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Title: A History of the Peninsular War, Vol. III - Sep. 1809 - Dec. 1810. Ocaña, Cadiz, Bussaco, Torres Vedras
Author: Oman, Charles
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A History of the Peninsular War, Vol. III - Sep. 1809 - Dec. 1810. Ocaña, Cadiz, Bussaco, Torres Vedras" ***

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TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE

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

  * Obvious printer errors have been silently corrected.

  * Original spelling was kept, but variant spellings were made
    consistent when a predominant usage was found.

  * Errata and Notes on illustrations have been inserted into their
    proper places in the text.

  * To aid referencing places and names in present-day maps and
    documents, outdated and current spellings of some proper names
    follow:

                  Albaracin, now Albarracín,
               Albondonates, now Algodonales,
                Albuquerque, now Alburquerque,
                  Alcanizas, now Alcañices,
                   Alemtejo, now Alentejo,
                    Almanza, now Almansa,
                  Almunecar, now Almuñecar,
                    Araçena, now Aracena,
                  Arzobispo, now El Puente del Arzobispo,
          Baccelar (Manuel), now Manuel Pinto de Morais Bacelar,
                Ballasteros, now Ballesteros,
                  Barcellos, now Barcelos,
                     Baylen, now Bailén,
                     Boçaco, now Buçaco,
                    Bussaco, now Buçaco,
                 Cacabellos, now Cacabelos,
                    Caçeres, now Cáceres,
                  Calandriz, now Calhandriz,
                  Campredon, now Camprodón,
                   Cardadeu, now Cardedeu,
                Compostella, now Compostela,
                    Cordova, now Córdoba,
                    Corunna, now La Coruña,
                        Dao, now Dão,
                    Daymiel, now Daimiel,
                  Deleytosa, now Deleitosa,
             Despeña-Perros, now Despeñaperros,
                      Douro, now Duero (in Spain),
                                 Douro (in Portugal),
                   El Moral, now Moral de Calatrava,
                Estremadura, now Extremadura (in Spain),
                                 Estremadura (in Portugal),
                    Golegão, now Golegã,
        Guadalaviar (river), now Turia (río),
                 Guimaraens, now Guimarães,
                  La Baneza, now La Bañeza
                  La Bispal, now La Bisbal,
                       Loxa, now Loja,
                    Majorca, now Mallorca,
                       Meza, now Mesas de Ibor,
                  Momblanch, now Montblanch,
              Nabao (river), now Nabão (río),
                Ona (river), now Güeña (río),
                Oña (river), now Oñar (río),
                  Palleresa, now Pallaresa,
                  Pampeluna, now Pamplona,
                      Ripol, now Ripoll,
                   Sabugoça, now Sabugosa
                    Santona, now Santoña,
                  Saragossa, now Zaragoza,
                   Senabria, now Sanabria,
              Tagus (river), now Tajo (Spanish), Tejo (Portuguese),
                     Tajuna, now Tajuña,
                   Tondella, now Tondela,
                   Truxillo, now Trujillo,
                     Vierzo, now El Bierzo,
                 Villaharta, now Villarta de San Juan,
                   Vincente, now Vicente,
                   Vittoria, now Vitoria,
                      Xeres, now Jerez,

  * Chapter headers and Table of contents have been made consistent.

  * Footnotes have been renumbered into a single series. Each footnote
    is placed at the end of the paragraph that includes its anchor.

  * In p. 49, the anchor placement for footnote 52 is conjectured; no
    anchor was found in the printed original.

  * In pp. 202, 398 and 428, paragraphs have been broken at “(1)” for
    a more natural presentation and an easier reading.



[Illustration:_Duke of Wellington_
  _From a portrait in the Hope Collection_
  (_1813_)]



  A HISTORY OF THE
  PENINSULAR WAR

  BY
  CHARLES OMAN, M.A.
  FELLOW OF ALL SOULS COLLEGE
  AND CHICHELE PROFESSOR IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
  FELLOW OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY
  AND CORRESPONDING MEMBER OF THE REAL ACADEMIA
  DE LA HISTORIA OF MADRID

  VOL. III
  SEPT. 1809-DEC. 1810
  OCAÑA   CADIZ   BUSSACO   TORRES VEDRAS

  WITH MAPS AND ILLUSTRATIONS


  OXFORD
  AT THE CLARENDON PRESS
  1908



  HENRY FROWDE, M.A.
  PUBLISHER TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
  LONDON, EDINBURGH
  NEW YORK AND TORONTO



PREFACE


This, the third volume of the History of the Peninsular War, covers
a longer period than either of its predecessors, extending over the
sixteen months from Wellington’s arrival at Badajoz on his retreat
from Talavera (Sept. 3, 1809) to the deadlock in front of Santarem
(Dec. 1810), which marked the end of Masséna’s offensive campaign
in Portugal. It thus embraces the central crisis of the whole war,
the arrival of the French in front of the Lines of Torres Vedras and
their first short retreat, after they had realized the impossibility
of forcing that impregnable barrier to their advance. The retreat
that began at Sobral on the night of Nov. 14, 1810, was to end at
Toulouse on April 11, 1814. The armies of the Emperor were never
able to repeat the experiment of 1810, and to assume a general and
vigorous offensive against Wellington and Portugal. In 1811 they
were on the defensive, despite of certain local and partial attempts
to recover their lost initiative. In 1812 they had to abandon
half Spain--Andalusia, Estremadura, Asturias, La Mancha, and much
more,--despite of Wellington’s temporary check before Burgos. In
1813 they were swept across the Pyrenees and the Bidassoa; in 1814
they were fighting a losing game in their own land. Rightly then
may Masséna’s retreat to Santarem be called the beginning of the
end--though it was not for a full year more that Wellington’s final
offensive commenced, with the investment of Ciudad Rodrigo on Jan. 8,
1812.

The campaign of Bussaco and Torres Vedras, therefore, marked the
turning-point of the whole war, and I have endeavoured to set forth
its meaning in full detail, devoting special care to the explanation
of Wellington’s triple device for arresting the French advance--his
combination of the system of devastation, of the raising of the
_levée en masse_ in Portugal, and of the construction of great
defensive lines in front of Lisbon. Each of these three measures
would have been incomplete without the other two. For the Lines of
Torres Vedras might not have saved Portugal and Europe from the
domination of Napoleon, if the invading army had not been surrounded
on all sides by the light screen of irregular troops, which cut
its communications, and prevented it from foraging far afield. Nor
would Masséna have been turned back, if the land through which he
had advanced had been left unravaged, and if every large village had
contained enough food to subsist a brigade for a day or a battalion
for a week.

The preparations, the advance, and the retreat of Masséna cover about
half of this volume. The rest of it is occupied with the operations
of the French in Northern, Eastern, and Southern Spain--operations
which seemed decisive at the moment, but which turned out to be
mere side-issues in the great contest. For Soult’s conquest of
Andalusia, and Suchet’s victories in Aragon, Catalonia, and Valencia
only distracted the imperial generals from their central task--the
expulsion of Wellington and his army from the Peninsula. Most
readers will, I think, find a good deal of new information in the
accounts of the siege of Gerona and the battle of Ocaña. The credit
due to Alvarez for the defence of the Catalonian city has never
been properly set forth before in any English history, nor have the
details of Areizaga’s miserable campaign in La Mancha been fully
studied. In particular, the composition and strength of his army have
never before been elucidated, and Appendices V, VI of this volume
consist of absolutely unpublished documents.

I have to offer my grateful thanks to those who have been good
enough to assist me in the writing of this book, by furnishing me
with stores of private papers, or hitherto unknown official reports.
Two of the kind helpers who put me on the track of new information
for the compiling of Volume II have passed away while Volume III
was in progress. I bitterly regret the loss of my friends General
Arteche and Colonel F. A. Whinyates. The former, with his unrivalled
knowledge of the contents of the historical department of the Madrid
War Office, had enabled me to discover many a lost document of
importance. The latter had placed at my disposal his copious store
of papers, letters, and diaries relating to his old corps, the Royal
Artillery. In this present section of the history of the war I am
still using much of the material which he lent me.

But new helpers have come to my aid while this volume was being
written. To three of them I must express my special gratitude.
The first is Mr. W. S. M. D’Urban, of Newport House, near Exeter,
who has furnished me with copies of a collection of papers of
unique interest, the diary and correspondence of his grandfather,
Sir Benjamin D’Urban, who served as the Quarter-Master-General
of the Portuguese army, under Marshal Beresford, during the two
years covered by this section of my history. Thanks to the mass of
documents furnished by Mr. D’Urban’s kindness, I am now in a position
to follow the details of the organization, movements, and exploits
of the Portuguese army in a way that had hitherto been impossible to
me. Moreover, Sir Benjamin’s day by day criticisms on the strategy
and tactics both of Masséna and of Wellington have the highest
interest, as reflecting the opinions of the more intelligent section
of the head-quarters staff. It is noteworthy to find that, while
many of Wellington’s chief subordinates despaired of the situation
in 1810, there were some who already felt an enthusiastic confidence
in the plans of their leader, so much so that their criticisms
were reserved for the occasions when, in their opinion, he showed
himself over-cautious, and refused to take full advantage of the
uncomfortable positions into which he had lured his enemy.

The second mass of interesting private papers placed in my hands
of late is the personal correspondence of Nicholas Trant and John
Wilson, the two enterprising leaders of Portuguese militia forces,
to whom Wellington had entrusted the cutting off of Masséna’s
communication with Spain, and the restriction of his raids for
sustenance to feed his army. These letters have been lent me by
Commander Bertram Chambers of H.M.S. _Resolution_, a collateral
relative of Wilson. They fill up a gap in the military history of
1810, for no one hitherto had the opportunity of following out in
detail the doings of these two adventurous soldiers and trusty
friends, while they were engaged in the difficult task that was set
them. For a sample of Trant’s breezy style of correspondence, I may
refer the reader to pages 399-400 of this volume. Unfortunately, when
the two militia generals were in actual contact, their correspondence
naturally ceased, so that the series of letters has many _lacunae_.
But they are nevertheless of the highest value.

Thirdly, I have to thank Sir Henry Le Marchant for a sight of the
private papers of his grandfather, the well-known cavalry brigadier,
General John Gaspar Le Marchant, who fell at Salamanca. He did not
land in the Peninsula till 1811, but during the preceding year he was
receiving many letters of interest, some from his own contemporaries,
officers of high rank in Wellington’s army, others from younger men,
who had been his pupils while he was in command of the Military
College at High Wycombe. Some of the seniors, and one especially,
were among those down-hearted men--of the opposite type to Benjamin
D’Urban--who were consistently expecting disaster, and looked for a
hasty embarkation at Lisbon as the natural end of the campaign of
1810. The younger men took a very different view of affairs, and
invariably sent cheerful accounts of the doings of the army.

I must mention, once more, kind assistance from the officials of the
Historical sections of the War Ministries at Paris and at Madrid.
My friend Commandant Balagny, who gave me so much help during the
compilation of my second volume, has unfortunately been absent on a
military mission to Brazil during the last three years. But the kind
offices of M. Martinien have continually aided me in getting access
to the particular sections of the Paris archives with which I was
from time to time concerned. I must here take the opportunity of
expressing once more my admiration for his colossal work, the _Liste
des officiers tués et blessés pendant les Guerres de l’Empire_,
which, on the numberless occasions when no casualty-return appears
in the Paris archives, enables one to determine what regiments
were present at any action, and in what proportion they suffered.
At Madrid Captain Emilio Figueras has continued his kind services,
offered during the compilation of my second volume, and was
indefatigable in going through the papers of 1810 with me, during my
two visits to the Spanish capital.

Among my English helpers I must cite with special gratitude four
names. The first is that of Mr. C. T. Atkinson, Fellow of Exeter
College, Oxford, who has read the proofs of the greater part of
this volume, and given me many valuable corrections and pieces of
information, from his wide knowledge of British regimental history.
The second is that of Major John H. Leslie, R.A., who has compiled
the Artillery Appendix to this section, corresponding to that which
Colonel Whinyates compiled for the last. I am also most grateful to
him for an early view of the useful ‘Dickson Papers,’ which he is
publishing for the Royal Artillery Institution. The third is that
of the Rev. Alexander Craufurd, who has continued to give me notes
on the history of the Light Division, while it was commanded by his
grandfather, the famous Robert Craufurd. The fourth is that of Mr. C.
E. Doble of the Clarendon Press, who has again read for errors every
page of a long volume.

Lastly, the indefatigable compiler of the Index must receive once
more my heartfelt thanks for a labour of love.

The reader will find several topographical notes appended at the
end of chapters, the results of my first and second tours along the
borderland of Spain and Portugal. Two long visits to the battlefield
of Bussaco, and some days spent between the Coa and the Agueda, and
behind the Lines of Torres Vedras, gave me many new topographical
facts of importance. Drives and walks in the Badajoz-Elvas country,
and about Coimbra, also turned out most profitable. But my notes on
the battlefields of Fuentes d’Oñoro and Albuera can only be utilized
in my next volume, which I trust may not be long in following its
predecessor into print.

The spelling of many of the Spanish, and more especially the
Portuguese, names may appear unfamiliar to some readers. But I
believe that correctness should be studied above all things, even
though the results in cases like Bussaco with the double s, Golegão,
or Santa Comba Dao, may produce a momentary shock to the eye.
Portuguese spelling, both in personal names and in topography, was
in a state of flux in 1810. For example, the General commanding the
Artillery always appears as da Rosa in the official army lists, yet
signed his name da Roza; countless other instances could be produced.
Where it was possible I have followed the individual’s own version
of his name: he ought to have known best. There are still, no doubt,
errors of spelling surviving: no man is infallible, but I have done
my best to reduce them to a minimum.

    C. OMAN.

  OXFORD:
  _March 1, 1908_.



CONTENTS


  SECTION XVII
  FROM TALAVERA TO OCAÑA

  CHAPTER                                                         PAGE

     I. Introductory. The Central Junta. Wellesley and
        Wellington                                                   1

    II. Events in Eastern Spain during the Summer and Autumn
        of 1809: the Siege of Gerona begins                          9

   III. The Fall of Gerona (Aug.-Dec. 1809)                         37

    IV. The Autumn Campaign of 1809: Tamames, Ocaña, and Alba
        de Tormes                                                   67


  SECTION XVIII
  THE CONQUEST OF ANDALUSIA

     I. The Consequences of Ocaña (Dec. 1809-Jan. 1810)            103

    II. The Conquest of Andalusia: King Joseph and his plans       114

   III. Andalusia overrun: Cadiz preserved (Jan.-Feb. 1810)        128


  SECTION XIX
  THE PORTUGUESE CAMPAIGN OF 1810
  THE PRELIMINARIES: JAN.-AUG. 1810

     I. The Military Geography of Portugal                         153

    II. Wellington’s Preparations for Defence                      167

   III. The French Preparations: Masséna’s Army of Portugal        197

    IV. The Months of Waiting: Siege of Astorga (March-May 1810)   212

     V. The Months of Waiting: Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo (May-July
        1810)                                                      231

    VI. The Combat of the Coa: Siege of Almeida (July-Aug. 1810)   257

        Note on Almeida and the Bridge of the Coa                  280


  SECTION XX
  OPERATIONS IN THE EAST AND SOUTH OF SPAIN DURING THE SPRING
  AND SUMMER OF 1810

     I. Suchet and Augereau in Aragon, Valencia, and Catalonia,
        March-July 1810                                            282

    II. Operations in the South of Spain during the Spring and
        Summer of 1810 (March-Oct. 1810)                           315


  SECTION XXI
  BUSSACO AND TORRES VEDRAS (SEPT.-DEC. 1810)

     I. Masséna’s Advance to Bussaco (Sept. 1810)                  341

        Note on the Situation upon September 25                  357-8

    II. The Battle of Bussaco (Sept. 27, 1810)                     359

        Note on the Topography of Bussaco                        386-8

        Note on the Crisis of the Battle of Bussaco              388-9

   III. Wellington’s Retreat to the Lines of Torres Vedras
        (Oct. 1810)                                                390

    IV. The Lines of Torres Vedras                                 419

     V. Masséna before the Lines: his retreat to Santarem
        (Oct.-Nov. 1810)                                           437


  SECTION XXII
  THE END OF THE YEAR 1810

     I. Operations in the North and East of Spain (July-Dec.
        1810)                                                      482

    II. King Joseph, and the Cortes at Cadiz: General Summary      505


  APPENDICES

     I. The Spanish Forces at the Siege of Gerona                  524

    II. The French Forces at the Siege of Gerona                   525

   III. Del Parque’s Army in the Tamames-Alba de Tormes Campaign   526

    IV. Losses of the French at Tamames (Oct. 18, 1809)            528

     V. The Partition of the Army of Estremadura in September
        1809                                                       528

    VI. Areizaga’s Army in the Ocaña Campaign                      530

   VII. The French Army of Spain in January 1810                   532

  VIII. Muster-roll of Masséna’s Army of Portugal on September
        15, 1810, January 1 and March 15, 1811                     540

    IX. British Losses at the Combat of the Coa                    544

     X. Wellington’s Army in the Campaign of Bussaco               544

    XI. Masséna’s Orders for the Battle of Bussaco                 549

   XII. British and Portuguese Losses at Bussaco                   550

  XIII. French Losses at Bussaco                                   552

   XIV. The Anglo-Portuguese Army in the Lines of Torres Vedras    554

    XV. The British and Portuguese Artillery in the Campaign
        of 1810                                                    558


  INDEX                                                            561


MAPS AND PLANS

  CHAPTER                                         PAGE

     I. SIEGE OF GERONA                                   _To face_ 48

    II. BATTLE OF TAMAMES                                     ”     78

   III. BATTLE OF OCAÑA                                       ”     94

    IV. GENERAL MAP OF ANDALUSIA                              ”    128

     V. TOPOGRAPHY OF CADIZ                                   ”    148

    VI. CENTRAL PORTUGAL                                      ”    160

   VII. PLAN OF ASTORGA                                       ”    224

  VIII. PLAN OF CIUDAD RODRIGO                                ”    240

    IX. PLAN OF ALMEIDA AND THE COMBAT OF THE COA             ”    272

     X. GENERAL MAP OF CATALONIA                              ”    288

    XI. THE MONDEGO VALLEY                                    ”    352

   XII. GENERAL PLAN OF BUSSACO                               ”    368

  XIII. DETAILS OF NEY’S AND REYNIER’S ATTACK AT BUSSACO      ”    380

   XIV. THE LINES OF TORRES VEDRAS                            ”    432


ILLUSTRATIONS

  PORTRAIT OF WELLINGTON                                 _Frontispiece_

  SPANISH INFANTRY: UNIFORMS OF 1808                     _To face_ 112

  PORTRAIT OF MASSÉNA                                         ”    208

  SPANISH INFANTRY: UNIFORMS OF 1810                          ”    320

  COINS CURRENT IN THE PENINSULA 1808-14                      ”    496


NOTES ON THE ILLUSTRATIONS

I. SPANISH INFANTRY 1808

This shows the old uniform of Charles IV. The Line regiments had
white, the Foreign and Light regiments blue, coats. Both wore white
breeches and black gaiters: the plume and facings varied in colour
for each regiment.

II. SPANISH INFANTRY 1810

Under the influence of the immense quantity of British materials
supplied, the uniform has completely changed since 1808. The cut is
assimilated to that of the British army--the narrow-topped shako,
and long trousers have been introduced. The coat is dark-blue, the
trousers grey-blue, the facings red. Grenadiers have the grenade,
light-companies the bugle-horn on their shakos.


ERRATA

Page 264, line 13, _for_ 318 _read_ 333

Page 277, line 20, _for_ 1811 _read_ 1810

Page 335. Lord Blayney’s force had only a half-battalion, not a
     whole battalion of the 89th, but contained 4 companies of
     foreign chasseurs, not mentioned in the text. [See his
     Memoirs, i. pp. 5-6.]



SECTION XVII

FROM TALAVERA TO OCAÑA



CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORY. THE CENTRAL JUNTA. WELLESLEY AND WELLINGTON


Between the 20th of August, 1809, when Robert Craufurd’s Light
Brigade[1] withdrew from the Bridge of Almaraz, to follow the rest
of the British army across the mountains to the neighbourhood of
Badajoz, and February 27, 1810, when part of that same brigade was
engaged in the first skirmish of Barba del Puerco, not a shot was
fired by any of Wellington’s troops. This gap of over six months in
his active operations may appear extraordinary, and it was bitterly
criticized at the time. Between August and March there was hard
fighting both in the south of Spain and along the north-eastern
frontier of Portugal; but the British army, despite many invitations,
took no part in it. Wellington adhered to his resolve never to commit
himself again to a campaign in company with the Spaniards, unless he
should be placed in a position in which he could be independent of
the freaks of their government and the perversity of their generals.
Two months’ experience of the impracticability of Cuesta, of the
deliberate disobedience of Venegas, of the fruitless promises of
the commissary-general Lozano de Torres, of the insane demands and
advice sent in by the Central Junta, had convinced him that he dare
not risk his army in a second venture such as that which had led
him to Talavera. If he were made commander-in-chief by the Spanish
Government, and granted a free hand in the direction of the Spanish
armies, matters would look different[2]. But there was at present
no chance whatever that he would receive such a mark of confidence.
Only a small minority of the leading men at Seville could endure with
patience the idea of a British commander-in-chief. Wellington himself
had long dismissed the project--which Frère had broached in the
spring[3]--as impracticable.

  [1] Not, it must be remembered, to become the Light _Division_
  till March 1810.

  [2] See Wellington to Canning, Sept. 5, 1800, in _Dispatches_, v.
  123-4.

  [3] See vol. ii. pp. 465-6.

Meanwhile the French advance had no sooner ceased--after the rather
objectless combat of Arzobispo--than the Junta began to press upon
the British general schemes for a resumption of the offensive and
a second march toward Madrid. The political situation, and not any
military considerations, was the originating cause of their untimely
activity. They felt that their authority was waning, that their
popularity had vanished, that their critics were daily growing more
venomous, and they saw that success in the war would be the only
possible way out of their difficulties. Hence at the very moment
when Wellington was withdrawing his half-starved army from the
Tagus, and impeaching in letters of stinging irony the conduct of
the Junta’s mendacious commissaries, he was being pressed to resume
the offensive. Countless appeals were made to him. Both formal and
argumentative invitations from the ministers at Seville, and private
remonstrances by individuals, Spanish and English, were showered upon
him[4]. The Junta even went so far as to offer him command of the
Spanish troops in Estremadura, though this offer was qualified by
their statement that they intended to reduce those troops to 12,000
men, the larger half of the army being under orders to march eastward
into La Mancha and join the force of Venegas. This proposal did not
in the least meet Wellington’s main objection to resuming active
operations; viz. that he could not trust the Spanish Government to
feed his army, nor the Spanish generals to carry out with punctual
accuracy any scheme for a joint campaign which might be laid before
him. He put the matter very plainly--‘till the evils of which I think
that I have reason to complain are remedied: till I see magazines
established for the supply of the troops, and a regular system
adopted for keeping them filled: till I see an army upon whose
exertions I can depend, commanded by officers capable and willing
to carry into execution the operations which have been planned by
mutual agreement, I cannot enter upon any system of co-operation
with the Spanish armies[5].’ This statement was for publication: in
private correspondence with his brother, the ambassador at Seville,
he added still more cogent reasons for declining to take the field
with Venegas or Eguia. He had witnessed with his own eyes the panic
of Portago’s division on the night before Talavera, ‘when whole corps
threw away their arms and ran off in my presence, while neither
attacked nor threatened with attack, but frightened (I believe) by
their own fire’: he had seen Albuquerque’s cavalry, the day after
the combat of Arzobispo, lurking in every village for twenty miles
round, and ‘had heard Spanish officers telling of nineteen or twenty
actions of the same description as that of Arzobispo, an account of
which (I believe) has never been published.’ The army of Estremadura
consisted, he concluded, ‘of troops by no means to be depended
upon’--on every ground, therefore, he ought to avoid ‘risking the
King’s army again in such company[6].’

  [4] See _Dispatches_, v. 168, for an account of an interview
  with the Marquis of Malaspina and Lord Macduff, who had come to
  Badajoz to make personal representation, which Wellington much
  resented.

  [5] Wellington to Wellesley, Oct. 30: _Dispatches_, v. 213. For
  stronger language about the rash folly of Spanish generals, see
  Wellington to Beresford, ibid. 179.

  [6] Wellington to Wellesley, Aug. 24, from Merida.

There was no getting over this fundamental objection of Wellington’s,
and his brother, therefore, was placed in a very uncomfortable
position. During all his negotiations with the Central Junta, Lord
Wellesley’s task indeed was a most invidious one. He had been
directed by his government to profess an earnest desire to aid the
Spaniards in bringing the war to a successful conclusion, and to
pledge the aid of Great Britain, yet he was forced to refuse every
definite proposal made to him by the Junta. On the other hand,
there were clauses in his instructions which provoked the most
openly-displayed suspicion and resentment, when he touched upon them
in his conversations with Martin de Garay and the other Spanish
ministers. Such were the proposal to place the whole Spanish army
under a British commander (i.e. Wellington), the attempt to open up
the subject of a certain measure of free trade with Spanish America,
and--most of all--the offer to send British troops to garrison
Cadiz. For despite the fiasco of the preceding winter, the Portland
ministry were still harping on this old string, and allusions to it
occur in nearly every dispatch sent from London to the ambassador at
Seville[7].

  [7] See Canning’s instruction to Wellesley of June 27, 1809, on
  pages 186-91 of Wellesley’s _Dispatches and Correspondence_,
  Lond. 1838.

Wellesley’s position was made even more difficult by the fact
that all the Spanish factions opposed to the Central Junta tried
to draw him into their schemes, by making lavish professions of
what they were ready to do if only the present government were
evicted from office. Of these factions there were many: the old
‘Council of Castile,’ which the Junta had superseded, still clung
together, making protests as to the legality of their successor’s
position. The local assemblies were equally jealous of the central
authority--the Juntas of Estremadura and Valencia, in especial, were
always intriguing behind its back, and the former at least made many
tempting proposals both to Wellesley and to Wellington. But the most
dangerous enemies of the existing government were the malcontents
close at its gates--the Andalusian conspirators, led by the members
of the old Junta of Seville, and by the intriguers like the Conde de
Montijo, the dukes of Infantado and Ossuna, and Francisco Palafox.
The dissatisfaction caused by the incapacity, indecision, and--as
it was openly said--the nepotism and venality of the Junta was so
general, that a plan was formed in Seville to seize them, deport them
all to the Canaries, and proclaim a Regency. The troops in the place
were tampered with, some demagogues were ready to raise the mob, and
Infantado[8], who was in the thick of the plot, came to Wellesley
one night to divulge the arrangements for the ‘Pronunciamento’ and
to bespeak his aid. Much as he disliked the Junta and its methods,
the Ambassador scornfully refused to make himself a member of a
conspiracy, and after warning Infantado of his intention, went
straight to the Secretary Garay and gave him all the information as
to the project, though without divulging any names. Some of the
plotters fled, others were arrested. ‘For the last two days,’ writes
Wellesley to his brother, ‘I have been employed in endeavouring to
save the necks of these caitiffs from the just fury and indignation
of the people and soldiery, and I have succeeded. A regular plot was
formed to seize (and I believe to _hang_) them all. But I could not
suffer such outrages under my nose, so I interfered and saved the
curs from the rope. They were all gratitude _for an hour_ [Wellesley
was offered and refused the Order of the Golden Fleece next morning],
but now that they think themselves secure they have begun to cheat me
again[9].’

  [8] See Baumgarten, _Geschichte Spaniens_, i. 408, and Toreno,
  vol, ii. p. 72. Wellesley only calls the Duke ‘a person’:
  _Dispatches_, p. 160.

  [9] Wellesley to Wellington, Sept. 19, 1809. Wellington,
  _Supplementary Dispatches_, vi. 372.

Much as every patriot should deprecate the employment of _coups
d’état_ while a foreign war is on hand, there was much to excuse
the conduct of the enemies of the Junta. That body was now more
than a year old; it had been from the first regarded as a stop-gap,
as a provisional government which was destined to give place to
something more regular and constitutional when occasion should serve.
A ‘Committee of Public Safety’ which fails to preserve the state
stands self-condemned, and the history of the Central Junta had been
one record of consistent disaster. A body of over thirty persons is
too large for a ministry, too small for a representative assembly.
Every intelligent Spaniard, whatever his politics, was desirous of
seeing it give place to a regular government. The Conservatives
and bureaucrats would have been contented if it had appointed a
Regency of four or five persons, and then abdicated. The Liberals
demanded that it should summon the national Cortes, and leave to
that body the creation of an executive. Pamphlets were showered by
dozens from the press--now more or less free, for the first time
in Spanish history--to advocate one or other of these courses. The
Junta, however, had no intention of surrendering its power, whatever
pretence of disinterestedness it might assume and proclaim. Its
first attempts to put off the evil day when it must yield to public
opinion were ingeniously absurd. It issued, as early as May 22, a
proclamation acknowledging the advisability of summoning a Cortes,
and then invited all well-thinking Spaniards to send in schemes and
suggestions during the next two months concerning the best way in
which the national assembly could be organized, and the reforms and
constitutional improvements which it should take in hand. These
documents were to be read and pondered over by a Commission, mainly
composed of members of the Junta, which was to issue a report in due
time, embodying the best of the suggestions and the results of its
own discussion[10]. This was an admirable device for wasting time
and putting off the assembly of the Cortes. The Commission finally
decided, on September 19, after many weeks of session, that a supreme
Executive Council of five persons should be appointed, carefully
avoiding the name of Regency. But only existing members of the
Central Junta were to be eligible as Councillors, and the Council
was to be changed at short intervals, till every member of the
Junta had taken a turn in it[11]. The only laudable clause of this
scheme was one providing that Spanish America should be represented
in the Junta, and therefore ultimately in the Executive Council.
The arrangement satisfied nobody--it merely substituted a rapidly
changing committee of the Junta for the whole of that body as the
supreme ruling power: and it was clear that the orders of the Council
would be those of the Junta, though they might be voiced by fewer
mouths. The assembly of the Cortes would be put off _ad infinitum_.

  [10] For the text of this wordy proclamation see Wellesley’s
  _Spanish Dispatches_, pp. 135-9.

  [11] Note the extraordinary similarity of this plan to that
  produced by the Athenian oligarchs in 411 B. C. Had some one been
  reading Thucydides?

Any effect which the report of the Commission might have had, was
spoilt by the fact that it was followed by a minority report, or
manifesto, drawn up by the Marquis of La Romana, who had been one of
the Commissioners. The Junta had called him back from Galicia, and
compelled him to surrender the army that he had re-formed, under the
pretext that he had been co-opted as a member of their own body. A
death-vacancy had been created in the representation of the kingdom
of Valencia: he had been named to fill it, summoned to Seville,
and placed on the constitutional Commission. Dissenting from every
word of the report of the majority, he published on October 14 a
counter-scheme, in which he declared that the venality, nepotism,
and dilatory incapacity of the Junta made it necessary for Spain
to seek a new executive which should be wholly independent of that
body. Accordingly he suggested that a Regency of five members should
be constituted, as the supreme governing body of the realm. No
member of the Junta was to sit therein. It was to be assisted, for
consultative purposes, by a body of six persons--one of whom was
to be a South American. This second committee, to be called ‘the
Permanent Deputation of the Realm,’ was to be considered to represent
the Cortes till that assembly should meet. It was not to meddle with
executive matters, but was to devote itself to drawing up the details
of the constitution of the future Cortes, and to suggesting practical
reforms.

So far as the declaration in favour of a Regency went, most sensible
Spaniards liked La Romana’s scheme, and it obtained Wellesley’s
approval also. But the idea of the ‘Permanent Deputation’ frightened
the Liberals, who feared that its existence would be made the excuse
for putting off the summoning of the Cortes for an indefinite time.
Moreover it was rumoured that La Romana intended to resign his seat
in the Junta, and to become a candidate for the position of Senior
Regent, so that his proposals must be intended to benefit himself.
The suspicion that his personal ambitions inspired his patriotic
denunciation of the Junta’s misdoings was made the more likely by
events that occurred at the same moment in Valencia. There the
leading personage of the moment was the governor, General José Caro,
the younger brother of La Romana, who had complete control of the
local Junta, and exercised what his enemies called a tyranny in the
province. He and his following were already on the worst terms with
the Seville Government, and now took the opportunity of bursting
out into open rebellion. They issued a sounding manifesto against
the Supreme Junta, declared their intention of refusing to obey it
any longer, and republished and sent in all directions to the other
local Juntas La Romana’s report in favour of a Regency, of which Caro
had struck off 6,000 copies. They threatened to turn back by force
General Castro whom the Supreme Junta had sent to supersede Caro,
and declared their second representative in that body, the Conde de
Contamina, deposed for ‘disobedience to the will of the people.’ It
looked as if La Romana might be intending to overthrow the central
government by means of his brother’s Valencian army. Apparently he
must be acquitted of this charge, his fiery and ambitious kinsman
having gone far beyond his intentions.

In the midst of all these intrigues, plots, and manifestos the
Central Junta had only one hope--to rehabilitate themselves by means
of a great military success. With ruinous consequences they tried to
direct the course of the war with political rather than strategical
ends in view. Of the unhappy autumn campaign which their rashness
precipitated we shall speak in its proper place; but before narrating
the disasters of Ocaña and Alba de Tormes, we must turn back for
some months to consider the situation of Eastern Spain, where the
continuous chronicle of events has been conducted no further than
Blake’s rout at Belchite in June, and St. Cyr’s victory of Valls
in February 1809. Much had happened in Catalonia and Aragon even
before the day of Talavera. Much more was to take place before the
ill-judged November campaign of the Junta’s armies in New Castile and
Leon had begun.


N.B.--This is a military history: for the war of pamphlets and
manifestos, plots and intrigues, between the Seville Government
and its adversaries, the reader who is anxious to master the
disheartening details may consult Toreno’s Tenth Book; Schepeler,
iii. 460-86; Baumgarten, vol. i. chapter viii; Arteche, vol. vii.
chapter vi, and above all the volume of the Marquis of Wellesley’s
_Spanish Dispatches_ (London, 1838). There is a good and lively
description of the chief members of the Junta and the ministry, and
of the intrigues against them, in William Jacob’s _Travels in the
South of Spain_ (London, 1811).



SECTION XVII: CHAPTER II

EVENTS IN EASTERN SPAIN DURING THE SUMMER AND AUTUMN OF 1809. THE
SIEGE OF GERONA BEGUN


In the spring of 1809 the theatres of operations of the two French
army-corps entrusted with the reduction of Aragon and of Catalonia
were still divided by a broad belt of territory which was in the
hands of the Spaniards, around the fortresses of Lerida, Mequinenza,
and Tortosa. Only once had communication been opened between Suchet
and St. Cyr, and then the force which had crossed from Aragon into
Catalonia found itself unable to return. The only way of getting a
dispatch from Saragossa to Barcelona was to send it by the circuitous
road through France. Co-operation between the 3rd and the 7th Corps
would have been difficult in any case; but since each of the two
corps-commanders was interested in his own problems alone, and found
them all-absorbing, the war in Catalonia and the war in Aragon went
on during 1809 and the first half of 1810 as separate affairs from
the French point of view. It was otherwise with the Spaniards: Blake
had been placed in command of the whole of the _Coronilla_, the
three provinces of Valencia, Aragon, and Catalonia which had formed
the ancient kingdom of Aragon[12]. He had Suchet on his left and
St. Cyr on his right, was equally interested in the operations of
each, and might, so far as the rules of strategy go, have turned his
main force against whichever of the two he might please, leaving a
comparatively small force to ‘contain’ the other. Unfortunately he
proved unable to make head against either of his adversaries. We
have already seen how, in the early summer, he threw himself upon
Suchet, and was beaten off at Maria and routed at Belchite. In the
later months of the year it was mainly with St. Cyr that he had to
deal, and his efforts were equally unsuccessful. It would seem that
he found it very difficult to concentrate any preponderant portion
of his troops for a blow to either side: very few battalions from
Catalonia accompanied his Valencians and Aragonese to Maria: very
few Valencians were brought up to aid the Catalans in the operations
about Gerona. The problems of food and transport had something to
do with this, but the main difficulty was that the armies of both
provinces, more especially the Catalans, were essentially local
levies, and disliked being drawn far from their homes. There was
always some threatening danger in their own district which made
them loath to leave it unguarded, while they were taken off on some
distant expedition. The complaints and arguments of the Juntas,
the manifest unwillingness of the officers and men, fettered the
hands of the commander-in-chief, whenever he strove to accomplish a
general concentration. Hence it came to pass that for the most part
St. Cyr was opposed by Catalan troops only, Suchet by Valencians and
Aragonese only, during the campaigns of 1809.

  [12] Catalonia had been added to his command after Reding died of
  wounds received at the battle of Valls.

The tasks of the commander of the 3rd Corps in the months that
followed his victories over Blake were both less interesting and
less important than those imposed upon his colleague in Catalonia.
They were however laborious enough; after having driven the
Spanish regular armies out of Aragon, Suchet had now to tame the
country-side. For even after Belchite he held little more than the
towns of Saragossa and Jaca, and the ground on which his camps were
pitched from day to day. When he had concentrated his corps to fight
Blake, the rest of the province had slipped out of his hands. Its
reconquest was a tedious matter, even though he had only to contend
with scattered bands of peasants, stiffened by stragglers from the
army that had dispersed after Belchite. The plain of the Ebro, which
forms the central strip of Aragon, was easily subdued, but the
mountains to the north and south were well fitted to be the refuge of
insurgents. The Aragonese, along with the Galicians, were the first
of the Spaniards to take to systematic guerrilla warfare. Undismayed
by the fate of Blake’s army, they had resolved to defend themselves
to the last. There was more than one focus of resistance: a colonel
Renovales, who had been one of the defenders of Saragossa, and had
escaped after the capitulation, was at the head of the bands of the
north-western mountains, in the vale of Roncal and on the borders
of Navarre. In the north-eastern region, about the upper waters of
the Cinca and the hills beyond Jaca, two local chiefs named Perena
and Sarasa kept the war on foot, getting their stores and ammunition
from the Catalans on the side of Lerida. In an entirely distinct
part of the province, south of the Ebro, lay Gayan and Villacampa,
whose centres of activity were Daroca and Molina, mountain towns from
which they were often driven up into that central ganglion of all
the ranges of Spain, the Sierra de Albaracin, from which descend in
diverging directions the sources of the Tagus, the Guadalaviar, and
the Xucar. Both Gayan and Villacampa were officers of the regular
army, holding commissions under Blake: the band of the former had as
its nucleus the regiment of La Princesa, whose extraordinary escape
across northern Spain after the combat of Santander has been told in
another place[13].

  [13] See vol. ii. p. 387.

Suchet’s work, during the later summer and the autumn of 1809, was
to break up and as far as possible to destroy these bands. His
success was considerable but not complete: in July he stormed Gayan’s
stronghold, the mountain sanctuary of Nuestra Señora del Aguila,
captured his magazines, and drove him up into the mountains of
Molina. Continuing his campaign south of the Ebro, he sent the Pole
Chlopiski against Villacampa, who abandoned Calatayud, Daroca, and
the other hill towns, and retired into the Sierra de Albaracin, where
he took refuge at the remote convent of El Tremendal, one of the most
out-of-the-way spots in the whole Peninsula. Here, nevertheless,
the partisan was followed up on Nov. 23-4 by a column under Colonel
Henriot, who manœuvred him out of his position, surprised him by a
night attack, and drove him over the Valencian border. The convent
was blown up, the dependent village of Orihuela sacked, and the
French withdrew[14].

  [14] For an excellent personal diary of all these operations see
  General Von Brandt’s _Aus meinem Leben_, pp. 100-12. He accuses
  Suchet of grossly exaggerating, both in his dispatches and his
  memoirs, the difficulty and importance of these mountain raids
  (see Suchet’s _Memoirs_, i. pp. 40-74, for a highly picturesque
  narrative). The insurgents were still unskilled in arms, shot
  very poorly, kept bad watch, and were given to panic. That there
  is something in Brandt’s criticism seems to be shown by the fact
  that the whole division of Musnier lost between July 1 and Dec.
  31, 1809, only three officers killed and eight wounded out of
  200 present with the eagles in six months of incessant raids and
  skirmishes (see Martinien’s _Liste des officiers_, often quoted
  before).

These operations had been carried out by Musnier’s division; but
meanwhile movements of a very similar sort were being undertaken by
another division, that of Laval, on the other side of Aragon, along
the slopes and gorges of the Pyrenees[15]. In the end of August a
column of 3,000 men stormed the convent of San Juan de la Peña, close
to Jaca, which Sarasa and Renovales were wont to make their head
quarters. It was an ancient building containing the tombs of the
early kings of Aragon, who reigned in the mountains before Saragossa
had been recovered from the Moor; it had never seen an enemy for
eight hundred years, and was reputed holy and impregnable. Hence its
capture dealt a severe blow to the confidence of the insurgents.
Renovales, however, held out in the western upland, continuing to
defend himself in the valley of Roncal, till he was beset on all
sides, for Suchet had obtained leave from Paris to call up the
National Guards of the Ariége, Basses Pyrénées and Haute Garonne, and
their _bataillons d’élite_ attacked the insurgents in the rear from
across the high mountains, while the 3rd Corps advanced against them
from the front. After much scattered fighting Renovales capitulated,
on condition that he should be allowed a free departure. He retired
to Catalonia with some of his men: the rest dispersed for the moment,
but only to reassemble a few weeks later, under another and a more
wary and obstinate chief, the younger Mina, who commenced in this
same autumn to make the borders of Aragon and Navarre the theatre
of his hazardous exploits. But the region was comparatively quiet
in September and October, and Suchet transferred the activity of
his movable column further to the eastward, where he drove some
_partidas_ out of the valleys of the Cinca and Essera, and tried to
open up a new line of communication with France by way of the valley
of Venasque. This was accomplished, for a moment, by the aid of
national guards from beyond the Pyrenees, who entered the valley from
the north while the troops of Suchet were operating from the south.
But the road remained unsafe, and could only be used for the passage
of very large bodies of troops, so that it was practically of little
importance.

  [15] Suchet’s third division, that of Habert, was lying out in
  the direction of the Cinca and the Guadalupe, watching lest Blake
  might make a new sally from Tortosa or Lerida.

In December Suchet completed the formal conquest of Aragon, by
moving up the whole of Laval’s division into the high-lying district
of Teruel, in the extreme south-east of the province, the only
part of it that had never yet seen the French eagles. The Junta of
Aragon fled from thence over the border of the kingdom of Valencia,
but Villacampa and his bands remained in the mountains unsubdued,
and while they continued to exist the conquest of the upland was
incomplete. The moment that its towns ceased to be held by large
garrisons, it was clear that the insurgents would descend to reoccupy
them. Nevertheless Suchet had done much in this year: besides the
crushing of Blake he had accomplished the complete subjection of
the plains of Central Aragon, and had obtained a grip upon its two
mountain regions. He had fortified Monzon, Fraga, Alcañiz, and Caspe
as outposts against the Catalans, and, having received large drafts
from France in the autumn, was on the last day of the year at the
head of a fine corps of 26,000 men, from which he might hope to
produce in the next spring a field army sufficient for offensive
operations against Catalonia or Valencia, after providing garrisons
for his various posts of strength[16]. The weak point of his
position was that the guerrilleros had learned caution, refused for
the future to fight save under the most favourable conditions, and
devoted themselves to the safe and vexatious policy of intercepting
communications and cutting up small parties and stragglers. They were
much harder to deal with, when once they had learnt that not even in
fastnesses like El Tremendal or San Juan de la Peña was it wise to
offer the French battle. Unless Suchet left a garrison in every town,
nay, in every considerable village, of the sierras, the insurgents
dominated the whole region. If he did take such measures for holding
down the upland, he was forced to immobilize a very large proportion
of his army. We shall note that in 1810 he was only able to draw out
12,000 of his 26,000 men for the invasion of Western Catalonia.

  [16] The 3rd Corps which had gone down to little over 10,000 men
  in May 1809, counted on Jan. 1, 1810, the following force:

    Division Laval                     5,348

       ”     Musnier                   8,465

       ”     Habert                    4,757

    Cavalry Brigade                    2,172

    Artillery and Engineers              928

    Garrisons of Alcañiz, Jaca,
      Monzon, Saragossa, Tudela        3,110

    ‘Chasseurs des Montagnes’
      [permanently embodied Pyrenean
      National Guards]                 1,425
                                      ------
                         Total        26,205
                                      ------

  Of these 23,074 were effectives present with colours, the
  remainder were in hospital or detached.

While the commander of the 3rd Corps was making steady progress with
the conquest of Aragon, the fortunes of his colleague of the 7th
Corps had been far more chequered. Indeed for the greater part of
1809 St. Cyr was brought to a complete standstill by the unexpected
obstinacy of the gallant garrison of Gerona, who for no less than
eight months kept the main body of the army of Catalonia detained in
front of their walls.

When last we dealt with the operations in this region we left St.
Cyr victorious at the well-contested battle of Valls, after which
he advanced into the plain of Tarragona, made some demonstrations
against that fortress, but returned after a few weeks to Barcelona
(March 18) without having made any serious attempt to turn his
victory to practical account. This retreat after a brilliant
success may be compared to Victor’s similar evacuation of Southern
Estremadura after Medellin, and was brought about, in the main,
by the same cause, want of supplies. For when he had consumed the
resources of the newly-subdued district between Valls and Tarragona,
St. Cyr had no means of providing his army with further subsistence.
Barcelona, his base, could not feed him, for the city was itself
on the edge of famine: it was still beset to north and west by the
local miqueletes, who had returned to their old haunts when the main
French army had gone off southward on the campaign of Valls. It was
stringently blockaded on the sea side by the British Mediterranean
fleet, and it could not draw food from France by land, because
the high-road to Perpignan passed through the fortress of Gerona,
which was still in Spanish hands. St. Cyr himself, it will be
remembered, had only reached Barcelona by turning off on to side
tracks through the mountain, and winning his way down to the shore by
the hard-fought battle of Cardadeu. Till Gerona should fall, and the
garrison of Barcelona be placed in direct communication with France,
there was little use in making ambitious offensive movements against
Tarragona or any other point in Southern or Central Catalonia. It was
absolutely necessary to reduce Gerona, and so to bring the division
left behind under Reille, in the Ampurdam and on the frontier of
Roussillon, into free communication with the remainder of the 7th
Corps. From the moment when St. Cyr passed the mountains during
the winter Reille had been fighting out a petty campaign against
the northern Catalans, which had no connexion whatever with his
superior’s operations at Molins de Rey and Valls, and had little
definite result of any kind.

No one saw more clearly than Napoleon the need for the reduction of
Gerona: as early as January he had issued orders both to St. Cyr and
to Reille to prepare for the enterprise. But St. Cyr was now out of
touch, and Reille was far too weak in the early spring to dream of
any such an adventure: he had been left no more than seven depleted
battalions to maintain his hold on Northern Catalonia, when St. Cyr
took the rest of the army across the hills to Barcelona. The Emperor
was not slow to realize that the 7th Corps must be reinforced on a
large scale. He did so by sending thither in the spring of 1809 a
brigade of Berg troops (four battalions), the regiment of Würzburg
(two battalions), and a division (seven battalions) of Westphalians:
it will be noted that now, as always, he was most chary of drafting
native French troops to Catalonia, and always fed the war in that
direction with auxiliaries in whose fate he was little interested:
the campaign in eastern Spain was, after all, but a side issue in the
main struggle[17]. When these reinforcements had arrived Reille began
to collect material at Bascara on the Fluvia, to which siege-guns
laboriously dragged across the Pyrenees were added: several companies
of heavy artillery and sappers were brought up from France.

  [17] Cette portion de l’Espagne reste, d’ailleurs, isolée, et
  sans influence sur le reste de la Péninsule. Imperial Minute of
  Dec. 1, 1809.

St. Cyr meanwhile, four weeks after his retreat from the plain of
Tarragona, moved on to Vich upon April 18, with the divisions of
Souham, Pino, Lecchi, and Chabot, leaving Duhesme with his original
French division, which had held Barcelona since the outbreak of the
war, in charge of his base of operations. His departure was partly
designed to spare the stores of Barcelona, where the pinch of famine
was beginning to be felt; for he intended to subsist his army on the
upland plain of Vich, a rich corn-bearing district hitherto untouched
by the war. But a few days after he had marched forth Barcelona
was freed from privation, by the lucky arrival of a squadron of
victuallers from Toulon, convoyed by Admiral Cosmao, which had put to
sea in a storm and eluded the British blockading squadron (April 27).
The position of Vich, however, had been chosen by St. Cyr not only
for reasons of supply, but because the place was happily situated
for covering the projected siege of Gerona against any interruption
by Blake. If the Spanish commander-in-chief brought up the wrecks
of the old Catalan army from Tarragona, with his Valencian levies
added, he would almost certainly take the inland road by Manresa
and Vich, since the coast-road was practically barred to him by the
French occupation of Barcelona. As a matter of fact the commencement
of the leaguer of Gerona was not vexed by any such interruption, for
Blake had his eyes fixed on Saragossa in May and June, and was so
far from dreaming of an assault on St. Cyr, that he drew off part of
the Catalan army for his unhappy invasion of Aragon, which finished
with the disaster of Belchite. During the early months of this long
siege the only external helpers of the garrison of Gerona were the
small force of regulars under the Swiss Wimpfen, and the miqueletes
of Claros and Rovira from the Ampurdam, Reille’s opponents during the
spring. At Tarragona the Marquis of Coupigny, the senior officer now
in Catalonia, had no more than 6,000 men left of Reding’s old army,
and was helpless to interfere with St. Cyr who had some 20,000 men
concentrated at Vich.

The preparations for the siege therefore went on in the end of
April and the beginning of May without any hindrance, save from
the normal bickerings of the French outlying detachments with the
local _somatenes_, which never ceased. Around Vich matters were
particularly lively, for the whole population of the town and the
surrounding plains had gone up into the hills, where they wandered
miserably for three months, much hunted by French foraging parties,
which they occasionally succeeded in destroying. St. Cyr opened up
his communications with Reille by sending to him Lecchi’s Italian
division, which cut its way amid constant skirmishes along the banks
of the Ter to Gerona, and met the troops from the Ampurdam under
its walls. Reille had moved forth from Bascara on May 4, and on the
eighth expelled the Spanish outposts from all the villages round the
fortress, not without some lively skirmishing. He had brought up some
10,000 infantry--including his own old division and all the newly
arrived Germans--with some 1,300 artillerymen and engineers. Almost
at the same moment arrived dispatches from Paris, announcing that the
Emperor, just before departing for the Austrian war, had superseded
both St. Cyr and Reille, being discontented with their handling of
affairs in Catalonia. It is unfortunate that no statement in detail
of his reasons appears in the _Correspondance_[18], but it would
seem that he thought that the victories of Molins de Rey and Valls
should have had greater results, disapproved of St. Cyr’s retreat
from in front of Tarragona, and thought that Reille had shown great
weakness in dealing with the insurgents of the Ampurdam. He ignored
the special difficulties of the war in Catalonia, thinking that the
30,000 men of the 7th Corps ought to have sufficed for its complete
conquest. Indeed he showed his conception of the general state of
affairs by recommending St. Cyr in March to undertake simultaneously
the sieges of Gerona, Tarragona, and Tortosa[19]. The leaguer of one,
and that the smallest, of these places was destined to occupy the
whole army of Catalonia, when largely reinforced, for eight months.
If it had been cut up according to the imperial mandate, it is
probable that at least one of its sections would have been destroyed.
St. Cyr wrote in his memoirs that his master was jealous of him, and
wished to see him fail, even at the cost of wrecking the 7th Corps.
This is of course absurd; but there can be no doubt that the Emperor
disliked his lieutenant, all the more because of the long string of
complaints, and of demands for more men, money, and stores, which he
was now receiving week by week from Catalonia. He loved generals who
achieved the impossible, and hated grumblers and _frondeurs_, a class
to which St. Cyr, despite all his talents, undoubtedly belonged. It
is possible that Napoleon’s determination to replace him may have
been fostered by intrigues on the part of the officer to whom the 7th
Corps was now turned over. Marshal Augereau had served with great
credit in the old republican campaign in Catalonia during 1793 and
1794, imagined himself to have a profound knowledge of the country,
and was anxious to try his hand in it. It was many years since he had
been trusted with an independent command; both in the wars of 1806-7
and in that of 1809 he had been lost in the ranks of the Grand Army.
His nomination to supersede St. Cyr was made early in May, but on his
way to the seat of war he was seized with a fit of the gout, and was
detained in bed at Perpignan for many weeks. Thus his predecessor,
though apprised of his disgrace, was obliged to continue in command,
and to commence the operations of which the Marshal, as he well knew,
would take all the credit. At the same moment Reille was displaced
by Verdier, the general who had conducted the first unlucky siege of
Saragossa--an experience which seems to have made him very cautious
when dealing with Spaniards behind walls.

  [18] There is only a short note in Dispatch no. 16,004. See p. 63
  of this vol.

  [19] See St. Cyr to Berthier, March 6, 1809, and St. Cyr’s
  _Memoirs_, p. 130.

Lecchi’s division forced its way back to St. Cyr on May 18, bringing
him the intelligence of his supersession, but at the same time
apprising him that Augereau would not arrive as yet, and that the
duty of commencing the siege of Gerona would still fall to his lot.
At the same time Verdier sent letters urging that his 10,000 infantry
formed too small a force to surround such a large fortress, and
that he must ask for reinforcements from the covering army. If they
were denied him, he should refuse to begin the siege, throwing the
responsibility for this disobedience of the Emperor’s commands on
his superior: he had reported the situation to Paris. St. Cyr was
incensed at the tone of this dispatch[20], above all at the fact
that Verdier was appealing straight to the Emperor, instead of
corresponding through his hierarchical superior, according to the
rules of military etiquette. But he saw that Verdier had a good case,
and he had just learnt that Blake had turned off against Aragon,
so that no trouble from that quarter need be feared. Accordingly
he, very grudgingly, sent back Lecchi’s division to Gerona. It was
the worst that he possessed, being composed of no more than four
Neapolitan and three Italian battalions, with a strength of little
over 3,000 bayonets[21]. He added to it a regiment of Italian light
horse, several of his own batteries, and nearly all the engineers and
sappers of his corps, so that the total reinforcement sent to Verdier
consisted of more than 4,000 men.

  [20] It may be found printed in full in the Appendix to the
  narrative of the siege of Gerona in Belmas’s _Sieges_, vol. ii.
  pp. 660-1.

  [21] 3,116 bayonets and two squadrons of Italian light horse by
  the return of May 15. The Neapolitans were bad troops, deserting
  whenever it was safe to do so.

Having received these succours, which brought up his total force to
14,000 infantry and cavalry, and 2,200 artillerymen, sappers and
engineers, Verdier commenced on May 24 his operations against Gerona:
on that day Lecchi’s division took its post in the plain of Salt,
on the west of the town, while the French and Westphalian divisions
were already close to the place on its eastern and northern sides.
The head quarters and the French brigades of Joba and Guillot lay
by Sarria and the bridge of Pont-Mayor, where the magazines were
established, while the Germans had been sent up on to the heights
east of the fortress and held the plateaux of Campdura, San Medir,
and Domeny. The rocky southern side of Gerona, in the direction of
the gorge of the Oña, was not yet properly invested.

Something has already been said, in an earlier volume of this work,
concerning the situation of Gerona, when its two earlier sieges by
Duhesme were narrated[22]. It must suffice to repeat here that the
town is built on the steep down-slope of two lofty heights, with the
river Oña at its foot: the stream is crossed by two bridges, but is
fordable everywhere save in times of spate. Beyond it lies the suburb
of the Mercadal, surrounded by fortifications which form an integral
part of the defences of the city. The river Ter, coming from the
west, joins the Oña at the north side of the Mercadal and washes the
extreme north-western corner of the walls of the city proper. The two
heights upon whose lower slopes Gerona is built are separated from
each other by a deep ravine, called the Galligan, down which run an
intermittent watercourse and a road, the only one by which approach
to the city from the east is possible. The northern height is crowned
by the strong fort of Monjuich, the most formidable part of the city
defences, with its three outlying redoubts called San Narciso, San
Luis and San Daniel. The crest of the southern height is covered in a
similar fashion by the three forts of the Capuchins, Queen Anne, and
the Constable, with the Calvary redoubt lower down the slope above
the Galligan, facing San Daniel on the other side of the ravine. Two
other small fortifications, the redoubts of the ‘Chapter’ and the
‘City,’ cover the path which leads down from the forts to Gerona.
Neither the Monjuich nor the Capuchin heights are isolated hills;
each is the end of a spur running down from the higher mountains.
But while the southern summit rises high above the hilly reach which
joins it to the mountain of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles, the
northern summit (where lies Monjuich) is at the end of a plateau
extending far to the north. The Capuchin heights, therefore, can
only be attacked uphill, while Monjuich can be assailed from ground
of a level little inferior to itself. But except on this point both
heights are very strong, their slopes being in many places absolutely
precipitous, especially towards the Galligan, and everywhere steep.
Nevertheless there are winding paths leading up both, from Sarria
and Pont-Mayor in the case of Monjuich, from Casa de Selva and other
villages towards the east and the sea in the case of the Capuchin
heights. All the ground is bare rock, with no superincumbent soil.

  [22] See vol. i. pp. 317-29.

All the fortifications were somewhat antiquated in type, nothing
having been done to modernize the defences since the war of the
Spanish Succession[23]. Ferdinand VI and Charles III had neglected
Gerona in favour of the new fortress of Figueras, nearer to the
frontier, on which large sums had been expended--for the benefit of
the French who seized it by treachery in 1808, and were now using it
as their base of operations. The actual wall of enceinte of the city
was mediaeval--a plain rampart twenty-five feet high, too narrow for
artillery and set thickly with small towers; only at its two ends,
on the Oña and the Ter, two bastions (called those of La Merced and
Santa Maria) had been inserted, and properly armed. This weakness
of the walls went for little so long as Monjuich, the Capuchins,
and the other forts held firm, since the enemy could only approach
the town-enceinte at its two ends, where the bastions lay. Far more
dangerous was the feebleness of the Mercadal, whose ramparts formed
the southern section of the exterior defences of the place. Its
circuit had five plain bastions, but no demi-lunes or other outer
defences, no covered way nor counterscarp: its profile, only some
eighteen or twenty feet high, was visible, across the flat ground
which surrounds it, from the foot to the summit of the wall, for
want of ditch or glacis. The ground leading up to it was favourable
for siege approaches, since the soil was soft and easy to dig, and
was seamed with hollow roads and stone walls, giving much cover to
an assailant. Aware of the defects of the fortifications of the
Mercadal, the Spaniards had prepared a line of defence behind it,
along the further bank of the Oña. They had made the river-front of
the city proper defensible to a certain extent, by building up the
doors and windows of all the houses which abut upon the water, mining
the two bridges, and fixing a stockade and entanglements in the bed
of the Oña, along the considerable space, where it is fordable in
dry weather[24]. They had indeed repaired the whole circuit of the
defences since Duhesme’s sieges of 1808, having cleared out the
ditches of Monjuich and of the bastions of La Merced and Santa Maria,
walled up many posterns, and repaired with new and solid masonry all
the parts of the walls that had been dilapidated at the moment of the
first siege. They had also pulled down many isolated houses outside
the walls, and demolished the nearer half of the suburban village of
Pedret, which lies (most inconveniently for the defence) along the
bank of the Ter between the water and the slopes of Monjuich.

  [23] For a good historical study of the fortifications of Gerona
  and their history, see Vacani, vol. iii. pp. 245-55.

  [24] This last was done by public subscription, when the
  engineers pointed out the danger of the city being stormed across
  the river-bed. See Arteche, vii. 151. Belmas and Vacani do not
  seem to have known of this fact, as each of them makes the remark
  that if the Mercadal had been taken, a sudden rush might have
  taken the assailants across the shallow river and into the old
  town. It may be remarked that there had once been a river-wall,
  but that most of it had been allowed to fall into decay when the
  Mercadal was taken into the city defences.

All these precautions must be put to the credit of the governor,
Mariano Alvarez de Castro, a man to be mentioned with all honour and
respect, and probably the best soldier that Spain produced during
the whole Peninsular War. He was a veteran of the Revolutionary and
Portuguese wars, and had a good reputation, but no special credit
for military science, down to the moment when he was put to the
test. He had been the officer in charge of the castle of Barcelona
on the occasion when it was seized by Duhesme in March 1808: his
spirit had been deeply wounded by that vile piece of treachery, and
he had at once adhered to the national cause. Since then he had
been serving in the Ampurdam against Reille, till the moment when
he was appointed governor of Gerona. Alvarez is described by those
who served under him as a severe, taciturn man of a puritan cast of
mind. ‘I should call him,’ wrote one of his brigadiers, ‘an officer
without the true military talents, but with an extreme confidence in
Providence--almost, one might say, a believer in miracles. His soul
was great, capable of every sacrifice, full of admirable constancy;
but I must confess that his heroism always seemed to me that of
a Christian martyr rather than of a professional soldier[25].’
General Fournas, who wrote this somewhat depreciatory sketch of
his chief, was one of those who signed the capitulation while
Alvarez was moaning _no quiero rendirme_ on his sick-bed, so that
his judgement is hardly to be taken as unprejudiced; but his words
point the impression which the governor left on his subordinates.
The details of his defence sufficiently show that he was a skilful
and resourceful as well as an obstinate general. His minute care to
utilize every possible means of defence prove that he was no mere
waiter on miracles. That he was a very devout practising Catholic
is evident from some of his doings; at the opening of the siege a
great religious ceremony was held, at which the local patron saint,
Narcissus, was declared captain of the city and presented with a
gold-hilted sword. The levy _en masse_ of the citizens was called
‘the Crusade,’ and their badge was the red cross. The ideas of
religion and patriotism were so closely intertwined that to the lay
companies of this force were afterwards added two clerical companies,
one composed of monks and friars, the other of secular priests: about
200 of these ecclesiastics were under arms[26]. Even the women were
organized in squads for the transport of wounded, the care of the
hospitals, and the carrying of provisions to the soldiery on the
walls: about 300 served, under the command of Donna Lucia Fitzgerald
and Donna Maria Angela Bibern, wives of two officers of the regiment
of Ultonia. Five of this ‘company of St. Barbara’ were killed and
eleven wounded during the siege.

  [25] Manuscript notes of General Fournas, quoted by Arteche, vii.
  458.

  [26] The bishop gave his sanction to the formation of this
  strange corps; see his proclamation in Arteche’s Appendix vii. p.
  539, dated June 9.

The garrison at the moment of Verdier’s first attack consisted of
about 5,700 men, not including the irregulars of the Crusade. There
were seven battalions of the old army, belonging to the regiments
of Ultonia[27], Borbon, and Voluntarios de Barcelona, with three
battalions of miqueletes, two local corps, 1st and 2nd of Gerona,
and the 1st of Vich. Of cavalry there was a single squadron, newly
levied, the ‘escuadron de San Narciso.’ Of artillery there were but
278 men, a wholly insufficient number: the officers of that arm
were given 370 more to train, partly miqueletes of the 2nd Gerona
battalion, partly sailors having some small experience of gunnery.
It was difficult to make proper use of the great store of cannon in
the fortress, when more than half the troops allotted to them had
never before seen, much less served, a heavy gun of position. To the
above 5,700 men of all arms must be added about 1,100 irregulars of
the ‘Crusade’--seven lay and two clerical companies of fusiliers
and two more of artificers. But these were set to guard almost
unapproachable parts of the wall, or held in reserve: most of the
stress fell upon the organized troops. The defence was altogether
conducted on scientific principles, and had nothing in common with
that of Saragossa. Here the irregulars formed only a small fraction
of the garrison[28], and were never hurled in senseless fury against
the French batteries, but used carefully and cautiously as an
auxiliary force, capable of setting free some part of the trained men
for service on the more important points of the enceinte[29].

  [27] Ultonia, the regiment of Ulster, still contained many
  officers of the old Jacobite strain, as may be seen by consulting
  the list of killed and wounded, where such names as O’Donnell,
  Macarthy, Nash, Fitzgerald, Pierson, Coleby, Candy, occur: but
  it had just been raised from 200 to 800 bayonets by filling
  the depleted _cadre_ with Catalan recruits, and all the junior
  lieutenants, newly appointed, were Catalans also. So there was
  little Irish about it save the names of some of its senior
  officers.

  [28] For the details of the composition of the Gerona garrison,
  see Appendix no. 1.

  [29] I know not why Napier, contrasting Gerona with Saragossa
  (ii. 251), says that at the former place the regular garrison
  was 3,000, the armed multitude ‘less than 6,000.’ When it is
  remembered that its total population was 14,000 souls--of whom
  some fled to places of safety before the siege began--and that
  it had already raised two battalions of miqueletes with 1,360
  bayonets out of its able-bodied male inhabitants, it is difficult
  to see how more than 5,000 armed irregulars are to be procured,
  for in a population of 14,000 souls there cannot be more than
  some 3,000 men between eighteen and forty-five. As a matter of
  fact (see documents in Arteche, vii. Appendix 5), the ‘Crusade’
  was about 1,100 strong at most.

For the first two months of the siege Alvarez received no help
whatever from without: in May the central government of Catalonia had
been left in a perfectly paralysed condition, when Blake went off
himself and took with him the best of the regular troops, in order to
engage in the campaign of Alcañiz and Maria. Coupigny, the interim
commander at Tarragona, had only 6,000 organized men, and he and
the Catalan provincial junta were during that month much engrossed
with an enterprise which distracted them from the needs of Gerona. A
wide-spread conspiracy had been formed within the walls of Barcelona,
with the object of rising against the garrison in St. Cyr’s absence.
A secret committee of priests, merchants, and retired officers had
collected all the arms in the city, smuggled in many muskets from
without, and enlisted several thousand persons in a grand design
for an outbreak and a sort of ‘Sicilian Vespers’ fixed--after two
postponements--for the 11th of May. They opened communication with
Coupigny and with the captains of the British frigates blockading the
port. The one was to bring his troops to the gates, the others to
deliver an attack on the port, upon the appointed night. No Spaniard
betrayed the plot, though 6,000 citizens are said to have been in
the secret, but it was frustrated by two foreigners. Conscious that
the town could not be freed if the citadel of Monjuich was retained
by the French, the conspirators sounded two Italian officers named
Captain Dottori, fort adjutant of Monjuich, and Captain Provana, who
was known to be discontented and thought to be corruptible. They
offered them an immense bribe--1,000,000 dollars, it is said--to
betray the postern of Monjuich to the troops of Coupigny, who were to
be ready in the ditch at midnight. But they had mistaken their men:
the officers conferred with Duhesme, and consented to act as _agents
provocateurs_: they pretended to join the conspiracy, were introduced
to and had interviews with the chiefs, and informed the governor.
On the morning before the appointed date many of the leaders were
arrested. Duhesme placed guards in every street, and proclaimed that
he knew all. The citizens remained quiet in their despair, the chiefs
who had not been seized fled, and the troops on the Llobregat retired
to Tarragona. Duhesme hanged his captives, two priests named Gallifa
and Pou, a young merchant named Massana, Navarro an old soldier, and
four others. ‘They went to the gallows,’ says Vacani, an eye-witness,
‘with pride, convinced every one of them that they had done the duty
of good citizens in behalf of king, country, and religion[30].’

  [30] Vacani, iii. 211.

Engrossed in this plot, the official chiefs of Catalonia half forgot
Gerona, and did nothing to help Alvarez till long after the siege had
begun. The only assistance that he received from without was that the
miqueletes and _somatenes_ of the Ampurdam and the mountain region
above Hostalrich were always skirmishing with Verdier’s outposts,
and once or twice cut off his convoys of munitions on their way from
Figueras to the front.

The French engineers were somewhat at variance as to the right way
to deal with Gerona. There were two obvious alternatives. An attack
on the weak front of the Mercadal was certain to succeed: the ground
before the walls was suitable for trenches, and the fortifications
were trifling. But when a lodgement had been made in this quarter
of the town it would be necessary to work forward, among the narrow
lanes and barricades, to the Oña, and then to cross that river in
order to continue similar operations through the streets of Gerona.
Even when the city had been subdued, the garrison might still hold
out in the formidable works on the Monjuich and Capuchin heights. The
reduction of the Mercadal and the city, moreover, would have to be
carried out under a continuous plunging fire from the forts above,
which overlooked the whole place. This danger was especially insisted
upon by some of the engineer officers, who declared that it would be
impossible for the troops to work their way forward over ground so
exposed. As a matter of fact it was proved, after the siege was over
and the forts had been examined by the captors, that this fear had
been exaggerated; the angle of fire was such that large sections of
the town were in no way commanded from the heights, and the streets
could not have been searched in the fashion that was imagined. But
this, obvious in December, could not have been known in May[31].
The second alternative was to commence the attack on Gerona not
from the easiest but from the most difficult side, by battering the
lofty fort of Monjuich from the high plateau beside it. The defences
here were very formidable: the ground was bare exposed rock: but if
Monjuich were once captured it was calculated that the town must
surrender, as it was completely overlooked by the fort, and had no
further protection save its antiquated mediaeval wall. The deduction
that it would be cheaper in the end to begin with the difficult task
of taking Monjuich, rather than the easier operations against the
Mercadal, seemed plausible: its fault was that it presupposed that
Alvarez and his garrison would behave according to the accepted rules
of siegecraft, and yield when their situation became hopeless. But in
dealing with Spanish garrisons the rules of military logic did not
always act. Alvarez essayed the impossible, and held out behind his
defective defences for four months after Monjuich fell. The loss of
men and time that he thereby inflicted on the French was certainly
no less than that which would have been suffered if the besiegers
had begun with the Mercadal, and worked upwards by incessant street
fighting towards the forts on the height. But it is hard to say that
Verdier erred: he did not know his adversary, and he did know, from
his experiences at Saragossa, what street fighting meant.

  [31] See Belmas, iii. 516.

It may be added that Verdier’s views were accepted by the
engineer-general, Sanson, who had been specially sent from France by
the Emperor, to give his opinion on the best mode of procedure. The
document which Verdier, Sanson, and Taviel (the commanding artillery
officer of the 7th Corps) sent to Paris, to justify their choice of
the upper point of attack, lays stress mainly on the impossibility of
advancing from the Mercadal under the fire of the upper forts[32].
But there were other reasons for selecting Monjuich as the point
of attack. It lay far nearer to the road to France and the central
siege-dépôts beside Sarria and the Pont Mayor. The approaches would
be over highly defensible ground where, if a disaster occurred, the
defeated assailant could easily recover himself and oppose a strong
front to the enemy. The shortness of the front was suitable for
an army of the moderate strength of 14,000 men, which had to deal
with a fortress whose perimeter, allowing for outlying forts and
inaccessible precipices, was some six miles. Moreover, the ground
in front of the Mercadal had the serious inconvenience of being
liable to inundation; summer spates on the Ter and Oña are rare, but
occur from time to time; and there was the bare chance that when the
trenches had been opened all might be swept away by the rivers[33].

  [32] See their letter in Appendix V to Belmas’s account of the
  siege.

  [33] Note, ibid., ii. p. 502.

Verdier’s opinion was arrived at after mature reflection: the French
had appeared in front of Gerona on May 8: the outlying villages
on the east had been occupied between the twelfth and eighteenth:
Lecchi’s Italians had closed the western exits by occupying the plain
of Salt on the twenty-fourth: the inner posts of observation of the
Spaniards had been cleared off when, on May 30, the Italians seized
the suburban village of Santa Eugenia, and on June 1 the Germans took
possession of the mountain of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles. But it
was only on June 6 that the besiegers broke ground, and commenced
their trenches and batteries on the plateau of Monjuich. It was
necessary to make a beginning by subduing the outer defences of
the fort, the towers or redoubts of San Luis, San Narciso, and San
Daniel: two batteries of 24-pounders were constructed against them,
while a third battery of mortars on the ‘Green Mound’ by the Casa den
Roca on the west bank of the Ter, was to play upon the north end of
the town: Verdier hoped that the bombardment would break the spirit
of the citizens--little knowing the obstinate people with whom he
had to deal. Five thousand bombs thrown into the place in June and
July produced no effect whatever. More batteries on the heights were
thrown up upon the 13th and 15th of June, while on the former day, to
distract the attention of the Spaniards, Lecchi’s division, in the
plain below, was ordered to open a false attack upon the Mercadal.
This had good effect as a diversion, since Alvarez had expected an
assault in this quarter, and the long line of trenches thrown up
by the Italians in front of Santa Eugenia attracted much of his
attention. Three days of battering greatly damaged San Luis and San
Narciso, which were no more than round towers of masonry with ditches
cut in the rock, and only two or three guns apiece. The French also
took possession on the night of the fourteenth and fifteenth of the
remains of the half-destroyed suburb of Pedret, between Monjuich
and the Ter, as if about to establish themselves in a position from
which they could attack the low-lying north gate of the town and the
bastion of Santa Maria.

Hitherto the defence had seemed a little passive, but at dawn on the
morning of the seventeenth Alvarez delivered the first of the many
furious sallies which he made against the siege lines. A battalion
of Ultonia rushed suddenly down-hill out of Monjuich and drove the
French, who were taken completely by surprise, out of the ruins of
Pedret. Aided by a smaller detachment, including the artificers of
the _Crusade_, who came out of the Santa Maria gate, they destroyed
all the works and lodgements of the besiegers in the suburb, and
held it till they were driven out by two French and one Westphalian
battalion sent up from Verdier’s reserves. The Spaniards were forced
back into the town, but retired in good order, contented to have
undone three days of the besiegers’ labour. They had lost 155 men,
the French 128, in this sharp skirmish.

Two days later the towers of San Luis and San Narciso, which had been
reduced to shapeless heaps of stone, were carried by assault, with
a loss to the French of only 78 men; but an attempt to carry San
Daniel by the same rush was beaten off, this redoubt being still in
a tenable state. Its gorge, however, was completely commanded from
the ruins of San Luis, and access to or exit from it was rendered
so dangerous that Alvarez withdrew its garrison on the next night.
The possession of these three outworks brought the French close
up to Monjuich, which they could now attack from ground which was
favourable in every respect, save that it was bare rock lacking
soil. It was impossible to excavate in it, and all advances had to
be made by building trenches (if the word is not a misnomer in this
case) of sandbags and loose stones on the surface of the ground.
The men working at the end of the sap were therefore completely
exposed, and the work could only proceed at a great expense of life.
Nevertheless the preparations advanced rapidly, and on the night
of July 2 an enormous battery of sandbags (called the _Batterie
Impériale_) was thrown up at a distance of only four hundred yards
from Monjuich. Next morning it opened on the fort with twenty 16-
and 24-pounders, and soon established a superiority over the fire
of the defence. Several Spanish pieces were dismounted, others had
to be removed because it was too deadly to serve them. But a steady
fire was returned against the besiegers from the Constable and
Calvary forts, on the other side of the Galligan ravine. Nevertheless
Monjuich began to crumble, and it looked as if the end of the siege
were already approaching. On July 3 there was a breach thirty-five
feet broad in the fort’s north-eastern bastion, and the Spanish flag
which floated over it was thrown down into the ditch by a chance
shot. A young officer named Montorro climbed down, brought it up, and
nailed it to a new flagstaff under the fire of twenty guns. Meanwhile
long stretches of the parapet of Monjuich were ruined, the ditch
was half-filled with débris, and the garrison could only protect
themselves by hasty erections of gabions and sandbags, placed where
the crest of the masonry had stood.

By this time St. Cyr and the covering army had abandoned the position
in the plain of Vich which they had so long occupied. The general
had, as it seems, convinced himself at last that Blake, who was still
engaged in his unlucky Aragonese campaign, was not likely to appear.
He therefore moved nearer to Gerona, in order to repress the efforts
of the local _somatenes_, who were giving much trouble to Verdier’s
communications. On June 20 he established his head quarters at Caldas
de Malavella, some nine miles to the south-east of Gerona. That
same evening one of his Italian brigades intercepted and captured a
convoy of 1,200 oxen which the Governor of Hostalrich was trying to
introduce into the beleaguered city along one of the mountain-paths
which lead to the Capuchin heights from the coast. St. Cyr strung out
his 14,000 men in a line from San Feliu de Guixols on the sea to the
upper Ter, in a semicircle which covered all the approaches to Gerona
saving those from the Ampurdam. He visited Verdier’s camp, inspected
the siege operations, and expressed his opinion that an attack on
the Mercadal front would have been preferable to that which had been
actually chosen. But he washed his hands of all responsibility, told
Verdier that, since he had chosen to correspond directly with Paris,
he must take all the praise or blame resulting from his choice,
and refused to countermand or to alter any of his subordinate’s
dispositions. On July 2 however he sent, with some lack of logic, a
summons of his own to Alvarez, inviting him to surrender on account
of the desperate state of his defences: this he did without informing
Verdier of his move. The Governor returned an indignant negative, and
Verdier wrote in great wrath to complain that if the siege was his
affair, as he had just been told, it was monstrous that his commander
should correspond with the garrison without his knowledge[34]. The
two generals were left on even worse terms than before. St. Cyr,
however, gave real assistance to the siege operations at this time by
storming, on July 5, the little fortified harbour-town of Palamos,
which lies on the point of the sea-coast nearest to Gerona, and
had been hitherto used by the miqueletes as a base from which they
communicated by night with the fortress, and at the same time kept
in touch with Tarragona and the English ships of the blockading
squadron.

  [34] See St. Cyr to Alvarez and Verdier to the Minister of War at
  Paris, nos. 9 and 11 of Belmas’s Appendices in his second volume,
  pp. 677 and 678.

On the night of the 4th and 5th of July the defences of Monjuich
appeared in such a ruinous condition that Commandant Fleury, the
engineer officer in charge of the advanced parallel, took the
extraordinary and unjustifiable step of assaulting them at 10 p.m.
with the troops--two companies only--which lay under his orders,
trusting that the whole of the guards of the trenches would follow
if he made a lodgement. This presumptuous attack, made contrary
to all the rules of military subordination, was beaten off with a
loss of forty men. Its failure made Verdier determine to give the
fort three days more of continuous bombardment, before attempting
to storm it: the old batteries continued their fire, a new one was
added to enfilade the north-western bastion, and cover was contrived
at several points to shelter the troops which were to deliver the
assault, till the actual moment of the storm arrived[35]. But three
hundred yards of exposed ground still separated the front trenches
from the breach--a distance far too great according to the rules of
siegecraft. The Spaniards meanwhile, finding it impossible under such
a fire to block the breach, which was now broad enough for fifty men
abreast[36], threw up two walls of gabions on each side of it, sank a
ditch filled with chevaux-de-frise in front of it, and loopholed some
interior buildings of the fort, which bore upon its reverse side.

  [35] Napier says (ii. 250) that ‘the breaching fire ceased for
  four days before the assault,’ and that this caused the failure.
  The statement is in direct contradiction of Vacani (iii. 277)
  who states that Verdier on the contrary ‘proseguì per tre giorni
  il vivo fuoco della sua artilleria,’ and of Belmas (ii. 530) who
  makes the same statement.

  [36] See Alvarez’s letter in Belmas’s Appendix, no. 15, where he
  says that the breach had this breadth since July 3.

Monjuich, however, looked in a miserable state when, just before
sunrise on July 7, Verdier launched his columns of assault upon
it. He had collected for the purpose the grenadier and _voltigeur_
companies of each of the twenty French, German, and Italian
battalions of the besieging army, about 2,500 men in all[37]. They
were divided into two columns, the larger of which went straight
at the breach, while the smaller, which was furnished with ladders,
was directed to escalade the left face of the demi-lune which covers
the northern front of Monjuich. The troops passed with no great loss
over the open space which divided them from the work, as its guns
had all been silenced, and the fire from the more distant forts was
ineffective in the dusk. But when they got within close musketry
range they began to fall fast; the head of the main column, which
was composed of some sapper companies and the Italian Velites of the
Guard, got up on to the face of the breach, but could never break in.
Every officer or man who reached the cutting and its chevaux-de-frise
was shot down; the concentric fire of the defenders so swept the
opening that nothing could live there. Meanwhile the rear of the
column was brought to a stand, partly in, partly outside, the ditch.
The Spaniards kept playing upon it with musketry and two or three
small 2- and 4-pounders, which had been kept under cover and reserved
for that purpose, firing canister into it at a distance of twenty or
thirty yards. Flesh and blood could not bear this for long, and the
whole mass broke and went to the rear. Verdier, who had come out to
the _Batterie Impériale_ to view the assault, had the men rallied
and sent forward a second time: the head of the column again reached
the breach, and again withered away: the supporting mass gave way at
once, and fell back much more rapidly than on the first assault. Yet
the General, most unwisely, insisted on a third attack, which, made
feebly and without conviction, by men who knew that they were beaten,
only served to increase the casualty list. Meanwhile the escalade of
the demi-lune by the smaller column had been repelled with ease: the
assailants barely succeeded in crossing the ditch and planting a few
ladders against the scarp: no one survived who tried to mount them,
and the troops drew off.

  [37] This seems a low estimate of Belmas, as the _compagnies
  d’élite_ formed a third of each battalion.

This bloody repulse cost the French 1,079 casualties, including
seventy-seven officers killed or wounded--much more than a third
of the troops engaged. It is clear, therefore, that it was not
courage which had been lacking: nor could it be said that the
enemy’s artillery fire had not been subdued, nor that the breach was
insufficient, nor that the 300 yards of open ground crossed by the
column had been a fatal obstacle; indeed, they had been passed with
little loss. The mistake of Verdier had been that he attacked before
the garrison was demoralized--the same error made by the English
at Badajoz in 1811 and at San Sebastian in 1813. A broad breach by
itself does not necessarily make a place untenable, if the spirit
of the defenders is high, and if they are prepared with all the
resources of the military art for resisting the stormers, as were the
Geronese on July 7-8. The garrison lost, it may be remarked, only
123 men, out of a strength of 787 present in the fort that morning.
The casualty list, however, was somewhat increased by the accidental
explosion, apparently by a careless gunner, of the magazine of the
tower of San Juan, alongside of the Galligan, which was destroyed
with its little garrison of twenty-five men.

The repulse of the assault of Monjuich thoroughly demoralized
the besieging army: the resistance of the Spaniards had been so
fierce, the loss they had inflicted so heavy, that Verdier’s motley
collection of French, German, Lombard, and Neapolitan regiments lost
heart and confidence. Their low spirits were made manifest by the
simultaneous outbreak of desertion and disease, the two inevitable
marks of a decaying morale. All through the second half of July and
August the hospitals grew gradually fuller, not only from sunstroke
cases (which were frequent on the bare, hot, rocky ground of the
heights), but from dysentery and malaria. The banks of the Ter always
possessed a reputation for epidemics--twice in earlier centuries
a French army had perished before the walls of Gerona by plagues,
which the citizens piously attributed to their patron, San Narciso.
It was mainly because he realized the depression of his troops that
Verdier refrained from any more assaults, and went on from July 9 to
August 4 battering Monjuich incessantly, while he cautiously pushed
forward his trenches, till they actually reached the ditch of the
demi-lune which covers the northern front of the fort. The garrison
was absolutely overwhelmed by the incessant bombardment, which
destroyed every piece of upstanding masonry, and prevented them from
rebuilding anything that was demolished. They were forced to lurk in
the casemates, and to burrow for shelter in the débris which filled
the interior of the work. Three large breaches had been made at
various points, yet Verdier would never risk another assault, till
on August 4 his approaches actually crowned the lip of the ditch of
the demi-lune, and his sappers had blown in its counterscarp. The
ruined little outwork was then stormed with a loss of only forty men.
This put the French in the possession of good cover only a few yards
from the main body of the fort. Proceeding with the same caution as
before, they made their advances against Monjuich by mining: on the
night of the 8th-9th August no less than twenty-three mines under the
glacis of the fort were exploded simultaneously. This left a gaping
void in front of the original breach of July 7, and filled up the
ditch with débris for many yards on either side: part of the interior
of the fort was clearly visible from the besiegers’ trenches.

Only one resource for saving Monjuich remained to Alvarez--a sortie
for the expulsion of the enemy from their advanced works. It was
executed with great courage at midday on August 9, while at the same
time separate demonstrations to distract the enemy were made at two
other points. The column from Monjuich had considerable success;
it stormed two advanced batteries, spiked their guns, and set fire
to their gabions; the French were cleared out of many of their
trenches, but made head behind one of the rear batteries, where
they were joined by their reserves, who finally thrust back the
sallying force into the fort. The damage done, though considerable,
could be repaired in a day. Verdier gave orders for the storm of
the dilapidated fort on the night of August 11, and borrowed a
regiment from St. Cyr’s covering army to lead the assault, being
still very doubtful of the temper of his own troops. But at six on
the preceding afternoon an explosion was heard in Monjuich, and great
part of its battered walls flew up into the air. The Spaniards had
quietly evacuated it a few minutes before, after preparing mines for
its demolition. The French, when they entered, found nothing but a
shapeless mass of stones and eighteen disabled cannon. The garrison
had lost, in the sixty-five days of its defence, 962 men killed and
wounded; the besiegers had, first and last, suffered something like
three times this loss.

While the bombardment of Monjuich was going on, the Spanish generals
outside the fortress had at last begun to make serious efforts for
its assistance. Not only had the _somatenes_ redoubled their activity
against Verdier’s convoys, and several times succeeded in destroying
them or turning them back, but Coupigny had at last begun to move,
for he saw that since Blake’s rout at Belchite on June 18 he, and he
alone, possessed an organized body of troops on this side of Spain,
small though it was. Unable to face St. Cyr in the field, he tried
at least to throw succours into Gerona by the mountain paths from
the south, if he could do no more. The first attempt was disastrous:
three battalions started from Hostalrich under an English adventurer,
Ralph Marshall, whom Alvarez had suggested for the command of this
expedition. They evaded the first line of the covering army, but at
Castellar, on July 10, ran into the very centre of Pino’s division,
which had concentrated from all sides for their destruction. Marshall
escaped into Gerona with no more than twelve men: 40 officers and 878
rank and file laid down their arms; the rest of the column, some 600
or 700 men, evaded surrender by dispersion[38].

  [38] St. Cyr, Vacani, and Belmas all say that Marshall escaped
  by hoisting the white flag, and taking to the hills while terms
  of capitulation were being arranged. Coupigny on the other
  hand (see his letter in Belmas’s Appendix no. 18) says that
  Marshall behaved admirably, but was not seconded by his men,
  who flinched and abandoned him. Rich, the officer who failed to
  guide the column aright, was not, as Napier supposed (ii. 236),
  an Englishman, but a Catalan, as is shown by his Christian name
  Narciso. Ric or Rich is a common name in Catalonia.

Equally disastrous, though on a smaller scale, was another attempt
made on August 4 by a party of 300 miqueletes to enter Gerona: they
eluded St. Cyr, but on arriving at the entry of the Galligan, close
under the forts, made the unfortunate mistake of entering the convent
of San Daniel, which the garrison had been compelled to evacuate a
few days before. It was now in the French lines, and the Catalans
were all taken prisoners. It was not till August 17, six days
after the fall of Monjuich, that Alvarez obtained his first feeble
reinforcement: the miquelete battalion of Cervera, with a draft for
that of Vich already in the garrison, altogether 800 bayonets, got
into the city on the west side, by eluding Lecchi’s Italians in
the plain and fording the Ter. They were much needed, for Alvarez
was complaining to the Catalan Junta that he had now only 1,500
able-bodied men left of his original 5,000[39].

  [39] This must have been an exaggeration, as 2,000 men under
  arms of the old garrison survived to surrender in December. See
  Alvarez’s letter, on p. 686 of Belmas’s Appendix.

Verdier had written to his master, after the capture of Monjuich, to
announce that Gerona must infallibly surrender within eight or ten
days[40], now that it had nothing but an antiquated mediaeval wall
to oppose to his cannon. So far, however, was he from being a true
prophet that, as a matter of fact, the second and longer episode of
the siege, which was to be protracted far into the winter, had only
just begun.

  [40] See Verdier’s letter of August 12, in Belmas’s Appendix no.
  11, p. 700.



SECTION XVII: CHAPTER III

THE FALL OF GERONA. AUGUST-DECEMBER, 1809


When Monjuich had been evacuated, the position of Gerona was
undoubtedly perilous: of the two mountain summits which command the
city one was now entirely in the hands of the French; for not only
the great fort itself but several of the smaller works above the
ravine of the Galligan--such as the fortified convent of San Daniel
and the ruined tower of San Juan--had been lost. The front exposed
to attack now consisted of the northern section of the old city
wall, from the bastion of Santa Maria at the water’s edge, to the
tower of La Gironella, which forms the north-eastern angle of the
place, and lies further up the slope of the Capuchin heights than any
other portion of the enceinte. The space between these two points
was simply covered by a mediaeval wall set with small round towers:
neither the towers nor the curtain between them had been built to
hold artillery. Indeed the only spots on this front where guns had
been placed were (1) the comparatively modern bastion of Santa Maria,
(2) a work erected under and about the Gironella, and called the
‘Redoubt of the Germans,’ and (3, 4) two parts of the wall called the
platforms[41] of San Pedro and San Cristobal, which had been widened
till they could carry a few heavy guns. On the rest of the enceinte,
owing to its narrowness, nothing but wall-pieces and two-pounders
could be mounted. The parts of the curtain most exposed to attack
were the sections named Santa Lucia, San Pedro, San Cristobal, and
Las Sarracinas, from churches or quarters which lay close behind
them. With nothing but an antiquated wall, seven to nine feet thick,
thirty feet high, and destitute of a ditch, it seemed that this side
of Gerona was doomed to destruction within a few days.

  [41] Some call them bastions, but they are too small to deserve
  that name.

But there were points in the position which rendered the attack
more difficult than might have been expected. The first was that any
approaches directed against this front would be exposed to a flanking
fire from the forts on the Capuchin heights, especially from the
Calvary and Chapter redoubts. The second was that the greater part
of the weak sections of the wall were within a re-entering angle;
for the tower of Santa Lucia and the ‘Redoubt of the Germans’ by the
Gironella project, and the curtains between them are in a receding
sweep of the enceinte. Attacks on these ill-fortified sections would
be outflanked and enfiladed by the two stronger works. The only
exposed part of the curtain was that called Santa Lucia, running
from the tower of that name down to the bastion of Santa Maria.
Lastly, the parallels which the French might construct from their
base on Monjuich would have to be built on a down slope, overlooked
by loftier ground, and when they reached the foot of the walls they
would be in a sort of gulley or bottom, into which the defenders of
the city could look down from above. The only point from which the
north end of Gerona could be approached from flat ground and without
disadvantages of slope, is the short front of less than 200 yards
breadth between the foot of Monjuich and the bank of the Ter. Here,
in the ruins of the suburb of Pedret, there was plenty of cover, a
soil easy to work, and a level terrain as far as the foot of the
Santa Maria bastion. The engineers of the besieging army selected
three sections of wall as their objective. The first was the ‘Redoubt
of the Germans’ and the tower of La Gironella, the highest and most
commanding works in this part of the enceinte: once established in
these, they could overlook and dominate the whole city. The other
points of attack were chosen for the opposite reason--because
they were intrinsically weak in themselves, not because they were
important or dominating parts of the defences. The curtain of Santa
Lucia in particular seemed to invite attack, as being in a salient
angle, unprotected by flanking fire, and destitute of any artillery
of its own.

Verdier, therefore, on the advice of his engineers, set to work
to attack these points of the enceinte between La Gironella and
Santa Maria. New batteries erected amid the ruins of Monjuich were
levelled against them, in addition to such of the older batteries
as could still be utilized. On the front by Pedret also, where
nothing had hitherto been done, works were prepared for guns to be
directed against Santa Maria and Santa Lucia. Meanwhile a perpetual
bombardment with shell was kept up, against the whole quarter of the
town that lay behind the selected points of attack. Mortars were
always playing, not only from the Monjuich heights but from two
batteries erected on the so-called ‘Green Mound’ in the plain beyond
the river Ter. Their effect was terrible: almost every house in the
northern quarter of Gerona was unroofed or destroyed: the population
had to take refuge in cellars, where, after a few days, they began
to die fast--all the more so that food was just beginning to run
short as August advanced. From the 14th to the 30th of that month
Verdier’s attack was developing itself: by its last day four breaches
had been established: one, about forty feet broad, in the curtain
of St. Lucia, two close together in the works at La Gironella[42],
the fourth and smallest in the platform of San Cristobal. But the
approaches were still far from the foot of the wall, the fire of the
outlying Spanish works, especially the Calvary fort, was unsubdued,
and though the guns along the attacked front had all been silenced,
the French artillery had paid dearly both in lives and in material
for the advantage they had gained. Moreover sickness was making
dreadful ravages in the ranks of the besieging army. The malarious
pestilence on which the Spaniards had relied had appeared, after
a sudden and heavy rainfall had raised the Ter and Oña beyond
their banks, and inundated the whole plain of Salt. By malaria,
dysentery and sunstroke Verdier had lost 5,000 men, in addition to
his casualties in the siege. Many of them were convalescents in the
hospitals of Perpignan and Figueras, but it was hard to get them
back to the front; the _somatenes_ made the roads impassable for
small detachments, and the officers on the line of communication,
being very short of men, were given to detaining drafts that reached
them on their way to Gerona[43]. Hence Verdier, including his
artillerymen and sappers, had less than 10,000 men left for the
siege, and these much discouraged by its interminable length, short
of officers, and sickly. This was not enough to guard a periphery
of six miles, and messengers were continually slipping in or out of
Gerona, between the widely scattered camps of the French.

  [42] Belmas, for convenience’ sake, distinguishes these two
  breaches by calling the northern one the breach in the Barracks,
  the southern the breach in the Latrines of the ‘German Redoubt.’

  [43] Between Gerona and Perpignan, for the defence of
  communications and the garrisoning of Figueras, there were
  at this time the Valais battalion, one battalion of the
  Confederation of the Rhine (Waldeck-Reuss-Schwarzburg), one
  battalion each of the French 7th and 113th--not more than 2,300
  bayonets in all. See Returns of the Army of Spain for Sept. 15,
  1809.

On August 31 a new phase of the siege began. In response to the
constant appeals of Alvarez to the Catalan Junta, and the consequent
complaints of the Junta alike to the Captain-General Blake, and to
the central government at Seville, something was at last about to
be done to relieve Gerona. The supreme Central Junta, in reply to a
formal representation of the Catalans dated August 16[44], had sent
Blake 6,000,000 reals in cash, and a peremptory order to march on
Gerona whatever the state of his army might be, authorizing him to
call out all the _somatenes_ of the province in his aid. The general,
who had at last returned to Tarragona, obeyed, though entirely
lacking confidence in his means of success; and on the thirty-first
his advance guard was skirmishing with St. Cyr’s covering army on the
heights to the south of the Ter.

  [44] For this correspondence see the Appendices nos. 16 and 24-5
  in vol. ii of Belmas.

Blake’s army, it will be remembered, had been completely routed at
Belchite by Suchet on June 18. The wrecks of his Aragonese division
had gradually rallied at Tortosa, those of his Valencian divisions
at Morella: but even by the end of July he had only a few thousand
men collected, and he had lost every gun of his artillery. For many
weeks he could do nothing but press the Junta of Valencia to fill
the depleted ranks of his regiments with recruits, to reconstitute
his train, and to provide him with new cannon. Aragon had been
lost--nothing could be drawn from thence: Catalonia, distracted by
Suchet’s demonstration on its western flank, did not do as much as
might have been expected in its own defence. The Junta was inclined
to favour the employment of miqueletes and _somatenes_, and to
undervalue the troops of the line: it forgot that the irregulars,
though they did admirable work in harassing the enemy, could not be
relied upon to operate in large masses or strike a decisive blow.
Still, the regiments at Tarragona, Lerida, and elsewhere had been
somewhat recruited before August was out.

Blake’s field army was composed of some 14,000 men: there were five
Valencian regiments--those which had been least mishandled in the
campaign of Aragon--with the relics of six of the battalions which
Reding had brought from Granada in 1808[45], two of Lazan’s old
Aragonese corps, and five or six of the regiments which had formed
the original garrison of Catalonia. The battalions were very weak--it
took twenty-four of them to make up 13,000 infantry: of cavalry there
were only four squadrons, of artillery only two batteries. Those of
the rank and file who were not raw recruits were the vanquished of
Molins de Rey and Valls, or of Maria and Belchite. They had no great
confidence in Blake, and he had still less in them. Despite the
orders received from Seville, which bade him risk all for the relief
of Gerona, he was determined not to fight another pitched battle.
The memories of Belchite were too recent to be forgotten. Though
much obloquy has been poured upon his head for this resolve, he was
probably wise in his decision. St. Cyr had still some 12,000 men in
his covering army, who had taken no share in the siege: their morale
was intact, and they had felt little fatigue or privation. They could
be, and were in fact, reinforced by 4,000 men from Verdier’s force
when the stress came. Blake, therefore, was, so far as regular troops
went, outnumbered by the French, especially in cavalry and artillery.
He could not trust in time of battle the miqueletes, of whom some
4,000 or 5,000 from the Ampurdam and Central Catalonia came to join
him. He thought that it might be possible to elude or outflank
St. Cyr, to lure him to divide his forces into scattered bodies by
threatening many points at once, or, on the other hand, to induce him
to concentrate on one short front, and so to leave some of the exits
of Gerona open. But a battle with the united French army he would not
risk under any conditions.

  [45] See the ‘morning state’ given in Arteche, vii. pp. 565-6.
  The Valencian regiments were Savoia, Orihuela, Voluntarios de
  Valencia, and Almanza, with about 5,000 bayonets. Of Reding’s old
  troops from the south there were Almeria, Baza, Santa Fé, 1st
  of Granada (otherwise called Iliberia), and two battalions of
  Provincial Grenadiers, something over 3,000 men. The rest were
  mainly Catalans.

St. Cyr, however, was too wary for his opponent: he wanted to fight
at all costs, and he was prepared to risk a disturbance of the siege
operations, if he could catch Blake in the open and bring him to
action. The moment that pressure on his outposts, by regular troops
coming from the south, was reported, he drew together Souham’s and
Pino’s divisions on the short line between San Dalmay on the right
and Casa de Selva on the left, across the high road from Barcelona.
At the same time he sent stringent orders to Verdier to abandon
the unimportant sections of his line of investment, and to come to
reinforce the field army at the head of his French division, which
still counted 4,000 bayonets. Verdier accordingly marched to join
his chief, leaving Lecchi’s Italians--now little more than 2,000
strong--to watch the west side of Gerona, and handing over the charge
of the works on Monjuich, the new approaches, and the park at Pont
Mayor, to the Westphalians. He abandoned all the outlying posts on
the heights, even the convent of San Daniel, the village of Campdura,
and the peak of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles. Only 4,600 infantry
and 2,000 gunners and sappers were left facing the garrison: but
Alvarez was too weak to drive off even such a small force.

On September 1 Blake ostentatiously displayed the heads of his
columns in front of St. Cyr’s position; but while the French general
was eagerly awaiting his attack, and preparing his counter-stroke,
the Spaniard’s game was being played out in another quarter. While
Rovira and Claros with their miqueletes made noisy demonstration
from the north against the Westphalians, and threatened the park and
the camp at Sarria, Blake had detached one of his divisions, that of
Garcia Conde, some 4,000 strong, far to the left beyond St. Cyr’s
flank: this corps had with it a convoy of more than a thousand mules
laden with provisions, and a herd of cattle. It completely escaped
the notice of the French, and marching from Amer at break of day came
down into the plain of Salt at noon, far in the rear of St. Cyr’s
army. Garcia Conde had the depleted Italian division of the siege
corps in front of him: one of the brigadiers, the Pole Milosewitz,
was in command that day, Lecchi being in hospital. This small force,
which vainly believed itself covered from attack by St. Cyr’s corps,
had kept no look-out to the rear, being wholly intent on watching
the garrison. It was surprised by the Spanish column, cut into two
halves, and routed. Garcia Conde entered the Mercadal in triumph with
his convoy, and St. Cyr first learnt what had occurred when he saw
the broken remnants of the Italians pouring into the rear of his own
line at Fornells.

That night Gerona was free of enemies on its southern and eastern
sides, and Alvarez communicated freely with Rovira’s and Claros’s
irregulars, who had forced in the Westphalian division and compelled
it to concentrate in Monjuich and the camp by the great park near
Sarria. The garrison reoccupied the ruined convent of San Daniel by
the Galligan, and placed a strong party in the hermitage on the peak
of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles. It also destroyed all the advanced
trenches on the slopes of Monjuich. On the next morning, however, it
began to appreciate the fact that the siege had not been raised. St.
Cyr sent back Verdier’s division to rejoin the Westphalians, and with
them the wrecks of Lecchi’s routed battalions. He added to the force
under Verdier half Pino’s Italian division--six fresh battalions.
With these reinforcements the old siege-lines could be reoccupied,
and the Spaniards were forced back from the points outside the walls
which they had reoccupied on the night of September 1.

By sending away such a large proportion of the 16,000 men that he had
concentrated for battle on the previous day, St. Cyr left himself
only some 10,000 men for a general action with Blake, if the latter
should resolve to fight. But the Spanish general, being without
Garcia Conde’s division, had also no more than 10,000 men in line.
Not only did he refuse to advance, but when St. Cyr, determined to
fight at all costs, marched against him with offensive intentions,
he hastily retreated as far as Hostalrich, two marches to the rear.
There he broke up his army, which had exhausted all its provisions.
St. Cyr did the same and for the same reasons; his men had to
disperse in order to live. He says in his memoirs that if Blake had
shown a bold front against him, and forced him to keep the covering
army concentrated for two more days, the siege would have had to be
raised. For the covering army had advanced against the Spaniards on
September 2 with only two days’ rations, it had exhausted its stores,
and eaten up the country-side. On the fourth it would have had to
retire, or to break up into small fractions, leaving the siege-corps
unprotected. St. Cyr doubted whether the retreat would have ceased
before Figueras was reached. But it is more probable that he would
have merely fallen back to join Verdier, and to live for some days
on the dépôts of Pont Mayor and Sarria. He could have offered battle
again under the walls of Gerona, with all his forces united. Blake
might have got into close touch with Alvarez, and have thrown what
convoys he pleased into the town; but as long as St. Cyr and Verdier
with 22,000 men lay opposite him, he could not have risked any
more. The situation, in short, would have been that which occurred
in February 1811 under the walls of Badajoz, when Mortier faced
Mendizabal, and would probably have ended in the same fashion, by the
French attacking and driving off the relieving army. Blake, then, may
be blamed somewhat for his excessive caution in giving way so rapidly
before St. Cyr’s advance: but if we remember the quality of his
troops and the inevitable result of a battle, it is hard to censure
him overmuch.

Meanwhile Garcia Conde, whose movements were most happy and adroit,
reinforced the garrison of Gerona up to its original strength of
5,000 bayonets, by making over to Alvarez four whole battalions and
some picked companies from other corps, and prepared to leave the
town with the rest of his division and the vast drove of mules, whose
burden had been discharged into the magazines. If he had dedicated
his whole force to strengthening the garrison, the additional troops
would have eaten up in a few days all the provisions that the
convoy had brought in[46]. Accordingly he started off at two a.m.
on September 4 with some 1,200 men, by the upland path that leads
past the hermitage of Los Angeles: St. Cyr had just placed Pino’s
troops from the covering army to guard the heights to the south-east
of Gerona, but Garcia Conde, warned by the peasants of their exact
position, slipped between the posts and got off to Hostalrich with a
loss of no more than fifty men[47].

  [46] The reinforcements left behind by Garcia Conde consisted of
  two battalions of Baza (one of Reding’s old Granadan regiments),
  with 1,368 bayonets, two Catalan ‘tercios,’ 1st and 2nd of
  Talarn, with 716 bayonets, and select companies of 1st of Granada
  (Iliberia), 2nd of Vich, and Voluntarios de Tarragona--in all
  apparently about 2,707 men.

  The table on p. 375 of Arteche’s vol. vii seems to err in
  crediting the Cervera ‘tercio’ to Garcia: this had come in on
  Aug. 17, as described on p. 35. On the other hand the company of
  Voluntarios de Tarragona should be credited to him.

  [47] St. Cyr tells a story to the effect that he had placed
  Mazzuchelli’s brigade of Pino’s division in ambush behind the
  hill of Palau to intercept Garcia Conde, and that the Spaniards
  would have marched right into the trap on Sept. 3, if the
  Italians had not been stupid enough to sound the _réveil_ at
  dawn, and so warn the enemy of their existence. But the Spanish
  accounts of Minali and Claros are quite different (see Arteche,
  vii. 377); they are to the effect that Garcia Conde had intended
  to start _at dusk_ on the third, but, hearing firing on the side
  of Palau, deferred his exit and took another road. If he was
  starting at 7 or 8 o’clock at night on the third, he cannot have
  been warned by the morning bugles at 4 o’clock on the previous
  morning. See St. Cyr, p. 234, and Napier, ii. 245, for the
  French story, which the latter takes over whole from the former.
  Belmas and Vacani do not give the tale, though they have a full
  narration of the escape of Garcia Conde.

Before he could consider his position safe, Verdier had to complete
the lines of investment: this he did on September 5 by driving off
the intermediate posts which Alvarez had thrown out from the Capuchin
heights, to link the town with the garrison in the hermitage of
Nuestra Señora de los Angeles. Mazzuchelli’s brigade stormed the
hermitage itself on the following day, with a loss of about eighty
men, and massacred the greater part of the garrison. On that same
day, however, the French suffered a small disaster in another part of
the environs. General Joba, who had been sent with three battalions
to clear the road to Figueras from the bands of Claros and Rovira,
was beaten and slain at San Gregorio by those chiefs. But the
miqueletes afterwards retired to the mountains, and the road became
intermittently passable, at least for large bodies of men.

It was not till September 11, however, that Verdier recommenced the
actual siege, and bade his batteries open once more upon Gerona.
The eleven days of respite since Blake interrupted the bombardment
on September 1 had been invaluable to the garrison, who had cleared
away the débris from the foot of the breaches, replaced the damaged
artillery on the front of attack, and thrown up interior defences
behind the shattered parts of the wall. They had also destroyed all
the advanced trenches of the besiegers, which had to be reconstructed
at much cost of life. In four days Verdier had recovered most of
the lost ground, when he was surprised by a vigorous sally from the
gate of San Pedro: the garrison, dashing out at three p.m., stormed
the three nearest breaching batteries, spiked their guns, and filled
in all the trenches which were advancing towards the foot of the
walls. Four days’ work was thus undone in an hour, and it was only
on September 19 that Verdier had reconstructed his works, and pushed
forward so far towards his objective that he considered an assault
possible. He then begged St. Cyr to lend him a brigade of fresh
troops, pleading that the siege-corps was now so weak in numbers,
and so demoralized by its losses, that he did not consider that the
men would do themselves justice at a storm. The losses of officers
had been fearful: one battalion was commanded by a lieutenant,
another had been reduced to fifty men; desertion was rampant among
several of the foreign corps. Of 14,000 infantry[48] of the French,
Westphalian, and Italian divisions less than 6,000 now remained. So
far as mere siegecraft went, as he explained to St. Cyr, ‘the affair
might be considered at an end. We have made four large practicable
breaches, each of them sufficient to reduce the town. But the troops
cannot be trusted.’ St. Cyr refused to lend a man for the assault,
writing with polite irony that ‘every general has his own task:
yours is to take Gerona with the resources placed at your disposal
by the government for that object, and the officers named by the
government to conduct the siege[49].’ He added that he considered,
from its past conduct, that the morale of the siege-corps was rather
good than bad. He should not, therefore, allow the covering army to
join the assault; but he would lend the whole of Pino’s division to
take charge of Monjuich and the camps, during the storm, and would
make a demonstration against the Mercadal, to distract the enemy
from the breaches. With this Verdier had to be content, and, after
making two final protests, concentrated all his brigades save those
of the Westphalian division, and composed with them four columns,
amounting to some 3,000 men, directing one against each of the four
breaches. That sent against the platform of San Cristobal was a mere
demonstration of 150 men, but the other three were heavy masses: the
Italians went against Santa Lucia, the French brigade against the
southern breach in the ‘Redoubt of the Germans,’ the Berg troops
against the northern one. A separate demonstration was made against
the Calvary fort, whose unsubdued fire still flanked the breaches, in
the hope that its defenders might be prevented from interfering in
the main struggle.

  [48] Verdier did not exaggerate: see Appendix no. 2 at end of
  this volume, showing that his three divisions had lost 8,161 men
  out of 14,044 by September 15.

  [49] See the acrid correspondence between St. Cyr and Verdier in
  Appendices nos. 37-8, 40-6 of Belmas, vol. ii.

Alvarez, who had noted the French columns marching from all quarters
to take shelter, before the assault, in the trenches on the slopes
of Monjuich and in front of Pedret, had fair warning of what was
coming, and had done his best to provide against the danger. The
less important parts of the enceinte had been put in charge of
the citizens of the ‘Crusade,’ and the picked companies of every
regiment had been told off the breaches. The Englishman, Ralph
Marshall, was in charge of the curtain of Santa Lucia, William Nash,
the Spanish-Irish colonel of Ultonia, commanded at the two breaches
under La Gironella: Brigadier Fournas, the second-in-command of the
garrison, had general supervision of the defences; he had previously
taken charge of Monjuich during the great assault in August.
Everything had been done to prepare a second line of resistance
behind the breaches; barricades had been erected, houses loopholed,
and a great many marksmen disposed on roofs and church towers, which
looked down on the rear-side of the gaps in the wall.

At four o’clock in the afternoon of September 19 the three columns
destined for the northern breaches descended from Monjuich on the
side of San Daniel, crossed the Galligan, and plunged into the
hollow at the foot of the ‘Redoubt of the Germans.’ At the same
moment the fourth column started from the ruins of the tower of San
Juan to attack the curtain of Santa Lucia. The diversion against the
Calvary fort was made at the same moment, and beaten off in a few
minutes, so that the fire of this work was not neutralized during
the assault according to Verdier’s expectation. The main assault,
nevertheless, was delivered with great energy, despite the flanking
fire. At the two points of attack under La Gironella the stormers
twice won, crossed, and descended from the breach, forcing their
way into the ruined barracks behind. But they were mown down by the
terrible musketry fire from the houses, and finally expelled with
the bayonet. At the Santa Lucia curtain the Italians scaled the
breach, but were brought up by a perpendicular drop of twelve feet
behind it--the foot of the wall in this quarter chancing to be much
higher than the level of the street below. They held the crest of the
breach for some time, but were finally worsted in a long and furious
exchange of fire with the Spaniards on the roofs and churches before
them, and recoiled. The few surviving officers rallied the stormers,
and brought them up for a second assault, but at the end of two hours
of hard fighting all were constrained to retire to their trenches.
They had lost 624 killed and wounded, including three colonels (the
only three surviving in the whole of Verdier’s corps) and thirty
other officers. The Spanish loss had been 251, among them Colonel
Marshall, who was mortally wounded at his post on the Santa Lucia
front.

[Illustration: SIEGE OF GERONA]

Verdier accused his troops of cowardice, which seems to have been
unjust. St. Cyr wrote to the Minister of War to express his opinion
that his subordinate was making an excuse to cover his own error,
in judging that a town must fall merely because there were large
breaches in its walls[50]. ‘The columns stopped for ninety minutes
on the breaches under as heavy a fire as has ever been seen. There
was some disorder at the end, but that is not astonishing in view of
the heavy loss suffered before the retreat. I do not think that
picked grenadiers would have done any better, and I am convinced
that the assault failed because the obstacles to surmount were
too great.’ The fact was that the Spaniards had fought with such
admirable obstinacy, and had so well arranged their inner defences,
that it did not suffice that the breaches should have been perfectly
practicable. At the northern assault the stormers actually penetrated
into the buildings behind the gaps in the ruined wall, but could
not get further forward[51]. In short, the history of the siege of
Gerona gives a clear corroboration of the old military axiom that
no town should ever surrender merely because it has been breached,
and justifies Napoleon’s order that every governor who capitulated
without having stood at least one assault should be sent before a
court martial. It refutes the excuses of the too numerous commanders
who have surrendered merely because there was a practicable breach in
their walls, like Imaz at Badajoz in 1811. If all Spanish generals
had been as wary and as resolute as Mariano Alvarez, the Peninsular
War would have taken some unexpected turns. The moral of the defences
of Tarifa, Burgos, and San Sebastian will be found to be the same as
that of the defence of Gerona.

  [50] ‘Il paraît que l’on a employé la ressource, malheureusement
  trop usitée en pareil cas, de dire que les troupes n’ont pas fait
  leur devoir, ce qui produit de justes réclamations de leur part.’
  (St. Cyr to the Minister, Sept. 24, 1809.)

  [51] The not unnatural suggestion that the German and Italian
  troops may have failed to display such desperate courage as the
  native French in the assault seems to be refuted by their losses,
  which were hardly smaller in proportion. Of 1,430 native French
  of the 7th and 56th Line and 32nd Léger, 328 were put out of
  action; of 1,400 Berg, Würzburg, and Italian troops, 296. The
  difference in the percentage is so small that it is clear that
  there was no great difference in conduct.

The effect of the repulse of September 19 on the besieging army was
appalling. Verdier, after writing three venomous letters to the
Emperor, the War Minister, and Marshal Augereau[52], in which he
accused St. Cyr of having deliberately sacrificed the good of the
service to his personal resentments, declared himself invalided. He
then went off to Perpignan, though permission to depart was expressly
denied him by his superior: his divisional generals, Lecchi and
Morio, had already preceded him to France. Disgust at the failure of
the storm had the same effect on the rank and file: 1,200 men went
to the hospital in the fortnight that followed the assault, till by
October 1 the three divisions of the siege-corps numbered little more
than 4,000 bayonets--just enough to hold Monjuich and the camps by
the great dépôts at Pont Mayor and Sarria. The store of ammunition in
the park had been used up for the tremendous bombardment poured upon
the breaches from the 15th to the 17th of September. A new supply was
wanted from Perpignan, yet no troops could be detached to bring it
forward, for the miqueletes were again active, and on September 13
had captured or destroyed near Bascara a convoy guarded by so many as
500 men.

  [52] See especially Verdier to Augereau, no. 53, and to the
  Minister, no. 61, of Belmas’s Appendices.

St. Cyr, left in sole charge of the siege by Verdier’s departure,
came to the conclusion that it was useless to proceed with the attack
by means of trenches, batteries, and assaults, and frankly stated
that he should starve the town out, but waste no further lives on
active operations. He drew in the covering corps closer to Gerona, so
that it could take a practical part in the investment, put the wrecks
of Lecchi’s troops--of whom less than 1,000 survived--into Pino’s
division, and sent the French brigade of Verdier’s old division to
guard the line between Bascara and the Frontier. Thus the distinction
between the siege-corps and the covering troops ceased to exist, and
St. Cyr lay with some 16,000 men in a loose circle round Gerona,
intent not on prosecuting advances against the walls, but only on
preventing the introduction of further succours. He was aware that
acute privations were already being suffered by the Spaniards:
Garcia Conde’s convoy had brought in not much more than eight days’
provisions for the 5,000 men of the reinforced garrison and the
10,000 inhabitants who still survived. There was a considerable
amount of flour still left in store, but little else: meat, salt
and fresh, was all gone save horseflesh, for Alvarez had just begun
to butcher his draught horses and those of his single squadron of
cavalry. There was some small store of chocolate, tobacco, and
coffee, but wine and aguardiente had run out, so had salt, oil, rice,
and--what was most serious with autumn and winter approaching--wood
and charcoal. All the timbers of the houses destroyed by the
bombardment had been promptly used up, either for fortification or
for cooking[53]. Medical stores were wholly unobtainable: the chief
hospital had been burnt early in the siege, and the sick and wounded,
laid in vaults or casemates for safety, died off like flies in the
underground air. The seeds of pestilence were spread by the number
of dead bodies of men and animals which were lying where they could
not be reached, under the ruins of fallen houses. The spirit alike of
garrison and troops still ran high: the repulse of the great assault
of September 19, and the cessation of the bombardment for many days
after had encouraged them. But they were beginning to murmur more
and more bitterly against Blake: there was a general, if erroneous,
opinion that he ought to have risked a battle, instead of merely
throwing in provisions, on September 1. Alvarez himself shared this
view, and wrote in vigorous terms to the Junta of Catalonia, to ask
if his garrison was to perish slowly by famine.

  [53] The very interesting list of the prices of commodities at
  the commencement and the end of the siege, drawn up by Dr. Ruiz,
  one of the Gerona diarists, may be found on p. 579 of Arteche’s
  vol. vii. Note the following--the real (20 to the dollar) =
  2½_d._ :--

                                          _Reals._
                                  _In June._  _In Sept._

    Wheat flour, the qr.               80         112
    Barleymeal, the qr.                30          56
    Oatmeal, the qr.                   48          80
    Coffee, the lb.                     8          24
    Chocolate, the lb.                 16          64
    Oil, the measure                    2½         24
    Salt fish, the lb.                  2¼         32
    Cheese, the lb.                     4          40
    Wood, the arroba (32 lb.)           5          48
    Charcoal, ditto                     3½         40
    Tobacco, the lb.                   24         100
    A fowl                             14         320
    Rice, the lb.                       1½         32
    Fresh fish from the Ter, the lb.    4          36

  Thus while flour and meal had not doubled in value, coffee had
  gone up threefold, chocolate and tobacco fourfold, cheese and
  fuel tenfold, and the other commodities far more.

Blake responded by a second effort, less happily planned than that of
September 1. He called together his scattered divisions, now about
12,000 strong, and secretly concentrated them at La Bispal, between
Gerona and the sea. He had again got together some 1,200 mules
laden with foodstuffs, and a large drove of sheep and oxen. Henry
O’Donnell, an officer of the Ultonia regiment, who had been sent out
by Alvarez, marched at the head of the convoy with 2,000 picked men;
a division of 4,000 men under General Wimpfen followed close behind
to cover its rear. Blake, with the rest, remained at La Bispal: he
committed the egregious fault of omitting to threaten other parts of
the line of investment, so as to draw off St. Cyr’s attention from
the crucial point. He trusted to secrecy and sudden action, having
succeeded in concentrating his army without being discovered by the
French, who thought him still far away beyond Hostalrich. Thus it
came to pass that though O’Donnell struck sharply in, defeated an
Italian regiment near Castellar, and another three miles further on,
and reached the Constable fort with the head of the convoy, yet the
rest of Pino’s division and part of Souham’s concentrated upon his
flank and rear, because they were not drawn off by alarms in other
quarters. They broke in between O’Donnell and his supports, captured
all the convoy save 170 mules, and destroyed the leading regiment of
Wimpfen’s column, shooting also, according to the Spanish reports,
many scores of the unarmed peasants who were driving the beasts of
burden[54]. About 700 of Wimpfen’s men were taken prisoners, about
1,300 killed or wounded, for little quarter was given. The remnant
recoiled upon Blake, who fell back to Hostalrich next day, September
27, without offering to fight. The amount of food which reached the
garrison was trifling, and Alvarez declared that he had no need for
the additional mouths of O’Donnell’s four battalions, and refused to
admit them into the city. They lay encamped under the Capuchin fort
for some days, waiting for an opportunity to escape.

  [54] See Toreno, ii, and Arteche, vii. 412.

After having thus wrecked Blake’s second attempt to succour Gerona,
and driven him from the neighbourhood, St. Cyr betook himself to
Perpignan, in order, as he explained to the Minister of War[55],
to hurry up provisions to the army at the front, and to compel
the officers at the base to send forward some 3,000 or 4,000
convalescents fit to march, whose services had been persistently
denied him[56]. Arrived there he heard that Augereau, whose gout
had long disappeared, was perfectly fit to take the field, and
could have done so long before if he had not preferred to shift on
to other shoulders the responsibility for the siege of Gerona. He
was, on October 1, at the baths of Molitg, ‘destroying the germs of
his malady’ as he gravely wrote to Paris,--amusing himself, as St.
Cyr maintains in his memoirs. Convinced that the siege had still a
long time to run, and eager to do an ill turn to the officer who had
intrigued to get his place, St. Cyr played on the Marshal precisely
the same trick that Verdier had played on himself a fortnight before.
He announced that he was indisposed, wrote to congratulate Augereau
on his convalescence, and to resign the command to his hands, and
departed to his home, without waiting for an answer, or obtaining
leave from Paris--a daring act, as Napoleon was enraged, and might
have treated him hardly. He was indeed put under arrest for a short
time.

  [55] See St. Cyr to the Minister, Belmas, ii. Appendix no. 67.

  [56] Augereau to the Minister, ibid., Oct. 8.

From the first to the eleventh of October Souham remained in charge
of the army, but on the twelfth Augereau appeared and took command,
bringing with him the mass of convalescents who had been lingering
at Perpignan. Among them was Verdier, whose health became all that
could be desired when St. Cyr had disappeared. The night following
the Marshal’s arrival was disturbed by an exciting incident. Henry
O’Donnell from his refuge on the Capuchin heights, had been watching
for a fortnight for a good chance of escape. There was a dense fog
on the night of the 12th-13th: taking advantage of it O’Donnell
came down with his brigade, made a circuit round the town, crossed
the Oña and struck straight away into the plain of Salt, which,
being the most open and exposed, was also the least guarded section
of the French lines of investment. He broke through the chain of
vedettes almost without firing, and came rushing before dawn into
Souham’s head-quarters camp on the heights of Aguaviva. The battalion
sleeping there was scattered, and the general forced to fly in his
shirt. O’Donnell swept off his riding-horses and baggage, as also
some prisoners, and was out of reach in half an hour, before the
rallying fractions of the French division came up to the rescue of
their chief. By six o’clock the escaping column was in safety in the
mountains by Santa Coloma, where it joined the miqueletes of Milans.
For this daring exploit O’Donnell was made a major-general by the
Supreme Junta. His departure was a great relief to Alvarez, who had
to husband every mouthful of food, and had already put both the
garrison and the townsfolk on half-rations of flour and horseflesh.

Augereau was in every way inferior as an officer to St. Cyr. An old
soldier of fortune risen from the ranks, he had little education
or military science; his one virtue was headlong courage on the
battlefield, yet when placed in supreme command he often hesitated,
and showed hopeless indecision. He had been lucky enough to earn
a great reputation as Napoleon’s second-in-command in the old
campaigns of Italy in 1796-7. Since then he had made his fortune by
becoming one of the Emperor’s most zealous tools and flatterers.
He was reckoned a blind and reckless Bonapartist, ready to risk
anything for his master, but spoilt his reputation for sincerity by
deserting him at the first opportunity in 1814. He was inclined to
a harsh interpretation of the laws of war, and enjoyed a doubtful
reputation for financial integrity. Yet he was prone to ridiculous
self-laudatory proclamations and manifestos, written in a bombastic
strain which he vainly imagined to resemble his master’s thunders of
the _Bulletins_. Scraps of his address to the citizens of Gerona may
serve to display his fatuity--

‘Unhappy inhabitants--wretched victims immolated to the caprice
and madness of ambitious men greedy for your blood--return to your
senses, open your eyes, consider the ills which surround you! With
what tranquillity do your leaders look upon the graves crammed with
your corpses! Are you not horror-struck at these cannibals, whose
mirth bursts out in the midst of the human hecatomb, and who yet dare
to lift their gory hands in prayer towards the throne of a God of
Peace? They call themselves the apostles of Jesus Christ! Tremble,
cruel and infamous men! The God who judges the actions of mortals is
slow to condemn, but his vengeance is terrible.... I warn you for the
last time, inhabitants of Gerona, reflect while you still may! If you
force me to throw aside my usual mildness, your ruin is inevitable. I
shall be the first to groan at it, but the laws of war impose on me
the dire necessity.... I am severe but just. Unhappy Gerona! if thy
defenders persist in their obstinacy, thou shalt perish in blood and
flame.

    (Signed) AUGEREAU.’

Stuff of this sort was not likely to have much effect on fanatics
like Alvarez and his ‘Crusaders.’ If it is so wrong to cause the
deaths of men--they had only to answer--Why has Bonaparte sent his
legions into Spain? On the Marshal’s line of argument, that it is
wrong to resist overwhelming force, it is apparently a sin before God
for any man to attempt to defend his house and family against any
bandit. There is much odious and hypocritical nonsense in some of
Napoleon’s bulletins, where he grows tender on the miseries of the
people he has conquered, but nothing to approach the maunderings of
his copyist.

Augereau found the army about Gerona showing not more than 12,000
bayonets fit for the field--gunners and sappers excluded. The men
were sick of the siege, and it would seem that the Marshal was
forced, after inspecting the regiments and conferring with the
generals, to acquiesce in St. Cyr’s decision that any further
assaults would probably lead to more repulses. He gave out that
he was resolved to change the system on which the operations had
hitherto been conducted, but the change amounted to nothing more
than that he ordered a slow but steady bombardment to be kept up,
and occasionally vexed the Spaniards by demonstrations against the
more exposed points of the wall. It does not appear that either of
these expedients had the least effect in shaking the morale of the
garrison. It is true that during October and November the hearts of
the Geronese were commencing to grow sick, but this was solely the
result of starvation and dwindling numbers. As to the bombardment,
they were now hardened to any amount of dropping fire: on October
28 they celebrated the feast of San Narciso, their patron, by a
procession all round the town, which was under fire for the whole
time of its progress, and paid no attention to the casualties which
it cost them.

Meanwhile, when the second half of October had begun, Blake made
the third and last of his attempts to throw succours into Gerona.
It was even more feebly carried out than that of September 26, for
the army employed was less numerous. Blake’s force had not received
any reinforcement to make up for the men lost in the last affair,
a fact that seems surprising, since Valencia ought now to have
been able to send him the remainder of the regiments which had
been reorganized since the disasters of June. But it would seem
that José Caro, who was in command in that province, and the local
Junta, made excuses for retaining as many men as possible, and cared
little for the danger of Gerona, so long as the war was kept far
from their own frontier. It was, at any rate, with no more than
10,000 or 12,000 men, the remains of his original force, that Blake
once more came forward on October 18, and threatened the blockading
army by demonstrations both from the side of La Bispal and that of
Santa Coloma. He had again collected a considerable amount of food
at Hostalrich, but had not yet formed a convoy: apparently he was
waiting to discover the weakest point in the French lines before
risking his mules and his stores, both of which were by now very
hard to procure. There followed a fortnight of confused skirmishing,
without any battle, though Augereau tried with all his might to force
on a general engagement. One of his Italian brigades was roughly
handled near La Bispal on the twenty-first, and another repulsed near
Santa Coloma on the twenty-sixth, but on each occasion, when the
French reinforcements came up, Blake gave back and refused to fight.
On November 1 the whole of Souham’s division marched on Santa Coloma,
and forced Loygorri and Henry O’Donnell to evacuate it and retire to
the mountains. Souham reported that he had inflicted a loss of 2,000
men on the Spaniards, at the cost of eleven killed and forty-three
wounded on his own side! The real casualty list of the two Spanish
divisions seems to have been somewhat over 100 men[57].

  [57] See Souham’s dispatch, striving to make the combat into
  a very big business, in Belmas, ii, Appendix no. 72, and cf.
  Arteche, vii. pp. 430-1.

Nothing decisive had taken place up to November 7, when Augereau
conceived the idea that he might make an end of Blake’s fruitless but
vexatious demonstrations, by dealing a sudden blow at his magazines
in Hostalrich. If these were destroyed it would cost the Spaniards
much time to collect another store of provisions for Gerona.
Accordingly Pino marched with three brigades to storm the town,
which was protected only by a dilapidated mediaeval wall unfurnished
with guns, though the castle which dominated it was a place of
considerable strength, and proof against a _coup de main_. Only one
of Blake’s divisions, that of Cuadrado, less than 2,000 strong,
was in this quarter, and Augereau found employment for the others
by sending some of Souham’s troops against them. The expedition
succeeded: while Mazzuchelli’s brigade occupied the attention of
Cuadrado, the rest of the Italians stormed Hostalrich, which was
defended only by its own inhabitants and the small garrison of the
castle. The Spaniards were driven up into that stronghold after a
lively fight, and all the magazines fell into Pino’s hands and were
burnt. At a cost of only thirty-five killed and sixty-four wounded
the food, which Blake had collected with so much difficulty, was
destroyed[58]. Thereupon the Spanish general gave up the attempt to
succour Gerona, and withdrew to the plain of Vich, to recommence
the Sisyphean task of getting together one more convoy. It was not
destined to be of any use to Alvarez and his gallant garrison, for
by the time that it was collected the siege had arrived at its final
stage.

  [58] See Pino’s and Augereau’s dispatches in Belmas’s Appendices,
  nos. 73 and 74.

The Geronese were now reaching the end of their strength: for the
first time since the investment began in May some of the defenders
began to show signs of slackening. The heavy rains of October and
the commencement of the cold season were reducing alike troops and
inhabitants to a desperate condition. They had long used up all their
fuel, and found the chill of winter intolerable in their cellars and
casemates. Alvarez, though reduced to a state of physical prostration
by dysentery and fever, was still steadfast in heart. But there was
discontent brewing among some of his subordinates: it is notable, as
showing the spirit of the time, that the malcontents were found among
the professional soldiers, not among the citizens. Early in November
several officers were found holding secret conferences, and drawing
up an address to the local Junta, setting forth the desperate state
of the city and the necessity for deposing the governor, who was
represented as incapacitated for command by reason of his illness: it
was apparently hinted that he was going mad, or was intermittently
delirious[59]. Some of the wild sayings attributed to Alvarez during
the later days of the siege might be quoted as a support for their
representations. To a captain who asked to what point he was expected
to retire, if he were driven from his post, it is said that he
answered, ‘to the cemetery.’ To another officer, the first who dared
to say that capitulation was inevitable because of the exhaustion
of the magazines, he replied, ‘When the last food is gone we will
start eating the cowards, and we will begin with you.’ Though aware
that their conspiracies were known, the malcontents did not desist
from their efforts, and Alvarez made preparations for seizing and
shooting the chiefs. But on the night of November 19 eight of them,
including three lieutenant-colonels[60], warned by a traitor of their
approaching fate, fled to Augereau’s camp. Their arrival was the
most encouraging event for the French that had occurred since the
commencement of the siege. They spoke freely of the exhaustion of the
garrison, and said that Alvarez was mad and moribund.

  [59] Alvarez’s letter to Blake of Nov. 3 printed in Arteche’s
  Appendix, no. 18 of his vol. vii, gives this account of the first
  discovery of plots.

  [60] Of whom two, strangely enough, had been specially mentioned
  for courage at the September assault.

It was apparently this information concerning the desperate state
of the garrison which induced Augereau to recommence active siege
operations. He ordered up ammunition from Perpignan to fill the
empty magazines, and when it arrived began to batter a new breach in
the curtain of Santa Lucia. On December 2 Pino’s Italians stormed
the suburb of La Marina, outside the southern end of the town, a
quarter hitherto unassailed, and made a lodgement therein, as if to
open a new point of attack. But this was only done to distract the
enemy from the real design of the Marshal, which was nothing less
than to cut off the forts on the Capuchin heights from Gerona by
seizing the redoubts, those of the ‘Chapter’ and the ‘City,’ which
covered the steep upward path from the walls to the group of works on
the hilltop. At midnight on December 6 the voltigeur and grenadier
companies of Pino’s division climbed the rough southern face of the
Capuchin heights, and surprised and escaladed the ‘Redoubt of the
City,’ putting the garrison to the sword. Next morning the batteries
of the forts above and the city below opened a furious fire upon the
lost redoubt, and Alvarez directed his last sally, sending out every
man that he could collect to recover the work. This led to a long
and bloody fight on the slopes, which ended most disastrously for
the garrison. Not only was the sortie repulsed, but in the confusion
the French carried the Calvary and Chapter redoubts, the other works
which guarded the access from Gerona to the upper forts. On the
afternoon of December 7 the communication with them was completely
cut off, and as their garrisons possessed no separate magazines, and
had been wont to receive their daily dole from the city, it was clear
that they must be starved out. They had only food for forty-eight
hours at the moment[61].

  [61] Napier (ii. 249) says that the sortie was so far
  successful that the Geronese opened the way for the garrison
  of the Constable fort to escape into the city. But I can find
  no authority for this in either the French or the Spanish
  narratives, see especially Vacani.

The excitement of the sally had drained away the governor’s last
strength: he took to his bed that evening, was in delirium next day,
and on the morning of the ninth received the last sacraments of the
Church, the doctors having declared that his hours were numbered. His
last conscious act was to protest against any proposal to surrender,
before he handed over the command to the senior officer present,
General Juliano Bolivar. Had Alvarez retained his senses, it is
certain that an attempt would have been made to hold the town, even
when the starving garrisons of the forts should have surrendered.
But the moment that his stern hand was removed, his successor,
Bolivar, called together a council of war, to which the members of
the Junta, no less than the officers commanding corps, were invited.
They voted that further resistance was impossible, and sent out
Brigadier-General Fournas, the man who had so well defended Monjuich,
to obtain terms from Augereau. On the morning of the tenth the
Marshal received him, and dictated a simple surrender, without any of
the favourable conditions which Fournas at first demanded. His only
concession was that he offered to exchange the garrison for an equal
number of the unhappy prisoners from Dupont’s army, now lying in
misery on the pontoons at Cadiz, if the Supreme Junta concurred. But
the bargain was never ratified, as the authorities at Seville were
obdurate.

On the morning of December 11 the survivors of the garrison marched
out, and laid down their arms on the glacis of the Mercadal. Only
3,000 men came forth; these looked like living spectres, so pale,
weak, and tattered that ‘the besiegers,’ as eye-witnesses observed,
‘felt ashamed to have been held at bay so long by dying men.’ There
were 1,200 more lying in the hospitals. The rest of the 9,000 who
had defended the place from May, or had entered with Garcia Conde in
September, were dead. A detailed inspection of figures shows that
of the 5,723 men of Alvarez’s original command only 2,008 survived,
while of the 3,648 who had come later there were still 2,240 left: i.
e. two-thirds of the old garrison and one-third of the succours had
perished. The mortality by famine and disease far exceeded that by
the sword: 800 men had died in the hospitals in October, and 1,300
in November, from mere exhaustion. The town was in a dreadful state:
about 6,000 of the 14,000 inhabitants had perished, including nearly
all the very young and the very old. 12,000 bombs and 8,000 shells
had been thrown into the unhappy city: it presented a melancholy
vista of houses roofless, or with one or two of the side-walls
knocked in, of streets blocked by the fallen masonry of churches or
towers, under which half-decayed corpses were partially buried. The
open spaces were strewn with broken muskets, bloody rags, wheels of
disabled guns and carts, fragments of shells, and the bones of horses
and mules whose flesh had been eaten. The stench was so dreadful that
Augereau had to keep his troops out of the place, lest infection
should be bred among them. In the magazines nothing was found save a
little unground corn; all the other provisions had been exhausted.
There were also 168 cannon, mostly disabled; about 10,000 lb. of
powder, and a million musket cartridges. The military chest handed
over contained 562 reals--about 6_l._ sterling.

Augereau behaved very harshly to the garrison: many feeble or
diseased men were made to march to Perpignan and perished by the
way. The priests and monks of the ‘Crusade’ were informed that they
were combatants, and sent off with the soldiery. But the fate of the
gallant Governor provokes especial indignation. Alvarez did not die
of his fever: when he was somewhat recovered he was forwarded to
Perpignan, and from thence to Narbonne, where he was kept for some
time and seemed convalescent. Orders then came from Paris that he
was to be sent back to Spain--apparently to be tried as a traitor,
for it was alleged that in the spring of 1808 he had accepted the
provisional government installed by Murat. He was separated from his
aide-de-camp and servants, and passed on from dungeon to dungeon
till he reached Figueras. The day after his arrival at that place he
was found dead, on a barrow--the only bed granted him--in the dirty
cellar where he had been placed. It is probable that he perished
from natural causes, but many Spaniards believed that he had been
murdered[62].

  [62] For details of this disgraceful cruelty, see Arteche’s
  ‘Elogio’ on Alvarez in the proceedings of the Madrid Academy.
  The Emperor Napoleon himself must bear the responsibility, as
  it was by orders from Paris that Alvarez was sent back from
  France to Figueras. Apparently he was to be tried at Barcelona,
  and perhaps executed. There is no allusion to the matter in the
  _Correspondance de Napoléon_.

Great as the losses of the garrison of Gerona had been, they were
far exceeded, both positively and proportionately, by those of the
besieging army. The French official returns show that on June 15 the
three divisions charged with the attack, those of Verdier, Morio, and
Lecchi, had 14,456 bayonets, and the two divisions of the covering
army, those of Souham and Pino, 15,732: there were 2,637 artillerymen
and engineers over and above these figures. On December 31, twenty
days after the surrender, and when the regiments had been joined by
most of their convalescents, the three siege-divisions counted 6,343
men, the covering divisions 11,666, and the artillery and engineers,
2,390.

This shows a loss of over 13,000 men; but on examination the deficit
is seen to be even larger, for two new battalions from France had
just joined Verdier’s division in December, and their 1,000 bayonets
should be deducted from his total. It would seem, then, that the
capture of Gerona cost the 7th Corps about 14,000 men, as well as
a whole campaigning season, from April to December. The attack on
Catalonia had been brought to a complete standstill, and when Gerona
fell the French occupied nothing but the ruined city, the fortresses
of Rosas and Figueras hard by the frontier, and the isolated
Barcelona, where Duhesme, with the 6,000 men of his division, had
been lying quiescent all the summer and autumn. Such a force was too
weak to make detachments to aid St. Cyr or Augereau, since 4,000 men
at least were needed for the garrison of the citadel and the outlying
forts, and it would have been hopeless for the small remainder to
take the field. Duhesme only conducted one short incursion to
Villafranca during the siege of Gerona. In the last months of the
year Barcelona was again in a state of partial starvation: the food
brought in by Cosmao’s convoy in the spring had been exhausted, while
a second provision-fleet from Toulon, escorted by five men-of-war,
had been completely destroyed in October. Admiral Martin surprised it
off Cape Creus, drove ashore and burnt two line-of-battle ships and
a frigate, and captured most of the convoy. The rest took refuge in
the harbour of Rosas, where Captain Halliwell attacked them with the
boats of the squadron and burnt them all[63].

  [63] For details, see James’s _Naval History_, v. pp. 142-5.

While Gerona was enduring its last month of starvation, those whose
care it should have been to succour the place at all costs were
indulging in a fruitless exchange of recriminations, and making
preparations when it was all too late. Blake, after retiring to Vich
on November 10, informed the Junta of Catalonia that he was helpless,
unless more men could be found, and that they must find them. Why
he did not rather insist that the Valencian reserves should be
brought up, and risk stripping Tarragona and Lerida of their regular
garrisons, it is hard to say. This at any rate would have been in his
power. The Catalan Junta replied by summoning a congress at Manresa
on November 20, to which representatives of every district of the
principality were invited. The congress voted that a levy _en masse_
of all the able-bodied men from seventeen to forty-five years of age
should be called out[64], and authorized a loan of 10,000,000 reals
for equipping them. They also wrote to Seville, not for the first
time, to demand reinforcements from the Central Junta. But the battle
of Ocaña had just been fought and lost, and Andalusia could not
have spared a man, even if there had been time to transport troops
to Tarragona. All that the Catalans received was honorary votes of
approval for the gallant behaviour of the Geronese. The levy _en
masse_ was actually begun, but there was an insuperable difficulty
in collecting and equipping the men in winter time, when days were
short and roads were bad. The weeks passed by, and Gerona fell long
before enough men had been got together to induce Blake to try a
new offensive movement. Why was the congress not called in September
rather than in November? Blake had always declared that he was too
weak to risk a battle with the French for the raising of the siege,
but till the last moment the Catalans contented themselves with
arguing with him, and writing remonstrances to the Central Junta,
instead of lending him the aid of their last levies.

  [64] The Proclamation of Nov. 29 ordering this levy, written in a
  very magniloquent style, may be found in Belmas, Appendix no. 81.

One or two points connected with this famous siege require a word
of comment. It is quite clear that St. Cyr during its early stages
did not try his honest best to help Verdier. During June and July
his covering army was doing no good whatever at Vich: he pretended
that he had placed it there in order to ward off possible attacks
by Blake. But it was matter of public knowledge that Blake was far
away in Aragon, engaged in his unhappy campaign against Suchet, and
that Coupigny, left at Tarragona with a few thousand men, was not a
serious danger. St. Cyr could have spared a whole division more for
the siege operations, without risking anything. If he had done so,
Gerona could have been approached on two sides instead of one, the
Mercadal front might have been attacked, and the loose blockade,
which was all that Verdier could keep up, for want of more men, might
have been made effective. But St. Cyr all through his military career
earned a reputation for callous selfishness and habitual leaving
of his colleagues in the lurch. On this occasion he was bitterly
offended with Verdier, for giving himself the airs of an equal, and
corresponding directly with the Emperor. There can be no doubt that
he took a malicious pleasure in seeing his failures. It is hardly
disguised in his clever and plausible _Journal des Opérations de
l’Armée de Catalogne en 1808-1809_[65].

  [65] Napoleon’s comments on the operations of his generals
  are always interesting, though sometimes founded on imperfect
  information, or vitiated by predispositions. Of St. Cyr’s
  campaign he writes [Disp. no. 16,004] to Clarke, his Minister of
  War:

  ‘Il faut me faire un rapport sérieux sur la campagne du général
  Gouvion Saint-Cyr en Catalogne: (1) Sur les raisons qui l’ont
  porté à évacuer cette province, lorsque Saragosse était prise
  et sa jonction faite avec le maréchal Mortier. (2) Sur ce qu’il
  s’est laissé attaquer par les Espagnols, et ne les a jamais
  attaqués, et sur ce que, après les avoir toujours battus par la
  valeur des troupes, il n’a jamais profité de la victoire. (3) Sur
  ce qu’il a, par cet esprit d’égoisme qui lui est particulier,
  compromis le siège de Gérone: sur ce qu’il n’a jamais secouru
  suffisamment l’armée assiégeante, l’a au contraire attirée à
  lui, et a laissé ravitailler la ville. (4) Sur ce qu’il a quitté
  l’armée sans permission, sous le vain prétexte de maladie.’

  The first point seems unjust to St. Cyr. From his position
  in front of Tarragona, after Valls, he had no real chance of
  combining his operations with the army of Aragon. But the other
  three charges seem well founded.

Verdier, on the other hand, seems to have felt all through that he
was being asked to perform a task almost impossible, when he was
set to take Gerona with his own 14,000 men, unaided by the covering
army. His only receipt for success was to try to hurry on the matter
by delivering desperate blows. Both the assault on Monjuich on July
8 and that on the city on September 19 were premature; there was
some excuse for the former: Verdier had not yet realized how well
Alvarez could fight. But the second seems unpardonable, after the
warning received at Monjuich. If the general, as he declared before
delivering his assault, mistrusted his own troops, he had no right
to order a storm at all, considering his experience of the way in
which the Spaniards had behaved in July. He acted on the fallacious
theory that a practicable breach implies a town that can be taken,
which is far from being the case if the garrison are both desperate
and ingenious in defending themselves. The only way to deal with
such a resolute and capable adversary was to proceed by the slow and
regular methods of siegecraft, to sap right up to the ditch before
delivering an assault, and batter everything to pieces before risking
a man. This was how Monjuich was actually taken, after the storm had
failed. Having neither established himself close under the walls, nor
subdued the flanking fires from the Calvary and Chapter redoubts, nor
ascertained how far the Spaniards had prepared inner defences for
themselves, he had no right to attack at all.

As to Blake, even after making all possible allowances for the
fact that he could not trust his troops--the half-rallied wrecks
of Maria and Belchite--for a battle in the field, he must yet be
pronounced guilty of feebleness and want of ingenuity. If he could
never bring up enough regulars to give him a chance of facing St.
Cyr, the fault was largely his own: a more forcible general would
have insisted that the Valencian reserves should march[66], and would
have stripped Lerida and Tarragona of men: it could safely have
been done, for neither Suchet nor Duhesme was showing any signs of
threatening those points. He might have insisted that the Catalan
Junta should call out the full levy of _somatenes_ in September
instead of in November. He might also have made a better use of
the irregulars already in the field, the bands of Rovira, Milans,
and Claros. These miqueletes did admirable service all through the
siege, by harassing Verdier’s rear and cutting off his convoys, but
they were not employed (as they should have been) in combination
with the regulars, but allowed, as a rule, to go off on excursions
of their own, which had no relation to the main objects of Blake’s
strategy. The only occasion on which proper use was made of them was
when, on September 1, they were set to threaten Verdier’s lines,
while Garcia Conde’s convoy was approaching Gerona. It may be pleaded
in the Spanish general’s defence that it was difficult to exact
obedience from the chiefs: there was a distinct coolness between the
regulars and the irregulars, which sometimes led to actual quarrels
and conflicts when they met. But here again the reply is that more
forcible captain-generals were able to control the miqueletes, and if
Blake failed to do so, it was only one more sign of his inadequacy.
It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that he mismanaged matters,
and that if in his second and third attempts to relieve Gerona he had
repeated the tactics of his first, he would have had a far better
chance of success. On September 1 only did he make any scientific
attempt to distract the enemy’s attention and forces, and on that
occasion he was successful. Summing things up, it may be said that he
was not wrong to refuse battle with the troops that he had actually
brought up to Gerona: they would undoubtedly have been routed if he
had risked a general engagement. His fault was that he did not bring
up larger forces, when it was in his power to do so, by the exercise
of compulsion on the Catalan and Valencian Juntas. But these bodies
must share Blake’s responsibilities: they undoubtedly behaved in
a slack and selfish fashion, and let Gerona perish, though it was
keeping the war from their doors for a long eight months.

  [66] The Valencian troops at Maria were eleven battalions, viz.
  Savoia (three), 1st and 3rd Cazadores de Valencia (two), America
  (two), Voluntarios de Valencia (one), 1st of Valencia (three).
  Of these only Savoia (now two batts. only) and Voluntarios
  de Valencia turned up for the relief of Gerona. Along with
  them came two fresh regiments, 2nd Cazadores of Orihuela, and
  Almanza, which had not been at Maria. But these were Murcian, not
  Valencian, troops.

All the more credit is due to Alvarez, considering the way in which
he was left unsuccoured, and fed with vain promises. A less constant
soul would have abandoned the defence long before: the last two
months of resistance were his sole work: if he had fallen sick in
October instead of December, his subordinates would have yielded
long before. But it is not merely for heroic obstinacy that he must
be praised. Every detail of the defence shows that he was a most
ingenious and provident general: nothing was left undone to make the
work of the besiegers hard. Moreover, as Napier has observed, it
is not the least of his titles to merit that he preserved a strict
discipline, and exacted the possible maximum of work from soldier
and civilian alike, without the use of any of those wholesale
executions which disgraced the defence of Saragossa. His words were
sometimes truculent, but his acts were just and moderate. He never
countenanced mob-law, as did Palafox, yet he was far better obeyed by
the citizens, and got as good service from them as did the Aragonese
commander. He showed that good organization is not incompatible with
patriotic enthusiasm, and is far more effective in the hour of danger
than reckless courage and blind self-sacrifice.



SECTION XVII: CHAPTER IV

THE AUTUMN CAMPAIGN OF 1809: TAMAMES, OCAÑA, AND ALBA DE TORMES


As early as August 30, when Wellington had not fully completed his
retreat from Almaraz and Jaraicejo to Badajoz and Merida, the central
Junta had already begun to pester him and his brother, the Ambassador
at Seville, with plans for a resumption of the offensive in the
valley of the Tagus. On that day Martin de Garay, the Secretary of
State, wrote to represent to Wellesley that he had good reason to
believe that the troops of Victor, Mortier, and Soult were making
a general movement to the rear, and that the moment had arrived
when the allied armies in Estremadura and La Mancha should ‘move
forward with the greatest activity, either to observe more closely
the movements of the enemy, or to attack him when circumstances may
render it expedient[67].’ The French movement of retreat was wholly
imaginary, and it is astonishing that the Spanish Government should
have been so mad as to believe it possible that ‘their retrograde
movement may have originated in accounts received from the North,
which compel the enemy either to retire into the interior of France,
or to take up a position nearer to the Pyrenees.’ On a groundless
rumour, of the highest intrinsic improbability, they were ready to
hurl the newly-rallied troops of Eguia and Venegas upon the French,
and to invite Wellington to join in the advance. Irresponsible
frivolity could go no further. But the Junta, as has been already
said, were eager for a military success, which should cause their
unpopularity to be forgotten, and were ready to seize on any excuse
for ordering their troops forward. This particular rumour died
away--the French were still in force on the Tagus, and, as a matter
of fact, the only movement northwards on their part had been the
return of Ney’s corps to Salamanca. But though the truth was soon
discovered, the Junta only began to look out for new excuses for
recommencing active operations.

  [67] De Garay to Wellesley in _Wellesley Dispatches_, p. 92.

Wellington, when these schemes were laid before him, reiterated
his refusal to join in any offensive campaign, pointed out that
the allied forces were not strong enough to embark on any such
hazardous undertaking, and bluntly expressed his opinion that ‘he
was much afraid, from what he had seen of the proceedings of the
Central Junta, that in the distribution of their forces they do
not consider military defence and military operations so much as
political intrigue, and the attainment of petty political objects.’
He then proceeded to make an estimate of the French armies, to show
their numerical superiority to the allies; in this he very much
under-estimated the enemy’s resources, calculating the whole force
of the eight corps in Spain at 125,000 men, exclusive of sick and
garrisons not available for active service. As a matter of fact there
were 180,000 men, not 125,000, with the Eagles at that moment, after
all deductions had been made, so that his reasoning was far more
cogent than he supposed[68]. But this only makes more culpable the
obstinate determination of the Junta to resume operations with the
much inferior force which they had at their disposal.

  [68] Wellington to Wellesley, from Merida, Sept. 1, 1809.

Undismayed by their first repulse, the Spanish ministers were soon
making new representations to Wellesley and Wellington, in order to
induce them to commit the English army to a forward policy. They sent
in repeated schemes for supplying Wellington with food and transport
on a lavish scale[69]; but he merely expressed his doubts as to
whether orders that looked admirable on paper would ever be carried
out in practice. He consented for the present to remain at Badajoz,
as long as he could subsist his army in its environs, but warned
the Junta that it was more probable that he would retire within the
Portuguese border, for reasons of supply, than that he would join in
another campaign on the Tagus.

  [69] See the details in Wellesley to Canning, Sept. 2, 1809.

Despite of all, the government at Seville went on with its plans for
a general advance, even after they recognized that Wellington was
not to be moved. A grand plan of operations was gradually devised
by the War-Minister Cornel and his advisers. Stated shortly it was
as follows. The army in La Mancha, which Venegas had rallied after
the disaster of Almonacid, was to be raised to a strength of over
50,000 men by the drafting into it of a full two-thirds of Cuesta’s
old army of Estremadura. On September 21 Eguia marched eastwards up
the Guadiana, with three divisions of infantry and twelve or thirteen
regiments of cavalry, to join Venegas[70]. The remaining force,
amounting to two divisions of infantry and 2,500 cavalry, was left
in Estremadura under the Duke of Albuquerque, the officer to whom
the government was obliged to assign this army, because the Junta of
Badajoz pressed for his appointment and would not hear of any other
commander. He was considered an Anglophil, and a friend of some of
the Andalusian malcontents, so the force left with him was cut down
to the minimum. All the old regular regiments were withdrawn from
him, save one single battalion, and he was left with nothing save
the newly-raised volunteer units, some of which had behaved so badly
at Talavera[71]. His cavalry was soon after reduced by the order to
send a brigade to join the Army of the North, so that he was finally
left with only five regiments of that arm or about 1,500 sabres. Of
his infantry, about 12,000 strong, over 4,000 were absorbed by the
garrison of Badajoz, so that he had only 8,000 men available for
service in the field.

  [70] His head quarters moved from Truxillo on the seventeenth,
  were at La Serena on the twenty-first, and joined the army of La
  Mancha about October 1.

  [71] See the list of Albuquerque’s army in Appendix no. 2. There
  had been twenty-one regular battalions in Cuesta’s army in June.
  Twenty of these marched off with Eguia, leaving only one (4th
  Walloon Guards) with Albuquerque.

Eguia, on the other hand, carried with him to La Mancha some 25,000
men, the picked corps of the Estremaduran army; and, as the remains
of Venegas’s divisions rallied and recruited after Almonacid,
amounted to rather more than that number, the united force exceeded
50,000 sabres and bayonets. With this army the Junta intended to
make a direct stroke at Madrid, while Albuquerque was directed to
show himself on the Tagus, in front of Almaraz and Talavera, with
the object of detaining at least one of the French corps in that
direction. It was hoped, even yet, that Wellington might be induced
to join in this demonstration. If once the redcoats reappeared at the
front, neither Soult nor Mortier could be moved to oppose the army of
La Mancha. Meanwhile Ney and the French corps in Leon and Old Castile
were to be distracted by the use of a new force from the north,
whose composition must be explained. The Junta held that the last
campaign had failed only because the allies had possessed no force
ready to detain Soult and Ney. If they had not appeared at Plasencia,
Wellington, Cuesta, and Venegas would have been able to drive King
Joseph out of his capital. Two months later the whole position was
changed, in their estimation, by the fact that Spain once more
possessed a large ‘Army of the Left,’ which would be able to occupy
at least two French corps, while the rest of the allies marched again
on Madrid. That such a force existed did indeed modify the aspect of
affairs. La Romana had been moved to Seville to become a member of
the Junta, but his successor, the Duke Del Parque, was collecting a
host very formidable as far as numbers went. The old army of Galicia
had been reformed into four divisions under Martin de la Carrera,
Losada, Mahy, and the Conde de Belveder--the general whose name was
so unfortunately connected with the ill-fought combat of Gamonal.
These four divisions now comprised 27,000 men, of whom more than half
were newly-raised Galician recruits, whom La Romana had embodied in
the depleted cadres of his original battalions, after Ney and Soult
had evacuated the province in July. A few of the ancient regiments
that had made the campaign of Espinosa had died out completely--their
small remnants having been drafted into other corps[72]. On the other
hand there were a few new regiments of Galician volunteers--but La
Romana had set his face against the creation of such units, wisely
preferring to place his new levies in the ranks of the old battalions
of the regular army[73]. In the main, therefore, the new ‘Army of
the Left’ represented, as far as names and cadres went, Blake’s
original ‘Army of Galicia[74].’ It had the same cardinal fault as
that army, in that it had practically no cavalry whatever: the single
dragoon regiment that Blake had owned (La Reina) having been almost
completely destroyed in 1808[75]. Each division had a battery; the
guns, of which La Romana’s army had been almost destitute in the
spring, had been supplied from England, and landed at Corunna during
the summer.

  [72] The only regiments of Blake’s original army that seem to be
  completely dead in October 1809 are 2nd of Catalonia, Naples,
  Pontevedra, Compostella. Naples had been drafted into Rey early
  in 1809. Of the others I can find no details.

  [73] The new Galician regiments which appear in the autumn of
  1809 are Monforte de Lemos, Voluntarios de la Muerte, La Union,
  Lovera, Maceda, Morazzo.

  [74] For the full muster-roll of Del Parque’s army in October,
  see Appendix no. 4.

  [75] Some small fraction of it reappeared in the campaign of 1809.

But the Galician divisions, though the most numerous, were not
the only units which were told off to the new ‘Army of the Left.’
Asturias had been free of invaders since Ney and Bonnet retired from
its borders in June 1809. The Central Junta ordered Ballasteros to
join the main army with the few regular troops in the principality,
and ten battalions of the local volunteers, a force of over 9,000
men. The Asturian Junta, always very selfish and particularist in
its aims, made some protests but obeyed. Nine of its less efficient
regiments were left behind to watch Bonnet.

Finally the Duke Del Parque himself had been collecting fresh levies
about Ciudad Rodrigo, while the plains of Leon lay abandoned by
the French during the absence of Ney’s corps in the valley of the
Tagus. Including the garrison of Rodrigo he had 9,000 men, all in new
units save one old line battalion and one old militia regiment[76].
Deducting the 3,500 men which held the fortress, there were seven
battalions--nearly 6,000 bayonets--and a squadron or two of horse
available for the strengthening of the field army. These were now
told off as the ‘5th Division of the Army of the Left’; that of
Ballasteros was numbered the 3rd Division.

  [76] One battalion of Majorca, and the Militia battalion of
  Segovia.

The Galician, Asturian, and Leonese divisions had between them less
than 500 horsemen. To make up for this destitution the Central Junta
directed the Duke of Albuquerque to send off to Ciudad Rodrigo, via
the Portuguese frontier, a brigade of his cavalry. Accordingly
the Prince of Anglona marched north with three regiments[77], only
1,000 sabres in all, and joined Del Parque on September 25. Thus at
the end of that month the ‘Army of the Left’ numbered nearly 50,000
men--all infantry save 1,500 horse and 1,200 gunners. But they were
scattered all over North-Western Spain, from Oviedo to Astorga, and
from Astorga to Ciudad Rodrigo, and had to be concentrated before
they could act. Nor was the concentration devoid of danger, for the
French might fall upon the Asturians or the Leonese before they had
joined the Galician main body. As a matter of fact the 50,000 never
took the field in one mass, for Del Parque left a division under
Mahy to protect Galicia, and, when these regiments and the garrison
of Rodrigo were deducted, he had but 40,000 in all, including sick
and men on detachment. This, nevertheless, constituted a formidable
force--if it had been in existence in July, Soult and Ney could never
have marched against Wellington with their whole strength, and the
Talavera campaign might have had another end. But the troops were
of varying quality--the Leonese division was absolutely raw: the
Galicians had far too many recruits with only two months’ training in
their ranks, the Estremaduran cavalry had a bad record of disasters.
A general of genius might have accomplished something with the Army
of the Left--but Del Parque, though more cautious than many of his
compeers, was no genius.

  [77] Borbon, Sagunto, and Granaderos de Llerena, 1,053 sabres in
  October. These regiments had newly rejoined the Estremaduran army
  from the rear.

The Junta had a deeply-rooted notion that if sufficient pressure were
applied to Wellesley and Wellington, they would permit Beresford’s
Portuguese army, now some 20,000 strong, to join Del Parque for
the advance into the plains of Leon. They had mistaken their men:
Wellington returned as peremptory a refusal to their request for the
aid of the Portuguese troops as to their demand that his own British
army should advance with Albuquerque to the Tagus[78].

  [78] See Wellington to Wellesley, from Badajoz, Oct. 30, 1809.

Nothing could be more hazardous than the plan finally formulated
at the Seville War Office for the simultaneous advance of the
armies of La Mancha, the North, and Estremadura. Even if it had
been energetically supported by Wellington and Beresford, it
would have been rash: converging operations by several armies
starting from distant bases against an enemy concentrated in their
midst are proverbially disastrous. In this particular plan three
forces--numbering in all about 110,000 men, and starting from
points so far apart as Ciudad Rodrigo, Truxillo, and the Passes
by La Carolina, were to fall upon some 120,000 men, placed in a
comparatively compact body in their centre. A single mistake in the
timing of operations, the chance that one Spanish army might outmarch
another, or that one of the three might fail to detain any hostile
force in its front (as had happened with Venegas during the Talavera
Campaign) was bound to be ruinous. The French had it in their power
to deal with their enemies in detail, if the least mischance should
occur: and with Spanish generals and Spanish armies it was almost
certain that some error would be made.

Meanwhile the Junta made their last preparation for the grand stroke,
by deposing Venegas from the command of the united army in La Mancha.
Eguia held the interim command for a few days, but was to be replaced
by Areizaga, an elderly general who had never commanded more than
a single division, and had to his credit only courage shown in a
subordinate position at the battle of Alcañiz. He was summoned from
Lerida, and came hastily to take up his charge.

The sole advantage which the Spaniards possessed in October 1809
was that their enemy did not expect to be attacked. A month after
Talavera matters had apparently settled down for the whole autumn, as
far as the French generals could calculate. With the knowledge that
the Austrian War was over, and that unlimited reinforcements could
now be poured into Spain by his brother, King Joseph was content to
wait. He had refused to allow Soult to make his favourite move of
invading Portugal in the end of August, because he wished the Emperor
to take up the responsibility of settling the next plan of campaign,
and of determining the number of new troops that would be required to
carry it out. The French corps, therefore, were in a semicircle round
Madrid: Soult and Mortier in the central Tagus Valley at Plasencia
and Talavera, Victor in La Mancha, with Sebastiani supporting him at
Toledo and Aranjuez, Ney at Salamanca, Dessolles and the Royal Guard
as a central reserve in the capital. This was a purely defensive
position, and Joseph intended to retain it, till the masses of troops
from Germany, with the Emperor himself perchance at their head,
should come up to his aid. It does not seem to have entered into his
head that the enemy would again take the offensive, after the fiasco
of the Talavera campaign, and the bloody lesson of Almonacid.

In September and the early days of October the French hardly moved
at all. Ney left his corps at Salamanca, and went on a short leave
to Paris on September 25, so little was any danger expected in the
plains of Leon. The charge of the 6th corps was handed over to
Marchand, his senior divisional general. There was an even more
important change of command pending--Jourdan had been soliciting
permission to return to France ever since July. He had been on
excellent terms with King Joseph, but found it hard to exact
obedience from the marshals--indeed he was generally engaged in a
controversy either with Victor or with Soult. The Emperor was not
inclined to allow him to quit Spain, but Jourdan kept sending in
applications to be superseded, backed by medical certificates as
to his dangerous state of health. Finally he was granted leave to
return, by a letter which reached him on October 25, just as the new
campaign was beginning to develop into an acute phase. But he gladly
handed over his duties to Soult, who thus became ‘major-general’ or
chief of the Staff to King Joseph, and departed without lingering or
reluctance for France, glad to be quit of a most invidious office[79].

  [79] For Jourdan’s personal views, see his _Mémoires_, ed.
  Grouchy, p. 282.

Before Jourdan’s departure there had been some small movements of
the French troops: hearing vague rumours of the passage eastward of
Eguia’s army, King Joseph ordered a corresponding shift of his own
troops towards that quarter. Soult and the 2nd Corps were ordered
from Plasencia to Oropesa and Talavera, there relieving Mortier and
the 5th Corps, who were to push up the Tagus toward Toledo. This
would enable Victor to call up Sebastiani’s cavalry and two of his
infantry divisions from Toledo into La Mancha. Having thus got
together some 25,000 men, Victor advanced to Daimiel, and pressed in
the advanced posts of the main Spanish army on October 15. Eguia, who
was still in temporary command, since Areizaga had not yet arrived,
made no attempt to stand, but retired into the passes of the Sierra
Morena. This apparent timidity of the enemy convinced the Marshal
that nothing dangerous was on hand in this quarter. He drew back
his army into cantonments, in a semicircle from Toledo to Tarancon,
leaving the cavalry of Milhaud and Paris out in his front.

Nothing more happened in La Mancha for a fortnight: but on the other
wing, in the kingdom of Leon, matters came to a head sooner. About
the middle of September the bulk of the Galician army, the divisions
of Losada, Belveder and La Carrera, had moved down the Portuguese
frontier via Alcanizas, and joined Del Parque at Ciudad Rodrigo. On
the twenty-fifth of the same month the Prince of Anglona, with the
cavalry brigade from Estremadura, also came in to unite himself to
the Army of the Left. Del Parque had thus 25,000 infantry and 1,500
horse concentrated. He had still to be joined by Ballasteros and the
Asturians, who had to pick their way with caution through the plains
of Leon. Mahy and the 4th division of the Galicians had been left in
the passes above Astorga, to cover the high-road into Galicia. He
had a vanguard in Astorga, under Santocildes, and the town, whose
walls had been repaired by the order of La Romana, was now capable of
making some defence.

Facing Del Parque and his lieutenants there were two distinct forces.
The 6th Corps, now under Marchand, was concentrated at Salamanca.
Having received few or no drafts since its return from Galicia it was
rather weak--its twenty-one battalions and four cavalry regiments
only counted at the end of September some 13,000 bayonets and 1,200
sabres[80] effective--the sick being numerous. In the north of Leon
and in Old Castile Kellermann was in charge, with an independent
force of no great strength: his own division of dragoons, nearly
3,000 sabres, was its only formidable unit. The infantry was composed
of three Swiss battalions, and four or five French battalions, which
had been left in garrisons in Old Castile when the regiments to
which they belonged went southward in the preceding winter[81].
The whole did not amount to more than 3,500 bayonets. The dragoons
were very serviceable in the vast plains of Leon, but it was with
difficulty, and only by cutting down garrisons to a dangerous extent,
that Kellermann could assemble a weak infantry brigade of 2,000 men
to back the horsemen.

  [80] See the table given by Sprünglin on p. 366 of his _Mémoires_.

  [81] Apparently Kellermann had at this moment a battalion each of
  the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Swiss, a battalion of the Garde de Paris,
  one each of the 12th Léger and 32nd Line, and one or two of the
  122nd.

It was nevertheless on Kellermann’s side, and by the initiative of
the French, that the first clash took place in north-western Spain.
Hearing vague reports of the movement of the Galician divisions
towards Ciudad Rodrigo, Kellermann sent General Carrié, with two
regiments of dragoons and 1,200 infantry, to occupy Astorga, being
ignorant apparently that it was now garrisoned and more or less
fortified. Carrié found the place occupied, made a weak attack upon
it on October 9, and was beaten off. He was able to report to his
chief that the Spaniards (i. e. Mahy’s division) were in some force
in the passes beyond.

At much the same moment that this fact was ascertained Del Parque
began to move: he had been lying since September 24 at Fuente
Guinaldo in the highland above Ciudad Rodrigo. On October 5 he
made an advance as far as Tamames, on the by-road from Rodrigo to
Salamanca which skirts the mountains, wisely avoiding the high-road
in the more level ground by San Martin del Rio and Castrejon. He had
with him his three Galician divisions and his 1,500 horse, but he
had not brought forward his raw Leonese division under Castrofuerte,
which still lay by Rodrigo. On hearing of the duke’s advance Marchand
sent out reconnaissances, and having discovered the position of the
Spaniards, resolved at once to attack them. On October 17 he started
out from Salamanca, taking with him his whole corps, except the two
battalions of the 50th regiment, which were left to garrison the town.

On the afternoon of the next day Marchand came in sight of the enemy,
who was drawn up ready to receive him on the heights above Tamames.
The French general had with him nineteen battalions, some 12,000
bayonets--his 1,200 horse, and fourteen guns. Del Parque had 20,000
Galician infantry, Anglona’s cavalry, and eighteen guns: his position
was so strong, and his superiority in infantry so marked, that he was
probably justified in risking a battle on the defensive.

Tamames, an unwalled village of moderate size, lies at the foot of a
range of swelling hills. Its strategical importance lies in the fact
that it is the meeting-place of the two country roads from Ciudad
Rodrigo to Salamanca _via_ Matilla, and from Ciudad Rodrigo to Bejar
and the Pass of Baños _via_ Nava Redonda. Placed there, Del Parque’s
army threatened Salamanca, and had a choice of lines of retreat,
the roads to Rodrigo and to the passes into Estremadura being both
open. But retreat was not the duke’s intention. He had drawn up his
army on the heights above Tamames, occupying the village below with
a battalion or two. On the right, where the hillside was steeper,
he had placed Losada and the 2nd Division: on the left, where the
ridge sinks down gently into the plain, was Martin de la Carrera
with the Vanguard Division. The Conde de Belveder’s division--the
third--formed the reserve, and was drawn up on the reverse slope,
behind La Carrera. The Prince of Anglona’s cavalry brigade was out on
the extreme left, partly hidden by woods, in the low ground beyond
the flank of the Vanguard.

Marchand, arriving on the ground in the afternoon after a march of
fourteen miles from Matilla, was overjoyed to see the enemy offering
battle, and attacked without a moment’s hesitation. His arrangements
much resembled those of Victor at Ucles--though his luck was to be
very different. It was clear that the Spanish left was the weak
point, and that the heights could be turned and ascended on that side
with ease. Accordingly Maucune’s brigade (six battalions in all)[82]
and the light cavalry, strengthened by one regiment of dragoons, were
ordered to march off to the right, to form in a line perpendicular
to that of Del Parque, and break down his flank. When this movement
was well developed, Marcognet’s brigade (six battalions)[83] was to
attack the Spanish centre, to the east of the village of Tamames,
while the 25th Léger (two battalions) was to contain the hostile
right by a demonstration against the high and difficult ground in
that direction. Marchand kept in reserve, behind his centre, the 27th
and 59th of the Line (six battalions) and his remaining regiment
of dragoons. The vice of this formation was that the striking
force--Maucune’s column--was too weak: it would have been wise to
have strengthened it at the expense of the centre, and to have made a
mere demonstration against the heights above the village of Tamames,
as well as on the extreme French left.

  [82] 6th Léger (two batts.), 69th Line (three batts.), and one
  battalion of _voltigeurs réunis_.

  [83] 39th and 76th of the Line.

Maucune accomplished his flank march undisturbed, deployed in front
of La Carrera’s left and advanced against it. The Spanish general
threw back his wing to protect himself, and ordered his cavalry
to threaten the flank of the advancing force. But he was nearly
swept away: when the skirmishing lines were in contact, the French
brigadier ordered his cavalry to charge the centre of the Spanish
division: striking in diagonally, Lorcet’s Hussars and Chasseurs
broke La Carrera’s line, and captured the six guns of his divisional
artillery. Almost at the same moment Anglona’s cavalry came in upon
Maucune’s flank; but being opposed by two battalions of the 69th in
square, they received but one fire and fled hastily to the rear.
Maucune then resumed his march up the hill, covering his flank with
his horsemen, and pushing La Carrera’s broken line before him. But at
the head of the slope he met Belveder’s reserve, which let the broken
troops pass through their intervals, and took up the fight steadily
enough. The French were now opposed by triple numbers, and the combat
came to a standstill: Maucune’s offensive power was exhausted, and
he could no longer use his cavalry on the steep ground which he had
reached.

[Illustration: BATTLE OF TAMAMES. Oct. 18, 1809.]

Meanwhile, on seeing their right brigade opening the combat with
such success, the two other French columns went forward, Marcognet
against the Spanish centre, Anselme of the 25th Léger against the
extreme right. But the ground was here much steeper: Losada’s
Galician division stood its ground very steadily, and Marcognet’s
two regiments made an involuntary halt three-quarters of the way up
the heights, under the full fire of the two Spanish batteries
there placed and the long line of infantry. The officers made several
desperate attempts to induce the columns to resume their advance, but
to no effect. They fell in great numbers, and at last the regiments
recoiled and descended the hill in disorder. Losada’s battalions
pursued them to the foot of the slope, and the Spanish light troops
in the village sallied out upon their flank, and completed their
rout. Marcognet’s brigade poured down into the plain as a disordered
mass of fugitives, and were only stayed when Marchand brought up the
27th and 59th to their rescue. Del Parque wisely halted the pursuing
force before it came into contact with the French reserves, and took
up again his post on the heights.

Meanwhile the 25th Léger, on the extreme French right, had not
pressed its attack home, and retreated when the central advance was
repulsed. Maucune, too, seeing the rout to his left, withdrew from
the heights under cover of his cavalry, carrying off only one of the
Spanish guns that he had taken early in the fight, and leaving in
return a disabled piece of his own on the hill.

The battle was fairly lost, and Marchand retired, under cover of
his cavalry along the Salamanca road. The enemy made no serious
attempt to pursue him in the plain, where his horsemen would have
been able to act with advantage. The French had lost 1,300 or 1,400
men, including 18 officers killed, and a general (Lorcet) and 54
officers wounded[84]. Marcognet’s brigade supplied the greater part
of the casualties; the 76th lost its eagle, seven officers killed and
fifteen wounded: the 39th almost as many. The cavalry and Maucune’s
brigade suffered little. The very moderate Spanish loss was 713
killed and wounded, mostly in La Carrera’s division.

  [84] Marchand in his dispatch says 1,300 men in all were lost,
  and a gun; he makes no mention of the eagle. His aide-de-camp,
  Sprünglin, who has a good account of the battle in his _Mémoires_
  (pp. 370-1), gives the total of 1,500. The Spaniards exaggerated
  the loss to 3,000.

This was the first general action since Baylen in which the Spaniards
gained a complete victory. They had a superiority of about seven
to four in numbers, and a good position; nevertheless the troops
were so raw, and the past record of the Army of the Left was so
disheartening, that the victory reflects considerable credit on the
Galicians. The 6th Corps was reckoned the best of all the French
units in Spain, being entirely composed of old regiments from the
army of Germany. It is not too much to say that Ney’s absence was
responsible for the defeat of his men. Marchand attacked at three
points, and was weak at each. The Marshal would certainly have
massed a whole division against the Spanish left, and would not have
been stopped by the stout resistance made by Belveder’s reserve. A
demonstration by a few battalions would have ‘contained’ Losada’s
troops on the left, where the ground was too unfavourable for a
serious attack[85].

  [85] ‘La perte de cette affaire fut entièrement due à la faute
  que fit le Général Marchand de multiplier ses attaques, et de
  s’engager par petits paquets. Tout le monde se mêlait de donner
  son avis, et on remarquait l’absence de M. le Maréchal,’ says
  Sprünglin in p. 371 of his _Mémoires_.

On the 19th of October the beaten army reached Salamanca by a
forced march. Marchand feared that the enemy would now manœuvre
either by Ledesma, so as to cut him off from Kellermann and the
troops in the north, or by Alba de Tormes, so as to intercept his
communication with Madrid. In either case he would have to retreat,
for there was no good defensive ground on the Tormes to resist an
army coming from the west. As a matter of fact Del Parque moved by
Ledesma, for two reasons: the first was that he wished to avoid the
plains, fearing that Kellermann might have joined the 6th Corps
with his cavalry division. The second was that, by moving in this
direction, he hoped to make his junction with Ballasteros, who had
started from the Asturias to join him, and had been reported to have
moved from Astorga to Miranda del Duero, and to be feeling his way
south-eastward. The juncture took place: the Asturian division, after
an unsuccessful attempt to cut off the garrison of Zamora on the
seventeenth, had marched to Ledesma, and met the main army there. Del
Parque had now 28,000 men, and though still very weak in cavalry,
thought himself strong enough to march on Salamanca. He reached it on
October 25 and found it evacuated. Marchand, learning that Kellermann
was too far off to help him, and knowing that no reinforcements
from Madrid could reach him for many days, had evacuated the town
on the previous evening. He retired towards Toro, thus throwing up
his communications with Madrid in order to make sure of joining
Kellermann. This seems doubtful policy, for that general could only
aid him with 4,000 or 5,000 men, and their joint force would be
under 20,000 strong. On the other hand, by retiring on Peñaranda or
Medina de Campo, and so approaching the King’s army, he could have
counted on picking up much larger reinforcements, and on resuming the
struggle with a good prospect of success.

As a matter of fact Jourdan, on hearing of the disaster of Tamames,
had dispatched, to aid the 6th Corps, Godinot’s brigade of Dessolles’
division, some 3,500 bayonets, from Madrid, and Heudelet’s division
of the 2nd Corps, about 4,000 strong, from Oropesa, as well as a
couple of regiments of cavalry. He made these detachments without
scruple, because there was as yet no sign of any activity on the part
of the Spanish armies of La Mancha and Estremadura. A week later he
would have found it much more hazardous to weaken his front in the
valley of the Tagus. These were the last orders issued by Jourdan,
who resigned his post on October 31, while Soult on November 5
arrived at Madrid and replaced him as chief of the staff to King
Joseph.

Del Parque, not unnaturally elated by his victory, now nourished
ambitious ideas of clearing the whole of Leon and Old Castile of
the enemy, being aware that the armies of La Mancha and Estremadura
ought now to be on the move, and that full occupation would be found
ere long for the French corps in the valley of the Tagus. He ordered
up his 5th Division, the raw Leonese battalions of Castrofuerte,
from Ciudad Rodrigo, and made vehement appeals to the Portuguese
Government to lend him the whole of Beresford’s army for a great
advance up the Douro. The Regency, though much pressed by the Spanish
ambassador at Lisbon, gave a blank refusal, following Wellington’s
advice to have nothing to do with offensive operations in Spanish
company[86]. But part of Beresford’s troops were ordered up to
the frontier, not so much to lend a moral support to Del Parque’s
advance[87] as to be ready to defend their own borders in the event
of his defeat. Showing more prudence than Wellington had expected,
Del Parque did not push forward from Salamanca, when he became
certain that he would have to depend on his own forces alone. Even
after the arrival of his reserves from Rodrigo he remained quiet,
only pushing out reconnaissances to discover which way the enemy had
gone. He had, in fact, carried out his part in the Central Junta’s
plan of campaign, by calling the attention of the French to the
north, and distracting troops thither from the King’s army. It was
now the time for Albuquerque and Areizaga to take up the game, and
relieve him. Marchand meanwhile had retired across the Douro, and
taken up an extended line behind it from Zamora to Tordesillas--a
front of over forty miles--which it would have been impossible to
hold with his 13,000 men against a heavy attack delivered at one
point. But he was hardly in position when Kellermann arrived, took
over the command, and changed the whole plan of campaign (November
1). He had left two battalions to guard Benavente, two to hold
Valladolid, and had only brought up his 3,000 dragoons and 1,500
infantry. Seeing that it was absolutely necessary to recover the
line of communication with Madrid, he ordered the 6th Corps to leave
Zamora and Toro, mass at Tordesillas, and then cross the Douro to
Medina del Campo, the junction point of the roads from Madrid,
Segovia, Valladolid, and Toro. To this same place he brought up his
own small force, and having received Godinot’s brigade from Madrid,
had thirty-four battalions and eighteen squadrons concentrated--about
23,000 men. Though not yet joined by the other troops from the
south--Heudelet’s division--he now marched straight upon Salamanca
in two columns, one by Cantalapiedra, the other by Fuente Sauco,
intending to offer battle to Del Parque.

  [86] Del Parque’s demands had begun as early as the end of
  September, see Wellington to Castlereagh, Badajoz, Sept. 29,
  _Dispatches_, v. 200-1, and cf. Wellington to Forjaz, Oct. 15,
  ibid. 223.

  [87] Wellington to Beresford, Nov. 16, 1809.

But the duke, much to the surprise of every one, utterly refused
to fight, holding the plain too dangerous for an army so weak in
cavalry as his own, and over-estimating the enemy’s force at 36,000
men[88]. He retired from Salamanca, after having held it less than
a fortnight, on November 5, and took not the road to Ciudad Rodrigo
but that to Bejar and the Pass of Baños, as if he were about to
pass the mountains into Estremadura[89]. This was an excellent
move: the French could not pursue him in force without evacuating
Old Castile and Leon, which it would have been impossible for them
to contemplate. For when Kellermann had concentrated his troops to
strike at Salamanca, there was nothing left behind him in the vast
upland save a battalion or two at Benavente, Valladolid, and Burgos.
Mahy, from Galicia, and the Asturians might have overrun the whole
region unopposed. As it was, the whole of the provinces behind the
Douro showed signs of bursting out into insurrection. Julian Sanchez,
the Empecinado, and other guerrillero chiefs, whose names were soon
to be famous, raised large bands during the absence of the normal
garrisons, and swept the country-side, capturing convoys and cutting
the lines of communication between Vittoria, Burgos, and Valladolid.
Porlier came down with a flying column from the Asturias, assaulted
Palencia, and threatened Burgos. The French governors on every side
kept reporting their perilous position, when they could get a message
through to Madrid[90].

  [88] He sent this estimate to Wellington, see the latter to
  Beresford, Badajoz, Nov. 16.

  [89] The Junta afterwards contemplated bringing him down to join
  Albuquerque, via Plasencia, which was free of French troops,
  since Soult had moved to Oropesa. But this does not seem to have
  been thought of so early as Nov. 5.

  [90] See Soult to Clarke, from Madrid, Nov. 6, for these
  movements.

Realizing that he must cover his rear, or the whole of Old Castile
would be lost to the insurgents, Kellermann, after occupying
Salamanca on November 6, left the 6th Corps and Godinot’s brigade
distributed between Ledesma, Salamanca, and Alba de Tormes, watching
Del Parque, and returned in haste with his own troops to the Douro.
He commenced to send out flying columns from Valladolid to deal with
the guerrilleros, but did not work too far afield, lest he might be
called back by a new forward movement on the part of the Army of
the Left. But in a few days he had to recast all his arrangements,
for--as Del Parque had calculated--the campaign in La Mancha had
just opened, and the position of the French in Leon and Old Castile
was profoundly affected by the new developments.

In the south, as we have already explained, the Junta designed
Albuquerque’s army of Estremadura to be a mere demonstrating force,
while Areizaga’s 55,000 men were to strike the real blow. The
Estremaduran troops, as was proper, moved early to draw the attention
of the enemy. Albuquerque’s first division under Bassecourt--6,000
infantry and 600 horse--was on the Tagus from Almaraz to Meza
de Ibor: his second division under St. Juan and the rest of his
cavalry--some 4,000 in all--were moving up from Truxillo. Bassecourt
began by sending a small force of all arms across the river at
Almaraz, to drive in Soult’s outposts and spread reports abroad in
all directions that he was acting as the vanguard to Wellington’s
army, which was marching up from Badajoz. Unfortunately the full
effect that he desired was not produced, because deserters informed
Soult that the British Army was still quiescent on the Guadiana[91].
The French made no movement, and left the 2nd Corps alone to watch
Albuquerque.

  [91] Soult to Clarke, from Madrid, Nov. 6. The deserters were a
  body of twenty-one men of the Walloon Guards, who had enlisted
  from Dupont’s prisoners in order to get a chance of escaping:
  they reached Oropesa on Oct. 25.

Meanwhile Areizaga, within a few days of assuming the command of the
army of La Mancha, commenced his forward movement. On November 3,
having concentrated his eight divisions of infantry and his 5,700
horse at Santa Cruz de Mudela, at the foot of the passes, he gave
the order to advance into the plains. The head quarters followed the
high-road, with the train and three divisions: the rest, to avoid
encumbering the _chaussée_, marched by parallel side-roads, but were
never more than ten miles from their Commander-in-Chief: at any rate
Areizaga avoided the sin of dispersion. His army was the best which
had been seen under the Spanish banners since Tudela. The men had all
been furnished with new clothes and equipment since August, mainly
from English stores landed at Cadiz. There were sixty guns, and
such a body of cavalry as had never yet been collected during the
war. The value of the troops was very unequal; if there were many
old battalions of the regular army, there were also many new units
composed of half-trained Andalusian levies. The cavalry included the
old runaways of Medellin, and many other regiments of doubtful value.
The morale was on the whole not satisfactory. ‘I wish I had anything
agreeable to communicate to you from this army’ wrote Colonel Roche,
a British officer attached to Areizaga’s staff, to Wellington. ‘The
corps which belonged to the original army of La Mancha are certainly
in every respect superior to those from Estremadura, and from
everything that I can learn none of those abuses which were to be
lamented in the army of Estremadura existed here--or, at least, in
a much less degree. But nothing can exceed the general discontent,
dissatisfaction, and demoralization of the mass of the people and of
the army. How can anybody who has the faculty of reason separate the
inefficiency, intrigue, bad organization, and consequent disasters
of the army from the source of all those evils in the Junta? There
is not a man of the least reflection who, as things now stand, has a
hope of success; and this is the more melancholy, because the mass of
the people are just as inveterate in their resentment and abhorrence
of the French as at the first hour of the revolution[92].’ The fact
seems to have been that the superior officers doubted the wisdom of
taking the offensive according to the Junta’s orders, and had no
confidence in Areizaga, who was only known as a fighting general, and
had no reputation for skill. The rank and file, as Arteche remarks,
were disposed to do their duty, but had no confidence in their
luck[93]. Their government and not their generals must take the major
part of the blame for the disaster that followed.

  [92] Roche to Wellington, from Santa Cruz de la Mudela,
  _Wellington Supplementary Dispatches_, vi. 394. Cf. also the same
  to the same, vi. 414.

  [93] _Historia de la Guerra de la Independencia_, vii. 283.

Areizaga was well aware that his best chance was to strike with
extreme boldness and vigour, and to dash into the midst of the French
before they could concentrate. Hence his march was at first conducted
with great rapidity and decision; between the 3rd and the 8th of
November he made nearly fifteen miles a day, though the roads were
somewhat broken up by the autumn rains. On the eighth he reached
La Guardia, eighty miles from his starting-point, and his advanced
cavalry under General Freire had its first skirmish with a brigade of
Milhaud’s dragoons at Costa de Madera, near Dos Barrios. The Spanish
horse deployed in such numbers that the French were compelled to move
off in haste and with some loss, though they had beaten off with ease
the first two or three regiments which had gone forward against them.

The Spanish advance had been so rapid and so unexpected that Soult
and King Joseph had been taken completely by surprise. On November
6 the Marshal had reported to Paris that ‘the troops on the Tagus
and in La Mancha are up to the present unmolested, and as, from all
I can learn, there is no prospect of the enemy making any offensive
movement on that side, I intend to form from them a strong flying
column to hunt the brigands in the direction of Burgos[94].’ Only
four days later he had to announce that an army of at least 40,000
men was close in front of Aranjuez, and not more than thirty-five
miles from Madrid, and that he was hurrying together troops from all
quarters to make head against them. At the moment indeed, there was
nothing directly between Areizaga’s vanguard at La Guardia and the
Spanish capital, save the Polish division of the 4th Corps stationed
at Aranjuez, and Milhaud’s five regiments of dragoons at Ocaña. If
the Spaniard had pushed on for three days more at his starting pace,
he might have crossed the Tagus, and have forced King Joseph to
fight, close in front of Madrid, with an imperfectly assembled army.
On the ninth and tenth Leval’s Germans were in march from Toledo to
Aranjuez to join Sebastiani’s Poles: Mortier’s first division was
hurrying from Talavera to Toledo, and his second division was making
ready to follow. The 2nd Corps, despite Albuquerque’s demonstration
in front of Almaraz, was preparing to quit Oropesa, in order to
replace Mortier’s men at Talavera. Victor, in the meanwhile, with
the First Corps, was lying in front of Toledo at Ajofrin, with his
cavalry at Mora and Yebenes: he reported that no hostile force had
come his way, but that he had ascertained that a large army had
marched past his front along the great _chaussée_ from Madridejos to
Aranjuez. He was in a position to attack it in rear and flank, if
there was a sufficient force gathered in its front to justify him in
closing[95].

  [94] Soult to Clarke, Madrid, Nov. 6.

  [95] Soult to Clarke, Madrid, Nov. 10.

But on reaching La Guardia, Areizaga seemed suddenly to realize
the dangers of his movement. No doubt it was the news that Victor
was almost in his rear that paralysed him, but he halted on the
ninth, when a bold advance would certainly have enabled him to seize
Aranjuez, by evicting the small force under Milhaud and Sebastiani.
For three fatal days, the 9th, 10th, and 11th of November, the
Spanish main body remained halted in a mass at La Guardia, as if for
the special purpose of allowing the enemy to concentrate. On the
eleventh Areizaga at last began to move again: he sent forward the
whole of his cavalry, supported by Zayas and his Vanguard division,
to press back the force in his front. They found Milhaud’s five
regiments of dragoons ranged in line of battle before the small town
of Ocaña, and supported by Sebastiani’s Polish infantry. Freire
advanced, using his triple superiority of numbers to turn both flanks
of the French cavalry; Milhaud, after some partial charges, retired
behind the Poles, who formed a line of six battalion squares. The
Spanish horse made a half-hearted attempt to attack them, but were
repelled by their rolling fire before they came to close quarters,
and drew back. It was now four o’clock in the afternoon, and the
Spanish infantry was only just beginning to come up. Zayas and Freire
agreed that it was too late to begin a second attack, and put off
fighting till the next morning. But during the night the French
evacuated Ocaña and retired to Aranjuez, wisely judging that it would
be insane to wait for the arrival of the Spanish main body. They had
lost about fifty men, Freire’s cavalry just over two hundred.

Next day [November 12], Areizaga brought up the whole of his army to
Ocaña, and his cavalry reconnoitred up to the gates of Aranjuez and
the bridge of Puente La Reyna. Sebastiani made ready to defend them,
and having been joined by the German division from Toledo, wrote to
Soult to say that he would resist to the last extremity, in order
to gain time for the arrival of Victor’s corps and the other troops
which were marching up from the west and north[96]. The attack
which he expected was never delivered. Areizaga, nervous about the
presence of the 1st Corps on his flank, had resolved to shift his
army eastward to get further away from it. Abandoning his line of
communication by La Guardia and Madridejos, he marched his whole
force by cross-roads parallel to the Tagus up to La Zarza, and seized
the fords of Villamanrique, twenty-five miles above Aranjuez, on the
Madrid-Albacete road. If Victor, as he supposed, had been manœuvring
on his flank, this movement would have cut him off from his base in
Andalusia, and have left him only the mountains of Murcia as a line
of retreat. But, as a matter of fact, the 1st Corps was no longer at
Ajofrin or Mora, but had been called behind the Tagus, so that his
retreat was safer than he supposed.

  [96] Sebastiani to Soult, night of the twelfth-thirteenth, from
  Aranjuez.

Soult and King Joseph, meanwhile, had been completing their
concentration. They had written to Kellermann, ordering him to send
back to Madrid without delay the brigade of Dessolles’ division
under Godinot which had been lent him, and to spare them as well one
infantry brigade of the 6th Corps. These troops were too far off
to be available at once; but of the remainder of their units the
Royal Guard and Spanish battalions of King Joseph, with Dessolles’
remaining brigade, were moved out to support Sebastiani. Victor
had been brought back across the Tagus, and was also marching on
Aranjuez. Mortier’s corps was concentrated at Toledo, while the 2nd
Corps was in motion from Oropesa to Talavera, having discovered no
signs of a serious advance on the part of Albuquerque. The care of
Madrid was handed over to the incomplete French division of the 4th
Corps[97], some of whose battalions were dispersed at Guadalajara,
Alcala, Segovia, and other garrisons. Paris’s light cavalry of the
same corps was also at this moment watching the roads to the east of
Madrid.

  [97] It had still no divisional general, and was officially known
  by the name of ‘Sebastiani’s division’--regiments 28th, 32nd,
  58th, 75th.

On the twelfth Areizaga threw Lacy’s division across the Tagus,
and laid down two pontoon bridges near Villamanrique, so as to be
able to bring over his whole army in the shortest possible time.
But the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth were days of storm,
the river rose high, and the artillery and train stuck fast on the
vile cross-roads from Ocaña over which they were being brought. In
consequence less than half the Spanish army was north of the Tagus
on November 15, though the advance cavalry pushed on to the line of
the Tajuna, and skirmished with Paris’s _chasseurs_ about Arganda.
It seemed nevertheless that Areizaga was committed to an advance
upon Madrid by the high-road from Albacete, wherefore Soult blew up
the bridges of Aranjuez and Puente la Reyna, and ordered Victor to
march from Aranjuez on Arganda with the 1st Corps, nearly 20,000 men,
purposing to join him with the King’s reserves and to offer battle on
the Tajuna, while Mortier and Sebastiani’s Poles and Germans should
fall upon the enemy’s flank. But this plan was foiled by a new move
upon Areizaga’s part; he now commenced a retreat as objectless as his
late advance. Just as Victor’s cavalry came in touch with his front,
he withdrew his whole army across the Tagus, destroyed his bridges,
and retired to La Zarza on the seventeenth, evidently with the
intention of recovering his old line of communication with Andalusia,
via Ocaña and Madridejos.

The moment that this new departure became evident, Soult reversed
the marching orders of all his columns save Victor’s, and bade them
return hastily to Aranjuez, where the bridge was repaired in haste,
and to cross the Tagus there, with the intention of intercepting
Areizaga’s line of retreat and forcing a battle on him near Ocaña.
Victor, however, had got so far to the east that it would have wasted
time to bring him back to Aranjuez, wherefore he was directed to
cross the river at Villamanrique and follow hard in Areizaga’s rear.

On the morning of the eighteenth Milhaud’s and Paris’s cavalry,
riding at the head of the French army, crossed the Tagus at Aranjuez,
and pressing forward met, between Ontigola and Ocaña, Freire’s
horsemen moving at the head of Areizaga’s column, which on this
day was strung out between La Zarza and Noblejas, marching hastily
westward towards the high-road. The collision of Milhaud and Freire
brought about the largest cavalry fight which took place during the
whole Peninsular War. For Milhaud and Paris had eight regiments,
nearly 3,000 men, while three of Freire’s four divisions were
present, to the number of over 4,000 sabres. On neither side was any
infantry in hand.

Sebastiani, who had come up with the light cavalry of his corps, was
eager for a fight, and engaged at once. Charging the Spanish front
line with Paris’s light horse, he broke it with ease: but Freire came
on with his reserves, forming the greater part of them into a solid
column--an odd formation for cavalry. Into this mass Milhaud charged
with four regiments of dragoons. The heaviness of their formation
did not suffice to enable the Spaniards to stand. They broke when
attacked, and went to the rear in disorder, leaving behind them
eighty prisoners and some hundreds of killed and wounded. The French
lost only a few scores, but among them was Paris, the not unworthy
successor of the adventurous Lasalle in command of the light cavalry
division attached to the 4th Corps.

Moving forward in pursuit of the routed squadrons, Sebastiani
approached Ocaña, but halted on discovering that there was already
Spanish infantry in the town. The head of Areizaga’s long column had
reached it, while the cavalry combat was in progress: the rest was
visible slowly moving up by cross-roads from the east. Soult was
at once apprised that the enemy’s army was close in his front--so
close that it could not get away without fighting, for its train and
rearguard were still far behind, and would be cut off if the main
body moved on without making a stand.

Areizaga, though he had shown such timidity when faced by
Sebastiani’s 9,000 men at Aranjuez, and by Victor’s 20,000 on the
Tajuna, now offered battle to the much more formidable force which
Soult was bringing up. He was indeed compelled to fight, partly
because his men were too weary to move forward that night, partly
because he wished to give time for his train to arrive and get on to
the _chaussée_.

On the morning of the nineteenth his army was discovered drawn up in
two lines on each side of the town of Ocaña. There were still some
46,000 infantry and 5,500 cavalry under arms despite of the losses
of the late week[98]. The oncoming French army was smaller; though
it mustered 5,000 horse it had only 27,000 foot--the Germans and
Poles of Sebastiani, Mortier with nearly the whole of the 5th Corps,
a brigade of Dessolles’ division, the King’s guards, and the cavalry
of Milhaud, Paris, and Beauregard[99]. Victor was too far off to be
available; having found the flooded Tagus hard to cross, he was on
this day barely in touch with the extreme rearguard of Areizaga’s
army which was escorting the train. Being nearly twenty miles from
Ocaña, he could not hope to arrive in time for the general action, if
it was to be delivered next morn. If Areizaga stood firm for another
day, Victor would be pressing him from the flank and rear while the
main army was in his front: but it was highly probable that Areizaga
would not stand, but would retreat at night; all his previous conduct
argued a great disinclination to risk a battle. Wherefore Soult and
the King, after a short discussion[100], agreed to attack at once,
despite their great numerical inferiority. In the open plain of La
Mancha a difference of 16,000 or 17,000 infantry was not enough to
outweigh the superior quality and training of the French army.

  [98] Colborne, in a letter dated December 5, says ‘we had 46,100
  infantry and nearly 6,000 cavalry drawn out, in a very bad
  position.’ He was present all through the campaign, but wrote no
  full report.

  [99] Viz.
    Mortier’s Infantry Divisions (Girard and Gazan),
      twenty-two batts. [one regiment deducted]     about 12,000 men
    Sebastiani’s Polish Division and German
      Division (under Werlé and Leval)                ”    8,000  ”
    Rey’s Brigade of Dessolles’ Division of the
      Central Reserve                                 ”    3,500  ”
    The King’s Reserves, viz. four guard battalions
      and three others                                ”    3,500  ”
    Milhaud’s Dragoons, five regiments                ”    1,800  ”
    Paris’s Light Cavalry, attached to 4th Corps,
      three regiments                                 ”    1,000  ”
    Beauregard’s Cavalry of the 5th Corps, four
      regiments                                       ”    1,500  ”
    The King’s Cavalry, one regiment of the Guards,
      one of Chasseurs                                ”      700  ”
    Artillery, Sappers, &c.                           ”    1,500  ”
                                                          ------
                                              Total about 33,500 men

  [100] Joseph declared that he urged instant attack when Soult
  advised waiting for Victor. See his letter in vol. vii of
  Ducasse’s _Life and Correspondence of Joseph Napoleon_.

There is, so to speak, no position whatever at Ocaña: the little
unwalled town lies in a level upland, where the only natural feature
is a ravine which passes in front of the place; it is sufficiently
deep and broad at its western end to constitute a military obstacle,
but east of the town gradually grows slighter and becomes a mere
dip in the ground. Areizaga had chosen this ravine to indicate the
line of his left and centre; but on his right, where it had become
so shallow as to afford no cover, he extended his troops across and
beyond it. The town was barricaded and occupied, to form a central
support to the line. There were olive-groves in the rear of Ocaña
which might have served to hide a reserve, or to mark a position for
a rally in case a retreat should become necessary. But Areizaga had
made no preparation of this sort. His trains, with a small escort,
had not arrived even on the morning of the nineteenth, but were still
belated on the cross-roads from Noblejas and La Zarza.

The order of the Spanish army in line of battle is difficult to
reconstruct, for Areizaga uses very vague language in the dispatch
in which he explained his defeat, and the other documents available,
though they give detailed accounts of some of the corps, say little
or nothing of others. It seems, however, that Zayas, with the
vanguard division, formed the extreme left, behind the deepest part
of the ravine, with a cavalry brigade under Rivas on its flank and
rear. He had the town of Ocaña on his right. Then followed in the
line, going from left to right, the divisions of Vigodet, Giron,
Castejon, and Lacy. Those of Copons, Jacomé, and Zerain appear
to have formed a second line in support of the other four[101].
Vigodet’s left was in the town of Ocaña and strongly posted, but
the other flank, where Lacy lay, was absolutely in the air, with no
natural feature to cover it. For this reason Areizaga placed beyond
it Freire, with the whole of the cavalry except the brigade on the
extreme left under Rivas. Unfortunately the Spanish horse, much
shaken by the combat of the preceding day, was a weak protection for
the flank, despite its formidable numbers. The sixty guns of the
artillery were drawn out in the intervals of the infantry divisions
of the first and second line.

  [101] This order seems the only one consistent with the sole
  sentence in Areizaga’s dispatch to the Junta in which he explains
  his battle-array: ‘Inmediatamente formé por mi mismo la primera
  linea en direccion de Ocaña, colocando por la izquierda la
  division de Vigodet, defendida por la frente de la gran zanja,
  y por su derecha las divisiones de Giron, Castejon y Lacy: la
  de Copons formaba martillo, junta á las tapias de la villa,
  inmediata á la de Giron, y las demás la secunda linea á distancia
  competente para proteger á la primera.’ The unnamed divisions
  which must have lain beyond Copons in the right of the second
  line are Jacomé and Zerain.

Soult’s plan of attack was soon formed. The ravine made the Spanish
left--beyond Ocaña--inaccessible, but also prevented it from taking
any offensive action. The Marshal therefore resolved to ignore it
completely, and to concentrate all his efforts against the hostile
centre and right, in the open ground. The scheme adopted was a
simple one: Sebastiani’s Polish and German divisions were to attack
the Spanish right wing, and when they were at close quarters with
the enemy the main mass of the French cavalry was to fall upon
Freire’s horse, drive it out of the field, and attack on the flank
the divisions already engaged with the infantry. For this purpose
Milhaud’s, Paris’s, and Beauregard’s regiments, more than 3,500
sabres, were massed behind the Poles and Germans. For a time their
march would be masked by olive-groves and undulations of the ground,
so that they might come in quite suddenly upon the enemy. Mortier
with his first division--that of Girard--and a regiment of Gazan’s,
followed in the rear of the Polish and German infantry, to support
their frontal attack. Dessolles, with his own brigade and Gazan’s
remaining one, took post opposite Ocaña, ready to fall upon the
Spanish centre, when the attack to his left should have begun to make
way. He had in his front the massed artillery of the 4th and 5th
Corps, thirty guns under Senarmont, which took ground on a low knoll
above the great ravine, from which they could both play upon the town
of Ocaña and also enfilade part of the Spanish line to its immediate
right--Vigodet’s division and half of Giron’s. Finally the King, with
his guards and other troops, horse and foot, were placed to the right
rear of Dessolles, to act as a general reserve, or to move against
Zayas if he should attempt to cross the ravine and turn the French
right.

The plan, despite of some checks at the commencement, worked in a
satisfactory fashion. The German and Polish divisions of Leval and
Werlé attacked Lacy’s and Castejon’s divisions, which gave back
some little way, in order to align themselves with Vigodet who
was sheltered by the slight eastern end of the ravine. The enemy
followed and brought up six guns to the point to play upon the new
position which the Spaniards had taken up. The forward movement was
continuing, when suddenly to the surprise of the French, Lacy’s,
Castejon’s, and Giron’s men, leaving their places in the line, made
a furious counter-charge upon the Poles and Germans, drove them
back for some distance, and threw them into disorder. This movement
was no result of Areizaga’s generalship: he had betaken himself
to the summit of the church-tower of Ocaña, an inconvenient place
from which to issue orders, and practically left his subordinates
to fight their own battle. Mortier was forced to bring forward
Girard’s division to support his broken first line. It was hotly
engaged with Lacy and Giron, when suddenly it felt the Spaniards
slacken in their fire, waver, and break. This was the result of the
intervention of a new force in the field. The great mass of French
squadrons, which had been sent under Sebastiani to turn the Spanish
right, had now come into action. Arriving close to Freire’s cavalry
before it was discovered, it fell on that untrustworthy corps, and
scattered it to the winds in a few minutes. Then, while three or four
regiments followed the routed horsemen, the rest turned inwards upon
the hostile infantry. The flanks of the first and second lines of
Areizaga’s right were charged simultaneously, and hardly a regiment
had time to get into square. Brigade after brigade was rolled up
and dispersed or captured; the mass of fugitives, running in upon
the troops that were frontally engaged with Girard, wrecked them
completely. Of the five divisions of the Spanish left, a certain
number of steady regiments got away, by closing their ranks and
pushing ahead through the confusion, firing on friend and foe alike
when they were hustled. But many corps were annihilated, and others
captured wholesale. The last seems to have been the fate of nearly
the whole of Jacomé’s division of the second line, as hardly a single
unit from it is reported as rallied a month later, and the French
accounts speak of a whole column of 6,000 men which laid down its
arms in a mass before the light cavalry of the 4th Corps. Just as the
Spanish right broke up, Dessolles with his two brigades, followed
by the King’s reserve, crossed the ravine and attacked the town of
Ocaña, and the two divisions--Vigodet and Copons--which lay in first
and second line immediately to the east of it. These retired, and got
away in better order than their comrades to the right. Of all the
Spanish army only Zayas’s vanguard division, on the extreme left, now
remained intact. Areizaga had sent it an order to cross the ravine
and attack the French right, when he saw his army beginning to break
up. Then, a few minutes later, he sent another order bidding it close
to the right and cover the retreat. After this the Commander-in-Chief
descended from his tower, mounted his horse, and fled. Zayas
carried out the second order, moved to the right, and found himself
encompassed by masses of fugitives from Giron’s, Castejon’s, and
Lacy’s broken divisions, mixed with French cavalry. He sustained,
with great credit to himself and his troops, a rearguard action for
some miles, till near the village of Dos Barrios, where his line was
broken and his men at last mixed with the rest of the fugitives[102].

  [102] The only detailed accounts of the Spanish movements that
  I have discovered are the divisional reports of Lacy and Zayas,
  both in the Foreign Office archives at the Record Office.
  Areizaga’s dispatch is so vague as to be nearly useless.

[Illustration: BATTLE OF OCAÑA. Nov. 19, 1809.]

The whole routed multitude now streamed wildly over the plain, with
the French cavalry in hot pursuit. Thousands of prisoners were
taken, and the chase only ended with nightfall. The fugitives headed
straight for the Sierra Morena, and reached it with a rapidity even
greater than that which they had used in their outward march a
fortnight before. Victor’s cavalry arrived in time to take up the
pursuit next morning: they had on their way to the field captured the
whole of the trains of the Spanish army, on the road from Noblejas
to Ocaña. The losses of Areizaga’s army were appalling; about 4,000
killed and wounded and 14,000 prisoners. Thirty flags and fifty out
of the sixty guns had been captured. When the wrecks of the army had
been rallied in the passes, three weeks after the battle, only some
21,000 infantry[103] and 3,000 horse were reported as present. The
divisions of Lacy, Jacomé, and Zerain had practically disappeared,
and the others had lost from a third to a half of their numbers. The
condition of the cavalry was peculiarly disgraceful; as it had never
stood to fight, its losses represent not prisoners, for the most
part, but mere runaways who never returned to their standards. The
French had lost about 90 officers and 1,900 men, nearly all in the
divisions of Leval, Werlé, and Girard[104]. The cavalry, which had
delivered the great stroke and won the battle, suffered very little.
Mortier had been slightly wounded, Leval and Girard severely.

  [103] Viz. Zayas, Vigodet, and Castejon, about 4,000 men each,
  Copons 3,000, Giron 2,500, remains of the other three divisions
  about 3,500. From the returns in the Madrid War Office.

  [104] Martinien’s lists of officers killed and wounded show that
  the German division lost 19 officers, the Polish division 23,
  Girard’s division 28--in all 70 out of the total of 94 officers
  hit in the whole army.

Even allowing for the fact that Areizaga had been the victim of the
Junta’s insensate resolve to make an offensive movement on Madrid,
it is impossible to speak with patience of his generalship. For a
combination of rashness and vacillation it excels that of any other
Spanish general during the whole war. His only chance was to catch
the enemy before they could concentrate: he succeeded in doing this
by his rapid march from the passes to La Guardia. Then he waited
three days in deplorable indecision, though there were only 10,000
men between him and Madrid. Next he resumed his advance, but by the
circuitous route of Villamanrique, by taking which he lost three days
more. Then he halted again, the moment that he found Victor with
20,000 men in his front, though he might still have fought at great
advantage. Lastly he retreated, yet so slowly and unskilfully that he
was finally brought to action at Ocaña by the 34,000 men of Mortier
and Sebastiani. He was sent out to win a battle, since Madrid could
not be delivered without one, and knew that he must fight sooner or
later, but threw away his favourable opportunities, and then accepted
an action when all the chances were against him. For he must have
known by this time the miserable quality of his cavalry, yet gave
battle in a vast plain, where everything depended on the mounted
arm. In the actual moment of conflict he seems to have remained in a
hypnotized condition on his church-tower, issuing hardly an order,
and allowing the fight to go as it pleased. Yet he was, by all
accounts, possessed of personal courage, as he had proved at Alcañiz
and elsewhere. Apparently responsibility reduced him to a condition
of vacillating idiocy. Perhaps the most surprising fact of the whole
business is that the Junta retained him in command after his fiasco,
thanked him for his services, and sent him an honorary present--as it
had done to Cuesta after Medellin with somewhat better excuse. He was
its own man, and it did not throw him over, even when he had proved
his perfect incompetence.

To complete the narrative of the deplorable autumn campaign of 1809,
it only remains to tell of the doings of Albuquerque and Del Parque.
The former played his part with reasonable success; he was ordered
to distract the attention of the enemy from the army of La Mancha,
and did what he could. Having got some 10,000 men concentrated at
Almaraz, he sent one column over the Tagus to demonstrate against
the 2nd Corps from beyond the river, and with another threatened
the bridge of Talavera from the near side. But Heudelet, now in
command of the 2nd Corps, soon found that there was no reality in
his demonstration, and that he was not supported by the English,
though he had given out that Wellington was close in his rear. After
skirmishing around Talavera from the 17th to the 22nd of November,
the Duke hastily recrossed the river on hearing the news of Ocaña,
and resumed his old positions.

Del Parque’s campaign was more vigorous and more unfortunate. While
he lay in the passes above Bejar and Baños, he got early news of the
withdrawal of Godinot’s and Marcognet’s troops toward Madrid, when
Soult summoned them off to reinforce the main army. He reasoned that
since he had now only the 6th Corps, shorn of one of its brigades,
in his front, he might repeat the success of Tamames, for Marchand
was weaker than he had been in October, while he himself was far
stronger. Accordingly he disregarded an order from the Junta to
extend his operations southward, and to join Albuquerque in the
valley of the Tagus. Instead, he marched once more upon Salamanca
on November 18, the day before the disaster of Ocaña. He drove in
an outlying brigade of Marchand’s force from Alba de Tormes, and
pressed it vigorously back towards the main body. Conscious that with
his 10,000 men he could not hope to face 30,000, Marchand promptly
evacuated Salamanca on December 19, and retired, just as he had done
in October, behind the Douro, concentrating his whole corps at Toro.
He sent urgent demands for help both to Kellermann at Valladolid,
and to Soult at Madrid. By the time that they arrived Areizaga had
been dealt with, and the army in New Castile could spare as many
reinforcements as were required. Marcognet’s brigade, the one which
had been borrowed from the 6th Corps, was first sent back from
Segovia, the point which it had reached in its southward march, and
Gazan’s division of the 5th Corps was ordered by Soult to follow.

Meanwhile Del Parque, still ignorant of the disaster in the south,
had occupied Salamanca on November 20, and on the following day moved
out towards Cantalapiedra and Medina del Campo, with the object of
throwing himself between Marchand and Kellermann and the capital.
This was an excellent move, and, but for what had happened at Ocaña,
might have had considerable results, since the Army of the Left ought
to have made an end of the small French force in Old Castile.

Kellermann, however, had seen the danger of Marchand’s retreat to
Toro, and had directed him to close in towards the east, and to
occupy Medina del Campo, as the strategical point that must be held
in order to maintain touch with Madrid. Thus it chanced that on
November 23 Labassée’s brigade and four regiments of cavalry, coming
from Tordesillas, reached Medina del Campo just as Marcognet’s
brigade, returning from Segovia, came into the town from the other
side. They had hardly met when the approach of Del Parque’s army
along the Salamanca road was reported. The two French brigadiers
thought for a moment of fighting, and the cavalry was ordered to
press back the Spanish advanced guard. They drove off with ease
Anglona’s horsemen, who rode at the head of the long column, but
were repulsed by Ballasteros’s infantry, which formed square in good
style, and drove them off with a rolling fire of musketry. Seeing
that the whole Spanish army was coming up, Marcognet and Labassée
then evacuated Medina del Campo, and retired to Valdestillas.
With one push more the Spaniards could have cut the line between
Valladolid and Madrid.

On November 24 the whole 6th Corps and Kellermann’s dragoons, with a
battalion or two from the garrisons of Old Castile, were concentrated
at Puente de Duero, with their van at Valdestillas. If attacked, they
must have gone behind the Douro and abandoned all touch with Madrid;
for there were not more than 16,000 men in line, and they were forced
to take the defensive. But, to their surprise, Del Parque made no
advance. He had heard on that morning of the disaster of Ocaña, and
guessed that reinforcements for Kellermann must already be on the
march. Wherefore he resolved to regain the mountains without delay,
and to give up Salamanca and his other conquests. With this prudent
resolve he broke up from Medina del Campo, and marched hastily away
in retreat, making, not for Salamanca, which was too much in the
plains to please him, but for Alba de Tormes. He had gained a day’s
start by his prompt action, but on the twenty-sixth Kellermann set
off in pursuit, leaving orders for the troops that were expected from
Madrid to follow him.

On the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh the French cavalry failed
even to get in touch with Del Parque’s rearguard, and found nothing
but a few stragglers on the road. But on the afternoon of the
twenty-eighth the leading squadrons reported that they had come upon
the whole Spanish army encamped in a mass around the town of Alba de
Tormes. The duke had flattered himself that he had shaken off his
pursuers, and was surprised in a most unfortunate position. Two of
his divisions (Ballasteros and Castrofuerte) were beyond the Tormes,
preparing to bivouac on the upland above it. The other three were
quartered in and about the town, while the cavalry was watching the
road, but had fallen in so close to the main body that its vedettes
gave very short notice of the approach of the enemy. Kellermann was
riding with the leading brigade of his cavalry--Lorcet’s _chasseurs_
and hussars; the six regiments of dragoons were close behind him, so
that he had over 3,000 sabres in hand; but the infantry was ten miles
to the rear. If he waited for it, Del Parque would have time to cross
the river and take up a defensive position behind it. The French
general, therefore, resolved to risk a most hazardous experiment,
an attack with unsupported cavalry upon a force of all arms, in the
hope of detaining it till the infantry should come up. The Spaniards
were getting into line of battle in a hurry, Losada’s division on the
right, Belveder’s and La Carrera’s on the left, the cavalry--1,200
sabres at most--in their front. The divisions beyond the river were
only beginning to assemble, and would take some time to recross the
narrow bridge: but 18,000 men were on the right bank prepared to
fight.

Without a moment’s delay Kellermann ordered Lorcet’s brigade to
charge the Spanish right and centre: it was followed by the six
regiments of dragoons in three successive lines, and the whole mass
came down like a whirlwind upon Del Parque’s front, scattering his
cavalry to the winds, and breaking the whole of Losada’s and the
right of Belveder’s divisions. A battery of artillery, and nearly
2,000 prisoners were taken. The wrecks of the broken divisions fell
back into Alba de Tormes, and jammed the bridge, thus preventing the
divisions on the further side from recrossing it. Kellermann then
rallied his squadrons, and led them against La Carrera’s division and
the remaining battalions of that of Belveder. These troops, formed in
brigade-squares upon a rising ground, held out gallantly and repulsed
the charge. But they were cut off from the bridge, which they could
only reach by a dangerous flank movement over rough ground. By
continually threatening to repeat his attacks, Kellermann kept them
from moving off, till, two hours and a half after the action had
begun, the French infantry and guns commenced to come up. La Carrera
saw that it would be fatal to await them, and bade his division
retreat and reach the bridge as best it could. This was naturally
done in disorder, and with some loss; but it was already growing
dusk, and the bulk of the Spanish left got away.

While the Spaniards were defiling over the bridge, Marchand’s leading
brigade attacked Alba, out of which it drove some rallied troops of
Losada’s division, who held the town to cover La Carrera’s retreat.
This was done with ease, for Del Parque had not brought over his two
intact divisions, preferring to use them as a second line behind
which the others could retire. Alba was stormed, and two guns, which
had been placed behind a barricade at its main exit, were taken by
the French.

Here the fighting stopped: the Spaniards had lost five flags, nine
guns, most of their baggage, and about 3,000 killed or taken--no
very ruinous deductions from an army of 32,000 men. The French
casualties were less than 300 in all[105]. Del Parque was determined
not to fight again next morning, and bade his army make off under
cover of the night. The disorder that followed was frightful: the
three divisions that had been in the battle dispersed, and went
off in all directions, some towards Ciudad Rodrigo, others towards
Tamames, others by the hill-road that leads towards Tala and the
Pass of Baños. Many of the raw Leonese troops, though they had not
been engaged, also left their colours in the dark[106]. It was a
full month before Del Parque could collect his whole army, which,
when it had been reorganized, was found to number 26,000 men,
despite all its misfortunes. It would seem, therefore, that beside
the losses in the battle some 3,000 men must have gone off to their
homes. The duke fixed his head quarters at San Martin de Trebejos
in the Sierra de Gata, and dispersed his infantry in cantonments
about Bejar, Fuenteguinaldo, and Miranda de Castanar. Having only
the ruined region around Coria and Plasencia, and the small district
about Ciudad Rodrigo, to feed them, these troops suffered dreadful
privations during the winter, living on half-rations eked out with
edible acorns. By the middle of January they had lost 9,000 men from
fever, dysentery, and starvation.

  [105] Martinien’s lists show 4 officers killed and 14 wounded.

  [106] There is a long report by Del Parque in the Record
  Office, in which he states that the panic was caused by a stray
  party of his own routed cavalry dashing in among the rearguard
  in the dark, and crying that the French were pursuing them.
  He afterwards court-martialled and shot some cavalrymen for
  cowardice.

Despite all this, it is fair to say that Del Parque’s campaign
contrasts most favourably with that of Areizaga. He showed a laudable
prudence when he twice evacuated Salamanca rather than fight a
battle in the plain. His victory of Tamames was most creditable,
showing that when prudently conducted, and ranged in a well-chosen
hill-position, his army could give a good account of itself. But
for the disaster of Alba de Tormes his record might be considered
excellent. There, it is true, he committed a grave mistake, by
separating his army into two halves by the river when his enemy was
in pursuit. But in his defence it may be urged that his cavalry
ought to have had vedettes out for ten or fifteen miles to the rear,
and to have given him long warning of the approach of the French.
And when the enemy’s horse did make its sudden appearance, it was
contrary to the laws of probability that it would attack at once,
without waiting for its infantry and guns. Kellermann’s headlong
charge was a violation of all rules, a stroke of inspiration which
could not have been foreseen. If the Spanish cavalry had been of
any use whatever, and if Losada’s division had only known how to
form square in a hurry, it ought to have been beaten off. But the
resisting-power of a Spanish army was always a doubtful quantity.
Kellermann resolved to take the risk of attacking, and was rewarded
by a victory on which he was not entitled to reckon. He would
probably have justified his tactics by urging that failure could have
no severe penalty, for the Spaniards could not pursue him if he were
repulsed, while success would bring splendid results. This was true:
and if his infantry had been five miles more to the front, he might
have captured the whole of La Carrera’s division.



SECTION XVIII

THE CONQUEST OF ANDALUSIA



CHAPTER I

THE CONSEQUENCES OF OCAÑA. DECEMBER 1809-JANUARY 1810


The news of the disaster of Ocaña gave a death-blow to the Central
Junta. Its attempt to win back its lost credit by an offensive
campaign against Madrid having ended in such a lamentable
fashion, there was nothing left for it but to acquiesce in its
own supersession by the oft-discussed national Cortes. But that
assembly was not to meet till March 1, 1810--a date still four
months in the future,--and even its form and constitution had not
yet been settled. For it would have been absurd to have called it
together in the ancient and unrepresentative shape,--a legacy from
the time of Charles V,--in which it had been wont to meet under the
Bourbon kings. Many regions had few or no members; decayed mediaeval
towns of Old Castile had more deputies than the most populous
provinces. Moreover, it had yet to be settled how that larger half
of the realm which was now occupied by the French was to elect its
representatives. The commission was still sitting to determine these
vital points, and in this moment of dismay the day of the assembly
of the Cortes seemed very far distant. The French might be following
hard on the heels of Areizaga’s broken host, and might enter Seville,
long before it had been decided what sort of a Cortes was to take
over the power from the hands of the discredited Central Junta.

That most unhappy government, therefore, had to face both an acute
constitutional crisis and an acute military crisis. Something had
to be done without delay to satisfy public opinion concerning the
convocation of the Cortes, or the revolution which had been checked
by Wellesley’s aid in September would certainly burst forth again.
But even more pressing was the necessity for rallying and reinforcing
the army which had been crushed at Ocaña, before the French should
resume their advance. The actual administrative power was for
the moment in the hand of the first of those temporary executive
committees to which the Junta had agreed to delegate its authority by
the decree of September 19. This body, composed of six members, among
whom La Romana was numbered, had come into office on November 1. The
rest of the Junta were only too eager to throw on their comrades the
weight of the responsibility which should have fallen upon them all.
The executive committee was accused on all sides of slow and feeble
action. It published, as soon as possible, the details concerning
the constitution of the forthcoming Cortes, which (in pursuance of
the recommendation of the commission of inquiry) was to consist
of two classes of members, elected representatives who were to be
allotted in due proportion to all the provinces of the realm, and
‘privilegiados’ or chosen individuals from the nobility and the
higher clergy. The American colonies were to be given members no less
than the mother country, but their numbers were to be small. Such
an arrangement seemed to foreshadow a double-chambered legislature,
resembling that of Great Britain, and British precedents had no doubt
been running in the minds of the framers of the constitution. But--as
we shall see--the Cortes, when it actually met, took no such shape.
The mandate for the election of the assembly was duly published;
and so far public opinion was to a certain extent satisfied, for it
was clear that the Central Junta was at last about to abdicate. But
though the majority of the Spanish people were contented to wait,
provided that the executive committee should show signs of rising to
the occasion, and doing its best as an _interim_ government, there
were some politicians who saw in the crisis only an opportunity
for pushing their private ambitions. Those veteran intriguers, the
Conde de Montijo and Francisco Palafox, undismayed by the failure
of the September plot, began to make arrangements with the Seville
demagogues for a fresh attempt at a _coup d’état_. Their plots seem
to have distracted Romana and his colleagues from their obvious
military duties--the conspirator at home is always the enemy who
looms most large before the eyes of a weak government. But after some
search both were discovered, arrested and imprisoned.

Meanwhile the executive committee, with the Junta’s approval, issued
a long series of edicts concerning the reorganization of the army,
and the defence of Andalusia from the French attack, which might at
any moment begin. The ‘Army of the Centre,’ of which Areizaga was
still, strange to say, left in command, was to be raised to 100,000
men by a strenuous conscription. The press was to be all-embracing,
married men, novices in monasteries, persons in minor orders, only
sons of widows, all the classes hitherto exempt, were to be subject
to it. To provide funds the clergy were ordered to send in to the
mint all church plate save such as was strictly necessary for the
celebration of the sacraments, and all private citizens were bidden
to contribute one half of their table-silver. In order to provide
teams for the artillery--which had lost nearly all its horses and
guns at Ocaña--a strict requisition for draught animals was begun all
over Andalusia. Engineers were sent out to fortify all the passes
of the Sierra Morena, with permission to exact forced labour from
the peasantry of the hill country. Three members of the Junta--Rabe,
Riquelme and Campo Sagrado--were sent to Areizaga’s head quarters at
La Carolina as ‘field deputies,’ to stir up or support the energy of
the commander-in-chief. This was a device borrowed from the practice
of the French Revolution, and had no better effect than might have
been expected. As in 1793, the ‘Representatives on Mission’ were
either useless or positively harmful. They either wished to thrust
amateurish plans of their own upon the military men, or at least
distracted them by constant inquisitorial supervision.

On the whole the effect of this volley of violent decrees was small.
With six months to carry them out they might, no doubt, have produced
great results. But within nine weeks after the disaster of Ocaña
the French had commenced their attack, and in that space of time
little had been accomplished. The money was beginning to come in, the
recruits were being collected, but had not been armed or clothed,
still less drilled. Of the fortifications in the passes many had
been sketched out, but only a few had begun to take tangible shape.
To man them there was still only the wrecks of Areizaga’s old army,
which had hardly begun to receive its drafts of conscripts. Its
whole force at the New Year did not exceed 30,000 men, and these were
distributed over a front of more than 150 miles, for not only the
main group of passes in front of La Carolina had to be watched, but
also the eastern ingress into Andalusia by Baeza and Ubeda, and the
western defiles from Almaden and Benalcazar, which lead directly down
on to Cordova. The whole country-side was in a state of desperate
turmoil and excitement, yet very little in the way of practical
defence had been completed by the middle of January.

Meanwhile, in accordance with the ridiculous constitution of the
‘executive committee,’ half of its members went out of office at the
New Year, and were succeeded by other individuals of the Junta. Among
those superseded was La Romana, who was now directed to go off to
Valencia as captain-general. The Junta seems to have considered that
he would be less dangerous in company with his brother José Caro in
that province, than when posted at the seat of government, with his
brother to back him by threats of Valencian military interference.
Yet La Romana did not depart, and was still lingering at Seville when
the French crossed the Sierra Morena.

There was a larger military problem before the Junta and the new
‘executive committee’ than the mere defence of Andalusia. The whole
arrangement of the national armies had to be recast in consequence of
the black day of Ocaña. The corps of Del Parque and Albuquerque, as
well as all the smaller outlying bodies of troops, had to receive new
orders. Above all it was necessary to discover what were the plans of
Wellington, for the present position of the British army at Badajoz
was the most important factor in the whole situation. As long as it
remained there, in support of the small force under Albuquerque which
was guarding the passages of the Tagus at Almaraz and Arzobispo, the
western section of the front of Andalusia was secure. The defence of
the eastern section, too, was in no small degree helped by the fact
that Wellington’s solid troops were in a position to march up the
Guadiana, and to threaten the flank of any French army which might
intend to attack the Despeña-Perros, or any other of the passes which
lead from La Mancha down to the Andalusian plains.

It was a terribly disquieting fact for the Junta that, even before
Ocaña had been fought and lost, Wellington had begun to announce his
intention of leaving Badajoz and retiring within the boundaries of
Portugal. He had paid a flying visit to Seville on the 2nd-4th[107]
of November, just as Areizaga’s unhappy advance into La Mancha
was commencing. The project had been concealed from him[108], and
when he learnt of it he had expressed his entire disapprobation
of it, and had refused to give any promise to support the Spanish
armies in their offensive movements. For this reason he had been
bitterly provoked when Areizaga and Albuquerque both wrote him, a
little later, to say that they had been promised the assistance of
his army by the Junta[109]. He had consistently prophesied ill of
the adventure, and had recorded his opinion that both Del Parque
and Areizaga would probably lose their armies. In a dispatch of
November 20, six days before the news of Ocaña reached him, he
had announced his definite intention of leaving Badajoz with the
main body of his army, and transferring himself to the north of
the Tagus, where, by posting himself in the Portuguese province of
Beira, he would cover the high-roads to Lisbon from Old Castile. This
decision was founded on his belief that when the French had made
an end of Areizaga and Del Parque--a contingency which he regarded
as almost certain[110]--they would strike at Lisbon and not at
Seville. He had good reasons for holding this view; it was exactly
consonant with Napoleon’s own plan, which was only abandoned by
reason of King Joseph’s pleadings with his brother. For, from the
French standpoint, it was far more profitable to conquer Portugal
and to expel the British army from the Peninsula, than to overrun
Andalusia. Wellington and his troops formed the one solid nucleus of
resistance which still remained; it was clear that the dispersion of
the miserable wrecks of Areizaga’s host would present no difficulty.
And not only was it advisable, from the Emperor’s point of view,
to destroy the most formidable hostile force still surviving, but
the balance of strategical advantage was all in favour of subduing
Portugal, before Andalusia should be invaded. For Portugal flanks
the attack on southern Spain, and a good army based upon it could
check the advance on Seville and Cadiz by demonstrations aimed at
Valladolid or Madrid, which might wreck or delay the conquest of
Andalusia. It may be objected that Andalusia also flanks the attack
on Portugal; but the objection had no validity since the day of
Ocaña, as the Junta had now no longer any striking force in hand. It
would be many months before Areizaga’s host was in a proper condition
for undertaking even cautious defensive operations. A French attack
on Portugal, therefore, would be practically unmolested by external
interference.

  [107] He then pushed on to Cadiz, where he was on the 6th-7th,
  spent a night at Seville again on the 9th-10th, and was back at
  Badajoz on the 11th of November. At Cadiz he parted with his
  brother, who was just embarking for England, to take up his place
  in the new Ministry.

  [108] As late as Oct. 28 he had written to Colonel Roche, the
  British officer attached to the staff of the Army of the Centre,
  to beg him to press on the newly-arrived Areizaga the necessity
  of adopting a defensive posture, and risking nothing. From the
  wording of the letter it is clear that no hint of the orders
  sent to Areizaga from Seville had reached Badajoz. _Wellington
  Dispatches_, v. 248-9, see also the dispatch to Castlereagh on p.
  267.

  [109] See Wellington to Roche, and to B. Frère, Badajoz, Nov. 19.
  _Dispatches_, v. 292-3 and 294.

  [110] ‘Nothing can save them save a victory by Areizaga, and
  the possession of Madrid, _which are the most improbable of
  events_.... If Del Parque and Albuquerque are destroyed, _which
  is not unlikely, indeed pretty certain_ ... we must make our
  arrangements for the defence of Portugal.’ Wellington to
  Beresford, Nov. 20, 1809.

At the present moment the strength of the French troops in Spain was
not sufficient to provide two armies for offensive purposes, the one
destined to march on Seville, the other on Lisbon. The numbers at the
front had not appreciably increased since the autumn, though already
the reinforcements which the Emperor had set upon the march, after
concluding his peace with Austria, had begun to appear at Bayonne,
and to cross the Bidassoa. But in December and January the roads were
bad, the days short, and provisions hard to procure. Hence Wellington
reckoned that, till the spring should arrive, the allies would have
to face no more than the forces which were already opposed to them.
When, however, the campaigning season should have come round, and the
reinforcements from Germany should have been incorporated with the
old Army of Spain, he thought that Portugal would be the enemy’s main
objective. It was therefore his intention to withdraw his army, or
at least the greater part of it, from Spanish Estremadura, and to
arrange it so as to cover Lisbon, even though by making this movement
he was weakening the left flank of the defence of Andalusia. If he
had to choose between the interests of Portugal and those of Spain,
he was prepared to sacrifice the latter. His reasons were simple: (1)
he considered Portugal more important in the grand strategy of the
defence of the Peninsula than Andalusia; (2) he regarded it as more
defensible, and he had already--as we shall presently see--sketched
out and commenced the construction of his great lines of Torres
Vedras, in which his trust as a final impregnable stronghold was
already fixed; (3) he held that although Great Britain was pledged
to assist both Spain and Portugal, yet her moral obligation to the
latter was far more binding, since Portugal had placed herself
entirely in the hands of her allies, had put her army at their
disposal, and had contributed all her resources to the common cause,
while the Spanish Junta had shown a jealous and suspicious spirit,
had refused to show confidence in Great Britain, and had persisted in
carrying out a military policy of its own, which led to a consistent
series of disasters; (4) the Portuguese army, though its fighting
power was not as yet ascertained, could be at least relied upon for
obedience; experience had shown that the promises of the Spaniards
could not be trusted, and that any campaign undertaken in their
company might be wrecked by some incalculable piece of slackness or
miscalculation[111].

  [111] Wellington’s arguments must be culled from his various
  dispatches to Lord Liverpool and other ministers in November
  and December 1809. For the first of the motives quoted above
  see Wellington to Liverpool Dec. 9. ‘The object in occupying
  this proposed position [in Beira] is to be at the point of the
  defence of Portugal, to divert the attention of the French from
  the South of Spain, when they shall receive their reinforcements,
  and thus to give time to the Spanish Government to repair
  their losses.... It is absolutely necessary to cross the Tagus
  immediately, as it may be depended upon that the enemy’s first
  effort, after receiving his reinforcements, will be upon the
  troops to the North of the Tagus.’ Very much the same opinion is
  expressed in the earlier dispatch to Lord Liverpool of November
  14. Expressions of Wellington’s conviction that it was impossible
  to co-operate with the Junta or the Spanish generals may be found
  _passim_ in all his confidential letters. See for example that to
  Sir J. Anstruther, pp. 386-8 of _Supplementary Dispatches_, vol.
  vi.

Accordingly on November 20 Wellington declared his intention of
withdrawing his army--save one single division--to the north of the
Tagus, and of placing it at various points in the province of Beira,
so as to cover all the practicable roads to Lisbon from the side
of Old Castile. On the twenty-sixth he sent formal notice of his
intentions to Seville, well knowing the storm of indignation that
would be roused thereby. At the same time he advised the Junta to
reinforce Albuquerque’s army of Estremadura with troops drawn from
Del Parque, adding that to keep Albuquerque well to the front, in his
present positions at Almaraz and Arzobispo, was the best means of
protecting the western approaches of Andalusia. Del Parque’s corps,
whose reason for existence was the ‘containing’ of the French troops
in Old Castile, would be able to spare troops to strengthen the
army of Estremadura, because the English host, in its new position,
would be behind it, and opposed to the forces under Kellermann and
Marchand, which had hitherto had nothing in their front but the ‘Army
of the Left.’ Moreover, it would be an appreciable relief to Del
Parque, who was finding the greatest difficulty in feeding his army
in the thinly-peopled mountain region between Ciudad Rodrigo and
Bejar, to be freed from the burden of maintaining one or two of his
five divisions.

The Junta, as might have been expected, took Wellington’s
determination to remove from Badajoz with the worst of graces. They
could hardly have failed to do so, when one of his main reasons for
departing, barely concealed in his dispatches to them, was his fear
of getting involved in their operations, and his reluctance to place
his troops in line with the Spanish armies. Nor could they have
been expected to agree with his strategical view that Lisbon, not
Cadiz, would be the main objective of the grand advance of the French
armies, when the spring should come round. To every man or body of
men their own possible dangers naturally seem more imminent and more
interesting than those of their neighbours. The departure of the
English from Badajoz was formally announced to the Junta on November
26, and began to be carried out on December 8, when the brigade of
Guards marched for Portalegre, and was followed on successive days by
the other brigades of the army. By the 24th of December Wellington
and his staff alone were left in the Estremaduran fortress, and next
day his head quarters were at Elvas, across the frontier. The second
division, under Hill, halted at Abrantes, where Wellington intended
to leave it, as the nucleus of a covering force which was to guard
Lisbon from any possible attack from the south side of the Tagus. The
rest of the army pursued its way across the mountains of Beira, and
by January 3, 1810, head quarters were at Coimbra, and the main body
of the British troops was beginning to take up billets in the small
towns of the valley of the Mondego.

Convinced that no more was to be hoped from Wellington, the Executive
Committee issued their orders for a new arrangement of the line of
defence of Andalusia. Albuquerque was ordered to leave no more than
a small corps of observation on the Tagus, in front of Almaraz,
and to bring back the main body of the army of Estremadura to the
line of the Guadiana, in order to link his right wing to the left
of Areizaga’s forces. On December 24 his new head quarters were
at Don Benito, and he had some 8,000 men collected there and at
the neighbouring town of Merida; the rest of his small army was
furnishing the garrison of Badajoz, and the detached force on the
Tagus, whose duty was to watch the movements of the French 2nd Corps,
which still lay in its old post at Talavera, and remained entirely
quiescent.

From Albuquerque’s post at Don Benito there was a gap of seventy-five
miles to the next force in the Spanish line. This consisted of the
wrecks of the two old divisions of Copons and Zerain from the army
of Areizaga, not more than 4,500 strong[112]. They were encamped at
Pozo Blanco and at Almaden, the mining town on the Alcudia, where the
frontiers of Estremadura, Andalusia, and La Mancha meet. This place
lies near the northern exit of the two passes, the Puerto Blanco and
Puerto Rubio which lead down from La Mancha on to Cordova, the one
by Villaharta, the other by Villanueva de la Jara and Adamuz. Both
are difficult, both pass through a desolate and uninhabited country,
but either of them might conceivably serve for the passage of an
army. Sixty miles east of Almaden was the main body of the rallied
Army of the Centre, occupying the group of passes which lie around
the high-road from Madrid to Andalusia. Head quarters were at La
Carolina, the central point upon which the routes from most of these
passes converge. About 13,000 men were disposed in front, covering
the main _chaussée_ through the Despeña-Perros, and the side defiles
of the Puerto del Rey and the Puerto del Muradal. Here Areizaga had
concentrated the remains of the divisions of Zayas, Castejon, Giron
and Lacy, of which the last two were mere wrecks, while the two
former counted about 4,000 bayonets apiece. Finally, some fifteen
miles off to the right, the remnants of the divisions of Vigodet and
Jacomé, perhaps 6,000 men in all, covered the two easternmost passes
from La Mancha, those of Aldea Quemada and Villa Manrique, which
descend not upon La Carolina, but on Ubeda and Linares, the towns at
the headwaters of the Guadalquivir in the extreme north-eastern angle
of the Andalusian plain. Areizaga’s artillery was all in the passes,
placed in the various new entrenchments which were being thrown up.
His cavalry had for the most part been sent back to recruit and
reform itself in the interior of the province, being useless in the
mountains.

  [112] The papers in the Madrid archives show that Copons had
  about 3,000 men, Zerain (whose division had been almost entirely
  destroyed) about 1,500.

The mere description of this disposition of forces is sufficient to
show the hopeless condition of the defence of Andalusia. Areizaga
was trying to cover every possible line by which the French might
advance, with the result that his army and that of Albuquerque were
strung out on a front of 150 miles, and could not concentrate 15,000
men on any single point. The passes which they were trying to guard
were not only numerous, but in several cases very practicable,
where roads lay not between cliffs or precipices, but over slopes
which could be ascended by infantry on each side of the pass. The
fortifications and the troops holding them could be turned by enemies
who took the trouble to climb the side acclivities. It was clear that
if the French chose to attack the Sierra Morena with no more than the
60,000 men who had been concentrated after the battle of Ocaña, they
could bring an overwhelming force to bear on any one or two of the
passes which they might select, while leaving the garrisons of the
rest alone, or threatening them with trifling demonstrations. If
the enemy should choose to strike by Almaden at Cordova, the Spanish
centre and right wing would be cut off from their retreat on Seville,
and would have to take refuge in the kingdom of Murcia. If the
Despeña-Perros and its neighbours should turn out to be the selected
objective, Areizaga’s right wing must suffer the same fate. And, if
driven from the passes, the army would have to encounter, in the
broad plain behind, the overpowering force of French cavalry which
King Joseph could bring up. The problem set before the defence was
a hopeless one, and most of the generals under Areizaga were aware
of the fact--as indeed were the rank and file. Disaster was bound to
follow if the enemy managed his business with ordinary prudence.

[Illustration: _Spanish Infantry 1808_
  (_Showing the old Bourbon uniform_)]



SECTION XVIII: CHAPTER II

THE CONQUEST OF ANDALUSIA. KING JOSEPH AND HIS PLANS


When considering the action of the French after the victory of
Ocaña, it is necessary to remember that King Joseph and Soult were
not in the position of ordinary invaders, who have just succeeded in
demolishing the last army of their enemy. In wars of a normal type
the victor knows that the vanquished will sue for terms when further
resistance appears hopeless; he proceeds to dictate the cessions of
territory or payments of indemnities that he thinks proper, as the
price of peace. But it was not a profitable treaty which Napoleon
desired: he had put it out of his own power to end the war in such a
fashion, when he declared his brother King of Spain. For him there
was no Spanish government in existence save that which he had set up
at Madrid: the Central Junta, and the Cortes when it should meet,
were mere illegal assemblies, with which he could not deign to enter
into negotiations. It was now perfectly clear that the Spaniards
would never submit of their own accord. Their position in December
1809, desperate as it might be, was no worse than it had been in the
March of the same year. Areizaga’s army had suffered no more at Ocaña
than had those of Cuesta and Cartaojal nine months before, on the
disastrous fields of Medellin and Ciudad Real. Indeed, there were
probably more men actually in line to defend Andalusia in December
than there had been in April. Moreover, in the early spring Soult had
been in the full career of conquest in Portugal, and nothing save
Cradock’s insignificant force appeared to prevent his onward march
to Lisbon. At mid-winter, on the other hand, the flank of Andalusia
was covered by Wellington’s victorious army, and by the reorganized
Portuguese host of Beresford. If the Junta had refused to listen to
the insidious advances of Sotelo in April[113], there was no reason
to suppose that it would lend a ready ear to any similar advocate of
submission in December. Indeed, its every action showed a resolve to
fight out the losing game to the end.

  [113] See vol. ii. pp. 168-9.

Joseph Bonaparte would never be King of Spain till every province was
held down by French bayonets. Not only must each corner of the land
be conquered, but after conquest it must be garrisoned. For, where
there was no garrison, insurrection burst out at once, and the weary
process of pacification had to be repeated.

It was this last fact that restrained King Joseph from following up
his pursuit of the wrecks of the Spanish army to the Sierra Morena,
and the gates of Seville, on the morning after Ocaña. To make up
the host that had defeated Areizaga, and the other smaller force
that was dealing with Del Parque in Leon, the King had been forced
to concentrate all his divisions, and the consequence had been that
the control of the broad tracts behind him had been lost. We have
already had occasion to mention[114] that throughout Old Castile and
Leon, the open country was now in the hands of the guerrilleros,
who had been growing in force and numbers ever since the time of
Talavera, and had risen to the height of their confidence after the
day of Tamames, and Del Parque’s repeated occupation of Salamanca.
Navarre, and many parts of New Castile were equally disturbed, and
Aragon, which Suchet had tamed during the autumn, was beginning
once more to move. There were no French troops in the disturbed
regions save scanty garrisons at Burgos, Valladolid, Benavente,
Avila, Segovia, Guadalajara, Palencia, Tudela, Tafalla, and a few
other strategic points. These were cut off from each other, and from
Madrid, save when a governor sent out his messenger with an escort
many hundreds strong, and even such a force had often to fight its
way through half a dozen bands before reaching its destination. The
garrisons themselves were not always safe: so powerful were the
bands of some of the guerrillero chiefs that they aspired to waging
regular war, and did not confine themselves to blocking the roads, or
intercepting couriers and convoys. The Empecinado, whose sphere of
activity lay on the borders of Old and New Castile, got possession
of Guadalajara for a day, though he retired when reinforcements
from Madrid were reported to be approaching. Somewhat later, the
younger Mina--‘the Student,’ as he was called to distinguish him
from his more celebrated uncle Espoz, stormed the town of Tafalla,
and shut up the remains of its garrison in its castle, while the
flying-columns of the governor of Navarre were seeking him in every
other direction. He too, like the Empecinado, had to seek safety in
retreat and dispersion, when his exploit drew in upon him forces sent
from Suchet’s army of Aragon.

  [114] See page 83.

The activity of the guerrilleros did not merely constitute a military
danger for King Joseph. It affected him in another, and an equally
vexatious, fashion, by cutting off nearly all his sources of revenue.
While the open country was in the hands of the insurgents, he could
raise neither imposts nor requisitions from it. The only regular
income that he could procure during the later months of 1809 was
that which came in from the local taxes of Madrid, and the few other
large towns of which he was in secure possession. And save in the
capital itself, his agents and intendants had to fight hard with the
military governors to secure even this meagre pittance[115]. The
King could not command a quarter of the sum which he required to pay
the ordinary expenses of government. His courtiers and ministers,
French and Spanish, failed to receive their salaries, and the Spanish
army, which he was busily striving to form, could not be clothed
or armed, much less paid. Nothing vexed Joseph more than this: he
wished to make himself independent of his brother’s generals, by
raising a large force of his own, which should be at his personal
disposition. He formed the _cadre_ of regiment after regiment, and
filled them with deserters from the foreign troops of the Junta, and
with any prisoners who could be induced to enlist under his banners
in order to avoid transportation to France. But the recruits, when
sent to join the new regiments, disappeared for the most part within
a few weeks. Joseph thought that it was from lack of pay and proper
sustenance, and raged at the idea that, but for the want of money,
he might have at his disposition a formidable army of his own. But he
deceived himself: the ‘juramentados’ had for the most part no desire
save to desert and rejoin their old colours: the real renegades were
few. In the ranks of the Junta’s army the soldier was even worse
clothed, fed, and paid than in that of Joseph. No amount of pampering
would have turned the King’s Spanish levies into loyal servants.

  [115] For a typical example of the relations of French governors
  and the King’s officials see Thiébault’s account of his quarrel
  with Amoros in his autobiography, iv. 350-5. Cf. Miot de Melito,
  chapters xi-xii of vol. ii.

Pending the reduction to order of the country-side of the two
Castiles, which he vainly hoped to see accomplished during the next
six months, Joseph found only one expedient for raising money. It was
a ruinous one, and could not be repeated. This was the confiscation
of property belonging to all persons who were in the service of
the Junta, and of all the religious orders. This would have given
him vast sums, if only he could have found buyers. But it was not
easy to persuade any one to pay ready cash for lands overrun by
the guerrilleros, or for houses in towns which were practically in
a state of siege, and were also subject to a grinding taxation.
Property of immense value had to be alienated for wholly inadequate
sums. The _afrancesados_, whom Joseph was most anxious to conciliate,
got such payment as he could afford, mainly in the form of vain
grants of property which they could not turn to account. The only
ready money which was in circulation was that which came from the
coining down, at the Madrid mint, of the considerable amount of
plate belonging to the monasteries and the churches on which the
King had laid hands. Naturally, he was regarded as a sacrilegious
robber by his unwilling subjects--though few, or none, murmured when
the Central Junta filled its exchequer by similar expedients. But
the Junta had not decreed the abolition of the religious orders--it
only purported to be raising a patriotic loan from their resources.
A minister of Joseph sums up the situation sufficiently well in
three sentences. ‘Spanish public opinion was inexorable: it rejected
everything coming from us--even benefits: thus the King and his
councillors spent themselves in fruitless labours. Nothing answered
their expectations, and the void in the Treasury, the worst danger,
showed no sign of diminution. On the contrary, the financial distress
increased every day, and the unpleasant means which we were compelled
to employ in order to supply the never-ceasing wants of the army
completely alienated the nation from us[116].’

  [116] Miot de Melito, ii. p. 351.

The orders issued by the King and Soult after the battle of Ocaña,
show that they had no immediate intention of pursuing Areizaga’s
routed host, and entering Andalusia at its heels--tempting though
such a policy might be from the purely military point of view. After
Victor and the 1st Corps had joined him, on the day following the
battle, Joseph had nearly 60,000 men in hand. But his first move was
to disperse this formidable army: Gazan’s division of Mortier’s corps
was at once hurried off towards the north, to reinforce Kellermann in
Leon--for the battle of Alba de Tormes had not yet taken place, and
it was thought that the 6th Corps needed prompt assistance. Laval’s
division of Sebastiani’s corps was detached in another direction,
being told off to escort to Madrid, and afterwards to Burgos and
Vittoria, the vast mass of prisoners taken at Ocaña. Milhaud, with
his own dragoons, and an infantry brigade taken from Sebastiani’s
corps, was directed to push eastwards by way of Tarancon, and then
to march on Cuenca, where it was reported that many of the fugitives
from Areizaga’s army had rallied. The brigade of Dessolles’ division
which had been present at Ocaña and Joseph’s own troops returned to
Madrid, in company with their master. When the capital was again
adequately garrisoned, numerous flying-columns were sent out from
it, to clear the roads, and disperse the guerrilleros. Mortier, with
that part of the 5th Corps which had not been detached under Gazan,
was drawn back to Toledo. Thus of all the troops which had been
concentrated on November 20th, only Victor’s corps and the Polish
division, with the cavalry brigade of the 4th Corps, were retained in
La Mancha, facing the Sierra Morena. The 1st Corps was pushed forward
to Ciudad Real and its neighbourhood, with its advanced cavalry
watching the passes. The Poles remained at Ocaña and La Guardia,
with Perreymond’s three regiments of light horse in front of them at
Madridejos[117].

  [117] For all these details see Soult’s dispatches to the
  Minister of War at Paris, dated Nov. 21 and Nov. 24, from
  Aranjuez and Madrid. Perreymond had received the cavalry brigade
  of the 4th Corps when Paris fell in action.

In the dispatch which detailed to the Minister of War at Paris this
disposition of the army, Soult explained his reasons for holding
back. It was a more pressing necessity to restore order in the
provinces of the interior than to pursue the wrecks of Areizaga’s
force, which was so completely dispersed that no further danger
need be feared from it. Before undertaking any large general scheme
of operation, the King thought it best to consult his imperial
brother as to his wishes. It was rumoured that Napoleon himself
might appear on the scene within a few weeks, and it was certain
that the first columns of reinforcements from Germany, which might
prove to be the heralds of his approach, were just about to cross
the Bidassoa. Moreover, it would be prudent to discover what had
become of Albuquerque and of the English, before any great move to
the southward was made, as also to make an end of the army of Del
Parque, by means of the reinforcements which had just been sent to
Kellermann[118].

  [118] Soult to Clarke, Nov. 21: ‘Sa Majesté a pensé qu’il était
  inutile qu’elle s’engageât vers la Sierra Morena, à la poursuite
  des débris de l’armée de la Manche, qu’on ne pourra plus joindre,
  et qui se sauvent individuellement sur toutes les directions,
  d’autant plus que tout porte à croire qu’il y aura encore des
  mouvements sur la droite, et qu’il convient de se mettre en
  mesure de repousser les nouveaux corps [Albuquerque, Del Parque,
  and the English] qui pourraient se présenter pour la forcer. Il
  est aussi pressant de prendre des dispositions pour rétablir
  l’ordre et la tranquillité dans les provinces de l’intérieur, et
  pour assurer la liberté des communications. Après la bataille
  d’Ocaña le roi a aussi en vue de se mettre en mesure d’attendre
  que Sa Majesté L’Empereur ait jugé à propos de faire connaître
  ses intentions sur les opérations ultérieures qui devront être
  faites.’ The entirely false supposition that Albuquerque and the
  English were on the move was, as Soult afterwards explained, due
  to a dispatch received from Heudelet at Talavera, who sent in an
  alarming report that Wellington was expected at Truxillo in a few
  days. As to the idea that Del Parque might join Albuquerque, the
  Junta had actually given him an order to do so (see page 97), but
  he had ignored it, and marched on Salamanca.

Within three weeks the situation had changed, and many of the reasons
which had induced the King and Soult to adopt a waiting policy had
disappeared. On November 28th, as we have already seen, Kellermann
routed Del Parque at Alba de Tormes, though he had not yet received
the succours which Gazan was bringing up to his aid. The Army of the
Left being no longer a source of danger, Kellermann not only sent
orders to Gazan--who had reached Segovia--to return to New Castile,
since he was no longer wanted in the North, but presently sent back
to the King Rey’s brigade of Dessolles’ division which had been lent
him early in November. Thus 10,000 men who had been detached came
back under the King’s control[119], and were once more available for
offensive operations.

  [119] At the New Year Gazan had 6,600 men present with the
  eagles, Rey 4,100. See Tables at the end of this volume.

Still more important was the fact that in the first days of December
the reinforcements from Germany had at last begun to cross the
Pyrenees, and were arriving in Navarre and Biscay in enormous
numbers. Two strong divisions, commanded by Loison and Reynier and
counting more than 20,000 bayonets, had already appeared, and the
head of the interminable column which followed them had reached
Bayonne. It was certain that at least 90,000 men were on the march,
to fill up the void in Old Castile which had been causing the King
and Soult so much trouble. The roads would soon be cleared, the
isolated garrisons relieved, and the communications with Madrid
made safe. The newly arrived generals had received orders to sweep
every valley on their southward march, and to disperse every band
of guerrilleros[120]. Another possible source of danger, which had
preoccupied the minds of Joseph and his Major-general after Ocaña,
had also been removed. The English had made no forward movement
towards the Tagus; they were reported to be still quiescent at
Badajoz, and rumours (which afterwards turned out to be correct)
had already reached the French head quarters, to the effect that
Wellington was just about to retire into Portugal. Moreover,
Milhaud’s expedition to Tarancon and Cuenca, and the excursions of
the flying-columns sent out from Madrid, had all proved successful.
The insurgents had been dispersed with ease, wherever they had been
met with.

  [120] See Orders for Loison (in Napoleon to Berthier of Dec.
  9), and for Reynier (in Napoleon to Berthier, Dec. 14), in the
  _Correspondance_. Reynier was superseded by Lagrange, and sent to
  command the 2nd Corps a little later.

Of all the reasons for delay which were valid on November 20th there
was now none left unremoved save the most important of all. The
Emperor had not yet made his intentions known; though pressed to
declare his will by every letter sent by his brother or by Soult,
he gave no answer as to a general plan of campaign. Several of his
dispatches had reached Madrid: they were full of details as to the
troops which he was sending across the Pyrenees, they contained some
advice as to finance, and some rebukes for the King concerning petty
matters of administration[121], but there was no permission, still
less any order, to invade Andalusia or Portugal; nor did Napoleon
deign to state that he was, or was not, coming to Spain in person.
It was only when Joseph received the first dispatch opening up the
matter of the divorce of Josephine[122], that he was able to guess
that, with such an affair on hand, his brother would not set out for
the Peninsula during the winter or the early spring.

  [121] The Emperor scolds his brother for not sending to Paris the
  flags taken at Ocaña, and for calling Sebastiani’s 3rd Division
  ‘the Polish division’ instead of ‘the division of the Grand Duchy
  of Warsaw!’

  [122] In a dispatch dated from the Trianon on Dec. 17.

By the middle of December Joseph had made up his mind that it would
be politic to attack Andalusia without delay. He had won over Soult
to his ideas--the Marshal having now abandoned the plan, which he had
urged so strongly in the autumn, that Lisbon not Seville should be
the objective of the next French advance. It is easy to understand
the King’s point of view--he wished rather to complete the conquest
of his own realm, by subduing its wealthiest and most populous
province, than to do his brother’s work in Portugal, where he had
no personal interest. It is less obvious why Soult concurred with
him--as a great strategist he should have envisaged the situation
from the military rather than the political point of view. Apparently
Joseph had won him over by giving him all that he asked, and treating
him with effusive courtesy: their old quarrels of the preceding
summer had been entirely forgotten. At any rate Soult had now become
the ardent advocate of the invasion of Andalusia, though--as his
predecessor Jourdan tersely puts it--‘the English army being now the
only organized force in a state to face the imperial troops, and its
presence in the Peninsula being the thing that sustained the Spanish
government and gave confidence to the Spanish people, I imagine that
we ought to have set ourselves to destroy that army, rather than to
have disseminated our troops in garrisoning the whole surface of
Spain[123].’ The same thought was in the Emperor’s mind when he wrote
in January--too late to stop the Andalusian expedition--that ‘the
only danger in Spain is the English army; the rest are partisans who
can never hold the field against us[124].’

  [123] Jourdan, _Mémoires_, p. 294.

  [124] Napoleon to Berthier, Jan. 31, 1810--giving directions
  which could not be carried out, because the invasion of Andalusia
  had begun ten days before the dispatch had been written.

On the 14th of December, 1809, Soult at last made a formal appeal,
in a dispatch to Berthier, for leave to commence the march on
Seville. ‘At no time since the Spanish War began,’ he wrote, ‘have
circumstances been so favourable for invading Andalusia, and it
is probable that such a movement would have the most advantageous
results. I have already informed your Excellency that preparations
would be made for this movement, while we waited for his Majesty to
deign to make known to us his supreme will.’ Soult adds that if only
Loison’s division of the reinforcements may be brought up to Burgos,
and a second division sent to Saragossa, in order to free Suchet for
field service, the invasion can be begun, as soon as the army in New
Castile has completed its equipment and received its drafts.

No direct reply was received to this dispatch, nor to several
subsequent communications, in which Soult and Joseph set forth the
arrangements which they were making, always subject to the Imperial
approval, for concentrating an army for the Andalusian expedition.
Strange as it may appear, it was only in a letter written on January
31, 1810, when the King had already crossed the Sierra Morena, that
Napoleon vouchsafed a word concerning the all-important problem[125].
It is clear that he had ample time to have stopped it, if such
had been his will; the ultimate responsibility, therefore, lay
with him. But he refrained from ordering it, or from approving it,
thus reserving to himself all the possibilities of _ex-post-facto_
criticism. Since no prohibition came, Joseph made up his mind to
strike; it was natural that he should be fascinated by the idea
of conquering in person the one great province of Spain which
remained intact. A brilliant campaign, in which he would figure
as commander-in-chief as well as king, might at last convince the
Spaniards of his capacity. He was prepared to play the part of a
merciful and generous conqueror. At the worst the revenues of the
wealthy Andalusia would be a godsend to his depleted treasury.

  [125] Soult writes plaintively to Berthier, from Madrid, on
  January 1, 1810: ‘Le Roi croit ne pouvoir différer davantage:
  ainsi il se met en mesure d’exécuter les dispositions générales
  de l’Empereur, lorsque Sa Majesté aura daigné les faire
  connaître; et il est vraisemblable qu’avant que la Sierra Morena
  soit passée, les ordres, qui out été demandés depuis plus d’un
  mois, seront parvenus.’ But the order never came.

Two plans were drawn up for the invasion. The first was more
cautious, and more consonant with the strict rules of strategy. The
second was bolder and promised more immediate results. According to
the first the King was to concentrate his main army in La Mancha, and
to threaten the passes, while two great flanking columns carried out
the preliminary conquest of Estremadura and Valencia. Mortier was to
march with the 5th and 2nd Corps upon Badajoz, to crush Albuquerque,
and to occupy the valley of the Guadiana. Simultaneously Suchet
was to make a push from Aragon into Valencia with the bulk of his
corps, while his place at Saragossa was to be taken by a large force
drawn from the newly-arrived reinforcements from France. Only when
Badajoz and Valencia had fallen, and Suchet and Mortier could advance
parallel with him on either flank, was the King to march against
Seville. The weak point of the scheme was that either Badajoz or
Valencia might make a long resistance; if their garrisons fought like
that of Gerona the central advance on Andalusia might be delayed for
an indefinite time.

The second plan, the one that was adopted, was to leave the 2nd
Corps alone to watch Albuquerque and Estremadura, to order Suchet
to advance against Valencia, but to strike straight at Seville,
without waiting for the completion of either the Estremaduran or the
Valencian operations. In the original draft for this campaign[126],
nearly the whole of the King’s army was to concentrate at Almaden
and Ciudad Real, and from thence to strike straight at Cordova, by
the difficult and little-used passes of the central Sierra Morena.
Meanwhile Sebastiani, with no more than a single infantry division
and Milhaud’s dragoons, was to demonstrate against the main group
of passes in front of La Carolina, along the line of the high-road
from Madrid, so as to distract the attention of the Spaniards from
the real point of attack. More than 50,000 men were to descend
suddenly on Cordova, for the whole of the 1st and 5th Corps,
Dessolles’ Reserve division, the King’s Guard, and Latour-Maubourg’s
dragoons, were to march in a mass by the unexpected route via
Almaden, Villanueva de la Jara, and Adamuz. The Spanish centre would
undoubtedly be broken, and it was probable that Cordova, Seville, and
Cadiz would be carried by the first rush, for Areizaga’s army would
be cut off from them and driven eastward towards Murcia.

  [126] It may be found set forth in full in Soult’s dispatch to
  Berthier of Jan. 1, 1810.

The plan, an admirable one from the point of view of strategy, had
to be abandoned, for it was found that the country between Almaden
and Cordova was so absolutely barren and uninhabited, and the roads
so bad, that it would be impossible to carry a very large body of
troops across it at mid-winter. It was doubtful whether the passes
were practicable for artillery; it was certain that no food could
be obtained, and the train required to carry rations for 50,000 men
would be so large and heavy that it would probably stick fast in the
mountains.

On January 11, when Mortier, Dessolles, and the rest of the army had
already moved out of their cantonments and taken the road for La
Mancha, the revised draft of the plan of campaign was issued. It was
inferior in unity of conception to the first plan, and did not seem
likely to produce such good results; but it had the merit of being
practicable. By this scheme Victor alone was to march on Cordova,
with the 22,000 men of the 1st Corps: he was to endeavour to take his
artillery with him, but if the passes proved too rough, he was to
send it back by Almaden to join the main army. Mortier, Dessolles,
Sebastiani, Milhaud, and the King’s Reserves were to strike at the
group of passes in front of La Carolina, and to drive the Spaniards
out of them: it was hoped that they would thrust Areizaga’s host
into the arms of Victor, who would be descending into the valley of
the Guadalquivir just in time to meet the enemy retiring from the
defiles. For this operation the King was to take with him rather more
than 40,000 men.

It may be remarked that this plan divided the French army into two
separate columns entirely destitute of lateral communications,
and that, if the Spaniards had been stronger, considerable danger
would have been incurred. Areizaga might have concentrated every
man against one or other of the columns, and have brought it to a
stand, while merely observing the other. But to do so he would have
required a far larger force than he actually possessed: he had, as
we have seen, only 23,000 men under arms, and even if he collected
every available bayonet in one mass, either half of the French army
was strong enough to meet and to beat him. The King, therefore, was
running no real risk when he divided up his troops. As a matter of
fact, Areizaga had made matters easy for the enemy, by splitting his
small and dilapidated host into three sections--Zerain, with 4,500
men only, was on Victor’s road; the head quarters, with 13,000 men,
were at La Carolina opposite the King; Vigodet with 6,000, was far to
the right in the eastern passes[127]. Disaster was inevitable from
the first moment of the campaign.

  [127] See for details pages 111-12.

On January 7 King Joseph and Soult moved out from Madrid in the wake
of the columns of Dessolles and the Royal Guard, which had already
started. On the 8th they were at Toledo, on the 11th at Almagro, near
Ciudad Real; here they conferred with Victor, and, in consequence of
his reports concerning the state of the passes in the direction of
Cordova, recast their plans, and adopted the scheme of operations
which has just been detailed. On the following day Victor and his
corps marched from Ciudad Real for Almaden, to carry out the great
turning movement. The main army waited for six days to allow him to
get far forward on his rugged route, and only on the 18th started out
to deliver the frontal attack on the Despeña-Perros and the other
passes in front of La Carolina.

It may be mentioned that Joseph had left behind him to garrison
Madrid the French division of the 4th Corps[128], and not Dessolles’
troops, who had been wont to occupy the capital during the earlier
operations. Both Dessolles’ and Joseph’s own reserves, his Royal
Guard and a strong brigade of his newly-raised Spanish army, joined
in the invasion. Since the German division of the 4th Corps was still
absent, escorting the prisoners of Ocaña, it resulted that Sebastiani
had with him only his Polish division, his cavalry, and some details
sufficient to muster up a total of just 10,000 men. His corps was
never properly reassembled during the whole of the rest of the war,
as some of the regiments which he now left behind never rejoined him
in Andalusia, but were left in garrison in New Castile till 1812, and
practically became part of the ‘Army of the Centre.’

  [128] With the exception of the 58th Regiment, which went on with
  Sebastiani to the front.

Besides the garrison of Madrid, Joseph left to cover his rear the
whole 2nd Corps, still under the provisional command of Heudelet,
which lay at Talavera and was charged to watch Albuquerque. If the
rumour of the departure of the English from Badajoz were true,
there would be no danger in this quarter. But Joseph was not yet
quite certain that Wellington had retired into Portugal. The only
serious preoccupation which vexed his mind, at the moment when he was
preparing to attack, was the idea that the English might still come
up by Truxillo and join Albuquerque in a raid on Madrid. Heudelet,
the constant purveyor of false information, did his best to scare his
master on January 13, by sending him a report that Wellington was
still at Badajoz with 23,000 men[129]. But later and more trustworthy
news from other quarters, showing that the English army had marched
off for Abrantes long before Christmas, at last set the King’s mind
at rest on this all-important topic.

  [129] Heudelet, writing from Talavera on Jan. 13, assured the
  King that he had certain information, by English deserters, that
  Wellington’s army, 16,000 foot and 7,000 cavalry, was at Merida,
  Badajoz, and Elvas on Dec. 31. As a matter of fact, the army had
  marched off between Dec. 9 and Dec. 20, and Wellington himself
  had retired into Portugal on Christmas Eve. On the day when
  Heudelet wrote he and his head quarters were at Vizeu, in the
  Beira.

There was nothing to be feared from the west when Wellington had
taken his departure. Albuquerque’s small force was powerless, and if
Del Parque moved down from the Sierra de Francia into the valley of
the Tagus, the 6th Corps could make a corresponding movement. Ney
had now returned to take command at Salamanca, and the confidence
of his troops, shaken somewhat by Marchand’s incapable leadership,
was now restored. Behind Ney and Kellermann were the innumerable
battalions of the new reinforcements from Germany, the head of whose
column had now reached Burgos. The King’s rear, therefore, was well
guarded when he began his great offensive movement against Andalusia.



SECTION XVIII: CHAPTER III

ANDALUSIA OVERRUN: CADIZ PRESERVED. JANUARY-FEBRUARY 1810


On the 19th of January, 1810, the unfortunate Areizaga began to
receive from all quarters dispatches which left him no doubt that
the fatal hour had arrived, and that the whole of his line, from
Villamanrique on the east to Almaden on the west, was about to be
assailed by the enemy. From every point on his front of 150 miles,
his subordinates sent him in reports to the effect that strong
hostile columns had come up, and had thrust in their outposts.
Indeed, Zerain, from his remote cantonment on the extreme left, had
announced that an overwhelming force, coming from the direction of
Ciudad Real, had beaten him out of the town of Almaden as early as
the 15th, and had compelled him to retire towards the south-west,
leaving the direct road to Cordova uncovered. This was, of course,
the corps of Victor, whose flanking movement was already threatening
to cut the line of communication between La Carolina and Seville.
But it would take some days for the 1st Corps to pass the rugged
defiles of the Sierra de Los Pedroches, which lie between Almaden
and the valley of the Guadalquivir. An even more pressing danger
seemed to be foreshadowed from the less-remote right of the Spanish
line, where Vigodet reported, from the pass of Villamanrique, that
he had been driven in to his final fighting position at Montizon, by
a French column marching up from Villanueva de los Infantes. In the
centre, the enemy had advanced to Santa Cruz de la Mudela, where the
roads to all the group of passes about the Despeña-Perros branch off,
but had not yet shown how many of them he intended to use. Areizaga
could not determine whether some of the French movements were mere
demonstrations, or whether every one of them portended a real attack
on the morrow. Zerain was too far off to be helped; but Vigodet’s
demands for assistance were so pressing that the Commander-in-Chief
sent off to his aid, on the night of the 19th, the one division
which he had hitherto kept in reserve at La Carolina, the 4,000
bayonets of Castejon. This left him only three divisions--those of
Zayas, Lacy, and Giron, not more than 9,000 men in all, to defend the
high-road to Madrid and the subsidiary passes on its immediate flank.

[Illustration: ANDALUSIA, to illustrate the Campaign of 1810.]

As a matter of fact, the appearance of the French advanced guards
implied a genuine attack at every possible point of access.
King Joseph had resolved to carry the whole of the defiles by a
simultaneous onslaught on the morning of the 20th. His policy seems
to have been one of very doubtful wisdom, for it would have been
as effective to pierce the Spanish line at one point as at four,
and he could have concentrated an overwhelming force, and have
been absolutely certain of success, if he had launched his main
body at one objective, while demonstrating against the rest. He
had preferred, however, to cut up his army into four columns, each
of which assailed a different pass. Sebastiani, on the extreme
French left, separated by a gap of twenty miles from the main
column, was the enemy who had driven in Vigodet at the opening of
the Villamanrique pass. He had with him the remains of his own 4th
Corps--of which such a large proportion had been left behind in New
Castile,--a body of about 10,000 men[130]. His orders were to force
the defile in his front, and to descend into the plain in the rear of
the Spanish centre, by way of Ubeda and Linares, so as to cut off the
enemy’s retreat towards Murcia, and to envelop him if he should hold
the Despeña-Perros too long.

  [130] Viz. by the ‘morning states’ of January 15, in the French
  War Office, Sebastiani had: Polish Division, 4,809 men; 58th of
  the Line, 1,630 men; Milhaud’s Dragoons, 1,721 men; Perreymond’s
  Light Horse, 1,349 men; Artillery and Engineers, 569 men; or a
  total of 10,078 sabres and bayonets.

Next to Sebastiani in the French line was a column composed of
Girard’s division of the 5th Corps, the King’s Guards, and the
Spanish regiments in Joseph’s service[131]. It was nearly 14,000
strong, and advanced straight up the Madrid _chaussée_, aiming at
the Despeña-Perros and the Spanish centre. If the enemy should fight
well, and if the flanking movements should fail, this column would
have the hardest work before it: for, unlike the minor passes to east
and west, the Despeña-Perros becomes in its central length a narrow
and precipitous defile, easily capable of defence. The Spaniards had
run entrenchments across it, and had mined the road at more than
one point. But its fatal weakness lay in the fact that the by-paths
from the western passes descend into it to the rear of the point
where these obstructions had been placed. If they were seized by the
advancing French, the fortifications across the _chaussée_ would
prove a mere trap for the troops which held them.

  [131] Strength apparently: Girard, 7,040; Royal Guards, about
  2,500; Spaniards, about 2,000; Cavalry, about 1,500; Artillery,
  &c., 800.

Mortier, with Gazan’s division of the 5th Corps and Dessolles’
troops, about 15,000 strong, was told off to assail these flanking
defiles on the Spanish left[132]. The two passes are the Puerto del
Rey and the Puerto del Muradal. The former got its name from Alfonso
VIII, who in 1212 had turned the position of the Almohad Sultan
Mohammed-abu-Yakub by this route, and so forced him to the decisive
battle of Navas de Tolosa, a few miles to the rear. In 1810 it was a
tortuous and rough road, but practicable for artillery: the slopes
on either side of it, moreover, were not inaccessible to infantry.
A mile or two to its left, nearer the Despeña-Perros, was the still
rougher path of the Puerto del Muradal, which was practicable for
infantry but not for guns. Between this defile and the entrenchments
across the Madrid _chaussée_, the crest of the Sierra was accessible
to troops advancing in loose order and prepared for a stiff climb:
the Spanish engineers had therefore placed a large earthwork on its
culminating point, known as the Collado de Valdeazores. Giron’s
weak division of no more than 3,200 bayonets was entrusted with the
defence both of the Puerto del Rey and the Puerto del Muradal. Those
of Lacy and Zayas, about 5,000 in all, held the Despeña-Perros and
the entrenchments on each side of it. Areizaga lay behind them, with
a reserve of 1,000 men at most--having sent off Castejon and his
division to join Vigodet on the preceding night, he had no more with
him than his personal guard, the ‘Batallón del General’, and some
detached companies.

  [132] Gazan’s division, forming the third French column, had
  6,414 bayonets; Dessolles’, the extreme right-hand column, 8,354.

Mortier, like the good general that he was, did not confine his
operations to an attack against the narrow fronts of the two passes,
but assailed the rough hillside on each side of them, sending out
whole battalions deployed as skirmishers to climb the slopes. Of
Gazan’s division, one brigade marched against the Puerto del Muradal,
but the other went up, in open order, on the space between the Puerto
and the Spanish redoubt at the Collado de Valdeazores. Similarly,
Dessolles attacked the Puerto del Rey with a few battalions, but sent
the rest up the less formidable portions of the flanking slopes.
Girard and the King’s Reserves, meanwhile, did not press their attack
on the Despeña-Perros, till the troops on their right had already
begun to drive the enemy before them.

The results of these tactics might have been foreseen from the first:
Giron’s 3,200 men, attacked by 15,000, were driven in at a pace that
ever grew more rapid. They could not defend the passes, because the
slopes on each side were turned by the enemy. Their line was broken
in two or three places, and they fled in haste down the rear of
the Sierra, to escape being captured by flanking detachments which
were pushing on at full speed to head them off. The moment that the
Despeña-Perros was turned by Mortier’s movement, the troops occupying
it had to retreat at headlong speed, just as Girard was commencing
his attack on them. All did not retire with sufficient promptness:
the battalion in a redoubt on the Collado de los Jardines, on the
right flank of the high-road, was cut off and captured _en masse_.
All the guns in the pass were taken, there being no time to get them
away down the steep road in their rear. After two hours of scrambling
rather than fighting, the main passages of the Sierra Morena were in
the hands of the French. The mines on the high-road had been fired
when the retreat was ordered, but did not wreck the _chaussée_ in
such a way as to prevent the enemy from pursuing. The losses of the
Spaniards were no more than a few hundreds killed and wounded, and
500 prisoners; those of the French were less than 100 in all[133].
There had, in truth, been hardly the semblance of a battle.

  [133] Soult’s statement that he lost ‘some 25 men’ (Soult
  to Berthier, Jan. 21) is no doubt a little exaggerated. But
  Martinien’s invaluable tables show that Mortier’s corps, which
  did nearly all the fighting, lost only _two_ officers out of 549
  present, probably, therefore, it lost no more than forty men.
  Dessolles must have lost about the same.

The full results of the disaster were only developed next day: the
troops which had defended the central passes escaped, though in
dreadful disorder. But those further to their right were destined
to a worse fate. While Mortier and the King were forcing the great
defiles, Sebastiani had been fighting all day with Vigodet, in the
defiles about Montizon and St. Esteban del Puerto. He had no such
superiority in numbers over his enemy as had the King on the main
field of operations[134], hence his progress was slower, and his
victory, though complete, was not so prompt and crushing. Vigodet
and his 6,000 men were dispersed by the afternoon, and fled down the
valley of the Guadalen towards the plains, with Sebastiani’s cavalry
in pursuit. Having fought much longer than Lacy and Giron, their
losses were heavier than those of the central division--probably
1,000 killed, wounded, or taken. Shortly after, there appeared on
the scene, moving along the steep hill-path from La Carolina, the
Spanish division of Castejon, which had been sent off on the previous
night to support Vigodet. It found the St. Esteban position in the
possession of the French, and turned hastily back to rejoin Areizaga.
But, while it had been on the march, the Commander-in-Chief and his
army had been routed, and La Carolina was in the hands of the French.
Castejon found himself enclosed between Sebastiani and the King, in
a most perilous position. On the morning of the 21st, he tried to
escape by the by-path to Linares, but on arriving near that place
found that Mortier’s troops were already across his road. A brigade
of Sebastiani’s corps was in hot pursuit in his rear, and Castejon,
seeing himself thus enclosed, surrendered at Arquillos, with his
whole intact division of over 4,000 men and ten guns.

  [134] Of his whole 10,000 men only 6,400 were infantry, and
  Vigodet (with the wrecks of Jacomé’s division) had nearly as many.

Already, before the capture of this Spanish corps, the King and
Sebastiani had joined hands, their reconnoitring parties having met
in the valley of the Guadalen. On learning of the complete success
of both columns, Joseph and Soult resolved to urge the pursuit in
two separate directions. Sebastiani was told to push forward by
way of Ubeda and Baeza to Jaen, while the main column marched by
Baylen on Andujar and Cordova. It was hoped that news of Victor would
soon be received: if all had gone well, he would have reached the
Guadalquivir somewhere in the neighbourhood of Cordova, so as to be
in the rear of any Spanish force that might have retreated from La
Carolina in the direction of Seville.

As a matter of fact, however, both Vigodet and also Areizaga with the
wreck of the troops from the central passes, had abandoned any hope
of covering Seville, and had retreated southwards on Jaen. There was
no force whatever left upon the Cordova road, and the King met no
resistance upon the 22nd or the 23rd. On the latter day Sebastiani,
arriving in front of Jaen, found the Spanish commander-in-chief with
some 7,000 or 8,000 men prepared to defend the town. He attacked at
once, and routed these dispirited troops, who made little or no show
of resistance. Practically the whole force went to pieces: the French
captured forty-six guns, mostly those of the reserve-park of the Army
of Andalusia, which had been deposited in Jaen. Of the wrecks of that
unhappy force, Areizaga carried off a small remnant to Guadix in the
eastern mountains, near the borders of Murcia. Lacy, with another
fraction, retired on Granada. But the large majority had left their
colours, and dispersed to their homes.

King Joseph and Soult meanwhile, advancing unopposed along the
high-road to Cordova and Seville, got into touch at Andujar with
the advanced cavalry of Victor on the night of the 22nd of January.
The march of the 1st Corps had been toilsome in the extreme, but
almost unopposed save by the difficulties of the road. After driving
Zerain’s little detachment out of Almaden on the 15th, they had
hardly seen an enemy. Zerain and his colleague Copons had retired by
the road towards Seville south-westward. Victor, though he sent out
flying parties of cavalry to threaten Benalcazar and Hinojosa, to
his right, had really pushed further to the left, on the easternmost
of the two rough passes which lead to Cordova. The day after
leaving Almaden he had sent his artillery back to La Mancha, the
dilapidated and abandoned road to which he had committed himself
proving absolutely impracticable for anything that travelled on
wheels. But he pushed on with his infantry and horsemen, and passing
Santa Eufemia, Torrecampo and Villanueva de la Jara, came down into
the plain of the Guadalquivir at Adamuz, fifteen miles to the east
of Cordova, on January 21st, the day after Soult and King Joseph
had forced the Despeña Perros and the Puerto del Rey. Wishing to
get into touch with them before attacking Cordova, he halted his
infantry, but sent out his cavalry to the gates of that city on the
one side, and on the other to Montoro and Andujar, where they met
the vedettes of the main army on the evening of the 22nd. Thus the
French host was once more concentrated: the march on Seville could
be continued without delay. Victor now became the advanced guard: he
entered Cordova, which opened its gates without resistance, on the
24th. There was no Spanish force in front of the French army, since
Zerain and Copons had retired towards Seville by a road far to the
west, while the wrecks of Areizaga’s army had been driven off in a
south-easterly direction.

Soult and King Joseph, therefore, had leisure to plan out the
remainder of their campaign without any disturbance from the enemy.
On the 25th[135] they resolved to detach Sebastiani and his 10,000
men for the conquest of Granada, to leave Dessolles’ division at
Cordova and Andujar, but to march on Seville in a single mass with
the remaining 50,000 sabres and bayonets of the Army of Andalusia.
The desire to seize the capital from which the Junta had so long
defied him, seems to have mastered every other idea in the mind of
the intrusive King. The rebel government should be captured, or at
least forced to take refuge in Portugal or the sea. Then at last
the provinces would submit, the regular armies would lay down their
arms, the guerrillero bands would disperse to their homes, and he
might reign as a real king, not as the mere tool of his imperious
brother. The capture of Seville would be the last act but one of
the drama: after that he would become the national monarch of a
submissive people, and carry out all the schemes of vague benevolence
on which his mind was wont to dwell in his more hopeful hours. That
the resistance would continue, even if Seville were his own and the
Junta were scattered and discredited, he did not dream. And Seville,
he knew, must fall; to defend it there could be, as he concluded,
nothing but a half-armed mob, backed by the few thousand dispirited
soldiers who had fled before Victor from the western section of
the Sierra Morena. Even if the rebel capital made itself a second
Saragossa, he had at his disposal an army double the strength of that
which had reduced the obstinate Aragonese city.

  [135] For details of their plans see the dispatch of Soult to
  Berthier, from Andujar under the date of that day.

In subsequent years critics, wise after the event, never tired of
declaiming against the policy which Joseph and Soult approved on
January 25, 1810. It was easy in 1811 or 1812 to point out that a
division or two might have been spared from the victorious army to
execute a march upon Cadiz, while the main force was dealing with
Seville. The island-fortress, which was to defy the French during
the next three years, might have been caught while it was still
ungarrisoned and panic-stricken, if only the invaders had detached
a column from Carmona, where the road from Cordova bifurcates to
Seville on the right and Cadiz on the left. It is certain that,
if any suggestion to that effect was made at the time, Soult,
Mortier, and the other generals present at the council of war passed
it over[136]. The fact was that Seville loomed large before the
imaginations of them all: Cadiz seemed but a secondary affair at
the moment. It appeared probable that the whole of the scattered
forces of the enemy would mass themselves to defend the insurgent
capital. On January 25th, when the original plan was drawn up, no one
realized that there was a Spanish army approaching, whose presence
in Andalusia had not yet become known, or that the general of that
army would deliberately leave Seville to its fate, as incapable of
defence and doomed to destruction, and hasten by forced marches to
throw himself into the island-city which was destined to become the
new capital of insurgent Spain. Unable to foresee such a development,
Joseph wrote to his brother on January 27 that Seville would probably
submit without fighting, and that he would then enter Cadiz ‘_sans
coup férir_.’

  [136] There was a considerable controversy among French military
  writers as to whether the omission to march on Cadiz was the
  fault of Soult or of the King. The authors of _Victoires et
  Conquêtes_, having put all the blame on the latter (vol. xx. page
  7), his friends hastened to reply. His aide-de-camp Bigarré,
  who was present with him at the time, explicitly says in his
  autobiography (pp. 265-6) that the King raised the point, but
  was talked down by Soult and Dessolles. Miot de Melito (ii. 385)
  bears witness to the same effect, saying that he heard Soult
  clinch his argument by crying ‘Qu’on me réponde de Séville, moi
  je réponds de Cadix.’ Both say that the final decision was made
  at Carmona. See also Ducasse’s _Correspondance du roi Joseph_,
  vii. 142-3, and x. pp. 395-6, where the same story is given by
  the King himself.

Albuquerque’s operations, which ultimately turned out to be the
most important section of the Andalusian campaign, need a word of
explanation. It will be remembered that, early in January, he had
assembled, at Don Benito and Medellin, the small field-force that he
could command, after providing the garrison of Badajoz and leaving a
detachment above Almaraz to watch the French 2nd Corps. It did not
amount to more than 8,000 men, of which some 1,000 were cavalry. His
position at Don Benito was intended to protect the flank of Zerain
and Copons, who lay to his right, covering the passes that lead from
Almaden on to Cordova. On January 15th he received from Zerain the
news that he was about to be attacked at Almaden by a French column
of at least 20,000 men. The Duke promptly began to march eastward to
join his colleague, and reached Campanario on January 16th. Here he
was met by the information that Zerain had been driven out of Almaden
on the preceding day, and had drawn back by Benalcazar and Hinojosa
on to the Seville road. Copons from Pozo Blanco was retiring in the
same direction. The Duke thereupon concluded that his duty was to
fall back by a route parallel to that of Victor’s advance, and to
draw nearer to Seville, strengthening himself as he approached that
city by Zerain’s and Copons’ small corps.

Accordingly he sent off three of his weakest battalions to strengthen
the garrison of Badajoz, which was very small at the moment, directed
his artillery (with a cavalry escort) to take the good but circuitous
high-road to Seville by Merida, Los Santos, and Santa Olalla, and
started off across the mountains with his infantry and 500 horse.
Marching very rapidly, though the roads were bad and the days short,
he moved by Zalamea and Maguilla to Guadalcanal, on the borders
of Andalusia, which he reached on January 18th. Here he received
from the Central Junta an absurd order, apparently based on the
idea that he was still at Campanario, which bade him stop Victor’s
advance, by falling on his flank and rear by the road to Agudo and
Almaden. But since the marshal had seized Almaden on the 15th, and
was known to have moved southward from thence, it was clear that he
must now be more than half-way to Cordova: if the Army of Estremadura
plunged back into the mountains to seek Agudo and Almaden, it would
only reach them on the 22nd or 23rd, and Victor would be at the
gates of Cordova on the 21st. The Junta’s order was so hopelessly
impracticable that the Duke took upon himself to disobey it, and
wrote in reply that he should move so as to place himself between
Victor and Seville, and would cover the Andalusian capital ‘so far as
was possible with the small force at his disposition.’

Accordingly Albuquerque, instead of returning northward into the
Estremaduran mountains, moved a stage further south, to El Pedroso,
on the road from Guadalcanal to Seville, and sent orders to Copons
and Zerain to join him with their small divisions. Two days later
he received the order which should have been sent him on the 18th,
instead of the insane directions that were actually given; by it
he was directed to march on Seville with all speed. On the 23rd,
therefore, he arrived at the ferry of Cantillana, twenty miles
north of Seville: here he received news that his artillery and its
escort had safely completed its round, and were about to cross the
Guadalquivir at Rinconada, fifteen miles to the south. At Cantillana,
however, the Duke got the last dispatch which the Central Junta ever
issued; it was dated on the 23rd, a few hours before the members
dispersed and fled. By this he was directed to march not on Seville
but on Cordova, which at the moment the document came to hand--the
morning of the 24th--had just been occupied by Victor.

That day Albuquerque crossed the Guadalquivir and occupied Carmona,
where he was joined by his artillery, and by part of Copons’
division, but not (apparently) by Zerain’s, which had retired into
Seville. He had now about 10,000 men, of whom 1,000 were horsemen,
and 20 guns. From Carmona he threw out a cavalry screen on all
sides: his vedettes on the 27th struck French cavalry at Ecija,
and were driven in; they reported that the enemy was advancing
in enormous force from Cordova--as was indeed the case. Meanwhile
news had come up from Seville that the Junta had fled on the night
of the 23rd-24th, that anarchy reigned in the city, and that a new
revolutionary government had been installed. There was no longer any
legitimate executive from which orders could be received. Albuquerque
had to make up his mind whether he would retire into Seville, and
put himself at the disposition of the mob and its leaders, or
whether he should seek some safer base of operations. Without a
moment’s hesitation he resolved to leave the Andalusian capital to
itself, and to retire on Cadiz, which he knew to be ungarrisoned,
yet to be absolutely impregnable if it were properly held. This wise
resolution, it may be said without hesitation, saved the cause of
Spain in the south. If Cadiz had been left unoccupied there would
have been no further resistance in Andalusia.

But we must return to the operations of the French. On the 25th
Victor had advanced from Cordova, taking the direct road to Seville
via La Carlota and Ecija, while Mortier and the Royal Guard followed
him at short intervals. The Duke of Belluno occupied Ecija on the
27th and Carmona on the 28th. On these two days his advanced guard
got into contact with Albuquerque’s cavalry screen, and learnt from
prisoners that the Army of Estremadura, whose presence in Andalusia
thus became known, was in front of them[137]. On reaching Carmona
Victor obtained the still more important news that Albuquerque, after
staying in that place for two days, had not retired into Seville,
as might have been expected, but had marched southward to Utrera on
the road to Cadiz, leaving the greater city uncovered. On the night
of the 29th the leading division of Victor’s corps, the dragoons of
Latour-Maubourg, appeared in front of Seville, and reported that
works were being hastily thrown up around it on all sides[138], and
that they had been fired on by masses of armed irregulars at every
point where they had pushed forward vedettes towards its suburbs[139].

  [137] See Soult to Berthier, from Carmona, Jan. 31.

  [138] Soult, in his dispatch of Jan. 31, says that the advanced
  guard of the 1st Corps appeared before Seville _hier au soir_,
  i. e. on the 30th. But the Spanish authorities give the evening
  of the 29th as the true date, and seem to be correct. Possibly
  Soult is speaking of the first solid force of infantry, and
  does not count the cavalry as a real advanced guard, but only
  as a reconnoitring force. As Latour-Maubourg was at Carmona on
  the 28th, it seems certain that he must have reached Seville
  (eighteen miles only from Carmona) on the 29th, not the 30th.

  [139] Napier (ii. 298) seems unjust to the arrangements of the
  King and Soult when he writes: ‘From Andujar to Seville is only
  100 miles, and the French took ten days to traverse them, a
  tardiness for which there appears no adequate cause.’ He then
  attributes it to King Joseph’s wish to make spectacular entries,
  and to display his benevolence to the Andalusian towns. But the
  facts are wrong. Joseph reached Andujar late on Jan. 22; Victor’s
  cavalry was in front of Seville on Jan. 29: this makes seven,
  not ten, days: and the distance by the direct road via Ecija and
  Carmona is not 100, but 130 miles. A rate of eighteen miles a day
  is no bad record for an army advancing through a hostile country,
  even if it is meeting with no actual resistance. And January days
  are short, with sunrise late and sunset early.

Seville was at this moment, and had been now for six days, in a state
of chaos. The Central Junta had absconded on the 23rd, taking along
with it both its Executive Committee and the Ministers of State.
The panic had begun on the 18th, when the news had come in that
Victor’s corps had thrust Zerain out of Almaden three days before,
and was marching on Cordova. It had grown worse two days later, when
Areizaga reported that another French army was marching against the
Despeña-Perros. The Junta published a proclamation on the 20th,
exhorting the Andalusians to have no fear, for Albuquerque had been
directed to fall on Victor’s flank, and Del Parque with the Army of
Castile was on the march to join him, so that the enemy would be
forced to turn back to guard himself. Such orders were indeed sent,
but any man of sense could see that they must arrive too late. If
Victor was at Almaden on the 15th, he might be at Cordova on the
21st: if King Joseph was at the foot of the passes on the 19th, he
might be across them on the 20th. What use, therefore, would be a
summons sent to Albuquerque in Estremadura, or to Del Parque in the
mountains between Bejar and Ciudad Rodrigo? The French would be
in the valley of the Guadalquivir long before Del Parque had even
received his orders to move. As a matter of fact, that general got
his dispatch on January 24, the day that Victor entered Cordova, and
even Albuquerque was informed of the Junta’s behests only on the
18th, when he reached Guadalcanal.

The obvious ineptitude which the Government had shown, and the
imminent peril to which Seville was exposed, gave another chance
to the local conspirators, who had already twice prepared a
_pronunciamento_ against the Junta. On the 22nd riots broke out, and
demagogues were preaching at every street corner the necessity for
deposing these incapable rulers, and substituting for them a regency
of true patriots, and a Committee of Public Safety, which should
show the energy in which the Junta had been so lacking. The people
clamoured at the doors of the Arsenal, asking for muskets and cannon,
they mustered outside the prisons where Palafox, Montijo, and other
chiefs who had been arrested for their earlier plots, were still
confined. Many of the members of the Junta left Seville on this and
the following day, on the plausible pretext that it was necessary for
them to betake themselves to Cadiz--which, by a decree of Jan. 13,
had been designated as the meeting-place of the approaching National
Cortes--in order to make preparations for the meeting of that august
assembly. Indeed, the Junta had been directed to meet at Cadiz on
February 1 for that purpose. The news that King Joseph had forced the
passes of the Sierra Morena, which came to hand early on the 22nd,
sufficed to make an end of any shadow of power which the Junta still
possessed. Next day those members who had hitherto stuck to their
post, and the Ministers, left the town with elaborately contrived
secrecy. Seville fell into the hands of the mob, who, led by a
Capuchin friar riding on a mule and brandishing a crucifix, burst
open the prisons and the Arsenal, armed themselves, and nominated
a new ‘Supreme National Junta.’ Its executive was to be composed
of Palafox and Montijo, the Marquis of La Romana, General Eguia,
and Francisco Saavedra, an aged and respectable person, who had
been president of the old Junta of Seville, the original committee
which had been suppressed by the Central Junta. He is said to have
been used as a mere tool by Palafox and Montijo, and to have been
disgusted by their acts. This new, and obviously illegal, Government
issued decrees stigmatizing the fugitive ‘Centralists’ as cowards
and traitors, and claiming authority not only over Andalusia, but
over all Spain. They ordered the calling out of the levy _en masse_,
and issued commissions displacing generals and governors in all the
provinces. One of these documents declared Del Parque removed from
the command of the Army of the Left, and named La Romana as his
successor. The marquis, glad to escape from the tumult, rode off
at once, presented himself at the head quarters of the Castilian
army, and was recognized without difficulty as its chief--though his
authority might well have been contested if any general had chosen to
take up the cause of the discredited Central Junta.

But that unhappy body had no longer a single friend: its members
were mobbed and arrested on their flight from Seville to Cadiz; its
President the Archbishop of Laodicea, its Vice-President the Conde
de Altamira, and the War Minister Cornel were seized at Xeres by a
frantic mob, and would have been murdered, if General Castaños, whom
the Junta had treated so badly in December 1808, had not arrived
in time to save their lives. Twenty-three members reached Cadiz,
and there, by a proclamation dated January 29th, abdicated their
authority, and nominated a Regency, to which they resigned their
power, and the duty of receiving and welcoming the expected Cortes.
The Regents were Castaños, the Bishop of Orense, Admiral Escaño,
Saavedra--the president of the new and illegal Junta at Seville--and
Fernandez de Leon, an American Treasury-official, who was to
represent the Colonies[140]. It will be noted that the nominators
were wise enough to refrain from appointing any of their own number
to serve in the Regency.

  [140] After a very short tenure of office Fernandez de Leon was
  superseded by Lardizabal, another American.

Meanwhile, the duty of resisting the first shock of the French
advance fell not on the Regency, but on the Revolutionary Government
which had installed itself in power at Seville. These usurpers proved
themselves quite as incapable as the men whom they had superseded.
When once in possession of power, Palafox and his friends had to
count up their resources: they had at their disposal an armed mob
of 20,000 men, and a mere handful of regular troops, consisting of
the regiments which had served as the guards of the late Junta, and
four or five isolated battalions from the division of Zerain, which
had finally sought refuge in Seville. These troops seem to have been
about 4,000 strong at the most[141]. There was an immense quantity
of artillery from the arsenal; it had been dragged out to line the
new earthworks, on which the populace was busily engaged, but not two
hundred trained gunners existed to man the batteries. It was hoped
that Albuquerque’s Estremaduran army would come to their aid, but--as
we have already seen--the Duke deliberately refused to acknowledge
the authority of the Seville Junta, and, instead of falling back upon
the city, marched southwards to Utrera on the Cadiz road, leaving the
great _chaussée_ Ecija-Carmona-Seville open to the French.

  [141] It is difficult to make out what precisely were the
  battalions in Seville on January 23-29. But they certainly
  included a battalion of the 1st Walloon Guards [the Junta’s old
  guard], with 1st and 2nd of España and Barbastro from Zerain’s
  division. It is almost certain that most of Zerain’s other
  battalions were with these three.

On the 28th, the leaders of the Junta having taken stock of their
position, and discovered its danger (for the lines which the people
had thrown up would have required 50,000 men to man them, and not
half that force was forthcoming even if every rioter armed with
a musket was counted), copied in the most ignominious fashion
the prudence or cowardice of the Central Junta, which they had
so fiercely denounced five days before. Under the cover of the
night Eguia, Montijo, Saavedra, and Palafox absconded from Seville
without taking leave of their followers. Saavedra fled to Cadiz,
where it is surprising to find that he was made a member of the new
Regency, Palafox to Albuquerque’s camp, Montijo to the southern
mountains, where (as he announced) he was intending to collect an
army of succour for Seville. When, therefore, on the next evening
Latour-Maubourg’s dragoons appeared before the entrenchments of the
city, there was no longer any responsible government to turn the
ardour of the multitude to account. Nevertheless, mobs, headed by
frantic friars, ran to the entrenchments, and discharged musketry and
cannon-shot at every French vedette that showed itself.

On the afternoon of the 30th, Victor appeared to reinforce
Latour-Maubourg’s cavalry, bringing with him the bulk of the
infantry of the 1st Corps. The King, Soult, and Mortier were close
behind[142]. On this day it had been settled at a Council-of-War
held at Carmona that the whole of the army should march on Seville,
leaving Cadiz alone for the present, and detaching only a brigade of
cavalry to pursue the army of Albuquerque. On the next morning Victor
received assurances, from persons who had escaped from the city,
that it was doubtful whether he would be opposed, since the mob was
panic-stricken at the flight of its leaders, and the senior military
officers were convinced that resistance was impossible. Certain that
the defence would be feeble, if any were offered, Soult gave orders
that the 1st Corps should storm the lines on February 1st. But no
military operations were necessary: on the evening of January 31st
the corporation of Seville had sent out a deputation to negotiate for
surrender. They offered to admit the enemy, if they were guaranteed
security of life and property for all who should submit, and a
promise that no extraordinary war-contribution should be levied on
their city. To this the King, who was anxious to enter the place
as a pacific conqueror, without storm or bloodshed, gave an eager
consent. While the civil authorities were treating with Victor, the
small body of regular troops in Seville, under the Visconde de Gand,
quietly left the place by the bridge leading to the western side of
the Guadalquivir, and retreated in haste toward the Condado de Niebla
and the borders of Portugal.

  [142] Dessolles’ division had been left behind at Cordova and
  Andujar, to garrison Upper Andalusia, and to extend a helping
  hand to Sebastiani, if he should meet with any resistance in his
  conquest of the kingdom of Granada.

On the afternoon of February 1, Joseph entered Seville in triumph at
the head of his Guard, and lodged himself in the Alcazar, the old
residence of the Kings of Spain. He was welcomed by a deputation
which comprised some persons of mark. The impression made on the
citizens by the conduct of the two Juntas, and the turbulence of
the mob which had ruled during the last eight days, had been so
deplorable that a considerable number of the Sevillians despaired of
the national cause, and rushed to acknowledge the usurper. Indeed,
there were more ‘Josefinos’ found in this city than in any other
corner of Spain. The ‘intrusive king’ released a number of political
prisoners, whom the last Junta had arrested on suspicion of treason.
Apparently this suspicion had been well grounded, as many of the
captives, headed by the Swiss generals Preux and Reding[143], did
homage to Joseph, and accepted office under him.

  [143] Younger brother of the victor of Baylen.

Encouraged by these defections to his cause, and by the fact that
deputations had presented themselves from Cordova and Jaen to bespeak
his protection, Joseph hastened to publish an absurd address to his
army, couched in the magniloquent style which all French writers of
proclamations at this time were wont to borrow from their Emperor.
‘The barriers placed by Nature between the North and the South of
Spain have fallen. You have met with friends only beyond the Sierra
Morena. Jaen, Cordova, Seville have flung open their gates.... The
King of Spain desires that between the Pillars of Hercules a third
pillar shall arise, to recall to posterity, and to the navigators of
both the new and the old world, the memory of the officers and men of
that French army which drove back the English, saved thirty thousand
Spaniards, pacified the ancient Baetica, and regained for France her
natural allies.’ The rather puzzling passage concerning the ‘thirty
thousand Spaniards saved’ refers to the prisoners of Ocaña and the
Sierra Morena, whom the French, according to the King, ‘recognized as
brethren led astray by the common enemy. You spared them, and I have
received them as my children.’

Some elation in the King’s language was, perhaps, pardonable at the
moment. The moral effect of the surrender of Seville was considerable
in France, England, and the rest of Europe, though less in Spain than
elsewhere. The tangible trophies of the conquest were enormous--the
place had been the central arsenal of Spain, and the amount of
artillery, ammunition, and warlike equipment captured was very
large. The cannon-foundry and other military factories were taken
over in excellent condition, and kept the French army of Andalusia
well supplied during the three years of its existence. Tobacco to
the value, as it was said, of £1,000,000 was found in the great
central magazine, and quinine, quicksilver, and other commodities of
government monopoly to a considerable additional sum. Nothing had
been done, since the news of the passage of the Sierra Morena had
arrived, to destroy or remove all this valuable state property.

On the day following their entry into Seville, Joseph and Soult
directed Victor to march in pursuit of Albuquerque, and to take
possession of Cadiz. So complete had been the _débâcle_ of the
Spanish armies since the Andalusian campaign began, that it seems
to have been supposed that the Army of Estremadura would offer no
serious resistance, even if it should succeed in throwing itself into
Cadiz before it was overtaken. Marching with laudable expedition, the
Duke of Belluno covered the eighty-three miles between Seville and
Cadiz in four days, and presented himself in front of the place on
the evening of February 5th. But Albuquerque, unmolested in his march
from Utrera, had arrived on the 3rd, bringing with him not only his
own troops and those of Copons, but several recruit-battalions picked
up at Xeres, Lebrija, San Lucar, and Puerto Santa Maria, where they
had been organizing. He had some 12,000 men in all, not counting the
civic militia of Cadiz, which had hitherto been its sole garrison.

Cadiz, in the days when the practicable range of the heaviest
artillery did not exceed 2,500 yards, was one of the strongest places
in the world. The town lies on the extreme point of a long sandy
peninsula, which runs out into the sea from the Isla de Leon, a large
island separated from the mainland of Andalusia by the salt-water
channel of the Rio Santi Petri, an arm of the sea varying from 300 to
400 yards in breadth, and flowing through marshes which make access
to its banks very difficult. The Isla, protected by this enormous
wet ditch, has a front towards the continent of about seven miles,
from the naval arsenal of La Carraca at its north end to the Castle
of Santi Petri at its south. Batteries had already been thrown up
at all the commanding points, and Albuquerque had broken the only
bridge, that of Zuazo, which crossed the marsh and the Rio. It would
be impossible to pass the channel save by collecting great quantities
of boats, and these would have to move under artillery fire. Venegas,
the military governor of Cadiz, had already ordered all the vessels,
small and great, of the villages round the bay to be destroyed or
brought across to the city. Moreover, there were a score of gunboats
in the channel, manned from the Spanish fleet, which could be used
to oppose any attempt to cross the Rio. Indeed, naval assistance to
any amount was available for the defence of Cadiz: there were a dozen
Spanish and four English line-of-battle ships in the harbour. All
through the three long years while the French lay in front of the
Isla, no attempt was ever made to throw a force in boats across the
channel: the venture seemed too hazardous.

If, however, Victor had, by some expedient, succeeded in crossing
the Rio, there were two lines of defence behind it, of far greater
strength than that formed by this outer ditch of the Cadiz works.
The triangular Isla de Leon forms with its apex a long sand-spit,
which projects for four miles into the Atlantic. Half way along it
the breadth of the spit is contracted to no more than 200 yards,
and here there was a continuous entrenchment from water to water,
called the Cortadura, or the battery of San Fernando, armed with many
heavy guns. Supposing this isthmus to have been passed, there lies,
two miles further along the sand-spit, the outer enceinte of Cadiz
itself, with a front of not more than 400 yards in breadth, and deep
water on either side.

Cadiz had been captured more than once in earlier wars, but always by
an enemy who could attack from the sea. Neither the Isla de Leon nor
the San Fernando line could be held against an attack supported by a
fleet which came close in shore, and battered the works from flank
and rear, or landed troops behind them. The sea, it may be remarked,
is four fathoms deep to within a short distance (about 300 yards) of
the shore, all along the south front of the Isla and the Isthmus,
so that there was nothing to prevent a fleet coming close to the
works. But against any naval attack Cadiz was, in 1810, absolutely
secured by the predominance of the English fleet. There was no armed
French vessel nearer than Bayonne or Barcelona, nor any possibility
of bringing one round. All that was done by the besiegers in a three
years’ leaguer was to build some gunboats in the northern inlets of
the bay, and these they never dared to bring out into the open water.

The real danger to Cadiz lay not from the sea side, nor on the Isla
front, but from the inner side of the harbour and the east. Here a
long spit of land runs out from beside the town of Puerto Real in
the direction of Cadiz. It is called the Trocadero, from a village
situated on its south-eastern side. At its extreme point is a fort
named San José, while another fort, named San Luis, lies alongside
of the other on a low mud-island. In advance of both, built right in
the marsh, and surrounded by water at high-tide, was a third called
Matagorda. These three forts were the outer defences of the harbour
against a naval attack, and could cross fires with the town batteries
and a castle called Puntales, which lies on the easternmost point
of the isthmus, a mile from the battery of San Fernando. Matagorda
is only 1,200 yards from Puntales, and 3,000 yards from the eastern
point of the city of Cadiz. If the French took possession of it, and
of the neighbouring San José and San Luis, they could bombard the
Puntales castle and all the neighbouring section of the Isthmus,
to the grave danger and discomfort of all who had to pass between
the city and the Isla de Leon. They would also be able to annoy
ships lying in all the eastern reaches of the great harbour. But
before Victor arrived in front of Cadiz, San José, San Luis, and
Matagorda were blown up, with the leave of the governor Venegas, by a
detachment of seamen from the British fleet. There could, therefore,
be no trouble from this direction, unless the enemy succeeded in
restoring and rearming the three forts,--no easy task under the fire
of the Puntales castle and the fleet. It was not till some months
had passed that the struggle began for these ruined works, the only
points from which the defence could be seriously incommoded.

On his first arrival Victor summoned the town, and received a prompt
and angry answer of refusal from the governor and the local Junta.
The marshal inspected the city’s outer defences, and was forced to
report to the King at Seville that it seemed that nothing could
be done against the place till he had brought up heavy artillery,
and built himself boats. Joseph, unwilling to believe anything
that contradicted the hopes of complete triumph that he had been
nourishing ever since the passage of the Sierra Morena, came up to
Puerto Santa Maria, on the bay of Cadiz, looked at the situation,
did not find it reassuring, and wrote to his imperial brother to
propose that he should send out his Toulon fleet to attack the place
on the sea side[144]. Napoleon, still smarting under the memory of
how Admiral Martin had destroyed an important section of that fleet
in the preceding October, ignored this proposal. He did not forget,
though his brother had apparently done so, the fact that the British
Mediterranean fleet was still in existence.

  [144] ‘Sire, il paraît que Cadix veut se défendre. Nous verrons
  dans quelques jours ce qu’elle fera lorsque nous aurons quelques
  batteries montées. Si votre Majesté pouvait disposer de l’escadre
  de Toulon, l’occasion pourrait être bonne.’ Joseph to Napoleon,
  Sta. Maria, Feb. 18.

Thus the position in front of Cadiz assumed the shape which it was to
maintain for months, and even for years. Victor’s corps could provide
enough men to observe the whole shore of the bay, and to blockade
the garrison. But the Spaniards recovered their courage when they
saw the enemy reduced to inactivity, and began ere long to receive
reinforcements. The first to arrive were 3,000 of the regular troops
which had been at Seville. This corps, under the Visconde de Gand,
had escaped westward after the capitulation, and, though pursued
by a brigade of Mortier’s corps, reached Ayamonte, at the mouth of
the Guadiana, and there took ship for Cadiz. Somewhat later there
arrived some troops sent by Wellington. The Spaniards in their day of
disaster had forgotten their old jealousy about Cadiz, and asked for
aid. Wellington, though loath to spare a man from Portugal, sent them
in the early days of February three British[145] and two Portuguese
battalions from Lisbon, under General William Stewart. So promptly
were these troops shipped and landed, that they arrived at Cadiz
between the 10th and the 15th of February, to the number of about
3,500 bayonets[146]. Thus the town was placed in security from any
_coup de main_ on Victor’s part.

  [145] 79th, 2nd batt. 87th, and 94th regiments, and the 20th
  Portuguese line regiment.

  [146] See Wellington to Bart. Frère and General Stewart, from
  Torres Vedras, Feb. 5th, and Vizeu, Feb. 27, 1810.

[Illustration: CADIZ AND ITS ENVIRONS.]

The internal situation in Cadiz, however, left much to be desired.
The town had elected a local Junta of defence, of which the governor
Venegas was made President, and this body had frequent disputes
with the new Regency, nominated by the Central Junta at the time
of its abdication, and also with Albuquerque, whom Venegas did not
wish to recognize as his hierarchical superior. The local body could
make a fair show of objections to recognizing the legitimacy of the
Regency: the old Central Junta itself had a doubtful origin, and the
government nominated by those of its members who had taken refuge in
Cadiz could not claim a clear title. But to raise the point at this
moment of crisis was factious and unpatriotic, and the conduct of the
local Junta became merely absurd when it tried to arrogate to itself
authority extending outside its own city, and to issue orders to
the outlying provinces, or the colonies of America. Still worse, it
refused to issue clothing and footgear to Albuquerque’s army, whose
equipment had been worn out by the long march from Estremadura, or
to subsidize the military hospitals, though it had a considerable
stock both of money and of military stores at its disposition. At the
end of February the Regency nominated Venegas Viceroy of Mexico, and
having bought him off with this splendid piece of preferment, made
Albuquerque his successor in the governorship of Cadiz. But even thus
they did not succeed in getting proper control over the city, for the
Junta refused to allow the Duke to place his head quarters within the
walls, or to issue orders to the civic militia. A _modus vivendi_
was only reached when the Regents made an ignominious pact with the
local oligarchy, by which the latter, in return for recognizing their
legitimate authority, and undertaking to pay and feed the garrison,
were granted the control of the port-revenues and other royal taxes
of Cadiz, as well as of all the subsidies arriving from America. How
the functions of government became still further complicated, when
the members of the long-expected Cortes began to arrive, and to claim
their rights as the sole legitimate representatives of the nation,
must be told in another chapter[147].

  [147] For a scathing account of the conduct of the Cadiz Junta
  and its doings see Schepeler, vol. iii. 550-5. Napier very
  rightly calls it ‘an imperious body without honour, talents, or
  patriotism’ (ii. 334).

Leaving matters at a deadlock in and about Cadiz, we must turn back
to the operations of the French in the outlying parts of Andalusia.
Sebastiani, it will be remembered, had taken Jaen on January 23rd.
He was directed to march from thence on Granada and Malaga, to
scatter the remains of Areizaga’s army, and to subdue the valleys
of the Sierra Nevada and the long sea-coast below them. All this
he accomplished with ease. On the 28th he routed at Alcala la Real
a force composed of some of Areizaga’s fugitives, which had been
joined by Freire and all the cavalry of the Andalusian army. These
regiments, which had been cantoned in the valley of the Guadalquivir,
since they were useless in the passes, had been collected by Freire
to the number of 2,000 sabres. They were routed and dispersed by
Milhaud’s and Perreymond’s dragoons and chasseurs, losing over 500
men and the whole of their artillery. The survivors dispersed, and
retired in small parties eastward, only rallying in the province of
Murcia. That same evening Sebastiani pushed on towards Granada, and
was met by a deputation of its magistrates, who brought the keys of
the city and a promise of submission. The French vanguard entered it
next day. Lacy, who had taken refuge there with the small remains
of his division, retired to Guadix. Sebastiani levied a military
contribution of 5,000,000 reals on the city, placed a garrison of
1,500 men in the Alhambra, and marched with a mixed force on Malaga,
the only place in this quarter where organized resistance showed
itself. Here the local magistrates had been deposed by a popular
rising, and several thousand irregulars had been collected by a
Colonel Abello, a Capuchin friar named Fernando Berrocal, and three
brothers, notaries, of the name of San Millan. They seized the passes
of the Sierra de Alhama, and called all the hill-country to arms.
Sebastiani, marching by Antequera, cleared the passes on February
5th, beat the half-armed insurgent bands outside the suburbs of
Malaga, and stormed the town. He exacted a contribution of 12,000,000
reals, and hung the three San Millans and several other leading
insurgents. After this he extended his troops along the coast, and
occupied Velez Malaga, Motril, and Almunecar. The roads and the
towns were his, but many of the insurgents took to the hills, and
maintained a guerrilla warfare, which never ceased throughout the
next three years. There were always bands on foot in the Alpujarras
and the Sierra de Ronda, though the 4th Corps expended much energy
in hunting them down.

Meanwhile Giron, Lacy, Freire, and the rest of the fugitive generals
had retired eastward. They had now come under the orders of Blake,
who superseded Areizaga and took over charge of 3,000 or 4,000
dispirited men at Guadix on January 30th. He retired at once within
the borders of the kingdom of Murcia. Small parties and stragglers
continued to come in for many weeks, and by March there were 10,000
foot and 1,500 horse collected--all in the worst state of equipment,
and thoroughly demoralized by their late disasters.

We must now turn to the other end of Andalusia: King Joseph, when
departing to inspect the outworks of Cadiz, had left Mortier in
command in this quarter. The Marshal, after hunting the little force
of the Visconde de Gand out of the Condado de Niebla, had been
directed to deal a stroke at Badajoz. Accordingly, leaving a brigade
in Seville and another in the Condado, he marched with one infantry
division and his light cavalry into Estremadura. He reached Olivenza
with 9,000 men, and summoned Badajoz on February 12th, but he had
arrived too late. A considerable Spanish force was now before him,
the old host of Del Parque, which the Central Junta had called down
to the Guadiana when the original Army of Estremadura marched under
Albuquerque to succour Andalusia. How Mortier and La Romana, the
successor of Del Parque, dealt with each other in the months of the
spring must be told in a later chapter[148].

  [148] See Section xix, chapter iv of this volume.

The King, meanwhile, spent the months of February and March in a
circular tour through Andalusia, where he affected to perceive
nothing but friendly feeling among the inhabitants. He visited
Ronda, Malaga, Granada, Jaen, celebrating _Te Deums_, and giving
bull-fights and banquets. It is certain that a sufficient show of
submission was made to nourish his happy illusions as to the finality
of his conquest. Threats or bribes induced many notables to present
themselves at his receptions, and it seems that a considerable
portion of the Andalusians hoped to save themselves from the rapacity
of the military authorities by professing an enthusiasm for the
King. He, for his part, did his best to protect them--but he was
soon gone, and the native officials whom he appointed were powerless
against Sebastiani, the church plunderer, and Soult, the judicious
collector of works of art. ‘At the very moment when the King was
lavishing assurances and promises,’ writes his devoted servant Miot,
‘and everywhere extolling the thorough disinterestedness of France,
severe and crushing exactions were being laid on the provinces in our
occupation. An iron hand was grinding them to the dust. The King was
powerless to resist the open violation of the promises which he was
daily giving[149].’

  [149] Miot, ii. 432. Compare Joseph’s hysterical letter to
  the Emperor (Ducasse, vii. 236): ‘La pacification générale de
  l’Andalousie sera opérée.... Mais, sire, au nom du sang français
  et du sang espagnol rappelez Loison, Kellermann, Thouvenot! Ces
  hommes nous coûtent bien cher!’ It is curious that he, in the
  same letter, quotes as ‘hommes honnêtes,’ along with Mortier,
  Suchet, and Reynier, both Soult and Sebastiani, who were
  plunderers on as large a scale as Kellermann or Loison.

Open resistance, however, had ceased, save at Cadiz and in the
inaccessible recesses of the Sierra Nevada. Andalusia had been
subdued from end to end, and neither the King nor Soult yet realized
that a lamentable strategic mistake had been made when 70,000 veteran
troops had been pinned down to garrison the newly conquered realm,
while Portugal and Wellington’s army remained untouched. In their
conception, as in that of the Emperor, the conquest of Portugal was
to be sufficiently provided for by the new reinforcements which were
now pouring over the Ebro, to the number of over 100,000 sabres and
bayonets.



SECTION XIX

THE PORTUGUESE CAMPAIGN OF 1810.

THE PRELIMINARIES: JANUARY-AUGUST 1810



CHAPTER I

THE MILITARY GEOGRAPHY OF PORTUGAL


The continual existence of Portugal down to the present day in
face of the persistent hostility and immensely superior force of
its neighbour Spain seems at first sight to be one of the most
inexplicable phenomena in modern history. It appears all the more
astounding when we remember that the lesser kingdom was once
conquered, and held down for sixty years, by the greater power.
Few states have won back and maintained their independence in such
masterful fashion as did Portugal, in the long ‘War of Independence’
that followed the insurrection of 1640 under the house of Braganza.
But intense national spirit and heroic obstinacy on the part of the
smaller people are not sufficient to account for the survival of the
Portuguese kingdom as a separate entity. Its geography, which at the
first sight seems hopelessly unfavourable to its defence, turns out
on investigation to be eminently suitable for resistance against an
attack from the east. On a first glance at the map it appears as if
Portugal was composed of no more than the lower valleys of three
great Spanish rivers, the Douro, the Tagus, and the Guadiana, so
that the state which owns three-quarters of the course of each of
these streams has but to send down its armies from the uplands of
Leon and New Castile, to conquer the narrow land which lies about
their estuaries. But nothing can be more deceptive than the map, when
the Iberian Peninsula is in question. As we observed in our earlier
volume[150], the rivers of Spain and Portugal are not highways, or
lines of communication, but barriers--torrents sunk in gorges cut
deep below the level of the face of the land. The chief roads, with
few exceptions, avoid, instead of courting, the neighbourhood of
the great streams. The leading routes which descend from Spain into
Portugal in no case follow the lines of the Douro or the Tagus.
Though the coast-plains, which form the heart of the kingdom of
Portugal, its most wealthy and populous regions, lie about the mouths
of those rivers, it is not by descending their banks that conquest
or trade arrives most easily at its goal. As a matter of fact, Spain
and Portugal turn their backs upon each other: the smaller realm
looks out upon the sea; her strength and wealth lie upon the Atlantic
coast: the inland that touches Spain is rugged and unpeopled, in many
parts a mere waste of rock and heath. Nor, on the other hand, do
Leon and New Castile look towards Portugal: the real ports of Madrid
are Valencia and Alicante, not Lisbon, and that not from political
reasons, but simply because those are the points where the sea can
be reached with the minimum of mountain and desert to be passed
through. The way down from the central tableland of Spain to the
Mediterranean is less difficult than the way down to the Atlantic.
Hence comes the fact that the high-roads leading from Spain into
Portugal are so surprisingly few, and that the two main alternative
routes from Madrid to Lisbon run, the one much further north, the
other much further south, than might have been expected. There is not
now, and never has been, any straight road down the Tagus between
the two capitals, obvious though the line looks upon the map. The
two main gates of Portugal are at Almeida and Elvas; at Alcantara,
which appears the natural point of approach, there is but the most
miserable of posterns--as Junot discovered in November 1807, much to
his discomfiture. Marshal Berwick had made the same experience in
1705, during the War of the Spanish Succession[151].

  [150] See vol. i. pp. 75, 76.

  [151] A student of the War of the Spanish Succession is always
  surprised to see how much fighting took place on fronts which
  were left severely alone by the English and French in 1809-12.

In the old wars between Spain and Portugal the whole land frontier of
the smaller kingdom was exposed to attacks from the larger. But the
circumstances of 1810 differed from those of 1705 or 1762 or 1801,
in that the subsidiary campaigns in the extreme north and south,
which had always accompanied the main clash along the frontiers of
Beira and Alemtejo, could not on this occasion take place. The French
were no longer in possession of Galicia, from which the Spaniards had
been wont to demonstrate against Oporto, nor, at the other extremity
of the line, had they a firm grip on Huelva, and the Condado de
Niebla, from which alone an attack could be directed against the
remote southern province of Algarve.

Portugal presents three sections of frontier to an invader coming
from the side of Spain. The northernmost, that from the mouth of the
Minho to Miranda-de-Douro, was not within the scope of operations
in 1810. It can only be approached from Galicia; that province was
not subdued, nor had the French any intention of dealing with it
till after they should have dealt with Portugal. An invasion of
the Tras-os-Montes and the Entre-Douro-e-Minho would have been an
objectless operation: they would fall of themselves if once Lisbon
were captured and the English expelled from the Peninsula. A move
against Oporto by some flanking division of the invading army might
have been conceivable, but such an attempt would be made, if made at
all, from the south of the Douro, through northern Beira, and not
through the mountains of the Tras-os-Montes.

There remain two other sections of the Portuguese frontier: the
one from the Douro to the Tagus, and the other from the Tagus to
the Guadiana. Both of these were accessible to the French in 1810,
since they were in possession alike of the plains of Leon and of La
Mancha, and of northern Andalusia. It was open to them to choose one
or the other front for attack, or to attack both at once. Lisbon
being the objective, it was clear that an attack on the northern or
Beira frontier possessed a paramount advantage over an attack on
the southern or Alemtejo frontier. A successful advance north of
the Tagus brings the invader directly to the gates of Lisbon; one
south of the Tagus brings him only to the heights of Almada, where
he is separated from the Portuguese capital by the broad estuary of
the Tagus. Napoleon’s power, like that of the devil in mediaeval
legends, ended at the edge of the salt water; and in face of the
naval strength which the English always maintained at Lisbon, a
victorious French army camped on the heights of Almada would be
almost as far from final success as when it started from Spain. The
1,900 yards of strait which protected the Portuguese capital could
not be crossed. The most that the invader could accomplish would
be to worry the ships in the port, and the lower quarters of the
city, by a distant bombardment, if he could bring up heavy guns from
Spain[152]. For nearly twenty miles inland from Lisbon the estuary of
the Tagus expands into a broad brackish lagoon four to eleven miles
broad, a complete protection against any attack from the east. Only
at Alhandra does this inland sea contract, and for some further miles
northward from that point the eastern bank of the Tagus is formed
by broad salt-marshes (_lezirias_) cut up by countless channels of
water, and practically inaccessible. It is only at Salvaterra, thirty
miles north of Lisbon, that the Tagus assumes its ordinary breadth,
and becomes an ordinary military obstacle. From that point upwards
an invader from the Andalusian side might endeavour to cross it,
and it presents no more difficulties than any other broad river.
But, though even Rhines and Danubes may be passed in the face of
an enemy, the operation is not one which a prudent general courts,
and the Tagus is broad, absolutely bridgeless, and fickle in the
extreme in its alternations of high and low water. To fight one’s
way from the valley of the Guadiana in order to meet such a problem
at the end does not seem inviting. And even if the Tagus is passed,
there are still thirty miles of road, including some formidable
defensive positions, between the invader and Lisbon[153]. Yet there
was one contingency under which an advance on the left bank of the
river might be advantageous to the invader, and so possible was this
contingency that Wellington from the very first had declared that
he thought it probable that the French would move troops in that
direction. If the Anglo-Portuguese army were drawn away to the Beira
frontier, between Tagus and Douro, in order to resist a front attack
delivered from the plains of Leon, and if it became involved in an
active campaign somewhere far to the north, on the line of the Coa,
or the Mondego, or the Alva, a subsidiary French force, striking
south of the Tagus from the direction of Spanish Estremadura, might
give dreadful trouble. If it could cross the Tagus anywhere between
Abrantes and Salvaterra, it might get between the Anglo-Portuguese
army and its base, and either fall upon its rear or capture Lisbon.
For this reason Wellington, so far back as October 1809, had made
up his mind that, if the French had an army on foot anywhere in
the direction of Badajoz and Elvas, he must leave a considerable
proportion of his own forces to watch them, and to defend, if need
be, the line of the lower Tagus[154]. As long as the enemy had not
yet subdued Badajoz and the neighbouring fortresses, and while
there was still a strong Spanish army in that quarter, the need for
precaution was not so pressing. Nevertheless, all through the summer
of 1810 Wellington kept Hill with one English and one Portuguese
division at Portalegre, south of the Tagus, though he withdrew this
detachment when Masséna marched on Coimbra. Matters were much more
perilous after the battle of the Gebora and the fall of Badajoz in
February 1811. From that time onward, all through 1811 and 1812,
nearly a third of the Anglo-Portuguese army was kept in the Alemtejo,
first under Beresford, then under Hill, in order to guard against
the possible stab in the back from the French army of Andalusia.

  [152] See Map of the Lines of Torres Vedras, in Section xx of
  this volume, for the environs of Lisbon.

  [153] Eliot, in his very judicious remarks on p. 100 of his
  _Defence of Portugal_, published just before Masséna’s invasion,
  sums up the situation with--‘a passage may without any difficulty
  be forced to the left bank of the Tagus: but then the enemy is as
  far from the accomplishment of his project as before, the river
  forming an insuperable barrier if well defended.’

  [154] Wellington to Col. Fletcher, commanding Royal Engineers,
  Oct. 20, 1809 (_Dispatches_, v. 235): ‘The enemy will probably
  attack on two distinct lines, the one south, the other north of
  the Tagus, and the system of defence must be founded upon this
  general basis.... His object will be, by means of the corps south
  of the Tagus, to turn the positions which we shall take up in
  front of the corps north of that river, to cut off from Lisbon
  the corps opposed to him, and to destroy it by an attack in front
  and rear. This can be avoided only by the retreat of the right,
  centre, and left of the allies to a point at which (from the
  state of the river) they cannot be turned, by the passage of the
  Tagus by the enemy’s left corps.’

  Six days later (_Disp._ v. 245) Wellington wrote to Admiral
  Berkeley in similar terms: ‘It is probable that in the event
  of the enemy being enabled to invade this country in force, he
  will make his main attack by the right of the Tagus: but he
  will employ one corps on the left of the river, with the object
  of embarrassing, if not of preventing, the embarcation of the
  British army.’

But the attack south of the Tagus was in Wellington’s, and also, we
may add, in Napoleon’s conception[155], only a secondary operation.
The main invasion was almost inevitably bound to take place on the
Beira, not on the Alemtejo frontier. Between Fregeneda, where the
Portuguese border line quits the Douro, to the pass of Villa Velha
on the Tagus there is a distance of somewhat more than 100 miles.
The division between Portugal and Spain does not lie along any
well-marked natural feature, such as a mountain range or a broad
river--though two small sections of the frontier are coincident with
the insignificant streams of the Elga and the Agueda. It is rather
drawn, in a somewhat arbitrary and haphazard fashion, through the
midst of the desert upland, where Spain and Portugal turn their
backs to each other. For the only piece of flat plain-land on the
whole border is that from the Douro to Almeida, a mere ten or twelve
miles, and immediately behind the Coa, only three or four miles
from Almeida, the mountains begin. The rest of the frontier runs
through thinly-peopled, barren highlands, from which the Coa, the
Mondego, the Zezere, and the Ponçul fall away towards Portugal, and
the Agueda and the Alagon towards Spain. The mountains are not,
for the most part, very high--the culminating peak of the Serra da
Estrella is only 6,540 feet--but they are singularly rugged and
scarped, and much cleft by ravines, along whose sides the few roads
crawl miserably, in constant precipitous dips and rises. This broad
belt of upland, one long series of defiles for an invader, is some
hundred miles broad, and does not cease till Coimbra, on the one
side, or Abrantes, on the other, is reached: only then does the
plain-land begin, and the country-side become fertile and thickly
peopled. Only from those points onward is it possible for an army
to live on the local produce: in the upland it must carry its food
with it; for a single division would exhaust in a day the stores of
the poor villages of the mountains; and the small poverty-stricken
towns of Guarda, Celorico, Sabugal, Penamacor, and Idanha have few
resources. Castello Branco and Vizeu are the only two places in the
upland where there is a valley of some breadth and richness, which
can supply an army for many days. In this simple fact lies the
explanation of the difficulties of the Portuguese campaigns of 1810
and 1811. Both the invader and the defender must bring their food
with them, and protracted operations can only be kept up by means
of incessant convoys from the rear. The campaign not infrequently
became a starving-match, and the combatant who first exhausted his
provisions had to retire, and to disperse his divisions in search of
the wherewithal to live. Thanks to Wellington’s providence it was
always the French who were forced to this expedient.

  [155] So much so that in _Corresp._, xx. p. 552, we find him
  informing Masséna that Badajoz and Elvas need not be touched till
  after Lisbon has fallen. The first contrary view, ordering a
  demonstration on the Lower Tagus, appears in the dispatch on p.
  273 of vol. xxi.

The Beira frontier is divided into two sections by the range of
mountains which crosses the border at right angles, half way between
Douro and Tagus: it is known as the Sierras de Gata and de Jarama
while in Spain, as the Serra da Estrella when it reaches Portugal.
Its central ganglion lies between the high-lying towns of Sabugal
and Penamacor in Portugal and the pass of Perales in Spain. From
this point run off the great spurs which separate the valleys of
the Ponçul, the Zezere, the Agueda, the Coa, and the Alagon. An
invader must make his choice whether he will advance into Portugal
south or north of the Serra da Estrella: to attempt to do so on both
sides of the range would be risking too much, if there is an enemy
of any strength in the field, since the columns to the right and to
the left would be hopelessly separated, and liable to be beaten in
detail. In the whole Peninsular War there was only one invasion made
by the southern route, that of Junot in the winter of 1807-8. It was
successful because it was absolutely unopposed. Nevertheless the
French lost many men, had to leave their artillery behind them, and
only arrived with the shadow of an army at Abrantes. It is true that
Junot chose absolutely the worst path that could be found between the
Serra da Estrella and the Tagus--the pass of Rosmarinhal, close above
the latter river--and that he would have fared not quite so badly if
he had marched from Zarza on Idanha and Castello Branco. But even at
the best this region is most inhospitable: there are points where
water is not procurable on stretches of eight or ten miles, others
where the main road is so steep that a six-pounder requires not
only a dozen horses but the assistance of fifty men to get it up the
slope. Except in the immediate neighbourhood of Castello Branco, the
country-side is almost uninhabited[156]. The whole ‘corregidoria,’
which took its name from that town, and extended from the Elga to the
Zezere, had only 40,000 souls in its broad limits--it was forty miles
long by thirty broad, the size of a large English county. Junot’s
experiences served as a warning to his successors, and no French
army during the rest of the war endeavoured to cross this corner of
Portugal when advancing on Lisbon. Castello Branco was seized once or
twice by a raiding force, but it was never used as the starting-point
of an army making a serious attempt to advance towards the Portuguese
capital.

  [156] The above notes on the Castello Branco country and its
  roads are mostly derived from Eliot’s _Defence of Portugal_.
  Eliot has marched all over the region; see his pages 78-81.

There remains to be considered only the section of the frontier
between the Douro and the Serra da Estrella, the front on which
Masséna’s great blow was delivered in the autumn of 1810. It was
a region which had from the earliest times been the battle-ground
of the Spanish and Portuguese. Half a dozen times since the Middle
Ages armies from the plains of Leon had invaded the Beira on this
front. Such campaigns always began with a siege of Almeida, the
sentinel-fortress pushed out in front of the mountains to face the
Spanish Ciudad Rodrigo. Almeida generally fell--it is too advanced a
position for safety, and (as Dumouriez remarked in his military study
of Portugal) its value would have doubled if it had only been placed
upon the west instead of the east bank of the Coa, close to the
friendly mountains, and not on the outskirts of the perilous plain.
But rare, indeed, were the occasions on which the Spaniard succeeded
in piercing the broad belt of tangled upland beyond Almeida, and
appearing at the gates of Coimbra or Oporto.

[Illustration: CENTRAL PORTUGAL.]

There are four lines of further advance open to an invader who has
captured Almeida. The first, a march on Oporto via Pinhel and Lamego,
may be mentioned only to be dismissed from consideration. It is of
no use to an army which aims at Lisbon, and proposes to conquer
Portugal by a blow at its heart. Masséna, whose directions were to
drive the British into the sea in the shortest and most effective
fashion, could not have contemplated such a secondary object as the
capture of Oporto for a moment. There remain three other roads to be
investigated.

(1) The road north of the river Mondego, by Celorico, Vizeu, Bussaco,
and Coimbra. (2) The corresponding and parallel road south of the
Mondego, from Celorico by Chamusca, Maceira and Ponte de Murcella to
Coimbra. (3) The road which, striking south from Celorico, crosses
the headwaters of the Zezere, by Belmonte and Fundão, and then,
climbing the Serra de Moradal, descends to Castello Branco, and from
thence reaches Abrantes by the Sobreira Formosa. It may be remarked,
by the way, that nothing in all the geography of Portugal seems more
astonishing than that there should not be a fourth alternative road,
one down the long valley of the Zezere, which, running in a straight
line from Belmonte to Abrantes, looks on the map as if it ought to
be a main artery of communication, and seems to indicate the obvious
road to Lisbon from Almeida, since a straight line drawn between
these points would run along the river for some forty miles. But as a
matter of fact there was neither a first nor a second-rate road down
the Zezere: the only towns on its course, Covilhão and Belmonte, lie
hard by its sources, and its central reaches were almost uninhabited.
The only good line of communication running near it is a by-road or
duplication of the third route mentioned above, called the _Estrada
Nova_, which, leaving the upper Zezere at Belmonte, keeps high up
the side of the Serra de Moradal, and rejoins the Castello Branco
road at Sobreira Formosa. This route was much employed by Wellington
in later years, as a military road from north to south, usable even
when Castello Branco was threatened by the French. But in 1810 he
had ordered it to be rendered impassable, and this had been done by
making several long cuttings at points where the track passed along
precipices, the whole roadway being blown or shovelled down into
the gulf below[157]. The French were, of course, unaware of this,
and Masséna is said by his confidant Foy to have taken the _Estrada
Nova_ into serious consideration, and to have decided against it
because of the necessity for forcing the passage of the Zezere when
the defiles were passed, and for laying siege to Abrantes[158].
A far more practical objection was its extreme wildness: it runs
along an absolutely uninhabited mountain-side, and the neighbourhood
is destitute not only of food but of water for great sections of
its length. This Masséna ought to have known, if his Portuguese
advisers had been competent. Apparently he was wholly unaware of its
character, just as he was necessarily ignorant of the fact that his
prescient adversary had blasted away huge sections of it, so that it
was absolutely impassable for guns or wagons, as also that earthworks
had been carefully constructed to cover the point where it debouches
on to the Zezere.

  [157] For the perilous adventure among these cuttings of a
  small French column which crossed the Estrada Nova, that which
  escorted Foy back to Santarem in Feb. 1811, see the autobiography
  of General Hulot, pp. 325-33. A considerable number of men and
  horses fell down these cuttings in a forced night-march, and in
  all several hundred men of Foy’s column perished, starved and
  storm-beaten on this inhospitable road. The survivors only got
  through by cutting a slippery foot-track along the precipices:
  nothing on wheels could have passed that way.

  [158] In Foy’s interesting minute of his conversation with
  Napoleon about the invasion, on Nov. 23, 1810, when he had taken
  home Masséna’s dispatches: ‘Montrez-moi les deux routes de Ponte
  de Murcella et de Castello Branco,’ says the Emperor. Then after
  a pause: ‘Et l’Estrada Nova? Pourquoi Masséna n’a-t-il pas
  débouché par l’Estrada Nova?’--‘Sire, à cause d’Abrantès et du
  Zézère.’--‘Oui, Masséna a bien fait; maintenant il faut prendre
  Abrantès: Elvas ne nous servirait de rien.’ See Foy’s _Mémoires_,
  p. 111.

The Castello Branco road, therefore, with this dependent by-road,
the Estrada Nova, was practically left out of consideration by
the Marshal. There remains the choice between the two northern
routes, Celorico-Vizeu-Coimbra, and Celorico-Chamusca-Ponte de
Murcella-Coimbra. Both traverse rough ground--but ground less rough
than that to be found on some parts of the Castello Branco road.
Along both there is an intermittent belt of cultivated land, and
not unfrequent villages. Both are intersected by many good military
positions, on which a defending army can offer battle to an invader
with advantage. In especial, the northern road strikes and climbs the
granite ridge of Bussaco with every disadvantage for the attacking
side, and the southern road is contracted into a difficult defile
at the passage of the Alva near Ponte de Murcella. On the whole,
however, this last is the better line for advance:--the strongest
testimonial to the fact is that Wellington expected Masséna to take
it, and erected at the passage of the Alva almost[159] the only
earthworks, save those of the lines of Torres Vedras, which he
constructed in his preparations for the reception of the invader.
When he first heard that the Marshal was moving forward from
Almeida to Celorico, and was clearly aiming at the Mondego valley,
he announced that he should endeavour to stop the invader on the
Alva[160], not apparently thinking it at all probable that Masséna
would move by Vizeu and the north bank of the Mondego. On realizing
that this was really his adversary’s design, he observed with some
exultation that, while there were certainly many bad roads in
Portugal, the enemy had taken decidedly the worst of those open to
him[161]; moreover, he had committed himself to attack the heights
of Bussaco, the most formidable position in the whole of northern
Portugal. How the French commander came to make this choice we shall
discuss in its proper place. Suffice it to say that Wellington had
not realized how bad was Masséna’s information, how worthless his
maps, and--what is most surprising of all--how entirely destitute of
local knowledge were the Portuguese traitors--Alorna, Pamplona, and
the other renegade officers--whom the Emperor had sent as guides and
advisers to the Marshal. And in truth, the unsuspected ignorance of
Masséna and his advisers added an incalculable element of chance to
the problem set before Wellington. He was obliged to make his plans
on the hypothesis that the enemy would make the correct move: and not
unfrequently the enemy, for reasons which the English general could
not possibly foresee, made the wrong one.

  [159] There were some others thrown up on the extreme lower
  course of the Zezere, by Barca Nova and Punhete, to guard against
  a possible but unlikely use of the Castello Branco road by the
  enemy.

  [160] Wellington to Hill (_Disp._, vi. p. 441), Sept. 15.

  [161] Wellington to Chas. Stuart, Sept. 18.

The French invasion was bound to commence with a preliminary
clearance of the outlying fortresses still in the hands of the
Spaniards. These to some extent protected the Portuguese frontier
in 1810, though they had been built with the express purpose, not
of protecting, but of threatening it, and had never before been
attacked by an enemy coming from the east. Only three of these
fortresses were of any importance--Astorga, Ciudad Rodrigo, and
Badajoz. The other strongholds of Spanish Estremadura, Alcantara
(which had stood a siege in the War of the Spanish Succession),
Albuquerque, Olivenza, were either not in a state of defence at all,
or were hopelessly antiquated, and little suited to face modern
artillery and modern siegecraft.

Astorga lies so far to the north that it might have been neglected
without much peril to the French scheme of invasion. But the Emperor
had ordered that it should be reduced before the great enterprise
began: it gave the Spanish army of Galicia a foothold in the plains
of Leon, from which it might operate against Masséna’s rear, if he
should pass it by. Its capture, too, was considered a matter of
small difficulty, for it was but a mediaeval walled town, to which
some hasty outworks had been added during the last year. It will be
remembered that when Moore passed that way in January 1809, Astorga
had been treated by both sides as an open town, and no attempt had
been made to garrison or defend it. Since then La Romana had repaired
its dilapidated enceinte, stockaded its suburbs, and armed it with
guns brought from Ferrol. As late as January 11, 1810, Napoleon
seems hardly aware of this fact: in a dispatch of that date he
orders Loison to make his head quarters there, evidently under the
impression that it is not held by the Spaniards, or at least that
it is a place which they will evacuate at the first appearance of a
serious attack[162]. It is only in March that he writes to Junot that
Astorga must be besieged and taken, in order to occupy the attention
of the Galicians and to thrust them back into their mountains[163].

  [162] _Nap. Corresp._, xx. p. 117. Napoleon to Berthier.

  [163] Ibid., p. 271.

Ciudad Rodrigo was a more serious business. It was a regular
fortress, though only one of the second class; its prestige, as the
only Spanish stronghold on the Portuguese frontier, was great. It
commands the whole southern stretch of the plains of Leon, being
the only place out of the control of an invader who is superior in
cavalry, and therefore master of the defenceless _Tierra de Campos_.
There was also a small Spanish army depending upon it, and clinging
to the skirts of the Sierra de Gata. This was the division of Martin
de la Carrera, which had been left behind when the greater part
of Del Parque’s Army of the Left marched down into Estremadura in
January 1810, in order to replace there the troops which had gone
off to the defence of Cadiz. It was clear that Ciudad Rodrigo must
be taken, and Martin de la Carrera brushed away or destroyed, before
any serious attempt to invade Portugal was begun. If the Emperor
thought that such a remote place as Astorga was worth his notice,
it was obvious that he would regard Ciudad Rodrigo as absolutely
indispensable to his designs. It was for its reduction that he gave
Masséna the great battering train of fifty heavy guns, with 2,500
artillerymen and sappers, which was assigned to him, independent of
the artillery of the three corps of the Army of Portugal.

Badajoz, far to the south, in Spanish Estremadura, stood to the
defence of Southern Portugal exactly as Ciudad Rodrigo to the defence
of Northern Portugal. It possessed also in Elvas a counterpart to
Almeida. But Badajoz is immensely larger and stronger than Rodrigo,
just as Elvas is infinitely more formidable than Almeida. The two
fortresses on the frontier of Leon are small places crowning mere
mounds set in a plain. Badajoz and Elvas have towering citadels
set on rugged hills, and overlooking the whole country-side. They
have also strong detached forts on dominant positions: the circuit
of ground that must be taken up by an army that intends to besiege
them is very large, and at Badajoz there is a first-class river,
the Guadiana, which cuts in two the lines which the assailant must
occupy. It may be added that based on Badajoz there was a whole
Spanish army of 15,000 men, not a mere division of 3,000, like that
which lurked in the mountains above Rodrigo. Noting the strength of
Badajoz and Elvas, the Emperor had made up his mind that they should
be observed and ‘contained’ by troops from the Army of Andalusia,
but not attacked till Lisbon had been conquered and the English
expelled from Portugal. ‘Les Anglais une fois battus et rembarqués,
Badajoz et Elvas tombent d’eux-mêmes,’ he wrote in a holograph minute
addressed to Masséna, just before the advance across the Portuguese
frontier began[164]. It was only when the invasion had been brought
to a standstill before the lines of Torres Vedras, that he came to
the conclusion that pressure must be applied south of the Tagus, to
distract Wellington, and that Soult, as a preliminary to an attack
on the Alemtejo, must capture Badajoz and Elvas, and disperse the
Spanish Army of Estremadura. The idea came to him tardily: thanks to
Wellington’s careful starvation of the main French army, Masséna was
forced to retreat into Leon when Soult had only recently captured
Badajoz, and had not yet shown a man in front of Elvas. The scheme
was hatched, like so many of Napoleon’s Spanish plans, about three
months too late for effective realization. As late as November 1810
the orders to Soult are merely to demonstrate against Badajoz, and
to hinder the departure of La Romana’s army for the lines of Torres
Vedras, but not to besiege the Estremaduran fortress. Probably it was
Foy’s information as to the existence and strength of the unsuspected
lines of Torres Vedras, which reached him late in November, that made
the Emperor realize the advisability of that secondary attack by
the south bank of the Tagus which Wellington had foreseen and taken
means to meet a full year before. Fortunately a capable general on
the defensive always knows his own weak spots long before they are
discovered by the enemy. By the time that Soult had at last captured
Badajoz and the small dependent places--Olivenza, Albuquerque, Campo
Mayor--Wellington had got rid of Masséna from the neighbourhood of
Lisbon, and was preparing to chase him home across Northern Portugal.
Within a few weeks of its surrender by the traitor Imaz, Badajoz was
being besieged by a detachment of the British army, and Soult had
his hands full, as he strove at once to hold down Andalusia and to
relieve the beleaguered fortress.

  [164] Napoleon to Masséna, July 29, 1810, _Corresp._, xx. p. 552.



SECTION XIX: CHAPTER II

WELLINGTON’S PREPARATIONS FOR DEFENCE


As far back as September 1809, while his army still lay at Badajoz
and the Talavera campaign was hardly over, Wellington had foreseen
the oncoming invasion of Portugal, which did not actually begin till
August 1810[165]. Writing to his brother, then on his special mission
to Seville, he had laid down his conclusions. Bonaparte would, in
consequence of the cessation of the Austrian war, be enabled to
pour unlimited reinforcements into Spain. The British army, even
if raised to 40,000 men, would not be strong enough to cover both
Seville and Lisbon. Considering the temper of the Spanish government
and the Spanish troops, he thought it would be most unadvisable to
commit himself to the defence of Andalusia. But he was prepared to
undertake the defence of Portugal. He implored the British Ministry
not to sacrifice its strong position on the Tagus in order to
embark upon a hazardous campaign in the South[166]. His views as to
Portugal were simply the development of those which he had drawn up
for Castlereagh’s eye on his first sailing for the Peninsula[167].
Portugal though ‘all frontier’ might be defended against any French
army of less than 100,000 men, if its resources were placed at his
disposal, and he were given a free hand to utilize them according
to his own plan. The Portland Cabinet, though much doubting whether
Wellington could carry out his pledge, and though reluctant to
abandon the idea that Andalusia might be defended and Cadiz made
secure by British troops, finally yielded to the General’s appeal.

  [165] For his views just after Talavera see vol. ii. of this
  work, pages 609-10.

  [166] ‘I strongly recommend to you, unless you mean to incur the
  risk of the loss of your army, not to have anything to do with
  Spanish warfare, on any ground whatever, in the existing state
  of things.... If you should take up Cadiz you must lay down
  Portugal.’ Wellington to Castlereagh, _Dispatches_, v. 90.

  [167] See vol. ii. pages 286-8.

But on December 2, 1809, the Portland Cabinet gave place to Spencer
Perceval’s new administration, and Wellington had to reiterate
the arguments which he had used to Castlereagh and Canning to new
correspondents, Lord Liverpool and Lord Bathurst. Fortunately the
incoming ministers resolved to adhere to the promises made by their
predecessors, and to persist in the defence of Portugal. It was of
immense value to Wellington that his brother Wellesley soon replaced
Lord Bathurst at the Foreign Office, so that he could command in
this Ministry a supporter as firm as Castlereagh had been in the
last. Nevertheless his position was not entirely fortunate: the
new administration was being fiercely assailed by the Whigs over
the general policy of risking British armies on the Continent. The
calamities of the Walcheren expedition supplied a text on which the
Opposition could preach interminable sermons. The men who were not
ashamed to allege, for party reasons, that Wellington was a rash
general, and that the Talavera campaign had been a disaster, were
continually harassing the Ministry, by their suggestions that when
the French Emperor marched in person to Spain the British army in the
Peninsula must inevitably be destroyed. It was probably to aid them
that Napoleon kept inserting in the _Moniteur_ articles in which it
was asserted that the maintenance of the incapable ‘Sepoy General’ at
the head of the British forces was the thing which France must most
desire. In Lord Liverpool’s correspondence with Wellington it is easy
to see that the idea that it might be necessary to evacuate Portugal,
when the French attack was delivered, almost preponderated over that
of preparing for the defence of that realm. While Wellington’s whole
mind is set on working out the details of a campaign from which he
hopes great things, his correspondent is always thinking of the
possibility of a disastrous embarkation at the end of it. The General
could not pledge himself that Portugal might be defended against any
odds whatever: it was possible that the Emperor might lead or send
against him an army of absolutely overpowering strength, though he
did not think such a contingency probable. But since he could not
say that his position was impregnable, he was being continually
worried with suggestions as to all the possible contingencies that
might occur to his discomfiture. The ministers dreaded that the
Peninsular venture might end in a fiasco, like the Duke of York’s
Dutch expedition of 1799, and thought that such a failure would lose
them their offices. Hence they were nervous about every false rumour
that reached them from France concerning the Emperor’s approaching
departure; and the more certain information about the immense numbers
of troops that were passing the Pyrenees filled them with dread.
It required all Wellington’s robust self-confidence to keep them
reassured. He had to be perpetually repeating to them that all his
preparations for retreat and embarkation, if the worst should happen,
had been already thought out--they might make up their minds that he
would do nothing rash. But he was inclined to think that there would
in the end be no need to depart. ‘I shall delay the embarkation,’ he
wrote, ‘as long as it is in my power, and shall do everything that is
in my power to avert the necessity of embarking at all. If the enemy
should invade this country with a force less than that which I should
think so superior to ours as to create a necessity for embarking, I
shall fight a battle to save the country, and for this I have made
the preparations.’ He did not think he could be beaten; but if, by
some mischance, the fortune of war went against him, he had still
no doubt that he could bring off the army in safety. ‘If we do go,
I feel a little anxiety to go like gentlemen, out of the hall door
(particularly after all the preparations I have made to enable us to
do so), and not out of the back door or by the area.’

It is curious to find that in this most interesting dispatch to
Lord Liverpool Wellington distinctly asserts that his worst enemy
was the ghost of Sir John Moore[168]. ‘The great disadvantage under
which I labour is that Sir John Moore, who was here before me, gave
his opinion that Portugal could not be defended by the army under
his command. It is obvious that the country was in a very different
situation at that time from what it is at present, and that I am in a
very different situation from that in which he found himself ..., yet
persons who ought to be better acquainted with these facts entertain
a certain prejudice against the adoption of any plan for opposing
the enemy of which Portugal is to be the theatre. I have as much
respect as any man for the opinion and judgement of Sir John Moore,
and I should mistrust my own if it were opposed to his in a case
where he had had the opportunity of knowing and considering. But he
positively knew nothing about Portugal, and could know nothing about
its existing state[169].’

  [168] See also vol. ii. page 286, of this book.

  [169] All these quotations are from Wellington to Lord Liverpool,
  April 2, 1810, a long dispatch written from Vizeu, every word of
  which is well worth study.

The most vexatious thing for Wellington was that ‘the persons who
ought to have known better,’ yet were perpetually uttering melancholy
vaticinations as to the approach of disaster, included some of
his own senior officers. I have seen a letter from a general in
Portugal to his friend in England containing such phrases as this:
‘I most strongly suspect that before many months are over our heads
there will be no opportunity for this employment (that of a cavalry
brigadier) left to _any one_, on the Continent at least. The next
campaign will close the eventful scene in the Peninsula, as far as we
are concerned; for I am decidedly of opinion that neither (Marshal)
Wellington nor (Marshal) Beresford will prevent the approaching
subjugation of Portugal.’ Or again: ‘I am quite surprised at Lord
W.’s pliant disposition. I suspect he feels himself tottering on his
throne, and wishes to conciliate at any sacrifice[170].’ The frequent
complaints in Wellington’s correspondence as to the sort of letters
that were going home to England in the spring of 1810 sufficiently
show that these down-hearted views were not uncommon among his
subordinates. If the generals on the spot foresaw disaster, it is no
wonder that the ministers in London felt anxious, and refused to be
comforted by the confident dispatches of the Commander-in-Chief.

  [170] I found these passages in letters to Sir John Le Marchant,
  then in command at the Staff College at High Wycombe, from a
  highly-placed friend in Portugal. It is notable that other
  contemporary epistles from younger men, old pupils of Le
  Marchant, show a far more cheery spirit. The correspondence (from
  which I shall have many other passages to quote) was placed at my
  disposition by the kindness of Sir Henry Le Marchant, grandson of
  Sir John.

The preparations which Wellington was making during the winter of
1809-10 and the ensuing spring, for the reception of the inevitable
French invasion, may be arranged, in the main, under three heads. We
must first treat of the complete reorganization of the Portuguese
military forces, not only the regulars but the militia, and the old
_levée en masse_ of the Ordenança. Second come the elaborate plans
for the construction of enormous field-works for the protection of
Lisbon, the famous lines of Torres Vedras, and the fortification of
certain other, and more advanced, points. The third, and in some
ways the most important of all, was the arrangement of the great
scheme for devastating the country-side in front of the invader, and
fighting him by the weapon of starvation, a device new to the French,
but not unprecedented in the earlier history of Portugal.

The Portuguese regular army had taken hardly any part in the
campaigns of 1809. The only sections of it that had been under fire
were Silveira’s two regiments, the four battalions that marched with
Wellington to Oporto in May, and Wilson’s Loyal Lusitanian Legion,
which had fought with more valour than success at the bridge of
Alcantara and the Pass of Baños[171]. Beresford, with the greater
part of the troops that were in a condition to take the field, had
been out on the border in July, and had remained for some days in
Spain, on the side of Coria and Zarza Mayor, but he had never been in
contact with the enemy[172]. The fighting power of the reorganized
Portuguese army was still a doubtful quantity.

  [171] See vol. ii. pages 440-1 and 620.

  [172] See vol. ii. pages 600-1. Beresford had some 18,000 men
  with him.

The field-strength of the Portuguese regular forces should have
been, according to its establishments, 56,000 men. In September 1809
there were only 42,000 men with the colours[173], and of these much
more than half were recruits, who had recently been thrust into the
depleted _cadres_ of the old army. There were many regiments which
had been practically destroyed by the French, and which showed,
when Beresford first marched out to the frontier, only 200 or 300
men instead of their normal 1,500[174]. Many others had less than
half their complement. The first thing that required to be done was
to fill up the gaps, and this was accomplished during the winter
of 1809-10 by a stringent use of the conscription law already
existing. The line regiments in the Bussaco campaign showed, with
hardly an exception, 1,200 or 1,300 effectives present--i.e. if the
sick and ‘details’ are added they were nearly or quite up to their
establishment of 1,500[175]. The cavalry was less effective: the
number of men could be filled up, but horses were hard to find,
and in the end Wellington sent four of the twelve regiments to do
dismounted duty in garrison, and served out their mounts to the
remaining eight, which nevertheless could never show more than 300
or 400 sabres present, out of their nominal 594. Portugal is not a
horse-breeding country, and the British cavalry was competing with
the native for the small supply of remounts that could be procured.
The artillery, on the other hand, was high in strength and very
satisfactory.

  [173] See tables in vol. ii. pages 629-31.

  [174] On Sept. 15, 1809, the 22nd, which had been destroyed by
  Soult at Oporto, had only 193 men. The 8th had but 369, the 15th
  577, the 24th 505.

  [175] Ten regiments present at Bussaco had over 1,100 men each,
  only one less than 800. This was the 22nd, mentioned above as
  practically non-existent a year before. It had only recruited
  up to the strength of one battalion: all the rest had two. The
  strongest regiment was the 11th with 1,438 men.

Mere numbers are no test of the efficiency of a host. The weak
point of the old national army had been--as we mentioned in
another place--the effete and unmilitary character of its body of
officers--more especially of its senior officers[176]. The junior
ranks, filled up since the French invasion with young men who had
taken up the military career from patriotic motives, were infinitely
better. By the second year of the war there were many admirable
officers among them. But it was men capable of handling a battalion
or a regiment that were wanting. We saw how Beresford had been forced
to introduce many British officers into the service, though he was
aware that the personal pride of the Portuguese officers was bitterly
hurt thereby. His justification may be deduced from a confidential
memorandum written for him by his chief-of-the-staff, Benjamin
D’Urban[177], which is well worth quoting:--

  [176] See vol. ii. pages 210-15.

  [177] This unpublished document here quoted, along with the whole
  of Sir Benjamin’s journal and correspondence, has been placed at
  my disposal by his grandson, Mr. D’Urban. They are invaluable for
  the Portuguese aspect of the War.

‘There are yet among the field officers, captains, and older
subalterns a number of incorrigible officers of the old school, who
are a dead weight upon their respective regiments, and mischievous in
the way of example. Whenever it may be thought expedient, from time
to time, to get rid of them, there will be no difficulty in finding
excellent young men to replace them from the ranks respectively
below.... But I feel it incumbent upon me to give it you as my
decided opinion, resulting from a close investigation into the causes
of the defects of the Portuguese, that it will be utterly impossible
either to make a regiment fit for service, or to preserve it when
made so, without giving it an English commanding-officer and at least
two English captains.

‘The Portuguese soldier is naturally indolent. He falls with the
greatest facility into slouching and slovenly habits, unless he is
constantly roused and forced to exert himself. But many a Portuguese
officer, if not constantly spurred and urged to do his duty, is at
least as indolent as his men. Nothing (I am persuaded by experience)
will counteract this, and create activity among the officers and
consequent diligence and care among the men, but the strictness,
energy and vigilance of an English commanding-officer.

‘Even supposing a sufficient energy of character in the native
officer, he does not and will not, if he be not a _Fidalgo_ himself,
exercise coercive or strong measures to oblige one of that class
to do his duty. He is aware that in doing so he makes a powerful
enemy, and all the habits of thought in which he has been educated
inspire him with such a dread of this, that no sense of duty will
urge him to encounter it. Thus, whenever a regiment is commanded by a
non-Fidalgo, it never fails to suffer extremely: for the noblemen are
permitted to do as they please, and afford a very bad example, for
they are at least as indolent as the ordinary Portuguese.

‘The English captains will be found invaluable, especially in the
hands of an English commandant. Their example is infinitely useful.
The Portuguese captains are piqued into activity and attention,
when they see their companies excelled in efficiency by those
of the English, and they do from emulation what a sense of duty
would perhaps never bring them to. There are a variety of by-paths
and oblique means by which the parts of a Portuguese corps are
constantly, and almost insensibly, endeavouring to return to the old
habits that they are so much attached to. To nip this, from time to
time, in the bud, it is necessary to be aware of it: without the
faithful surveillance of English subordinate officers (who, ever
mixing with the mass of the men, can’t well be ignorant of what is
going on) the commanding-officer can rarely be warned in time.’

Beresford replied that all this was true, but that ‘the national
feeling required management,’ and that to place every regimental
or brigade command in British hands would provoke such fierce
jealousy that he was ‘compelled to humour the prejudices and satisfy
the pride of the nation.’ His device for doing this was to make
a general rule that wherever a Portuguese officer was in chief
command he should have a British officer second in command under
him, and vice versa[178]. When a brigade was given to a Portuguese,
he managed that the two colonels of the regiments forming it should
be Englishmen; similarly, if a Portuguese commanded a regiment
his senior major was always an Englishman. By this means it was
secured that a fair half of the higher pieces of promotion should
be left to the native officers, but that every Portuguese placed
in a responsible position should have a British officer at his
back. In addition there were from two to four British captains in
each battalion, but no subalterns; for, to encourage good men to
volunteer into the Portuguese service, it was provided that all who
did so should receive a step of promotion, and a British lieutenant
became a Portuguese captain on exchange, and a British captain a
Portuguese major. The system seems to have worked well, and with
far less friction than might have been expected[179]. The better
class of native officers were piqued into emulation, just as D’Urban
had expected; the worst was gradually eliminated[180]. It must be
noted that to every battalion there were added one or two British
sergeants, whose services were needed for the drilling of the men in
the English exercises, which now superseded the old German system
left behind by La Lippe, the last reorganizer of the Portuguese army.
For the whole drill of the infantry was changed, and the British
formations and manœuvres introduced. Dundas’s ‘Eighteen Manœuvres’
were translated, and became the Bible of the Lusitanian no less than
the British officer[181]. The employment of the two-deep line, the
essential feature of the system, was made the base of all Portuguese
drill; at Bussaco it justified itself. The Caçadores were trained
on the ‘Rifle Regulations’ of Coote Manningham, and their uniform
was modified in cut, though not in colour, to a close resemblance
of that of the British rifleman[182]. The net result of all these
changes was that for the future the British and Portuguese units of
Wellington’s army could be moved by the same words of command, and in
the same formations, and that all the disadvantages resulting from
the coexistence of two different systems of drill disappeared.

  [178] This rule I find definitely laid down in a letter of
  Hardinge, Beresford’s Quartermaster-general, written as late as
  1812, but the practice was already in full use by 1810.

  [179] For narratives of the daily life of a British officer in a
  Portuguese regiment see Bunbury’s _Reminiscences of a Veteran_,
  and Blakiston’s _Twelve Years of Military Adventure_. Both had
  their difficulties, but both, on the whole, got on well with
  their colleagues. D’Urban’s correspondence supplies a frequent
  commentary on regimental problems.

  [180] How this was done may be read in Blakiston.

  [181] See Bunbury, p. 54.

  [182] They were dressed in dark brown instead of in the rifle
  green. The shako, coat, and trousers were of the British model.

Two principal difficulties still remained in the administration of
the Portuguese army. The first was, what to do with the few senior
officers of undoubted patriotism but more doubtful capacity, who
were too important and influential to be placed upon the shelf,
yet might cause a disaster if placed in a critical position of
responsibility. The most notable of them was Silveira, who had
acquired much popularity by his obstinate, if ill-managed, resistance
to Soult in the spring of 1809. Wellington, with many searchings
of heart, placed him in command of the Tras-os-Montes, where it
was most unlikely that any serious irruption of the French would
take place[183]. He had a large force placed under him, but it did
not include a single regular regiment, and, with militia only at
his disposition, it was hoped that he would be discouraged from
attempting any hazardous experiments. Moreover, he was given a
British second-in-command, first John Wilson and afterwards Miller,
to curb his eccentricities so far as was possible. Baccelar, another
officer of doubtful merit, but more dangerous from torpidity than
from rashness, was given charge of the militia of the three northern
provinces, so that Silveira was technically under his orders--though
the nominal subordinate would seem to have paid little attention
to his superior. The most important post, however, assigned to a
Portuguese officer was the governorship of Elvas, the strongest
fortress of Portugal, and one which would stand in the forefront of
the battle if the French made the subsidiary invasion south of the
Tagus, which Wellington was inclined to expect. The command of this
great stronghold and the 6,000 men of its garrison (of whom half
were regulars) was given to General Leite, an active and ingenious
officer, and (what was more important) a man who obeyed orders. Of
all the Portuguese he was the one whom Wellington most trusted; every
British narrator of the war who came in contact with him has a word
of praise in his behalf. Of the other native generals, Lecor, in
command of a division, and Fonseca, in command of a brigade, were
with the field army. Miranda was given charge of the militia of
Northern Estremadura, who were likely to be in the thickest of the
trouble. But the other Portuguese units of the allied host were under
British officers: Pack, Archibald and Alexander Campbell, MacMahon,
Coleman, Harvey, Collins, and Bradford had charge of the regular
brigades of the field army. The native generals, save those above
mentioned, were placed in administrative posts, or in charge of
those sections of the militia which were probably destined to see no
service.

  [183] Silveira was the despair of Beresford and his
  chief-of-the-staff D’Urban. The latter writes (Apr. 19, 1810):
  ‘This general is the most extraordinary of all the people in this
  extraordinary country. Perpetually fluctuating--incapable of
  standing still--always wishing to move backward or forward--all
  his movements to no purpose but that of harassing his troops. The
  man is either very weak or very designing--perhaps both. Anyhow
  he is a mischievous charlatan, and I wish the Marshal would not
  yield to the prejudices of the people by employing him.’

The second point of difficulty in the organization of the Portuguese
army was the commissariat. In the old days it had been a purely
civilian branch of the service, non-military intendants dealing with
contractors and merchants. For this had been substituted a _Junta de
Viveres_ mainly composed of officers, which proved as ineffective,
if not as corrupt, as the body which had preceded it. The British
government had taken over the responsibility of paying half the
Portuguese army[184], but not that of feeding it, and despite of
the handsome subsidies that it paid to the Regency for the general
purposes of the war, the native troops, especially those quartered
far from Lisbon, were often in a state of semi-starvation. ‘The
Portuguese corps ought to have a commissariat attached to them, and
I believe each brigade has a commissary,’ wrote Wellington, ‘but
they have no magazines and no money to purchase supplies[185].’ One
main difficulty arose from the fact that the Junta de Viveres shrank
from the heavy expense of organizing a proper transport train, and
tried to make shift with requisitioned carts and oxen, which were
difficult to get (since the British army was competing with the
Portuguese for draught animals) and still harder to retain--for the
peasant driver always absconded with his beasts when he found an
opportunity. Another difficulty was that the Junta tried to feed
the troops with requisitioned corn, instead of paying for it with
money down; hence it got grudging service. ‘I know from experience,’
observes Wellington, ‘that the Portuguese army could not be in the
distress under which it suffers, from want of provisions, if only
a part of the food it receives from the country were paid for.’
And he suggested as a remedy that the British ministers should
earmark part of the subsidy for use on the commissariat and no other
purpose[186]. It was long before this matter was set to rights.
Beresford’s correspondence in 1810 bristles with complaints as to the
inefficiency of the Junta de Viveres[187].

  [184] Viz. the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th,
  15th, 16th, 19th of the line, and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Caçadores.

  [185] Wellington to Hill, Jan. 24, 1810.

  [186] Wellington to Villiers, Jan. 25, 1810.

  [187] D’Urban writes, May 4, ‘Such is the poverty, imbecility,
  and want of arrangement of the Portuguese government, that any
  regular system of supply is not to be expected. The whole civil
  branch of the army is in such a state of confusion, that I hold
  it impossible to carry on active operations for more than a few
  weeks.’

If the regular army was badly fed, so that desertion and sickness
were both too prevalent in some corps, it was not to be expected
that the militia would fare better. Wellington had ordered, and
Beresford had arranged for, the embodiment of every one of the 48
militia regiments of the national establishment. They should properly
have given 70,000 men, but such a figure was never reached. Some of
the regimental districts were too thinly peopled to give the full
1,500 men at which each was assessed. In others the officers placed
in charge were incapable, or the local magistrates recalcitrant.
Many regiments could show only 500 or 600 bayonets in 1810, few over
1,000[188]. The total number under arms at the time of Masséna’s
invasion may have reached 45,000 bayonets. Of the 48 regiments eight
belonged to the lands south of the Tagus, and were never brought up
to the front; they furnished the garrisons of Elvas and Campo Mayor,
and a corps of observation on the lower Guadiana, destined to watch
the French in the direction of Ayamonte and the Condado de Niebla,
lest any unexpected raid might be made in that quarter[189]. The
five regiments from the district immediately round the capital were
at work on the ever-growing lines of Torres Vedras. One regiment
was in garrison at Peniche, two at Abrantes, three at Almeida. The
main force, consisting of the remaining units contributed by the
North and the Beira, was divided into five corps, destined partly
for active operations against the enemy’s flanks and rear, when
he should enter Portugal, partly for the defence of Oporto and
the Tras-os-Montes, if any assault should be threatened in that
direction. These divisions stood as follows:--three regiments under
Lecor were left in the Castello Branco country, to protect it against
raids from Spanish Estremadura. Seven under Trant, all corps from
the coast-land between the Douro and the Mondego, were to cover
Oporto from the south, or to operate against the rear of the invading
army, if it should leave that city alone and keep on the direct
road to Lisbon. Six under Silveira guarded the Tras-os-Montes, and
watched the French detachments in the northern part of the plains of
Leon. Eight under Miller lay around Oporto, ready to support either
Silveira or Trant if occasion should arise[190]. After the campaign
began, and Masséna’s intention to leave the North alone became
evident, half Miller’s division was placed under John Wilson (who had
originally been Silveira’s chief-of-the-staff and second-in-command)
and sent south into the Beira to co-operate with Trant. Finally,
four regiments under the Portuguese brigadier Miranda lay at Thomar,
apparently for the purpose of aiding Lecor or strengthening the
garrison of Abrantes. This division ultimately retreated into the
lines of Torres Vedras.

  [188] I note in D’Urban’s diary, when he was making an inspection
  tour with Beresford at the end of the winter, ‘At Sardão a very
  good regiment of militia, 1,100 strong, that of Maia.’ ‘Abrantes,
  two regiments of militia, Lousão 1,035, Soure 1,035, all armed.’
  But, on the other hand, ‘Vizeu, Arganil, Trancoso, ordered to be
  assembled at Almeida, have only--the first 867, the second 600,
  the last 505 firelocks, and the description of troops the very
  worst.’ Of course the numbers were somewhat higher by the next
  August.

  [189] These regiments were Lagos, Tavira, Beja, Evora,
  Villaviciosa, Portalegre, Alcazar do Sul, Setubal.

  [190] It may be well to name, once for all, the composition of
  these Militia Brigades. They were distributed as follows:--

    Garrison of Abrantes:
        Lousão
        Soure
    Garrison of Almeida:
        Vizeu
        Arganil
        Trancoso
    In the Lines:
        1, 2, 3, 4 of Lisbon
        Torres Vedras
    With Lecor about Castello Branco:
        Idanha
        Covilhão
        Castello Branco
    Under Miller about Oporto:
        Guimaraens
        Viana
        Braga
        Basto
        Villa do Conde
        Arcos
        Barcellos
        Barco
    With Trant, between the Douro and the Mondego:
        Aveiro
        Feira
        Coimbra
        Porto
        Maia
        Penafiel
        Oliveira do Azemis
    With Silveira about Braganza:
        Lamego
        Chaves
        Villa Real
        Braganza
        Miranda
        Moncorvo
    With Miranda about Thomar:
        Tondella
        Santarem
        Thomar
        Leiria

  Of Miller’s division, I think, but am not sure, that the last
  four were those detached under Wilson in September.

All these troops were entirely unfitted for a place in the line of
battle; Wellington refused to mix them with the regular brigades,
save in the garrisons of Almeida, Abrantes, and Elvas. He directed
the brigadiers never to risk them in battle, even against a much
inferior force of the French. Their sole purpose was to cut lines of
communication, to render marauding by the enemy’s small detachments
impossible, and to restrict his power of making reconnaissances far
afield. They were told that they might defend a pass or a ford for
a time, so as to delay the advance of a hostile column, but that
they were never to commit themselves to a serious combat with any
considerable body. Convoys, stragglers, small detachments, were the
game on which they must prey. The programme was not a brilliant
one to lay down before an ambitious officer, and more than once
Silveira, Trant, and Wilson disobeyed orders, and tried to withstand
a full French division in some chosen position. Such experiments
almost always ended in a disaster. It was not surprising, for the
militia were not troops from whom much could be expected. The best
men in every district had been taken for the regular army; all
the trained officers were also needed there. The militia _cadres_
were composed of civilians who had to learn their duties just as
much as the privates whom they were supposed to instruct. All the
patriotic and energetic young men of the governing classes had
sought commissions in the line; the less willing and active were
driven into the militia. Service therein brought neither much credit
nor much promotion. If the Regency half-starved the regulars, it
three-quarter-starved the militia, which was normally in a state
of destitution of clothing, shoes, and food. Hardly a regiment was
provided with uniforms; as a rule only the officers showed the
regulation blue and silver. As long as the corps was in its own
district it was fed somehow, but when moved to some strategical point
in the rugged mountains of the Beira, it was liable to go wholly
to pieces from sheer privation. Fortunately the Portuguese peasant
led a frugal life at all times, and expected little; the desertion,
though large, was not nearly so great as might have been expected.
The fact was that the men were essentially loyal, and hated the
French with a perfect hatred. They might be very poor soldiers, but
they were very bitter personal enemies of the invader. Nevertheless,
they were liable to panics on very slight provocation. ‘At the best
they are a very daily and uncertain sort of fighting people[191],’
remarked one of their leaders. Another wrote in a more forcible
language, ‘Scripture says, Put not your trust in princes--I say,
Fool is the man who puts his trust in a damnable militia.’ Each of
these sentences was indited the day after a disastrous and wholly
unnecessary rout.

  [191] D’Urban to Wilson, and Trant to Wilson, after two
  unfortunate incidents in 1812, when the militia had been more or
  less under arms for two whole years. The former are in D’Urban’s,
  the latter in Wilson’s correspondence.

Over and above the regular army and the militia, the Portuguese
military system contemplated the utilization of the whole _levée
en masse_ of the nation under the name of the Ordenança. This was
no foreshadowing of the modern idea of universal service, but a
survival of the mediaeval practice which, in Portugal as in England,
made every freeman liable to be called out in time of extremity,
at his own cost and with his own weapons. Every peasant between
sixteen and sixty was theoretically supposed to be enrolled in one
of the companies of 250 which each group of villages was supposed
to possess. The organization had been effective enough in the old
mediaeval wars with Castile: it had even proved serviceable in the
‘War of Independence’ that followed the successful rising of 1640.
But against modern regular armies it was comparatively useless; when
called out in the war of 1762 the Ordenança had not justified its
old reputation. Little could be expected of mobs armed with pikes
and fowling-pieces, save that they should cut off a few convoys and
stragglers, or occasionally obstruct a defile. A French officer who
deeply studied this forgotten campaign wrote that, ‘whatever the
Spaniards may say to the contrary, this war of the peasantry is
by no means important, except against ignorant and undisciplined
troops[192].’

  [192] Dumouriez, _State of Portugal_, page 22. There was,
  however, one notable combat at Villa Pouca in the Tras-os-Montes
  where a whole Spanish column of 3,000 men was defeated by the
  Ordenança.

When Wellington resolved to call out the Ordenança in 1810 he was
ignorant of none of these facts. Nevertheless, he insisted that
the Regency should issue the old royal ‘Ordinance’ to call out the
levy. His object was threefold: from the political and moral point
of view it was necessary to take this measure, because it was the
ancient and established method of proclaiming that the country was
in danger. It was so understood by the peasantry, in whose memories
the traditions of the Spanish invasions were still fresh; they
expected to be summoned, and would have doubted the imminence of the
emergency if they had not been. The call was at once an appeal to
their patriotism, and equivalent to a proclamation of martial law.
Secondly, Wellington hoped to find assistance to a certain degree
for the work which he had set aside for the militia, by the aid of
the Ordenança. Pervading the whole country-side, and knowing every
goat-track and inaccessible fastness, their motley companies would
surround the invading army as it marched, prevent marauding by small
parties, and render inter-communication between columns impossible,
save by large detachments. French narrators of the campaign speak of
‘the cruel callousness with which Wellington exposed these half-armed
peasants to the wrath of the most efficient army in the world,’ and
wax sentimental over the miseries of the Portuguese. But sentiment
from such a quarter is suspicious: it is absurd to find old soldiers
writing as if the main duty of a general defending a country were
to spare its peasantry as much inconvenience as possible. Did not
Napoleon in 1814 make every endeavour to raise Lorraine and Champagne
_en masse_ in the rear of the Allies, and has any French critic
ever blamed him for doing so? Was the actual misery suffered by
the inhabitants of Beira so much greater than what they would have
endured if they had remained at home, and offered no resistance? The
country-side would have been stripped bare by an army forced to make
‘war support war,’ and one can hardly believe, judging from parallel
incidents in Spain, that outrages would have been conspicuous by
their absence.

But it would seem that the third of Wellington’s reasons for calling
out the Ordenança was far more cogent, and lay nearer to the heart
of his scheme than the other two. Throughout Portuguese history the
summons to the levy _en masse_ had always been combined with another
measure, from which indeed it could not be disentangled--the order
to the whole population to evacuate and devastate the land in face
of the advancing enemy. The use of the weapon of starvation against
the French was an essential part of Wellington’s plan for defending
Portugal. When he told the British Ministry that he would undertake
the defence of the realm, this was one of the main conditions of his
pledge. He had realized the great fact that the conduct of the war
in the Peninsula depended on supplies: the old aphorism that ‘beyond
the Pyrenees large armies starve and small armies get beaten’ was
at the back of all his schemes for the year 1810. He calculated
that the French would find the greatest difficulty in accumulating
stores sufficient to feed an army of invasion large enough to attack
Portugal, and that, even if such stores could be gathered, there
would be a still greater difficulty in getting them to the front as
they were needed. For not only would it be hard to collect the mass
of transport required for an army of 70,000, 80,000, or 100,000 men,
but the convoys which it formed would find it impossible to move
over the vast stretch of bad roads between Salamanca and Lisbon,
when the communications were cut and the Militia and Ordenança were
infesting every pass and hillside. It was almost certain that the
invaders would make no such attempt to feed themselves from the
rear, but would start with a moderate train, carrying no more than
provisions for a week or two, and hoping to subsist (in the usual
French style) on the resources of the invaded country. Such resources
Wellington was determined that they should not find. They would ere
long be starved out, and forced to fall back on their magazines,
certainly losing a large proportion of their men from privations by
the way. If this scheme had been carried out with rigid perfection,
Masséna’s invasion would have amounted to no more than a promenade
to Torres Vedras, and a prompt return to the borders of Spain with
a famished army. Unfortunately the device, though it worked well
and was ultimately quite successful, was not perfectly executed in
every corner and by every subordinate, so that the French, showing
a magnificent obstinacy, and suffering untold privations, remained
before the Lines for three months before they retired. But retire
they did, and with a loss of a third of their army, and a deplorable
decadence of their morale, so that Wellington’s scheme was fully
justified[193].

  [193] Unlike the many French writers who content themselves
  with denouncing Wellington’s inhumanity, Pelet (Masséna’s
  chief confidant) confesses that the English general’s plan was
  perfectly logical. In his _Aperçu de la Campagne de Portugal_,
  he writes, ‘On a critiqué sans raison son système de guerre.
  Il était à peu près infaillible contre un ennemi inférieur en
  nombre. Mais peu de généraux oseront “sauver un pays” d’une telle
  manière.’

The plan for defeating the enemy by the system of devastation was
neither ‘dictated by the hard heart of a general trained in the
atrocious wars of the East,’ as certain French authors have written,
nor was it (as some of the English authors have supposed) suggested
to Wellington by the measures which had been taken in 1803-4 for
withdrawing all food and transport from the south coast of England,
if Napoleon should be successful in crossing from Boulogne. It was
an ancient Portuguese device, practised from time immemorial against
the Castilian invader, which had never failed of success. Nor had
it come to an end with the War of Independence of 1640, or the war
of the Spanish Succession of 1704. When Spain had made her last
serious assault on Portugal in 1762 (Godoy’s miserable mock-war of
1801 does not deserve to be counted), the plan had worked admirably.
When the Conde d’Aranda invaded the Beira ‘the country had been
“driven” in the most systematic style, and everything that could
not be carried off had been destroyed, so that the Spaniard found
himself in a desert, being unable to discover either provisions,
cars, or peasants: the inhabitants had abandoned their villages,
and carried off everything. The enemy had to be supplied with every
necessary from Spain: the infantry were harassed with fatigue in
remaking the roads, and the cavalry-horses destroyed in conducting
provisions. At last d’Aranda retreated, leaving his sick and wounded
at Castello Branco, with a letter commending them to the attention
of the allies[194].’ Of this same war Dumouriez wrote: ‘As soon as
the Spaniards enter Portugal the King publishes a declaration, by
which he enjoins on his subjects to fall upon the invaders, and the
national hatred always excites them to execute the “Ordinance.” As
the Spanish army pushes on, the villages are depopulated, and the
inhabitants fall back on the capital. The peasantry arrive there in
crowds with wives and children, so that the king at the end of three
months has 200,000 or 300,000 extra mouths to feed[195].’

  [194] Continuation of Vertot’s _History of Portugal_, ii. 51.

  [195] Dumouriez’s _State of Portugal_, p. 21, _n._

This sounds like a description of the great migration of 1810, but
was actually written in 1766. It is clear, then, that Wellington
did not invent the system of devastation, but simply utilized, and
carried out to its logical end, an old custom essentially national,
and familiar to the Portuguese from time immemorial. It was the
regular device of the weak against the strong in the Middle Ages,
and differed in nothing from ‘Good King Robert’s Testament,’ the
time-honoured system applied by the Scots to the English in the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

    ‘In strait placis gar hide all store,
    And byrnen ye plaineland thaim before,
    Thanne sall thei pass away in haist,
    When that thai find na thing but waist,
    So sall ye turn thaim with gret affrai,
    As thai were chasit with swerd awai.’

Fortunately for himself, for England, and for Europe, Wellington
had to deal with a peasantry almost as frugal, as tough, and as
stubborn in their hatred as the mediaeval Scot. They saw nothing
strange in the demand now made to them, and obeyed. The difficulty
lay with the townsfolk of large places, such as Coimbra, Thomar,
or Santarem, which lay far from the frontier, and had not the
old traditions of the peasantry, since the Spaniards had never
penetrated to their doors since the seventeenth century. Here
there was much recalcitrance, as was but natural; the burgher had
much to abandon where the peasant had little. Yet, as we shall see,
the scheme was carried out in the end, and those who stayed behind
to greet the French could be counted on one hand in places of the
size of Vizeu, Coimbra, or Leiria. That fanatical patriotism went
far towards producing such a result is true, but does not explain
the whole matter: quite as strong a motive was the unforgotten tale
of the horrors that had followed Soult’s entry into Oporto. To the
Portuguese citizens the approach of the French meant probable murder
and rape, hence came the readiness that they showed to depart. There
were exaggerated rumours abroad of the ruthlessness of the French:
was not Loison, the ‘Maneta’ of whom so many atrocious (and mostly
false) stories were told, known to be in high command?

Wellington’s scheme for the clearing of the country-side in face
of the enemy had long been thought out. It included not merely the
evacuation of the towns and villages, but the destruction of bridges,
mills, even ovens; the removal of all animals and means of transport,
the destruction of all food-stuff that could not be carried off, the
burning of all ferry-boats and other small craft on the navigable
rivers. ‘The moment that the enemy crosses the frontier,’ he wrote to
Beresford, ‘the governor of the province of Estremadura must be told
that it is necessary to order all carts, carriages, and other means
of conveyance, with all the provisions they can carry, away. He ought
to have all his arrangements prepared for ordering them off as soon
as the French approach. The Captains Mor[196] and their Ordenança
must be prepared to give the enemy all the opposition in their power,
not by assembling in large bodies, but by lying out in the mountains
and the strong parts of the roads, annoying their patrols and small
parties, and interrupting their communications[197].’ This comes from
an order of February: by August, when a new harvest had been gathered
in, the question of the destruction of food stuffs became more
difficult. The peasantry, as was natural, persisted in hiding rather
than burning what could not be carried off. By one means or another
a certain number of these concealed stores, even when buried in pits
or removed to remote ravines, were discovered by the French, and
enabled them to prolong their precarious stay in front of the Torres
Vedras lines.

  [196] For these officers and their duties see vol. ii. pp. 221-2.

  [197] Wellington to Beresford, Vizeu, Feb. 28, 1810, long before
  the actual invasion.

As to the displacement of the population, Wellington considered
that in many parts it would be sufficient if it took to the hills
for a few days, while the French army was passing. His military
arrangements were such that he thought it impossible that the enemy
would be able either to leave small posts behind him, or to maintain
his lines of communication with Spain. It would suffice, therefore,
that the peasantry in parts off the main roads, and remote from large
towns or points of strategical importance, should make ready for a
merely temporary migration. They must always, however, be ready to
flit again, if fresh columns of the enemy, advancing or retreating,
should come near their abodes. The townsfolk and the inhabitants
of the fertile coast plains of Estremadura and Western Beira were
recommended to retire either to Lisbon or to Oporto, according as
they were nearer to one or to the other. It was clear that the
problem of feeding them there would be a matter for the Government,
for individuals of the poorer classes could not be expected to carry
or to buy provisions for many weeks. Hence there was a need for the
accumulation of immense stores, over and above those required for
the army. The Portuguese Regency did what it could, but in its usual
slip-shod and inefficient fashion, and there is no doubt that much
misery and a certain amount of starvation fell to the lot of the
unhappy emigrants. Fortunately Lisbon and Oporto were great ports
and full of food; but despite of this, the position of the refugees
became deplorable, when Masséna tarried at Santarem two months longer
than Wellington had considered probable. But their suffering was not
in vain: the French were starved out, even if it was a few weeks
later than had been expected.

Having dealt with the organization of the military force of Portugal,
and the arrangements for the depopulation of the country, we have
still to explain the third section of Wellington’s great scheme of
defence--that consisting of fortifications. We have already mentioned
that Almeida and Elvas had been repaired and garrisoned, the former
with 5,000 men, consisting of one regiment of regulars and three of
militia, under the English general William Cox, the other by 8,000
men,--two regiments of regulars and five of militia,--under General
Leite. These were the outer bulwarks of the realm. Campo Mayor, a
small and antiquated fortress, a sort of outlying dependency of
Elvas, was held by one militia battalion under a Colonel Talaya,
a retired engineer officer. It was not expected to make a serious
resistance, but did so in the time of need, and detained a French
division before its walls for some precious days in the spring of
1811, to the great glory and credit of its governor.

Only two other of the ancient fortresses of Portugal were placed in
a state of defence, and made to play a notable part in Wellington’s
general scheme for checking the French. These were Peniche and
Abrantes. The former is a very strong isolated sea-fortress, on a
projecting headland in the Atlantic, forty miles north of Lisbon. It
commands several good creeks and landing-places, suitable for the
embarkation and disembarkation of troops, and is nearly impregnable,
because of the narrowness of the isthmus connecting it with the
mainland. Placed where it is, just in the rear of the position which
an enemy must take who is meditating an attack on Lisbon, it offers
unique opportunities for making incursions on his rear and his
communications. Moreover, it afforded a refuge and a safe point of
departure by sea, for any section of the allied troops which might
become isolated, and be pressed towards the water by the advancing
enemy. Some of Wellington’s officers considered that it was an even
better place for embarkation than Lisbon, if the French should
prove too strong, and the British should be compelled to abandon
Portugal. The Commander-in-Chief thought otherwise, but caused its
fortification to be carefully restored, and garrisoned it with a
picked regiment of militia[198].

  [198] D’Urban says in his diary (Dec. 8, 1809): ‘Inspected
  Peniche. The isthmus over which the peninsula is approached is
  covered with water at high tide, and from the line of works
  describing a sort of arc, very powerful cross-fires may be
  established upon every part of it. There are nearly 100 good
  guns upon the work, the brass ones especially good. This is the
  most favourable position that can he conceived for embarking
  the British army, should it ever be necessary to do so. The
  circumference abounds with creeks and clefts in the rocks, inside
  which there is always smooth water, and easy egress for boats.
  They are out of the reach of fire from the mainland: indeed,
  there is sufficient room to encamp a large force perfectly beyond
  the range of the enemy. If it should be thought worth while, this
  peninsula could be held by England, even if Portugal otherwise
  were in the power of the enemy. There is abundance of water. If
  it be the wish of Lord Wellington he can retire upon Lisbon, give
  battle in front of it, and, if the day go against him, retreat
  upon Peniche and defend it so long as he pleases.’

Even more important than Peniche was Abrantes, the one great
crossing-place of the Tagus above Lisbon where there was a permanent
bridge, and free communication by good roads between Beira and
Alemtejo. It lies at the point where the road from Spain by way
of Castello Branco crosses the road from north to south down the
Portuguese frontier, from Almeida and Guarda to Evora and Elvas. An
invader who has advanced towards Lisbon through Beira has it on his
flank and rear, equally so an invader who has advanced on the same
objective from Badajoz and the Guadiana. It is the natural point
at which to move troops north and south along the frontier, though
Wellington had established an alternative temporary crossing-point at
Villa Velha, thirty miles higher up the river, by means of pontoons.
But this secondary passage was inferior in safety, since it was not
protected by a fortress like Abrantes. Orders were given to burn the
pontoons if ever a French force from the East should came near. At
Abrantes, on the other hand, the boat-bridge could be pulled up and
stacked under the city walls in the event of an attack, and did not
need to be destroyed. The town is situated on a lofty eminence upon
the north bank of the Tagus. Its fortifications were antiquated in
1809, but had been for many months in process of being rebuilt and
strengthened by the English engineer Patton. With new earthworks
and redoubts it had been made a strong place, which could not be
taken without a regular siege and plenty of heavy artillery. Here
Wellington had placed a garrison of two militia regiments under the
Portuguese general Lobo, whose orders were to resist to the last,
and to make sure of burning the boat-bridge, down to the last plank,
before surrendering. The French never put him to the test, since they
had no heavy guns with them, and therefore regarded it as hopeless
to attempt an attack on the place[199].

  [199] D’Urban has a long disquisition on Abrantes in his diary.
  Its weak points, he says, were an outlying hill on the Punhete
  road, which gave a favourable position for hostile batteries, and
  the friable nature of the gravelly soil, which did not bind well
  in trenches and outworks.

Almeida and Elvas, Peniche and Abrantes, were regular fortresses with
large garrisons. There were, however, other points where Wellington
ordered fortifications of a less permanent kind to be thrown up,
because he thought them of first-rate strategical importance. The two
most important were one on the northern line of advance which the
French might take, the other on the central or Castello Branco line.
The first was a line of redoubts behind the river Alva, just where it
joins the Mondego, on either side of the bridge and village of Ponte
de Murcella. It was here, he thought, that Masséna would choose his
road, along the south bank of the Mondego, if he marched on Lisbon
by the Beira line. But the Marshal moved by Vizeu, partly (as it
seems) because he had heard of the fortifications of this defile, and
the works were never used. Equally unprofitable (so it chanced) was
another important series of field-works, constructed to cover the
lowest reach of the Zezere against an invader who should come by the
Castello Branco road, and should have masked or taken Abrantes. This
was a line of redoubts and trenches, almost a fortified camp, on the
east bank of the river from Tancos to opposite Martinchel, blocking
both the roads which lead from Castello Branco into Estremadura.
Masséna, coming not by the route which was guarded against, but from
Leiria and Thomar, took the lines of Zezere in the rear, and they
proved useless.

Along with the precautions taken on the banks of the Alva and the
Zezere, two other pieces of engineering must be mentioned. The one,
the destruction of the _Estrada Nova_,--the mountain-road which leads
from Fundão and Belmonte to the lower Zezere without passing through
Castello Branco,--has already been noticed, when we were dealing
with the possible lines of invasion in Portugal. The other move was
constructive, not destructive, in character. Foreseeing that Abrantes
might be masked, or besieged on the northern bank of the Tagus, and
all the roads in that direction thereby blocked, while it might
still be very profitable to have free communication between Lisbon
and the Castello Branco region, he caused the road above the south
bank of the Tagus, from opposite Abrantes to the flying-bridge at
Villa Velha, to be thoroughly reconstructed. This route, by Gavião
and Niza, was so much easier in its slopes than the old high-road
Abrantes-Castello Branco, that, even when the latter was safe, troops
moving from east to west, along the Tagus often used it during the
next two years of the war, though it involved two passages of the
river instead of one.

But all the matters of engineering hitherto mentioned were
unimportant and merely subsidiary, when placed beside the one great
piece of work which formed the keystone of Wellington’s plan for
the defence of Portugal. His whole scheme depended on the existence
of an impregnable place of refuge, available both for his army, and
for the emigrant population of the country-side which he was about
to devastate. He must have a line on which the invader could be
finally checked and forced to halt and starve. If such a line had not
existed, his whole scheme would have been impracticable, and after
a lost battle he might have been driven to that hurried embarkation
which the ministers in London foresaw and dreaded. But his eye had
been fixed upon the ground in front of Lisbon ever since his second
landing in the Peninsula in April 1809, and there he thought that the
necessary stronghold might be found. A full year before Masséna’s
invasion he had informed the British cabinet that though he could not
undertake to defend all Portugal, ‘for the whole country is frontier,
and it would be difficult to prevent the enemy from entering by
some point or other,’ he yet conceived that he might protect the
essential part of the realm, the capital, against anything save the
most overwhelming odds[200]. The scheme had taken definite shape in
his head when, on October 20, 1809, he wrote his famous dispatch to
Colonel Fletcher, the commanding engineer at Lisbon, directing him to
draw up without delay a scheme for the construction of two successive
lines of trenches and redoubts, covering the whole stretch of country
from the Atlantic to a point on the estuary of the Tagus twenty miles
or more north of the capital. This was, in its essentials, the order
for the construction of the lines of Torres Vedras, for though the
front designated does not exactly tally with that ultimately taken
up, it only differs from it in points of detail. Fletcher is directed
to survey a line from the mouth of the Castanheira brook to the mouth
of the Zizandre, and another, a few miles behind, from Alhandra on
the Tagus by Bucellas and Cabeça de Montechique towards Mafra. These
roughly represent the two lines of defence ultimately constructed,
though in the end the extreme right flank was drawn back from the
Castanheira to the Alhandra stream. Fletcher is told that the works
will be on the largest scale: the fortified camp above Torres Vedras
is to hold 5,000 men, the works at Cabeça de Montechique alone will
require 5,000 workmen to be set to dig at once; great operations,
such as the damming up of rivers and the creation of marshes many
miles long, are suggested.

  [200] For these views of Aug. and Sept. 1809, see vol. ii. p. 610.

How the great scheme worked out, and how the works stood when
Masséna’s long-expected army at last appeared in front of them, will
be told in a later chapter, in its due place. Suffice it here to say
that all through the spring and summer of 1810 they were being urged
forward with feverish haste.

It must not be supposed that it was an easy matter to carry out all
these preparations. The Portuguese government ended by adopting
all Wellington’s suggestions: but it was not without friction that
he achieved his purpose. While he was planning works at the very
gates of Lisbon, and making provisions for the devastation of
whole provinces in view of the approaching invasion, he was often
met by suggestions that it would be possible to defend the outer
frontiers of the realm, and that his schemes were calculated to
dishearten the Portuguese people, rather than to encourage them to
a firm resistance. The Regency, moreover, had enough national pride
to resent the way in which a policy was dictated to them, without
any reference to their own views. The governing party in Portugal
had accepted the English alliance without reserve, but it often
winced at the consequences of its action. There was a view abroad
that the little nation was being set in the forefront of the battle
of European independence mainly for the benefit of Great Britain.
Fortunately the memory of Junot’s dictatorship and Soult’s ravages
was still fresh enough to overcome all other considerations. A
moment’s reflection convinced Wellington’s most ardent critics that
though the British yoke might sometimes seem hard, anything was
better than a return to French servitude. The Regency murmured, but
always ended by yielding, and issued the edicts necessary to confirm
all the orders of the general.

The state of the Portuguese government at this moment requires a
word of explanation. The original Regency confirmed by Sir Hew
Dalrymple in 1808 had been somewhat changed in its personnel. It
was now a more numerous body than at its first installation; of the
original members, only the Patriarch (Antonio de Castro, late bishop
of Oporto), and the Marquez de Olhão (Francisco de Mello e Menezes,
the Constable or Monteiro Mor, as he is more frequently called), now
survived. But four new members had been appointed in 1810. The most
important of them was José Antonio de Menezes e Sousa, generally
known as the ‘Principal Sousa,’ an ecclesiastic who was one of
the band of three Sousa brothers, who formed the backbone of the
anti-French party in Portugal. The eldest of them, Rodrigo de Sousa
Coutinho, Conde de Linhares, was prime minister of the Prince Regent
at Rio de Janeiro. The third, Domingos Antonio de Sousa Coutinho,
afterwards Conde de Funchal, was Portuguese minister in London. Thus
when the Principal entered the Regency, this busy and capable family
could pull the strings alike at Rio, London, and Lisbon, in the
interests of their relations and dependants. This they did without
scruple and without ceasing. Domestic politics in Portugal had always
been a matter of family alliances, as much as of principles. They
presented, indeed, a considerable resemblance to those of Great
Britain during the Whig domination of the eighteenth century. Hence
there was considerable danger that the policy of the alliance against
Napoleon might become identified in the eyes of the Portuguese nation
with the domination of the Sousa faction. That this peril was avoided
was not their fault: they did their best to keep all promotion,
civil and military, for their own adherents; hence came interminable
quarrels on petty personal questions both with Wellington and
Beresford. Fortunately the two Marshals could generally get their way
in the end, when large interests were at stake, because the Sousas
were pledged to the British alliance, and dared not break with it.
To do so would have brought other politicians to the front. But,
meanwhile, unending controversies wasted Wellington’s time and soured
his temper: more than once he is found writing in his dispatches
to Lord Liverpool that the ‘impatient, meddling, mischievous’[201]
Principal ought to be got out of the Regency and promoted to some
foreign embassy, or great civil post, where he could do less harm.
But the British government thought, and probably was right in
thinking, that it was better to bear with known evils than to quarrel
with the Sousa family, and thereby to break up the pro-British party
in Portugal. Wellington had to endure the Principal’s small intrigues
and petty criticism till the end.

  [201] Wellington to Lord Liverpool, _Dispatches_, vi. p. 435.

The other members who entered the Regency in 1810 were the Conde
de Redondo, Fernando Maria de Sousa Coutinho--another of the Sousa
clan--Doctor Raymundo Nogueira, a law professor of the University of
Coimbra[202] and--far the most important of all--the newly appointed
British Minister at Lisbon, Mr. Charles Stuart. The nomination of
a foreigner to such a post touched Portuguese pride to the quick,
and was looked upon by all enemies of the Sousa faction as an act
of miserable weakness on the part of the Conde de Linhares and the
Prince Regent. It was considered doubtful policy on the part of the
Perceval Cabinet to consent to the appointment, considering the
offence which it was certain to give. In their justification it must
be pleaded that both the Patriarch and the Principal Sousa were men
capable of causing any amount of difficulty by their ill-considered
plans and their personal intrigues, and that a colleague who could
be trusted to keep an eye upon their actions, and to moderate their
ambitions was much needed. Stuart was a man of moderate and tactful
bearing, but could be neither cajoled nor overruled. It was on his
influence in the Regency that Wellington relied most for support. At
this moment there were two questions in process of discussion which
rendered it most necessary that the Portuguese government should
not be left entirely to its own guidance. Taking advantage of the
unhappy condition of Spain, and the weakness of the newly appointed
executive at Cadiz, the Portuguese were pressing for the restoration
of Olivenza, Godoy’s old conquest of 1801, and for the recognition
of the Princess Carlotta of Spain, the wife of the Prince of the
Brazils, as the person entitled to act as Regent of Spain during the
captivity of her brothers at Valençay. Dom Pedro de Sousa Holstein,
the Portuguese minister at Cadiz--a kinsman of Linhares and the
Principal--was actively urging both these demands on the Spanish
government. If he had succeeded in imposing them on Castaños and
his colleagues there would have been desperate friction between the
allies. But by promising the active support of the Portuguese army
within the Spanish frontiers--which he had no power to guarantee, and
which Wellington had absolutely refused to grant--the minister won
some support at Cadiz. Extra pressure was brought to bear upon the
Spaniards by the massing of Brazilian troops on the South American
frontier, on the side of Rio Grande do Sul--a most unjustifiable act,
which might have led to an actual rupture, a thing which the British
government was bound to prevent by every means in its power. The
only way to prevent an open breach between Spain and Portugal was
to check the activity of Sousa Holstein, an end which Stuart found
much difficulty in accomplishing, because the objects for which the
minister was striving, and especially the restoration of Olivenza
to its old owners, were entirely approved by his colleagues in the
Regency. When it is added that there were numerous other points of
friction between the British and the Portuguese governments--such as
the question of free trade with Brazil, that of the suppression of
the slave trade, and that of the form to be adopted for the payment
of the subsidies which maintained the Portuguese army--it is easy
to understand that Stuart’s position on the Council of Regency was
no easy one. He often found himself in a minority of one when a
discussion started: he frequently had to acquiesce in decisions
which he did not approve, merely in order to avoid friction on
matters of secondary importance. But in matters of really primary
moment he generally succeeded in getting his way, owing to the simple
fact that Portugal was dependent on Great Britain for the continuance
of her national existence. Conscious of this, the other members of
the Regency would generally yield a reluctant assent at the last
moment, and Wellington’s plans, when set forth by Stuart, though
often criticized, delayed, and impeded, were in the end carried out
with more or less completeness.

  [202] A man of whom all Portuguese writers speak with
  respect; even Napier notes him (ii. 386) as ‘a man of talent
  and discretion.’ But Wellington seems to have disliked him.
  ‘The admission of Dr. Raymundo Nogueira to the Regency, and
  the reasons of his admission, were truly ludicrous ... his
  appointment is to be agreeable to the lower orders--from among
  whom he is selected!’ (Wellington to Charles Stuart, Celorico,
  Aug. 4, 1810.)



SECTION XIX: CHAPTER III

THE FRENCH PREPARATIONS: MASSÉNA’S ARMY OF PORTUGAL


During the summer campaign of 1809 the French Army of Spain had
received hardly any reinforcements from beyond the Pyrenees. Every
man that the Emperor could arm was being directed against Austria
in May and June. But when Wagram had been won, and the armistice
of Znaym signed, and when moreover it had been discovered that the
British expedition to the Isle of Walcheren need not draw off any
part of the Army of Germany, the Emperor began to turn his attention
to the Peninsula. The armistice with Austria had been signed on July
12: only six days later, on the 18th of the same month, Napoleon
was already selecting troops to send to Spain, and expressing
his intention of going there himself to ‘finish the business’ in
person[203]. But he had made up his mind that it was too late in the
year for him to transport any great mass of men to the Peninsula in
time for operations in the autumn, and had settled that the expulsion
of the English and the conquest of Cadiz, Seville, and Valencia must
be delayed to the spring of 1810. On September 7 he wrote[204] to
approve King Joseph’s decision that Soult should not be allowed to
make any attempt on Portugal in the autumn, and a month later he
advised his brother to defend the line of the Tagus, and drive back
Spanish incursions, but to defer all offensive movements till the
reinforcements should have begun to arrive[205].

  [203] ‘Faites-moi connaître la marche que vous faites faire aux
  66e, 82e, 26e, etc., etc.: _lorsque j’entrerai en Espagne_ cela
  me pourra faire une force de 18,000 hommes.’ Napoleon to Clarke,
  Schönbrunn, July 18.

  [204] Napoleon to Clarke, Schönbrunn, Sept. 7.

  [205] Napoleon to Clarke, memoranda for King Joseph, Oct. 3, 1809.

The composition of the new army that was to enter Spain was dictated
in a minute to the Minister of War on October 7, in which the
Emperor stated that the total force was to be about 100,000 men,
including the Guard, that it was all to be on the roads between
Orleans and Bayonne by December, and that he should take command
in person[206]. It may be noted that the troops designated in this
memorandum were actually those which took part in the campaign of
1810, with the exception of the Old Guard, which was held back when
Napoleon determined to remain behind, and to send a substitute as
commander-in-chief in Spain. Since the bulk of the immense column was
only directed to reach Bayonne at the end of the year, it was clear
that it would not be within striking distance of the enemy till March
1810.

  [206] Same to same, Oct. 7, 1809.

Down to the month of December 1809, Napoleon’s correspondence
teems with allusions to his approaching departure for Spain. They
were not merely intended to deceive the public, for they occur in
letters to his most trusted ministers and generals. We might be
inclined to suspect an intention to cajole the English Ministry in
the magnificent phrases of the address to the Corps Législatif on
December 3, when the Emperor declares that ‘the moment he displays
himself beyond the Pyrenees the Leopard in terror will seek the Ocean
to avoid shame, defeat, and death.’ But business was certainly meant
when Berthier was advised to send forward his carriages and horses
to Madrid, and when the Old Guard’s departure for the frontier was
ordered[207]. Suddenly, in the third week of December, the allusions
to the Emperor’s impending departure cease. It would appear that his
change of purpose must be attributed not to the news of Ocaña, where
the last great Spanish army had perished, but to a purely domestic
cause: this was the moment at which the question of the Imperial
Divorce came into prominence. It would seem that when Napoleon had
conceived the idea of the Austrian marriage, and had learnt that
his offers were likely to be accepted, he gave up all intention of
invading Spain in the early spring in person. The divorce was first
officially mooted when the ‘protest’ was laid before a Privy Council
on December 15[208], and after that day there is no more mention of
a departure for the South. All through January, February, and March
the negotiations were in progress, and on April 1-2[209] the Emperor
married his new wife. The festivities which followed lasted many
days, and when they were over the Emperor conducted his spouse on a
long tour through the Northern Departments in May, and did not return
to the vicinity of Paris till June, when the army of invasion, which
had long since reached the Peninsula, had been already handed over to
a new chief.

  [207] Napoleon to Berthier, Nov. 28.

  [208] Napoleon to Clarke, Dec. 5. Minute for the Privy Council
  dated Dec. 15, in the _Correspondance_.

  [209] The civil ceremony took place on the first, the religious
  on the second of these two days.

In the months during which the marriage negotiations were in
progress, and the columns of reinforcements were pouring into
Navarre and Old Castile, it is not quite certain what were the
Emperor’s real intentions as to the allocation of the command.
Nothing clear can be deduced from an order given to Junot in the
middle of February ‘to spread everywhere the news of the arrival of
the Emperor with 80,000 men, in order to disquiet the English and
prevent them from undertaking operations in the South[210].’ This
is but a _ruse de guerre_; the marriage project was so far advanced
that the ratifications of the contract were signed only four days
later than the date of the dispatch[211], and Napoleon must have
known that he could not get away from Paris for another two months
at the least. But it was only on April 17 that an Imperial Decree,
dated at Compiègne, was published, announcing that not the whole
French force in Spain, but three army corps (the 2nd, 6th, and 8th),
with certain other troops, were to form the Army of Portugal and to
be placed under the command of Masséna, Duke of Rivoli and Prince of
Essling. After this it was certain that the Emperor would not cross
the Pyrenees. Five days later this was made still more clear by an
order to the Commandant of the Guard to recall the old Chasseur and
Grenadier regiments of that corps from the various points that they
had reached on the way to Bayonne, and to send on to Spain only the
Tirailleur and Voltigeur regiments recently raised in 1809, and
generally known as the ‘Young Guard’[212]. Napoleon never took the
field in person without the veteran portion of his body-guard.

  [210] Napoleon to Berthier, Paris, Feb. 12.

  [211] On Feb. 16: see Napoleon to King Joseph, Paris, Feb. 23.

  [212] Napoleon to Clarke, April 22, 1810. Not in the
  _Correspondance_, but given at length by Ducasse in his _Memoirs
  of King Joseph_, vii. 275.

The non-appearance of the Emperor had one most important result. If
he had taken the field, every marshal and general in Spain would have
been subject to a single directing will, and would have been forced
to combine his operations with those of his neighbours, whether he
wished or no. On determining to devote the spring and summer of 1810
to nuptial feasts and state progresses, instead of to a campaign
on the Tagus, he did not nominate any single commander-in-chief
to take his place. Masséna, from his seniority and his splendid
military record, might have seemed worthy of such promotion. He was
not given it, but only placed in charge of three army corps, and of
certain parts of Old Castile and Leon and the garrison troops there
residing. This was a vast charge, embracing in all the command of
138,000 men. But it gave Masséna no control over the rest of the
armies of Spain, and no power to secure their co-operation, save
by the tedious method of appeals to Paris. Indeed, the Emperor had
chosen the precise moment of King Joseph’s conquest of Andalusia to
break up such hierarchical organization of command as existed in
the Peninsula. By a decree of February 8 he took the provinces of
Aragon and Catalonia, with the army corps there employed, completely
out of the sphere of the authority of King Joseph: Augereau and
Suchet were forbidden to hold any communication with Madrid, and
were directed to make every report and request to Paris. This would
not have been fatal to the success of the main operations of the
French army, for Aragon and Catalonia were a side-issue, whose
military history, all through the war, had little connexion with
that of Castile and Portugal. But their severance from the military
hierarchy dependent on the King was followed by that of Navarre,
the Basque provinces, Burgos, Valladolid, Palencia, and Toro, which
were formed into four ‘Military Governments’ under Generals Dufour,
Thouvenot, Dorsenne, and Kellermann. These governors were given
complete civil and military autonomy, with power to raise taxes,
administer justice, to name and displace Spanish functionaries, and
to move their troops at their own pleasure, under responsibility to
the Emperor alone. The ‘6th Government’ (Valladolid, Palencia, Toro)
was afterwards placed under the authority of Masséna; the others
remained independent Viceroyalties. Thus military authority in the
Peninsula was divided up for the future between (1) the Commander of
the Army of Portugal, who controlled not only his army but all the
regions which it occupied--Leon, the greater part of Old Castile, and
part of Estremadura; (2) the military governors of Catalonia, Aragon,
Navarre, Biscay, Burgos; (3) the King, who practically controlled his
Army of the Centre and the kingdom of New Castile alone, since Soult,
in Andalusia, though not formally created a ‘military governor,’
practically acted on his own responsibility, without any reference
to the King’s wishes. All the viceroys reported directly to Paris,
and kept the Emperor fully employed with their perpetual bickerings.
How Napoleon came to create and continue such a vicious system it
is hard to conceive. Apparently the explanation must be sought in
the fact that he feared servants with too great power, and acted on
the principle of _divide et impera_, despite of the fact that he
knew, as a soldier, that the want of a commander-in-chief is ruinous
in practical war. At the bottom was the idea that he himself could
manage everything, even when his armies were a thousand miles away,
and when it took three weeks or a month to transmit orders to them.
He sometimes acknowledged in a moment of self-realization that this
was a bad arrangement, and that it was impossible for him to conduct
or criticize the details of strategy at such a distance, or under
such conditions. But after a lucid moment he would fall back into
his usual ways of thought, and proceed to give orders and directions
which were obsolete before the dispatches that conveyed them could be
delivered to the hands of his marshals.

To proceed to details--the old Army of Spain had come to a standstill
after it had overrun Andalusia in February 1810. Three corps
under Soult were absorbed by that new conquest, some 73,000 men
in all[213]. Suchet with his 3rd Corps, 26,000 men, held Aragon;
Augereau with the vast 7th Corps, 56,900 in all, did not hold down,
but was executing military promenades in, the turbulent Catalonia.
The 2nd and 6th Corps lay observing Portugal, the former with head
quarters at Talavera, the latter with head quarters at Salamanca. Ney
had now returned to take charge of the 6th Corps, and Reynier (an old
enemy of the English, who had beaten him at Alexandria and Maida) was
named chief of the 2nd Corps. This last had now been shorn of its
third division,--that which had been composed of so many fractional
units in 1809; these had been made over to the 6th Corps, which in
1810 possessed three divisions[214] and no longer two. Reynier had
about 18,000 men, Ney no less than 38,000 after this rearrangement;
he had been assigned Lorges’ dragoon-division as well as the troops
transferred from the 2nd Corps. The King had 14,000 men in Madrid
and New Castile: the old garrisons of the Northern Provinces,
excluding the newly arrived reinforcements, made up nearly 20,000 men
more. This 237,000 sabres and bayonets represents the old army of
1809[215]; the troops sent down by the Emperor after the termination
of the Austrian War had not, for the most part, been absorbed into
the old units, though they had crossed the Pyrenees in December and
January.

  [213] Note that the 4th Corps had left behind in Madrid 6,000
  men of its 1st division (the 28th Léger, 32nd and 75th Line) and
  taken on instead 8,000 men of the division Dessolles, properly
  forming part of the ‘Army of the Centre.’

  [214] Loison’s division of the 6th Corps received these stray
  battalions, which were united to those of the same regiments
  which had crossed the Pyrenees with him. They consisted of
  a battalion each of the _Légion du Midi_, of the _Légion
  Hanovrienne_, the 26th, 66th, 82nd of the line, and the 32nd
  Léger.

  [215] All these figures are _inclusive_ of men sick and detached,
  the former about 16,000, the latter 44,000.

It is now time to see what troops constituted these succours, the
100,000 men with whom the Emperor had originally intended to march
in person to the conquest of the Peninsula. On looking through
their muster roll the first thing that strikes the eye is that very
little--almost nothing indeed--had been taken from the Army of
Germany. The Emperor, though Austria was tamed and Prussia was under
his feet, did not think it safe to cut down to any great extent the
garrisons of Central Europe and Eastern France:

(1) Of all the corps that had taken part in the Wagram campaign only
one had been directed on Spain, and this was a force of the second
line, a unit originally called the ‘Corps de Réserve de l’Armée
d’Allemagne’ and afterwards the 8th Corps. It had played only a small
part in the late war, and was mostly composed of the newly raised 4th
battalions of regiments serving elsewhere. Recruited up to a strength
of 30,000 men by the addition of some stray battalions from Northern
Germany, it was the first of all the new reinforcements to reach
Spain[216]. Indeed, the head of its column reached Burgos by the 1st of
January, 1810. It was assigned to the Army of Portugal. By the drafting
away of some of its 4th battalions to join the regiments to which they
appertained it ultimately came down to about 20,000 men.

  [216] Junot’s original corps was reinforced by the 22nd of the
  line (4 batts.) drawn from the Prussian fortresses, and by some
  units which had hitherto been doing garrison duty in Navarrese
  and Biscayan fortresses, where they were now replaced by the
  Young Guard. Among these were the Irish Brigade (2 batts.) and
  the Prussian regiment which had formed the original garrison of
  Pampeluna.

(2) Next in point of importance were the two divisions of the Young
Guard under Generals Roguet and Dumoustier, nineteen battalions,
with three provisional regiments of the Guard Cavalry, nearly 15,000
men in all. These units had been formed in 1809, just in time for
some of them to take their share in the bloody days of Essling and
Wagram. The Emperor did not make them over to the Army of Portugal,
but retained them in Biscay and Navarre, close under the Pyrenees.
Apparently he disliked sending any of his Guards so far afield as
to render it difficult to draw them back to France, in the event
(unlikely as it was at this moment) of further troubles breaking out
in Central Europe. The Guard divisions stayed in Spain two years, but
were never allowed to go far forward into the interior.

(3) Deeply impressed with the danger and difficulty of keeping up the
lines of communication between Bayonne and Madrid, since Mina and
his coadjutors had set the guerrilla war on foot in Navarre and Old
Castile, Napoleon had formed a corps whose special duty was to be
the keeping open of the roads, and the policing of the country-side
between the frontier and the Spanish capital. This was composed of
twenty squadrons of _Gendarmes_, all veterans and picked men, each
with a total strength of seven officers and 200 troopers. The decree
ordering their selection from among the _gendarmerie_ of Southern
and Central France was published on November 24, 1809: but the first
squadrons only began to pass the Pyrenees in February 1810, and many
did not appear till April and May. Yet 4,000 men were in line by the
summer[217].

  [217] For details of this corps and its services see the
  monograph, _La Gendarmerie en Espagne et Portugal_, by E. Martin,
  Paris, 1898.

(4) A few new regiments which had not hitherto been represented in
the Peninsula were moved down thither. Among these were the Neuchâtel
troops from Berthier’s principality, a German division from the minor
states of the Confederation of the Rhine under General Rouyer[218],
which went to Catalonia, the 7th, 13th, and 25th _Chasseurs à
Cheval_, with two battalions of Marines. The total did not amount to
more than some 10,000 men.

  [218] Nine battalions as follows: Two of Nassau, the others from
  Gotha, Weimar, Altenburg, Waldeck, Reuss, Schwarzburg, Anhalt,
  and Lippe; strength about 6,000 men.

(5) By far the largest item in the reinforcements was composed of
the 4th battalions of wellnigh every regiment which was already
serving in Spain. The army which had marched across the Pyrenees
in 1808 had been organized on the basis of three field-battalions
to the regiment, the 4th battalion being the dépôt battalion. But
Napoleon had now raised the standard to four (or in a few cases more)
field-battalions, over and above the dépôt. All the fourth battalions
were now existing and available; a few had served in the Austrian
War, many of the others had been lying in the camps which the
Emperor had formed at Boulogne, Pontivy, and elsewhere, to protect
his coasts against possible English descents. Those belonging to 40
regiments already in Spain, with the full complement of 840 men each,
were first ordered to cross the Pyrenees: they numbered 33,600 men:
these were all at the front by May 1810. The Emperor somewhat later
dispatched the fourth battalions of twenty-six regiments more to the
Peninsula, giving to the temporary organization the name of the 9th
Corps. This should have given another 21,840 men, and nearly did so;
their gross total, when all had reached Vittoria in September 1810,
was 20,231. But the 9th Corps should not be reckoned in the first
100,000 men which the Emperor set aside for the spring campaign of
1810, it was a supplementary addition[219].

  [219] The 4th battalions ultimately retained in Junot’s corps did
  not for the most part belong to regiments of the Spanish army,
  but to regiments in Germany or the colonies. They are over and
  above the 66 fourth battalions accounted for in the list above.
  For details of the whole set of reinforcements see Tables in
  Appendix.

(6) The Emperor dealt in a similar way with the cavalry; the
regiments already in Spain had been reduced to a strength of two or
three squadrons by the wear and tear of eighteen months of war. The
dépôts had now got ready two squadrons fit for field service. Those
belonging to sixteen regiments of dragoons, organized into eight
provisional regiments, were sent early to the front, and were all in
Spain by January 1810.

(7) In addition to units like 4th battalions and 3rd and 4th
squadrons added to the strength of each dragoon or infantry regiment,
the Emperor did not neglect to send drafts to fill up the depleted
1st, 2nd, and 3rd battalions and 1st and 2nd squadrons. In the early
months of 1810, 27,000 men, in small drafts not amounting to the
strength of a battalion or squadron were forwarded to recruit the old
units. They went forward in ‘régiments de marche,’ which were broken
up on reaching the head quarters of the corps to which each party
belonged.

Adding together all the units, with an extra allowance of 3,500
artillery for the new batteries that came in with Junot’s Corps,
the Guard divisions, and the 9th Corps, we get as a total of the
reinforcements poured into Spain between December 1809, and September
1810, the following figures:--

  Junot’s corps, at its final strength in June,
    infantry only                                  20,000
  Young Guard divisions                            15,000
  Gendarmerie                                       4,000
  New regiments                                    10,000
  4th battalions, the first arrivals               33,600
  4th battalions forming the 9th Corps             20,000
  Cavalry in organized squadrons                    5,000
  Artillery in complete batteries                   3,500
  Drafts, not in permanent units, for Infantry,
    Cavalry, and Artillery                         27,000
                                                  -------
                                                  138,100

This total far exceeds the original 100,000 of which Napoleon had
spoken in the autumn of 1809, but is certainly rather below the
actual number of men received into the Peninsula; the figure for
drafts, in especial, is hard to verify. But as the total strength
of the Army of Spain in the autumn of 1809 was 237,000 men, and in
September 1810, 353,000 men, while at least 25,000 had been lost in
the interval[220], the figures cannot be far out.

  [220] Over and above the ordinary death-rate for French troops
  quartered in Spain, which was very high, we have to allow for the
  losses at Tamames, Ocaña, the conquest of Andalusia, the sieges
  of Astorga, Gerona, Ciudad Rodrigo, and Almeida, and all smaller
  engagements.

Of this total, as we have already said, the 2nd, 6th, and 8th Corps
and the troops under Kellermann and Bonnet occupying the provinces
of Toro, Palencia, Valladolid, and Santander formed the ‘Army of
Portugal’ assigned to Masséna; he was also given an extra unattached
division under Serras[221], and promised the use of the 9th Corps
when it should have crossed the Pyrenees. The gross total of this
force was in May, when the new Commander-in-Chief had taken up his
post, about 130,000 men, of whom some 86,000 were effective and
available for active operations at the moment. Serras, Kellermann,
and Bonnet were tied down to their local duties--the first had to
look after the Spanish army of Galicia, the second to keep the plains
of Valladolid quiet, the third to hold Santander and (when it was
fully subdued) to enter and overrun the Asturias. The 20,000 men of
the 9th Corps were not yet arrived in Spain[222]. The troops in the
provinces of Burgos, Biscay, and Navarre, though not placed under the
Marshal’s actual command, were yet in existence to cover his rear and
his communications with France. If they are added to the total of the
force which, directly or indirectly, was employed for the conquest
of Portugal, some 30,000 more must be taken into consideration. But,
though they were useful, indeed indispensable, for the conquest of
Portugal, it is fairer to leave them out of consideration.

  [221] This division had charge of the Provinces of Leon, Zamora,
  and Salamanca, which were not a ‘military government.’

  [222] Roughly, on May 15, 2nd Corps 20,000 men, 6th ditto 35,000,
  8th ditto 26,000, Cavalry reserve 5,000, effectives present under
  arms, besides the sick, who made up about 12,000 more, and some
  6,000 men detached. See Tables in Appendix.

But the exact total of an army is, after all, less important than
the character and capacity of its generals. The individuality of
Masséna was the most important factor in the problem of the invasion
of Portugal. He was fifty-two years of age--very nearly the eldest
of all the Marshals--and he was the only one of those on active
service, save Jourdan, who had achieved greatness in the days
before Napoleon arrived at supreme power. He had led an army of
60,000 men when, of the three corps-commanders now under him, Ney
was but a lieutenant-colonel, Junot a young captain, and Reynier a
brigadier-general. Like nearly all the men of the Revolution he had
risen from below; he sprang from a poor family in Genoa: according to
his enemies they were Jews, and his name was but Manasseh disguised.
His personal character was detestable; many of the marshals had an
evil reputation for financial probity, but Masséna’s was the worst
of all. ‘He plundered like a _condottiere_ of the Middle Ages,’
wrote one of his lieutenants. He had been in trouble, both with
the Republican government and with the Emperor, for his shameless
malversations in Italy, and had piled up a large private fortune by
surreptitious methods[223]. Avarice is not usually associated with
licentiousness, but he shocked even the easy-going public opinion
of the French army by the way in which he paraded his mistress at
unsuitable moments and in unsuitable company. He took this person,
the sister of one of his aides-de-camp, with him all through the
dangers of the Portuguese campaign, where her presence often caused
friction and delays, and occasionally exposed him to insults[224].
Masséna was hard, suspicious, and revengeful; an intriguer to the
finger-tips, he was always prone to suppose that others were
intriguing against himself[225]. Though an old Republican, who had
risen from the ranks early in the revolutionary war, he had done
his best to make himself agreeable to Napoleon by the arts of the
courtier. Altogether, he was a detestable character--but he was a
great general. Of all the marshals of the Empire he was undoubtedly
the most capable; Davoust and Soult, with all their abilities, were
not up to his level. As a proof of his boldness and rapid skill in
seizing an opportunity the battle of Zurich is sufficient to quote;
for his splendid obstinacy the defence of Genoa at the commencement
of his career has its parallel in the long endurance before the lines
of Torres Vedras at its end. His best testimonial is that Wellington,
when asked, long years after, which of his old opponents was the best
soldier, replied without hesitation that Masséna was the man, and
that he had never permitted himself to take in his presence the risks
that he habitually accepted when confronted with any of the other
marshals[226].

  [223] The Emperor once confiscated 3,000,000 francs which Masséna
  had collected by selling licences to trade with the English at
  Leghorn and other Italian ports. See the Memoirs of General
  Lamarque, who carried out the seizure.

  [224] See Thiébault, iv. 375; Marbot, ii. 380-1; Duchesse
  d’Abrantes, viii. 50. All these may be called scandal-mongers,
  but the lady’s presence, and the troubles to which it gave rise,
  are chronicled by more serious authorities.

  [225] See Foy’s complaints on p. 114 of his _Vie Militaire_ (ed.
  Girod de L’Ain) as to the way in which the Marshal suspected him
  of undermining his favour with the Emperor.

  [226] See Lord Stanhope’s _Conversations with the Duke of
  Wellington_, p. 20.

[Illustration:
  ANDRÉ MASSÉNA, DUC DE RIVOLI PRINCE D’ESSLING,
  Né à Nice, en 1755,
  Mort à sa Terre près Paris, en Avril 1817.]

The fatigues of the late Austrian war, in which he had borne such
an honourable part, had tried Masséna’s health; it was not without
difficulty that the Emperor had persuaded him to undertake the
Portuguese campaign. When he first assembled round him at Salamanca
the staff which was to serve him in the invasion, he astonished
and somewhat disheartened his officers by beginning his greetings
to them with the remark, ‘Gentlemen, I am here contrary to my own
wish; I begin to feel myself too old and too weary to go on active
service. The Emperor says that I must, and replied to the reasons for
declining this post which I gave him, by saying that my reputation
would suffice to end the war. It was very flattering no doubt, but
no man has two lives to live on this earth--the soldier least of
all[227].’ Those who had served under the Marshal a few years back,
and now saw him after an interval, felt that there was truth in what
he said. Foy wrote in his diary, ‘He is no longer the Masséna of the
flashing eyes, the mobile face, and the alert figure whom I knew
in 1799, and whose head then recalled to me the bust of Marius. He
is only fifty-two, but looks more than sixty; he has got thin, he
is beginning to stoop; his look, since the accident when he lost
his eye by the Emperor’s hand[228], has lost its vivacity. The tone
of his voice alone remains unchanged.’ But if the Marshal’s bodily
vigour was somewhat abated, his will was as strong as ever. He needed
it at this juncture, for he had to command subordinates who were
anything but easy to deal with. Ney, though an honest man and an
admirable soldier, had the fault of insubordination in the highest
degree. He never obeyed any one save the Emperor in the true military
fashion. He quarrelled with every colleague that he met--notably
with Soult--and had an old and very justifiable personal dislike for
Masséna. Even before the latter appeared at the front, he had been
heard to use threatening language concerning him. Junot was almost as
bad; having held the chief command in the last Portuguese expedition
he had a strong, if a mistaken, belief that it was becoming that he
should be placed in charge of the second. His record rendered the
idea absurd, but this he was the last to understand, being of an
overweening and self-confident disposition. He was stupid enough to
regard Masséna as his supplanter, and to show sullen resentment. Of
the three chiefs of the army corps about to invade Portugal, Reynier
was the only one on decent terms with his Commander-in-Chief, but
even he was not reckoned his friend[229].

  [227] This comes from an eye-witness with no grudge against
  Masséna, Hulot, commanding the artillery of the 8th Corps. See
  his _Mémoires_, p. 303.

  [228] Foy, p. 101. The Emperor, a notoriously bad shot, lodged
  some pellets in the Marshal’s left eye while letting fly at
  a pheasant. Napoleon turned round and accused his faithful
  Berthier of having fired the shot: the Prince of Neuchâtel was
  courtier enough to take the blame without a word, and in official
  histories appears as the culprit (see e. g. Amic’s _Masséna_,
  p. 272); for other notes see Guingret, p. 250. What is most
  astonishing is that Masséna was complaisant enough to affect to
  blame Berthier for the disaster.

  [229] See the admirable summary of all this in Foy’s diary (Girod
  de L’Ain), p. 101. Marbot gives the same views at bottom, but
  with his usual exaggeration, and with ‘illustrative anecdotes,’
  occasionally of doubtful accuracy.

Masséna’s chief of the staff was Fririon, a scientific soldier and
a man well liked by his colleagues; but it is said that he was not
so much in the Marshal’s confidence as Lieut.-Colonel Pelet, the
senior aide de camp of his staff. Complaints are found, in some
of the letters and memoirs of the time, that Masséna would talk
matters over with Pelet, and issue orders without letting even his
chief of the staff know of his change of plan or new inspiration.
Pelet’s own indiscreet statements on this point seem to justify the
complaints made by others against him[230]. There was friction,
therefore, even within the staff itself, and all that the Marshal
did, or said, was criticized by some of those who should have been
his loyal subordinates, under the notion that it had been inspired by
others, who were accorded a more perfect confidence by their common
chief. Exact knowledge of the disputes in the _État Major_ is hard
to obtain, because, when the campaign was over, every man tried to
make out that its failure had been due to the advice given to Masséna
by those of whom he was jealous. At the bottom, however, all this
controversy is not very important--there is no doubt that the Marshal
himself was responsible for all that had happened--he was not the man
to be led by the nose or over-persuaded by ambitious or intriguing
underlings.

  [230] Note Pelet’s _Aperçu sur la Campagne de Portugal_, nearly
  forty pages in the Appendix to _Victoires et Conquêtes_, vol.
  xxi: for his disputes with Baron Fririon see the _Spectateur
  Militaire_ for 1841. Pelet says, ignoring the chief of the staff
  entirely, ‘qu’il était investi de la confiance _absolue_ du
  maréchal: qu’il faisait _seul_ auprès de lui tout le travail
  militaire et politique, qu’il dirigeait la haute correspondance
  avec le major-général (Berthier) et les chefs de corps, etc.,
  etc.’ For Fririon’s comparative impotence see a story on p. 387
  of Marbot’s vol. ii, which may or may not be true--probably the
  former.

  Pelet’s writings give a poor impression of his brain-power and
  his love of exact truth. He says, for example, in his _Aperçu_
  that Masséna had only 40,000 men in his army of invasion, when it
  is certain that he had 64,000. See Baron Fririon’s remarks on him
  in _Spectateur Militaire_, June 1841, pp. 1-5.

Failure or success is not the sole criterion of merit. Masséna’s
campaign was a disastrous business; yet on investigating the
disabilities under which he laboured, we shall be inclined in the
end to marvel that he did so much, not that he did no more. The
fundamental error was the Emperor’s, who gave him too few men for
the enterprise with which he was entrusted. Napoleon refused to
take the Portuguese troops into consideration, when he weighed the
needs of the expedition. He repeatedly wrote that ‘it was absurd
that his armies should be held in check by 25,000 or 30,000 British
troops,’ as if nothing else required to be taken into consideration.
He did not realize that Wellington had turned the Portuguese regular
army into a decent fighting machine, capable of holding back French
divisions in line of battle--as was shown at Bussaco. He had not
foreseen that the despised militia required to be ‘contained’ by
adequate numbers of troops on the line of communications. Still less
had he dreamed of the great scheme for the devastation of Portugal,
which was to be not the least effective of the weapons of its
defender. But of this more will be said in the proper place.



SECTION XIX: CHAPTER IV

THE MONTHS OF WAITING: SIEGE OF ASTORGA (MARCH-MAY 1810)


Masséna, as we have seen, was only appointed Commander-in-Chief
of the Army of Portugal on April 17, 1810, and did not appear at
Valladolid, to take up his charge, till May. The campaign, however,
had begun long before under the Emperor’s own directions. There
were preliminary operations to be carried out, which could be
finished before either the new General-in-Chief or the main body
of the reinforcements from beyond the Pyrenees had arrived. These
were the repression of the insurgent bands of Navarre, Biscay, and
Old Castile, the firm establishment of the line of communications
between Salamanca and Bayonne, and the capture of the outlying
Spanish fortresses, Astorga and Ciudad Rodrigo, which served as
external defences for the Portuguese frontier. ‘Les besoins en
Espagne sont successifs,’ wrote the Emperor early in the winter of
1809-10[231], ‘il faut d’abord un corps qui soumette les derrières.
Étant en Novembre il serait impossible de réunir tous les moyens
avant du commencement de janvier. Et dans cette presqu’île coupée de
montagnes les froids et les neiges de janvier ne permettront de rien
faire.’ All that he could do before spring would be to send forward
Junot’s corps, and the other earlier reinforcements, to positions
from which they should be ready to strike, the moment that the fine
weather began. With the coming of the new year, when these corps had
reached their destined positions, the imperial orders begin to abound
in elaborate directions for the extermination of the guerrillas of
the Upper Ebro and the Upper Douro[232], orders which led to much
marching and counter-marching of the newly arrived troops, but to
little practical effect in the way of repression, for skilled leaders
like Mina, the Empecinado, and Julian Sanchez, nearly always slipped
between the fingers of their pursuers, and on the few occasions when
they were pressed into a corner, simply bade their men disperse and
unite again at some distant rendezvous. These operations, however,
were wholly subsidiary: the actual advance against Portugal only
commences with the orders given to Junot in February to concentrate
his corps at Valladolid, to hand over the charge of Salamanca and Old
Castile to Kellermann’s dragoons and the divisions of the 6th Corps,
and then to subdue the whole of the plain-land of Leon, as far as the
foot of the Asturian and Galician mountains, including the towns of
Benavente, Leon, and Astorga. Bonnet and his division, now as always
based on Santander, were already advancing to invade the Asturias,
and to threaten Galicia from the east. Ney with the 6th Corps was
ordered to draw near to the frontier of Portugal on the side of
Ciudad Rodrigo, ‘to inundate all the approaches to that kingdom with
his cavalry, disquiet the English, and prevent them from dreaming
of transferring themselves back to the south.’ The news of the near
approach of the Emperor himself with 80,000 men was to be spread in
every direction[233].

  [231] Napoleon to Clarke, Oct. 30, 1809.

  [232] See for example Jan. 20, 1810, to Berthier; Jan. 31, to
  same; Feb. 12, to same.

  [233] _Correspondance_, vol. xx, Napoleon to Berthier, Feb. 12,
  1810.

Meanwhile the third great unit which was to form part of the
projected Army of Portugal, the 2nd Corps (under the temporary
command of General Heudelet[234]), was taking part in a separate and
remote series of operations, far to the South. This corps, it will be
remembered, had been left on the Tagus about Talavera and Oropesa,
to protect the rear of Soult and King Joseph, when they marched
in January with the 1st, 4th, and 5th Corps to conquer Andalusia.
That exploit having been accomplished, Mortier went, with half of
the 5th Corps, to attack Badajoz, and to subdue Estremadura, which
Soult imagined to be defenceless, since Albuquerque had marched
with the old Estremaduran army to save Cadiz. Mortier advanced
unopposed to the walls of Badajoz, which he reached on February 12,
but found himself unable to undertake its siege with his small force
of 9,000 men, because a new Spanish host had just appeared upon
the scene. La Romana, with three of the divisions of the army that
had been beaten at Alba de Tormes in November, had marched down the
Spanish-Portuguese frontier by the Pass of Perales; and on the same
day that Mortier appeared in front of Badajoz, his vanguard arrived
at Albuquerque, only twenty miles away. These divisions were 13,000
strong: La Romana could add to this force a few thousands more left
behind by Albuquerque. Mortier rightly felt that he dare not commence
the regular siege of Badajoz when he had such superior numbers in
his front. He therefore asked for reinforcements, both from Soult
and from King Joseph. The former could spare nothing from Andalusia
at this moment, but the 2nd Corps was ordered to leave the Tagus
and place itself in communication with Mortier. Heudelet had other
projects on hand at the moment: he had just seized Plasencia on
February 10, and was engaged in bickering with Carlos d’España and
Martin Carrera, whom La Romana had left in the Sierra de Gata. But,
in obedience to his orders, he called in his detachments, and marched
by Deleytosa and Truxillo into the valley of the Guadiana. This
movement, from the French point of view, was a hazardous one; by the
transference southward of the 2nd Corps, a long gap was left between
Ney at Salamanca and Heudelet and Mortier in Estremadura. No troops
whatever covered Madrid from the side of the south-west and the
valley of the Tagus, and an irruption of the English on this line was
one of the dangers which Napoleon most dreaded[235]. He was unaware
of Wellington’s deeply-rooted determination to commit himself to no
more Spanish campaigns.

  [234] Soult had given up the 2nd Corps when he became King
  Joseph’s Major-General: Reynier, appointed to command it, had not
  yet appeared.

  [235] ‘Il faut prévoir que les Anglais peuvent marcher sur
  Talavera pour faire diversion,’ wrote Napoleon on Jan. 31 to
  Berthier. But Heudelet had been moved before his caution could
  reach Madrid.

Long before Heudelet approached the Guadiana, Mortier had been
compelled, partly by want of supplies, partly by the threatening
attitude of La Romana, who began cautiously to turn his flanks, to
retire from in front of the walls of Badajoz. He gave back as far
as Zafra on the road to the south, and six days after marched for
Seville, leaving only a rearguard at Santa Ollala, on the extreme
border of Estremadura. Soult required his presence, for, on account
of a rising in Granada, and a threatening movement by the Spanish
army of Murcia, the French reserves in Andalusia had been moved
eastward, and its capital was almost stripped of troops. Hence when
the 2nd Corps reached Caçeres on March 8, and appeared in front of
Albuquerque on March 14, it found that the 5th Corps had departed,
and that it was nearly 100 miles from the nearest friendly post.
Heudelet, therefore, having all La Romana’s army in his front, and
no orders to execute (since the junction with Mortier had failed),
retired to Merida, where Reynier arrived from the north, superseded
him, and took command. Here the 2nd Corps remained practically
passive for the rest of the spring, keeping open, but with difficulty
and at long intervals, the communications between Madrid and Seville,
by means of detachments at Truxillo and Almaraz. To a certain
extent Reynier kept La Romana’s army in check, but he did not fully
discharge even that moderate task, for the Spanish general detached
southward two of his divisions, those of Contreras and Ballasteros,
to threaten the frontiers of Andalusia and stir up an insurrection
in the Condado de Niebla and the other regions west of Seville.
Ballasteros surprised the cavalry brigade of Mortier’s corps at
Valverde, at midnight on February 19, and scattered it, killing
Beauregard, the brigadier. He then advanced to Ronquillo, only twenty
miles from Seville, where, on March 25-6, he had an indecisive
engagement with one of Gazan’s brigades, after which he retired into
the Condado. Mortier, thereupon, came out against him from Seville at
the head of a whole division. Unwisely offering battle at Zalamea,
on the Rio Tinto, on April 15, Ballasteros was beaten, and retired
into the mountains. Thither, after some time, he was pursued by
Mortier’s columns, and again defeated at Araçena on May 26. But he
rallied his broken force in the Sierra de Araçena, where he remained
for long after, a thorn in the side of the Army of Andalusia, always
descending for a raid in the plains of Seville when he was left
unwatched. Soult was forced to keep a considerable part of the 5th
Corps in observation of him--a detachment that he was loth to spare.

La Romana’s central divisions, meanwhile, those of Charles O’Donnell
(brother of the Henry O’Donnell who had distinguished himself at
Gerona in the previous autumn), Mendizabal, and Contreras, bickered
with the 2nd Corps in the direction of Caçeres and Torresnovas,
without any notable advantage on either side. But as long as Reynier
lay at Merida, and Mortier might at any moment come up from Seville
to his aid, Wellington felt uneasy as to the possibility of a French
advance between Tagus and Guadiana, and, regarding La Romana’s army
as an insufficient security on this side, moved Hill with a force
of 12,000 men to Portalegre, close to the rear of Badajoz. Hill had
with his own British division, now consisting of three brigades[236],
another division composed of Portuguese, under General Hamilton[237],
the English heavy cavalry brigade of Slade, a weak Portuguese cavalry
brigade under Madden[238], and three batteries. He was ordered not
to countenance any offensive movements on the part of La Romana, but
to support him, and to endeavour to cover Badajoz, if the French
should unite the 2nd and 5th Corps, and make a serious move westward.
There was no need, as matters turned out, for any such support,
for Reynier, though he executed some rather useless feints and
counter-marches in April and May, undertook nothing serious. One of
his demonstrations drew Hill to Arronches, close to Elvas, on May 14,
but it turned out to be meaningless, and the British troops returned
to their usual head quarters at Portalegre a few days later. There
seems to have been some uncertainty of purpose in all this manœuvring
of the French in Estremadura. Reynier was not strong enough to offer
to fight La Romana and Hill combined; he might have done so with good
prospect of success if Mortier could have been spared from Andalusia;
but half the 5th Corps was usually detached far to the south,
hunting the insurgents of the Sierra de Ronda, and the other half
had to garrison Seville and watch Ballasteros. Hence Reynier, left
to himself, did no more for the common cause of the French in Spain
than detain Hill’s two divisions in the Alemtejo. That Wellington
was thus obliged to divide his army was no doubt a permanent gain
to the enemy: yet they obtained it by the very doubtful expedient of
leaving nothing on the Tagus; a push in the direction of Plasencia
and Almaraz by even a small Spanish force would have been a very
tiresome and troublesome matter for King Joseph, who would have been
forced either to bring down Ney from Salamanca, or to call Reynier
back from the Guadiana, for Madrid was entirely uncovered on the
West. But nothing of the sort happened; La Romana kept his main
body concentrated in front of Badajoz, and had the full approval of
Wellington for doing so.

  [236] Hill’s division, two brigades strong at Talavera in August,
  had received a third brigade in September under Catlin Craufurd,
  consisting of the 2/28th, 2/34th, and 2/39th.

  [237] Composed of the 2nd, 4th, 10th, and 14th regiments, each
  two battalions strong, with 4,500 bayonets.

  [238] 1st and 4th Portuguese cavalry.

At the extreme opposite flank of the French front, on the shores
of the Bay of Biscay, there was going on at this same time a
side-campaign conducted with a much greater degree of vigour, but
equally indecisive in the end. The Asturias had been almost stripped
of troops by Del Parque, in order to reinforce the army that fought
at Tamames and Alba de Tormes. When the Duke moved his main force
southward after the last-named fight, he carried off with him the
division of Ballasteros, which had been the core of the old Asturian
Army. General Antonio Arce was left in the principality with some
4,000 men, whom he kept at Colombres, behind the Deba, under General
Llano-Ponte, watching the French force in the province of Santander.
New levies, little more than 2,000 strong, were being collected
at Oviedo. In the end of January General Bonnet, whose division
at Santander had received its drafts, and had been strengthened
up to 7,000 men[239], thought himself strong enough to drive in
Arce’s weak line and to make a dash at the Asturian capital. On
the 25th he attacked the lines of Colombres, and carried them with
no difficulty. On the 31st he captured Oviedo, which was evacuated
by the Captain-General Arce and the local Junta without serious
fighting. But that active partisan Juan Porlier at once cut off his
communication with Santander, by seizing Infiesto and Gijon. Bonnet
at once evacuated Oviedo, and turned back to clear his rear. Porlier
escaped along the coast to Pravia, and meanwhile the main body of
the Asturians, under General Barcena, reoccupied the capital. Having
driven off Porlier, the French general marched westward once more,
beat Barcena at the bridge of Colleto on February 14, and again made
himself master of Oviedo. The Asturians rallied behind the Narcea,
where they were joined by a brigade of 2,000 men sent to their aid by
Mahy, the Captain-General of Galicia.

  [239] He had 7,094 men with the colours, besides sick and
  detached, by the imperial muster rolls of Jan. 15, 1810.

That province, like the Asturias, had been left almost ungarrisoned
by Del Parque, when he took the old ‘Army of Galicia’ across the
Sierra de Gata, and transferred it to Estremadura. Mahy had been left
behind with the skeleton of one division, which he was to recruit, as
best he could, by new levies. His main preoccupation at this moment
was the defence of the newly fortified stronghold of Astorga, which
was already threatened by the French troops in the plains of Leon.
But seeing his flank menaced by Bonnet’s advance, he lent what men he
could spare to aid in the defence of the Asturias.

The Asturian junta, having deposed General Arce for incapacity
and corruption, and appointed Cienfuegos to take over his troops,
ordered the resumption of offensive operations against Bonnet in
March. Porlier, their great partisan-hero, made a circuit along the
coast, and threatened the French communications with Santander.
At the same time their main force advanced against Oviedo by the
valley of the Nalon. Bonnet’s advanced brigade was driven in, after
a sharp skirmish at Grado on March 19, and disquieted by Porlier’s
simultaneous attack on his rear, he evacuated the Asturian capital
for the _third_ time, and gave back as far as Cangas de Onis, in the
valley of the Ona. He then called up all the reinforcements that
he could obtain from Santander, and marched--for the fourth time
in three months!--on Oviedo with his whole division; the Spaniards
retired without offering serious opposition, and took up a line
behind the Narcea [March 29]. This time Bonnet left them no time to
rally, but forced the passage of that river, whereupon the Asturians
ascended to Tineo in the mountains, while the Galician succours
gave back to Navia, almost on the edge of their own principality
[April 25-26]. After this, Bonnet’s offensive force was spent;
having to occupy Oviedo and its ports of Gijon and Aviles, as well
as all the central and eastern Asturias, and, moreover, to defend
his communication with Santander from new attacks of Porlier, his
strength sufficed for no more. His 7,000 men were immobilized for
the rest of the year: he had conquered two-thirds of the Asturias,
and barely succeeded in keeping it down. But he was quite unable to
spare a man to aid in French operations in the plains of Leon, or
even to make a serious attempt to threaten Galicia. Once or twice he
succeeded in communicating with the forces which Junot (and after him
Kellermann and Serras) commanded in the plains beyond the Cantabrian
range, by expeditions pushed down through the pass of Pajares on
to Leon; but the road was always closed again by the guerrillas,
and no co-operation could take place. In short, the Spaniards lost
the greater part of the Asturias, and the French lost the further
services of Bonnet’s division[240]. It had no power to threaten
Galicia, because it was forced to keep garrisons in Gijon, Aviles,
Lastres, Santona, and all the sea-ports, with a full brigade at
Oviedo in the centre, to support them. Any concentration of troops,
leading to the evacuation of the smaller garrisons, at once let loose
the guerrillas from their mountains. Bonnet had but 7,000 men in
all: of these, not more than half could be used for an expedition,
and such a force was too small to have any practical effect on the
general course of events in north-western Spain.

  [240] I cannot understand Napier’s narrative of this little
  campaign, on pages 352-4 of his vol. ii. It runs as follows,
  and seems to have no relation to the facts detailed by Belmas,
  Toreno, Arteche, or any other historian. No mention is made of
  the four captures of Oviedo!

  ‘Mahy was organizing a second army at Lugo and in the Asturias.
  D’Arco [Arce] commanded 7,000 men, 3,000 of whom were posted at
  Cornellana under General Ponte.... Bonnet, from the Asturias,
  threatened Galicia by the Concija d’Ibas: having destroyed
  Ponte’s force at Potes de la Sierra [30 miles from Colombres,
  where the actual fight took place], he menaced Galicia by the
  pass of Nava de Suarna [a place which his vanguard did not
  approach by a matter of 40 miles].... But he did not pass Nava
  de Suarna, and General D’Arco rallied the Asturian fugitives at
  Louarca. It seems probable that while Bonnet drew the attention
  of the Galician army towards Lugo [he was never within 100 miles
  of that place], Junot thought to penetrate by Puebla Senabria.
  But finally Junot, drawing a reinforcement from Bonnet, invested
  Astorga with 10,000 infantry,’ &c. [No troops from Bonnet’s force
  ever appeared before Astorga.]

This last blunder is apparently borrowed from _Victoires et
Conquêtes_, xx. 12, which states that General Bonnet detached
Jeannin’s brigade, the 46th and 65th, to Astorga. But these regiments
did not belong to Bonnet, but were, from the first to the last,
parts of Junot’s own corps, and never entered the Asturias. Compare
Napoleon, _Correspondance_, xx. 21, the muster rolls of Jan. 1, Feb.
15, and Belmas, iii. p. 46.

Bonnet’s operations were, of course, wholly subsidiary; the really
important movements that were on foot in the early spring of 1810
were those of Junot and Ney in the plains of Leon. In pursuance
of the Emperor’s orders to the effect that the whole plain-land
of Leon was to be occupied, as a preliminary to the invasion of
Portugal, Loison, who had re-entered Spain at the head of a number
of battalions which were ultimately to join the corps of Ney, was
ordered to move on from Valladolid and occupy the country about
Benavente and Astorga. He was left free to select either of those
towns as his head quarters, and was directed to communicate with
Bonnet, when the latter should have entered the Asturias, so that
their operations should threaten Galicia simultaneously[241].
Loison’s expedition, however, proved a complete failure; he marched
towards Astorga early in February with nearly 10,000 men. On the
11th he appeared before that town, and learnt that since Carrié’s
reconnaissance in October 1809[242], it had been much strengthened.
La Romana had repaired the breaches of its mediaeval walls. He had
thrown up entrenchments round the suburb of La Reteibia, which
occupies that part of the hill of Astorga, which is not covered
by the town itself. He had also established outlying posts in the
suburbs of San Andrés and Puerta del Rey, which lie at the foot of
the hill, on its northern and eastern sides. Fourteen guns, only two
of them 12-pounders, the rest light, had been mounted on the walls.
The place, therefore, was a make-shift fortification of the most
antiquated style. General Garcia Velasco, who had been left behind in
Galicia with one division of the old Northern army when Del Parque
marched for Estremadura, was in charge of this portion of the Spanish
front, under the superintendence of Mahy, the Captain-General. He had
placed half his troops--five battalions, or 2,700 men, in Astorga,
while he himself with the remainder lay beyond the mountains, at
Villafranca, in the Vierzo, with about the same force. The total of
organized troops in Galicia at this moment did not exceed 8,000 men,
including the small brigade which Mahy sent to the Asturias, and a
detachment under Echevarria at Puebla de Senabria. Astorga had not
been expecting a siege at such an early date as February 11; it was
only provisioned for twenty days, and the guns had not ammunition
to last for even that short space of time. The governor, José
Santocildes, was a man of courage and resource, who knew how to put
on a bold face to an impossible situation, or instant disaster might
have followed.

  [241] Napoleon to Berthier, Jan. 11, 1810.

  [242] See p. 76.

Loison was disconcerted to find that Astorga, his destined head
quarters, was held and garrisoned against him. His engineers
reconnoitred its walls, and informed him that it could not be taken
without a regular battering-train. He had only field-pieces with him,
the weather was abominable, and his troops--all conscript battalions
from France--were suffering terribly from the continued rain and
cold. Wherefore he contented himself with inviting Santocildes to
surrender, promising him promotion at King Joseph’s hands, if he
‘would implore the clemency of a sovereign who treats all Spaniards
like a father[243].’ When the governor sent a curt reply, intimating
that he and his people intended to do their duty, Loison retired to
La Baneza, and reported to his chiefs that he was helpless for want
of siege-guns. He announced at the same time that he had attempted
to communicate with Bonnet at Oviedo, by sending two battalions to
the foot of the pass of Pajares, but that the mountain roads were all
blocked with snow, and that this detachment had been forced to fall
back into the plains, without obtaining any news of what was afoot in
the Asturias[244].

A few days later, the head of Junot’s corps entered the province
of Leon, and Loison was directed to move southward and join Ney
at Salamanca. His place on the Esla and the Orbigo was taken by
Clausel’s division of the 8th Corps. The newly arrived general
executed another reconnaissance to the neighbourhood of Astorga, and
on February 26 sent Santocildes a second summons, in the name of
Junot. It received the same answer that had been given to Loison.
It was clear that Astorga must be besieged, and that a battering
train must be placed at the disposition of the force charged with
the operation. But in the present state of the roads it would take
some time to bring heavy guns to the front. Further operations had
to be postponed. The 6th Corps, it may be remarked, had executed
at the same time that Loison appeared in front of Astorga, a
demonstration against Ciudad Rodrigo. King Joseph had written from
Andalusia to beg Ney to threaten the place, while the news of the
French victories in the south were still fresh, assuring him that
the Spaniards were so cowed that a prompt surrender was probable.
The Marshal, though doubting the wisdom of these optimistic views,
concentrated his corps, advanced to San Felices, and on February
13 summoned Rodrigo. He got from General Herrasti, the governor,
an answer as bold and confident as that which Loison received from
Santocildes, and returned to Salamanca to disperse his troops in
cantonments and ask for a battering-train[245]. His short and
ineffective excursion to the banks of the Agueda had taken him in
sight of the British outposts on the Spanish frontier, and had
induced Wellington for a moment to think that the invasion of
Portugal was at hand. It was impossible that he should have guessed
that Ney’s advance had no better cause than King Joseph’s foolish
confidence. Hence the withdrawal of the 6th Corps, after the vain
summons of Ciudad Rodrigo, was as inexplicable as its advance. ‘I do
not understand Ney’s movement,’ he wrote to his trusted subordinate,
Robert Craufurd, ‘coupled as it is with the movement upon Badajoz
from the south of Spain. The French are not strong enough for the two
sieges at the same time, and I much doubt whether they are in a state
to undertake one of them[246].’ The prompt retirement of Ney from
before Ciudad Rodrigo, and of Mortier from before Badajoz, completely
justified his conclusions within a day or two of the writing of his
letter.

  [243] For the letters of Loison to Santocildes and the reply of
  the Spanish brigadier, see the correspondence in Belmas, iii. pp.
  53-6.

  [244] Loison to Berthier, Feb. 16, from La Baneza.

  [245] For notes as to the cause and execution of this abortive
  movement, see the diary of Ney’s aide de camp, Sprünglin, pages
  402-3.

  [246] Wellington to Craufurd, Feb. 16. Compare similar remarks in
  Wellington to Beresford, from Vizeu, Feb. 21, 1810.

There was nothing for the French in the kingdom of Leon to do, save
to await the arrival of the great battering-train which Napoleon
had bestowed upon his Army of Portugal. It was far to the rear: on
February 20 its head was only beginning to approach Burgos, and
its tail had not quitted Bayonne. The reason of this tardiness was
the want of draught animals at the southern dépôts of France. The
equipment of the train and the artillery of the 8th Corps, and the
other great reinforcements which had just passed the Pyrenees,
had exhausted the available supplies of horses[247], and when the
authorities at Bayonne had to place the ‘grand park’ on a war footing
there was intolerable delay. Even when detachments of the park had
started, they made slow progress in Spain, for the French horses died
off rapidly in the bitter weather of the plateau of Old Castile, and
it was almost impossible to replace them by requisition from the
country-side. Junot, bold to the verge of rashness, and feverishly
anxious to remake the reputation that he had lost at Vimiero, could
not endure the delay. He sent to requisition Spanish guns from the
governors of Burgos and Segovia, dispatched his own teams to draw
them, and when he heard that a small train was procurable, ordered
the 8th Corps towards Astorga on March 15, leaving the cannon to
follow. The month’s delay in the investment had enabled Santocildes
to fill up the supply of food and ammunition which had been so low
in February; he had now got his fortress in as good state as was
possible, considering the intrinsic weakness of its mediaeval walls,
and had induced 3,000 of the 4,000 inhabitants to retire to Galicia.

  [247] Even the 8th Corps had to leave guns behind at Bayonne for
  want of horses, Belmas, ii. 13.

On March 21 Clausel’s division invested Astorga, while Solignac’s
came up to Leon and Benavente in support, and St. Croix’s division of
dragoons took post in advance of La Baneza, to observe the Spanish
forces in southern Galicia and the Portuguese of the Tras-os-Montes.
Till the guns should arrive, there was nothing to be done save to
choose the point of attack, prepare fascines and gabions, and open
the first parallel, out of harm’s way from the small artillery of the
garrison--none of it heavier than a 12-pounder. Valazé, Junot’s chief
engineer, opined that the low-lying suburbs at the foot of the hill
of Astorga might be neglected, and the newly entrenched Reteibia
on the high ground masked by a false attack, while the projecting
and unflanked north-west corner of the old walls of the city itself
might be battered from the slopes below: here, as in all its circuit,
the place had neither ditch nor glacis: there was simply the stout
mediaeval wall, broken every 30 yards by a small square tower, which
followed the sky-line of the plateau.

The first three weeks of the siege had an unusual character, since
the French could build what works they pleased, but could not
seriously batter Astorga with the sixteen field-guns of small calibre
belonging to the division lying before the walls. The officer in
temporary command of the artillery, Colonel Noël, contented himself
with opening fire from various false attacks, from which the guns
were repeatedly moved, in order to distract the attention of the
enemy from the chosen front on the north-west, where the approaches
were completed, and a great battery constructed, ready for the
siege-guns when they should arrive. Meanwhile there was a good deal
of infantry skirmishing in and about the lower suburbs, in whose
outskirts the French ultimately established themselves, though they
had no intention of pushing up to the walls either from Puerta del
Rey or from San Andrés[248]. The garrison defended itself well,
executed several vigorous sorties, and lost no post of importance,
though the line of resistance in the suburbs was gradually thrust
back. Santocildes received several encouraging messages from his
chief Mahy, who announced that he was bringing up to the pass of
Foncebadon, on the edge of the plain of Astorga, every man that
Galicia could furnish. But even when the Captain-General had brought
his reserves from Lugo to join Garcia’s division, they had only
5,000 bayonets. To hold them off, Junot sent Clausel’s division to
the outposts, and replaced it in the trenches by Solignac’s and
one brigade of Lagrange’s. Mahy, in face of such an accumulation
of men, was absolutely helpless. Echevarria, with his weak brigade
from Puebla de Senabria, had pushed a little forward, to give moral
support to Mahy. He was surprised and routed near Alcanizas on April
10, by St. Croix’s dragoons.

  [248] There are good narratives in the autobiographies of Noël
  and Hulot of the artillery, beside the excellent account in
  Belmas, vol. iii.

[Illustration: SIEGE OF ASTORGA]

On the 15th the siege-train arrived from Valladolid; it was
small[249], but sufficient against an enemy so miserably provided
with guns as Santocildes. Junot himself came up on the 17th to watch
the effect of the attack. It was instant and overpowering. When
once the artillery had been placed in the works prepared for it,
and had begun its fire, the old walls of Astorga began to crumble.
The light Spanish pieces on the enceinte were overpowered, despite
of the gallant way in which the gunners stuck to their work[250].
By noon on the 21st of April the north-western angle of the walls
of Astorga had been beaten down, and the fallen stones, there being
no ditch, had accumulated at the foot of the broad breach, so as
to give an easy entrance. Fortunately for the defence, there was
a large church just inside the angle: its roof and tower had been
shot down, but the garrison had made themselves strong in the lower
parts of the building, and threw up traverses from it to the wall on
each side of the breach. This gave them a second line of defence,
though but a weak one, and when Junot sent in a summons in the
afternoon Santocildes refused his offer. At seven the French general
bade 700 men storm the breach; the forlorn hope was composed of
the voltigeur and grenadier companies of the Irish Legion and the
47th of the Line. The column penetrated to the foot of the breach
without much difficulty, though exposed to heavy musketry from the
walls, and a flanking fire from the suburb of the Reteibia. The
breach was carried, and, in addition, a house built with its back
to the ramparts just inside the enceinte. But the assailants could
get no further, owing to the murderous fire which the Spaniards kept
up from behind the ruined church and the traverses. After an hour
of desperate attempts to break in, they took shelter, some in the
house that they had captured, but the majority behind the lip of the
breach, where they covered themselves as best they could, by piles of
débris built in with their haversacks, and even with the corpses of
the fallen. Under this poor shelter they lay till dark, suffering
heavily. During the night the troops in the trenches ran out a line
of gabions from the front works to the foot of the walls, and by dawn
had opened a good communication with the men at the breach, though
they had to work under a furious but blind fire from above.

  [249] Only consisting of four 24-pounders, one 16-pounder, four
  12-pounders, eight 6-inch howitzers, and one 6-inch mortar. See
  Belmas, iii. 28.

  [250] ‘Les Espagnols rispostèrent avec vivacité; on s’étonnait
  d’autant plus que, le parapet étant en pierres sèches, chaque
  boulet qui le frappait en faisait jaillir de nombreux éclats.’
  Belmas, iii. 34.

At dawn on April 22, Santocildes surrendered. He might have held out
some hours longer behind his inner defences, if he had not exhausted
nearly all his musket ammunition in resisting the storm. There
were less than thirty cartridges a head left for the infantry of
the garrison, and only 500 pounds of powder for the artillery. The
defence had been admirable, and, it may be added, very scientific,
a fact proved by the low figures of the dead and wounded, which did
not amount to 200 men[251]. The French, in the assault alone, lost
five officers and 107 men killed, and eight officers and 286 men
wounded[252]. Junot was thought to have been precipitate in ordering
the storm: his excuse was that there were less than two hours of
daylight left, and that, if he had deferred the attack till next
morning, the Spaniards would have retrenched the breach under cover
of the dark, and made it impracticable. The siege cost the 8th Corps
in all 160 killed and some 400 wounded, a heavy butcher’s bill for
the capture of a mediaeval fortress armed with only fourteen light
guns. Two thousand five hundred prisoners were taken, as shown by
Santocildes’ lists, but Junot claimed to have ‘captured 3,500 fine
troops, all with good English muskets, and well clothed in English
great coats,’ as well as 500 sick and wounded--impossible figures.

  [251] Two officers and forty-nine men killed, ten officers and
  ninety-nine men wounded, according to his official report to the
  Junta, in which all details are duly given.

  [252] See the figures in Junot’s dispatch, given on pages 66-7 of
  Belmas, vol. iii.

On the morning of the surrender Mahy made a feeble demonstration
against the covering troops, on both the passes of Manzanal and
Foncebadon, while Echevarria beat up the force at Penilla which lay
facing him. All three attacks were checked with ease, the Galician
army not being able to put more than 6,000 men in the field on the
three fronts taken together. Its loss was heavy, especially at
Penilla.

After detaching the 22nd Regiment, which was ordered to endeavour
to communicate with Bonnet in the Asturias, and garrisoning Astorga
with two battalions, Junot drew back the greater part of his corps
to Valladolid and Toro. He had been ordered to place himself near
Ney, in order to aid and cover the 6th Corps in the oncoming siege of
Ciudad Rodrigo. At the same time he received the unwelcome news that
Masséna had been named Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Portugal,
and that the 8th Corps was placed under his orders.

Masséna, as has been already mentioned, did not arrive at Salamanca
till May 28th: he could not well have reached the front earlier,
since the Emperor had only placed him in command in April. The long
delay in the opening of the main campaign must, therefore, be laid
to Napoleon’s account rather than to that of his generals. If he had
suspected that every day of waiting meant that Wellington had added
an extra redoubt to the ever-growing lines of Torres Vedras, it is
permissible to believe that he would have hurried forward matters at
a less leisurely pace. But his determination to conduct the invasion
of Portugal in what he called ‘a methodical fashion’ is sufficiently
shown by the orders sent to Salamanca on May 29. ‘Tell the Prince
of Essling that, according to our English intelligence, the army of
General Wellington is composed of no more than 24,000 British and
Germans, and that his Portuguese are only 25,000 strong. I do not
wish to enter Lisbon at this moment, because I could not feed the
city, whose immense population is accustomed to live on sea-borne
food. He can spend the summer months in taking Ciudad Rodrigo, and
then Almeida. He need not hurry, but can go methodically to work. The
English general, having less than 3,000 cavalry, may offer battle on
ground where cavalry cannot act, but will never come out to fight in
the plains[253].’

  [253] Napoleon to Berthier, May 29, 1810.

The Emperor then proceeds to add that with the 50,000 men of the 6th
and 8th Corps, the cavalry reserve, &c., Masséna is strong enough to
take both Rodrigo and Almeida at his ease: Reynier and the 2nd Corps
can be called up to the bridge of Alcantara, from whence they can
menace Central Portugal and cover Madrid. No order is given to bring
up this corps to join the main army: it seems that the Emperor at
this moment had in his head the plan, with which Wellington always
credited him, of threatening a secondary attack in the Tagus valley.
The 2nd Corps is treated as covering Masséna’s left, while on his
right he will be flanked by Kellermann, who is to add to the small
force already under his command in Old Castile a whole new division,
that of Serras, composed of troops just arrived from France[254].
This, added to Kellermann’s dragoons, would make a corps of 12,000
men. In addition, as the Emperor remarks, by the time that the
Army of Portugal is ready to march on Lisbon, it will have in its
rear the 9th Corps under Drouet, nearly 20,000 men, who will be
concentrated at Valladolid before the autumn has begun. There will
be over 30,000 men in Leon and Old Castile when Masséna’s army moves
on from Almeida, and in the rear of these again Burgos, Navarre,
and Biscay will be held by the Young Guard, and by twenty-six 4th
battalions from France, which were due to start after the 9th Corps,
and would have made their appearance south of the Pyrenees by August
or September.

  [254] Serras’ division consisted of the 113th Line, a Tuscan
  regiment originally employed in Catalonia, which had been so cut
  up in 1809 that it had been sent back to refill its cadres; also
  of the 4th of the Vistula (two battalions), a Polish regiment
  raised in 1810, with four provisional battalions, and three stray
  battalions belonging to regiments in the South, which had not
  been allowed to go on to join Soult [4th battalions of the 32nd
  and 58th Line and of 12th Léger]: his total strength was 8,000
  men.

This document is a very curious product of the imperial pen.
It would be hard to find in the rest of the _Correspondance_ a
dispatch which so completely abandons the ‘Napoleonic methods’ of
quick concentration and sharp strokes, and orders a delay of three
months or more in the completion of a campaign whose preliminary
operations had begun so far back as February. We may reject at
once the explanation offered by some of Napoleon’s enemies, to the
effect that he was jealous of Masséna, and did not wish him to
achieve too rapid or too brilliant a success. But it is clear that a
humanitarian regard for the possible sufferings of the inhabitants
of Lisbon--the only reason alleged for the delay--is an inadequate
motive. Such things did not normally affect the Emperor, and he must
have remembered that when Junot occupied Portugal at the mid-winter
of 1807-8 famine had not played its part in the difficulties
encountered by the French. Nor does it seem that an exaggerated
estimate of the enemy’s strength induced him to postpone the
attack till all the reinforcements had arrived. He under-estimates
Wellington’s British troops by some 5,000, his Portuguese troops by
at least 15,000 men. He is utterly ignorant of the works of Torres
Vedras, though six months’ labour has already been lavished on them,
and by this time they were already defensible. Three months seem
an altogether exaggerated time to devote to the sieges of the two
little old-fashioned second-rate fortresses of Ciudad Rodrigo and
Almeida. From whence, then, comes this unprecedented resolve to adopt
a ‘methodical’ system in dealing with the invasion of Portugal? It
has been suggested that the Emperor was very desirous to make sure
of the absolute suppression of the guerrilleros of the Pyrenees and
the Ebro, before pushing forward his field army to Lisbon. Possibly
he was influenced by his knowledge of the infinite difficulty that
Masséna would find in equipping himself with a train, and more
especially in creating magazines during the months before the harvest
had been gathered in. Some have thought that, looking far forward,
he considered it would be more disastrous to the English army to be
‘driven into the sea’ somewhere in the rough months of October and
November rather than in the fine weather of June--and undoubtedly
no one who reads his dispatches can doubt that the desire to deal
an absolutely crushing blow to that army was his dominating idea
throughout. But probably the main determining factor in Napoleon’s
mind was the resolve that there should be no failure this time, for
want of preparation or want of sufficient strength; that no risks
should be taken, and that what he regarded as an overwhelming force
should be launched upon Portugal. After Junot’s disaster of 1808
and Soult’s fiasco in 1809, the Imperial prestige could not stand
a third failure. The old pledge that ‘the leopard should be driven
into the sea’ must be redeemed at all costs on this occasion. Solid
success rather than a brilliant campaign must be the end kept in
view: hence came the elaborate preparations for the sustaining of
Masséna’s advance by the support of Drouet, Kellermann, and Serras.
Even Suchet’s operations in Eastern Spain were to be conducted
with some regard to the affairs of Portugal[255]. It was a broad
and a formidable plan--but it failed in one all-important factor.
Wellington’s strength was underrated; it was no mere driving of
25,000 British troops into the sea that was now in question, but
the reduction of a kingdom where every man had been placed under
arms, and every preparation made for passive as well as for active
resistance. When Napoleon was once more foiled, it was because he
had treated the Portuguese army--a ‘_tas de coquins_’ as he called
them--as a negligible quantity, and because he had foreseen neither
that systematic devastation of the land, nor the creation of those
vast lines in front of Lisbon, which were such essential features of
Wellington’s scheme of defence. The French attack was delivered by
65,000 men, not by the 100,000 whose advent the British general had
feared: and precisely because the numbers of the Army of Portugal
were no greater, the attack was made on the Beira frontier only.
Masséna had no men to spare for the secondary invasion south of the
Tagus which Wellington had expected and dreaded. The Emperor’s plans
went to wreck because he had under-estimated his enemy, and assigned
too small a force to his lieutenant. But it was no ordinary general
who had so prepared his defence that Napoleon’s calculations went all
astray. The genius of Wellington was the true cause of the disastrous
end of the long-prepared invasion.

  [255] See the curious dispatch no. 16651, of July 14, directing
  Suchet to be ready to send half his corps to Valladolid after he
  should have taken Tortosa.



SECTION XIX: CHAPTER V

THE MONTHS OF WAITING: THE SIEGE OF CIUDAD RODRIGO (MAY-JULY 1810)


The long months of delay that followed the first operations of the
French in 1810 were a time of anxious waiting for Wellington. He had
moved his head quarters to Vizeu on the 12th of January, and had
been lying in that bleak and lofty town all through the rest of the
winter. With him there had come to the North all the old British
divisions save the 2nd, which had been left with Hill, first at
Abrantes and then at Portalegre, to watch the French between the
Tagus and the Guadiana. The 1st Division was placed at Vizeu, the 3rd
at Trancoso and the neighbouring villages, the 4th at Guarda, while
the cavalry wintered in the coast plain between Coimbra and Aveiro.
Only the Light Brigade of Robert Craufurd, which takes the new
style of the Light _Division_ on March 1, was pushed forward to the
Spanish frontier, and lay in the villages about Almeida[256], with
its outposts pushed forward to the line of the Agueda. The Portuguese
regular brigades, which were afterwards incorporated in the British
divisions, were still lying in winter quarters around Coimbra and
Thomar, drilling hard and incorporating their recruits. The militia
were also under arms at their regimental head quarters, save the
few battalions which had already been thrown into Elvas, Almeida,
Peniche, and Abrantes.

  [256] The head quarters of the 43rd during January and February
  were at Valverde, above the Coa, those of the 52nd at Pinhel,
  those of the 95th at Villa Torpim.

Wellington’s front, facing the French, was formed by Hill’s corps
in the Alemtejo, Lecor’s Portuguese brigade in the Castello Branco
district, and Craufurd’s force on the Agueda. Neither Hill nor
Lecor was in actual contact with the enemy, and La Romana’s army,
spread out from the Pass of Perales to Zafra and Araçena in a thin
line, lay between them and Reynier’s and Mortier’s outposts. It was
otherwise with Craufurd, who was placed north of La Romana’s left
division, that of Martin Carrera; he was in close touch with Ney’s
corps all along the line of the Agueda, as far as the Douro. Since
the outposts of the 6th Corps had been pushed forward on March 9th,
the Commander of the Light Division was in a most responsible, not
to say a dangerous, position. The main army was forty miles to his
rear in its cantonments at Vizeu, Guarda, and Trancoso. He had with
him of British infantry only the first battalions of the 43rd,
52nd, and 95th, with one battery, and one regiment of cavalry, the
1st Hussars of the King’s German Legion. His orders were to keep
open the communication with Ciudad Rodrigo till the last possible
moment, to cover Almeida as long as was prudent, and to keep the
Commander-in-Chief advised of every movement of the enemy. It was
clear that he might be thrust back at any moment: the 6th Corps,
since Loison had joined it, was 30,000 strong: the Light Division had
only 2,500 infantry with the 500 German light horse. On March 28th
Wellington sent up to reinforce Craufurd two battalions of Caçadores,
the 1st and 2nd. The latter of these units was afterwards changed for
the 3rd[257], which, trained by Elder, the best of all the colonels
lent to the Portuguese army, was reckoned the most efficient corps
that could be selected from Beresford’s command. But the two Caçador
battalions only added 1,000 bayonets to the Light Division, and even
after their arrival Craufurd’s force was less than 4,000 strong.

  [257] On Craufurd’s complaint that the 2nd Caçadores were badly
  commanded and too full of boys. He repeatedly asked for, and
  ultimately obtained, the 3rd battalion in place of the 2nd,
  because of his confidence in Elder.

Robert Craufurd, though only a brigadier, and junior of his rank,
had been chosen by Wellington to take charge of his outpost line
because he was one of the very few officers then in the Peninsula in
whose ability his Commander-in-Chief had perfect confidence. Nothing
is more striking than to compare the tone and character of the
letters which Wellington wrote to him with those which he dispatched
to most of his other general officers. Only with Craufurd, Hill,
and Beresford, did he ever condescend to enter into explanations
and state reasons. The rest receive orders without comment, which
they are directed to carry out, and are given no opportunity to
discuss[258]. The difference was noted and resented by the others:
when on March 8th Craufurd was formally given charge of the whole
outpost line of the army, and his seniors Picton and Cole were
told to conform their movements to his, without waiting for orders
from head quarters, some friction was engendered[259]. Picton and
Craufurd, in especial, were for the rest of the campaign in a state
of latent hostility, which more than once led to high words when they
met--a fact which was not without its dangers to the welfare of the
army[260].

  [258] Note especially Wellington’s explanatory dispatch to
  Craufurd of March 8, where he even goes so far as to give his
  subordinate a free hand as to the choice of his line: ‘You must
  be a better judge of the details of this question than I can be,
  and I wish you to consider them, in order to be able to carry
  the plan into execution when I shall send it to you.’ In another
  letter Wellington writes: ‘Nothing can be of greater advantage to
  me than to have the benefit of your opinion on _any_ subject.’

  [259] ‘I intend that the divisions of Generals Cole and Picton
  should support you on the Coa, without waiting for orders from
  me, if it should be necessary, and they shall be directed
  accordingly.’ 8th March, from Vizeu.

  [260] It should not be forgotten that Picton, no less than
  Craufurd, was at this time living down an old disaster. But
  Picton’s misfortune had not been military. It was the celebrated
  case of _Rex_ v. _Picton_. He had been tried for permitting
  the use of torture to extract evidence against criminals
  while governor of the newly conquered island of Trinidad, and
  convicted, though Spanish law (which was still in force in
  Trinidad) apparently permitted of the practice. After this Picton
  was a marked man. The story of Luisa Calderon, the quadroon
  girl who had been tortured by ‘picketing,’ had been appearing
  intermittently in the columns of every Whig paper for more than
  three years.

The celebrated commander of the Light Division was at this time well
known for his ability, but reckoned rather an unlucky soldier. He had
entered the army so far back as 1779, and had seen service in every
quarter of the globe, yet in 1809 was only a colonel. This was the
more astounding since he was one of the few scientific soldiers in
the British army when the Revolutionary War broke out. He had spent
some time at Berlin in 1782, studying the tactics of the army of
Frederick the Great, and had translated into English the official
Prussian treatise on the Art of War. His knowledge of German, a rare
accomplishment in the British army at the end of the eighteenth
century, caused him to be given the post of military attaché at
Coburg’s head quarters in 1794, and he followed the Austrian army
through all the disasters of that and the two following years. Again
in 1799 he went out to take the same post at the head quarters of
the army of Switzerland, but quitted it to serve on the staff of the
Duke of York, during the miserable Dutch expedition of that same
year. He seemed destined to witness nothing but disasters, and though
he was known to have done his duty with admirable zeal and energy
in every post that he occupied, promotion lingered. Probably his
caustic tongue and fiery temper were his hindrances, but it seems
astonishing that he took twenty-six years to attain the rank of
colonel, though he was not destitute of political influence, having
friends and relatives in Parliament, and even in the Ministry[261].
In 1801 he was a disappointed man, thought of retiring from the
army, and, having accepted a nomination borough, sat in the Commons
for five years. In 1805 he was at last made a colonel, and in the
following year went on active service with the expedition which,
sent originally to the Cape, was distracted in 1807 to the unhappy
Buenos Ayres campaign. This was the zenith of his misfortunes; it
was he who, placed in charge of a light brigade by the incapable
Whitelocke, was thrust forward into the midst of the tangled streets
of Buenos Ayres, surrounded in the convent of San Domingo, and forced
to capitulate for lack of support. At the ensuing court-martial he
was acquitted of all blame, but the fact that he had surrendered a
British brigade rankled in his mind for the rest of his life. The
unshaken confidence in his abilities felt by the Home authorities was
marked by the fact that he was sent out in October 1808 with Baird’s
corps, which landed at Corunna, and again in June 1809 to Lisbon,
each time in command of a brigade. But his bad luck seemed still
to attend him: he missed the victory of Corunna because Moore had
detached his brigade on the inexplicable march to Vigo. He failed to
be present at Talavera, despite of the famous forced march which he
made towards the sound of the cannon.

  [261] His elder brother, Sir Charles Craufurd, was
  Deputy-Adjutant-General, and M.P. for Retford. Windham, the
  Secretary for War, was his devoted friend.

In 1810 Craufurd was burning to vindicate his reputation, and to
show that the confidence which Wellington placed in him was not
undeserved. He still regarded himself as a man who had been unjustly
dealt with, and had never been given his chance. He could not forget
that he was four years older than Beresford, five years older than
Wellington, eight years older than Hill, yet was but a junior
brigadier-general in charge of a division[262]. He was full of a
consuming energy, on the look-out for slights and quarrels, a very
strict disciplinarian, restless himself and leaving his troops no
rest. He was not liked by all his officers: in the Light Division
he had many admirers[263] and many bitter critics. Nor was he at
first popular with the rank and file, though they soon began to
recognize the keen intelligence that guided his actions, and to see
that he was a just if a hard master[264]. In the matter of feeding
his troops, the most difficult task imposed on a general of the
Peninsular army, he had an unparalleled reputation for accomplishing
the impossible--even if the most drastic methods had to be employed.
The famous old story about Wellington and the commissary had Craufurd
(and not, as it is sometimes told, Picton) as its hero. As a sample
of his high-handed ways, it may be mentioned that he once seized
and impounded some church-plate till the villages to which it
belonged found him some corn for his starving division. Craufurd, on
one of his happy days, and they were many, was the most brilliant
subordinate that Wellington ever owned. His mistakes--and he
committed more than one--were the faults of an ardent and ambitious
spirit taking an immoderate risk in the hour of excitement.

  [262] Though senior in the date of his first commission to nearly
  all the officers of the Peninsular army, Craufurd was six years
  junior to Picton, and one year junior to Hope. Graham, much his
  senior in age, had only entered the army in 1793.

  [263] Such as Shaw-Kennedy, William Campbell, Kincaid, and Lord
  Seaton.

  [264] For Craufurd’s life and personality see his biography by
  his grandson the Rev. Alex. Craufurd, London, 1890. The most
  vivid picture of him is in Rifleman Harris’s chronicle of the
  Corunna retreat, a wonderful piece of narrative by a writer from
  the ranks, who admired his general despite of all his severity,
  and acknowledges that his methods were necessary. Though Napier
  as a historian is on the whole fairly just to his old commander,
  whose achievements were bound up indissolubly with the glories of
  the Light Division, as a man he disliked Craufurd: in one of his
  hooks which I possess (Delagrave’s _Campagne de Portugal_) he has
  written in the margin several bitter personal remarks about him,
  very unlike the language employed in his history. The unpublished
  Journal of Colonel McLeod of the 43rd is (as Mr. Alex. Craufurd
  informs me) written in the same spirit. So is Charles Napier’s
  _Diary_.

From March to July 1810 Craufurd, in charge of the whole outpost
system of Wellington’s army, accomplished the extraordinary feat of
guarding a front of forty miles against an active enemy of sixfold
force, without suffering his line to be pierced, or allowing the
French to gain any information whatever of the dispositions of
the host in his rear. He was in constant and daily touch with
Ney’s corps, yet was never surprised, and never thrust back save
by absolutely overwhelming strength; he never lost a detachment,
never failed to detect every move of the enemy, and never sent
his commander false intelligence. This was the result of system
and science, not merely of vigilance and activity. The journal of
his aide de camp Shaw-Kennedy, giving the daily work of the Light
Division during the critical months of 1810, might serve as an
illustrative manual of outpost duty, and was indeed printed for that
purpose in 1851[265].

  [265] As an Appendix to Lord F. Fitz-Clarence’s _Manual of
  Outpost Duties_.

Craufurd’s one cavalry regiment, the German Hussars, had to cover
a front of nearly forty miles, and performed the duty admirably;
it had been chosen for the service because it was considered by
Wellington superior in scouting power to any of his British light
cavalry corps. ‘General Craufurd worked out the most difficult
part of the outpost duty with them. He had the great advantage of
speaking German fluently, and he arranged for the outpost duties of
the different parts of the long line that he had to guard by his
personal communications with the captains of that admirable corps,
men who were themselves masters of the subject. They each knew his
plan for the space that they covered, though not his general plan,
and each worked out his part most admirably. The General communicated
with them direct. He had the great advantage of possessing, with
his great abilities and energy, uncommon bodily strength, so that
he could remain on horseback almost any length of time.... When
his operations began, the point to be observed was the line of the
Agueda, extending for some forty miles. The country, although very
irregular in its surface, was quite open and unenclosed, and fit
almost everywhere for the action of all three arms. When he took up
the line he kept his infantry back entirely, with the exception of
four companies of the Rifles above the bridge of Barba del Puerco,
upon the _calculation_ of the time that would be required to retire
the infantry behind the Coa, after he received information from the
cavalry of the enemy’s advance. If we are properly to understand
Craufurd’s operations, the _calculation_ must never be lost sight
of, for it was on calculations that he acted all along. The
hazarding of the four companies at Barba del Puerco forms a separate
consideration: it rested on the belief that the pass there was so
difficult, that four companies could defend it against any numbers,
and that, if they were turned higher up the river, the Hussars would
give the Rifles warning in ample time for a safe retreat.... Special
reports were made of the state of the fords of the Agueda _every_
morning, and the rapidity of its rises was particularly marked.
An officer had special charge of all deserters from the enemy, to
examine them and bring together their information[266]. Beacons were
prepared on conspicuous heights, so as to communicate information
as to the enemy’s offensive movements. To ensure against mistakes
in the night, pointers were kept at the stations of communication,
directed to the beacons.... As Napier has remarked in his History,
_seven minutes_ sufficed for the division to get under arms in the
middle of the night, and a quarter of an hour, night or day, to bring
it in order of battle to its alarm-posts, with the baggage loaded and
assembled at a convenient distance to the rear. And this not upon a
concerted signal, nor as a trial, but at all times and certain[267].’

  [266] One of the most curious points in Shaw-Kennedy’s _Diary_
  [p. 218] is that from the reports of deserters Craufurd succeeded
  in reconstructing the exact composition of Ney’s corps, in
  brigades and battalions, with a final error of only one battalion
  and 2,000 men too few.

  [267] Shaw-Kennedy, _Diary_, pp. 142 and 147.

To complete the picture it remains to be added that there were some
fifteen fords between Ciudad Rodrigo and the mouth of the Agueda,
which were practicable in dry weather for all arms, and that several
of them could be used even after a day or two of rain. The French
were along the whole river; they had 3,000 horse available in March
and April, 5,000 in May and June. Their infantry at some points were
only three or four miles back from the river: yet Craufurd’s line was
never broken, nor was even a picket of ten men cut off or surrounded.
The least movement of the enemy was reported along the whole front in
an incredibly short time, the whole web of communication quivered at
the slightest touch, and the division was immediately ready to fight
or to draw back, according as the strength of the French dictated
boldness or caution.

During February Wellington had rightly concluded that Craufurd had
nothing to fear; Ney’s early demonstration against Ciudad Rodrigo
had no more serious significance than Mortier’s similar appearance
in front of Badajoz. But when March arrived, and the 8th Corps
appeared in the plains of Leon and commenced the siege of Astorga,
while Ney began to move up his cavalry to the line of the Yeltes,
and Loison’s division, coming from Astorga, established itself on
the lower Agueda, it seemed likely that serious work would soon
begin. The first test of the efficiency of Craufurd’s outpost system
was made on the night of March 19-20, when Ferey, commanding the
brigade of Loison’s division which lay at San Felices, assembled his
six voltigeur companies before dawn, and made a dash at the pass of
Barba del Puerco. He had the good luck to bayonet the sentries at
the bridge before they could fire, and was half way up the rough
ascent from the bridge to the village, when Beckwith’s detachment
of the 95th Rifles, roused and armed in ten minutes, were upon him.
They drove him down the defile, and chased him back across the river
with the loss of two officers and forty-five men killed and wounded.
Beckwith’s riflemen lost one officer and three men killed, and ten
men wounded in the three companies engaged. After this alarm Craufurd
was in anxious expectation of a general advance of the 6th Corps, and
made every preparation to receive them. But Ferey’s reconnaissance
had no sequel, and a whole month passed by without any serious move
on the part of the enemy. The Agueda was in flood for the greater
part of April, owing to incessant rains, which made the outpost work
simple, as the number of points to be observed went down from fifteen
to three or four. It was not till the twenty-sixth that Maucune’s
and Ferey’s brigades moved up close to Ciudad Rodrigo, drove in the
Spanish outposts, and formed the blockade of the place on the east
side of the Agueda. Even then its bridge remained unmolested, and
Craufurd could communicate quite freely with the garrison, and did
so till June 2nd. Masséna at a later date blamed Ney for having
established this partial and useless blockade before he was ready
to commence the siege in earnest. The two French brigades consumed,
during the month of May, the whole of the local resources of the
district around Rodrigo, so that, when the rest of the army came
up, all supplies had to be brought up from a great distance. It may
also be remarked that to advance a corps of no more than 7,000 men
within striking distance of the British army would have been very
hazardous, if Wellington had been entertaining any designs of taking
the offensive--and Ney at this time could not have been sure that
such a contingency was unlikely. The only advantage which the Marshal
got from keeping his detachment so close to the fortress was that,
in their month of waiting, the brigades were able to prepare a great
store of gabions and fascines, and the engineers to make a thorough
survey of the environs.

Ciudad Rodrigo stands on a single circular knoll of no great height,
whose summit it exactly covers. It is a small place of some 8,000
souls, packed tight in narrow streets within a stout mediaeval wall
thickly set with towers. A fourteenth-century castle, on which the
houses press in too close for strength, fills its south-eastern
corner: there is no other inner place of refuge. The Agueda, divided
into several channels, runs under the southern side of the place; it
is crossed by a bridge completely commanded by the fire of the walls.
On the water-front the knoll is at its highest, on the opposite face
it is much less steep, and only very slightly exceeds the level of
the surrounding ground. Round the circuit of the mediaeval wall a
low modern enceinte had been constructed, and served as an outer
protection (_fausse-braye_); it was only twelve feet high, so did not
shield more than a third of the inner wall, which could be battered
over its summit. Its outline was zigzagged in the form of redans, and
it was furnished with a dry ditch. Its glacis, owing to the rising of
the knoll, gave it little protection, so that both the older and the
modern wall could be searched, for the greater part of their height,
by the artillery of a besieger. Outside the eastern gate of Rodrigo
lies the straggling suburb of San Francisco, on very low ground. It
was so large and so close to the walls that the governor Herrasti
considered it absolutely necessary to take it inside the circuit
of his defences. It had accordingly been surrounded by a strong
earthwork, and the three great monasteries which it contains--San
Francisco, San Domingo, and Santa Clara--had been strengthened and
loopholed. The small suburb of La Marina, just across the bridge, was
retrenched and manned, as was also the convent of Santa Cruz, which
stands isolated 200 yards outside the north-west angle of the town.
Other outlying buildings had been levelled to the ground, lest they
should afford cover to the enemy.

[Illustration: SIEGE OF CIUDAD RODRIGO]

These preparations were very wise and helpful, but they did not do
away with the main weakness of Ciudad Rodrigo considered as a modern
fortress. Like many other mediaeval strongholds it is commanded
by outlying heights, which could be disregarded as an element of
danger in the fourteenth or the sixteenth century, because of their
distance, but became all-important with the improvement of artillery.
In this case two knolls, considerably higher than that on which the
place stands, lie outside its northern walls. The smaller, named the
Little Teson, lies only 200 yards from the northern angle of the
town; it is some fifty feet higher than the base of the ramparts.
Immediately behind it rises the Great Teson, which dominates the
whole country-side, its broad flat top, three-quarters of a mile in
diameter, being a hundred feet above the level of the plain. It was
hopeless to think of holding the little Teson as an outwork, since
the greater one looks down into it and searches it from end to end.
The Great Teson, on the other hand, is so large--its circuit is about
the same as the city itself--that it would be impossible to think
of defending it, as when entrenched it would require a garrison of
at least 3,000 men, and Herrasti had but 5,500 troops under his
command. Its slopes, moreover, are gentle, and do not lend themselves
to fortification. The southern edge of the plateau of the Great Teson
being only 500 yards from the town wall, it was obvious that here
was the place from which Rodrigo could best be assailed. Batteries
on its sky-line could breach both the inner and outer walls, and
could command every square foot both of the town and of the fortified
suburbs. Accordingly the brigades which lay before the place in
May had encamped on and behind the Teson, and stored the gabions,
fascines, and sandbags which they were making in a park, near the
convent of La Caridad and the village of Pedro de Toro, on its
further side.

Herrasti, as we have said, had a garrison of 5,500 men, composed of
one line battalion, two militia battalions, three battalions of new
levies from the town and its vicinity, called ‘Voluntarios de Ciudad
Rodrigo,’ and one battalion of ‘Urban Guards[268].’ None of these
troops, save the line battalion of Majorca (which had formed part of
the old Army of Estremadura) had ever been under fire--a fact which
makes their fine defence all the more creditable. There were only
11 officers and 37 men of the artillery of the line in the place:
these had to train 350 men assigned to them from the infantry; but
fortunately the long delay in the opening of the siege had allowed
the instruction to be thoroughly carried out. Of engineers there were
only 4 officers and 60 sappers--of cavalry none--but the partisan
chief Julian Sanchez with some 200 of his Lancers chanced to be in
the place on the day when it was completely invested, and was forced
to cut his way out when the bombardment began. Perhaps the main
strength of Ciudad Rodrigo, as of Gerona, lay in the personality of
its governor. General Andrés Herrasti, a veteran of nearly seventy
years, was determined to do his duty, and showed as much ingenuity
and readiness as obstinacy in his defence.

  [268] Herrasti’s report gives 1st of Majorca 706 officers and
  men, Avila and Segovia militia 857 and 317 respectively, three
  battalions of volunteers of Ciudad Rodrigo 2,242, Urban guard
  750, artillery 375, sappers 60; total, with some details added,
  5,510, not including Sanchez’s Partida. See Belmas, iii. 314.

Though the French had appeared before the walls of Ciudad Rodrigo
on April 26th, it was not till May 30th that Ney came up in person,
with four brigades of infantry and Montbrun’s division of reserve
cavalry, to complete the investment. The main cause of the delay was,
as usual, the lack of supplies. Ney had to levy and forward from
Salamanca two months’ rations for an army of 30,000 men, and could
only do so after long and harassing preparation. He nearly came to
actual blows with King Joseph over the matter, for he sent a cavalry
brigade to raise requisitions in the province of Avila, which was
outside his command, and General Hugo, the King’s governor, put his
troops under arms and refused to allow the dragoons to enter his
district. An imperial rescript, however, soon arrived, which placed
Avila at the disposition of the 6th Corps, and the royal authorities
had to yield[269].

  [269] See Sprünglin’s _Journal_, p. 417.

All Ney’s troops were now concentrated for the siege, his outlying
detachments in every direction having been relieved by Junot, who,
at Masséna’s orders, brought down the 8th Corps from the Douro,
placed a brigade to watch the Pass of Baños, left garrisons in
Zamora and Toro, and advanced with the remainder of his troops to
the line of the Agueda. Clausel’s division and St. Croix’s division
of dragoons took post at San Felices, in immediate touch with
Craufurd’s division. Solignac’s division lay a march and a half to
the rear at Ledesma. San Felices is only 20, Ledesma is 40 miles
from Ciudad Rodrigo, so that the 8th Corps, deducting the outlying
brigades, could have joined Ney in two days. These distances were
the governing factor in Wellington’s policy during the next month.
Ney had 26,000 men of the 6th Corps and Montbrun’s 4,000 dragoons in
front of Rodrigo; Junot could join him with 8,000 infantry and 1,800
cavalry in a day; a second day would bring up Solignac with 7,000
men more. Unless the 6th Corps could be surprised in its camps, and
forced to fight before it received its reinforcements, there would
be 47,000 French to face. Of their numbers Wellington was roughly
aware; the figures sent in to him by Craufurd were accurate to within
a few thousands[270], and estimated the enemy at 40,000 men. The
Commander-in-Chief’s own calculation was even nearer the truth; early
in May he reckoned Ney, with Loison’s division included, at 30,000
men, Junot and Kellermann at 30,000[271]. Early in June he made out
that the two corps in his front, without Kellermann, amounted to
50,000 men[272], which was only 3,000 over the true total. He himself
had at this moment only 18,000 British troops under his hand, and
within striking distance. He had on April 27th, brought up his head
quarters and the 1st Division to Celorico, and moved forward Picton
and the 3rd Division to Pinhel, while Cole with the 4th remained at
Guarda, and the Light Division was, as usual, facing the Agueda. The
cavalry had also come up from the Mondego valley, and lay behind
Almeida. Moreover, the five Portuguese brigades of Harvey, Collins,
Pack, Coleman, and Alex. Campbell were ordered up to the front[273],
and joined the army in the first days of May. Wellington thereupon
incorporated Harvey’s brigade with the 3rd Division and Collins’s
with the 4th, a system which he afterwards carried out with nearly
all the Portuguese units. The whole of this mass of troops came to
some 15,000 men[274]. These, with the British, making a total of
32,000 men, were all that Wellington could count upon, for he could
not dare to move Hill’s 12,000 men from the south, where they were
observing Reynier, nor to displace the small reserve, which lay at
Abrantes and Thomar to guard against a possible French move along the
Tagus by Castello Branco. Lisbon could not be left unprotected on
this side, so long as Reynier lay between the Tagus and the Guadiana.

  [270] May 2, to Craufurd.

  [271] On June 1 Craufurd calculated the troops in front of Ciudad
  Rodrigo, by counting regiments and battalions, at over 25,000
  men. There were really 30,000, and the under-estimate came
  from allowing only 550 men to a battalion, while they really
  averaged 650. About the same time Craufurd estimated the parts
  of Junot’s corps in the neighbourhood to be 13,000 men: they
  were really nearly 17,000. The cause of error was the same. See
  Shaw-Kennedy’s _Diary_, pages 190-5. The estimates are corrected,
  on fuller information, early in July, see ibid., p. 220.

  [272] To Charles Stuart, June 8, and to Hill, June 9.

  [273] This movement, unchronicled elsewhere, appears in D’Urban’s
  diary, April 26. ‘The Portuguese ordered to the front, consisting
  of two brigades of artillery, 4th and 6th Caçadores, 1st and 16th
  (Pack), 7th and 19th (Coleman), 6th and 18th (Alex. Campbell),
  11th and 23rd (Collins), 9th and 21st (Harvey) of the Line. They
  all go into march on the 28th, and will arrive by successive
  brigades at Celorico in four days.’

  [274] At this moment the total force of the allied army was:--

    1st Division (all British)  6,000 bayonets.
    3rd    ”     British        2,500 with Harvey’s Portuguese   1,800
    4th    ”        ”           4,000 with Collins’s    ”        2,500
    Light  ”        ”           2,500 with 2 Caçador Batts.      1,000
    Pack’s, Campbell’s, and Coleman’s Portuguese brigades        8,000
    Cavalry (British)           2,100        Portuguese            700
    Artillery   ”               1,000        Portuguese            600
                               ------                           ------
                               18,100                           14,600

By bringing up every man Wellington could have attacked Ney’s
30,000 in front of Rodrigo with 33,000, of whom nearly half would
have consisted of the newly organised Portuguese brigades, of which
hardly a battalion had been under fire. He would have had under 3,000
cavalry to face 5,000, and a marked inferiority in artillery also. No
practical assistance could have been got by inviting the co-operation
of Martin Carrera’s depleted Spanish division of 3,000 men, which
lay on the hills about the sources of the Agueda, watching Ney’s
flank. If the first stroke should fail, and Ney were not surprised,
Wellington would have Junot’s 17,000 men to count with within
forty-eight hours. Ciudad Rodrigo lies on a plain, a full day’s march
from the hills, and by advancing to relieve it the British army must
commit itself to an action in the open. It is no wonder then that
Wellington refused to attempt the movement; weak in cavalry and with
15,000 troops of uncertain value in his ranks, he would have been mad
to embark upon such an operation. It was most improbable that Ney
could have been surprised, and forced to fight without Junot’s aid,
when he had 5,000 horsemen at hand, to discover and report the first
movement of the Anglo-Portuguese. Napoleon had been right when he
told Masséna that it was practically impossible that Wellington would
offer battle in the plains. Herrasti had been sent assurances that
the British army would do anything that was feasible for his relief,
but he was warned in a supplementary letter of June 6th that it might
be impossible to aid him. ‘You will believe,’ wrote Wellington, ‘that
if I should not be able to attempt your relief, it will be owing
to the superior strength of the enemy, and to the necessity for my
attending to other important objects[275].’ Notwithstanding this
caution it would appear that the Spanish governor still hoped for
prompt assistance. It seemed to him, as it did to all Spanish and
some English officers at the time[276], that Wellington would not
be able to endure the spectacle of Ciudad Rodrigo being taken while
his outposts were lying only six miles in front of it. Those who
held such views little knew the inflexible character of the man with
whom they had to deal, or his contempt for considerations of pride
or sentiment. To take a great risk, when victory would mean only the
raising of the siege of Rodrigo till Junot and Kellermann should have
joined Ney, while defeat might mean the loss of Portugal, was not in
consonance with Wellington’s character. The possible gain and loss
were too unequal, and he very rightly, and not without much regret,
remained in observation at Celorico[277]. He sums up the matter
thus:--‘I must leave the mountains and cross the plains, as well as
two rivers, to raise the siege. To do this I have about 33,000 men
(including Carrera’s Spaniards), of which 3,000 are cavalry[278].
Included are 15,000 Spaniards and Portuguese, which troops (to say
the best of them) are of doubtful quality. Is it right, under these
circumstances, to risk a general action to raise the siege of Ciudad
Rodrigo? I should think not[279].’ And again, ‘My object is to be
able to relieve the place, if it should be advisable to attempt it,
in consequence of any alteration in the enemy’s force. This does
not appear to be a very probable event at present, and ought not to
be provided for according to the common rules of prudence, at any
considerable risk[280].’ Expressions of regret are added, ‘I do not
give the matter up; if they hold out like men they are worth saving,
and under certain circumstances it might be possible to “incur the
risk.”’ But the ‘certain circumstances’ never came about; they seem
to have been the possibility either that (1) Ney or Junot might make
detachments, or move their corps into a less concentrated position
than they at present occupied, or (2) that they might form a covering
army, and advance to drive him off from his present quarters, which
were too close to Ciudad Rodrigo for their comfort. This last
contingency almost happened, as we shall see; probably if the enemy
had come out to attack him Wellington would have accepted battle, in
one of the defensive positions that he knew so well how to select.

  [275] _Dispatches_, vi. p. 172.

  [276] D’Urban, for example, wrote in his journal on June 18 that
  he took the daring step of suggesting a surprise attack on Ney to
  the General. No notice was taken of his suggestion.

  [277] Picton summed up the situation in a letter to a friend [see
  Robinson’s _Life of Picton_, i. 273] very clearly: ‘If we attempt
  to relieve the place the French will drive us out of Portugal:
  while if they get possession of it, they will lose time, which is
  more important to them than Ciudad Rodrigo. But they have got to
  find this out.’

  [278] A slight under-estimate, as it would seem, for with La
  Carrera’s force the whole would have been 36,000 sabres and
  bayonets. Of the 3,000 cavalry 700 were Portuguese and 300
  Spaniards.

  [279] Wellington to Henry Wellesley, June 20.

  [280] Wellington to Craufurd, June 24.

Ney, as has been already mentioned, arrived before the fortress with
some 20,000 men on May 30th. On June 1st he threw a bridge across the
Agueda, a mile and a half above Rodrigo, but sent no troops across
it. Two days later Masséna came up from the rear, approved of the
plan that had been formed for breaching the city from the side of the
two Tesons, and, having reviewed the 6th Corps, took his way back
to Salamanca. At this moment he gave orders to Reynier and the 2nd
Corps to leave Truxillo and the valley of the Guadiana, and to cross
the Tagus to Coria and Plasencia, from whence they could threaten
Castello Branco and Abrantes. This was in accordance with the orders
of the Emperor, who had bidden him call up Reynier from the Guadiana,
to cover his flank. Such a movement had been foreseen by Wellington,
who as early as June 9th had directed Hill to leave Portalegre with
his 12,000 men, and to cross the Tagus at Villa Velha the moment
that Reynier should have passed it at Almaraz[281]. Some days later
the Galician general Mahy sent to the British head quarters four
duplicates of Napoleon’s dispatches to Masséna and King Joseph, which
had been intercepted by guerrillas on the way to Salamanca[282]. They
corroborated all Wellington’s suspicions, and enabled him to provide
against the danger on this side even before it had begun to arise.
Hill’s route by Villa Velha being appreciably shorter than that of
Reynier, he was in position beyond the Tagus before the 2nd Corps had
reached Coria. Their cavalry met and skirmished at Ladoeiro on the
Zarza-Castello Branco road on July 22nd. Thus the relative position
of the two hostile forces in the south was exactly preserved:
Wellington knew that he could call in Hill to join his main army as
quickly as Masséna could draw Reynier to himself through the Pass of
Perales--the only route possible for him. He felt all the more secure
because he had now some British troops at Abrantes ready to support
Hill. Three newly arrived battalions[283], which landed at Lisbon
early in April, had been passed up the Tagus to Thomar and the line
of the Zezere, where, uniting with two Portuguese brigades, they
formed Leith’s ‘5th Division,’ a fresh factor in the situation. This
detachment, with two batteries added, could assist Hill with 7,000
men, if Reynier should push forward in the direction of Castello
Branco.

  [281] Wellington to Hill, July 9.

  [282] These were Napoleon’s dispatches nos. 16,505, 16,519-20,
  and 16,504, as is shown by the excellent analysis of them given
  by D’Urban in his diary. He read them over with Beresford on July
  1. No. 16,519 was very valuable, as giving the exact strength
  of the 2nd, 6th, and 8th Corps--the first absolutely certain
  analysis of them that Wellington obtained.

  [283] These were the 3/1st, 1/9th, 2/38th, which arrived at
  Lisbon April 1-8. Leith’s division was formally constituted only
  on July 15, but really existed since June.

Whether at this moment Masséna was proposing to order a serious
attack on this side, or whether he was from the first intending
to bring up the 2nd Corps to join the main army, is not certain.
Napoleon in some of his dispatches seems to recommend the rather
hazardous ‘attack on double external lines’--a result of his general
under-estimate of Wellington’s resisting power. On May 29th he
told his lieutenant that with 50,000 men of the 6th and 8th Corps
he could capture both Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida, and then march
‘methodically’ into Portugal, while Reynier at Alcantara could cover
the communication with Madrid and menace Upper Beira; ‘le prince le
maintiendra dans cette position sans le laisser entamer.’ Masséna,
however, did not think his main army strong enough, and, being left
a free hand by his master, ultimately called in Reynier to join him,
and so freed Wellington from the harassing doubt as to whether he
might not have to defend himself on the Zezere and on the Mondego at
the same moment.

Long before the orders reached the 2nd Corps to move up from Truxillo
to Coria and Zarza, the siege of Rodrigo had begun in earnest. On
June 1st, as we have already seen, Ney had cast a bridge across the
Agueda above the town; four days later a second was constructed at
the ford of Lora, below the place. The moment that it was completed,
Marchand’s division, half Mermet’s, and the light cavalry brigade
of Lamotte crossed the river and established camps on its western
bank. The horsemen pushed back Craufurd’s pickets to Marialva and
Manzanilla, and completely cut his communication with Rodrigo, which
had hitherto been intermittently open. The troops which had passed
the river threw up redoubts to cover the bridge heads, and slightly
entrenched their camps. On June 8th Ney received the first convoy of
his siege train, which continued to come in by detachments during the
next week, till he had fifty heavy guns in hand, with 700 rounds for
each, and 2,000 gunners and sappers of the ‘Grand Park[284].’

  [284] See the Emperor’s dispatches to Berthier of May 27 and May
  29.

On the 15th the French opened their first parallel on the Great
Teson, on a front of 1,500 yards; it was only 500 yards from the
glacis of the town. Herrasti kept up a furious fire upon it, and
vexed the workmen by two sorties, which were not pressed home and
did no harm. On the 19th six batteries on the Teson were commenced;
the work was easy owing to the great store of gabions and sandbags
already in store, which the brigades of Maucune and Ferey had
prepared in May. While the emplacements for the guns were being got
ready, the sappers pushed forward zig-zags from the right end of the
first parallel down the slopes on the flank of the Little Teson. One
approach was directed toward the isolated convent of Santa Cruz, the
other toward the extreme northern angle of the town. The Spaniards,
though firing furiously day and night, could not prevent either the
construction of the batteries or the advance of the approaches;
wherefore Julian Sanchez, seeing that his cavalry could not live
under the oncoming bombardment, got leave from the governor to quit
the town. On the night of the 21st-22nd he crossed the bridge, broke
through the lines of Marchand’s division, and escaped by the Fuente
Guinaldo road with his 200 Lancers. He came into Craufurd’s camp, and
gave a full report of the state of the garrison and the progress of
the enemy’s works.

It was impossible for the French to open their second parallel so
long as the convent of Santa Cruz was held, for the fire of this
outwork would have enfiladed its whole length. On the night of
the 23rd-24th, therefore, Ney tried to storm the convent with a
picked body of Grenadiers; they blew in its door with a petard,
and set fire to its lower story, but were finally driven off. The
convent was partially destroyed, but the garrison gallantly clung
to its ruins, and covered themselves in the débris. The French
lost fifteen killed and fifty wounded that night. On June 25th the
batteries opened, without waiting for the reduction of Santa Cruz,
with forty-six guns placed in six batteries along the crest of the
Teson. The counter-fire of the besieged was very effective; two
expense magazines containing 9,000 lb. of powder were blown up in the
trenches, many guns dismounted, and one battery silenced. The loss of
the besiegers was heavy[285]. The Spaniards suffered less, but fires
broke out in several quarters of the town from the shells thrown by
the French mortars, and many houses were destroyed. The ruins of
the convent of Santa Cruz, moreover, were so thoroughly battered to
pieces that the garrison retired, when an assault was made upon it
by 300 Grenadiers after nightfall. This enabled the French to push
forward their works much nearer to the town.

  [285] Masséna came up from Salamanca this day to inspect the
  bombardment, and made (as was his wont) a rather mendacious
  report thereon to the Emperor, declaring that the French loss
  had been 12 killed and 41 wounded, whereas it had exceeded 100
  [see Belmas, iii. p. 233], and that the defence of the place was
  seriously impaired--which it was not as yet.

Four days of furious artillery engagement followed, in which the
besiegers, though suffering heavily, succeeded not only in setting
more than half the town on fire, but, what was more serious, in
making a breach in the fausse-braye, at the projecting angle of the
north side of the city, on which four of the batteries had been
trained, and in injuring the inner mediaeval wall at the back of it.
Believing, wrongly as it seems, that the breach was practicable, Ney
sent an officer to summon the town. Herrasti replied that he was
still in a position to defend himself, and ‘that after forty-nine
years of service he knew the laws of war and his military duty.’ He
made, however, the unusual request that he might be allowed to send a
letter to Wellington, and that a suspension of arms should be granted
till the return of his messenger. The Marshal, as was natural, sent a
refusal, and ordered the bombardment to recommence (June 28th).

Up to this moment the French engineers had been under the impression
that Ciudad Rodrigo would probably surrender when it had been
breached, without standing an assault. Now that they recognized
that the governor intended to fight to the last, and noted that he
had spent the night following the summons in clearing the ditch and
repairing the damaged fausse-braye with sandbags, they resolved that
the breaching batteries must be brought closer in, and the approaches
pushed up to the foot of the walls. Accordingly a second parallel was
opened along the front of the Little Teson, two hundred and fifty
yards in advance of the first, on the night of July 1st. On the same
night a column of 600 men stormed the convent of San Francisco in
the suburb, a post which would have enfiladed the southern end of
the new parallel in the most dangerous fashion. Having obtained this
lodgement in the suburb the French set to work to conquer the whole
of it, and after some stiff street-fighting stormed Santa Clara, its
central stronghold. Herrasti thereupon evacuated the rest of the
scattered houses, and withdrew all his troops inside the town (July
3rd).

The new battery on the Little Teson was costly to build and
maintain--on one night the French lost sixty-one men killed and
wounded in it[286]. But it was very effective; the original breach
was much enlarged, and the old wall behind it was reduced to ruins.
Meanwhile a mortar battery, placed in the conquered suburb, played
upon the parts of the town which had hitherto escaped bombardment,
and reduced many streets to ashes. The position of the garrison
was unsatisfactory, and Herrasti sent out several emissaries to
beg Wellington to help him, ere it was too late. Most of these
adventurers were captured by the French, but at least two reached
the British commander[287], who had recently come up to the front
to observe for himself the state of the enemy’s forces. He found
them too strong to be meddled with, and sent back a letter stating
that he was ready to move if he saw any chance of success, but that
at present none such was visible. He then retired, after leaving
Craufurd two squadrons of the 16th Light Dragoons to strengthen his
thin outpost line. Herrasti, though much dispirited by Wellington’s
reply, continued to make a vigorous defence, but the town was now
mostly in ruins, and the breach gaped wide.

  [286] Belmas, iii. 245, July 2.

  [287] See Shaw-Kennedy’s _Diary_, pp. 208-9 and 211.

On July 4th Masséna, who had again come up to visit the siege,
obtained intelligence that Wellington had been with the Light
Division at Gallegos, and determined to push back the British
outposts, in order to discover whether the front line of his enemy
had been strengthened by any troops from Portugal. It seemed to
him likely enough that the British general might have massed his
army for a bold stroke at the besiegers, now that the strength of
Ciudad Rodrigo was running low. Accordingly St. Croix’s division
of dragoons, supported by a brigade of Junot’s infantry, crossed
the Azava brook and drove in Craufurd’s cavalry pickets. They
retired, skirmishing vigorously all the way, to Gallegos, where the
five infantry battalions of the Light Division had concentrated.
Craufurd, having strict orders from his chief that he was not to
fight, fell back on Fort Concepcion, the work on the Spanish frontier
half way to Almeida. Thereupon the French retired, having obtained
the information that they wanted, viz. that Craufurd had not been
reinforced by any considerable body of troops from the rear. The
Light Division had manœuvred with its customary intelligence and
alertness all day; its flanks were being continually turned by
horsemen in overpowering numbers, but it beat them off with ease,
and lost only five men wounded while falling back across ten miles
of absolutely open country. The French lost five officers and over
twenty men[288], mostly in combats with the German Hussars, who
surpassed themselves on this day, and repeatedly charged the heads
of the hostile columns on favourable occasions. For the future
Craufurd kept behind the Dos Casas, while the French took up his old
line on the Azava. This move made any attempt to help Ciudad Rodrigo
a harder business than before, since the British outposts were now
fifteen instead of only six miles from the town. An attempt to storm
by surprise the French camps on the near side of the place was for
the future impossible.

  [288] Belmas, iii. 250. For the conduct of the Hussars see
  Beamish’s _German Legion_, i. pp. 274-6. Martinien’s lists show
  that the 1st French dragoons lost one, the 2nd three, and the 4th
  one officer on this day.

Warned by this activity on the part of the enemy, Wellington again
reinforced Craufurd’s cavalry, giving him three squadrons of the 14th
Light Dragoons, so that the Light Division had now some 1,200 horse
to watch its long and much exposed front. But the French advance now
halted again for a full fortnight, the demonstration of July 4th
having had no other purpose than that of ascertaining the strength of
the British observing force behind the Azava.

On the four days that followed Craufurd’s retreat the French
batteries were thundering against the northern angle of Ciudad
Rodrigo, and had reduced it to one vast breach more than 120 feet
broad. But Ney, more sparing of life than was his wont, refused to
order an assault till the whole of the Spanish artillery on the
neighbouring front should have been silenced, and till the engineers
should have worked up to and blown in the counterscarp. This last
preliminary was accomplished on the night of the eighth, when a mine
containing 800 lb. of powder was exploded with success just outside
the counterscarp, and cast down a vast amount of earth into the
ditch, so that there was now an almost level road from the advanced
trenches to the foot of the inner wall. The garrison repeatedly built
up the lip of the breach with palisades and sandbags, under a heavy
fire and at great expense of life. But their flimsy repairs were
swept away again and again by the batteries on the Little Teson, and
all their guns on this front of the walls were gradually disabled or
destroyed. Early on the afternoon of July 9th the engineers informed
the Marshal that Ciudad Rodrigo was untenable, and that a storm could
not fail of success. Three battalions, composed of picked voltigeur
and grenadier companies, were brought up to the advanced trenches,
under the Marshal’s personal superintendence. Before letting them
loose on the broad acclivity of rubble before them, Ney asked for
three volunteers who would take the desperate risk of climbing up
to the crest of the breach to see if it were retrenched behind. A
corporal and two privates made this daring venture, ran lightly up
to the summit, fired their muskets into the town, and descended
unhurt, under a scattering fire from the few Spaniards who were still
holding on to the ruins. On receiving their assurance that nothing
was to be feared, Ney ordered the storming battalions to move out
of the trenches, but ere they had started an officer with a white
flag appeared on the breach, and descended to inform the Marshal
that the Governor was prepared to capitulate. Finding that Ney was
immediately below, Herrasti came out in person with his staff a few
minutes later, and settled the whole matter in a short conversation.
Ney congratulated the white-haired veteran on his handsome defence,
returned him his sword, and told him that he should have all the
honours of war.

Accordingly the garrison marched out next morning about 4,000 strong,
laid down its arms below the glacis, and was marched off to Bayonne.
The Spaniards had lost 461 killed and 994 wounded, just a quarter of
their force, in their highly honourable resistance. They had only a
few days’ provisions left, and, though their munitions were by no
means exhausted, they would have been forced to yield for want of
food, even if the storm had failed, which was absolutely impossible.
The French captured 118 guns, most of them in bad order or disabled,
and 7,000 muskets. Not a house or church in the place was intact,
and a large majority were roofless or levelled to the ground. There
was no use whatever in protracting the resistance, and it is clear
that Herrasti had done all that a good officer could. In his dispatch
to the Junta he spoke somewhat bitterly of the fact that Wellington
had made no effort to relieve the place, showing feeling natural
enough under the circumstances. Martin La Carrera, who had been
commanding the Spanish division that lay in the mountains south of
the town, expressed his wrath still more bitterly, and marched off
to Estremadura in high dudgeon, the moment that the news of the
surrender reached him.

The French had been forced to much greater exertions in the siege
of Rodrigo than they had expected when they first sat down before
its walls. Their artillery had thrown 11,000 shells and 18,000
round shot into the place, which almost exhausted their store of
munitions--only 700 rounds for each of their fifty guns having been
provided. They had lost 180 killed and over 1,000 wounded, mainly in
the costly work of pushing forward the approaches towards the wall,
before the Spanish artillery fire had been silenced. Professional
critics attributed the delays and losses of the siege entirely to
the fact that the engineers believed, when they first planned their
works, that the enemy would surrender the moment that a breach had
been made, an idea which had never entered into Herrasti’s head[289].
Masséna showed his ill-temper, when all was over, by sending the
civilian members of the Junta as prisoners to France, and imposing a
fine of 500,000 francs on the miserable ruined town. It is surprising
to learn that he actually succeeded in extracting half that sum from
the homeless and starving population.

  [289] See the criticisms in Belmas, iii. 259. Compare the views
  of the artilleryman Hulot, pages 306-9 of his autobiography.

On the day that the garrison of Rodrigo marched out (July 10)
Craufurd had suffered a misadventure. Seeing that the French foragers
were busy in the villages between the Azava and the Dos Casas, he
had resolved to make an attempt to surprise some of their bands, and
went out from Fort Concepcion with six squadrons of cavalry[290],
six companies of the Rifles and the 43rd, a battalion of Caçadores
and two guns. Coming suddenly upon the French covering party near
the village of Barquilla, he ordered his cavalry to pursue them.
The enemy, consisting of two troops of dragoons and 200 men of the
22nd regiment from Junot’s corps, began a hasty retreat towards
their lines. Thereupon Craufurd bade his leading squadrons, one of
the German Hussars and one of the 16th, to charge[291]. They did
so, falling upon the infantry, who halted and formed square in a
corn-field to receive them. The charge, made by men who had been
galloping for a mile, and had been much disordered by passing some
enclosures, failed. The troopers, opening out to right and left under
the fire of the square, swept on and chased the French cavalry, who
were making off to the flank. They followed them for some distance,
finally overtaking them and making two officers and twenty-nine men
prisoners. Meanwhile Craufurd called up the next squadron from the
road, the leading one of the 14th Light Dragoons, and sent it in
against the little square. Headed by their colonel Talbot the men
of the 14th charged home, but were unable to break the French, who
stood firm and waited till the horses’ heads were within ten paces of
their bayonets before firing. Talbot and seven of his men fell dead,
and some dozen more were disabled. Before another squadron could
come up, the French slipped off into the enclosures of the village
of Cismeiro and got away. It was said that no effort was made to
stop them because two outlying squadrons of British cavalry[292],
which had ridden in towards the sound of the firing, were mistaken
for a large body of French horse coming up to the rescue of the
infantry. Both Craufurd and the British cavalry were much criticized
over this affair[293]; but it was, in truth, nothing more than an
example of the general rule that horsemen could not break steady
infantry, properly formed in square, during the Peninsular War. The
instances to the contrary are few. It was said at the time that
Craufurd might have used his leading squadrons to detain and harass
the French till his guns or his infantry, which were a mile to the
rear, could be brought up. This may have been so, but criticism after
the event is easy, and if the guns or the riflemen had come up ten
minutes late, and the French infantry had been allowed to go off
uncharged, the General would have been blamed still more. He lost in
all an officer and eight men killed, and twenty-three wounded, while
he took thirty-one prisoners, but the defeat rankled, and caused
so much unpleasant feeling that Wellington went out of his way to
send for and rebuke officers who had been circulating malevolent
criticism[294]. The French captain Gouache, who had commanded the
square, was very properly promoted and decorated by Masséna: nothing
could have been more firm and adroit than his conduct[295].

  [290] Viz. three squadrons of the 14th, one (Krauchenberg’s)
  of the 1st Hussars K.G.L., and two of the 16th. The other two
  squadrons of the hussars, and the 4th squadron of the 14th, were
  holding the outpost line to right and left.

  [291] It is certain that both charged, and both were beaten off.
  But the regimental diarists of the two regiments each mention
  only the repulse of the squadron from the other corps. See
  Tompkinson (of the 16th), _Diary_, p. 31, and Von Linsingen’s
  letter (from the 1st Hussars), printed in Beamish, i. 279-80.

  [292] Von Grüben’s squadron of the K.G.L. Hussars, and the fourth
  squadron of the 14th Light Dragoons, neither of which formed part
  of Craufurd’s little expedition. The former had been watching
  Villa de Ciervo, the latter was on outpost duty.

  [293] Charles Napier in his diary [_Life_, i. p. 132] and
  Tomkinson [p. 31] accuse Craufurd of reckless haste. Harry Smith,
  in his autobiography [i. p. 22], holds that the Rifles could have
  got up in time to force the square to surrender. Leach [p. 142]
  makes much the same comment. All these were eye-witnesses. Yet it
  would have taken some time to bring up the guns or the infantry,
  and the French were near broken ground, over which they might
  have escaped, if not immediately assailed. See also Craufurd’s
  Life by his grandson, pp. 114-16.

  [294] Among these officers was General Stewart, the
  adjutant-general, see Wellington to Craufurd, from Alverca, July
  23, a very interesting letter, commented on in the _Life of
  Craufurd_, pp. 117-20.

  [295] Hulot (p. 36) says that he met the square retiring, and
  noticed that numbers of the bayonets and gun-barrels had been cut
  and bent by the blows of the English dragoons, as they tried to
  force their way in. See Masséna’s dispatch to Berthier of Aug.
  10, in Belmas’s _Pièces Justificatives_.



SECTION XIX: CHAPTER VI

COMBAT OF THE COA: SIEGE OF ALMEIDA (JULY-AUGUST 1810)


On July 10th the French had entered Ciudad Rodrigo, but ten days
more elapsed before they made any further advance. Masséna, who had
returned to the front, was resolved to follow his master’s orders
and to act ‘methodically.’ It was clearly incumbent on him to begin
the siege of Almeida as soon as possible, and, as that place is only
twenty-one miles from Ciudad Rodrigo, one long march would have
placed him before its walls. But since he had only a few thousand
rounds of ammunition left for his heavy guns, he refused to move on
till all the available reserves were on their way from Salamanca to
the front, and requisition for a further supply had been sent to
Bayonne. He had also to do his best to scrape together more food,
since the magazines that Ney had collected were nearly exhausted when
Rodrigo fell. Moreover, 1,500 draught animals had died during the
late siege, and it was necessary to replace them before the Great
Park could move forward.

On July 21st, however, some convoys having come up from Salamanca,
Masséna directed Ney to advance with the 6th Corps and to drive
Craufurd back on to Almeida. The main point that he was directed
to ascertain on this day was whether the English intended to make
a stand at Fort Concepcion, the isolated Spanish work which faces
Almeida on the frontier, beyond the Turones. This was a solid
eighteenth-century fort, covering the bridge where the high-road
passes the river. It had lately been repaired, and could have
resisted a bombardment for some days. But it would have required
a garrison of 1,000 men, and, since it lies in the midst of the
plain, there would be little chance of relieving it, if once it were
surrounded. Wellington, therefore, gave orders that it should be
blown up whenever the French should advance in force toward Almeida,
and that Craufurd should make no attempt to defend the line of the
Turones, and should send back his infantry to Junca, a village about
a mile outside the gates of Almeida[296], keeping his cavalry only
to the front. On the 21st Ney advanced with the whole of Loison’s
division, and Treillard’s cavalry brigade. Thereupon Craufurd, with
some reluctance, retired and blew up Fort Concepcion as he went. The
French advanced, skirmishing with the 14th Light Dragoons and the
German Hussars, but finally halted at Val de Mula, four miles from
Almeida. Craufurd established himself at Junca, only three miles
from the enemy’s line of pickets. On the next evening he received a
strong suggestion, if not quite an order, from his Chief to send his
infantry across the Coa. ‘I am not desirous of engaging an affair
beyond the Coa,’ wrote Wellington. ‘Under these circumstances, if
you are not covered from the sun where you are, would it not be
better that you should come to this side of it, with your infantry at
least[297]?’ The tentative form of the note well marks the confidence
that the Commander-in-Chief was wont to place in his subordinate’s
judgement. This time that confidence was somewhat misplaced, for
Craufurd tarried two days longer by the glacis of Almeida, and
thereby risked a disaster.

  [296] Wellington to Craufurd from Alverca, July 16.

  [297] Wellington to Craufurd from Alverca, July 22, 8 p.m.

It must be remembered that Almeida is not on the Coa, but two miles
from it, and that its guns, therefore, did not cover the one bridge
over which Craufurd could make his retreat. Indeed, that bridge and
the river also are invisible from Almeida. The fortress is slightly
raised above the level of the rolling plain, which extends as far
as Ciudad Rodrigo: the river flows in a deep bed, so much below the
plateau as to be lost to sight. Its ravine is a sort of cañon which
marks the end of the plains of Leon. It has often been remarked that
Almeida’s value would have been doubled, if only it had been on the
near side of the Coa, and commanded its bridge. But Portuguese kings
had built and rebuilt the old fortress on its original site, with no
regard for strategy. Craufurd, then, should have remembered that, if
he were suddenly attacked in his camp outside the gates, he risked
being thrown back into the town (the last thing he would wish), or
being hustled down to the bridge and forced to pass his division
across it in dangerous haste. But he had so often challenged, held
back, and evaded Ney’s and Junot’s advanced guards, that he evidently
considered that he was taking no very serious risk in staying where
he was. He was, moreover, discharging a valuable function by keeping
Almeida from being invested, as stores and munitions were still being
poured into the place. The only peril was that he might be attacked
both without warning and by overwhelming superiority of numbers,
with the defile at his back. Neither of these misadventures had yet
happened to him during the four and a half months while he had been
defying the 6th and the 8th Corps along the banks of the Agueda. The
French had never assailed him with much more than a division, nor had
they ever pressed on him with headlong speed, so as to prevent an
orderly retreat properly covered by a moderate rearguard.

Now, however, Ney, untrammelled by any other operation, had his
whole corps concentrated behind Val de Mula, and having learnt of
the defile that lay in Craufurd’s rear, thought that he might be
hurled into it and crushed or caught. Before dawn he arrayed his
whole 24,000 men in one broad and deep column. Two cavalry brigades,
Lamotte’s 3rd Hussars and 15th Chasseurs, and Gardanne’s 15th and
25th Dragoons, were in front. Then came the thirteen battalions of
Loison’s division, in a line of columns; behind them was Mermet with
eleven battalions more, while three regiments of Marchand’s division
(the fourth was garrisoning Ciudad Rodrigo) formed the reserve.
In a grey morning, following a night of bitter rain, the French
horsemen rode at the British cavalry pickets, and sent them flying
helter-skelter across the three miles of rolling ground that lay in
front of the Light Division. On hearing the fire of the carbines
Craufurd’s men turned out with their accustomed celerity, and in a
very short space were aligned to the right of Almeida, with their
flank only 800 yards from the glacis, and their front covered by a
series of high stone walls bounding suburban fields. There would have
been just enough time to get cavalry, guns, and impedimenta across
the bridge of the Coa if the General had started off at once. But,
not realizing the fearful strength that lay behind the French cavalry
advance, he resolved to treat himself to a rearguard action, and not
to go till he was pushed. On a survey of the ground it is easy to
understand the temptation, for it would be hard to find a prettier
battlefield for a detaining force, if only the enemy were in no more
than moderate strength. A long double-headed spur runs down from the
high plateau on which Almeida stands to the Coa. Successive points
of it can be held one after the other, and it is crossed by many
stone walls giving good cover for skirmishers. With his left covered
by the fire of the fortress, and his right ‘refused’ and trending
back towards the river, Craufurd waited to be attacked, intending
to give the leading French brigade a lesson. There was a delay of
more than an hour before the French infantry was up, but when the
assault came it was overwhelming. Craufurd’s line of three British
and two Portuguese battalions[298] was suddenly assaulted by Loison’s
thirteen, who came on at the _pas de charge_ ‘yelling, with drums
beating, and the officers, like mountebanks, running ahead with their
hats on their swords, capering like madmen and crying as they turned
to wave on their men, “Allons, enfants de la Patrie, le premier qui
s’avançera, Napoléon le recompensera[299].”’ The rolling fire of
the British stopped the first rush, when suddenly a French cavalry
regiment, the 3rd Hussars, charged across the interval between
Craufurd’s left and the walls of Almeida, braving the fire of the
ramparts in the most gallant style. Some fell, but the gunners were
flurried at this unexpected development, and fired wildly, so that
the hussars swept down unchecked on the extreme flank of the Light
Division, where a company of the 95th Rifles was annihilated[300],
and began riding along the rear of the line and rolling it up. They
were luckily checked for a moment by a stone wall, but Craufurd saw
that he must retreat at once, since he was turned on the side where
he had thought that he was safest. The cavalry and guns were ordered
to gallop for the bridge, the Caçadores to follow them, and the rest
of the infantry to fall back in échelon from the left, defending
each enclosure and fold of the hillside as long as possible. But it
is hard to make an orderly retreat when a foe with twofold strength
in his fighting line is pressing hard. Moreover, the road to the
bridge has an unfortunate peculiarity; instead of making straight for
its goal it overshoots it, in order to descend the slope at an easy
point, and then comes back along the river bank for a quarter of a
mile. The cavalry and guns, forced to keep to the road because the
hillside was too steep for them, had to cover two sides of a triangle
with a sharp turn at the apex, which delayed them terribly. To add
to the trouble an artillery caisson was upset at a sharp turn, and
took much trouble to right and send forward. Thus it chanced that
the covering infantry were driven down close to the bridge before
the Caçadores and the last of the guns had crossed the river. The
retreat of the three British battalions had been most perilous; at
one moment a wing of the 43rd found themselves checked by a vineyard
wall ten feet high, while the French were pressing hard on their
rear. They only escaped by shoving a long part of it over by sheer
strength--fortunately, like all other walls in this part of Portugal,
it was made of dry flat stones without mortar. Finally the 43rd, the
Rifles, and part of the 52nd were massed on a long knoll covered
with pine-trees, which lies above the bridge and completely masks it
against an attack from above. While they held firm, Craufurd ranged
the guns and the Caçadores on the slopes upon the other side, so as
to command the passage when the rest of the troops should have to
cross. He then began to withdraw the 43rd, and part of that battalion
had already crossed the water, when five companies of the 52nd,
which had occupied the extreme right wing of the division, were seen
hastening along the river bank some way above the bridge. They had
held out a little too long on the slopes above, and seemed likely to
be cut off, for the French, noting their position, made a vigorous
effort, and carried the knoll which protected their line of retreat
to the point of passage. This was a desperate crisis, but such was
the splendid courage and initiative of the regimental officers of the
Light Division that the disaster was averted. At one point Beckwith,
colonel of the Rifles, at another Major McLeod of the 43rd, called on
the disordered mass of men, who had been driven back to the bridge
head, to charge again and save the 52nd. The soldiers grasped the
situation, cheered and followed; they recaptured the knoll that they
had just lost, and held it for ten minutes more, gaining time for the
companies of the 52nd to pass behind and cross the bridge. ‘No one
present,’ wrote an eye-witness, ‘can fail to remember the gallantry
of Major McLeod. How either he or his horse escaped being blown to
atoms, while in this daring manner he charged on horseback at the
head of some 200 skirmishers of the 43rd and 95th mixed together,
and headed them in making a dash at the line of French infantry,
whom we dislodged, I am at a loss to imagine. It was one of those
extraordinary escapes which tend to implant in the mind some faith in
the doctrine of fatality[301].’

  [298] The 43rd on the left, the two Caçador battalions in the
  centre, the 52nd on the right, while the Rifles were partly
  dispersed along the front, partly with the 43rd.

  [299] Simmons’s _Journal of a British Rifleman_, p. 77.

  [300] Of this, O’Hare’s Company of the 1/95th, sixty-seven
  strong, an officer and eleven men were killed or wounded and
  forty-five were taken prisoners.

  [301] Leach’s _Reminiscences_, pp. 149-50.

The moment that the 52nd were safe, the troops on the knoll evacuated
it, and crossed the bridge behind them at full speed, while the
French reoccupied the wooded eminence. If Ney had been wise he would
have stopped at this moment, and have contented himself with having
driven in the Light Division with a loss of 300 men, while his own
troops had suffered comparatively little. But, carried away by the
excitement of victory, he resolved to storm the bridge, thinking
that the British troops were too much shaken and disordered to make
another stand, even in a strong position. There were plenty of
examples in recent French military history, from Lodi to Ebersberg,
where passages had been forced under difficulties as great.
Accordingly he ordered the 66th, the leading regiment of Loison’s
division, to push on and cross the river. This was a dire mistake:
Craufurd already had the Caçadores in position behind stone walls a
little above the bridge, and Ross’s guns placed across the road so as
to sweep it from end to end. The British battalions were no sooner
across the river than they began to string themselves out behind the
rocks and walls, which lie in a sort of small amphitheatre on the
slope commanding the passage. The bridge, a two-arched structure
seventy yards long, crosses the Coa diagonally, at a point where
it is narrowed down between rocks, and flows very fiercely: it was
flooded at this moment from the rain of the previous night, and
was swelling still, for a tropical storm had just begun and raged
at intervals throughout the afternoon. The cavalry, useless at
the bridge, was sent up-stream to watch some difficult fords near
Alveirenos.

The French 66th, ordered by the Marshal to carry the bridge, formed
its grenadiers on the knoll, to lead the column, and then charged
at the passage. But the leading company was mown down, before it
had got half way across, by a concentrated musketry salvo from the
hillside in front, and the enfilading fire of the guns from the
right. The column broke, and the men recoiled and dispersed among the
rocks and trees by the bank, from whence they opened a fierce but
ineffective fire upon the well-sheltered British battalions. Ney, who
had now lost his temper, ordered up a _bataillon d’élite_ of light
infantry[302] which had distinguished itself at the siege of Ciudad
Rodrigo, and told his aide de camp Sprünglin to take the command and
cross at all costs[303]. There ensued a most gallant effort and a
hideous butchery. The Chasseurs flung themselves at the bridge, and
pushed on till it was absolutely blocked by the bodies of the killed
and the wounded, and till they themselves had been almost literally
exterminated, for out of a battalion of little more than 300 men 90
were killed and 147 wounded in less than ten minutes. A few survivors
actually crossed the bridge, and threw themselves down among the
rocks at its western end, where they took shelter from the British
fire in a little corner of dead ground, but could of course make no
further attempt to advance.

  [302] The _Chasseurs de la Siège_ formed of picked marksmen from
  all the regiments of the 6th Corps.

  [303] That Ney himself was the person responsible for this mad
  adventure seems proved by the journal of Sprünglin, who writes ‘À
  midi je reçus de M. le Maréchal lui-même l’ordre d’emporter _à
  tout prix_ le pont de la Coa, d’où deux compagnies de Grenadiers
  venaient d’être repoussés. J’avais 300 hommes; je formai mon
  bataillon en colonne et abordai les Anglais à la baïonnette, et
  au cri de _Vive l’Empereur_. Le pont fut emporté, mais j’eus
  4 officiers et 86 soldats tués, et 3 officiers et 144 soldats
  blessés. Le 25 le bataillon, étant détruit, fut dissous.’ That
  the bridge was ‘emporté’ in any other sense than that a score or
  so of survivors got to the other side, and then returned, is of
  course untrue. Sprünglin, p. 439.

Ney, irritated beyond measure, now bade a mounted officer sound
for a ford at a spot above the bridge, where the river spreads
out into a broad reach. But horse and man were killed by a volley
from the British side, and floated down the swollen stream[304].
Finding the river impracticable, the Marshal again ordered the 66th
to go forward: this third attack, delivered without the dash and
determination of the first two, was beaten back with little trouble.
The firing then died down, and during one of the fierce rainstorms
of the late afternoon the few chasseurs who had crossed the bridge
ran back and escaped to their own bank. Craufurd held the position
that he had occupied till midnight, and then retired on Pinhel. He
had lost 333 men only[305], and was fortunate therein, for half his
division might have been destroyed if the officers had shown less
intelligence and the men less pluck. The French had 527 casualties,
four-fifths of them in the mad attempt to force the bridge, in which
the colonel of the 66th and fifteen of his officers had fallen, and
the battalion of Chasseurs had been practically exterminated[306].
Ney forwarded an honest chronicle of the day’s doings to his chief,
which Masséna wrote up, and sent to the Emperor turned into a work of
fancy, in which he declared that he had destroyed 1,200 of Craufurd’s
men (whom he estimated at 2,000 horse and 8,000 infantry, double
their real strength), taken 300 prisoners, a colour, and two guns.
Making no mention of the complete check that Loison’s division had
suffered at the bridge, he stated that ‘the Imperial troops have
shown once again this day that there is no position which can resist
their intrepidity.’ He added foolish gossip, ‘Their Estafete-Mor
(chief Portuguese courier) has been captured with all his dispatches,
in which are several of the 25th and 26th instant, which declare
that the English army is in complete rout, that its deplorable state
cannot be exaggerated, that the English have never been in such a
hot corner, that they have lost sixty officers, of whom they buried
twenty-four on the battlefield, about 400 dead and 700 wounded[307].’
Apparently these ‘dispatches’ are an invention of Masséna’s own. It
is incredible that any British officer can have written such stuff
after a combat of which every man present was particularly proud, and
in which the losses had been incredibly small, considering the risks
that had been run. Four officers, not twenty-four, had been killed,
and one made prisoner. Instead of being in ‘complete rout’ the Light
Division had retired at leisure and unmolested, without leaving even
a wounded man or a single cart behind.

  [304] For an interesting description of this incident, see George
  Napier’s autobiography, p. 131.

  [305] Thirty-six killed, 189 wounded, 83 missing. See Tables in
  Appendix.

  [306] Martinien’s invaluable lists show 7 officers killed and 17
  wounded, which at the normal rate of 22 men per officer, exactly
  corresponds to the actual loss of 117 killed and 410 wounded
  (Koch, vii. 118).

  [307] It is a curious fact that in the draft of Masséna’s
  dispatch in the _Archives du Ministère de la Guerre_, we actually
  catch him in the act of falsifying returns. There is first
  written ‘Nous leur avons pris 100 hommes et deux pièces de canon.
  Notre perte a été de près de 500 hommes tant tués que blessés.’
  Then the figures 100 are scratched out and above is inserted
  ‘un drapeau et 400 hommes,’ while for the French loss 500 is
  scratched out and 300 inserted. Ney, whose dispatch was lying
  before Masséna, had honestly written that Craufurd ‘a été chassé
  de sa position avec une perte considérable de tués et de blessés,
  nous lui avons fait en outre une centaine de prisonniers.’ Ney
  reported also a loss of about 500 men, which Masséna deliberately
  cut down to 300. Belmas (iii. 379) has replaced the genuine
  figures in his reprint of Masséna’s dispatch, though both the
  draft in the _Archives_ and the original publication in the
  _Moniteur_ give the falsifications. Masséna says nought of the
  check at the bridge, though Ney honestly wrote ‘au delà du Coa,
  une réserve qu’il avait lui permis de se reconnaître, et il
  continue sa retraite sur Pinhel la nuit du 24.’ As to the guns
  captured, it was perfectly true that some cannon were taken that
  day, but not in fighting, nor from Craufurd. The governor of
  Almeida was mounting two small guns (4-pounders) on a windmill
  some way outside the glacis. They had not been got up to their
  position, but were lying below--removed from their carriages,
  in order to be slung up more easily on to the roof. The mill
  was abandoned when Ney came up, and the dismounted cannon fell
  into his hands. He said not a word of them, any more than he
  did of the imaginary flag alleged by Masséna to have been
  captured. But the Prince of Essling brought in both, to please
  the imperial palate, which yearned for British flags and guns.
  His dispatch, published some weeks later in the _Moniteur_, came
  into Craufurd’s hands in November, and provoked him to write a
  vindication of his conduct, and a contradiction of ‘the false
  assertions contained in Marshal Masséna’s report of an action
  which was not only highly honourable to the Light Division,
  but positively terminated in its favour, notwithstanding the
  extraordinary disparity of numbers. For a corps of 4,000 men
  performed, in the face of an army of 24,000, one of the most
  difficult operations of war,--a retreat from a broken and
  extensive position over one narrow defile, and defended during
  the whole day the first defensible position that was to be found
  in the neighbourhood of the place where the action commenced.’
  For the whole letter see Alex. Craufurd’s _Life of Craufurd_, pp.
  140-1.

Wellington was justly displeased with Craufurd for accepting this
wholly unnecessary combat: if the Light Division had been withdrawn
behind the Coa on the 22nd, as he had advised, no danger would have
been incurred, and the bridge might have been defended without
the preliminary retreat to the water’s edge. Yet so great was the
confidence in which Craufurd was held by Wellington, that their
correspondence shows no break of cordiality or tension of relations
during the ensuing days[308], though unofficially the divisional
general was aware that the Commander-in-Chief had disapproved
his action, and felt the blame that was unspoken in the keenest
fashion[309]. There was another British general involved in a serious
degree of culpability on the 24th: this was Picton, who hearing
at his post of Pinhel the firing in the morning, rode up to the
bridge of the Coa; there he met Craufurd, who was just preparing
to resist Ney’s attempt to cross the river. Picton was asked to
bring up the 3rd Division in support, which could have been done
in less than three hours, but roughly refused, saying apparently
that Craufurd might get out of his own scrape. The generals parted
after an exchange of some hard words, and Picton rode back to order
his division to get ready to retreat, having committed one of the
greatest military sins, that of refusing to support a comrade in the
moment of danger, because he did not choose to compromise his own
troops[310].

  [308] See the letter to Craufurd in the _Dispatches_, dated
  July 26 and 27. His letter to Lord Liverpool of July 25 offers,
  indeed, excuses for Craufurd. But in that to Henry Wellesley of
  July 27, and still more in that to his relative Pole of July 31,
  he expresses vexation. ‘I had positively forbidden the foolish
  affairs in which Craufurd involved his outposts, ... and repeated
  my injunction that he should not engage in an affair on the right
  of the river.... You will say in this case, “Why not accuse
  Craufurd?” I answer, “Because if I am to be hanged for it, I
  cannot accuse a man who I believe has meant well, and whose error
  was one of judgement, not of intention.”’

  [309] See _Craufurd’s Life_, pp. 149-50.

  [310] This interview was denied by Robinson in his _Life of
  Picton_ (i. 294) on the mere allegation of some of Picton’s
  staff that they had not heard of it, or been present at it. But
  the evidence of William Campbell, Craufurd’s brigade-major,
  brought forward by Napier at Robinson’s challenge, is conclusive.
  See Napier, vi. pp. 418-19, for the ‘fiery looks and violent
  rejoinders’ witnessed by Campbell. Picton had been specially
  ordered to support Craufurd if necessary. See _Wellington
  Dispatches_, v. pp. 535 and 547.

Having cleared the country-side beyond the Coa by pressing back the
Light Division, and having ascertained by a reconnaissance that
Picton had evacuated Pinhel on the night of the 25th, Masséna was
able to sit down to besiege Almeida at his leisure. The investment
was assigned to Ney and the 6th Corps, while Junot and the 8th
Corps were brought up from the Agueda, and placed in the villages
behind and to the right of the besieged place, so as to be able to
support Ney at a few hours’ notice. The extreme steepness of the
banks of the Coa during its whole course rendered it most unlikely
that Wellington would attempt the relief of Almeida by a direct
advance. He would have had to force a passage, and the Coa, unlike
the Agueda, has very few fords. Its only two bridges, that opposite
Almeida, and that higher up at Castello Bom, were held in force by
the 6th Corps. The siege however might not improbably prove long.
Almeida was in far better repair than Ciudad Rodrigo, and had less
defects. The little town is situated on the culminating knoll of an
undulating plateau, a very slight eminence, but one which was not
commanded by any higher ground as Rodrigo was by the two Tesons.
The outline of the place is almost circular, and exactly fits the
round knoll on which it stands. It has six bastions, with demi-lunes
and a covered way. There is a dry ditch cut in the solid rock, for
Almeida lies on a bare granite plateau, with only two or three feet
of earth covering the hard stratum below. It was well armed with over
100 guns, forty of which were 18-pounders or still heavier. It had
casemates completely proof against bomb fire, and large enough to
cover the whole garrison. This, as has been already said, consisted
of one regular regiment, the 24th of the Line over 1,200 strong, and
the three militia regiments of Arganil, Trancoso, and Vizeu--in all
some 4,000 infantry, with a squadron of the 11th cavalry regiment
and 400 gunners. The governor was William Cox--an English colonel
and a Portuguese brigadier; he had with him five other English
officers, all the rest of the garrison being Portuguese. There was
an ample store both of food and of ammunition, which Wellington
had been pouring in ever since the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo began.
Only two serious defects existed in the place: the first was that
its glacis was too low, and left exposed an unduly large portion of
the walls[311]. The second, a far worse fault, was that the grand
magazine was established in a rather flimsy mediaeval castle in the
centre of the town, and was not nearly so well protected as could
have been desired. Nevertheless Wellington calculated that Almeida
should hold out at least as long as Ciudad Rodrigo, and had some
hope that its siege would detain Masséna so much that the autumn
rains would set in before he had taken the place, in which case the
invasion of Portugal would assume a character of difficulty which it
was far from presenting in August or September.

  [311] This came from the extreme hardness of the soil, which
  induced the builders of the 18th-century enceinte to put less
  earth into the glacis than was needed, since it had to be scraped
  up and carried from a great distance, owing to the fact that the
  coating of soil all around is so thin above the rock.

For some days after the investment of Almeida had been completed the
6th Corps remained quiescent, and made no attempt to break ground in
front of the place. Ney was waiting for the Grand Park and the train,
which had now started in detachments from Ciudad Rodrigo, but were
advancing very slowly on account of the lack of draught animals. For
a moment Wellington thought it possible that the enemy was about to
mask Almeida, and to advance into Portugal with his main army without
delay[312]. This hypothesis received some support from the facts that
Junot had moved up from the Agueda, and that Reynier had shown the
head of a column beyond the Pass of Perales. This last appeared a
most significant movement; for if the 2nd Corps was about to march
up from the Tagus to join Masséna, the deduction was that it was
required to join in a general invasion, since it was clear that it
was not needed for the mere siege of Almeida. Wellington accordingly
wrote to urge Hill to keep a most vigilant eye on Reynier, and to
be ready to move up to the Mondego the moment that it was certain
that his opponent had passed the Sierra de Gata and linked himself
to the main French army. As a matter of fact there was, as yet, no
danger from Reynier. The advance of one of his flanking detachments
to Navas Frias beyond the Pass of Perales, and a raid made upon
Penamacor on July 31 and upon Monsanto on August 1, by another, were
pure matters of foraging and reconnaissance. Reynier had no orders to
move up his whole force to join Masséna, and was only amusing himself
by demonstrations. His actions became most puzzling to Wellington
when, a few days later, he called back all the troops that had moved
northward, and concentrated his force at Zarza la Mayor, on the road
to Castello Branco, so as to threaten once more to invade Central
Portugal by the line of the Tagus. This was no device of his own, but
the result of a dispatch from Masséna dated July 27, ordering him to
keep more to the south for the present, to threaten Abrantes, and to
afford Hill no chance of joining Wellington.

  [312] Wellington to Hill, Alverca, July 27, ‘There is not the
  smallest appearance of the enemy’s intending to attack Almeida,
  and I conclude that as soon as they have got together their
  force, they will make a dash at us, and endeavour to make our
  retreat as difficult as possible.’

Reynier’s feints meanwhile had given Hill some trouble; the
appearance of a northward move on the part of his adversary had
caused the British general to make ready for a parallel march on
Fundão and Guarda, so as to connect himself with his chief. He
transferred his head quarters first from Castello Branco to Sarzedas,
and then from Sarzedas to Atalaya, at the foot of the pass that leads
to the Mondego valley, intending to cross the mountains the moment
that Reynier had passed over the Perales defiles with his main body.
But seeing the 2nd Corps unexpectedly turning back and concentrating
at Zarza, Hill also retraced his steps, and lay at Sarzedas again
from August 3rd till September 21st, with his advanced guard at
Castello Branco and his cavalry well out to the front along the
Spanish frontier, watching every movement of the 2nd Corps. During
this time of waiting the Portuguese cavalry of his division had two
small but successful engagements with Reynier’s horse, of whom they
cut up a squadron on the 3rd of August near Penamacor and another
on the 22nd at Ladoeiro, when two officers and sixty men of the
Hanoverian _Chasseurs à Cheval_ were killed or taken[313].

  [313] For details of this combat see Foy’s observations on p. 97
  of his _Vie Militaire_, ed. Girod de L’Ain.

Wellington’s doubts as to Masséna’s intentions in the first days of
August were provoked not merely by the movements of the 2nd Corps,
but by a demonstration made on an entirely new front by General
Serras, the officer who had been left with an unattached division to
hold the plains of Leon, when Junot and the 8th Corps went off to
join the main army on the Agueda. In obedience to Masséna’s orders,
on July 27 Serras collected at Benavente as much of his division as
could be spared from garrison duty, and moved forward to threaten
the frontier of the Tras-os-Montes, far to the north of Portugal.
He advanced with some 5,000 men as far as Puebla de Senabria, from
which on July 29 he drove out a small Spanish force under General
Taboada--the weak brigade which Echevarria had formerly commanded.
Silveira immediately collected all the Portuguese militia of his
district at Braganza, and prepared to defend the frontier. But
Serras unexpectedly turned back, left a battalion of the 2nd Swiss
Regiment and a squadron of horse in Puebla de Senabria, and returned
to Zamora. The moment that he was gone Silveira and Taboada united
their forces, attacked this small detached force, routed it, and
shut it up in the town on August 4. It was forced to surrender some
six days later, about 20 officers and 350 men, all that remained of
600, being made prisoners. Serras, who had hurried back when he heard
of Silveira’s offensive movement, was too late by twelve hours to
save his men, and found Puebla de Senabria empty, for the allies had
gone off with their prisoners and taken to the mountains. He then
retired to Benavente, and Taboada reoccupied Puebla de Senabria,
where he was not again disturbed. Serras soon after was drawn away
to the north-east by the demands of Bonnet, whose communications
with Santander had once more been cut by Porlier’s roving Asturian
bands. He called on his colleague to attack this partisan force in
the rear, and while Serras was hunting it at Potes and Alba, in the
Cantabrian Hills, Northern Portugal and Galicia were left undisturbed
in September[314].

  [314] For a narrative of these obscure campaigns see Schaller’s
  _Souvenirs d’un officier Fribourgeois_, pp. 29-37.

While glancing at the subsidiary operations in this remote corner
of Spain, it may be worth while to note, as a proof of the slight
hold which Bonnet and Serras possessed on their allotted districts,
that on June 7 Mahy threatened Astorga, while the Asturian bands
of Colonel Barcena, eluding Bonnet, came down into the plains by
the Pass of Pajares and surprised Leon[315]. They got into the town
by escalade at night, held it for two days, and only evacuated it
when Serras came up in strength on June 9. Provoked at this bold
adventure, Bonnet made his last attempt to conquer Western Asturias,
and so to destroy the indefatigable and evasive partisans in his
front. He forced his way across the Narcea and the Navia, and his
vanguard had reached Castropol, on the Galician border, upon July 5,
when he heard to his disgust that the enemy had slipped behind him.
Barcena was threatening his base at Oviedo, while Porlier’s band,
carried round by English ships, had landed near Llanes and cut the
communication with Santander. These clever moves brought Bonnet back
in haste: he evacuated Western Asturias, called up Serras to his aid,
and was engaged in August and September in the hunt after Porlier
which we have already mentioned[316].

  [315] See ibid., pp. 32-3.

  [316] For a narrative of these interesting but obscure movements,
  see Schepeler, iii. 596-9. It is impossible to give a full
  account of them here, but necessary to mention them, to show the
  Sisyphean character of Bonnet’s task.

But to return to the main focus of the war in the North. On August
15th Ney’s troops, having at last received the siege-train and a good
supply of munitions from Ciudad Rodrigo and Salamanca, broke ground
in front of Almeida. Wellington was much relieved at the news, as
it was now clear that Masséna was about to besiege the place, and
not to mask it and march forward into Portugal. The front which the
engineers of the 6th Corps had chosen for attack was that facing the
bastion of San Pedro on the south-east front of the town. The first
parallel was drawn at a distance of only 500 yards from the walls;
it was found very difficult to complete, owing to the shallowness
of the earth, and had to be built with gabions and sandbags rather
than to be excavated in the rocky subsoil. In many places outcrops of
stone came to the surface, and had actually to be blasted away by the
sappers, in order to allow of a trench of the shallowest sort being
formed. It was clear that the construction of approaches towards the
town would present the greatest difficulties, since there was little
earth in which to burrow. Between the 17th and the 24th no less than
eleven batteries were constructed along the first parallel. They
were armed with more than fifty heavy guns, for there was artillery
in abundance; in addition to the old siege-train many of the Spanish
guns taken in Ciudad Rodrigo had been brought forward. The Portuguese
kept up a vigorous but not very destructive fire all the time; but on
the 24th they succeeded in preventing the commencement of a second
parallel, driving out the workmen before they could cover themselves
in the stony ground. At six o’clock on the morning of the 26th August
the batteries were all completed and opened fire. Several quarters
of the town were in flames before the afternoon, and the guns on the
three bastions attacked were unable to hold their own against the
converging fire directed on them. But no serious damage had been
done to the defences, and the governor was undismayed. At seven
o’clock in the evening, however, a fearful disaster occurred--one in
its own way unparalleled in magnitude during the whole Peninsular
War. The door of the great magazine in the castle had been opened,
in order to allow of the sending out of a convoy of powder to the
southern ramparts, where the artillery had been hard at work all
day. A leaky barrel was handed out, which left a trail of powder
behind it along the ground; it was being fixed to the saddle of a
pack-ass when a French bomb fell in the courtyard of the castle. In
bursting, the bomb chanced to ignite the train; the spark ran along
it and exploded another barrel at the door of the magazine, which
was still open[317]. This mischance fired the whole store, and
in two seconds the castle, the cathedral at its side, and the whole
central portion of the town had been blasted out of existence. ‘The
earth trembled,’ wrote a French eye-witness, ‘and we saw an immense
whirlwind of fire and smoke rise from the middle of the place. It was
like the bursting of a volcano--one of the things that I can never
forget after twenty-six years. Enormous blocks of stone were hurled
into the trenches, where they killed and wounded some of our men.
Guns of heavy calibre were lifted from the ramparts and hurled down
far outside them. When the smoke cleared off, a great part of Almeida
had disappeared, and the rest was a heap of débris[318].’ Five
hundred of the garrison perished, including nearly every man of the
two hundred artillerymen who were serving the guns on the front of
attack. Some inhabitants were killed, but not many, for the majority
had taken refuge in the casemates when the bombardment began that
morning. It was the unfortunate soldiers who were manning the walls
that suffered.

  [317] This version of the cause of the disaster is given
  by Soriano da Luz (iii. 73) from the mouth of an artillery
  officer (one José Moreira) who had it from the only man in the
  castle-yard who escaped. This soldier, seeing the train fired,
  jumped into an oven-hole which lay behind him, and chanced not to
  be killed.

  [318] Sprünglin’s _Journal_, pp. 444-5.

[Illustration: COMBAT OF THE COA. JULY 24TH, 1810.]

Fearing that the French might seize the moment for an escalade,
General Cox ran to the ramparts and, assisted by a Portuguese
artillery officer, loaded and fired into the trenches some of the few
guns on the south front which were not disabled. He turned out the
whole garrison, and kept them under arms that night, lying behind
the walls in expectation of an assault which never came. The morning
light enabled him to realize the full extent of the disaster; the
bastions and curtains had suffered little, the shell, so to speak,
of the town was still intact, and the casemates had stood firm, but
everything within the enceinte was wrecked. Only five houses in
the place had kept their roofs: the castle was a deep hole, like
the crater of a volcano: the streets were absolutely blocked with
ruins, so that there was no going from place to place save along the
ramparts.

There were still 4,000 men under arms; but the officer commanding
the artillery reported that thirty-nine barrels of powder, and a few
hundred rounds in the small expense-magazines on the ramparts, were
all that had escaped the explosion. That is to say, there was not
powder in the place to keep up a reply for one day to the batteries
of the besieger. The infantry had 600,000 cartridges in their
regimental stores (150 rounds per man) but that was of no use for
the heavy guns. Moreover, more than half the gunners had perished in
the disaster of the previous night--only 200 were left to man nearly
100 guns that were still serviceable. It was clear that Almeida was
doomed, since it could not defend itself without powder: but there
was a chance that Wellington, whose outposts must have heard and
seen the explosion, might think it worth while to dash forward and
endeavour to save the garrison during the next twenty-four hours.
Therefore Cox resolved to protract his resistance as long as was
possible, to give his chief the option of fighting if he should so
please. But the defence could not be prolonged for more than a day or
two at the most.

At nine on the morning of the 27th Masséna sent in his aide de
camp Pelet to demand the surrender of the fortress. Cox had him
blindfolded, and taken into a casemate for their interview, so that
he might not be able to judge of the awful effects of the explosion.
The usual haggling followed--the French officer threatened that
the place should be escaladed at once, and the garrison put to the
sword. The governor replied that his walls were intact, that he
could still defend himself, and that the ‘deplorable accident’ had
not appreciably diminished his resisting power[319]. But he finally
consented to send out an officer to the French camp to negotiate for
terms. All this was merely done to gain time, and the semaphore on
the western ramparts was signalling desperate messages to Wellington
all the morning.

  [319] There is a good account of this interview in Sprünglin’s
  _Journal_, p. 445, the diarist having accompanied Pelet into the
  town.

Cox’s attempt to gain time was fruitless, for a reason that he had
not foreseen. The garrison was hopelessly demoralized, knew that
it must surrender, and did not see why it should expose itself to
another day’s bombardment for a lost cause. During the conference
in the casemate General d’Alorna and other Portuguese officers on
Masséna’s staff came out of the trenches, and boldly presented
themselves at the foot of the walls, calling to their compatriots
above and beseeching them to accept the good terms offered, and
not to risk their lives for Wellington, who would abandon them
just as he had abandoned Herrasti at Ciudad Rodrigo. The officers
on the ramparts ought to have driven the renegades away, by shots
if necessary; but, far from doing so, they entered into long
conversation with them and approved their arguments. D’Alorna
recognized some old acquaintances among the regulars, and pledged his
word to them that an assault was imminent, and that they were doomed
if they made any resistance. What was still more unlucky for Cox was
that the officer whom he sent out to the French camp to treat, Major
Barreiros of the artillery, was one of those who were most convinced
that further defence was fruitless; he divulged the hopeless state of
the place to the Marshal, and bade him press his attack without fear,
for the garrison would not fight. He himself remained at the French
head quarters, and did not return to Almeida. Masséna, therefore,
sent back a blank refusal of all Cox’s demands and conditions, and
ordered the bombardment to recommence at seven in the evening, while
approaches were thrown out from the second parallel towards the
ramparts. A feeble musketry fire alone replied.

The renewal of the bombardment speedily brought matters inside the
place to a head. A deputation of Portuguese officers, headed by
Bernardo Da Costa, the second in command, visited Cox and informed
him that further resistance was madness, and that if he did not at
once hoist the white flag they would open the gates to the enemy. The
Governor was forced to yield, and capitulated at eleven o’clock on
the night of the 27th. Masséna granted him the terms that the regular
troops should be sent as prisoners to France, while the three militia
regiments should be allowed to disperse to their homes, on giving
their parole not to serve again during the war.

On the morning of the 28th the garrison marched out, still 4,000
strong, its total loss during the siege having been some 600--nearly
all destroyed in the explosion. The French had lost fifty-eight
killed and 320 wounded during the operations. The capitulation was
no sooner ratified than it was violated: instead of dismissing
the militia and marching off the regulars towards France, Masséna
kept them together, and set the renegades d’Alorna and Pamplona to
tempt them to enter the French service. The officers were promised
confirmation of their rank, the men were invited to compare the
relative advantages of prison and of joining the victorious side
and keeping their liberty. The arguments of the traitors seemed to
prevail; almost the whole of the regulars and 600 of the militia
signified their consent to enlist with the enemy. The rest of the
militia were turned loose, but d’Alorna was able to organize a
brigade of three battalions to serve the Emperor as the ‘Second
Portuguese Legion[320].’ But the intentions of these docile recruits
were quite other than Masséna had supposed. They had changed their
allegiance merely in order to escape being sent to France, and while
left unguarded during the next three days, absconded in bands of 200
or 300 at a time, officers and all, and kept presenting themselves
at Silveira’s and Wellington’s outposts, for a week. The French,
undeceived too late, disarmed the few men remaining in the camp, who
were packed off to France, to rejoin Cox and the half-dozen officers
who had loyally refused to accept d’Alorna’s offers[321]. Wellington
had been somewhat alarmed when the first news of the adhesion of the
garrison to the French cause reached him, fearing that it implied
serious disaffection in the whole Portuguese army[322]. He was
soon undeceived on this point, as the troops gradually streamed in
to his camp[323]. But he was then seized with grave doubts as to
whether he could, consistently with military honour, accept the
service of these perjured but patriotic people. ‘It was well enough
for the private men, but highly disgraceful to the character of
the officers[324],’ he observed, and was pondering what should be
done, and proposing to cashier the officers, when he received a
proclamation from the Regency approving the conduct of the deserters
and restoring them to their place in the army. Finally he resolved
that, since Masséna had obviously broken the capitulation by his
action, it might be held that it was not binding on the prisoners,
and ordered the 24th Regiment to be re-formed at its head quarters
at Braganza. The militia he dismissed to their homes, on the scruple
that the French had let some, though not all of them, go free after
the capitulation[325]. There remained the problem of what was to be
done with the Portuguese officers who had played a treacherous part
on the 27th, especially Barreiros, the negotiator who had betrayed
the state of the town to Masséna, and Da Costa, who had headed the
mutinous deputation to Cox, which forced him to surrender. Finally,
their names were included with those of the officers who had served
on Masséna’s Portuguese staff during the campaign, in a great
indictment placed before a special commission on traitors (called a
_Junta de Inconfidencia_), which sat at Lisbon during the autumn. All
from d’Alorna downwards were declared guilty of high treason, and
condemned to death on December 22, 1810, but only two were caught and
executed--João de Mascarenhas, one of d’Alorna’s aides de camp, and
Da Costa, the lieutenant-governor of Almeida. The former was captured
by the Ordenança while carrying Masséna’s dispatches in 1810, and the
latter was apprehended in 1812; Mascarenhas died by the garotte, Da
Costa was shot. Of the others, some never returned to Portugal, the
others were pardoned at various dates between 1816 and 1820[326].

  [320] The First Portuguese Legion, which served against Austria
  in 1809, was composed of the troops drafted out of the Peninsula
  by Junot in 1808 during his domination at Lisbon.

  [321] D’Urban’s diary reports that 450 men and 18 officers of the
  24th of the Line came in between the 2nd and 4th of September to
  Silveira’s outposts; a still larger number reached Wellington’s.

  [322] D’Urban has most gloomy remarks on the subject in his
  diary, under the date Aug. 30.

  [323] To Chas. Stuart, from Celorico, Aug. 31.

  [324] To Chas. Stuart, from Celorico, Sept. 11.

  [325] Wellington to Masséna, Sept. 24. ‘Votre excellence
  s’est engagée que les officiers et les soldats de la milice
  retourneraient chez eux: malgré cet engagement vous en avez
  retenu 7 officiers et 200 soldats de chaque régiment, pour en
  faire un corps de pionniers. La capitulation d’Almeida est donc
  nulle, et je suis en droit d’en faire ce que je voudrais. Mais je
  puis vous assurer qu’il n’y a pas un seul soldat de la milice qui
  était en Almeida au service.’

  [326] For details of all this, including the curious terms of
  the Portuguese sentence for high treason, see Soriano da Luz,
  iii. 80-109, and 719-22. The attempts to exculpate Barreiros seem
  inadequate. Da Costa was shot, not for treason, but for cowardice
  and mutiny.

During the siege of Almeida, the British army had been held in a
position somewhat less advanced and more concentrated than that
which it had occupied in July. Wellington had brought back his head
quarters from Alverca to Celorico, where he had the Light Division
under his hand. A few miles behind, on the high-road running down
the south bank of the Mondego, was the 1st Division, at Villa
Cortes. Picton and the 3rd Division had been drawn back from Pinhel
to Carapichina, but Cole and the 4th remained firm at Guarda. The
Portuguese brigades of Coleman and A. Campbell were at Pinhanços,
that of Pack at Jegua. The whole of the cavalry had come up from the
rear to join the brigade that had recently operated under Craufurd’s
orders. They now lay in a thick line of six regiments from in front
of Guarda, through Alverca and Freixadas to Lamegal. Thus the whole
army was concentrated on a short front of fifteen miles, covering the
watershed between the Coa and the Mondego, and the bifurcation of the
roads which start from Celorico, down the two banks of the last-named
river. The French held back, close to Almeida, with a strong advance
guard at Pinhel, and occasionally raided the low country towards the
Douro, in the direction of Villanova de Fosboa and Castel Rodrigo.
About August 19 Wellington moved forward a day’s march, the front of
his infantry columns being pushed up to Alverca and Freixadas, on a
false rumour that Masséna was leaving the 6th Corps unsupported at
Almeida, and had drawn back Junot into the plains of Leon. If this
had been the case, Wellington intended to make a push to relieve
the besieged fortress. But he soon discovered that the report was
baseless, and that the 8th Corps was still on the Azava and the
Agueda, wherefore he halted, and was still lying twelve miles in
front of Celorico when the noise of the explosion at Almeida, and the
cessation of fire on the next day, betrayed the fact that the place
had fallen, and that there was no longer any reason for maintaining
a forward position. On the night of the 28th, therefore, the whole
army was drawn back once more to the strong line between Guarda and
Celorico, and arrangements were made for a further retreat, in case
the French should follow up the capture of Almeida by an instant and
general advance. Masséna seemed at first likely to make this move:
on September 2 a brigade of infantry and 1,200 horse drove in the
British cavalry outposts to Maçal de Chão only five miles in front
of Celorico. Looking upon this as the commencement of the serious
invasion of Portugal, Wellington sent back his infantry to Villa
Cortes, Pinhanços, and Moita, far down the high-road on the south of
the Mondego, and bade Cole draw in the 4th Division from Guarda to
San Martinho, under the north side of the Serra da Estrella. Only
cavalry were left at, and in front of, Celorico and Guarda. This
retreat shows that Wellington was fully convinced that the French
would advance along the high-road to the south of the Mondego, where
he intended to stand at bay on the Alva, behind the entrenchments of
Ponte de Murcella.

The main point of interest at this moment was the movements of
the French 2nd Corps, which still lay in cantonments at Zarza and
Coria in front of Hill. Guarda being no longer held in force, it
was clear that Hill could not safely join the main army by the
road Atalaya-Fundão-Guarda, if Reynier moved up by the Pass of
Perales to Alfayates and Sabugal. Wellington began an anxious daily
correspondence with Hill, giving him a new line of march by Sobreira
Formosa, Villa d’el Rei and Espinhal, for his junction, but ordering
him to be sure that he did not move till Reynier had thoroughly
committed himself to the transference of his whole force to the north
of the Sierra de Gata. For it would be disastrous if feints should
induce the British detaining force to leave Villa Velha and Abrantes
uncovered, and Reynier should turn out to have selected them as his
objective, and to be meditating an invasion along the Castello Branco
line[327]. It was even possible, though not likely, that Masséna
might bring up the 6th and 8th Corps to join Reynier, instead of
bringing Reynier across the mountains to join them[328]. But every
contingency had to be provided against, the unlikely ones as well as
the likely. As a corollary to Hill’s march, that of Leith had also
to be arranged; he must wait at Thomar till it was certain that the
2nd Corps had moved, but the moment that certainty was obtained, must
march for Ponte de Murcella, and join the main army, if the French
had gone north, but support Hill on the Castello Branco road if they
had taken the other, and less probable, course.

  [327] See Wellington to Hill of Aug. 31, Sept. 1, Sept. 4, Sept.
  6. The Commander-in-Chief was much worried by a false rumour that
  Reynier was already in force at Sabugal on Aug. 31, and then by
  an equally false one that the whole 2nd Corps had marched south
  towards the Tagus, and was about to cross it near Alcantara (see
  the letter to La Romana of Sept. 6). As a matter of fact, Reynier
  made no definite move from Zarza till Sept. 10, though he had
  made feints, in both the directions indicated, with small forces.

  [328] That this possibility was in Wellington’s mind is shown
  by the letter to La Romana of Sept. 6, from Gouvea, in which he
  writes, ‘Vous aurez appris les mouvements du corps de Regnier de
  la part du Général Hill. Ou l’ennemi va faire le mouvement sur
  notre droite (dont je vous ai écrit) ou il va faire le siège de
  Badajoz. On dit que du canon a passé d’Almeida à Sabugal, et de
  là vers Regnier, mais je ne sais pas si c’est vrai, ou si c’est
  du canon de siège.... Vous savez ce qu’il faut faire si on se met
  entre nous deux, en passant le Tage à Villa Velha, ou au-dessous
  de la jonction.’


NOTE ON ALMEIDA AND THE BRIDGE OF THE COA

The small circular town of Almeida has never recovered from the
disaster of 1810. The population does not fill up the area within
the walls: open spaces are frequent, and some of the more important
buildings--especially the old palace of the governor--stand in ruins.
Others show solid seventeenth- or eighteenth-century masonry on
the ground floor, and flimsy modern repairs above, where the upper
stories were blown away by the explosion. The cathedral has never
been properly rebuilt, and is a mere fragment. The railway passes
twelve miles south of Almeida, so that the place has had no chance
of recovery, and remains in a state of decay. The walls stand just
as they were left after Wellington’s hasty repairs in 1811. The vast
bomb-proof shelters repeatedly mentioned in narratives of the siege
are still visible, damp but intact. The surrounding country-side is a
low, rolling, treeless upland--the edge of the vast plains of Leon.
It contrasts very strongly with the hilly and picturesque scenery
that is reached when once the Coa has been passed.

From Almeida the ground slopes down sharply to the place of
Craufurd’s celebrated skirmish. The town is not visible after the
first mile of the descent towards the deep-sunk gorge through which
the Coa cuts its way. The high-road is very bad for artillery, being
steep, filled with great stones, and in many places shut in by high
banks, which tower above it and make it narrow. The sharp turn at the
end, where it descends to the river with a sudden twist, must have
been specially tiresome to a force with cavalry and guns, compelled
to a hasty retreat. All the slopes about the road are cut up into
small fields by high walls of undressed stone, without mortar,
such as are seen on Cotswold. The bridge is not visible till the
traveller approaching from Almeida has got down to the level of the
river: it is completely masked by the high fir-clad knoll described
in the text, so long as he is descending the slope above. From the
point where the road swerves aside, to avoid this knoll, there is
a rough goat-track down to the still invisible bridge, but this is
not available for guns, horses, or _formed_ infantry, only for men
scrambling individually.

The two-arched bridge is seventy yards long; it crosses the Coa
diagonally, with a curious twist in the middle, where there is a
little monument recording the reparation of the structure by John
VI, in the days after the war was over. There is no mention of
Craufurd’s fight in the inscription--only a laudation of the King.
The bridge crosses the river at a sort of gorge--the place where the
rocks on the two sides come nearest. Hence the stream runs under
it very fiercely, being constricted to far less than its normal
breadth. Up-stream the channel broadens and the passage looks much
less formidable, but for some distance on each side of the bridge the
river is very rapid, darting between rocks and boulders. The little
corner where the few French who passed the bridge found a small angle
of dead-ground can be easily identified. It was just to their right
after crossing. All the rest of the ground on the west bank could
be thoroughly searched by the British guns, which were placed a few
hundred yards up the road on the left hand, as well as by the fire of
the infantry ensconced among rocks and boulders above the bridge.

Of the French attacking force during the early part of the skirmish,
those who were on their left, nearest the river and opposite the
52nd, had far easier ground to cover than those on the right,
opposite the 43rd. It is not so high or rough, and less cut up by
stone walls. Hence the stress on the 52nd ought to have been the
heavier--yet they lost only 22 men to the 129 of the 43rd. The damage
to the latter must have been caused partly when the cavalry got in
among them, just as the retreat began, partly when they stormed the
knoll to cover the retreat of the 52nd.

The scene of the fight is most picturesque on a small scale--one of
the prettiest corners in Portugal, all rock, fir-trees, and rushing
water.--[Notes made on the spot on April 14, 1906.]



SECTION XX

OPERATIONS IN THE EAST AND SOUTH OF SPAIN DURING THE SPRING AND
SUMMER OF 1810



CHAPTER I

SUCHET AND AUGEREAU IN ARAGON, VALENCIA, AND CATALONIA, MARCH-JULY
1810


Though Suchet had successfully pacified the plains of Aragon during
the autumn of 1809, and though Augereau in the last month of that
year had received the surrender of the much-enduring garrison of
Gerona, the position of the French in North-Eastern Spain was still
far from satisfactory. It was not yet possible for the 3rd and the
7th Corps to combine their operations. While the broad strip of
territory in Western Catalonia reaching from the foot of the Pyrenees
to the sea--whose places of strength were Lerida, Tarragona, and
Tortosa--still remained intact, Augereau and Suchet could still
communicate only by the circuitous route through France: a letter
from Saragossa to Barcelona took a fortnight or more to arrive at
its destination. It was high time that they should endeavour to get
into touch with each other, by cutting through the Spanish line
of defence. Both of the corps-commanders had now a comparatively
free hand, and could assemble a considerable force for offensive
operations. Suchet’s position was the happier: he had no Spanish army
opposed to him at the moment. His only opponents were--to the West
the bold guerrillero Mina the Younger on the borders of Navarre; to
the South Villacampa with the dilapidated remains of his band on
the side of the Sierra de Albaracin and Molina; and to the East the
governor of Lerida, who kept a flying force under Colonel Perena on
foot between the Cinca and the Segre, for the encouragement of the
insurgents of Eastern Aragon. None of these three opponents could
do any serious mischief to the 3rd Corps, which had risen by the New
Year of 1810 to a strength of 24,000 men[329], now that its drafts
from France were beginning to arrive. Mina was the most tiresome
of the three: he was a young man of untiring energy, and kept the
borders of Navarre in a perpetual ferment, till he was finally put
down by mere force of numbers. For while Suchet sent a number of
columns under General Harispe to hunt him, Lagrange’s division of
the newly arrived 8th Corps came down from the side of Pampeluna,
and swept the valleys of the Arga and the Aragon from the other
quarter. Pursued from one refuge to another by 12,000 men, Mina ended
by bidding his followers disperse. He did not appear again as a
combatant till the 8th Corps had passed on into Castile in the month
of February 1810.

  [329] Suchet in his _Mémoires_ (i. 77) says that in Jan. 1810 his
  corps was only 20,000 strong. But the imperial muster-rolls show
  that it had 23,000 _présents sous les armes_, besides 1,819 men
  in hospital and 973 detached, in that month.

Villacampa and Perena being very weak adversaries, Suchet could now
dispose of the greater part of his corps for offensive operations.
Two lines of attack were open to him: the more natural and obvious
one was to attack Lerida or Tortosa, while Augereau and the 7th
Corps moved against them from the other side. This was Suchet’s own
intention, and he had received dispatches from Paris which approved
of the plan. But another objective was pointed out to him from
another quarter. It will be remembered that while King Joseph and
Soult were planning the details of their Andalusian expedition, one
of the schemes which they discussed was the use of the 3rd Corps
as a flanking detachment to cover their attack on Seville[330]:
it was to march on Valencia while Mortier marched on Badajoz. The
plan was rejected in favour of the direct frontal march against the
passes of the Sierra Morena. Nevertheless, when the defiles had been
passed, and the King had entered Cordova in triumph, he recurred to
his original scheme, and on January 27 Soult sent orders to Suchet
directing him to make a dash at Valencia, and assuring him that the
demoralization of the Spaniards was so great that he would probably
enter the city without meeting with much resistance. Similar orders,
as we have already seen, were sent to Ney, who was directed at the
same moment to make himself master of Ciudad Rodrigo[331], which
Soult and the King imagined to be likely to surrender at the first
summons.

  [330] See p. 123 of this volume.

  [331] See p. 222.

Suchet, though doubting (as he says) the wisdom of the plan of
campaign imposed upon him, prepared to obey, and concentrated 8,000
men, consisting of Laval’s division and half that of Musnier, at
Teruel, on the borders of Valencia, while Habert, with six battalions
more, was to move in a separate parallel column from Alcañiz, and to
strike down on to the sea-coast of Valencia by way of Morella. On
their way to Teruel some of Laval’s columns made a side-stroke at
Villacampa, and drove off his band into the mountains of New Castile.

The march on Valencia had already begun, when Suchet received at
Teruel, on March 1, the dispatch from the Emperor which announced to
him that the kingdom of Aragon had been made an independent ‘military
government’ under his charge[332], and that he was for the future to
take no orders from Madrid, but to seek all his instructions from
Paris. By the same dispatch Suchet was informed that the Emperor
approved of the plan for directing the 3rd Corps against Lerida and
the rear of Catalonia which he had himself always advocated. But
since Habert’s column had already disappeared in the mountains, and
could not be recalled, and since his own advanced guard had actually
crossed the borders of Valencia, Suchet thought that it was now too
late to turn back, and that he must endeavour to carry out Soult’s
orders, even though they were now countermanded by the Emperor.
Accordingly he marched by Sarrion, on the road which leads from
Teruel to Segorbe, and from thence to Murviedro on the Valencian
coast, where Habert was to join him.

  [332] See p. 200.

The force opposed to Suchet was that Valencian army which the
governor--or rather the dictator--José Caro had so persistently
refused to lend to Blake in the preceding autumn for the relief
of Gerona. It was about 12,000 strong at the moment, and as some
nine months had elapsed since the disaster of Belchite, where the
Valencian troops had fared so badly, the regiments had been recruited
up to their old strength, and had been thoroughly reorganized and
re-equipped. Nevertheless, Caro did not wish to risk them in the
open field, and, when Suchet’s approach was reported to him, ordered
the troops to prepare to retreat within the walls of the city of
Valencia, which had been so successfully defended against Moncey
two years before. He was probably right in his decision: having no
great superiority of numbers over the French invading columns, he
would have been risking over much if he had offered battle on the
frontier, even in an advantageous position. Behind the fortifications
of Valencia, which had been improved and enlarged during the last two
years, he could at least be certain of making a long and formidable
resistance. If the enemy appeared without a great battering-train,
and unprepared for a regular siege, the garrison would be absolutely
safe. Accordingly, Caro sent out only a single brigade to observe and
retard Suchet’s advance: this force, assisted by some armed peasants,
tried to hold the defile of Alventosa against the French (March 4),
but was beaten out of the position with ease, lost four guns, and
retired by Segorbe and Murviedro on to Valencia, without offering
further resistance. Suchet, following in the wake of the Spanish
detachment, reached Murviedro on March 5, and there met Habert,
whose march by Morella and Castellon-de-la-Plana had been absolutely
unopposed.

A day later the French appeared in front of the fortifications of
Valencia. Having surveyed the outworks, and summoned the place in
vain, Suchet found that there was no more to be done. His bolt was
shot: the city intended to defend itself: it was full of troops,
and the whole population had been armed. Caro had given notice that
the defence was to be conducted in the style of Saragossa, and as
a foretaste of his intentions court-martialled and hanged several
persons who were accused of being traitors[333]. After lying four
days in front of Valencia, Suchet marched off again on the night of
March 10-11, having convinced himself that he had been sent on a
fool’s errand by Soult and King Joseph. For the expedition had only
been undertaken on the hypothesis that the enemy was demoralized
and ready to surrender--which was clearly not the case. No siege
train had been brought, and without heavy artillery Valencia was
impregnable. The retreat of the French was hastened by the fact
that their communications with Aragon had already been cut off.
Villacampa, undismayed by his defeat in February, had returned to
the front the moment that the invading columns had passed on to
the Valencian coast. He had blockaded the garrison of Teruel, cut
off two small columns which were moving in its neighbourhood, and
captured four guns and some 300 prisoners. At the same moment, though
Suchet was unaware of the fact, Colonel Perena, with a detachment
from Lerida, had made a demonstration against Monzon, and when the
garrison of Eastern Aragon concentrated to defend it, had fallen on
Fraga and burnt the bridge there--the only crossing of the Cinca
which was in French hands. Mina, too, warned of the departure of the
main body of the 3rd Corps for the South, had reassembled some of his
levies, and begun to render the road from Saragossa to Pampeluna once
more unsafe.

  [333] Whether the Conde de Pozoblanco and the other persons
  executed were really traitors is very doubtful. Napier takes them
  as such (ii. 303), Suchet denies it (p. 100); Schepeler says
  (iii. 627) that proclamations of King Joseph and treasonable
  letters were found in the Count’s house. Toreno (ii. 124) remains
  doubtful, but points out that Caro and Pozoblanco were old
  enemies, and thinks that, at any rate, there was personal spite
  in the matter.

Suchet, therefore, on withdrawing from Valencia, found plenty of
occupation awaiting him in Aragon. Villacampa was once more chased
into the wilds of the Sierra de Albaracin: and several columns
were detached in pursuit of Mina. This time the young partisan was
unfortunate--he was caught between one of Suchet’s detachments and
a party sent out by the governor of Navarre, and taken prisoner on
March 31, with some scores of his followers. His place, however, was
taken ere long by his uncle Espoz y Mina, who rallied the remnant of
the guerrilleros of North-Western Aragon, and continued the struggle
with an energy as great, and a success far greater, than that of his
nephew.

Meanwhile, the months of February and March had been wasted, so
far as the 3rd Corps was concerned, and it was not till April that
Suchet was able to take in hand the enterprise which he himself had
approved, and to which the Emperor had now given his consent--the
siege of Lerida. A few weeks after his return to Saragossa he
received from Paris two imperial letters denouncing his late
campaign as presumptuous, objectless, and altogether deserving of
high condemnation[334].

  [334] Dated from Compiègne on April 9 and April 20. See
  _Correspondance_, xx. 284 and 299.

While the Valencian expedition had been in progress Marshal Augereau
had been trying his hand at the Catalan problems which Verdier and
St. Cyr had found so puzzling. His luck had been bad--and his faults
had been many--for of all the commanders-in-chief who successively
endeavoured to subjugate the untameable principality he was decidedly
the least capable. When Gerona fell, the main body of his army was
let loose for operations in the open field. But Verdier’s divisions,
on whom the burden of the siege work had fallen, were in much too
dilapidated a condition for active service[335]. Leaving them
to recover their strength and gather up their convalescents, in
cantonments between Figueras and Gerona, Augereau moved southwards
in January, at the head of the troops of Souham and Pino, whose two
divisions still counted 12,000 bayonets with the eagles, though
they left behind them 5,000 sick in the hospitals of Figueras and
Perpignan.

  [335] In January, Verdier’s French and Westphalian divisions
  could only show 6,000 men in line and 7,000 in hospital. Muster
  roll of Jan. 15 in the _Archives Nationaux_.

The Marshal’s main duty at this moment was to clear the road from
Figueras to Barcelona, which the Spanish fortress of Gerona had so
effectually blocked during the whole year 1809. All further advances
were suspended till this operation should have been completed, by
the Emperor’s special orders. Duhesme, indeed, isolated in Barcelona
with some 6,000 men, communicating with France only by sea, and
surrounded by a discontented population, which was reduced to
semi-starvation by the blockade kept up by the British fleet, was in
a perilous condition. There had been many who thought that if Blake,
in October 1809, had marched against Barcelona instead of trying to
throw succours into Gerona, he would have forced Augereau to abandon
the siege of the latter place. For Duhesme would have been in such
danger, since he was neither strong enough to fight in the open nor
to man efficiently the immense circuit of the walls of Barcelona,
that Augereau might probably have judged that it was better to save
the capital of Catalonia than to continue the interminable blockade
of the smaller town that was holding out so obstinately against
him. Be this as it may, Augereau set Souham’s and Pino’s columns
on the march early in January 1810, after having first executed at
their head a sort of _battue_ of the _somatenes_ of the mountains
around Gerona, as far as Ripol and Campredon. His progress was a
reign of terror: he had issued on December 28th a proclamation
stating that all irregulars taken with arms in their hands were to
be treated as simple highway robbers, and hung without any form of
trial[336]. He was as good as his word, and all the prisoners taken
by the flying columns of Souham and Pino were suspended on a line
of gallows erected on the high-road between Gerona and Figueras.
These atrocities turned the war in Catalonia into a struggle even
more ferocious than that of 1809, for the natives, very naturally,
retaliated upon every French straggler that they caught, and the
Spanish regular officers had great difficulty in saving the lives
even of large bodies who had laid down their arms upon formal terms
of surrender.

  [336] The text of this bloodthirsty document may be found
  in Belmas, i. 429. There are details of its execution in
  Barckhausen, who mentions that several priests were among the
  victims.

Two roads lead from Gerona and the valley of the Ter to
Barcelona--that by Vich and that by Hostalrich. They unite near
Granollers, twenty miles outside Barcelona. Augereau marched with the
Italian division of Pino by the second road, while he sent Souham by
the other. Both met with opposition: the small castle of Hostalrich
was still held by the Spaniards--it was the only fortified place in
central Catalonia which was now in their hands, and commanded, though
it did not actually block, the main road to Barcelona. On arriving
before it, the Marshal ordered Mazzuchelli’s Italian brigade to form
the siege, trusting that the place would fall in a few days; but
finding the resistance more serious than he had expected, he finally
continued his march, with the remainder of the Italian division,
towards Granollers and Barcelona. He had ordered Duhesme to come out
to meet him at the former place, with as many of his troops as he
could spare from garrison duty.

[Illustration: CATALONIA]

Souham meanwhile, on the eastern road, had entered Vich on January
11. He found that it had just been evacuated by the main body of the
Spanish Army of Catalonia, whose head quarters had been maintained
in that town all through the later months of the siege of Gerona.
This force, still numbering about 7,000 men, was no longer under the
command of its old general. Blake had resigned at Christmastide,
after a lively altercation with the Junta of Catalonia, who laid the
blame for the fall of Gerona on his shoulders, while he maintained
that they were to blame for not having ordered the general _levée
en masse_ of the principality at an earlier date[337]. The command
then passed in quick succession to the two senior general officers of
the Catalan army, first to the Marquis of Portago, and then, after
he had fallen ill, to General Garcia Conde, Governor of Lerida. But
these interim commanders-in-chief were replaced in a few weeks by a
younger and much more active leader, Henry O’Donnell--the man who had
conducted the second convoy for Gerona, and had cut his way out of
the place with such splendid address and resolution. He had only just
been raised to the rank of Major-General, yet was now entrusted by
the Central Junta with the control of the entire army of Catalonia.
As he was setting to work to reorganize it, Souham arrived in front
of his head quarters. Judging it unwise to offer battle at the head
of demoralized troops, O’Donnell evacuated Vich, and fell back to the
mountains above it. Souham followed him with an advanced guard as far
as the pass called the Col de Suspina, where the Spaniard suddenly
turned upon the pursuing force, and hurled it back with loss upon the
main body of the division (January 12, 1810). He refused, however,
to face Souham next day, and retreated towards Manresa; thereupon
the French general also turned back, thinking it profitless to leave
the Vich-Barcelona road, and to plunge into the hills in pursuit of
an evasive enemy. He ended by making his way across the mountains to
join the Marshal.

  [337] See pp. 62, 63 of this volume.

Meanwhile, Augereau, with Pino’s Italian brigades, reached
Granollers, and came into touch with Duhesme’s troops, just in time
to find that a disaster had preceded his arrival. The Governor of
Barcelona, in obedience to the orders sent him, had marched out on
January 16 with three battalions and 250 cuirassiers in order to meet
the Marshal. He waited four days at Granollers, and then left the
brigade under the charge of Colonel Guétry, and returned in person
to Barcelona, recalled by rumours of a threatened attack from the
side of Tarragona. On the morning after his departure Guétry’s force,
which believed itself in complete security, was suddenly surprised in
its camps by a detachment sent out by O’Donnell. That enterprising
officer had heard that Augereau was still twenty miles away, and
that Guétry had scattered his men in the three villages of Santa
Perpetua, Mollet, and Granollers, in order to cover them from the
bitter January weather. Accordingly, he resolved to risk an attack
on this unwary detachment. Two brigades--about 4,000 men--under the
Marquis of Campo Verde, made a forced march across the mountains,
and fell upon the villages at dawn. The battalion of the 112th in
Santa Perpetua was completely cut to pieces or captured--only two
men are said to have escaped. The 7th and the cuirassiers at Mollet
fared somewhat better, but were driven back to Barcelona with heavy
loss. Part of the third battalion, one of the 5th Italian Line
regiment, which was posted at Granollers, escaped destruction by
throwing itself into a fortified convent, and held out for two days,
till it was saved by the approach of Augereau along the high-road.
Altogether, Duhesme’s division was thinned by the loss of 1,000 men
on January 21-22: Guétry had been taken prisoner, with some 600 men
more and two guns. The Spaniards disappeared the moment that Augereau
came in sight, and rejoined O’Donnell in the hills.

Augereau entered Barcelona on the twenty-fourth, and at once
asserted his authority by deposing Duhesme from the governorship and
sending him home to France. They were old enemies, and the general’s
friends regarded his disgrace as a display of spite on the part of
his superior[338]. But as all the Spanish narratives describe the
eighteen-months’ dictatorship of Duhesme as having been as much
distinguished for private rapacity as for public oppression, it
is probable that the Marshal’s action was wholly justifiable. The
Emperor, however, refused to sanction the prosecution of the general
on the charges laid against him, remarking that such proceedings
would give too much pleasure to the Catalans, ‘il y avait bien autre
chose à faire que de réjouir les Espagnols par cette réaction[339].’

  [338] Duhesme, or the friend writing under his name, gives
  himself most handsome and unconvincing testimonials in the
  narrative printed in 1823, as part of the _Mémoires sur la Guerre
  d’Espagne_. They contrast strangely with Arteche’s quotations
  from Barcelonese local writers.

  [339] Napoleon to Clarke, Compiègne, April 24, 1810.

Having concentrated Pino’s and Souham’s troops at Barcelona, Augereau
would have proceeded to advance against the Catalans, and lay siege
to Tarragona, but for one fact--the magazines of the city were almost
empty, and no food could be procured for the army. Indeed, after a
very few days it was necessary for the Marshal to retrace his steps,
in order to bring up an enormous convoy for the revictualling of
the place, which was being collected at Perpignan and Figueras.
All that he had done by his march was to open up the road, and to
muzzle the fortress of Hostalrich, which was still being blockaded by
the Italians. Accordingly, on February 1 his two divisions marched
back each by the way that it had originally taken--Souham to Vich,
where he halted, Pino to Gerona, where the convoy began presently
to gather, escorted thither in detachments by a large body of
reinforcements which had just come up from France. For the Emperor
had strengthened the Army of Catalonia by a division of troops of the
Confederation of the Rhine, under General Rouyer, and by a Neapolitan
brigade--some 8,000 men in all. But the long train of carts and mules
came in slowly, and March began before Augereau was ready to move.

Meanwhile, his lieutenant Souham had been exposed to a sudden and
unexpected peril. O’Donnell had discovered that the division at Vich
was completely isolated and did not count much more than 5,000 sabres
and bayonets. Having reorganized his own field army at Moya, near
Manresa, and brought it up to a strength of 7,000 foot and 500 horse
by calling a few troops from Tarragona, he directed the somatenes
of Northern Catalonia to muster on the other side of Vich, so as to
fall on Souham from the rear. The indefatigable miquelete leaders
Rovira and Milans got together between 3,000 and 4,000 men, despite
of all their previous losses and defeats. On February 19 these levies
thrust in the pickets of the French division on the eastern side,
but Souham did not see his danger till, on the following morning, he
found O’Donnell’s regular troops pouring down into the plain of Vich
in three columns, and challenging him to a battle in the open. Since
the day of Valls the Catalan army had never tried such a bold stroke.

The French general was greatly outnumbered--he had but 4,000 infantry
and 1,200 horse to oppose to O’Donnell’s 7,500 regulars and the
3,500 miqueletes. The action fell into two separate parts--while
Rovira and Milans bickered with two battalions left to guard the
town of Vich, Souham fought a pitched battle against the Spanish
main body with the eight battalions and two and a half regiments of
cavalry[340] which constituted the remainder of his force. It was a
fierce and well-contested fight: O’Donnell took the offensive, and
his men displayed an unwonted vigour and initiative. Unhappily for
this enterprising general his small body of horsemen was utterly
unable to restrain or to cope with the superior French cavalry. Twice
the battle was turned by the charge of Souham’s squadrons: after the
first repulse O’Donnell rallied his beaten right wing, threw in all
his reserves, and tried to outflank the shorter French line on both
sides. The enemy was losing heavily and showing signs of yielding,
when the whole of his cavalry made a second desperate charge on the
Spanish right. It was completely successful; O’Donnell’s turning
column, composed of the Swiss regiments of Kayser[341] and Traxler,
was broken, and the larger part of it captured. Thereupon, the
Spanish general, who had displayed undaunted courage throughout the
day, and headed several charges in person, thought it time to retire.
He fell back on the mountains, leaving behind him 800 killed and
wounded, and 1,000 prisoners. The French had suffered at least 600
casualties[342], including Souham himself, desperately wounded in
the head, and had been within an ace of destruction: but for their
superiority in cavalry, the day was lost.

  [340] 1st Léger (three batts.), 42nd Ligne (three batts.), 93rd
  Ligne (one batt.), and 7th Ligne (one batt.). Meanwhile the
  other battalion of the 7th Ligne and that of the 3rd Léger were
  holding back the miqueletes. The cavalry were the 24th Dragoons,
  3rd Provisional Chasseurs (soon afterwards rechristened the 29th
  Chasseurs), and half the Italian ‘Dragoons of Napoleon.’

  [341] This regiment had been formed on the ‘cadre’ of the old
  Swiss regiment of Beschard, by means of deserters from the German
  and Italian troops of the French Army of Catalonia.

  [342] Martinien’s lists show 29 officers killed and wounded,
  which, at the usual rate, presupposes about 600 or 700
  casualties. Napier, Schepeler, and Arteche all three state the
  French loss at 1,000 or 1,200--evidently too high.

On March 13, Augereau had at last collected his vast convoy at
Gerona--there were more than a thousand waggons laden with flour,
besides pack-mules, caissons, carriages, and other vehicles of all
sorts. He marched in person to escort it, with the Italians--who were
now under Severoli, Pino having gone home on leave,--and the newly
arrived German division of Rouyer. Verdier was left behind--as in
January--to defend the Ampurdam from the incursions of the miqueletes
of Rovira and Milans. Meanwhile, Souham’s division, which had passed
into the hands of General Augereau, the Marshal’s brother, since
its old chief had been invalided to France, pursued a line of march
parallel to that of the main force. Moving from Vich by the Col de
Suspina and Manresa, it came down into the valley of the Llobregat,
on the same day that Pino’s and Rouyer’s troops reached it by the
other route. The Marshal and the main column had made their way past
Hostalrich, which was found still unsubdued, and still blockaded by
Mazzuchelli’s brigade, which had been left opposite it in January.
These troops were ordered to join their division, a mixed detachment
under Colonel Devaux being left in their stead to watch the castle.
The Marshal then took up his residence in the palace at Barcelona,
and had himself proclaimed Governor of Catalonia with great state,
in consonance with the imperial decree of February 8, which had
taken the principality out of the hands of King Joseph, and made its
administrator responsible to Paris alone, and not to Madrid.

Augereau established himself permanently at Barcelona, and proceeded
during the next two months to act rather as a viceroy than as a
commander-in-chief. The conduct of military operations he handed
over to his brother, to the unbounded disgust of the other generals.
In what proportions the responsibility for the disasters which
followed should be distributed between the two Augereaus it is hard
to say. But Napoleon, very naturally and reasonably, placed it on
the Marshal’s shoulders, and wrote that ‘Ce n’est point en restant
dans les capitales éloignées de l’armée que des généraux en chef
peuvent acquérir de la gloire ou mériter mon estime[343].’ The force
assembled on the Llobregat was now a very large one, consisting of
three divisions, those of Augereau, Severoli, and Rouyer. It numbered
nearly 20,000 men, for along with the convoy there had marched a mass
of drafts for the old regiments of the 7th Corps, which brought their
battalions up to full strength[344].

  [343] _Correspondance_, 16411. From Compiègne, 24 April, 1810.

  [344] Severoli’s division alone numbered 6,900 foot and 900
  horse, at the moment.

There were only two rational plans of campaign open to the French:
the one was to march on Tarragona with a siege-train, and to
complete the conquest of Catalonia by the capture of its greatest
fortress. The other was to mask Tarragona, and to strike across
the principality westward, in order to get into communication with
Suchet and the Army of Aragon, by way of Igualada, Cervera, and
Lerida. If the two corps could meet, Northern Catalonia would be
completely isolated from Tarragona, Tortosa, and Valencia. It was
this latter plan which Augereau had been ordered to carry out by
his master. He was directed to march on Lerida, and to join Suchet
before that place. By a dispatch of February 19 he had been informed
that on March 1 the Army of Aragon would have arrived before Lerida,
and would be forming its siege[345]. This prophecy was false: for
Suchet, as we have seen, had gone off on his Valencian expedition,
and was at Teruel on the appointed day. It was impossible to direct
from Paris a combined movement depending on accurate timing for its
success. But Augereau should have attempted to carry out the order
sent him by his master with proper zeal and dispatch. This he failed
to do: his own inclination was to strike a blow at Tarragona, and the
movements of his corps show that this was the operation which he had
determined to carry out. Instead of marching in person with his main
body, on Cervera and Lerida, he directed his brother to take his own
and Severoli’s divisions and to move by Villafranca on Reus, a large
town twelve miles to the north-west of Tarragona, and suitable as
a base of operations against that city (March 29). A battalion and
a half was dropped at Villafranca, to keep open the communications
between Reus and Barcelona, while a brigade of Rouyer’s newly arrived
Germans, under the ever-unlucky Schwartz--the vanquished of Bruch and
Esparraguera[346]--was placed as a sort of flank-guard at Manresa.
On March 27 a summons was sent in to Tarragona demanding surrender.
This was, of course, refused--the town was full of troops, for Henry
O’Donnell had just strengthened its garrison by retiring into it
himself, with the 6,000 men who represented the remains of his field
army.

  [345] Napoleon to Clarke, Feb. 19, from Paris. Cf. another
  dispatch of Feb. 26, no. 16294 of the _Correspondance_.

  [346] See vol. i. pp. 309-11.

The Spanish general, contemplating the position of affairs with a
wary eye, had convinced himself that he could stop General Augereau’s
further movements by striking at his line of communication with
Barcelona. This he proceeded to do in the most skilful and successful
fashion. Before the enemy closed in upon Tarragona, he sent out
a picked force under General Juan Caro, with orders to attack
Villafranca and Manresa without a moment’s delay. This daring stroke
was completely successful: Caro stormed Villafranca at dawn on March
30, and took or captured the whole of the 800 men posted there. He
was wounded, and had to hand over his command to Campo Verde, who,
after some preliminary skirmishing lasting for three days, completed
the little campaign by driving Schwartz out of Manresa, after a heavy
fight, on April 5, in which the German brigade lost 30 officers and
800 men[347]. The somatenes turned out to hunt the routed force as
it retired on Barcelona, and inflicted many further losses, so that
Schwartz only brought back a third of his brigade to the Marshal.

  [347] The Lippe-Bückeburg officer Barckhausen says in his diary
  that only 20 officers and 620 men were lost. But Martinien’s
  lists show 30 officers of the Nassau, ducal Saxon, and
  Anhalt-Lippe regiments killed or wounded at or near Manresa on
  the 2nd-5th of April.

The touch between the two divisions at Reus and the garrison of
Barcelona was thus completely severed. Moreover, Augereau feared
lest the next move of the raiding force might be an attack on the
isolated force under Colonel Devaux which was blockading Hostalrich.
He therefore sent out a brig with one of his aides-de-camp on
board, bearing orders to his brother and Severoli to return at
once to his head quarters with their troops. By good fortune the
messenger reached his destination without being intercepted by
English cruisers, and the two divisions started on their march back
to Barcelona on April 7. Only two days before, Severoli, more by
luck than by skill, had got for a moment into touch with the Army
of Aragon. An exploring column of two battalions under Colonel
Villatte, which he had sent out westward to Falcet, in the direction
of the Ebro, met--entirely by chance--a similar detachment of
Musnier’s division of the 3rd Corps, which had advanced to Mora. On
interchanging news of their respective armies, Villatte learnt from
his colleague that Suchet was at this moment marching on Lerida,
where, according to the Emperor’s instructions to Marshal Augereau,
he ought to have arrived more than a month before. Villatte brought
back the information to Severoli, but the latter could make no
use of it while he was under orders to return without delay to
Barcelona[348]. He and General Augereau accomplished their retreat
in three days, much harassed on the way, not only by the somatenes
of the mountains but also by O’Donnell, who followed them with
a detachment of the garrison of Tarragona. They took some small
revenge on him, however, at Villafranca, where they turned on the
pursuers and inflicted a sharp check on their advanced guard, which
was pressing in, with more courage than discretion, on a force which
outnumbered it by four to one. On April 9 the whole army was encamped
outside the walls of Barcelona. Counting the garrison, Augereau
had now more than 20,000 men in hand, but, not contented with this
concentration, he sent orders back to the Ampurdam, ordering Verdier
to bring forward as many troops as possible to Gerona, and from
thence to push forward down the high-road as far as Granollers, so
as to succour Devaux, if the Spaniards should show any intention of
relieving Hostalrich.

  [348] For details of Villatte’s expedition see Vacani, iv. 140-1.

The Marshal’s next move lost him the favour of Napoleon, and led to
his removal in disgrace to Paris. On April 11 he issued orders to
Severoli to march on Hostalrich, and there to take over the conduct
of the siege from Devaux, while at the same time he himself moved
back to Gerona with his brother’s French division, and an immense
train, consisting partly of the empty carts of the convoy which he
had brought south in March, partly of confiscated property of all
sorts from Barcelona[349]. Augereau’s excuse for this retrograde
movement, which abandoned all Central Catalonia to the enemy, was
that his army would have exhausted the magazines of Barcelona if
he had kept it concentrated for ten days more, and that he had
no other way of feeding it, since the activity of the somatenes
made the dispatch of foraging detachments utterly impossible. The
moral effect of the move was deplorable: after taking in hand an
offensive movement against Tarragona, he had allowed himself to be
checked by an enemy hopelessly inferior in numbers, had lost over
3,000 men in petty combats, and then had retired to the base from
which he had started in January. Three months had been wasted, and
nothing had been gained save that the small castle of Hostalrich
was now in a desperate condition for want of food, and must fall if
not speedily succoured. What rendered the position of Augereau the
more shameful was that he had now in front of him only a skeleton
enemy. For O’Donnell at this moment was distracted by the advance
of Suchet against Lerida, and had been forced to draw off towards
the borders of Aragon two of the four divisions into which he had
reorganized his little field army. Facing Augereau there was only
Campo Verde’s division of regulars--not over 5,000 strong--and the
bands of the mountains. It was against such an enemy that the Marshal
had concentrated 25,000 men--including Verdier’s force--between
Hostalrich and Gerona.

  [349] According to Spanish accounts this included much ill-gotten
  property belonging to the Marshal himself, and other superior
  officers. Ferrer (see Arteche, viii. 203) declares that Augereau
  carried off all the furniture of the Royal Palace.

The food-problem, on which those who defend Augereau lay all the
stress possible[350], was no doubt a very real one. The feeding
of Barcelona, with its garrison and its large civil population, by
means of convoys brought from France, was no easy task. But it seems
clear that with the large force at his disposition--the 7th Corps was
over 50,000 strong[351]--Augereau could have organized convoy-guards
sufficiently powerful to defy the Spaniards, without abandoning the
offensive position in front of Barcelona, which was all-important to
him. He might have set aside 10,000 men for that purpose, and still
have kept a strong field army together. Had he done so, O’Donnell
could not have dared to march with 8,000 men, the pick of the Catalan
army, to relieve Lerida, while his old enemies were massed, awaiting
an impossible attack, a hundred miles away.

  [350] For a defence of the Marshal on these lines, see _Victoires
  et Conquêtes_, vol. xx. pp. 52-3.

  [351] About 56,000 in all, but 10,000 were in hospital or
  detached.

Meanwhile, the one task which was completed by the 7th Corps during
the months of April and May was the reduction of Hostalrich. The
little castle was a place of strength, perched high above the
abandoned town to which it belonged. It was garrisoned by two
battalions, one of Granadan regulars from Reding’s old division, the
other of local Catalan levies[352], under Colonel Juliano Estrada,
an officer of high spirit and commendable obstinacy. To the first
summons made to him in January by Augereau, he had replied that
‘Hostalrich was the child of Gerona, and would know how to emulate
the conduct of the mother-city.’ Nor was this high-flown epigram
belied by the after-conduct of the garrison. Hostalrich held out from
January 16 to May 12 without receiving either a convoy from without
or any reinforcements. Twice the local miqueletes attempted to pass
succours into the castle, but on each occasion they were driven off,
after having barely succeeded in communicating with Estrada. Their
convoys never got close enough to enter the gates. At last, on May
12, the provisions of the place were completely exhausted: thereupon
Estrada took in hand a scheme which was only tried by one other
governor during the whole Peninsular War--the Frenchman Brennier at
Almeida in May 1811. He put every able-bodied man of the garrison
under arms at midnight, issued silently from the castle, and
charged at the besiegers’ lines, with the intention of cutting his
way through to Campo Verde’s head quarters in the mountains. He was
fortunate enough to pierce the Italian outposts at the first rush.
But two whole brigades were presently at his heels, his guides lost
their way among cliffs and ravines, and he was overtaken. Turning
back with his rearguard to fend off the pursuers, he was wounded and
taken prisoner. Ten other officers and some 300 soldiers shared his
fate: the rest of the garrison dispersed in the hills, and reached
Vich in small parties to the number of 800 men. If only their gallant
commander had escaped with them, the exploit would have been an exact
parallel to the Almeida sortie of 1811.

  [352] One battalion of Iliberia (or 1st of Granada) and one
  tercio of levies from the province of Gerona: total strength
  about 1,200 bayonets.

The reduction of Hostalrich and of a small fort on the Isles of Las
Medas near the mouth of the Ter, were the last achievements of the
Army of Catalonia while it was under the command of Augereau. On
April 24 the Emperor had resolved to remove him from his post, and
had ordered Marshal Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum, to relieve him.
In the _Moniteur_ it was merely stated that the elder Marshal had
been forced by ill-health to resign his charge. But the real causes
of his displacement are plainly stated in Napoleon’s letter to
the Minister of War. They were the blow which he had given to the
imperial prestige by his retreat to Gerona, and his disobedience
in having failed to march on Lerida in aid of Suchet. It must be
confessed that the wrath of the Emperor was justifiably roused. Its
final manifestation took the shape of a minute directing that when
the _Moniteur_ published the news of the successes at Hostalrich and
Las Medas, the name of Augereau was to be kept out of the paragraph,
and only those of his subordinates mentioned[353].

  [353] See _Correspondance_, 16411, Napoleon to Clarke, of April
  24, and 16500, same to same of May 23.

While the new commander of the 7th Corps was on his way from Italy
to Perpignan, and for some time after his arrival on May 22, there
was a complete suspension of active operations. None of the French
generals in the principality could do more than await orders, and
keep the neighbourhood of his cantonments safe from the irrepressible
miqueletes. The whole interest of the French operations in
North-Western Spain during this period turns on the movements of the
Army of Aragon.

On returning from his futile Valencian expedition, Suchet had found
awaiting him at Saragossa orders to commence without delay the siege
of Lerida, and promising that Augereau would ‘contain’ the Spanish
army of Catalonia, and would ultimately open up communication with
him by way of Cervera or Momblanch. In obedience to the imperial
mandate, the commander of the 3rd Corps collected more than half
his troops for the expedition against Lerida. This concentration
entailed the abandonment of the rough country of Southern Aragon to
Villacampa and his bands; for having determined to leave only Laval’s
division behind him to protect the central parts of the province,
Suchet had to evacuate the region of Teruel, Albaracin and Montalvan.
Laval’s two brigades remained in the valley of the Jiloca, between
Saragossa and Daroca, watching the debouches from the mountains.
The other two divisions of the Army of Aragon were destined for the
siege of Lerida. Musnier, with one column, marching down from Caspe
and Alcañiz[354], crossed the Ebro at Flix, and approached Lerida
from the south. Habert, with his division, coming from the side of
Saragossa, made for the same goal by way of Alcubierre and Monzon. It
might seem a dangerous experiment to march the two isolated columns
across the Spanish front, for a junction at a point so remote from
their respective starting-points. But, for the moment, there was no
hostile force of any importance in their neighbourhood. Severoli
and Augereau being still at Reus, when Musnier and Habert started
on their way, O’Donnell could spare no troops for the relief of
Lerida. It was not till they had retired, and the Duke of Castiglione
had withdrawn all his forces to Hostalrich and Gerona, that the
Captain-General found himself free for an expedition to the West. In
front of Musnier, while he was marching on Lerida, there were nothing
but trifling detachments sent out for purposes of observation by
the Governor of Tortosa. In front of Habert there were only 2,000
men under Colonel Perena, thrown out from Lerida to observe the
open country between the Segre and the Cinca. This was the sole
field-force which remained from the old Spanish Army of Aragon,
with the exception of the two dilapidated regiments that formed the
nucleus of Villacampa’s band.

  [354] It was with a detachment of this column that Severoli’s
  flanking party under Villatte got into communication on April 4,
  as detailed above, page 296.

On April 10, Suchet arrived at Monzon with a brigade of infantry,
and the six companies of artillery and four of engineers which were
destined for the siege of Lerida. On the thirteenth he was before the
walls of the place on the west bank of the Segre, while on the next
day Habert appeared on the other bank, driving before him Colonel
Perena and his battalions. This second French column had passed the
Segre at Balaguer, from which it had expelled the Spanish brigade.
Perena, having the choice between returning into the mountains
or strengthening the garrison of Lerida, had taken the latter
alternative. On the same day Musnier came up from the South, and
joined the army with the force that had started from Alcañiz and had
crossed the Ebro at Flix. Suchet had now concentrated the whole of
the 13,000 men[355] whom he destined for the siege.

  [355] For his strength at this moment, see the table which he
  gives in his _Mémoires_, vol. i, Appendix 4. His figures cannot
  always be trusted: for instance, purporting in this table to
  give his whole force, present at Lerida or detached in Aragon,
  he omits the six squadrons of gendarmerie which were guarding
  his rear [37 officers, 1,121 men] and the four battalions of
  _Chasseurs des Montagnes_, who were garrisoning Jaca, Venasque,
  &c. [about 2,000 men].

The town of Lerida, then containing some 18,000 inhabitants, lies
in a vast treeless plain on the western bank of the broad and rapid
Segre. Its topography is peculiar: out of the dead level of the
plain rise two steep and isolated hills. One of these, about 800
yards long by 400 broad, and rising 150 feet above the surrounding
flats, is crowned by the citadel of the town; the other, somewhat
longer but rather narrower, is no other than the hill about which
Caesar and Afranius contended in the old Civil Wars of Rome, when
Lerida was still Ilerda. It lies about three-quarters of a mile from
the first-named height. In 1810 its culminating summit was covered
by a large work called Fort Garden, and its southern and lower end
was protected by the two small redoubts called San Fernando and El
Pilar. The town occupies the flat ground between the citadel-height
and the river. It has no trans-pontine suburb, but only a strong
_tête-du-pont_ on the other side of the Segre. The strength of the
place lay in the fact that its whole eastern front was protected
by the river, its whole western front by the high-lying citadel.
The comparatively short southern front was under the guns of Fort
Garden, which commanded all the ground over which an enemy could
approach this side of the town. There only remained, unprotected
by outer works, the northern front, and this was the point which a
skilful enemy would select as his objective. Another fact which much
favoured the defence was that the besieger was forced to make very
long lines of investment, since he had to shut in not only the town,
but the whole plateau on which lie Fort Garden and its dependent
works. Moreover, he must keep a force beyond the Segre, to block
the _tête-du-pont_, and this force must be a large one, because the
east was the quarter from which succours sent from Catalonia must
certainly appear. The garrison, on the other hand, was quite adequate
to man the works entrusted to it; the entry into the town of Perena’s
Aragonese battalions had brought it up to a strength of over 8,000
men. The artillery were the weak point--there were only 350 trained
men to man over 100 pieces. The Governor was Major-General Garcia
Conde, who owed his promotion to his brilliant achievements at Gerona
in the preceding September.

Suchet’s 13,000 men were insufficient for a close and thorough
investment of such a large space as that covered by the Lerida-Garden
fortifications. He was forced to leave a considerable part of
its southern front watched by cavalry posts alone. Of his total
force, Musnier, with six battalions and the greater part of the
cavalry--about 4,000 men in all, was beyond the river. Three
battalions blocked the _tête-du-pont_, the rest formed a sort
of covering force, destined to keep off the approach of enemies
from the side of Catalonia. On the hither side of the Segre the
three brigades of Habert, Buget, and Vergès were encamped facing
the western and north-western fronts of Lerida. They counted only
thirteen battalions, being weakened by 1,200 men who had been
detached to garrison Monzon and Fraga. The communication between
Musnier’s division and the rest of the army was by a flying bridge
thrown across the Segre two miles above the town; it was guarded
by a redoubt. The artillery park was placed at the village of San
Rufo, opposite the north-western angle of the town, from which it is
distant about 2,500 yards. It was evident from the first that this
would be the point of attack selected by the French engineers.

The army had barely taken up its position when, on April 19, rumours
were spread abroad that O’Donnell was on his way to relieve Lerida.
They must have been pure guesses, for the Spanish general on that day
was still at Tarragona and had made no movement. They were, however,
sufficiently persistent to induce Suchet to take off Musnier’s
covering corps, strengthened by three other battalions, on a mission
of exploration, almost as far as Tarrega, on the Barcelona road. No
Spanish force was met, nor could any information be extracted from
the inhabitants. The absence of the troops on the left bank of the
Segre was soon detected by Garcia Conde, who--to his great regret
three days later--sent messengers to inform O’Donnell that the French
lines to the east of the city were now almost unoccupied.

The fiery O’Donnell was already on his way when this news reached
him. The moment that he was sure that Augereau had left Barcelona
and was retreating northward, he had resolved to fly to the relief
of Lerida with the two divisions of which he could dispose. On
the twentieth he marched from Tarragona by Valls and Momblanch,
with 7,000 regular infantry, 400 horse, a single battery, and some
1,500 miqueletes. On the twenty-third he had reached Juneda, twelve
miles from Lerida, without having seen a French picket or having
been detected himself. He intended to drive off the few battalions
blocking the bridge-head, and to open up communication with the
besieged town that same day. Unfortunately for him, Suchet and
Musnier had returned on the previous night from their expedition to
Tarrega, and were now lying at Alcoletge, three miles north of the
bridge-head, with seven battalions and 500 cuirassiers.

Pushing briskly forward along the high-road, in a level treeless
plateau, destitute of cover of any kind, the leading Spanish
division--that of Ibarrola--came into contact about midday with
the small force guarding the bridge-head, which was now in charge
of Harispe, Suchet’s chief-of-the-staff. To the surprise of the
Spaniards, who had expected to see these three battalions and two
squadrons of hussars retire in haste, the French showed fight.
Harispe was aware that Musnier could come up to his aid within an
hour, and was ready for battle. His hussars charged the leading
regiment of Ibarrola’s column, and threw it into disorder, while his
infantry formed up in support. At this moment the Spanish general
received news that Musnier was moving in towards his flank; he
therefore retired, to get the support of O’Donnell, who was following
him with the second division. But at the ruined village of Margalef,
six miles from Lerida, the column of Musnier came up with Ibarrola,
and he was so hard pressed that he formed line, with 300 cavalry on
his right wing and his three guns on his left. The position was as
bad a one as could be found for the Spanish division--a dead flat,
with no cover. Musnier, on reaching the front, flung his cavalry,
500 cuirassiers of the 13th regiment, at the Spanish right wing.
The horsemen placed there broke, and fled without crossing sabres,
and the French charge fell on the flank battalion of the infantry,
which was caught while vainly trying to form square. It was ridden
down in a moment, and the horsemen then rolled up the whole line,
regiment after regiment. A great part of Ibarrola’s corps was
captured, and O’Donnell, who came on the field with the division of
Pirez just as the disaster took place, could do no more than retire
in good order, covering the scattered remnants of his front line. A
Swiss battalion, which he told off as his rearguard, was pierced by
the cuirassiers and for the most part captured. In this disastrous
affair the Spaniards lost 500 killed and wounded and several thousand
prisoners[356], as also four flags and the half-battery belonging
to Ibarrola’s division. The French, of whom the cavalry alone were
seriously engaged, are said by Suchet to have had no more than 23
killed and 82 wounded[357].

  [356] Suchet says that he took 5,600 prisoners, a figure that
  appears quite impossible, as Schepeler rightly remarks (iii.
  649). Ibarrola’s division had only 4,000 bayonets, and of that
  of Pirez only the one Swiss battalion was seriously engaged.
  Moreover, Ibarrola’s division was not absolutely exterminated,
  for O’Donnell on April 26 issued an order of the day, in which he
  thanks the division for its courage, and praises the battalions
  which kept their ranks and re-formed behind those of Pirez,
  ‘returning in good order to occupy the position (Juneda), from
  which they had started at dawn.’ See the document, printed in
  Arteche’s Appendix, no. 12 of vol. viii. I should doubt if 2,000
  prisoners were not nearer the mark than 5,600.

  [357] Figures probably correct. Martinien’s lists show one
  officer killed and two wounded; of the latter, one was the
  cavalry general Boussard.

It is clear that O’Donnell must take the blame for the ruin that
fell upon his little field army. He should not have been caught with
his two divisions marching with an interval of four miles between
them. Nor ought he to have been ignorant of the return of Musnier’s
force, considering that he had 400 cavalry, who should have been
exploring the whole country-side for miles around, instead of riding
in a mass along with Ibarrola’s infantry. The carelessness shown was
unpardonable: relying, apparently, on Garcia Conde’s dispatch--now
two days old--concerning the weakness of the French beyond the Segre,
the Spanish general was caught moving as if for an unopposed entry
into Lerida, instead of in battle order. It may be added that he
would have done well to collect more men before advancing against
Suchet--8,000 bayonets and sabres were too small a force to tackle
the main body of the 3rd Corps, even if they were aided by a sortie
from Lerida, as O’Donnell had intended. It would have been well to
make some endeavour to get troops from the Valencian army, whose
12,000 men were absolutely idle at the moment. It is true that José
Caro and the Valencian Junta were very chary of sending their men
outside their own border. But for such a great affair as the relief
of Lerida a brigade or two might have been borrowed. There was a
considerable Valencian force, at the moment, in the neighbourhood of
Alcañiz.

After the combat of Margalef Suchet summoned Lerida for a second
time, and offered to allow the Governor to see the prisoners and
guns which he had taken from O’Donnell. Garcia Conde very rightly
answered that he relied on his own forces alone, and should fight
to the end. Accordingly, the regular siege began. The trenches were
opened opposite the north front of the town on April 29; several days
of heavy rain hindered the completion of the first parallel, but on
May 7 the breaching batteries were ready and the bombardment began.
The front attacked--the Carmen and Magdalena bastions--was weak: it
was not protected by any flanking fires, and had neither a ditch nor
a covered way. It was bound to succumb before the very heavy fire
directed against it, unless the defence should succeed in beating
down the fire of the breaching batteries. The Spaniards did their
best, bringing up every gun that could be mounted, and replacing each
injured piece as it was disabled. But the end was obvious from the
first: the walls were not strong enough to resist the attack.

Meanwhile, Suchet made two successive assaults on a part of the
defences very far distant from the main front of attack--the two
isolated redoubts which stood on the south end of the extramural
plateau, of which Fort Garden formed the main protection. He wished
to gain a footing on this high ground, both because he could from
thence molest the south front of the town, and because he wished to
prevent the Spaniards from using the plateau as a place of refuge
after the fall of the city, which he regarded as inevitable. The
first attempt to take the works by escalade, on the night of April
23-24, was a disastrous failure: the Pilar was occupied for a moment,
but the attack on San Fernando failed, and the dominating fire from
it drove the stormers out of the smaller work, after they had held it
for a few hours.

The second escalade was more successful: it was carried out on the
night of May 12-13, and ended in the storming of both works. Only a
small part of their garrison succeeded in escaping into Fort Garden:
the besieged lost 300 men, the successful assailants only 120. The
greater part of the plateau was now in the hands of the French.

On the next day, May 13, the engineers announced that the two
breaches in the north front of the town walls were practicable, and
that same evening Lerida was stormed. The breaches were carried with
no great difficulty, but the garrison made a stubborn resistance
for some time, behind traverses and fortified houses in the rear of
them. When these were carried, the city was at Suchet’s mercy; but
it was not at the city alone that he was aiming--he wished to master
the citadel also. During the last siege of Lerida, that by the Duke
of Orleans in 1707, the high-lying castle had held out for many days
after the town had been lost. Suchet’s way of securing his end was
effective but brutal. On the whole, it was the greatest atrocity
perpetrated by any combatant, French, Spanish, or English, during
the whole Peninsular War. When his troops had entered the streets,
he directed columns towards each gate, and having secured possession
of them all, so as to make escape into the open country impossible,
bade his troops push the whole non-combatant population of Lerida
uphill into the citadel, where the beaten garrison was already taking
refuge. ‘The soldiery,’ as he writes, with evident complacency and
pride in his ingenuity, ‘were set in a concentric movement to push
the inhabitants, along with the garrison, towards the upper streets
and the citadel. They were dislodged by musketry fire from street
after street, house after house, in order to force them into the
castle. That work was still firing, and its discharges augmented the
danger and the panic of the civil population, as they were thrust,
along with the wreck of the garrison, into the ditch and over the
drawbridge. Pressed on by our soldiers, they hastily poured into the
castle yard, before the Governor had time to order that they should
not be allowed to enter.’ The castle being crammed with some fifteen
thousand men, women, and children, Suchet gave orders to bombard it
with every available mortar and howitzer. ‘Every shell,’ he writes,
‘that fell into the narrow space containing this multitude, fell on
serried masses of non-combatants no less than of soldiery. It had
been calculated that the Governor and the most determined officers
would be influenced by the presence of these women, children, old
folk, and unarmed peasants. As General Suchet had flattered himself
would be the case, the scheme had a prompt and decisive effect.’ On
the 14th at midday, Garcia Conde, unable to stand the slaughter any
longer, hoisted the white flag.

It is difficult to see how the forcing of thousands of
non-combatants, by means of musketry fire, on to the front of the
enemy’s line of defence, differs in any way from the device, not
unknown among African savages and Red Indians[358], of attacking
under cover of captured women and children thrust in upon the weapons
of their fathers and husbands. The act places that polished writer
and able administrator Louis-Gabriel Suchet on the moral level of
a king of Dahomey. He acknowledges that the plan was deliberately
thought out, and that scores of his victims perished not in the
subsequent bombardment, but by being shot down by his own men while
the crowd was being collected and hunted forward[359]. Historians
have denounced the atrocities committed by the French rank and file
at Tarragona or Oporto, by the English rank and file at Badajoz or
St. Sebastian, but the cultured general who worked out this most
effective plan for the reduction of a hostile citadel has never had
his due meed of shame. Napier’s remark that, ‘though a town taken by
assault is considered the lawful prey of a licentious soldiery, yet
this remnant of barbarism does not warrant the driving of unarmed and
helpless people into a situation where they must perish,’ seems a
sufficiently mild censure, when all the circumstances are taken into
account[360].

  [358] One or two cases can also be quoted from the European
  Middle Ages.

  [359] Suchet, _Mémoires_, i. pp. 147-8.

  [360] Napier, ii. 322.

The total number of Spanish troops surrendered by Garcia Conde in the
Citadel and Fort Garden, or captured by the French during the storm,
amounted to over 7,000 men, of whom about 800 were wounded lying in
the hospital. It was calculated that 1,200 or 1,500 more had perished
during the siege, and that about 500 of the civil population had
fallen victims to Suchet’s barbarous device. The French losses during
the whole series of operations had been 1,100 killed and wounded. The
Spaniards declared that Garcia Conde had betrayed Lerida, and ought
never to have surrendered. But the only ground for this accusation
was that, after a short captivity, he did homage to King Joseph, and
became an _Afrancesado_. Though he had shown dash and courage at
Gerona, it is clear that he lacked the firmness of governors such
as Mariano Alvarez, or Andrés Herrasti. His defence of Lerida had
not been particularly skilful nor particularly resolute: with over
8,000 men within the walls he ought to have been able to hold out
longer against Suchet’s 13,000. The most blameworthy part of his
arrangements was his neglect to retrench the breaches, and to form
a strong second line of temporary works behind them. Alvarez, under
similar conditions, and with a garrison far less strong in comparison
to the besieging army, held out for months after his walls had been
breached, simply because he treated them only as an outer line of
resistance, and was prepared to fight on behind his inner defences.

After the fall of Lerida, Suchet, having received through France
the news that the whole of Augereau’s army was collected in the
neighbourhood of Hostalrich and Gerona, made up his mind that he
had better attempt nothing ambitious until the 7th Corps was in a
position to help him. But there was a small task close to his hand,
which was well worth undertaking in a moment of enforced leisure.
This was the siege of Mequinenza, the only fortress left in Spanish
hands on the eastern side of Aragon. It was a small place, but not
without its strategic importance, for not only did it cover the
junction of the Segre and the Ebro, but it was the highest point open
for navigation on the last-named river. Any one holding Mequinenza
can use the Ebro as a high-road, except in times of drought, and
this was an advantage of no small importance, since the country from
thence to the sea chances to be singularly destitute of roads of
any kind. A few months later, Suchet found the place invaluable, as
he was able to prepare his battering-train for the siege of Tortosa
within its walls, and then to send all the heavy material down-stream
with the minimum of trouble. Mequinenza was a small place, consisting
of a few hundred houses along the river bank enclosed by a weak
and old-fashioned wall, but dominated by a strong castle, which
towers 500 feet above the water at the end of a spur of the Sierra
de Montenegre. The garrison consisted of about 1,000 men, under a
Colonel Carbon.

The very day after Lerida had fallen, Suchet sent a brigade to invest
Mequinenza: more troops followed after an interval. It was clear that
the taking of the town would offer small difficulty: but the castle
was another matter. Its defences were independent of those of the
place below, and its site was so lofty and rocky that it could not
be battered from any ground accessible by existing roads. Indeed,
it could only be approached along the crest of the Sierra, of which
it forms the last lofty point. The main interest of the siege of
Mequinenza lies in the fact that, in order to reduce the castle, the
French engineers had to build a road practicable for heavy guns in
zig-zags up the side of the Sierra. They had arrived in front of the
place on May 15: by June 1 the road was completed: it was a piece
of hard work, as in order to utilize the easiest possible slopes it
had been made no less than five miles long. But when the guns had
once been got up on to the crest of the mountain, Mequinenza--town
and castle alike--was doomed. The town was stormed on June 5; it
might have been captured long before, but there was little use in
taking possession of it until the attack upon the castle had been
begun. Before the storm, Colonel Carbon had wisely ordered all the
large river craft in the place, eleven in number, to run down-stream
to Tortosa; he was well aware that Suchet wanted to open up the
navigation of the Ebro, and was resolved that he should find no
vessels ready for him. Two of the craft ran ashore and were captured;
the other nine got off clear.

When the three batteries erected on the summit of the Sierra opened
on the castle, the walls began to crumble at once. At the end of
eight days its front towards the French trenches was a mass of
shapeless ruins. Carbon then surrendered, without waiting for an
assault, which must undoubtedly have proved successful. There was
nothing particularly obstinate, or, on the other hand, particularly
discreditable, in the defence. The castle was not a modern fortress;
its sole strength had lain in its inaccessible position; and when the
French had climbed up on to a level with it, nothing more could be
done.

Having mastered Lerida and Mequinenza, and obtained a firm footing
in the plain of Western Catalonia, Suchet had now harder work before
him. His first necessity was to clear the country behind him of
the insurgents, who had swarmed down from the hills to attack the
troops left behind in Central Aragon, while the main army had been
concentrated before Lerida. Villacampa had half destroyed a column
of 350 men at Arandija on the Xalon on May 14. Catalan somatenes
had attacked the garrison of the valley of Venasque, on the very
frontier of France, on May 16. Valencian bands had besieged the
castle of Alcañiz for many days. But all the enemies of Suchet had
to fly, as soon as his main army became once more free for field
service. No attempt was made to oppose a serious resistance to his
movable columns: the insurgents fled to right and left: the most
extraordinary proof of their demoralization was that, on June 13,
General Montmarie, at the head of one of these columns, found the
strong fort of Morella, within the Valencian border, absolutely
unoccupied. He seized and garrisoned it, knowing that this place,
which commands the mountain-road from Aragon to Valencia, was of
immense strategical importance.

When June came round, Suchet had once more mastered all Aragon, and
was free for work outside its borders. A march against Valencia, on
the one side, or against Tortosa and Tarragona on the other, was
equally possible. But at this moment Napoleon was set on proceeding
‘methodically’--in Eastern Spain no less than in Portugal--and the
orders issued to the Commander of the 3rd Corps were, to proceed
against Tortosa, and cut off Valencia from Catalonia by its capture.
The longer and more difficult advance against Valencia itself was
relegated to a distant date; there must be no more fiascos like that
of February. Accordingly, Suchet was ordered to follow up the capture
of Lerida and Mequinenza by the reduction of Tortosa[361]. He was
informed at the same time that Macdonald, the new commander of the
Army of Catalonia, was ordered to attack Tarragona. In this way, the
restless O’Donnell would find his hands full at home, and would not
be able to spare time or men for the relief of Tortosa. Only from the
Valencian Army, which had always been badly led, and managed with the
most narrow particularism by José Caro and his Junta, need Suchet
expect any trouble.

  [361] Napoleon to Berthier, _Correspondance_, May 29, 1810.

But until Macdonald was prepared to lead down his corps to the
neighbourhood of Tarragona and the lower Ebro, Suchet felt that his
own enterprise must be held back, or at least conducted with caution.
And although Macdonald had received his orders in May, on taking
over Augereau’s post, it was some time before he was able to execute
them. June and July had passed, and August had arrived, before he
appeared in the regions where Suchet had been told to expect him,
and at last placed himself in communication with the Army of Aragon.
This long delay was entirely due to the burden imposed upon him by
the necessities of Barcelona, with its large garrison and its vast
civil population. The provisions which Augereau had introduced into
the city in the early spring were exhausted, and his successor was
forced to replace them by escorting thither two new convoys of great
size in June and July. So active were the miqueletes that Macdonald
found himself obliged to take with him his French and his Italian
division as escort on each occasion. For a first-class convoy is a
vast affair, stretching out to long miles in a mountain country,
and requiring to be strongly guarded at every point of its unwieldy
length. The Emperor was bitterly disappointed at Macdonald’s delays:
it was hard to convince him that the problem of food-supply in
Catalonia was almost insoluble, and that neither Barcelona nor the
field army could be permanently fed by seizing the resources of
the valley of the Llobregat, or the Campo of Tarragona, and making
war support war in the regular style. Catalonia had never fed its
whole population even in time of peace, but had largely depended
on corn brought up from Aragon or imported by sea. But the British
Mediterranean squadron now made the transport of food to Barcelona
by water impossible, while, till the 3rd Corps and the 7th Corps
should finally meet, it was impossible to supply the latter from
the Aragonese base. While neither of the normal ways of procuring
a regular supply of provisions was practicable, nothing remained
but the weary task of escorting convoys from Perpignan and Figueras
to Barcelona. This Macdonald accomplished thrice, in June, July,
and August: it was only after the third journey that he left the
storeshouses of Barcelona so thoroughly replenished that he was
able to think of further offensive operations, and to concert the
long-delayed junction with Suchet and the 3rd Corps. The Marshal in
his autobiography confesses that he hated the task set him, and found
it entirely out of the lines of his experience. He began his career
by repealing Augereau’s hanging edicts, and endeavoured to introduce
more humane methods of warfare. But his own men were out of hand, and
the Spaniards being as fierce as ever, his task was a very hard one.

Meanwhile, Henry O’Donnell was granted three months in which to
reorganize the Catalan army, which had suffered so severely at
Margalef. His untiring energy enabled him to raise his force by the
end of July to 22,000 men, organized in five divisions, with which
he formed a double front, facing Suchet on the west and Macdonald
on the east. One division under Campo Verde lay northward in the
mountains, with head quarters at Cardona, and detachments pushed
forward as far as Urgel and Olot: its main task was to harass the
French garrison of the Ampurdam, and to threaten Macdonald’s rear
every time that he moved forward towards Barcelona. A second division
lay facing that city, on the lower Llobregat, with detachments
at Montserrat and Manresa, which kept up the communications with
Campo Verde and the North. Two more divisions lay westward, in the
direction of Falcet and Borja Blanca, watching Suchet, and prepared
to oppose any serious attempt on his part to close in upon Tortosa.
The fifth division, or reserve, formed a central mass of troops,
ready to reinforce either the detachments which watched Suchet or
those which watched Macdonald; it lay south of Tarragona, at the Col
de Alba. Thus posted O’Donnell waited for further developments, and
continued to drill and exercise his new levies, to dismiss inactive
and incompetent officers, to collect magazines, and to quarrel
with the local Junta. For this active and intelligent, if reckless
and high-handed, young officer was on even worse terms with the
Catalan authorities than his predecessor, Blake. The main cause of
quarrel was that O’Donnell wished to strengthen his regular troops,
by drafting into the depleted _cadres_ of Reding’s and Coupigny’s
old battalions every recruit that he could catch. He held that the
French could only be brought to a final check by disciplined troops.
The Junta, on the other hand, believed in guerrilla warfare, and
preferred to call out from time to time the miqueletes and somatenes,
who drifted back to their homes whenever a crisis was over. Both
sides had much to say for themselves: the Catalans could point out
that the regular troops had been beaten times out of number, while
their own irregulars had achieved many small successes, and done
the French much harm. O’Donnell, on the other hand, was quite right
in holding that guerrilla operations, much as they might incommode
the enemy, would never deal him a fatal blow or finish the war. He
dreamed of recruiting his army up to a force of 50,000 men at some
happy future date, and of delivering a stroke with superior numbers
which should destroy the French hold on Catalonia. Meanwhile, much as
they quarrelled, the Irish-Spanish general and the local Junta were
both too good haters of France to allow their disputes to prevent
a vigorous resistance from being kept up in the principality.
O’Donnell carried his point to the extent of persuading the Junta to
allow him to form many of the ever-changing tercios of miqueletes
into ‘legions,’ which were to be kept permanently embodied[362], and
to count as part of the regular army. Hence came the large rise in
his muster-rolls.

  [362] To please the Catalans, who hated the idea of long service,
  the enlistment in the Legions was made for two years only, and
  the men were to be entitled to fifteen days’ leave during each
  half-year of service.



SECTION XX: CHAPTER II

OPERATIONS IN THE SOUTH OF SPAIN DURING THE SPRING AND SUMMER OF 1810
(MARCH-OCTOBER 1810)


The situation which had been created by King Joseph’s rapid conquest
of the open country of Andalusia in January and February 1810, and
by his failure to capture Cadiz, was destined to remain unchanged
in any of its more important details for a full year. Soult, with
the three corps of Victor, Sebastiani, and Mortier, was strong
enough to hold the towns and plains, strong enough also to blockade
Cadiz and to spare expeditionary forces at intervals for operations
outside the limits of his own sphere of command. From time to time
he sent the greater part of Mortier’s corps against Estremadura,
and the greater part of Sebastiani’s corps against Murcia. But his
70,000 men were not sufficient to provide an army for the permanent
conquest of either of these provinces. And every time that 10,000 or
15,000 sabres and bayonets were distracted to one of these raids,
the total of troops left behind to watch Cadiz, to guard Seville,
and to repress the interminable activity of the guerrilleros of the
mountains was found to be dangerously small. Ere long the force that
had marched out for external operations had to be called back in
haste, to ward off some peril to one or other of the vital points of
Andalusia.

Soult himself remained for the greater part of his time at Seville,
occupied not only in keeping the movements of his three corps in
unison--no easy task, for both Victor and Sebastiani had wills of
their own, and even the placid Mortier occasionally murmured--but
in superintending the details of civil administration. It was
very seldom that he marched out in person at the head of his last
reserves, to strengthen some weak point in his line of offence
or defence. During the next two years he was quite as much the
Viceroy as the Commander-in-Chief in Andalusia. Though the Emperor
had refrained from naming that kingdom one of the ‘Military
Governments,’ which he had created by his decree of Feb. 15, 1810,
yet Soult made himself in fact, if not in name, as independent as
the governors of Aragon or Navarre or Catalonia. The bond of common
interests and desires which had united him to King Joseph during
the winter of 1809-10 was soon broken. The monarch at Madrid soon
discovered that his presence was not desired in Andalusia--some
good military reason could always be discovered which made it
impracticable that he should revisit Seville. Little or no money
was remitted to him from the South: rich as was Soult’s sphere of
governance, it was always made to appear that the expenses of the
sustenance of the army and of the siege of Cadiz were so great
that no surplus remained for the central government. When the King
murmured, and appealed to Paris, his brother usually supported the
Marshal[363]; it was Napoleon’s first maxim that war should maintain
war, and he thought it of far more importance that the army of
Andalusia should pay for itself, than that the bankrupt exchequer at
Madrid should be recruited[364]. As the months rolled on, and Joseph
gradually realized the position, his hatred for the plausible Marshal
became as bitter as it had been during their earlier quarrel in the
summer of 1809. He had good reason to be angry, for Soult undoubtedly
sacrificed the interests of the King of Spain to those of the Viceroy
of Andalusia. He played a selfish game, though he had always a good
military excuse for any particular refusal to fall in with the King’s
plans or to obey his orders. In 1810 his conduct may be justified,
but in 1811 and 1812 he undoubtedly--as will be shown in chapters to
come--ruined what small chance there was of bringing the Peninsular
War to a successful termination, by pursuing a policy which made the
maintenance of the French authority in Andalusia its chief end, and
not the general good of the imperial arms in Spain.

  [363] Though not always. See the case of the revenue from the
  quicksilver mines, in _Correspondance_, no. 17,076.

  [364] Cf. ibid., July 10, to Soult.

Soult’s conduct at Oporto in the days of his invasion of Portugal
must never be forgotten when his doings in Andalusia are discussed.
He undoubtedly yearned after supreme power, and though the lesson
which he had received after his vain attempt to create himself king
of ‘Northern Lusitania’ had not been forgotten, his ambitions were as
great as ever. He suppressed his desire for the royal name, but gave
himself the reality of the royal power. He practically kept a court,
a ministry, and a revenue of his own[365], despite of all the angry
complaints of his immediate master at Madrid. Secure in the support
of the Emperor, who reckoned him the ‘best military head in Spain,’
he ignored or disobeyed all such communication from Joseph as did
not suit his purpose. To a great extent he justified his policy by
success: the plain-land of Andalusia was undoubtedly the part of the
French holding in Spain where the administration was most successful,
and the occupation most thorough. Soult not only built up, but
kept together, an _Afrancesado_ party among the local population,
which was stronger and more compact than in any other part of the
Peninsula. He even succeeded in raising a small permanent force of
Spanish auxiliaries, which was decidedly more trustworthy and less
given to desertion than the regiments of the same class which King
Joseph was perpetually creating in Madrid--only to see them crumble
away under his hand. The Army of Andalusia was strengthened by two
regiments of Chasseurs à Cheval, which were attached to the 5th
Corps[366], and some free companies of infantry[367], which were used
for garrison and blockhouse work. But it was far more important that
Soult succeeded in enlisting many battalions of a sort of national
guard, which he called _Escopeteros_ (fusiliers); with them he kept
the peace of the larger towns, such as Seville, Cordova, and Jaen.
The very existence of such a force, which King Joseph had vainly
attempted to establish in Madrid, was of evil omen for the patriotic
cause in Andalusia. On several occasions they fought well against
the guerrilleros, when the latter attempted raids dangerously close
to the great cities. For the _Juramentado_ was well aware that if the
national cause were at last to triumph an evil fate would await him.
Having once committed himself to the French side, he was forced to
defend his own neck from the gallows.

  [365] There was desperate quarrelling with Madrid when Soult
  tried to get hold of the port-revenues--small as these were,
  owing to the English blockade--and when he tried to nominate
  consuls on his own authority. See Ducasse’s _Correspondance du
  Roi Joseph_, vol. vii. p. 337.

  [366] 3rd and 4th Chasseurs à Cheval, both present at Albuera and
  other fights in Estremadura in 1810-12. They seem to have gone to
  pieces on the evacuation of Andalusia in the autumn of 1812.

  [367] Cazadores de Jaen, Francos de Montaña, &c. There was a
  company of this sort in Badajoz when it was taken in 1812. The
  Spanish government shot the officers after trial by court martial.

Soult’s civil government was conducted with a far greater decency
than that of Duhesme, Kellermann, and other noted plunderers among
the French governors. But it involved, nevertheless, a considerable
amount of more or less open spoliation. The Marshal’s own hands
were not quite clean: his collection of the works of Murillo and
Velasquez, the pride of Paris in after years, represented blackmail
on Andalusian church-corporations, when it did not come from
undisguised confiscation. Unless he was much maligned by his own
compatriots, no less than by the Spaniards, hard cash as well as
pictures did not come amiss to him[368]. But his exactions were
moderate compared with those of some of his subordinates: though
Mortier and Dessolles had good reputations Sebastiani had an infamous
one, and Perreymond, Godinot (who shot himself early in 1812 when
called to face a commission of inquiry), and certain other generals
have very black marks against them. Still the machine of government
worked, if not without friction, at least with an efficiency that
contrasted favourably with the administration of any other province
of Spain save Suchet’s domain of Aragon.

  [368] Cf. Observations by his aide-de-camp St. Chamans, in his
  _Memoirs_, pp. 203-5, as to the Marshal’s administration. It may
  serve as an example of the liberal way in which the superior
  officers were allowed to draw in money, that Soult gave his
  ex-aide-de-camp 1,500 francs a month, when he was commanding in
  the town of Carmona, besides his pay and free food and quarters.
  It is small wonder that he and other governors began, as he said,
  ‘à trancher du grand seigneur.’ Cf. Arteche, viii. 109, for
  Spanish views on Soult’s administration.

But it was only the valley of the Guadalquivir which lay subdued
beneath the feet of Soult. Cadiz and the mountains had yet to be
dealt with, and, as the months went on, the difficulties of the
French Army of Andalusia became more and more evident. It was only
by degrees that the French generals came to comprehend the absolute
impregnability of Cadiz, and the advantage that the possession of the
island-city and the fleet depending on it gave to the Spaniards. In
the first months of the siege Victor’s engineers and artillerists
had flattered themselves that something might be done to molest the
place, if not to reduce it to surrender, by pushing batteries forward
to the extreme front of the ground in their possession all around the
harbour. Within the first weeks of his arrival in front of Cadiz,
Victor made an attempt to push forward his posts along the high-road
which crosses the broad salt-marshes of the Santi Petri. But the bogs
and water-channels were found impracticable, and the Spanish works
in front of the bridge of Zuazo too strong to be attacked along the
narrow causeway. The French drew back to Chiclana, which became the
head quarters of the left wing of the blockading force, and where
Ruffin’s division was permanently encamped. It was then thought that
something might be accomplished further to the north, by working
against the Arsenal of La Carraca, at the one end of the Spanish
line, or the projecting castle of Puntales at the other. The struggle
for the points of vantage from which Puntales could be battered
formed the chief point of interest during the early months of the
siege. The French, pushing down from the mainland on to the peninsula
of the Trocadero, began to erect works on the ground most favourable
for attacking the fort of Matagorda, which had once more become the
outermost bulwark of Cadiz.

There was a bitter fight over this work, which stands on the tidal
flats below the Trocadero, surrounded by mud for one half of the day,
and by water for the other. It will be remembered that Matagorda had
been blown up at the time of the first arrival of the French before
Cadiz. But after a few days of reflection the English and Spanish
engineer officers in command of the defence grew uneasy as to the
possibilities of mischief which might follow from the seizure of the
ruined fort by the enemy. Their fears, as it afterwards turned out,
were unnecessary. But they led to the reoccupation of Matagorda on
February 22 by a detachment of British artillery, supported by a
company of the 94th regiment. The front of the work facing toward
the mainland was hastily repaired, and heavy guns brought over the
harbour from Cadiz were mounted on it. Moreover, it was arranged
that it should be supported by a Spanish ship-of-the-line and some
gunboats, as far as the mud banks permitted.

Victor took the reoccupation of the fort as a challenge, and
thought that the Allies must have good reasons for attaching so
much importance to it. Accordingly he multiplied his batteries on
the Trocadero, till he had got forty guns mounted in a dominating
position, with which to overwhelm the garrison in their half-ruinous
stronghold. There was a long and fierce artillery contest, but the
French had the advantage both in the number of guns and in the
concentric fire which they could pour upon the fort. The naval help
promised to Matagorda proved of little assistance, partly owing to
the impracticability of the mud flats when the tide was out, partly
because the gunboats could not endure the fire of the French heavy
artillery. On April 22 General Graham, who had arrived at Cadiz and
taken command of the British forces over the head of General Stewart,
ordered Matagorda to be evacuated. It was high time, for the fort was
shot to pieces, and 64 men out of a garrison of 140 had been killed
or wounded[369]. The enemy took possession of the ruins, and rebuilt
and rearmed the fort; they also re-established the ruined forts of
San Luis and San José, on the firm ground facing Matagorda, to which
they had not possessed a safe access till the outer work in the mud
had been captured. These were the most advanced points toward Cadiz
which the French could hold, and here they mounted their heaviest
guns, in the hope of demolishing the Castle of Puntales on the other
side of the water, and of making the inner harbour useless for
shipping. Their purpose was only partly accomplished: the ships, it
is true, had to move east or west, into the outer harbour or nearer
to the Carraca and the Isla de Leon. But Puntales was never seriously
injured, and maintained an intermittent artillery duel with Matagorda
across the strait as long as the siege lasted. The occasional bombs
that fell beyond Puntales, in the direction of the Cortadura, did not
seriously incommode the garrison, and ships could always pass the
strait between the two forts at night without appreciable risk. Later
on Soult caused mortars of unprecedented dimensions to be cast in the
arsenal of Seville, on the designs presented to him by an artillery
officer of the name of Villantroys. But even when these had been
mounted on Matagorda no great damage was done, one bomb only--as a
Spanish popular song recorded--ever touched Cadiz town, and that only
killed a street dog.

  [369] There is a good account of the desperate life of the
  garrison of Matagorda during the bombardment in the _Eventful
  Life of a Scottish Soldier_, by Sergeant Donaldson of the 94th.

[Illustration: _Spanish Infantry 1810_
  (_showing the new uniform introduced under British influence_)]

After the fall of Matagorda, the next most notable event of the
spring in front of Cadiz was a fearful hurricane, lasting from the
6th to the 9th of March, which caused grave losses to the vessels
in the outer harbour. A south-wester from the Atlantic drove three
Spanish line-of-battle ships, one of which, the _Concepcion_, was a
three-decker of 100 guns, and a Portuguese 74, upon the coast about
Puerto Santa Maria and Rota. The French opened upon them with red-hot
shot, and destroyed them all, slaying a great part of the unfortunate
crews, who had no thought of resistance, and were only trying to
escape to land, where they were bound to become prisoners. More than
thirty merchant ships, mostly British, were destroyed by the same
storm. One was a transport containing a wing of the 4th regiment,
which was coming to reinforce the garrison of Cadiz. Some 300 men
from this unlucky vessel got ashore and were captured by the French.

A month after the loss of Matagorda the outer harbour of Cadiz again
saw some exciting scenes. Moored beside the Spanish fleet were a
number of pontoons, old men-of-war from which the masts and rigging
had been removed, and which were used as prison-ships. On them there
were still kept several thousands of French prisoners, mostly the men
captured with Dupont in 1808. It is astonishing that the Regency had
not ordered their removal to some more remote spot the moment that
Victor’s army appeared in front of Cadiz. Overcrowded, and often kept
without sufficient food for days at a time, these unhappy captives
were in a deplorable position. The sight of their fellow-countrymen
in possession of the opposite coast drove them to desperation, and
they were prepared to take any risks for a chance of escape. Having
noted, during the hurricane of March 6th-9th, that every vessel
which broke loose from its moorings had been cast by the set of
the tide upon the coast in the direction of Rota, the prisoners on
the _Castilla_, on which nearly all the officers were confined,
waited for the next south-wester. When it came, on the night of the
15th-16th May, they rose upon their small guard of Spanish marines,
overpowered them, and then cut the cables of the pontoon, committing
themselves to the perils of the sea as well as to the risk of being
sunk by the neighbouring men-of-war. But it was supposed that they
had got adrift by accident, and they had been carried by the tide
almost to the opposite shore before it was realized that an escape
was on foot. Two gunboats sent to tow the _Castilla_ back met with
resistance, the prisoners firing on them with the muskets taken from
their guard, and throwing cold shot down upon the little vessels when
their crews tried to board. Just as they were beaten off, the pontoon
went ashore. The French garrisons of the neighbouring batteries ran
down to help their countrymen to escape; at the same moment other
gunboats, Spanish and English, came up, and began firing on the
crowd, who strove to swim or scramble ashore. Some were killed, but
over 600 got to land. It is surprising that after this incident the
Spaniards did not take better care of the remaining pontoons, but
ten days later the prisoners on the _Argonauta_ were able to repeat
the trick of their comrades. On this occasion the absconding vessel
ran ashore upon a mud-bank some hundreds of yards from the shore of
the Trocadero. The stranded vessel remained for hours under the fire
of the gunboats which pursued it, and a large proportion of the men
on board perished, for when the troops on shore brought out boats
to save the survivors, many of them were sunk as they plied between
the _Argonauta_ and the land. Finally the pontoon was set on fire,
and several wounded Frenchmen are said to have been burnt alive. The
English seamen who were engaged in this distressing business were
heartily disgusted with their share in it[370].

  [370] See the letter of Charles Vaughan deploring the ‘beastly
  necessity of firing into the poor devils’ quoted by Napier in his
  Appendix, vol. ii. p. 482. For a narrative by one of the escaping
  French officers see the _Mémoires_ of Colonel Chalbrand.

After this the Regency at last ordered the removal of the rest of
the French prisoners from Cadiz. The few remaining officers were
sent to Majorca, and afterwards to England. Of the men part were
dispatched to the Canaries, part to the Balearic Islands. But the
islanders protested against the presence of so many French in their
midst, raised riots, and killed some of the prisoners. Thereupon the
Regency ordered 7,000 of them to be placed upon the desolate rock
of Cabrera, where there were no inhabitants and no shelter save one
small ruined castle. The wretched captives, without roofs or tents
to cover them, and supplied with food only at uncertain intervals
and in insufficient quantity, died off like flies. Once, when storms
hindered the arrival of the provision ships from Majorca, many scores
perished in a day of sheer starvation[371]. The larger half did not
survive to see the peace of 1814, and those who did were for the most
part mere wrecks of men, invalids for life. Even allowing for the
desperate straits of the Spanish government, which could not feed its
own armies, the treatment of the Cabrera prisoners was indefensible.
They might at least have been exchanged for some of the numerous
Spanish garrisons taken in 1810-11; but the Regency would not permit
it, though Henry O’Donnell had arranged with Macdonald a regular
_cartel_ for prisoners in the neighbouring Catalonia. This is one of
the most miserable corners of the history of the Peninsular War.

  [371] Nothing can be more distressing reading than the chronicles
  of the Cabrera prisoners, Ducor, Guillemard, Gille and others.
  Actual cannibalism is said to have occurred during the longest of
  the spells of fasting caused by the non-arrival of provisions.
  [See Gille, p. 240.]

But to return to Andalusia. By the month of May the Regency at Cadiz
had recovered a certain confidence, in view of the utter inefficacy
of Victor’s attempt to molest their city. From that month began a
systematic attempt to organize into a single system all the forces
that could be turned to account against Soult. There were now in
the Isla some 18,000 Spanish troops, as well as 8,000 British and
Portuguese. This was a larger garrison than was needed, now that
the defences had been put in order; and it was possible to detach
small expeditionary corps to east and west, to stir up trouble in
the coast-land of Andalusia, and serve as the nuclei round which
the insurgents of the mountains might gather. For the insurrection
in the remoter corners of the kingdom of Granada had never died
down, despite of all the efforts of Sebastiani to quell it. The
Regency had now determined that an effort should be made to extend
it westward--the Sierra de Ronda being quite as well suited for
irregular operations as the Alpujarras. At the other end of the line,
too, there were opportunities in the Condado de Niebla and the lands
by the mouth of the Guadiana, which the French had hardly touched:
trifling detachments of the 5th Corps at Moguer and Niebla observed
rather than occupied that region. By means of the large fleet always
moored in Cadiz harbour, it was possible to transfer troops to any
point of the coast, for the French could not guard every creek and
fishing-village, and if an expedition failed it had a fair chance of
escaping by sea. Moreover any force thrown ashore in the south had
the option of retiring into Gibraltar if hard pressed, just as any
force sent to the west might retire on Portugal.

In addition to the insurgents and the garrison of Cadiz there were
two regular armies whose energies might be turned against Soult.
The relics of Areizaga’s unfortunate host, which had fled into the
kingdom of Murcia, and had been rallied by Blake, were now 12,000
strong, and since Suchet’s expedition against Valencia had failed,
and there was no danger from the north, this force could be employed
against Sebastiani and the French corps in the kingdom of Granada. It
was in a deplorable condition, but was yet strong enough to render
assistance to the insurgents of the Alpujarras, by demonstrating
against Granada, and so forcing Sebastiani to keep his troops massed
for a regular campaign. Whenever the French general was threatened
from the east, he had to abandon his smaller posts, and to desist
from hunting the guerrilleros, who thus obtained a free hand.

The Regency could also count to a certain extent upon aid from
La Romana and the Army of Estremadura. The Marquis--it will be
remembered--was now confronted in his own province by Reynier and
the 2nd Corps[372], but he had thrust his flanking division, under
Ballasteros, into the mountains of North-Western Andalusia, where it
had been contending with Mortier’s corps in the direction of Araçena
and Zalamea, as has already been recounted[373]. This outlying
division was in communication with Cadiz, via Ayamonte and the
lower Guadiana, and could always compel Soult to detach troops from
Seville by descending into the plains. La Romana himself could, and
occasionally did, provide further occupation for the 5th Corps by
moving other troops southward, on the Seville high-road, when he was
not too much engrossed by Reynier’s demonstrations in his front.

  [372] See pp. 213-14 of this volume and p. 246.

  [373] See pp. 215-16 of this volume.

Thus it was possible to harass the French troops in Andalusia on
all sides. With the object of securing some sort of unity for their
operations, the Regency made Blake Commander-in-Chief of the forces
in Cadiz as well as of those in Murcia, declaring them parts of a
single ‘Army of the Centre.’ Albuquerque’s separate charge had come
to an end when, after many quarrels with the Cadiz Junta, he resigned
the post of governor, and accepted that of Ambassador to the Court
of St. James’s at the end of March. He died not long after his
arrival in London, engaged to the last in a hot warfare of pamphlets
and manifestos with the Junta, whose monstrous insinuations against
his probity and patriotism are said to have driven him into the
brain-fever which terminated his life. He was a man of unsullied
honour and high personal courage, but not a lucky general, though
his last military action, the direction of the Army of Estremadura
on Cadiz, was a sound and meritorious piece of strategy. He and
La Romana were the only Spanish officers with whom Wellington was
able to work in concert without perpetual friction, but the British
Commander-in-Chief had a greater respect for his allies’ hearts
than for their heads as may be gathered from constant references
in the _Wellington Dispatches_, as well as from the confidential
conversations of the Duke’s later years[374].

  [374] See _Wellington Dispatches_, v. p. 292, &c., and Stanhope’s
  _Conversations with the Duke of Wellington_, pp. 10 and 23.

Blake arrived in Cadiz on April 22, having turned over the temporary
command of the Murcian army to General Freire, the ever-unlucky
cavalry commander who had served under Venegas and Areizaga in the
campaigns of Almonacid and Ocaña. He set himself to reorganize the
various Estremaduran and other troops in Cadiz into one division
of horse and three divisions of foot, which he numbered Vanguard,
2nd, and 4th of the Army of the Centre. The Murcian forces were
distributed into the 1st, 3rd, and 5th infantry divisions of the
same army, and two small cavalry divisions. This reorganization of
the regular troops was followed by systematic attempts to foster the
insurrection to right and left of Seville. General Copons was sent
to Ayamonte, at the mouth of the Guadiana, with 700 men, round whom
he collected a miscellaneous assemblage of peasantry, which often
descended from the hills to worry the French garrisons of Moguer and
Niebla. When chased by stronger forces detached from Mortier’s corps,
he would retire into Portugal. When unmolested he joined hands with
Ballasteros and the flanking division of the army of La Romana, or
executed raids of his own in the central plain of the kingdom of
Seville. Often chased, and sometimes dispersed, his bands were never
completely crushed, and kept Western Andalusia, or ‘Spanish Algarve,’
as it was called in the old days when the boundaries of Castile and
Portugal had only just been fixed, in a state of constant ferment.

The diversion which was prepared on the other flank by Blake and the
Regency was far more important. Their intention was to wrest from
the French the whole district of the Sierra de Ronda, the mountain
region between Gibraltar and Malaga, and so to thrust in a wedge
between Victor and Sebastiani. There was already the nucleus of an
insurrection in this quarter; soon after King Joseph’s triumphal
progress from Xeres by Ronda and Malaga to Granada, the first small
bands had appeared. They were headed by local chiefs, such as
Becerra, Ruiz, and Ortiz--better known as El Pastor--whose original
followers were a party of the smugglers who, in times of peace and
war alike, had been wont to ply a contraband trade with Gibraltar.
In March and April they were not strong enough to do more than
molest the convoys passing from Malaga and Seville to the French
garrison of Ronda. But finding the enemy in their neighbourhood weak
and helpless--the bulk of the 1st Corps was before Cadiz, and that
of the 5th Corps was still watching La Romana on the roads north
of Seville--they multiplied in numbers and extended their raids
far afield. They asked for aid both from the British Governor of
Gibraltar and from the Regency at Cadiz, promising that, if they were
backed by regular troops, they would easily expel the French and
master the whole country-side. Already their activity had produced
favourable results, for Soult sent down from Seville Girard’s
division of the 5th Corps, a detachment which left Mortier too weak
for any serious operations on the side of Estremadura, and Sebastiani
drew back from an expedition against Murcia, which might otherwise
have proved most prejudicial to the Spanish cause.

This raid deserves a word of notice: just after Blake had left Murcia
for Cadiz, Sebastiani (who had for the moment got the better of the
insurgents in the Alpujarras) assembled at Baza, in the eastern
extremity of the kingdom of Granada, the greater part of the 4th
Corps, and marched with 7,000 men on Lorca. Freire, distrusting
his troops, refused to fight, threw 4,000 men into the impregnable
harbour-fortress of Cartagena, and retired with the rest of his army
to Alicante, within the borders of Valencia. Thus, the rich city of
Murcia, along with the whole of the rest of its province, which had
never seen the French before, was exposed undefended to Sebastiani.
He entered it on April 23, and commenced by fining the corporation
50,000 dollars for not having received him with a royal salute
and the ringing of the bells of their churches. The rest of his
behaviour was in keeping: he entered the cathedral while mass was in
progress, and interrupted the service to seize the plate and jewels.
He confiscated the money and other valuables in all the monasteries,
hospitals, and banks. He permitted his officers to blackmail many
rich inhabitants, and his rank and file to plunder houses and shops.
Two days after his entry he retraced his footsteps, and retreated
hastily towards Granada, leaving a ruined city behind him[375]. The
cause of his sudden departure was the news that the insurgents of the
Alpujarras, whom he had vainly imagined that he had crushed, were
beleaguering all his small garrisons, and that Malaga itself had been
seized by a large band of the Serranos, and held for a short space,
though General Perreymond had afterwards succeeded in driving them
out. But the whole of the Alhama and Ronda Sierras were up in arms,
no less than the more eastern hills where the rising had begun. It
would have been absurd for Sebastiani to proceed any further with
the offensive campaign in Murcia, when Southern Andalusia was being
lost behind his back.

  [375] For strange and scandalous details of Sebastiani’s doings
  in Murcia, see Schepeler, iii. pp. 566-7.

Throughout the month of May Girard and Sebastiani, with some small
assistance from Dessolles, who spared a few battalions from the
kingdom of Cordova, were actively engaged in endeavouring to repress
the mountaineers. The larger bands were dispersed, not without
severe fighting--Girard’s men had hot work at Albondonates on May
1, and at Grazalema on May 3[376]. But just as the main roads had
been reopened, and the blockade of the French garrison of Ronda
raised, the whole situation was changed by the landing at Algeciras
of General Lacy, with a division of 3,000 regulars sent from Cadiz
by the Regency (June 19). His arrival raised the spirits of the
insurgents, and they thronged in thousands to his aid, when he
announced his intention of marching against Ronda. Lacy, however,
was both irresolute and high-handed--as he afterwards showed on a
larger stage when he became Captain-General of Catalonia. On arriving
before Ronda he judged the rocky stronghold too formidable for him
to meddle with, and turned aside to Grazalema, to the disgust of his
followers. He then fell into a quarrel with the Serranos, dismissed
many of them--smugglers and others--from his camp, as unworthy to
serve alongside of regular soldiers, and even imprisoned some of
the more turbulent chiefs. At this moment Girard from the north
and Sebastiani from the east began to close in upon him. Uneasy
at their approach, Lacy fell back towards the coast, and after
some insignificant skirmishes re-embarked his force at Estepona
and Marbella, from whence he sailed round to Gibraltar and landed
at the Lines of San Roque, under the walls of that fortress (July
12)[377]. Almost the only positive gain produced by his expedition
had been the occupation of Marbella, where he left a garrison which
maintained itself for a considerable time. It was no doubt something
to have detained Girard and Sebastiani in the remote mountain of the
south for a full month, when they were much needed by Soult in other
directions. Yet the evil results of Lacy’s timid manœuvres and hasty
flight upon the morale of the insurgents might have been sufficiently
great to counterbalance these small advantages, if the Serranos had
been less tough and resolute. It is surprising to find that they did
not lose courage, but kept the rising afoot with undiminished energy,
being apparently confirmed in their self-confidence by the poor show
made by the regular army, rather than disheartened at the ineffective
succour sent them from Cadiz. Despite of all the efforts of Soult’s
flying columns, they could not be entirely dispersed, though they
were hunted a hundred times from valley to valley. The power of the
viceroy of Andalusia stopped short at the foot-hills, though his
dragoons kept the plains in subjection. Every time that Ronda and the
other isolated garrisons in the mountains had to be revictualled,
the convoy had to fight its way to its destination through swarms of
‘sniping’ insurgents[378].

  [376] Martinien’s lists show that the 40th regiment of Girard’s
  division lost four officers at Albondonates, and the 64th the
  same number at Grazalema--so the skirmishes must have been fairly
  vigorous.

  [377] That Lacy’s force was not so entirely destroyed as Napier
  implies is shown by the fact that many of the same regiments
  could be utilized for the subsequent expedition to the Condado de
  Niebla.

  [378] For illustrative anecdotes of warfare in the Serrania de
  Ronda, see the autobiography of Rocca of the 2nd Hussars, who was
  busy in this region in the spring and summer of 1810.

The Regency had not yet done with Lacy and his expeditionary force.
After they had lain for some time under the walls of Gibraltar, they
were re-embarked and taken back to Cadiz, from where a short time
after they were dispatched for a raid in the Condado de Niebla. In
this region, where Copons was already in arms, the French forces,
under Remond and the Duke of Aremberg, were so weak that the
Junta believed that Lacy’s division would easily clear the whole
country-side of the enemy. Its liberation would be most valuable,
because Cadiz was wont to draw both corn and cattle from the lands
between the Rio Tinto and Guadiana, and had felt bitterly the want of
its accustomed supplies since the war had been carried thither.

Lacy landed in the Bay of Huelva on August 23 with nearly 3,000 men.
He had the good fortune to meet and to overcome in succession two
small French columns which marched against him from Moguer and from
San Juan del Puerto. Thereupon the Duke of Aremberg--whose whole
force in this region was less than 1,500 men (two battalions of the
103rd of the line and the 27th Chasseurs)--evacuated Niebla and fell
back on Seville. Copons, who had been told to join Lacy but had
failed to receive his instructions in time, pursued a separate French
column under General Remond for some distance, but was soon stopped
by the news that a large force was moving against him, to repair
this check to the French arms. Lacy, meanwhile, to the surprise and
disgust of the inhabitants of the Condado, re-embarked on August
29 and went back to Cadiz, professing to regard the purpose of his
expedition as completed. He had this much justification, that the
news of his raid had induced Soult to send out against him, at a most
critical moment, the main body of Gazan’s division, which marched to
Niebla, vainly sought the expeditionary force, and returned to its
base after wasting a fortnight. But a larger garrison was now left in
Western Andalusia, Copons was hunted more vigorously than before, and
cruel reprisals were made on the inhabitants of Moguer and Huelva,
who had aided Lacy.

Feeble as it had been, Lacy’s raid on the Condado had staved off a
serious danger to the Spanish Army of Estremadura, by forcing Soult
to detach Gazan against him, at a moment when he was concentrating
the 5th Corps for a blow at La Romana, and was already engaged in
active operations against the Marquis. A complete change had taken
place in the situation in Estremadura at the end of July, when
Reynier, acting under orders from Masséna[379], had marched northward
from his old base at Merida and Medellin, and crossed the Tagus at
the ferry of Alconetar above the broken bridge of Alcantara[380]
(July 16). This removal of the whole 2nd Corps to the north, followed
(as we have already seen) by the corresponding transference of Hill’s
British force from Portalegre to the neighbourhood of Castello
Branco, had left La Romana at Badajoz with no enemy in front of him,
and had caused a complete rupture of communications between the
French Army of Andalusia and the Army of Portugal, who could for
the future only hear of each other by the circuitous route through
Madrid, since that by Almaraz was closed.

  [379] See pp. 246-7 of this volume.

  [380] Not marked in any contemporary map that I have seen. It is
  situated, however, opposite the junction of the River Almonte
  with the Tagus, about eighteen miles above Alcantara, near the
  ancient ruined bridge of Mantible.

Soult had now thrown upon his hands, to his immense disgust, the
task of containing the whole of La Romana’s force, which Reynier had
been keeping in check from March till July. Accordingly he called
back from the Sierra de Ronda the division of Girard, wishing to
reunite the whole 5th Corps for the protection of the northern
approaches to Seville. He was only just in time, for La Romana had
seen his opportunity, and had resolved to concentrate his army for
a demonstration against Andalusia, which seemed to offer great
temptations while nothing but the solitary division of Gazan stood
between him and Seville, and that division, moreover, was weakened by
the detachments under Remond and Aremberg which lay in the Condado de
Niebla. Accordingly the Marquis, leaving Charles O’Donnell to watch
Reynier on the Tagus, and another division to guard Badajoz, marched
with his cavalry and the infantry of La Carrera[381] and Ballasteros
to invade Andalusia. He also told Copons to come up to reinforce him
with his levies from the lower Guadiana. Even without the help of the
latter, who never succeeded in reaching him, he had 10,000 foot and
1,000 horse. But La Romana was always unlucky when he fought: just
as he started, Girard had returned from Ronda to Seville. On hearing
that the Army of Estremadura was on the move, Soult pushed the newly
returned division, strengthened by part of Gazan’s regiments and a
brigade of cavalry, out towards the passes of the Morena. On August
11, Girard, with about 7,000 bayonets and 1,200 sabres, encountered
La Romana at Villagarcia, just outside the town of Llerena. The
Spaniards were eager to fight, believing that they had only to deal
with some fraction of Gazan’s division; the news of Girard’s return
from Ronda had not yet reached them. They got involved in a severe
combat, were beaten, and were forced back to Zafra and Almendralejo,
with a loss of 600 men--triple that of the French.

  [381] Which had just rejoined him from the north, after the fall
  of Ciudad Rodrigo. See p. 253.

Soult then strengthened Girard’s column, placed Mortier in command,
and bade him push for Badajoz. But just as the Duke of Treviso was
preparing to advance, the news of Lacy’s disembarkation at Moguer
arrived. There were hardly any troops left in Seville, wherefore
Soult hastily recalled from Mortier such of Gazan’s regiments as
were with him, and nearly all the cavalry, and sent them off against
Lacy. Girard’s division retired from Zafra and took up a defensive
position in the passes covering Seville. Thus a dangerous crisis was
avoided, for if the whole 5th Corps had marched on Badajoz in August,
and had driven back La Romana into Portugal, Wellington’s flank in
the Alemtejo would have been left exposed. There was no longer a
British division south of the Tagus to support the Spanish Army of
Estremadura, since Hill had transferred himself to Castello Branco
in order to ‘contain’ Reynier. Of regular troops, indeed, Wellington
had nothing left on the Alemtejo frontier save Madden’s brigade of
Portuguese horse, and the two infantry regiments of the same nation,
who formed part of the garrison of Elvas. Hence he was much troubled
at La Romana’s tendency to take the offensive against Seville, and
repeatedly begged him to content himself with defensive operations,
and not to attract the notice of Soult. For the Duke of Dalmatia, if
left alone, had enough to occupy his attention in Andalusia, yet, if
provoked, might abandon some outlying part of his viceroyalty, in
order to concentrate a force which might crush the Estremaduran army,
and then execute that diversion against Portugal south of the Tagus
which Wellington so much dreaded[382].

  [382] See Wellington, _Dispatches_, vi. p. 343. ‘I am a little
  anxious about Mortier’s movement into Estremadura, not on account
  of the progress he can make, but because I think that the Marquis
  de la Romana is inclined to fight a battle. If we could only
  avoid a disaster for some time, I hope we may do some good at
  last.’ Cf. also vi. pp. 348 and 393.

Yet despite the warning that he had received at the combat of
Villagarcia, and, despite of his ally’s entreaties, La Romana
renewed in September the project that had cost him so dear in
August. Learning that the passes in front of Seville were once more
weakly held by the French, he began to move his army southward in
detachments, till he had gathered a heavy force at Guadalcanal and
Monasterio. Attributing his misfortunes in the last month to the
weakness of his cavalry, he brought down with him Madden’s Portuguese
horsemen, a weak brigade of 800 men[383], which Wellington had put
at his disposition, not foreseeing that its existence would add to
the inclination which the Marquis felt for offensive demonstrations.
The inevitable result followed. Disquieted by the activity of the
Estremaduran army--its raiding parties had already pressed as far
as Santa Olalla on the Seville road, and Constantina on the Cordova
road--Soult ordered Mortier to concentrate the main body of the 5th
Corps at Ronquillo, and to attack the enemy. La Romana gave back
at once, evacuating the passes, but his rearguard was overtaken at
Fuente Cantos, behind Monasterio, by the French horse (Sept. 15). His
cavalry, under La Carrera[384], turned to bay to cover the retreat,
but was charged and scattered with heavy loss by Briche’s Chasseurs,
who captured the battery that accompanied it, and enveloped a large
mass of the beaten horsemen, who would have been forced to surrender
if Madden’s Portuguese, charging at the right moment, and with great
vigour, had not checked the French advance, and given time for the
routed brigades to save themselves in the hills. Madden, though
pursued by the French reserves, made a steady and successful retreat,
with small loss. The Spaniards, however, left behind them six guns
and 500 killed and wounded, while the French loss had not exceeded
100.

  [383] The brigade consisted of three squadrons each of the 5th
  and 8th regiments, and two of the 3rd. Beresford’s report to
  Wellington speaks of their behaviour in the highest terms. See
  Soriano da Luz, vol. iii. pp. 66-7.

  [384] Dissatisfied with all his cavalry officers, La Romana had
  removed La Carrera to the command of the horse, making over his
  old infantry division to Carlos d’España.

Mortier then pursued La Romana to Zafra, and pushed his advanced
cavalry as far as Fuente del Maestre, only thirty miles from Badajoz.
Thus the situation which Wellington most dreaded had come into
existence once again: a considerable French army was moving into
central Estremadura, and threatening the Alemtejo frontier south of
the Tagus, at a moment when every man of the Anglo-Portuguese field
army was fully employed in Beira by the advance of Masséna. But
again, as in August, Mortier did not push his advantage, though La
Romana actually retired behind the Tagus to Montijo, after raising
the garrison of Badajoz to its full strength, and left the Duke
of Treviso the opportunity of laying siege either to that city,
to Olivenza, or even to Elvas, if he should so please. But the
governing fact in all the operations of Soult and his lieutenants at
this period was, as we have already pointed out, that if any great
concentration of the French for offensive purposes took place, it
was only made by withdrawing the garrison troops from some one of
the many disturbed regions of Andalusia. When the whole 5th Corps
was united, and had advanced to Zafra, Western Andalusia was almost
stripped of troops. Indeed, at Seville itself, Soult had nothing
but his new Spanish levies, and the convalescents from his central
hospital, together with some detachments escorting convoys which
happened to be passing through the city, and had been detained in
order to add a few hundred bayonets to its garrison. When, therefore,
Copons began to make himself felt once more in the Condado de Niebla,
and a second raiding expedition from Cadiz landed at Huelva, Soult
felt very uncomfortable.

His perturbation of mind was increased by news from the East:
Sebastiani at this moment had been molested by demonstrations of
the Spanish Army of Murcia against his flank. Blake had returned in
August from Cadiz to inspect the section of his forces which he had
left behind under Freire, and which he had not seen since April. He
had pushed reconnaissances to Huescar in the kingdom of Granada,
had sent supplies to aid the insurgents of the Alpujarras, and was
beginning to stir up a new rising on the side of Jaen. This provoked
Sebastiani to concentrate the larger part of the 4th Corps, and to
march against him with 8,000 men[385]. Blake gave back before his
enemy as far as the neighbourhood of Murcia, where he had prepared
a fortified position by inundating the Huerta, or suburban plain,
which is watered by many canals drawn from the river Segura, and
by stockading all the villages. Fourteen thousand regulars, with
a powerful artillery, held the approaches, while a mass of armed
peasantry hung around Sebastiani’s flanks. The French, however, only
advanced as far as Lebrilla, twelve miles from Murcia, and then
halted (Aug. 28). Sebastiani, after reconnoitring Blake’s line,
thought it too powerful to be meddled with, and retired two days
later towards his base, much harassed by the peasantry on his way.
But during the three weeks that it took for the French general to
concentrate his field-force, to march on Murcia, and to return,
all had gone to wrack and ruin behind him. The insurgents of the
Alpujarras had captured the important seaport towns of Almunecar and
Motril, and had garrisoned their castles with the aid of English guns
sent from Gibraltar. The people of the Sierra de Alhama had cut the
roads between Malaga and Granada, and 4,000 mountaineers had attacked
Granada itself; they were defeated outside its gates by the garrison
on Sept. 4, but were still hanging about its vicinity.

  [385] The 4th Corps was now a little stronger than it had been in
  the spring, the 32nd regiment, 2,000 strong, having joined from
  Madrid. But it was still short of its German division, which now
  lay in La Mancha, but had never crossed the Sierra Morena.

The news of all these troubles had reached Soult while Sebastiani
was quite out of touch, lost to sight in the kingdom of Murcia. They
undoubtedly had their part in inducing the Marshal to recall Mortier
and the 5th Corps from Estremadura. He once more divided its two
divisions, drawing back Gazan to Seville to form his central reserve,
while Girard watched the passes as before. Meanwhile Copons had
already been beaten in the Condado by the column of General Remond
(Sept. 15), and Sebastiani on his return cleared the neighbourhood
of Granada and Malaga of insurgents, and drove the untameable bands
of the Alpujarras to take refuge in their mountains. Motril and
Almunecar were both recovered. Thus the storm passed, as soon as the
two French expeditionary forces under Mortier and Sebastiani returned
once more to their usual garrison-posts.

Only two more incidents remain to be chronicled in the Andalusian
campaign of 1810. Campbell, the governor of Gibraltar, had
resolved--somewhat too late--to lend a small detachment to aid the
Granadan insurgents. The plan which he concerted with the Spanish
governor of Ceuta was that Lord Blayney with two British battalions
from the Gibraltar garrison--the 82nd and 89th [_erratum_: “Lord
Blayney’s force had only a half-battalion, not a whole battalion of
the 89th, but contained 4 companies of foreign chasseurs”], and a
Spanish regiment (Imperial de Toledo) from Ceuta, 2,200 men in all,
should be thrown on shore at Fuengirola, twenty miles on the nearer
side of Malaga, where there was a small French garrison and a dépôt
of stores, which was serving for a brigade then engaged in the siege
of Marbella, the town which had been garrisoned by Lacy in June[386],
and which was still holding out gallantly in October.

  [386] See p. 328 of this chapter.

It was calculated that, on hearing of a descent at Fuengirola,
Sebastiani would come with the larger part of the garrison of
Malaga to relieve the fort. But the moment that he was known to be
nearing the expeditionary force, Lord Blayney was to re-embark and
to make a dash at Malaga itself, which he could reach more swiftly
by water than Sebastiani by land. Secret partisans within the city
were ready to take arms, and the peasantry of the Sierra de Alhama
were also enlisted in the enterprise. The scheme seems liable to
many criticisms--the whole was at the mercy of the winds and waves
of stormy October: what would happen if the weather was too rough to
allow of re-embarkation, or of easy landing at Malaga? And if Malaga
were captured for the moment, for how long could 2,000 regulars,
backed by a mass of undisciplined insurgents, hold it against the
whole of Sebastiani’s corps, which would be hurled upon it at short
notice? The expedition, however, was not actually wrecked on either
of these dangers, but ruined by the folly of its chief. Lord Blayney
landed successfully on October 13, and laid siege to Fuengirola,
which was held by 150 Poles under a Captain Milokosiewitz. Instead of
making the attack a mere demonstration, he brought some 12-pounders
ashore, and set to work to batter the castle in all seriousness.
Finding its walls commencing to crumble, he held on for two days,
though, if he had reflected, he must have remembered that the
garrison of Malaga might be with him at any moment. He was busily
preparing for an assault, when Sebastiani suddenly fell upon him
with 3,000 men from the rear. Apparently the English commander had
neglected to keep up any watch on the side of the inland, and the
peasantry had failed to send any intelligence of the fact that the
French were on the move. The besiegers, taken entirely by surprise,
and distracted also by a sortie of the little garrison, were rolled
down to the sea-shore in confusion. Lord Blayney--a short-sighted
man--rode in among some French whom he mistook for Spaniards, and
was made prisoner in the most ignominious fashion. The Spanish
regiment got off with little loss: it had kept its ranks, and forced
its way to the boats after beating off an attack. The 82nd was
partly on shipboard at the moment of the combat, and the companies
which were on shore saved themselves by a steady rearguard action.
But the battalion of the 89th was half destroyed, losing over 200
prisoners besides some forty killed. The utter incapacity of the
British commander was best shown by the fact that if he had but
carried out the plan on which he was acting, he would certainly have
captured Malaga--for Sebastiani had left only 300 men in the city
when he marched on Fuengirola, and, if the expeditionary force had
re-embarked twenty-four hours before the disaster, it would have
found the place practically undefended, and Sebastiani a long day’s
march away, and incapable of returning in time to save it[387].

  [387] Lord Blayney, a humorous person save when the absurdities
  of his own generalship were in question, wrote an interesting
  narrative of his ‘Forced Journey to France,’ which contains one
  of the best accounts of the state of Madrid under King Joseph’s
  government, as well as some curious notes on the state of the
  English prisoners at Verdun in 1811-13.

The very last military event of the year 1810 on the Andalusian
side was a disaster far worse than that of Lord Blayney--suffered
by a general whose almost unbroken series of defeats from Medina
de Rio Seco down to Belchite ought to have taught him by this time
the advantages of caution, and the doubtful policy of risking a
demoralized army in a fight upon open ground. When Sebastiani retired
from the kingdom of Murcia in the first days of September, Blake had
brought back his army to its old positions on the frontier of that
realm. Seven weeks later, finding the French line in front of him
very weak, he resolved to try a demonstration in force, or perhaps
even a serious stroke against the force of the enemy in Granada. On
November 2 he crossed the Murcian border, with 8,000 foot and 1,000
horse, and occupied Cullar.

On the next day he was at the gates of Baza, where there were four
battalions of the French force which covered Granada[388]. But on
the next morning General Milhaud rode up with a powerful body of
horsemen, the greater part of his own division of Dragoons and the
Polish Lancers from Sebastiani’s corps-cavalry, some 1,300 men
in all. Though he had only 2,000 infantry to back him, Milhaud
determined to fight at once. Blake’s army invited an attack; it was
advancing down the high-road with the cavalry deployed in front, one
division of infantry supporting it, while a second division was some
miles to the rear, on the hills which separate the plain of Baza
from the upland of the Sierra de Oria. A rearguard of 2,000 men was
still at Cullar, ten miles from the scene of action. The situation
much resembled that of Suchet’s combat of Margalef, and led to the
same results. For Milhaud’s squadrons, charging fiercely along and
on each side of the road, completely routed Blake’s cavalry, and
drove it back on to the leading infantry division, which broke, and
was badly cut up before its remnants could take shelter with the
other division in reserve on the hill behind. Blake gave the order
for an instant retreat, and Milhaud could not follow far among the
rocks and defiles. But he had captured a battery of artillery and a
thousand prisoners, and killed or wounded some 500 men more, in the
few minutes during which the engagement lasted. The French cavalry
lost no more than 200 men. The infantry had hardly fired a shot.
Blake, not being pursued, retired only as far as the Venta de Bahul
on the other side of Cullar, and remained on the Murcian border,
cured for a time of his mania for taking the offensive at the head of
a demoralized army.

  [388] From the 32nd and 58th Line, Rey’s brigade of Sebastiani’s
  corps. The 88th, in _Victoires et Conquêtes_, xx. 127, and
  Arteche is a misprint. That regiment was with Girard in the
  Sierra Morena, 150 miles away.

Thus ended the inconclusive campaign of 1810 in Andalusia--the
French on the last day of the year held almost precisely the same
limits of territory that they had occupied on the 1st of March. They
had beaten the enemy in four or five considerable actions, yet had
gained nothing thereby. They were beginning to understand that Cadiz
was impregnable, and that the complete subjection of the mountains
of the South and East was a far more serious task than had been at
first supposed. Things indeed had come to a deadlock, and Soult kept
reporting to his master that another 25,000 men would be required to
enable him to complete his task. Almost as many battalions belonging
to the 1st, 4th, and 5th Corps as would have made up that force had
been sent by the Emperor into Spain. They were intended to join
their regiments in the end, but meanwhile they had been distracted
into the 8th and 9th Corps, and were marching in the direction of
Portugal, when Soult wished to see them on the Guadalquivir[389].
Very little of the mass of reinforcements which had been poured
into the Peninsula in the spring of 1810 had come his way. While the
whole battalions had been sent away with Junot or Drouet, the drafts
in smaller units had been largely intercepted by the generals along
the line of communication. There were 4,000 of such recruits detained
in New Castile alone, and formed into ‘provisional battalions’ to
garrison Madrid and its neighbourhood. King Joseph must not be
blamed too much for thus stopping them on their way: he had been
left with an utterly inadequate force, when the Emperor turned
off everything on to the direction of Portugal. During the summer
and autumn of 1810 there were with him only two French infantry
regiments[390], the same number of light cavalry regiments[391],
Lahoussaye’s weak division of dragoons[392], and the German division
of the 4th Corps less than 4,000 strong, over and above his own guard
and untrustworthy ‘juramentado’ battalions[393]. The royal troops
numbered about 7,000 men, the other units, including Soult’s detained
drafts, about 12,000: with them Joseph had to garrison Madrid, Avila,
Segovia, Toledo, and Almaraz, and hold down all New Castile and La
Mancha--which last province was described at the time as ‘populated
solely by beggars and brigands’. He had the duty of maintaining the
sole and very circuitous line of communication between Soult and
Masséna, which, after Reynier went north in July, had to be worked
via Almaraz. He was frequently annoyed not only by the Empecinado
and other guerrilleros, but by Villacampa, who descended from
higher Aragon into the Cuenca region, and by Blake’s cavalry, which
often raided La Mancha. But his great fear was lest La Romana or
Wellington should send troops up the vast gap left between Reynier at
Zarza and Coria and Mortier in the Sierra Morena; there was nothing
but Lahoussaye’s dragoons and two infantry battalions in the whole
district about Almaraz and Talavera, where such a blow would have
fallen. It was small wonder that he felt uncomfortable.

  [389] The 8th Corps had in its ranks the 4th battalions of the
  following regiments whose first three battalions were in the
  south of Spain, and belonged to the 1st, 4th, or 5th corps--the
  28th, 34th, and 75th. But the 9th Corps was almost entirely
  composed of 4th battalions of the corps of Victor, Sebastiani,
  and Mortier, including those of the 8th, 24th, 45th, 54th, 63rd,
  94th, 95th, 96th Line, and 16th and 27th Léger, of the 1st corps,
  and of the 17th Léger, and 40th, 88th, 100th and 103rd Line of
  the 5th Corps.

  [390] 28th and 75th, the remaining brigade of the 1st Division of
  the 4th Corps, which never joined Sebastiani in Andalusia.

  [391] 26th Chasseurs and 3rd Dutch Hussars.

  [392] 17th, 18th, 19th, and 27th Dragoons, only two squadrons
  each--only 1,300 men.

  [393] As a sample of their behaviour it may be mentioned that the
  whole guard of the south gate of Toledo once marched off to join
  the insurgents, officers and all.

But military sources of disquietude formed only the smaller half of
King Joseph’s troubles at this date. His political vexations, which
engrossed a much larger portion of his time and energy, must be dealt
with elsewhere. They will be relegated to the same chapter which
treats of the new development of Spanish politics consequent on the
long-delayed meeting of the Cortes in the winter of 1810-11.



SECTION XXI

BUSSACO AND TORRES VEDRAS (SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER 1810)



CHAPTER I

MASSÉNA’S ADVANCE TO BUSSACO (SEPTEMBER 1810)


After the fall of Almeida Masséna waited much longer than Wellington
had anticipated. The reasons for his delay were the usual ones
that were always forthcoming when a French army had to advance
in the Peninsula--want of transport and penury of supplies. The
Marshal had just discovered that the country-side in front of
him had already been depopulated by Wellington’s orders, and
that the only inhabitants that were to be met would be the armed
Ordenança, who were already shooting at his vedettes and attacking
his foraging parties. He was inclined to treat them as brigands;
his Provost-marshal, Colonel Pavetti, having been surprised and
captured along with five gendarmes of his escort by the villagers
of Nava d’Avel on September 5, he caused the place to be burned,
shot the one or two male inhabitants who could be caught, and
issued a proclamation stating that no quarter would be given to
combatants without uniforms. This provoked two stiff letters from
Wellington[394], who wrote to say that the Ordenança were an integral
part of the Portuguese military forces, and that, if they wore no
uniforms, the Marshal should remember that many of the revolutionary
bands which he had commanded in the old war of 1792-7 were no
better equipped: ‘vous devez vous souvenir que vous-même vous avez
augmenté la gloire de l’armée Française en commandant des soldats qui
n’avaient pas d’uniforme.’ If Ordenança were shot as ‘brigands and
highway robbers’ in obedience to the proclamation of September 7,
it was certain that French stragglers and foragers would be knocked
on the head, and not taken prisoners, by the enraged peasantry. At
present the number of them sent in to the British head quarters by
the Portuguese irregulars proved that the laws of war were being
observed. Masséna replied that Pavetti had been ambushed by men who
hid their arms, and ran in upon him and his escort while he was
peaceably asking his way. His letter then went off at a tangent, to
discuss high politics, and to declare that he was not the enemy of
the Portuguese but of the perfidious British government, &c., &c.
Finally he complained that the Arganil and Trancoso militia, whom he
had sent home after the fall of Almeida, had taken up arms again; if
caught, ‘leur sort sera funeste’[395]. The last statement Wellington
denied; he said that the capitulation had been annulled by the French
themselves, when they debauched the 24th regiment, and detained 600
of the militia to form a battalion of pioneers, but stated that as
a matter of fact the militia battalions had not been re-embodied.
The French continued to shoot the Ordenança, and the Ordenança soon
began to reply by torturing as well as hanging French stragglers;
Wellington forbade but could not prevent retaliation.

  [394] Wellington to Masséna, Sept. 9 and Sept. 24.

  [395] Masséna to Wellington, Sept. 14, from Fort Concepcion
  (_Archives du Ministère de la Guerre_).

In his dispatch to Berthier of September 8[396], Masséna explains
that the depopulation of the district in front of him, and the fact
that the Ordenança had taken arms throughout the country-side, have
compelled him to make an enormous provision of food for his army.
Since the land has been swept bare, he must collect fifteen or twenty
days’ rations for the 6th and 8th Corps. ‘Each day demonstrates the
necessity of this more clearly, but each day makes it more evident
that we are not obtaining as much as our activity deserves. The small
amount of transport available, and the destruction by the Spanish
brigands of several convoys of corn which were coming up from the
province of Valladolid, have occasioned delay in the accumulation
of the stores. An additional vexation is that while it was reported
that we had captured 300,000 rations of biscuit in Almeida, there
turn out really to be only 120,000 rations.’ But it was the loss
of draught-beasts that was the most serious trouble; to his great
regret Masséna had to cut down the artillery of each division from
twelve to eight guns, for want of horses, with a similar reduction
of the caissons. Every animal that could be procured was given over
to the train, yet it could not carry even the fifteen days’ food
which the Marshal considered the minimum that he could afford to
take with him. There was also a deficiency in cartridges for the
infantry, for whom 1,200,000 rounds were only procured by setting the
artificers of the train to make up as many as was possible from the
powder captured at Ciudad Rodrigo. Finally Masséna explains that the
losses in the two late sieges, the necessity for garrisoning Almeida
and Rodrigo, and the effects of a sickly summer, have reduced the
two corps and the reserve cavalry under his hand to 42,000 or 45,000
men, so that he must incorporate Reynier with his main army, in order
to get a sufficient force concentrated for the invasion. When this
has been done, he will have no force to leave behind to guard his
communications, and Kellermann and Serras are too much occupied to
spare a man for that purpose. The Spaniards will press in between
the army and Salamanca the moment that the troops have entered the
Portuguese mountains. He will advance, therefore, on September 15,
but only with grave apprehension for his rear, and he begs that
at all costs a division of the 9th Corps should be brought up to
Salamanca. He had been promised long ago that this should be done,
but no signs of Drouet’s arrival were yet visible.

  [396] In the _Archives du Ministère de la Guerre_, see Appendix
  to this vol.

Reynier accordingly was called up, at last, to join the main army; he
left Zarza and Penamacor on the 10th of September, crossed the Pass
of Perales, and on the 12th was at Alfayates, with cavalry in front
at Sabugal. Hill, always vigilant, perceived Reynier’s movement as
soon as it had taken place. On the 12th his corps quitted Sarzedas,
leaving nothing behind in the Castello Branco country save Lecor’s
Portuguese at Fundão, who were ordered to follow, unless Reynier
should send back any detachments to the south side of the Sierra de
Gata. Leith started from the banks of the Zezere three days later,
and on the 20th the two divisions were drawing near to Wellington’s
rear in the valley of the Mondego, Hill being at Espinhal that day,
and Leith (who had less distance to cover) a march further to the
front, at Foz d’Aronce. Wellington’s concentration on the Alva must
obviously be completed before the French could strike.

On September 15, 1810, Ney and Junot broke up from the encampments
in front of Almeida, while Reynier drew in close to the main body by
marching up from Sabugal towards Guarda. It was clear that the attack
of the French was to be delivered along the line of the Mondego, but
whether by its southern or its northern bank Wellington could not yet
be sure, though he was under the impression that the former would be
the chosen route, since the _chaussée_ from Almeida by Celorico and
Ponte de Murcella is good for a Portuguese road, while the mountain
track by Trancoso and Vizeu is abominable. Yet one of the three
columns of the French pointed from the first towards the north bank:
while Ney took his way by Freixadas and Alverca towards Celorico,
Junot was reported to have turned off from the main road at Valverde,
and to be marching by Pinhel westward or north-westward. What Reynier
would do after reaching Guarda remained yet to be seen.

The total force which Masséna had drawn together for the invasion
was 65,000[397] officers and men. He had left behind a regiment of
dragoons and four battalions of infantry to take care of Almeida
and Ciudad Rodrigo. In the latter place he had also deposited
his siege-train, with the considerable body of artillerymen
belonging to it. Brennier and Cacault commanded at the two places
respectively. They had between them some 3,500 men, a force which
perceptibly diminished the army of invasion, yet was insufficient
to do more than to hold the two fortresses. Gardanne, with five
squadrons of dragoons, was to maintain touch between them. Not
a man would be available from the garrisons for service against
Spanish or Portuguese insurgents--indeed both Almeida and Rodrigo
were practically under blockade from the moment that the main army
went forward, and were destined to learn nothing of its doings
for many days. Wellington’s _cordon_ of Ordenança proved perfectly
efficient[398].

  [397] For details see the Tables in the Appendix. All the troops
  left behind have been rigidly deducted. The figures given by
  Fririon, 59,806, are not quite exact, see proofs in Appendix: he
  makes some troops enter Portugal which were left as garrisons,
  and on the other hand omits whole battalions which marched, as if
  they had never existed.

  [398] The troops left behind were the fifth battalion of
  the 82nd, the fourth battalions of the 15th and 86th, and a
  provisional battalion of convalescents, or about 2,000 infantry;
  a squadron of the 3rd Dragoons (157 men), the whole of the 10th
  Dragoons (718 men) under Gardanne, and some 800 men belonging to
  the siege-train and park.

On the evening of the 15th the 2nd Corps had reached Guarda, from
which it drove out a picket of the 16th Light Dragoons, who retired
towards the Mondego. The 6th Corps bivouacked at Freixadas, having
pushed back from it two squadrons of the 14th Light Dragoons and the
German Hussars. The 8th Corps, which had to come up from the Azava,
passed Almeida and slept beyond the Coa. In its rear was Montbrun’s
reserve cavalry division, and behind this again the reserve artillery
of the whole army. This column, therefore, was by far the longest and
(owing to the amount of guns and caissons) the most unwieldy of the
three masses in which the French were marching.

On the 16th Wellington hoped to see Masséna’s designs unmasked. But
it proved a day of continued doubt: Reynier left Heudelet’s division
at Guarda, and moved on with Merle’s and the cavalry to Celorico.
Here he met Ney, who had marched from Freixadas to Celorico, and had
pushed his light cavalry through it in advance. One body of horsemen
took a hill road high up the side of the Serra da Estrella, and
reached Linhares, another followed the great _chaussée_ as far as
Carapichina, and detached a squadron or two from that point to seize
the bridge of Fornos d’Algodres, over which passes the bad side-road
from Celorico to Vizeu. Was the enemy about to turn aside on this
path, or to pursue the more probable policy of continuing along
the _chaussée_ to Ponte de Murcella? Nothing could yet be deduced
from Junot’s movements: his heavy column only reached Pinhel that
day: from thence he might either come down to Celorico (the most
probable course), or make a move towards Oporto, by the high-road
Pinhel-Marialva-St. João da Pesqueira, or (what seemed least likely)
follow the very bad mountain-road from Pinhel by Povoa d’el Rei to
Trancoso and Vizeu. Meanwhile Wellington ordered the continuation of
the retreat of his army towards Ponte de Murcella and the position
behind the Alva. The 1st, 3rd, and 4th Divisions retired at their
leisure along the great _chaussée_, by Saragoça and Chamusca: the
Light Division moved parallel to them by the mountain-road Gouvea-San
Martinho-San Romão. The appearance of Ney’s cavalry at Linhares on
this track made the Commander-in-Chief anxious to have it watched,
since it was possible that the 6th Corps might use it. The cavalry,
keeping the rear well guarded, lay this day at Pinhanços on the
_chaussée_ and San Martinho on the hill-road. Head quarters were
at Cea, on the latter line. The only troops now left north of the
Mondego, on the route which Junot might possibly follow from Pinhel,
were a few cavalry-pickets, wherefore the Commander-in-Chief,
conceiving it just possible that the 8th Corps might be intending
to make a dash at Oporto, while the other two kept him in check,
sent urgent letters to Trant, the officer in charge of the militia
of Northern Beira, and to Baccelar, who lay at Oporto with the
militia of the Entre-Douro-e-Minho, to take precautions against this
movement. Trant, from Moimento de Beira, was to feel for Junot’s
front and flank: Baccelar was to send out some picked battalions,
under J. Wilson, to the line of the Vouga, and to get into touch with
Trant on his left.

On the 17th Masséna’s intentions at last became clear to his
adversary. The cavalry of the 6th Corps crossed the bridge of Fornos,
which it had seized on the previous night, and the leading division
of infantry followed it to Juncaes, on the Mondego bank: nothing
came along the _chaussée_, all the French columns turning off it at
Carapichina, and pursuing the cross-road. Ney’s rear was still at
Celorico, to which place the whole of the 2nd Corps also came up that
day. In the evening the head of the cavalry of the 6th Corps was near
Mangualde, many miles along the road north of the Mondego. It seemed
probable therefore, that a transference of the whole French army to
the right bank, over the bridge of Fornos, was about to take place.
This became almost certain when the simultaneous news arrived that
Junot had marched that day from Pinhel not towards Celorico, nor on
the Oporto road (that by Marialva and St. João da Pesqueira), but by
the abominable cross-road by Povoa d’el Rei to Trancoso. The 8th and
6th Corps therefore were showing a tendency to converge on Vizeu.
If so, they must be aiming at reaching Coimbra without touching
Wellington’s chosen position of Ponte de Murcella, where he had hoped
to fight. This deduction once made, the British commander had to
recast his plans. ‘The 2nd and 6th Corps came to Celorico yesterday,’
he wrote to Leith that evening, ‘and a part of them crossed the
Mondego at Fornos. More have crossed this day, while no part of the
enemy’s army has moved this way [i. e. along the great _chaussée_
south of the river]. It is generally understood that their whole
army is between the Douro and the Mondego, and that they are about
to move on Coimbra. I shall have troops in Coimbra to-morrow[399].’
All the divisions were ordered back at once, so as to be ready on the
Lower Mondego to resist the French, when they should appear from the
direction of Vizeu. Only cavalry were left at Sampayo and Gouvea,
to watch the passage of the Mondego by the French army, and to make
certain that its rear (i. e. Reynier’s corps) might not be about to
use the main _chaussée_, a move which was even yet possible.

  [399] To Cotton and to Leith, both dated Sept. 17.

Masséna’s resolve to use the route by the north bank of the Mondego
surprised all British and some French observers at the time, and has
been censured by most historical critics. He left a good for a bad
road: he imposed two extra marches on his army at a moment when it
was short of provisions. He gave Wellington ample time to call up
Hill and Leith, and to select a new position for battle to replace
that of Ponte de Murcella. The Bussaco hillsides, where the clash
was to come, were as formidable as those behind the Alva. But these
considerations were less obvious to Masséna in 1810 than they appear
to the critic of 1907. It must first be remembered that his maps were
abominable: the actual case of plans used by the staff of the Army of
Portugal is preserved[400]: it is that issued by Lopez in 1778, which
in the remoter parts of Portugal not only offers a mere travesty of
the natural features, but actually marks as existing roads that never
had been made, and omits others that were actually available. It
shows, moreover, no distinction between _chaussées_, country roads,
and mere mule tracts. Places of considerable importance are misplaced
by several miles, e. g. Almeida is placed on the Coa instead of two
miles from it: Vizeu is much too far north, as is also Bussaco.
As far as this map goes, the physical difficulties in the way of
an advance north of the Mondego look no greater than those on the
southern bank. But, it may be said, Masséna should have supplemented
the use of the map by collecting oral information, and by sending
reconnaissances in every direction. He did so, so far as was in
his power. But exploration far afield was only possible with large
bodies of men, since the Ordenança blocked every road to the isolated
staff-officer, and the only oral information which was forthcoming
was defective. Masséna asked for it from Alorna, Pamplona, and the
other Portuguese officers on his staff--there were no less than
eighteen of them in all. They were absolutely ignorant of their own
country,--a normal thing in the military men of the old Portuguese
army. Even Pamplona, whose estates lay in the neighbourhood of
Coimbra, gave hopelessly erroneous information about the routes
leading into that town. But, from natural _amour propre_ they avoided
confessing their ignorance, and, when taken into council by Masséna,
gave him copious but wholly misleading details. They assured him
that the roads Pinhel-Trancoso-Vizeu and Fornos-Mangualde-Vizeu
were no worse than other lines of communication, and that the great
_chaussée_ by Sampayo and Ponte de Murcella was crossed by so many
torrents and climbed so many slopes that it was not preferable to the
routes north of the river. The news that a formidable position behind
the Alva had been entrenched had reached the French head quarters;
hence Masséna had fair reasons for taking the route that he selected,
so far as strategy went. It undoubtedly enabled him to turn the line
of the Alva. Moreover, on it lay a large town--Vizeu--from which it
was hoped that much food would be procured, for the invaders were
still ignorant of the thoroughness with which Wellington’s plans for
devastating the country before them had been carried out. Even after
Celorico and Guarda had been found empty of inhabitants, they hardly
believed that such a large place as Vizeu, a town of 9,000 souls,
would be deserted.

  [400] For a most interesting article on these maps, and all
  that they show, see Mr. T. J. Andrews’s article in the _English
  Historical Review_ for 1901. The maps, captured at Vittoria, are
  now in the Library of Queen’s College, Belfast.

Masséna’s mistake became evident to his soldiers on the first day on
which he ordered his columns to quit the main-roads and take to the
by-paths. The infantry could still get forward, but the artillery
and waggon-train began to drag behind, to lose horses, and to see
vehicle after vehicle broken, disabled, or abandoned. On the 18th the
infantry of the 6th Corps got as far as Mangualde on the north bank
of the Mondego, but the artillery was so much delayed in the defile
after passing Juncaes that it could not catch up the rear of the
marching troops, and had to be parked at night not many miles beyond
the bridge of Fornos. The 2nd Corps on reaching this spot found the
road blocked, and bivouacked with one division beyond the Mondego,
and one still in the rear of the bridge. But the troubles of this
column were nothing to those of the 8th Corps on the miserable road
from Pinhel to Vizeu. The journal of the commandant of the artillery
of Junot’s first division, Colonel Noël, may be quoted as giving a
fair description of the marches of the 17th and 18th September:--

‘After passing the little town of Trancoso, with its battlemented
wall, all the country-side is mountain and rock. There is no road,
only a stony narrow dangerous track, which the artillery had all the
pains in the world to follow without meeting accidents. It is all
steep ups and downs. I had to march with a party of gunners ahead
of me, with picks and crowbars to enlarge the track. As each arm
only looked out for itself, the artillery soon got left to the rear,
and deserted by the infantry and cavalry. We only arrived at our
halting-places late at night, utterly done up. The guns were almost
always abandoned to themselves; we did not know what road to follow,
having no one to give us information but a few infantry stragglers,
who had themselves lost their way. At noon on the 18th I halted with
my two batteries after two hours of incessant uphill, to find myself
at the crest of a mountain, with a precipitous descent before me, and
beyond that another ascent winding upwards, as far as the eye could
reach. We were so exhausted that it was useless to go further that
day, but on the 19th, with a party of gunners always working in front
to enlarge the road, we moved over hill and vale, completely out of
touch with the army. I had to ride out with four mounted men to hunt
for any trace of it. At last, in a deserted village, we found an old
peasant who pointed out the road to Vizeu. But it was only on the
20th that we got there.’ Noël’s batteries, it may be remarked, were
moving all the time between the infantry, which was ahead, and the
Grand Park which was behind them, with Montbrun’s cavalry bringing
up the rear. Yet they were absolutely lost and had to shift for
themselves without orders or escort[401].

  [401] _Mémoires_ of Col. Noël, pp. 112-13.

The Park fared even worse; when nearing Sotojal, on the 20th, it was
unexpectedly beset by Colonel Trant, who had come down from Moimenta
with a brigade of his militia and two squadrons of Portuguese regular
cavalry. The Park was escorted by one company of grenadiers, who
marched at its head, and a battalion of the Irish Legion, who were
far to the rear, while Montbrun’s immense cavalry column was quite
out of sight. Trant had a great opportunity, for the long file of
vehicles and guns, caught in a narrow road, was almost helpless. But
he failed to do all that was in his power; his cavalry charged the
company at the head of the column and was repulsed. He then filed
his battalions along the hillside, opened fire on the horses and
men of the train, and, descending into their midst, captured and
destroyed some caissons and took some eighty prisoners. But when
the escort-battalion came hurrying up from the rear, his levies
were stricken with panic and hastily retired, though they were
strong enough to have held off the five hundred Irish, and to have
smashed or rolled over the precipices the greater part of the guns
and waggons. Montbrun’s cavalry did not get up till all was over,
and would have been perfectly useless on the precipitous road, even
if they had arrived earlier. If Trant’s foray had been properly
carried out, Masséna might have lost his reserve artillery and most
of his provisions--a disaster which might have forced him to turn
back to Almeida. He deserved such a punishment for having marched
his all-important train on the extreme flank of his army, with an
insufficient escort[402].

  [402] A lively account of this affair may be found in Marbot,
  ii. 378; details may not be all trustworthy, but the general
  narrative agrees with Trant’s report, printed in Soriano da Luz,
  vol. vii, Appendix.

Though Junot’s infantry divisions reached the deserted walls of
Vizeu on Sept. 19th and there met the corps of Ney, the divisional
artillery did not arrive till next day, while the reserve artillery,
the trains and the heavy cavalry were struggling in upon the 21st and
22nd by detachments. For Montbrun had halted the great convoy after
Trant’s attack, and parked it, fearing that the Portuguese might
come back in greater numbers and give more trouble. When he started
it again, on the 21st, he took care to give it better marching
arrangements, and to attach cavalry escorts to each section. But
this caused much delay, and meanwhile the 8th Corps waited at Vizeu
‘marking time’ and unable to move. Even the 6th Corps remained there
two days, waiting while its gun-carriages and cannons were being
repaired; for the Fornos-Vizeu road, though infinitely less rough
than that which the 8th Corps and the park had followed, was still
bad enough to shake many vehicles to pieces. The Intendant-General
reported that nineteen caissons carrying 2,900 rations of biscuit
belonging to the 6th Corps broke down and had to be burnt; the
food was distributed among the regiments as they passed, with much
consequent waste[403]. All that Ney could do between the 18th of
September, when he reached Vizeu, and the 21st, was to push forward
an advanced guard to Tondella, fifteen miles down the Vizeu-Coimbra
road, with an infantry division in support at Fail. Meanwhile the 2nd
Corps, following in the wake of the 6th, had also made its way to
Vizeu. The bulk of Reynier’s force took the Fornos-Mangualde-Lagiosa
route, as Ney’s had done. But an advanced guard of all arms descended
the great _chaussée_ south of the river as far as Taboa, driving in
the pickets of the English cavalry, and then crossed the Mondego at
the bridge of Taboa, and fell into the rear of the rest of the corps
beyond Mangualde. This apparently was intended to keep Wellington
uncertain, as long as possible, as to whether part of the French
army was not intending, after all, to follow the _chaussée_ and
present itself before the position on the Alva[404]. But it was
executed by so small a force that the British general was not for
an hour deceived[405]. He was at this moment in a cheerful frame
of mind; Masséna had made a mistake in choosing his route, and was
merely wasting time when time was most precious. ‘There are certainly
many bad roads in Portugal,’ he wrote, ‘but the enemy has taken
decidedly the worst in the whole kingdom’[406]; and again, ‘I imagine
that Marshal Masséna has been misinformed, and has experienced more
difficulty in making his movement than he expected. He has certainly
selected one of the worst roads in Portugal for his march[407].’
Owing to the necessary delays of the enemy Wellington was now in a
position as strong as that on the Alva; his head quarters were at
the convent of Bussaco, his divisions, including Leith and Hill,
so placed that they could be concentrated on the Serra de Alcoba,
right across the Vizeu-Coimbra road, long before the French could
descend from Vizeu. ‘We have an excellent position here, in which I
am strongly tempted to give battle[408],’ he wrote on the evening of
the 21st, foreseeing six days ahead the probability of the engagement
which was to make Bussaco famous. There was a road by which his
position might be turned, but it was doubtful whether the enemy would
discover it, and ‘I do not yet give up hopes of discovering a remedy
for that misfortune[409].’

  [403] Report of Lambert, Intendant-General, dated Vizeu, Sept. 23.

  [404] Wellington to Lord Liverpool, from Lorvão, Sept. 20.

  [405] Indeed, an exploring party under Captain Somers Cocks, of
  the 16th Light Dragoons, had dogged the steps of the detachment,
  and counted every battalion. See Tomkinson’s Diary, pp. 39-40.

  [406] Wellington to Charles Stuart, Sept. 18.

  [407] Wellington to Lord Liverpool, Sept. 20.

  [408] Ibid., Sept. 20.

  [409] Wellington to Stapleton Cotton, Sept. 21.

[Illustration: THE MONDEGO VALLEY]

Masséna, meanwhile, was chafing at his self-imposed delays, and
writing querulous letters from Vizeu to Berthier. ‘The grand park
and the baggage,’ he wrote on the 22nd, ‘are still in the rear,
and will only get up to-morrow. It is impossible to find worse
roads than these; they bristle with rocks; the guns and train have
suffered severely, and I must wait for them. I must leave them two
days at Vizeu when they come in, to rest themselves, while I
resume my march on Coimbra, where (as I am informed) I shall find
the Anglo-Portuguese concentrated. Sir, all our marches are across
a desert; not a soul to be seen anywhere; everything is abandoned.
The English push their barbarity to the point of shooting the
wretched inhabitant who tries to remain in his village; the women,
the children, the aged, have all decamped. We cannot find a guide
anywhere. The soldiers discover a few potatoes and other vegetables;
they are satisfied, and burn for the moment when they shall meet
the enemy.’ The plan of devastation was already beginning to work;
Masséna had exhausted seven of the thirteen days’ provisions which
his army carried, and it was not with the potatoes gleaned in the
fields of Vizeu, or the ripe grapes of its vineyards, that he could
refill the empty store-waggons. He must push on for Coimbra as fast
as possible; this, no doubt, was why he made up his mind to march
on that place, not by descending from Vizeu to Aveiro and entering
the coast plain, but by taking the direct road by Santa Comba Dao,
Mortagoa, and Bussaco. Even Lopez’s faulty map shows the ridge of
Bussaco as a serious physical feature, but the Marshal does not seem
to have reflected for a moment that Wellington might choose to defend
it. The orders drawn up on September 24th for the march on Coimbra
presuppose an unobstructed progress[410]. Having met no active
resistance as yet from the Anglo-Portuguese army, Masséna wrongly
took it for granted that he might count on the prolongation of this
good fortune.

  [410] See the orders in the _Archives du Ministère de la Guerre_.

Before moving on from Vizeu the organization of the French army
was slightly modified. Junot’s corps contained a number of fourth
battalions, belonging to regiments whose three senior battalions were
serving in the 2nd Corps. The two corps had never met till both lay
at Vizeu. Masséna then ordered the fourth battalions of the 36th,
47th, 70th of the Line, and the 2nd and 4th Léger to join their
regiments in Reynier’s corps; this reduced the 8th Corps by 2,850
men; in return, however, Reynier was ordered to make over to Junot
two regiments of old troops, the 15th and 86th of the line (each of
three battalions) making in all 2,251 bayonets. Thus the two corps
were somewhat equalized in quality, the 2nd receiving five battalions
of recruits, while the 8th (in which there were too few veterans)
got in return six battalions which had served in Spain since the
commencement of the war. The net result was to make the 2nd Corps
a little stronger (17,024 men) and the 8th Corps a little weaker
(15,904 men)[411].

  [411] It is this interchange of troops which makes all the
  figures of the Army of Portugal so divergent. Fririon, for
  example, ignores it, as do most French statisticians. But see
  Masséna’s orders (14), and the ‘situations’ in the _Archives_ of
  Sept. 14 and Sept. 27 respectively.

On September 21st the advance of the Army of Portugal was
recommenced, though the train and heavy baggage was not yet prepared
to start, and some of its rear detachments had not even reached
Vizeu. But on that day the advanced guard of the 6th Corps advanced
from Tondella, and found in front of it some light cavalry and two
Portuguese regiments--the first hostile troops that the French had
seen since the campaign began. The whole of the 2nd and 6th Corps
followed behind, and bivouacked that night at Casal-de-Maria,
Tondella, Sabugoça and other villages on the steep downward road from
Vizeu to Coimbra. The 8th Corps still remained at Vizeu, guarding
the belated reserve artillery and train. On the 22nd the 2nd Corps,
passing the 6th, which had hitherto taken the lead, crossed the Criz
and drove in the British outposts, who retired on Mortagoa. But Ney
and the 6th Corps remained stationary, and the 8th did not even yet
make a start. These delays seem extraordinary, but Masséna was still
paying for his evil choice of roads; the infantry had to wait for the
guns, and the guns could only creep forward as the sappers enlarged
and improved the roads for them.

Wellington, meanwhile, was recasting his dispositions at his leisure.
When Masséna’s march on Vizeu had become certain, the British
Commander-in-Chief thought at first that the enemy would take the
good _chaussée_ Vizeu-Aveiro, so as to descend into the coast-plain
and attack Coimbra from the easiest side. He therefore, on the 18th
moved the 1st Division back from Ponte de Murcella to Coimbra, where
it was joined by a new brigade from Lisbon, composed of the 1st
battalions of the 7th and 79th, newly landed. A. Campbell’s and
Coleman’s Portuguese also moved to the same point. The 3rd and 4th
Divisions remained at Ponte de Murcella in the entrenched position,
with the Light Division and Pack’s Portuguese in front of them at
Venda do Porco and Sampayo.

But on the 20th, when Ney’s advanced guard began to come out from
Vizeu on the Santa Comba Dao road, not on the Aveiro road, Wellington
discovered that it was on the mountain of Bussaco, and not on the
plain in front of Coimbra, that he would next meet the enemy.
Accordingly Pack’s Portuguese and the Light Division forded the
Mondego below Sampayo, as did the light cavalry, and a detaining
force was thus thrown across the Vizeu-Coimbra road. The Portuguese
brigade took post behind the Criz torrent, Craufurd’s men a little
to the rear at Mortagoa. At the same time the 1st Division and the
troops attached to it moved out from Coimbra to Mealhada on the
Aveiro road, a point from which they could easily be called up to
the Bussaco position, if no French columns were discovered coming
down the Aveiro road, as now seemed probable. This day, Leith’s
division, to Wellington’s intense satisfaction, arrived at San Miguel
de Payares behind the Alva, and so joined the main body. Hill was
reported to be a day’s march only to the rear, at Foz d’Aronce. Thus
the whole of the Anglo-Portuguese regular forces between Douro and
Tagus were neatly concentrated. At the same time Trant was told to
bring the militia of Northern Beira down the Oporto-Coimbra road to
Agueda and Sardão, and Baccelar was directed to support him with
Wilson’s militia brigade, in case Masséna should have some subsidiary
operation against Oporto in his mind.

On the 24th the first skirmish of the campaign took place; the 2nd
Corps, advancing into the plain in front of Mortagoa, found Pack’s
Portuguese facing them on the right, and Craufurd’s division on the
left, with a screen of cavalry in front. They pushed in the horsemen
upon the infantry, but halted when artillery opened upon them, and
made no further advance. On this day the belated 8th Corps, with the
reserve cavalry, at last started from Vizeu. Next morning Reynier
pressed on in force with two heavy columns each formed by a division,
and Craufurd was ordered by Wellington to retire, which he did with
some reluctance by alternate échelons of brigades[412]. The 95th and
43rd had some sharp skirmishing with the French van, and made a stand
by the village of Moura under the Bussaco heights, before retiring
up the high-road, and taking position upon the crest of the great
ridge[413], which they did at six o’clock in the evening.

  [412] According to Napier (iii. 22-3) Craufurd risked his
  division somewhat in their skirmish. But this criticism is not
  made by D’Urban, Leach, and other eye-witnesses.

  [413] The Light Division had been first divided into brigades on
  Aug. 8, when the 1st was constituted of the 43rd, four companies
  of the 95th, and the 1st Caçadores, under Beckwith: the 2nd of
  the 52nd, four companies of the 95th, and the 3rd Caçadores,
  under Barclay. See Atkinson’s lists of the Peninsular Army in the
  _Eng. Hist. Rev_.

While the advanced guards of Reynier and Ney were driving in Craufurd
and Pack, the Anglo-Portuguese army was assembling on Wellington’s
chosen fighting-ground. Picton and Cole, with the 3rd and 4th
Divisions, had already taken up their quarters on the Bussaco ridge
on the 21st, the first across the road from San Antonio de Cantaro
to Palheiros, the second across the _chaussée_, behind the spot to
which the troops of Pack and Craufurd were retiring. Leith, who had
been brought over the Mondego by the fords of Peña Cova on the 23rd,
moved up on to the southern tract of the Bussaco heights on the
24th. Hill, who reached the line of the Alva on the 22nd, followed
in Leith’s wake, and on the 25th was at Peña Cova waiting for orders
to cross. The 1st Division with Campbell’s and Coleman’s Portuguese
alone were still absent, though not far off. They had started from
Mealhada, when it became clear that no French force was coming by the
Aveiro-Coimbra road, but on the night of the 25th were still some
eight miles away, and did not get into position between Cole and
Picton till between nine and ten o’clock on the morning of the 26th.

Nevertheless, nearly 40,000 men, composed of the Light, 3rd, 4th,
5th Divisions and their Portuguese auxiliaries, and of Hill on their
flank, only four miles away, were concentrated on the night of the
25th, when Reynier’s vanguard deployed in front of the heights.
Before ten o’clock on the following morning Spencer had arrived,
and Hill was over the fords and encamped along the rear slopes of
the heights. There seems to be no truth whatever in the allegation
that the British army was in a somewhat dangerous position on the
evening of the 25th, for the French had only their vanguard up, and
there were less than two hours of daylight left when Craufurd retired
from Moura, and Reynier and Ney obtained their first view of the
British position. Before the enemy could have collected in strength
sufficient for an attack, night would have set in.


NOTE ON THE SITUATION ON SEPT. 25

Napier wholly misrepresents the state of affairs in vol. iii. pp.
22-3. He writes as follows: ‘Before 3 o’clock 40,000 French infantry
were embattled on the two points (the _chaussée_ and the San Antonio
de Cantaro road), their guns trying the range above, while the
skirmishing clatter of musketry arose from the dark wooded chasms
below. Ney, whose military glance was sure, instantly perceived
that the mountain, a crested not a table one, could hide no great
reserves, that it was only half occupied, and that the allies were
moving with the disorder usual on the taking of unknown ground.
He wished therefore to attack, but Masséna was ten miles to the
rear, the officer sent to him waited two hours for an audience, and
then returned with orders to attend the Prince’s arrival. Thus a
great opportunity was lost, for Spencer was not up, Leith’s troops
were only passing the Mondego, and Hill was still behind the Alva.
Scarcely 25,000 men were in line, and with great intervals.’

Almost every statement here is incorrect.

(1) The French did not reach the ground in front of the heights till 5
o’clock: they were not up at 3 p.m. [D’Urban’s _Diary_: ‘At noon, the
heads of the French infantry columns having reached the lower falls
leading from the Mortagoa Valley, he pushed forward his cavalry and
began to skirmish with our pickets. It not being Lord Wellington’s
intention to dispute this ground, but rather to entice Masséna to
follow and attack him in his position of Boçaco, the Light Division was
gradually withdrawn, the 95th and 43rd covering the retreat and Ross’s
artillery playing upon the enemy’s advance from hill to hill, till at
5 o’clock they were halted by the fire of the 43rd before the village
of Sula. At about 6 the firing ceased, and our advance (heretofore
at Moura and Sula) took up their ground (as well as General Cole’s
division) upon the heights of Boçaco.’] This diary, _written that same
night_, cannot be wrong as to the dating of the hours. D’Urban was
riding with Beresford at Wellington’s side. Napier was writing from
memory twenty years after.

(2) Ney did not ‘perceive the mountain only half occupied, and wish
to attack,’ on the evening of the 25th. His reconnaissance was made
on the morning of the 26th, and it was _then_ that he expressed
his wish to attack, when Wellington had every man in line. This is
conclusively proved by the following note of Ney to Reynier, dated at
10.30 on the morning of the 26th, from his advanced posts, which lies
in the French archives:--

‘Je reçois à l’instant, mon cher général, votre lettre de ce jour.
Je pense qu’une grande partie de l’armée anglo-portugaise a passé
la nuit sur la crête des montagnes qui dominent la vallée de Moura.
Depuis ce matin l’ennemi marche par sa gauche, et semble diriger ses
colonnes principales sur la route d’Oporto. Cependant il tient encore
assez de monde à la droite du parc, qui couvre le couvent de Minimes
appelé Sako, et montre une douzaine de pièces d’artillerie. Le chemin
de Coimbre passe tout près de ce couvent. Si j’avais le commandement
j’attaquerais sans hésiter un seul instant. Mais je crois que vous
ne pouvez rien compromettre en vous échellonant sur la droite de
l’ennemi, et en poussant ses avant-postes le plus possible: car
c’est véritablement par ce point qu’il faudrait le forcer à faire sa
retraite.’ What Ney had seen, and wrongly took for a general movement
of the English army towards its left, was Cole taking ground to the
left on the arrival of Spencer, who came up between 8 and 10 that
morning, just before Ney was scribbling this hasty note to Reynier.

(3) The stretch of mountain opposite Ney and Reynier was _not_
‘crested’ but ‘table’--so much so that Wellington took two squadrons
of cavalry up to it, for use in the battle. The British general
_never_ took up a position where he had no space to hide his reserves.

(4) The time when Ney sent an officer to Masséna to ask leave to
attack was the morning of the 26th, not the evening of the 25th. How
could Ney have hoped to get the permission to fight and carry it out,
when the time when he reached Moura was 5 o’clock, and dusk falls at
6.30? The messenger had twenty miles to ride, to Mortagoa and back.
See Fririon’s note in his ‘Aperçu sur la Campagne de Portugal’ in
_Victoires et Conquêtes_, xxi. 320.

(5) Leith’s troops, so far from being ‘only passing the Mondego’
on the afternoon of the 25th, had passed it on the 23rd [_Journal_
of Leith Hay, aide-de-camp of Leith, i. 228]. On the night of the
22nd-23rd Wellington wrote to Hill, ‘Leith’s, Picton’s, and Cole’s
divisions are now on the Serra de Busaco’ [_Dispatches_, vi. 462].
Hill was not ‘behind the Alva,’ but massed at the fords of Peña Cova,
only four miles from the battlefield. He crossed at dawn on the 26th,
but could have been in action within two hours of the first shot, if
the attack had been made on the 25th.

(6) Wellington, including Hill’s division, had therefore 40,000 men,
not 25,000. But the latter number would have sufficed, for Ney and
Reynier had only their advanced guards up, and in the hour and a half
before dusk could not have brought up their whole corps by the bad
and narrow roads from behind. The _Diary_ of the 6th Corps mentions
that only the vanguard division (Loison) bivouacked in front of the
heights. The rearguard was as far back as Barril that night.

(7) The exact moment of the arrival of the British 1st Division may
be gauged from the fact that it passed Luzo, the village behind
Bussaco, at 8 a.m. on the 26th--Diary of Stothert (3rd Foot Guards),
p. 188. There is only two miles from Luzo to the position taken up by
the 1st Division.



SECTION XXI: CHAPTER II

THE BATTLE OF BUSSACO (SEPTEMBER 27, 1810)


It remains that we should describe the ground which Wellington had
chosen on the 21st, and on which he fought with such splendid success
upon the 27th. The ridge which takes its name from the convent of
Bussaco is one of the best-marked positions in the whole Iberian
Peninsula. A single continuous line of heights covered with heather
and furze, with the dull-red and dull-grey granite cropping up
here and there through the soil, extends from the Mondego on the
right--where it ends precipitously--to the main chain of the Serra
de Alcoba on the left. The ridge is very irregular in its altitude:
the two loftiest sections are one at a distance of two miles from
the Mondego, and the other to the immediate right of the convent
enclosure, where the original obelisk commemorating the battle was
set up[414]. Between these two culminating summits the ridge sinks
down, and is at its lowest where the country-road from San Antonio
de Cantaro to Palheiros passes over it. There are three other points
where it is crossed by lines of communication; two lie far to the
east, not far from the Mondego, where bad paths from San Paulo to
Palmazes and from Carvalhal to Casal exist. The third and most
important is in its left centre, where (close to the convent) the
_chaussée_ from Celorico to Coimbra, the main artery of the local
road-system, passes the watershed. It does so at a place which is
by no means the least lofty point of the ridge; but the line was
obvious to the road-making engineer, because a spur (the only one
of any importance in the heights) here runs gradually down from the
Serra into the lower ground. To lead the _chaussée_ up the side of
this spur, past the village of Moura, and so to the crest of the
ridge on gentle slopes, was clearly better than to make it charge the
main range, even at a less lofty point. The convent lies just to the
right of the spot where the _chaussée_ passes the sky-line, a few
hundred yards off the road. It was a simple, low quadrangle, with a
small chapel in its midst, standing in a fine wood of pine and oak,
surrounded by a ten-foot wall. The wood is sprinkled with hermitages,
picturesque little buildings hewn in the rock, where those of the
monks who chose practised the anchorite’s life. The outer wall
of the wood and the tops of its trees are just visible on the
sky-line of the main ridge: the convent is not, being well down the
reverse-slope. The point where the convent wood tops the heights is
the only section of them where trees are seen on the summit: the rest
of the line is bare heath, with occasional outbreaks of rock, falling
in slopes of greater or lesser steepness towards the broken wooded
foot-hills, where the French lay. On part of the left-centre there is
ground which it is no exaggeration to describe as precipitous, to the
front of the highest piece of the ridge, below the old obelisk. The
effect of the whole line of heights is not dissimilar to, though on a
smaller scale than, the Malvern Hills. The highest point on the Serra
is about 1,200 feet above sea-level--but much less, of course, above
the upland below.

  [414] There are two monuments: this simple weather-beaten obelisk
  on the culminating height where the 1st Division stood, a point
  where no fighting took place, and the modern column lower down
  and close to the high-road, behind the spot where Craufurd
  fought. Here the Portuguese to this day maintain a small military
  post, and hoist a flag to do honour to the victory.

The position of Bussaco is fully nine miles long[415] from end
to end, from the steep hill above the Mondego to Cole’s western
flank: this was a vast front for an army of 50,000 men to cover,
according to the ideas of 1810. There were absolute gaps in the line
at more than one place, especially above Carvalho, where about a
mile separated Leith’s left from his central brigade. The defence
of such a position could only be risked because of two facts: one
was that every movement of the enemy on the lower ground before
the ridge could be accurately made out from above: he could not
concentrate in front of any section of the heights without being
seen. His only chance of doing so would have been to take advantage
of the night; but even if he had drawn up for the attack before
dawn--a thing almost impossible in the broken, ravine-cut, wooded
bottoms--he could not have moved till full daylight, because the
face of the position presents so many irregularities, such as small
gullies and miniature precipices, that columns climbing in the dark
must undoubtedly have got lost and broken up on the wild hillside.
Moreover, there was a thick cordon of British pickets pushed forward
almost to the foot of the ridge, which would have given warning by
their fire and their preliminary resistance, if any advance had been
attempted in the grey dawn.

  [415] Which makes astounding Fririon’s statement that it was only
  three-quarters of a league long (p. 46).

The second advantage of the Bussaco position is that on its
left-centre and right-centre the ridge has a broad flat top, some
300 or 400 yards across, on which all arms can move laterally with
ease to support any threatened point. It is so broad that Wellington
even ventured to bring up a few squadrons of dragoons to the summit,
rightly arguing that a cavalry charge would be of all things the most
unexpected reception that an enemy who had breasted such a hillside
could meet at the end of his climb. As a matter of fact, however,
this section of the heights was never attacked by the French. The
right of the position is not flat-topped like the centre, but has
a narrow saddle-back, breaking into outcrops of rock at intervals:
but though here prompt motion from right to left, or left to right,
is not possible on the crest, there is a rough country-path, good
for infantry and available even for guns, a few hundred yards down
the reverse side of the slope. Along this troops could be moved
with ease, entirely out of sight of the enemy. It proved useful for
Leith’s division during the battle. Wellington calculated, therefore,
with perfect correctness, that he could count on getting an adequate
force of defenders to any portion of his long line before the enemy
could establish himself on the summit. The extreme left, where Cole’s
division lay, was the hardest part of his line to reinforce, for want
of good lateral communication: it was also a good deal lower than
Craufurd’s post; here, therefore, Wellington had placed the main mass
of his reserves; the German Legion, and two Portuguese brigades were
lying on his left-centre very close to the 4th Division, so that
they would be available at short notice, though they would have a
stiff climb if the French chose that section of the position as their
objective, and it had to be strengthened in haste.

The distribution of the army remains to be described. On the extreme
right, on the height of Nossa Senhora do Monte, just overhanging the
Mondego, was a battalion of the Lusitanian Legion, with two guns.
Next to them, on very high ground, lay Hill’s division, three British
and two Portuguese brigades[416], with a battery on each flank. Then
came a slight dip in the ridge, where the road from San Paulo to
Palmazes crosses it: athwart this path lay Leith’s newly constituted
5th Division, consisting of three British and seven Portuguese
battalions. The British brigade lay on the right, then came (after
a long interval) two battalions of the Lusitanian Legion, the only
troops guarding two miles of very rough ground. On Leith’s extreme
left, towards Picton’s right, was Spry’s Portuguese brigade, and
three unattached battalions (8th Line and Thomar militia). Beyond the
8th regiment, where the watershed sinks again, and is crossed by the
road from San Antonio de Cantaro to Palheiros, Picton’s line began.
On his right, across the road, was Arentschildt’s Portuguese battery,
supported by the 74th British regiment, and Champlemond’s Portuguese
brigade of three battalions. The 45th and 88th, the two remaining
battalions of the brigade of Mackinnon, were placed to the left of
the road, the former on the first spur to the north of it, the latter
nearly a mile to the left. Lightburne’s brigade, and Thompson’s
British battery were a short distance beyond the 88th. North of
Picton’s position the ridge rises suddenly again to its loftiest
section; along this almost impregnable ground, with its precipitous
front, were ranged the three British brigades of Spencer’s 1st
Division--the Guards on the right, Blantyre’s on the left, Pakenham’s
in the centre, 5,000 bayonets dominating the whole country-side
and the rest of the position. North of them again, where the ridge
falls sharply along the back wall of the convent wood, was Pack’s
Portuguese brigade, reaching almost to the high-road. Along the curve
of the high-road itself, in column, was Coleman’s Portuguese brigade,
and beside it A. Campbell’s Portuguese, with the German Legion
beyond them on the Monte Novo ridge. Coleman, Campbell, and the
Germans were the main reserve of the army, and were in second line,
for, far to the front of them, on a lower slope, along a curve of the
_chaussée_, lay Craufurd and the Light Division, looking down on the
village of Sula almost at the bottom of the heights. Between Craufurd
and his next neighbour to the right, Pack, was a curious feature of
the field, a long narrow ravine, with steep grassy sides, terraced
in some places into vineyards[417]. This cleft, between Sula on the
left and Moura on the right, cuts deep up into the hillside, its
head almost reaching the crest of the watershed below the convent.
In order to circumvent this precipitous gully, the _chaussée_, after
passing through the village of Moura, takes a semicircular curve to
the right, and goes round the head of the cleft. For half a mile
or more it overhangs the steep declivities on its right, while on
its left at this point it is dominated by a pine wood on the upper
slopes, so that it forms more or less of a defile. The gully is so
narrow here that guns on Craufurd’s position had an easy range on the
road, and enfiladed it most effectively. The battery attached to the
Light Division--that of Ross--had been placed in a sort of natural
redoubt, formed by a semicircle of boulders with gaps between;
some of the guns bore on the village of Sula, on the lower slope
below, others across the ravine, to the high-road. They were almost
invisible, among the great stones, to an enemy coming up the hill or
along the _chaussée_. Craufurd had got a battalion of his Caçadores
(No. 3) in the village, low down the slope, with his other Portuguese
battalion and the 95th Rifles strung out on the hillside above, to
support the troops below them. His two strong Line battalions, the
43rd and 52nd, were lying far above, in the road, at the point where
it has passed the head of the gully in its curve, with a little fir
wood behind them and a small windmill in their front. The road being
cut through the hillside here, they were screened as they stood, but
had only to advance a few feet to reach the sky line, and to command
the slope stretching upwards from the village of Sula.

  [416] Archibald Campbell’s and Fonseca’s brigades, forming
  Hamilton’s Portuguese Division, which was attached to the British
  2nd Division throughout the war, and shared with it the triumphs
  of Albuera, Vittoria, and St. Pierre.

  [417] This is the feature which Napier, somewhat hyperbolically,
  describes as ‘a chasm so profound that the naked eye could hardly
  distinguish the movement of troops in the bottom, yet so narrow
  in parts that 12-pounders could range across (iii. 21).’ It does
  _not_, as he says, separate the Serra de Bussaco from the last
  ridge in front of it, that which the French held, as it only
  lay in front of Craufurd and Pack. There is no chasm between
  Spencer’s, Picton’s, Leith’s, or Hill’s position and the French
  knolls.

To the left rear of Craufurd’s position, and forming the
north-western section of the English line lay Cole’s 4th Division,
reaching almost to the villages of Paradas and Algeriz. Its
Portuguese brigade (11th and 23rd regiments) was thrown forward on
the left under Collins, its two English brigades were at the head of
the slope. The ground was not high, but the slope was very steep, and
as a matter of fact was never even threatened, much less attacked.

Sixty guns were distributed along the line of the Serra. Ross’s
horse artillery troop were with Craufurd, Bull’s with Cole; of the
field-batteries Lawson’s was with Pack, Thompson’s with Lightburne,
Rettberg’s [K.G.L.] with Spencer, Cleeves’ [K.G.L.] with Coleman.
There were also four Portuguese field-batteries; Arentschildt’s was
on the high-road with Picton, Dickson’s two batteries with Hill,
Passos’s with Coleman, alongside of Cleeves’ German guns. Counting
their artillerymen, and the two squadrons of the 4th Dragoons on
the summit of the plateau, Wellington had 52,000 men on the field.
Of the rest of his disposable army, the Portuguese cavalry brigade
(regiments 1, 4, 7, 8; 1,400 sabres under Fane) and one British
regiment (13th Light Dragoons) were beyond the Mondego, far to
the south-east, watching the open country across the Alva as far
as Foz Dao and Sobral. Their head quarters were at Foz de Alva.
To defend the Ponte de Murcella position against any possible
flanking force the French might have detached, Wellington had left
Le Cor’s Portuguese, two regular regiments (Nos. 12 and 13) and
three battalions of the Beira militia. All these troops were ten or
twelve miles from the nearest point at which a shot was fired, in a
different valley, and were alike unseeing and unseen. In a similar
fashion, far out to the west, on the other side of the watershed,
in the low ground by Mealhada, was the English cavalry, with the
exception of the one regiment at Foz de Alva and two squadrons on the
Convent ridge.

Reynier’s corps, pushing the English rearguard before it, had
arrived in front of the Bussaco position on the afternoon of
September 25th. When Ney’s corps came up at dusk Reynier edged
away to the left, and established himself on the low hills above
the hamlet of San Antonio de Cantaro, leaving the ground about the
high-road to the 6th Corps. The 8th and Montbrun’s cavalry were still
some way behind, beyond Barril. Masséna, for reasons which it is
hard to divine, had not come to the front, though he must have heard
the guns firing all through the afternoon, and had been informed by
Reynier that the English were standing at bay on the Bussaco ridge.
He came no further to the front than Mortagoa on the 25th. Ney on the
morn of the next day was busy reconnoitring the position; he sent
forward _tirailleurs_ to push in Craufurd’s outposts, and ventured
as far to the front as was possible. So well hidden was Wellington’s
line that the Marshal formed an entirely erroneous conception of
what was before him. At 10.30 in the morning he wrote to Reynier to
say that the whole English army seemed to be moving to its left,
apparently on the road towards Oporto, but that it had still a
rearguard, with a dozen guns, in position to the right of the park
which covers the convent. Apparently Cole’s division, taking ground
to its left on Spencer’s arrival, and Craufurd on the _chaussée_ was
all that he had made out. He had not discovered Leith and the 5th
Division, and could not, of course, know that Spencer was at this
moment arriving at the convent, and that Hill was across the Mondego
at Peña Cova.

The Marshal added that if he had been in chief command he should
have attacked whatever was in front of him without a moment’s
hesitation[418]. But things being as they were, he thought that
Reynier would risk nothing by pushing forward on the English right,
and thrusting back Wellington’s outposts, for it was desirable to
make him retreat towards his left. It is clear that Ney, if he had
possessed a free hand, would have brought on a battle, when he was
only intending to drive in a rearguard. For by 10.30 on the 26th
Wellington had every man upon the field whom he intended to use in
the fight, and would have welcomed an assault. Of the French, on the
other hand, Junot’s 8th Corps and the cavalry and artillery were
still far away to the rear. They only came up in rear of Ney on the
night of the 26th-27th.

  [418] See the letter quoted on page 358.

Masséna, on receiving Ney’s report, rode up to the front at about
two o’clock on the 26th--a late hour, but he is said to have been
employed in private matters at Mortagoa[419]. When he had at last
appeared, he pushed forward as near to the foot of the British
position as was safe, and reconnoitred it with care. In the evening
he drew up orders for attacking the Bussaco heights at their most
accessible points--along the _chaussée_ that leads from Moura up to
the convent, and along the country-road from San Antonio de Cantaro
to Palheiros.

  [419] See Marbot, ii. p. 384--if that lively writer may be
  trusted.

The Prince of Essling had no hesitation whatever about risking a
battle. He had never seen the English before, and held concerning
them the same views as the other French officers who had no
experience of Wellington’s army. Some confused generalization from
the misfortunes of the Duke of York’s troops in 1794-5 and 1799
determined the action of all the marshals till they had made personal
acquaintance with the new enemy. The English were to be dealt with by
drastic frontal attacks pushed home with real vigour. It is curious,
as Napoleon remarked soon after[420], that Reynier, who had been
badly beaten by the English at Alexandria and Maida, had learnt no
more than the others, and committed exactly the same errors as his
colleagues. He, who had experience of his adversaries, and Ney, who
had not, adopted precisely the same tactics. These, indeed, were
indicated to them by Masséna’s order to attack in columns, each at
least a division strong, preceded by a swarm of _tirailleurs_. There
was no question of a general advance all along the line; the two
Corps-Commanders were directed to choose each his point, and to break
through the British army at it, by force of mass and impact. Only
two sections of Wellington’s nine-mile position were to be touched,
there being a long gap between the objectives assigned to Ney and
to Reynier. But by throwing 13,000 or 14,000 men in close order at
each of the two short fronts selected, Masséna thought that he could
penetrate the thin line of the defenders.

  [420] See Foy’s account of his interview with the Emperor in his
  _Vie Militaire_, p. 108.

As none of the historians of the battle have thought it worth while
to give the Marshal’s orders in detail, and many writers have
misconceived or mis-stated them, it is necessary to state them[421].
The attacks of the 2nd and 6th Corps were not to be simultaneous;
Reynier, having the easier ground before him, was told to move first.
He was to select the most accessible stretch of the hillside in his
front, and to climb it, with his whole corps in one or two columns,
preceded by a skirmishing line. Having gained the crest, and pierced
the British line, he was to re-form his men, and then drop down the
reverse slope of the heights on to the Coimbra road, along which he
was to press in the direction of the convent of Bussaco, toward the
rear of Wellington’s centre.

  [421] This unpublished document from the _Archives du Ministère
  de la Guerre_ seems to have escaped all historians.

Ney was directed not to move till he should have learnt that Reynier
had crowned the heights; but when he should see the 2nd Corps on the
crest, was to send forward two columns of a division each against
the British left-centre. One division was to follow the _chaussée_,
the other to mount the rough path up the spur on which the village
of Sula stands. Both columns, like those of the 2nd Corps, were to
be preceded by a thick line of skirmishers. They were to halt and
re-form when the crest of the English position should be carried, and
then to adapt their movements to suit those of Reynier’s corps.

Junot was to assemble his two infantry divisions behind Moura, and
to have them ready to reinforce either Ney or Reynier as might be
needed. His artillery was to be placed on the knolls on each side of
the _chaussée_, so as to be able to hold back the allied army if,
after repulsing Ney, it should attempt a forward movement. Montbrun’s
cavalry and the reserve artillery were to be placed on either side of
the _chaussée_ behind Junot’s centre[422].

  [422] These orders are printed in the Appendix.

The horsemen were obviously useless, save that in the event of
Wellington being defeated they could be sent forward in pursuit. Nor
were the guns much more serviceable: they could sweep the lower parts
of the slopes of Bussaco, but could not reach its crest with their
fire. Indeed, the only French artillery used successfully on the
next day were two batteries which Ney’s columns of attack took with
them along the _chaussée_, as far as the elbow of road in front of
Moura. These were in effective range of Craufurd’s and Pack’s troops,
since the latter were on a level with them, and not on the highest
crest of the British position. Reynier’s guns could just reach the
summit of the pass of San Antonio de Cantaro, but not so as to play
upon it with any good result.

It is said that Junot and Reynier were in favour of trying the
frontal attack which Masséna had dictated, as was also Laszowski, the
Polish general who commanded the engineers of the army. Fririon, the
chief of the staff, and Eblé, commanding the artillery, spoke against
the policy of ‘taking the bull by the horns.’ Masséna, according to
Fririon, turned on the doubters with the words ‘You come from the
old Army of the Rhine, you like manœuvring; but it is the first time
that Wellington seems ready to give battle, and I want to profit by
the opportunity[423].’ Ney, too, as we read with some surprise, is
said to have given the opinion that it would have been feasible to
assault the heights yesterday, but that now, when Wellington had been
given time to bring up his reserves and settle his army down into
the most advantageous position, the policy of taking the offensive
had become doubtful. He therefore advised that the army should turn
aside and make a stroke at Oporto, which would be found unprotected
save by militia. Masséna, according to his official biographer,
announced ‘that the Emperor had ordered him to march on Lisbon, not
on Oporto. This was entirely correct: the capture of Lisbon would
end the whole war, that of Oporto would prolong it, and bring no
decisive result. Moreover, it was quite uncertain whether Wellington
would not be able to prevent such a move. He has troops échelloned
as far as the Vouga, and he could get to Oporto in three marches,
because he possesses the Oporto-Coimbra _chaussée_, while the French
army, moving by worse roads, would require five marches to reach
it.’ It is suggested that Ney’s policy was really to goad his
superior into making the frontal attack at Bussaco, by feigning to
believe it dangerous and to counsel its abandonment. For he thought
that Masséna would do precisely the opposite of what he was advised,
out of his personal dislike for himself, and general distaste for
having counsel thrust upon him. If this was so, the Duke of Elchingen
carried his point--to the entire discomfiture both of himself and his
commander-in-chief[424].

  [423] So Fririon in his _Campagne de Portugal_, p. 47. But his
  enemy Pelet says (_Vic. et Conq._, xxi. p. 321) that Ney, like
  Reynier, ‘demanda la bataille à grands cris.’ Cf., for what it is
  worth, Marbot’s tale, ii. 384.

  [424] All this is told at great length in Koch’s _Vie de
  Masséna_, vii. p. 192, where the Council of War is described with
  many details.

[Illustration: BATTLE OF BUSSACO Sep. 27th, 1810.
  _Position of the Troops at the commencement of the French Attack_]

On the 26th, after Masséna had retired to his head quarters at
Mortagoa, there was a little skirmishing on the English right-centre,
where Reynier’s advanced guard drove the light company of the 88th
off some knolls at the foot of the heights, opposite San Antonio de
Cantaro. Much about the same time there was some bickering on Ney’s
front: the pickets of Pack’s 4th Caçadores and Craufurd’s 95th were
attacked, but held their ground. The contest was never very serious
and the fire died down at dusk. That evening the British army slept
in order of battle, ‘each man with his firelock in his grasp at his
post. There were no fires, and the death-like stillness that reigned
throughout the line was only interrupted by the occasional challenge
of an advanced sentry, or a random shot fired at some imaginary foe.’
Below and in front, all the low hills behind Moura and San Antonio
were bright with the bivouac fires of the French, of which three
great masses could be distinguished, marking the position of the 2nd,
6th, and 8th Corps[425].

  [425] Grattan’s _Adventures with the 88th_, pp. 28-9, and Leith
  Hay, i. 231.

The dawn of the 27th was somewhat misty, but as soon as the light was
strong enough Reynier commenced his attack. He had chosen for his
objective, as was natural, the lowest point of the ridge opposite
him, the dip where the country-road from San Antonio de Cantaro
crosses the Serra. His two divisions, according to order, were drawn
up in two heavy columns preceded by a dense swarm of _tirailleurs_.
Heudelet’s division on the left was across the high-road, with the
31st Léger in front, then the two regiments of Foy’s brigade, the
70th and 17th Léger, with the 47th in reserve. The whole made 15
battalions, or 8,000 men. Merle’s division had the right, and was
to attack north of the road: of its eleven battalions, making 6,500
men, the 36th of the Line led, the 2nd Léger followed, the 4th Léger
brought up the rear. All the battalions were in serried column with a
front of one company only, and in each regiment the three, or four,
battalions were originally drawn up one behind the other. But the
involuntary swerving of the attack soon turned the two divisions into
an irregular échelon of battalion-columns, the right in every case
leading. And the roughness of the hillside soon broke the ordered
ranks of each column into a great clump of men, so that to the
British defenders of the ridge the assault seemed to be delivered
by a string of small crowds crossing the hillside diagonally. It
is curious that Reynier placed no troops to his left of the road;
a study of his orders (as of those of Masséna[426]) leads to a
suspicion that they had failed to discover Leith’s division, and
still more Hill’s, and imagined that the road was on the extreme
right, not in the right-centre, of the British position. Otherwise
Reynier would have taken some precaution to guard himself from a
flank attack from Leith, to which he was deliberately exposing his
left column.

  [426] Masséna’s orders for the battle call Reynier’s attack one
  on ‘la droite de l’armée ennemie,’ but it was really on the
  right-centre, Hill and Leith extending for four miles south of
  the point assailed.

There were, as has already been pointed out, several gaps in
the nine-mile British line. One was between the 8th regiment of
Portuguese, on Leith’s extreme left, and the rest of the 5th
Division. Another was between Picton’s troops at the pass of San
Antonio and his left wing--the 88th and Lightburne’s brigade.
Between the 45th and the 88th there was three-quarters of a mile of
unoccupied ground. The first gap led to no danger, the second caused
for a moment a serious crisis. Such was indeed almost bound to occur
when a line so long was held by such a small army. But this morning
there arose the special danger that fog hid the first movements of
the enemy from the eye, if not from the ear.

Merle’s division seems to have been the first of Reynier’s two
columns to move: at dawn, with the mist lying thick on the hillside,
it began to move up the steep slope some three-quarters of a mile to
the right of the San Antonio-Palheiros road. Here its _tirailleurs_
came in contact with the light companies of the 74th, 88th, and 45th
regiments, which were strung out along the front, and soon began
to push this thin line up hill. For some reason undetermined--a
trick of the mist, or a bend of the hillside--the three French
regiments all headed somewhat to their left, so as to pass across
the front of the 88th, and to direct their advance precisely to the
unoccupied piece of crest between that regiment and the troops placed
immediately above the pass of San Antonio. Their progress was slow:
the _tirailleurs_ left far behind them the eleven battalion-columns,
which were trampling through the dense matted heather which here
covers the hillside. Hearing the bicker of the skirmishing far to
his left, Picton took the alarm, and though he could see nothing
in the fog, detached first a wing of the 45th under Major Gwynne,
and then the two battalions of the 8th Portuguese, to fill the
unoccupied space which intervened between him and the 88th. If he
had suspected the strength of the column that was aiming at it he
would have sent more. But he was already distracted by the frontal
attack of Heudelet’s vanguard along the high-road. A column of four
battalions--the 31st Léger--was pushing up the road, and driving in
the skirmishers of Champlemond’s Portuguese brigade. Just at this
moment the mist began to lift, and Arentschildt’s guns opened on
the broad mass, and began to plough long lanes through it. It still
advanced, but was soon brought to a standstill by the fire of the
British 74th and Portuguese 21st, which were drawn up in line to
right and left, a little below the guns. The 31st Léger tried to
deploy, but with small success, each section being swept away by the
converging fire of the Anglo-Portuguese musketry, as it strove to
file out of the disordered mass. Nevertheless, the French regiment
gallantly held its ground for some time, shifting gradually towards
its right to avoid the fire of the guns, and gaining a little of the
hillside in that direction with its first battalion, while the other
three were tending to edge away from the road, and to break up into a
shapeless crowd[427].

  [427] The _Mémoires_ of Lemonnier Delafosse, a captain in
  the 31st Léger, give an excellent and clear account of its
  sufferings, see pp. 69-70 of his work.

Picton soon saw that there was no danger here, handed over the
command at the Pass of San Antonio to Mackinnon, and started off
towards his left, where the firing was growing heavier every minute,
and the vast column of Merle’s division, climbing the hillside
diagonally, had become visible through the mist.

It was fortunate that the attack of Merle was made very slow by
the steepness of the hillside and the heather that clung about the
soldiers’ stumbling feet. For the leading regiment reached the crest
before there were any British troops yet established on the point at
which it aimed. It was lurching over the sky-line on to the little
plateau above, just as the defenders arrived--the 88th descending
from the British left, the wing of the 45th and the two battalions
of the 8th Portuguese coming along the hill-road from the right. If
the French had been granted ten minutes to rest from the fatigue of
their long climb, and to recover their order, they might have broken
the British line. But Wallace, the commander of the 88th, was one of
Wellington’s best colonels, the very man for the emergency. Seeing
that the French must be charged at once, ere they had time to make a
front, he threw out three of his companies as skirmishers to cover
his flanks, called to the wing of the 45th to fall in on his right,
and charged diagonally across the little plateau on to the flank of
the great disordered mass before him. At the same moment the 8th
Portuguese, a little further along the hilltop, deployed and opened
a rolling fire against the front of the enemy, while Wellington
himself, who had been called down from his post of observation on
the Convent height by the noise of the fighting, came up with two of
Thompson’s guns, and turned their fire upon the flank and rear of the
climbing mass, which was still surging up the hillside. Apparently
at the same instant the light companies of the 45th and 88th,
which had been engaged in the earlier skirmishing with the French
_tirailleurs_, and had been driven far away to their right, were
rallied by Picton in person, and brought up along the plateau, to the
right of the 8th Portuguese. They drew up only sixty yards from the
flank of the leading French regiment, and opened a rolling fire upon
it.

At any other juncture and on any other ground, four battalions would
have been helpless against eleven. But Wallace had caught the
psychological moment: the French 36th, dead beat from its climb, and
in hopeless disorder, was violently charged in flank by the Connaught
Rangers and the wing of the 45th, while it was just gathering itself
up to run in upon the Portuguese battalions that lay in its front.
The French had no time to realize their position, or to mark the
smallness of the force opposed to them, when the blow fell. The four
battalions of the 36th were rolled down hill and to their left by
the blasting fire of Wallace’s little force, followed by a desperate
bayonet charge. They were thrust sideways against the 2nd Léger,
which was just reaching the sky-line on their left, and was beginning
to struggle in among some rocks which here crown the crest of the
heights. Then the whole mass gave way, trampled down the 4th Léger in
their rear, and rushed down the slope. ‘All was confusion and uproar,
smoke, fire, and bullets, French officers and soldiers, drummers
and drums, knocked down in every direction; British, French, and
Portuguese mixed together; while in the midst of all was to be seen
Wallace fighting like his ancestor of old, and still calling to his
soldiers to “press forward.” He never slackened his fire while a
Frenchman was within his reach, and followed them down to the edge of
the hill, where he formed his men in line waiting for any order that
he might receive, or any fresh body that might attack him[428].’ This
was certainly one of the most timely and gallant strokes made by a
regimental commander during the war, and the glory was all Wallace’s
own, as Picton very handsomely owned. ‘The Colonel of the 88th and
Major Gwynne of the 45th are entitled to the whole of the credit,’
he wrote to Wellington, ‘and I can claim no merit whatever in the
executive part of that brilliant exploit, which your Lordship has so
highly and so justly extolled[429].’

  [428] Grattan’s _Adventure with the Connaught Rangers_, p. 35.

  [429] Picton to Wellington, _Supplementary Dispatches_, vi. p.
  635. I do not know whether Wallace really descended from the
  famous Sir William, but Craufurd of the Light Division (as his
  descendant and biographer has pointed out to me) chanced to have
  a connexion with the Knight of Ellerslie.

The victorious British troops followed the enemy far down the
hillside, till they came under the fire of Reynier’s artillery,
and were warned to retire to their former position. They thus
missed the last episode of Reynier’s attack, which occurred along
the hillside just to the left of the point at which their collision
with Merle’s battalions had taken place. The Commander of the 2nd
Corps, seeing his right column rolling down the slope, while the
31st was melting away, and gradually giving ground under the fire of
the Anglo-Portuguese troops at the Pass of San Antonio, hurried to
Foy’s brigade and started it up the hill to the right of the 31st.
Foy had been told to support that regiment, but had taken Reynier’s
orders to mean that he was to follow up its advance when it began
to make headway. His Corps-Commander cantered up to him shouting
angrily, ‘Why don’t you start on the climb? You could get the troops
forward if you choose, but you don’t choose.’ Whereupon Foy rode to
the leading regiment of his brigade, the 17th Léger, put himself at
its head, and began to ascend the heights, his other regiment, the
70th, following in échelon on his left rear. At this moment Merle’s
division was still visible, falling back in great disorder some way
to the right, and pursued by Wallace--a discouraging sight for the
seven battalions that were about to repeat its experiment. Foy chose
as his objective the first and lowest hilltop to the French right of
the pass of San Antonio, and took his string of columns, the right
always leading, up towards it at such pace as was possible over the
long heather, and among the occasional patches of stones. The troops
which were in front of them here were those sections of Picton’s
division which were neither far away on the English left with Wallace
and Lightburne, nor actively engaged on the road against the 31st
Léger, viz. the right wing of the British 45th under Colonel Meade,
and the Portuguese 8th of the Line which had just been aiding in the
repulse of Merle. These were soon afterwards joined by one battalion
of the 9th Portuguese from Champlemond’s brigade, and the unattached
battalion of Thomar militia, which Picton sent up the hill. Yet this
was still far too small a force to resist Foy’s seven battalions,
unless speedily supported.

But support in sufficient quantity was forthcoming. General Leith
had received orders from Wellington to close in to Picton’s right
if he saw no hostile troops in his own front. As it was clear that
Reynier had kept no reserves or flanking detachments to the south
of the high-road, it was possible for the 5th Division to move at
once[430]. While the fog was still hanging thickly along the crests
of the Serra, Leith ordered a general move of his brigades to the
left, while Hill detached troops from the southern end of the
position to occupy the heights which the 5th Division was evacuating.
This general move to the left was carried out along the rough but
serviceable country-road which passes along the rear of the plateau,
out of sight of the French. At the moment when Foy’s attack was
beginning, Leith had just reached the Pass of San Antonio, with
Spry’s Portuguese brigade at the head of his column, then the two
battalions of the Lusitanian legion, and lastly, Barnes’s British
brigade. One of Dickson’s Portuguese batteries was also with him. He
dropped the guns at the pass to aid Arentschildt’s battery, whose
fire was beginning to slacken from want of ammunition, and left Spry
in their rear and the Legionary battalions on the country-road hard
by, while he brought up Barnes’s brigade to the front, and reported
his arrival to Picton. The latter said, it appears, that he was
strong enough at the Pass, but would be obliged if Leith would attend
to the attack which was being made at this moment on the height to
its immediate left[431]. This movement of Foy’s was now becoming
dangerous: forcing his way to the summit under a destructive fire, he
had met on the edge of the plateau the three Portuguese battalions
and the wing of the British 45th, and had driven them back--the
Thomar militia broke and fled down the rear declivity of the heights,
and the 8th Portuguese, though they did not fly, gave way and fell
back in disorder. Just at this moment Leith, with Barnes’s three
battalions, came up along the communication-road at the back of the
plateau. ‘A heavy fire of musketry,’ writes Leith, ‘was being kept
up upon the heights, the smoke of which prevented a clear view of
the state of things. But when the rock forming the high part of the
Serra became visible, the enemy appeared to be in full possession of
it, and a French officer was in the act of cheering, with his hat
off, while a continued fire was being kept up from thence, and along
the whole face of the slope of the Serra, in a diagonal direction
towards its bottom, by the enemy ascending rapidly in successive
columns, formed for an attack upon a mass of men belonging to the
left battalion of the 8th and the 9th Portuguese, who, having been
severely pressed, had given way, and were rapidly retiring in
complete confusion and disorder. The enemy had dispersed or driven
off everything opposed to him--was in possession of the rocky
eminence of the Serra.’ A few of his _tirailleurs_ were even on the
upper edge of the rear slope.

  [430] Leith’s nephew and aide-de-camp, Leith Hay, had explored
  all the villages in this direction on the previous afternoon,
  with a squadron of Portuguese horse, see his _Narrative_, i. 381.

  [431] Picton and Leith each rather slur over the part taken by
  the other in their parallel narratives of the crisis. Picton
  says that he took command of Leith’s troops: ‘at this moment
  Major-General Leith’s aide-de-camp came up to report the arrival
  of that general and his division, on which I rode from the post
  of San Antonio to the road of communication, and directed the
  leading regiment of the brigade to proceed without loss of time
  to the left, as I had no occasion for assistance. General Leith’s
  brigade, in consequence, moved on and arrived in time to join the
  five companies of the 45th and the 8th Portuguese in repulsing
  the enemy’s last attempt.’ Leith, on the other hand, speaks of
  having taken command of some of Picton’s troops, as if the latter
  had not been present, and says nought of their conversation.
  ‘Major-General Leith thereupon directed a movement of succession,
  ordering Colonel Douglas with the right battalion of the 8th
  Portuguese to support the point attacked. He also directed the
  9th Portuguese under Colonel Sutton (belonging to Major-General
  Picton’s division) to move up to the support of General Picton’s
  division,’ and again, ‘He (General Leith) ordered the 8th and 9th
  Portuguese to support the point attacked, and where the enemy
  were fast gaining ground.’ Each general speaks as if he had been
  in command, and I fear that each is using undue reticence as to
  the other’s doings. See note at the end of this chapter.

Leith, realizing that there was still time to save the position--for
only the head of the French column had crowned the rocky
knoll,--deployed his leading battalion, the 9th, across the summit of
the plateau, while sending on his second, the 38th, to get between
the enemy and the reverse slope of the position. This last move
turned out to be fruitless, for the rear face of the knoll is so
steep and so thickly covered with large boulders[432], that the 38th
was unable to climb it, and came back to fall in on the right of
the 9th. But before it could get back, the senior regiment had done
its work. Leith had led it diagonally across the plateau, so as to
place it along the flank of the leading battalions of Foy’s column,
of which the first was now ensconced on the summit of the heights,
while the others were struggling up to join it. The 9th opened with
a volley at 100 yards, and then advanced firing, receiving hardly
any return from the enemy, who seemed entirely disconcerted by the
appearance of a new force parallel with its flank. At twenty yards
from the French, the 9th lowered its bayonets and prepared to charge,
Leith riding at its head waving his plumed hat. Then the enemy gave
way. ‘My heroic column,’ writes Foy, ‘much diminished during the
ascent, reached the summit of the plateau, which was covered with
hostile troops. Those on our left made a flank movement and smashed
us up by their battalion volleys; meanwhile those on our front,
covered by some rocks, were murdering us with impunity. The head of
my column fell back to its right, despite my efforts; I could not
get them to deploy, disorder set in, and the 17th and 70th raced
down-hill in headlong flight. The enemy pursued us half-way to the
foot of the heights, till he pulled up on coming under effective fire
from our artillery[433].’

  [432] Napier calls it a ‘precipice,’ but this is not the right
  word. I found that I could walk freely about on it, but no formed
  body of men could have passed up the slope.

  [433] Foy’s diary, pp. 103-4, tallies exactly with Leith’s
  narrative in _Wellington Supplementary Dispatches_, vi. 678, and
  Cameron’s letter in Napier, Appendix to vol. vi.

The battle was now over on this side: Reynier had in reserve only
one regiment, the 47th of the Line. His other twenty-two battalions
had all been beaten to pieces; they had lost over 2,000 men,
including more than half their superior officers: Merle commanding
the 1st Division was wounded, his junior brigadier Graindorge was
killed; Foy, commanding the first brigade of the other division, was
wounded. Of the six colonels who had gone up the heights, those of
the 31st Léger, 2nd Léger, 4th Léger, and 70th had been hit: of the
twenty-three battalion commanders four were killed, seven wounded.
Of 421 officers in all who went into action, 118--more than one
in four--had been disabled. Of the 2,023 casualties, 350 men and
fifteen officers were prisoners in the hands of the British. And
these losses had been suffered without inflicting any corresponding
loss upon the defenders of the position: Picton’s division had 427
killed and wounded; Leith’s 160. The only regiments appreciably
diminished were the 45th, 88th, and Portuguese 8th--with 150, 134,
and 113 casualties respectively. The only superior officers hit were
the Portuguese brigadier Champlemond, and a major each in the 45th
and 88th. Of the 3rd and 5th Divisions only six British and five
Portuguese battalions had been engaged[434]--the superiority of force
against them had been about two to one. Yet Reynier complained in
his dispatch to Masséna of being crushed by ‘a triple superiority of
numbers’! As a matter of fact, it was the position that beat him, not
the imagined numbers of the allies. Wellington could risk much in
taking up a long line, when he had a good road of communication along
its rear, to shift troops from point to point, and when he could
descry every movement of the enemy half an hour before it began to
take effect.

  [434] Viz. British: Mackinnon’s 1/88th, 1/45th, 74th, Barnes’s
  3/1st, 1/9th, 2/38th. Portuguese: Champlemond’s 9th Line (2
  batts.) and 21st Line (1 batt.), with the 8th from Leith’s
  division (2 batts.). Spry’s brigade and the Lusitanian Legion
  from Leith were never under fire, and did not lose a man.
  Picton’s left brigade (Lightburne) was never engaged, save that
  the light companies of the 5th and 83rd, far down the slope, lost
  eight and four men respectively. The Thomar militia bolted before
  coming under fire.

The other half of the battle of Bussaco was an even shorter business
than Reynier’s struggle with Picton and Leith, but no less bloody
and decisive. Ney exactly obeyed Masséna’s orders to attack, with
two divisions, the ground on each side of the Coimbra _chaussée_,
when he should see the 2nd Corps lodged on the crest beside the pass
of San Antonio de Cantaro. The many reproaches heaped upon him,
by critics who have not read his orders, for attacking too late,
and not at the same moment as Reynier, are groundless: he was told
to go forward only when his colleague ‘sera maître des hauteurs.’
He moved precisely when the dispersing mists showed Merle’s great
column massed on the edge of the plateau. Of his three divisions he
had, again in exact obedience to orders, placed Loison on the right,
Marchand on the left, while Mermet was in reserve, behind Moura.
The two fighting divisions were completely separated by the deep
and steep ravine of which we have had occasion to speak. The ground
in front of them was very different: Marchand had to advance, by
rather gentle slopes, along the _chaussée_, which curves up towards
the convent of Bussaco. Loison had to go up a hillside of a very
different sort, whose lower stretch, as far as the village of Sula,
is gentle, and much cut up by woods and orchards, but whose upper
half, beyond Sula, is extremely steep and absolutely destitute of
cover. There was no road here, only a rough mule-track.

Loison started a few minutes before Marchand: he had his two brigades
side by side, Simon’s (six battalions) on the right, Ferey’s (also
six battalions) on the left. Both started from the low ground in
front of Sula, each with a strong chain of _tirailleurs_ covering
an advance in serried battalion columns; the 26th regiment was the
leading regiment in Simon’s, the 66th in Ferey’s brigade. On leaving
the bottom, and advancing among the trees on the lower slope, both
brigades found their _tirailleurs_ at once checked by a very strong
skirmishing line. Pack had spread out the whole of the 4th Caçadores
on the hillside in front of his line battalions. Craufurd had thrown
out the 95th--more than 700 rifles--and the 3rd Caçadores--600 rifles
more--into the enclosures in front of Sula. The 43rd and 52nd, with
the 1st Caçadores, were lying down in the hollow road at the head of
the steep slope above that village, completely concealed from sight.
Of formed troops, Loison could only see the 1st Division far above
him on the left on the highest plateau of the Serra, and Cole far
away to his right on the lower hillsides towards Paradas. In order
to press in the obstinate light troops in front of him, Loison was
compelled to push forward whole battalions from his fighting-line: by
a strenuous use of these, the Caçadores and Rifles were evicted first
from the lower slopes, then from the village of Sula. But when the
latter had been captured, the French found themselves under a heavy
fire of artillery: Ross’s guns on the knoll above, between their
embrasures of rock, being carefully trained upon the exits of the
village, while Cleeves’ German battery joined in from its position at
the head of the ravine, and took Ferey in flank. It was impossible
to halt in Sula, and Loison ordered his brigadiers to push forward
the attack once more, taking Ross’s guns and the windmill near them
as their objective. The slope was now much steeper, the British
and Portuguese skirmishers had rallied once more above Sula, and
Craufurd had sent down the 1st Caçadores to feed the fighting-line.
It was only with a severe effort, and with much loss, that the French
battalions won their way up the culminating slope. Simon’s front
regiment, the 26th of the Line, stuck to the mule-path up the hill
from Sula, in one dense and deep column, with the front of a company
only, and a depth of three battalions. Ferey’s brigade, having no
track to follow, seems to have moved in a somewhat less vicious
formation along the slope further to the left, bordering on the
northern edge of the funnel-like ravine which formed the boundary of
Craufurd’s position. Both were in a very disordered condition, owing
to the fierce conflict which they had waged with the screen of Rifles
and Caçadores all up the hillside.

Lying in the hollow road parallel with the head of the ravine were
the two Line regiments of the Light Division, the 43rd on the right,
the 52nd on the left. They were very strong battalions, despite their
losses at the Coa, the one having 800 the other 950 bayonets. In
front of them, on the sky-line by the little windmill, to the right
of Ross’s guns, Craufurd had been standing all through the earlier
stages of the engagement, watching the gradual progress of the French
up the hillside. He waited patiently till the enemy’s two columns, a
few hundred yards apart, had reached the last steep of the hillside
below him. His recoiling skirmishers were at last thrust in upon
him--they passed, some to the flanks, some through the intervals
between the battalions and the guns, and the front was clear.

[Illustration: NEY’S ATTACK at BUSSACO.]

[Illustration: REYNIER’S ATTACK at BUSSACO.]

Then came the opportunity: the French, pulling themselves together,
were preparing to rush up the last twenty yards of the ascent and to
run in upon the guns, when Craufurd waved his hat to the battalions
lying in the road behind him, the appointed signal for action, and
(it is said) called to the men behind him ‘Now 52nd, revenge the
death of Sir John Moore.’ The crest was at once covered by the
long red line, and the fronts of the French brigades received such
a volley at ten paces as has been seldom endured by any troops in
war. The whole of the heads of their columns crumbled away in a
mass of dead and dying. The centre and rear stood appalled for
one moment; then Major Arbuthnot wheeled in three companies of the
52nd upon the right flank of Simon’s leading regiment, while Lloyd
of the 43rd did the same upon the extreme left, so as to produce a
semicircle of fire[435]. It was impossible to stand under it, and
the French broke and went hurtling down the hill, the wrecks of the
front battalions carrying the rear ones away with them. So steep was
the slope on their left that some are said to have lost their footing
and to have rolled down to the bottom of the ravine before they
could stop. The Light Division followed as far as Sula, and beyond,
not stopping till Loison’s people had taken refuge in the wooded
ground beyond that village, and the French guns by Moura had begun
to play upon their pursuers. The rush had carried away the whole
of the enemy, save one battalion upon Ferey’s extreme left, which
had moved so far down in the slope of the ravine that it had become
separated from the rest. This solitary column, pressing forward, came
to the sky-line not in front of Craufurd, but at the very head of the
ravine, below Cleeves’ battery. Here it was dealt with by the leading
unit of Coleman’s Portuguese brigade, which was standing in line
near the _chaussée_. The 1st battalion of the 19th regiment, under
Major McBean, charged it and rolled it back into the cleft, down
whose bottom it hastily recoiled, and joined the rest of the flying
division.

  [435] A passage of Napier’s account of the movements of the Light
  Division (iii. 27) has puzzled many readers. ‘Eighteen hundred
  British bayonets went sparkling over the brow of the hill. Yet
  so hardy were the leading French that every man of the first
  section raised his musket, and two officers and ten soldiers
  (of the 52nd) fell before them. Not a Frenchman had missed his
  mark!’ This passage looks as if the whole French division had
  been conceived by Napier as moving in a single column with a
  front of only twelve men. An eye-witness, Sir John Bell, of the
  52nd, who owned the copy of the book which I now have before
  me, has written Bosh! in the margin against the words. Of
  course the enemy was advancing with each battalion in column of
  companies, with a front of thirty at least. What Napier seems
  to have had in his head was an anecdote told by his brother
  George (_Autobiography_, p. 143). ‘My company met the very head
  of the French column, and immediately calling to my men to form
  column of sections, in order to give more force to our rush, we
  dashed forward. I was in front of my men a yard or two, when a
  Frenchman made a plunge at me with his bayonet, and at the same
  time received the contents of his musket under my hip and fell.
  At the same instant they fired upon my front section, consisting
  of about nine men in the front rank, all of whom fell, four dead,
  the rest wounded.’ But this does not imply that the French column
  was only twelve broad.

This made an end of Loison’s two brigades as a serious attacking
force. They reeled back to their original position, under cover of
the 25th Léger, which Mermet sent out to relieve them. But later in
the day they pushed some skirmishers up the hill again, and bickered
with Craufurd’s outposts. Wellington, seeing that the Light Division
was fatigued, sent the light companies of Löwe’s German brigade
and A. Campbell’s 6th Caçadores, from the reserves, to take up the
skirmishing. It stood still about Sula, but the French got a few men
into the village, whom Craufurd had to evict with a company of the
43rd.

Loison lost, out of 6,500 men used in the attack, twenty-one officers
killed and forty-seven wounded, with some 1,200 men. His senior
brigadier, Simon, was wounded in the face, and taken prisoner by a
private of the 52nd. The loss of the Light Division was marvellously
small--the 3rd Caçadores and the 95th, who had fought through the
long skirmish up the hill, had seventy-eight and forty-one casualties
respectively, but the 43rd and 52nd had the astounding record of only
three men killed, and two officers and eighteen men wounded. McBean’s
Portuguese battalion lost one officer and twenty-five men: the German
light companies had nearly fifty casualties, but this was later in
the day. Altogether, Loison’s attack was repelled with a loss of only
200 men to the allies.

It only remains to tell of one more section of the Battle of Bussaco;
it was entirely independent of the rest. When Ney started Loison to
his right of the deep ravine, he had sent forward Marchand’s division
to his left of it, along the great _chaussée_. On turning the sweep
of the road beyond Moura, the leading brigade of this column (6th
Léger and 69th Line, five battalions) came under a terrible artillery
fire from the three batteries which Wellington had placed at the
head of the ravine, those of Cleeves, Parros, and Lawson. They,
nevertheless, pushed along the road till they came level with a small
pine wood on their left, which was full of the skirmishers of Pack’s
Portuguese brigade--the whole of the 4th Caçadores had been sent
down into it from the height above. The flanking fire of these light
troops was so galling that the French brigade--apparently without
orders and by an instinctive movement--swerved to its left, and went
up the hillside to turn the Caçadores out of their cover. After a
sharp bickering they did so, and then emerging from the wood on to
the smooth slope of the height below the convent wall, got into a
desperate musketry duel with Pack’s four Line-battalions, who stood
in front of them. They were now in disorder, and their brigadier,
Maucune, had been wounded. But they made several attempts to storm
the hillside, which were all beaten back by the Portuguese musketry
and the fire of Lawson’s artillery on the right. The second brigade
of Marchand (that of Marcognet) pushed as far along the road as the
preceding brigade had gone, but stopped when it came under the fire
of Cleeves’ and Parros’s guns, to which that of Ross’s (from across
the ravine) was also added, when Loison’s attack had been beaten
off. Seeing that Marchand was making no headway, that Loison had
been routed, and that Reynier’s corps was out of action, Ney called
back his column, which fell back behind Moura. Maucune’s brigade had
suffered severely--it had lost its brigadier, the colonel of the 6th
Léger, and thirty-three other officers with some 850 men. The rear
brigade (Marcognet’s) had suffered less--its casualty list, however,
was fully 300 killed and wounded. There had been a little skirmishing
meanwhile opposite Wellington’s centre, for during the main attack
Ney had sent forward some voltigeur companies from his reserves to
occupy the line of skirmishers at the foot of the heights, which
Spencer’s 1st Division had thrown out. These two thin screens of
light troops paired off against each other, and contended all the
morning with some loss, but no appreciable advantage on either
side[436].

  [436] Sprünglin, Ney’s aide-de-camp, gives an account of his
  being detached with these voltigeurs, on p. 450 of his diary.
  He lost 142 men. It must have been in contending with these
  companies that the 1st Division (excluding the German brigade,
  occupied elsewhere) got the 89 casualties returned by Wellington,
  as also the 5/60 their 24 casualties. The only one of the British
  battalions in this quarter which had an appreciable number of
  men hurt was the 1/79th. Its regimental history says that its
  light company was almost cut off at the commencement of the day.
  The captain was taken prisoner--being the only British officer
  captured that day--with six men, and there were over 40 other
  casualties. Stopford’s brigade lost two men--Lord Blantyre’s
  seven.

Masséna still had it in his power to attack again, for Mermet’s
division of the 6th Corps, and the whole of Junot’s 13,000 infantry
had not yet advanced and had hardly lost a man. But the result of
Ney’s and Reynier’s efforts had been so disheartening that the
Marshal refused to waste more lives on what was clearly a hopeless
enterprise. He could now see Wellington’s army concentrated on the
two points that had been attacked. Hill’s heavy column of 10,000
men had now lined the heights on Leith’s right: Cole had edged
the 4th Division close in to Craufurd’s left, and Coleman and the
Germans were visible in the rear. If Masséna had still 20,000 fresh
infantry, the English general had 33,000 who had not yet come up
into the fighting-line. It was useless to persist. Accordingly,
the skirmishing along Ney’s front was allowed to die down in the
afternoon, and the French divisions retired to their camps.

The total loss of Wellington’s army had been 1,252 officers and
men, of whom 200 were killed, 1,001 wounded, and fifty-one missing.
No officer over the rank of a major had been killed: and the only
senior officers wounded were the Portuguese brigadier Champlemond and
Colonel Barclay of the 52nd. Of the casualties, 626 were in the ranks
of the British, 626 in those of the Portuguese regiments--a strange
coincidence in the losses of the two allied armies. The Portuguese
line, indeed, had done their fair half of the fighting, as the return
showed--in no instance with discredit, in some with high merit. If
the 8th and 9th Portuguese had broken before Foy’s attack, it was
under severe stress, and when attacked by superior numbers. On the
other hand, Pack’s brigade, Coleman’s 19th, and the Caçadores of the
Light Division won the highest praises from their commanders, and had
taken a most distinguished part in the victory. Wellington now knew
exactly how far they could be trusted, and could estimate at last the
real fighting value of his army--at least, for a defensive battle in
chosen and favourable ground. It would be another matter to calculate
how far the allied host was capable of taking the offensive.

The total loss of the French, as shown by the return--which was not
quite complete--presented to Masséna on October 1, was 4,498, of whom
522 were killed, 3,612 wounded, and 364 missing (i.e. prisoners).
After his usual fashion he represented it to the Emperor as being
‘about 3,000[437].’ One general (Graindorge), two colonels, and
fifty-two other officers had been killed, four generals (Maucune,
Foy, Merle, Simon) were wounded--the last was also a prisoner; five
colonels and 189 other officers were wounded. The 2nd Corps in all
had lost at least 2,043 officers and men, the 6th Corps at least
2,455[438]. It may be remembered that of all the battles in the
Peninsular War this was the one in which the proportion of officers
to men hit on the French side was highest, one to sixteen--the
average being one to twenty-two in ordinary engagements. The
excessive proportion of casualties in the commissioned ranks bears
witness to a desperate attempt to lead on the men to an impossible
task, in which the officers sacrificed themselves in the most
splendid style.

  [437] This too in a dispatch to Berthier dated Coimbra, Oct. 4,
  three days after the returns had been placed before him.

  [438] For these returns, see Appendix, no. xiii. They are
  certainly incomplete, omitting (1) losses of the cavalry of the
  2nd Corps (where Martinien’s invaluable tables show that three
  officers were wounded), (2) losses of the 8th Corps, which
  caught a few shells as it stood on the heights by Moura and had
  (as again shown by Martinien’s tables) six officers hit, which
  must imply some hundred men. (3) Some casualties in the infantry
  omitted in the returns, for while the report accounts for 253
  killed and wounded officers, Martinien names 275. Deducting the
  cavalry and 8th Corps losses mentioned above, there are still
  fifteen officers (and therefore presumably 250 men) too few given
  in the reports sent in to Masséna; e.g. for the 2nd Léger the
  report has eighteen officers hit, Martinien gives the names of
  twenty-two.

Masséna must not be too much blamed for his experiment. He had still
to ascertain the fighting value of Wellington’s army--and estimated
it too low, because of the extreme prudence which his adversary
had hitherto displayed. He was handicapped by the impossibility of
using his artillery effectively, and the position in front of him
was strong--even stronger than he guessed, because of the road of
communication along the rear of the plateau--but not too strong
to be forced, if the defenders did not fight well. Moreover, it
was immensely long--nine miles from end to end, so that two blows
delivered with a corps each in the centre might have pierced the
line before the enemy’s distant reserves could get up. Favoured by
the fog--as we have seen--Reynier actually won the heights for a
moment, though Ney never got near the crest. The mistake lay not so
much in making the trial as in under-rating the warlike efficiency of
the enemy. Strokes like Wallace’s charge with the 45th and 88th, or
Craufurd’s masterly advance with the 43rd and 52nd, are beyond the
common experiences of war. Masséna put forty-five battalions[439]
into his fighting-line--they were repulsed by twenty-four, for that
was the number of Anglo-Portuguese battalions which engaged more than
their light-companies[440]. This could not have been foreseen. But
the lesson was learnt. Before the lines of Torres Vedras, a fortnight
later, Masséna refused to take any more risks of the kind, and the
campaign assumed a very different character, because the invader had
learnt to respect his enemy.

  [439] Viz. all Reynier’s Corps, save the 47th, twenty-two
  battalions; Marchand eleven battalions, Loison twelve
  battalions--total 26,000 men. See Tables in Appendix.

  [440] Viz. the brigades of Mackinnon and Champlemond of the 3rd
  Division: the 1st, 9th, 38th, British, and the 8th Portuguese of
  Leith, Craufurd’s five battalions, Pack’s five battalions, three
  battalions of Coleman--total 14,000 men. See Tables in Appendix.


(1) NOTE ON THE TOPOGRAPHY OF BUSSACO

I spent two days in April 1904 and two days in April 1906 in going
very carefully over the field--save that of its nine-mile length I
did not investigate closely either Cole’s position on the extreme
north, or Hill’s on the extreme south, no fighting having come near
either of them. The ground is so minutely described in the preceding
chapter that only a few additional points require notice.

(1) The ravine which lay between Pack and Craufurd, and between
Marchand and Loison, is a feature which no map can properly express,
and which no one who has not gone very carefully over the hillside
can fully picture to himself. It produces an absolute want of
continuity between the two fights which went on to its right and left.

(2) The Mondego is not visible from any point of the line of heights
till Hill’s position is reached. It is sunk far below the level of
the upland.

(3) The San Antonio-Palheiros road is a mere country track, barely
deserving the name of road, though practicable for artillery and
vehicles. The _chaussée_ Moura-Bussaco is a high-road of the first
class, admirably engineered. The paths across the Serra at Hill’s end
of it are wretched mule-tracks, not suitable for wheeled traffic. So
is the track from Sula up the slope to Craufurd’s standing-place.

(4) The view from the summit of the Serra is very extensive,
embracing on the one side all the slopes of the Estrella as far as
Guarda, and on the other the whole coast-plain of Coimbra as far
as the sea. But in each direction there is so much wood and hill
that many roads and villages are masked. The French army, both in
advance and retreat, was only intermittently visible. But enough
could be made out to determine its general movements with fair
precision. When it reached the foot-hills before the Serra every
detail of its disposition could be followed by an observer on any
part of the crest, save that below Sula woods in the bottom hide the
starting-point of Loison’s division.

(5) In the chapel by the side of the _chaussée_, just behind the
sky-line of the English position, the traveller will find a little
museum, including a very fine topographical map, with the position of
the allied troops, and more especially of the Portuguese regiments,
well marked. There are a few errors in the placing of the British
battalions, but nothing of consequence. The French army is only
vaguely indicated. But the map is a credit to the Portuguese engineer
officers who compiled it.

(6) As I have observed in the next chapter, the ground to the north,
along the Serras de Alcoba and de Caramula, is not so uniformly
lofty, or so forbidding in its aspect, as to cause the observer
to doubt whether there can be any pass across the watershed in
that direction. Indeed, the first idea that strikes the mind on
reaching the summit of the Serra, and casting a glance round the
wide landscape, is that it is surprising that any officer in the
French army can have believed that the Caramula was absolutely
impracticable. Moreover it is far less easily defensible than the
Bussaco ridge, because it is much more broken and full of cover. The
beauty of the Bussaco position is that, save on the Moura-Sula spurs,
it is entirely bare of cover on the side facing eastward. The smooth,
steep slope, with its furze and heather and its occasional outcrops
of rock, makes a splendid glacis. The reverse space would be a far
worse position to defend, against an enemy coming from Coimbra and
the coast-plain, because it is thickly interspersed with woods.

(7) With the possible exception of some of the Pyrenean
fighting-grounds, Bussaco gives the most beautiful landscape of
any of the British battlefields of the Peninsula. Albuera is tame,
Talavera is only picturesque at its northern end, Salamanca is
rolling ground with uninteresting ploughed fields, save where the two
Arapiles crop up in their isolated ruggedness. Fuentes d’Oñoro is
a pretty hillside, such as one may see in any English county, with
meadow below and rough pasture above. Vimiero is dappled ground, with
many trees but no commanding feature. But the loftiness, the open
breezy air, the far-reaching view over plain, wood, mountain, and
distant sea, from the summit of the Bussaco Serra is unique in its
beauty. It is small wonder that the modern Portuguese have turned it
into a health-resort, or that the British colony at Oporto have fixed
on the culminating plateau as the best golf-course in the Peninsula.


(2) NOTE ON THE CRISIS OF THE BATTLE OF BUSSACO

While there is no point of dispute concerning that part of the
Battle of Bussaco in which Craufurd, Pack, and Coleman were engaged
against the 6th Corps, there was bitter controversy on the exact
details of the repulse of Reynier’s corps by Picton and Leith.
Picton, and following him his subordinates of the 3rd Division,
thought that Leith’s part in the action was insignificant, that he
merely repulsed a minor attack after the main struggle was over.
Leith and his officers considered that they gave the decisive blow,
that Picton’s line would have been broken and the battle perhaps
lost, if Barnes’s brigade had not arrived at the critical moment
and saved the situation. All that Picton would allow was that Leith
‘aided the wing of the 45th and the 8th Portuguese in repulsing the
enemy’s last attempt.’ Grattan, who wrote an admirable narrative
of the defeat of Merle’s division by the 88th and the neighbouring
troops, denied that the 3rd Division was ever pressed, says that he
never saw Leith’s men till the action was over, and points out that
Barnes’s brigade, out of 1,800 bayonets, lost but 47 men altogether,
while the 45th regiment alone lost thrice, and the 88th more than
twice, as many killed and wounded out of their scanty numbers (150
and 134 out of 560 and 679 respectively). Other 3rd Division officers
suggest (see the letters in the Appendix to Napier’s sixth volume)
that Leith fought only with a belated body of French skirmishers,
or with men who had been cut off from the main attacking column by
the successful advance of Wallace. On the other hand Leith (see his
letter in Wellington, _Supplementary Dispatches_, vol. vi, p. 678)
speaks of coming on the ground to find a large French column crossing
the Serra, and the Portuguese 8th and 9th broken, and about to recoil
down the rear slope. His aide-de-camp, Leith-Hay, and Cameron of the
9th bear him out.

Napier has failed to make the situation clear, from not seeing that
there were two completely separate attacks of the French, divided by
an appreciable interval. He thinks that Foy was on the Serra as soon
as Merle, and calls his column (iii. p. 25) ‘the French battalions
which had first gained the crest,’ while as a matter of fact they had
only started after Wallace’s repulse of Merle was long over.

The real situation is made clear when Reynier’s and Heudelet’s
dispatches in the French Archives and Foy’s diary are studied. From
these it is clear that there were _two_ occasions on which the French
got to the top of the Serra, the first during Merle’s attack, the
second during Foy’s. I have quoted Foy’s narrative on p. 377 above;
but it may be well to give also his note showing the starting-time of
his column. ‘La première division (Merle) a gravi la montagne en se
jettant à droite. Mais à peine les têtes arrivaient sur le plateau,
qu’attaquées tout à coup par des troupes immensement supérieures en
nombre, fraîches et vigoureuses, elles ont été culbutées en bas de
la montagne dans le plus grand désordre. Ma brigade s’était portée
au pied de la montagne, devant soutenir le 31e Léger. Au moment de
l’échec de la 1re division j’ai fait halte un moment pour ne pas
être entraîné par les fuyards.’ It was only at this instant, when
the fugitives from Merle’s attack were pouring past him, that he got
his orders from Reynier to attack, and started to climb the slope.
There must, therefore, have been an interval of more than half an
hour--possibly of an hour--between the moment when Wallace thrust
Merle off the plateau, and that at which Foy crowned it, only to be
attacked and beaten by the newly arrived Leith. For it took a very
long time for the French 17th and 70th to climb the slope, and they
only reached the top with difficulty, the skirmishers of the 8th and
9th Portuguese and of Meade’s wing of the 45th having fought hard to
keep them back.

Reynier’s dispatch is equally clear as to his corps having made two
separate attacks. He adds that some of Sarrut’s men were rallied in
time to support Foy, a statement for which I find no corroboration
elsewhere.

Napier then has failed to grasp the situation, when he makes the
French crown the crest above the pass of San Antonio and the crest
opposite Wallace, 900 yards further north, at the same moment. And
the statement that Leith’s charge was directed against the other
flank of the same mass that was beaten by the 88th and 45th is
altogether erroneous.

Leith’s narrative of the business, in short, fits in with the French
story, and must be considered correct. Picton cannot be acquitted
of deliberate belittling of the part taken by his colleague in the
action. Foy’s attack, though made by only seven battalions, while
Merle had eleven, was the more dangerous of the two, and was defeated
by Leith alone, after the small fraction of Picton’s force in front
of it had been broken and thrust back.



SECTION XXI: CHAPTER III

WELLINGTON’S RETREAT TO THE LINES OF TORRES VEDRAS (OCTOBER 1810)


The dawn of September 28 brought small comfort to Masséna. His
desperate attacks of the preceding day had been repulsed with such
ease and such heavy loss, that neither he nor any of his subordinates
dreamed of renewing the attempt to force the line of the Serra. Only
three courses were open to him--to retreat on Almeida, giving up
the campaign as one too ambitious for the strength of his army, or
to change his objective and strike backwards at Oporto,--if Lisbon
were beyond his grasp,--or to endeavour to move Wellington out of
his position by turning his flank, since a frontal attack had proved
disastrous. The first course was advocated by more than one adviser,
but presented no attractions to the Marshal: he was both obstinate
and angry, and did not dream for a moment of spoiling his military
reputation by retreating tamely after a lost battle. The blow at
Oporto was equally unattractive: he had been told to drive the
English out of Portugal, and to capture Lisbon, not to make a mere
lodgement on the Douro. Moreover, as he had remarked to Ney before
the battle, if he marched on Oporto by the bad road via Vizeu, he
might find the British army once more in his front, when he drew
nearer to the city, since the Coimbra-Oporto _chaussée_ is both
shorter and better than the by-roads which he would have to follow.
There remained the third possibility--that of turning Wellington out
of the Bussaco position by flanking operations. The country-side did
not look very promising, but the attempt must be made.

Early on the 28th the French cavalry was sent out in both directions
to explore the whole neighbourhood--a task which Masséna should have
prescribed to it on the 25th and 26th, instead of keeping it massed
in his rear. The reconnaissances sent southward by Reynier’s light
cavalry brought no encouraging report: if the French army crossed the
Mondego, it would only run against Wellington’s carefully prepared
position behind the Alva. Fane’s cavalry were out in this direction,
and would give ample time of warning to allow the allied army to pass
the fords of Peña Cova and man the long series of earthworks. Only a
repetition of the Bussaco disaster could follow from an attempt to
take the offensive on this side. From the north, however, Montbrun,
who had ridden out with some of Sainte-Croix’s dragoons, brought far
more cheering news. This indeed was the flank where, on the first
principles of topography, some hope of success might have been looked
for. To any one standing either on the Bussaco heights or on the
lower ridge in front of them, and casting an eye over the dappled
and uneven country-side to the north, it seems incredible that there
should be no route whatever across the Serra de Caramula. Both the
seacoast-plain of Beira and the valley of the Oerins, the little
river which drains the plain of Mortagoa, were thickly populated. Was
it likely that there would be no means of getting from the one to the
other save by the _chaussée_ through Bussaco, or the circuitous road
far to the north, from Vizeu to Aveiro via Feramena and Bemfeita?
The maps, it is true, showed no other route: but every day that he
remained in Portugal was proving more clearly to the Marshal that his
maps, Lopez and the rest, were hopelessly inaccurate. The Serra de
Caramula, though rugged, is not one continuous line of precipices,
nor is it of any great altitude. On first principles it was probable
that there might be one or more passages in this stretch of thirty
miles, though it was conceivable that there might be no road over
which artillery could travel[441].

  [441] As a matter of fact, the modern railway from Coimbra and
  Pampilhosa to the upper Mondego does not use the pass of Bussaco,
  but goes north of it, round the left flank of Wellington’s
  position, by Luso, far south of the Boialvo road to Mortagoa.

There was, therefore, nothing astonishing in the fact that Montbrun
discovered that such a track existed, nine miles north of Bussaco,
running from Mortagoa, by Aveleira and Boialvo, to Sardão in the
valley of the Agueda, one of the affluents of the Vouga. There was
nothing particularly startling in the discovery, nor did it imply
any special perspicacity in the discoverers, as many of the French
narratives seek to imply. A peasant captured in one of the deserted
villages high up the Oerins, and cross-questioned by Masséna’s
Portuguese aide-de-camp Mascarenhas, who accompanied Sainte-Croix on
his reconnaissance, revealed the fact that this country-road existed.
He even, it is said, expressed to his compatriot his surprise that
the French had not taken it when first they arrived at Mortagoa,
since it was unguarded, while the whole allied army was lying
across the Bussaco _chaussée_. It was, he said, habitually used by
the ox-waggons of the peasantry: it was not a good road, but was a
perfectly practicable one.

With this all-important news Montbrun and Sainte-Croix returned to
Masséna about midday. The Marshal at once resolved to make an attempt
to utilize the Boialvo road. There was some danger in doing so,
since it was possible that Wellington might wait till the greater
part of the French army had retired from his front, and then descend
upon the rearguard and overwhelm it. Or, on the other hand, he might
have made preparations to hold the further end of the pass, so that
when the vanguard of the invaders was nearing Boialvo or Sardão they
might find 20,000 men, withdrawn from the Bussaco position in haste,
lying across their path at some dangerous turn of the road. Indeed,
we may confidently assert that if in 1810 the British general had
possessed the army that he owned in 1813, Masséna would have had
the same unpleasant experience that befell Soult at Sorauren, when
he attempted a precisely similar manœuvre--a flank march round the
allied army on the day after a lost battle.

But Masséna was prepared to take risks, and the risk which he was now
accepting was a considerably less perilous one than that which he
had incurred when he chose to make a frontal attack on the Bussaco
position on the preceding day. For though flank marches across an
enemy’s front are justly deprecated by every military authority, this
was one executed at a distance of nine or ten miles from the British
line, and not in a level country, on to which Wellington might
easily descend from his fastness, but in a broken wooded upland,
full of ridges on which the French might have formed up to fight if
assailed. If this fact did not remove the danger, it at any rate made
it infinitely less. If one of the two possible contretemps should
happen--if Wellington should come down with a sudden rush upon the
rearguard--that force would have to fight a defensive action on the
ridges below Bussaco, till the main body could turn back to help it.
In that case there would follow a pitched battle upon rolling and
uneven ground, which did not favour one side more than the other;
and this, at any rate, would be a more favourable situation for
the French than that in which they had fought on Sept. 27. If, on
the other hand, Wellington should send a strong detachment to hold
the western debouch of the Boialvo road, nothing would be lost--if
nothing would be gained. It was improbable that there would be any
position in that quarter quite so strong as the tremendous slope of
the Serra de Bussaco. The result of an attempt to force the defile
might be successful.

At any rate Masséna thought the experiment worthy of a trial.
Accordingly, on the afternoon of the 28th, ostentatious
demonstrations were made against the front of the Bussaco position,
which led to a good deal of objectless skirmishing[442]. Wellington
was not for a moment deceived. Indeed, the idea that another assault
was impending was negatived by the fact that both Reynier’s and Ney’s
men were seen to be throwing up _abattis_ and digging trenches on the
flanks of the two roads on which they lay. These could only be meant
for defensive use, and presumably must be intended to help the French
rearguard to hold the ridges, if the Anglo-Portuguese army should
descend upon them. Late in the afternoon officers furnished with good
telescopes, and stationed on the highest point of the Bussaco Serra,
reported that they could detect columns in movement from the French
rear in the direction of the north-west. These were Sainte-Croix’s
cavalry and the baggage-trains of Ney and Junot making their way to
the rear, in order to get into the Mortagoa-Boialvo road. At six
o’clock, dusk having still not come on, it was reported that Ney’s
infantry reserves were certainly moving in the same direction. Only
Loison’s division was still immovable on its old position opposite
Sula. At nightfall, therefore, the movement of the French was well
ascertained. It might mean merely a general retreat on Mortagoa and
an abandonment of the campaign[443], but this was most unlikely. Far
more probable was some march to turn the allied flank by the passes
of the Serra de Caramula. Wellington himself had no doubt whatever
that this was the enemy’s intention. As the dusk fell he stood for
some time on the summit of the Serra, watching the French columns
receding in the distance. He then rode back to his head quarters at
the convent of Bussaco, and dictated without delay a series of orders
which set his whole army in retreat for Coimbra and Lisbon. Before
daylight the position was deserted, only a rearguard being left on
it. He does not seem to have thought for a moment of attacking, on
the following morning, the 2nd Corps and Loison’s division, which
had been left in his front, nor of directing his right wing to
march on Sardão, which it could have reached long before the French
arrived there. Each of these courses was so obvious that critics have
lavished blame upon him for not adopting the one or the other[444].

  [442] The firing commenced soon after 12 noon. See Tomkinson, p.
  44.

  [443] This was imagined to be the case by some observers, who
  overrated Masséna’s loss, and thought he had 10,000 casualties on
  the 27th.

  [444] See, for example, Fririon, pp. 55-6, Toreno, ii. 164.
  Thiers, and even Napier, iii. 32-3.

The explanation of his conduct is neither that he failed to see the
two alternatives which were in his power, nor that he showed (as
several French writers maintain) an excessive timidity. Still less is
it possible to urge, as some have done, that he was ruined by his own
neglect to occupy the Boialvo road. He knew of that pass, had taken
it into consideration, and in one of his dispatches speaks vaguely
of a means which he was hoping to discover to render it useless to
the enemy[445]. This remedy cannot mean, as some have supposed, the
moving thither of Trant’s corps of Portuguese militia. It is true
that Wellington had ordered this force to occupy Sardão some days
before. But it was neither large enough, nor composed of troops solid
enough, to resist, even in a strong position, the attack of a single
French brigade. Some other device must have been meant, though we
cannot determine what it may have been. The true key to Wellington’s
action is to remember the immense pains that he had taken in building
the Lines of Torres Vedras, and the elaborate arrangements that
had been made during the last few weeks to complete the system for
devastating Portugal in front of the enemy. It was by these means,
and not by fights in the open, that he had from the first designed
to defeat the invader. Bussaco had been an ‘uncovenanted mercy’: if
Masséna chose to run his head against that stone wall, it was worth
while to man it, and to permit him to break himself against its
granite boulders. But such an operation as descending into the plain
to attack the 2nd Corps on the 29th, or offering battle in front of
Sardão on that same day, was not within the scope of Wellington’s
intentions. If he had wished to engage in that sort of fighting,
he had already had ample opportunities to attack sections of the
French army during the last two months. But to get engaged with one
corps in a rolling upland, and then to have the other two converging
on him while the fight was in progress, he had never intended--nor
would he do so now. He gave his orders for the retreat of the army
on Coimbra actually before the French had possession of their own
end of the Boialvo pass, and at a moment when a single night march
would have sufficed to place Cole, Craufurd, and Spencer across the
western end of it, with ample time to choose a position before the
enemy could arrive in front. He explains his refusal to do so in his
‘Memorandum of Operations in 1810’ in the following terms: ‘It would
have been impossible to detach a corps from the army to occupy the
Serra de Caramula after the action of the 27th. That corps might have
been hard pressed and obliged to retreat, in which case it must have
retreated upon Sardão and the north of Portugal. It could not have
rejoined the army, and its services would have been wanting in the
fortified position in front of Lisbon. It was therefore determined
to rely upon Colonel Trant alone to occupy the Serra de Caramula,
as his line of operations and retreat was to the northward. Nothing
could have been done, except by detaching a large corps, to prevent
the French from throwing a large force across the Caramula. When,
therefore, they took that road, there was nothing for it but to
withdraw from Bussaco. And, after quitting Bussaco, there was no
position that we could take up with advantage, in which we could
be certain that we could prevent the enemy from getting to Lisbon
before us, till we reached the fortified positions in front of that
place[446].’ As to the other possibility, that of attacking the
French rearguard below Bussaco instead of endeavouring to stop its
vanguard at Sardão, Wellington only observes that ‘they had at least
12,000 or 14,000 more men than we had, and good as our position was,
theirs was equally good.’ If he had fallen upon Reynier, the latter
(he thought) could have detained him long enough to allow Ney and
Junot to return, and so he would have found himself committed to an
offensive action against superior numbers on unfavourable ground.

  [445] _Dispatches_, vi. 460. Had he proposed to blast away
  sections, so as to make it impassable for wheel traffic, as he
  did with the Estrada Nova?

  [446] _Dispatches_, vii. pp. 306-7.

These arguments are unanswerable when we consider Wellington’s
position. He _might_ have succeeded in checking Masséna at Boialvo
or Sardão; but, if he did not, ruin would ensue, since he might be
cut off from the detached corps, and then would not have men enough
to hold the Lines of Torres Vedras. He _might_ have crushed Reynier
before he was succoured, but if he failed to do so, and became
involved in a general action, a disastrous defeat was possible. In
short, considering what failure would mean--the loss of Lisbon,
the re-embarkation of the army, probably the end of the Peninsular
War--he rightly hesitated to take any risk whatever. At the same
time, we may suspect that if the allied army of 1810 had been the
army of 1813, Wellington might very possibly have played a more
enterprising game. But the Portuguese still formed the larger half of
his force, and though he had ascertained by their behaviour on the
27th that they were now capable of fighting steadily in a defensive
action on favourable ground, it was nevertheless very doubtful
whether he could dare to risk them in a battle fought under different
conditions. One cheering example of the courage and discipline of
these newly organized regiments did not justify him in taking it for
granted that they could be trusted under all possible conditions, as
if they were veteran British troops.

On the dawn of Sept. 29, therefore, the two armies were marching
away from each other. On the Bussaco position there remained only
Craufurd’s Light Division, strengthened by Anson’s cavalry brigade,
which was brought up behind the Serra, to form the mounted section
of the force which was for the next ten days to act as the rearguard
of the allied army. Opposite them only Reynier remained, and he had
drawn far back on to the Mortagoa road, where he stood in a defensive
position in the morning, but retired, brigade after brigade, in the
afternoon. The main body of Wellington’s army was retiring in two
columns: Hill, and Hamilton’s Portuguese division crossed the fords
of Peña Cova and marched for Espinhal and Thomar. The force which
had been left far out on the right behind the Alva--Fane’s cavalry
and Lecor’s Portuguese militia--joined Hill and accompanied him to
Lisbon. This column was absolutely unmolested by the enemy during
the whole twelve days of the retreat to the Lines. The French did
not so much as follow it with a cavalry patrol. The other and larger
column, formed of Spencer, Cole, Leith, and Picton, with Pack’s,
Coleman’s, and Alex. Campbell’s Portuguese, marched for Mealhada and
Coimbra. Craufurd and Anson started twelve hours later to bring up
the rear. During the hours while the Light Division was waiting its
orders to start, some of its officers explored the evacuated French
position, and found parked in an enclosure 400 desperately wounded
soldiers, whom Masséna had abandoned to the mercy of the Portuguese
peasantry. He had used up all available carts and mules to carry his
wounded, but had been forced to leave the worst cases behind. They
were picked up and moved into the convent of Bussaco[447]; on what
became of them afterwards it is well not to speculate. No friendly
column came that way again[448], and the Ordenança were daily growing
more exasperated at the conduct of the invading army. The French were
not only carrying out in an intermittent fashion Masséna’s edict of
Sept. 4, directing that all men with arms but without uniforms were
to be shot at sight, but burning every village that they passed, and
murdering nearly every peasant that they could hunt down, whether he
was bearing arms or no[449].

  [447] See Tomkinson, p. 44, and von Linsingen’s Diary, in
  Beamish, i. 292. Fririon and the other French narratives speak of
  the difficulties of transporting the wounded, but do not mention
  that any were abandoned.

  [448] Unless some of Reynier’s rearguard cavalry may have looked
  in at Bussaco on the 30th, when Craufurd had gone. This is
  possible. Trant’s Portuguese were back in the place on Oct. 4.

  [449] This seems proved by the ‘Table of Damages committed by the
  French Army in 1810-11,’ published by the Coimbra authorities
  in 1812, which gives the number of houses burnt and persons
  killed in each rural-deanery (arcyprestado) of the bishopric
  of Coimbra. Omitting the rural-deaneries south of the Mondego,
  where the damages were mainly done during the retreat of the
  French in March 1811, and taking only those north of the river,
  where no hostile column appeared after October 1810--the district
  having been protected by Trant and Wilson during Masséna’s return
  march,--we find the following statistics:--

  Deanery of Mortagoa     108 murders  19 villages and 47 isolated
                                            houses burnt.
      ”      Oliveirinha  102    ”    100 houses burnt.
      ”      Arazede       99    ”    124      ”
      ”      Coimbra city  14    ”      7      ”

  The figures for the deaneries south of Mondego (Soure, Arganil,
  Redinha, Miranda do Corvo, Sinde, Cea) are enormously higher. See
  Soriano da Luz, iii. 203.

Meanwhile, on the 29th and 30th of September, the French army
was executing its flank march, practically unopposed, though not
unobserved. Sainte-Croix’s division of dragoons was at the head of
the line of march: then came the infantry of the 8th Corps, which
had been put in the vanguard because it had not suffered at Bussaco.
Next came the reserve cavalry of Montbrun, followed by the Grand
Park and the massed baggage of the 6th and 8th Corps, mixed with a
convoy of over 3,000 wounded. Ney’s troops brought up the rear of
the main column. Reynier was a day’s march to the rear; having spent
the 29th opposite the Bussaco heights, he only reached Mortagoa that
evening. Sainte-Croix’s cavalry on this same day had passed the
watershed and reached Avellans de Cima, where they met a patrol of
De Grey’s dragoons, who had sent parties out in all directions, from
their head quarters at Mealhada in the coast-plain. From this time
onward the French advanced guard was watched by the four regiments
of Slade and De Grey, who were directed to hold back its exploring
cavalry, and not to permit it to reach Coimbra an hour sooner than
could be helped. There was also a clash on the afternoon of the 30th
between part of Sainte-Croix’s dragoons and the Portuguese militia
of Trant in front of Sardão. Trant had been ordered to be at that
place on September 27: he only arrived there on the afternoon of
the 28th, not by his own fault, but because his superior officer
Baccelar, commanding the whole militia of the North, had ordered him
to move from Lamego to Sardão by the circuitous road along the Douro,
and then from Feira southward, instead of taking the straight road
across, the mountains north of Vizeu, where he might possibly have
been stopped by some outlying French detachment. Trant had at the
moment only a squadron of dragoons and four militia regiments with
him (Porto, Penafiel, Coimbra, and a battalion of light companies),
and these, from hard marching, and from desertion, were in all less
than 3,000 strong. Knowing that he was expected to hold the debouch
of the Boialvo road against anything short of a strong force, Trant
made an attempt to stand his ground. But his vanguard bolted at
the first shot fired, and with the rest he had to make a hurried
retreat beyond the Vouga, leaving the road free to the French[450].
Sainte-Croix had already pushed in between him and the British
cavalry, who now began to make a slow retreat towards Mealhada. At
that place, early on the 30th, Slade and De Grey were joined by
Anson’s eight squadrons, who had come in at the tail of Craufurd’s
division after the rearguard evacuated the Bussaco position. On
this day the main column of the British infantry marched through
Coimbra, leaving the Light Division alone in the city. Wellington’s
head quarters that night were at Condeixa six miles south of the
Mondego. The three cavalry brigades retired, bickering with the
French advanced guard all day, as far as Fornos, eight miles north of
Coimbra. Masséna’s infantry, after emerging from the Boialvo pass,
were now pushing south, and bivouacked on the night of the 30th,
Ney and Junot’s corps at Mealhada, Reynier’s at Barreiro, ten miles
behind the others. The biscuit which the French army had taken with
it from Almeida was now almost exhausted, and it was a great relief
to the troops to find, in the deserted villages of the plain of
Coimbra, considerable quantities of maize and rice, with which they
could eke out or replace the carefully hoarded rations.

  [450] I cannot resist quoting here Trant’s account of the
  engagement. He was a man of quaint humour, and the all too few
  letters from him to General J. Wilson, which have come into my
  hands by the courtesy of Wilson’s representative, Captain Bertram
  Chambers, R.N., inspire me with regret that I have not his whole
  correspondence. ‘I have once more been putting my fellows to a
  trial--my Caçadore battalion did not do as it ought, and had
  about thirty killed, wounded, and prisoners, without making
  scarcely any resistance--a pleasant business. On the 30th I was
  still at Agueda (Sardão and Agueda are one village, properly
  speaking, but divided by a bridge), though I was aware that
  the French principal force of cavalry was at Boyalva, only a
  league from Agueda, and I was completely cut off from the army.
  On that morning I had withdrawn the infantry to the Vouga, but
  placed my dragoons close to Agueda to observe the French, with
  the Caçadores at a half-way distance to support them. I put
  them in the most advantageous possible position, protected by a
  close pine wood, through which the French cavalry must pass. I
  had been from three in the morning till one o’clock, making my
  arrangements, and had just sat down to eat something, in a small
  village on the left of the Vouga, when a dragoon came flying to
  inform me that the French were coming on with two columns of
  cavalry in full speed. My coffee was not ready, and remained for
  the French to amuse themselves with. I had only time to get the
  Penafiel regiment over the bridge when the French arrived--five
  minutes sooner and I had been nabbed! I drew up in a good
  position, but the French did not cross the Vouga, and I returned
  to Oliveira without molestation--but not without a damned false
  alarm and panic on the part of the dragoons who were covering my
  rear. They galloped through the infantry, and carried confusion
  and all the comforts of hell to Oporto! Lieutenant-Colonel
  ‘Bravoure Bombasto,’ who commanded the Caçadores, ordered his men
  to fire, but thought that enough for his honour, as he instantly
  left them to shift for themselves, and never looked behind till
  he reached Oporto. I put this fellow, with four of the leading
  dragoons, into the common dungeon of this place, and am about
  to inflict some divisional punishment, for I daren’t report
  such conduct to the Marshal (Beresford), who does not punish by
  halves! My regiments of infantry--this is the brighter side of
  the picture--showed no agitation, notwithstanding the attack
  on their nerves. The enemy’s force, I now ascertain, was 800
  cavalry, two pieces, and two infantry regiments. The cavalry
  alone would have done my business if they had crossed the Vouga!
  But they contented themselves with driving in the dragoons and
  the Caçadore battalion from Agueda. God bless you. N.T.’

Meanwhile the city of Coimbra was full of distressing scenes. Though
Wellington had ordered the whole population of Western Beira to
leave their abodes as soon as the French reached Vizeu, yet only
the richest of the inhabitants of Coimbra had departed. The bulk
had still held to their houses, and the news of the victory of
Bussaco had encouraged them to hope that no evacuation would be
necessary. The Portuguese government, though it had consented to
carry out Wellington’s scheme of devastation, and had duly published
proclamations commanding its execution, had taken no great pains to
secure obedience to it. The sacrifice, indeed, that was demanded
of the citizens of a wealthy town such as Coimbra was a very great
one--far more bitter than that imposed on the peasantry, who were
told at the same moment to evacuate their flimsy cottages. It was
bitterly resented, and, despite of the proclamation, four-fifths
of the 40,000 inhabitants of Coimbra were still in their houses
when, on the night of the 28th-29th, arrived Wellington’s dispatch
stating that he was abandoning Bussaco, that the French would be in
the city by the 30th or on the 1st of October, and that force would
be used, if necessary, to expel people who still clung to their
dwellings. During the next two days the whole of the population of
Coimbra was streaming out of the place by the roads to the south, or
dropping down the Mondego in boats, to ship themselves for Lisbon
at the little port of Figueira. Even on the 1st of October, the day
when the French were reputed to be facing Fornos, only eight miles
away, all had not yet departed. Many of the poor, the infirm, and
the reckless remained behind to the last possible moment, and only
started when the distant cannonade on the northern side showed that
the British outposts were being driven in. Twenty miles of road were
covered by the dense column of fugitives, headed by those who had
started on the 29th and brought up behind by those who had waited
till the last moment. There was a great want of wheeled conveyances:
the richer folks had gone off with most of them, and others had been
requisitioned for the allied wounded. Hence, many could take off
nothing but what they could carry on their persons. An eye-witness
writes that he saw the whole _chaussée_ covered with respectable
families walking on foot with bundles on their heads, while in the
abandoned houses he noticed food of all sorts, table-linen, shirts,
and all manner of other property, which was left behind in disorder
because it was too heavy to be carried[451]. Another tells how ‘the
old and the infirm, no less than the young and robust, carrying with
them all their more valuable effects, covered the fields as well
as the road in every direction, and from time to time the weary
fugitives, unable to carry further the heavier articles that they
had endeavoured to save, dropped them by the wayside and struggled
onward, bereft of the remnant of their little property[452].’
Fortunately the weather for the first eight days after the evacuation
of Coimbra was warm and dry, so that the unhappy multitude had almost
reached Lisbon before they began to suffer any inconvenience from the
October rains.

  [451] Tomkinson, p. 47.

  [452] Lord Londonderry, ii. p. 12.

While this exodus was going on, Craufurd’s Light Division stood
under arms on the northern side of the city, while the six regiments
of British horse, in the extreme rearguard, were bickering with
Masséna’s squadrons in the plain toward Fornos. On this day the
Marshal had strengthened his van with almost the whole of his
cavalry, having added to Sainte-Croix’s division, which had hitherto
formed the advance, most of Montbrun’s reserve of dragoons, and
Lamotte’s light brigade from the 6th Corps. This body of thirty-four
squadrons was altogether too strong for Stapleton Cotton’s three
brigades, who had to give way whenever they were seriously pressed.
Two miles outside Coimbra the British horse was divided into two
columns: De Grey’s heavy dragoons crossed the Mondego at a ford
opposite Pereira, Slade and Anson’s light dragoons and hussars by
another at Alciada, nearer to the city. At the same moment the Light
Division, when the enemy’s horse came in sight, retired through
Coimbra, crossed the bridge, and pressed up the ascent towards
Condeixa, thrusting before them the rearguard of belated fugitives
who had only made up their minds to depart at the last possible
moment. It is said that the block in front of them was so great that
Craufurd’s regiments would have been in a situation of some danger,
if they had been closely followed by French infantry, and forced to
turn back to defend themselves. But nothing more than a troop of
dragoons watched their passage of the bridge and their retreat to
Condeixa, and not a shot had to be fired.

It was otherwise with the cavalry column composed of Slade’s and
Anson’s brigades: they were closely followed by the bulk of the
French cavalry, and had to turn at the ford to hold back their eager
pursuers. Two squadrons of the German Hussars and one of the 16th
Light Dragoons charged in succession to check the French vanguard,
while a fire was kept up by a line of dismounted skirmishers all
along the river bank. The hussars lost four men killed, and two
officers and thirteen men wounded, besides six prisoners; the
16th, two wounded and one missing in this skirmish. It could have
been avoided, according to critics on the spot, if the brigade had
retreated a little faster in the previous stage of its movement. But
Stapleton Cotton, forgetting the dangers of crossing such a defile
as a narrow ford, had been rather too leisurely in covering the
last three miles, considering that the French were so close behind
him[453]. The enemy’s loss was insignificant[454].

  [453] See Beamish’s _History of the King’s German Legion_, i.
  293-4, and Tomkinson, p. 46.

  [454] De Grey’s brigade, though it had no regular fighting, lost
  five prisoners and one trooper wounded in this same retreat. The
  total loss of the cavalry that day was thirty-four men.

That night the British rearguard lay at Soure and Condeixa, while
head quarters and the rear of the main army were at Redinha. The
French did not cross the Mondego with more than a few cavalry
patrols, and made no attempt to incommode the retreating column.
Indeed they were otherwise employed. The entry of an army into a
deserted town is always accompanied by disorders: that of the army of
Masséna into Coimbra was an exaggerated example of the rule--and for
good reasons. The men had been living on bare rations for a month,
and suddenly they found themselves in a town of 40,000 souls, where
every door was open, every larder garnished, and every cellar full.
The very quays were littered with sacks of flour torn open, and
puncheons of rum stove in, for Wellington’s commissariat officers
had been to the last moment engaged in breaking up and casting into
the river the remains of the magazine which had been feeding the
army at Bussaco. The houses on every side were full of valuable
goods, for most of the inhabitants had only been able to carry off
their money and plate, and had left all else behind them. The first
division of the 8th Corps, the earliest French troops to enter the
place, consisted almost entirely of newly-formed fourth battalions,
composed of conscripts, and ill disciplined. They broke their ranks
and fell to plunder, only half-restrained by their officers, many
of whom joined in the sport. A late comer from the artillery says
that he saw one officer breaking open a door with a pickaxe, and
another placing a sentry at the door of a shop which he wished to
reserve for his own personal pillage[455]. There was wide-spread
drunkenness, some arson, and an enormous amount of mischievous and
wanton waste. It was afterwards said that Junot’s corps destroyed in
twelve hours an amount of food that would have sufficed to supply the
whole army for three weeks. It is at any rate certain that Coimbra
was full of provisions when the French arrived, and that, when order
was tardily restored, only a few days’ consumption could be scraped
together to fill the empty waggons before the host marched on.
Masséna raged against Junot for not having kept his men in hand, yet,
if Portuguese narratives are to be trusted, he set as bad an example
as any disorderly conscript, since he requisitioned for himself out
of the University buildings all the telescopes and mathematical
instruments, and distributed them among his staff[456]. The pillage
was as wanton and objectless as it was thorough; the tombs of the
kings in the church of Santa Cruz were broken open, the University
Museum and laboratories wrecked, and all the churches wantonly
damaged and desecrated. There was no attempt to restore order, or to
utilize the captured property for the general good of the army, till
the 6th Corps marched in on the next day. Even these later comers,
however, could not be restrained from joining in the plunder. The mob
of soldiers threatened to shoot the commissary-generals Lambert and
Laneuville, when they began to put guards over the nearly-emptied
storehouses.

  [455] Colonel Noël’s _Souvenirs Militaires_, pp. 120-1.

  [456] The authority for this statement is the Portuguese renegade
  General Pamplona, who served on the Marshal’s staff. See p. 155
  of his _Aperçu sur les campagnes des Français en Portugal_.
  Pamplona adds that Ney refused to take the present of a large
  telescope, which Masséna sent him as a propitiatory gift. A less
  certain authority says that the Marshal caught in the street a
  plunderer with a barrel of butter, and another with a chest of
  wax candles, and let them off punishment on condition that they
  took them to his own quarters! Soriano da Luz, iii. p. 198.

The state of his army on the 1st and 2nd October sufficiently
explains the conduct of Masséna in refraining from the pursuit of
Wellington’s rearguard. But he was also somewhat puzzled to determine
the policy which he must now adopt. Down to the last moment he
had thought that Wellington would have fought at Fornos, or some
other such position, to defend Coimbra. And even when Coimbra was
evacuated, he had imagined that he might find the enemy drawn up
to dispute the passage of the Mondego. But it was now clear that
Wellington was in full retreat for Lisbon. Since the Marshal was
still ignorant of the existence of the lines of Torres Vedras, which
was only revealed to him four days later, he was somewhat uncertain
how to interpret the conduct of his adversary. After the vigorous
stand that Wellington had made at Bussaco, it seemed dangerous to
argue that he must now be in headlong flight for his ships, and
about to evacuate Portugal. Yet the rapidity of his retreat seemed
to argue some such purpose. Ought he, therefore, to be pursued
without a moment’s delay, in order that his embarkation might be
made difficult? This course, it is said, was advocated by Reynier,
Montbrun, Fririon, and the Portuguese renegade d’Alorna. On the other
hand, Ney and Junot both advised a stay at Coimbra, to rest the army,
collect provisions, and, what was most important of all, to reopen
communications with Almeida, Ciudad Rodrigo, and the 9th Corps, which
was now due on the Spanish frontier. They pointed to the diminished
strength of the army, which, having lost 4,600 men at Bussaco, and
4,000 more by the hard marching and poor feeding of the last month,
was now reduced to some 57,000 men. The fighting-power of Wellington
was formidable, as he had shown at Bussaco, where many of the French
officers persisted in believing that he had shown numbers superior
to their own--in which they erred. A hasty advance, it was urged,
might bring the invaders in face of a second Bussaco, where there
was no chance of a turning movement. Would the commander-in-chief
wish to accept another battle of the same sort? It would be better to
establish a new base at Coimbra, to bring up the 9th Corps from the
rear, and only to move on when the army was thoroughly reorganized.
Meanwhile a detachment might demonstrate against Oporto, to distract
Wellington’s attention[457]. This was the policy that Napoleon,
two months after, declared that Masséna should have adopted. ‘Why,’
he asked, ‘did the Prince of Essling, after his failure at Bussaco,
pursue the march on Lisbon, instead of taking up a position on the
Mondego, and restoring his communications with Almeida? I had not
burdened him with orders or instructions, and he could see that the
English were not easy to beat.’ Masséna’s advocate, Foy, replied that
‘if the Army of Portugal had been halted on the Mondego, your Majesty
would have said to the Prince, Why did you not march on? The English
would have re-embarked, if they had been pressed.’ To which Napoleon,
with a broad smile, answered, ‘Very true; I probably should have said
so[458].’

  [457] Fririon, in his account of these debates (pp. 72-3),
  forgets that the existence of the Lines of Torres Vedras was
  still unknown both to Masséna and his subordinates. So does
  Delagrave (pp. 93-4). But Pelet, Masséna’s confidant, is positive
  that they were first heard of from prisoners taken at Pombal on
  Oct. 5, two days after the advance had recommenced.

  [458] Foy’s minutes of his conversation with the Emperor on Nov.
  22, sent by him to Masséna, in his letter of Dec. 4. See Appendix
  to Foy’s _Vie Militaire_ by Girod de L’Ain, p. 348.

The problem presented to the Marshal, indeed, was not an easy one. If
he remained at Coimbra, his enemies would delate him to the Emperor
for timidity; if he advanced, he might find that he had undertaken a
task too great for his strength. The personal equation settled the
difficulty: Masséna was obstinate and enterprising to the verge of
temerity. He resolved to go on, at the earliest possible moment, in
the hope of forcing Wellington to a battle on ground less favourable
than Bussaco, or of compelling him to embark without any general
engagement at all. Two days only were spent at Coimbra. On October 3,
Montbrun’s cavalry, after making a reconnaissance as far as the sea
and the port of Figueira, crossed the Mondego to Villa Nova de Ancos,
while the 8th Corps, headed by Sainte-Croix’s dragoons, occupied
Condeixa: one division of Ney’s corps followed them. The rest of the
6th Corps and Reynier made ready to resume their advance.

A minor problem remained to be resolved. Should a large garrison
be left in Coimbra, and a new base for the army established there?
The Marshal had shot into the convent of Santa Clara 3,000 Bussaco
wounded, and 1,000 sick men. There was an accumulation of waggons of
the corps-trains and the Grand Park, which could push on no further,
for want of draught beasts, and all manner of other impedimenta.
If the army went on at full speed, in the hope of overtaking the
English, all this must be left behind. But if left unguarded, wounded
and all might become the victims of Trant’s militia, which was known
to have retired no further than the Vouga, or even of the Ordenança
of the hills. A strong garrison must be placed in Coimbra to make it
safe: rumour had it on October 2 that Taupin’s brigade and a regiment
of dragoons were to be set to guard the city[459]. But rumour was
wrong: Masséna, after some doubting, made up his mind that he could
not spare even 3,000 men. Every bayonet would be wanted if Wellington
once more turned to bay. Accordingly he took the extraordinary
step of telling off only a single company, 156 men, of the 44th
_Équipage de la Marine_--a naval unit which had been given him in
order that he might have a nucleus of sea-going people, in case he
succeeded in seizing the Portuguese arsenal at Lisbon. One would
have thought that such men would have been so valuable, if only the
enterprise had succeeded, that he would have chosen rather a company
of ordinary infantry. These sailors, with two or three hundred
footsore or convalescent men, organized into a couple of provisional
companies, were all that the Marshal placed at the disposition of
Major Flandrin, to whom he gave the high-sounding title of Governor
of Coimbra. That officer was told that every day would increase
his force, as more convalescents came out of hospital, and 3,500
muskets, belonging to the sick and wounded, were left with him. The
whole mass of disabled men was concentrated in the convent of Santa
Clara, a vast building outside the trans-pontine suburb of Coimbra,
on the south side of the Mondego. The garrison was so weak that it
could do no more than keep a guard at each of the exits of the town,
which was destitute of walls, with a post of thirty men, all that
could be spared, at Fornos, on the great north road facing Oporto.
To abandon his wounded to almost certain destruction was a reckless
act on the Marshal’s part: probably he said to himself that if he
could but catch and beat the Anglo-Portuguese army, a small disaster
in his rear would be forgiven him. Unlike Wellington, he was ‘taking
risks’[460].

  [459] So Guingret, of the 6th Corps, who mentions that his
  own regiment received notice that no garrison was to be left,
  only just in time to enable it to pick up its slightly wounded
  and footsore men, who would otherwise have remained behind.
  (_Memoirs_, p. 79.)

  [460] The best summing up of the Marshal’s resolve may be found
  in Foy’s minute presented to Napoleon on Nov. 22: ‘Le prince n’a
  pas pu se résoudre à faire un fort détachement lorsqu’il devait
  livrer sous peu de jours une bataille décisive à une armée déjà
  victorieuse et deux fois plus nombreuse[!] que la notre. Les
  dangers que couraient ses malades ont affligé son cœur, mais il a
  pensé que la crainte de perdre l’hôpital ne devait pas arrêter la
  campagne.’ (Foy’s _Vie Militaire_, Appendix, p. 348.)

On October 4 the French army made its regular start from Coimbra;
the 6th Corps came out to Villa Pouca and Condeixa on the Pombal
road, the 2nd Corps to Venda do Cego on the Ancião road, which runs
parallel with the other, ten miles to the east, and joins it at
Leiria. Montbrun’s cavalry pushed in from Soure, to place itself in
front of the 8th Corps, which now moved on from Condeixa as the head
of the main infantry column. Its scouts that evening bickered in
front of Pombal with Anson’s light cavalry, which was covering the
retreat of the allied army. The two days which the French had spent
in plundering Coimbra had allowed the Anglo-Portuguese infantry to
get a start which they never lost: they never saw the enemy again
during the rest of the retreat. That night Wellington’s head quarters
were at Leiria, while Hill, unpursued by any hostile force, was at
Thomar. For the next six days the British pursued a leisurely course
towards the Lines, along the three roads Thomar-Santarem-Villafranca,
which was taken by Hill; Alcobaça-Caldas-Torres Vedras, which was
taken by Picton; and Leiria-Batalha-Alemquer, which was taken
by Spencer, Leith, and Cole. It was along the last-named, the
central, road, that Craufurd’s infantry and the three cavalry
brigades followed the main body, at the distance of a day’s march.
Anson’s light cavalry brought up the extreme rear, and was almost
the only unit which saw the enemy between the 4th and the 10th of
October[461]. The rest of the allied army had completely outmarched
Masséna. Its retreat was marked by some disorders: the sight of rich
monasteries like Alcobaça and Batalha, and large towns, like Thomar
and Leiria, standing empty, yet left full of all such property as
the inmates could not easily carry off, proved as tempting to the
British as the sight of Coimbra had been to the French. There was
much drunkenness, much looting, and some wanton mischief. Wellington
set himself to repress it by the strong hand. He hung at Leiria
two troopers of the 4th Dragoon Guards, who were caught plundering
a chapel, and a man of the 11th Portuguese infantry. Some of the
regiments which were found specially addicted to pillage were ordered
to bivouac in the open fields every night, and never to be quartered
in a village[462].

  [461] Though Slade’s brigade had the rearguard on the 7th, and
  was engaged on the 8th also, Anson’s only was in touch with the
  French on the 4th-6th, and again on the 9th-10th.

  [462] This was the case with Picton’s division, despite its
  splendid services and heavy loss at Bussaco, only ten days back.
  Leith’s British brigade and the Lusitanian Legion are also
  specially upbraided for straggling. See _General Orders_ for
  1810, pp. 173-4.

Anson’s brigade, alone among the allied troops, had an adventurous
career during the retreat to the Lines. It was always in touch with
a pursuing force of immense strength, for Masséna had constituted a
flying vanguard under Montbrun, whose orders were to push the enemy
at all costs, and to try to come up with his infantry. This force
consisted of Sainte-Croix’s dragoons, Pierre Soult’s cavalry from
the 2nd Corps, Lamotte’s from the 6th Corps, one brigade (Ornano’s)
of the Reserve Cavalry, and Taupin’s infantry from the 8th Corps.
Lamotte’s light horse had the place of honour, and endured most of
the hard knocks. They had lively skirmishing with Anson’s 1st German
Hussars and 16th Light Dragoons between Pombal and Leiria on the
5th October. The British brigade turned back twice, and drove their
pursuers back on to Taupin’s infantry, but always suffered when it
had to resume its inevitable retreat. The French lost eight killed,
seventeen wounded (including five officers) and twenty prisoners--the
British fifty in all, including two officers wounded, and one taken.
This combat would not have been worth mentioning, but for the fact
that it was from prisoners captured in it that Masséna got his first
news of the existence of the Lines of Torres Vedras. Some of the
troopers spoke freely of ‘the Lines’ as their point of destination,
not guessing that this was the first time that their captors had
heard of them. Hence the French generals learned that there were
now fortifications in front of Lisbon: but they had, of course, no
knowledge of their extent or character, and only expected to find
some field-works on which Wellington would turn to bay. In fact,
Masséna was encouraged by the news, thinking that he was now certain
of the battle which he desired.

On the 7th October the French infantry was all concentrated at
Leiria, Reynier’s corps having now rejoined the other two. Montbrun’s
cavalry spread out so far as Alcobaça--whose monastery it sacked--on
the coast-road, and Muliano on the central road. Vedettes were sent
out on the cross-road to Thomar also, but could find no trace of an
enemy in that direction. On the night that followed Masséna received
the disquieting intelligence that his deliberate taking of risks with
regard to Coimbra had already been punished. A mounted officer, who
had escaped, brought him news that his hospitals and their guard had
been captured at a single blow by Trant’s militia that same afternoon.

That enterprising partisan, it will be remembered, had been driven
behind the Vouga by Sainte-Croix’s dragoons on September 30th. Since,
however, none of the French turned aside to molest him, and all
marched across his front on the Coimbra road, he was not forced to
retire any further. And having his orders from Wellington to follow
the enemy with caution, and pick up his stragglers and marauders, he
came southward again when Masséna’s rearguard entered Coimbra. He
had advanced to Mealhada when it was reported to him, on the 6th,
that the rearguard of the French had left the city on the preceding
day. A few people who had returned from the mountains to their homes,
despite Wellington’s proclamation, sent him assurances that the
numbers of the garrison were absolutely insignificant, and that of
the wounded enormous. Judging rightly that it would have a splendid
moral effect to capture Masséna’s hospitals, and the commencement of
a base-magazine which was being formed at Coimbra, Trant resolved to
strike at once. If he had waited a little he could have got help from
J. Wilson and from Miller, who had descended into the Celorico-Vizeu
country, each with his brigade. They had been directed by Wellington
to cut the French communications with Almeida, and had already
carried out their orders.

But Trant dreaded delay, thinking that Masséna might send back troops
to Coimbra, when he found that Wellington was retiring as far as
Lisbon. Without waiting for his colleagues, he marched at midday from
Mealhada to Fornos on the 7th, and had the good fortune to surprise
and capture the insignificant French post at that village: not a man
escaped. He was now only eight miles from Coimbra, and was able to
rush down into the city in the early afternoon before his arrival
was known. He had with him one weak squadron of regular dragoons,
and six militia battalions, having been joined since September 29th
by all his stragglers and some outlying units. The whole made about
4,000 men[463]. Formed in two columns, they charged into Coimbra by
its two northern entrances, sweeping away the small French guards at
the gates. The squadron of cavalry then galloped along the street
parallel with the river, and seized the bridge, thus cutting off the
communication between the French in the town and those at the convent
of Santa Clara, where the wounded lay. The small grand-guard, which
the enemy kept inside the place, took refuge in the bishop’s palace,
but was forced to lay down its arms at the end of an hour. The men
at the convent, joined by many of the convalescents, kept up a fire
for a short time, but surrendered at discretion, on Trant’s promise
to protect them from the fury of his troops. He was, unfortunately,
not entirely able to redeem his promise: the Coimbra local regiment
was so enraged at the state in which it found its native town that
it mishandled some of the prisoners--eight are said to have been
slain[464]. The total loss of the Portuguese division was three
killed and one officer and twenty-five men wounded.

  [463] The brigade was not complete, the Feira battalion
  having--somehow or other--got to Lisbon. But Porto, Penafiel,
  Coimbra, Aveiro, Maia, and a combined battalion of light
  companies were apparently present.

  [464] See Trant’s dispatch to Beresford in Soriano da Luz, vii,
  Appendix, p. 221.

Wilson and Miller came up next day, and sweeping the roads towards
Condeixa and Pombal, picked up 300 more stragglers and marauders from
the tail of Masséna’s marching column. Trant handed over Coimbra to
them, and escorted his prisoners to Oporto with his own division:
there were 3,507 sick and wounded, of whom half could march, while
the rest were taken off in carts. Of able-bodied men not more than
400 soldiers were taken: but some hundreds of commissariat and
hospital employés and men of the train brought up the total figures
of the prisoners to 4,500 men. Trant has been accused by some French
writers[465] of deliberately exposing his captives to the fury of the
peasantry, and parading the wounded in an indecent fashion through
the streets of Oporto. But the handsome testimonial to his humanity
signed by a committee of French officers, which Napier prints in the
Appendix no. 5 to his third volume, is enough to prove that Trant
did his best for his prisoners, and that the unfortunate incident
which occurred just after the surrender must not be laid to his
account[466].

  [465] As for example Delagrave, p. 197, and Fririon, p. 75.

  [466] Trant delivered nearly 400 British and Portuguese wounded,
  whom Wellington had been obliged to leave behind at Coimbra, as
  non-transportable.

Masséna’s army received the news of the fall of Coimbra with
indignation. It produced a painful impression on every mind; and
while the rank and file murmured at the Marshal’s cruelty in
abandoning their comrades to death--for it was falsely reported that
the Portuguese had massacred them all--the officers blamed his blind
improvidence, and observed that a brigade might well have been spared
to protect not only the hospitals but the invaluable base-dépôt
behind them[467].

  [467] Sprünglin writes, under Oct. 7, in his Diary: ‘Lorsque le
  sort des malheureux abandonnés à Coimbre fut connu dans l’armée,
  on murmura hautement contre le Prince d’Essling. On qualifia
  de coupable entêtement et de barbarie sa conduite à Busaco et
  l’abandon des blessés à Coimbre. Il faut avouer que le maréchal
  Ney, le général Reynier et le duc d’Abrantes ne firent rien pour
  faire cesser ces murmures. Dès lors l’armée perdit de sa force,
  parce que le général-en-chef n’avait plus la confiance de ses
  soldats.’ Cf. Guingret, p. 79.

There was heavy skirmishing between the British rearguard cavalry and
Montbrun’s advance, both on the 8th and 9th of October. On the first
of these days the horse-artillery troop attached to Anson’s brigade
was, by some extraordinary mistake, left encamped out in front of
the squadrons which were told off as its escort, and was nearly
surprised in Alcoentre by an irruption of Sainte-Croix’s dragoons
in a storm of rain[468]. Somers Cocks’s squadron of the 16th Light
Dragoons charged just in time to save the guns, and to jam the head
of the enemy’s column, as it was crossing the bridge which leads into
the village. Alcoentre was held till dusk, when Taupin’s infantry
came up, and Anson’s brigade retired, having lost only one trooper
wounded, while the French had sixteen disabled or taken.

  [468] ‘Rather a new style of war, to place guns in a village and
  the troops protecting them a mile in the rear.’--Tomkinson, p. 51.

From this day onward, the weather, which had been fine and dry since
the army left Coimbra, broke up for the autumn rains, and the last
three days of the retreat to the Lines were spent in torrential
downpour. This had the advantage of delaying the French; for while
the British infantry, who were two days ahead of them, reached
their destined position on the 9th (with the exception of the Light
Division and Pack’s Portuguese), the enemy was marching on flooded
roads from the 8th to the 11th.

On the 9th there was continual bickering in the rain, from Quinta da
Torre as far as Alemquer, between Lamotte’s light cavalry brigade,
which had again replaced Sainte-Croix’s dragoons at the head of the
pursuing column, and Anson’s two much-enduring regiments. On this
day the 1st Hussars of the King’s German Legion had the thick of the
work: Linsingen’s squadron of that admirable regiment, which formed
the rear detachment of the whole army, turned back to charge no less
than four times in five miles, and always with success. At dusk the
French infantry got up, and the allied cavalry retired on to Alemquer
after a fatiguing day of fighting, in which the hussars had lost two
killed, two officers and nine men wounded, and seventeen missing; the
supporting regiment, the 16th Light Dragoons, had one killed, three
wounded, and four missing, and the Royals of Slade’s brigade, who
only got engaged in the late evening, one wounded and four missing.
Lamotte’s loss was a little more--six killed, twenty-two wounded, and
twenty-one prisoners[469]. Three of his officers were hurt, one taken.

  [469] Readers interested in cavalry work should read Beamish, i.
  298-301, and Tomkinson, 52-3, who have admirable accounts of this
  rearguard fighting.

On the next day (Oct. 10) the whole of the British cavalry marched
from Alemquer to within the Lines, distributing themselves to the
cantonments which had been arranged for them. But Craufurd’s and
Pack’s infantry, which had hitherto been completely covered by
the horsemen, did not follow their example with quite sufficient
promptitude, and got engaged in an unnecessary skirmish. The Light
Division should have withdrawn at noon, but Craufurd, believing the
French infantry to be still far away, and despising the cavalry
which hovered around him, remained in Alemquer, intending to spend
another night in a dry cantonment, for the torrential rain which
was falling promised a fatiguing march to his men. At four o’clock
Taupin’s infantry came up, and engaged the pickets of the Light
Division in a skirmish. Having been strictly forbidden by Wellington
to get entangled in a rearguard action, and remembering perhaps
his experience at the Coa, Craufurd tardily and unwillingly moved
off. But dusk coming on, his column missed its road, and instead
of retiring into the section of the Lines which it was destined
to occupy, between the Monte Agraça and the valley of Calandriz,
went too far to the west, and came in upon the position of the 1st
Division in front of Sobral. This would have been dangerous if the
French had had any infantry to the front, to take advantage of the
unoccupied gap in the lines. But Montbrun’s advanced guard had
pressed more than thirty miles in front of the main body of Masséna’s
army, and this force contained nothing but cavalry, save the single
brigade of Taupin--less than 3,000 men[470]. This force, such as it
was, did not pass Alemquer that night--Craufurd, in his retreat on
Sobral, was followed by cavalry alone. It was not till next morning,
when Montbrun sent out reconnaissances in all directions, that he
found himself in front of fortifications drawn across every road,
and gradually realized that he was in front of the famous ‘Lines of
Torres Vedras.’

  [470] For this reason the dismal picture of the situation drawn
  by Napier (iii. 38-9) must be considered exaggerated. The French
  main army was further off than he imagines; it had not passed
  Alcoentre. The cavalry could have done nothing against the
  heights, and Taupin’s brigade would have been crushed if it had
  endeavoured to enter the gap. But it never came within ten miles
  of the exposed point on the 10th and 11th, not having passed
  Alemquer. The Light Division diarists do not treat seriously the
  position which Napier paints in such gloomy colours. See Leach,
  p. 172, and Simmons, p. 111. The Light Division countermarched
  from Sobral to Arruda and reached their proper post long before
  midnight. There they picked up a detachment of 150 convalescents
  and recruits from Lisbon, who, had been waiting for them. Among
  these were Harry Smith and Simmons, who have accounts of the
  arrival of the division ‘after dark,’ and of its relief at
  finding large fires already lighted and provisions prepared by
  the draft.

It must not be supposed that Wellington’s final arrangements for
the reception of the army of Masséna in front of Lisbon were made
at leisure, or at a moment when he had nothing to distract him.
Though the actual retreat of his army from the position of Bussaco
to the position of Torres Vedras was conducted at an easy pace,
and practically unmolested by the enemy, yet the days during which
it was being carried out were a time of political, though not of
military, storm and stress. Ever since the French had started from
Almeida, and made their first advance into the mountains of Beira,
Wellington had been engaged in an endless and tiresome controversy
with the Portuguese Regency. Though they had assented, long before,
to the scheme for devastating the country-side and bringing Masséna
to a check only in front of Lisbon, yet when the actual invasion
began, and the first hordes of fugitives were reported to be leaving
their homes, and burning their crops, and taking to the mountains,
several of the members of the Regency became appalled at the awful
sacrifices which they were calling upon the nation to endure. The
Principal Sousa put himself at the head of the movement, and was
supported by the Patriarch, the Bishop of Oporto, so famous in 1808.
Sousa brought before the Regency proposals that Wellington should
be formally requested to try the chances of a pitched battle on
the frontier, before retiring on Coimbra or Lisbon. In addition,
he was always maintaining in private company that the people
should not be required to take in hand the scheme of devastation
and wholesale emigration, till it was certain the allied army was
unable to stop Masséna somewhere east of the Serra da Estrella.
He also laid before the Regency documents intended to prove that
the system of devastation was physically impossible, and that it
would prove incapable of stopping the advance of the French, owing
to the difficulty that would be found in persuading the peasantry
to destroy instead of hiding their stores of food[471]. There was
a certain modicum of truth in this last argument, and the French
did succeed in living for a longer time in the evacuated districts
than Wellington had considered possible. On the other hand, the
Principal was hopelessly wrong in his contention that the French
would suffer little inconvenience. They were starved out of Portugal
by Wellington’s device, even though it took longer to work out
its results than he had calculated. There is no reason to suppose
that Sousa was in any way treacherously inclined: he and his whole
family stood or fell with the English alliance, and the victory
of the French would mean ruin to them. But his private and public
utterances and those of his satellites had a deplorable effect. In
the mouth of the common people it took the form of a widely-spread
rumour that Wellington had refused to fight at all, and intended to
re-embark the British army. This did not lead to any wish to submit
to Napoleon, but to a desperate determination to resist even if
deserted. Wellington’s dispatches are full of a riot which took place
in Lisbon on September 7th, when the militia proposed to seize on St.
Julian’s, the Citadel, and the Bugio fort because they were informed
that the English garrisons were about to evacuate them and put to
sea[472]. When Masséna had already passed Coimbra, Sousa was mad
enough to propose, at the Regency board, that the Portuguese troops
should not retire within the Lines, but remain outside and offer
battle in the open, even if the British refused to stand by them. The
nervous activity of the government had been shown some three weeks
before by the sudden arrest and deportation of some fifty persons in
Lisbon, who were suspected, rightly or wrongly, of ‘Jacobinism,’ and
had been accused of having secret communication with d’Alorna and
the other renegades in Masséna’s army. They included a few officers,
and a good many lawyers, doctors, merchants, and minor officials,
as well as some dependants and relatives of the exiles. The case
against most of them was so weak that Wellington protested against
their banishment, holding that the alarm caused by the arrests would
make the people of Lisbon unreasonably suspicious, and give rise to
a belief in wide-spread plots. But despite his letter to the Regency
all were shipped off to the Azores[473]. Some were ultimately allowed
to go to England, others to Brazil, but the majority were not allowed
to return to Portugal till 1816.

  [471] For Sousa’s arguments, see Soriano da Luz, iii. pp. 130-44.
  That author thinks the Principal’s arguments weighty, and sees no
  harm in the fact that he set them forth in public and private.
  Cf. Wellington, _Dispatches_, vi. 430.

  [472] See Wellington to Charles Stuart, Sept. 9, and to Lord
  Liverpool, Sept. 13, 1810, _Dispatches_, vol. vi. pp. 420-30.

  [473] See Soriano da Luz, iii. 90-9, for a list of them, and
  Wellington’s _Dispatches_, vi. 433, for the protest against the
  deportation; also ibid. 528-9.

‘All I ask from the Government,’ wrote Wellington, on October 6th, in
the midst of the retreat, ‘is tranquillity in the town of Lisbon, and
provisions for their own troops[474].’ These two simple requirements
were precisely those which he did not obtain. The capital of Portugal
was kept disturbed by arbitrary arrests, by proclamations which
often contained false news, and sometimes pledged the Regency to
measures which the Commander-in-Chief disapproved, and by senseless
embargoes laid on vehicles and commodities, which were never turned
to use[475]. At the same time the Portuguese troops were not fed, and
the tents which had been ordered forward to the positions behind the
lines never started from the magazines of Lisbon[476].

  [474] _Dispatches_, vi. p. 493.

  [475] _Dispatches_, vi. 521. ‘When they have got mules and
  carriages, by injudicious seizure, they do not employ them, but
  the animals and people are kept starving and shivering, while we
  still want provisions.’

  [476] Ibid., vi. p. 506.

Wellington’s temper, tried to the uttermost by these distractions,
when his mind was entirely engrossed by military problems, grew
sharp and irritable at this time. He went so far as to write to
the Prince Regent at Rio de Janeiro, to declare that either he or
Principal Sousa must leave the country. He suggested that some post
as ambassador or special envoy should be found for the man who
troubled him so. The Patriarch, as ‘a necessary evil,’ he did not
wish to displace, but only to scare. Unfortunately, an appeal to
Brazil was hopeless, since the Regent was entirely in the hands of
the Principal’s brother, the Conde de Linhares. Much acrimonious
correspondence, delayed by the vast time which was consumed in
getting letters to and from Rio, only led in the end to a proposal
from Linhares that his brother should leave the Regency, if Charles
Stuart, the British Ambassador, was also withdrawn from it, and if
the War-Minister, General Miguel Forjaz, whom Wellington considered
a necessary person and the ablest man in Portugal, should also be
removed from his post[477]. To this proposal neither Wellington
nor the British government would consent, and as it only came in
when Masséna’s invasion had already been foiled, and the French had
retired into Spain, the crisis was over. The Principal remained at
the Council Board, to talk much impracticable and mischievous stuff,
but to do little positive harm. When the invasion was past Wellington
could afford to disregard him.

  [477] See Soriano da Luz, iii. p. 142. For text of it his
  _Appendix_, vii. 178-9. The answer was only written on Feb. 11,
  1811, and only got to Wellington in April when the crisis was
  over.



SECTION XXI: CHAPTER IV

THE LINES OF TORRES VEDRAS


We have hitherto, when speaking of Wellington’s immense scheme for
fortifying the position on which he intended to bring his enemy to a
standstill, refrained from entering into the details of his plan. It
is now time to describe it in full, and to explain its design.

The character of the peninsula on which Lisbon stands lends
itself sufficiently well to defence. At a first inspection the
country-side offers a rather chaotic expanse of mountain and valley,
whose general features are hard to seize from any one point. On
further examination, it appears that the whole square mass of land
between the Atlantic and the Tagus estuary is nothing more than a
continuation of the ridge of the Serra de Monte Junta, the main
mountain-chain of Estremadura. But from the backbone or central mass
of the highland so many large spurs are thrown out to each side, and
these are themselves so high and steep, that the whole peninsula
seems more like a ganglion of mountains than a well-marked chain.
The two chief joints or vertebrae in the backbone are the Monte
Agraça above Sobral, and the Cabeça de Montechique six miles south
of it, and these form the central points respectively of the first
and second lines of defence which were finally laid out. Besides
the outer defences there was in Wellington’s scheme, from the very
start, an inner ring of works, covering only a small area on the
sea-shore, at the southernmost point of the peninsula, to the west of
Lisbon. This was merely intended to cover an embarkation, if by any
unforeseen disaster the Lines themselves should be pierced.

It remains to speak of the system of defences in detail. In October
1809, Wellington’s plan had embraced no more than one continuous
line of works from Alhandra on the Tagus to the mouth of the Rio
São Lourenço on the Atlantic, with certain redoubts and fortified
camps thrown out in front, at Torres Vedras, Monte Agraça, and other
points. These latter fortifications were not intended to be held in
permanence; but it was hoped that they might defer and hinder the
enemy’s attack on the main line in the rear. It was only the long
delay in Masséna’s advance, which gave Wellington five or six months
on which he had not counted, that led to the ultimate strengthening
of the scattered outer works, and their conversion into a continuous
whole, capable of turning back, instead of merely detaining for a
time, the invading army. Indeed, all across the peninsula, designs
that were slight, isolated, and provisional when first drawn up, were
in the end enlarged, and perfected into wholly different structures.
For the engineers, having unlimited labour at their disposal,
and much more time than had been promised them, could turn their
attention, after the essential works had been completed, to devising
all manner of additional improvements and securities for the chosen
position.

The construction of the Lines was entrusted to Colonel Fletcher,
Wellington’s commanding engineer, who had as his chief assistant
Major John Jones, the historian of the works, and in addition eleven
British officers of the Royal Engineers, two from the King’s German
Legion, and three from the Portuguese regular army. Wellington
himself, after making one all-embracing survey of-the positions in
Fletcher’s company in October 1809, and another in February 1810,
left all the rest to his subordinate, and refrained from worrying him
with matters of detail, being satisfied that his own intentions had
been thoroughly well grasped. The labour available was, firstly, that
of the Lisbon militia regiments, who were brought up by alternate
pairs, and paid an extra 4_d._ a day for their services[478];
secondly, that of hired volunteers from the peasantry of the
district, of whom from 5,000 to 7,000 were generally in hand; they
received 1_s._, afterwards 1_s._ 8_d._ a day[479]; and lastly of a
conscription from the whole of southern Estremadura, for a circuit
of forty miles around. The forced labour was paid at the same rate
as that freely hired. On the whole, only about £100,000 was paid
out between November 1809 and September 1810--so that the Lines of
Torres Vedras may be considered one of the cheapest investments in
history. The militiamen and peasantry were worked in gangs of some
1,000 or 1,500 men, each in charge of an engineer officer, who had
a few English and Portuguese military artificers as his assistants:
only 150 such were available, so short were both armies of trained
men. ‘In some districts a subaltern officer of engineers with a few
English soldiers, utterly ignorant of the language, directed and
controlled the labour of 1,500 peasantry, many of them compelled
to work at a distance of forty miles from their homes, while their
lands lay neglected. Nevertheless, during a year of this forced
labour not a single instance of insubordination or riot occurred.
The great quantity of work performed should, in justice to the
Portuguese, be ascribed more to the regular habit of persevering
labour in those employed than to the efficiency of the control
exercised over them[480].... Indeed, it is but a tribute of justice
to the Portuguese of Estremadura to state that, during many months of
constant personal intercourse, both private and public, the labouring
classes ever showed themselves respectful, industrious, docile, and
obedient, while the governing classes in every public transaction
evinced much intelligence, patriotism, good sense, and probity.
Secrecy with respect to the extent and nature of the works was
enjoined, and it is highly creditable to all concerned that hardly a
vague paragraph concerning the Lines found its way into the public
prints. The French invaders remained ignorant of the nature of the
barrier rising against them, till they found our army arrayed on it
so as to stop their further advance[481].’

  [478] Or two _vintems_ Portuguese money.

  [479] Or six, and afterwards ten, _vintems_. See Jones, _Lines of
  Torres Vedras_, p. 77.

  [480] Jones, p. 79.

  [481] Id., p. 107.

The total frontage of the southern and stronger series of lines,
those which Wellington originally planned as his line of defence, was
twenty-two miles from sea to sea. The outer and northern series of
works, which was originally only a supplement and outer bulwark to
the other, was longer, extending to twenty-nine miles, for it crosses
the peninsula in a diagonal fashion and not on the shortest possible
line that could be drawn. Lastly, the small interior line round St.
Julian’s and Oyeras, which was prepared as the embarking-place of the
army in the event of defeat, has a circumference of about two miles.
In all, therefore, fifty-three miles of defences were planned--a
stupendous work, far exceeding, when its elaborate details are
studied, anything that had been constructed in modern times in the
way of field-fortification.

It must be remembered that the character of the Lines in no way
resembles that of our own great Roman wall from Tyne to Solway,
of the wall of China, or of any other long continuous stretch of
masonry. It is only on a few points that works of any great length
are to be found. The Lines are in essence a series of closed
earthworks, dotted along the commanding points of the two ranges
of hills which Wellington chose as his first and second fronts
of resistance. Some few of the earthworks rose to the dignity of
fortified camps, armed with many scores of guns. The majority of
them were small redoubts, constructed to hold three to six guns and
garrisons of two or three hundred men only. But even the smallest of
them were individually formidable from their structure: the normal
ditch was 16 feet wide and 12 feet deep, the parapets 8 to 14 feet
thick, and all were properly fitted with banquettes. When it is
remembered that they were well palisaded, and had outer hindrances
of abattis, _chevaux de frise_, and _trous-de-loup_ scattered in
front, it is clear that they were forts requiring a regular attack,
not mere lines of trench and mound. The strength of the whole series
was that they were placed in scientific fashion, so as to cross
fires over all the ground on which an attacking force was likely to
present itself. No practicable point of assault could be found on
which advancing columns would not be cut up by flanking fire for
a very long distance, before they drew near to their objective.
Immense pains had been taken to make the more exposed sections of
the country-side into one vast glacis. Mounds which might have given
cover had been removed to the last stone, hollow roads filled up,
houses pulled down, olive-groves and vineyards stubbed up to the
roots, so as to give a perfectly smooth and featureless ascent up
to the line of redoubts. Greatly to Wellington’s credit (as may be
incidentally remarked) compensation was paid on a liberal scale to
all owners of dwellings, mills, fruit-trees, &c., for the havoc made
by these necessary pieces of demolition. The result was a complete
clearance of cover. ‘We have spared neither house, garden, vineyard,
olive-trees, woods, or private property of any description,’ wrote
the officer in charge of the works to his chief at the end of the
preparations: ‘the only blind to the fire of the works now standing
anywhere is that beautiful avenue of old trees in the pass of Torres
Vedras. The Juiz da Fora and the inhabitants pleaded with me so hard
for the latest moment, lest they might be cut down unnecessarily,
that I have consented to defer it till the day before the troops
march in. As I have trustworthy men with axes in readiness on the
spot, there is no doubt of their being felled in time. The pine woods
on the Torres heights are already down, and formed into abattis[482].’

  [482] Major Jones to Col. Fletcher, the chief engineer, then
  absent on a visit to Wellingtons head quarters. See Jones, _Lines
  of Torres Vedras_, p. 187.

It was not necessary, or indeed possible, to slope into a glacis the
whole of the ground in front of each of the lines of defences. In
many places other methods of making it impassable were used. At the
north-western front of the first line, between Torres Vedras and the
sea, for nearly six miles, a long marsh had been created: the river
Zizandre had been dammed up, and had filled the whole of the narrow
bottom in which it flows. ‘It has overflowed its banks, and in a
short time more than half the valley has become so complete a bog
that no reward can induce any of the peasantry to pass over it[483],’
wrote the officer who had carried out the experiment. Nor was it
possible for the enemy to attempt to drain the bog, for four[484]
redoubts furnished with heavy guns, and placed on dominating
points of the hillside, commanded the bottom so completely that it
was impossible for any party to approach it with safety. Yet the
redoubts were out of the range of field-guns on the slopes beyond the
Zizandre: only guns of position could have touched them, and Masséna
had none such with him. Two similar inundations on a smaller scale
had been caused at the other end of the Lines, by damming up the
Alhandra and Alverca streams, each of which spread out in a marsh a
mile broad, reaching to the foot of the heights above the Tagus, and
could only be passed on the narrow paved high-road from Santarem to
Lisbon.

  [483] Jones, _Lines_, p. 26.

  [484] Afterwards, when Masséna had arrived, increased to sixteen
  redoubts with seventy-five guns. See Jones, p. 113.

In other places a very different method of making the Lines
unapproachable had been adopted. Where the heights were very steep,
but not absolutely inaccessible--a dangerous thing to the defence,
for here ‘dead ground,’ unsearchable by the cannon of the redoubts
above, must almost necessarily occur,--the slope had been cut or
blasted away in bands, so as to make absolute precipices on a small
scale. At one point above Alhandra[485] this was done on a front
of full 2,000 yards. Even this was not the last precaution taken:
at several places ravines ran deep into the line, and up them
columns, more or less under cover, might possibly have penetrated.
Such ravines, therefore, were stuffed, at chosen points, by a broad
abattis or entanglement, mainly composed of olive-trees with all
their chief boughs remaining, dragged together and interlaced for a
depth of many yards. Such a structure could not be crawled through,
nor could it be hewn down without an infinite waste of time and
labour; nor, on the other hand, did it afford any cover, since grape
or musketry could play perfectly well through it. The chief of these
traps was that laid across the long ravine above the village of
Arruda, down the bottom of which flows one of the winter torrents
which fall eastward into the Tagus.

  [485] Jones, _Lines_, p. 173. ‘An extent of upwards of 2,000
  yards on the left has been so cut and blasted along its summit
  as to give a continuous scarp, everywhere exceeding 10 feet in
  height, and covered for its whole length by both musketry and
  cannon.’

It was fortunate that Portugal was a well-wooded country: there are
regions where it would be impossible to procure the immense amount
of timber that was lavished on the accessories of the redoubts. All,
as has been already mentioned, were palisaded; many had in addition
abattis or entanglements thrown up in front of them, some way down
the hillside, so as to detain the advancing enemy under fire as long
as possible.

The works were divided into eight sections, the first line composed
of four, the second line of three, while the eighth consisted of
the inner retrenchment for purposes of embarkation, at the extreme
southern point of the peninsula. Of the outer or secondary line the
three sections were:

(1) A front of five miles from the Tagus at Alhandra along the crest
of a steep but not very lofty ridge, as far as the great ravine
that overlooks the village of Arruda. This front was elaborately
fortified, as it blocks the great road, in the flat by the waterside,
which forms the easiest approach to Lisbon from the north. In the
five miles there were ultimately constructed no less than 23 redoubts
with 96 guns. Two thousand yards of hillside in one place had been
scarped into a precipice; a mile by the side of the Tagus had been
inundated. The one considerable gap in the line, the ravine at the
head of the valley of Calandriz, had been choked by one of the great
_abattis_ above described. The redoubts required a garrison of 6,000
men.

(2) The second section, from the ravine above Arruda to the left of
the steep Monte Agraça, formed somewhat of a salient angle: it had
a front in all of some four and a half miles, which included the
most lofty and defensible part of the backbone range of the Lisbon
peninsula. One of the four great paved roads entering the capital
from the north, however, passes over the shoulder of these heights,
and they were therefore very heavily fortified from the first, the
large redoubt for 1,600 men, on the top of Monte Agraça being one of
the original outer works ordered for construction in Wellington’s
earliest notes of October 1809. There were in all seven redoubts
mounting 55 guns and requiring a garrison of 3,000 men on this
fraction of the lines.

(3) Quite different in character was the front of eight miles from
the left of Monte Agraça to the pass of Runa, overlooking the upper
valley of the Zizandre and the village of Sobral. The fortification
of this line had not entered into Wellington’s original plan, and
there were only two redoubts upon it when Masséna appeared before it
in October 1810. Such defence as there was consisted in the fact that
the dominating Monte Agraça redoubts overlooked it on the right, and
that the two small works just mentioned commanded the main high-road
from Sobral to Cabeça de Montechique, which goes through its centre.
But there was a clear possibility that the enemy might make a push up
the valley and the high-road, by the village of Zibreira, and this
was indeed the most probable point of attack in the whole 29 miles of
front for the enemy to select. When, at the last moment, the British
Commander-in-Chief determined to hold the outer lines, and not merely
to fall back after having used them for a temporary defence, he had
to cram this point with troops, and to construct new works upon it
as quickly as possible. Four divisions, therefore, more than 20,000
men, were concentrated here. Wellington’s own head quarters were
established at the hamlet of Pero Negro, on the slope above the
high-road, and a very large redoubt was thrown up on the Portello
hill, above Zibreira, with several smaller ones further to the right,
to connect it with the Monte Agraça works. Sobral, the village at
the foot of the heights, was held as an outpost, but abandoned when
Masséna pushed forward to the front, as it was too far advanced to
the north to be treated as an integral part of the position. But the
French, when they had carried Sobral with difficulty, looked at the
main line behind it, and refused to attempt any further advance. The
hillside was as formidable as the Bussaco heights from which they had
only recently been repulsed: it was full of troops and growing in
strength every moment as the earthworks continued to arise.

(4) The fourth section of the outer or northern front was that from
the gorge of the Zizandre (or the pass of Runa, as it is sometimes
called) to the sea. It was about twelve miles long, but of this space
six miles and more was covered by the impassable bog formed by the
obstructed Zizandre, and another mile was formed by the formidable
entrenched camp of San Vincente, above the town of Torres Vedras, the
most complete and self-sufficing of all the works in the peninsula.
This stronghold lay outside the main line, beyond the river, covering
the bridge and the paved _chaussée_ from Leiria to Lisbon, the only
carriage-road on the western side of the Lines[486]. It was one
of the earliest of the fortifications commenced by Wellington’s
engineers, having been started on November 8, 1809, and was placed in
such a conspicuous point, and planned on such a large scale, that it
attracted public attention more than any other part of the works, and
gave its name to the whole in popular parlance[487]. The whole front
on both sides of Torres Vedras and its great fort was so strong and
inaccessible as to offer little tempt