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Title: English Battles and Sieges in the Peninsula. - Extracted from his 'Peninsula War'.
Author: Napier, William
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber’s Note

Superscripts are indicated with a circumflex: M^cKenzie. Italics are
enclosed in _underscores_.

[Illustration: W Napier

Lieu^t.-General Sir W. Napier. Pinx^t. W.H. Egleton, sculp^t.]



  &c. &c.




In this publication, the combats of Roriça, Vimiero, and Coruña, and
the character of Sir John Moore, have been entirely recomposed. The
other battles and sieges are, with more or less compression of details,
transcripts from the History of the Peninsula War. Thus arranged they
will perhaps most effectually exhibit the constant energy of the
British soldier, and draw attention in their neighbourhoods to the
veterans who still survive. Few of those brave men have more than
a scanty provision, many have none; and nearly all, oppressed with
wounds, disease, and poverty, sure attendants on an old soldier’s
services, feel life a burthen, so heavy as to make them envy the lot of
comrades who threw it off early on the field of battle.

For the authenticity of the events the reader has this guarantee.
The author was either an eye-witness of what he relates, or acquired
his knowledge from those who were. Persons of no mean authority.
Commanders-in-chief, generals, and other officers on both sides;
private official correspondence of the English envoys; military
journals and reports of the French leaders; the correspondence of the
intrusive King Joseph, and his ministers, and the private military
notes and instructions of the Emperor Napoleon, have all contributed to
establish the truth of the facts and motives of action.

For the great Captain who led the British troops so triumphantly,
this record gives no measure of ability. To win victories was the
least of his labours. Those who desire to know what an enormous
political, financial, and military pressure he sustained, what wiles
he circumvented, what opposing skill he baffled, what a powerful
enemy he dealt with and overcame, must seek the story in the original
History from which this work has been extracted. For the soldiers it
is no measure of their fortitude and endurance: it records only their
active courage. But what they were, their successors now are--witness
the wreck of the Birkenhead, where four hundred men, at the call of
their heroic officers, Captain Wright and Lieutenant Girardot, calmly
and without a murmur, accepted death in a horrible form rather than
endanger the women and children already saved in the boats. The records
of the world furnish no parallel to this self-devotion!


  Combat of Roriça--Battle of Vimiero--Coruña--Battle of
    Coruña--Heroic Death and Character of Sir John Moore               1


  Douro--Passage of the Douro--Talavera--Combat of Salinas--First
    Combat of Talavera--Second Combat of Talavera--Battle
    of Talavera                                                       18


  Combats on the Coa and Agueda--Barba de Puerco--Combat of
    Almeida on the Coa--Anecdotes of British Soldiers--Battle of
    Busaco                                                            44


  Matagorda--Battle of Barosa--Massena’s Retreat--Combat of
    Redinha--Combat of Cazal Nova--Combat of Foz d’Aronce--Combat
    of Sabugal--Extraordinary Escape of Colonel Waters--Combat
    of Fuentes Onoro--Battle of Fuentes Onoro--Evacuation
    of Almeida                                                        61


  Combat of Campo Mayor--First English Siege of Badajos--Battle
    of Albuera--Renewed Siege of Badajos--First Assault of
    Christoval--Second Assault of Christoval                          86


  Blockade of Ciudad Rodrigo--Combat of Elbodon--Guinaldo--Combat
    of Aldea Ponte--Surprise of Arroyo de Molinos--Defence
    of Tarifa--English Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo--Third
    English Siege of Badajos--Assault of Picurina--Assault of
    Badajos                                                          109


  Beira--Extraordinary Escape of Major Grant--Surprise of
    Almaraz--Siege of the Salamanca Forts--Combats between the
    Duero and the Tormes--Combats of Castrejon and the Guarena--
    Battle of Salamanca--Combat of La Serna                          157


  Madrid--Siege of Burgos--First Assault--Second Assault--Third
    Assault--Fourth Assault--Fifth Assault--Retreat from Burgos--
    Combat of Venta de Pozo--Combat on the Carion--Pisuerga--
    Duero--Retreat from Madrid--Tormes--Matilla--Combat of the
    Huebra                                                           202


  March to Vittoria--Battle of Vittoria                              237


  Battle of Castalla--English Siege of Tarragona--Siege of San
    Sebastian--Storming of San Bartolomeo--First Storm of San
    Sebastian                                                        262


  Pyrenees--Combat of Roncesvalles--Combat of Linzoain--Combat
    of Maya--Combat of Zabaldica--First Battle of Sauroren--Combat
    of Buenza--Second Battle of Sauroren--Combat of
    Doña Maria--Combats of Echallar and Ivantelly                    287


  Catalonia--Combat of Ordal--Renewed Siege of San Sebastian--
    Storm of San Sebastian--Battles on the Bidassoa--Combat of
    San Marcial--Combat of Vera                                      325


  English Passage of the Bidassoa and Second Combat of Vera--The
    Passage of the Lower Bidassoa--Second Combat of Vera--Battle
    of the Nivelle; Characters of Colonel Lloyd and
    Lieutenant Freer                                                 352


  Passage of the Nive--Battles in front of Bayonne--Combat of
    Arcangues--First Battle of Barrouilhet--Second Battle of
    Barrouilhet--Third Combat of Barrouilhet--Battle of St.
    Pierre--Operations beyond the Nive                               385


  Passages of the Gaves and the Adour--Passage of the Gaves--
    Combat of Garris--Passage of the Adour--Passage of the Gaves
    continued--Battle of Orthes--Combat of Aire                      412


  Garonne--Adour Combat of Vic Bigorre--Death and Character of
    Colonel Sturgeon; Surprising Feat of Captain Light--Combat
    of Tarbes--Operations on the Garonne--Major Hughes; Battle
    of Toulouse--Sally from Bayonne                                  440





  Combat of Roriça--Battle of Vimiero--Coruña--Battle of Coruña.

In the year 1808 Sir Arthur Wellesley marched from the Mondego river
with twelve thousand three hundred men, and eighteen guns, to attack
General Junot who was in military possession of Portugal. The French
troops were scattered, but General Laborde had been detached with a
division to cover their concentration, and watch the English movements.
This led to the first fight between the French and English in the

COMBAT OF RORIÇA. (Aug. 1808.)

Fourteen hundred Portuguese, under Colonel Trant, a military agent,
joined the British on the march, and the French were felt the 15th
of August at Brilos, in front of Obidos, where some men fell in a
skirmish. Sir A. Wellesley then entered the Valley of Obidos, in the
middle of which Laborde occupied isolated ground of moderate elevation,
near the village of Roriça; he had only five thousand men and six guns,
little more than one-third of the English numbers, but he had five
hundred cavalry, had chosen his position well, and could handle troops
with dexterity.

On his right was a lofty mountain ridge, on his left lower but very
rough ground, and the valley behind him was closed, not only by
the commingling of the hills in a mountainous knot, but by a rocky
projection called the Zambugeira or Columbeira heights, which, at less
than a mile, stood like a citadel in his rear, and was so covered with
copses, wild evergreens and forest trees, and so rugged that only by
paths leading up deep clefts and hollows could it be ascended.

The British general marched from the town of Obidos on the 17th with
fourteen thousand men and eighteen guns in order of battle. His right,
composed of Trant’s Portuguese, turned the French left; his centre,
nine thousand infantry with twelve guns, moved against their front;
his left, one division with six guns, having gained the crest of the
mountain ridge by a wide movement from Obidos, turned the French right,
and was to oppose any counter attack from General Loison, who had
been heard of on that side, and might come up during the action with
a division six thousand strong of all arms. Such an order of battle,
with such superior numbers, forbade Laborde to maintain his ground at
Roriça, and after a cannonade, during which his skirmishers vigorously
disputed the approaches, he, with a nice calculation of time and
distance, retreated under the protection of his cavalry to the rocks
of Zambugeira, and then turned to fight, still hoping to be joined by

This masterly movement compelled Sir Arthur Wellesley to show all
his forces, and imposed a change in disposition. His left was then
reinforced on the mountain, because each passing hour rendered Loison’s
arrival more likely; Trant was more closely to menace the French
heights on the right, and the centre was to break in on the front when
the strength of the position should be shaken by the progress of the

In war, however, error is the rule not the exception. Some mistake
caused the left to move directly against the French right instead of
passing the flank to take them in rear, and as Trant was distant and
too feeble to give uneasiness, the centre dashed prematurely against
the crags of Zambugeira on a front of less than a mile. The advantage
of superior numbers was thus lost, and that of ground was entirely with
the enemy. Only four thousand British could be thrust into the fight,
and though the remainder were at hand, the foremost combatants had
to win their way against an equal force of brave and active troops,
defending rocks which vigorous men only could scale unopposed. Very
crowded also were the assailing columns in the narrow paths, which only
admitted a few men abreast, and hence no positive connection could be
maintained between the different attacks, nor could any unity of power
be insured: but the skirmishers soon covered the face of the ascent,
and the noise and flashing of their musketry, with the smoke bursting
up through the foliage, enabled the English general to mark the
progress of the battle and govern his masses: it was soon manifest that
the position would be finally forced, but within that flame-shooting,
smoking labyrinth, rough work was being done and various turns of
fortune had place.

Laborde, unable to hold his ground alone against the great force
opposed, sought to gain time for Loison’s junction by clinging
tenaciously to the side from whence that general was expected,
and gradually drawing off his troops from the left as the battle
approached. While thus operating, two English regiments, the 9th and
29th, were by a false movement suddenly thrown into his hands. Forming
with the 5th regiment one column of attack, they were to have united
with Trant on the left of the French, but with a fierce neglect of
orders had taken a path leading more directly to the enemy: the head of
the 29th thus reached the table-land above at a point where Laborde was
concentrating his left wing on his centre, and as some of the former
were still coming in, the regiment was assailed in front and flank.
Colonel Lake fell, many men went down with him, and the French on the
English right, few in number and thinking they should be cut off,
furiously broke through the disordered mass, carrying with them a major
and many other prisoners.

Then, dropping below the brow of the hill, the oppressed troops
rallied on their left wing and on the 9th Regiment, and all rushing up
together, regained the table-land, presenting a confused front, which
Laborde vainly endeavoured to destroy: yet many brave men he struck
down, and mortally wounded Colonel Stewart of the 9th, fighting with
great vehemence. Soon the 5th Regiment, which had not deviated from the
true path, appeared on his left, while the skirmishers of the other
attacks emerged thickly from the crags and copses of the ascent: the
left flanking column had now also turned his right, had cut off the
line of communication with Loison, and was so rapidly advancing, as to
render a retreat imperative and difficult. His situation was indeed
critical in the extreme, and he was wounded, but with unyielding
resolution he made the movement along a narrow table-land leading from
his position to the knot of mountains behind, checking pursuit by
partial charges of cavalry, until he reached the village of Zambugeira:
there the ground opened, and the danger from the flanking force being
fended off by deep ravines, he turned and made another stand, but was
finally forced to seek refuge in the higher mountains, having lost
three guns and six hundred men killed and wounded: the British loss
being nearly five hundred.


Laborde was not pursued, his retreat was inland, and to keep near
the coast was essential to the English general, because he expected
reinforcements by sea, and desired to insure their disembarkation and
receive provisions from the ships. In this view he designed to march by
his right on Torres Vedras, which would bring him near the ocean, give
command of the great road to Lisbon, and throw off Loison and Laborde
from that capital; but in the night came intelligence that a large
fleet, conveying two brigades of infantry, was on the coast, and to
protect their landing he made for Vimiero, a village near the sea, nine
miles from Torres Vedras: there the brigades from the ocean augmented
his force to sixteen thousand British soldiers. Junot, meanwhile,
having rallied Laborde’s and Loison’s troops, had forestalled him at
Torres Vedras, with fourteen thousand good soldiers and twenty-three
guns of small calibre; and while his powerful cavalry prevented the
scouts from making observations, he prepared to march in the night of
the 20th and attack on the 21st. Sir Arthur had also projected a march
for the night of the 20th, to turn Junot’s left and gain Mafra in his
rear, without assailing Torres Vedras, which, though shrouded by the
horsemen, was known as a strong position. The armies would thus have
changed places without encountering, if the English ministers had not
appointed three generals senior to Sir Arthur to act in Portugal, one
of whom, Sir Harry Burrard, had arrived. He did not land and assume
command, but he forbade the projected march, and thus deprived the
English army of the initiatory movement, giving it to the French:
moreover, as the ground at Vimiero had been taken temporarily and for
ease, the troops were not in fighting order, thus violating the maxim
which prescribes constant readiness for battle when near an enemy. It
was thus posted.

On the right a mountain ridge, trending from the sea inland, ended
abruptly on a small plain in which the village of Vimiero was situated,
and the greater part of the army was heaped on the summit.

On the other side of the plain the same line was continued by a ridge
of less elevation, narrow, yet protected by a ravine almost impassable,
and being without water had only one regiment and some picquets posted

In front of the break between these heights and within cannon-shot, was
an isolated hill of inferior elevation, yet of good strength, masking
the village and plain of Vimiero, and leaving only narrow egress from
the latter on the right. On this hill six guns and two brigades of
infantry, Fane’s and Anstruther’s, were posted, the former on the left:
behind them in the plain the commissariat and artillery stores were

All the cavalry with the army--a single squadron under Col. Taylor--was
placed at the egress from the plain, on the direct road to Torres
Vedras; but from the counter hills, facing the position, another road,
running from Torres Vedras to Lourinham, led at the distance of two
miles round the left, and by it an enemy could gain the ridge where the
picquets were posted, seize the artillery and commissariat stores in
the plain, and take the central hill and right-hand mountain in reverse.

In the night of the 20th a German officer of cavalry aroused Sir Arthur
Wellesley, saying the French army, twenty thousand strong, was within
an hour’s march. Incredulous of this tale, the bearer of which was in
evident consternation, he merely took some additional precautions;
and at sunrise all eyes were turned southward, seeking an enemy who
was not to be seen. Nevertheless the German’s report was only an
exaggeration.[1] Junot had been in march all night with fourteen, not
twenty, thousand men, designing to fall on at daybreak; but the rugged
ways had retarded his progress, and his vanguard of cavalry did not
crown the hills facing the English position before eight o’clock--the
dust of its march having been discovered an hour before. Had he arrived
by daybreak this dust could not have been observed, and an hour of
preparation would have been lost to the English general, which, with
a good plan of battle, would have enabled the French to gain the
left-hand ridge, by the Lourinham road, before the troops on the right
could cross to occupy that part of the position.

Junot employed little time to note his adversary’s ground and
dispositions, and entirely neglected the mountain on the English right,
as being refused to his line of march; but as the left-hand ridge
appeared naked of troops, he resolved to seize it by a detachment, and
take the English central hill in reverse while he attacked it in front
with his main body, thinking he should find the bulk of the army there.
In this view he directed General Brennier with a brigade across the
ravine covering the ridge, and Laborde with another against the central
hill, supporting the latter with Loison’s division, a reserve of
grenadiers under Kellermann, and the cavalry, thirteen hundred strong,
under Margaron.

To act on conjecture is dangerous in war. Junot conjectured falsely,
and his entire disregard of the English right was a great error; for
when his cavalry crowned the counter hills, Sir A. Wellesley, seeing
the movements did not menace that part of his position, retained there
one brigade under General Hill to serve as a support to the centre,
while four other brigades were sent across the plain to occupy the
left-hand ridge, and a fifth, reinforced with Trant’s Portuguese, moved
to a parallel ridge in rear, where they could watch the Lourinham road.

All these movements were hidden from Junot by the central hill, and two
brigades reached their ground before the action commenced; yet, knowing
the ravine in front to be impracticable, they looked for an attack from
the left, and formed two lines across the ridge, trusting to a chain
of skirmishers to protect their right. The two other brigades were
to have furnished a third line, but while they were passing the plain
below the battle was begun in the centre with great fury.

In front of the English position the ground was so broken and wooded
that the movements of the French, after they passed the counter hills,
could not be discerned until they burst upon the centre in attack;
and though their artillery was most numerous, the tormented ground
impeded its action, while the English guns, of heavier metal, had
free play: their infantry, inferior in number, would therefore have
fought at great disadvantage, even if Junot’s combinations had not
failed; but soon that general discovered the mischief of over-haste
in war. Brennier found the bottom of the ravine impracticable, and
floundering amidst rocks and the beds of torrents was unable to
co-operate with Laborde; hence Junot had to reinforce the latter with
Loison’s infantry, and detach another column of all arms under General
Solignac to turn the English flank by the Lourinham road. But he did
not perceive that Sir Arthur, anticipating such an effort, had there,
not a flank but a front, three lines deep, while the fifth brigade and
Trant’s Portuguese were so disposed, that Solignac, whose movement was
isolated, could be cut off and placed between two fires.

Laborde and Loison opened three attacks, one principal, with minor
bodies on the flanks. The first, being well led and covered by
skirmishers, forced its way up with great vehemence and power, but with
great loss also; for General Fane had called up the reserve artillery
under Colonel Robe to reinforce the six guns already on the platform,
and while they smote the column in front, another battery, belonging to
one of the brigades then ascending the left-hand ridge, smote it in the
right flank, and under this conjoint fire of artillery and a wasting
musketry the French reached the summit, there to sustain a murderous
volley, to be charged by the 50th Regiment, overturned, and driven down

Of the other two columns, the one assailing Anstruther’s brigade was
beaten quickly, and that general had time to reinforce Fane’s left
with the second battalion of the 43rd in opposition to Kellermann’s
grenadiers, half of whom now reinforced the third column on that side.
This regiment, posted in a churchyard on the edge of the declivity,
had one or two companies in advance amongst some trees, and from thence
the first burst of the grenadiers drove them upon the main body; but
then Robe’s battery so smote the left of the French that they dipped
into the ravine on their right, where the battery from the ridge
caught them on the other flank; the moment was happily seized by the
43rd to pour down in a solid mass, and with ringing shouts it dashed
against the column, driving it back with irrecoverable disorder: yet
not without the fiercest fighting. The loss of the regiment was a
hundred and twenty, and when the charge was over, a French soldier and
the Sergeant Armourer, Patrick, were found grimly confronting each
other in death as they had done in life, their hands still clutching
their muskets, and their bayonets plunged to the sockets in each manly
breast! It is by such men that thousands are animated and battles won.

Broken by these rough shocks, the French, to whom defeat was amazement,
retired in confused masses and in a slanting direction towards the
Lourinham road, and while thus disordered Colonel Taylor rode out upon
them doing great execution; but as suddenly Margaron came down with
his strong cavalry, and the gallant Englishman fell with most of his
horsemen. However, half of Junot’s army was now beaten with the loss
of seven guns, and though Margaron’s powerful cavalry, and that moiety
of Kellermann’s grenadiers which had not been engaged, interposed to
prevent pursuit, the line of retreat left the shortest road to Torres
Vedras uncovered--a great fault which did not escape the English
general’s rapid comprehension.

Brennier, unable to emerge from the rocks and hollows where he was
entangled, had been of no weight in this action, but Solignac, having
turned the ravine, appeared on the left about the time Taylor’s
charge terminated the fight in the centre, and his division, strongly
constituted with all arms, was advancing impetuously along the narrow
ground, when General Ferguson, who was there in opposition, met him
with a counter attack, so fierce, so rapid and sustained, that the
French, though fighting stubbornly, bent to the strong pressure.
Solignac was wounded, his cavalry, artillery and infantry, heaped
together and out-flanked, were cut off from their line of retreat
and forced into low ground on their right with a loss of six guns.
These pieces, placed under guard of the 71st and 82nd while Ferguson
continued his course, were again lost by one of those events which make
battles the property of fortune; for Brennier, after long struggling,
having worked up the ravine by his right to an accessible place, had
ascended the ridge, and, unexpectedly falling upon the two regiments
in charge of the captured guns, beat them back. He thus got behind
Ferguson, and had time been given to reform his troops and assail that
general’s rear mischief would have ensued; but the English regiments
were disordered only for a moment; they rallied on higher ground,
poured in their fire, broke the French brigade with a charge and made
Brennier, who was wounded, a prisoner. Solignac’s division was then
without resource, when suddenly another and more decisive change came
over this fitful battle.

Junot’s left wing and centre had been so discomfited, that only half
of Kellermann’s grenadiers and Margaron’s cavalry remained unbroken,
and the road of Torres Vedras, the shortest to Lisbon, was uncovered;
Brennier’s column was entirely broken; Solignac’s division was in
confusion on low ground, cut off from Junot, and menaced front and
rear. But of the English army, Hill’s brigade had not fired a shot;
neither had the brigade conjoined with Trant’s Portuguese, and it was
then marching to take Solignac’s division in rear. The two brigades of
Ferguson’s third line had lost only a few men, and those on the central
hill had not been hardly handled; there was therefore a powerful force
in hand for further operations. Now Brennier, when first taken, eagerly
asked if the reserve had attacked, and the other prisoners being
questioned on this point replied in the affirmative,[2] wherefore the
English general, judging the French power exhausted, and the moment
come for rendering victory decisive, with the genius of a great captain
resolved to make it not only decisive on the field but of the fate of

Expecting Solignac’s division to lay down its arms, he designed to
push his own right wing and centre, under Hill, on Torres Vedras, to
which they were two miles nearer than any part of the French army;
that stroke was sure, and Junot would have been cut off from Lisbon.
Meanwhile Sir Arthur meaned in person vigorously to drive him across
the Baragueda mountain on to the Tagus, by which he would lose his
remaining artillery, and have with disorganised and dispirited troops
to seek refuge under the guns of one of the frontier fortresses. This
great project was stifled as soon as conceived. General Burrard had
arrived on the field of battle, he could not comprehend such a stroke
of war, and not only stopped the execution but ordered Ferguson to
halt. Then Solignac’s division, with the alacrity which distinguished
Napoleon’s soldiers, instantly rejoined Junot, who as promptly
recovered his original ground, and being joined by twelve hundred fresh
men from Lisbon regained Torres Vedras. The battle of Vimiero thus
terminated impotently. Nevertheless, Burrard’s decision, with exception
of the unaccountable order to arrest Ferguson’s career, was not without
a military justification, admitted to be of weight by Sir Arthur, but
it was that of an ordinary general in opposition to a great captain.

CORUÑA. (Jan. 1809.)

The battle of Vimiero, in which the French lost thirteen guns and
about two thousand killed or wounded, the British eight hundred, was
followed by a convention which relieved Portugal, and the English
Government then sent an army into Spain under Sir John Moore. Great
success was looked for by the ministers, yet they took no measures to
render it even probable; and the incredible absurdity of the Spaniards,
who were overthrown in every quarter before the English could reach
them, made that which was improbable impossible. Moore found himself
alone in the midst of a French army commanded by Napoleon, of which
the cavalry alone counted twelve thousand more than the whole British
force! Compelled to retreat, he was pursued by the Emperor, who made
a prodigious march to cut him off at Astorga, and failing of that,
launched Marshal Soult on his traces with one army, supported by
another under Marshal Ney. Through the mountains of Gallicia the three
armies passed like a tempest, yet Moore, with unflinching resolution,
amidst winter rains and appalling difficulties, and without one gleam
of good fortune to nourish energy, reached Coruña with a gain of two
marches on his pursuers. His retreat was one of suffering, of privation
and fatigue, but he met with no disaster in arms, and in many combats
taught the enemy to beware of his sword. At Rueda his cavalry, under
C. Stewart,[3] surprised a French post and made eighty prisoners. Near
Valladolid Major Otway[4] in a sharp action took a colonel, and more
prisoners than he had men to guard them with. At Sahagun Lord Paget[5]
overthrew six hundred dragoons, killed twenty, and took thirteen
officers and one hundred and fifty men. At Mayorga the same nobleman
killed as many, and took a hundred prisoners; and at Benevente defeated
the light cavalry of the Imperial Guard, capturing General Lefebre and
seventy men. At Calcavallos Moore, in person, repulsed a serious attack
in which the French general Colbert was killed. At Constantino he
repulsed another attack, and at Lugo checked the enemy with a loss of
four hundred men.

At Coruña his design was to embark without fighting, but the ships did
not arrive in time, and he had to accept battle in a bad position.
The ground he desired to take was a rocky range abutting on the Mero,
a tidal river, but it being too extensive for his troops, he was
compelled to adopt a similar yet lower range, likewise abutting on the
Mero, yet inclosed on two sides by the greater heights, which were
left for the enemy. Neither of these ranges were crested, and on the
inferior one Moore had to display a front in opposition to the superior
range, from whence the French not only commanded most of the English
line in front within cannon-shot, but could flank it also on the right.
Soult’s ground was indeed in every way advantageous. His left rested
on a clump of rocks overlooking both ranges, and all the country
immediately about; and in the night of the 15th he placed there eleven
heavy guns which, from their elevation, could oppress the right of the
English line and send their bullets raking even to the centre.

Between the two positions the ground was comparatively easy of passage,
though broken and laced with stone inclosures; and as both ridges
ended abruptly on a narrow valley running perpendicular to their range,
there was a seeming facility from their proximity at that flank for
the French to envelop the British right with superior numbers. On the
far side of this valley also was a mountainous chain of hills on which
all Soult’s cavalry were posted, his light horsemen being pushed far
behind the British rear, while his heavy dragoons dismounted to act as
infantry. Thus the French army seemed to be surrounding the English,
but Moore, comprehending all the defects of his position, had adopted a
counteracting order of battle, evincing his own martial vigour, and the
confidence a long career of glorious and successful service had given
him in the stern valour of the British soldier.

To receive battle on the inferior ridge was of necessity, but to extend
his line athwart the narrow valley on his right to the height occupied
by the French cavalry would only have placed more men under the rock
battery, and his flank would still be exposed to the dismounted French
dragoons. Wherefore he merely stretched a thin line of skirmishers
across, and placed a battalion on the lower falls of the hills on their
right, to check the horsemen on the summit. This disposition, and a
scanty manning of the main ridge, where he posted only two divisions,
Hope’s and Baird’s, the latter on the right, gave him two divisions of
reserve, Paget’s and M^cKenzie Frazer’s. The last he placed on rising
ground closely covering Coruña, to watch a road leading round the
heights where the French cavalry were, and which Soult, whose movements
could not be seen, might use to turn the British and cut them off from
the town and harbour.

Paget’s division, the best in the army, remained, and with it Moore
resolved to strike for victory. He kept it in mass behind the right
of his main line, on a moderate elevation, from whence it commanded a
full view of the narrow valley, and could support the screen of light
troops without being exposed to the fire of the eleven-gun battery.
Thus, while the main ridge, strong in itself though ill presented to
the enemy, was offered in defence, with protected flanks, two other
divisions remained in hand to meet the changes of battle--a fine result
to obtain for an inferior army occupying unfavourable ground. But Moore
meaned more than defence. Confident that Baird and Hope would repel
every attack on the ridge, he designed, when time should be ripe, if
the French did not join infantry to their cavalry on the other side of
the valley, to pour down the latter with Paget’s division, reinforcing
it with Frazer’s, and thus carry in one course the rock battery; then
changing from the defensive to the offensive with all his troops,
to drive the enemy into the Mero: it was the conception of a daring
man and a great commander, and only with such potent soldiers as the
British could a like stroke be made. And only a general who had proved
their quality in many a desperate fight could have expected this effort
from his men, after a distressing winter retreat, with a strong enemy
in front and the sea behind! But general and soldiers were of England’s
best. No suffering, no danger could quell their courage, or shake his
confidence in them: and it was so proved in that hour, for many of the
principal officers, appalled at the superior force of the enemy, the
disadvantage of ground, and the difficulty of embarkation, proposed
negotiations, which Moore rejected with cold disdain, trusting as he
had ever done to his gallant troops.

Belonging to the French position, and occupied by them in force, were
two villages, Palavia Abajo in front of their right, Portosa in front
of their centre.

Belonging to the English position, though rather too much advanced,
the village of Elvina covered the right flank, and was occupied by the
picquets of the 50th Regiment.

These features dictated Soult’s order of attack. Forming three columns
of infantry, which he supported with all his light artillery, he
directed two by Palavia and Portosa against the left and centre of
Moore’s line--those villages serving as intermediate supports in case
of disaster--while the third and strongest column was destined to carry
Elvina and then lap round Baird’s right.

BATTLE OF CORUÑA. (Jan. 1809.)

On the 16th of January, 1809, at two o’clock in the afternoon, twenty
thousand French veterans opened this battle against fourteen thousand
British, who, having but nine six-pounders to oppose to a numerous
light artillery, were also galled by eleven heavy guns on the rocks:
and soon that formidable battery opened the fight with a slaughtering
fire, sending its bullets crashing through the English ranks from
right to centre. Then the columns of infantry, throwing out clouds of
skirmishers, descended from their strong ridge to the fight. Those
coming from Palavia and Portosa, having some distance to march, did not
immediately engage, but the third dashed at once against Elvina, and
there was the stress of battle; the picquets were driven in heaps out
of the village, and when that was passed the French mass divided, one
portion advancing against Baird’s front, the other turning his right by
the valley, where it was only opposed by the screen of light troops.

Sir John Moore sent the 42nd and 50th Regiments against the half column
at Elvina, and wheeling back the 4th Regiment on the extremity of his
right, poured a fire into the flank of the mass penetrating by the
valley, where it was also stoutly opposed by the light troops, and
soon abated of its vehemence in attack. Then the English general knew
that his adversary’s whole force and order of battle was unfolded.
No infantry menaced the valley from where the French cavalry stood,
and the number in front showed that no body of strength for mischief
was behind those heights: it was evident that Soult offered a close
rough trial of arms, without subtlety, trusting to the valour of his
veterans. Eagerly the gallant Moore accepted the challenge. The moment
for his counter-stroke had arrived, and at once he called up Frazer’s
division in support of Paget, giving the latter, who was previously
well instructed, the signal to descend into the valley: the French
column on his flank being thus provided with opponents, he turned to
observe the progress of the fight at Elvina, for as yet the battle had
but slightly touched his centre and left.

The 42nd and 50th had driven the enemy back into the village, and the
last-named regiment, entering the streets with the repulsed disordered
mass and giving no respite, forced it through and broke out, still
fighting, on the other side. To support this advance the general now
sent a battalion of the Guards down, whereupon the 42nd, thinking
it a relief and not a reinforcement, retired, with exception of the
grenadier company. Some confusion thus occurred, the village was not
occupied, and the 50th, still accompanied by the 42nd Grenadiers, were
engaged without support beyond the houses, their array being quite
broken by stone inclosures and the disorder of the street fight. At
that critical moment the French were strongly reinforced, retook the
offensive and forced the regiment back into Elvina, having killed
beyond it the second Major, Stanhope, a nephew of Mr. Pitt, and made
prisoner the commanding officer, Major Napier, known since as the
conqueror of Scinde; encompassed by enemies, and denied quarter, he
received five wounds, but he still fought and struggled for life
until a French drummer with a generous heat and indignation forcibly
rescued him from his barbarous assailants. Meanwhile Sir John Moore,
observing the error of the 42nd, had galloped down and with a fiery
exhortation sent it back to the village, where the 50th notwithstanding
the loss of their commander was successfully sustaining a very violent
conflict: then with heroic anticipations from the development of his
counter-combination, he returned to the ridge from whence he could view
the whole action.

Elvina was now his centre of battle and pivot of movements, for on
his left the battle had then become general and furious, yet the
French made no progress against Hope’s division; and on the right,
in the valley, the attacking column was at bay, wavering under a
double fire in front and flank: everywhere the signs of coming victory
were bright, when the gallant man, the consummate commander, who had
brought the battle to this crisis, was dashed from his horse to the
earth. A cannon-shot from the rock battery had torn away all the flesh
from his left breast and shoulder, and broken the ribs over a heart
undaunted even by this terrible this ghastly mortal hurt; for with
incredible energy he rose to a sitting posture, and with fixed look and
unchanged countenance continued to regard the fight at Elvina until the
Frenchmen’s backward steps assured him the British were victorious:
then sinking down he accepted succour.

Being placed in a blanket for removal, an entanglement of his belts
caused the hilt to enter the wound and Captain Hardinge[6] attempted to
take away the weapon altogether; but with martial pride the stricken
man forbade the alleviation--_he would not part with his sword in the
field_! Epaminondas, mortally wounded at Mantinea, was anxious for the
recovery of his shield. Moore, mortally wounded at Coruña, sustained
additional torture rather than part with his sword!

The Theban hero’s fall dismayed and paralyzed his victorious troops.
It was not so with the British at Coruña. They saw Baird, second in
command, carried from the field as the General-in-Chief had been,
and they would have seen all their generals fall one after another
without abating their battle; hence it was not long before the French
were entirely driven from Elvina, while on the left, they were not
only repulsed from the ridge, but pursued and assailed in their own
villages; that of Palavia, defended by the since celebrated General
Foy, was taken. Meanwhile Paget, pouring into the valley with
conquering violence, overthrew everything in his front, and driving off
the dismounted French dragoons who had descended to the lower falls on
his right, made for the great rock battery, which he would certainly
have stormed if the counter-attack had been continued, and Frazer’s
division been thrown, as Moore designed, into the fight. The French
would thus have been wrecked; for their ammunition of which the rapid
marches through Gallicia had only allowed them to bring up a small
supply, was exhausted, the river Mero was in full tide behind them, and
only one bridge remained for retreat. But this want of ammunition was
unknown to the English general Hope, on whom the command had devolved,
and he, judging a night action, for it was then dark, too hazardous,
profited from the confusion of the French to embark the army without
loss and sailed for England. The heroic spirit of Moore went with the
troops, his body rested with the enemy.

For some hours after receiving his hurt that great man had lived
painfully, but with a calm fortitude that excited the admiration of
those about him. Several times he expressed his satisfaction at having
won the battle, and his last words were to express a hope “_that his
country would do him justice_!”

Full justice has not been done, because malignant faction has strived
hard to sully his reputation as a general--but thus he died, and the
record of his worth will be as a beacon to posterity so long as heroic
virtue combined with great capacity is reverenced, for in any age, any
nation, any conjuncture, Sir John Moore would have been a leading man.
Tall he was and vigorous of person, and of a very comely noble aspect,
indicating penetration which no subtlety could deceive, valour which no
danger could appal, and withal a dignity of mind which awed while it
attracted admiration and confidence. With him indeed, all commanding
qualities seemed to be united to and inseparable from estimable
sentiments. Integrity, honour, generosity, patriotism, adorned the
whole course of his existence, and his death furnished an irrefragable
test of the sincerity of his life: for both he may claim a place with
the greatest men of antiquity.


  Passage of the Douro--Talavera--Combat of Salinas--First Combat of
    Talavera--Second Combat of Talavera--Battle of Talavera.

Napoleon having failed to cut off the English army, returned to France,
leaving precise instructions with his lieutenants for the invasion of
Portugal. Marshal Ney, who reached Coruña three days after the battle,
was to hold Gallicia. Soult was to march by Oporto upon Lisbon. General
Lapisse, previously directed on Ciudad Rodrigo with twelve thousand
men, was to connect Soult’s invasion with another, to be conducted
south of the Tagus by Marshal Victor, who had thirty thousand troops.
Soult had twenty-five thousand, and, after several battles with the
Portuguese of the northern provinces, stormed Oporto in March; but
he could hear nothing of Lapisse or Victor, and, his own progressive
strength being then exhausted, he endeavoured to establish himself
solidly until new combinations could be formed.

Lapisse took no pains to open a communication with Soult, and after
several weeks of inactivity suddenly made for Alcantara, crossed the
Tagus there and joined Victor. The Portuguese and Spaniards, thinking
he was flying, rose along his line of march on both sides of the
frontier and cut off all communication between Victor and Soult. The
former was however little disposed to act. He had defeated the Spanish
general Cuesta in a great battle at Medellin, and only accidentally
failed to obtain Badajos by treason; but then he took quarters at
Merida, sullenly resistant of his orders to enter Portugal. This
enabled Cuesta, who had all the resources of Andalusia, to reappear in
Estramadura with an army of thirty thousand infantry and six thousand
cavalry--and at the same time a new force sprung up in Portugal.

Previous to this period the English ministers, without resolution
or capacity to adopt any judicious course, at one time looking to
Portugal, at another negotiating for the occupation of Cadiz, had
during these events displayed only infirmity of purpose and ignorance
of the real state of affairs; but after four months of vacillation,
subsequent to the battle of Coruña, they decided to act in Portugal,
where the Regency had accepted General Beresford as their field
marshal. The British troops in that country were then largely
reinforced, and Sir Arthur Wellesley, assuming the supreme military
command of both nations, commenced that series of victories which has
placed him amongst the truly great generals of the world--and they are
few, though the vanity of nations would make them many.

Soult was then in Oporto, Victor at Merida, but the frontier
insurrection debarred all intercourse between them; and Sir Arthur,
after making arrangements to cover Lisbon from Victor, marched against
Soult, in whose army there was a conspiracy of officers to deliver him
to the English. One D’Argenton twice secretly visited head-quarters on
this subject, yet the treason, though of weight as an accessory, was
not permitted to affect the British preparations or movements, which
were carefully concealed.

On the 7th of May Beresford was detached with a mixed force, six
thousand being Portuguese, to operate on the side of Lamego.

On the 8th, sixteen thousand British troops, fifteen hundred being
cavalry, with twenty-four guns, moved from Coimbra under Sir A.
Wellesley’s personal command towards the Vouga river.

Up to this time Soult was ignorant that such a force had been
assembled, but hearing nothing of Lapisse or Victor he had decided to
make a flank march into the Salamanca country, and had pushed his light
cavalry under Franceschi to the Vouga, supporting it with Mermet’s
division of infantry. Loison’s division, six thousand strong, was then
beyond the Tamega at Pezo de Ragoa, and Lorge’s heavy cavalry was on
the Lima, watching the Portuguese insurgents.

In this scattered state the French on the Vouga were surprised and
driven fighting upon the Douro, which they crossed in the night of
the 11th and destroyed the boat bridge. Soult, who had discovered the
conspiracy on the 9th, was thus suddenly beset with perils. Treason in
his army which he could not probe, a powerful enemy suddenly springing
up in front, an active insurrection on his rear; his troops parcelled
from the Vouga to the Lima and Tamega, and under officers necessarily
suspected while the extent of the conspiracy was unknown! He did not
quail. Directing Lorge to abandon the Lima and make for the Tamega, he
ordered Loison to hold Amarante on that river, as the only means of
concentration and safety for the army; he sent his stores and most of
the heavy guns towards that place on the 10th and night of the 11th;
and when the troops from the Vouga came pouring in, the remaining heavy
guns and the baggage were also put in movement, Mermet’s division
following them as far as Vallonga, with orders to secure the boats on
the Douro and vigilantly patrol up the bank. All the craft from Oporto
to the mouth of the river was then drawn to the right bank, guards
were set, and Soult, thinking his position secure, decided to hold
Oporto another day, to give Lorge’s dragoons and other detachments
time to reach Amarante: he was however curiously misled. In the recent
operations, an English column, moving in boats up the Lake of Ovar,
which runs parallel with the coast, had disembarked on Mermet’s flank,
who thought it had landed from the ocean; hence Soult, expecting the
empty vessels would enter the Douro to effect a passage, directed his
attention entirely to the lower river, while on the upper his orders
were neglected and false reports made of their execution, for the
conspirators were many and busy.


Before eight o’clock on the morning of the 12th the British army was
secretly concentrated behind a rocky height, on which stood a convent
immediately facing Oporto. The Douro rolled in front, and the French
on the other side could with two marches gain the Tamega, secure their
retreat, and defeat Beresford in passing; for that general had been
sent over the Douro, above the confluence of the Tamega, merely to
infest Soult’s line of march towards the Salamanca country, and thus
induce him to take the rugged Chaves road leading to Gallicia, and that
could not be risked unless the main army under Sir Arthur was closely
pressing the French rear; hence his safety, and the forcing Soult into
Gallicia, alike called for an immediate passage of the Douro. Yet how
pass a river, deep, swift, more than three hundred yards wide, and
in the face of ten thousand veterans guarding the opposite bank? The
Macedonian hero might have turned from it without shame.

The stream came with an elbow round the convent height, which barred
sight of the upper water from the place where Soult was watching for
ships which did not exist; and he knew not that the British army was
behind the frowning rock above, nor that a great captain was on its
summit, searching with an eagle glance the river, the city, and the
country around. Horses and baggage that captain saw on the Vallonga
road, and the dust of distant columns as in retreat, but no large force
near the river; the guards also were few and widely spread, the patrols
not vigilant--an auspicious negligence seeming to prevail. Suddenly a
large unfinished building called the Seminary caught his eye; it was
isolated, had an easy access from the water, and was surrounded by a
high wall which extended to the river bank on each side, inclosing
space enough for two battalions, the only egress being an iron gate
opening on the Vallonga road. This structure commanded everything
around, except one mound, within cannon-shot, but too pointed to hold
guns; there were no French posts near the building, and as the direct
line across the water was entirely hidden from the city by the rock,
Sir Arthur, with a marvellous hardihood, instantly resolved to force
a passage there in face of a veteran army and a renowned general, his
means being as scanty as his resolution was great, yet with his genius
they sufficed.

Colonel Waters, an officer on his staff, a quick-witted, daring man,
discovered a poor barber, who had come over the river the night before
in a small skiff and readily agreed to go back; he was accompanied by
the Prior of Amarante, who gallantly offered his services: thus Waters
crossed unperceived and returned with three large barges. Meanwhile
eighteen guns had been placed in battery on the convent rock, and
General John Murray was detached with a brigade of German infantry, the
14th Dragoons, and two guns, to seek a passage at the Barca de Avintas,
three miles up the river: he was reinforced with other troops when the
barges were secured, and then also the head of the army cautiously
approached the water.

At 10 o’clock, the French being tranquil and unsuspicious, the British
wondering and expectant, Sir Arthur was told that one boat was ready.
_Well! Let the men cross_ was the reply, and a quarter of an hour
afterwards an officer and twenty-five British soldiers were silently
placed on the other side of the Douro in the midst of the French
army! The Seminary was thus gained, all remained quiet, and a second
boat passed. No hostile stir succeeded, no sound of war was heard;
but when the third boat passed, tumultuous noises rolled through
Oporto, the drums beat to arms, shouts arose, the citizens, vehemently
gesticulating, made signals from their houses, and confused masses of
troops rushing out from the higher streets threw forward swarms of
skirmishers, and came furiously down on the Seminary.

Secrecy was then no longer valuable and the army crowded to the river
bank. Paget’s and Hill’s divisions pressed to the point of passage,
Sherbrooke’s to where the bridge had been cut away the night before.
Paget himself passed with the third boat, but on the roof of the
Seminary was deeply wounded. Hill took his place, and the musketry,
sharp and voluble from the first, augmented as the forces accumulated
on each side; yet the French attack was eager and constant, their
fire increased more rapidly than that of the English, and their guns
soon opened against the building. The English battery on the convent
rock swept the inclosure on each side and confined the attack to the
front; but Murray did not come down the right bank, and the struggle
was such that Sir Arthur was only restrained from crossing by the
remonstrances of those about him, and the confidence he had in Hill.
Soon, however, some citizens were seen bringing over several great
boats to Sherbrooke, while a prolonged shout from the streets, and the
waving of handkerchiefs from the windows, gave notice that the enemy
had abandoned the lower town: Murray also was then descried on the
right bank.

Three battalions were now in the Seminary, the attack slackened, and
the French began to hurry across the front of the inclosure by the
Vallonga road, and Hill, advancing to the inclosure wall, was pouring
a heavy fire into the disordered masses as they passed his front, when
suddenly five guns galloped out of the city on his left, but appalled
at the terrible stream of musketry pulled up: while thus hesitating a
volley from behind stretched most of the artillerymen in the dust, and
the rest dispersing left the guns on the road. It was from Sherbrooke,
who had passed through the streets, this volley came, and he now
pressed the French rear while Hill sent his damaging fire into their
flank, and the guns from the rock deeply searched their masses. The
passage was thus won, the allies were on the right bank of the Douro,
and if Murray had fallen on the disordered crowd, approaching him,
the discomfiture would have been complete. He however suffered column
after column to pass, and seemed to fear they would step aside to push
him into the river. General C. Stewart and Major Harvey, impatient of
this timidity, took two squadrons of the 14th Dragoons, and riding over
the French rear in a narrow way unhorsed General Laborde and wounded
General Foy; but having no support from Murray fought their way back
with loss, and Harvey lost his arm. Of the English twenty were killed,
one general and nearly a hundred men wounded on the day; the French
lost a general and five hundred men killed or wounded, and they left
several hundreds in hospital. Five guns were taken in the fight; and
stores of ammunition with fifty pieces of artillery, the carriages of
which had been burned, were found in the arsenal. The overthrow was
great, but Napoleon’s veterans were so inured to war that no troops so
readily recovered from a surprise. Before they reached Vallonga their
order was restored, a rear-guard was formed, and in the night was
rejoined by a detachment from the mouth of the Douro, which had been
guided by some friendly Portuguese: then Soult, believing Loison held
Amarante, thought himself well out of his difficulties. He was soon

Sir Arthur Wellesley now brought his baggage, stores, and artillery
over the Douro; but this was not effected until the evening of the
13th, and though Murray’s Germans were sent in pursuit on the morning
of that day, they did not advance more than ten miles. “_An enemy once
surprised should never be allowed time to recover_,” is a great maxim,
and so proved on this occasion: yet there were sound reasons for the
halt. Part of the troops were still on the left bank of the Douro, and
the whole had outmarched provisions, baggage and spare ammunition,
having made more than eighty miles of rough ground in four days,
besides fighting. Men and animals required rest, and nothing was known
of Beresford, whose proceedings had been of far greater importance than
either he or Sir Arthur knew at the time.[7]

Loison had fallen back from Pezo de Ragoa on the Douro the 10th when
Beresford crossed that river. The latter was then in the position
required for turning Soult on to the Chaves road; but Loison again
retreated on the 11th, and Beresford, finding him timid, followed
briskly, while a Portuguese insurgent force under General Sylveira
closed on his flank. The 12th his outposts were driven into Amarante,
and next day he abandoned that place.

These events were unknown to Sir Arthur on the 13th, but he heard Soult
had destroyed guns and ammunition near Penafiel, and judging that to
be a result of Beresford’s operations, reinforced Murray with cavalry,
ordering him to push on to Penafiel, and if Loison lingered near
Amarante to open a communication with Beresford--the latter was then to
ascend the Tamega and intercept the French at Chaves.

On the 14th Sir Arthur had moved forward himself, and the 15th reached
Braga; Beresford was then near Chaves, Sylveira marching towards
Salamonde, and Soult’s capture seemed inevitable to his pursuers;
he was however beyond their toils, having by a surprising effort
extricated himself from perils as fearful as ever beset a general.

While retreating towards Amarante he was between the Douro and the
Sierra de Catalina, both said to be impassable, and the road was very
narrow and very rugged. His design was to pass the Tamega and march
on Braganza; failing in that, he could from Amarante and Guimaraens
reach Braga by a good road leading behind the Catalina ridge; in either
case however Amarante was to be first gained, and his safety depended
on Loison holding that place. But that general had relinquished it
to Beresford on the 13th, and marched on Guimaraens, though a staff
officer, sent by Soult on the 12th, was in his camp protesting against
the movement: the retreat from Oporto being also known to him. He thus
deliberately abandoned his general and two-thirds of the army to what
appeared certain destruction; for Beresford could not be forced, and
if Murray only had come up on the French rear, and he was not far off,
Soult must have laid down his arms.

This calamity was made known to that marshal as he was passing the
rugged bed of the Souza, a cross torrent falling into the Douro. The
weather was boisterous, the troops worn with fatigue and recently
defeated were dismayed, voices were heard calling for capitulation,
and all things tended to ruin: but in that hour of peril the Duke of
Dalmatia justified fortune for having raised him to such dignity. He
had fallen from his horse and severely injured his hip, broken before
by a shot at the siege of Genoa, yet neither pain nor bodily weakness
nor danger could abate his resolution. A Spanish pedlar told him of
a path leading up that bank of the Souza which he had just left, by
which he could scale the Catalina ridge and reach the Guimaraens road
to Braga: whereupon, with a haughty commandment he silenced the murmurs
of treacherous officers and fearful soldiers, destroyed his guns,
abandoned his military chest and baggage, loaded the animals which had
carried them with sick men and ammunition, and repassed the Souza to
follow his Spanish guide. Torrents of rain descended and the path was
wild and rough as the desolate region it threaded, yet with a fierce
domination he forced his troops over the mountain, and descending on
Guimaraens, refound Loison: Lorge’s dragoons came in at the same time
from Braga, and thus almost beyond hope the whole army was concentrated.

Soult’s energy had been great, his sagacity was now as conspicuous. The
slackness of pursuit, after passing Vallonga, made him judge Sir Arthur
was pushing for Braga and would reach it first; a fighting retreat and
the loss of guns and baggage would then ensue, and perhaps fatally
depress the soldiers’ spirit; it would also favour the malcontents,
and already one general, apparently Loison, was urging a convention.
Soult replied by destroying the guns, ammunition, and baggage of the
divisions he found at Guimaraens, and again taking to the mountains
crossed them to Carvalho d’Este, thus gaining a day’s march and
baffling the combination to surround him. Next morning he drew up his
twenty thousand men on the position they had occupied two months before
at the battle of Braga, an imposing spectacle, and on the scene of a
recent victory, by which he aroused the sinking pride of the French
soldier. It was a happy reach of generalship!

Now he reorganized his army, giving Loison the advanced guard and
taking the rear himself; at which, says the French historian of
this expedition, “the whole army was astonished.” As if it were not
consummate policy to oppose the British pursuit with men under the
General-in-Chief, while the van, having to fight insurgents, was
led by an officer whose very name called forth execrations from the
natives--_Maneta, the one-handed_, as Loison was called, however
willing, dared not surrender to a Portuguese force.

From Carvalho the French made for Salamonde, whence there were two
lines of retreat; the one by Ruivaens to Chaves, the other, shorter
and more rugged, by the Ponte Nova to Montelegre. The scouts said the
bridge at Ruivaens was broken, the passage defended by twelve hundred
insurgents with artillery; moreover, that men had been all the morning
working to destroy the Ponte Nova. The breaking of the first blocked
the road to Chaves, the breaking of the second would, if completed, cut
the army off from Montelegre.

Night was setting in, the soldiers were harassed, barefooted, and
starving, the ammunition was injured by rain, which had never ceased
since the 13th, and was now accompanied by storms of wind, with the
morning the British army would be on the rear, and if the Ponte Nova
could not be secured the hour of surrender was come! In this extremity,
Major Dulong, justly reputed as one of the most daring men in the
French ranks, was thus addressed by Soult: “_I have chosen you from the
whole army to seize the Ponte Nova, which has been cut by the enemy.
Take a hundred grenadiers and twenty-five horsemen, surprise the guards
and secure the passage. If you succeed, say so, but send no other
report; your silence will suffice._”

Dulong, favoured by the storm, reached the bridge, killed the sentinel
without any alarm being given, and being followed by twelve grenadiers,
crawled along a narrow slip of masonry which had not been destroyed.
The Cavado river was flooded and roaring in its deep rocky channel
below, and one of the grenadiers fell into the gulf, but the waters
were much louder than his cry, and the others surprised the nearest
guards; then the main body rushed on, and some crossing the broken
bridge while others ascended the heights, shouting and firing, scared
the insurgents away.

At four o’clock the bridge was repaired and the troops filed slowly
over; but the road beyond was only a narrow cut in the side of a
mountain, an unfenced precipice yawned on the left for several miles,
and the way was finally crossed by the Misarella torrent, rolling in
a deep chasm and only to be passed by the _Saltador_ or _leaper_, a
bridge so called because it was a single arch, high and boldly thrown,
which admitted only three persons abreast: it was not cut, but was
intrenched, and the rocks on the further side were occupied by some
hundred armed insurgents. Here the good soldier Dulong again saved the
army. For when two assaults had been repulsed he won the passage with
a third, in which he fell deeply wounded; yet his admiring soldiers
carried him forward in their arms, and then the head of the long French
column poured over the Saltador. It was full time, for the English guns
were thundering on the rear and the restored Ponte Nova was choked with
the dead.

Sir Arthur Wellesley, quitting Braga in the morning of the 16th,
overtook Soult’s rear-guard in the evening, at Salamonde, before it
could cross the Ponte Nova; it was in a strong position, but men
momentarily expecting an order to retire seldom stand firmly. Some
light troops turned their left, Sherbrooke assailed their front, and
after one discharge they fled by their right to the Ponte Nova. It was
dusk, the way to the bridge was not that of apparent retreat, and for
a while the French were lost to view; they thus gained time to form a
rear-guard, but ere their cavalry could pass the bridge the English
guns opened, sending men and horses crushed together into the gulf,
and the bridge and the rocks and the defile beyond were strewed with
mangled carcasses.

This was the last infliction by the sword in a retreat signalized by
many horrid and many glorious actions; for the peasants in their fury
tortured and mutilated the sick and straggling soldiers who fell into
their hands, the troops in revenge shot the peasants, and the marches
could be traced from afar by the smoke of burning houses.

TALAVERA. (July, 1809.)

When Soult saved himself in Gallicia Sir Arthur Wellesley marched to
Abrantes on the Tagus, from whence, thinking the French marshal’s army
so ruined it could be of no weight in the war for several months, he
designed to make a great movement against Madrid, in concert with the
Spanish generals Cuesta and Venegas. He was at the time incredulous of
the Spaniards’ failings, thinking Sir John Moore had misrepresented
them as apathetic and perverse; but this expedition taught him to
respect that great man’s judgment, both as to the people and the nature
of their warfare.

His plan of operations, as might be expected from so great a general,
was bold, comprehensive, and military, according to the data presented:
but he accepted false data. He under-calculated the French in the
Peninsula by more than a hundred thousand men, he overrated the
injury inflicted on Soult; and while slighting the personal energy
and resources of that marshal, relied on Spanish politicians, Spanish
generals, Spanish troops, and Spanish promises. The time was indeed one
of riotous boasting and ill-founded anticipations with the Spanish,
Portuguese, and British governments. Their agents and partisans were
incredibly noisy, their newspapers teemed with idle stories of the
weakness, misery, fear and despondency of the French armies, and of the
successful fury of the Spaniards; the most inflated notions of easy
triumph pervaded councils and camps, and the English general’s judgment
was not entirely proof against the pernicious influence.

Victor, relinquishing the south side of the Tagus, was then in position
at Talavera, and behind him King Joseph had his own guards, a great
body of horsemen, and Sebastiani’s army corps. Thus more than fifty
thousand men, seven thousand being cavalry, covered Madrid.

Cuesta, following Victor’s movements, had taken post at Almaraz, with
thirty thousand infantry, seven thousand cavalry, and seventy pieces of

Venegas was in La Mancha with twenty-five thousand men.

Sir Arthur Wellesley had eighteen thousand infantry, and three thousand
cavalry, with thirty guns; eight thousand men, recently landed from
England, were on the march to join him, and both the Spanish government
and generals gave him the strongest assurances of co-operation and
support. He had made contracts with the alcaldes in the valley of the
Tagus for a supply of provisions, and, confiding in those promises and
contracts, entered Spain the latter end of June, with scanty means of
transport and without magazines, to find every Spanish promise broken,
every contract a failure. When he remonstrated, all the Spaniards
concerned, political or military, vehemently denied that any breach
of engagements had taken place, and as vehemently offered to make new
ones, without the slightest intention to fulfil them.

A junction with Cuesta was effected the 18th of July.

He was sullen, obstinate, and absurdly prompt to display contempt for
the English general; he marched with him, yet rejected his counsels,
and after reaching Talavera, from whence Victor had retired, pushed
on alone, thinking in his foolish pride to enter Madrid. But King
Joseph, who had concentrated fifty thousand men and ninety guns on
the Guadarama stream, drove him back the 26th with the loss of four
thousand men, and his army would have dispersed, if Sherbrooke, who
was in advance of the English forces, had not interposed his division
between the scared troops and the enemy.

Sir Arthur Wellesley, whose soldiers were starving, from the failures
of the Spanish authorities, had not passed the Alberche, and was intent
to retire from Spain; yet now, seeing the disorder beyond that river,
judged that a great battle was at hand, and being convinced that in a
strong position only would the Spaniards stand, besought their general
to withdraw to Talavera, where there was ground suited for defence.
Cuesta’s uncouth nature then broke out. His troops, beaten, dispirited,
fatigued, and bewildered, were clustering in fear on a low narrow slip
of land, between the Alberche, the Tagus, and the heights of Salinas.
The first shot must have been the signal for dispersion; yet when
entreated to avoid the fall of the rock thus trembling overhead, he
replied, that his army would be disheartened by further retreat--he
would fight where he stood: had the French advanced his ruin would have
ensued. At daybreak Sir Arthur renewed his solicitations, but they
were fruitless, until the enemy’s cavalry came in sight and Sherbrooke
prepared to retire; then indeed the sullen old man yielded, yet with
frantic pride told his staff, “_he had first made the Englishman go
down on his knees_.” Having vented this stupid folly, he retired
to a lumbering coach which attended his head-quarters, while _The
Englishman_, by virtue of an imperious genius, assumed command of
both armies, and leaving one division with a brigade of cavalry under
General M^cKenzie on the Alberche to mask his movements, retired six
miles to Talavera; having before chosen a field of battle there, and
strengthened it with some field-works on a line perpendicular to the

The country in front was a plain, open near this position, but beyond
it covered with olive and cork trees up to the Alberche. A series of
unconnected hills, steep, yet of moderate height, and running parallel
with the Tagus at a distance of two miles, bounded this plain on the
left, and half a mile beyond them was a mountain-ridge, from which they
were separated by a rugged valley.

Sir Arthur posted the Spanish infantry in two lines on the right,
having their flank resting on the town of Talavera, which touched the

Their left was closed by a mound crowned with a large field redoubt,
behind which a brigade of British cavalry was posted.

Their front was protected by a convent, by ditches, mud walls,
breastworks, and felled trees; their cavalry was behind their line, and
in rear of all, nearly touching on the town, was a wood with a large
house, well placed for and designed by the English general to cover
a retreat on the main roads leading from Talavera to Arzobispo and

From the large redoubt, on the mound closing the Spanish left, the
line was prolonged by the British army. Campbell’s division, in two
lines, touched the Spaniards; Sherbrooke’s touched Campbell’s, but
arrayed in one line only, M^cKenzie’s division, then on the Alberche,
being to form the second. Hill’s division should have closed the left,
by taking post on the highest of the isolated heights which bounded
the plain, but from some error only the flat ground was occupied, and
the height was left naked, an error afterwards felt. The English left
wing was covered in front by a watercourse, which, shallow at first,
went deepening and widening as it passed the round hill, and became a
formidable chasm in the valley. The cavalry, originally placed along
the front, was destined to take post, partly behind the British left
wing, partly behind the redoubt on the Spanish left, and the whole
front of battle was two miles long. The Spaniards, reduced by their
recent action to thirty-four thousand combatants, but still having
seventy guns, occupied one-third of it, and were nearly inattackable
from the nature of the ground. The British and Germans held the
remainder of the position, and the weakest part, although they were but
nineteen thousand sabres and bayonets with thirty guns. The combined
armies therefore, with forty-four thousand infantry, ten thousand
cavalry, and one hundred pieces of artillery, offered battle to the
king, who was coming on with eighty guns and fifty thousand men, seven
thousand being cavalry.

Before daylight the French were in march to attack, and at one o’clock
Victor reached the heights of Salinas overhanging the Alberche, from
whence he could see the dust raised by taking up the position, though
the forest masked the dispositions. The ground was however known to
him, and the king, at his instance, sent Sebastiani at once against
the allies’ right, the cavalry against the centre, and Victor himself
against the left-supporting the two first with his guards and the

COMBAT OF SALINAS. (July, 1809.)

Victor first marched on the _Caza de Salinas_, a house situated in the
plain below. To reach it he had to ford the Alberche and penetrate two
miles through the forest, yet the position of M^cKenzie’s division
was indicated by the dust, and as the British cavalry had sent no
patrols, the post was surprised. England was then like to have lost her
great commander, for Sir Arthur, who was in the house for observation,
very hardly escaped capture; for the French charged so hotly that the
English brigades were separated, fired on each other, and were driven
in disorder through the forest into the open plain. In the midst of
this confusion the 45th, a stubborn old regiment, accompanied by some
companies of the 60th Riflemen, kept good array, and on them Sir Arthur
rallied the others and checked the enemy, covering his retreat with
cavalry; yet he lost four hundred men, and the retrograde movement was
hastily made in face of both armies.

M^cKenzie with one brigade now took post behind the Guards in the
centre, but Colonel Donkin, seeing the hill on the extreme left
unoccupied, crowned it with the other brigade, and thus accidentally
filled the position. Meanwhile Victor, issuing from the forest in fine
martial order, rapidly crossed the plain, seized another isolated
hill, opposite to that held by Donkin, and opened a heavy cannonade:
at the same time Sebastiani approached the Spanish line, and pushed
forward his light cavalry to make Cuesta show his order of battle;
whereupon happened one of those events which show what a chance-medley
thing a battle is, even in the hands of a great captain. The French
horsemen, riding boldly up, commenced a pistol skirmish, to which the
Spaniards replied with one general discharge of musketry, and then ten
thousand infantry, with all the artillerymen, as if deprived of their
senses, broke and fled away in confused heaps; the gunners carried away
their horses, the footmen threw away their arms, the Adjutant-General
O’Donoghue was foremost in flight, and even Cuesta went off some
distance in his coach: the panic was spreading wide, and the elated
horsemen charged down the Royal road, but Sir Arthur instantly flanked
them with some English squadrons, the ditches on the opposite side
were impracticable, the Spaniards who stood fast began to use their
firearms, and those daring troopers had to retreat.

Most of the Spanish runaways made for Oropesa, saying the allies were
defeated, the French in hot pursuit. Incredible disorder followed.
The English commissaries went off with their animals, the paymasters
carried away their money-chests, the baggage was scattered, and the
alarm spread along the rear even to the frontier of Portugal. Cuesta
indeed, having recovered his presence of mind, sent several thousand
horsemen to head the fugitives and drive them back, and some of the
artillerymen and horses were thus recovered; many of the infantry also,
but in the next day’s battle the Spanish army was less by six thousand
fighting men than it should have been, and the great redoubt in the
centre was silent for want of guns.

While this disgraceful flight was being perpetrated on the right,
the left of the English line displayed the greatest intrepidity. The
round hill at the extremity was of easy ascent in rear, but steep and
rugged towards the French, and was also protected there by the deep
watercourse at the bottom. Nevertheless Victor, seeing Donkin’s brigade
was not numerous, and the summit of the hill still naked of troops,
thought to seize the latter by a sudden assault.


The sun was sinking, but the twilight and the confusion amongst the
Spaniards appeared so favourable to the French marshal, that, without
informing the king, he directed Ruffin’s division to attack, Villatte’s
to follow in support, and Lapisse to assail the German Legion as a
diversion for Ruffin, without engaging seriously. The assault was
vigorous, and though Donkin beat back the French in his front, many
of them turned his left and won the height in his rear. General Hill
had been previously ordered to reinforce him, and it was not quite
dark when that officer, while giving orders below, was shot at by men
on the highest point; thinking they were English stragglers firing at
the enemy, he rode up, followed by his brigade-major Fordyce, and in a
moment found himself in the midst of the French. Fordyce was killed,
Hill’s horse was wounded, and a grenadier seized his bridle, but
spurring hard he broke the man’s hold and galloping down met the 29th
Regiment, which he led up with so strong a charge the enemy could not
sustain the shock.

When the summit was thus happily recovered, the 48th Regiment and a
battalion of detachments were brought forward, and in conjunction with
the 29th and Donkin’s brigade presented a formidable front and in good
time; for the troops beaten back were but part of a regiment forming
the van of Ruffin’s division, the two other regiments having lost their
way in the watercourse; the attack had therefore only subsided, Lapisse
soon opened fire against the Germans, and Ruffin’s regiment in one
mass again assailed the hill. The fighting then became vehement, and
in the darkness the opposing flashes of musketry showed how resolutely
the struggle was maintained, for the combatants were scarcely twenty
yards asunder, and the event seemed doubtful; but the charging shout
of the British soldier was at last heard above the din of arms, and
the enemy’s broken troops went down once more into the ravine below:
Lapisse, who had made some impression on the Germans, then abandoned
his false attack and the fighting of the 27th ceased. The British lost
eight hundred men, the French a thousand.

Now the bivouac fires blazed up and the French and British soldiers
were quiet, but at midnight the Spaniards opened a prodigious peal
of musketry and artillery without cause or object; and during the
remainder of the night, the line was frequently disturbed with
desultory firing, which killed several men and officers.

From the prisoners Victor ascertained the exact position of the
Spaniards, until then unknown, and when reporting his own failure
proposed a second attack for next morning on the hill. Marshal Jourdan,
chief of the king’s staff, opposed this as a partial enterprise leading
to no great result; yet Victor was so earnest for a trial, urging his
intimate knowledge of the ground, that he won Joseph’s assent. Then
he placed all his guns in one mass on the height to the English left,
from whence they could plunge into the great valley on their own right,
range the summit of the hill in their front, and obliquely search the
whole British line as far as the great redoubt between the allied
armies. Ruffin was in front of the guns, Villatte in rear, yet having
one regiment close to the watercourse; Lapisse occupied low table-land,
opposite Sherbrooke; Latour Maubourg’s cavalry formed a reserve for
Lapisse; Beaumont’s cavalry a reserve for Ruffin.

On the English side, Hill’s division was concentrated on the disputed
height; the cavalry was massed in a plain behind; the park of artillery
and the hospitals were between the cavalry and Hill.


About daybreak Ruffin’s troops again menaced the English hill, moving
against the front and by the great valley on their own right, thus
embracing two sides. Their march was rapid and steady; they were
followed by Villatte’s men, and the assault was preceded with a burst
of artillery that rattled round the height and swept away the English
ranks by sections; the sharp chattering of musketry succeeded, and then
the French guns were pointed towards the British centre and right. Soon
their grenadiers closed, the height sparkled with fire, and, as the
inequalities of ground broke the formation, on both sides small bodies
were seen, here and there, struggling for the mastery with all the
virulence of a single combat. In some places the French were overthrown
at once, in others they would not be denied and reached the summit, yet
the English reserves always vindicated their ground and no permanent
footing was obtained. Still the conflict was maintained with singular
obstinacy. Hill himself was wounded and his men were falling fast, but
the enemy suffered more and gave way, step by step at first and slowly
to cover the retreat of their wounded, yet finally, unable to sustain
the increasing fury of their opponents and having lost above fifteen
hundred men in the space of forty minutes, the whole mass broke away in
disorder, sheltered by the renewed play of their powerful artillery.
To this destructive fire no adequate answer could be made, for the
English guns were few and of small calibre, and when a reinforcement
was demanded from Cuesta he sent two pieces! useful however they were,
and the Spanish gunners fought them gallantly.

Most of the repulsed troops had gone off by the great valley, and a
favourable opportunity for a charge of horse occurred, but the English
cavalry, having retired during the night for water and forage, were
too distant to be of service. However, these repeated efforts of the
French against the hill, and the appearance of their light troops on
the mountain beyond the valley, taught the English general that he
should prolong his flank on that side; wherefore he now posted a mass
of cavalry with the leading squadrons looking into the valley, and sent
a Spanish division of infantry to the mountain itself. At this time
also, the Duke of Albuquerque, discontented with Cuesta’s arrangements,
came with his cavalry to the left and was placed behind the British: a
formidable array of horsemen, six lines in depth, was thus presented.

Joseph, after examining the position from left to right, demanded of
Jourdan and Victor if he should deliver a general battle. The former
replied that when the great valley and the mountain were unoccupied on
the 27th, Sir Arthur Wellesley’s attention should have been drawn to
the right by a feint on the Spaniards: that during the night the whole
army should have been silently placed in column at the entrance of the
great valley, ready at daybreak to form line of battle to its left on a
new front, and so have attacked. Such a movement would have compelled
the allies to change their front also, and during the operation they
might have been assailed with success. This project could not then
be executed. The English, aware of their mistake, had occupied the
valley and the mountain, and were, front and flank alike, inattackable.
_Hence, the only prudent line was to take up a position on the
Alberche, and await the effect of Soult’s operations on the English

Victor opposed this counsel. He engaged to carry the hill on the
English left notwithstanding his former failures, provided Sebastiani
would attack the right and centre at the same moment, finishing his
argument thus: “_If such a combination failed, it was time to renounce
making war._”[8]

The king was embarrassed. His own opinion coincided with Jourdan’s,
yet he feared Victor would make the emperor think a great opportunity
had been lost, and while thus wavering a despatch arrived from Soult,
saying his forces could only reach Placencia between the 2nd and 5th
of August; intelligence also came that a detachment from the army
of Venegas had appeared near Toledo, and his van was approaching
Aranjuez. This made the king tremble for Madrid. The stores, reserve
artillery, and general hospitals of all the armies in Spain were there,
and the tolls received at the gates formed almost the only pecuniary
resource of his court: so narrowly did Napoleon reduce the expenditure
of the war. These considerations overpowered his judgment; rejecting
the better counsel, he resolved to succour the capital, yet first to
try the chance of battle.

While the French chiefs were thus engaged in council, the wounded
were carried to the rear on both sides; but the English soldiers
were suffering from hunger, regular service of provisions had ceased
for several days, and a few ounces of wheat in the grain formed the
subsistence of men who had fought and were yet to fight so hardly.
The Spanish camp was full of confusion and distrust. Cuesta inspired
terror by his ferocity, but no confidence; and Albuquerque, from
conviction or momentary anger, just as the French were coming on to the
final attack, sent one of his staff to inform the English commander
that Cuesta was betraying him. This message was first delivered to
Colonel Donkin, who carried it to Sir Arthur, then seated on the hill
intently watching the movements of the advancing enemy; he listened
without turning his head, and drily answering--_Very well, you may
return to your brigade_--continued his survey of the French. Such was
his imperturbable resolution and quick penetration, and his conduct
throughout the day was such as became a general upon whose vigilance
and intrepidity the fate of fifty thousand men depended.

The dispositions of the French were soon completed. Ruffin’s division,
on the extreme right, was destined to cross the valley and move by the
foot of the mountain to turn the British left.

Villatte was to menace the key hill with one brigade, and guard the
valley with another, thus connecting Ruffin’s movement with the main

Lapisse, supported by Latour Maubourg’s dragoons and the king’s
reserve, was to fall with half his infantry upon Sherbrooke; the other
half, connecting its attack with Villatte’s brigade, was to make a
third effort to master the twice-contested hill.

Milhaud’s dragoons were placed in front of Talavera to keep Cuesta in
check; the rest of the heavy cavalry was brought into the centre behind
Sebastiani, who was to assail the right of the British army.

Part of the French light cavalry supported Villatte’s brigade in the
valley, part remained in reserve, and many guns were distributed among
the divisions; but the principal mass remained on Victor’s hill with
the reserve of light cavalry, where also the Duke of Belluno took post
to direct the movements of his corps.


From nine o’clock in the morning until mid-day there was no appearance
of hostility, the weather was intensely hot, and the troops on both
sides descended and mingled without fear or suspicion to quench their
thirst at a brook separating the positions; but at one o’clock the
French soldiers were seen to gather round their eagles, and the roll of
drums was heard along their whole line. Half an hour later, Joseph’s
guards, the reserve, and Sebastiani’s corps were descried in movement
to join Victor’s corps, and at two o’clock, the table-land and the
height on the French right, even to the great valley, were covered with
dark lowering masses of men.

At this moment, some hundreds of English soldiers employed to carry
the wounded to the rear returned in one body, and were by the French
supposed to be a detached corps rejoining the army; nevertheless,
the Duke of Belluno gave the signal for battle, and eighty pieces of
artillery sent a tempest of bullets before the light troops, who came
on with the swiftness and violence of a hail-storm, and were closely
followed by the broad black columns in all the majesty of war.

Sir Arthur Wellesley had from the summit of the hill a clear view of
the whole field of battle. First he saw Sebastiani’s troops rushing
forwards with the usual impetuosity of French soldiers, clearing the
intersected ground in their front and falling upon Campbell’s division
with infinite fury; yet that general, assisted by Mackenzie’s brigade
and two Spanish battalions, withstood their utmost efforts; for the
English regiments, putting the French skirmishers aside, met the
advancing columns with loud shouts, broke their front, lapped their
flanks with fire, and giving no respite pushed them back with a
terrible carnage. Ten guns were taken, but as Campbell would not break
his line by a pursuit, the French, rallying on their supports, made
head for another attack; yet the British guns and musketry played so
vehemently on their masses while a Spanish cavalry regiment charged
their flank, that they again retired in disorder and the victory was
secured in that quarter.

During this fight Villatte, preceded by chosen grenadiers and supported
by two regiments of light cavalry, advanced up the great valley, and
Ruffin was discovered marching towards the mountain, whereupon Sir
Arthur directed Anson’s cavalry, composed of the 23rd Light Dragoons
and 1st German hussars, to charge the head of Villatte’s column. Going
off at a canter and increasing their speed as they advanced, these
regiments rode against the enemy, but soon came upon the brink of
the water-course, which, descending from the hill, was there a chasm
though not perceptible at a distance; the French, throwing themselves
into squares behind it, opened their fire, and then the German Colonel
Arentschildt, an officer whom forty years’ service had made a master
in his art, reined up at the brink, exclaiming, in his broken phrase,
_I will not kill my young mens_! Higher up however, facing the 23rd,
the chasm was more practicable, and that regiment plunged down, men and
horses rolling over each other in horrible confusion, the survivors
ascending the opposite bank by twos and threes; their colonel, Seymour,
was wounded, but Frederick Ponsonby, a hardy soldier, rallied all who
came up, passed through Villatte’s columns, which poured fire from each
side, and fell with inexpressible violence upon a brigade of French
_chasseurs_ in the rear. The combat was fierce yet short, for Victor
had before detached his Polish lancers and Westphalian light horse
to support Villatte, and these fresh troops coming on when the 23rd,
already over-matched, could scarcely stand against the _chasseurs_,
entirely broke them: those who were not killed or taken made for the
Spanish division on the mountain, leaving behind more than two hundred
men and officers.

During this time the hill, the key of the position, was again
attacked, while Lapisse, having crossed the watercourse, pressed hard
upon the English centre, where his artillery, aided by the great
battery on Victor’s hill, opened large gaps in Sherbrooke’s ranks,
and his columns went close up in the resolution to win. They were
vigorously encountered and yielded in disorder, but the English Guards,
quitting the line and following with inconsiderate ardour, were met
by the French supporting columns and dragoons, whereupon the beaten
troops turned, while heavy batteries pounded the flank and front of the
Guards, who, thus maltreated, drew back, and coincidently, the German
Legion being sorely pressed, got into confusion.

At this time Hill’s and Campbell’s divisions stood fast on each
extremity of the line, yet the centre of the British was absolutely
broken, and victory inclined towards the French, when suddenly Colonel
Donellan was seen advancing with the 48th through the midst of the
disordered masses. It seemed as if this regiment must be carried away
with the retiring crowds, but wheeling back by companies it let them
pass through the intervals, and then resuming its proud and beautiful
line struck against the right of the pursuing enemy, plying such a
destructive musketry and closing with such a firm countenance that his
forward movement was checked. The Guards and Germans then rallied, a
brigade of light cavalry came up from the second line at a trot, the
artillery battered the flanks without intermission, the French wavered,
and the battle was restored.

In all actions there is one critical and decisive moment which offers
victory to the general who can seize it. When the Guards made their
rash charge, Sir Arthur, foreseeing the issue, had sent the 48th down
from the hill, although a rough battle was going on there, and at the
same time directed the light cavalry to advance. This made the British
strongest at the decisive point, the French relaxed their fighting
while the English fire grew hotter, and their ringing shouts--sure
augury of success--were heard along the whole line. In the hands of
a great general, Joseph’s guards and the reserve might have restored
the combat, but combination was over with the French. Sebastiani’s
corps, beaten on the left with the loss of ten guns, was in confusion;
the troops in the great valley on the right, amazed at the furious
charge of the 23rd, and awed by four distinct lines of cavalry still in
reserve, remained stationary, and no impression had been made on the
hill; Lapisse was mortally wounded, his division had given way, and the
king retired to his original position.

This retrograde movement was covered by skirmishers and an increasing
fire of artillery; the British, exhausted by toil and want of food, and
reduced to less than fourteen thousand sabres and bayonets, could not
pursue, and the Spanish army was incapable of any evolution: at six
o’clock hostilities ceased, yet the battle was scarcely over when the
dry grass and shrubs took fire, and a volume of flames passing with
inconceivable rapidity across a part of the field, scorched in its
course both the dead and the wounded!

Two British generals, Mackenzie and Langworth, thirty-one officers of
inferior rank, seven hundred and sixty-seven sergeants and soldiers
were killed. Three generals, a hundred and ninety-two officers, three
thousand seven hundred and eighteen sergeants and privates were
wounded; nine officers, six hundred and forty-three sergeants and
soldiers were missing: making a total loss of six thousand two hundred
and sixty-eight in the two days’ fighting, of which five thousand four
hundred and twenty-two fell on the 28th.

On the French side, nine hundred and forty-four, including two
generals, were killed. Six thousand two hundred and ninety-four were
wounded, one hundred and fifty-six made prisoners; giving a total of
seven thousand three hundred and eighty-nine men and officers, of which
four thousand were of Victor’s corps: ten guns were taken and seven
left in the woods by the French. The Spaniards returned twelve hundred
men killed and wounded, but the correctness of their report was very
much doubted.

Early on the 29th the French quitted their position for the heights
of Salinas behind the Alberche; and that day General Robert Craufurd
reached the English camp with the 43rd, 52nd and 95th regiments, and
immediately took charge of the outposts. These troops, after a march of
twenty miles, were in _bivouac_ near Malpartida de Placencia when the
alarm caused by the Spanish fugitives spread to that part. Craufurd,
fearing the army was pressed, allowed his men to rest for a few hours,
and then withdrawing fifty of the weakest marched with a resolution not
to halt until he reached the field of battle. As the brigade advanced
it met crowds of the runaways, not all Spaniards, but all propagating
the vilest falsehoods: _the army was defeated--Sir Arthur Wellesley
was killed--the French were only a few miles distant_: some, blinded
by their fears, pretended even to point out the enemy’s posts on the
nearest hills! Indignant at this shameful scene the troops pressed on
with impetuous speed, and leaving only seventeen stragglers behind, in
twenty-six hours crossed the field of battle, a strong compact body,
having during that time marched sixty-two English miles in the hottest
season of the year, each man carrying from fifty to sixty pounds
weight. Had the historian Gibbon known of such an effort, he would have
spared his sneer about the delicacy of modern soldiers![9]

The desperate fighting of the English soldier, responding to his
general’s genius, had now saved the army from the danger imposed by
Cuesta’s perverseness and the infirmity of the Spanish troops; but
Sir A. Wellesley had still to expiate his own errors as to Spanish
character, Spanish warfare, and the French power and resources.

Soult, after his retreat, had so promptly reorganized his force as
to be co-operating with Ney against the Gallician insurgents, when
in the British camp he was supposed to be wandering, distressed, and
shirking every foe. Meanwhile Napoleon, foreseeing with intuitive
sagacity that the English general would operate by the valley of the
Tagus, and Gallicia consequently be abandoned, gave Soult authority to
unite in Leon the troops of Mortier, Ney and Kellermann to his own,
above fifty thousand fighting men in all. With them he was to fall
on the British communications, by crossing the Gredos mountains and
entering the valley of the Tagus; but Ney, discontented at being under
Soult’s command, was dilatory, and the latter only passed the Gredos
the 31st instead of the 29th as he designed; the allies thus escaped
being inclosed between two French armies, each an overmatch for them in
numbers and power of movement.

Sir A. Wellesley had heard on the 30th that Soult was likely to cross
the mountains, yet, thinking him weak, only desired Cuesta to reinforce
some Spanish troops previously posted at the pass of Baños, which had
however been already forced by the French; but on the 2nd of August
it became known that Soult had descended upon Placencia and taken all
the English stores there; news which aroused both generals; then they
agreed that Sir Arthur should march against him, while Cuesta remained
at Talavera to watch the king--promising to bring off the men in the
British hospitals if forced to retreat. Sir Arthur, relying on this,
marched the 3rd, still thinking Soult had only fifteen thousand men,
the remnant of his former army; but he had fifty-three thousand, and on
the morning of the 4th the English general found himself with seventeen
thousand half-starved soldiers at Oropesa, Soult being in his front,
Victor menacing his rear, and Cuesta, false to his word, close at hand,
having left fifteen hundred British sick and wounded to the enemy. The
fate of the Peninsula was then hanging by a thread which could not
support the weight for twelve hours, and only one resource remained:
the bridge of Arzobispo was near, and the army crossed the Tagus,
leaving the French with all the credit of the campaign.

On the mountains beyond that river, the English general maintained a
defensive position until the 20th against the enemy; but against the
evil proceedings of the Spanish government and Spanish generals he
could not hold his ground, and therefore retired into Portugal; having
during his short campaign lost by sickness and in battle, or abandoned,
three thousand five hundred gallant soldiers and nearly two thousand
horses, fifteen hundred of which died of want.


  Combats on the Coa and Agueda--Barba de Puerco--Combat of
    Almeida--Anecdotes of British Soldiers--Battle of Busaco.


“_I have fished in many troubled waters, but Spanish troubled waters I
will never try again._”

Thus said Sir A. Wellesley after the campaign of Talavera, by which
he had acquired the title of Viscount Wellington, and a thorough
knowledge of the Spanish character. Looking then to Portugal as his
base for future operations, he conceived and commenced the gigantic
lines of Torres Vedras as a depository for the independence of the
Peninsula--a grand project, conceived and enforced with all the might
of genius. But while preparing this stronghold he did not resign the
frontier, and when Massena, Prince of Essling, menaced Portugal in
1810 with sixty-five thousand fighting men in line, besides garrisons
and reserves, he found a mingled British and Portuguese army ready to
oppose him.

This defensive force was disposed in two distinct masses. One under
General Hill opposed invasion by the line of the Tagus, the other
under Lord Wellington opposed it by the line of the Mondego; they were
however separated by the great Estrella mountain and its offshoots, and
Massena, when he took Ciudad Rodrigo, could concentrate his whole army
on either line, moving in front of the Estrella by a shorter and easier
road than the English general could concentrate his troops behind that
mountain. Lord Wellington opened indeed a military road which shortened
the line of co-operation with Hill; yet this was only an alleviation,
the advantage remained with the French, and Wellington had to trust
his own quickness and the strength of intermediate positions for
uniting his army in the lines of Torres Vedras. Yield ground without
force however he would not, and therefore had, previous to the fall
of Ciudad Rodrigo, detached General Robert Craufurd with the light
division, two regiments of cavalry, and six pieces of horse-artillery,
to the Agueda, in observation of the French army. On that advanced
position they sustained several actions. The first at Barba de Puerco,
a village, between which and the opposite French post of San Felices
yawned a gloomy chasm, and at the bottom, foaming over huge rocks, the
Agueda swept along beneath a high narrow bridge. This post, held by the
English riflemen, was of singular strength, yet scarcely was the line
of the Agueda taken when General Ferey, a bold officer, desirous to
create a fear of French enterprise, attempted a surprise.

Secretly placing six hundred grenadiers below, at an hour when the
moon, rising behind him, cast long shadows from the rocks deepening the
darkness of the chasm, he silently passed the bridge, surprised and
bayoneted the sentinels, ascended the opposite crags with incredible
speed, and fell upon the picquets so fiercely that all went fighting
into the village while the first shout was still echoing in the gulf
behind. So sudden was the attack, so great the confusion, that no order
could be maintained, and each soldier encountering the nearest enemy
fought hand to hand, while their colonel, Sidney Beckwith, conspicuous
from his lofty stature and daring action, a man capable of rallying a
whole army in flight, exhorting, shouting, and personally fighting,
urged all forward until the French were pushed down the ravine again in

After this combat Craufurd kept his dangerous position for four months,
during which several skirmishes took place. The one of most note was at
the village of Barquilla, where he surprised and captured some French
horsemen, but afterwards rashly charging two hundred French infantry
under Captain Gouache, was beaten off with the loss of the cavalry
colonel, Talbot, and thirty-two troopers.


Soon after this skirmish Ciudad Rodrigo fell, and Ney advanced towards
Almeida on the Coa. Craufurd’s orders were to recross that river, yet
from headstrong ambition he remained with four thousand British and
Portuguese infantry, eleven hundred cavalry and six guns to fight
thirty thousand French on bad ground; for though his left, resting on
an unfinished tower eight hundred yards from Almeida, was protected by
the guns of that fortress, his right was insecure; most of his cavalry
was in an open plain in front, and in his rear was a deep ravine, at
the bottom of which, more than a mile off, was the Coa with only one
narrow bridge for a retreat.

A stormy night ushered in the 24th of July, and the troops, drenched
with rain, were under arms before daylight expecting to retire when
some pistol-shots in front, followed by an order for the cavalry
reserves and guns to advance, gave notice of the enemy’s approach; then
the morning cleared, and twenty-four thousand French infantry, five
thousand cavalry, and thirty pieces of artillery, were observed in
march beyond the Turones. The British line was immediately contracted
and brought under the edge of the ravine, but Ney had seen Craufurd’s
false disposition, and came down with the stoop of an eagle--four
thousand horsemen and a powerful artillery swept the English cavalry
from the plain, and Loison’s infantry, rushing on at a charging pace,
made for the centre and left of the position.

While the French were thus pouring down, several ill-judged changes
were made on the English side; a part of the troops were advanced,
others drawn back; the 43rd Regiment was placed within an inclosure of
solid masonry ten feet high, near the road, about half-musket-shot down
the ravine and having but one narrow outlet! The firing in front became
heavy, the cavalry, the artillery and Portuguese caçadores successively
passed this inclosure in retreat, the sharp clang of the rifles was
heard along the edge of the plain above, and in a few moments the
imprisoned regiment would have been without a hope of escape, if here,
as in every other part of the field, the battalion officers had not
remedied the faults of the general. The egress was so narrow that some
large stones were loosened, a powerful simultaneous effort of the whole
line then burst the wall, and the next instant the regiment was up with
the riflemen. There was no room for array, no time for anything but
battle, every captain carried off his company independently, joining as
he could with the riflemen and 52nd, and a mass of skirmishers was thus
presented, acting in small parties and under no regular command, yet
each confident in the courage and discipline of those on his right and
left, and all keeping together with surprising vigour.

It is unnecessary to describe the first burst of French soldiers, it is
well known with what gallantry the officers lead, with what vehemence
the troops follow, with what a storm of fire they waste a field of
battle. At this moment, with the advantage of ground and numbers, they
were breaking over the edge of the ravine, their guns, ranged along
the summit, pouring down grape, while their hussars galloped over the
glacis of Almeida and along the road to the bridge sabreing everything
in their way. Ney, desirous that Montbrun should follow the hussars
with the whole of the French cavalry, sent five officers in succession
to urge him on, and so mixed were friends and enemies, that only a few
guns of the fortress dared open, and no courage could have availed
against such overwhelming numbers: but Montbrun enjoyed an independent
command, and as the attack was made without Massena’s knowledge he
would not stir. Then the British regiments, with singular intelligence
and discipline, extricated themselves from their perilous situation.
Falling back slowly and stopping to fight whenever opportunity
offered, they retired down the ravine, tangled as it was with crags
and vineyards, in despite of their enemies; who were yet so fierce and
eager that even their horsemen rode amongst the inclosures, striking at
the soldiers as they mounted the walls or scrambled over the rocks.

Soon the retreating troops approached the river, and the ground became
more open, but the left wing, hardest pressed and having the shortest
distance, arrived while the bridge was crowded with artillery and
cavalry, and the right was still distant! Major M‘Leod of the 43rd
instantly rallied four companies of his regiment on a hill to cover
the line of passage, he was joined by some riflemen, and at the same
time the brigade-major Rowan[10] posted two companies on another hill
to the left, flanking the road: these posts were maintained while the
right wing was filing over the river, yet the French gathering in
great numbers made a rush, forcing the British companies back before
the bridge was cleared, and when part of the 52nd was still distant
from it. Very imminent was the danger, but M‘Leod, a young man endowed
with a natural genius for war, turned his horse, called on the troops
to follow, waved his cap, and rode with a shout towards the enemy,
on whom the suddenness of the thing and the animating gesture of the
man produced the effect designed, for the soldiers rushed after him,
cheering and charging as if a whole army had been at their backs: the
enemy’s skirmishers not comprehending this stopped short, and before
their surprise was over the 52nd passed the river, and M‘Leod followed
at speed: it was a fine exploit!

As the infantry passed the bridge they planted themselves in loose
order on the side of the mountain, the artillery went to the summit,
and the cavalry observed the roads to the right; this disposition
was made to watch some upper fords two miles off, and the bridge of
Castello Bom; for it was to be apprehended that while Ney attacked in
front, other troops might pass by those fords and bridge of Castello
Bom and so cut off the division from the army: the river was however
rising fast with the rain, and it was impossible to retreat farther
until nightfall.

Soon the French skirmishers opened a biting fire across the water:
it was returned as bitterly; the artillery on both sides played
vigorously, the sounds were repeated by numberless echoes, and the
smoke slowly rising, resolved itself into an immense arch, spanning
the whole gulf and sparkling with the whirling fuzes of the flying
shells. Fast and thickly the French gathered behind the high rocks, and
a dragoon was seen to try the depth of the upper stream above, but two
shots from the 52nd killed horse and man, and the carcasses floating
down between the contending forces intimated that the river was
impassable save by the bridge. Then the monotonous tones of a French
drum were heard, the head of a noble column darkened the long narrow
bridge, a drummer and an officer, the last in a splendid uniform,
leaped together to the front and the whole rushed on with loud cries.
The depth of the ravine so deceived the English soldiers’ aim at first,
that two-thirds of the passage was won ere a shot had brought down
an enemy; yet a few paces onwards the line of death was traced, and
the whole of the leading French section fell as one man; the gallant
column still pressed forward, but none could pass that terrible line,
and the killed and wounded rolled together until the heap rose nearly
even with the parapet, while the living mass behind them melted away
rather than gave back.

The shouts of the British now rose loudly, yet they were confidently
answered, and in half an hour another column, more numerous than the
first, again crowded the bridge: this time the range was far better
judged, and ere half the passage was gained the multitude was again
torn, shattered, dispersed or slain: only ten or twelve men crossed to
take shelter under the rocks at the brink of the river. The skirmishing
was then renewed, yet a French surgeon, coming to the very foot of the
bridge, waved a handkerchief and commenced dressing the wounded under
the hottest fire; nor was the brave man’s touching appeal unheeded,
every musket turned from him, although his still undaunted countrymen
were preparing for a third attempt, a last effort, which was made
indeed, yet with fewer numbers and less energy, for the impossibility
of forcing the passage was become apparent. The combat was however
continued. By the French as a point of honour, to cover the escape
of those who had passed the bridge; by the English from ignorance
of their object. One of the enemy’s guns was dismantled, a field
magazine exploded, and many continued to fall on both sides until
about four o’clock, when torrents of rain caused a momentary cessation
of fire, the men amongst the rocks then escaped to their own side,
the fight ceased and Craufurd retired in the night behind the Pinhel
river. Forty-four Portuguese, two hundred and seventy-two British,
including twenty-eight officers, were killed, wounded, or taken; and
it was at first supposed that half a company of the 52nd, posted in
the unfinished tower, were captured; but their officer, keeping close
until the night, had passed the enemy’s posts, and crossed the Coa. The
French lost above a thousand men, and the slaughter at the bridge was
fearful to behold.

During the combat General Picton came up from Pinhel alone, and
Craufurd asked him for the support of the third division; he refused,
and they separated after a sharp altercation.[11] Picton was wrong,
for Craufurd’s situation was one of extreme danger; he could not then
retire, and Massena might, by the bridge of Castello Bom, have taken
the division in flank and destroyed it between the Coa and Pinhel
rivers. Picton and Craufurd were however not formed by nature to agree.
The stern countenance, robust frame, saturnine complexion, caustic
speech and austere demeanour of the first promised little sympathy
with the short thick figure, dark flashing eyes, quick movements
and fiery temper of the second: nor did they often meet without a
quarrel. Nevertheless, they had many points of resemblance in their
characters and fortunes. Both were harsh and rigid in command; both
prone to disobedience, yet exacting entire submission from inferiors;
alike ambitious and craving of glory, they were both enterprising, yet
neither was expert in handling troops under fire. After distinguished
services both perished in arms, and being celebrated as generals of
division while living, have been, since their deaths, injudiciously
spoken of as rivalling their great leader in war.

That they were officers of mark and pretension is
unquestionable--Craufurd far more so than Picton, because the
latter never had a separate command and his opportunities were more
circumscribed--but to compare either to the Duke of Wellington displays
ignorance of the men and of the art they professed. If they had even
comprehended the profound military and political combinations he was
then conducting, the one would have carefully avoided fighting on the
Coa, and the other, far from refusing, would have eagerly proffered his

       *       *       *       *       *

Here some illustrations of the intelligence and the lofty spirit of
British soldiers will not be misplaced.

When the last of the retreating troops had passed the bridge, an
Irishman of the 43rd, named Pigot, a bold turbulent fellow, leaned on
his firelock, regarded the advancing enemy for some time, and then in
the author’s hearing thus delivered his opinion of the action.

“_General Craufurd wanted glory, so he stopped on the wrong side of the
river, and now he is knocked over to the right side. The French general
won’t be content until his men try to get on the wrong side also, and
then they will be knocked back. Well! both will claim a victory, which
is neither here nor there, but just in the middle of the river. That’s
glory!_” Then firing his musket he fell into the ranks. Even to the
letter was his prediction verified, for General Craufurd published a
contradiction of Massena’s dispatch.

This sarcasm was enforced by one of a tragic nature. There was a
fellow-soldier to Pigot, a north of Ireland man, named Stewart but
jocularly called the _Boy_ because of his youth, being only nineteen,
and of his gigantic stature and strength. He had fought bravely and
displayed great intelligence beyond the river, and was one of the last
men who came down to the bridge, but he would not pass. Turning round,
he regarded the French with a grim look, and spoke aloud as follows.
“_So! This is the end of our boasting. This is our first battle and
we retreat! The boy Stewart will not live to hear that said._” Then
striding forward in his giant might he fell furiously on the nearest
enemies with the bayonet, refused the quarter they seemed desirous of
granting, and died fighting in the midst of them!

Still more touching, more noble, more heroic was the death of Sergeant
Robert M‘Quade. During M‘Leod’s rush this man, also from the north of
Ireland, saw two Frenchmen level their muskets on rests against a high
gap in a bank, awaiting the uprise of an enemy; the present Sir George
Brown, then a lad of sixteen, attempted to ascend at the fatal point,
but M‘Quade, himself only twenty-four years of age, pulled him back,
saying with a calm decided tone “_You are too young Sir to be killed_,”
and then offering his own person to the fire fell dead, pierced with
both balls!

BATTLE OF BUSACO. (Sept. 1810.)

Soon after Craufurd’s combat, Almeida was betrayed by some Portuguese
officers, and Massena, who had previously menaced both lines of
invasion, adopted that of the Mondego. This river, flowing between
the Estrella mountain and the Sierra de Caramula, is separated by the
latter from the coast, along which the Royal road runs from Oporto to
Lisbon. The roads on each side of the river were very rugged, and at
the southern end of the valley crossed by two mountain ridges, namely,
the Sierra de Murcella on the left bank, the Sierra de Busaco on the
right bank. Wellington had prepared the former for battle, and General
Hill was coming to it by the military road, but Massena, aware of its
strength, crossed to the right of the Mondego, and moved by Viseu, to
turn Wellington’s flank and surprise Coimbra; he however knew nothing
of Busaco, which covered that city, and so fell into the worst road and
lost two days waiting for his artillery. Meanwhile his adversary also
passed the Mondego, and sending troops to the front broke the bridges
on the Criz and Dão, mountain torrents crossing the French line of

Coimbra could not then be surprised, yet Massena could from Viseu
gain the Royal coast-road and so reach Coimbra, turning the Busaco
position; he could also repass the Mondego and assail the Murcella;
wherefore the allied army was necessarily scattered. Hill had by forced
marches reached the Murcella; Spencer was detached to watch the Royal
coast-road; the light division, Pack’s Portuguese, and the cavalry,
were in observation on the Viseu road; the remainder of the army was
in reserve at the fords of the Mondego, to act on either side. In this
state of affairs happened a strange incident. The light division had
established its bivouac towards evening in a pine-wood, but a peasant
advised a removal, saying it was known as the Devil’s wood, that an
evil influence reigned, and no person who slept there had ever escaped
it. He was laughed at, yet he did not fable. In the night all the
troops, men and officers, seized as it were with sudden frenzy, started
from sleep and dispersed in all directions: nor was their strange
terror allayed until voices were heard crying out that the enemy’s
cavalry were amongst them, when the soldiers mechanically ran together
and the illusion was dissipated.

After some delay Massena moved down the Mondego and Busaco was then
occupied by the English general. His line was eight miles long, flanked
on the right by the river, and on the left connected with the Caramula
by ridges and ravines impervious to an army. A road along the crest
furnished easy communication, and the ford of Pena Cova, behind the
right, gave direct access to the Murcella ridge. Rugged and steep the
face of Busaco was, yet the summit had space for the action of a few
cavalry and salient points gave play to the artillery, while the
counter-ridge offered no facility to the enemy’s guns. When it was
first adopted some generals expressed a fear that the Prince of Essling
would not attack--“_But if he does I shall beat him_” was Wellington’s
reply: he knew his obstinate character.

Massena had three army corps, Ney’s, Junot’s, and Reynier’s, with a
division of heavy cavalry under Montbrun; and as he knew nothing of
the Torres Vedras lines, and despised the Portuguese, he was convinced
the English would retreat and embark. A great general in dangerous
conjunctures, he was here, from age and satisfied ambition, negligent,
dilatory, and misled by some Portuguese noblemen in his camp. Instead
of marching with his whole army compact for battle he retained Junot
and Montbrun in the rear, while Ney and Reynier, restoring the bridges
over the Criz, drove the English cavalry into the hills, forced back
the light division with a sharp fight, and crowned the counter-ridges
in front of Busaco.

Ney seeing that Busaco was a crested mountain and could not hide
strong reserves, that it was only half-occupied and the troops were
moving about in the disorder of first taking up unknown ground, wished
to attack at once; but Massena was ten miles in rear, and an officer
sent to ask his assent was kept two hours without an audience and
then sent back with an order to await the prince’s arrival.[12] A
great opportunity was thus lost, for Spencer had not then come in,
Leith was only passing the Mondego, Hill was on the Murcella, scarcely
twenty-five thousand men were in line, and there was unavoidable
confusion and great intervals between the divisions.

Ney and Reynier wrote in the night to Massena, advising an attack at
daybreak, yet he did not come up until midday with Junot’s corps and
the cavalry, and then proceeded leisurely to examine the position. It
was now completely manned. Hill had the extreme right, Leith was next
in line, Picton next to Leith. Spencer’s division and a regiment of
dragoons were on the highest crest in reserve, having on their left
the convent of Busaco. In front of Spencer a Portuguese division
was posted half-way down the mountain, and on his left, in front of
the convent, was the light division, supported by a German brigade
and the 19th Portuguese Regiment. Cole’s division closed the extreme
left, on a line with the light division and covered, flank and front,
by impassable ravines. There were long intervals in the line, but the
spaces between were unassailable, artillery was disposed on all the
salient points, skirmishers covered all the accessible ground, and so
formidable did the position appear that Ney now strongly objected to an
attack. Reynier however, a presumptuous man, advised one, and Massena
made dispositions for the next morning.

His ground did not permit any broad front of attack, and two points
were chosen. Reynier was to fall on Picton; Ney was to assail the
light division. These attacks, governed by the roads, were about three
miles asunder, and as Junot’s corps and Montbrun’s cavalry were held
in reserve, only forty thousand men were employed to storm a mountain
on which sixty thousand enemies were posted; yet the latter, from the
extent of their ground and the impossibility of making any counter
attack, were the weakest at the decisive points.

The light division was on a spur, or rather brow of ground, overhanging
a ravine so deep that the eye could scarcely discern troops at the
bottom, yet so narrow that the French twelve-pounders ranged across.
Into the lowest parts of this ravine their light troops towards dusk
dropped by twos and threes, and endeavoured to steal up the wooded
dells and hollows, close to the picquets of the division; they were
vigorously checked, yet similar attempts at different points kept the
troops watchful, and indeed none but veterans tired of war could have
slept beneath that serene sky, glittering with stars above, while the
dark mountains were crowned with innumerable fires, around which more
than a hundred thousand brave men were gathered.

Before daybreak on the 27th, five columns of attack were in motion, and
Reynier’s troops, having comparatively easier ground, were in the midst
of the picquets and skirmishers of Picton’s division almost as soon
as they could be perceived; the resistance was vigorous and six guns
played along the ascent with grape, yet in half an hour the French were
close to the summit of the mountain, with such astonishing power and
resolution did they overthrow everything that opposed their progress!
The right of the third division was forced back, the 8th Portuguese
Regiment broken, the highest part of the crest was gained between
Picton and Leith, and the leading battalions established themselves
amongst some crowning rocks, while a following mass wheeled to the
right, designing to sweep the summit of the sierra. Lord Wellington
immediately opened two guns loaded with grape upon their flank, a heavy
musketry was poured into their front, and the 88th Regiment, joined
by a wing of the 45th, charged furiously; fresh men could not have
withstood that terrible shock; the French, exhausted by their efforts,
opposed only a straggling fire, and both parties went mingling together
down the mountain side with a mighty clamour and confusion, their track
strewed with the dead and dying even to the bottom of the valley.

Meanwhile the battalions which had first gained the crest formed to
their left, resting their right on a precipice overhanging the reverse
side of the sierra: the position was thus won if any reserve had
been at hand; for the greatest part of Picton’s troops were engaged
elsewhere, and some of the French skirmishers actually descended the
back of the ridge. A misty cloud capped the summit, and this hostile
mass, ensconced amongst the rocks, could not be seen except by Leith;
but that officer had put a brigade in motion when he first perceived
the vigorous impression made on Picton, and though two miles of rugged
ground were to be passed on a narrow front before it could mingle
in the fight, it was coming on rapidly; the Royals were in reserve,
the 38th were seeking to turn the enemy’s right, and the 9th, under
Colonel Cameron, menaced his front: the precipice stopped the 38th,
but Cameron, hearing from a staff-officer how critical was the affair,
formed line under a violent fire, and without returning a shot run
in upon the French grenadiers and drove them from the rocks with
irresistible bravery; then he plied them with a destructive musketry as
long as they could be reached, yet with excellent discipline refrained
from pursuit lest the crest of the position should be again lost; for
the mountain was rugged, and to judge the general state of the action
difficult. Hill however now edged in towards the scene of action,
Leith’s second brigade joined the first, and a great mass of fresh
troops was thus concentrated, while Reynier had neither reserves nor
guns to restore the fight.

Ney’s attack had as little success. From the mountain-spur where the
light division stood the bottom of the valley could be discerned, the
ascent was much steeper than where Reynier had attacked, and Craufurd
in a happy mood of command made masterly dispositions. The platform
which he held was scooped so as to conceal the 43rd and 52nd Regiments,
though in line, and hence the German infantry who were behind them,
being on higher ground, appeared the only solid force for resistance.
Some rocks overhanging the descent furnished natural embrasures, in
which the divisional guns were placed, and the riflemen and Portuguese
caçadores, planted as skirmishers, covered the slope of the mountain.

While it was still dark a straggling musketry was heard in the deep
ravine, and when light broke, three heavy masses, entering the woods
below, threw forward a swarm of light troops. One column, under General
Marchand, on emerging from the dark chasm, turned to its left, and
seemed intent to turn the right of the division; a second under Loison
made straight up the face of the mountain by a road leading to the
convent; the third remained in reserve. General Simon’s brigade was at
the head of Loison’s attack, and it ascended with a wonderful alacrity;
for though the skirmishers plied it unceasingly with musketry, and the
artillery bullets swept through it from front to rear, its order was
not disturbed, nor its speed abated. The English guns were worked with
great rapidity, yet their range was contracted every round, the enemy’s
musket-balls came singing up in a sharper key, and soon the British
skirmishers, breathless and begrimed with powder, rushed over the edge
of the ascent--the artillery then drew back, and the victorious cries
of the French were heard within a few yards of the summit.

Craufurd, standing alone on one of the rocks, had silently watched the
attack, but now, with a quick shrill cry, called on the two regiments
to charge! Then a horrid shout startled the French column, and eighteen
hundred British bayonets went sparkling over the brow of the hill: yet
so sternly resolute, so hardy was the enemy, that each man of the first
section raised his musket, and two officers with ten soldiers of the
52nd fell before them--not a Frenchman had missed his mark! They could
do no more: the head of their column was violently thrown back upon the
rear, both flanks were overlapped, three terrible discharges at five
yards’ distance shattered the wavering mass, and a long trail of broken
arms and bleeding carcasses marked the line of flight. The main body of
the British stood fast, but some companies followed down the mountain,
whereupon Ney threw forward his reserved division, and opening his guns
from the opposite heights, killed some of the pursuers: thus warned,
they recovered their own ground, and the Germans were brought forward
to skirmish: meanwhile a small flanking detachment had passed round the
right, and rising near the convent, was defeated by the 19th Portuguese
Regiment under Colonel M‘Bean.

Loison did not renew the fight, but Marchand, having gained a pine-wood
half-way up the mountain, on the right of the light division, sent
a cloud of skirmishers up from thence about the time General Simon
was beaten: the ascent was however so steep that Pack’s Portuguese
sufficed to hold them in check, and higher up Spencer showed his line
of foot-guards in support; Craufurd’s artillery also smote Marchand’s
people in the pine-wood; and Ney, who was there in person, after
sustaining this murderous cannonade for an hour relinquished that
attack. The desultory fighting of light troops then ceased, and before
two o’clock parties from both armies were, under a momentary truce,
amicably mixed searching for wounded men.

Towards evening a French company with signal audacity seized a village
half musket-shot from the light division, and refused to retire;
whereupon Craufurd, turning twelve guns on the houses, overwhelmed them
with bullets; but after paying the French captain this distinguished
honour, recovering his temper, he sent a company of the 43rd down,
which cleared the village in a few minutes. Meanwhile an affecting
incident, contrasting strongly with the savage character of the
preceding events, added to the interest of the day. A poor orphan
Portuguese girl, seventeen years of age and very handsome, was seen
coming down the mountain, driving an ass loaded with all her property
through the midst of the French army. She had abandoned her dwelling
in obedience to the proclamation, and now passed over the field of
battle with a childish simplicity, totally unconscious of her perilous
situation, and scarcely understanding which were the hostile and which
the friendly troops, for no man on either side was so brutal as to
molest her.

This battle was fought unnecessarily by Massena, and by Wellington
reluctantly, being forced thereto from the misconduct of the Portuguese
government. It was however entirely to the disadvantage of the French,
who had a general and eight hundred men killed, two generals wounded,
and one, Simon, made prisoner. Their whole loss may be estimated at
four thousand five hundred men, while that of the allies did not exceed
thirteen hundred.

Massena now judged Busaco impregnable, and as it could not be turned
by the Mondego, because the allies might pass that river on a shorter
line, it was proposed in council to return to Spain; but at that moment
a peasant told him of a road leading over the Caramula and he resolved
to turn the allies’ left. To mask this movement the skirmishing was
renewed on the 28th so warmly that a general battle was expected; yet
an ostentatious display of men, the disappearance of baggage, and the
casting up of earth indicated some other design. In the evening, the
French infantry were sensibly diminished, the cavalry was descried
winding over the distant mountains towards the allies’ left, and the
project was then apparent. Wellington arrived from the right, and
observed the distant columns for some time with great earnestness; he
seemed uneasy, his countenance bore a fierce and angry expression, and
suddenly mounting his horse he rode off without speaking--one hour
later and the army was in movement to abandon Busaco, for Massena had
threaded the defiles of the Caramula and was marching upon Coimbra.

Wellington’s plan was to lay the country waste before the enemy, but
only the richest inhabitants had quitted Coimbra; that city was still
populous when the enemy’s approach left no choice but to fly or risk
the punishment of death and infamy announced for remaining: then a
scene of distress ensued that the most hardened could not behold
without emotion. Mothers with children of all ages, the sick, the old,
the bedridden, and even lunatics, went or were carried forth, the most
part with little hope and less help, to journey for days in company
with contending armies. Fortunately for this unhappy multitude the
weather was fine and the roads firm, or the greatest number must have
perished in the most deplorable manner: but all this misery was of no
avail, for though the people fled, the provisions were left and the
mills were but partially and imperfectly ruined.

On the 1st of October, the allied outposts were driven from a hill
north of Coimbra, and the French horsemen entered a plain, where they
suffered some loss from a cannonade. The British cavalry were there
drawn up on open ground in opposition, and as the disparity of numbers
was not very great, the opportunity seemed fair for a good stroke;
yet they withdrew across the Mondego, and so unskilfully that some of
the hindmost were cut down in the middle of the river, and the French
were only prevented from forcing the passage of the ford by a strong
skirmish in which fifty or sixty men fell.

This untoward fight compelled the light division to march hastily
through the city to gain the defile of Condeixa, which commenced at the
end of the bridge; all the inhabitants who had not before quitted the
place then rushed out with what could be caught up in hand, driving
animals loaded with sick people and children on to the bridge, where
the press became so great the troops halted. This stoppage was close
to the prison, from whence the jailer had fled with the keys, and the
prisoners, crowding to the windows, strived to tear the bars off with
their hands, and even with their teeth, bellowing in the most frantic
manner. Then the bitter lamentations of the multitude increased,
and the pistol-shots of the cavalry engaged at the ford below were
distinctly heard; it was a shocking scene; but William Campbell, a
staff officer of heroic strength and temper, broke the prison doors
and freed the wretched inmates. The troops now forced a way over the
bridge, yet at the other end, the defile was cut through high rocks,
and so crowded that no passage could be made, and a troop of French
dragoons, having passed an unwatched ford, hovered close to the flank:
one regiment of infantry could have destroyed the whole division,
wedged as it was in a hollow way, unable to retreat, advance, or break
out on either side.

Three days Massena halted at Coimbra, the fourth he advanced, leaving
behind his sick and wounded with a garrison, in all five thousand men,
who were suddenly captured four days later by a small militia force
under Colonel Trant! This “_heavy blow and great discouragement_”[13]
did not stop the French prince, and during his pursuit thirty-six
French squadrons fell on ten British squadrons, but in a severe fight
did not gain five miles in as many hours; yet a few days after his
cavalry had the advantage in a greater action, and finally the allies
entered the lines of Torres Vedras, the existence of which was first
made known to Massena by the bar they offered! Several skirmishes, in
which the English general Harvey was wounded and the French general St.
Croix killed, were necessary to convince him they could not be stormed;
but though he was without magazines, he continued to hold his menacing
position until the country behind him was a desert: then falling back
two marches, he took a defensive position at Santarem, and was in turn
blockaded by Lord Wellington.


  Matagorda--Battle of Barosa--Massena’s Retreat--Combat of
    Redinha--Cazal Nova--Foz d’Aronce--Sabugal--Fuentes Onoro--Battle
    of Fuentes Onoro--Evacuation of Almeida.

MATAGORDA. (March, 1811.)

Before Massena invaded Portugal king Joseph had subdued Andalusia,
except the Isla de Leon where Cadiz stands. He left Soult in that
province with a large army, of which a part under Sebastiani held
Granada, while another part under Victor blockaded the Isla with
immense works; the remainder, under Soult in person, formed a
field-force to war against insurrections and the numerous Spanish
troops, which in separate bodies acted against him. The Spaniards,
after long demurring, admitted an auxiliary British and Portuguese
force into Cadiz, under General Graham,[14] whose arrival was
signalized by the cannonade of Matagorda. This small fort, without
ditch or bomb-proof, was held for fifty-four days by a garrison of
seamen and soldiers, under Captain M‘Lean,[15] close to the French
lines at the Trocadero. A Spanish seventy-four, and a flotilla, had
co-operated in the resistance until daybreak on the 21st of March, but
then a hissing shower of heated shot made them cut their cables and
run under the works of Cadiz, while the fire of forty-eight guns and
mortars of the largest size, was turned upon the fort, whose feeble
parapet vanished before that crashing flight of metal, leaving only the
naked rampart and undaunted hearts of the garrison for defence. The men
fell fast, and the enemy shot so quick and close, that a staff bearing
the Spanish flag was broken six times in an hour; the colours were then
fastened to the angle of the work itself, but unwillingly by the men,
especially the sailors, all calling out to hoist the British ensign,
and attributing the slaughter to their fighting under a foreign flag!

Thirty hours this tempest lasted, and sixty-four men out of one
hundred and forty had fallen, when Graham, finding a diversion he had
projected impracticable, sent boats to carry off the survivors. With
these boats went Major Lefebre, an engineer of great promise, but to
fall there, the last man whose blood wetted the ruins thus abandoned:
and here be recorded an action of which it is difficult to say whether
it were most feminine or heroic. A sergeant’s wife, named Retson, was
in a casemate with wounded men, when a young drummer was ordered to
fetch water from the well of the fort; seeing the child hesitate, she
snatched the vessel from him, braved the terrible cannonade, and when a
shot cut the bucket-cord from her hand, recovered it and fulfilled her

BATTLE OF BAROSA. (March, 1811.)

After Matagorda was abandoned, the Spaniards in Cadiz became so
apathetic that General Graham bitterly said of them “_They wished the
English would drive away the French, that they might eat strawberries
at Chiclana_.” However, in December, Soult was ordered to co-operate
with Massena, and when his departure was known in January, 1811,
Victor’s force being then weak, Graham undertook, in concert with La
Peña, captain-general at the Isla, to raise the blockade by a maritime
expedition. Contrary winds baffled this project, and in February
Victor was reinforced; nevertheless ten thousand infantry and six
hundred cavalry were again embarked, being to land at Tarifa, march
upon Chiclana, and take the French lines in reverse. Meanwhile General
Zayas, who remained with the Spanish forces left in the Isla, was to
cast a bridge near the sea-mouth of the Santi Petri, a ship-canal
joining the harbour to the sea and cutting off the Isla from the
continent; Ballesteros was to menace Seville; the Partidas were to keep
Sebastiani in check, and insurrections were expected in all quarters.

The British troops, passing their port in a gale the 22nd, landed at
Algesiras and marched to Tarifa, being there joined by the garrison.
Somewhat more than four thousand men, including two companies of the
20th Portuguese, and one hundred and eighty German hussars, were thus
assembled under Graham, good and hardy troops, and himself a daring
old man of a ready temper for battle. La Peña arrived the 27th with
the Spanish contingent, and Graham, to preserve unanimity, ceded the
command, although contrary to his instructions. Next day the whole
moved forward twelve miles, passing some ridges, which, descending
from the Ronda to the sea, separate the plains of San Roque from those
of Medina and Chiclana. The troops were then reorganized. General
Lardizabal had the vanguard, the Prince of Anglona the centre; the
reserve, of two Spanish regiments and the British troops, was confided
to Graham, and the cavalry of both nations was given to Colonel
Whittingham, an English officer in the Spanish service.

At this time a French covering division, under General Cassagne, was at
Medina, with outposts at Vejer de la Frontera and Casa Vieja. La Peña
stormed the last the 2nd of March, and then General Beguines, coming
from San Roque, augmented his force to twelve thousand infantry, eight
hundred horsemen, and twenty-four guns. The 3rd, hearing Medina was
intrenched, he turned towards the coast and drove the French from Vejer
de la Frontera. In the night of the 4th he continued his movement, and
on the morning of the 5th, after a skirmish, in which his advanced
guard of cavalry was routed by a French squadron, he reached the Cerro
de Puerco, called by the English the heights of Barosa, four miles from
the sea-mouth of the Santi Petri.

This Barosa ridge, creeping in from the coast for a mile and a half,
overlooked a broken plain, which was bounded on the left by the
coast cliffs, on the right by the forest of Chiclana, in front by a
pine-wood, beyond which rose a long narrow height called the Bermeja,
to be reached by moving through the pine-wood, or by the beach under
the cliffs. Graham, foreseeing Victor would come out of his lines
to fight, had previously obtained La Peña’s promise to make short
marches, and not approach the enemy except in a mass. In violation of
this promise the march from Casa Vieja had been one of fifteen hours
on bad roads, and the night march to Barosa was still more fatiguing.
The troops therefore straggled, and before all had arrived, La Peña,
as if in contempt of his colleague, neither disclosing his own plans
nor communicating by signal or otherwise with Zayas, sent Lardizabal
straight to the mouth of the Santi Petri. Zayas had there cast his
bridge on the 2nd, but he was surprised in the night and driven into
the Isla; Lardizabal had therefore to win his way with a sharp fight,
in which three hundred Spaniards fell, yet he forced the French posts
and effected a junction.

La Peña directed Graham to follow the vanguard, but the latter desired
to hold Barosa, arguing justly that Victor could not attack Lardizabal
and Zayas, as no general would lend his flank to an enemy by assailing
the Bermeja while Barosa was occupied: Lascy, chief of the Spanish
staff, controverted this, and La Peña peremptorily commanded Graham to
march. With great temper he obeyed this discourteous order, leaving
only the flank companies of the 9th and 82nd regiments under Major
Brown to guard his baggage. He moved however in the persuasion that La
Peña would remain at Barosa with Anglona’s division and the cavalry,
because a Spanish column was still behind near Medina: yet scarcely had
he entered the pine-wood when La Peña carried off the corps of battle
and the cavalry by the sea-road to Santi Petri, leaving Barosa crowded
with baggage and protected only by a rear-guard of four guns and five

During these events Victor kept close in the forest of Chiclana, the
patrols could find no enemy, and Graham’s march of only two miles
seemed safe--but the French marshal was keenly watching the movement.
He had recalled Cassagne from Medina when La Peña first reached Barosa
and hourly expected his arrival; yet he felt so sure of success, as
to direct most of his cavalry, then at Medina and Arcos, upon Vejer
and other points to cut off the fugitives after the battle. He had
in hand fourteen pieces of artillery and nine thousand excellent
soldiers, commanded by Laval, Ruffin, and Villatte. From this force
he drafted three grenadier battalions as reserves, two of which and
three squadrons of cavalry he attached to Ruffin, the other to Laval.
Villatte with two thousand five hundred men, originally on the Bermeja,
now covered the works of the camp against Zayas and Lardizabal; but
Cassagne was still distant when Victor, seeing Graham in the pine-wood,
Zayas and Lardizabal on the Bermeja, a third body and the baggage on
the Barosa height, a fourth in movement by the coast, a fifth still
on the march from Vejer, poured at once into the plain and began the
battle. Laval confronted the British force, while Victor, leading
Ruffin’s men in person, ascended the rear of the Barosa height, and
having thus intercepted the Spanish column on the Medina road, drove
the rear-guard off the hill towards the sea, dispersed the baggage and
followers, and took three Spanish guns.

Major Brown, who had kept his troops in good order, being unable to
stem the torrent, slowly retired into the plain and sent for orders to
Graham, who was then near Bermeja. Fight! was the laconic answer, and
facing about himself he regained the open plain, expecting to find La
Peña and the cavalry on the Barosa hill. But when the view opened, he
beheld Ruffin’s brigade, flanked by the two grenadier battalions, near
the summit on the one side, the Spanish rear-guard and the baggage
flying towards the sea on the other, the French cavalry following the
fugitives in good order, Laval close upon his own left flank, and La
Peña nowhere!

In this desperate situation, feeling that a retreat upon Bermeja would
bring the enemy pell-mell with the allies on to that narrow ridge and
be disastrous, he resolved to make a counter-attack, although the key
of the battle-field was already in the enemy’s possession. Ten guns
under Major Duncan instantly opened a terrific fire against Laval’s
column, and Colonel Andrew Barnard[16] running vehemently out with his
riflemen and some Portuguese companies, commenced the fight; the rest
of the troops, without attention to regiments or brigades, so sudden
was the affair, formed two masses, with one of which General Dilkes
marched against Ruffin while Colonel Wheatley led the other against
Laval. Duncan’s guns ravaged the French ranks, Laval’s artillery
replied vigorously, Ruffin’s batteries took Wheatley’s column in flank,
and the infantry on both sides closed eagerly and with a pealing
musketry; but soon a fierce, rapid and prolonged charge of the 87th
Regiment overthrew the first line of the French, and though the latter
fought roughly, they were dashed so violently upon the second line that
both were broken by the shock and went off, their retreat being covered
by the reserve battalion of grenadiers.

Meanwhile Graham’s Spartan order had sent Brown headlong upon Ruffin,
and though nearly half his detachment went down under the first fire,
he maintained the fight until Dilkes’ column, having crossed a deep
hollow, came up, with little order indeed but in a fighting mood. Then
the whole ran up towards the summit, and there was no slackness, for
at the very edge of the ascent their gallant opponents met them and a
dreadful and for some time a doubtful combat raged; but soon Ruffin,
and Chaudron Rousseau who commanded the chosen grenadiers fell, both
mortally wounded, the English bore strongly onward, and their incessant
slaughtering fire forced the French from the hill with the loss of
three guns and many brave soldiers. All the discomfited divisions then
retired concentrically from their different points, and thus meeting,
with infinite spirit endeavoured to renew the action, but the play of
Duncan’s guns, close, rapid and murderous, rendered the attempt vain:
Victor quitted the field, and the British, who had been twenty-four
hours under arms without food, were too exhausted to pursue.

While these terrible combats of infantry were being fought, La Peña
looked idly on, giving no aid, not even menacing Villatte who was close
to him and comparatively weak. The Spanish Walloon guards, the regiment
of Ciudad Real, and some Guerilla cavalry, turning without orders, came
up indeed just as the action ceased, and it was expected that Colonel
Whittingham, an Englishman commanding a strong body of Spanish horse,
would have done as much; yet no stroke of a Spanish sabre was that day
given, though the French cavalry did not exceed two hundred and fifty
men, and the eight hundred under Whittingham would have rendered the
defeat ruinous. So certain was this, that Frederick Ponsonby, drawing
off his hundred and eighty German hussars, reached the field of battle,
charged the French squadrons in their retreat, overthrew them, took
two guns, and even attempted though vainly to sabre Rousseau’s chosen
grenadiers. Such was the fight of Barosa. Short, for it lasted only
one hour and a half; violent and bloody, for fifty officers, sixty
sergeants, eleven hundred British soldiers, and more than two thousand
French were killed and wounded; and six guns, an eagle, two generals,
both mortally wounded, with four hundred other prisoners fell into the
hands of the victors.

Graham remained several hours on the height, still hoping La Peña
would awake to the prospect of success and glory which the extreme
valour of the British had opened. Four thousand fresh men and a
powerful artillery had come over the Santi Petri; he had therefore
twelve thousand infantry and eight hundred cavalry, while before him
were only the remains of the French line of battle, retreating in the
greatest disorder upon Chiclana; but military spirit was extinct with
the Spaniard, Graham could no longer endure his command and leaving the
dastard on the Bermeja filed the British troops into the Isla.

MASSENA’S RETREAT. (March, 1811.)

Soon after the Barosa fight, Wellington and Massena were again pitted
in attack and defence. Massena had kept Santarem until the 6th of
March expecting Soult’s co-operation, yet retreated when that marshal
after defeating twenty thousand Spaniards on the Gebora, and taking
Olivenza, Badajos, Albuquerque and Campo Mayor, was coming to his
aid; of this however he was ignorant, because Wellington’s forces on
the south bank of the Tagus had intercepted all communication. Hence
when Soult was invading Portugal on one side of that river, Massena
abandoned the other side and was pursued by the allied army. He left
however a desert behind him, and soon a horrible spectacle disclosed
all the previous misery of the inhabitants. In the hills was found a
house where thirty women and children were lying dead from hunger,
and sitting by the bodies fifteen or sixteen living beings--only one
a man--so enfeebled by want they could not devour the food offered to
them. All the children were dead; none were emaciated, but the muscles
of their faces were invariably dragged transversely, as if laughing,
and unimaginably ghastly. The man was most eager for life, the women
patient and resigned, and they had carefully covered and laid out the
dead! A field of battle strewed with bloody carcasses would have been a
solacing sight by comparison!

Strong positions crossed Massena’s line of retreat, which was confined
by mountains, every village being a defile; and Ney, governing the
rear-guard, lost no advantage. He was driven by the light division with
a sharp skirmish from Pombal the 10th, but on the 11th he offered
battle at Redinha with five thousand infantry, some cavalry and guns;
his wings were covered by pine-woods which, hanging on the brow of the
table-land he occupied, were filled with light troops; the deep bed of
the Soure protected his right, his left rested on the Redinha, which
flowed also round his rear; behind his centre the village of Redinha,
lying in a hollow, masked a narrow bridge, and on a rugged height
beyond a reserve was so posted as to seem a great force.

COMBAT OF REDINHA. (March, 1811.)

The light division under Sir William Erskine soon won the wooded slopes
covering Ney’s right, and the skirmishers pushed into the open plain,
but were there checked by a heavy rolling fire, and a squadron of
hussars, charging, took fourteen prisoners. Erskine then formed his
line, which, outflanking the French right, was reinforced with two
regiments of dragoons. Picton had also seized the wood covering the
French left, and Ney’s position was laid bare; but he, observing that
Wellington, deceived by the reserve beyond the bridge, was bringing all
the allied troops into line, would not retire; he even charged Picton’s
skirmishers and held his ground, though the third division was nearer
to the bridge than his right, and there were troops and guns enough
on the plain to overwhelm him. In this posture both sides remained
an hour, but then three cannon-shots fired from the British centre,
gave the signal for a splendid spectacle of war. The woods seemed
alive with troops, and suddenly thirty thousand men, presenting three
gorgeous lines of battle, were stretched across the plain, bending on a
gentle curve and moving majestically onwards, while horsemen and guns,
springing simultaneously from the centre and left, charged under a
general volley from the French battalions, who were thus covered with
smoke, and when that cleared away none were to be seen! Ney, keenly
watching the progress of this grand formation, had opposed Picton’s
skirmishers with his left, while he withdrew the rest of his people
so rapidly as to gain the village before even the cavalry could touch
him, the utmost efforts of the light troops and horse-artillery only
enabling them to gall the hindmost with fire.

One howitzer was dismounted, but the village of Redinha was in flames
between it and the pursuers, and Ney in person carried off the injured
piece; yet with a loss of fifteen or twenty men and great danger to
himself; for the British guns were thundering on his rear, and the
light troops, chasing like heated bloodhounds, almost passed the river
with his men; his reserve beyond the bridge then opened a cannonade,
but fresh dispositions soon made it fall back ten miles. Twelve
officers and two hundred men were killed and wounded in this combat.
Ney lost as many, but he might have been destroyed, Wellington paid him
too much respect.

Condeixa, where the French now took position, commanded two roads, one
behind their right leading to Coimbra; the other on their left, leading
to the Sierra de Murcella. The first offered the Mondego as a permanent
line of defence, with the power of seizing Oporto by a detachment.
The second presented only a rugged narrow line of retreat up the left
bank of the Mondego, and involved the evacuation of Portugal; for that
river was not fordable at the season and the Portuguese militia were in
force on the other side. Massena first detached Montbrun to ascertain
the state of Coimbra, which was really defenceless, yet Trant with
a few militia-men made such show of resistance that it was reported
inattackable; whereupon the French prince set fire to Condeixa and
adopted the position of Cazal Nova on the Murcella road: not however
without a skirmish in which he narrowly escaped capture.

No orders were given in the night to attack, nevertheless, next
morning, although an impenetrable mist covered the French position and
the dull sound of a stirring multitude came from its depths, Sir W.
Erskine, with astounding indifference, and against the opinion of all
the officers about him, ordered the 52nd Regiment to plunge in column
of sections, without even an advanced guard, into the sea of fog below
him. The road dipped suddenly and the regiment was instantly lost in
the mist, which was so thick that, the troops, unconsciously passing
the enemy’s out-posts, nearly captured Ney, who slept with his pickets.
The rest of the division was about to descend into the same gulf, when
the rattling of musketry and the booming of round shot were heard, the
vapour rose slowly, and the 52nd was seen on the slopes of the opposite
mountain, closely engaged in the midst of an army!

COMBAT OF CAZAL NOVA. (March, 1811.)

Wellington arrived. His design was to turn the French left, for their
front was strong, and they held mountain-ridges in succession to the
Deuca river and the defiles of Miranda de Corvo. He had sent Cole by
a circuit towards the sources of the Deuca and Ceira, Picton more
directly to menace the French flank, and the main body was coming up,
when Erskine forced the light division prematurely into action. Ney’s
ground was extensive, his skirmishers so thick and well supported, that
the light division offered only a thread of battle, closely engaged in
every part, without any reserve; nor could it then present an equal
front, until Picton sent some riflemen to prolong the line. Some
advantages were indeed gained, but the main position was not shaken,
until Picton near and Cole further off, had turned the left, and three
divisions, with the heavy cavalry and artillery, came up in the centre.
Then Ney, covering his rear with guns and light troops, retired from
ridge to ridge without confusion until midday, when the guns got within
range of his masses and his retreat became more rapid and less orderly,
yet he reached the strong pass of Miranda de Corvo, where Massena was
in position. The light division lost eleven officers and a hundred and
fifty men; the French loss was greater, and a hundred prisoners were

COMBAT OF FOZ D’ARONCE. (March, 1811.)

Massena, fearing Cole would get in his rear, set fire to the town
of Miranda, crossed the Ceira in the night, and being then crowded
in a narrow way between the sierras and the Mondego, destroyed
ammunition and baggage, and directed Ney to cover the movement with a
few battalions, but charged him not to risk an action: Ney, however,
little regarding his orders, kept the left bank with ten or twelve
battalions, a brigade of cavalry and some guns, and thus provoked a
combat. His right was on rugged ground, his left at the village of Foz
d’Aronce; the weather was obscure and rainy, the allies did not come up
until evening, and little expecting an action kindled their fires; but
Wellington, suddenly directing the light division and Pack’s brigade to
hold the French right in check, sent the third division against their
left, and the horse-artillery on the gallop to rising ground, whence it
opened with a surprising effect.

Ney’s left wing was soon overthrown by the third division, and fled
in such confusion towards the river that many men rushed into the
deeps and were drowned, while others madly crowding the bridge were
crushed to death. On the other flank the ground was so rough the action
resolved itself into a skirmish, and Ney sent some battalions to stop
the pursuit of his left; but then darkness fell and the French troops
in their disorder fired on each other. Four officers and sixty men fell
on the side of the British; the enemy lost above five hundred, one half
drowned, and an eagle was afterwards found in the bed of the river.
Massena retired in the night behind the Alva. Ney kept his post on the
Ceira until every encumbrance had passed, and then blowing up seventy
feet of the bridge, remained with a weak rear-guard. Wellington halted.

Up to this point of the retreat the French prince had displayed
infinite ability, with a ruthless spirit. The burning of some towns
and villages protected his rear, but Leiria and the convent of
Alcobaça were off the line yet given to the flames by express orders
and in a spirit of vengeance. But every horror that could make war
hideous attended this retreat. Distress, conflagrations, death, in all
modes from wounds, from fatigue, from water, from the flames, from
starvation! On all sides unlimited violence, unlimited vengeance.
I myself saw a peasant hounding on his dog to devour the dead and
dying, and the spirit of cruelty smote even the brute creation; for
the French general, to lessen encumbrances, ordered beasts of burden
to be destroyed, and the inhuman fellow charged with the execution
hamstringed five hundred asses and left them to starve; they were so
found by the British, and the mute, sad, deep expression of pain and
grief visible in the poor creatures’ looks, excited a strange fury in
the soldiers: no quarter would have been given at that time: humane
feelings would have thus led direct to cruelty. But all passions are
akin to madness.

From this quarter, Lord Wellington, who had before detached troops
with the same view, now sent Cole’s division to join Beresford in the
Alemtejo, where the latter had been left to oppose Soult’s progress.

COMBAT OF SABUGAL. (April, 1811.)

The pursuit of Massena was soon resumed. He attempted to hold the
Guarda mountain on the flank of the Estrella, and being driven from
thence with the loss of three hundred prisoners descended the eastern
slopes to take a position behind the Coa. There being reinforced, he
disposed his troops on two sides of a triangle, the apex at Sabugal,
where Reynier commanded. Both wings were covered by the river, which
had a sharp bend at Sabugal, and the right had free communication with
Almeida, on which side the craggy ravine of the Coa forbade an attack.
Above Sabugal it was easier, and Wellington, after menacing the right
for two days, suddenly, at daybreak on the 3rd of April, sent Slade’s
cavalry and the light division to pass the upper stream by a wide
movement and penetrate between the left wing and centre of the French.
The third division moved at the same time to cross the river by a
closer movement, yet still above the bridge of Sabugal, which the fifth
division and the artillery were to force. Two other divisions were in
reserve, and it was hoped Reynier, whose main body was some distance
above bridge, would be thus turned surrounded and crushed before the
wings could succour him: one of those accidents so frequent in war
marred this well-concerted scheme.

A thick fog prevented the troops gaining their points of attack
simultaneously, and Erskine took no heed to put the light division in
a right direction; his columns were not even held together, and he
carried off the cavalry without communicating with Colonel Beckwith,
who commanded his first brigade. That officer thus left without
instructions halted at a ford, until one of the general staff came
up and rudely asked why he did not attack; the thing appeared rash,
yet with an enemy in front, Beckwith could only reply by passing the
river, which was deep and rapid. A very steep wooded hill was on the
other side and four companies of riflemen ascended, followed by the
43rd Regiment, but the caçadores of the brigade had joined another
column which was passing the river higher up and moving independently
to the right, on the true point of direction. At this time very heavy
rain was falling, all was obscure, and none of the other divisions had
yet reached their respective posts; Beckwith’s attack was therefore
premature, partial, dangerous, and at the wrong point; for Reynier’s
whole corps was in front, and one bayonet-regiment, with four companies
of riflemen, were assailing more than twelve thousand infantry
supported by cavalry and artillery!

Scarcely had the riflemen reached the top of the hill when a strong
body of French drove them back upon the 43rd, the weather cleared at
the instant, and Beckwith saw and felt all the danger, but his heart
was too big to quail. With one fierce charge he beat back the enemy,
and he gained, and kept the summit of the hill, although two French
howitzers poured showers of grape into his ranks, while a fresh force
came against his front, and considerable bodies advanced on either
flank. Fortunately, Reynier, little expecting to be attacked, had for
the convenience of water placed his main body in low ground behind the
height on which the action commenced; his renewed attack was therefore
up-hill, yet his musketry, heavy from the beginning, soon increased
to a storm, and his men sprung up the acclivity with such a violence
and clamour it was evident that desperate fighting only could save the
British from destruction, and they fought accordingly.

Captain Hopkins, commanding a flank company of the 43rd, running out
to the right, with admirable presence of mind seized a small eminence,
close to the French guns and commanding the ascent up which the French
troops turning the right flank were approaching. His first fire threw
them into confusion; they rallied and were again disordered by his
volleys; a third time they made head; but a sudden charge shook them,
and then two battalions of the 52nd Regiment, attracted by the fire,
entered the line. The centre and left of the 43rd were all this time
furiously engaged, and wonderfully excited; for Beckwith, with the
blood streaming from a wound in the head, rode amongst the skirmishers,
praising and exhorting them in a loud cheerful tone as a man sure to
win his battle; and though the bullets flew thicker and closer, and
the fight became more perilous, the French fell fast and a second
charge again cleared the hill. A howitzer was taken by the 43rd, and
the skirmishers were descending in eager pursuit when small bodies of
cavalry came galloping in from all parts and compelled them to take
refuge with the main body, which had reformed behind a low stone wall;
one French squadron however, with incredible daring rode close to
this wall, and were in the act of firing over it with pistols when a
rolling volley laid nearly the whole lifeless on the ground. A very
strong column of infantry then rushed up and endeavoured to retake the
howitzer, which was on the edge of the descent, fifty yards from the
wall, but no man could reach it and live, so deadly was the 43rd’s
fire. Two English guns now came into action, and the 52nd charging
violently upon the flank of the enemy’s infantry again vindicated the
possession of the height; nevertheless fresh squadrons of cavalry,
which had followed the infantry in the last attack, seeing the 52nd
men scattered by this charge, flew upon them with great briskness and
caused some disorder before they were repulsed.

Reynier, convinced at last that he should not use his troops
piece-meal, then put all his reserves, six thousand infantry with
artillery and cavalry, in motion, and outflanked the English left,
resolute to storm the contested height. But at that moment the fifth
division passed the bridge of Sabugal, the British cavalry appeared on
the hills beyond the French left, and, emerging from the woods close
on Reynier’s right, the third division opened a fire which instantly
decided the fate of the day. The French general, fearing to be
surrounded, hastily retreated, and meeting the right wing of the army,
which had also retired, both fell back, pursued by the English cavalry.

In this bloody encounter, which did not last quite an hour, nearly
two hundred British were killed and wounded, and the enemy’s loss was
enormous: three hundred dead bodies were heaped together on the hill,
the greatest part round the captured howitzer, and more than twelve
hundred were wounded, so unwisely had Reynier handled his masses, and
so true and constant was the English fire. It was no exaggeration of
Lord Wellington to say, “this was one of the most glorious actions
British troops were ever engaged in.”

Massena retreated on Ciudad Rodrigo, and the 5th crossed the frontier
of Portugal, when the vigour of French discipline was surprisingly
manifested. Those men who had for months been living by rapine, whose
retreat had been one continued course of violence and devastation,
having passed a conventional line became the most orderly of soldiers.
Not the slightest rudeness was offered to any Spaniard, and everything
was scrupulously paid for, although bread was sold at two shillings a
pound! Massena himself also, fierce and terrible as he was in Portugal,
always treated the Spaniards with gentleness and moderation.

During these events Trant crossed the Lower Coa with four thousand
militia near Almeida, but the river flooded behind him, the bridges had
been broken by Massena, and there was a French brigade close at hand;
hence, constructing a temporary bridge with great difficulty, he was
going to retire, but there came a letter from Wellington, desiring him
to be vigilant in preventing communication with Almeida, and fearless,
because next morning a British force would be up to his assistance.
Boldly then he interposed between the fortress and the French brigade,
yet the promised succour did not appear, and the advancing enemy was
within half a mile. His destruction appeared inevitable, when suddenly
two cannon-shots were heard to the southward, the French hastily formed
squares to retire, and six squadrons of British cavalry with a troop of
horse-artillery came up like a whirlwind in their rear; military order
however marked their perilous retreat, and though the bullets fearfully
ploughed through their masses while the horsemen flanked their line of
march, they got over the Agueda by Barba de Puerco, with the loss of
only three hundred men killed wounded and prisoners.

A few days after this, Colonel Waters, the boat-finder at Oporto, who
had been taken prisoner, escaped by an effort of extraordinary daring.
Confident in his own resources he refused parole, but having rashly
mentioned his intention of escaping to the Spaniard in whose house he
was lodged at Ciudad Rodrigo, the man betrayed counsel; his servant,
detesting the treachery, secretly offered his own aid, but Waters
only told him to get the rowels of his spurs sharpened, no more, for
his design was one of open daring. Guarded by four _gens d’armes_, he
was near Salamanca when the chief, who rode the only good horse of
the party, alighted, whereupon Waters gave the spur to his own mare,
a celebrated animal, and galloped off. They were on a wide plain,
and for many miles the road was covered with the French columns, his
hat fell off, and thus marked he rode along the flank of the troops,
some encouraging him, others firing at him, the _gens d’armes_ being
always, sword in hand, close at his heels. Suddenly he broke at full
speed between two of the columns, gained a wooded hollow, baffled
his pursuers, and the third day reached head-quarters, where Lord
Wellington had caused his baggage to be brought, observing that he
would not be long absent!

FUENTES ONORO. (May, 1811.)

On the Agueda Massena could not subsist. He retired to Salamanca, where
he was in communication with Marshal Bessières, who commanded a great
force called the Army of the North. Wellington then invested Almeida,
thinking it was provisioned only for a fortnight, yet it was still
resistant the latter end of April, when the Prince of Essling, having
reorganized his army and obtained cavalry and guns from Bessières, came
down to raise the blockade. The English general, not expecting this
interference, had gone southwards to superintend the operations of
Marshal Beresford, but he returned rapidly when he heard of the French
movement, and fixed on a field of battle between the Agueda and Coa.
There the ground, though open and fit for cavalry, was traversed from
east to west by three nearly parallel rivers, the Azava, Duas Casas,
and Turones; the first considerable, and all having, in common with the
Agueda and Coa, this peculiarity, their channels deepen as the water
flows: mere streams with low banks in their upper courses, they soon
become foaming torrents rushing along rocky gulfs.

Almeida, situated on high table-land between the Turones and Coa, was
closely blockaded, the light division and the cavalry were on the Azava
covering the investment, the rest of the army was cantoned in the
villages behind them. Swollen and unfordable was the Azava, and two
thousand French attempted to seize the bridge of Marialva on the 24th,
but the ground was strong, and they were vigorously repulsed by Captain
Dobbs of the 52nd, though he had but a single bayonet-company and some
riflemen. Next day Massena reached Ciudad Rodrigo in person, and the
27th he felt the light division posts from Espeja to Marialva. On the
28th Wellington arrived, and took position behind the Duas Casas.

The Azava was still difficult to ford, and Massena continued to feel
the outposts until the 2nd of May, when the waters subsided and his
army came out of Ciudad Rodrigo. The light division, after a slight
skirmish of horse at Gallegos, retired from that place and Espeja upon
the Duas Casas, a delicate operation, for though the country behind
those villages was a forest, an open plain between the woods offered
the enemy’s powerful cavalry an opportunity of cutting off the retreat;
the French neglected the advantage and the separated brigades of the
division remained in the woods until the middle of the night, and then
safely crossed the Duas Casas at Fuentes Onoro, a beautiful village
which had been uninjured during the previous warfare although occupied
alternately for above a year by both sides. Every family was well known
to the light division, and it was with deep regret and indignation
they found the preceding troops had pillaged it, leaving shells of
houses where three days before a friendly population had been living
in comfort. This wanton act was felt indeed so much by the whole army,
that eight thousand dollars were subscribed for the inhabitants, yet
the injury sunk deeper than the atonement.

Wellington did not wish to risk much for the blockade, and he knew
Massena could bring down superior numbers; for so culpably negligent
was the Portuguese government that their troops were starving
under arms, the infantry abandoning their colours or dropping from
extenuation by thousands, the cavalry useless: it was even feared that
a general dispersion would take place. Nevertheless, when the trial
came, he would not retreat, although his troops, reduced to thirty-two
thousand infantry, twelve hundred cavalry in bad condition, and
forty-two guns, were unable to oppose the enemy’s numerous horsemen in
the plain. His position was on the table-land between the Turones and
the Duas Casas, his left being at Fort Conception, his centre opposite
the village of Alameda, his right at Fuentes Onoro. The whole distance
was five miles, and the Duas Casas, here flowing in a deep ravine,
protected the front of the line.

Massena dared not march by his own right upon Almeida, lest the allies,
crossing the ravine at the villages of Alameda and Fuentes Onoro,
should fall on his flank and drive him upon the Lower Agueda; hence,
to cover the blockade, maintained by Pack’s brigade and an English
regiment, it was sufficient to leave the fifth division near Fort
Conception, and the sixth division opposite Alameda, while the first
and third concentrated on a gentle rise cannon-shot distance behind
Fuentes Onoro, and where a steppe of land turned back on the Turones,
becoming rocky as it approached that river.


On the 3rd of May the French came up in three columns abreast. The
cavalry, the sixth corps, and Drouet’s division, threatened Fuentes,
while the eighth and second corps moved against Alameda and Fort
Conception, menacing the allies’ left, which caused the light division
to reinforce the sixth. Loison, without orders, now fell upon Fuentes,
in which were five battalions detached from the first and third
divisions. Most of the houses were in the bottom of the ravine, but
an old chapel and some buildings on a craggy eminence behind offered
a prominent point for rallying, and all the low parts were vigorously
defended; yet the attack was so violent and the cannonade so heavy the
British abandoned the streets, and could scarcely maintain the upper
ground about the chapel; the commanding officer fell badly wounded, and
the fight was being lost, when the 24th, the 71st, and 79th regiments,
coming down from the main position, charged the French and drove them
quite over the Duas Casas. During the night the detachments were
withdrawn, the three succouring regiments keeping the village, where
two hundred and sixty British and somewhat more of the French had

On the 4th Massena arrived, accompanied by Bessières, who brought up
twelve hundred cavalry and a battery of the imperial guard. Designing
to fight next morning he resolved to hold the left of the allies in
check with the second corps, and turn their right with the remainder
of the army. Forty thousand French infantry and five thousand horse,
with thirty pieces of artillery, were under arms, and they had shown
their courage was not abated; it was therefore a very daring act of the
English general to receive battle; for though his position, as far as
Fuentes Onoro, was strong and covered his communication across the Coa
by the bridge of Castello Bom, the plain was continued on his right to
Nava d’Aver, where a round hill, overlooking all the country, commanded
the roads leading to the bridges of Seceiras and Sabugal. Massena could
therefore have placed his army at once in battle-array across the
right flank and attacked the army between the Duas Casas, the Turones,
the Coa and the fortress of Almeida: the bridge of Castello Bom alone
would then have been open for retreat. To prevent this, and cover his
communications with Sabugal and Seceiras, Wellington, yielding to
Spencer’s suggestions, stretched his right wing out to the hill of Nava
d’Aver, where he placed Julian Sanchez, supporting him with the seventh
division under General Houstoun. This line of battle was above seven
miles, besides the circuit of blockade; and above Fuentes Onoro the
Duas Casas ravine became gradually obliterated, resolving itself into a
swampy wood, which extended to Poço Velho, a village half-way between
Fuentes and Nava d’Aver.


Massena’s intention was to attack at daybreak, but a delay of two hours
occurred and all his movements were plainly descried. The eighth corps,
withdrawn from Alameda and supported by all the French cavalry, was
seen marching to turn Poço Velho and the swampy wood, both occupied
by Houstoun’s left, his right being thrown back on the plain towards
Nava d’Aver. The sixth corps and Dronet’s division were likewise
taking ground to their left, yet keeping a division to menace Fuentes
Onoro. At this sight the light division and the cavalry hastened to
the support of Houstoun, while the first and third divisions made a
movement parallel to that of the sixth corps; the latter, however,
drove the seventh division from Poço Velho, and was gaining ground in
the wood also, when the riflemen of the light division arrived there
and restored the fight.

The French cavalry, after passing Poço Velho, formed an order of battle
on the plain between the wood and the hill of Nava d’Aver, whereupon
Sanchez retired across the Turones, partly in fear, more in anger,
because his lieutenant, having foolishly ridden close up to the enemy,
making violent gestures, was mistaken for a French officer and shot
by a soldier of the Guards before the action commenced. Montbrun lost
an hour observing this _partida_, but when it disappeared he turned
the right of the seventh division and charged the British cavalry;
the combat was unequal; for by an abuse too common, so many men had
been drawn from the ranks as orderlies to general officers, and other
purposes, that not more than a thousand English troopers were in the
field. The French therefore with one shock drove in all the outguards,
cut off Norman Ramsay’s battery of horse-artillery, and came sweeping
in upon the reserves and the seventh division.

Their leading squadrons, approaching in a loose manner, were partially
checked by the British, and then a great commotion was observed in
their main body. Their troopers were seen closing with disorder and
tumult towards one point, where a thick dust arose, and where loud
cries and the sparkling of blades and flashing of pistols indicated
some extraordinary occurrence. Suddenly the crowd became violently
agitated, an English shout pealed high and clear, the mass was rent
asunder, and Norman Ramsay burst forth sword in hand at the head of his
battery, his horses, breathing fire, stretched like greyhounds along
the plain, the guns bounded behind them like things of no weight, and
the mounted gunners followed close, with heads bent low and pointed
weapons in desperate career. At this sight Brotherton[17] of the 14th
Dragoons, instantly galloping to his aid with a squadron, shocked the
head of the pursuing troops, and General Charles Stewart,[18] joining
in the charge, took the French colonel Lamotte, fighting hand to hand.
However the main body came forward rapidly, and the British cavalry
retired behind the light division, which was thrown into squares; the
seventh division, which was more advanced, endeavoured to do the same,
but the horsemen were too quickly upon them, and some were cut down;
the remainder stood firm, and the Chasseurs Britanniques, ranged behind
a loose stone wall, poured such a fire that the French recoiled and
seemed bewildered.

While these brilliant actions were passing, the enemy had made progress
in the wood of Poço Velho, and as the English divisions were separated
and the right wing turned, it was abundantly evident the battle would
be lost if the original position above Fuentes Onoro was not quickly
regained. To effect this Wellington ordered the seventh division to
cross the Turones and move down the left bank to Frenada, while the
light division and the cavalry retired over the plain; he also withdrew
the first and third divisions, and the Portuguese, to the steppe of
land before mentioned, as running perpendicularly from the ravine of
Fuentes Onoro to the Turones.

Craufurd, who had now resumed command of the light division, covered
the passage of the seventh over the Turones, and then retired slowly
along the plain in squares. The French horsemen outflanked him and
surprised a post of the Guards under Colonel Hill, taking that officer
and fourteen men prisoners, but continuing their course against the
42nd Regiment were repulsed. Many times, this strong cavalry made as if
it would storm the light division squares, yet always found them too
formidable, and happily so, for there was not during the war a more
perilous hour. The whole of that vast plain was covered with a confused
multitude of troops, amidst which the squares appeared as specks,
and there was a great concourse of commissariat followers, servants,
baggage, led horses, and peasants attracted by curiosity, and all mixed
with broken picquets and parties coming out of the woods: the seventh
division was separated by the Turones, while five thousand French
horsemen, with fifteen pieces of artillery, were trampling, bounding,
shouting, and impatient to charge; the infantry of the eighth corps
being in order of battle behind them, and the wood on their right
filled with the sixth corps. If the latter body, pivoting upon Fuentes,
had come forth while Drouet’s division fell on that village, if the
eighth corps had attacked the light division and all the cavalry had
charged, the loose crowd encumbering the plain, driven violently in
upon the first division, would have intercepted the latter’s fire and
broken its ranks: the battle would have been lost.

No such effort was made. The French horsemen merely hovered about
Craufurd’s squares, the plain was soon cleared, the British cavalry
took post behind the centre, and the light division formed a reserve to
the first division, the riflemen occupying the rocks on its right and
connecting it with the seventh division, which had arrived at Frenada
and was again joined by Julian Sanchez. At sight of this new front,
perpendicular to the original one and so deeply lined with troops, the
French army stopped short and commenced a cannonade, which did great
execution amongst the close masses of the allies; but twelve British
guns replied with such vigour that the enemy’s fire abated, their
cavalry drew out of range, and a body of infantry attempting to glide
down the ravine of the Turones was repulsed by the riflemen and the
light companies of the Guards.

All this time a fierce battle was going on at Fuentes Onoro. Massena
had directed Drouet to carry this village when Montbrun’s cavalry first
turned the right wing, it was however two hours later ere the attack
commenced. The three British regiments made a desperate resistance,
but, overmatched in number and unaccustomed to the desultory fighting
of light troops, they were pierced and divided; two companies of the
79th were taken, their Colonel, Cameron, mortally wounded, and the
lower part of the town was carried: the upper part was however stiffly
held and the musketry was incessant.

Had the attack been made earlier, and all Drouet’s division thrown
frankly into the fight, while the sixth corps from the wood of Poço
Velho closely turned Fuentes Onoro, the latter must have been forced
and the new position falsified. But Wellington, having now all his
reserves in hand, detached considerable masses to support the fight,
and as the French reinforced their troops, the whole of the sixth corps
and part of Drouet’s were finally engaged. At one time the fighting
was on the banks of the stream and the lower houses, at another on the
heights and around the chapel, and some of the enemy’s skirmishers
even penetrated towards the main position; yet the village was never
entirely abandoned by the defenders, and in one charge against a
heavy mass on the chapel eminence a great number of French fell. Thus
the fight lasted until evening, when the lower part of the town was
abandoned by both parties, the British holding the chapel and crags,
the French retiring about cannon-shot distance from the stream.

After the action a brigade of the light division relieved the regiments
in the village, a slight demonstration by the second corps, near Fort
Conception, was checked by a battalion of the Lusitanian legion, and
both armies remained in observation. Fifteen hundred men and officers,
of which three hundred were prisoners, constituted the loss of the
allies. That of the enemy was estimated at the time to be near five
thousand, but this was founded on the supposition that four hundred
dead were lying about Fuentes Onoro. Having had charge to bury the
carcasses at that point, I can affirm, that about the village not
more than one hundred and thirty bodies were to be found, more than
one-third of which were British.


Massena retired on the 10th across the Agueda, and was relieved in
his command by Marmont. The fate of Almeida was then decided, yet its
brave governor, Brennier, who had been exchanged after the battle of
Vimiero, carried off the garrison. He had fifteen hundred men and
during the battle had skirmished boldly with the blockading force,
while loud explosions, supposed to be signals, were frequent in the
place. When all hope of succour vanished, a French soldier, named
Tillet, penetrated in uniform through the posts of blockade, carrying
an order to evacuate the fortress and rejoin the army by Barba de
Puerco. Meanwhile the British general, placing the light division
in its old position on the Azava with cavalry-posts on the Lower
Agueda, had desired Sir William Erskine to send the 4th Regiment to
Barba de Puerco, and directed General Alexander Campbell to continue
the blockade with the sixth division and Pack’s brigade. Campbell’s
dispositions were negligently made and negligently executed. Erskine
transmitted no orders to the 4th Regiment, and Brennier resolved to
force his way through the blockading troops. An open country and a
double line of posts greatly enhanced the difficulty of the enterprise,
yet he was resolute not only to cut his own passage but to render the
fortress useless. In this view he had mined the principal bastions,
and destroyed his guns by a singular expedient, firing several at the
same moment with heavy charges but placing the muzzles of all but one
against the sides of the others; thus while some shots flew towards the
besiegers others destroyed the pieces without attracting notice: these
were the explosions supposed to be signals.

At midnight on the 10th he sprung his mines and in a compact column
broke through the picquets, passing between the quarters of the
reserves with a nicety proving his talent and his coolness. Pack,
following with a few men collected on the instant, plied him with a
constant fire, yet could not shake or retard his column, which in
silence gained the rough country leading upon Barba de Puerco, where
it halted just as daylight broke. Pack still pursued, and knowing some
English dragoons were a short distance off sent an officer to bring
them out upon the French flank, thus occasioning a slight skirmish
and consequent delay. The other troops had paid little attention to
the explosion of the mines, thinking them a repetition of Brennier’s
previous practice, but Pack’s fire had roused them, the 36th Regiment
was now close at hand, and the 4th also, having heard the firing, was
rapidly gaining the right flank of the enemy. Brennier drove off the
cavalry and was again in march, yet the infantry, throwing off their
knapsacks, overtook him as he descended the deep chasm of Barba de
Puerco and killed or wounded many, taking three hundred, but the 36th
Regiment rashly passing the bridge was repulsed with a loss of forty
men. Had Erskine given the 4th Regiment its orders, the French column
would have been lost, and Lord Wellington, stung by this event, and
irritated by previous examples of undisciplined valour, issued this
strong rebuke. “_The officers of the army may depend upon it that the
enemy to whom they are opposed is not less prudent than powerful.
Notwithstanding what has been printed in gazettes and newspapers, we
have never seen small bodies unsupported successfully opposed to large;
nor has the experience of any officer realized the stories which all
have read of whole armies being driven by a handful of light infantry
and dragoons._”


  Combat of Campo Mayor--First English Siege of Badajos--Battle
    of Albuera--Renewed Siege of Badajos--First Assault of
    Christoval--Second Assault on Christoval.


It has been shown how Beresford was sent to oppose Soult beyond the
Tagus, but the latter, disturbed by the battle of Barosa, which put all
Andalusia in commotion, had returned to Seville, leaving Mortier to
continue the operations. Campo Mayor surrendered the 21st of March, and
four days after, Latour Maubourg, having to bring away the battering
train and a convoy of provisions, issued from the gates with nine
hundred cavalry, three battalions of infantry, some horse-artillery and
sixteen heavy guns, all in column of march, just as Beresford emerged
from an adjacent forest with twenty thousand infantry, two thousand
cavalry and eighteen field-pieces. An astonishing apparition this was
to the French, for so adroitly had Wellington, while seemingly absorbed
in the pursuit of Massena, organized this army, that its existence was
only made known by its presence.

All Beresford’s cavalry, supported by a field battery and a detachment
of infantry under Colonel Colborne,[19] were close up ere the enemy
knew of their approach, and the horsemen, sweeping by their left round
the town and moving along gentle slopes, gradually formed a crescent
about the French, who were retreating along the road to Badajos.
Colborne was then coming up at a run, a division was seen behind him,
and the French infantry formed squares, supported by their cavalry,
while their battering guns and baggage hurried on. General Long,
holding back his heavy cavalry, directed some Portuguese squadrons,
and the 18th Light Dragoons under Colonel Head, to charge. Head,
galloping forward under a fire from the square, was met half-way by
the French hussars with loose reins, and fiercely they came together,
and many went down on both sides, yet those who kept the saddle drove
clean through each other, re-formed, and again charged in the same
fearful manner! Desperately all struggled for victory, but Head’s
troopers riding close and on better chargers overthrew horse and man,
and the hussars dispersed, yet still fighting in small bodies with the
Portuguese, while the British squadron, passing under the fire of the
square without flinching, rode forward, hewing down the gunners of the
battering train and seeking to head the long line of convoy.

They thought the heavy dragoons, the infantry and the artillery,
marching behind them, would suffice to dispose of the enemies they
passed, but Beresford took a different view. He stopped a charge of
the heavy dragoons; he suffered only two guns to open when six were
at hand; he even silenced those two after a few rounds, and let the
French recover their battering train, rally their hussars, and retreat
in safety. Meanwhile the 13th and some of the Portuguese dragoons
reached the bridge of Badajos and there captured more guns, but were
repulsed by the fire of the fortress, and being followed by Mortier and
met by Latour Maubourg’s retreating column lost some men, but passing
by the flanks they escaped, to be publicly censured by Beresford! The
admiration of the army consoled them. One hundred of the allies were
killed, or hurt, and seventy taken; the French lost only three hundred
and a howitzer, but the colonel of hussars, Chamorin, a distinguished
officer, fell in single combat with a trooper of the 13th Dragoons, an
Irishman of astonishing might, whose sword went through helmet and head
with a single blow.


Mortier now resigned the command to Latour Maubourg, who spread his
foragers fifty miles abroad to gather provisions for Badajos, which
General Phillipon, one of the best governors that ever defended a
fortress, was with scanty means striving to prepare for a siege.
Beresford, by adopting a wrong line of operations, lost time, his
first bridge was swept away by floods, he passed the Guadiana with
some difficulty at Jerumenha, and a squadron of the 13th Dragoons
was carried off bodily by the French at that place; but he reduced
Olivenza, drove Latour Maubourg into the Morena, and defeated two
regiments of cavalry near Usagre: he however neglected to restrain
the garrison of Badajos, by which he gave Phillipon time and license
to prepare for resistance--a great error and pregnant with terrible
consequences. His field operations were inadequate to his means, for
he was not only master of the open country with his own troops, but
had been joined by the captain-general Castaños with the fifth Spanish
army, and was in communication with Ballesteros and Blake, co-operating
Spanish generals, at the head of considerable bodies. In this state he
was first reinforced with a German brigade from Lisbon under General
Alten, and then Wellington arrived from the north.

He came the 21st of April and immediately changed the direction of
the warfare. Looking to Badajos, and feeling the value of time, he
instantly forded the Guadiana and pushed close to it with the German
troops and some Portuguese cavalry, to take a convoy going into the
place, but the governor sallied, the convoy escaped, and the allies
lost a hundred men. Beresford had been contemptuous of Soult’s power
and resolution to disturb the siege; but Wellington had learned to
respect that marshal’s energy and resources, and knowing well he would
come with strength and danger, refused to invest the place until the
Spanish generals consented to the following co-operation. Blake to
bring his army from Ayamonte, and in concert with Ballesteros and
the cavalry of Castaños to watch the passes of the Morena. Castaños,
furnishing three battalions for the siege, to support the other Spanish
generals. The British covering troops to be in second line having their
point of concentration for battle at Albuera, a village centrically
placed with respect to the roads leading from Andalusia to Badajos.
While awaiting the Spaniards’ consent he prepared the means of siege,
yet under great difficulties.

The Portuguese government had reported that guns, provisions, boats,
stores and means of carriage had been actually collected for the
operation: this was false. The battering train and stores for the
attack had therefore to be taken from Elvas, and as it was essential
for the safety of the fortress to preserve its armament, and the
Guadiana had again carried away the bridge at Jerumenha, that direct
line of communication was given up for the circuitous one of Merida,
where a stone bridge rendered all safe. But then political difficulties
arose. The Portuguese government was on the point of declaring war
against Spain, which made the Spanish generals delay assent to the plan
of co-operation, and in the midst of this confusion Massena’s advance
recalled Wellington to fight the battle of Fuentes Onoro.

As Latour Maubourg still held on to Estremadura and foraged the fertile
districts, Colonel Colborne, a man of singular talent for war, was
sent with a brigade of infantry, some horsemen and guns to curb his
inroads. In concert with Count Penne Villemur, a commander of Spanish
cavalry, he intercepted several convoys, forced the French troops to
quit many frontier towns, and acted with so much address, that Latour
Maubourg went into the Morena, thinking a great force was at hand.
Colborne then attempted to surprise the fortified post of Benelcazar.
Riding on to the drawbridge in the grey of the morning, he summoned the
commandant to surrender, as the only means of saving himself from a
Spanish army which was coming up and would give no quarter; the French
officer was amazed at the appearance of the party, yet hesitated,
whereupon Colborne, perceiving he would not yield, galloped off under
a few straggling shot and soon after rejoined the army without loss.
During his absence, the Spanish generals had acceded to Wellington’s
proposition, Blake was in march, the Guadiana had subsided and the
siege was undertaken.

General William Stewart invested Badajos the 5th of May, on the left
bank of the Guadiana, where the principal features were an ancient
castle and some out-works.

On the 8th General Lumley invested Christoval, an isolated fort or
citadel, on the other bank of the Guadiana, which commanded the bridge;
but this operation was not well combined, and sixty French dragoons,
moving under the fire of the place, maintained a sharp skirmish beyond
the walls.

Thus the first serious siege undertaken by the British army in
the Peninsula was commenced, and, to the discredit of the English
government, no army was ever worse provided for such an enterprise. The
engineers were zealous, and some of them well versed in the theory of
their business, but the ablest trembled at their utter destitution.
Without sappers and miners, or a soldier who knew how to carry on an
approach under fire, they were compelled to attack a fortress defended
by the most practised and scientific troops of the age; hence the best
officers and boldest soldiers were forced to sacrifice themselves in a
lamentable manner, to compensate for the negligence and incapacity of
a government _always_ ready to plunge into war without the slightest
care for what was necessary to obtain success. The sieges carried on
by the British in Spain were a succession of butcheries, because the
commonest materials and means necessary for their art were denied to
the engineers.

To breach the castle, while batteries established on the right bank of
the Guadiana took it in reverse, and false attacks were made against
the out-works, was the plan adopted; but San Christoval was to be
reduced before the batteries against the castle could be constructed;
wherefore on the night of the 8th, the captain of engineers, Squire,
was ordered to break ground there at a distance of four hundred yards.
The moon shone bright, he was ill provided with tools, and exposed to
a destructive fire of musketry from the fort, of shot and shells from
the town; hence he worked with loss until the 10th, and then the French
in a sally entered his battery; they were driven back, but the allies
pursued too hotly, were caught with grape and lost four hundred men.
Thus five engineers and seven hundred officers and soldiers of the line
were already inscribed upon the bloody list of victims offered to this
Moloch, and only one small battery against an outwork was completed!
On the 11th it opened, and before sunset the fire of the enemy had
disabled four of its five guns and killed many soldiers. No other
result could be expected. The concert essential to success in double
operations had been neglected by Beresford. Squire was exposed to the
undivided fire of the fortress before the approaches against the castle
were even commenced, and the false attacks scarcely attracted the
notice of the enemy.

To check future sallies a second battery was erected against the
bridge-head, yet this was also overmatched, and Beresford, having
received intelligence that the French army was again in movement, then
arrested the progress of all the works. On the 12th, believing this
information premature, he directed the trenches to be opened against
the castle; but the intelligence was confirmed at twelve o’clock in the
night, and measures were taken to raise the siege.


Soult had resolved to succour Badajos the moment he heard that
Beresford was in Estremadura, and the latter’s tardiness gave him
time to tranquillise his province and arrange a system of resistance
to the allied army in the Isla during his absence. Beresford believed
he was trembling for Andalusia. Nothing could be more fallacious. He
had seventy thousand fighting men there, and Drouet, who had quitted
Massena immediately after the battle of Fuentes Onoro, was in march for
that province with eleven thousand, by the way of Toledo.

On the 10th of May Soult quitted Seville with three thousand heavy
dragoons, thirty guns, and two strong brigades of infantry under the
generals Werlé and Godinot.

The 13th a junction was effected with Latour Maubourg, who assumed the
command of the heavy cavalry, resigning the fifth corps to General

On the 14th, having reached Villa Franca, thirty miles from Badajos,
Soult caused his heaviest guns to fire salvos in the night to notify
his approach to the garrison. This expedient failed, but on the evening
of the 15th the whole French army was concentrated at Santa Marta.

Beresford had raised the siege in the night of the 12th, against the
wish of the chief engineer, who promised him the place in three days!
This promise was nought, and had it been good Soult would yet have
surprised him in his trenches: his firmness therefore saved the army,
and his arrangements for carrying off the stores were well executed. By
twelve o’clock on the 15th the guns and stores were on the left bank of
the Guadiana, the gabions and fascines were burnt, the flying-bridge
removed; all being so well masked by the fourth division, which in
concert with the Spaniards continued to maintain the investment, that
a sally on the rear-guard, in which some Portuguese picquets were
roughly treated, first told the French the siege was raised--of the
cause they were still ignorant.

Beresford held a conference with the Spanish generals at Valverde on
the 13th, and the chief command was ceded to him by the management of
Castaños, to the discontent of Blake, who soon showed his ill-will. It
was agreed to receive battle at the village of Albuera. Ballesteros’
and Blake’s corps had then united, and Blake engaged to bring them
into line before twelve o’clock on the 15th. Meanwhile, Badajos being
the centre of an arc sweeping through Valverde, Albuera and Talavera
Real, it was arranged that Blake should watch the roads on the right;
the British and fifth Spanish army those leading upon the centre, and
Madden’s Portuguese cavalry those on the left. The main body of the
British could thus reach Albuera by a half march, as no part of the arc
was more than four leagues from Badajos, and the enemy was still eight
leagues from Albuera: Beresford therefore, thinking he could not be
forestalled on any point of importance, kept the fourth division in the

On the 14th Colborne rejoined the army, Madden took post at
Talavera Real, Blake was in march and his dragoons had joined the
Anglo-Portuguese cavalry under General Long, who was at Santa Marta.

In the morning of the 15th the Anglo-Portuguese army occupied the left
half of the Albuera position, a ridge four miles long, having the
stream of the Aroya Val de Sevilla in rear and the Albuera in front.
The ascent from the last river was easy for cavalry and artillery, and
in advance of the centre were the bridge and village of Albuera--the
former commanded by a battery, the latter occupied by Alten’s Germans.
Behind Alten, the second division, under William Stewart, formed one
line, the right on a commanding hill over which the Valverde road
passed, the left on the road of Badajos, beyond which the array was
continued on two lines by the Portuguese troops under Hamilton and

The right of the ground being roughest, highest, and broadest, was left
open for Blake, because Beresford, thinking the hill on the Valverde
road the key of the position as covering the only line of retreat, was
desirous to secure it with his own troops. The fourth division and the
infantry of the fifth Spanish army were still before Badajos, but had
orders to march on the first signal.

About three o’clock on the evening of the 15th, Beresford being on the
left, the whole mass of the allied cavalry, closely followed by the
French light horsemen, came pouring in from Santa Marta, and finding
no infantry beyond the Albuera to support them passed that river in
retreat. The wooded heights on the right bank being thus abandoned
to the enemy, his force and dispositions were effectually concealed
and the strength of the position was already sapped. Beresford was
disquieted, he formed a temporary right wing with his cavalry and
artillery, stretched his picquets along the road by which Blake was
expected, and sent officers to hasten his movements; that general had
only a few miles of good road to march and promised to be in line at
noon, yet did not even bring up his van before eleven at night, nor his
rear before three in the morning.

Cole and Madden were now called up. The order failed to reach Madden;
but Cole brought the infantry of the fifth army, two squadrons of
Portuguese cavalry, and two brigades of his own division to Albuera
between eight and nine o’clock on the morning of the 16th: his third
brigade having invested San Christoval was unable to pass the Guadiana
above Badajos, and was in march by Jerumenha. Cole’s Spanish troops
joined Blake on the right, the two brigades of the fourth division
were drawn up in columns behind the second division, the Portuguese
squadrons reinforced Colonel Otway, whose horsemen, of the same nation,
were pushed forwards in front of the left wing: all the rest of the
allied cavalry was concentrated behind the centre, and Beresford,
dissatisfied with General Long, gave Lumley the chief command.

Thirty thousand infantry, more than two thousand cavalry, and
thirty-eight pieces of artillery, eighteen being nine-pounders, were
now in line; but one brigade of the fourth division was still absent,
the British infantry, the pith and strength of battle, did not exceed
seven thousand, and already Blake’s arrogance was shaking Beresford’s
authority. The French had forty guns, four thousand veteran cavalry and
nineteen thousand chosen infantry: obedient to one discipline, animated
by one national feeling, their composition compensated for the want of
numbers, and their general’s talent was immeasurably greater than his

Soult examined Beresford’s position without hindrance on the evening of
the 15th. He knew the fourth division was then before Badajos, heard
that Blake would not arrive before the 17th, and resolved to attack
next morning, having detected all the weakness of the English order
of battle. The hill in the centre, commanding the Valverde road, was
undoubtedly the key of the position if an attack was made parallel to
the front; but Soult saw that on the right, the rough broad heights
trended back towards the Valverde road, looking into the rear of
Beresford’s line, and if he could suddenly place his masses there he
might roll up the right on the centre and push it into the valley of
the Aroya: the Valverde road could then be seized, the retreat cut, and
his strong cavalry would complete the victory.

Beresford’s right and Soult’s left were only divided by a hill about
cannon-shot from each. Separated from the allies by the Albuera, from
the French by a rivulet called the Feria, this height was neglected by
Beresford: but Soult in the night placed behind it the greatest part
of his artillery under General Ruty, the fifth corps under Girard,
the heavy cavalry under Latour Maubourg; thus concentrating fifteen
thousand men and thirty guns within ten minutes’ march of Beresford’s
right wing: and yet that general could not see a man, or draw a sound
conclusion as to the plan of attack. The light cavalry, the brigades
of Godinot and Werlé, and ten guns remained. These were placed in
the woods which lined the banks of the Feria towards its confluence
with the Albuera. Werlé was in reserve, Godinot was to attack the
village and bridge, bear strongly against Beresford’s centre, attract
his attention, separate his wings, and double up his right when the
principal attack should be developed.

Blake and Cole brought up more than sixteen thousand men, the first
joining in the night, the second at nine o’clock in the morning after
the action was begun; yet so defectively had Beresford occupied his
position that Soult, though he saw how the allied army had been
reinforced, made no change of disposition. At nine o’clock Godinot
emerged from the woods with his division in one heavy column, preceded
by a battery of ten guns; he was flanked by the light cavalry, followed
by Werlé’s division, and made straight for the bridge of Albuera,
attempting with a sharp cannonade and musketry to force a passage.
General Briché, being on his right, now led two hussar regiments down
the river in observation of Otway’s horsemen, while the French lancers
passed the stream above bridge. The 3rd Dragoon Guards drove the
lancers back, and Dickson’s Portuguese guns, from a rising ground above
the village, ploughed through Godinot’s column, which crowded towards
the bridge although the water was fordable above and below.

These feints along the front did not deceive Beresford, he saw Werlé
did not follow Godinot closely, and felt the principal effort would be
on the right; he therefore desired Blake to throw part of his first
and all his second line across the broad part of the hills, at right
angles to their actual front. Then drawing the Portuguese infantry of
the left wing to the centre, he sent a brigade to support Alten at the
bridge, and directed Hamilton to hold the others in hand as a general
reserve. The 13th Dragoons he posted near the river above bridge, and
sent the second English division to support Blake. The horse-artillery,
and cavalry under Lumley, and Cole’s division, took ground to their
right, the two first on a small plain behind the Aroya stream, the last
about half musket-shot behind them. This done, Beresford galloped to
Blake, who had refused to change his front, and with great heat told
Colonel Hardinge, the bearer of the order, the real attack was at the
village and bridge; he was entreated to obey, but was obstinate until
Beresford arrived in person, and then only assented because the enemy’s
columns were appearing on his flank, acting however with such pedantic
slowness, that Beresford, impatient of his folly, took the direction in

Great was the confusion and delay thus occasioned, and ere the troops
were formed the French were amongst them. For scarcely had Godinot
engaged Alten’s brigade, when Werlé, leaving only a battalion of
grenadiers to support the former, and some squadrons to watch the 13th
Dragoons and connect the attacks, countermarched and gained the rear
of the fifth corps as it was mounting the hill on the right of the
allies. The light cavalry, also quitting Godinot, crossed the Albuera
above bridge, ascended the left bank at a gallop, and sweeping round
the rear of the fifth corps joined Latour Maubourg, who was already in
face of Lumley’s squadrons! Half-an-hour had thus sufficed to render
Beresford’s position nearly desperate; for two-thirds of the French
had been thrown in order of battle across his right, while his army,
disordered and of different nations, was still in the act of changing
its front. Vainly he strove to get the Spaniards forward and make room
for Stewart’s division, the French guns opened, their infantry threw
out a heavy musketry fire, their cavalry menaced different points, and
the Spaniards, falling fast, drew back. Soult thought the whole army
was yielding, he pushed forward his columns, his reserves came up the
hill, and General Ruty placed all the French batteries in position.

At this moment William Stewart reached the foot of the height with the
brigade under Colborne, and that able officer, seeing the confusion
above, desired to form in order of battle previous to mounting; but
Stewart, whose boiling courage generally overlaid his judgment,
heedlessly led up in column of companies, passed the Spanish right and
attempted to open a line as the battalions arrived: he could not do it,
for so galling was the French fire that the foremost troops impatiently
charged, heavy rain obscured the view, and four regiments of hussars
and lancers, which, unseen, had gained the right flank, immediately
galloped upon the rear of the disordered brigade and slew or took
two-thirds: the 31st only, being still in column, escaped this charge
and maintained its ground, while the French horsemen, riding violently
over everything else, penetrated to all parts and captured six guns.
The tumult was great, and a lancer fell upon Beresford, but he, a man
of great strength, putting the spear aside, cast the trooper from his
saddle, and then a shift of wind blowed aside the smoke and mist,
whereupon Lumley, seeing the mischief from the plain below, sent four
squadrons up against the straggling hussars and cut many off. Penne
Villemur’s Spanish cavalry was at the same time directed to charge some
French horsemen in the plain, but when within a few yards of their foes
they turned and shamefully fled.

Great was the disorder on the hill. The shrinking Spaniards were
in one part blindly firing, though the British troops were before
them, and in another part, flying before the lancers, would have
broken through the 29th, then advancing to the succour of Colborne;
but, terribly resolute, that regiment smote friends and foes without
distinction in their onward progress: meanwhile Beresford urging the
main body of the Spaniards to advance in his heat seized an ensign by
the breast and bore him and his colours by main force to the front, yet
the troops did not follow, and the coward ran back when released from
the marshal’s iron grasp.

In this crisis, the weather, which had ruined Colborne’s brigade, saved
the day, for Soult could not see the whole field of battle and kept his
troops halted in masses when the decisive blow might have been struck.
His cavalry indeed, began to hem in that of the allies, yet the fire of
the horse-artillery enabled Lumley, covered by the bed of the Aroya and
supported by the fourth division, to check them; Colborne still kept
the height with the 31st Regiment, and the British artillery, under
Julius Hartman, was coming fast into action; William Stewart, also,
having escaped the lancers, was again mounting the hill with Houghton’s
brigade, which he brought on with the same vehemence but in a juster
order of battle. The day now cleared and a dreadful fire poured into
the thickest of the French columns taught Soult the fight was yet to be

Houghton’s regiments reached the height under a heavy cannonade, and
the 29th, after breaking through the fugitive Spaniards, was charged in
flank by the French lancers, but two companies, wheeling to the right,
foiled this attack; and then the third brigade of Stewart’s division
came up on the left, and the Spaniards under Zayas and Ballesteros
moved forward. Hartman’s artillery had made the enemy’s infantry
recoil, yet, soon recovering, they renewed the battle with greater
violence than before, and the cannon on both sides discharged showers
of grape at half-range, while the play of musketry was incessant
and often within pistol-shot; but the crowded columns of the French
embarrassed their battle, and the British line would not yield them an
inch of ground or a moment of time to open their ranks. Their fighting
was however fierce and dangerous. Stewart was twice wounded, Colonel
Duckworth was slain, and the gallant Houghton, having received many
wounds without shrinking, fell and died in the act of cheering on his

Still the struggle continued with unabated fury. Colonel Inglis,
twenty-two officers, and more than four hundred men, out of five
hundred and seventy, fell in the 57th alone, and the other regiments
were scarcely better off, not one-third were standing in any; their
ammunition failed, and as their fire slackened the enemy established
a column in advance upon the right flank, which the play of the
artillery could only check for a time, and in that dreadful crisis
Beresford wavered! Destruction stared him in the face, his personal
resources were exhausted and the unhappy thought of a retreat rose in
his agitated mind. He had before posted Hamilton’s Portuguese with a
view to a retrograde movement, and now sent Alten orders to abandon the
bridge of Albuera, to rally the Portuguese artillery on his Germans,
and take ground to cover a retreat by the Valverde road. But while the
commander was thus preparing to resign the contest, Colonel Hardinge,
using his name, had urged Cole to bring up the fourth division, and
then riding to the third brigade of Stewart’s division, which, under
Colonel Abercrombie, had hitherto been only slightly engaged, directed
it also to push forward. The die was thus cast, Beresford acquiesced,
Alten received orders to retake the village, and this terrible battle
was continued.

Two brigades of the fourth division were present, one of Portuguese
under General Harvey, the other under Sir William Myers, composed of
the 7th and 23rd Regiments, was called the fusileer brigade. Harvey,
pushing between Lumley’s cavalry and the hill, was charged by some
French horse and beat them off, while Cole led the fusileers up the
contested height. At this time six guns were in the enemy’s possession,
Werlé’s reserve was pressing forward to reinforce the French front, and
the remnant of Houghton’s brigade could no longer maintain its ground,
the field was heaped with carcasses, the lancers were riding furiously
about the captured artillery on the upper parts of the hill, and
Hamilton’s Portuguese and Alten’s Germans, withdrawing from the bridge,
seemed to be in full retreat. Soon however Cole’s fusileers, flanked
by a battalion of the Lusitanian legion under Colonel Hawkshawe,
surmounted the hill, drove off the lancers, recovered five guns and
one colour, and passed the right of Houghton’s brigade, precisely as
Abercrombie passed its left.

Such a gallant line, issuing from the midst of the smoke and rapidly
separating itself from the confused and broken multitude, startled the
enemy’s masses, then augmenting and pressing onwards as to an assured
victory; they wavered, hesitated, and vomiting forth a storm of fire
hastily endeavoured to enlarge their front, while a fearful discharge
of grape from all their artillery whistled through the British ranks.
Myers was killed, Cole, the three colonels, Ellis, Blakeney and
Hawkshawe fell wounded, and the fusileer battalions, struck by the iron
tempest, reeled and staggered like sinking ships: but suddenly and
sternly recovering they closed on their terrible enemies, and then was
seen with what a strength and majesty the British soldier fights. In
vain did Soult with voice and gesture animate his Frenchmen; in vain
did the hardiest veterans, breaking from the crowded columns, sacrifice
their lives to gain time for the mass to open out on such a fair
field; in vain did the mass itself bear up, and fiercely striving fire
indiscriminately upon friends and foes, while the horsemen hovering on
the flank threatened to charge the advancing line. Nothing could stop
that astonishing infantry. No sudden burst of undisciplined valour,
no nervous enthusiasm weakened the stability of their order, their
flashing eyes were bent on the dark columns in their front, their
measured tread shook the ground, their dreadful volleys swept away
the head of every formation, their deafening shouts overpowered the
dissonant cries that broke from all parts of the tumultuous crowd, as
slowly and with a horrid carnage it was pushed by the incessant vigour
of the attack to the farthest edge of the height. There the French
reserve, mixing with the struggling multitude, endeavoured to restore
the fight but only augmented the irremediable disorder, and the mighty
mass giving way like a loosened cliff went headlong down the steep:
the rain flowed after in streams discoloured with blood, and eighteen
hundred unwounded men, the remnant of six thousand unconquerable
British soldiers, stood triumphant on the fatal hill!

While the fusileers were battling above, the cavalry and Harvey’s
brigade advanced, and Latour Maubourg’s dragoons, battered also
by Lefebre’s guns, retired before them, yet still threatening the
fusileers with their right, and with their left preventing Lumley
falling on the defeated infantry. The crisis was however past, and
Beresford, seeking to profit from the circumstances of the moment, made
Alten retake Albuera, supported him with Blake’s first line, which
had not been engaged, and quickly brought up Hamilton’s and Collins’s
Portuguese, ten thousand fresh men, to strengthen the fusileers and
Abercrombie’s brigade. But so rapid was the execution of the last,
the enemy was never attained by these reserves, which yet suffered
severely, for Ruty having set the French guns altogether, worked them
with prodigious activity while the fifth corps was still making head,
and when the day was irrevocably lost, he regained the other side of
the Albuera and protected the passage of the broken infantry.

Beresford, too hardly handled to pursue, now formed a front with the
Portuguese parallel to the heights where Soult’s troops were rallying,
and though the action continued a short time after at the bridge, all
was terminated before three o’clock. The serious fighting had endured
only four hours, and in that time seven thousand allies and above eight
thousand of their adversaries were struck down. Three French generals
were wounded, two slain, and eight hundred soldiers so badly hurt as to
be left on the field. On Beresford’s side only two thousand Spaniards
and six hundred Germans and Portuguese were killed or wounded, and with
what resolution the pure British fought was thus made manifest, for
they had but eighteen hundred men left standing! The laurel is nobly
won when the exhausted victor reels as he places it on his bleeding
front. The French took five hundred unwounded prisoners, a howitzer and
several stand of colours. The British had no trophy to boast of, but
the horrid piles of carcasses within their lines told with dreadful
eloquence who were the conquerors, and all that night the rain poured
down, and the river and the hills and the woods resounded with the
dismal clamour and groans of dying men.

Beresford was oppressed with the number of his wounded, far exceeding
the sound amongst the British soldiers. When the picquets were posted
few remained to help the sufferers, and in this cruel distress he sent
Hardinge to demand assistance from Blake; but wrath and mortified
pride were predominant with that general; he refused, saying, it was
customary with allies for each to take care of their own men. Yet the
British had fought for Spain.

Morning came and both armies remained in their respective situations,
the wounded still covering the field of battle, the hostile lines still
menacing and dangerous. The greater number had fallen with the French,
the best soldiers with the allies, and Soult’s dark masses of cavalry
and artillery, covering all his front, seemed able alone to contend
again for victory. The right of the French appeared also to threaten
the Badajos road, and Beresford in gloom and doubt awaited another
attack; soon however the third brigade of the fourth division came up
from Jerumenha, and then the second division retook its old ground
between the Valverde and Badajos roads: on the 18th Soult retreated.

He left to English generosity several hundred men too deeply wounded
to be removed, but all those who could travel he had, in the night
of the 17th, sent by the royal road of Monasterio to Seville; and
now, protecting his movements with his horsemen and six battalions of
infantry, he filed his right on to the road of Solano. When this flank
march was completed, Latour Maubourg covered the rear with the heavy
dragoons, while Briché protected the march of the wounded men by the
royal road.

Beresford sent Hamilton to re-invest Badajos, and the whole of his
cavalry, supported by Alten’s Germans, after the French; but soon
Wellington, hurrying from the north, reached the field of battle and
directed him to follow the enemy cautiously in person, while the third
and seventh divisions, just come down from the Coa, completed the
reinvestment of the fortress.

Soult now took a permanent position at Llerena, to await the junction
of Drouet’s division and reinforcements from Andalusia, resolved to
contend again for Badajos. Meanwhile his cavalry advanced to Usagre
designing to scour the country beyond; but the only outlet from that
place was a bridge over a river with steep banks, which the French
general Bron passed rashly with two regiments and being charged by
General Lumley lost two hundred men. This terminated Beresford’s
operations. The miserable state to which the Regency had reduced the
Portuguese troops required his presence at Lisbon and General Hill
succeeded to his command.


Lord Wellington had left General Spencer with an army to straiten
Ciudad Rodrigo and watch Marmont, who had succeeded Massena; but
Marmont could from the Salamanca country cross the mountains and join
Soult to disturb the siege of Badajos, and in that case Spencer, who
had a shorter line, was to join Wellington. With this precaution it was
hoped the place might be taken. But though no operation in war is so
certain as a modern siege, if the rules of art are strictly followed,
no operation is less open to irregular daring: the engineer can
neither be hurried nor delayed without danger. Now the time required
by the French to gather in force depended on Marmont, whose march from
Salamanca by the mountain passes could not be stopped by Spencer: it
was also possible for him to pass the Tagus on the shortest line by
fords near Alcantara. But Beresford’s siege had damaged the carriages
of the battering guns, eleven days were required to repair them, and
the scanty means of transport for stores was diminished by carrying the
wounded from Albuera: hence more than fifteen days of open trenches,
including nine days of fire, could not be expected. With good guns,
plentiful stores and regular sappers and miners, this time would have
sufficed; but none of these things were in the camp, and it was a
keen jest of Picton to say, “_Lord Wellington sued Badajos in formâ
pauperis_.” His guns were of soft brass, false in their bore, and the
shot of different sizes, the largest being too small; the Portuguese
gunners were inexperienced, there were few British artillery-men, few
engineers, no sappers or miners, and no time to teach the troops of the
line how to make fascines and gabions.

Regular and sure approaches against the body of the place, first
reducing the outworks, could not now be attempted; yet Beresford’s
lines against the castle and Fort Christoval might be renewed, avoiding
his errors; that is to say, by pushing the attacks simultaneously
and with more powerful means. This plan was adopted, and something
was hoped from the inhabitants, something from the effect of Soult’s
retreat after Albuera. The battering train was of fifty pieces, a
convoy of engineers’ stores came up from Alcacer do Sal, and a company
of British artillery was on the march from Lisbon to be mixed with the
Portuguese, making a total of six hundred gunners. Volunteers from
the line acted as assistant engineers, and a draft of three hundred
intelligent infantry soldiers, including twenty-five artificers of the
staff corps, were employed as sappers.

Hamilton’s Portuguese first invested the place on the left bank, and,
the 24th of May, General Houston, having five thousand men, invested
San Christoval; a flying bridge was then laid down on the Guadiana
below the town, and Picton, crossing that river by a ford above, joined
Hamilton. Hill commanded the covering army, all the cavalry was pushed
forward in observation of Soult, and when intelligence of Drouet’s
junction was obtained, two regiments of cavalry and two brigades of
infantry, which had been quartered at Coria as posts of communication
with Spencer, were called up to reinforce Hill.

Phillipon had during the interval of siege levelled Beresford’s
trenches, repaired his own damages, mounted more guns and obtained a
small supply of wine and vegetables from the people of Estremadura, who
were still awed by the presence of Soult’s army. Within the place all
was quiet, the citizens did not now exceed five thousand souls, and
many of them were seen, mixed with soldiers, working at the defences;
hence, as retrenchments in the castle behind the intended points of
attack would have prolonged the siege beyond the calculated period,
Lord Wellington to obtain timely notice of such works had a large
telescope placed in the tower of La Lyppe near Elvas, by which the
interior of the castle could be searched.

In the night of the 29th the engineers broke ground for a false attack,
and the following night sixteen hundred workmen, with a covering party
of twelve hundred, sunk a parallel against the castle without being
discovered; at the same time twelve hundred workmen, covered by a guard
of eight hundred, opened a parallel four hundred and fifty yards from
San Christoval and seven hundred yards from the bridge-head. On this
line, one breaching and two counter batteries were raised against the
fort and bridge-head, to prevent a sally from the last point; a fourth
battery was also commenced to search the defences of the castle, but
the workmen were discovered and a heavy fire struck down many.

On the 31st the attack against the castle, where the soil was soft,
advanced rapidly; but Christoval being on a rock, earth had to be
brought from the rear and the attack proceeded slowly and with
considerable loss. This day the British artillery company came up on
mules from Estremos, the engineer hastened his work, and, to save time,
prematurely traced a work for fourteen twenty-four pounders with six
large howitzers to batter the castle.

On the Christoval side the batteries were not finished until the night
of the 1st of June, for the soil was so rocky the miner had to level
ground for platforms, while mortars, of eighteen inches’ diameter,
sent shells from the castle unerringly amongst the workmen; these
huge missiles would have ruined the works on that side if they had
not been on the edge of a ridge, down which most of the shells rolled
before bursting: yet so difficult is it to judge rightly in war,
that Phillipon stopped this fire, thinking it was thrown away![20]
The progress of the works was so delayed by bringing up earth, that
woolpacks purchased at Elvas were adopted as a substitute, and on the
2nd, all the batteries being completed and armed with forty-three
pieces of different sizes, twenty were pointed against the castle. The
shot being too small for the guns the fire was very ineffectual at
first, and five pieces became unserviceable; but towards evening the
practice became steadier, the fire of Christoval was nearly silenced,
and the covering of masonry fell from the castle-wall, discovering a
perpendicular bank of clay.

In the night of the 3rd a fresh battery for seven guns was traced
against the castle, about six hundred yards from the breach, but the
4th the garrison’s fire was also increased by additional guns, six of
the besiegers’ pieces were disabled, principally by their own fire, and
the batteries only slightly marked the bank of clay. At Christoval, the
fort was much injured, and some damage done to the castle also from
the batteries on that side, yet the guns were so soft that the rate of
firing was much reduced. In the night the new battery was armed, the
damaged works repaired, and next day, as the enemy had caused a gun
from Christoval to plunge into the trenches on the castle side, the
parallel was deepened and traverses constructed to protect the troops.

Fifteen uninjured pieces still played against the castle, and the bank
of clay fell away in flakes, yet it remained perpendicular.

In the night the parallel against the castle was extended, a fresh
battery was traced out five hundred and twenty yards from the breach,
and on the Christoval side new batteries were opened and some old ones
abandoned. The garrison now began to retrench the castle breach, and
their workmen were soon covered, while from Christoval two pieces of
artillery plunged directly into the trenches with great effect: on the
other hand the clay bank took a slope nearly practicable, and stray
shells set fire to the houses nearest the castle.

On the 6th, one of two breaches in Christoval being judged practicable,
a company of grenadiers with twelve ladders was ordered to assault, a
second turned the fort to divert the enemy’s attention, three hundred
men cut the communication between the fort and the bridge, and a
detachment with a six-pounder moved into the valley of the Gebora to
prevent any passage of the Guadiana by boats.


Major M‘Intosh of the 85th Regiment led the stormers, preceded by
a forlorn hope under Lieutenant Dyas of the 51st, and that gallant
gentleman, guided by the engineer Forster, a young man of uncommon
bravery, reached the glacis and descended the ditch without being
discovered; but the French had cleared the rubbish away, seven feet of
perpendicular wall remained, carts and pointed beams of wood chained
together were placed above, and shells were ranged along the ramparts
to roll down. The forlorn hope finding the opening impracticable was
retiring, when the main body, which had been exposed to a flank fire
from the town as well as a direct fire from the fort, came leaping into
the ditch with ladders and strove to escalade; but the ladders were too
short, the garrison, seventy-five men besides the cannoneers, made a
stout resistance, the confusion and mischief occasioned by the bursting
of the shells was great, and the stormers were beaten off with the loss
of more than a hundred men.

Bad success produces disputes. The failure was attributed by some
to the breach being impracticable from the first, by others to the
confusion which arose after the main body had entered. French writers
affirm that the breach, practicable on the night of the 5th was not
so on the 6th, because the besiegers did not attack until midnight
and thus gave the workmen time to remove the ruins and raise fresh
obstacles: the bravery of the soldiers, who were provided with three
muskets each, did the rest. The combinations for the assault were
however not well calculated: the storming party was too weak, the
ladders too few and short, the breach not sufficiently scoured by the
fire of the batteries, and the leading troops were repulsed before
the main body had descended the ditch. In such attacks the supports
should almost form one body with the leaders, for the sense of power
derived from numbers is a strong incentive to valour, and obstacles,
insurmountable to a few, vanish before a multitude.

During the storm six iron guns were placed in battery against the
castle, but two brass pieces became unserviceable, and the following
day three others were disabled. However the bank of clay seemed to
offer now a good slope, and in the night the engineer Patton examined
it closely; he was mortally wounded in returning, yet lived to report
it practicable. At Christoval the garrison continued to clear away the
ruins at the foot of the breach, made interior retrenchments with bales
of wool and other materials, ranged huge shells and barrels of powder
with matches along the ramparts, and gave the defenders, chosen men,
four muskets each. In this state of affairs news came that Drouet was
close to Llerena, and Marmont on the move from Salamanca, wherefore
Wellington ordered another assault on Christoval at both breaches.
Four hundred men, carrying sixteen long ladders, were employed, the
supports were better closed up, the appointed hour was nine instead of
twelve, and more detachments were planted on the right and left to cut
off communication with the town; but Phillipon, in opposition, made the
garrison two hundred strong.


Major M‘Geechy commanded the stormers, the forlorn hope, again led by
the gallant Dyas, was accompanied by the engineer Hunt, and a little
after nine o’clock the leading troops bounded forward, followed by the
support, amidst a shattering fire of musketry which killed M‘Geechy,
Hunt, and many men upon the glacis. Loudly shouted the British as
they jumped into the ditch, but the French scoffingly called them on,
and rolling down the barrels of powder and shells made fearful and
rapid havoc. A column had been designed for each breach, yet both
came together at the main breach, where some confusion about the
ladders caused only a few to be reared, and the enemy, standing on the
ramparts, bayoneted the foremost assailants, overturned the ladders,
and again poured their destructive fire upon the crowd below until one
hundred and forty fell and the rest retired.

The castle breach remained for assault, yet the troops could not
form between the top and the retrenchments behind the opening unless
Christoval was taken, and its guns used to clear the interior of the
castle; but to take Christoval required several days; hence, as Soult
was ready to advance, the stores were removed and the attack turned
into a blockade, the allies having lost four hundred men and officers:
the process of siege had been altogether false and irregular.

Marmont now joined Soult, Spencer joined Wellington, and the 19th of
June the French armies entered Badajos. The allies were only a few
miles off holding both sides of the Caya, a small river flowing between
Elvas and Campo Mayor into the Guadiana: yet their disposition was
so skilfully concealed by undulating ground and woods, that on the
23rd the French marshals were forced to send out two exploring bodies
of cavalry to obtain information. One column cut off a squadron of
the 11th Light Dragoons, and the 2nd German Hussars escaped it with
difficulty; the other column was checked by the heavy dragoons and
Madden’s Portuguese cavalry with a sharp skirmish, in which happened a
single combat similar to that between Ariosto’s Rogero and Mandricardo.
An English horseman, standing high in his stirrups with raised sword,
encountered a French officer who pierced him under the arm; slowly the
weapon was driven through his body, yet no shrinking motion could be
observed; he seemed only to give more force to his descending weapon,
which bit into the Frenchman’s brain and both fell dead together.

Soult and Marmont had above sixty thousand men in line, seven thousand
being cavalry, with ninety guns. Wellington had only twenty-eight
thousand sabres and bayonets, and the country, a cavalry one, furnished
no position to compensate for inferior numbers: a battle gained would
certainly have terminated the war. Yet the crisis passed without
mischief, because Wellington so concealed his weakness, and outfaced
his enemies with such audacity, such a blending of resolution and
genius that the French marshals retired and separated without striking!
The political and military difficulties supported and overcome by the
English general at this period were indeed most extraordinary, and must
be sought for in my History of the War, from which this work, treating
only of combats, is extracted.


  Blockade of Ciudad Rodrigo--Combat of Elbodon--Combat of Aldea de
    Ponte--Surprise of Aroyo de Molinos--Defence of Tarifa--English
    Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo--Third English Siege of Badajos--Assault
    of Picurina--Assault of Badajos.


After the second siege of Badajos the contest in the Peninsula
presented a new phase. French reinforcements were poured into Spain,
forty thousand old soldiers entered by the northern line alone, and
General Dorsenne took command of the _Army of the North_, which now
contained seventeen thousand of Napoleon’s young guard. The king had a
particular force about Madrid called the _Army of the Centre_; Soult
commanded the _Army of the South_; Marmont the _Army of Portugal_,
with which, by the emperor’s orders, he took post in the valley of the
Tagus, leaving a division at Truxillo south of that river, establishing
a bridge of communication at Almaraz, which he fortified on both sides

This disposition of the French armies was at once offensive and
defensive. Portugal was menaced from the north by Dorsenne, who had
Ciudad Rodrigo as an advanced place of arms; from the south by Soult,
who had Badajos for an advanced place of arms; in the centre by
Marmont, who could march on Abrantes, join Dorsenne, or unite with
Soult. In defence the French were still more powerful. If Wellington
assailed Dorsenne, the latter by retiring could concentrate a great
force, while Marmont acted on the English right flank; and together
they could present seventy thousand men in line. If he assailed Soult,
as he had indeed designed before the failure of Badajos, Marmont could
act on his left flank, and, united with Soult, could present sixty-five
thousand fighting men. If he marched against Marmont by either bank of
the Tagus, that marshal, reinforced with detachments from Dorsenne,
Soult, and the king, could deliver battle with more than seventy
thousand men.

The English general could not contend with such powerful armies beyond
the mountains of Portugal, yet from political pressure he could not
stand still, and there were defects in his adversaries’ breast-plate
through which he hoped to pierce. He saw that Badajos and Rodrigo were
isolated and difficult to provision; that each depended for succour on
the junction of armies under generals of equal authority, ill disposed
to act together, and whose communications were long and uneasy,
furnishing pretences for non-coöperation. Marmont had indeed a direct
line of intercourse with Dorsenne across the Gredos mountains, by the
fortified pass of Baños; but to reach Soult the Tagus was to be crossed
at Almaraz, the defiles of Estremadura and the passes of the Morena to
be threaded before a junction could be made in the plains of Badajos:
wherefore, General Girard, having the remains of Mortier’s army, called
_the fifth corps_, was employed as a moving column in Estremadura, to
support Badajos and connect the army of Portugal with that of Soult.

In this state of affairs Wellington, who had received large
reinforcements after the siege of Badajos, left General Hill, in
August, with twelve thousand men of all arms to keep Girard in check,
and in person marched to the north, under pretence of seeking healthy
quarters for his sickly troops, really to blockade Ciudad Rodrigo,
which an intercepted letter described as wanting provisions; it had
however been previously supplied by Bessières before he quitted his
command, and this effort was frustrated. The army was then placed near
the sources of the Agueda and Coa, close to the line of communication
between Marmont and Dorsenne, and preparations were made for a siege,
in the notion that the last general’s force was weak: but that also was
an error, and when discovered, a blockade was established. Almeida,
whose renewed walls had been destroyed by Spencer when he marched to
the south, was now repaired for a place of arms, the bridge over the
Coa was restored, and with the utmost subtilty of combination and the
most extensive arrangements the English general, while appearing only
to blockade, secretly prepared for a siege. All his art was indeed
required, for though the Anglo-Portuguese were at this time eighty
thousand on paper, with ninety guns, twenty-two thousand men were in
hospital; wherefore, Hill’s corps being deducted, less than forty-five
thousand were on the watch to snatch a fortress which was in the
keeping of eighty thousand.

In September Rodrigo called for succour, whereupon Marmont and Dorsenne
advanced to its relief with sixty thousand men, six thousand being
cavalry, and they had a hundred pieces of artillery. Wellington could
not fight this great army beyond the Agueda, but would not retreat
until he had seen all their force, lest a detachment should relieve the
place to his dishonour. In this view he took the following positions.

Picton’s division, reinforced with three squadrons of German and
British cavalry, was placed at the heights of Elbodon and Pastores,
on the left of the Agueda, within three miles of Rodrigo. The light
division with some squadrons of cavalry and six guns, were posted on
the right of the Agueda, at the Vadillo, a river with a rugged channel
falling into the Agueda three miles above Rodrigo: from this line an
enemy coming from the eastern passes of the hills could be discerned.
The sixth division and Anson’s brigade of cavalry, forming the left of
the army, was under General Graham at Espeja, on the Lower Azava, with
advanced posts at Carpio and Marialva, from whence to Rodrigo was eight
miles over a plain. Julian Sanchez’s Partida watched the Lower Agueda,
and the heads of columns were thus presented to the fortress on three
points, namely, Vadillo, Pastores and Espeja. Two brigades of heavy
cavalry on the Upper Azava, supported by Pack’s Portuguese, connected
Graham with Elbodon; but he was very distant from Guinaldo, the pivot
of operations, and to obviate the danger of a flank march in retreat
the first and seventh divisions were posted in succession towards
Guinaldo. The army was thus spread out on different roads, like the
sticks of a fan, having their point of union on the Coa.

This disposition was faulty. Broad heights lining the left bank of the
Agueda ended abruptly above the villages of Elbodon and Pastores, and
were flanked in their whole length by woods and great plains, extending
from Rodrigo to the Coa; they could not therefore be held against an
enemy commanding those plains, and if the French pushed along them
suddenly, beyond Guinaldo, the distant wings could be cut off. At
Guinaldo however, three field redoubts had been constructed on high
open ground, to impose upon the enemy and so gain time to assemble and
feel his disposition for a battle, because a retreat beyond the Coa was
to be avoided if possible.

On the 23rd the French encamped behind the hills northeast of Rodrigo,
and a strong detachment, entering the plain, looked at the light
division on the Vadillo and returned.

The 24th, six thousand cavalry and four divisions of infantry crossed
the hills in two columns to introduce the convoy, while on the English
side the fourth division occupied the position of Guinaldo, and the
redoubts were completed. No other change was made, for it was thought
the French would not advance further; but the 25th, soon after
daybreak, fourteen squadrons of the imperial guards drove Graham’s
outpost from Carpio across the Azava; the Lancers of Berg then crossed
that river in pursuit, but were flanked by some infantry in a wood
and beaten back by two squadrons of the 14th and 16th Dragoons,
who re-occupied the post of Carpio. During this skirmish, fourteen
battalions of infantry and thirty squadrons of cavalry, with twelve
guns, under Montbrun, passing the Agueda at Rodrigo marched towards
Guinaldo; the road divided there, one branch turning the Elbodon
heights on the French right the other leading through Pastores and
Elbodon, and as the point of divarication was covered by a gentle
ridge, it was doubtful which branch would be taken. Soon that doubt
vanished. The cavalry pouring along the right-hand road leading to
Guinaldo, drove in the advanced posts, and without waiting for their
infantry fell on.

COMBAT OF ELBODON. (Sept. 1811.)

The action began disadvantageously for the allies. The left of the
third division was turned, the 74th and 60th Regiments, being at
Pastores, far on the right, were too distant to be called in, and
Picton, having three other regiments at Elbodon, could take no
immediate part in the fight. Wellington sent to Guinaldo for a brigade
of the fourth division, and meanwhile directed General Colville to
draw up the 77th and 5th British Regiments, the 21st Portuguese and
two brigades of artillery of the same nation, on a hill over which
the road to Guinaldo passed, supporting their flanks with Alten’s
three squadrons. This position, convex towards the enemy, was covered,
front and flanks, by deep ravines; but it was too extensive, and
before Picton could come from Elbodon the crisis was over. Vainly the
Portuguese guns sent their shot through Montbrun’s horsemen, they
crossed the ravine in half squadrons, and with amazing vigour rode up
the rough height on three sides; neither the loose fire of the infantry
nor the artillery stopped them, but they were checked by the fine
fighting of the cavalry, who charged the heads of the ascending masses,
not once but twenty times, and always with a good will, maintaining the
upper ground for an hour.

It was astonishing to see so few troopers resist that surging multitude
even on such steep ground; but when Montbrun, obstinate to win, brought
up his artillery, his horsemen, gaining ground in the centre, cut down
some gunners and captured the Portuguese guns, and at the same time
one German squadron, charging too far, got entangled in the ravines.
The danger was then imminent, but suddenly the 5th Regiment, led by
Major Ridge, a daring man, dashed bodily into the midst of the French
cavalry and retook the artillery, which again opened, while the 77th,
supported by the 21st Portuguese, vigorously repulsed the enemy on the
left. These charges of infantry against a powerful cavalry, which had
room to expand, could however only check the foe at particular points,
and Montbrun pressed with fresh masses against the left of the allies,
while other squadrons penetrated between their right and the village of
Elbodon, from the inclosures and vineyards of which Picton was, with
difficulty and some confusion, extricating his regiments. He could
give no succour, the brigade of the fourth division was not in sight,
the French infantry was rapidly approaching, and Wellington therefore
directed both Picton and Colville to fall back and unite in the plain

Colville, forming his battalions in two squares, descended at once
from the hill, but Picton had a considerable distance to move, there
was a great interval, and at that moment, the cavalry, fearing to be
surrounded, galloped for refuge to the Portuguese regiment, which
was farthest in retreat. Then the 5th and 77th, two weak battalions
formed in one square, were quite exposed, and in an instant the whole
of the French horsemen came thundering down upon them. But how vain,
how fruitless to match the sword with the musket, to send the charging
horseman against the steadfast veteran! The multitudinous squadrons,
rending the skies with their shouts, closed upon the glowing squares
like the falling edges of a burning crater, and were as instantly
rejected, scorched and scattered abroad; then a rolling peal of
musketry echoed through the hills, bayonets glittered at the edge of
the smoke, and with firm and even step the British regiments came forth
like the holy men from the Assyrian’s furnace.

Picton now effected his junction and the whole retired to Guinaldo,
about six miles. The French would not renew the close attack, yet plied
shot and shell until the entrenched camp was gained; there the fourth
division presented a fresh front, Pack then came in from Campillo, the
heavy cavalry from the Upper Azava, and as it was near dusk the action
ceased. The 74th and 60th Regiments, posted at Pastores, were abandoned
by this retreat, but they crossed the Agueda at a ford, and moving up
the right bank reached Guinaldo in the night after a march of fifteen

Graham had early received orders to fall back on the first division,
yet to keep posts of observation on the Azava, while Sanchez’s infantry
went behind the Coa; the guerilla chief himself passed with his cavalry
to the French rear, and the seventh division was withdrawn behind the
left wing, which was now in line with the centre, though still distant.
The light division should have come by Robledo to Fuente Guinaldo;
Craufurd received the order at three o’clock, heard the cannonade, and
might have reached it before midnight; but fearing a march in darkness
he merely retired a league from the Vadillo, which was immediately
passed by fifteen hundred French; Guinaldo was thus maintained by
only fourteen thousand men, two thousand six hundred being cavalry.
Graham was ten miles distant; the light division, debarred of a direct
route by the enemy, was sixteen miles distant; the fifth division,
posted at Payo in the mountains, was twelve miles distant; and during
the night and the following day, Marmont united sixty thousand men in
front of Guinaldo. The English general was thus in great danger, yet
he would not abandon the light division, which, intercepted by the
French cavalry at Robledo, did not arrive until after three o’clock in
the evening. Marmont’s fortune was fixed in that hour! He knew not how
matters really stood. He detached a strong column by the valley of the
Azava to menace the allies’ left, and made an ostentatious display of
the Imperial Guards in the plain, instead of attacking an adversary who
laughed to see him so employed, and soon changed the state of affairs.

In the night, by an able concentric movement, Wellington united his
whole army on new ground between the Coa and the sources of the Agueda,
twelve miles behind Guinaldo. Marmont, unconscious of his advantages,
instead of troubling this difficult movement had also retired in
the night, and was marching back when the scouts of his column in
the valley of Azava reported that the allies were in retreat, and
their divisions widely separated. Then discovering all the deceit
of Guinaldo, and the escape of the light division, he prophetically
exclaimed, alluding to Napoleon’s fortune, _And Wellington, he also
has a star._ In this mood he would have continued his retreat, but it
is said Dorsenne forced him to wheel round and pursue: Wellington was
then however in a strong position behind the stream of the Villa Maior,
where he could not be turned, and where it covered all the practicable
roads leading to the bridges and fords of the Coa.


The French moved by two roads against the right and centre. Checked
on the first by the light division, on the second their horsemen
drove the cavalry posts across the Villa Maior and took possession of
Aldeaponte, where at twelve o’clock the head of their infantry attacked
a brigade of the fourth division, posted on opposing heights, under
General Pakenham. Wellington arriving at that moment directed a charge,
and the French were driven back; they attempted to turn the brigade
by a wood on their own left while their cavalry advanced to the foot
of the hills, but the artillery sufficed to baffle the effort, and
then the English general, taking the offensive, turned their left and
seized the opposite hills: this finished the action and Aldeaponte was
re-occupied. Wellington, who had been much exposed to fire, rode to
another part, yet scarcely had he departed when the French from the
other road joined those near Aldeaponte, and at five o’clock retook the
village; Pakenham recovered it, but the enemy was very numerous, the
country rugged, and so wooded he could not tell what was passing on the
flanks: wherefore, knowing the chosen ground of battle was behind the
Coa, he abandoned Aldeaponte for his original post.

In the night the allies retreated, and on the morning of the 28th
occupied a new and strong position in a deep loop of the Coa, where
it could only be attacked on a narrow front; but the French, who had
brought only a few days’ provisions and could gather none in that
country, retired the same day. Dorsenne marched to Salamanca, a strong
division was posted at Alba de Tormes to communicate with Marmont, and
the latter resumed his old position in the valley of the Tagus. The
light division, reinforced by some cavalry, now resumed the nominal
blockade of Ciudad Rodrigo, in concert with Julian Sanchez; the rest of
the army was cantoned on both sides of the Coa and head-quarters were
fixed at Freneda.

Only three hundred men and officers fell in these combats on the
British side. The French lost more, because of the unreturned fire at
Elbodon, and here a fine chivalric action on their side merits notice.
In one of the cavalry fights, an officer in the act of striking at
Felton Harvey of the 14th Dragoons, perceived that he had but one arm
and with a rapid change brought down his sword to a salute and passed


While Rodrigo was being blockaded, General Hill co-operated with the
Spaniards in Estremadura against General Drouet, who first joined
Girard, but after various movements returned to the Morena, leaving
his colleague at Caceres between the Tagus and the Guadiana. From
that place Hill drove him the 26th of October, and hoping to cut him
off from the bridge of Merida, moved by a cross road next day. On
the march he heard Girard had halted in Arroyo de Molinos, leaving
a rear-guard on the Caceres road--thus showing he knew not of the
cross-road movement and looked for pursuit only from Caceres. With a
rapid decision and a forced march the English general moved in the
night upon Alcuesca, just one league from Arroyo, which was in a plain,
and close behind it rose a rocky sierra, crescent-shaped, and about two
miles wide on the chord. From Alcuesca one road led direct to Arroyo,
another entered it on the left, and three led from it, the most distant
of the last being the Truxillo road, which rounded the extremity of
the sierra; the nearest was the Merida road, and between them was that
of Medellin. The weather was very stormy and wet, but no fires were
permitted in the allies’ camp, and at two o’clock in the morning of the
28th the troops moved to a low ridge half a mile from Arroyo, under
cover of which they formed three bodies--the infantry on the wings,
the cavalry in the centre. The left column marched straight upon the
village, the right towards the extreme point of the sierra, where the
Truxillo road turned the horn of the crescent, the cavalry kept the

One brigade of Girard’s division had marched at four o’clock by the
road of Medellin, but Dombrouski’s brigade and the cavalry of Briche
were still in the place, and the horses of the rear-guard, unbridled,
were tied to trees. The infantry were gathering on the Medellin road
outside the village, and Girard was in a house waiting for his horse,
when two British officers galloped into the street and in an instant
all was confusion; hastily the cavalry bridled their horses and the
infantry ran to their alarm-posts, but a tempest raged, a thick mist
rolled down the craggy mountain, a terrific shout was heard amidst
the clatter of the elements, and with the driving storm the 71st and
92nd Regiments came charging down. The French rear-guard of horsemen,
fighting and struggling hard, were driven to the end of the village,
where the infantry, forming their squares, endeavoured to cover the
main body of the cavalry; but then the 71st, lining the garden walls,
opened a galling fire on the nearest square, the 92nd, filing out of
the streets, formed upon the French right, and the 50th Regiment,
following closely, secured the prisoners.

The rest of the column, headed by the Spanish cavalry, skirted outside
the houses to intercept the line of retreat, and soon the guns opened
on the squares, and the 13th Dragoons captured the French artillery,
while the 9th Dragoons and German Hussars dispersed their cavalry.
Girard, an intrepid officer, although wounded, still kept his infantry
together, retreating by the Truxillo road; but the right column of
the allies was in possession of that line, the cavalry and artillery
were close upon his flank, and the left column followed fast; his
men fell by fifties and his situation was desperate, yet he would
not surrender, and giving the word to disperse endeavoured to scale
the almost inaccessible rocks of the sierra. His pursuers, not less
obstinate, immediately divided. The Spaniards ascended the hills at
an easier point beyond his left; the 39th Regiment and Ashworth’s
Portuguese turned the mountain by the Truxillo road; the 28th and
34th, led by General Howard, followed him step by step up the rocks,
taking prisoners, but finally the pursuers, heavily loaded, were beaten
in speed by men who had thrown away their arms and packs. Girard,
Dombrouski, and Briche, escaped into the Guadalupe mountains, and then
crossing the Guadiana at Orellana, on the 9th of November rejoined
Drouet with six hundred men, the remains of three thousand: they were
said to be the finest troops then in Spain, and their resolution in
such an appalling situation was no mean proof of their excellence.

Thirteen hundred prisoners, including General Bron and the Prince of
Aremberg, all the artillery, baggage, commissariat, and a contribution
just raised, were taken. The allies had seventy killed and wounded,
and one officer, Lieutenant Strenowitz, was taken. He was an Austrian,
and distinguished for courage and successful enterprises, but he had
abandoned the French to join Julian Sanchez, and was liable to death by
the laws of war. Originally forced into the French service he was, in
reality, no deserter, and General Hill applied frankly in his favour
to Drouet, who was so good-tempered that, while smarting under this
disaster, he released his prisoner.

This exploit set all the French corps in motion to revenge it; yet on
the 28th of November Hill, by a forced march, again surprised three
hundred infantry and some hussars under Captain Neveux, who however
lost only forty men, escaping the British cavalry, said his generous
antagonist, by “_the intrepid and admirable manner in which he


Soult had long resolved to reduce the maritime town of Tarifa, but
General Campbell, governor of Gibraltar, equally resolute to prevent
him, threw in an English garrison, under Colonel Skerrett. The defences
were ancient, the place being encircled with towers connected by an
archery wall, irregular, without a ditch, and too thin to resist even
field artillery. It was commanded also by heights within cannon-shot,
but the English engineer Smith[21] adapted the defence to the
peculiarities of ground so skilfully as to fix the enemy’s attention
entirely to one point, which offered facilities for an internal
resistance, to begin when the weak ramparts should be broken.

Tarifa was cloven by a periodical torrent, entering at the east and
passing out at the west. It was barred at the entrance by a tower with
a portcullis, in front of which palisades were planted across its bed.
The houses within the walls were strongly built on inclined planes,
rising from each side of the torrent; and at the exit of the water were
two massive structures, called the tower and castle of the Gusmans,
both looking up the hollow formed by the inclined planes. From these
structures, a sandy neck, prolonged by a causeway for eight hundred
yards, joined the town to an island, whose perpendicular sides forbade
entrance save by the causeway which ended on an unfinished entrenchment
and battery.

On the neck of land were sand hills, the highest, called the Catalina,
being scarped and crowned with a field-work holding a twelve-pounder.
This hill masked the causeway towards the enemy, and with the tower of
the Gusmans, which was armed with a ship eighteen-pounder, flanked the
western front of the tower. This tower gun also shot clear over Tarifa
to the slope where the French batteries were expected, and there were a
ship of the line, a frigate, and some gun-boats, anchored to flank the

Smith deterred the enemy from attacking the western front by the
flanking fire of a fortified convent beyond the walls, by the Catalina
hill, and by the appearance of the shipping; but he deceitfully
tempted an attack on the eastern front and the line of the torrent,
whose bed rendered the inner depth of wall greater than the outer.
There he loopholed the houses behind, opened communications to the
rear, and barricaded the streets; so that the enemy, after forcing the
breach, would have been confined between the houses on the inclined
planes, exposed on each side to musketry from loopholes and windows,
and in front to a fire from the Gusmans, which looked up the bed of
the torrent; finally the garrison could have taken refuge in that
castle and tower, which, high and massive, were fitted to cover the
evacuation, and were provided with ladders for the troops to descend
and retreat to the island under protection of the Catalina.

There was no want of guns. Besides those of the Catalina, there were
in the island twelve pieces, comprising four twenty-four pounders and
two ten-inch mortars; in the town were six field-pieces, with four
cohorns on the east front; an eighteen-pounder was on the Gusmans, a
howitzer on the portcullis tower, and two field-pieces were in reserve
for sallies: yet most of the island ordnance was mounted after the
investment, and the walls and towers of the town were too weak and
narrow to sustain heavy guns; hence only three field-pieces and the
cohorns did in fact reply to the enemy’s fire.

The garrison, including six hundred Spanish infantry and one hundred
horse of that nation, amounted to two thousand five hundred men, of
whom seven hundred were in the island, one hundred in the Catalina, two
hundred in the convent, and fifteen hundred in the town.

On the 19th of December, General Laval, having eight thousand men,
drove in the advanced posts, but was with a sharp skirmish designedly
led towards the eastern front.

The 20th the place was invested, and the 21st some French troops
having incautiously approached the western front, Captain Wren of the
11th, suddenly descended from the Catalina and carried them off. In
the night the enemy approached close to the walls of that front, but
in the morning Wren again fell on them; and at the same time a sally
of discovery was made from the convent so vigorously that Lieutenant
Welstead of the 82nd, entering one of the enemy’s camps captured a
field-piece; he was unable to bring it off in face of the French
reserves, yet the latter were drawn by the skirmish under the fire
of the ships, of the island, and of the town, whereby they suffered
severely and with difficulty recovered the captured piece.

In the night of the 22nd the anticipations of the British engineer were
realized. The enemy broke ground five hundred yards from the eastern
front, and worked assiduously until the 26th, under a destructive fire,
replying principally with wall-pieces, which would have done much
mischief if the garrison had not been copiously supplied with sand-bags.

On the 23rd the ships were driven off in a gale; on the 29th the French
guns opened against the town and their howitzers against the island;
the piece at the Gusmans was dismounted, yet quickly re-established;
but the ramparts came down by flakes, and in a few hours opened a
wide breach a little to the English right of the portcullis tower.
Skerrett then proposed to abandon the place, and though strenuously
opposed by Major King and the engineer Smith, he would have done so, if
General Campbell, hearing of this intention, had not called away the
transports. Tarifa was indeed open to assault and escalade. But behind
the breach the depth to the street was fourteen feet, and Smith had
covered the ground below with iron gratings, having every second bar
turned up; the houses were also prepared and garrisoned, and the troops
well disposed on the ramparts, each regiment having its own quarter.
The breach was held by the 87th under Colonel Gough.[22] On his left
were some riflemen: on his right some Spaniards should have been, yet
were not, and two companies of the 47th took their place.

In the night of the 29th the enemy fired salvos of grape, but the
besieged cleared the foot of the breach between the discharges.

The 30th the breaching fire was renewed, and the wall, broken for
sixty feet, offered an easy ascent; yet the besieged again removed the
rubbish, and in the night were augmenting the defences, when, flooded
by rain, the torrent brought down from the French camp a mass of
planks, fascines, gabions, and dead bodies, which broke the palisades,
bent the portcullis back, and with the surge of waters injured the
defences behind: a new passage was thus opened in the wall, yet the
damage was repaired before morning, and the troops confidently awaited
the assault.

In the night the torrent subsided as quickly as it had risen, and at
daylight a living stream of French grenadiers gliding swiftly down its
bed, as if assured of victory, arrived without shout or tumult within
a few yards of the walls; but then, instead of quitting the hollow to
reach the breach, they dashed like the torrent of the night against
the portcullis. The 87th, previously silent and observant, as if at a
spectacle, now arose and with a shout and a crashing volley smote the
head of the French column; the leading officer, covered with wounds,
fell against the portcullis grate and gave up his sword through the
bars to Colonel Gough: the French drummer, a gallant boy, while beating
the charge dropped lifeless by his officer’s side, and the dead and
wounded filled the hollow. The survivors breaking out right and left,
and spreading along the slopes of ground under the ramparts, opened an
irregular musketry, and at the same time men from the trenches leaped
into pits digged in front and shot fast; but no diversion at other
points was made and the storming column was dreadfully shattered. The
ramparts streamed fire, and a field-piece sent a tempest of grape
whistling through the French ranks in such a dreadful manner that,
unable to endure the torment, they plunged once more into the hollow
and regained their camp, while a shout of victory mingled with the
sound of musical instruments passed round the wall of the town.

The allies had five officers wounded, and thirty-one men killed or
hurt; the French dead covered the slopes in front of the rampart,
and choked the bed of the river: ten wounded officers, of whom
only one survived, were brought in by the breach, and Skerrett,
compassionating the sufferings of the others, and admiring their
bravery, permitted Laval to fetch them off. The siege was then
suspended, for the rain had partially ruined the French batteries,
interrupted their communications, and stopped their supplies; and the
torrent, again swelling, broke the stockades of the allies and injured
their retrenchments: some vessels also, coming from Gibraltar with
ammunition, were wrecked on the coast. Nevertheless a fresh assault
was expected until the night of the 4th, when frequent firing in the
French camp without any bullets reaching the town, indicated that the
enemy were destroying guns previous to retreating. Hence, at daylight
the besieged, issuing from the convent, commenced a skirmish with the
rear-guard, but were impeded by a heavy storm and returned, after
making a few prisoners. Laval’s misfortunes did not end there. His
troops had contracted sickness, many deserted, and it was computed the
expedition cost him a thousand men, while the allies lost only one
hundred and fifty, and but one officer, Longley of the engineers, was

Such is the simple tale of Tarifa, yet the true history of its defence
cannot there be found. Colonel Skerrett obtained the credit, but he
and Lord Proby, second in command, always wished to abandon both town
and island. It was the engineer Smith’s vigour and capacity which
overmatched the enemy’s strength without, and the weakness of those
commanders within, repressing despondency where he failed to excite
confidence. Next in merit was the artillery captain, Mitchel, a noble
soldier who has since perished in the Syrian campaign against Ibrahim
Pasha: his talent and energy at Tarifa were conspicuous.


Lord Wellington, unable to maintain the blockade of Rodrigo, had
withdrawn behind the Coa in November and widely spread his army
for provisions; but the year 1812 opened favourably for his views.
Napoleon, then preparing for his gigantic invasion of Russia, had
recalled from Spain many old officers and sixty thousand of the best
soldiers, including all the Imperial Guards. The _Army of the North_,
thus reduced, was ordered to quarter about Burgos, while the _Army of
Portugal_, leaving troops to guard Almaraz, moved across the Gredos
mountains into the Salamanca country. It had been reinforced with
eighteen thousand men, but was spread for subsistence from Salamanca
to the Asturias on one side, and to the valley of the Tagus and Toledo
on the other; Montbrun also had been detached from it to Valencia. The
_Army of the Centre_ was in a state of great disorder, and the king and
Marmont were at open discord. In this state of affairs, seeing that
Ciudad Rodrigo was weakly guarded, that Marmont, deceived by previous
combination, had no suspicion of a siege, that Soult’s attention
was fixed on Tarifa; seeing in fine that opportunity was ripe, Lord
Wellington leaped with both feet on Ciudad Rodrigo.

Thirty-five thousand men, cavalry included, were disposable for this
siege, the materials for which were placed in villages on the left
of the Azava river, and the ammunition in Almeida, where seventy
pieces of ordnance had been secretly collected. Hired carts and mules
were employed to bring up the stores, but for the guns the means of
transport were so scanty that only thirty-eight could be brought to the
trenches. A bridge was laid down on the Agueda, six miles below the
fortress, on the 1st of January, and the investment was designed for
the 6th, but the native carters took two days to travel ten miles of
good road with empty carts, and it could not be made before the 8th: to
find fault with them was dangerous, as they deserted on the slightest

Rodrigo was on high ground overhanging the right bank of the Agueda; an
old rampart thirty feet high, nearly circular and flanked with a few
projections, formed the body of the fortress; a second bulwark, called
a _Fausse-braye_, with a ditch and covered way, enclosed this rampart,
yet was placed so low on the descent, as to give little cover to the
main wall.

Beyond the walls, on the side farthest from the river, the suburb
of Francisco was intrenched, and within it two large convents were
fortified; the convent of Santa Cruz on the opposite side, near the
river, was fortified as another outwork; and nearly between those
points was an isolated ridge called the Little Teson, of less elevation
than the place but only one hundred and fifty yards distant.

Behind the Little Teson and parallel to it, was another ridge called
the Great Teson, which at six hundred yards overlooked the lesser one,
and saw over it to the bottom of the ditch.

In the centre of the large Teson, on the edge towards the town, was an
enclosed and palisadoed redoubt called Francisco, which was supported
by the fire of two guns and a howitzer, placed on the flat roof of a
convent in the fortified suburb. An old castle, forming part of the
walls, gave access to the bridge at pistol-shot distance, but was of
little value in defence.

On the side of the Tesons the ground was rocky, the front of the place
better covered with outworks, and more fire could be directed on the
trenches; yet that line of attack was adopted with reason, because
elsewhere the batteries must have been constructed on the edge of the
counterscarp to see low enough for breaching; whereas the lesser Teson
would enable them to strike over the glacis, and a deep gully near the
latter offered cover for the miner. It was therefore resolved to storm
Fort Francisco, form a lodgement there, open the first parallel along
the greater Teson, place thirty-three pieces in counter-batteries, ruin
the defences and drive the besieged from the convent of Francisco;
then, working forward by the sap, breaching batteries were to be raised
on the lesser Teson and the counterscarp blowed in, while seven guns
demolished a weak turret on the left, and opened a second breach to
turn retrenchments behind the principal one. Previous to breaking
ground, Carlos España and Julian Sanchez were pushed to the Tormes,
and then four British divisions and Pack’s Portuguese commenced the
siege; but as neither fuel nor cover were to be had on that side of
the Agueda, the troops kept their quarters on the hither bank, cooking
their provisions there and fording the river each day in severe frost
and snow. Eight hundred carts drawn by horses had been constructed
by the artificers, and were now the surest means for bringing up
ammunition; but so many delays were anticipated from the irregularity
of the native carters and muleteers, and the chances of weather, that
Wellington calculated upon an operation of twenty-four days. He hoped
to steal that time from his adversaries, yet knew, if he failed, the
clash of arms would draw their scattered troops to this quarter as
tinkling bells draw swarming bees: and to make them thus gather and
consume their magazines was an essential part of his warfare.

On the 8th of January the light division and Pack’s Portuguese forded
the Agueda, three miles above the fortress, and took post beyond the
great Teson, where they remained quiet, and as there was no regular
investment the enemy did not think the siege was commenced. But in
the evening the troops stood to their arms, and Colonel Colborne, now
commanding the 52nd, taking two companies from each regiment of the
light division stormed the redoubt of Francisco. This he did with
so much fury that the assailants appeared to be at one and the same
time in the ditch, mounting the parapets, fighting on the top of the
rampart, and forcing the gorge of the redoubt, where the explosion of
a French shell had burst the gate open. Of the defenders, a few were
killed and forty made prisoners. The post being thus taken with a loss
of only twenty-four men and officers, a lodgement was begun on the
right, because the fort was instantly covered with shot and shells from
the town. This tempest continued through the night, yet at daybreak the
parallel, six hundred yards in length, was sunk three feet deep, four
wide, and a communication over the Teson was completed: thus the siege
gained several days by this well-managed assault.

On the 9th the first division took the trenches, and the place was
encircled by posts to prevent any external communication. In the night
twelve hundred workmen commenced three counter-batteries for eleven
guns each, under a heavy fire of shells and grape; before daylight the
labourers obtained cover, and a ditch was sunk in front to provide
earth for the batteries, which were made eighteen feet thick at top to
resist the powerful artillery of the place.

On the 10th the fourth division relieved the trenches, and a
thousand men laboured, yet in great peril, for the besieged had a
superabundance of ammunition and did not spare it. In the night a
communication from the parallel to the batteries was opened, and on the
11th the third division undertook the siege.

This day the magazines in the batteries were excavated and the
approaches widened; but the enemy’s fire was destructive, and shells
fell so on the ditch in front of the batteries that the troops were
withdrawn, and earth raised from the inside. Great damage was also
sustained from salvos of shells with long fuzes, whose simultaneous
explosion cut away the parapets in a strange manner, and in the night a
howitzer from the garden of the Francisco convent killed many men.

On the 12th the light division resumed work, and the riflemen during
a thick fog digged pits for themselves in front of the trenches, from
whence they picked off the enemy’s gunners; yet the weather was so
cold and the besieged shot so briskly little progress was made. The
13th, the same causes impeded the labourers of the first division.
The scarcity of transport also baulked the operations, for one third
only of the native carts arrived, the drivers were very indolent,
most of the twenty-four pound ammunition was still at Villa de Ponte,
and intelligence arrived that Marmont was preparing to succour the
place. Wellington, thus pressed, decided to open a breach with his
counter-batteries, which were only six hundred yards from the curtain,
and then storm without blowing in the counterscarp: in other words,
to overstep the rules of science and sacrifice life rather than time,
for the capricious Agueda might in one night flood and enable a small
French force to relieve the place.

The whole army was now brought up and posted in villages on the Coa,
ready to cross the Agueda and give battle. Hill also sent a division
across the Tagus, lest Marmont, despairing to save Rodrigo, should fall
on the communications by Castello Branco and Villa Velha.

In the night of the 13th the batteries were armed with twenty-eight
guns, the approaches were continued by the flying sap, and the Santa
Cruz convent was surprised by the Germans of the first division, which
secured the right flank of the trenches.

On the 14th the enemy, who had observed that the men in the trenches,
when relieved, went off in a disorderly manner, made a sally and
overturned the gabions of the sap; they even penetrated to the
parallel, and were upon the point of entering the batteries, when a
few workmen getting together checked them until a support arrived.
The guns were thus saved, but this sally, the death of the engineer
on duty, and the heavy fire from the town, delayed the opening of
the breaching-batteries. However, at half-past four in the evening
twenty-five heavy guns battered the fausse-braye and ramparts, while
two pieces smote the convent of Francisco. Then was beheld a spectacle
fearful and sublime. For the French replied with more than fifty
pieces, and the bellowing of eighty large guns shook the ground far
and wide; the smoke rested in heavy volumes upon the battlements of
the place, or curled in light wreaths about the numerous spires, and
the shells hissing through the air seemed fiery serpents leaping from
the darkness; the walls crashed to the stroke of the bullet, and the
distant mountains, faintly returning the sound, appeared to moan over
the falling city. When night put an end to this turmoil, the quick
clatter of musketry was heard like the pattering of hail after a peal
of thunder, for the 40th Regiment assaulted and carried the convent
of Francisco, and established itself in the suburb on the left of the

Next day the ramparts were again battered, and fell so fast it was
judged expedient to commence the small breach, wherefore in the night
five more guns were mounted. The 16th, at daylight, the batteries
recommenced, but at eight o’clock a thick fog compelled them to desist;
nevertheless the small breach was open and the place was summoned, yet
without effect. At night the parallel on the Lower Teson was extended,
a sharp musketry was directed against the great breach, and the
riflemen of the light division, from their pits, picked off the enemy’s

The 17th the fire on both sides was heavy and the wall was beaten down
in large cantles; but several of the besiegers’ guns were dismounted,
their batteries injured, many men killed, the general of artillery
wounded, and the sap entirely ruined. The riflemen in the pits were
overpowered with grape, yet towards evening recovered the upper hand;
the French could then only fire from distant embrasures, and in the
night a new battery against the lesser breach was armed, and that on
the Lower Teson was raised to afford more cover.

On the 18th, the besiegers’ fire being resumed with great violence,
a turret was shaken at the small breach, and the large breach became
practicable in the middle; the enemy commenced retrenching it and the
sap made no progress, the engineer was badly wounded, and a twenty-four
pounder, bursting, killed several men. In the night the battery on the
Lower Teson was improved, and a field-piece and howitzer from thence
played on the great breach to destroy the retrenchments.

On the 19th both breaches became practicable, the assault was ordered,
the battering-guns were turned against the artillery of the ramparts,
and the order of attack terminated with these remarkable words,
“_Ciudad Rodrigo must be stormed this evening_.”--“_We will do it_,”
was the soldiers’ comment.

For the storm the third and light divisions and Pack’s Portuguese were
organized in four parts.

1°. _Right attack._ On the extreme right, troops posted in some houses
beyond the bridge were to cross the river and escalade an outwork
in front of the castle, where there was no ditch, but where two
guns commanded the junction of the counterscarp. On their left, two
regiments, assembled behind the convent of Santa Cruz with a third in
reserve, were to enter the ditch at the extremity of the counterscarp,
escalade the fausse-braye, and scour it on their left as far as the
great breach.

2°. _Great breach._ One hundred and eighty men carrying hay-bags were
to move out of the second parallel, followed by a storming party, and
supported by Mackinnon’s brigade of the third division.

3°. _Left attack._ The light division, assembled behind the convent of
Francisco, was to send three rifle companies to scour the fausse-braye
on the right. At the same time a storming party, preceded by men
carrying hay-sacks and followed by the division, was to assault the
small breach, detaching men, when the fausse-braye should be passed,
to their right to assist the main assault, to the left to force a
passage at the Salamanca gate.

4°. _False attack._ An escalade, to be attempted by Pack’s Portuguese
at the opposite side of the town.

The right attack was conducted by Colonel O’Toole. Five hundred
volunteers under Major Manners, with a forlorn hope under Lieut.
Mackie, composed the storming party of the third division. Three
hundred volunteers led by Major George Napier,[23] with a forlorn hope
under Lieutenant Gurwood, composed the storming party of the light

The deserters, of which there were many, had told the governor the
light division was come out of its turn, and it must be to storm, yet
he took no heed, and all the troops reached their posts without seeming
to attract attention; but before the signal was given, and while
Wellington, who in person had pointed out the lesser breach to Major
Napier, was still on the ground, the attack at the right commenced,
and was instantly taken up along the whole line. The space between
the trenches and the ditch was then suddenly covered with soldiers
and ravaged by a tempest of grape from the ramparts; for though the
storming parties in the centre jumped out of the parallel when the
first shout arose, so rapid were the troops on their right, that before
they could reach the ditch, Ridge, Dunkin, and Campbell, with the 5th,
77th, and 94th Regiments, had already scoured the fausse-braye, and
pushed up the great breach amidst bursting shells, the whistling of
grape and musketry, and the shrill cries of the French, who were driven
fighting behind the inner retrenchments. There they rallied, and, aided
by musketry from the houses, made hard battle for their post; none
would go back on either side; yet the British could not get forward,
and the bodies of men and officers, falling in heaps, choked up the
passage, which from minute to minute was raked with grape, from two
guns flanking the breach, at the distance of a few yards; yet striving
and trampling alike upon dead and wounded these brave men maintained
the combat.

Meanwhile the stormers of the light division, who had three hundred
yards of ground to clear, would not wait for the hay-bags, and with
extraordinary swiftness running to the crest of the glacis jumped down
the scarp, a depth of eleven feet, and rushed up the fausse-braye
under a smashing discharge of grape and musketry. The ditch was dark
and intricate, and the forlorn hope inclined to the left while the
stormers went straight to the breach, which was so narrow at top that
a gun placed across nearly barred the opening; then the forlorn hope
rejoined, and the whole rushed up, yet the head, forcibly contracted
as the ascent narrowed, staggered under the fire. With the instinct of
self-preservation the men snapped their muskets though they had not
been allowed to load, and Napier, his arm shattered by a grape-shot,
went down, but in falling called aloud to use the bayonet, while the
unwounded officers instantly and simultaneously sprung to the front:
the impulse of victory was thus given and with a furious shout the
breach was carried. The supporting regiments, coming up abreast,
then gained the rampart, the 52nd wheeled to the left, the 43rd to
the right, and the place was won. During this contest, which lasted
about ten minutes, the fighting at the great breach was unabated:
but when the stormers and the 43rd poured along the rampart towards
that quarter, the French wavered, three of their expense magazines
exploded, and the third division with a mighty effort broke through the
retrenchments: the garrison still fought awhile in the streets indeed,
but finally fled to the castle, where the governor surrendered.

Now plunging into the town from all quarters, and throwing off all
discipline, the troops committed frightful excesses; houses were soon
in flames, the soldiers menaced their officers and shot each other,
intoxication increased the tumult to absolute madness, and a fire
being wilfully lighted in the middle of the great magazine, the town
would have been blown to atoms but for the energetic coolness of
some officers and a few soldiers who still preserved their senses.
To excuse these excesses it was said, “the soldiers were not to be
controlled.” Colonel M^cLeod of the 43rd, a young man of a noble and
energetic spirit, proved the contrary. He placed guards at the breach
and constrained his men to keep their ranks for a long time, but as no
organized efforts were made by higher authorities, and the example was
not followed, the regiment dissolved by degrees in the general disorder.

Three hundred French fell, fifteen hundred were made prisoners, and
immense stores of ammunition with a hundred and fifty pieces of
artillery, including the battering-train of Marmont’s army, were
captured. The loss of the allies was twelve hundred soldiers and
ninety officers, of which six hundred and fifty men and sixty officers
had been slain or hurt at the breaches. General Craufurd and General
Mackinnon, the former a person of great ability, were killed, and with
them died many gallant men; amongst others a captain of the 45th, of
whom it has been felicitously said, that “three generals and seventy
other officers had fallen, yet the soldiers fresh from the strife only
talked of Hardyman.” General Vandeleur, commanding the light division
after Craufurd fell, was badly wounded; so was Colonel Colborne, with
a crowd of inferior rank; and unhappily the slaughter did not end with
the storm; for as the prisoners and their escort were marching out by
the breach, an accidental explosion killed numbers of both.

This siege lasted only twelve days, half the time originally
calculated, yet from the inexperience of engineers and soldiers, and
the extraordinarily heavy fire of the place, the works were rather
slowly executed. The cold also impeded the labourers, yet with less
severe frost the trenches would have been overflowed, because in open
weather the water rises everywhere to within six inches of the surface.
The greatest impediment was the badness of the cutting tools furnished
from the storekeeper-general’s office in England; the profits of the
contractor seemed to be the only thing respected: the engineers eagerly
sought for French cutlery, because the English was useless!

Marmont heard of the siege the 15th and made great efforts to collect
his forces at Salamanca. The 26th he heard of its fall and retired to
Valladolid, thus harassing his men by winter marches. Had he remained
between Salamanca and Rodrigo with strong advanced guards he would have
recovered the place; for on the 28th the Agueda flooded two feet over
the stone bridge, and carried away the allies’ trestle-bridge. The army
was then on the left bank, the breaches not closed, and no resistance
could be offered. The greatest captains are the very slaves of fortune.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Ciudad Rodrigo fell, Wellington’s eyes were turned towards
Badajos. He desired to invest it again early in March, because the
flooding of the rivers in Beira, from the periodical rains, would then
render a French incursion into Portugal difficult, enable him to carry
nearly all his forces to the siege, and impede the junction of Soult
and Marmont in Estremadura. Many obstacles arose, some military, some
political, some from the perverseness of coadjutors and the errors of
subordinates; yet on the 5th of March the troops were well on their
way towards the Tagus, and then the English general, who had remained
on the Coa to the last moment that he might not awaken the enemy’s
suspicions, gave up Rodrigo to Castaños and departed for Elvas.

Victor Alten’s cavalry was left on the Yeltes in advance of the
Agueda to mask the movements, but Marmont was unable to measure his
adversary’s talent or fathom his designs. He had again spread his army
far and wide, appeared to expect no further winter operations, and
having lost all his secret friends and emissaries at Ciudad Rodrigo,
where they had been discovered and put to death by Carlos España, with
an overstrained severity that gave general disgust, knew nothing of the
allies’ march to the Tagus. On the other hand the projected siege was,
by the incredibly vexatious conduct of the Portuguese Regency, delayed
ten days, and thrown into the violent equinoctial rains, which greatly
augmented the difficulties. It was in vain Wellington threatened,
remonstrated and wasted his mental powers to devise remedies for those
evils, and to impart energy and good faith to that extraordinary
government. Insolent anger, falsehood or stolid indifference in all
functionaries, from the highest to the lowest, met him at every turn,
and the responsibility even in small matters became too onerous for
subordinate officers; he was compelled to arrange every detail of
service himself with the native authorities. His iron strength of body
and mind were thus strained until all men wondered how they resisted,
and indeed he did fall sick, but recovered after a few days.

On the 15th of March pontoons were laid over the Guadiana four miles
from Elvas, where the current was dull, and two large Spanish boats
being arranged as flying-bridges, Beresford crossed that river on the
16th to invest Badajos with fifteen thousand men.

Soult was then before Cadiz, but Drouet and Daricau were with ten
thousand men in Estremadura; wherefore General Graham marched with
three divisions of infantry and two brigades of cavalry upon Llerena,
while Hill moved by Merida upon Almendralejos. These covering corps
were together thirty thousand strong, five thousand being cavalry, and
the whole army presented fifty-one thousand sabres and bayonets, of
which twenty thousand were Portuguese. Castaños had gone to Gallicia,
and the fifth Spanish army, under Morillo and Penne Villemur, four
thousand strong, passed down the Portuguese frontier to the Lower
Guadiana, intending to fall on Seville when Soult should march to
succour Badajos.

As the allies advanced, Drouet moved by his right towards Medellin, to
maintain the communication with Marmont by Truxillo. Hill and Graham
then halted, the latter at Zafra, having Slade’s cavalry in front.
Marmont meanwhile recalled his sixth division from Talavera to Castile,
and four other divisions and his cavalry, quartered at Toledo, marched
over the Guadarama towards Valladolid.

It was therefore manifest that he would not act this time in
conjunction with Soult.


Badajos stands between the Rivillas, a small stream, and the Guadiana,
a noble river five hundred yards broad. From the angle formed by
their confluence the town spread out like a fan, having eight regular
bastions and curtains, with good counterscarps, covered way, and glacis.

At the meeting of the rivers, the Rivillas being there for a short
distance deep and wide, was a rock one hundred feet high, crowned
with an old castle, the ascent to which was not steep. This was the
extreme point of defence on the enemy’s left, and from thence to the
Trinidad bastion, terminating this the eastern front of resistance, an
inundation protected the ramparts, one short interval excepted, which
was defended by an outwork, beyond the stream, called the cunette of
San Roque.

On the enemy’s right of San Roque, also beyond the Rivillas and four
hundred yards from the walls, another outwork called the Picurina was
constructed on an isolated hill, about the same distance from San Roque
as the latter was from the castle. These two outworks had a covered
communication with each other, and the San Roque had one with the town,
but the inundation cut the Picurina off from the latter, and it was an
inclosed and palisadoed work.

The southern front, the longest, was protected in the centre by a
crown-work, constructed on the lofty Sierra de Viento, the end of
which, at only two hundred yards, overlooked the walls. The remainder
of that front and the western front had no outworks.

On the right bank of the Guadiana there were no houses, but the
twice-besieged fort of San Christoval, three hundred feet square, stood
there on a rocky height, and from its superior elevation looked into
the castle, which was exactly opposite to it and consequently but five
hundred yards distant. This fort also commanded the works heading the
stone bridge, a quarter of a mile below stream.

Phillipon’s garrison, nearly five thousand strong, was composed of
French and Hessian, and some Spanish troops in Joseph’s service. He had
since the last siege made himself felt in every direction, scouring
the country, defeating small guerilla bands, carrying off cattle
almost from under the guns of Elvas and Campo Mayor, and pushing his
spies to Ciudad Rodrigo, Lisbon, and even to Ayamonte, by which he
gained a knowledge of the forces, material and personal, combined
against his fortress, and prepared accordingly. He had formed an
interior retrenchment at the castle, and mounted more guns there; he
had strengthened San Christoval on the side before attacked, and made
a covered communication to the bridge-head; he had constructed two
ravelins on the south front, and commenced a third with counterguards
for the bastions. At the eastern front he had dug a _cunette_ at the
bottom of the great ditch, which was in some parts filled with water.
The gorge of the Pardaleras was enclosed and connected with the body of
the place, from whence it was overlooked by powerful batteries; the
glacis of the western front was mined, and the arch of a bridge behind
the San Roque was built up to cause the inundation. The inhabitants
had been compelled to store food for three months, and provisions and
ammunition had come in on the 10th and 16th of February, yet the supply
of powder was inadequate, and there were not many shells.

Lord Wellington desired to assail the western front, but the engineer
had not mortars, miners, or guns enough, or the means of bringing
up stores for that attack: indeed the want of transport had again
compelled the drawing of stores from Elvas, to the manifest hazard of
that fortress. Hence, here, as at Ciudad Rodrigo, time was paid for
with the loss of life, and the crimes of politicians were atoned by the
blood of soldiers.

It was finally agreed to attack the bastion of Trinidad, because the
counterguard there was unfinished, and the bastion could be battered
from the Picurina. The first parallel was therefore to embrace that
fort, the San Roque and the eastern front, so as to enable the
counter-batteries to destroy the armaments of the southern fronts,
which bore against the Picurina hill. The Picurina was to be stormed,
and from thence the Trinidad and the next bastion, called the Santa
Maria, were to be breached. The guns were then to be turned against the
connecting curtain, known to be of weak masonry, and to open a third
breach, whereby a storming party might turn any retrenchments behind
the other breaches. In this way the inundation could be avoided. A
French deserter declared, and truly, that the ditch was eighteen feet
deep at the Trinidad, yet Wellington was so confident that he resolved
to storm the place there without blowing in the counterscarp.

The battering train was of fifty-two pieces, including sixteen
twenty-four-pound howitzers for throwing Shrapnel-shells; but this
species of missile, much talked of at the time, was little prized by
Lord Wellington, who had detected its insufficiency, save with large
guns and as a common shell; and partly to avoid expense, partly from a
dislike to injure the inhabitants, neither in this, nor in any former
siege did he use mortars. Here indeed he could not have brought them
up, for the peasantry, and even the ordenança, employed to move the
battering train, although well paid, deserted. Of nine hundred gunners
present three hundred were British, the rest Portuguese; there were
one hundred and fifty sappers, volunteers from the third division,
unskilled, yet of signal bravery.

The engineer’s park was established behind the heights of St. Michael
which faced the Picurina, and in the night of the 17th, eighteen
hundred men broke ground one hundred and sixty yards from that fort.
A tempest stifled the sound of the pickaxes, and a communication four
thousand feet long, with a parallel of six hundred yards, three feet
deep and three feet six inches wide, was opened without hindrance;
but when day broke the fort was reinforced, and a sharp musketry,
interspersed with discharges from some field-pieces and aided by heavy
guns from the body of the place, was directed on the trenches.

In the night of the 18th two batteries were traced, the parallel
prolonged, and the previous works improved; but the garrison raised
the parapets of the Picurina, lined the top of the covered way with
sand-bags, and planted musketeers to gall the men in the trenches.

The 19th, secret notice of a sally being received, the guards were
reinforced; nevertheless, at one o’clock some cavalry came out by the
Talavera gate, and thirteen hundred infantry under General Vielland,
second in command, filed unobserved into the communication between the
Picurina and San Roque; one hundred men were also ready in the former,
and all these troops, jumping out at once, drove the workmen off and
began to demolish the parallel. Previous to this outbreak the French
cavalry had commenced a sham fight on the right of the trenches, and
the smaller party, pretending to fly toward the besiegers, answered
Portuguese to the challenge of the picquets and were allowed to pass.
Elated by their stratagem, they galloped to the engineer’s park, a
thousand yards in rear, where they killed some men before succour came;
meanwhile the troops at the parallel rallied on the relief and beat the
infantry back along the front of the ramparts even to the castle.

In this fight the besieged lost three hundred men and officers, the
besiegers one hundred and fifty; but the chief engineer, Fletcher, was
badly wounded, and several hundred intrenching tools were carried off;
Phillipon had promised a high price for each, which turned out ill,
because the soldiers, instead of pursuing briskly, dispersed to gather
the tools. After the action a squadron of dragoons and six field-pieces
were placed behind the St. Michael ridge, and a signal-post was
established on the lofty Sierra de Viento, to give notice of the
enemy’s motions.

The weather continued wet and boisterous, making the labour very
severe, yet in the night of the 19th the parallel was opened on its
whole length; the 20th it was enlarged, and though the rain, flooding
the trenches, greatly impeded progress, the work was extended to the
left. Three counter-batteries were then commenced in its rear, because
the ground was too soft in front to sustain the guns, and the San Roque
was within three hundred yards; hence, the parallel, eighteen hundred
yards long, being only guarded by fourteen hundred men, a few bold
soldiers might by a sudden rush have spiked the guns in front of the

A slight sally was this day repulsed, and a shoulder was given to the
right of the parallel to cover that flank; in good time, for next day
two field-pieces placed on the right bank of the Guadiana, tried to
rake the trenches and were baffled by this shoulder. Indications of a
similar design against the left flank, from the Pardaleras hill, were
then observed, and three hundred men with two guns were posted on that
side in some broken ground.

In the night, though the works went on, rain again impeded progress,
and the besiegers, failing to drain the lower parts of the parallel by
cuts, made an artificial bottom of sand-bags. On the other hand the
besieged, thinking the curtain adjoining the castle was the object of
attack, threw up earth in front and removed the houses behind; they
also made a covered communication from the Trinidad gate to the San
Roque, to take this supposed attack in reverse; and as the labour of
digging was great, hung up brown cloth which appeared like earth, by
which ingenious expedient they passed unseen between those points.

Vauban’s maxim, that a perfect investment is the first requisite in
a siege, had been neglected to spare labour, yet the great master’s
art was soon vindicated by his countryman. Phillipon, finding the
right bank of the Guadiana free, made a battery in the night for three
field-pieces, which at daylight raked the trenches, the shots sweeping
the parallel destructively; the loss was great and would have been
greater but for the soft ground, which prevented the touch and bound
of the bullets. Orders were therefore sent to the fifth division,
then at Campo Mayor, to invest the place on the other bank, but those
troops were distant and misfortunes accumulated. Heavy rain filled the
trenches, the Guadiana run the fixed bridge under water, sunk twelve
pontoons, and broke the tackle of the flying bridges; the provisions of
the army could not be brought over, the battering-guns and ammunition
were still on the right bank, and the siege was on the point of being
raised. In a few days however the river subsided, some Portuguese craft
were brought up to form another flying bridge, the pontoons saved were
employed as row-boats, and the communication thus secured for the rest
of the siege.

On the 23rd rain again filled the trenches, the works crumbled and the
attack was entirely suspended. Next day the fifth division invested
the place on the right bank, the weather cleared, and the batteries,
armed with twenty-one guns and seven five-and-a-half-inch howitzers,
opened on the 25th, but were so vigorously answered, that one howitzer
was dismounted, and several artillery and engineer officers killed.
Nevertheless the San Roque was silenced, the garrison of the Picurina
so galled by marksmen that none dared look over the parapet, and as the
external appearance of that fort did not indicate much strength General
Kempt was charged to assault it in the night.

This outward seeming of the Picurina was fallacious; it was very
strong. The fronts were well covered by the glacis, the flanks deep,
the rampart, fourteen feet perpendicular from the bottom of the ditch,
was guarded with slanting pales above, and from thence to the top was
an earthen slope of sixteen feet. A few palings had been knocked off at
the covered way, and the parapet, slightly damaged, was repaired with
sand-bags, but the ditch was deep, narrow at the bottom, and flanked by
four splinter-proof casemates. Seven guns were mounted. The entrance in
the rear was protected with three rows of thick paling, the garrison
was above two hundred strong, and every man had two muskets; the top of
the rampart was garnished with loaded shells, a retrenched guard-house
formed a second internal defence, and small mines, with a loopholed
gallery under the counterscarp to take the assailants in rear, were
begun but not finished.

Five hundred men of the third division assembled for the attack.
Two hundred under Major Rudd were to turn the fort on the left, an
equal force under Major Shaw to turn it by the right, each being to
detach half their force to seize the communication with San Roque and
intercept succour coming from the town. The remainder were to attack
Picurina by the gorge, leaving one hundred under Captain Powis as a
reserve. The engineers, Holloway, Stanway, and Gipps, with twenty-four
sappers bearing hatchets and ladders, guided these columns, and fifty
men of the light division, likewise provided with axes, were to move
out of the trenches at the moment of attack.


The night was fine and the stormers quickly reached the fort, which,
black and silent before, then seemed a mass of fire, under which the
stormers run up to the palisades in rear and endeavoured to break
through; the destructive musketry and thickness of the pales rendered
their efforts nugatory, wherefore, turning against the sides of the
work they strove to get in there, but the depth of the ditch and the
slanting stakes at the top of the brickwork again baffled them. At this
time, the French shooting fast and dangerously, the crisis appeared so
imminent that Kempt sent the reserve headlong against the front. The
fight was thus supported and the carnage terrible. A battalion which
came from the town to succour the fort was beaten back by the men in
the communication, the guns from the town and castle then opened, the
guard of the trenches replied with musketry, rockets were thrown up
by the besieged, and the shrill sound of alarm-bells mixing with the
shouts of the combatants increased the tumult.

Still the Picurina sent out streams of fire, by the light of which
dark figures were seen furiously struggling on the ramparts; for Powis
had escaladed in front where the artillery had broken the pales; and
the other assailants, throwing their ladders in the manner of bridges
from the brink of the ditch to the slanting stakes thus passed, and all
were fighting hand to hand with the enemy. Meanwhile the axemen of the
light division, compassing the fort like prowling wolves, discovered
the gate, and hewing it down broke in by the rear. Nevertheless the
struggle continued. Powis, Holloway, Gipps, and Oates fell wounded on
or beyond the rampart, Nixon of the 52nd was shot two yards within the
gate, Shaw, Rudd, and nearly all the other officers of the 79th had
fallen outside, and it was not until half the garrison were killed,
that Gaspar Thiery, the commandant, surrendered with eighty-six men,
while others, not many, rushing out of the gate endeavoured to cross
the inundation and were drowned.

Phillipon had thought to delay the siege five or six days by the
resistance of Picurina, and one day later this would have happened;
for the mines and loop-holed gallery in the counterscarp would have
been completed, and the work was too well covered by the glacis to be
quickly ruined by fire. His calculations were baffled by this heroic
assault, which, lasting only an hour, cost four officers and fifty
men killed, fifteen officers and two hundred and fifty men wounded;
and so vehement was the fight throughout, that the garrison forgot or
had no time to roll over the shells and combustibles on the ramparts.
Phillipon did not conceal the danger accruing to Badajos from the loss
of the Picurina, but he stimulated his soldiers’ courage, by calling to
their recollection, how infinitely worse than death it was to be the
inmate of an English prison-hulk--an appeal which must have been deeply
felt, for the annals of civilized nations furnish nothing more inhuman
towards captives of war than the prison-ships of England.

When Picurina was taken three battalions advanced to secure it, and
though a great turmoil and firing from the town continued until
midnight, a lodgement in the works and communication with the first
parallel were established; the second parallel was also begun, but at
daylight the redoubt was overwhelmed with fire, no troops could remain
and the lodgement was destroyed. In the evening the sappers effected
another lodgement on the flanks, the second parallel was then opened in
its whole length, and next day the counter-batteries on the right of
Picurina exchanged a vigorous fire with the town.

In the night of the 27th three breaching-batteries were traced out. The
first, between the Picurina and the inundation, to breach the right
face of the Trinidad. The second, on the Picurina, to breach the Santa
Maria. The third, on a prolonged line of the front attacked, contained
three Shrapnel howitzers to scour the ditch and prevent the garrison
working in it; for Phillipon, having now discovered the true line of
attack, was raising the counterguard of the Trinidad and the imperfect
ravelin. At daybreak these works being well furnished with gabions and
sandbags were lined with musketeers, who severely galled the workmen
employed on the breaching-batteries, and the artillery practice was
brisk on both sides. Two of the besiegers’ guns were dismounted, the
gabions placed in front of the batteries to protect the workmen were
knocked over, and the musketry became so destructive the men were
withdrawn to throw up earth from the inside.

In the night of the 27th the second parallel was extended on the right,
to raise batteries against San Roque and the dam which held up the
inundation, and to breach the curtain behind: but the ground was hard,
the moon shone brightly, the labourers were quite exposed and the work
was relinquished.

On the 28th the screen of gabions before the batteries was restored,
the workmen resumed their labours outside and the parallel was
improved. The besieged then withdrew their guns from San Roque, yet
their marksmen still shot from thence with great exactness, and
the plunging fire from the castle dismounted two howitzers in one
of the counter-batteries. During the night the French observed the
tracing-string, marking the direction of the sap in front of San Roque,
and a daring fellow, creeping out before the workmen arrived, brought
it on the line of the castle fire, whereby some loss was sustained.

In the night the howitzer battery was re-armed with twenty-four
pounders to play on the San Roque, and a new breaching-battery was
traced on the site of the Picurina; the second parallel was extended by
sap, and a trench was digged for riflemen in front of the batteries.

The 29th a slight sally made on the right bank of the river was
repulsed by the Portuguese; but the sap at San Roque was ruined by the
enemy’s fire, and the besieged continued to raise the counterguard and
ravelin of the Trinidad, and to strengthen the front attacked. The
besiegers armed two batteries with eighteen-pounders, which opened next
day against Santa Maria, yet with little effect, and the explosion of
an expense magazine killed many men.

While the siege was thus proceeding, Soult, having little fear for
the town but designing a great battle, was carefully organizing a
powerful force to unite with Drouet and Daricau. Those generals had
endeavoured to hold the district of La Serena and keep open the
communication with Marmont by Medellin and Truxillo, but Graham and
Hill forced them into the Morena; and on the other side of the country
Morillo and Penne-Villemur descended to the Lower Guadiana, to fall
on Seville when Soult should advance. Nor were there wanting other
combinations to embarrass and delay that marshal. In February, a
Spanish army had assembled in the Ronda to fall on Seville from that
side also, which compelled Soult to send troops there, and fatally
delayed his march to Estremadura. Marmont was however concentrating his
army in the Salamanca country, and it was rumoured he meant to attack
Ciudad Rodrigo. This disquieted Wellington: for though Marmont had
no battering-train, the Spanish generals and engineers had neglected
the repairs of the place, and had not even brought up from St. Jão da
Pesqueira the provisions given to them from the British stores: the
fortress therefore had only thirty days’ supply, and Almeida was in as
bad a state.

On the 30th, it being known that Soult was advancing from Cordova,
the fifth division was brought over the Guadiana as a reserve to the
covering army, leaving a Portuguese brigade with some cavalry of the
same nation to maintain the investment on the right bank. The siege was
then urged on, forty-eight pieces of artillery being in constant play,
and the sap against San Roque advancing: the French fire was however
destructive, and their progress in strengthening the front attacked was

On the 1st of April the sap was pushed close to San Roque, the Trinidad
bastion crumbled under the stroke of the bullet, and the flank of
the Santa Maria, which was casemated, also began to yield. Next day
the face of the Trinidad was broken, but the Santa Maria casemates
being laid open the bullets were lost in their cavities, and Phillipon
commenced a retrenchment to cut off the whole of the attacked front
from the town.

In the night a new battery against San Roque being armed, two officers
with some sappers glided behind that outwork, gagged the sentinel,
placed powder-barrels and a match against the dam of the inundation
and retired undiscovered. The explosion did not destroy the dam, the
inundation remained and the sap made no progress, because of the
French musketeers; for though the besiegers’ marksmen slew many,
reinforcements were sent across the inundation by means of a raft with
parapets, and men also passed unseen behind the cloth communication,
from the Trinidad. But the crisis of the siege was now approaching
rapidly. The breaches were nearly practicable, Soult had effected
his junction with Drouet and Daricau; and Wellington, who had not
sufficient force to assault the place and give battle at the same time,
resolved to leave two divisions in the trenches and fight at Albuera.
In this view Graham fell back towards that place, and Hill, destroying
the bridge at Merida, marched to Talavera Real.

Time was now, as in war it always is, a great object, and the anxiety
on both sides redoubled. Soult was however still at Llerena when, the
breaches being declared practicable, the assault was ordered for that
evening, and Leith’s division recalled to the siege; yet a careful
personal examination caused Wellington to doubt, and he delayed the
storm, until a third breach, as originally projected, should be
formed in the curtain between Trinidad and Maria. This could not be
commenced before morning, and during the night the French workmen
laboured assiduously at their retrenchments, despite of the showers
of grape with which the batteries scoured the ditch and the breach.
On the 6th all the batteries were turned against the curtain, the bad
masonry crumbled rapidly away, in two hours a yawning breach appeared
and Wellington renewed his order for the assault. Eagerly then the
soldiers got ready for a combat, so fiercely fought, so terribly won,
so dreadful in all its circumstances, that posterity can scarcely be
expected to credit the tale: but many are still alive who know that it
is true.

Wellington spared Phillipon the affront of a summons, and seeing the
breach strongly intrenched, the flank fire still powerful, he would not
in that dread crisis trust his fortune to a single effort. Eighteen
thousand daring soldiers burned for the signal of attack, he was
unwilling to lose the service of any, and therefore to each division
gave a task such as few generals would have the hardihood even to

On the right, Picton’s division was to file out of the trenches, cross
the Rivillas, and scale the castle walls, from eighteen to twenty-four
feet high, furnished with all means of destruction, and so narrow at
top that the defenders could easily reach and as easily overturn the

On the left, Leith’s division was to make a false attack on the
Pardaleras, but a real assault on the distant bastion of San Vincente,
where the glacis was mined, the ditch deep, the scarp thirty feet high,
the parapet garnished with bold troops: Phillipon also, following his
old plan, had three loaded muskets placed beside each man that the
first fire might be quick and deadly.

In the centre, the fourth and light divisions, under Colville and
Andrew Barnard, were to march against the breaches. Furnished like the
third and fifth divisions with ladders and axes, they were preceded
by storming parties of five hundred men, having each their separate
forlorn hopes. The light division was to assault the Santa Maria,
the fourth division the Trinidad and the curtain, both columns being
divided into storming and firing parties, the former to enter the
ditch, the latter to keep the crest of the glacis.

Between these attacks, Major Wilson of the 48th was to storm the San
Roque with the guards of the trenches; and on the other side of the
Guadiana General Power was to make a feint at the bridge-head.

At first only one brigade of the third division was to have attacked
the castle, but just before the hour fixed, a sergeant of sappers
deserted from the enemy and told Wellington there was but one
communication from the castle to the town, whereupon he ordered the
whole division to advance.

Many nice arrangements filled up this outline, and some were followed,
some disregarded, for it is seldom all things are attended to in a
desperate fight. The enemy was not idle. While it was yet twilight
some French cavalry rode from the Pardaleras, under an officer who
endeavoured to look into the trenches with the view to ascertain if an
assault was intended, but the picquet there drove him and his escort
back into the works, darkness then fell and the troops awaited the

ASSAULT OF BADAJOS. (April, 1812.)

Dry but clouded was the night, the air was thick with watery
exhalations from the rivers, the ramparts and trenches unusually still;
yet a low murmur pervaded the latter, and in the former lights flitted
here and there, while the deep voices of the sentinels proclaimed
from time to time that all was well in Badajos. The French, confiding
in Phillipon’s direful skill, watched from their lofty station the
approach of enemies they had twice before baffled, and now hoped to
drive a third time blasted and ruined from the walls. The British,
standing in deep columns, were as eager to meet that fiery destruction
as the others were to pour it down, and either were alike terrible for
their strength, their discipline, and the passions awakened in their
resolute hearts.

Former failures there were to avenge on one side, and on both leaders
who furnished no excuse for weakness in the hour of trial; the
possession of Badajos was become a point of personal honour with the
soldiers of each nation; but the desire for glory on the British part
was dashed with a hatred of the citizens from an old grudge, and
recent toil and hardship, with much spilling of blood, had made many
incredibly savage: for these things, which render the noble-minded
averse to cruelty, harden the vulgar spirit. Numbers also, like Cæsar’s
centurion, who could not forget the plunder of Avaricum, were heated
with the recollection of Rodrigo and thirsted for spoil. Thus every
passion found a cause of excitement, while the wondrous power of
discipline bound the whole together as with a band of iron, and in the
pride of arms none doubted their might to bear down every obstacle that
man could oppose to their fury.

At ten o’clock, the castle, the San Roque, the breaches, the
Pardaleras, the distant bastion of San Vincente, and the bridge-head on
the other side of the Guadiana, were to be simultaneously assailed. It
was hoped the strength of the enemy would quickly shrivel within that
fiery girdle, but many are the disappointments of war. An unforeseen
accident delayed the attack of the fifth division, and a lighted
carcass, thrown from the castle, falling close to the third division,
exposed its columns and forced it to anticipate the signal by half an
hour. Thus everything was suddenly disturbed, yet the double columns of
the fourth and light divisions moved silently and swiftly against the
breaches, and the guard of the trenches, rushing forward with a shout,
encompassed the San Roque with fire and broke in so violently that
scarcely any resistance was made.

Soon however a sudden blaze of light and the rattling of musketry
indicated the commencement of a more vehement combat at the castle.
There Kempt, for Picton, hurt by a fall in the camp and expecting
no change in the hour, was not present; there Kempt, I say, led the
third division. Passing the Rivillas in single files by a narrow
bridge under a terrible musketry, he re-formed his men, and run up
the rugged hill with great fury, but only to fall at the foot of the
castle severely wounded. Being carried back to the trenches, he met
Picton at the bridge hastening to take the command, and meanwhile the
troops, spreading along the front, had reared their heavy ladders, some
against the lofty castle some against the adjoining front on the left,
and with incredible courage ascended amidst showers of heavy stones,
logs of wood, and bursting shells rolled off the parapet, while from
the flanks musketry was plied with fearful rapidity, and in front the
leading assailants were with pike and bayonet stabbed and the ladders
pushed from the walls: and all this was attended with deafening shouts,
the crash of breaking ladders, and the shrieks of crushed soldiers
answering to the sullen stroke of the falling weights.

Still swarming round the remaining ladders those undaunted veterans
strove who should first climb, until all were overturned, when the
French shouted victory, and the British, baffled, yet untamed, fell
back a few paces to take shelter under the rugged edge of the hill.
There the broken ranks were re-formed, and the heroic Colonel Ridge,
again springing forward, called with stentorian voice on his men to
follow, and seizing a ladder raised it against the castle to the right
of the former attack, where the wall was lower and where an embrasure
offered some facility: a second ladder was placed alongside by the
grenadier officer Canch, and the next instant he and Ridge were on the
rampart, the shouting troops pressed after them, and the garrison,
amazed and in a manner surprised, were driven fighting through the
double gate into the town: the castle was won. Soon a reinforcement
from the French reserve came to the gate, through which both sides
fired and the enemy retired; but Ridge fell, and no man died that night
with more glory--yet many died, and there was much glory.

All this time the tumult at the breaches was such as if the earth had
been rent asunder and its central fires bursting upwards uncontrolled.
The two divisions reached the glacis, just as the firing at the castle
had commenced, and the flash of a single musket, discharged from the
covered way as a signal, showed them the French were ready: yet no
stir followed, and darkness covered the breaches. Some hay-packs were
then thrown, some ladders placed, and the forlorn hopes and storming
parties of the light division, five hundred in all, descended into the
ditch without opposition: but then a bright flame, shooting upwards,
displayed all the terrors of the scene. The ramparts crowded with
dark figures and glittering arms were on one side, on the other the
red columns of the British, deep and broad, coming on like streams
of burning lava: it was the touch of the magician’s wand, a crash of
thunder followed, and the storming parties were dashed to pieces by the
explosion of hundreds of shells and powder-barrels.

For an instant the light division soldiers stood on the brink of the
ditch, amazed at the terrific sight, but then, with a shout that
matched even the sound of the explosion they flew down the ladders,
or, disdaining their aid, leaped, reckless of the depth, into the gulf
below; and nearly at the same moment, amidst a blaze of musketry that
dazzled the eyes, the fourth division came running in to descend with
a like fury. There were only five ladders for both columns, which were
close together, and the deep cut made in the bottom of the ditch, as
far as the counterguard of the Trinidad was filled with water from the
inundation: into this miry snare the head of the fourth division fell,
and it is said above a hundred of the fusileers, the men of Albuera,
were there smothered. Those who followed, checked not, but, as if the
disaster had been expected, turned to the left and thus came upon the
face of the unfinished ravelin, which, rough and broken, was mistaken
for the breach and instantly covered with men; a wide and deep chasm
was however still between them and the ramparts, from whence came a
deadly fire wasting their ranks. Thus baffled, they also commenced a
rapid discharge of musketry, and disorder ensued; for the men of the
light division, whose conducting engineer had been disabled early,
having their flank confined by an unfinished ditch, intended to cut off
the Santa Maria, rushed towards the breaches of the curtain and the
Trinidad, which were indeed before them, but which the fourth division
had been destined to storm.

Great was the confusion, the ravelin was crowded with men of both
divisions, and while some continued to fire, others jumped down and
run towards the breach; many also passed between the ravelin and the
counterguard of the Trinidad; the two divisions got mixed, and the
reserves, which should have remained at the quarries, also came pouring
in until the ditch was quite filled, the rear still crowding forward
and all cheering vehemently. The enemy’s shouts also were loud and
terrible, and the bursting of shells and of grenades, the roaring of
guns from the flanks, answered by the iron howitzers from the parallel,
the heavy roll and horrid explosion of the powder-barrels, the whizzing
flight of the blazing splinters, the loud exhortations of the officers,
and the continual clatter of the muskets made a maddening din.

Now a multitude bounded up the great breach as if driven by a
whirlwind: but across the top glittered a range of sword-blades,
sharp-pointed, keen-edged, immovably fixed in ponderous beams chained
together and set deep in the ruins; and for ten feet in front the
ascent was covered with loose planks studded with iron points, on which
the feet of the foremost being set the planks slipped, and the unhappy
soldiers falling forward on the spikes rolled down upon the ranks
behind. Then the Frenchmen, shouting at the success of their stratagem
and leaping forward, plied their shot with terrible rapidity, for every
man had several muskets, and each musket in addition to its ordinary
charge contained a small cylinder of wood stuck full of wooden slugs,
which scattered like hail when they were discharged.

Once and again the assailants rushed up the breaches, but the
sword-blades, immovable and impassable, always stopped the charge, and
the hissing shells and thundering powder-barrels exploded unceasingly.
Hundreds of men had fallen, hundreds more were dropping, yet the heroic
officers still called aloud for new trials, and sometimes followed by
many, sometimes by few, ascended the ruins; and so furious were the men
themselves, that in one of these charges the rear strove to push the
foremost on to the sword-blades, willing even to make a bridge of their
writhing bodies; the others frustrated the attempt by dropping down,
yet men fell so fast from the shot it was hard to say who went down
voluntarily, who were stricken, and many stooped unhurt that never rose
again. Vain also would it have been to break through the sword-blades;
for a finished trench and parapet were behind the breach, where the
assailants, crowded into even a narrower space than the ditch was,
would still have been separated from their enemies, and the slaughter
have continued.

At the beginning of this dreadful conflict, Andrew Barnard had with
prodigious efforts separated his division from the other, and preserved
some degree of military array; but now the tumult was such, no command
could be heard distinctly except by those close at hand, while the
mutilated carcases heaped on each other, and the wounded, struggling to
avoid being trampled upon, broke the formations; order was impossible!
Nevertheless officers of all stations, followed more or less numerously
by the men, were seen to start out as if struck by a sudden madness and
rush into the breach, which yawning and glittering with steel seemed
like the mouth of some huge dragon belching forth smoke and flame. In
one of these attempts Colonel Macleod of the 43rd, whose feeble body
would have been quite unfit for war if it had not been sustained by an
unconquerable spirit, was killed. Wherever his voice was heard there
his soldiers gathered, and with such strong resolution did he lead them
up the ruins, that when one, falling behind him, plunged a bayonet into
his back, he complained not, but continuing his course was shot dead
within a yard of the sword-blades. There was however no want of gallant
leaders or desperate followers, until two hours passed in these vain
efforts convinced the soldiers the Trinidad was impregnable; and as
the opening in the curtain, although less strong, was retired, and the
approach impeded by deep holes and cuts made in the ditch, the troops
did not much notice it after the partial failure of one attack, which
had been made early. Gathering in dark groups and leaning on their
muskets they looked up with sullen desperation at the Trinidad, while
the enemy stepping out on the ramparts and aiming their shots by the
light of the fireballs which they threw over, asked, as their victims
fell, _Why they did not come into Badajos_?

In this dreadful situation, while the dead were lying in heaps, and
others continually falling, the wounded crawling about to get some
shelter from the merciless shower above, and withal a sickening stench
from the burnt flesh of the slain, Captain Nicholas of the engineers,
was observed by Lieut. Shaw of the 43rd, making incredible efforts to
force his way with a few men into the Santa Maria. Collecting fifty
soldiers of all regiments he joined him, and passing a deep cut along
the foot of this breach, these two young officers, at the head of their
band, rushed up the slope of the ruins, but ere they gained two-thirds
of the ascent, a concentrated fire of musketry and grape dashed nearly
the whole dead to the earth: Nicholas was mortally wounded, and the
intrepid Shaw stood alone![24] After this no further effort was made at
any point, and the troops remained passive, but unflinching, beneath
the enemy’s shot, which streamed without intermission: for many of
the riflemen on the glacis, leaping early into the ditch, had joined
in the assault, and the rest, raked by a cross-fire of grape from the
distant bastions, baffled in their aim by the smoke and flames from
the explosions, and too few in number, had entirely failed to quell the
French musketry.

About midnight, when two thousand brave men had fallen, Wellington, who
was on a height close to the quarries, sent orders for the remainder
to retire and re-form for a second assault; he had just then heard
that the castle was taken, and thinking the enemy would still hold out
in the town was resolved to assail the breaches again. This retreat
from the ditch was not effected without further carnage and confusion;
for the French fire never slackened, and a cry arose that the enemy
were making a sally from the flanks, which caused a rush towards the
ladders. Then the groans and lamentations of the wounded, who could not
move and expected to be slain, increased; and many officers who did not
hear of the order endeavoured to stop the soldiers from going back,
some would even have removed the ladders but were unable to break the

All this time the third division lay close in the castle, and either
from fear of risking the loss of a point which insured the capture of
the place, or that the egress was too difficult, made no attempt to
drive away the enemy from the breaches. On the other side however,
the fifth division had commenced the false attack on the Pardaleras,
and on the right of the Guadiana the Portuguese were sharply engaged
at the bridge: thus the town was girdled with fire. For Walker’s
brigade had, during the feint on the Pardaleras, escaladed the distant
bastion of San Vincente. Moving up the bank of the river, he reached a
French guard-house at the barrier-gate undiscovered, the ripple of the
waters smothering the sound of the footsteps; but then the explosion
at the breaches took place, the moon shone out, the French sentinels
discovering the column fired, and the British soldiers, springing
forward under a sharp musketry, began to hew down the wooden barrier
at the covered way; the Portuguese, panic-stricken, threw down the
scaling-ladders, but the others snatched them up, forced the barrier
and jumped into the ditch; there the guiding engineer was killed, a
_cunette_ embarrassed the column, and when the foremost men succeeded
in rearing the ladders they were found too short, for the walls were
generally above thirty feet high. The fire of the French was deadly,
a small mine was sprung beneath the soldiers’ feet, beams of wood and
live shells were rolled over on their heads, showers of grape from the
flank swept the ditch, and man after man dropped dead from the ladders.

At this critical moment some of the defenders being called away to
aid in recovering the castle, the ramparts were not entirely manned,
and the assailants, having discovered a corner of the bastion where
the scarp was only twenty feet high, placed three ladders under an
embrasure which had no gun, and was only stopped with a gabion. Some
men got up with difficulty, for the ladders were still too short, but
the first man being pushed up by his comrades drew others after him,
and thus many had gained the summit; and though the French shot heavily
against them from both flanks and from a house in front they thickened
and could not be driven back. Half the 4th Regiment then entered the
town itself, while the others pushed along the rampart towards the
breach, and by dint of hard fighting successively won three bastions.
In the last, General Walker, leaping forwards sword in hand just as a
French cannonier discharged a gun, fell with so many wounds that it
was wonderful how he survived, and his soldiers seeing a lighted match
on the ground cried out a mine! At that word, such is the power of
imagination, those troops whom neither the strong barrier nor the deep
ditch, nor the high walls, nor the deadly fire of the enemy could stop,
staggered back, appalled by a chimera of their own raising. While in
that disorder a French reserve under General Veillande drove on them
with a firm and rapid charge, pitching some over the walls, killing
others outright, and cleansing the ramparts even to the San Vincente:
but there Leith had placed a battalion of the 38th, and when the French
came up, shouting and slaying all before them, it arose and with one
close volley destroyed them. This stopped the panic, and in compact
order the soldiers once more charged along the walls towards the
breaches; yet the French, although turned on both flanks and abandoned
by fortune, would not yield.

Meanwhile the detachment of the 4th Regiment which had entered the
town when the San Vincente was first carried, was strangely situated;
for the streets though empty were brilliantly illuminated, no person
was seen, yet a low buzz and whisper were heard around, lattices were
now and then gently opened, and from time to time shots were fired
from underneath the doors of the houses by the Spaniards, while the
regiment, with bugles sounding, advanced towards the great square of
the town. In its progress several mules going with ammunition to the
breaches were taken, but the square was as empty and silent as the
streets, and the houses as bright with lamps. A terrible enchantment
seemed to prevail, nothing to be seen but light, and only low whispers
heard, while the tumult at the breaches was like the crashing thunder:
there the fight raged, and quitting the square the regiment attempted
to take the enemy in reverse, but they were received with a rolling
musketry, driven back with loss, and resumed their movement through the

At last the breaches were abandoned by the French, other parties
entered the place, desultory combats took place in various parts, and
finally Veillande and Phillipon, both wounded, seeing all ruined,
passed the bridge with a few hundred soldiers and entered San
Christoval. Early next morning they surrendered upon summons to Lord
Fitzroy Somerset, who with great readiness had pushed through the
town to the drawbridge ere the French had time to organize further
resistance; yet even at the moment of ruin, this noble governor with
an imperturbed judgment had sent horsemen out from the fort in the
night to carry the news to Soult’s army, which they reached in time to
prevent a greater misfortune.

Now commenced that wild and desperate wickedness, which tarnished the
lustre of the soldier’s heroism. All indeed were not alike, hundreds
risked, and many lost their lives in striving to stop violence; but
madness generally prevailed, and the worst men being leaders all the
dreadful passions of human nature were displayed. Shameless rapacity,
brutal intemperance, savage lust, cruelty and murder, shrieks and
piteous lamentations, groans, shouts, imprecations, the hissing of
fires bursting from the houses, the crashing of doors and windows,
and the reports of muskets used in violence resounded for two days
and nights in the streets of Badajos! On the third, when the city was
sacked, when the soldiers were exhausted by their own excesses, the
tumult rather subsided than was quelled: the wounded men were then
looked to, the dead disposed of!

Five thousand men and officers fell during the siege, including seven
hundred Portuguese; three thousand five hundred were stricken in the
assault, sixty officers and more than seven hundred men slain on the
spot. Five generals, Kempt, Harvey, Bowes, Colville, and Picton were
wounded, the first three severely; six hundred men and officers fell in
the escalade of San Vincente, as many at the castle, and more than two
thousand at the breaches: each division there lost twelve hundred! But
how deadly the strife was at that point may be gathered from this; the
43rd and 52nd regiments of the light division, alone lost more men than
the seven regiments of the third division engaged at the castle!

Let it be remembered that this frightful carnage took place in a
space of less than a hundred yards square. That the slain died not
all suddenly nor by one manner of death. That some perished by steel,
some by shot, some by water; that some were crushed and mangled by
heavy weights, some trampled upon, some dashed to atoms by the fiery
explosions; that for hours this destruction was endured without
shrinking and that the town was won at last: these things considered,
it must be admitted that a British army bears with it an awful power.
And false would it be to say the French were feeble men, the garrison
stood and fought manfully and with good discipline, behaving worthily.
Shame there was none on any side. Yet who shall do justice to the
bravery of the British soldiers? the noble emulation of the officers?
Who shall measure out the glory of Ridge, of Macleod, of Nicholas, of
O’Hare of the rifles, who perished on the breach at the head of the
stormers, and with him nearly all the volunteers for that desperate
service? Who shall describe the springing valour of that Portuguese
grenadier who was killed, the foremost man, at the Santa Maria? or the
martial fury of that desperate rifleman, who, in his resolution to win,
thrust himself beneath the chained sword-blades, and there suffered the
enemy to dash his head to pieces with the ends of their muskets? Who
can sufficiently honour the intrepidity of Walker, of Shaw, of Canch,
or the resolution of Ferguson of the 43rd, who having at Rodrigo
received two deep wounds was here, with his hurts still open, leading
the stormers of his regiment, the third time a volunteer and the third
time wounded! Nor are these selected as pre-eminent; many and signal
were the other examples of unbounded devotion, some known some that
will never be known; for in such a tumult much passed unobserved, and
often the observers fell themselves ere they could bear testimony to
what they saw: but no age, no nation ever sent forth braver troops to
battle than those who stormed Badajos.

When the havoc of the night was told to Wellington, the pride of
conquest sunk into a passionate burst of grief for the loss of his
gallant soldiers.


  Beira--Grant--Surprise of Almaraz--Siege of the Salamanca
    Forts--Combats between the Duero and the Tormes--Combats of
    Castrejon and the Guarena--Battle of Salamanca--Combat of La

BEIRA. (April, 1812.)

After the storming of Badajos the English general desired to fight
Soult in Andalusia, and his cavalry under Sir Stapleton Cotton very
soon overtook the French horse and defeated them near Usagre with a
loss to the victors of fifty or sixty men, to the vanquished of two or
three hundred, one half being prisoners. Had that action been rapidly
followed up by a powerful army a great victory would probably have
crowned this extraordinary winter campaign, but obstacles, untimely and
unexpected, arose. Carlos España’s oppressions had created a dangerous
spirit in the garrison of Rodrigo, the people of the vicinity were
alarmed, both that fortress and Almeida were insecure, and Marmont was
on the Coa. These things were to be remedied before Andalusia could be
invaded. Yet the danger was not absolute, and Wellington lingered about
Badajos, hoping Soult, in anger for its fall, would risk a blow north
of the Morena. That marshal was indeed deeply moved, but the Spanish
armies were menacing Seville, and the allies were double his numbers;
hence he returned to Seville and Wellington marched to Beira, which
Marmont was now ravaging with great violence.

Following the letter not the spirit of Napoleon’s orders, for he
was discontented at being debarred a junction with Soult, Marmont
had reluctantly made this diversion, and seemed to have exhaled his
ill-will by a savage warfare contrary to his natural disposition.
Carlos España fled before him, the Portuguese militia were dispersed
in a skirmish near Guarda, Victor Alten retreated across the Tagus
at Villa Velha though the French were still fifty miles distant; and
though personally a very brave man was so disturbed in judgment
that he meditated burning the bridge there, which would have ruined
Lord Wellington’s combinations. The whole country was in commotion,
the population flying before the ravaging enemy, and all things in
disorder; the Portuguese general Lecor alone preserved a martial
attitude: he checked the French cavalry, saved the magazines and
hospitals, and hung upon the French rear when they retired. When the
allies came on from Badajos Marmont was, at first, inclined to fight,
but found it too dangerous from the flooding of the rivers behind him,
and it was only by the interposition of fortune that he avoided a great
disaster. Finally he retired to Salamanca, carrying with him as a
prisoner Captain Colquhoun Grant, a scouting officer of great eminence,
whose escape furnished an episode in this war more surprising even than
that of Colonel Waters.

Grant, in whom the utmost daring was so mixed with subtlety of genius,
and both so tempered by discretion that it is hard to say which
quality predominated, had been sent from Badajos to watch the French
movements. Attended by Leon, a Spanish peasant, faithful and quick of
apprehension, who had been his companion on many former occasions, he
reached the Salamanca district, passed the Tormes during the night in
uniform, for he never assumed any disguise, and remained three days
in the midst of the French camps. He thus obtained exact information
of Marmont’s object, of his provisions and scaling-ladders, making
notes, which he sent to Wellington from day to day by Spanish agents.
The third night, some peasants brought him an order thus worded--“The
notorious Grant is within the circle of cantonments, the soldiers are
to strive for his capture, and guards will be placed in a circle round
the army.” Grant consulted the peasants, and before daylight entered
the village of Huerta close to a ford on the Tormes, where there was a
French battalion, and on the other bank of the river cavalry videttes,
patrolling back and forward for the space of three hundred yards, yet
meeting always at the ford.

At daylight, when the soldiers were at their alarm-post, he was
secretly brought with his horse behind the gable of a house, which hid
him from the infantry and was near the ford. The peasants, standing on
loose stones, spread their large cloaks to hide him from the videttes
until the latter were separated the full extent of their beat; then
putting spurs to his horse he dashed through the ford between them,
received their cross fire without damage, and reaching a wood baffled
pursuit, and was soon rejoined by Leon.

Grant had before ascertained that ladders for storming Rodrigo were
prepared, and the French officers openly talked of doing so; but
desiring further to test this, and ascertain if Marmont’s march might
not finally be for the Tagus, wishing also to discover the French
force, he placed himself on a wooded hill near Tamames where the road
branched off to the passes and to Rodrigo. There lying perdue while the
army passed in march, he noted every battalion and gun, and finding
all went towards Rodrigo entered Tamames, and found the greatest
part of their scaling-ladders had been left there, showing that the
intention to storm Rodrigo was not real. This it was which had allayed
Wellington’s fears for that fortress when he sought to entice Soult to

Marmont then passed the Coa, but Grant preceded him, with intent to
discover if his further march would be by Guarda upon Coimbra, or by
Sabugal upon Castello Branco; for to reach the latter it was necessary
to descend from a very high ridge, or rather succession of ridges, by
a pass at the lower mouth of which stands Penamacor. Upon one of the
inferior ridges of this pass he placed himself, thinking the dwarf
oaks which covered the hill would secure him from discovery; but from
the higher ridge the French detected his movements with their glasses,
and in a few moments Leon, whose lynx eyes were always on the watch,
called out, _the French! the French!_ Some dragoons came galloping up,
Grant and his follower darted into the wood for a little space and then
suddenly wheeling rode off in a different direction; but at every turn
new enemies appeared, and at last the hunted men dismounted and fled on
foot through the low oaks; again they were met by infantry, detached
in small parties down the sides of the pass, and directed in their
chase by the waving of hats on the ridge above: Leon fell exhausted,
and those who first came up killed him in despite of his companion’s
entreaties: a barbarous action!

Grant they carried to Marmont, who invited him to dinner, and the
conversation turned on the prisoner’s exploits. The French marshal
said he had been long on the watch, knew all his captive’s haunts and
disguises, had discovered that only the night before he slept in the
French head-quarters, with other adventures which had not happened, for
this Grant never used any disguise; but there was another Grant, also
very remarkable in his way, who used to remain for months in the French
quarters, using all manner of disguises; hence the similarity of names
caused the actions of both to be attributed to one, and that is the
only palliative for Marmont’s subsequent conduct.

Treating his prisoner with apparent kindness, he exacted from him an
especial parole, that he would not admit a rescue by the Partidas while
on his journey through Spain to France: this secured his captive,
though Wellington offered two thousand dollars to any guerilla chief
who should recover him. The exaction of such a parole was a tacit
compliment to the man; but Marmont sent a letter with the escort to
the governor of Bayonne, in which, still in error as to there being
but one Grant, he designated his captive as a dangerous spy who had
done infinite mischief, and whom he had not executed on the spot out
of respect to something resembling uniform which he wore: he therefore
desired, that at Bayonne he should be placed in irons and sent to
Paris: this was so little in accord with French honour, that before
the Spanish frontier was passed Grant was made acquainted with the

At Bayonne, in ordinary cases, the custom was for prisoners to wait
on the authorities and receive passports for Verdun; this was done;
the letter was purposely delayed, and Grant with sagacious boldness
refrained from escaping towards the Pyrenees. Judging, that if the
governor did not recapture him at once he would entirely suppress the
letter, and let the matter drop, he asked at the hotels if any French
officer was going to Paris, and finding General Souham, then on his
return from Spain, was so bent, he introduced himself, requesting
permission to join his party. The other readily assented, and while
thus travelling the general, unacquainted with Marmont’s intentions,
often rallied his companion about his adventures, little thinking he
was then an instrument to forward the most dangerous and skilful of
them all.

In passing through Orleans, Grant by a species of intuition discovered
a secret English agent, and from him received a recommendation to
another in Paris. He looked upon Marmont’s double-dealing, and the
expressed design to take away his life, as equivalent to a discharge
of his parole, which was moreover only given with respect to Spain;
hence on reaching Paris he took leave of Souham, opened an intercourse
with the Parisian agent, and obtained money. He would not go before the
police to have his passport examined, but took lodgings in a public
street, frequented the coffee-houses and visited the theatres boldly,
for the secret agent, intimately connected with the police, soon
ascertained that his escape had been unnoticed.

After several weeks, the agent told him a passport was ready for one
Jonathan Buck, an American who had died suddenly on the day it was to
be claimed. Grant coolly demanded this passport as for Jonathan Buck
and instantly departed for the mouth of the Loire, where, for reasons
not necessary to mention, he expected more assistance. New difficulties
awaited him, yet they were overcome by fresh exertions of his
surprising talent, which fortune seemed to delight in aiding. Having
taken a passage in an American ship its departure was unexpectedly
delayed; then he frankly told his situation to the captain, who desired
him to become a discontented seaman, gave him sailor’s clothing with
forty dollars, and sent him to lodge the money in the American consul’s
hands, as a pledge that he would prosecute for ill usage when he
reached the United States: this being the custom, the consul gave him a
certificate to pass from port to port as a discharged sailor seeking a

A promise of ten Napoleons induced a French boatman to row him in the
night to a small island, where, by usage, English vessels watered
unmolested, and, in return, permitted the few inhabitants to fish and
traffic without interruption. The masts of the British ships were
dimly seen beyond the island, and the termination of all Grant’s
toils seemed at hand, when the boatman from fear or malice returned
to port. Some men would have strived in desperation to force fortune
and so have perished, others would have sunk in despair, for the money
promised was Grant’s all, and the boatman demanded full payment; but
with admirable coolness he gave him one piece and a rebuke for his
misconduct; the other threatened a reference to the police yet found
himself overmatched in subtlety: his opponent replied that he would
then denounce him as aiding the escape of a prisoner of war, and adduce
the price of his boat as a proof of his guilt!

An old fisherman was afterwards engaged, and faithfully performed
his bargain, but there were then no English vessels near the island;
however the fisherman caught some fish, with which he sailed towards
the southward, having heard of an English ship of war being there. A
glimpse was obtained of her, and they were steering that way when a
shot from a coast-battery brought them to, and a boat with soldiers put
off to board. The fisherman was steadfast and true. He called Grant
his son, and the soldiers were only sent to warn them not to pass the
battery because an English vessel, the one they were in search of, was
on the coast. The old man bribed the soldiers with his fish, assuring
them he must go with his son or they would starve, and he was so well
acquainted with the coast he could easily escape the enemy. Being
desired to wait till night and then depart, he, under pretence of
avoiding the English vessel, made the soldiers point out her bearings
so exactly that when darkness fell he run her straight on board, and
the intrepid Grant stood in safety on the quarter deck.

In England he got permission to choose a French officer for an
exchange, that no doubt might remain as to the propriety of his
escape; great was his astonishment to find in the first prison he
visited the old fisherman and his real son, who had been captured
notwithstanding a protection given to them for their services. Grant,
whose generosity and benevolence were as remarkable as the qualities of
his understanding, soon obtained their release, sent them with a sum
of money to France, returned to the Peninsula, and within four months
from the date of his first capture was again on the Tormes, watching
Marmont’s army as before! Other adventures could be mentioned of this
generous and spirited, yet gentle-minded man, who, having served his
country nobly in every climate, died a victim to continual hardships
aided by a mortified spirit, for he had not been rewarded as he


So many obstacles, military and political, were to be overcome before
Andalusia could be invaded, 1812, that Lord Wellington finally resigned
that project and meditated instead, operations against Marmont’s
army. To obtain success it was essential to isolate him as much as
possible, and in that view various combinations were matured; but the
most important stroke was to destroy the bridge and forts at Almaraz
on the Tagus. Strong in works, that place was also a great depôt for
stores and boats, and not only facilitated the passage of the Tagus
for reinforcements coming from Soult, but was sufficient to serve as a
base and place of arms for an army to operate on the rear and flank of
the British, if they engaged with Marmont in Castile. General Hill, who
remained with a force in the Alemtejo, was charged with this great and
dangerous enterprise, for a clear understanding of which the nature of
the country must be described.

The left bank of the Tagus, from Toledo to Almaraz, is lined with
rugged mountains, difficult for small bodies, impracticable for an
army. From Almaraz to the frontier of Portugal the banks are more open,
yet still difficult, and the Tagus was only to be crossed at certain
points, to which bad roads led. From Almaraz to Alcantara the bridges,
both those included, were ruined, and those of Arzobispo and Talavera
above Almaraz were of little value because of the rugged mountains.
Soult’s pontoon equipage had been captured in Badajos, and the French
could only cross the Tagus between Toledo and the frontier of Portugal
by Marmont’s boat bridge at Almaraz, to secure which he had constructed
three strong forts and a bridge-head.

The first, called Ragusa, contained stores and provisions, and was,
though not finished, exceedingly strong; it had a loopholed stone tower
twenty-five feet high within, and was flanked without by a field-work
near the bridge. This was on the north bank. On the south bank the
bridge had a fortified head of masonry, which was again flanked by a
redoubt called Fort Napoleon, placed on a height a little in advance;
imperfectly constructed, however, inasmuch as a wide berm in the
middle of the scarp furnished a landing-place for troops escalading.
It was yet strong, because it contained a second interior defence or
retrenchment, with a loopholed stone tower, a ditch, drawbridge, and

These forts and the bridge-head were armed with eighteen guns and
garrisoned with eleven hundred men, which insured command of the
river; but the mountains on the left bank precluded the passage of an
army towards Lower Estremadura, save by the royal road to Truxillo,
which, five miles from the Tagus, went over the lofty rugged Mirabete
ridge: to secure the summit of this, the French had drawn a line of
works across the throat of the pass; that is to say, a large fortified
house was connected by smaller posts with the ancient watch-tower of
Mirabete, which contained eight guns and was surrounded by a rampart
twelve feet high.

If all these works, and a road, which Marmont, following the
traces of an ancient Roman way, was now opening across the Gredos
mountains had been finished, the communication of the French, though
circuitous, would have been very good and secure. Wellington feared
that accomplishment and designed to surprise Almaraz previous to the
siege of Badajos, when the redoubts were far from complete; but the
Portuguese government then baffled him by neglecting to furnish the
means of transporting the artillery from Lisbon. Hill now marched to
attempt it with a force of six thousand men, including four hundred
cavalry, two field brigades of artillery, a pontoon equipage, and a
battering-train of six iron twenty-four-pound howitzers. The enterprise
was become more difficult. For when the army was round Badajos, only
the resistance of the forts was to be looked to; now Foy’s division
of Marmont’s army was in the valley of the Tagus, and troops from the
king’s army occupied Talavera. Drouet was also with eight or nine
thousand men near Medellin, and closer to Merida than Hill was to
Almaraz; he might therefore intercept the latter’s retreat--and the
king’s orders were imperative that he should hang on the English force
in Estremadura. Hill had therefore to steer, going and coming, through
all these forces with an unwieldy convoy, and as it were, blot out the
strong place without a battle; but Wellington took many precautions
to divert the French attention to other points, and to furnish support
without indicating the true object.

Hill, though dangerously delayed by the difficulty of restoring the
bridge of Merida, which he had himself destroyed during the siege
of Badajos, crossed the Guadiana with six thousand men, twelve
field-pieces, pontoons, battering-train and fifty country carts,
conveying material and ammunition. On the 15th he reached Truxillo,
and during his march the guerillas of the Guadalupe mountains made
demonstrations at different points, between Almaraz and Arzobispo, as
if seeking a place to cast a bridge that he might join Wellington.
Foy was deceived by these feints, for his spies at Truxillo, while
reporting the passage of the Guadiana, said Hill had fifteen thousand
men, and that two brigades of cavalry were following: one report even
stated that thirty thousand men had entered Truxillo, whereas there
were less than six thousand of all arms.

Early on the 16th the armament reached Jaraicejo, formed three columns,
and made a night march, intending to surprise at the same moment, the
tower of Mirabete, the fortified house in the pass, and the forts at
the bridge of Almaraz. The left column, directed against the tower,
was commanded by General Chowne. The centre, with the dragoons and
artillery, moved by the royal road under General Long. The right,
composed of the 50th, 71st, and 92nd Regiments, under Hill in person,
was to penetrate by the narrow and difficult way of Roman Gordo against
the forts of the bridge; but day broke before any column reached its
destination, and all hopes of a surprise were extinguished. This was
an untoward beginning, unavoidable with the right and centre column
because of the bad roads, but Chowne was negligent, for the Mirabete
tower might have been assaulted before daylight.

Hill now saw that to reduce the Mirabete works in the pass he must
incur more loss than was justifiable, and be in such plight that he
could not finally carry the forts below; yet it was only through the
pass the artillery could move against the bridge. In this dilemma,
after losing the 17th and part of the 18th, in fruitless attempts to
discover some opening through which to reach Almaraz with his guns,
he resolved to leave them on the Sierra with the centre column, make
a false attack on the tower with Chowne’s troops, and in person, with
the right column, secretly penetrate by the scarcely practicable line
of Roman Gordo to the bridge, intent, with infantry alone, to storm
works which were defended by eighteen pieces of artillery and powerful

This resolution was even more hardy than it appears, without a
reference to the general state of affairs. His march had been one of
secrecy, amidst various divisions of the enemy; he was four days’
journey from Merida, his first point of retreat; he expected Drouet to
be reinforced and advance, and hence, whether defeated or victorious
at Almaraz, his retreat would be very dangerous; exceedingly so if
defeated, because his fine British troops could not be repulsed with
a small loss, and he would have to fall back through a difficult
country, with his best soldiers dispirited by failure and burthened by
numbers of wounded men. Then, harassed on one side by Drouet, pursued
by Foy and D’Armagnac on the other, he would have been exposed to the
greatest misfortunes, every slanderous tongue would have been let
loose on the rashness of attacking impregnable forts, and a military
career, hitherto so glorious, might have terminated in shame. Devoid
of interested ambition, he was unshaken by such fears, and remained
concealed until the evening of the 18th, when he commenced the descent,
with design to escalade the Fort Napoleon before daylight. The march
was less than six miles, but the head of the troops only reached
the fort a little before daylight, the rear was distant, and it was
doubtful if the scaling ladders, cut in halves to thread the short
narrow turns in the precipitous descent, would serve for an assault.
Some small hills concealed the head of the column, and at that moment
Chowne commenced his false attack at Mirabete. Pillars of white smoke
rose on the lofty brow of the Sierra, the heavy sound of artillery came
rolling over the valley, and the garrison of Fort Napoleon, crowding on
the ramparts, were gazing at those portentous signs of war, when, quick
and loud, a British shout broke on their ears, and the 50th Regiment
with a wing of the 71st, came bounding over the low hills.

Surprised the French were to see an enemy so close while the Mirabete
was still defended, yet they were not unprepared; a patrol of English
cavalry had been seen from the fort on the 17th, and in the evening
of the 18th a woman had given exact information of Hill’s numbers and
designs. This intelligence had caused the commandant, Aubert, to march
in the night with reinforcements to Fort Napoleon, which was therefore
defended by six companies ready to fight, and when the first shout was
heard they smote with musketry and artillery on the British front,
while the guns of Fort Ragusa took them in flank. A rise of ground,
twenty yards from the ramparts, soon covered the assailants from the
front fire, and General Howard, leading the foremost into the ditch,
commenced the escalade. The breadth of the berm kept off the ends of
the shortened ladders from the parapet, but the first men jumped on to
the berm itself and drawing up the ladders planted them there; then
with a second escalade they won the rampart and, closely fighting,
all went together into the retrenchment round the stone tower. Aubert
was wounded and taken, and the garrison fled towards the bridge-head,
but the victorious troops would not be shaken off, they entered that
work also in one confused mass with the fugitives, who continued their
flight over the bridge itself. Still the British soldiers pushed their
headlong charge, slaying the hindmost, and would have passed the river
if some of the boats had not been destroyed by stray shots from the
forts, which were now sharply cannonading each other, for the artillery
men had turned the guns of Napoleon on Fort Ragusa.

Many French, leaping into the water, were drowned, but the greatest
part were made prisoners, and to the amazement of the conquerors the
panic pervaded the other side of the river, where the garrison of
Ragusa, though perfectly safe, fled with the others! Some grenadiers of
the 92nd, then swimming over, brought back boats, with which the bridge
was restored and the towers and works of Ragusa were destroyed, and
the stores, ammunition, provisions and boats, burned. In the night the
troops returned to the Mirabete ridge with the colours of the foreign
regiment, and two hundred and fifty prisoners, including a commandant
and sixteen other officers, their own loss being a hundred and eighty
men. One officer of artillery was killed by his own mine, placed for
the destruction of the tower, but the only officer slain in the
assault was Captain Candler, of the 50th, a brave man, who fell leading
the grenadiers of that regiment on to the rampart of Fort Napoleon.

Rapidity was an essential cause of this success. Foy had ordered
D’Armagnac to reinforce the forts with a battalion, which might have
entered Fort Ragusa early in the morning of the 19th; but instead of
marching before day-break, it did not move until eleven o’clock, and
meeting the fugitives on the road caught the panic.

Hill was about to reduce the works at Mirabete, when Sir W. Erskine,
confused by the French movements, gave a false alarm, which caused a
retreat on Merida; Wellington, in reference to this error of Erskine,
told the ministers, that his generals, stout in action as the poorest
soldiers, were overwhelmed with fear of responsibility when left
to themselves: the slightest movement of an enemy deprived them of
judgment. Erskine was a miserable officer; but all officers knew, that
without powerful interest future prospects and past services would
wither under the blight of a disaster; that a selfish government would
instantly offer them as victims to a misjudging public and a ribald
press, with which success is the only criterion of merit. English
generals are, and must be, prodigal of their blood to gain reputation;
but they are timid in command, because a single failure without a fault
consigns them to shame and abuse.

Having resumed his former position, Hill engaged in a series of marches
and countermarches against Drouet, yet no action occurred, save one
between General Slade and General Lallemande, with two regiments of
dragoons on each side. Slade, contrary to orders, drove back the French
horsemen for eight miles, and through the defile of Maquilla followed
in disorder; but in the plain beyond stood Lallemande’s reserves,
with which he broke the disorderly mass, killed or wounded fifty,
pursued for six miles and took a hundred prisoners. Two days after,
the Austrian Strenowitz, having but fifty men of Slade’s dragoons,
recovered all the wounded prisoners, defeated eighty French, killed
many and took twenty-six: such is the difference between mere dash and
military skill.

In the summer of 1812 Lord Wellington resolved to fight Marmont. There
were many reasons for this, but the principal one was, that Napoleon
was in the heart of Russia, that his own army was stronger, especially
in cavalry, than it had yet been or was likely to be, and if he did
not then strike no better opportunity could be expected. He had ninety
thousand men, British and Portuguese, but six thousand were in Cadiz,
and the Walcheren expedition was still to be atoned for; the regiments
which had served there were so sickly that only thirty-two thousand
British were in line; yet to these he could join twenty-five thousand
Portuguese, making fifty-seven thousand sabres and bayonets, which
he judged sufficient. Of this force Hill had seventeen thousand, two
thousand being cavalry with twenty-four guns. General D’Urban was with
twelve hundred Portuguese horsemen in the Tras Os Montes, and was to
coöperate with Wellington, who had therefore nearly forty thousand of
all arms, three thousand five hundred being cavalry, with fifty-four

Almaraz bridge had been destroyed to lengthen the French lateral line
of communication, Alcantara was now repaired to shorten the British
line; and though the break in that stupendous structure was ninety
feet wide and one hundred and fifty above the water, the genius of
Colonel Sturgeon overcame the difficulty. Hill’s army was thus brought
a fortnight nearer to Wellington than Drouet was to Marmont, if both
marched with artillery; and as the army of the centre was, by the
king’s misrule, in a state of great disorder, Marmont was for a time
isolated from all the other armies save that of the north, now under
General Caffarelli, who was however occupied by maritime expeditions
from Coruña.

Marmont was a man to be feared. He was quick of apprehension, morally
and physically brave, scientific, used to war, strong of body, in
the prime of life, eager for glory; and though neither a great nor a
fortunate commander, such a one as could bear the test of fire. He
had strongly fortified three convents at Salamanca, and having about
twenty-five thousand men in hand, demanded aid from the king, from
Soult, and from the army of the north. His design was to dispute the
Tormes and Duero in succession, the first by his forts, the second
with an army, which he could augment to forty-six thousand without
extraneous aid by calling Bonet’s division from the Asturias.

On the 13th of June Wellington advanced to the Tormes. The bridge
of Salamanca was barred by the French forts, all the others had
been destroyed save that of Alba de Tormes, the castle of which was
garrisoned; the allies however passed the river above and below
Salamanca by the fords of Santa Marta and Los Cantos, and General
Clinton invested the forts with the sixth division. Marmont, who had
two divisions and some cavalry, retired by the road of Toro. Salamanca
then became a scene of rejoicing. The houses were illuminated, the
people, shouting, singing and weeping for joy, gave Wellington their
welcome while his army took a position on the hill of San Christoval
five miles in advance.


Clinton had only four heavy guns and three twenty-four-pound howitzers,
but the train used by Hill at Almaraz had passed the Tagus at
Alcantara on its way up. The strength of the forts had however been
under-estimated, they contained eight hundred men. San Vincente, placed
on a perpendicular cliff overhanging the Tormes, had a fortified
convent within, and was well flanked and separated by a deep ravine
from the other forts; and these last, called San Cajetano and La
Merced, though smaller and of a square form, were bomb-proof and with
deep ditches.

The engineer Burgoyne, directing the siege, commenced a battery two
hundred and fifty yards from Vincente, and as the ruins of convents
all around which had been destroyed to make the forts, rendered it
impossible to excavate, earth was brought from a distance; but the moon
was up, the night short, the French musketry heavy, the sixth division
inexperienced, and at daybreak the battery was still imperfect. An
attempt had been made to attach the miner secretly to the counterscarp,
but the vigilance of a trained dog baffled this design: it was then
openly made, yet defeated by a plunging fire from the top of the

On the 18th eight hundred Germans, placed in the ruins, mastered all
the enemy’s fire save that from loop-holes, and two field-pieces were
placed on a neighbouring convent to silence the French artillery, but

In the night the first battery was armed; at daybreak on the 19th
seven guns opened, and by nine o’clock the wall of the convent was cut
away to the level of the rampart; a second breaching battery of iron
howitzers, which saw lower down the scarp, then commenced its fire,
but that ordnance was unmeet for battering, and the enemy’s musketry
brought down a captain and more than twenty gunners.

The 20th Colonel Dickson arrived with more iron howitzers from Elvas,
and the second battery, reinforced with additional pieces, revived its
fire, striking only the convent, a huge cantle of which came to the
ground, crushing many of the garrison and laying bare the inside of the
building; carcasses were immediately thrown into the opening, but the
enemy extinguished the flames. A lieutenant and fifteen gunners were
lost this day, ammunition failed, and the attack was suspended.

During this siege the aspect of affairs had changed on both sides.
Wellington, deceived as to the strength of the forts, now found by
intercepted returns that both Soult and Marmont were far stronger than
he had expected; he had calculated also that Bonet’s division would
not quit the Asturias, but that general was in full march for Leon;
Caffarelli was likewise preparing to reinforce Marmont, and thus the
brilliant prospect of the campaign was suddenly clouded. Meanwhile
Marmont, having united four divisions of infantry and a brigade of
cavalry, twenty-five thousand men, came to the succour of the forts.
His approach, over an open country, being descried at a considerable
distance, a brigade was called from the siege, the battering train
was sent across the Tormes, and the army formed in order of battle on
the top of San Christoval. This position was four miles long, rather
concave, and the steep descent in front tangled with hollow roads,
stone inclosures and villages; the summit was broad, even, and covered
with ripe corn, the right was flanked by the Upper Tormes, the left
dipped into the country bordering the Lower Tormes; for in passing
Salamanca that river took a sweep round the back of the position. The
infantry, heavy cavalry and guns, crowned the summit of the mountain,
but the light cavalry was in a low country on the left, where there
was a small stream and a marshy flat. In front of the left, centre,
and right, the villages of Christoval, Castillanos, and Moresco, were
nearly in a line at the foot of the position, which overlooked the
country for many miles, yet had neither shade nor fuel to cook with,
nor water nearer than the Tormes, and the heat was very oppressive.

At five o’clock in the evening the enemy’s horsemen approached,
pointing towards the left of the position, as if to turn it by the
Lower Tormes; to check this the light cavalry made a short forward
movement and a partial charge took place, but the French opened six
guns and the others retired to their own ground. The light division
immediately closed towards the left, and the French cavalry halted.
Meanwhile the main body of the enemy bore with a rapid pace in one
dark volume against the right, and halting at the foot of the position
sent a flight of shells on to the lofty summit; nor did this fire
cease until after dark, when Marmont, taking possession of Moresco,
established himself behind that village and Castillanos, within
gun-shot of the allies.

That night the English general slept amongst the troops, and the
first streak of light saw both sides under arms. Some signals were
interchanged between Marmont and the forts, yet all remained quiet
until evening, when Wellington detached the 68th Regiment to drive
the French from Moresco. This attack, made with vigour, succeeded,
but the troops being recalled just as daylight failed, a body of
French, passing unperceived through standing corn, broke into the
village unexpectedly and did considerable execution. In the skirmish
an officer, named Mackay, being surrounded, refused to surrender, and,
fighting against a multitude, received more wounds than the human frame
was thought capable of sustaining; yet he lived to show his honourable

Next day three divisions and a brigade of cavalry joined Marmont,
who, having now forty thousand men, extended his left and seized a
part of the height in advance of the allies’ right wing. From thence
he could discern the whole of their order of battle, and attack their
right on even terms; but Graham, using the seventh division, dislodged
his detachment with a sharp skirmish before it could be formidably
reinforced, and in the night the French withdrew to some heights six
miles in rear.

It was thought Marmont’s tempestuous advance to Moresco on the evening
of the 20th should have been his ruin; but Wellington argued, that if
he came to fight it was better to defend a strong position than descend
to combat in the plain; for the French inferiority was not such as
to insure a result decisive of the campaign, and in case of failure,
a retreat across the Tormes would have been very difficult. To this
may be added, that during the first evening there was some confusion
amongst the allies; the troops, of different nations, had formed their
order of battle slowly; the descent of the mountain towards the enemy
was by no means easy; walls, hollow ways and villages, covered the
French front, and Marmont, having plenty of guns and troops ready of
movement, could have evaded the action until night. This reasoning
however failed on the 21st. The allies, whose infantry was a third
more, their cavalry three times as numerous and much better mounted,
might have poured down by all the roads at daybreak, and then Marmont,
turned on both flanks and followed vehemently, could never have made
his retreat to the Duero through the open country: on the 22nd, when
his other troops came up, the chances were no longer the same.

Marmont now withdrew his right, abandoning the road of Toro, but
keeping that of Tordesillas, and placing his left on the Tormes at
Huerta, where the river took a sudden bend, descending perpendicularly
towards the allies. Thus commanding the ford of Huerta he could pass
the river and communicate by the left bank with his forts. Wellington
made corresponding dispositions. Closing towards the river, he placed
the light division at the ford of Aldea Lengua, sent Graham down with
two divisions to the nearer ford of Santa Marta, and General Bock’s
heavy German cavalry over the Tormes to watch the ford of Huerta.

On the 23rd all was tranquil, but at break of day on the 24th some
dropping pistol-shots, and now and then a shout, came faintly from a
mist covering the lower ground beyond the river; the heavy sound of
artillery succeeded, and the hissing of bullets cutting through the
thickened atmosphere told that the French were over the Tormes. Soon
the fog vanished, and the German horsemen were seen retiring in close
and beautiful order before twelve thousand French infantry, advancing
in battle array. At intervals, twenty guns would start forwards and
send their bullets whistling and tearing up the ground beneath the
Germans, while scattered parties of light cavalry scouting out capped
all the hills in succession, peering abroad and giving signals to
the main body. Wellington then sent Graham over the river with two
divisions and a brigade of English cavalry, concentrating the rest of
his troops near Moresco to await the event.

Bock continued his retreat in fine order, regardless alike of the
cannonade and of the light horsemen on his flanks, until the enemy’s
scouts gained a height, from whence, at the distance of three miles,
they for the first time perceived Graham’s twelve thousand men, ranged
with eighteen guns on an order of battle perpendicular to the Tormes.
From the same point Wellington’s heavy columns were seen clustering
on the height above the fords of Santa Marta, and the light division
at Aldea Lengua, ready either to advance against the French troops
left on the right bank, or to pass the river in aid of Graham. At this
sight Marmont hastily faced about, repassed the Tormes, and resumed his
former ground.

Wellington, unwilling to stir before the forts fell, here again refused
an accidental advantage; for it is not easy to see how the French could
have avoided a defeat if he had moved with all the troops on the right
bank against the French divisions on that side.

The forts were now closely pressed. On the 23rd, the heavy guns being
brought back, a battery to breach San Cajetano was armed with four
pieces; yet the line of fire being oblique only beat down the parapet
and knocked away the palisades. An escalade of that fort and La Merced
was tried at ten o’clock, yet failed in half an hour with a loss of one
hundred and twenty men and officers; the wounded were brought off next
day under truce, and the enemy had all the credit of the fight. General
Bowes, whose rank might have excused his leading so small a force,
being wounded early in this assault, was having his hurt dressed when
he heard the troops were yielding, whereupon he returned to the fight
and fell.

Want of powder now suspended the siege until the 26th, when a convoy
arrived. Then the second and third batteries were re-armed, and the
field-pieces replaced on the neighbouring convent. The iron howitzers,
throwing hot shot, soon set the convent within San Vincente on fire;
but the garrison extinguished the flames and this balanced combat
continued during the night. In the morning the besiegers’ fire was
redoubled, the convent was in a blaze, the breach of Cajetano improved,
and a fresh storming party was assembled, when the white flag waved
from Cajetano. Negotiation ensued, but Wellington, judging it an
artifice to gain time, ordered a double assault, to oppose which
Cajetano scarcely fired a shot, and the flames raged so at Vincente no
opposition could be made. Seven hundred prisoners, thirty pieces of
artillery, provisions, arms, clothing, and a secure passage over the
Tormes, were the immediate fruits of this capture: not the less prized
that the breaches were found more formidable than those at Rodrigo,
and a storm would have been very doubtful if the garrison could have
gained time to extinguish the flames in San Vincente. The allies had
ninety killed, and their whole loss was five hundred men and officers,
of which one hundred and sixty men with fifty horses fell outside
Salamanca, the rest in the siege.


When the forts were taken Marmont retreated. Wellington pursued by
easy marches, and on the 2nd of July inflicted a slight loss on the
rear-guard at the bridge of Tordesillas; it would have been a great
one if he had not been deceived by a false report that the French had
broken the bridge the night before.

Marmont then took the line of the Duero, having fortified posts at
Zamora and Toro, and broken the bridges there and at Puente Duero and
Tudela also, preserving only that of Tordesillas. His left was at
Simancas on the Pisuerga, which was unfordable, and the bridges at that
place and Valladolid were commanded by fortified posts. His centre
was at Tordesillas and very numerous; his right on heights opposite
the ford of Pollos, which Wellington seized instantly as it gave
him a passage, though a difficult one and unfit for a large force.
Head-quarters were then fixed at Rueda, and the army disposed with a
head against the ford of Pollos and bridge of Tordesillas, the rear
on the Zapardiel and Trabancos rivers to meet any outbreak from the
Valladolid side. Marmont’s line of defence, measured from Valladolid to
Zamora, was sixty miles; from Simancas to Toro above thirty; but the
actual occupation was not above twelve; the bend of the river gave him
the chord, the allies the arc, and the fords were few and difficult.

It was Wellington’s design to force Marmont by the co-operation of the
Gallician and other Spanish forces to live on his fixed magazines;
Castaños however, like all Spanish generals, failed in the hour of
need. Marmont had then the means of rendering the campaign futile if
not disastrous to the British general, but with a false judgment threw
away his actual advantages by striving to better them. Bonet’s recall
from the Asturias was a great error. Napoleon and Wellington had alike
foreseen the importance of holding that province; the one ordered,
the other calculated on its retention, and their judgment was now
vindicated. The Gallicians and Asturians immediately moved by the coast
towards Biscay, where the maritime expedition from Coruña, a large one
under Sir Home Popham, had descended on several points; Caffarelli
therefore retained the reinforcement destined for Marmont, and that
marshal, by gaining six thousand men under Bonet, lost twelve or
thirteen thousand of the army of the north, and opened all the northern
provinces to the Spaniards.

In this state of affairs neither Wellington nor Marmont had reason
to fight on the Duero. The latter because his position was so strong
he could safely wait for Bonet’s and Caffarelli’s troops, while the
king operated against the allies’ communications. The former because
he could not attack the French, except at great disadvantage; for the
fords of the Duero were little known, and that of Pollos very deep.
To pass the river there and form within gunshot of the enemy’s left,
without other combinations, promised nothing but defeat, for the
strength of ground was with the French. While they had the bridge at
Tordesillas, an attempt to force a passage would have enabled Marmont
to fall on the front and rear, if the operation was within his reach;
if beyond his reach, that is to say, near Zamora, he could cut the
communication with Rodrigo and yet preserve his own with Caffarelli and
the king. Wellington therefore resolved to wait until the fords should
become lower, or the Gallicians and Partidas should be persuaded to
act, and thus force the French to detach men or dislodge for want of

D’Urban’s Portuguese cavalry, which was on the French side of the
river, now incommoded Marmont’s right, and Foy marched to drive them
off; General Pakenham, commanding the third division, immediately
crossed the ford of Pollos, which brought Foy back, and Marmont then
augmented the efficiency of his cavalry by taking a thousand horses
from the infantry officers and sutlers.

On the 8th Bonet arrived, and the French marshal, extending his right
to Toro, commenced repairing the bridge there. Wellington, in like
manner, stretched his left to the Guarena, keeping his centre still
on the Trabancos and his right at Rueda, with posts near Tordesillas
and the ford of Pollos. In this situation the armies remained for some
days, during which Graham and Picton went to England in bad health,
and the principal powder magazine at Salamanca exploded with hurt to
many. No other events worth recording occurred. The weather was fine,
the country rich, the troops received their rations regularly, and wine
was so plentiful it was hard to keep the soldiers sober; the caves of
Rueda, natural or cut in the rock below the surface of the earth, were
so immense, and held so much wine, that the drunkards of two armies
failed to make any very sensible diminution in the quantity, and many
men perished in that labyrinth. The soldiers of each army also, passing
the Duero in groups, held amicable intercourse, conversing of battles
that were yet to be fought, and the camps on the banks of the Duero
seemed at times to belong to one general, so difficult is it to make
brave men hate each other.

To the officers of the allies all looked prosperous, they were
impatient for the signal of battle, and many complained that the
French had been permitted to retreat from Christoval; had Wellington
been finally forced back to Portugal, his reputation would have been
grievously assailed by his own people. The majority, peering forward
with misty political vision, overlooked the difficulties close at hand,
but their general was fretted with care and mortification, for all
cross and evil circumstances seemed to combine against him. The Spanish
coöperation had failed in all quarters, the enemy in front was growing
stronger, Soult was seriously menacing Cadiz, and the king was said
to have been joined by Drouet; the Portuguese troops were deserting
in great numbers from misery; the English government had absurdly and
perniciously interfered with the supply of the military chest; there
was no money and the personal resources of Wellington alone kept the
army in its forward position. “I have never,” said he, “been in such
distress as at present, and some serious misfortune must happen if
the government do not attend seriously to the subject and supply us
regularly with money. The arrears and distresses of the Portuguese
government are a joke to ours, and if our credit was not better than
theirs we should certainly starve. As it is, if we don’t find means to
pay our bills for butcher’s meat there will be an end to the war at

Thus stript as it were to the skin, he was going once more to hide his
nakedness in the mountains of Portugal, when Marmont, proud of his own
unripened skill, and perhaps, from the experience of San Christoval,
undervaluing his adversary’s tactics; desirous also, it was said, to
gain a victory without the presence of a king; Marmont, pushed on by
fate, madly broke the chain which restrained his enemy’s strength.

To understand the remarkable movements which were now about to
commence, it must be borne in mind that the French army, while the
harvest was on the ground, had no regard to lines of communication;
it had supports on all sides, and the troops were taught to reap the
standing corn, and grind it themselves if their cavalry could not seize
flour in the villages. This organization, approaching the ancient Roman
military perfection, baffled the irregular, and threw the regular force
of the allies entirely upon the defensive; their flanks once turned a
retreat must follow to save the communications; but the French offered
no point for retaliation. Wherefore, with a force composed of four
different nations, Wellington was to make difficult evolutions in an
open country, his only chances of success being the casual errors of
his adversary, an able general, who knew the country perfectly and had
troops well disciplined, and of one nation. The game would have been
quite unequal if the English had not been so strong in cavalry.

In the course of the 15th and 16th Marmont, who had previously made
deceptive movements, concentrated his beautiful and gallant army on
its right towards Toro, which place, intercepted letters, reports of
deserters and the talk of the peasants, had for several days assigned
as his point of passage. On the morning of the 16th English exploring
officers, passing the Duero near Tordesillas, found only the garrison
there, and in the evening the reports stated, that two French divisions
had already crossed by the bridge of Toro; wherefore Wellington
united his centre and left at Canizal, on the Guarena, during the
night, intending to attack; but as he had still some doubts of the
real object, he left Sir Stapleton Cotton on the Trabancos with the
right wing, composed of the fourth and light divisions and Anson’s
cavalry. Suddenly Marmont recalled his troops, returned to Tordesillas
and Pollos, passed the Duero and concentrated at Nava del Rey in
the evening of the 17th, some of his men having marched forty, some
fifty miles without a halt. Wellington was then near Toro, and Cotton
remained behind the Trabancos during the night without orders, in a bad
position; Wellington however hastened to his aid, bringing up Bock’s,
Le Marchant’s, and Alten’s cavalry, while the fifth division took post
six miles in rear of the Trabancos.


At daybreak Cotton’s outposts were driven in, yet the bulk of his
cavalry and a troop of horse artillery showed a front, having the
two infantry divisions in support; the fourth behind his left, the
light division behind his right, but widely separated by a valley.
The country was open, like the downs of England, with here and there
water-gullies, dry hollows and naked heads of land, behind one of
which, on the other side of the Trabancos, lay the French army. Cotton,
seeing only horsemen, pushed his cavalry towards the river, advancing
cautiously by his right along some high table-land, where his troops
were lost at first in the morning fog, then thick on the stream. Very
soon the deep tones of artillery shook the ground, the sharp ring of
musketry was heard in the mist, and the 43rd Regiment was hastily
brought through the village of Castrejon to support the advancing
cavalry; for besides the deep valley separating the fourth from the
light division, there was a ravine with a marshy bottom between the
cavalry and infantry, and the village furnished the only good passage.

The cannonade became heavy, and the spectacle surprisingly beautiful.
The lighter smoke and mist, mingling and curling in fantastic pillars,
formed a huge and glittering dome tinged with many colours by the
rising sun, and through the gross vapour below the restless horsemen
were seen or lost, as the fume thickened from the rapid play of the
artillery; the bluff head of land beyond the Trabancos, now covered
with French troops, appeared by an optical deception close at hand,
dilated to the size of a mountain, and crowned with gigantic soldiers,
who were continually breaking off and sliding down into the fight.
Suddenly a dismounted English cavalry officer stalked from the midst
of the smoke towards the line of infantry; his gait was peculiarly
rigid, and he appeared to hold a bloody handkerchief to his heart; but
that which seemed a cloth was a broad and dreadful wound: a bullet
had entirely effaced the flesh from his left shoulder and breast and
carried away part of his ribs, his heart was bared and its movement
plainly discerned. It was a piteous and yet a noble sight, for his
countenance though ghastly was firm, his step scarcely indicated
weakness, and his voice never faltered. This unyielding man’s name was
Williams. He died a short distance from the field of battle, it was
said in the arms of his son, a youth of fourteen, who had followed his
father to the Peninsula in hopes of obtaining a commission, for they
were not in affluent circumstances.

Cotton maintained this exposed position until seven o’clock, when
Wellington and Beresford came up, and both were like to have been
slain together. For a squadron of French cavalry, breaking away from
the head of land beyond the Trabancos, had just before come with such
speed across the valley that it was for a moment thought they were
deserting; but with headlong course they mounted the table-land on
which Cotton’s left wing was posted, and drove a whole line of British
cavalry skirmishers back in confusion. The reserves then came up from
Alaejos, and these furious swordmen, scattered in all directions, were
in turn driven away or cut down; yet thirty or forty, led by their
gallant officer, suddenly appeared above the ravine separating the
British wings, just as Wellington and Beresford arrived on the slope
beneath them. Some infantry picquets were in the bottom, higher up were
two guns covered by a squadron of light cavalry disposed in perfect
order, and when the French officer saw this squadron he reined in his
horse with difficulty, his men gathering in a confused body round him;
they seemed lost, but their daring leader waving his sword soused down
with a shout on the English troopers, who turning, galloped through the
guns, and the whole mass, friends and enemies, went like a whirlwind
to the bottom, carrying away in the tumult Wellington and Beresford.
The French horsemen were now quite exhausted and a reserve of heavy
dragoons cut most of them to pieces; yet their invincible leader,
assaulted by three enemies at once, struck one dead from his horse, and
with surprising exertions saved himself from the others, though they
rode hewing at him on each side for a quarter of a mile.

Scarcely was this over when Marmont, having ascertained that a part
only of Wellington’s army was before him, crossed the Trabancos in two
columns, and penetrating between the light and fourth divisions marched
straight upon the Guarena. The British retired in three columns,
the light division being between the fifth division and the French,
close to the latter, the cavalry on the flanks and rear. The air was
extremely sultry, the dust rose in clouds, and the close order of the
troops was rendered very oppressive by a siroc wind; but where the
light division marched the military spectacle was strange and grand.
Hostile columns of infantry, only half musket-shot from each other,
were marching impetuously towards a common goal, the officers on each
side pointing forwards with their swords, or touching their caps and
waving their hands in courtesy, while the German cavalry, huge men, on
huge horses, rode between in a close compact body as if to prevent a
collision: at times the loud tones of command to hasten the march were
heard passing from the front to the rear on both sides, and now and
then the rush of French bullets came sweeping over the columns, whose
violent pace was continually accelerated.

Thus moving for ten miles, yet keeping the most perfect order, both
parties approached the Guarena, and the enemy seeing the light
division, although more in their power than the others, was yet
outstripping them in the march, increased the fire of their guns and
menaced an attack with infantry: the German cavalry instantly drew
close round, the column plunged suddenly into a hollow dip of ground
on the left, and ten minutes after the head of the division was in the
stream of the Guarena between Osmo and Castrillo. The fifth division
entered it at the same time higher up on the left, and the fourth
division passed on the right. The soldiers of the light division,
tormented with thirst yet long used to their enemy’s mode of warfare,
drunk as they marched; those of the fifth division, less experienced,
stopped a few moments, and on the instant forty French guns gathering
on the heights above sent a tempest of bullets amongst them. So nicely
timed was the operation.

The Guarena, flowing from four distinct sources which united below
Castrillo, offered a very strong line of defence; yet Marmont, hoping
to carry it in the first confusion, brought up all his artillery and
pushed the head of his right column over an upper branch. Wellington,
expecting this, had previously ordered up the other divisions of his
army, and they were in line before Marmont’s infantry, oppressed with
heat and long marches, could gather strength to attempt the passage
of the other branch. Carier’s brigade of cavalry first crossed, and
was followed by a column of infantry, just as the fourth division had
gained the table-land above. Carier’s horsemen entered the valley on
the left, the infantry in one column menaced the front, but the sedgy
banks of the stream would have been difficult to force, if Victor
Alten, slow to perceive an advantage, had not suffered the French
cavalry to cross first in considerable numbers without opposition. Then
he assailed them by successive squadrons instead of regiments, and
when the 14th and German Hussars were hard-pressed, brought up the 3rd
Dragoons, who were however driven back by the fire of the infantry, and
many fell. Finally Carier being wounded and taken, the French retired,
and meanwhile the 27th and 40th Regiments, coming down the hill, broke
the enemy’s infantry with an impetuous bayonet charge: Alten’s horsemen
then sabred some of the fugitives.

Marmont lost a general and five hundred soldiers by this combat, but,
though baffled at one point, and beaten at another, he concentrated
his army and held both banks of the branch he had gained. Wellington
also concentrated, and as the previous operations had only cost him
six hundred men and the French but eight hundred, the day being
still young, the positions open and within cannon-shot, a battle was
expected. Marmont’s troops had however been marching for two days and
nights, and Wellington’s plan did not admit of fighting unless in
defence, or with such advantage as that he could crush his opponent and
keep the field afterwards against the king.

The French marshal had passed a great river, surprised the allies’
right, and pushed it back above ten miles: he had nevertheless failed
as a general. His aim had been, by menacing the communication between
Salamanca and Rodrigo, to draw the allies back; yet on the evening of
the 16th, having passed the Duero at Toro, he was nearer to Salamanca
than they were, and, persisting, Wellington must have fought him at
disadvantage, or passed the Tormes at Huerta to regain the road of
Rodrigo. Marmont however relinquished this stroke to march eighty miles
in forty-eight hours, and after many nice evolutions, in which he lost
a thousand men by the sword and fatigue, found his adversary on the
18th facing him in the very position he had turned on the evening of
the 16th!

On the 19th the armies were quiet until evening, when the French were
suddenly concentrated in one mass on their left. Wellington made a
corresponding movement on the tableland above, which caused the light
division to overlook the enemy’s main body, then at rest round the
bivouac fires; it would have remained so if Sir Stapleton Cotton
coming up had not turned a battery upon a group of French officers. At
the first shot they seemed surprised--for it was a discourteous and
ill-considered act--at the second their gunners run to their pieces,
and a reply from twelve heavier guns wounded an artillery-officer,
killed several British soldiers, swept away a whole section of
Portuguese, and compelled the division to withdraw in a mortifying
manner to avoid unnecessary blood-spilling.

Wellington now expected a battle, because the heights he occupied
trended backwards to the Tormes on the shortest line, and as he had
thrown a Spanish garrison into the castle of Alba de Tormes he thought
the French could not turn his right; if they attempted it, he could
shoulder them off the Tormes at the ford of Huerta. At daybreak
however, instead of crossing the Guarena in front to dispute the high
land, Marmont marched rapidly up the river and crossed the stream,
though the banks were difficult, before any disposition could be made
to oppose him. He thus turned the right and gained a new range of
hills trending also towards the Tormes, and parallel to those which
Wellington possessed. Then commenced a scene similar to that of the
18th but on a greater scale. The allies moving in two lines of battle
within musket-shot of the French endeavoured to cross their march, the
guns on both sides exchanged rough salutations as the accidents of
ground favoured their play, and the officers, like gallant gentlemen
who bore no malice and knew no fear, made their military recognitions,
while the horsemen on each side watched with eager eyes for an opening
to charge: but the French, moving as one man along the crest of the
heights, preserved the lead and made no mistake.

Soon it became evident that the allies would be outflanked, wherefore
Wellington, falling off a little, made towards the heights occupied by
Marmont during the siege of the forts, intending to halt there while
an advanced guard, forcing a march, secured the position and fords of
Christoval. But he made no effort to seize the ford of Huerta, for
his own march had been long, the French had passed over nearly twice
as much ground, and he thought they could not reach the Tormes that
day. When night approached he discovered his error. His second line
had indeed got the heights of Vellosa, but his first line was heaped
up in low ground near the French army, whose fires, crowning all the
opposite hills, showed they commanded the ford of Huerta. Wellington
then ordered the bivouac fires to be made with much smoke, under cover
of which he filed the troops off with great celerity towards Vellosa;
but the Portuguese cavalry, coming in from the front, were mistaken for
French and lost some men by cannon-shot ere they were recognised.

Very much disquieted by this day’s operations was the English leader.
Marmont, perfectly acquainted with the country, had outflanked and
outmarched him, and gained the command of the Tormes, thus securing
his junction with the king’s army, and enabled to fight or wait for
reinforcements, while the scope of the allies’ operations would hourly
become more restricted. Meanwhile Caffarelli having finally detached
eighteen hundred cavalry with guns to aid Marmont, they were coming
on, and the king also was taking the field; hence though a victory
should be won, unless it was decisive, Wellington’s object would not be
advanced. That object was to deliver the Peninsula by a course of solid
operations, incompatible with sudden and rash strokes unauthorized by
anything but hope; wherefore, yielding to circumstances, he resolved
to retreat on Portugal and abide his time; yet with a bitter spirit,
nothing soothed by the recollection that he had refused to fight at
advantage exactly one month before upon the very hills he now occupied.
Nevertheless that steadfast temper which then prevented him from
seizing an adventitious chance would not now let him yield to fortune
more than she could ravish from him: he still hoped to give the lion’s
stroke, and resolved to cover Salamanca and the communication with
Ciudad Rodrigo to the last moment. The uncertainty of war was now
shown. This inability to hold his ground was made known to Castaños by
a letter, which Marmont intercepted, and immediately decided to push on
without waiting for the king, who afterwards announced this accident as
a subtle stroke by Wellington to draw on a premature battle!

On the 21st, the allies being on San Christoval, the French threw
a garrison into Alba de Tormes, from whence the Spaniards had been
withdrawn by Carlos España, without the knowledge of the English
general. Marmont then passed the Tormes by the fords, between Alba
and Huerta, and moving up the valley of the Machechuco encamped at
the outer edge of a forest. Wellington also passed the Tormes in the
evening by the bridge of Salamanca and the fords of Santa Marta and
Aldea Lengua; but the third division and D’Urban’s cavalry remaining
on the right bank, intrenched themselves, lest the French, who had left
a division on the heights of Babila Fuente, should recross the Tonnes
in the night and overwhelm them.

When the light division descended the rough side of the Aldea Lengua
mountain to cross the river night had come down suddenly, and with more
than common darkness, for a storm, that usual precursor of a battle
in the Peninsula, was at hand. Torrents of rain deepened the ford,
the water foamed and dashed with increasing violence, the thunder was
frequent and deafening, and the lightning passed in sheets of fire
close over the column, playing upon the points of the bayonets. One
flash falling amongst the cavalry near Santa Marta killed many men
and horses, while hundreds of frightened animals, breaking loose and
galloping wildly about, were supposed to be the enemy charging in the
darkness, and some of their patrols were indeed at hand, hovering like
birds of prey: but nothing could disturb the beautiful order in which
the serene veterans of the light division were seen by the fiery gleams
to pass the foaming river, pursuing their march amidst this astounding
turmoil, alike regardless of the storm and the enemy.

The position now taken was nearly the same as that occupied by General
Graham a month before, when the forts of Salamanca were invested. The
left wing rested in low ground on the Tormes, having a cavalry post
in front. The right wing was extended on a range of heights, which
ended also in low ground, near the village of Arapiles: this line,
perpendicular to the Tormes from Huerta to Salamanca, was parallel to
it from Alba to Huerta, and covered Salamanca. Meanwhile the enemy,
extending his left along the edge of the forest, menaced the line of
communication with Rodrigo; and in the night advice came that General
Chauvel, bringing up Caffarelli’s horsemen and twenty guns, had reached
Pollos the 20th, and would join Marmont the 22nd or 23rd. Hence
Wellington, feeling he must now retreat to Rodrigo, and fearing the
French cavalry thus reinforced would hamper his movements, determined,
unless they attacked him or committed some flagrant fault, to retire
before Chauvel’s horsemen could arrive.

At daybreak on the 22nd, Marmont called the troops at Babila Fuente
over the Tormes, brought Bonet’s and Maucune’s divisions out of the
forest, and took possession of the ridge of Calvariza Ariba; he also
occupied in advance of it on his right, a wooded height on which was an
old chapel called Nuestra Señora de la Pena. But at a little distance
from his left and from the English right, stood a pair of solitary
hills, called indifferently the _Arapiles_ or the _Hermanitos_. Steep
and savagely rugged, about half cannon-shot from each other, their
possession would have enabled Marmont to cross Wellington’s right, and
force a battle with every advantage. Nevertheless they were neglected
by the English at first, until Colonel Waters, having observed an
enemy’s detachment stealing towards them, informed Beresford, who
thought it of no consequence, but Waters then rode to Wellington who
immediately sent troops to seize them. A combat similar to that which
happened between Cæsar and Afranius at Lerida now ensued; for the
French, seeing this detachment, broke their own ranks and running to
the encounter gained the first Arapiles and kept it, yet were repulsed
in an endeavour to seize the second. This skirmish was followed by
one at Nuestra Señora de la Pena, half of which was gained, the enemy
keeping the other half: Victor Alten, aiding the attack with a squadron
of German hussars, was there wounded by a musket-shot.

The loss of the distant Arapiles rendered a retreat difficult to the
allies during daylight; for though the one gained was a fortress in the
way of the French army, Marmont, by extending his left and gathering a
force behind his own rock, could frame a dangerous battle during the
movement. Wellington therefore extended his troops on the right of his
own Hermanito, placing the light companies of the Guards at the village
of Arapiles in low ground, and the fourth division, with exception
of the 27th Regiment, on a gentle ridge behind them. The fifth and
sixth divisions he gathered in one mass upon the internal slope of the
English Hermanito, where the ground being hollow, hid them from the
enemy. During these movements a sharp cannonade was exchanged from the
tops of those frowning hills, on whose crowning rocks the two generals
sat like ravenous vultures watching for their quarry.

Marmont’s project was not yet developed. His troops from Babila Fuente
were still in the forest some miles off, and he had only two divisions
close up. The occupation of Calvariza Ariba and Nuestra Señora de
la Pena might be therefore only a daring defensive measure to cover
the formation of his army; but the occupation of the Hermanito was a
start forward for an advantage to be afterwards turned to profit, and
seemed to fix the operations on the left of the Tormes. In this doubt
Wellington brought up the first and light divisions to confront the
French on Calvariza Ariba, and calling the third division and D’Urban’s
cavalry over the river, posted them in a wood near Aldea Tejada,
entirely refused to the enemy and unseen by him, yet securing the main
road to Rodrigo. Thus the position was suddenly reversed. The left
now rested on the English Hermanito, the right on Aldea Tejada; that
which was the rear became the front, the interval between the third and
fourth divisions being occupied by Bradford’s Portuguese infantry, a
Spanish division, and the British cavalry.

Breaks and hollows so screened the men that few could be seen by the
French, and those seemed pointing to the Rodrigo road in retreat;
moreover, the commissariat and baggage had been ordered to the rear
and the dust of their march was seen many miles off: nothing indicated
an approaching battle. Such a state of affairs could not last long. At
twelve o’clock Marmont, thinking the important bearing of his Hermanito
on Wellington’s retreat would induce the latter to drive him thence,
brought up Foy’s and Ferey’s divisions in support, placing the first,
with some guns, on a wooded height between the Hermanito and Nuestra
Señora de la Pena; the second, with Boyer’s dragoons, on a ridge behind
Foy. Nor was this ill-timed, for Wellington, thinking he could not
insure a safe retreat in daylight, was going to attack, but on the
approach of these troops gave counter-orders lest he should bring on a
general battle disadvantageously.

The French from Babila Fuente had not then reached the edge of the
forest, yet Marmont resolved to fight, and fearing the allies would
retreat before his own dispositions were completed, ordered Thomières’
division, covered by fifty guns and supported by the light cavalry, to
make a flank movement by its left and menace the Rodrigo road. Then
hastening the march of his other divisions, he watched when Wellington
should move in opposition to Thomières, designing to fall upon him by
the village with six divisions of infantry and Boyer’s dragoons, which
he now ordered to take fresh ground on the left of the Hermanito rock,
leaving only one regiment of cavalry with Foy.

In these new circumstances the two armies embraced an oval basin,
formed by different ranges of hills that rose like an amphitheatre,
the Arapiles rocks appearing like the doorposts. Around this basin,
which was more than a mile from north to south and more than two miles
from east to west, the hostile forces were grouped. The northern and
western half formed the allies’ position; the eastern heights were held
by the French right; their left, consisting of Thomières’ division,
the artillery and light cavalry, moved along the southern side of
the basin, but with a wide loose march; for there was a long space
between Thomières’ division and those in the forest destined to form
the centre; a longer space between him and the divisions about the
French Hermanito. The artillery, fifty guns, massed on Thomières’ right
flank, opened its fire grandly, taking ground to the left by guns in
succession as the infantry moved on; and these last marched eagerly,
continually contracting their distance from the allies and bringing
up their left shoulders as if to envelope Wellington’s position and
embrace it with fire. At this time also, Bonet’s troops, one regiment
of which held the French Arapiles, carried the village of that name,
and although soon driven from the greatest part of it again maintained
a fierce struggle.

Marmont’s first arrangements had occupied several hours, but as they
gave no positive indication of his designs, Wellington, ceasing to
watch them, had retired from his Hermanito; but when he was told the
French left was in motion pointing towards the Ciudad Rodrigo road, he
returned to the rock and observed their movements for some time with
a stern contentment. Their left wing was entirely separated from the
centre, the fault was flagrant, and he fixed it with the stroke of a
thunderbolt. A few orders issued from his lips like the incantations
of a wizard, and suddenly the dark mass of troops which covered the
English Hermanito, as if possessed by some mighty spirit, rushed
violently down the interior slope of the mountain and entered the
great basin, amidst a storm of bullets which seemed to shear away the
whole surface of the earth over which they moved. The fifth division
instantly formed on the right of the fourth, connecting the latter
with Bradford’s Portuguese, who hastened forward at the same time
from the right of the army, and then the heavy cavalry, galloping up
on the right of Bradford, closed this front of battle. The sixth and
seventh divisions, flanked on the right by Anson’s light cavalry,
were ranged at half cannon shot on a second line, which was prolonged
by the Spaniards in the direction of the third division; and this
last, reinforced by two squadrons of the 14th Dragoons, and D’Urban’s
Portuguese horsemen, formed the extreme right of the army. Behind
all, on the highest ground, the first and light divisions and Pack’s
Portuguese were disposed in heavy masses as a reserve.

When this grand disposition was completed, the third division and its
attendant horsemen, formed in four columns and flanked on the left
by twelve guns, received orders to cross Thomières’ line of march.
The remainder of the first line, including the main body of the
cavalry, was to advance when the attack of the third division should
be developed; and as the fourth division must in this forward movement
necessarily lend its flank to the enemy’s troops stationed on the
French Hermanito, Pack was to assail that rock the moment the left
of the British line passed it. Thus, after long coiling and winding,
the armies came together, and drawing up their huge trains like angry
serpents mingled in deadly strife.


Marmont from his Hermanito saw the country beneath him suddenly covered
with enemies at a moment when he was in the act of making a complicated
evolution, and when, by the rash advance of his left, his troops were
separated into three parts too dispersed to assist each other, those
nearest the enemy being neither strong enough to hold their ground nor
aware of what they had to encounter. The third division was however
still hidden by the western heights, and he hoped the tempest of
bullets in the basin beneath would check the British line until he
could bring up his other divisions and by the village of Arapiles fall
on what was now the left of the allies’ position. But even this his
only resource for saving the battle was weak, for there were in reserve
the first and light divisions and Pack’s Portuguese, in all twelve
thousand troops, with thirty pieces of artillery; the village was also
well disputed, and the English rock stood out as a strong bastion of
defence. However, nothing daunted, Marmont despatched officer after
officer, some to hasten the troops from the forest, others to stop the
progress of his left wing; and with a sanguine expectation he still
looked for victory, until Pakenham shot with the third division like a
meteor across Thomières’ path; then pride and hope alike died within
him, and desperately he was hurrying in person to that fatal point,
when an exploding shell stretched him on the earth with a broken arm
and two deep wounds in his side. Confusion ensued, and the troops,
distracted by ill-judged orders and counter-orders, knew not where to
move, whom to fight, or whom to avoid.

It was five o’clock when Pakenham fell upon Thomières; and it was at
a moment when that general, whose column had gained an open isolated
hill, expected to see the allies in full retreat towards the Rodrigo
road, closely followed by Marmont from the Arapiles. The counter-stroke
was terrible! Two batteries of artillery, placed on the summit of the
western heights, suddenly took his troops in flank, Pakenham’s massive
columns, supported by cavalry, were in his front, and two-thirds of
his own division, lengthened out and unconnected, were still in a
wood, where they could hear but could not see the storm now bursting;
from the chief to the lowest soldier all felt they were lost, and in
an instant Pakenham, the most frank and gallant of men, commenced the

As the British masses came on, forming lines while in march, the French
gunners, standing up manfully, sent out showers of grape, and a crowd
of light troops poured in a fire of musketry, under cover of which
the main body endeavoured to display a front. But bearing onwards
through the skirmishers with the might of a giant Pakenham broke the
half-formed lines into fragments, and sent the whole in confusion upon
the advancing supports; one only officer remained by the artillery;
standing alone he fired the last gun at the distance of a few yards,
but whether he lived or there died could not be seen for the smoke.
Some squadrons of light cavalry fell on the right of the third
division; the 5th Regiment repulsed them, and then D’Urban’s Portuguese
horsemen, reinforced by two squadrons of the 14th Dragoons under Felton
Harvey, gained the enemy’s flank, while the Oporto regiment, led by
the English Major Watson, charged his infantry, but Watson fell deeply
wounded and his men retired.

Pakenham continued his tempestuous course against the remainder of
Thomières’ troops, which were now arrayed on the wooded heights behind
the first hill, yet imperfectly and offering two fronts; the one
opposed to the third division and its attendant horsemen, the other to
the fifth division, Bradford’s brigade, and the main body of cavalry
and artillery, all of which were now moving in one great line across
the basin. Meanwhile Bonet, repulsed from the village of Arapiles,
was sharply engaged outside with the fourth division, Maucune kept a
menacing position behind the French Hermanito, Clausel’s division came
up from the forest, and the connection of the centre and left was in
some measure restored: two divisions were however yet in the rear,
and Boyer’s dragoons were still in march. Thomières had been killed,
Bonet succeeding Marmont was disabled, hence more confusion; but the
command then devolved on Clausel, and he was of a capacity to sustain
this terrible crisis, which may be thus described. The fourth and
fifth divisions and Bradford’s brigade, hotly engaged, were steadily
gaining ground on the English left; the heavy cavalry, Anson’s light
dragoons, and Bull’s troop of artillery were next in line, advancing
at a trot on Pakenham’s left, and on that general’s right D’Urban’s
horsemen overlapped the enemy. Thus in less than half an hour, and
before an order of battle had even been formed by the French, their
commander-in-chief and two other generals had fallen, and the left of
their army was turned, thrown into confusion and enveloped.

Clausel’s division had now joined Thomières’, and a new front had
been spread on the southern heights, yet loosely and unfit to resist;
for the troops were, some in double lines, some in columns, some in
squares, a powerful sun struck on their eyes, and the light soil,
stirred up and driven forward by a breeze, which arose in the west at
the moment of attack, came mingled with smoke full upon them in such
stifling volumes, that scarcely able to breathe and quite unable to
see their fire was given at random. In this situation, while Pakenham,
bearing onward with conquering violence was closing on their flank, and
the fifth division advancing with a storm of fire on their front, the
interval between the two attacks was suddenly filled with a whirling
cloud of dust, moving swiftly forward and carrying within its womb
the trampling sound of a charging multitude. As it passed the left of
the third division, Le Marchant’s heavy horsemen, flanked by Anson’s
light cavalry, broke out at full speed, and the next instant twelve
hundred French infantry, formed in several lines, were trampled down
with a terrible clangour and tumult. Bewildered and blinded they cast
away their arms and run through the openings of the British squadrons,
stooping and demanding quarter, while the dragoons, big men on big
horses, rode onward, smiting with their long glittering swords in
uncontrollable power, and the third division, following at speed,
shouted as the French masses fell in succession before this dreadful

Nor were these valiant swordsmen yet exhausted. Le Marchant and many
officers had fallen, but Cotton and all his staff were still at their
head, and with ranks confused and blended in one mass, still galloping
forward, they sustained from a fresh column an irregular stream of fire
which emptied a hundred saddles; yet with fine courage and downright
force, the survivors broke through this the third and strongest body
of men that had encountered them, and Lord Edward Somerset, continuing
his course at the head of one squadron with a happy perseverance,
captured five guns. The French left was thus entirely broken, more
than two thousand prisoners were taken, their light horsemen abandoned
that part of the field, and Thomières’ division no longer existed as a
military body. Anson’s cavalry, which had passed quite over the hill
and had suffered little in the charge, was now joined by D’Urban’s
troopers and took the place of Le Marchant’s exhausted men; the heavy
German dragoons followed in reserve, forming with the third and fifth
divisions and the guns one formidable line, two miles in advance
of where Pakenham had first attacked: and that impetuous officer
with unmitigated strength still pressed forward spreading terror and
disorder on the enemy’s left.

But while these signal events, which occupied about forty minutes,
were passing on the allies’ right, a terrible battle raged in the
centre. For when the first shock of the third division had been
observed, the fourth division, moving in a line with the fifth, had
passed the village of Arapiles under a prodigious cannonade, and
vigorously driving Bonet’s troops step by step to the southern and
eastern heights, had compelled them to mingle with the broken remains
of Clausel’s and Thomières’ divisions. This combat having opened the
French Hermanito about the time of the cavalry charge, enabled Pack’s
Portuguese to assail that rock, and the front of battle was thus
completely defined, for Foy’s division was then exchanging a distant
cannonade with the first and light divisions. However Bonet’s troops,
notwithstanding Marmont’s fall and the loss of their own general,
fought strongly, and Clausel made a surprisingly vigorous effort and
beyond all men’s expectations to restore the battle. Soon a great
change was visible. Ferey’s division, drawn off from the height of
Calvaraza, arrived in the centre behind Bonet’s men; the light cavalry,
Boyer’s dragoons, and two divisions of infantry from the forest, were
also united there; and on this mass of fresh men Clausel rallied the
remnants of his own and Thomières’ division. Thus Sarrut’s, Brennier’s
and Ferey’s unbroken divisions, supported by all the cavalry, were
suddenly massed to cover the line of retreat on Alba de Tormes, while
Maucune still held the French Hermanito, having Foy on his right.

But Clausel, not content with having thus got the army together in a
condition to effect a retreat, attempted to turn the tide of victory,
founding hope on a misfortune which had befallen Pack. For that
officer, ascending the French Hermanito in one heavy column, was within
thirty yards of the summit, believing himself victorious, when the
enemy leaped suddenly forward from the rocks upon his front and upon
his left flank; the hostile masses closed, there was a thick cloud of
smoke, a shout, a stream of fire, and the side of the hill was covered
with the dead, the wounded and flying Portuguese. They were unjustly
scoffed at for this failure, no troops could have withstood that crash
upon such steep ground, and the propriety of attacking the hill at all
seems questionable. The result went nigh to shake the whole battle.
For the fourth division had just then reached the southern ridge of
the basin, and one regiment had actually gained the summit when twelve
hundred French, arrayed on the reverse slope, charged up hill when the
British were quite breathless and disordered by the previous fighting;
the French came up resolutely and without a shot won the crest, and
even pursued down the other side until two supporting regiments below
checked them.

This counter-blow took place at the moment of Pack’s defeat, and then
Maucune, no longer in pain for the Hermanito, menaced the left flank
and rear of the fourth division with skirmishers, until a wing of
the 40th Regiment, wheeling about with a rough charge, cleared the
rear. Maucune would not engage more deeply at that time, yet Ferey’s
troops pressed vigorously against the front of the fourth division,
and Brennier did the same by the first line of the fifth division;
Boyer’s dragoons also came on rapidly, and the allies outflanked and
overmatched lost ground. Fiercely and fast the French followed, and
the fight once more raged in the basin below. General Cole had before
this fallen deeply wounded, Leith had the same fortune, but Beresford
promptly drew Spry’s Portuguese brigade from the second line of the
fifth division, and thus flanked the advancing columns of the enemy:
yet he also fell desperately wounded, and Boyer’s dragoons came freely
into action, because Anson’s cavalry had been checked, after Le
Marchant’s charge, by a heavy fire of artillery.

Now the crisis of battle arrived, victory was for the general who
had the strongest reserves in hand, and Wellington, seen that day at
every point where and when his presence was most required, brought up
the sixth division, and turned the scale by a charge, rough, strong,
and successful. Nevertheless the struggle was no slight one. Hulse’s
brigade, which was on the left, went down by hundreds, and the 61st
and 11th Regiments won their way desperately and through such a fire
as British soldiers only can sustain. Some of Boyer’s dragoons also,
breaking in between the fifth and sixth divisions, slew many men and
caused some disorder in the 53rd; yet that brave regiment lost no
ground, nor did Clausel’s impetuous counter-attack avail at any point,
after the first burst, against the steady courage of the allies. The
southern ridge was thus regained, the French generals Menne and Ferey
were wounded, the first severely, the second mortally; Clausel himself
was hurt, Boyer’s reserve of dragoons, coming on at a canter, were met
and broken by the fire of Hulse’s noble brigade, and the current of the
fight once more set for the British. The third division continued to
outflank the enemy’s left, Maucune abandoned the Hermanito, Foy retired
from Calvariza, and the allied host, righting itself as a gallant ship
after a sudden gust, again bore onwards in blood and gloom: for though
the air, purified by the storm of the night before, was peculiarly
clear, one vast cloud of smoke and dust rolled along the basin, and
within it was the battle with all its sights and sounds of terror.

When Wellington had thus restored the fight in the centre, he directed
the first division to push between Foy and the rest of the French
army, which would have rendered it impossible for the latter to rally
or escape; but this order was not executed, and Foy’s and Maucune’s
divisions were skilfully used by Clausel to protect his retreat. Foy,
posted on undulating ground and flanked by dragoons, covered the roads
to the fords of Huerta and Encina; Maucune, reinforced with fifteen
guns, was on a steep ridge in front of the forest, covering the road
to Alba de Tormes; and behind this ridge, the rest of the army, then
falling back in disorder before the third, fifth and sixth divisions,
took refuge. Wellington immediately sent the light division in two
lines, flanked by dragoons, against Foy, and supported them with the
first division in columns, flanked on the right by two brigades of the
fourth division, which he drew from the centre when the sixth division
had restored the fight. The seventh division and the Spaniards followed
in reserve, the country was covered with troops, and a new army seemed
to have arisen out of the earth.

Foy, throwing out a cloud of skirmishers, retired by wings, firing
heavily from every rise of ground upon the light division, which
returned no shot, save by its skirmishers; for three miles this march
was under his musketry, occasionally thickened by a cannonade, but the
French aim was baffled by the twilight and rapid gliding of the lines.
Meanwhile the French general Desgraviers was killed, the flanking
brigades from the fourth division penetrated between Maucune and Foy,
and it seemed difficult for the latter to extricate his troops. Yet
he did so thus. Augmenting his skirmishers on the last defensible
ridge, along the foot of which run a marshy stream, he redoubled his
musketry and made a menacing demonstration with his horsemen just as
the darkness fell; the British guns immediately opened, a squadron of
dragoons galloped forwards from the left, the infantry impetuously
hastened to the summit of the hill, and a rough shock seemed at hand,
but there was no longer an enemy: the main body had gone into the
forest on their left during the firing, and the skirmishers fled
swiftly after covered by the smoke and coming night.

Maucune was now maintaining a noble battle. He was outflanked and
outnumbered, yet the safety of the French army depended on his courage,
he knew it, and Pakenham, marking his bold demeanour, advised Clinton,
who was immediately in his front, not to assail him until the third
division should have turned his left. Nevertheless Clinton plunged
his troops into action under great disadvantage; for after remaining
some time unnecessarily under Maucune’s batteries, which ploughed
heavily through their ranks, they were suddenly directed to attack the
hill, and aided by a brigade of the fourth division they rushed up;
but in the darkness of the night the fire showed from afar how the
battle went. On the English side a sheet of flame was seen, sometimes
advancing with an even front, sometimes pricking forth in spear heads,
now falling back in waving lines, anon darting upwards in one vast
pyramid, the apex of which often approached yet never gained the actual
summit of the mountain; but the French musketry, rapid as lightning,
sparkled along the brow of the height with unvarying fulness, and with
what destructive effects the dark gaps and changing shapes of the
adverse fire showed too plainly: meanwhile Pakenham turned the left,
Foy glided into the forest, and Maucune’s task being then completed,
the effulgent crest of the ridge became black and silent and the whole
French army vanished as it were in the darkness.

During this fight Wellington in person made the light division advance
towards the ford of Huerta, having the forest on his right; for he
thought the Spanish garrison was still in the castle of Alba, and
that the enemy must be found at the fords. For this final stroke he
had strengthened his left wing; nor was he diverted from it by Foy’s
retreat into the forest, because it pointed towards the fords of
Encina and Gonzalo, where the right wing of the allies would find him;
moreover a squadron of French dragoons, bursting from the forest soon
after dark and firing their pistols, had passed at full gallop across
the front of the 43rd Regiment towards the ford of Huerta, indicating
great confusion in the defeated army, and confirming Wellington’s
notion as to the direction: yet the troops were then marching through
standing corn, where no enemy could have preceded them!

Had the castle of Alba been held the French could not have carried off
a third of their army; nor would they have been in much better plight
if Carlos España, who soon discovered his error in withdrawing the
garrison, had informed Wellington of the fact; but he suppressed it and
suffered the colonel who had only obeyed his orders to be censured. The
left wing therefore reached the fords without meeting any enemy, and,
the night being far spent, was there halted. The right wing, exhausted
by long fighting, halted after the action with Maucune, and thus the
French gained Alba unmolested; yet the action did not terminate without
two remarkable accidents. While riding close behind the 43rd Regiment,
Wellington was struck in the thigh by a spent ball which passed through
his holster; and in the night Sir Stapleton Cotton, who had gone to the
ford of Huerta, was, in returning, shot through the arm by a Portuguese
sentinel whose challenge he disregarded. These were the last events
of this famous battle in which the English general, to use a French
officer’s expression, _defeated forty thousand men in forty minutes_!
Yet he fought it as if his genius disdained such trial of its strength.
Late in the evening of that great day I saw him behind my regiment,
then marching towards the ford. He was alone, the flush of victory
was on his brow, his eyes were eager and watchful, but his voice was
calm and even gentle. More than the rival of Marlborough, for he
had defeated greater generals than Marlborough ever encountered, he
seemed with prescient pride only to accept the victory as an earnest of
greater glory.

COMBAT OF LA SERNA. (July, 1812.)

During the few hours of darkness succeeding the battle of Salamanca,
Clausel with a wonderful diligence passed the Tormes at Alba; but
Wellington also crossed that river with his left wing at daylight,
and moving up stream overtook the French on the Almar rivulet, near
the village of La Serna, and launched his cavalry against them. Their
squadrons fled from Anson’s troopers, abandoning three battalions of
infantry, who in separate columns were making up a hollow slope, hoping
to gain the crest of some heights before the pursuing cavalry could
fall on, and the two foremost did reach the higher ground and there
formed squares; the last, when half-way up, seeing Bock’s heavy German
dragoons galloping hard on, faced about and commenced a disorderly
fire, and the squares above also plied their muskets on the Germans,
who, after crossing the Almar, had to pass a turn of narrow road and
clear rough ground before opening a charging front. They dropped fast
under the fire. By twos, by threes, by tens, by twenties they fell, yet
the mass, surmounting the difficulties of the ground, hurtled on the
column and went clean through it: then the squares above retreated and
several hundred prisoners were made by those able and daring horsemen.

This charge was successful even to wonder, and the victors standing in
the midst of captives and admiring friends seemed invincible; yet those
who witnessed the scene, nay the actors themselves remained with the
conviction of the military truth,--that cavalry are not able to cope
with veteran infantry, save by surprise. The hill of La Serna offered
a frightful spectacle of the power of the musket. The track of the
Germans was marked by their huge bodies. A few minutes only had the
combat lasted, and above a hundred had fallen--fifty-one were killed
outright. In several places man and horse had died simultaneously, and
so suddenly, that falling together on their sides they appeared still
alive, the horse’s legs stretched out as in movement, the rider’s
feet in the stirrups, the bridle in hand, the sword raised to strike,
and the large hat fastened under the chin, giving to the grim yet
undistorted countenance a supernatural and terrible expression.

When the French found their rear-guard attacked they turned to its
succour, but seeing the light division coming up recommenced the
retreat, and were soon joined by Caffarelli’s horsemen and guns, under
General Chauvel: too late they joined for the battle, yet covered
the retreat with a resolution that deterred the allied cavalry from
meddling with them. Clausel then carried his army off with such
celerity that his head-quarters were that night forty miles from the
field of battle.

King Joseph was at this time at Blasco Sancho, one short march from
the beaten army: he came to aid Marmont with fourteen thousand men,
and so early as the 24th could easily have effected a junction, but he
then knew only of Marmont’s advance from the Duero, not of his defeat.
Next day he received, from that marshal and Clausel, letters describing
the battle and saying the army must go over the Duero to establish
new communications with the Army of the North. A junction with them
was still possible, but the king retreated in haste, leaving behind
two officers and twenty-seven horsemen, who were next day attacked
and captured by seven troopers of the 14th Dragoons led by Corporal
Hanley,[25] a noble soldier, thus described by an officer under whom he
had many times charged. “A finer fellow never rode into the field. His
feats, besides the one at Blasco Sancho, were extraordinary. He was a
very handsome man, rode magnificently, and had altogether such a noble
bearing before the enemy as is not often seen.”

Clausel marched upon Valladolid, abandoning the garrisons of Toro,
Tordesillas and Zamora, and, being still pressed by the British, went
up the Arlazan river. Then the king passed over the Guadarama mountains
to Madrid and Wellington entered Valladolid, where he found large
stores, seventeen pieces of artillery, and eight hundred sick and
wounded men. This terminated the Salamanca operations, which present
the following remarkable results. On the 18th of July Marmont’s army,
forty-two thousand sabres and bayonets with seventy-four guns, passed
the Duero to attack the allies. On the 30th it repassed that river
in retreat, having in those twelve days marched two hundred miles,
fought three combats, and a general battle, in which one marshal of
France, seven generals, and twelve thousand five hundred men and
inferior officers were killed, wounded or taken, together with two
eagles, several standards and twelve guns, exclusive of those found at
Valladolid. In the same period the allies, who had forty-six thousand
sabres and bayonets, with sixty guns, the excess of men being Spanish,
marched one hundred and sixty miles, and had one marshal, Beresford,
four generals and six thousand men and officers killed or wounded.


  Madrid--Siege of Burgos--Retreat from Burgos--Combat of Venta
    de Pozo--Combat on the Carion--Retreat from Madrid--Alba de
    Tormes--Combat of the Huebra.

MADRID. (Aug. 1812.)

Wellington, having entirely separated the king’s army from Marmont’s,
had to choose between pursuing the latter and besieging Burgos, or
marching on Madrid. He adopted the last, and crossing the Guadarama
mountains descended on the Spanish capital, leaving General Clinton
with twelve thousand men to watch Clausel and co-operate with Spaniards
from Gallicia. Joseph had good troops, and being unwilling to fly
before a detachment occupied the Escurial, placing detachments on
all the roads. In this state D’Urban’s Portuguese cavalry drove back
Trielhard’s outposts and entered Majadahonda. Some German infantry,
Bock’s heavy cavalry, and a troop of horse-artillery then entered
Las Rozas, a mile in D’Urban’s rear; but in the evening, Trielhard,
reinforced by Schiazzetti’s Italian dragoons and the lancers of
Berg, returned; D’Urban called up the horse artillery and would
have charged, but his Portuguese fled, and three of the guns being
overturned on rough ground were taken. The victorious cavalry passed
through Majadahonda in pursuit, and though the German dragoons, albeit
surprised in quarters, stopped the leading French squadrons, yet,
when Schiazzetti’s horse came up, the fight would have ended badly if
Ponsonby’s cavalry and the seventh division had not arrived. Trielhard
then retired, carrying away captive, the Portuguese general, Visconde
de Barbacena, the colonel of the German cavalry, and others of less
rank. The whole loss was above two hundred, and the German dead lay
very thickly in the streets; many were stretched in their shirts and
trousers across the sills of the doors, thus manifesting the suddenness
of the action and their own bravery.

After this combat the king crossed the Tagus with his court, but in
the most horrible confusion, for his army, composed of Spaniards,
French and Italians, began to plunder the convoy. Marshal Jourdan threw
himself into the midst of the disorderly troops, and being aided by
other generals, with great personal risk arrested the mischief, and
succeeded in making the multitude file over the bridge of Aranjuez; yet
the procession was lugubrious and shocking; crowds of weeping women and
children and despairing men, courtiers of the highest rank, desperately
struggling with savage soldiers for the animals on which they were
endeavouring to save their families. Lord Wellington did not molest
them. Ignorant of their situation, or more probably, compassionating
their misery and knowing the troops could escape over the Tagus, he
would not strike. Perhaps also he thought it wise to leave Joseph with
the burthen of a court.

The king, expecting to find a strong reinforcement from Soult at
Toledo, was inclined to march towards the Morena; instead of troops he
found a positive refusal, and a plan for uniting his own and Suchet’s
army to Soult’s in Andalusia. From thence all were to menace Lisbon,
but this was too vast for the king’s genius, and his personal anger at
being denied the troops, overcoming prudence, he directed his march
on Valencia, peremptorily commanding Soult to abandon Andalusia and
join him there. Meanwhile Wellington entered Madrid and was met by the
whole population--not with feigned enthusiasm to a conqueror, for there
was no tumultuous exultation, famine was amongst them and misery had
subdued their spirit: but with tears and every sign of deep emotion
they crowded around his horse, hung by his stirrups, touched his
clothes, and throwing themselves on their knees blessed him aloud!

Madrid was still vexed by the presence of an enemy in the Retiro, which
was garrisoned with two thousand good soldiers besides convalescents,
and contained enormous stores, twenty thousand stand of arms, one
hundred and eighty pieces of artillery, and the eagles of two French
regiments. The works however were bad, and the French yielding on terms
were sent to Portugal, but on the way were basely robbed and many
murdered by the escort: an infamous action perpetrated by Spaniards,
far from Madrid. It was strange to see French generals, used to war,
thus giving up armies as it were to their enemies; for including the
garrisons of Toro, Tordesillas, Astorga and Zamora, all of which might
have been saved but were not, and this of the Retiro, which should not
have been left, six thousand good soldiers were absolutely given as a
present to swell the loss of Salamanca.

Some time Wellington remained in Madrid, apparently occupied with
balls and bull-fights, yet really watching events to decide whether he
should operate in the north or south. The hour of action came at last.
Soult abandoned Andalusia, and the 29th of August his rear-guard lost
two hundred men in Seville, where it was attacked by Colonel Skerrett
and some Spaniards from Cadiz; the former then joined Hill, who after
a series of operations against Drouet, in one of which he defeated
the French cavalry, now came to La Mancha. The south of Spain was for
the enemy then a scene of confusion which gave Wellington time for
action in the north, where his presence was absolutely required; for
Clausel had re-occupied Valladolid with a renovated force of twenty-two
thousand men and fifty guns, Clinton had made some serious errors, and
the Spanish generals had as usual failed on all points.

Leaving Hill a powerful force to co-operate with all the southern
Spanish armies beyond the Tagus, Lord Wellington quitted Madrid the
1st of September, and at Arevalo concentrated twenty-one thousand
men, three thousand being cavalry; yet the Portuguese soldiers were
ill equipped, and could scarcely be fed, because of the continued
misconduct of their government.

On the 6th he passed the Duero to fight Clausel, and called on Castaños
to join him with the Gallicians; but seldom did a Spanish general
deviate into activity; Castaños delayed and Clausel retreated slowly up
the beautiful valleys of the Pisuerga and Arlanzan, which, in denial
of the stories about French devastation, were carefully cultivated and
filled to repletion with corn, wine and oil. Nor were they deficient
in military strength. Off the high road ditches and rivulets impeded
the troops, while cross-ridges continually furnished strong positions,
flanked with lofty hills on either side, by means of which Clausel
baffled his adversary in a surprising manner. Each day he offered
battle, yet on ground Wellington was unwilling to assail, partly
because he momentarily expected the Gallicians; chiefly because of the
declining state of his own army from sickness, and that the hope of
ulterior operations in the south made him unwilling to lose men. By
flank movements he dislodged the enemy, yet each day darkness fell ere
they were completed and the morning’s sun always saw Clausel again in
position. Thus he barred the way at eight places, and finally covered
Burgos the 16th, by taking the strong position of Cellada del Camino.

But eleven thousand Spanish infantry, three hundred cavalry, and eight
guns, had now joined Wellington, who would have fallen on frankly
the 17th, if Clausel, alike wary and skilful, had not observed the
increased numbers and retired in the night to Frandovinez; he was
however next day pushed sharply back to the heights of Burgos, and the
following night passed through that town leaving behind large stores of
grain. Caffarelli, who had come down to place the castle in a state of
defence, now joined him and both retreated upon Briviesca.

The allies entered Burgos amidst great confusion. The garrison of
the castle had set fire to some houses impeding the defence, the
conflagration spread, and the Partidas, gathering like wolves round a
carcass, entered the town for mischief. Mr. Sydenham, an eye-witness
not unused to scenes of war, thus described their proceedings: “What
with the flames and plundering of the guerillas, who are as bad as
Tartars and Cossacks of the Kischack or Zagatay hordes, I was afraid
Burgos would be entirely destroyed, but order was at length restored by
the manful exertions of Don Miguel Alava.”

SIEGE OF BURGOS. (Sept. 1812.)

Caffarelli had placed eighteen hundred infantry, besides artillery-men,
in the castle; and Dubreton, the governor, in courage and skill
surpassed even the hopes of his sanguine countrymen. The works inclosed
a rugged hill, between which and the river the city of Burgos was
situated. An old wall with a new parapet and flanks offered the first
line of defence; the second line, within the other, was of earth,
a kind of field-retrenchment, but well palisaded; the third line,
similarly constructed, contained two elevated points, on one of which
was an intrenched building called the White Church, on the other
the ancient keep of the castle. This last, the highest point, was
intrenched and surmounted with a casemated work called the Napoleon
battery, which commanded everything around, save on the north. There
the hill of San Michael, only three hundred yards distant and scarcely
less elevated than the fortress, was defended by a horn-work with a
sloping scarp twenty-five, and a counterscarp ten feet high. This work
was merely closed by strong palisades, but was under the fire of the
Napoleon battery, well flanked by the castle, and covered in front by
intrenchments for out picquets. Nine heavy guns, eleven field-pieces
and six mortars or howitzers, were mounted in the fortress; and as the
reserve artillery and stores of the Army of Portugal were deposited
there the armament could be augmented.

FIRST ASSAULT. (Sept. 1812.)

So completely commanded were all the bridges and fords over the
Arlanzan by the castle guns, that two days elapsed ere the allies could
cross; but on the 19th, the passage being effected above the town,
Major Somers Cocks with the 79th, supported by Pack’s Portuguese, drove
in the French outposts on the hill of San Michael, and in the night,
reinforced with the 42nd Regiment, assailed the horn-work. The conflict
was murderous. The main storming column was beaten off, and the attack
would have failed if Cocks had not forced an entrance by the gorge.
The garrison was thus cut off, but the assailants not being closely
supported the French broke through them. The troops complained of each
other, and the loss was above four hundred, while that of the enemy was
less than one hundred and fifty.

The defences of the castle were feeble and incomplete, yet Wellington’s
means were so scant that he relied more upon the enemy’s weakness than
his own power. However, it was said water was scarce, and that the
provision-magazines might be burned; wherefore twelve thousand men were
set to the siege while twenty thousand formed the covering army.

For the attack, the trenches were to be opened on the right of San
Michael towards the town, and a battery for five guns established on
the right of the captured horn-work. A sap was then to be pushed from
the trenches towards the first wall, and from thence the engineer was
to proceed by gallery and mine.

When the first mine should be completed, the battery from San Michael
was to open against the second line of defence, and the assault given
on the first line. Approaches were then to be continued against the
second line, and the battery turned against the third line, in front of
the White Church, where the defences were exceedingly weak. Meanwhile
a trench for musketry was to be dug along the brow of San Michael, and
a concealed battery prepared within the horn-work for a final attack
on the Napoleon battery; but the artillery consisted of only three
eighteen-pounders with five iron twenty-four-pound howitzers: slender
means which, rather than the defects of the fortress, governed the line
of attack.

When the horn-work fell, a lodgement was commenced in the interior,
and continued vigorously under a destructive fire from the Napoleon
battery, but good cover was obtained in the night.

On the 21st the garrison mounted several field-guns, and at night fired
heavily with grape and shells on the workmen digging the musketry
trench. The 22nd this fire was redoubled, yet the besiegers worked with
little loss, and their musketeers galled the enemy. In the night the
battery was armed with two eighteen-pounders and three howitzers, and
the secret battery within the horn-work was commenced; but Wellington,
now deviating from his first plan, directed an escalade against the
first line. In this view, at midnight four hundred men with ladders
were secretly posted in a hollow road, fifty yards from the wall, which
was from twenty-three to twenty-five feet high without flanks; and to
aid this main column, a Portuguese battalion was assembled in the town
of Burgos for a flank attack.

SECOND ASSAULT. (Sept. 1812.)

In this assault, although the Portuguese were repelled by the fire of
the common guard, the principal party, composed of detachments under
Major Lawrie, entered the ditch, yet altogether and confusedly; Lawrie
was killed, the soldiers who mounted the ladders were bayoneted,
combustible missiles were thrown down in abundance, and the men gave
way, leaving half their number behind. The wounded were brought off
next day under a truce, and it is said, that on the body of an officer
the French found a complete plan of the siege. It was a very disastrous
attempt, which delayed the regular progress for two days, increased the
enemy’s courage and produced a bad effect upon the troops, some of whom
were already dispirited by the storm of the horn-work.

The original plan being now resumed, the hollow way from whence the
escaladers had advanced, running along the front of defence, was
converted into a parallel, and the trench made deep and narrow to
secure them from the plunging shot of the castle. Musketeers were also
planted to keep down the enemy’s fire. But heavy rains incommoded the
troops, and the French raised a palisaded work on their own right,
which flanked this parallel, and from thence they killed so many of the
besiegers’ marksmen that the latter were withdrawn.

In the night a flying sap from the right of the parallel was pushed
within twenty yards of the first line; but the directing engineer was
killed, and with him many men, for the French plied their musketry
sharply, and rolled large shells down the steep side of the hill. The
head of the sap was indeed so commanded as it approached the wall, that
a six-feet trench, added to the height of the gabions above, scarcely
protected the workmen; wherefore the gallery for a mine was worked as
rapidly as the inexperience of the miners would permit.

When the secret battery in the horn-work of San Michael was completed
two eighteen-pounders were removed from the first battery to arm it,
being replaced by two iron howitzers. The latter were used to drive
the French marksmen from their offensive palisaded wall, but after
firing one hundred and forty rounds without success the attempt was
relinquished; and ammunition was so scarce that the soldiers were paid
to collect the enemy’s bullets.

A zigzag was now commenced in front of the first battery, down the face
of San Michael, to obtain footing for a musketry trench to overlook the
enemy’s defences below: the workmen were exposed to the whole fire of
the castle at the distance of two hundred yards, and were knocked down
fast, yet the work went steadily on.

On the 26th the gallery was advanced eighteen feet and the soil found
favourable; but the men, in passing the sap, were hit by the French
marksmen, and an assistant engineer was killed. In the night the
parallel was prolonged on the right to within twenty yards of the
ramparts, in the view of driving a second gallery and mine; musketeers
were then planted there and at the same time the zigzag was continued,
and the musket trench completed with little loss, though the whole fire
of the castle was concentrated on the spot.

The 27th the French strengthened their second line, cut a step along
the edge of the counterscarp for a covered way, and palisaded the
communication. The besiegers finished the musketry trench on the right
of their parallel, and opened a gallery for the second mine; but the
first mine went on slowly, the men in the sap being galled by stones,
grenades, and small shells, which the French threw into the trenches by
hand; the artillery fire also knocked over the gabions of the musketry
trench on San Michael so fast that the troops were withdrawn during the

In the night a trench of communication, forming a second parallel
behind the first, was begun and nearly completed from the hill of San
Michael, but at daylight the French fire was heavy, and the shells
which passed over came rolling down the hill again into the trench. The
completion of the work was therefore deferred until night, and though
the back roll of the shells continued to gall the troops, this, and the
other trenches in front of the horn-work, above and on the right of
the parallel below, were filled with men whose fire was incessant: the
first mine also was completed, and being loaded with a thousand pounds
of powder, and the gallery strongly tamped for fifteen feet with bags
of clay, another storm was ordered.

THIRD ASSAULT. (Sept. 1812.)

At midnight, the hollow road being lined with men to fire on the
defences, the storming party, three hundred strong, was assembled
there, attended by others who carried tools and materials to secure
a lodgement when the breach should be carried. The mine was then
exploded, the wall fell, and an officer with twenty men rushed forward
to the assault. The effect of the explosion was disappointing, yet it
cast the wall down, the enemy was stupefied, and the forlorn hope, a
sergeant and four daring soldiers, gained the summit of the breach;
soon however the French recovered, and threw them over pierced with
bayonet wounds. Meanwhile the officer, with his twenty men, missed the
breach in the dark, and finding the wall unbroken returned, saying
there was no breach; then the main body regained the trenches, and
before the sergeant and his comrades came in with streaming wounds to
tell their tale the enemy was reinforced: the scarcity of ammunition
would not permit a fire to be directed upon the work during the night,
and the French, raising a parapet behind it, placed obstacles on the
ascent which deterred the besiegers from renewing the assault at

Twelve days had now elapsed since the siege commenced, one assault
had succeeded, two had failed, twelve hundred men had been killed or
wounded, little progress was made, and the troops were dispirited,
notably the Portuguese, who seemed to be losing their ancient spirit.
Discipline was relaxed, ammunition was wasted, work in the trenches
avoided and neglected by officers and men, insubordination was gaining
ground, and reproachful orders were issued, the Guards only being
noticed as presenting an honourable exception.

The French marksmen in the flanking palisaded work were so expert
that everything which could be seen from thence was hit, until the
howitzer battery on San Michael was reinforced with a captured French
eighteen-pounder, and this mischievous post was at last demolished. At
the same time the gallery of the second mine was pushed forward, and a
new breaching battery for three guns constructed behind it, so close
to the enemy’s defences that they screened it from the artillery fire
of their upper fortress. To arm this work the three eighteen-pounders
were dragged in the night from San Michael, and next day were, under
a musketry fire which thinned the workmen, placed in battery; but the
watchful Dubreton brought a howitzer down, with which he threw shells
into the battery, and making a hole through a flank wall, thrust out
a light gun also, which sent its bullets whizzing through the thin
parapet of the work at every round. The allies were thus driven from
their post, more French cannon were brought from the upper works, and
the battery was demolished; two of the gun-carriages were disabled, a
trunnion was knocked off one of the guns, and the muzzle of another
split: and vainly the marksmen endeavoured to quell this fire, the
French eventually remained masters.

In the night a more solid battery was made on the left of the ruined
one, but at daylight the French fire, plunging from above, made the
parapet fly off so rapidly, that the besiegers relinquished it also,
returning to their mines and breaching battery on San Michael. The two
guns still serviceable were now remanded to the upper battery, to beat
down a retrenchment formed by the French behind the old breach; but the
weather was so wet and stormy that the workmen, those of the Guards
excepted, abandoned the trenches, and at daylight the guns were still
short of their destination. However, on the 2nd of October they were
placed, and at four o’clock in the evening, their fire having cleansed
the old breach, and the second mine being tamped for explosion, a
double assault was ordered. For this operation a battalion of the 24th
British Regiment, under Captain Hedderwick, was formed in the hollow
way, having one advanced party under Lieut. Holmes near the new mine,
and a second under Lieut. Frazer towards the old breach.

FOURTH ASSAULT. (Oct. 1812.)

At five o’clock the mine exploded with terrific effect, sending many
of the French into the air and breaking down one hundred feet of the
wall; the next instant Holmes and his brave men went rushing through
the smoke and crumbling ruins; and Frazer, as quick and brave, was
already fighting with the defenders on the summit of the old breach.
The supports followed closely, and in a few minutes both points were
carried with a loss of thirty-seven killed and two hundred wounded,
seven being officers,--amongst them the conducting engineer.

During the night lodgements were formed on the ruins of the new breach,
imperfectly and under a destructive fire from the upper defences; but
the previous happy attack had revived the spirits of the army, vessels
with powder were coming coastwise from Coruña, a convoy was expected by
land from Rodrigo, and a supply of ammunition, sent by Sir Home Popham,
reached the camp from Santander. This promising state of affairs was
of short duration. On the evening of the 5th three hundred French came
swiftly down the hill, and, sweeping away labourers and guards from the
trenches, killed or wounded a hundred and fifty men, got possession of
the old breach, destroyed the works and carried off all the tools.

In the night the allies repaired the damage and pushed saps from
each flank, to meet in the centre near the second French line and
serve as a parallel to check future sallies. Meanwhile the howitzers
on San Michael continued their fire, and the breaching battery in
the horn-work opened; but the guns, being unable to see the wall
sufficiently low soon ceased to speak, and the embrasures were masked.
On the other hand the besieged could not, from the steepness of the
castle-hill, depress their guns to bear on the lodgement at the
breaches in the first line; yet their musketry was murderous, and they
rolled down large shells to retard the approaches towards the second

On the 7th the besiegers were so close to the wall that the howitzers
above could not play without danger to the workmen, and two French
field-pieces taken in the horn-work were substituted. The breaching
battery on San Michael being amended renewed its fire and at five
o’clock had beaten down fifty feet from the parapet of the second line,
yet the enemy’s return was heavy and another eighteen-pounder lost a
trunnion. In the night block-carriages with supports for the broken
trunnions were provided, and the disabled guns again fired with low
charges; but rain now filled the trenches, the communications were
injured, the workmen negligent, the approaches to the second line
went on slowly, and again Dubreton came thundering down from the upper
ground, driving the guards and workmen from the new parallel at the
lodgements, levelling all the works, carrying off all the tools, and
killing or wounding two hundred men. Colonel Cocks, promoted for his
gallant conduct at the storming of San Michael, restored the fight and
repulsed the French, but fell dead on the ground recovered: he was a
young man of a modest demeanour, brave, thoughtful and enterprising: he
lived and died a good soldier.

After this severe check the approaches to the second line were
abandoned, the trenches were extended to embrace the whole of the
front attacked, and as the battery on San Michael had now formed a
practicable breach twenty-five feet wide the parallel was prolonged
towards it, and a trench was opened for marksmen at thirty yards’
distance. Nevertheless another assault could not be risked, because the
powder was nearly exhausted and the troops, if unsuccessful, would have
been without ammunition in front of the French army, then gathering
head near Briviesca. Heated shot were however thrown at the White
Church to burn the magazines, and the miners were directed to drive
a gallery on the other side of the castle against the church of San
Roman, a building occupied by the French beyond their line.

On the 10th a supply of ammunition arrived from Santander, but Dubreton
had meanwhile strengthened his works, and isolated the new breach on
one flank by a stockade, extending at right angles from the second
to the third line of defence. The fire from the Napoleon battery
then compelled the besiegers again to withdraw their guns within the
horn-work, and the attempt to burn the White Church was relinquished,
yet the gallery against San Roman was continued.

On the 15th the battery in the horn-work was rearmed against the
Napoleon battery, but was silenced in three-quarters of an hour. The
embrasures were then altered, that the guns might bear on the breach in
the second line, and the besiegers worked to repair the mischief done
by rain, and to push the gallery under San Roman, where the mine was
loaded with nine hundred pounds of powder.

The 17th the battery of the horn-work cleared away the temporary
defences at the breach, the howitzers damaged the rampart on each side,
and, a small mine being sprung, a cavalier or mound from which the
enemy had killed many men in the trenches was taken, yet the French
soon recovered that work.

On the 18th the new breach being practicable, the storm was ordered,
the explosion of the mine under San Roman to be the signal; that church
was also to be assaulted, and between these attacks the works covering
the ancient breach were to be escaladed.

FIFTH ASSAULT. (Oct. 1812.)

At half-past four o’clock the mine at San Roman exploded, with
little injury to the church itself; but the latter was resolutely
attacked by some Spanish and Portuguese troops, and though the enemy
sprung a countermine which brought the building entirely down the
assailants lodged themselves in the ruins. Meanwhile two hundred of
the Foot-Guards, with strong supports, pouring through the old breach
in the first line escaladed the second, and between that and the third
line were strongly met by the French. A like number of Germans under
Major Wurmb, similarly supported, simultaneously stormed the new
breach, and some men mounting the hill above actually gained the third
line. Unhappily at neither point did the supports follow closely, and
the Germans, cramped on their left by the enemy’s stockade, extended
their right towards the Guards; but at that moment Dubreton came
dashing like a torrent from the upper ground and in an instant cleared
the breaches. Wurmb and many other brave men fell, and the French
gathering round the Guards forced them also beyond the outer line.
More than two hundred men and officers were killed or wounded in this
combat, and next night the enemy recovered San Roman by a sally.

The siege was now virtually terminated, for though the French were
beaten out of San Roman again, and a gallery was opened from that
church against the second line, these were mere demonstrations. The
fate of Burgos was fixed outside. For while the siege was going on,
Caffarelli and Clausel had received a reinforcement of twelve thousand
men from France, and thus forty-four thousand good troops were prepared
to relieve the Castle before October, although they could not act
until Souham, appointed to command in chief, had arrived. It was also
essential to combine their operations with the king, who had formed
a great army to recover Madrid; but all the lines of correspondence
were so circuitous and beset by the Partidas that the most speedy and
certain communication was through the minister of war at Paris, who
found the information he wanted in the English newspapers! These, while
deceiving the British public by accounts of battles never fought,
victories never gained, enthusiasm and vigour nowhere existing, with
great assiduity enlightened the enemy upon the numbers, situation,
movements and reinforcements of the allies.

Souham arrived the 3rd of October with more reinforcements from
France, but he imagined that sixty thousand troops were around Burgos,
exclusive of the Partidas, and that three divisions were coming up
from Madrid; whereas none were coming, and little more than thirty
thousand were around Burgos, eleven thousand being Gallicians, scarcely
so good as the Partidas. Wellington’s real strength was in his
Anglo-Portuguese, now only twenty thousand; for besides those killed
or wounded at the siege, the sick had gone to the rear faster than the
recovered men came up. Some unattached regiments and escorts were near
Segovia and other points north of the Guadarama, and a reinforcement
of five thousand men had been sent from England in September; but the
former belonged to Hill’s army, and of the latter the Life-Guards and
Blues had gone to Lisbon: hence a regiment of Foot-Guards, and some
detachments of the line, in all three thousand, were the only available
forces in the rear.

During the first part of the siege, the English general, seeing the
French scattered and only reinforced by conscripts, did not fear
interruption; the less so, that Sir Home Popham was again menacing the
coast line; and now, when they were concentrating, he was willing to
fight; for he thought Popham and the guerillas would keep Caffarelli
employed, and he was himself a match for Clausel. Souham however,
over-rating the allies’ force, feared a defeat, as being the only
barrier between Wellington and France; and far from meditating an
advance dreaded an attack; hence, as want of provisions forbad a
concentration of his army permanently near Burgos, he prepared to fight
on the Ebro. Soon however, the English newspapers told him Soult was in
march from Andalusia--that the king intended to move upon Madrid,--that
no English troops had left that capital to join Wellington, that the
army of the latter was not numerous, and the castle of Burgos was
sorely pressed: then he resolved to raise the siege.

On the 13th a skirmish took place on a stream beyond Monasterio, where
Captain Perse of the 16th Dragoons, twice forced from the bridge
twice recovered it and maintained his post until F. Ponsonby, who
commanded the Cavalry reserves, arrived. Ponsonby and Perse were both
wounded, and this demonstration was followed by various others until
the evening of the 18th, when the whole French army was united and the
advanced guard captured a picquet of Brunswickers. This sudden movement
prevented Wellington taking, as he designed, the advanced position of
Monasterio. Falling back, therefore, he took ground covering the siege,
where, on the 20th, Maucune, advancing with two divisions of infantry
and one of cavalry, gained some advantage, yet, having no supports, was
finally outflanked and beaten back to Monasterio by two divisions under
Sir Edward Paget.

There were now in position, twenty-one thousand Anglo-Portuguese
infantry and cavalry, eleven thousand Gallicians, and the guerilla
horsemen of Marquinez and Julian Sanchez. Four thousand were troopers,
but only two thousand six hundred were British and German, and the
Spanish horsemen, regular or irregular, could scarcely be reckoned as
combatants. The artillery counted forty-two pieces, including twelve
Spanish guns extremely ill equipped and scant of ammunition. The French
had nearly five thousand cavalry, and more than sixty guns. Wellington
stood therefore at great disadvantage in numbers, composition, and real
strength. In his rear was the castle and the river Arlanzan, the fords
and bridges of which were commanded by the guns of the fortress; his
generals of division, Paget excepted, were not of marked ability, and
his troops were somewhat desponding, and deteriorated in discipline.
His situation was altogether dangerous. Victory could scarcely be
expected, defeat would be destruction, and he had provoked a battle not
knowing Caffarelli’s troops were united to Souham’s.

Souham should have forced an action, because his ground was strong,
his retreat open, his army powerful and compact, his soldiers full
of confidence, his lieutenants, Clausel, Maucune, and Foy, men of
distinguished talents, able to second, and able to succeed him in the
chief command: the chances of victory were great, the chances of defeat
comparatively small. It was thus he judged the matter himself, for
Maucune’s advance was designed as the prelude to a great battle, and
the English general was then willing to stand the trial. But generals
are not absolute masters of events. Extraneous events here governed
both sides. The king by the junction of Soult’s army was at the head of
a great force, and had designed not only to drive Hill from Madrid, but
to cut Wellington off from Portugal: hence he had ordered Souham not
to fight. Hill at the same time gave notice of the king’s advance; and
Wellington, fearing to be isolated when Hill was forced from Madrid,
raised the siege and resolved to retreat.

Some fighting had meanwhile taken place at Burgos. Dubreton had again
got possession of the ruins of San Roman but was driven away next
morning; but then, the order to raise the siege being received the
guns and stores were removed from the batteries. The greatest part of
the draught animals had however gone to fetch powder and artillery
from Santander, and the eighteen-pounders could not be carried off.
Thus the siege was raised after five assaults, several sallies and
thirty-three days of investment, during which the besiegers lost more
than two thousand, and the besieged six hundred men killed or wounded;
the latter also suffered severely from continual labour, want of water,
and bad weather; for the fortress was too small to afford shelter for
the garrison, and the greater part had bivouacked between the lines of


It was commenced in the night of the 21st by the following daring
enterprise. The army quitted its position after dark, the artillery,
the wheels being muffled with straw, passed the bridge of Burgos under
the castle guns with such silence and celerity, that Dubreton, watchful
and suspicious as he was, knew nothing of the march until the Partidas,
failing in nerve, commenced galloping, when he poured a destructive
fire down but soon lost the range. By this delicate operation Souham
was compelled to follow, instead of using the castle to intercept the
line of retreat; for if Wellington had avoided the fortress, the French
by passing through it could have forestalled him at Cellada del Camino.

The 23rd the infantry crossed the Pisuerga, but while the main body
made this long march, Souham having passed through Burgos in the night
of the 22nd, vigorously attacked the rear-guard under Sir Stapleton
Cotton, which was composed of cavalry and horse-artillery, two
battalions of Germans and the Partidas of Marquinez and Sanchez.

At seven o’clock the picquets were first driven from the bridge of
Baniel, and then from the Hormaza stream, after which the whole
rear-guard drew up in a large plain behind Cellada del Camino. It had
on the left a range of hills occupied by Marquinez, on the right the
Arlanzan, and across the middle of the plain a marshy rivulet cut the
main road, being only passable by a little bridge near a house called
the Venta de Pozo. In front, about half-way between this stream and
Cellada, there was a broad ditch with a second bridge and a hamlet.
Cotton retired over the marshy stream, but left Anson’s horsemen and
Halket’s infantry as a rear-guard beyond the ditch, and then Anson,
placing the 11th Dragoons and the guns in advance at Cellada del Camino
on a gentle eminence, likewise prepared to pass the stream.


When the French approached Cellada, two squadrons of the 11th beat
back their leading horsemen, and the artillery plied them briskly with
shot; yet the main body, advancing at a trot along the road, compelled
the whole to retire beyond the bridge of Venta de Pozo. Meanwhile the
French general Curto, leading a brigade of hussars and followed by
Boyer’s dragoons, ascended the hills and drove Marquinez from them
towards a ravine at the foot, which could only be passed at particular
points; towards one of those the Partida galloped, just as the French
on the plain, after a sharp struggle had forced the 11th Dragoons
across the ditch between Cellada and Venta de Pozo. The German riflemen
were in the hamlet, and the ditch might have been disputed if it had
not been thus turned by Curto; but that event compelled Anson to retire
on the Venta de Pozo stream. His movement was covered by the 16th
Dragoons, and while passing the bridge there, the Partidas, pouring
down from the hills, were so closely pursued by the French hussars that
the mixed mass hurtled on the flank of the 16th at the moment it was
charged in rear by the enemy pursuing in the plain: Colonel Pelley and
many men were taken, and the regiment was driven back on the reserves,
which however stood fast, and while the French were reforming the whole
got over the bridge of Venta de Pozo.

Cotton now formed a new line. Anson was on the left of the road, the
German infantry and guns were in support, the heavy German cavalry on
the right--the whole presenting an imposing order of battle. But then
Caffarelli’s cavalry, composed of the lancers of Berg, a regiment of
chasseurs, and several squadrons of _gens d’armes_, all fresh men,
entered the line on the French left. At first they tried the stream on
a wide front, and finding it impassable wheeled with a quick daring
decision to their right, trotting under the heavy pounding of the
English artillery over the bridge and forming beyond in opposition
to the German cavalry. The latter charged with a rough shock and
broke their right, but they had let too many come over, the French
left gained an advantage, and their right, full of mettle, rallied;
a furious sword combat had place, in which the _gens d’armes_ fought
so fiercely that the Germans, maugre their size and courage and the
superiority of their horses, were beaten back in disorder. The French
followed on the spur with shrill and eager cries, and Anson being
outflanked and menaced on both sides retreated also; not happily, for
Boyer’s dragoons had now crossed the ravine at the foot of the hills
and came thundering in on his left, breaking the ranks and sending all
to the rear in a confused mass.

The Germans first extricated themselves and formed a fresh line on
which the others rallied, the _gens d’armes_ and lancers who had
suffered severely from the artillery as well as in the sword fight
having halted; but Boyer’s dragoons, ten squadrons, then attacked the
new line which was still confused and wavering, and though the German
officers rode gallantly to meet the charge their men followed but a
short way and finally turned, when the swiftness of the English horses
alone prevented a terrible catastrophe.

Some favourable ground enabled the line to reform once more, yet only
to be again broken. Meanwhile Wellington in person placed Halket’s
infantry and the guns in a position to cover the cavalry, and they
remained tranquil until the enemy, in full pursuit after the last
charge, came galloping down, lending their left flank, when the power
of the musket was again manifested. A tempest of bullets emptied the
French saddles by scores, and their hitherto victorious horsemen,
after three fruitless charges, drew off to the hills, while the
British cavalry, covered by the infantry, made good its retreat to the
Pisuerga. The loss in this combat was considerable on both sides. The
French suffered most, but took a colonel and seventy other prisoners;
and before the fight they had captured a commissariat store near Burgos.

While the rear-guard was thus engaged, drunkenness and insubordination,
the usual concomitants of an English retreat, were exhibited at
Torquemada, where the well-stored wine-vaults became the prey of the
soldiery: twelve thousand men were at one time in a state of helpless
inebriety. This was bad, and Wellington having now retreated fifty
miles, resolved to check the pursuit. His previous arrangements had
been well combined, but the means of transport were scanty, the
weather severe, and his convoys of sick and wounded were still on the
wrong side of the Duero: wherefore, crossing the Carion river at its
confluence with the lower Pisuerga, he turned and halted.

Here he was joined by a regiment of Guards and detachments coming from
Coruña, and his ground, extending from Villa Muriel to Dueñas below
the meeting of the waters, was strong; for though the upper Pisuerga
was parallel to the Carion, the lower part turned suddenly, to flow
at a right angle from the confluence. Hence his position, a range of
hills, lofty yet descending with an easy sweep, was covered in front by
the Carion, and on the right by the lower Pisuerga. A detachment was
left to destroy the bridge of Baños on this last river, and a battalion
was sent to aid the Spaniards in destroying the bridges high up on the
Carion at Palencia. On the immediate front some houses and convents,
lying beyond both rivers, furnished posts to cover the destruction of
the bridges of Muriel and San Isidro on the Carion, and that of Dueñas
on the lower Pisuerga.

Souham cannonaded the rear-guard at Torquemada on the 24th, and then
passing the upper Pisuerga sent Foy’s division against Palencia, but
ordered Maucune to pursue the allies to the bridges of Baños, Isidro,
and Muriel, halting himself, however, if fame does not lie, because the
number of French drunkards were even more numerous than those of the
British army.


Before the enemy appeared the summits of the hills were crowned, the
bridges mined, and that of San Isidro strongly protected by a convent
filled with troops. The left of the position was equally strong, but
the advantage of a dry canal with high banks, running parallel with the
Carion, was overlooked, and the village of Muriel was not occupied in
sufficient strength. Foy meanwhile reached Palencia, where, according
to some French writers, a treacherous attempt was made, under cover
of a parley, to kill him; he however drove the allies with loss from
the town, and in such haste that all the bridges were abandoned in a
perfect condition, and the French cavalry, spreading abroad, gathered
baggage and prisoners.

This untoward event compelled Wellington to throw back his left at
Muriel, thus offering two fronts, the one facing Palencia, the other
the Carion; in that state Maucune, having dispersed some caçadores
defending a ford, fell with a strong body of infantry and guns on the
troops at Muriel, just as a mine was exploded and the party covering
the bridge were passing the broken arch by means of ladders. The play
of the mine checked the advance of the French, but suddenly a horseman,
darting at full speed from their column, rode down to the bridge under
a flight of bullets from his own people, calling out he was a deserter.
When he reached the chasm made by the explosion, he violently checked
his foaming horse, held up his hands, exclaimed that he was a lost
man, and with hurried accents asked if there was no ford near. The
good-natured soldiers pointed to one a little way off, whereupon the
gallant fellow looked earnestly for a few moments to fix the exact
point, then wheeling sharply round, kissed his hand in derision, and
bending low over his saddle-bow dashed back to his own comrades, amidst
showers of shot and shouts of laughter from both sides. Maucune’s
column, covered by a concentrated fire of guns, then passed the river
at the ford thus discovered, made some prisoners in the village and
lined the dry bed of the canal.

At this moment Wellington came up, and turning some guns upon the enemy
desired that the village and canal might be retaken; General Oswald
said they could not be held afterwards; but Wellington, whose retreat
was endangered by the presence of the enemy on that side of the river,
peremptorily ordered one brigade to attack the main body, and another
brigade to clear the canal, strengthening the last with Spanish troops
and Brunswickers. A sharp fire of artillery and musketry ensued, and
the allies suffered some loss, especially by cannon-shot, which from
the other side of the river plumped into the reserves and threw the
Spaniards into confusion: they were falling back, when their fiery
countryman, Miguel Alava, with exhortation and example, for though
wounded he would not retire, urged them forward until the enemy was
driven over the river.

During these events other French troops attempted unsuccessfully to
seize the bridge of San Isidro, but at that of Baños on the Pisuerga
the mine failed, and their cavalry galloping over made both working and
covering party prisoners. Wellington’s position was thus sapped. For
Souham could concentrate on the allies’ left by Palencia and force them
to fight with their back upon the lower Pisuerga; or he could pass that
river on his own left and forestall them on the Duero at Tudela. If
the allies pushed over the Pisuerga by the bridge of Dueñas, Souham,
having the initial movement, might be first on the ground while Foy
fell on their rear. If Wellington sought by a rapid movement down the
right of the Pisuerga to cross at Cabezon, the next bridge, and so gain
the Duero, Souham, moving by the left bank, might fall on him while
in march and hampered between the Duero, Pisuerga, and Esquevilla: he
must then have retired through Valladolid and Simancas, giving up his
communications with Hill. In this critical state of affairs, keeping
good watch on the left of the Pisuerga, and knowing the ground there
was rugged and the roads narrow and bad, while on the right bank
they were good and wide, the English general sent his baggage in the
night to Valladolid, withdrew all the troops before day-break on the
26th, made a sixteen-mile march to Cabezon, passed to the left of the
Pisuerga and mined the bridge: it was a fine stroke of generalship.

Being then master of his own movements he sent a detachment to hold the
bridge of Tudela on the Duero, immediately behind him, and employed
the seventh division to secure the more distant bridges of Valladolid,
Simancas, and Tordesillas. The line of that great river, now in
full water, being thus assured, he again halted, partly because the
ground was favourable, partly to give the commissary-general Kennedy
time to remove the sick men and other incumbrances from Salamanca.
This operation was attended with great disasters from the negligence
of medical and escorting officers conducting the convoys, and the
consequent bad conduct of the soldiers. Outrages were perpetrated on
the inhabitants along the whole line of march, terror was predominant,
and the ill-used drivers and muleteers deserted by hundreds, some with,
some without their cattle. Great sufferings were endured by the sick,
the commissariat lost nearly the whole of the animals and carriages
employed, the villages were abandoned, and the under-commissaries were
bewildered, or paralyzed by the terrible disorder thus spread along the
line of communication.

Souham pursued on the 26th by the right of the Pisuerga, being deterred
from taking the left bank by the rugged nature of the ground, and by
the king’s orders not to risk a serious action. In the morning of the
27th his whole army was collected in front of Cabezon, but he contented
himself with a cannonade and an unmeaning display: the former killed
Colonel Robe of the artillery; the latter enabled Wellington for the
first time to discover the numbers he had to contend with, and taught
him that he could hold neither the Pisuerga nor the Duero permanently.
Nevertheless he kept his actual position, and when the French,
leaving a division in his front, extended their right by Valladolid
to Simancas, he caused the bridges at those places to be destroyed.
Congratulating himself that he had not fought in front of Burgos with
so powerful an army, he now resolved to retire behind the Duero and, if
pressed, even behind the Tormes. Meanwhile, as General Hill would then
be liable to a flank attack, and the more certainly if any disaster
happened on the Duero, he ordered him to retreat at once from Madrid,
giving a discretion as to the line, yet desiring him, if possible, to
come by the Guadarama passes: for he still designed, if all went well,
to unite with Hill in a central position, keep Souham in check with a
part of his force, and with the remainder fall upon Soult who was now
directing the king’s army.

On the 28th Souham, still extending his right, endeavoured to force
the bridges at Valladolid and Simancas on the Pisuerga, and that
of Tordesillas on the Duero. The first was defended by the seventh
division, but the French being strong and eager at the second it was
destroyed, and the regiment of Brunswick Oels was detached to ruin
that of Tordesillas. This was effected, and a tower behind the ruins
being occupied, the remainder of the Brunswickers took post in a
pine wood at some distance. The French arrived and seemed baffled,
yet very soon sixty officers and non-commissioned officers, headed
by Captain Guingret, a daring man, formed a small raft to hold their
arms and clothes, and then plunged into the water with their swords
between their teeth, swimming and pushing the raft before them.
Under protection of a cannonade they thus crossed this great river,
though it was in full and strong water and the weather very cold, and
having reached the other side, naked as they were, stormed the tower,
whereupon the Brunswickers, amazed at the action, abandoned their
ground, leaving the gallant Frenchmen masters of the passage.

When Wellington heard of the attack at Simancas and saw the whole
French army in march to its right down the Pisuerga he destroyed the
bridges at Valladolid and Cabeçon, and crossed the Duero at Tudela
and Puente de Duero on the 29th; but scarcely had he effected this
when intelligence of Guingret’s splendid action at Tordesillas reached
him. Critical then was his position, but with the decision of a great
captain he marched instantly by his left, reached the heights between
Rueda and Tordesillas on the 30th, and there fronting his powerful
enemy forbad further progress. The bridge had been repaired by the
French, yet their main body had not arrived, and Wellington’s menacing
position was too significant to be misunderstood. The bridges of Toro
and Zamora were now destroyed by detachments, and though the French,
spreading along the river, commenced repairing the former, the junction
with Hill’s army was insured; the English general, therefore, thinking
the bridge of Toro could not be restored for several days, again hoped
to maintain the line of the Duero permanently, because Hill, of whose
operations it is now time to speak, was fast approaching.


The king, having fifty thousand veteran infantry, eight thousand
cavalry and eighty-four pieces of artillery, came to drive the allies
from Madrid. Soult and Jourdan acted under him, and the former first
attacked General Cole at the Puente Largo, near Aranjuez on the Tagus;
but though the English mines failed to destroy the bridge the French
were vigorously repulsed. General Hill being thus menaced resolved
to retreat by the Guadarama and join Wellington, whom he knew to be
pressed by superior forces: he also thought the valley of the Tagus,
although opened, could not furnish provisions for the French; but the
commissary who had the care of that line had not removed the great
magazines formed for the allies’ advance to Madrid: they were full, and
Soult might have used them to interpose between Wellington and Portugal
while Souham pressed him in retreat; yet neither he, nor Hill, nor
Wellington, knew of their existence! Such is war.

Hill burned his pontoons and then causing the fort of the Retiro in
Madrid to be blown up with all its stores, retreated by easy marches
across the Guadarama, followed gently by the French; for Soult did
not know his actual force, and, suspecting Wellington’s design to
unite and fight a battle, moved cautiously. When near Arevalo, fresh
orders, founded on new combinations, changed the direction of Hill’s
march. Souham had repaired the bridge of Toro several days sooner than
Wellington expected, and thus his design to join Hill on the Adaja and
attack Soult was baffled; for Souham, possessing Toro and Tordesillas,
could fall upon his rear; and he could not bring Hill up to attack
Souham, because, having destroyed the bridges, he had no means to
repass the Duero, and Soult moving by Fontiveros would reach the Tormes
on his rear. His central position was therefore no longer available for
offence or defence, and he directed Hill to gain Alba de Tormes at once
by the road of Fontiveros. On the 6th of November he fell back himself
to San Christoval, covering Salamanca.

Joseph, thinking to prevent Hill’s junction, had gained Arevalo by
the Segovia road, and on the 8th, Souham’s scouts being met with at
Medina del Campo, the king, for the first time since he had quitted
Valencia, obtained news of the army of Portugal. One hundred thousand
combatants, of which above twelve thousand were cavalry, with a hundred
and thirty pieces of artillery, were then assembled on plains, over
which, three months before, Marmont had marched with such confidence
to his own destruction; and Soult, then expelled from Andalusia by
Marmont’s defeat, was now, after having made half the circuit of the
Peninsula, come to drive into Portugal that very army whose victory had
driven him from the south. Wellington had foreseen, and foretold, that
the acquisition of Andalusia, though politically important and useful,
would prove injurious to himself at the moment. The prophecy was
fulfilled. The French had concentrated a mighty power, from which it
required both skill and fortune to escape. Meanwhile the Spanish armies
let loose by this union of all the French troops kept aloof, or, coming
to aid, were found a burden rather than a help.

On the 7th Hill passed the Tormes at Alba, and the bridge there was
mined; for Wellington, holding Christoval and being still uncertain of
the real numbers of the enemy, was desirous to maintain the line of the
Tormes permanently and give his troops repose. His own retreat had been
of two hundred miles; Hill had marched a greater distance; Skerrett had
come from Cadiz; the soldiers who besieged Burgos had been in the field
with scarcely an interval of repose since January; all were barefooted,
their equipments were spoiled, the cavalry were weak, the horses out of
condition, and discipline was generally failing.

The excesses committed on the retreat from Burgos have been touched
upon; and during the first day’s march from the Tagus to Madrid,
five hundred of the rear-guard, chiefly of one regiment, finding the
inhabitants of Valdemoro had fled, plundered the houses; drunkenness
followed and two hundred and fifty fell into the hands of the enemy.
The conduct of an army can never be fairly judged by following in the
wake of a retreat. Here there was no want of provisions, no hardships
to exasperate, yet the author of this history counted on the first
day’s march from Madrid seventeen bodies of murdered peasants; by whom
killed, or for what, whether by English or Germans, by Spaniards or
Portuguese, whether in dispute, in robbery, or in wanton villany, was
unknown; but their bodies were in the ditches, and a shallow observer
might thence have drawn most foul and false conclusions against the
English general and nation.

Wellington desired a battle. Christoval was strong, the Arapiles
glorious as well as strong; and by the bridge of Salamanca and the
fords he could concentrate on either position on a shorter line
than the French. Yet he prepared for retreat, sending sick men and
stores to the rear, ordering up small convoys of provisions on the
road to Rodrigo, and destroying spare ammunition. He gave clothing,
arms and accoutrements to the Spanish troops, but an hour after had
the mortification to see them selling their equipments under his own
windows! At this time, indeed, the Spaniards, civil and military, began
to evince hatred of the British. Daily did they attempt or perpetrate
murder, and one act of peculiar atrocity merits notice. A horse, led
by an English soldier, being frightened, backed against a Spanish
officer commanding at a gate; he caused the soldier to be dragged into
his guard-house and there bayoneted him in cold blood, and no redress
could be had for this or other crimes, save by counter-violence, which
was not long withheld. A Spanish colonel while wantonly stabbing at
a rifleman was shot dead by the latter; and a British volunteer slew
another officer at the head of his own regiment in a sword fight,
the troops of both nations looking on, but here there was nothing
dishonourable on either side.

The civil authorities, not less savage, treated every person with
intolerable arrogance. The Prince of Orange, remonstrating about his
quarters with the sitting junta, they ordered one of their guards to
kill him; and he would have been killed, had not Lieut. Steele of the
43rd, a bold athletic person, felled the man before he could stab,
but then both had to fly. The exasperation caused by these things was
leading to serious mischief, when the enemy’s movements gave another
direction to the rising passions.

On the 10th Soult opened a concentrated fire of eighteen guns against
the castle of Alba de Tormes, which, crowning a bare rocky knoll and
hastily intrenched, furnished scarcely any shelter from this tempest;
for two hours the garrison could only reply with musketry, but
eventually it was aided by the fire of four pieces from the left bank
of the river; the post was thus defended until dark with such vigour
that the enemy would not assault. During the night the garrison was
reinforced, the damaged walls were repaired, barricades were made,
and in the morning the enemy withdrew. This combat cost the allies a
hundred men.

On the 11th the king reorganised his army. Uniting his own troops with
the army of the south, he placed the whole under Soult and removed
Souham to make way for Drouet. Caffarelli had before returned to Burgos
with his divisions and guns, and what with garrisons, stragglers, and
losses, scarcely ninety thousand combatants were on the Tormes; but
twelve thousand were cavalry, nearly all were veteran troops, and they
had one hundred and twenty pieces of artillery. Such a mighty power
could not remain idle, the country was exhausted of provisions, the
soldiers wanted bread, and the king, eager enough for battle, for he
was of a brave spirit and had something of his brother’s greatness of
soul, sought counsel how to deliver it with most advantage.

Jourdan was for the boldest and shortest mode. He said Wellington’s
position was composed of three parts, namely, a right wing at Alba; a
centre at Calvariza Ariba; a left wing at San Christoval, separated
from the centre by the Tormes. This line was fifteen miles long,
the Tormes was still fordable in many places above Salamanca, and
therefore the French army might assemble in the night, pass the river
at day-break by the fords between Villa Gonzalo and Huerta, and make
a concentrated attack upon Calvariza Ariba, which would force on a
decisive battle.

Soult opposed this. He objected to attacking a position Wellington
knew so well, which he might have fortified, and where the army must
fight its way even from the fords to gain room for an order of battle.
He proposed instead, to move by the left to certain fords, three in
number, between Exéme and Galisancho, seven or eight miles above Alba
de Tormes. Easy in themselves their banks were suited to force a
passage, and by a slight circuit the troops in march would not be seen
by the enemy. The army would thus gain two marches, would be placed
on the flank and rear of the allies, and would fight on ground chosen
by its own generals, instead of ground chosen by the enemy; or it
could force an action in a new position whence the enemy could with
difficulty retire in the event of disaster: Wellington must then fight
to disadvantage, or retire hastily, sacrificing part of his army to
save the rest, and the effect, militarily and politically, would be the
same as if he was beaten by a front attack.

Jourdan observed, that this was prudent, and might be successful if
Wellington accepted battle; but that general could not thereby be
forced to fight, which was the great object; he would have time to
retreat before the French could touch his communication with Rodrigo,
and it was supposed by some generals that he would retreat on Almeida
at once by San Felices and Barba de Puerco.[26]

Neither Soult nor Jourdan knew the position of the Arapiles, and the
former, while urging his plan, offered to yield if the king was so
inclined; but though Jourdan’s proposition was supported by all the
generals of the army of Portugal, except Clausel, who leaned to Soult’s
opinion, the last marshal commanded two-thirds of the army, and the
question was finally decided agreeably to his counsel. Nor is it easy
to determine which was right, for though Jourdan’s reasons were strong
and the result conformable, the failure was only in the execution.
Nevertheless it would seem, so great an army and so confident, for the
French soldiers eagerly demanded a battle, should have grappled in the
shortest way.

Wellington, well acquainted with his ground, desired a battle on either
side of the Tormes. His hope was indeed to prevent the passage of that
river until the rains, rendering it unfordable, should force the French
to retire from want of provisions, or engage him on the position of
Christoval: yet he also courted a fight on the Arapiles, those rocky
monuments of his former victory. He had sixty-eight thousand combatants
under arms, fifty-two thousand of which, including four thousand
British cavalry, were Anglo-Portuguese, and he had nearly seventy guns.
With this force concentrated upon the strong ridges of Calvariza Ariba
and the two Arapiles, the superiority of twenty thousand men would
scarcely have availed the French.[27]

Soult’s project was adopted, trestle bridges were made for the
artillery, and at daybreak on the 14th were thrown, while the cavalry
and infantry passed by the upper fords; the army then took a position
at Mozarbes, having the road from Alba to Tamames under the left flank.
Wellington remained in Salamanca, and when the first report came that
the enemy was over the Tormes, he made the caustic observation, that
he would not recommend it to some of them. Soon however the concurrent
testimony of many reports convinced him of his mistake, he galloped
to the Arapiles, ascertained the direction of Soult’s march, and drew
off the second division, the cavalry, and some guns to attack the head
of the French column. The fourth division and Hamilton’s Portuguese
remained at Alba to protect this movement; the third division secured
the Arapiles until the troops from Christoval should arrive; and he was
still so confident that the bulk of the troops did not quit Christoval
that day. But at Mozarbes he found the French already too strong to be
seriously meddled with, and when under cover of a cannonade which kept
off their cavalry, he examined their position, discovered that the evil
was without remedy. Wherefore he destroyed the bridge of Alba, leaving
only three hundred Spaniards in the castle, with orders, if the army
retired, to save themselves as they could.

He still hoped the French would give battle at the Arapiles, but
placed the first division at Aldea Tejada on the Junguen stream, to
secure a passage in case Soult should finally compel him to choose
between Salamanca and Rodrigo. Meantime Clausel’s army, now under
Drouet, finding the bridge of Alba broken and the castle occupied, also
crossed the Tormes at Galisancho, and then Soult, who had commenced
fortifying Mozarbes, extended his left towards the Rodrigo road: yet
slowly, because the ground was heavy and crossed by the many sources
of the Junguen and Valmusa streams, which were flooded with the rain.
This movement was like that of Marmont at the battle of Salamanca,
but on a wider circle, and an outward range of heights, beyond a
sudden attack and catastrophe. The result in each case was remarkable.
Marmont closing with a short quick turn, a falcon striking at an eagle,
received a buffet that broke his pinions and spoiled his flight. Soult,
a wary kite, sailing slowly and with a wide wheel to seize his prey,
lost it altogether.

When Wellington saw the French cavalry pointing to the Rodrigo
road, he judged the design was first to establish a fortified head
of cantonments at Mozarbes, from whence to operate against the
communication with Rodrigo; wherefore suddenly casting his army into
three columns he crossed the Junguen, and covering his left flank with
cavalry and guns, defiled in order of battle with a wonderful boldness
and facility at little more than cannon-shot from his enemy. He had
good fortune however to aid: for there was a thick fog and a heavy rain
which rendered the bye-ways and fields nearly impassable to the French
while he used the high roads. Then he took his army in one mass quite
round the French left, and having gained the Valmusa river halted for
the night, in rear of those who had been threatening him in front only
a few hours before!

This was truly a surprising exploit, yet it was not creditable to the
generalship on either side. The English commander, having suffered
Soult to pass the Tormes and turn his position, waited too long on the
Arapiles, or this dangerous movement would have been unnecessary; and
a combination of bad roads, bad weather, and want of vigour on the
other side, rendered it possible and no more. It has been said by a
great master, that the defect of Soult’s military genius was a want of
promptness to strike at the decisive moment, and here he was certainly

On the 16th the allies retired by three roads, all of which led, by
Tamames, San Munos, and Martin del Rio, to Rodrigo, through a forest
penetrable in all directions: in the evening they halted behind the
Matilla river. This march was only of twelve miles, yet stragglers
were numerous, and the soldiers finding vast herds of swine quitted
their colours by hundreds to shoot them; indeed such a rolling musketry
echoed through the forest, that Wellington thought the enemy was upon
him. Every effort was made to stop this excess, and two offenders were
hanged; still the hungry men broke from the columns, the property of
whole districts was swept away in a few hours, and the army was in
some degree placed at the mercy of the enemy; who were however content
to glean the stragglers, of whom they captured two thousand: they did
not press the rear until evening, when their lancers fell on, but were
checked by the 28th Regiment and the Light Dragoons.

During the night, the light division having the rear-guard, the cavalry
in the front, for some unknown reason, filed off by the flanks without
giving any intimation of the movement, and at daybreak as the soldiers
of the division were rolling their blankets some strange horsemen
were seen behind the bivouac; they were taken for Spaniards, until
their cautious movements and vivacity of gesture showed them to be
French. The troops run to arms, in good time, for five hundred yards
in front the wood opened on a large plain, where eight thousand French
horsemen were discovered advancing in one solid mass, yet carelessly,
and without suspecting the vicinity of the British. The division
immediately formed columns, two squadrons of dragoons came hastily
up from the rear, and Julian Sanchez’ cavalry also appeared in small
parties on the right flank. This checked the enemy’s march while the
infantry retired, but the French, though fearing to close, sent many
squadrons to the right and left, some of which rode on the flanks near
enough to bandy wit in the Spanish tongue with the British soldiers,
and very soon mischief was visible: the road was strewed with baggage,
the bâtmen came running in for protection, some wounded, some without
arms, and all breathless as just escaped from a surprise.

The thickness of the forest had enabled the French horsemen to pass
unperceived on the flanks, and, as opportunity offered, they galloped
from side to side, sweeping away the baggage and sabring the conductors
and guards; they even menaced one of the columns but were checked by
the fire of the artillery. In one of these charges General Paget was
carried off, and it might have been Wellington’s fortune, for he also
was continually riding between the columns and without an escort. The
main body of the army soon passed the Huebra river at three places and
took post behind it; but when the light division arrived at the edge
of a table-land which overhung the fords, the French cavalry suddenly
thickened, and the sharp whistle of musket-bullets with the splintering
of branches gave notice that their infantry were also up; for Soult,
hoping to forestal the allies at Tamames, had pushed a column towards
that place from his left, but finding Hill’s troops there in position,
turned short to his right in hopes to cut off the rear-guard.


The English and German cavalry, warned by the musketry, crossed the
fords in time, and the light division should have followed without
delay; for the forest ended at the edge of the table-land, and the
descent to the river, eight hundred yards, was quite open and smooth,
the fords of the Huebra deep. Instead of this General C. Alten
ordered the division to form squares! All persons were amazed, but
then Wellington happily came up and caused the astonished troops
to glide off to the fords. Four companies of the 43rd and one of
riflemen, left by him to cover the passage, were instantly assailed
on three sides with a fire showing that a large force was at hand; a
driving rain and mist prevented them from seeing their adversaries,
they were forced through the wood, and thrown out on the open slope,
where they maintained their ground for a quarter of an hour, and then
swiftly running to the fords passed them under a sharp musketry. Only
twenty-seven fell, for the tempest, beating in the Frenchmen’s faces,
baffled their aim, and the division guns, playing from the low ground
with grape, checked the pursuit: yet the deep bellow from thirty pieces
of heavy French artillery in reply, showed how critically timed was the

The banks of the Huebra were steep and broken, but the French
infantry spread to the right and left and there were several fords
to be guarded; the 52nd and the Portuguese defended those below; the
guns, supported by the riflemen and 43rd, defended those above, and
behind the right of the light division, on higher ground, was the
seventh division. The bulk of the army was massed on the right of this
position, covering all the roads leading to Rodrigo.

One brisk attempt to force the fords guarded by the 52nd was vigorously
repulsed by that regiment, but the skirmishing, and the cannonade,
which never slackened, continued until dark; and heavily the French
guns played on the light and 7th divisions. The former was of necessity
held near the fords and in column, lest a sudden rush of cavalry should
carry off the division pieces from the flat ground, and it was plunged
into at every round, yet suffered little loss, because the clayey soil,
saturated with rain, swallowed the shot and smothered the shells. But
the 7th division was, with astonishing want of judgment, kept by Lord
Dalhousie on open and harder ground, in one huge mass, tempting havoc
for hours, when a hundred yards in his rear the rise of the hill and
the thick forest would have entirely protected it, without in any
manner weakening the position! Nearly three hundred men were thus lost.

On the 18th the army was to have drawn off before daylight, and
Wellington was uneasy, because the Huebra, good for defence, was yet
difficult to remove from at that season, inasmuch as the roads, hollow
and narrow, led up a steep bank to table-land, open, flat, marshy, and
scored with water-gullies. Moreover from the overflowing of one stream
the principal road was impassable at a mile from the position; hence to
get off in time, without jostling and without being attacked, required
nice management. All the baggage and stores had marched in the night,
with orders not to halt until they reached the high lands near Rodrigo;
but if the preceding days had produced some strange occurrences, the
18th was not less fertile in them.

Wellington, knowing the direct road was impassable from the flood,
had directed several divisions by another, longer and apparently more
difficult; this seemed so extraordinary to some generals, that, after
consulting together, they deemed him unfit to conduct the army, and led
their troops by what appeared to them the fittest line of retreat! The
condemned commander had before daylight placed himself on his own road,
and waited impatiently for the arrival of the leading division until
dawn; then, suspecting something of what had happened, he galloped to
the other road and found the would-be leaders, stopped by that flood
which his arrangements had been made to avoid. The insubordination and
the danger to the whole army were alike glaring; yet the practical
rebuke was so severe and well timed, the humiliation so complete and
so deeply felt, that, with one proud sarcastic observation, indicating
contempt more than anger, he led back the troops and drew off all his
forces safely.[28]

Some confusion and great danger still attended the operation, for even
on the true road one water-gully was so deep that the light division,
covering the rear, could only pass it man by man over a felled tree;
but Soult, unable to feed his troops a day longer, stopped on the
Huebra with his main body and only sent some cavalry to Tamames.
Thus the allies retired unmolested, yet whether from necessity, or
from negligence in the subordinates, the means of transport were too
scanty for the removal of the wounded men, most of whom were hurt by
cannon-shot; many were thus left behind; and as the enemy never passed
the Huebra, those miserable creatures perished by a horrible lingering

The marshy plains over which the army was now marching exhausted the
strength of the wearied soldiers, thousands straggled, the depredations
on the herds of swine were repeated, and the temper of the troops
generally prognosticated the greatest misfortunes if the retreat should
be continued. This was however the last day of trial. Towards evening
the weather cleared up, the hills near Rodrigo furnished dry bivouacs
and fuel, good rations restored the strength and spirits of the men,
and next day Rodrigo and the neighbouring villages were occupied in
tranquillity. The cavalry was then sent out to the forest, and being
aided by Sanchez’ Partida, brought in from a thousand to fifteen
hundred stragglers who must otherwise have perished.

Such was the retreat from Burgos. The French gathered good spoil of
baggage, but what the exact loss of the allies in men was cannot be
exactly determined, because no Spanish returns were ever seen. An
approximation may however be easily made, and the whole loss of the
double retreat cannot be set down at less than nine thousand, including
the siege of Burgos.


  March to Vittoria--Battle of Vittoria.


In England, the retreat from Burgos produced anger and fear; for the
public had been taught to believe the French weak and dispirited, and
the reverses were unexpected. Lord Wellesley justly attributed them to
the imbecile, selfish policy of Mr. Perceval and his colleagues, which
he characterized as having “_nothing regular but confusion_.” Lord
Wellington alone supported the contest, for the Portuguese and Spanish
Governments had become absolutely hostile to him, and were striving to
make the people of those countries hostile also. However, in 1813, the
aspect of the war, not in the Peninsula only but all over the civilized
world, was changed by the failure of Napoleon’s gigantic expedition
to Russia, and the English General, morally strengthened by this
great event, and seeing time ripe for a decisive blow, successfully
exerted all his mental vigour to overbear the folly and vices of the
governments he had to deal with. He renovated discipline, repressed
the intrigues of the Portuguese Regency, and, going to Cadiz, obtained
of the Spanish Cortes paramount military authority, with its assent to
a general combination all over the Peninsula. The three nations gave
him two hundred thousand men; the Anglo-Portuguese army furnishing
seventy thousand, with ninety pieces of artillery, and sixteen thousand
Anglo-Sicilians were at Alicant. His flanks rested on the Biscay and
Mediterranean seas, on each of which floated British fleets; now
effective auxiliaries, because the French lines of retreat being close
to and parallel with the coast on both sides of Spain, every port
abandoned by them, furnished a storehouse to the allies, and the navy
became a moveable base of operations.

To oppose him were great armies on the French side, yet all in
confusion. Napoleon had drawn off thousands of the old soldiers and
experienced officers, to give stability to the new levies with which
he was striving to restore his failing fortunes; to compensate for
the weakness thus occasioned, he directed the king to concentrate
on the northern line of invasion and act, not as the monarch of a
subdued country but as the general of an army in the field, having to
contend with an equal power. This view demanded promptness and vigour
to clear the communications of insurgents, judgment to adopt suitable
positions, and one imperious command over all the generals. Thus
governed the French soldiers were numerous enough to hope for victory
against greater numbers than Wellington could employ against them;
for though reduced by drafts, and the secondary war of the Spaniards
after the retreat of Burgos, to two hundred and thirty thousand men,
of which seventy-eight thousand were on the southern line of invasion
and thirty thousand in hospital, a hundred and twenty thousand men with
a hundred guns, including a reserve at Bayonne, were on the northern
line of invasion. This was a great power, of one nation, one spirit,
one discipline, and the emperor with comprehensive genius had explained
how it was to be made available. Joseph could not comprehend the
spirit of the great master’s instructions, and was unwilling to obey.
Quarrelling with his subordinates, he would be still a king, lost time,
made false movements, and at the opening of the campaign, instead of
being concentrated on the right point and under one head, his troops
were scattered over all the north of Spain, under generals who agreed
in nothing but opposition to his military command.

Such was the state of affairs when Wellington, forming two masses,
gave one of forty thousand fighting men to General Graham, with orders
to penetrate through the Portuguese province of Tras os Montes to
the Esla river, in Spain, thus turning that line of the Duero which
Marmont had the year before made an iron barrier. With the other mass,
thirty thousand, he designed to force the Tormes, pass the Duero, unite
with Graham, augment his army to ninety thousand, by calling down the
Gallicians under Castaños, and then ranging the whole on a new front
march all abreast upon the scattered French and drive them refluent to
the Pyrenees. A grand design and grandly executed. For strong of heart
and strong of hand his veterans marched to the encounter, the glories
of twelve victories playing about their bayonets, and he their leader,
so proudly confident, that in crossing the stream which marks the
frontier of Spain, he rose in his stirrups, and waving his hand cried
out _Adieu Portugal!_

How were the French employed and disposed at this critical moment, when
the serpent they had pursued only a few months before, slowly trailing
his exhausted length into Portugal, had thus cast his slough, and with
glistening crest and rattling scales was again rolling forward in
voluminous strength?

The king was at Valladolid with his guards, holding a mock court
instead of a general’s orderly room.

Drouet with the army of the centre was in march from Segovia towards
the Duero above Valladolid.

General Leval who commanded ten thousand men at Madrid, was preparing
to move with a large convoy of pictures and other property towards

General Gazan with the army of the south, was moving his troops in a
state of uncertainty between the Upper Tormes and the Duero, having an
advanced division of infantry and cavalry at Salamanca under General

General Reille with the army of Portugal was on the Duero and the Esla.

The position of the French was therefore defined by the three rivers.
The Esla covered their right wing, the Duero their centre, the Tormes
their left, and the point of concentration was Valladolid. But Leval’s
troops at Madrid were isolated, and that was not all the extent of
the dissemination. Clausel, now commanding the army of the north, was
engaged in Navarre warring down the insurgents, Foy as his lieutenant
was in Biscay with a large detachment, and half of Reille’s army was on
the march to join Clausel. Add many false reports, false conjectures,
and continued disputes as to the real plan of the English general, and
the confusion of the king’s command will be comprehended.

On the 22nd of May, Graham being well advanced, Lord Wellington put his
right wing in motion towards the Tormes, and the 26th at 10 o’clock in
the morning the heads of his columns appeared with excellent concert
close to that river on all the roads.

Villatte, a good officer, barricaded the bridge, sent his baggage to
the rear, and called in a detachment from Alba, yet wishing to discover
the real force of his enemy waited on the heights above the ford of
Santa Marta too long; for the ground enabled Wellington to conceal his
movements, and Fane’s horsemen with six guns passed the ford of Santa
Marta in Villatte’s rear unseen, while Victor Alten’s cavalry removed
the barricades on the bridge and pushed through the town to attack in
front. The French general indeed gained the heights of Cabrerizos,
marching towards Babila Fuente, before Fane got over the river, but at
the defile of Aldea Lengua was overtaken by both columns of cavalry,
and being first battered by the guns was charged. But horsemen are no
match for such infantry, whose courage and discipline nothing could
quell. They fell before the round shot in sections, and one hundred
died in the ranks without a wound from intolerable heat; yet they beat
off the cavalry, and in the face of thirty thousand enemies made their
way to Babila Fuente, where, being joined by the detachment from Alba,
the whole disappeared from the sight of their admiring and applauding
opponents. Two hundred had fallen dead in the ranks, a like number,
unable to keep up, were captured, and a leading gun being overturned in
the defile retarded six others, all of which were taken.

On the 28th, having approached the point on the Duero where he proposed
to throw the bridge for communication with Graham’s corps, Wellington
left Hill in command, and went off suddenly to the Esla, being uneasy
for his combination there. Passing the Duero at Miranda, by means of a
basket moving on a rope stretched from rock to rock, the river foaming
hundreds of feet below, he on the 30th reached Carvajales.

Graham had met with many difficulties in the rugged Tras os Montes, and
though the Gallicians did not fail here, the combination was retarded
by the difficulty of crossing the Esla. It was to have been effected
the 29th, at which time the right wing, continuing its march from
the Tormes, could have been near Zamora and the passage of the Duero
insured; the French would then have been surprised, separated, and
overtaken in detail; now, though still ignorant that a whole army was
on the Esla, they were alarmed, and had planted the opposite bank with
picquets of cavalry and infantry; moreover, the stream was full and
rapid, the banks steep, the fords hard to find, difficult and deep,
and the appearance of the allies on the Tormes was known through all
the cantonments. Nevertheless Wellington, early on the 31st, caused
some squadrons of hussars with infantry holding by their stirrups, to
pass a ford, and Graham approached the right bank with all his forces;
a French picquet was thus surprised by the hussars, the pontoons were
immediately laid, and the columns commenced crossing, but several men,
even of the cavalry, were drowned.

On the 1st of June the rear was still on the Esla, yet the van entered
Zamora, the French retiring on Toro. Next day their rear-guard of
cavalry being overtaken by the hussars gave battle, was broken, and
driven back on the infantry with a loss of two hundred men.

Wellington halted the 3rd to bring the Gallicians down on his left,
and to close up his own rear, for he thought the French, who were
concentrating, might give battle; but he had entirely mastered the
line of the Duero, and those who understand war may say, whether it
was an effort worthy of the man and his army. Some of his columns had
marched a hundred and fifty, some above two hundred and fifty miles in
the wild Tras os Montes, through regions thought to be impracticable
even for small corps; forty thousand men, infantry, cavalry, artillery,
and even pontoons, all had passed, and been suddenly placed as if by a
supernatural power upon the Esla before the enemy knew that they were
in movement.

The field was now clear for the shock of arms, but the forces were
unequally matched. Wellington had ninety thousand men, and more than
one hundred pieces of artillery in hand. Twelve thousand were cavalry,
the British and Portuguese were seventy thousand; and this mass of
regulars was aided by all the Partidas. Sanchez’ horsemen, a thousand
strong, were on the right beyond the Duero; Porlier, Barcena, Salazar
and Manzo on the left between the Upper Esla and the Carion; Saornil
menaced Avila, the Empecinado hovered about Leval; and the Spanish
reserve of Andalusia, having crossed the Tagus on the 30th, drew all
the numerous small bands swarming around as it advanced. On the other
hand, though the French could collect nine or ten thousand horsemen and
one hundred guns, their infantry was less than half the number of the
allies, being only thirty-five thousand strong, exclusive of Leval. The
way to victory was therefore open, and on the 4th Wellington marched
forward with a conquering vehemence, pouring a torrent of war, whose
depth and violence the king was even now ignorant of.

It was thought Joseph would fight on the Carion. But though he had
then fifty-five thousand fighting men, exclusive of a Spanish division
escorting the convoys and baggage, he did not judge that river a good
position and retired behind the upper Pisuerga. Meanwhile he sent
Jourdan to examine Burgos castle, and expedited fresh letters, having
before written from Valladolid, to Foy, Sarrut and Clausel, calling
them towards the plains of Burgos, and others to Suchet, directing
him to march upon Zaragoza: but Suchet was then engaged in Catalonia,
Clausel was in Aragon, Foy on the coast of Guipuscoa, and Sarrut
pursuing Longa in the Montaña.

Joseph was still unacquainted with his enemy. Higher than seventy or
eighty thousand he did not estimate his force, and proposed to fight
on the elevated plains of Burgos. But more than a hundred thousand
men were before and around him; for all the Partidas of the Asturias
and Montaña were drawing together on his right, Julian Sanchez and
the Partidas of Castile were closing on his left, and Abispal having
passed the Gredos mountains with the Andalusian reserve and Frere’s
cavalry was in full march for Valladolid. Joseph was however hopeful
to win if he could rally Clausel’s and Foy’s divisions in time, and
his despatches to the former were frequent and urgent. Come with the
infantry of the army of Portugal! Come with the army of the north, and
we shall drive the allies over the Duero! Such was his cry, but he was
not a general to contend with Wellington, and recover the initiatory
movement at such a crisis.

While still on the Pisuerga he received Jourdan’s report. The castle
of Burgos was untenable, there were no magazines of provisions, the
new works were unfinished and commanded the old, which were unable
to hold out a day. Of Clausel’s and Foy’s divisions nothing had been
heard. This intelligence was decisive, and he resolved to retire behind
the Ebro. All the French outposts in the Bureba and Montaña were
immediately withdrawn, and the great depôt of Burgos was evacuated
upon Vittoria, which was thus encumbered with the artillery depôts of
Madrid, Valladolid and Burgos, and with the baggage and stores of many
armies and many fugitive families; and at that moment also arrived,
from France, a convoy of treasure which had long waited for escort at

Meanwhile the tide of war flowed onwards with terrible power. The
allies having crossed the Carion the 7th, Joseph retired to Burgos
with his left wing, composed of the armies of the south and centre,
while Reille’s army, forming the right wing, moved by Castro Xerez.
Wellington followed hard: conducting his operations continually on
the same principle, he pushed his left wing and the Gallicians along
bye-roads, and passed the upper Pisuerga on the 8th, 9th, and 10th.
Having thus turned the line of the Pisuerga entirely, and outflanked
Reille, he made a short journey the 11th, and on the 12th halted his
left wing to arrange the supplies; yet he still pushed forward the
right wing, resolved to make the French yield the castle of Burgos or
fight for possession.

Reille, who had regained the great road to Burgos the 9th, was now
strongly posted behind the Hormaza stream, barring the way to Burgos;
the other armies were in reserve behind Estepar. In this situation they
had been for three days, cheered by intelligence of Napoleon’s victory
at Bautzen, and the consequent armistice; but on the 12th, Wellington’s
columns came up, and the light division, preceded by the hussars and
dragoons, turned Reille’s right, while the rest of the troops attacked
the whole range of heights to Estepar. Reille, finding horsemen acting
behind his right flank while his front was strongly menaced, made for
the bridge of Baniel under the fire of Gardiner’s horse-artillery,
losing some prisoners and a gun; an effort was made to cut him off
from the bridge, but he bore the artillery fire without shrinking,
and, evading a serious attack, passed the Arlanzan with a loss of only
thirty men killed. The three French armies being then covered by the
Urbel and Arlanzan rivers could not be easily attacked, all the stores
of Burgos were removed, and in the night the king, having mined the
castle, retreated along the high road to Pancorbo, into which he threw
a garrison. Everything was done confusedly. The mines under the castle
exploded outwardly at the moment a column of infantry was defiling
beneath, several streets were laid in ruins, thousands of shells and
other combustibles were driven upwards with a horrible crash, the hills
rocked above the devoted column, and a shower of iron, timber, and
stony fragments falling on it, in an instant destroyed more than three
hundred men! Fewer deaths might have sufficed to determine the crisis
of a great battle! Such and so fearful is the consequence of error, so
terrible the responsibility of a general!

Wisely did Napoleon speak when he told Joseph, if he would command
he must give himself up entirely to the business, labouring day and
night, thinking of nothing else. Here was a noble army driven like
sheep before prowling wolves, yet in every action the inferior generals
had been prompt and skilful, the soldiers brave, ready and daring,
and in a country very favourable for defence; but the mind of a great
commander was wanting, and the Esla, the Tormes, the Duero, the Carion,
the Pisuerga, the Arlanzan, seemed to be dried up, the rocks, the
mountains, the deep ravines to be levelled. Clausel’s strong positions,
Dubreton’s thundering castle, all disappeared like a dream, and sixty
thousand veteran soldiers, willing to fight, were hurried with all the
confusion of defeat across the Ebro: nor was that barrier found of more
avail to mitigate the rushing violence of their formidable adversary.

Joseph, having placed the defile and fort of Pancorbo between him
and his enemy, thought he could safely await his reinforcements, and
extended his wings for the sake of subsistence. Hence on the 16th
Drouet marched to Aro on the left, while Gazan held the centre, having
a strong advanced guard beyond Pancorbo; for as the king’s hope was
to retake the offensive, he retained the power of issuing beyond the
defiles, and his scouting parties were pushed forward on all sides. The
rest of the army was cantoned by divisions in rear, and Reille, from
behind the Ebro, was to watch the road to Bilbao, being there joined
by Sarrut.

While these movements were in progress, all the incumbrances of
the armies were assembled in the basin of Vittoria, and many small
garrisons of the army of the north came in; for Clausel, having
received the king’s first letter on the 15th of June, had gathered his
scattered columns to rejoin by the way of Logroño, yet his garrisons
were many, and he could only concentrate fourteen thousand men. The
king was nevertheless confident in the strength of his front, and had
no doubt of retaking the offensive when all his forces came in.

His dream was short-lived. On the 13th, while the explosion at Burgos
was still ringing in the hills, Wellington was marching by his left
towards the country about the sources of the Ebro. This great movement,
masked by the cavalry and the Spanish irregulars who infested the
rear of the French, suddenly placed the army between the sources of
the Ebro and the great mountains of Reynosa; this cut the French
entirely off from the sea-coast, and all the ports, except Santona and
Bilbao, were immediately evacuated. Santona was then invested by the
Spaniards, and the English ships entered Sant Andero, where a depôt
and hospital station was established; the connection of the army with
Portugal was thus severed: she was cast off as a heavy tender is cast
from its towing-rope, and all the British military establishments were
transferred by sea to the coast of Biscay.

The English general had now to choose between a march down the left
bank of the Ebro to seek a battle; or to place the army on the great
communication with France, while the fleet, keeping pace, furnished
fresh depôts at Bilbao and other ports. The first was an uncertain
operation, because of the many narrow and dangerous defiles which were
to be passed; the second was secure even if the first should fail; but
both were compatible to a certain point; for to gain the great road
leading from Burgos to Bilbao, was a good step for either, and, failing
of that, there was a road leading by Valmaceda to Bilbao in reserve.
Wherefore with an eagle’s sweep Wellington brought his left wing round,
and poured his numerous columns through all the deep narrow valleys
and rugged defiles towards the great road of Bilbao. At Medina de
Pomar, a central point, he left the sixth division to guard his stores
and supplies, but the march of the other divisions was unmitigated;
neither the winter gullies, nor the ravines, nor the precipitous
passes amongst the rocks, retarded the march even of the artillery;
where horses could not draw men hauled, when the wheels would not roll
the guns were let down or lifted up with ropes; and strongly did the
rough veteran infantry work their way through those wild and beautiful
regions: six days they toiled unceasingly; on the seventh, swelled by
Longa’s Spaniards, and all the smaller bands which came trickling from
the mountains, they burst like raging streams from every defile and
went foaming into the basin of Vittoria.

During this movement many reports reached the French, some absurdly
exaggerated, as that Wellington had one hundred and ninety thousand
men, yet all indicating the true direction of his march; and as early
as the 15th, Jourdan, warning Joseph that the allies would turn his
right, pressed him to place Reille at Valmaceda and close the other
armies towards the same quarter. Joseph yielded so far, that Reille
was ordered to concentrate at Osma and gain Valmaceda by Orduña if it
was still possible; if not he was to descend rapidly upon Bilbao, and
rally Foy’s division and the garrisons of Biscay upon his army: but no
general decided dispositions were made.

Reille called in Maucune from Frias, and having fears for his safety
gave him a choice between a direct road across the hills, or the
circuitous route of Puente Lara. Maucune started late in the night of
the 17th by the direct road; and meanwhile Reille having reached Osma
on the morning of the 18th, found a strong English column issuing from
the defiles in his front, and in possession of the high road to Orduña.
This was Graham. He had three divisions and a considerable body of
cavalry, and the French general, who had eight thousand infantry and
fourteen guns, engaged him with a sharp skirmish and cannonade, wherein
fifty men fell on the side of the allies, above a hundred on that of
the enemy; but at half-past two o’clock, Maucune had not arrived, and
beyond the mountains, on the left of the French, the sound of a battle
arose and seemed to advance along the valley of Boveda in rear of
Osma. Reille, suspecting the truth, instantly retired fighting towards
Espejo, where the mouths of the two valleys opened on each other, and
then suddenly, from that of Boveda Maucune’s troops rushed forth,
begrimed with dust and powder, breathless and broken.

That general had, as before said, marched over the Araçena ridge
instead of going by the Puente Lara, and his leading brigade, after
clearing the defiles, halted near the village of San Millan in the
valley of Boveda, without planting picquets; he was there awaiting
his other brigade and the baggage, when suddenly the light division,
moving on a line parallel with Graham’s march, appeared on some rising
ground in front. The surprise was equal on both sides, but the British
riflemen instantly dashed down the hill with loud cries and a bickering
fire, the 52nd followed in support, and the French retreated fighting
as they best could. The rest of the English regiments remained in
reserve, thinking all their enemies before them, but then the second
French brigade, followed by the baggage, came hastily out from a narrow
cleft in some perpendicular rocks on their right hand, and a confused
action ensued. For the reserve scrambled over rough intervening ground
to attack this new foe, who made for a hill a little way in front,
and then the 52nd, whose rear was thus menaced, quitting their first
enemies, wheeled round and running full speed up the hill met them
on the summit; so pressed, the French cast off their packs, and half
flying, half fighting, escaped along the side of the mountains, while
their first brigade, still retreating on the road towards Espejo,
were pursued by the riflemen. Meanwhile the sumpter animals, sadly
affrighted, run about the rocks with a wonderful clamour; and though
the escort, huddled together, fought desperately, all the baggage
became the spoil of the victors, and four hundred of the French fell or
were taken: the rest with unyielding resolution and activity escaped,
though pursued through the mountains by some Spanish irregulars: Reille
then retreated behind Salinas de Añara.

Neither Reille nor the few prisoners he had made could account for
more than six Anglo-Portuguese divisions at these defiles; hence, as
no enemy had been felt on the great road from Burgos, the king judged
that Hill was marching with the others by Valmaceda into Guipuscoa,
to menace the great communication with France. It was however clear
that six divisions were on the right and rear of the French position,
and no time was to be lost; wherefore Gazan and D’Erlon marched in the
night to unite behind the Zadora river, up the left bank of which they
had to file into the basin of Vittoria. But their way was through the
pass of Puebla de Arganzan, two miles long, and so narrow as scarcely
to furnish room for the great road: wherefore to cover the movement,
Reille fell back during the night to Subijana Morillas on the Bayas
river. His orders were to dispute the ground vigorously, for by that
route Wellington could enter the basin before the others could thread
the pass of Puebla; or he might send a corps from Frias, to attack the
king on the Miranda side in rear while his front was engaged in the
defile. One of these things the English general should have endeavoured
to accomplish, but the troops had made long marches on the 18th, and it
was dark before the fourth division reached Espejo: D’Erlon and Gazan,
therefore, without difficulty passed the defile, and the head of their
column appeared on the other side just as the allies drove Reille back
from the Bayas.

Wellington had reached that river before mid-day the 19th, and, if
he could have forced it at once, the other two armies, then in the
defile, would have been cut off; Reille was however well posted, his
front covered by the stream, his right by the village of Subijana de
Morillas, which was occupied as a bridge-head; his left was secured
by rugged heights, and it was only by a combat in which eighty French
fell that he was forced beyond the Zadora; but the other armies had
then passed the defile, the crisis was over, and the allies pitched
their tents on the Bayas. The king now heard of Clausel at Logroño, and
called him to Vittoria; he also directed Foy, then in march for Bilbao,
to rally the garrisons of Biscay and Guipuscoa and join him on the
Zadora. These orders were received too late.

The basin into which the king had thus poured all his troops, his
parcs, convoys and incumbrances, was eight miles broad by ten long,
Vittoria being at the further end. The Zadora, narrow and with rugged
banks, after passing that town, flows through the Puebla defile towards
the Ebro, dividing the basin unequally,--the largest portion being on
the left bank. A traveller, coming from the Ebro by the royal Madrid
road, would enter the basin by the Puebla defile, breaking through a
rough mountain ridge. On emerging from the pass, at the distance of six
miles on the left he would see the village of Subijana de Morillas,
facing the opening into the basin which Reille had defended on the
Bayas. The spires of Vittoria would appear eight miles in front, and
radiating from that town, the road to Logroño would be on his right
hand; that to Bilbao by _Murgia_ on the left hand, crossing the Zadora
at a bridge near the village of Ariaga. Further on, the road to Estella
and Pampeluna would be seen on the right, the road to Durango on the
left, and between them the royal causeway leading over the great
Arlaban ridge by the defiles of Salinas. Of all these roads, though
some were practicable for guns, especially that to Pampeluna, the royal
causeway alone could suffice for such an incumbered army; and as the
allies were behind the ridge, bounding the basin on the right bank of
the Zadora, and parallel to the causeway, they could by prolonging
their left cut off that route.

Joseph, feeling this danger, thought to march by Salinas to Durango,
there to meet Foy’s troops and the garrisons of Guipuscoa and Biscay;
but in the rough country, neither his artillery nor his cavalry, on
which he greatly depended, though the cavalry and artillery of the
allies were scarcely less powerful, could act or subsist, and he must
have sent them into France: moreover, if pressed by Wellington in
that mountainous region, so favourable for irregulars, he could not
long remain in Spain. It was then proposed to retire to Pampeluna and
bring Suchet’s army up to Zaragoza; but Joseph desired to keep open
the great communication with France; for though the Pampeluna road was
practicable to wheels, it required something more for the enormous mass
of guns and carriages of all kinds now heaped around Vittoria.

One large convoy had marched the 19th, and the fighting men in front
were thus diminished, while the plain was still covered with artillery
parcs and equipages, and the king, infirm of purpose, continued to
waste time in vain conjectures about his adversary’s movements. And on
the 21st, at three o’clock in the morning, Maucune’s division, more
than three thousand good soldiers, also marched with a second convoy.
The king then adopted a new line of battle.

Reille, reinforced by a Franco-Spanish brigade of infantry and Digeon’s
dragoons, took the extreme right to defend the passage of the Zadora,
where the Bilbao and Durango roads crossed it by the bridges of Gamara
Mayor and Ariaga. The centre, under Gazan and Drouet, was distant six
or eight miles from Gamara, lining the Zadora also; but on another
front, for the stream, turning suddenly to the left round the heights
of Margarita, descended thence to the Puebla defile nearly at right
angles with its previous course. There covered by the river, on an easy
open range of heights, Gazan’s right was extended from an isolated hill
in front of the village of Margarita to the royal road; his centre was
astride of the royal road in front of the village of Arinez; his left
occupied rugged ground behind Subijana de Alava, facing the Puebla
defile, and a brigade under Maransin was on the Puebla ridge beyond
the defile. Drouet was in second line; the mass of cavalry, many
guns, and the king’s guards formed a reserve behind the centre about
the village of Gomecha, and fifty pieces of artillery were pushed in
front, pointing to the bridges of Mendoza, Tres Puentes, Villodas, and

While the king was making conjectures, Wellington had made a new
disposition of his forces; for thinking Joseph would not fight on
the Zadora, he sent Giron with the Gallicians on the 19th to seize
Orduña; Graham was to have followed him, but finally penetrated through
difficult mountain ways to Murguia, thus cutting the enemy off from
Bilbao and menacing his communications with France. The army had been
so scattered by the previous marches that Wellington halted on the 20th
to rally the columns, and took that opportunity to examine the French
position, where, contrary to his expectation, they seemed resolved to
fight, wherefore he gave Graham fresh orders and hastily recalled Giron
from Orduña. The long-expected battle was then at hand, and on neither
side were the numbers and courage of the troops of mean account. The
sixth division, six thousand five hundred strong, had been left at
Medina de Pomar, and hence only sixty thousand Anglo-Portuguese sabres
and bayonets, with ninety pieces of cannon, were actually in the field;
but the Spanish auxiliaries raised the numbers to eighty thousand
combatants. The regular muster-roll of the French was lost with the
battle, yet a careful approximate reckoning gives about sixty thousand
sabres and bayonets, and in number and size of guns they had the
advantage: but their position was visibly defective.

Their best line of retreat was on the prolongation of Reille’s right,
at Gamara Mayor; yet he was too distant to be supported by the main
body, and therefore the safety of the latter depended on his good
fighting. Many thousand carriages and other impediments were heaped
about Vittoria, blocking all the roads and disordering the artillery
parcs; and on the extreme left, Maransin’s brigade, occupying the
Puebla ridge, was isolated and too weak to hold its ground. The
centre was indeed on an easy range of hills, its front open, with a
slope to the river, and powerful batteries bore on all the bridges;
nevertheless, many of the guns being advanced in the loop of the
Zadora, were exposed to musket-shot from a wood on the right bank.

Seven bridges were within the scheme of operations, yet none were
broken or retrenched. The bridge of La Puebla, facing the French left,
was beyond the defile; that of Nanclares, facing Subijana de Alava, was
at the French end of the defile; three bridges around the deep loop of
the river opened upon the right of the French centre, that of Mendoza
being highest up the stream, Vellodas lowest down, Tres Puentes in the
centre: the bridges of Gamara Mayor and Ariaga were, as already said,
guarded by Reille.

Wellington projected three distinct battles. Graham, moving by the
Bilbao road, was to force a passage with twenty thousand men against
Reille, and Giron’s Gallicians were called up to his support; the
design being to shut up the French centre and left between the Zadora
and the Puebla mountain. Hill, having Morillo’s Spaniards, Sylviera’s
Portuguese and the second British division, with cavalry and guns, in
all twenty thousand men, was to force the passage of the Zadora river
beyond the Puebla defile, assailing Maransin there with his right,
while his left, threading the pass to enter the basin on that side,
turned and menaced the French left and secured the bridge of Nanclares.

In the centre battle, the third, fourth, seventh and light divisions of
infantry, the great mass of artillery, the heavy cavalry and Portuguese
horsemen, in all thirty thousand combatants, were led by Wellington in
person. Being encamped along the Bayas, these bodies had only to march
over the ridge which bounded the basin of Vittoria on that side, and
come down to their respective points on the Zadora, namely, the bridges
of Mendoza, Tres Puentes, Villodas and Nanclares; but the country was
so rugged exact concert could not be maintained, and each general of
division was left in some degree master of his own movements.


At daybreak on the 21st, the weather being rainy with a thick vapour,
the troops moved from the Bayas, crossed the ridge and slowly
approached the Zadora, while Hill on the other side of the ridge
commenced the passage of that river beyond the defile of Puebla. On
his side Morillo’s Spaniards led, and their first brigade assailed
the mountain to the right of the great road; but the ascent proved
so steep the soldiers appeared to climb rather than walk up, and the
second brigade, which was to connect the first with the British troops
below, ascended only half-way. Little opposition was made until the
first brigade was near the summit, when skirmishing commenced and
Morillo was wounded; his second brigade then joined him, and the
French, feeling the importance of the height, reinforced Maransin.
Hill soon succoured Morillo with the 71st regiment and a battalion of
light infantry, both under Colonel Cadogan, yet the fight was doubtful;
for though the British won the summit and gained ground along the
side of the mountain, Cadogan fell, and Gazan having sent Villatte’s
division to aid Maransin, the French fought so strongly that the
allies could scarcely hold their ground. Hill sent more troops, and
with the remainder of his corps passed the Zadora, threaded the Puebla
defile, and fiercely issuing forth on the other side won the village
of Subijana de Alava in front of Gazan’s line, and then connecting
his right with the troops on the mountain, maintained that forward
position, despite of the enemy’s efforts, until the centre battle was
begun on his left.

Meanwhile Wellington, keeping all his cavalry in mass as a reserve,
placed the fourth division opposite the bridge of Nanclares, the light
division at the bridge of Villodas, both being covered by rugged
ground and woods, and the light division so close to the water, that
the skirmishers could have killed the French gunners in the loop of
the river. The weather had now cleared up, and then Hill’s battle was
prolonged by the riflemen of the light division, with a biting fire
on the enemy’s skirmishers; but no serious effort was made, because
the third and seventh divisions, meeting with rough ground, had not
reached their point of attack, and it would have been imprudent to push
the fourth division and cavalry over the bridge of Nanclares, with the
Puebla defile in their rear, before the other divisions were ready.

While thus waiting, a Spanish peasant told Wellington the bridge of
Tres Puentes on the left of the light division was unguarded, and
offered to lead the troops over it. General Kempt’s brigade was on the
instant directed towards that quarter, and being concealed by some
rocks, passed the narrow bridge at a running pace, mounted a steep
rise of ground and halted close under the crest, being then actually
behind the king’s advanced posts, and within a few hundred yards of his
line of battle. Some French cavalry approached, and two round shots
were fired by the enemy, one of which killed the poor peasant to whose
courage and intelligence the allies were so much indebted, but no
movement of attack was made, and Kempt called the 15th Hussars over the
river: they came at a gallop, crossing the narrow bridge one by one,
horseman after horseman, and still the French remained torpid, showing
an army but no general.

It was now one o’clock, Hill’s assault on the village of Subijana was
entirely developed, and a curling smoke, faintly seen far up the Zadora
on the extreme left, and followed by the sound of distant guns, told
that Graham’s attack had also commenced. Then the king, finding both
flanks in danger, caused his reserve to file off towards Vittoria, and
gave Gazan orders to retire by successive masses; but at that moment
the third and seventh divisions were seen moving rapidly down to the
bridge of Mendoza, whereupon Gazan’s artillery opened, a body of his
cavalry drew near the bridge, and the French light troops, very strong
there, commenced a vigorous musketry. Some British guns replied to the
French cannon from the opposite bank, and the value of Kempt’s forward
position was instantly made manifest; for Andrew Barnard, springing
forward, led the riflemen of the light division in the most daring
manner between the French cavalry and the river, taking their light
troops and gunners in flank, and engaging them so closely that the
English artillerymen, thinking his dark-clothed troops enemies, played
on both alike.

This singular attack enabled a brigade of the third division to pass
the bridge of Mendoza without opposition, while the other brigade
forded the river higher up, followed by the seventh division and
Vandeleur’s brigade of the light division. The French now abandoned
the ground in front of Villodas; and the battle, which had slackened,
was revived with extreme violence; for Hill pressed the enemy in his
front, the fourth division passed the bridge of Nanclares, the smoke
and sound of Graham’s guns became more distinct, and the banks of the
Zadora presented a continuous line of fire. Thus the French, weakened
in the centre by the draft made of Villatte’s division, and shaken in
resolution by the king’s order to retreat, became perplexed and could
make no regular retrograde movement, because the allies were too close.

The seventh division and Colville’s brigade of the third division,
having forded the river, formed the left of the British, and were
immediately engaged with the French right; but then Wellington, seeing
the hill in front of Arinez nearly denuded of troops by the withdrawal
of Villatte’s division, led Picton and the rest of the third division
in close column at a running pace, diagonally, across the front of both
armies, towards that central point. This attack was headed by Barnard’s
riflemen, and followed by the remainder of Kempt’s brigade and the
hussars;[29] and at the same time, when the fourth division had passed
the bridge of Nanclares, the heavy cavalry, a splendid body, galloped
over also, squadron after squadron into the plain ground between Cole
and Hill.

Thus caught in the midst of their dispositions for retreat, the
French threw out a prodigious number of skirmishers, and fifty pieces
of artillery played with astonishing activity. To answer this fire
Wellington brought over most of his guns, and both sides were shrouded
by a dense cloud of smoke and dust, under cover of which the French
retired by degrees to the second range of heights in front of Gomecha,
on which their reserve had been posted, yet still holding the village
of Arinez on the main road. Picton’s troops, always headed by the
riflemen of the light division, then plunged into that village amidst
a heavy fire of muskets and artillery, and three guns were captured;
but the post was important, fresh French troops came down, and for some
time the smoke and dust and clamour, the flashing of the fire-arms,
and the shouts and cries of the combatants, mixed with the thundering
of the guns, were terrible: finally the British troops issued forth
victorious on the other side. During this conflict the seventh
division, reinforced by Vandeleur’s brigade of the light division, was
heavily raked by a battery at the village of Margarita, until the 52nd
regiment with an impetuous charge carried that village, and the 87th
won the village of Hermandad, and, so fighting, the whole line advanced.

When the village of Arinez was won, the French opposed to Hill, at
Subijana de Alava, were turned, and being hard pressed in front, and on
their left by the troops of the Puebla mountain, fell back two miles in
disorder, striving to regain the line of retreat to Vittoria. It was
thought some cavalry launched at the moment would have disorganized
the whole French battle, but none moved, and the confused multitude
shooting ahead recovered order.

The ground was exceedingly diversified with woods and plains, here
covered with corn, there broken by ditches, vineyards and hamlets;
hence the action, for six miles, resolved itself into a running fight
and cannonade, the dust and smoke and tumult of which, filling all
the basin, passed onwards towards Vittoria. Many guns were taken, and
at six o’clock the French reached the last defensible height, one
mile in front of Vittoria. Behind them was the plain in which the
city stood, and beyond the houses thousands of carriages, animals and
non-combatants, men, women, and children, huddling together in all the
madness of terror; and as the English shot went booming over head, the
vast crowd started and swerved with a convulsive movement, while a dull
and horrid sound of distress arose: but there was no hope, no stay for
army or multitude. It was the wreck of a nation.

French courage was not yet quelled. Reille, on whom every thing now
depended, maintained his post at the Upper Zadora, and the armies of
the south and centre, drawing up on their last heights between the
villages of Ali and Armentia, made their muskets flash like lightning,
while more than eighty pieces of artillery, massed together, pealed
with such a horrid uproar, that the hills laboured and shook and
streamed with fire and smoke, amidst which the dark figures of the
French gunners were seen hounding with a frantic energy. This terrible
cannonade and musketry checked the allies. The third division, having
the brunt of the storm, could scarcely maintain its ground, and the
French generals began to draw off their infantry from the right
wing, when suddenly the fourth division rushing forward carried the
hill on the French left; then the heights were all abandoned, for at
that moment Joseph, finding the royal road so blocked by carriages
the artillery could not pass, indicated the road of Salvatierra for
retreat, and the troops at once went off in a confused mass. The
British followed hard, and the light cavalry galloped through the town
to intercept the new line, which passed a marsh, and was likewise
choked with carriages and fugitive people, for on each side there were
deep drains. Disorder and mischief then prevailed entirely. The guns
were left on the edge of the marsh, the artillerymen fled with the
horses, and the infantry, breaking through the miserable multitude,
went clean off: the cavalry however still acted with order, and many
generous horsemen were seen to carry children and women from the
dreadful scene.

This retreat placed Reille in great danger. His advanced troops under
Sarrut had been originally posted at the village of Aranguis, beyond
the Zadora, holding some heights which covered the bridges of Ariaga
and Gamara Mayor. They were driven from thence by Graham’s vanguard
under General Oswald, who seized Gamara Menor on the Durango road, and
forced the Franco-Spaniards from Durano on the royal causeway: thus the
first blow on this side deprived the king of his best line of retreat
and confined him to the road of Pampeluna. Sarrut however recrossed
the river in good order, taking post with one brigade at the bridge
of Ariaga and the village of Abechuco covering it; the other was in
reserve to support him and General La Martinière, who defended the
bridge of Gamara Mayor and the village of that name, also on the right
of the river. Digeon’s dragoons were behind the village of Ariaga;
Reille’s own dragoons were behind the bridge of Gamara; one brigade of
light cavalry was on the extreme right to sustain the Franco-Spanish
troops, higher up the river; another, under General Curto, was on the
French left, extending down the Zadora.

Longa’s Spaniards were to have attacked Gamara at an early hour, when
it was feebly occupied, but they did not stir, and the village being
reinforced, Robinson’s brigade of the fifth division assaulted it
instead. He made the attack at a running pace at first, but the French
fire became so heavy, that his men stopped to reply, and the columns
got intermixed; however, encouraged by their officers, and especially
by the example of General Robinson, an inexperienced man but of a
daring spirit, they renewed the charge, broke through the village and
even crossed the bridge. One gun was captured and the passage seemed
to be won, when Reille suddenly turned twelve pieces upon the village,
and then La Martinière, rallying his men under cover of this cannonade
retook the bridge: it was with difficulty the allied troops could even
hold the village until they were reinforced.

Now a second British brigade came down, and the bridge was again
carried, but the new troops were soon driven back as the others had
been, and the bridge remained forbidden ground. Graham had meanwhile
attacked the village of Abechuco, covering the bridge of Ariaga; it
was carried at once by the German riflemen, who were supported by
Bradford’s Portuguese and the fire of twelve guns; yet here, as at
Gamara, the French maintained the bridge, so that at both places the
troops on each side remained stationary under a reciprocal fire of
artillery and small arms. Reille, with inferior numbers, thus continued
to interdict the passage until the tumult of Wellington’s battle,
coming up the Zadora, reached Vittoria itself, and a part of the
British horsemen rode out of that city upon Sarrut’s rear. Digeon’s
dragoons kept this cavalry in check for the moment, and Reille had
previously formed a reserve of infantry, which now proved his safety;
for Sarrut was killed at the bridge of Ariaga, and Menne, next in
command, could scarcely draw off his troops while Digeon’s dragoons
held the British cavalry at point; but with the aid of his reserve
Reille finally rallied all his troops at Betonio. He had now to make
head on several sides, because the allies were coming down from Ariaga,
from Durano, and from Vittoria; yet he fought his way to Metauco on the
Salvatierra road and there covered the general retreat with some degree
of order. Vehemently and closely did the British pursue, and neither
the bold demeanour of the French cavalry, which made several vigorous
charges, nor darkness, which now fell, could stop their victorious
career until the flying masses had passed Metauco.

This was the battle of Vittoria. The French had, comparatively, few
men slain, but to use Gazan’s words, “_lost all their equipages, all
their guns, all their treasure, all their stores, all their papers;
no man could even prove how much pay was due to him: generals and
subordinate officers alike were reduced to the clothes on their backs,
and most of them were barefooted_.” Never was an army more hardly
used by its commander. The soldiers were not half beaten; yet never
was a victory more complete. The French carried off but two pieces of
artillery from the battle. Jourdan’s baton, a stand of colours, one
hundred and forty-three brass pieces, one hundred of which had been
used in the fight, all the parcs and dépôts from Madrid, Valladolid,
and Burgos, carriages, ammunition, treasure, every thing, fell into
the hands of the victors. The loss in men did not exceed six thousand;
the loss of the allies was five thousand one hundred and seventy-six,
killed, wounded, and missing. Of these one thousand and forty-nine were
Portuguese; five hundred and fifty-three Spanish. Hence the English
lost more than double what Portuguese and Spaniards did together;
yet both fought well, and especially the Portuguese: but British
troops are the soldiers of battle. The spoil was immense, yet so
plundered, principally by the followers and non-combatants, for with
some exceptions the fighting troops may be said to have marched upon
gold and silver without stooping to pick it up, that of five millions
and a half of dollars, indicated by the French accounts to be in the
money-chests, not one dollar came to the public. Wellington sent
fifteen officers with power to examine all loaded animals passing the
Ebro and the Duero, yet very little was recovered; and this robbery was
not confined to ignorant and vulgar people: officers were seen mixed
with the mob contending for the disgraceful gain.

On the 22nd, Giron and Longa pursued the convoy which had moved under
Maucune on the morning of the battle; the heavy cavalry and Portuguese
horsemen remained at Vittoria; Pakenham came with the sixth division
from Medina Pomar, and Wellington pursued Joseph, who had been flying
up the Borundia and Araquil valleys all night. Reille, who covered the
retreat, reached Huerta in the valley of Araquil, thirty miles from the
field of battle, on the evening of the 22nd. Joseph attained Yrursun,
from which roads branched off to Pampeluna on one side, and to Tolosa
and St. Esteban on the other, from thence on the 23rd, expediting
orders to different points on the French frontier to prepare provisions
and succours for his suffering army; meanwhile he sent Reille by St.
Esteban to the Lower Bidassoa with his infantry, six hundred select
cavalry, the artillery-men and horses: Gazan’s and D’Erlon’s troops
marched upon Pampeluna, intending to cross the frontier at St. Jean
Pied de Port.

At Pampeluna the army bivouacked on the glacis of the fortress, but in
such destitution and insubordination that the governor would not suffer
them to enter the town.

Wellington, who had sent Graham’s corps into Guipuscoa by the pass of
St. Adrian, overtook the French rear and captured one of the two guns
saved from Vittoria, and on the 28th the king fled into France by the
Roncesvalles. Foy and Clausel were thus isolated on each flank and in
great danger. The first had a strong country, but his troops were
disseminated, and the fugitives from the battle spread such alarm that
the forts of Arlaban, Montdragon, and Salinas, blocking the passes
into Guipuscoa, were abandoned to Longa and Giron. Foy, who had only
one battalion in hand, rallied the fugitive garrisons, advanced, and
from some prisoners acquired exact intelligence of the battle. Then he
ordered the two convoys from Vittoria to march day and night towards
France, and reinforcing himself with Maucune’s escort gave battle
to the Spanish general, who, having three times his force, worsted
him with a loss of six guns and two hundred men. He retreated to
Villafranca, where, late in the evening of the 24th, Graham came upon
him from the side pass of San Adrian: he had now rallied a considerable
force and gave battle on the Orio with Maucune’s troops and St. Pol’s
Italian division: the first were beaten, yet the Italians gained some
advantages, and the position was so strong that Graham had recourse to
flank operations; Foy then retired to Tolosa, and again offered battle;
whereupon Graham turned his flank with the Spaniards, broke his front
with the Anglo-Portuguese, drove his wings beyond Tolosa on each side,
and bursting the gate of the town forced a passage through his centre
by the main road. Nevertheless Foy retreated with a loss of only four
hundred men, and he had killed and wounded more than four hundred
Anglo-Portuguese in the two days’ operations. The Spanish loss was not
known, but must have been considerable, and Graham, who was himself
hurt, halted two days to hear of Wellington’s progress. During that
time the convoys reached France in safety, and Foy, his force increased
by the junction of detachments to more than sixteen thousand men,
threw a garrison into San Sebastian and joined Reille on the Bidassoa:
twenty-five thousand men were then on that river, and Graham halted to
invest Sebastian.

While these events passed in Guipuscoa, Clausel was more hardly pressed
on the other flank of the allies. He had approached Vittoria with
fourteen thousand men on the 22nd, but finding Pakenham there with
the 6th division, retired to Logroño and halted until the evening of
the 23rd, thus enabling Wellington, who thought he was at Tudela, to
discover his real situation and march against him. He fled to Tudela,
reached it the 27th, after a march of sixty miles in forty hours, and
thinking he had outstripped his pursuers proposed to enter France by
Taffalla and Olite, but an alcalde told him Wellington had forestalled
him at those places and he marched upon Zaragoza. He could have been
intercepted again, yet Wellington, fearing to drive him on Suchet, only
launched Mina in pursuit, and Clausel after destroying guns and baggage
finally escaped by Jacca into France. The king had meanwhile caused
Gazan to re-enter Spain by the Bastan, from whence Hill quickly drove
him. Joseph’s reign was over. After years of toils and combats, admired
rather than understood, Lord Wellington, emerging from the chaos of the
Peninsula struggle, crowned the Pyrenees--a recognized conqueror. From
that pinnacle the clangour of his trumpets was heard, and the splendour
of his genius blazed out, a flaming beacon for warring nations.


  Battle of Castalla--English Siege of Taragona--Siege of San
    Sebastian--Storming of San Bartolomeo--First Storm of San

While the main armies strove in the north of Spain, the Mediterranean
coast was the scene of a secondary contest maintained by an English
expedition sent from Sicily in 1812. Destined at first for Catalonia,
it finally landed at Alicant, where it remained inactive until April,
1813, but then Sir John Murray, whose want of vigour on the Douro
was overbalanced by aristocratic influence at home, assumed command.
Acting in conjunction with the Spanish general Elio, he commenced a
series of petty enterprises, and broached several projects which he had
not nerve to execute, and only roused Suchet to serious action. That
marshal, previously inert, concentrated in the night of the 11th all
his disposable force, and next morning falling upon Mijares, Elio’s
lieutenant, defeated him with a loss of fifteen hundred prisoners. Then
he marched against Murray, who retreated through the pass of Biar to
a position of battle, leaving Colonel F. Adam with two thousand five
hundred men and six guns in the defile. The ground was very strong, but
the French light troops crowned the rocks on each side and after two
hours’ fighting the allies abandoned the pass, with a loss of two guns
and some prisoners besides killed and wounded, yet made their retreat,
three miles, to the main position, in good order, and were not pursued.

This double success in one day indicated the approach of a decisive
battle, in anticipation of which Murray had studied and chosen his
ground with judgment. His left, composed of Whittingham’s Spanish
division, was intrenched on a rugged sierra, and the troops coming from
Biar prolonged the line on a front of two miles, until the ridge ended
abruptly over the town of Castalla. That place with its old castle,
crowning an isolated sugar-loaf hill, was prepared for defence, having
all the approaches commanded by batteries, and being strongly occupied
with Mackenzie’s British division. The cavalry was disposed on a plain,
partly in front, partly behind the town. Clinton’s English and Roche’s
Spanish divisions were in reserve in rear of the right, on a lower
height nearly perpendicular to the main front; and their line as well
as the town was covered by the dry bed of a torrent called a _baranco_,
having precipitous sides and in many places a hundred feet in depth:
that front was therefore refused and scarcely attackable.

On the 12th Suchet’s cavalry, issuing cautiously from the defile of
Biar, extended to its left on the plain; the infantry, following, took
possession of a low ridge facing the Sierra, and then the cavalry,
passing the baranco, turned the town as if to menace the divisions
in reserve. This movement alarmed Murray, and notwithstanding the
impregnable strength of his ground he shrunk from the encounter; even
while Suchet was advancing he thrice gave orders to the quartermaster
general Donkin to put the army in retreat; the last time so
peremptorily, that obedience must have followed if at that moment the
French light troops in advance had not commenced firing.

BATTLE OF CASTALLA. (April, 1813.)

Suchet’s dispositions were slowly made, as if he feared to commence.
A mountain spur, jutting from the Sierra between Whittingham and the
troops from Biar, hid two-thirds of the allies from his view, and he
first sent an exploring column of infantry towards Castalla, to turn
the intercepting spur and discover all the conditions of the position;
when that was effected his cavalry closed towards the baranco. Then he
formed two powerful columns of attack and sent them against Whittingham
and Adam on each side of the spur, retaining a reserve on his own
ridge, and keeping his exploring column towards Castalla to meet any
sally from that point.

The ascent against Whittingham was so ruggedly steep, and the upper
part so intrenched, that the battle resolved itself there at once
into a stationary skirmish of light troops; but on the other side of
the spur the French mounted the height, slowly indeed and with many
skirmishers, yet so resolutely, that it was evident good fighting only
would send them down again. Their light troops, spreading over the face
of the Sierra and in some places attaining the summit, were met and
held in play by the Anglo-Sicilian troops with changing fortune; but
where the main column came on the 27th Regiment there was a terrible
crash of battle, and preceded by a singular encounter. For an abrupt
declination of ground enabled the French to halt and re-form for the
decisive assault, out of fire, yet close to that regiment which was by
order lying down in expectation of the charge. Suddenly a grenadier
officer, rising alone to the upper ground, challenged Waldron the
captain of the 27th Grenadiers to single combat; he, an agile Irishman
of boiling courage, instantly leaped forward to the duel, and the
hostile lines though ready to charge awaited the result. Rapidly
the champions’ swords clashed and glittered in the sun, but Waldron
cleft his adversary’s head in twain, and the 27th springing up with
a deafening shout charged and sent the French, maugre their numbers
and courage, down the mountain side, covering it with their dead and
wounded. It was a glorious exploit, erroneously attributed in the
despatch to Colonel Adam, though entirely conducted by the colonel of
the regiment, Reeves.

Suchet seeing his principal column thus broken, and having the worst of
the fight in other parts, made two secondary attacks with his reserve
to cover a rally, yet failed in both and his army was thus separated in
three parts without connection; for the column beaten by Reeves was in
great confusion at the foot of the Sierra, the exploring column was on
the left, and the cavalry beyond the baranco, the only passage across
it being commanded by the allies. A vigorous sally from Castalla, and
a general advance, would then have compelled the French-infantry to
fall back upon Biar in confusion before the cavalry could come to their
assistance, and the victory would have been completed; but Murray,
who had remained during the whole action behind Castalla, first gave
Suchet time to rally and retire in order towards the pass of Biar,
and then gradually passing out Clinton’s and Roche’s divisions by the
right of the town, with a tedious pedantic movement, changed his own
front, keeping his left at the foot of the heights, and extending his
right, covered by the cavalry, towards another sierra called Onil:
General Mackenzie however, moving out by the left of Castalla with four
battalions and eight guns, followed the enemy without orders.

Suchet had by this time plunged into the pass with his infantry,
cavalry and tumbrils, in one mass, leaving the rear-guard of three
battalions and eight guns to cover the passage; these being pressed
by Mackenzie and sharply cannonaded, turned and offered battle,
answering gun for gun; but they were heavily crushed by the English
shot, the clatter of musketry commenced, and one well-directed vigorous
charge would have overturned and driven them in mass upon the other
troops, then wedged in the narrow defile. Mackenzie was willing, but
his advance had been directed by the quartermaster-general Donkin,
not by Murray, and he was now compelled by the latter, despite of
all remonstrances and the indignant cries of the troops, to retreat!
Suchet, thus relieved from ruin by his adversary, immediately occupied
a position across the defile, having his flanks on the ridges above;
and though Murray finally sent some light companies to attack his left
he retained his position until night.

This battle, in which the allies had about seventeen thousand men of
all arms, the French about fifteen thousand, was, Suchet says, brought
on against his wish by the impetuosity of his light troops, and that he
lost only eight hundred men. His statement is confirmed by Vacani the
Italian historian. Murray affirmed that it was a pitched battle, and
that the French lost above three thousand men. In favour of Suchet’s
version it may be remarked, that neither the place, nor the time, nor
the mode of attack was answerable to his talents and experience in
war, if he had really intended a pitched battle; and though the fight
was strong at the principal point, it was scarcely possible to have
so many as three thousand killed and wounded. Eight hundred seems too
few, because the loss of the victorious troops, with all advantages of
ground, was more than six hundred. This however is certain; if Suchet
lost three thousand men, which would have been at least a fourth of
his infantry, he must have been so disabled, that what with the narrow
defile of Biar in the rear, and the distance of his cavalry in the
plain, to have escaped at all was extremely discreditable to Murray’s


It has been shown that Lord Wellington put every armed body of the
Peninsula in movement against the French when he commenced the march to
Vittoria; and under his combinations the Duke del Parque should have
joined Elio from Andalusia, before the battle of Castalla, which would
have raised the allied forces there to fifty thousand men, including
the irregulars. Del Parque with the usual Spanish procrastination
delayed his arrival until the end of May; and then Murray had to
execute his part of the following plan, sketched by Wellington to
hamper Suchet and prevent him from moving to the king’s assistance.
The Spaniards, numerous but unwieldy, were to oppose that marshal in
front on the Xucar, while Murray with the Anglo-Sicilians was to embark
and sail for the siege of Tarragona in his rear: if he detached men to
raise the siege the Spaniards were to advance, and Murray was to return
and aid them to keep the country thus gained: if Suchet came back to
recover his ground this operation was to be repeated.

On the 31st of May Murray, in pursuance of this arrangement, sailed
with fifteen thousand men under arms, his British and Germans being
about eight thousand, his cavalry seven hundred. His battering-train
was complete and powerful, the materials for gabions and fascines
were previously collected at Iviça, and the naval part, under Admiral
Hallowel, was strong in ships of the line, frigates, bomb-vessels,
gun-boats and transports. There was however no cordiality between
General Clinton, the second in command, and Murray; nor between the
latter and his quartermaster-general Donkin; nor between Donkin and
the admiral: subordinate officers also, adopting false notions, some
from vanity, some from hearsay, added to the uneasy state of the
leaders, and there was much tale-bearing. Neither admiral nor general
was very sanguine as to success, and in no quarter was there a clear
comprehension of Lord Wellington’s ably devised plan.

When the fleet passed Valencia with a fair wind Suchet knew the
expedition aimed at Catalonia, and prepared to aid that principality,
but he could not march before the 7th of June. Murray’s armament
however, having very favourable weather, anchored on the evening of
the 2nd in the Bay of Tarragona, whence five ships of war were sent
with two battalions of infantry and some guns, under Colonel Prevost
to attack San Felippe de Balaguer, a fort garrisoned by a hundred men
and only sixty feet square. But it was on a steep isolated rock in
the gorge of a pass, blocking the only carriage-way from Tortoza to
Tarragona, and though the mountains on either hand commanded it, they
were nearly inaccessible themselves, and great labour was required to
form the batteries.

Prevost, landing the 3rd, was joined by a Spanish brigade, and in
concert with the navy placed two six-pounders on the heights south
of the pass, from whence at seven hundred yards’ distance they threw
shrapnel-shells. Next day two twelve-pounders and a howitzer, brought
to the same point by the sailors, opened also, and at night the seamen
with extraordinary exertions dragged up five twenty-four pounders and
their stores. The troops then constructed their batteries with great
labour, for the earth was carried up from below, and everything else,
even water, brought from the ships, the landing-place being more than a
mile and a half off; wherefore, time being valuable, favourable terms
were offered to the garrison. They were refused and the fire continued,
yet with slight success, one battery was relinquished, and a violent
storm retarded the construction of the others.

Colonel Prevost had early warned Murray that his means were
insufficient, and a second Spanish brigade was now sent to him; but,
so severe was the labour, that the breaching batteries were still
incomplete on the 6th, and out of three guns mounted one was disabled.
Suchet, who was making forced marches to Tortoza, ordered the governor
of that place to succour San Felippe, and he would certainly have
raised the siege, if Captain Peyton of the Thames frigate had not
brought up two eight-inch mortars, with which, on the 7th, he exploded
a small magazine, whereupon the garrison surrendered. The besiegers
then occupied the place, and meanwhile Murray had commenced the siege
of Tarragona.

Bertoletti, an Italian, commanded the fortress and was supposed to be
disaffected, yet be proved himself a loyal and energetic officer. His
garrison, sixteen hundred strong, five hundred being privateer seamen
and Franco-Spaniards, served him well, and when Murray occupied the
Olivo and Loretto heights the first day, and the town was bombarded
in the night by the navy, the fire was returned so sharply that the
flotilla suffered most. Two batteries were then opened the 6th, but
were found too distant, and a third was commenced six hundred yards
from Fort Royal. The 8th a practicable breach was made in that outwork,
yet the assault was deferred, and some pieces removed to play from
the Olivo; whereupon the besieged, finding the fire slacken, repaired
the breach at Fort Royal and increased the defences. The subsequent
proceedings cannot be understood without reference to the relative
positions of the French and allied armies.

Tarragona was situated on one of a cluster of rocks terminating a
range descending to the sea, but, with the exception of that range,
surrounded by an open country called the _Campo de Tarragona_, itself
environed by very rugged mountains, through which several roads descend
into the plain.

Westward there were only two carriage-ways from Tortoza. One direct,
by the Col de Balaguer to Tarragona; the other circuitous, leading by
Mora, Falcet, Momblanch and Reus. The capture of San Felippe blocked
the first, the second was in bad order, and at best only available for
small mountain-guns.

Northward there was a carriage-way leading from Lerida, which united
with that from Falcet at Momblanch.

Eastward was the royal causeway from Barcelona, running through Villa
Franca and Torredembarra, and after passing Villa Franca sending two
branches to the right, one through the Col de Cristina, the other
through Col de Leibra.

Between these various roads the mountains were too rugged to permit
cross communications; troops coming from different sides could only
unite in the Campo de Tarragona; where Murray, who had fifteen
thousand fighting men, and Copons, who had six thousand regulars and
the irregular division of Manso, could present twenty-five thousand

Copons indeed told Murray, that his troops could only fight in
position, and he would not join in any operation to endanger his
retreat into the mountains; but his force, the best in Spain, was now
at Reus and the Col de Balaguer, ready to harass and oppose any French
corps which should attempt to descend into the Campo. Murray could
also calculate upon seven or eight hundred seamen and marines to aid
him in the siege, or in a battle near the shore, and he expected three
thousand fresh troops from Sicily. Sir Edward Pellew, commanding the
great Mediterranean fleet, promised to distract the French by a descent
eastward of Barcelona, and a general rising of the Somatenes might have
been effected: those mountaineers were indeed all at his disposal, to
procure intelligence, to give timely notice of the French marches and
impede them by breaking up the roads.

The French power was greater yet more scattered. On the west Suchet,
coming with nine thousand men from Valencia, was to be reinforced
by Pannetier’s brigade and some troops from Tortoza, up to eleven
or twelve thousand men with artillery; but the fall of San Felippe
de Balaguer barred his only carriage-way, and the road by Mora and
Momblanch, which remained open, was long and bad. On the eastern side
Maurice Mathieu could bring seven thousand men with artillery from
Barcelona; Decaen could move from the Ampurdam with an equal number,
and thus twenty-five thousand men in all might finally bear upon the
allied army.

Suchet had more than a hundred and sixty miles to march, and Maurice
Mathieu was to collect his forces from various places, and march
seventy miles after Murray had disembarked; nor could he stir at
all until Tarragona was actually besieged, lest the allies should
reëmbark and attack Barcelona. Decaen had in like manner to look to
the security of the Ampurdam, and was one hundred and thirty miles
distant. Wherefore the English general could calculate upon ten days’
clear operations after investment, before even the heads of the enemy’s
columns could issue from the hills bordering the Campo; and it was
possible that Suchet might endeavour to cripple the Spaniards in his
front at Valencia before he marched to the succour of Tarragona.
Eastward, and westward also, the royal causeway was in places exposed
to the fire of the naval squadron; and though the first siege of
Tarragona had shown that an army could not be there stopped by this
fire, it was an impediment not to be left out of the calculation. Thus,
a central position, possession of the enemy’s point of junction, the
initial movement, the good-will of the people, and the aid of powerful
flank diversions belonged to Murray: superior numbers and better
soldiers to the French, since the allies, brave and formidable to fight
in a position, were not well constituted for general operations.

Tarragona, if the resources for an internal defence be disregarded, was
a weak place. A simple revetment three feet and a half thick, without
ditch or counterscarp, covered it on the west; the two outworks of Fort
Royal and San Carlos, slight obstacles at best, were not armed or even
repaired until after the investment; and the garrison, too weak for the
extent of rampart, was oppressed with labour. Here then, time being
precious to both sides, ordinary rule should have been set aside for
daring operations, and Murray’s troops were brave. They had been acting
together for nearly a year, and after the fight at Castalla became so
eager, that an Italian regiment, which at Alicant was ready to go over
bodily to the enemy, now volunteered to lead the assault on Fort Royal.
This confidence was not shared by their general: up to the 8th his
proceedings were ill-judged, and his after operations disgraceful to
the British army.

False reports had made Suchet reach Tortoza on the 5th, and put two
thousand Frenchmen in motion from Lerida, whereupon Murray avowed
alarm and regret at having left Alicant; yet he constructed heavy
counter-batteries near the Olivo, sent a detachment to Valls on the
Lerida road, and placed Manso on that of Barcelona.

On the 9th the emissaries said the French were coming from the east and
from the west, and would, when united, exceed twenty thousand. Murray
sought an interview with the admiral, and declared his intention to
raise the siege, and though his views changed during the conference, he
was discontented, and the two commanders were evidently at variance,
for Hallowel would not join in a summons to the governor, and again
bombarded the place.

On the 10th spies in Barcelona gave notice that ten thousand French
with fourteen guns would march from that city next day, whereupon
Copons joined Manso; but Murray landed several mortars, armed the
batteries at the Olivo, and on the 11th opened their fire in concert
with the ships of war. Professing also a desire to fight the column
coming from Barcelona, he sent the cavalry under Lord Frederick
Bentinck to Altafalla, and pretending to seek a position of battle
to the eastward left orders to storm the outworks that night; he
returned however before the hour appointed, extremely disturbed by
intelligence that Maurice Mathieu was at Villa Franca with eight
thousand combatants, and Suchet closing on the Col de Balaguer. His
infirmity of mind was now apparent. At eight o’clock he repeated the
order to assault, and the storming party was awaiting the signal,
when a countermand arrived; the siege was then to be raised and the
guns removed immediately from the Olivo; the commandant of artillery
remonstrated, and the general promised to hold the batteries until next
night, but meanwhile called in the detachment at Valls and the cavalry,
without any notice to Copons, though he depended on their support.

All the artillery stores and the heavy guns of the batteries on the
low ground, were removed to the beach for embarkation on the morning
of the 12th, and at twelve o’clock Lord Frederick Bentinck arrived
with the cavalry: it is said he was ordered to shoot his horses, but
refused to obey and moved towards the Col de Balaguer. The detachment
from Valls arrived next, the infantry marched to Cape Salou to embark,
the horsemen followed Lord Frederick, and were themselves followed by
fourteen pieces of artillery; yet each body moved independently, and
all was confused, incoherent, afflicting, and dishonourable.

When the seamen were embarking the guns, orders were sent to abandon
that business and collect boats for the reception of troops, the enemy
being supposed close at hand; and notwithstanding Murray’s previous
promise to hold the Olivo he now directed the artillery officer to
spike the guns and burn the carriages. Then loud murmurs arose, army
and navy were alike indignant, and so excited, that it is said personal
insult was offered to the general. Three staff-officers repaired in
a body to his quarters to offer plans and opinions, and the admiral,
who did not object to raising the siege but to the manner of doing
it, would not suffer the seamen to discontinue the embarkation of
artillery; he however urged an attack upon the column coming from
Barcelona, and opposed the order to spike the guns at the Olivo,
offering to be responsible for carrying all clear off during the night.

Murray again wavered. Denying he had ordered the battering-pieces to
be spiked, he sent counter-orders, and directed a part of Clinton’s
troops to advance towards the Gaya river; yet a few hours afterwards he
peremptorily renewed the order to destroy the guns. Even this unhappy
action was not performed without confusion. General Clinton, forgetful
of his own arrangements, with an obsolete courtesy took off his hat to
salute an enemy’s battery which had fired upon him, forgetting that
this action from that particular spot was the conventional signal for
the artillery to spike the guns: they were thus spiked prematurely. All
the troops were embarked in the night of the 12th, and many stores and
horses on the 13th, without interruption from the enemy; but nineteen
battering-pieces, whose carriages had been burnt, were, in view of the
fleet and army, carried in triumph, with all the platforms, fascines,
gabions, and small ammunition, into the fortress! Murray, seemingly
unaffected by this misfortune, shipped himself on the evening of the
12th and took his usual repose in bed!

During these proceedings, the French, unable to surmount the obstacles
opposed to their junction, unable even to communicate by their
emissaries, were despairing of the safety of Tarragona. Suchet did
not reach Tortoza before the 10th, but a detachment from the garrison
had on the 8th attempted to succour San Felippe, and nearly captured
the naval Captain Adam, Colonel Prevost, and other officers, who were
examining the country. On the other side Maurice Mathieu reached
Villa Franca the 10th, announcing that Decaen was close behind with
a powerful force; he drove Copons from Arbos the 11th, and sent his
scouting parties into Vendrills, as if he was resolved singly to
attack Murray. Sir Edward Pellew had however landed his marines at
Rosas, which arrested Decaen’s march; and Maurice Mathieu, alarmed
at the cessation of fire about Tarragona, knowing nothing of Suchet’s
movements and too weak to fight the allies alone, fell back in the
night of the 12th to the Llobregat.

Suchet’s operations to the westward were even less decisive. His
advanced guard under Panettier reached Perillo the 10th. Next day,
hearing nothing from his spies, he caused Panettier to pass by his left
over the mountains to some heights terminating abruptly on the Campo;
on the 12th therefore that officer was but twenty-five miles from
Tarragona, and a patrol, descending into the plains, met Lord Frederick
Bentinck’s troopers, and reported that Murray’s whole army was at hand:
Panettier would not then enter the Campo, but at night kindled large
fires to encourage the garrison. These signals were unobserved, the
country people had disappeared, no intelligence could be procured,
and Suchet could not follow him with a large force in those wild
hills, where there was no water. Thus on both sides of Tarragona the
succouring armies were quite baffled at the moment chosen by Murray for

Suchet now received alarming intelligence from Valencia, yet still
anxious for Tarragona, pushed towards Felippe de Balaguer on the 14th,
thinking to find Prevost’s division alone; but the head of his column
was suddenly cannonaded by the Thames frigate, and he found the British
fleet anchored off San Felippe and disembarking troops. Murray’s
operations were indeed as irregular as those of a partizan, yet without
partizan vigour. He had heard in the night of the 12th of Panettier’s
march, and to protect the cavalry and guns under Lord Frederick, sent
Mackenzie’s division by sea to Balaguer on the 13th, following with the
whole army on the 14th. Mackenzie drove back the French posts at both
sides of the pass, the embarkation of the cavalry and artillery then
commenced, and Suchet, still uncertain if Tarragona had fallen, marched
to bring off Panettier.

At this moment Murray heard that Maurice Mathieu’s column, which he
always erroneously supposed to be under Decaen, had retired to the
Llobregat, that Copons was again at Reus, and Tarragona had not been
reinforced. Elated by this information, he revolved various projects
in his mind, at one time thinking to fall upon Suchet, at another to
cut off Panettier; now resolving to march upon Cambrills, and even to
menace Tarragona again by land; then he was for sending a detachment
by sea to surprise the latter, yet finally disembarked the army on the
15th, and being ignorant of Suchet’s last movement decided to strike
at Panettier. With that object, he detached Mackenzie by a rugged
valley against Valdillos, which he reached on the 16th; but Suchet had
then carried off Panettier’s brigade, and next day the detachment was
recalled by Murray, who now only thought of re-embarking.

This determination was caused by a fresh alarm from the eastward.
Maurice Mathieu, hearing the siege was raised, and the allies had
re-landed at the Col de Balaguer, retraced his steps and boldly entered
Cambrills the 17th, on which day, Mackenzie having returned, Murray’s
whole army was concentrated in the pass. Suchet was then behind
Perillo, and as Copons was at Reus, by Murray’s desire, to attack
Maurice Mathieu, the latter was in danger, if the English general
had been capable of a vigorous stroke. On the other hand Suchet,
too anxious for Valencia, had disregarded Mackenzie’s movement on
Valdillos, and taught by the disembarkation of the army at San Felippe
that the fate of Tarragona, for good or evil, was decided, had on the
16th retired to Perillo and Amposta, attentive only to the movement of
the fleet.

Meanwhile Maurice Mathieu endeavoured to surprise Copons, who was led
into this danger by Murray; for having desired him to harass the French
general’s rear with a view to a general attack, he changed his plan
without giving the Spaniard notice. However he escaped, and Murray was
free to embark or remain at Col de Balaguer. He called a council of
war, and it was concluded to re-embark; but at that moment the great
Mediterranean fleet appeared in the offing, and Admiral Hallowel,
observing the signal announcing Lord William Bentinck’s arrival,
answered with more promptitude than decorum, “_we are all delighted_.”
Thus ended an operation perhaps the most disgraceful that ever befel
the British arms.

Murray’s misconduct deeply affected Lord Wellington’s operations. The
English battering train being taken, Suchet had nothing to fear for
Catalonia, which was full of fortresses, and he could therefore move
by Zaragoza to disturb the siege of Pampeluna, which was consequently
relinquished for a blockade, and the siege of San Sebastian undertaken.
This involved the adoption of an immense line of covering positions
along the Pyrenees from Roncesvalles to the Bidassoa, and along the
left hank of that river to the sea; and the siege, itself a difficult
one, was rendered more so by the culpable negligence of the English
naval administration.

Passages, the only port near the scene of operations suited for the
supply of the army, being between the covering and besieging forces,
the stores and guns once landed were in danger from every movement of
the enemy; and no permanent magazines could therefore be established
nearer than Bilbao, at which port and at St. Ander and Coruña the
great depôts of the army were fixed; the stores being transported to
them from the establishments in Portugal. But the French held Santoña,
whence their privateers interrupted the communication along the coast
of Spain; American privateers did the same between Lisbon and Coruña;
and the intercourse between Sebastian and the ports of France was
scarcely molested by the English vessels of war: because Wellington’s
urgent remonstrances could not procure a sufficient naval force on the
coast of Biscay!


Built on a low sandy isthmus, having the harbour on one side, the river
Urumea on the other, Sebastian was strong; and behind it rose the Monte
Orgullo, a rugged cone four hundred feet high, washed by the ocean and
crowned with the small castle of La Mota. This hill was cut off from
the town by a line of defensive works, and covered with batteries; but
was itself commanded at a distance of thirteen hundred yards by the
Monte Olia, on the other side of the Urumea.

The land front of the town, three hundred and fifty yards wide,
stretching quite across the isthmus, consisted of a high curtain or
rampart, very solid, with half bastions at either end and a lofty
casemated flat bastion or cavalier in the centre. A regular horn-work
was pushed out from this front, and six hundred yards beyond the
horn-work the isthmus was closed by the ridge of San Bartolomeo, at the
foot of which stood the suburb of San Martin.

On the opposite side of the Urumea were certain sandy hills called the
_Chofres_, through which the road from Passages passed to a wooden
bridge over the river, and thence, by a suburb called Santa Catalina,
along the top of a sea-wall which formed a _fausse-braye_ for the

The flanks of the town were protected by simple ramparts, washed on one
side by the water of the harbour, on the other by the Urumea, which
at high tide covered four of the twenty-seven feet comprised in its
elevation. This was the weak side of the fortress, though protected
by the river; for it had only a single wall, which was ill-flanked by
two old towers and a half-bastion called San Elmo, close under the
Monte Orgullo. There was no ditch, no counterscarp, no glacis; the
wall could be seen to its base from the Chofre hills, at distances
varying from five hundred to a thousand yards; and when the tide was
out the Urumea left a dry strand under the rampart as far as St. Elmo.
However the guns from the batteries at Monte Orgullo, especially that
called the Mirador, could rake this strand. The other flank of the
town was secured by the harbour, in the mouth of which was a rocky
island, called Santa Clara, where the French had established a post of
twenty-five men.

Previous to the battle of Vittoria Sebastian was nearly dismantled;
there were no bomb-proofs, no palisades, no outworks; the wells were
foul, the place only supplied with water by an aqueduct. Joseph’s
defeat restored its importance as a fortress. General Emanuel Bey
entered it the 22nd of June, bringing with him the convoy which had
quitted Vittoria the day before the battle. The town was thus filled
with emigrant Spanish families, and the ministers and other persons
attached to the court; the population, ordinarily eight thousand,
was increased to sixteen thousand, and disorder and confusion were
predominant. Rey, pushed by necessity, forced all persons not residents
to march at once to France; the people of quality went by sea, the
others by land, and fortunately without being attacked, for the
Partidas would have given them no quarter.

On the 27th Foy threw a reinforcement into the place, and next day
Mendizabal’s Spaniards appeared; whereupon Rey burned the wooden bridge
with both the suburbs, and commenced fortifying the heights of San

The 29th the Spaniards having slightly attacked San Bartolomeo were

The 1st of July the governor of Gueteria abandoned that place, and
his troops, three hundred, entered San Sebastian; at the same time a
vessel from St. Jean de Luz arrived with fifty-six cannoniers and some
workmen. The garrison was thus increased to three thousand men, and all
persons not able to provide subsistence for themselves were ordered
away: meanwhile Mendizabal cut off the aqueduct.

On the 3rd an English frigate and sloop with some small craft arrived
to blockade the harbour, but French vessels from St. Jean de Luz
continued to enter by night.

On the 4th Rey sallied to obtain news, and after some hours’
skirmishing returned with prisoners.

The 6th, French vessels with a detachment of troops and a considerable
convoy of provisions from St. Jean de Luz entered the harbour.

The 7th Mendizabal tried, unsuccessfully, to set fire to the convent of
San Bartolomeo.

The 9th Graham arrived with British and Portuguese troops, and on the
13th the Spaniards marched away.

At this time Reille was at Vera and Echallar, in a menacing position,
but Wellington drove him thence on the 15th and established the seventh
and light divisions there; thus covering the passes over the Peña de
Haya mountain, by which the siege might have been interrupted.

Before Graham arrived the French had constructed a redoubt on San
Bartolomeo, connecting it with the convent of that name, which they
also fortified. These outworks were supported by posts in the ruined
houses of the San Martin suburb, and by a circular redoubt, formed of
casks, on the main road, half-way between the convent and horn-work.
Hence, working along the isthmus, it was necessary to carry in
succession three lines covering the town, and a fourth behind it, at
the foot of Monte Orgullo, before the castle of La Mota could be
assailed: seventy-six pieces were mounted on the walls.

The besieging army consisted of the fifth division under General
Oswald, and the Portuguese brigades of J. Wilson and Bradford,
reinforced by detachments from the first division. Including the
artillery-men, some seamen commanded by Lieutenant O’Reilly of the
Surveillante, and one hundred regular sappers and miners, now for the
first time used in the sieges of the Peninsula, nearly ten thousand men
were employed, with forty pieces of artillery. The siege depôt was at
Passages, from whence to the Chofre sand-hills was only one mile and a
half of good road, and a pontoon bridge was laid over the Urumea river
above the Chofres; but from thence to the height of Bartolomeo was more
than five miles of very bad road.

Early in July, Major Smith, the engineer of Tarifa, proposed a plan
of siege, founded upon the facility furnished by the Chofre hills to
destroy the flanks, rake the principal front, and form a breach with
the same batteries; the works would, he observed, be secured, except at
low water, by the Urumea, and counter-batteries could be constructed
on the left of that river, to rake the line in which the breach was to
be formed. Against the castle and its out-works he relied principally
upon vertical fire, instancing the reduction of Fort Bourbon in the
West Indies as proof of its efficacy. This plan would probably have
reduced Sebastian in a reasonable time without any remarkable loss of
men, and Lord Wellington approved of it, though he erroneously doubted
the efficacy of the vertical fire. He renewed his approval after
examining the works in person, and all his orders were in that spirit;
but neither the plan nor his orders were followed, and the siege
which should have been an ordinary event of war obtained a mournful
celebrity. Wellington has been unjustly charged with a contempt for the
maxims of the great masters of the art in his desire to save time: he
did not urge the engineer here beyond the rules. _Take the place in the
quickest manner, but do not from over speed fail to take it_, was the
sense of his instructions. The haste was with Graham, one of England’s
best soldiers, but of a genius intuitive rather than reflective, which,
joined to great natural modesty and a certain easiness of temper,
caused him at times to abandon his own correct conceptions for less
judicious counsels of men who advised deviations from the original plan.

In the night of the 10th two batteries were raised against the convent
and redoubt of San Bartolomeo; and in that of the 13th, four batteries,
to contain twenty of the heaviest guns and four eight-inch howitzers,
were marked out on the Chofre sand-hills, at distances varying from
six hundred to thirteen hundred yards from the eastern rampart of the
town. No parallel of support was made, because the river was supposed
unfordable, but good trenches of communications and subsequently
regular approaches were formed. Two attacks were thus established--one
on the right bank of the Urumea by the Portuguese brigades; one on the
left bank by the fifth division: yet most of the troops were encamped
on the right bank to facilitate a junction with the covering army in
the event of a general battle.

On the 14th a French sloop entered the harbour with supplies, and the
batteries of the left attack opened against San Bartolomeo, throwing
hot shot into the convent. The besieged responded with musketry from
the redoubt, with heavy guns from the town, and with a field-piece
which they had mounted on the belfry of the convent itself.

The 15th Colonel Fletcher took command of the engineers, but Major
Smith retained the direction of the attack from the Chofre hills, and
Wellington’s orders continued to pass through his hands. This day, the
convent being set on fire, the musketry of the besieged silenced, and
the defences damaged, the Portuguese troops of the fifth division felt
the enemy, but were repulsed with loss: the French then sallied, and
the firing only ceased at nightfall.

A battery for seven additional guns was now commenced against
Bartolomeo on the right of the Urumea, and the original batteries
again set fire to the convent, yet the flames were extinguished by the

In the night of the 16th Rey sounded the Urumea, designing to cross
and storm the batteries on the Chofres; but the fords discovered were
shifting, and the difficulty of execution deterred him.

The 17th, the convent being nearly in ruins, an assault was ordered.
Detachments from Wilson’s Portuguese, supported by the light company
of the 9th British Regiment and three companies of the Royals, composed
one column, which under General Hay was to storm the redoubt; another
column under General Bradford, composed of Portuguese, but supported
by three companies of the 9th British Regiment under Colonel Cameron,
assailed the convent.


At ten o’clock in the morning two six-pounders opened against the
redoubt, and the French, reinforced and occupying the suburb of
San Martin in support, announced with a sharp return of fire their
resolution to fight. The Portuguese advanced slowly at both attacks,
and the companies of the 9th, passing through them, first fell upon
the enemy. Cameron’s grenadiers going down the face of the hill were
exposed to a heavy cannonade from the horn-work, yet soon gained the
cover of a wall, fifty yards from the convent, and there awaited the
second signal. This rapid advance, which threatened to cut off the
garrison from the suburb, joined to the fire of the two six-pounders,
and some other field-pieces on the farther side of the Urumea, caused
the French to abandon the redoubt, whereupon Cameron jumped over the
wall and assaulted both the convent and the houses of the suburb. At
the latter a fierce struggle ensued, and Captain Woodman was killed
in the upper room of a house, after fighting his way from below; yet
the grenadiers carried the convent with such rapidity that the French
could not explode some small mines, and hastily joined the troops
in the suburb: there the combat continued, Cameron’s force was much
reduced and the affair was becoming doubtful, when the remainder of his
regiment arrived and the suburb was with much fighting entirely won.

At the right attack the company of the 9th, although retarded by a
ravine, by a thick hedge, by the slowness of the Portuguese, and by a
heavy fire, entered the abandoned redoubt with little loss; but the
troops were then rashly led against the cask redoubt, contrary to
orders, and were beaten back by the enemy. The loss was thus balanced.
That of the French was two hundred and forty, and the companies of the
9th under Cameron, alone, had seven officers and sixty men killed or
wounded. The operation, although successful, was an error; for the
seven-gun battery on the right of the Urumea was not opened, wherefore
the assault was precipitate or the battery was not necessary, but the
loss justified the conception of the battery. When the action ceased
the engineers made a lodgement in the redoubt, and commenced two
batteries to rake the horn-work and the eastern rampart of the place.
Two other batteries were also commenced on the right bank of the Urumea.

The 18th the besieged threw up traverses on the land front to meet the
raking fire of the besiegers; and the latter dragged four pieces up
the Monte Olia to plunge into the Mirador and other works on the Monte
Orgullo. In the night a lodgement was made on the ruins of San Martin,
the two batteries at the right attack were armed, and two additional
mortars dragged up the Monte Olia.

On the 19th all these batteries were armed, and in the night the French
were driven from the cask redoubt.

All the batteries opened fire the 20th, and were principally directed
to form the breach.

Smith’s plan was similar to that followed by Marshal Berwick a century
before. He proposed a lodgement on the horn-work before the breach
should be assailed; but he had not then read the description of that
siege, and unknowingly fixed the breaching-point precisely where the
wall had been most strongly rebuilt after Berwick’s attack. This was a
fault, yet a slight one, because the wall did not resist the batteries
very long; but it was a serious matter that Graham, at the suggestion
of the commander of the artillery, began his operations by breaching.
Smith objected to it, Fletcher acquiesced very reluctantly, on the
understanding that the ruin of the defences was only postponed, a
condition afterwards unhappily forgotten.

This first attack was not satisfactory, the weather proved bad, some
guns mounted on ship-carriages failed, one twenty-four-pounder was
rendered unserviceable by the enemy, another by accident, a captain of
engineers was killed, and the shot had little effect on the solid wall.
In the night however, the ship-guns were mounted on better carriages,
and a parallel across the isthmus was projected; but the greatest part
of the workmen, to avoid a tempest, sought shelter in the suburb of
San Martin, and when day broke only one-third of the work was performed.

On the 21st the besiegers sent a summons, the governor refused to
receive the letter, the firing was renewed, and though the main wall
resisted the parapets crumbled; the batteries on Monte Olia also
plunged into the horn-work at sixteen hundred yards’ distance, with
such effect that the besieged, having no bomb-proofs, were forced to
dig trenches to protect themselves. The French fire, directed solely
against the breaching batteries, was feeble, but at midnight a shell
thrown from the castle into the bay gave the signal for a sally, during
which French vessels with supplies entered the harbour. The besieged
now isolated the breach by cuts in the rampart and other defences, yet
the besiegers’ parallel across the isthmus was completed, and in its
progress laid bare the mouth of a drain four feet high and three feet
wide, containing the pipe of the aqueduct cut off by the Spaniards.
Through that dangerous opening Lieutenant Reid,[30] a young and zealous
engineer, crept even to the counterscarp of the horn-work, where he
found the passage closed and returned. Thirty barrels of powder were
placed in this drain, and eight feet was stopped with sand-bags,
forming a globe of compression to blow, as through a tube, so much
rubbish over the counterscarp as might fill the narrow ditch of the

On the 22nd the fire from the batteries, unexampled from its rapidity
and accuracy, opened what appeared a practicable breach in the eastern
flank wall, between two towers called Los Hornos and Las Mesquitas; but
the descent into the town behind this breach was more than twelve feet
perpendicular, and the garrison were seen from Monte Olia diligently
working at the interior defences to receive the assault: they added
also another gun to the battery of St. Elmo, just under the Mirador
battery, to flank the front attack. On the other hand the besiegers
had placed four sixty-eight pound carronades in battery to play on the
defences of the breach, yet the fire was slack because the guns were
now greatly enlarged at the vents.

On the 23rd, the sea blockade being null, the French vessels carried
off the badly-wounded men. This day also the besiegers, judging
the breach between the towers practicable, turned the guns, at the
suggestion of General Oswald, to break the wall on the right of the
main breach. Smith opposed this, urging, that no advantage would be
gained by making a second opening, to get at which the troops must
first pass the great breach; time would be thus lost, and there was a
manifest objection on account of the tide and depth of water at the new
point attacked. His counsel was overruled, and in the course of the
day, the wall being thin, the stroke heavy and quick, a second breach
thirty feet wide was rendered practicable.

The ten-inch mortars and sixty-eight-pound carronades were now turned
upon the great breach, and a stockade, the latter separating the
high curtain from the flank against which the attack was conducted.
Under this fire the houses near the breach were soon in flames, which
destroyed several defences and menaced the whole town with destruction,
wherefore the assault was ordered for next morning: when the troops
assembled the flames were still so fierce the attack was deferred, and
the batteries again opened.

During the night the vigilant governor mounted two field-pieces on the
cavalier, fifteen feet above the other defences and commanding the
high curtain; and he still had on the horn-work a light piece, and two
casemated guns on the flank of the cavalier. Two other field-pieces
were mounted on an intrenchment, crossing the ditch of the land front
and bearing on the approaches; a twenty-four pounder looked from the
tower of Las Mesquitas, flanking the main breach; two four-pounders
were in the tower of Hornos; two heavy guns on the flank of St. Elmo,
and two others, on the right of the Mirador, looked on the breaches
from within the fortified line of Monte Orgullo. Thus fourteen pieces
were still available for defence, and the retaining sea-wall, or
_fausse-braye_, between which and the river the storming parties must
necessarily advance, was covered with live shells to roll over on the
columns below. Behind the burning houses other edifices were loopholed
and filled with musketeers; but as the flames forced the French to
withdraw their guns until the moment of attack, and the British
artillery officers were confident that in daylight they could silence
the enemy’s fire and keep the parapet clear of men, Graham renewed his
order for the assault.


In the night of the 24th two thousand men of the fifth division filed
into the trenches on the isthmus. Of this force, a battalion of the
Royals, under Major Frazer, was destined for the great breach; the 38th
Regiment under Colonel Greville, was to assail the lesser and most
distant breach; the 9th Regiment under Colonel Cameron, was to support
the Royals. A detachment selected from the light companies of all those
battalions was placed in the centre of the Royals, under Lieutenant
Campbell[31] of the 9th Regiment, who was accompanied by the engineer
Machel with a ladder party, being designed to sweep the high curtain
after the breach should be won.

From the trenches to the points of attack was three hundred yards,
the way being between the horn-work and the river, strewed with rocks
slippery from sea-weed; the tide also had left large deep pools of
water; the parapet of the horn-work was entire, the parapets of
the other works and the two towers, closely flanking the breach,
were far from being ruined, and every place was thickly garnished
with musketeers. The difficulties were obvious, and a detachment of
Portuguese was placed in a trench on the isthmus, only sixty yards from
the ramparts, to quell, if possible, the fire of the horn-work.

It was still dark when the stormers moved out of the trenches, and
when the globe of compression in the drain was exploded against the
horn-work the astonished garrison abandoned the flanking parapet; the
troops then rushed onwards, the stormers for the main breach leading,
and suffering more from the fire of their own batteries on the right
of the Urumea than from the enemy. Frazer and the engineer Harry Jones
first reached the breach, the enemy had fallen back behind the ruins
of the burning houses, and those brave officers rushed up expecting
their troops would follow; but not many followed, for it was extremely
dark, the narrow way and the rocks had contracted the front and
disordered the column, and the soldiers came straggling and out of wind
to the foot of the breach. The foremost gathered near their gallant
leaders, yet the deep descent into the town and volumes of flames
and smoke still issuing from the houses awed the stoutest; more than
two-thirds, irritated by the destructive flank fire, had broken off at
the demi-bastion to commence a musketry battle with the enemy lining
the rampart on their left, and the shells from Monte Orgullo fell
rapidly. Then the French at the breach, recovering confidence, with a
smashing musketry from the ruins and loopholed houses smote the head of
the column, while those in the towers smote it on the flanks; and from
every quarter came showers of grape and hand-grenades tearing the ranks
in a dreadful manner.

Frazer was killed on the flaming ruins, the intrepid Jones stood there
awhile longer amidst a few heroic soldiers, hoping for aid, but none
came and he and those with him were struck down; the engineer Machel
had been killed early, his ladder-bearers fell or were dispersed,
and the rear of the column had got disordered before the head was
beaten. It was in vain Greville, Cameron, Captain Archimbeau, and
other regimental officers, strove to rally their men and refill the
breach; in vain Campbell, breaking through the tumultuous crowd with
the survivors of his chosen detachment, mounted the ruins; twice he
ascended, twice he was wounded, and all around him died. Then the
Royals endeavoured to retire, but got intermixed with the 38th and some
companies of the 9th, which were seeking to pass them and get to the
lesser breach; and thus swayed by different impulses, pent up between
the horn-work and the river, the mass, reeling to and fro, could
neither advance nor go back until the shells and musketry, constantly
plied in front and flank, thinned the concourse and the trenches were
regained in confusion. At daylight a truce was agreed to for an hour,
during which the French, who had removed Jones and other wounded men
from the breach, carried off the more distant sufferers, lest they
should be drowned by the rising of the tide.

Five officers of engineers, including Sir Richard Fletcher, and
forty-four officers of the line with five hundred and twenty men, were
killed, wounded, or made prisoners in this assault, the failure of
which was signal, yet the causes were obvious.

1°. Lord Wellington, on the 22nd, had given final directions for
the attack, finishing thus: “_Fair daylight must be taken for the
assault._” These instructions and their emphatic termination were

2°. Major Smith had ascertained that the ebb tide would serve exactly
at daybreak on the 24th, but the assault was made the 25th, and before
daylight, when the higher water contracted the ground, increased the
obstacles, and forced the column, with a narrow front and uneasy
progress, to trickle onwards instead of dashing with a broad surge
against the breach.

3°. The troops filed tediously out of long narrow trenches in the
night, and were immediately exposed to a fire of grape from their own
batteries on the Chofres; this fire should have ceased when the globe
of compression was sprung in the drain, but from the darkness and noise
that explosion was neither seen nor heard.

4°. There was a neglect of moral influence, followed by its natural
consequence, want of vigour in execution. No general went out of the
trenches. Oswald had opposed the plan of attack, and his opinion,
in which other officers of rank joined, was freely expressed out of
council, it was said even in the hearing of the troops, abating that
daring confidence which victory loves.

Wellington repaired immediately to St. Sebastian and would have renewed
the attack, but there was no ammunition, and next day extraneous events
compelled him to turn the siege into a blockade. The battering train
was then sent to Passages, and at daybreak the garrison sallied and
swept off two hundred Portuguese with thirty British soldiers. This
terminated the first siege of San Sebastian, in which the allies lost
thirteen hundred men.


  Pyrenees--Combat of Roncesvalles--Combat of Linzoain--Combat of
    Maya--Combat of Zabaldica--First Battle of Sauroren--Combat of
    Buenza--Second Battle of Sauroren--Combat of Doña Maria--Combats
    of Echallar and Ivantelly.

The battle of Vittoria was fought the 21st of June, and on the 1st of
July Marshal Soult, under a decree issued at Dresden, succeeded Joseph
as lieutenant to the emperor.

The 12th, travelling with surprising expedition, that marshal assumed
command of the French troops, now reorganized in one body, called _the
army of Spain_, and he had secret orders to put Joseph forcibly aside
if necessary, but that monarch voluntarily retired.[32]

Reinforced from the interior, Soult’s army was composed of nine
divisions of infantry, a reserve and two regular divisions of cavalry,
besides light horsemen attached to the infantry. Including garrisons,
and thirteen German, Italian, and Spanish battalions not belonging
to the organization, he had one hundred and fourteen thousand men:
and as the armies of Catalonia and Aragon numbered at the same period
above sixty-six thousand, the whole force still employed against Spain
exceeded one hundred and eighty thousand men, with twenty thousand

Soult was one of the few men whose energy rendered them worthy
lieutenants of the emperor, and with singular zeal and ability he
now served. Nominally he had ninety-seven thousand men under arms,
with eighty-six pieces of artillery; but the foreign battalions, most
of which were to return to their own countries for the disciplining
of new levies, only counted as part of the garrisons of Pampeluna,
San Sebastian, Santoña and Bayonne: they amounted to seventeen
thousand, and the permanent _army of Spain_ furnished therefore, only
seventy-seven thousand five hundred men under arms, seven thousand
being cavalry. Its condition was not satisfactory. The military
administration was disorganized, the soldiers were discouraged by
disaster, discipline had been deteriorated, and the people were flying
from the frontier.

To secure his base and restore order ere he retook the offensive was
Soult’s desire; but Napoleon’s orders were imperative against delay,
and he was compelled to immediate action, though Wellington’s advance
from Portugal had been so rapid that the great resources of the French
frontier were not immediately available, and everything was reeling and
rocking in terror from the blow given to the army at Vittoria.

Bayonne, a fortress of no great strength, had been entirely neglected.
But the arming and provisioning that and other places; the restoration
of an intrenched camp, originally traced by Vauban to cover Bayonne;
the enforcement of discipline; the removal of the immense train of
Joseph’s wasteful court; the establishment of a general system for
supplies, and judicious efforts to stimulate the civil authorities and
excite the national spirit, soon indicated the presence of a great
commander. The soldiers’ confidence then revived, and some leading
merchants of Bayonne zealously seconded the general: the people were
however more inclined to avoid burdens than to answer calls on their

Soult examined the line of military positions on the 14th, and ordered
Reille, who then occupied the passes of Vera and Echallar, to prepare
pontoons for throwing two bridges over the Bidassoa at Biriatou;
Wellington, as before said, drove him from those passes next day,
yet he prepared his bridges, and by the 16th, Soult was ready for a
gigantic offensive movement.

His army was divided into three corps of battle and a reserve. Clausel
with the left was at St. Jean Pied de Port, and in communication, by
the French frontier, with a division under General Paris at Jaca,
belonging to Suchet but under Soult’s orders.

Drouet, Count D’Erlon, with the centre, occupied the heights near
Espelette and Ainhoa.

Reille with the right wing was on the mountains overlooking Vera from
the side of France.

The reserve, under Villatte, guarded the right bank of the Bidassoa
from the mouth to Irun, at which place the stone bridge was destroyed.
The heavy cavalry under Trielhard, and the light horsemen under Pierre
Soult, the marshal’s brother, were on the banks of the Nive and the

To oppose this force Wellington had in Navarre and Guipuscoa above a
hundred thousand men. Of these the Anglo-Portuguese furnished fifty
thousand infantry and seven thousand cavalry; the Spanish regulars
under Giron, Abispal, and Carlos España, about twenty-five thousand
infantry; the rest were irregular; and hence the troops in line were,
of the allies, eighty-two thousand, of the French seventy-eight

The theatre of operations was quadrilateral, with sides from forty
to sixty miles in length, having a fortress at each angle, namely,
Bayonne, San Jean Pied de Port, San Sebastian and Pampeluna, all in
possession of the French. The interior, broken and tormented by peaked
mountains, narrow craggy passes, deep watercourses, dreadful precipices
and forests, appeared a wilderness which no military combinations could
embrace. The great spinal ridge of the Pyrenees furnished a clue to the
labyrinth. Running diagonally across the quadrilateral, it entirely
separated Bayonne, St. Jean Pied de Port and San Sebastian from
Pampeluna, and the troops blockading the latter were thus cut off from
those besieging San Sebastian, the only direct communication between
them being a great road running behind the mountains from Tolosa, by
Irurzun, to Pampeluna.

A secondary range of mountains on the French side of the Great Spine,
inclosing the valley of Bastan and lining that of the Bidassoa,
furnished positions for the centre and left of the covering armies,
with interior but difficult lateral communications.

The troops covering Pampeluna were on the Great Spine of the Pyrenees.
Behind them were valleys into which the passes across the spine led,
descending at the other side in parallel lines, and giving to each
division means for a concentric retreat on Pampeluna.

Wellington having his battering-train and stores about San Sebastian,
which was nearer and more accessible to the enemy than Pampeluna, made
his army lean towards that side. His left wing, including the army of
siege, was twenty-one thousand, with singularly strong positions of
defence; his centre, twenty-four thousand strong, could in two marches
unite with the left to cover the siege or fall upon the flanks of
an enemy advancing by the high road of Irun; but three days or more
were required by those troops to concentrate for the security of the
blockade of Pampeluna on the right.

Soult thought no decisive result would attend a direct movement upon
San Sebastian, and by his seaboard intercourse he knew that place was
not in extremity; but he had no communication with Pampeluna, and
feared its fall. Wherefore he resolved rapidly to concentrate on his
left by means of the great French roads leading to St. Jean Pied de
Port, covering his movement by the Nivelle and Nive rivers, and by the
positions of his centre: thus he hoped to gather on Wellington’s right
quicker than that general could gather to oppose him, and, compensating
by numbers the disadvantage of assailing mountain positions, force a
way to Pampeluna.

That fortress succoured, he designed to seize the road of Irurzun,
and either fall upon the separated divisions of the centre in detail
as they descended from the Great Spine, or operate on the rear of the
troops besieging San Sebastian, while a corps of observation, left on
the Lower Bidassoa, menaced it in front. The siege of San Sebastian and
the blockade of Pampeluna would be thus raised, the French army united
in an abundant country, and its communication with Suchet secured.

To mislead Wellington by vexing his right, simultaneously with the
construction of the bridges against his left, Soult directed General
Paris to march from Jaca, when time suited, by the higher valleys
towards Sanguessa, to drive the partizans from that side, and join
the left of the army when it should have reached Pampeluna. Clausel
was directed to repair the roads in his own front, push the heads of
columns towards the Roncesvalles pass, and with a strong detachment
menace Hill’s flank by the lateral passes of the Bastan.

On the 20th Reille’s troops on the heights of Sarre and Vera, being
cautiously relieved by Villatte, marched towards St. Jean Pied de Port,
which they were to reach early on the 22nd; and on that day the two
divisions of cavalry and parc of artillery were to concentrate at the
same place. D’Erlon, with the centre, was to hold his positions in
front of Hill while these great movements were taking place.

Villatte, having fifteen thousand sabres and bayonets, remained in
observation on the Bidassoa. If threatened by superior forces he was
to retire upon the intrenched camp at Bayonne, halting successively on
certain positions. If only a small corps crossed the river, he was to
drive it vigorously back; and if the allies retired in consequence of
Soult’s operations, he was to relieve San Sebastian and follow them
briskly by Tolosa.

Rapidity was of vital importance to the French marshal, but heavy
rains swelled the streams and ruined the roads in the deep country
between Bayonne and the mountains; the head-quarters which should have
arrived at St. Jean Pied de Port on the 20th, were a few miles short
of that place the 21st, and Reille’s troops were forced to go round by
Bayonne to gain the causeway. The cavalry was also retarded, and the
army, men and horses, worn down by severe marches. Two days were thus
lost, yet the 24th more than sixty thousand fighting men, including
cavalry, national guards, and _gens d’armes_, with sixty-six pieces of
artillery, were assembled to force the passes of Roncesvalles and Maya;
the former being in the Great Spine, the latter giving entrance to the
Bastan. The main road leading to Roncesvalles was repaired, and three
hundred sets of bullocks were provided to drag the guns; the national
guards of the frontier on the left, ordered to assemble in the night on
the heights of Yropil, were reinforced with regular troops to vex and
turn the right of the allies at the foundry of Orbaiceta.

At St. Jean Pied de Port Soult was almost in contact with the allies
at the passes of the Roncesvalles, which were also the points of the
defence nearest to Pampeluna. He had thirty thousand bayonets, the
frontier national guards to aid, and his artillery and cavalry were
massed behind his infantry; for here the great road from St. Jean
Pied de Port to Pampeluna, the only one fit for cannon, entered the
mountains: but to understand his movements a short description of the
country is necessary, taking the point of departure from his camp.

Before him was the Val Carlos, formed by two descending shoots from
the Great Spine of the Pyrenees. That on his left hand separated this
valley from the valley of Orbaiceta; that on his right hand separated
it from several conjoint valleys, known as the Alduides and Baygorry,
the latter name being given to the lower, the former to the upper parts.

The great road to Pampeluna led up the left hand tongue by the
remarkable rocks of Château Pignon, near which narrow branches went
off to the village of San Carlos on the right, and to the foundry of
Orbaiceta on the left. The main line, after ascending to the summit of
the Great Spine, turned to the right and run along the crest until it
reached the pass of Ibañeta, where, turning to the left, it led down by
the famous Roncesvalles into the valley of Urros.

A lateral continuation however run along the magistral crest, beyond
the Ibañeta, to another pass called the Mendichuri, which also led down
into the Val de Urros; and from Mendichuri there was a way into the
Alduides valley through a side pass called the Atalosti.

On Soult’s right hand the Val Carlos was bounded by the ridge and rock
of Ayrola, from the summit of which there was a way directly to the
Mendichuri and the lateral pass of Atalosti; and the ground between
those defiles, called the Lindouz, was an accessible mountain knot,
tying all the valleys together and consequently commanding them.

Continuing along the Great Spine, after passing the Atalosti, there
would be on the right hand, descending towards the French frontier, the
Val de Ayra, the Alduides and the Bastan. On the left hand, descending
to Pampeluna, would be the Val de Zubiri and the valley of Lanz,
separated from each other by a lofty wooded range. All these valleys
on each side were, in their order, connected by roads leading over
comparatively low portions of the Great Spine, called by the French
_cols_, or necks, by the Spaniards _puertos_, or doors.

General Byng and Morillo, the first having sixteen hundred British
troops, the second four thousand Spaniards, were in position before
Soult. Byng, reinforced with two Spanish battalions, held the rocks of
Altobiscar, just above Château Pignon. On his right a Spanish battalion
was posted at the foundry of Orbaiceta; on his left Morillo’s remaining
Spaniards were near the village of Val Carlos on a minor height called
the Iroulepe.

Behind the Great Spine, in the valley of Urros, General Cole held
the fourth division in support of Byng; but he was twelve miles off,
separated by the Ibañeta pass, and could not come up under four hours.
General Campbell, having a Portuguese division two thousand strong,
watched the Alduides; but he was eight miles off, and separated by the
lateral pass of Atalosti. General Picton, with the third division,
was at Olague in the valley of Lanz, on the Spanish side of the
Spine; and both he and Campbell could at pleasure gain the valley
of Zubiri--Picton by a cross communication, Campbell by the pass of
Urtiaga, which was directly in his rear; he could also join Cole in the
valley of Urros by the pass of Sahorgain.

In this state of affairs Soult placed twelve thousand infantry within
two miles of the Château Pignon, against Byng, and directed the
national guards at Yropil, reinforced with regulars, to move into the
valley of Orbaiceta and turn the Spaniards at the foundry. A second
column, four thousand strong, was placed in the Val Carlos to assail
Morillo at Iroulepe. A third column of sixteen thousand, under Reille,
assembled, in the night, at the foot of the Ayrola rock, with orders
to ascend at daylight and move along the crest of the ridge to seize
the culminant Lindouz. From that point detachments were to be pushed
through the passes of Ibañeta, Mendichuri, and Sahorgain, into the
Roncesvalles, while others extended to the right as far as the pass of
Urtiaga, thus cutting off Byng and Morillo from Cole and Hamilton.


On the 23rd Soult issued an order of the day remarkable for its force
and frankness. Conscious of ability he avowed a feeling of his own
worth; but he was too proud to depreciate brave adversaries on the eve
of battle.

“_Let us not_,” he said to his soldiers, “_defraud the enemy of the
praise which is due to him. The dispositions of the general have been
prompt, skilful, and consecutive, the valour and steadiness of his
troops have been praiseworthy._”

On the 25th at daylight he led up against the rocks of Altobiscar.

Byng, warned the evening before that danger was near, and jealous for
the village of Val Carlos, had sent the 57th Regiment down there, yet
kept his main body in hand and gave notice to Cole.

Soult, throwing out a multitude of skirmishers, pushed forward his
supporting columns and guns as fast as the steepness of the road and
difficult nature of the ground would permit; but the British fought
strongly, the French fell fast among the rocks, and their musketry
pealed in vain for hours along that cloudy field of battle, five
thousand feet above the level of the plains. Their numbers however
continually increased in front, and the national guards from Yropil,
skirmishing with the Spaniards at the foundry of Orbaiceta, threatened
to turn the right. Val Carlos was at the same time menaced by the
central column, and Reille ascending the rock of Ayrola turned
Morillo’s left.

At mid-day Cole arrived in person at Altobiscar, but his troops were
distant, and the French, renewing their attack, neglected the Val
Carlos to gather more thickly against Byng. He resisted their efforts,
yet Reille made progress along the summit of the Ayrola ridge, Morillo
fell back towards Ibañeta, and the French were nearer that pass than
Byng, when Ross’s brigade, of Cole’s division, coming up the Mendichuri
pass, appeared on the Lindouz at the instant when the head of Reille’s
column was closing on the Atalosti to cut the communication with
Campbell. This last-named officer had been early molested, according
to Soult’s plan, by the frontier guards of the Val de Baygorry, yet he
soon detected the feint and moved by his right towards Atalosti when he
heard the firing on that side. The Val d’Ayra separated him from the
ridge of Ayrola, along which Reille was advancing, yet, noting that
general’s strength and seeing Ross’s brigade labouring up the steep
ridge of Mendichuri, he judged its commander to be ignorant of what was
going on above, and, sending Cole notice of the enemy’s proximity and
strength, offered to pass the Atalosti and join battle, if he could be
furnished afterwards with provisions and transport for his sick.

Before this message reached Cole, a wing of the 20th Regiment and a
company of Brunswickers, forming the head of Ross’s column, had gained
the Lindouz, where suddenly they encountered Reille’s advanced guard.
The moment was critical, and Ross, an eager hardy soldier, called
aloud to charge, whereupon Captain Tovey of the 20th run forward with
a company, and full against the 6th French Light Infantry dashed
with the bayonet. Brave men fell by that weapon on both sides, yet
numbers prevailed and Tovey’s soldiers were eventually pushed back.
Ross however gained his object, the remainder of his brigade had
time to come up and the pass of Atalosti was secured, with a loss of
one hundred and forty men of the 20th Regiment and forty-one of the

Previous to this vigorous action, Cole, seeing the French in the Val
Carlos and the Orbaiceta valley, on both flanks of Byng, whose front
was not the less pressed, had reinforced the Spaniards at the foundry,
but now recalled his men to defend the Lindouz; and learning from
Campbell how strong Reille was, caused Byng, with a view to a final
retreat, to relinquish Altobiscar and approach Ibañeta. This movement
uncovered the road leading down to the foundry of Orbaiceta, yet it
concentrated all the troops; and Campbell, although he could not enter
the line, Cole being unable to meet his demands, made such skilful
dispositions as to impress Reille with a notion that his numbers were

During these operations the skirmishing never ceased, though a thick
fog, coming up the valley, stopped a general attack which Soult was
preparing; thus, when night fell Cole still held the Great Spine,
having lost three hundred and eighty men killed and wounded. His right
was however turned by Orbaiceta, he had only eleven thousand bayonets
to oppose thirty thousand, and his line of retreat, five miles down
hill and flanked by the Lindouz, was unfavourable; wherefore in the
dark, silently threading the passes, he gained the valley of Urros,
and his rear-guard followed in the morning. Campbell went off by
Urtiaga into the Zubiri valley, and the Spanish battalion retreated
from the foundry by a goat path. The great chain was thus abandoned,
yet the result of the day’s operation was unsatisfactory to Soult. He
had lost four hundred men, he had not gained ten miles, and was still
twenty-two miles from Pampeluna, with strong positions in the way,
where increasing numbers of intrepid enemies were to be expected.

His combinations had been thwarted by fortune, and by errors of
execution which the most experienced generals know to be inevitable.
Fortune sent the fog at the moment he was thrusting forward his
heaviest masses; Reille failed in execution; for he was to have gained
the Lindouz with all speed, but previous to ascending the rock of
Ayrola lost time by reorganizing two newly arrived conscript battalions
and serving out provisions; the two hours thus employed would have
sufficed to seize the Lindouz before Ross got through the pass of
Mendichuri. The fog would still have stopped the spread of his column
to the extent designed by Soult, yet fifteen or sixteen thousand men
would have been placed on the flank and rear of Byng and Morillo.

On the 26th Soult putting his left wing on Cole’s track, ordered Reille
to follow the crest of the mountains and seize the passes from the
Bastan in Hill’s rear, while D’Erlon pressed him in front. Hill would
thus, Soult hoped, be crushed or thrown off from Pampeluna, and D’Erlon
could thus reach the valley of Zubiri with his left, while his right,
descending the valley of Lanz, would hinder Picton from joining Cole. A
retreat by those generals, on separate lines, would then be inevitable,
and the French army could issue in a compact order of battle from the
mouths of the two valleys against Pampeluna.


All the columns were in movement at daybreak, but every hour brought
its obstacle. The fog still hung heavy on the mountain-tops. Reille’s
guides were bewildered, refused to lead the troops along the crests,
and at ten o’clock, having no other resource, he marched down the
Mendichuri pass and fell into the rear of Soult’s column, the head of
which, though retarded also by the fog and rough ground, had overtaken
Cole’s rear-guard. The leading infantry struck hotly upon some British
light companies under Colonel Wilson, while a squadron, passing their
flank, fell on the rear; but Wilson, facing about, drove them off,
and thus fighting Cole reached the heights of Linzoain. There Picton
met him, with intelligence that Campbell had reached Eugui in the
Val de Zubiri, and that the third division, having crossed the woody
ridge, was also in that valley. The junction of all was thus secured,
the loss of the day was less than two hundred, and neither wounded
men nor baggage had been left behind; but at four o’clock the French
seized some heights which endangered Cole’s position, and he again
fell back a mile, offering battle at a puerto, in the ridge separating
the valley of Zubiri from that of Urros, which last, though descending
on a parallel line, did not open on Pampeluna. During this skirmish,
Campbell, coming from Eugui, showed his Portuguese on the ridge above
the French right flank; he was however distant, Picton’s troops were
still further off, and there was light for an action if Soult had
pressed one; but, disturbed with intelligence received from D’Erlon,
and doubtful what Campbell’s troops might be, he put off the attack
until next morning, and after dark the junction of all the allies was

This delay was an error. Cole was alone for five hours, and every
action, by augmenting the wounded men and creating confusion, would
have augmented the difficulties of a retreat for troops fatigued with
incessant fighting and marching during two days and a night. Moreover
Reille’s failure from the fog, had reduced the primary combinations
to D’Erlon’s co-operation, and reports now brought the mortifying
conviction that he also had gone wrong: by rough fighting only could
Soult therefore attain his object, and, it is said, his manner
discovered a secret anticipation of failure; yet his temper was too
steadfast to yield, for he gave orders to advance next day, renewing
his instructions to D’Erlon, whose operations must now be noticed.

That general, who had eighteen thousand fighting men, placed two
divisions on the morning of the 25th near the passes of Maya, having
previously caused the national guards of Val Baygorry to make
demonstrations towards the lateral passes of Arriette, Yspeguy and
Lorietta, on Hill’s right. General William Stewart, commanding a
division, and still the same daring but imprudent man he had shown
himself at Albuera, was deceived by these feints, and looked to that
quarter which was guarded by Sylviera’s Portuguese more than to his
own front. His division, consisting of two British brigades, was
consequently neither posted as it should be, nor otherwise prepared for
an attack. His ground was strong, but however rugged a position may be,
if it is too extensive and the troops are not disposed with judgment,
the inequalities constituting its strength become advantageous to an

There were three passes over the Col de Maya to defend, Aretesque on
the right, Lessessa in the centre, Maya on the left; and from these
entrances two roads led into the Bastan in parallel directions; one
down the valley through the town of Maya, the other along the Atchiola
mountain. General Pringle’s brigade guarded the Aretesque, Colonel
Cameron’s brigade the Maya and Lessessa passes. The Col itself was
broad on the summit, three miles long, and on each flank lofty rocks
and ridges rose one above another; those on the right blended with the
Goramendi mountains, those on the left with the Atchiola mountain,
near the summit of which the 82nd Regiment, belonging to the seventh
division, was posted.

Cameron, encamped on the left, had a clear view of troops coming from
Urdax, one of D’Erlon’s camps; but at Aretesque a great round hill, one
mile in front, masked the movements of an enemy coming from Espelette,
the other French camp. This hill was not occupied at night, nor in the
daytime, save by some Portuguese cavalry videttes, and the nearest
guard was an infantry picquet of eighty men posted on the French slope
of the Col. Behind this picquet there was no immediate support, but
four light companies were encamped one mile down the reverse slope,
which was more rugged and difficult of access than that towards the
enemy. The rest of Pringle’s brigade was disposed at distances of two
and three miles in the rear, and the signal for occupying the position
was to be the fire of four Portuguese guns from the rocks above the
Maya pass. Thus of six British regiments, furnishing more than three
thousand fighting men, half only were in line, and chiefly massed on
the left of a position, wide, open, and of an easy ascent from the
Aretesque side. Stewart also, quite deceived as to the real state of
affairs, was at Elisondo, several miles off, when at midday D’Erlon
commenced the battle.

COMBAT OF MAYA. (July, 1813.)

From the Aretesque pass at dawn a glimpse had been obtained of cavalry
and infantry in movement along the hills in front, and soon afterwards
some peasants announced the approach of the French. At nine o’clock a
staff officer, patrolling round the great hill in front, discovered
sufficient to make him order up the light companies from the reverse
slope, to support the picquet; and they formed on the ridge with their
left at the rock of Aretesque, just as D’Armagnac’s division, coming
from Espelette, mounted the great hill in front; Abbé’s division
followed, while Maransin, with a third division, advanced from Ainhoa
and Urdax against the Maya pass, seeking also to turn it by a narrow
way leading up the Atchiola mountain.

D’Armagnac forced the picquet back with great loss upon the light
companies, who sustained his assault with infinite difficulty; the
alarm guns were then heard from the Maya pass, and Pringle hastened to
the front; but his battalions, moving hurriedly from different camps,
came up irregularly. The 34th arrived first at a running pace, yet by
companies not in mass, and breathless from the length and ruggedness
of the ascent; the 39th and 28th followed, but not immediately nor
together, and meanwhile D’Armagnac, closely supported by Abbé, with
domineering numbers and valour combined, maugre the desperate fighting
of the light companies and the 34th, established his columns on the
broad ridge of the position. Colonel Cameron sent the 50th from the
left to the assistance of the overmatched troops, and that fierce and
formidable old regiment, charging the head of an advancing column drove
it clear out of the pass of Lessessa in the centre. But the French
were many, and checked at one point assembled with increased force
at another; nor could Pringle restore the battle with the 39th and
28th Regiments, which, cut off from the others, were, though fighting
strongly, forced back to a second and lower ridge crossing the main
road into the Bastan. They were followed by D’Armagnac, while Abbé
pushed the 50th and 34th towards the Atchiola road to the left, upon
Cameron’s brigade. That officer, still holding the pass of Maya with
the left wings of the 71st and 92nd Regiments, now brought their right
wings and the Portuguese guns into action: yet so dreadful was the
slaughter, especially of the 92nd, that the enemy was, it is said,
actually stopped for a time by the heaped mass of dead and dying; and
then the left wing of that noble regiment, coming down from the higher
ground, was forced to smite wounded friends and exulting foes alike, as
mingled together they stood or crawled before its fire.[33]

Such was the state of affairs when Stewart reached the field by the
mountain road of Atchiola. The passes of Lessessa and Aretesque were
lost; that of Maya was still held by the left wing of the 71st, but
Stewart, seeing Maransin’s men gathered thickly on one side, and Abbé’s
men on the other, abandoned it for a new position on the first rocky
ridge covering the road over the Atchiola. He called down the 82nd from
the highest part of that mountain, sent messengers to demand further
aid from the seventh division, and meanwhile, though wounded, made
a strenuous resistance, for he was a very gallant man. During this
retrograde movement, Maransin suddenly thrust the head of his division
across the front of the British line and connected his left with Abbé,
throwing as he passed a destructive fire into the wasted remnant of the
92nd, which even then gave way but sullenly, and still fought, though
two-thirds had fallen: however, one after the other, all the regiments
were forced back, the Portuguese guns were taken and the position lost.

Abbé now followed D’Armagnac on the road to the town of Maya, leaving
Maransin to deal with Stewart’s new position; and notwithstanding
its extreme strength the French gained ground until six o’clock; for
the British, shrunk in numbers, wanted ammunition, and a part of the
82nd defended the rocks on which they were posted with stones. In
this desperate condition Stewart was upon the point of abandoning
the mountain entirely, when Barnes’ brigade of the seventh division,
arriving from Echallar, charged and drove the French back to the Maya
ridge. Stewart was then master of the Atchiola, and D’Erlon thinking
greater reinforcements had come up, recalled his other divisions from
the Maya road and re-united his whole corps on the _Col_. He had lost
fifteen hundred men and a general, but he took four guns, and fourteen
hundred British soldiers and one general were killed or wounded.

Such was the commencement of Soult’s operations to restore the fortunes
of France. Three considerable actions fought on the same day had
each ended in his favour. At San Sebastian the allies’ assault was
repulsed; at Roncesvalles they abandoned the passes; at Maya they were
defeated--but the decisive blow was still to be struck.

Lord Wellington heard of the fight at Maya on his way back from San
Sebastian, after the assault, but with the false addition that D’Erlon
was beaten. As early as the 22nd he had known that Soult was preparing
a great offensive movement; yet the impassive attitude of the French
centre, the disposition of their reserve, twice as strong as he at
first supposed, together with the bridges prepared by Reille, were
calculated to mislead, and did mislead him. Soult’s combinations to
bring his centre finally into line on the crest of the great chain
being impenetrable, the English general could not believe he would
throw himself with only thirty thousand men into the valley of the
Ebro, unless sure of aid from Suchet. But that general’s movements
indicated a determination to remain in Catalonia, and Wellington,
in contrast to Soult, knew that Pampeluna was not in extremity, and
thought, the assault not having been made, that San Sebastian was.
Hence the operations against his right, their full extent not known,
appeared a feint, and he judged the real effort would be to raise
the siege of San Sebastian. But in the night of the 25th, correct
intelligence of the Maya and Roncesvalles affairs arrived. Graham was
then ordered to turn the siege into a blockade, to embark the guns and
stores, and hold his spare troops ready to join Giron, on a position of
battle marked out near the Bidassoa. Cotton was directed to move the
cavalry up to Pampeluna, and Abispal was instructed to hold some of his
Spanish troops ready to act in advance of that fortress. Meanwhile
Wellington, having arranged his lines of correspondence, proceeded to
San Esteban, which he reached early in the morning.

While the embarkation of the guns and stores was going on it was
essential to hold the posts at Vera and Echallar, because D’Erlon’s
object was not pronounced; and an enemy in possession of those places
could approach San Sebastian by the roads leading over the Peña de
Haya, or by the defiles of Zubietta leading round that mountain. But
when Wellington reached Irueta, saw the reduced state of Stewart’s
division, and knew Picton had marched from Olague, he directed all
the troops within his power upon Pampeluna, and to prevent mistakes
indicated the valley of Lanz as the general line of movement. Of
Picton’s exact position, or of his intentions, nothing positive was
known; but supposing him to have joined Cole at Linzoain, as indeed
he had, Wellington judged their combined forces sufficient to check
the enemy until assistance could reach them from the centre, or from
Pampeluna, and he so advised Picton on the evening of the 26th.[34]

Following these orders the seventh division marched in the night of the
26th, the sixth division the next morning, and Hill in the following
night. Meanwhile the light division, quitting Vera, reached the summit
of the Santa Cruz mountain, and there halted to cover the defiles
of Zubietta until Longa’s Spaniards should block the roads leading
over the Peña de Haya; that effected, it was to thread the passes
and descend upon the great road of Irurzun, thus securing Graham’s
communication with the army round Pampeluna.

These movements spread fear and confusion far and wide. All the narrow
valleys and roads were crowded with baggage, commissariat stores,
artillery and fugitive families; reports of the most alarming nature
were as usual rife; each division, ignorant of what had really happened
to the other, dreaded that some of the numerous misfortunes related
might be true; none knew what to expect, or where they were to meet the
enemy, and one universal hubbub filled the wild regions through which
the French army was working its fiery path towards Pampeluna.

D’Erlon’s inactivity gave great uneasiness to Soult: he repeated his
original orders to push forward by his left whatever might be the force
opposed, and thus stimulated D’Erlon advanced to Elisondo the 27th; yet
again halted there, and it was not until the morning of the 28th, when
Hill’s retreat had opened the way, that he followed through the pass of
Vellate. His further progress belongs to other combinations, arising
from Soult’s direct operations which shall now be continued.

Picton having assumed command of all the troops, seventeen thousand,
in the valley of Zubiri on the evening of the 26th, retreated before
dawn the 27th, without hope or intention of covering Pampeluna; Soult
followed in two columns down both banks of the Guy river, his cavalry
and artillery closing the rear: both moved in compact order, the narrow
valley was overgorged with troops, and a bicker of musketry alone
marked the separation of the hostile forces. Meanwhile the garrison
of Pampeluna attacked the Count of Abispal, who in great alarm spiked
some of his guns, destroyed his magazines, and would have suffered
a disaster, if Carlos España had not fortunately arrived from the
Ebro with his division and checked the sally. Imminent was the crisis
however, for Cole, first emerging from the Zubiri valley, had passed
Villalba, three miles from Pampeluna, in retreat; Picton, following
close, was at Huarte, and Abispal’s Spaniards were in confusion: in
fine Soult was all but successful, when Picton, feeling the importance
of the crisis, suddenly turned on some steep ridges which stretched
across the mouths of the Zubiri and Lanz valleys and screened Pampeluna.

Posting the third division on the right, he prolonged his left with
Morillo’s Spaniards, called upon Abispal to support him, and directed
Cole to occupy some heights a little in advance. That general had
however noted a salient hill one mile farther on, commanding the great
road, where two Spanish regiments of the blockading troops were still
posted, and towards them he directed his course. Soult had also marked
this hill, and a French detachment was in full career to seize it, when
the Spaniards, seeing the British so close, vindicated their ground
by a sudden charge. This was for Soult the stroke of fate. His double
columns, just then emerging exultant from the narrow valley, stopped at
the sight of ten thousand men crowning the summit of the mountain in
opposition, while two miles further back stood Picton with a greater
number, for Abispal had now taken post on Morillo’s left. To advance by
the great road was then impossible, and to stand still was dangerous;
for the French army, contracted to a span in front, was cleft in its
whole length by the river Guy, and compressed on each side by mountains
which there narrowed the valley to a quarter of a mile. In this
difficulty Soult, with the promptness of a great commander, instantly
shot the head of Clausel’s columns to his right, across the ridge which
separated the Zubiri from the Lanz valley, and threw one of Reille’s
divisions of infantry and a body of cavalry across the mountains on his
left, beyond the Guy river, thus giving himself a strong position of
battle and menacing Picton’s right flank. Reille’s remaining divisions
he established at the village of Zabaldica in the Val de Zubiri, close
under Cole’s right, while Clausel seized the village of Sauroren as
close under that general’s left.

While Soult was thus establishing a line of battle, Wellington, who
had quitted Hill’s quarters in the Bastan early on the 27th, crossed
the great mountain spine into the valley of Lanz, without being able
to learn anything of Picton’s movements or position until he reached
Ostiz, a few miles from Sauroren. There he found Long’s brigade of
light cavalry, placed to furnish posts of correspondence in the
mountains, and from him heard that Picton had abandoned the heights of
Linzoain: whereupon, leaving instructions to stop all the troops coming
down the valley of Lanz until the state of affairs near Pampeluna could
be ascertained, he made at racing speed for Sauroren. As he entered
that village he saw Clausel’s divisions moving along the crest of the
mountain, and thus knew the allied troops in the valley of Lanz were
intercepted; then pulling up his horse, he wrote on the parapet of the
bridge at Sauroren fresh instructions to turn everything from that
valley to the right by a cross-road, which led out of it to Marcalain
and thence round the hills, to enter the valley again at Oricain, in
rear of the position occupied by Cole. Lord Fitzroy Somerset, who had
kept up with him, galloped with these orders out of Sauroren by one
road, the French light cavalry simultaneously dashed in by another, and
Wellington rode alone up the mountain.

A Portuguese battalion on the left, first recognising him, raised
a joyful cry, and soon the shrill clamour was taken up by the next
regiments, swelling as it run along the line into that stern and
appalling shout which the British soldier is wont to give upon the edge
of battle, and which no enemy ever heard unmoved. In a conspicuous
place he stopped, desirous that both armies should know he was there. A
spy who was present pointed out Soult, then so near that his features
could be plainly distinguished. Fixing his eyes attentively upon that
formidable man, Wellington thus spoke, “_Yonder is a great commander,
but he is a cautious one and will delay his attack to ascertain the
cause of these shouts; that will give time for the sixth division to
arrive and I shall beat him._” The event justified the prediction.

Cole’s position was the summit of a mountain mass, which filled all
the space between the Guy and Lanz valleys, as far back as Huarte and
Villalba. It was highest in the centre and well defined towards the
enemy, yet the trace was irregular, the right being thrown back towards
the village of Arletta so as to flank the great road, which was also
swept by guns placed on a lower range behind.

Overlooking Zabaldica and the Guy river, was the bulging hill
vindicated by the Spaniards, a distinct but lower point on the right
of the position. The left, also abating in height, was yet extremely
rugged and steep, overlooking the Lanz river, and Ross’s brigade was
posted on that side, having in front a Portuguese battalion, whose
flank rested on a small chapel. Campbell was on the right of Ross.
Anson was on the highest ground, partly behind, partly on the right of
Campbell. Byng’s brigade was on a second mass of hills in reserve, and
the Spanish hill was further reinforced by a battalion of Portuguese.

This front of battle was less than two miles, and well filled, its
flanks being washed by the Lanz and the Guy; and those torrents,
pursuing their course, broke by narrow passages through the steep
ridges screening Pampeluna which had been first occupied by Picton,
and where the second line was now posted; that is to say, at the
distance of two miles from, and nearly parallel to the first position,
but on a more extended front. Carlos España maintained the blockade
behind these ridges, and the British cavalry under Cotton stood on some
open ground in the rear of Picton’s right wing.

Soult’s position was also a mountain filling the space between the two
rivers. It was even more rugged than that of the allies, and was only
separated from it by a deep narrow ravine. Clausel’s three divisions
leaned to the right on the village of Sauroren, which was down in the
valley of Lanz, close under the chapel height; Reille’s two divisions
occupied the village of Zabaldica, quite down in the valley of Zubiri
under the right of the allies. The remaining division of this wing and
the light cavalry were, as before said, thrown forward on the mountains
at the other side of the Guy river, menacing Picton and seeking to
communicate with Pampeluna.


The French guns at Zabaldica first opened fire, but the elevation
required to send the shot upward rendered it so ineffectual, that the
greatest part of the artillery remained in the narrow valley of Zubiri.
Soult had however made another effort to gain the Spaniards’ hill and
establish himself near the centre of the allies’ line of battle, but
had been valiantly repulsed just before the arrival of Wellington, who
now reinforced the post with the 40th British Regiment. There was then
a general skirmish along the front, under cover of which Soult examined
the whole position, and the firing continued on the mountain side
until a terrible storm, the usual precursor of English battles in the
Peninsula, brought on premature darkness and terminated the dispute.
This was the state of affairs at daybreak on the 28th, but a signal
alteration had place before the great battle of that day commenced,
and the movements of the wandering divisions by which this change was
effected must now be traced.

Although the Lanz covered the left of the allies and the right of
the French, the heights occupied by both were prolonged beyond that
river; the continuation of the allies’ range sweeping forward so as
to look into the rear of Sauroren, while the continuation of the
French range fell back in a direction nearly parallel to this forward
inclination of the allies’ ridge. On each side they were steep and
high, yet lower and less rugged than the heights on which the armies
stood opposed; for on the latter, rocks piled on rocks stood out like
castles, so difficult to approach and so dangerous to assail that the
hardened veterans of the Peninsula only would have dared the trial:
both sides were therefore strong in defence. But Soult was forced to
attack or retreat, and therefore Wellington looked anxiously for his
sixth division, then coming from Marcalain by a road which run behind
his ridge beyond the Lanz and fell into that valley at Oricain, one
mile in rear of Cole’s left. It had been turned into that road from
the higher part of the Lanz valley by Lord Fitzroy Somerset, and was
followed by General Hill when he arrived at the point of divarication;
the way was thus open for D’Erlon to join Soult, and the rapidity
with which that marshal had seized Sauroren would thus have proved a
master-stroke, if his lieutenant had pursued Hill vigorously: for the
change of direction gave the sixth division a march of eighteen instead
of four hours to join the army; and Hill, forced to take a position at
Marcalain, covering the great road of Irurzun on Wellington’s left, was
there joined by the seventh division and the whole were thrown out of
the line of battle. During these important movements, which were not
completed until the evening of the 28th, and which finally placed all
the allies in military communication, D’Erlon remained inactive in the

The proximity of the sixth division on the morning of the 28th, with
the certainty of Hill’s co-operation, made Wellington think Soult would
not venture an attack; and the latter, disquieted about D’Erlon, of
whom he only knew that he had not followed his instructions, certainly
viewed the British position with uneasy anticipations, and again with
anxious eyes took cognizance of its rugged strength, seeming dubious
and distrustful of fortune. He could not operate with advantage by his
left beyond the Guy river, because the mountains there were rough, and
his enemy, having shorter lines of movement, could meet him with all
arms combined; moreover his artillery, unable to emerge from the Val
de Zubiri, except by the great road, would thus have been exposed to a
counter attack. In this dubious state he crossed the Lanz and ascended
the prolongation of the allies’ ridge, which, as he had possession
of the bridge of Sauroren, was for the moment his own ground; from
thence he could see into the left and rear of Cole’s position, but
the country towards Marcalain was so broken that he could not discern
the march of the sixth division. The deserters however told him that
four divisions, namely, the second, sixth, and seventh British, and
Sylviera’s Portuguese, which was under Hill, were expected from that
side; he was thus influenced to attack, because the valley, widening
as it descended, offered the means of assailing the allies in front
and flank, and intercepting the divisions from Marcalain by the same

One of Clausel’s divisions already occupied Sauroren, and the other two
were now posted on each side of that village; that on the right hand
was ordered to send flankers to the ridge from whence Soult had made
his observations, and upon signal to move down the valley, wheel to the
left, and assail the rear of the allies while the other two divisions
assailed their front: five thousand men would thus be enveloped by
sixteen thousand, and Soult hoped to crush them notwithstanding the
strength of ground. Meanwhile Reille’s two divisions on the side of
Zabaldica, were each to send a brigade against the Spanish hill, and
connect the right of their attack with Clausel’s left. The remaining
brigades were to follow in support, the division beyond the Guy was to
keep Picton in check, and all were to throw themselves frankly into


At midday on the 28th of July, the anniversary of the Talavera fight,
the French gathered in masses at the foot of the position, and their
skirmishers quickly spread over the face of the mountain, working
upward like a conflagration; but the columns of attack were not all
ready when Clausel’s right-hand division, without awaiting the general
signal of battle, threw out flankers on the ridge beyond the Lanz and
pushed down the valley in one mass. With a rapid pace it turned Cole’s
left and was preparing to wheel up on his rear, when suddenly Madden’s
Portuguese brigade of the sixth division appeared on the crest of the
ridge beyond the river, driving the flankers back and descending, as
from the clouds, with a rattling fire upon the right and rear of the
column; and not less suddenly the main body of that division, emerging
from behind the same ridge near the village of Oricain, presented
a line of battle across the front. It was the counter-stroke of
Salamanca! The French were, while striving to encompass Cole’s left,
themselves encompassed; for two brigades of Cole’s division instantly
turned and smote them on the left, the Portuguese smote them on the
right, and thus scathed on both flanks with fire, they were violently
shocked and pushed back with a mighty force by the sixth division, yet
not in flight, but fighting fiercely and strewing the ground with their
enemies’ bodies as well as with their own.

Clausel’s second division, on the other side of Sauroren, seeing this
dire conflict, with a hurried movement assailed the chapel height to
draw off Cole’s fire from the troops in the valley, and gallantly did
the French soldiers throng up the craggy steep; yet the general unity
of the attack was ruined; neither the third division nor Reille’s
brigades had yet received the signal, and their attacks were made
irregularly, in succession, running from right to left as the necessity
of aiding others became apparent. It was however a terrible battle
and well fought. One column darting out of the village of Sauroren,
silently, sternly, without firing a shot, worked up to the chapel under
a tempest of bullets, which swept away whole ranks without abating the
speed and power of the mass; the Portuguese there shrunk abashed, and
that part of the position was won; soon however they rallied on Ross’s
British brigade, and the whole, running forward, charged the French
with a loud shout and dashed them down the hill. Heavily stricken the
latter were, yet undismayed, they re-formed, and again ascended, to be
again broken and overturned. But the other columns of attack now bore
upwards through the smoke and flame with which the skirmishers covered
the face of the mountain, and another Portuguese regiment, fighting
on the right of Ross, yielded to their fury; thus a heavy body crowned
the heights, and wheeling against Ross’s exposed flank forced him back
also, and his ground was instantly occupied by the enemies with whom he
had been engaged in front. Now the fight raged close and desperate on
the crest of the position, charge succeeding charge, each side yielding
and advancing by turns. This astounding effort of French valour was
however of no avail. Wellington brought Byng’s brigade forward at a
running pace, and calling the 27th and 48th British Regiments, from the
higher ground in the centre, against the crowded masses, rolled them
backward in disorder, and threw them, one after the other, violently
down the mountain-side; yet with no child’s play; the two British
regiments had to fall upon the enemy three separate times with the
bayonet, and lost more than half their own numbers.

During this battle on the mountain-top, the sixth division gained
ground in the Lanz valley, and when it arrived on a front with the
left of the victorious troops near the chapel, Wellington, seeing the
momentary disorder of the enemy, ordered Madden’s Portuguese brigade
beyond the Lanz, which had never ceased its fire against the right
flank of the French column, to assail the village of Sauroren in rear;
but the state of the action in other parts and the exhaustion of the
troops soon induced him to countermand this movement.

On the French left, Reille’s brigades, connecting their right with
Clausel’s third division, had environed the Spanish hill and ascended
it unchecked, at the moment when the fourth division was so hardly
pressed from Sauroren; a Spanish regiment then gave way on the left of
the 40th, but a Portuguese battalion, rushing forward, again covered
the flank of that invincible regiment, which waited in stern silence
until the French set their feet upon the broad summit. Scarcely did
their glittering arms appear over the brow of the mountain when the
charging British cry was heard, the fierce shock given, the French mass
was broken to pieces and a tempest of bullets followed it down the
mountain. Four times this assault was renewed, and the French officers
were seen even to pull up their tired men by the belts, so fierce
and resolute they were to win, but it was the labour of Sisyphus; the
vehement shout and shock of the British soldier always prevailed, and
at last, with thinned ranks, tired limbs, and fainting hearts, hopeless
from repeated failures, the French were so abashed that three British
companies sufficed to bear down a whole brigade.[35]

While the battle was thus being fought on the mountain, Soult’s cavalry
beyond the Guy river passed a rivulet, and with a fire of carbines
forced the 10th Hussars to yield some rocky ground on Picton’s right,
but the 18th Hussars renewed the combat, killed two officers, and drove
them over the rivulet again.

Such were the leading events of this sanguinary struggle, which
Lord Wellington, fresh from the fight, with homely emphasis called
“_bludgeon work_.” Two generals and eighteen hundred men had been
killed or wounded on the French side, following their official reports;
a number far below the estimate made at the time by the allies,
whose loss amounted to two thousand six hundred. These discrepancies
between hostile calculations ever occur, and there is little wisdom in
disputing where proof is unattainable; yet the numbers actually engaged
were twenty-five thousand French and twelve thousand allies; hence,
if the strength of the latter’s position did not save them from the
greater loss, their steadfast courage is more to be admired.

The 29th the armies rested in position without firing a shot, and the
wandering divisions on both sides were now entering the line.

Hill had sent all his baggage, artillery, and wounded men to Berioplano
behind Picton’s ridge, but still occupied his position, covering the
Marcalain and Irurzun roads; thus posted, he likewise menaced the
valley of Lanz in rear of Soult’s right, his communication with Oricain
being maintained by the seventh division; the light division was also
approaching Hill’s left, and therefore on Wellington’s side the crisis
was over. He had vindicated his position with only sixteen thousand
combatants, and now, including the Spanish troops blockading Pampeluna,
he had fifty thousand in close military combination. Thirty thousand
flushed with recent successes were in hand, and Hill’s troops were
well placed for re-taking the offensive.

Soult’s situation was proportionably difficult. Seeing he could not
force the position, he had sent his artillery, part of his cavalry, and
his wounded men, back to France immediately after the battle, ordering
the two former to join Villatte on the Lower Bidassoa and await further
instructions. Having shaken off this burthen he awaited D’Erlon’s
arrival by the valley of Lanz, and that general did reach Ostiz, a few
miles above Sauroren, at mid-day on the 29th, bringing intelligence,
obtained indirectly during his march, that Graham had retired from the
Bidassoa and Villatte had crossed that river. This gave Soult a hope
that his first movements had disengaged San Sebastian, and he instantly
conceived a new plan of operations, dangerous indeed, yet conformable
to the critical state of his affairs.

No success was to be expected from another attack, yet he could not,
being reinforced with eighteen thousand men, retire by the road he
came without some dishonour; nor could he remain where he was, because
his supplies of provisions and ammunition, derived from distant
magazines by slow and small convoys, were unequal to the consumption.
Two-thirds of the British troops, great part of the Portuguese and
all the Spaniards, were, as he supposed, assembled in his front under
Wellington, or on his right flank under Hill; and it was probable other
reinforcements were on the march; wherefore he resolved to prolong his
right with D’Erlon’s corps, and cautiously drawing off the rest of his
army place the whole between the allies and the Bastan, in military
connection with his reserve and closer to his frontier magazines. Thus
posted he could combine all his forces in one operation to relieve San
Sebastian, and profit from new combinations.

In the evening of the 29th the second division of cavalry, which was in
the valley of Zubiri, passed over to that of Lanz and joined D’Erlon,
who was ordered to march early on the 30th by the cross road, leading
on Marcalain, which Hill had followed to get out of that valley. During
the night the first division of cavalry and La Martinière’s division
of infantry, both on the extreme left of the French army, retired
over the mountains to Eugui, in the upper part of the Zubiri valley,
having orders to cross the separating ridge there and join D’Erlon in
the valley of Lanz. The remainder of Reille’s wing moved by the crest
of the position to Sauroren, being gradually to relieve Clausel’s
troops, which were then to move up the Lanz valley, follow D’Erlon,
and be followed in like manner by Reille: meanwhile Clausel detached
two regiments to the ridges beyond the Lanz river, to cover his own
march and open a military connection with D’Erlon, whose new line of
operations was just beyond those heights.

In the night Soult again heard, from deserters, that three divisions
were to make an offensive movement next day by the Marcalain road
on his right, and at daylight he was convinced the men spoke truly;
because from the ridges held by Clausel beyond Sauroren he descried
columns descending from Picton’s position and from above Oricain, while
others were in movement apparently to turn Clausel’s right flank.
These columns were Morillo’s Spaniards, Campbell’s Portuguese, and the
seventh division, marching to adopt a new disposition, which shall be
presently explained.

Early in the morning Soult’s combination was apparent: Foy’s division,
the last of Reille’s wing, was seen in march along the crest of
the mountain to Sauroren, where Maucune’s division had previously
relieved Conroux’s, and the latter, belonging to Clausel, was moving
up the valley of Lanz. Wellington was not a general to suffer a flank
march across his front within cannon-shot. He immediately opened
his batteries from the chapel height, and sent skirmishers against
Sauroren; and soon this fire, spreading to the right, became brisk
between Cole and Foy; but it subsided at Sauroren, and Soult, relying
on the strength of the ground, directing Reille to maintain that
village until nightfall, went off himself to join D’Erlon. His design
was to fall upon the troops he had seen moving to turn his right and
crush them with superior numbers: a daring project, well and finely
conceived, but he had to deal with a man more rapid of perception and
of a rougher stroke than himself. Overtaking D’Erlon, who had three
divisions of infantry and two of heavy cavalry, he found him facing,
not the troops seen in march the evening before, but Hill who was in
position with ten thousand men.

COMBAT OF BUENZA. (July, 1813.)

Hill, occupying a very extensive mountain ridge, had his right strongly
posted on rugged ground, but his left was insecure. D’Erlon, who
had not less than twenty thousand sabres and bayonets in line, was
followed by La Martinière’s division of infantry. Soult’s combination
was therefore still extremely powerful, the light troops were already
engaged when he arrived, and thus the same soldiers on both sides who
had so strenuously combated at Maya were again opposed to each other.

D’Armagnac made a false attack on Hill’s right, Abbé endeavoured to
turn his left and gain the summit of the ridge in the direction of
Buenza; Maransin followed Abbé, and the French cavalry, entering the
line, connected the two attacks. D’Armagnac pushed his feint too far,
became seriously engaged and was beaten; but after some hard fighting
Abbé turned the left flank, gained the summit of the mountain, and
rendered the position untenable.

Hill, who had lost four hundred men, retired to the heights of Eguaros,
drawing towards Marcalain with his right and throwing back his left;
being there joined by Campbell and Morillo he again offered battle.
Soult, whose principal loss was in D’Armagnac’s division, had however
gained his main object; he had turned Hill’s left, secured a fresh line
of retreat, a shorter communication with Villatte by the pass of Doña
Maria, and withal, the command of the great Irurzun road to Toloza,
which was distant only one league. His first thought was to seize it
and march upon Toloza or Ernani to raise the siege of San Sebastian;
there was nothing to oppose this, except the light division, whose
movements shall be noticed hereafter, but neither Hill nor Soult knew
of its presence. If the French marshal’s other combinations had been
happily executed he would have broken into Guipuscoa on the 31st with
fifty thousand men, thrust aside the light division in his march, and
taken Graham in reverse while Villatte’s reserve attacked him in front.
Wellington would have followed, yet scarcely in time, for he did not
suspect his views, and was ignorant of his strength, thinking D’Erlon’s
force to be only three divisions, whereas it was four divisions of
infantry and two of cavalry. This error however did not prevent him
from seizing the decisive point of operation and like a great captain
giving a counter-stroke which Soult, trusting to the strength of
Reille’s position, little expected. For when La Martinière’s division
and the cavalry had abandoned the mountains above Elcano, and that
Zabaldica was evacuated, Picton, reinforced with two squadrons of
cavalry and a battery of artillery, was directed to enter the Zubiri
valley and turn the French left. Meanwhile the seventh division swept
over the hills beyond the Lanz river upon Clausel’s right, with safety,
because Campbell and Morillo insured communication with Hill, who
was ordered to push the head of his column towards Olague and menace
Soult’s rear in the valley of Lanz. He was in march to do this when
D’Erlon, as shown, met and forced him back. During these movements Cole
never ceased to skirmish with Foy on the mountain between Zabaldica
and Sauroren, while the sixth division reinforced with Byng’s brigade
assaulted the latter village.


Picton quickly gained the Val de Zubiri, and threw his skirmishers
against Foy’s left flank on the mountain, while on the other flank
General Inglis, one of those veterans who purchase every step of
promotion with their blood, advancing with only five hundred men of the
seventh division, broke at one shock the two French regiments on the
ridges covering Clausel’s right, and drove them down into the valley of
Lanz. He lost indeed one-third of his own men, but instantly spread the
remainder in skirmishing order along the descent and opened a biting
fire upon the flank of Conroux’s division, which being in march up
the valley from Sauroren, was now thrown into disorder by having two
regiments thus suddenly tumbled upon it from the top of the mountain.

Foy’s division was marching along the crest of the position between
Zabaldica and Sauroren at the moment of this attack; but he was too
far off to give aid, and his own light troops were engaged with Cole’s
skirmishers; moreover Inglis had been so sudden that before the evil
was well perceived it was past remedy; for Wellington instantly pushed
the sixth division under Pakenham to the left of Sauroren, and sent
Byng headlong down from the chapel height against Maucune, who was in
that village. This vigorous assault was simultaneously enforced from
the other side of the Lanz by Madden’s Portuguese, and the battery near
the chapel sent its bullets crashing through the houses, or booming up
the valley towards Conroux’s column, which Inglis never ceased to vex.

The village and bridge of Sauroren and the straits beyond were soon
covered with a pall of smoke, the musketry pealed frequent and loud,
and the tumult and affray echoing from mountain to mountain filled all
the valley. Byng with hard fighting carried Sauroren, fourteen hundred
prisoners were made, and the two French divisions, being entirely
broken, fled, partly up the valley towards Clausel’s other divisions,
partly up the original position, to seek refuge with Foy, who remained
on the summit a helpless spectator of this rout. He rallied the
fugitives in great numbers, but had soon to look to himself, for his
own skirmishers were now driven up the mountain by Cole’s men, and his
left was infested by Picton’s detachments. Thus pressed, he fell back
along the hills separating the valley of Zubiri from that of Lanz, and
the woods enabled him to effect his retreat without much loss; yet he
dared not descend into either valley, and thinking himself entirely
cut off, sent advice to Soult and went over the Great Spine into the
Alduides by the pass of Urtiaga. Clausel meanwhile had been driven up
the valley of Lanz to Olague, where, being joined by La Martinière,
he took a position; and Wellington, whose pursuit had been damped by
hearing of Hill’s action, also halted.

The allies lost nineteen hundred men killed, wounded, or taken in this
and Hill’s battle, and nearly twelve hundred were Portuguese, for the
soldiers of that nation bore the brunt of both fights. On the French
side the loss was enormous. Conroux’s and Maucune’s divisions were
completely disorganized. Eight thousand men under Foy were entirely
separated from the main body, two thousand at the lowest computation
were killed or wounded, many were dispersed in the woods and ravines,
and three thousand prisoners were taken. Soult’s fighting men were
thus reduced to thirty-five thousand, of which fifteen thousand under
Clausel and Reille were dispirited by defeat, and the whole in a
critical situation, seeing that Hill’s force, increased to fifteen
thousand men by the junction of Morillo and Campbell, was in their
front at Eguaros, and thirty thousand were on their rear in the valley
of Lanz; for Picton, finding no enemies in the valley of Zubiri, had
joined Cole on the heights.

Wellington had sent some Spaniards to Marcalain when he first heard of
Hill’s action, yet he was not then aware of the true state of affairs
on that side, and his operations were founded on the notion that Soult
was in retreat towards the Bastan. Hence he designed to follow closely
and push his own left forward to support Graham on the Bidassoa; but
he still underrated D’Erlon’s force, and thought La Martinière’s
division had originally retreated up the Val de Zubiri to Roncesvalles,
instead of crossing the intervening ridge to the Lanz valley; and
as Foy’s column was numerous, and two divisions had been broken at
Sauroren, he judged the force immediately under Soult to be very weak,
and made dispositions accordingly. The sixth division and the 13th
Light Dragoons were ordered to join Picton, the whole to move upon the
Roncesvalles; Cole was called down into the valley of Lanz, and Hill
was directed to press Soult, turning his right, yet still directing his
own march upon Lanz: the seventh division was to let Hill cross its
front, and then march for the pass of Doña Maria.

These arrangements show that Wellington expected Soult to rejoin
Clausel, and make for the Bastan by the pass of Vellate. But the French
marshal was so far advanced he could not return to Lanz; he was between
two fires, and could only retreat into the valley of St. Estevan by the
pass of Doña Maria; wherefore, calling up Clausel, and giving D’Erlon,
whose divisions were in good order, the rear-guard, he commenced his
march at midnight towards the pass. Mischief was thickening around him.
Graham, on the British left, had twenty thousand men ready to move
either against Villatte or into the valley of St. Estevan; and there
remained on that side the light division, under Charles Alten, of whose
operations it is time to speak.

That general had descended the mountain of Santa Cruz on the evening of
the 28th, to gain the great road of Irurzun; but whether by orders from
Graham, or in default of orders, the difficulty of communication being
extreme in those wild regions, he commenced his movement very late, and
darkness falling on his rear brigade while in march, the troops got
dispersed in that frightful wilderness of woods and precipices. Many
soldiers made faggot torches, waving them as signals, and, so moving,
the lights served indeed to assist those who carried them, yet misled
and bewildered others who saw them at a distance; for the heights and
the ravines were alike studded with these small fires, and the soldiers
calling to each other filled the whole region with their clamour. Thus
they continued to rove and shout until morning showed the face of the
mountain covered with scattered men and animals, who had not gained
half a league of ground beyond their starting place, and it was many
hours ere they could be collected.

Alten, now for three days separated from the army, sent mounted
officers in various directions to obtain tidings, and at six o’clock in
the evening renewed his march, but at Areysa halted without suffering
fires to be lighted; for he knew nothing of the enemy and was fearful
of discovering his situation. At night he moved again, and finally
established his bivouacs near Lecumberri early on the 30th, having
heard the noise of Hill’s battle at Buenza in the course of the day.
The light division was thus brought into the immediate system of
operations, and had Soult continued his march, after driving back Hill,
it would have been in great danger. Now it was a new power thrown into
Wellington’s hands at a critical moment, for Villatte, contrary to
the intelligence received, had not advanced, and Soult was therefore
completely isolated: he had indeed no resources save what his ability
and courage could supply.

His single line of retreat by Doña Maria was secure only as far as
San Estevan, and from that town he could march up the Bidassoa to the
Bastan, to regain France by the Col de Maya; or down the same river
towards Vera by Sumbilla and Yanzi, from both of which roads branching
off to the right led over the mountains to Echallar: yet he might be
intercepted on either side. The Col de Maya way was good, that down
the Bidassoa was a long and terrible defile, so contracted about the
bridges of Yanzi and Sumbilla that a few men only could march abreast.
This then he had to dread. First, that Wellington by the pass of
Vellate would reach the Bastan before him, and block the Maya passes.
Second, that Graham would occupy the rocks of Yanzi and cut him off
from Echallar. Then, confined to a narrow mountain-way leading from San
Estevan to Zagaramurdi, and far too rugged for wounded men and baggage,
he would be followed by Hill, and perhaps headed at Urdax by Wellington.

In this state, the first object being to get through Doña Maria, he
commenced his retreat in the night of the 30th, while Wellington,
still ignorant of the real state of affairs, halted in the valley of
Lanz to let Hill pass his front and enter the Bastan. But early on the
31st, Soult’s real strength became known, and the seventh division
was directed to aid Hill, while Wellington marched himself through
the pass of Vellate, and sent Alten orders to cut in upon the French,
intercepting their march where he could. Longa, who was with Graham,
had instructions to seize the defiles at Yanzi, and aid the light
division to block that way, while Graham was to hold all his corps in
readiness for the same object.


General Hill overtook the French rear-guard early on the 31st, just as
the seventh division appeared on his right, and the enemy could only
gain the summit of the Doña Maria pass under the fire of his guns;
there however they turned, and throwing out skirmishers made strong
battle. General Stewart, leading the attack and now for the third time
engaged with D’Erlon’s troops, was again badly wounded and his first
brigade was repulsed; yet Pringle renewed the attack with the second
brigade, and broke the enemy’s right; the seventh division did the same
for the left, and some prisoners were taken: a thick fog prevented
further pursuit, and the loss of the French was unknown, but that of
the allies was four hundred.

The seventh division remained on the mountain. Hill, following his
orders, moved by a short rugged way between Doña Maria and Vellate
over the Great Spine to join Wellington, who had during this combat
entered the Bastan. Meanwhile General Byng, previously pushed forward,
had captured at Elisondo a large convoy of provisions and ammunition
left there by D’Erlon, had made several hundred prisoners after a sharp
skirmish, and seized the pass of Maya. Wellington then occupied the
hills through which the road from San Estevan led to the Bastan, and
full of hope he was to strike a terrible blow; for Soult, after passing
Doña Maria, had halted in San Estevan, although from his scouts he
knew the convoy had been taken by Byng. He was in a deep valley, and
four divisions were behind the crest of the mountains overlooking his
post; the seventh division was on the summit of the Doña Maria pass;
the light division and Graham’s Spaniards were marching to block the
valley at Vera and Echallar; Byng was at Maya, and Hill was moving by
Almandoz just behind Wellington; a few hours gained and the French must
surrender or disperse!

Strict orders were given to prevent the lighting of fires, the
straggling of soldiers, or any other indication of the presence of
troops, and the English commander placed himself on some rocks at a
culminant point, from whence he could observe every movement. Soult
seemed tranquil, and when four of his “_gens d’armes_” were seen to
ride up the valley in a careless manner some staff-officers proposed to
cut them off. Wellington, whose object was to hide his own presence,
forbade this; but the next moment three marauding English soldiers
entering the valley, were seen and carried off by the French patrol;
half an hour afterwards their drums beat to arms and the columns began
to move out of San Estevan towards Sumbilla. Thus the disobedience of
three plundering knaves, unworthy of the name of soldiers, deprived one
consummate commander of the most splendid success, and saved another
from the most terrible disaster.[36]

Soult walked from his prison, yet his chains still hung upon him.
The way was narrow, the multitude great, wounded men borne on their
comrades’ shoulders filed in long procession with the baggage,
Clausel’s troops, forming the rear-guard, were therefore still near
San Estevan the next morning; and scarcely had they marched a league
when Cole’s skirmishers and the Spaniards, thronging along the heights
on their flank, opened a fire on them, to which little reply could be
made: the soldiers and baggage soon got mixed in disorder, numbers fled
up the hills, and the energy of Soult, whose personal exertions were
conspicuous, could scarcely prevent a general dispersion. Prisoners and
baggage were now taken at every step, and the boldest were dismayed;
worse would have awaited them, if Wellington had been on other points
well seconded by his subordinate generals.

Instead of taking the first road leading from Sumbilla to Echallar,
the head of the French column passed onward towards that leading from
the bridge near Yanzi; the valley narrowed to a mere cleft in the
rocks as they advanced, the Bidassoa was on their left, and there was
a tributary torrent to cross, the bridge being defended by a battalion
of Spanish Caçadores from Vera. The head of the column was by this time
as much disordered as the rear, and had the Caçadores been reinforced,
only those French near Sumbilla, who could take the road from that
place to Echallar, would have escaped; but the Spanish general Longa
kept aloof, D’Erlon won the defile, and Reille’s divisions were
following, when a new enemy appeared.

The light division had been directed to head the French at San Estevan
or Sumbilla. The order was received on the evening of the 31st, and
General Alten, threading the defiles of Zubieta and descending the
deep valley of Lerins, reached Elgoriaga about mid-day on the 1st of
August, having then marched twenty-four miles. He was little more than
a league from Estevan, was about the same distance from Sumbilla,
and the movement of the French along the Bidassoa was immediately
discovered. Instead of moving direct on Sumbilla he turned to his
left, clambered up the great mountain of Santa Cruz and made for the
bridge of Yanzi. The weather was very sultry, the mountain steep and
hard to overcome, many men fell and died convulsed and frothing at the
mouth, others whose spirit and strength had never before been quelled,
leaned on their muskets and muttered in sullen tones that they yielded
for the first time. However, towards evening, after marching nineteen
consecutive hours, and over forty miles of mountain roads, the head of
the exhausted column reached the edge of a precipice near the bridge
of Yanzi. Below it, within pistol-shot, Reille’s divisions were seen
hurrying forward along the horrid defile in which they were pent up,
a fire of musketry commenced, and the scene which followed is thus
described by an eye-witness.[37]

“We overlooked the enemy at stone’s throw, and from the summit of a
tremendous precipice. The river separated us, but the French were
wedged in a narrow road with inaccessible rocks on one side and the
river on the other. Confusion impossible to describe followed, the
wounded were thrown down in the rush and trampled upon, the cavalry
drew their swords and endeavoured to charge up the pass of Echallar,
but the infantry beat them back, and several, horses and all, were
precipitated into the river; some fired vertically at us, the wounded
called out for quarter, while others pointed to them, supported as they
were on branches of trees, on which were suspended great coats clotted
with gore, and blood-stained sheets taken from different habitations to
aid the sufferers.”

On these miserable supplicants brave men could not fire, and so piteous
was the spectacle that it was with averted or doubtful aim they shot at
the others, although the latter rapidly plied their muskets in passing,
and some in their veteran hardihood even dashed across the bridge of
Yanzi to make a counter-attack. It was a soldier-like but vain effort,
the night found the British in possession of the bridge; and though the
great body of the enemy escaped by the mountain path to Echallar, the
baggage was cut off and with many prisoners fell into the hands of the
light troops which were still hanging on the rear in pursuit from San

That day the French losses were great, yet Wellington was justly
discontented with the result. Neither Longa nor Alten had fulfilled
their missions. The former should have stopped D’Erlon; the latter
should have passed the bridge of Yanzi and struck a great blow: it was
for that his soldiers had made such a prodigious exertion.

In the night Soult rallied his divisions about Echallar, and on the
morning of the 2nd occupied the Puerto of that name. His left was
on the rocks of Zagaramurdi, his right, on the Ivantelly mountain,
communicating with Villatte, who held certain ridges between the
Ivantelly and the head of the great Rhune mountain. Clausel’s three
divisions, reduced to six thousand men, were on a strong hill between
the Puerto and town of Echallar. This position was momentarily adopted
by Soult to make Wellington discover his final object, but that general
would not suffer the affront. He had the fourth, seventh, and light
divisions in hand, and resolved to fall upon Clausel, whose position
was dangerously advanced.


From Yanzi the light division marched to the heights of Santa Barbara,
which were connected with the Ivantelly, thus turning Clausel’s
position and menacing Soult’s right, while the fourth division moved
to attack his front, and the seventh menaced his left; these attacks
were to be simultaneous, but General Barnes led his brigade of the
seventh division against Clausel’s strong post before the fourth and
light divisions were seen or felt. A vehement fight ensued, yet neither
the steepness of the mountain, nor the overshadowing multitude of
the enemy, clustering above in support of their skirmishers, could
arrest the assailants, and the astonishing spectacle was presented of
fifteen hundred men, driving by sheer valour and force of arms six
thousand good troops from ground so rugged, the numbers might have been
reversed and the defence made good without much merit. Incalculable
is the preponderance of moral power in war! These were the Frenchmen
who had assailed the terrible rocks above Sauroren with a force and
energy that all the valour of the hardiest British veterans scarcely
sufficed to repel; yet now, five days only having elapsed, although
posted so strongly, they did not sustain the shock of one-fourth of
their own numbers! And at this very time, eighty British soldiers,
the comrades and equals of those who achieved this wonderful exploit,
having wandered to plunder, surrendered to some French peasants, who as
Lord Wellington truly observed, “_they would under other circumstances
have eat up_!” What gross ignorance of human nature then do those
writers display, who assert, that the use of brute force is the highest
qualification of a general!

Clausel fell back fighting to a strong ridge beyond the pass of
Echallar, having his right covered by the Ivantelly mountain, which
was strongly occupied. Meanwhile the light division ascended the broad
heights of Santa Barbara, and halted until the operations of the fourth
and seventh divisions rendered it advisable to attack the Ivantelly,
which lifted its sugar-loaf head on their right rising as it were out
of the Santa Barbara heights, and shutting them off from the ridges
through which the troops beaten at Echallar were now retiring. Evening
was coming on, a thick mist capped the crowning rocks, where a strong
French regiment was ensconced, and the division, besides its terrible
march the previous day, had been for two days without sustenance.
Weak and fainting, the soldiers were leaning on their arms when the
advancing fire at Echallar imported an attack on the Ivantelly, and
Andrew Barnard led five companies of riflemen up the mountain. Four
companies of the 43rd followed in support, the misty cloud descended
lower, the riflemen were soon lost to the view, and the sharp clang of
their weapons, heard in distinct reply to the more sonorous rolling
musketry of the French, told what work was going on. For some time the
echoes rendered it doubtful how the action went, but the companies of
the 43rd could find no trace of an enemy save the killed and wounded:
Barnard had fought his way unaided, and without a check to the summit,
where his dark-clothed swarthy veterans raised their victorious shout
on the highest peak, just as the coming night showed the long ridges
of the mountains beyond, sparkling with the last musket-flashes from
Clausel’s troops retiring in disorder from Echallar.

This day cost the British four hundred men, and Wellington himself
narrowly escaped the enemy’s hands. He had taken towards Echallar half
a company of the 43rd as an escort, and placed a sergeant, named Blood,
with a party to watch in front while he examined his maps. A French
detachment endeavoured to cut the party off, and their troops, rushing
on at speed, would infallibly have fallen unawares upon Wellington, if
Blood, leaping down the precipitous rocks, had not given him warning:
as it was, they arrived in time to send a volley after him while
galloping away.

Now, after nine days of continual movement during which ten serious
actions had been fought, the operations ceased. Of the allies,
including the Spaniards, seven thousand three hundred officers and
soldiers had been killed, wounded, or taken, and many were dispersed
from fatigue or to plunder. On the French side the loss was terrible,
and the disorder rendered the official returns inaccurate. Wellington
called it twelve thousand, but hearing the French officers admitted
more, raised his estimate to fifteen thousand. The engineer _Belmas_,
in his Journals of Sieges compiled from official documents, sets down
above thirteen thousand. Soult in his official correspondence at the
time, gave fifteen hundred for Maya, four hundred for Roncesvalles, two
hundred on the 27th, eighteen hundred the 28th, after which he spoke
no more of losses by battle. There remain therefore to be added, the
combats of Linzoain, the battles of Sauroren and Buenza on the 30th,
the combats on the 31st, 1st and 2nd: finally, four thousand unwounded
prisoners. Let this suffice. It is not needful to sound the stream of
blood in all its horrid depths.


  Catalonia--Combat of Ordal--Renewed Siege of San Sebastian--Storm
    of San Sebastian--Battles on the Bidassoa--Combat of San
    Marcial--Combat of Vera.

CATALONIA. (Sept. 1813.)

While Wellington was thus victorious in Navarre, Lord W. Bentinck,
having reorganized Murray’s army at Alicant, was pushing the war in
Catalonia; for to that province Suchet retired after the battle of
Vittoria, relinquishing Valencia and Aragon, though he knew Clausel was
at Zaragoza. But in every way his determination to act independently,
however injurious it might prove to the emperor’s interest, was
apparent. Had he joined Clausel, forty-five thousand men, well based
on fortresses, would have menaced Wellington’s right flank when Soult
took the command: neither Sebastian nor Pampeluna could then have been
invested, and Soult’s recent defeats would have been spared.

Lord William Bentinck had command of the Spanish armies as well as his
own, and Lord Wellington had planned a cautious scheme for renewed
operations, with reference to his own position in the Pyrenees: but
Lord William, whose thoughts were running on Sicily and an invasion of
Italy, pushed headlong into Catalonia, and though a brave and able man
he did not meet with much success. Having passed the Ebro late in July,
leaving the fortress of Tortoza behind him, he on the 30th sat down
before Tarragona with his own and Del Parque’s armies.

Up to this time the Spaniards, giving copious but false information
to Lord William, and none to Suchet, had induced a series of errors
on both sides. The Englishman thinking his adversary weak had pressed
forwards rashly; the Frenchman, deeming the other’s boldness the result
of strength, thought himself weak, and awaited reinforcements from
Upper Catalonia. Suchet first recognised his own superior force, and
advanced on the 16th of August to attack with thirty thousand men; and
then Lord William, also discovering the true state of affairs, refused
the battle he had provoked and retired. He had indeed equal numbers,
yet of a quality not to be put in competition with his opponents.

During the retreat, his brother, Lord Frederick, being on the left,
defeated the French hussars with a loss of fifty men, and it was
said either General Habert or Harispe was taken but escaped in the
confusion. This checked the enemy, and in the mountains above Tortoza
the allies halted. Suchet would not assail them there, but he destroyed
the works of Tarragona and took a permanent position behind the
Llobregat, thus giving up the fertile Campo de Tarragona, allowing
the allies to invest Tortoza, and isolating himself entirely from the
operations in Navarre, where he might have decided the war. Seeing
this timidity, Lord William again moved forward, but again misled by
false information, detached Del Parque’s army by the way of Tudela to
Navarre: meanwhile going himself beyond Tarragona to Villa Franca, he
placed Colonel Adam with twelve hundred men ten miles in advance, at
the strong pass of Ordal.

In this position, having lost Del Parque’s army, and left Whittingham’s
Spanish division in the rear for the sake of subsistence, Lord William
was exposed to a formidable attack from Suchet, who had more than
thirty thousand men on the Llobregat, a few miles off. But he could
only be approached on two lines--one in front, from Molino del Rey, by
the royal road; the other on his left by Martorel and San Sadurni. The
first he blocked with Adam’s corps, at Ordal, which he now reinforced
with three battalions and a squadron of Spanish cavalry; the second, a
rugged and difficult way, he guarded by two Catalan corps under Eroles
and Manso, reinforced with a Calabrese battalion: there was indeed a
third line on his right by Avionet, but it was little better than a

He had designed to push his main body close to Ordal on the evening of
the 12th, yet from some slight cause, and in war slight causes often
determine the fate of nations, he delayed it until next day. Meanwhile
he viewed the country in front of that defile without discovering an
enemy, his confidential emissaries assured him the French were not
going to advance, and he so expressed himself to Adam on his return. A
report of a contrary tendency was made by Colonel Reeves of the 27th,
on the authority of a Spanish woman who had before proved her accuracy
and ability as a spy, but she was now disbelieved: this incredulity
was unfortunate. Suchet thus braved, and his communication with Lerida
threatened by Manso on the side of Martorel, was in person actually
marching to attack Ordal, and Decaen and Maurice Mathieu were turning
the left by San Sadurni.

COMBAT OF ORDAL. (Sept. 1813.)

The heights occupied by Adam rose gradually from a magnificent
bridge, by which the main road was carried over a deep impracticable
ravine. The second battalion of the 27th British Regiment was on the
right, some Germans and Swiss with six guns defended a dilapidated
fort commanding the main road; the Spaniards were in the centre; the
Anglo-Calabrese on the left; a British squadron of cavalry in reserve.
A bright moonlight facilitated the movements of the French, three
daring scouts sent in advance discovered the state of affairs, and
a little before midnight, the leading column under General Mesclop
passed the bridge without let or hindrance, mounted the heights with
a rapid pace and driving back the picquets gave the first alarm. The
first effort was against the 27th, the Germans and Spanish battalions
were then assailed in succession as the French masses got free of the
bridge, but the Calabrese were too far on the left to take a share in
the action. The combat was fierce and obstinate. Harispe, commanding
the French, constantly outflanked the right of the allies, and at the
same time pressed their centre, where the Spaniards fought gallantly.
Adam was wounded early, Reeves succeeded him, and seeing his flank
turned and his men falling fast, in short, finding himself engaged
with a whole army on a position of which Adam had lost the key by
neglecting the bridge, resolved to retreat. He first ordered the guns
to fall back, but seeking to cover the movement by charging a column of
the enemy, which was pressing forward on the high-road, he also fell
severely wounded, and there was no recognised commander on the spot to
succeed him. Then the affair became confused. For though the order
to retreat was given, the Spaniards continued to fight desperately,
the 27th thought it shame to abandon them, and as the Germans and
Swiss still held the old fort the guns came back. The action was thus
continued with great fury, and Colonel Carey, bringing his Calabrese
into line from the left, menaced the right flank of the French. He was
too late. The Spaniards, overwhelmed in the centre, were by that time
broken, the right was completely turned, the old fort was lost, the
enemy’s skirmishers got into the rear, and at three o’clock the allies
dispersed, the most part in flight: the Spanish cavalry were then
overthrown on the main road by the French hussars, and four guns were
taken in the tumult.

Captain Waldron with the 27th, reduced to eighty men, being joined by
Captain Müller with about the same number of Germans and Swiss, broke
through small parties of the enemy and effected a retreat in good order
by the hills on each side of the road. Colonel Carey endeavoured to
gain the road of Sadurni on the left, but meeting with Decaen’s people
on that side retraced his steps, crossed the field of battle in the
rear of Suchet’s columns and made for Villa Nueva de Sitjes, where he
finally embarked without loss, save a few stragglers. The overthrow was
complete, and the prisoners were at first very numerous, yet darkness
enabled many to escape, and two thousand men took refuge with Manso and

Suchet, continuing his career, closed about nine o’clock on Lord W.
Bentinck, who retired skirmishing behind Villa Franca. He was there
assailed by the French horsemen, some of which fell on his rear-guard
while others edged to their right to secure the communication with
Decaen; the latter was looked for by both parties with great anxiety,
but he had been delayed by the resistance of Manso and Eroles in the
rugged country between Martorel and Sadurni. Suchet’s cavalry however,
continued to infest the rear of the retreating army until it reached
a deep baranco, where, the passage being dangerous and the French
horsemen importunate, that brave and honest soldier, Lord Frederick
Bentinck, charged their right, and fighting hand to hand with the
enemy’s general Myers, wounded him and overthrew his squadron. They
rallied indeed upon their dragoons and endeavoured to turn the flank,
but were stopped by the fire of two guns; and meanwhile the French
cuirassiers on the left, while pressing the Brunswick hussars and
menacing the infantry, were roughly checked by the fire of the 10th
Regiment. This cavalry action was vigorous, and the allies lost more
than ninety men, but the baranco was safely passed, and about three
o’clock the pursuit ceased. The Catalans meanwhile had retreated
towards Igulada and the Anglo-Sicilians retired to Tarragona.

Lord William Bentinck then returned to Sicily, leaving the command to
Sir William Clinton. He had committed errors, but the loss at Ordal was
due to the folly of Colonel Adam, and whoever relies on his capacity in
peace or war will be disappointed.


After the combats of Echallar and Ivantelly Soult resumed his former
defensive positions, that is to say, from the mouth of the Bidassoa
up its right bank to Vera, and from thence by the lower ranges of the
Pyrenees to St. Jean Pied de Port. Lord Wellington also reoccupied his
old positions on the main spine, and on the advanced counter ridges,
which gave him the command of the Bastan and the valley of San Estevan.
Many causes had concurred to deter him from pushing his success, and
though this termination was, perhaps, scarcely defensible on high
military principles, the difficulties were so great that he contented
himself with renewing the siege of San Sebastian, the blockade of which
had been always maintained.

On the 8th of August the attack there was renewed by sinking a shaft
and driving a gallery to countermine the enemy, who was supposed to be
working under the cask redoubt; but water rose to the height of twelve
feet, the work was discontinued, and the siege itself was vexatiously
delayed by the negligence of the English government in providing guns
and stores, and by the astounding insulting refusal of the Admiralty to
supply the necessary naval aid. To use Lord Wellington’s expression,
“_Since Great Britain had been a naval power, a British army had never
before been left in such a situation at a most important moment._”

During this forced inactivity the garrison received supplies and
reinforcements by sea, repaired the damaged works, raised new defences,
filled the magazines, and put sixty-seven pieces of artillery in
a condition to play. Eight hundred and fifty men had been killed
and wounded since the commencement of the siege; but more than two
thousand six hundred good soldiers, still under arms, celebrated
the emperor’s birth-day by crowning the castle with a splendid
illumination--encircling it with a fiery legend to his honour in
characters so large as to be distinctly read by the besiegers.

On the 19th of August, a battering train demanded by Wellington three
months before, did arrive from England, and in the night of the 22nd
fifteen heavy pieces were placed in battery. A second battering train
came on the 23rd, augmenting the number of pieces to a hundred and
seventeen; but with characteristic official negligence, this enormous
armament brought shot and shells for only one day’s consumption!

On the 24th the Chofre batteries were enlarged, and two batteries were
begun on the heights of Bartolomeo, designed to breach the faces of the
horn-work of St. John and the end of the high curtain, which rose in
gradation one above another in the same line of shot. The approaches
on the isthmus were pushed forward by the sap, but the old trenches
were still imperfect, and at daylight on the 25th a sally from the
horn-work swept the left of the parallel, injured the sap, and made
some prisoners.

On the 26th fifty-seven pieces opened with a general salvo, and
continued to play with astounding noise and rapidity until evening. The
firing from the Chofres destroyed the revêtment of the demi-bastion
of St. John, and nearly ruined the towers at the old breach, together
with the wall connecting them; but from the isthmus, the batteries only
injured the horn-work, and Wellington, who was present at this attack,
ordered a new one of six guns to be constructed amongst some ruined
houses on the right of the parallel, and only three hundred yards from
the main front: two shafts were also sunk for driving galleries to
protect this battery against the enemy’s mines.

In the morning of the 27th the boats of the squadron, carrying a
hundred soldiers, put off to attack the island of Santa Clara, and
landed with some difficulty under a heavy fire, yet took the island
with a loss of twenty-eight men and officers, eighteen being seamen.

In the night of the 27th the French sallied against the new battery on
the isthmus, but on the edge of the trenches the 9th Regiment met and
checked them with the bayonet.

At daybreak the besiegers’ fire was extremely heavy, and the shrapnel
shells were supposed to be destructive; the practice was however
very uncertain, the shells frequently flew amongst the guards in the
parallel, and one struck the field-officer of the day. To meet sallies
the trenches were furnished with banquettes and parapets; yet the work
was slow, because the Spanish authorities of Guipuscoa neglected to
provide carts to convey materials from the woods, and this hard labour
was performed by the Portuguese soldiers.

Lord Wellington again visited the works on the 28th, and in the night
the advanced battery, which at the desire of the chief engineer
Fletcher had been constructed for only four guns, was armed and opened
the 29th; an accident kept back one gun, the enemy’s fire dismounted
another, and thus only two instead of six guns, as Wellington had
designed, smote St. John and the end of the high curtain. The general
firing however damaged the castle and the town-works, their guns were
nearly silenced, and as sixty-three pieces, of which twenty-nine threw
shells or spherical case-shot, were now in play from the Chofres, the
superiority of the besiegers was established.

At this time the Urumea was discovered to be fordable by Captain
Alexander Macdonald of the artillery, who had voluntarily waded across
in the night, passed close under the works to the breach and returned.
Hence, as a few minutes would suffice to bring the enemy into the
Chofre batteries, to save the guns from being spiked their vents were
covered with iron plates fastened by chains; and this was also done
at the advanced battery on the isthmus. The materials for a battery
to take the defences of the Monte Orgullo in reverse were now sent to
the island of Santa Clara, and some pieces on the Chofres were turned
against the retaining wall of the horn-work, in the hope of shaking
down any mines there without destroying the wall itself, which offered
cover for the troops advancing to the assault.

On the isthmus the trenches were wide and good, the sap was pushed to
the demi-bastion of the horn-work, and the sea-wall, supporting the
high road into the town, which had cramped the formation of the columns
in the first assault, was broken through, giving access to the strand
and shortening the way to the breaches.

In this state a false attack was ordered in the night to make the enemy
spring his mines, a desperate service, executed by Lieutenant Macadam.
The order was sudden, no volunteers were demanded, no rewards offered,
no means of excitement resorted to; yet such is the inherent bravery
of British soldiers, that seventeen men of the Royals, the nearest at
hand, immediately leaped forth ready and willing to encounter what
seemed certain death. With a rapid pace, all the breaching batteries
playing hotly at the time, they reached the foot of the breach
unperceived and rushed up in extended order shouting and firing, but
the French musketry laid the whole party low with exception of their

On the 30th, the sea flank of the place being opened from the
half-bastion of St. John to the most distant of the old breaches, five
hundred feet, the Chofre batteries were turned against the castle and
defences of Monte Orgullo, while the advanced battery on the isthmus
demolished, in conjunction with the fire from the Chofres, the face of
St. John and the end of the high curtain above it. The whole of that
quarter was now in ruins, for the San Bartolomeo batteries had broken
the demi-bastion of the horn-work and cut away the palisades. Then
Wellington, again coming to the siege, resolved to make a lodgement on
the breach, and ordered an assault for the next day at eleven o’clock,
when the ebb of tide would leave full space between the horn-work and
the water.

The galleries on the isthmus had now been pushed close up to the sea
wall, and three mines were formed, with the double object of opening
an easy way for the troops to reach the strand, and rendering useless
any subterranean defensive works of the enemy. At two o’clock in the
morning they were sprung and opened three wide passages, which were
immediately connected, and a traverse, six feet high, was run across
the mouth of the main trench on the left, to screen the opening
from the grape-shot of the castle. Everything was then ready for the
assault, but ere that terrible event is told the French state of
defence must be made known.

General Graham had been before the place fifty-two days, during thirty
of which the attack was suspended. All that time the garrison had
laboured incessantly, and though the heavy fire of the besiegers since
the 26th appeared to have ruined the defences of the enormous breach in
the sea flank, it was not so. A perpendicular fall behind of more than
twenty feet barred progress, and beyond that, amongst the ruins of the
burned houses, was a strong counter wall fifteen feet high, loopholed
for musketry and extending in a parallel direction with the breaches,
which were also cut off from the sound part of the rampart by traverses
at the extremities. The only really practicable road into the town was
by the narrow end of the high curtain above the half bastion of St.

In front of the loopholed wall, about the middle of the great breach,
stood the tower of Los Hornos, still capable of some defence, and
beneath it a mine was charged with twelve hundred weight of powder.
The streets were all trenched and furnished with traverses to cover
a retreat to Monte Orgullo; and before the main breach could be
even reached a lodgement was to be effected in the horn-work; or,
as in the former assault, the advance made under a flanking fire of
musketry for two hundred yards, the first step being close to the sea
wall at a salient angle, where two mines charged with eight hundred
pounds of powder were prepared to overwhelm the advancing columns.
To support this system of retrenchments and mines there was still
one sixteen-pounder at St. Elmo, flanking the left of the breaches
on the river face; a twelve and an eight-pounder in the casemates of
the cavalier, to sweep the land face of St. John; many guns from the
Monte Orgullo, also especially those at the Mirador, could play on the
advancing columns, and there was a four-pounder hidden on the horn-work
to open during the assault. Neither the resolution of the governor
nor the courage of the garrison was abated, but the overwhelming fire
had reduced the fighting men, and Rey, who had only two hundred and
fifty in reserve, demanded of Soult whether his brave garrison should
be exposed to another assault. “_The army would endeavour to succour
him_,” was the reply, and he abided his fate.

This assault, before the defences were ruined, was obviously a
repetition of the former fatal error; and the same generals who had
before publicly disapproved of the operations now more freely dealt
out censures, which, not ill-founded, were most ill-timed, because
doubts descend from the commanders to the soldiers. Lord Wellington
thought the fifth division had been thus discouraged, and incensed at
the cause, demanded fifty volunteers from each of the fifteen regiments
composing the first, fourth, and light divisions, “_men who could show
other troops how to mount a breach_.” That was the phrase employed,
and seven hundred and fifty gallant soldiers instantly marched to San
Sebastian in answer to the appeal. Colonel Cooke and Major Robertson
led the Guards and Germans of the first division; Major Rose commanded
the men of the fourth division; Colonel Hunt, an officer who had
already won his promotion at former assaults, led the fierce rugged
veterans of the light division, yet there were good officers and brave
soldiers in the fifth division.

At first a simple lodgement on the great breach was designed, and
the volunteers and one brigade of the fifth division only were to be
employed; but in a council held at night, the engineer Smith maintained
that the orders were misunderstood, as no lodgement could be formed
unless the high curtain was gained; General Oswald was of the same
opinion; wherefore the remainder of the fifth division was brought to
the trenches, and General Bradford, having offered the services of
his Portuguese brigade, had a discretion to ford the Urumea from the
Chofres and assail the farthest breach.

General Leith, commanding the fifth division, directed the attack from
the isthmus, and being offended at the arrival of the volunteers would
not suffer them to lead the assault; some he spread along the trenches
to keep down the fire of the horn-work, the remainder he kept in
reserve with Hay’s British and Sprye’s Portuguese brigades. Robinson’s
brigade was to assault in two columns, one at the old breach between
the towers, the other at St. John and the end of the high curtain. The
small breach was left for Bradford, and some large boats filled with
troops were to menace the back of Monte Orgullo from the ocean: Graham
overlooked all the operations from the Chofres.


The morning of the 31st broke heavily, and as a thick fog hid every
object the batteries could not open until eight o’clock, but from that
hour a constant shower of heavy missiles poured upon the besieged until
eleven: then Robinson’s brigade got out of the trenches, passed through
the openings in the sea-wall and was launched against the breaches.
While this column was gathering on the strand, near the salient angle
of the horn-work, twelve men under a sergeant, whose heroic death has
not sufficed to preserve his name, running violently forward, leaped on
the covered way to cut the sausage of the enemy’s mines, and the French
fired the train prematurely; the sergeant and his brave followers were
destroyed, and the high sea-wall was thrown with a dreadful crash
upon the head of the advancing column, but not more than forty men
were crushed and the rush was scarcely checked. The forlorn hope had
previously passed beyond the play of the mine, speeding along the
strand amidst a shower of grape and shells, the leader, Lieutenant
Macguire of the 4th Regiment, conspicuous from his long white plume,
his fine figure, and his swiftness, bounding far ahead of his men in
all the pride of youthful strength and courage, but at the foot of the
great breach he fell dead, and the stormers swept like a dark surge
over his body: many died with him and the trickling of wounded men to
the rear was incessant.

A broad strand had been left by the retreating tide, and the sun had
dried the rocks, yet they still broke the ranks and the main breach
was two hundred yards off; the French also, seeing the first mass of
assailants pass the horn-work without attacking, crowded to the river
face and poured their musketry into the flank of the second column
as it rushed along a few yards below them: yet still running forward
the British returned this fire without slackening their speed. Then
the batteries of the Monte Orgullo and the St. Elmo sent showers of
shot and shells down on them, the two pieces on the cavalier swept
the breach in St. John, and the four-pounder in the horn-work, being
suddenly mounted on the broken bastion, poured grape-shot into their

Although scourged thus with fire, and their array broken by shot and
by the rocks, the stormers reached the great breach and the head of
the first column mounted; but the unexpected gulf beyond could only be
passed at a few places where meagre parcels of the burned houses were
still attached to the rampart, and the deadly clatter of the French
muskets from the loop-holed wall beyond soon strewed the narrow crest
of the ruins with dead. In vain the following multitude, covering the
ascent, sought an entrance at every part; to advance was impossible and
the mass slowly sunk downwards, yet remained stubborn and immoveable
on the lower part. There they were covered from the musketry in front,
yet from several isolated points, especially the tower of Los Hornos
under which the great mine was placed, the French still struck them
with small arms, and the artillery from Monte Orgullo poured shells and
grape without intermission.

Meanwhile at the St. John affairs were worse. To reach the top of the
high curtain was quite practicable, and the effort to force a way there
being strenuous and constant, the slaughter was in proportion; for
the traverse on the flank was defended by French grenadiers who would
not yield, the two guns on the cavalier swept the front face, and the
four-pounder and the musketry from the horn-work swept the river face.
In the midst of this destruction some sappers and a working party
attached to the assaulting columns endeavoured to form a lodgement; but
no artificial materials had been provided, and most of the labourers
were killed before they could raise cover.

During this time the British batteries kept up a constant counter-fire,
which killed many French, and the reserve brigades of the 5th division
gradually fed the attack until the left wing of the 9th Regiment only
remained in the trenches. The volunteers who had been with difficulty
restrained in the parallel, calling out to know, “_why they had been
brought there if they were not to lead the assault_,”--these fierce and
terrible men, whose presence had given such offence to Leith that he
would have kept them altogether from the assault, being now perforce
let loose, went like a whirlwind to the breaches and swarmed up the
face of the ruins; but on the crest the stream of fire struck and they
came down like a falling wall; crowd after crowd were seen to mount,
to totter, to sink, and when the smoke floated away the summit bore no
living man.

Graham, standing on the nearest of the Chofre batteries, beheld this
frightful destruction with a stern resolution to win at any cost, and
he was a man to have put himself at the head of the last company and
died sword in hand rather than sustain a second defeat: but neither
his confidence nor his resources were yet exhausted. He directed a new
attack on the horn-work, and concentrating the fire of fifty heavy
pieces upon the high curtain sent his shot over the heads of the troops
gathered at the foot of the breach; a fearful stream of missiles,
which pouring along the upper surface of the high curtain broke down
the traverses, shattering all things, and strewing the rampart with
the mangled limbs of the defenders. When this flight of bullets
first swept over the heads of the soldiers a cry arose from some
inexperienced people, “_to retire because the batteries were firing on
the stormers_;” but the veterans of the light division, being at that
point, were not to be so disturbed, and in the very heat and fury of
the cannonade effected a solid lodgement in some house ruins actually
within the rampart, on the right of the great breach.

For half an hour the horrid tempest smote upon the works and the houses
behind, and then suddenly ceased, when the clatter of French muskets
was again heard, showing that the assailants were still in activity.
At the same time the 13th Portuguese Regiment under Major Snodgrass,
followed by a detachment of the 24th under Colonel Macbean, entered
the river from the Chofres. The ford was deep, the water rose above
the waist, and when the soldiers reached the middle of the stream, two
hundred yards wide, a shower of grape struck the column with terrible
havoc, yet the survivors closed and moved on; a second discharge tore
the ranks from front to rear; still the regiment moved on, and amidst
a confused fire of musketry from the ramparts, and artillery from
St. Elmo, the castle, and the Mirador, landed and rushed against the
third breach, while Macbean’s men reinforced the great breach. The
fighting then again became fierce and obstinate at all the breaches;
yet the French musketry rolled with deadly effect, the heaps of slain
increased, and once more the great mass of stormers sunk to the foot of
the ruins unable to win: the living sheltered themselves as they could,
and the dead and wounded lay so thickly that hardly could it be judged
whether the hurt or unhurt were most numerous.

It was now evident the assault must fail unless some accident
intervened; for the tide was rising, the reserves all engaged, and no
greater effort could be expected from men whose passionate courage
had been already pushed to the verge of madness. Fortune intervened.
A number of powder barrels, live shells, and combustible materials
accumulated behind the traverses caught fire, a bright consuming flame
wrapped the high curtain, a succession of explosions followed, hundreds
of the French grenadiers were destroyed; the rest were thrown into
confusion, and while the ramparts were still involved with suffocating
eddies of smoke the British soldiers broke in at the first traverse.
The French, bewildered by this terrible disaster, yielded for a moment,
yet soon rallied, and a close desperate struggle took place along
the summit of the high curtain, but the fury of the stormers, whose
numbers increased every moment, could not be stemmed; the colours on
the cavalier were torn away by Lieutenant Gethin of the 11th Regiment;
the horn-work, the land front below the curtain, and the loop-holed
wall behind the great breach, all were abandoned, and then the light
division soldiers, already established in the ruins on the French left,
penetrated into the streets; and at the same moment the Portuguese at
the small breach, mixed with British who had wandered to that point
seeking for an entrance, burst in on their side.

Five hours this dreadful battle had lasted at the walls, and now the
stream of war went pouring into the town; yet the undaunted governor
still disputed the victory at his barricades, although several hundreds
of men had been cut off in the horn-work, and his garrison was so
reduced that even to retreat behind the line of defence separating the
town from Monte Orgullo was difficult: however the troops, flying
from the horn-work on the harbour flank, broke through a body of the
British near the fortified convent of Santa Téresa, and that post was
still retained by the French within the town. It was thought Monte
Orgullo might have been then carried if a commander of rank to direct
the troops had been at hand; but, as in the first assault, whether
from wounds or accident no general entered the place until long after
the breach had been won, the battalion officers were embarrassed for
want of orders, and a thunder-storm, coming down the mountains with
unbounded fury just as the place was carried, added to the confusion of
the fight--the opportunity was lost.

This storm seemed to be a signal from hell for the perpetration of
villany which would have shamed the most ferocious barbarians of
antiquity. At Ciudad Rodrigo intoxication and plunder had been the
principal objects; at Badajos lust and murder were joined to rapine
and drunkenness; at San Sebastian, the direst, the most revolting
cruelty was added to the catalogue of crimes: one atrocity, of
which a girl of seventeen was the victim, staggers the mind by its
enormous, incredible, indescribable barbarity. Some order was at first
maintained, but the resolution to throw off discipline was quickly
made manifest. A British staff-officer was pursued with a volley of
small arms and escaped with difficulty from men who mistook him for
a provost-marshal; a Portuguese adjutant, striving to prevent some
ruffianism, was put to death in the market-place, not with sudden
violence but deliberately. Many officers exerted themselves to preserve
order, many men were well-conducted, yet the rapine and violence
commenced by villains soon spread, the camp-followers crowded into the
place, and the disorder continued until fire, following the steps of
the plunderer, put an end to his ferocity by destroying the whole town.

Three generals, Leith, Oswald, and Robinson, had been hurt in the
trenches; Sir Richard Fletcher, a brave man, was killed; Colonel
Burgoyne, next in command of the engineers, was wounded. The carnage
at the breaches was appalling. Nearly half the volunteers were struck
down, the fifth division suffered in the same proportion, and the
whole loss since the renewal of the siege exceeded two thousand five
hundred men and officers. Amongst the last may be mentioned Lieutenant
John O’Connel of the 43rd, in blood nearly related to the celebrated
turbulent agitator. He was gentle, amiable, and modest, and brave as
man could be, and having previously been in several storming parties
here again sought in such dangerous service the promotion he had earned
before without receiving--he found death.

Monte Orgullo was now to be attacked. Steep and difficult to assail
it was, and just below the castle four batteries connected with
masonry were stretched across its face; from their extremities, also,
ramps protected by redans led to the convent of Santa Téresa, the
most salient part of the defence. Towards the harbour and behind the
mountain were sea batteries, and if all these works had been of good
construction and defended by fresh troops the siege would have been
difficult; but the garrison was shattered by the recent assault, most
of the engineers were killed, the governor wounded, five hundred men
sick or hurt, and the soldiers fit for duty, only thirteen hundred, had
four hundred prisoners to guard. The castle was small, the bomb-proofs
filled with ammunition and provisions, and but ten guns were left for
service, three being on the sea line. There was little water, and the
soldiers had to lie on the naked rock, exposed to fire, or only covered
by asperities of ground; they were however still resolute to fight, and
received nightly, by sea, supplies of ammunition in small quantities.

Lord Wellington arrived the day after the assault, and judging regular
approaches up the naked rock impracticable, doubting also the power of
vertical fire, he resolved to breach the remaining line of defence and
then storm the Orgullo. Meanwhile from the Santa Téresa convent, which
was actually in the town, the French killed many men; and when, after
several days, it was assaulted, they set the lower parts on fire and
retired by a communication from the roof to a ramp on the hill behind.
All this time the flames were licking up the houses, and the Orgullo
was overwhelmed with vertical fire.

On the 3rd of September the governor was summoned, he was unshaken,
and the vertical fire was continued day and night, the British
prisoners suffering as well as the enemy; for the officer in the
castle, irritated by the misery of the garrison, cruelly refused to
let the unfortunate captives make trenches to cover themselves. The
French however complain, that their wounded and sick men, placed in an
empty magazine with a black flag flying, were fired upon, although the
English prisoners, in their uniforms, were posted around to strengthen
the claim of humanity.

New breaching batteries were now commenced and armed with guns, brought
from the Chofres at low water across the Urumea, at first in the night,
but the difficulty of labouring in the water during darkness finally
induced the artillery officers to transport them in daylight under the
enemy’s batteries, which did not however fire. In the town labour was
impeded by the flaming houses, but near the foot of the Orgullo the
ruins furnished shelter for musketeers to gall the garrison, and the
Santa Clara Island battery was actively worked by the seamen. With
the besieged ammunition was scarce, and the horrible vertical fire,
contrary to Lord Wellington’s expectation, subdued their energy; yet
the action was prolonged until the 8th of September, when fifty-nine
heavy battering pieces opened at once from the island, the isthmus, the
horn-work and the Chofres. In two hours the Mirador and Queen’s battery
were broken, the French fire extinguished, and the hill furrowed
in a frightful manner; the bread-ovens were destroyed, a magazine
exploded, and the castle, small and crowded with men, was overlaid
with the descending shells. Then proudly bending to fate the governor
surrendered. On the 9th this brave man and his heroic garrison, reduced
to one-third of their original number, and leaving five hundred wounded
behind, marched out with the honours of war. The siege thus terminated,
after sixty-three days’ open trenches, and just as the tempestuous
season, then beginning to vex the coast, would have rendered a
continuance of the sea blockade impossible.

The excesses committed in the storming of San Sebastian caused great
indignation in Spain, and justly; but they were used by the Spanish
government to create a hatred of the British army, and, horrible as
were the facts, it is certain the atrocities were the work of a few.
Writers have not been wanting however to excuse them on the insulting
ground, that no soldiers can be restrained after storming a town and
British soldiers least of all, because they are brutish and insensible
to honour! Shame on such calumnies! What makes the British soldier
fight as no other soldier ever fights? His pay! Soldiers of all nations
receive pay. At the period of this assault, a sergeant of the 28th,
named Ball, being sent with a party to the coast from Roncesvalles to
make purchases for his officers, placed two thousand dollars entrusted
to him with a commissary, secured his receipt and persuaded his party
to join in the storm. He survived, reclaimed the money, made his
purchases, and returned to his regiment. And these are the men, these
the spirits who are called too brutish to work upon except by fear! It
is to fear they are most insensible!


While Sebastian was being stormed Soult fought a battle with the
covering force, not willingly, nor with much hope of success; but
being averse to let it fall without another effort, he thought a bold
demeanour would best hide his real weakness. Guided however by the
progress of the siege, which he knew through his sea communication,
he awaited the last moment of action, striving meanwhile to improve
his resources and revive public confidence. Of his dispersed soldiers
eight thousand had rejoined, and he was promised a reinforcement of
thirty thousand conscripts; but these last were yet to be enrolled, and
neither the progress of the siege nor the panic along the frontier,
which recurred with increased violence after the late battles, would
suffer him to wait.

He knew his enemy’s superior strength in positions, number and military
confidence, yet expected, as his former effort had interrupted the
siege, another would produce a like effect; and he hoped, by repeating
the disturbance, as long as he could by sea reinforce and supply
the garrison, to render the siege a wasting operation. To renew the
movement against Pampeluna was most advantageous, but it required
fifty thousand infantry for attack, twenty thousand for observation
on the Lower Bidassoa, and he had not so many. His supplies also were
uncertain, the loss of all the military carriages at Vittoria was still
felt, the resources of the country were reluctantly yielded by the
people, and to act on the side of St. Jean Pied de Port was therefore

To attack the allies’ centre was unpromising. Two mountain-chains were
to be forced before the movement could seriously affect Wellington,
and as the ways were impracticable for guns success would not give any
decisive result. To attack the left of the allies by the great road
of Irun remained. He could there employ forty-five thousand infantry,
but the positions were of perilous strength. The Upper Bidassoa was
in Wellington’s power, because the light division, occupying Vera and
the heights of Santa Barbara on the right bank, commanded all the
bridges. The Lower Bidassoa, flowing from Vera with a bend to the left,
separated the hostile armies, and against that line, of nine miles, the
attack was necessarily directed. From the broken bridge of Behobia,
in front of Irun, to the sea, the river, broad and tidal, offered no
apparent passage; from the fords of Biriatu up to those of Vera, three
miles, there was only the one passage of Andarlassa, two miles below
Vera, and there steep craggy mountain-ridges without roads lining
the river forbade great operations. Thus the points of attack were
restricted to Vera itself and the fords between Biriatu and Behobia.

To gain Oyarzun, a small town eight miles beyond the Bidassoa and close
to Passages, was Soult’s object, and a royal road led directly to it
by a broad valley between the Peña de Haya and Jaizquibel mountains;
but the Peña de Haya, called also the four-crowned mountain, filled all
the space between Vera, Lesaca, Irun and Oyarzun, and its staring head,
bound with a rocky diadem, was impassable: from the bridges of Vera
and Lesaca, however, roads, one of them not absolutely impracticable
for guns, passed over its enormous flanks to Irun on one side, to
Oyarzun on the other, falling into the royal road at both places. Soult
therefore proposed to drive the light division from Santa Barbara, and
use the bridges of Lesaca and Vera to force a passage over the Peña
de Haya on his own right of its summit, pushing the heads of columns
towards Oyarzun and the Upper Urumea, while Reille and Villatte,
passing the Bidassoa at Biriatu, forced their way by the royal road.

Soon he changed this plan, and with great caution and subtilty brought
his left from St. Jean Pied de Port to his right, masking the movement
by his cavalry, and thus formed two columns of attack on the Lower
Bidassoa. One under Clausel, of twenty thousand men with twenty pieces
of artillery, was concentrated in the woods behind the Commissari
and Bayonette mountains above Vera. The other under Reille, eighteen
thousand strong, was placed on the Lower Bidassoa, having Foy’s
division and some light cavalry in the rear ready to augment it to
twenty-five thousand. Thirty-six pieces of artillery and two bridge
equipages were disposed near Urogne, on the royal road, all being
secreted behind the lower ridge of the mountains near Biriatu.

Soult’s first design was to attack at daybreak on the 30th, but his
preparations being incomplete he deferred it until the 31st, taking
rigorous precautions to prevent intelligence passing over to the
allies; Wellington’s emissaries had, however, told him in the night
of the 29th that the French were in movement, and the augmentation of
troops in front of Irun was observed in the morning of the 30th. In the
evening the bridge equipage and the artillery were discovered on the
royal road, and thus warned he prepared for battle with little anxiety;
for a fresh brigade of English foot-guards, most of the marauders and
men wounded at Vittoria, and three regiments from England, forming a
new brigade under Lord Aylmer, had recently joined.

His extreme left was on the Jaizquibel, a narrow mountain-ridge
seventeen hundred feet high, running along the coast and abutting at
one end on the Passages harbour, at the other on the navigable mouth
of the Bidassoa. Offering no mark for attack, it was only guarded
by some Spaniards; but the small fort of Figueras, commanding the
entrance of the river at its foot, was garrisoned by seamen from the
naval squadron, and Fuenterabia, a walled place, also at its base, was

The low ground between Fuenterabia and Irun was defended by large field
redoubts, connecting the Jaizquibel with some heights covering the
royal road to Oyarzun.

On the right of Irun, between Biriatu and the burned bridge of Behobia,
a sudden bend in the river presented the convex to the French, who thus
commanded the fords; but beyond those fords was a stiff and lofty
ridge, called San Marcial, terminating one of the great flanks of the
Peña de Haya. The water flowed round the left of this ridge, confining
the road from the Behobia bridge to Irun, one mile, to the narrow space
between the channel and the foot of the height; Irun itself, defended
by a field-work, blocked this way; and hence the French, after passing
the river, had to win San Marcial before they could use the great
road; but six thousand Spaniards occupied that strong ridge, which was
strengthened by abbattis and temporary field-works.

Behind Irun the first British division was posted under General Howard,
and Lord Aylmer’s brigade supported the left of the Spaniards.

San Marcial, receding from the river on the right, was exposed to an
enemy passing above Biriatu; but Longa’s Spaniards, drawn off from
those slopes of the Peña de Haya descending towards Vera, were posted
on those descending towards Biriatu, where they supported the right of
the Spaniards on San Marcial.

Eighteen thousand fighting men were thus in position, and as the fourth
division was still disposable, a Portuguese brigade was detached from
it to replace Longa near Vera, and cover the roads from that place over
the flanks of the Peña de Haya. The British brigades of that division
were stationed up the mountain, near the foundry of San Antonio,
commanding the intersection of the roads coming from Vera and Lesaca,
and furnishing a reserve to the Portuguese brigade, to Longa, and to
San Marcial--tying all together. The Portuguese brigade being however
too weak to guard the enormous slopes near Vera, Inglis’s brigade was
drawn from Echallar to reinforce it; yet the flanks of the Peña de Haya
were so rough and vast the troops seemed sprinkled rather than posted.

In the night of the 30th Soult placed his guns, and gave his orders.
Reille was to storm San Marcial, to leave a strong reserve there to
meet troops coming from Vera or descending the Peña de Haya, and with
the rest of his force drive the allies from ridge to ridge, until he
gained the slope of the mountain which descends upon Oyarzun. When
the royal road was thus opened, Foy’s infantry, with the cavalry and
artillery in one column, were to cross by bridges to be laid during the

To aid Reille’s progress and provide for a general concentration at
Oyarzun, Clausel was to make a simultaneous attack from Vera; not as
first designed, by driving the allies from Santa Barbara, but, leaving
one division and his guns to keep the light division in check, to
cross the river by fords just below the town of Vera and assail the
Portuguese brigade and Inglis, forcing his way upwards to the forge
of Antonio, from whence he was to fall down again on the rear of San
Marcial, or move on Oyarzun.


At daylight on the 31st, Reille forded the Bidassoa above Biriatu
with two divisions and two pieces of artillery, to seize a detached
ridge just under San Marcial. Leaving there one brigade as a reserve,
he detached another to attack the Spanish left, while in person he
assailed their right. The side of the mountain was covered with
brushwood and very steep, the French troops preserved no order, the
supports and skirmishers got mixed in one mass, and the charging
Spaniards drove them headlong down.

During this action two bridges were thrown below the fords, by which
Villatte’s reserve crossed and renewed the fight; one of his brigades
reached the chapel San Marcial above, and the left of the Spanish line
was shaken; but then the 85th, from Lord Aylmer’s brigade, advanced to
support, and at that moment Wellington rode up with all his staff. He
exhorted the Spaniards, and they, with a noble instinct which never
abandons the poor people of any country, acknowledged real greatness
without reference to nation; for, shouting in reply they dashed their
adversaries down with so much violence that many were driven into the
river, and some of the French pontoon boats coming to the succour
were overloaded and sunk. It was several hours before the broken and
confused masses could be rallied, or the bridges, which were broken
up to let the boats save the drowning men, be replaced. When that was
effected, Soult sent the whole of Villatte’s reserve over the river,
called up Foy, and prepared a better attack: with greater hope of
success, also, because Clausel was now making good way up the Peña de

COMBAT OF VERA. (Aug. 1813.)

Clausel had descended the Bayonette and Commissari mountains at
daybreak in a thick fog, but at seven o’clock the weather cleared,
and three heavy columns were seen by the troops on Santa Barbara
making for the fords below Vera. A fourth column and the guns remained
stationary on the mountains, the artillery opening now and then upon
Vera, from which the picquets of the light division were recalled, with
the exception of one post in a fortified house commanding the bridge.
At eight o’clock the French passed the fords, covered by a fire of
artillery, but the first shells thrown fell into the midst of their own
ranks, and the British troops on Santa Barbara cheered their battery
with a derisive shout. Their march was however sure, and their light
troops, without knapsacks, soon commenced battle with the Portuguese
brigade, forcing it to retire up the mountain. Inglis fed his line of
skirmishers until the whole of his brigade was engaged, but Clausel
menaced his left flank from the lowest ford, and the French skirmishers
still forced their way upwards in front until the contending masses
disappeared fighting amidst the asperities of the Peña de la Haya. The
British lost two hundred and seventy men and twenty-two officers, and
were driven up to the fourth division at the foundry of San Antonio.

This fight, from the great height and asperity of the mountain,
occupied many hours, and it was past two o’clock before even the head
of Clausel’s column reached Antonio. Meanwhile, his reserve in front
of Santa Barbara made no movement, and as Wellington had directed the
light division to aid Inglis, a wing of the 43rd, three companies
of riflemen and three weak Spanish battalions, drawn from Echallar,
crossed the Bidassoa by the Lesaca bridge and marched towards some
lower slopes on the right of Inglis. This covered a knot of minor
communications coming from Lesaca and Vera, and the remainder of
Kempt’s brigade occupied Lesaca itself. Thus the chain of connection
and defence between Santa Barbara and the positions of the fourth
division on the Peña de la Haya was completed.

Clausel seeing these movements, thought the allies at Echallar and
Santa Barbara were only awaiting to take him in flank and rear by the
bridges of Vera and Lesaca, wherefore he abated his battle and informed
Soult of his views, and his opinion was well-founded. Wellington was
not a general to have half his army paralyzed by D’Erlon’s divisions in
the centre, and had on the 30th, when Soult first assembled in front
of San Marcial, ordered attacks to be made upon D’Erlon from Echallar,
Zagaramurdi and Maya; Hill also had been directed to show the heads of
columns towards St. Jean Pied de Port; and on the 31st, when the force
and direction of Clausel’s columns were known, the seventh division was
called to Lesaca.

Following these orders, Giron’s Spaniards skirmished on the 30th with
the advanced posts in front of Sarre, and next day the whole line was
assailed. Two Portuguese brigades drove the French from their camp
behind Urdax and burned it, but Abbé who commanded there, collecting
all his force on an intrenched position made strong battle and repulsed
the attack. Thus five combats besides the assault on Sebastian were
fought in one day at different points of the general line, and D’Erlon
who had lost three or four hundred men, seeing a fresh column coming
from Maya, as if to turn his left, judged that a great movement against
Bayonne was in progress and sent notice to Soult. He was mistaken.
Wellington only sought by these demonstrations to disturb the French
plan of attack, and the seventh division marched towards Lesaca.

D’Erlon’s despatch reached Soult at the same time that Clausel’s report
arrived. All his arrangements for a final attack on San Marcial were
then completed, but these reports and the ominous cannonade at San
Sebastian, plainly heard during the morning, induced him to abandon
this project and prepare to receive a general battle on the Nivelle.
In this view he sent Foy’s infantry and six troops of dragoons to
the heights of Serres, behind the Nivelle, as a support to D’Erlon,
and directed Clausel to repass the Bidassoa in the night, to leave a
division on the Bayonette mountain and join Foy at Serres.

Reille’s troops were not recalled from San Marcial and the battle
went on sharply; for the Spaniards continually detached men from the
crest to drive the French from the lower ridges into the river until
about four o’clock, when, their hardihood abating, they desired to be
relieved; but Wellington, careful of their glory, and seeing the French
attacks were exhausted, refused to relieve or aid them. It would not be
just to measure their valour by this fact; the English general blushed
while he called upon them to fight; knowing they had been previously
famished by their vile government, and that there were no hospitals to
receive, no care for them when wounded. The battle was however arrested
by a tempest, which commenced about three o’clock and raged for several
hours with wonderful violence, tearing huge branches from the trees,
and whirling them through the air like feathers on the howling winds,
while the thinnest streams swelling into torrents dashed down the
mountains, rolling innumerable stones along with a frightful clatter.
Amidst this turmoil and under cover of night the French re-crossed the
river at San Marcial.

Clausel’s retreat was more unhappy. The order to retire reached him
when the storm had put an end to all fighting, and he repassed the
fords in person before dark at the head of two brigades, ordering
General Vandermaesen to follow with the remainder of the troops.
Expecting no difficulty, he neglected to seize the bridge of Vera and
the fortified house covering it, occupying himself with suggesting new
projects to Soult. Meanwhile Vandermaesen’s situation became desperate.
Many of his soldiers were drowned by the rising waters, and finally,
unable to effect a passage at the fords, he marched up the stream to
seize the bridge of Vera, which Clausel should have done before. His
advanced guard surprised a corporal’s picquet and rushed over, but was
driven back by a rifle company posted in the fortified house. This
happened at three o’clock in the morning, and the riflemen defended
the passage until daylight, when a second company and some Portuguese
Caçadores came to their aid. But then the French reserve left at Vera,
seeing how matters stood, opened a fire of guns against the house from
a high rock just above, and their skirmishers approached it on the
right bank, while Vandermaesen plied his musketry from the left bank:
the two rifle captains and many men fell under this cross fire and the
passage was forced; but Vandermaesen, urging the attack in person, was
killed, and more than two hundred of his soldiers were hurt.

Meanwhile Soult, who was preparing a new attack on San Marcial, got
Rey’s report of the assault on San Sebastian, and also heard that
Hill was moving on the side of St. Jean Pied de Port. San Sebastian
was lost, an attempt to carry off the garrison of the castle would
cost five or six thousand men, and the whole army would be endangered
amongst the terrible asperities of the crowned mountain; for Wellington
could now throw his right and centre, thirty-five thousand men, upon
the French left during the action, and would be nearer to Bayonne
than their right when the battle was beyond the Lower Bidassoa. Three
thousand six hundred men had been lost, one general had been killed,
four wounded; a fresh attempt would be very dangerous, and serious
losses might cause an immediate invasion of France. Reflecting on these
things, he resolved to adopt defensive measures at once, for which
his vast knowledge of war, his foresight, his talent for methodical
arrangement, and his firmness of character, peculiarly fitted him.
Twelve battles or combats in seven weeks he had delivered to regain
the offensive, unsuccessfully; yet willing still to strive, he called
on Suchet to aid him, and demanded fresh orders from the emperor; but
Suchet helped him not, and Napoleon’s answer indicated at once his own
difficulties and his reliance upon the Duke of Dalmatia’s capacity and
fidelity. “_I have given you my confidence and can add neither to your
means nor to your instructions._”

In this straggling battle the loss of the allies had been one thousand
Anglo-Portuguese and sixteen hundred Spaniards: hence the cost of men
on the day, including the assault, exceeded five thousand; but the
battle in no manner disturbed the siege; the French army was powerless
against such strong positions.


  English Passage of the Bidassoa and Second Combat of Vera--The
    Passage of the Lower Bidassoa--Second Combat of Vera--Battle of
    the Nivelle; Characters of Colonel Lloyd and Lieutenant Freer.


The fall of San Sebastian gave Lord Wellington a new port, and let
loose a considerable body of troops; Austria had joined the allies in
Germany; the English cabinet had promised the continental sovereigns
that France should be immediately invaded; the English newspaper
editors were actively deceiving the people of all countries by their
dictatorial absurd projects and assumptions; the Bourbon partizans were
conspiring, and the Duke of Berri desired to join the British army,
pretending that twenty thousand Frenchmen were armed and organized
to receive him. All was exultation and extravagance, but Wellington,
despising such inflated hopes and promises, exposed the absurdity
of the newspapers, and checked similar folly in higher places, by
observing, “_that if he had done all that was expected he should have
been before that period in the moon_.”

Far from designing to invade France, he felt his own position insecure
while Suchet was master of Catalonia: and he was only prevented from
transferring the war to that province by the disasters Napoleon now
experienced in Germany, rendering it impossible to reinforce Soult.
However, pressed by the ministers and the allied sovereigns, he so far
bent his military judgment to political pressure, as to undertake the
establishing his army in a menacing position on French ground; and in
that view matured an offensive movement as daring as any undertaken
during the whole war. But to comprehend all the audacious grandeur of
this operation, the relative positions of the hostile armies must be
glanced at.

Soult’s base and place of arms was Bayonne, from whence roads spread
out to the Pyrenees like a fan. Two only were great causeways. One, on
the French left hand, run to St. Jean Pied de Port; the other, on their
right, run along the sea-coast through St. Jean de Luz to Irun. Between
these points, a distance of nearly forty miles, the space was filled
transversely by a double range of mountain ridges nearly parallel to
each other, on which the armies were posted; not in a continuous line,
for there were no direct lateral communications, but as the passes
and inaccessible peaks governed the dispositions. Thus on the French
left, at St. Jean Pied de Port, Foy occupied with fifteen thousand
men an entrenched camp in front of that fortress, and was opposed by
Hill’s right wing, which was planted at the head of the Val Carlos,
in the Roncesvalles and Alduides; but Foy could only communicate by
a circuitous road, leading across the Nive river at Cambo, with the
French centre, entrenched, under D’Erlon, at Ainhoa and Urdax, opposite
the Maya passes, and menacing the Bastan, where Hill’s left was posted.

At Urdax the Nivelle river bisected the French positions, and then,
turning to the left, run to St. Jean de Luz. The line of their right
centre, beyond that river, was under Clausel, and thrown forward to
Vera, along another batch of mountainous ridges, which, touching on the
Bidassoa, lined its right bank to the bridge of Behobia near Iran.

From Clausel’s right to the mouth of the Bidassoa, Soult’s right wing,
under Reille, guarded the French territory.

Clausel’s ground comprised the Great La Rhune mountain, two thousand
seven hundred feet high, whose bleak rocky head overlooked everything
around, and from whose flanks the positions of Sarre shot out on the
French left, and on their right the Commissari, Bayonette, and Mandale
ridge--the two first overhanging Vera, the last lining the Bidassoa
down to San Marcial and Irun.

Opposed to Clausel Wellington held, first the Atchiola mountain on the
left of Maya, then the Echallar ridges as far as the Ivantelly mountain
facing Sarre, and the Santa Barbara ridge abutting on the Bidassoa at
Vera, facing the Bayonette and Commissari. On the left bank of the
Bidassoa he occupied the flanks of the Peña de Haya to San Marcial,
from whence his redoubts, as before noticed, run along the river to the

Soult had commenced a chain of entrenched camps and redoubts along his
whole line, and in the low country, from the end of the Mandale to the
sea, was constructing a double chain of entrenched positions and camps
bearing many names and to be noticed in the narrative. These works were
approaching completion when Wellington resolved to seize the Great La
Rhune with its dependents on both flanks, at the same time forcing
the passage of the Lower Bidassoa in face of Soult’s entrenchments.
Thus he would establish his left in the French territory, from Sarre
to the sea, and bring within his own lines the Rhune, the Commissari,
and Bayonette mountains, which would give him a salient menacing
point of impregnable strength towards France, and shorten his lateral
communication on both flanks of those mountains. It would also give
entire command of a road running up the Bidassoa from Irun to Vera,
and secure the port of Fuenterabia, which, though bad in winter, was
desirable for a general whose supplies came from the ocean, and who
with scanty means of transport had to sustain the perverse negligence
always, and often the hostility of the Spanish authorities.

He had designed to force the passage in the middle of September before
the French works were advanced, but his pontoons were delayed by a
negligence of orders; the weather then became bad, and the attempt,
which depended upon the state of the tides and fords, was of necessity
deferred to the 7th of October.

Great subtlety was to be combined with wonderful boldness, for the
Bidassoa was broad and tidal below Irun, and the ridges lining it
above that point rough and terrible to assail; both water and mountain
line were strengthened with works, incomplete indeed, but already of
strength in defence; the river was also to be passed and the positions
beyond carried between tides, or the troops would be swallowed by
the returning flood. Hence to mislead Soult, to support the blockade
of Pampeluna, and to ascertain Foy’s true position and strength at
St. Jean Pied de Port, which menaced anew that blockade, Wellington
brought up Del Parque’s army from Tudela to Pampeluna, transferred the
Andalusians at the latter place to Giron at Echallar, and directed
Mina to gather his irregulars around the Roncesvalles: then repairing
himself to that quarter on the 1st of October, he surprised a French
post on the Ayrola rock, cut off a scouting party in the Val de
Baygorry, and swept away two thousand sheep.

These movements awakened Soult’s jealousy. He expected an invasion
of France without being able to ascertain from what quarter, and at
first, deceived by false information that Cole had reinforced Hill,
thought Mina’s troops and the Andalusians were used to mask an attack
by the Val de Baygorry. The arrival of the light cavalry in the Bastan,
Wellington’s presence at Roncesvalles, and the loss of the Ayrola post,
seemed to confirm this; but he knew that pontoons were at Oyarzun, and
the deserters, very numerous at this time, said the real object was
the Great Rhune. On the other hand, a French commissary, taken at San
Sebastian and exchanged after remaining twelve days at Wellington’s
head-quarters, assured him nothing there indicated a serious attack.
This weighed much, because the negligence about the pontoons, and the
wet weather, had caused a delay contradictory to the reports of the
spies and deserters. It was also beyond calculation that Wellington,
merely to please the allied sovereigns in Germany, should thereby seek
to establish his left wing in France, when the most obvious line for
a permanent invasion was by his right and centre, and there was no
apparent cause for deferring his operations.

The cause of the procrastination, namely, the state of the tides and
fords on the Lower Bidassoa, was necessarily impenetrable, and Soult
finally inclined to think the only design was to secure the blockade
of Pampeluna by menacing the French, and impeding their entrenchments
which were now becoming strong. Nevertheless, as all the deserters and
spies came with the same story, he recommended increased vigilance
along the whole line; yet so little did he anticipate the real project,
that on the 6th he reviewed D’Erlon’s divisions at Ainhoa and remained
that night at Espelette, doubting if any attack was intended, and
having no fear for his right. But Wellington could not diminish his
troops on the side of Roncesvalles, lest a force should unite at St.
Jean Pied de Port to raise the blockade of Pampeluna; and at Maya,
Hill was already menacing Soult between the Nive and the Nivelle: it
was therefore only with his left wing and left centre, and against the
French right, that he could act while Pampeluna held out.

Early in October a reinforcement of twelve hundred British soldiers
arrived from England. Mina was then on the right of Hill, who was thus
enabled to call Campbell’s Portuguese from the Alduides, and replace
at Maya the third division, which, shifting to its left, then occupied
the heights of Zagaramurdi and enabled the seventh division to relieve
Giron’s Andalusians in the Puerto de Echallar.

These dispositions were made with a view to the attack of the Great
Rhune and its dependents, for which Wellington assembled the fourth
and light divisions on Santa Barbara, Giron’s Spaniards being on their
right, and Longa’s on their left. The sixth division, supported by the
third, was at Zagaramurdi to make a demonstration against D’Erlon’s
advanced posts. Thus, without weakening his line between Roncesvalles
and Echallar, he could assail the Rhune mountain and its dependents
with twenty thousand men, and had still twenty-four thousand disposable
for the passage of the Lower Bidassoa.

It has been before said that between the Andarlasa ford, below Vera,
and the fords of Biriatu, a distance of three miles, there were neither
roads nor fords nor bridges. The French, trusting to this difficulty
of approach and to their entrenchments on the craggy slopes of the
Mandale, had collected their troops principally where the Bildox or
green mountain, and the entrenched camp of Biriatu overlooked the
fords, and against them Wellington directed Freyre’s Spaniards from San

Between Biriatu and the sea the advanced points of defence were the
mountain of _Louis_ XIV., a ridge called the _Caffé Républicain_, and
the town of Andaya; behind which the _Calvaire d’Urogne_, the _Croix
des Bouquets_, and the camp of the _Sans Culottes_, served as rallying
posts. The first and fifth divisions, and the unattached brigades of
Wilson and Lord Aylmer, in all fifteen thousand men, were destined to
assault these works; and the Spanish fishermen had secretly indicated
three fords practicable at low water between the bridge of Behobia
and the sea. Wellington therefore, with an astonishing hardihood,
designed to pass his columns at the old known fords above and these
secret fords below bridge, though the tides rose sixteen feet, leaving
at the ebb open heavy sands not less than half a mile broad! The left
bank of the river also was completely exposed to observation from
the enemy’s hills, which, though low in comparison of the mountains
above the bridge, were strong ridges of defence; but relying on his
previous measures the English general disdained these dangers, and his
anticipations were not belied by the result. For the unlikelihood that,
having a better line of operations, he would force such a river as
the Bidassoa at its mouth, entirely deceived Soult, whose lieutenants
were also very negligent. Of Reille’s two divisions, one under Boyer
was dispersed, labouring on the entrenched camp of Urogne far from the
river; Villatte’s reserve was at Ascain and Serres; and five thousand
men of Maucune’s division, though on the first line, were unexpectant
of an attack. The works on the Mandale were finished, those at Biriatu
in a forward state, but from the latter to the sea all were imperfect.


On the 6th the night set in heavily. A sullen thunderstorm, gathering
about the craggy summit of the Peña de Haya, came slowly down its
flanks, and towards morning, rolling over the Bidassoa, fell in its
greatest violence upon the French positions. During this turmoil
Wellington, whose pontoons and artillery were close up to Irun,
disposed a number of guns and howitzers along the crest of San Marcial,
and his columns secretly attained their stations along the banks of the
river. The Spaniards, one brigade of Guards, and Wilson’s Portuguese,
stretching from the Biriatu fords to the broken bridge of Behobia,
were ensconced behind the lower ridge of San Marcial, which had been
seized by the French in the attack of the 31st; another brigade of
Guards and the Germans were concealed near Irun, close to a ford, below
bridge, called the Great Jonco; the fifth division were covered by a
river embankment opposite Andaya; Sprye’s Portuguese and Lord Aylmer’s
brigade were posted in the ditch of Fuenterabia.

All the tents were left standing in the camps, and the enemy, seeing
no change on the morning of the 7th, were unsuspicious; but at seven
o’clock, the fifth division and Aylmer’s brigade, emerging from their
concealment took the sands in two columns. The left one moved against
the French camp of the Sans Culottes, the other against the ridge of
Andaya, but no shot was fired until they passed the low water channel,
when an English rocket was sent up from the steeple of Fuenterabia as
a signal. Then the artillery opened from San Marcial, the troops near
Irun, covered by the fire of a battery, made for the Jonco, and the
passage above the bridge also commenced.

From the crest of San Marcial seven columns could now be seen at once,
attacking on a line of five miles; those above bridge plunging at once
into the fiery contest, those below, appearing in the distance like
huge serpents sullenly winding over the heavy sands. The Germans missed
the Jonco ford and got into deep water, yet quickly recovered the true
line, and the French, completely surprised, permitted even the brigades
of the fifth division to gain the right bank and form their lines
before a hostile musket flashed. The cannonade from San Marcial was
heard by Soult at Espelette, and at the same time the sixth division
made a false attack on D’Erlon’s positions; the Portuguese brigade
under Colonel Douglas, was however pushed too far and got beaten with
the loss of a hundred and fifty men.

Soult now comprehending the true state of affairs hurried to his right,
but his camps on the Bidassoa were lost before he arrived. For when the
British artillery first opened, Maucune’s troops assembled at their
different posts, and the French guns opened from the Louis XIV. and
Caffé Républicain; then the alarm spread, and Boyer marched from Urogne
to support Maucune, without waiting for the junction of his working
parties; but his brigades moved separately as they could collect,
and before the first came into action, Sprye’s Portuguese, forming
the extreme left of the allies, were menacing the camp of the Sans
Culottes: thither therefore one of Boyer’s regiments was ordered, while
the others advanced by the royal road towards the Croix des Bouquets.
Andaya, guarded only by a picquet, was meanwhile abandoned, and
Reille, thinking the camp of the Sans Culottes would be lost before
Boyer’s men could reach it, sent a battalion there from the centre; he
thus weakened the chief point; for the British brigades of the fifth
division were now bearing from Andaya towards the Croix des Bouquets
under a fire of guns and musketry.

The first division had passed the river, one column above bridge,
preceded by Wilson’s Portuguese, the other below, preceded by the
German light troops, who with the aid of the artillery on San Marcial
won the Caffé Républicain and the mountain of Louis XIV., driving
the French to the Croix des Bouquets. This last was the key of the
position, and towards it guns and troops were now hastening from both
sides, but the Germans were there brought to a check, for the heights
were strong and Boyer’s leading battalions close at hand; at that
moment however, Colonel Cameron, coming up with the 9th Regiment,
passed through the German skirmishers and vehemently ascended the
first height, whereupon the French opened their ranks to let their
guns retire, and then retreated at full speed to a second ridge,
somewhat lower, but only to be approached on a narrow front. Cameron
as quickly threw his men into a single column and bore against this
new position under a concentrated fire, yet his violent course did
not seem to dismay the French until within ten yards when the furious
shout and charge of the 9th appalled them and the ridges of the
Croix des Bouquets were won as far as the royal road. Cameron lost
many men and officers, and during the fight the French artillery and
scattered troops, coming from different points and rallying on Boyer’s
battalions, had gathered on other ridges close at hand.

The entrenched camp above Biriatu had been at first well defended
in front, but the Spanish right wing being opposed only by a single
battalion, soon won the Mandale mountain whereupon the French fell back
from the camp to the Calvaire d’Urogne. Then Reille, beaten at the
Croix des Bouquets and having both his flanks turned, the left by the
Spaniards, the right along the sea-coast, retreated in great disorder
through the village of Urogne. The British skirmishers entered that
place in pursuit, but were immediately beaten out again by the second
brigade of Boyer’s division; for Soult had now arrived with part of
Villatte’s reserve and many guns, and by his presence restored order
just as retreat was degenerating into flight.

Reille lost eight guns and four hundred men; the allies only six
hundred men, of which half were Spaniards, so easy had the skill of
the English general rendered this stupendous operation. But if Soult,
penetrating Wellington’s design, had met the allies with the sixteen
thousand troops of that quarter, instead of the five thousand actually
engaged, the passage could scarcely have been forced; and a simple
check would have been tantamount to a terrible disaster, because in two
hours the returning tide would have come with a swallowing flood upon
the rear.


Equally unprepared and unsuccessful were the French on the side of
Vera, although the struggle there proved more fierce and constant.

Before daybreak Giron descended with his Spaniards from the Ivantelly
rocks, and Alten with the light division from Santa Barbara; the first
to the gorge of the pass leading from Vera to Sarre, the last to the
town of Vera, where he was joined by half of Longa’s force.

One brigade, consisting of the 43rd, 17th Portuguese Regiment, and
two battalions of British riflemen, were in columns on the right of
Vera; the other brigade under Colonel Colborne, consisting of the
52nd, two battalions of Caçadores, and a third battalion of British
riflemen, were on the left of that town: half of Longa’s division was
between these brigades, the other half, after crossing the ford of
Salinas, drew up on Colborne’s left. The whole of the narrow vale of
Vera was thus filled with troops ready to ascend the mountains; and
General Cole, displaying his force to advantage on the heights of Santa
Barbara, presented a formidable reserve.

Taupin’s division guarded the enormous positions in front. His right
was on the Bayonette, from whence a single slope descended to a small
plain, two parts down the mountain. From this platform three distinct
tongues shot into the valley below, each defended by an advanced post;
the platform itself was secured by a star redoubt, behind which, about
half-way up the single slope, there was a second retrenchment with
abbatis. Another large redoubt and an unfinished breast-work on the
superior crest completed the defence.

The Commissari, a continuation of the Bayonette, towards the Great
Rhune, had in front a profound gulf thickly wooded and filled with
skirmishers; and between this gulf and another of the same nature,
run the main road from Vera over the Puerto, piercing the centre of
the French position. Ascending with short abrupt turns, this road was
blocked at every uncovered point with abbatis and small retrenchments,
each obstacle being commanded at half musket shot by small detachments
placed on all the projecting parts overlooking the ascent. A regiment,
entrenched above on the Puerto itself, connected the troops on the
crest of the Bayonette and Commissari with those on a saddle-ridge,
which joined those mountains with the Great Rhune, and was to be
assailed by Giron.

Between Alten’s right and Giron’s left was an isolated advanced ridge
called by the soldiers the _Boar’s back_, the summit of which, half
a mile long and rounded at each end, was occupied by four French
companies. This huge cavalier, thrown as it were into the gulf on the
allies’ right of the road, covered the Puerto and the saddle-ridge;
and though of mean height in comparison of the towering ranges behind,
was yet so lofty, that a few warning-shots, fired from the summit by
the enemy, only reached the allies at its base with that slow singing
sound which marks the dying force of a musket-ball. It was essential
to take this Boar’s back before the general attack commenced, and five
companies of riflemen, supported by the 17th Portuguese, assailed it
at the Vera end, while a battalion of Giron’s Spaniards, preceded by
a company of the 43rd, attacked it on the other. Meanwhile the French
were in confusion.

Clausel knew by a spy in the night that the Bayonette was to be
assaulted, and in the morning had heard from Conroux who was at Sarre,
that Giron’s camps were abandoned although the tents of the seventh
division were still standing; at the same time musketry was heard on
the side of Urdax, a cannonade on the side of Irun; then came Taupin’s
report that the vale of Vera was filled with troops, and to this last
quarter Clausel hurried. On his left the Spaniards had then driven
Conroux’s outposts from the gorge leading to Sarre, and a detachment
was creeping up towards the unguarded head of the Great Rhune;
wherefore, ordering four regiments of Conroux’s division to occupy
the summit, the front, and the flanks, of that mountain, he placed
a reserve of two other regiments behind it, hoping thus to secure
possession and support Taupin: but that general’s fate had been already
decided by Alten.

Soon after seven o’clock a few cannon-shot from some mountain-guns, of
which each side had a battery, were followed by the Spanish musketry
on the right, and the next moment the Boar’s back was simultaneously
assailed at both ends. The riflemen on the Vera side ascended to a
small pine-wood two-thirds up and there rested, but soon resumed
their movement and with a scornful gallantry swept the French off
the top, disdaining to use their rifles, save a few shots down the
reverse side to show they were masters of the ridge. This had been the
signal for the general attack. The Portuguese followed the victorious
sharp-shooters; the 43rd, preceded by their own skirmishers and the
remainder of the riflemen of the right wing, plunged into the rugged
pass; Longa entered the gloomy wood of the ravine on their left; and
beyond Longa, Colborne’s brigade, moving by narrow paths, assailed the
Bayonette. The 52nd took the middle tongue, the Caçadores and riflemen
the two outermost, all bearing with a concentric movement against the
star redoubt on the platform above. Longa’s second brigade should have
flanked the left of this attack with a wide skirting movement; but
neither he nor his starved soldiers knew much of such warfare, and
therefore quietly followed the riflemen in reserve.

Soon the open slopes were covered with men and with fire, and a
confused sound of mingled shouts and musketry filled the deep hollows,
from whence the white smoke came curling up from their gloomy recesses.
The French, compared with their assailants, seemed few and scattered
on the mountain side, and Kempt’s brigade fought its way without a
check through all the retrenchments on the main pass, the skirmishers
spreading wider as the depth of the ravines on each side lessened and
melted into the higher ridges. When half-way up an open platform
gave a clear view over the Bayonette slopes, and all eyes were turned
that way. Longa’s right brigade, fighting in the gulf between, seemed
labouring and over-matched; but beyond it, on the broad open space in
front of the star-fort, Colborne’s Caçadores and riflemen were seen to
come out in small bodies from a forest which covered the three tongues
of land up to the edge of the platform. Their fire was sharp, their
pace rapid, and in a few moments they closed upon the redoubt in a
mass; the 52nd were not then in sight, and the French, thinking from
the dark clothing all were Portuguese, rushed in close order out of
the entrenchment; they were numerous and very sudden, the rifle as a
weapon is overmatched by the musket and bayonet, and this rough charge
sent the scattered assailants back over the rocky edge of the descent.
With shrill cries the French followed, but just then the 52nd soldiers
appeared on the platform and raising their shout rushed forward; their
red uniform and full career startled the hitherto adventurous French,
they stopped short, wavered, turned, and fled to their entrenchment.
The 52nd, following hard, entered the works with them, and then the
riflemen and Caçadores, who had meanwhile rallied, passed it on both
flanks; for a few moments everything was hidden by a dense volume of
smoke, but again the British shout pealed high and the whole mass
emerged on the other side, the French, now the fewer, flying, the
others pursuing, until the second entrenchment, half-way up the parent
slope, enabled the retreating troops to make another stand.

The exulting and approving cheers of Kempt’s brigade then echoed
along the mountain-side, and with renewed vigour the men continued
to scale the craggy mountain, fighting their toilsome way to the top
of the Puerto. Meanwhile Colborne, after having carried the second
entrenchment above the star-fort, was brought to a check by the works
on the crest of the mountain, from whence the French not only plied
his troops with musketry at a great advantage but rolled huge stones
down the steep. These works were well lined with men and strengthened
by a large redoubt on the right, yet the defenders faltered, for their
left flank was turned by Kempt, and the effects of Wellington’s general
combinations were then felt in another quarter.

Freyre’s Spaniards, after carrying the Mandale mountain, had pushed
to a road leading from the Bayonette to St. Jean de Luz, which was
the line of retreat for Taupin’s right wing. The Spaniards got there
first, and Taupin, being thus cut off on that side, had to file his
right under fire along the crest of the Bayonette to reach the Puerto
de Vera road, where he joined his centre, but, so doing, lost a
mountain-battery and three hundred men. These last were captured by
Colborne in a remarkable manner. Accompanied by one of his staff and
half-a-dozen riflemen, he crossed their march unexpectedly, and with
his usual cool intrepidity ordered them to lay down their arms; an
order which they, thinking themselves entirely cut off, obeyed. During
these events, the French skirmishers in the deep ravine between the
two lines of attack, being feebly pushed by Longa’s troops, retreated
slowly, and getting amongst some rocks from whence there was no escape
also surrendered to Kempt. Taupin’s right and centre being then
completely beaten fled down the side of the mountain, closely pursued
until they rallied upon Villatte’s reserve, which was in order of
battle on a ridge extending across the gorge of Olette, between Urogne
and Ascain. The Bayonette, Commissari, and Puerto de Vera, were thus
won after five hours’ incessant fighting, and toiling, up their craggy
sides. Nevertheless the battle was still maintained by the French
troops on the summit of the Rhune.

Giron, after driving Conroux’s advanced post from the gorge leading
from Vera to Sarre, had pushed a battalion towards the head of the
Great Rhune, and placed a reserve in the gorge to cover his rear from
any counter-attack. When his left wing was free to move by the capture
of the _Boar’s back_, he fought his way up abreast with the British
line until near the saddle-ridge, a little to the right of the Puerto;
but there his men were arrested by a strong line of abbatis, from
behind which two French regiments poured a heavy fire. An adventurer
named Downie, then a Spanish general, exhorted them and they kept
their ranks, yet did not advance; but there happened to be present an
officer of the 43rd Regiment, named Havelock,[38] who being attached
to Alten’s staff had been sent to ascertain Giron’s progress. His fiery
temper could not brook the check. He took off his hat, called upon the
Spaniards, and putting spurs to his horse at one bound cleared the
abbatis and went headlong among the enemy. Then the soldiers, shouting
for “_El chico blanco_,”--“_the fair boy_,” so they called him, for he
was very young and had light hair,--with one shock broke through at
the very moment the French centre was flying under the fire of Kempt’s
skirmishers from the Puerto on the left.

The two defeated regiments retired by their left to the flanks of
the Rhune, and thus Clausel had eight regiments concentrated on this
great mountain. Two occupied the highest rocks called the Hermitage;
four were on the flanks, which descended towards Ascain on one hand
and Sarre on the other; the remaining two occupied a lower parallel
mountain behind called the Small Rhune. Giron’s right wing first
dislodged a small body from a detached pile of crags about musket-shot
below the summit of the Great Rhune, and then assailed the bald staring
rocks of the Hermitage itself, endeavouring at the same time to turn it
on the right. At both points the attempts were defeated with loss; the
Hermitage was impregnable: the French rolled down stones large enough
to sweep away a whole column at once, and the Spaniards resorted to a
distant musketry which lasted until night.

In this fight Taupin lost two generals, four hundred men killed and
wounded, and five hundred prisoners. The loss of the allies was nearly
a thousand, of which half were Spaniards, and the success was not
complete; for while the French kept possession of the summit of the
Rhune the allies’ new position was insecure.

Wellington, observing that the left flank of the mountain descending
towards Sarre was less inaccessible, concentrated the Spaniards next
day on that side for a combined attack against the mountain itself,
and against the camp of Sarre. At three o’clock in the afternoon the
rocks which studded the lower parts of the Rhune slope were assailed by
the Spaniards, and detachments of the seventh division descended from
the Puerto de Echallar upon the fort of San Barbe and other outworks
covering the French camp of Sarre. The Andalusians easily won the rocks
and an entrenched height commanding the camp; for Clausel, alarmed by
some slight demonstrations of the sixth division in rear of his left,
thought he should be cut off from his great camp, and very suddenly
abandoned, not only the slope of the mountain but all his advanced
works in the basin below, including the fort of San Barbe. His troops
were thus concentrated on the height behind Sarre, still holding with
their right the smaller Rhune, but the consequences of his error were
soon apparent. Wellington established a strong body of Spaniards close
to the Hermitage, and the two French regiments there, seeing the lower
slopes and San Barbe given up, imagined they also would be cut off,
and without orders abandoned their impregnable post in the night. Next
morning some of the seventh division rashly pushed into the village of
Sarre, but were quickly repulsed and would have lost the camp and works
taken the day before if the Spaniards had not succoured them.

The whole loss on the three days’ fighting was fourteen hundred French
and sixteen hundred of the allies; but many of the wounded were not
brought in until the third day after the action, and others perished
miserably where they fell, it being impossible to discover them in
those vast solitudes. Some men also descended to the French villages,
got drunk, and were taken; nor was the number small of those who
plundered in defiance of Lord Wellington’s proclamations. He arrested
and sent several officers to England, observing in his order of the
day, that if he had five times as many men he could not venture
to invade France unless marauding was prevented. It is remarkable
likewise, that the French troops on the same day acted towards their
own countrymen in the same manner, and Soult also checked the mischief
with a terrible hand, causing a captain of some reputation to be shot
as an example for having suffered his men to plunder a house in Sarre.

With exception of the slight checks sustained at Sarre and Ainhoa,
the course of these operations had been eminently successful, and the
bravery of troops who assailed and carried such stupendous positions
must be admired. To them the unfinished state of the French works was
not visible. Day after day, for more than a month, entrenchment had
risen over entrenchment, covering the slopes of mountains scarcely
accessible from their natural steepness and asperity. These could
be seen, but the growing strength of the works, the height of the
mountains, the broad river with its heavy sands and its mighty rushing
tide, all were despised by those brave soldiers; and while they
attacked with such confident valour, the French fought in defence of
their dizzy steeps with far less fierceness than when, striving against
insurmountable obstacles, they attempted to storm the lofty rocks of
Sauroren. Continual defeat had lowered their spirit. Yet the feeble
defence on this occasion may be traced to another cause. It was a
general’s, not a soldier’s battle. Wellington had with overmastering
combinations overwhelmed every point. Taupin’s and Maucune’s divisions,
each less than five thousand strong, were separately assailed, the
first by eighteen, the second by fifteen thousand men; and at neither
point were Reille and Clausel able to bring their reserves into action
before the positions were won.

Soult complained that his lieutenants were unprepared, although
repeatedly told an attack was to be expected; and though they heard
the noise of the guns and pontoons about Irun on the night of the 5th,
and again on the night of the 6th. The passage of the river had, he
said, commenced only at seven o’clock, long after daylight; the enemy’s
masses were clearly seen forming on the banks, and there was full time
for Boyer’s division to arrive before the Croix des Bouquets was lost;
yet the battle was fought in disorder with less than five thousand
men, instead of ten thousand in good order and supported by Villatte’s
reserve. To this negligence they also added discouragement. They had
so little confidence in the strength of their positions, that if the
allies had pushed vigorously forward before his own arrival, they would
have entered St. Jean de Luz and forced the French army back upon the
Nive and Adour. This was true, but such a stroke did not comport with
Wellington’s system. He could not go beyond the Adour, he doubted
whether he could even maintain his army during the winter in the
position he had already gained; and he was averse to the experiment,
while Pampeluna held out and the war in Germany bore an undecided

Soult was very apprehensive for some days of another attack; but when
he saw Wellington’s masses form permanent camps he ordered Foy to
recover the fort of San Barbe, which blocked a pass leading from the
vale of Vera to Sarre and defended some narrow ground between La Rhune
and the Nivelle river. Abandoned without reason by the French, it was
only occupied by a Spanish picquet, several battalions being encamped
in a wood close behind. Many officers and men quitted their troops to
sleep in the fort, and on the night of the 12th three French battalions
surprised and escaladed the work; the Spanish troops behind went off
in confusion at the first alarm, and two hundred soldiers with fifteen
officers were made prisoners. Two Spanish battalions, ashamed of the
surprise, made a vigorous effort to recover the fort at daylight, but
were repulsed. An attempt was then made with five battalions, but
Clausel brought up two guns, and a sharp skirmish took place in the
wood which lasted for several hours, the French endeavouring to regain
the whole of their old entrenchments, the Spaniards to recover the
fort. Neither succeeded. San Barbe remained with the French, who lost
two hundred men, while the Spaniards lost five hundred. Soon after
this action a French sloop of war run from St. Jean de Luz, but three
English brigs cut her off, and the crew after exchanging a few distant
shots set her on fire and escaped in boats to the Adour.

Head-quarters were now fixed in Vera, and the allied army was
organized in three grand divisions. The right, having Mina’s and
Morillo’s battalions attached to it, was commanded by General Hill,
and extended from Roncesvalles to the Bastan. The centre, occupying
Maya, the Echallar, Rhune and Bayonette mountains, was given to
Marshal Beresford. The left, extending from the Mandale mountain to
the sea, was under Sir John Hope. This officer succeeded Graham, who
had returned to England. Commanding in chief at Coruña after Sir John
Moore’s death, he was superior in rank to Lord Wellington during the
early part of the Peninsular war; but when the latter obtained the
baton of field-marshal at Vittoria, Hope, with a patriotism and modesty
worthy of the pupil of Abercrombie, the friend and comrade of Moore,
offered to serve as second in command, and Wellington joyfully accepted
him, saying--“_He was the ablest officer in the army._”


After the passage of the Bidassoa, Soult was assiduous to complete an
immense chain of intrenchments, some thirty miles long, which he had
previously commenced. The space between the sea and the upper Nivelle,
an opening of sixteen miles, was defended by double lines, and the
lower part of that river, sweeping behind the second of them, formed
a third line, having the intrenched camp of Serres on its right bank:
the upper river separated D’Erlon’s from Clausel’s positions, but was
crossed by the bridge of Amotz; the left of D’Erlon rested on the rough
Mondarain mountains, which closed that flank, abutting on the Nive.

Beyond the Nive, Foy was called down that river towards the bridge of
Cambo, which was fortified in rear of D’Erlon’s left, and from thence
Soult had traced a second chain of intrenched camps, on a shorter line
behind the Nivelle, by San Pé, to join his camp at Serres: thus placed,
Foy had the power of reinforcing D’Erlon or menacing the right of the
allies according to events.

Reille still commanded on the right in the low ground covering St. Jean
de Luz.

Lord Wellington could scarcely feed his troops; those on the right,
at Roncesvalles, went two days without provisions, being blocked up
by snow; and the rest of the army, with the exception of the first
division, was lying out on the crests of high mountains very much
exposed. This made them indeed incredibly hardy and eager to pour down
on the fertile French plains below; but notwithstanding his recent bold
operation, their general looked to a retreat into Spain and a removal
of the war to Catalonia; for his position was scarcely tenable from
political and other difficulties, all of which he had foreseen and
foretold when the foolish importunity of the English Government urged
him to enter France. And if Soult, who was continually, though vainly
urging Suchet to co-operate with him, had persuaded that marshal to act
with vigour the allies must have retreated to the Ebro. Suchet however
would not stir, and the war in Germany having taken a favourable turn
Wellington eventually resolved to force the French lines.

For this object, when Pampeluna surrendered, early in November, Hill’s
right was moved from Roncesvalles to the Bastan with a view to the
battle, and Mina took its place on the mountains; but then the Spanish
general Freyre suddenly declared that he was unable to subsist and must
withdraw a part of his troops. This was a disgraceful trick to obtain
provisions from the English, and it was successful, for the projected
attack could not be made without his aid. Forty thousand rations of
flour, with a formal intimation that if he did not co-operate the whole
army must retire again into Spain, contented him for the moment; but it
was declared the supply given would only suffice for two days, although
there were less than ten thousand soldiers in the field!

Heavy rain again delayed the attack, but on the 10th of November,
ninety thousand combatants, seventy-four thousand being
Anglo-Portuguese, descended to battle, and with them ninety-five pieces
of artillery, all of which were with inconceivable vigour thrown
into action: four thousand five hundred cavalry and some Spaniards
remaining in reserve near Pampeluna. The French had been augmented by
a levy of conscripts, many of whom however deserted to the interior,
and the fighting men did not exceed seventy-nine thousand, including
the garrisons. Six thousand were cavalry, and as Foy’s operations
were extraneous, scarcely sixty thousand infantry and artillery were
actually in line.

On Soult’s side each lieutenant-general had a special position to
defend. The left of D’Erlon’s first line, resting on the fortified
rocks of Mondarain, could not be turned; his right was on the Nivelle,
and the whole, strongly intrenched, was occupied by one of Abbé’s
and one of D’Armagnac’s brigades. The second line, on a broad ridge
several miles behind, was occupied by the remaining brigades of those
divisions, and its left did not extend beyond the centre of the first
line; but the right reached to the bridge of Amotz, where the Nivelle,
flowing in a slanting direction, gave greater space. Three great
redoubts were in a row on this ridge, and a fourth had been commenced
close to the bridge.

On the right of D’Erlon’s second line, that is to say beyond the bridge
of Amotz, Clausel’s position extended to Ascain, along a strong range
of heights fortified with many redoubts, trenches, and abbatis; and
as the Nivelle, after passing Amotz, swept in a curve completely round
this range to Ascain, both flanks rested alike upon that river,--the
bridges of Amotz and Ascain being close on the right and left, and a
retreat open by the bridges of San Pé and Harastaguia in rear of the
centre. Two of Clausel’s divisions, reinforced by one of D’Erlon’s
under General Maransin, were there posted. In front of the left were
the redoubts of San Barbe and Grenada, covering the village and ridge
of Sarre. In front of the right was the smaller Rhune, which was
fortified and occupied by a brigade of Maransin’s division: a new
redoubt with abbatis was also commenced to cover the approaches to the
bridge of Amotz.

On the right of this line, beyond the bridge of Ascain, Daricau’s
division of Clausel’s corps, and the Italian brigade of San Pol, drawn
from Villatte’s reserve, held the intrenched camp of Serres; they
thus connected Clausel’s position with Villatte’s, which crossed the
gorges of Olette and Jollimont. Reille’s position, strongly fortified
on the lower ground and partially covered by inundations, was nearly

Soult’s weakest point was between the Rhune mountains and the Nivelle,
where the space, gradually narrowing as it approached the bridge of
Amotz, was the most open and the least fortified. The Nivelle, being
fordable above this bridge, did not hamper the allies’ movements, and
a powerful force acting in that direction could therefore pass by
D’Erlon’s first line, and break between the right of his second line
and Clausel’s left; it was thus Wellington framed his battle; for
seeing the French right could not be forced, he decided to hold it in
check while he broke their centre and pushed down the Nivelle to San Pé.

In this view, Hill, leaving four of Mina’s battalions to face the rocks
of Mondarain, moved in the night by the passes of the Puerto de Maya to
fall on D’Erlon.

On Hill’s left, Beresford was to send the third division against the
unfinished redoubts and intrenchments covering the bridge of Amotz,
thus turning D’Erlon’s right while it was attacked in front by Hill.

On the left of the third division, the seventh, descending from the
Echallar pass, was to storm the Grenada redoubt, pass Sarre, and
assail Clausel abreast with the third division.

On the left of the seventh, the fourth division, assembling on the
lower slopes of the greater Rhune, was to descend upon San Barbe, and
then, moving through Sarre also, to assail Clausel abreast with the
seventh division.

On the left of the fourth division, Giron’s Spaniards, gathered
higher up the flank of the great Rhune, were to move abreast with the
others, leaving Sarre on their right. They were to drive the enemy
from the lower slopes of the smaller Rhune, and then join the attack
on Clausel’s main position. In this way Hill’s and Beresford’s corps,
forming a mass of more than forty thousand infantry, were to be thrust
on both sides of the bridge of Amotz, between Clausel and D’Erlon.

Charles Alten with the light division and Longa’s Spaniards, together
eight thousand, was likewise to attack Clausel’s line on the left of
Giron, while Freyre’s Gallicians approached the bridge of Ascain to
prevent reinforcements coming from the camp of Serres. But ere Alten
could assail Clausel’s right the smaller Rhune which covered it was to
be taken. This outwork was a hog’s-back ridge, rising abruptly out of
table-land opposite the greater Rhune and inaccessible along its front,
which was precipitous and from fifty to two hundred feet high; on the
enemy’s left the rocks gradually decreased, descending by a long slope
to the valley of Sarre, and, two-thirds down, the 34th French Regiment
was placed, with an outpost at some isolated crags between the two
Rhunes. On the enemy’s right the hog’s-back sunk by degrees into an
open platform, but was covered at its termination by a marsh scarcely
passable. The attacking troops had therefore first to move against the
perpendicular rocks in front, and then to file, under fire, between the
marsh and lower rocks to gain an accessible point from whence to fight
their way along the narrow ridge of the hog’s-back; the bristles of the
latter being huge perpendicular crags built up with loose stones into
small forts or castles which communicated by narrow foot-ways, and rose
one above another until the culminant point was attained.

Beyond this ridge an extensive table-land was bounded by a deep
ravine, one narrow space on the right of the marsh excepted, where
the enemy had a traverse of loose stones running perpendicularly from
behind the hog’s-back and ending in a star fort. This rampart and
fort, and the hog’s-back itself, were defended by Barbot’s brigade,
whose line of retreat was a low neck of land bridging the deep ravine
and linking the Rhune to Clausel’s main position. A reserve was
placed there to sustain the 34th French Regiment on the slope of the
mountain, and to protect the neck, which was the only approach to the
main position in that part: to storm the smaller Rhune was therefore a
necessary preliminary to the general battle.

Alten, filing his troops after dark on the 9th, from the Hermitage, the
Commissari, and the Puerto de Vera, collected them at midnight on that
slope of the greater Rhune which descended towards Ascain. His main
body, turning the marsh by the left, was to assail the stone traverse
and lap over the star fort by the ravine beyond; Longa, stretching
still farther on the left, was to turn the smaller Rhune altogether;
the 43rd Regiment was to assail the hog’s-back. One battalion of
riflemen and the mountain-guns were left on the greater Rhune, with
orders to assail the French 34th and connect Alten’s attack with
Giron’s. All these troops gained their respective stations so secretly
the enemy had no suspicion of their presence, although for several
hours the columns were lying within half musket-shot of the works:
towards morning indeed, five or six guns fired in a hurried manner from
the low ground near the sea broke the stillness, yet all remained quiet
on the Rhunes: the British troops silently awaited the rising of the
sun, when three guns fired from the summit of the Atchubia mountain
were to be the signal of attack.


With great splendour the day broke, and as the first ray of light
played on the summit of the lofty Atchubia the signal guns were fired
in rapid succession; then the light division soldiers leaped up, and
the French beheld with astonishment the columns rushing onward from
the flank of the great Rhune. Running to their works with much tumult,
they opened a few pieces, which were answered from the top of the
greater Rhune by the mountain-artillery, and two companies of the
43rd were detached to cross the marsh, if possible, and keep down the
enemy’s fire from the lower part of the hog’s-back. The action being
thus commenced, the remainder of that regiment advanced against the
high rocks, from whence the French shot fast and thickly; but the quick
even movement of the line deceived their aim, and the soldiers, running
forward very swiftly, turned suddenly between the rocks and the marsh
and were immediately joined by the two companies, which had passed that
obstacle notwithstanding its depth. Then all together jumped into the
lower works, and the men, exhausted by their exertions, for they had
run over half a mile of very rough difficult ground with a wonderful
speed, remained for a few minutes lying down and panting within
half-pistol shot of the first stone castle, from whence came a sharp
and biting musketry: when their breath returned they arose and with a
stern shout commenced the assault.

As numerous as the assailants were the defenders, and for six weeks
they had been labouring on their well-contrived castles; but strong
and valiant in arms must the soldiers have been who stood in that hour
before the veterans of the 43rd. One French grenadier officer only
dared to sustain the rush. Standing alone on the high wall of the first
castle and flinging large stones with both his hands, a noble figure,
he fought to the last and fell, while his men, shrinking on each side,
sought safety among the rocks behind. Close and confused then was the
fight, man met man at every turn, yet with a rattling fire of musketry,
sometimes struggling in the intricate narrow paths, sometimes climbing
the loose stone walls, the British soldiers won their desperate way,
and soon carried a second castle, named by the French the magpie’s
nest because of a lofty rock within it, on which a few marksmen were
perched. From this castle they were driven into a culminant citadel,
called the Donjon, larger than the others, and covered by a natural
ditch or cleft in the rocks fifteen feet deep.

Here they made a final stand, and the assailants, having advanced so as
to look into the rear of the rampart and star fort on the table-land
below, suspended the vehement throng of their attack for a while;
partly to gather head for storming the Donjon, partly to fire on the
enemy beneath, who were warmly engaged with the two battalions of
riflemen, the Portuguese Caçadores, and the 17th Portuguese. This last
regiment was to have followed the 43rd, but seeing how rapidly and
surely the latter were carrying the rocks, had moved at once against
the traverse on the other side of the marsh. The French thus pressed
in front, and taught by the fire they were outflanked on the ridge
above; seeing the 52nd also turning their extreme right by the deep
ravine beyond the star fort, abandoned their works below. Then the 43rd
gathering a strong head stormed the Donjon. Some leaped with a shout
down the deep cleft in the rock, others turned it by the narrow paths
on each flank, and the walls were abandoned at the moment of being
scaled. Thus in twenty minutes six hundred old soldiers were hustled
out of this labyrinth; yet not so easily but that the victorious
regiment lost eleven officers and sixty-seven men.

The whole mountain was now cleared, for the riflemen, dropping almost
perpendicularly down from the greater Rhune upon the post of crags,
had seized it with small loss. Yet they were ill seconded by Giron’s
Spaniards, and hardly handled by the French 34th, which maintained
its main post on the slope, and covered the flight of the confused
crowd then rushing down from the smaller Rhune towards the neck of
land behind: there however all rallied and seemed inclined to renew
the action, yet, after some hesitation, continued their retreat. This
favourable moment for a decisive stroke had been looked for by the
commander of the 43rd, but the officer intrusted with the reserve
companies of the regiment had thrown them heedlessly into the fight,
and rendered it impossible to collect in time a body strong enough to
assail such a heavy mass. The contest at the stone rampart and star
fort, being shortened by the rapid success on the hog’s-back, had
not been very severe, but General Kempt, always conspicuous for his
valour, was severely wounded: nevertheless he did not quit the field,
and soon re-formed his brigade on the platform he had so gallantly
won. Longa, during the fight, got close to Ascain, in connection with
Freyre’s troops, and in this state of affairs, the enemy now and then
cannonading from a distance, Alten awaited the progress of the army
on his right, for the columns there had a long way to march and it was
essential to regulate the movements.

The signal-guns from the Atchubia which sent the light division against
the Rhune, had also sent the fourth and seventh divisions against
San Barbe and Grenada, and while eighteen guns, placed in battery
against the former, poured streams of shot, the troops advanced
with scaling-ladders. The skirmishers soon got in rear of the work,
whereupon the French leaping out fled, and then Ross’s battery of
horse-artillery, galloping to a rising ground in rear of the Grenada
fort, drove the enemy from there also. After that the following troops
won the village of Sarre and the heights beyond, and advanced to the
attack of Clausel’s main position.

It was now eight o’clock, and, to the troops posted on the Rhune, a
splendid spectacle was presented. On one hand the ships of war, slowly
sailing to and fro, were exchanging shots with the fort of Socoa,
while Hope, menacing all the French lines in the low ground, sent
the sound of a hundred pieces of artillery bellowing up the rocks.
He was answered by nearly as many from the tops of the mountains,
amidst the smoke of which the summit of the great Atchubia glittered
to the rising sun, while fifty thousand men, rushing down its enormous
slopes with ringing shouts, seemed to chase the receding shadows into
the deep valley. The plains of France, so long overlooked from the
towering crags of the Pyrenees, were to be the prize of battle, and the
half-famished soldiers in their fury were breaking through the iron
barrier erected by Soult as if it were but a screen of reeds.

The principal action was on a space of seven or eight miles, yet the
skirts of battle spread wide, and in no point had the combinations
failed. Far on the right Hill by a long and difficult night march had
got near the enemy before seven o’clock; opposing then his Spanish
troops to Abbé’s left wing on the Mondarain rocks, he with the second
division brushed back D’Armagnac’s brigade from the forge of Urdax and
the village of Ainhoa; but he called the sixth division and Hamilton’s
Portuguese over the Nivelle, to act on the right instead of the left
bank, against the bridge of Amotz. Thus three divisions approached
D’Erlon’s second position in mass, yet the country was very rugged,
and it was eleven o’clock before they got within cannon-shot of the
French redoubts, each of which contained five hundred men. They were
placed along the summit of a high ridge thickly clothed with bushes and
covered by a ravine; but General Clinton, leading the sixth division
on the extreme left, turned this ravine and drove the enemy from
the unfinished works covering the bridge, after which, wheeling to
the right, he advanced against the nearest redoubt and the garrison
abandoned it. Meanwhile the Portuguese and the second division, passing
the ravine, appeared on the right of the sixth, menacing the second and
third redoubts, whereupon all were abandoned. D’Armagnac then set fire
to his hutted camp and retreated to Helbacen de Borda, behind San Pé,
pursued by Clinton. Abbé’s second brigade, forming the French left,
though separated by a ravine from D’Armagnac, after some hesitation
also retreated towards Cambo, where his first brigade, coming down the
Mondarain mountain rejoined him.

It was the progress of the battle on the left of the Nive that rendered
D’Erlon’s fight on the right bank so feeble; for after the fall of
San Barbe and Grenada Conroux endeavoured to defend the village and
heights of Sarre, but while the fourth and seventh divisions carried
those points, the third division, on their right, pushed rapidly to the
bridge of Amotz; presenting in conjunction with the sixth division the
narrow end of a wedge now formed by Beresford’s and Hill’s corps. The
French were thus driven from all their unfinished works covering that
bridge on both sides of the Nivelle, and Conroux’s division, spread
from Sarre to Amotz, was broken by superior numbers at every point.
When he attempted to defend the finished works at the bridge itself,
he fell mortally wounded, his troops retired, and the third division,
seizing the bridge, established itself on some heights between that
structure and a large unfinished work called the redoubts of Louis XIV.
All this happened about eleven o’clock, and D’Erlon, fearing to be cut
off from San Pé, then gave up his strong position to Hill, as before
shown; at the same time the remainder of Conroux’s troops fell back
in disorder from Sarre, pursued by the fourth and seventh divisions,
which were immediately established on the left of the third. The
communication between Clausel and D’Erlon was thus cut, the left flank
of one and the right flank of the other were broken, and a direct
communication between Hill and Beresford was secured by the same blow.

Clausel still stood firm with Taupin’s and Maransin’s divisions,
and the latter having recovered Barbot’s brigade from the smaller
Rhune, occupied the redoubt of Louis XIV. where, supported with eight
field-pieces, he attempted to cover the flight of Conroux’s troops.
Ross’s horse artillery, the only battery which had surmounted the
difficulties of ground after passing Sarre, silenced these guns, and
the infantry were then assailed in front by the fourth and seventh
divisions, and in flank by the third division. The redoubt of Louis
XIV. was soon stormed and the garrison bayoneted, Conroux’s men
continued to fly, Maransin’s were cast headlong into the ravines
behind their position, and that general was taken, but escaped in the
confusion: Giron also came up now, yet too late, and after having
abandoned the riflemen on the lower slopes of the smaller Rhune.

Taupin’s division and a large body of conscripts forming Clausel’s
right, still remained to fight. Their left rested on a large work
called the signal redoubt, which had no artillery, yet overlooked the
whole position; their right was covered by two redoubts overhanging a
ravine which separated them from the camp of Serres; some works in the
ravine itself protected their communication by the bridge of Ascain;
and behind the signal redoubt, on a ridge crossing the road to San Pé,
along which Maransin and Conroux’s divisions were flying, there was
another work called the redoubt of Harastaguia, where Clausel thought
he might still dispute the victory, if his reserve division in the camp
of Serres could come to his aid. In this view he drew the 31st French
Regiment from Taupin to post it in front of the redoubt of Harastaguia;
his object being to rally Maransin’s and Conroux’s troops and form a
new line, the left on Harastaguia, the right on the signal redoubt,
into which last he threw six hundred of the 88th Regiment. In this
position, having a retreat by the bridge of the Ascain, he resolved
to renew the fight, but his plan failed at the moment of conception,
because Taupin could not stand before the light division, which was now
again in full action.

About half-past nine, Alten, seeing the whole of the columns on his
right as far as the eye could reach well engaged with the enemy, had
passed the low neck of land in his front, the 52nd Regiment leading
with a rapid pace and a very narrow front, under a destructive
cannonade and musketry from the intrenchments, which covered the side
of the opposite mountain. A road coming from Ascain, by the ravine,
led up the position, and as the 52nd pushed their attack along it the
French abandoned the intrenchments on each side, and forsook even
the crowning works above. This formidable regiment was followed by
the remainder of the division, yet Taupin awaited the assault above,
being supported by the conscripts in his rear; but at that moment the
Spaniards opened a distant skirmishing fire against the works covering
the bridge of Ascain on his right, whereupon a panic seized his men,
and the 70th Regiment abandoned the two redoubts above, while the
conscripts were withdrawn. Clausel ordered Taupin to retake the forts,
yet this only added to the disorder; the 70th Regiment, instead of
facing about, disbanded entirely and were not reassembled until next
day. There remained only four regiments unbroken: one, the 88th, was in
the signal redoubt, two with Taupin kept together in the rear of the
works on the right, and the 31st covered the fort of Harastaguia, now
the only line of retreat.

In this emergency, Clausel, anxious to bring off the 88th Regiment,
ordered Taupin to charge on one side of the signal redoubt, intending
to do the same himself on the other at the head of the 31st Regiment;
but the latter was now vigorously attacked by the Portuguese of the
seventh division, and the fourth division was rapidly interposing
between that regiment and the redoubt. Moreover Alten, previous to
this, had directed the 43rd, preceded by Andrew Barnard’s riflemen, to
turn, at the distance of musket-shot, the right flank of the redoubt;
wherefore Taupin, instead of charging, was himself charged in front by
the riflemen, and being menaced at the same time in flank by the fourth
division, retreated, closely pursued by Barnard until that intrepid
officer fell dangerously wounded. Meanwhile the seventh division broke
the French 31st, and the rout became general, the French fled to the
different bridges over the Nivelle, and the signal redoubt was left to
its fate.

This formidable work barred the way of the light division, yet it was
of no value to the defence when the forts on its flanks were abandoned.
Colborne approached it in front with the 52nd Regiment, Giron’s
Spaniards menaced it on Colborne’s right, the fourth division was
passing to its rear, and Kempt’s brigade was turning it on the left.
Colborne, whose military judgment was seldom at fault, seeing the work
must fall, halted under the brow of the conical hill on which it was
situated to save his men; but some of Giron’s Spaniards made a vaunting
though feeble demonstration of attacking it on his right and were
beaten, and at that moment a staff-officer, without warrant, for Alten
on the spot assured the Author of this History that he sent no such
order, rode up and directed Colborne to advance. It was not a moment
for remonstrance. The steepness of the hill covered his men until he
reached the flat top, and then the troops made their rush; but then
a ditch, thirty feet deep, well fraised and palisaded, stopped them
short, and the fire of the enemy stretched the foremost in death. The
intrepid Colborne, escaping miraculously, for he was always at the head
on horseback, immediately led the regiment under the brow to another
point, where, thinking to take the French unawares, he made another
rush, yet with the same result: at three different places did he rise
to the surface in this manner, and each time the head of his column
was swept away. Then holding out a white handkerchief he summoned the
commandant, and showed to him how his work was surrounded, whereupon he
yielded, having had only one man killed; but on the British side there
fell two hundred soldiers of a regiment never surpassed in arms since
arms were first borne by men--victims to the presumptuous folly of a
young staff-officer.

During this affair all Clausel’s other troops had crossed the Nivelle,
Maransin’s and Conroux’s divisions near San Pé, the 31st Regiment at
Harastaguia, Taupin between that place and the bridge of Serres. They
were pursued by the third and seventh divisions; and the skirmishers
of the former, crossing by Amotz and a bridge above San Pé, entered
that place while the French were in the act of passing the river below.
Conroux’s troops then pushed on to Helbacen de Borda, a fortified
position on the road from San Pé to Bayonne, where they were joined
by Taupin, and by D’Erlon with D’Armagnac’s division, while Clausel
rallied Maransin’s men and took post on some heights immediately above
San Pé.

Soult was not present at any of these actions. He had hurried on the
first alarm from St. Jean de Luz to Serres with his reserve artillery
and spare troops, and now menaced Wellington’s left flank by Ascain;
whereupon the latter halted the fourth and light divisions and Giron’s
Spaniards, to face Serres until Clinton’s division was well advanced
on the right of the Nivelle. When he was assured of its progress he
crossed the Nivelle with the third and seventh divisions, and drove
Maransin from his new position, after a hard struggle in which General
Inglis was wounded, and the 51st and 68th Regiments were handled very
roughly. This ended the battle in the centre, for darkness was coming
on and Clinton’s men had been marching or fighting for twenty-four
hours: but three divisions were now firmly established in rear of
Soult’s right, of whose operations it is time to treat.

In front of Reille’s intrenchments were two advanced positions, the
camp of the Sans Culottes on the right, the Bons Secours in the centre,
covering Urogne. The first had been carried early in the morning by
the fifth division, which advanced to the inundation covering the
heights of Bordegain and Ciboure: the second was also easily taken
by the Germans and the Guards, and immediately afterwards the 85th
Regiment drove a French battalion out of Urogne. The first division
then menaced the camp of Belchena, and the German skirmishers passed
a small stream covering that part of the line, yet were driven back
by the enemy, whose musketry and cannonade were brisk along the whole
front. Meanwhile Freyre, advancing on the right of the first division,
opened a battery against a large work covering Ascain, where he was
opposed by his own countrymen under Casa Palacio, commanding the
remains of Joseph’s Spanish guards. This false battle was maintained
until nightfall, with equal loss of men, yet great advantage to the
allies, because it entirely occupied Reille and Villatte, and prevented
their troops in the camp of Serres from passing by the bridge of Ascain
to aid Clausel, who was thus overpowered. When that event happened, and
Wellington had passed the Nivelle at San Pé, Reille retired to the
heights of Bidart on the road to Bayonne. He retired in good order,
destroying the bridges.

During the night the allied army halted on the position gained in the
centre, but an accidental conflagration catching a wood completely
separated their picquets towards Ascain from the main body--spreading
far and wide over the heath, it lighted up all the hills, a blazing
sign of war to France.

On the 11th the army advanced in order of battle. Hope forded the
Nivelle above St. Jean de Luz and marched on Bidart; Beresford moved
by the roads leading upon Arbonne; Hill brought his left forward into
communication with Beresford, and with his centre faced Cambo on the
Nive. This change of front and the time required to restore the bridges
for the artillery, enabled Soult to rally his army upon a third line of
fortified camps which he had previously commenced, the right resting on
the coast at Bidart, the centre at Helbacen Borda, the left at Ustaritz
on the Nive. His front was of eight miles, but the works were only
slightly advanced, and dreading a second battle on so wide a field he
drew back his centre and left to Arbonne and Arauntz, broke down the
bridges on the Nive at Ustaritz, and at two o’clock a slight skirmish,
commenced by the allies in the centre, closed the day’s proceedings.

Next morning the French retired to the ridge of Beyris, having their
right in advance at Anglet and their left in the intrenched camp of
Bayonne near Marac. The movement was covered by a dense fog, but when
the day cleared Hope took post at Bidart on the left; Beresford then
occupied Ahetze, Arbonne, and the hill of San Barbe in the centre,
and Hill endeavoured to pass the fords and restore the broken bridges
of Ustaritz. He also made a demonstration against the works at Cambo,
but heavy rain in the mountains rendered the fords impassable and both
points were defended successfully by Foy, whose operations having been
distinct from the rest require notice.

D’Erlon, mistrusting the strength of his own position, had in the night
of the 9th sent Foy orders to march from Bidaray to Espelette; but
the messenger did not arrive in time, and on the morning of the 10th,
Foy, following Soult’s previous instructions, drove Mina’s battalions
from the Gorospil mountain; then pressing against the flank of Morillo
on Hill’s right he forced him also back fighting to the Puerto de
Maya. However D’Erlon’s battle was at this period receding fast, and
Foy fearing to be cut off retired with the loss of a colonel and one
hundred and fifty men, having taken a quantity of baggage and a hundred
prisoners. Continuing his retreat all night he reached Cambo and
Ustaritz on the 11th, and on the 12th defended them against Hill.

Such were the principal circumstances of the battle of the Nivelle,
whereby Soult was driven from a mountain position he had been
fortifying for three months. He lost four thousand two hundred and
sixty-five men and officers, including twelve or fourteen hundred
prisoners, and one general killed. His field-magazines at St. Jean de
Luz and Espelette fell into the hands of the victors, and fifty-one
pieces of artillery were taken; the greater part abandoned in the
redoubts of the low country to Hope. The allies had two generals,
Kempt and Byng, wounded, and they lost two thousand six hundred and
ninety-four men and officers.

In the report of the battle, scant and tardy justice was done to
the light division. Acting alone, for Longa’s Spaniards scarcely
fired a shot, that division, of only four thousand seven hundred men
and officers, first carried the smaller Rhune defended by Barbot’s
brigade, and then beat Taupin’s division from the main position,
driving superior numbers from the strongest works: numbering less than
one-sixth of the whole force employed against Clausel, it had defeated
one-third of that general’s corps. So doing, it lost many brave men,
and of two who fell I will speak.

The first, low in rank, being but a lieutenant, was rich in honour, for
he bore many scars and was young of days. He was only nineteen, and
had seen more combats and sieges than he could count years. Slight in
person, and of such surpassing and delicate beauty that the Spaniards
often thought him a girl disguised in man’s clothing, he was yet so
vigorous, so active, so brave, that the most daring and experienced
veterans watched his looks on the field of battle, and would obey
his slightest sign, in the most difficult situations. His education
was incomplete, yet his natural powers were so happy the keenest and
best-furnished intellects shrunk from an encounter of wit, and all
his thoughts and aspirations were proud and noble, indicating future
greatness if destiny had so willed it. Such was Edward Freer of the
43rd, one of three brothers who all died in the Spanish war. Assailed
the night before the battle with that strange anticipation of coming
death, so often felt by military men, he was pierced with three balls
at the first storming of the Rhune rocks, and the sternest soldiers in
the regiment wept even in the middle of the fight, when they heard of
his fate.

On the same day and at the same hour was killed Colonel Thomas Lloyd.
He likewise had been a long time in the 43rd. Under him Freer had
learned the rudiments of his profession, but promotion had placed
Lloyd at the head of the 94th, and leading that regiment he fell. In
him were combined mental and bodily powers of no ordinary kind. A
graceful symmetry of person combined with Herculean strength, and a
frank majestic countenance, indicated a great and commanding character.
His military acquirements were extensive both from experience and
study, and on his mirth and wit, so well known in the army, it is only
necessary to remark, that he used the latter without offence, yet so as
to increase his ascendancy over those with whom he held intercourse;
for though gentle he was valiant, ambitious, and conscious of fitness
for great exploits. He like Freer was prescient of and predicted his
own fall, yet with no abatement of courage. When he received the mortal
wound, a most painful one, he would not suffer himself to be moved, but
remained watching the battle and making observations upon the changes
in it until death came, and at the age of thirty, the good, the brave,
the generous Lloyd died. Tributes to his merit have been published by
Lord Wellington and by one of his own poor soldiers! by the highest and
by the lowest! To their testimony I add mine: let those who served on
equal terms with him say, whether in aught I have exceeded his deserts.


  Passage of the Nive--Battles in front of Bayonne--Combat of
    Arcangues--First Battle of Barrouilhet--Second Battle of
    Barrouilhet--Third Combat of Barrouilhet--Battle of St.
    Pierre--Operations beyond the Nive.

Soult, having lost the Nivelle, at first designed to leave part of his
force in the entrenched camp of Bayonne, and take a flanking position
behind the Nive, half-way between Bayonne and St. Jean Pied de Port.
With his left on the entrenched mountain of Ursouia, his right on the
heights above Cambo, the double bridge-head of which would enable him
to make offensive movements on the left bank, he hoped to confine
Wellington to the district between that river and the sea, and render
his situation very uneasy during the winter if he did not retire.
He was forced to modify this plan; the Bayonne camp was incomplete;
the work on the Ursouia mountain had been neglected, contrary to his
orders; the bridge-head at Cambo was only commenced on the right bank,
and on the left constructed defectively; the river in dry weather was
fordable also at Ustaritz below Cambo, and in many places above that
point. Remaining therefore at Bayonne with six divisions and Villatte’s
reserve, he sent D’Erlon with three divisions to reinforce Foy at Cambo.

But neither D’Erlon’s divisions nor Soult’s whole army could have
stopped Wellington if other circumstances had permitted him to follow
up his victory. Neither the works of the Bayonne camp nor the barrier
of the Nive could have barred the progress of his fiery host, if Nature
had not opposed her obstacles. The clayey country at the foot of the
Pyrenees was impassable after rain, except by the royal road near the
coast or by that of St. Jean Pied de Port, and both were in the power
of the French. On the bye-roads the infantry sunk to the mid-leg, the
cavalry above the horses’ knees, even to the saddle-girths in some
places, and the artillery could not move at all. Rain and fogs on the
12th had enabled Soult to regain his camp and secure the high road to
St. Jean Pied de Port; his troops then easily recovered their proper
posts on the Nive, while Wellington, fixed in the swamps, could only
make the ineffectual demonstration at Ustaritz and Cambo, already
noticed. On the 16th, uneasy for his right flank, he directed Hill to
menace Cambo again, where Foy had orders to preserve the bridge-head
on the right bank in any circumstances, and only abandon the left bank
in the event of a general attack; but the officer at the bridge now
destroyed in a panic all the works and the bridge itself. This was a
great loss to Soult, and enabled Wellington to take cantonments.

Bad weather was not the only obstacle to the British operations.
During the battle of the 10th Freyre’s and Longa’s soldiers had
pillaged Ascain and murdered several persons; and next day all the
Spanish troops committed excesses in various places. On the right,
Mina’s battalions, who were mutinous, made a plundering and murdering
incursion towards Hellette; the Portuguese and British soldiers
commenced like outrages, killing two persons in one town, but General
Pakenham, arriving at the moment, put the perpetrators to death,
nipping this wickedness in the bud at his own risk, for legally he had
not that power. He was a man whose generosity, humanity and chivalric
spirit, excited the admiration of every honourable person; yet is he
the officer who, falling at New Orleans, has been so foully traduced
by American writers. Pre-eminently distinguished by his detestation
of inhumanity and outrage, he has been with astounding falsehood
represented as instigating his troops there to infamous excesses; but
from a people holding millions of their fellow-beings in the most
horrible slavery, while they prate and vaunt of liberty until men turn
with loathing from the sickening folly, what can be expected?

Terrified by these excesses the French fled even from the large towns.
Wellington soon dissipated their fears. On the 12th, although expecting
a battle, he put to death all the Spanish marauders he could take in
the act, and then with many reproaches, and despite of the discontent
of their generals, forced the whole to withdraw into their own country.
He disarmed the mutinous battalions under Mina, placed Giron’s
Andalusians in the Bastan under O’Donnel, quartered Freyre’s Gallicians
between Irun and Ernani, and sent Longa over the Ebro. Morillo’s
division alone remained with the army. These decisive proceedings,
marking the lofty character of the man, proved not less politic
than resolute; the people returned, and, finding strict discipline
preserved, adopted an amicable intercourse with the invaders. However
the loss of such a mass of troops, and the weather, reduced the army
for a moment to a state of inactivity, the head-quarters were fixed at
St. Jean de Luz and the troops took permanent cantonments.

The left wing extended from Bidart on the sea-coast to the Nive, on
an opening of six miles. The right wing, thrown back at right angles,
lined the bank of that river for eight miles. In front of Bidart, the
broad ridge of Barrouilhet crossing the great coast-road was occupied,
the principal post being the mayor’s house, which was covered by tanks
and pools, between which the road led. The centre of the left wing was
on a continuation of this ridge near the village of Arcangues; the
right was on the hill of San Barbe, close to Ustaritz on the Nive.

These posts were not established without combats. On the 18th the
generals, John Wilson and Vandeleur, were wounded, and next day
Beresford, who had seized the small bridge of Urdains at the junction
of some roads, was attacked in force, yet maintained the bridge. This
acquisition covered the right flank of the troops at Arcangues, but on
the 23rd the light division had an action there, very ill managed by
the divisional generals, and lost ninety men, of which eighty fell in
the 43rd Regiment.

Wellington, having nearly nine thousand cavalry and a hundred guns,
fretted on the curb in his contracted position until December, when
the weather cleared and he resolved to force the line of the Nive and
extend to his right, a resolution which led to sanguinary battles,
for Soult’s positions were then strong and well-chosen. Bayonne, his
base, being situated at the confluence of the Nive and the Adour rivers
furnished bridges for the passage of both; and though weak in itself,
was covered by Vauban’s entrenched camp, which was exceedingly strong
and not to be lightly attacked. In this camp Soult’s right, under
Reille, three divisions including Villatte’s reserve, touched on the
lower Adour, where there was a flotilla. His front was protected by
inundations and a swamp, through which the royal coast-road led to St.
Jean de Luz, and along which fortified outposts extended to Anglet.
On his left Clausel’s three divisions extended to the Nive, being
partly covered by the swamp, partly by a fortified house, partly by an
artificial inundation spreading from the small bridge of Urdains to the
Nive; and beyond these defences the country held by the allies was a
deep clay, covered with small farm-houses and woods, very unfavourable
for movement.

On the right of the Nive, Vauban’s camp being continued to the upper
Adour under the name of the “_Front of Mousserolles_,” was held by
D’Erlon’s four divisions, with posts extending up the right bank of
the Nive; that is to say, D’Armagnac fronted Ustaritz, and Foy was at
Cambo. The communication with the left bank of the Nive was double;
circuitous through Bayonne, direct by a bridge of boats. Moreover,
after the battle of the Nivelle, Soult brought General Paris’s division
from St. Jean Pied de Port to Lahoussoa close under the Ursouia
mountain, whence it communicated with Foy’s left by the great road of
St. Jean Pied de Port.

The Nive, the Adour, and the Gave de Pau, which falls into the
latter many miles above Bayonne, were all navigable; the first as
far as Ustaritz, the second to Dax, the third to Peyrehorade, and
the French had magazines at the two latter places; yet they were fed
with difficulty, and to restrain Soult from the country beyond the
Nive, to intercept his communications with St. Jean Pied de Port, to
bring a powerful cavalry into activity and obtain secret intelligence
from the interior, were Wellington’s inducements to force a passage
over the Nive. But to place an army on both sides of a navigable
river, with communications bad at all times and subject to entire
interruptions from rain; to do this in face of an army possessing short
communications, good roads, and entrenched camps for retreat, was a
delicate and dangerous operation.

Hope and Alten, having twenty-four thousand combatants and twelve guns,
were ordered to drive back all the French advanced posts in front of
their camp, between the Nive and the sea, on the 9th, and thus keep
Soult in check while Beresford and Hill crossed the Nive--Beresford at
Ustaritz with pontoons, Hill at Cambo and Larressore by fords. Both,
generals were then to repair the bridges at those points with materials
prepared beforehand. To cover Hill’s movement on the right and protect
the valley of the Nive from General Paris, who being at Lahoussoa
might have penetrated to the rear of the army during the operations,
Morillo’s Spaniards were to cross at Itzassu. At this time D’Armagnac
was opposite Ustaritz, Foy’s division extended from Halzou, in front
of Larressore to the fords above Cambo, having the Ursouia mountain
between its left and Paris: the rest of D’Erlon’s troops occupied some
heights in advance of Mousserolles.


At Ustaritz the double bridge was broken, but an island connecting them
was in possession of the British. Beresford laid his pontoons down on
the hither side in the night, and, on the morning of the 9th, a beacon
lighted on the heights above Cambo gave the signal of action; the
passage was soon forced, the second bridge laid, and D’Armagnac driven
back; but the swampy nature of the country between the river and the
high road by retarding the attack gave him time to retreat. Hill also
forced his passage in three columns above and below Cambo with slight
resistance, though the fords were so deep that several horsemen were
drowned, and the French very strongly posted, especially at Halzou,
where a deep strong mill-race had to be crossed as well as the river.

Foy, seeing by the direction of Beresford’s fire that his own retreat
was endangered, went off hastily with his left, leaving his right wing
under General Berlier at Halzou, without orders; hence, when General
Pringle attacked the latter from Larressore the sixth division was
already on the high road between Foy and Berlier, and though the latter
escaped by cross roads he did not rejoin his division until two o’clock
in the afternoon. Meanwhile Morillo passed at Itzassu, and Paris
retired to Hellette, where he was joined by a regiment of light cavalry
from the Bidouse river: Morillo followed, and in one village his troops
murdered fifteen peasants, amongst them several women and children.

Hill placed a brigade of infantry at Urcurray to cover the bridge of
Cambo, and to support the cavalry, which he despatched to scour the
roads and watch Paris and Pierre Soult. With the rest of his troops he
marched against the heights of Mousserolles in front, and was there
joined by the sixth division, the third remaining to cover the bridge
of Ustaritz.

It was now one o’clock, Soult came from Bayonne, approved of D’Erlon’s
dispositions, and offered battle. His line crossed the high road,
and D’Armagnac’s brigade, coming from Ustaritz, was in advance at
Villefranque. A heavy cannonade and skirmish ensued along the front,
but no general fight took place because the deep roads retarded the
rear of Hill’s columns; however the Portuguese of the sixth division
drove D’Armagnac with sharp fighting out of Villefranque about three
o’clock, and a brigade of the second division was established in
advance to connect Hill with Beresford.

Three divisions of infantry, wanting the brigade left at Urcurray, now
hemmed up four French divisions; and as the latter, notwithstanding
their superiority of numbers, made no advantage of the broken movements
caused by the deep roads, the passage of the Nive may be judged a
surprise, and Wellington had so far overreached his able adversary. Yet
he had not trusted an uncertain chance. The French masses by falling
upon the heads of his columns while the rear was still labouring in
the deep roads might have caused disorder; but they could not have
driven either Hill or Beresford over the river again, because the third
division was close at hand, and a brigade of the seventh could from
San Barbe have followed by the bridge of Ustaritz. The greatest danger
was, that Paris, reinforced by Pierre Soult’s cavalry, should have
fallen upon Morillo, or the brigade left at Urcurray in the rear, while
Soult, reinforcing D’Erlon with fresh divisions from the other side of
the Nive, attacked Hill and Beresford in front: but it was to prevent
that, Hope and Alten, whose operations are now to be related, had been
ordered to act on the left bank.

Hope, having twelve miles to march from St. Jean de Luz before he could
reach the French works, put his troops in motion during the night, and
about eight o’clock passed between the tanks with his right, while his
left descended from the platform of Bidart towards Biaritz. The French
outposts retired fighting, and Hope, sweeping with a half circle to his
right, preceded by the fire of his guns and many skirmishers, faced the
entrenched camp about one o’clock. His left rested on the Lower Adour;
his centre menaced an advanced work on the ridge of Beyris: his right
was in communication with Alten, who had halted about Bussussary and
Arcangues until Hope’s fiery crescent closed on the French camp; then
he also advanced, but with the exception of a slight skirmish at the
fortified house met no resistance. Three divisions, some cavalry and
the unattached brigades, equal to a fourth division, sufficed therefore
to keep six French divisions in check on this side, and when evening
closed fell back towards their original positions, yet under heavy rain
and with great fatigue to Hope’s troops, for even the royal road was
knee-deep of mud, and they were twenty-four hours under arms. The whole
day’s fighting cost eight hundred men of a side, the loss of the allies
being rather greater on the left of the Nive than on the right.


Wellington’s wings were now divided by the Nive, and Soult resolved to
fall upon one with all his forces united. The prisoners assured him
the third and fourth divisions were both in front of Mousserolles, he
was able to assemble troops with greatest facility on the left of the
river, and as the allies’ front there was most extended, he chose that
side for his counter-stroke. In Bayonne itself were eight thousand
men, troops of the line and national guards, with which he occupied
the entrenched camp of Mousserolles; then placing ten gun-boats on
the Upper Adour, to guard it as high as the confluence of the Gave de
Pau, he made D’Erlon file four divisions over the boat-bridge on the
Nive, to take post behind Clausel’s corps on the other side. He thus
concentrated nine divisions of infantry and Villatte’s reserve, with
a body of cavalry and forty guns, in all sixty thousand combatants,
including conscripts, to assail a quarter where the allies, although
stronger by one division than he imagined, had yet only thirty thousand
infantry with twenty-four guns.

His first design was to pour on to the table-land of Bussussary and
Arcangues, and act as circumstances should dictate, and judged so well
of his position that he warned the Minister of War to expect good news
for the next day: indeed his enemy’s situation, though better than
he knew of, gave him a right to anticipate success, for on no point
was this formidable counter-attack anticipated. Wellington was on
the right of the Nive, awaiting daylight to assail the heights where
he had last seen the French. Hope’s troops, with exception of the
Portuguese under General Campbell, who were at Barrouilhet, slept in
their cantonments--the first division at St. Jean de Luz six miles from
the outposts, the fifth division between that place and Bidart, and
all exceedingly fatigued. The light division had orders to retire from
Bussussary to Arbonne, four miles; a part had marched before dawn, but
Kempt, suspicious of the enemy’s movements, delayed the rest until he
could see well to his front: he thus saved the position.

The extraordinary difficulty of moving through the country, the
numerous inclosures and copses which intercepted the view, the
recent easy success on the Nive, and a certain haughty confidence,
sure attendant of a long course of victory, had rendered the English
general somewhat negligent, and the troops were not prepared for a
battle. His general position was, however, strong. Barrouilhet could
only be attacked along the royal road on a narrow front between the
tanks, where he had directed entrenchments to be made; but there
was only one brigade there, and a road, made with difficulty by the
engineers, supplied a bad flank communication with the light division.
The Barrouilhet ridge was prolonged to the platform of Bussussary,
but bulged there too near the enemy to be safely occupied in force,
wherefore the ridge of Arcangues, behind it, was the real position of
battle on that side.

From the Bussussary platform three tongues of land shot out, and the
valleys between them, as well as their slopes, were covered with
copse-woods. The left-hand tongue was held by the 52nd Regiment; the
central tongue by the picquets of the 43rd, with supporting companies
in succession towards an open common, across which the troops had to
pass to the church of Arcangues. The third tongue was guarded, partly
by the 43rd, partly by riflemen, but the valley there was not occupied.
One brigade of the seventh division, covered by the inundation and
holding the bridge of Urdains, continued this line of posts to the
Nive; the other brigades being behind San Barbe and belonging rather
to Ustaritz than to this front: the fourth division was several miles
behind the right of the light division.

If Soult had, as he first designed, burst with his whole army upon
Bussussary and Arcangues, it would have been impossible for the light
division, scattered over difficult ground, to have stopped him for half
an hour; and there was no support within several miles, no superior
officer to direct the concentration of the different divisions.
Wellington had ordered all the line to be entrenched, but the works
were commenced on a great scale, and, as is usual when danger does not
spur, the soldiers had laboured so carelessly, that a few abbatis,
the tracing of some lines and redoubts, and the opening of a road of
communication were all the results. The French could thus have gained
the broad open hills beyond Arcangues, separated the fourth and seventh
from the light division, and cut all off from Hope. Soult, however,
in the course of the night, for reasons which have not been stated,
changed his project, and at day-break Reille marched with Boyer’s and
Maucune’s divisions, Sparre’s cavalry, and from twenty to thirty guns
against Hope by the main road on the right. He was followed by Foy and
Villatte, but Clausel assembled his troops near the fortified house
in front of Bussussary, and one of D’Erlon’s divisions approached the
bridge of Urdains.


Heavy rain fell in the night, but the morning broke fair, and at dawn
French soldiers were observed close to the most advanced picquet of the
43rd on the left, pushing each other about as if at gambols, yet lining
by degrees the nearest ditches; a general officer was also seen behind
a farmhouse within pistol-shot, and the heads of columns could be
perceived in the rear. Thus warned, some companies were thrown on the
right into the basin, to prevent the enemy from penetrating that way
to the small common between Bussussary and Arcangues. Kempt’s foresight
in delaying his march to Arbonne was now manifest, and he immediately
placed the reserves of his brigade in the church and mansion-house of
Arcangues. Meanwhile the French, breaking forth with loud cries and
a rattling musketry, had fallen at a running pace upon the 43rd at
the tongue and in the basin, while a cloud of skirmishers, descending
on their left, penetrated between them and the 52nd, seeking to turn
both. The right tongue was in like manner assailed, and the assault was
so strong and rapid, the enemy so numerous, the ground so extensive,
that to cross the common and reach the church of Arcangues would have
been impossible if serious resistance had been attempted at first.
Wherefore, delivering their fire at pistol-shot distance, the picquets
fell back in succession, with eminent coolness and intelligence. For
though they had to run at full speed to gain the common before the
enemy, who was constantly outflanking them by the basin; though the
ways were so deep and narrow no formation could be preserved; though
the fire of the French was thick and close, and their cries vehement in
pursuit, the instant the open ground was attained, the crowd of seeming
fugitives turned and presented a compact and well-formed body, defying
and deriding the efforts of their adversaries.

The 52nd, which was half a mile to the left, was but slightly assailed,
yet fell back also to the main ridge; for though the ground did not
permit Colonel Colborne to see the enemy’s strength, the rapid retreat
of the 43rd told him the affair was serious. Well did the regiments
of the light division understand each other’s qualities, and in good
time he withdrew to the main position. On the right-hand tongue the
troops were not so fortunate; the enemy, moving by the basin, reached
the common before them, and about a hundred of the 43rd and riflemen
were intercepted. The French were in a hollow road and careless,
never doubting that the officer of the 43rd, Ensign Campbell, a youth
scarcely eighteen years of age, would surrender; but with a shout he
broke into their column sword in hand, and though the struggle was
severe and twenty of the 43rd and thirty of the riflemen with their
officer remained prisoners, he reached the church with the rest.

D’Armagnac’s division of D’Erlon’s corps now pushed close up to the
bridge of Urdains, and Clausel assembling his three divisions by
degrees at Bussussary, opened a sharp fire of musketry. The position
was however safe. A mansion-house on the right, covered by abbatis
and not easily accessible, was defended by a rifle battalion and the
Portuguese. The church and churchyard were occupied by the 43rd,
supported with two mountain-guns, their front being covered by a
declivity of thick copse-wood filled with riflemen, and only to be
turned by narrow hollow roads leading on each side to the church. On
the left, the 52nd, supported by the remainder of the division, spread
as far as the great basin which separated this position from the ridge
of Barrouilhet, towards which some small posts were pushed: yet there
was still a great interval between Alten and Hope.

As the skirmishing grew hot, Clausel brought up twelve guns with which
he threw shot and shells into the churchyard of Arcangues, and four or
five hundred infantry made a rush forwards, but a heavy fire from the
43rd sent them back over the ridge where their guns were posted. Yet
their cannonade would have been murderous, if this musketry had not
made the gunners withdraw their pieces a little behind the ridge, and
caused their shot to fly wild and high. Kempt, thinking the distance
too great, was at first inclined to stop the fire, but the moment it
lulled the French pushed their pieces forwards again, and their shells
knocked down eight men in an instant: the muskets then recommenced and
the shells again flew high. The village and mansion-house on the right
were defended by the riflemen, and the action, hottest where the 52nd
fought, continued all day. It was not very severe, yet both French and
English writers, misled perhaps by an inaccurate phrase in the public
dispatch, have represented it as a desperate attack by which the light
division was driven into its entrenchments; whereas the picquets only
were forced back, and there were no entrenchments, save those made on
the spur of the moment by the soldiers in the churchyard.


On that side Reille, having two divisions, drove Campbell’s Portuguese
from Anglet about nine o’clock, and Sparre’s cavalry cut down a
great many men. The French infantry then assailed the position of
Barrouilhet, but moving along a narrow ridge, confined on each flank
by tanks, only two brigades could get into action by the main road,
and the rain had rendered all the bye-roads so deep that it was midday
before their line of battle was filled. This delay saved the allies,
for the attack here also was so unexpected that the first division and
Lord Aylmer’s brigade were at rest in St. Jean de Luz and Bidart when
the action commenced, and the latter did not reach the position before
eleven o’clock; the foot-guards did not march until after twelve, and
only arrived at three o’clock when the fight was done; all the troops
were exceedingly fatigued, only ten guns could be brought into play,
and from some negligence part of the infantry were without ammunition.

Robinson’s brigade of the fifth division first arrived to support
Campbell and fight the battle. The French skirmishers had then spread
along the whole valley, while their columns moved by the great road
against the mayor’s house on the platform of Barrouilhet, where the
ground was thick of hedges and coppice-wood. A most confused fight took
place. The assailants, cutting ways through the hedges, poured on in
smaller or larger bodies as the openings allowed, and were immediately
engaged, at some points successfully, at others beaten, and few knew
what was going on to the right or left of where they stood. By degrees
Reille engaged both his divisions, and some of Villatte’s reserve also
entered the fight, but then Bradford’s Portuguese and Aylmer’s brigade
arrived on the allies’ side, which enabled Greville’s brigade of the
fifth division, hitherto in reserve, to relieve Robinson’s troops who
had suffered severely, and he himself was dangerously wounded.

A notable action now happened with the 9th Regiment under Colonel
Cameron. Posted on the extreme left of Greville’s brigade, there was
between it and Bradford’s brigade a Portuguese battalion. Opposite
the 9th was a coppice-wood possessed by the enemy, whose skirmishers
were continually gathering in masses and rushing out as if to assail
the regiment, and were as often driven back; but the ground was so
broken that nothing could be seen on the flanks, and after some time
Cameron, who had received no orders, heard a sudden firing along the
main road close to his left. His adjutant, sent to look out, returned
quickly to say a French regiment, which must have passed unseen in
small bodies between the Portuguese battalion and the 9th, was rapidly
filing into line on the rear. The 4th British Regiment was in column
at a short distance, and its commander, Colonel Piper, was directed
by Cameron to face about and fall on the French regiment; but he took
a wrong direction, no firing followed, and the adjutant again hurried
to the rear in observation. The 4th Regiment was not to be seen, and
the enemy’s line was then nearly formed, whereupon Cameron, leaving
fifty men to answer the skirmishing fire, which now increased from the
copse, faced about and marched against the new enemy, who was about his
own strength. The French opened fire, slowly at first, but increasing
vehemently as the distance lessened, until the 9th sprung forwards
to charge; then the adverse line broke and fled by their flanks in
disorder, those who made for their own right brushing the left of
Greville’s brigade and carrying off an officer of the Royals in their
rush: yet the greatest number were made prisoners and Cameron having
lost eighty men and officers resumed his old ground.

Reille’s divisions were now all repulsed, but Villatte still menaced
the right flank, and Foy, taking possession of the narrow ridge
connecting Bussussary with the platform of Barrouilhet, threw his
skirmishers into the great basin leading to Arbonne and menaced Hope’s
right flank. It was now two o’clock, and Soult, his columns being
then all in hand, gave orders to renew the battle, and his masses
were beginning to move, when Clausel reported that a large body of
troops, coming from the right of the Nive, was menacing D’Armagnac near
Urdains. Unable to account for this, Soult, who saw the Guards and
Germans coming up from St. Jean de Luz, and the unattached brigades
already in line, suspended his attack, and ordered D’Erlon, who had two
divisions in reserve, to detach one to the support of D’Armagnac: ere
that could be done the night fell.

The troops seen by Clausel were the third, fourth, sixth, and seventh
divisions, whose movements during the battle it is time to notice. When
Wellington discovered that the heights in Hill’s front were abandoned,
he directed that officer to push parties close up to the front of
Mousserolles; but then hearing the cannonade on the left bank of the
Nive repaired there. In passing he made the third and sixth divisions
recross that river, and ordered Beresford to lay another bridge of
communication lower down the Nive at Villefranque, to shorten the line
of movement. When he saw how the battle stood with Hope and Alten, he
made the seventh division close in from the hill of San Barbe, placed
the third division at Urdains, and brought up Cole’s division to an
open heathy ridge a mile behind the church of Arcangues, from thence a
brigade moved into the basin on the left of Colborne to cover Arbonne,
and the whole division was ready to oppose any attempt to penetrate
between Hope and Alten. It was these dispositions which checked Clausel
and prevented Soult’s attack at Barrouilhet.

In this battle two generals and twelve hundred Anglo-Portuguese had
been killed and wounded, three hundred made prisoners. The French had
one general, Villatte, wounded, and lost two thousand men; and when the
action terminated two regiments of Nassau with one of Frankfort came
over to the allies. These men were not deserters. Their prince having
abandoned Napoleon in Germany sent secret instructions to his troops to
do so likewise, and in good time, for Napoleon’s orders to disarm them
reached Soult the next morning.


In the night of the 10th Reille withdrew behind the tanks, while Foy
and Villatte moved along the connecting ridge towards Bussussary, to
unite with Clausel’s left and D’Erlon’s reserve; hence on the morning
of the 11th the French army, D’Armagnac’s division which remained at
Urdains excepted, was concentrated, for Soult feared a counter-attack.
The French deserters indeed declared that Clausel had formed a body
of two thousand choice grenadiers to assault the village and church
of Arcangues, yet the day passed there with only a slight skirmish.
Not so at Barrouilhet. There was a thick fog, and at ten o’clock Lord
Wellington, desirous to ascertain what Soult was doing, directed the
9th Regiment to skirmish beyond the tanks, but not to push the action
if the French augmented their force. Cameron did so and the fight was
becoming warm, when Colonel Delaney, a staff-officer, rashly directed
the 9th to enter the village: an error sharply corrected. For the fog
cleared up, and Soult, who had twenty-four thousand men at that point,
seeing the 9th unsupported, made a counter-attack so strong and sudden
that Cameron only saved his regiment with the aid of some Portuguese
troops hastily brought up by Hope. The fighting then ceased and
Wellington went to the right, leaving Hope with orders to drive back
the French picquets and re-establish his own outposts.

Soult, hitherto seemingly undecided, was roused by this second insult.
He ordered Daricau’s division to attack the right of Barrouilhet in
reply, while Boyer’s division fell on by the main road between the
tanks. The allies, unexpectant of battle, had dispersed to gather fuel,
for the time was wet and cold, wherefore the French penetrated in all
directions; they outflanked the right, they passed the tanks, seized
the outhouses of the mayor’s house and occupied the coppice in front of
it; and though driven from the outbuildings by the Royals, the tumult
was great and the coppice was filled with men of all nations intermixed
and fighting in a perilous manner. Robinson’s brigade was very hardly
handled, the officer commanding it was wounded, a squadron of French
cavalry again cut down some Portuguese near the wood; and on the right
the colonel of the 84th having unwisely entered a hollow road, the
French, having the banks, killed him and a great number of his men.
However the 9th Regiment, posted on the main road, plied Boyer’s flank
with fire, the 85th Regiment came into action, and Hope, conspicuous
from his gigantic stature and heroic courage, was seen wherever danger
pressed, encouraging the troops: at one time he was in the midst of
the enemy, his clothes were pierced with bullets and he was severely
wounded in the ankle, yet he would not quit the field, and thus by his
calm intrepidity restored the battle; the French were beaten from
Barrouilhet, but they had recovered their original posts and continued
to gall the allies with a fire of shot and shells until the fall of

In this fight six hundred men of a side fell, and as the fifth division
was very much reduced the first division took its place in the line.
Meanwhile Soult sent his cavalry over the Nive to Mousserolles to check
the incursions of Hill’s horsemen.


Rain again fell heavily in the night, and, though the morning broke
fair, neither side seemed inclined to recommence hostilities; but the
advanced posts being very close to each other at ten o’clock a quarrel
arose. For Soult observing the fresh regiments of the first division
close to his posts, imagined the allies were going to attack him, and
reinforced his front; this caused an English battery to fall into a
like error, it opened on the advancing troops and in an instant the
whole line of posts was engaged. Soult then brought up a number of
guns, the firing continued without object for many hours, and four
hundred men of a side were killed or wounded, although the great body
of the French army remained concentrated and quiet on the ridge between
Barrouilhet and Bussussary.

Wellington, expecting Soult would finally abandon his attack to fall on
Hill, had sent Beresford orders to reinforce the latter with the sixth
division by the new bridge if necessary; and also with the seventh
division by Ustaritz without waiting for further instructions; yet now,
seeing Soult’s tenacity, he drew the seventh division again towards
Arbonne. Beresford had however made a movement towards the Nive, and
this, with the march of the seventh and some changes in the position of
the fourth division, caused Soult to believe the allies were gathering
with a view to attack his centre on the morning of the 13th; and it
is remarkable that the deserters, at this early period, told him the
Spaniards had re-entered France, although orders to that effect were
not, as we shall find, given until the next day. Convinced then that
his bolt was shot on that side of the Nive, he left two divisions and
Villatte’s reserve in the entrenched camp, and marched with the other
seven to Mousserolles, intending to fall upon Hill.

That general had pushed his scouting parties far abroad, and when
Sparre’s horsemen arrived at Mousserolles on the 12th, Pierre Soult
advanced from the Bidouze river with all his light cavalry, and being
supported by General Paris drove the allies’ posts from Hasparen.
Colonel Vivian, who commanded there, ordered Major Brotherton to
charge with the 14th Dragoons across the bridge. It was an ill-judged
order, and the impossibility of succeeding was so manifest, that when
Brotherton, noted throughout the army for his daring, galloped forward,
only two men and one subaltern, Lieutenant Southwell, passed the narrow
bridge with him and they were all taken except one man who was killed.
Vivian charged with his whole brigade to rescue them, but in vain, and
he fell back to Urcurray upon Morillo’s Spaniards; Hill then put a
British brigade in march to support him on the 12th, yet recalled it at
sunset, because he had then discovered Soult’s columns passing the Nive
by the boat-bridge above Bayonne.

Wellington, feeling the want of numbers, now brought forward a division
of Gallicians to St. Jean de Luz, and one of Andalusians from the
Bastan to Itzassu, and to prevent plunder fed them from the British
magazines. The Gallicians were to support Hope, the Andalusians to
protect the rear of the army from General Paris and Pierre Soult.

Hill now took a position of battle on a front of two miles.

His left, composed of the 28th, 34th and 39th Regiments under
General Pringle, occupied a wooded ridge crowned by the château of
Villefranque, where it covered the new pontoon bridge of communication,
but was separated from the centre by a small stream forming a chain of
ponds in a deep marshy valley.

His centre was on both sides of the high road, near the hamlet of
St. Pierre, on a crescent-shaped height, broken with rocks and close
brushwood on the left hand; on the right hand inclosed with high and
thick hedges, one of which, at the distance of a hundred yards, covered
part of the line and was nearly impassable. Here Barnes’s British
brigade of the second division were posted, the 71st Regiment being on
the left, the 50th in the centre, the 92nd on the right. Ashworth’s
Portuguese were posted in advance immediately in front of St. Pierre,
with skirmishers occupying a small wood covering their right. Twelve
guns under Ross and Tullock were in the centre, looking down the great
road; and half a mile in rear Lecor’s Portuguese and two guns were in

The right, under Byng, was composed of the 3rd, 57th, 31st, and 66th.
The first-named was posted on a height running parallel with the Adour,
called the ridge of Old Moguerre because a village of that name was on
the summit; pushed in advance, this regiment could only be assailed by
crossing a narrow swampy valley, the upper part of which was held by
Byng with the remainder of the brigade, his post being also covered by
a great mill-pond.

One mile in front of St. Pierre a range of counter heights were held
by the French, but the basin between was broad, open, and commanded
by the fire of the allies. All parts were too heavy and enclosed for
the action of cavalry, and the French infantry could only approach in
force on one narrow front of battle along the high road, until within
cannon-shot, but then two narrow difficult lanes branched off to the
right and left, crossing the swampy valleys on each side, and leading,
the one against the allies’ right, where the 3rd Regiment was posted;
the other against their left.

In the night of the 12th rain swelled the Nive and carried away the
bridge of communication; it was soon restored, but for the time Hill
was cut off from the rest of the army; and while seven French divisions
of infantry, furnishing thirty-five thousand combatants, approached
him in front, an eighth under General Paris, and the cavalry of Pierre
Soult, menaced him in rear. To meet those in his front he had only
fourteen guns and fourteen thousand men in position; to check those on
his rear but four thousand Spaniards and Vivian’s cavalry at Urcurray.

BATTLE OF ST. PIERRE. (Dec. 1813.)

Morning broke with a heavy mist, under cover of which Soult formed his
order of battle. D’Erlon, having D’Armagnac’s, Abbé’s, and Daricau’s
divisions of infantry, Sparre’s cavalry, and twenty-two guns, marched
in front; Foy and Maransin followed, but the remainder of the army was
in reserve, for the roads would not allow of any other order. The mist
hung heavily, and the French masses, at one moment quite shrouded in
vapour, at another dimly seen or looming sudden and large, and dark,
at different points, appeared like thunder-clouds gathering before the
storm; but at half-past eight Soult pushed back the British picquets
in the centre, the sun burst out, and the sparkling fire of the light
troops spread wide in the valley and crept up the hills on either
flank, while the bellowing of forty pieces of artillery shook the banks
of the Nive and the Adour.

Daricau, marching on the French right, was directed against Pringle.
D’Armagnac, moving on the left, took Old Moguerre as his point of
direction, and sought to force Byng’s right. Abbé assailed the centre
at St. Pierre, where General Stewart commanded. Hill took his station
on a commanding mount in the rear, from whence he could see the whole
battle and direct the movements.

Abbé, a man noted for vigour, pushed his attack with great violence
and gained ground so rapidly with his light troops on the left of
Ashworth’s Portuguese, that Stewart sent the 71st Regiment and two guns
from St. Pierre to the latter’s aid; then the French won the small wood
on Ashworth’s right, and half of the 50th Regiment was detached to
that quarter. The wood was thus retaken, and the flanks of Stewart’s
position secured, but his centre was weakened, the fire of the French
artillery was concentrated against it, and Abbé pushed on there with
such a power that, despite of the play of musketry on his flanks and a
crushing cannonade in his front, he gained the top of the position, and
drove back the remainder of Ashworth’s Portuguese, together with the
other half of the 50th Regiment, which had remained in reserve.

General Barnes now brought the 92nd Regiment from behind St. Pierre
with so furious a counter-attack that the French skirmishers fell back
in disorder on each side, leaving their column to meet the charge,
which was so roughly pushed that the French mass wavered and gave way:
Abbé immediately replaced it with another, and Soult, redoubling the
heavy play of his heavy guns from the heights, sent a battery of horse
artillery galloping down into the valley, where it opened fire close
to the allies with destructive activity. The cannonade and musketry
then rolled like a prolonged peal of thunder, and Abbé’s second column,
regardless of Ross’s guns, though they tore the ranks in a horrible
manner, advanced so steadily up the high road, that the 92nd was
compelled to take shelter behind St. Pierre. The Portuguese guns, their
British commanding officer having fallen wounded, then limbered up to
retire, and the French skirmishers reached the thick hedge in front of
Ashworth’s right.

Barnes, seeing that hard fighting only could save the position, now
made the Portuguese guns resume fire, while the wing of the 50th and
the Caçadores gallantly held the small wood on the right; but he was
soon wounded, the greatest part of his and Stewart’s staff were hurt,
and the matter seemed desperate. For the light troops, overpowered by
numbers, were all driven in, except those in the wood, the artillerymen
were falling at the guns, Ashworth’s line crumbled rapidly before the
musketry and cannonade, the ground was strewed with the dead in front,
and the wounded crawling to the rear were many. If the French light
troops could then have penetrated through the thick hedge, defeat would
have been inevitable. For the column of attack was steadily advancing
up the main road, and a second column launched on its right was already
victorious, because the colonel of the 71st shamefully withdrew that
gallant regiment and abandoned the Portuguese. Pringle was still
fighting strongly against Daricau’s superior numbers on the hill of
Villefranque; but on the extreme right, the colonel of the 3rd regiment
also shamefully abandoned his strong post to D’Armagnac, whose leading
brigade then rapidly turned Byng’s other regiments on that side.

Foy’s and Maransin’s divisions, hitherto retarded by the deep roads,
were now coming into line to support Abbé, and at a moment when the
troops opposed to him were deprived of their reserve, because Hill,
beholding the retreat of the 3rd and 71st Regiments, descended in haste
from his mount, turned the latter back, renewed the fight in person,
and bringing one brigade of Lecor’s reserve to the same quarter sent
the other against D’Armagnac at Old Moguerre. Thus at the decisive
moment of the battle the French reserve was augmenting, while that
of the allies was thrown as a last resource into action. However the
right wing of the 50th and Ashworth’s Caçadores never lost the small
wood in front, upholding the fight there and towards the high road with
unflinching courage: this gave the 92nd Regiment time to reform behind
the hamlet of St. Pierre, and its gallant colonel, Cameron, once more
led it down the road with colours flying and music playing, resolved to
give the shock to whatever stood in the way. At this sight the British
skirmishers on the flanks, suddenly changing from retreat to attack,
rushed forward and drove those of the enemy back on each side; yet the
battle seemed hopeless, for Ashworth was badly wounded, his line was
shattered, and Barnes, who had not quitted the field for his former
hurt, was now shot through the body.

The 92nd was but a small clump compared with the heavy mass in its
front, and the French soldiers seemed willing enough to close with
the bayonet, until an officer riding at their head suddenly turned
his horse, waved his sword and appeared to order a retreat: then they
faced about and retired across the valley to their original position,
in good order however, and scarcely pursued by the allies, so exhausted
were the victors. This retrograde movement, for there was no panic
or disorder, was produced partly by the gallant advance of the 92nd
and the returning rush of the skirmishers; partly by the state of
affairs immediately on the right of the French column, where the 71st,
indignant at their colonel’s conduct, had returned to the fight with
such fierceness, and were so well aided by Lecor’s Portuguese, Hill
and Stewart in person leading the attack, that the hitherto victorious
French were overthrown there also, at the very moment when the 92nd
came with that brave show down the main road. Many men fell and Lecor
was wounded, but the double action in the centre being seen from the
hill of Villefranque, Daricau’s division, already roughly handled by
Pringle, also fell back in confusion; while on the extreme right,
Buchan’s Portuguese, detached by Hill to recover the Moguerre ridge,
ascended under a flank fire from Soult’s guns, and rallied the 3rd
Regiment: in happy time, for D’Armagnac’s first brigade had passed
Byng’s flank at the mill-pond and was in rear of his line.

It was now twelve o’clock, and while the fire of the light troops and
cannonade in the centre continued, the contending generals restored
their respective orders of battle. Soult’s right wing had been quite
repulsed by Pringle, his left was giving way before Buchan, and the
difficult ground forbad his sending immediate succour to either;
moreover in the exigency of the moment he had called D’Armagnac’s
reserve brigade to sustain Abbé’s retiring columns. However that
brigade, and Foy’s and Maransin’s divisions, were in hand to renew
the fight in the centre, and the allies could not, unsuccoured, have
sustained a fresh assault, their ranks being wasted with fire, nearly
all the staff killed or wounded, and three generals badly hurt.

In this crisis Hill, seeing Buchan well engaged on Old Moguerre and
Byng master of his ground in the valley of the mill-pond, drew the 57th
Regiment from the latter place to reinforce his centre; at the same
time the bridge of boats having been restored, the sixth division,
which had been marching since daybreak, appeared in order of battle
on the mount below St. Pierre. It was soon followed by the fourth and
third divisions, and two brigades of the seventh division were likewise
in march. With the first of these troops came Wellington. He had
hurried from Barrouilhet when the first sound of cannon reached him,
yet he arrived only to witness the close of the battle--the crisis was
past. Hill’s day of glory was complete.

Soult, according to the French method, now made another attack, or
rather demonstration against the centre to cover his new dispositions,
but he was easily repulsed, and at the same moment Buchan drove
D’Armagnac headlong off the Moguerre ridge. The French masses continued
to maintain a menacing position on the high road, and on a hillock
rising between the road and the mill-pond, but were soon dispossessed
by Wellington, who sent Byng with two battalions against the hillock,
and some troops from the centre against those on the high road. At
this last point however the generals and staff had been so cut down,
that Colonel Currie, the aide-de-camp, could find no superior officer
to deliver the order to and led the troops himself to the attack.
Both charges were successful, and two of the light guns, sent down in
the early part of the fight by Soult and which, had played without
ceasing, were taken.

The battle now abated to a skirmish, under cover of which the French
endeavoured to carry off their wounded and rally their stragglers, but
at two o’clock Wellington commanded a general advance of the whole
line. Then the French retreated fighting, and the allies, following
close on the side of the Nive, plied them with musketry until dark;
yet they maintained their line towards the Adour, and Sparre’s cavalry
passing out that way rejoined Pierre Soult. This last general and Paris
had during the day skirmished with Morillo and Vivian’s cavalry at
Ureurray, until the ill-success at St. Pierre became known, when they

In this bloody action Soult had designed to employ seven divisions of
infantry with one brigade of cavalry on the front, and one brigade of
infantry with a division of cavalry on the rear; but the state of the
roads and the narrow front did not permit more than five divisions
to act, and only half of those were seriously engaged. His loss was
certainly three thousand, making a total, on the five days’ fighting,
of six thousand men with two generals, Villatte and Maucomble, wounded.
Hill had three generals and fifteen hundred men killed or wounded,
and Wellington’s loss on the five days’ fighting was five thousand,
including five hundred prisoners. Five generals, Hope, Robinson,
Barnes, Lecor and Ashworth, were wounded.


When Soult lost the battle of St. Pierre, he left three divisions on
the Mousserolles camp, sent two over the Nive to reinforce Reille,
and passing the Adour in the night with Foy’s division, extended it
up the right bank of that river to the confluence of the Gave de Pau,
to protect the navigation, on which his supplies now depended. To
intercept those supplies, to cut the French communication with St. Jean
Pied de Port, and open a fertile tract of country for the subsistence
and action of his powerful cavalry, had been Wellington’s object in
forcing the passage of the Nive; for Bayonne could not be assailed with
success until the army occupying the entrenched camp in its front was
drawn away by want. Soult was resolved to hold his position around
that fortress, and the country beyond the Nive favoured that object,
being deep, traversed by many rivers, which flooding with every shower
in the mountains furnished in their concentric courses to the Adour
barriers not easy to break through without great loss: and to turn them
by their sources near the mountains required wide movements, and fine
weather to harden the roads. But the winter of 1813 was peculiarly
wet. Still Soult’s security depended on the weather, and three fine
days made him tremble. He was now also dependent on water-carriage
for his supplies, his chief magazines being at Dax on the Adour, and
Peyrehorade on the Gave de Pau; the latter only twenty-four miles from
Bayonne, and both so exposed to sudden incursions that he was compelled
to entrench them.

While thus watching clouds and skies for the signal of great
operations, the two commanders carried on a minor warfare of posts and
surprises. Soult, finding the navigation of the Adour most endangered
near Urt, where the river narrowed, sent Foy across to cast a bridge
and fortify a head to it; but Wellington, forestalling the attempt,
drove him back again, and the supplies were then only brought down at
night by stealth or with a guard of gunboats under fire: indeed the
French army could not have been thus supplied if the coasting trade
from Bordeaux to Bayonne had been interrupted by the English navy, but
Wellington’s remonstrances on that head were still unheeded by the
Admiralty. However Soult was so embarrassed, that leaving Reille with
but four divisions in Vauban’s camp, he transferred his head-quarters
to Peyrehorade, and sent Clausel with two divisions, all the light
cavalry and Trielhard’s heavy dragoons beyond the Adour to take post
on the Bidouze, one of the many rivers descending concentrically from
the Pyrenees to the Adour. His advanced posts were then pushed to the
Joyeuse and Aran rivers, close to Wellington, who immediately made
counter dispositions, and thus the principal fronts of opposition were
placed on a line perpendicular to that against Bayonne, which thus
became secondary.

This did not prevent the minor warfare for the command of the
navigation of the Adour being continued. Hill seized the island of
Holriague in the Adour; those of Berens and Broc above it, were taken
by Foy, and the allies were momentarily embarrassed by the loss of
their boat-bridge on the Nive, which was carried away by a flood.
On their extreme right Morillo, having without authority taken two
squadrons of the 18th Hussars to aid one of his foraging incursions,
abandoned them at a critical moment, whereby their major, Hughes, two
captains and a lieutenant were wounded and many men lost. Mina also
invaded the valleys of Baygorry, plundering, burning, and murdering
men, women, and children; whereupon the people there took arms, and
being reinforced with two hundred regulars from St. Jean Pied de Port
surprised one of his battalions and pressed the others with vigour.
This gave Soult hopes of exciting the Basques to an insurgent warfare;
and General Harispe, a Basque by birth and of great reputation, who had
been long expected from Suchet’s army, now arrived to aid this plan.
If Harispe had come in November, Wellington’s strict discipline being
then unknown, a formidable warfare would have been raised. It was now
too late for a general rising, yet his presence, and Mina’s incursions,
with the licentious conduct of Morillo, had so awakened the warlike
propensities of the Baygorry Basques, that Harispe soon made a levy and
commenced active operations. To aid him Soult extended and strengthened
his own left, and made the light cavalry menace all the outposts,
whereupon Wellington, thinking he sought a general battle, resolved
to fall on him at once, but was stopped by the sudden swelling of the
rivers. When they subsided, he marched to attack Clausel in the centre,
and as Soult was there in person a general battle seemed inevitable;
but the movements on both sides were founded on mistakes, and the
matter ended with a slight skirmish.

Harispe reinforced with Paris’s division and Dauture’s brigade then
drove Mina with loss into the high mountains, surprised Morillo’s
foragers, and captured some English dragoons. Lord Wellington, fearing
this warfare, put forth his authority in a vigorous manner to check
the Spanish generals, and a sullen obedience followed, yet the Basque
insurrection spread, and he therefore published a manifesto calling
on the people to declare for war or peace, announcing his intention
to burn their villages and put them to death if they continued
insurgent--in fine, to treat them as the French generals had treated
the insurgents in Spain. This stopped Harispe’s efforts, and Soult,
who now expected reinforcements and was desirous to resume the
offensive with his whole army, ordered him to abandon his Peasant war,
to concentrate his regular force and hem in the allies’ right. Then
Harispe, always daring and active, drove back all Morillo’s foragers,
and with them a body of English cavalry: at the same time one of Hill’s
cavalry posts on the left was cut off in retaliation for a French post
which had been surprised by the sixth division, with circumstances
entirely opposed to good feeling and to the generous habits long
established between the light division and the French soldiers, of
which the following are fine illustrations.

On the 9th of December, the 43rd was assembled within twenty yards of
a French out-sentry, yet he continued his beat for an hour without
concern, relying so confidently on the customary system as to place
his knapsack on the ground. When the order to advance was given, one
of the British soldiers told him to go away and helped him to replace
his pack before the firing commenced. Next morning the French in like
manner warned a 43rd sentry to retire. At another time Lord Wellington,
desirous to gain the top of a hill occupied by the enemy near Bayonne,
ordered his escort of riflemen to drive the French away, and seeing the
soldiers stealing up too close, as he thought, called out to fire, but
with a loud voice one of those veterans replied, _No firing!_ Holding
up the butt of his rifle towards the French, he tapped it in a peculiar
way, and at the private signal, which meaned, _We must have the hill
for a short time_, the French, who could not maintain yet would not
have relinquished it without a fight if they had been fired upon,
quietly retired: yet this signal would never have been made if the post
had been one capable of a permanent defence, so well did those veterans
understand war and its proprieties.

Soult’s conscripts were now deserting fast, and the inclemency of the
weather filled his hospitals, while Wellington’s bronzed soldiers,
impassive to fatigue, patient to endure, fierce in execution, were free
from serious maladies, ready and able to plant their colours wherever
their general listed. The country was however a vast quagmire; neither
provisions nor orders could be conveyed to the different quarters; a
Portuguese brigade was several days without food from the swelling of
the rivulets, which stopped the commissariat mules. At the sea-side the
troops were better off, yet with a horrible counterpoise; for on that
iron-bound coast, storms and shipwrecks were so frequent, that scarcely
a day passed without some vessel, sometimes many together, being seen
embayed and drifting towards the reefs, which shoot out like needles
for several miles. Once in that situation there was no human help!
A faint cry might be heard at intervals, but the tall ship floated
solemnly onwards until the first rock arrested her, when a roaring
surge would dash her to pieces and the shore was strewed with broken
timbers and dead bodies. January was thus passed by the allies, but
February saw Wellington break into France, the successful invader of
that mighty country.


  Passages of the Gaves and the Adour--Passage of the Gaves--Combat
    of Garris--Passage of the Adour--Passage of the Gaves
    continued--Battle of Orthes--Combat of Aire.


While the armies remained inactive, political difficulties accumulated
on both sides in a strange manner. What those difficulties were and
their causes must be sought for in the original History: this work
treats only of battles. Yet their gravity will be understood when it is
said, that Soult, surrounded with traitors and lukewarm friends, had
his army again so reduced by drafts that he proposed to Napoleon, then
driven from Germany and striving hard to defend France on the east, no
longer to contend with Wellington in regular warfare, but to scatter
his forces as great partizan corps in opposition to the invasion. On
the other hand, Wellington seriously warned his Government that he
looked to San Sebastian as a post where he should soon have to fight
for an embarkation against the united French and Spanish armies! In
fine that the war could no longer be continued. Suddenly however his
position was ameliorated by a change in the Spanish councils, by the
approach of fine weather, and the simultaneous receipt of a large sum
in gold, which enabled him again to employ the Spaniards in France with
less danger of their plundering the country. He had sent before him the
fame of a just discipline and wise consideration for the people, and
there was indeed nothing he dreaded more than the insurgent warfare
projected by Soult. Harispe’s Basques had done him more mischief than
the French army, the terrible menace of destroying their villages and
killing all the male population, by which he stopped their warfare,
marked his apprehensions, and he neglected no means of conciliation.

He permitted the local authorities to carry on the internal government,
to take their salaries and raise the necessary taxes, and by opening
the ports he drew a large commerce to support his army; he established
many channels for intelligence, political and military, and would have
extended his policy further if the English ministers had not abruptly
and ignorantly interfered with his proceedings. Finally, foreseeing
that his gold, being in foreign coin, would create embarrassment,
he adopted an expedient which he had before practised in India; for
knowing that in a British army a wonderful variety of vocations,
good and bad, may be found, he secretly caused false coiners and
die-sinkers to be sought for amongst the soldiers, and they, when
assured no ill was designed for them, very readily acknowledged their
peculiar talents. With these men he secretly coined gold Napoleons,
marking them with a private stamp and carefully preserving their just
fineness and weight, to enable the French government, when peace
should be established, to call them in again. He thus avoided all the
difficulties of exchange, and removed a fruitful source of quarrels
between the troops and shopkeepers, the latter being always fastidious
in taking and desirous of abating the real worth of strange coin; while
the former attribute to fraud any declination from the value at which
they receive their money. This sudden increase of current coin tended
also to diminish the pressure necessarily attendant upon troubled times.

Nor was his provident sagacity less eminent in military than in
administrative and political operations. During the bad weather he had
formed large magazines at the ports, examined the course of the Adour,
and carefully meditated on his plans. To penetrate France and rally a
great Bourbon party under the protection of his army was the system he
desired to follow; and though the last depended on the proceedings of
the allied sovereigns, his own military operations would not clash,
because to drive the French from Bayonne and blockade or besiege it
were the first steps in either case.

That fortress and its citadel, comprising in their circuit the
confluence of the Nive and the Adour, could not be safely invested with
less than three times the number necessary to resist the garrison at
any one point; and hence the whole must be so numerous as seriously
to weaken the forces operating towards the interior. How and where to
cross the Adour for the investment was also a subject of solicitude.
It was a great river with a strong current, and well guarded by troops
and gun-boats above Bayonne; still greater was it below the town, and
there the ebb-tide run seven miles an hour; there also, gun-boats, a
sloop of war, and armed merchant-vessels could be employed to interrupt
the passage. To collect boats enough to bridge the stream above or
below Bayonne, and the carriage of them, an immense operation in
itself, would inevitably give notice of the design, unless the French
army were first driven away; and even then the garrison of Bayonne,
fifteen thousand men, might baffle the attempt. Nevertheless in the
face of these difficulties he resolved to pass, his preparations being
proportionate to the greatness of the design.

Many reasons concurred to make him throw his bridge below and not above
Bayonne, and in that view he had collected at St. Jean de Luz forty
large sailing-boats of from fifteen to thirty tons’ burthen, called
_chasse-marées_, as if for the commissariat service; but he had them
secretly loaded with materials for his bridge, designing with naval
aid to run up the Adour to a certain point, upon which the troops and
artillery were to move; then with hawsers, and rafts made of pontoons,
he designed to throw over a covering body, trusting that the greatness
and danger of the attempt would lull suspicion. No obstacles deterred
him. All the French trading vessels in the Adour had in January
secretly offered to come out upon licenses and serve his commissariat;
but he was compelled to forego that advantage by the silly meddling of
the English ministers, which added greatly to the difficulty of his
enterprise, inasmuch as it forced him, instead of receiving these men
as friends and coadjutors, to prepare means for burning their vessels.

Soult was not less active in defensive measures. He had fortified all
the main passes of the rivers on the great roads leading against his
left; yet the diminution of his force in January had compelled him to
withdraw his outposts from Anglet, which enabled Wellington to examine
the whole course of the Adour below Bayonne and arrange for the passage
with more facility. Soult then, in pursuance of Napoleon’s system of
warfare, which always prescribed a recourse to moral force to cover
physical weakness, concentrated his left wing against the allies’
right beyond the Nive, and renewed that harassing partizan warfare
already noticed, endeavouring to throw his adversary entirely upon the

He knew however he could not thus check the allies long; and judging
Wellington would aim at Bordeaux and the line of the Garonne, while his
own line of retreat must ultimately be in a parallel direction with
the Pyrenees, he tried to organize in time a defensive system. In this
view he sent Daricau, a native of the Landes, to prepare an insurgent
levy in that wilderness, and directed Maransin to the High Pyrenees to
extend the insurrection of the mountaineers, already commenced in the
Lower Pyrenees by Harispe.

At Bordeaux there was a small reserve, which he urged the Minister
of War to increase with conscripts from the interior, and he sent
artillerymen there, ordering various dispositions: but there was no
public spirit awakened and treason was rife in that city.

On the side of the Lower Pyrenees he improved the works of Navarrens,
and designed an entrenched camp; the castle of Lourdes in the High
Pyrenees was already defensible, and he gave orders to fortify the
castle of Pau, thus providing supporting points for a retreat. At
Mauleon he put on foot partizan corps, and had hopes of forming a
reserve of seven or eight thousand national guards, _gens d’armes_
and artillerymen at Tarbes. Dax, containing his principal depôts, was
being fortified, and the communication with it maintained across the
rivers by bridges, with bridge-heads at Port de Lannes, Hastingues,
Peyrehorade, and Sauveterre; but in the beginning of February floods
carried away that at Port de Lannes, and the communication between
Bayonne and the left of the army was thus interrupted until he
established a flying bridge.

Such was his situation when Wellington retook the offensive, with one
hundred and twenty thousand infantry and fifteen thousand cavalry,
as Soult supposed; for he knew not of the political and financial
difficulties which had reduced the English general’s power and
prevented the junction of the reinforcements expected. His emissaries
told him that Clinton’s Catalonian force was broken up, and the British
part in march to join Wellington; that the garrisons of Carthagena,
Cadiz and Ceuta were at hand, and reinforcements were coming from
England and Portugal. This made him conclude there was no intention of
pressing the war in Catalonia, and that all would be united to march
against him; wherefore with more earnestness than before he urged that
Suchet should be ordered to join him, that their united forces might
form a dike against the torrent which threatened to overwhelm the
south of France. The real power opposed to him was however much below
these calculations. Twenty thousand British and Portuguese had been
promised by their governments, but did not arrive; Clinton’s army was
still in Catalonia; the regular Spanish forces available, and that
only partially on account of their licentious conduct, did not exceed
thirty thousand; the Anglo-Portuguese were but seventy thousand, with
ninety-five pieces of artillery.

Soult, exclusive of his garrisons and detachments at Bordeaux and in
the High Pyrenees, exclusive also of the conscripts of the second levy
which were now beginning to arrive, had only thirty-five thousand
soldiers of all arms, three thousand being cavalry, with forty pieces
of artillery. But Bayonne alone, without reference to St. Jean Pied
de Port and Navarrens, occupied twenty-eight thousand of the allies;
and by this and other drains Wellington’s superiority was so reduced,
that his penetrating into France, that France which had made all Europe
tremble at her arms, must be viewed as a surprising example of courage
and fine conduct, military and political.


In the second week of February the weather set in with a strong
frost, and the English general advanced, precisely at the moment when
General Paris had marched with a convoy from Navarrens to make a last
effort for the relief of Jaca in Spain, where a French garrison still
remained. But clothing for the troops, which had been long negligently
delayed in England, arrived at that moment also, and the regiments,
wanting the means of carriage, had to march for it to the coast. The
first design was therefore restricted to turning the French left by
the sources of the rivers with Hill’s corps, marching by the roots of
the Pyrenees; Beresford meanwhile keeping the centre in check upon the
lower parts of the same rivers, in hope that Soult’s attention would
thus be attracted while the passage of the Adour was being made below
Bayonne. It would seem also, that uncertain if he should be able to
force the passage of the tributary rivers with his right, Wellington
intended, if his bridge was happily thrown, to push his main operations
in that quarter, turning the Gaves by the right bank of the Adour: a
fine conception by which his superiority of numbers would have best
availed him to seize Dax and the Port de Landes, and cut Soult off from

Events frustrated this plan. On the 14th Hill, having twenty thousand
combatants and sixteen guns, marched in two columns; one to drive
Clausel’s posts beyond the Joyeuse, another by the great road of St.
Jean Pied de Port against Harispe. This last body had the Ursouia
mountain on its right, while beyond it Morillo marched against the same
point. Harispe, who had only three brigades, principally conscripts,
retired skirmishing in the direction of St. Palais. The line of the
Joyeuse was thus turned by the allies, the direct communication with
St. Jean Pied de Port was out, that place was invested by Mina’s
battalions, and on the 15th Hill, leaving a regiment to observe
the road of St. Jean, marched upon Garris, pushing back Harispe’s

Soult knew of the intended operations on the 12th, but hearing the
allies had collected boats and constructed a fresh battery near Urt on
the Upper Adour, and that the pontoons had reached Urcurray, thought
Wellington’s design was to turn his left with Hill’s corps, to press
him on the Bidouze with Beresford’s, and keep Bayonne in check with
the Spaniards, while Hope crossed the Adour _above_ that fortress.
Wherefore, when Hill’s movement commenced, he resolved to dispute
the passage of the Bidouze, and the two Gaves of Mauleon and Oleron
in succession. He had already four divisions on the Bidouze, and he
recalled Paris to post him between St. Palais and St. Jean Pied de Port
in observation of Mina, whom he supposed to be stronger than he was.

COMBAT OF GARRIS. (Feb. 1814.)

Harispe, having Paris under his orders, and supported by Pierre Soult
with a brigade of light cavalry, now covered the road from St. Jean
with his left, the upper line of the Bidouze with his right; from
thence Villatte, Taupin and Foy were extended to its confluence with
the Adour. Hill moved against Harispe. The latter had just occupied
in advance of the Bidouze a ridge called the Garris mountain, which
stretched to St. Palais, when his rear-guard came plunging into a deep
ravine in his front, closely followed by the light troops of the second
division. Upon the parallel counter-ridge thus gained, General Hill
immediately established himself, and though the evening was beginning
to close his skirmishers descended into the ravine, while two guns
played over it upon four thousand men, arrayed on the opposite mountain
by Harispe. In this state of affairs Wellington arrived. He was
anxious to turn the line of the Bidouze before Soult could strengthen
himself there, and seeing the communication with General Paris, by St.
Palais, was not well maintained, sent Morillo along the ridge towards
that place; then menacing Harispe’s centre with Le Cor’s Portuguese
division, he directed Pringle’s brigade to attack, saying with concise
energy “_The hill must be taken before dark_.”

This expression caught the fancy of the soldiers, and was repeated by
Colonel O’Callaghan, as he and Pringle placed themselves at the head
of the 39th, which, followed by the 28th, immediately rushed with loud
and prolonged shouts into the ravine. Pringle fell wounded, and most of
the mounted officers had their horses killed; but the troops, covered
by the thick wood, gained the summit of the Garris mountain, on the
right of the enemy, who thinking from the shouting that a larger force
was coming retreated. The 39th then wheeled to their right, intending
to sweep the summit, when the French, discovering their error, came
back at a charging pace and receiving a volley without flinching tried
the bayonet. O’Callaghan, distinguished for strength and courage, had
two strokes from that weapon, but repaid them with fatal power in
each instance, and the French, nearly all conscripts, were beaten off.
Twice however they came back, and fought until the fire of the 28th was
beginning to be felt, when Harispe, seeing the remainder of the second
division ready to support the attack, Le Cor advancing against his
centre, Morillo in march towards St. Palais, retreated to that town,
and calling in Paris broke down the bridges over the Bidouze. He lost
altogether five hundred men, two hundred being taken, and would hardly
have escaped if Morillo had not been slow. The allies lost one hundred
and sixty, most of them in the bayonet contest.

During these operations Picton, marching on Hill’s left, menaced
Villatte; but Beresford, though his scouting parties, on the left of
Picton, approached the Bidouze, facing Taupin and Foy, remained on
the Joyeuse, as the pivot upon which Wellington’s right was to sweep
round the French positions. Foy however had observed the movement of
two other divisions, pointing as he thought towards the French left,
and his reports to that effect reached Soult at the moment the latter
received notice that St. Jean Pied de Port was invested. Thinking then
that Wellington would not attempt to pass the Adour above Bayonne, but
win his way to that river by constantly turning the French left, he
made new dispositions.

His line on the Bidouze was strong, yet too extended, and he resolved
to abandon that and the Mauleon for the Gave d’Oleron, placing his
right at Peyrehorade, his left at Navarrens. Villatte therefore took
post at Sauveterre on the Oleron where the bridge had a well-fortified
head; from thence Taupin lined the right bank to the confluence of
the Gave de Pau, which Foy guarded from Peyrehorade to its confluence
with the Adour, his front being prolonged by D’Erlon towards Dax. One
brigade of cavalry was in reserve at Sauveterre and the head-quarters
went to Orthes. But the magazines of ammunition were at Bayonne,
Navarrens, and Dax; and Soult, seeing his communications with all those
places likely to be intercepted before he could remove his stores,
wrote to the minister of war to form new depôts.

On the 16th Wellington repaired the broken bridges of St. Palais, and
after a skirmish Hill crossed the Bidouze, but the day was spent in the
operation. Meanwhile the centre divisions passed the Joyeuse.

The 17th Hill advanced towards the Mauleon, while Picton, on his left,
made for the heights of Somberraute, both corps converging upon General
Paris, who, in defence of the Mauleon Gave, attempted to destroy
the bridge of Arriveriete. Lord Wellington was too quick. The 92nd
regiment, covered by the fire of some guns, passed at a ford above, and
beating two French battalions from the village secured the passage. The
troops halted there, having marched only five miles, and though Paris
relinquished the Gave he did not retire until the morning of the 18th.
The allies then seized the main road between Sauveterre and Navarrens
on the left bank of the Oleron Gave, while Harispe, Villatte, and
Paris, supported by a brigade of cavalry, concentrated at Sauveterre;
Taupin was lower down on their right; Foy on the right of Taupin;
D’Erlon on the left of the Adour, above its confluence with the Gave de

Soult, thrown from the commencement of the operations entirely upon the
defensive, was now at a loss to discover his adversary’s object. In
this uncertainty, sending Pierre Soult with a cavalry brigade and two
battalions of infantry to act between Oleron and Pau and communicate
with the partisan corps forming at Mauleon, he decided to hold the
Gaves as long as he could; and, when they were forced, concentrate his
army at Orthes and fall upon the first of the converging columns that
approached. He had considered every likely movement, as he thought,
and his conjectures had indeed embraced every plan of operation
possible, except the one contemplated by his adversary, namely, the
stupendous bridge over the Adour _below_ Bayonne. That was now to be
done, and Wellington designed to superintend the casting of it in
person; hence, when he had established his right strongly beyond the
Mauleon and Bidouze rivers and knew his pontoons were well advanced,
he returned rapidly to St. Jean de Luz. Everything there depending on
man was ready, but the weather was boisterous with snow for two days,
and Wellington, fearful of letting Soult strengthen himself on the
Gave of Oleron, returned on the 21st to Garris, deciding to press his
operations on that side in person and leave Hope and Admiral Penrose
to throw the bridge.


Hope had twenty-eight thousand men and twenty pieces of artillery, and
in the night of the 22nd the first division, with six eighteen-pounders
and a rocket battery, cautiously filed towards the river; the road was
deep and one of the guns falling into a ditch delayed the march, yet
at daybreak the whole reached some sand-downs which lined the river
bank. The French picquets were then driven into the intrenched camp,
the pontoon train and field-artillery came down opposite the village of
Boucaut, and the eighteen-pounders were placed in battery on the bank.
The light troops, meanwhile, closed to the edge of the marsh covering
Vauban’s camp; and from Arcangues and Urdains the enemy’s attention was
attracted by false attacks, which were prolonged beyond the Nive by the
fifth division.

The gun-boats and chasse-marées should have reached the mouth of
the Adour at the time the troops reached the bank; but the wind was
contrary and none were seen. Hope, whose firmness no untoward event
could ever shake, then resolved to try the passage with the army alone;
the French flotilla opened fire on his columns, but his artillery
and rockets retorted so fiercely that three of the gun-boats were
destroyed, and the sloop so hardly handled that about one o’clock the
whole took refuge higher up the river. Sixty men of the guards were
then rowed in pontoons across the mouth of the river in the face of a
French picquet, which, seemingly bewildered, retired without firing.
A raft was formed with the remainder of the pontoons, a hawser was
stretched across, and Colonel Stopford passed with six hundred of the
guards, the 60th Regiment, and some rockets: yet slowly and at slack
water, for the tide ran strongly and the waters were wide.

General Thouvenot, deceived by spies and prisoners, thought the light
division was with Hope as well as the first division, and that fifteen
thousand men had been embarked at St. Jean de Luz to land between Cape
Breton and the Adour; he feared therefore to send a strong force to
any distance; and when he heard of Stopford’s detachment on the right
hank, detached only two battalions under Macomble to gain information,
because a pine-forest and the bending of the river prevented him from
obtaining a view from Bayonne. Macomble menaced Stopford, but the
latter, flanked by the field artillery on the other bank, received him
with a discharge of rockets; projectiles which, like the elephants in
ancient warfare, often turn upon their own side: this time, amenable
to their directors, they smote the French column and it fled amazed
with a loss of thirty wounded. It is however obvious that if Thouvenot
had kept strong guards with a field-battery on the right bank of the
Adour, Hope could not have passed his troops in pontoons, no vessels
could have crossed the bar, and to disembark troops between the river
and Cape Breton must have been attempted. This error was fatal to the
French. The British remained unmolested until twelve o’clock on the
24th, and then the long-expected flotilla was seen under a press of
sail making with a strong breeze for the mouth of the river.

To enter the Adour is, from the flatness of the coast, never an easy
task; it was now most difficult; the high winds of the preceding days
had raised a great sea, and the enemy had removed one of the guiding
flag-staves by which the navigation was ordinarily directed. In front
of the flotilla came the boats of the men of war, and the naval
captain, O’Reilly, ran his craft, a chosen Spanish vessel, first into
the midst of the breakers, which rolling in a frightful manner over the
bar dashed her on to the beach. That brave officer, stretched senseless
on the shore, would have perished with all his crew but for the ready
succour of the soldiers; some were drowned, but the remainder with an
intrepid spirit launched their boat again to aid the passage.

O’Reilly had been followed successfully by Lieutenant Debenham in a
six-oared cutter, but the tide was then falling, and the remainder of
the boats, the impossibility of passing until high water being evident,
drew off and a pilot was landed to direct the line of navigation by
concerted signals. When the flood again came, the crews being promised
rewards in proportion to their successful daring, the whole flotilla
approached in close order; with it however came black clouds and a
driving gale which sent along the whole coast a rough tumbling sea,
dashing and foaming without an interval of dark water to mark the
entrance of the river. The men-of-war’s boats first drew near this
terrible surge, and Mr. Bloye of the Lyra, having the chief pilot with
him, heroically led into it, but in an instant his barge was ingulfed
and he and all with him were drowned. The following vessels seeing the
Lyra’s boat thus swallowed swerved in their course, and shooting up to
the right and left kept hovering undecided on the edge of the tormented
waters. Suddenly Lieutenant Cheyne of the Woodlark pulled ahead, and
striking the right line with courage and fortune combined, safely
passed the bar. The wind then lulled, the waves as if conquered abated
somewhat of their rage, and the chasse-marées, manned with Spanish
seamen, but having an engineer officer with a party of sappers in each
who compelled them to follow the men-of-war’s boats, came plunging one
after another through the huge breakers and reached the point designed
for the bridge. Thus was achieved this perilous and glorious exploit.
Not without more loss. Captain Elliot of the Martial, with his crew and
the crews of three transports’ boats, perished close to the shore in
despite of the most violent efforts made by the troops to save them;
three other vessels, cast on the beach, lost part of their crews; and
one large chasse-marée, full of men, after passing the line of surf
safely, was overtaken by a swift bellying wave which broke on her deck
and dashed her to pieces.

Eight thousand men were now on the right bank. They remained in the
sand-hills for the night, and next morning, sweeping in a half-circle
round the citadel and its entrenchments, placed their left on the Adour
above the fortress, their right on the same river below; the water
however made such a bend that their front was little more than two
miles wide, and for the most part covered by a marshy ravine. This nice
operation was effected without opposition, because the Vauban camps,
menaced by the troops on the other side of the Adour, were so extensive
that Thouvenot’s force was scarcely sufficient to maintain them. The
bridge was then constructed three miles below Bayonne, at a place where
the river was contracted to eight hundred feet by strong retaining
walls, built with the view of sweeping away the bar by increasing the
force of the current. Bridge and boom were the joint conception of
Colonel Sturgeon and Major Todd of the Staff corps; but the execution
was confided entirely to the latter, who, with a mind less brilliant
than Sturgeon’s, yet more indefatigable, very ably and usefully served
his country throughout this war.

Twenty-six chasse-marées, moored head and stem at distances of forty
feet, were first bound together with ropes; two thick cables were then
carried loosely across their decks, the ends, cast over the walls on
each bank, being strained and fastened in various modes to the sands.
They were sufficiently slack to meet the spring-tides, which rose
fourteen feet, and planks were tied upon them without any supporting
beams. The boom, moored with anchors above and below, was a double line
of masts connected with chains and cables, so as to form a succession
of squares, in the design, if a vessel broke through the outside, that
it should by the shock turn round in the square and get entangled with
the floating wrecks of the line it had broken. Gun-boats, with aiding
batteries on the banks, were then stationed to protect the boom, and to
keep off fire-vessels, row-boats were furnished with grappling irons.
The whole was by the united labour of seamen and soldiers finished on
the 26th, and, contrary to the general opinion on such matters, Major
Todd assured the Author of this History that he found the soldiers,
with minds quickened by the wider range of knowledge attendant on their
service, more ready of resource, and their efforts under a regular
discipline of more avail, with less loss of time, than the irregular
activity of the seamen. But fortune, the errors of the enemy, the
matchless skill and daring of the British seamen, and the discipline
and intrepidity of the British soldiers, combined by the genius of
Wellington, were all necessary to the success of this stupendous
undertaking, which must always rank amongst the prodigies of war.

When the bridge was finished Hope contracted the line of investment,
a difficult operation, for the position of the French outside the
citadel was exceedingly strong. The flanks were protected by ravines,
the sides of which were covered with fortified villas, the front being
on a ridge, crowned by the village and church of St. Etienne, both
dominant, strongly entrenched, and under the fire of the citadel.
Three converging columns, covered by skirmishers, were employed, and
the wings attained the edges of the ravines at either side, their
flanks resting on the Adour above and below; but a very vigorous
action happened in the centre. The German and a brigade of guards were
to attack simultaneously, the guards on the left, the light German
troops on the right, their heavy infantry in the centre; some accident
retarded the wings, and St. Etienne being first attacked the citadel
guns opened and the skirmishing fire was heavy; yet the Germans stormed
church and village, forced the entrenched line of houses, and took
a gun, which however they could not carry off under the fire of the
citadel. The action then ceased for a time, but the people of Bayonne
were in such consternation that Thouvenot to re-assure them sallied at
the head of the troops, charged the Germans twice, and fought well;
he was however wounded and finally lost a gun and the position of St.
Etienne: the British loss was however not less than five hundred men
and officers.


While Hope passed the Adour, Wellington pushed his operations on the
Gaves with great vigour. Six divisions of infantry and two brigades
of cavalry were concentrated on the Gave d’Oleron, between Sauveterre
and Navarrens. Beresford lined the Bidouze to its confluence with the
Adour, and the 23rd drove Foy from his works on the lower parts of the
Oleron Gave, into the bridge-head at Peyrehorade. Soult’s right and
centre were thus held in check, and the rest of his army was at Orthes
and Sauveterre.

On the 24th Wellington advanced to force the Gave d’Oleron. During the
previous days his movements had again deceived Soult, who thought the
light division was with Hope, and imagined the first division was with
Beresford; he did not expect however to hold the Gave, and looked to a
final concentration at Orthes.

On the 24th also, Morillo, reinforced with a detachment of cavalry,
moved towards Navarrens, where rough ground concealed his real force
while his scouters beat back the French outposts; then a battalion
menaced the fords of the Gave at Doguen, with a view to draw the
attention of the garrison from the ford of Ville Nave, three miles
below, where Wellington designed really to pass. For that object a
great concentric movement was now in progress. Favoured by the hilly
nature of the country, which concealed all the columns, the sixth
division moved towards the ford of Montfort, three miles below that of
Ville Nave, while a battalion of the second division menaced the ford
of Barraute below Montfort. Picton marched against the bridge-head
of Sauveterre, with orders to make a feint of forcing the passage
there. Vivian’s hussars, coming up from Beresford’s right, threatened
other fords upon Picton’s left, and Beresford, keeping Foy in check
at Peyrehorade with the seventh division, sent the fourth above the
confluence of the waters to seek a fit place to throw a bridge. Thus
the French front was menaced on a line of twenty-five miles, but the
great force was above Sauveterre.

The first operations were not happily executed. Some of the columns
missed the fords, and Picton, opening a cannonade at Sauveterre, made
four companies of Keane’s brigade and some cavalry pass the Gave in the
vicinity of the bridge; but they were driven back with a loss of ninety
men and officers, of whom some were drowned and thirty made prisoners:
the diversion was however complete and the general operations
successful. Soult on the first alarm drew Harispe from Sauveterre,
placing him on the road to Orthes where a range of hills parallel to
the Gave of Oleron separates it from the Gave of Pau; only a division
of infantry and Berton’s cavalry then remained at Sauveterre, and
Villatte, alarmed by Picton’s demonstrations, abandoned his works on
the left bank and destroyed the bridge. Meanwhile the sixth division
passed without opposition at Montfort above Sauveterre, and the main
body, meeting at the ford of Ville Nave with only a small cavalry
picquet, crossed with no more loss than two men drowned: a happy
circumstance, for the waters were deep and rapid, the cold intense, and
the ford so narrow the passage was not completed before dark. To have
forced it in face of an enemy would have been exceedingly difficult;
and it is remarkable that Soult, who was with Harispe only five miles
from Montfort and seven from Ville Nave, should not have sent that
general down to oppose either passage.

On the 25th at daylight, Wellington pushed the French rear-guard into
the suburb of Orthes, which masked the bridge there, and the Portuguese
of the light division lost twenty-five men in the skirmish. The second,
sixth, and light divisions, Hamilton’s Portuguese, five regiments of
cavalry, and three batteries, were now massed in front of Orthes; the
third division and a brigade of cavalry were in front of the broken
bridge of Berenx five miles lower down the Gave; the fourth and seventh
divisions, with Vivian’s cavalry, were in front of Peyrehorade, from
whence Foy retired to Orthes.

On the morning of the 26th, Beresford, finding Foy had abandoned
Peyrehorade, passed the Gave, partly by a pontoon bridge, partly by a
ford where the current ran so strong that a column was like to have
been carried away bodily; but he had previously detached the 18th
Hussars to find another ford higher up, which was effected under the
guidance of a miller, and the hussars gaining the high road to Orthes
drove some French cavalry through Puyoo. There they rallied on their
reserves and beat back the foremost of the pursuers; yet they would not
await the shock of the main body, now reinforced by Vivian’s brigade
and commanded by Beresford in person. In this affair Major Sewell,
an officer of the staff, who had frequently manifested his personal
prowess, being without a sword, pulled a large stake from a hedge and
with that weapon overthrew two hussars in succession, only ceasing to
fight when a third cut his club in twain.

Beresford now threw out a detachment on his left to intercept the
enemy’s communication with Dax, and Wellington sent Lord Edward
Somerset’s cavalry with the third division across the Gave, by some
fords below the broken bridge of Berenx. Then directing Beresford to
take a position for the night on some heights near the village of
Baïghts, he proceeded to throw a pontoon bridge at Berenx; and thus
after a circuitous march of more than fifty miles with his right wing,
and the passage of five Gaves, he had again united it with his centre
and secured a direct communication with Hope.

The bridge of Orthes, an ancient and beautiful structure, could not
be easily forced. Composed of irregular arches, it had a tower in the
centre, the gateway of which was built up, and the principal arch in
front of the tower was mined, the houses on both sides contributing to
the defence. The river immediately above and below the bridge was deep,
and full of needle-rocks; but above the town the water, spreading wide,
with flat banks, presented the means of crossing. Wellington’s first
design was to pass there with Hill’s troops and the light division,
but when he heard Beresford had crossed the Gave below, he suddenly
threw his bridge at Berenx. This operation was covered by Beresford,
while Soult’s attention was diverted by a continual skirmish at the
suburbs of Orthes; by the appearance of Hill’s columns above the town;
and by Wellington’s taking cognizance of the position near the bridge
so openly as to draw a cannonade. The latter thought that when Soult
knew Beresford and Picton were over the Gave he would not await a
battle, and the emissaries reported that he was already in retreat; a
circumstance to be borne in mind, because next day’s operation required
success to justify it.

Hope’s happy passage of the Adour now became known and he was
instructed to establish a line of communication to the port of Lannes,
where a permanent bridge was to be formed with boats brought up from
Urt; a direct intercourse was thus secured; yet Wellington felt he
was going beyond his strength if Suchet should send reinforcements to
Soult; wherefore he called up Freyre’s Spaniards, who were to cross
the Adour below Bayonne and join him by the port of Lannes. O’Donnel’s
Andalusians and the Prince of Anglona’s troops were also directed to
be in readiness to enter France. These orders were given with great
reluctance. The feeble resistance made by the French in the difficult
country already passed, left him without much uneasiness as to the
power of Soult’s army in the field, but his disquietude was extreme
about the danger of an insurgent warfare.

“_Maintain the strictest discipline, without that we are lost_,” was
his expression to Freyre; and he issued a proclamation authorizing
the people of the districts he had overrun to arm themselves for the
preservation of order under the direction of their mayors. He invited
them to arrest all straggling soldiers and followers of the army,
all plunderers and evil doers, and convey them to head-quarters with
proof of their crimes, promising to punish the culpable and pay for
all damages. At the same time he confirmed all the local authorities
who chose to retain their offices: on the sole condition of having no
political or military intercourse with the countries still possessed
by the French army. Nor was his proclamation a dead letter. In the
night of the 25th the inhabitants of a village, near the road leading
from Sauveterre to Orthes, shot one English soldier dead and wounded
a second who had come with others to plunder. Wellington caused the
wounded man to be hung as an example, and also forced an English
colonel to quit the army for suffering his soldiers to destroy the
municipal archives of a small town.

Soult had no thought of retreating. His army was concentrated, and
every bridge except that at Orthes, the ancient masonry of which
resisted his mines, was destroyed. One regiment of cavalry was on his
right, watching the fords as far as Peyrehorade; three others, with
two battalions of infantry, under Pierre Soult, watched those between
Orthes and Pau. Two regiments of cavalry remained with the army, and
the design was to fall upon the first column which should cross the
Gave. But the officer at Puyoo, who had suffered Vivian’s hussars to
pass on the 26th without opposition, made no report of the event,
which enabled Beresford to complete his movement unmolested, instead
of being assailed by two-thirds of the French army. It was not until
three o’clock in the evening that Soult knew of his being over the
Gave, although he was then close on the flank of the French army, his
scouters being on the Dax road in its rear: and at the same time the
sixth and light divisions were seen descending from the heights beyond
the river pointing towards Berenx.

In this crisis the French marshal hesitated whether to fall upon
Beresford and Picton while the latter was still passing the river, or
take a defensive position. Finally, judging he had not time to form
an attack, he decided upon the latter, and under cover of a skirmish,
hastily threw his army on a new line across the road from Peyrehorade.
His right extended to the heights of San Boës, along which ran the
road from Orthes to Dax; and the line was prolonged on the left
to Castetarbe, a village close to the Gave. Having thus opposed a
temporary front to Beresford, he made dispositions to receive battle
next morning, bringing Villatte’s infantry and Pierre Soult’s cavalry
from the other side of Orthes through that town: it was this movement
that led Wellington’s emissaries to say he was retiring.

Soult’s position was on a ridge of hills, partly wooded, partly naked.

In the centre was an open rounded hill, from whence long narrow tongues
shot out towards the high-road of Peyrehorade on the left; on the
right by St. Boës, towards the church of Baïghts; the whole presented
a concave front covered with a marshy ravine, which was crossed by two
shorter necks coming from the round hill in the centre.

The road from Orthes to Dax passed behind the line to the village of
St. Boës; and behind the centre a succession of undulating bare heathy
hills trended for several miles to the rear.

Behind the right the country was low and deep; but Orthes, receding
from the river up the slope of a steep hill, was behind the left wing.

Reille, having Taupin’s, Roguet’s, and Paris’s divisions under him,
commanded on the right, holding the ground from St. Boës to the centre.

D’Erlon, commanding Foy’s and D’Armagnac’s divisions, was on Reille’s
left, extending along a ridge towards the road of Peyrehorade--the
second being in reserve. Villatte’s division and the cavalry were
posted above the village of Rontun, on open heathy hills, from whence
they overlooked the low country beyond St. Boës, and furnished a
reserve to both D’Erlon and Reille.

Harispe, whose troops as well as Villatte’s were under Clausel’s
orders, occupied Orthes and the bridge, having a regiment near the ford
of Souars above the town. Thus the French army extended from St. Boës
to Orthes, but the great mass was disposed towards the centre. Twelve
guns were attached to Harispe, twelve were upon the round hill in the
centre, sweeping the ground beyond St. Boës, sixteen were in reserve on
the Dax road.

At daybreak on the 27th, the sixth and light divisions, having passed
the Gave near Berenx, by a pontoon bridge thrown in the night, wound up
a narrow way between high rocks to the great road of Peyrehorade, and
the third division, with Lord Edward Somerset’s cavalry, were already
established there, having skirmishers pushed forwards to the edge of
the wooded height occupied by D’Erlon’s left. Beresford, having the
fourth and seventh divisions and Vivian’s cavalry, then gained the
ridge of St. Boës and approached the Dax road beyond. Hill, with his
own British and Le Cor’s Portuguese division, menaced the bridge of
Orthes, and the ford of Souars from the left bank. Between Beresford
and Picton, a mile and a half, there were no troops; but half-way,
in front of the French centre, was a Roman camp crowning an isolated
peering hill nearly as lofty as the centre of Soult’s position.

On this camp, now covered with vineyards, but then open and grassy,
with a few trees, Wellington stopped for an hour to examine the enemy’s
order of battle; his two divisions were then coming up from the river,
yet so hemmed in by rocks that only a few men could march abreast,
and their point of union with the third division was little more
than cannon-shot from the French left. It was a critical moment, and
Picton did not conceal his disquietude; but Wellington, imperturbable,
continued his observations without seeming to notice his dangerous
position. When the troops reached the main road he reinforced Picton
with the sixth, and drew the light division by cross roads behind the
Roman camp, thus connecting his wings and forming a central reserve;
because from that point byeways led, on the left to the church of
Baïghts and the Dax road; on the right to the Peyrehorade road; and two
others led by the low necks across the marsh to the French position.

This marsh, the open hill, where Soult’s guns and reserves were
gathered, and the narrow tongues on either side, combined to forbid a
front attack, and the flanks were scarcely more promising. The ridge
occupied by the French left sunk indeed to a gentle undulation in
crossing the Peyrehorade road; yet to push there between D’Erlon and
Orthes would have been useless, because that town was strongly occupied
by Harispe, and covered by an ancient wall. To turn the St. Boës flank
the troops must have descended into the low marshy country beyond the
Dax road, where the heathy hills trending backwards from the centre of
the French position would have enabled Soult to oppose a new front, at
right angles to his actual position; the whole of the allied army must
then have made a circuitous flank movement within gun-shot, through
a difficult country, or Beresford’s left must have been dangerously
extended and the whole line weakened. Nor could the movement be hidden,
because the hills, although only moderately high, were abrupt on that
side, affording a full view of the low country, and Soult’s cavalry
detachments were in observation on every brow.

It only remained to assail the French flanks along the narrow ridges,
making the principal effort at St. Boës, and overlapping the French
right to seize the road to St. Sever, while Hill passed the Gave at
Souars and cut off the road to Pau, thus enclosing the beaten army in
Orthes. This was no slight affair. On Picton’s side it was easy to
obtain a footing on the flank ridge near the high road; but beyond that
the ground rose rapidly, and the French were gathered thickly with a
narrow front and plenty of guns. On Beresford’s side they could only
be assailed along the summit of the St. Boës ridge, advancing from the
high church of Baïghts and the Dax road; but the village of St. Boës
was strongly occupied, the ground immediately behind it strangled to a
narrow pass; and sixteen guns on the Dax road, placed behind the centre
of Soult’s line and well covered from counter-fire, were ready to crush
any column emerging from the gorge of St. Boës.

BATTLE OF ORTHES. (Feb. 1814.)

From daybreak there had been a slight skirmish, with occasional
cannon-shots on the allies’ right, and the French cavalry at times
pushed parties forward on each flank; but at nine o’clock Wellington
commenced the real attack. The third and sixth divisions won without
difficulty the lower part of the ridges occupied by Foy, and
endeavoured to extend their left towards the French centre with a sharp
fire of musketry; yet the main battle was on the other flank. There
Cole, keeping Anson’s brigade of the fourth division in reserve,
had assailed St. Boës with Ross’s British brigade and Vasconcellos’
Portuguese, his object being to get on to the open ground beyond.
Fierce and slaughtering was the struggle; five times breaking through
the scattered houses did Ross carry his battle into the wider space
beyond; but ever as his troops emerged the French guns from the centre
hill smote them in front, and the reserved battery on the Dax road
swept through them with grape from flank to flank; while Taupin’s
supporting masses, rushing forward with a wasting fire and lapping the
flanks with skirmishers, which poured along the ravines on either hand,
forced the shattered columns back into the village. It was in vain that
with desperate valour the allies broke time after time through the
narrow way and strived to spread a front beyond: Ross fell dangerously
wounded, and Taupin’s troops, thickly clustered and well supported,
defied every effort. Nor was Soult less happy on the other side. From
the narrowness of the ground the third and sixth divisions could only
engage a few men at once, no progress was made; one small detachment,
which Picton extended to his left, attempting to gain the smaller
tongue jutting out from the central hill, was very suddenly charged
as it neared the summit, by Foy, and driven down again in confusion,
losing several prisoners.

When the combat had continued with unabated fury on the side of St.
Boës for three hours, Wellington sent a caçadore regiment of the
light division from the Roman camp to protect the right flank of
Ross’s brigade against the French skirmishers; this was of no avail,
for the Portuguese already there under Vasconcellos being unable to
sustain the violence of the enemy, had given way in disorder, and the
French pouring on, the British troops retreated through St. Boës with
difficulty. This happened at the moment when the detachment on Picton’s
left was repulsed, victory seemed to declare for the French, and Soult,
conspicuous on his central hill, the knot of all his combinations,
seeing his enemies thus broken and thrown backwards on each side, put
all his reserves in movement to complete the success. It is said that
in the exultation of the moment he smote his thigh, exclaiming, “_At
last I have him._” And it was no vain-glorious speech, the crisis
seemed to justify the exultation. There was however a small black
cloud rising just beneath, unheeded by the French commander amidst the
thundering din and tumult that now shook the field of battle, but which
soon burst with irresistible violence.

Wellington, seeing St. Boës was inexpugnable, had suddenly changed his
plan of battle. Supporting Ross with Anson’s brigade, which had not
hitherto been engaged, he backed both with the seventh division and
Vivian’s cavalry, thus establishing a very heavy body towards the Dax
road. Then he ordered the third and sixth divisions to be thrown in
mass upon the French left, and at the same time sent the 52nd Regiment
down from the Roman camp, with instructions to cross the marsh in
front, mount the French position, and assail the flank and rear of the
troops engaged with the fourth division at St. Boës. Colonel Colborne,
so often distinguished, immediately led this regiment across the
marsh under a skirmishing fire, the men sinking at every step above
the knees, in some places to the middle; yet still pressing forwards
with that stern resolution and order to be expected from the veterans
of the light division, soldiers who had never yet met their match in
the field, they soon obtained footing on firm land, and ascended the
heights in line at the moment when Taupin, on the French right, was
pushing vigorously through St. Boës; and when Foy and D’Armagnac,
hitherto more than masters of their positions, were being assailed on
the left by the third and sixth divisions.

With a mighty shout and a rolling fire the 52nd soldiers dashed
forwards between Foy and Taupin, beating down a French battalion in
their course and throwing everything before them into disorder. General
Bechaud was killed, Foy was dangerously wounded, and his troops,
discouraged by his fall and by this sudden storm from a quarter where
no enemy was expected, for the march of the 52nd had been hardly
perceived save by the skirmishers, got into confusion, and the disorder
spreading to Reille’s wing, he also was forced to fall back and take
a new position. The narrow pass behind St. Boës was thus opened, and
Wellington, seizing the critical moment, thrust the fourth and seventh
divisions, Vivian’s cavalry, and two batteries of artillery through,
and spread a front beyond. Victory was thus secured. For the third
and sixth divisions on the other flank had won D’Armagnac’s position
and established a battery of guns on a knoll, from whence the bullets
ploughed through the French masses from one flank to another; and
though a squadron of French chasseurs, coming suddenly at a hard gallop
down the main road of Orthes, charged these guns and rode over some of
the sixth division which had advanced too far, their brave career was
too madly pushed, they got entangled in a hollow way and nearly all
destroyed. The third and seventh divisions then advanced and the wings
of the army were united.

Soult now concentrated his forces on the heathy hills beyond the Dax
road, and with Taupin’s, Roguet’s, Paris’s, and D’Armagnac’s divisions
made strong battle to cover the rallying of Foy’s disordered men.
But his foes were not all in front. Hill, having twelve thousand
combatants, received orders, when Wellington changed his plan of
attack, to force the passage of the Gave, partly to prevent Harispe
from falling upon the flank of the sixth division, partly in hope of
a successful issue: and so it happened. Unable to force the bridge,
he forded the river above, at Souars, drove back the troops there,
seized the heights, cut off the French from the road to Pau, and turned
the town of Orthes. He thus menaced Soult’s only line of retreat by
Salespice, on the road to St. Sever, at the moment the junction of the
allies’ wings was effected on the French position. Clausel, so pressed,
made Harispe abandon Orthes and close towards Villatte on the heights
above Rontun, leaving however some conscript battalions on a rising
point near the road of St. Sever called the _Motte de Turenne_, while
in person he endeavoured to check Hill with two cavalry regiments and a
brigade of infantry.

Soult, seeing that Hill’s passage at Souars rendered the whole position
untenable, now gave orders for a general retreat. This was a perilous
matter. The heathy hills upon which he was now fighting, furnished for
a short distance a succession of parallel positions favourable for
defence, but then resolved themselves into a low ridge running to the
rear on a line parallel with the road to St. Sever; and on the opposite
side of that road, at cannon-shot distance, was a corresponding
ridge along which Hill, judging by the firing how matters went,
was now rapidly advancing. Five miles off was the _Luy de Bearn_,
and four miles further on the _Luy de France_, two rivers deep and
with difficult banks. Beyond them the Lutz, the Gabas, and the Adour
crossed the line; and though once beyond the wooden bridge of Sault
de Navailles on the _Luy de Bearn_, these streams would necessarily
cover the retreat, it seemed impossible to carry off by one road and
one bridge a defeated army still closely engaged in front. Soult did
so however. For Paris sustained the fight on his right until Foy and
Taupin’s troops rallied, and when the impetuous assault of the 52nd,
and a rush of the fourth and seventh divisions, drove Paris back,
D’Armagnac interposed to cover him until the union of the allies’
wings was completed: then both retired, covered by Villatte. In this
manner the French yielded step by step and without confusion, and the
allies advanced with an incessant deafening musketry and cannonade,
yet losing many men, especially on the right where the third division
were very strongly opposed. As the danger of being cut off at Salespice
by Hill became imminent, the retrograde movements were more hurried
and confused, and Hill seeing this quickened his pace. At last both
sides began to run violently, and so many men broke from the French
ranks, making across the fields towards the fords, and there was such
a rush by the rest to gain the bridge of Sault de Navailles, that the
whole country was covered with scattered bands, amongst which General
Cotton poured Lord Edward Somerset’s hussars, first breaking through a
covering body opposed to him by Harispe. In this charge two or three
hundred men were sabred, and two thousand threw down their arms in
an inclosed field; yet from some mismanagement the greatest part,
recovering their weapons, escaped, and the pursuit ceased at the Luy of

Apparently the French army was now entirely dispersed, yet it was
not so. Soult passed the Luy of Bearn and destroyed the bridge with
the loss of only six guns and less than four thousand men killed,
wounded, and prisoners. Many thousands of conscripts however threw away
their arms, and one month afterwards the stragglers still amounted to
three thousand. Nor would the passage of the Luy have been effected
so happily, if Wellington had not been struck by a musket-ball just
above the thigh, which caused him to ride with difficulty. The loss
of the allies was two thousand three hundred, of which fifty, with
three officers, were taken; among the wounded were Wellington, General
Walker, General Ross, and the Duke of Richmond, then Lord March; this
last had served on the head-quarter staff during the whole war without
a hurt, but being made a captain in the 52nd, like a good soldier
joined his regiment the night before the battle, and was shot through
the chest a few hours afterwards; thus learning by experience the
difference between the labours and dangers of staff and regimental
officers, which are generally in the inverse ratio to their promotions.

General Berton, who had been between Pau and Orthes during the battle,
was cut off by Hill’s movement; but skirting that general’s march
he retreated by Mant and Samadet with his cavalry, picking up two
battalions of conscripts on the road. Meanwhile Soult, having no
position to rally upon, continued his retreat in the night to St.
Sever, breaking down all the bridges behind him. Wellington pursued
at daylight in three columns, one in the centre by the main road,
the others on the right and left. At St. Sever he hoped to find the
French still in confusion, but they had crossed the river, the bridge
was broken, and the allied army halted. The result of the battle was
however soon made known far and wide, and Daricau, who with a few
hundred soldiers was endeavouring to form an insurgent levy at Dax,
immediately destroyed part of the stores, removed the rest to Mont
Marsan, and retreated through the Landes to Langon on the Garonne.

From St. Sever, which offered no position, Soult turned short to his
own right, moving upon Barcelona up the Adour. He left D’Erlon however
with two divisions of infantry, some cavalry and four guns, at Caceres
on the right bank, sent Clausel into Aire on the opposite side of the
river, abandoned his magazines at Mont Marsan, and opened the direct
road to Bordeaux; but with his right he commanded another road by
Roquefort to that city, while his left protected at Aire the magazines
and artillery parc at that place, and covered the road to Pau. This
movement made it difficult to judge what line he meant to adopt.

Wellington passed the Adour at St. Sever, and sent the light division
and some cavalry to seize the magazines at Mont Marsan; at the same
time he pushed a column towards Caceres, where a cannonade and charge
of cavalry had place, and a few persons were hurt on both sides. Next
day, when Hill had reached the Adour between St. Sever and Aire,
D’Erlon was driven back skirmishing to Barcelona on the other bank. It
was then evident that Soult had abandoned Bordeaux; yet the pursuit
could not be pushed vigorously, because every bridge was broken; and
a violent storm on the evening of the 1st, filling the smaller rivers
and torrents, carried away the pontoon bridges and cut off all the
supplies: the bulk of the army therefore halted on the right bank of
the Adour until the bridges could be repaired.

Hill, who was on the left bank, had meanwhile marched to seize the
magazines at Aire. Moving in two columns he reached that place on
the 2nd at three o’clock, and having two divisions of infantry, a
brigade of cavalry, and a battery of horse-artillery, expected no
serious opposition. Clausel was however there in order of battle with
Villatte’s and Harispe’s divisions, and some guns. Occupying a steep
ridge, which was high and wooded on the right where it overlooked the
river, but merging on the left into a wide table-land, over which the
great road led to Pau, his position was strong, yet insecure. It could
be readily outflanked on the left by the table-land, and was uneasy
for retreat on the right, because the ridge was narrow and the ravine
behind very rugged, with a mill-stream at the bottom; moreover a branch
of the Adour flowing behind Aire cut it off from Barcelona, and behind
the left wing was the greater Lees, a river with steep banks and only
one bridge.

COMBAT OF AIRE. (Feb. 1814.)

Hill attacked without hesitation. General Stewart with two British
brigades fell on the French right, a Portuguese brigade assailed their
centre, and the other brigades followed in columns of march; but the
action was sudden, the Portuguese were pushed forward in a slovenly
manner by General Da Costa, a man of no ability, and the French under
Harispe met them, on the flat summit, with so rough a charge that they
gave way in flight while the rear of the allies’ column was still in
march. The fight was thus like to be lost, when Stewart, having easily
won the heights on the French right, where Villatte, fearing to be
enclosed, made but a feeble resistance, immediately detached Barnes
with the 50th and 92nd Regiments to the aid of the Portuguese, and
the vehement assault of these troops turned the stream of battle; the
French were broken in turn and thrown back on their reserves. Yet they
rallied and renewed the action with great courage, fighting obstinately
until Byng’s British brigade came up; then Harispe was driven towards
the river Lees, and Villatte quite through the town of Aire into the
space between the two branches of the Adour behind.

Reille, who was at Barcelona when the action began, now brought up a
division to support Villatte, and the combat was continued until night
at that point, while Harispe passed the Lees and broke the bridge. The
French lost many men. Two generals, Dauture and Gasquet, were wounded,
a colonel of engineers was killed, a hundred prisoners were taken, many
of Harispe’s conscripts threw away their arms and fled to their homes,
and the magazines fell into the conqueror’s hands. The British lost one
hundred and fifty men, General Barnes was wounded, Colonel Hood killed.
The Portuguese loss was never officially stated, it could not have been
less than the British, and the vigour of the action showed that the
enemy’s courage was not abated by the battle of Orthes. His retreat was
now made up the Adour by both banks, but he was not followed, because
new combinations were opening on both sides.


  Garonne--Adour--Combat of Vic Bigorre--Death and Character of
    Colonel Sturgeon; surprising Feat of Captain Light--Combat of
    Tarbes--Operations on the Garonne--Major Hughes; Battle of
    Toulouse--Sally from Bayonne.

GARONNE. (March, 1814.)

Very perilous was Soult’s state after the battle of Orthes. Losses
in actions, desertion of conscripts, and the dispersion of the
old soldiers, had reduced his army; all his magazines were taken;
his officers were discontented; he was ill seconded by the civil
authorities, and a strong Bourbon party was actively exciting the
people to insurrection. He was, however, a man formed by nature to
struggle with difficulties, and always appeared greatest in desperate
circumstances. Retreating towards the foot of the Pyrenees, he took a
position covering Tarbes, and commanding the great road from Pau to
Toulouse; there he reorganized his army, called in all the detachments
made before the battle, put the national guards and _gens d’armes_ of
the Pyrenees in activity, and directed the commanders of districts
behind him to collect all the old soldiers they could, and send them
to the army. Then, to counteract the machinations of the Bourbonists,
he issued a proclamation remarkable for its power, and evincing the
sternest resolution, which was not belied by his acts, though his
difficulties hourly increased.

But Wellington also was embarrassed. The weather had stopped his
pursuit when vigorous action would have been decisive; Soult had
rallied on a new line of retreat with strong defensive positions;
the allied army, weakened by every step in advance, would, if it
followed the French, have to move between the Garonne and the Pyrenees,
exposing both its flanks and its rear to all the power which the
French government could command. It was, therefore, necessary to find
a counterpoise by increasing his own force and strengthening the
Bourbonists. He had long been promised twenty thousand additional
men from England and Portugal, but the governments of both countries
failed in their engagements. He had heard and believed that Suchet had
detached ten thousand men to join Soult, and he had, as before shown,
called up Freyre’s Gallicians through the Landes, because there was
less temptation for plunder there, and he had provided them entirely
from the English magazines and military chest; yet their entrance into
France was instantly marked by outrages which began to dispose the
people to listen to Soult’s proclamation, and an insurrection was to be
feared. Inactive, however, he could not remain, and while awaiting the
junction of the Spaniards he detached Beresford with twelve thousand
men against Bordeaux, remaining with only twenty-six thousand in
position to observe Soult, who could from Tarbes move by Roquefort,
and gain Bordeaux before Beresford. That general entered the city on
the 12th; and the mayor, Lynch, eager to betray his sovereign, very
quickly tore his own scarf of honour off to meet the invaders with a
welcome. The Duke of Angoulême then arrived, the Bourbonists took the
ascendant, and Beresford returned to the army with the fourth division
and Vivian’s cavalry, leaving Lord Dalhousie behind with the seventh
division and three squadrons.

Then the Napoleonists, recovering from their first stupor, bestirred
themselves. A partizan officer cut off fifty men sent by Lord Dalhousie
over the Garonne; the peasants of the Landes formed bands and burned
the houses of gentlemen who had assumed the white colours; forces of
various descriptions were being assembled beyond the Garonne, and
General Decaen was sent by the emperor to organize and command them.
General Beurman also, who had been detached by Suchet with six thousand
men to aid Lyons, was now directed to descend the Garonne towards
Bordeaux, where a counter-insurrection was being prepared. But then
the English fleet under Admiral Penrose entered the Garonne, sweeping
it of French vessels of war, and ruining the batteries on the banks;
whereupon Lord Dalhousie crossed the river, and, meeting with General
L’Huillier at Etauliers, took three hundred prisoners, the French
flying at the first onset. Better troops were, however, gathering in
that quarter, and the British force would have been eventually in
danger, if Napoleon, the man of mightiest capacity for good known to
history since the days of Alexander the Great, had not been just then
overthrown to make room for despots; who, with minds enlarged only to
cruelty, avarice, dissoluteness, and treachery, were secretly intent
to defraud their people of the just government they demanded as the
compensation for serving ungrateful masters.

While Beresford was detached, Soult and Wellington remained in
observation, each thinking the other stronger than himself; for the
English general, hearing of Beurman’s march, believed his troops had
joined Soult, and the latter, not knowing of Beresford’s march until
the 13th, concluded Wellington had still those twelve thousand men.
The numbers on each side were, however, nearly equal. Three thousand
French stragglers had been collected, but were kept back by the
generals of the military districts, and Soult had therefore in line,
exclusive of conscripts without arms, only twenty-eight thousand sabres
and bayonets, with thirty-eight pieces of artillery. Wellington had
twenty-seven thousand sabres and bayonets, with forty-two guns; having,
besides, pushed detachments to Pau, to Roquefort, into the Landes, and
towards the Upper Garonne.

Two great roads led to Toulouse; one on the English left from Aire by
Auch; the other on their right from Pau by Tarbes; Soult commanded
both, and Wellington thought he would take that of Auch; wherefore
he desired Beresford to lean towards it in returning from Bordeaux;
but Soult had arranged for the other line, and was only prevented
from retaking the offensive, on the 9th or 10th, by the loss of his
magazines, which forced him to organize a system of requisition first
for subsistence. Meanwhile his equality of force passed away; for on
the 13th, the day on which he heard of Beresford’s absence, Freyre
came up with eight thousand Spanish infantry, and next day Ponsonby’s
heavy cavalry arrived. Wellington was then the strongest, yet
awaited Beresford’s arrival, and was uneasy about his own situation.
He dreaded the junction of Suchet’s twenty thousand veterans; the
English ministers, instead of troops, had sent ridiculous projects.
The French army in his front, having recovered its stragglers, and
being reinforced by conscripts, was now reorganized in six divisions,
under Daricau, Maransin, Villatte, D’Armagnac, Taupin, and Harispe.
General Paris’s troops, hitherto acting as an unattached body, were
thus absorbed; the cavalry, composed of Berton’s and Vial’s brigades,
was commanded by Pierre Soult, and seven thousand conscript infantry
under Travot formed a reserve. Again, therefore, driven by necessity,
Wellington called Giron’s Andalusians and Del Parque’s troops also
into France, although Freyre’s soldiers had by their outrages already
created wide-spread consternation.

The head-quarters had been fixed at Aire, with the army on each side
of the Adour, all the bridges being restored, and some small bands
which had appeared upon the left flank and rear were dispersed by
the cavalry; Soult was, however, organizing an extensive system of
partizans towards the mountains, waiting only for money to give it
activity. Meanwhile, though the main bodies were a long day’s march
asunder, the regular cavalry had frequent encounters, and both generals
claimed the superiority. In this desultory warfare, on the night of the
7th, Soult sent a strong detachment to Pau to arrest some nobles who
had assembled to welcome the Duke of Angoulême; but General Fane got
there first with a brigade of infantry and two regiments of cavalry,
and the stroke failed; the French, however, returning by another road,
made prisoners of an officer and four or five English dragoons. A
second French detachment, penetrating between Pau and Aire, carried off
a post of correspondence; and two days after, when Fane had quitted
Pau, a French officer with only four hussars captured there thirty-four
Portuguese, with their commander and ten loaded mules.

It was these excursions which gave Soult a knowledge of Beresford’s
march, and he resolved to attack the allies, thinking to strike a
good blow on the 13th, by throwing his army offensively upon the
high tabular land between Pau and Aire; the country was open for all
arms, yet the movement produced only a few skirmishes. Pierre Soult
pushed back Fane’s cavalry posts on the English right with the loss of
two officers and a few men wounded; on the left, Berton, having two
regiments, sought to pass a difficult muddy ford, but the head of his
column was overthrown by Sir John Campbell with a squadron of the 4th
Portuguese cavalry. The latter were however too few to bar the passage,
and Berton, getting a regiment over higher up, charged the retiring
troops in a narrow way, killed several, and took some prisoners,
amongst them Bernardo de Sà, since well known as Count of Bandeira.

Wellington, imagining the arrival of Suchet’s troops had caused Soult’s
boldness, made only defensive dispositions, and on the 14th Pierre
Soult again drove back Fane’s horsemen; at first with some loss, yet
finally was himself driven clear off the Pau road. Both generals,
acting under false information, were afraid to strike, each thought his
adversary stronger than he really was; but Soult, who was in a tangled
country, now hearing that Bordeaux had fallen, first took alarm, and
retreated in the night of the 16th. Pierre Soult then again got on to
the Pau road, and detached a hundred chosen troopers under Captain
Dania to molest the communication with Orthes. By a forced march that
partizan reached Hagetnau at nightfall, surprised six officers and
eight medical men with their baggage, made a number of other prisoners,
and returned on the evening of the 18th. This enterprise, so far in the
rear, was supposed to be an insurgent exploit; wherefore Wellington
seized the authorities at Hagetnau, and again declared he would hang
all the peasants caught in arms, and burn their villages.

Soult’s offensive operations had now terminated. He sent his conscripts
to Toulouse and prepared for a rapid retreat on that place. His recent
operations had been commenced too late, he should have moved the 10th
or 11th, when there were not more than twenty-two thousand men in his
front. Wellington’s passive state, which had been too much prolonged,
was also at an end; all his reinforcements and detachments were either
up or close at hand, and he could now put in motion forty thousand
bayonets, six thousand sabres, and sixty pieces of artillery.

On the evening of the 17th the hussars went up the valley of the Adour,
closely supported by the light division, and, half a march behind, by
the fourth division coming from Bordeaux.

The 18th, the hussars, the light and the fourth division, advanced
towards Plaissance; and Hill’s troops, on the right, marched against
Conchez, keeping a detachment on the Pau road in observation of Pierre
Soult’s cavalry; the centre, under Wellington, moved by the high road
leading from Aire to Toulouse. The French right was thus turned by the
valley of the Adour, while Hill, with a sharp skirmish in which eighty
British and Germans were killed or wounded, drove back their outposts
upon Lembege.

Soult retired during the night to a strong ridge behind a small river
with rugged banks, called the Laiza, his right, under D’Erlon, was
extended towards Vic Bigorre, on the great road of Tarhes, and Berton’s
cavalry took post in column, covering Vic Bigorre, where the road
was lined on each side by deep and wide ditches. In this situation,
being pressed by Bock’s cavalry, Berton suddenly charged, and took an
officer and some men, yet finally he was beaten and retreated. Soult,
thinking a flanking column only was in the valley of the Adour, moved
to fall upon it with his whole army. But he recognised the skill of
his opponent when he found the whole of the allies’ centre had also
been thrown on to the Tarhes road, and was close to Vic Bigorre; while
the light division, beyond the Adour, was getting in rear of it by
Rabastans, upon which place the hussars had driven a body of French
cavalry. Berton’s horsemen then passed in retreat, the danger of being
cut off from Tarbes was imminent, and Soult in alarm ordered Berton to
join the cavalry at Rabastans, and cover that road to Tarbes, while
D’Erlon checked the allies at Vic Bigorre on the main road, and enabled
him personally to hasten with Clausel’s and Reille’s divisions to
Tarbes by a circuitous way.

D’Erlon, not comprehending the crisis, moved slowly with his baggage
in front, and, having the river Lechez to cross, rode on before his
troops, expecting to find Berton at Vic Bigorre; but he met the German
cavalry there, and had only time to place Daricau’s division, now under
Paris, amongst some vineyards, when hither came Picton to the support
of the cavalry, and fell upon him.


The French left flank was secured by the Lechez river; the right,
extended towards the Adour river, was exposed to the German cavalry,
while the front was attacked by Picton. The action commenced about two
o’clock, and Paris was driven back in disorder; but then D’Armagnac
entered the line, and, spreading to the Adour, renewed the fight, which
lasted until D’Erlon, after losing many men, and seeing his right
turned beyond the Adour by the light division and the hussars, fell
back behind Vic Bigorre, and took post for the night. This action was
vigorous. Two hundred and fifty Anglo-Portuguese fell, and amongst them
died Colonel Henry Sturgeon. Skilled to excellence in almost every
branch of war, and possessing a variety of other accomplishments, he
used his gifts so gently for himself, so usefully for the service,
that envy offered no bar to admiration, and the whole army felt
painfully mortified that his merits were passed unnoticed in the public

Soult’s march was through a deep sandy plain, very harassing, and it
would have been dangerous if Wellington had sent Hill’s strong cavalry
in pursuit; but the country was unfavourable for quick observation,
and the French covered their movements with rear-guards whose real
numbers it was difficult to ascertain. One of these bodies was posted
on a hill, the end of which abutted on the high road, the slope being
clothed with trees, and well lined by skirmishers. Lord Wellington
desired to know what force thus barred his way, yet all the exploring
attempts were stopped by the enemy’s fire. Captain William Light,
distinguished by the variety of his attainments, an artist, musician,
mechanist, seaman, and soldier, then made the trial. He rode forward as
if he would force his way through the French skirmishers, but in the
wood dropped his reins and leaned back as if badly wounded; his horse
appeared to canter wildly along the front of the enemy’s light troops,
and they, thinking him mortally hurt, ceased their fire, and took no
further notice. He thus passed unobserved through the wood to the other
side of the hill, where there were no skirmishers, and, ascending to
the open summit above, put spurs to his horse, and, galloping along
the French main line, counted their regiments as he passed. His sudden
appearance, his blue undress, his daring confidence, and his speed,
made the French doubt if he was an enemy, and a few shots only were
discharged, while he, dashing down the opposite declivity, broke from
the rear through the very skirmishers whose fire he had at first
essayed in front, reached the spot where Wellington stood, and told him
there were but five battalions on the hill.

Soult now felt that a rapid retreat upon Toulouse was inevitable, yet,
determined to dispute every position offering the least advantage, he
was on the morning of the 20th again in order of battle on the heights
of Oleac, three miles behind Tarbes, which he still covered with
Harispe’s and Villatte’s divisions, both under Clausel. The plain of
Tarbes, apparently open, was yet full of deep ditches which forbad the
action of horsemen; wherefore he sent his brother with five regiments
of cavalry to his right flank in observation of the route to Auch,
fearing Wellington would by that line intercept his retreat to Toulouse.

At daybreak Hill moved with the right along the high-road; the
centre, under Wellington, composed of the light division and hussars,
Ponsonby’s heavy cavalry, the sixth division and Freyre’s Spaniards,
marched by the road from Rabastens; Cole, having the left, was making
forced marches with the fourth division and Vivian’s cavalry, and
throwing out detachments to watch Pierre Soult.

COMBAT OF TARBES. (March, 1814.)

Wellington’s column was separated by a branch of the Adour from Hill’s,
and when he approached Tarbes the light division and the hussars
attacked Harispe’s division on the heights of Orleix; Clinton, making
a flank movement to his left through the village of Dours with the
sixth division, then opened a cannonade against Harispe’s right, and
endeavoured to get between that general and Soult’s position at Oleac;
Hill, moving by the other bank of the river, assailed the town and
bridge of Tarbes, which were defended by Villatte. These operations
were designed to envelop and crush Clausel’s troops, which seemed easy,
because there appeared only a fine plain fit for the action of cavalry
between them and Soult. The latter, however, having sent his baggage
and incumbrances off during the night, saw the movement without alarm,
being better acquainted with the difficult nature of the plain behind,
in which he had been forced to make roads to enable Harispe to retreat
upon Oleac without passing through Tarbes. Nevertheless there was
danger: for while Hill menaced Tarbes, the light division, supported
with cavalry and guns, fell upon Orleix, and Clinton with a brisk
cannonade penetrated between Harispe and Pierre Soult, cutting the
latter off from the army.

The action commenced at twelve o’clock. Hill’s artillery thundered on
the right, Clinton’s answered it on the left, and Alten threw the light
division in mass upon the centre, where Harispe’s left brigade, posted
on a strong hill, was suddenly assailed by the three rifle battalions.
There the fight was short, yet wonderfully fierce and violent; for the
French, probably thinking their opponents Portuguese on account of
their green dress, charged with great hardiness, and being encountered
by men not accustomed to yield, the fight was muzzle to muzzle, and
very difficult it was to judge at first who should win. At last
the French gave way, and Harispe, his centre being thus suddenly
overthrown, retired rapidly over the plain by Soult’s roads before
Clinton could get into his rear; then also Hill forced the passage
of the Adour at Tarbes, and Villatte retreated along the high-road
to Tournay, yet under a continued cannonade. The flat country was
now covered with confused masses of pursuers and pursued, all moving
precipitately and with an eager musketry, the French guns replying as
they could to the allies’ artillery; the situation of the retreating
troops seemed desperate; but, as Soult had foreseen, the British
cavalry could not act, and Clausel extricating his divisions with great
ability gained the main position, where four fresh divisions were drawn
up in order of battle and immediately opened all their batteries on the
allies. The pursuit was thus checked, and before Wellington could make
arrangements for a new attack darkness came on, wherefore he halted on
the banks of the Larret and Larros rivers. The loss of the French is
unknown, that of the allies did not exceed one hundred and twenty, of
whom twelve officers and eighty men were of the rifle battalions.

During the night Soult retreated in two columns, one by the main road,
the other on the left of it, guided by fires lighted on different hills
as points of direction. Next day he reached St. Gaudens with D’Erlon’s
and Reille’s corps, while Clausel, who had retreated across the
fields, halted at Monrejean, and was there rejoined by Pierre Soult’s
cavalry. This march of more than thirty miles was made with a view
to gain Toulouse in the most rapid manner; for Soult having now seen
Wellington’s infantry and his five thousand horsemen, and hearing from
his brother that the fourth division and Vivian’s cavalry were on his
right, feared they would cut him off from Toulouse--his great depôt,
the knot of all his future combinations, and the only position where he
could hope to make a successful stand with his small army.

The allies pursued in three columns, but their marches were short.
However, at St. Gaudens four squadrons of French cavalry were overtaken
and overthrown by two squadrons of the 13th Dragoons; they galloped in
disorder through St. Gaudens, yet rallied on the other side and were
again broken and pursued for two miles, many being sabred and above
a hundred taken prisoners. In this action the veteran Major Dogherty
of the 13th was seen charging between his two sons at the head of the
leading squadron.

On the 23rd Hill was at St. Gaudens, Beresford at Puymauren, Wellington
at Boulogne.

The 24th Hill was in St. Martory, Beresford in Lombez, Wellington at
Isle en Dodon.

The 25th Hill entered Caceres, Beresford reached St. Foy, and
Wellington was at Samatan.

On the 26th Beresford, marching in order of battle by his left, his
cavalry skirmishing to the right, took post on the Auch road behind
the Aussonnelle stream, facing the French army, which was on the Touch
covering Toulouse. The allies thus took seven days to march what Soult
had done in four; but the two armies being thus again brought together
in opposition with a common resolution to fight, it is fitting to show
how the generals framed their combinations.


Soult, a native of these parts, had chosen Toulouse as a strategic
post, because that ancient capital of the south, having fifty thousand
inhabitants, commanded the principal passage of the Garonne, was
the centre of a great number of roads on both sides of that river,
and the chief military arsenal of the south of France. There he
could most easily feed his troops, assemble, arm, and discipline the
conscripts, control and urge the civil authorities with more power,
and counteract the machinations of the discontented; it also gave him
command of various lines of operations. He could retire upon Suchet
by Carcassonne, or towards Lyons by Alby. He could go behind the Tarn
and defend successively that river and the Lot, or even retreat upon
Decaen’s army near Bordeaux, and thus draw the allies down the right
bank of the Garonne as he had before drawn them up the left bank;
assured that Wellington must follow him, and with weakened forces, as
it would be necessary to leave troops in observation of Suchet.

Thus reasoning, he placed a separate body of troops recently assembled
by General Loverdo from the interior, at Montauban, with orders to
construct a bridge-head on the left of the Tarn. This secured the
passage of that river, a point of assembly for detachments observing
the Garonne below Toulouse, and the command of several great roads.
But to hold Toulouse was a great political object. It was the last
point connecting him at once with Suchet and Decaen; while he held
it, the latter general and the partizans organized in the mountains
about Lourdes could act, each on their own side, against Wellington’s
long lines of communication. At Toulouse Suchet could aid him, either
with his whole force, or by a detachment to the Upper Garonne, where
General Lafitte had collected seven or eight hundred national guards
and other troops: Suchet, however, though strongly urged, treated this
proposition, as he had done those before made, with contempt.

Toulouse was not less valuable as a position of battle.

The Garonne, flowing along the allies’ right, presented the concave
of a deep loop, at the bottom of which was a bridge masked by the
suburb of St. Cyprien; this last, originally protected by an ancient
brick wall three feet thick and flanked by massive towers, was now
strengthened by Soult with a line of exterior entrenchments.

Beyond the river was the city, inclosed by an old wall flanked with
towers, and so thick as to hold twenty-four pound guns.

The great canal of Languedoc, which joined the Garonne a few miles
below the town, was generally within point-blank shot of this wall,
covering it on the north and east, as the Garonne and St. Cyprien did
on the west.

Eastward, two suburbs, St. Stephen and Guillermerie, lying on both
sides of this canal, were entrenched and protected by the hills of
Sacarin and Cambon, which were also entrenched, and flanked the
approaches to the canal above and below the suburbs.

Eight hundred yards beyond these hills a high ridge called Mont Rave
ran nearly parallel with the canal, its outer slope was exceedingly
rugged, and overlooked a marshy plain, through which the Ers river

South of the town was a plain, but there the suburb of St. Michel
furnished another outwork; and some distance beyond it a range of
heights, called the Pech David, commenced, trending westward up the
Garonne in a nearly parallel direction.

Such being Soult’s position, he calculated, that as Wellington could
not force the passage by the suburb of St. Cyprien without an enormous
sacrifice of men, he must seek to turn the flanks above or below
Toulouse, leaving a force to blockade St. Cyprien lest the French
should issue thence against his communications. If he passed the
Garonne above Toulouse, and above its confluence with the Arriege, he
would have to cross the latter river also, which could only be effected
at Cintegabelle, one march higher up. He would then have to come down
the right bank, through a country at that time impracticable for
guns, from rain. If he passed the Garonne below the confluence of the
Arriege, his movements would be overlooked from the Pech David, and the
heads of his columns attacked; if that failed, Toulouse and the Mont
Rave remained as a position of battle, from whence there was a secure
retreat upon Montauban.

For these reasons the passage above Toulouse could lead to no decisive
result: but a passage below was a different matter. Wellington would
then cut the army off from Montauban and attack Toulouse from the
northern and eastern quarters; and the French, losing the battle, could
only retreat by Carcassonne to unite with Suchet in Roussillon; where
with their backs to the mountains and the allies between them and
France they would starve. Convinced therefore that the attack would be
on that side, Soult lined the Garonne with his cavalry as far as the
confluence of the Tarn, and called up some troops, recently collected
at Agen under General Despeaux, to line the Tarn itself, his design
being to attack the allies if they crossed between that river and the
Garonne rather than lose his communication with Montauban.

Wellington having suffered the French to gain three days’ march in
the retreat from Tarbes had little choice of operations. He could not
halt until the Andalusians and Del Parque’s troops joined him, without
giving Soult time to strengthen his defence; nor without appearing
fearful of the French people, which would have been very dangerous.
Still less could he wait for the fall of Bayonne. He had taken the
offensive, and the invasion of France being begun could not be
relinquished. Leading an army victorious and superior in numbers, his
business was to fight; and as he could not force St. Cyprien, he had to
pass the Garonne above or below Toulouse.

A passage below was undoubtedly the prudent course; but Wellington,
observing that, when across, the south side of the city would be most
open to attack, resolved to cast his bridge at Portet, six miles above
Toulouse; designing to throw his right wing suddenly into the open
country between the Garonne and the canal of Languedoc, while with
his centre and left he assailed the suburb of St. Cyprien.[39] Hence,
at eight o’clock in the evening of the 27th, one of Hill’s brigades
approached the river, some men were ferried over and the bridge was
commenced; but the river being measured was too wide for the pontoons,
there were no trestles, and that project was necessarily abandoned.
Had it been effected, some great advantage would have been gained; for
Soult only knew of the attempt two days later, and then by emissaries,
not by scouts. Wellington persisted. Collecting a great body of
infantry about Portet, he began by driving the French horsemen from
the Touch river, which was in his front, for his army lined the bank
of the Garonne above Toulouse, and did not face St. Cyprien. In this
operation a single squadron of the 18th Hussars, under Major Hughes,
being inconsiderately pushed by Colonel Vivian across the bridge of St.
Martin de la Touch, suddenly came upon a regiment of French cavalry.
The rashness of the act, as often happens in war, proved the safety of
the British; for the enemy, thinking a strong support must be at hand,
discharged their carbines and retreated at a canter; Hughes followed,
the speed of both parties increased; and as the road did not admit
egress by the sides, this great body of horsemen was pushed headlong by
a few men under the batteries of St. Cyprien.

Soult’s attention being thus attracted below Toulouse, a bridge was
laid near Pensaguel, two miles above the confluence of the Arriege, and
Hill passed the Garonne with thirteen thousand sabres and bayonets,
eighteen guns, and a rocket brigade. His advanced guard then pushed
on rapidly by the great road to seize the bridge of Cintegabelle
fifteen miles up the Arriege; and to secure a ferry-boat known to be
at Vinergue. The main body followed with intent to pass the Arriege
at Cintegabelle, and so come down the right bank to attack Toulouse
on the south, while Wellington assailed St. Cyprien. This march was
to have been made privily in the night of the 30th, but the pontoon
bridge was not finished until five in the morning of the 31st; Soult
thus got notice in time to observe the strength of the column, and
ascertain that the great body of the army was still in front of St.
Cyprien. Knowing what swamps were to be passed, and having the suburbs
of St. Michel and St. Etienne now in a state of defence, he thought the
operation only a feint to draw off a part of his army from Toulouse
while St. Cyprien was assaulted or the Garonne passed below the city;
wherefore, keeping his infantry in hand, he merely sent cavalry up the
Arriege in observation, and directed Lafitte, who had some regular
horsemen and national guards higher up, to hang upon Hill’s skirts and
pretend to be the van of Suchet’s army. He was, however, disquieted,
because the allies’ baggage, to avoid encumbering the march, had been
sent higher up the Garonne, to cross at Carbonne, and was by the
scouts reported as a second column increasing Hill’s force to eighteen
thousand men.

While in this uncertainty, Soult first heard of the measurement of
the river made at Portet in the night of the 27th, and that many guns
were still there; hence, as he could not know why the bridge was not
thrown, he concluded the intent was to cross there also when Hill
should descend the Arriege. To meet this danger, he gave Clausel orders
to fall upon the head of the allies with four divisions if they should
attempt the passage before Hill came down; resolving in the contrary
case to fight in the suburbs of Toulouse and on the Mont Rave, because
the positions on the right of the Arriege were all favourable to the
assailants. He was, however, soon relieved from anxiety. Hill passed
the Arriege at Cintegabelle and sent his cavalry forward; but his
artillery were unable to follow in that deep country, and as success
and safety alike depended on rapidity, he returned and recrossed the
Garonne in the night, keeping a flying bridge and a small guard of
infantry and cavalry on the right bank: he was followed by Lafitte’s
horsemen, who picked up a few stragglers and mules, but no other event
occurred, and Soult was well pleased that his adversary had thus lost
three or four important days.

Being now sure the next attempt would be below Toulouse, he changed
his design of marching down the Garonne to fight between that river
and the Tarn; and as his works for the city and suburbs were nearly
complete, he concluded to hold Toulouse in any circumstances, and set
his whole army and all the labouring population to entrench the Mont
Rave, beyond the canal, thinking thus to bear the shock of battle, come
on which side it would. Fortune favoured him. The Garonne continued so
full and rapid that Wellington remained inactive before St. Cyprien
until the evening of the 3rd, when, forced to adopt the lower passage,
and the flood having abated, the pontoons were carried in the night to
Grenade, fifteen miles below Toulouse. The bridge was then well thrown,
and thirty guns placed in battery on the left bank to protect it. The
third, fourth, and sixth divisions, with three brigades of cavalry,
the whole under Beresford, immediately passed; and the horsemen being
pushed to the front and flanks captured a large herd of bullocks
destined for the French. But again the Garonne flooded high, the light
division and the Spaniards were unable to follow, the bridge got
damaged and was taken up.

Soult soon heard by his cavalry scouts of this passage, but not of the
force across, and as Morillo’s Spaniards, whom he mistook for Freyre’s,
were then in front of St. Cyprien, he thought Hill had moved also to
Grenade, and that the greatest part of the allied army was over the
Garonne. Wherefore, observing Beresford with cavalry, he continued to
work at his field of battle, his resolution to fight for Toulouse being
confirmed by hearing that the allied sovereigns had entered Paris.

On the 8th the water subsided again, and the bridge was once more laid;
Freyre’s Spaniards and the Portuguese artillery then crossed, and
Wellington in person advanced within five miles of Toulouse. Marching
up both banks of the Ers, his columns were separated by that river,
which was impassable without pontoons, and it was essential to secure
one of the stone bridges. Hence, when his left approached the heights
of Kirie Eleison, on the great road of Alby, Vivian’s horsemen first
drove Berton’s cavalry up the right of the Ers towards the bridge of
Bordes; then the 18th Hussars descended towards that of Croix d’Orade,
where after some skirmishing a French regiment suddenly appeared in
front of the bridge. The opposite bank of the river was as instantly
lined with dismounted carbineers, and the two parties stood facing
each other, hesitating to begin, until the approach of some British
infantry, when both sounded a charge at the same moment; but the
English horses were so quick the French were in an instant jammed up
on the bridge, and their front ranks sabred, while the rear went off
in disorder. They had many killed or wounded, lost above a hundred
prisoners, and were pursued through the village of Croix d’Orade,
yet rallied beyond on the rest of their brigade and advanced again;
whereupon the hussars recrossed the bridge, which was now defended by
the British infantry. The communication between the allied columns
was thus secured. The credit of this brilliant action was erroneously
given to Colonel Vivian in the despatch. That officer was wounded by a
carbine shot previous to the charge at the bridge, and the attack was
conducted by Major Hughes.

Wellington having, from the heights of Kirie Eleison, examined the
French general’s position, decided to attack on the 9th; and, to
shorten his communications with Hill, had his bridge on the Garonne
relaid higher up at Seilh, where the light division were to cross at
daybreak; but the pontoons were not relaid until late in the day, and