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Title: A History of the Peninsular War. Vol. IV. - Dec. 1810-Dec. 1811. Massena's Retreat, Fuentes de Oñoro, - Albuera, Tarragona
Author: Oman, Charles
Language: English
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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.

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    documents, outdated and current spellings of some proper names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

                  Albaracin, now Albarracín,
                Albuquerque, now Alburquerque,
                   Alemtejo, now Alentejo,
                  Algesiras, now Algeciras,
                    Almanza, now Almansa,
                  Arzobispo, now El Puente del Arzobispo,
          Baccelar (Manuel), now Manuel Pinto de Morais Bacelar,
                Ballasteros, now Ballesteros,
           Barba del Puerco, now Puerto Seguro,
                     Baylen, now Bailén,
                    Bussaco, now Buçaco,
                    Caamano, now Caamaño,
                    Caçeres, now Cáceres,
                    Canonge, now La Canonja,
                   Çaragoça, now Zaragoza,
                    Cattlar, now El Catllar,
                    Cordova, now Córdoba,
                    Corunna, now La Coruña,
                      Douro, now Duero (in Spain),
                                 Douro (in Portugal),
                Estremadura, now Extremadura (in Spain),
                                 Estremadura (in Portugal),
                   Estremos, now Estremoz,
                    Golegão, now Golegã,
                  La Baneza, now La Bañeza
                  La Bispal, now La Bisbal,
                     Lousão, now Lousã,
                    Majorca, now Mallorca,
                  Momblanch, now Montblanch,
                       Niza, now Nisa,
                Ona (river), now Güeña (río),
                Oña (river), now Oñar (río),
                   Ouguella, now Ouguela,
                  Pampeluna, now Pamplona,
                   Peñacova, now Penacova,
                  Peniscola, now Peñíscola,
                      Ripol, now Ripoll,
        São João de Ribiera, now São João da Ribeira,
                  Saragossa, now Zaragoza,
                   Senabria, now Sanabria,
                 Sta Olalla, now Santa Olalla,
              Tagus (river), now Tajo (Spanish), Tejo (Portuguese),
                   Tondella, now Tondela,
                   Torienzo, now Turienzo de los Caballeros,
                   Truxillo, now Trujillo,
                     Vierzo, now El Bierzo,
                   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 or the table that includes
    its anchor.

  * The anchor placements in the main text for footnotes [219], [247]
    and [777] are conjectured. No anchors were found in the printed
    original.

  * Two anchors were found for footnote [160], both in p. 125; only
    one has been retained.

  * In p. 302, end of paragraph, the adjective “best” has been added
    to obtain the more usual reading: “the best condition”.



[Illustration:_Major General Sir Thomas Picton_]



  A HISTORY OF THE
  PENINSULAR WAR

  BY

  CHARLES OMAN
  M.A. OXON., HON. LL.D. EDIN.
  FELLOW OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY
  CHICHELE PROFESSOR OF MODERN HISTORY
  FELLOW OF ALL SOULS COLLEGE
  CORRESPONDING MEMBER OF THE REAL ACADEMIA
  DE LA HISTORIA OF MADRID, OF THE ACADEMY OF LISBON
  AND THE ACADEMY OF SAN LUIS OF SARAGOSSA


  VOL. IV
  DEC. 1810-DEC. 1811

  MASSÉNA’S RETREAT      FUENTES DE OÑORO
  ALBUERA                TARRAGONA

  WITH MAPS AND ILLUSTRATIONS


  OXFORD
  AT THE CLARENDON PRESS
  1911



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



PREFACE


In this volume are contained the annals of all the many campaigns of
1811, with the exception of those of Suchet’s Valencian expedition in
the later months of the year, which for reasons of space have to be
relegated to Volume V. It was impossible to exceed the bulk of 660
pages, and the operations on the Mediterranean coast of Spain can be
dealt with separately without any grave breach of continuity in the
narrative, though this particular Valencian campaign affected the
general course of the war far more closely than any other series of
operations on the Eastern side of the Peninsula, as I have been careful
to point out in the concluding chapters of Section XXIX.

The main interest of 1811, however, centres in the operations of
Wellington and his opponents, Masséna, Soult, and Marmont. In the
previous year the tide of French conquest reached its high-water mark,
when Soult appeared before the walls of Cadiz, and Masséna forced his
way to the foot of the long chain of redoubts that formed the Lines of
Torres Vedras. Already, before 1810 was over, Masséna’s baffled army
had fallen back a few miles, and this first short retreat to Santarem
marked the commencement of a never-ceasing ebb of the wave of conquest
on the Western side of the Peninsula. Matters went otherwise on the
Eastern coast in 1811, but all Suchet’s campaigns were, after all, a
side issue. The decisive point lay not in Catalonia or Valencia, but in
Portugal.

When Masséna finally evacuated Portugal in March 1811, forced out of
his cantonments by Wellington’s skilful use of the sword of famine,
a new stage in the war began. The French had lost the advantage of
the offensive, and were never to regain it on the Western theatre of
war. All through the remainder of 1811 it was the British general who
dealt the strokes, and the enemy who had to parry them. The strokes
were feeble, because of Wellington’s very limited resources, and for
the most part were warded off. Though Almeida fell in May, the siege
of Badajoz in June, and the blockade of Ciudad Rodrigo in August and
September, were both brought to an end by the concentration of French
armies which Wellington was too weak to attack. But the masses of
men which Soult and Marmont gathered on the Guadiana in June, and
Dorsenne and Marmont gathered on the Agueda in September, had only been
collected by a dangerous disgarnishing of the whole of those provinces
of Spain which lay beneath the French yoke. They could not remain long
assembled, firstly because they could not feed themselves, and secondly
because of the peril to which their concentration exposed the abandoned
regions in their rear. Hence, in each case, the French commanders,
satisfied with having parried Wellington’s stroke for the moment,
refused to attack him, and dispersed their armies. That the spirit of
the offensive was lost on the French side is sufficiently shown by the
fact that when their adversary stood on the defensive upon the Caya
in June, and at Alfayates in September, they refused to assail his
positions.

We leave the allied and the French armies at the end of the autumn
campaign of 1811 still in this state of equipoise. Wellington had made
two successive attempts to strike, and had failed, though without any
grave loss or disaster, because the forces opposed to him were still
too great. His third stroke in January 1812 was to be successful and
decisive, but its history belongs to our next volume.

The main bulk of the seven sections herewith presented consists of
a narrative of the successive phases of the long deadlock between
Wellington and his enemies along the Portuguese frontier: but I have
endeavoured to give as clear a narrative as I can compile of all the
side-campaigns of the year, in Andalusia, Murcia, Estremadura, Galicia,
the Asturias, and Catalonia, and to show their bearings on the general
history of the great Peninsular struggle.

I must apologize for the long space of time--three years--that has
elapsed between the appearance of the third and the fourth volumes
of this work. But it was impossible to produce these sections till I
had taken two more voyages over the more important fighting-grounds
of 1811--one round Catalonia, the other along the line of Masséna’s
retreat from Portugal. It was only in the last days of September 1910
that I was able to accomplish the latter journey. It was made under
the happiest conditions, for the government of King Manuel kindly lent
me a motor-car, and put at my disposition the services of Captain
Teixeira Botelho, an admirable specialist on the artillery side of the
Peninsular War. Guided by him, and accompanied by my friend Mr. Rafael
Reynolds of Barreiro, I was able to study the topography of Pombal,
Redinha, Condeixa, Casal Novo, and Foz do Arouce, not to speak of many
other picturesque spots of military interest. Hence my survey of the
main fighting-grounds of 1811 has been fairly complete--I spent long
days at Fuentes de Oñoro and Albuera, walked all round Badajoz and the
field of the Gebora, and studied Tarragona and other Catalan sites.
Barrosa alone, I regret to say, I have not been able to visit.

I have to offer grateful thanks to many possessors of documents,
who have been good enough to place them at my disposition. The most
important of all were the D’Urban papers, lent to me by Mr. W. S.
M. D’Urban, of Newport House, near Exeter; the diary and official
correspondence of his grandfather, Sir Benjamin D’Urban, Beresford’s
Chief-of-the-staff during the Estremaduran campaigns of 1811, were
simply invaluable for the comprehension of those operations. I had
already acknowledged my indebtedness to the D’Urban papers in my
narrative of 1810; but in the following year, when Beresford was acting
as the leader of an independent army, they were even more important--as
my constant references to them in notes will show.

A new source of high value came to my knowledge last year, through
the kindness of Mr. G. Scovell, of Hove, who placed in my hands the
papers of his grandfather, Major Scovell, who acted in 1811-12-13 as
Wellington’s cipher-secretary. Not only was this officer’s personal
diary of great use to me, but the file of the intercepted French
dispatches in cipher, with the interpretation of them worked out with
infinite pains, proved as valuable as it was interesting. Many of the
originals, written on small scraps of the thinnest paper, and folded
into such minute shapes that they could be sewed on to a button,
or hidden in a coatseam, had evidently been taken on the persons
of emissaries of the French generals, who had been captured by the
guerrilleros, and had probably in most cases cost the bearers their
lives. The ciphers were of two sorts: in the more complicated every
word was in cipher; in the less complicated only names of persons and
places and the numbers of troops or dates were disguised, the bulk of
the dispatch being in plain French. In the key to these last there were
several hundred arbitrary numbers used, and it was Major Scovell’s task
to make out from the context, or the repetition of the same figures in
many documents, what the individual numbers meant. By the end of his
researches he had identified four-fifths of the names, and those which
he had not all belonged to unimportant persons or places, infrequently
mentioned.

A much shorter but quite interesting file of diary and letters placed
at my disposal were those of Cornet Francis Hall of the 14th Light
Dragoons. They practically covered only the year 1811, but were very
full, and written in an animated descriptive style, very different
from that of many dry and short journals. They contained by far the
best account of the cavalry part of the fighting at Fuentes de Oñoro
that I have ever seen, and I am exceedingly obliged to the writer’s
granddaughter Miss E. G. Hall for allowing me to utilize them.

I am still occasionally using notes of 1811 made from two collections
of unpublished letters, of which I had occasion to speak in my last
preface, those of General Le Marchant, now in the hands of Sir Henry
Le Marchant of Chobham, and those of General John Wilson belonging to
Commander Bertram Chambers R.N. To both of the courteous possessors of
these files of correspondence I owe my best thanks.

I must mention, as in previous volumes, much kind help given me by
those connected with the military archives of Paris, Madrid, and
Lisbon. Once more I must acknowledge the unfailing kindness of M.
Martinien at the French War Ministry, who did so much to make easy for
me endless searches through the overflowing _cartons_ of its Library.
At Madrid Commandant Juan Arzadun of the Artillery Museum placed much
suggestive material at my disposal, and found me one or two scarce
books, while Major Emilio Figueras at the War Ministry searched out and
copied for me a number of unpublished ‘morning states’ of the various
Spanish Armies. I must also recur to the name of Captain Teixeira
Botelho of the Portuguese Artillery, my companion on the line of
Masséna’s retreat, who furnished me with a rich mine of information in
his unpublished _subsidios para a historia da Artilheria Portugueza_.

Among my English helpers I must give a special word of thanks to Major
John Leslie, R.A., to whose researches I owe all that I know about
the British artillery in the Peninsular War. His ‘Dickson Papers’
are always at my elbow, and I owe him particular gratitude for the
Artillery Appendix XXIV, which he has been good enough to compile for
me. To the Hon. John Fortescue, the historian of the British Army,
whom we were proud to welcome at Oxford as Ford Lecturer this year, I
am deeply indebted for his answers to my queries on many dark points,
and most especially for his notes as to several suppressed parts of
the _Wellington Correspondence_. Mr. Rafael Reynolds of Barreiro, who
shared in my September tour of last year, has obtained for me in
Lisbon a number of rare Portuguese volumes, most especially a complete
set of Marshal Beresford’s _Ordens do Dia_ for the whole Peninsular
War--an almost unprocurable collection, containing every general
order, report of a court martial, list of promotions, and statistical
paper, which was issued to the Portuguese Army. It is absolutely
invaluable for identifying names and dates, and settling questions
of organization. The Rev. Alexander Craufurd, grandson of the famous
commander of the Light Division, has continued, as in previous years,
to place his store of information concerning the campaigns of that hard
fighting unit at my disposal.

Lastly, the compiler of the index, a weary task executed under many
difficulties, must receive my heartfelt thanks for much loving labour.

I must apologize to readers for some occasional discrepancies in
spelling which may be discovered in the text and maps. They are mainly
due to the fact that all along the Portuguese-Spanish frontier every
town and village is spelt differently by its own inhabitants and by
its close neighbours of the other nationality. I find it impossible to
avoid the occasional intrusion of a Portuguese spelling of a Spanish
locality, and vice versa. Matters are made still more hard by the
fact that the spelling of local names in Portugal (less so in Spain)
seems to have been much changed since 1811. It is difficult to avoid
occasionally an archaic, or on the other hand a too-modern, form for a
name. These slight errors, or discrepancies between names as spelled in
the text and in the maps, were nearly all caused by alterations between
the received spelling of 1811, followed in the maps I used, and that
of 1911. I do not think that they will cause any difficulty to the
reader, who will not e. g. find it hard to recognize that Foz do Arouce
is the same as Foz de Arouce or Casal Novo as Cazal Novo.

In a few cases the critic may find a slight difference in the numbers
of troops, or of killed and wounded, which are given in the text and in
the appendices. In almost all cases this results from the fact that the
official totals quoted in the text turned out not to work out in exact
agreement with the detailed list of items in the ‘morning states’ or
the complete casualty lists. These errors, always trifling, could not
be discovered till the arithmetic of the appendices had been verified,
sometimes when the text had already been printed off. The most frequent
discrepancies were found in comparing Wellington’s totals of Portuguese
strengths or casualties with the detailed official figures. In all
instances the differences are small, but the Appendices must be taken
to give the more exact numbers.

  C. OMAN.

  OXFORD:
  _July 1, 1911_.



CONTENTS


  SECTION XXIII
  THE WINTER CAMPAIGN OF 1810-11

  CHAPTER                                                   PAGE

  I. Masséna at Santarem. The deadlock on the Lower
  Tagus. December 1810-January 1811                            1

  II. Soult’s Invasion of Estremadura. January-March 1811.
  The Battle of the Gebora and the Fall of Badajoz            23

  III. Masséna’s Last Weeks at Santarem. January-March
  1811                                                        64

  IV. Events in the South of Spain. The Battle of Barrosa.
  January-March 1811                                          91


  SECTION XXIV
  MASSÉNA’S RETREAT FROM PORTUGAL

  I. Santarem to Celorico. March 9th-22nd, 1811              131

  II. Guarda and Sabugal. March 22nd-April 12th, 1811        173


  SECTION XXV
  EVENTS IN NORTHERN, EASTERN, AND CENTRAL SPAIN

  I. King Joseph and his Troubles                            206

  II. Suchet on the Ebro. The Fall of Tortosa. December
  1810-March 1811                                            227


  SECTION XXVI
  FUENTES DE OÑORO AND ALBUERA

  I. Beresford’s Campaign in Estremadura. The First
  British Siege of Badajoz. March-May 1811                   247

  II. Fuentes de Oñoro: Preliminary Operations. April
  12th-May 3rd, 1811                                         288

  III. The Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro. May 5th, 1811         315

  IV. Brennier’s Escape from Almeida. May 1811               349

  V. The Battle of Albuera. May 16th, 1811                   363


  SECTION XXVII
  WELLINGTON’S FIRST ESTREMADURAN CAMPAIGN

  I. The Second British Siege of Badajoz. May-June 1811      404

  II. Wellington on the Caya. June-July 1811                 443

  III. Events in the North of Spain during the
  concentration on the Caya. Dorsenne and the Galicians.
  June-August 1811                                           461

  IV. Soult’s Troubles in Andalusia, July-September 1811     475


  SECTION XXVIII
  OPERATIONS IN EASTERN SPAIN IN THE SPRING, SUMMER, AND
  AUTUMN OF 1811

  I. Figueras and Tarragona. April-May 1811                  484

  II. The Siege and Fall of Tarragona. May-June 1811         497

  III. The Fall of Figueras and the Autumn Campaign in
  Catalonia. July-October 1811                               528


  SECTION XXIX
  WELLINGTON’S AUTUMN CAMPAIGN OF 1811

  I. Wellington’s Blockade of Ciudad Rodrigo.
  August-September 1811                                      542

  II. El Bodon and Aldea da Ponte. September 1811            559

  III. The End of Wellington’s Campaigns of 1811. Arroyo
  dos Molinos. September 1811                                583


  APPENDICES

  I. The French Army in Portugal, Returns of January-April
  1811                                                       608

  II. Soult’s Army in his First Expedition to Estremadura,
  January-March 1811                                         610

  III. Spanish Troops in Estremadura, March 1811             610

  IV. Graham’s Army at Barrosa, and its Losses               612

  V. Victor’s Army at Barrosa, and its Losses                613

  VI-VII. British Losses at Pombal, Redinha, Casal Novo,
  Foz do Arouce, and Sabugal, March-April 1811            614-16

  VIII. French Losses at Sabugal, April 3rd, 1811            617

  IX. Force of Wellington’s Army at Fuentes de Oñoro,
  May 3-5, 1811                                              618

  X. British and Portuguese Losses at Fuentes de Oñoro,
  First Day, May 3                                           622

  XI. British and Portuguese Losses at Fuentes de Oñoro,
  Second Day, May 5th, 1811                                  623

  XII. The French Army at Fuentes de Oñoro                   625

  XIII. Masséna’s Orders for Fuentes de Oñoro                629

  XIV. French Losses at Fuentes de Oñoro                     630

  XV. The Allied Army at Albuera, and its Losses,
  May 16, 1811                                               631

  XVI. Soult’s Army at Albuera, and its Losses               634

  XVII. Strength of the Spanish Armies in the Summer
  of 1811                                                    636

  XVIII. Strength of the French Army in Spain,
  July 15, 1811                                              638

  XIX. French and Spanish Forces at the Siege of
  Tarragona                                                  643

  XX. Wellington’s Army on the Beira Frontier,
  September 15                                               644

  XXI. Allied Losses at the Combat of El Bodon               648

  XXII. Allied Losses at the Combat of Aldea da Ponte        648

  XXIII. Hill’s Force in Estremadura,
  September-October 1811                                     649

  XXIV. The British Artillery in the Peninsula during
  the Campaign of 1811                                       650


  INDEX                                                      653


MAPS AND PLANS

  I. BADAJOZ AND THE BATTLE OF THE GEBORA         _To face_   54

  II. GENERAL MAP OF THE BARROSA CAMPAIGN             ”      104

  III. THE BATTLE OF BARROSA                          ”      124

  IV. COMBAT OF REDINHA                               ”      144

  V. COMBAT OF CASAL NOVO                             ”      152

  VI. COMBAT OF FOZ DO AROUCE                         ”      158

  VII. MASSÉNA’S RETREAT. LEIRIA TO THE ALVA RIVER    ”      166

  VIII. COMBAT OF SABUGAL                             ”      196

  IX. MASSÉNA’S RETREAT. CELORICO TO CIUDAD RODRIGO   ”      200

  X. PLAN OF THE SIEGE OF TORTOSA                     ”      238

  XI. THE BRITISH SIEGES OF BADAJOZ IN MAY
  AND JUNE 1811                                       ”      286

  XII. BATTLE OF FUENTES DE OÑORO (two plates)        ”  316,338

  XIII. BATTLE OF ALBUERA (two plates)                ”  384,394

  XIV. GENERAL MAP OF ESTREMADURA                     ”      452

  XV. PLAN OF THE SIEGE OF TARRAGONA                  ”      524

  XVI. GENERAL MAP OF CATALONIA                       ”      538


ILLUSTRATIONS


  PORTRAIT OF GENERAL PICTON                 _Frontispiece_

  PORTRAIT OF GENERAL GRAHAM                      _To face_   96

  PORTRAIT OF MARSHAL BERESFORD                       ”      260

  BRITISH ARMY CROSSING THE TAGUS AT VILLA VELHA      ”      408

  FORT SAN CRISTOBAL                                  ”      424



SECTION XXIII

THE WINTER CAMPAIGN OF 1810-11



CHAPTER I

MASSÉNA AT SANTAREM. THE DEADLOCK ON THE LOWER TAGUS. DECEMBER
1810-JANUARY 1811


On the 18th of November, 1810, Masséna had completed the movement
to the rear which he had commenced on the 14th. His army no
longer threatened the Lines of Torres Vedras: he had abandoned
the offensive for the defensive. Concentrated in the triangle
Santarem-Punhete-Thomar, with his three corps so disposed that a
march of twenty miles would suffice to concentrate everything save
outlying detachments, he waited to see whether his enemy would dare
to attack him; for he still hoped for a battle in the open field,
and was prepared to accept its chances. At Bussaco, so he reasoned,
his defeat had been the result of an over-bold attack on a strong
position. The event might go otherwise if he threw the responsibility
of the offensive on Wellington. He had secured for himself an
advantageous fighting-ground: his left flank was protected by the
formidable entrenchments around Santarem; his front was covered by the
rain-sodden valley of the Rio Mayor, which during the winter season
could be crossed only at a few well-known points. His right wing could
not be turned, unless his adversary were ready to push a great force
over villainous roads towards Alcanhede and the upper course of the
Rio Mayor. And if Wellington should risk a large detachment in this
direction, it might be possible to burst out from Santarem, against
the containing force which he would be compelled to leave on the banks
of the Tagus, about Cartaxo, and to beat it back towards the Lines--a
movement which would almost certainly bring back the turning column
from the North. For the English general could not dare to leave Lisbon
exposed to the chances of a sudden blow, when there was little but
Portuguese militia left to occupy the long chain of defensive works
from Alhandra to Torres Vedras. For some weeks after his retreat to his
new position at Santarem, Masséna lived in hopes that Wellington would
either deliver an attack on his well-protected front, or undertake the
dangerous turning movement towards his left.

No such chance was granted him. His adversary had weighed all the
arguments for and against the offensive, and had made up his mind to
rely rather on his old weapon--starvation--than on force. In several
of his December dispatches he sums up the situation with perfect
clearness; on the 2nd he wrote to Lord Liverpool, ‘It would still be
impossible to make any movement of importance upon the right flank of
the enemy’s position at Santarem without exposing some divisions of
troops to be insulated and cut off. The enemy having concentrated their
army about Torres Novas, &c., I do not propose to make any movement
by which I incur the risk of involving the army in a general action,
on ground less advantageous than that which I had fixed upon to bring
this contest to an issue [i. e. the Lines]. The enemy can be relieved
from the difficulties of their situation only by the occurrence of
some misfortune to the allied army, and I should forward their views
by placing the fate of the campaign on the result of a general action
on ground chosen by them, and not on that selected by me. I therefore
propose to continue the operation of light detachments on their
flanks and rear, to confine them as much as possible, but to engage
in no serious affair on ground on which the result can be at all
doubtful[1].’ At the end of the month he simply restates his decision:
‘Having such an enemy to contend with, and knowing (as I do) that there
is no army in the Peninsula capable of contending with the enemy,
excepting that under my command; that there are no means of replacing
any large losses I might sustain; and that any success acquired by a
large sacrifice of men would be followed by disastrous consequence to
the cause of the allies, I have determined to persevere in the system
which has hitherto saved all, and which will, I hope, end in the defeat
of the enemy[2].’

  [1] _Dispatches_, vii. pp. 23-4, from Cartaxo, December 2.

  [2] Also to Lord Liverpool, Cartaxo, December 29.

Accordingly Wellington’s main army was kept for the three winter months
of December, January, and February almost precisely on the same ground
on which it had been placed in the last week of November. The three
British cavalry brigades formed a line in front of the whole, reaching
from Porto de Mugem on the Tagus to São João de Ribiera on the upper
Rio Mayor[3]. The infantry divisions (save the 2nd) were arranged in
successive lines of cantonment behind them, watching the course of
the Rio Mayor, while the reserves had retired as far as the Lines of
Torres Vedras. Practically the whole force could be concentrated in a
single march--or a march and a half at most--in case Masséna should
take the improbable--but still conceivable--step of sallying out from
Santarem to resume the offensive. When the first French reinforcements
began to come up--about the New Year of 1810-11--such a sally seemed
to Wellington quite worth guarding against[4]. The disposition of
the infantry was as follows: On the right, near the Tagus, lay the
Light Division, immediately in front of Santarem, quartered in Valle
and other villages. On the left the front line was formed by Pack’s
Portuguese, who lay at Almoster, on heights overlooking the middle
course of the Rio Mayor. In support of the Light Division, but five
miles to the rear, at Cartaxo and other places, was the large and
powerful 1st Division, 7,000 bayonets. The 4th Division lay at an equal
distance behind the 1st, at Azambuja and Aveiras da Cima. Behind Pack,
on the inland or Leiria road, Picton and his 3rd Division were placed
at Alcoentre. Their support was the 5th Division at Torres Vedras in
the old Lines, seventeen miles to the rear, from which a circuitous
road led to Alcoentre. Finally the newly-formed 6th Division was placed
at the other end of the Lines, but just outside them, at Alemquer
and Arruda, with Le Cor’s Portuguese division immediately behind, at
Alhandra.

  [3] De Grey’s brigade at Valle, with the Light Division; Anson’s
  on the left at São João; Slade’s at Porto de Mugem on the right,
  near the Tagus.

  [4] Wellington to Liverpool, December 29. ‘Whatever may be
  Masséna’s opinion of his chance of success in an attack on the
  allied army, I am convinced that he will make it, if he receives
  orders from Paris, whatever the amount of the reinforcements sent
  to him.’ _Dispatches_, vii. p. 84.

In all the main army consisted of about 48,000 men of all arms; but
this did not compose the whole of Wellington’s available resources.
He had transferred a considerable detachment to the southern bank of
the Tagus, to protect the Alemtejo against any possible descent by
the French. It will be remembered that as early as the beginning of
November[5] he had sent across the river Fane’s Portuguese cavalry
and a battalion of Caçadores, who were directed to watch the road
along the further bank, to prevent any trifling force of French from
crossing in search of provisions, and to keep open the communications
with Abrantes. As long as Masséna was threatening the Lines of Torres
Vedras, there was no danger that he would throw anything more than a
raiding party across the Tagus; he would want every man for the great
assault. But when the Marshal gave up the offensive and retired to
Santarem, the aspect of affairs was changed; it was quite possible
that, with his army in a state of semi-starvation, he might venture
to send a considerable detachment over the river, to gather the food
which was so necessary to him. Nor was it unlikely that he might have a
still more cogent reason for invading the Alemtejo. If, as Wellington
thought probable[6], the army of Andalusia were to be ordered up to
assist the army of Portugal, it would be of great importance for the
latter to possess a footing on the left bank of the Tagus, as the
communication with Soult’s troops must certainly be made in this
direction. Accordingly there was good reason for securing the line of
the river, and for cooping up Masséna in his limited sphere on its
western bank. On the 19th-20th of November, Hill and the 2nd Division,
attended as usual by Hamilton’s two Portuguese brigades, and with the
13th Light Dragoons attached, crossed the Tagus in boats a little to
the north of Salvaterra, to reinforce Fane’s detachment. This was a
serious force--10,000 men--which Wellington could ill spare, and he
made elaborate arrangements to enable it to return in haste, in the
event of Masséna’s once more taking the offensive on the western bank
of the Tagus. The flotilla of gunboats and river craft, which had
been guarding the river, was to be kept ready at Alhandra to bring
back the 2nd Division, at the first alarm of a movement of the French
from Santarem. Meanwhile Hill moved up the river and established his
head quarters at Chamusca, a little north of Santarem, from which
point he could both observe the main body of the French and impede any
attempt that they might make to cross the river, and also could keep in
touch with Abrantes, and reinforce it, supposing that Masséna showed
any signs of molesting it. The British brigades of the 2nd Division
were distributed along the river, William Stewart’s at Pinheiros
and Tramagal most to the north, Hoghton’s at Chamusca, Lumley’s at
Almeirim, exactly facing Santarem. Hamilton’s two Portuguese brigades
continued the line southward, Fonseca’s brigade at Mugem, Campbell’s
at Salvaterra. Fane’s four regiments of Portuguese cavalry, and the
British 13th Light Dragoons, were strung out by squadrons along the
whole front from the neighbourhood of Abrantes to Almeirim, patrolling
the river bank with unceasing care[7].

  [5] See vol. iii. p. 462.

  [6] The first hint of this occurs in a letter to Lord Liverpool,
  from Cartaxo, December 21, in which Wellington ‘thinks it not
  improbable that a large part (if not the whole) of the French
  army of Andalusia may be introduced into the southern part of
  this kingdom [Portugal].’

  [7] These arrangements are taken from the unpublished diary of
  D’Urban, the Quarter-Master-General of the Portuguese army.

On the 29th of November Hill was disabled by a severe attack of
fever, and the control of all the troops beyond the Tagus devolved
on his senior brigadier, William Stewart. Wellington only allowed
this hard-fighting but somewhat too venturesome officer to retain
his very responsible command for a few weeks. Troubled by Stewart’s
constant requests to be allowed to make offensive movements against
the French, which did not enter into his own plans[8], and dreading
the consequences of his enterprise, the Commander-in-Chief superseded
him, by sending over Beresford to take the charge of all the forces on
the Alemtejo bank of the Tagus (December 30). He would have preferred
to give the duty to Hill, who had in the preceding summer carried out
a similar task with complete success, while he watched Reynier from
Castello Branco[9]. But Hill’s fever lingered on for many weeks, and
when he was convalescent the medical men insisted that he must return
to England for change of air. This he did in February, and we miss his
familiar name in the records of the Peninsular War for a space of three
months, till his reappearance at the front in May.

  [8] Wellington (December 8) sarcastically thanks Stewart for
  sending him plans for an attack on the enemy, but utterly scouts
  them. _Dispatches_, vii. pp. 36-7.

  [9] See pp. 269-79 of vol. iii.

Beresford therefore began, with the New Year, to exercise a
semi-independent command over the detached force beyond the Tagus,
which he was to retain for nearly six months. The experiment of giving
him this responsible duty was not altogether a happy one; and after his
unsuccessful operations in Estremadura, and his ill-fought victory at
Albuera, Wellington withdrew him to other duties in June, and once more
handed over the troops south of the Tagus to the cautious yet capable
hands of Hill.

The main force, meanwhile, faced the front of Masséna’s army;
Beresford’s detachment observed its left flank along the Tagus. But
this was not all; Wellington had also taken his precautions to cast
around the rear of the irregular parallelogram held by the French a
screen of light troops, which effectually cut their communications with
Spain, and restricted, though they could not altogether hinder, their
marauding raids in search of provisions. This screen was weakest beyond
Abrantes, on the line of the Zezere; but here the land was barren,
and the enemy had little or nothing to gain by plundering excursions.
The Castello Branco country was only guarded by its own Ordenança
levy, which was trifling in force, as the whole ‘corregedoria’ from
the Zezere to the Elga had only 40,000 souls, and it had sent its two
militia regiments within the Lisbon lines. But, save in the small
upland plain about Castello Branco itself, there was practically
neither population nor tillage. The less barren and deserted mountain
land between the Zezere and the Mondego was much more worth plundering,
and was protected by the militia brigade of John Wilson, who lay at
Espinhal on the Thomar-Coimbra road, with a force of four battalions,
which ought to have numbered 3,000 men, but often shrank down to 1,500.
For the militiamen, unpaid and ill-fed, deserted freely during the
winter season, and as their homes lay far northward, by the Douro,
it was not easy to gather them back to their colours. But Wilson had
always a sufficient nucleus about him to check any marauding party
that fell short of a regiment, and was a real restraint on the foragers
of the 6th Corps, when they pushed out from Ourem or Thomar to gather
food. He was only once seriously engaged, when, on December 23rd,
General Marcognet, with two battalions and a cavalry regiment, came
up against him, drove him out of Espinhal after some skirmishing, and
pushed a reconnaissance as far as the Mondego, of which we shall hear
in its due place.

Beyond Wilson to the west, the line of observation was taken up by
Trant’s militia brigade, which lay at Coimbra, to which town many of
its fugitive inhabitants had by this time returned. He had a larger
force than Wilson--seven militia regiments, whose strength varied from
day to day but seldom fell below 3,000 men. With this irregular force
he watched the line of the lower Mondego, keeping pickets out some way
to the south of the river, as far as Louriçal and Redinha. They were
only once driven in, when on Dec. 6th-8th one of Montbrun’s dragoon
regiments pushed up the high road, and verified the fact that all the
passages of the lower Mondego, including the bridge of Coimbra, were
guarded.

The last link in the chain of detachments which Wellington had cast
around the French was the garrison of the sea-girt fortress of Peniche,
half-way between Lisbon and the mouth of the Mondego. It was held by
the dépôts of several infantry regiments of the regular army, under
General Blunt of the Portuguese service, not by any single organized
unit. But there were some 2,000 or 3,000 recruits, more or less
trained, in the place, and the enterprising Major Fenwick, whom Blunt
had put in charge of his outpost-line, kept large pickets out in the
direction of Caldas and Obidos, which frequently came in contact
with the raiding parties of the 8th Corps, and did them much harm.
Fenwick was mortally wounded in action near Obidos on Dec. 4th[10],
but the forward position of these outposts of the Peniche garrison was
maintained, and the French could never forage in the coast-land for a
radius of some fifteen miles around that fortress, though they moved
as they pleased about Leiria and the deserted abbeys of Batalha and
Alcobaça. The Portuguese outposts at Caldas were in close and regular
touch with Anson’s cavalry pickets from São João de Ribiera on the Rio
Mayor.

  [10] Mentioned in Wellington’s dispatch of December 10 to Lord
  Liverpool, but the date December 4 is fixed by D’Urban’s diary.
  For exploits of Fenwick in November and December see Tomkinson’s
  _Diary_, pp. 58 and 66.

It will be seen therefore that the limited space in which Masséna’s
army could seek its living was a parallelogram, bounded by the Tagus
on the south, the lower Zezere on the east, the Rio Mayor and the
Alcoa (the river of Alcobaça) on the west, and on the north by an
irregular line drawn from Leiria through Pombal to Cabaços near
the Zezere. Outside these limits food could only be got by large
detachments, moving with all military precautions, and obliged to keep
up a constant running fight with the Portuguese militia. The profit
from such expeditions, whose march was necessarily very slow, was so
small that Masséna sent out very few of them, since the peasantry got
off with their flocks into the hills, whenever the first skirmishing
shots along the high road were heard. The sustenance of the French was
mainly obtained by harrying and re-harrying the area bounded by the
limits stated above, where they could work their will without meeting
with any resistance. There was very little change in the cantonments of
Masséna’s army during the three months of their stay between the Tagus
and the Zezere. Of the 2nd Corps both divisions were in the Santarem
fortifications, holding the town and the banks of the Rio Mayor to
the west of it. Close in touch with the 2nd Corps came the 8th, with
Clausel’s division in front line from Tremes to Alcanhede and Abrahão,
and Solignac’s in second line at Torres Novas, Pernes, and the adjacent
villages. Both corps had their cavalry brigades out in front of them,
along the line of the Rio Mayor. Ney and the 6th Corps formed the
general reserve of the army, having Mermet’s division at Thomar (the
Marshal’s head quarters), and Marchand’s at Golegão near the Tagus;
Loison’s, the third division of the corps, was detached on the Zezere,
guarding the bridge which had been established across that river at
Punhete, and watching the garrison of Abrantes. Its front post was
at Montalvão beyond the Zezere, only five miles from the Portuguese
fortress; its remaining battalions were ranged along the river from
Punhete as far north as Dornes. Montbrun and the cavalry reserve
(less certain squadrons lent to Loison), lay at Chão-de-Maçans on the
northern skirts of the plain of Thomar; they had one infantry regiment
(lent by Ney) to support them, at Cabaços, and their main duty was to
watch and restrain Trant and Wilson, with whose advanced posts they
were always bickering.

The situation of the French army was remarkably compact: Ney’s division
at Golegão was only one long march (eighteen miles) behind Reynier; his
second division at Thomar was less than two marches (twenty-six miles)
behind Junot. Only Loison could not have been brought up at short
notice, supposing that Wellington had attacked the line of the Rio
Mayor. If, on the other hand, an Anglo-Portuguese force had debouched
from Abrantes to attack Loison--no impossible plan, and one that
William Stewart had strenuously urged Wellington to adopt--the division
at Punhete could have been reinforced from Golegão and Thomar in one
march, since the former of these places is about thirteen miles from
the Zezere, and the latter not more than ten.

Masséna’s dispositions, as can be seen at a glance, were purely
defensive. They could not be otherwise, when his army had dwindled down
by the beginning of December to 45,000 efficient sabres and bayonets,
while his hospitals were encumbered by 8,000 or 9,000 sick. All that
he aspired to do was to hold on in the Santarem-Rio Mayor position,
pinning his adversary down to the neighbourhood of Lisbon, till he
should be restored to the power of taking the offensive once more,
by the arrival of reinforcements; his aid must come on one side from
Soult and the Army of Andalusia, on the other from Drouet’s 9th Corps,
whose services had been promised to him by the Emperor long before the
invasion of Portugal began. But down to the end of the year he had not
the slightest breath of information as to whether this assistance was
close at hand, or whether it had, perchance, not even begun to move
in his direction. Since he had cut himself loose from the frontier of
Spain in September, not a single dispatch had reached him, not even
a secret emissary had penetrated to his head quarters. For all that
he knew Napoleon might be dead, or engaged in a new war with some
continental enemy. It is an astonishing testimony to the efficiency of
the screen of Portuguese Ordenança and militia, which Wellington had
cast round the French army, to find that nothing had slipped through.
And the Marshal’s attempts to send out news of himself had been almost
equally well foiled; all his messengers had been intercepted save Foy,
who (as it will be remembered) had forced his way over the unfrequented
Estrada Nova road on October 31st[11]. And Foy had got through to
Ciudad Rodrigo because he had been given such a large escort--600
men--that no mere gathering of local Ordenança could stop him.

  [11] The next messenger who got through was Major Casabianca, who
  started on January 21st with 400 men, and safely reached Rodrigo.
  See Fririon’s _Journal of the Campaign of Portugal_, p. 129.

Masséna, down to the end of December, did not know in the least
whether Foy or any other of his emissaries had got through. He had
simply to wait till news should penetrate to him. Meanwhile the one
governing preoccupation of his life was to get food for his army,
since if food failed he must be driven to the disastrous winter
retreat, across flooded streams and between snow-clad mountains, to
which Wellington hoped to force him. The English general’s forecast
of the time which would be required to starve out the French army
was wrong by some eight or nine weeks. He thought that they would
have consumed every possible morsel of food that could be scraped
together by December--as a matter of fact they held out till the end
of February, in a state of constantly increasing privation. It seems
that Wellington underrated both the capacity for endurance that the
enemy would show, and still more the resources which were available to
him. The Portuguese government had ordered the peasantry to destroy
all food-stuffs that they could not carry off, when the country-side
was evacuated in October, and the people retired within the Torres
Vedras lines. Ostensibly the decree had been carried out; but it was
impossible to induce these small cultivators to make away with good
food, the worst of crimes to the peasant’s mind. The large majority hid
or buried, instead of burning, their stores, trusting to recover what
they had concealed when the French should have departed. Many of the
hiding-places were very ingenious--in some cases caves in the hills had
been used, and their mouths plastered up with stones and earth. In
others, pits or _silos_ had been dug in unlikely places, and carefully
covered up, or cellars had been filled, and their entrances bricked up
and concealed. The ingenuity that is bred by an empty stomach soon set
the French on the search for these hoards. When it was once discovered
that there was much hidden grain and maize in the country, every man
became a food-hunter. Whole villages were pulled down in the search for
secret places in their walls or under their floors. Parties scoured
every ravine or hillside where caves might lurk. We are told that
one effective plan was for detachments to go about with full barrels
in fields near houses, and to cast water all over the surface. Where
the liquid sank in suddenly, there was a chance that a _silo_ lurked
below, and the spade often turned up a deposit of hundreds of bushels.
But more drastic methods than these were soon devised. In the sort of
no-man’s-land between the actual cantonments of the French army and the
outposts of Wilson, Trant, and Blunt, the population had not entirely
disappeared. Though the large majority had retired, some of the poorest
or the most reckless had merely hidden themselves in the hills for a
week or two, and came down cautiously when the French had marched by
towards Lisbon. A sprinkling of miserable folk lived precariously in or
near their usual abodes, always ready to fly or to conceal themselves
when a foraging party was reported in the neighbourhood. Hence came the
horrid business that one French diarist calls the ‘chasse aux hommes’;
it became a regular device for the marauders to move by night, hide
themselves, and watch for some unwary peasant. When he was sighted he
was pursued and often caught. He was then offered the choice between
revealing the hiding-places of himself and his neighbours, and a
musket-ball through the head. Generally he yielded, and the party
went back with their mules loaded with grain, or driving before them
some goats and oxen. Sometimes he was himself starving, could reveal
nothing, and was murdered. We are assured by more than one French
narrator of these hateful times that it was discovered that torture
was more effective than the mere fear of death. If the prisoner could
or would discover nothing, he was hung up for a few minutes, and then
let down and offered a second chance of life. Sometimes this led to
revelations; if not he was strung up again for good[12]. Torture by
fire is also said to have been employed on some occasions.

  [12] For a description of this see Lemonnier-Delafosse’s
  _Mémoires_, p. 95.

Naturally these atrocities were not practised under the eyes of the
officers commanding regular foraging parties[13]. But when a company
had dispersed in search of plunder, the men who were separated in
twos or threes without control acted with such various degrees of
brutality as suited themselves. Moreover, there was a floating
scum of unlicensed marauders, who had left their colours without
leave, and were in no hurry to rejoin them. These were responsible
for the worst crimes: sometimes they gathered together in bands of
considerable strength, and it is said that they were known to fire on
regular foraging parties who tried to arrest or restrain them[14], and
that one troop, several hundred strong, fought a desperate skirmish
with a whole battalion sent to hunt them down. But it was not these
_fricoteurs_, as they were called, who were the sole offenders; many
horrors were perpetrated within the limits of the cantonments by the
authorized raiding companies. Guingret of the 39th, in Ney’s corps,
mentions in his diary that he had seen such a detachment return to
camp, after having surprised a half-deserted village, with a number
of peasant girls, whom they sold to their comrades, some for a couple
of gold pieces, others for a pack-horse[15], and assures us that rape
was habitual when such a surprise had succeeded. It was in vain that
Masséna and the corps-commanders issued general orders prohibiting
misconduct of any kind, and even executed one or two offenders caught
_flagrante delicto_. For the regimental officers, who depended on the
individual efficiency of their men in marauding for their daily food,
were not too eager to make inquiries as to what had passed outside
their own vision, and the soldier who brought home much booty was not
too closely questioned as to the manner in which he had obtained it.
When a foraging party had turned over many bushels of wheat or maize,
or a hundred sheep, to the store of their battalion, it could hardly
be expected that their colonel would show his gratitude by inquiring
whether the happy find had been procured by torture or by simple murder.

  [13] ‘Les détachements se subdivisent à mesure qu’ils
  s’éloignent: et il en résulte que les hommes isolés des chefs se
  livrent à toute espèce de rapines et même à des cruautés sur les
  pauvres paysans,’ says Noël (p. 128).

  [14] The story of the marauding sergeant ‘Maréchal Chaudron’
  and his band, given by Marbot (ii. pp. 418-19), is probably
  exaggerated by that lively narrator--the scale is too large.
  But there was undoubtedly some foundation for the tale; see
  Lemonnier-Delafosse, _Mémoires_, p. 103.

  [15] Guingret, pp. 124-6.

Of the three corps which formed Masséna’s army, that of Reynier, in the
Santarem entrenchments, seems to have suffered most, because it was
concentrated on a narrow position, with no unexhausted country around
it, and with other troops immediately in its rear, who had sucked dry
the resources of the plain of Golegão. Its foraging parties had to go
thirty miles away before they had a chance of finding ground that had
not been already picked over most carefully by the men of the 6th or
the 8th Corps. Junot’s men were a little better off, as they had the
Leiria-Alcobaça country immediately on their flank, and could plunder
there without molestation, unless they pressed in too closely upon the
outposts of Trant’s or Blunt’s detachments. Nevertheless the 8th Corps
lost more men by disease than either of the others during this hard
winter. It was composed to a great extent of conscript battalions new
to Spain, young and unacclimatized, whose men died off like flies from
cold, dysentery, and rheumatism. Clausel’s division, which contained
all these raw units, sank from 6,700 to 4,000 men in the three months
that preceded the New Year, without having been engaged in any serious
fighting--a loss of forty per cent.: while the case-hardened troops
of Reynier, who had been in the Peninsula since 1808, and had already
gone through the privations of Soult’s marches to Corunna and Oporto,
only shrank from 17,000 to 12,000 bayonets in the same three months.
Moreover, of the 5,000 lost by them, 2,000 were the casualties of
Bussaco, not the victims of Wellington’s scheme of starvation. Ney’s
corps and the cavalry reserve were better off than either Junot’s or
Reynier’s troops, having at their disposition the fertile country
between Golegão, Thomar, and Abrantes, where, at the commencement of
their sojourn, food was to be got with comparative ease--many fields
of maize were still standing unreaped when they first arrived, and it
was not till after the New Year of 1811 that they began to be seriously
pinched, and to be driven far afield, up the valley of the Zezere and
into the mountains in the direction of Espinhal and Coimbra. The 6th
Corps was still 18,000 strong out of its original 24,000 on January
1st, and of the 6,000 missing, 2,000 represented Bussaco casualties in
actual fighting.

It must be confessed that the French army displayed splendid fortitude
and ingenuity in maintaining itself on the Tagus so long beyond the
period of Wellington’s estimate. That it did not altogether dissolve,
when it was living from hand to mouth, with a fifth or a quarter of
the men habitually absent on foraging expeditions, is surprising.
Desertions to the allied lines, save from the foreign battalions in
Loison’s and Solignac’s divisions, were very rare; the native French
gave many recruits to the marauding _fricoteurs_, but seldom passed
over to the enemy. The regimental officers succeeded in organizing
a regular system by which the exploitation of the country-side was
made as effectual as could be managed. They repaired and set going
the ruined mills, discovered and rebuilt the bakers’ ovens of every
village and town, and in most cases organized regimental food-reserves
which made them independent of the general commissariat[16]. For there
was little or nothing to be got from head quarters. Shoes proved the
greatest difficulty, but the men learnt to make rude mocassins or
‘rivlins’ of untanned hide, which served fairly well, though they
needed constant replacing[17]. In some regiments a third of the men
might be seen wearing this primitive footgear. Another weak point was
ammunition--there had been no great consumption of it since Bussaco,
or the state of the army would have been perilous indeed, since it
had to depend on what it had originally brought down from Spain in
September. No more had been received, and attempts to establish a
powder factory at Santarem failed for lack of saltpetre. If Masséna had
been forced to fight two or three general engagements, his stores would
have been so depleted that he would have had to abscond at once, lest
the army should be left without cartridges. Meanwhile he hung on to
his position, conscious that his power of endurance was limited, but
hoping at any moment to see reinforcements break through from the north
or the east, to refill his ranks and bring him the needful convoys.

  [16] See Colonel Noël’s account of his food-getting and his
  stores, _Souvenirs militaires_, pp. 128-9.

  [17] See Lemonnier-Delafosse, _Souvenirs_, pp. 106-7.

Of military operations, as opposed to mere raids by detachments in
search of food, hardly anything was undertaken by the Army of Portugal
down to the end of the year. Between the 22nd and the 29th of December,
General Ferey, with five battalions and a cavalry regiment, carried
out a useless excursion beyond the Zezere, into the desolate region
of Castello Branco as far as Cortiçada; apparently he had been sent
out because of rumours that a French force was operating in this
direction, and he was told to get into touch with it. But these
reports were idle--they were tardy echoes of Gardanne’s unhappy march
on the Estrada Nova[18] a full month before. The brigade returned,
wearied and more than half-starved, on the seventh day, equally
destitute of news and of the plunder that it had hoped to find in a
hitherto untouched district. The only fruitful action, indeed, which
the French carried out in this month was the completion of the great
bridge-equipage at the mouth of the Zezere, which Masséna had ordered
General Eblé to construct many weeks back[19]. His object was to have
at his disposition means for crossing the Tagus, in case he should
wish to invade the Alemtejo, or to co-operate with any friendly troops
that might appear from that direction. Originally he had intended
to make Santarem his crossing-point, but, after some boats had been
built there, with immense difficulties owing to the entire lack of
appliances, he determined that the place was too near the British
lines, and too much exposed to attacks by Wellington’s river flotilla.
Obviously a serious attempt to cross the Tagus near Santarem, even if
its initial stages succeeded, and the larger part of the army got over,
would expose the rear divisions to almost certain destruction, since
Wellington could throw 30,000 men upon them within the next twelve
hours. There is no more certain way of ruining an army than to allow it
to be caught divided into two halves by a broad river spanned by one
or two precarious bridges. On the other hand, the mouth of the Zezere
was very remote from Wellington’s main army, and a crossing made
opposite to it could only be opposed by a part of Beresford’s force,
which was not very large, and was spread along fifty miles of the river
front. Moreover, the corps executing the passage would not have any
great danger on its flank or rear, since there was only the Portuguese
garrison of Abrantes to molest it. It was an additional advantage that
a bridge-equipage at Punhete could be kept in perfect safety a mile
or two up the Zezere, out of range of guns on the further bank of the
Tagus, and could be floated down at the last moment: while at Santarem
the boats had to be stored on the actual bank of the Tagus, exposed to
attacks from the side of the water by Wellington’s gunboats. One effort
to sink or fire them by a bombardment and the use of Congreve rockets
had already been made[20].

  [18] See vol. iii. pp. 470-1.

  [19] See vol. iii. pp. 450-1.

  [20] See vol. iii. p. 462.

Accordingly Masséna resolved that if he made any attempt to cross into
the Alemtejo, he would take Punhete and the estuary of the Zezere as
his starting-point. Here he established his dockyard, and hither he
transferred most of the busy workers from Santarem. In the course of a
month they got ready for him the materials for two bridges broad enough
to span the Tagus, besides ninety flat-bottomed boats. The mouth of the
Zezere was protected by a number of batteries, to keep down the fire of
any guns that Beresford might bring up to sink the bridges when they
were being cast across.

These preparations did not long escape Wellington’s notice; he saw that
the ground opposite Punhete was the most crucial point in Beresford’s
long front, and bade him close up his troops toward it. The detachment
beyond the Tagus was reinforced by a Spanish brigade under Carlos de
España, drawn from La Romana’s army, which was placed at Barca just
opposite the mouth of the Zezere, with William Stewart’s brigade of
the 2nd Division close by at Santa Margarida, Tramagal, and Pinheiros.
Three batteries were established on the Tagus bank opposite Punhete,
and armed with six-pounders; but as these were overmatched by the
French guns across the water, nine-pounders were requisitioned from
Lisbon[21]. The rest of the 2nd Division and Hamilton’s two Portuguese
brigades were to be ready to march to support Carlos de España and
Stewart at the shortest notice. These dispositions were sufficient
to keep Masséna quiet; he had no real intention of crossing the
Tagus unless he heard of Soult’s approach from the direction of the
Alemtejo[22].

  [21] For details see D’Urban’s diary, January 1, 4, and 5, 1811.
  The French batteries on the first day shelled Carlos de España’s
  cantonments across the river, but with no effect.

  [22] So Fririon in his _Campagne de Portugal_, p. 128.

On that side all was tranquil--as indeed it was destined to remain for
many a week more. But just at the end of the month of December the
isolation in which the Army of Portugal had so long been living at last
came to an end, and reinforcements and news were at last received,
though the news was disheartening and the reinforcements inadequate.
On the 26th the reconnoitring party under General Marcognet, which had
just beaten up Wilson’s quarters at Espinhal, was surprised by the
appearance of a party of regular cavalry pushing towards them on the
road from Ponte de Murcella. The uniforms were soon seen to be those of
French dragoons, and a joyful meeting took place[23]. The new-comers
announced that they were the advanced guard of Drouet’s 9th Corps,
which was pushing down the valley of the Mondego in search of the Army
of Portugal, but had no exact knowledge of where it was to be found.

  [23] There is a description of the meeting in the diary of Ney’s
  aide-de-camp Sprünglin, who was in command of the party which
  actually met D’Erlon’s dragoons, p. 460.

The 9th Corps, it will be remembered, was a promiscuous assembly of
some twenty newly-raised fourth battalions, belonging to the regiments
which were already in Spain. Eleven were fractions of corps serving
in Soult’s Army of Andalusia, five of regiments of Ney’s 6th Corps,
the rest of units under Reynier’s and Junot’s command. Drouet had
been originally ordered to do no more than conduct these battalions,
which were little better than a mass of drafts, to join the regiments
to which they belonged. They were divided into two provisional
divisions under Generals Conroux and Claparéde. Thrust, as it were,
into Spain without any regular organization, destitute of battalion
transport, and with an improvised and insufficient staff, they had
made very slow progress since they crossed the Pyrenees, mainly
owing to difficulties of commissariat. When Foy passed Salamanca on
November 10th, the head of Claparéde’s division had only just entered
that city; the tail of the corps was struggling up from Valladolid
and Burgos. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that Claparéde
only reached the neighbourhood of Almeida on the 15th of November,
and that Drouet had not concentrated his whole force at that place
till December 14th. He had about 16,000 men, having left three of his
own battalions to garrison Ciudad Rodrigo, and picked up instead the
remains of Gardanne’s column, which had retreated on to the Spanish
frontier in such disorder at the end of the preceding month[24]. This
detachment, by reason of its losses during its disastrous flight,
had been reduced to about 1,400 men fit for service--about the same
number that Drouet had left behind him from his own corps. Drouet was
acting under stringent orders from the Emperor to move forward at the
earliest possible moment[25], and open up communication with Masséna.
His original instructions had been to go no further forward than
Almeida himself, but to send a column under Gardanne, 6,000 strong,
to clear and keep open the way to the Tagus. The march and failure
of Gardanne have been already related, and Drouet saw that to carry
out the Emperor’s orders he must use a larger force. At the same time
his dispatches told him that he must at all costs keep in touch with
Almeida, and not merely join Masséna and allow himself to be cut off
from Spain[26].

  [24] See vol. iii. p. 481.

  [25] Napoleon to Berthier, November 3 and November 20,
  _Correspondance_, 17,079 and 17,141.

  [26] ‘Qu’il rouvre avec un gros corps les communications avec le
  prince d’Essling, mais que je compte, du reste, sur sa prudence
  de ne pas se laisser couper d’Almeida.’ Napoleon to Berthier,
  November 20.

Drouet’s solution of the problem was that with Conroux’s division and
Gardanne’s detachment, some 8,000 men, he would march down the Mondego
by Celorico and Ponte de Murcella, and cut his way to join Masséna,
but that he would leave his second division under Claparéde behind
him, about Celorico and Trancoso, to keep in touch with Almeida and
maintain his communications. This was about as much as could be done to
carry out Napoleon’s instructions, which were essentially impossible
to execute. For the Portuguese militia, with which the 9th Corps had to
deal, were, when properly managed, a very intangible enemy, who could
retire whenever a column passed, and return to block the way when it
had gone by. It is impossible to see how Drouet could have kept open
the whole road from Almeida to Thomar, without leaving all along the
way a couple of battalions, entrenched in a good position, at distances
of fifteen or twenty miles from each other. And if he had done this,
he would have had no force left at the moment when he joined Masséna.
It was useless for Napoleon to tell him in one breath to keep the road
open from end to end, and in the next to forbid him to make any small
detachments[27]. But the Emperor neither fully understood the military
situation in Portugal, nor grasped the relative merits of its roads or
the relative resources of its various regions. In a dispatch sent out
to Masséna on December 4th (but not delivered till February) he advised
that Marshal to try to open his communications with Spain by the awful
mountain road from the Zezere by Cardigos and Belmonte to Guarda, and
at the same time to use the desolate Castello Branco country ‘pour
faire des vivres.’ Ferey’s fruitless expedition up that very road and
into that very region, carried out a fortnight before the Emperor’s
dispatch was even written, had sufficiently proved the futility of the
suggestion.

  [27] ‘Il est donc important qu’il ne fasse point de petits
  pacquets.’ Ibid.

But to return to Drouet: he left Almeida on December 14th, and crossed
the Coa with both his divisions and Gardanne’s detachment. The only
enemy near him was Silveira, who with his six militia regiments and the
reorganized 24th of the Line (the absconding garrison of Almeida, which
had eluded its forced oath to Masséna in the preceding autumn[28]) was
lying at Trancoso. To that place the Portuguese general had retired
(abandoning the blockade of Almeida) when the 9th Corps arrived on the
frontier. Of the other militia brigades of the north Miller with four
battalions was at Vizeu, Trant with seven at Coimbra; Baccelar, the
Commander-in-Chief, lay at Oporto with the small remainder.

  [28] See vol. iii. p. 276.

Drouet, copying Masséna’s first dispositions in the preceding autumn,
marched from Almeida in two columns; he himself took the high road by
Celorico; Claparéde was sent along the more difficult mountain route by
Trancoso, which place Silveira evacuated on his approach. At Celorico
Drouet cut himself loose from his lieutenant, who (in accordance with
Napoleon’s orders) was to stay behind, to remain in touch with Almeida,
and (vain thought!) to keep open the communications. Taking Conroux
and Gardanne with him, he marched south of the Mondego, past Chamusca
and Moita, as far as Ponte de Murcella, which he reached on the 24th.
He met with no opposition, for Baccelar, anxious only for Oporto, had
told Silveira to keep in front of Claparéde, and Miller to stay at
Vizeu, but both to be ready to fall back on Oporto if Drouet’s advance
turned out to have that city as its objective. Similarly Trant was to
hold on to Coimbra unless the French column took the northern road, in
which case he too might be called back to Oporto[29]. Between Drouet,
therefore, and Masséna’s army there was only left the weak brigade of
John Wilson at Espinhal, and this force had been driven out of its
usual position by Marcognet’s flying column on November 23rd, and had
retired to Peñacova beyond the Mondego, below the heights of Bussaco.
On the 26th Drouet’s advance cavalry came into touch with Marcognet, as
has been already related, at Espinhal, just as the latter was preparing
to retire to Thomar, with the report that there was nothing stirring in
the north.

  [29] These dispositions are given in D’Urban’s unpublished diary.

Thus Drouet’s 8,000 men came into the sphere of Masséna’s operations;
but he did not at first seem to realize the fact. He sent on Gardanne’s
detachment (which mostly belonged to the 2nd Corps) to join the
Marshal, but halted Conroux’s division at Espinhal, and only went
forward in person as far as Thomar, where he stopped for two days
conferring with Ney. Instead of reporting himself to Masséna, he merely
sent on a dispatch, to say that he had opened the communications, and
was under orders from the Emperor to keep them safe. With this purpose
he intended to return to the Mondego, and get back into touch with
Claparéde. Masséna was in no small degree irritated at this pretension
of Drouet to act as an independent commander, and sent him a peremptory
order to come to head quarters to make his report, and to send on
Conroux’s division from Espinhal to occupy Leiria. After some slight
friction Drouet obeyed. The communications with Almeida, re-established
for a moment, were thus broken again after four days, for John Wilson,
the instant that Conroux began to break up from Espinhal, came boldly
back towards that place, attacked the French rearguard on December
30th, and, after doing it some little harm, blocked the high-road to
the north once more[30]. Drouet was completely cut off from Claparéde,
and his arrival brought no profit to Masséna beyond his 8,000 men and
the moderate train of ammunition which he had escorted. It was not
with such a reinforcement that the Marshal could hope to resume the
offensive. Indeed, as Wellington sagely remarked[31], if nothing more
came up to join him, his retreat looked more certain and necessary than
ever.

  [30] For Wilson’s movements I have his letters to Trant and
  D’Urban of January 3, 1811--the one in D’Urban’s correspondence,
  the other in the Trant papers lent me by Captain Chambers, R.N.

  [31] Wellington to Hill, Dispatches, vii. p. 86, Dec. 30, 1810.

While Drouet was on the march to Leiria, his lieutenant, Claparéde,
the moment that he was no longer under his superior’s eye, had gone
off on a bold and rather hazardous raid of his own. Finding that
Silveira’s militia were sticking closely to his skirts, he resolved to
make an attempt to surprise them by a forced march. Concentrating at
Trancoso on December 30th, he fell upon the enemy on the following day
at Ponte do Abbade, and routed them with a loss of 200 men. Silveira,
notwithstanding this check, adhered to his orders to keep close to
Claparéde, and retired no further than Villa da Ponte, some seven miles
away. But the French general made a second sudden sally from Trancoso
on January 11th[32], beat the Portuguese much more decisively, and
pursued them as far as Lamego on the Douro. Silveira crossed the river
in great disorder on the 13th, and the news of his defeat brought
terror to Oporto. Baccelar at once ordered not only the brigade from
Vizeu (Miller was just dead and no longer commanded it), but Trant from
Coimbra, and Wilson from Peñacova, to fall back and join him. They
concentrated at Castro Daire, ten miles south of Lamego, with a force
of 14,000 bayonets, whereupon Claparéde, who had only 6,000 men with
him, began to fear that he would be cut off from Almeida and isolated
in a difficult position. He evacuated Lamego and returned to Trancoso
by forced marches, having accomplished nothing save the destruction
of a few hundred militia and the spreading of panic as far as Oporto
(January 18th)[33]. Shortly after he left Trancoso and moved southward
to Celorico and Guarda[34], where he commanded the two roads to the
Tagus, yet was not too far from Almeida and his base. But he was still
completely cut off from Masséna, and the Portuguese at once resumed
their old positions around him--Trant returning to Coimbra, Wilson to
Peñacova on the Mondego, while Baccelar with the reserves lay more
to the rear, at São Pedro do Sul on the Vouga. Claparéde’s movement
would have been dangerous for the allies if he had possessed a heavier
force, but 6,000 men were too few for a serious march on Oporto, and if
the column had not retreated in haste it would probably have suffered
complete disaster.

  [32] Chaby, ii. p. 272, gives January 5th as the date of the
  combat of Villa da Ponte, but all the other authorities place it
  on the 11th.

  [33] According to Thiébault, then commanding at Salamanca,
  Claparéde’s rather wild excursion was due to mere desire for
  plunder; he accuses him of having raised, and put into his
  private purse, great contributions at Moimento, Lamego, and other
  towns which he occupied for a few days. (_Mémoires_, iv. 422-3.)

  [34] Date uncertain, perhaps January 22, as Wellington knew he
  was there on January 26.

The only use which Masséna could make of Drouet and the division of
Conroux was to cover more ground for foraging by their means. When
placed at Leiria they much restricted the activities of Blunt at
Peniche and Trant at Coimbra, who could no longer push their advanced
posts so far to the front, and had to cede to the enemy all the land
about the Souré and Alcoa rivers. Here Drouet collected enough food
both to feed himself and to give help to Ney; but the resources of the
district were, after all, limited, and within a few weeks the men of
the 9th Corps were living on the edge of daily starvation like their
fellows. The Army of Portugal had got no solid help from this quarter.
It remained to be seen whether they would obtain better aid from the
other side from which Masséna had hoped to be reinforced--the Army of
Andalusia.



SECTION XXIII: CHAPTER II

SOULT’S EXPEDITION INTO ESTREMADURA. JANUARY-MARCH 1811. THE BATTLE OF
THE GEBORA AND THE FALL OF BADAJOZ


In his original scheme for the invasion of Portugal, Napoleon had given
no part to the Army of Andalusia, judging that Masséna, supported
by the 9th Corps, would be amply strong enough to drive the English
into the sea. It is not till the 29th of September that the imperial
correspondence begins to show signs of a desire that Soult should do
something to help the Army of Portugal. But the assistance which was
to be given is defined, in the dispatch of that date, as no more than
a diversion to be made against Estremadura by Mortier and the 5th
Corps, with the object of preventing La Romana from giving any aid to
Wellington[35]. Soult is directed to see that Mortier keeps the Spanish
Army of Estremadura in check: he is always to be on its heels, so
that it will have no opportunity of sending troops towards the Tagus.
Nothing is said about making a serious attack on Estremadura, or of
threatening Badajoz with a siege. On the 26th of October comes the next
allusion to this subject[36]: the Emperor had learnt from the English
newspapers--always his best source of intelligence--that La Romana with
a large part of his forces has marched on Lisbon to join Wellington,
and that he has been able to do so without molestation. That this
should have happened was, he thought, due to direct disobedience on
Soult’s part: the Marshal cannot have kept in touch with the enemy.
And he is directed in vague terms to ‘faire pousser sur La Romana,’
whatever exactly that may mean. An interpretation for the phrase,
however, turns up in the next imperial dispatch[37]--Mortier and the
5th Corps ought to have followed the Spanish general march for march,
and to have presented themselves on the Lower Tagus in face of Lisbon
shortly after the arrival of La Romana in the Portuguese capital.

  [35] The Emperor to Berthier, September 29, no. 16,967 of the
  _Correspondance de Napoléon_.

  [36] Not in the _Correspondance_, but in the form of a letter
  from Berthier to Soult, which Soult answers at great length in
  his Dispatch from Seville of December 1.

  [37] ‘Le 5e Corps, au lieu de suivre La Romana, et par là
  de menacer la rive gauche du Tage vis-à-vis de Lisbonne
  (pour empêcher les Anglais d’avoir toutes leurs forces sur
  la rive droite), s’est replié honteusement sur Séville.’
  _Correspondance_, no. 17,131.

Soult had little difficulty in proving that this scheme was absolutely
impossible. It argued, indeed, a complete misconception of the
situation in Estremadura and Andalusia. To talk lightly of pushing
Mortier and the 5th Corps, which comprised at this moment just 13,000
men, right across Estremadura to the mouth of the Tagus, ‘en talonnant
La Romana,’ was futile. The Spanish General had gone off to join
Wellington with some 7,000 or 8,000 men. But he had left behind him
in Estremadura two strong infantry divisions, those of Mendizabal and
Ballasteros, with 12,000 bayonets, 6,000 more infantry in garrison
at Badajoz, Olivenza, and Albuquerque, and the whole of his cavalry,
2,500 sabres. In addition there were interposed between Mortier and
the Tagus about 8,500 Portuguese--a cavalry brigade under Madden which
had been lent to the Spaniards, and, near Badajoz, a regular infantry
brigade at Elvas, and four militia regiments, forming the garrisons
of the last-named place, of Campo Mayor, and of Jerumenha. That is to
say, there lay before Mortier, after La Romana’s departure, a field
army which, if concentrated, would make up 18,000 men, and in addition
six fortresses containing garrisons amounting to 11,000 men more, and
covering all the main strategical points of the country. How could
he have pursued La Romana? If he had followed, he would have found
himself at once involved in a campaign against superior forces in a
region studded with hostile strongholds. ‘On this frontier,’ as Soult
wrote to Berthier, ‘there are six fortified places--Badajoz, Olivenza,
Jerumenha, Elvas, Campo Mayor, Albuquerque, in which there are at least
20,000 infantry and 2,500 cavalry. It is clear to me that if I thrust a
body of 10,000 men forward to the Tagus, as his majesty has directed,
that body would never reach its destination, and would be cut off and
surrounded before I could get up to its aid[38].’ This was indisputably
correct: Mortier might have beaten Mendizabal and Ballasteros in the
open field, if they chose to offer him battle; but if they preferred to
concentrate on Badajoz or Elvas, and defied him from under the shadow
of those great fortresses, he could not ignore them and march by in
pursuit of La Romana. The moment that he was past their positions, they
would cut him off from Andalusia, and he would find himself with their
whole force at his back, and in front of him anything that Wellington
might have sent to the south bank of the Tagus. In December this
would have meant 14,000 men under Hill, at the New Year about 16,000
under Beresford. As Soult truly said, the expedition would have been
encompassed, and probably destroyed, long before Masséna heard of its
having got anywhere near him[39]. Nevertheless the Commander-in-Chief
of the Army of Portugal was told to expect this diversion as a matter
of certainty: in the dispatch that Foy took back to him (dated Dec. 4)
he was given the precise statement that the 5th Corps was to be looked
for somewhere in the direction of Montalvão and Villaflor, on the Tagus
above Abrantes, at no distant date.

  [38] Soult to Berthier, no. 24 in Appendix to _Belmas_, vol. i.
  p. 472.

  [39] The total of the troops available against Mortier in
  December would have been, giving net totals, with sick and
  detached men all deducted:--

  _Spanish_:

  Ballasteros’s Division                                         5,000
  Mendizabal’s Division                                          6,000
  Permanent garrison of Badajoz                                  4,200
  5 battalions left behind by La Romana at Albuquerque,
     Olivenza, &c.                                               2,000
  Carlos de España’s brigade on the Tagus near Abrantes          1,500
  Cavalry of the Army of Estremadura                             2,600
  Artillery                                                        500

  _Portuguese_:

  Brigade of Line Regiments, Nos. 5 and 17, at Elvas             2,500
  Brigade of Cavalry under Madden, 3rd, 5th, 8th regiments         950
  Hamilton’s Division (with Hill), 2nd, 4th, 10th, 14th Line     4,800
  Portuguese Militia, 4 regiments, Beja, Evora, Villa Viciosa,
    Portalegre, in Elvas, Jerumenha, and Campo Mayor             4,000
  5th Caçadores (with Hill)                                        450
  Fane’s Cavalry (with Hill), 1st, 4th, 7th, 10th regiments      1,200
  Artillery (4 batteries)                                          600

  _British_:

  Hill’s Second Division                                         5,250
  13th Light Dragoons                                              350
  Artillery (3 batteries)                                          400
                                                                ------
                                                       Total    42,300
                                                                ------

  Mortier had in the 5th Corps 11,500 infantry, 1,200 cavalry, and
  about 700 artillery in his 7 batteries.

After having, as he thought, demonstrated to his master that it would
be useless to send Mortier alone, with 10,000 or 12,000 men, to make
an impossible dash at the Tagus, Soult made another proposal. He would
undertake not a mere raid, but the capture of Badajoz, the conquest of
Estremadura, and the destruction of the army of that province; but he
must take with him a force much greater than the mere 5th Corps. ‘The
enterprise is a big one, but ought to succeed--at least it will produce
a happy diversion in favour of the imperial army in Portugal[40].’ It
would call back La Romana from Lisbon, and possibly cause Wellington to
detach troops in his aid, and Masséna would have less in front of him
in consequence, and might resume the offensive.

  [40] Soult to Berthier, December 1, 1810, from Seville.

There was of course another course possible: Soult might have marched
for Estremadura not with the 13,000 men of the 5th Corps alone, nor
yet with the 20,000 men whom he actually took thither in January, but
with the greater part of the French Army of Andalusia, 35,000 or 40,000
men. To do so he would have had to abandon Granada, Malaga, and Jaen
on the one side, and his hold on the Condado de Niebla and the west
upon the other. He might even possibly have had to raise the siege of
Cadiz, though this is not quite certain. Many months after, in the
end of March, when all chance of the conquest of Portugal was over,
the Emperor told him that this would have been his proper course, and
read him an _ex-post-facto_ lecture on the advantages that might have
followed, if he had evacuated two-thirds of his viceroyalty and taken
an imposing force to sweep across the Alemtejo and assail Lisbon from
the southern side[41]. But it must be remembered that in December and
January all the orders that were sent him directed him to move no more
than a small corps--in one dispatch the Emperor calls it only 10,000
men. A supreme commander-in-chief present on the spot might have seen
his way to make the temporary sacrifice of the provinces which had cost
so many men to conquer and to hold, in order that every available man
might be sent against Lisbon, and the English might at last be expelled
from the Peninsula. But Soult was not such a commander-in-chief; he
was only one of the many viceroys whom Napoleon preferred to a single
omnipotent lieutenant. Was it likely that he would sacrifice half his
own territory, when no order to do so lay before him, in order that a
colleague, sent on a separate task with forces no less than his own,
might have every possible advantage? Soult is often blamed for not
having seen that the crushing of Wellington’s army was the end to which
all others should have been subordinated, and that it would have been
cheap in the end to surrender half or three-quarters of Andalusia,
and even to raise the siege of Cadiz, in order to secure that point.
He might have replied that his master was no less blind than himself:
dispatch after dispatch had ordered him to send a trifling detachment
towards the Tagus, not to mass every available man and march on Lisbon,
leaving Seville and the Cadiz lines exposed to all manner of dangers.
He was primarily responsible for the retention of the Andalusia that
he had conquered; it was for the Emperor, not for himself, to order
the evacuation of much or all of that great realm. The Emperor gave
no such directions: from September to January his whole series of
dispatches spoke of nothing more than the movement of a moderate force;
those of January 25th and February 6th approved of the course which
Soult had actually chosen, and took it for granted that he would not
move towards the Tagus till he should have captured Badajoz[42]. It
was not till March, when he began to see that all his arrangements
were going wrong, and that his scheme of times was erroneous, that the
Emperor began suddenly to launch out into criticisms of Soult, and to
complain that ‘to try to hold every point at a moment of crisis leads
to possible disaster,’ that ‘Seville, Badajoz, and the Cadiz lines were
the only necessary things,’ and that the Marshal ought to have 30,000
men or more with him at Badajoz instead of the 20,000 men whom he had
actually taken thither[43]. If so, why had the orders not been given to
that effect early in December, when Napoleon had just learnt from Foy
the state and position of the Army of Portugal, which had so long been
hidden from him behind Wellington’s screen of Ordenança?

  [41] This dispatch of March 29 (Nap. _Corresp._, no. 17,531),
  which must have reached Soult about the end of April, when
  Masséna had long retired to Spain, told him that he should have
  withdrawn all the 4th Corps from Granada save the six Polish
  battalions, and have drawn in Godinot’s brigade from Cordova,
  i. e. have abandoned the whole eastern half of Andalusia, and
  have tried to hold nothing but the siege lines of Cadiz and
  the city of Seville. But this was ‘wisdom after the event.’ In
  December Napoleon was harping upon a diversion with 10,000 men
  to Montalvão and Villaflor, not ordering the evacuation of the
  greater part of Andalusia.

  [42] January 25, Napoleon to Berthier, ‘Il est nécessaire
  d’écrire au duc de Dalmatie _qu’après la prise de Badajoz_ il
  doit se porter sur le Tage, avec son équipage de pont, et donner
  les moyens au prince d’Essling d’assiéger et prendre Abrantès.’
  _Correspondance_, no. 17,295.

  February 5, Napoleon to Berthier, ‘Écrivez au duc d’Istrie
  (Bessières, now commanding the new “Army of the North”) ... que
  tout paraît prendre une couleur avantageuse, que si Badajoz a
  été pris dans le courant de Janvier, le duc de Dalmatie a pu se
  porter sur le Tage.’ [Unfortunately Badajoz did not surrender
  till March 11, and Soult was extremely lucky to get it so early.]
  _Correspondance_, no. 17,335.

  [43] Napoleon to Berthier, March 29, _Correspondance_, no. 17,531.

If we seek deep enough, we find the cause of all misdirections
in the fact that the Emperor persisted in guiding the movements
of all his army from Paris, and would not appoint an independent
commander-in-chief of all the Spanish armies, who should be able to
issue orders that would be promptly obeyed by every separate marshal
or general in each province. A moment’s reflection shows that the
_data_ as to the details of the situation in the Peninsula, from which
Napoleon had to construct his scheme of operations, always came to him
a month late. And when he had issued the dispatch which dealt with the
situation, it reached its destination after the interval of another
month, and had long ceased to have any bearing on the actual position
of affairs. A single example of how the system worked may suffice.
Masséna started Foy for Paris, with his great report on the state of
the Army of Portugal, on October 29. Foy reached Paris and saw the
Emperor on November 22 and the succeeding days. The detailed dispatches
to Masséna and Soult, consequent on Foy’s report, were not sent off
till December 4. On January 22nd Soult acknowledges the receipt
of the dispatch of that date, along with that of two others dated
November 28 and December 10, all of which arrived together, because
the guerrilleros of La Mancha had stopped the posts between Madrid and
Seville for a full fortnight after the New Year[44]. Of what value to
Soult on January 22 could be orders based on the condition and projects
of Masséna on October 29? The data at the base of the orders were
three months old--while Soult had been already for more than a month
engaged on a campaign undertaken on his own responsibility, without any
knowledge of the exact requirements of Masséna, or of the intentions of
the Emperor.

  [44] Soult to Berthier, from the siege lines in front of
  Olivenza, dated January 22.

The Estremaduran expedition of January-March 1811, therefore, must
be looked upon as the private scheme of the Duke of Dalmatia[45],
undertaken with the general object of giving _indirect_ assistance
to Masséna, because the last orders that he had received from Paris
(those of October 26), telling him to give _direct_ assistance, by
sending Mortier to the Tagus, were impossible of execution[46]. Soult
had two leading ideas in his mind when he planned out his campaign.
The first was that he was going into a country thickly set with
fortresses; the second was that, when once the skirts of the Sierra
Morena have been passed, Estremadura is a ‘cavalry country,’ a land
of heaths and of unenclosed tillage-fields of vast area. Accordingly
he intended to march with a very large force of cavalry, and with a
heavy siege-train. At Seville he had at his disposition the greatest
arsenal of Spain; but for many months all that it produced had been
going forward to Cadiz: no less than 290 pieces had been sent to
arm the vast lines in front of the blockaded city. Accordingly it
took some time to get ready the heavy guns, and to manufacture the
ammunition required for such a big business as the siege of the six
fortresses, small and great, into whose midst he was about to thrust
himself. The personnel for the siege-train had also to be collected:
requisitions were sent, both to Victor at Cadiz and to Sebastiani at
Granada, to detach and send into Seville nearly all their sappers, and
the men of several companies of artillery. They were also to send to
the expeditionary force many regiments of cavalry. Mortier had only
two (10th Hussars and 21st Chasseurs), which had sufficed when he was
engaged in the heights of the Sierra Morena, but were insufficient when
he was about to descend into the plain of the Guadiana. Accordingly
half the cavalry of Victor’s 1st Corps was called up--four regiments
(4th, 14th, 26th Dragoons, 2nd Hussars), while Sebastiani gave up one
(27th Chasseurs); to these was added an experimental Spanish cavalry
regiment of ‘Juramentados’ recently organized at Seville. Only one
infantry regiment was requisitioned, the 63rd Line, from Victor’s 3rd
Division. The putting together of these resources gave a force in which
the proportions of the arms were very peculiar--4,000 cavalry, 2,000
artillery and sappers, to only 13,500 infantry; the last, all save
the above-mentioned 63rd regiment, drawn from Mortier’s 5th Corps.
The orders for the concentration of the troops were issued early in
December, but owing to the time required for drawing in units from
Granada and Cadiz, and for the preparation of the siege-train, it
was not till the last day of the old year that the Marshal took his
departure from Seville.

  [45] He calls it ‘la détermination que j’avais prise sur de
  simples avis indirects.’ To Berthier, January 25.

  [46] For the explanation of all this see Soult to Berthier,
  already quoted, from Seville, December 1, acknowledging the
  receipt of the imperial orders of October 26th.

The collection of a field army of 20,000 men, which was to cut itself
loose from Andalusia for a time, imposed some tiresome problems on
Soult. Since he had resolved not to evacuate Granada or Malaga on the
one hand, nor the posts west of the Guadalquivir on the other, and
since he was drawing off the 5th Corps, which had hitherto provided for
the safety of Seville and found detachments for the Condado de Niebla,
he had to make provision for the filling of the gap left behind him.
Hence we find him calling upon Victor to spare men from in front of
Cadiz--a demand which the Duke of Belluno took very ill--since he truly
declared that he had no more troops in the 1st Corps than sufficed
to man the lines and to keep posts of observation in his rear. The
garrison of Cadiz was always increasing, and included a strong nucleus
of British troops. How could he face sorties, or disembarkations in
his rear, if he was cut down to a mere 18,000 men in place of the
24,000 on which he had hitherto reckoned? Nevertheless, he was forced
to provide a detachment to hold Xeres, as a half-way house to Seville,
and to send out a cavalry regiment (9th Dragoons) and one battalion
west of the Guadalquivir. Similarly, the brigade of Godinot in the
kingdom of Cordova[47] was required to find a skeleton garrison for
Seville, which was raised to a somewhat higher figure, in appearance,
by the doubtful aid of some ‘juramentado’ companies of Spaniards, and
of the dépôts and convalescents of the 5th Corps. The great city, with
a turbulent population of 100,000 souls, which formed the centre of his
viceroyalty, became at this time Soult’s weakest point--he left it so
inadequately held that it was at the mercy of any considerable hostile
force which might approach it--and such a force was ere long, as we
shall see, to make its appearance. Godinot had also to look after the
insurgent bands of the central Sierra Morena, who often blocked the
post road to Madrid. Sebastiani (save for the cavalry and artillery
borrowed from him) was left with his 4th Corps intact, and his duty was
unchanged--to watch the Spanish army of Murcia, and to suppress the
guerrilleros of the Sierra de Ronda and the eastern coast--an unending
task from which Soult thought that he ought not to be distracted.
Napoleon, wise after the event, wrote in March that Soult should have
left no more than the Polish division of the 4th Corps in the direction
of Granada, and have brought the remainder of it to strengthen or
support the troops at Seville and in the lines before Cadiz. In that
case the Poles would certainly have had to move westward also ere long,
since there were but 5,000 of them, and all Eastern Andalusia would
have had to be evacuated. But this idea had never struck Soult as
practicable, and Sebastiani’s whole corps was left in its old posts in
the kingdom of Granada.

  [47] Belonging to that division of the Army of the Centre under
  Dessolles which Soult had borrowed for the conquest of Andalusia,
  and which King Joseph, despite of many demands, could never get
  back.

The invasion of Estremadura was carried out in two columns of about
equal strength, which used the two main passes between Western
Andalusia and the valley of the Guadiana. The right column under
Latour-Maubourg took the route by Guadalcanal, Llerena, and Usagre;
it was composed of his own regiments of dragoons from the 1st Corps,
and of Girard’s infantry division of the 5th Corps, which latter had
been cantoned in Llerena since the autumn, and was now picked up and
taken forward by the cavalry. The left column, which was accompanied
both by Soult and by Mortier, was composed of Briche’s light cavalry
and Gazan’s division of the 5th Corps. It had to escort the slowly
moving siege-train of 34 guns, which (with the 60,000 kilos of powder
belonging to it) was drawn by 2,500 draught oxen, requisitioned along
with their drivers from the province of Seville. This column took the
route Ronquillo, Sta Olalla, Monasterio, which, if less steep and
better made than the Llerena-Guadalcanal road, is longer, and passes
through an even more desolate and resourceless country. It was intended
that the two columns should join at Los Santos or Almendralejo, in the
Estremaduran plain, and lay siege at once to Badajoz, the enemy’s most
formidable stronghold. Its fall, so Soult hoped, would lead to the easy
conquest of the minor fortresses.

But the two columns did not meet with equal fortune. That commanded by
Latour-Maubourg met practically no resistance in its first stages. On
arriving at Usagre on January 3, it found in its front almost the whole
of the allied cavalry in Estremadura--Butron with 1,500 Spaniards,
Madden with nearly 1,000 Portuguese. But this was merely a screen
thrown out to cover the retreat beyond the Guadiana of Mendizabal
and the division of Spanish infantry which had been cantoned in this
region. That officer had been ordered by his chief, La Romana, to break
the bridge of Merida, after retiring over it, and then to attempt to
hold the line of the Guadiana. He did neither; precipitately marching
on Merida, he passed through it in great haste, but forgot to see
that the bridge was duly destroyed, and then retired along the north
bank of the Guadiana to Badajoz. Latour-Maubourg, according to his
directions, did not cross the river, but halted near Almendralejo,
to wait for the other column, which was not forthcoming. Only Soult
himself and Briche’s light cavalry appeared at Zafra on the 5th, and
joined Latour-Maubourg on the 6th of January. Gazan’s infantry and the
siege-train were far away, and unavailable for many a day. The plans
of the left invading column had miscarried. For when its head reached
Monasterio, at the summit of the long pass, its tail, the siege-train,
was dragging far behind. In the desolate stages about Ronquillo and Sta
Olalla it had met with tempestuous rains, as might have been expected
at the season. Many of the oxen died, the unwilling Spanish drivers
deserted wholesale, and there was much delay and considerable loss of
vehicles. The train and its small escort got completely separated from
Gazan’s infantry. At this moment Soult’s cavalry reported to him that
a formidable column of hostile infantry was lying a few miles to the
west of Monasterio, on the bad cross-road to Calera, and was apparently
moving round his flank, either to fall upon the belated convoy or
perhaps to make a dash at Seville.

This column was the 5,000 infantry of Ballasteros, who, as it chanced,
had begun to march southward at the same moment that Soult had started
northward. The Spanish general had just received orders from Cadiz
bidding him cut himself loose from the Estremaduran army, and move into
the Condado de Niebla, where he was to unite with the local levies
under Copons, drive out the weak French detachment there stationed,
and threaten Seville from the west if it should be practicable. These
orders had been given, of course, before Soult’s plan for invading
Estremadura was suspected at Cadiz. But though unwise in themselves--it
was not the time to deplete Estremadura of troops--they had the effect
of bringing Soult’s great manœuvre to a standstill for some weeks. The
Marshal determined that he must free his flank from this threatening
force before continuing his march, and ordered Mortier to attack
Ballasteros without delay. This was done, but the Spaniard, after a
running fight of two hours, retired to Fregenal, fifteen miles further
west, without suffering any serious harm (January 4th). He was still
in a position to threaten the rear of the convoy, or to slip round the
flank of the French column towards Seville. Soult therefore resolved to
go on with his cavalry and join Latour-Maubourg, but to drop Gazan’s
infantry in the passes, with the order to head off Ballasteros at
all costs, and to cover the siege-train in its journey across the
mountains. Gazan therefore took post at Fuentes de Leon, but soon
heard that Ballasteros had moved south again from Fregenal towards the
Chanza river, and was apparently trying to get round his flank. Leaving
a detachment to help the convoy on its slow and toilsome route, Gazan
resolved to pursue the Spanish column and destroy it at all costs. This
determination led him into three weeks of desperate mountain-marching
and semi-starvation, at the worst season of the year. For Ballasteros,
who showed considerable skill in drawing his enemy on, moved ever south
and west towards the lower Guadiana, and picked up Copons’s levies by
the way. He at last turned to fight at Villanueva de los Castillejos on
January 24th. Gazan, who had been joined meanwhile by the small French
detachment in the Condado de Niebla, brought his enemy to action on the
25th. The Asturian battalions which formed Ballasteros’s division made
a creditable resistance, and when evicted from their position retired
across the Guadiana to Alcoutim in Portugal, without having suffered
any overwhelming loss[48]. Gazan therefore resolved to pursue them no
further--indeed he had been drawn down into one of the remotest corners
of Spain to little profit, and realized that Soult must be brought to a
standstill one hundred miles away, for want of the 6,000 infantry who
had now been executing their toilsome excursion in the mountains for
three weeks.

  [48] Certainly not with the loss of 1,500 men as Gazan alleged,
  still less with that of 3,000 as stated by Napier.

Accordingly, the French general bade Remond, the commander of the
Niebla detachment, watch Ballasteros, and himself returned to
Estremadura by a most painful march through Puebla de Guzman, El Cerro,
Fregenal, and Xeres de los Caballeros. He reported his return to Soult
at Valverde on February 3rd. His services had been lost to his chief
for a month all but two days, a fact which had the gravest results on
the general course of the campaign of Estremadura[49].

  [49] By far the best account of this wild excursion is to be
  found in La Mare’s account of the Estremaduran Campaign of
  1811-12 (Paris, 1825). Toreno exaggerates the losses of the
  French, which cannot have been heavy, as Martinien’s _Liste des
  officiers tués_, &c., shows only two or three casualties in
  Gazan’s division.

For the Duke of Dalmatia, when he had joined Latour-Maubourg on
January 6th, found that he had at his disposition 4,000 cavalry but
only the 6,000 infantry of Girard, while the siege-train was still
blocked in the passes by Monasterio. With such a force he did not like
to beleaguer a place so large and so heavily garrisoned as Badajoz.
Accordingly, he was forced to abandon his original intention of forming
its siege, and to think of some lesser enterprise, more suited to his
strength. After some hesitation, he determined to attack the weak
and old-fashioned fortress of Olivenza, the southernmost of all the
fortified places on the Spanish-Portuguese frontier. To cover his
movement he sent Briche’s cavalry to Merida, which they occupied on
January 7th, almost without resistance, finding the bridge intact. From
thence they sought for Mendizabal on the north side of the Guadiana,
and discovered that he had withdrawn to Albuquerque, twenty miles north
of Badajoz. Meanwhile Latour-Maubourg with four dragoon regiments took
post at Albuera to watch the garrison of Badajoz, while Soult marched
with Girard’s infantry and one cavalry regiment to attack Olivenza,
before whose walls he appeared on January 11th, 1811.

Olivenza ought never to have been defended. For since its cession
by Portugal to Spain after Godoy’s futile ‘War of the Oranges’ in
1801, it had been systematically neglected. The breach made by the
Spaniards at its siege ten years before had never been properly
repaired--only one-third of the masonry had been replaced, and the
rest of the gap had been merely stopped with earth. Its one outlying
work, a lunette 300 yards only from its southern point, was lying in
ruins and unoccupied. The circuit of its walls was about a mile, but
there were only eighteen guns[50] to guard them. The garrison down to
the 5th of January had consisted of a single battalion left there by
La Romana, when he marched for Portugal in October. But Mendizabal,
apparently in inexcusable ignorance of the condition of the place, had
ordered a whole brigade of his infantry to throw themselves into it
when Soult began to press forward. He sacrificed, in fact, 2,400 out
of the 6,000 bayonets of his division by bidding them shut themselves
up in an utterly untenable fortress[51]. The governor, General Manuel
Herck--an old Swiss officer--was ailing and quite incapable; a man of
resources might have done something with the heavy garrison placed
under his orders, even though the walls were weak and artillery almost
non-existent; but Herck disgraced himself.

  [50] Soult reports eighteen guns surrendered: but Herck says in
  his dispatch that only eight were serviceable.

  [51] The original garrison was Voluntarios de Navarra, 1,150
  bayonets properly belonging to O’Donnell’s division, which was at
  Lisbon with La Romana. The reinforcements thrown in at the last
  moment were four battalions, 2,400 bayonets, from the regiments
  Merida, Truxillo, Barbastro, and Monforte--the two former part
  of the original army of Estremadura, the two latter part of Del
  Parque’s old army from the north.

When Soult arrived in front of Olivenza on January 11th, his engineers
informed him that the place, weak as it was, was too strong to take by
escalade, but that a very few days of regular battering would suffice
to ruin it. Unfortunately for him, there was as yet no heavy artillery
at his disposition, but only the divisional batteries of Girard’s two
brigades; the siege-train was still stuck in the passes. However, the
outlying lunette opposite the south front was at once seized, and
turned into a battery for four field-guns, which opened their fire on
the next day. The old Spanish breach of 1801, obviously ready to fall
in on account of its rickety repairs, was visible in the north-west
front, the bastion of San Pedro. Opposite this sites for two more
batteries were planned, and a first parallel opened. The trench-work
went on almost unhindered by the Spaniards, who showed but few guns and
shot very badly, but under considerable difficulties from the rainy
weather, which was perpetually flooding the lower parts of the lines.
But in ten days approaches were pushed right up to the edge of the
counterscarp, and mines prepared to blow it in. The siege artillery
began to arrive on the 19th, in detachments, and continued to drop in
for several days. On the 21st the batteries, being completed, were
armed with the first 12-pounders that came up. On the 22nd the fire
began, and at once proved most effective: the bastion of San Pedro
began to crumble in, and the old breach of 1801 revealed itself, by
the falling away of the rammed earth which alone stopped it up. The
arrangements for a storm had not yet been commenced when the garrison
hoisted the white flag. Mortier refused all negotiations and demanded
a surrender at discretion. This the old governor hastened to concede,
coming out in person at one of the gates, and putting the place at
the disposition of the French without further argument.[52] Soult and
Mortier entered next day, and 4,161 Spanish troops marched out and laid
down their arms before the 6,000 infantry of Girard, who had formed the
sole besieging force. The total loss of the French during the siege was
15 killed and 40 wounded--that of the besieged about 200. The figures
are a sufficient evidence of the disgraceful weakness of the defence.

  [52] Herck’s miserable exculpatory dispatch may be found in
  Chaby, iv. pp. 200-1.

When one reflects what was done to hold the unfortified town of
Saragossa, and the mediaeval enceinte of Gerona, it is impossible
not to reflect what a determined governor might have accomplished
at Olivenza. The place was short of guns, no doubt--but the enemy
was worse off till the last days of the siege, since he had nothing
but twelve light field-pieces until the siege-train began to arrive.
General Herck made no sorties to disturb the works--though he had a
superabundant garrison; he made no serious attempt to retrench the
breach, and he surrendered actually ere the first summons had been
sent in before the storm. At the worst he might have tried to cut
his way out between the French camps, which were scattered far from
each other, owing to the extremely small numbers of the besieging
army, who only counted three men to the defenders’ two. Altogether it
was a disgraceful business. The place, no doubt, ought never to have
been held; but if held it might at least have been defended--which it
practically was not.

Soult was placed in a new difficulty by the surrender of Olivenza.
Though his siege-train had begun to come up, he had no news of Gazan,
and his infantry was still no more than a single division. He had
to spare two battalions to escort the 4,000 prisoners to Seville,
and to put another in Olivenza as garrison[53]. This left him only
eleven battalions--5,435 bayonets, to continue the campaign, though
he had the enormous force of 4,000 cavalry at his disposition, and a
siege-train that was growing every day, as more belated pieces came
up from the rear. He might probably have waited for Gazan, for whom
messages had been vainly sent, if he had not received, on the day
that Olivenza fell, one more of Berthier’s peremptory letters, dated
22 December, in which he was told (as usual) to send the 5th Corps to
join Masséna on the Tagus without delay. This letter came at an even
more inappropriate moment than usual, as Gazan, with half that corps,
was lost to sight in the mountain of the Condado de Niebla, more than
a hundred and twenty miles away. But it was clear that something
immediate must be done, or the Emperor would be more discontented than
before; accordingly Soult resolved to take the very hazardous step of
laying siege to Badajoz at once with the small infantry force at his
disposition. For this move would undoubtedly provoke alarm at Lisbon,
and lead Wellington to send off La Romana’s army to succour it, and
perhaps some Anglo-Portuguese troops also, so that the mass opposed to
Masséna would be more or less weakened.

  [53] The regiment sent back with the prisoners was the 63rd,
  the one borrowed from Victor: it had not been at the siege, but
  supporting Latour-Maubourg at Albuera. The garrison left in
  Olivenza was one battalion of the 64th.

Accordingly on the 26th of January Soult marched against Badajoz,
which is only twelve miles north-west of Olivenza, with under 6,000
infantry, ten companies of artillery, and seven of sappers, to invest
the southern side of Badajoz, while Latour-Maubourg, with six regiments
of cavalry, crossed the Guadiana by a ford, and went to blockade the
place on its northern front.

Badajoz, though owning some defects, was still a stronghold of
the first class, in far better order than most of the Peninsular
fortresses. It belonged to that order of places whose topography
forces a besieger to divide his army by a dangerous obstacle, since
it lies on a broad river, with the town on one side and a formidable
outwork on the other. Indeed the most striking feature of Badajoz,
whether the traveller approaches it from the east or the west, is the
towering height of San Cristobal, crowned by its fort, lying above
the transpontine suburb and dominating the whole city. Any enemy who
begins operations against the place must take measures to blockade or
to attack this high-lying fort, which completely covers the bridge and
its _tête-du-pont_, and effectively protects ingress or egress to or
from the place. But San Cristobal is not easy to blockade, since it is
the end-bluff of a very steep narrow range of hills, which run for many
miles to the north, and divide the country-side beyond the Guadiana
into two separate valleys, those of the Gebora and the Caya, which are
completely invisible from each other.

The city of Badajoz is built on an inclined plane, sloping down from
the Castle, which stands on a lofty hill with almost precipitous
grass slopes, at the north-east end of the place, down to the river
on the north and the plain on the south and west. The castle-hill and
San Cristobal between them form a sort of gorge, through which the
Guadiana, narrowed for a space, forces its way, to broaden out again at
the immensely long bridge with its thirty-two arches and 640 yards of
roadway. Below the castle the Rivillas, a stagnant brook with hardly
any current,--the home of frogs and the hunting-ground of the city
storks,--coasts around the walls, and finally dribbles into the river.
The front of the place from the river to the castle was composed of
eight regular bastions; along the river edge there lies nothing more
than a single solid wall without relief or indentations: but this side
of the place is wholly inaccessible owing to the water. There are two
outlying works, which cover heights so close into the place that it is
necessary to hold them, lest the enemy should establish himself too
near the enceinte. These are the Picurina lunette beyond the Rivillas,
and the much larger Pardaleras fort, a ‘half-crown-work,’ opposite the
south point of the city, which covers a well-marked hill that commands
that low-lying part of the place, and is a position impossible to
concede to the besieger, since it is only 250 yards from the nearest
bastion. It was ill-designed, having a very shallow ditch, and being
incompletely closed at its gorge by a mere palisade.

The eight bastions which form the attackable part of the enceinte of
Badajoz have (they remain to-day just as they were in 1811, for the
place has never been modernized) a height of about thirty feet[54] from
the bottom of the ditch to the rampart, while the curtains between them
are somewhat lower, about twenty-two feet only. The ditch was broad,
with a good counterscarp in masonry seven feet high; beyond it each
bastion was protected in front by a rather low and weak demi-lune.

  [54] Except the two nearest the river, San Vincente and San José,
  which are a little lower.

The garrison, not more than enough for such an extensive place,
consisted at the New Year of 4,100 men; but Mendizabal threw in two
battalions more (1st and 2nd of the Second Regiment of Seville) before
he retired to the borders of Portugal, so that the figure had risen to
5,000 before Soult appeared in front of the walls. The governor was
a very distinguished soldier, General Rafael Menacho, who had served
through the old French war of 1792-5, and had commanded a regiment
at Baylen. He was in the full vigour of middle age (forty-four years
old) and abounding in spirit, resolution, and initiative, as all his
movements showed down to the unhappy day of his death.

Soult’s engineers, after surveying the situation of Badajoz, reported
that under ordinary circumstances the most profitable front to attack
would certainly be the western--that between the Pardaleras fort
and the river; but at the same time they decided that it had better
be left alone. For the army was so weak that it could not properly
invest the whole city, and if the north bank of the Guadiana were
left practically unoccupied, as must necessarily be the case, the
Spaniards would be able to seize the ground beyond the bridge-head,
and establish batteries there, which would effectually enfilade the
trenches which would have to be constructed for approaching the west
side of the place. The castle and the north-east angle of the town were
too high-lying to be chosen as the point of attack, and the Rivillas
and its boggy banks were better avoided. They therefore advised that
the south front should be chosen as the objective, and that the first
operation taken in hand should be the capture of the Pardaleras fort,
for that work appeared weak and ill-planned, while its site would make
the most advantageous of starting-points for breaching the enceinte
of the town itself. It was the most commanding ground close in to
the walls which could be discovered. Soult and Mortier concurred,
and placed the army in the best position for utilizing this method
of attack. The camps of Girard’s division were placed on and around
two low hills, the Cerro de San Miguel on the right of the Rivillas,
and the Cerro del Viento on its left. On the former height, about
1,800 yards from the town, nothing was done save the construction
of a rough entrenchment--to face the Picurina and restrict possible
sallies--in which three small batteries were afterwards inserted. The
Cerro del Viento, which is about 1,200 yards from the Pardaleras,
was to be the real starting-point of the attack, and under its side
the siege-park and engineers’ camp were established. Two batteries
in front of it were marked out and begun on the first night of ‘open
trenches’ (January 28-9), but it was not till the third night (January
30-1) that the first parallel was commenced, on the undulating ground
to the west of the Rivillas. When the work became visible next day,
the governor directed a vigorous sortie against it, composed of 800
men. The trenches were occupied for a moment, but soon recovered by
the French supports. A small body of Spanish cavalry which had taken
part in the sally rode right round the rear of the camp, and sabred
the _chef-de-bataillon_ Cazin, the chief engineer, and a dozen of his
sappers on the Cerro del Viento. But the total loss of the besiegers
was only about seventy killed and wounded, while the men of the sortie
suffered much more heavily, while they were being driven back across
the open ground towards the city. Their commander, a Colonel Bassecourt
of the 1st Regiment of Seville--the corps which furnished the sallying
force--was killed. Next day the siege-works were so little injured
that the artillery was able to put guns into the first batteries that
had been marked out. On the first three days of February incessant and
torrential rains stopped further work--the whole of the first parallel
was inundated, and the flying bridge by which alone Soult could
communicate with Latour-Maubourg on the other side of the Guadiana was
washed away.

But despite of the rain February 3 was a day of joy for the French,
for on its morning Gazan reported his arrival at Valverde, ten miles
away, and at 3 o’clock his division of 6,000 men marched into camp and
doubled the force of the besieging army. Their arrival was a piece of
cruel ill-luck for the Spaniards, for on that same afternoon, at dusk,
Menacho sent out a formidable sortie of 1,500 men--all that he could
safely spare from the ramparts--who came out of the river-side gate
(Puerto de las Palmas) and stormed the first parallel, driving out the
workers and the three companies of their covering party. The Spaniards
had already filled up a considerable section of the trench, when they
were charged by two battalions of Gazan’s newly-arrived troops, and
driven out again, before they had finished their task. The serious
nature of the attack may be judged from the fact that the French lost
188 killed and wounded--including eight officers--in repelling it. If
only one brigade of Girard had been in the Cerro del Viento camps,
instead of Gazan’s entire division, it is probable that the whole first
parallel and the batteries behind it would have been destroyed. While
the damage was being repaired, on February 4, Soult began to bombard
the town from these batteries, but with no good effect. The result,
indeed, was rather to the profit of the Spaniards, for a great portion
of the civil population fled at the first sign of bombardment, and
escaped by night down the Guadiana bank towards Elvas. The provisions
left in their deserted houses added appreciably to Menacho’s stores.

The work of extending the first parallel diagonally toward the
Pardaleras was still going on, when, on February 5th, the whole
situation before Badajoz was changed by the appearance in the
neighbourhood of a Spanish army of succour. Even before Soult had
started from Seville at the New Year, Wellington had been aware of the
imminence of the invasion of Estremadura, and had been consulting with
his colleague La Romana as to the measures that it would be necessary
to take[55]. As early as the 2nd of January La Romana had sent orders
to Mendizabal, to tell him that if the French should cross the Sierra
Morena in force, he was to evacuate Southern Estremadura, break the
bridges of Medellin and Merida, and endeavour to defend the line of
the Guadiana[56]. By later instructions (January 8) Mendizabal was
directed to retire into the Sierra de San Mamed if the enemy crossed
the river above Badajoz, but to throw himself upon their rear, and to
hang on to them, if they crossed below, and seemed to be making for
Elvas and Portugal. On the 12th, Wellington, hearing that Soult seemed
to be heading towards Olivenza rather than Merida, conceived doubts
as to whether he might not be intending to abandon his communications
with Seville, to leave the fortresses behind him, and to march to the
Tagus to co-operate with Masséna upon the Alemtejo bank of that river.
On the 14th arrived the more comfortable news that the French had sat
down to beleaguer Olivenza, a sure sign that they did not propose to
cut themselves loose from their base and to join Masséna as a flying
column. As a matter of fact, as we have seen, Soult, having been
deprived of Gazan’s assistance, was too weak at this moment to dream of
an incursion into Portugal, and had attacked Olivenza because he could
find nothing else to do for the present.

  [55] Wellington, _Dispatches_, vii. p. 98, dated January 1st, to
  Charles Stuart reports that from Cadiz advices of December 23 he
  is aware that a concentration is taking place at Seville, though
  Mendizabal knows nothing of it.

  [56] Wellington’s covering letter to La Romana’s dispatch is in
  _Wellington Dispatches_, vii. p. 99.

Accordingly, since the enemy had apparently settled down to besiege
the Estremaduran fortresses, Wellington and La Romana determined to
reinforce Mendizabal up to a strength which would enable him to act
as a serious check upon Soult, probably even to foil him completely.
On January 14th La Romana ordered Carlos de España and his brigade of
some 1,500 or 1,800 men, from opposite Abrantes, to join the small
existing remnant of the Army of Estremadura[57]. On the 19th[58],
the more important resolve was taken of sending the remainder of the
Spanish troops from the Lisbon lines on the same errand--they amounted
to about 6,000 men, the rest of La Carrera’s division, and the whole of
that of Charles O’Donnell. Starting on the 20th they reached Montemor o
Novo on the 24th--where they heard of the disgraceful capitulation of
Olivenza,--and Elvas on the 29th. To the same point came in Mendizabal,
who, with the remains of his own infantry division--something over
3,000 men, and Butron’s cavalry, had moved from his original post at
Albuquerque to Portalegre on the Portuguese border, and had there been
joined by Carlos de España’s brigade. Madden’s Portuguese cavalry had
already moved back to Campo Mayor and Elvas when Soult first undertook
the siege of Olivenza. By the accumulation of all these forces an army
of about 11,000 infantry and over 3,000 cavalry was put together[59].

  [57] Wellington, _Dispatches_, vii. 143.

  [58] Ibid., vii. 165, where a letter to Henry Wellesley fixes the
  resolve to send off these troops to ‘yesterday,’ i. e. January
  19th.

  [59] Viz.

  La Carrera (including Carlos de España) about   2,500 infantry.
  Charles O’Donnell’s division                    5,000    ”
  Remains of Mendizabal’s division, which had
    thrown four battalions into Olivenza and
    two into Badajoz                              3,500
  Butron’s cavalry, about                         2,500 cavalry.
  Madden’s Portuguese cavalry brigade               950    ”
  Artillery                                         450 artillery.
                                                 ------
                                          Total  14,900 in all.

La Romana himself had intended to take charge of the expedition, which
under his prudent leadership would probably have achieved its desired
end, and have held Soult completely in check. But he was prevented
from starting with his troops on the 20th by an indisposition which
was not judged to be serious--a ‘spasm in the chest[60],’ apparently
a preliminary attack of _angina pectoris_. He appeared convalescent
on the 22nd, but died suddenly of a recurrence of the complaint early
on the afternoon of the 23rd, after he had already sent forward his
secretary and staff to prepare quarters for him on the way towards the
army. His death was a real disaster to the cause of the allies, for two
main reasons. The first was that, unlike most of his contemporaries
in the Spanish service, he was a very cautious general, who avoided
risks and preferred to manœuvre rather than to fight, unless he had
a good chance of success. His long marches and many retreats had won
him the punning nickname of the ‘Marqués de las Romerías’--the Marquis
of Pilgrimages: but even a long ‘pilgrimage’ is better than a defeat,
and he had never destroyed an army, like Cuesta, Blake, or Areizaga.
The other reason which made him valuable to the allied cause was that,
being a man of great tact and obliging manners, he had won Wellington’s
personal regard, and always lived on the best terms with him. Indeed,
the Marquis was the only Spanish general, save Castaños, who never had
any difficulties with his English colleague; and it may be added that
Wellington thought much more of his capacity than of that of Castaños,
whom he regarded as well-meaning but weak. He wrote of him, in words
that may be regarded as entirely genuine and heartfelt, and which were
not intended for Spanish eyes, that he was the brightest ornament
of the Spanish army, an upright patriot, a strenuous and zealous
defender of the cause of European liberty, a loyal colleague, a useful
councillor[61].

  [60] Wellington calls the disease ‘spasms of the chest’; the
  Spanish authorities term it an aneurism.

  [61] See especially Wellington to Liverpool, January 26th,
  in _Dispatches_, vii. 196-7. The corresponding letter to
  Mendizabal is less important, because it is written to a Spanish
  correspondent.

That the Marquis was not a man of brilliant genius, nor a general
of the first rank, is sufficiently evident from the account of his
campaigns, duly detailed in the first three volumes of this work. But
he had a very high and meritorious record; of all the old nobles of
Spain he was the one who served his country best in the day of her
distress. His energy and determination were displayed in his romantic
escape from Denmark in 1808[62]. Having once unsheathed his sword in
the national cause, he never faltered or despaired even in the day of
the worst disaster. If his life had been spared he would have fought
on undismayed to the end of the war. Though he became involved in the
unhappy disputes which preceded the fall of the Supreme Junta, in
the winter of 1809-10[63], and did not disdain to accept a command
from the illegal Seville government in the January of the latter
year[64], he was neither a self-seeker nor a _frondeur_. If his words
or acts sometimes appeared factious, they were inspired by a genuine
discontent at the incapacity of the ruling powers, not by a desire for
self-advancement; and there seems to be no evidence to connect him
with the unwise and autocratic proceedings of his brother José Caro in
Valencia. During the last year of his life he was discharging a very
invidious task while he commanded in Estremadura under the control
of the last regency, which treated him with neglect and regarded him
with suspicion. His death is said to have been hastened by scurrilous
accusations made against his loyalty in pamphlets and newspapers
published at Cadiz[65], which drove him to distraction, for he was
a man of a sensitive disposition, keenly affected by any criticism.
Albuquerque, it will be remembered, is said to have been helped towards
his grave by similar means[66].

  [62] See vol. i. pp. 371-4.

  [63] See vol. iii. pp. 6-7.

  [64] Ibid., 40.

  [65] See Wellington, _Dispatches_, vii. p. 115, for note as to
  libels published by ‘a vagabond named Calvo.’

  [66] See vol. iii. p. 325.

The death of La Romana, and the transfer at this same date of
Charles O’Donnell to another sphere of operations, caused a general
rearrangement of the commands in the Army of Estremadura. Mendizabal,
as the sole Lieutenant-General in the province, succeeded to the place
and responsibilities of the Marquis, but only as a provisional chief;
the Regency, justly doubting his abilities, nominated Castaños as
Captain-General. Unfortunately, as we shall see, the victor of Baylen
reached Estremadura just in time to hear that his _locum tenens_ had
destroyed the army, and left hardly a wreck of it behind him. Meanwhile
Mendizabal made over his own old division to a Major-General Garcia,
while that of Charles O’Donnell fell to another officer new to us,
Major-General José Virues. La Carrera became chief of the staff, or
practically second in command, and his ‘vanguard division’ passed to
his old brigadier Carlos de España.

As early as January 28th Soult had directed Latour-Maubourg with four
regiments of light cavalry to make a reconnaissance in the direction
of the Portuguese frontier, and by this movement had become aware
that Mendizabal was at Portalegre, with his own infantry and Butron’s
cavalry. It was no surprise to the Marshal, therefore, to find, a week
later, that a considerable force was pressing in his posts on the
north of the Guadiana. The presence of Madden’s Portuguese dragoons
in the advanced guard showed that the enemy had been reinforced.
Latour-Maubourg’s cavalry-screen was driven in without much fighting,
and the French general retired to Montijo, nine miles up the river
(February 5th-6th). That night Mendizabal’s army, nearly 15,000 strong,
camped on the heights of San Cristobal, and communicated with Badajoz
freely, the blockade being broken so far as the northern bank of the
Guadiana was concerned.

Wellington and La Romana, when the return of the Spanish troops from
Lisbon to Estremadura was ordered, had settled upon a regular plan of
campaign[67], which had been communicated to Mendizabal. It required
some slight modification when the fall of Olivenza became known, and
when Soult’s intention to besiege Badajoz declared itself. But in
its essentials it was well applicable to the situation of affairs
upon February 6th. After a solemn warning to the Spanish generals
that the Army of Estremadura is ‘the last body of troops which their
country possesses,’ and must not be risked in dangerous operations,
the memorandum suggests (1) that an entrenched camp capable of
holding the entire army should be prepared on the heights which lie
between Campo Mayor and Badajoz, and which end in the high bluff of
San Cristobal above the latter town. (2) That if possible an attempt
should be made to break the bridges of Medellin and Merida, so as to
restrict the French to the southern bank of the Guadiana. (3) That the
Regency should be asked to send back Ballasteros’s division to join
the Army of Estremadura, and (4) that the bridge of boats in store at
Badajoz should, if possible, be floated down to Jerumenha, to give the
Portuguese garrison of Elvas the power of crossing the Guadiana below
Badajoz. The last suggestion was impracticable, because the French,
when the dispatch reached Mendizabal, were so close to the river that
the bridge could not have been transferred. The other three suggestions
were all valuable, but none of them were carried out--least of all the
most important of them, that which prescribed the entrenching of the
San Cristobal heights, and their occupation by the whole of the Spanish
army.

  [67] This is ‘Memorandum to the Marquis of La Romana,’ to be
  found in Wellington, _Dispatches_, vii. 163, with date January
  20, three days before that of the death of the Marquis.

Mendizabal had a plan of his own--he resolved not to fortify himself
on the heights beyond the river, as Wellington suggested, but to throw
a great part of his infantry into Badajoz, and make with them a grand
sortie against the French lines. The bulk of his cavalry remained below
San Cristobal, and had a skirmish of evil omen with Latour-Maubourg,
who drove them in with ease, and pursued them beyond the Gebora to the
foot of the heights. But Madden’s Portuguese horse filed into town
across the bridge, to join in the sally of the infantry.

At three o’clock on the afternoon of the 7th of February the sortie was
made. While Madden’s dragoons and a small infantry support threatened
the left of the French lines, without closing, a large force composed
of all Carlos de España’s ‘vanguard division,’ with picked battalions
from the others, delivered a vigorous--indeed a desperate--assault upon
Soult’s right, the entrenchments on the hill of San Miguel. There were
apparently four columns, each of two battalions, and making 5,000 men:
they came out from the Trinidad gate, drew up under the wing of the
Picurina lunette, and then marched straight at the French camp. They
pierced the line of entrenchments in their first rush, swept away the
guard of the trenches, carried the three batteries which were inserted
in them, and then became engaged in a fierce fight with Phillipon’s
brigade of Girard’s division, the troops encamped behind this part of
the lines. Mortier, who was on the other flank, detecting that the
movements in front of him were only a demonstration, promptly sent
several battalions eastward to succour the threatened point. These
fell upon the Spaniards’ flank, and threatened to cut them off from
their retreat into the fortress, whereupon Carlos de España, who was
slightly wounded, ordered a retreat, finding that forces equal to his
own had now been concentrated against him[68]. His troops suffered
severely in fighting their way back into Badajoz--their loss was about
650 men; that of the French, whose front line had been very severely
handled, came to about 400. But the besieged could spare the larger
number better than the besiegers the smaller, since they had the whole
army of succour to draw upon, while Soult had no reserves nearer than
Seville. It is hard to see why Mendizabal, if he was resolved upon a
sortie, did not double the force engaged in it, as he might easily have
done without depleting any part of the enceinte. For, counting the
garrison, he had 15,000 infantry--a larger number than the French could
dispose of. To send out 5,000 only seems to have been a half-measure,
which ensured ultimate failure when the besiegers should have drawn
together[69]. The fighting of Carlos de España’s men was most
creditable, but there were not enough of them.

  [68] The French put into action six battalions of the 34th and
  40th of Phillipon’s brigade [two in trench-guards, four in
  reserves], and one each of the 28th Léger, 64th, 88th, and 100th.
  The total force of these was, according to Belmas’s figures, well
  over 5,000. Carlos de España had apparently six battalions of his
  own, and two or three more from the other divisions, very much
  the same force in mere numbers. But quality had also to be taken
  into consideration. La Mare gives the French loss as 6 officers
  and 48 men killed, 25 officers and 337 men wounded.

  [69] This remark, a very just one, is made by Arteche in his
  great History, ix. p. 193.

On the next day but one Mendizabal withdrew from Badajoz the divisions
of Carlos de España and Virues, and part of that of Garcia[70], leaving
the original garrison strengthened by the remainder of the last-named
unit up to a force of 7,000 men. The field army retired across the
river, and encamped on the strong position of the heights of San
Cristobal, its right wing resting on the fort, while the remainder of
its camps lay along the reverse slope of the range for a distance of
a mile and a half. There were some 9,000 infantry on the position,
and the 3,000 horse of Butron and Madden were encamped behind it in
the plain of the Caya. By some inconceivable folly Mendizabal made
no attempt to use this large force of cavalry, which he should have
sent forward to seize and hold the valley of the Gebora, in front of
his position. All beyond that stream, which flows at the very foot
of the San Cristobal heights, was abandoned to Latour-Maubourg. It
seems certain that the French cavalry general could have been driven
to a respectful distance if a force of all arms had been sent against
him, for he had on the north of the Guadiana only five regiments of
horse and not a single battalion of infantry. But the Spaniard allowed
himself to be cooped up on the hill, and kept no guard of cavalry
far out in the plain to shield his front and report the motions of
the enemy. What was worse, he made no attempt to entrench the long
hillside, though this was a point on which Wellington and La Romana had
given very clear and definite instructions. The position was strong,
but as no care was taken to keep the enemy at a distance, it was always
possible that he might make a sudden dash at it, and the Spanish
army--scattered in its camps--would require time to take up its ground
and form its fighting-line.

  [70] Valladolid, Osuna, Zafra, and La Serena now became part of
  the garrison, with a strength of about 2,000 bayonets.

For some days after the sortie, however, Soult paid little attention
to Mendizabal, and concentrated all his efforts against the fortress.
Having completed the first parallel, and established several new
batteries in it, he proceeded with his operations against the
Pardaleras fort. His plan was very daring--not to say hazardous--for on
the afternoon of the 11th of February, when the work was much battered
but still quite defensible, he determined to try to capture it by
escalade. At dusk two columns, making about 500 men, issued from the
trenches and dashed at the Pardaleras: the left-hand column coasting
round its flank made for the gorge, which was only defended by a row
of palisades. These were so weak that they were broken down or hewn to
pieces by the assailants without much difficulty. At the same time the
right column, which had entered the ditch, found an open postern into
which it made its way. Attacked on two sides, the garrison evacuated
the work, and fled into the city, leaving 60 men killed or prisoners
behind them. The French, who had lost only 4 killed and 32 wounded
in this reckless venture, established themselves in the Pardaleras.
But the governor turned against the fort all the guns of the next two
bastions, and the captors had to burrow and lie low, till on the night
of the 12th-13th a trench was run out from the first parallel, which
gave safe ingress and egress. During the intervening day the besiegers
lost more men in holding the work than they had in storming it[71], and
the Pardaleras, close though it was to the walls, proved to be ground
from which it was most difficult to push forward while the artillery
fire of the town was unsubdued. To transform the open gorge in its rear
into a base for new approaches was a slow and expensive business, and
the siege made a much less rapid progress than had been hoped.

  [71] 3 officers and 48 men killed and wounded according to La
  Mare, _Siége de Badajoz_, p. 58.

Meanwhile Soult resolved to make a blow at Mendizabal and his field
army, which was visible day after day encamped on the San Cristobal
heights, in a position imposing but unfortified and ill-watched. The
Marshal had intended to cross the Guadiana and deliver his attack
even before the Pardaleras was taken, but much rain was falling, and
the river had overflowed its banks, so that access to the point where
the French flying-bridge had been established, a mile above Badajoz,
was difficult. Moreover the Gebora was also in flood, and reported to
be unfordable, though usually a slender stream. The only thing which
the Marshal was able to do between the 11th and the 18th of February
was to shell the nearer end of the heights of San Cristobal from the
batteries in his right attack, with the object of inducing the Spanish
battalions there encamped to move further from the protection of the
fort, which effectually covered their right flank. On February 13th
this plan was seen to have been effective: the Spaniards had withdrawn
from the neighbourhood, and had left half a mile unoccupied between San
Cristobal and their new camp.

On the afternoon of the 18th it was reported to Soult that both the
rivers had fallen, and that the Gebora had again become fordable.
He made no delay, and at dusk his striking-force began to cross the
Guadiana--the operation was slow, since only two flying-bridges and
a few river-boats were available. But at dawn nine battalions[72],
three squadrons, and two batteries were on the north bank, while
Latour-Maubourg had come up from his usual post at Montijo with six
cavalry regiments more. The whole force assembled in the angle between
the Guadiana and the Gebora amounted to no more than 4,500 infantry[73]
and 2,500 horse, with twelve guns, a total so much below Mendizabal’s
9,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry that the adventure seemed most
hazardous. But fortune often favours the audacious, and on this day
Soult chanced on the unexpected luck of a very foggy morning. He was
practically able to surprise the enemy, for the first warning that a
battle was at hand only came to Mendizabal when, shortly after dawn,
his picket at the broken bridge of the Gebora--a short mile or so in
front of the heights--was driven in by masses of French infantry. At
the same moment a tumult broke out on his left rear: the 2nd Hussars,
sent on by Latour-Maubourg to discover and turn the Spanish northern
flank, had been able to mount the heights unseen and unopposed, by
making a long détour, and rode unexpectedly into the camp of one of
Carlos de España’s regiments. Mendizabal’s troops flew to arms, and
began hastily to form their line upon the heights, but they had no
time to get into good order, for the enemy was upon them within a few
minutes.

  [72] Three battalions each of the 34th, 88th, and 100th Line.

  [73] Thirteen squadrons of the 4th, 14th, and 26th Dragoons,
  the 2nd and 10th Hussars, the 21st and 27th Chasseurs, and the
  Spanish light cavalry regiment of Juramentados.

Mortier, to whom Soult had committed the conduct of the battle, showed
great tactical skill. On reaching the line of the Gebora, infantry
and cavalry poured across it without a moment’s delay; all the three
fords of which the French knew proved to be practicable, though on the
southernmost one, near the bridge, the infantry had to cross with the
chilly water up to their waists. The order of battle was very simple:
the right wing, composed of the whole of the cavalry, was to pass by
the most northern ford and ascend the heights beyond the Spanish left.
Arrived at the crest, one brigade was to push along it, and fall on the
flank of the hostile line, while the other descended into the valley
of the Caya, and charged into the Spanish camps, so placing itself
directly in Mendizabal’s rear. Of the infantry three battalions (the
100th regiment) were to ascend the hillside in the gap between the fort
of San Cristobal and the nearest Spanish camp, a gap which had been
caused (as it will be remembered) by the withdrawal of the Spaniards
from the southernmost heights under the stress of bombardment six days
before. This column was to risk the fire of the fort, which it had to
disregard, and fall on the hostile flank. Meanwhile the centre--very
weak and composed only of six battalions of infantry (34th and 88th
regiments)--was to attack the Spanish front, when the two turning
movements were well developed.

The San Cristobal heights are a most formidable position, two miles of
smooth steep slopes with an altitude of 250-300 feet, overlooking the
whole plain of the Gebora and with hardly any ‘dead ground’ in their
sides. They form an excellent _glacis_ for an army in position ready to
defend itself by its fire, for the assailant must come up the hill at a
slow pace and utterly exposed. Cavalry could only climb at a walk, and
with difficulty; but Mortier had sent all his horse far to the north,
where they ascended, and partly crossed, the range at its lowest point,
beyond the extreme flank of the enemy. Just at this moment the fog
rose, and everything became visible. On gaining the heights unopposed,
Briche’s light cavalry formed up across them, and commenced to move
along the summit towards the Spanish left wing, while Latour-Maubourg,
with three dragoon regiments, descended the reverse slope and moved
towards the hostile camp, in front of which Butron’s Spanish horse and
Madden’s Portuguese could be seen hastily arraying their squadrons.

It may be said that the battle of the Gebora was lost almost before a
shot had been fired, for on seeing themselves threatened in flank and
about to be charged by Latour-Maubourg, the Spanish and Portuguese
horse broke in the most disgraceful style, disregarding the orders
of their commanders, and went off in a disorderly mass across the
plain of the Caya, towards Elvas and Campo Mayor. They outnumbered
the enemy, and could have saved the day if they had fought even a
bad and unsuccessful action, so as to detain the French dragoons for
a single hour. But the cavalry of the Army of Estremadura had a bad
reputation--they were the old squadrons of Medellin and Arzobispo, of
which Wellington preserved such an evil memory, and Madden’s Portuguese
this day behaved no better[74]. They escaped almost without loss, for
Latour-Maubourg let them fly, and turned at once against the flank and
rear of Mendizabal’s infantry.

  [74] See his pathetic letter in Wellington, _Supplementary
  Disp._, vii. p. 67.

The combat on the southern part of the heights had not yet assumed
a desperate aspect. Though the column which was formed by the 100th
regiment had got up the hillside under the fort of San Cristobal, and
had penetrated into the gap between that work and its extreme left, the
Spanish infantry was still holding its own. The fog having cleared,
they were able to estimate the smallness of the number of the hostile
infantry, and stood to fight without showing any signs of failing.
But the fusilade was only just beginning all along the hillside when
the victorious French cavalry came into action. Briche’s light horse
came galloping along the crest of the heights, while Latour-Maubourg’s
dragoons were visible in the plain behind, well to the rear of the
Spanish line. Mendizabal, horrified at the sight, ordered his men to
form squares, not as usual by battalions, but vast divisional squares,
each formed of many regiments, and with artillery in their angles. If
the French cavalry alone had been present, it is possible that in this
formation the Spaniards might have saved themselves. But Mortier’s
infantry was also up, and well engaged in bickering with Mendizabal’s
men. The squares, when formed with some difficulty, found themselves
exposed to a heavy fire of musketry from the front at the same moment
that the cavalry blow was delivered on their flank. Briche’s hussars
penetrated without much difficulty through battalions already shaken
by the volleys of the French infantry. First the northern and soon
afterwards the southern square was ridden through from the flank and
broken. The disaster that followed was complete: some of the Spanish
regiments dispersed, many laid down their arms in despair, a limited
number clubbed together in heavy masses and fought their way out of
the press towards the plain of the Caya and the frontier of Portugal.
General Virues and three brigadiers were taken prisoners, with at least
half of the army. Mendizabal and two other generals, La Carrera and
Carlos de España, got away, under cover of the battalions which forced
their passage through toward the west. In all about 2,500 infantry
escaped into Badajoz[75], and a somewhat smaller number towards
Portugal[76]. The rest were destroyed--only 800 or 900 had been killed
or wounded, but full 4,000 were taken prisoners, along with seventeen
guns--the entire artillery of the army--and six standards. The French
loss, though under-estimated by Soult in his dispatch at the ridiculous
figure of 30 killed and 140 wounded, was in truth very small--not
exceeding 403 in all. It fell almost entirely on the cavalry--who
had done practically the whole of the work. The regimental returns
show that only four officers in the infantry were killed or wounded,
to thirteen in the mounted arm. In proportion this battle was more
disastrous to the vanquished and less costly to the victors than even
Medellin or Ocaña. It is difficult to write with patience of the
culpable negligence of Mendizabal, in allowing himself to be surprised
in such a position, when he was amply provided with cavalry, or of
the conduct of the Spanish and Portuguese horse in abandoning their
infantry without striking a single blow, when even a show of resistance
might at least have given their comrades time to save themselves. For
the battalions on the heights could have escaped into Badajoz, or even
have retreated along the Guadiana without desperate loss, if they had
been granted an hour’s respite: while if the French cavalry could have
been detained till the infantry battle on the heights was decided, it
is quite clear that Mendizabal in his splendid fighting position, and
with double numbers, could have held his own and driven off the attack
of the nine battalions of Mortier.

  [75] The statement that only a few men escaped into Badajoz is
  disproved by the figures of the surrender-rolls of March 11th,
  which show 1,108 men of La Carrera’s division, 554 of Virues’s
  division, and 995 of battalions of Garcia’s division which had
  not been told off to the regular garrison, as laying down their
  arms.

  [76] There escaped into Portugal, beside the cavalry, the greater
  part of the regiments La Union from Garcia’s division, Rey and
  Princesa from that of Virues, Vittoria from that of La Carrera,
  and fragments of Zamora, and 1st of Barcelona. The whole,
  reorganized into new battalions, made a weak brigade of 1,800 men
  under Carlos de España in April.

[Illustration: BADAJOZ. The French Siege (Jan.-March 1811), & the
Battle of the Gebora (Feb. 19th 1811).]

The Army of Estremadura having been practically destroyed,--the
demoralized remnant of 4,000 horse and foot which escaped into Portugal
counted for nothing,--Soult could at last besiege Badajoz from both
sides of the river, and reckon on being undisturbed in his operations.
He left three battalions, a battery, and five regiments of Montbrun’s
cavalry on the north bank, to invest the fort of San Cristobal, and
returned, with the rest of the force that had won the battle, to his
lines. There was still much to be done, for the governor Menacho was
resolute, and the garrison had been raised to over 8,000 men by the
influx of Mendizabal’s fugitives. The siege was destined to last three
weeks longer, and might have been prolonged to a far greater duration
if Menacho had not been killed on March 4; as long as he lived the
defence was vigorous and honourable.

Though Soult could concentrate all his attention on the approaches
towards the curtain between the bastions of Santiago and San Juan, they
did not progress very rapidly. Menacho brought up all the artillery
that could be readily moved on the threatened front, and continued to
pound the ruins of the Pardaleras and the trenches leading up to it.
It was only on the night of the 24th February that a battery was at
last completed under the right flank of the fort, and another under
its left, to keep down the fire of the defenders. Nor was it till the
28th of the same month and the 1st of March that the zigzags began to
creep forward from the second parallel towards the body of the place.
On the 2nd of March the approaches reached the demi-lune outside the
bastion of San Juan, and the French could look down into the ditch, but
they found the counterscarp in good order, and the palisades intact.
On the 3rd they commenced mining, with the object of blowing in the
counterscarp and filling the ditch. But their work was stopped by a
vigorous sortie, the last which Menacho sent out. A small column of
Spaniards passed out of the left bastion, seized and demolished the
advanced trenches, and spiked the twelve guns which armed the two
nearest batteries. The progress of the besiegers was checked for a
day--but at a disastrous cost, for the governor himself, while watching
the effect of the sortie from the ramparts, was killed by a chance
shot. His place was taken by the senior brigadier in the place, José
Imaz, a man of desponding heart and utterly lacking in energy. It was a
thousand pities that, when the rout of the Gebora took place, neither
La Carrera nor Carlos de España had been driven back into Badajoz, for
both these officers were men of desperate resolution, who would have
played out a losing game to the last moment with stubborn courage.
The French narratives note that from the moment of Menacho’s death
the defence slackened; it became partly passive, and was no longer
conducted with common skill. No more sorties were made, and there
seemed to be a lack of ingenuity in the measures taken to resist the
completion of the approaches[77]. All that was done was to keep up a
hot fire on the head of the French sap, and to replace one disabled gun
by another upon the walls.

  [77] ‘Depuis la mort du Général Menacho l’ennemi avait éprouvé
  un certain découragement, dont l’effet se faisait connaître par
  l’absence de cette force morale qui fait agir les hommes et qui
  donne le mouvement et la vigueur. Il n’osa plus nous attaquer
  dans nos batteries, dans nos tranchées, afin de détruire en
  quelques moments l’œuvre d’un jour. Il ne profita pas des moyens
  de chicane et des subtilités que la nécessité et l’industrie font
  inventer.’ La Mare, p. 98.

On the 4th of March the besiegers had lodged themselves solidly in
the demi-lune of the bastion of San Juan, and had commenced on the
very edge of the ditch a battery for six heavy guns (24-pounders),
which were to work upon the curtain between San Juan and Santiago,
the place selected for the breaching. On the 5th the embrasures were
completed, on the 7th the guns were got into position, on the 8th the
counterscarp was blown in by a mine, and the battery began to play upon
the walls at a distance of only sixty yards. Though the besieged kept
up a terrible fire upon it, and killed many gunners, its effect was
all that the French had desired. The ramparts began to crumble, and on
the morning of the 10th there was a breach seventy feet wide in the
curtain, near the bastion of Santiago, while the ditch was half filled
with débris. The engineers pronounced that an assault was practicable,
though another day’s fire would be desirable to finish the business.
The Spanish guns on the front attacked were all silenced, but from the
flanking bastions a fire was still kept up, which would obviously be
very murderous to the storming columns. It was clear that it would be
better to subdue it, and to batter the breach into an easier slope,
before the assault should be delivered.

Soult, however, was anxious to press matters, for he had received on
the 8th two pieces of news which completely changed the strategical
situation. The first was that Masséna had given orders for the
evacuation of Santarem and his other positions on the Tagus five days
before, and had already commenced his retreat towards the north. There
was no longer any chance of joining the Army of Portugal and attacking
Wellington. Indeed, it was probable that the English general would
find himself free to make a large detachment against the besiegers of
Badajoz, and that, if the town should not fall within the next ten
days, Beresford’s 15,000 men from the south bank of the Tagus would
appear at Elvas or Campo Mayor, ready to attack the siege-lines in the
rear. And Soult from his experiences of 1809 was quite aware that to
meet an Anglo-Portuguese army would not be a business like that of the
Gebora.

But this was not all. News of the most disquieting kind had just
arrived from Andalusia. Victor reported from in front of Cadiz that
a large expeditionary force, comprising an English division, had
landed at Algesiras and Tarifa on February 25th-26th, had moved into
the inland, and was evidently about to attack his siege-lines from
the rear. He expressed grave doubts as to the situation. Daricau,
the Governor of Seville, had even a worse report to make: the roving
division of Ballasteros, which had been driven into Portugal by Gazan
on January 25th, had recrossed the Spanish frontier the moment that
its pursuers had retired, had invaded the Condado de Niebla, and had
inflicted a severe defeat on Remond, whose small corps had been left
to cover that region, on the Rio Tinto (March 2nd). Daricau reported
that the Spaniards were marching on Seville, and that, after leaving
a skeleton garrison of convalescents and _Juramentados_ in the city,
he was moving out with a field force of no more than 1,600 bayonets to
rally Remond’s men, and fight at San Lucar la Mayor for the protection
of the capital of Andalusia. Ballasteros was believed to have a
considerable force, and the result was doubtful.

On the morning of the 10th of March, therefore, Soult was in no
small distress concerning the fate of Daricau and Victor, whose last
dispatches were now six or seven days old, and who might have suffered
disasters, for all that he knew, since those dispatches were written.
If modern methods of communication had existed in 1811, he would have
known already that Victor had suffered a complete and bloody defeat
at Barrosa on March 5th. He was therefore prepared to take great
risks at Badajoz, in order to have his army free at any cost for the
succour of Andalusia. Mortier was ordered to get all ready for a storm
during the course of the afternoon, but meanwhile, when a few hours’
battering after dawn had somewhat improved the slope of the breach,
a _parlementaire_ was sent into Badajoz at 9 a.m. to summon Imaz to
capitulate. The letter which he bore was couched in such elaborate
terms of politeness, complimenting the Spaniards on their long and
gallant resistance, and intimating that the most honourable terms would
be granted, that the governor should have suspected that Soult was
not sure of his ground. But to a man cowed in spirit and weighed down
by a responsibility too great for him, such hints were useless. Imaz
summoned a council of war, the regular refuge of weak commanders, and
called into it a veritable crowd of councillors, not only the three
generals and four brigadiers present in the city, the chief engineer,
and two artillery officers, but nearly a score of lieutenant-colonels
and majors commanding all the battalions represented in the garrison.
Unfortunately the engineer colonel, Julian Alvo, who led off the
discussion, was the most downhearted man of all: he reported that
the breach was from thirty to thirty-two ells (_varas_) broad, and
accessible, as it had an angle of forty-five to fifty degrees; that
there had been great difficulty in throwing up retrenchments and
inner defences behind it, because at this point the ground-level of
the streets of the town was much lower than that of the ramparts. He
pointed out that to garrison the whole enceinte with a minimum force
would absorb 5,000 men, which would leave only 2,000 to defend the
breach. ‘As to the number and _morale_ of the troops, the regimental
officers would be able to speak with better knowledge than himself.’
But he held that if the first assault were repulsed, the fall of the
town would only be delayed two or three days. If there were evidence
that the place might be relieved from outside within that time, it
was proper to resist to the last. If not, he thought that the heroic
garrison and the city ought not to be sacrificed. For they had fully
done their duty, and Badajoz as a fortress was full of defects[78].

  [78] For all these interesting details see the verbatim report of
  the Council of War in the Appendix to Arteche, vii. pp. 544-7.

Twelve colonels and majors gave their opinions in almost the same terms
as the engineer, many repeating his actual phrases, some adding that
the rank and file were demoralized[79], others that they were few in
number [they actually were only 1,800 less than the infantry of the
besieging force]. On the other hand, the commanding artillery officer,
Joaquin Caamano, set forth a very different case. ‘The enemy has not
yet subdued the fire of the place; the bastions flanking the breach
are intact, and have their guns in order; the breach itself has been
mined, and a parapet behind it has been thrown up during the last
night; in spite of the arguments of the commander of the engineers the
assault ought to be resisted, or as an alternative the garrison ought
to try to cut its way out by the north bank, towards Elvas or Campo
Mayor.’ Caamano was supported by the vote of another artilleryman, the
Portuguese João de Mello, commanding a company which Beresford had
sent into the city in the preceding year[80], and two major-generals,
Garcia and Mancio.

  [79] ‘Hallarse la guarnicion en una total decadencia’ (opinion of
  Col. Ponce de Leon of 1st Barcelona). The garrison ‘no es de la
  primera classe en general’ (opinion of Col. Zamora of the Zafra
  regiment). ‘El soldado, cansado ya de la mucha fatiga, trataría
  de salvarse’ (opinion of Col. Hernandez of the Majorca regiment).

  [80] See Soriano da Luz, iii. 337-8.

Then came the oddest part of the proceedings. The Governor gave as his
opinion that ‘though an inner line of defence has not been contrived,
and though very few guns still remain serviceable in the bastions
of Santiago, San José, and San Juan, and though we have no succour
for sustaining the assault, I think we should defend the place with
valour and constancy to our last breath.’ After which he at once
commenced negotiations with the French _parlementaire_, in direct
contradiction to his own vote! Apparently he thought that thirteen
votes for surrender against four for resistance among his councillors
covered his ignominy. The worst part of his conduct was that he was
aware that an army of succour was on the march to help him. For Badajoz
had semaphore communication with Elvas, and on the preceding day the
Portuguese General Leite had telegraphed to him, by Wellington’s
orders, that Beresford had been detached with two divisions to hasten
to his aid on March 8th[81]. As a matter of fact, Beresford’s movement
into Estremadura was retarded, and his corps did not move off for some
days later, but Imaz did not know this, and he was certainly guilty of
concealing from his officers that prompt succour had been promised, and
was actually upon its way. The whole responsibility for the surrender
falls on him, because he allowed Alvo, and the other voters for
capitulation, to produce uncontradicted the statement that no relief
was probable, while he knew himself that it had been promised. It is
impossible to deny that this was pusillanimity reaching into and over
the border of treason.

  [81] D’Urban (Beresford’s chief of the staff) has in his
  diary under March 8th: ‘At 3 o’clock the Marshal crossed the
  river (Tagus) at Torres Novas and had an interview with Lord
  Wellington. The immediate relief of Badajoz, whose danger becomes
  imminent, has been judged desirable, this to be done with the
  2nd and 4th Divisions. The Marshal returned at 8. Orders sent to
  Punhete to throw the bridge of boats over the Tagus at Tancos for
  the re-passage of General Stewart (2nd Division) and the passage
  of General Cole (4th Division). The troops still on the south
  bank of the Tagus are thrown into march upon Portalegre [near
  Elvas]. Orders to Mr. Ogilvie, the commissary, to take measures
  for supplies southward. General Menacho’s last sally, in which he
  is unfortunately killed, has probably saved the place by gaining
  of time, even if but for a few additional days.’ On the evening
  of the 9th March the movement was stopped, on a false rumour that
  Masséna was offering battle near Thomar, but news of it had been
  sent to General Leite at Elvas, who passed it by semaphore from
  Fort La Lippe to San Cristobal, which safely received it. It was
  not till the 12th that the 2nd Division was ordered to Crato in
  the Alemtejo, and Beresford reached Portalegre only on the 20th,
  nine days after Badajoz fell. Wellington says (_Dispatches_, vii.
  360-1) ‘the Governor surrendered on the day after he received my
  assurances that he should be relieved, and my entreaty to hold
  out till the last moment.’ Cf. ibid., 367.

After making some foolish hagglings for eighteenth-century ceremonial
of honour--the garrison was to march out by the breach, drums beating,
with two cannons at its head, with lighted matches, &c.--Imaz
surrendered at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and the lofty San Cristobal
and the bridge-head fort were occupied by the French before dusk. Next
day the troops came forth, not by the breach, because it was found
impossible to scramble down it, but by the Trinidad gate, and laid down
their arms[82]. They numbered 7,880 men, and there were 1,100 sick and
wounded in the hospitals; the total loss in the town during the siege
had been 1,851 casualties, almost the same as that of the French, which
came to just under 2,000. But the 800 killed and wounded, and 4,000
prisoners of the Gebora must, of course, be added to the balance.

  [82] Arteche (ix. 229) says that they used the breach, but La
  Mare, an eye-witness, says that the Trinidad gate was the point
  of exit. Soriano da Luz, using some Portuguese source unknown
  to me, says that only some Spanish sappers came down the breach
  slope, and they with difficulty.

Badajoz was found by the victors to contain rations for 8,000 men
sufficient to last for over a month, more than 150 serviceable cannon,
80,000 lb. of powder, 300,000 infantry cartridges, and two bridge
equipages. There is not the slightest doubt that if Menacho had lived
the place would have held out till it was relieved by Beresford. For
the latter, who was finally ordered to move to its relief on March
12th, would have reached its neighbourhood on the 18th, if he had not
been checked on the first day of his start by the news that the city
had fallen[83]. After the need for hurry had been removed by this
disheartening intelligence, he moved slowly, but was in front of Campo
Mayor, less than ten miles from Badajoz, on the 24th.

  [83] This was known to Wellington and Beresford on the 14th, or
  the night of the 13th, as is shown by Wellington, _Dispatches_,
  vii. p. 359.

There is hardly ever an excuse for a governor who surrenders without
having withstood at least one assault, and Napoleon laid down the
general rule that any officer so doing should be sent before a court
martial. Imaz with his large garrison, his immense artillery resources,
and his certainty of being relieved in ten days was least of all men in
a condition to plead justification. It is only necessary to compare him
with Alvarez at Gerona, who with a smaller garrison and a far weaker
fortress held out for three months, after not one but three large
breaches had been made in his weak mediaeval enceinte. The Regency very
properly ordered Imaz to be put on his trial, but the proceedings,
which only commenced when the French liberated him, dragged on
interminably, and had not come to an end when the war ceased in 1814.
If ever there was a case where an example in the style of Admiral Byng,
_pour encourager les autres_, could have been rightfully made, this was
one.

Soult, relieved from desperate anxiety by Imaz’s surrender, had no
other thought than to return as quickly as possible to Andalusia.
Leaving Mortier at Badajoz with sixteen battalions and five regiments
of cavalry, about 11,000 men, he started back for Seville on the third
day after the capitulation, taking with him two regiments of dragoons
and the bulk of Gazan’s division[84]. As he marched he was in fear that
any hour might bring the news that Daricau had lost Seville, or that
Victor had been forced to abandon the siege of Cadiz, for the report
of the bloody defeat of Barrosa (March 5) had reached him on the 12th
of March, and heightened his anxiety. But he reached Seville on March
20th, to find that the situation might yet be saved, and that Andalusia
was still his own.

  [84] Less two battalions left in Badajoz as garrison, and the
  100th of the Line also left with Mortier.

His achievements during the two months of his Estremaduran campaign
had indeed been splendid. With an army not exceeding 20,000 men, and
operating in the worst of weather, he had taken two fortresses, won a
battle in the open field, and captured 16,000 prisoners. The Spanish
Army of Estremadura, which had seemed so powerful at the commencement
of his campaign, was almost exterminated, and the frontier of Portugal
was laid open. Soult had redeemed his promise to make a powerful
diversion in favour of Masséna, and it is hard to see how he could have
done more. For he could not have moved to the Tagus before Badajoz
fell, and (thanks to the courage of Menacho) that city had held out
till eight days after the date on which Masséna ordered the Army of
Portugal to commence its retreat to the north. Wellington’s plan of
starvation had, after all, achieved its effect, and Masséna had been
driven out of his position before Soult was in a position to come to
his aid. Even if Masséna had stayed a little longer at Santarem, it
seems hard to believe that Soult could have joined him, considering
that Elvas, a place stronger than Badajoz, was in his front, and that
the news from Andalusia spelt utter ruin unless he should return to
save it. He must have done so, even if on March 11 the Army of Portugal
had still been in its old position.



SECTION XXIII: CHAPTER III

MASSÉNA’S LAST WEEKS AT SANTAREM
JANUARY-MARCH 1811


After the arrival of Drouet and his division of the 9th Corps at Leiria
in the early days of the New Year, there was no serious movement of any
part of the French or the British armies for some weeks. The weather
was bad, and the troops on both sides remained in their cantonments,
save such of the French as were detailed for the perpetual marauding
parties up the line of the Zezere or in the southern slopes of the
Serra da Estrella by which alone the army was kept alive. The ranks of
Masséna’s battalions continued to grow thinner, but not at such a rate
as in November and December--for the weakly men had already been weeded
out by the dreadful mortality of the preceding period. Provisions had
daily to be sought further and further afield, but they were not wholly
exhausted. The Marshal waited anxiously for further news from Paris,
and for tidings that the Army of Andalusia was coming to his aid. But
after the arrival of Drouet’s column no further information got through
for five weeks, for Wilson and Trant were blocking the northern roads
with their militia as effectually as in the time before the 9th Corps
started from Almeida.

Wellington, for his part, was waiting for his great scheme of
starvation to work out to its logical end. He had, as has already been
observed, somewhat underrated the time for which the French would be
able to live on the resources of the country that he dominated. More
than once in December and January he thought that he had detected the
signs of a coming retreat, and had been disappointed[85]. The enemy
still remained in his old cantonments, and nothing more than petty
movements of small units had taken place. This anxious waiting was, as
might have been expected, trying to Wellington’s temper. He was not
shaken in his belief that he had made the right decision, but it was
exasperating to see the deadlock on the Tagus continuing far beyond his
expectations, and the Estremaduran campaign developing behind his back.
During the long weeks of tension the strain on his mind vented itself
in criticism, reasonable and unreasonable, of the authorities with whom
he had to work--the British and Portuguese Governments.

  [85] I find in D’Urban’s diary under January 13: ‘Concurring
  testimony of deserters, &c., announces some general movement on
  the part of the enemy. Lord W. inclines to imagine that this
  will be a retreat, and that the retreat will be by the Mondego;
  to this he is inclined by Claparéde being ordered to take post
  at Guarda. But I have my doubts if anything like retreat has yet
  entered the head of Masséna.’ This is borne out by Wellington to
  Beresford of same day. (_Dispatches_, vii. 138.)

The administration of Spencer Perceval had done its best to maintain
the war and to support its general, under great difficulties. It had
not shrunk from making financial exertions of the most unprecedented
kind in order to keep up the war in Portugal. As Lord Liverpool pointed
out to Wellington[86], the army in the Peninsula had cost £2,778,796
in 1808, £2,639,764 in 1809; in 1810 the sum asked for had risen to
£6,061,235--more than double the total of either of the preceding
years. And this did not include either ordnance stores, supplies sent
out in kind, or the hire of transports, which were calculated to make
out £2,000,000 more. The Government had provided these sums in face of
a bitter and carping opposition on the part of the Whigs, and despite
of much lukewarmness among their own followers, of whom many considered
that the limit of reasonable expense had been reached. As Lord
Liverpool observed, the increase of the Portuguese subsidy, and the
taking into British pay of the larger half of the Portuguese army, had
been ‘carried by a small and unwilling majority[87].’ The Government
had driven the money bills through the House of Commons only by smart
cracking of the whip of party loyalty. They had promised Wellington
that his army should be increased by 14,000 men during the course of
the winter, and the promise was in the course of fulfilment. Many
regiments had already arrived; all were to reach the Tagus before March
was out. This had been done in a time of dire distress to the Tory
party, George III had been prostrated by his last attack of insanity,
which was destined to be permanent, in October 1810. As it became
certain that his recovery was not to be looked for, the appointment of
the Prince of Wales as Regent was the obvious and necessary corollary.
But the Prince was still reckoned a Whig, and it was believed with
reason that his first act on coming into power would be to dismiss the
Perceval Ministry, and to call upon Grey, Grenville, and Sheridan to
form an administration. The Tories all through the winter thought that
they were destined to immediate expulsion from office, and had before
them a long strife with the Crown. It was only at the beginning of
February 1811 that the younger George, who had taken the oath as Regent
on the 6th of that month, announced, to the general surprise of the
nation, that he had no intention of dismissing the Ministry, and was
prepared to work with them. Perceval and Liverpool, during the three
preceding months, were doing their best for the army in Portugal while
they believed that a political disaster was hanging over their heads.
They did not yet realize that the Prince’s Whig principles had worn
thin of late, and that he was tired of the dictatorial manners which
Grey and Grenville had adopted towards him.

  [86] Lord Liverpool to Wellington, February 20, 1811.

  [87] Lord Liverpool to Wellington, September 20, 1810.

It is terrible to contemplate the results which might have followed
had the Whigs come into office at this juncture. They were pledged
to the theory that the Peninsular War was hopeless and ought to be
abandoned. Grey and Grenville had stated that Wellington was a failure;
they had denied that Talavera was a victory. Brougham had summarized
the feelings of the party in a savage attack upon both Government
and general in the _Edinburgh Review_. At this very moment--February
1811--Ponsonby, the leader of the opposition in the House of Commons,
was preaching that ‘France cannot be prevented from overrunning Spain
by continuing a war in Portugal, ... so that neither in Spain or
Portugal has anything happened that can give reason to believe that
the war will ever terminate to our advantage[88].’ Freemantle, another
leader, maintained that ‘Bonaparte, having conquered the rest of the
Continent, must also conquer the Peninsula, because he has greater
numbers to bring up after every defeat, and therefore defeat of one
of his armies was vain[89].’ Every Whig journal was prophesying the
expulsion of Wellington from Portugal within a few weeks, as indeed
they had been doing ever since October 1809.

  [88] Hansard for 1811, vol. xix. 397.

  [89] Plumer Ward’s _Diary_, i. 406.

All honour, therefore, is due to the statesmen who continued in the
midst of all their own troubles, constitutional and financial, to give
a steady support to Wellington, and to redeem the pledges which they
had made to him. When Napier in his great history declares that the
Ministry betrayed Wellington, that ‘Perceval had neither the wisdom to
support nor the manliness to put an end to the war in the Peninsula;
his crooked contemptible policy was shown by withholding what was
necessary to continue the contest and throwing upon the General the
responsibility of failure,’ he is merely venting the malignant folly of
the Whigs of his day, which ought to have been forgotten by the time
that he took his pen in hand, long after the war was over.

It is unfortunately true that Wellington, in the stress of waiting
hours during the winter of 1810-11, used querulous and captious
language concerning his supporters at home. The main point of his
complaint was that he was not supplied rapidly enough with specie, that
bills were sent him when he wanted dollars or guineas, and that so the
pay of the army was falling into arrears. The fact was deplorable; but
on a consideration of the condition of the English monetary system
at this date it is hard to see how the difficulty could have been
avoided. Since the suspension of the coinage of guineas in 1797, and
the introduction of an almost unlimited issue of bank-notes, gold had
gradually become an almost invisible commodity in Great Britain[90].
The guinea, when seen, commanded an ever-increasing premium; by 1809
it was worth £1 5_s._, or more, in paper. British silver was equally
deficient; there had been none coined at the Mint since 1787, and the
internal trade of the country was being transacted with difficulty, by
means of Spanish dollars or half-dollars stamped with the king’s head,
or by local tokens struck by banks and corporations, which only served
in the immediate neighbourhood of their place of issue[91]. The Bank
of England dollar, the only coin which circulated generally, passed
for 5_s._, though it had only the value of 4_s._ 2_d._ in its weight of
silver. When Great Britain could find no specie for its own internal
business, the Government was required to send enormous remittances in
cash to the Peninsula, because all transactions therein were made in
silver or gold, and English paper was not negotiable[92]. That the
coin was sent at all seems marvellous, rather than that it was sent
late and in insufficient quantities. The worst time of all was in the
early spring of 1811, when there was a severe commercial crisis at
home, and the Government was issuing exchequer bills, to the amount of
£6,000,000, as an advance to merchants and manufacturers to stave off
general bankruptcy in London[93].

  [90] Note that Perceval and Liverpool inherited the paper
  currency of Pitt, and were not responsible for its creation.

  [91] For some curious anecdotes as to the dearth of silver change
  see Lord Folkestone’s speech quoted in Yonge’s _Life of Lord
  Liverpool_, i. 368.

  [92] ‘How can you expect that we can buy specie here [London]
  with the exchange 30 per cent. against us, and guineas selling
  at 25 shillings?’ Huskisson to Wellington (private), 19th July,
  1809. _Wellington MSS._, see Mr. Fortescue’s _British Statesmen
  of the Great War_, p. 254.

  [93] For notes on this see Walpole’s _Life of Perceval_, ii. pp.
  207-8.

It was certainly an unhappy thing that Wellington could look upon the
whole situation as one in which ‘the Government chooses to undertake
large services, and not to supply us with sufficient pecuniary
means[94],’ and could write that the present ministers complained so
much of the expense of the war, that he considered it not impossible
that the army might be recalled bag and baggage--a remark made not
in February but in March, when Masséna had actually retreated from
the Tagus[95]. This rather unjustifiable complaint was probably the
direct result of Lord Liverpool’s letter of February 20, in which he
had set forth at length the enormous burden of the war, and expressed
his doubts as to whether the augmentation of the Peninsular army by
14,000 men, for which he had just provided, could be permanently kept
up[96]. He suggested that when the ‘present crisis’ (i. e. Masséna’s
presence at the gates of Lisbon) had come to an end, the army should
send home some of its less effective regiments, and that the ideal of
30,000 effective rank and file (not including the garrison of Cadiz)
would probably have to be kept in mind. But long before the dispatch
of February 20 Wellington thought that he had detected an intention
on Liverpool’s part to bring the whole Peninsular War to an end,
on financial grounds, and wrote most bitterly to his kinsman Pole,
accusing the Secretary of State of being half-hearted, and showing a
deep-rooted distrust of his influence in the Cabinet[97]. All this
was forgotten when the firmness of the Ministry in support of the war
became evident, and in later years Wellington wrote to acknowledge
in the most handsome style the support that he had received from the
Perceval administration[98].

  [94] To Charles Stuart, _Dispatches_, vii. p. 462.

  [95] To Admiral Berkeley, _Dispatches_, vii. p. 415.

  [96] ‘The recent augmentation of your force must be considered
  as made with reference to the present exigency.... We are very
  anxious, not with a view of abandoning, but for the purpose
  of maintaining the contest in the Peninsula for an indefinite
  time, that when the present crisis shall appear to be over, you
  should send home the excess of your force, after keeping 30,000
  effective rank and file for Portugal, and a sufficient garrison
  for Cadiz, selecting of course those regiments to be sent home
  which are least efficient, and consequently least fitted for
  active service.’

  [97] Mr. Fortescue writes: ‘This was unfair. Perceval and
  Liverpool had deliberately turned their backs upon Pitt’s old
  policy of spasmodic efforts all over the world, in favour of a
  steady and persistent feeding of the war in one quarter--the
  Peninsula. Wellington himself had approved the change in his
  letters of 1810, had named the amount of money that he wanted,
  and fixed the figure of the reinforcements that he asked. But in
  1811 he never ceased to ask for more men and more money, till
  Liverpool was obliged to remind him very gently, that he was
  going far beyond his own estimates.’ He had got to the stage
  of writing that Government having embarked on the contest, and
  chosen the best officer they could find, must give him the
  largest army they could collect, and reinforce it to the utmost,
  without asking precisely how many men were wanted, and for what
  precise objects. It was Mr. Fortescue who indicated to me two
  important passages about Liverpool which are omitted from the
  printed version of Wellington’s letters to Pole of January 11 and
  March 31, 1811, in _Supplementary Dispatches_, vii. pp. 40-3 and
  93.

  [98] See especially Wellington to Dudley Perceval (the
  premier’s son), June 6th, 1835, a protest against Napier’s wild
  misrepresentations.

During all these weeks of waiting Wellington was also troubled by
problems with regard to the internal state of Portugal. Two main
sources of worry can be traced in his correspondence. The first was
the inefficiency of the Portuguese commissariat, which bid fair to
cause absolute starvation among those brigades of the national army
which were not incorporated with British divisions and supplied from
the British stores. Slow and irregular forwarding of provisions to
the corps stationed in advanced or remote positions led to a dreadful
increase in the number of sick. We find Wellington complaining that
regiments which had 1,200 men in line at Bussaco could only show 1,000
or 900 under arms in February, although they had received considerable
drafts from their dépôts at midwinter. D’Urban’s daily notes bear out
the statements of the Commander-in-Chief. He asserts with indignation
that by ‘the villany of commissaries,’ the same quantity of flour
which provided 15½ rations for the British soldier was returned
as having given only 9 to the Portuguese--the balance having been
embezzled. Allowances, of course, must be made for the difficulties of
a government of whose territory a good third had been depopulated by
the orders of Wellington. But the trouble does not seem to have been
so much the actual want of food-stuffs at head quarters[99]--great
quantities were got from the Alemtejo and the north--as the
inefficiency of distribution, which left outlying brigades sometimes
foodless for two or three days at a time. Clothing and shoes were also
very slow in arriving at the front. At the bottom the cause of all this
inefficiency was probably (as Wellington observes in one letter[100])
the want of money to keep up an adequate transport service, and it
might be pleaded that in the distressful condition of the country the
deficit was no fault of the government, but unavoidable. Wellington’s
view was that with greater economy in civil expenses, and more careful
supervision of commissaries and contractors, there was money enough
to pay for all necessary military objects. He was probably right, but
there is small wonder if a provisional government like the Regency
found it hard to introduce administrative reforms in the midst of a
crisis, and with the enemy almost at the gates of the capital. After
all, the effort which Portugal had made was splendid, and the whole
nation had accepted the awful necessity of the depopulation of its
central provinces with a loyalty that was surprising, if we consider
the magnitude of the sacrifice.

  [99] See Wellington to Beresford from Cartaxo, February 12.
  (_Dispatches_, vii. 253.)

  [100] Ibid. ‘The cause of the state of deficiency is the old want
  of money to pay for carriage.’

There was, however, a small minority of traitors still left in
Portugal, and their intrigues seem to have given Wellington much
concern, not because there was any danger from their personal action,
but because they conveyed to Masséna the intelligence as to the
condition of affairs in Lisbon, and in Europe at large, which he
could not obtain in any other way, owing to the strict blockade kept
up around his rear. On the last day of the old year four officers,
two colonels and two majors, had fled out of Lisbon and joined the
French[101]. They were all men who had quarrelled with Beresford,
and deserted in revenge: but that four field officers could turn
traitors at once was a most distressing sign. Wellington had fears of
a general plot against the English, and was inclined to suspect the
Bishop of Oporto and President Sousa of knowing more about it than
befitted members of the Regency. He was apparently mistaken, though
their petulance and intermittent protests against all his actions
seemed to him to justify any doubts. But minor persons in Lisbon, old
friends of Alorna and his Francophil policy, had contrived to open
up communication with the renegade General Pamplona, and to send him
newspapers, reports of the movement of troops, and other miscellaneous
information, using as their intermediaries smugglers, who passed
the lines at night to sell coffee, sugar, and other luxuries to the
French[102]. For there was a ready market for such things in the army
of Masséna. Fortunately this illicit correspondence was of little
importance, since there was no solid party in Portugal in favour of
Napoleon, and the information conveyed by newspapers as to affairs in
Lisbon was not, at this time, at all encouraging to the French; while
that as to events in England or remote parts of Spain was too old in
date to be of any great profit to them.

  [101] Their names, San Miguel, Loulé, Candido Xavier, and Manuel
  de Castro, are given by Fririon (Masséna’s aide-de-camp) in his
  diary. Major Leslie tells me that he cannot identify them in the
  Portuguese army-list of 1810, and thinks that two of them at
  least were only Ordenança officers.

  [102] For details as to all this see Wellington to Charles
  Stuart, February 10. (_Dispatches_, vii. 237-8.)

Meanwhile Wellington regarded his position as secure for the moment.
The Army of Portugal, even after Drouet’s arrival, was too weak to
attack him. Soult’s movement from Andalusia at first caused him some
uneasiness, for he had conceived a notion that the expedition from
Andalusia, leaving Badajoz and Elvas on its left, and ignoring the
Spanish Army of Estremadura, might be intending to march by Merida and
Truxillo to Almaraz, and from thence to join Masséna by the circuitous
route through Coria and Castello Branco[103]. He was reassured as to
this possibility when the news came that Soult, unable to undertake
anything bold so long as Gazan had not joined him, had sat down to
besiege Olivenza on January 11th. If the Marshal intended to take
all the Estremaduran fortresses before moving on, occupation could
be found for him for many a week, and when La Romana’s two divisions
had been sent to join Mendizabal on January 22, Wellington imagined
that he might regard the situation on this side as secure. It will be
remembered that he gave Mendizabal elaborate advice as to the course
that he was to pursue, and he was justified in believing that if that
advice was followed Badajoz would never fall, and Soult for the moment
would become an almost negligible quantity.

  [103] This fear is expressed in a letter to Charles Stuart dated
  January 16 (_Dispatches_, vii. 147), on the news that Mortier’s
  cavalry had seized the bridge of Merida. ‘The passage of the
  Tagus by Mortier removes to a distant period the danger of
  Alemtejo; but it shows that we may be attacked at an early period
  in our positions. For Mortier, supposing him to march by Almaraz,
  can be on the Zezere in the first days of February, and I think
  it possible that the battle for the possession of this country,
  and probably the fate of the Peninsula, will be fought in less
  than a month from this time.’

There was always the chance, however, that Soult might turn against the
Alemtejo after all, and that Masséna might make a desperate effort to
cross the Tagus and join him. Hence Wellington spent much thought in
devising means to prevent this danger from coming into being. Beresford
received elaborate orders as to the conduct that he was to pursue, with
his corps south of the Tagus, in case Masséna attempted a passage, or
Soult appeared before Elvas. In the latter case the French would be
fought by an army composed of Mendizabal’s Estremadurans, Beresford’s
corps, and the brigade of Portuguese line troops in Elvas, a mass of
over 30,000 men. This force ought to suffice, but if the worst came,
and a defeat were suffered, the army south of the Tagus would try to
defend first the passages of the Zatas river (or the Benevente river
as Wellington usually calls it), then those of the Almansor, and lastly
the line across the neck of the Setubal peninsula, opposite Lisbon,
where there was a short front of ten miles from Setubal itself (which
was fortified) past the castle of Palmella to Moita on the Tagus
estuary. But behind this again was the strongest defensive position of
all, a Lines of Torres Vedras on a small scale[104]. The works erected
here were an afterthought: they had formed no part of the original
scheme for the fortification of Lisbon, but when it had been proved to
Wellington that batteries on the Heights of Almada, beyond the broad
Tagus mouth, might incommode the shipping in the harbour, and possibly
the town itself [the range was 2,300 yards], he had ordered, early
in December, that the Portuguese labourers set free from work on the
old lines by Masséna’s departure should be transferred to the Almada
front[105]. Here a line of 8,000 yards from sea to sea was marked out,
and strengthened with no less than seventeen closed redoubts, connected
by a covered way. Eighty-six guns were allotted to them, and their
defence was to be given over to the marines of the fleet, and the local
militia and trained Ordenança (_Atiradores nacionaes_) of Lisbon.
It was calculated that Beresford would find a garrison of 7,500 men
already placed in these forts if he were ever forced back on to them.
It seemed impossible that such a short front, so strongly held, could
ever be broken through.

  [104] All this may be found in Wellington’s dispatch of January
  12, 1811, where he details the successive positions which
  Beresford must try to hold.

  [105] For a description of this front see Jones, _Lines of Torres
  Vedras_, pp. 43-5.

But all this was a precaution designed to face a very unlikely--if a
possible--situation of affairs. It was much more probable that Masséna
would try to pass the Tagus higher up, than that Soult would fight
his way to its mouth across the Alemtejo, and every precaution was
taken to give Masséna a hot reception if he should make the attempt.
It was clear that his starting-point for such an enterprise must be
Punhete and the mouth of the Zezere, for there were collected the
ninety boats and the materials for the floating bridges which had been
created by the energy of General Eblé. At Santarem, the other place
where Masséna had boats, the stock of them was known to be too small
for a passage in force. Beresford, it will be remembered, had already
established batteries which commanded the mouth of the Zezere, and
had several times stopped small explorations by the French boats.
Only on one occasion did a few succeed in running past down-stream.
On the whole it was considered unlikely that Masséna would attempt
such a serious matter as the crossing of the Tagus opposite Punhete.
D’Urban, Beresford’s chief of the staff, reported ‘It is altogether
improbable that he will commit himself, unless in combination with
the army arriving from the south. The stream is very rapid. The boats
cannot return to the original point of embarkation for a second load
of men, nor to the second point for a third load, but must cross at
each time to a point lower down, owing to the current. This must and
will occasion great disunion and scattering among the parts of the
division who first pass, all the more because they will be vigorously
opposed from the beginning. It appears to me that no attempt of the
kind can succeed. The Zezere-mouth alone is their _place d’armes_,
and leaves little else for us to watch: hence arises for them a
difficulty of accomplishing this enterprise that would appear almost
unsurmountable.’[106] It is most interesting to compare this judgement
from the English side with the discussion of the problem by the French
generals, which followed a few days later, and with which we shall
presently have to deal[107].

  [106] From a long note by D’Urban in his unpublished diary, dated
  January 22, 1811.

  [107] See pp. 77-9.

Meanwhile both parties were decidedly nervous as to the possible
movements of their adversaries. If Wellington sometimes thought that
Masséna might make an attempt to cross the Tagus, Masséna was very
reasonably suspicious that Wellington might make a surprise-attack
upon Junot’s corps along the upper Rio Mayor, and try to cut it off,
before it could be succoured by Ney from Thomar and Golegão. This
suspicion led to the only skirmish that marked the month of January. On
the 19th the Marshal ordered Junot to make a reconnaissance in force
beyond the river, along the Alcoentre road, to see whether a rumour
that an English division had been brought up behind Pack’s Portuguese
outposts were true. The Duke of Abrantes conducted the affair himself,
at the head of 3,000 infantry of Clausel’s division and 500 horse.
He pressed in the cavalry screen in front of Pack, consisting of a
squadron of the 1st Hussars of the King’s German Legion, and occupied
the village of Rio Mayor, from which he drove out two Portuguese
companies. Discovering nothing in reserve save Pack’s brigade, drawn
up for resistance on the heights to the rear, and noting no red-coated
battalions, the French withdrew after a little skirmishing, and
returned to their lines. During this trifling affair Junot received a
painful but not dangerous wound from the carbine of a hussar vedette.
The ball struck him on the side of the nose, broke the bone there,
and lodged in his cheek; but it was extracted with no difficulty, and
he was able to resume command of his corps within a few days[108].
Nothing further occurred on this front till February 10, when the
English cavalry paid a return visit to the French outlying picket east
of the Rio Mayor, drove it in, and retired with an officer and ten men
prisoners.

  [108] The best account of this reconnaissance is in the Journal
  of Sprünglin, pp. 462-3.

On February 5th the third and final period of Masséna’s stay on the
Tagus may be said to have begun, with the arrival of the last orders
from Paris which he was destined to receive. He had been more than a
month without any official intelligence of what was going on behind
him, the latest dispatches to hand having been those brought by Drouet
at the end of the old year. But General Foy now appeared with the
orders which the Emperor had issued on December 22nd. He had cut his
way from Ciudad Rodrigo across the eastern mountains, and along the
Estrada Nova, at the head of a column of 1,800 men, mostly composed
of drafts belonging to the 2nd Corps, which he had found waiting on
the Spanish frontier. The rains had been continuous, the badness of
the road was notorious, and Colonel Grant with a small party of local
Ordenança hung about the route of the column for the last five days of
its march, and slew or captured more than a hundred stragglers. The
total loss by fatigue and sickness was much greater[109].

  [109] There is a good account of this march by Foy in his _Vie
  Militaire_, ed. Girod de l’Ain, pp. 127-8.

The orders brought by Foy were not particularly comforting to Masséna.
He was bidden to hold on to his position till he had received succour
from the Army of the South, and also from the Army of the Centre.
Mortier’s corps, as he had already been assured, would at some
not-distant date make its appearance on the Tagus, in the direction
of Montalvão and Villaflor. A column from the Army of the Centre was
to advance to Plasencia, and communicate with the Marshal via Coria
and Castello Branco. He was not expected to take the offensive till he
should have received these reinforcements, but he must use Drouet’s
troops to keep open communications with Almeida, and ‘regularize’ the
war. There was no order for him to cross the Tagus into the Alemtejo in
search of Mortier: it was Mortier who was to come to him. Practically
all this amounted to a command to wait and endure--the initiative was
to come from outside, with the arrival of reinforcements from the south
and east. ‘L’empereur appelait son armée à une lutte de fatigue et de
persévérance,’ as Foy commented.

But this ‘strife of toil and perseverance’ had already been going on
since November, the dispatch was forty-four days old when it reached
Masséna, and the co-operation by the Armies of the South and Centre,
which it promised, showed no signs of coming to pass. As a matter
of fact, when Foy arrived, Mortier’s divisions were absorbed in the
siege of Badajoz, and Soult, with Mendizabal upon his hands, could
have moved neither a detachment nor the whole 5th Corps to the Tagus.
The promised assistance from the Army of the Centre, a mere column
of 3,000 men under Lahoussaye, had advanced first to Truxillo and
then to Plasencia, as was promised, but had turned back for want of
provisions long before reaching the Portuguese frontier. Masséna pushed
several reconnaissances towards the upper Tagus, in the hope of getting
information as to the appearance of friendly troops on either side of
the river, but could learn nothing. He says that he judged from the
tranquillity shown by the English south of the Tagus that there could
be no French force near enough to cause them disquietude. Meanwhile the
power of the Army of Portugal to live by plundering the country-side
was being reduced every day. The distance at which food had to be
sought was ever increasing, and the loss suffered by the parties which
were cut off while raiding was growing daily more serious. The number
of prisoners taken by the British cavalry on Junot’s flank and Drouet’s
front amounted to several hundreds in January and February[110]. Many
more were destroyed by the Ordenança, who were goaded to ferocious
activity by the ever-growing cruelty of the marauders, and dogged every
expedition that set out with an ever-increasing skill. They avoided the
main bodies, but trapped and shot small parties that strayed more than
a few hundred yards from the column, with patient persistence.

  [110] For details of this see the Diary of Tomkinson of the 16th
  Light Dragoons. His own regiment alone brought in 82 prisoners
  between January 19 and February 23. There were some very fine
  feats of arms on a small scale in this outpost fighting, notably
  a capture made by Lieutenant Bishop on January 19th, when with
  six men he charged twenty chasseurs, and took eight with twelve
  horses.

After waiting for a fortnight after the arrival of Foy and the imperial
dispatches, and learning nothing of any approach of the long-promised
troops of Mortier, Masséna assembled the corps leaders and certain
other generals at Golegão on February 19th, at a meeting which he
carefully refrained from calling a council of war. That he should do
so was in itself a sign of flagging confidence; he had shown himself
very autocratic hitherto, and had asked the advice of none of his
lieutenants. Now he regarded the situation as so desperate that he
thought that he must either give up the game and retreat from the
Tagus, or risk an attack on the allied forces south of that river,
with the object of crossing into the Alemtejo and going off to join
Soult. His own mind was practically made up in favour of the former
alternative; but he knew that if he took it without consulting his
lieutenants, they would probably report him to the Emperor as having
despaired before all was lost. The council of war was really called for
the purpose of arguing them down, and committing them to the policy of
retreat[111], so that they should not be able to protest against it at
a later date.

  [111] The best account of this council of war is Foy’s (in
  his _Vie Militaire_, pp. 129-32), which is contemporary. It
  differs largely from Koch’s narrative in his _Vie de Masséna_.
  It is quite convincing when compared with Masséna’s explanatory
  dispatch to Berthier of March 6th, which sets forth his own
  arguments for the retreat. They are the same which Foy attributes
  to him in the précis of the meeting of February 18th.

The three corps-commanders came to the meeting each with a scheme of
his own to develop. Ney proposed to pass the Tagus by force, with the
whole army, to abandon Portugal for the moment, and to join Soult. The
united armies should establish themselves on the Guadiana, complete
the conquest of Estremadura, and then, after calling in all possible
reinforcements, take in hand the invasion of the Alemtejo, and an
attack on Lisbon from the south. Junot hotly combated this scheme:
to pass into the Alemtejo meant the surrender of all Portugal to
Wellington, who would chase the 9th Corps out of the Beira; it would
be ‘giving up the whole game.’ He wished to establish a bridge-head on
the other side of the Tagus, but not to send the whole army across,
merely to occupy it with a strong detachment, and then to wait for
Mortier’s promised appearance. Reynier’s scheme was a variant of
Junot’s, but infinitely more dangerous, for he was a general of
second-rate capacity. He would throw one corps across the Tagus, to
scour the Alemtejo for provisions, and to try to find Mortier. The
other two should hold on at Santarem, in the entrenched positions which
had already checked Wellington for three months. The English general,
he said, was timid, and would never dare to assault these formidable
works, even in the absence of one-third of the army.

Masséna had no difficulty in demolishing this last proposal. The
passage of the Tagus would be a dangerous and difficult operation in
face of an enemy who was upon the alert, who had fortified all the
obvious landing-places on the opposite bank, and who was known to have
established a perfect system of signals and communications. It might
very probably end in a bloody repulse. But granting that it succeeded,
and that a corps of 15,000 men got over into the Alemtejo, victory
would have consequences more disastrous than failure. For Wellington
would fall upon the two corps left north of the Tagus with his main
force, perhaps 60,000 men; and when separated from the troops detached
in the Alemtejo the Army of Portugal would have only 30,000 in line.
‘N’est-il pas à craindre que cette portion de l’armée, séparée de
l’autre, ne soit attaquée, battue, détruite, par un ennemi à qui, pour
nous faire beaucoup de mal, il ne manque que de le vouloir?’ This
was absolutely irrefutable logic; nothing could be more insane than
Reynier’s proposal to separate the French army into two parts by the
broad stream of the Tagus. Wellington could have destroyed with ease
the two-thirds of it left north of the river, unless that portion
should be ready to evacuate all else that it held and shut itself up to
be besieged in Santarem--the only possible centre of resistance. But to
be shut up in Santarem meant starvation on a worse scale than had been
hitherto endured. For the army, losing its old broad foraging-ground,
would be compelled to live entirely upon what might be sent it from
the northern Alemtejo by the detached corps; and that region was
known to be barren and thinly peopled, and had probably already been
stripped of its resources by Wellington’s orders. (As a matter of fact
such orders had been issued some time back.) ‘Faut-il pour un intérêt
si modique que celui de manger un mois dans l’Alemtejo risquer une
pareille opération?’ asked the Marshal. And any dispassionate judge
must decide that his question could only be answered in the negative.
Ney’s proposal, to take the whole army across the Tagus into the
Alemtejo, was not quite so easy to dispose of. But there stood against
its first necessary preliminary--the passage of the river--the same
objections that were registered against Reynier’s plan. The passage
might end in a repulse, and the position of the army would be very bad
if, having concentrated at Punhete (or at Santarem) for the crossing,
it found itself encircled by all Wellington’s forces, which would march
in upon it the moment that Ney’s and Junot’s corps were withdrawn from
their present cantonments. The Marshal disliked the idea of having to
fight a battle, with the Tagus at his back, and all his possible lines
of retreat intercepted[112]. Or again, the crossing might succeed, so
far as the throwing of a vanguard across to the Alemtejo bank went. But
Wellington would close in upon the army while it was actually passing,
and might easily destroy its rearguard, or even its larger half, by
attacking when the rest was across the water, and unable to return
with sufficient promptness.

  [112] ‘Bientôt viendrait le moment où on serait forcé de se jeter
  sur l’une ou sur l’autre rive; et alors on pourrait trouver les
  têtes-de-pont entourées par une contrevallation de l’ennemi, ou
  bien l’armée se verrait forcée à recevoir bataille avec un fleuve
  au dos, en voulant se porter sur la rive droite.’ Masséna to
  Berthier, March 6.

If the army were so lucky as to get off entire into the barren
Alemtejo, and to unite with the 5th Corps on the Guadiana, Wellington,
as Junot had pointed out, would have a free hand in northern and
central Portugal, and would sweep Claparéde out of it, while he need
not be seriously alarmed at any attack on Lisbon from the south of the
Tagus, for the city was covered by the Almada lines[113] and could
not be harassed from this quarter. Meanwhile the Army of Portugal
would be cut off from all the supplies and reinforcements which were
accumulating for it on the frontier of Spain, at Ciudad Rodrigo and
Salamanca; ‘it would be going off to a distance from its real line of
operations and of communications.’

  [113] It is interesting to see from Masséna’s dispatch of March
  6 that he was aware of the existence both of the Setubal and the
  Almada fortifications.

Masséna then came to the point: having argued down the schemes of
Reynier and Ney, he developed his own determination, which was to
hold on for the few days more that seemed possible. The marauding
operations that fed the army were rapidly growing less productive, and
the moment was approaching when the daily plunder would no longer meet
the daily consumption, and then, in case the long-expected Soult did
not appear, the army must retire on to the line of the Mondego[114].
There, in a country comparatively undamaged, Masséna hoped to hold out
some fifty or sixty days at the least: the whole 9th Corps would be
available for opening and maintaining the communications with Almeida
and Ciudad Rodrigo, and reinforcements and stores would easily be
brought forward[115]. But no further offensive movements could be
contemplated; the army was exhausted and needed a long rest; in the end
it would probably have to retire within the borders of Spain--perhaps
to Alcantara on the Tagus, perhaps into Leon.

  [114] Foy, present at the council, where he was asked to comment
  on the Emperor’s last orders, which he had brought himself,
  renders Masséna’s decision in his diary as: ‘Que faut-il donc
  faire? Tenir ici le plus longtemps que nous pourrons: voir d’ici
  là ce qui se passera dans l’Alemtejo: puis, si rien n’est changé,
  nous transporter sur le Mondego, en laissant un corps d’armée à
  la rive gauche de cette rivière.’ [_Vie Militaire_, p. 131.]

  [115] This comes from Masséna’s dispatch to Berthier of March 6th.

Ney and Reynier seem to have retired from the conference rather talked
down than convinced, and the latter sent in to his Commander-in-Chief a
sort of protest, taking the form of a précis of the meeting, in which
the arguments used and the result arrived at were so misrepresented
that Masséna caused a formal document to be drawn up and signed by five
other generals present at the council, in which it was declared that
the précis was wholly incorrect. Apparently Reynier had intended to get
his protest to the Emperor’s hands, in order to free himself from any
responsibility in approving a retreat which he thought that his master
would condemn[116].

  [116] For details as to this see Foy’s narrative quoted above.

The few weeks for which the Army of Portugal retained its position
after the conference at Golegão, were spent by all its units as a mere
period of preparation for the retreat, for the generals had long made
up their minds that Soult would never appear on the Tagus. They seem
even to have thought that he might have retired from Estremadura,
for the distant thunder of the bombardment of Badajoz, which had
been audible at Punhete during the first half of February, seemed to
have ceased. This must have been due to some change of atmospheric
conditions, for it was going on with redoubled energy in the last days
of the month. But Masséna and his lieutenants argued that either the
siege had been raised, or else Soult had taken the place, and yet was
not marching to the Tagus. They seem to have regarded his doings as a
negligible quantity, when coming to their final resolve.

During the last days of February all the corps received preliminary
orders, which could have no other meaning than that a retreat had been
decided upon. The divisions were ordered to send their parks and heavy
baggage to the rear, and the divisional batteries were told to complete
as many gun-teams with good serviceable horses as was possible, by
destroying caissons, and drafting their animals on to the guns. In
some cases batteries had to be reduced to three or four pieces,
even when half the caissons had been burnt. The 8th Corps destroyed
fifty-one caissons on the 24th-27th February, yet still could find
only four horses each for those remaining, including animals that were
sick or barely fit for service[117]. But the transport of food was
even more important than that of artillery material; in the central
magazines there was gathered together some fifteen days’ of biscuit
for the whole army, the flour for which had been procured with the
greatest difficulty in small quantities, and had been hoarded to the
last. This was issued to the regiments, with stringent orders not to
use it till the actual retreat began. Some units were so pressed by
starvation that they began to consume it, and ultimately started with
only eight or ten days consumption in their packs or on their waggons.
The whole of the transport was in a deplorable state; if the cavalry
and artillery had lost 5,088 horses since November, the train had been
depleted of draught-beasts in a still greater proportion, since they
were both weaker to start with, and less carefully kept. Some regiments
had no longer any horses attached to them, and could only show a few
pack-mules and asses, quite insufficient for carrying their reserve
ammunition and food[118]. Two things were certain--the one that if
the army could not pick up provisions on the way by marauding, it
would ultimately have to retire to its base within the frontiers of
Spain. And no food could be collected for some days, since the first
five stages of the retreat would be through a region already stripped
bare. The second was that the ammunition might suffice for one general
engagement, supposing that there was heavy fighting during the retreat,
but that it would hardly be able to serve for two.

  [117] Journal of Noël of the Artillery of the 8th Corps, p. 137.

  [118] For general statements as to the miserable state of the
  material of the army see Masséna’s dispatch to Berthier of March
  6, 1811.

On March 3rd Masséna issued the orders which marked his determination
to retreat at once. Ney was directed to march on the next day from
Thomar, with Marchand’s division and some cavalry, and join Drouet
at Leiria in the rear--they were ultimately to be the covering force
of the retiring army. On the 5th Reynier was directed to send back
his first division (Merle) from Santarem towards the rear, while the
second division (Heudelet) continued to hold the old lines. On this
same day Ney’s second division (Mermet) evacuated Torres Novas, and
marched northward to Ourem near Leiria, while one of Junot’s divisions
(Solignac) massed itself at Pernes, to await the arrival of the other
(Clausel), which was to hold the outposts till the last moment. This
was the critical day of the concentration, for of the eight divisions
forming the Army of Portugal five had started off, leaving three
(Heudelet at Santarem, Clausel on the Rio Mayor, Loison at Punhete) to
hold the old positions. If Wellington had attacked in force on the 5th,
it seems certain that he must have destroyed these covering forces,
which in their scattered position could not possibly have held their
ground. But the British general, as we shall see, was engaged in a
scheme of his own, and did not at first detect the full meaning of the
French movements.

For Wellington at this moment was busy in developing an encircling
attack on the whole of the French positions, and it was not yet
ready[119]. On February 23rd he had made up his mind to strike the
moment that a large body of reinforcements, already overdue from
England and the Mediterranean, should have arrived. The plan was that
the main army, while holding Reynier in check at Santarem with one or
two divisions, should attack Junot on the Rio Mayor with the bulk of
its force. At the same time Beresford, drawing his corps to the north
of the Tagus by the boat-bridge at Abrantes, was to fall upon Loison at
Punhete, and (as it was hoped) thus distract Ney, whose duty would be
divided between the succouring of Junot and that of the division on the
Zezere. But, even if he turned most of the reserves in the direction of
the Rio Mayor, the long distance would prevent them from arriving in
time. Junot would almost certainly be overwhelmed by superior numbers,
while Reynier was being ‘contained,’ and while Ney’s columns were still
far off.

  [119] This plan comes out in full in the diary of Beresford’s
  Chief of the Staff. D’Urban writes under the 23rd February: ‘The
  Marshal tells me that Lord Wellington means to attack, and his
  (Beresford’s) own share is that he must turn and force the French
  left, when the reinforcements should arrive. Some of them are
  already on their march up from Lisbon. On their arrival Lord
  Wellington will attack the French right, on the Rio Mayor, while
  Marshal Beresford crosses the Tagus at Abrantes, and attacks the
  force on the Zezere at the same time. Orders to inquire how far,
  in attacking the corps at Punhete, Amoreira can be turned, and
  the heights of Montalvão gained, with consequent advantage of
  ground in coming on the enemy upon the Zezere.’ The local reports
  were prepared by D’Urban on the 25th. The only allusion to the
  plan in the Wellington dispatches is in the last paragraph of the
  letter to Lord Liverpool of February 23rd, in which the phrase
  occurs, ‘I cannot venture to detach troops [to Estremadura] even
  after the reinforcements shall arrive: and if the weather should
  hold up a little I must try something else-of greater extent but
  more doubtful result.’

Preparations and reconnaissances in view of this great attack began
to be made, but the reinforcements were slow to arrive. Six thousand
men were due, mainly the troops which afterwards formed the 7th
Division and the second British brigade of the 6th. But on March 1
only the _Chasseurs Britanniques_ from Cadiz, and half of the 51st had
yet landed[120]. Of the other expected regiments the bulk turned up
in Lisbon harbour on the 4th-6th March, viz. the 2nd, 85th, 1/36th,
2/52nd, but the light infantry brigade of the King’s German Legion did
not come in till the 21st of the same month. It was undoubtedly the
accidental delay of a few days in the arrival of these seven battalions
that caused Wellington to hold back; if Masséna had postponed his move
for a week more, all would have been in line save the two belated
German battalions, and the attack would have been delivered about the
10th-12th of March.

  [120] The _Chasseurs Britanniques_ had landed very early in
  February, and a wing of the 51st on the 25th of that month. But
  the bulk of the transport fleet from England only was reported
  at the Tagus mouth on March 4th, and began to land men next
  day--the critical day of Masséna’s retreat. The ships with the
  German light brigade had sailed late, and came in even later in
  proportion.

Set on the carrying out of his own plan, which could not begin to
work for a few days more, Wellington was evidently not fully prepared
for the suddenness of Masséna’s retreat. On the 4th of March, the day
when Ney’s corps began to file to the rear, he wrote to Beresford, ‘I
think it likely that the enemy is about some move, but have been so
frequently disappointed that it is impossible to be certain. There
is no alteration whatever in their front.’ This was true, for Junot
and Reynier had not moved on a man upon the 4th. On the next--the
critical--day he himself made a survey of Reynier’s lines in front of
Santarem, found them still manned by Heudelet’s division, but thought
that he could detect that the artillery in the French works was less
numerous than on the previous day. There were no howitzers in the
great work across the high road, but only what appeared to be pieces
of small calibre. He could not perceive guns any longer upon the main
heights in front of Santarem; bushes seemed to have been laid to cover
the stations which they had occupied. But the outposts were the same,
and he did not observe any other change on the heights, excepting that
all the troops visible upon them were fully accoutred. He concluded
that no general movement of Reynier’s corps had taken place. ‘It is
probable that baggage and heavy artillery may have been sent off, but
the effective part of the army still remains in position.’ There was no
obvious alteration visible along Junot’s front, where Clausel was that
day holding all the outposts, Solignac having marched back to Pernes.

If Wellington had attacked at once that day, with the troops that were
up in his front line, the Light Division and the 1st Division, in front
of Santarem, while demonstrating with Pack’s Portuguese and the cavalry
brigades along the Rio Mayor to detain Clausel, it is probable that he
might have made great havoc of Heudelet’s division, which was holding a
front too long for its strength, and had no supports, since the rest of
the 2nd Corps was a march to the rear by now. But he was still thinking
of his own plan; the fleet, with the bulk of the expected battalions,
was reported at the mouth of the Tagus, and one regiment had actually
landed. Wherefore he wrote to Beresford, ‘the reinforcements have
arrived, and we shall be able in a few days to attack the enemy, if he
retains this position, or possibly to attack him in any other which he
may take up.’ Meanwhile the rear divisions of the army were ordered to
close in; on the evening of March 5th Cole (4th Division) was brought
up to Cartaxo, while Campbell (6th Division) moved out from the old
lines to Azambuja, which Cole had left. The 3rd Division was ordered up
from Alcoentre to join Pack’s Portuguese on the Rio Mayor. Beresford
was directed to bring the 2nd Division across the Tagus at Abrantes,
and to attack the French on the Zezere (Loison’s division) the moment
that he saw any signs of their being about to move off[121].

  [121] Most of these orders will be found in the early (6 a.m.)
  dispatch of March 5th to Beresford. The rest are mentioned as
  having been ordered to take place on the 5th in the dispatch to
  Beresford of the 6th.

But all this was too late: the only chance of destroying Masséna’s
rearguard would have been to have attacked on the morning of the 5th
with the troops that were already on the spot. And this Wellington
would not do, because he thought that Reynier and Junot were still
in position ‘with the effective part of the army.’ On the following
morning it was too late: Heudelet had evacuated Santarem, and Clausel
the line of the Rio Mayor, after dusk; and each having made a long
night-march, the one was at Ponte de Almonda near Golegão, the other
near Torres Novas, before noon on the 6th. Heudelet had blown up the
bridge of Alviella, Clausel that of Pernes, to detain the pursuers. The
enemy had gained a full march upon the British in this direction. On
the other flank Beresford brought the 2nd Division over the Tagus on
the 6th, but finding that Loison had made no movement had not attacked
him, his orders being to fall on only when he saw the enemy break up
from his positions.

On the early morning of the same day Wellington had found that Santarem
was empty and occupied it. The Light Division and Pack were sent
in pursuit of Junot, and reached Pernes: the 1st Division followed
Reynier, and had the head of its column at the broken bridge of the
Alviella by the afternoon. The 4th and 6th Divisions, coming up from
the rear, entered Santarem, while the 3rd Division reached the line
of the Rio Mayor and followed the Light Division. The 5th Division
and Campbell’s Portuguese were still far to the rear. On this day
Wellington made up his mind, from the signs before him, that Masséna
was in full march for Coimbra and the north, and did not intend to
fight a battle[122]. The only puzzling sign was that Loison’s division
still remained stationary on the Zezere. Was it even now possible that
the other corps were going to join him for an attack on Abrantes,
an attempt to cross the Tagus near it, or a retreat into Spain via
the Castello Branco road? This was not likely: for if such had been
Masséna’s plan, Ney would have arrived to join Loison already, and they
would have commenced their movement beyond the Zezere. Wellington,
however, did not feel quite certain as to what was the French scheme
till Loison burnt his boats and bridges on the night of the 6th-7th,
and moved off towards Thomar, in the same direction as the rest of
the French army. It is clear that if Beresford had been ordered to
fall upon Loison in force upon the afternoon of the 6th, he might
have done him much harm, for there lay upon the Zezere only a single
French infantry division and a cavalry brigade, while Beresford had at
Abrantes, beside the garrison, an English and a Portuguese division of
infantry, and as much cavalry at least as Loison possessed.

  [122] See Wellington to Beresford, _Dispatches_, vii. p. 344.

On the 7th Ney and Drouet were halted at Leiria to cover the arrival
of the rest of the army. Reynier marched from Golegão to Thomar;
Junot from Torres Novas to Chão de Maçans; Loison was at dawn close
to Thomar, after a night march, leaving his boats and bridges blazing
behind him as a beacon for Beresford’s benefit. It was clear that the
French were all making for the Coimbra roads, and had no designs west
of the Zezere. The English cavalry, following on the heels of both
Reynier’s and Junot’s columns, informed Wellington that the enemy was
apparently about to use both roads towards the Mondego, that by Leiria
and Pombal, and that by Chão de Maçans and Ancião. The British general
expressed some surprise at this, remarking in a letter to Beresford
that the latter road was so bad that he marvelled that everything had
not gone by the infinitely superior Leiria chaussée, the main road to
the north[123]. Meanwhile, of his own troops Beresford had crossed
the Zezere, but did not reach Thomar; Nightingale’s brigade of the
1st Division moved on from the bridge of the Alviella to Atalaya
beyond Golegão, the Light Division from Pernes advanced to Arga and
La Marosa on the Torres Novas-Thomar road. The 4th and 6th Divisions
reached Golegão in the afternoon. But hearing of Ney’s and Drouet’s
concentration at Leiria, and doubtful whether he would not find that
the rest of the enemy was about to take shelter behind them, Wellington
resolved not to push any more troops in the Thomar direction, but to
keep a large mass upon the Santarem-Leiria-Coimbra road. The bulk
of the 1st Division (all save Nightingale’s brigade) and the 3rd
Division were halted at Alcanhede and Pernes, and thither too the 5th
Division and the Portuguese brigades from the rear were directed. It
must be confessed that this was not a very rapid or vigorous pursuit:
Wellington was waiting on the enemy’s movements, rather than forcing
them to take such directions as best suited himself. But it must be
remembered that he had been compelled to advance ere yet his own
preparations were made, four or five days before he had intended to
make his great concentric attack, and two factors were against him.
The first was the eternal food-problem; the divisions had marched
unexpectedly, with such supplies as they had in hand; they were unable
to get anything from the country, which the French had stripped bare
during the last three months. The rations for them were being brought
up from the rear, but if they outmarched them they must starve: hence
there were reasons against hurry. The second cause of delay was that
Wellington wished to have his whole army in hand, if the enemy should
turn and show fight, and the divisions which had started from the
Torres Vedras Lines on the first notice of Masséna’s departure on
the 5th were still far to the rear, viz. the 5th and the Portuguese
battalions which had once been Le Cor’s and was now under Campbell.
The new 7th Division, which had just landed, had not yet commenced its
march from Lisbon.

  [123] Wellington to Beresford, _Dispatches_, vii. p. 346.

The aspect of the region through which the army was marching was
piteous in the extreme. Santarem town was a wreck, ‘the houses torn and
dilapidated, the streets strewn with household furniture half-burnt
and destroyed, many streets quite impassable with filth and rubbish,
with an occasional man, horse, or donkey rotting, and corrupting
the air with pestilential vapours: a few miserable inhabitants like
living skeletons[124].’ The country-side was worse--cottages burnt
and unroofed, and corpses of murdered peasants, some fresh, some mere
heaps of bones, lying in every ravine. The survivors were just emerging
from woods or caverns to cut up the French sick and stragglers. A
single quotation may suffice to give some idea of the wayside sights
of this distressing march. It comes from a 3rd Division chronicler,
who is describing the village of Porto de Mos, south of Leiria: ‘When
we entered the place, there was a large convent fronting us, which, as
well as many of the houses, had been set on fire by the French. I never
before witnessed such destruction: floors torn up, beds cut in pieces,
their contents thrown about intermixed with kitchen utensils, broken
mirrors, china, &c. There was a large fire in the chapel, on which had
been heaped broken pieces of the altar, wooden images, picture frames,
and the ornamental woodwork of the organ. Searching for a clean place
to put down bags of biscuit, we found a door leading to a chamber apart
from the chapel. It was quite dark, so I took up a burning piece of
wood to inspect it. It was full of half-consumed human bodies, some
lying, others kneeling or leaning against the walls. The floor was
covered with ashes, in many places still red-hot. Such an appalling
sight I have never witnessed. Of those who had sunk on the floor
nothing remained but bones: those who were in a kneeling or standing
posture were only partially consumed. The expression of their scorched
faces was horrible beyond description. In a bag lying at the upper
end of the apartment was the dead body of a young child, who had been
strangled: the cord used was still tight about its little neck[125].’

  [124] Memoirs of George Simmons of the 95th, p. 137.

  [125] From the Memoirs of Donaldson of the 94th, p. 104. Passing
  through Porto de Mos on September 29, 1910, I thought that I
  would try to discover whether any memory of this horrid tragedy
  survived. The sacristan, of whom I made inquiries, at once took
  me to a ruined chamber to the left of the church, and told
  me that 200 people had been burned there in the ‘time of the
  French.’ A new sacristy had been built to replace it in 1814, the
  chamber being held accursed.

It was on the morning that followed his arrival at Torres Novas (March
8th) that Wellington, encouraged by the reports of his cavalry scouts,
to the effect that the French were marching day and night, and showed
no wish to fight, issued the orders already alluded to in a previous
chapter, which bade Beresford turn back the 2nd Division, and march
with it and the 4th to the relief of Badajoz[126]. The report of
Menacho’s death and of the rapid advance of the French siege-works had
just reached him. Beresford was to take with him Hamilton’s Portuguese
division, which had not yet passed the Tagus, and De Grey’s cavalry
brigade. The boat-bridge at Abrantes was floated down to Tancos near
Punhete, in order to save the 2nd and 4th Divisions some miles of march
in their journey to the Alemtejo. These troops turned back, and were
nearing Tancos on the following day, when they received orders to halt.
The French, so the advanced cavalry reported, after marching hitherto
day and night, had come to a stand at Pombal, north of Leiria, where
Ney, Junot, and Drouet were now all massed. Though Reynier was said
to have taken another road, that by Espinhal, Wellington was not sure
that Masséna did not intend to fight, and if so, he wished to have the
4th Division with him, and De Grey’s heavy dragoons. ‘In this case it
is desirable,’ he writes, ‘that I should be a little stronger, and as
Badajoz is not yet pressed ... I have sent to Cole to desire that his
division and the dragoons march to-morrow for Cacharia. I shall then
be as strong as the enemy, or very nearly.’ The 2nd Division was to
halt and wait further orders. It was not till the 12th that it was let
loose, and told to resume its march to the Alemtejo: Cole and De Grey
were not sent back from the main army till the 16th. Meanwhile Badajoz,
as we have already seen, fell by Imaz’s pusillanimity on March 10--a
date too early for Beresford to have saved it, even if he had continued
the march originally prescribed to him on the 8th of that month.

  [126] See Chapter II above, p. 60, and Wellington, _Dispatches_,
  vii. 350-1.

Before Wellington sent on their southward journey the three divisions
which were to form the future Army of Estremadura, stirring events had
begun to occur on the Leiria-Coimbra road, and the general course of
Masséna’s retreat had already been settled.



SECTION XXIII: CHAPTER IV

EVENTS IN THE SOUTH OF SPAIN. THE BATTLE OF BARROSA
JANUARY-MARCH 1811


In the second chapter of this volume we dealt with Soult’s expedition
to Estremadura and its results, but had to defer for later
consideration the events which brought him back in haste to Andalusia
the moment that Badajoz had fallen (March 12th). These must now be
explained.

When his 20,000 men, collected from all the three corps which formed
the Army of the South, set out on the last day of the old year 1810,
Soult left behind him three problems, each of which (as he was well
aware) might assume a dangerous aspect at any moment. We have already
indicated their character[127]. Would Victor, with 19,000 men left
to him for the blockade of Cadiz, be able to hold with security the
immense semicircle of lines and batteries which threatened the island
stronghold of the Cortes? Would the provisional garrison which had been
patched up for Seville prove strong enough to defend that capital and
its arsenals against any possible attack of roving Spanish detachments,
from the mountains of the west and south? Would Sebastiani and the
4th Corps be able to beat back any attempt by the Army of Murcia to
trespass upon the limits of the broad and rugged province of Granada?
We may add that it was conceivable that all these three problems might
demand a simultaneous solution. For if all the Spanish forces had been
guided by a single capable brain, nothing would have been more obvious
to conceive than a plan for setting them all to work at once. If a
sortie from Cadiz were taken in hand, it would have the best chance of
success supposing that Sebastiani were to be distracted by an invasion
of Granada, and Seville threatened by any force that could be collected
in the Condado de Niebla, or the mountains above Ronda.

  [127] See pp. 57-8 above.

Soult, as Napoleon pointed out to him two months later[128], had
committed a considerable fault by not putting all the divisions left
behind in Andalusia under a single commander, responsible for all parts
of the kingdom alike. Victor was given no authority over Sebastiani,
nor even over Daricau, who had been left as governor of Seville, or
Godinot, whose depleted division occupied the province of Cordova.
Napoleon, always suspicious of Soult, accused him of having neglected
this precaution because he was jealous of Victor, and would not make
him as great as himself[129]. Whether this was so or not, it is at any
rate clear that the position was made much more dangerous by the fact
that each of the three problems named above would be presented to a
different commander, who would be prone to think of his own troubles
alone, and to neglect those of his colleagues. If all three dangers
became threatening at the same moment, each general would regard his
own as the most important, and bestow comparatively little care on
those which menaced the others. As a matter of fact, Victor was almost
destroyed, because Sebastiani did not come to his help, when the sally
from Cadiz took place early in March; and Seville was in serious danger
a few days later, because there was no one who could order Godinot to
march to its aid from Cordova without delay.

  [128] _Correspondance_, no. 17,531. ‘Le siège de Cadix n’aurait
  pas couru les chances qu’il vient de courir si, en partant pour
  l’Estrémadure, le duc de Dalmatie avait mis le corps du général
  Sebastiani et la division Godinot sous les ordres du Maréchal duc
  de Bellune [Victor] ... il aurait alors eu trois fois plus de
  troupes qu’il n’en aurait fallu.’

  [129] ‘Soult vient de me faire une grande sottise: il aurait
  dû laisser à Victor le commandement de toutes les troupes
  d’Andalousie. Il ne l’a pas fait, de peur que Victor ne fût
  aussi grand que lui.’ Foy’s interview with Napoleon in his _Vie
  Militaire_, p. 140.

Soult was fully aware of all the possible perils of his absence.
Apparently he thought Sebastiani was in the greater danger, for he
requisitioned only a few cavalry and artillery from the 4th Corps,
and left it practically intact to defend the province of Granada
against the Army of Murcia. As to Seville, he considered that it could
only be endangered by Ballasteros, and for that reason did his best
to destroy that general’s division, by causing Gazan to hunt it as
far as the borders of Portugal--a diversion which nearly wrecked the
Estremaduran expedition for lack of infantry[130]. When Gazan had
driven Ballasteros over the Guadiana, after the action of Castillejos
(January 25), the Marshal thought that the Spaniard was out of the
game, and no longer in a position to do harm--in which he erred, for
this irrepressible enemy was back in Andalusia within a few weeks, and
was actually threatening Seville early in March.

  [130] See above, p. 33.

But the greatest danger was really on the side of Cadiz, where Victor,
deprived of nearly all his cavalry and one regiment of infantry for the
Estremaduran expedition, had also to furnish outlying detachments--a
garrison for Xeres and the column with which General Remond was
operating in the Condado de Niebla, far to the west[131]. He had only
19,000 men left for the defence of the Lines, of which a considerable
proportion consisted of artillery, sappers, and marine troops, needed
for the siege but useless for a fight in the open, if the enemy should
make a sally by sea against his rear. The Duke of Belluno was anxious,
and rightly so: for the nearest possible succours were Sebastiani’s
troops in Granada and Malaga, many marches away, while the garrison of
Cadiz was very strong, and indeed outnumbered his own force. At the
beginning of February it comprised, including the urban militia, nearly
20,000 Spanish troops; Copons had just been withdrawn from the west to
join it. There was also an Anglo-Portuguese division. General Graham
had been left a considerable force, even after Wellington withdrew
certain regiments to join in the defence of the Lines of Torres Vedras.
He had two composite battalions of the Guards, the 2/47th, 2/67th,
2/87th, a half battalion of the 2/95th, the two battalions of the 20th
Portuguese, and a provisional battalion of German recruits[132], as
also two squadrons of the 2nd Hussars of the King’s German Legion, and
two field batteries. The whole amounted to between 5,000 and 6,000
men. It is curious to note that Napoleon, in the dispatch by which he
spurred Soult on to his Estremaduran expedition, assured him ‘that
there had never been more than three English regiments at Cadiz,
and that they had all gone to Lisbon,’ so that the Isle of Leon and
city were only defended by ‘ten thousand unhappy Spaniards without
resolution or power to resist[133].’ When the Emperor’s directions were
based upon information so utterly incorrect as this, it was hard for
his generals to satisfy him!

  [131] See above, p. 31.

  [132] Whom Wellington (in his dispatch to Graham of December 31)
  calls ‘the German deserters’--they having been mainly men who had
  absconded from the French armies.

  [133] _Correspondance_, no. 17,131.

Within a few days of the withdrawal of the detachment taken by Soult
from Victor, the news came to Cadiz that the 1st Corps had been
weakened: and when the destination of the expedition was known, it
seemed probable that no reserves had been left at Seville on which the
besieging force could count. The idea of an attack on Victor was at
once broached by the Regency, and accepted by General Graham; after
some discussion, it was considered best not to assail the lines by a
disembarkation from the Isle of Leon, but to land as large a force as
could be spared in the rear of the enemy, at Tarifa, Algesiras, or some
other point of Southern Andalusia which was in the hands of the Allies.
Such a movement, if properly conducted, would compel Victor to draw
backward, in order to hold off the Allies from the Lines. He would have
to fight at some distance inland, leaving a minimum garrison to protect
his forts and batteries, and it was proposed that the fleet and the
troops left in Cadiz should fall upon them during his enforced absence.

The execution of this plan was deferred for some weeks, partly
because of the difficulty of providing transport by sea for a large
expeditionary force, partly because Gazan was unexpectedly drawn
back into Andalusia by Ballasteros’s division, and was at the end
of January in a position from which he might easily have reinforced
Victor. When he had gone off to Estremadura, in the wake of Soult,
the problem became simpler. After drawing back Copons’s division from
the Condado de Niebla to Cadiz (as has already been mentioned), the
Regency found themselves able to provide 8,000 men for embarkation,
while leaving 7,000 regulars and the urban militia to hold Cadiz.
Graham was ready to join in, with all his troops save the battalion
companies of the 2/47th and the 20th Portuguese, and the doubtfully
effective German battalion, which were to remain behind, for he did
not wish to withdraw the whole British force from Cadiz at once. But
he procured the aid of an almost equivalent number of bayonets from
an external source: he wrote to General Campbell, commanding at
Gibraltar, begging him to spare reinforcements from the garrison of
that fortress and of the minor stronghold of Tarifa, at the extreme
southern point of Europe, which was then maintained as a sort of
dependency of Gibraltar. Campbell eagerly consented to take part in the
plan and promised to lend 1,000 infantry. This assistance would bring
up the British contingent to 5,000 men. The Spaniards were also to
collect some small reinforcements: there was an irregular force under
General Beguines operating in the Ronda mountains, and basing itself on
Gibraltar. It was ordered to join the expedition when it should come
to land, and (as we shall see) actually did so, with a force of three
battalions or 1,600 men. The total of the troops whom it was proposed
to collect amounted, therefore, to 9,600 Spaniards and 5,000 British,
a force almost equal in numbers to Victor’s depleted corps. But it was
clear that the Marshal would have to leave some sort of a garrison in
the Lines before Cadiz, and that the Allies would have a numerical
superiority, if they could force on a fight at a distance from the sea
and the French base.

One cardinal mistake was made in planning the expedition. Its command
was to be entrusted to General Manuel La Peña, then the senior officer
in Cadiz, a man with a talent for plausible talking and diplomacy, but
one who had already shown himself a selfish colleague and a disloyal
subordinate. This was the same man who in 1808, nearly three years
back, had sacrificed his chief Castaños at the disastrous battle
of Tudela[134], by refusing to march to the sound of the guns, and
securing a safe retreat for himself and his 10,000 men, while the
main army was being crushed, only four miles away, by Marshal Lannes.
Though not personally a coward, he was a shirker of responsibilities,
and incapable of a swift and heroic decision. He was ambitious enough
to aspire to and intrigue for a post of importance, but collapsed when
it became necessary to discharge its duties. He treated Graham in 1811
precisely as he had treated Castaños in 1808, and it was not his fault
that the sally from Cadiz failed to end in a disaster[135]. The English
lieutenant-general had discretionary authority from his Government to
refuse to act in any joint expedition of which he was not given the
command. But anxious to bring matters to a head, and deceived by La
Peña’s mild plausibility, he consented to take the second place, on the
ground that the Spaniard contributed the larger body of troops to the
enterprise.

  [134] See vol. i. pp. 442-3.

  [135] Schepeler, the Prussian officer in Spanish service, whose
  notes on all the Cadiz affairs are so important, owing to his
  having served through them under Blake and La Peña, says that the
  latter was generally allowed to be incompetent--he was a regular
  old woman. He tells an illustrative anecdote, of a guerrillero
  chief who came to concert a bold plan with the general, and went
  away at once, saying, ‘Can I hope to get anything out of an
  officer who, as I find, is called “Donna Manuela” by every one
  about him?’ Schepeler, _Geschichte der spanischen Monarchie_, i.
  134. La Peña had kept his place, despite of his Tudela fiasco,
  through family and _salon_ intrigues--he is said to have been the
  ‘tame cat’ of certain great ladies of the patriotic party.

If Graham himself had headed the united force, it is certain that the
siege of Cadiz would have been raised for the moment, though what
would have followed that success no man can say, for it would have
brought about such a convulsion in Andalusia, and such a concentration
of the French troops, that the whole of the conditions of the war in
the south would have been altered. Graham had all the qualities which
La Peña lacked--indomitable resolution, swift decision, a good eye
for topography, the power of inspiring enthusiastic confidence in his
troops. He was no mere professional soldier, but a crusader with a
mission; indeed his personal history is one of extraordinary interest.
When the French Revolution broke out he was a civilian of mature years,
a Whig Member of Parliament, aged forty-four, mainly known as a great
sportsman[136] and a bold cross-country rider. Yet certainly if the
war of 1793 had not come to pass, he would only be remembered now as
the husband of that beautiful Mrs. Graham whose portrait is one of
Gainsborough’s best-known masterpieces.

  [136] He played in the first recorded cricket match in Scotland
  in 1785.

[Illustration: _Lieutenant-General Thomas Graham_]

Driven to the Riviera in 1792 by the failing health of his wife, who
died at Hyères, Graham was an eye-witness of the outbreak of violence
and blind rage in France which followed Brunswick’s invasion. He
himself was arrested--his wife’s coffin was torn open by a mob which
insisted that he was smuggling ‘arms for aristocrats’ therein. He
narrowly escaped with his life, and returned to England convinced
that the French had become a nation of wild beasts, _hostes humani
generis_. ‘I had once deprecated,’ he wrote at the time, ‘the hostile
interference of Britain in the internal affairs of France, but what I
have seen in my journey through that country makes me consider that
war with her has become just and necessary in self-defence of our
constitution[137].’ Widowed and childless, he thought it his duty to go
to the front at once, despite of his forty-four years and his lack of
military training. He devoted all his available funds to the raising,
in his own county, of the 90th Foot, the ‘Perthshire volunteers,’ of
which he became the honorary colonel. He could not take command of the
corps, because he had no substantive military rank, but he could not
keep at home. He went out to the Mediterranean as a sort of volunteer
aide-de-camp to Lord Mulgrave, and afterwards, being found useful owing
to his gift of languages--he knew not only Italian but German, a rare
accomplishment in those days--he was entrusted with a special mission
to the Austrian army of Italy. He served through all the disasters of
Beaulieu and Würmser, starved in Mantua, and froze in the Tyrolese Alps.

  [137] See his diary, quoted in Delavoye’s _Life of Lord
  Lynedoch_, p. 32.

From that time onward we find him wherever there was fighting against
the French to be done--in Sicily, Minorca, Malta, Egypt, Portugal.
So great were his services that, contrary to all War Office rules,
his honorary colonelship was changed to a regular commission on the
staff, and in 1808-9 he served first as the British attaché with
Castaños’s army, and later as one of Sir John Moore’s aides-de-camp. In
reward for brilliant service in the Corunna campaign he was given in
1810 the command of the British force at Cadiz. And so it came about
that this Whig Member of Parliament, who had commenced soldiering at
forty-four (like Oliver Cromwell and Julius Caesar), was at sixty-two
leading a British division in the field. He had an iron frame[138],
and his spirit was as firm as his body--the crusade had to be fought
out to the end, though the enemy was now the Corsican Tyrant, not the
Atheist Republic against which he had first drawn his sword. It was
in keeping with all his previous career that he consented to take
the second place in the Tarifa expedition; to get the army started
was essential--his personal position counted for nothing with him.
Before a month was out he had good reason to regret that he had been so
self-denying.

  [138] Graham survived Barrosa for thirty years, lived to be
  ninety-six, and after Waterloo founded the United Service Club,
  as a place of rendezvous for his old Peninsular comrades, who
  looked upon him as a kind of father.

After many tiresome delays[139] the English contingent sailed from
Cadiz on February 21st, but met with such fierce west winds, when it
neared Cape Trafalgar, that the convoy could not make the difficult
harbour of Tarifa, and was blown past it into Gibraltar Bay, where
Graham landed on the 23rd at Algesiras. Here he found waiting for him
a ‘flank battalion’ of 536 bayonets, which General Campbell had made
up for him out of the six flank companies of the 1/9th, 1/28th, and
2/82nd. From Algesiras the troops marched on the 24th to Tarifa, where
they picked up another reinforcement provided by Campbell, the eight
battalion companies of the 1/28th, which had been doing garrison duty
in that little fortress--460 men in all. Having now just 5,196 men,
Graham divided the infantry into two brigades. The first under General
Dilkes numbered 1,900 bayonets: it was composed of the two composite
battalions of the Guards, together with the flank battalion from
Gibraltar and two companies of the 95th Rifles. The second brigade,
under Colonel Wheatley, had 2,633 bayonets, and consisted of the
1/28th, 2/67th, 2/87th, and another ‘flank battalion’ under Colonel
Barnard, composed of the two light companies of the 20th Portuguese
(the only troops of that nation which served in the expedition), those
of the 2/47th, with four more companies of the 95th Rifles. There were
only 206 cavalry--two squadrons of the 2nd Hussars of the King’s German
Legion--and ten guns under Major Duncan.

  [139] The delays in the start caused an unexpected conjunction
  in the mountains of the south. Beguines and his roving brigade,
  warned to be ready to join in the campaign by the 23rd, came
  down from the Ronda mountains in search of the army, advanced
  as far as Medina Sidonia, and skirmished there with Victor’s
  flank guard, two battalions under General Cassagne, which were
  always kept watching the mountains (March 25). Beaten off,
  Beguines retired to his usual haunts, and waited for signs of the
  expedition. His premature attack--premature through no fault of
  his own--called Victor’s attention to his rear, and caused him
  to fortify Medina Sidonia, and to reinforce Cassagne with three
  battalions and a cavalry regiment.

The Spanish contingent had sailed three days after Graham, had met
with the same rough weather, and had been much beaten about. But the
troops began to arrive at Tarifa on the 26th, and were all ashore on
the 27th. La Peña assumed command, was all politeness, and made over to
Graham two unbrigaded battalions of his own, to bring up the force of
the two small British brigades to a higher figure[140]. The rest of his
troops were organized in two divisions under Lardizabal and the Prince
of Anglona, the first five, the second six battalions strong[141]; he
had brought fourteen guns, and four squadrons of horse under an English
colonel in the Spanish service, Samuel Whittingham, an officer who did
not add to his laurels during this expedition.

  [140] These battalions were, I believe, Ciudad Real and 4th
  Walloon Guards.

  [141] As the names of the Spanish battalions engaged in this
  expedition have never before been collected, it may be worth
  while to mention here that they were--Lardizabal’s division:
  Campomayor, Carmona, Murcia (2 batts.), Canarias; Anglona’s
  division: Africa (2 batts.), Sigüenza, Cantabria (2 batts.),
  Voluntaries de Valencia.

On arriving at the bridge of Facinas and the village of Bolonia, ten
miles outside Tarifa, La Peña had to make up his mind whether he would
march against the rear of the French lines before Cadiz by the track
nearer to the coast, which passes through Vejer de la Frontera, Conil,
and Chiclana, or by the inland road through the mountains, which runs
past Casas Viejas to Medina Sidonia. The two roads at their bifurcation
are separated by the long lagoon of La Janda, a very shallow sheet of
water, seven miles long, which nearly dries up in summer, but was at
this moment full to overflowing from spring rains[142]. To take the
inland route across the mountains was by far the better course. The
road was not good, but if the Allies could reach Medina Sidonia with
their army intact, Victor would be forced to come out and attack
them, at a great distance from his Lines. For it would be practically
impossible for the Marshal to allow La Peña and Graham to establish
themselves at Medina, in the rear of his head quarters, and backed by
the Sierra de Jerez, from whose skirts they could send out as many
detachments as they pleased, to cut the communication between Seville
and the Lines. There was little danger of being taken in the rear by
troops sent by the distant Sebastiani, whose nearest forces were at
Marbella, eighty miles away, and whose attention was at this moment
fully taken up by the local guerrilleros, who had been turned loose on
him. Indeed, Sebastiani for some time thought that the expedition was
directed against himself, and was preparing to concentrate and take
the defensive. The only drawbacks to the Medina Sidonia route were
there would be no chance of communicating along it with the garrison of
Cadiz, and that the question of provisions might grow serious if the
campaign were protracted, for the region was barren and the army ill
provided with transport. But a few days would settle the affair--Victor
would be compelled to come out at once and fight, with every man that
he could bring, and while he was engaged at Medina, there would be
nothing to prevent the 7,000 Spaniards in Cadiz from crossing the
harbour and destroying the ill-garrisoned Lines. This in itself, even
if the Allies failed to hold back the Marshal, would have an immense
effect all over Andalusia[143].

  [142] I do not know these roads, nor the field of Barrosa, but
  Colonel Churcher, of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, who is well
  acquainted with them, tells me that the track (five miles inland
  from the coast) marked on the British staff map of 1810, from
  Bolonia to Vejer, is no proper road at all, and unfit for wheeled
  traffic to this day; while the Tarifa-Medina Sidonia road is bad,
  but can carry vehicles. He tells me that he has actually crossed
  the Laguna de la Janda at its centre in dry weather, so shallow
  does it become.

  [143] There is a good note on the pros and cons of the two routes
  in Schepeler, i. 161.

La Peña originally intended to take the right-hand road, and ordered
Beguines, who was now in the high hills to the east, about Ximena,
to join him with his roving brigade at Casas Viejas. The column left
Facinas late in the evening, for La Peña had a great and misplaced
belief in night marches, by which he always hoped to gain time on the
enemy, since his moves could not be discovered or reported till the
next morning. He overlooked the corresponding disadvantage of the
extreme slowness of progress over bad roads in rugged country, the
very real danger that the troops (or some of them) might miss their
way in the dark, and the inevitable fatigue to the men from losing
their proper hours of sleep. Graham’s laconic diary shows how this
worked out. ‘Marched in the evening, very tedious from filing across
water (the stream which fills the head of the lagoon of La Janda) and
other difficulties. Misled by the guides on quitting the Cortigo de la
Janda (farm at the head of the lagoon): the counter-march made a most
fatiguing night.... It was twelve noon before the troops halted, having
been nineteen hours under arms.’

The troops of Lardizabal, at the head of the column, had reached Casas
Viejas in the morning, but the English division in the rear of the army
had got no further than the northern end of the lagoon, some thirteen
miles from their starting-place at Puente de Facinas. There was a
violent east wind, the night had been very cold, and the men were much
fatigued.

Lardizabal on reaching Casas Viejas had found the convent, which
was the only solid building there, occupied by a French post, two
companies sent out by General Cassagne from Medina Sidonia to watch the
high-road. Thinking at first that he was only about to be worried by
guerrilleros, the French captain shut himself up behind his barricades,
instead of retreating at once. When he found out his mistake, and saw
that a whole army was about him, it was too late to get off without
loss. La Peña ordered that the convent should be left alone, as he did
not wish to waste time in battering and storming it. The whole of his
troops had come up, including the roving force of 1,600 men from the
hills under Beguines, when the French unwisely made a bolt eastward,
in the hope of escaping. The little column was pursued and cut up by a
squadron of Busche’s German Hussars, many being killed and captured.
From the prisoners and Beguines’s scouts La Peña learnt that Medina
Sidonia was (contrary to his expectation) held by a serious force of
French--Cassagne’s detachment being now composed of five battalions of
infantry, a battery, and a cavalry regiment, about 3,000 men. The walls
had been repaired, it was said, and the place was in a state of defence.

The Spanish general should have rejoiced to learn that Victor had sent
an appreciable part of his army so far afield--fifteen miles from
Chiclana--and by advancing he could have forced the Marshal to come to
this distance from his lines in order to support Cassagne. A battle
would no doubt have followed--but it was for a battle that the army
had sailed to Tarifa. And by drawing Victor’s whole fighting force so
far away from Cadiz, La Peña would have given a unique opportunity to
the garrison to come out and destroy the siege-works. Meanwhile, if the
French lost the battle they would be annihilated, being off their line
of retreat; if they won it, they would return to find the greater part
of the siege-works destroyed.

But this was not the line of thought that guided La Peña; he was, as
his previous record showed, a shirker of responsibilities, and the
prospect of a battle on the morrow, or the day after, seems to have
paralysed him. To every one’s surprise he gave orders that the army,
waiting till dusk had come on, should leave the Medina road, and march
across country by a bad bridle-path to Vejer, on the other route from
Tarifa to Cadiz. Graham protested against a second night march, after
the experience of the first, and rightly, for news came in ere night
that the road along the north side of the Barbate river, which La Peña
had intended to use, was absolutely under water from inundations. La
Peña therefore consented to wait till the next morning (March 3rd)
and to use another country road, that between the north end of the La
Janda lagoon and the river into which it falls. The army marched at 8
o’clock--Lardizabal as before in front, the English division in the
rear. But on reaching the intended crossing-place, it was found that
this road, like that north of the river, was flooded, the lagoon having
overflowed at its northern end, and joined itself in one shallow sheet
of water to the Barbate. Graham, on arriving at the passage, found the
Spaniards halted at the edge of the flood, and apparently at a nonplus.
The energetic old man took the business out of La Peña’s hands--he and
his staff rode into the water, and sought personally for the track of
the submerged causeway, which they fortunately found to be nowhere more
than three feet under the surface of the flood. He placed men along the
track at intervals, to guide those who should follow, and sat on his
horse in the middle of the ford encouraging the troops as they marched
past him. ‘I set the example of going into the water,’ he remarks in
his diary, ‘which was followed by Lacy, the Prince of Anglona, and
others. The passage lasted three hours, and would have taken double
that time but for the exertions made to force the men to keep the
files connected.’ It was 12 o’clock at night before the army reached
Vejer--having taken fifteen hours to cover ten miles, owing to the
delays at the inundation. Every one was wet through and much fatigued,
for the weather was still very cold.

It remained to be seen what the enemy would make of this move; a
squadron of French dragoons had been found in Vejer by the advanced
guard, and driven out, so that it was certain that Victor would get
prompt news that at any rate some part of the allied army had now
appeared on the western road. The Marshal, as a matter of fact, was
puzzled. On the night of the 2nd he had heard from Cassagne that the
enemy was in force on the Medina Sidonia road, and had cut up the
post at Casas Viejas. He accordingly sent orders to Cassagne to bid
him stand firm, and promised to support him with his whole disposable
force. But before dawn on the 4th he got news, from the dragoons
expelled from Vejer, that there was a heavy force on the western road.
Had La Peña transferred himself from one route to another, or were the
Allies operating in two columns? Cassagne reported a little later that
the column opposed to him had advanced no further, but that there were
still Spanish troops on the Casas Viejas road; and this was true, for
La Peña had left a battalion and some guerrilla horse at that place, to
give him news of Cassagne, if the latter should move.

But there was also the garrison of Cadiz to be watched, and it was
showing signs of activity. On the night of the 2nd-3rd, when the field
army had been lying at Casas Viejas, General Zayas had, in accordance
with the scheme of times left with him, thrown his bridge of boats
across the Santi Petri creek, and passed a battalion across it, which
entrenched itself on the mud-flat, facing the French works that cut off
the peninsula of the Bermeja. They threw up a strong _tête-du-pont_,
undisturbed, being under the protection of the heavy guns in the castle
of Santi Petri, and other batteries on the Isle of Leon. The move could
only mean that the garrison of Cadiz intended to come out. Accordingly
Victor resolved to stop its egress; waiting for the dusk on the night
of the 3rd-4th, he sent six companies of picked _voltigeurs_ to storm
the _tête-du-pont_. This they accomplished, the heavy guns failing to
stop them in the dusk: the Spanish battalion in the work (Ordenes
Militares) was nearly annihilated, losing 13 officers and 300 men
killed or taken. But the bridge itself was saved by the prompt sinking
of two of its boats, and was hastily floated back to the island, where
Zayas laid it up for further use. He had been much chagrined at seeing
and hearing nothing of allied forces behind the French, which he had
been told to look for on March 3rd[144].

  [144] According to Schepeler La Peña had sent an officer out from
  Tarifa in a fishing-boat on the 1st March, to let the garrison
  of Cadiz know that he might not keep his time accurately; this
  messenger was stopped at sea by an English brig, and since he was
  disguised and had no English pass, he was detained some time as a
  suspicious character, and only reached Cadiz on the 4th.

Putting together the movement of Zayas, and the fact that some at least
of the allied army was now on the Vejer road, the Marshal came to the
correct conclusion that the army in the field was intending to get
into communication with Cadiz and its garrison. Accordingly he made a
new plan to suit this hypothesis: of his three divisions one, that of
Villatte, was to block the neck of the peninsula along which the track
from Vejer and Conil leads to the Santi Petri creek and the Isle of
Leon. The other two, concentrated at Chiclana, were to wait till the
allied force had found itself blocked in front by Villatte, and then to
fall upon its flank, in the space of three miles that lies between the
hill of Barrosa and the position where Villatte had been posted. This
plan would place the intercepting division in obvious danger, since,
while attacked in front by the head of the allied army, it might find
Zayas attempting once more to lay his bridge, and to take it in the
rear. Such a movement by the garrison could not be stopped, because
the end of the peninsula, by the bridge-place, was under the guns of
several heavy batteries. But Victor directed Villatte not to fight to
the last, but to be contented with holding the Allies in check long
enough to enable the main body to fall on their flank. The sound of his
guns would be the signal for the two striking divisions to move out
from the wood of Chiclana, and dash at the long column whose head would
be engaged with Villatte, while its tail would still be coming along
the coast many miles to the rear. For 14,000 men had only the single
line of communication along which to move.

[Illustration: THE BARROSA CAMPAIGN]

Meanwhile Cassagne, at Medina Sidonia, was sent orders to find out
exactly what was in front of him, and if there was no solid force, to
march to join the main body on the morning of the 5th. He must have
received the order to do so somewhere in the afternoon of the 4th.

Victor’s force was not so large as he would have wished. Soult
had taken from him six battalions of infantry and three cavalry
regiments, reducing the total of the 1st Corps left at or near Cadiz
to twenty-three battalions of infantry, three regiments of cavalry,
and four or five field batteries, about 15,000 men in all. There were
also present in the lines 3,500 men more not belonging to the corps,
viz. about 1,000 artillery and 800 engineers and sappers belonging
to the siege train, and 1,600 marine troops from the flotilla which
had been constructed in Cadiz bay. These of course were useless for
field operations; but they served to man the lines, with the addition
of three battalions--2,000 men--from the fighting force, the least
that Victor thought he could spare. For the garrison of Cadiz and the
English fleet might attack in force any point of the Lines during the
absence of the main body. This left 13,000 men available for field
operations: but Cassagne was still absent at Medina Sidonia, with five
battalions, a battery, and one of the three cavalry regiments, making
3,100 men in all. There were therefore only 10,000 men left to face La
Peña and Graham, till Cassagne should come up. Victor, according to his
own dispatch, much over-estimated the force of the Allies, which he
states as 8,000 English and 18,000 Spaniards, so that he went to work
in rather a desperate mood, thinking that he had to fight very superior
numbers, and that his only chance was to make a sudden and resolute
attack when he was not expected. As a matter of fact he overstated the
enemy by nearly a half, since there were really marching from Vejer
only 5,000 English and under 10,000 Spaniards altogether, and no help
could come to them from Cadiz till Villatte should be driven off.

Each of the three divisions which Victor had under his hand was short
of several battalions; Ruffin’s, the 1st Division, and Leval’s, the
2nd, had each a battalion in the Lines and another detached with
Cassagne at Medina. Villatte’s, the 3rd, had one in the Lines and three
with Cassagne. Hence they took the field, Ruffin and Leval with six
battalions each, Villatte with five only. The respective forces were
3,000, 3,800, and 2,500 bayonets[145]: each unit had its divisional
battery with it. Of the two cavalry regiments, the 1st Dragoons, 400
sabres, was with Ruffin, the 2nd Dragoons, 300 sabres, with Villatte.
On the evening of the 4th Ruffin’s and Leval’s men were concentrated
at Chiclana, hidden behind the woods which cover it; Villatte was on
the ridge of the Torre Bermeja, between the Almanza creek and the sea,
right across the track leading from Vejer to Cadiz, and looking both
backward and forward, with his attention ready for Zayas as much as for
La Peña.

  [145] It chanced that the battalions in Leval’s division were
  individually stronger than those in the others--averaging 640
  men each, against little over 500 in Villatte’s and Ruffin’s
  divisions--officers not counted. The brigading was--Ruffin, 1/9th
  Léger, 1/96th Ligne, 1 and 2/24th Ligne, 2 Provisional battalions
  of grenadiers, Leval 1 and 2/8th Ligne, 1 and 2/54th Ligne,
  1/45th, 1 Provisional battalion of grenadiers. See Appendix at
  end of volume giving exact strength.

Meanwhile the Allies were marching straight into the middle of the trap
which Victor had prepared for them. After passing Conil, the road on
which their army was moving turns inland towards Chiclana, while a mere
track follows the beach towards the Santi Petri. It was along this that
La Peña was intending to move. But in the dark the head of the column
followed the main road, and went several miles along it. At dawn the
error was discovered, and the army, cutting across an open heath, got
down to the beach[146].

  [146] See Graham’s diary, p. 465.

The point which the allies had now reached was a mile or so south-east
of the coast-guard tower of Barrosa, where an isolated eminence called
the Cerro del Puerco (Boar’s Hill), crowned by a ruined chapel, looks
out upon the heathy plain of Chiclana to the north, and a scrubby pine
wood (covering much of the ground towards the beach) to the west[147].
The advanced cavalry got upon the hill unhindered soon after daybreak,
and met no enemy, nor did patrols sent into the wood discover him for
some time. Presently, however, news came back from the front that a
French force had been discerned, drawn up between the Almanza creek and
the sea, and blocking the way to Cadiz. Being outside the wood it was
very visible, and seemed to be about a strong brigade of infantry with
a squadron or two of horse. This was, of course, Villatte, waiting for
the advance of the Allies. No other hostile troops were to be seen.

  [147] The pinewood is now much shrunken, and covers only the
  northern part of its original breadth. See an article on the
  topography of Barrosa by Colonel Verner in the _Saturday Review_
  for March 9, 1911.

La Peña now told Graham that, despite of the fact that the men had been
under arms for fourteen hours, and had marched as many miles in the
dark, he was about to thrust this French force out of the way without a
moment’s delay. Lardizabal, with the vanguard division, was to attack
it at once, while the rest of the army took up a position to cover him
from any possible movement of the enemy from the direction of Chiclana.

About nine in the morning Lardizabal with his five battalions reached
Villatte’s front, deployed and attacked him. The forces were about
equal, and the attack was repulsed with some loss; La Peña then ordered
up the leading brigade of Anglona’s division to support the vanguard.
A sharp engagement was going on, when a new fire broke out behind
Villatte. Zayas, from the Isle of Leon, had recast his bridge across
the Santi Petri, and was advancing to take the French in the rear.
Villatte saw his danger, gave up his position across the peninsula,
and hastily fell back towards the passage of the shallow Almanza
creek, near the mill of the same name. He recrossed it, not without
some difficulty, and then drew up to defend the passage. Lardizabal
was prevented by La Peña from pursuing him, and halted opposite. The
skirmish had been hot: Villatte had lost 337 men, the Spaniards a few
more. But they had achieved their purpose, and the connexion with Cadiz
had been duly established.

About noon La Peña sent orders to Graham to evacuate the Barrosa
position, and draw in closer to the Almanza creek, to join the rest of
the army. Meanwhile he would be relieved on the hill by five battalions
of Cruz Murgeon and Beguines[148], to which rearguard there was added
one British battalion, Browne’s composite unit consisting of the six
flank companies of the 9th, 28th, and 82nd. Whittingham and the
cavalry were to flank this force on the coast track, somewhere near
the tower of La Barrosa. This force was to move off in its turn, when
Graham should have reached the main body, for the Spanish general had
resolved not to hold the Cerro, considering that an army of 14,000
men should not be spread out over four miles of ground, but be kept
more concentrated. Graham entirely disagreed with this movement; if
the Allies came down and crammed themselves into the narrow peninsula
between the sea and the Almanza creek, there was nothing to prevent
Victor from seizing the Barrosa heights, and placing himself across
their front, in a way which would block them into the cramped position
which they had assumed. The move practically threw them back on Cadiz,
and sacrificed all the results of the toilsome flank march in which
they had been so long engaged. Graham had in the morning urged on La
Peña the all-importance of retaining the hill, but now saw his advice
rejected. Obeying orders, however, he set his column in march towards
the Torre Bermeja and the Almanza creek, through the pine wood. At the
same time the rearguard under Beguines and Cruz Murgeon ascended the
Cerro, and took up the post which the British division had left.

  [148] Cruz Murgeon was commanding the two battalions attached to
  the British division, Ciudad Real and 4th Walloon Guards.

The British column did not descend to the rough track along the coast,
but used a fair wood path right through the middle of the pine forest,
which saved them a couple of miles of détour, and was practicable for
artillery. They were soon filing along between the pines, lost to
sight, and themselves unable to see a hundred yards in any direction.

At this moment, about 12.30 p.m., Victor suddenly broke out of the
woods in front of Chiclana with the 7,000 men of Ruffin’s and Leval’s
divisions. He was tired of waiting for Cassagne, for he had now got
news that the force at Medina had started late in the morning, instead
of at dawn, and would not be up for two or three hours more. His
cavalry had just reported to him that the Cerro seemed to be abandoned,
and that the troops formerly holding it were marching across his
front through the forest. Since the main body of the enemy had been
located opposite Villatte, on the Almanza creek, there seemed to be a
good chance of seizing the important Barrosa position unopposed, and
of striking the rear division of the Allies while it was defiling,
strung out helplessly in a wood road, across the front of the advancing
French. The orders given by the Marshal sent his cavalry regiment
(three squadrons of the 1st Dragoons) to turn the heights by their
south-eastern flank, and seize the coast track, while Ruffin ascended
the Cerro by its gently sloping northern front, and Leval struck at the
troops known to be in the wood. The French, being quite fresh, came on
at a great pace; the Marshal had explained to his subordinates that
haste was everything. They were clearly visible to the rearguard left
on the heights, partly visible to La Peña, who could see their flank up
the trough of the Almanza creek, but wholly invisible to Graham and his
troops in the wood.

A great responsibility now fell on the Spanish officers on the Cerro;
they were under orders to evacuate the heights when Graham should have
got away westward. What were they to do when it suddenly became clear
that they were themselves about to be attacked? They might attempt
to defend the hill with the one British and five Spanish battalions
which lay, unseen to the French, under the seaward slope of the Cerro:
or they might simply obey orders, and retire towards the main body,
abandoning their dominating position. The latter course was the one
taken. The five Spanish battalions streamed down the seaward face of
the hill in no very good order, and fell in there with the baggage
of the whole army. All together began to retire northward; there was
a block on the beach, the baggage mules were driven right and left,
and many got loose and bolted. Meanwhile Whittingham with the cavalry
(three Spanish[149] and two K.G.L. squadrons) ranged himself across the
track, where he was soon faced by the French dragoons, who had galloped
round the south-eastern face of the heights with remarkable celerity.

  [149] The rest of the Spanish cavalry being now with La Peña by
  the Almanza creek.

Whittingham’s retreat was not made without a protest against it by
Colonel Browne, who urged, firstly, that it was madness to abandon the
height, secondly that he had Graham’s orders to stand there, and could
obey no others. The cavalry general replied that, for his part, he had
resolved to retire, and offered to lend Browne one of his squadrons to
cover his retreat towards the British division, if he would not follow
him to the coast track. The fiery colonel made no reply, but turned to
his battalion and ordered it to occupy the ruined chapel on the top of
the Cerro and the neighbouring thickets, and to prepare for action.
But in half an hour, seeing Whittingham’s column far off at the foot
of the hill, and six French battalions coming in upon him, Browne gave
way and descended into the pine wood in search of Graham[150]. The
French--Ruffin’s division--took possession of the heights, and planted
a battery upon them.

  [150] There is a lively account of the altercation in the memoirs
  of Browne’s ardent admirer Blakeney (_A Boy in the Peninsular
  War_, p. 187).

Meanwhile we must return to Graham, concealed in the wood, and marching
(as it were blindfold) across the front of Leval’s approaching column.
He had no cavalry with him, but presently two mounted guerrilleros rode
up in haste, and told him that the French were close on his flank.
Riding back to the rear of his division, he saw from the edge of the
forest Beguines’s troops pouring down the near side of the Cerro, and
Ruffin’s mounting its northern ascent. Leval was also visible to the
left.

Graham’s mind was made up in a moment: ‘A retreat in the face of the
enemy,’ he writes, ‘who was already in reach of the easy communication
by the sea-beach, must have involved the whole allied army in the
danger of being attacked during the unavoidable confusion, while the
different corps would be arriving on the narrow ridge of Bermeja at
the same time,’ i. e. he saw that he himself coming out of the wood,
Whittingham and Beguines from the shore track, and the main body
returning from the Almanza creek bridge, would meet in disorder on
the narrow neck of the peninsula by the Torre Bermeja, and would be
unable to form an orderly line of battle. Even if they did, and then
held their ground, the object of the whole expedition was lost, and the
French, in possession of the Cerro del Puerco, once more blocked the
army into Cadiz.

The alternative was to take the offensive before the two French columns
had united, and to attack them while they were still coming upon the
ground, and before they had drawn up in any regular order. It was
evident that they were hurrying forward without any notion that they
were liable to be thrown on the defensive at a moment’s notice. In
three minutes Graham had made up his mind to attack himself, instead
of allowing himself to be chased into the Bermeja position. The wood,
in which his division lay concealed, enabled him to hide his movement,
though it made that movement perilously disorderly. The orders given
were simple: the leading brigade, that of Colonel Wheatley, was to
push straight through the wood till it reached the northern edge,
and then form there, and attack Leval. The rear brigade, that of
General Dilkes, was to counter-march down the wood-path on which it
was engaged, till it too cleared the wood, and then to form up and
attack Ruffin on the slopes of the Cerro del Puerco. The ten guns, in
the centre of the marching column, were to push up a side track which
seemed passable, and to form on Wheatley’s right, in the centre between
the two brigades. Meanwhile these movements would take some time to
execute, and the French were coming closer to the wood every minute.
It was necessary to hold them back at all costs till a line could be
formed. With this object Graham resolved to throw forward on each front
a light infantry force, which should engage the enemy, regardless of
order and of losses, till the main body got up. On the left Barnard’s
four companies of the 95th Rifles and the two companies of the 20th
Portuguese under Colonel Bushe, about 700 men in all, were ordered to
break through the wood directly before them, without any attempt at
formation, and when they reached its edge, to sally straight out at
Leval’s front, in the best skirmishing line they could make. On the
right there was a force already to the front--Browne’s flank battalion,
536 muskets, which had just descended unwillingly from the Cerro, and
was visible at its foot.

This last force was near Graham as he sat on his horse among the trees
at the wood’s end. He cantered up to Browne, and asked him why the
Cerro had been abandoned. ‘Because five battalions of Spaniards went
off before the enemy came within cannon-shot,’ was the reply. ‘Well,
it’s a bad business, Browne; you must instantly turn round again and
attack.’ The flank battalion began to extend into skirmishing order,
when Graham, after a moment’s reflection, said, ‘I must show something
more serious than skirmishing. Close the men into compact battalion!
And then attack in your front and immediately.’ Dilkes’s brigade was
coming up, but was still a mile away in the wood, and Browne came out
of the trees into the open absolutely isolated, to attack uphill six
battalions and a battery with a two-deep line of just 536 men[151].
Blakeney says that his colonel rode into action singing the old naval
song--

  ‘Now cheer up, my lads, ’tis to glory we steer,’

a tune to which he was much addicted at all times in and out of season.

  [151] All this from the graphic description in the autobiography
  of Blakeney, Browne’s adjutant, p. 188.

About the same time, or a few minutes later, Barnard’s and Bushe’s
scattered and uneven line burst out of the northern edge of the wood a
mile away, and found themselves facing Leval’s division at the distance
of only some 400 yards. This force, quite unaware that any enemy was
yet near, was advancing in two columns each of three battalions, the
right one composed of the 54th regiment and a battalion of _grenadiers
réunis_, the left of the 8th regiment followed by a single battalion of
the 45th. Their divisional battery was following on their left rear.
Barnard, who got a little further to the front than the Portuguese, was
facing the French 54th, Bushe, who was drawn back a little in échelon,
was opposite the French 8th. They had hardly opened their fire, which
had great effect because the enemy had no screen of voltigeurs out
to cover him, and was caught unprepared for an infantry fight, when
Duncan’s ten guns, which had made extraordinary good pace through the
wood, appeared, and unlimbering at its edge began to fire shrapnel into
the leading battalions of the French. Behind them the two companies of
the 47th, which properly belonged to Barnard’s provisional battalion,
took post as their supports.

Thus the battle was suddenly begun on both fronts, but Graham had
only 500 men up on one side, and 900 with the guns on the other. The
main body was coming on through the wood behind in an extraordinarily
mixed order. When Graham gave orders to Wheatley’s brigade to face to
their right flank and push through the wood northward, and to Dilkes’s
brigade to turn about on the road and return to the Cerro by the way
they had come, there was no small confusion. By some misunderstanding
the rear companies of the 67th, which was the last battalion in
Wheatley’s brigade, faced about and followed Dilkes, though the leading
companies went off with their proper companions, the 28th and 87th. On
the other hand, by a compensating mistake, the two companies of the
Coldstream Guards, which belonged to Dilkes, turned north into the wood
and followed Wheatley[152]. The brigades exchanged, as it were, 250
men with each other. In addition the battalions, owing to the sudden
inversion of their column of march, were all out of their proper order
in their brigades, and went into action ‘almost anyhow.’

  [152] The biography of General Dilkes seems to explain this
  matter. Duncan, the artillery commander, thought that he would
  be going into action without any infantry supports, and rode to
  the nearest brigadier--this was Dilkes--to ask him to lend a
  few companies to cover the guns. Dilkes assented, and told the
  Coldstream companies in the middle of his column to fall out
  and follow the guns. But Graham had already set aside the two
  companies of the 47th, from Barnard’s battalion, for the same
  purpose. When Duncan found them waiting for him in the edge of
  the wood, he told the officer commanding the Coldstreamers that
  he was not wanted, and these two companies marched off and fell
  into line in a gap in the front of Wheatley’s brigade.

But while a line of some sort was being formed, the screen of light
troops which Graham had thrown forward, to detain the enemy, during
the deployment of the main body, had done its duty by allowing itself
to be knocked to pieces while attacking fivefold numbers. It had to be
sacrificed to gain time, and carried out its orders completely. We will
take the fortunes of the right-hand force first.

Browne’s composite battalion had started from a position close under
the edge of the pine wood; it had first to cross a broad but shallow
ravine, and then to climb the gentle slope of the Cerro, where it
became fully visible to the enemy, though there was a little cover
here and there upon the hillside, in the form of scattered bushes and
slight dips in the ground. The French allowed the line to advance a
little way up the ascent, and then opened upon it both with a field
battery placed close to the chapel on the summit, and with the musketry
fire of the three battalions which formed their right wing. Blakeney,
our ever-useful authority for this side of the battle, says that the
first salvo of the French knocked over more than 200 officers and men
out of 536 forming the line. Browne ordered the men to close to the
centre, and endeavoured to continue his climb; this was done with much
difficulty, but, before the advance could be resumed, more than fifty
men more were killed or wounded. All the exertions of the colonel could
not form a third line--fourteen officers out of twenty-one were down,
and more than half the rank and file. The remainder now scattered;
the men did not retreat, but threw themselves down, and commenced
independent firing from behind bushes, hillocks, and any other cover
they could find. The French made no attempt to fall upon them by
descending the hill, as would have seemed natural. The reason was that
by the time that the flank battalion had been disposed of, the main
body of Dilkes’s brigade had come out of the wood, and was visible
forming up at the foot of the hill to deliver the real assault.

The Guards had obtained the necessary time to come up and choose their
ground through the absolute martyrdom of the flank battalion. Dilkes
did not repeat the attack on the same slope over which Browne had
advanced, but pushed some distance to the right, where the hillside
showed more cover in the way of scattered bushes and trees, and some
dead ground hid the men by its steepness from the fire of the battery
on the crest above. Blakeney describes them as strung out on a most
irregular front, a confused mass rather than a formed line. The whole,
while advancing, kept taking ground to their right, so as to come up
the hillside opposite Ruffin’s left wing. Their extreme flank was
covered by Norcott’s two companies of rifles in more extended order.
Partly owing to the cover, partly to the difficulty found by the French
guns in getting their fire to bear, Dilkes’s brigade got wellnigh to
the top of the hill before it suffered any very serious losses. But on
clearing the last underwood, and reaching smooth ground, it was charged
by the four battalions of Ruffin’s left--two of the 24th Line supported
by the two reserve battalions of _grenadiers réunis_. This was the
crisis of the battle in the southern half of its progress. By all the
rules of French military art four battalion columns, fresh and well
ordered, charging down hill, should have been able to break through a
disordered line of decidedly inferior strength pushing upwards against
them. Dilkes had only 1,400 men, the four French battalions just over
2,000. Nevertheless, the impossible happened. When the two columns of
the 24th Ligne came down, with drums beating and levelled bayonets,
against the centre of the firm, if disorderly, line in front, they
were checked by the furious fire that broke out against them from the
semicircle into which they had pushed. This was one more example of the
fact established at Maida five years before, and reaffirmed at Vimiero,
Talavera, and Bussaco, that no column could break the British line by
mere impetus. In this case the French had every advantage, since they
were absolutely intact troops, and had the ground entirely in their
favour, while the Guards and the wing of the 67th opposed to them had
marched two miles in haste, had then climbed a steep 200-foot slope
under fire, had lost their order, and were firing up hill. But the fire
was delivered with astounding accuracy, considering that the men were
blown with their climb and dreadfully exhausted. The whole head of
each of the descending columns was blown to pieces. The rest came to
a standstill, and crowding together in a disorderly clump, opened an
irregular fire against the British line.

The Marshal, who was present in person on the top of the Cerro, then
brought up his reserve, the two battalions of grenadiers under General
Chaudron Rousseau. He himself and the brigadier were both distinctly
seen leading on the column, the Marshal waving his large white-plumed
hat over his head. This charge was delivered against the right of
Dilkes’s line, where the 3rd Guards and wing of the 67th lay, that of
the 24th Ligne had been more against the centre and the 1st Guards. But
the result was the same, though the contest was more long and bloody.
The grenadiers are said to have struggled forward, losing heavily at
each step, till their front was within a very few yards of Dilkes’s
line: it was only then that they halted and began to fire--a fatal step
in such a contest, where impetus was the sole chance of the attacking
mass, and superiority in musketry fire (owing to the longer front)
was on the side of the English line. This of course was a terribly
murderous business to both sides, as the figures presently to be quoted
will show. But as in all similar contests during the Peninsular War,
the line hit harder than the column. The four French battalions began
at last to give way, and could not be kept together. Then Victor tried
to bring in the two left battalions of his line to their aid, but these
two units were pestered and impeded, when they began to move off from
their first position, by the remains of Browne’s flank battalion, which
(though reduced to under 300 muskets) began to press forward again,
when the troops hitherto in their front commenced to move off to the
right. ‘They darted from behind trees, briars, brakes, and out of
hollows,’ says Blakeney. ‘I could imagine myself like Roderick Dhu upon
Benledi’s side--it was a magic effect. We confidently advanced up the
hill and, unlike most advances, in this one our numbers increased as
we proceeded, soldiers of the flank battalion joining at every step.’
This scattered little force hung on to the flank of Victor’s right, and
prevented it from rallying the broken force now recoiling from in front
of Dilkes. The flankers had even the good fortune to capture a howitzer
from the left of Victor’s battery placed by the chapel on the hilltop;
another gun was taken by the 1st Guards in their forward progress.

It must have been just at this crisis that the whole French mass broke;
up to this moment it had been recoiling sullenly, still keeping up
some fire from its rear. But now the observer saw[153], ‘with loud and
murmuring sounds, Ruffin’s division and Rousseau’s chosen grenadiers
rolling with a whirling motion down into the valley below, leaving
their two brave generals mortally wounded on the hill, which was left
in possession of their bloodstained conquerors.’

  [153] Blakeney, p. 195.

The exhausted victors halted for a short time to re-form, and were in
a more orderly line than they had hitherto shown when they commenced
to follow the enemy down the slope. The casualties in this part of
the field may now be stated, for neither party was to lose many more
men in the last episode of the fight. Dilkes’s brigade and Browne’s
flank battalion had gone up the hill with 76 officers and 1,873 men.
They lost 25 officers and 588 men--about 10 men out of every 31 in the
fight. The French loss was positively more, proportionately not quite
so great. In the six battalions of Ruffin and Chaudron Rousseau there
seem to have been about 108 officers and 3,000 men present; of these 36
officers and 840 men were left on the hill, i. e. 10 men in every 35.
The trophies remaining with the victors were two guns and 107 unwounded
prisoners, beside the multitude of disabled men left on the slope[154].

  [154] For further details see the letters of General Dilkes,
  Colonels Norcott, Stanhope, and Onslow, and Major Acheson, in
  Wellington’s _Supplementary Dispatches_, vii. pp. 127-31.

While this bloody business had been going on upon the Cerro del
Puerco, it may be asked what were the Spaniards on the coast road
doing--Whittingham’s squadrons and the five battalions of Cruz Murgeon
and Beguines. The last named, with his three battalions, shepherding
what was left of the baggage-train, quietly marched off along the sea,
and joined La Peña by the Torre Bermeja. Whittingham was of a little
positive use; he continued all through the fight to ‘contain’ and
occasionally to bicker with the French cavalry regiment (1st Dragoons)
that faced him near the Torre Barrosa. The two battalions of Cruz
Murgeon supported him. This force certainly did not do its share--180
German Hussars, 300 Spanish horse, and 1,000 Spanish foot simply kept
out of action 400 French horse. This was something, but not much,
for the dragoons could not have interfered very effectively on the
hill against Dilkes’s advance, because the south side of the Cerro
is too precipitous for horsemen. In short, Whittingham’s statement
in his report to La Peña, that ‘all the cavalry fulfilled its duty
brilliantly’ is a sad overstatement of the case.

Let us turn now to the other half of the fight, where Wheatley’s
brigade and Duncan’s guns were facing Leval on the open plain just
outside the edge of the wood. At the moment when Browne attacked the
Cerro, Barnard’s rifles and Bushe’s Portuguese were throwing themselves
in a no less resolute fashion upon the six French battalions in their
front. They had the advantage of being invisible to the enemy till
they emerged from the wood, only 300 yards in his front, and of being
supported, within a few minutes of their arrival, by Duncan’s ten guns,
while Browne had no artillery assistance whatever, and was seen by the
French for half a mile before he got near them.

The confusion in Leval’s division on being suddenly attacked by an
unexpected swarm of skirmishers pouring out of the wood was extreme.
So much were they taken aback, that Vigo-Roussillon of the 8th Line
assures us in his memoirs that a false alarm of cavalry was raised,
and that his regiment, and the first battalion of the 54th, formed
square before the mistake was recognized, and caught some shells from
Duncan’s guns in that uncomfortable situation, before they had time to
deploy for action against infantry. This they had to do under a heavy
fire from Barnard’s riflemen, who had advanced quite close to them.
Leval’s fighting formation was the usual ‘column of divisions,’ i. e.
a front of two companies and a depth of three in each battalion, or
(since these units averaged 650 men each, and the companies over 100
bayonets) a front of seventy-two men and a depth of nine. The length of
Barnard’s skirmishing line, with his 400 rifles, seems to have covered
the front of the right battalion of the 54th and the left battalion of
the 8th--some 1,300 men. The 95th did considerable execution on them
while they were getting out of square formation: but when the columns
advanced firing, the skirmishing line had to fall back. Its loss
was heavy--sixty-five killed and wounded; among the latter Barnard,
commanding the battalion. The next troops whom the French encountered
were the flank companies of the 20th Portuguese--330 men only, who had
advanced on the right rear of the 95th, supporting them in échelon.
This was a new corps, which had been sent to Cadiz the moment it was
raised in 1809, and had never been under fire before. Considering
their hopeless position, alone in front of an advancing division, the
Portuguese behaved very well; they held their ground for some time,
while their colonel, Bushe, as is recorded by an eye-witness, rode
slowly backward and forward behind them with his spectacles on, crying
as the balls whistled past, ‘Que bella musica,’ to encourage his men.
But he was soon mortally wounded[155], and after his fall the line
melted away and drifted to the rear, after having kept a battalion of
the French 8th engaged for some minutes: proportionately its loss was
much the same as that of the Rifles--56 killed and wounded out of 332
present--one man in six.

  [155] Vigo-Roussillon says that he personally captured Colonel
  Bushe, who was riding away slowly from the front, disabled by
  a wound. This seems contradicted by the very circumstantial
  evidence of Bunbury, adjutant of the 20th Portuguese, who says
  that Bushe had his horse shot under him, and was mortally
  wounded, that he declined being sent to the rear, and was propped
  up and left behind by his own orders. French soldiers were seen
  rifling him as he lay.

The first act of the drama on this front was thus complete; the
detaining force sent out by Graham had been, as he expected, driven
in with loss, though not an appalling loss of 50 per cent., such as
Browne’s gallant flankers had suffered on the Cerro. But the main body
was now up, and had formed in the edge of the wood, to the left of
Duncan’s guns, with no loss or interruption, since it had been well
covered all the time. There were now some 1,400 men in line: the 28th,
450 strong, on the left, then the 211 bayonets of the Coldstreamers,
the 87th, nearly 700 strong, in the centre; beyond them the right wing
of the 67th, about 250 bayonets, next to the guns, which were still
under the protection of the flank companies of the 47th which served as
their escort throughout the fight. The broken screen of light troops
which had just retired was by no means out of action; the 95th formed
up again behind the 28th, the Portuguese behind the 87th, and both were
used again before the battle was over.

The formation of the French at this moment was an uneven line of
four battalion columns,--counting from their left, 1/8th, 2/8th,
2/54th, 1/54th; the other two battalions were in reserve, the 1/45th
behind the French battery, which was now engaged with Duncan’s guns,
the provisional battalion of grenadiers more to the right, and some
distance behind the 54th regiment. The whole was advancing, but slowly:
the battalions in the front line were firing; the centre was a little
more to the front than the wings, the 2/8th being ahead of the other
battalions because (as its _chef de bataillon_ remarks in his memoir)
he only allowed his men to fire volleys by order, while the units on
his right and left were using independent fire. All had suffered in
the previous fight with Barnard and the Portuguese, and much needed
time to re-form, which was not granted them, because the English main
line charged the moment that the light troops had cleared off from its
front. It is curious to note in the French memoirs that the authors
all write as if they had an oppressive feeling that the superiority of
numbers was against them, and that they were being led to a forlorn
hope. This was caused partly by the immense extent of the British line
in proportion to its depth, still more by the happy existence of the
wood behind Wheatley’s brigade. It had already vomited out two lively
attacking lines, and the enemy presupposed a third in reserve; nearly
all the French narratives definitely say that they were attacked by
three lines, while really there was only one, with the screen of light
troops, which had already been used up. As to the complaint concerning
inferior numbers, it is certain that Leval’s division had 3,800 men,
and Wheatley’s brigade only 2,500. The only superiority of the British
was that, in the artillery duel now going on to the right of the line,
they had ten guns to six, and soon crushed the French battery, so that
it gave no effective support to its infantry. Only one of the French
battalions attempted to deploy into line--this was the 2nd of the 54th,
which lay opposite the British 28th--the others kept on from first
to last in column of divisions. An eye-witness (Surtees of the 95th)
remarks, ‘they never got into line, nor did they ever intend to do so,
I believe, but advanced in solid bodies, firing from their front[156].’

  [156] Surtees, _Twenty Years in the Rifle Brigade_, p. 119.

The fight, owing to the French centre being slightly advanced, began a
little earlier there than on the wings, the first clash being between
the column of the French 2/8th, led by Vigo-Roussillon, and the line
of the 2/87th, led by that enthusiastic fighter, Major Gough. We have
narratives from both of them, and each insists that he kept down the
fire of his men till they were within a very short distance of the
enemy--sixty yards, says Vigo-Roussillon, twenty-five, says Gough.
There was then a single volley exchanged, and the French column, much
the harder hit of the two, broke up. ‘As they were in column when
they broke,’ says Gough, ‘they could not get away. It was therefore
a scene of most dreadful carnage, and I must own my weakness; as I
was in front of the regiment I was in the very middle of them, and I
could not cut down one, though I might have twenty, they seemed so
confounded and confused[157].’ There was indeed a fearful crowding and
_mêlée_ here, for the 1st battalion of the French 8th, yielding before
the fire of the British guns and the troops to the right of Gough,
the wing of the 67th, fell back sideways against their own second
battalion, and became mixed in one mass with them. Thus the 87th were
sweeping before them, and ploughing through, a crowd of some 1,400,
or allowing for previous losses, 1,200 men, while the companies of
the 67th were firing into its flank and rear. The 8th Ligne suffered
worse losses than any other troops on the field that day, save Browne’s
heroic flank battalion, losing about 50 per cent. of the men who went
into action--726 killed, wounded, and taken out of 1,468 present.
The colonel, Autié, was killed, and one of the two battalion chiefs,
Lanusse, while the other, Vigo-Roussillon, was wounded and taken
prisoner. The eagle was captured from the middle of the 1st battalion
after a desperate struggle with the colours-guard; Ensign Keogh of
the 87th, who first got hold of it, was bayonetted twice and killed;
Sergeant Masterson[158] then ran the _aquilifère_ through with his
pike, dragged the eagle away, and kept it during the rest of the
_mêlée_. This was the first eagle captured by the British during the
Peninsular War, and its arrival in London was rightly made an occasion
of considerable pomp and ceremony. The eagle was presented to the
Prince Regent in person, who granted to the 87th the right to bear an
eagle and a laurel wreath above the harp on the regimental colours
and appointments, and the title of the ‘Prince of Wales’s Own Irish
Regiment.’ Gough was given a brevet lieutenant-colonelcy at once, and
Sergeant Masterson, who had captured the eagle, received a commission
in his own regiment; he and his descendants have served in it almost
throughout the nineteenth century.

  [157] See letter in Rait’s _Life of Lord Gough_, vol. i. p. 53.

  [158] A hereditary name of glory in the 87th. The present
  representative of the family won his Victoria Cross at Ladysmith
  in 1900.

The rout of the 8th Ligne was not the last triumph of the 87th on that
day; driving the remains of that unfortunate corps in front of them,
they came upon the battalion of the 45th Ligne, which had hitherto been
standing in reserve behind the French battery, and which Leval had just
ordered up to support the broken first line. Gough, with the greatest
difficulty, succeeded in forming about half his scattered though
victorious regiment to face this new enemy. But there was hardly a
collision: all the other French units were broken by this time, and the
45th hesitated. ‘After firing until we came within about fifty paces
of them,’ writes Gough, ‘they (for us fortunately) broke and fled, for
had they done their duty, fatigued as my men were at the moment, they
might have cut us to pieces.’ That this battalion cannot have behaved
well is sufficiently shown by the casualty list--out of 700 men present
it only lost 55--far the smallest proportional loss in the whole French
army that day. Probably the weakness of its resistance is partly to be
accounted for by the fact that it was being outflanked by the wing of
the 67th, who must have been extending in this direction at the moment,
prolonging the line of the 87th eastward. In its double victory the
87th lost 173 men out of 700 in the field. There remains the left wing
of this fight to be dealt with. Here the French 54th, in two battalion
columns, was facing the British 1/28th and the 200 Coldstreamers on
their right. This was the only part of the field in which the French
tried at all to manœuvre: the right battalion of the 54th began to
deploy and to turn the British flank, by moving westward into the edge
of the pine wood, but with little effect. We have a short account of
this fight in the memoirs of Cadell of the 28th.

‘We had formed line under cover of the 95th, and then advanced to
meet their right wing, which was coming down in close column--a great
advantage--and here the coolness of Colonel Belson was conspicuous:
he moved us up without firing a shot, close to their right battalion,
which just then began to deploy. The Colonel then gave orders to
fire by platoons from centre to flanks, and low; “Fire at their legs
and spoil their dancing.” This was kept up for a short time, with
dreadful effect. The action being now general all along the line, we
twice attempted to charge. But the enemy, being double our strength
(since our flank companies were away), only retired a little on each
occasion. Finally, giving three cheers, we charged a third time, and
succeeded: the enemy gave way and fled in every direction.’ Of all
Leval’s division there now remained unbroken only the single battalion
of _grenadiers réunis_ under Colonel Meunier behind the right rear. The
routed 54th fled diagonally to take cover behind it. Belson did not
pursue very rapidly, and this wing of the beaten division moved off to
the flank, covered by the grenadiers, and presently met the wrecks of
the 8th and the 45th not far north of the Laguna del Puerco, the pool
which lies beyond the heath, to the east. It may not be out of place to
give the losses: the 54th, with 1,300 men present, lost 323--about one
man in four. The grenadiers hardly suffered at all, never having come
into close action. Of the British opposite them, the 28th, with 450 men
in the field, had 86 casualties; the Coldstream companies lost 58 out
of 211[159].

  [159] These two companies, whose losses, as it is seen here, were
  heavy, must have been engaged with part of the left battalion of
  the French 54th.

Just as Leval’s division arrived near the Laguna, it was joined by the
wrecks of Ruffin’s, descending in disorder from the northern slope of
the Cerro. It says much for the resolution of Victor that he succeeded
in halting the two disorganized masses, and deployed two or three
comparatively intact battalions and the ten guns which remained to him,
to cover the rallying of the rest. At the same moment his cavalry, the
1st Dragoons, which had galloped away round the east side of the Cerro
when Ruffin was beaten off it, came in and drew up on the right and
left of the whole. It was a bold bid to secure an unmolested retreat,
for no more could be hoped. Some time was available for rallying the
troops, for Graham had also to get his exhausted men into order. They
came up at last, Wheatley’s brigade on the left, Dilkes’s on the
right, the guns in the centre. The latter were set to play on the
new front of the French, which they did with great effect, the enemy
being in a cramped mass. The skirmishers went forward, and a third
separate engagement seemed about to begin, when a small new force
intervened. This was one of the two squadrons of German hussars, which
had followed the French dragoons around the back of the Cerro, not on
the orders of Whittingham, who made no haste to pursue, but on those
of Graham’s aide-de-camp Ponsonby, who had carried them off on his
own responsibility. Coming like a whirlwind across the lower slope of
the hill, this squadron upset the French squadron of the 1st Dragoons
which formed Victor’s flank guard on this side, and drove it in upon
the infantry. Small though the shock was, it sufficed to upset the
equilibrium of the demoralized French divisions. They went off in a
sudden rush, leaving behind them two more guns, and streamed across the
plain towards Chiclana.

The battle was over; there was no pursuit, for the cautious
Whittingham came up ten minutes too late with the rest of the cavalry,
in time to see the last of the enemy disappearing in the woods. With
him came up also the two infantry battalions under Cruz Murgeon, and
these were the only Spanish troops that Graham saw during the battle.

It may be noted that we have hitherto not had occasion to say one word
of General La Peña or his two infantry divisions since the main action
began. On being informed, at the same time as Graham, of the approach
of Victor from Chiclana, La Peña had no thought save to defend the
isthmus by the Torre Bermeja against the approaching enemy. He drew
up his own eleven battalions across it in a double or treble line,
while Zayas, with those which had come out of Cadiz, watched Villatte
across the Almanza creek. When Beguines appeared from the Cerro by
the coast-track, he was put into the same mass, which must have risen
to something like 10,000 men. Presently news came from the wood that
Graham had faced about and was fighting the French. La Peña, as his own
dispatch shows, concluded that the English must inevitably be beaten,
and refused to stir a man to support them or to bring them off. Zayas
repeatedly asked leave to march up to join Wheatley’s flank, or to
cross the Almanza and to attack Villatte, but was refused permission.
The first report, to the effect that Graham was driving the French
back, La Peña refused to credit. It was not till the fugitives of
Leval’s division were seen retreating past the head of the Almanza
creek, that he could be got to accept the idea that Graham was
victorious. And when pressed to join in the pursuit by Zayas, he merely
said that the men were tired, and the day far spent. The reaping of the
fruits of victory might be left for the morrow.

When it is remembered that La Peña was only two miles from Wheatley’s
fighting-ground, and three from the Cerro, his conduct seems astounding
as well as selfish. Graham’s fight lasted nearly two hours. La Peña
could have ridden over, to see what was going on, in a quarter of an
hour. He refused to stir, and deliberately sacrificed his allies,
because he had got a comfortable, almost an impregnable, position
across the narrow isthmus, and would not move out of it, whatever might
happen to Graham. This timid and selfish policy was an exact repetition
of his betrayal of Castaños at Tudela in 1808. With his 10,000 men
he could have crushed Villatte if he had advanced on one front, or have
annihilated the remnants of Ruffin and Leval, if he had chosen to act
on the other.

[Illustration: BARROSA]

He had his reward: next morning Graham, after collecting his wounded
and his trophies, recrossed into the Isle of Leon, formally giving
notice that in consequence of yesterday’s proceedings, he was forced to
withdraw his consent, given in February, to serve under La Peña, and to
fall back on the discretional orders given by the British Government
not to undertake any operations in which he was not himself in chief
command. It is impossible to blame him; no one could deny, after what
had happened on the 5th, that it was absolutely unsafe to go out in La
Peña’s company. Wellington sent his complete approval to Graham, well
remembering his own experiences with Cuesta in 1809. ‘I concur in the
propriety of your withdrawing to the Isla on the 6th,’ he wrote, ‘as
much as I admire the promptitude and determination of your attack on
the 5th[160].’

  [160] Wellington to Graham, from Santa Marinha, March 25th.
  (_Dispatches_, vii, 396.)

The division marched back into the Isla with only 4,000 men in the
ranks; 1,238 had fallen or been disabled at Barrosa--almost one
casualty among every four men in the field. But Victor had been hit
much harder; out of 7,300 men in the divisions of Leval and Ruffin much
more than one in four, viz. no less than 2,062, were _hors de combat_;
262 had been killed, 1,694 wounded, 134 unwounded prisoners were taken,
along with the eagle and five guns[161]. The units that had fought in
the Cerro and on the heath by the wood were absolutely demoralized; it
would have been impossible to put them in line again for several days.

  [161] See the figures of losses in Appendix No. V.

If the slightest push forward had been made on the 6th, it is certain
that the siege would have been raised. Victor had rallied the broken
troops behind the wood of Chiclana on Villatte’s comparatively intact
division, and had been joined in the late afternoon by Cassagne’s 3,000
men, who had at last come up from Medina Sidonia. But there was panic
all along the Lines: while the battle had been going on, English and
Spanish gunboats had threatened their garrison, and had made small
disembarkations at one or two points; a battery had been captured
near Santa Maria. If a more serious attack were made from the sea
next morning, it was clear that the line would break at some point.
‘The sinister phrases “destruction of the forts” and “abandonment of
the position” flew from mouth to mouth[162].’ Victor called a council
of war, and proposed to offer a second battle behind Chiclana; but
he found little support among the generals. It was finally decided
that, if the Allies should come on in full force next morning, only
such resistance should be made as would allow time to blow up most of
the forts, and burn the stores and the flotilla. The 1st Corps would
retreat on Seville. Victor proposed that one or two positions, where
there were solid closed works, like Fort Sénarmont and the Trocadero,
should be left garrisoned, and told to defend themselves until the army
should return, strengthened by Soult and Sebastiani, to relieve them.
It is doubtful whether he would really have risked this move, since the
time of his return would have been most uncertain, and he might very
probably have been making a present to the enemy of any troops left
behind in isolated posts.

  [162] Lapéne, _Campagnes de 1810-11_, p. 121.

On the morning of the 6th the French retired behind the Saltillo river,
leaving the 3rd Division (now commanded by Cassagne, for Villatte had
been wounded) on the further side, with orders to retire when seriously
attacked, and to issue a signal for the blowing up of all the forts
of the south wing of the Lines, at the moment that the retreat should
begin. Cassagne was then to rejoin the Marshal behind the Rio San
Pedro, beyond Puerto Real, skirmishing as he went. But no trace of the
Allies was to be seen on the morning of the 6th, and Cassagne was not
forced to move back, though by mistake one battery was blown up without
the signal being given[163]. The only sign of life on the part of the
enemy was that a swarm of English gunboats and launches appeared at
the north end of the lines, and threw ashore 600 seamen and marines,
who occupied Puerto Santa Maria for some hours, and destroyed all the
smaller batteries between that place and Rota unhindered. For the
French had concentrated in the fort of Santa Catalina and abandoned
all their minor posts. But the flotilla withdrew at dusk, leaving
Victor much puzzled as to the purpose of his adversaries. On the
morning of March 7th he sent out a cavalry reconnaissance of several
squadrons, which brought back the astonishing news that it had explored
the whole of the country between Chiclana and the sea, including the
battlefield, and had seen no hostile troops, save a large encampment on
the Bermeja isthmus, just above the bridge of boats leading into the
Isla de Leon.

  [163] See, for a curious note concerning this incident, Lapéne,
  Appendix, p. 256.

What had happened was that La Peña had determined to give up the
expedition and retire to Cadiz. He had declined to listen to a
proposition made by Graham and Admiral Keats that he should advance
cautiously towards Chiclana, while the British naval and land forces
made a combined attack upon the Trocadero[164]. He did not even send
out cavalry patrols to discover what had become of Victor; if they had
gone forth, they would have found that the Marshal had retired beyond
the Saltillo, and would have discerned his preparations for a general
retreat. But after remaining encamped by the Torre Bermeja during the
whole of the 6th and the greater part of the 7th, the Spanish army
crossed the bridge of boats into the Isla, and took it up behind them.
Only Beguines and his three battalions were left on the continent,
with orders to return to their old haunts in the Ronda mountains. This
little force retired to Medina Sidonia on the 8th, and repulsed there
a French column of 600 men which came up to occupy the town. But next
day a whole brigade marched against them, whereupon Beguines evacuated
Medina and went off towards San Roque and Algesiras.

  [164] It is sometimes asserted that La Peña proposed to continue
  the campaign, and was foiled by Graham’s departure into the Isla.
  But we have Graham’s own statement, in his dispatch to Henry
  Wellesley of March 24, that no such proposal was made. ‘The only
  regret expressed to me at Head Quarters on the morning of the
  6th, on knowing of my intention to send the British troops across
  the Santi Petri, was that the opportunity of withdrawing the
  Spanish troops during the night was lost, and on my observing
  that after such a defeat there was no risk of attack from the
  enemy, a very contrary opinion was expressed.’

Victor was therefore able on the 8th to reoccupy the evacuated southern
wing of his lines, and to issue an absurd dispatch, in which he claimed
that Barrosa had been a victory. But for the loss of 2,000 men, and a
severe shock inflicted on the morale of his troops, he was in exactly
the same position that he had held on the 4th. The whole fruits of
the battle of Barrosa had been lost. What they might have been it is
possible up to a certain point to foresee. Supposing that Graham and
not La Peña had been in command, the army, raised to nearly 20,000
men by the junction of Zayas and of the 2,000 Anglo-Portuguese still
in Cadiz, would have marched on Chiclana upon the 6th. Victor would
have blown up the Lines and retired towards Seville, but there would
have been no reinforcements for him there, and he could only have been
brought up to fighting strength by the calling in of Sebastiani and
Godinot. But, if these generals came up to his aid, Granada and Cordova
would have had to be evacuated, and the insurgents would have swept all
over Eastern Andalusia. The Allies could not have held the field, for
even before Soult’s return from Badajoz there were still 50,000 French
troops south of the Sierra Morena. The siege of Cadiz would ultimately,
no doubt, have been recommenced, Granada and Cordova reoccupied. But
meanwhile the immense work spent on the Lines would have had to be
recommenced _de novo_, and the ascendancy of the French arms in the
south would have received a rude shock. Possibly Soult might have blown
up Badajoz after its fall on March 12th, instead of holding it, for
he would have required all his strength to reconquer Andalusia. But
further than the immediate result of the inevitable raising of the
siege of Cadiz it is useless to make speculations.

The alarms of the French in Andalusia did not end with Victor’s
reoccupation of the lines. Another episode was still to be played out
before matters settled down. The indefatigable Ballasteros, having
rested for a short time in Portugal, came back into the Condado de
Niebla in the end of February with 4,000 men. He defeated on the Rio
Tinto General Remond, whose weak column was the only French force left
west of the Guadalquivir since Gazan’s departure (March 2). He then
marched promptly on Seville, having good information of the weakness
of the garrison that had been left there. On March 5th, the day of
Barrosa, he was at San Lucar la Mayor, only twenty miles from the great
city. The governor, Daricau, came out against him and joined Remond
with 1,600 men and three guns, all that he could dispose of, leaving
Seville in the hands of a miserable garrison, composed of convalescents
and _Juramentados_ of doubtful faith. If Daricau had been beaten, the
city and all its establishments must have been lost in a day. But
Ballasteros refused to fight, and retired behind the Rio Tinto, having
had false news that a force sent from Estremadura by Soult was on
his flank. Daricau returned to Seville on March 9th, leaving Remond
to observe Ballasteros, and was joined by some detachments sent very
tardily by Godinot to strengthen the garrison. But he had received
such alarming accounts of the results of the battle of Barrosa, that
he sent these troops on to Victor, and remained with a very weak force
in the city. But on March 9th Ballasteros, suddenly coming back from
the Rio Tinto, surprised Remond at La Palma, took two guns from him,
and drove him back into Seville. On the 11th the Spanish general was
back at San Lucar, and causing great dismay to Daricau, who sent urgent
demands for help to Soult. Since Barrosa he could look for no help from
elsewhere. He was saved by the rumour of the capitulation of Badajoz,
which frightened Ballasteros away, for the Spaniard rightly judged that
Soult could, and must, send a considerable force against him, now that
his hands were freed.

When, therefore, the Marshal, as we have already seen[165], came back
in haste to Andalusia with Gazan’s division, fearing that he might find
Ballasteros in Seville, and Graham pursuing Victor from the evacuated
lines of Cadiz, he was agreeably surprised to find that both dangers
had been avoided, and that the crisis in Andalusia was at an end. His
further movements belong to a different campaign, and will be related
in their due place.

  [165] See p. 62 above.

Meanwhile Graham and La Peña were engaged in a violent controversy. The
British general had sent the most scathing comments on his colleague’s
conduct to the ambassador, Henry Wellesley, and to Wellington, and made
his complaints also to the Regency. La Peña on the other hand claimed
the credit of the victory of Barrosa for his own skilful management;
according to his magniloquent dispatches all had gone well, till Graham
spoilt the campaign by taking his division back to Cadiz. The Regency
seemed partly to believe him, as they conferred on him the Grand Cross
of the Order of Charles III, though at the same time they offered
Graham the title of a grandee of Spain, which he refused, for he would
not be honoured in such company. But Spanish as well as British public
opinion was so much against La Peña, that he was almost immediately
deprived of his command, which was given to the Marquis Coupigny; while
Graham, whose strong language had made it impossible for him to be left
in contact with the Regency, was withdrawn to serve with Wellington in
Portugal, and made over the charge of the Anglo-Portuguese troops at
Cadiz to General Cooke. Summing up the results of the Barrosa campaign,
we may say that all it had accomplished was so to alarm Soult that he
came back in haste from Estremadura, leaving there under Mortier a
force far too weak to threaten any harm to Wellington and Portugal. But
even if Barrosa had never been fought, Soult would have been harmless
in any case, because Masséna was gone from Santarem before Badajoz
fell.



SECTION XXIV

MASSÉNA’S RETREAT FROM PORTUGAL



CHAPTER I

SANTAREM TO CELORICO. MARCH 9TH-22ND, 1811


On the 9th of March Wellington began at last to discover the real
position of the various French corps; till their rear was well past
Thomar, it had been difficult to divine the main trend of their
movements, for the various columns had been crossing each other’s
routes in a very puzzling fashion. But it now became clear that Masséna
was intending to use all the three lines of communication which lead
from the plain of the Tagus to the lower valley of the Mondego. Reynier
and the 2nd Corps, after passing Thomar, had taken the bad mountain
road by Cabaços and Espinhal, far to the east, and would come down on
to the Mondego near the Ponte de Murcella, a little above Coimbra.
The 8th Corps had taken the central road, that by Chão de Maçans and
Ameiro, which joins the main Lisbon-Coimbra _chaussée_ at Pombal.
Loison and his division, having crossed the route of Reynier, fell
into the Chão de Maçans road behind Junot. Ney, after holding Leiria
till the 9th, with the divisions of Marchand and Mermet, fell back on
that day a march along the great road in the plain (the Lisbon-Coimbra
_chaussée_ mentioned above), and then halted. In front of him was
marching Drouet with Conroux’s division of the 9th Corps, escorting the
main train of the army, such as it was; it reached Travaço do Baixo,
five miles south of Pombal, on the night of the 9th. Montbrun’s reserve
cavalry was all with Ney. Of the three columns Reynier’s was 11,000
strong, that formed by Junot with Loison in his rear had about 16,000
men, that of Ney and Montbrun, with Conroux in front of them, comprised
over 20,000 sabres and bayonets. The main fact to be borne in mind by
the British general was that Reynier had been sent on an external
road, separated by a very difficult mountain chain from those followed
by the other two columns, but that Ney and Junot would undoubtedly
unite at Pombal, where their roads met, so that a mass of 35,000 men
would be collected at that important centre of communication on the
10th or the 11th. But Reynier could not join them till the columns
should have got down to the Mondego, some days later[166]. Masséna was,
rightly enough, trying to use as many roads as possible, both to avoid
overcrowding of troops and trains on a single road, and also in order
that wider foraging might be possible, when the army should get out of
the devastated region north of Thomar, and descend into the valley of
the Mondego, where it was hoped that food would be far more procurable.
But the result of the disposition was that Reynier would not be
available for several days, if the British threw their main force on to
the rear of Ney and Junot and brought them to action.

  [166] The forces of the French corps five days later (but the
  numbers were much the same still) were, to be exact [Return of
  March 15 in French _Archives Nationales_]--

  Reynier’s 2nd Corps                    10,251  men
  Junot’s 8th Corps                       9,794   ”
  Loison’s Division                       4,734   ”
  Ney’s other Divisions, horse and foot  11,066   ”
  Montbrun’s Reserve Cavalry              2,435   ”
  Conroux’s Division of the 9th Corps     5,000   ”
  Artillery Reserves, Train, Sappers,
    Marine Battalion, &c.                 5,855   ”
                                         ------
                                  Total  49,135  men

  all exclusive of sick and wounded.

The road Leiria-Coimbra was moreover both the best and the shortest
of all those that led from the position now reached by Wellington’s
marching columns to the valley of the Mondego. By following it, and
hustling hard the French column that had taken it, the commander of
the Allies might hope to reach Coimbra in time to prevent the French
from taking up a secure position on the lower Mondego, and establishing
themselves in cantonments on its banks. For it was his main object to
turn them away from Coimbra and the coast-plain, and to force them up
into the eastern mountains and towards the borders of Spain. At first
he did not think that the line of the Mondego could be held against
the retreating French by the trifling Portuguese militia force that
lay behind it--Trant’s seven battalions at Coimbra, Wilson’s four at
Peñacova, which did not amount together to more than 5,000 or 6,000
troops of very inferior quality. He issued orders to those generals
to retire, without committing themselves to an attempt to defend the
line of the river--Trant had better go behind the Vouga, Wilson might
retire on Vizeu; both would ultimately join the northern reserves under
Baccelar, and co-operate with that general in defending the city of
Oporto[167]. But Wellington hoped that matters would never reach the
point at which the safety of Oporto came in question, for he thought
that he would be pressing the rear of the French so hard in a few
days, that they would be thinking of other things than taking the
offensive against northern Portugal. He would do his best to thrust
them north-eastward, towards the frontiers of Spain. As a matter of
fact we shall see that he more than fulfilled his own forecast, for the
French were so hotly pursued that they never succeeded in crossing the
Mondego or seizing Coimbra. When they had reached its gates, Masséna
refused to take the risk of passing the river at a moment when his rear
was in such dire trouble that the whole army would have been in danger
of destruction, if he had been attacked when the actual operation of
passage was in progress.

  [167] Wellington to Baccelar, March 8: ‘I conclude that Colonel
  Trant will have retired from Coimbra upon the bridge of the
  Vouga, which he should destroy, and from thence on Oporto. The
  enemy have no boats, and I hope to be able to press them so hard
  that they can get none on the Mondego.... If the enemy should
  turn toward Vizeu, you will of course do all that you can to
  annoy them in their march, but send all your baggage, &c., across
  the Douro.’ (_Dispatches_, vii. p. 347.)

Meanwhile the original movement of Reynier, Junot, and Loison towards
Thomar had caused Wellington to spread his pursuing troops more towards
the east than was convenient, when it turned out that only Reynier was
taking the mountain road towards Espinhal, and that the other columns
were going to join Ney on the Leiria-Coimbra road. Originally only
the Light Division and Pack’s Portuguese had followed Ney, and they
formed the only body of troops available for the pursuit of what was
now detected to be the largest body of the enemy, until the other
divisions should come up from the rear, or be marched westward from the
Thomar region.

On the 9th Wellington’s total available force, minus the 2nd Division
and Hamilton’s Portuguese, now halted about Abrantes and destined
for Estremadura, and minus also the regiments just landed at Lisbon,
was about 46,000 men[168]. Of these the Light Division and Pack’s
Portuguese, with Anson’s cavalry brigade (now under Arentschildt), were
at Leiria, in close touch with Ney’s retreating corps. But the 1st,
4th, and 6th Divisions and De Grey’s heavy dragoons were at Thomar, two
full marches east of the Light Division; Picton with the 3rd Division
was at Porto de Mos on the Santarem-Leiria _chaussée_, a day’s journey
behind the vanguard. The 5th Division and the independent Portuguese
brigade of Ashworth were a march behind Picton, about Alcanhede.

  [168] Viz.:

  1st Division                  8,100 of all ranks, all British
  3rd Division                  4,500       ”       and 1,550 Portuguese
  4th Division                  4,800       ”       and 2,100     ”
  5th Division                  3,800       ”       and 1,800     ”
  6th Division                  3,850       ”       and 2,300     ”
  Light Division                3,400       ”       and   900     ”
  Pack’s Portuguese Brigade                             2,100
  Ashworth’s Portuguese Brigade                         2,500
  Cavalry, British              2,430
     ”     Portuguese                                     500
  Artillery, British            1,000
     ”     Portuguese                                     500
  Engineers, Waggon Train, &c.    200
                               ------                  ------
                 Total British 32,080      and         14,250 Portuguese

  The 2nd Division, left behind near Abrantes, had about 6,100
  of all ranks. Hamilton’s Portuguese Division about 4,200,
  Fane’s British (13th Lt. Dragoons) and Portuguese cavalry was
  about 1,000 sabres, artillery of both nations for the Army of
  Estremadura about 500. The 7th Division, now being formed at
  Lisbon, was composed of 2,800 British and 2,300 Portuguese. There
  were two battalions not belonging to the 7th Division marching up
  with it, with 1,300 bayonets (2/52nd, 2/88th).

If Ney were to be joined by Junot and Loison, as now seemed probable,
in the direction of Pombal, it would take one full day for the 3rd
Division to join the vanguard, two full days for the rest of the army
to come up. It would not be till the 11th that a mass of combatants
would be collected sufficient to attack the enemy, if he held the
Pombal position. And this concentration had to be carried out for
safety’s sake; it would have been insane to bid the Light Division and
Pack, the only troops immediately available, to fall upon Ney and Junot
and their 35,000 men. Accordingly Wellington directed the 3rd and 5th
Divisions to close up rapidly upon the vanguard along the _chaussée_,
while the mass of troops around Thomar was to follow the Chão de
Maçans road in Junot’s track and unite with the other column in front
of Pombal on the 11th. Only Nightingale’s brigade of the 1st Division
was detached, with one squadron of dragoons, to follow Reynier on his
‘eccentric’ line of retreat, along the rough mountain road to Espinhal.
Forty-three thousand men out of the 46,000 which formed the disposable
total of Wellington’s army were sent in pursuit of Masséna’s main body.

The bringing up of the rear divisions took time. Meanwhile the
Light Division with Pack’s Portuguese and the attached cavalry,
now united under the temporary control of Sir William Erskine (for
Robert Craufurd, the natural commander of such a vanguard, was on
leave in England), kept close to Ney’s heels, and on the 10th were
at Venda Nova, immediately in front of his position at Pombal. The
4th Division were at Cacharia on the same night, the 1st and 6th at
Acentis and other villages near Thomar, the 3rd at Leiria, the 5th
at Porto de Mos. All these marches were executed through a country
full of scenes of horror: Picton, not a man easily to be moved by
sentiment, wrote, ‘Nothing can exceed the devastation and cruelties
committed by the enemy during his retreat: he has set fire to all the
villages and murdered all the peasantry for leagues on each flank of
his march[169].’ The large town of Leiria was burning in five places
when the Light Division reached it. The great historic monasteries
of Alcobaça and Batalha had been wrecked in mere spite--the former,
according to Wellington, by direct order from the French head quarters.
Every by-road and ravine was strewn with corpses; a note from Grattan’s
interesting journal of the marches of the 88th gives an average picture
of what the British army saw. ‘At the entrance of a cave,’ he writes,
‘lay an old man, a woman, and two young men, all dead. The cave, no
doubt, had served them as an asylum in the preceding winter, and
appearances warranted the supposition that these poor creatures, in a
vain effort to save their little store of provisions, fell victims to
the ferocity of their murderers. The clothes of the young peasants were
torn to atoms, and bore testimony that they did not lose their lives
without a struggle. The hands of one were dreadfully mangled, as if in
his last efforts he had grasped the sword which ultimately dispatched
him. Beside him lay his companion, his brother perhaps, covered with
wounds. A little to the right was the old man: he lay on his back with
his breast bare; two large wounds were over his heart, and the back of
his head was beaten to pieces. Near him lay an old rusty bayonet lashed
to a pole; one of his hands grasped a bunch of hair, torn no doubt from
the head of his assassin; the old woman had probably been strangled, as
no wound appeared on her body. At some distance from the spot were two
wounded soldiers of the French 4th Léger, abandoned by their comrades.
These poor wretches were surrounded by half a dozen Portuguese, who
were taking on them the horrible vengeance common during this contest.
On our approach they dispersed and fled: both the Frenchmen were still
alive, and asked us to shoot them. We dared not, and when we had
passed on, we could perceive the peasants descending from the hill,
like vultures who have been scared from their prey, but return with
redoubled voracity.’

  [169] Picton to Col. Pleydell, a letter printed in Robinson’s
  _Life of Picton_, i. 385.

Before the marching divisions came up from the rear, there was a
cavalry skirmish in front of Pombal between Arentschildt’s Light
Horse (16th and 1st Hussars of the K.G.L.) and some of Montbrun’s
dragoons, which was of little importance as to results, but assumes
such a different complexion in the narratives of the combatants on the
opposite sides that it is hardly possible to believe that they are
writing of the same event[170].

  [170] Narrative of Delagrave: ‘La cavalerie anglaise se déployait
  avec une certaine audace, et semblait vouloir provoquer un
  combat. Le Général Montbrun s’avança fièrement pour l’accepter.
  Les Anglais avaient des chevaux plus frais que les nôtres, et
  ils semblaient s’en prévaloir. Mais nos gens avaient pour eux le
  vrai courage et le sang-froid. Quelques escadrons de dragons,
  les plus avancés, en voyant qu’on les chargeait au grand galop,
  s’arrêtèrent et poussèrent le sabre en avant, et dans cette
  position reçurent de pied ferme l’ennemi. Cette manœuvre eut
  un plein succès. L’ennemi fut rompu, désuni, il eut beaucoup
  d’hommes et de chevaux tant tués que blessés. Ensuite les nôtres,
  dont pas un n’avait été touché, tirant un prompt parti de leur
  bon ordre, et du désordre des Anglais, chargèrent à leur tour,
  et eurent en quelques minutes bon marché de cette troupe, qui
  avait d’abord montré tant d’audace.’ (_Campagne de Portugal_, pp.
  191-2.)

  Narrative of Tomkinson, 16th Light Dragoons: ‘We followed the
  enemy up to the Pombal plain, where they showed eight squadrons
  formed on the heath in front. The Hussars advanced with one
  squadron in front and three in support, on which the enemy’s
  skirmishers retired, and the whole eight squadrons began to
  withdraw. We passed the defile in our front, and came up in time
  to join the Hussars in their charge. We charged and broke one
  squadron of the enemy, drove that on to the second, and so on,
  till the whole eight were altogether in the greatest confusion,
  when we drove them on to their main support. We wounded several
  and took a few prisoners, and should have made more, but that
  they were so thick that we could not get into them. The French
  officers called on the men supporting to advance: but not a man
  moved.’ (_Diary_, p. 79.)

  The returns show that the total loss of the British cavalry was
  nine men on this day. Six belonged to the Hussars. The report
  states that one officer and eleven men of the French were taken
  prisoners (see Beamish, _History of the K.G.L._, i. p. 820).
  Wellington’s dispatch merely says, ‘The Hussars distinguished
  themselves in a charge, made under the command of Colonel
  Arentschildt.’

During the hours on the 10th of March, while the English columns were
toiling up from the rear to join the Light Division, Ney’s and Junot’s
corps remained stationary, the former at the town of Pombal, the latter
at Venda da Cruz, five miles behind it, resting, and seeking (mostly
in vain) for provisions. Masséna was determined not to move backward
before he should be obliged. Montbrun’s dragoons reconnoitred as far as
the bridge of Coimbra, which they found with two of its arches broken,
and cannon visible on the further side. The small force in sight was
the rearguard of Trant’s Militia brigade, which (in accordance with
Wellington’s orders) was preparing to draw back towards the Vouga,
but held on to Coimbra till a serious attack should be delivered.
Masséna thereupon ordered his engineer, Colonel Valazé, to search for
a convenient spot below the town, at which a flying bridge might be
thrown across the Mondego. On this day Reynier and the 2nd Corps, far
off on the eastern mountain road, reached Espinhal, the first village
beyond the Serra da Estrella. As that place has a by-road leading to
Coimbra, this detached body was getting nearer to a possible reunion
with the main body.

On the morning of March 11th the 3rd Division joined Wellington’s
vanguard after a toilsome march, and the 4th Division, heading the
column which came from Thomar, was reported to be in supporting
distance. Ney, apparently having detected the arrival of British
reinforcements, then drew back one of his divisions, and left the
other (Mermet) in position on the heights behind the town, with a
single battalion holding the lofty but ruined castle which dominates
the place. Wellington, on perceiving that the enemy was drawing back,
ordered Elder’s battalion of Caçadores[171], supported by two companies
of the 95th Rifles, to charge across the bridge and occupy the town,
while the rest of the Light Division advanced in support, and Picton
moved to the left, to cross the stream lower down. The attacking
force passed the narrow bridge under fire, cleared the nearer streets
and assailed the castle and the small force left there. Seeing his
rearguard in danger of being cut off, and noting that Elder’s force
was small, Ney came down from the heights with four battalions of
the 6th Léger and the 69th Ligne, thrust back the Caçadores and the
supporting rifle companies, and brought off the troops in the castle.
He barricaded the main street, and set fire to the houses along it in
several places before departing; these precautions detained for some
minutes the main column of the Light Division, which was hurrying
up to reinforce its van. The French were all retiring up the hill
before they could be got at, and only suffered a little from Ross’s
guns, which were hurried up to play upon the retreating column, as it
re-formed in the position beyond Pombal. By the time that the Light
Division had disentangled itself from the burning town, and Picton had
crossed the stream on the left, the day was far spent; and Ney retired
at his leisure after dark, without having been further incommoded.
The British followed, and encamped on the further side of the water,
ready for pursuit next morning. Ney was much praised for the tactical
skill which he had shown in saving his rearguard, and Erskine was
thought to have handled the Light Division clumsily. The French
losses, trifling as they were, much exceeded those of the Allies--they
lost four officers and fifty-nine men, all in the 6th and 69th. The
Caçadores lost ten rank and file killed, and an officer and twenty
men wounded--the two companies of the 95th had an ensign and four men
wounded--a total of thirty-seven, little more than half the French loss.

  [171] No. 3 of that arm.

Late on this day the 4th Division came up, and the 5th, 6th, and 1st
were reported to be close behind, so that Wellington had his main body
at last collected. He started the decisive operations on the following
morning at 5 o’clock, advancing in three columns towards Venda da Cruz,
where Ney had been located on the previous night by the cavalry scouts.
Picton and the 3rd Division were on the right, Pack’s Portuguese in
the centre, the Light Division on the left, with the 4th Division
supporting on the high-road, and the rest following behind. But the
enemy had retired at an equally early hour, and was not to be found at
Venda da Cruz. He had gone back to Redinha, where there is a bridge
over the Souré river, forming a defile behind the village, and a high
plateau flanked by woods in its front. Mermet’s division formed on
the plateau, with Marchand’s in support, while the rest of the French
were not far off, Loison’s division being at Rabaçal, three miles to
the east, and Junot’s corps at Condeixa, five miles behind Redinha.
Drouet, with Conroux’s division, had started during the night on the
road for Ponte de Murcella and the Spanish frontier, escorting a convoy
of 800 sick and wounded and the small remains of the reserve park of
the army. He had orders to clear the _chaussée_ and to get into touch
with Claparéde, who was now lying with the other division of the 9th
Corps at Celorico. This detachment would have revealed to Wellington,
had he known of it, that Masséna was more anxious to secure his line of
communication with Spain than to seize Coimbra and establish himself
on the line of the Mondego. For a good general, intending to take
risks in a general action, does not detach 5,000 men on the eve of the
decisive day. It is only second-rate commanders who (like King Joseph
at Vittoria in 1813) commit such mistakes.

It is clear that if Masséna had intended to make a serious blow at
Coimbra, he ought to have done so at latest on the 10th or 11th,
before the English army was close enough to hinder him. Junot’s corps,
which was entirely covered by Ney and the rearguard, was well placed
for a blow at the city, as it was little more than ten miles from the
Mondego and the broken bridge. But Masséna did not march Junot in
this direction, but kept him in a position to support Ney, while only
some squadrons of Montbrun’s cavalry were sent against Coimbra. That
general’s proceedings showed great timidity and feebleness. On the
afternoon of the 10th, according to Trant’s dispatch, his advanced
guard appeared on the Monte de Esperança, the height opposite Coimbra,
and was seen to send down reconnoitring parties towards the banks of
the river, both above and below the city, leaving unmolested the broken
bridge, behind which were the guns placed in the battery which Trant
had thrown up to protect his retreat. Much rain had fallen on the
preceding night, the river was full, and Montbrun’s scouts reported to
him and to his companion the Engineer-colonel Valazé that they could
not find the fords which, as they had been told, were situated at the
spots that they had visited. On the following day (March 11th), while
the skirmish of Pombal was going on, Montbrun moved in nearer to the
city, showing artillery and a cavalry brigade at the Cruz dos Moroiços,
and occupying the convent of Santa Clara, which lies less than a mile
from the bridge. One of his squadrons tried to pass at the ford of
Pereira, five miles below the city, but owing to the strength of the
current failed completely, the men who first tried the water regaining
with difficulty the bank from which they had started. Nothing more was
done by the French that day, and Montbrun reported to Masséna that he
had received information that the whole of the brigades of Trant and
Silveira were in Coimbra, and that he had seen artillery in position at
the bridge[172]. The real force opposed to him was seven battalions
of Militia, some 3,000 men, and six guns. This was the last day on
which it would have been possible for the French to seize Coimbra,
for from the 12th onward Wellington was pressing them so hard that,
if they had set themselves to force the passage, and had succeeded,
their rearguard, and probably a great portion of their main body, would
have been destroyed. For Ney, with all his tactical skill, could not
have shaken off his pursuers in such a way as to allow 30,000 men to
file over a single bridge, hastily repaired, when the Allies were in
hot pursuit. The French engineers, indeed, reported that it would take
several days to mend the bridge, even when the Portuguese had been
driven away from the further bank. The main comment suggested by all
this is that, since Masséna was intending to hold out on the Mondego,
and to occupy its northern bank, according to his own dispatch sent to
Napoleon, he ought to have taken measures to secure a safe passage many
days back--at the first moment when his retreat began on the 5th of
March. Part of the mass of troops accumulated at Leiria ought to have
marched for Coimbra on March 6th. It was altogether too late to send a
mere flying cavalry force to appear in front of the place on March 10th.

  [172] Some French authorities, favourable to Masséna, assert
  that he was not responsible for the failure to occupy Coimbra,
  that Ney, on the 10th, had been told to send Marcognet’s brigade
  to support Montbrun, who said that he could not succeed without
  infantry help (Pelet, _Notes sur la campagne de Portugal_, p.
  334). But Ney, it is said would not detach the brigade. This
  seems most improbable, for (1) Junot’s corps, which was in
  Ney’s rear and five miles nearer to Coimbra, would have been
  the natural source from which to seek for infantry supports for
  Montbrun, and (2) Masséna does not accuse Ney of this particular
  piece of disobedience in his report to Berthier of March 19, nor
  in the later one of March 22, when he is giving his reasons for
  superseding his colleague and sending him home to France. He
  simply says, in recounting his reasons for not seizing Coimbra,
  that Montbrun and the engineers reported ‘that the river was in
  flood, that the bridge had two arches broken, that the left bank
  was occupied by the forces of Trant and Silveira, and defended by
  cannon. It would have required several days to repair the bridge
  and to drive the Portuguese out of Coimbra; there was no pontoon
  train with the army, and not a single boat on the Mondego. In
  face of the danger of being attacked by Wellington’s whole force
  while the passage was in progress, he resolved to renounce it.’
  The one battalion of infantry which was sent to Montbrun’s aid on
  the 12th came from Solignac’s division in Junot’s corps--as might
  have been expected.

On March 12th Montbrun was prowling ineffectively along the south bank
of the Mondego, and setting his horse artillery to engage in a futile
exchange of fire with Trant’s guns, while a battalion of infantry
borrowed from Junot tried to creep upon the bridge, but was detected
and driven off by grape. But Ney was already engaged in such sharp
fighting at Redinha that he could not have drawn his troops off, or
have escaped towards Coimbra, even if the passage of the Mondego had
been forced. Wellington, it will be remembered, was advancing towards
the 6th Corps in the morning, when he found that it had retired from
Venda da Cruz on to another position. His cavalry discovered that not
only was he in presence of the 6th Corps, but that another French
column was on his flank at Rabaçal (this was Loison’s division).
Moreover, the 8th Corps was known to be not far off, for stragglers
and sick from it had been picked up upon the preceding day. Seeing
therefore that he might be called upon to face some 30,000 men, the
British general resolved not to open the fight over hastily. When his
three leading columns came up, Pack in the centre, Picton on the right,
the Light Division on the left, they were halted in front of Mermet’s
line, and deployed; but no attack was made till the 4th Division had
reached the front line and joined Pack, while the 1st and 5th were
close behind. Then, at two o’clock in the afternoon, an encircling
attack was made on Mermet’s rearguard, the wings being thrown forward,
while the centre was somewhat held back. The 3rd Division, entering
the woods on the French left, the Light Division those on their right,
advanced as quickly as they could through difficult ground. Pack and
the 4th Division halted beyond musket-range of the centre, but suffered
a little from artillery fire while waiting for the flank attacks to
develop. After some twenty minutes of hot skirmishing among the trees,
Mermet’s flanks were turned by Picton on the side of the hills, and
by the Light Division on the side of the plain, and Ney hastily drew
back his front line behind the stream and the defile, where Marchand’s
division was waiting in support. The retreating battalions were
somewhat jammed at the bridge, and lost heavily, while passing it only
a few yards in front of the skirmishers of the Light Division. Picton
tried to ford the stream higher up, in order to cut off the retreating
force before it could reach its supports, but failed, the water turning
out too deep and rapid for passage[173].

  [173] I spent two interesting hours at Redinha on September 29,
  1910, going round the battle-ground, guided by Mr. Reynolds of
  Barreiro. The village is most irregularly built, and the way to
  the bridge not obvious, the streets being tortuous and narrow.
  The place is easy to defend, but not easy to get out of. A
  courteous denizen of Redinha, Mr. J. J. Leitão, presented me
  with an unexploded British shrapnel shell, which he had got out
  of the sand of the river-bed just above the bridge. Several more
  had been found on this spot; they must have been thrown by the
  pursuing British artillery at the French column hurrying over
  the bridge, and had fallen short, into the water. Each contained
  thirty-two balls, but the powder had decayed into an impalpable
  red dust. The shell that we got is now in the United Service
  Museum.

It took some time to file the Light and 3rd Divisions over the bridge,
and to make a new line in face of Ney’s second position on the ridge
two miles beyond the stream. But when the two divisions once more went
forward, each turning, as before, the enemy’s flank opposed to it,
while Pack and the 5th Division formed up again in the centre, Ney gave
back without any very strenuous resistance, and, abandoning his second
position, fell back upon Condeixa, a village with a defile in front of
it, five miles north of Redinha on the great Coimbra _chaussée_.

The day’s work had been a very pretty piece of manœuvring on both
sides. Ney hung on to his two successive positions just so long as was
safe, and absconded on each occasion at the critical moment, when his
flanks were turned. A quarter of an hour’s more delay would have been
ruin, but the retreat was made just in time. The two stands had delayed
Wellington for a day, and his army had only advanced ten miles in the
twenty-four hours. Yet it is unjust to accuse the British general of
over-caution, as Napier and all the French annalists have done. He was
quite right not to attack with the first division that came up, and
to wait till he had three and a half in line. For he was aware that
great strength lay in front of him, and, for all he knew, the troops of
Mermet might have been supported not only by Marchand, as was actually
the case, but by the whole of Junot’s corps. In that case an early
attack would have meant a bloody check, and an enforced wait, till the
3rd, 4th, 1st, and 5th Divisions should have come up. As it was, the
French rearguard was dislodged with a very modest loss on the part of
the Allies, 12 officers and 193 men, of whom the large majority were
in the Light and 3rd Divisions, the troops which had done the work.
But the 4th Division and Pack’s Portuguese suffered some casualties,
while waiting under cannon-fire for the flanking movement to take
effect[174]. The French loss was 14 officers and 213 men, nearly all
from Mermet’s division, as that of Marchand was little engaged[175].

  [174] See table of losses in Appendix III. Of the regiments the
  chief losers were the 95th (13 men), and 52nd (18 men).

  [175] Of the fourteen French officers killed and wounded no less
  than thirteen were from the 25th Léger, and 27th and 50th Ligne
  of Mermet’s division.

During this day the 6th Division, moving apart from the rest of the
army, marched north-westward to Souré, and so got upon the western
route to Coimbra. It was apparently Wellington’s intention to push this
detachment round the western or seaward flank of the French army, so as
to threaten with it the right wing of any position that the enemy might
take up across the Coimbra _chaussée_. Indeed, having found no hostile
force of any sort in front of it, the 6th Division was able to push
in quite close to Coimbra on the next day, and to take up a position
at Ega, which menaced Ney and Junot’s march across its front if they
should still continue their retreat in the original direction. It was
probably the movement of this division which caused the French to
believe that Wellington had landed a detached force from ships at the
mouth of the Mondego, and was pushing it forward towards Coimbra: an
account of the march of this imaginary corps is to be found in several
narratives[176].

  [176] e. g. in Delagrave, p. 201: ‘Deux colonnes des siens
  remontaient le Mondégo, le long des rives: celle qui avait
  débarqué à Figuieras avait pour but principal de couvrir
  Coïmbre.... L’autre, qui remontait la rive gauche, avait été
  détachée de l’armée ennemie avec ordre de déborder et d’attaquer
  la droite des Français.’ Belmas also speaks of this imaginary
  force.

Condeixa, to which Ney had retired on the evening of the combat
of Redinha, is a most important strategical point, since here the
_chaussée_ leading to Coimbra is joined by the last crossroad which
meets it south of the Mondego, that which runs eastward to the Ponte de
Murcella and the Spanish frontier. As long as the French held Condeixa,
they were in a position to choose between an attack on Coimbra and
a retreat up the south bank of the river towards Almeida and their
base. And with Wellington at his heels, Masséna had now to make his
choice between the two courses. His dispatch of March 19th to Berthier
informs us that he resolved for a moment to offer battle to the Allies
at Condeixa, with the 6th and 8th Corps, calling in perhaps (though
he does not mention it) the 2nd Corps from Espinhal, which is no more
than twenty miles away. The reasons which he gives for not doing so are
firstly, that, since the departure of Drouet and his division on the
11th, his whole force was no more than half that of Wellington; as a
matter of fact he had still 45,000 men, his adversary just about the
same number. Secondly, that the morale of the army was impaired by long
privations and short rations. Thirdly, that the stock of ammunition was
dangerously low, and the artillery horses could hardly move. Fourthly,
that he was hampered by the fact that his lieutenants (he is alluding
to Ney in especial) were set on abandoning Portugal, ‘which contributes
in no small degree to a lack of that harmony which ought to reign in
an army.’ Fifthly, that a defeat at Condeixa would mean the inevitable
loss of all his artillery, train, wounded, and baggage, while a success
would not seriously injure Wellington, who could always retire on to
the Lines of Torres Vedras. Sixthly, that being in the midst of a
population roused to fury by the ravages of his army, he found that he
could gather in little or no food, and was fast using up the stock that
he had brought with him. Taking all these points into consideration,
and being informed by Montbrun that, even if he succeeded in seizing
Coimbra, its bridge would take two days to repair, he had resolved to
avoid a general action, to abandon any attempt to pass the Mondego, and
to draw back towards the 9th Corps and the Spanish frontier, where he
could find the food and the new equipment which the army needed.

[Illustration: REDINHA]

Accordingly, on the early morning of March 13th the decisive step which
committed Masséna to a retreat towards Celorico and the 9th Corps was
taken. The 8th Corps was marched off, covering the train, along the
road which leads by Miranda de Corvo to the Ponte de Murcella and the
upper Mondego, instead of toward Coimbra, now only eight miles away.
To cover its flank Loison’s division was moved from Rabaçal, where it
had lain on the day of the combat of Redinha, to Fonte Cuberta. Ney
remained behind at Condeixa with his two old divisions, to cover the
fork of the roads, and to detain the Allies as long as possible, while
Junot and the trains were toiling along the bad and mountainous road
towards Miranda de Corvo. The 2nd Corps was still kept at Espinhal,
where it was observed by Nightingale’s brigade, which had dogged its
steps at a cautious distance since the 9th.

These arrangements did not work very well, for Ney was turned out of
the Condeixa position, much earlier than he or Masséna had expected, by
Wellington’s skilful manœuvres. The movement used against him was much
the same as at Redinha; the 3rd Division marched by a mountain path to
turn his left, while the 6th Division, coming in from Souré by a wide
sweep, appeared at Ega, almost behind his right wing, and threatened
to get between him and Coimbra. Meanwhile the 4th and Light Divisions,
with the rest of the army behind them, were halted on distant heights
in his front, ready to attack when the turning movements should become
pronounced. Ney was, very properly, anxious about his retreat, for
he could not any longer (as at Pombal and Redinha) give back to his
rear, but was forced to take a side direction, in order to follow the
8th Corps on the Miranda de Corvo road. The moment that he saw Picton
making for this road, to cut him off from the rest of the French, he
set fire to the town of Condeixa and moved off in great haste, just
avoiding Picton, to Casal Novo, a village five miles east of his first
position, where he formed up again at dusk. The day’s operations had
been almost bloodless; nothing more than a few musket shots were
exchanged by the skirmishers of the two sides. But they had been of
the highest strategical importance, since they ended in the complete
abandonment of the attempt to reach Coimbra by the French.

Incidentally, the rapid fashion in which Ney had been evicted from the
cross-roads at Condeixa nearly led to disaster some of the outlying
fractions of the French army. Masséna himself had halted at Fonte
Cuberta, six miles to the south-east, with his staff and Loison’s
division, which was escorting the reserve artillery of the 6th and
8th Corps. He was intending to cover Ney’s left from any wide turning
movement by the British. The road on which this village lies falls
into that from Condeixa to Miranda de Corvo about three miles from the
first-named place. Ney, when preparing to evacuate Condeixa, sent an
aide-de-camp to advise the Commander-in-Chief that he was about to
retire. But the officer charged with the message lost his way, and only
arrived at Fonte Cuberta late in the afternoon with the dispatch[177].
By this time Ney had already reached Casal Novo, some distance beyond
the point at which the Fonte Cuberta road fell into his line of
retreat. Masséna and the division in his company were therefore cut
off from their proper route for retiring on to the main army. Within
a few minutes after the arrival of Ney’s messenger, a patrol of the
German hussars arrived at the village, and nearly rode into Masséna and
his staff, who were dining in the open air under a tree outside its
entrance. There was a mutual surprise; the Marshal’s escort of fifty
men ran to their arms, while the hussars halted, not understanding what
they had come upon. If they had charged, Masséna might have been taken
or slain, as several French narrators assert. He mounted and galloped
back in haste towards Loison’s infantry, who were camped in and beyond
the village. The hussars went off to report to their squadron commander
that Fonte Cuberta was still occupied--it had been with the object of
obtaining information on this point that the reconnaissance had been
sent out. Masséna hastened to put Loison’s men under march for Casal
Novo, by a very rugged side-track, called up Clausel’s division to
cover him, and got off in the dusk unhindered, save by a few flank
skirmishers belonging to Picton’s division, who came upon him in the
dark and were brushed away with ease[178].

  [177] Marbot says that the officer arrived four hours after the
  evacuation of Condeixa, though that place is only five miles from
  Fonte Cuberta (_Mémoires_, ii. 443). Fririon makes a much graver
  accusation against Ney, viz. that he sent no messenger at all,
  and that the allied cavalry were discovered by an officer named
  Girbault on Masséna’s staff.

  [178] For an account of this curious affair see Fririon, Noël
  (who was with Loison at the moment), Pelet, and Marbot. The
  latter (as always) gives the most picturesque and probably the
  least trustworthy account. He forgets to mention that Fonte
  Cuberta was occupied by Loison’s 4,500 infantry, and writes as
  if a squadron of hussars had retired before Masséna’s escort
  of 50 men. According to him the Marshal’s night-retreat was
  much disturbed by the misadventures of his mistress (Renique’s
  sister), whose horse repeatedly fell in the dark and rolled over
  her, to his intense anxiety. Masséna’s dispatch says only, ‘Le
  duc d’Elchingen abandonna la position de Condeixa plus tôt que
  je ne le croyais. Le poste de Fonte Cuberta était découvert, et
  l’artillerie qui s’y trouvait compromise. J’ai gagné avec elle
  la grande route par une marche de flanc, à portée de canon de la
  ligne ennemie, par un beau clair de lune.’

This incident led to a furious quarrel between Masséna and Ney, for
the former asserted, as it seems, that the latter had promised to hold
Condeixa for a whole day or more, and had moved off at noon out of mere
malice, so as to leave his chief in an exposed position. If we may
believe the narrative of Masséna’s aide-de-camp, Fririon, he asserted
that Ney had deliberately wished to get him captured, and had executed
his retreat ‘clandestinement’[179]. It was impossible to persuade him
to the contrary, and he saved up his wrath for the next occasion when
he should be able to convict Ney of open disobedience, and not of
mere errors of judgement. There can be no doubt that he was doing an
injustice to his lieutenant in suspecting him of such a monstrous plot:
Ney was a man of honour; Masséna had himself such a doubtful record for
probity that we can well understand his suspicion of others. In truth,
what happened was that the younger Marshal had promised to defend
Condeixa longer than was really possible, when Wellington (as on this
day) was in his happiest mood, and manœuvring with a skill which made a
long resistance impracticable.

  [179] ‘Le Maréchal Masséna crut voir dans ce mouvement opéré à
  son insu l’intention de le faire tomber, lui et son état-major,
  entre les mains de l’ennemi. Le Général Fririon chercha à lui
  faire entendre qu’il devait attribuer ce fait à un oubli plutôt
  qu’à un sentiment de malveillance. Mais il lui fut impossible de
  le persuader. “Cette conduite est inexcusable,” lui dit Masséna;
  “le mouvement rétrograde de ces deux divisions était exécuté
  clandestinement; c’est un acte que rien ne peut justifier.”’
  (Fririon, pp. 150-1.)

But Loison’s division was not the only French force which was in
serious danger on March 13. Montbrun had lingered in front of Coimbra,
till his retreat also was imperilled by the loss of Condeixa and its
all-important bifurcation of roads. At eight o’clock in the morning
he had made his last vain attempt to win his way into the city--this
time by negotiation. He sent a _parlementaire_ on to the broken bridge,
with a demand that Trant should give up the place, and a promise that
the citizens should suffer no harm, and the garrison should be allowed
free egress. This last was really not his to grant, for during the
night Trant had removed everything from the city except a battalion
of Militia and the two guns at the bridge. The sergeant in command of
these pieces (a certain José Correia Leal, whose name the Portuguese
have very properly preserved) adroitly wasted time by detaining the
French officer. He told him that he must wait till an answer came from
Trant, whose absence he kept concealed, and then, after some hours,
said that his commander had gone to visit a distant point of the river
defences, from which he would not be back till the next morning[180].
Meanwhile, if any attempt were made to attack the bridge, he had orders
to blow up several more arches, which were mined. Time drifted on, and
meanwhile Montbrun received at noon the news that Ney was forced to
give up Condeixa[181], i. e. that there was no more prospect of using
Coimbra as a crossing-point. Moreover his own retreat was in danger, if
an English detachment should march straight from Condeixa towards the
bridge, a distance of only eight miles. The French general was obliged
to abscond, and the only route open to him, since the _chaussée_ was
lost, was a rough path which, after coasting along the south bank of
the Mondego for some time, turns up into the valley of the Eça[182],
and so reaches Miranda de Corvo. After blowing up many of his wheeled
vehicles, Montbrun hastened to take this track, and escaped by it,
though he was discovered and pursued by some of Wellington’s cavalry
patrols, who pressed his rearguard and made many prisoners. But the
division of dragoons, with the infantry battalion attached, and the two
horse artillery batteries--their caissons had to be destroyed because
of the badness of the road--ultimately reached Miranda with no great
loss.

  [180] For all this see Soriano da Luz, iii. pp. 360-1.

  [181] According to Delagrave he got the news neither from Ney nor
  from an aide-de-camp of his own whom he had left with the 6th
  Corps to transmit information, but from an emissary of Masséna
  named Girod, who thought of him when the proper authorities
  failed to do so.

  [182] Called the Deuça by Napier and other writers--an erroneous
  contraction of Rio de Eça.

This was a truly important day, the most critical in the whole
campaign, since at its end Coimbra was safe, and the whole French army
had been turned on to the road towards Spain. Wellington was satisfied,
and had no reason to be otherwise. The accusation made against him by
many critics of over-caution, which is said to have prevented him from
destroying Loison’s and Montbrun’s detachments, seems unjustifiable.
The cardinal fact that he was not superior in numerical strength to
the army that he was pursuing is too often forgotten; indeed, the
French writers from Masséna down to to-day have nearly always credited
him with 50,000 or 60,000 men, whereas he had barely 45,000, of whom
only 32,000 were British, and the Portuguese were still in great part
untried troops; for though those of them who had passed the test of
battle (Pack’s and Power’s[183] brigades, the Caçadores in the Light
Division, and the artillery) had done admirably hitherto, there were
still four whole brigades which had never been in serious action
since they were reorganized in 1809[184]. Nothing was to be risked,
and partial attacks by unsupported vanguards were to be eschewed,
when (as Wellington remarked in his dispatch of March 14) ‘the whole
country affords advantageous positions to a retreating army, of which
the enemy has shown that he knows how to avail himself. They are
leaving the country, as they entered it, in one solid mass, covering
their rear on every march by one (or sometimes two) _corps d’armée_,
in the successive positions which the country affords, which _corps
d’armée_ are closely supported by the rest.’ A general action against
equal or superior numbers ranged on a strong hill-position was clearly
inadvisable, and the plan of manœuvring the enemy out of each line that
he took up by a short flanking movement was infinitely preferable.
Flanking movements take time, and unless the enemy is very slow or very
rash, have effective rather than brilliant results. But Wellington
never ‘played to the gallery’; he was no vendor of bulletins; he had
a small army which it was difficult to reinforce, and he could not
afford to waste his precious men in hazardous combats. It would have
been of little profit to him if he had destroyed a division or two of
the enemy, and had then arrived on the Spanish frontier with an army
diminished by 10,000 men. The enemy had unlimited supports behind him;
he had practically none. For when he had taken out his field army, and
had detached Beresford to Estremadura, there were no regular troops
left in Portugal save the newly formed 7th Division, which was coming
up from Lisbon to join the main body.

  [183] Late Champlemond’s, heavily engaged against Reynier at
  Bussaco.

  [184] viz. Ashworth’s (late A. Campbell’s), Spry’s, Madden’s
  (late Eben’s), and Harvey’s, of which the third had only one
  regiment engaged at Bussaco, and the others had been on parts of
  the line not attacked by the French.

[Illustration: CASAL NOVO]

That Wellington’s system was sound was sufficiently proved by an
incident of the next morning’s march, when the army suffered the only
check which it was destined to meet during the campaign, and lost more
men than on any other day of this eventful month. At early dawn on the
14th there was a dense fog; notwithstanding this, Sir William Erskine,
who was commanding the vanguard, composed of the Light Division,
Pack’s Portuguese, and Arentschildt’s cavalry brigade, thought fit to
march straight at the enemy, his orders of the preceding night being
to stick to Ney’s heels. The French rearguard, Marchand’s division,
was holding the village of Casal Novo[185], a strong post on a rising
ground, surrounded with stone walls and enclosures, while the rest of
the 6th and 8th Corps were defiling along the road to Chão de Lamas and
Miranda de Corvo. The Light Division, heading the advancing column, ran
into the pickets of the French, whereupon Erskine ordered out three
companies of the 52nd and sent them forward to clear the way. They were
soon heavily engaged, for Marchand was in force. When the fog lifted
daylight showed the five battalions of the Light Division clubbed on
the road, under the front of the enemy’s line of a battery and eleven
battalions, ranged on the height of Casal Novo. Pack’s Portuguese and
the 3rd Division were some distance off, coming along the defile which
leads from Condeixa. The Light Division had to extend and fight hard
in order to keep its ground, while the main body was coming up and
developing a flanking movement against the French. It lost heavily
of necessity, and was only released from a dangerous position by the
movement of Picton and the 3rd Division to the right, which forced the
French to abscond. Marchand’s division then fell back behind Mermet’s,
which was in position two miles to the rear, between the villages of
Casal de Azan and Villa Seca[186]. This second position was properly
turned, and carried without loss, if with some delay. Then the enemy
was discovered in the afternoon in a third and still more formidable
post, on the heights of Chão de Lamas. This was treated in the same
fashion, the Light Division and Pack’s Portuguese turning its left,
Picton its right, while the main body, coming up from the rear, halted
opposite its centre. Ney then gave up his position, and fell back six
miles down hill, towards Miranda de Corvo on the banks of the Eça
river, where the 8th Corps and Montbrun’s cavalry were waiting for him.
The pursuers, tired out by a running fight of twelve hours, during
which they had gained fourteen miles of ground, halted in front of
him. Their loss had been 11 officers and 119 men in the British, and
25 in the Portuguese ranks, a total of 155. More than half fell in the
mismanaged business of the early morning, in which the 43rd, 52nd,
and 95th lost 9 officers and over 80 men, in an utterly unnecessary
combat. This was the first of two exhibitions of wrongheadedness by
which the newly arrived general, William Erskine, lost Wellington’s
confidence. The second, on April 3rd, was (as we shall see) to be a
still more discreditable affair. The French loss at Casal Novo and in
the succeeding skirmishes of the day was apparently much smaller than
that of the British, though the official figure of 55 killed and
wounded seems very low[187]. On this morning the British, for the first
time during the retreat, began to take prisoners on a considerable
scale; there were more than 100 captured between Casal Novo and Miranda
de Corvo, partly skirmishers cut off during the long bickering in woods
and enclosures which filled the day, partly stragglers and marauders,
who were taken in the country-side while wandering away from their
colours.

  [185] I walked round Casal Novo on September 28, 1910. It is
  a very small place, under a low undulation of the high-lying
  plateau which the road crosses.

  [186] There is a good account of the combat of Casal Novo in
  William Napier’s _History_, iii. 119-20, and a still more
  striking one in his biography, pp. 55-7, containing some
  distressing anecdotes. He was severely wounded, as was also his
  brother George Napier of the 52nd, whose narrative is quite
  as interesting as William’s. It is he who describes Erskine’s
  reckless action best--informed by Colonel Ross that the French
  were still in Casal Novo ‘he kept blustering and swearing it was
  all nonsense--that the captains of the pickets knew nothing about
  the matter, and that there was not a man in the village. Just as
  he spoke the dense fog began to clear, and bang came a shot from
  a twelve-pounder, which struck the head of our column and made a
  lane through it, killing and wounding many. Then came a regular
  cannonade, but the wise Sir William was sure it was but a single
  gun and a picket supporting it, and desired Colonel Ross to send
  my company against its flank,’ &c. Costello of the 95th has also
  left a very good and lively narrative of the day’s work.

  [187] The losses of the 14th (Casal Novo) and the 15th (Foz do
  Arouce) have unfortunately got mixed in Martinien’s invaluable
  casualty lists, most of them being credited to the 14th, with the
  wrong heading ‘Condeixa’--which appears to mean Casal Novo. In
  some regiments the dates and names have not got wrong, e. g. we
  know that on the 14th the 27th regiment had 3 officers wounded,
  and 3 more at Foz do Arouce on the following day. But e. g. in
  the 39th Ligne Colonel Lamour is down as ‘blessé le 14 mars à
  Condeixa,’ while he was certainly wounded at Foz do Arouce on the
  15th, where he was also taken prisoner. The total of officers
  recorded as hit in the 6th Corps on the 14th-15th is 22, of whom
  10 were certainly casualties of the 14th. This must surely imply
  more than 55 in all, killed and wounded. At the low rate of 10
  men per officer it would give 100--at the normal rate of 20 per
  officer it would be 200. But the last is probably too high. It
  was on this day that Marbot had his famous encounter with a rifle
  officer (_officier de chasseurs à pied_) and two hussars, of whom
  (according to his narrative) he slew the first and wounded the
  other two. It cannot be disputed that he had a fight, for he is
  down as wounded in the official lists. But he certainly did not
  kill a rifle officer. The only light division officer slain that
  day was Lieutenant Gifford, who was killed by a ball in the head
  at Casal Novo. It is also to be noted that there are no cavalry
  casualties in the return of March 14, or indeed since Redinha.
  Marbot’s supposed victims thus disappear!

On this evening Reynier and the 2nd Corps, so long divided from the
rest of the French army, joined the main column. From March 10th to
March 13th they had lain at Espinhal, resting after the difficult
passage of the mountains, and endeavouring, without much success, to
scrape together food to fill their depleted stores. Being closely
observed, though not attacked, by Nightingale’s brigade, they could not
scatter very far for marauding. But on the 14th Wellington, during the
Casal Novo fighting, threw out Cole’s 4th Division far to his right
to Penella, where it got into touch with Nightingale. Seeing that
there was now a serious force in front of Reynier, and that it might
thrust itself between him and the rest of the army, Masséna bade his
lieutenant break up without delay, and come in to Miranda de Corvo.
This was easily done by a ten-mile march in the afternoon, and the 2nd
Corps camped on the further side of the Eça river that night. Thus
the whole French army, save Conroux’s division, was concentrated, and
44,000 men under arms, dragging behind them a baggage-train that was
still considerable, and over 5,000 sick and wounded, were gathered in
the defile and the little plain north of it, with a most forbidding
mountain range in their front, and the pursuing columns of Wellington
in their rear.

The situation appeared so grave to Masséna that he resolved to lighten
his army so far as was possible, in order to allow it to march faster.
On this night there was a general destruction not only of all wheeled
vehicles, save a minimum of ammunition waggons, but of all the baggage
of the army, regimental as well as personal. Ney set the example by
burning his own carriages, and abandoning all that could not be carried
on pack mules[188]. The sick and wounded were transferred from waggons
on to beasts of burden--a change which caused the death or abandonment
of many hundreds of them during the next two days. A strict inspection
was made of all the surviving draught and pack animals, and when those
still in a fair state had been set aside for the carriage of the sick
and the ammunition, an order was issued that all the rest should be
put to death. To avoid the noise which would have been caused by
shooting them, the officer charged with this duty caused them all to be
hamstrung, a cruel device which was surely unnecessary, for they could
have been killed as easily as mutilated by the sword or knife. The
horrid sight of more than 500 live horses, mules, and asses sprawling
or hobbling in a bleeding mass, just outside the village of Miranda
de Corvo, was never forgotten by those who witnessed it[189] in the
pursuit of the following morning.

  [188] For details see the diary of Ney’s aide-de-camp Sprünglin
  (p. 470). It is astounding to find Masséna in his dispatch of
  March 19 to Berthier stating that between Miranda de Corvo and
  Foz do Arouce ‘nos équipages et nos malades ne cessaient pas de
  filer, et rien absolument n’est resté en arrière.’

  [189] ‘The most disgusting sight was the asses floundering in the
  mud, some with throats half cut, the rest barbarously houghed.
  What the object of this was I never could guess. The poor
  brutes could have been of no use to us, for they could not have
  travelled another league. Their meagre appearance, with backbones
  and hips protruding through their skin, and their mangled limbs,
  produced a feeling of disgust and commiseration.’ (Grattan, p.
  58.)

  ‘It was pitiable to see the poor creatures in this state, yet
  there was something ludicrous in the position which many had
  taken when thus cruelly lamed. They were sitting in groups upon
  their hinder ends, staring in each other’s faces, as if in deep
  consultation on some important subject.’ (Donaldson of the 94th,
  p. 106.)

The sacrifice of the baggage was the preliminary to a desperate and
fatiguing night march. The 2nd Corps started off first, then the 8th,
leaving the 6th as usual to bring up the rear. After firing Miranda de
Corvo, in order that the conflagration in the narrow street leading up
from the bridge might delay the advance of the Allies, Ney followed
the rest of the army at one in the morning. All marched slowly in the
dark for ten miles of an uphill road, and before noon reached the
long descent into the valley of the Ceira, at the village of Foz do
Arouce[190]. The 2nd and 8th Corps crossed the stream with much delay,
at a bridge which had been somewhat injured by the local Ordenança but
was still serviceable. They deployed on a range of commanding heights
on the further side, and encamped. Ney, always eager to carry on the
detaining process which he had hitherto practised with such skill, only
sent three of his six brigades across the river[191], though Masséna
had ordered him to pass, and to destroy the bridge. He remained with
the rest and Lamotte’s light cavalry, posted on two long hills with the
village of Foz between them, on the hither side of the water. Though he
had a good position, yet the defile to the rear was a dangerous thing
for such a large body of troops, since the Ceira was in flood, and
every man had to retire over the single damaged bridge. Moreover the
troops, tired by the night march, guarded themselves badly; in especial
the cavalry, which ought to have watched every road, with vedettes out
for many miles to the front, huddled together near the river for the
convenience of water and grazing: General Lamotte indeed crossed the
Ceira with great part of his men, and seems to have kept no look-out
whatever[192].

  [190] Napier calls the village Foz de Aronce, and this spelling
  of it (probably caused by an uncorrected printer’s error)
  has been perpetuated by every English writer on the War. Yet
  Wellington has it rightly spelt with the ‘u’ in his dispatch
  (vii. p. 370) as ‘Foz de Arouce.’ Masséna, in his, calls it Foz
  d’Arunce, which is incorrect. Delagrave, Fririon, and other
  French narrators follow him, sometimes with the variants Aronce
  or Arounce. There is no doubt that the name is spelt with a ‘u,’
  and always has been, by the Portuguese.

  [191] All Marchand’s division and a brigade of Mermet’s (25th
  Léger and 27th Ligne) remained behind. Only Labassée’s brigade of
  Mermet’s division crossed the water, with Loison’s division.

  [192] I studied the ground at Foz do Arouce on September 28,
  1910. The bridge is only four and a half yards broad, and 107
  long. It was approached in 1811 by the road in a sharp turn,
  which has now been straightened out, so was far more difficult
  to cross than it is now. The gap between the hills in which the
  village lies is about 200 yards broad. The heights on the French
  left are much higher than those on their right.

Wellington’s pursuit this morning started very late. The burning of
the French baggage and of the town of Miranda had been noted in the
last hours of the night. But at dawn a heavy fog arose, and Wellington
refused to move his masses till it was certain that the French were not
still in position on the heights beyond the river with all their 44,000
men. For if Masséna were seeking a battle, as was quite possible, now
that he had concentrated all his three corps, it would be reckless
to attack him when every man of the allied army had to file over a
narrow bridge. It was not till reconnaissances had pushed across the
Eça, and had explored the burning town, and the ground beyond for some
miles, that orders were issued for the army to march on. Even then the
fog had not lifted, and the morning was some hours old before the 3rd
and Light Divisions were on their way. They followed the retreating
French up the long ascent, picking up many sick and stragglers, and
at about four o’clock in the afternoon came in sight of the enemy in
their new position behind the Ceira, with a formidable front extending
for several miles along the hills, and Ney’s rearguard visible on
the lower eminences on the hither side of the stream. Picton and
Erskine halted, thinking that it was too late in the afternoon to
undertake a serious attack, and that Wellington would wait, as usual,
for his supports to come up. They had directed their divisions to
encamp and thrown out their pickets, when the Commander-in-Chief rode
up, not long before dusk. Surveying the enemy, and seeing that few
battalions were under arms, and that Ney was evidently expecting no
fighting--his cavalry indeed had given him no proper warning of the
approach of the Allies--Wellington resolved to strike at once, though
his nearest reserve, the 6th Division, was still some way off. Picton
was told to attack the French left, the Light Division their right.
The first blow was very effective and partook of the nature of a
surprise, for the enemy was caught unprepared. Some companies of the
95th Rifles, penetrating down a hollow road, arrived almost unopposed
in the village of Foz, quite close to the bridge, while the rest of
the Light Division was holding Marchand’s troops engaged in a frontal
fight, and Picton was making good way against the brigade belonging
to Mermet, which formed the French left. The noise of close combat
breaking out almost in their rear, at a spot which seemed to indicate
that the bridge was in danger, and their retreat cut off, caused a
panic in the French right-centre, and the 39th regiment broke its
ranks and hurried towards the bridge, where it met and became jammed
against Lamotte’s cavalry, who were hastily returning to take up the
position from which they had unwisely retired an hour or two before.
Finding the passage impossible, the fugitives turned to a deep ford a
little down-stream and plunged into it, where many were drowned and the
regimental eagle was lost[193], while their colonel was taken prisoner.
Ney saved the situation, which had arisen through his own disobedience
to Masséna’s orders, by charging, with the third battalion of the 69th
regiment[194] the rifle companies which had got into Foz do Arouce
and were threatening the bridge. They were driven back on to their
support, the 52nd regiment, and the passage having been cleared by the
Marshal’s exertions, the troops to the left and right crossed it in
some disorder, and took refuge on the opposite bank. They were shelled
during their defile, not only by Ross’s and Bull’s horse artillery
batteries, but by some guns belonging to their own 8th Corps, which
in the deepening twilight failed to distinguish between pursuers and
pursued. By the time that night had fully set in, the French rearguard
was all over the river, and the bridge was blown up. If the attack had
been delivered an hour earlier, it is probable that Ney would have
suffered losses far greater than he actually endured--perhaps 250[195]
men killed, wounded, drowned, or taken--for the British divisions were
prevented by the failing light from acting as effectively as they
otherwise might against the masses hastily recrossing the bridge.
Wellington’s loss was trifling--4 officers and 67 men, nearly a third
of them in the rifle companies which had broken the French centre for
a moment, and had then been driven back by Ney. The small remainder
of the baggage of Marchand and Mermet was captured on this occasion,
including some biscuit, which proved most grateful to the Light
Division, as it had, like the rest of the British army, outmarched its
transport.

  [193] It was found in the river at low water and sent to London.
  The loss is mentioned in George Simmons’s diary under March 16.
  Wellington sent it home in July. (_Dispatches_, viii. p. 78.)

  [194] So both Masséna’s dispatch, and Fririon, who was present
  with the brigade of which the 69th formed part. Marbot is wrong
  in saying that it was the 27th. All the narratives on the French
  side are very confused, and differ widely.

  [195] Sprünglin says 400, Masséna, in his dispatch to Berthier,
  under 200, Marbot 150, _Victoires et Conquêtes_ 400. Sprünglin,
  as Ney’s aide-de-camp, had the best chance of knowing. But
  Martinien’s lists, in which I can only find ten or twelve
  casualties among officers, suggest a smaller total, roughly
  perhaps 250.

It may not be out of place to note that the combat of Foz do Arouce
bore a singular resemblance to Craufurd’s combat on the Coa of July
24, 1810. In each case a rearguard was tempted to stay too long beyond
an unfordable river and a narrow bridge, by the defensible nature of
the position in which it found itself, and nearly suffered a complete
disaster. The only difference was that Ney had at least double as
strong a force as Craufurd, and had also a whole army in line beyond
the river to support him, while the British general had no reserves
near. In each case the endangered detachment got away by dint of hard
fighting, with appreciable but by no means crushing losses. It is
curious that the tables were exactly turned between pursuer and pursued
in these two fights--in 1810 it was Ney who by a sudden assault hustled
the Light Division over the Coa. In 1811 the Light Division was at the
head of the striking force which thrust Ney over the Ceira, If Craufurd
had been in command instead of the incapable Erskine, there can be
little doubt that the matter would have been pushed to a more decisive
conclusion, despite of the dusk.

[Illustration: FOZ D’AROUCE]

On the morning of March 16th, the hills beyond the Ceira, where a whole
army had been visible on the preceding day, were now seen to be almost
void of defenders--only a trifling rearguard was visible watching the
broken bridge from a distance. Wellington sent scouts over the river
to reconnoitre, but did not cross it in force. He had accomplished
his main design of thrusting the French off the Coimbra road and into
the mountains, and he had entirely outmarched his provisions. He had
now got so far from his base at Lisbon that food sent up from thence
had far to travel, and he had not yet succeeded in setting up an
intermediate dépôt at Coimbra, though store-ships were already ordered
from Lisbon to its port of Figueira[196], now that there was no danger
of the enemy crossing the lower Mondego. During the last week the army
had used up all that it carried with it, and the Portuguese brigades,
badly supplied by the native commissariat, had run short even before
the British. Pack’s and Ashworth’s men had received no regular rations
for four days[197], and had only kept up to the front by gleaning in
the deserted bivouacs of the French, and borrowing the little that
the British commissariat could spare. Everything had run dry by the
16th, and Wellington considered that no great harm would be suffered
by waiting a day on the Ceira, for the first convoy to come up from
the rear, since the French were now in rugged ground, where they could
not make any long attempt to stand for sheer want of food. They must
continue their retreat or starve in a depopulated country. Accordingly
Wellington settled down at Lousão and took stock of the general
position of affairs: the result of his halt was an immense discharge
of arrears of correspondence--he had written only one dispatch between
the 10th and 16th of March, but got off seventeen on the last-named
day. Some of these are very important, as showing that he regarded the
crisis as over, and the ultimate evacuation of Portugal by the French
as certain. The most notable are two orders to Beresford[198], making
over to him once more the 4th Division and De Grey’s heavy dragoons for
the expedition into Estremadura, which now had as its object not the
relief of Badajoz (whose capitulation was known) but the holding back
of Soult from Campo Mayor and Elvas.

  [196] See _Dispatches_, vii. p. 366.

  [197] There is a bitter letter from Pack of March 21st in his
  _Memoirs_ concerning the ‘bad commissariat and worse medical
  establishment of an inefficient and penniless government which no
  officer can serve with pleasure or advantage,’ which quite bears
  out Wellington, _Dispatches_, vii. p. 371.

  [198] Wellington had called Beresford up to him on May 9th, and
  the latter was present at Pombal and Redinha. He rode hastily
  back to pick up his forces, which were to form the Army of
  Estremadura, on the 16th and reached Thomar on the 17th March.

It will be remembered that the 2nd Division and Hamilton’s Portuguese
had been left behind near Abrantes when Wellington determined, on
March 9th, not to send an expedition against Soult, till he could
make it up to a force sufficient to cope with the army that was
beleaguering Badajoz. They were not to commit themselves to any
offensive operations, or to cross the Portuguese frontier, till the
reinforcements arrived, but were to move a stage on their way toward
the south. Accordingly the head quarters of the 2nd Division were
at Tramagal on the 14th, with its attached cavalry (the 13th Light
Dragoons) at Crato in advance, while the Portuguese horse of Otway had
been sent to watch the roads to Elvas by Portalegre and Estremos. Here
there was a halt for a week, Beresford being absent with Wellington
for five days, and it was not till the 17th that the movement towards
Estremadura began again, on his return. Meanwhile Masséna, oddly
enough, knowing of the existence of a considerable allied force at
Abrantes, and not feeling it on his own flank, formed a theory that it
must have been sent in a long sweep up by the Zezere, to drop into the
upper Mondego valley and cut him off from Spain. Nervousness as to this
imaginary movement had no small effect on his main operations[199].

  [199] Masséna to Berthier, from Maceira, March 19: ‘D’après les
  rapports, le général Hill [he means Beresford, who had been in
  charge of Hill’s former command since December] se portait avec
  sa division et un gros détachement de Portugais à travers les
  montagnes du haut Zézère, se dirigeant sur la rive gauche du
  Mondégo. Dès ce moment j’ai abandonné l’espoir de garder cette
  rive sans risquer une bataille.’ ... ‘Dans l’état actuel des
  choses et d’après les mouvements que l’ennemi peut faire sur mes
  flancs, par le Mondégo ou par les montagnes de Guarda, où s’est
  dirigé le corps de Hill, il est nécessaire de rapprocher l’armée
  de notre base d’opérations’ [i. e. to retreat into Spain].

By sending off Cole and De Grey to join the future Army of Estremadura,
on the 16th March, Wellington reduced the force about him by 7,000
men, and had no more than 38,000 left on the Ceira. The newly formed
7th Division, which was marching up from Lisbon, and would ultimately
replace Cole with the main army, was at this moment only reaching
Santarem; it did not come up to the front till March was at its end.
For the rest of his operations against Masséna, therefore, Wellington
was more than ever in a state of numerical inferiority, and forced to
be cautious. But he was in a confident mood, foreseeing that the enemy
could not now stop in Portugal, and must be starved into a prompt
retreat over the frontier.

His conviction that the crisis was over is shown by another dispatch
of the 20th March, in which he directs that the whole of the Lisbon
Militia and Ordenança be dismissed to their homes, the former on
furlough, the latter for good. The Militia of the lower Beira (the
Castello Branco country) and of northern Estremadura were also to
return to their native districts, to be sent on leave or kept under
arms according as further events might determine[200]. Thus the Lines
of Torres Vedras were left ungarrisoned, there being no further danger
to be feared in the direction of Lisbon.

  [200] Wellington to Beresford. (_Dispatches_, vii. 375-6.)

There was still much work, however, for the Militia of the North,
Trant’s and Wilson’s brigades, who were brought down to the middle
Mondego, and sent successively to Peña Cova, Mortagoa, and Fornos,
to guard the fords and restrain the French from endeavouring to raid
the north bank of the river. It was unlikely that they would make a
serious attempt to cross in force into the barren country under the
Serra de Alcoba, when they were in such a desperate plight for food,
and would have the allied army close behind them, for the troops were
to march again on the 17th. The middle Mondego, it must be remembered,
was bridgeless, and in flood from the spring rains: even if Masséna had
driven off Trant and Wilson, it would have taken him a long time to
build a bridge (since he had no pontoons) and Wellington would have
been pressing him in the rear before he had got more than a vanguard
over the water. The Marshal seems never to have contemplated at this
date a movement on to Coimbra or Oporto by the north bank of the
Mondego, such as is suggested as possible by some of the commentators
on the campaign: after the day of Condeixa a retreat eastward was
always in his mind[201]. His army was too dilapidated to make the
least offensive stroke. ‘I think it necessary for the interests of his
Imperial majesty,’ wrote Masséna on the 19th, ‘to bring the troops
back nearer to our base of operations by our fortresses [Almeida and
Rodrigo], in order to let them recover a little from their fatigues and
long privations, and to allow me to replace so much equipment which is
now entirely lacking[202].’

  [201] ‘Rien ne nous empêchait,’ says Masséna’s biographer Koch,
  ‘de passer à gué le Mondégo, et de nous rendre maîtres de la
  Sierra de Alcoba, d’où nous menacerions Coïmbre et toute la
  contrée comprise entre le Mondégo, le Duero et la mer.’ But there
  _was_ a hindrance--or rather three hindrances--the Mondego was
  not fordable at the moment, and what was more important, the
  starving army could not have lived on the country-side north of
  the Mondego. Moreover the passage of the Mondego with a lively
  enemy at his heels would have been too dangerous for Masséna,
  who had already refused to accept such conditions on the day of
  Condeixa.

  [202] From Masséna’s dispatch to Berthier, March 19.

On the 16th, the day after the combat of Foz do Arouce, the 2nd and
8th Corps marched before dawn, in drenching rain, and retired as far
as the Alva river, where the bridge of Ponte de Murcella, repaired for
a moment by Drouet when he passed it a few days before, had again been
broken by Wilson’s Militia. It took all the day to repair it, and by
the evening only the artillery had been sent across. The divisions of
Mermet and Loison followed at a distance, leaving behind the much-tried
battalions of Marchand, which Ney had once more chosen to form his
rearguard. He drew them up across the road a few miles from the Ceira,
expecting to be attacked once more in the morning. But to his surprise
Wellington did not cross the river, and only sent a few scouts to
discover the position of the Marshal. Meanwhile his engineers mended
the bridge at Foz.

On the 17th, at dawn, Masséna sent the 8th Corps across the repaired
bridge of Ponte de Murcella, after which it halted at Cortiça, Moita,
and other villages beyond the Alva river, whose passage it was prepared
to defend. But the 2nd Corps was marched up-stream to Sarzedo, the next
ford, and placed there in position, with a detachment beyond the river
at the town of Arganil on its south bank. The 6th Corps, following the
other two, crossed the Alva at Ponte de Murcella later in the day, and
joined the 8th; it left a small detachment beyond the bridge to observe
the expected arrival of the Allies. Of the horsemen, Montbrun’s heavy
dragoons watched the lower course of the Alva, from Ponte de Murcella
to its junction with the Mondego, while Junot’s corps-cavalry was sent
up the Alva eastward, to hold the fords beyond Arganil.

These dispositions seemed to indicate an intention to make a serious
stand behind the Alva, where the positions are very strong. The river
is a fierce mountain torrent in a deep bed, with precipitous banks, and
very few fords. Wellington had fixed on this line, during the Bussaco
campaign in the preceding autumn, as the position where he should await
the French if they advanced by the south bank of the Mondego, and had
thrown up earthworks on each side of the Ponte de Murcella. These were,
of course, useless to Masséna, since they looked the wrong way; but the
river line was almost as defensible from the north bank as from the
south, and presented a very formidable obstacle to the pursuing enemy.

By the evening of the 17th Wellington was once more in touch with the
enemy. The cavalry brigades of Slade and Arentschildt had crossed the
bridge of Foz do Arouce, and followed the 6th Corps to the Alva, with
the 6th and Light Divisions behind them. The infantry, however, did not
show themselves, but encamped in the hills, some miles from the Ponte
de Murcella. They found the road strewn with dead or dying mules and
horses, and took a certain number of French sick and stragglers.

But Wellington had no intention of forcing the Ponte de Murcella
position; while two divisions took this road, the rest of the army
(1st, 3rd, 5th Divisions, and the Portuguese independent brigades)
were marched eastward by the steep road along the top of the watershed
between the Ceira and the Alva, the route Furcado-Arganil, towards
the fords of the upper Alva. They drove out of the last-named place
Reynier’s observing detachment, which reported that it had seen the
Allies in great force marching up-stream. This news convinced Masséna
that his adversary was intending either to cross the ford of Sarzedo
and attack Reynier, or to move still further up the valley, and to pass
the Alva in its upper course, so throwing himself across the main road
to Celorico, by which the Army of Portugal was intending to retreat.
Nothing but cavalry scouts having been seen opposite the Ponte de
Murcella, it was supposed that Wellington’s whole army was marching on
Arganil.

Accordingly, on the afternoon of the 17th, Masséna ordered the 8th
Corps to break up hastily from its camps and to march all night to
Galliges, on the high road beyond Reynier’s left. This was done, and
Junot hurried off, leaving hundreds of foragers scattered on the slopes
towards the Mondego, whither they had been sent out in search of food
during the day. Ney remained behind at the Ponte de Murcella, to keep
the passage as long as possible; he was uncertain, as was Masséna,
whether there was in his front only a cavalry screen or a serious force
of all arms.

On the morning of the 18th this problem was solved, for the Light
Division came down to the river, drove Ney’s rearguard across it, and
opened a cannonade against the troops of the 6th Corps visible on the
opposite bank. No serious attempt was made to pass, the intention being
only to hold Ney to his ground as long as possible by demonstrations,
while the real crossing was made far up-stream. This plan had the
desired result. In the afternoon Ney received the news that the Allies
had begun to cross the Alva at the ford of Pombeiro, from which they
had driven off one of Reynier’s battalions. If any considerable force
got over the river at this point, the 6th Corps was cut off from the
rest of the army; accordingly the Marshal ordered his three divisions
to march off without a moment’s delay; ‘I never saw _Johnny_ go off
in such confusion,’ says a Light Division diarist[203]. The cavalry
brigade of Arentschildt sent out reconnoitring parties, who forded the
river, while the engineers rigged up a temporary wooden bridge close to
the Ponte de Murcella[204], by which the 6th and Light Divisions were
able to cross at dawn on the following day.

  [203] Diary of George Simmons of the 95th, p. 146.

  [204] Napier says, ‘by an ingenious raft contrived by the
  staff-corps’ (iii. 126), but Tomkinson of the 16th Light Dragoons
  and Simmons speak of a wooden bridge.

On the left the decisive crossing at Pombeiro had been made by the
Guards’ brigade of the 1st Division[205]: Reynier made no attempt
to support the single battalion at the ford, but called it in, and
drew up in battle order on the Serra de Moita some distance above
the river. There was no fighting here, and after dusk the 2nd Corps
decamped, taking the road Galliges-Chamusca-Gouvea-Celorico, which runs
parallel to and above the Alva; the 6th Corps fell in behind the 2nd;
the 8th, which had already got further to the east during the march
of the preceding night, led the column and was beyond Galliges in the
afternoon[206].

  [205] So the diary of Captain Stothert of the 3rd Guards, p.
  250. He puts the crossing later in the afternoon than the French
  sources, but the whole 1st Division was across by dark. Several
  French critics (e. g. Delagrave) blame Reynier for not stopping
  the small force that first crossed.

  [206] These movements are best given in Fririon’s diary:
  Sprünglin gives some help for the 6th Corps.

On the night of the 18th-19th and the following morning the whole
French army made a most protracted and fatiguing march, which cost
them many stragglers and much material. This was the longest stage
which Masséna made during the whole retreat, more than twenty miles of
mountain road being covered in one stretch. On the evening of the 19th
the head of the 8th Corps was at Pinhanços, that of the 2nd at Çaragoça
and Sandomil, that of the 6th at Chamusca. The British cavalry in
pursuit picked up an immense number of prisoners this day, mainly small
parties of foragers belonging to the 6th and 8th Corps, who had been
marauding in the direction of the Mondego when their regiments received
sudden orders to march: they returned towards their camps to fall into
the hands of the British cavalry. Arentschildt’s brigade alone took 200
this day[207], and the total according to Wellington’s dispatch was
600 men[208]. Among them were an aide-de-camp of Loison’s and several
other officers. Some droves of oxen were captured from the foragers
and from the rear of the 6th Corps, and this was the only food which
the British vanguard got that day, for once more, as several diarists
ruefully note, ‘biscuit was out.’ The pursuers state that ‘quantities
of tumbrils, carts, waggons and other articles were abandoned by
the enemy’[209], and no doubt were right, though Masséna wrote that
evening from Maceira, ‘Nous n’avons pas laissé en arrière un malade,
un blessé, ni la moindre voiture d’artillerie ou de bagages’[210]. But
his dispatches frequently contained what he knew that Napoleon would
desire to see rather than the truth. Considering the difficulties of
the retreat, and the skilful way in which he had conducted it, he might
have been contented with his actual achievements, and need not have
padded out his reports with ‘terminological inexactitudes’. It must be
confessed that his aide-de-camp Fririon played a good second to him
when he wrote in his journal that between the 15th and 31st of March
the Army of Portugal left behind only twenty prisoners and fifty men
lost while marauding[211].

  [207] Tomkinson’s diary, p. 87.

  [208] _Dispatches_, vii. p. 375.

  [209] Simmons’s diary, p. 148.

  [210] Masséna to Berthier, from Maceira, March 19th.

  [211] Fririon’s _Campagne de Portugal_, p. 176.

[Illustration: THE LOWER MONDEGO. To illustrate the First Stage of
Masséna’s Retreat.]

On the morning of the 20th March Wellington’s army was all across
the Alva, but only the cavalry and the Light, 3rd, and 6th Divisions
continued the pursuit. The small convoy received on the 17th was
exhausted, and what little food remained was made over to the three
divisions named above, while the 1st, 5th, and Pack’s and Ashworth’s
Portuguese halted for five days at Moita and the neighbouring villages,
till the first train of provisions sent up from Coimbra should arrive.
Of the troops which could still be fed, the Light Division pushed on
as far as Galliges that night, the 3rd and 6th were behind them. The
French, thanks to their desperate night march, were already a long way
ahead, and it was late on the 20th before the cavalry overtook, near
Cea, their extreme rearguard, two battalions of Heudelet’s division and
a hussar regiment. General Slade, whose brigade was leading, refused to
attack them until infantry and guns came up to his aid, and the French
slipped away before Elder’s Caçadores and Bull’s battery reached
him[212]. ‘This was the second day without bread, and the third without
corn for the horses, and we had marched nearly five leagues,’ explains
a cavalry diarist[213]. The pursuers were as harassed as the pursued,
and could go no further, but Slade was thought to have shown weakness.
He picked up a good many stragglers and sick, and found the road strewn
with broken vehicles and dying mules.

  [212] According to Fririon’s diary the H.A. guns arrived in time
  to shell the rear battalion and kill one officer.

  [213] Tomkinson, p. 87: ‘Every one talked loudly of Slade’s
  conduct through the day.’

Meanwhile Masséna had divided his army into two columns at the fork of
the roads near Maceira. The 2nd Corps, taking, on the right hand, the
southern and more hilly route, reached Gouvea. The 8th Corps, taking
the northern fork, got to Villacortes, and sent its cavalry on ahead to
the bridge of Fornos, which they found broken and guarded by Trant’s
Militia. The 6th Corps, following the 8th, lay at Pinhanços. Since
leaving the Ponte de Murcella the French were a little less pressed for
food: the district through which they were now passing was fertile, and
had not been raided before; most of the peasantry had returned to it
during the winter. Hasty plundering on both sides of the road brought
in a certain amount of food, especially in the way of cattle, which
had been sent up into the hills, but were often discovered by skilled
marauders. There was continual bickering with the Ordenança, one party
of whom, only 300 strong, tried, with more courage than discretion, to
defend the village of Penalva against the advanced guard of the 2nd
Corps. All along the road the pursuing Light Division found the dead
bodies of peasantry, mixed with those of the French sick who had fallen
by the way.

On the 21st the 8th Corps reached Celorico, where Drouet was found
in position with Conroux’s division of the 9th Corps. The 6th Corps
reached Carapichina and Cortiça. The 2nd, turning off at Villacortes on
the Guarda road, had a most distressing mountain march to Villamonte.
The pursuing infantry of the Light and 3rd Divisions reached Pinhanços
and Maceira, with the cavalry five miles in front, at the convent of
Vinho. They had now dropped fifteen miles behind the French rear,
and were quite out of touch with it, but continued to pick up
stragglers--200 men are said to have been taken on that day[214].
Like the enemy, they were now commencing to get a little food from
the country. ‘The peasants, who had all fled to the mountains on the
enemy’s retreat, on seeing us come down, baked bread for the troops,
and gave us whatever they had left. They had suffered a good deal,
all the principal houses had been burnt, and those left a good deal
destroyed, but the [French] troops had not been able to discover all
the corn, &c., concealed[215].’

  [214] Simmons of the 95th, diary, p. 148.

  [215] Tomkinson’s diary, p. 88.

On the 22nd the French army had reached the end of the main retreat.
Two corps were concentrated in and near Celorico[216], the other
(Reynier) reached Guarda, where it found Claparéde’s division of
Drouet’s corps, which had been there for some weeks. They were now only
three marches from Almeida and four from Ciudad Rodrigo; communication
with these two places was open, for Drouet and the 9th Corps had
now come into touch again with the Commander-in-Chief, and were
available for keeping the roads safe. The English had been outmarched,
and Masséna might have retired to Almeida and Rodrigo practically
unmolested, by a good _chaussée_. But this was not to be the end of the
campaign, as every one in the French army, save its Commander-in-Chief,
fervently desired. For generals and rank and file alike were tired
out, and yearned for a cessation of mountain marches, and a rest in
well-provisioned cantonments, before they should be called upon for
another effort. But another and a most unexpected episode was to take
place before the weary columns reached Rodrigo. Masséna made one more
attempt to ‘save his face,’ and to avoid being thrust over the Spanish
frontier, along the road on to which his adversary had forced him.
This led to a fortnight more of manœuvres in the mountains, and to the
combats of Guarda and Sabugal, after which the French Marshal had to
pocket his pride and acquiesce in the inevitable. These operations are
of a character so different from those which preceded them that they
must be treated as a separate story. The retreat from Santarem really
ended at Celorico. The events between March 22nd and April 4th must be
dealt with apart, since they practically amounted to a belated attempt
on the part of Masséna to seize the offensive once more, and to shift
the scene of war without his adversary’s consent. The project failed,
and (as we shall see) was hopeless from the first.

  [216] Ney remained quiet at Cortiço and Carapichina this day, but
  was only ten miles from Celorico, and so may be considered as
  part of the same body as the 8th Corps.

Before dealing with it, a few remarks on the general character of the
operations that had taken place between March 9th and March 22nd must
be made. When reading in succession two narratives of Masséna’s retreat
from Santarem to Celorico, one by an English and one by a French
eye-witness, it is often difficult to realize that the two writers are
describing the same series of operations. Most of the French conceive
the retreat to have been a series of triumphant rearguard actions, in
which their army got off practically unmolested, under cover of the
skilful operations of a small covering force. On the other hand, the
English tell the tale as if the whole French army was easily hunted out
of Portugal by inferior numbers, foiled in repeated attempts to occupy
a permanent position in the valley of the Mondego, and finally thrust
back in a direction which it did not intend to take. Where the French
tell of nothing but an orderly retreat and small losses, the English
speak of the capture of hundreds of prisoners, and the destruction of
the whole baggage-train of the retiring army.

To a certain extent the mental attitudes of both sets of narrators can
be understood and justified by the impartial student. When a rearguard
action takes place, the covering force left behind by the retiring army
always thinks of itself as being opposed to the whole pursuing host.
It considers itself to be braving the assault of immensely superior
forces, and if it holds its own for a time and gets off without
crushing losses, is well satisfied with its own conduct. This is both
justifiable and comprehensible. But to the pursuer the same rearguard
action presents an entirely different moral aspect. The few squadrons
and battalions forming the head of his advance find themselves suddenly
brought to a check by a considerable hostile force arrayed in a
formidable position. They are forced to halt till their supports begin
to come up, from five, ten, or fifteen miles in the rear. Then, when
a body of reserve has begun to accumulate behind them, they launch
themselves upon the enemy, who gives ground after more or less fighting
and retires. The leading brigade or division of the pursuers considers
that it has victoriously driven the whole hostile army from its strong
position, and is no less satisfied with itself than is the force to
which it has been opposed. In short, all rearguard actions begin with a
check to the pursuers; they all end with the retreat of the defenders.
This is their necessary course; both parties, if their generals play
the game properly, may be content with themselves; the one has gained
time for the escape of the main body of the retreating host, the other
has cleared the way for the progress of the pursuing army. The only
method in which their relative merits can be tested, is by asking
whether the rearguard detained the advanced guard as long as might have
been expected, inflicted disproportionate losses upon it, and got away
with the minimum of loss to itself, or whether, on the other hand, the
advanced guard evicted its opponents from their position at a rapid
rate, with small sacrifices, and with considerable punishment inflicted
on the enemy. The mere facts that the rearguard held back the pursuers
for some hours, and that the advanced guard ultimately carried the
enemy’s position, are obligatory incidents of such fights. When we come
to examine the details of the combats which took place between the 11th
and 19th of March, we shall neither hold with the French narrators that
for many days Ney and two divisions of the 6th Corps fought and held
back Wellington’s whole army, nor with the English narrators that the
Light and 3rd Divisions, unassisted by their comrades, hunted 40,000
French out of the valley of the lower Mondego. Yet it is true that of
forty-four French infantry officers, who were killed or wounded in
Portugal between these dates, no less than thirty-seven belonged to
the divisions of Marchand and Mermet, while, similarly, of twenty-nine
British and Portuguese officers hit in the same period, no less than
nineteen belonged to the Light Division and eight more to the 3rd.
Clearly therefore Ney did not contend with the whole British army,
but only with its two leading divisions, and those two divisions did
not contend with the whole French army, but only with the two units
which formed its rearguard. Fine writing on both sides, as to struggles
against overwhelming odds, must be disregarded. Still more so may
the exaggerated estimates as to loss inflicted on the enemy which
are to be found in the narratives of most of the first-hand writers.
What they are worth may be guessed from Marbot’s statement that the
British lost 1,000 men at Redinha--Noël raises this liberal estimate
to 1,800[217]--the real casualty list being 240. Similarly Grattan
tells us that the French had 1,000 men _hors de combat_ at Foz do
Arouce[218], when their actual loss seems to have been about 250.

  [217] Noël, _Souvenirs militaires_, p. 141.

  [218] Grattan’s _With the Connaught Rangers_, 1809-13, p. 58.

The accusations of timidity and over-caution which these contemporary
chroniclers lavish upon each other’s generals are equally absurd.
Wellington is always rallied by the French for want of courage and
enterprise, because he did not at once dash the first two or three
battalions that came up against a division in position, but waited for
his supports. And Ney is criticized by both English and French writers
for having sometimes withdrawn from the fight over early, because
at Condeixa and on the Alva he hastened to get out of a dangerous
situation. Both generals, in reality, acted with perfect tactical
correctness; armies do not meet for the purpose of putting in the
maximum of fighting, without regard for ends or consequences, and the
commander who attacks before he has a sufficient force collected is
blameworthy just in the same degree as the commander who holds out too
long in a hazardous position.

Most of the French criticism on Wellington is based on the false
hypothesis that his army outnumbered Masséna’s during the whole
retreat, and that he therefore should have achieved greater results.
As a matter of fact, as we have seen, he was never stronger than the
enemy, because he had been forced to detach Beresford’s two divisions
against Soult before he started. And when, in the later stages of
the retreat, the French were short of Conroux’s division of the 9th
Corps, which had gone on to Celorico ahead of the main army, it must
be remembered that Wellington from March 16th onwards was deprived
of Cole’s division and the heavy dragoons, who had been sent off
southward to join Beresford. A pursuing army dealing with a superior
retreating army must act with the greatest caution, lest it should
suddenly run up against the enemy’s whole force, and find itself
committed to an offensive action against greater numbers in a strong
position. Wellington never fell into this trap; he manœuvred the French
out of every line which they took up, without incurring any danger,
or allowing his adversary any chance of harming him. While giving all
credit to Ney for the brilliant rearguard tactics by which he often
held back the pursuers for half a day, it is necessary to give equal
credit to Wellington for having fought his way through half a dozen
formidable lines of defence, with a minimum of loss, and without once
exposing himself to the chance of a serious check. After all, his
object was to drive Masséna away from the Mondego and towards Spain,
and that object he achieved in the most triumphant fashion.[219]

  [219] The student must he specially warned against Fririon’s
  figures for French losses. Though he was Masséna’s aide-de-camp,
  and wrote a quasi-official account of the whole retreat, his
  numbers are wholly untrustworthy. He states (p. 149) that the
  6th Corps only lost 179 killed and wounded between March 1 and
  March 15. The actual losses were Pombal, 63; Redinha, 227; Casal
  Novo, at least 55; Foz do Arouce, at least 250 = 600. Similarly
  he states the loss at Sabugal at 250; the official casualty list
  sent in to the Marshal gives a total of 750. Fririon, from his
  position, must have seen, or at least could have seen, these
  figures.



SECTION XXIV: CHAPTER II

GUARDA AND SABUGAL. MARCH 22ND-APRIL 12TH, 1811


At noon on March 22nd, the day following that on which the French head
quarters had reached Celorico, Masséna issued a new set of orders,
entirely contradictory to those which he had been giving during the
last fifteen days. Though on the 19th he had stated his intention
of ‘falling back closer to his base of operations on the fortresses
[Almeida and Rodrigo], and giving the army a rest after its fatigues
and privations[220],’ he now proposed to plunge back once more into
the mountains, and to swerve aside from his places of strength and his
dépôts. The commanders of the corps received the astounding news that
it was the intention of the Commander-in-Chief to turn south-eastward,
towards the Spanish frontier and the central Tagus, with the object
of taking up a position in the Coria-Plasencia country, from which he
would threaten central Portugal on a new front. This necessitated a
march from Celorico through the mountains of Belmonte and Penamacor,
and then across the Sierra de Meras, into the thinly-peopled plateau of
northern Estremadura.

  [220] Dispatch to Berthier, from Maceira, of that date.

Supposing that the centre of the Iberian peninsula had been a fertile
plain resembling Lombardy or Flanders, there would have been something
to say for this plan. Still more might it have been advisable if the
French army had been a fresh and intact force just opening a campaign.
Pelet, Masséna’s chief aide-de-camp, tries to justify the proposal by
saying that ‘it was more conformable to the general rules of strategy;
we should have connected ourselves with the 5th Corps in Estremadura,
with the Army of the Centre, and the general pivot of operations at
Madrid; we should have brought Lord Wellington back to the position
that he had quitted; we should have kept the results of the advantages
recently won in Estremadura, which were so soon to be lost; we should
also have had the means to menace once more Central Portugal and the
Lines of Torres Vedras[221].’ This is all very plausible, but it omits
the crucial facts that the Army of Portugal was tired out, destitute
of munitions, and almost destitute of food, and that it was proposed
to lead it across two difficult ranges of mountains full of gorges and
defiles, into a region which was one of the most thinly peopled and
desolate in all Spain, where there was not a single French soldier,
much less a dépôt of any sort. This was the same district in which
Victor had starved in 1809, and in passing through which Wellington
had suffered so many privations on the way to Talavera. It had been
visited in February by a flying column under Lahoussaye, sent out from
Talavera, which had got as far as Plasencia and Alcantara, and then
retired, because it was absolutely impossible for 3,000 men to live in
it.

  [221] Pelet’s _Appendice sur la Guerre d’Espagne_ in _Victoires
  et Conquêtes_, 21, p. 336.

Masséna’s maps were very bad--the actual set used by his head-quarters
staff is in existence, and can be seen at Belfast[222]. But his
intelligence department must have been worse than his maps, if he was
unaware of the character of the country on the border of Portugal and
Spain, and of that lying beyond, in northern Estremadura. He might
have asked information about it from Reynier and Ney, who had both
crossed it, but he did not. Most striking of all, however, is the
ignorance shown in these orders of the physical and moral state of
the French army. If it had ever reached Plasencia, it would have got
there without a gun or a baggage mule--the caissons and carriages were
almost all gone already. A single set of figures may serve to show
the situation: the artillery of the 8th Corps started from Almeida in
September 1810 with 142 wheeled units--guns, caissons, waggons, &c.,
and 891 horses. It got back to Ciudad Rodrigo on April 4, 1811, with
49 guns and caissons drawn by 182 horses, having lost 93 vehicles and
709 horses. Forty-one of the caissons and waggons had been destroyed
before the commencement of the retreat, the rest had been dropped
between Thomar and Celorico[223]. There were left at the end of March
only 24 guns with 25 caissons of ammunition, to draw which required
all the horses remaining. How long could this artillery have fought
with only one caisson of ammunition per gun left? How many horses would
have been alive after another hundred miles of mountain roads? Even if
some guns had got to Plasencia, how long would it have taken to get
them ammunition from Salamanca or Madrid, the nearest dépôts? The same
question would be no less forcible with regard to infantry ammunition,
which was depleted to an equal extent with that of the artillery.

  [222] Captured at Vittoria, they were long after given to Belfast
  University.

  [223] All these interesting figures come from the diary of
  Colonel Noël, commanding the artillery of Clausel’s division; see
  his memoirs, pp. 137 and 146.

But it is even more important to remember that the Army of Portugal was
also in desperate straits for boots and clothing. In many regiments
a third or a quarter of the men had no footgear but ‘rivlins,’ or
mocassins made every few days from the hides of cattle. The uniforms
were in rags; many soldiers had nothing that recalled the regulation
attire but the _capote_ that covered everything.

Yet the main thing of all was the moral aspect of affairs. The army
would fight when it was its duty, as French armies always have done,
but it was discontented, sulky, angry with the Marshal, to whom it
attributed its miseries--though its indignation might have been
more justly reserved for the Emperor, who had set his lieutenant an
impossible task. The rank and file had sunk low in discipline, as must
be always the case when troops have been living by daily plunder for
six months. And this same want of discipline was most evident among
the generals, who, now that Masséna had failed, openly criticized him
before their staffs, and often neglected his orders. Masséna suspected
Ney, Junot, and Reynier alike of intending to denounce him to the
Emperor as a blunderer. It will be remembered that he had already
detected Reynier in a trick of this description[224]. Ney had been
girding at his orders with fury ever since the retreat began, and was
telling all who cared to listen that a hasty return to Spain was the
only possible policy, and that the dream of holding out on the Mondego
or the Alva was absurd.

  [224] See p. 80.

It was probably not on mere strategic grounds, but because he was
determined to assert himself, to prove that he was master of his own
movements, and that he was not yet a beaten man or a failure, that
Masséna issued orders on the 22nd for the 2nd Corps to make ready to
move southward, not northward, from Guarda, and for the 6th and 8th
to prepare to follow on the same route. This provoked an explosion
of wrath on the part of Ney, who in the course of four hours of the
afternoon wrote three successive letters to his commander, in terms of
growing irritation. In the first, which was sent off before receiving
the detailed orders for the new movement, he merely set forth all
the objections to it, and inquired whether Masséna had the Emperor’s
leave for such a general change of plans. In the second, after he had
received and read the orders, he protested formally against them, and
said that, unless positive instructions from Paris authorizing the
new scheme had been received, the 6th Corps should not march. He gave
many arguments, and they were incontestably true. ‘The army has need
to rest behind the shelter of Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo, in order
to receive the clothing and shoes which are absolutely necessary,
and which must be brought up from the magazines. Your Excellency is
mistaken in thinking that food can be got in abundance in the region
of Coria and Plasencia. I have marched through that country [during
the attempt to cut off Wellington’s retreat from Talavera in 1809],
and it is impossible to exaggerate its sterility or the badness of its
roads. Your Excellency will not get one single gun so far, with the
teams that we have brought out of Portugal. Moreover this manœuvre, so
singular at this particular moment, would entirely uncover Old Castile,
and compromise all our operations in Spain. I am fully aware of the
responsibility which I take upon myself in making formal opposition
to your intentions, but, even if I were destined to be cashiered
or condemned to death, I could not execute the march on Coria and
Plasencia directed by your Highness, unless (of course) it has been
ordered by the Emperor[225].’

  [225] The three letters are all printed in full in Fririon’s
  _Memoir_, and the second of them in _Belmas’s Pièces
  justificatives_, p. 507.

Within two hours of the second letter Ney sent in the third, which
was no mere protest, nor even a mere refusal to move, but an open
declaration of his intention to march back to Almeida. ‘I warn your
Excellency that to-morrow I shall leave my positions of Carapichina
and Cortiço, and échelon my troops from Celorico to Freixadas, and
on the day after they will be between Freixadas and Almeida. This
disposition is forced on me, in order to prevent the whole force from
disbanding, under the pretext of searching for the food necessary for
its subsistence, for food is now absolutely lacking.’

Unless he was to surrender his authority altogether, and obey
his subordinate, Masséna had now to strike. Ney had put himself
absolutely in the wrong in the way of military subordination, though
he was as absolutely in the right in the way of strategy. And the
Commander-in-Chief had every technical justification when he formally
deposed him from the command of the 6th Corps, and directed him to
leave for Valladolid without delay, and there await the orders of the
Emperor. Loison, the senior of the three divisional generals of the
6th Corps, was ordered to take over its command next morning. Several
of Ney’s partisans urged him to refuse obedience, to seize the person
of Masséna, and to declare himself Commander-in-Chief of the Army of
Portugal. We are assured that he would have been backed in the step by
the whole of his own corps, and would have met no resistance from the
others, for Masséna was universally disliked, and every man wished to
continue the retreat on Almeida of which Ney was the advocate[226]. But
he shrank from levying open war upon his chief, and departed among the
tears of the whole 6th Corps, of which he knew every officer and many
men by sight. It had been under him, without a break, since he first
formed it at the camp of Montreuil, near Boulogne, in 1804.

  [226] Ney’s aide-de-camp Sprünglin says in his diary (p. 474)
  that Ney hesitated for some time before rejecting the idea of a
  _coup de main_ against Masséna, which was hotly urged upon him,
  and opines that it would have been successful and most popular
  with the army.

Masséna started off his aide-de-camp Pelet for Paris next day,
with orders to get to the Emperor without delay, and explain the
situation before Ney could tell his tale. This his emissary succeeded
in doing, and his representations to Napoleon were backed by those
of Foy, who had borne Masséna’s earlier message of March 9, and
was still in Paris. The Emperor seems to have approved of Masséna’s
stringent dealing with his subordinate, and even to have expressed his
satisfaction with the new plan for marching the Army of Portugal to the
middle Tagus[227]. He also declared that corps-commanders of the type
of Ney and Junot were a mistake, and that to avoid further friction
he would cut up the whole army into divisions, and abolish the corps
altogether. But at the same time he allowed Ney to return to Paris,
gave him a mere formal reproof, and then continued to employ him in
posts of the highest importance. Next year the Marshal was to win his
last title of ‘Prince of the Moscowa’ under his master’s eye, on the
field of Borodino.

  [227] Foy to Masséna, April 8, 1811: ‘J’ai dit à Sa Majesté que
  vous paraissiez être dans l’intention de porter votre quartier
  général à Guarda, mais que (ne pouvant pas vivre dans cette
  position) vous seriez probablement obligé de descendre jusqu’à
  Alcantara. Cette position a paru à l’Empereur propre à protéger
  également le midi et le nord de l’Espagne.’

  Some parts of this interview of Foy with Napoleon, related in
  his usual vivid style, are too good to omit. ‘Did Masséna really
  intend to force the passage of the Tagus? He did? Well then, he
  would have destroyed his army if he had tried. But I was not
  worried about it; I knew he would never try to cross. Would
  Masséna pass the Tagus, he who in the Isle of Lobau [Wagram
  campaign of 1809] would not try to pass a mere brook! The moment
  you told me that he had returned from in front of Torres Vedras
  I knew that he would come back, and refuse to risk a general
  engagement.... Wellington is a cleverer man than Masséna: he kept
  his eye fixed on Claparéde’s division; if Claparéde had been
  brought forward, the English would have expected to be attacked,
  would have gone back into their Lines.... Portugal is too far
  off--I can’t go there myself. The business would take six months,
  and in that six months everything would be hung up in Europe,’
  &c. See Foy’s _Vie Militaire_, pp. 139-40.

Ney having been superseded and banished, Masséna could carry out his
wild plan for a march towards northern Estremadura through the midst
of the Portuguese mountains. On the 23rd the 6th Corps was brought
into Celorico, and its artillery moved forward as far as Ratoeiro on
the Guarda road. The 8th Corps left Celorico and moved in the same
direction, with its cavalry at Ponte do Ladrão in advance. Drouet
with Conroux’s division had already gone back towards Almeida, with
the sick and wounded of the whole army; he was ordered to take post
at Val-de-Mula on the Turon, between Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo. His
other division, that of Claparéde, was sent from Guarda to join him on
the same day. Drouet, according to some versions of the events of this
critical week, had moved back of his own accord without waiting for
Masséna’s orders. But it is clear that there was absolute necessity to
tell off some covering force for the frontiers of Leon, if the main
army was to be drawn away to the central Tagus, lest Wellington should
send off a detachment to attack Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo, and find
nothing to hinder him.

For the next five days the march southward and eastward was continued.
After a rest of only two nights at Guarda, the 2nd Corps moved on the
24th of March by two bad parallel roads through the hills, and encamped
with its first division at Sortelha and its second at Aguas Bellas:
a flanking detachment of cavalry occupied Belmonte, further to the
west, in order to keep a look-out on the valley of the Zezere. The
8th Corps took up the position which the 2nd had evacuated at Guarda:
it is recorded to have lost many of its already depleted stock of
horses in climbing the steep ascent into that town, which stands on
the very summit of the Serra da Estrella, at a height of over 3,400
feet above sea-level. No other town in Portugal lies so high. The 6th
Corps followed the 8th, but halted short of Guarda, to cover the slow
progress of its artillery, which had to be dragged up the defile with
doubled teams, so that half the guns and vehicles had to wait at the
bottom, while their beasts were assisting to draw the first section to
its lofty destination.

The 25th saw the head of the 2nd Corps at Val de Lobos on the road
to Penamacor; the main body painfully trailed along behind. Junot
and the 8th Corps left Guarda, but took, not the path that Reynier
had followed, but an equally difficult one leading to Belmonte. But
the guns could not proceed with the infantry divisions. They had to
be left at Guarda, the Belmonte road being pronounced absolutely
impracticable for them: this was a serious check to Masséna, who had
counted on using this route for the whole corps. Of the 6th Corps one
division (Marchand) entered Guarda, a second (Loison’s old division,
now commanded by Ferey) halted at Rapoulla, at the foot of the great
mountain on which that town lies. The other division (Mermet) had taken
a flanking turn, more in the plain, and lay at Goveias, fifteen miles
north-east from Guarda, with a rearguard at Freixadas on the road to
Almeida.

On the 26th, the last day on which it can be said that Masséna’s insane
scheme for marching to Estremadura was still being carried out, the
whole 6th Corps closed up on Guarda; the 8th Corps at Belmonte sent
out reconnaissances towards Covilhão, Manteigas, and the Zezere; but
the 2nd, which was heading the column of march, was completely stuck
in the mountains between Sortelha and Penamacor. It must have seemed
a bitter piece of irony to Reynier when he received orders ‘to profit
by his stay in his position to collect grain, and bake bread and
biscuit[228],’ for he was in an almost entirely uninhabited country,
on the watershed between the sources of the Coa and the Zezere, with
the Sierra de Meras, the frontier-range between Spain and Portugal, in
front of him.

  [228] Fririon, _Campagne de Portugal_, p. 175.

Next morning (March 27) Reynier, though he had the example of Ney’s
fate before him, was driven by sheer necessity into sending an
argumentative dispatch to the Commander-in-Chief, who had now got
as far as Guarda. He begged him to give up his great plan: ‘no food
could be procured for the whole way from Guarda to Plasencia; if the
corps ever got to the latter place, it would find no resources there,
for the Coria-Plasencia country does not grow its own corn, but is
fed in ordinary times from the valley of the Tietar and other distant
regions.’ This Reynier knew from his own experiences in that region,
when he had been observing Hill in the preceding summer. He also warned
Masséna that he was taking the army into an _impasse_, for the Tagus is
a complete barrier between northern and southern Estremadura, and could
not be crossed save at the ferry of Alconetar, where there were now no
boats, the bridge of Alcantara (now broken), and that of Almaraz, where
there was only a flying bridge of pontoons[229].

  [229] For all this see Koch’s _Vie de Masséna_, pp. 413-20.

At the same time Junot was writing from Belmonte to say that he could
go no further; not only had he been forced to leave all his guns behind
at Guarda, but ‘les troupes meurent de faim, et ne peuvent pas se
présenter en ligne.’ He had scoured the country as far as Covilhão with
his cavalry, in search of food, with the sole result of ruining the few
horses that were still in passable condition.

In short, the game was up--it ought never to have been begun--and
Ney’s remonstrances (though not his insubordination) were completely
vindicated. On March 28th Masséna reluctantly conceded that a prompt
retreat into Spain was the only course possible. But he chose to base
his change of plans not on the true ground, viz. that he had ordered
the army to perform an impossibility, but on two other facts. A report
had just been received from Drouet; that general, on reaching the
neighbourhood of Almeida, had sent word that the fortress was in the
utmost danger, for it had only fifteen days’ food[230], and, if the
9th Corps had to retire, it would fall from starvation in a fortnight.
The state of Ciudad Rodrigo was little better. He therefore besought
the Prince of Essling not to expose these two all-important places, by
carrying the Army of Portugal off to the valley of the Tagus. This gave
a strategical reason for surrendering the new scheme of campaign, but
there was also a moral one. ‘Lassitude reigns in the Army of Portugal:
many of its regiments were in the expeditions of the Duke of Dalmatia
[Soult’s Oporto campaign of 1809] or that of the Duke of Abrantes
[Junot’s Vimeiro campaign of 1808]. The officers murmur, and, as I must
again repeat, the army must have two or three months of rest to recover
itself. I was the only soul who was determined to hold on in Portugal,
and unless I had set my will to it in the strongest fashion, we should
not have stopped fifteen days therein.... The troops are good, but
they need repose. Living by marauding, even though it was organized
marauding, such as we have been compelled to authorize, has in no
small degree weakened discipline, which is in the greatest need of
restoration[231].’ All this was very true, but it had been equally true
on March 22nd, when Masséna gave his orders for the march on Plasencia.
The root of his failure lay neither in the state of Almeida, nor in
the demoralized condition of the army, but in the fact that he had
directed his troops to execute a movement which was impossible without
magazines to live upon, or roads to march upon[232].

  [230] This was a gross exaggeration, as it turned out that there
  was forty days’ food in hand. Masséna accused Drouet of drawing
  on the rations for his own 9th Corps to an inexcusable extent.

  [231] Masséna to Berthier, March 31, from Alfayates.

  [232] When Reynier marched from Coria to Guarda in
  September 1810, he had been obliged to make the vast circle
  Coria-Alfayates-Sabugal-Guarda, in order to avoid the miserable
  mountain roads.

On March 29 Masséna gave the orders which marked the abandonment of
his great plan, and commenced his retrograde movement towards Ciudad
Rodrigo. Reynier and the 2nd Corps, abandoning the mountain roads,
came down by a lateral march to Sabugal in the upper valley of the
Coa: they were to stop there till Junot and the 8th Corps, coming
in from Belmonte, should have reached them and passed behind them.
The 6th Corps meanwhile was to halt at Guarda till the 8th Corps had
extricated itself from the mountains, but it was ordered to throw back
one division (Ferey’s) to Adão on the Sabugal road, eight miles to the
south-east, as the first échelon of its forthcoming movement of retreat
towards the Coa. Masséna himself and the head quarters of the army
moved from Guarda on the morning of the 29th to Pega, a village some
miles nearer the Coa than Adão.

On this morning the British army, of which Masséna had heard
practically nothing for eight days, put in its appearance in the most
forcible fashion, falling upon the enemy just as he was in the midst of
a complicated movement, with his three corps separated from each other
by distances of some twenty miles.

Wellington, it will be remembered, had halted about half of his army on
the Alva upon March 20th, for sheer want of provisions, sending on only
the two light cavalry brigades and the 3rd, 6th, and Light Divisions to
pursue Masséna on the Celorico road. He had no doubt that the enemy was
about to retire from Celorico and Guarda towards the Spanish frontier
with the smallest delay--the policy of Ney and of every one else in
the French army save Masséna himself. On the 24th, Slade’s dragoons
occupied Celorico, and reported that the enemy had left it on the
preceding day; two columns were traced: the larger [6th and 8th Corps]
had gone towards Guarda, the smaller [Drouet with Conroux’s division of
the 9th Corps] had taken the high-road towards Freixadas and Almeida.
There was nothing yet to indicate to Wellington Masséna’s intention of
proceeding in the direction of Estremadura and the middle Tagus. He
wrote on the 25th to General Spencer, ‘The French have retired from
Celorico, and appear to intend to take up a line on the Coa. Their left
has gone by Guarda, apparently for Sabugal’--and to Beresford, ‘The
French have gone towards the Coa: their left will cross at Sabugal, I
should think, and their right about Pinhel and Almeida[233]’.

  [233] Both dispatches are dated from Santa Marinha, March 25th.

On this day (March 25) the first convoy of provisions from the new base
established at Coimbra reached the camps on the Alva, and Wellington
was at last able to set the 1st and 5th Divisions and Ashworth’s
Portuguese in motion[234]. They started on the Celorico road, and
reached Galliges that night. No news had yet come in of the southward
movement of the French from Guarda, which had begun on the preceding
day. The vanguard of the army had now established itself in Celorico,
which was reached by the Light and 3rd Divisions on the 25th-26th: they
had come up very slowly, being sadly distressed for food, and therefore
forced to make very short stages. Only one ration of bread had been
given out in the last four days.

  [234] Pack’s Portuguese were so exhausted and sickly that they
  were left behind for a rest, and to wait for more food, at
  Mangualde on the upper Mondego.

On the 26th the cavalry pushed out from Celorico[235], Arentschildt’s
brigade took the Almeida road, Hawker’s (this colonel was in temporary
command of the 1st and 14th, while Slade managed the whole vanguard)
pushed towards Guarda. Each swept the villages on the flanks of its
route. The result of the exploration was to show that a very large body
of the enemy had retired on Guarda, and a very small body on Almeida.
A patrol of the 16th Light Dragoons hit on Mermet’s rearguard and took
an officer and eighteen men from it. The reports of the following day
came to much the same--it began to be clear that almost the whole
French army must have gone to Guarda, and at last Wellington began
to have the first news of Masséna’s southward movement, though he did
not yet grasp its meaning. ‘The French appear to stick about Guarda,’
he wrote to Beresford, ‘and yesterday they had some people well on
towards Manteigas: but I have heard nothing of them from Grant [the
famous scout and intelligence officer] and I conclude they were only a
patrol.’ Now Manteigas is at the source of the Zezere, near Covilhão,
and this ‘patrol’ was nothing less than Junot’s flank cavalry,
exploring out from Belmonte, which the 8th Corps had reached on the
preceding day. But so little did Wellington guess what was running in
Masséna’s mind, that he wrote on this day that he was proposing to take
a short turn to the Alemtejo to supervise Beresford’s operations (which
were hanging fire in the most discouraging fashion), as soon as the
French were over the frontier[236].

  [235] ‘General Slade had been in Celorico the whole of
  yesterday,’ complains Tomkinson of the 16th, ‘and yet had not the
  least idea where the French had retired to.’ Diary, p. 89.

  [236] Wellington to Henry Wellesley, March 27, from Gouvea.

Meanwhile Wellington made up his mind that, since the enemy persisted
in lingering at Guarda, he must manœuvre them out of that lofty city.
But imagining that two, if not three, corps were concentrated in its
neighbourhood, he would not attack till his rear had come up from the
Alva to Celorico. This did not happen till the 29th, when the 1st
Division reached that place, with the 5th close behind. But on the
previous day he had already started off Picton to cross the Serra da
Estrella by the mountain road by Prados, and the Light Division with
Arentschildt’s cavalry to take the longer route on the other bank
of the Mondego, which goes to Guarda via Baracal, Villa Franca, and
Rapoulla. A flanking detachment, composed of a wing of the 95th Rifles,
came upon a small rearguard left behind by Mermet at Freixadas, and
turned them out of the village, taking a few prisoners (March 28).

On the 29th the Light Division and the two cavalry brigades moved in
upon Guarda from Rapoulla, while Picton closed in from the west, on
the side of the higher hills, and General Alexander Campbell, with
the 6th Division, advanced between the other two columns, by the road
on the east side of the Mondego which passes through Ramilhosa[237].
The three converging columns appeared upon the heights around Guarda
within a few hours of each other, Picton being first on the spot. The
French had hardly any warning, for the cavalry screen had kept the
British hidden till the last. Picton found Mermet’s and Marchand’s
divisions on the plateau of Guarda, with Ferey’s at its foot on the
eastern side, already starting on its march for Adão, which was to be
the commencement of the general retreat that Masséna contemplated on
the next day. It seems clear, from French sources, that Loison was
practically taken by surprise. Fririon, the chief of the staff of the
Army of Portugal, says that, visiting Guarda to see how the 6th Corps
was arranged, he found Maucune’s brigade encamped in a ravine dominated
on all sides, with only one battalion on the hill on which Picton
appeared a few minutes later, and the rest in a position where they
were perfectly helpless. There was no other covering force at all out
in front of the town. Hence, when the British closed in, Loison got
flurried, and, seeing the Light Division threatening to press in on his
rear, absconded at once without fighting. As his force was still nearly
15,000 strong, and Wellington had as yet only three divisions, of no
greater numbers, in front of the formidable hill of Guarda, it seems
that the flight of the 6th Corps from such a position was somewhat
ignominious. Ney would undoubtedly have fought a brilliant detaining
action with his rearguard[238].

  [237] Napier (iii. 129) is wrong in saying that the movement
  was ‘Supported by the 1st, 5th, and 7th Divisions.’ These only
  reached Celorico that day, and were fifteen miles from the field.
  See Diary of Stothert of the Guards, p. 232. Napier was misled
  by the vague wording of Wellington’s dispatch to Lord Liverpool
  (vii. 425), from which it might be supposed that these divisions
  were up.

  [238] The 3rd Division arrived some time before the 6th and the
  Light were in actual touch with the enemy.

  Picton writes about this: ‘Masséna with full 20,000 men was on
  the heights, and in the city of Guarda, when I made my appearance
  at 9 in the morning, with three British and two Portuguese
  regiments.... He ought immediately to have attacked me, but
  allowed me to remain within 400 yards of his main body for about
  two hours, before the other columns came up. But of course their
  movements were alarming him, and decided him not to hazard an
  attack, the failure of which would have probably brought on the
  total discomfiture of his army.’ Letter in Robinson’s _Life of
  Picton_, vol. ii. pp. 3, 4.

Loison went off in great haste on the two roads open to him, both
leading south-east towards the Coa: one by Adão and Pega towards
Sabugal, the other by Villa Mendo and Marmeleiro to Rapoulla da
Coa. The British infantry could never come up with him. The cavalry
pressed his rear, and made many prisoners, mainly foraging parties
which were straggling in to join the main body. A patrol of the 16th
Light Dragoons captured 64 men in one party, and took 150 sheep and
20 oxen[239]. The total number of prisoners was between two and three
hundred. But the French rearguard of three battalions of infantry kept
well together, and was in too good order to be broken by unsupported
squadrons of cavalry. The main body of the 6th Corps marched all
day towards the fords of the Coa, but had not reached that river at
nightfall. One of its columns encamped at Pega, the other at Marmeleiro.

  [239] See Tomkinson’s Diary, p. 90.

On the next morning (March 30) Masséna was in a very dangerous
situation: his three corps were still unconcentrated, and Junot was
lingering at Belmonte, from which he only moved that morning towards
Sabugal. If Wellington had known of the isolated position of the 8th
Corps, he might, by pushing down a column from Celorico, have cut
off its line of retreat towards the Coa, where the 2nd Corps was
awaiting it. But by ill-luck no reports came to hand about Junot, and
Wellington was under the impression that two, and not one, corps had
been holding Guarda when he attacked it[240]. He was aware that Reynier
was at Sabugal, but did not apparently receive any information which
demonstrated that there was another heavy column in this direction,
now commencing to move straight across the front of his own advanced
guard. Junot was able to extricate himself by two painful marches over
villainous cross-roads in the mountains, from Belmonte to Urgueira
(March 30) and from Urgueira to Sabugal (March 31). He was only able
to win salvation because he had left all his artillery behind him at
Guarda, and was therefore able to go wherever infantry could climb.
His guns had been given in charge to the 6th Corps, and formed part of
the column under Ferey that marched by Pega to the Coa.

  [240] Wellington to Beresford, from Celorico, March 30:
  ‘Yesterday we manœuvred the French out of Guarda. Masséna was
  there, some say with his whole army, I think certainly with two
  corps: not a shot was fired.’ (_Dispatches_, vii. 412.) Same day
  to Charles Stuart: ‘They were much stronger than we: I had only
  three divisions on the hill.’ (_Dispatches_, vii. 418.)

Meanwhile the 6th Corps had to complete its retreat to the line of
the Coa, and reached it in the afternoon, harassed but not seriously
damaged by the two British cavalry brigades, of which Hawker’s followed
the column on the northern and Arentschildt’s that on the southern
of the two parallel roads on which Loison was moving. All accounts
agree that General Slade, who was directing both brigades, showed
over-caution, and missed several fair opportunities of attacking the
enemy’s rearguard, in open ground very favourable to cavalry and
horse-artillery tactics[241]. He only picked up a few stragglers, and
the enemy was safely across the Coa by nightfall, Marchand’s division
at Ponte Sequeiro, Ferey’s and Mermet’s at Bismula, seven miles further
to the south, where they were now only eight miles from Reynier’s right
wing at Sabugal. The British had not yet detected Junot’s flank march,
which was hourly bringing him nearer to safety.

  [241] Napier’s statements (iii. 129) are quite borne out by
  Tomkinson’s Diary: ‘In the rear of Pega is an open plain of two
  miles which the enemy had to pass: as usual we looked at them
  for half an hour: then the guns were ordered up, and in place
  of firing at the main body could only get within range of their
  pickets ... we continued to follow, and, although they had no
  cavalry, our general was afraid to go into the plain to get the
  guns in range of the infantry: they of course got clear off.’
  (Diary, p. 91.)

On the 31st the 8th Corps escaped from its dangers, reached Sabugal,
and, passing behind Reynier, pushed on ten miles further to Alfayates,
where it halted for a much-needed rest. The troops were reduced to the
last extreme by exhaustion and hunger. At Alfayates, within three miles
of the Spanish frontier, and only two marches from Ciudad Rodrigo, they
at last began to receive regular provisions, and had nearly got out of
the mountains into the rolling upland of southern Leon.

Why Masséna, the moment that he knew that Junot was safe, did not
continue to retreat on to his magazines it is hard to say. But he
remained for two days more behind the upper Coa, and thereby exposed
himself to continued danger, for his army was strung out on too thin
a line, watching twenty miles of the river. Apparently he thought,
from seeing no British infantry on the 30th and 31st, that Wellington
had halted at Guarda, and did not intend to continue the pursuit on
Sabugal. His own forces continued in their old positions throughout
the 1st and 2nd of April, save that all Montbrun’s reserve cavalry was
sent to the rear, to the valleys of the Agueda and the Azava, to rest
and recover itself, the larger proportion of the surviving horses being
quite unserviceable. The corps-cavalry of Reynier, Junot, and Loison
also sent back many dismounted men, and hundreds more whose mounts
were incapable of use for the present, so that the brigade of light
horse attached to each was reduced to a few hundred sabres, many of the
regiments having only one efficient squadron left, and none more than
two[242]. The retreat from Santarem had practically disabled the French
cavalry.

  [242] As late as May 1 the regimental statistics show that the
  3rd Dragoons had only 139 available horses, sick or sound, and
  the 10th Dragoons only 233, They had started the campaign with
  563 and 535 respectively.

Wellington, meanwhile, having discovered by the explorations of
his horse, that the enemy was standing firm on the Coa, resolved
to dislodge them from their last hold on Portugal. To do this he
required his whole force, and the 1st and 5th Divisions moved onward
from Celorico to Freixadas on the 31st, to come up into line with
the 3rd, 6th, and Light Divisions. With them there was now present
the long-expected 7th Division, which reached the front at the end
of the month, though incomplete. For the light brigade of the German
Legion had arrived at Lisbon more than a fortnight late, and only four
battalions in the British service[243] and five of Portuguese[244] were
at present allotted to the newly formed unit. But in addition several
newly landed battalions[245] came up and joined the old divisions,
so that nearly 6,000 infantry in all were added to the army. After
deducting many men left behind from sickness or exhaustion[246], during
his advance over the wasted regions of Beira, Wellington had now about
38,000 men with him, a force very nearly equal to that of the enemy,
which on the 1st of April had sunk to 39,905 including officers, if the
9th Corps, now in the vicinity of Almeida, be omitted.

  [243] We cannot say ‘four British battalions,’ for two of
  them were foreign corps, the _Chasseurs Britanniques_ and the
  Brunswick Oels Light Infantry. The two line regiments were the
  51st and 85th.

  [244] 7th and 19th Line and 2nd Caçadores, forming Collins’s
  brigade.

  [245] viz. 2/88th for 3rd Division, 2/52nd for Light Division,
  1/36th for the 6th Division.

  [246] Including Pack’s whole brigade.

The plan which Wellington evolved for the final eviction of the French
from Portugal was to turn their left wing on the side of Sabugal,
while containing their right wing (the 6th Corps) on the central Coa.
Occupation was at the same time found for the 9th Corps, as Wilson’s
and Trant’s Militia brigades were directed to cross the Coa near its
confluence with the Douro, and to threaten Almeida from the north side,
a move which could not fail to have the effect of keeping Drouet pinned
down to his present position, since his special task was the protection
of that place. It is a little difficult to make out why Wellington
chose to break in upon the French left rather than their right. From
the strategical point of view it would have been preferable to cross
the Coa north of the flank of the 6th Corps, and to throw the whole
weight of the British army so as to drive the French southward, towards
Sabugal and Alfayates. For they would thus be separated from the 9th
Corps, thrust into the barren and nearly roadless mountain district of
the Sierra de Gata and the Sierra de Meras, and cut off from Almeida
and even from Ciudad Rodrigo, which they were desirous of covering.
Whereas to turn their left wing would only have the effect of pushing
them back on their natural line of retreat towards Rodrigo, and would
press them towards rather than away from the 9th Corps. The British
general’s course seems, however, to have been guided by tactical
rather than by strategical considerations. He thought that he had a
good opportunity of catching the 2nd Corps at Sabugal in an isolated
position, and crushing it, before the 6th or the 8th could come up to
its help. And but for a chance of the weather it seems that he might
have accomplished this design with complete success.

Sabugal, a little walled place with a ruined Moorish castle, lies in
a projecting bend or hook of the Coa, which turns back just above the
town at right angles to its original course, which is directly from
east to west. The river is not far from its source, and though its
banks are steep its waters are narrow, and there are many fords both
above and below Sabugal. If a strong turning column, concealing itself
in the hills, passed along the south bank of the Coa, and crossed the
river some miles above the town, it could throw itself upon the rear of
the 2nd Corps and cut it off from its retreat on Alfayates. Meanwhile
a general attack by Wellington’s main body would drive it from its
position straight into the arms of the turning column, and there would
be a good chance of inflicting a crushing defeat upon the corps,
perhaps of capturing it wholesale. If the attack were delivered by
surprise at dawn, the whole matter ought to be completed before either
the 6th or the 8th Corps could get up to the support of Reynier. When
at last they could appear on the field, the 2nd Corps would be already
demolished, and Wellington was prepared to risk a general action.

It was with this design that his movements of the 1st and 2nd of April
were planned. The 1st, 5th, and 7th Divisions were brought up from
Celorico to Guarda, and from thence to join the Light, 3rd, and 6th
Divisions which were already lying along the Coa over against the
French lines. The 6th Division was left at Rapoulla de Coa, facing
Loison’s centre, and a single battalion of the 7th Division observed
the bridge of Sequeiro opposite his northern flank. These troops
showed themselves freely, and kept Loison anxious, for nothing seemed
more likely than that the general attack would be directed against
him. Meanwhile the whole of the rest of the army, five divisions and
two cavalry brigades, over 30,000 men, was launched against Reynier.
The turning column was to be formed by the Light Division and the two
cavalry brigades, who were to ford the Coa at two separate points two
and three miles respectively above Sabugal. If Erskine, who was to
command it, so decided, the column might cross even higher up: it was
intended that it should appear far beyond Reynier’s left wing, and
should strike over the hills of Quadraseis to the village of Torre
on the Alfayates road, where it would be placed across his line of
retreat. The ground in that direction was open and favourable for
cavalry. Meanwhile the enemy was to be given no chance of falling
upon this detachment, since he was to be attacked in front with very
superior forces. Picton and his division were to cross an easy ford a
mile south of Sabugal, the 5th Division was to assail the town-bridge
at the same moment. The 1st and 7th Divisions were a few miles behind,
ready to support the two leading columns in the front attack. It was
intended that the turning force should cross the Coa first, but only
so far ahead of the frontal attacking force as to make it certain that
it should not get engaged with the main body of the enemy, before the
3rd and 5th Divisions were coming into action. The French pickets
having been pushed close back to the river on the preceding day by the
cavalry, it was certain that they would see nothing of the movements
till they were well developed.

Unfortunately the morning of the 3rd of April was one of dense
fog--good for concealing the march of the troops, but bad in that it
prevented the troops from discovering their objective. Both Picton
and Dunlop (who was commanding the 5th Division in Leith’s absence on
leave) resolved not to move, and sent to Wellington, who was hard by,
for orders. Not so the rash and presumptuous Erskine, who repeated this
day the precise mistake that he had made at Casal Novo three weeks
back. Without coming himself to the front, he sent an aide-de-camp to
the Light Division, to bid it descend to the river and cross at the
ford which had been assigned to it in the general scheme. The cavalry
were also ordered to move forward and take the other ford, more to the
right, by which they were to get into the enemy’s rear.[247]

  [247] Details may be verified in Wellington, _Supplementary
  Dispatches_, xiii. p. 611.

Beckwith’s brigade, the leading one of the Light Division, consisted of
the 1/43rd, Elder’s Caçadores (the 3rd of that arm), and four companies
of the 1/95th Rifles. It was waiting in column, on the road above the
river, when Erskine’s aide-de-camp rode up, and asked the brigadier
in a peremptory tone ‘why he did not cross.’ Beckwith at once struck
off in the direction where he supposed the ford to be, but, missing
his line in the fog, did not march sufficiently far to the right, and
reached the Coa not at the true ford but at a hazardous passage nearly
a mile nearer to Sabugal[248], where the water came up to the men’s
arm-pits. Drummond’s brigade followed at a distance, and used the
same wrong path. The cavalry, to whom Sir William Erskine had joined
himself, taking their bearings from the Light Division, came down to
the river not very far to its right, at a point some two miles more
to the west than was intended. They lost much time in searching for a
ford; by the time that they found one, the Light Division was already
heavily engaged, and the passage ultimately discovered was so close to
that force that the Dragoons came up almost in Drummond’s rear, instead
of far out on his flank.

  [248] Wellington’s orders were to cross 2 miles at least above
  Sabugal. The actual crossing was only 1¼ miles above.

Reynier’s pickets were close to the water’s edge, and opened a
scattering fire on the head of Beckwith’s column while it was still
struggling across the river. But they were easily driven off, and the
brigade formed up on the further side, in the usual order of the Light
Division, with a very strong skirmishing screen, composed of four
companies of the 95th and three of Elder’s Caçadores. The 43rd and the
other half-battalion of the Portuguese came on in line, a few hundred
yards behind the riflemen. They were still smothered in the fog, and
could discover nothing more than that they were pursuing the French
pickets up a gentle slope, mostly unenclosed waste ground, but cut up
by a few fields with low stone walls. Pushing forward briskly, they
presently came upon a French regiment, which was already under arms,
and preparing to show a front against them. What had happened in the
mist was that the Light Division, instead of getting round the flank
of Reynier’s position, had struck directly against it. The 2nd Corps
had been established on the long hill behind Sabugal and above the Coa,
ready to resist a frontal attack, with Merle’s division on the left and
Heudelet’s on the right, above the town. Beckwith had struck upon the
4th Léger, the left regiment of the left-hand division of the corps.
Merle, warned by the fire of the pickets, was making a new front, _en
potence_ to the general line of the French army, and had just got the
four battalions of the extreme flank regiment drawn out. They were,
as usual, in column of divisions, (double companies), with a weak
skirmishing line in front, which was at once driven in by the Rifles
and Caçadores. Merle then led down his four columns against the screen
of light troops which covered Beckwith’s line, and drove them back with
considerable loss to himself, and little to his opponents, since he had
only skirmishers to shoot at, while his own compact battalion columns
were very vulnerable. The light troops fell back to each flank of the
line presented by the 43rd and the formed companies of the Caçadores,
and then halted and turned upon the enemy. The balance of numbers was
now in favour of Beckwith’s brigade, for though he had only two and a
half battalions and the enemy four, the French units were very weak,
the 4th Léger having only 1,100 men, while the 43rd alone was a strong
battalion of 750 bayonets and its auxiliary light troops were at least
600 more. It was not surprising, therefore, that the French regiment
soon went to the rear, badly hit, after a short sharp exchange of
volleys. Beckwith followed, pushing the enemy through a small chestnut
wood, till he arrived at the southern summit of the ridge on which the
French line had been drawn out. Here he found himself confronted by
the seven battalions of the 36th of the Line, and the 2nd Léger, the
remaining regiments of Merle’s division, which were hurrying along the
crest to the assistance of their comrades of the 4th Léger.

Blinding rain came on at this moment, and much diminished the efficacy
of the British fire. Attacked by double numbers of fresh troops,
Beckwith’s brigade was thrust back for some distance. But they rallied
behind some stone walls of enclosures, just as the shower ceased, and
after an obstinate contest of musketry, stopped the French regiments,
who, falling into disorder, retired up the slope to re-form. Though
conscious that he was now engaged against hopeless odds, and though he
could see nothing of Drummond’s brigade or the British cavalry, which
ought by this time to have come up to his support, Beckwith went up
the hill a second time in pursuit. When he reached the crest he came
upon the divisional battery of Merle, drove it off, and captured one
howitzer. Immediately after, he was outflanked on his left by infantry,
apparently the rallied 4th Léger, while on the right he was charged by
two squadrons of chasseurs and hussars, all that the depleted cavalry
brigade of Pierre Soult could put in line that day. The 43rd and their
comrades were hardly pressed, and had to give ground, but sheltering
once more among the enclosures, refused to relinquish their position
on the slope. The captured howitzer lay out in their front, in an
open space swept by the musketry of both parties. Desperate attempts
were made by groups on each side to rush out and bring it in, but to
no effect, as the cross-fire was too heavy. Beckwith’s brigade was
in a most dangerous position, only preserved from annihilation by
the fact that the mist and rain prevented the enemy from recognizing
the smallness of the force opposed to him--two and a half battalions
against eleven, or 1,500 men against 3,500.

At this moment assistance at last arrived--the 2nd Brigade of the Light
Division under Drummond appeared on the scene. It consisted of the two
battalions of the 52nd, the 1st Caçadores, and four companies of the
95th, about 2,000 bayonets. Having lost touch of the 1st Brigade at
the ford, it had taken a route much more like that originally intended
by Wellington to be employed, and had come up the back slope of the
heights, far to the right of Beckwith, without meeting any enemy. The
noise of the combat attracted Drummond to his left; he changed his
direction, and was coming over the hillside and approaching Beckwith
when he received a most ill-advised order from Erskine--who was with
the cavalry some way to his right rear--directing him not to advance
or engage[249]. But to have held back would have meant to allow the
1st Brigade to be destroyed. Disregarding the order, Drummond deployed
the 1/52nd, the Caçadores, and the 95th on the right of the enclosures
where Beckwith was fighting, with the 2/52nd in reserve, and advanced
firing. This attack by a fresh force was too much for the French 2nd
and 36th, who had suffered severely in the earlier fighting. They
gave way, and Drummond, with Beckwith following in échelon on his
left, regained the crest of the heights and recaptured the French
howitzer. The two brigades were still engaged in a fierce struggle with
Merle’s division when Reynier brought up the 2nd Brigade of Heudelet’s
division, the seven battalions of the 17th Léger and 70th Ligne, which
had formed the centre of his original line of battle. These troops
attacked the left flank of the Light Division, Beckwith’s men, and put
them in grave danger, for the much-tried 43rd and 3rd Caçadores were in
great disorder. At the same time the two French squadrons charged again
upon the flank of the 52nd. Fortunately a stray squadron of the 16th
Light Dragoons came up and assisted in repulsing them. This was the
only aid given by the cavalry this day; Erskine contrived to keep them
useless, countermarching in the mist, some way from the fighting front.

  [249] This fact comes from a MS. note by Sir John Bell of the
  52nd, in my possession. He writes: ‘Just as the 2nd Brigade
  changed its direction, the General, being at some distance, sent
  an order for it not to engage. But the staff officer who carried
  it, and Drummond, seeing how matters stood, took the liberty of
  forgetting the message, so that Beckwith should have the full
  benefit of the support at hand. No question was ever asked as to
  the non-delivery of the order.’

At this moment the fog suddenly lifted, and both Wellington and Reynier
were able to make out the face of the battle. The sight was not
altogether comforting to either of them: Wellington could see the Light
Division on the crest, opposed by a very superior enemy (the proportion
was about five to three at this moment) and with their left flank
turned by the column which had just come up. Reynier, on the other
hand, saw the masses of Picton’s and Dunlop’s divisions halted close
above the fords, at and below Sabugal, and just preparing to cross. He
had so stripped his centre and right, while bringing up troops to crush
the Light Division, that only the two regiments forming Heudelet’s 1st
Brigade, the eight weak battalions of the 31st Léger and 47th Ligne,
about 3,300 bayonets, were left to occupy two miles of slope on each
side of the town of Sabugal. Reynier saw that they must be scattered
by the approaching onset, for 10,000 men were hurrying down towards
the fords, and gave instant orders for a general retreat. The intact
brigade was to abandon Sabugal and the heights, concentrate, and go off
at the double, to take up a position a mile to the rear, on the road
to Alfayates. Merle’s shattered troops on the crest, facing the Light
Division, were directed to make off in such order as they might, taking
the artillery with them, and to seek refuge behind this reserve. To
prevent Beckwith and Drummond from pursuing them, the 2nd Brigade of
Heudelet, the 17th Léger and 70th, were ordered to keep up a defensive
fight upon the heights where they had just come into action.

This brigade was thereby exposed to grave danger, for while it was
doing its best to ‘contain’ the Light Division, Picton, coming up
from the river at a furious pace, with the 5th Fusiliers deployed in
his front, rushed in upon its flank, and drove its battalions one
upon another. The 17th and 70th were overwhelmed and thrust down the
back of the hill with a loss of 400 men, of whom 120 were unwounded
prisoners. Their wrecks took refuge with the other brigades, which
retired as rapidly as they could along the Alfayates road, with the
31st Léger and 47th Ligne, the only intact body, covering the flight
of the rest. The British 5th Division had crossed at Sabugal without
meeting opposition or losing a man, but was too far to the left to be
of any use in urging the pursuit. That duty fell to Picton, who was
pressing the French rearguard when the rain, which had been falling for
almost the whole morning, became absolutely torrential, and hid the
face of the country-side so thoroughly that Wellington commanded the
whole army to halt. It is said that this order was given on the false
intelligence that the 8th Corps was visible coming up from Alfayates to
join Reynier[250], a report for which there was no foundation whatever.
Erskine and the cavalry never touched the retreating force, save one
squadron of the German hussars, who happed upon the French transport
column, and captured the private baggage of Reynier himself and General
Pierre Soult[251].

  [250] This statement is made by Tomkinson in his diary on April
  3, p. 94.

  [251] Many details in this narrative of the combat of Sabugal
  will be found to differ from those given in earlier histories. I
  have been relying for the French movements largely on the life
  of General Merle, the officer who was in charge of most of the
  fighting, and had the best chance of giving a correct story.
  [Braquehay’s _Le Général Merle_, pp. 160-1.]

So ended, in comparative disappointment, an operation which would
have had glorious results if the fog had not intervened, and which
might, even with that drawback, have been much more decisive if Sir
William Erskine had shown ordinary prudence and ability. The actual
combat, as Wellington truly observed, ‘was one of the most glorious
that British troops were ever engaged in,’ for the Light Division,
with its 3,500 bayonets, had fought the whole of the 2nd Corps save
one brigade, and had punished its adversaries in the most exemplary
style, without suffering any corresponding loss. ‘Really these attacks
in column against our line are very contemptible,’ wrote Wellington to
Beresford next morning. The chief glory lay with the 43rd, who fought
three separate contests with three successive bodies of opponents,
and counted very nearly half of the total British loss in their
ranks. Beckwith, their brigadier, was the admired of all beholders;
eye-witnesses relate with pride how he rode first in the advance and
last in the retreat, with blood streaming from a wound on his temple,
keeping the men in rank, checking those who showed a tendency to
quicken the pace, and directing the fire with perfect coolness. It
was in a great degree the confidence inspired by his cheerful and
resourceful leading which enabled the brigade to keep up the fight
against impossible odds, down to the moment of the arrival of Drummond
and the supports upon the scene.

[Illustration: SABUGAL]

The total loss of the French was 61 officers and 689 men; this fearful
proportion of losses in the commissioned ranks was due to the gallantry
with which they threw away their lives in bringing up to the front
the shaken and demoralized soldiers, who could not face the English
musketry. One gun and 186 unwounded prisoners were taken. The British
loss was only 169--that of their Portuguese companions no more than 10.
Of the total of 179 no less than 143 were men of the Light Division,
of whom 80 belonged to the 43rd; Picton’s troops, only engaged for a
few minutes at the end of the combat, had twenty-five casualties. The
horse artillery lost one, the German hussars two men wounded. It is
sufficiently clear from these figures who had done the fighting that
day[252].

  [252] See the tables of the French and British losses in Appendix
  No. VI. Fririon, as chief of the staff, must have seen and passed
  the French return giving 750 casualties, yet in his narrative
  allows for only 250, saying, ‘On a beaucoup exagéré les pertes:
  les chiffres que nous donnons sont très exacts.’ This is only one
  example of his habit of falsifying figures, in which he rivalled
  Masséna and Soult.

On the afternoon following the combat of Sabugal, Masséna abandoned
the line of the Coa, drawing back the 6th Corps to join the other two
at Alfayates. Next morning (April 4) at early dawn the whole army made
a forced march to the rear, for there seemed every probability that
Wellington would appear, to force on a general action, during the
course of the day, and it was necessary to avoid the chance of being
thrust against the Sierra de Gata, and cut off from Ciudad Rodrigo.
Accordingly the 2nd Corps covered more than twenty miles, and did not
halt till it had reached Fuentes de Oñoro; the 6th Corps, marching a
less distance, halted at Fuente Guinaldo on the direct road to Ciudad
Rodrigo. The 8th Corps, on a road between the other two, stopped at
Campillo; the reserve cavalry of Montbrun, which was in such bad
condition that it had to be covered by the infantry, instead of acting
as their screen, drew back to El Bodon, and other villages in the
immediate vicinity of Rodrigo. By this movement Masséna recovered his
communication with the 9th Corps, which still lay on the Turon near
Almeida, for the 2nd Corps was now within fifteen miles of Drouet’s
head quarters at Val de Mula, while the 6th and 8th Corps covered
the roads to Ciudad Rodrigo. On the following day (April 5) the two
last-named corps drew back to Carpio, Marialva, and other places within
a few miles of that fortress, but the 2nd Corps remained at Fuentes de
Oñoro, in order to keep touch with the 9th till the latter should have
evacuated a position which had now become dangerous and over-advanced.
For if Masséna went back to the Agueda, Drouet could not linger near
Almeida, lest he should be cut off from the main army.

Meanwhile Wellington had occupied on the 4th Masséna’s old head
quarters at Alfayates, and sent forward his cavalry to Albergaria,
Alamedilla, and other villages, where they came in touch with the
outposts of the 2nd and 8th Corps. The Light Division felt for any
traces of the French at Val de Espinha and Quadraseis, and finding
none pushed on to Alfayates. The 1st and 3rd Divisions came to that
place also on the next day. By that evening (April 5) it was certain
that Masséna was falling back to Ciudad Rodrigo, perhaps even further
to the rear. The state of his army, of which Wellington had ample
evidence from the capture of more sick, stragglers, and baggage during
this and the two next days[253], rendered it extremely likely that the
French would not be able to halt till they reached their magazines
at Salamanca. The British general had no intention of following the
enemy far into Spain; he had again outmarched his supplies, for the
new base at Coimbra had only just been established, and convoys from
it were coming in slowly and with great delays, since they had to be
brought up over the wasted and depopulated region which the French
had just evacuated. Till he had some magazines accumulated nearer the
frontier, he could not dream of a serious offensive movement into Leon.
His letters at this time are full of laments as to the state of the
Portuguese troops, especially of the brigades which were fed by their
own commissariat. They had dropped so many sick and stragglers in the
advance, that on April 8th they were 2,500 short of the number with
which they had started from the Lines of Torres Vedras: the brigade
in the 5th Division had fallen to 1,061 rank and file from 1,400
with which it had set out--that in the 3rd Division to 1,190 from
1,319. Pack’s brigade had been left behind on the Mondego from sheer
inability to march, and had not been able to join in the Guarda and
Sabugal operations[254]. It was necessary to wait till the ranks were
fuller--the men were not lost but left behind exhausted, and could be
collected when a systematic supply of food was procurable. The allied
army could not dream of entering Spain with the intention of living by
plunder and requisitions, as the French habitually did.

  [253] In the Diary of Tomkinson of the 16th Light Dragoons there
  is a curious note as to the capture of a ‘caravan’ or large coach
  belonging to the head-quarter staff, and more especially to
  Masséna’s Portuguese adviser, the Marquis d’Alorna, on April 7th.
  Sixty-five infantry were captured by the regiment on the same day.

  [254] See letters to Beresford of April 6th and to Charles Stuart
  of April 8th, in _Dispatches_, vii. pp. 430-5.

Wellington’s ambition at the moment did not go beyond the hope of
recovering Almeida, which he conceived to be doomed to fall, and
possibly Ciudad Rodrigo also, if the enemy should be forced to fall
back towards Salamanca. But Almeida, at least, he was determined to
make his own, and the first necessity was to clear away the 9th Corps
from its neighbourhood. He was convinced that Drouet would retreat when
he heard that Masséna had retired to the Agueda, and thought that his
motions might be quickened by a demonstration. The 6th Division and
Pack’s Portuguese were destined for the blockade of Almeida, but they
would not be up for some days, and meanwhile Trant’s Militia, which
was already on the lower Coa, was directed to push in boldly upon the
place, and promised the support of Slade’s cavalry brigade on the 7th.
Trant, always daring and full of enterprise, pressed forward to Val
de Mula, on the further side of Almeida, and met there Claparéde’s
division on its way towards the Agueda--Conroux had already departed.
The Militia engaged in an irregular fight with the French, who turned
promptly round upon them, and seemed likely to make havoc of them near
the village of Aldea do Obispo. But just as the attack grew threatening
Slade’s dragoons appeared from the south, with Bull’s horse artillery
battery, and drew up on the flank of the enemy’s troops. The artillery
were already beginning to enfilade them, when Claparéde, forming his
division into battalion squares, made a hasty retreat towards the
Agueda, and passed it at the bridge of Barba del Puerco. Erskine,
who was in command of the expedition, did not press him hard, and
the French, according to their own account, only lost 7 killed and 4
officers and 24 men wounded, all by cannon shot, for the dragoons were
not allowed to charge home[255]. Slade captured, however, some baggage
and a good many stragglers, marauders, and guards of small convoys, who
were surprised in the open rolling country before they could get over
the Agueda.

  [255] Napier (iii. 135) says that the French lost 300 men, which
  contrasts strangely with the official numbers given by the
  French. Probably Drouet gave only the actual loss in action,
  while the British accounts speak of all the stragglers taken that
  day as if they had been captured in the fight. The 16th certainly
  got 65 prisoners from a convoy guard.

Wellington could now surround and blockade Almeida; he had been
nourishing some hopes that the French might evacuate it, when Drouet
departed from its neighbourhood, for he was aware that its stores had
run very low. But when it became evident that the place was not to be
abandoned, he realized that it would take some weeks to reduce it, for
he had no battering-train whatever, indeed there were no heavy guns
nearer than Oporto and Abrantes. It was not till the following autumn
that a proper siege-train was organized for the Anglo-Portuguese army.
Almeida could only be attacked by the weapon of famine; Badajoz, which
was beleaguered at the same time, had to be battered with a few guns
borrowed from the ramparts of the neighbouring fortress of Elvas. The
British army had now been two years in Portugal, yet Wellington still
lacked the materials for conducting the smallest offensive operation
against strongholds in the hands of the French.

[Illustration: MAP TO ILLUSTRATE the LAST STAGE of MASSÉNA’S RETREAT
and the CAMPAIGN of FUENTES de OÑORO]

It was known, however, that the stores in Almeida had run low, for the
9th Corps had been consuming them while it lay close by, in spite of
Masséna’s strict directions to the contrary. But starvation knows no
laws. As a matter of fact there were still over thirty days’ rations
in the magazines, though it had been reported both to Wellington and
to Masséna that the stock had run down much lower;[256] Drouet had
falsely stated on one occasion that there was only enough to last for
fifteen days. The British general fancied that four weeks’ blockade
might reduce the place, and thought that he was quit of the Army of
Portugal for a much longer space of time. He even hoped to effect
something against Ciudad Rodrigo[257], which was also under-victualled,
for on reaching the frontier Masséna had been forced to indent upon it
for supplies for his broken host. If the French retired to Salamanca,
as seemed quite probable, Wellington had hopes that he might be able
to starve out Rodrigo. But he was not intending to throw his troops
around it; they were to remain on the Dos Casas and the Azava, covering
the siege of Almeida, but only observing the Spanish fortress with
cavalry. For the cutting of the road between it and Salamanca only
irregular forces were to be used: Wellington would not send any of his
own divisions forward beyond Rodrigo, but requested the daring and
resourceful guerrillero chief Julian Sanchez to throw his bands in this
direction, the moment that the French army should have retired from the
Agueda. Sanchez had been for many months already occupied in similar
work, having spent all the winter in raids to cut off convoys and small
parties passing from Salamanca to Ciudad Rodrigo, or from that place to
Almeida. He had been hunted, often but vainly, by General Thiébault,
the governor of the province, whose columns he had usually succeeded
in avoiding, while he was always at hand to fall on weak or incautious
detachments on the march[258].

  [256] Wellington, _Dispatches_, vii. p. 448.

  [257] But, as he wrote to Beresford on April 14, ‘I was not very
  sanguine of the results of the blockade of that place, and had
  indeed determined not to make it in any strength: and now it is
  useless to keep anybody on the other side of the Agueda save for
  food and observation.’ (_Dispatches_, vii. 457.)

  [258] For the state of semi-blockade in which Sanchez had kept
  Ciudad Rodrigo, see the Memoirs of the Duchess of Abrantes (vii.
  pp. 275-7), who was beleaguered there while her husband was in
  Portugal. For the hunts organized against him by Thiébault, see
  the latter’s _Memoirs_, iv. 449-51, &c. Sanchez intercepted
  numbers of dispatches which were of great use to Wellington, as
  they kept him informed of the state of the French in northern
  Spain.

On April 8th, as Wellington had expected, the Army of Portugal resumed
its march into the interior of the kingdom of Leon, all the three corps
passing the Agueda, and retiring, Reynier to San Felices el Grande,
Junot to Santi Espiritus, Loison to Alba de Yeltes. Junot, while
passing, had been ordered to send into Rodrigo a reinforcement for the
garrison; he detached a battalion of the 15th and another of the Irish
Legion, which brought up the troops in the place to 3,000 men. From the
8th to the 11th the retreat continued, till at last the 6th Corps went
into cantonments at Salamanca, Alba de Tormes, and other neighbouring
places, the 2nd at and about Ledesma, and the 8th at Toro, behind the
others. Drouet and his two divisions held the line of observation
against the Anglo-Portuguese, with head quarters at San Muñoz. So
ended, fifty miles within the borders of Spain, the movement that had
begun at Santarem and Punhete.

The effective of Masséna’s army, was on April 15th 39,546 sabres and
bayonets. It had started in September 1810 with 65,050 officers and
men, and had numbered 44,407 on March 15th. The exact loss, however,
was not the mere difference between its force of September 15, 1810,
and of April 15, 1811 (25,504), for it had received at midwinter two
drafts under Gardanne and Foy, amounting to 3,225 men in all[259]. On
the other hand, the figures of April 15th do not include two convoys of
sick sent back into Spain, one of 82 officers and 833 men dispatched
under the charge of Drouet from the Alva on March 11, and a second and
larger one sent back from Celorico to Almeida on March 22, along with
which went some dismounted cavalry, and some artillery which could
no longer follow the army. The whole may have amounted to 3,000 men.
Both of these convoys dropped large numbers of dead and stragglers
by the way, but it is impossible to ascertain their total. We must
also deduct the escort of an officer, Major Casabianca, sent from the
front to Ciudad Rodrigo on 21st January, who took 400 men[260] with
him and never returned. Deducting the 4,315 thus sent back to Spain,
and setting them against the 3,225 received from thence, it appears
that Masséna’s total loss must have been just under 25,000 men, or 38
per cent. of his original force. Of these Wellington had some 8,000
as prisoners, including the 4,000 captured in the hospital of Coimbra
on October 7th, 1810. The remainder had perished--not more than 2,000
in action, the rest by the sword of famine. Wellington’s scheme had
justified itself, though its working out had taken many more weeks than
he expected. Nor was the mere loss in men all that the Army of Portugal
had suffered. It returned to Leon stripped of everything--without
munitions, uniforms, or train. It had lost 5,872 horses of the 14,000
which it had brought into Portugal, and practically all its wheeled
vehicles; there were precisely 36 waggons left with the army. The men
were still ready to fight fiercely when they saw the necessity for
it, but were sulky, discontented, and perpetually carping against the
Commander-in-Chief, whose last unhappy inspiration--the projected
march from Guarda to Plasencia--had filled up the measure of their
wrath. And indeed they had good reason to be disgusted at it, for it
was wholly insane and impracticable. But every misfortune of the last
six months--the bloody repulse at Bussaco, the loss of the hospitals
and magazines at Coimbra, the long starvation at Santarem, the slow
and circuitous course of the retreat, was imputed to Masséna’s
account by his chief subordinates as well as by his rank and file.
What the generals muttered in the morning was loudly discussed around
every camp-fire at night. The whole army had lost in morale from six
months of systematic marauding, was quite out of hand in the way of
discipline, and had no confidence in its leader, who was absolutely
detested. The departure of Ney, who was liked and admired by all ranks,
had been a great discouragement, because his skilful handling of the
rearguard during the retreat had been understood and appreciated, while
Masséna was cried down as a tactician no less than as a strategist on
the general results of the campaign. A general whose troops no longer
rely on him cannot get the best out of his army, and for this reason
alone Napoleon was justified in removing the old Marshal from his
command in April, when the full tale of the retreat had reached him.

  [259] See vol. iii, Appendix, p. 543.

  [260] When Foy went back from Thomar on March 5 to Rodrigo
  his escort was taken from the 9th Corps, not from the Army of
  Portugal, so does not count. See _Pièces Justificatives_, No. 45,
  in Foy’s _Vie Militaire_, p. 357.

Yet there can be no doubt that Masséna was hardly treated. That the
expedition of Portugal failed was, in the main, no fault of his.
Neither he nor his master, nor any one else on the French side, had
foreseen Wellington’s plans--the devastation of the country-side, which
rendered it impossible for the invader to live long by marauding, and
the systematic fortification of the long front of the Lisbon Peninsula.
For the actual game that was set before him, Masséna had not been given
sufficient pieces by the Emperor. As Wellington had said more than a
year before[261], the French could not turn him out of Portugal with
less than 100,000 men, and Napoleon had only provided 65,000. Moreover,
as the British general had added, he should so manage affairs that
100,000 French could not live in the country if they did appear; and
this was no vain boast.

  [261] See pp. 167-8 of vol. iii.

Masséna, then, was sent to accomplish an impossible task, and his
merit was that he came nearer to his end than Wellington had believed
possible, before he was forced to recoil. Many of the French marshals
would never have got to Coimbra: certainly none of them would have
succeeded in holding on at Santarem for three months. There can be
no doubt that the Prince of Essling did not exaggerate when he wrote
to Berthier[262], on March 31st, that it was his own iron will alone
which had kept the army so long and so far to the front--that but for
him it would have recoiled on to Spain many weeks earlier. His heroic
obstinacy gave his adversary many an uneasy day, while it seemed in
January and February as if the calculation for famishing the French
had failed. Masséna, in short, had done all that was possible, and
the general failure of the campaign was not his fault, any more than
it was that of Soult, on whom the blame has always been laid by the
elder marshal’s advocates. We have shown in an earlier chapter[263]
that Soult did all and more than all that Napoleon had directed him
to accomplish. If he had literally obeyed the tardy orders that
reached him from Paris he would only have exposed the 5th Corps to
defeat, if not to destruction. The _ex post facto_ rebukes that the
Emperor sent him were unjust. We are once more driven back to our old
conclusion that the determining factors in the failure of the campaign
of Portugal were firstly that Napoleon refused to appoint a single
commander-in-chief in the Peninsula, to whose orders all the other
marshals should be strictly subordinate, and secondly that he persisted
in sending plans and directions from Paris founded on facts that were
seven weeks late, or more, when his dispatches reached the front. On
this we have enlarged at sufficient length on an earlier page.

  [262] Dispatch printed in Fririon, p. 157.

  [263] See above, pp. 24-5.



SECTION XXV

EVENTS IN NORTHERN, EASTERN, AND CENTRAL SPAIN



CHAPTER I

KING JOSEPH AND HIS TROUBLES


While following the fortunes of Wellington and Masséna, during the
first four months of 1811, we have been compelled to leave almost
untouched the sequence of events in the rest of Spain; not only the
doings of Suchet and Macdonald in the far east, which had no practical
connexion with the campaign of Portugal, but also the minor affairs
of the southern and central provinces. Only Soult’s expedition to
Estremadura, which came into close touch with Wellington, has been
dealt with. It is time to explain the general posture of the war in the
Peninsula, during the time when its critical point lay between Lisbon
and Abrantes, where Masséna and Wellington stood face to face, each
waiting for the other to move.

What was going on in Portugal was, as we have already seen, practically
a secret to the French in Spain. For the Portuguese Ordenança and the
Spanish guerrilleros had done their work of blocking the roads so
well, that no accurate information penetrated to Madrid, Valladolid,
or Seville from Santarem. It was only at rare intervals, when Foy
and other officers cut their way through this ‘fog of war’ that the
condition of affairs on the Tagus became known for a moment. The fog
descended again when they had passed through on their way to Paris,
and given their information as to the fortunes of the Army of Portugal
during the weeks that preceded their departure. The gaps in the
narrative were very long--nothing got through between the departure of
Masséna from Almeida on September 15, 1810, and Foy’s first arrival
at Ciudad Rodrigo on November 8th. There was another lacuna in the
knowledge of the situation between that date and the passage of
Masséna’s second successful messenger, Casabianca, from Santarem to
Rodrigo in the earliest days of February. And after Casabianca had
passed by, the next news came out through Foy’s second mission, when
he started to announce the oncoming retreat on March 5, and got to
the borders of Leon on March 13. The only way in which King Joseph at
Madrid, or the generals of the ‘military governments’ of Old Castile,
or Soult in Andalusia, felt the course of the war on its most important
theatre, was that they were for many months freed from any anxiety
about the movements of Wellington. He was ‘contained’ by Masséna, and,
however he might be faring, he had no power to interfere by armed force
in the affairs of Spain. The French for all this time had to deal only
with the armies of the Cortes, and with their old and irrepressible
enemies the guerrilleros of the mountains.

While the fate of the Portuguese expedition was still uncertain,
while it seemed possible to Napoleon that Masséna might cling to his
position at Santarem till Soult came up to join him on the Tagus,
a considerable change was made with regard to the French troops in
northern Spain. Convinced at last there was little to be said in favour
of that system of many small ‘military governments’, in Old Castile
and the neighbouring provinces, which he had created in 1810, the
Emperor resolved to put them all under a single commander. This would
give him six less independent generals to communicate with, and would
ensure for the future a much better co-operation between the divisions
which occupied the valley of the Douro and the Pyrenean regions. The
six military governors had been each playing his own game, and taking
little notice of that of his neighbours. Their enemies were mostly the
guerrillero bands of the Cantabrian hills and of Navarre. Each general
did his best to hunt these elusive enemies out of his own department,
but took little heed of their trespasses on his neighbours’ territory.
Evasive and indomitable partisans like Mina in Navarre, Julian Sanchez
in Old Castile, and Porlier and Longa in the Cantabrian sierras, found
it comparatively easy to shift their positions when the pressure on one
region was too great for them, and to move on into another--they were
sure that the hunt would soon slacken, and that they could return at
their leisure to their old haunts. The Emperor thought that it would
be possible to make an end of them, if all his garrisons and movable
columns in northern Spain were put under a single commander and moved
in unison under a single will. Hence came the decree of January 8,
1811, creating the ‘Army of the North,’ and handing it over to Marshal
Bessières, whose name was still remembered in those regions owing to
his old victory of Medina de Rio Seco. His authority extended over the
troops stationed in Navarre, Biscay, Burgos, Valladolid, Salamanca,
the Asturias, and Santander, including not only the regular garrisons
of those provinces but the two divisions of the Young Guard, which had
replaced Drouet’s corps in Old Castile, and the division under Serras
which watched Galicia from the direction of Benavente and Astorga. The
total of the forces placed under his orders amounted to 70,000 men, of
whom 59,000 were ‘présents sous les armes,’ the rest being in hospital,
or detached outside the limits of the territory assigned to the Army of
the North.

Considerable as was this force, it did not accomplish all that the
Emperor hoped, even when directed by a single commander of solid
military talents. Bessières, though a capable officer, was not a
genius, and the tasks assigned to him were so multifarious that after a
short time he began to grow harassed and worried, and to cavil at every
order that was sent him. He was directed to ‘suppress brigandage,’
i. e. to put down the guerrilleros, to support the Army of Portugal
against Wellington whenever necessary, to keep an eye upon the Spanish
regular forces in Galicia and the Asturias. This, he declared, was
more than could be accomplished with the forces at his disposal. ‘If I
concentrate 20,000 men all communications are lost, and the insurgents
will make enormous progress. The coast would be lost as far as Bilbao.
We are without resources, because it is only with the greatest
pains that the troops can be fed from day to day. The spirit of the
population is abominably bad: the retreat of the Army of Portugal has
turned their heads. The bands of insurgents grow larger, and recruit
themselves actively on every side.... The Emperor is deceived about
Spain: the pacification of Spain does not depend on a battle with the
English, who will accept it or refuse it as they please, and who have
Portugal behind them for retreat. Every one knows the vicious system
of our operations. Every one allows that we are too widely scattered.
We occupy too much territory, we use up our resources without profit
and without necessity: we are clinging on to dreams. Cadiz and Badajoz
absorb all our means--Cadiz because we cannot take it, Badajoz because
it requires a whole army to support it. We ought to blow up Badajoz,
and to abandon the siege of Cadiz for the present. We ought to draw in,
get solid bases for our magazines and hospitals, and regard two-thirds
of Spain as a vast battlefield, which a battle may give us or cause us
to lose, till the moment that we change our system and take in hand the
real conquest and pacification of the country,’ &c.[264]

  [264] Bessières to Berthier, printed in the Appendix to Belmas,
  vol. i. p. 562.

All this means that Bessières found it impossible to pacify the North,
and concluded that it was useless to try to complete the conquest
of Andalusia or Portugal, when that of Navarre and Santander was so
far from being secure that no small party could go two miles from
a garrison town, without a large probability of being cut off by
the insurgents. He would have had his master abandon Andalusia and
Estremadura, in order to concentrate such masses of troops in the north
that the guerrilleros should be smothered by mere numbers, that every
mountain village should have its garrison. There was small likelihood
that his views would find favour at Paris; the Emperor knew well enough
the effect on his prestige that would result from the abandonment
of the siege of Cadiz, following upon the retreat of Masséna from
Santarem. It would look like a confession of defeat, a renunciation of
the great game of conquest; if the French armies retired beyond the
Sierra Morena, the results of eighteen months of victorious campaigning
in the south would be lost, and the Cortes at Cadiz would once more
have a realm to administer. Hence all that Napoleon did for Bessières
was to send him in June two new divisions for the strengthening of the
garrisons of the North[265], and to bid him fortify every important
station on the high-road to Madrid, and even the main bridges of the
upper Ebro. A few months later he recalled him, partly because he
considered him a pessimist, partly because Bessières quarrelled with
King Joseph, who was continually soliciting his removal. But before the
Duke of Istria departed he had many more troubles to go through, as
will be seen.

  [265] See below, p. 225. Divisions Souham and Caffarelli.

The main difficulties of the Army of the North arose from geographical
facts. While the plains of Leon and Old Castile could be scoured by
cavalry, and easily traversed by flying columns, so that it was not
impossible to keep some sort of order in them, this flat upland was
bordered on the north by the long chain of the Cantabrian sierras
and their foot-hills, broad, rugged, and nearly roadless. Behind
these again lay the narrow and difficult coast-land of Asturias and
Santander, cut up into countless petty valleys each drained by its
own small river, and parted from its neighbours by spurs of the great
sierras. How was this mountain region, seventy miles broad and two
hundred long, to be dealt with? The French had no permanent garrisons
on the coast between Gijon, the port of Oviedo, which was generally
occupied by a detachment of Bonnet’s division, and Santander, not far
from the borders of Biscay[266]. This last Bessières describes as ‘a
bad post from every point of view, only to be defended by covering
it with large bodies of troops,’ and only accessible by a series of
difficult defiles. In the Cantabrian highlands dwelt Longa and Porlier,
with bands which had assumed the proportions of small armies; they
could communicate with the sea at any one of a dozen petty ports,
and draw arms and supplies from the British cruisers of the Bay of
Biscay. Even Mina would occasionally get in touch with the sea through
this coast-land, though his main sphere of operations was in Navarre.
There were dozens of smaller bands, each based on its own valley, but
capable of joining its neighbours for a sudden stroke. Again and again
French columns worked up into these sierras from the plain of the
Douro, and went on a hunt after the patriots. Sometimes they caught
them and inflicted severe loss; more often they were eluded by their
enemies, who fled by paths that regular troops could not follow, into
some distant corner of the mountains. It was impossible to garrison
each upland valley with a force that could resist a general levy of
the insurgents. Even little towns like Potes, in the Liebana, Longa’s
usual head quarters, which were repeatedly taken, could not be kept.
The ‘Army of the North’ would have required 150,000 men instead of
the 70,000 whom Bessières actually commanded, if it was to master the
whole of this difficult region. Indeed, Cantabria could only have been
conquered by an enemy possessing a sea force to attack it in the rear,
and occupy all its little ports, as well as an overwhelming land army
operating from all sides. To the end of the war Longa and Porlier,
often hunted but never destroyed, maintained themselves without any
great difficulty in their fastnesses. Nothing but the general despair
and demoralization that might have followed the extinction of the
patriotic cause in the whole of the rest of Spain, could have brought
the war in this region to an end. Nothing of the kind occurred: the
Cantabrians kept a high spirit; they won many small successes, and
they were perpetually helped by the British from the side of the
sea. Bessières had a hopeless problem before him in this quarter,
considering the size of his army.

  [266] Bessières soon after his arrival put a garrison in Santoña,
  between Santander and Bilbao.

But this was not his only trouble; Bonnet in Asturias was holding
Oviedo and the district immediately round it with a strong division,
which varied at one time and another from 6,000 to 8,000 men. He was
very useful in his present position, because he cut the Spanish line of
defence along the north coast in two, and because he seemed to threaten
Galicia from the north-east. The threat was not a very real one, for
he had not enough men to deliver an attack on eastern Galicia and at
the same time to hold Oviedo and its neighbourhood. But he was a source
of trouble as well as of strength to his superiors, for it was very
difficult to keep in touch with him through the pass of Pajares, and
if he were to be attacked at once by the Galicians and by a British
landing-force, his position would be a very dangerous one. He had
been put to great trouble by Renovales’s naval expedition in October
1810[267], though this was but a small force and had not received any
real help from Galicia along the land side. Bessières, after he had
been a few months in authority, was inclined to withdraw Bonnet to
the south side of the sierras, and to abandon Oviedo, but was warned
against such a move by his master, who said that this would be ‘a
detestable operation,’ as it would relieve Galicia from the threat of
invasion, allow of the re-formation of a Junta and an army in Asturias,
and necessitate a heavy concentration at Santander[268]. Nevertheless
the Marshal did at one crisis withdraw the division from Oviedo.

  [267] See vol. iii. pp. 486-7.

  [268] _Correspondance_, no. 17,785, 8th June, 1811.

Between Bonnet in the Asturias and Ciudad Rodrigo, the long front
against Galicia was occupied by a single weak French division, that
of Serras, whose head quarters were at Benavente, his advanced post
at Astorga, and his flank-guards at Leon and Zamora[269]. If the army
of Galicia had been in good order this force would have been in great
danger, for it was not strong enough to hold the ground allotted to it.
But when Del Parque in 1809 drew off to Estremadura the old Army of
the North, he had left behind him only a few skeleton corps, and the
best of these had been destroyed in defending Astorga in the following
year. The formation of a new Galician army of 20,000 men had been
decreed, and the _cadres_ left behind in the country had been filled up
in 1810, but the results were not satisfactory. The Captain-General,
Mahy, was a man of little energy, and spent most of it in quarrels
with the local Junta, whom he accused of conspiracy against him, and
charged with secret correspondence with La Romana and his party. He
seized their letters in the post and imprisoned two members, whereupon
riots broke out, and complaints were sent to the Regency at Cadiz. This
led to Mahy’s recall, and the captain-generalship was given to the
Duke of Albuquerque, then on his mission to London. He died without
having returned to Spain, so that the appointment was nugatory, and
the Regency then gave it to Castaños, who was at the same time made
Captain-General of Estremadura, after the death of La Romana and the
disaster at the Gebora. Castaños went to the Tagus, to rally the poor
remnants of the Estremaduran army, and while retaining the nominal
command in Galicia never visited that province, but deputed the command
in it to Santocildes, the young general who had so bravely defended
Astorga in the preceding spring. He had been sent prisoner to France,
but was adroit enough to escape from his captivity, and to make his
way back to Corunna. His appointment was popular, but he got no great
service out of the Galician army, which was in a deplorable condition,
and hopelessly scattered. The Junta kept many battalions to garrison
the harbour-fortresses of Corunna, Vigo, and Ferrol, and the main
body, whose head quarters lay at Villafranca in the Vierzo, did not
amount to more than 7,000 men, destitute of cavalry (which Galicia
could never produce) and very poorly provided with artillery. There was
another division, under General Cabrera, some 4,000 strong, at Puebla
de Senabria, and a third under Barcena and Losada on the borders of
the Asturias, opposite Bonnet. The whole did not amount to 16,000 raw
troops--yet this was sufficient to hold Serras in observation and to
watch Bonnet, who was too much distracted by the Cantabrian bands to
be really dangerous. But in the spring of 1811 the Galicians could do
no more, and Wellington was much chagrined to find that he could get
no effective assistance from them, after he had driven Masséna behind
the Agueda, and so shaken the hold of the French on the whole kingdom
of Leon. It was not till June that Santocildes found it possible
to descend from the hills and threaten Serras. This led to a petty
campaign about Astorga and on the Orbigo river, which will be narrated
in its due place.

  [269] Since the disaster at Puebla de Senabria (vol. iii. p. 270)
  Serras had drawn in his left flank and abandoned the Galician
  foot-hills.

While affairs stood thus in the north, King Joseph and his ‘Army of
the Centre’ were profiting for many months from the absence of any
danger upon the side of Portugal. Indeed, the period between September
1810 and April 1811 were the least disturbed of any in the short and
troublous reign of the _Rey Intruso_, so far as regular military
affairs went. There was no enemy to face save the guerrilleros, yet
these bold partisans, of whom the best known were the Empecinado and
El Medico (Dr. Juan Palarea) on the side of the eastern mountains, and
Julian Sanchez more to the west, on the borders of Leon, sufficed to
keep the 20,000 men of whom King Joseph could dispose[270] in constant
employment. Such a force was not too much when every small town, almost
every village, of New Castile had to be provided with a garrison.
Roughly speaking, each province absorbed a division: the Germans of
the _Rheinbund_ occupied La Mancha, Lahoussaye’s dragoons and the
incomplete division of Dessolles[271] held Toledo and its district, the
King’s Spaniards the Guadalajara country, leaving only the Royal Guards
and some drafts and detachments to garrison the capital. It was with
considerable difficulty that Joseph collected in January 1811 a small
expeditionary force of not over 3,500 men[272], with which Lahoussaye
went out, partly to open up communications with Soult in Estremadura,
but more especially to search for any traces of the vanished army of
Masséna in the direction of the Portuguese frontier. Lahoussaye started
from Talavera on February 1, communicated by means of his cavalry with
Soult’s outposts between Truxillo and Merida, and then went northward
across the Tagus to Plasencia, from which his cavalry searched in
vain, as far as Coria and Alcantara, for any news of the Army of
Portugal. From Plasencia he was soon driven back to Toledo by want of
supplies. Joseph had directed him to seize Alcantara, re-establish its
broken bridge, and place a garrison there; but this turned out to be
absolutely impossible, for it would have been useless to leave a small
force in this remote spot, when it was certain that it must ere long
retire for lack of food, and might well be cut off by the guerrilleros
before it could reach Talavera, the nearest occupied point[273].

  [270] The King in all his dispatches seems to understate his own
  force. He sometimes calls it only 15,000 men. But a muster roll
  of the Army of the Centre, which I have copied from the Archives
  de la Guerre, for February 15, 1811, shows a total of 20,000,
  viz. Dessolles, 3,300, German Division, 5,200, Spaniards, 4,200,
  Lahoussaye, 2,500, Treillard’s Light Cavalry, 1,400, Artillery
  Train, Sappers, &c., 1,500, Royal Guards, 2,000 of all arms.
  In addition there were 5,000 drafts for Soult detained in New
  Castile, but about to start for Seville.

  [271] Which had only seven battalions, the rest being with Soult
  in Andalusia.

  [272] Composed of two cavalry regiments of Marisy’s brigade,
  three German battalions from La Mancha, and two French battalions.

  [273] Napoleon in a dispatch of 22 March (_Correspondance_, xxi.
  496) blames Lahoussaye for not stopping in northern Estremadura,
  in touch with Soult.

The Army of the Centre just sufficed to occupy the kingdom of New
Castile, and was unable to do more. At least, however, it could
maintain its position, and was in no danger. The King was even able
to make state visits to places in the close neighbourhood of Madrid,
such as Alcala and Guadalajara[274], and seems to have regarded
the possibility of such a modest tour as a sign of the approaching
pacification of this region.

  [274] See Miot de Melito’s _Mémoires_, iii. 153-6.

But just at the moment when Joseph Bonaparte’s military situation
was safe, if not satisfactory, he was passing through a diplomatic
crisis which absorbed all his attention and reduced him to the verge
of despair. We have already alluded, in an earlier chapter, to
Napoleon’s insane resolve to annex all Spain beyond the Ebro to the
French Empire[275], in return for which he was proposing to hand over
Portugal, when it should be conquered, to his brother. The proclamation
announcing this strange resolve, which was to make Frenchmen of Mina
and all the guerrilleros of Navarre, no less than of the Catalan armies
which were still striving so hard against Macdonald, was delayed in
publication. For the Emperor wished to wait till Lisbon was in the
hands of Masséna, before he made known his purpose. But Joseph was
aware that the proclamation had been drawn up, and had been sent out
to the governors of the northern provinces, who were only waiting for
orders to issue it. The news that the English had evacuated Portugal
might any day arrive, and would be the signal for the dismemberment of
Spain. He had sent in succession to Paris his two most trusted Spanish
adherents, the Duke of Santa-Fé and the Marquis of Almenara, to beg
the Emperor to forgo his purpose; all was to no effect. Santa-Fé came
back in December absolutely crushed by the reception that he had been
given; the Emperor had delivered to him an angry diatribe, in which he
complained that his brother forgot that he was a French prince, and
remarked that ‘many other European sovereigns, who had received much
harder measure, did not make nearly so much noise about it as the King
of Spain[276].’ Almenara reached Madrid about a week later to report an
equally characteristic interview with Napoleon. He had been directed
to inform his master that he should be given one more chance. Let him
open negotiations with the Cortes at Cadiz, making them the offer that
if they would recognize him as King of Spain, he would recognize them
as lawful representatives of the nation, and rule them according to
the constitution drawn up at Bayonne. Cadiz and the other fortresses
held by the troops of the Regency must open their gates, and Napoleon
would then promise to make no annexations of Spanish soil; he would
even guarantee the integrity of the kingdom. If the Cortes refused
to treat, the Emperor would regard himself as free from any previous
engagements made with his brother or the Spanish nation. The provinces
beyond the Ebro would become part of France. He added that if affairs
in Portugal went badly, it would not be wise to open negotiations with
Cadiz at all, for fear that the Spaniards might take the mere fact
that proposals had been made to them as a token of growing fear and
depression on the part of Joseph.

  [275] See vol. iii. pp. 506-7.

  [276] See Miot’s _Mémoires_, iii. 160, for the discouraging
  results of this embassy.

The King and his ministers knew well the impracticability of making
any offer to the government of Cadiz, which (with all its faults and
internal dissensions) was determined to fight to the death, and had
never shown the least intention of recognizing Napoleon’s nominee as
King of Spain. They looked upon the scheme as merely a preliminary to
the publication of the edict for the annexation of the provinces beyond
the Ebro. King Joseph was to be made to demonstrate his own futility,
since he would receive an angry and contemptuous reply, or no reply
at all, and it would then be open to his brother to declare that the
attempt to govern a united Spain by a king had failed, and that it was
necessary to dismember it--perhaps to cut it up into a number of French
military governments. This seems to have been Joseph’s own impression;
in the council at which the Emperor’s proposal was discussed, he
broke out into violent reproaches and bitter complaints against his
brother, and explained with tears to his ministers that he and they
were betrayed. He was now for abdicating, and this would have been the
most dignified course to take. He talked of buying an estate in France,
and settling down, far from Paris, as a private person. He had indeed
charged his wife’s nephew, Marius Clary, to cross the Pyrenees, and
purchase a castle and lands for him in Touraine or the South, where he
might hide his disgrace and disappointment.

This move provoked Napoleon’s wrath. He signified his displeasure.
‘The members of the Imperial family could not legally make any
acquisition of land in France without the formal consent of the
Emperor. In addition, it was impossible for the King of Spain, or the
commander of the Army of the Centre, to quit his post without having
received the Imperial authorization. Painful as the declaration must
be, if the King took such a hazardous step, he should be arrested at
Bayonne on crossing the frontier. There must be no more talk about
the constitution of Bayonne: the Emperor could dispose of Spain at
his good pleasure, and in the interests of the French Empire alone.’
If Joseph persisted in the idea of abdication, he must first make a
formal statement to that effect to the French ambassador at Madrid,
and, provided that it was considered that the step would cause no
dangerous results, nor give rise to any slanderous reports, he might
come to his estate of Morfontaine near Paris and ‘finish the matter _en
règle_[277].’

  [277] All this from the letter of the Queen of Spain, detailing
  her interview with the Duc de Cadore, who sent for her in the
  Emperor’s name on January 15, 1811, and administered this bitter
  message to her, for her husband’s benefit. See the letter given
  in Miot’s _Mémoires_, iii. 171-2. Cf. Napoleon’s dispatch to
  Laforest, ambassador at Madrid, _Correspondance_, 17,111.

Joseph at first seemed inclined to accept any terms by which he
might emerge from his present ignominious position, and actually
had several interviews with Laforest, in which they discussed the
drafting of a deed of abdication. But it seemed that Napoleon would
prefer the prolongation of the present state of affairs, and for his
own purposes intended that a puppet king should continue at Madrid.
By the ambassador’s advice the document ultimately took the shape of
a letter in which Joseph, instead of abdicating in definitive form,
merely stated his wish to do so, and referred it to his brother. His
confidant, Miot de Melito, with whom he talked over the whole matter,
expresses his opinion that at the last moment the fascination of the
crown overpowered his master’s full sense of resentment. ‘The King’s
note was a good piece of writing, but I consider that it did not state
clearly enough that the course to which he inclined, and which he
preferred to all others, was abdication. I wished that he had made a
stronger affirmation of this, and told him so, but to no effect. It
was easy to see that the name of King had still a powerful attraction,
from which Joseph could not escape, and I wondered at the glamour and
intoxication which (as it seems) hangs about supreme power, since the
mere shadow of that power could overweigh with him so many rebuffs and
so much resentment[278].’

  [278] Miot’s _Mémoires_, iii. 176.

Napoleon made no reply to his brother’s declaration; he had no
intention of taking over the formal responsibility for the government
of Spain, and preferred to leave another to answer for all its obvious
injustices and oppressions. Affairs were at a standstill for some
months, till in April Joseph, taking the opportunity of a formal
invitation to become one of the godfathers of the newly-born King of
Rome, the heir of the Empire, made a sudden and unauthorized sally
to Paris. He started from Madrid on April 23, accompanied by nine of
his courtiers and ministers, and crossed the Bidassoa into France on
May 10. He made no halt at Bayonne, lest he should be stopped there
by orders from his brother, and when, at Dax in Gascony, he received
an Imperial dispatch forbidding him to quit Spain, he was able to
plead that it was too late to act upon it. Pursuing his journey night
and day, he presented himself at Paris on May 15th, and announced to
Napoleon that he was come to discharge in person the honourable duties
of god-parent at the approaching baptism of his nephew.

Though annoyed at the King’s arrival, for refusals and evasions of a
brother’s petitions are transacted more easily by letter than face to
face, the Emperor thought it well to make no open show of displeasure,
and accepted all the explanations given to him. There followed a series
of interviews at Rambouillet, in which Joseph allowed himself to be
talked out of his project of abdication: for the Emperor declared that
he found him useful in his present position, and informed him that it
was his duty, as a brother and a French prince, to obey the directions
of the head of his house. In return Napoleon promised to make many
arrangements which would render the King’s position less intolerable
than it had been for the last year. He would provide him with a monthly
subsidy of a million francs from the French treasury, of which half
would be for the sustenance of his court and ministers, and the other
half for the pay of the Army of the Centre. Orders were issued to
Soult, commanding the Army of Andalusia, Bessières, commanding the
newly-formed Army of the North, and Suchet, so far as the Army of
Aragon was concerned (but not for Catalonia), by which they were
directed to pay over to a commissary appointed by Joseph one quarter of
the gross revenues which they were raising in the districts which they
occupied. They were also directed to leave the law courts in the King’s
hands, and not to allow judgements to be given in the name of the
Emperor. It was this last practice, frequently adopted by Kellermann in
Castile, which had irritated Joseph more than any other misdemeanour of
the local commandants.

What Joseph most desired, a real directing power over the movements
of all the French troops in Spain, was not given him. But he was
granted a sort of illusory superintending authority: if he was at the
head quarters of any of the armies, he was to be given the honours
of supreme command; all the marshals and generals commanding armies
were to send him frequent reports, and not to undertake any operations
without informing him of them. ‘The King must have reports of
everything that happens; he must know everything, and be able to act in
his central position as a sort of agency for transmitting information
to the generals. This communication of intelligence, observations,
and advice may even take place through his Spanish Minister of
War[279],’ wrote the Emperor. The King flattered himself that this
meagre concession gave him something like a directing authority over
the armies. He told his courtiers that he was given the position of
General-in-Chief[280], and used his brother’s permission to send
advice in reams to each of the local commanders. Unfortunately there
was no way of making them take this advice; they answered more or less
politely, showing reasons why they could not follow it, and went on
their own ways as before. It was to no effect that Joseph got leave to
have his old friend Marshal Jourdan sent back to him, first as governor
of Madrid, and later as chief of the staff. He flattered himself
that his dispatches would be taken more seriously by Soult or Suchet
when they came countersigned by a marshal of France. But he erred,
for the younger commanders looked upon Jourdan as effete and past his
prime--nor were they altogether wrong.

  [279] Napoleon to Berthier, from Caen, May 27. _Correspondance_,
  no. 17,752.

  [280] See Miot de Melito’s _Mémoires_, iii. 197-8, and compare
  it with the actual terms of Napoleon’s concession given in his
  letter to Berthier quoted above.

Nothing can be more curious than the Emperor’s memorandum to Berthier,
which directs him to lay these conditions before Joseph. ‘I am thus,’
he writes, ‘satisfying the desires which the King expressed to me,
save on the single point of the supreme command over my troops. I
cannot give away that supreme command, because I do not see any man
capable of managing the troops, and yet the command ought to be one and
indivisible. In the note which the King gave me, all the arrangements
were complex and confused. It is in the nature of things that if one
marshal were placed at Madrid, and directed all operations, he would
want to have all the glory along with all the responsibility. The
commanders of the Armies of the South and of Portugal would think
themselves under the orders not so much of the King as of that marshal,
and in consequence would not give him obedience.... My intention is to
make no change whatever in the military command, neither with the Army
of the North, nor the Army of Aragon, nor the Army of the South, nor
the Army of Portugal, save so much as is necessary to secure for the
King reports from them all.... I want to do all that I can to give the
King a new prestige on his return to Spain, but nothing that may in any
way disorganize the Army of Andalusia, or any of the other armies[281].’

  [281] All from the Caen memorandum for Berthier quoted above.

It is clear that we have in these few sentences the key to all
Napoleon’s difficulties in conducting the Spanish war. He did not wish
to ‘have a marshal at Madrid who would want to have all the glory along
with all the responsibility,’ i. e. he refused to make one of his
servants dangerously great. Soult’s intrigues for kingship at Oporto
in 1809 were not forgotten, and Soult would have been the obvious
candidate for supreme command, now that Masséna had been tried and
found wanting. The Emperor preferred to go on with the hopeless system
that was already working, by which he himself directed operations
from Paris, basing his orders on facts that were often a month old
when he learnt of them, and sending out those orders to reach their
destination another month later. He was aware of the evils of this
arrangement, but anything was better than to hand over supreme power
over 300,000 soldiers to a single lieutenant. It is strange that he
did not resolve to descend into Spain himself during the summer of
1811, for European politics were at the moment so quiet that he was
actually thinking of concentrating 80,000 men at Boulogne, for a real
or a threatened descent on the British Isles[282], a project which he
had not been able to dream of since Trafalgar. The tension between
France and Russia, which was to increase in a dangerous fashion during
the autumn, was not so great in May or June as to make the idea of a
Spanish campaign impossible. If it was possible to think of an invasion
of England at this moment, it was surely equally feasible to consider
the advantages of a descent on Lisbon or Cadiz. But apparently it
was the physical distance between Paris and the further end of the
Peninsula which deterred the Emperor from seizing what turned out to
be the last available opportunity for a sally beyond the Pyrenees.
As he himself observed on another occasion, he would be at the end
of the world in Portugal, and a crisis might arise behind his back
before he got any adequate news of it[283]. This was different from
campaigning in central Europe; when at Vienna or Berlin he was still in
touch with Paris. The only parallel to an invasion of Portugal would
be an invasion of Russia, and it will be remembered that Napoleon’s
apprehensions were absolutely justified by what occurred in the autumn
of 1812 during his absence at Moscow. The astounding conspiracy of
General Malet was within an ace of succeeding, because it was possible
to put about all manner of false rumours, when the Emperor was lost
to sight on the steppes. A handful of plotters--we might almost say
a single plotter, Malet himself--with no assets save impudence and
reckless courage, seized the imperial ministers, mustered an armed
force, and almost established a provisional government and mastered
Paris. This was only possible because the Emperor and the grand army
had got so far off that the touch between them and France had been
lost, and absence of news for many days had set the tongue of rumour
loose[284]. Under such circumstances almost anything might happen,
for imposing as was the Colossus of the French Empire, it stood on no
firm base, its feet were of clay. Napoleon hoped to build a permanent
structure, but there can be no doubt that all through his reign its
stability depended on his own life and strength. If he had been cut
off suddenly by a cannon-ball at Jena or Wagram, or by the knife of a
fanatic such as Staps--Spain could have produced such enthusiasts by
the score--chaos would have supervened in France. When once the rumour
was set about that the Emperor was dead, anything became possible in
Paris. No one knew this better than himself; in his cynical moments he
would remark to his confidants that he was well aware that if sudden
death came to him the public feeling would be one of relief rather than
of sorrow. It was the constraining force of his own indomitable will
alone which kept everything together, and if he removed himself to
some very remote corner of Europe, from which his orders could not be
transmitted continuously and at short intervals, there was grave danger
that the machine might run down.

  [282] For dispatches concerning this, and notes as to the troops
  and ships to be employed, see _Correspondance_, 17,824, 17,875,
  &c. The project seems to have been seriously thought over, the
  Emperor wrongly believing that England was stripped of regular
  troops.

  [283] ‘Le Portugal est trop loin: je ne peux pas y aller; il
  faudrait six mois. Pendant six mois tout est suspendu: l’Europe
  est sans direction: les Russes peuvent se déclarer, les Anglais
  débarquer au nord. En vérité, quand on voit la différence qu’un
  homme met aux événements, il est impossible de ne pas avoir de
  l’amour propre.’ 30th March, 1811. Napoleon’s interview with Foy,
  reported by the latter in Vie _Militaire du Général Foy_, p. 140.

  [284] For a similar hint of danger in 1809, see above, vol. i.
  pp. 560-61.

Hence it may perhaps be said that the Peninsula was saved from the
presence of the Emperor in 1811 because of the necessary limitations
of a one-man power. He dared not remove himself from the centre of
affairs; he would not make one of his jealous and ambitious lieutenants
over-great, by giving him supreme command. This being so, the bad old
system had to go on, and that system of over-late orders grounded
on over-late information[285], and followed (or not followed) by
over-late execution, was bound to fail, when the enemy’s movements
were guided by the cool and resolute brain of Wellington. More than
once Napoleon wrote in a petulant mood to complain that it was absurd
that all his Spanish armies should be detained and kept in check by a
mere 30,000 British troops[286]; he refused for a long time to take the
Portuguese seriously, and would only reckon the Spanish guerrilleros
as ‘brigands’ or ‘canaille.’ What he failed to see was that a small
army worked by a general on the spot, who had minute local knowledge
and admirable foresight, was necessarily superior to a much larger
force directed by orders from a distance, and commanded by several
marshals who were bitterly jealous of each other. Moreover he never
thoroughly comprehended the way in which the movements of his armies
were delayed by the fact that they were moving in a country where every
peasant was their enemy, where provisions could only be collected by
armed force, and where no dispatch would reach its destination unless
it were guarded by an escort of from 50 to 250 men. And he refused
to see that a division or an army corps was in Spain practically no
more than the garrison of the province which it occupied--that, if it
moved, that province immediately became hostile soil again, and would
have to be reconquered. He was always prescribing the concentration of
large bodies of men, by means of the evacuation of places or regions
of secondary importance[287]. His marshals, knowing the practical
inconveniences of such evacuations, were loth to carry them out. To
disgarrison a region meant that all communications were cut off, and
that the nearest posts were at once blockaded by guerrillero bands.
Whenever the Army of Andalusia concentrated, it ceased to receive
its dispatches or its convoys from Madrid, and soon learned that
Granada and Seville were being menaced. Whenever the Army of the North
concentrated, the road between Vittoria and Burgos was cut, and the
_partidas_ descended from the Cantabrian mountains to threaten all
the posts in Old Castile. And the concentration, when made, could
only continue for a few days for lack of food, for there is hardly a
region in Spain where a very large army, 80,000 or 100,000 men, can
live on the country for a week. It was this, and no mere jealousy of
rival generals, which forced Soult and Marmont to part, as we shall
see, in June 1811, and Marmont and Dorsenne in September of the same
year, and which in November 1812 prevented the immense body formed
by the united Armies of the South, Centre, North, and Portugal, from
pursuing Wellington to Ciudad Rodrigo. If such a force as 80,000 men
were concentrated, it had to be fed; after a few days of living on
the country it would be forced to ask for convoys. But convoys coming
from long distances were the destined prey of the guerrilleros; if not
captured they were at least delayed _ad infinitum_. Meanwhile the army
in front would run out of provisions, and be forced to scatter itself
once more in order to live. After Masséna’s venture no French marshal
ever dared to think of plunging into Portugal, where he knew that he
would find before him a country systematically devastated. No one was
better aware of this limitation of the French power than Wellington. He
had written as early as 1809 that the enemy could not turn him out of
the Peninsula with anything less than 100,000 men, and that he could
make such arrangements that an army of that number could not live in
the country. The prophecy was fulfilled over and over again. With the
enormous strength of the imperial armies it was not impossible to
collect 80,000 or 100,000 men--but it was impossible to feed them. All
concentrations must be but temporary. When the enemy was massed, the
Anglo-Portuguese army might have to give ground, or only to accept an
action under the most favourable conditions. But the French would soon
have to scatter, and then Wellington regained his freedom of action.

  [285] Sometimes on absolutely false information, due to the
  Emperor’s vast distance from the theatre of war leading him to
  make hypotheses which had been falsified, because of the mistaken
  premises on which he grounded them. For example, on March 30,
  1811, he told Berthier that Masséna’s head quarters were at
  Coimbra, and that a detachment of his army occupied Oporto, and
  these ‘news’ were to be sent on to Soult (_Correspondance_,
  17,531). On that day Masséna was already behind the Coa on his
  retreat to Ciudad Rodrigo.

  [286] Compare the dispatches of March 30, where it is
  demonstrated that Soult has nothing to fear for Badajoz, because
  Wellington cannot detach more than 15,000 men against it,
  and that of December 12, where it is demonstrated that Soult
  having 80,000 men should be ashamed of himself for allowing the
  ‘affront’ of Arroyo dos Molinos to be put upon him by Hill and
  6,000 British.

  [287] ‘Il ne faut pas se diviser: il faut réunir ses forces,
  présenter des masses imposantes: toutes les troupes qu’on
  laisse en arrière courent le risque d’être battues en détail,
  ou forcées d’abandonner les postes,’ &c. Napoleon to Soult,
  _Correspondance_, December 6, 1811.

It was useless, therefore, for the Emperor to reiterate his orders
that his marshals were to join their armies and ‘livrer enfin une
belle bataille’ against Wellington[288]. It takes two sides to fight a
battle, and Wellington was determined never to accept a general action,
when the numbers were hopelessly against him. He would give back into
Portugal, and the enemy could not follow him for more than a march or
two.

  [288] Napoleon to Berthier; orders for Bessières and Marmont of
  May 26, 1811.

Meanwhile, though he could not undertake to descend himself into
Portugal, Napoleon did not cease to pour troops across the Pyrenees.
It is often said that after Masséna’s expedition of 1810 he began to
neglect the Peninsula, and to turn all his thoughts towards the growing
tension with Russia. This is not correct; it ignores the fact that the
French armies in Spain rose to their highest numbers during the year
1811. While not ceasing to send their regular drafts to all the corps
there engaged, the Emperor dispatched three new divisions of his best
troops to the front during the summer. These were no collections of
newly-raised fourth battalions or _régiments de marche_, but old units
of high reputation, drawn partly from the Army of Italy, partly from
the garrisons of the coasts of France. One division, under General
Souham, ultimately went to join the Army of Portugal, the second, under
General Caffarelli, was absorbed in the Army of the North, the third,
under General Reille, was sent to reinforce the garrison of Navarre
and Aragon, where Suchet wanted fresh troops to occupy the land behind
him, when he was pushing forward towards Catalonia and Valencia. In
addition, two fresh regiments of Italian troops were requisitioned from
the Viceroy Eugène Beauharnais for service in eastern Spain[289]. The
total reinforcement to the armies beyond the Pyrenees amounted to some
25,000 men, in addition to the regular annual draft of conscripts. The
deficit in the strength of the French forces caused by Masséna’s losses
in Portugal was more than made up, and the gross total in October 1811
amounted to no less than 368,000 men. Nothing was withdrawn from the
Peninsula till the following winter.

  [289] See _Correspondance_, 17,784, Napoleon to Clarke, 8th June,
  1811. The divisions were composed as follows:--

  Souham. 1st Line (4 batts.) and 62nd Line (4 batts.), from Turin
  and Marseilles; 23rd Léger (2 batts.), from Auxonne; 101st Line
  (4 batts.), from Turin and Spezzia. About 7,000 men.

  Caffarelli. 5th Léger (2 batts.), from Cherbourg; 3rd and 105th
  Line (each 2 batts.), from Rennes; 10th Léger (4 batts.), from
  Rennes; 52nd Line (2 batts.), from Toulon. About 6,000 men.

  Reille. 81st Line (2 batts. at Pampeluna, 1 from Genoa); 10th
  Line and 20th Line (4 batts. each), already at Pampeluna; 60th
  Line (4 batts.), from Toulon. About 7,500 men.

  Italian Division. 1st Line (4 batts.); 7th Line (4 batts.). About
  4,000 men.



SECTION XXV: CHAPTER II

SUCHET ON THE EBRO. THE FALL OF TORTOSA
DECEMBER 1810-MARCH 1811

In the last pages of the third volume of this work we brought the
history of the campaigns of Suchet and Macdonald in Aragon and
Catalonia as far as December 12th, 1810, the day on which the Marshal
came down to the lower Ebro at the head of the field-divisions of the
7th Corps, in order to cover the long-delayed siege of Tortosa, which
his colleague, the commander of the Army of Aragon, was about to take
in hand.

For five months, ever since August 1810, as it will be remembered,
Suchet had been waiting to commence the attack on Tortosa, which he
was not strong enough to conduct with his own resources, since the
besieger would have not only to execute his own operations, but to fend
off at the same time all attempts by the Spanish armies of Catalonia
and Valencia to relieve a fortress which was equally important to each
of them. For Tortosa commanded the one land route by which Catalonia
and Valencia were still able to communicate with each other; no other
bridge on the Ebro was in Spanish hands. It was highly desirable
to keep the line of defence in eastern Spain unbroken, and Tortosa
lay at its narrowest and most dangerous point. The Emperor Napoleon
attached an immense importance to its capture, and considered that
after its fall, and that of Tarragona, the conquest of Valencia and the
termination of the war on this side of the Peninsula would be at hand.
Already in September 1810 he was looking forward to all these events as
matters of the near future[290]. But though Tortosa was actually to be
captured in January 1811, Tarragona in June, and Valencia in December,
the long-foreseen consummation was never to come to pass. For two years
more, down to the very end of the war, the indomitable Catalans were
destined to maintain their independence, despite of all the successes
of the French arms.

  [290] _Correspondance_, no. 16,910, of September 10, 1810.

Tortosa was not quite so indispensable in reality as it looked on
the map. For though it would have been a point of absolutely vital
importance to the Spaniards, if they had been compelled to conduct
all their operations by land, it must not be forgotten that the
British command of the Mediterranean gave an alternative route for
communication between north and south, which the French could never
touch. Long after Tortosa had fallen, troops were repeatedly and easily
transferred from Catalonia to Valencia, and vice versa, despite of the
fact that Suchet had completely mastered all the land routes. Indeed
it may be said that the sea passage from one to the other was always
preferable to the route through Tortosa, for the country about both
banks of the lower Ebro was rugged, barren, and thinly peopled, and
Tortosa itself--a decayed city of 10,000 inhabitants--was the only
place in this region which presented resources of any kind for an
army on the march. It is, moreover, twenty miles from the sea, and
not a port; strange to say, there is no decent harbour at the mouth
of the Ebro. Though the river is intermittently navigable for a good
many miles in its lower course, its estuary has never been a point
through which trade discharges itself to the sea. The commerce of
southern Catalonia goes to Tarragona, sixty miles to the north of the
Ebro mouth, that of Northern Valencia to Peniscola, thirty miles to
its south. Tortosa, indeed, was more important to the French than to
the Spaniards, since Napoleon’s armies were tied down to land routes,
and, if ever they were to make a lodgement in Valencia, would find the
possession of that city and its bridge absolutely necessary, if they
were to keep in touch with the troops left in Catalonia.

At last, in December 1810, Macdonald had accomplished the preliminary
duties which rendered it possible for him to move on Tortosa. He had
revictualled Barcelona, so that it would be safe for some months from
famine, and he had repaired the gap in the French lines in northern
Catalonia, which had been caused by Henry O’Donnell’s daring expedition
to La Bispal in the preceding September. Though the Spanish army had
not been crushed, nor indeed seriously injured, it had been thrust
aside for the moment: Macdonald had brought down three divisions, over
15,000 men, to Mora on the Ebro, some twenty-five miles to the north
of Tortosa, and with them he was prepared to act as a covering force
to the projected siege. He was strong enough to render any attempt at
relief by the Catalan army impossible, for a force sufficient to beat
him could not be collected by the enemy, unless they abandoned all
their outlying posts; and this was practically impossible, for local
feeling in the Principality was too strong to allow of the withdrawal
of the smaller Spanish detachments from the various valleys and small
towns which they covered. There was still the Valencian army to be
considered; but Suchet considered that he could himself deal with
that unfortunate and oft-defeated force; he had already proved its
weakness at the series of engagements in August[291] in which he had
so effectually scattered the levies of the dictator José Caro. One
division would probably suffice to keep the Valencians at bay, while
with two others the actual siege of Tortosa could be taken in hand. It
was the Catalan army alone which had made Suchet anxious, and he was
now to be relieved of all care on that side by Macdonald.

  [291] See vol. iii. p. 494.

The preparations for the siege, it will be remembered, had long
been in progress; ever since August magazines and material had
been accumulating at Xerta. They had been brought down the Ebro
from Mequinenza, whenever the water was high enough to allow of
navigation--not without much difficulty, and occasional petty disasters
when the Catalan miqueletes made a pounce upon an exposed convoy[292].
Fifty-two heavy guns were now lying ready at Xerta, with 30,000 rounds
of ammunition for them, and 90,000 lb. more of powder. To set in
motion the besieging army and this very large battering-train, it only
required that the covering forces on each side of the Ebro should take
up their positions. When Macdonald had brought up his troops to Mora,
and undertaken to move them to Perello, the junction point of the two
roads from Tortosa to Tarragona, nothing more remained to be settled.
If the Catalan army should try to attack him it would certainly be
beaten, being far too weak to face 15,000 French troops concentrated
in one body. For the restraining of the Valencians, on the other side
of the Ebro, General Musnier with 7,000 men was placed at Uldecona,
twelve miles beyond Tortosa on the great road to the south.

  [292] See vol. iii. p. 503.

These arrangements being made, Suchet crossed the Ebro at Xerta by his
pontoon bridge on December 15th with twelve battalions, and made a
sweeping circular march to shut in Tortosa on the northern side, while
five battalions more, under General Abbé, moved by the other bank to
block the bridge-head, by which the city communicates with Valencia and
the south. The operation was completed without resistance, save at the
Col de Alba, where a post of 600 Catalans, placed to cover the road
between Tortosa and the pass of Balaguer, was discovered. This small
force was driven into Tortosa after a skirmish; two small convoys on
their way from Tarragona by sea had to turn back, because the way into
the city was closed.

The siege of Tortosa was remarkable for its swift progress and complete
success--it can only be compared with Wellington’s capture of Ciudad
Rodrigo, just a year later, in this respect. The Army of Aragon arrived
in front of the city on December 16th--the surrender took place on
January 2nd. At first sight the problem set before Suchet appeared by
no means likely to receive such a rapid solution, for Tortosa as a
fortress had many strong points. The city lies on and around the end of
a spur of the Sierra de Alba, which runs down to the bank of the Ebro.
This spur at its termination is many-headed: three ravines divide it
into four separate hills, of which the highest is that crowned by the
castle. The other three die down into undulations, and leave between
them and the Ebro a comparatively flat space, on which the lower part
of the town is built. Its higher quarters lie on the slopes where the
various hills begin to rise from the level. The old enceinte of Tortosa
had consisted of a mediaeval wall running across the hills and down the
ravines between them, so as to enclose nothing but the inhabited parts
of the city. But after a famous siege during the War of the Spanish
Succession (1708), a number of outer works had been constructed to
crown the culminating summit of each hill, and keep future besiegers
at a distance, while part of the inner ancient fortifications had been
transformed into a series of bastions, so far as the ground allowed.

The outer works were: (1) Starting from the river, on the extreme
north-east front, a large hornwork called Las Tenazas[293], crowning
the hill which lies most to the left, protecting the suburb of
Remolinos, and commanding the flat ground as far as the river, from
which it is only 400 yards distant. (2) A second hornwork covered the
outer side of the castle hill: this was called El Bonete; there was
a deep ravine on each side of it. (3) A sort of outer enceinte with
three bastions (La Victoria, El Cristo, and Cruces) runs along the
summit of the fourth hill, which is broader than the rest and expands
into a plateau; the old town wall formed a second line in rear of this
advanced front. (4) The last hill, that most towards the south-east,
was crowned by a strong closed fort, named after the Duke of Orleans,
the general who had captured the city for Philip V in the year 1708.
Between the Orleans hill and the river there was no high ground; this
was the only open front of the city which was approachable on a level
without any natural hindrances. Here the enceinte had no outer works;
it consisted of two large bastions, San Pedro and San Juan, with a
demi-lune named El Temple projecting between them. This last was a low
work of no great strength: the curtain behind it, which joined San
Pedro and San Juan, was a mere shell with no terrace or room for guns.
The other (south-western) side of the city was sufficiently protected
by the broad and swift river, 300 yards in width; behind it was only
the ancient wall, but, as this was wholly inaccessible, its weakness
did not matter. In the middle of the river front, which was 1,200
yards long, was a gate leading to the great bridge of boats. This was
protected on the further bank by a little _tête-du-pont_, built in the
form of a ravelin and well armed with artillery.

  [293] Napier’s ‘Tenaxas’ and Belmas’s ‘Tenailles’ = ‘the
  Pinchers.’

The garrison consisted, when the siege began, of 7,179 men, including
600 artillery and a weak battalion of Urban Guards. The regiments
were drawn partly from the Catalonian and partly from the Valencian
army, there being seven battalions from the former and four from the
latter[294]. The governor was Major-General Lilli, Conde de Alacha,
an old officer who had won some credit, two years back, by bringing
off his small corps intact after the battle of Tudela, when he had
been cut off by the French in the mountains[295]. Unfortunately it is
impossible to argue that because an officer has made a skilful retreat
he is a good fighting-man. Lilli, indeed, proved the reverse on this
occasion--all that can be said in his defence is that he was old
and in bad health. His conduct during the siege was vacillating and
inexplicable; he more than once declared that he would give over charge
of the defence to the second in command, Brigadier-General Yriarte.
But he would then appear again, and countermand all Yriarte’s orders.
In the end he capitulated on his own account, against the wishes and
without the knowledge of the brigadier.

  [294] The strength of the garrison raises a conflict of
  authorities. The Spanish official figures are those given above,
  which are followed by Schepeler and Arteche. But Suchet says
  that he captured 9,461 prisoners, including the wounded in
  the hospitals, and that several hundred men more had perished
  before the surrender. He gives a muster roll of the garrison
  purporting to bear out his figures (_Mémoires_, i. p. 359), which
  Belmas copies. Since Suchet’s Spanish totals are often more
  than doubtful (cf. vol. iii. p. 304) I accept the figures given
  by his adversaries. The December figures of the Spanish Army
  of Catalonia show 13,040 men in all distributed in garrisons,
  including those of Tarragona, Tortosa, Seu de Urgel, Cardona, and
  smaller places. I think that 7,000 for Tortosa is probable.

  [295] See vol. ii. p. 6.

The problem in poliorcetics set before Suchet and his engineers at
Tortosa had some resemblance to that which was to confront Wellington
at Badajoz a few months later. Given a town to besiege which is partly
built on heights crowned by forts and partly in the flat, is it better
to attack one of the forts, which if taken commands the whole town,
or to start against the lower front? The latter will be easier to
assail, but after its fall the strongholds on the heights may hold
out as independent fortresses. Whereas if a dominating work on a
high-lying hill is taken in hand, it may make a very hard and long
resistance, but, if once it is captured, the whole city is overlooked
by it and must surrender. The answer to the problem seems to be that
all depends on the governor and the garrison; if he and they are weak,
it will suffice to attack the easier front, for when the lower town
has fallen the morale will be so shaken that they will surrender,
without attempting to hold the upper works. But if they are active
and obstinate, it may be worth while to aim at the most commanding
position, which, if captured, absolutely compels the capitulation of
the whole place. Yet there remains the danger that the crucial fort may
be so strong that no effort can take it from a determined defender.
This happened to Wellington at the two earlier sieges of Badajoz; the
fall of San Cristobal would have brought about most inevitably the
surrender of the city. But it proved too hard a nut to crack, in the
time and with the means at the English general’s disposal. Suchet at
Tortosa struck at the easiest front, taking the risk that he might
have to conduct a second siege of the upper works (as he had to do at
Tarragona, his next leaguer). When he had breached the weakest point,
but before a storm had been tried, the imbecile governor capitulated.

The weak front of Tortosa was the bastion of San Pedro and the
demi-lune of El Temple on its flank. They were not properly supported
or flanked by any works on higher ground, for Fort Orleans (on the
nearest hill) did not command all the flats in front of San Pedro, and
moreover Suchet intended to give this fort so much business on its own
account that its gunners would have little attention to spare for the
attack on the lower ground to their right. There were two additional
advantages: the soil in front of San Pedro was soft river mould, very
easy to dig; and moreover this bastion could be enfiladed by batteries
on the other side of the Ebro. Such batteries had nothing to fear, if
properly constructed, from the guns of the little _tête-du-pont_; while
on the river front of the city there were no cannon at all--they could
not be mounted on the mediaeval walls.

On the 16th, 17th, and 18th Suchet was employed in bringing up his
siege-guns, choosing the emplacements of his camps, and constructing
flying-bridges across the river, both above and below the fortress. On
the 19th active operations started, with the development of a false
attack on Fort Orleans, whose attention it was necessary to distract.
The construction of a first parallel against this work was begun with
some ostentation, and had to be carried out under a furious fire
from its artillery. On the night of the 20th-21st the real business
commenced: 2,300 men crept across the flat ground by the river opposite
San Pedro, and threw up an entrenchment within 160 yards of its ditch.
They were undiscovered and unopposed, for the night was dark and
windy, and the Spaniards had no outposts beyond the walls, and kept bad
watch. At dawn 500 paces of trench had been constructed, and a safe
access to the parallel had been contrived, by connecting one of its
ends with a ravine which cuts across the flat a little to the rear, and
whose bottom could not be searched by the guns of the place. The trench
was sloped away on the right, so as not to be enfiladed by downward
fire from Fort Orleans, which would have commanded it supposing it
had been drawn exactly parallel to the front of San Pedro. This was a
tremendously advantageous start; seldom has a besieger been able to
begin his works at such a short distance from his objective.

Next morning the new trench became visible to the Spaniards, who turned
all the artillery of the neighbouring front upon it, but to little
effect, for the soil was soft and the French had dug deep. A sortie was
made from the demi-lune of El Temple, but was driven off with loss.
The only successful effort of the Spaniards on this day was that the
guns of Fort Orleans succeeded in destroying part of the trenches of
the false attack in front of them, and drove out the workers. This was
of little consequence, as Suchet was not really aiming at the fort. On
the 22nd and 23rd December the main attack was urged with a celerity
that seemed appalling to the defenders; despite of a heavy fire of
musketry as well as of artillery, approaches were pushed forward from
the first parallel, to within 80 yards of the bastion of San Pedro and
110 yards of the Temple demi-lune. The works opposite Fort Orleans were
repaired and extended. On the 24th the two approaches in the plain were
connected by a long trench, which formed the second parallel, only 60
yards from the walls. On the 25th new zigzags, thrown out from this
line, reached the glacis of San Pedro. The garrison made two sorties
in the night to hinder this advance at all hazards, but failed, being
driven off by the musketry from the second parallel without much
difficulty: the force employed, 300 men, was too small. Meanwhile the
artillery and sappers were constructing ten batteries, four--and these
the largest--in the main frontal attack, but four others on the heights
over against Fort Orleans, and two beyond the river, whose special
purpose was to enfilade the front of San Pedro, and also to play upon
the bridge of boats which joined the city to the _tête-du-pont_. The
trenches on the heights before Fort Orleans were also strengthened, and
a second parallel constructed in front of the first, at some loss of
life; but it was necessary to keep the enemy on this front employed, or
he would have interfered too much with the real attack in the plain.

All this had been accomplished before the French had fired a single
gun; there is hardly another instance to be quoted of a siege in which
the assailants got up to the glacis, and crowned the covered way,
without any assistance from their artillery. It seems that the gunnery
of the defence must have been exceptionally bad, and the sorties
hitherto had been small and feeble--quite insufficient to interfere
with, much less to destroy, the approaches. Noting batteries sketched
out on several points and approaching completion, Yriarte saw that he
must at all costs try to delay the opening of the adversary’s fire,
and on the night of the 27th-28th made two sallies in considerable
force--600 men came out of the Rastro gate, beyond Fort Orleans, to
attack the upper trenches, as many more issued from San Pedro against
the main attack. The first-named sortie was an entire failure--most
of the men lay down and began to skirmish with the trench-guard
before they had got near the works; a very few reached them, and were
killed on the parapet. But the attack in the plain was a serious one,
and pressed home. The lodgement in the covered way was captured and
destroyed, and the Spaniards penetrated to the second parallel, and
captured part of it for a time. They were finally driven out by a
reserve of four battalions commanded by General Abbé, but not before
they had done considerable damage. The besiegers had to spend the
following day and night (28-29 December) in repairing the trenches and
parapets, and getting a fresh lodgement in the covered way. On the
morning of the latter day the ten siege-batteries opened simultaneously
with 45 guns, and very soon gained a marked superiority over the fire
of the defence. The cannon of Fort Orleans and the bastion of San
Juan were silenced, as were also those of the Temple demi-lune and
San Pedro. The bridge of boats was nearly destroyed. Next night, the
Spanish fire being crushed, the third parallel was constructed on the
very brink of the ditch of San Pedro, and within 25 yards of the wall
of the bastion. The mortar batteries were employed in distributing
a rain of projectiles in the streets behind the attacked front, to
prevent the besieged from constructing defences and barricades on which
they might fall back when the wall was breached. Though not altogether
successful--for the Spaniards succeeded in building some traverses and
in blocking and loopholing many houses--the bombardment caused many
casualties, and cowed the population, who evacuated this quarter and
sought refuge in the interior of the town. The interior of Fort Orleans
was also shelled with some effect: its garrison retired to their
bomb-proofs, and kept very quiet, making little attempt to repair the
injuries to its outer wall, or to replace the injured cannon.

On the night of the 30th the French succeeded in getting down from the
third parallel into the ditch of San Pedro, with the object of mining
the scarp and blowing down sufficient debris to fill the ditch. Their
first party was driven out again by the fire of two guns which had been
brought up to enfilade the ditch from the extreme flank of the bastion.
But on the following morning all the siege-batteries were turned on to
these guns, and destroyed them. Meanwhile the Spaniards had abandoned
the _tête-du-pont_, taking the men away by boat, and throwing the guns
into the water, except three injured and spiked pieces. The ditch was
occupied during the day (December 31st) and the miners got to work, so
little incommoded by the fire of the defenders, who were hardly visible
on the wall, that they lost only two men killed while establishing
themselves in their dangerous position. Their most serious hindrance
came from the good quality of the masonry which they were attacking--it
was mediaeval work and as hard as iron. The decisive stroke at this
point, however, was to be given by the artillery, and on the night of
the 31st a battery for four 24-pounders was commenced in the third
parallel--only 25 yards away from the ramparts of San Pedro. It had not
yet opened when, at ten o’clock on the morning of January 1st, 1811,
the governor hoisted the white flag, and sent a Colonel Veyan into
Suchet’s camp, to treat for surrender. The proposals, however, were
quite inadmissible, as Alacha only covenanted to evacuate Tortosa if
it were not relieved in fifteen days, and demanded that the garrison
should not be prisoners of war, but should be allowed to march to
Tarragona with arms and baggage. Suchet refused to treat (as was
natural) but was delighted with the aspect of affairs--a garrison which
begins to parley before there is a practicable breach in its walls is
obviously demoralized, and needs only a little further persuasion by
the strong arm. He sent back with the Spanish _parlementaire_ his own
chief of the staff, Colonel Saint Cyr-Nugues, with orders to impress on
the governor the futility of further demands such as those he had just
made. He announced that he should storm the place next morning unless
one of the upper forts were placed in his hands as a pledge of complete
submission. The governor therefore called and consulted a council of
war: some of the officers and notables assembled voted that an attempt
must be made to defend the breach, others that the garrison should
retire into the castle and forts, and abandon the town as untenable.
But there were some despairing voices raised: the representatives of
the municipality spoke with terror of the bombardment of the last few
days; some of the officers complained that their troops were completely
demoralized, and were leaving their posts to hide in the town. Suchet’s
proposals, nevertheless, were rejected.

Only a little more persuasion, however, was required to break down
Alacha’s nerve. On the morning of the 2nd of January the 4-gun battery
opposite San Pedro opened with the best effect; by the afternoon there
was a breach 15 yards broad, and the miners reported that they had
got deep enough into the lower walls to make an explosion profitable.
The curtain at the back of the Temple demi-lune had also been much
battered, and was crumbling--but an assault here was not practicable,
as the intervening work was still in the hands of the Spaniards. For
a second time the governor hoisted the white flag, but Suchet ordered
the fire to continue at the breach, and began to collect his storming
columns in the shelter of the parallels, while his mortar batteries
played on the town at large. He was afraid that the enemy was scheming
for a suspension of arms, during which they would clandestinely repair
and retrench the broken wall. The answer that he sent back, when a
second _parlementaire_ came out to him, was that he must have a simple
and complete capitulation, and that one of the upper forts must be
placed in his hands before he would allow the bombardment to cease.

[Illustration: TORTOSA]

Alacha continued to keep the white flag flying on the citadel and to
exchange messages with Suchet, while the fire was still going on at
the breach of San Pedro, where Yriarte was doing his best to keep
his men together, though he had his doubts as to the result of the
threatened assault. Meanwhile the French general took an extraordinary
resolution: gathering from the confused and wavering replies of the
governor that the old man was at his wit’s end, and ready to yield to
pressure, he came to the castle gate himself, with his staff and a
company of grenadiers, and sent for the officer on guard--who did not
order his men to fire because the white flag was flying, and messengers
continually passing to and fro. Suchet told the astonished subaltern
that hostilities were at an end, and that he must see the governor
without delay. When Alacha came down to him, he assumed a peremptory
tone, said that further resistance was criminal, that the assault was
about to take place at once, and that the garrison would be put to the
sword if resistance continued. He bade the governor ratify on the spot
the terms of capitulation which had been sent in upon the previous
afternoon. Utterly cowed, the old man obeyed at once, called for a
pen, and signed the document upon the carriage of a gun. The company
of grenadiers which had accompanied Suchet occupied the castle, and
orders were sent down to the city to cease all resistance. The first
notice that Yriarte got of what had happened was by hearing French
drums beating in the streets behind him, as a column descended from
the citadel to force the defenders of the breach to lay down their
arms[296]. When they had withdrawn, the storming column ran into the
gap, and sacked the quarter adjoining, despite of the cries and
remonstrances of their officers. They would not be cheated out of what
they considered their lawful prey[297].

  [296] This narrative of the fall of Tortosa is mainly derived
  from the sources given by Arteche, especially Yriarte’s
  narrative, and from Schepeler and Vacani. These in some details
  differ from Suchet’s story repeated by Belmas, though there is
  no fundamental discrepancy. But it is clear that Alacha was
  even more to blame than the French versions would give us to
  understand.

  [297] Vacani, iv. 420-1.

In this disgraceful way fell Tortosa, after only eighteen days of
siege, twelve of open trenches, and four of bombardment. The French
lost no more than 400 men, nearly half of them among the sappers and
artillerymen[298], for the infantry only suffered in repelling the
sorties. The Spaniards had about 1,400 killed and wounded, but as the
garrison marched out only 3,974 strong and had started with 7,179,
it is clear that there had been other wastage. During the last days
of the siege the Urban Guard disappeared, and the commanders of the
regular troops were complaining bitterly of desertion among their men.
Indeed, from the governor downwards, there seems to have been too much
demoralization in all ranks. The second in command, Yriarte, and many
other officers did their duty, but the defence was not what might
have been expected from Catalans, with the example of Gerona before
their eyes. From the start Suchet had the mastery, and largely owing
to the mismanagement of his adversaries; if (for example) they had
kept proper watch, he would never have been able to start his first
parallel at the distance of only 160 yards from the walls--this piece
of luck saved him many days of work. But if the defence was unskilful,
and anything rather than resolute, the main responsibility falls on
the governor, whose conduct was calculated to discourage even the most
zealous subordinates. For he sometimes pleaded his age and infirmity,
and declared that he handed over all responsibility to the second in
command, shutting himself up in the castle for whole days at a time;
but on other occasions he interfered in details, countermanded orders,
and practically resumed charge of the defence. But to call a council
of war, to receive its opinion in favour of protracted defence, and
then to capitulate behind its back was worst of all. Such conduct
was absolutely ignominious, and it was not without reason that the
Catalan Junta ordered him to be tried (in his absence) for cowardice
and treason. He was condemned to death, and the sentence (grotesquely
enough) carried out upon his effigy, while he was safe in France, a
prisoner on parole.

  [298] The figures of 400 killed and wounded given by Belmas seem
  very low, but are borne out by the invaluable lists in Martinien,
  who shows that only some thirty officers were killed or wounded
  at Tortosa, of whom twelve belonged to the engineers, artillery,
  and sappers. Thirty officers hit imply (at the usual rate of one
  to twenty men) 600 casualties, but it is very possible that there
  were no more than 400 and odd, for the engineer officers, of whom
  six were killed or hurt, ran special risks.

That nothing was done from outside to save Tortosa was mainly due to
the rapidity of Suchet’s operations. The Junta of Catalonia was busily
engaged in concerting measures for concentrating a relieving army,
had sent to Cadiz for arms and (if possible) reinforcements, and had
opened negotiations with the Valencians and with the irregular forces
of Carbajal and Villa Campa in the Aragonese mountains. But who could
calculate that the defence would last only eighteen days? Before any
general scheme had been worked out the place had fallen[299]. The only
organized force in the neighbourhood was the section of the Catalan
army which lay in and about Tarragona. The responsibility here lay no
longer with the active Henry O’Donnell, who had thrown up the command
in December, and sailed to the Balearic Islands to give his gangrened
wounds time to heal. General Yranzo, as the senior officer in the
principality, ought to have taken over the charge of operations; but he
called a council of war at Tarragona, and declared himself unwilling
to assume the position that had fallen to him. He was unpopular, and
the Catalans were holding violent meetings in favour of the Marquis
of Campoverde, who enjoyed much local popularity at the moment. This
ambitious officer finally obtained the interim command, owing to the
abnegation of his seniors; but Tortosa had fallen before he was seated
in the saddle, for he was finally recognized as chief only upon January
6th, four days after the capitulation.

  [299] For all this see Wimpffen’s reports printed in the Appendix
  to Suchet’s _Mémoires_, i. 359.

But even a capable officer, enjoying undisputed control over all the
Catalan forces, could have done little during the few days that the
siege of Tortosa lasted. The covering army under Macdonald was too
strong to be meddled with by the two divisions based on Tarragona. On
the first day of the siege (as we have already seen) he marched from
Mora with his 15,000 men: on the 18th he came up to Perello, where meet
the two roads from Tortosa to the north, thus absolutely barring any
attempt to approach the place. After some days he found it impossible
to feed his troops in this rugged spot, and divided them, placing one
division of 6,000 men under Frère on the Tarragona-Amposta road, in the
direct rear of the besieging army, while with the other two he retired
to Ginestar on the Ebro, twenty miles due north of Tortosa, from whence
he could reinforce Suchet in a single march if the Spaniards made any
movement. But no one came against him: the existence of his army in
this quarter sufficed to paralyse the modest force then lying in the
neighbourhood of Tarragona. Campoverde took one division to the Fort
of Balaguer, covering the coast road, from which he observed Frère at
a distance; while Yranzo with the other occupied Macdonald’s old head
quarters at Momblanch. But they knew that they were too weak to risk an
advance from these points, and while they remained quiet Tortosa fell.
The only diversions carried out during the siege were in corners of
Catalonia, where even a considerable success would have had no effect
on the course of affairs on the lower Ebro. A French foraging party
of 650 cavalry was cut up at Tarrega, near Lerida, on January 1, by a
detachment from Momblanch. On December 25, a landing party from the
British frigates on the Catalan station surprised the post of Palamos,
and destroyed there two gunboats and eight transports which were
coasting down from Cette towards Barcelona. But remaining on shore too
long they were surprised by a French flying column, and driven back to
their boats with a loss of over 200 men, including Captain Fane of the
_Cambrian_, the officer in command.

On the news of the fall of Tortosa the Spanish divisions drew back
towards Tarragona. Suchet left General Habert in charge of the captured
city, dispersed Musnier’s troops to Morella, Alcañiz and Mequinenza,
and left the Neapolitan brigade lent him by Macdonald at Mora.
Harispe’s division escorted the Spanish prisoners to Saragossa, and
was accompanied by Suchet himself, who had much to settle in Aragon
before he took in hand the siege of Tarragona, the next task imposed
upon him by the Emperor, who had informed him that ‘he would find his
Marshal’s bâton within its walls’. Before leaving the neighbourhood of
Tortosa Suchet ordered four battalions of Habert’s division to execute
a _coup de main_ upon the little fort of San Felipe de Balaguer, on
the coast defile of the Col de Balaguer so often mentioned of late.
It was completely successful--after a short bombardment, part of the
garrison escaped along the Tarragona road; the governor with ninety men
surrendered [January 8, 1811]. The fort was a trifling work, but its
strategic position was eminently important, as it blocks the only road
along the sea from Tarragona to the regions of the Ebro mouth.

Macdonald, being no longer needed in the direction of Tortosa,
resolved to return to Lerida, at the same time that Suchet went off
to Saragossa. They were to meet again in the spring for the great
enterprise against Tarragona. For reasons not easy to fathom, the
Marshal made his march to his base not by the direct road, but past
Tarragona via Reus and Valls. Probably he was desirous of clearing the
country-side of the outlying Spanish troops as a preliminary to the
siege, and perhaps he had some idea of destroying any magazines that
might lie in this direction. That he could have no serious intention of
blockading Tarragona was shown by the fact that he had sent back all
his cavalry, save one regiment, and most of his guns, to Lerida. Since
he had also lent his Neapolitan brigade to Suchet, his column was not
much over 12,000 strong.

Macdonald was usually unlucky in his Catalonian campaigning; though
he had won great reputation in mountain warfare against the Austrians
in his early days, he does not seem to have been able to apply his
knowledge of it to Spain. Marching from Ginestar by Falset, he reached
and occupied the large town of Reus, only ten miles from Tarragona,
on January 12th. From thence he set his army in motion for Valls on
the 15th, marching across the front of the fortress, with which he
clearly had no intention of interfering. His vanguard was formed by
the Italian division, which was followed at a distance of three miles
by his three French brigades and his single regiment of cavalry.
Meanwhile Campoverde, now in command at Tarragona, had detached General
Sarsfield with a division of 3,000 foot and 800 horse--all that the
Army of Catalonia possessed--to observe the march of the French, while
he himself remained just outside Tarragona with the remainder of his
troops--some 8,000 men. Sarsfield had taken post at Pla, some five
miles north of Valls, which town he had evacuated on the approach of
the enemy. When Macdonald’s leading brigade reached Valls, information
was received that there was a Spanish force close in its front.
Without waiting for orders from the Marshal, who had merely directed
that Valls should be occupied, the commander of the vanguard, General
Eugenio[300], resolved to bring the enemy to action. Marching with
five Italian battalions and only thirty chasseurs--about 2,500 men in
all--he ran headlong into Sarsfield’s forces drawn up in a well-masked
position, the infantry occupying a ridge, the 800 cavalry hidden in a
wood to the left. Unable to estimate the enemy’s strength, and thinking
that a brisk attack might drive them off the ground, Eugenio--a man
of reckless courage--made a direct frontal charge against the enemy’s
position in column of battalions. He was completely beaten, his brigade
fell back still fighting, and he was himself mortally wounded. The
recoiling mass was saved from annihilation by the arrival on the field
of the other Italian brigade, that of Palombini, on which it rallied.
But Sarsfield’s troops were determined to finish appropriately the
day that they had begun so well. They fell on the newly formed line
and broke it, the cavalry turning Palombini’s right and sweeping it
away. The whole Italian division would have been annihilated but
for the arrival of two squadrons of the 24th Dragoons under Colonel
Delort, who charged the victorious cavalry, and, though hopelessly
outnumbered, gave the Spaniards so much trouble that the routed
infantry of Eugenio and Palombini escaped into Valls, without much
further loss. Macdonald had refrained from bringing up the French
brigades to help his vanguard, because he had discovered a column
under Campoverde coming out of Tarragona to threaten his rear. This
demonstration kept him occupied while the Italians were being cut up by
Sarsfield, whose operations were extremely well managed and resolute.
The Italian division and the dragoons lost 600 men including a few
prisoners[301]--the Spaniards only 160.

  [300] His name was really Orsatelli, but he always appears in the
  reports as Eugenio.

  [301] Vacani says only 266 (v. 26), including 3 officers killed
  and 13 wounded, but Martinien’s lists show 3 officers killed and
  24 wounded; it is impossible that 27 officers should be hit and
  only 239 men--the proportion of 1 to 9 is incredible, and the
  loss must have been more like 600. Schepeler and the Spaniards
  put it at 1,200, which is too high.

Next day (January 16th) Macdonald was in order of battle at Valls,
with two fronts, one facing towards Sarsfield and the north, the other
towards Campoverde and Tarragona. But the Spaniards wisely refused to
commit themselves to a general engagement, and Macdonald would not
divide his army by marching to assail one or the other of the two
hostile columns. In the night he retreated to Momblanch by a forced
march, leaving the enemy encouraged by the results of the combat of the
15th, and no less by the fact that the Marshal had not tried to avenge
his check by an attack on the following day. The French retired to
Lerida unmolested, and the Duke of Tarentum began to make preparations
for his approaching return to Tarragona in company with Suchet’s
corps, as had been ordered by the Emperor. It is difficult to see that
Macdonald gained anything by his curious flank march, and he certainly
lost heavily in prestige. Campoverde, exultant at the good fortune of
his first venture in arms, recovered from the despondency caused by the
fall of Tortosa, and dreamed of making a great blow against the French
by no less an achievement than the recapture of Barcelona.

Ever since the commencement of the war plots and conspiracies had
been rife in that great city--it will be remembered that Duhesme
had been forced to punish the most important of them by a series
of executions[302]. Discontent was as keen as ever, and a knot of
patriots had formed a scheme for opening to their friends without the
gates of the fortress of Monjuich, which dominates the whole place.
This was to be done by the assistance of a repentant ‘Juramentado,’ a
Spanish commissary in the French service named Alcina, who had access
to the stronghold, and imagined that he had corrupted the fort-major,
a certain Captain Sunier, who for a great sum of money undertook to
leave one of its posterns open on the night of March 19th. Campoverde,
who loved plots and intrigues, arranged to have his men ready outside
the ditch on the appointed night. Unfortunately the officer who was
supposed to be a traitor was only feigning discontent and treason,
and kept informing Maurice Mathieu, the governor of Barcelona, of all
the details of the plot. It was allowed to proceed, in order that a
sharp blow might be inflicted on the Spaniards. Before the appointed
night Campoverde suddenly marched the divisions of Sarsfield and
Courten to the immediate vicinity of Barcelona, and sent forward from
them a body of 800 grenadiers, who were to execute the actual _coup de
main_. They were allowed to descend into the ditch of Monjuich, and
to approach the postern, when the whole of the ramparts were lighted
up with cressets and fire-balls, and a furious fire was opened upon
them. The head of the column was blown to pieces, a hundred men were
killed and wounded at the first volley, and four officers and many of
the rank and file taken prisoners, before the remainder could scramble
off in the darkness. The supports hurriedly retired, and the business
was over--save that Maurice Mathieu caused the commissary Alcina to be
shot in public next morning as a warning to traitors. Such plots seldom
succeed, but that they must not be too much disregarded as a source
of danger was shown only a few weeks later, when Figueras, the second
fortress of Catalonia, was successfully surprised by the Spaniards,
as the result of a conspiracy exactly similar to that which failed at
Barcelona[303].

  [302] See vol. iii. p. 24.

  [303] See below, sect. xxviii. chap. i.

The unfortunate affair at Monjuich was not the only sign of the
revived activity of the Catalans under the leadership of Campoverde,
a busy and active man, but (as subsequent events showed) one lacking
both resolution and true strategic instinct. He was one of those who
take many schemes in hand, but fail for want of determination at
the critical moment, and was a very poor substitute for that hard
fighter Henry O’Donnell, whose place he had been so eager to seize. On
March 3rd he made a vain attack to recover the fort of San Felipe de
Balaguer--marching with Courten’s division of 4,000 men he beat the
French 117th out of Perello, where it was covering Tortosa, and laid
siege to the fort. But General Habert came up with a force from the
garrison to reinforce the 117th, and the attack had to be given up
almost as soon as it was begun. More fruitful were some attacks of the
_somatenes_ of northern Catalonia on convoys passing between Gerona
and Hostalrich. And Sarsfield, pushing forward to Cervera, usefully
restrained the foraging of Macdonald’s cavalry in the region east of
Lerida. But all this came to little, and Campoverde’s efforts seemed
to have no very visible results, and certainly did nothing decisive to
prevent Suchet and Macdonald from completing their preparations for the
siege of Tarragona.

It was much the same in Aragon, where Villacampa and Carbajal were
contending in the mountains of the south with the garrisons which held
Daroca, Alcañiz, Teruel, and the other chief towns of this rugged
and thinly peopled district. The fall of Tortosa had set free for
the moment many troops of the 3rd Corps, and Suchet employed them in
scouring the country between these posts, and endeavouring to clear
away the _partidas_ from their chief rallying-places. Flying columns
under Generals Paris and Abbé marched up and down the sierras in the
vile weather of February, expelled the insurrectionary Junta of Aragon
from Cuenca, which was at that time its head quarters, and chased
Carbajal to Moya, where the frontiers of Castile, Aragon, and Valencia
meet. The Empecinado came over the mountains, from his usual beat in
the Guadalajara country, to help the Aragonese, but had small success.
Yet the net result of all this hunting was little. ‘This expedition,’
says Suchet himself, ‘which took two brigades over the border into
Castile for twelve days, procured us a few hundred prisoners; a more
useful thing was the destruction of some small manufactures of arms.
But we were to see ten times, nay a hundred times more, these partisans
appearing once again in the plains; they always surrounded us, were
always dispersed rather than defeated, and never grew discouraged[304].’

  [304] Suchet, _Mémoires_, i. 266.



SECTION XXVI

FUENTES DE OÑORO AND ALBUERA



CHAPTER I

BERESFORD’S CAMPAIGN IN ESTREMADURA. THE FIRST SIEGE OF BADAJOZ.
MARCH-APRIL 1811


On the 11th of March, as it will be remembered, Imaz--the deplorable
successor of the gallant Menacho--surrendered Badajoz to Marshal Soult,
despite of the messages which he had received that an Anglo-Portuguese
corps was on its way for his relief. On the 14th the conqueror,
appalled at the news of the battle of Barrosa and the danger of
Seville, marched back to Andalusia, taking with him a brigade of
dragoons and the greater part of Gazan’s infantry division. He left
behind him in Estremadura Mortier with a force of some 11,000 men,
composed of fifteen battalions of the 5th Corps[305], five cavalry
regiments[306], and a heavy proportion of artillerymen and engineers,
who were required for the garrisoning of the fortress of Badajoz no
less than for the siege of the small places in its vicinity, whose
capture Soult had delegated to Mortier as his parting legacy.

  [305] The eleven battalions of Girard’s division, and from
  Gazan’s the 100th of the Line, and a battalion of the 21st Léger
  put in garrison at Badajoz.

  [306] 26th Dragoons, 2nd and 10th Hussars, 21st Chasseurs à
  cheval, 4th Chasseurs Espagnols. Only the 10th Hussars and the
  21st Chasseurs belonged to the 5th Corps.

This was a small force to leave behind, charged not only with the
occupation of an extensive province, but with the duty of continuing
the offensive, by attacking Campo Mayor and Albuquerque. Elvas the
Marshal can hardly have hoped to assail--it was a fortress as large
and in some ways stronger than Badajoz, with a garrison composed of
Portuguese troops of the line. Any idea of an invasion of the Alemtejo
was useless, now that it was known that Masséna had departed from his
old position on the Tagus. The Emperor had ordered Soult to undertake
it merely for Masséna’s assistance, and the ‘Army of Portugal’ was no
longer needing such help: for good or for ill it had moved away on its
own business. It remained to be seen whether Mortier would be able to
carry out the orders given him, for no one in the French camp could
tell whether the British relieving force for Badajoz, whose existence
had been known since March 8th, had actually started for Estremadura,
or had joined in the pursuit of Masséna, when it received the news
that Imaz had made his disgraceful capitulation. If this force were
on its way, and proved to be strong in numbers, Mortier would be
thrown at once on the defensive. His duty would be to hold off the
Allies till Badajoz was in a state of defence: and the repairing of
the fortress would take some time, even though the greater part of its
fortifications were intact, and only the Pardaleras Fort and the ruined
bastions behind it required reconstruction. If the Allies came on in
great force, and without delaying for a moment, it was even possible
that Mortier would have to blow up Badajoz and withdraw its garrison,
for it would be absurd to leave behind, in an untenable post, such a
large body of men as would be required for the holding of its extensive
enceinte.

The actual course of affairs in Estremadura followed logically from
Wellington’s orders to Beresford on the 9th and the 15th of March.
On the 8th, as it will be remembered, Beresford had been directed to
march to the relief of Badajoz with the 2nd and 4th Divisions and
Hamilton’s Portuguese, some 18,000 men. On the 9th these orders had
been countermanded, on a false report that Masséna had concentrated
and was offering battle behind Thomar. The 4th Division and one
brigade (Hoghton’s) of the 2nd were called off, and marched to join
Wellington’s main body. The rest of the 2nd Division and Hamilton’s
Portuguese stood halted, in or near Abrantes, till the intentions
of the French should be discovered. It was not till March 12th that
Wellington, reassured as to his adversaries’ intentions, thought it
possible once more to take the relief of Badajoz in hand[307]. The
troops about Abrantes were ordered to prepare to march for the Guadiana
in successive brigades; the absent brigade of the 2nd Division,
which had reached Thomar, was directed to retrace its steps and join
the main body of that unit. But the 4th Division had gone on much
further; it was well on its way towards Coimbra, and was engaged in the
Pombal-Redinha operations. It was not till the 15th that Wellington
thought himself able to dispatch it, along with De Grey’s brigade of
dragoons, to cross the Tagus in the wake of the 2nd Division. Beresford
himself, who had joined the main army for a few days by Wellington’s
own orders, was not given his final instructions and sent off to the
south till the following morning.

  [307] Nothing could be done in Estremadura without the 2nd
  Division, and D’Urban’s diary shows that the orders for the
  2nd Division to march into the Alemtejo were only given on the
  12th. Beresford’s chief of the staff notes on that day, ‘Orders
  to General Stewart [commanding 2nd Division] to fix his head
  quarters at Tramagal, to move the 13th to Crato or Carragueira
  [both in the Alemtejo south from Abrantes], and to let the
  troops remain as at present--unless it should become necessary
  to concentrate for the protection of the Bridge of Tancos.’ This
  shows that Wellington’s statement to Lord Liverpool on March 14th
  (_Dispatches_, vii. 360) that ‘troops had marched from Thomar on
  the 9th, and that part of Sir William Beresford’s division, which
  had not passed the Tagus, was put in motion, and that their head
  had arrived within three marches of Elvas,’ can apply at most to
  Hamilton’s Portuguese.

But before the moment at which Beresford started, the whole face of
affairs had been changed by the news, received on the 14th, that
Badajoz had surrendered on the 11th. Wellington was not prepared for
this blow. ‘I had received on the 9th,’ he wrote to Lord Liverpool,
‘accounts of a most favourable nature, from which I was induced to
believe not only that the place was in no danger, but that it was in
fact untouched: that its fire was superior to that of the enemy, that
it was in no want of provisions and ammunition, had sustained no loss,
excepting that of the governor Menacho, and was able and likely to hold
out for a month. General Imaz, a person of equally good reputation, had
succeeded to the command, and great confidence was reposed in him.... I
had called up to the army the 4th Division of infantry and the brigade
of heavy cavalry, under the conviction that Badajoz would hold out for
the time during which it would be necessary to employ them. Experience
has shown that I could not have done without these troops, and it is
also clear that, if I had left them behind, they could not have saved
Badajoz, which the governor surrendered on the day after he received my
assurances that he should be relieved, and my entreaties that he would
hold out to the last moment[308].’

  [308] Wellington to Lord Liverpool, March 14. _Dispatches_, vii.
  360-1.

As far as the argument from time goes, it is clear that Wellington is
stating indisputable facts. Supposing that he had not countermanded
on the 9th of March the orders to Beresford which he had given on the
previous night, and that the three divisions designated for service
in Estremadura had marched with unrelaxing vigour, the head of their
column could not have been further forward than Arronches (if they
took the Portalegre road) or Estremos (if they took the Elvas road)
at the moment when Imaz surrendered. As the former of these points
is about twenty-five and the latter about thirty miles from Badajoz,
the capitulation would not have been prevented. For the governor was
determined to surrender, and did so in full knowledge of the fact,
transmitted by semaphore from Elvas[309], that a relieving expedition
was in hand. Whether the nearest allied troops were (as was actually
the case) at Abrantes or (as might have been the case) at Estremos,
would not have affected him. For, as the proceedings recorded at his
council of war show, he concealed from his officers the news that
succour was promised, and allowed one of them to put down in the
_procès verbal_ of the proceedings the statement that ‘there was no
official news whatever that any army of succour was in movement.’ Such
official news Imaz possessed, through the semaphore messages sent on by
General Leite at Elvas, so that it is evident that he kept them from
the knowledge of his subordinates.

  [309] See p. 60 above.

If Badajoz had held out for a fortnight after March 9th,--and
Wellington supposed that it was well able to defend itself for a whole
month--the relieving column would have been in good time. The dispatch
of March 12th set in motion two divisions from near Abrantes, that of
the 15th sent on the third from the banks of the Ceira. Steady marches
of twenty miles a day, or a little less, would have brought Stewart
and Hamilton to the neighbourhood of Badajoz on the 17th, and Cole
with the 4th Division and the dragoon brigade on the 24th[310]. If,
as is probable, Beresford had waited for the arrival of the last-named
force before presenting himself in front of the French lines, the 24th
of March would have been the critical day. It is hard to believe that
Soult could have fought to advantage, since he must have left so many
men to blockade Badajoz that he could not have faced Beresford with
more than 12,000 sabres and bayonets, numbers inadequate to hold off
the 18,000 Anglo-Portuguese who formed the allied Army of Estremadura.
It is quite probable that he might have raised the siege, and offered
battle with his whole army, somewhere south of Badajoz. But into these
possibilities it is profitless to inquire.

  [310] Cole actually reached Portalegre on the 22nd, so could have
  been in front of Badajoz on the 24th.

Since, however, Wellington and Beresford knew on the night of the
14th that Imaz had surrendered, there was no longer the same need
for haste that existed down to this moment, and the advance of
the Anglo-Portuguese army was made at a moderate pace. Hamilton’s
Portuguese were at Portalegre by the 17th, the 2nd Division came in on
the 19th and 20th. Beresford himself appeared on the latter day, having
ridden through from the neighbourhood of Coimbra in four days. The 4th
Division, which had made an admirable march, a hundred and ten miles of
mountain road in six days, came up on the 22nd. On this day, therefore,
the whole 18,000 men of the expeditionary force were collected within
forty miles of Badajoz, and Beresford had to make up his mind as to
the course of his campaign. The orders given to him by Wellington
had been to concentrate at Portalegre and attack the French, who (as
it had now been ascertained) were moving out to besiege the little
Portuguese fortress of Campo Mayor, just across the frontier. The
small Spanish force under Castaños at Estremos--the wrecks of the old
Army of Estremadura--was to be called up to assist[311]. Wellington,
who did not know of Soult’s departure for Seville, thought that he
could not possibly collect enough men, after garrisoning Badajoz and
Olivenza, to enable him to face Beresford. In a supplementary dispatch
he told his colleague that he thought it most likely that the Marshal
would go south of the Guadiana without accepting battle. In that case
the allied army must be careful, when following him, not to trust
its communications and line of advance or retreat to any temporary
bridge, but must use the Portuguese riverside fortress of Jerumenha
as its base, and construct there a bridge composed of twenty Spanish
pontoon-boats, which (as Wellington was informed) had been floated
down from Badajoz before the siege of that place began. Beresford was
to construct a strong _tête-du-pont_ on the Spanish bank to cover this
bridge[312], and might then move forward and invest Badajoz if he were
able.

  [311] Wellington to Beresford, March 18th (_Dispatches_, vii.
  372), ‘You had better lose no time in moving up to Portalegre,
  and attack Soult, if you can, at Campo Mayor. I will come to
  you if I can, but if I cannot do not wait for me. Get Castaños
  to join you from Estremos with any Spanish troops he can bring.
  You must be two days marching from Portalegre to Campo Mayor, I
  believe.’

  [312] Wellington to Beresford, March 20 (_Dispatches_, vii.
  374-5); some details added from D’Urban’s diary, which do not
  appear in this dispatch.

A most prescient note occurs in this dispatch, which seems as if it
were written in prophetical foresight of what was to happen at Campo
Mayor five days later. ‘The cavalry is the most delicate arm we
possess. We have few officers who have practical knowledge of the mode
of using it, or who have ever seen more than two regiments together. To
these circumstances add that the defeat of, or any great loss sustained
by, our cavalry in these open grounds would be a misfortune, amounting
almost to a defeat of the whole; you will therefore see the necessity
of keeping your cavalry as much as possible _en masse_, and in reserve,
to be thrown in at the moment when opportunity offers for striking a
decisive blow.’ It looks almost as if Wellington knew that General
Long, who commanded Beresford’s cavalry, was going to make the very
mistakes that he actually committed on the first collision with the
enemy.

The moment that the 4th Division and De Grey’s dragoons reached
Portalegre, Beresford began his march on Campo Mayor (March 22) sending
out Colborne’s and Lumley’s brigades of the 2nd Division to Arronches,
and the Portuguese cavalry brigade of Otway to Azumar. This last-named
unit had been watching the frontier between the Tagus and the Guadiana
ever since Masséna’s retreat from Santarem, and joined the 2nd
Division on the 20th of March. Hamilton’s Portuguese infantry division
was to follow next day, the 4th Division was to be allowed two days’
rest after its fatiguing march from the Ceira, and was only to start on
the 24th[313]. On the 25th the whole army was to be in front of Campo
Mayor.

  [313] All these details are from D’Urban’s Journal.

It remains to speak of the position in which the enemy was found.
Between the 14th of March, when Soult departed from Seville, and the
25th, when Beresford’s army made its sudden and quite unexpected
descent into the middle of the French forces, only eleven days
elapsed; but Mortier had turned them to good account, and had more
than fulfilled all that had been expected of him. On the very day that
Soult started for Seville he marched against Campo Mayor, with nine
battalions of infantry, a cavalry brigade, and part of the siege-train
which had just captured Badajoz. One other battalion was left as
garrison in Olivenza, the six that remained from the corps were told
off for Badajoz, where General Phillipon had been appointed governor.
With the aid of three companies of sappers they were already busily
engaged in levelling their own old siege-works, and commencing the
repairs to the battered front of the walls. Mortier conceived that
there could not be any danger in carrying out the orders that Soult had
left, for he could find no traces of any hostile force in his vicinity,
save the Portuguese garrison of Elvas, and the 4,000 men who formed
the wrecks of Mendizabal’s army. This demoralized force had rallied at
Campo Mayor, but on receiving the news of the fall of Badajoz retired
in haste to Estremos, twenty miles within the Portuguese frontier.
Their presence there was a danger rather than a defence to the
Alemtejo, for not only did they consume some magazines collected there
by Wellington’s orders for the use of the expeditionary force, but
they plundered recklessly in the neighbouring villages, and committed
such outrages that the Portuguese Government was almost forced to
take military measures against them[314]. Mortier had nothing to fear
from this quarter, while he could hear no news of the approach of any
British force from the direction of the Tagus. The 2nd Division and
Hamilton’s Portuguese, it will be remembered, had only been ordered to
resume their movement towards Estremadura on the 13th, by Wellington’s
dispatch of the 12th, and when Mortier started from Badajoz they were
only just commencing their advance from the neighbourhood of Abrantes
towards Crato and Portalegre, and were very nearly a hundred miles
away, so that it was impossible that he should get any information
concerning them.

  [314] The consumption of the Estremos magazines by Mendizabal’s
  men will be found mentioned in the pamphlet (written under
  Beresford’s direction) called ‘Strictures on Napier’s Peninsular
  War’ [London, 1832]. ‘When the Marshal (Beresford) put his
  corps in motion from the Tagus he was informed that the British
  Commissary in the Alemtejo had from 200,000 to 300,000 rations
  in store for his use. But this officer had also been ordered to
  supply the Spanish division lately in that province, and (most
  incautiously) issued for its service whatever its commander
  required. Owing to this inadvertence on the part of the
  Commissary (whose name, I think, was Thompson), when Marshal
  Beresford arrived the store was _absolutely empty_’ [p. 61].
  His name _was_ Thompson, and he was immediately superseded by
  Wellington’s order (_Dispatches_, vii. 426).

Campo Mayor was an old-fashioned fortress, which had not been
remodelled since the War of the Spanish Succession, its greatest
weakness was that an outlying fort (São João), only 200 yards from the
walls in a commanding position, had been dismantled, but not blown
up and levelled to the ground. It overlooked one of the bastions of
the place, and had only to be seized in order to provide an admirable
starting-place for operations against the enceinte. No serious
attention had been paid to Campo Mayor of late, the much stronger place
of Elvas, only eleven miles away, having absorbed all the attention of
the Portuguese government. The Spaniards had been garrisoning it for
the last six months, but when they hastily departed the Governor of
Elvas threw into it half a battalion of the Portalegre Militia (about
300 men) and a company of artillery. This handful of men, aided by the
Ordenança of the place, were all that were at the disposition of the
very gallant and resourceful old engineer officer, Major José Joaquim
Talaya, who was left in charge of the place. As the population was
under 3,000 souls, the levy of the Ordenança cannot have amounted to
more than 300 men, and many of these (as was still the case in most
parts of Portugal) had no firearms, but only pikes. But the chief
magistrate (_juiz de fora_), José Carvalho, served at the head of them
with great energy, and we are assured that (contrary to what might
have been expected) the citizens took a more creditable part than the
militiamen in the defence[315].

  [315] Soriano da Luz, iii. pp. 531-2.

With no regulars save the company of artillery, and no more than 800
men in all to protect a long enceinte, it might have been expected that
Talaya could make no defence at all--indeed he might have evacuated
the place without any blame. But being a man of fine resolution, and
recognizing the fact that he was doing the greatest possible service
by detaining 7,000 French before his walls, and thereby covering Elvas
and allowing time for Beresford to arrive, he resolved to hold out as
long as possible. The French seized Fort São João on the night of their
arrival (March 14th) and opened trenches on each side of it, commencing
at the same time three batteries, of which two were sheltered by the
dismantled work. Next morning two of these works were in a position to
open fire on the town, since the heavy guns for them had only to come
from Badajoz, a mere nine miles away.

Despite of this Talaya held out for seven days of bombardment and
open trenches (15th-21st March). He concentrated all his artillery on
the approaches and the breaching-batteries, and for some time held
his own. On the 19th a breach was opened in the projecting bastion
(de Concelho), but the Governor refused a summons to surrender, and
actually beat off an assault that night. On the following day the whole
face of the bastion began to crumble, and, since further resistance
was hopeless, Talaya accepted the terms offered him by Mortier--viz.
that the garrison should lay down its arms if not relieved within
twenty-four hours, the Militia and Ordenança not to be regarded as
prisoners of war, but to be allowed to stay in or retire to their
homes, on condition that they should not again bear arms against the
French. A similar favour was extended to the Governor himself, who
was allowed, ‘on account of his great age,’ says the capitulation, to
retire to his own residence on giving his word of honour not to serve
again[316]. As the whole garrison, save the artillery, were irregular
troops, Mortier took over less than 100 prisoners. Some fifty guns,
many of them of very antique and useless fabric, and 10,000 rations of
biscuit were captured. The delay of twenty-four hours in the surrender
of the town turned out very unluckily for Mortier, as it just gave
time for Beresford and his army to arrive, only four days after the
surrender, before the place had been dismantled or injured.

  [316] Colonel Dickson met Talaya only two days after the
  surrender and had an interesting interview with him. See
  Dickson’s _Journal_, i. p. 366. He can find no praise high enough
  for the old engineer officer. D’Urban also speaks of him in most
  appreciative terms.

The eight-day defence of the absolutely untenable Campo Mayor contrasts
in the strongest fashion with that of the neighbouring Spanish fortress
of Albuquerque. This, too, was a very neglected and antiquated place,
but it possessed a citadel on a high crag, which might have been held
for some days against anything but heavy artillery, and it would have
taken some time to erect batteries which could effectively reach it.
When, however, Latour-Maubourg, with two cavalry regiments, summoned
it, on March 15, the Governor at once began to parley, and on being
told that infantry and guns were coming forward, actually opened his
gates next day, before the two battalions and two guns sent by Mortier
arrived. This demoralized officer was Major-General José Cagigal; his
garrison consisted of two battalions of the Estremaduran regiment of
Fernando VII, about 800 men, and a few artillerymen with seventeen
brass guns of position. This was, on the whole, the most disgraceful
surrender made during the whole Peninsular War--it can only be compared
to the celebrated capitulation of Stettin in 1806, when the Prussian
general, in an exactly similar fashion, yielded a fortress to a brigade
of hussars who were impudent enough to summon it. But Stettin was a far
worse case than Albuquerque--since it was a modern stronghold with a
garrison of no less than 6,000 men.

After the surrender of Albuquerque, Latour-Maubourg sent on a regiment
of dragoons to Valencia de Alcantara, the last fortified place in
Spanish hands between the Guadiana and the Tagus. The small garrison
evacuated it, and the dragoons, after bursting seven guns found within
its walls, and blowing up its gates (March 17), returned to Badajoz.

The news of the loss of the one Portuguese and the two Spanish
fortresses did not detain Beresford a moment in his advance, indeed
he was only anxious to attack the enemy before he should have either
repaired and garrisoned, or else dismantled and destroyed, Campo Mayor.
On the 24th, Cole’s 4th Division, having had its two prescribed days
of rest, marched from Portalegre to Arronches, where it caught up
the cavalry and the other two divisions. Nothing had been discovered
of the French, save some hussar vedettes only three miles north of
Campo Mayor. It seems that Beresford’s approach came as a complete
surprise to Mortier, who had made no preparations to meet it. He had
withdrawn the greater part of the troops who had formed the siege corps
to Badajoz, and had left Latour-Maubourg to dismantle the place--for
he had made up his mind not to hold it. The cavalry general retained
three of his own regiments (26th Dragoons and 2nd and 10th Hussars),
one infantry regiment (the 100th of the Line), a half-battery of horse
artillery, with a large detachment of the military train, who were in
charge not only of the siege-guns lately used, but of thirty pieces
from the walls of Campo Mayor, which it was intended to bring over to
Badajoz. The rest of the Portuguese guns were to be burst, as useless
and antiquated. The engineers were selecting sections of the enceinte,
which were to be mined and blown up. The whole French force was about
900 sabres and 1,200 bayonets, plus the detachments of the auxiliary
arms--perhaps 2,400 men in all[317]. There was a very fair chance of
capturing it entire, owing to the careless way in which Latour-Maubourg
kept watch. The presence of scouting parties of Portuguese dragoons had
been reported to him[318]. But probably he attached little importance
to their presence in this direction. There had been cavalry of that
nation on the Estremaduran frontier ever since January.

  [317] There is great difficulty in making out what were the
  French cavalry regiments, but Martinien’s lists show losses in
  the 26th Dragoons (eight officers) and 2nd Hussars, and Long
  speaks positively of the 10th Hussars as present also.

  [318] D’Urban, reconnoitring with one, was sighted and chased a
  little way by French hussars. See C. E. Long’s vindication of his
  uncle, _General Long’s Military Reputation_ [London, 1832], pp.
  74-5.

At half-past ten o’clock on the very rainy morning of the 25th,
Beresford’s army was advancing on Campo Mayor in three converging
columns, the bulk of the 2nd Division preceded by De Grey’s dragoons
on the high-road, Hamilton’s Portuguese division on a by-path over
a ridge to the east of the road, with the 13th Light Dragoons and
two Portuguese squadrons in their front, Colborne’s brigade and the
remaining Portuguese horse on a corresponding ridge, some way to the
western or right side of the _chaussée_. Cole followed a mile in the
rear as reserve. The French outposts were found as on the preceding
day, only three miles outside the town. General Latour-Maubourg chanced
to be visiting them, probably in tardy consequence of the reports of
the previous day. When attacked they retired skirmishing, to delay
as far as possible the advance of Beresford’s leading squadrons.
Latour-Maubourg, seeing that the Allies were coming up on a broad
front, and at least 15,000 strong, rode back hastily into the town,
ordered the drums to beat, and directed infantry and cavalry alike to
abandon their baggage, and to form up without a moment’s delay on the
glacis outside the southern gate for a retreat. A column of sixteen
heavy guns from the walls of Campo Mayor and the siege-train, with
practically no escort, had started some little time back, and was on
its way to Badajoz along the high-road before the alarm was given[319].
The allied cavalry, on coming in sight of the town from the ridge to
its north, discovered the enemy just moving off, the infantry regiment
in column of route on the road, with one hussar regiment in front
of it and another in rear, while the 26th Dragoons, some little way
ahead, was covering the rest from being intercepted on the high-road,
for Latour-Maubourg had seen that his danger lay in the probability
that Beresford would strike in, with the horse of his van, between him
and Badajoz, and so force him to fight his way through, under pain of
being surrounded and captured if he failed. This indeed was Beresford’s
intention, but being impressed with Wellington’s warning not to risk
or lose his cavalry, he had ordered General Long, who was in command
of the division of that arm, not to commit himself against a superior
force, and ‘to wait for the infantry to come up if he were in any
doubt; yet if the opportunity to strike a blow occurs he must avail
himself of it[320].’ The whole cavalry force with the army was only
eleven British squadrons and five Portuguese, the latter very weak, and
the total number of sabres was about 1,500, a very small allowance for
an army of over 18,000 men, and therefore very precious.

  [319] Belmas says that it had started _déjà_, and must be right:
  while Lapéne, who thinks that it was loaded up and sent off
  after the alarm, fails to account for its being six miles along
  the road when surprised. Heavy guns travel slowly. Beresford
  corroborates Belmas.

  [320] This is Long’s account of the orders given by Beresford (p.
  75 of the _Vindication of the Military Reputation of the late
  General Long_, by C. E. Long), in a letter from the general to
  General Le Marchant. This agrees pretty well with Beresford’s
  version of the facts, and is no doubt correct.

When Latour-Maubourg saw the British divisions coming on in the
distance, he marched off with all possible speed, and had such a start
that his column, whose pace was set by the quick step of the infantry,
had got nearly three miles from Campo Mayor before it was seriously
threatened. General Long had, by Beresford’s orders, directed his
squadrons to sweep east of the walls of the town, out of gunshot, in
case there should chance to have been a garrison left behind. The
sweep was a long one, because a ravine was discovered which forced the
regiments to turn further eastward than was at first intended. They
came up in two detachments, one formed by the 13th Light Dragoons and
Otway’s Portuguese, more to the left (east), the other of De Grey’s
dragoons further to the right (west). The first body was nearly level
with the dragoon regiment which was moving ahead of the French column,
the other was not so far to the front, being 400 or 500 yards away
from the rear flank of the French. The nearest British infantry and
guns, Colborne’s brigade and Cleeves’s German battery accompanying it,
were out of sight, two miles to the rear, hidden by undulations of the
ground; so was Beresford himself and his staff, who were riding ahead
of the main body.

Seeing a fight forced on him, Latour-Maubourg resolved to accept it. He
had a force of all arms, and thought himself strong enough to beat off
cavalry unsupported by infantry or guns, even though they outnumbered
his own horsemen in the proportion of five to three. Accordingly he
suddenly halted and formed his infantry in battalion squares on the
high-road, with the hussars flanking them in deep order, while the
dragoon regiment, with its right wing drawn back and its left wing
not far from the leading hussars, formed a line at an obtuse angle to
the main body, ready to deliver a flanking charge on the British and
Portuguese if they should attack the infantry.

Long, considering, as he says, that he was strong enough to attempt
the ‘blow’ of which Beresford had spoken, resolved first to drive off
the French dragoon regiment which threatened his flank, and then to
fall upon the hussars and infantry. He sent orders to De Grey and the
heavy dragoons to close in upon the rear and left flank of the French,
from whom they were still separated by a ridge, but to hold off till
the rest of the troops had disposed of the covering cavalry. He then
advanced with the light squadrons, English and Portuguese, to get
beyond the French dragoons--his line was formed with two Portuguese
squadrons (7th regiment) on the extreme left, then the two and a half
squadrons of the 13th British Light Dragoons[321], and to the right the
three remaining Portuguese squadrons (1st regiment).

  [321] A squadron was absent with Colborne’s column and another
  troop on distant reconnaissance work, and the regiment was not
  much over 200 sabres.

Seeing that Long was manœuvring to outflank him, Latour-Maubourg
ordered the 26th Dragoons to charge before the movement was far
advanced. The British 13th formed to their front, and started to
meet them; the two lines met with a tremendous crash, neither giving
way, and were mingled for a few moments in desperate hand to hand
fighting[322], in which Colonel Chamorin, the French brigadier, was
slain in a personal combat with a corporal named Logan of the 13th.
Presently the French broke, and fled in disorder along and beside the
Badajoz road. Then followed one of those wild and senseless pursuits
which always provoked Wellington’s wrath, and induced him to say in
bitterness that the ordinary British cavalry regiment was ‘good
for nothing but galloping[323].’ General Long says in his account of
the affair that he found it impossible to stop or rally the Light
Dragoons, and therefore sent after them the two squadrons of the 7th
Portuguese, to act as a support. But the Portuguese put on a great pace
to come up with the 13th, got excited in pursuing stray knots of French
dragoons, broke their order, and finally joined in the headlong chase
as recklessly as their comrades.

  [322] Napier’s story that they charged _through_ each other,
  formed up front to rear, and then charged each other again
  is strongly denied by Beresford as ‘purely supposititious’
  (_Strictures_, pp. 152-3), and not confirmed by Long or any other
  eye-witness.

  [323] See vol. i. p. 119.

[Illustration: _Field Marshal Sir William Carr Beresford_]

The ride was incredibly long and disorderly, quite in the style of
Prince Rupert at Edgehill. It was continued for no less than seven
miles; four miles from the place where it had started, the Light
Dragoons came on the artillery convoy of sixteen heavy guns which had
left Campo Mayor in the early morning, and had crawled on almost to
the gates of Badajoz; the small escort was dispersed, and the drivers
were cut down or chased off the road. Many of the Portuguese stopped to
make prize of the horses--most valuable personal plunder--and went off
with them in small parties towards the allied camp. The pursuers should
have stopped here. There was no object in chasing any further the few
surviving French dragoons, who were scattered broadcast. The guns, with
a long train of caissons and carts, were left standing beside the road,
but little attention was paid to these valuable trophies. One or two
were rehorsed and turned towards the British lines by some officers of
the 13th. The main body of the pursuers, however, did not stop with the
convoy, but, still sabring at the routed French, rode two miles and a
half further, till they hurtled against the bridge-head fortifications
of Badajoz. They were only stopped by being shelled from Fort San
Cristobal, and fired on by the garrison of the _tête-du-pont_. It is
said by one French authority[324] that the leading dragoons actually
reached the barrier-gate of the covered way of the latter work, and
were shot there. Marshal Mortier, learning what had happened, sallied
out of the fortress with a cavalry regiment and four battalions,
captured quite a number of straggling dragoons, whose horses had fallen
or given out in the wild ride, and found the bulk of the artillery
convoy standing lonely and teamless by the wayside. It was dragged
along into Badajoz, save one howitzer and six caissons, which were left
behind on the approach of Beresford’s main body. Mortier also picked up
near the place where the convoy was lying, and brought into Badajoz,
Latour-Maubourg’s column, whose further fortunes need to be detailed.

  [324] Belmas, iii. p. 557.

When the 13th Light Dragoons and the 7th Portuguese went off on their
mad escapade, General Long found himself left in front of the main
French force, with only the three squadrons of the 1st Portuguese
cavalry, which had formed his reserve, and the Heavy Brigade, distant
half a mile from him, and on the other side of the French line. It was
apparently his intention to charge the enemy with these troops, a most
hazardous experiment, for the French with a regiment of 1,200 infantry
in square, flanked by four squadrons of hussars, were dangerous to deal
with. In all the Peninsular War there was only one occasion (at Garcia
Hernandez in 1812) where formed squares of either side were broken
by the cavalry of the other, and the 100th Ligne on this occasion
had 500 hussars to support them. There was some delay while Long was
sending an aide-de-camp to the Heavy Brigade to bid them prepare to
attack[325], and, seeing him holding back, Latour-Maubourg started off
his column once more along the high-road, the infantry marching in
square, with two squadrons of hussars in front and two behind. To stop
him from moving on, Long brought forward the 1st Portuguese to check
the hussars. But when they advanced toward them, and were about to
engage, the front side of the leading French battalion square opened a
distant fire against their flank. Surprised by this, for they had not
realized that they were within effective range of the hostile infantry,
the three Portuguese squadrons broke and galloped off, pursued by the
hussars for some little way[326].

  [325] So, at least, I gather from Long’s narrative: he says that
  ‘he sent an order for the advance of De Grey’s brigade’ (p. 34),
  and in another place (p. 53), that ‘it was only necessary to
  charge and throw into confusion the cavalry at their (the French)
  head and rear, and the object was accomplished.’ The object is
  defined as the ‘annihilation’ of the French column, which Long
  thinks would have surrendered.

  [326] This regiment lost one officer and ten men killed, and
  thirty-two wounded, beside some prisoners, in the abortive
  advance. The French statement that the 2nd Hussars made ‘de
  belles charges’ is therefore evidently justified. But it was the
  flanking infantry fire which demoralized the Portuguese (Long’s
  _Vindication_, p. 49).

At this moment Marshal Beresford and his staff came upon the scene,
on the ridge near De Grey’s brigade, and saw the three Portuguese
squadrons rallying at a distance, and still in disorder, while the
heavy dragoons were preparing to attack. On inquiring what had become
of the 13th and the rest of the Portuguese, Beresford was told by one
of his staff[327] that they had been cut off and were believed to have
been captured. Horrified at this news, which brought to his mind all
Wellington’s warnings, Beresford forbade the Heavy Brigade to charge,
and bade them hold off, till some infantry and guns should come up.
He was indubitably right in so doing, for, as all previous and later
experience proved, it was most unlikely that they would have broken the
French squares.

  [327] By all accounts this was Baron Trip, a Dutch _émigré_
  officer, who was serving on Beresford’s staff. The statement was
  very astounding, even incredible, considering that the country
  was open and undulating. But it was almost equally incredible
  that the 13th and 7th Portuguese should have pursued the French
  dragoons completely out of sight, six miles away, without leaving
  a man behind.

He sent back for the nearest infantry, which was Colborne’s brigade,
and some guns. Meanwhile the enemy continued moving off at a great
pace, followed at a distance by the heavy dragoons, while Long and the
three rallied Portuguese squadrons marched parallel with their flank.
The two parties had proceeded several miles in this way, when the 13th
Light Dragoons came in sight, returning from the direction of Badajoz,
and their Portuguese companions with them. Soon after, two guns of
Cleeves’s battery got up, unlimbered, and opened a fire at long range
against the rear of the French. It had some effect, but the enemy kept
his ranks and continued to move on as fast as possible, leaving his
dead and wounded in the road. The artillery horses were exhausted and
unable to keep up, wherefore Beresford ordered the whole force to halt,
saying that without infantry there was nothing more to be done. At this
moment Colborne’s brigade was no more than half a mile behind according
to Long and certain other witnesses[328]. But on the other hand,
Mortier with 2,000 infantry and a cavalry regiment from Badajoz was
visible, waiting for Latour-Maubourg near the spot where the dismantled
convoy was standing. The two French forces joined, and retired into
the fortress with nearly all the recaptured guns--only one and some
caissons remained to be picked up by Beresford’s advance.

  [328] Colonel Gabriel, a staff officer of the 2nd Division, says
  that Colborne’s brigade was only 500 yards in rear of the heavy
  dragoons, and the French still in sight when Beresford ordered
  the final halt. See Long’s _Vindication_, p. 65.

The loss of the British on this occasion, all in the 13th Light
Dragoons[329], was 10 killed, 3 officers and 24 men wounded, and 22
prisoners; among the Portuguese 1st and 7th cavalry an officer and 13
men killed, 40 wounded, and 55 prisoners--a total of over 150. The
French suffered more--the 26th Dragoons alone had 8 officers[330] and
over 100 men killed, wounded, and taken, the train and artillery had
been dreadfully cut up at the capture of the convoy, and the infantry
had lost 3 officers and many men by the fire of Cleeves’s guns. The
total casualties were over 200[331]. But the moral effect of a combat
is not judged by a mere comparison of losses, and the British officers
were much disappointed. Beresford and his friends held that Long had
by mismanagement wasted 150 precious cavalrymen--Long declared that
if Beresford had not taken the command out of his hands he would have
captured the whole French column. This last claim was absolutely
unreasonable: it is far more likely that he would merely have caused
severe loss to the two heavy dragoon regiments by persisting. The
Marshal and the General were on bad terms from this moment onward, and
the former took the next opportunity given him to remove the latter
from the chief command of the allied cavalry. The most curious comment
on the combat of Campo Mayor is Napier’s statement that ‘the 13th Light
Dragoons were severely reprimanded for pursuing so eagerly. But the
unsparing admiration of the whole army consoled them!’ Pursuing eagerly
is a mild expression for riding seven miles off the battlefield, and
on to the glacis of a hostile fortress. Wellington’s comment was that
‘the undisciplined ardour of the 13th Dragoons and the 7th regiment of
Portuguese cavalry is not of the description of the determined bravery
of soldiers confident in their discipline and their officers. Their
conduct was that of a rabble galloping as fast as their horses could
carry them, after an enemy to whom they could do no further mischief
when they were broken: the pursuit was continued for an unlimited
distance, and sacrificed substantial advantages, and all the objects
of the operation, by want of discipline[332].’ A similar reproof was
published in a General Order, to be read to the cavalry.

  [329] Except three wounded in the 3rd Dragoon Guards in
  skirmishes with the hussars of the French rearguard.

  [330] One killed, six wounded, one prisoner. For names see
  Martinien’s lists and supplement thereto.

  [331] Belmas says 175, but this is too low.

  [332] Wellington to Beresford, from Celorico, March 28
  (_Dispatches_, vii. 412). By an odd error Wellington wrote the
  1st Portuguese, but it was the 7th which joined in the hunt.

The only really satisfactory result of the combat of Campo Mayor was
that Beresford recovered the town intact, with some guns which had not
yet been sent off to Badajoz, and a considerable amount of stores,
including 8,000 rations of biscuit. The place was at once re-garrisoned
with the Faro regiment of militia from Elvas, who rapidly repaired the
breach. It was tenable again in a few days.

On the 26th Beresford discovered that the French had withdrawn entirely
beyond the Guadiana, keeping nothing north of it save the bridge-head
and Fort San Cristobal at Badajoz. All accounts agreed that after
deducting the garrison of that place Mortier could not have more than
8,000, or at the most 10,000, men available for the field, so that
there was no reason why Wellington’s orders to thrust him out of
Estremadura, and besiege Badajoz, should not be carried out. It was
particularly directed in those orders that the expeditionary force
should cross the Guadiana at Jerumenha, and make a bridge at that
place, only a few miles from the strong fortress of Elvas, the base
of its line of communications[333]. Accordingly the 2nd Division and
Hamilton’s Portuguese marched to Elvas on the 26th, leaving Cole and
the 4th Division (still much fatigued by their long march) for a day
at Campo Mayor. There can be no doubt that if Beresford had been able
to cross at Jerumenha on the 27th or 28th he would have compelled
the French to retire southward at once, and might have invested
Badajoz, then not yet fully repaired, as soon as he chose. But a most
tiresome series of hindrances, for which it seems unjust to blame the
Anglo-Portuguese commander, now began to crop up. The first and most
fatal was that the stock of Spanish pontoon boats which, as he had
been told by Wellington, would be found at Elvas or Jerumenha, was not
forthcoming. Only five were discovered: two complete bridge-equipages
had been kept by Imaz at Badajoz, and were now in the hands of the
French. But twenty large pontoons, as the engineers declared, was the
least number which would suffice to bridge the Guadiana. An attempt
was made to seek for river-craft to eke out the pontoons. But by
Wellington’s orders all the boats on the river for many miles had been
destroyed, when Soult entered Estremadura in January. Some Portuguese
pontoons were ordered from Lisbon, but it would be a week or so before
they could be carted across the Alemtejo. Meanwhile Captain Squire,
the engineer charged with the bridge-building, offered to lay trestles
across the shallower part of the bed of the Guadiana on either bank,
and to moor the five pontoons in the deep channel in the middle to join
them. To this Beresford assented, and the bridge-place was selected on
the 30th: Squire promised that the whole should be completed on the 3rd
of April; he could not finish it earlier, as the wood for the trestles
had to be found, cut down, and shaped _ab initio_.

  [333] Napier censures Beresford for not crossing at Merida,
  thirty miles east of Badajoz. But (1) Wellington’s orders
  directed him to use Jerumenha; (2) to march to Merida would have
  been to pass across the front of an enemy who had a bridge-head
  at Badajoz, from which he could push out detachments to cut the
  line of communication, Campo Mayor to Merida; (3) Elvas was the
  only possible base, and the only place where magazines could be
  safely formed, or munitions, siege artillery, &c., procured; (4)
  the road Campo Mayor-Merida was very bad; (5) Merida was within
  reach of the French Army of the Centre, which had detachments at
  Truxillo and Almaraz.

The delay of a week thus caused was of the less importance, however,
because of another contretemps. There were no stores ready to feed the
army when it should cross the Guadiana. The 200,000 rations at Estremos
which Wellington (as it will be remembered) had promised to Beresford,
were found to have been entirely consumed by the wreck of Mendizabal’s
army, who had been lying there for the last three weeks. There was
nothing to lade upon the mules and carts of the expeditionary force;
the troops were in great difficulties from day to day, ate the 8,000
rations at Campo Mayor, and were finally forced to indent upon the
stores of the garrison of Elvas, which ought to have been sacred to the
defence of the town.

Lastly, and this was perhaps the most important of all, the shoes of
the 4th Division, which had marched continuously from the 6th to the
22nd of March, first from the Lines to Espinhal, and then from Espinhal
to Portalegre, were completely worn out. Cole protested against the
division being moved till it was reshod. No footgear could be found
at Elvas, and though an immediate requisition was sent to Lisbon,
the convoy bringing the shoes would obviously take a week or so to
get up[334]. From the 26th of March to the 3rd of April Beresford
was perforce immovable. This loss of eight days was apparently the
reason why Badajoz did not fall into his hands a little later, for the
fortifications, which were still in a dangerous state of disrepair
on the 25th, were practically tenable by the second week in April.
The stores in the fortress were a less important matter. Imaz when
he surrendered had over a month’s rations for 9,000 men, which, even
when a certain amount had been consumed by Soult’s field army, left
a nucleus sufficient to keep the garrison of 3,000 men placed in the
town by Mortier out of need for many weeks. In addition, cattle had
been requisitioned all over Estremadura. The small movable force of
8,000 men which was available for observing Beresford, was now living
entirely on the country-side, in order to spare the stores of Badajoz.

  [334] These notes as to Beresford’s difficulties are taken
  partly from the Journal of his chief of the staff, D’Urban,
  partly from the latter’s detailed report on the Estremaduran
  campaign, published in 1832, but written in 1811, partly from
  the _Strictures on Napier’s History_, vol. iii, written under
  Beresford’s eye. The latter might be considered suspicious if
  they were not completely borne out by the two former, as well as
  by Wellington’s _Dispatches_, vii. 414, 426, 432.

Beresford’s delay in crossing the Guadiana, therefore, was unfortunate,
but apparently inevitable, and there seems no reason to blame him for
it. On April 3rd the engineers reported that the bridge at Jerumenha
would be ready that evening, and the three divisions concentrated on
the left bank: the water was low, and a difficult ford for cavalry had
been found above the bridge, by which a squadron of dragoons passed,
and established a chain of pickets on the Spanish side. No French were
seen abroad, though it was discovered that they still had a garrison
in Olivenza, only six miles away. It is difficult to make out why no
attempt was made to obstruct the building of Beresford’s bridge--the
enemy had five regiments of cavalry in Estremadura, and 6,000 infantry
of Girard’s division were available for field service. Even a small
detachment with some guns would have made it impossible for the
British engineers to complete their work. But the Allies found a great
advantage in the fact that Mortier had just received orders to return
to Paris, and had on March 26th handed over the command of all the
troops on the Guadiana to Latour-Maubourg, who was a good divisional
general on the battlefield, but a very indifferent strategist. All
his manœuvres during the following month were weak and confused. How
it came that from the 30th of March to the 7th of April no French
cavalry were seen opposite Jerumenha, much less any serious force
sent to disturb the bridge-building, it is impossible to conceive. By
all accounts the horsemen who should have been in front of Olivenza
were at this time mainly employed in scouring the villages of Central
Estremadura for cattle and corn, and escorting what they could seize
into Badajoz and the camp of Girard’s division.

On the morning of March 4th, when the allied troops should have crossed
the Guadiana, Beresford was brought the untoward news that the river
had risen three feet in the night, had swept away the trestles, and
forced the engineers to draw back the five pontoon boats in the central
stream to the Portuguese bank. The squadron beyond the river was cut
off from the army, and communication with it was only restored during
the day, by rigging up a flying bridge composed of a raft and a rope.
The cavalry ford above the destroyed bridge was of course impassable.
Throughout the 4th and 5th the water continued to rise, from storms
higher up the river apparently, for there was no rain at Jerumenha.

The position was exasperating to the highest degree. ‘Establishing a
permanent bridge is out of the question,’ writes D’Urban, the chief
of the staff, in his journal. ‘The means are anything but secure
either for passing the army (tedious beyond measure, too, no doubt),
or for establishing a communication afterwards for supplies and other
purposes. Nevertheless the general state of things, and above all
Lord Wellington’s reiterated orders received this morning, render it
necessary to pass[335].’ The engineers, put upon their mettle, finally
made the five Spanish pontoon boats into two flying bridges worked by
ropes. On these a battalion of infantry was passed across the river,
and stockaded itself on the other side. Later in the day (April 5) some
small tin pontoons arrived from Lisbon, and out of these, helped by
all the wine-casks of the neighbouring villages, collected in haste,
a floating bridge was constructed, ‘not very substantial, but, upon
trial, found capable of admitting infantry to pass in file[336].’ It
was not ready till noon on the 6th, but by the two flying bridges the
whole 2nd Division and three squadrons of cavalry were passed on the
night of the 5th-6th. What might have happened it Latour-Maubourg
had concentrated at Olivenza, and fallen on the first two or three
battalions that crossed with a force of all arms, we had better not
inquire[337]. A disaster on a small scale might very possibly have
occurred. But not a Frenchman was seen.

  [335] This must have been Wellington’s Celorico dispatch of March
  30, saying that ‘between chevalets (trestles), boats, Spanish and
  English pontoons, and a ford, I should hope that the Guadiana may
  be passed in safety’ (_Dispatches_, vii. 414.)

  [336] D’Urban’s _Narrative_, p. 10.

  [337] Beresford maintained that troops on the right bank could
  be protected by the fire of the guns of Jerumenha, which is in
  a lofty position, commanding the Spanish shore. But they would
  have been of little use if the French had attacked at night.
  (_Strictures on Napier_, p. 177.)

During the 6th Hamilton’s Portuguese passed with infinite slowness
on the flying bridges, and the cask and pontoon bridge being at last
completed, Cole’s 4th Division and Long’s cavalry began to file over
it at dusk, an operation so tedious that the last of them were not
over till the following dawn. Ere they were all across a ‘regrettable
incident’ occurred: the advanced cavalry pickets were formed on the
night of the 6th-7th by Major Morris’s squadron of the 13th Light
Dragoons. Owing to bad staff work in the placing of them (as D’Urban
and General Long both assert), the main guard of this squadron was
surprised by French cavalry in the dusk of the morning, and captured
almost entire, two officers and fifty men being taken. The assailants
found that they had run into the camp of a whole army, and promptly
retired before they could be touched.

At last Latour-Maubourg had given signs of life; this reconnaissance
had been conducted by a flying column of two cavalry regiments and
four battalions, under General Veilland, sent out to Olivenza from the
camp of Girard’s division, with the very tardy purpose of hindering
Beresford’s passage. Veilland reported to his chief that the enemy was
across in such strength that he could do nothing. The appearance of
20,000 men on the Spanish bank of the Guadiana, so far to the south
of Badajoz, placed Latour-Maubourg in a very delicate position: if he
stayed twenty-four hours longer in his present camp close to Badajoz,
he lost his communications with Andalusia, and might be pushed eastward
up the Guadiana, out of touch with Soult, and having no retreat save
towards the distant Army of the Centre. It was even possible that a
rapid advance of the Allies might drive him into Badajoz, the last
thing that he would desire. Accordingly he concentrated at Albuera,
twelve miles south of that fortress, as a preliminary move, and
prepared to fall back from thence by the great southern _chaussée_,
towards Llerena and the Sierra Morena, where he would preserve, and
shorten, his line of communication with Soult. Phillipon was left
with 3,000 men in Badajoz, which was now quite beyond danger from a
_coup de main_, and able to take care of itself for some weeks, till
reinforcements should come up from Andalusia for its relief. With great
unwisdom Latour-Maubourg left Olivenza garrisoned also; it was, as
had been shown in January, contemptible as a fortress, even when held
by a large force, and the French general placed in it only a single
weak battalion of under 400 men. There were still on the walls the
few guns that had been taken from the Spaniards--no more than fifteen
were mounted, and several of these only on makeshift carriages. Why
Latour-Maubourg chose to sacrifice a battalion it is hard to see;
Napoleon wrote to Soult a month later to condemn the policy of small
garrisons in the strongest terms[338]. At the best Olivenza, when
so weakly held, could not hold out for more than a few days, and if
Beresford had tried to rush it by escalade, when first he arrived
before its walls, he must undoubtedly have succeeded, for 400 men
cannot defend three miles of enceinte against a serious assault. There
were some magazines in the place, and a small hospital of sick, who
could not be removed[339]. But it was obviously absurd to throw away a
battalion of sound men to keep them from capture for a few days. It has
been suggested that Latour-Maubourg merely wanted to gain time[340];
but the time gained was trifling--Olivenza only held out five days--and
might have fallen much sooner.

  [338] _Correspondance_, xxi. 146: ‘Vous voyez que ce que j’avais
  prévu est arrivé, qu’on a eu la simplicité de laisser du monde
  dans Olivenza, et de faire prendre là 300 hommes,’ &c. This
  was alluding to an earlier order to Soult not to make small
  detachments, and to blow up Olivenza.

  [339] Ninety-eight sick attended by sixteen surgeons were
  comprised in the surrender on April 15th.

  [340] This is Lapéne’s view, who says that the 400 gallant men
  were knowingly sacrificed in this hope: ‘L’intérêt de l’armée a
  demandé le sacrifice’ (p. 146).

Beresford’s train and guns having joined him beyond the river on
March 8th, he moved to Olivenza on the 9th, in an order of march
ready to deploy into an order of battle in case Latour-Maubourg
should turn up with his small field force. The town was summoned on
the same afternoon, and when the governor refused to surrender, the
4th Division, still almost unable to move for want of the shoes which
were daily expected from Lisbon, was left to besiege it, with the aid
of heavy guns to be brought from Elvas, only fifteen miles away. The
extreme weakness of the garrison was not known, or the Marshal would
not have wasted time by ordering regular approaches to be made. The
rest of the army bivouacked on the Badajoz road a few miles beyond
Olivenza, and on the following day occupied Valverde, and pushed its
cavalry to Albuera, cutting the _chaussée_ between Badajoz and Seville.
No enemy could be found, and it was ascertained that Latour-Maubourg’s
rearguard was at Santa Marta, ten miles to the south, and the rest
of his troops far beyond it. On the 11th the infantry, minus the 4th
Division, were at Albuera, while the bulk of the cavalry marched to
find out how far southward the enemy was ready to withdraw.

Central Estremadura, at any rate, was now in Beresford’s hands, and
he was in a position to carry out Wellington’s orders to drive the
5th Corps over the Sierra Morena and invest Badajoz. In accordance
with his instructions he had seen Castaños on March 30th, and settled
with him that the wrecks of the old Army of Estremadura--now about
1,000 horse and 3,000 foot--should join in the campaign. Castaños, who
showed himself both eager and obliging, had promised that his infantry
should seize the bridge of Merida, and that, when it was occupied,
his cavalry, under Penne Villemur, should join in the movement to
sweep Latour-Maubourg over the mountains, operating on the eastern
road (Merida-Ribera-Usagre-Llerena), while the allied cavalry took
the western one (Albuera-Los Santos-Fuente Cantos-Monasterio). These
promises were carried out: Morillo’s infantry division occupied
Merida on the 10th, and next day Penne Villemur’s cavalry had reached
Almendralejo.

The siege of Olivenza gave little trouble. The only difficulty was the
improvising of a siege-train, even on the very modest scale required to
deal with such a weak place. It was invested, as we have seen, on the
9th. On the 10th Major Alexander Dickson of the Portuguese artillery,
and Captain Squire of the Engineers reconnoitred the place, and
determined that the proper starting-point for the attack was the same
ruined lunette, outside the walls, which the French had chosen as their
first base in January. On the night of the 11th this point was occupied
with the loss of one man only, killed by the enemy’s ill-directed fire.
A battery for six guns was constructed in the gorge of the ruined work,
but the pieces themselves, which Dickson went to choose from Elvas, did
not arrive till the 14th; the cask-bridge at Jerumenha being too weak
to bear them, they and their ammunition had to be ferried over on the
flying bridges. The six 24-pounders were placed in position that same
night. At daybreak they opened, and by the time that they had fired
seventy rounds each, long ere noon, a practicable breach was made in
the nearest bastion. Thereupon the governor, seeing that to have stood
an assault with his handful of men would have been madness, surrendered
at discretion. He marched out with only 9 officers and 357 men under
arms, giving up also 96 sick, and some commissaries and medical
officers. Several of his miserable stock of fifteen guns were found to
be practically useless save to make a noise, for (as has already been
mentioned) they were fixed not on proper carriages, but on the main
timbers and wheels of ox-carts, and could not be elevated or depressed.
The governor deserves some credit for having held out five days; if the
Allies had been aware of the weakness of the garrison, they would have
swamped it at once by an escalade.

On the next morning (April 16th) Cole and the 4th Division, who had
at last received their much-needed supply of shoes, marched to join
the rest of the army. A Portuguese garrison was thrown into Olivenza,
but there was no intention to hold it, if the enemy should come up
again. It was only a man-trap. Beresford might now have invested
Badajoz, if it had pleased him so to do. But he thought it better to
drive Latour-Maubourg completely out of Estremadura, and across the
Sierra Morena, before taking the siege in hand. The main reason for his
resolve was that it was clear that a week or ten days at least would be
required to organize a battering-train at Elvas, for the bombardment
and breaching of the fortress, and he thought it more profitable to
spend this interval in pushing the French as far from Badajoz as
possible, rather than in sitting down before it to no purpose, and
waiting for the appearance of the siege-train. It was apparently an
omission on Wellington’s part not to have ordered General Leite, the
governor of Elvas, to begin making preparations for the gathering of a
park and the collection of a large body of artillerymen, on the same
day that he finally launched Beresford’s[341] force into Estremadura
(March 16). But this had not been done, and it was not till April 18th
that Major Alexander Dickson, who had already learnt what was available
in Elvas while organizing the little train required for the capture
of Olivenza, was directed to take in hand the much larger and more
difficult task of collecting the men and material destined for the
siege of a first-class fortress[342]. This delay seems extraordinary:
did Wellington think on March 16th that Badajoz, only five days in
the hands of the French at the moment, would be incapable of defence
when Beresford should appear in front of it about the 25th of that
same month? It is quite possible that this would have been the case,
and that the French would have blown it up, if the Jerumenha bridge
had been standing ready for the passage of the army on the next day,
as Wellington had supposed. The _Dispatches_ give us no help on this
point; Wellington speaks of investing Badajoz, but gives no hint as
to how the investment was to be followed up, till March 27th, when he
observes to Beresford that ‘Elvas must supply the means for the attack
on Badajoz, if possible; if it has them not, I must send them there;
this will take time, but that cannot be avoided[343].’

  [341] Dickson’s _Journals_, recently published by Major Leslie,
  R.A., are the first and most important source in which to study
  the two early British sieges of Badajoz, as well as the smaller
  matter of Olivenza. I am using them perpetually all through the
  following pages.

  [342] This date is that given by D’Urban’s _Journal_.

  [343] _Dispatches_, vii. 407. From Gouvea, March 27.

Elvas, as matters turned out, did ‘supply the means,’ but the resources
to be found there were so limited that, as was wittily said at the time
by Picton, Wellington, both in May and in June 1811, ‘sued Badajoz _in
forma pauperis_,’ and if the place had fallen it would have been almost
a miracle, for no sufficient material to ensure its capture had been
collected even by the month of June. The main difficulty arose from the
fact that Wellington had never been provided by his Government with a
siege-train. Looking upon the war in Portugal as essentially defensive
in character, the Home authorities had forgotten that it might have
offensive episodes, and that a great siege might not impossibly be one
of them. The British army in Portugal possessed nothing in the way of
artillery save the ordinary horse and field batteries (or ‘troops’ and
‘companies’ as they were then called), with their 3, 6, and 9-pounder
guns. If a few hundred men were told off to heavy pieces in the Lisbon
lines during the preceding autumn, it was not that they were intended
for such service--they were parts of incomplete or unhorsed batteries,
which had not taken the field when the campaign of 1810 began, and
were waiting to complete their equipment. The British army in Portugal
was absolutely destitute of artillery destined for and trained to the
working of siege-guns. The only British pieces of heavy calibre used
in the spring of 1811 were ships’ cannon lent by the commander of the
squadron in the Tagus.

For such work as was now before them, therefore, the Allies had to
depend entirely on what the Portuguese arsenals could supply. But
all that could be found in them was now mounted on the interminable
redoubts of the Lisbon lines, save such as had been sent to strengthen
Elvas, Abrantes, and Peniche. Practically every gun in Portugal was
defending some work, small or great; they had all been requisitioned
down to the most antique and imperfect pieces. The walls of Elvas were
a perfect museum of ancient artillery: among the heaviest pieces,
carefully sorted out because of their calibre, and chosen for the
siege-train that was to batter Badajoz, were to be seen not only many
24-pounders bearing the arms and cyphers of the earliest kings of the
house of Braganza, João and Affonso, but still older brass guns of
enormous length, showing the names of Philip III and IV of Spain, and
dating back to the years before 1640, when Portugal was a discontented
province of the Hapsburg kings[344]. It seems almost incredible, but
is actually a fact, that some of the cannon used by Wellington’s men
against Badajoz were just two hundred years old. Those that were
not quite so antique were mainly pieces of early eighteenth-century
pattern, without the later improvements invented by the French
scientific artillerymen of the days of Louis XV and Louis XVI: for the
Lisbon arsenal had persisted in using old models long after they had
been dropped in the larger countries of Europe.

  [344] Dickson, in his _Journal_, p. 448, specially mentions this
  curious fact, and notes the name of Philip III and the dates
  1620, 1636, 1646, 1652 on some of the guns he used.

The gunners for the siege were of course mainly Portuguese, though
a few were afterwards drawn from the imperfect British companies at
Lisbon[345]. Those first employed were borrowed from the garrison
of Elvas; they comprised a great number of recruits only partially
trained, but did their best. It was the guns, not the men, that were at
fault--or rather, both the guns and the ammunition, for the Portuguese
cannon-balls in store, dating from all ages, varied much in size, and
Dickson had to sort each convoy of 24 lb. or 12 lb. shot into batches,
some of which were rather small and some rather large, and to apportion
them to particular pieces. The old brass seventeenth-century guns,
being generally worn from long use, needed the biggest shot, and even
these were so large in the bore that the balls fitted loosely, and
the discharge suffered from ‘windage.’ The impact of such shot was
not half what it should have been[346]. With such tools to employ, it
is not wonderful that the Anglo-Portuguese artillery made a poor show
at the first siege of Badajoz. But worst of all was the fact that the
number of pieces was at first far too small--Elvas could only spare a
certain part of the armament of its walls, and it was not till some
weeks had passed that guns, British and Portuguese, could be brought
up from Lisbon, and with them drafts of artillerymen of both nations.
But twenty-three guns and 400 artillerymen were all that Dickson could
collect for the first siege, and these were not ready till April was
out; indeed, it was no small achievement to organize a siege-train of
any sort between April 18th and May 6th, from the sole resources of
the fortress of Elvas. Of the additional hindrance caused by the small
numbers and the inexperience of the engineer officers, and the total
lack of trained sappers, we shall speak in the proper place.

  [345] These were the companies of Bredin, Baynes, Raynsford, and
  Glubb; see vol. iii. p. 559.

  [346] Dickson, _Journal_, pp. 405, 448.

The space of time before the siege-train for Badajoz could be got ready
was employed by Beresford in clearing southern Estremadura of the
enemy. Having left a brigade of the 2nd Division at Talavera Real, a
battalion of the Lusitanian Legion (from Cole’s division) in Olivenza,
and some squadrons of Portuguese cavalry round the southern front of
Badajoz, to watch the garrison, the army marched for Santa Marta and
Zafra, on the high-road to Seville, with its own cavalry in front, and
Penne Villemur’s Spanish squadrons on the left (April 16th-18th). The
bulk of the infantry went no further forward, because Latour-Maubourg
withdrew into the Sierra Morena on the rumour of its approach. The
cavalry continued the pursuit--at Los Santos on the 16th its leading
regiment, the 13th Light Dragoons, had a smart affair with the French
rearguard (2nd Hussars), and routed it with the loss of three officers
and many men[347]. After this Latour-Maubourg never stopped till he had
reached Guadalcanal, on the borders of Andalusia, evacuating Llerena
and the other towns on the Estremaduran slope of the mountains (April
19th). Beresford thereupon left his British cavalry at Zafra, and
Penne Villemur at Llerena, to watch the passes, while he drew back his
infantry divisions to take in hand the siege of Badajoz (April 20th),
with the exception of the brigade of Colborne, which was sent out with
some Spanish horse to demonstrate against Latour-Maubourg, and to drive
him still further southward if he showed signs of irresolution.

  [347] Long says that the 13th took about 150 prisoners
  (_Vindication_, p. 104), but the French accounts do not
  acknowledge anything like such loss.

While these operations were in progress, there was a short and
unexpected diversion in the extreme south-west corner of Estremadura,
caused by the appearance of an outlying French column in that quarter,
which had no connexion with Latour-Maubourg. A word as to this is
necessary, since its result was to bring a new Spanish force into
Beresford’s sphere of operations. When Soult returned to Andalusia
in the middle of March, his first care was to drive off Ballasteros
and the other detachments which had been threatening Seville in his
absence. They gave back into the Condado de Niebla, as has already been
mentioned. But at the end of the month the situation was complicated
by the news that an expedition from Cadiz, the division of Zayas,
had landed at Moguer, in the estuary of the Rio Tinto, and seemed
about to join Ballasteros. If this junction had been made, the force
collected in the west would have been too large to be safely neglected.
Wherefore Soult sent out General Maransin and the Prince of Aremberg,
the former with seven battalions of Gazan’s division, and the latter
with two cavalry regiments, to attack the Spaniards. At the approach
of this column of 4,500 men Zayas re-embarked, losing 300 men from
his rearguard in so doing (April 1). Ballasteros retired into the
mountains. Maransin thought it his duty to endeavour to make an end
of this active and elusive adversary, whose constant appearances and
reappearances on the flank of Seville had caused so much trouble.
Sending back his cavalry and guns, he plunged into the hills with
his infantry, and for twelve days hunted Ballasteros up and down the
rugged upper valleys of the Odiel and the Rio Tinto. On April 12th
Ballasteros, gradually pushed northward, came down to Fregenal, on the
borders of Estremadura, where he offered battle, but was beaten, and
fled to Xeres de los Caballeros. Maransin pursued, and reached that
place on the 11th, while Ballasteros retired to Salvatierra de los
Barros, not far from Santa Marta, and close on the flank of Beresford’s
army. Maransin, who had long been cut off from touch with other French
detachments, was wholly unaware that he had run into the neighbourhood
of a British force, and would have been captured, or defeated, if he
had stayed a day longer at Xeres, for Ballasteros had called for help
to Beresford, and the latter was preparing to throw two divisions upon
his flank and rear[348]. Letters from Latour-Maubourg to Maransin,
to warn him of his danger, were intercepted by the guerrilleros and
sent to the British camp[349]. But an _Afrancesado_, one of the
principal inhabitants of Xeres, warned the French general just before
it was too late: and, hastily leaving his position at night, Maransin
retired into Andalusia via Fregenal and Aracena, and ultimately joined
Latour-Maubourg by a circuitous route.

  [348] D’Urban visited Ballasteros’s camp on the 14th and settled
  with him all the details of a joint march against Maransin
  (whom they wrongly supposed to be d’Aremberg, not knowing that
  the latter had returned to Seville with the cavalry). ‘If
  d’Aremberg takes the bait, and follows Ballasteros, he must be
  lost altogether; even if he halts at Xeres we ought to get hold
  of him,’ writes D’Urban in his diary. But Maransin fled on the
  morning of the 15th.

  [349] D’Urban’s diary under the 17th April.

Ballasteros stayed behind in Estremadura, and the allied force in
that province was strengthened by his 3,500 men. But this was not
all: the Regency at Cadiz resolved to place a considerable army in
this direction, their own city being more than amply garrisoned, and
expeditions to the south being unpopular since the fiasco that followed
Barrosa. On April 25th General Blake took the two divisions of Zayas
and Lardizabal (both of which had fought at Barrosa), and landed with
them at Ayamonte, the port in the mouth of the Guadiana. From thence he
moved up along the Portuguese frontier, and joined Ballasteros near
Xeres de los Caballeros about a fortnight later. Between them they had
over 10,000 infantry and about 800 cavalry, but few guns, for Blake
found it difficult to horse the batteries that he had brought with
him, and left all save six pieces behind, at Ayamonte, to follow when
they could procure teams. They had not rejoined him four weeks later,
when the battle of Albuera was fought. The presence of Blake was not
altogether an unmixed benefit, for he was independent of Castaños,
who commanded the ‘5th Army’ or old Estremaduran force, and the two
generals were ancient rivals and did not seem likely to co-operate with
any cordiality. But if Soult was to make his appearance for the relief
of Badajoz, it was as well that the Allies should be as strong as
possible on the front by which he must attack.

Before, however, Blake had arrived in Estremadura, the investment of
Badajoz had begun. It was directed by Wellington himself, who dropped
suddenly into the middle of the campaign on the 20th, when he arrived
at Elvas. Having seen Masséna retreat to Salamanca, and break up his
army into cantonments, he now considered that it was safe for him to
pay the visit to the south which he had always projected. Leaving
Sabugal on April 16th, he rode across country by Castello Branco and
Niza, and reached Elvas on the fifth night. The next day but one he
conducted a reconnaissance of Badajoz, escorted by a brigade newly
landed at Lisbon, which he had ordered to join Beresford--Alten’s two
light battalions of the King’s German Legion. The examination of the
defences of the fortress was made under some difficulties, for at the
moment when Wellington was riding round the walls a large working
party of the garrison, which had been dispatched to cut timber in
the woods to the south, was returning into the place. Phillipon, the
governor, thinking that Wellington’s escort was a detachment sent
to cut off his workmen, came hastily out of the fortress with three
battalions, and swept off the high-road two companies of the Germans
who were accompanying the head-quarters’ staff, with the loss of fifty
or sixty men. The working party hurried to join their friends, and got
into the gate before the main body of Alten’s brigade could come up.
This interruption being over, Wellington completed his survey of the
whole circuit of Badajoz, and on the next day (April 23rd) issued
elaborate orders to Beresford, concerning the policy to be observed in
Estremadura during the siege. He had never intended to stay more than a
few days in the south, to supervise affairs, and on the 25th a dispatch
received from Sir Brent Spencer, the senior officer left with the
main army in the north, reported such activity of the French in that
direction that he rode hard for the frontiers of Leon, where he arrived
on the 29th.

The orders dictated to Beresford governed the whole course of the
campaign in Estremadura during the next month, and were of the highest
importance. Wellington directed that the siege of Badajoz should be
begun the moment that the guns and material were ready, but warned
his colleague that its commencement would infallibly bring Soult
to the relief of the place, with every available man that he could
scrape together from Andalusia. It was impossible to calculate what
the strength of his army would be: if he raised the siege of Cadiz or
evacuated Granada, so that he could bring a very large force with him,
Beresford was to retire behind the Guadiana, and assume a defensive
position on the Caya river in front of Elvas. If forced from thence,
he must retire even as far as Portalegre should it be necessary. But
if Soult (as was more likely) came up with a force which was not
absolutely overwhelming in numbers, ‘Marshal Beresford will consider
of and decide upon the chance of success, according to a view of the
relative number of both armies, and making a reasonable allowance for
the number of Spanish troops which will co-operate with him.... If
he should think his strength sufficient to fight a general action to
save the siege of Badajoz, he will collect his troops to fight it. I
believe that, upon the whole, the most central and advantageous place
to collect the troops will be at Albuera.... All this must of course
be left to the decision of Sir William Beresford. I authorize him to
fight the action if he should think proper, or to retire if he should
not[350].’

  [350] _Dispatches_, vii. 491-2.

The co-operation of the Spaniards was the crucial point. Unless it were
assured, Wellington considered that Beresford must assume the more
cautious and defensive attitude. If it were secured, the bolder policy
might be pursued. The lines which Wellington laid down were in the
main those which had already been suggested by Beresford: (1) Castaños
must undertake to keep the horse of Villemur in the Sierra Morena,
closely observing Latour-Maubourg, but forbid him to engage in any
fighting; he must retire if pressed; the infantry of the 5th army must
stay at Merida, as at present, but be ready to join Beresford if Soult
invaded Estremadura. (2) Ballasteros was to take a similar position on
the other flank, with his head quarters at Burguillos (near Zafra)[351]
and his advanced posts at Fregenal and Monasterio; if Soult moved
forward, he was to join Beresford without attempting to fight. (3) When
Blake’s army had landed, it was to pass up the Guadiana, and take post
at Xeres de los Caballeros; on any alarm from Soult, it was (like the
other Spanish troops) to join Beresford at once. If these arrangements
worked, at least 15,000 Spaniards would be in line at Albuera, the
chosen position, to assist in holding back Soult. And, as we shall
see, the scheme did work exactly as Wellington had designed, and the
whole force was collected. (4) Lastly, and this was all-important,
when the allied forces were concentrated, they must be placed under a
single commander, and not worked with divided authority and divided
responsibility, as had been the case in the Talavera campaign of 1809.
Concerning Blake there could be no difficulty, as he was junior to
Castaños, and the latter had consented to place himself at Beresford’s
disposition when they met at Jerumenha on March 30th. Too much praise
cannot be given to his reasonable and conciliatory conduct, which alone
rendered possible the co-operation of all the allied forces during the
ensuing campaign.

  [351] Not to be confused with another Burguillos on the
  Guadalquivir, north of Seville.

Wellington therefore, as is clear, foresaw the whole course of
subsequent operations, and even fixed the exact battle-spot on which
the fate of Soult’s attempt to relieve Badajoz would be decided. The
only point left to Beresford’s decision was whether the strength of the
French army was such as to render a successful resistance possible.
And when we come to consider the respective forces at the disposition
of the two parties, it can hardly be urged that Beresford was wrong to
accept battle. That his victory was a hard-fought and costly one came
from minor tactical circumstances, which will be explained in their due
place.

As to the details of the projected siege of Badajoz, Wellington
laid down an equally clear policy. All guns and material were to be
collected in Elvas, Campo Mayor, and Olivenza, and not to move till
everything was ready. The main communications of the army were to be
across a floating bridge to be constructed at the junction of the
Caya and the Guadiana, five miles below Badajoz and six from Elvas.
The permanent bridge of Merida and the temporary bridges at Jerumenha
would be subsidiary resources. Lastly, and here was the most important
point, the general scheme to be pursued was that the besiegers should
first reduce the outlying defences of Badajoz, Fort San Cristobal on
the north bank of the Guadiana, the Pardaleras and the Picurina on the
south bank. Only when all these were taken would operations against the
city itself be begun. To quote the concluding paragraph of Wellington’s
memorandum: ‘When the British army shall be in possession of San
Cristobal, Picurina and Pardaleras, Marshal Beresford will determine
upon the point at which he will attack the body of the place. It is
believed that, upon the whole, one of the south faces will be the most
advantageous.’

There can be no doubt that all the mishaps of the two first British
sieges of Badajoz had their origin in these original orders of
Wellington, which were drawn up on the advice of his chief engineer,
Colonel Fletcher. The great mistake was the choosing of the almost
impregnable fort of San Cristobal as one of the three first points
of attack, and the making all subsequent operations depend upon its
capture. No doubt the possession of this lofty and commanding work
would render the fall of Badajoz certain, since it overlooked the
castle and all the northern end of the city. But it was the strongest
part of the whole defences, and when the miserable and antiquated train
of artillery at Beresford’s disposition is taken into consideration,
and it is remembered that the siege was to be conducted ‘against time’
as it were, i. e. with the hope that it might be concluded before Soult
could collect a relieving force, it is clear that San Cristobal ought
to have been left alone. The other points designated by Wellington, the
Pardaleras and Picurina, were much more accessible, and the capture
of one or other of them would have brought the besiegers close to the
walls, though neither of them commanded the whole city in the same
fashion as San Cristobal. The best commentary on the sieges of 1811
is that a year later, at the third and successful leaguer, Wellington
left the high-lying fort on the other side of the Guadiana entirely
alone. The original orders of 1811 gave three separate and distinct
objectives, and none of these were to be mere ‘false attacks,’ since
it is distinctly said that operations against the enceinte were only
to begin when all three of the forts were in British hands. Wellington
was not a trained engineer; he was dependent on the advice of the
officers of that arm, and it seems that they gave him bad counsel, as
they certainly did to Beresford during the subsequent weeks. The most
puzzling thing is to make out why Colonel Fletcher and his colleagues
ignored Soult’s precedent; the French engineers had concentrated their
attack on the Pardaleras front as their sole objective, for their
other operations were false attacks. The English engineers, instead of
concentrating their efforts in the same way, wasted their work on three
separate points, which was all the more inexcusable because they knew
that the resources which their comrades of the artillery arm had at
their disposition were most inadequate for a great siege. Hence came a
very costly and deplorable series of failures.

On the day of Wellington’s departure from Elvas heavy rain fell, and
the Guadiana rose high, not merely washing away the cask-bridge at
Jerumenha, but rendering the working of the flying bridges impossible.
This was a serious matter; not only did it put a temporary stop to the
communications between Elvas and the army, but it raised the question
as to what might happen if a similar mischance were to occur when
Soult was invading Estremadura. For if the Jerumenha bridges should
break when the Allies were concentrated at Albuera, they would have no
line of retreat and an impassable river behind. Beresford, with this
possibility in his eye, ordered an alternative line of communication
to be established via Merida, and sent a brigade of the 2nd Division
thither to reinforce the Spaniards of Morillo, and a day later the
whole 4th Division. His anxiety on this point did not cease till,
on the 5th of May, a strong pontoon bridge had been built at the
point selected by Wellington, the place where the Caya falls into the
Guadiana. By this time the Jerumenha bridges were again in working
order, but it was clear that it would be a mistake to trust the whole
safety of the army to them.

It was only on this same day (May 5) that Colonel Fletcher and
Major Alexander Dickson reported to Beresford that they were ready
to produce the means for the attack on Badajoz: the former had his
stock of platforms, fascines, and gabions prepared; the latter had
organized the first convoy of artillery and ammunition from Elvas. On
the 6th, therefore, the investment of Badajoz on the south side of the
Guadiana was completed by the British brigades of Lumley and Alten
and the Portuguese brigade of Fonseca, while on the following day the
brigade of Kemmis and the 17th Portuguese (part of the garrison of
Elvas) appeared opposite San Cristobal, and shut in the place on the
northern bank of the river. The rest of the infantry[352] encamped
as a support of the besieging force in the woods between Badajoz and
Albuera, but the cavalry still remained in southern Estremadura,
and Colborne’s brigade had been for some days (April 30th-May 11th)
executing a demonstration in the Sierra Morena, with the object of
keeping Latour-Maubourg employed. This last operation, owing to
Colborne’s skilful management of his column of 2,000 infantry and
two squadrons each of Spanish and Portuguese horse, had been very
successful. On hearing of British infantry in his front, the French
general evacuated his posts on the crest of the mountains, Guadalcanal,
Fuente Ovejuna, Azuaga, and Monasterio, and fell back south-eastward
towards Constantina on the Cordova road, abandoning the direct line
of retreat on Seville, which he had hitherto covered. Colborne, after
clearing all these places, extended his march eastward into a very wild
and unexplored country, and summoned the isolated castle of Benalcazar,
the only French garrison left north of the Sierra Morena. When it
refused to listen to a summons, he had to leave it, having neither guns
to batter it nor time to waste. From thence he returned by a circular
sweep through Campanario to Almendralejo, where he once more was in
touch with the British army (May 11th).

  [352] Hoghton’s brigade of the 2nd Division, Myers’s and Harvey’s
  brigades of the 4th Division, Campbell’s brigade of Hamilton’s
  Portuguese division.

The first episodes of the siege of Badajoz were not very encouraging to
the besiegers. On the 8th trenches were opened opposite all the three
points of attack designated by Wellington, the Picurina and Pardaleras
forts on the south side, and San Cristobal on the north. In each case
the first parallel was started at about 400 yards from the walls;
Dickson had told off fourteen 24-pounders and two 8-inch howitzers for
the work on the left bank, five 24-pounders and two other howitzers for
the attack on San Cristobal. More energy was displayed in this last
quarter than in the others, apparently from the notion that if this
commanding work could be subdued the rest of the siege would be an
easy matter. But the results were disappointing: on the stony slopes
of San Cristobal there was little earth to throw up, and the spade
gritted against rock at three inches from the surface. At the end of
the first night’s digging the trench was but a seam, and there was only
one section at which about ten men could work under cover. The rest had
to be abandoned during daylight, for the enemy kept up a furious fire,
not merely from the fort, but from the citadel on the other side of the
river, whose flank battery enfiladed the projected trench. Three out
of nine engineer officers present on this front were killed or wounded
in the first twenty-four hours, and many of the workers from Kemmis’s
brigade and the 17th Portuguese. It soon became obvious that the
trenches would have to be built with earth from a distance and gabions,
rather than excavated. Nevertheless, a battery for Dickson’s five
24-pounders was sketched out, and began to be visible to the enemy. On
the night of the 10th Phillipon sent up a reserve battalion into San
Cristobal, and executed a sortie upon the British works. It penetrated
into the trenches, but was driven out after a sharp struggle by the
covering party. But, pursuing too far, the British came under the guns
of San Cristobal, and had to retire to their trenches with lamentably
heavy loss[353]. Next day the battery was completed, despite of a
deadly fire both from the fort and the castle, and opened upon its
objective. But it was completely overmastered, and before night four
of its five guns had been damaged or dismounted; three more engineer
officers were hurt, leaving only three surviving of the original nine.
It is said that the battery opened before it had been intended--a
fault of over-zeal on the part of the Portuguese major in command.
Beresford’s purpose had been to wait till the other attacks, on the
Picurina and Pardaleras, were ready, before beginning to batter San
Cristobal. These attacks had met with less difficulty, the ground being
easier to dig, and on the evening of the 11th the trenches in front
of the Picurina were well advanced, and the battery of ten guns there
opened upon the fort with some, but not great, effect.

  [353] So D’Urban’s diary under May 11th. The loss was over 400
  men, of whom 207 were in the 40th, 118 in the 27th, 75 in the
  97th, and 38 in the 17th Portuguese. The French lost about 200
  men only.

Seeing the San Cristobal attack faring so badly, the engineers got
leave to erect a second battery on that side, further down the hill,
which was intended to check the enfilading fire from the other side
of the Guadiana. More guns were brought up to the original battery,
to replace those that had been damaged. But both batteries were
overpowered and badly maltreated on the morning of the 12th. A few
hours later news arrived from the south, sent by Ballasteros, to
the effect that the French were in motion from Seville with a large
relieving army, and were marching hard across the Sierra Morena, just
as Wellington had expected; they had reached Santa Olalla on the 11th,
and were already in touch with Latour-Maubourg. Since their force was
estimated at only 23,000 men--not far from the real amount--Beresford
resolved to fight, and sent requests to Castaños, Ballasteros, and
Blake to concentrate on Albuera, the battle-ground selected by
Wellington. It was fortunate that Blake was now in close touch and
available--he had reached Fregenal on the 9th and Barcarrota on the
12th, so that his arrival was certain, unless some unforeseen accident
should occur. Without his aid it would have been doubtful policy to
wait for Soult and risk a general action: but with his 10,000 men in
line the Allies would have wellnigh 35,000 men available, if every unit
came complete to the field.

[Illustration: BADAJOZ The Two British Sieges (May & June 1811)]

Meanwhile, pending the confirmation of the news of the French advance,
Beresford’s engineers asked leave to open another parallel, and
1,400 men had been paraded for the purpose of starting it, when
complete details as to Soult’s progress came to hand. It had been so
rapid that the Marshal at once ordered all the siege operations to
be discontinued, though the engineers tried to persuade him to risk
two days’ more work, by the vain promise that they would undertake
to produce two practicable breaches in that space of time. Beresford
wisely refused to listen to them, and ordered that all the guns and
ammunition should be returned at once to Elvas, with such of the siege
stores as could be readily moved. But the mass of gabions and fascines
had to be burnt, as these would be profitable to the garrison, and
would certainly be carried into the town if they were left intact.
The troops, English, Portuguese, and Spanish (three battalions of
Castaños’s infantry had come up from Merida), were ordered to prepare
to march for Albuera in successive detachments, the 4th Division and
the Spaniards being left to the last in the trenches, to cover the
removal of the guns and stores.

Beresford’s total casualties in this mismanaged fragment of a siege,
from May 6th to May 12th, had been 533 British and 200 Portuguese, or
733 in all, lost in the trenches and in the sortie. It will be seen
that the sortie cost far more lives than the actual beleaguering work.
All the British loss save seven casualties was in Kemmis’s brigade of
the 4th Division[354], which lay on the Cristobal side, and suffered
both in the trench-building and in the sortie. The Portuguese loss was
partly in the 17th Line, which acted with Kemmis, partly among the
artillery.

  [354] 3/27th, 1/40th, and 97th Foot.



SECTION XXVI: CHAPTER II

FUENTES DE OÑORO: PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS.
APRIL 12ND-MAY 3RD, 1811


The Army of Portugal, sullenly retiring far within the frontiers of
Spain, had been lost to Wellington’s sight on April 8th, when it passed
the Agueda and fell back in diverging columns towards various towns
of the kingdom of Leon--Salamanca, Toro, and Zamora--where it went
into cantonments. Only Drouet with the two divisions of Conroux and
Claparéde remained in observation of the Allies, with his head quarters
at San Muñoz. The British general was well aware of the dilapidated
state in which the enemy had reached his base, and calculated that it
would take many weeks for Masséna to get his army into fighting trim
again. He considered that he might even hope to gain possession of
Almeida before the French would be in a position to attempt its relief,
though it could only fall by famine, since there were no heavy guns to
form a battering-train for its siege nearer than Oporto, Abrantes, or
Lisbon. He had already inspected the place, and saw that it had been
put in such a good state of defence by the governor, Brennier, that all
external traces of the great explosion of August 1810 had disappeared.
That the town within was still a mass of ruins, with nearly every house
cut off sheer at the first story, was of no military importance, when
the enceinte and the bomb-proofs were in good order.

There was a short moment during which Wellington had some hopes of
being able to lay hands on Ciudad Rodrigo as well as Almeida. He had
learnt that the Spanish fortress was almost as depleted of food as the
Portuguese, and that Masséna’s troops had consumed 200,000 rations from
its stores when they reached the frontier; he thought that the extra
garrison which Junot had thrown into it, before he passed onward, would
only serve to exhaust the magazines so much the earlier. Accordingly
he not only requested that active and enterprising partisan Julian
Sanchez, to beset the roads between Salamanca and Rodrigo, in order
that no provisions might get through, but made preparations to throw
some British light troops across the Agueda to co-operate with him,
when the approach of a convoy should be reported. With this object
he moved up the Light Division and Arentschildt’s brigade of cavalry
close to the Agueda and within a few miles of Rodrigo. Their head
quarters were at Gallegos, their outposts extended from the bridge of
Barba del Puerco on the north as far as El Bodon on the south. It was
intended that, when Don Julian signalled the approach of the French,
the Light Division should make a dash across the fords of the Agueda,
and endeavour to intercept the convoy. This plan failed on the 13th
of April, owing, as Wellington held, to the slowness of Sir William
Erskine[355], who was still in command of the division, though news had
just arrived--to the great satisfaction of all the battalions--that its
old general, Craufurd, was daily expected at Lisbon on his way to the
front.

  [355] Wellington to Beresford, April 14th: ‘Sir William Erskine
  did not send a detachment across the Agueda in time, as I
  had desired him, and the consequence is that the French got
  their convoy into Ciudad Rodrigo yesterday morning.... It is
  useless now to keep anybody on the other side of the Agueda.’
  _Dispatches_, vii. 467.

Rodrigo having been revictualled, Wellington abandoned all hope of
molesting it further; to have invested it would have been useless,
when he had no siege-train. But Almeida he intended to reduce at his
leisure, being of the opinion that it would be starved out before
Masséna was in a position to take the field to relieve it. Nothing
short of his whole army would suffice for that operation--if that even
were enough. And knowing that the troops had just reached Salamanca
in a demoralized and discontented condition, without shoes, without
train, almost without ammunition, and with the remnant of their cavalry
and artillery horses dying off at the rate of several hundreds a day,
Wellington doubted if his adversary would be able to come out of his
cantonments before the summer was far spent. At any rate, he calculated
that he had a good many weeks before him, in which he was not likely
to find the Army of Portugal a serious danger. Accordingly he resolved
to put his own host into cantonments also, in such a position as to
block the road to Almeida, and to give it a well-earned rest while
that fortress was being starved out. He had, as we observed in a
previous chapter, no intention of assuming the offensive against the
French in Leon till he had organized his line of communication with
his new base at Coimbra, and established large intermediate dépôts
at Lamego, Celorico, and other conveniently placed localities. The
army was living from hand to mouth,--all the country about Almeida,
Guarda, and Sabugal having been thoroughly devastated,--on convoys
which were only struggling up at irregular intervals from the lower
Mondego. The horses especially were in very poor order, from want of
proper forage. ‘The regiments subsisted on the green corn, which was
dreadful to the inhabitants, and of little use to the horses, when they
had to work. There was nothing else, and we had to cut their rye....
How our army has been carried though this desolate abandoned country
is astonishing[356].’ Till there were dépôts and a regular service
established, it was impossible to concentrate the army, much less to
send it forward into Spain.

  [356] Tomkinson’s (16th Light Dragoons) _Diary_, April 10th-11th
  (p. 98).

Accordingly the allied troops were spread broadcast in the villages
between the Coa and the Agueda. The Light Division and two cavalry
regiments[357] were in front, holding the outposts facing Ciudad
Rodrigo, and in touch with Drouet’s corps, which lay along the Yeltes,
a stream that runs roughly parallel with the Agueda, at a distance
of from seven to fifteen miles to the north-east. The 5th Division
was in the villages around Fort Concepcion, in support of the Light
Division. The 6th Division, with Pack’s Portuguese, who had lately
come up from the Mondego, where they had been dropped during the
pursuit of Masséna[358], were blockading Almeida. The main body of the
army, the 1st, 3rd, and 7th Divisions, with Ashworth’s independent
Portuguese brigade[359], were cantoned in the valleys of the Dos Casas
and the Turon, tributaries of the Agueda, being distributed between
Nava de Aver, Fuentes de Oñoro, Pozo Bello, and other small places in
the neighbourhood. The cavalry, save that detached to the front, was
trying to keep its horses alive in the poor villages along the Coa,
from Castello Rodrigo to Alfayates[360]. The whole army, distributed
in a square of not more than twenty miles, was so placed that it could
concentrate at any point in one march. Wellington, even though he
judged Masséna unable to molest him, was determined not to be caught
with his troops in a state of dispersion.

  [357] 14th Light Dragoons and 1st Hussars K.G.L.

  [358] See above, p. 199.

  [359] Sometimes called Pamplona’s brigade in Wellington’s
  dispatches of this date, Colonel Pamplona having been in
  temporary command during Ashworth’s absence.

  [360] Barbaçena’s Portuguese on the lower Coa, below Almeida: the
  British 1st Royals and 16th Light Dragoons on the upper Coa.

But considering that things were at present at a standstill on the
northern frontier, and that nothing serious could be undertaken
there, till the line of supplies was organized and Almeida captured,
Wellington now resolved to pay the long-deferred visit to Estremadura
which he projected as far back as the commencement of Masséna’s
retreat. ‘At this moment,’ he wrote to Lord Liverpool, ‘the first
object is certainly Badajoz.’ Till that place should have been
recovered and regarrisoned, he could never feel quite safe on his
southern flank. A diversion on the part of Soult in the Alemtejo,
threatening Lisbon from the south, would always be a dangerous and
tiresome possibility, until Badajoz was once more in the hands of the
Allies, and all Estremadura recovered and held by a competent force.
The future was inscrutable--for all Wellington knew the Emperor might
appear in person, before the summer was over, to take up the Spanish
problem; or, on the other hand, the affairs of Eastern Europe might
cause him to shut off all reinforcements from the Peninsula, and to
turn his attention to a Russian war. But whatever might happen, it was
well to have the Portuguese frontier properly covered in the south.
Supposing the French made another march on Lisbon, it was necessary to
be free of danger in the rear. Supposing that they showed weakness, and
dropped the offensive, the possession of Badajoz and Estremadura gave
facilities for disquieting the Army of Andalusia, perhaps for raising
the siege of Cadiz, which could not be secured in any other fashion.

Meanwhile Wellington formulated three possible courses[361] which
the French might pursue during the next two months, before new
reinforcements could reach them from France, or the Emperor make his
appearance--if so he should decide to do. These three possible courses
were: (_a_) Masséna might call on Bessières, and induce him to join the
Army of Portugal at once with all his disposable troops, in order that
they might save Almeida by driving off the British army. (_b_) Masséna
might allow his troops a long repose in cantonments, relieving the Army
of the North in its present charge of Old Castile, while Bessières,
with such part of his corps as he could collect, might invade Galicia,
to clear the French right flank. (_c_) Masséna might give his troops
the repose that they needed, and, after some interval, might pass south
into Estremadura, to join Soult in operations on the Guadiana, while
leaving Bessières in charge of the defence of the frontiers of Leon.
It will be seen that the French actually adopted first plan (_a_), the
endeavour to save Almeida by a junction of the Armies of Portugal and
the North, and then, a month later, plan (_c_), a concentration in
Estremadura to save Badajoz. Oddly enough, Wellington conceived that
the first plan was the least likely of the three, apparently because
he over-estimated the time which it would take Masséna to reorganize
his army and resume active operations. He did not make enough allowance
for the old Marshal’s obstinacy, and for the pride which forbade him
to allow Almeida to fall without any effort being made to relieve it.
But though he thought this scheme the least likely for the French to
adopt, he made full provisions for dealing with it, in case it should
be the one they selected. His second suggestion, that Bessières might
hand over the charge of Old Castile to Masséna, and proceed to invade
Galicia, was founded on an insufficient knowledge of the present
situation and difficulties of the Army of the North. Bessières, though
the gross amount of his forces was large (over 70,000 men), was much
too obsessed and worried by the guerrilleros to dream of concentrating
a force large enough to make a serious invasion of Galicia. We shall
find him, three weeks after the date of Wellington’s dispatch,
declaring that he could only collect 1,600 cavalry and one battery to
form a field force, because any movement of his infantry would imperil
the whole fabric of the French supremacy in northern Spain. If the
objection be raised that this plea of his was only put forth in order
to disoblige Masséna, and to save himself from responsibility, no
such objection can be made to his statement of June 6th--made after
Masséna’s recall--to the effect that if he were forced to concentrate
20,000 men for any purpose, all communications with France and Madrid
would be lost, and the whole of the country-side, from the Guadiana to
the Bay of Biscay, would blaze up in one general insurrection[362].
Supposing that Masséna and Bessières had been on the best of terms,
and that the former had proposed to take over the charge of the region
occupied by the latter, in order to set the Army of the North free for
field operations, Bessières must have replied that he would not be able
to produce enough men to ‘contain’ the British army, and at the same
time to attack Galicia. Wellington’s hypothesis therefore was faulty;
he undervalued the work of the guerrilleros, who were occupying, for
his benefit, the attention of a much greater part of the French army
than he supposed. The idea that the enemy might make a blow at Galicia
was inspired by his knowledge of the weakness of that province, where
Mahy had put everything out of gear, and Santocildes had not yet begun
the process of reorganization. Knowing how disastrous the appearance of
a French corps in this quarter might prove, he feared it more than was
necessary[363].

  [361] The very interesting dispatch in which Wellington’s
  forecast is stated is that to Castaños of April 15, written
  in French. ‘En pensant à ce qu’ils doivent faire dans leurs
  circonstances actuelles, je trouve que (1) ou ils feront
  l’invasion de la Galice avec le corps de Bessières, pendant que
  Masséna donnera du repos à ses troupes, dans les cantonnements
  occupés jusqu’à présent par Bessières: (2) ou ils se joindront,
  pour tomber sur mon corps sur la frontière de la Castille--ce qui
  n’est pas très vraisemblable: (3) ou ils ne feront rien jusqu’à
  ce que les troupes de Masséna soyent reposées et remises en état,
  quand ils rassembleront une grande armée dans l’Estrémadure.’
  _Dispatches_, vii. p. 470.

  [362] Bessières to Berthier, from Valladolid, June 6, 1811.

  [363] It is possible that there is some diplomatic intention
  in the stress laid by Wellington on the likelihood of a French
  invasion of Galicia. He was writing to Castaños, and it was his
  object to get that general to stir up the Galicians. Hence,
  perhaps, he exaggerated a possibility which was not so strong as
  he stated.

If it be asked what were Napoleon’s views as to the proper scheme for
the French marshals to adopt, under the circumstances that existed on
April 15, we must not look (of course) to orders issued about that
time, when he was still working on data three weeks old. As late
as March 30th he had been sending instructions to Soult and other
commanders on the hypothesis that Masséna’s head quarters were at
Coimbra, and that Oporto was very possibly in French hands![364] On
April 9 he was telling the Prince of Essling to devote his energy to
the armament of Almeida, and to place himself so as to cover both that
place and Ciudad Rodrigo[365]--orders exquisitely inapplicable when
Almeida was already blockaded by Wellington, and Masséna’s troops had
just crawled past Ciudad Rodrigo, in a state of hopeless dilapidation,
on their retreat to Salamanca. The next advice sent to the Army of
Portugal was almost equally inappropriate: having heard of Wellington’s
flying visit to Estremadura by intelligence dated April 18th (the trip
had begun upon the 15th), he jumped to the conclusion that the English
general must have taken many troops with him. On May 7th he wrote,
‘the translations from English newspapers herewith enclosed show that
Lord Wellington had crossed the Tagus on April 18th. So it seems that
on the side of Castile there can now be only half the English army
left. The events which must already have taken place on the side of
Almeida will have shown the generals that this is the case, and will
have enabled them to make the proper corresponding move (_de prendre le
parti convenable_), viz. to begin to move towards the Tagus[366].’ On
the day when this was written, Wellington, who had not taken a man to
Estremadura, had been back on the frontier of Leon since April 28, and
had, at the head of the whole of his original army, defeated Masséna
and Bessières at Fuentes de Oñoro, on May 5th. As always, the imperial
orders, founded on data that had long ceased to be correct, or had
never been correct at all, arrived too late to direct the course of the
campaign.

  [364] Memorandum for Berthier (_Correspondance_, 17,531), dated
  March 30. ‘Le quartier général de l’armée de Portugal reste à
  Coïmbre. Oporto est occupé par un détachement.... Le Prince
  d’Essling tiendra à Coïmbre, menaçant Lisbonne, qui sera attaquée
  après la récolte.’ At this moment Masséna’s army was just
  reaching the Spanish frontier, in its final retreat from Guarda!

  [365] _Correspondance_, 17,591. ‘Vous ferez connaître au Prince
  d’Essling ... qu’il doit presser l’armament d’Almeida.... Il doit
  prendre des mesures pour couvrir Almeida et Ciudad Rodrigo, et
  d’un autre côté pour se mettre en communication avec Madrid et
  Séville.’

  [366] _Correspondance_, 17,701.

One most important measure, however, was taken at this time, by which
the Emperor did succeed in affecting the general course of affairs on
the frontier of Portugal. On April 20th he made up his mind to recall
Masséna, and to send a new chief to the Army of Portugal. Five days
before, Marshal Marmont, newly returned from commanding in Dalmatia,
had received orders to start at once for Spain, where he was to replace
Ney at the head of the 6th Corps. Whether the Emperor had already
made up his mind on the 15th that Marmont was to replace Masséna,
not to serve under him, it is impossible to say. But he at any rate
concealed his purpose from the younger Marshal, who had been some days
in Spain before he received on May 10th the dispatch of April 20th
which made him commander of the Army of Portugal[367]. Probably the
news that Masséna had failed in his design to hold Coimbra, which Foy
had elaborately explained to the Emperor, and had fallen back behind
Ciudad Rodrigo, had provoked his master to dismiss him from command.
Foy’s report had caused Napoleon to believe that Masséna could stop
on the Mondego and hold Wellington in check. The imperial dispatch of
March 30 (as we have already seen) speaks of Masséna’s stay at Coimbra
as a settled fact, and states that Oporto is or will soon be in his
hands. On April 9 Napoleon knew that the Marshal had lost Coimbra
and fallen back on Guarda[368], but continued to send him elaborate
instructions. It was apparently the receipt of Masséna’s dispatch of
March 31st from Alfayates, confessing that he was completely foiled,
and that he must retire beyond the Agueda, as far as Zamora and Toro,
since the spirit of the army was so broken that he dared not risk a
general action[369], which determined the Emperor to supersede him.
This document must have reached Paris about the 15th or 16th, and would
suffice to explain Napoleon’s anger. For a Commander-in-Chief who
confesses that he has lost the confidence of his army is a dangerous
person to retain in power. There was ample evidence from Masséna’s
earlier letters that he had quarrelled not only with Ney but with most
of his other superior officers; if the general feeling of the army
was also against him, he was not likely to get much good service out
of it. Possibly there may have been also a feeling of wounded _amour
propre_ in the Emperor’s breast, when he reflected how, relying on
Masséna’s assurances, he had informed Soult, King Joseph, and Bessières
that the Army of Portugal had its head quarters at Coimbra, and would
attack Lisbon in the autumn[370], so that ‘a hundred thousand men,
using Coimbra and Badajoz as their bases, would complete the conquest
of Portugal, a conquest which would drag England into a crisis that
would be of the highest interest.’ Napoleon did not like to be made
ridiculous before his subordinates, by having been induced to publish
an absurd misstatement of fact, leading up to a vainglorious prophecy
which appeared most unlikely to be realized.

  [367] This we learn from Marmont’s letter to Berthier dated May
  14, in which he says that the dispatch reached him only on May
  10, and that its contents were unexpected. (Marmont’s _Mémoires_,
  iv. p. 78.)

  [368] _Correspondance_, 17,591.

  [369] ‘Le désir que l’armée a manifesté depuis longtemps d’aller
  se reposer ne me laisse aucun doute qu’il serait dangereux
  d’attendre l’ennemi pour recevoir bataille ou pour la lui donner.’

  [370] All this, of course, is from the Great Memorandum of March
  30, which Berthier was to communicate to all the chiefs of the
  Peninsular armies.

But though Masséna’s death-warrant, as commander-in-chief was signed on
April 20, and may have been decided upon as early as April 16, there
were still three weeks during which he was to make his last stroke for
revenge, and to lose his last battle, for it was not till May 12th that
Marmont presented his _lettres de service_ and took over the command.

Wellington, meanwhile, convinced that he had nothing to fear for some
little time from the Army of Portugal and its commander, left Villar
Formoso on the morning of April 15th, reached Sabugal that night,
Castello Branco on the 17th, and Elvas by the noon of the 20th. This
was marvellous travelling, considering the mountain roads that had to
be traversed, but Wellington was a mighty horseman, and accompanied
by only a few well-mounted staff officers flew like the wind over
hill and dale. He remained only four days in Estremadura; during that
short time he surveyed Badajoz, and issued compendious directions for
the siege[371]; he drew up a plan of campaign for the united armies of
Beresford, Blake, and Castaños, and then, returning as rapidly as he
had come, retraced his route to the frontiers of Leon, and was back at
Alameda on the 29th, having been less than a fortnight absent from his
army. This rapidity of movement, as we have already seen, completely
puzzled Napoleon, who, on receiving the intelligence that Wellington
was over the Tagus on the 18th, thought that he had gone with a strong
force to establish himself in Estremadura, and sent orders for the Army
of Portugal to move at once towards the south[372], a movement which at
that moment could not have been executed for want of train, transport,
and provisions.

  [371] For all this see section xxvi. pp. 279-81, on Beresford’s
  campaign in Estremadura.

  [372] See above, p. 294.

During Wellington’s absence the command of the troops cantoned between
the Agueda and the Coa had been given over to Sir Brent Spencer, as
the senior division-commander present. Wellington did not think it
probable that Spencer would be much troubled by the enemy during his
short spell of responsibility, but left him directions that covered
every possible contingency. If, contrary to all expectation, Masséna
should make an effort to relieve Almeida within the fortnight for which
the Commander-in-Chief intended to be absent[373], Spencer was directed
to make a careful estimate of the force of the enemy; if it were but
small the line of the Agueda might be held; if it were great--it was
conceivable that Bessières might succour Masséna--Spencer was to
concentrate, not in front of Almeida, nor across the road from Rodrigo
to that place, but in a defensive position to the south of it, parallel
to the French line of advance and threatening it in flank. Only Pack’s
Portuguese infantry brigade, and Barbaçena’s cavalry brigade of the
same nation, were to keep up the investment of Almeida till the last
possible moment. The designated position was that in front of Rendo,
Alfayates, and Aldea Velha, which Wellington took up himself later in
the same year, during a subsequent movement of the French to relieve
Ciudad Rodrigo. No leave to fight a battle was given to Spencer,
though it was given to Beresford when the latter was placed in a
similar responsible position. Instead, he was ordered to send constant
information to his absent chief, who gave him a tabular statement of
the mileage of his journey and the place at which he was to be heard
of each day[374]. Wellington intended to return with his own peculiar
swiftness on the first threatening news, and thought that he could
reckon on being back in time, if he was properly advised of the first
ominous movements of the enemy. He apparently calculated that, if
Masséna came on in great force, and found the British army massed in a
strong mountain position, upon the flank of the route that he must take
towards Almeida, he would be unlikely to attack it--Bussaco being an
unpleasant memory. If the Marshal began to manœuvre he would lose time,
and he himself would be back before the crisis came.

  [373] That he did not purpose to be longer away is shown by the
  fact that he was already at Portalegre, on his return journey
  from Elvas, when Spencer’s final warning that Masséna was on the
  move reached him. _Dispatches_, vii. 50.

  [374] See the three dispatches to Spencer on pp. 464-6, 473-4,
  and 475 of _Dispatches_, vii, dated respectively April 14, April
  16, and April 17, 1811.

As a matter of fact it was only towards the end of Spencer’s short
period of responsibility that matters began to grow interesting upon
the frontiers of Leon. There was, however, a slight alarm on the
15th-16th, just after Wellington’s departure. Masséna, not contented
with having passed a first convoy into Rodrigo on the 13th, had
followed it up with a second, which was escorted by Marchand’s division
of the 6th Corps--a unit which had seen more severe service during
March than any other part of the French army, yet was considered to
be in better order than its fellows. The same phenomenon, it will be
remembered, had been noted with Paget’s rearguard division during
Moore’s retreat to Corunna. Marchand was ordered, when he should
have lodged the convoy in Rodrigo, to make a reconnaissance toward
the Azava, and try to discover what was the force of the British in
that direction. He got into the fortress without hindrance, owing to
Erskine’s usual talent for bungling--on the approach of the convoy
the Light Division was concentrated at Molino de Flores, but Erskine
refused to send it over the fords, and watched Marchand defile into
the town. Some cavalry went across the Agueda, and cut off a flanking
party of three hundred French, who took shelter in a ruined village and
refused to surrender. Erskine sent no one to support the British horse,
and presently a French column came out of Rodrigo and released the
blockaded party. All this took place under the eyes of the disgusted
Light Division on the other side of the water[375] (April 16th).

  [375] For details see the _Journal_ of George Simmons of the 95th
  (_A British Rifleman_), pp. 164-5.

Some days later Marchand came out of Rodrigo with a regiment of
infantry and a squadron, to make the reconnaissance which he had been
directed to execute. At Marialva, five miles outside the fortress, he
ran into the pickets of the 95th and 52nd, and received such a warm
reception that he turned back at once, and sent the report to Masséna
that the British were established in strong force close above the
Agueda (April 22[376]). After this there were no further alarms at the
front till the 28th, the day on which Wellington returned from Elvas.
But Spencer’s account of the reconnaissance of the 22nd, which reached
Wellington at Portalegre on the 25th, undoubtedly contributed to hurry
the return journey of the Commander-in-Chief, for it was accompanied by
a report--which was perfectly correct--that information from the side
of Salamanca seemed to make it certain that Masséna was reconcentrating
his troops for a dash at Almeida, and that Bessières had been asked to
give help. The Salamanca secret correspondents (of whom the chief was
Doctor Curtis, the head of the Irish College in the University) had
always proved trustworthy, so that their reports could not be ignored,
and Wellington was glad that the French movement was reported at the
end, and not at the commencement, of his trip to Estremadura.

  [376] Wrongly dated April 20 by Sprünglin in his generally
  accurate diary (p. 477).

The fact was that Masséna was making a last desperate effort to save
the military reputation of which he was so proud, and to justify
himself to his master. If Almeida and Rodrigo were both to be lost,
as the final sequel to his retreat from Portugal, his whole year’s
command must be written down as a failure; if these early conquests of
1810 could be saved, he might yet claim to have added somewhat to the
French dominions in the Peninsula. His troops had not been a fortnight
in their cantonments before he was making preparations to reassemble
them for a last effort. In some respects that fortnight had made a
great difference in their condition: Salamanca and Valladolid, at the
moment of his arrival, were full of drafts of men, and accumulation of
stores, belonging to the Army of Portugal, which had been gathering
there for many months while the communications with that army were
cut. At one moment in the late winter, Thiébault, the governor of
Salamanca, had no less than 18,000 men of detachments belonging to
Masséna’s troops in his government[377]--partly convalescents, partly
small parties which had come up from the French dépôts to join their
regiments, and had been unable to do so. Though some of them had
ultimately gone forward with Foy and Gardanne, many still remained
to be absorbed. The numbers of ‘present under arms’ in the 2nd, 6th,
and 8th Corps went up at once, the mass of sick and exhausted men
which they discharged into hospital being replaced by the drafts and
convalescents. Masséna also took out of the 9th Corps the battalions
belonging to regiments of which the main bodies were already in the
old Army of Portugal, and sent them to join their comrades[378]. The
_cadres_ of one battalion in each regiment were then sent home to
France, and the other three raised to something like their original war
strength. This redistribution brought up the divisions of Reynier and
Loison to a figure which they had not known for many months, though
it depleted Drouet’s corps to a corresponding extent: his troops
now consisted of only eighteen battalions, or 10,000 infantry, all
consisting of fourth battalions belonging to regiments serving in
Andalusia. He had received orders that when the crisis on the frontiers
of Leon was over, he was to conduct these units to join their eagles
in Soult’s army. Drouet was anxious to get away from Masséna as soon
as possible, and would gladly have marched for Seville without delay;
but it was obvious that this was as yet impossible, and, as he was
technically under the command of the Marshal, he was compelled to play
his part in the ensuing campaign.

  [377] Thiébault’s _Mémoires_, vol. iv. p. 448.

  [378] The 6th Corps incorporated one battalion each of the 6th
  Léger, 25th Léger, and the 27th Ligne from Conroux’s division,
  and one each of the 39th, 59th, 69th, 76th from Claparéde’s. The
  2nd Corps got a battalion of the 17th Léger only, besides drafts.
  Solignac’s division, nominally 6,110 bayonets, was short of two
  battalions (from the 15th and 65th), or 850 men, left in garrison
  at Ciudad Rodrigo. In the same garrison had been left the whole
  Régiment de Prusse (500 men), besides drafts. The junction of the
  isolated battalions from Drouet’s corps took place on April 27.
  (Fririon, p. 198.)

The net result of all the transferences of battalions and the picking
up of drafts was that on May 1, the 2nd Corps had in the ranks 1,200
more men than it had possessed on March 15, the 6th Corps 2,000 more,
Solignac’s division of the 8th Corps 800 more. On the other hand,
Clausel’s division of the last-named corps, originally composed almost
entirely of isolated ‘fourth battalions’ was practically ruined[379].
Masséna left it behind, when he mobilized the other divisions of the
old Army of Portugal for the May campaign. But the men available for
the field in the remaining divisions, including those of Drouet, now
amounted to 42,000 bayonets. Their ammunition had been replenished,
they had been reshod, though only to a small extent reclothed, and
they had received at the last moment several months’ arrears of pay.
Their morale still left much to be desired, for confidence in their
Commander-in-Chief had not been restored, and Ney was still regretted.
But a French army, however discontented, could always be trusted to
fight when duty called, and the Prince of Essling still hoped to redeem
his lost reputation.

  [379] It had sunk on May 1 from an original strength of 6,800 men
  to 3,073.

But the weak points in the Army of Portugal were the cavalry and
artillery. The greater part of the horses which had survived the
retreat from Santarem had only reached the plains of Leon to die. A
third of the troopers lacked horses altogether, the remainder had in
many cases mounts which must perish if asked to do another week’s work.
When the cavalry brigadiers of the 2nd and 6th Corps were directed
to send to the front all mounted men fit for service, Lamotte could
only show 319 sabres from a brigade which had counted 800 in March;
Pierre Soult (decidedly more fortunate) had 600 out of 900, though
one of his regiments (the 1st Hussars) could put only 103 men in the
saddle. Montbrun’s division of reserve dragoons, which had 2,400 sabres
a few weeks back, came to the front with 1,187. The most effective
cavalry unit in the army was the brigade of Fournier[380], belonging
to Drouet’s corps, which, not having shared in the winter campaign in
Portugal, could show 794 men in good state. Thus Masséna could bring
forward for the new campaign no more than 3,000 horsemen, and these not
in the best condition[381].

  [380] For strange doings of this eccentric brigadier at Salamanca
  during the winter, see Thiébault, vol. iv. pp. 435-7.

  [381] These figures, differing much from those supplied by Koch,
  are worked out from the return of May 1 in the Paris Archives
  Nationales. The total of cavalry mounted and available seems to
  have been 3,007, including Fournier. See tables in Appendix XIX.

With the artillery the case was even worse, for the class of horse had
been weaker, and the mortality proportionately greater. As we have
seen in a previous chapter, the batteries had for the most part just
succeeded in dragging back their guns to the Agueda, after destroying
nearly all their carts and caissons. It was doubtful whether for an
offensive campaign the whole army could now provide twenty guns with
the full complement of auxiliary vehicles, adequately horsed. Masséna,
in stating his difficulties to Berthier, went so far as to say that
each of the four corps could put about half a battery into the field
in proper order[382]. The state of the military train was quite as
bad--regimental and corps transport was reduced to such a state of
nullity, that when the army took the field it would have to be for a
few days at most, since, after loading the men with as many rations
as each could carry, the only extra supply was what could be drawn by
a few store carts found in Rodrigo and Salamanca. During the short
campaign that was imminent, the troops lived from hand to mouth, on
food daily brought up from the magazines of Rodrigo, after having been
compelled to eat the convoy that they had brought with them for the
supply of Almeida. There was nothing to be got from the country-side,
which was exhausted, by the constant passing to and fro of armies and
detachments, all the way from Salamanca to the frontier.

  [382] Masséna to Berthier, April 30, 1811, from Ciudad Rodrigo.
  The returns show that on May 1 twelve batteries had been left
  behind with no horses at all, in order that the five remaining
  might take the field with 425 horses.

Food at the base existed; when Masséna reached Salamanca he had
found there considerable accumulations, though not nearly so much as
he expected or required[383]. It was on this particular point that
he had started a lively dispute with Bessières the moment that he
reached Spain. The Duke of Istria had been for some months in charge
of the whole of Old Castile and Leon, and had come to look upon their
resources as so much his own private property that he greatly resented
the intrusion of 40,000 starving men into his governorship. Masséna
complained that he was fed with promises, and that when statistics of
food placed at his disposal were compared with what was actually handed
over, there was a lamentable discrepancy. He had been told that he
would find at Salamanca 10,000 _fanegas_ of wheat, and that 8,000 more
and 200,000 rations of biscuit for the garrison of Rodrigo would appear
in a few days; he stated that he could only discover 6,000 _fanegas_
and 39,000 rations of biscuit, and that the convoy sent to Rodrigo on
the 13th had only carried 20,000 rations at most. Bessières replied
that he was doing his best, that he had his own corps to feed, that the
arrival of the Army of Portugal was wholly unexpected--had he not been
told only a few weeks back, first that it was to stay at Coimbra, and
then that it was going off by a cross march to Plasencia and the Tagus?
For so Masséna had written from Guarda at the end of March. Moreover,
Old Castile was dreadfully exhausted, and the guerrilleros so active
that every convoy required an immense escort to guard it. All this was
perfectly true, yet it is probable that he might have done more if he
had chosen, and he presently received virulent rebukes from the Emperor
for lack of zeal.

  [383] Masséna to Berthier, April 17th, from Salamanca.

But when recriminatory letters were already passing between the two
marshals on the food question, Bessières began to receive additional
demands for military help. On April 20th Masséna wrote that he was
bound in honour to march to the relief of Almeida, that he would
have his infantry reorganized by the 26th, but that his cavalry and
artillery were in such a hopeless state that he was forced to make a
formal request for aid to the Army of the North. The Duke of Istria
replied that his troops were so scattered, and the guerrilleros so
active, that he doubted if he could give any help at all. On the 22nd,
however, he wrote that by making a great effort he could collect some
cavalry and guns, and would be at Salamanca on the 26th. But on the
27th nothing had arrived from the Army of the North at that city.
Masséna replied in high wrath: ‘Vos lettres sont inconcevables. Je
vous ai demandé de l’artillerie et des attelages, et encore plus
positivement de la cavalerie--vous avez sous différents prétextes
éludé ma demande. Toutes les troupes qui sont en Espagne sont de la
même famille. Vous êtes, jusqu’à ce qu’il y ait de nouveaux ordres,
chargé de la défense et de l’approvisionnement des places de Rodrigo et
d’Almeida,’ &c.

Bessières, however, did not break his promise, as Masséna had for
a moment feared, he merely executed it a little late, and on the
smallest possible scale. He brought with him two small brigades of
cavalry, making between 1,600 and 1,700 sabres, that of Wathier (11th,
12th, 24th _Chasseurs à cheval_, and 5th Hussars), and that of Lepic,
which consisted of two squadrons each of the grenadiers, lancers, and
chasseurs of the Imperial Guard. He had also a horse artillery battery
of the Guard, and had brought thirty teams of gun-horses, which, when
distributed to the Army of Portugal, enabled it to put thirty-two
pieces and the corresponding caissons in the field. Masséna had asked
for Bessières’s cavalry and guns, but had not been at all anxious to
see his colleague in person appearing. ‘He would have done better,’
said the Prince to his staff, ‘to have sent me a few thousand men
more, and more food and ammunition, and to have stopped at his own
head quarters, instead of coming here to examine and criticize all my
movements[384].’ He got a cool reception, which did not prevent him
from following Masséna about during the whole campaign, volunteering
frequent advice, and expressing a polite curiosity at his colleague’s
smallest actions. Apparently he wanted to have credit for being present
at a victory--if one should occur--but was anxious to risk as few of
his own troops as possible, and not to take any responsibility. The
Emperor, three weeks later, wrote him a letter of bitter rebuke, saying
that he could well have brought up 10,000 men without disgarnishing any
important posts; an infantry division of the Guard and four batteries
might have been added to the 1,700 horse that he actually produced,
without leaving Valladolid, Burgos, or the frontier opposite Galicia
in any danger[385]. If the two marshals had collected some 55,000 men,
it is certain that Wellington would not have fought, and would have
allowed Almeida to be revictualled.

  [384] So Marbot, ii. 457. If Marbot’s talents as a _raconteur_
  make his authority doubtful, we may point out that Thiébault,
  the governor of Salamanca, tells much the same story in his
  _Mémoires_, iv. p. 478.

  [385] Berthier to Bessières, May 19, 1811.

Masséna had reached Ciudad Rodrigo on April 26th, his four corps
concentrated there by the 29th, and Bessières came up with his cavalry
on the 1st of May. The whole force assembled consisted of 42,000
infantry, 4,500 cavalry, and 38 guns, a total, counting the auxiliary
arms, of about 48,000 men[386]. On the 30th Marchand was sent out with
six squadrons and his own infantry to make a reconnaissance in force
of the allied lines. He found the Light Division still in position
at Gallegos, with outposts along the Azava, and withdrew to Rodrigo
after having stayed for some hours opposite the height of Marialva.
On the next day but one (May 2) the French army began to pour in
an interminable stream across the Agueda, by the bridge of Ciudad
Rodrigo, dividing into two columns when it had passed--the 2nd Corps
on the Marialva road, more to the north, the 8th and 9th Corps on the
Carpio road, more to the south. The 6th Corps, forming the reserve and
crossing late, also took the left-hand Carpio road. Each column was
preceded by its corps-cavalry.

  [386] Infantry. 2nd Corps, 10,292; 6th Corps, 16,816; 8th Corps
  (1 division), 4,714; 9th Corps, 10,304; total, 42,126. Cavalry.
  Masséna’s own, 3,007; Bessières, 1,665; Artillery, Sappers,
  Train, &c., 1,400; total, 48,198. Masséna would only acknowledge
  35,000 men, and put Wellington’s force (which was, as we shall
  see, 37,000 men) at about 50,000. If Wellington had possessed
  50,000 men, Fuentes de Oñoro would have been a very different
  sort of battle.

Wellington was perfectly well prepared to meet the movement. He had
been back with his army since the 29th of April, and had been informed
on his arrival that Masséna had come to Ciudad Rodrigo in person two
days before, and that the roads from Salamanca westward were black with
French columns[387]. He had made up his mind to fight, though he had
denied Spencer the power to do so in his absence. The battle position
was already chosen, and the army was concentrated upon it, all save the
covering screen formed by the Light Division and the cavalry, which was
to hold its ground as long as possible before falling back on the main
body. The two cavalry regiments which had been sent to the rear in the
middle of the month had been brought up again to the Azava on the 28th,
so that the whole of the small force of that arm was available for
holding back the French advance.

  [387] Masséna’s arrival was known, through deserters, the day
  after it occurred. Diary of Simmons of the 95th, p. 166.

Wellington had less troops in line than he desired, mainly owing to
the dreadful depletion in the ranks of the Portuguese infantry, caused
by the inefficient way in which it was fed by its government, and
the slowness with which convalescents and detached parties rejoined
their colours[388]. Some of the regiments which ought to have shown
1,200 men in the ranks had only 500 or 700 men, and the twenty-five
battalions with the field army amounted in all to no more than 11,000
bayonets on May 1st, though they had shown 13,000 in the preceding
December, and had absorbed many drafts since that date. The single
Portuguese cavalry brigade with the army was in even worse state, the
two regiments showing but 312 sabres in line, though they had mustered
nearly 800 during the winter. The men were alive, but the chargers had
disappeared, owing (as Wellington maintained) to bad horse-mastership
on the part of the men and slack supervision on the part of the
regimental officers. As the four British cavalry corps, which had seen
the same service during the last two months, were only 200 horses
weaker in May than they were in March, the explanation is probably
correct.

  [388] Complaints on this score fill up great parts of
  Wellington’s letters of the 30th April and 1st May (_Dispatches_,
  vii. 511-12, 516-17). They seem slightly to overstate the
  deficiency, compared with morning states of May 1; but this
  comes from his persistent habit of counting only rank and file,
  omitting officers and sergeants. When he says that the total
  infantry (including Pack) was only 11,000, while it works out
  to over 12,000 when that detached brigade is counted, we must
  remember that he is not reckoning anything but rank and file.
  Wellington attributes most of the loss to (1) slackness at the
  _depositos_ (dépôts) in forwarding drafts, (2) maladministration
  of the hospitals, (3) insufficient food at the front for those
  brigades still fed by the Portuguese government, and not taken on
  to the British establishment.

The total force available for a general action on May 1st was 34,000
infantry, of which 23,000 were British, 1,850 cavalry, including the
312 Portuguese, and 1,250 artillery, sappers, &c. There were four
British and four Portuguese batteries, with 48 guns. This total does
not include the detachment blockading Almeida, which consisted of
Pack’s brigade and one British battalion. While only 8,000 weaker than
Masséna in infantry, it will be seen that Wellington’s army had hardly
more than a third of the number of his cavalry--1,850 to 4,500; in
guns there was a slight superiority--48 pieces to 38. In a mountain
position, such as that of Bussaco, the deficiency of cavalry would
have been of no importance. But the country-side between Almeida and
Rodrigo is mostly undulating plateau, practicable in most parts for
cavalry operations on a large scale. The only obstacles of importance
are the courses of the three small streams which cross the high-road,
the Azava, Dos Casas, and Turon, minor tributaries of the Agueda. All
three are insignificant brooks save after heavy rain, and though there
had been a downfall in the end of April, they were now going down and
resuming their usual proportions. Their waters were now a negligible
quantity, but in some parts of their course they flow in deep-cut
ravines, many feet below the general level of the plateau, and present
a serious hindrance to the movement of troops. This is especially the
case in their lower course; nearer the hills to the south, where they
rise, the ravines as well as the streams grow smaller, and can be
crossed anywhere.

The particular position which Wellington had selected as his
fighting-ground was the line of the Dos Casas, from the ruined Fort
Concepcion to the village of Fuentes de Oñoro. The ravine of the Dos
Casas is both wide and steep in the neighbourhood of the fort--perhaps
150 feet deep--but grows decidedly shallower towards Fuentes, and
above that place is no longer a notable feature in the country-side.
The stream itself is nowhere more than ten yards broad nor three feet
deep, so that, when its banks cease to be high and scarped, it can
be crossed anywhere by infantry, cavalry, or guns. Its valley above
Fuentes is partly arable, partly meadow-land in gentle grassy slopes,
much more like an English than a typical Spanish landscape. Standing
on the higher ground behind the village, the observer sees a marked
contrast between the rocky ravine down-stream, and the broad undulating
bottom to his right. The ridge, however, on which he is standing does
not entirely disappear to the south; it still remains as the watershed
between the little basin of the Dos Casas and that of its twin-stream
the Turon, which flows exactly parallel with it less than two miles to
the west. Up-stream the view is closed by woods surrounding the village
of Pozo Bello (or Posovelho as the neighbouring Portuguese call it) on
the right or further bank of the Dos Casas, and by the rounded hill
of Nava de Aver, below which the river is flanked on both sides by a
stretch of boggy ground, only to be crossed by some invisible paths.
There are five miles from Fort Concepcion to Fuentes de Oñoro village,
and this was Wellington’s original position, entirely covered in front
by a well-marked ravine. But the two further miles from Fuentes to Pozo
Bello, which he proceeded to take in for defence when the enemy showed
signs of turning his right, may be described as open ground, with no
protection on its flank save the morass by Nava de Aver, which could
obviously be turned by any enemy who chose to make a sufficiently wide
circuit, and might be crossed by infantry at some points, after careful
exploration of its depths.

Fuentes de Oñoro itself stands on the western bank of the Dos Casas,
at the point where the heights begin to sink and the ravine ceases.
Its lower houses are almost level with the stream, but the village
slopes uphill to two points a little higher than the general summit
of the plateau, one of which is crowned by its church, the other by a
cross on a large rock. On the opposite side of the stream there are
no buildings but a chapel and a single farm-steading. Past these the
high-road from Ciudad Rodrigo ascends on a gentle slope, commanded for
some hundred yards by the heights on which the village stands, so that
any force advancing to attack Fuentes comes under fire early, and has
no cover whatever. The eligibility of the place as a post is much
increased by the fact that the houses are surrounded by numerous stone
walls, making crofts and gardens, which are of a height and strength
suitable for giving excellent cover to infantry in skirmishing order.
Nor can it easily be turned, since to the left it is protected by the
ravine of the Dos Casas, ever growing deeper down-stream, while on the
right the houses trend back for a long distance up the slopes, and
the stone walls continue their line for some distance. In short, it
is an admirable point on which to rest the flank of an army in battle
order, and Wellington had well marked its strength, and was serene and
content, so long as the French ranged their forces parallel to his own.
The trouble only came when, on the second day of battle, they extended
their southern wing to Pozo Bello, so that Fuentes became the right
centre instead of the right flank-guard of the allied army.

The general position behind the Dos Casas has only one serious defect:
it has in its rear, at a distance of some six or seven miles, the
ravine of the Coa, passable at only a limited number of points for
artillery and wheeled vehicles, though there are many more at which
infantry or cavalry can get across. Of bridges within a reasonable
distance from the position there are only those of (1) Ponte Sequeiro,
ten miles to the right rear; (2) of Castello Bom, six miles to the
direct rear of Fuentes village; and (3) of Almeida, eight miles to the
left rear[389]. If the army should be constrained by any misfortune
to retreat, its transport and artillery would have to pass over one
or more of these three defiles, of which the first is inconveniently
placed because it is too far off to the flank, while the third had
been broken by the French and only hastily repaired. It may be added
also that it was dangerously close to Almeida, though out of sight
of that fortress, and completely beyond the range of its cannon. But
to have sent baggage or guns across it might have appeared a little
hazardous. The only really convenient line of retreat from the Fuentes
position was that across the bridge of Castello Bom, a structure of no
great breadth, and liable to become congested or blocked in a moment
of hurry. It was only wheeled traffic, however, that might become
difficult; above and below the Castello Bom bridge are good fords for
infantry and cavalry at San Miguel and Algeirenos, besides numerous
other points where troops could get across at a pinch. Evidently,
however, if Wellington failed to hold his chosen position, he ran the
risk of losing some or all of his _impedimenta_, supposing that he
were vigorously pursued and compelled to retreat in haste. A caisson
overturned on the descent towards the bridge might force him to abandon
whole batteries, jammed in the narrow road. Of this danger he was
well aware, but judged it worth risking, in view of the importance of
holding the best possible position for covering the siege of Almeida.
No battle-ground that was ever chosen is destitute of some fault. And,
at the worst, the infantry and cavalry would not be endangered, since
the fords could not fail them, and the Coa (though its ravine is often
steep) is by no means a large river. But Wellington did not believe
that he could be beaten by the force which Masséna was able to bring
against him, and though he thought over orders for a retreat, was
strongly under the impression that he would never have to issue them.

  [389] Not to speak of the bridge of Sabugal, six miles above the
  Ponte Sequeiro and hopelessly out on the flank.

On May 2nd, as we have already mentioned, the whole French army
advanced from Ciudad Rodrigo, one column on the Marialva-Gallegos road,
the other on the southern or Carpio road. The Light Division, and the
four cavalry regiments accompanying it, began to retire, according
to their directions, not making more haste than was necessary, and
turning to bay occasionally to fight a small rearguard action. The
country-side was somewhat dangerous for a small ‘detaining force,’
being passable for cavalry in many directions and thickly wooded. It
had to be remembered that the enemy, using the cover of the woods, and
hiding himself behind the undulations of the ground, might easily break
through the screen of cavalry and light troops unless great care and
caution were shown. Fortunately the Light Division was well skilled in
keeping touch along the line, and in avoiding risks, and a whole day of
skirmishing in retreat led to no regrettable incidents. On the night
of the 2nd of May the covering force bivouacked behind Gallegos and
Espeja, both of which villages were occupied by the advanced guards of
the enemy.

On the 3rd Masséna resumed his advance, and drove in the Light
Division and the cavalry upon Wellington’s chosen position. They
retired skirmishing, till they came to the main body, when the four
cavalry regiments wheeled into line on the right rear of the village of
Fuentes de Oñoro, while the Light Division, crossing the bridge at that
place, placed itself in reserve on the heights, behind the front crest.
In the afternoon the whole French army became more or less visible from
the Allies’ position. It was now in three columns: the right column was
formed by the 2nd Corps, which had taken the route Gallegos-Alameda,
and displayed itself on the heights opposite Wellington’s left, facing
towards Fort Concepcion and San Pedro, with the deepest part of the
ravine of the Dos Casas in front of it. The centre column was formed by
the single division of the 8th Corps (Solignac), which posted itself to
the left of the 2nd, south of Alameda. The heaviest and most important
mass of the enemy, however, was on the left, where Montbrun’s cavalry,
which had been engaged all the morning in pushing back the British
horse, came up directly opposite Fuentes de Oñoro, and on finding
that village occupied in force by the Allies took ground to its left,
facing the squadrons which it had been pursuing, on the other side of
the Dos Casas. When the cavalry had wheeled aside, the front of the
infantry of the 6th Corps became visible on the high-road, division
behind division. The 9th Corps, still out of sight in the rear, was
behind the 6th, so that five of the eight infantry divisions forming
Masséna’s army were concentrated opposite Fuentes de Oñoro. The front
of the French did not extend for more than a short distance south of
that village, so that it looked as if Wellington was to be assailed
precisely in the strong position that he had selected.

The allied army had been arrayed at leisure on the ground chosen by
its chief, who had ample time to make all his dispositions while the
covering force was being driven in. His line was formed as follows: the
5th Division (Erskine) was posted just to the south of Fort Concepcion,
with Barbaçena’s handful of Portuguese cavalry (only 300 sabres)
watching its flank. Next to the south of Erskine lay the 6th Division
(Campbell), in front of San Pedro. These two units faced Reynier and
Junot respectively, with the deep ravine protecting their front. The
1st, 3rd, and 7th Divisions and Ashworth’s Portuguese brigade were
arrayed on the heights behind Fuentes de Oñoro, and the Light Division
had taken post in their reserve. The houses and crofts of the village
were occupied by a strong force of picked troops, composed of the light
companies of Nightingale’s, Howard’s, and Löwe’s brigades of the 1st
Division, and of Mackinnon’s, Colville’s, and Power’s (Portuguese)
brigades of the 3rd Division--28 companies in all[390]--with the 2/83rd
from Colville’s brigade in support. The senior officer in the village
was Lieut.-Colonel Williams, of the 5/60th. He had under him about
1,800 men of the light companies, all chosen shots, besides the 460
of the 2/83rd. To the south and rear of Fuentes, some way behind the
village, were the four British cavalry regiments, only 1,500 sabres in
gross, and reduced to a somewhat lower figure by detachments[391]. It
will thus be seen that Wellington, like Masséna, had strengthened his
southern wing. He had four and a half divisions of infantry--24,000
men--facing the 6th and 9th Corps, with their 27,000 bayonets and
3,500 horse, in and about Fuentes, while the 2nd Corps was observed
by Erskine’s 5,000 men, and the 8th Corps by Campbell with a similar
number[392]. In the northern end of the field the immense strength of
the position behind the ravine enabled Wellington to be economical of
troops; if it should chance that the French made a serious attack in
that direction, there were ample reserves to be spared from the mass of
infantry behind the right wing.

  [390] viz. the light companies of 17 British and 4 Portuguese
  battalions, plus 4 companies of the 5/60th, 1 of the 3/95th, and
  2 extra light companies of the K.G.L. attached to Löwe’s brigade.

  [391] Both Napier (iii. p. 150) and Tomkinson (p. 100) say that
  the British cavalry, nominally 1,520 sabres, had only about 1,000
  in line that day, owing to details, orderlies, &c., absent from
  the ranks. This is probably an over-great deduction.

  [392] See tables at end, Appendix IX. 1st Division, 7,565 men;
  3rd Division, 5,480 men; 7th Division, 4,600 men; Light Division,
  3,815 men; Ashworth’s Portuguese, 2,539 men, or 23,999.

Masséna, having surveyed Wellington’s position in the early afternoon,
recognized without difficulty that the village of Fuentes was the key
of the whole, and that the northern front was too formidable, from the
nature of the ground, to be lightly meddled with. It was impossible to
make out the disposition of the allied troops, for (in accordance with
his usual practice) their general had placed his battle-line behind
the crest, so that nothing could be made out save the skirmishers
all along the heights, and the garrison of Fuentes itself, which was
sufficiently visible on the slope. In a manner which somewhat suggests
his old method of Bussaco[393], Masséna ordered the leading division
of the 6th Corps, Ferey’s ten battalions, to storm the village by
direct frontal attack, while Reynier made a mere demonstration against
the 5th Division on the extreme northern end of the position. The
latter movement led to nothing, save that, when it seemed threatening,
Wellington sent off the Light Division to strengthen his right
wing--but, since the 2nd Corps never closed, it was not needed there,
and halted behind the crest till nightfall.

  [393] The statement made by several French authors that Masséna
  did not order Ferey to attack Fuentes on the 3rd, and that Loison
  and Ferey acted without orders, is directly contradicted by the
  Marshal’s own dispatch, in which he takes all responsibility:
  ‘J’espérais enlever Fuentes et m’y maintenir; je le fis attaquer,
  et il fut bientôt occupé.’

In Fuentes village, however, there was a sharp conflict: the first
brigade of Ferey’s division charged across the easily fordable brook
under heavy fire, and got possession of some of the houses on the
lower slope. From these the French were dislodged by the charge of the
reserves of which Colonel Williams could dispose. The second brigade
was then thrown into action by Ferey, and, coming on to the British
while they were in the disorder caused by a charge among houses and
walls, beat them back, and pursued them up to the top of the village.
Here the light companies rallied, by the church and among the rocks,
but the enemy remained for a moment master of all that part of Fuentes
which lies on the slope and in the bottom by the brook. Wellington was
determined that the French should make no lodgement in his line, and
late in the afternoon sent three fresh battalions of the 1st Division
to clear the village. Cadogan with the 1/71st, supported by the 1/79th
and 2/24th, made a determined advance through the tangle of houses,
lanes, and walls, and at considerable cost drove Ferey’s men right over
the brook and up their own slope. Masséna then ordered the defeated
troops to be supported by four battalions from Marchand’s division,
and with this aid they once more advanced and got possession of the
chapel and the few other buildings on the east side of Dos Casas, but
could not make their way across the water again, or into the main body
of the village.

The combat only stopped with the fall of night, though the fusillade
across the brook was of course objectless, when neither side made
any further definite attack. It had cost the French 652 men--mostly
in Ferey’s division[394], of whom 3 officers and 164 men were
prisoners, taken when the village was re-stormed by Cadogan. The
Allies, being on the defensive, and under cover, save at the moment of
their counter-attack, only had 259 killed and hurt, of whom 48 were
Portuguese. Colonel Williams, the original commander of the village,
was severely wounded, but no other officer above the rank of captain
was hit[395].

  [394] But some in Marchand’s, which must have been fairly heavily
  engaged, judging from the casualty list of officers in Martinien.

  [395] For an excellent account of the first day’s fighting
  in Fuentes village, see the diary of ‘J. S.’ of the 71st in
  Constable’s _Memorials of the late War_, i. 87-9. The regiment
  charged right up the French slope after recovering the place, and
  was attacked ineffectually by cavalry. Marbot (ii. p. 459) has a
  story that the second attack of the French would have succeeded
  if the Hanoverian Legion, in its red coats, had not been fired
  into from the rear in mistake by the 66th Ligne, which took them
  for British.



SECTION XXVI: CHAPTER III

THE BATTLE OF FUENTES DE OÑORO. MAY 5th, 1811


Masséna’s attempt to ‘take the bull by the horns’--for the phrase used
at Bussaco may well be repeated for the attack on Fuentes village--had
failed with loss. It was clear that he had hit upon a strong point in
Wellington’s well-hidden line, and he had paid dearly for his brutal
methods. It remained to be seen whether he might not also find, as at
Bussaco, some way of turning his adversary’s position by a wide flank
movement. Down-stream the ground looked very impracticable, and the
ravine of the Dos Casas seemed to grow more and more formidable as it
neared its junction with the Agueda. The Marshal therefore ordered
Montbrun to make reconnaissances in every direction towards the right,
on the side of Pozo Bello and Nava de Aver, and to report on the roads
and the character of the ground, as well as on the disposition of the
flank-guards of the enemy. The whole of the 4th of May was taken up
in this fashion--there being no shots fired save in Fuentes de Oñoro
itself, when Ferey’s troops in the morning exchanged a lively fusillade
across the brook with the British regiments occupying the main block
of the village. The firing died down before noon, neither side being
inclined to take the offensive[396].

  [396] Masséna, in his dispatch describing the battle, says that
  on the morning of the 4th the Allies made a serious attempt to
  turn Ferey out of the houses beyond the brook which he occupied.
  But we have no trace of any regular fighting in any of the
  British narratives; there was certainly some bickering across the
  brook, but apparently nothing more.

Montbrun’s reports came in during the afternoon, and were very
important. The enemy, he said, had no more than a screen of cavalry
pickets to the south of Fuentes, with a single detached battalion
in the village of Pozo Bello. The end of his line had been found at
Nava de Aver; it was composed only of the guerrilla band of Julian
Sanchez. There was nothing to prevent a frontal attack on Pozo Bello by
infantry, though the place was enclosed in woods and somewhat difficult
to approach. There was accessible ground between Pozo Bello and Nava
where cavalry might act, nor was the morass by the latter village, on
which the extreme right of the Allies rested, impassable.

On this report Masséna based his new scheme of operations[397]. He
resolved to turn Wellington’s right with three infantry divisions and
nearly the whole of his cavalry, while detaining him in his present
position by attacks more or less pressed home. The striking-force
was to be composed of Marchand’s and Mermet’s divisions of the 6th
Corps with Solignac’s division of the 8th Corps in support, and of
all the horsemen save the skeleton squadrons attached to the 2nd
and 6th Corps, viz. Montbrun’s division of dragoons and the cavalry
brigades of Fournier, Wathier, and Lepic, a mass of 17,000 infantry
and 3,500 sabres. Reynier, opposite Wellington’s left, was to make
demonstrations, which were to be turned into a serious attack only if
the Allies showed weakness in this direction. But in the centre there
was to be a vigorous onslaught launched against Fuentes de Oñoro, when
the turning movement was seen to be in progress to the south. For this,
not only Ferey’s division, already in position opposite the village,
was told off, but also Drouet’s two divisions of the 9th Corps. The
place was to be carried at all costs, while Wellington was busy on his
right, and a breach was thus to be made in the line of the Allies at
the same moment that their wing was turned. Fourteen thousand infantry
were concentrated opposite Fuentes for this purpose.

  [397] See his Orders for the day, in Appendix XIII.

After dusk had fallen the French army made the preliminary movements
required by the new plan. Montbrun’s cavalry rode out far to the south,
one brigade to the foot of the hill of Nava de Aver, the others to the
ground east of Pozo Bello. To this latter point Marchand’s and Mermet’s
infantry proceeded, with Solignac’s division following them. Drouet
brought the 9th Corps to the ground formerly occupied by the 6th Corps,
while Reynier drew in a little southward, leaving one division opposite
Fort Concepcion, but moving the other to the position in front of
Alameda lately occupied by Solignac. A large detachment of sappers
went out with Montbrun, to mend the paths across the morass which his
flanking brigade had to cross.

[Illustration: FUENTES DE OÑORO. Positions on the first day (May 3rd
1811).]

Wellington had not been unaware that the want of movement on Masséna’s
part during the 4th probably covered some design against his flanks,
and since his left flank was practically impregnable, he suspected that
his right might be in danger, a suspicion which was made into certainty
by reconnaissances which detected the French stirring among the marshy
woods. The whole of his cavalry was thrown out in this direction,
but the four regiments could only cover the ground inadequately, and
being scattered in squadrons along three miles of front were weak
everywhere. The most serious movement that he made was to detach the
7th Division as an outlying force to cover his right: two battalions
were put into the village of Pozo Bello[398] and the wood in front of
it; the remaining seven occupied a position on the slope to the west
of that little place. This was a somewhat dangerous expedient--the 7th
Division was the smallest and weakest unit in Wellington’s army--it
only contained two British battalions[399], and these were new-comers
just landed at Lisbon. It was thrown out two miles from the main
position, and on open ground not presenting any particular advantage
for defence--indeed, if the enemy should attack in strength, it
would be compelled to act as a mere detaining and observing rather
than a fighting force. For though it was well placed for foiling a
mere attempt to turn the Fuentes position by a small detachment and
a short lateral movement[400], yet if the enemy’s flanking manœuvre
were made by a large body and far afield, it was clear that the 7th
Division would have to retreat in haste towards the main position. This
being so, one wonders that Wellington did not select one of his best
divisions--the 3rd or the Light--for such a responsible post. But he
apparently did not foresee the whole plan of Masséna. ‘Imagining,’ he
writes in his dispatch describing the battle, ‘that the enemy would
endeavour to obtain possession of Fuentes de Oñoro and of the ground
occupied by the troops behind that village, by crossing the Dos Casas
at Pozo Velho, I moved the 7th Division under Major-General Houston to
the right, in order to protect, if possible, that passage.’ But Masséna
was set not only on attacking Pozo Bello, but on turning it, and taking
it in the rear by a wide sweep of his whole disposable cavalry force.
Over 20,000 men were on the move, and Houston had but 4,000 infantry,
with 1,400 horse to guard his flank.

  [398] 85th and 2nd Caçadores.

  [399] 51st and 85th, the other regiments being foreign
  (_Chasseurs Britanniques_ and Brunswick Oels) or Portuguese.

  [400] Its position, from this point of view, might be compared to
  that of Pakenham and the 3rd Division at Salamanca.

The other preparation which Wellington made for a possible battle on
the 5th was to draw back the Light Division at dusk from the left wing
to its original position behind Fuentes village in reserve. He also
withdrew the numerous light companies which had formed the original
garrison of that place, and left there only two battalions, the 1/71st
and 1/79th, with the 2/24th to support them at the top of the hill.

The fighting on the 5th of May began very early. Just at daybreak the
extreme right flank of Wellington’s cavalry screen was attacked by the
outermost of the enemy’s turning columns, composed of two regiments
of Montbrun’s dragoons[401]. This took place under the hill of Nava
de Aver, where Julian Sanchez with his guerrilleros had been posted
on the 3rd, while two squadrons of the 14th Light Dragoons had been
moved up to his support on the night of the 4th. The guerrilleros
kept a bad look-out, and in the dusk of the morning were surprised
by the enemy--they drew off hastily to the south without making any
resistance. Not so the two British squadrons under Major Brotherton
of the 14th, who fought a running fight for two miles, showing front
repeatedly, till their flank was on each occasion turned by the vastly
superior numbers of the enemy. They were driven in at last upon Pozo
Bello, where lay two battalions of the 7th Division, whose extreme
right picket, placed in a wood, stopped the enemy’s pursuit by a
volley. The main body of the French cavalry seems to have started a
little later than the flanking force which assailed Nava de Aver, as
its leading regiments only attacked the British cavalry screen to
the right of that village some time after Brotherton’s squadrons had
begun to be driven in. Here the line of observation was furnished by a
squadron of the 16th Light Dragoons and another of the 1st Hussars of
the King’s German Legion, who drew together, and gallantly, but rather
rashly, attempted to stop the enemy’s advance at a defile between two
woods. The squadron of the 16th, charging into a mass of the enemy,
suffered heavily and had its commanding officer captured[402]. The
Germans then took their turn, but were also driven back with loss. The
broken troops had to fall back in all haste till, like Brotherton’s
detachment, they came in upon the flank of the village of Pozo Bello,
and formed up there. The French cavalry, extending over the slopes
when they were clear of the woods, appeared in overpowering numbers,
and showed an evident intention to turn the right flank of the British
force, which they were strong enough to do even when the whole twelve
squadrons of Wellington’s cavalry, falling back from various points of
the line which they had been observing, were concentrated on the flank
of the woods and enclosures of Pozo Bello.

  [401] The accusation against Montbrun, made by Napier and several
  French writers, of having waited for two hours after dawn, and
  then of having suffered himself to be delayed for another hour
  by the pursuit of a mere Spanish irregular band, is clearly
  groundless. We have the diaries of two officers of the squadrons
  of the 14th (Major Brotherton and Cornet F. Hall) who prove
  that the attack was made in the dusk of early dawn. ‘Just at
  daybreak,’ says the former, ‘I requested Don Julian to show me
  where his pickets were placed. He pointed out to me what he
  said was one of them, but I observed to him that in the dusk of
  morning it looked too large for a picket. The sun rising rapidly
  dispelled the fog, and the illusion at the same time, for Don
  Julian’s picket proved to be a whole French regiment dismounted.
  They now mounted immediately and advanced against us.’ (See the
  Diary in Hamilton’s _History of the 14th Hussars_.)

  [402] Captain Belli, who had joined the regiment from England
  only the night before. A sergeant and six men were killed in
  trying to rescue him. See Tomkinson’s diary, p. 101. This officer
  of the 16th accuses Major Meyer of the Hussars of having lost
  the right moment for a charge by indecision. But the K.G.L.
  narratives (see Schwertfeger) show that Meyer fought hard, and
  was an enterprising officer.

Up to this moment, an hour after daybreak, only French cavalry had been
seen, but the infantry now joined in. The two divisions of Marchand and
Mermet had been moved in the night to a point opposite Pozo Bello: when
the skirmishing to the right of that place was growing hot, the leading
division, that of Marchand, charged in upon the wood in front of the
village, cleared out of it the skirmishers of the 85th regiment and
the 2nd Caçadores, and then stormed the village also, driving out of
it the two battalions, which vainly tried to maintain themselves there
against the crushing superiority of the attack. As they were emerging
from among the houses in great disorder, they were fallen upon and
ridden over by a French light cavalry regiment, which had pushed round
their flank unobserved. Both battalions suffered heavily: between them
they lost over 150 men, of whom 85 were killed and wounded and some
70 unwounded prisoners. It is marvellous that the two corps were not
entirely destroyed--but they were saved by a charge of two squadrons
of the German Hussars, and succeeded in forming up with promptness and
moving away in the direction of the main body of the 7th Division,
which was visible a mile to the west, on the opposite slope of the
bottom in which Pozo Bello lies.

The next hour was a very dangerous one: the French infantry divisions,
emerging from the captured village and the woods, began to form up in
heavy columns, threatening both to attack the Fuentes de Oñoro position
on its right flank, and to cut in between the isolated 7th Division and
the rest of the army. Montbrun’s cavalry, displaying regiment after
regiment, came on in hot pursuit of the troops that had escaped from
Pozo Bello and of the British squadrons that were covering them. They
were already outflanking the 7th Division on the right, by means of the
detachment which had come from Nava de Aver.

Wellington was surprised at the strength of the turning force--its
numbers were far greater than he had foreseen, and he was forced
to take a new resolution and form a fresh battle-order. The most
important thing was to save the 7th Division from being cut off, and
to bring it back into line with the rest of the army. Accordingly
he directed a chosen unit--the Light Division, now once more under
the indomitable Craufurd, who had joined on the preceding night--to
advance from its position in reserve behind Fuentes, and to move
out along the slope of the low heights to the right, so as to come
into touch with Houston and the cavalry, and to help them to get
home. Meanwhile the rest of the centre of the army--the 1st and 3rd
Divisions and Ashworth’s Portuguese[403], formed a new line of battle,
_en potence_ to the original right flank of the British position. They
were drawn up along the dominating ground between the rocky hillocks
that overhang the village of Fuentes and the descent into the valley
of the Turon brook. This is the last of the high ground--to the right
of it (as has been before mentioned) the watershed between the Dos
Casas and the Turon ceases to be composed of a commanding ridge,
and sinks into gentle slopes[404]. Thus Fuentes de Oñoro became the
projecting point of a battle-order thrown back at right angles to the
original position--where the 5th and 6th Divisions still continued to
occupy their old post opposite Reynier. Formations _en potence_ are
proverbially dangerous, because of the liability of the angle to be
enfiladed and crushed by artillery fire. But in this case the danger
was less than usual, since Wellington for once in his life had more
guns than the French, and the lie of the plateau was such that the
lower parts of Fuentes village might be enfiladed, but not the ground
above it by the church and rocks, nor the plateau behind it, where the
ground occupied by the 3rd Division was out of sight of the French on
the lesser heights. Indeed, the holding of the houses in the bottom
was of comparatively little importance to Wellington, so long as he
kept his grip on the upper end of the straggling village. Here, on the
double-headed height crowned by the church and the rocks, was the real
pivot of the position.

  [403] 1st Division in four brigades on the right; then Ashworth;
  then the 3rd Division next to Fuentes village.

  [404] Along which the modern railway line is conducted from
  Villar Formoso to Ciudad Rodrigo. Fuentes de Oñoro station is
  a mile from the village, and only a few hundred yards from the
  Portuguese customs-station of Villar Formoso.

Wellington had ample time to move the 1st and 3rd Divisions with
Ashworth’s Portuguese into the new position--none of them had much
over a mile to march, since all had been concentrated behind Fuentes
when the alarm came. The enemy’s approach was slow, partly because his
infantry had to disentangle itself from the houses of Pozo Bello and
the surrounding wood, and to form in a fresh front, partly because his
cavalry became wholly absorbed in a running fight with the Light and
7th Divisions, and had no attention to spare for any other direction.

Masséna’s plan, when he had got his left wing out of the woods, soon
became clear. He was intending to break in with his cavalry between
the 7th Division and the rest of the army, while Marchand and Mermet
were to attack the new front of the 1st and 3rd Divisions, and the 9th
Corps, with Ferey’s division, was to smash in the projecting point
of Wellington’s position, by storming Fuentes village and the height
behind it. Reynier, as on the 3rd of May, was to demonstrate against
the allied left, but not to attack till success in the centre seemed
assured. From the course of the action it is evident that the Marshal’s
main intention was to beat Wellington by hard fighting, and to break up
his army--not merely to manœuvre him into a bad strategical position
and to cut his more available lines of communication, so as to force
him into a difficult and dangerous retreat. If the last had been
Masséna’s intention--as some authors suggest--the course of the battle
would have been different. But he made no attempt to send cavalry to
intercept the roads to Castello Bom, still less to detach infantry
against Wellington’s rear. Having turned his enemy’s flank, and forced
him to make a new front, he showed no further desire to manœuvre, but
proceeded to batter away at the troops in front of him, trusting that
numbers and impetus would secure him the victory.

The fight fell for some time into two absolutely distinct sections--an
attempt by Drouet’s and Ferey’s three divisions to carry Fuentes de
Oñoro village and break Wellington’s centre, and an attempt to cut up,
by the cavalry arm alone, the 7th Division and its attendant squadrons,
before they could be succoured and drawn back into Wellington’s new
line of defence. It was only after some time that these two combats
became joined, by an attempt--which was never pressed home--to attack
that part of the British position which lay to the right rear of
Fuentes de Oñoro.

The fighting west of Pozo Bello may be taken first, as it was a logical
continuation of the engagement in the early morning. Here Montbrun
had under his hand four cavalry brigades--those of Wathier, Fournier,
Cavrois, and Ornano--about 2,700 sabres, with Lepic’s 800 guard
cavalry as his reserve--though, as it turned out in the end, the use
of that reserve was to be denied him. In front of him were the two
battalions recently evicted from Pozo Bello, with the British cavalry
brigades of Slade and Arentschildt (about 1,400 sabres) and Bull’s
horse-artillery troop, which had drawn up to protect the retreat of the
routed battalions towards the main body of the 7th Division. General
Houston with that force (one British battalion, two foreign, and four
Portuguese battalions[405]) was engaged in taking up new ground, on the
slope which is separated from Pozo Bello by the shallow trough forming
the valley of the Dos Casas brook. Montbrun’s object was, of course,
to break the British horsemen, and then to fall upon and destroy the
shaken infantry which they were protecting, before they could cross
the valley. There resulted a very fierce and long-sustained cavalry
combat, infinitely creditable to the four British regiments, who had to
fight a detaining action against numbers about double their own. They
were bound to retire in the end--and indeed had no other intention--but
it was their duty to hold off the enemy till the infantry behind them
had got into order. This was done, though at great cost, the regiments
retiring by alternate squadrons, while the rear squadron at each change
of front charged, often winning a temporary and partial success over
the enemy in its immediate front, but always forced to give back as the
French reserve came up. ‘When we charged,’ wrote a participant in this
long combat, ‘they would often turn their horses, and our men shouted
in the pursuit--but go which way they might, we were but scattered
drops amid their host, and could not possibly arrest their progress.
We had again to go about and retire[406].’ The British cavalry, though
losing heavily, never got out of hand, and could be still used as
efficient units down to the end of this phase of the battle. Of their
total casualty list of 157 nearly all must have been lost in this
hard work; it is noticeable that only one officer and four men were
taken prisoners, a sufficient proof that there was no such rout as
French accounts describe--for a rout always implies a serious loss in
‘missing.’

  [405] 51st Foot, _Chasseurs Britanniques_, the incomplete
  battalion of Brunswick Oels (short of two companies detached),
  and the 7th and 19th Portuguese, commanded on this day by Doyle,
  colonel of the 19th.

  [406] Unpublished Diary of Hall of the 14th Light Dragoons.

After a running fight, the British cavalry was driven back on to the
7th Division, which (now joined by the two detached battalions) was
drawn up on the best position that Houston could select on the slope
above the valley: his centre was in a projecting angle among some rocks
which crop up in the generally bare hillside--his wings thrown back,
and partly covered by stone walls forming the boundaries of meadows.
The much-tried British squadrons, clearing off to the side, took
position on the left rear of the infantry, leaving the 7th Division
in face of the now rather confused mass of Montbrun’s horsemen, whose
order was none the better for the long and well-contested combat in
which they had been engaged. The French general made a serious attempt
to break into the 7th Division: while skirmishers demonstrated against
its front, and a light battery just sent forward by Masséna shelled its
centre, a brigade of dragoons turned its right wing and tried to roll
it up. This attack was foiled by the _Chasseurs Britanniques_, who,
drawn up behind a long stone wall, had apparently escaped Montbrun’s
notice; receiving a staggering volley at close range, just when they
supposed that they had come upon an unprotected flank, the advancing
squadrons fell back in confusion. Another charge, made against the
51st, was also beaten off by musketry[407]. The French then came to a
stand--it was clear that they wanted infantry if they were to get any
advantage over the 7th Division, which was now well settled down into
its position. But Marchand’s and Mermet’s battalions had not followed
Montbrun across the valley, but had begun to march straight against the
centre of Wellington’s new line, west of Fuentes de Oñoro.

  [407] See Journal of Wheeler of the 51st, pp. 13-14.

At this moment a new force came upon the scene; Craufurd and the
Light Division were at hand, marching along the higher slope of the
watershed between the Turon and the Dos Casas, in order to connect
with the 7th Division. But Craufurd had not come to form up and hold
the ground where Houston was already engaged. Wellington’s orders were
that the 7th Division should move to its rear, cross the Turon, and
prolong, to the west of that stream, the new line already formed by
the 1st and 3rd Divisions. It was to make this movement covered by
the Light Division and the cavalry, who were to hold the slope till
Houston was well on his way and out of danger. They were then to retire
behind the 1st Division. This was a dangerous task for Craufurd and
his men, but Wellington had selected them precisely because he knew
that they were to be trusted. While Montbrun was busy rearranging
his disordered brigades, Houston slipped down the reverse slope of
the hillside where he had been lying, crossed the Turon, and finally
drew up with one brigade (Sontag’s) on the well-marked heights west
of that stream, and the other (Doyle’s Portuguese) in the village of
Freneda, a mile further to the right. Thus Wellington had once more
an outlying flank-guard, covering the roads which lead to the Coa and
the Bridge of Castello Bom. With the exception of the two battalions
cut up at the opening of the fight, the 7th Division had suffered very
slightly--apparently the French cavalry had not harmed it, but their
attached battery had caused some casualties, which came in all to no
more than 90 men[408] out of the 3,800 in the seven battalions which
had not fought at Pozo Bello.

  [408] The 51st lost 6 men; Brunswick Oels, 18; _Chasseurs
  Britanniques_, 58; 7th Portuguese, 8 men; 19th, 2 men--of these
  92 only 19 were prisoners, so that it is clear that the French
  cavalry never got in among them, or cut them up in the style
  described by Pelet, Fournier, Fririon, or Masséna himself.
  When a body of 4,000 infantry attacked by cavalry has only 90
  casualties, we know that no part of it can have been ridden over
  or seriously broken.

On the departure of the 7th Division all the peril and responsibility
now fell on Craufurd and the already much-tried cavalry, who had
to make their way back for a full mile along the open slope of the
hillside, to join their comrades in the new position south of Fuentes.
Montbrun, though he had failed in his attack on infantry in position,
thought that he ought to have better fortune against men retreating
over a rolling upland, so urged the pursuit with great energy. Craufurd
formed his men in battalion squares, save a few companies of the rifles
and Caçadores, whom he threw into thickets and enclosures to the right
and left, where he thought them safe against horsemen. The main body
retreated in a line of squares, with the cavalry and the battery of
horse artillery in the intervals. Whenever the French came forward, the
guns played upon them, and the British cavalry charged by squadrons
to check the onslaught. So beautifully was the retreat managed, that
Montbrun never got a chance to charge the infantry at advantage.
‘The steadiness and regularity with which the troops performed their
movement, the whole time exposed to a cannonade, and followed across
a plain by a numerous cavalry, ready to pounce on the squares if the
least disorder should be detected, was acknowledged by hundreds of
unprejudiced spectators (who witnessed it from the heights) to have
been a masterpiece of military evolution. ‘We sustained a very trifling
loss from the cannonade[409],’ writes one Light Division officer.
Another (Napier himself) in more stirring phrases tells how ‘many times
Montbrun threatened to charge Craufurd’s squares, but always found them
too dangerous to meddle with. They appeared but as specks, with close
behind them 5,000 [read 3,500] horsemen, trampling, bounding, shouting
for the word to charge. Fifteen guns were up with the French cavalry,
the eighth corps[410] was in order of battle behind them, the woods on
their right were filled with Loison’s skirmishers, and if that general,
pivoting upon Fuentes, had come forth with the 6th Corps, while Drouet
assailed the village and the cavalry made a general charge, the loose
crowd of non-combatants and broken troops would have been violently
dashed against the 1st Division, to intercept its fire and break its
ranks, and the battle might have been lost[411].’ But Montbrun knew as
well as Craufurd that intact infantry of good quality cannot be broken
when it is securely formed in square, and any attempt to molest the
Light Division by artillery fire was checked by the self-sacrificing
efforts of the British cavalry and guns, who fought their best to keep
off the enemy. Bull’s guns were incessantly unlimbering and firing
a few rounds in the intervals of the squares, and then retreating
rapidly to a new position. On the only occasion when a French battery
got close up it was charged in front, with desperate gallantry, by a
squadron of the 14th Light Dragoons, who suffered terribly, but won
the necessary minutes for the square to which it was neighbour to get
out of range[412]. At last the whole retiring force, horse and foot,
came into Wellington’s lines, with the French close in their rear,
and found safety with the 1st Division. Two incidents marked the last
moments of the retreat: at one point occurred an episode which Napier
has immortalized, with some inaccuracy of detail, in one of his most
brilliant ‘purple passages.’ Captain Norman Ramsay, with two guns of
Bull’s troop, had halted, not for the first time, for a shot or two at
the pursuing cavalry; lingering a moment too long, he found himself cut
off, just as he had limbered up, by a swarm of _chasseurs_, who rode
in from the flank. But he put his guns to the gallop, and, charging
himself in front of them with the mounted gunners, was cutting his way
through the French when he was brought off by friends. On one side a
squadron of the 14th Light Dragoons under Brotherton, on the other a
squadron of the Royals, had turned back when they saw the artillery in
danger. They fell upon the _chasseurs_ before Ramsay had suffered any
hurt, and saved him and his guns, which were brought into the lines of
the 1st Division amid loud cheers from all who had seen the affair[413].

  [409] Leach (of the 95th), _Life of an Old Soldier_, p. 214.

  [410] By some error Napier says the _8th_ Corps, but the only
  division of that corps present (Solignac) was in reserve far off.

  [411] Napier, iii. 152.

  [412] See Brotherton’s Memoir, in Hamilton’s _History of the
  14th Light Dragoons_, pp. 84-5: ‘At Fuentes d’Oñoro we had a
  very fine fellow, Captain Knipe, killed through his gallant
  obstinacy, if I may so call it. We had, the night before, been
  discussing the best mode for cavalry to attack batteries in the
  open field. He maintained, contrary to us all, that they ought
  to be charged in front, instead of by gaining their flank and
  avoiding their fire. The experiment next day was fatal to him. He
  had the opportunity of charging a French battery, which he did by
  attacking immediately in front. Their discharge of round shot he
  got through with little loss, but they most rapidly reloaded with
  grape, and his party got a close and murderous discharge, which
  almost entirely destroyed it--he himself receiving a grape shot
  through the body.’ As Montbrun had not got up his guns during
  the first cavalry charges, this must have been during Craufurd’s
  fight.

  [413] Napier makes two serious errors--he represents Ramsay
  as having a whole battery, instead of two guns only: and he
  underrates the assistance given by the cavalry, which is detailed
  in Brotherton’s memoir, as well as in the regimental history of
  the Royals (p. 118).

A little to the left of the point where this happy escape took place
there was an episode of a less fortunate kind. The skirmishing line
of the 1st Division was extended along the foot of the slope on
which its brigades were arrayed. When the rolling mass composed of
the Light Division squares, their attendant cavalry, and the French
in hot pursuit, drew near to the position, the officer in charge of
the pickets of the Guards’ brigade (Lieutenant-Colonel Hill of the
3rd Guards) directed them to close up into solid order, for safety’s
sake: this they did, forming a small square. In this formation
they beat off the rather disorderly charge of the French horse;
but Colonel Hill then very unwisely extended them again, and thus
exposed them in the most dangerous order to a second charge of a
French regiment (13th _Chasseurs_) which came in from the side after
the main attack was over. The three companies were taken in flank,
rolled up, and very badly mauled, sixty or eighty men being killed or
wounded, and Hill himself with another officer and nineteen men being
taken prisoners[414]. The rest had time to club together and defend
themselves, till they were rescued by the charge of a squadron of the
Royals under Colonel Clifton and a troop of the 14th Light Dragoons,
which brought off most of the survivors. The total loss was about 100
men[415].

  [414] The account of this in Wellington’s dispatch is hopelessly
  obscure, because instead of writing ‘the pickets of the 1st
  Division under Lieut.-Col. Hill,’ he wrote by a slip of the pen
  ‘the _regiments_ of the 1st Division under Lieut.-Col. Hill.’
  Hill of course (being a regimental major though a titular
  Lieut.-Colonel, after the Guards system) did not command
  whole regiments, as Wellington’s words imply, but simply the
  skirmishing line of pickets. The facts are made quite clear
  by Stepney of the Coldstreams and Stothert’s diary (who calls
  them ‘the pickets of the Guards’), Grattan (who calls them ‘the
  advance,’ or ‘the light troops of the 1st Division’), and Hall’s
  unpublished diary, which gives the whole story in a nutshell:
  ‘The enemy made a dart at the pickets of the 1st Division, with
  the expectation of sweeping off the line before our cavalry could
  support them. They succeeded in part, by coming up unexpectedly,
  but when they were perceived the men, by collecting into knots
  (or ‘hiving’ as they called it) repulsed them with the bayonet.
  A troop of the 14th Light Dragoons and some of the Royals were
  ordered out to the skirmish and suffered some loss.’

  It is this incident which General Fournier, who led the charge,
  transforms in his dispatch (in the _Archives de la Guerre_) into
  the breaking two squares of the Light Division and taking General
  Craufurd prisoner--a wild story. Fririon makes the charge capture
  ‘300 Hussars of the English Royal Guard!’ Both say that three
  battalions of the Guards laid down their arms.

  [415] Deducting the regiments in Fuentes de Oñoro (71st and 79th)
  the 1st Division lost about 400 men in the whole day, of whom
  probably 100 in this petty disaster.

This was only one of several partial attacks made by the French
cavalry against the front of Wellington’s new position[416]. Montbrun
seems to have thought that he could continue to press the Allies--not
recognizing that he had hitherto had to do with troops voluntarily
retiring, but had now run against a battle-line which intended to
stand. Indeed, he wished to try the effect of a general charge against
the front of the 1st Division, and with that object sent orders to his
reserve, Lepic’s brigade of Guard cavalry, to come to the front, and
head an advance, which the rallied squadrons of his main body would
support. Lepic, however, refused to move, saying that personally he
was only too ready to attack, but that he had received specific orders
not to use his brigade save at the direct command of his immediate
superior, Marshal Bessières[417]. While the Marshal was being sought
(he was ultimately found, after much delay, behind Pozo Bello), the
moment which Montbrun supposed suitable for a charge passed away.

  [416] One was repelled by the 42nd, which met it in line.

  [417] Of this episode, only hinted at by Fririon, and not
  mentioned at all by Masséna in his official dispatch, we have
  a vivid description in Marbot, which might be doubted if it
  were not borne out by hints in Napier and Thiébault and by the
  direct statement of Marshal Jourdan in his memoirs. If Lepic had
  charged, it is hard to see what effect he could have produced,
  for all Peninsular experience went to prove that infantry in
  battle order on a good position could not be broken by cavalry,
  however daring. The 1st and 3rd Divisions were well established
  on their ground, with a steep slope below them, and could not
  have been moved. Lepic’s refusal to charge, however, always
  takes a prominent part in the description of Fuentes de Oñoro by
  French writers, not eye-witnesses, who are anxious to prove that
  Wellington ought to have lost the battle.

With this episode the advance of Montbrun’s cavalry ended, frittering
itself away on the edge of the new position of the Allies. Its total
effect had been to roll in the flanking force which Wellington had
thrown out, and to gain some three miles of ground. The loss of the
British had been appreciable, but can hardly be called severe--under
250 in the 7th Division, about 150 in the cavalry, and 200 in the 1st
Division. Montbrun’s squadrons on their side had 359 casualties, to
which may be added perhaps a hundred in Marchand’s division of the
6th Corps, which fought in the attack on Pozo Bello. The strategical
advantage obtained by forcing Wellington to throw back his right wing,
and to leave the roads towards Castello Bom exposed to the possibility
of flanking cavalry raids, was considerable. But it was less important
than it appeared, since the mere threatening of his communications was
useless, unless he could be forced or manœuvred out of his position;
and this was not to be done. He himself saw this clearly, writing in
his dispatch which describes the battle: ‘I had occupied Poço Velho
and that neighbourhood, in hopes that I should be able to maintain the
communication across the Coa by Sabugal, &c., as well as to provide for
the blockade of Almeida, which objects, as was now obvious, were become
incompatible with each other. I therefore abandoned that which was the
less important[418].’ He then proceeds to show how his new position
still covered the blockade of Almeida, and (by means of the troops
placed beyond the Turon) rendered it hard for the enemy to make any
real attempt towards Castello Bom--since this could not be done save by
an isolated detachment. Indeed, Masséna had still to beat the allied
army, and the preliminary operations now ended had done nothing more
than thrust it back into its fighting position.

  [418] To Lord Liverpool, 8th May. _Dispatches_, vii. p. 531.

That, according to Masséna’s design, the second act of the battle
was to consist in a vigorous attempt to break Wellington’s new line,
is clear from his own dispatch. And the point to be pierced was the
projecting angle of its centre, in, and to the right of, Fuentes
village. Here the attack was to be concentric and enveloping, Ferey’s
division and the two divisions of the 9th Corps being intended to
storm the village, after which Marchand’s and Mermet’s divisions,
supported by Solignac’s, were to assail the heights to its south-west,
where Picton and Spencer were now in line. Six of the eight infantry
divisions of the French army were to attack on a front of not much over
a mile. This was a powerful combination, but the position which it
was to assail was also very strong. The village, with its barricaded
streets and its tiers of houses trending up the hill, was susceptible
of indefinite defence. The hillside above it and to its right was a
perfect fighting-ground--with the ravine in its front, fine artillery
emplacements along the sky-line, and a flat plateau behind, on which
the main line and the reserves could stand sheltered, till the moment
when they were required to deal with an infantry attack.

Masséna’s plan was to storm the village first, and then, when Ferey and
Drouet should have pushed through it, and have got a lodgement on the
plateau, to deliver the frontal attack with the other three divisions.
He did not intend Marchand and Mermet to move till the projecting
angle of Wellington’s line was turned and broken in by the success of
the other attack. For to send forward these two divisions of the 6th
Corps for an assault on the fine position opposite them, while it was
held by intact troops with their flanks properly covered, would have
been to invite a repetition of Bussaco. The plateau was held by a
perfectly adequate force, the four brigades of the 1st Division (minus
three battalions detached to hold Fuentes de Oñoro[419]), Ashworth’s
Portuguese brigade, and the whole 3rd Division, over 13,000 men, on
a short front, while the Light Division had now returned to take its
place in reserve. Wellington had these troops drawn up in a double
line, the 1st Division next the Turon, Ashworth’s brigade in the
centre, and the 3rd Division above Fuentes, whose defence it was to
feed, if necessary, by detaching battalions from its second line, which
was formed by Mackinnon’s brigade. Owing to the numerical inferiority
of the French artillery, Wellington had also been able to concentrate
a larger number of guns (six batteries) on the critical point of
the battlefield than his enemy could bring against him, so that the
‘artillery preparation,’ to maul his line before a general attack, was
bound to fail. The French guns were overpowered in the contest.

  [419] 2/24th and 1/79th from Nightingale’s brigade, and the
  1/71st from Howard’s, in all 1,850 bayonets, leaving the
  remainder of the 1st Division with 5,700 bayonets, the 3rd
  Division with 5,400, and Ashworth with 2,500 as the main line
  holding the plateau, with 3,700 of Craufurd’s Light Division in
  reserve.

It must not be supposed that Masséna waited for the arrival of
Marchand’s and Mermet’s infantry in front of the position before
commencing his attack. The troops opposite Fuentes had been ordered
to storm the village when Montbrun’s operations had begun to develop
successfully, but ‘sans rien hasarder[420],’ i. e. they were not to
move if the attempt to turn the British right failed. But when the
cavalry were seen sweeping the hillsides beyond Pozo Bello, and driving
the enemy before them, the attack on Fuentes was begun by Ferey’s
division, which was already in possession of the few houses on the
east side of the Dos Casas brook. The assault commenced at about two
hours after dawn, when the combat was already in full progress to the
south, by a brisk attack which drove the defenders of the village (the
71st and 79th) out of its lower portion. Two companies of the latter
regiment, barricaded in some buildings near the water, were completely
surrounded and forced to surrender, after all their officers had been
wounded. Ninety-four men were taken prisoners. The remainder of this
Highland battalion and of its countrymen of the 71st rallied in the
upper end of the village, and when joined by the regiment in reserve
(the 2/24th) came forward again, and drove the French into the lower
houses by the river. The fight came to a standstill for a moment,
Ferey’s division (which had already suffered so severely on the 3rd)
being now a spent force so far as initiative went.

  [420] Masséna’s dispatch, see Appendix, no. XIII. Drouet is
  therefore wrongly blamed by French critics who say that he
  attacked an hour or two late--he had to wait to see the turning
  movement in successful progress.

But Drouet, who had been told to give Ferey his best support, then fed
the fight with three _bataillons d’élite_, composed of the eighteen
grenadier companies of his two divisions[421]. These picked troops, who
were mistaken for men of the Imperial Guard by their opponents because
of their bearskins and tall plumes, came on with great courage, and
cleared all the middle slopes of the village, driving the garrison up
to the summit of the double-headed hill, near the church and the rocks.
The fighting was very deadly to both sides, but more so to the French,
who had to dislodge an obstinate foe from barricaded houses and lines
of stone walls. It ended in the establishment of the attacking force on
the brink of the summit, but further the grenadiers could not go--the
head of the village and the plateau above it was still maintained by
the 71st, 79th, and 24th, and Wellington began to feed the defending
force by drafting into the upper end of Fuentes, one after another, the
light companies of several brigades of the 1st and 3rd Divisions--the
same detachments who had defended the village upon May 3--in succession
those of Löwe’s German brigade, of Howard’s brigade, of Ashworth’s and
Power’s Portuguese, were sent to the critical point. The whole of the
6th Caçadores followed.

  [421] British narratives persistently state that infantry of the
  Imperial Guard fought in Fuentes village. But it is absolutely
  certain that there were none of those troops with Masséna’s army.
  The explanation lies in the fact that the grenadier company in
  a French regiment wore bearskins, and that a mass of grenadier
  companies therefore could easily be mistaken for Guards. All 71st
  and 79th diaries speak of fighting with ‘the Imperial Guards’ for
  this reason.

But the progress of the attack had been so far encouraging that at this
moment--about noon--Drouet resolved to finish the affair by putting in
heavy supports from Conroux’s and Claparéde’s divisions for a final
blow[422], which should heave the French line up on to the plateau,
clear the allied troops out of the last few houses of the village, and
definitively break Wellington’s line at its projecting point. Eight
or ten fresh battalions charged across the brook in column, through
the narrow streets encumbered by dead and wounded, and, ascending the
slope, drove their enemies out of the church and the rocks beside
it. This was the critical moment of the day--the only one at which
Wellington lost possession of the whole of the advanced post which so
perfectly defended his centre.

  [422] Masséna’s dispatch speaks only of Claparéde’s division
  as being put in, but as Martinien’s lists show, Conroux must
  have been still more heavily engaged, for his division lost 31
  officers killed and wounded, Claparéde’s only 25. Moreover, it
  was one of Conroux’s battalions (9th Léger) with which the 88th
  were engaged mainly, and this battalion alone lost 8 officers.
  About three battalions of each division remained in reserve and
  had few or no casualties, viz. the 64th, 88th, 95th, 96th, 100th,
  103rd of the Line.

‘Such a series of attacks,’ writes an eye-witness[423], ‘constantly
supported by fresh troops, required exertions more than human to
withstand: every effort had been made to maintain the post, but
efforts, however great, have their limits. Our soldiers had now been
engaged in this unequal contest for upwards of eight hours; the heat
was excessive, and their ammunition was nearly expended. The town
presented a shocking sight: our Highlanders lay dead in heaps, while
the other regiments, though less remarkable in dress, were scarcely so
in the number of their slain. The French grenadiers, with their immense
caps and gaudy plumes, lay in piles of ten and twenty together--some
dead, others wounded, with barely strength sufficient to move, their
exhausted state and the weight of their cumbrous accoutrements making
it impossible for them to crawl out of the dreadful fire of grape and
round shot which the enemy poured into the town. The Highlanders had
been driven to the churchyard at the very top of the village, and were
fighting with the French grenadiers across the graves and tombstones.
The 9th French Light Infantry (the leading battalion of Conroux’s
division) had penetrated as far as the church, and were preparing to
debouch upon the rear of our centre.’

  [423] Grattan of the 88th; see his _Adventures_, &c., pp. 66-7.

This part of the British army, the second or reserve line of the 3rd
Division--whose front line was nearer the edge of the position, facing
Marchand--was composed of Mackinnon’s brigade, the 1/45th, 74th, and
1/88th. On these troops devolved the responsibility of stopping the
gap, by recovering the church and the head of the village. The moment
for their action had evidently come. Mackinnon sent for leave to charge
to Wellington by Sir Edward Pakenham, who galloped back in a few
minutes, for he had found his chief only a few yards away, watching
for the crisis. ‘He says you may go--come along[424],’ was the prompt
reply, and Mackinnon moved down with the 74th and 88th in column
of sections, left in front, leaving the 45th in reserve on his old
position.

  [424] This again from Grattan, who tells how his colonel, Wallace
  of Bussaco fame, said that he would rather have to retake Fuentes
  than to cover a retreat to the Coa.

There was a fearful clash by the church at the mouth of the village
street, between the 88th, the leading British regiment, and the 4th
battalion of the 9th Léger at the head of Conroux’s column. They met
front to front, both in column, and are said to have fought with
the bayonet for some moments--the rarest thing in war; it was only
in a street combat like this that such a chance could happen. After
a sharp bicker the French battalion gave way and turned back. At the
same moment the 74th charged down another lane which led into the
village, and all the broken remnants of the Highland regiments and the
light companies cheered and advanced among the lanes and houses. The
enemy yielded at every point, seeing their main column beaten back,
and the advance of the British line swept the whole village as far as
the brook: some of the pursuers, going too far, were killed even on
its further side. It was impossible to maintain the houses near the
water, which were too much exposed to the fire of the French artillery
on the opposite bank. But the 74th and 88th made a firm lodgement in
the middle and upper parts of the village, and were not molested by
any further attempt on the part of Drouet to expel them, though his
guns made their position sufficiently uncomfortable. The commander of
the 9th Corps contented himself with bringing forward his last intact
battalions to the front, to cover the routed masses, while they were
getting into order again to the rear of their original position.

The attempt to storm Fuentes had failed with loss, and by about two
o’clock the decisive fighting was over. The 9th Corps had lost 835 men
in the street-fighting, Ferey’s division at least 400 more[425]. On
the part of the defenders, the 71st and 79th, the original garrison of
the village, had 458 casualties, including 119 prisoners taken at the
moment of the first storm--this was a loss of 30 per cent., as they
had 1,419 officers and men on the field. Cameron, the colonel of the
79th, was shot from a house during the last victorious charge. The
74th and 88th, who finally recovered Fuentes by their decisive charge,
lost only 116 men in doing so. The 2/24th, with the light companies
and Caçadores who had formed the earlier reinforcements, seem to have
had about 160 casualties, but it is impossible to separate the losses
of the light companies in the village from those of the battalions
to which they belonged, who were drawn up in the main position and
suffered certain casualties there. On the whole the defenders of
Fuentes seem to have lost about 800 men, its assailants about 1,300,
out of the 4,000 and the 7,000 men whom they respectively engaged
within it: such is the value of the defensive, even when the fighting
comes to close quarters among houses and enclosures.

  [425] It is unfortunately impossible to disentangle the losses
  of the various battalions of the 9th Corps, as there is no
  regimental return, but only a corps return of its losses
  available. But some aid is given by Martinien’s invaluable _Liste
  des officiers tués et blessés pendant les Guerres de l’Empire_,
  which shows that the battalions that suffered most were the
  4/9th Léger with 8 officers hurt out of 21 present, the 4/63rd
  Ligne with 7 out of 19, the 4/24th Ligne and 4/28th Léger, each
  with 6 out of 17, and the 4/16th Léger with 6 out of 16. These,
  clearly, were the units that were most engaged. Some belonged to
  Conroux’s, some to Claparéde’s division.

Masséna had evidently considered the capture of the village of Fuentes
as the necessary preliminary for a general attack upon Wellington’s
line. While Ferey and Drouet had been making their last efforts,
Marchand’s and Mermet’s divisions had been halted before the position
of Picton’s and Ashworth’s troops, while Montbrun’s cavalry was facing
the 1st Division. Solignac was visible more to the rear, in front of
Pozo Bello, acting as general reserve. The twenty-four guns belonging
to these units[426] were all brought to the front, and cannonaded
so much of the British line as was visible, doing some little harm.
But they were gradually overpowered by the six batteries[427] which
Wellington had brought up to his front, and finally ceased to fire. The
infantry columns of Marchand and Mermet also suffered appreciably from
the shot and shell, for they were well within range, though too far
off for infantry fire to tell upon them[428]. It is clear that Masséna
refused to attack the front of the 3rd and 1st Divisions till their
flank should be turned on the Fuentes side, and since that necessary
preliminary was never accomplished, the frontal assault was never
delivered, though three divisions stood ready to make it. The only
move on this side, during the hours after noon, was that on the extreme
left of the French line some voltigeurs, apparently from Mermet’s
division, were sent down into the ravine of the Turon, and tried to
push up it, as if to turn the right flank of the Guards brigade. They
were, however, soon stopped by five companies of the 95th Rifles, whom
Craufurd had left to block the passage up this low-lying part of the
British position; no serious attempt was made to reinforce the attack,
which soon died down into a mere _tiraillade_.

  [426] Six guns of the cavalry, fourteen of the 6th Corps, four of
  the 8th Corps.

  [427] Bull’s horse artillery troop, Thompson’s and Lawson’s
  companies, and three Portuguese batteries, those of Sequeira,
  Rosado, and Preto.

  [428] Fririon notes that they suffered more than was necessary
  from being in dense masses (p. 207). These two divisions had on
  the 3rd and 5th May 14 officers killed and 38 wounded, according
  to Martinien’s lists. As the total loss of the corps on both
  days was 59 officers and nearly 900 men, and we have to allow
  for Ferey’s loss of 400 men in Fuentes village, it seems that
  Marchand and Mermet must have lost at least as many more.

Masséna’s account of his reasons for refusing to commit himself to
the decisive attack runs as follows in his dispatch to the Emperor:
‘The English general had united in his centre very large forces and
much artillery. I wished to try to pierce his centre, and to drive
the English army towards the lower Coa. The spirit of the troops was
admirable; but I had to assure myself, before making this vigorous
blow, as to the state of my ammunition, for during the course of
this campaign I had seen myself checked repeatedly by insurmountable
difficulties. It resulted from the report which the officer commanding
the artillery submitted to me, that there only remained in the reserve
park four cartridges per man, which might give thirty shots, counting
what was still in the men’s cartridge-boxes. I did not think myself in
a situation to recommence the attack with such a meagre supply, and
decided to send all the empty caissons back to Rodrigo, in order to
bring up more ammunition. Meanwhile I took the necessary measures to
preserve the advantage already gained over the enemy[429].’

  [429] Masséna to Napoleon, Fuentes de Oñoro, May 7: the main
  battle-report.

It is clear that we have not here the whole of the Marshal’s motives
explained. Granting that the reserve of cartridges had run low, the
troops with which he had to deliver the decisive blow were precisely
those who had still plenty of ammunition. Mermet’s[430] and Solignac’s
divisions had not fired a shot; Marchand’s had only been engaged for a
few minutes in Pozo Bello, with the two battalions of the 7th Division
which it had evicted from that village. It is true that Ferey’s,
Claparéde’s, and Conroux’s troops, which had made the successive
attacks on Fuentes, must have been not only exhausted in morale but
very short of ammunition by this moment. But why had not the attack by
the three intact divisions been made before the troops to their right
had been completely used up? Clearly because Masséna refused to deliver
the frontal assault till the flanking movement had been successful, and
Wellington’s left-centre had been driven from the village. There were
several hours about noon during which the troops of Marchand, Mermet,
and Solignac remained halted in front of the allied line, while furious
fighting was going on in Fuentes. If the Marshal did not let them
loose upon the enemy during that long space of time, it was because he
thought the attack hopeless. The explanation appears clearly enough in
the narrative of his aide-de-camp Pelet: ‘The Marshal came to the front
when this sort of defile had become already impregnable; a _tiraillade_
was already established; he threw himself off his horse, and,
accompanied only by myself, walked several times up and down the front
of the line, to look for a point where he could break in. But the whole
position seemed equally strong; the fire of the enemy upon Fuentes, and
the reinforcements which he had sent into the village, drew in that
direction the bulk of the French divisions. Everything had come to turn
upon the _affaire de poste_ in that direction. It was necessary to
force the village and the ravine at its back, where all the ground was
in favour of the enemy. The day slipped by in vain attacks[431].’

  [430] Save the few voltigeur companies from Mermet sent down to
  skirmish with the 95th rifles in the ravine of the Turon, as
  mentioned just above.

  [431] Pelet, _Appendice sur la Guerre d’Espagne_, p. 341.

If Masséna did not move his main body at noon, when the British were
waging a doubtful contest in Fuentes, it would have been idle to strike
after two o’clock, when the attack on the village had utterly failed.
The fact was that he had staked everything on the capture of Fuentes,
and had seen at an early hour that he dared not send forward Marchand,
Mermet, and Solignac, till the village should have been taken and
Wellington’s flank turned. But though three divisions had been used up
one after another against that strong post, they had failed to master
it. The game was up; for to deliver the front attack when the flank
attack had failed would have been hopeless. The only chance that
the Marshal had of success was to make the two attacks simultaneous:
but he had such a respect for Wellington’s main position that he would
not assail it till it was turned. It never was turned, and so he
never engaged the three divisions that were so long facing it. As a
subsidiary reason for his refusal to strike home, we must undoubtedly
add the fact that he had discovered that he was too weak in guns to
make any proper artillery preparation for an attack on the British
centre. In the course of a long duel his twenty-four pieces had been
overpowered by the thirty-six which Wellington had placed over against
them. They were badly mauled, and largely out of action, by the moment
that the fighting in Fuentes village was over. If the infantry had
advanced, it would have been shot to pieces by the victorious British
artillery, before it could reach the crest of the strong position where
the Anglo-Portuguese battalions lay ranged behind the sky-line.

[Illustration: FUENTES DE OÑORO. May 5th 1811.]

On the northern flank of the British position, where the 5th Division,
about Fort Concepcion, and the 6th Division in front of San Pedro,
watched Reynier’s corps across the steep ravine of the Dos Casas,
nothing of importance happened throughout the day. The opposing
forces were almost equal, each about 10,000 strong, and Reynier had
been ordered to make no more than ‘a general demonstration all along
his line, to support the attack of the main army.’ It was true that
he was also directed to make a parallel movement along the river,
if Wellington should draw in towards Fuentes de Oñoro the troops
immediately opposed to him[432]. But this was never done: Wellington
kept the 5th and 6th Divisions almost in their original positions
throughout the day. A regiment from the latter (the 53rd)[433] was
moved to the edge of the plateau at the north end of Fuentes village,
to keep back any attempt to turn the place on that side--but such an
attempt was not made, and the rest of the division kept its original
place opposite Reynier. The ‘demonstration’ which that general had
been ordered to make was duly carried out, but amounted to nothing
more than the sending of the 31st Léger and two guns from Heudelet’s
division to skirmish, at the edge of the ravine, with the light troops
of the 5th Division on the other side[434]. Some more of the French
regiments deployed, but never came within gunshot. The figures of the
losses on the two sides show how little serious was the engagement:
the 31st Léger lost 4 officers and 48 men killed or wounded; the
light companies of the British 3/1st, 1/9th, 2/30th, and 2/44th, and
of the Portuguese 8th Caçadores lost 27 men. The 6th Division had no
losses at all in its British brigades, and only four men in the 12th
Portuguese line. Reynier has been blamed by some French critics for
not pushing forward a pronounced attack, but it is hard to see how
he could have done more. He was ordered to demonstrate only, not to
commit himself to a real action, unless the British should withdraw
from his front and go towards Fuentes. And as Wellington kept 10,000
men in his front all day, covered by a difficult ravine, he would only
have lost lives, and gained nothing, by engaging. The two divisions
opposite him were numerically as strong as himself, and lay in a most
formidable position. An attack would have been beaten off, while if he
had manœuvred towards Fuentes to join Drouet, the 5th Division could
have crossed the ravine and taken him in the rear. Such a movement
would also have exposed the convoy intended for Almeida, which lay at
Gallegos, to Reynier’s left rear.

  [432] Masséna’s orders (_Archives de la Guerre_) were
  that Reynier ‘fera pour seconder l’attaque de l’armée une
  démonstration générale sur la ligne, et suivra l’ennemi dans tous
  ses mouvements--c’est-à-dire que si les forces qu’il a devant lui
  se porteraient au secours du gros de l’armée ennemie, qui est
  dans la direction de Fuentes d’Oñoro, il les suivrait dans sa
  marche, pour les prendre par la gauche.’

  [433] See Rogerson’s regimental history of the 53rd, p. 58.

  [434] The 8th Caçadores, according to Wellington’s dispatch,
  partly crossed the ravine and fought on the other side. Note that
  he calls them the ‘2nd battalion Lusitanian Legion,’ though that
  had now ceased to be their official designation.

Thus ended the battle of Fuentes de Oñoro: the fight, which had been
hot and well contested down to two o’clock, dying down into a mere
skirmishing between outposts before dusk. The total losses of the
5th had been, on the part of the Allies, 1,452 officers and men, of
whom 192 were killed, 958 wounded, and 255 taken prisoners. That of
the French was 2,192, of whom 267 were killed, 1,878 wounded, and
47 prisoners. On both sides the larger half of the casualties was
incurred in the street fighting that raged up and down the village of
Fuentes for so many hours; as has been already explained, the Allies
lost here 800 men, the French about 1,300. The remaining losses among
Wellington’s men are mainly accounted for by the hustling of the 7th
Division about Pozo Bello, which cost 237 men, by the cutting up of
the light troops of the Guards brigade, where about 100 casualties
took place, and by the hard fighting of the cavalry during the early
part of the day, while they were covering the retreat of the Light
and 7th Divisions, in which they lost 160 men. On the other side the
French, besides their casualties in Fuentes village, had 359 officers
and men of their cavalry put out of action, and some 400 of Marchand’s
and Mermet’s infantry killed or hurt, partly in the storming of Pozo
Bello, but mainly in the cannonade in the afternoon, while they were
standing in column facing Wellington’s second position, which they
were never allowed to attack[435]. Of the 255 prisoners taken from the
Allies, nearly 100 were lost about Pozo Bello by the 7th Division, and
94 belonged to the two companies of the 79th captured in Fuentes de
Oñoro during Ferey’s first attack. Undoubtedly the most surprising item
in the statistics of the day is the small loss incurred by the Light
Division during its retreat to the British lines, wherein, though beset
by 3,000 cavalry and a battery of horse artillery, it counted only 67
casualties[436]. But steady infantry, such as the Light Division, was
invulnerable even to the most daring horsemen, so long as it preserved
its formation in square.

  [435] Marchand’s division shows in Martinien’s lists surprisingly
  heavy casualties, considering that it was but partially engaged
  on the 3rd in support of Ferey, and on the 5th was only actively
  employed in storming Pozo Bello. It had 13 officers killed and
  31 wounded, which ought to imply at least 600 or 700 casualties
  among the rank and file. Apparently there was a disproportionate
  loss in officers, as the whole casualties of the 6th Corps on
  May 5 were only 944 men, of whom at least 400 were in Ferey’s
  division.

  [436] Only 9 hurt in the 43rd, 21 in the 52nd, 13 in the Rifles,
  24 in the two Caçador battalions. And many of these were
  undoubtedly lost in skirmishing, not in the retreat in squares.

On the morning after the battle, dawn showed the two armies still
holding their positions of the preceding night. Masséna had not drawn
back, and the line of his pickets was still covering all the ground
taken from the British on the 5th. The divisions were encamped close
behind, Marchand’s, Mermet’s, and Solignac’s in the edge of the wood
on the near side of Pozo Bello, Ferey’s, Conroux’s, and Claparéde’s on
the heights facing Fuentes de Oñoro, Reynier’s far away to the right.
Nor had Wellington moved a man; but from several hours before daylight
his troops had been employed in entrenching the new front that they
had taken up. This was wellnigh the only occasion during the whole
Peninsular War when Wellington used field-fortification on a large
scale. A trench with the earth thrown outward was constructed from near
Fuentes de Oñoro down to the banks of the Turon--a distance of over a
mile. There was special protection for the six batteries of artillery
distributed down the front, and a great _abattis_ blocking the ravine
of the Turon. The village of Villar Formoso on that stream, somewhat to
the rear of the line, and that of Freneda, on the extreme right, where
the 7th Division lay, had also been put in a state of defence.

Masséna, having failed when the enemy was maintaining a hastily assumed
position, had no intention of attacking it when it was entrenched.
In his dispatch of the 7th he writes: ‘The enemy has passed the
night after the battle in fortifying the crest of the plateau which
he occupies. There are five large works, much artillery is visible,
and trenches for the firing line. He has put up _épaulements_ in the
ravines and behind the rocks; he has barricaded the upper part of
Fuentes de Oñoro village, and Villaformosa; thus he has called to his
aid all the resources of fortifications against an attack that must
be made by main force.’ The idea of relieving Almeida had vanished
from the Marshal’s mind--as is sufficiently marked by the fact that
he ordered the great convoy at Gallegos, which had been collected for
throwing into the fortress, to be distributed for the daily necessities
of the army, which would otherwise have had to be fed by provisions
sent forward from Ciudad Rodrigo. In his report of the battle he states
that his intention is now to withdraw the garrison of Almeida, if he
can manage it, and to have the place blown up. There is no prospect of
dislodging the allied army by a second general engagement; but, by
manœuvring, an opportunity of bringing off Brennier and his men may be
secured. The primary object of the campaign is therefore abandoned; but
the new secondary object of saving the garrison of Almeida may possibly
be secured. In this, as we shall see, the Marshal was to succeed, owing
to the culpable negligence of some of Wellington’s subordinates. The
main purpose of the expedition of the Army of Portugal had been foiled;
after the battle the idea of retaining Almeida, as a foothold beyond
the frontier, was given up.

Fuentes de Oñoro has been called the most hazardous of all Wellington’s
fights, and he has often been censured for fighting at all. Success
is not always the best criterion of a general’s dispositions, and in
this case the fact that Masséna was foiled is not enough to vindicate
all his adversary’s arrangements. But when the case against Wellington
is stated by critics like Napier, Fririon, or Pelet, it is necessary
to set forth his defence, which seems an adequate one. Napier blames
his old chief for accepting battle. ‘A mistaken notion of Masséna’s
sufferings during the late retreat induced Wellington to undertake two
operations at the same time[437], which was above his strength, and
this error might have been his ruin, for Bessières, who only brought
1,500 cavalry and six guns to the battle of Fuentes Oñoro, might have
brought 10,000 men and sixteen guns.’ He erred in sending out Houston’s
division to Pozo Bello, and so extending his line to an unwieldy
length, across ground which, beyond Fuentes, was suitable for cavalry
and lacked defensive strength. By engaging the 7th and Light Divisions
on this _terrain_ he gave the enemy ‘great advantages, which Napoleon
would have made fatal.’ He took up a position which would have allowed
Masséna to detach some of his numerous squadrons round his right flank,
by the Sabugal and Sequeiro bridges, to destroy his magazines at Guarda
and Celorico, break his communication, and cut up the transport in
the rear of the allied army. But, says Napier, ‘with an overwhelming
cavalry on suitable ground, the Prince of Essling merely indicated, as
it were, the English general’s errors, and stopped short when he should
have sprung forward.’

  [437] The blockade of Almeida and the siege of Badajoz by
  Beresford.

To this it may be answered, firstly, that Wellington would not have
fought, if Bessières had brought 10,000 men instead of the two cavalry
brigades which actually accompanied him. He states in his dispatch to
Lord Liverpool of May 1st that he is prepared to abandon the blockade
of Almeida ‘if the enemy have such a superiority of force as to render
the result of contest for that point doubtful.’ He also states that he
is aware that Masséna might be reinforced by detachments of the troops
under Bessières, which would include some of the Imperial Guard. On
May 2nd[438] his intelligence through Spanish sources was sufficiently
good to enable him to know that very little of the Army of the North
had actually moved. If one or both of the Guard infantry divisions
had marched for the frontier a week before the campaign began, it is
perfectly certain that he must have heard of it, for such a force would
have taken long to advance from Valladolid to Ciudad Rodrigo, or still
longer from Burgos to Ciudad Rodrigo. There were secret agents at
Salamanca and most of the other towns of the Douro valley, who would
certainly have taken care that such a piece of information should reach
the hands of Wellington. He fought because he was aware that the force
opposed to him practically consisted of the Army of Portugal alone.
It will be remembered that, before his short visit to the Alemtejo
in April, he gave Sir Brent Spencer elaborate directions as to the
position which he was to take up, in case the French should come in
overwhelming force to relieve Almeida during his own absence. Spencer
was directed to leave the road open, and to draw back to a defensive
position covering the allied lines of communication[439]. And this no
doubt is the policy which Wellington would have adopted, if Bessières
had brought up the infantry of the Imperial Guard to Masséna’s help.
Of this the best proof is that he actually followed this plan in
September, at the time of the El Bodon fighting, when Dorsenne,
Bessières’s successor, came up to the help of the Army of Portugal with
a large force.

  [438] _Dispatches_, vii. 515.

  [439] See p. 298 above.

Napier’s second criticism is of more validity. The placing of the
7th Division at Pozo Bello did extend the front of the army into
indefensible ground. But, as has already been pointed out, Wellington’s
intention was not to fight with the 7th Division in such a position,
if the enemy made a wide flanking movement with a very large force.
Houston’s battalions and their cavalry supports were to guard against
any attempt to turn Fuentes de Oñoro by a mere detachment, operating
on a short circle. For this the force sufficed: that, though it was
assailed by three infantry divisions and 3,000 cavalry, it came off
with a loss of only 400 men, and assumed the new position allotted to
it in due course, is surely a testimony to the fundamental soundness
of Wellington’s tactics. Flanking detachments must withdraw if
hopelessly outnumbered; but that is no reason for saying that such
detachments must never be made. Montbrun’s cavalry sought every
possible opportunity to act against the 7th and Light Divisions, but
had no success save in the one case where they caught two battalions
in scattered fragments evacuating a village--even there, owing to the
splendid succour afforded by the British cavalry, they did not destroy
the unlucky troops, but only cut up 150 of them. The moral is the old
one, that cavalry unsupported is helpless against a steady force of all
arms, even when it is in movement over open ground. Inferior though the
British horsemen were in number, they gave an invaluable support to the
infantry, which was never seriously incommoded during its retreat.

But, it is urged[440], the Light and 7th Divisions might have been in
great peril if Marchand’s and Mermet’s infantry had followed Montbrun’s
cavalry with all speed, and pursued the retiring British, instead
of drawing up in front of Wellington’s left centre, to the south of
Fuentes village. Masséna seems to contradict the possibility of this in
his dispatch, where he says that ‘the 1st and 2nd Divisions of the 6th
Corps followed the movement of the cavalry _as much as it was possible
for infantry in column to do_,’ and again: ‘This superb movement [of
the cavalry] was stopped; and _before our infantry could arrive_ the
enemy had the time to cover the crest of his plateau with several lines
of English infantry and a formidable force of artillery[441].’ It seems
probable that there was actually not time for Marchand and Mermet,
coming out by narrow swampy paths from the woods of Pozo Bello[442],
and forced to get into order in the open ere they could move on, to
catch up Craufurd and Houston before they were safe in their appointed
positions. Moreover, if they had hurried after Montbrun they would have
been making a flank march across the front of Wellington’s new line,
and exposing themselves to the possibility of a ruinous counter-stroke,
like that delivered at Salamanca a year later.

  [440] Both by Napier, iii. 152, and by Fririon, p. 207.

  [441] See his dispatch in the Appendix to Belmas, i. p. 539.

  [442] Moreover, Marchand’s leading brigade, that of Maucune, must
  have been in great disorder, after having driven the British
  advanced guard out of the woods and the village, and would need
  time to re-form.

Apparently then, on Masséna’s own showing, the advance of Montbrun was
too rapid for the infantry to join him, and if so, the dismal picture
drawn by Napier of the cavalry and the Light Division overwhelmed by a
combination of Montbrun and Marchand, and hurled in disorder against
the 1st Division in its position on the plateau, must be overdrawn. It
is rash to criticize Wellington as a tactician, when (as in this case)
he was moving troops under his own eye, on ground where calculations
of time and pace were simple. If, from his commanding position on the
edge of the plateau, he had judged that the French infantry were close
enough to Montbrun to give him effective support, he certainly would
not have sent out Craufurd to succour Houston, but would have allowed
the latter to make the best retreat that he could towards the Turon and
Freneda. But Wellington evidently judged that the 7th Division could
be brought off without too much risk, and he knew that Craufurd and
his veterans could be trusted even in the most delicate situations. No
amount of cavalry could harm them, and if the French infantry were far
enough away, the operation would be in reality much less hazardous than
it looked.

When once the Light and 7th Divisions had got to their appointed
places in the new line, it is hard to see that Masséna could have
done anything against Wellington’s front, which was well established
on a commanding ground, with a steep slope in front, and a superior
artillery ranged along the crest. The Marshal himself, as we have
seen, after inspecting the new position in person, thought that
Fuentes village was the crucial point, and had turned three divisions
against it. Undoubtedly, if he could have taken it, the position of
the Allies would have been much altered for the worse. But it was a
very strong post--as is sufficiently shown by the fact that 4,000
men held it against nearly double numbers for six or seven hours.
Indeed, its importance may be compared with that of Hougoumont in
the battle of Waterloo--it forced the attacking party to use up a
disproportionate number of men against an outwork, whose occupation was
absolutely necessary as a preliminary for the general attack which was
contemplated. The infantry of the French left could not assail the 1st
and 3rd Divisions with any reasonable prospect of success till Fuentes
was carried, and, as it was never carried, the attack could not be
delivered.

As to Napier’s suggestion that Masséna might have used some of his
superabundant cavalry for a raid against the Sequeiro and Sabugal
bridges, and the communications of the allied army, it is clear that
the move was feasible, but there is no reason to suppose that it
would have been effective. The moment that the force--say a couple
of brigades--got to the Coa it would have been in the narrow and
difficult roads of the mountains--liable to be stopped by the breaking
of the first bridge, or the barricading of the road by the first bands
of Ordenança that it ran against. Cavalry raids to the rear may be
effective in the plains, but in a country like northern Portugal they
are of very doubtful expediency. The military historian will remember
how fruitless in the end were all the brilliant expeditions of J. E.
B. Stuart and Morgan in the American Civil War; though they did much
damage to trains and convoys, they had practically no effect on the
general results of the campaign. Moreover, any expedition to places so
remote as Celorico or Guarda would have taken many days, and Masséna
had no time to waste; considerations of supply pressed him to make a
speedy end to the campaign. On the whole, Napier’s criticism seems
unconvincing on this point.

As to Pelet’s and Fririon’s and Delagrave’s carpings at Wellington,
they seem to be based on a radical ignorance of the force which he
had at his disposal. He may be proved as rash or as timid as the
critic pleases, if it is presupposed that he had 50,000 men, as some
French writers assert, or horsemen superior in numbers to his enemy,
as others have the face to set forth[443]. If the allied army had
possessed an adequate cavalry, or two infantry divisions more than
it actually contained, we may be sure that the fight would have taken
a very different aspect. It was the balance of numbers which forced
Wellington to assume a purely defensive position. The critic who urges
that Masséna might have left the 2nd and 9th Corps alone in front of
the allied position, and have marched with 15,000 men of the 6th and
8th Corps on Castello Bom, taking Freneda on the way, is perhaps the
most unreasonable of all--for he would have had the Marshal divide
his forces into two groups separated from each other by many miles,
with nothing to close the gap. This would surely have led to prompt
disaster. It is clear that Wellington could have overwhelmed the
containing force, or have crushed the turning force, at his choice.
This plan ignores the serious chance of a counter-attack on the part
of the British general--a possibility which does indeed seem to have
escaped the imaginations of many a French general down to the day of
Salamanca. It was deeply rooted in their minds that he was a fighter on
the defensive; they had yet to learn that when the chance was given him
he could be as formidable on the offensive.

  [443] Pelet thinks that ‘l’excessive supériorité du général
  anglais lui donnait le moyen de tout entreprendre. Il s’est
  montré, dans cette campagne, et même ailleurs, fort étranger à la
  stratégie comme à la tactique.’ He concludes that Wellington with
  his superior numbers should have attacked the French centre or
  Reynier! He was ‘plus fort des deux cinquièmes que les Français.’
  (_Appendice sur la Guerre d’Espagne_, pp. 340-2.) Fririon states
  as an incontestable fact that the French cavalry was inferior
  to the English in numbers (_Journal historique de la Campagne
  de Portugal_, p. 207). Marbot, on the other hand, thinks that
  Wellington was over rash in fighting at all on such a position
  (_Mémoires_, ii. 460), coming to much the same conclusion as
  Napier. Belmas’s arguments, like those of Pelet, are all vitiated
  by his giving Wellington 45,000 men--9,000 more than he actually
  possessed. Delagrave thinks, like Pelet, that Wellington showed
  ‘timidity which passed into cowardice.’ Yet he allows that
  Masséna had 41,000 infantry and cavalry, without counting gunners
  or sappers, and Wellington only 40,000 (p. 239).



SECTION XXVI: CHAPTER IV

BRENNIER’S ESCAPE FROM ALMEIDA. MAY, 1811


The 6th of May went by without any sign of movement on the part of
the French. Wellington watched with anxiety for the indications of
an extension of the enemy’s front to north or south. But not even
a cavalry picket was shown to the right of Nava de Aver, or to the
left of Fort Concepcion; reconnaissance on the flank showed that the
French remained concentrated in their old positions. It was clearly
improbable that Masséna was about to risk another frontal attack: and
if, as was more likely, he was intending to try some other way of
reaching Almeida than that which runs through Fuentes de Oñoro, it was
odd that he should not start upon it at once. On the 8th, however,
it became obvious that the enemy considered himself beaten, and was
already retreating; at dawn it was found that the 6th and 9th Corps
had disappeared from in front of Fuentes de Oñoro and the entrenched
position to its right. Only part of the 2nd Corps was still keeping
its ground in front of Alameda. The columns of Drouet and Loison
were detected by exploring officers in the woods towards Espeja and
Gallegos; Reynier was acting as a covering force to protect their
withdrawal, and would have vanished at once if he had been attacked in
force.

Masséna, in fact, had only lingered on the fighting-ground during
the 6th and 7th in order to organize his retreat. He had ordered the
great convoy of food, which had been brought up to Gallegos, to be
distributed among the corps, since there was no longer any hope of
throwing it into Almeida, and had sent back his artillery caissons
to Rodrigo to be refilled. They were not to return, as he intended
to pick them up during his retreat. But the main reason why the army
had remained near Fuentes for two days was that an effort had been
made to communicate with General Brennier by stealth, since force had
not availed. By offering a reward of 6,000 francs, the Marshal had
succeeded in finding three soldiers who volunteered to attempt to pass
through the British lines by night bearing a cipher dispatch. Chance
has preserved their names, Zaniboni, Lami, and Tillet. The first two
disguised themselves as Spanish peasants, but were both detected and
shot as spies. The third, a private in the 6th Léger, retained his
uniform and crawled for some miles down the bed of the Dos Casas ravine
in the dark, only emerging from it when he got some way beyond Fort
Concepcion. From thence he made his way to Almeida before dawn, by
creeping on all fours though fields of corn. The dispatch which he bore
to the governor directed him to evacuate the place and escape as best
he could; he was recommended to try a northerly line, and to make for
the bridge of Barba del Puerco, where Reynier’s corps was to be placed
from the 8th onward. By taking this route he would avoid the main body
of the allied army, as there seemed to be nothing but cavalry vedettes
north of Fort Concepcion. Brennier was instructed to acknowledge the
receipt of the message, by firing three heavy salvos at five minutes’
intervals from his heaviest guns at 10 o’clock at night. This he did,
and it was their sound which enabled Masséna to retreat during the
dark hours which followed, with a knowledge that his orders had been
received and that the garrison would try to escape. During the next
day (May 8th) the 6th and 9th Corps recrossed the Azava and retired to
Ciudad Rodrigo. Reynier with the 2nd Corps, moving later, and taking a
separate route, marched by the bridge of Barba del Puerco, further down
the Agueda, and placed himself at San Felices, just beyond the stream.

Wellington, on seeing the French fall back to their point of starting,
thought that Almeida and its garrison were now his own--and so they
should have been if his subordinates had acted with common ability. He
pushed forward his advanced posts to the Azava and the Agueda in face
of the retiring enemy, but sent back the whole 6th Division to relieve
Pack’s Portuguese in the task of blockading Almeida. General Campbell
took over the command from Pack on the 10th, and disposed his three
brigades round the place in what he considered a satisfactory and
scientific fashion. It appears, however, that he cantoned them, for
convenience sake, much too far out, and neglected the usual precaution
of pushing pickets close up to the walls every night, to watch the
garrison during the dark hours. The regiments were placed in villages
three or four miles from the town, and the connecting screen of pickets
between them was thin. Pack’s Portuguese were moved by Campbell to
Cinco Villas, four miles north-west of Almeida. Of Burne’s brigade the
2nd regiment was nearest Almeida, on the road that goes out towards
the north, the 36th at Malpartida close by. The other British brigade
(Hulse’s) was facing the south side of the fortress at a considerable
distance; the Portuguese of the division (Madden’s brigade) were at or
near Junca on the east front.

Brennier was determined to do his very best to carry out the dangerous
task which had been set him. Not only would he carry off his garrison,
but he would leave Almeida a wreck behind him. The 8th and 9th of May
were employed in driving mines into the whole of the enceinte, and in
disabling as much of the artillery as was possible in the time. Some
of the pieces were merely spiked, others had their bores choked also;
many were disabled by the ingenious plan of firing several pairs of
guns simultaneously, with the muzzles of some placed at right angles
to those of the others, so that while half the shots flew outwards,
the other half struck and disabled the guns against which they were
aimed. The besiegers had detected that there was something odd in these
salvos, but thought that they were signals to Masséna--as indeed the
firing on the night of the 7th had actually been.

At about 11.30 on the night of the 10th, the French came out of the
north gate of Almeida in two columns, one formed of the battalion of
the 82nd Line, the other of the provisional battalion, artillery, and
sappers who formed the larger half of the garrison, which numbered
something over 1,300 men. The two columns, which marched close
together, parallel with each other, struck the cordon of the blockading
line near the point where the pickets of the 1st Portuguese, belonging
to Pack’s brigade, joined with those of the 2nd Queen’s of Burne’s.
Rushing violently on, they pierced the line, with nothing more than
a splutter of musketry from the few Portuguese sentries immediately
opposed to them, who were trampled down or driven off. Five minutes
after, a tremendous series of explosions from Almeida startled the
whole of the blockading force: the mines left behind by Brennier had
worked, and the greater part of the eastern and northern fronts of
the place had been blown up. On the south side something had gone
wrong with the fuses, and little damage was done: but the fortress was
effectively ruined.

Brennier should have been caught if the officers entrusted with the
blockade had shown ordinary wisdom, for he was plunging into the midst
of 6,000 men, and, if Wellington’s orders had been properly carried
out, he could never have reached his destination. The main blame for
his successful evasion seems to rest on the shoulders of Colonel
Iremonger of the Queen’s regiment, and General Erskine. The former, who
was nearest of all the blockading battalions to the point of Brennier’s
exit, merely put his men under arms, and sent out patrols both towards
Almeida and to right and left. They came back after long delay,
reporting that the town seemed to have been evacuated, and that the
French had apparently got off to the north and were out of sight. Even
at dawn Colonel Iremonger had made no movement, yet his battalion of
all the division had the best chance of pursuing the enemy. Erskine’s
responsibility is still heavier: he had been directed by a written
order, on the afternoon of the 10th, to extend the line of the 4th
Division as far as the bridge of Barba del Puerco, and in particular
to send the 4th regiment under Colonel Bevan to the rocky defile which
overhangs that bridge.[444] Having, apparently, received the dispatch
at four o’clock, he detained it (unopened according to some accounts)
till long after dusk, when he forwarded directions to the 4th regiment
to move to Barba del Puerco. Colonel Bevan, not receiving the order
till late at night, took upon himself the responsibility of ordering
that the battalion should only move at daybreak. Wherefore there were
no troops holding the defile at the critical moment.

  [444] Wellington says (to Lord Liverpool, May 15): ‘Sir W.
  Erskine was dining with Sir Brent Spencer at head quarters, and
  received his orders about 4 o’clock. He says that he sent them
  off forthwith to the 4th regiment, which was stationed between
  Aldea de Obispo and Barba del Puerco.... The 4th regiment, it is
  said, did not receive their orders before midnight, and, though
  they had only 2½ miles to march, missed the road, and did not
  arrive at Barba del Puerco till after the French.’ (_Dispatches_,
  vii. 566.) Tomkinson’s contemporary comment on this is (pp. 102-3
  of his diary): ‘The order reached Sir W. Erskine’s quarters
  about 2 p.m.: he put it in his pocket, and did not dispatch the
  letter to Colonel Bevan before midnight, and to cover himself,
  when required to explain by Lord Wellington, said that the 4th
  unfortunately missed its way, which was _not_ the case.’ Many
  years later (1836) in his _Conversations with Lord Stanhope_
  (which see, p. 89) Wellington said that he believed Bevan had
  his orders ‘about four or five in the afternoon, but the people
  about him said “Oh! you need not march till daybreak,” and so by
  his fault the French got to Barba del Puerco.’ Napier (_History_,
  iii. p. 156) says plainly that ‘Erskine sent no order to the 4th
  regiment.’ Colonel Bevan always maintained that he got nothing
  from Erskine till nearly midnight.

For the first few miles of his retreat Brennier was followed only by
General Pack, who had caught up eighty men of the main picket of the
1st Portuguese, and hurried after the retreating columns, after sending
word to Campbell at Malpartida of the enemy’s general direction. Pack
kept up a running fire for several hours, and took many stragglers and
all the French baggage; but, by the orders of their commander, the
retreating columns did not wait to beat off the teasing force which
pursued them, or even fire a shot in return. Towards daybreak Pack
found himself near Villa de Ciervo, with only a major and eleven men
left in his company, but still close on the heels of the French. In
this village there was a troop of the 1st Royals, watching the line of
the Agueda; they turned out on hearing the firing, demonstrated against
the flying enemy, and detained him for a few useful minutes; but fifty
dragoons could do nothing against two battalion columns. However, with
the growing light, more British troops were seen hurrying up. General
Campbell, on getting Pack’s message, had come on rapidly with the 36th
regiment from Malpartida, and was within a mile of Brennier, when the
latter turned down to the defile which leads to the bridge of Barba
del Puerco. At the same time the 4th, so unhappily absent up to this
moment, were perceived approaching from the south, parallel with the
course of the Agueda, while a squadron of Barbaçena’s dragoons and some
Portuguese infantry were visible in a north-westerly direction. If
Brennier had allowed himself to be detained for half an hour longer, at
any moment in his retreat, he would have been a lost man. But, as it
was, his leading column was nearing the bridge before the British got
within touch of him.

General Campbell had ordered the 36th to throw off their packs and run,
when he saw how close the French were to safety, and the regiment,
followed by the 4th, which came up a minute later, struck the second
French column just as it was descending to the bridge. Fired upon and
charged on the steep road, the battalion broke, and many men, trying
to find short cuts down the precipitous hillside, lost their footing,
and fell down the rocks. There were some broken necks and many broken
limbs, while other fugitives fell into the river and were drowned.
Meanwhile a heavy fire was opened on the pursuers from the opposite
bank. Reynier, who (as he had been ordered) kept a good watch on the
bridge from San Felices, had sent down three battalions of the 31st
Léger and some guns to receive the flying garrison. They had lined the
bank, and were ready to defend the defile. Colonel Cochrane, of the
36th, without Campbell’s orders, took upon himself to try to force a
passage through the covering force, and led a mixed mass of his own
regiment and the 4th across the bridge, and up the opposite slope. They
were repulsed with loss by the 31st Léger; the casualties in this rash
enterprise were the only ones suffered by the British that morning, and
amounted to eighteen killed and wounded, and an officer and sixteen men
taken prisoners. Pack’s Portuguese had lost some fifteen men when their
picket line was forced at midnight, so that the total casualties of the
Allies were about fifty.

Brennier’s columns had of course suffered far more--but it was a
scandal that a single man had escaped. He states his loss in his report
to Marmont at 360 men out of 1,300, of whom over 200 were prisoners and
150 killed or wounded. The _commandant de place_ of Almeida and twelve
other officers were taken. Reynier says that when General Campbell
had withdrawn his troops from the water’s edge, and up the cliff, out
of the range of the French cannon, he sent a party across the bridge
to bring in the wounded, and that they found quite a heap of men with
broken limbs at the foot of the precipice, whom they dragged out from
among the dead and brought back with them. There were some few English
and Portuguese in this ghastly pile, who had lost their footing in
reckless pursuit of the flying enemy and had fallen with them[445].

  [445] Marbot’s well-known narrative of this disaster (ii. 473)
  errs in exaggerating the numbers, but Reynier’s dispatch shows
  that there was a solid foundation for what might otherwise have
  appeared a rather lurid picture.

Wellington gave it as his opinion that the escape of the garrison
of Almeida was ‘the most disgraceful military event’ that had yet
occurred to the British army in the Peninsula, and it is easy to
understand his wrath. Campbell had been warned that Brennier might
very probably attempt to escape; Erskine had been told to guard the
defile of Barba del Puerco. The former kept his troops too far back
from the place, and so disposed them that there was nothing directly
behind the cordon of pickets, at the point where Brennier broke out,
save the main-guard of the 1st Portuguese. He also watched the south
and west sides of Almeida with unnecessary numbers--for it was unlikely
that the governor would choose either of those points for his sortie.
But he clearly did his best to pursue when the alarm came, and was
the first to appear at Barba del Puerco with the 36th. The colonel
of the 2nd regiment was much more to blame than his chief, since he
was close to the original point where the French appeared, but merely
collected his battalion at its head quarters and made no attempt to
pursue. In his exculpatory letter to General Campbell he ‘thinks that
he has explained everything satisfactorily[446],’ but he clearly does
not show that he made an adequate attempt to face the situation, which
demanded a rapid pursuit. An extraordinary chance happened to another
regiment of the 6th Division: Colonel Douglas, with the 8th Portuguese,
was at Junca, some way to the east of Almeida. He started off at the
first alarm, and with proper military instinct marched for Barba del
Puerco. Having good guides he reached the bridge before daybreak, but
could see nothing of Brennier (who was still some miles away near Villa
de Ciervo). Finding the defile all quiet, and no French visible save
Reynier’s cavalry picket on the other side of the water, he concluded
that he had come upon the wrong track, and turned back across the Dos
Casas to look for the garrison elsewhere[447]. If he had been a trifle
less prompt, he would have found Brennier running into his arms. This
was sheer bad luck. But clearly the main blame lay with Erskine, who
kept an important order back for six or seven hours, and was the person
directly responsible for the fact that the bridge of Barba del Puerco
was not watched, according to the precise direction issued by the
Commander-in-Chief.

  [446] Colonel Iremonger to Campbell, printed in _History of the
  2nd Regt._, vol. iii. p. 190.

  [447] Wellington to Lord Liverpool, vii. p. 566.

Wellington summed up the affair in a confidential letter to his
brother[448] with the bitter words: ‘I begin to be of the opinion that
there is nothing so stupid as “a gallant officer.” They (the blockading
force) had about 13,000 men[449] to watch 1,400, and on the night of
the 10th, to the infinite surprise of the enemy, they allowed the
garrison to slip through their fingers and escape.... There they were,
sleeping in their spurs even, but the French got off.’ The two officers
who bore the brunt of their chief’s wrath were not--as might have been
expected--Erskine and Iremonger, but Cochrane and Bevan. The former,
for his ill-advised attempt to cross the bridge, got a withering rebuke
in a general order. The latter found that his statement that Erskine’s
dispatch did not reach him till midnight was disbelieved: threatened
with being brought before a court of inquiry, he committed suicide at
Portalegre, while the army was on its march to the south a few weeks
later. Public opinion in the army held that he had been sacrificed
to the hierarchical theory that a general must be believed before a
lieutenant-colonel[450].

  [448] _Supplementary Dispatches_, vii. p. 123.

  [449] Counting the 4th Division, which was hardly, however, part
  of the ‘blockading force.’

  [450] For statements showing that every one believed Erskine
  to be the responsible person see Stepney, p. 105: ‘instead of
  promulgating the orders the general, it is said, put them in
  his pocket and forgot them.’ George Simmons (p. 174): ‘Bevan
  was too late owing to Sir W. Erskine, by accident, not sending
  him an order in time.’ Charles Napier (_Diary_, p. 173), ‘It is
  said that Sir Wm. Erskine is to blame, and next to him General
  Campbell.’

It will have been noted that Brennier’s report of his hazardous
exploit, for which Napoleon very deservedly promoted him to the rank
of general of division, was sent in, not to Masséna but to Marmont.
The Prince of Essling had ceased to command the Army of Portugal a few
hours before the explosion at Almeida. It will be remembered that the
Emperor had made up his mind to supersede the old Marshal on April 20,
and had entrusted the dispatch to General Foy, who (travelling with his
usual headlong speed) reached Ciudad Rodrigo on the afternoon of May
10th. Marmont, who declares that he had no idea that he was to take
over any charge greater than that of the 6th Corps, had reached Rodrigo
two days before, and had reported his arrival to Masséna when the
latter entered the fortress on May 8th. When Foy delivered the fatal
dispatch to his old chief, the latter vented himself in loud outbursts
of wrath, and declared that he had been maligned to the Emperor[451].
He accused Foy of having given an ill account of his late campaign to
their master, and so of having caused his fall. And he added insult to
injury by pointing out that the envelope of the dispatch was torn, and
insinuating that the bearer had picked it open, in order to read its
contents on his journey. Aghast at these accusations, which seem to
have been no more than the angry inspirations of the moment, Foy wrote
a long letter of remonstrance and self-justification to the Marshal,
but got no satisfaction thereby. Masséna’s own character was such that
it was natural for him to suspect double dealing and dishonourable
conduct on the part of others. The reasons which probably brought
about his recall at this particular moment have been explained in an
earlier chapter[452]. They were the Emperor’s verdict on the campaign
of Portugal. His lieutenant had failed and had lost the confidence of
his army, therefore he must be recalled. Masséna had done far more than
any other general could have accomplished, and he had, in effect, been
sent to essay the impossible. His master far more than himself was
responsible for the failure; but this the Emperor could not, or perhaps
would not, see. The recall was now necessary, for the old Marshal’s
bolt was shot, and it was clear that after Fuentes de Oñoro he could
not have got any more good work out of his army.

  [451] See Foy’s _Vie Militaire_, p. 114, and Appendix no. 49.

  [452] See pp. 295-6 above.

His successor, Marmont, was a far younger man, aged only thirty-six,
and promoted to his marshalship so late as 1809. He was one of
Napoleon’s earliest followers, and had seen his first service under
him as lieutenant of artillery at Toulon. Having fought all through
the Italian campaign of 1796-7, he had followed his chief to Egypt,
and had been one of the few officers selected to accompany him in his
surreptitious return to France in 1799. He had served in the campaigns
of Marengo, Austerlitz, and Wagram, but not in the Prusso-Russian War
of 1806-7, during which he had been acting as Governor of Dalmatia. It
was his good service both as general and organizer in that province
which had won him his Illyrian title of ‘Duke of Ragusa.’ Personally
Marmont was the exact antithesis of his predecessor in command: he
was no rough and unscrupulous adventurer, but a well-educated and
cultured gentleman, whose ancestors had served the old monarchy in the
army and the law. Of all the marshals, he and St. Cyr are the only
two whose writings give the impression of real literary ability. His
autobiography displays his character in all its strength and weakness;
it shows him brilliant, active, ingenious, and plausible, but absurdly
vain and self-satisfied. The Spanish chapters of it form one of the
best and most convincing indictments of Napoleon’s policy in the
Peninsula, and he supports every deduction by original documents in
the true historical method. But he is such a whole-hearted admirer of
himself and his achievements that he can never realize his own faults
and failures. Nothing that he ever did was wrong--even the loss of the
battle of Salamanca, entirely his own work, can be shifted on to the
shoulders of his subordinates. And he has no sympathy and admiration
for any other person in the world. As a bitter critic remarked at
the time of the publication of his bulky memoirs, ‘Marmont is not
only autolatrous, but his autolatry is exclusive and intolerant. Many
conceited men are not incapable of recognizing merit in others; they
can adjust themselves to their equals and respect them. Marmont gets
irritated and angry whenever he runs against another man of parts. He
is a self-lover who has become a general misanthrope; the iconoclast of
the reputations of all other notable persons.’

But Marmont’s jealousy was reserved for those who were important
enough to be considered as rivals. To his subordinates and inferiors
he was kindly and considerate in a patronizing sort of manner. The
diarists who served under him speak with amusement rather than anger
of his grand airs, his elaborate parade and pomp, and the ostentatious
splendour of his field equipage[453]. He was clearly not disliked as
Masséna had been, for he took care of his men as well as of himself,
and was not considered a hard master[454].

  [453] ‘Son tapis chargé de pâtés et d’autres pièces froides très
  belles, servis sur des plats d’argent, était entouré d’assiettes,
  de gobelets, de couverts du même métal. On dîna debout--ce
  qui ne suffit pas pour donner à ce repas de luxe un caractère
  suffisamment militaire.’ Thiébault, iv. p. 514.

  [454] Parquin, who served for some time in his escort squadron,
  calls him ‘très aimé pour les soins qu’il prenait du soldat’
  (_Mémoires_, p. 298), and rather admires him for having nothing
  but silver plate with him when on campaign.

The military capacity of this clever, vain, ostentatious young marshal
has often been undervalued. He was an excellent strategist, who could
grasp and face a situation with firmness and rapidity. He could form
a good plan of campaign, and manœuvre his troops skilfully, as was
sufficiently shown in his movements in June 1811 and July 1812. As an
organizer he cannot be too highly praised: the way in which he refitted
the Army of Portugal within a month of Fuentes, and made it efficient
for a long and difficult march across central Spain, was deserving
of the highest approval. His weak point was in tactical execution.
When he had got his army to the striking point, he was seized with
irresolution, which contrasted strangely with the skill and decision
which he had shown up to that moment. In personal courage he was the
equal of any of his colleagues--but he could not keep a clear head
on a battle morning. Foy, who served under him during the whole of
his command in Spain, sums him up as follows in his diary: ‘Bold and
enterprising till the moment of danger, he suddenly becomes cold and
apathetic when the armies are in presence. In discussion he will not
face the difficulty, but tries to evade it. He is a good, estimable,
and respectable man, but he himself (and many others) have been
entirely deceived as to the value of his talents. He was never born
to be the general of an army. His face expresses too faithfully the
hesitation of his mind. He asks advice too often, too publicly, and of
too many persons. A witty friend said to me in 1806: “Marmont is like
Mont Cenis: in good weather his brow is high and imposing, in times
of storm the clouds wrap it completely round[455].” ... Yet so mobile
is his imagination that, when the crisis is over, he forgets all his
indecision and mental anguish, he effaces from his memory past facts,
and turns to his profit and glory all that has happened, even events
that were unfortunate and disgraceful[456].’

  [455] Foy’s _Vie Militaire_, p. 171.

  [456] Ibid., p. 177, note (1).

Marmont had commanded an army corps with credit; he had even conducted
a little campaign of his own against the Austrians on the Dalmatian
frontier, in 1809, so as to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. But
he was very far from being fit to contend with Wellington, who was
as good a strategist as himself and a practical tactician of a very
different class of merit. He lacked both the imperturbable coolness and
the iron resolution of his opponent--and the first time that they met
in serious combat he was ‘found out,’ and dashed to destruction.

Meanwhile Marmont’s first seven weeks of command were infinitely
creditable to him. He reorganized the Army of Portugal with a rapidity
that disarranged Wellington’s calculations, and he led it to the
strategical point where it was needed, with great swiftness and
skill--as we shall presently see.

The Emperor, in the dispatch which explained to Marmont his duties,
had bidden him drop the organization into corps on which the Army
of Portugal had been hitherto formed, and send home the superfluous
corps-commanders, and any other generals whose absence he desired more
than their presence. Such advice squared with the Duke of Ragusa’s own
ideas, for he disliked to have about him officers who were too high in
rank and seniority to be his humble assistants. Junot and Loison went
back to France at once, and with them nearly all the old divisional
generals: Marmont worked the army with promoted brigadiers. We hear
for the future nothing more of many familiar names--Marchand, Merle,
Mermet, Heudelet, &c. Of the old divisional commanders only Clausel and
Solignac remained. The rest of the new divisions, into which the old
corps were redistributed, were given to men who had entered Portugal
in 1810 at the head of brigades only--Ferey, Brennier, Sarrut, Foy,
Maucune. Reynier stopped a few months more with the army and went off
in July, there being no place for him in the new system. Of the old
superior officers only Montbrun, commanding all the cavalry, remained
with Marmont till the end of the campaign of 1811--there was no one who
could be substituted for him in command of that arm.

In the reorganization of the army the old regimental association in
brigades and divisions were mainly adhered to. The two senior divisions
of the 6th Corps (Marchand’s and Mermet’s original commands) simply
became the 1st and 2nd Divisions of the Army of Portugal, under Foy
and Clausel. The two divisions of the 2nd Corps (late Merle’s and
Heudelet’s) became the 4th and 3rd Divisions of the new organization,
under Sarrut and Ferey[457]. The 8th Corps and Loison’s original
division of the 6th Corps were amalgamated, and made into the 5th and
6th Divisions (Maucune and Brennier). A few small abnormal units, such
as the Légion du Midi and the Hanoverian Legion, horse and foot, were
disbanded, and ceased to exist. All the isolated fourth battalions
of the old 8th Corps had gone down to skeleton units of 200 or 300
strong--their rank and file were drafted into other regiments, their
cadres sent home to France to recruit. In each Line regiment Marmont
reduced the number of field battalions to three or two, and, having
filled them up to a strength of 700 men each, sent back the cadres and
the small remainder of rank and file from the junior battalions to
their dépôts. A fortnight after Fuentes there were not more than 28,000
infantry with the eagles in the Army of Portugal, but there was a great
mass of convalescents in the base hospitals, and of newly arrived
drafts in the governments of Leon and Old Castile, whom Marmont strove,
not at first with great success, to draw to himself and embody in
their regiments. It was hard to get them forward, when every officer
commanding a small post in the rear detained drafts to strengthen his
garrison, and when the Governors of Salamanca and Valladolid wanted to
keep as many recovered convalescents with them as they could retain,
because their governments were undermanned.

  [457] But, for reasons unknown, the 17th Léger, from the original
  division of Heudelet, changed places with the 26th Line from
  Loison’s old division, and went into the new 6th Division.

The cavalry units were in a far worse state than those of the infantry.
Already at Fuentes most of the regiments had shown only two squadrons
for want of horses, and had left behind them in their cantonments
dismounted men in vast numbers. Marmont, seeing it was impossible to
find chargers for them in Spain, was forced to send them all back on
foot to Bayonne, to draw horses from the interior of France. In June
he could put only 2,500 mounted men in the field. The artillery in a
similar fashion was hopelessly short of teams: it could produce only
36 guns (six batteries) properly horsed, though Masséna had started
from Santarem in March with more than 100. Marmont says that the army
returns showed that Masséna had entered Portugal in 1810 with 4,200
artillery horses--of these only 1,400 survived the retreat, and of them
in May only 400 were fit for service[458]. As to the train, it had
vanished altogether, so far as horses and waggons went; the Marshal
says that precisely four waggons were fully horsed and ready for work
when he took over the command. But rest, the return to a land where
food was to be got with ease and regularity, and the opening up of the
dépôts of Salamanca and Valladolid, where uniforms, boots, and pay had
been accumulating, soon did wonders for the army, under the Marshal’s
careful and judicious supervision. By June he was able to take the
field with an army that was restored in morale, and fit for good
service.

  [458] Marmont to Berthier, May 14, from Salamanca.



SECTION XXVI: CHAPTER V

THE BATTLE OF ALBUERA. MAY 16TH, 1811


Soult, it will be remembered, had quitted Estremadura, and handed over
the charge of the troops left therein to Mortier, on March 14th. He
received the news of Beresford’s irruption into the province and of
the combat of Campo Mayor on March 30th, so that from the beginning of
April onward he was aware that it would be incumbent on him to support
the 5th Corps and to relieve Badajoz within a few weeks. That he was
not forced to march back from Seville to the north at once was due to
the breaking of the Jerumenha bridges, which (as we have seen) delayed
Beresford’s advance and the investment of Badajoz for many days. But
by the end of April the danger had grown pressing: Latour-Maubourg
had been thrust out of Estremadura, and (deceived by the movements
of Colborne) reported that the Allies were about to invade Andalusia
also. He had fallen back to Constantina, well within the limits of
that kingdom, and not over forty miles from Seville. Nothing definite
had been heard of Badajoz and its garrison, since the communications
between that fortress and the south had been cut by Beresford’s cavalry
on April 10th. Though its governor, Phillipon, was known to be a man
of resource, and though provisions and military stores (the leavings
of Imaz) were abundant, yet the garrison was small for such a large
place, and Soult was not aware how far the damaged fortifications had
been repaired since his departure. It was clear that he must strike at
Beresford without delay, or the news that Badajoz had been attacked and
captured might come to hand some black morning.

The Marshal’s situation, therefore, on May 1st was not unlike what
it had been at the end of the preceding December, when by the
Emperor’s orders he had been directed to make his first irruption into
Estremadura. He must once more collect from the 70,000 men of the
1st, 4th, and 5th Corps a force sufficient to beat whatever number
of troops the Allies had placed in that province. The task would
clearly be more difficult than it had been in January, for, instead
of 16,000 or 20,000 Spaniards, there were now in Estremadura some
20,000 Anglo-Portuguese, besides the 8,000 men of whom Ballasteros and
Castaños could dispose. Moreover, there was Blake to be taken into
consideration; but the Marshal--badly informed as to the movements of
that general and his corps--thought that he was still so far from the
rest of the Allies that he would not be able to join Beresford for
battle, if the attack upon the latter was pressed with great swiftness
and decision. The only favourable feature in the situation was that
Badajoz was now in French hands, and could not be used (as in February)
for a general rallying-place for the Allies. Campo Mayor and Olivenza
would be of little or no use to Beresford, and, if he made Elvas his
_point d’appui_, he must first evacuate all that lay on the south bank
of the Guadiana. The only alternative for the British general would be
to concentrate and fight at some point where he could cover the siege
of Badajoz. This was the probable course for him to adopt, and Soult
had to calculate the force that he would require in order to make
victory reasonably certain. He fixed it at about 25,000 men--too low
an estimate, as it turned out. It is interesting to note that at the
very moment when Soult was ordering his concentration at Seville, a
dispatch was on the way to him from Napoleon at Paris, dictating the
course which he ought to pursue under the exact circumstances which had
now arisen. ‘Wellington,’ wrote the Emperor on March 30th, ‘has only
32,000 British troops: he cannot make a detachment of more than 8,000
or 9,000 of them, with 5,000 or 6,000 Portuguese added. It is necessary
to keep permanently about Badajoz the value of 15,000 men of all arms,
in good state and of the best regiments, so that at the least movement
of the English on this side the Duke of Dalmatia, taking with him 8,000
or 10,000 men, should be able to concentrate in Estremadura a total of
from 25,000 to 30,000 men. If this exceptional crisis arises, only a
corps of observation must be left on the side of Granada, and it must
be placed under the orders of the Duke of Belluno (Victor). The Duke
of Dalmatia must keep in correspondence, via Madrid, with the Army
of Portugal and the Army of the Centre. The King ought always to keep
a division of 6,000 men between the Tagus and Badajoz, ready to unite
with the Duke of Dalmatia, if it becomes necessary to resist a movement
of the English against Andalusia. But to arrive at this result it is
necessary that the country-side should be entirely disgarrisoned, that
all hospitals and magazines should be concentrated in Seville, and that
Cadiz, Seville, and Badajoz should be the only points to guard, with a
corps of observation at Granada. In this case the Duke of Belluno would
take command of the troops at Seville and Granada, as well as of the
force besieging Cadiz, and the Duke of Dalmatia would only have charge
of the army opposed to the English. Counting the division from the Army
of the Centre, he can easily unite 30,000 to 35,000 men.... In this
case he would be able to resist even 30,000 English, if Lord Wellington
marched against him with his entire army. But this supposition can
never be realized; because, if it happened, the Prince of Essling
(Masséna) would be able to march on Lisbon, and the English would find
themselves cut off from that place, and between two fires[459].’

  [459] Memorandum from Berthier of March 30.

From the first part of Napoleon’s calculations it is clear that he
thought Soult would require about 25,000 men--the 15,000 who were to
be left about Badajoz and the 10,000 who were to be brought up from
Andalusia: they are increased to 30,000 by erroneous addition only.
As a matter of fact Soult, in order to cover Seville and to rescue
Victor, had left only 11,000 men in Estremadura on March 14th, and
3,000 of these were now shut up in Badajoz. But on the other hand he
collected from Andalusia (including Maransin’s column)[460] 16,000
men, so that his fighting force was within a few hundreds of the
25,000 named by the Emperor. The 35,000 spoken of in a later sentence
would only be required, so Napoleon thought, if Wellington came down
to invade Andalusia with all his British troops. We may point out, by
the way, that the Imperial calculations were all wrong in detail, as
was bound to be the case when they were made at Paris on data many
weeks old. Wellington, owing to the reinforcements which had landed
at Lisbon in the first days of March, had now nearly 40,000 British
troops. He had detached 12,000 of them under Beresford[461], and
these were accompanied not by 6,000 Portuguese at the most, as the
Emperor guessed, but by a full 10,000. There was therefore a serious
miscalculation. We may add that if Wellington had taken the unlikely
step of concentrating his whole army against Andalusia, he would
have had not only 38,000 British troops with him, but nearly 25,000
Portuguese troops of good quality[462]. The united force could have
smashed up in one morning’s work the 35,000 French under Soult, whom
the Emperor thought enough to restrain them. But, as Napoleon truly
observed, it was practically impossible for Wellington to make this
move, so long as Masséna’s force was still opposed to him in the north.
It was only when the Army of Portugal moved down to the Guadiana in
June that the British general concentrated practically his whole force
in one line, behind the Caya, in the southern sphere of operations. And
when he had done so the Armies of Portugal and Andalusia united, though
about 60,000 strong, did not dare to attack him. But of this more anon.

  [460] Which belonged to the 5th Corps, and joined it before Soult
  concentrated at Seville.

  [461] Including Alten’s brigade, added later.

  [462] The force under Beresford comprised (figures of March):
  British--2nd Division, 5,500; 4th Division, 4,200; Alten’s
  brigade, 1,100; Cavalry, 1,200; Artillery, &c., 500. Total,
  12,500. Portuguese--Hamilton’s division, 5,000; Harvey’s brigade
  of the 4th Division, 2,900; Collins’s brigade (an extemporized
  unit of which more anon) 1,400; Otway’s and Madden’s cavalry,
  1,000; Artillery, 250. Total, 10,550. The whole, therefore, was
  about 23,000 instead of the 16,000 on which Napoleon calculated.
  At Albuera there were absent from the above one British brigade
  (Kemmis of the 4th Division) and one Portuguese cavalry brigade
  (Madden), nearly 2,000 men in all. Yet Beresford put 20,000
  Anglo-Portuguese in line.

In early May Soult, under-valuing Beresford’s fighting force, thought
that 25,000 men would suffice to sweep him behind the Guadiana, even
when he had the help of Castaños and Ballasteros. The force was
collected in the following fashion: Latour-Maubourg at Constantina had
8,000 men, who had just been rejoined by Maransin’s column, thus the
5th Corps was once more concentrated and complete (with the exception
of five battalions in Badajoz, and one or two more which Soult was
bringing up from Seville). When all came in, the corps amounted to
10,000 men of all arms. The remaining part of the expedition was
made up by requisitioning from Victor’s 1st Corps and the lines
before Cadiz four battalions and two regiments of cavalry[463], and
from Sebastiani’s 4th Corps four battalions and three regiments
of cavalry[464]. Of the independent division under Godinot, which
garrisoned the kingdom of Cordova, Soult took nearly the whole--nine
battalions and two regiments of cavalry[465]. The borrowed troops were
divided into two large brigades (one might better have been called
a small division) under Generals Godinot and Werlé[466], and three
provisional brigades of cavalry. They took five batteries (thirty guns)
with them, to add to the eighteen guns of Latour-Maubourg, and some
companies of sappers and train. The total force available came to just
under 25,000 men, unequally divided in numbers between the 5th Corps
and the Andalusian reserves. The cavalry was very strong in proportion,
about 4,400 sabres[467].

  [463] viz. 16th Léger (3 batts.), _grenadiers réunis_ (1 batt.),
  4th and 14th Dragoons. The 2nd Hussars and 26th Dragoons were
  already with Latour-Maubourg, never having returned to the 1st
  Corps since January. The _grenadiers réunis_ were formed of the
  six grenadier companies of the 45th, 63rd, and 95th of the Line.

  [464] viz. 58th Ligne (3 batts.), one battalion of _grenadiers
  réunis_ (Poles), 1st Lancers of the Vistula, 20th Dragoons, and
  27th _Chasseurs_.

  [465] viz. 12th Léger, 51st and 55th Line (3 batts. each), 17th
  and 27th Dragoons.

  [466] Godinot had the 16th Léger and 51st Line, Werlé the 55th,
  58th Line, and 12th Léger. The two grenadier battalions made a
  general reserve of 1,000 men.

  [467] N.B.--For further details as to the composition of Soult’s
  army see Appendix XVI.

It will be noted that Soult had (as in January) refrained from
adopting the general plan which Napoleon favoured, that of abandoning
all Andalusia save Seville and the Cadiz Lines, and leaving only a
corps of observation at Granada. It is true that the Duke of Dalmatia
took very little from Victor, and left the 1st Corps almost intact
in the lines, but Sebastiani’s 4th Corps was also left only slightly
diminished, and was expected to hold down all eastern Andalusia,
instead of being requisitioned for 10,000 men and reduced to a flying
column as the Emperor would have wished. The unit that had been most
heavily drawn upon was the garrison of the kingdom of Cordova, and
the result of this was that (as in January) very few troops could be
detailed for the defence of Seville, since nearly all that had been
in its neighbourhood were summoned off to Estremadura. The great city
which formed Soult’s base was once more left inadequately defended by
dépôts and drafts, and _Juramentados_ of doubtful fidelity. The Marshal
had lately raised some companies of so-called Swiss[468], deserters of
all nations, and these were also utilized. But the total left under
General Daricau was dangerously small. So keenly was this realized
that the governor was directed to retire within the great fortified
enclosure of the Carthusian convent (_La Cartuja_) if pressed, and all
the military stores had been placed in this immense building, which had
been surrounded with a bastioned enceinte, and armed with cannon, so as
to form a sort of citadel. The Castle of the Inquisition at Cordova in
a similar fashion had been fortified, and converted into a work that
could be held against any irregular force, and similar precautions had
been taken at Jaen, Andujar, Ronda, Alcala Real, and Niebla, to provide
centres of resistance against possible assaults by guerrilleros.
Probably, however, Napoleon was right, and if the minor places and
eastern Andalusia had been evacuated, Soult might have brought 10,000
more infantry against Beresford, in which case the latter would never
have dared to fight him, and must have retired behind the Guadiana.
There would have been no battle of Albuera--but on the other hand all
the evacuated districts would have flared up into insurrection, and it
is difficult to see how Soult could have reconquered them, since he was
to be for several months tied up in operations against the British,
from which he could not have withdrawn a man.

  [468] I cannot find any proper account of these ‘compagnies
  helvétiques’ who were not part of the organized Swiss troops
  in French service. But they are several times mentioned in
  narratives of 1811. See for example Lapéne, p. 238. Presumably
  they were in King Joseph’s service.

But having taken another decision, and resolved to surrender nothing,
the Marshal had only gathered 12,000 men to reinforce the 5th Corps.
They required many days to concentrate, and it was only on May 8th that
he reviewed them in their new provisional brigading at Seville, and
delivered an allocution in which he announced to them that they were
destined to save Badajoz and drive the British from Estremadura, and
that the force would march at midnight on the 10th[469]. This threat
did not escape the Spanish patriots in the city, who passed the news on
so swiftly that Ballasteros was able to forward it to Beresford by the
afternoon of the 12th.

  [469] For details of the allocution to the officers ‘rangés en
  cercle,’ see Lapéne, p. 145.

Having once started, Soult hoped to surprise his enemy by the swiftness
of his movements. The head of the column which marched at 12 p.m. on
the night of the 9th-10th was at Santa Olalla, more than thirty miles
away, on the 11th. The pace had to slacken in crossing the Sierra
Morena, but on the 12th head quarters were at Monasterio (fifteen miles
further on) from which Ballasteros’s scouts withdrew. Latour-Maubourg
and the 5th Corps, far away to the right, had advanced at the same time
from Cazalla and Constantina, and driven Castaños’s advanced posts from
Guadalcanal and then from Llerena. On the 13th the two French forces
joined at Fuente Cantos, and their leading cavalry squadrons reached
Los Santos, from which the 13th Light Dragoons retired. As Wellington
had directed, nearly a month before, in his Elvas memorandum, the
Spaniards made no attempt to check the advance: their cavalry withdrew
as the French pushed forward; their infantry were prepared to fall back
on the rendezvous at Albuera.

From the 13th the British cavalry as well as the Spanish were in
touch with Soult; General Long had been lying about Villafranca and
Los Santos till that day, with three British and four Portuguese
regiments[470]. He retired to Fuente del Maestre, and then to Santa
Marta, contenting himself with reporting the successive advances of
the French to Beresford, who was apparently not over well contented
with his operations on this and the two following days, and thought
that he might have gone back more slowly, and have compelled the
leading squadrons of the enemy to deploy and lose time. At Fuente del
Maestre the allied cavalry split itself up, Madden with two Portuguese
regiments covering the roads to Almendralejo and Solana, while Long and
the main body stayed on the high-road to Badajoz via Santa Marta and
Albuera[471].

  [470] I cannot exactly make out on what day Madden’s weak cavalry
  brigade (4 squadrons 5th and 8th Portuguese) joined Beresford.
  It was not with him at Campo Mayor on March 25th, but was up by
  April 10. Probably it joined before April 1st, as it had been at
  Elvas since the battle of the Gebora.

  [471] For these movements the best authority is Long’s journal,
  on pp. 109-11 of C. B. Long’s _Vindication_ of his relative.

Having such long warning of his adversary’s movements, Beresford was
able to carry out the concentration of his fighting force at leisure.
There was still some uncertainty as to which road the enemy might
choose, three[472] being open to him when his advance had reached
Los Santos, viz. (1) the obvious central and shortest route by
Albuera-Badajoz, (2) the eastern route Solana-Talavera Real-Badajoz,
(3) the western route Almendral-Valverde-Badajoz. The former was rather
circuitous, its main advantage to the French being that it was all
across open flat country, where their superior cavalry would have had
excellent ground; but the Albuera route was not perceptibly inferior
in this respect, as subsequent operations showed. To take the third or
western road, that by Almendral-Valverde (though this is not so long
as that by Solana) would have forced Soult to execute a flank march
across Beresford’s front, and (what probably weighed more with the
French Marshal) would have fixed the decisive spot, where the fate
of the campaign would be settled, nearer to the point towards which
Blake’s army was known to be marching: and Soult still hoped to fight
his battle in that general’s absence.

  [472] D’Urban in his narrative points out seven, but four of
  these were practically impossible.

On the 13th of May Beresford marched out from his lines in front of
Badajoz to Valverde, a point convenient for occupying a position
across two of the possible roads, and not very remote from the third
and least likely one. He took with him the 2nd Division and Hamilton’s
Portuguese, with three batteries. The rest of the army remained before
Badajoz, covering the removal of artillery and stores, but ready to
come up at any moment. On the same afternoon he had a conference with
General Blake, who rode over from Barcarrota. On the following day
Soult’s movement seemed to be growing much slower--the heads of his
columns only reached Fuente del Maestre and Villafranca. The fact, duly
reported to Beresford, that part of the French army had reached the
latter place, which is off the main _chaussée_ to the right, seemed to
make it possible that Soult was, after all, going to move by Talavera
Real. Beresford waited for a more precise indication of his adversary’s
final route, and sent pressing orders to Madden to cover with his
scouts all the open country between Talavera Real and Almendralejo.
Blake on this day, finding that his cavalry could discover no signs
of the French in his front, to the west of the great _chaussée_, drew
in from Barcarrota to Almendral, as he promised to do when he met
Beresford at Valverde on the 12th.

It being perfectly clear by this time that the French were not about
to take the western route, Beresford on the 15th marched the 2nd
Division and Hamilton’s Portuguese to Albuera, where they were joined
by more troops from in front of Badajoz, Alten’s German brigade, and
a provisional brigade of Portuguese under Colonel Collins[473]. Only
the 4th Division and the Spanish brigade belonging to Castaños, lately
arrived from Merida, now remained in front of the fortress--all on the
south bank save Kemmis’s brigade of the first-named unit. The last of
the stores were moved on this day from the trenches to Elvas, and the
flying bridge opposite the mouth of the Caya was taken up. This last
proved a mistake--it was intended that Kemmis should join the army by
using a ford below Badajoz, which had been practicable for the last ten
days; but on the night of the 15th-16th the water rose, and the brigade
was forced to march round by the next passage, that at Jerumenha, which
involved a circuit of thirty miles, and made it late for the battle.
Only three companies, which chanced to be on the south bank of the
Guadiana when the freshet came down, were able to march off with Cole
and the rest of the division, when the order came.

  [473] This brigade, which appears for the Albuera campaign, was
  composed of the 5th Line (2 batts.) from the garrison of Elvas,
  joined by the 5th Caçadores, a detached light battalion which
  had been serving with the cavalry south of the Tagus since last
  November (see vol. iii. p. 557). This temporary brigade must not
  be confused with other units headed by Collins before and after.

About 15,000 men were already in line at Albuera when Soult’s intention
at last became perfectly clear: his _chasseurs_ and hussars vigorously
attacked Long’s horsemen at Santa Marta, and began to drive them along
the _chaussée_. Long made no stand, though, having three British
and two Portuguese regiments (Otway) besides some 600 of Castaños’s
cavalry, he was in considerable strength. ‘He was driven rather faster
than one could have wished, and retiring precipitately crossed the
Albuera stream, and gave up the whole right bank to the enemy. This
haste is a bad thing, because the woods there mask all the enemy’s
movements,’ wrote D’Urban in his diary. Beresford was so vexed with him
that he that night assigned to the command of the cavalry of the whole
allied army General Lumley, who was Long’s senior, leaving the latter
in nominal command of the British horse alone. Lumley, though then in
charge of an infantry brigade in the 2nd Division, was an old light
dragoon, and showed himself next day well able to manage a mass of
mounted men[474].

  [474] In a private letter to Sir H. Taylor, D’Urban uses even
  stronger language: ‘Our cavalry instead of retiring leisurely,
  had fallen back (indeed I may say _fled_) rapidly before the
  advanced guard of the enemy. The left bank of the Albuera was
  given up without the slightest attempt at dispute. This error on
  the part of the officer commanding the cavalry was so completely
  of a piece with his conduct upon more than one previous occasion,
  that it became imperatively necessary to relieve him.’ (D’Urban
  MSS.)

No enemy, save Briche’s light cavalry, came up during the 15th--Soult’s
infantry were far behind, and bivouacked that night at Santa Marta.
Beresford was therefore able to complete his concentration at leisure.
Blake’s army was directed to march up in the afternoon from Almendral,
only five miles away; Cole and the Spanish brigade of Carlos de España,
Castaños’s only infantry force, were directed to break up from the
Badajoz lines and march at 2 a.m. to Albuera. The Spaniards, for some
unknown reason, were very late; Blake only arrived at 11 p.m., and
his troops, encamping in the dark, could not take up the position
assigned to them till daylight. However, he had arrived, which was the
main thing, bringing with him the three infantry divisions of Zayas,
Ballasteros, and Lardizabal, and 1,000 horse under Loy, but only one
battery. Cole reported that he would be on the ground soon after dawn,
but that Kemmis was cut off from him by the rise of the river, so that
he could only bring two brigades instead of three. Orders were also
sent to Madden to close up with his Portuguese horse--but he could not
be found, having most unaccountably crossed the Guadiana to Montijo
with the bulk of his brigade, an eccentric and unjustifiable movement.
Two of his squadrons, however, were met, and sent to join Otway that
night.

The position of Albuera is not a strong or a well-marked one, yet it
is far the best that can be discovered across the Seville _chaussée_
for many miles south of Badajoz. It consists of a long rolling line of
low hills, extending for several miles along the brook which takes its
name from the village. This stream is in spring an insignificant thread
of water, fordable anywhere by infantry or cavalry, and allowing even
guns and waggons to pass at many points, though there are occasionally
long stretches of bank with an almost precipitous drop of ten or twelve
feet, which would stop anything on wheels. The ground on the south-east
or French bank slopes up in a very gentle rise, and is covered in many
places with groves of olives, which make it impossible to take any
general view of the country-side, or to get more than vague and partial
notions as to any movements of troops that may be going on in it. On
the north-west or English bank the rolling heights are completely bare
of trees; except at the village of Albuera there is neither house,
wall, nor bush upon them--nothing taller than a few withered shrubs
three feet high[475].

  [475] This account of the Albuera position was written on the
  spot, and involved a good deal of walking on a blazing April day.
  See note at end of the chapter.

The so-called heights of Albuera are simply an undulation along the
bank of the stream, which rises very slightly above the level of the
plateau that stretches from the position to the descent into the
valley of the Guadiana, thirteen miles away. This ridge or undulation
extends in either direction as far as the eye can reach, with varying
altitude, sometimes only 60 feet, sometimes perhaps 150 feet above the
water’s edge. There are therefore many ‘dips’ on the summit of the
position. The main battle-spot was on the two slopes of one of these
dips, where, between two of the higher knolls of the ridge, there is
a depression perhaps a third of a mile in width. The back-descent of
the heights, to the north-west, in the direction of Badajoz, is even
gentler than that towards the Albuera stream. The ‘ravine of the Arroyo
river,’ marked in Napier’s and other maps, is an absurd exaggeration.
There is simply a slightly curved ‘bottom,’ where a lush growth of
grass along a certain line may indicate the course of a rivulet in
very wet weather. This line has no marked banks, and is as much like
a high-road as a ravine: it would not, even after rain, present any
obstacle to infantry or cavalry moving in mass[476], and it is a
mistake to make it take any prominent part in the history of the battle.

  [476] Either Napier never saw the ground of Albuera (as Beresford
  suggests in the _Strictures on Napier’s History_, p. 207) or else
  he had forgotten it. The only good plan available was D’Urban’s,
  and this Napier used (a copy of it is among his portfolio of maps
  in the Bodleian Library), memory or hypothesis exaggerating into
  hills and ravines the very gentle ups and downs shown on the map.

There is no ravine or ‘dead ground’ of any kind anywhere on either the
French or the English side of the Albuera. The slopes are so gentle
that any spot can be seen from any other. But the French side is
wooded, so that movements of troops are hard to follow, while the other
bank is absolutely bare. There is, however, a ‘sky-line’ on the English
heights, between the dip where the main battle took place and Albuera
village. An observer standing on the point where Soult formed his front
of battle cannot get a view of the English line near the village--to
do so he must ride sideways down towards the water, to look along the
trough of the depression. Hence Soult during the battle cannot have
seen a good deal of what was going on behind the allied front line, but
Beresford, on the sky-line above the north-eastern edge of the dip,
could make out all Soult’s dispositions when the battle smoke did not
hinder him.

Albuera is a big well-built village, with a disproportionately high
church tower. It stands on a knoll of its own, in front of the main
line of the ridge, to which it serves as an outwork, as Hougoumont
did to Wellington’s position at Waterloo. It is well away from the
river bank, perhaps 150 or 200 yards from it; the bridge which brings
the Seville _chaussée_ across the stream is not exactly opposite the
village, but decidedly to the south-east of it.

The Albuera stream is formed by two minor brooks, the Nogales and the
Chicapierna, which meet a little south of the village. Between them
is a low wooded hill, which conceals from an observer on the British
heights the upper course of the Nogales, and part of the woods beyond,
in which the French formed their order of battle. It was behind this
long low knoll that Soult hid his main attacking column. But the
elevation itself is insignificant, and much less effective than the
more distant woods in covering his movement.

Beresford drew up his army on the hypothesis that Soult’s aim would be
to pierce his centre, by capturing Albuera village, and storming the
heights beyond, over which the high-road passes. Years after the battle
had become a matter of history he still maintained[477] that this would
have been his adversary’s best policy, since the place where the road
crosses the position is the lowest and weakest part of the heights, and
a blow piercing the centre of a hostile army is always more effective
than the mere tactical success of turning one of his flanks, which
still leaves everything to be decided by hard fighting, if the attacked
party throws back his threatened wing, and stands to defend himself in
the new position. The ground on the allied right wing he held, on the
other hand, to be higher and stronger: and even if the French got upon
the crest of the heights, the range gave, by reason of its successive
dips, several positions on which a new line could well be formed. I
leave these considerations to the critic, and am not fully convinced by
them.

  [477] _Strictures on Napier’s History_, vol. iii. pp. 233-4.

Beresford’s line was drawn up as follows: on the extreme left, to
the north-east of Albuera, were Hamilton’s Portuguese division, with
Collins’s brigade in support, amounting to eleven strong battalions
in two lines. Beyond them, to guard the flank, were Otway’s weak
Portuguese cavalry brigade and the two stray squadrons of Madden’s. The
whole made only 800 sabres.

The centre was formed of William Stewart’s English division, the
2nd, comprising the three brigades of Colborne, Hoghton, and
Abercrombie[478], ten battalions. In front of them Alten’s two German
battalions occupied Albuera village. The 2nd Division was drawn up
across the high-road, on the reverse slope of the heights; Beresford
had learned from Wellington to hide his men till the actual moment of
conflict, and, as he says with some pride, not a man of Stewart’s or
Hamilton’s divisions was visible, and the only troops under the enemy’s
eye were Otway’s cavalry and the two German battalions in Albuera.

  [478] Who took over Lumley’s brigade when the latter was promoted
  to command the cavalry that morning.

In the rear of Stewart, as general reserve, was Cole’s division from
the siege of Badajoz, which had marched at 2 o’clock a.m. according
to orders and reached the field at 6.30 in the morning. There was
some error in ‘logistics’ here, for Cole ought to have been earlier
on the field. He had fifteen miles to cover, and should have been
started sooner, for preference on the preceding evening, so as to
allow his men time to rest and cook on reaching the position. Having
marched till dawn they then had to lie down in formation, and eat as
best they might, for the French were on the move not very long after
they came up. The division, as already mentioned, consisted only of
Myers’s fusilier brigade (1 and 2/7th Royal Fusiliers and 1/23rd Royal
Welsh Fusiliers) and Harvey’s Portuguese brigade (11th, 23rd, and 1st
battalion Lusitanian Legion). Kemmis with the other British brigade,
save three companies which had followed Myers, was making a fruitless
march against time, round by Jerumenha. With Cole there had also come
up Castaños’s sole contribution of infantry--the weak brigade of Carlos
de España, three battalions with 1,700 bayonets[479].

  [479] The remainder of Murillo’s division of 3,000 men, which
  formed the infantry of the 5th Army, was at Merida, save one
  battalion in garrison at Olivenza.

The right wing of Beresford’s position, the part of it which he thought
least likely to be attacked, was held by Blake’s 12,000 men. Having
encamped anyhow on the hillside, when they arrived at midnight, they
had to be collected and rearranged with much loss of time after
morning broke. Indeed, they had formed their line only about an hour
before the battle began. The three infantry divisions of Lardizabal,
Ballasteros, and Zayas were arranged in succession from left to right,
each with one brigade in first and one in second line. The 1,100
horse of Loy were out on the extreme right, corresponding to Otway’s
Portuguese on the extreme left. Of the rest of the allied cavalry, De
Grey’s 700 heavy dragoons and 600 horse of Castaños’s Estremaduran
force, under Penne Villemur, were in reserve near Cole’s 4th Division.
The 13th Light Dragoons, separated from the other two British
regiments, were watching the course of the Albuera from the bridge
upwards, in front of Blake’s line.

Soult had come prepared to fight on the morrow, as soon as his infantry
should arrive on the field. At nightfall only one brigade of them was
up. The main body had bivouacked at Santa Marta, from whence they broke
up before dawn and marched eleven miles to the battlefield. Werlé’s
reserve, forming the tail of the column, was not closed up till seven
or eight o’clock in the morning. The Marshal was still under the
impression that Blake had not yet arrived, and that Beresford could
not have more than 20,000 men in line opposite him[480]. It is one of
the ironies of history to read in his dispatch that his great flank
attack, which so much surprised Beresford, and caused so much confusion
in the allied army at the commencement of the action, was made with the
intention of cutting in between Beresford and Blake, whom he believed
to be still on the march from the direction of Almendral, some miles
to the south. The Spanish army, having arrived after dark, had never
been seen; and at Beresford’s request Blake had ranged it behind the
sky-line on the crest, so that nothing was visible save Loy’s horse far
on the right. Soult thought these were Penne Villemur’s squadrons,
belonging to Castaños, which had been accompanying the British cavalry
for some days.

  [480] In his dispatch to Berthier, written before leaving
  Seville, he spoke confidently of cutting in ahead of Blake,
  and surmised that the latter would find himself in a very
  compromising position, when he arrived in southern Estremadura,
  on learning that Beresford had already been driven across the
  Guadiana. On the 15th spies brought him the statement that Blake
  was timed to join Beresford only on the 17th. His battle-dispatch
  distinctly says that his first news of the junction having
  already taken place was got from prisoners during the course of
  the action.

The Marshal could make out very little of his enemy’s force or
position. All that could be guessed was that Otway’s and Loy’s cavalry,
both well visible, covered the two ends of the line. Soult’s scheme of
attack was ingenious, though founded on an utterly wrong hypothesis.
He resolved to demonstrate with one infantry and one cavalry brigade
against the village of Albuera, so as to attract his enemy’s attention
to his centre, while carrying the rest of his army far to the left,
under cover of the woods and the low hill between the Nogales and
Chicapierna brooks, to a point from which they could turn Beresford’s
right, by crossing the two streams and ascending the plateau somewhere
beyond the point where Loy’s cavalry were visible.

The details of the execution of this plan were very well worked out.
Godinot’s brigade (the 3,500 muskets of the 12th Léger and 51st
Ligne) marched upon Albuera, flanked by Briche’s light cavalry, and
supported by the fire of two batteries. They became at once hotly
engaged with Alten’s German battalions, and with two battalions of
Spaniards whom Blake sent down to give the village flank support. A
Portuguese battery above the village swept the approaches to the bridge
very effectively[481]. Meanwhile, on Godinot’s left, Soult showed two
brigades of dragoons and Werlé’s strong brigade of 6,000 men drawn
up on the edge of the wood, and apparently about to attack Blake’s
line in front. But deep in the olives to the left the two divisions
of the 5th Corps, Girard and Gazan, were executing a circular sweep,
with a cavalry brigade in front of them, quite out of sight. They were
covered not only by the trees but by the height between the Nogales and
Chicapierna brooks.

  [481] The battery was that of Captain Arriaga.

Beresford and Blake prepared to resist an attack on their centre and
right, and felt reasonably confident of giving a good account of
themselves. But the frontal attack seemed somehow to hang fire, and
suddenly a new development came: four regiments of French cavalry, far
to the right, galloped out of the woods, across the two brooks, and up
the slopes far beyond Beresford’s right. Loy’s Spanish cavalry, who
lay in that direction, naturally gave way before them. Immediately
afterwards the head of a long infantry column came marching up from
the same point, making for the heights at a place some way beyond
Blake’s extreme right. It is curious to note that they did not aim at
attacking Blake’s actual flank, but rather at getting on top of the
heights beyond him, so as to be able to move against him on the level
of the plateau, without having to climb the hill in face of opposition.

Beresford rode hastily along the line to meet Blake, and requested him
to deal with this unexpected flank attack by drawing off one of his
two lines, and placing it at right angles to the original position,
across the summit of the heights. He himself would take care of the
frontal attack. Blake promised to do this, but sent only one brigade
of Zayas’s division, four battalions, and his only battery, to execute
the required movement. He was still not convinced that the front
attack might not be the main one. Beresford meanwhile went back to his
own troops, to direct Stewart’s division to prepare to support the
Spaniards when necessary, and Lumley’s cavalry to move off to join Loy
on the extreme right.

The next half-hour served to develop the whole face of the battle
in its second aspect. The French cavalry at the head of the turning
column spread themselves out on the rolling plateau to the west of the
heights so as to flank their infantry. The 5th Corps formed itself in
a column of extraordinary depth on the undulating summit of the ridge,
and began to move on toward Blake’s flank. The responsibility for
the order of battle adopted must apparently be laid on the shoulders
of Girard, the senior division-commander, who was placed that day at
the head of the whole corps; Latour-Maubourg, who had led it during
the last two months, had been taken away to assume general charge of
the cavalry. Girard, as it seems, intended to beat down the hastily
formed line of defence, which the Spaniards were opposing to him, by
the impetus of an immensely heavy column. His force consisted of two
divisions, each of two brigades, and each brigade composed of from four
to six battalions[482]. I had long sought for an exact description of
his array, of which the French historians and Soult’s dispatch only
say that it was a _colonne serrée de bataillons_. At last I found the
required information in the Paris archives[483], in the shape of an
anonymous criticism on Soult’s operations, drawn up (apparently for
Napoleon’s eye) by some officer who had been set to write a report on
the causes of the loss of the battle.

  [482] The difference in strength was caused by the fact that
  two brigades had contributed two, and one other brigade one,
  battalion each to the garrison of Badajoz.

  [483] Those at the War Ministry, not the _Archives Nationales_.

This document says that ‘the line of attack was formed by a brigade in
column of attack [i. e. a column formed of four battalions in column
of double companies, one battalion behind the other]. To the right and
left the front line was in a mixed formation, that is to say, on each
side of the central column was a battalion deployed in line, and on
each of the two outer sides of the deployed battalions was a battalion
or a regiment in column, so that at each end the line was composed of
a column ready to form square, in case the hostile cavalry should try
to fall upon one of our flanks--which was hardly likely, since our own
cavalry was immensely superior to it in number.’

This formation disposed of the nine battalions of Girard’s division,
which, as we see, advanced with a front consisting of three battalions
in column and two in line. Gazan’s, the 2nd Division of the corps,
followed very close behind Girard, the four regiments each in column
with their two (or three) battalions one behind the other. The 2nd
Division had been intended to attack as an independent supporting line,
but ultimately worked up so close to the 1st Division that it could not
easily be drawn off or disentangled, and to the Allies the whole 8,400
men looked like one vast column, with a front of about 500 men only,
which, allowing for battalion intervals, just stretched across the top
level of the heights, which is here about 700 yards broad.

Three batteries of field artillery belonging to the 5th Corps
accompanied the 1st Division; a fourth, of horse artillery, was with
the cavalry which covered the left flank of the column. Two more were
in company with Werlé’s brigade. The remaining two stopped with Godinot
opposite Albuera.

When Blake realized the strength of the turning force, he began to
detach more troops from his front line to strengthen Zayas, whose
four battalions would obviously be no more than a mouthful for the
5th Corps. They went in haste, four battalions from Ballasteros, two
from Lardizabal, but failed to reach Zayas before the fighting began.
Meanwhile a majestic movement changed the whole aspect of the French
front. The two brigades of dragoons which had hitherto formed the
French right-centre wheeled into column of squadrons, and galloped
off in beautiful order along the side of the Albuera brook till they
reached the 5th Corps; passing behind it they joined the cavalry on its
left, which now became 3,500 strong. Latour-Maubourg was with them in
person. At the same moment Werlé’s 6,000 infantry performed a slower
and shorter circular march and joined the rear of the 5th Corps, to
which they now acted as a reserve. Thus Soult had all his infantry
save Godinot’s brigade of 3,500 men, and all his cavalry save Briche’s
two regiment of light horse, 550 sabres, massed opposite Blake’s new
‘refused’ right flank.

The sight of this sweep to the south on the part of the French
caused Beresford to make a complete change in his disposition. The
whole 2nd Division, one brigade following the other, in the order
Colborne-Hoghton-Abercrombie, marched along the top of the heights to
reinforce Zayas. Hamilton’s Portuguese were to move in, to take up the
ground evacuated by the 2nd Division. Lastly, Cole’s 4th Division,
Myers’s British and Harvey’s Portuguese brigades, forming the reserve,
were moved a full mile to the right, and placed behind the English and
Spanish cavalry, facing Latour-Maubourg’s great mass of horse. It was
the sight of these eight solid battalions in column, ready to form
square, which alone prevented the French cavalry general from ordering
a general charge upon the 2,300 allied horse in his front, whom he
outnumbered in the proportion of three to two, and of whom only De
Grey’s 700 sabres were British. For the 13th Light Dragoons, the third
regiment in the field, was covering the other wing of the new front,
down by the Albuera stream.

Zayas’s Spaniards, having a much shorter way to move than the French
turning column, were in line of battle long before the 5th Corps came
up against them. But the reinforcements tardily sent by Blake were
still coming up, and forming on Zayas’s flanks in much confusion, when
the fighting began. Most of them prolonged the line down the slope of
the heights above the Chicapierna brook. Beresford was personally
occupied in posting and aligning them at the moment of the first clash.

Zayas, whose behaviour all through the day was most creditable, had
found a very good point at which to draw up his brigade and battery.
The summit of the heights is not level, but undulating; he had chosen
the deepest dip in their summit, about a mile to the south of Albuera
village, and drew up his small force in line on the hither side of
it, so that the enemy had to attack him slightly uphill. His four
battalions exactly occupied the top of the plateau; the troops under
Ballasteros, which were now coming up, were not on the top, but on the
descending slope towards the stream.

Girard’s two divisions advancing along the summit had a front about
equal to that of Zayas, but four times as deep. Opposite the rest of
the Spanish line, Ballasteros’s battalions, they sent out nothing but
skirmishers. But Girard’s division, with a line of _tirailleurs_ in
front, descended their own side of the dip, and then began to ascend
that occupied by the Spaniards. When they had reached a point on the
gentle up-slope about sixty yards from the Spaniards, the French
_tirailleurs_ cleared off to right and left, and the battalions behind
them began to open up their fire, slowly advancing between each volley.
The musketry was hot, and both sides were falling freely, when the
first British troops arrived on the battle-spot. These were the four
battalions of Colborne’s brigade, at the head of the 2nd Division: the
1/3rd, 2/48th, 2/66th, and 2/31st, counting in that order from right to
left. With them was the divisional commander, William Stewart.

Beresford, in his account of the battle, says that he had intended to
draw up the whole 2nd Division in a single line in support of Zayas,
and to advance with it against the French when all was in order. But
William Stewart, though he had received no order to attack, and had
been only directed to support the Spaniards, took upon himself to
assume the offensive. The position indeed was rather a tempting one:
the enemy was engaged with Zayas on an equal front, and had no flank
guard of any kind within a quarter of a mile. He could obviously be
assailed at great advantage by a force which should pass round and
through Zayas’s right, and place itself perpendicular to Girard’s long
unprotected flank. This movement Stewart took upon himself to execute;
as each of the battalions of the 1st Brigade came up, it was extended
and sent forward, apparently in a sort of échelon, the Buffs leading,
far to the flank, and the 48th and 66th passing actually through
Zayas’s right battalions. But the 31st, the left regiment, had not come
up or deployed when the other three went forward into action[484].
Along with Colborne there was coming up Cleeves’s battery of the King’s
German Legion. The leading four guns got into action, just to Zayas’s
front, at the same moment that the British infantry went forward.

  [484] Beresford suggests that Colborne asked Stewart to allow him
  to put the right wing of the Buffs into square or column, so as
  to protect the flank of the brigade, but that Stewart refused.
  Colborne’s short letter on the battle does not say so; but as he
  was on very friendly terms with Stewart, he may have refrained
  from writing the fact. He only says that the order of attack
  adopted was not his, and that he had no responsibility for it.
  See Beresford’s _Further Strictures on Napier_, vol. iii. p. 159.

The French column, thus unexpectedly attacked in flank both by
artillery and infantry fire, was naturally thrown into dreadful
confusion. The two battalions in column which formed its left section
faced outwards, and opened a rolling fire three deep, the front rank
kneeling. But they could not stand the volleys poured into them from
a distance of sixty paces, and soon began to break--the men were seen
trying to go to the rear, and the officers beating them back with their
swords. Colborne’s line cheered, and went forward to complete its
victory with the bayonet.

At this moment a dreadful catastrophe occurred: Latour-Maubourg had
been watching the struggle on the hillside before him, and, when he
saw it going badly for his friends, directed his nearest cavalry
regiments, which chanced to be the 1st Lancers of the Vistula and the
2nd Hussars, to charge along the slopes against the exposed outer flank
of Colborne’s brigade. At this moment the morning, which had been fair
at first but had been growing darker every hour, was disturbed by a
blinding shower of rain and hail coming from the north. It is said to
have been largely in consequence of this accident that the approach
of the 800 horsemen was unnoticed by any of the British infantry--but
Colborne’s men were also smothered in their own smoke, and entirely
concentrated on the work before them. At any rate the charge took
the Buffs in flank, rolled them up, and then swept down the back of
the other two battalions, and on to Cleeves’s battery. It is hardly
exaggeration to say that Colborne’s three leading battalions were
annihilated in five minutes. Fifty-eight officers out of 80, 1,190 men
out of 1,568 were slain, wounded, or captured. The number of killed
was out of all proportion to the wounded: in the Buffs there were 212
dead to 234 hurt. This ghastly slaughter is said to have been due to
the fact that the savage Polish lancers not only refused to accept
surrender from the unhappy infantry, but deliberately speared the
wounded as they lay. Nor can I refuse credit to the general statement
of contemporary British authorities after reading the journal of
Major Brooke, commanding the 2/48th, who relates how, after he had
surrendered and was being taken to the rear by two French infantry
soldiers, a Pole rode up to him and deliberately cut him down, after
which the ruffian made his horse trample over him and left him for
dead[485]. In the regimental annals of the 66th two officers are named
as having been wounded by the lance, while already disabled and lying
on the ground[486]. Peninsular tradition tells that the 2nd Division
after Albuera swore to give no quarter to Poles.

  [485] I published Major Brooke’s diary in _Blackwood_ for 1908,
  with an account of his almost miraculous subsequent escape from
  Seville, under the title of ‘A Prisoner of Albuera.’

  [486] See _History of the 66th Regiment_ in Cannon’s Series.

But not all the victorious horsemen were so inhumane; 479 prisoners,
many wounded, were driven off to the French lines. The brigade lost
five of its six colours; and the four guns of Cleeves’s battery, which
had accompanied it, were captured. Only one howitzer, however, was
dragged off by the victors--the other three were left behind for want
of horses. The 2/31st, somewhat to the left rear of its comrades, had
time to form square, and beat off without difficulty the rush of the
remnant of the lancers who got so far as its position. Marking too late
the awful catastrophe on his left, General Lumley sent two squadrons
of the 4th Dragoons to fall upon the flank and rear of the Poles--but
they were intercepted by a French hussar regiment which Latour-Maubourg
sent out to cover the retreat of the lancers, and were beaten
back with the loss of both their squadron leaders wounded and taken
prisoners[487].

  [487] Napier is quite wrong in saying that this small diversion
  was successful, iii. 167. The prisoners were Captains Phillips
  and Spedding.

[Illustration: ALBUERA. Nº 1 (About 10 a.m.)

NOTE.--The front line of the French attacking force is not correctly
represented. It consisted of a column of four battalions in the centre,
flanked by two deployed battalions, and with battalions in column
placed outside the two deployed battalions on either side (see p. 380).
In the French reserve there should be only two, not three, battalions
of Grenadiers. The right flank of Zayas’s line is two battalions too
long.]

It may be remarked that the loss of the victorious cavalry was very
heavy, though not out of proportion to their success. The lancers lost
130 men out of 580--the hussars who charged in support of them 70 out
of 300. It was a curious evidence of the headlong nature of their
charge that some scores of the Poles, after passing by and failing to
break the square of the 2/31st, actually rode down the rear of Zayas’s
Spanish line, sweeping aside that general and his staff, and coming
into collision soon after with Beresford and his--the Marshal actually
parried a lance-thrust, and cast the man who dealt it from his saddle,
and his aides-de-camp had to fight for their lives.

At this moment the head of Hoghton’s brigade was just coming up from
the rear--and its leading regiment opening fire on the scattered
lancers shot a great many men of the rear rank of Zayas’s Spaniards
in the back. Notwithstanding this, and to their eternal credit,
the Spaniards did not break, and continued their frontal contest
with Girard’s division, which had not slackened for a moment during
Colborne’s disastrous fight[488].

  [488] The writer of the _Strictures on Napier’s History_, vol.
  iii, gives as an eye-witness the following anecdote: ‘As a
  Spanish soldier in the ranks close to the Marshal was looking
  to the rear, a Spanish-Irish officer in that service cried to
  him, “To-day is not the day to fly, when you are fighting as the
  comrades of the British.” The poor fellow replied, “No, señor,
  mas los Ingleses nos tiraron por atrás.”’ The Spanish never at
  any moment fired into the British, as Napier asserts. The mistake
  was remedied by Beresford’s aide-de-camp Arbuthnot, who rode, at
  great risk, along the front of the 29th, and stopped their fire.

There was a distinct pause, however, in the battle after this bloody
episode. The leading division of French infantry had been so much
shaken and driven into disorder, by Colborne’s momentary pressure on
their flank, that the whole column had lost its impetus, and stood
wavering below the Spanish line. Girard, regarding his own division as
practically a spent force, ordered up Gazan’s two brigades to relieve
it. There was fearful confusion while the new columns were thrusting
their way to the front, and they were never properly formed. For the
rest of the battle the two divisions formed a dense mass of 8,000 men,
which looked like one solid clump, without much vestige of regular
formation.

While this confused change of front-line was being carried out by
the French, Beresford had leisure to deploy Hoghton’s brigade in
the rear of Zayas, and Abercrombie’s in rear of Ballasteros, lower
down the slope. He then proceeded to bring them forward to relieve
the Spaniards. The latter, it is due to them to explain, had behaved
extremely well. Beresford bears witness that Zayas’s four battalions,
on the edge of the undulation which marked the front of battle ‘did
not even to the end break their line or quit the field, as Napier
alleges. After having suffered very considerable loss they began to
crowd together in groups, and it was then that the second line (Hoghton
and Abercrombie) was ordered up.’ The losses of the two battalions
of Irlanda, and the 2nd and 4th Spanish Guards, were indeed the best
testimonial to their good service. They had 615 officers and men
killed and wounded out of 2,026 present, over 30 per cent.--all lost
by musketry or artillery fire without a foot of ground having been
yielded, in a close struggle that had lasted over an hour.

With the coming up of Gazan’s division on one side, and of Hoghton’s
and Abercrombie’s brigades on the other, the second stage of the
battle was reached. The clash was confined to the top of the plateau,
the French having only a skirmishing line opposite Abercrombie on
the slope, though the central backbone of the ridge was crowded with
their dense columns. Hence it may be said that for the next half-hour
Hoghton’s men, assisted by the 2/31st, the sole survivors of Colborne’s
brigade alone, were fighting the entire 5th Corps--a line of 1,900 men
two deep opposed to a mass of 8,000 twelve deep, on an equal front.
This was the hardest and most splendid fighting done that day, not
even excepting the glorious advance of the Fusiliers half an hour
later. The three battalions, 29th, 1/48th, and 1/57th, absolutely
died in line[489], without yielding an inch. Their losses speak for
themselves--56 officers and 971 men killed and wounded out of 95
officers and 1,556 men present. The best account of this part of the
action that I know is in the reminiscences of Moyle Sherer of the
1/48th:--

  [489] It was here that the 57th earned the well-known nickname
  of the Die-hards, from their splendid answer to Colonel Inglis’s
  adjuration.

‘When we arrived near the retiring Spaniards, and formed our line to
advance through them towards the enemy, a very noble-looking young
Spanish officer rode up to me, and begged me, with a sort of proud
anxiety, to take notice that his countrymen were ordered to retire,
not flying. Just as our line had entirely cleared the Spaniards, the
smoke of battle was for one moment blown aside, by the slackening of
the fire, and gave to our view the French grenadier caps, their arms,
and the whole aspect of their frowning masses. It was a grand, but a
momentary sight; a heavy atmosphere of smoke enveloped us, and few
objects could be discerned at all--none distinctly. The best soldier
can make no calculation of time, if he be in the heat of an engagement,
but this murderous contest of musketry lasted long. At intervals a
shriek or a groan told that men were falling around me; but it was not
always that the tumult of the contest suffered me to catch individual
sounds. The constant “feeling to the centre” and the gradual diminution
of our front more truly bespoke the havock of death. We were the whole
time progressively advancing upon and shaking the enemy. As we moved
slowly, but ever a little in advance, our own killed and wounded lay
behind us; we arrived among those of the Spaniards who had fallen in
the first onset, then among those of the enemy. At last we were only
twenty yards from their front.’ The brigade had lost nearly two-thirds
of its numbers, the brigadier had been killed; of the three battalion
commanders one was killed and two wounded. The front of the shrinking
line no longer covered that of the French mass before it. But the enemy
was in no condition to profit by the exhaustion of the British. The
fire of the line had, as always, been more effective than that of the
column. The front of the enemy was one deep bank of dead and wounded;
the 5th Corps lost 3,000 men that day, and there can be no doubt that
2,000 of them fell during this murderous exchange of musketry.

Meanwhile it is strange to find that both commanders allowed this duel
of the many against the few, on the plateau, to go on undisturbed.
Soult had still eleven battalions intact in reserve--Werlé’s brigade
and two battalions of _grenadiers réunis_: his cavalry was also doing
nothing, save observe Lumley’s much inferior force. Beresford had still
of intact troops the 4th Division, the three brigades of Hamilton’s
and Collins’s Portuguese, and the 4,000 Spaniards who had remained on
their original position. None of those forces on either side were being
utilized during the crisis of the battle.

The explanation is to be found in the narratives of the two hostile
generals. Soult says in his dispatch to the Emperor, ‘When I ascended
the heights, at the moment that the enemy’s second line advanced and
began to press in our front, I was surprised to notice their great
numbers. Immediately afterwards I learned from a Spanish prisoner that
Blake had already joined Beresford, so that I had 30,000 men to deal
with. The odds were not fair, and I resolved at once to give up my
original project, and to aim at nothing more than retaining the ground
already won.’ The Marshal therefore changed his plan from an offensive
to a defensive battle, and refused to engage his reserves, or to bid
his cavalry charge--a most half-hearted resolve.

As to Beresford, he was anxious to succour Hoghton, but he did not wish
to move the 4th Division, which (he thought) was playing its part in
‘containing’ Latour-Maubourg’s enormous mass of cavalry, and covering
the Valverde and Badajoz road--the line of communication of the allied
army. He sent back instead to order up Hamilton’s Portuguese to the
hilltop--4,800 fresh infantry. But it took a much greater time to bring
them up than Beresford had expected. Some of the aides-de-camp sent
to summon them were wounded on the way; but the main delay was caused
by the fact that Hamilton, instead of taking up Stewart’s original
position, had gone down closer to Albuera, to support Alten’s brigade
at the village against Godinot’s attack, which had become a very fierce
one. It was only after many precious minutes had been wasted that he
was found, and Fonseca’s and Collins’s brigades did not start for half
an hour after the order had been sent to them. Campbell’s brigade
remained to give Alten help, if he should need it.

Meanwhile Beresford was trying to utilize the troops already at hand:
Abercrombie’s brigade was told to wheel inward and attack the right
flank of the 5th Corps, while the Marshal himself tried to move up
Carlos de España’s Spanish brigade to the place where Colborne had
fought so unsuccessfully a little earlier, on the left flank of the
French mass. But this brigade, demoralized relics of the lost army of
the Gebora, refused to face the fire, though the Marshal went to lead
it on in person, seized one colonel by the epaulettes, and tried to
drag him to the front of his battalion. As this brigade only lost 33
men out of 1,700 present, it is clear that it misbehaved.

At last Beresford grew so anxious at the sight of Hoghton’s gallant
brigade shrinking away to nothing, while no succour appeared from the
rear, that he actually sent orders to Alten’s Germans to evacuate
Albuera village, and to come in haste to strengthen the centre. They
were to be relieved by a brigade of the Spaniards who still held the
old position above the village. The legionaries were disentangled from
the village with some difficulty, and the French 16th Léger got into
it before the Spaniards had taken Alten’s place. If Godinot had been
in force, the position here would have been very dangerous; but he had
only six battalions, 3,500 men in all, and was hopelessly outnumbered,
for Hamilton had left Campbell’s Portuguese brigade opposite him, and
3,000 Spaniards came down from the heights. As a matter of fact Alten
never had to go to the front; the crisis on the heights was over before
he got far from the village, and he was sent back to retake it half an
hour after he had given it up. This he accomplished with a loss of 100
men, long after the more important business on the heights was over.

The stroke which ended the battle came from a direction where Beresford
had intended to keep to the defensive, and was delivered by the one
part of his army which he had refused to utilize--the 4th Division.
Cole and his eight battalions had been standing for an hour and a
half supporting the allied cavalry, opposite Maubourg’s threatening
squadrons. He was himself doubting whether he ought not to take a
more active part, and sent an aide-de-camp to Beresford to ask for
further orders[490]; but this officer was badly wounded on the way,
and the message was never delivered. If it had been, the answer would
undoubtedly have been in the negative.

  [490] This was an Anglo-Swiss officer, Major Roverea, whose
  memoirs have lately been published.

But at this moment there rode up to the 4th Division Henry Hardinge,
then a young Portuguese colonel, and Deputy Quarter-master-general of
the Portuguese army. He had no orders from Beresford, but he took upon
himself to urge Cole to assume the responsibility of advancing, saying
(what was true enough) that Hoghton’s brigade on the heights above
could not hold out much longer, and that there were no British reserves
behind the centre. Cole hesitated for a moment--the proposal that he
should advance across open ground in face of 3,500 French cavalry,
without any adequate support of that arm on his own side, was enough to
make any man think twice. But he had already been pondering over the
move himself, and after a short conference with Lumley, his colleague
in command of the cavalry, determined to risk all.

The 4th Division was ordered to deploy from columns into line, and to
strike obliquely at the French flank. Entirely conscious of the danger
from the twenty-six squadrons of French horse before him, Cole flanked
his deployed battalions with a unit in column at either end: at the
right flank, where Harvey’s Portuguese brigade was drawn out, he placed
a provisional battalion made up of the nine light companies of all his
regiments, British and Portuguese; at the left extremity, on the flank
of his British Fusilier brigade--the two battalions of the 7th, and
the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers--was a good Portuguese unit--Hawkshaw’s
battalion of the Loyal Lusitanian Legion[491]. The line made up 5,000
bayonets--2,000 British, 3,000 Portuguese. The whole of the English
and Spanish cavalry advanced on his flank and rear, Lefebure’s
horse-artillery battery accompanying the extreme right[492].

  [491] It appears that the three stray companies from Kemmis’s
  absent brigade which had reached the field, were put into the
  square at the right flank also.

  [492] What exactly passed between Cole and Hardinge is thoroughly
  worked out by the correspondence between them printed in the
  _United Service Journal_ for 1841.

The sight of this mile of bayonets moving forward showed Soult that
he must fight for his life--there was no drawn battle possible, but
only dire disaster, unless Cole were stopped. Accordingly he told
Latour-Maubourg to charge the Portuguese brigade, while the whole nine
battalions of Werlé’s reserve were sent forward diagonally to protect
the flank of the 5th Corps, moving along the upper slope of the heights
so as to thrust themselves between the Fusilier brigade and the flank
of Girard and Gazan. Soult had now no reserve left except the two
battalions of _grenadiers réunis_, which he held back for the last
chance, on his right rear, keeping up the connexion with Godinot.

The story of what happened at the right end of Cole’s line is simple:
Latour-Maubourg sent four regiments of dragoons at the middle of the
Portuguese brigade, thinking to break it down, as he had done often
before with deployed infantry in Spanish battles. But Harvey’s four
battalions, keeping absolutely steady, delivered a series of volleys
which completely shattered the advance of the charging squadrons. It
was a fine achievement for troops which had never before taken part in
the thick of a battle--for the 11th and 23rd Portuguese Line had not
been engaged at Bussaco or any previous action of importance. Owing to
their excellent behaviour the flank of the British brigade was kept
perfectly safe from cavalry assaults during the next half-hour.

Myers’s three Fusilier battalions, therefore, with the Lusitanian
Legion battalion that guarded their left rear, came into collision with
Werlé’s three regiments without any interference from without. They
were outnumbered by over two to one--2,000 British and 600 Portuguese
against 5,600 French. But Werlé had adopted the same vicious formation
which had already hampered the 5th Corps--his nine battalions were in
three columns of regiments, each with a front of only two companies
and a depth of nine, i. e. he was opposing in each case a front of
about 120 men in the first two ranks, capable of using their muskets,
to a front of about 500--the fact that there were 16 men in depth,
behind the 120 who could fire, was of no profit to him. Three separate
regimental duels followed--the 23rd and the 1st and 2nd battalions of
the 7th Fusiliers each tackled a column, as Blakeney, the colonel of
the last-named unit, tells in his letter[493]. In each case the stress
for the moment was tremendous. Blakeney may be quoted for its general
character:--

  [493] Quoted in the Cole-Hardinge correspondence in the _United
  Service Journal_ for 1841.

‘From the quantity of smoke,’ he writes, ‘I could perceive very little
but what went on in my own front. The 1st battalion of the 7th closed
with the right column of the French: I moved on and closed with the
second; the 23rd took the third. The men behaved most gloriously,
never losing their rank, and closing to the centre as casualties
occurred. The French faced us at a distance of about thirty or forty
paces. During the closest part of the action I saw their officers
endeavouring to deploy their columns, but all to no purpose. For as
soon as the third of a company got out, they would immediately run
back, to be covered by the front of their column.’ This lasted for some
minutes--possibly twenty--when suddenly the enemy broke, and went up
the hillside in three disorderly clumps, which presently splayed out
into a mass of running men. The Fusiliers followed, still firing, until
they crowned the ridge: the end of their movement was under a terrible
artillery fire from Soult’s reserve batteries, which were used till
the last possible moment to cover the flying infantry. The fusiliers
lost more than half their numbers--1,045 out of 2,015 officers and men.
Their gallant brigadier, Myers, was among the slain. Werlé’s three
regiments had casualties of well over 1,800 out of 5,600 present--a
bigger total but a much smaller percentage--one in three instead of the
victors’ one in two.

The rout of the French reserves would have settled the fate of the
battle in any case; but already it was won on the summit of the plateau
also. For at the same moment when the Fusiliers closed, Abercrombie’s
brigade had wheeled in upon the right of the much-disordered mass that
represented the 5th Corps, and, when they followed up their volleys
with a charge, Girard’s and Gazan’s men ran to the rear along the
heights, leaving Hoghton’s exhausted brigade lying dead in line in
front of them. The fugitives of the 5th Corps mingled with those from
Werlé’s brigade, and all passed the Chicapierna brook in one vast horde.

There was practically no pursuit: Latour-Maubourg threw his squadrons
between the flying mass and the victorious Allies and the British and
Portuguese halted on the heights that they had won. Soult’s last
infantry reserve, the two grenadier battalions, were also drawn out
on the nearer side of the Chicapierna, and suffered severely from the
artillery fire of the Allies, losing 370 men out of 1,000 in twenty
minutes. But Lumley’s cavalry could not meddle with Latour-Maubourg’s
double strength, and it was not till some time had passed that
Beresford brought up three Portuguese brigades in line--Collins,
Fonseca, and Harvey--and finally pushed the enemy over the brook. By
this moment Soult had got nearly all his artillery--forty guns--in
line on the height between the two brooks, and their fire forbade
further progress, unless Beresford were prepared to storm that position
with the Portuguese. He refused to try it, and wisely; for though the
enemy’s infantry were completely out of action, it is a formidable
thing to deliver a frontal attack on six batteries flanked by 3,500
horse.

So finished the fight of Albuera; a drenching rain, similar to that
which had been so deadly to Colborne’s brigade, ended the day, and made
more miserable the lot of the 10,000 wounded who lay scattered over
the hillsides. The British had hardly enough sound men left in half
the battalions to pick up their own bleeding comrades, much less to
bear off the mounds of French wounded, who lay along the slopes of the
gentle dip where the battle had raged hardest. It was two days before
the last of these were gathered in.

That Albuera was the most bloody of all the fights of the Peninsular
War, in proportion to the numbers engaged, everybody knows. But the
exact table of the losses on each side has never, I believe, been fully
worked out. After studying the French returns in the Archives of the
Paris Ministry of War and the Spanish figures at Madrid, no less than
Beresford’s report, we get to the results which I have printed in the
XVth Appendix to this volume.

Summarizing them, we find that the British, including Alten’s German
battalions, had 10,449 men on the field. Their total loss was 206
officers and 3,953 men. Of these 882 were killed, 2,733 wounded, and
544 missing. Of this frightful casualty list no less than five-sixths
belonged to the three brigades of Colborne, Hoghton, and Myers, for
the cavalry and artillery, with Alten’s and Abercrombie’s brigades of
infantry, though all seriously engaged, lost but 618 out of nearly
4,500 men present. The remaining 3,502 casualties all came from the
ranks of the three first-named brigades, whose total strength on the
field was but 5,732. Colborne’s brigade lost, in an instant as it
were, under the charge of the lancers and hussars, seven-tenths of its
numbers, 1,400 men out of 2,000. Of the 600 who were left standing,
nearly half belonged to the 2/31st, the battalion which was not broken
by the cavalry charge, and survived to join in Hoghton’s advance. The
brigades of Hoghton and Myers were not, like Colborne’s, annihilated
in one awful moment of disaster, but used up in continuous fighting
at short musketry range, with an enemy of far superior numbers. The
former (29th, 1/48th, 2/57th) took 1,650 officers and men into the
field, and lost 1,044. The latter (the two battalions of the 7th Royal
Fusiliers and the 1st battalion of the Welsh Fusiliers) had 2,015
combatants present, and lost 1,045. Hoghton’s troops, therefore, lost
five-eighths, Myers’s one-half of their strength, and these were
victorious units which hardly left a single prisoner in the enemy’s
hands, and finally drove their adversaries from the field in spite of a
twofold inequality of numbers. Truly Albuera is the most honourable of
all Peninsular blazons on a regimental flag.

Of the 10,000 Portuguese, only Harvey’s brigade was seriously engaged;
it had over 200 casualties[494] out of the 389 suffered on that day by
troops of that nation, and established a most honourable record by its
defeat of Latour-Maubourg’s dragoons. The other men killed or hurt were
distributed in fives and tens over the battalions of Fonseca, Collins,
and Campbell, which only came under fire in the last stage of the
battle.

  [494] Of which no less than 171 were in the battalion of the
  Lusitanian Legion which formed Cole’s flank-guard on the left: it
  suffered terribly from artillery fire.

The Spaniards returned 1,368 casualties out of 14,000 present, of
which (as we have already seen) no less than 615 were in those four
battalions of Zayas’s division which held out so stubbornly against the
5th Corps, till Hoghton’s men came up to relieve them. Of the rest,
Ballasteros’s and Lardizabal’s divisions, with under 300 casualties
each, had only suffered from skirmishing or distant artillery fire.
The losses of Carlos de España and the cavalry were insignificant.

[Illustration: ALBUERA. Nº 2 (About 11.30 a.m.)

NOTE.--There should be only two, not three, battalions of Grenadiers
placed as reserve behind Girard and Gazan’s troops.]

The French losses can be made out with reasonable certainty after
careful comparison of different returns in the Paris Archives. Soult
had the shamelessness to assert in his dispatch to the Emperor that
he had only 2,800 killed and wounded! But a tardily prepared and
incomplete list drawn up on July 6th gave 6,000 casualties, of whom
900 were missing--wounded prisoners left on the allied position.
Unfortunately this return, on examination, turns out to be far
from satisfactory. Soult gives 262 officers killed, wounded, or
missing, but the regimental returns when compiled show a much higher
figure--359--and cannot possibly be wrong, since the name and rank of
every officer hit is carefully recorded for documentary and official
purposes.[495] But if 262 casualties among officers correspond (as the
return of July 6th states) to 5,744 among the rank and file, then 362
officers hit must imply 7,900 men disabled, and this, we may conclude,
was very near the real figure. Belmas and Lapéne, the most trustworthy
French historians of the campaign, agree in giving 7,000, a thousand
more than Soult conceded in his tardy and incomplete return. This
proportion out of 24,000 men put in the field is sufficiently heavy,
though exceeded so terribly by the 4,150 men lost out of 10,450 among
the British troops. The units which suffered most heavily were the two
divisions of the 5th Corps, which must have lost nearly 4,000 out of
8,400 present; Werlé’s reserve had probably close on 2,000 casualties,
out of 5,600 bayonets; Godinot’s column and the cavalry had very
considerable losses, but were the only troops fit for action next
day. The 5th Corps was absolutely wrecked; in some battalions there
were only three or four officers unhurt, and the losses were similar
to those in Myers’s or Hoghton’s British brigades[496]. Two or three
others had fared comparatively better, having been in the flank or
rear at the time when the desperate musketry duel in the front was in
progress. But the corps as a whole could not have been put in action on
the 17th.

  [495] See Appendix XVI.

  [496] For details see Appendix XVI.

On the morning of that day each army sullenly formed line on its own
side of the Albuera brook, but made no further movement. Beresford
was prepared to fight another defensive battle, in the unlikely event
of its being forced upon him[497], but was not willing to attack an
enemy hidden behind a screen of woods, and possessed of a superior
and still effective cavalry and artillery. Such an attack must have
been delivered mainly by the Spanish and Portuguese infantry, since of
the British only Abercrombie’s and Alten’s five battalions were fit
for immediate service. The missing brigade of Kemmis arrived during
the day, after a fatiguing march over the Jerumenha bridge, and added
1,400 bayonets more, but even so there would have been only 4,000
British infantry in full fighting trim; the sad relics of Hoghton’s
and Colborne’s brigades were organized into two provisional battalions
of 600 men each, where whole regiments were represented by one, two,
or, at the most, three companies. Myers’s brigade had 1,000 men left,
so was better off, but no general would have dreamed of using any of
these troops for offensive action on the day after the battle. An
attack would have had to be delivered by the 9,000 Portuguese infantry,
backed by the Spaniards and Abercrombie, Alten, and Kemmis. Beresford
refused to try it, even though he knew that Soult’s losses had been
greater than his own, so far as mere numbers went; probably, he argued,
Soult would retire covered by his cavalry and artillery if he were
assailed. Covered by the woods, he could get off as he pleased. But
Soult was certain to retire in any case, as news had now come to hand
that Wellington was coming down to Elvas with two divisions[498], and
might be expected there immediately--he actually arrived on the 19th;
the head of his column had marched on the 14th, and reached Elvas on
the 23rd. To risk anything in order to get Soult on the move a few days
earlier was not worth while.

  [497] D’Urban in his diary under the 17th first speaks of an
  attack by Soult being possible, and then concludes it impossible;
  Kemmis’s arrival he thinks will have cured the Marshal of any
  idea of returning to the fight.

  [498] His intention to come appears in his letter to Beresford of
  May 13th, received May 17th. The statement that the 3rd Division
  and other troops had actually started for Estremadura is in his
  letter of May 14th, received May 18th. _Wellington Dispatches_,
  vii. 549 and 555.

The French marshal was even further than Beresford from the idea of
renewing operations on the 17th; he had shot his bolt and failed--the
battle, so he declared, would never have been fought if he had known
that Blake had joined the British on the night of the 15th. His main
object in keeping his ground for a day was to organize the transport
of a column of 5,000 wounded on to Seville; if he had retired at once,
the greater part of them would have had to be abandoned. As it was,
his transport was used up, and several hundreds of severe cases had
to be left to the mercy of the Allies, in and about the chapel in the
wood of Albuera. Beresford found them there on the morning of the
18th, for Soult commenced his retreat before dawn, some thirty-six
hours after the battle was over. Gazan (himself wounded) and some
2,000 men from the regiments which had been most cut up guarded the
convoy (which included the 500 British prisoners)[499], southward
along the great _chaussée_. Soult himself, with the rest of the army,
now reduced to 14,000 men at the most, retired by a more circuitous
route, by Solana and Fuente del Maestre towards Llerena and the Sierra
Morena. Beresford’s cavalry followed, but was unable to do anything in
face of Latour-Maubourg’s preponderant squadrons. The allied infantry
remained behind to resume the siege of Badajoz; on the 18th Hamilton’s
division and Madden’s cavalry were sent back to invest the place, which
was shut in again at dawn on the 19th, after having been relieved of
the presence of the Allies for only three days (16th-17th-18th May).
General Phillipon had employed this short respite in the useful task
of levelling the allied trenches and batteries outside his works. He
found nothing in them of which he could make booty, save the heavy wood
employed for the gun-platforms before San Cristobal. The more valuable
stores had all been removed to Elvas, the gabions and fascines burned
by the 4th Division before it gave up the investment on the night of
the 15th May.

  [499] Of whom more than 200 escaped, and joined their regiments
  during the next four days, for their guards were too exhausted to
  keep good watch.

That Albuera, with all its slaughter, was a battle in which both sides
committed serious errors is generally acknowledged; but few are the
general actions in which there is nothing to criticize on the part of
the victor--much more of the vanquished. We must, however, protest
against Napier’s sweeping assertion that ‘no general ever gained so
great a battle with so little increase of military reputation as
Marshal Beresford[500]. His triumph was disputed by the very soldiers
who followed his car. Their censures have been reiterated without
change and without abatement to this hour, and a close examination
(while it detects many ill-founded observations and others tainted with
malice) leaves little doubt that the general feeling was right[501].’
Napier then proceeds to argue that Beresford ought to have refused
battle, and retired beyond the Guadiana, that his concentration was
over-tardy, and that, considering the doubtful quality of Blake’s
troops, he was too bold in fighting. His tactical dispositions were
bad; ‘he occupied the position so as to render defeat almost certain’;
he brought up his reserves in a succession of separate attacks, and
hesitated too long to move the 4th Division. ‘Hardinge caused Cole and
Abercrombie to win the victory;’ the guidance of a commanding mind was
nowhere seen.

  [500] If any one wants an example of such a battle, he may take
  the first great fight of Frederick the Great, who had been driven
  ten miles off the battlefield with the wreck of his cavalry when
  news came to him that his infantry, in his absence and without
  his leadership, had won the battle for him.

  [501] _Peninsular War_, iii. p. 175.

Napier was Beresford’s bitter enemy, and it is clear that his
eloquent denunciations of the Marshal were inspired by a personal
animosity which clouded his judgement. His account of Albuera is one
of the finest pieces of military writing in the English language,
but it bristles with mistakes, many of them worked in so as to throw
additional discredit on his enemy’s capacity[502]. One turns naturally
to investigate Wellington’s observations on the fight, made when he had
ridden over the field on May 21st, only five days after the battle. In
one private letter he writes, ‘We had a very good position, and I think
should have gained a complete victory without any material loss, if
the Spaniards could have manœuvred; but unfortunately they cannot.’ In
another he says, ‘The Spanish troops behaved admirably, I understand.
They stood like stocks while both parties were firing into them, but
they were quite immovable, and this was the great cause of all our
losses. After they had lost their position, the natural thing to do
would have been to attack it with the nearest Spanish troops, but these
could not be moved. The British troops [2nd Division] were next, and
they were brought up (and must in such cases always be brought up), and
they suffered accordingly.’

  [502] Such as the statement that Zayas had given way before
  Colborne arrived at the front, which the evidence of Beresford
  himself, D’Urban, Schepeler, Moyle Sherer, and many other
  witnesses proves to be quite wrong. Also the tale (p. 167) that
  the Spaniards fired into the British (see _Strictures_, pp.
  247-8, and Schepeler). Also the statement that Lumley’s cavalry
  diversion to help Colborne was successful--when it merely
  resulted in the repulse of the two squadrons that made it, with
  the loss of their two commanding officers (Captains Spedding and
  Phillips) taken prisoners.

  An astonishing bit of arithmetic is the note (iii. p. 181) that
  on the night of the battle only 1,800 unwounded British infantry
  were left standing--the real figures being: Abercrombie, 1,200;
  Alten, 1,100; remains of Myers’s brigade, 1,000; remains of
  Colborne’s brigade, 600; ditto of Hoghton’s, 600. Total, 4,500.
  Napier had apparently forgotten Abercrombie and Alten.

Wellington’s opinion therefore was that Blake’s slowness in guarding
against the flank attack was the real cause of all the trouble.
Considering the gallant way in which Zayas’s four battalions fought,
when once they were in line, it certainly seems that if thrice the
force which that officer was given had been thrown back _en potence_
across the heights, as Beresford desired, at the moment that Soult’s
movement was detected, they would have held their own so effectively
that the British 2nd Division could have come up at leisure, and in
order, to support the Spaniards. As it was, the reinforcements sent
over-late by Blake to help Zayas arrived by driblets, and gave him
little help, falling into a mere _tiraillade_ with the French light
troops on Zayas’s left, instead of engaging in the main battle.

After Blake’s slowness the main cause of loss was William Stewart’s
over-haste. Beresford had given orders that the whole 2nd Division
was to form up in a second line behind Zayas, and go into action
simultaneously, outflanking the massed 5th Corps on either wing.
Stewart, combining over-zeal and want of discipline, attacked with
the first brigade that came up, while the second and the third were
still remote. He also, if several contemporaries are to be trusted,
refused to listen to Colonel Colborne’s request to be allowed to keep
a unit in square or column, to protect the flank of the 1st brigade
when it started out to make its attack[503], and it was the want of
this flank-guard alone which made the charge of the Polish lancers so
effective. As Beresford’s vindicator writes, ‘The Marshal had directed
Sir William Stewart to form the second line; he could not distrust
an officer of his experience, zeal, and knowledge of the service.’
That his subordinate should be struck with sudden battle-fury, and
attack the French flank with one isolated brigade, contrary to his
orders, cannot be imputed as a crime to Beresford, who was in no way
responsible for it. The move, and the disaster that followed within a
few minutes, took place without his knowledge. As he was endeavouring
to put in line the Spanish battalions which were coming up to reinforce
Zayas, he was surprised by being charged in the midst of his staff by
a knot of the lancers, who a minute before had ridden over Colborne’s
men on his right. It is clear that if the three brigades of the 2nd
Division had been properly arranged and put into action simultaneously,
as Beresford intended, the 5th Corps would have been driven from the
heights an hour before it actually yielded. Girard’s division had
already wellnigh exhausted itself upon Zayas’s stubborn resistance,
and it was only the interval in the allied attack, caused by the
destruction of Colborne’s brigade, which permitted Gazan’s troops to
get up into the front line, in such order as they could, in time to
fight Hoghton and Abercrombie. If Stewart’s advance had been made at
the proper time, he would have come upon the two French divisions at
the very moment when they were making their confused change of front.
They could not have resisted the assault, considering the disorder
in which they were mingled. Soult, who had just made up his mind to
discontinue the offensive battle in which he was engaged[504], would
certainly have used Werlé’s reserve only to cover his retreat, and
would have withdrawn from a position which had become desperate,
covered by his cavalry.

  [503] _Strictures_, p. 243.

  [504] See p. 388 above.

The one point in which Napier’s charges against Beresford have some
foundation is that there was undoubtedly much delay in putting Cole
and the 4th Division into action. This, as we have shown above, was
caused by Beresford’s wish to strike the final blow at the 5th Corps
with Hamilton’s Portuguese, whom he had ordered to the front after
Colborne’s disaster, and who did not make their appearance, partly
because the first aide-de-camp sent for them was wounded on the way,
partly because Hamilton had changed his position, and was not found
at once by later messengers. When it became evident that the delay
was growing dangerous, Beresford would have done well to send Cole
orders to advance at once, and to have directed Abercrombie also
to charge. Napier is right in saying that ‘Hardinge caused Cole to
win the victory,’ for Cole’s advance was made without Beresford’s
orders, and even contrary to his intention, since he had sent for
Alten and the Portuguese to make the final stroke. But while they were
being collected, Hoghton’s brigade had been practically used up, and
there was nothing but Zayas’s reformed but exhausted battalions in
Hoghton’s rear, to form the allied centre. It is true, however, that,
supposing the last relics of the ‘Die-hards’ and their comrades had
finally recoiled, there would have been no push or impetus left in
their opponents of the 5th Corps, who were a spent force, in complete
disorder, and with hardly one man in two left standing. While they were
disentangling themselves for a final effort, Collins’s and Fonseca’s
Portuguese, perfectly trustworthy troops and absolutely fresh, would
have been getting into position. It is practically certain that Soult
would have made no further attempt to go forward. His own dispatch
states that he had abandoned all offensive intentions. This much
Beresford’s advocates may plead; but it remains true that the moral
impression of Albuera would have been very different if the charge of
the Fusilier brigade had never taken place. It was their triumphant
sweeping away of Werlé’s reserve which struck dismay into the enemy.
If it had never occurred, Soult would have retired, foiled indeed, but
in good order, and with two or three thousand fewer casualties than he
actually suffered.

In criticizing the operations of the French, the main point which
strikes us is that Soult stands self-convicted of hesitation and
divided purpose in the crisis of the battle. His attack had been
admirable; the movement which threw four-fifths of his available
force unexpectedly on to Beresford’s flank was beautifully designed
and carried out. But when, in the check and pause that followed the
incident of Colborne’s disaster, he realized (as he himself says) that
he had 30,000 men and not 20,000 to fight, and that ‘the odds were
no longer fair,’ he should have made up his mind either to withdraw
under cover of his splendid cavalry, or else to risk all, and throw
his infantry reserves straight into the fight, before the enemy’s line
was reformed. He did neither, but, as he says, ‘giving up his original
project, aimed at nothing more than retaining the ground already won.’
What use was half a mile of hillside to him, if he had failed to break
the Allies and drive them off the position which covered the road to
Badajoz? He deserved the beating that he got for this extraordinary
resolve.

As to the details of the French tactics, Girard was responsible for the
dense order of the 5th Corps, which told so fatally on his men. But
in arranging them as he did, he was but adopting the method that most
other French generals were wont to use. Accustomed to break through the
lines of Continental armies by the impetus of a solid mass, and not by
musketry fire, he prepared to employ the normal shock-tactics of the
‘column of divisions.’ It may be even noticed that, more enlightened
than many of his comrades, he used the _ordre mixte_ recommended by
Napoleon, in which some battalions in three-deep line were interspersed
among the columns. His array was better than that of Victor at Barrosa
or Talavera, or that of Reynier and Ney at Bussaco. But he had never
met the British line before--this was the first time that the 5th
Corps saw the red-coats--and he did not know the unwelcome truth that
Reille told Napoleon before Waterloo: ‘Sire, l’infanterie anglaise en
duel c’est le diable.’ There was, no doubt, extra confusion caused
by the fact that the 2nd Division of the corps closed up too near to
the first, so that the _passage des lignes_, when it was brought up
to the front with the idea of passing it through the intervals of the
shattered regiments of the van, was even more disorderly than was
necessary. But the crucial mistake, repeated by every French general
throughout the war, was to come on in column at all against the British
line. Girard did no worse than his contemporaries, and the gallant
obstinacy of his troops enabled him to inflict very heavy losses upon
the victors.

Latour-Maubourg has sometimes been accused of making insufficient use
of his great mass of cavalry. But till the last stage of the battle
he had in front of him not merely Lumley’s squadrons, but the whole
4th Division. To attack a force of all arms, in a good position, with
cavalry alone would have been dangerous. If he had failed, the flank
of the 5th Corps would have been laid open in the most disastrous
fashion. Probably he was right to be satisfied in ‘containing’ with his
3,500 horse 7,000 men, 5,000 of them good infantry, belonging to the
enemy. His brilliant stroke at Colborne’s brigade is enough to save his
reputation as a battle-general, though (as we have said before) he was
no strategist. By this alone he had done more for Soult than any other
French officer upon the field.

The real hero, most undoubtedly, of the whole fight was Sir Lowry
Cole, who showed as much moral courage in striking in, on his own
responsibility, at the critical moment, as he did practical skill in
conducting his two brigades against the enemy opposed to him--a most
formidable adversary who showed twenty-six squadrons of cavalry opposed
to one of his wings, and the 5,600 bayonets of Werlé’s infantry opposed
to the other. With Harvey’s Portuguese he drove off the cavalry charge,
with Myers’s Fusiliers he beat to pieces the heavy columns of the
French reserve. It was a great achievement, and the General was worthy
of his soldiers, no less than the soldiers of their General. He was
well seconded by Lumley, who justified in the most splendid way his
sudden appointment to the command of the cavalry of the whole army only
a few hours before the battle.


NOTE

THE result of a four hours’ visit to the field of Albuera, on a very
hot day in April 1907, was to prove to me that Napier had no idea of
its topography, while Beresford in his _Strictures on Colonel Napier’s
History_, 1833, describes it very well. I could see no trace of several
things on which Napier lays stress, especially the ‘ravine’ behind the
British position. Nearly the whole of the field is now arable--it was
covered thickly with small red poppies, when I visited it, in which
four ploughs were cutting long seams, turning up a thin soil of a
chocolate brown hue.



SECTION XXVII

WELLINGTON’S FIRST ESTREMADURAN CAMPAIGN



CHAPTER I

THE SECOND BRITISH SIEGE OF BADAJOZ. MAY-JUNE 1811


The short ten-day campaign of Fuentes de Oñoro had not been without
important results, but it had left the general strategical aspect of
affairs in the Peninsula unaltered. Almeida had fallen, and it had
been demonstrated that the French Army of Portugal was not strong
enough to force back Wellington from the frontier, where he had taken
post. On the other hand, it was equally clear that Wellington was far
too weak to dream of taking the offensive in the valley of the Douro,
or marching on Salamanca. Such a movement would have brought 20,000
men from the Army of the North to the aid of the Army of Portugal,
and the allied army on the northern frontier was barely superior in
numbers to the latter alone, even when the 9th Corps had departed for
Andalusia. To provoke the enemy to concentrate would have been insane;
if he were left alone, however, it was improbable that he would prove
dangerous for many a day. Marmont had to complete the reorganization of
the army which he had just taken over from Masséna; it would be some
months before he could replace the lost cavalry and artillery, fill up
his magazines, and finish the reclothing of his tattered regiments.
Bessières was so much occupied with the guerrilleros that he would not
draw his troops together, unless he were obliged to do so by an advance
of the Allies towards his territory. He had, moreover, to keep covering
forces out to north and west, in order to watch Abadia’s Galician
army, and Longa and Porlier, who still made head against him in the
Cantabrian Mountains. It was probable, therefore, that the French
in Leon and Old Castile would keep quiet for some time unless they
were provoked. Wellington resolved to leave them unmolested, and to
endeavour to strike a blow in the south.

On the day when the battle of Fuentes de Oñoro was fought, Beresford,
with the 20,000 men who had been detached to Estremadura, was, as
Wellington knew, just about to commence the siege of Badajoz. It
was certain that this enterprise would bring Soult and his Army of
Andalusia to the succour of the fortress. The line of conduct which
Beresford was to pursue when Soult should appear had been already
settled--he was to fight if the enemy were weak, to retire behind the
Guadiana if he were strong[505]. But meanwhile it was now possible
to reinforce Beresford with 10,000 men, since Marmont and Bessières
would be out of the game for many weeks. Leaving nearly 30,000 men on
the Dos Casas and the Coa, to protect the Portuguese frontier and to
guard the repairing of Almeida, Wellington could march to join the
Army of Estremadura with the balance of his army. He thought that two
divisions could be spared, and chose the 3rd and the 7th. If he marched
rapidly across the Beira with this force, he might arrive in time to
join Beresford for the battle against Soult which was inevitable. It
might take place south of the Guadiana, if the French Marshal had
delayed his advance, or north of it, if he had come up in great force
and had compelled Beresford to give back toward Elvas, and to abandon
the siege of Badajoz. But in either case Beresford’s army, reinforced
by 10,000 men, would be strong enough to beat Soult. The only possible
contingency to be feared was that the Duke of Dalmatia might abandon
Granada and the Lines before Cadiz, concentrate 50,000 men, and let
Andalusia shift for itself while he marched on Badajoz. Wellington
judged, and rightly, that it was most improbable that he would make
this desperate move, and evacuate three-fourths of his viceroyalty,
in order to make certain of saving Badajoz. Knowing the strength of
Beresford and Castaños, he would come with the 20,000 or 25,000 men
that he could collect without disgarrisoning any points of primary
importance. In such a case, supposing that he came with the higher
figure, Beresford had 20,000 Anglo-Portuguese, 10,000 more were coming
down from the Beira, and there were the Spaniards of Blake and of
Castaños to be taken into consideration. Soult would find himself faced
by 45,000 men, and could not possibly prevent the siege of Badajoz from
proceeding. If the place could be taken promptly, there would be no
time for reinforcements to reach the Marshal from the Army of Portugal
or the Army of the Centre: and should he finally resolve to draw up
further forces from Andalusia, he must abandon either the kingdom
of Granada or the Cadiz lines, or both. To force him to give up his
grasp on either of these points would be a great end in itself, and a
sufficient reward for a successful campaign.

  [505] See pp. 280-1.

But everything depended on swift movement and the economy of time.
Should Soult refuse to fight, and resolve to appeal for help to the
other French armies, it was certain that 50,000 men might be gathered
to his aid within a month or five weeks. All the Anglo-Portuguese
troops combined, supposing that every man were drawn in from the north
to join Beresford, would not make up over 60,000 sabres and bayonets.
On the other hand, a junction between the Armies of Andalusia and
Portugal, with aid lent by Bessières and the Army of the Centre, could
certainly produce 80,000 men, perhaps more. Wherefore it might be
argued that if Badajoz could be taken in a month a great success might
be scored. But if the siege were to linger on over that time, the enemy
would be able to concentrate in such force that the enterprise might
become impracticable. The game was worth trying.

Wellington’s dispatches to Lord Liverpool and other correspondents
between the 14th and the 25th of May make it perfectly clear that these
were his views. ‘Fortunately for me,’ he wrote, ‘the French armies have
no communications, and one army has no knowledge of the position or
of the circumstances in which the others are placed, whereas I have a
knowledge of all that passes on all sides. From this knowledge I think
I may draw troops from Beira for my operations against Badajoz. But I
cannot venture further south till I shall get Ciudad Rodrigo, without
exposing all to ruin[506].’ Again, ‘I do not think it possible for me
to undertake more in the south, under existing circumstances, than
the siege of Badajoz. I cannot, by any effort I can make, increase the
British and Portuguese [in that quarter] beyond 30,000 men, to which
the Spanish force may add 8,000 or 10,000 more[507].’ He was perfectly
aware that a concentration against him was possible, but that it would
take a long time to come about. ‘I do not know when Marmont can be
ready to co-operate with Soult; however, as the siege of Badajoz can
be raised with ease and without loss, whenever it may be necessary, I
have thought it best to lose no time, and to adopt every means to get
that place, if I can, before the enemy’s troops can join. If I cannot
get it, I may raise the siege and fight a battle or not, as I may find
most proper, according to the state of our respective forces[508].’ It
is clear, then, that Wellington’s utmost ambition was to take Badajoz,
and that he foresaw that he must take it within a limited time, under
penalty of seeing the scheme fail owing to the concentration of the
enemy. His letters show that he knew that Drouet and the 9th Corps
had started for Andalusia immediately after Fuentes de Oñoro, and in
calculating Soult’s utmost available force in June he takes Drouet into
account[509], though he somewhat under-values his numerical strength.

  [506] To Lord Liverpool, May 23.

  [507] To Beresford, May 14. The 30,000 total allows for Spencer
  and four divisions being left in the North.

  [508] To Lord Liverpool, May 24.

  [509] To Lord Liverpool, May 23.

The garrison of Almeida had made its escape on the night of May
10th-11th; the French army had drawn back beyond Ciudad Rodrigo,
and dispersed itself into cantonments, on May 12th. As early as the
morning of May 14th the column destined for Estremadura set out upon
its march. It consisted, as has been already mentioned, of the 3rd and
7th Divisions, with the artillery attached to them. For the purpose of
providing cavalry for scouting and exploration, the 2nd Hussars of the
King’s German Legion were attached. This corps was the first cavalry
reinforcement that Wellington had received for more than a year. It
had landed at Lisbon in April[510], and had marched up to Celorico;
from thence it was ordered to strike across country, to join the column
marching for the valley of the Guadiana, and to place itself at the
disposition of Picton, its senior officer. They met at Belmonte, and
went on their southward way in company. The route lay through Castello
Branco, the boat-bridge of Villa Velha, Niza, and Portalegre. Picton
reached Campo Mayor, in the immediate vicinity of Badajoz, on May
24th, having taken ten days only to cross the roughest and most thinly
peopled corner of Portugal. The average of marching had been fifteen
miles a day, an excellent rate when the character of the roads is taken
into consideration.

  [510] Apparently on April 10, according to Schwertfeger’s
  _History of the German Legion_, i. 329.

[Illustration: THE THIRD DIVISION CROSSING THE TAGUS AT VILLA VELHA,
MAY 20, 1811]

Wellington himself started from Villar Formoso two days after the
departure of the troops, on May 16th, and riding with his accustomed
headlong speed reached Elvas on the afternoon of May 19th[511]. He
had passed Picton between Sabugal and Belmonte. Before quitting the
line of the Agueda, he drew up elaborate instructions for Sir Brent
Spencer, who was left, as usual, in charge of the army on the northern
frontier. The force entrusted to Spencer consisted of the 1st, 5th,
6th, and Light Divisions, Pack’s and Ashworth’s Portuguese brigades,
and the cavalry of Slade, Arentschildt, and Barbaçena, altogether
about 26,000 foot and 1,800 horse. The directions left were much the
same as those which had been issued during Wellington’s earlier visit
to Estremadura in April. ‘It is probable that some time will elapse
before the French army in this part of Spain will be capable of making
any movement against the Allies.’ Yet the unexpected might happen, and
Spencer was told that, while so large a detachment was absent in the
south, he must adopt a purely defensive attitude in the unlikely event
of Marmont’s taking the field against him. For the present he was to
hold the line of the Azava, facing Ciudad Rodrigo, with his advanced
posts. The divisions were to be cantoned between Almeida and Nava de
Aver, so that they could be concentrated in a single day. If the enemy
should advance with a large force, as if intending a serious invasion,
Almeida was to be evacuated, since it would be impossible that the
repairs to its ruined ramparts should have got far enough to render the
place tenable. The army was to fall back, not westward towards Almeida
and Guarda, but southwards, firstly to the position before Alfayates
which had already been marked out in April, then to a second position
at Aldea Velha and Rendo, then to a third beyond the Coa. In case
Marmont should push even further, the line of retreat was to be from
Sabugal to Belmonte, and finally by the mountain road of the Estrada
Nova towards the Zezere. ‘But the strong country between Belmonte and
the Zezere must not be given up in a hurry[512].’ All this was pure
precaution against the improbable: Wellington was convinced, and quite
rightly, that Marmont would be incapable for some weeks, probably for
some months, of any serious offensive action against Portugal. To
invade the Beira he would have to collect a store of provisions such
as the exhausted kingdom of Leon could not possibly give him. His
magazines were known to have been empty after Fuentes de Oñoro, and his
troops had been dispersed because there was no possibility of feeding
them while they were concentrated. Spencer could be in no possible
danger for many a day; so strongly did Wellington feel this, that when
he reached Elvas he wrote back to his lieutenant on May 24th that he
intended to borrow from him Howard’s British and Ashworth’s Portuguese
brigades, and thought that this could be done without any risk. But if,
‘notwithstanding my expectations to the contrary,’ Marmont seemed to be
on the move, the brigades might be stopped[513].

  [511] He outrode his own estimate, since according to a letter to
  Charles Stuart (_Dispatches_, vii. 572) he had intended not to
  reach Elvas till the 21st, ‘unless I see reason on the road to go
  a little quicker.’

  [512] Memorandum for Spencer, dated May 15th, the night before
  Wellington’s departure. _Dispatches_, vii. p. 567.

  [513] To Spencer, May 24. _Dispatches_, vii. p. 602.

Just before starting on his ride from Villar Formoso to Elvas
Wellington received Beresford’s dispatches of May 12, which informed
him that Soult (as had been expected) was on the march from Seville
to relieve Badajoz, and that, according to the instructions that had
been given, the allied army of Estremadura would fight him, if he were
not too strong to be meddled with. It was the news that battle was
impending which made the Commander-in-Chief quicken his pace to fifty
miles a day, in hopes that he might be in time to take charge of the
troops in person. He galloped ahead, and on the morning of the 19th
heard, between Niza and Elvas, that there had been a pitched battle
on the 16th, and that Soult had been repulsed. The details met him
at Elvas, where Arbuthnot, Beresford’s aide-de-camp, handed him the
Albuera dispatch. He read it through, and struck out some paragraphs
before sending it on to the Ministry at home. The reason for these
erasures was that he considered that Beresford’s tone was a little too
desponding, and that he had laid too much stress on the terrible loss
of the British troops, and too little on the complete check to Soult’s
designs[514]. He wrote to the Marshal to hearten him up, to tell him
that the result achieved had been worth the cost. ‘You could not be
successful in such an action without a large loss, and we must make up
our mind to affairs of this kind sometimes--or give up the game[515].’

  [514] This is mentioned by Wellington himself (Stanhope’s
  _Conversations_, p. 90): ‘He could not stand the slaughter
  about him and the vast responsibility: the letter was quite in
  a desponding tone. It was brought me by Arbuthnot while I was
  at dinner at Elvas, and I said, “This won’t do: write me down a
  victory.” So the dispatch was altered accordingly.’

  [515] Wellington to Beresford, May 19, 4.30 p.m.

With the military situation that he found in existence on May 19th
Wellington professed himself satisfied. Hamilton’s Portuguese division
had reinvested Badajoz on the preceding day. Soult was in full retreat,
with the allied cavalry in pursuit of him. It was uncertain whether he
would fall back on Seville or halt at the line of the Sierra Morena;
but at any rate his bolt was shot: he could give no trouble for some
weeks, and would only become dangerous if he strengthened his army by
calling up Sebastiani and Victor, and evacuating the Cadiz Lines and
Granada. This Wellington rightly believed that he would not think of
doing. He would rather cry for aid to his neighbours, and it would take
a long time for reinforcements to reach him from the Army of Portugal
or from Madrid. There was a month in hand, and Badajoz must be captured
if possible within that space.

The first thing necessary was to push Soult as far back as he would go,
and from the 20th to the 26th Beresford was engaged in following him
up. At first only the cavalry was available for pursuit: Hamilton’s
division had been sent back to Badajoz; the 2nd and 4th were allowed
five days of repose on the battlefield of Albuera. Not only were
they absolutely exhausted, but all their transport was engaged in
the heart-rending task of forwarding to Elvas convoy after convoy
of British wounded. The French, of whom the last were not collected
till three days after the battle, were packed in an extemporized
hospital at Albuera village, where they suffered much for lack of
surgeons. It would have been possible to send Blake’s army to support
the British cavalry if he had possessed provisions, but he reported
that his men were starving, and that he must disperse them to procure
food; accordingly they were sent to Almendral, Barcarrota, and the
neighbouring villages, to gather stores as best they might.

Soult meanwhile gave back slowly, being hampered by his immense convoys
of wounded. On the 20th he retired from Solana to Almendralejo and
Azeuchal, on the 21st to Villafranca and Fuente del Maestre; on the
22nd he was in march for Usagre and Llerena, so that it was evident
that he was retiring on the Sierra Morena by the Llerena and not by the
Monasterio road. It was only on this last day that Beresford’s infantry
were able to start in support of the cavalry advanced guard, which had
been cautiously following on Soult’s track. The Albuera divisions were
sad wrecks of their former selves; the 2nd had but 2,500 bayonets in
its three brigades, the 4th about 2,200 British and 2,500 Portuguese;
Alten’s German brigade was less than 1,000 strong, so that the whole
did not make up much more than 8,000 men. But Blake was requested to
move on Feria and Zafra, parallel to the advance of the British column,
and did so, having collected a few days’ provisions in his cantonments.
The whole force was sufficient to move Soult back, since his troops
were in a despondent humour, and did not amount to more than 13,000 or
14,000 men, for he had been forced to detach a brigade under Gazan to
escort his immense train of wounded back to Seville. But the allied
infantry never came up with the retreating French; by the time that
it had reached Villalba and Fuente del Maestre Soult was at Llerena,
thirty miles ahead.

The last day of his retreat was marked by a vigorous cavalry action,
the most satisfactory of its kind that the British horse in the
Peninsula had been engaged in since the combats of Sahagun and
Benavente. Having reached Llerena, where he intended to stop if he
were allowed, Soult determined to find out what was the force which was
pursuing him, and more especially if it were accompanied by infantry.
He instructed Latour-Maubourg to turn back, to attack the allied
horse, and to drive it in upon its supports. Accordingly the French
cavalry general took the four brigades of Bron, Bouvier des Éclats,
Vinot, and Briche[516], some 3,000 sabres in all, and began to advance
along the high-road. He found in Villa Garcia the enemy’s advanced
vedettes, composed of Penne Villemur’s Spaniards, drove them out, and
pursued them for five miles, till he came to the town of Usagre, where
he caught a glimpse of supports in position. He had run against the
main body of the allied horse, though he could not make out either its
strength or its intentions.

  [516] Bron’s brigade was composed of the 4th, 20th, 26th
  Dragoons, Bouvier’s of the 14th, 17th, 27th Dragoons, Vinot’s
  of the 2nd Hussars and 27th _chasseurs_, Briche’s of the 10th
  Hussars and 21st _chasseurs_.

General Lumley, who was thus thrown upon the defensive, had with him
his three original British cavalry regiments (3rd Dragoon Guards,
4th Dragoons, 13th Light Dragoons), four small regiments of Madden’s
and Otway’s Portuguese[517], and a detachment of Penne Villemur’s
Spanish horse under General Loy[518], about 2,200 sabres in all, so
that his position was a dangerous one. But the fighting-ground was
propitious. Usagre lies on the south bank of the stream, which flows in
a well-marked ravine; on the north bank there are two rolling heights a
few hundred yards back from the water, with a definite sky-line. Troops
placed behind them were invisible to an enemy coming up from the town,
and the French, if they wished to attack, would have to defile on a
narrow front, first through the main street of Usagre, and then across
the bridge.

  [517] 1st, 5th, 7th, 8th of the Line, only 9 squadrons
  altogether, and slightly over 1,000 sabres.

  [518] Apparently a squadron each of Borbon and Reyna, the rest of
  the Spanish cavalry being on the Monasterio Road. Penne Villemur
  was sick at Villafranca. Strength about 300 sabres.

On hearing of Latour-Maubourg’s approach, Lumley sent the 13th
Light Dragoons and Otway’s Portuguese across the ravine to the left
of the town, and Madden’s Portuguese in like manner on the right,
each using a ford which had been previously discovered and sounded.
The heavy dragoons remained facing the town, behind the sky-line,
with Lefebure’s battery, guarding the high-road. Both the flanking
forces reported that the enemy was coming up the road in great
strength--Lumley was told that thirteen regiments had been counted,
though there were really only ten. Wherefore he ordered Otway and
Madden to recross the stream by their fords, which they did without
loss, and to watch these passages, while keeping well under cover
behind the sky-line.

Latour-Maubourg could not make out the force or the intentions of
the Allies; he had seen clearly only the Spanish vedettes which he
had driven out of Usagre; but Madden’s and Otway’s squadrons had
not escaped notice altogether, though they retired early, so that
he was aware that a hostile force of some strength was lying behind
the heights. He therefore resolved not to debouch from Usagre along
the high-road with his main body, across the defile at the bridge,
till he had got a flanking force across the stream, to threaten and
turn Lumley, if he were intending to defend the line along the water.
Briche’s brigade of light horse was told off for this purpose, with
orders to go to the right, down-stream, and to pass the river at the
ford which Otway’s Portuguese had been seen to use in their retreat.
Meanwhile the other three French brigades waited in Usagre, deferring
their advance till the _chasseurs_ should have time to get on Lumley’s
flank.

The two forces did not keep touch. Briche went for a mile along the
river, and found the ford; but Otway was guarding it, and he did
not like to try the passage of a steep ravine in face of an enemy
in position. Wherefore he moved further off, looking for a more
practicable and unguarded crossing; but the banks grew steeper and
steeper as he rode northward, and he found that he was losing time.
He was long absent, and apparently committed the inexcusable fault of
omitting to send any report explaining his long delay. After waiting
for more than an hour Latour-Maubourg became impatient, and fell
into an equally grave military error. Taking it for granted that the
_chasseurs_ must now be in their destined position, he ordered his
division of dragoons to debouche from the town and cross the stream
and the defile. Bron’s brigade led; the two regiments in front, the
4th and 20th, trotted over the bridge, and deployed on the other
side, on an ascending slope, to cover the passage of the remainder
of the division. The third regiment of the brigade, the 26th, was
just crossing the bridge, when suddenly the whole sky-line in front
was covered with a long line of horsemen charging downwards. Lumley
had waited till the propitious moment, and had caught his enemy in a
trap, with one-third of his force across the water, and the remainder
jammed in the defile of bridge and street. The 4th Dragoons charged
Bron straight in front, the 3rd Dragoon Guards took him somewhat in
flank, while Madden’s Portuguese supported on the right, and Penne
Villemur’s Spaniards on the left. The two deployed French regiments
were hurled back on the third, at the bridge-foot, and all three fell
into most lamentable confusion. The Allies penetrated into the mass,
and broke it to pieces, with great slaughter. The survivors, unable to
pass the encumbered bridge, dispersed right and left, far along the
banks of the stream, where they were pursued and hunted down in detail.
Latour-Maubourg could do no more than dismount the leading regiment
of his second brigade and set them to fire from the houses along the
water-side, while four horse artillery guns opened upon the enemy’s
main body. But the guns were promptly silenced by Lefebure’s battery,
which Lumley had put in action on the slope above, and Latour-Maubourg
had to watch the destruction of Bron’s brigade without being able to
give effective help. More than 250 dragoons were killed or wounded,
and 6 officers, including the colonel of the 4th, with 72 men were led
away prisoners[519]. The British loss was insignificant--not twenty
troopers--for the enemy had been caught in a position in which they
could offer no effective resistance. Lumley made no attempt to attack
Usagre town, which would indeed have been insane, and drew off at
leisure with his prisoners. Latour-Maubourg sent to recall Briche, and
remained halted on his own side of the stream till evening.

  [519] Lumley in his very modest dispatch (Wellington,
  _Supplementary Dispatches_, xiii. pp. 654-6) under-estimates the
  damage he had done to the enemy. He states his 78 prisoners, and
  notes that 29 French dead had been counted, but only speaks of 50
  wounded. There were really over 200. In combats with the _arme
  blanche_, the number of killed is always very small compared with
  that of the wounded, which here was about 8 to 1--not at all an
  unusual proportion in cavalry fights. A good account from the
  French side may he found in Picard’s _Histoire de la Cavalerie,
  1792-1815_, vol. ii. pp. 315-16.

At Usagre the two armies drew their line of demarcation for nearly
a month. Soult stopped at Llerena, since he found that he was not
to be pressed; his advanced cavalry continued to hold Usagre and
Monasterio, on the two roads from Badajoz and Seville. Beresford, by
Wellington’s orders, did not move further forward: it was not intended
that Andalusia should be invaded, or a second battle with Soult risked.
The cavalry formed a line from Hinojosa to Fuente Cantos, facing the
French, the Anglo-Portuguese forming the left, the Spanish the right
of the screen. Some of Blake’s infantry moved up to Zafra in support,
but the main body remained further to the rear, about Santa Marta and
Barcarrota. The British 2nd and 4th Divisions were placed further
back, at Almendralejo and the neighbouring villages, with the bulk
of Lumley’s cavalry in front of them at Ribera, in support of the
left half of the screen, which its advanced squadrons supplied. On
the 27th May Beresford relinquished the command of the separate army
of Estremadura, which had been merged in a larger unit when the 3rd
and 7th Divisions came up to Campo Mayor on the 24th. Wellington had
announced his intention of assuming permanent charge of the force in
the south, which was henceforth considered as the main army, and the
seat of head quarters, while Spencer’s four divisions on the frontier
of Leon were now to be regarded as the subsidiary force.

In his letters home Wellington spoke of Beresford’s removal from active
command in the field as necessary because of the unsatisfactory state
into which the Portuguese army had fallen during his absence; his
strong and methodical hand had been much missed, and matters of detail
had all gone wrong. But there can be no doubt that this was a secondary
consideration; the real cause of his supersession was that his chief
had not been satisfied with his conduct of the Estremaduran campaign
in March and April. Though there were excuses and explanations to be
found for each one of his individual acts, yet the general effect of
his leadership had not been happy. The best commentary on it was that
every one, from Wellington to the simplest soldier in the ranks, was
delighted to hear that Rowland Hill had landed at Lisbon on May 24,
and was on his way to the front to resume command of the 2nd Division.
He was at once placed in the same position that he had held in 1810, i.
e. entrusted with the command not only of his own division but of the
whole wing of the army which was detached to the south. The force put
at his disposition to observe Soult and cover the leaguer of Badajoz,
consisted of precisely the same units that had formed Beresford’s
Albuera army--with the exception that Hamilton’s and Collins’s
Portuguese had been drawn off to the siege operations. Hill had charge
of the 2nd and 4th Divisions, Alten’s detached German brigade, and
De Grey’s and Madden’s cavalry, the whole about 10,000 strong. When
he arrived at Elvas on May 31st, and then went forward to establish
himself at Almendralejo, Wellington felt a degree of security that he
had not known for months. It was certain that nothing would be risked,
that there would be neither delays nor mistakes, while this kindly,
cheerful, and resolute old soldier, the idol of his troops, who called
him in affection ‘Daddy Hill,’ was in charge of the covering corps.

Meanwhile Wellington himself took the siege operations in hand, and
employed in them the troops he had brought from the Beira, the 3rd
and 7th Divisions, together with Hamilton’s and Collins’s Portuguese.
The whole, including about 700 British and Portuguese artillerymen,
mainly the same companies that had served in Beresford’s siege, made
up about 14,000 men--a force even smaller than that with which Soult
had attacked Badajoz in January; but the French Marshal had had to deal
with a garrison of 9,000 men, while General Phillipon, the resourceful
governor now in charge of the place, had but a little over 3,000--a
difference which made Wellington’s position much more advantageous than
Soult’s had been. The cavalry which had come down from the Beira along
with Picton, the 2nd Hussars of the K. G. L.[520], was sent to join the
rest of the horse, and went to form a new brigade, being added to the
13th Light Dragoons, a regiment hitherto unbrigaded. By June 1st there
was another mounted corps to hand--the 11th Light Dragoons,[521] which
also went to join Lumley, so that the British cavalry in Estremadura
rose from three to six regiments during the summer.

  [520] Only two squadrons strong, because the remainder of the
  regiment was at Cadiz: it had (as will be remembered) done good
  service under Graham at Barrosa.

  [521] It arrived by June 1st, according to Mr. Atkinson’s useful
  list of Wellington’s divisional organization.

There were two deficiencies, however, which made Wellington’s task in
besieging Badajoz a hard, nay an almost hopeless one. His artillery
material, if not so ludicrously inadequate as that of Beresford during
the first siege, was still utterly insufficient. And to this we must
add that his engineer officers were still both few and unpractised
in their art. They repeated the same mistakes that had been seen in
the early days of May. Of trained rank and file in the engineering
branch there were practically none--only twenty-five ‘royal military
artificers.’ The home authorities apparently grudged sending out to
Portugal men of this small and highly trained corps, and preferred to
keep them in England. It is impossible to speak with patience of the
fact that there was not even one company of them in the Peninsula,
after the war had been going on for three years[522]!

  [522] Mulcaster’s company, the first to arrive, reached Spain
  some weeks later. By the time of the third siege of Badajoz in
  1812 there were so many as 115(!) military artificers available.

It was the miscalculations of the engineers--Colonel Fletcher was
presumably the responsible person, as Wellington’s chief technical
adviser--rather than the deplorable weakness of the artillery
resources--which made the second British siege of Badajoz as disastrous
as the first. Untaught by the experiences of the first week in May,
the engineers advised Wellington to direct his efforts against the two
strongest points in the defences, the rocky hill crowned by the fort
of San Cristobal on one bank of the Guadiana, and the Castle on its
steep slope upon the other. The arguments used seem to have been the
same as before--time being limited, it was necessary to strike at the
most decisive points. If either San Cristobal or the Castle could be
breached and stormed, the rest of the fortress would be dominated and
would become untenable. If, on the other hand, one of the southern
fronts, where the French had made their attack, were to be chosen
as the objective, the Castle and San Cristobal, forming independent
defences, might hold out long after the enceinte had been pierced and
carried. Moreover, it was urged, San Cristobal was an isolated fort, so
placed that it could get no help from the flank fires of other works,
save from a few guns on the Castle; its other neighbour, the fort at
the bridge-head, was too low-lying to be of any help.

Practically the only difference between the engineers’ plans for the
first[523] and the second siege of Badajoz was that in the latter more
attention was paid to the attack on the south side, and the whole force
of the besiegers was not concentrated on San Cristobal, as it had been
in early May. A serious attempt was made to breach the Castle, not a
mere demonstration or false attack. Yet, as matters turned out, all
the stress of the work once more fell upon the San Cristobal front,
where two desperate assaults were made and repulsed, while on the
Castle front matters never got to the point of an attempted storm.
Summing up the siege in the words of D’Urban, Beresford’s chief of
the staff, who watched it ruefully, we can only echo his conclusion
‘that the fact is that the engineers began upon the wrong side[524].’
Two geological peculiarities of the ground were fatal to success: the
first was that on San Cristobal the soil is so shallow--three inches
only on top of the hard rock--that it was impossible to construct
proper trenches. The second was that the Castle hill is composed of
a clay-slate which does not crumble, however much battered, and that
the wall there was simply a facing to the native soil. Its stones
might be battered down, but the hillside stood firm when the stones
had fallen, and remained perpendicular and inaccessible. The latter
fact could not be known to Wellington’s engineers; but the former was
fully within their cognizance, owing to their experience in the first
siege. There can be no doubt that they ought to have selected for
battering the south front--either the point where Soult worked during
February, or still better the walls nearer the river, by the bastion
of San Vincente, where the ground is equally favourable and there is
no flanking external defence like the Pardaleras fort. If every gun
had been concentrated on this section, and every available man set to
trench-work against it, there can be little doubt that Wellington would
have got Badajoz within the scant four weeks that were at his disposal.

  [523] Refer back to pp. 283-4 for details.

  [524] D’Urban’s diary under June 10th, when the siege was just
  developing into an acknowledged failure.

Though the blockade had been resumed on May 18th, the actual siege did
not recommence for some days later, since the troops from the Beira,
who were to conduct it, did not get up till a week had passed. On May
25th Houston’s division arrived from Campo Mayor, and took position on
the heights beyond San Cristobal; they were there joined by the 17th
Portuguese from the garrison of Elvas, and two regiments of Algarve
Militia (Tavira and Lagos) were assigned for transport and convoy
duty between the trenches and Elvas. Picton and the 3rd Division came
up two days later (May 27th), crossed the Guadiana by the ford above
the city, and joined Hamilton’s Portuguese on the southern bank. An
earlier arrival of the Beira divisions would have been of no great
use, since it was only on the 29th that Colonel Alexander Dickson, who
had once more been entrusted with the artillery arrangements, had sent
off his great convoy of guns from Elvas. This time that indefatigable
officer had collected a siege-train twice as large as that which he
had prepared for Beresford four weeks earlier--there were forty-six
guns in all[525] instead of twenty-three. But unhappily the pieces
were the same as those used in the first siege, or their equals in age
and defects. The large majority were the old brass 24-pounders of the
seventeenth century which had already given so much trouble from their
irregularity of calibre, their tendency to droop at the muzzle when
much used, and their tiresome habit of ‘unbushing’ (i. e. blowing out
their vent fitting). Six iron ship-guns, ordered up from Lisbon, only
arrived when the siege was far advanced, and were the sole weapons
of real efficiency with which Dickson was provided. It is clear that
head quarters might have done something in the way of ordering up
better guns early in May, the moment that the first siege had shown
the deficiencies of the Elvas museum of artillery antiquities. The
gunners, like the guns, were about doubled in number since Beresford’s
_fiasco_: there were now over 500 Portuguese, and one company of
British (Raynsford’s), 110 strong, who arrived from Lisbon on the
30th, riding on mules which had been provided at Estremos to give them
a rapid journey. To aid the twenty-one engineers on the spot, eleven
officers from line battalions had been taken on as assistant engineers,
while the twenty-five military artificers had to train 250 rank and
file, selected from the 3rd and 7th Divisions, to act as carpenters,
miners, and sappers. The work of these amateurs was, as might have been
expected, not very satisfactory, and the make of their gabions and
fascines left much to be desired.

  [525] 30 brass 24-pounders, 4 16-pounders, 4 ten-inch howitzers,
  8 eight-inch ditto, according to Dickson’s letter of May 29.
  See his papers, ed. Leslie, p. 394. I follow him rather than
  Jones’s _Sieges of the Peninsula_, where they differ, as he is
  absolutely contemporary authority, and was the officer in charge
  of everything.

On May 29th the siege work began, by the opening up of the old trenches
opposite the Pardaleras fort, which the French had filled in on the day
of Albuera. This was merely done to draw the attention of the garrison
away from the real points of attack, for there was no intention of
approaching the place from the south. It would have been better for the
Allies had this been a genuine operation, and if the Castle and San
Cristobal attacks had been false! It attracted, as was intended, much
notice from the garrison.

On the night of the 30th the serious work began. On the Castle side
1,600 men from the 3rd Division commenced at dusk a long trench, on
the same ground that had been dug over during the first siege, and
three zigzag approaches to it from the rear. This trench, the first
parallel, was no less than 800 yards from the Castle. The attention of
the enemy was so much drawn to other points, and the soil was so soft,
that by daybreak there had been formed a trench 1,100 yards long, with
a parapet three feet high, and a depth of three feet in the ground:
the approaches were also well advanced. On San Cristobal, at the other
attack, everything went very differently. The ground chosen for the
first parallel was, owing to the exigencies of the contour of the hill,
only 400 yards from the fort. The working parties were discovered
at once, and a heavy fire was directed on them, not only from San
Cristobal, but from the Castle, across the river. It was found that
there was no soil to dig in--what little once existed had been used in
building the old trenches of the first siege, and the French governor,
during his days of respite, May 15-18, had ingeniously ordered that all
this earth should be carted away, and thrown down