay behind the Deba.

When it was reported to Mahy and La Romana that Kellermann had
turned back from Lugo, and was retreating upon Astorga, they failed
to grasp the meaning of his movement, and came to the conclusion
that his expedition had been sent out with no purpose save that
of communicating with Ney. Unconscious that a simultaneous attack
from all sides was being prepared against them, they failed to
concentrate. By leaving small ‘containing’ detachments at the
outlying posts, they could have massed 20,000 men against any one of
the French columns: but they failed to see their opportunity and were
caught in a state of complete dispersion. Ballasteros with 9,000 men
still lay opposite Bonnet; Worster at Castropol did not unite with
Mahy’s army at Navia de Suarna; and La Romana remained at Oviedo with
two regiments only.

Hence came hopeless disaster when the French attack was at last
let loose upon the Asturias. On May 13 the Duke of Elchingen drew
together at Lugo four of the eight infantry regiments which formed
the Sixth Corps, with two of his four cavalry regiments, and eight
mountain-guns carried by mules. This formed a compact force of 6,500
bayonets and 900 sabres[479]. He left behind him four battalions and
a cavalry regiment under Maucune at Santiago, the same force under
the cavalry brigadier Fournier at Lugo, two battalions at Corunna,
one at Betanzos, and one at Ferrol.

  [479] The force that marched on the Asturias was composed of the
  25th Léger, 27th and 59th of Maurice Mathieu’s division, the 39th
  from Marchand’s, the 3rd Hussars, and 25th Dragoons.

  Maucune’s detachment consisted of two battalions each of the 6th
  Léger and the 76th, with the 15th Chasseurs and one battery.

  Fournier’s detachment was composed of the 15th Dragoons, two
  battalions of the 69th, and one of the 76th.

The obvious route by which the Marshal might have advanced on Oviedo
was the coast-road by Mondonedo and Castropol, which Worster was
guarding. But in order to save time and to fall upon the enemy on an
unexpected line, he took a shorter but more rugged mountain road by
Meyra and Ibias, which led him into the valley of the Navia. This
brought him straight upon Mahy’s army: but that general, when he learnt
of the strength that was directed against him, retreated in haste after
a skirmish at Pequin, and fled, not to the Asturias, but westward into
the upper valley of the Minho. [May 14.] This move was vexatious to
Ney, who would have preferred to drive him on to Oviedo, to share in
the general rout that was being prepared for the Asturians. The Marshal
refused to follow him, and pushed on to Cangas de Tineo in the valley
of the Narcea, capturing there a large convoy of food and ammunition
which was on its way from La Romana to Mahy. On May 17 he hurried on
to Salas, on the 18th he was at the bridge of Gallegos on the Nora
river, only ten miles from Oviedo. Here for the first time he met with
serious opposition: hitherto he had suffered from nothing but casual
‘sniping’ on the part of the peasantry. His march had been so rapid
that La Romana had only heard of his approach on the seventeenth[480],
and had not been able to call in any of his outlying detachments.
The Marquis was forced to attempt to defend the passage of the Nora
with nothing more than his small central reserve--the one Galician
regiment (La Princesa, only 600 bayonets) that he had brought with him
from Villafranca, and one Asturian battalion--not more than 1,500 men.
Naturally he was routed with great loss, though Ney allows that the
Princesa regiment made a creditable defence at the bridge[481]. The
Spanish troops therefore dispersed and fled eastward, while Romana rode
down to the seaport of Gijon and took ship on a Spanish sloop of war
along with the members of his Junta. The Marshal seized Oviedo on the
nineteenth: the place was pillaged in the most thorough fashion by his
troops. In his dispatch he makes the excuse that a few peasants had
attempted to defend some barricades in the suburbs, and that they, not
the soldiery, had begun the sack. _Credat Judaeus Apella!_ The ways
of the bands of Napoleon are too well known, and we shall not believe
that it was Spaniards who stole the cathedral plate, or tore the bones
of the early kings of Asturias from their resting-places in search of
treasure[482]. On May 20 Ney marched with one regiment down to Gijon,
where he found 250,000 lbs. of powder newly landed from England, and
a quantity of military stores. An English merchantman was captured
and another burnt[483]. A detached column occupied Aviles, the second
seaport of the Asturias.

  [480] Carrol gives an excellent account of the French invasion
  in a long dispatch written from Vigo on June 3. He says that the
  Marquis only heard of Ney’s approach by the peasants flying from
  Cangas de Tineo on the morning of May 17. He himself was sent
  out to verify the incredible information, and came on the French
  as they were crossing the Navia, only thirty miles from Oviedo.
  He rode back in haste, and met one Asturian battalion coming up,
  and afterwards the regiment of La Princesa. Romana had no other
  troops, and only a few hundred half-armed peasantry joined in the
  defence of the bridge of Gallegos.

  [481] ‘Ce dernier pont de Gallegos fut assez bien défendu par le
  régiment de la Princesse, mais néanmoins il fut enlevé, ainsi
  qu’une pièce de douze.’ Ney to King Joseph, Oviedo, May 21.

  [482] ‘Les magasins et les plus riches maisons de la ville furent
  pillés par les paysans et la populace. Ces malheureux, ivres
  d’eau-de-vie, entreprirent de défendre la ville et firent feu
  dans toutes les rues.’ Ney to King Joseph, Oviedo, May 21.

  [483] They were called the Pique and the Plutus. Carrol was
  nearly captured while burning the latter, and escaped in an open

On the following day, May 21, a detachment sent inland from Oviedo
up the valley of the Lena, with orders to search for the column
coming from the south, got into touch with that force. Kellermann
had duly reached Leon, where he found orders directing him to send
back to Aragon the two regiments of the Third Corps which had been
lent him[484], and to take instead a division of Mortier’s corps,
which was now disposable for service in the north. Accordingly he
picked up Girard’s (late Suchet’s) division, and leaving one of its
brigades at Leon, marched with the other and the remainder of his
original force, to storm the defiles of Pajares. He had with him
between 6,000 and 7,000 troops, a force with which he easily routed
the Asturian brigade of 3,000 men under Colonel Quixano, which had
been set to guard the pass. At the end of two days of irregular
fighting, Kellermann descended into the valley of the Lena and met
Ney’s outposts on May 21. The routed enemy dispersed among the hills.

  [484] The 116th and 117th of Morlot’s division.

It remains to speak of the third French column which started to
invade the Asturias, that of Bonnet. This general marched from
Santander on May 17 with 5,000 men, intending to attack Ballasteros,
and force his way to Oviedo by the coast-road that passes by San
Vincente de la Barquera and Villaviciosa. But he found no one to
fight, for Ballasteros had been summoned by La Romana to defend
Oviedo, and had started off by the inland road viâ Cangas de Oñis and
Infiesto. The two armies therefore were marching parallel to each
other, with rough mountains between them. On reaching Infiesto on
May 21, Ballasteros heard of the fall of Oviedo and of the forcing
of the pass of Pajares: seeing that it would be useless to run into
the lion’s mouth by proceeding any further, he fell back into the
mountains, and took refuge in the upland valley of Covadonga, the
site of King Pelayo’s famous victory over the Moors in the year 718.
Here he remained undiscovered, and was gradually joined by the wrecks
of the force which Ney had routed at Oviedo, including O’Donnell and
the Princesa regiment. Bonnet passed him without discovering his
whereabouts, advanced as far as Infiesto and Villaviciosa, and got
into touch with Kellermann.

Thus the three French columns had all won their way into the heart
of the Asturias, but though they had seized its capital and its
seaports, they had failed to catch its army, and only half their task
had been performed. Of all the Asturian troops only the two small
forces at Oviedo and Pajares had been met and routed. Worster had not
been molested, Mahy had doubled back into Galicia, Ballasteros had
gone up into the mountains. If the invasion was to have any definite
results, it was necessary to hunt down all these three divisions.
But there was no time to do so: Ney was anxious about his Galician
garrisons; Bonnet remembered that he had left Santander in charge of
a weak detachment of no more than 1,200 men. Both refused to remain
in the Asturias, or to engage in a long stern chase after the elusive
Spaniards, among the peaks of the Peñas de Europa and the Sierras
Albas. They decided that Kellermann with his 7,000 men must finish
the business. Accordingly they departed each to his own province--and
it was high time, for their worst expectations had been fulfilled.
Mahy in the west and Ballasteros in the east had each played the
correct game, and had fallen upon the small garrisons left exposed in
their rear. Moreover, the insurgents of Southern Galicia had crossed
the Ulla and marched on Santiago. If Ney had remained ten days longer
in the Asturias, it is probable that he would have returned to find
the half of the Sixth Corps which he had left in Galicia absolutely

The Marshal, however, was just in time to prevent this disaster.
Handing over the charge of the principality to Kellermann, he marched
off on May 22 by the coast-road which leads to Galicia by the route
of Navia, Castropol, and Ribadeo. He hoped to deal with Worster by
the way, having learnt that the Swiss general had advanced from
Castropol by La Romana’s orders, and was moving cautiously in the
direction of Oviedo. But Worster was fortunate enough to escape: he
went up into the mountains when he heard that Ney was near, and had
the satisfaction of learning that the Marshal had passed him by. The
rivers being in flood, and the bridges broken, the French had a slow
and tiresome march to Ribadeo, which they only reached on May 26.
Next day the Duke of Elchingen was at Castropol, where he received
the news that Lugo had been in the gravest peril, and had only been
relieved by the unexpected appearance of Soult and the Second Corps
from the direction of Orense.

The sequence of events during the Marshal’s absence had been
as follows. When Mahy found that he had escaped pursuit, he had
immediately made up his mind to strike at the French garrisons. He
tried to persuade Worster to join him, or to attack Ferrol, but could
not induce him to quit the Asturias. So with his own 6,000 men Mahy
marched on Lugo, beat General Fournier (who came out to meet him)
in a skirmish outside the walls, and drove him into the town. Lugo
had no fortification save a mediaeval wall, and the Spaniards were
in great hopes of storming it, as they had stormed Villafranca. But
when they had lain two days before the place, they were surprised to
hear that a large French force was marching against them; it was not
Ney returning from the Asturias, but the dilapidated corps of Soult
retreating from Orense. Wisely refusing to face an army of 19,000
men, Mahy raised the siege and retired to Villalba in the folds of
the Sierra de Loba. On May 22 Soult entered Lugo, where he was at
last able to give his men nine days’ rest, and could begin to cast
about him for means to refit them with the proper equipment of an
army, for, as we have seen, they were in a condition of absolute
destitution and wholly unable to take the field.

At Castropol Ney heard at one and the same moment that Lugo had
been in danger and that it had been relieved. But he also received
news of even greater importance from another quarter. Maucune and
the detachment which he had left at Santiago had been defeated in
the open field by the insurgents of Southern Galicia, and had been
compelled to fall back on Corunna. This was now the point of danger,
wherefore the Marshal neither moved to join Soult at Lugo, nor set
himself to hunt Mahy in the mountains, but marched straight for
Corunna to succour Maucune.

The force which had defeated that general consisted in the main of
the insurgents who had beleaguered Tuy and Vigo in March and April.
They were now under Morillo and Garcia del Barrio, who were beginning
to reduce them to some sort of discipline, and were organizing them
into battalions and companies. But the core of the ‘Division of the
Minho,’ as this force was now called, was composed of the small body
of regulars which La Romana had left at Puebla de Senabria, under
Martin La Carrera. That officer, after giving his feeble detachment
some weeks of rest, had marched via Monterey and Orense to join the
insurrectionary army. He brought with him nine guns and 2,000 men. On
May 22 Carrera and Morillo crossed the Ulla and advanced on Santiago
with 10,000 men, of whom only 7,000 possessed firearms. Maucune
came forth to meet them in the Campo de Estrella[485], outside the
city, with his four battalions and a regiment of chasseurs, thinking
to gain an easy success when the enemy offered him battle in the
open. But he was outnumbered by three to one, and as the Galicians
showed much spirit and stood steadily to their guns, he was repulsed
with loss. Carrera then attacked in his turn, drove the French into
Santiago, chased them through the town, and pursued them for a
league beyond it. Maucune was wounded, and lost 600 men--a fifth of
his whole force--and two guns. He fell back in disorder on Corunna.
He had the audacity to write to Ney that he had retired after an
indecisive combat: but the Marshal, reading between the lines of his
dispatch, hastened to Corunna with all the troops which had returned
from the Asturias, and did not consider the situation secure till he
learnt that Carrera had not advanced from Santiago.

  [485] The plain from which Santiago gets its name of Santiago de

Leaving his main body opposite the ‘Division of the Minho,’ the Duke
of Elchingen now betook himself to Lugo, to concert a joint plan of
operation with Soult [May 30]. The results of their somewhat stormy
conference must be told in another chapter.

Meanwhile the situation behind them was rapidly changing. On May 24
La Romana, who had landed at Ribadeo, rejoined Mahy and his army
at Villalba. The Marquis, on surveying the situation, came to the
conclusion that it was too dangerous to remain in the northern angle
of Galicia, between the French army at Lugo and the sea. He resolved
to return to the southern region of the province, and to get into
touch with Carrera and the troops on the Minho. He therefore bade
his army prepare for another forced march across the mountains. They
murmured but obeyed, and, cautiously slipping past Soult’s corps by
a flank movement, crossed the high-road to Villafranca and reached
Monforte de Lemos. From thence they safely descended to Orense,
where La Romana established his head quarters [June 6]. Thus the
Spaniards were once more in line, and prepared to defend the whole of
Southern Galicia.

We have still to deal with the state of affairs in the Asturias.
After Ney’s departure on May 22, Kellermann lay at Oviedo and Bonnet
at Infiesto. But a few days later the latter general received the
disquieting news that Ballasteros, whose movements had hitherto
escaped him, was on the move towards the east, and might be intending
either to make a raid into the plains of Castile, or to descend on
Santander and its weak garrison.

Ballasteros, as a matter of fact, had resolved to stir up trouble in
Bonnet’s rear, with the object of drawing him off from the Asturias.
Leaving his refuge at Covadonga on May 24 he marched by mule-tracks,
unmarked on any map, to Potes in the upper valley of the Deba. There
he remained a few days, and finding that he was unpursued, and that
his exact situation was unknown to the French, resolved to make a
dash for Santander. Starting on June 6 and keeping to the mountains,
he successfully achieved his end, and arrived at his goal before the
garrison of that place had any knowledge of his approach. On the
morning of June 10 he stormed the city, driving out General Noirot,
who escaped with 1,000 men, but capturing 200 of the garrison and 400
sick in hospital, as well as the whole of the stores and munitions of
Bonnet’s regiments. Among his other prizes was the sum of £10,000 in
cash, in the military chest of the division. Some of the French tried
to escape by sea, in three corvettes and two luggers which lay in the
harbour, but the British frigates _Amelia_ and _Statira_, which lay
off the coast, captured them all. This was a splendid stroke, and if
Ballasteros had been prudent he might have got away unharmed with
all his plunder. But he lingered in Santander, though he knew that
Bonnet must be in pursuit of him, and resolved to defend the town.
The French general had started to protect his base and his dépôts,
the moment that he ascertained the real direction of Ballasteros’
march. On the night of June 10 he met the fugitive garrison and
learnt that Santander had fallen. Late on the ensuing day he reached
its suburbs, and sent in two battalions to make a dash at the place.
They were beaten off; but next morning Bonnet attacked with his
whole force, the Asturians were defeated, and Ballasteros’ raid
ended in a disaster. He himself escaped by sea, but 3,000 of his men
were captured, and the rest dispersed. The French recovered their
sick and prisoners, and such of their stores as the Spaniards had
not consumed[486]. The wrecks of Ballasteros’ division drifted back
over the hills to their native principality, save one detachment,
the regulars of La Romana’s old regiment of La Princesa. This small
body of 300 men turned south, and by an astounding march across
Old Castile and Aragon reached Molina on the borders of Valencia,
where they joined the army of Blake. They had gone 250 miles through
territory of which the French were supposed to be in military
possession, but threaded their way between the garrisons in perfect
safety, because the peasantry never betrayed their position to the

  [486] All this may be studied in two dispatches of Bonnet to King
  Joseph, dated Santander, June 12 and June 20.

Disastrous as was its end, Ballasteros’ expedition had yet served its
purpose. Not only had it thrown the whole of the French garrisons in
Biscay and Guipuzcoa into confusion, but even the Governor of Bayonne
had been frightened and had sent alarming dispatches to the Emperor.
This was comparatively unimportant, but it was a very different
matter that Bonnet had been forced to evacuate the Asturias, all of
whose eastern region was now free from the invaders.

More was to follow: Kellermann still lay at Oviedo, worried but
not seriously incommoded by Worster and the Asturians of the west.
But a few days after Bonnet’s departure he received a request from
Mortier (backed by orders from King Joseph), that the division of
the 5th Corps which had been lent him should instantly return to
Castile. This was one of the results of Wellesley’s campaign on
the Douro, for Mortier, hearing of Soult’s expulsion from Northern
Portugal, imagined that the British army, being now free for further
action, would debouch by Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo and fall upon
Salamanca. He needed the aid of his second division, which Kellermann
was forced to send back. But it would have been not only useless
but extremely dangerous to linger at Oviedo with the small remnant
of the expeditionary force, when Girard’s regiments had been
withdrawn. Therefore Kellermann wisely resolved to evacuate the whole
principality, and returned to Leon by the pass of Pajares in the
third week of June.

Thus ended in complete failure the great concentric attack on the
Asturias. The causes of the fiasco were two. (1) The French generals
chose as their objective, not the enemy’s armies, but his capital
and base of operations. Both Ney and Bonnet while marching on Oviedo
left what (adapting a naval phrase) we may call an ‘army-in-being’
behind them, and in each case that army fell upon the detachments
left in the rear, and pressed them so hard that the invading forces
could not stay in the Asturias, but were forced to turn back to
protect their communications. (2) In Spain conquest was useless
unless a garrison could be left behind to hold down the territory
that was overrun. But neither Ney, Kellermann, nor Bonnet had any
troops to devote to such a purpose: they invaded the Asturias with
regiments borrowed from other regions, from which they could not long
be spared. As later experience in 1811 and 1812 showed, it required
some 8,000 men merely to maintain a hold upon Oviedo and the central
parts of the principality. The invaders had no such force at their
disposition--the troops from the 6th Corps were wanted in Galicia,
those of the 5th Corps in Castile, those of Bonnet in the Montaña. If
it were impossible to garrison the Asturias, the invasion dwindled
down into a raid, and a raid which left untouched the larger part
of the enemy’s field army was useless. It would have been better
policy to hunt Mahy, Worster, and Ballasteros rather than to secure
for a bare three weeks military possession of Oviedo and Gijon. If
Soult had not dropped from the clouds, as it were, to save Lugo:
if Ballasteros had been a little more prudent at Santander, the
Asturian expedition would have ended not merely in a failure, but in
an ignominious defeat. It should never have been undertaken while
the Galician insurrection was still raging, and while no troops were
available for the permanent garrisoning of the principality.

Searching a little deeper, may we not say that the ultimate cause
of the fiasco was Napoleon’s misconception of the character of the
Spanish war? It was he who ordered the invasion of the Asturias, and
he issued his orders under the hypothesis that it could be not only
conquered but retained. But with the numbers then at the disposal of
his generals this was impossible, because the insurrection absorbed
so many of their troops, that no more could be detached without
risking the loss of all that had been already gained. By grasping at
the Asturias Napoleon nearly lost Galicia. Only Soult’s appearance
prevented that province from falling completely into the hands of
Mahy and La Carrera: and that appearance was as involuntary as it was
unexpected. If the Duke of Dalmatia had been able to carry out his
original design he would have retreated from Oporto to Zamora and not
to Orense. If Beresford had not foiled him at Amarante, he would have
been resting on the Douro when Fournier was in such desperate straits
at Lugo. In that case Ney might have returned from Oviedo to find
that his detachments had been destroyed, and that Galicia was lost.
It was not the Emperor’s fault that this disaster failed to occur.



When, upon May 30, 1809, Ney arrived at Lugo, and met Soult in
conference, it seemed that, now or never, the time had come when a
serious endeavour might be made to subdue the Galician insurgents.
The whole force of the 2nd and 6th Corps was concentrated in the
narrow triangle between Ferrol, Corunna, and Lugo. The two marshals
had still 33,000 men fit for service, after deducting the sick. If
they set aside competent garrisons for the three towns that we have
just named, they could still show some 25,000 men available for field
operations, and with such a force Ney was of the opinion that the
insurrection might be beaten down. It was true that the 2nd Corps
was in a deplorable condition as regards equipment, but on the other
hand Corunna and Ferrol were still full of the stores of arms and
ammunition that had been captured when they surrendered. Clothing, no
doubt, was lamentably deficient, and Ney could only supply hundreds
where Soult asked for thousands of boots and _capotes_; but he
refitted his colleague’s troops with muskets and ammunition, and
furnished him with eight mountain-guns--field-pieces the Duke of
Dalmatia would not take, though a certain number were offered him;
for after his experience of the way that his artillery had delayed
him in February and March he refused to accept them. Horses and
mules were unattainable--nearly half Soult’s cavalry was dismounted,
and he had lost most of his sumpter-beasts between Guimaraens and
Montalegre. Nevertheless, the corps, after a week’s rest at Lugo,
was once more capable of service. Its weakly men had been left in
hospital at Oporto, or had fallen by the way in the dreadful defiles
of Ruivaens and Salamonde. All that remained were war-hardened
veterans, and Soult, out of his 19,000 men, had no more than 800
sick and wounded. He resolved to disembarrass himself of another
hindrance, his dismounted cavalry, and in each regiment made the 3rd
and 4th squadrons hand over their chargers to the 1st and 2nd. The
1,100 troopers thus left without mounts were armed with muskets, and
formed into a column, to which were added the _cadres_ of certain
infantry battalions belonging to the regiments which had suffered
most. In these the 3rd, or the 3rd and 4th, battalions turned over
their effective rank and file to the others, while the officers and
non-commissioned officers were to be sent home to their dépôts to
organize new units. The whole body was placed under General Quesnel,
who was directed to cut his way to Astorga by the great high-road:
it was hoped that he would come safely through, now that La Romana
had withdrawn his army to Southern Galicia. The expedient was a
hazardous one; but the column was fortunate: it was forced to fight
with a large assembly of peasants at Doncos, half-way between Lugo
and Villafranca, but reached its goal with no great loss, though for
every mile of the march it was being ‘sniped’ and harassed by the

Soult’s available force, after he had sent his sick into the
hospitals of Lugo, and had dismissed Quesnel’s detachment, was about
16,500 or 17,000 sabres and bayonets. Ney had about 15,000 men left.
The two marshals were bound, both by the Emperor’s orders and by the
mere necessities of the situation, to co-operate with each other. But
there was a fundamental divergence between their aims and intentions.
Ney had been given charge of Galicia, and he regarded it as his duty
to conquer and hold down the province. He refused to look beyond his
orders, or to take into consideration the progress of operations
in other parts of the Peninsula. Soult, on the other hand, always
loved to play his own game, and had no desire to stay in Galicia in
order to lighten his colleague’s task. He was disgusted with the
land, its mountains, and its insurgents, and was eager to find some
excuse for quitting it. He had no difficulty in discovering many
excellent reasons for retiring into the plains of Leon. The first
was the dilapidated state of his troops: in spite of the resources
which Ney had lent, the 2nd Corps still lacked clothing, pay, and
transport. Soult had written to King Joseph on May 30 to ask that all
these necessaries might be sent forward to Zamora, where he intended
to pick them up. A still more plausible plea might be found in the
general state of affairs in Northern Spain. The Emperor’s main object
was the expulsion of the British army from the Peninsula. But if the
2nd Corps joined the 6th in a long, and probably fruitless, hunt
after the evasive La Romana, Wellesley would be left free to march
whithersoever he might please. He might base himself on Almeida and
Ciudad Rodrigo, and make a sudden inroad into Leon and Old Castile,
where the small corps of Mortier would certainly prove inadequate to
hold him back. Or he might go off to the south, and fall upon Victor
in Estremadura, a move which might very probably lead to the loss of
Madrid. Soult therefore was of opinion that his duty was to drop down
into Leon, and there join with Mortier in making such a demonstration
against Portugal as would compel the British army to stand upon the
defensive, and to abandon any idea of invading Spain either by the
valley of the Douro or that of the Tagus. ‘He could not keep his eye
off Portugal,’ as Jourdan and King Joseph, no less than Ney, kept
complaining[487]. There cannot be the least doubt that Soult was
quite right in turning his main attention in this direction. It was
the English army that was the most dangerous enemy; and it was the
flanking position of Portugal that rendered the French movements
toward the south of Spain hazardous or impracticable.

  [487] The phrase occurs in a dispatch of Jourdan’s written in

Nevertheless all the Duke of Dalmatia’s arguments seemed to his
colleague mere excuses destined to cover a selfish determination
to abandon the 6th Corps, and to shirk the duty of co-operating in
the conquest of Galicia. He insisted that Soult must aid him in
crushing La Romana before taking any other task in hand. And he had
a strong moral claim for pressing his request, because it was from
the resources which he had furnished that the 2nd Corps had been
re-equipped and rendered capable of renewed service in the field.
The marshals wrangled, and their followers copied them, for a fierce
feud, leading to a copious exchange of recrimination and many duels,
sprang up during the few days that the staffs of the two corps lay
together at Lugo[488]. At last Soult yielded, or feigned to yield,
to Ney’s instances: he promised to lend his aid for the suppression
of the Galician insurrection under certain conditions. A plan for
combined action was accordingly drawn up.

  [488] There is clear evidence of this quarrel in the diaries and
  memoirs of the officers of both corps. ‘Nous fûmes d’abord bien
  reçus à Lugo’--writes Soult’s aide-de-camp St. Chamans--‘mais le
  Maréchal Ney étant arrivé, les choses changèrent de face, et on
  eût dit que nous n’étions plus un corps français: tout nous était
  refusé: même nos malades mouraient en foule dans les hôpitaux,
  faute d’aliments: car tout était réservé, par les ordres de Ney,
  pour son corps d’armée, et on peut bien dire qu’on nous traita
  de Turc en Maure’ (p. 150). Des Odoards is equally precise:
  ‘Une fâcheuse mésintelligence a éclaté entre les troupes de Ney
  et les nôtres: les duels sont survenus, et peu s’en est fallu
  qu’oubliant que nous sommes, les uns et les autres, enfants de
  la France, il n’y ait eu engagement général. Le non-succès de
  notre entreprise, l’état de délabrement de notre tenue, out servi
  de texte aux mauvaises plaisanteries, aux propos outrageants,
  dont des scènes sanguinaires ont été la suite. Les soldats seuls
  ont d’abord pris part à ces rixes, puis elles ont gagné les
  officiers, et s’il faut croire certain bruits, les maréchaux ont
  eu eux-mêmes une entrevue fort orageuse’ (p. 240). According to
  the common report this ‘stormy interview’ actually ended in Ney’s
  drawing his sword upon Soult, and being only prevented by General
  Maurice Mathieu from assailing him. This tale was told to Captain
  Boothby (see his _Memoirs_, ii. p. 31) by a French officer who
  said that he had been an eye-witness of the scene.

According to this scheme Ney was to advance from Corunna to Santiago
with the 6th Corps, and was to drive the main body of the insurgents
southward in the direction of Vigo and Tuy, following the line of
the great coast-road. Soult meanwhile was to operate in the inland,
against the enemy’s exposed flank. He was to march from Lugo down
the valley of the upper Minho, pushing before him all that stood in
his way, with the object of thrusting the enemy on to Orense, and
then towards the sea. If all went right, La Romana’s army as well as
the insurgents of the coast, would finally be enclosed between the
two marshals and the Atlantic cliffs, and, as it was hoped, would
be exterminated or forced to surrender. The obviously weak point of
the plan was that it did not allow sufficiently for the power which
the enemy possessed of escaping, by dispersion, or by taking to the
mountains. Even if the details of the two movements had been carried
out with perfect accuracy, it is probable that the Galicians would
have crept out of some gap, or slipped away between the converging
corps, or saved themselves by a headlong retreat into Portugal.
The Marshals might have captured Vigo and Orense: it is extremely
unlikely that they could have done more, especially as they had to
deal with a general like La Romana, who had made up his mind that his
duty was to avoid pitched battles, and to preserve his army at all
costs. If Cuesta or Blake had been in command the scheme would have
been much more feasible; but La Romana was the only Spanish commander
then in the field who had resolved never to fight if he could help it.

On June 1 Ney and Soult parted, starting the one upon the road to
Corunna, the other upon that which makes for Orense by the valley of
the upper Minho. It would seem that neither of them had any great
confidence in the success of the plan adopted, and that each was
possessed by the strongest doubts as to the loyalty with which his
colleague would support him. Soult was on the watch for any good
excuse for throwing up the scheme and retiring to Zamora. Ney was
determined not to risk himself and his corps overmuch, lest he should
find himself left in the lurch by Soult at the critical moment[489].

  [489] ‘Il se sépara de Ney, avec lequel il eût l’air d’arrêter,
  pour la conservation de la Galice, un plan de campagne auquel
  tous les deux étaient, je crois, résolus d’avance de ne pas
  se conformer, car ils voulaient le moins possible se trouver
  ensemble.’ St. Chamans (p. 151). This represents the view of
  Soult’s staff.

Meanwhile the Spaniards had been straining every nerve to reorganize
the army of Galicia, employing the short time of respite that
they had gained in drafting back into the old corps the numerous
stragglers who began to return to their colours as the summer drew
on, and in raising new battalions of volunteers. La Romana lay in
person at Orense with the main body of the original army, which
had now risen to a force of about 7,000 properly equipped men, and
nearly 3,000 unarmed recruits: he had still only four guns[490]. The
‘Division of the Minho’ was no longer under Carrera and Morillo: they
had been superseded by the arrival of the Conde de Noroña to whom
the Central Junta had given over the command. This officer found
himself at the head of about 10,000 men, of whom only about 2,500
were regulars, the rest were peasantry new to the career of arms, but
so much exhilarated by their late successes at Vigo and the Campo
de Estrella, that it was hard to hold them back from taking the
offensive[491]. Fortunately Noroña was gifted not only with tact but
with caution: he knew how to keep the horde together without allowing
them to get out of hand, and utterly refused to risk them in the open

  [490] La Romana (June 1, in the Record Office) gives present at
  Orense 9,633 men--of whom 7,094 were old soldiers, including 381
  cavalry and 379 artillery.

  [491] Carrol to Castlereagh, from Vigo, June 11.

  [492] For some notes concerning Noroña’s character see Arteche,
  vi. 188.

On June 5 Ney arrived before Santiago with the main body of the
6th Corps--eighteen battalions, three cavalry regiments and two
batteries: he had again left Corunna, Ferrol, and Lugo in the charge
of very small garrisons, and was by no means without misgivings as
to their fate during his absence. But he thought that his first duty
was to concentrate a field force sufficiently large to face and beat
the whole army of Galicia, in case La Romana should join Noroña for a
combined attack on the 6th Corps.

On the news of the Marshal’s approach the Spanish general drew back
all his forces behind the estuary known as the Octavem (or Oitaben),
a broad tidal stretch of water where several small mountain torrents
meet at the head of a long bay. Noroña might have disputed the lines
of the Ulla and the Vedra, but neither of these rivers affords such
a good defensive position as the Oitaben. Here the hills of the
interior come down much nearer to the sea than they do at the mouths
of the Ulla and the Vedra, so that there is a much shorter line to
defend, between low-water mark and the foot of the inaccessible
Sierra de Suido. There was no road inland by which the position could
be turned, so that the Galicians had only to guard the six miles of
river-bank between the sea and the mountain. There were two bridges
to be watched: the more important was that of Sampayo, where the
main _chaussée_ to Vigo passes the Oitaben just where it narrows
down and ceases to be tidal. The second was that of Caldelas, four
miles further inland, where a side-road to the village of Sotomayor
crosses the Verdugo, the most northern of the three torrents which
unite to form the Oitaben. Noroña had broken down four arches of
the great Sampayo bridge. That of Caldelas he had not destroyed,
but had barricaded: he had drawn a double line of trenches on the
hillside that dominates it, and placed there a battery containing
some of his small provision of artillery--he had but nine field-guns
and two mortars taken from the walls of Vigo. Morillo was given
charge of this part of the position, Noroña took post himself at
Sampayo. He had neglected no minor precaution that was possible--some
gunboats, one of which was manned by English sailors drawn from the
two frigates in the bay, patrolled the tidal part of the Oitaben, and
flanked the broken bridge. Winter, the senior naval officer present,
put his marines on shore: along with sixty stragglers from Moore’s
army, who had been liberated by the peasants from French captivity,
they garrisoned Vigo, which lies a few miles beyond the Oitaben.

On June 7 Ney reached the front of the position and ascertained
that the bridge of Sampayo was broken. His artillery exchanged some
objectless salvos with that of Noroña, while his cavalry rode inland
to look for possible points of passage. They could find none save
the fortified bridge of Caldelas, and a very difficult ford just
above it, commanded, like the bridge, by the Spanish trenches on the
hillside. The Marshal was also informed that at the Sampayo itself
there was another ford, passable only at low tide for three hours at
a time.

These reports were by no means encouraging: the Spanish position was
almost impregnable, and there was no way of turning it. Indeed the
only road by which the enemy could be taken in flank or rear was
that from Orense to Vigo, along the Minho. This Ney could not reach:
but supposing that Soult had carried out the plan of operations to
which he had assented on June 1, it was just possible that he might
appear, sooner or later, on that line, and so dislodge the enemy.
However it was equally possible that he might be still far distant,
and so Ney resolved to make an attempt to force the passage of
the Oitaben. On the morning of June 8 therefore, after a long but
fruitless cannonade, one body of infantry endeavoured to pass at the
ford opposite the village of Sampayo[493], while another, with some
cavalry, attempted to cross the other ford at Caldelas, and to storm
its bridge. At both places the Galicians stood their ground, and the
heads of the column were exposed to such a furious fire that they
suffered heavily and failed to reach the further bank. The Marshal
therefore drew them back, and refused to persist in an attack which
would only have had a chance of success if the enemy had misbehaved
and given way to panic. The French lost several hundred men[494], the
Galicians, safe in their trenches, suffered far less.

  [493] Carrol, writing from Vigo two days later, says that the
  French infantry ‘seemed determined _at any risk_ to cross the
  water at low tide,’ that they came on very boldly, but could not
  face the fire, and finally gave back.

  [494] Carrol, in the letter just quoted, says that thirty-nine
  dead bodies were left before the bridge-head of Caldelas, which
  the French could not carry off because of the hot fire that
  played upon the spot. He estimates the French total loss at 300,
  while that of Noroña was only 111.

That evening Ney received news which convinced him that Soult had
left him in the lurch, and had no intention of prosecuting his march
on Orense, to turn the enemy’s flank. It was reported that the 2nd
Corps, after making only two days’ march from Lugo, had stopped short
at Monforte de Lemos, and showed no signs of moving forward. Indeed
the Duke of Dalmatia had put the regiments into cantonments and was
evidently about to make a lengthy halt.

Since the Duke of Elchingen was now convinced that the enemy could
not be dislodged from behind the Oitaben without his colleague’s aid,
and since that colleague showed no signs of appearing within any
reasonable time, the game was up. On the morning of the ninth Ney
gave orders for his troops to draw off, and to retire by the road
to Santiago and Corunna. He made no secret of his belief that Soult
had deliberately betrayed him, and had never intended to keep his
promise[495]. Without the aid of the 2nd Corps he had no hopes of
being able to suppress the Galician insurrection. But till he should
learn precisely what his colleague was doing, he could not make up
his mind to abandon the province. He therefore sent off on June 10 an
aide-de-camp with a large escort, by the circuitous route via Lugo.
This officer bore a dispatch, which explained the situation, reported
the check at Sampayo, and demanded that the 2nd Corps should not
move any further away, but should return to lend aid to the 6th in
its time of need. It was more than ten days before an answer was
received. But on the twenty-first Soult’s reply came to hand: he
had been found marching, not towards Orense, but eastward, in the
direction of the frontiers of Leon. He refused to turn back, alleging
that this was not in the bond signed at Lugo, and that his troops
were in such a state of exhaustion that he was forced to lead them
into the plains, to rest them and refit them. Such a reply seemed to
justify Ney’s worst suspicions; abandoned by his colleague, and with
the care of the whole of Galicia thrown upon his hands, he refused
to risk the safety of the 6th Corps in the unequal struggle. He
evacuated Corunna and Ferrol on the twenty-second and concentrated
his whole force at Lugo. There he picked up the sick and wounded of
Soult’s corps as well as his own, and in six forced marches retired
along the high-road by Villafranca to Astorga, which place he reached
on June 30. Every day he had been worried and molested by the local
guerrillas, but neither Noroña nor La Romana had dared to meddle
with him. In his anger at the constant attacks of the insurgents, he
sacked every place that he passed, from Villafranca and Ponferrada
down to the smallest hamlets. Twenty-seven Galician towns and
villages are said to have been burned by the 6th Corps during its
retreat. Such conduct was unworthy of a soldier of Ney’s calibre: it
can only be explained by the fact that he was almost beside himself
with wrath at being foiled by Soult’s breach of his plighted word,
and vented his fury on the only victims that he could reach.

  [495] ‘I have been assured,’ says Napier (ii. 127), ‘by an
  officer of Ney’s personal staff [Col. D’Esménard] that he rashly
  concluded that personal feelings had swayed Soult to betray the
  6th Corps. In this error he returned in wrath to Corunna.’ But
  was his conclusion rash, or wrong?

We must now turn back to trace the steps of the 2nd Corps in its
devious march from Lugo to the plains of Leon. Soult had sent out
Loison with one division by the road down the left bank of the Minho
on June 1. He himself followed with the rest of the army on the next
day. On the third the Marshal reached the little town of Monforte de
Lemos, between the Minho and the Sil, which he found deserted by its
inhabitants. In obedience to La Romana’s orders they had all gone up
into the mountains.

If Soult had been honestly desirous of carrying out his compact with
Ney, his next step would have been to make a rapid march on Orense.
He must have been able to calculate that his colleague would now be
in touch with Noroña’s forces somewhere to the south of Corunna,
and it was his duty to co-operate by descending the Minho in the
enemy’s rear. The mere fact that he remained for the unconscionable
space of eight days at Monforte, is a sufficient proof that he never
intended to carry out his part of the compact. During this time [June
3-11], while Ney was fighting out to an unsuccessful end his campaign
against Noroña, Soult was absolutely quiescent, at a place only
thirty miles from his starting-point at Lugo. He was unmolested save
by small bands of local guerrillas, who fled to the hills whenever
they were faced. His official chronicler Le Noble pleads that there
were no fords to be found either over the Minho or over the Sil[496].
But in eight days, unopposed by any serious enemy, the engineers of
the 2nd Corps could certainly have built bridges if the Marshal had
ordered them to do so. Meanwhile the troops rested, and rejoiced in
the abundant supplies of food and wine which they gathered in from
the neighbourhood, for Monforte lies in the centre of a fertile
upland and its neighbourhood had never before suffered from the ills
of war[497].

  [496] Le Noble, p. 280.

  [497] Fantin des Odoards, p. 242.

On the eleventh Soult at last moved on. But it was not in the
direction of Orense. He had no news of Ney, and professed to be
concerned that the 6th Corps had not yet been heard of on the
Orense road. Finally he announced that he was compelled to believe
that the Duke of Elchingen had not executed his part of the joint
campaign[498], and that there was no longer any reason that the 2nd
Corps should carry out its share of the plan. Accordingly he marched,
not toward Ney, but in the opposite direction, up the valley of the
Sil, with his face set towards the east. He pretended that he hoped
to catch and disperse the corps of La Romana, to whom he attributed
a design of marching on Puebla de Senabria--the same movement that
the Marquis had executed once before in the first days of March. But
as a matter of fact La Romana was at Orense, and far from having
any intention of retreating eastward, if he were attacked by the 2nd
Corps, he was looking on Portugal as his line of retreat[499].

  [498] ‘Le Maréchal crut, _ou feignit de croire_, que Ney avait
  changé d’idée,’ says his aide-de-camp St. Chamans, p. 151.

  [499] La Romana writes to Carrol from Orense, on June 9, to
  say that he had been intending to march by cross-roads to fall
  on Ney’s flank, and so aid the division of Noroña. But Soult’s
  appearance at Monforte with 12,000 men [an under-estimate]
  compels him to remain behind to observe that marshal [Record

On the thirteenth Soult reached Montefurado, where the Sil is bridged
by masses of rocks which have fallen into its bed: the river forces
its way beneath them by a tunnel sixty feet broad, which is supposed
to have been cut by the Romans. Crossing on this natural bridge,
he turned southward to follow the valley of the Bibey, which leads
to Puebla de Senabria and the plains of Leon. He met no resistance
save from the local insurgents, headed by the Abbot of Casoyo and
a partisan called El Salamanquino, who received little or no aid
from the regular army. Indeed the only Spanish troops in this remote
corner of Galicia were 200 men under an officer called Echevarria,
a dépôt left behind at Puebla de Senabria by La Carrera, when he
had marched to Vigo in May. This handful of men joined the local
guerrillas, and the appearance of their uniforms among the enemy’s
ranks served Soult as an excuse for stating that he was contending
with the army of La Romana. Any reader of his dispatches would
conclude that during the last days of June he was opposed by a
considerable body of that force. As a matter of fact he was never
anywhere near the Galician army, which lay first at Orense, then at
Celanova, finally at Monterey on the Portuguese frontier, always
moving to the right, parallel with the Marshal’s advance, so as to
avoid being outflanked on its southern wing. It was with the peasants
of the valley of the Bibey alone that Soult had to do. Thrusting
them to right and left, and cruelly ravaging the country-side on
both banks of the river, he reached Viana on June 16. From thence
Franceschi sent a flying expedition over the hills to La Gudina, on
the road from Monterey to Puebla de Senabria. It brought back news
that La Romana had come down to Monterey when the 2nd Corps moved to
Viana, but that he was evidently not marching eastward. It had met
and routed a party of Spanish cavalry sent out from Monterey[500];
the prisoners taken from them said that the Marquis was returning to
Orense now that he had seen the 2nd Corps committing itself to an
advance up the valley of the Bibey, and passing away in the direction
of the plains of Leon.

  [500] Carrol was with this party. He had come out from Vigo to
  join La Romana, was at La Gudina on June 16, and retreated to
  Monterey when Franceschi attacked that point. The Marquis turned
  back when he saw Franceschi move off eastward, and retired to his
  old head quarters at Orense. If Soult had pushed westward, the
  Spaniards had the choice between the road to Chaves and that back
  to Orense, and were in no danger.

It was while halting at Larouco, during this march, that Soult
received the dispatch which Ney had written to him from Santiago on
June 10. His reply, as we have already seen, was a peremptory refusal
to turn back to the aid of the 6th Corps. He asserted that he had
fulfilled his part of the bargain made at Lugo (which he assuredly
had not), and refused to undertake any further offensive operations
with troops in a state of utter destitution and fatigue. He declared
to his staff, and wrote to King Joseph, that he believed that Ney had
deliberately mismanaged his expedition against Vigo, and had suffered
himself to be checked, in order to have an excuse for detaining
the 2nd Corps in Galicia[501]. Why, he asked, had not the Duke of
Elchingen sent a turning column against Orense, instead of making a
frontal attack against the line of the Oitaben? The plain answer to
this query--viz. that Ney with a field-force of only 10,000 men, and
having three weak garrisons behind him, could not afford either to
divide his army or to go too far from Corunna and Lugo--he naturally
did not give.

  [501] ‘Il (Ney) m’engageait à rester en Galice, et me
  représentait qu’il pourrait résulter pour lui de fâcheuses
  conséquences si j’en sortais. Cette proposition m’étonna: il me
  parut que M. le Maréchal Ney se conduisait à m’obliger à rester
  en Galice: car certainement rien ne l’empêchait de manœuvrer sur
  Orense, tandis que moi-même j’agissais contre La Romana.... Je
  me crus encore plus obligé qu’auparavant de suivre mon premier
  projet.’ Soult to Joseph, June 25.

Accordingly, on June 23, Soult abandoned the valley of the Bibey,
and crossed the watershed of the Sierra Segundera in two columns,
one descending on to La Gudina, the other on to Lobian. On the
twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth the whole army was united at Puebla
de Senabria. The town was taken without a shot being fired; and the
French found there several cannon which La Carrera had not carried
off when he marched to Vigo, and which Echevarria had spiked but
neglected to destroy. The corps rested for five days in Puebla
de Senabria, where it obtained abundance of food and comfortable
lodging. But Franceschi and his light-horse, now reduced to not
more than 700 sabres, were pushed on at once to Zamora, to bear
news to King Joseph of the approach of the 2nd Corps, and to beg
that the stores, money, artillery, and clothing, which Soult had
demanded in his letter from Lugo, might be forwarded to him as soon
as possible[502]. Although the authorities at Madrid had heard
nothing of the doings of the Marshal since June 1, they had already
prepared much of the material required, and sent it to Salamanca.
From thence it was now transferred to Zamora and Benavente, where it
was handed over to the war-worn 2nd Corps. Other stores were procured
from Valladolid and even from Bayonne. But the artillery, the most
important of all the necessaries, was long in coming.

  [502] On reaching Zamora, Franceschi handed over the charge of
  his division to General Pierre Soult, the Marshal’s brother, and
  rode on towards Madrid with no escort but two aides-de-camp. They
  were captured near Toro by the celebrated guerrilla chief El
  Capuchino (Fray Juan Delica), who sent the important dispatches
  which they were bearing to Seville: Frere instantly forwarded a
  copy to Wellesley (July 9), who thus got invaluable information
  as to Soult’s situation and future intentions. In the Record
  Office there is a letter requesting that the news of Franceschi’s
  captivity may be sent to his wife in Paris, which was duly done.
  The unfortunate general was imprisoned first at Granada and then
  at Cartagena: in both places, it is said, he was treated with
  unjustifiable rigour, and kept in close confinement within four
  walls--it was the same usage that Napoleon meted out to Palafox.
  He died of a fever in 1811, after two years’ captivity.

Soult’s main body had broken up from Puebla de Senabria on June 29:
from thence Mermet’s, Delaborde’s, and Lorges’ troops marched to
Benavente, and those of Merle and Heudelet to Zamora. In these places
they enjoyed a few days of rest and began to refit themselves. But
it was not long before they were called upon to take part in another
great campaign, and once more to face their old enemies the English.

The first care of the Duke of Dalmatia, after he had emerged from the
Galician Sierras, had been to write long justificatory dispatches to
the Emperor and King Joseph. They are most interesting documents,
and explain with perfect clearness his reasons for abandoning Ney
and returning to the valley of the Douro. His main thesis is that
it was his duty to keep the English in check, since they were the
one really dangerous enemy in the Peninsula. Since it was notorious
that Wellesley had quitted Northern Portugal, it was practically
certain that he must be intending to march southward, to fall upon
Victor, and strike a blow at Madrid. It was necessary, therefore,
that the 2nd Corps should follow him, and be ready to aid in the
defence of the capital. The safety of Madrid was far more important
than the subjection of Galicia, and the Marshal had no hesitation
in sacrificing the lesser object in order to secure the greater.
Ney, he thought, would be strong enough to make head against Noroña
and La Romana united: but he could not hope to hold down the whole
of Galicia, and he would have either to be reinforced, or to be
permitted to evacuate the province.

As to the conquest of Galicia, it would take many men and many
months. At present it would be impossible to find the forces
necessary for its complete subjection. This could only be done by
fortifying not merely Corunna, Ferrol, and Lugo, but also Tuy,
Monterey, Viana, and Puebla de Senabria. Each of these places should
be given a garrison of 5,000 or 6,000 men, and furnished with stores
calculated to last for four months. In addition there would have to
be blockhouses built along the high-road from Lugo to Villafranca,
and on several other lines. Columns operating from each of the seven
great garrisons should be continually moving about, keeping open the
communication between stronghold and stronghold, and chastising the

Thus Soult calculated that the subjection of Galicia would require
from 35,000 to 42,000 men, continually on the move, and never liable
to be called upon for any service outside the province. It was
absurd, therefore, for him to suggest in a later paragraph that Ney
might be left to hold his own. What was the use of setting 15,000
men to work on a task that would strain the energies of 35,000? And
where was King Joseph to find the additional 20,000 men, if the 2nd
Corps were withdrawn into Leon to watch the British army? No such
force could be drawn from any other part of Spain, and it would be
useless to ask for reinforcements from France while the Austrian War
was calling every available man to the Danube. Soult’s view, clearly,
was that Galicia would have to be abandoned for the present, though
he did not choose to say so. Till the English had been destroyed, or
driven into the sea, King Joseph would never be able to find 35,000
men to lock up in the remote and mountainous north-western corner of
the Peninsula[503].

  [503] There is so much valuable information in these dispatches
  of Soult, dated June 25, from Puebla de Senabria, that I have
  printed the most important paragraphs as an Appendix--omitting
  the lengthy narrative of the operations on the Sil and the
  Bibey in which the Marshal vainly flattered himself that he
  had dispersed the armies of La Romana and ‘Chavarria’ (i.e.

There is not the slightest doubt that Soult’s views were perfectly
correct. Looking at the war in the Peninsula as a whole, it was a
strategical blunder to endeavour to hold Galicia before Portugal had
been conquered. And while the force of the French armies in Spain
remained at its present figure, it was impossible to spare two whole
army corps for this secondary theatre of operations. The attempt
to subdue the province had only been made because Moore had drawn
after him to Corunna the armies of Soult and Ney: and, since they
were on the spot, the temptation to use them there was too great to
be withstood. This is but one more instance of the way in which the
famous march to Sahagun had disarranged all the Emperor’s original
plans for the conquest of the Peninsula.

It has often been debated whether it would be truer to say that
Galicia was delivered by Wellesley’s operations or by the valour
and obstinacy of its own inhabitants. After giving all due credit
to the gallant peasantry who checked Ney and harassed Soult, to the
prudence of the untiring La Romana, and to Noroña’s cautious courage,
it is yet necessary to decide that the real cause of the evacuation
of the province by the invaders was the presence of the victorious
British army in Portugal. The two Marshals might have maintained
themselves there for an indefinite time, if they could have shut
their eyes to what was going on elsewhere. But Soult was quite
right in believing that it would be mad to persist in the attempt to
subdue Galicia, while Wellesley was in the field, and nothing lay
between him and Madrid but the 22,000 men of the 1st Corps. If he
and Ney had lingered on in the north, engaged in fruitless hunting
after La Romana, while July and August wore on, Madrid would have
fallen into the hands of Wellesley and Cuesta, and King Joseph would
once more have been forced to go upon his travels, to Burgos or
elsewhere. The Talavera campaign only failed of success because the
2nd and the 6th Corps were withdrawn from the Galician hills just
in time to concentrate at Salamanca and fall upon the rear of the
victors. If they had been wandering around Monterey or Mondonedo at
the end of July, instead of being cantoned in the plains of Leon, the
capital of Spain would undoubtedly have been recovered by Wellesley
and Cuesta--though whether those ill-assorted colleagues could have
held it for long is another question. Into such possibilities it is
useless to make inquiry.

N.B.--My best authority for this campaign is the set of dispatches
by Carrol in the Record Office. He was at Vigo from June 3 to June
14; with La Romana from June 16 to July 11. Thus he was on the spot
for the fight on the Oitaben, and also for the operations against
Soult. Napier’s narrative is more than usually faulty in dealing
with the end of the Galician campaign. He writes as a partisan of
Soult, and his whole tale is drawn from the Marshal’s dispatches and
from the book of the panegyrist, Le Noble. His whole picture of the
desperate condition of La Romana is untrue: the Marquis had always
open to him a safe retreat into Portugal, and his army was never
engaged with Soult at all. Carrol’s dispatches make this quite clear.
The map (facing p. 125 of vol. ii.) is so hopelessly inaccurate both
as to distances, and as to the relative positions of places to each
other, that I can only compare it to those ingenious diagrams which
a railway produces, in order to show that it possesses the shortest
route from London to Edinburgh, or from Brussels to Berlin.




When, upon February 20, the plague-stricken remnant of the
much-enduring garrison of Saragossa laid down their arms at the feet
of Lannes, it seemed probable that the whole of North-Eastern Spain
must fall a helpless prey to the invader. The time had come when the
3rd and the 5th Corps, freed from the long strain of the siege, were
once more available for field-operations. For the last two months
almost every dispatch that the Emperor or King Joseph wrote, had
been filled with plans and projects that began with the words ‘When
Saragossa shall have fallen.’ If only Palafox and his desperate
bands were removed, it would be easy to trample down Aragon, to take
Catalonia in the rear, and finally to march to the gates of Valencia,
and end the struggle on the eastern coast.

Now at last the 30,000 men of Mortier and Junot could be turned to
other tasks, and there seemed to be every reason to expect that
they would suffice to carry out the Emperor’s designs. There was no
army which could be opposed to them, for, only a few days after the
capitulation of Saragossa, Reding had risked and lost the battle of
Valls, and the wrecks of his host had taken refuge within the walls
of Tarragona.

The only surviving Spanish force which was under arms in the valley
of the Ebro consisted of the single division, not more than 4,000
strong, under the Marquis of Lazan. After his vain attempt to come
to the rescue of Saragossa in the early days of February, Lazan had
drawn back to Fraga and Monzon, forced to look on from afar at the
last stage of his brother’s desperate resistance. In the rest of the
kingdom of Aragon there were but two or three scattered battalions
of new levies[504], and some guerrilla bands under Perena and other

  [504] See sect. xi. chap. i. pp. 101-2.

The mistaken policy which had led Joseph Palafox to shut up in
Saragossa not only his own army but also the succours which he had
procured from Valencia and Murcia, now bore its fruit. There was no
force left which could take the field against the victorious army
of Lannes. It seemed therefore that the war in Aragon must come to
a speedy end: the French had but to advance and the whole kingdom
must fall into their hands. The national cause, however, was not
quite so desperate as might have been supposed. Here, as in other
regions of Spain, it was ere long to be discovered that it was one
thing to destroy a Spanish army, and another to hold down a Spanish
province. A French corps that was irresistible when concentrated on
the field of battle, became vulnerable when forced to divide itself
into the number of small garrisons that were needed for the permanent
retention of the territory that it had won. Though the capital of
Aragon and its chief towns were to remain in the hands of the enemy
for the next five years, yet there were always rugged corners of the
land where the struggle was kept up and the invader baffled and held
in check.

Yet immediately after the fall of Saragossa it seemed for a space
that Aragon might settle down beneath the invader’s heel. Lannes,
whose health was still bad, returned to France, but Mortier and
Junot, who now once more resumed that joint responsibility that they
had shared in December, went forth conquering and to conquer. They
so divided their efforts that the 5th Corps operated for the most
part to the north, and the 3rd Corps to the south of the Ebro, though
occasionally their lines of operations crossed each other.

The kingdom of Aragon consists of three well-marked divisions. On
each side of the Ebro there is a wide and fertile plain, generally
some thirty miles broad. But to the north and the south of this rich
valley lie range on range of rugged hills. Those on the north are
the lower spurs of the Pyrenees: those to the south form part of the
great central ganglion of the Sierras of Central Spain, which lies
just where Aragon, Valencia, and New Castile meet.

The valley of the Ebro gave the French little trouble: it was not a
region that could easily offer resistance, for it was destitute of
all natural defences. Moreover, the flower of its manhood had been
enrolled in the battalions which had perished at Saragossa, and few
were left in the country-side who were capable of bearing arms--still
fewer who possessed them. The plain of Central Aragon lay exhausted
at the victor’s feet. It was otherwise with the mountains of the
north and the south, which contain some of the most difficult ground
in the whole of Spain. There the rough and sturdy hill-folk found
every opportunity for resistance, and when once they had learnt by
experience the limitations of the invader’s power, were able to keep
up a petty warfare without an end. Partisans like Villacampa in the
southern hills, and Mina in the Pyrenean valleys along the edge of
Navarre, succeeded in maintaining themselves against every expedition
that was sent against them. Always hunted, often brought to bay, they
yet were never crushed or destroyed.

But in March 1809 the Aragonese had not yet recognized their own
opportunities: the disaster of Saragossa had struck such a deep blow
that apathy and despair seemed to have spread over the greater part
of the kingdom. When Mortier and Junot, after giving their corps
a short rest, began to spread movable columns abroad, there was
at first no resistance. The inaccessible fortress of Jaca in the
foot-hills of the Pyrenees surrendered at the first summons; its
garrison was only 500 strong, yet it should have made some sort of
defence against a force consisting of no more than a single regiment
of Mortier’s corps, without artillery. [March 21[505].] The fall
of this place was important, as it commands the only pass in the
Central Pyrenees which is anything better than mule-track. Though
barely practicable for artillery or light vehicles, it was useful for
communication between Saragossa and France, and gave the French army
of Aragon a line of communication of its own, independent of the long
and circuitous route by Tudela and Pampeluna.

  [505] Toreno gives some curious details about the surrender
  of Jaca, which he says was largely due to the intrigues of a
  friar named José de Consolation, who preached resignation and
  submission to God’s will in such moving terms that the greater
  part of the garrison deserted! He was afterwards found to have
  been an agent of the French. The Central Junta sent the Governor
  Campos, the Corregidor Arcón, and the officers commanding the
  artillery and engineers before a court-martial, which condemned
  them all to death. Only the engineer was caught (he had openly
  joined the French) and shot. [Arteche, vi. p. 10.]

Other columns of Mortier’s corps marched against Monzon and Fraga,
the chief towns in the valley of the Cinca. On their approach the
Marquis of Lazan retired down the Ebro to Tortosa, and both towns
were occupied without offering resistance. Another column marched
against Mequinenza, the fortress at the junction of the Ebro and
Segre: here, however, they met with opposition; the place was only
protected by antiquated sixteenth-century fortifications, but it
twice refused to surrender, though on the second occasion Mortier
himself appeared before its walls with a whole brigade. The Marshal
did not besiege it, deferring this task till he should have got all
of Eastern Aragon well in hand. At this same time he made an attempt
to open communications with St. Cyr in Catalonia, sending a regiment
of cavalry under Colonel Briche to strike across the mountains
beyond the Segre in search of the 7th Corps. Briche executed half
his mission, for by great good fortune combined with very rapid
movement, he slipped between Lerida and Mequinenza, got down into
the coast-plain and met Chabot’s division of St. Cyr’s army at
Montblanch. When, however, he tried to return to Aragon, in order to
convey to the Duke of Treviso the information as to the distribution
of the 7th Corps, he was beset by the _somatenes_, who were now on
the alert. So vigorously was he assailed that he was forced to turn
back and seek refuge with Chabot. Thus Mortier gained none of the
news that he sought, and very naturally came to the conclusion that
his flying column had been captured or cut to pieces.

Meanwhile Junot and the 3rd Corps were operating south of the Ebro.
The Duke of Abrantes sent one of his three divisions (that of
Grandjean) against Caspe, Alcañiz, and the valleys of the Guadalope
and Martin, while another (that of Musnier) moved out against the
highlands of the south, and the mountain-towns of Daroca and Molina.
Most of the battalions of his third division, that of Morlot, were
still engaged in guarding on their way to France the prisoners of

Of the two expeditions which Junot sent out, that which entered the
mountains effected little. It lost several small detachments, cut off
by the local insurgents, and though it ultimately penetrated as far
as Molina, it was unable to hold the place. The whole population had
fled, and after remaining there only six days, the French were forced
to return to the plains by want of food. [March 22--April 10.] The
Aragonese at once came back to their former position.

Grandjean, who had moved against Alcañiz, had at first more
favourable fortune. He overran with great ease all the low-lying
country south of the Ebro, and met with so little opposition that he
resolved to push his advance even beyond the borders of Valencia.
Accordingly he ascended the valley of the Bercantes, and appeared
before Morella, the frontier town of that kingdom, on March 18.
The place was strong, but there was only a very small garrison in
charge of it[506], which retired after a slight skirmish, abandoning
the fortress and a large store of food and equipment. If Grandjean
could have held Morella, he would have secured for the French army
a splendid base for further operations. But he had left many men
behind him at Caspe and Alcañiz, and had but a few battalions in
hand. He had gone too far forward to be safe, and when the Junta of
Valencia sent against him the whole of the forces that they could
collect--some 5,000 men under General Roca--he was compelled to
evacuate Morella and to fall back on Alcañiz. [March 25.]

  [506] Only the single regiment, America, whose cadre, sent back
  by Infantado from Cuenca, was being filled up with recruits from
  the Morella district. [Junot to King Joseph, from Saragossa,
  March 25.]

Mortier and Junot were concerting a joint movement for the completion
of the conquest of Eastern Aragon, and an advance against Tortosa,
when orders from Paris suddenly changed the whole face of affairs.
The Emperor saw that war with Austria was inevitable and imminent:
disquieted as to the strength of the new enemy, he resolved to draw
troops from Spain to reinforce the army of the Danube. The only
corps which seemed to him available was that of Mortier, and on
April 5 he ordered that the Duke of Treviso should concentrate his
troops and draw back to Tudela and Logroño. It might still prove to
be unnecessary to remove the 5th Corps from the Peninsula; but at
Logroño it would be within four marches of France if the Emperor
discovered that he had need of its services in the north. On the same
day Napoleon removed Junot from his command, probably on account of
the numerous complaints as to his conduct sent in by King Joseph.
To replace him General Suchet, the commander of one of Mortier’s
divisions, was directed to take charge of the 3rd Corps[507].

  [507] See Joseph’s letter of April 6, and the Emperor’s orders,
  from Paris, of April 5 and April 10.

Ten days later the imperial mandate reached Saragossa, and on
receiving it Mortier massed his troops and marched away to Tudela.
We have already seen[508] that his corps was never withdrawn from
Spain, but merely moved from Aragon to Old Castile. But its departure
completely changed the balance of fortune on the Lower Ebro. The
number of French troops in that direction was suddenly reduced by one
half, and the 3rd Corps had to spread itself out to the north, in
order to take over all the positions evacuated by Mortier. It was far
too weak for the duty committed to its charge, and at this moment it
had not even received back the brigade sent to guard the Saragossa
prisoners, which (it will be remembered) had been called off and lent
to Kellermann[509]. There were hardly 15,000 troops left in the whole
kingdom of Aragon, and these were dispersed in small bodies, with
the design of holding down as much ground as possible. The single
division of Grandjean had to cover the whole line from Barbastro to
Alcañiz--places seventy miles apart--with less than 5,000 bayonets.
The second division, Musnier’s, with its head quarters at Saragossa,
had to watch the mountains of Upper Aragon. Of the 3rd division, that
of Morlot, the few battalions that were available were garrisoning
Jaca and Tudela, on the borders of Navarre. No sooner had Mortier’s
corps departed, than a series of small reverses occurred, the
inevitable results of the attempt to hold down large districts with
an inadequate force. Junot, who was still retained in command till
his successor should arrive, seemed to lack the courage to draw in
his exposed detachments: probably his heart was no longer in the
business, since he was under sentence of recall. Yet he had six weeks
of work before him, for by some mischance the dispatch nominating
Suchet to take his place reached Saragossa after that general had
marched off at the head of his old division of Mortier’s corps.
Cross-communication being tardy and difficult, it failed to catch
him up till he had reached Valladolid. Returning from thence with a
slow-moving escort of infantry, Suchet did not succeed in joining
his corps till May 19. He found it in a desperate situation, for the
last four weeks had seen an almost unbroken series of petty reverses,
and it looked as if the whole of Aragon was about to slip out of the
hands of the French. It was fortunate for the 3rd Corps that its new
commander, though hitherto he had never been placed in a position
of independent responsibility, proved to be a man of courage and
resource--perhaps indeed the most capable of all the French generals
who took part in the Peninsular War. A timid or unskilful leader
might have lost Aragon, and imperilled the hold of King Joseph on
Madrid. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the entire French
position in Spain would have been gravely compromised if during the
last weeks of May the 3rd Corps had been under the charge of a less
skilful and self-reliant commander.

  [508] See p. 378.

  [509] See p. 378.

In the month that elapsed before Suchet’s arrival the consequences
of the withdrawal of the 5th Corps from the Lower Ebro were making
themselves felt. The Aragonese were not slow to discover the decrease
in the numbers of the invaders, and to note the long distances that
now intervened between post and post. The partisans who had retired
into Catalonia, or had taken refuge in the mountains of the south
and the north, began to descend into the plains and to fall upon the
outlying French detachments. On May 6 Colonel Perena came out of
Lerida, and beset the detachment of Grandjean’s division which held
the town and fortress of Monzon, with a horde of peasants and some
Catalan _miqueletes_. The governor, Solnicki, thereupon fell back
to Barbastro, the head quarters of Habert’s brigade. That general
considered that he was in duty bound to retake Monzon, and marched
against it with six battalions and a regiment of cuirassiers. He
tried to cross the Cinca, not opposite the town, but much lower
down the stream, at the ferry of Pomar. [May 16.] But just as his
vanguard[510] had established itself on the other bank, a sudden
storm caused such a rising of the waters that its communication
with the main body was completely cut off. Thereupon Habert marched
northward, and tried to force a passage at Monzon, so as to secure
a line of retreat for his lost detachment. The bridge of that town
however had been barricaded, and the castle garrisoned: Habert was
held at bay, and the 1,000 men who had crossed at the ferry of Pomar
were all cut off and forced to surrender. After marching for three
days among the insurgents, and vainly endeavouring to force their
way through the horde, they had to lay down their arms when their
cartridges had all been exhausted. [May 19.] Only the cuirassiers
escaped, by swimming the river when the flood had begun to abate, and
found their way back to Barbastro.

  [510] It consisted of eight _compagnies d’élite_, viz. the
  _voltigeur_ companies of the 14th Line, and the 2nd of the
  Vistula, and the grenadier and voltigeur companies of the 116th
  of the Line, with half a squadron of the 13th Cuirassiers. [Von
  Brandt, p. 62.]

In consequence of this disaster the French lost their grip on the
valley of the Cinca, for the insurgents, under Perena and the Catalan
chief Baget, moved forward into the Sierra de Alcubierre and raised
the whole country-side in their aid. Habert, fearing to be cut off
from Saragossa, thereupon retired to Villafranca on the Ebro, and
abandoned all North-Eastern Aragon[511].

  [511] This little campaign can be studied in detail in Von
  Brandt, pp. 60-8. He was serving as lieutenant in the 2nd of
  the Vistula, and gives many details which are not to be found
  in Suchet or Arteche. Toreno would seem (ii. 10) to be wrong in
  saying that Habert tried to storm Monzon, and got over the river
  there, but was beaten back by Baget. Von Brandt says that there
  was nothing but a hot fire across the water, and that the attack
  could not be pushed home.

Meanwhile the other brigade of Grandjean’s division, which still
lay at Alcañiz, south of the Ebro, was also driven in by the
Spaniards. Its commander Laval was attacked by a large force coming
from Tortosa, and was forced to draw back to San Per and Hijar
[May 18-19]. At the news of his retreat all the hill-country of
Southern Aragon took arms, and the bands from Molina and the other
mountain-cities extended their raids down the valley of the Huerta
and almost to the gates of Saragossa.

The Spanish force which had seized Alcañiz was no mere body of
armed peasants, but a small regular army. General Blake had just
been given the post of commander-in-chief of all the forces of
the _Coronilla_--the old kingdom of Aragon and its dependencies,
Valencia and Catalonia. Burning to atone for his defeats at Zornoza
and Espinosa by some brilliant feat of arms, he was doing his best
to collect a new ‘Army of the Right.’ From Catalonia he could draw
little or nothing: the troops which had fought under Reding at Valls
were still cooped up in Tarragona, and unfit for field-service. But
Blake had concentrated at Tortosa the division of the Marquis of
Lazan--the sole surviving fraction of the old Army of Aragon--and the
troops which he could draw from Valencia. These last consisted at
this moment of no more than the reorganized division of Roca from the
old ‘Army of the Centre.’ Its depleted _cadres_ had been sent back
by Infantado from Cuenca, and the Junta had shot into them a mass of
recruits, who in a few weeks had raised the strength of the division
from 1,500 to 5,000 bayonets. Other regiments were being raised in
Valencia, but in the early weeks of May they were not yet ready
for the field, though by June they gave Blake a reinforcement of
nearly 12,000 men[512]. Murcia could provide in May only one single
battalion for Blake’s assistance: all its field army had perished at
Saragossa. The total force of the new ‘Army of the Right’ when it
advanced against Alcañiz was less than 10,000 men--the Valencians in
its ranks outnumbered the Aragonese by four to three.

  [512] It is necessary to enter a protest against Napier’s
  statement (vol. ii. p. 252), that Valencia did not do its fair
  share in defending the general cause of Spain--that ‘from
  the very commencement of the insurrection its policy was
  characterized by a singular indifference to the calamities that
  overwhelmed the other parts of the country.’ The contribution of
  Valencia to the national armies raised in 1808-9, compares well
  with that of the other provinces. These troops, too, were not
  used for local defence, but employed in other parts of Spain.
  Argüelles’ answer to Napier on this point seems conclusive: (see
  the Appendix-volume of his _Observaciones_, &c.). The troops sent
  out by Valencia were:--

  (1) To join the division of Llamas in the ‘Army of the
      Centre’ [Roca’s later division], thirteen battalions,
      about                                                    6,000
  (2) To join the division of O’Neille in Aragon, one
      regiment                                                   800
  (3) To join the division of St. March in Aragon, nine
      battalions                                               6,000
  (4) Joined Palafox at Saragossa between the date of Tudela
      and the commencement of the siege, one battalion           500
  (5) Sent to Catalonia in December, two battalions              800
  (6) Raised to recruit Roca’s division in January             4,000
  (7) Raised to join Blake between April and June 1809        11,881
                                                     Total    29,981

  These figures are exclusive of cavalry and artillery, and in some
  cases are under-estimated, as no morning-states of the troops
  survive for the earlier months of the campaign of 1808, and
  these totals are taken from returns made late in the year, when
  the regiments had begun to run low in numbers. For the enormous
  monetary contribution made by Valencia in 1808-9, see the tables
  in Argüelles.

When Suchet therefore arrived at Saragossa on May 19, and took over
the command of the 3rd Corps from the hands of Junot, the prospect
seemed a gloomy one for the French. Their outlying detachments had
been forced back to the neighbourhood of Saragossa: the central
reserve (Musnier’s two brigades) was small: the third division
(with the exception of one regiment) was still absent--one of its
brigades was with Kellermann in Leon[513], and some detachments were
scattered among the garrisons of Navarre. After the sick and the
absent had been deducted, Suchet found that he had not much more
than 10,000 men under arms, though the nominal force of the 3rd
Corps was still about 20,000 sabres and bayonets. Nor was it only
in numbers that the Army of Aragon was weak: its _morale_ also left
much to be desired. The newly-formed regiments which composed more
than half of the infantry[514] were in a deplorable condition, a
natural consequence of the haste with which they had been organized
and sent into the field. Having been originally composed of companies
drawn from many quarters, they still showed a mixture of uniforms of
different cut and colour, which gave them a motley appearance and,
according to their commander, degraded them in their own eyes and
lowered their self-respect[515]. They had not yet fully recovered
from the physical and moral strain of the siege of Saragossa. Their
pay was in arrear, the military chest empty, the food procured from
day to day by marauding. There was much grumbling among the officers,
who complained that the promotions and rewards due for the capture
of Saragossa had almost all been reserved for the 5th Corps. The
guerrilla warfare of the last few weeks had disgusted the rank and
file, who thought that Junot had been mismanaging them, and knew
absolutely nothing of the successor who had just replaced him. The
whole corps, says Suchet, was dejected and discontented[516].

  [513] See p. 378.

  [514] The 114th, 115th, 116th, 117th, and 121st of the line were
  all formed from the ‘Provisional Regiments’ of 1808.

  [515] Suchet’s _Mémoires_. i. p. 11.

  [516] ‘Le 3me corps avait beaucoup souffert au siège de
  Saragosse. L’infanterie était considérablement affaiblie: les
  régiments de nouvelle formation surtout se trouvaient dans un
  état déplorable, par les vices inséparables d’une organisation
  récente et précipitée.... Des habits blancs bleus et de formes
  différentes, restes choquants de divers changements dans
  l’habillement, occasionnaient dans les rangs une bigarrure
  qui achevait d’enlever à des soldats déjà faibles et abattus
  toute idée de considération militaire. L’apparence de la misère
  les dégradait à leurs propres yeux ... Dans un état voisin du
  découragement, cette armée était loin de compenser par sa force
  morale le danger de sa faiblesse numérique.’ Suchet, p. 16.

  Von Brandt speaks to much the same effect, and says that some
  of the troops gave a bad impression, and that he saw battalions
  which looked as if they would not stand firm against a sudden and
  fierce attack, such as that which Mina and his guerrillas used to
  deliver [p. 61].

Nevertheless there was no time to rest or reorganize these sullen
battalions: the Spaniards were pressing in so close that it was
necessary to attack them at all costs: the only other alternative
would have been to abandon Saragossa. Such a step, though perhaps
theoretically justifiable under the circumstances, would have ruined
Suchet’s military career, and was far from his thoughts. Only two
days after he had assumed the command of the corps, he marched out
with Musnier’s division to join Laval’s troops at Hijar. [May 21.] He
had sent orders to Habert to cross the Ebro and follow him as fast
as he was able: but that general, who was still on the march from
Barbastro to Villafranca, did not receive the dispatch in time, and
failed to join his chief before the oncoming battle[517].

  [517] From a casual reading of Suchet, i. 17-21, it might be
  thought that the general had been joined by Habert before the
  battle. But he certainly was not, as the Memoirs of Von Brandt,
  who was with Habert, show that this brigade was at Villafranca,
  forty miles from Alcañiz, on the twenty-third, and only started
  (too late) to join its chief on the twenty-fourth. The mention
  of the 2nd of the Vistula on p. 21 of Suchet is a misprint for
  the 3rd of the Vistula of Musnier’s division. Half the 13th
  Cuirassiers was also absent with Habert.

On May 23, however, Suchet, with Musnier’s and Laval’s men, presented
himself in front of Blake’s position at Alcañiz. He had fourteen
battalions and five squadrons with him--a force in all of about
8,000 men, with eighteen guns[518]. He found the Spaniards ready
and willing to fight. They were drawn up on a line of hills to the
east of Alcañiz, covering that town and its bridge. Their position
was good from a tactical point of view, but extremely dangerous when
considered strategically: for Blake had been tempted by the strong
ground into fighting with the river Guadalope at his back, and had
no way of crossing it save by the single bridge of Alcañiz and a
bad ford. It was an exact reproduction of the deplorable order of
battle that the Russians had adopted at Friedland in 1807, though not
destined to lead to any such disaster. The northern and highest of
the three hills occupied by the Spaniards, that called the Cerro de
los Pueyos, was held by the Aragonese troops. On the central height,
called the hill of Las Horcas, was placed the whole of the Spanish
artillery--nineteen guns--guarded by three Valencian battalions: this
part of the line was immediately in front of the bridge of Alcañiz,
the sole line of retreat. The southern and lowest hill, that of La
Perdiguera, was held by Roca and the rest of the Valencians, and
flanked by the small body of cavalry--only 400 sabres--which Blake
possessed[519]. The whole army, not quite 9,000 strong, outnumbered
the enemy by less than 800 bayonets, though in French narratives it
is often stated at 12,000 or 15,000 men[520].

  [518] According to Suchet’s own figures from his May 15 return,
  the forces engaged must have been:--

  Musnier’s Division:
    114th Line (three batts.)               1,627
    115th Line (three batts.)               1,732
    1st of the Vistula (two batts.)         1,039
    121st Line (one batt. only)               400
    Detachment of the 64th and 40th of
      the Line [General’s escort]             450

  Laval’s Brigade:
    14th Line (two batts.)                  1,080
  3rd of the Vistula (two batts.)             964
  Cavalry, 4th Hussars                        326
  Half 13th Cuirassiers                       200
  Artillery                                   320
                                   Total    8,138

  [519] The Spanish line-of-battle was as follows:--

  Left wing, General Areizaga:
    Daroca, Volunteers of Aragon, Tiradores de Doyle,
      Reserve of Aragon, 1st Tiradores de Murcia, Company
      of Tiradores de Cartagena--five and one-sixth batts.     2,669

  Centre, Marquis of Lazan:
    Volunteers of Valencia, Ferdinando VII, 3rd batt. of
      America, detachment of Traxler’s Swiss--three and a
      half batts.                                              1,605

  Right wing, General Roca:
    3rd batt. of Savoia, 2nd batt. of America, 1st of
      Valencia (three batts.), 2nd Cazadores of Valencia,
      1st Volunteers of Saragossa--seven batts.                3,742

  Cavalry (detachments of Santiago, Olivenza, and Husares
    Españoles)                                                   445

  Artillery                                                      245

  [520] Napier, for example, following French sources, gives Blake
  12,000 men.

Suchet seems to have found some difficulty at first in making out
the Spanish position--the hills hid from him the bridge and town of
Alcañiz, whose position in rear of Blake’s centre was the dominant
military fact of the situation. At any rate, he spent the whole
morning in tentative movements, and only delivered his main stroke
in the afternoon. He began by sending Laval’s brigade against the
dominating hill on the right flank of the Spanish position. Two
assaults were made upon the Cerro de los Pueyos, which Suchet in his
autobiography calls feints, but which Blake considered so serious
that he sent off to this flank two battalions from his left wing and
the whole of his cavalry. Whether intended as mere demonstrations or
as a real attack, these movements had no success, and were repelled
by General Areizaga, the commander of the Aragonese, without much
difficulty. The Spanish cavalry, however, was badly mauled by
Suchet’s hussars when it tried to deliver a flank charge upon the
enemy at the moment that he retired.

When all the fighting on the northern extremity of the line had
died down, Suchet launched his main attack against Blake’s centre,
hoping (as he says) to break the line, seize the bridge of Alcañiz,
which lay just behind the hill of Las Horcas, and thus to capture
the greater part of the Spanish wings, which would have no line of
retreat. The attack was delivered by two of Musnier’s regiments[521]
formed in columns of battalions, and acting in a single mass--a
force of over 2,600 men. A column of this strength often succeeded
in bursting through a Spanish line during the Peninsular War. But on
this day Suchet was unlucky, or his troops did not display the usual
_élan_ of French infantry. They advanced steadily enough across the
flat ground, and began to climb the hill, in spite of the rapid and
accurate fire of the artillery which crowned its summit. But when
the fire of musketry from the Spanish left began to beat upon their
flank, and the guns opened with grape, the attacking columns came to
a standstill at the line of a ditch cut in the slope. Their officers
made every effort to carry them forward for the few hundred yards
that separated them from the Spanish guns, but the mass wavered,
surged helplessly for a few minutes under the heavy fire, and then
dispersed and fled in disorder. Suchet rallied them behind the five
intact battalions which he still possessed, but refused to renew
the attack, and drew off ere night. He himself had been wounded in
the foot at the close of the action, and his troops had suffered
heavily--their loss must have been at least 700 or 800 men[522].
Blake, who had lost no more than 300, did not attempt to pursue,
fearing to expose his troops in the plain to the assaults of the
French cavalry.

  [521] Three battalions of the 114th of the Line, and two of the
  1st of the Vistula.

  [522] Suchet gives a very poor account of Alcañiz in his
  _Mémoires_. In spite of his many merits, he did not take a
  beating well, and slurs over this action, just as in 1812 he
  slurs over his defeat at Castalla. He does not even give an
  estimate of his killed and wounded, and has the assurance to say
  that he left the enemy only ‘l’opinion de la victoire’ (i. 20).
  Blake clearly makes too much of the French attack on his right in
  his dispatch.

The morale of the 3rd Corps had been so much shaken by its
unsuccessful début under its new commander, that a panic broke out
after dark among Laval’s troops, who fled in all directions, on
a false alarm that the Spanish cavalry had attacked and captured
the rearguard. Next morning the army poured into San Per and Hijar
in complete disorder, and some hours had to be spent in restoring
discipline. Suchet discovered the man who had started the cry of
_sauve qui peut_, and had him shot before the day was over[523].

  [523] Suchet, _Mémoires_, p. 20.

The French had expected to be pursued, and many critics have blamed
Blake for not making the most of his victory and following the
defeated enemy at full speed. The Spanish general, however, had good
reasons for his quiescence: he saw that Suchet’s force was almost
as large as his own; he could not match the French in cavalry;
and having noted the orderly fashion in which they had left the
battle-field, he could not have guessed that during the night they
would disband in panic. Moreover--and this was the most important
point--he was expecting to receive in a few days reinforcements
from Valencia which would more than double his numbers. Till they
had come up he would not move, but contented himself with sending
the news of Alcañiz all over Aragon and stimulating the activity of
the insurgents. As he had hoped, the results of his victory were
important--the French had to evacuate every outlying post that they
possessed, and the whole of the open country passed into the hands of
the patriots. Perena and the insurgents of the north bank of the Ebro
pressed close in to Saragossa: other bands threatened the high-road
to Tudela: thousands of recruits flocked into Blake’s camp, but he
was unfortunately unable to arm or utilize them.

Within a few days, however, he began to receive the promised
reinforcements from Valencia--a number of fresh regiments from the
rear, and drafts for the corps that were already with him[524]. He
also used his authority as supreme commander in Catalonia to draw
some reinforcements from that principality--three battalions of
Reding’s Granadan troops and one of _miqueletes_: no more could
be spared from in front of the active St. Cyr. Within three weeks
after his victory of Alcañiz he had collected an army of 25,000 men,
and considered himself strong enough to commence the march upon
Saragossa. It was in his power to advance directly upon the city by
the high-road along the Ebro, and to challenge Suchet to a battle
outside its southern gates. He did not, however, make this move, but
with a caution that he did not often display, kept to the mountains
and marched by a side-road to Belchite [June 12]. Here he received
news of Napoleon’s check at Essling, which had happened on the
twenty-second of the preceding month; it was announced as a complete
and crushing defeat of the Emperor, and encouraged the Spaniards in
no small degree.

  [524] The drafts were so large that the troops of Lazan’s
  division, which had numbered 3,979 in May, were 5,679 in June,
  those of Roca rose similarly from 3,449 to 5,525. The Valencian
  Junta claimed to have sent in all 11,881 men to reinforce Blake,
  and the returns bear them out. They also gave him 2,000,000
  reals in cash--about £22,000--raised by a special contribution
  in fifteen days. Their report says that they had sent on every
  armed man in the province, and that the city was only guarded by
  peasants armed with pikes. (Argüelles.)

From Belchite Blake, still keeping to the mountains, pursued his
march eastward to Villanueva in the valley of the Huerba. This move
revealed his design; he was about to place himself in a position from
which he could threaten Suchet’s lines of communication with Tudela
and Logroño, and so compel him either to abandon Saragossa without
fighting, or to come out and attack the Spanish army among the hills.
Blake, in short, was trying to manœuvre his enemy out of Saragossa,
or to induce him to fight another offensive action such as that of
Alcañiz had been. After the experience of May 25 he thought that he
could trust his army to hold its ground, though he was not willing
to risk an advance in the open, across the level plain in front of

Suchet meanwhile had concentrated his whole available force in
that city and its immediate neighbourhood; he had drawn in every
man save a single column of two battalions, which was lying at La
Muela under General Fabre, with orders to keep back the insurgents
of the southern mountains from making a dash at Alagon and cutting
the high-road to Tudela. He had been writing letters to Madrid,
couched in the most urgent terms, to beg for reinforcements. But
just at this moment the Asturian expedition had drawn away to the
north all the troops in Old Castile. King Joseph could do no more
than promise that the two regiments from the 3rd Corps which had
been lent to Kellermann should be summoned back, and directed to
make forced marches on Saragossa. He could spare nothing save these
six battalions, believing it impossible to deplete the garrison of
Madrid, or to draw from Valladolid the single division of Mortier’s
corps, which was at this moment the only solid force remaining in the
valley of the Douro.

Suchet was inclined to believe that he might be attacked before this
small reinforcement of 3,000 men could arrive, and feared that, with
little more than 10,000 sabres and bayonets, he would risk defeat
if he attacked Blake in the mountains. The conduct of his troops in
and after the battle of Alcañiz had not tended to make him hopeful
of the result of another action of the same kind. Nevertheless, when
Blake came down into the valley of the Huerba, and began to threaten
his communications, he resolved that he must fight once again; the
alternative course, the evacuation of Saragossa and a retreat up the
Ebro, would have been too humiliating. Suchet devoted the three weeks
of respite which the slow advance of the enemy allowed him to the
reorganization of his corps. He made strenuous exertions to clothe
it, and to provide it with its arrears of pay. He inspected every
regiment in person, sought out and remedied grievances, displaced
a number of unsatisfactory officers, and promoted many deserving
individuals. He claims that the improvement in the morale of the
troops during the three weeks when they lay encamped at Saragossa was
enormous[525], and his statements may be verified in the narrative of
one of his subordinates, who remarks that neither Moncey nor Junot
had ever shown that keen personal interest in the corps which Suchet
always displayed, and that the troops considered their new chief both
more genial and more business-like than any general they had hitherto
seen, and so resolved to do their best for him[526].

  [525] Suchet, _Mémoires_, p. 23.

  [526] Von Brandt, _Aus meinem Leben_, i. 67.

Forced to fight, but not by any means confident of victory, the
French commander discharged on to Tudela and Pampeluna his sick,
his heavy baggage, and his parks, before marching out to meet Blake
upon June 14. The enemy, though still clinging to the skirts of the
hills, had now moved so close to Saragossa that it was clear that he
must be attacked at once, though Suchet would have preferred to wait
a few days longer, till he should have rallied the brigade from Old
Castile. These two regiments, under Colonel Robert, had now passed
Tudela, and were expected to arrive on the fifteenth or sixteenth.
But Blake had now descended the valley of the Huerba, and had pushed
his outposts to within ten or twelve miles of Saragossa. He had
reorganized his army into three divisions, one of which (mainly
composed of Aragonese troops) was placed under General Areizaga,
while Roca and the Marquis of Lazan headed the two others, in which
the Valencian levies predominated. Of the total of 25,000 men which
the muster-rolls showed, 20,000 were in line: the rest were detached
or in hospital. There were about 1,000 untrustworthy cavalry and
twenty-five guns.

In his final advance down the Huerba, Blake moved in two columns.
Areizaga’s division kept to the right bank and halted at Botorrita,
some sixteen miles from Saragossa. The Commander-in-chief, with the
other two divisions, marched on the left bank, and pushing further
forward than his lieutenant, reached the village of Maria, twelve
miles from the south-western front of the city. A distance of six
or seven miles separated the two corps. Thus Blake had taken the
strategical offensive, but was endeavouring to retain the tactical
defensive, by placing himself in a position where the enemy must
attack him. But he seems to have made a grave mistake in keeping his
columns so far apart, on different roads and with a river between
them. It should have been his object to make sure that every man was
on the field when the critical moment should arrive.

Already on the morning of the fourteenth the two armies came into
contact. Musnier’s division met the Spanish vanguard, thrust it back
some way, but then came upon Blake and the main body, and had to give
ground. Suchet, on the same evening, established his head quarters at
the Abbey of Santa Fé, and there dictated his orders for the battle
of the following day. Having ascertained that Areizaga’s division was
the weaker of the two Spanish columns, he left opposite it, on the
Monte Torrero, a mile and a half outside Saragossa, only a single
brigade--five battalions--under General Laval, who had now become
the commander of the 1st Division, for Grandjean had been sent back
to France. Protected by the line of the canal of Aragon, these 2,000
men[527] were to do their best to beat off any attack which Areizaga
might make against the city, while the main bodies of both armies
were engaged elsewhere. The charge of Saragossa itself was given
over to Colonel Haxo, who had but a single battalion of infantry[528]
and the sapper-companies of the army.

  [527] 44th of the Line, 1,069 bayonets, and 3rd of the Vistula,
  964 bayonets, according to Suchet’s figures.

  [528] Apparently a battalion of the 121st of the Line, the rest
  of which regiment was still in Navarre.

Having set aside these 3,000 men to guard his flank and rear, Suchet
could only bring forward Musnier’s division, and the remaining
brigade of Laval’s division (that of Habert), with two other
battalions, for the main attack. But he retained with himself the
whole of his cavalry and all his artillery, save one single battery
left with the troops on Monte Torrero. This gave him fourteen
battalions--about 7,500 infantry--800 horse, and twelve guns--less
than 9,000 men in all--to commence the battle. But he was encouraged
to risk an attack by the news that the brigade from Tudela was now
close at hand, and could reach the field by noon with 3,000 bayonets
more. It would seem that Suchet (though he does not say so in his
_Mémoires_) held back during the morning hours, in order to allow
this heavy reserve time to reach the fighting-ground.

Blake was in order of battle along the line of a rolling hill
separated from the French lines by less than a mile. Behind his
front were two other similar spurs of the Sierra de la Muela, each
separated from the other by a steep ravine. On his right flank was
the river Huerba, with level fields half a mile broad between the
water’s edge and the commencement of the rising ground. The village
of Maria lay to his right rear, some way up the stream. The Spaniards
were drawn out in two lines, Roca’s division on the northernmost
ridge, Lazan’s in its rear on the second, while the cavalry filled
the space between the hills and the river. Two battalions and half a
battery were in reserve, in front of Maria. The rest of the artillery
was placed in the intervals of the first line.

The French occupied a minor line of heights facing Blake’s front:
Habert’s brigade held the left, near the river, having the two
cavalry regiments of Wathier in support. Musnier’s division formed
the centre and right: a squadron of Polish lancers was placed far
out upon its flank. The only reserve consisted of the two stray
battalions which did not belong either to Musnier or Habert--one of
the 5th Léger, another of the 64th of the Line[529].

  [529] The battalion of the 5th Léger belonged to Morlot’s
  division, the rest of which was dispersed in Navarre or absent:
  that of the 64th was one which Suchet had brought from Valladolid
  as his personal escort, and which properly belonged to the 5th

Blake’s army was slow in taking up its ground, while Suchet did not
wish to move till the brigade from Tudela had got within supporting
distance. Hence in the morning hours there was no serious collision.
But at last the Spaniards took the initiative, and pushed a cautious
advance against Suchet’s left, apparently with the object of worrying
him into assuming the offensive rather than of delivering a serious
attack. But the cloud of skirmishers sent against Habert’s front grew
so thick and pushed so far forward, that at last the whole brigade
was seriously engaged, and the artillery was obliged to open upon the
swarm of Spanish _tirailleurs_. They fell back when the shells began
to drop among them, and sought refuge by retiring nearer to their
main body[530].

  [530] Suchet says the morning was occupied in mere ‘tiraillement’
  of the Spanish skirmishers and the 2nd of the Vistula. This is
  not borne out by the narrative of Von Brandt, of that corps.
  He says that the enemy came on ‘sehr lebhaft,’ that both
  battalions of his regiment were deeply engaged, that a regiment
  of Spanish dragoons in yellow [he calls it Numancia, but it was
  really Olivenza] charged into the skirmishing-line and nearly
  broke it. The 2nd of the Vistula used up all its cartridges,
  and lost ground. ‘Die Kavalleriezüge wurden jedoch jedesmal
  zurückgewiesen, aber nichtsdestoweniger verloren wir allmählich
  Terrain.’ The Spaniards were only driven off by a battery being
  drawn forward into the fighting-line. Then the fight stood still,
  but the regiment had suffered very heavily, and was finally drawn
  back and put into the reserve. (_Aus meinem Leben_, pp. 71-2.)

About midday the bickering died down on the French left, but shortly
after the fire broke out with redoubled energy in another direction.
Disappointed that he could not induce Suchet to attack him, Blake
had at last resolved to take the offensive himself, and columns
were seen descending from his extreme left wing, evidently with the
intention of turning the French right. Having thus made up his mind
to strike, the Spanish general should have sent prompt orders to his
detached division under Areizaga, to bid it cross the Huerba with
all possible speed, and hasten to join the main body before the
engagement had grown hot. It could certainly have arrived in two
hours, since it was but six or seven miles away. But Blake made no
attempt to call in this body of 6,000 men (the best troops in his
army) or to utilize it in any way. He only employed the two divisions
that were under his hand on the hillsides above Maria.

The attack on the French right, made between one and two o’clock,
precipitated matters. When Suchet saw the Spanish battalions
beginning to descend from the ridge, he ordered his Polish lancers
to charge them in flank, and attacked them in front with part of the
114th regiment and some _voltigeur_ companies. The enemy was thrown
back, and retired to rejoin his main body. Then, before they were
fully rearranged in line of battle, the French general bade the whole
of Musnier’s division advance, and storm the Spanish position. He was
emboldened to press matters to an issue by the joyful news that the
long-expected brigade from Tudela had passed Saragossa, and would be
on the field in a couple of hours.

The eight battalions of the 114th, 115th, and the 1st of the Vistula
crossed the valley and fell upon the Spanish line between two and
three o’clock in the afternoon. Roca’s men met them with resolution,
and the fighting was for some time indecisive. Along part of the
front the French gained ground, but at other points they were beaten
back, and to repair a severe check suffered by the 115th, Suchet had
to engage half his reserve, the battalion of the 64th, and to draw
into the fight the 2nd of the Vistula from Habert’s brigade upon
the left. This movement restored the line, but nothing appreciable
had been gained, when a violent hailstorm from the north suddenly
swept down upon both armies, and hid them for half an hour from each
other’s sight.

[Illustration: BATTLE OF ALCAÑIZ
  MAY 23RD 1809]

[Illustration: BATTLE OF MARIA
  JUNE 15TH 1809]

Before it was over, Suchet learnt that Robert and his brigade had
arrived at the Abbey of Santa Fé, on his right rear. He therefore
resolved to throw into the battle the wing of his army which he had
hitherto held back,--Habert’s battalions and the cavalry. When the
storm had passed over, they advanced against the Spanish right, in
the low ground near the river. The three battalions[531] of infantry
led the way, but when their fire had begun to take effect, Suchet
bade his hussars and cuirassiers charge through the intervals of
the front line. The troops here opposed to them consisted of 600
cavalry under General O’Donoju--the whole of the horsemen that Blake
possessed, for the rest of his squadrons were with Areizaga, far away
from the field.

  [531] The 2nd of the Vistula having been distracted to the
  centre, Habert had only the two battalions of the 14th of the
  Line, and one of the 5th Léger from the reserve.

The charge of Wathier’s two regiments proved decisive: the Spanish
horse did not wait to cross sabres, but broke and fled from the
field, exposing the flank of the battalions which lay next them in
the line. The cuirassiers and hussars rolled up these unfortunate
troops, and hunted them along the high-road as far as the outskirts
of Maria; here they came upon and rode down the two battalions which
Blake had left there as a last reserve, and captured the half-battery
that accompanied them.

The Spanish right was annihilated, and--what was worse--Blake had
lost possession of the only road by which he could withdraw and
join Areizaga. Meanwhile Habert’s battalions had not followed the
cavalry in their charge, but had turned upon the exposed flank of
the Spanish centre, and were attacking it in side and rear. It is
greatly to Blake’s credit that his firmness did not give way in this
distressing moment. He threw back his right, and sent up into line
such of Lazan’s battalions from his rear line as had not yet been
drawn into the fight. Thus he saved himself from utter disaster, and
though losing ground all through the evening hours, kept his men
together, and finally left the field in a solid mass, retiring over
the hills and ravines to the southward. ‘The Spaniards,’ wrote an
eye-witness, ‘went off the field in perfect order and with a good
military bearing[532].’ But they had been forced to leave behind them
all their guns save two, for they had no road, and could not drag the
artillery up the rugged slopes by which they saved themselves. Blake
also lost 1,000 killed, three or four times that number of wounded,
and some hundreds of prisoners. The steadiness of the retreat is
vouched for by the small number of flags captured by the French--only
three out of the thirty-four that had been upon the field. Suchet,
according to his own account, had lost no more than between 700 and
800 men.

  [532] ‘Ihr Rückzug geschah in aller Ordnung und militärischer
  Haltung. Sie lagerten in der Nacht uns gegenüber, und hielten
  am anderen Morgen die Höhen von Botorrita ganz in der Nähe des
  Schlachtfeldes.’ [Von Brandt, i. 73.]

When safe from pursuit the beaten army crossed the Huerba far above
Maria, and rejoined Areizaga’s division at Botorrita on the right
bank of that stream.

Next morning, to his surprise, Suchet learnt that the enemy was still
in position at Botorrita and was showing a steady front. The victor
did not march directly against Blake, as might have been expected,
but ordered Laval, with the troops that had been guarding Saragossa,
to turn the Spaniards’ right, while he himself manœuvred to get round
their left. These cautious proceedings would seem to indicate that
the French army had been more exhausted by the battle of the previous
day than Suchet concedes. The turning movements failed, and Blake
drew off undisturbed at nightfall, and retired on that same road to
Belchite by which he had marched on Saragossa, in such high hopes,
only four days back.

The battle of Maria had been on the whole very creditable to
the Valencian troops. But the subsequent course of events was
lamentable. On the way to Belchite many of the raw levies began to
disband themselves: the weather was bad, the road worse, and the
consciousness of defeat had had time enough to sink into the minds
of the soldiery. When Blake halted at Belchite, he found that he had
only 12,000 men with him: deducting the losses of the fifteenth,
there should have been at least 15,000 in line. Of artillery he
possessed no more than nine guns, seven that had been with Areizaga,
and two saved from Maria[533].

  [533] Suchet (i. 24) says that Blake had been reinforced by 4,000
  Valencians, when he fought at Belchite. This seems to have been
  an error, his reinforcement being Areizaga’s 6,000 men picked up
  at Botorrita, who were all Aragonese.

It can only be considered therefore a piece of mad presumption on
the part of the Spanish general that he halted at Belchite and again
offered battle to his pursuers. The position in front of that town
was strong--far stronger than the ground at Maria. But the men were
not the same; on June 15 they had fought with confidence, proud of
their victory at Alcañiz and intending to enter Saragossa in triumph
next day. On June 18 they were cowed and disheartened--they had
already done their best and had failed: it seemed to them hopeless
to try the fortunes of war again, and they were half beaten before a
shot had been fired. The mere numerical odds, too, were no longer in
their favour: at Maria, Blake had 13,000 men to Suchet’s 9,000--if we
count only the troops that fought, and neglect the 3,000 French who
came up late in the day, and were never engaged. At Belchite, Blake
had about 12,000 men, and Suchet rather more, for he had gathered in
Laval’s and Robert’s brigades--full 5,000 bayonets, and could put
into line 13,000 men, even if allowance be made for his losses in the
late battle[534]. It is impossible to understand the temerity with
which the Spanish general courted a disaster, by resolving to fight a
second battle only three days after he had lost the first.

  [534] He had twenty-two battalions and eight squadrons at
  Belchite (as he says himself, _Mémoires_, i. p. 34), while at
  Maria he had only fourteen battalions and seven squadrons.

Blake’s centre was in front of Belchite, in comparatively low-lying
ground, much cut up by olive groves and enclosures. His wings were
drawn up on two gentle hills, called the Calvary and El Pueyo: the
left was the weaker flank, the ridge there being open and exposed.
It was on this wing therefore that Suchet directed his main effort;
he sent against it the whole of Musnier’s division and a regiment
of cavalry, while Habert’s brigade marched to turn the right: the
centre was left unattacked. The moment that Musnier’s attack was well
pronounced, the whole of the Spanish left wing gave way, and fell
back on Belchite, to cover itself behind the walls and olive-groves.
Before the French division could be re-formed for a second attack,
an even more disgraceful rout occurred on the right wing. Habert’s
brigade had just commenced to close in upon the Spaniards, when a
chance shell exploded a caisson in rear of the battery in Blake’s
right-centre. The fire communicated itself to the other powder-wagons
which were standing near, and the whole group blew up with a terrific
report. ‘This piece of luck threw the whole line into panic,’ writes
an eye-witness, ‘the enemy thought that he was attacked in the rear.
Every man shouted Treason! whole battalions threw down their arms
and bolted. The disorder spread along the entire line, and we only
had to run in upon them and seize what we could. If they had not
closed the town-gates, which we found it difficult to batter in, I
fancy that the whole Spanish army would have been captured or cut to
pieces. But it took some time to break down the narrow grated door,
and then a battalion stood at bay in the Market Place, and had to be
ridden down by our Polish lancers before we could get on. Lastly, we
had to pass through another gate to make our exit, and to cross the
bridge over the Aguas in a narrow formation. This gave the Spaniards
time to show a clean pair of heels, and they utilized the chance with
their constitutional agility. We took few prisoners, but got their
nine guns, some twenty munition wagons, and the whole of their very
considerable magazines. General Suchet wrote up a splendid account of
the elaborate manœuvres that he made. But I believe that my tale is
nearer to the facts, and that the order of battle which he published
was composed _après coup_. The whole affair did not last long enough
for him to carry out the various dispositions which he details[535].’

  [535] Certainly on reading Suchet’s report one would not be
  inclined to think that the whole matter was such a disgraceful
  rout as Von Brandt (i. 74-5) describes in the above paragraphs.

The whole Spanish army was scattered to the winds. It was some days
before the Aragonese and Catalans began to rally at Tortosa, and the
Valencians at Morella. The total loss in the battle had not been
large--Suchet says that only one regiment was actually surrounded and
cut to pieces, and only one flag taken[536]. But of the 25,00