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Title: A History of the Peninsula War Vol. 5. - Oct. 1811-Aug. 31, 1812 Valencia, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, - Salamanca, Madrid
Author: Oman, Charles
Language: English
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TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE

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

  * Obvious printer errors have been silently corrected.

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

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    documents, outdated and current spellings of some proper names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

      Aguilar del Campo, now Aguilar de Campoo,
               Albalete, now Albalat,
              Albaracin, now Albarracín,
            Albuquerque, now Alburquerque,
               Alemtejo, now Alentejo,
                Almanza, now Almansa,
     Arroyo dos Molinos, now Arroyomolinos, Cáceres,
              Arzobispo, now El Puente del Arzobispo,
      Baccelar (Manuel), now Manuel Pinto de Morais Bacelar,
            Ballasteros, now Ballesteros,
       Barba del Puerco, now Puerto Seguro,
                Bussaco, now Buçaco,
                Caçeres, now Cáceres,
     Calvarisa de Abaxo, now Calvarrasa de Abajo,
     Calvarisa de Ariba, now Calvarrasa de Arriba,
                Canizal, now Cañizal,
                Cordova, now Córdoba,
                Corunna, now La Coruña,
                  Douro, now Duero (in Spain),
                             Douro (in Portugal),
                 Ernani, now Hernani,
            Estremadura, now Extremadura (in Spain),
                             Estremadura (in Portugal),
               Estremos, now Estremoz,
               Fascinas, now Facinas,
              Gibalfaro, now Gibralfaro,
    Guadalaviar (river), now Turia (río),
                Guarena, now Guareña,
              Junialcon, now Gimialcón,
              La Baneza, now La Bañeza
              La Bispal, now La Bisbal,
              Las Rosas, now Las Rozas,
            Majalahonda, now Majadahonda,
                Majorca, now Mallorca,
             Montanches, now Montánchez,
             Mozencillo, now Mozoncillo,
                   Niza, now Nisa,
              Pampeluna, now Pamplona,
              Peniscola, now Peñíscola,
                 Puzzol, now Puçol,
                Requeña, now Requena,
               Ruvielos, now Rubielos de Mora,
               Saguntum, now Sagunto,
              Sanguessa, now Sangüesa,
              Saragossa, now Zaragoza,
               Senabria, now Sanabria,
          Tagus (river), now Tajo (Spanish), Tejo (Portuguese),
              Talarubia, now Talarrubias,
               Truxillo, now Trujillo,
               Vincente, now Vicente,
             Villa Real, now Vila Real,
             Villafanes, now Villafamés,
               Vittoria, now Vitoria,
                  Xeres, now Jerez,
                 Xiloca, now Jiloca,
                Zamorra, now Zamarra.

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

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



[Illustration: _Marshal Soult, Duke of Dalmatia_

_from the portrait by Girardet_]



  A HISTORY OF THE
  PENINSULAR WAR

  BY
  CHARLES OMAN

  M.A. OXON., HON. LL.D. EDIN.

  FELLOW OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY
  CHICHELE PROFESSOR OF MODERN HISTORY
  FELLOW OF ALL SOULS COLLEGE
  CORRESPONDING MEMBER OF THE REAL ACADEMIA
  DE LA HISTORIA OF MADRID, OF THE ACADEMY OF LISBON
  AND OF THE ACADEMY OF SAN LUIS OF SARAGOSSA

  VOL. V

  OCT. 1811-AUG. 31, 1812

  VALENCIA      CIUDAD RODRIGO      BADAJOZ
  SALAMANCA      MADRID

  WITH MAPS AND ILLUSTRATIONS

  OXFORD
  AT THE CLARENDON PRESS
  1914



  OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

  LONDON   EDINBURGH   GLASGOW   NEW YORK
  TORONTO   MELBOURNE   BOMBAY

  HUMPHREY MILFORD M.A.

  PUBLISHER TO THE UNIVERSITY



PREFACE


In this volume Wellington’s campaigning in 1812 is followed no further
than the day (August 31st) on which he set out from Madrid to drive
back Clausel from the Douro. Reasons of space make it impossible to
include the siege of Burgos and the retreat which followed. I had
written the narrative of them, but found it impossible to add six long
chapters to the 620 pages already in print. The fact is that, from
the point of view of Wellington’s army, the year 1812 was much more
tightly packed with military events than any which had gone before. In
1809 there was nothing important to chronicle after August: in 1810
the Anglo-Portuguese did not come into the forefront of the war till
July, when Masséna had crossed the frontier and laid siege to Almeida.
In 1811 the year opened with a deadlock, which was only ended by the
commencement of Masséna’s retreat on March 9th, and concluded with
a similar deadlock which endured from July to December--interrupted
only by the short campaign of El Bodon and Aldea da Ponte, and this
covered only a week [Sept. 22-9]. In 1812 the great strategical
operations began on the first day of the year with the concentration
for the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, and did not end till the last week of
November--which saw Wellington once more encamped under the walls of
that fortress. For eleven months on end he had been on the move, with
only a brief rest in cantonments between April 24th, the day when he
gave up his pursuit of Marmont in Northern Portugal, and the end of
May, when his divisions began to assemble again for the projected march
on Salamanca. But for this short break his operations were continuous,
and the narrative of them must of necessity be lengthy.

The campaign of 1812 cannot be called the greatest exhibition of
military genius in Wellington’s career: that distinction must be given
to the campaign of 1813. But it included the battle of Salamanca, the
most skilfully fought and the most decisive of all his victories,
‘the beating of forty thousand men in forty minutes.’ And its earlier
episodes, the two sudden strokes which ended in the storming of Ciudad
Rodrigo and of Badajoz, deserve the closest attention, as showing a
marvellous power of utilizing opportunities, and solving time-problems
of the most complicated sort. We shall see how Wellington, in face
of an enemy whose whole force was far superior to his own, so
conducted his operations that he had success in his hands before the
French armies could concentrate to overwhelm him. He would have been
victorious in 1812 even without the assistance that was given him
during the early months of the year by Napoleon’s misguided orders from
Paris, and in the summer by Soult’s repeated and deliberate refusal to
co-operate with King Joseph and Marmont for the general welfare of the
French cause in Spain. The limits of his success were largely extended
by those adventitious circumstances, but even without them he must
have achieved great things by force of the combinations which he had
prepared.

The reader will find that I have devoted a good deal of space to the
precise working out of the effect of Napoleon’s successive dispatches
to Marmont, with reference to the time at which each was received, and
the influence which it had on the Marshal’s movements. I am bound to
say that careful study has convinced me that Marmont’s justification
of his own actions from January to May, written in the fourth volume
of his _Mémoires_, is in the main fair and sensible, and that his
criticism of his master’s orders is as sound as it is lucid. Napier
held the reverse opinion, but his arguments in support of it are
unconvincing: he is set on proving his idol infallible at all costs, in
this as in so many other cases.

I find myself equally at variance with Napier’s estimate of the
relative share of responsibility that falls on Soult upon the one
side and King Joseph and Jourdan on the other, for the disasters
of the summer of 1812. Jourdan’s plan of campaign, set out in
his ‘May _Mémoire_’ [see pp. 303-11], is a most clear-headed and
practicable scheme; the adoption of it would have reduced the effect
of Wellington’s strategy, and have set a limit to his successes.
Soult wrecked the whole scheme by wilful disobedience, which sinned
as much against military discipline as against common sense. The
counter-projects which he kept sending to Jourdan and the King were
founded on his own personal desires, not on a consideration of the
general situation in the Peninsula. Soult had been kind and courteous
to Napier while the historian was working at the French archives, and
had placed his own private papers at his disposition. I think that the
obligation was repaid by the mildness of the censures passed on the
Marshal’s strange behaviour in the summer of 1812.

A smaller proportion of the pages of this volume than of its
predecessors is occupied by the tale of those campaigns in the
Peninsula in which the British took no part. The year 1812 commences
with the surrender of Blake and the occupation of Valencia by the
French. When that great city and the army that had been driven into
it succumbed before Suchet’s attack, there was no longer any large
Spanish force in the field, and the operations of Lacy, Ballasteros,
and the Galicians are of only secondary importance and require no
great attention. Indeed the most effective service done against the
French in 1812 was that of the guerrilleros of Aragon, Cantabria, and
Navarre, whose obstinate resistance immobilized such a large portion of
the 230,000 imperial troops that lay in Spain. It will be noted that I
have had to devote a considerable number of pages to a much-neglected
episode of the summer of 1812--the campaigns against Caffarelli of the
irregular bands of the North, assisted by the fleet of Sir Home Popham.
It cannot be too often repeated that by immobilizing the 35,000 men of
the French Army of the North, they co-operated in the most effective
way with Wellington, and had their share in making the Salamanca
campaign a success for the allies.

I trust that I may have succeeded in making the topographical details
clear at Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, and more especially Salamanca, all of
which I have visited. I spent many hours going over the ground at the
Arapiles, and found that no mere map could have enabled one to grasp
the situation in a satisfactory fashion.

I have once more to express my indebtedness to the owners of two
great files of Peninsular War documents, who were good enough to
place them at my disposition and to allow me to bring them to Oxford.
The D’Urban papers, lent to me by Mr. W. S. M. D’Urban, of Newport
House, near Exeter, the grandson of Sir Benjamin D’Urban, Beresford’s
Chief-of-the-Staff, continue to be of immense value all through 1812.
In the first half of the year Sir Benjamin was still at the Portuguese
head-quarters, and his diary and correspondence give the views of those
who had the best opportunity of knowing Wellington’s plans from the
inside. In June he was appointed to another post, that of commanding
the detached Portuguese cavalry brigade which covered Wellington’s left
flank in the Salamanca campaign; his notes as to his operations are
of extreme interest throughout June, July, and August; the narratives
which he drew up concerning his own fortunes at the battle of
Salamanca, and at the unfortunate combat of Majalahonda, have cleared
up several obscure problems, which no published material could have
enabled me to solve.

The papers of Sir George Scovell, lent me by his great-nephew, Mr. G.
Scovell, of Hove, had already begun to be of use to me in the chronicle
of 1811. But in 1812 they are of far greater importance, since it was
early in that year that Scovell was placed by Wellington in charge
of the toilsome duty of studying and decoding all French captured
dispatches written in cipher. The originals were left in his hands,
and only the interpretations, written out in full, were made over to
the Commander-in-Chief. These originals, often scraps of the smallest
dimensions made to be concealed in secret places about the person of
the bearer, are historical antiquities of the highest interest. Their
importance is so great that I have thought it necessary to give in
Appendix XV a detailed account of them, of the characteristics of the
‘Great Paris Cipher’--as Scovell called it--and of the contents of each
document.

I must mention, as in previous volumes, much kind help given to me
from abroad. The authorities of the Paris War Office have continued to
facilitate my researches among their bulky _cartons_. I have to notice
with sincere regret the death of my old friend, M. Martinien, who did
so much for me while I was compiling volumes III and IV of this work. I
much missed his guidance while working over the material of 1812 during
the last two autumns. Colonel Juan Arzadun, of the Madrid Artillery
Museum, has continued to send me occasional information, and I am
specially obliged to Don Rafael Farias for procuring for me, and making
me a present of, that very rare document the 1822 ‘Estados de los
ejércitos españoles durante la guerra contra Bonaparte,’ a collection
of morning-states and tables of organization on which I had in vain
tried to lay hands during three successive visits to Madrid. Another
gift of the highest value was the complete set of Beresford’s _Ordens
do Dia_ for the Portuguese army, ranging over the whole war. This most
useful series was presented to me by my friend Mr. Rafael Reynolds,
the companion of my last Portuguese tour, who found a copy of this
almost unprocurable file at Lisbon. I owe the two views of the field
of Salamanca to the camera of Mr. C. J. Armstrong, who sent them to me
along with many other interesting Peninsular photographs.

Three friends in England have continued to give me help of the most
invaluable kind. Mr. C. T. Atkinson, Fellow of Exeter College,
has looked through the whole of my proofs, and furnished me with
innumerable notes, which enabled me to add to the accuracy of my
narrative. He has also written me an appendix, No. XIV, concerning the
English troops which in 1812 operated on the East coast of Spain--and
the others which formed the garrisons of Gibraltar, Cadiz, and Tarifa.
The Hon. John Fortescue, the historian of the British army, has not
only answered at length my queries on many obscure problems, but has
lent me the file of his transcripts of French dispatches for 1812, a
good many of which, and those of high importance, were unknown to me.
They were especially valuable for Soult’s operations. Our narratives of
the campaigns of 1812 will appear almost simultaneously, and I think it
will be found that all our main opinions are in agreement. Major J. H.
Leslie, R.A., has once more contributed to this volume an ‘Artillery
Appendix’ on the same lines as those for 1810 and 1811 in vols. III and
IV. His researches have always proved exhaustive and invaluable for the
history of his old Corps.

Lastly, the compiler of the Index, a task executed this summer under
very trying conditions, must receive, for the fifth time, my heartfelt
thanks for her labour of love.

As in previous volumes, the critic may find some slight discrepancies
between the figures given with regard to strengths of regiments or
losses in action in the text and in the Appendices. This results from
the fact that many official documents contain incorrect arithmetic,
which was only discovered by the indefatigable proof-readers of the
Clarendon Press, who have tested all the figures, and found not
infrequent (if minute) errors. The text was printed off before the
Appendices were finally dealt with: where the numbers differ those
in the Appendices are, of course, to be preferred. But the worst
discrepancies do not get beyond units and tens.

  C. OMAN.

OXFORD:
  _July 27, 1914_.

NOTE.--When every page of the text, appendices, and index of this
volume has been printed off, and the final proofs of the preface are
passing through my hands, comes the news that Great Britain is most
unexpectedly involved in a war to which there can be no parallel named
save the struggle that ended just a hundred years ago. May her strength
be used as effectively against military despotism in the twentieth as
it was in the nineteenth century.

  _Aug. 5, 1914._



CONTENTS


  SECTION XXX

  SUCHET’S CONQUEST OF VALENCIA, SEPTEMBER 1811-JANUARY 1812

  CHAPTER      PAGE

  I. The Invasion of Valencia. Siege of Saguntum. September-October
  1811      1

  II. The Battle of Saguntum. October 25, 1811      26

  III. The Capture of Valencia and of Blake’s Army. November
  1811-January 1812      47

  IV. Suchet’s Conquest of Valencia: Side-issues and Consequences.
  January-March 1812      76


  SECTION XXXI

  MINOR CAMPAIGNS OF THE WINTER OF 1811-12

  I. Catalonia and Aragon      90

  II. Operations of Soult in Andalusia: the Siege of Tarifa,
  December 1811-January 1812      106

  III. Politics at Cadiz and elsewhere      136


  SECTION XXXII

  WELLINGTON’S FIRST CAMPAIGN OF 1812. JANUARY-APRIL

  I. The Capture of Ciudad Rodrigo. January 8th-19th,
  1812      157

  II. The Consequences of the Fall of Ciudad Rodrigo.
  January-March 1812      187

  III. The Siege of Badajoz. March-April 1812      217

  IV. The Storm of Badajoz. April 6, 1812      244

  V. Operations of Soult and Marmont during the Siege of
  Badajoz. March-April 1812      265


  SECTION XXXIII

  THE SALAMANCA CAMPAIGN. MAY-AUGUST 1812

  I. King Joseph as Commander-in-Chief      297

  II. The Bridge of Almaraz. May 19, 1812      315

  III. Wellington’s Advance into Leon. June 13-19, 1812      335

  IV. The Salamanca Forts. Ten Days of Manœuvres, June 20-30,
  1812      359

  V. Marmont takes the Offensive. July 1812      383

  VI. The Battle of Salamanca, July 22, 1812. The Early Stages      418

  VII. The Battle of Salamanca: the Main Engagement      446

  VIII. The Consequences of Salamanca. Garcia Hernandez      475

  IX. The Pursuit of King Joseph. Majalahonda. Wellington
  at Madrid      504

  X. Affairs in the South. June-August 1812. Soult, Hill,
  and Ballasteros      519

  XI. The Two Diversions: (1) Operations in the North: Sir
  Home Popham and Caffarelli. (2) Operations in
  the East: Suchet, Joseph O’Donnell, and Maitland.
  June-August 1812      548

  XII. Wellington Returns to the Douro. August 31, 1812.
  Finis      576


  APPENDICES

  I. Suchet’s Army in Valencia. Morning-state of Oct. 1,
  1811      583

  II. Strength of Blake’s Army at the Battle of Saguntum,
  Oct. 25, 1811      584

  III. Suchet’s Army at the Siege of Valencia. Morning-state
  of Dec. 31, 1811      585

  IV. Surrender-Roll of Blake’s Army at Valencia, Jan. 9,
  1812      586

  V. French and Anglo-Spanish Troops employed at the Siege
  of Tarifa, Dec. 1811-Jan. 1812      586

  VI. Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo: (1) Strength of the Garrison;
  (2) British Losses during the Siege      587

  VII. Note on some Points of Controversy regarding the
  Storm of Ciudad Rodrigo      589

  VIII. The French ‘Army of the South.’ Return of March 1,
  1812      590

  IX. Siege of Badajoz: (1) Strength of the Garrison; (2)
  British Losses at the Storm      593

  X. Wellington’s Army at Salamanca. Strength and Losses      595

  XI. Marmont’s Army at Salamanca. Strength and Losses      600

  XII. British Losses at the Combats of Castrejon and Castrillo,
  July 18, 1812      607

  XIII. Spanish Troops on the East Coast of Spain in the Spring of
  1812: (1) Morning-state of March 1; (2) Joseph
  O’Donnell’s Strength and Losses at Castalla      608

  XIV. British Forces on the East Coast of Spain in 1812. A note
  by Mr. C. T. Atkinson      609

  XV. The Scovell Ciphers      611

  XVI. The British Artillery in the Peninsula, 1812. By Major
  John Leslie, R.A.      619

  INDEX      623


MAPS AND PLANS

  I. GENERAL THEATER OF SUCHET’S OPERATIONS IN EASTERN
  SPAIN                                                    _To face_   8

  II. PLAN OF THE BATTLE OF SAGUNTUM                           ”      42

  III. PLAN OF SUCHET’S INVESTMENT OF VALENCIA                 ”      64

  IV. GENERAL MAP OF CATALONIA                                 ”      96

  V. PLAN OF TARIFA                                            ”     128

  VI. PLAN OF THE SIEGE OPERATIONS AT CIUDAD RODRIGO           ”     176

  VII. PLAN OF THE SIEGE OPERATIONS AT BADAJOZ                 ”     256

  VIII. MAP OF THE DISTRICT ROUND ALMARAZ                      ”     328

  IX. GENERAL MAP OF CENTRAL SPAIN, TO ILLUSTRATE
  THE SALAMANCA CAMPAIGN                                       ”     352

  X. PLAN OF THE SALAMANCA FORTS                               ”     376

  XI. MAP OF THE COUNTRY BETWEEN SALAMANCA
  AND TORDESILLAS                                              ”     400

  XII. GENERAL PLAN OF THE BATTLE OF SALAMANCA                 ”     448

  XIII. (1) THE LAST EPISODE AT SALAMANCA; (2) GARCIA
  HERNANDEZ                                                    ”     480

  XIV. GENERAL MAP OF ESTREMADURA TO ILLUSTRATE HILL’S
  CAMPAIGNS IN MARCH-APRIL AND JUNE-AUGUST 1812                ”     528


ILLUSTRATIONS

  PORTRAIT OF MARSHAL SOULT      _Frontispiece_

  PORTRAIT OF MARSHAL SUCHET                               _To face_  80

  VIEW OF CIUDAD RODRIGO, ON THE MORNING AFTER THE STORM       ”     186

  PORTRAIT OF MARSHAL MARMONT                                  ”     208

  (1) VIEW OF THE FRENCH ARAPILE, AND (2) VIEW OF THE
  GENERAL LIE OF THE GROUND AT SALAMANCA                       ”     422



SECTION XXX

SUCHET’S CONQUEST OF VALENCIA. SEPTEMBER 1811-JANUARY 1812


CHAPTER I

THE INVASION OF VALENCIA. SIEGE OF SAGUNTUM. SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 1811


In the last volume of this work the chronicle of all the campaigns of
1811 was completed, save in one corner of Spain, where, on the eastern
coast, the fortunes of the French armies have only been pursued down
to the recall of Marshal Macdonald to Paris on October 28th. Already,
before the Duke of Tarentum had been added to the list of the generals
who had been withdrawn and superseded for failure in Catalonia, another
series of operations had been begun in the East, which was destined
to lead directly to one more Spanish disaster, but indirectly to the
ruin of the French cause in Spain. For, as has already been pointed out
in the last pages of the last volume[1], it was to be the diversion
by Napoleon’s orders of French divisions eastward, from the borders
of Portugal to those of Valencia, that was to give Wellington his
long-desired opportunity of opening a successful offensive campaign
against his immediate opponents in the West. The fall of Valencia was
to lead to the fall of Ciudad Rodrigo in January 1812.

  [1] vol. iv. pp. 587-91.

It will be remembered that the Emperor’s ambitious schemes for the
conquest of the kingdom of Valencia, the last district of eastern
Spain where he had as yet secured no solid foothold, had been deferred
perforce till Figueras fell, on August 19, 1811. As long as that great
fortress, which lies only a few miles from the French frontier, and
blocks the main road from Perpignan to Barcelona, had been maintained
against Macdonald by the resolute Martinez, it was impossible to
take up a new offensive campaign: all the disposable French troops in
Catalonia were immobilized around the stubborn garrison. At length the
remnant of the starving miqueletes had laid down their arms, and the
troops which had been for so long blockading them became disposable for
the assistance of Suchet, whose ‘Army of Aragon’ was to deliver the
main blow against Valencia.

Six days after the surrender of Figueras the news that the obstacle
to advance had been at last removed reached Paris, on August 25, and
on the same evening Berthier wrote, by his master’s orders, to bid
Suchet move forward: ‘Everything leads us to believe that Valencia is
in a state of panic, and that, when Murviedro has been taken and a
battle in the open field has been won, that city will surrender. If
you judge otherwise, and think that you must wait to bring up your
siege artillery for the attack on the place, or that you must wait
for a better season [i. e. early autumn] to commence the operation, I
must inform you that, in every case, it is the imperative order of the
Emperor that your head-quarters are to be on Valencian territory on or
about September 15th, and as far forward towards the city as possible.’

The orders were feasible, and (as we shall see) were duly executed:
but Napoleon had committed his usual mistake of undervaluing the
tenacity of the Spanish enemy, whom he so deeply despised. Suchet set
his troops in motion on September 15th; he took Murviedro--but only
after a desperate siege of two months--he beat the army of Valencia in
a very decisive pitched battle, but the city by no means fulfilled the
Emperor’s prophecy by a prompt surrender. Fighting round its walls went
on for five weeks after Murviedro fell: and it was not till troops had
been brought to aid Suchet from very remote provinces, that he at last
compelled the capitulation of Valencia after the New Year of 1812 had
passed. Before the city yielded Wellington was on the move, far away
on the Portuguese frontier, and it was not many days after Suchet’s
aide-de-camp brought the glorious news of the capitulation of Valencia,
that Marmont’s aide-de-camp followed, with the wholly unexpected and
unwelcome tidings that the British had stormed Ciudad Rodrigo, and
that the hold of the French army on Leon and Castile had been shaken.
The one piece of information was the complement and consequence of the
other.

Suchet’s invasion of Valencia, in short, was a much harder and more
venturesome enterprise than his master had calculated. It was true that
the Spanish forces in front of him seemed in September wholly incapable
of holding him back. The Army of Catalonia had been reduced by a series
of disasters, culminating in the falls of Tarragona and Figueras, to a
mere remnant of 8,000 men, lurking in the high hills of the interior.
The Army of Valencia had made a miserable exhibition of itself during
the last year: it had brought no effective help to the Catalans, and
whenever any of its detachments came into contact with the French, they
had invariably suffered discreditable defeats, even when their numbers
were far greater than those of the invaders. Of all the armies of Spain
this was undoubtedly the one with the worst fighting reputation. It
was to small profit that the Captain-General was raising yet newer
and rawer battalions than those which already existed, to swell the
numbers, but not the efficiency, of his command. In July the nominal
total of the Valencian army, including the irregulars of the ‘flying
column’ of the Empecinado, had been just 30,000 men. By October there
were 36,000 under arms, including the new ‘Reserve Division[2],’ whose
six battalions of recruits had only 135 officers to 6,000 men--an
allowance of one officer to 45 men, not much more than half of the
proportion that is necessary even among good veteran troops. But in
truth the only valuable fighting force that was present in the kingdom
in September was the infantry of the two weak divisions of the old
Albuera army, under Zayas and Lardizabal, whom Blake had brought round
from Cadiz with him, when he assumed command of the Eastern provinces.
They did not between them muster more than 6,000 bayonets, but were
good old troops, who were to distinguish themselves in the oncoming
campaign.

  [2] ‘The Reserve Division’ consisted of a 3rd battalion from some
  of the old regiments of the Valencian army, viz. 1st of Savoya,
  Avila, Don Carlos, Volunteers of Castile, Cazadores de Valencia,
  Orihuela. They were each about 1,000 strong, but averaged only 22
  officers per battalion.

In addition, it was possible that Valencia might be able to draw a
few thousand men to her aid from the depleted army of Murcia, which
had suffered so severely at Soult’s hands during the short campaign of
the previous August[3]. But such assistance was purely problematical;
if Soult should stir again from the side of Andalusia, it would be
impossible for General Mahy to bring a single Murcian battalion to the
succour of Blake. If, by good fortune, he should not, only a fraction
of Mahy’s small army would be free, since the greater part of it would
be required to watch the Andalusian frontier, and to protect the great
naval arsenal and fortress of Cartagena.

  [3] See vol. iv. pp. 475-83.

If the regular troops only in eastern Spain had to be counted, it
was certain that Suchet could dispose of numbers superior to his
adversaries. The gross total of the French Army of Catalonia, where
General Decaen had now taken Macdonald’s place, was 30,000 men. That
of Suchet’s own ‘Army of Aragon’ was nearly 50,000, if garrisons,
sick, and drafts on the march are reckoned in it. With these deducted,
it could still supply about 31,000 men of all arms for the field.
But these were not the only resources available. On the upper Ebro,
in Navarre and western Aragon, were the two newly arrived divisions
of Reille and Severoli, which had entered Spain during the summer,
and had hitherto had no occupation save a little hunting of Mina’s
guerrilleros. These two divisions counted 15,000 fresh troops of good
quality, and Suchet reckoned on their assistance to cover his rear,
when he should begin his march on Valencia. Technically they belonged
to Dorsenne’s ‘Army of the North,’ but Severoli’s Italians had been
promised as a reinforcement for Aragon already, and when Suchet asked
for the grant of Reille’s division also it was not denied him. There
were 70,000 men in all to be taken into consideration when the attack
on Valencia was planned out.

No such force, of course, could be set aside for the actual invasion.
The reason why not half so many thousands could be utilized for the
projected stroke was that the Spanish War, as we have already had
to point out on many occasions, was not a normal struggle between
regular armies. The French had not only to conquer but to occupy every
province that they overrun. Wherever an adequate garrison was not left,
the guerrilleros and miqueletes inundated the country-side, cut all
communications, and blockaded such small detachments as had been left
far apart from the main army. Suchet’s 70,000 men had to hold down
Aragon and Catalonia, at the same time that they undertook the further
extension of their master’s power on the Valencian side.

Decaen in Catalonia had 23,000 men fit for service, not including
sick and drafts on the march. Lacy’s little army was not more than
8,000 strong in September: yet Suchet dared not take away a man from
Catalonia. The large garrison of Barcelona, a whole division, and the
smaller garrisons of Gerona, Rosas, and Mont Louis absorbed nearly half
the effective total. The remainder were, as it turned out, not strong
enough to keep the Catalans in check, much less to prosecute active
offensive operations against them. It was in October, after Suchet had
started against Valencia, that Lacy carried out the series of small
successful raids against Igualada, Cervera, and Montserrat, which have
been spoken of in an earlier chapter[4]. We need not wonder, then, that
not a Frenchman was drawn from Catalonia: they were all wanted on the
spot to keep a tight hold on the turbulent principality. The example
of the surprise of Figueras in the last spring was sufficient to prove
the necessity of keeping every point strongly garrisoned, on pain of
possible disaster.

  [4] See vol. iv. pp. 540-1.

As to the Army of Aragon, it was far stronger than the Army of
Catalonia, but on the other hand it had even more fortresses to
garrison. Saragossa, Tortosa, Tarragona, Lerida, were large places,
each absorbing several battalions. In addition there were the smaller
strongholds of Jaca, Mequinenza, Monzon, Morella, requiring care. All
these were regular fortresses, but they did not exhaust the list of
points that must be firmly held, if the communications of Suchet’s
field-force with its distant base were to be kept free and unhampered.
Southern Aragon and the mountain-ganglion where the borders of that
kingdom and of Valencia and New Castile meet, in the roughest country
of the whole Spanish peninsula, had to be guarded. For in this
region lay the chosen hunting-ground of the guerrillero bands of the
Empecinado, Duran, and many other lesser chiefs: and Mina himself,
from his usual haunts in Navarre, not unfrequently led a raid far to
the south of the Ebro. Suchet had therefore to place garrisons in
Teruel, Daroca, Alcañiz, Calatayud, and Molina, none of which possessed
modern fortifications. The detachments left to hold them had to utilize
a large convent, a mediaeval castle, or some such post of defence, in
case they were attacked by the roving hordes of the enemy. Able to
protect themselves with ease against small parties, and to keep the
roads open under ordinary circumstances, they were exposed to serious
danger if the guerrilleros should mass themselves in force against any
one garrison--more especially if the bands should have been lent a few
cannon and gunners from the regular Spanish armies. For convents or old
castles could not resist artillery fire.

To cover his rear Suchet was forced to set aside one whole division,
that of Frère, thirteen battalions strong[5], and mustering over 7,000
men, and immense detachments of the three other French divisions of
the Army of Aragon. The units told off for the field army left no less
than 6,800 able-bodied men (besides sick and convalescents) behind
them, while they took 22,000 to the front. Frère’s division remained
on the side of Western Catalonia, holding Lerida and Tortosa in force,
and the intermediate places with small posts. The detachments from
Musnier’s, Harispe’s, and Habert’s French, and from Palombini’s Italian
divisions, took charge of Southern Aragon, leaving a company here and a
battalion there. But the Marshal selected with great care the men who
were to march on the Valencian expedition: each regiment drafted its
most effective soldiers into the marching units, and left the recruits
and the old or sickly men in the garrisons. Thus the battalions used
in the oncoming campaign were rather weak, averaging not much over
450 men, but were composed entirely of selected veterans. The only
doubtful element taken forward was the so-called ‘Neapolitan Division’
of General Compère, which was only 1,500 strong--in reality a weak
brigade--and had no great reputation. But what was left of this corps
was its best part--the numerous men who wanted to desert had already
done so, and its weaklings were dead by this time. Of his cavalry
Suchet took forward almost the whole, leaving behind only two squadrons
of the 4th Hussars for the service between the garrisons, and of the
other regiments only the weakly men and horses[6]. Practically all his
horse and field artillery also went forward with him.

  [5] Composed at this time of the 14th and 42nd and 115th Line,
  and the 1st Léger, the first two and last each three battalions
  strong, the other (115th) with four.

  [6] The 24th Dragoons left about 140 men behind, the 13th
  Cuirassiers 50 only, the Italian ‘Dragoons of Napoleon’ 124, but
  the 4th Hussars about 500, much more than half their force.

Of his own Army of Aragon, Suchet, as we have thus seen, left nearly
14,000 men ‘present under arms’ to cover his rear. But this was not
enough to make matters wholly secure, so untameable were the Aragonese
and Catalans with whom he had to deal. Indeed, if this force only had
been left to discharge the appointed task, it is clear, from subsequent
happenings, that he would have suffered a disaster during his absence
in Valencia. He asked from the Emperor the loan of half Reille’s
division from Navarre, as well as the prompt sending to the front of
Severoli’s Italians, who had been promised him as a reinforcement when
first they entered Spain. The petition was granted, and these troops
entered northern Aragon, and took charge of the places along the Ebro,
while the expeditionary army was on its way to Valencia. Most of them
were ultimately brought forward to the siege of the great city, and
without them neither could Aragon have been maintained nor Valencia
captured. Practically we may say that Suchet, at his original start,
took 26,000 men to beat the Valencians and capture their city, but
that he left nearly 30,000 more behind him, to hold down the provinces
already conquered and to deal with the guerrilleros.

Two main roads lead from the north to Valencia: the one, coming from
Tortosa and Catalonia, hugs the coast of the Mediterranean, from which
it is never more than a few miles distant. The other, far inland, and
starting from Saragossa, follows the valley of the Xiloca among the
hills of Southern Aragon, crosses the watershed beyond Teruel, and
descends to the sea near Murviedro, where it joins the coast-road only
a few miles north of Valencia. There is a third, and much inferior,
route between these two, which starts from Mequinenza on the Lower
Ebro, crosses the mountainous Valencian frontier near Morella, and
comes down to the coast at Castellon de la Plana, twenty miles north of
Murviedro. Of these roads the first was as good as any in Spain, and
was suitable for all manner of traffic: but it had the disadvantage
of being flanked at a distance of only two miles by the small but
impregnable fortress of Peniscola, which lies on a rocky headland
thirty miles beyond Tortosa, and of being absolutely blocked by the
little town of Oropesa, twenty miles further south. Oropesa was no more
than a ruinous mediaeval place, with two castles hastily repaired,
without any modern works: but since the road passed through it, no
heavy guns or wagons starting from Tortosa could get further south till
its forts had been captured.

The second road, that from Aragon by Teruel and Murviedro, is marked
on contemporary maps as a post-route fit for all vehicles: but it
passed through a very mountainous country, and was much inferior as a
line of advance to the coast-road. It was not blocked by any fortress
in the hands of the Spaniards, but between Teruel and Segorbe it was
crossed by many ridges and ravines highly suitable for defence. The
third track, that by Morella, was unsuitable for wheeled traffic, and
could only be used by infantry and cavalry. Its one advantage was that
Morella, its central point, had been already for some time in French
hands, and contained a garrison and stores, which made it a good
starting-point for a marching column.

[Illustration: SUCHET’S CAMPAIGNS 1811-12 IN VALENCIA]

Suchet determined to use all three of these roads, though such a plan
would have been most hazardous against a wary and vigorous enemy: for
though they all converge in the end on the same point, Murviedro,
they are separated from each other by long stretches of mountain,
and have no cross-communications. In especial, the road by Teruel
was very distant from the other two, and any isolated column taking
it might find itself opposed by immensely superior forces, during
the last days of its march; since Valencia, the enemy’s base and
headquarters, where he would naturally concentrate, lies quite close to
the concluding stages of the route Teruel-Murviedro. It must have been
in sheer contempt for his opponent--a contempt which turned out to be
justified--that the Marshal sent a detachment of eleven battalions by
this road, for such a force of 5,000 men might have been beset by
the whole Valencian army, 30,000 strong, and the other columns could
not have helped it.

Suchet’s arrangements were governed by a single fact--his siege
artillery and heavy stores were parked at Tortosa, and from thence,
therefore, along the coast road, must be his main line of advance,
though it would be necessary to mask Peniscola and to capture Oropesa,
before he could get forward to his objective--the city of Valencia.
It might have seemed rational to move the whole field army by this
route: but some of the troops destined for it were coming from distant
points, and to march them down the Ebro bank to Tortosa would have
taken much time. Moreover if the whole force concentrated there, it
would all have to be fed from the magazines at Tortosa, and those lying
in Aragon would be of no use. The Marshal started himself from this
point, on September 15, with the division of Habert, and an infantry
reserve formed of Robert’s brigade of the division of Musnier, together
with the whole of the cavalry and field artillery of the army. The
siege-train guarded by the other brigade of Musnier’s division--that
of Ficatier--followed: but Musnier himself did not accompany the
expedition, having been left in general charge of the detachments
placed in garrison on the Ebro and in Upper Aragon. The whole column
made up about 11,000 combatants.

The second column, consisting of the two auxiliary
divisions--Palombini’s eleven Italian battalions and Compère’s 1,500
Neapolitans--took (without any artillery to hamper them) the mountain
road by Alcañiz and Morella: they were slightly over 7,000 strong, and,
if all went well, were destined to unite with the main body somewhere
near Oropesa or Castellon de la Plana. It was not likely that this
column would meet with much opposition.

But the third detachment, Harispe’s 5,000 men from Upper Aragon, who
were to take the inland and western road by Teruel, were essaying a
very dangerous task, if the enemy should prove active and enterprising,
more especially as they had no artillery and hardly any cavalry with
them. Blake might have taken the offensive with 20,000 men against
them, while still leaving something to contain--or at least to
observe--Suchet’s main column.

The Spanish Commander-in-Chief, however, did nothing of the sort,
and met the invasion with a tame and spiritless defensive on all its
points. When Suchet’s advance was reported, Blake had his forces in a
very scattered situation. Of the 36,000 men of whom he could nominally
dispose, the Empecinado’s ‘flying column’ was as usual detached in
the mountains of Molina and Guadalajara, harassing small French
garrisons. Zayas’s division had been left far to the south at Villena,
near Alicante, to work off the contagion of yellow fever which it had
contracted while passing by Cartagena. For in that port the disease was
raging terribly at the time. Obispo’s division was in the high hills on
the borders of Aragon. In the neighbourhood of Valencia were only the
troops of Lardizabal and Miranda, with the main body of the cavalry.
The Army of Murcia, which was destined to send succour if it should not
find itself beset by Soult on the other side, was lying cantoned at
various points in that province. As the French were at this time making
no demonstration from the side of Granada, it now became clear that it
would be able to send certain succours to Blake. But they were not yet
designated for marching, much less assembled, and it was clear that
they would come up very late.

This dispersion of the available troops did not, in the end, make much
difference to the fate of the campaign, for Blake had from the first
made up his mind to accept the defensive, to draw in his outlying
detachments, and to stand at bay in the neighbourhood of Valencia,
without attempting to make any serious resistance on the frontier.
Since his arrival he had been urging on the construction of a line of
earthworks, forming fortified camps, around the provincial capital.
The ancient walls of Valencia itself were incapable of any serious
resistance to modern artillery, but outside them, all along the banks
of the Guadalaviar river, for some miles inland to the West, and as
far as the sea on the East, batteries, _têtes-de-pont_, trenches, and
even closed works of considerable size had been constructed. It was
by holding them in force and with great numbers that Blake intended
to check the invasion. In front of his chosen position, at a distance
of twenty miles, there was a great advanced work--a newly restored
fortress of crucial importance--the fastness of Saguntum, or ‘San
Fernando de Sagunto’ as it had just been re-christened. This was the
acropolis of one of the most ancient towns of Spain, the Saguntum which
had detained Hannibal so long before its walls at the opening of the
Third Punic War. In the age of the Iberians, the Carthaginians, and
the Romans, and even down to the days of the Ommeyad califs, there had
been a large and flourishing city on this site. But in the later middle
ages Saguntum had declined in prosperity and population, and the modern
town--which had changed its name to Murviedro (_muri veteres_) had
shrunk down to the foot of the hill. It was now a small open place of
6,000 souls, quite indefensible. But above it towered the steep line of
rock which had formed the citadel in ancient days: its narrow summit
was crowned with many ruins of various ages--from cyclopean foundations
of walls, going back to the time of the ancient Iberians, to Moorish
watch-towers and palaces. The empty space of steep slope, from the
acropolis down to the modern town, was also sprinkled with decaying
walls and substructures of all sorts, among which were cisterns and
broken roadways, besides the remains of a large Roman theatre, partly
hewn out of the live rock.

There had been no fortifications by Murviedro when Suchet last
passed near Valencia, in his abortive raid of March 1810[7]. On that
occasion he had scaled the citadel to enjoy the view and to take a
casual survey of the picturesque ruins upon it[8]. But since then a
great change had taken place. On the advice, as it is said, of the
English general, Charles Doyle[9], Blake had determined to restore the
citadel as a place of strength. This was when he last held command
in Valencia, and before he joined the Cadiz Regency. But his idea
had been carried out after his departure by the Valencian Junta and
the successive Captains-General who had come after him. By means of
more than a year’s work the citadel had been made a tenable fortress,
though one of an irregular and unscientific sort. The old Iberian and
Moorish walls had been repaired and run together in a new _enceinte_,
with material taken from the other ruins all around. In especial the
Roman theatre, hitherto one of the most perfect in Southern Europe,
had been completely gutted, and its big blocks had proved most
useful for building the foundations of weak points of the circuit of
fortification. This was strong at some points, from the toughness and
height of the old ramparts, but very sketchy at others. Where the slope
was absolutely precipitous, a rough wall of dry stone without mortar
alone had been carried along the edge of the cliff. The narrow summit
of the rock formed a most irregular enclosure, varying much in height
from one point to another. It was divided into four separate sections
cut off from each other by cross-walls. The westernmost and lowest,
facing the only point from which there is a comparatively gentle ascent
to the summit, was crowned by a new battery called by the name of _Dos
de Mayo_, to commemorate the Madrid Insurrection of 1808. Rising high
in the centre of this work was an ancient bastion named the Tower of
San Pedro. Much higher, on the extreme peak of the summit, was the
citadel tower, called San Fernando, where the governor’s flag flew, and
from whence the whole fortress could be best surveyed. From this point
the rock descended rapidly, and its long irregular eastern crest was
surrounded by weakly-repaired walls, ending in two batteries called
by the names of Menacho, the gallant governor of Badajoz[10], and
Doyle, the English general who had suggested the fortification of the
place. But the greater part of this eastern end of the works lay above
slopes so precipitous that it seemed unlikely that they would ever be
attacked. The western end, by the Dos Mayo battery, was the obvious
point of assault by an enemy who intended to use regular methods.

  [7] See vol. iii. pp. 284-6.

  [8] Suchet’s _Mémoires_, ii. p. 156.

  [9] See Arteche, xi. p. 123.

  [10] See vol. iv. p. 56.

The construction was by no means finished when Suchet’s expedition
began: many parts of the new walls were only carried up to half their
intended height, and no regular shelter for the garrison had been
contrived. Instead of proper barracks and casemates there were only
rough ‘leans-to,’ contrived against old walls, or cover made by roofing
in with beams old broken towers, and bastions. The hospital was the
only spacious and regular building in the whole _enceinte_: the powder
magazine was placed deep down in the cellars of the fort San Fernando.
The armament of the place was by no means complete: the guns were being
sent up just as Suchet started. Only seventeen were ready, and of
these no more than three were 12-pounders: the rest were only of the
calibre of field artillery (4- and 8-pounders) or howitzers. A fortress
which has only seventeen guns for an _enceinte_ of 3,000 yards, and
possesses no heavy guns to reply to the 18- or 24-pounders of a
siege-train, is in a state of desperate danger.

Blake had thrown into the place a brigade under the command of Colonel
Luis Andriani, consisting of five battalions, two each of the regiments
of Savoya and Don Carlos, one of the Cazadores de Orihuela. Of these
two were new ‘third battalions[11]’ from the recently raised ‘Division
of Reserve,’ incomplete in officers, only half drilled, and not yet
fully provided with uniforms. The total force came to 2,663 officers
and men, including about 150 artillerymen and sappers. It is probable
that these troops would have made no better show in the open field
than did the rest of the Valencian army, a few weeks later: but they
showed behind walls the same capacity for unexpected resistance which
had surprised the French on other occasions at Ciudad Rodrigo, Gerona,
and Figueras. Andriani, the governor, seems to have made an honourable
attempt to do his duty at the head of the doubtfully efficient garrison
placed at his disposal.

  [11] The battalions were the 2nd and 3rd of Savoya (the last a
  new levy) the 1st and 2nd of Don Carlos, and the 3rd of Orihuela,
  this last raw and newly raised like the 3rd of Savoya.

In addition to Saguntum Blake held two outlying posts in his front,
Peniscola on its lofty headland, garrisoned by about 1,000 men under
General Garcia Navarro, and the half-ruined Oropesa, which he had
resolved to hold, because it blocked the sea-coast road so effectively.
But its only tenable points were two mediaeval towers, one in the town
commanding the high-road, the other by the shore of the Mediterranean.
Their joint garrisons did not amount to 500 men, and it was obvious
that they could not hold out many days against modern artillery. But
the gain of a day or two might conceivably be very valuable in the
campaign that was about to begin. It is clear, however, that his main
hope of resistance lay in the line of entrenched camps and batteries
along the Guadalaviar, in front of Valencia: here he intended to make
his real stand, and he hoped that Saguntum, so little distant from
this line, would prove a serious hindrance to the enemy when he came up
against it.

Suchet’s three columns all started, as Napoleon had ordered, on
September 15th. The Marshal’s own main body, coming from Tortosa,
reached Benicarlo, the first town across the Valencian frontier, next
day, and on the 17th came level with Peniscola, whose garrison kept
quiet within the limits of its isthmus. The Marshal left a battalion
and a few hussars to observe it, and to see that it did not make
sallies against his line of communication. On the 19th the head of
the marching column reached Torreblanca, quite close to Oropesa. A
reconnaissance found that the place was held, and came into contact
with some Spanish horse, who were easily driven off. This was the first
touch with Blake’s field army that had been obtained. But the enemy was
evidently not in force, and the garrison of Oropesa hastily retired
into the two towers which formed its only tenable positions. On a close
inspection it was found that the tower in the town completely commanded
the high-road, wherefore the Marshal took a slight circuit by suburban
lanes round the place, with his main body and guns, and continued his
advance, after leaving a few companies to blockade the towers. On
the same evening he was joined by Palombini’s column from Morella,
consisting of the two Italian divisions. They had accomplished their
march without meeting any resistance, though the road from Morella by
San Matteo and Cabanes was rough and easily defensible. The united
force, now 16,000 strong, proceeded on its march next day, and the
Marshal was agreeably surprised when, on the morning of the 20th, the
cavalry scouts on his right flank announced to him that they had come
in touch with Harispe’s column from Teruel, which had appeared at the
village of Villafanes a few miles from the main road. Thus the whole
army of invasion was happily united.

Harispe, as it turned out, had left Teruel on the 15th, in obedience to
his orders, by the post-road to Segorbe and the coast. But hearing on
the second day that a large Valencian force was holding the defile of
Las Barracas, where the road crosses the watershed, he had turned off
by a bad side-path to Ruvielos in the upper valley of the Mijares, in
the hope of joining his chief without being forced to storm a difficult
position. Blake, as a matter of fact, much alarmed at the approach of
a flanking column on the Teruel side, and ignorant of its strength,
had sent the division of Obispo and some other detachments to hold the
pass. But no enemy came this way--Harispe had diverged down the course
of the Villahermosa river, by a country road only practicable for a
force without guns or wheeled transport, and got down by rapid marches
to the coast-plain beyond Alcora, without having seen any enemy save
some scattered guerrillero bands. He had thoroughly distracted Blake’s
attention and had run no danger, because he took an unexpected and
difficult route, in a direction quite different from that by which the
Spaniards expected him to appear[12].

  [12] Vacani says that the Teruel column was intended by Suchet
  as a mere demonstration, and was never intended to follow the
  high-road Teruel-Segorbe, but to take a cross-route over the
  hills, such as was actually used by it. But Suchet, in his
  _Mémoires_, makes no such statement (ii. p. 152), and speaks as
  if Harispe had taken the Ruvielos route on his own responsibility.

The whole army was now concentrated near Villafanes on September 21,
save the detachments left to block Peniscola and Oropesa, and the
brigade of Ficatier, which, escorting the siege-train, had been left
at Tortosa, to await orders for starting when there should be no enemy
left in northern Valencia to molest it. The heavy guns were to come
forward down the coast-road, first to breach the towers of Oropesa, and
when the way past them was clear, to play their part, if necessary, in
the more serious task of battering Saguntum.

On advancing from Castellon de la Plana on September 22 the French army
found a very small Spanish rearguard--500 or 600 men--covering the
bridge of Villareal over the Mijares. They gave way before the first
attack, which was a very simple affair, since the river was nearly dry
and everywhere fordable. No more was seen of the enemy next day, and
on the 23rd Suchet found himself on the banks of the Palancia stream,
which flows under the foot of the rock of Saguntum. The Spaniards had
retired still further towards Valencia, leaving the fortress to its
own resources. These were unknown to Suchet, who was aware that the
ruinous citadel had been rebuilt, but could not tell without further
reconnaissance what was its strength. In order to invest the place, and
to make closer investigation possible, Harispe’s division crossed the
Palancia to the right of Saguntum, Habert’s to the left. The latter
sent six companies into the town of Murviedro, and drove up some
Spanish pickets from it into the fortress which towered above. The
two divisions then joined hands to the south of Saguntum, completing
its investment, while Palombini’s Italians took post at Petres and
Gillet on the road to Segorbe--to the north-west--in case Blake might
have placed some of his troops on this side-route, with the object of
troubling the siege by attacks from the rear. The cavalry went forward
down the high-road to Valencia, and sent back news that they had
explored as far as Albalete, only six miles from the capital, and had
met no enemy. The division of Lardizabal and the cavalry of San Juan,
which had been the observing force in front of Suchet, had retired
beyond the Guadalaviar river, and had shut themselves up (along with
the rest of Blake’s army) in the entrenchments behind that stream. The
Spanish general was evidently acting on the strictest principles of
passive defence.

The French marshal determined not to seek his enemy on his chosen
ground, till he should have taken Saguntum and brought up his
siege-train to the front. The former condition he thought would not
prove difficult to accomplish. A survey of the fortress revealed
its extremely irregular and incomplete state of defence. Though the
cliffs were in all parts steep and in some places inaccessible, many
sections of the works above them were obviously unfinished and very
weak. After a close reconnaissance by his engineer officers had been
made, Suchet determined that it would be worth while to try an attempt
at escalade on some of the most defective points, without waiting for
the arrival of the siege-train. He set his sappers and carpenters to
work to make sixty ladders, which were ready in full number on the
third day. The front chosen for the assault was in the _enceinte_
immediately overhanging the town of Murviedro, where two ancient gaps
in the wall were clearly visible; the new work was not half finished,
and a low structure, roughly completed with beams laid above the
regular foundations, was all that blocked the openings. The masons of
the garrison were heard at night, working hard to raise the height of
the stone wall which was to replace the temporary wooden parapets.
There being no artillery available, they could not be hindered in their
building: but it did not seem to advance very rapidly.

Suchet set apart for the actual escalade two columns, each composed of
300 volunteers from Habert’s division: they were to be supported by a
reserve of similar strength under Colonel Gudin, which was formed up,
completely under cover, within the streets of Murviedro. At midnight
on September 27th-28th the stormers pushed forward under cover of the
darkness, and in small successive parties, into a large Roman cistern
above the ruined theatre, which was ‘dead ground,’ and not exposed to
fire from any part of the ramparts. Here they were only 120 yards from
the two breaches. Meanwhile, as a diversion, six Italian companies from
Palombini’s division were ordered to make a noisy demonstration against
the distant part of the defences which lay under the tower of San
Pedro[13]. General Habert was to have 2,000 men more under arms, ready
to support the assailing column.

  [13] The complete orders for the attack may be read in the first
  _Pièce justificative_ in Belmas’s history of the siege, pp.
  115-17 of vol. iv of his elaborate work.

The stormers reached their appointed place apparently undiscovered,
and the attack would have been delivered--according to Suchet’s
dispatch--without any preliminary firing, but for an accident. The
Marshal says that the Spaniards had pushed an exploring patrol down the
hillside, which fell in with the French pickets and drew their fire.
Thereupon the assaulting columns in the cistern, thinking themselves
discovered, let off a few shots and charged uphill, a little ahead of
the appointed time, and before the Italian demonstration had begun[14].
The governor, Andriani, in his dispatch, makes no mention of this, but
merely says that about 2 a.m. his sentinels thought that they detected
movements on the slopes, and that a short time afterwards a fierce
attack was delivered. At any rate the garrison was not surprised as
Suchet had hoped.

  [14] Vacani (v. p. 381) contradicts Suchet, saying that there
  was no Spanish patrol, and that the French pickets fired from
  nervousness at an imaginary foe.

Owing to the lowness, however, of the walls blocking the two old
breaches, the assailants had, in their first rush, a fair chance of
breaking in. Many ladders were successfully planted, and repeatedly
small parties of the French got a footing on the wooden parapets. If
the garrison had flinched, the storm might have succeeded: but far
from flinching, they offered a desperate resistance, overthrew the
ladders, slew all who had gained the top of the _enceinte_, and kept
up a furious musketry fire, which laid low many of the soldiers who
kept pressing forward to the breaches. It was to no purpose that the
demonstration by the Italians below San Pedro now began: the Spaniards
fired hard and fast in this direction also, but did not withdraw any
men from the real point of attack, where they maintained themselves
very courageously. It was in vain that Colonel Gudin brought up his
reserve: it could make no head, and the survivors threw themselves down
among the rocks and ruins in front of the wall--unwilling to recede,
but quite unable to advance. Seeing his attack a hopeless failure,
Suchet ordered the stormers back just before daylight began to appear.
They had lost 247 killed and wounded out of 900 men engaged: the
garrison only 15 killed and less than 30 wounded[15].

  [15] Vacani makes the losses 360 instead of 247, and it is
  possible that Suchet has given only the casualties at the main
  assault, and not those in the distant demonstrations. Vacani says
  that the Italians lost 52 men in their false attack.

The escalade having come to this disappointing conclusion, the Marshal
saw that the siege of Saguntum would be anything but a quick business.
It would be necessary to bring up the siege-train to the front: orders
were sent back to Ficatier to start it at once from Tortosa; but it had
to batter and take Oropesa before it could even reach Murviedro. There
were some weeks of delay before him, and meanwhile Blake might at last
begin to show some signs of life. Suchet therefore disposed his army so
as to provide both a blockading force and a covering force, to see that
the blockade was not interfered with from without. It being evident
that many days would elapse before the siege artillery arrived, the
French engineer officers got leave to employ many detachments in
preparing roads fit to bear heavy guns up the western slopes of the
hill of Saguntum, from which alone the regular attack on the fortress
could be conducted. Several emplacements for batteries were also
chosen, and work upon them was begun.

From September 23rd, the day of Suchet’s arrival before Saguntum,
down to October 16, when the heavy guns at last arrived, the French
army was practically ‘marking time’: the idea which the Emperor had
conceived, and which his lieutenant had adopted, that Valencia could be
conquered by a sudden rush, had been proved false. Apparently Suchet
had gained no more by his rapid advance to the foot of the hill of
Saguntum than he would have obtained by marching in more leisurely
fashion, with his siege artillery in company, and taking Oropesa on the
way. The reduction of that place indeed was (as it turned out) only a
single day’s task for heavy guns: and if the Marshal had captured it
on his march, he might have presented himself before Saguntum with his
siege-train, and have begun an active attack on that fortress, some
weeks before he was actually able to get to serious work. In fact he
might have been battering Saguntum on October 1, instead of having to
wait till October 16th. But this is ‘wisdom after the event’: Napoleon
thought that Valencia could be ‘rushed,’ and Suchet was bound to make
the experiment that his master ordered.

Blake meanwhile, finding, on September 23rd, that the enemy was not
about to advance against his lines, and learning soon after that the
French army had settled down before Saguntum, had to revise his plans,
since it was clear that he was not to be attacked in his entrenchments
as he had supposed. Three courses were now open to him: either he might
collect every man for a decisive battle in the open, and try to raise
the siege; or he might attempt to open up attacks on Suchet’s line of
communications and on his base in Aragon, so as to force him to retire
by indirect operations; or he might remain passive behind the lines of
the Guadalaviar. The last was an almost unthinkable alternative--it
would have ruined his reputation for ever to sit quiet and do nothing,
as Wellington had done during the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo in 1810.
Only a general with an established reputation for courage and ability
could have dared to take such a course; and Blake’s record was a long
series of disasters, while he was detested by the Valencians one and
all--by the army, to whom he rightly preferred his own excellent
troops, no less than by the Captain-General Palacios, and the Junta,
whom he had sent out of the city to sit at Alcira, when they showed a
tendency to hamper his operations. Practically he was forced by his
situation to take some definite offensive move against Suchet.

He chose that of indirect operations, having a well-rooted distrust
of the fighting powers of a great part of the troops that were at
his disposition. The record of the Valencian army he knew: the state
of the Murcian army, on which he could draw for reinforcements, was
represented to him in the most gloomy colours by Mahy, who had recently
replaced Freire in command. On September 12th Mahy had written to him,
to warn him that the spirit of his troops was detestable: ‘the Army of
Murcia was little better than a phantom: there were only four or five
officers for whom the rank and file had any respect or esteem, the
rest were regarded as timid or incapable: the men had no confidence in
themselves or their chiefs. The best thing to do would be to break up
the whole army, and incorporate it into the “Expeditionary Divisions,”
whose commanders were known as good soldiers, and whose battalions were
trustworthy[16].’

  [16] See Mahy’s letter to Blake on pp. 109-12 of vol. xi of
  Arteche. The General is writing very carefully so as not to speak
  too ill of his army: but his views are clear.

In view of these facts Blake resolved to threaten Suchet’s flanks with
demonstrations, which he had no intention of turning into attacks, but
to endeavour to dislodge him from his forward position by turning loose
the guerrilleros of Aragon on to his rear. With the former purpose he
sent out two detachments from the Valencian lines, Obispo’s division
to Segorbe,--where it cut the French communication with Teruel and
southern Aragon,--Charles O’Donnell with Villacampa’s infantry and San
Juan’s horse to Benaguacil, a point in the plains fifteen miles west
of Saguntum, where his force formed a link between Obispo and the main
body of the Valencian army, which still remained entrenched in the
lines of the Guadalaviar[17]. These two detachments threatened Suchet’s
flank, and even his rear, but there was no intention of turning the
threat into a reality.

  [17] Blake kept under his own hand in the lines the divisions of
  Zayas, Lardizabal, Miranda, and the Reserve.

The real movement on which Blake relied for the discomfiture of the
invaders of Valencia was that of the guerrillero bands of Aragon and
the neighbouring parts of Castile, to whom he had appealed for help
the moment that Suchet commenced his march. He believed that the 6,000
or 7,000 men which Suchet had left scattered in small garrisons under
General Musnier might be so beset and worried by the _partidas_, that
the Marshal might be compelled to turn back to their aid. Even Mina
from his distant haunts in Navarre had been asked to co-operate. This
was an excellent move, and might have succeeded, if Musnier alone
had remained to hold down Aragon. But Blake had forgotten in his
calculations the 15,000 men of Reille and Severoli, cantoned in Navarre
and along the Upper Ebro, who were available to strengthen the small
force which lay in the garrisons under Musnier’s charge.

The diversion of the guerrilleros, however, was effected with
considerable energy. On September 26th the Empecinado and Duran
appeared in front of Calatayud, the most important of the French
garrisons in the mountains of western Aragon. They had with them 5,000
foot and 500 horse--not their full strength, for a large band of the
Empecinado’s men beset at the same time the remote castle of Molina,
the most outlying and isolated of all Suchet’s posts. Calatayud was
held by a few companies of French, to which an Italian flying column of
a battalion had just joined itself. The guerrilleros, coming in with a
rush, drove the garrison out of the town into their fortified post, the
large convent of La Merced, taking many prisoners in the streets. Duran
then beleaguered the main body in the convent, while the Empecinado
took post at the defile of El Frasno on the Saragossa road, to hold off
any succour that Musnier might send up from the Aragonese capital. This
precaution was justified--a column of 1,000 men came out of Saragossa,
but was far too weak to force the pass and had to retire, with the
loss of its commander, Colonel Gillot, and many men. Meanwhile Duran
pressed the besieged in the convent with mines, having no artillery of
sufficient calibre to batter its walls. After blowing down a corner
of its chapel with one mine, and killing many of the defenders, the
guerrillero chief exploded a second on October 3, which made such a
vast breach that the garrison surrendered, still 560 strong, on the
following day[18].

  [18] Vacani gives a long and interesting account of the siege (v.
  pp. 404-13) and attributes the weak defence to quarrels between
  the commander of the Italians and the French governor, Müller.

This success would have gone far to shake the hold of the French
on Aragon, but for the intervention of Reille from Navarre. At the
first news of the blockade of Calatayud, he had dispatched a column,
consisting of the whole brigade of Bourke, 3,500 strong, which would
have saved the garrison if it had had a less distance to march. But it
arrived on the 5th to find the convent blown up, while the Spaniards
had vanished with their prisoners. Bourke thereupon returned to Tudela,
and the guerrilleros reoccupied Calatayud on his departure.

Meanwhile, however, the whole Italian division of Severoli, over
7,000 strong, marched down the Ebro to reinforce the small garrison
of Saragossa. This large reinforcement restored the confidence of
the French. Musnier himself took charge of it and marched at its
head against Duran and the Empecinado. They wisely refused to fight,
gave way, evacuated Calatayud, and took refuge in the hills (October
12). While the main field-force of the enemy was drawn off in this
direction, Mina took up the game on the other side of the Ebro.
Entering Aragon with 4,000 men he besieged the small garrison of Exea,
which abandoned its post, and cut its way through the guerrilleros,
till it met a column of 800 Italian infantry[19] sent out from
Saragossa to bring it off. Colonel Ceccopieri, the leader of this
small force, underrating the strength of his enemy, then marched to
relieve the garrison of Ayerbe. He was surprised on the way by Mina’s
whole force, and in a long running fight between Ayerbe and Huesca was
surrounded and slain. The column was exterminated, two hundred Italians
were killed, six hundred (including many wounded) were taken prisoners
(October 16th).

  [19] Belonging to the 7th Line of Severoli’s division.

Musnier returned in haste from Calatayud at the news of this disaster,
but left the bulk of Severoli’s division to occupy western Aragon.
He then set himself, with the help of Reille, to hunt down Mina. But
the latter, marching with ease between the columns that pursued him,
for the peasantry kept him informed day by day of every movement of
the enemy, retreated westward. Easily eluding the French, he made an
extraordinary excursion, right across Navarre, Alava, and Biscay, down
to the sea coast at Motrico, where he handed over his prisoners to
the captain of the British frigate _Isis_, and then returned unharmed
to his familiar haunts. Of such a delusive nature was the hold of the
French on Northern Spain, that a column of 5,000 men could march for
200 miles across it without being intercepted or destroyed.

All these exploits of the guerrilleros were daring and well planned,
but though they had given Musnier much trouble, and cost the French
many a weary hour of march and countermarch, they had not cleared
Aragon of the enemy, nor shaken Suchet’s position. Indeed, on October
20, the general condition of affairs in Aragon was more favourable for
the invaders than on September 20, for two fresh divisions had been
drawn down into that province, and there were 20,000 French and Italian
troops in it instead of 6,000. The petty disasters at Calatayud and
Ayerbe were irritating rather than important. Suchet never for a moment
felt inclined to relax his hold upon Valencia: that western Aragon was
in an uproar affected him little, when his communication with his two
main dépôts of stores at Tortosa and Morella was not interrupted.

Blake, it may be mentioned, did not content himself with setting the
Empecinado and Duran in motion, he tried another division in another
quarter with even less result. Rumours had reached him that King
Joseph’s Army of the Centre was about to co-operate with Suchet, by
sending a column across the mountains to Cuenca and Requeña. The news
was false, for though Napoleon had ordered the King to do what he
could to help in the invasion of Valencia, Joseph had replied that
he had not even one brigade to spare for a serious demonstration,
and had not moved--the guerrilleros gave sufficient occupation to
his much-scattered army, of which a large portion was composed of
untrustworthy Spanish _Juramentados_. But, listening to vain reports,
Blake ordered Mahy to collect the best of his Murcian troops and
to march on Cuenca to meet the supposed invaders. His subordinate,
leaving Freire in command in Murcia, took seven selected battalions
of foot under Creagh and the Marquis of Montijo, with 800 horse and
one battery, and moved from his camp at Mula by Hellin and Chinchilla
northward. The distance to be covered was great, the roads after
Chinchilla very bad. Mahy arrived in front of Cuenca on October 15th,
to find that there was only one battalion and two squadrons of Joseph’s
army there. This little force evacuated the high-lying city in haste,
and fled towards Madrid the moment that the Murcians showed themselves.
No other French force could be heard of in any direction. At Cuenca
Mahy received a dispatch from Blake (who had apparently discovered his
mistake about the Army of the Centre), telling him to descend from the
mountains by Moya and Liria, and to join the wing of the main army,
which lay under Obispo at Segorbe. It was only on the 23rd October
that he came in: his troops, the pick of the Murcian army, had been
completely wasted for some twenty days in a circular march against a
non-existent enemy. Meanwhile every man had been wanted in Valencia.

Suchet, when once he had settled down to the siege of Saguntum, had
not failed to notice Blake’s weak demonstration against his flank by
means of the divisions of Obispo and Charles O’Donnell. He did not
intend to tolerate it, and on September 30 had sent Palombini with his
own Italian division and Robert’s French brigade to beat up Obispo’s
quarters at Segorbe. The Spanish division made a poor attempt to defend
itself on a position in front of that town, but was easily beaten and
retired into the mountains. It was then the turn of Charles O’Donnell;
when Palombini had come back to the camp, Suchet took Harispe’s
division, with Robert’s brigade, and two regiments of cavalry, to evict
the Spanish division from Benaguacil. O’Donnell made a slightly better
fight than Obispo had done, and deployed Villacampa’s infantry behind
an irrigation canal, with San Juan’s cavalry on his flanks. But the
French were superior in numbers as well as in confidence: one fierce
charge broke O’Donnell’s line, and he had to retreat in haste to the
hills behind him, losing 400 men, cut up in the pursuit by Suchet’s
cavalry, while the French casualties barely reached three officers and
sixty men (October 2nd). Blake, who had been quite close enough to
succour O’Donnell if he had chosen, made no attempt to aid him, and
kept quiet behind his lines on the Guadalaviar. There the routed troops
joined him next day.

Suchet, having thus cleared his flanks, settled down to the siege
of Saguntum, where his heavy artillery was now much needed. The
besieging army had to content itself for another fortnight with making
preparations for the expected train--levelling roads and constructing
approaches on the ground which was destined for the front of attack, at
the west end of the hill of Saguntum.

Meanwhile the siege-train was lumbering down from Tortosa by the
coast-road. On October 6th Suchet started to meet it, taking with him
the 1,500 Neapolitans of Compère. On the 8th he reached Oropesa, where
he found the small Spanish garrison still holding the two towers which
have before been mentioned. The first guns that came up were turned
against the tower by the high-road; it was easily breached, and on
the 10th surrendered: 215 men and four guns were captured. Next day
came the turn of the other tower, that by the sea; but before the
siege-battery had opened on it, the British 74 _Magnificent_ and a
squadron of Spanish gunboats ran inshore, and took off the garrison of
150 men in their boats, under the ineffective fire of the French.

The moment that the tower which blocked the high-road had fallen, and
before that on the shore had been evacuated, Suchet began to push the
head of his precious convoy of heavy artillery southward. It made such
a good pace that the first guns arrived at the camp before Saguntum
as early as the night of October 12th. Meanwhile the Marshal himself
returned thither, escorted by Compère’s Neapolitans: the brigade of
Ficatier, which had escorted the train hitherto, was dispersed to cover
the line of communications, placing its five battalions at Oropesa,
Almenara, and Segorbe.



SECTION XXX: CHAPTER II

THE BATTLE OF SAGUNTUM. OCTOBER 1811


After Charles O’Donnell and Obispo had been driven away from the
threatening position upon Suchet’s flank, Blake found himself during
the early days of October in a very unpleasant dilemma. It was
clear that his own feeble efforts to molest the French army were
a complete failure. Presently the message reached him that Mahy’s
unlucky expedition to Cuenca had been absolutely useless. But the most
disheartening news was that the attempt to overrun Aragon by means
of the guerrilleros had failed; its initial success, the capture of
Calatayud on October 3, had only led to the inundation of the whole
countryside in that direction by the numerous battalions of Reille and
Severoli.

As the days wore on, Blake found himself obliged to confess that the
idea of dislodging Suchet by operations in his rear was hopeless. The
only remaining alternative for him was to endeavour to call together
every available man, and to try to beat the French army in a great
pitched battle. Considering the well-known disrepute of both the
Murcian and the Valencian troops, the prospect was not one that the
Spanish general could view with much confidence. But political reasons
forced him to fight--his policy of passive resistance had made him so
unpopular with the Valencians of all ranks, from the members of the
exiled Junta down to the private soldiers, that if he had held back any
longer it is probable that he might have been deposed or murdered by a
conspiracy. Saguntum was holding out most gallantly, and the ignominy
of leaving it to fall, without making any effort for its succour, was
sufficiently evident. He made up his mind about the middle of October
that he must advance and fight. But, being very properly determined
to fight with all available resources, he had to await the descent of
Mahy and the Murcians from Cuenca, and by his own fault that important
column could not be drawn in to the main army before the 23rd. It was
only on that day that an advance in force became possible: for a week
and more Blake anxiously awaited the junction, and until it took place
he would not move.

Meanwhile Suchet, entirely unmolested, was pressing the siege of
Saguntum with all possible expedition. The first siege-guns from
Tortosa reached his camp, as has been already mentioned, on October
12th. But it was not till four days later that the actual battering
of the place began. Though paths had been traced out, and the
emplacements of batteries settled, long ere the siege-train came up,
the actual getting of the guns into position proved a very tiresome
business, on account of the steep and rocky slopes over which they
had to be dragged. And the construction of approaches and parallels
upon the hillside progressed very slowly, because of the absence of
earth--at last it was found that soil to bind the loose stones of
the ground together would have, for the most part, to be carried up
in sandbags from the valley below, for hardly any could be scraped
together on the spot. The engineer officer who wrote the diary of the
siege confesses that if the Spanish garrison had only been provided
with heavy artillery, the approach-building would have proved almost
impossible[20]. But, as has been already noted, there were but
seventeen guns mounted in the whole fortress, and of these only three
were 12-pounders--the rest being small field-pieces, too weak to batter
down parapets of even modest thickness. Moreover the very steepness of
the slope over which the siege-works were being advanced made much of
it ‘dead ground,’ which guns above could not properly sweep or search
out.

  [20] Belmas, iv. p. 97.

On the 11th of October the two generals, Vallée and Rogniat, who
had regularly commanded Suchet’s artillery and engineers during his
previous sieges, arrived from the rear--both had been in France on
leave, and they had come forward with the train from Tortosa to
Oropesa. Their arrival added confidence to the subordinates who had
hitherto worked without them, for the reputation of each for success
was very great. Rogniat immediately on his arrival made several
important modifications in the projected batteries, and showed how
the approaches might be pushed forward to within seventy yards of the
fortress, by taking advantage of favourable dips and rocky outcrops in
the hillside.

On the 16th, five batteries were armed with the guns which had come up,
and fire was opened upon the projecting western angle of the fortress,
the tower of San Pedro. It proved to be made of ancient Moorish stone
and mortar, almost as hard as iron, and crumbled very slowly. But the
modern works below it, which were only a few months old, owned no such
resisting power, and within two days showed signs of serious damage.
The Spanish counter-fire was insignificant--there were very few guns
available, and it was only when the approaches got within easy musket
shot of the walls that the besiegers began to suffer appreciable
casualties. For the Spanish infantry, disregarding the cannonade, kept
up a furious fire against the heads of the saps all day and night.

On the afternoon of the 18th the engineer and artillery officers
reported to Suchet that they had made a sufficient breach in the
curtain of the work called the Dos Mayo battery, just where it joined
on the tower of San Pedro, and that they regarded it as practicable
for assault. The Marshal ordered that the storm should be fixed for
the same evening, lest the Spaniards should succeed in repairing the
breach during the hours of darkness. The column of assault consisted
of 400 men, picked from Habert’s division, supported by a reserve of
Palombini’s Italians. The fire of the siege artillery was kept up to
the last moment, and did much harm to the garrison, who were very
clearly seen piling gabions, sandbags, and stones on the ruinous lip of
the breach, in disregard of the steady fire that kept pounding it down
[21].

  [21] See narrative of Vacani, an eye-witness (vol. v. p. 399).

The assault was duly delivered at five o’clock, and proved a complete
failure. The stormers found the breach most difficult to climb, as
its face was entirely formed of big blocks of stone without earth
or débris. The column won its way half up the ascent, and isolated
officers and men got further, and were bayoneted or shot at close
quarters by the defenders, who clustered very thickly at the top. But
no general rush of men could reach the summit, where (it is said) the
actual gap in the parapet was not more than six or seven feet broad.
After several ineffective attempts to mount, the assailants came to
a stand on the lower part of the slope, and opened a scattering fire
on the Spaniards above them. Whereupon, seeing the opportunity lost,
General Habert, who had been given charge of the operations, ordered
the men to fall back to the trenches, and to abandon the assault.

This was a most creditable feat of arms for the garrison, who had
hardly a cannon to help them, and held their own almost entirely by
musketry fire, though they rolled some live shells, beams, and large
stones down the breach at intervals. Their casualties were heavy, but
those of the assailants, as was natural, much greater. Suchet lost at
least 300 men, though in his dispatch to the Emperor[22] he gave an
elaborate table of casualties showing a total of only 173. But his
‘returns,’ even the most specious looking of them, should never be
trusted--as will be seen when we are dealing with the second battle of
Castalla in a later volume. This excellent officer was as untrustworthy
as Soult or Masséna in the figures which he sent to his master[23].

  [22] To be found in print in Belmas, iv. pp. 124-8.

  [23] This indictment of Suchet must be supported by details. In
  his elaborate table of casualties by corps at the end of his
  dispatch of Oct. 20, he only allows for 3 officers killed and
  8 wounded, 40 men killed and 122 wounded--total 173. But the
  lists of officers’ casualties in Martinien show, on the other
  hand, _five_ officers killed (Coutanceau, Saint Hilaire, Turno,
  Giardini, Cuny), and at least _ten_ wounded (Mathis, Durand,
  Gauchet, D’Autane, Adhémar, Gattinara, Lamezan, D’Esclaibes,
  Maillard, Laplane), and probably three more.

  Oddly enough, in his _Mémoires_ (ii. p. 173) Suchet gives _by
  name_ four officers killed at the breach (out of the five), while
  in his official report he had stated that there were only three
  killed altogether. We must trust rather Vacani, an eye-witness
  and a man much interested in statistics and casualties, when he
  gives the total of 300 for the losses, than Suchet’s table.

After this Suchet resolved to make no more attempts to storm Saguntum.
‘When even the best of soldiers,’ remarks Belmas, ‘have made every
effort to carry a place and have failed, they imagine that the place
is impregnable. And if an attempt is made to lead them once more to an
assault, they will not again act with the confidence which is needed
to secure victory.’ Wellington was to find this out at Burgos, a year
later. Indeed in their early stages the sieges of Saguntum and Burgos
show a rather notable parallelism, though their ends were dissimilar.
General Rogniat easily persuaded the Marshal to drop the heroic method
which had gained so little success, and to fall back on the systematic
work which is slow but certain[24].’ Suchet gave permission to the
engineers to establish more batteries, and to defer all further
attempts to storm till the approaches should have been carried up to
the very foot of the walls, and the whole curtain of the Dos Mayo
redoubt should have been battered down.

  [24] Belmas, iv. p. 96.

The garrison, much encouraged by their successful effort of the 18th,
continued to make an obstinate resistance: as the enemy sapped uphill
towards them, they kept up such a careful and deadly fire that the
casualties in the trenches amounted every day to 15 or 20 men. For the
next six days nothing decisive happened, though the works continued to
creep slowly forward: they had to be built with parapets consisting
entirely of earth brought from below, and made very high, since the
nearer they got to the works, the more did the plunging fire from above
search them out.

Meanwhile Blake was preparing, though with no great self-confidence,
to make an attack on Suchet’s siege-lines, and was only awaiting the
arrival of Mahy and the Murcians before striking. He began by trying
a feeble diversion on the flank, sending back Obispo’s division once
more to Segorbe, and getting some of the Empecinado’s bands to threaten
Teruel, the southernmost of the garrisons in Aragon. This so far
annoyed the French marshal that on the 20th of October he sent off
Palombini, with one French and one Italian brigade and 400 horse, to
drive Obispo out of Segorbe, and to open the road to Teruel. By so
doing he placed himself in a dangerous position, for he had detached
4,500 men on an excursion which could not take less than four days,
and if Blake had refused to wait for Mahy, and had let Obispo amuse
Palombini, he could have marched against the siege-lines with 20,000
men, including all his best troops, and would have found only 12,000,
besides the gunners of the siege artillery, left in the French camp.
If Suchet had left any detachments to maintain the blockade, as he
probably would have done, he could only have fought with odds of less
than one to two. If he had brought up all his battalions, the garrison
would have sallied forth and destroyed his siege-works.

But Blake did not take his chance--whatever it may have been worth: he
waited for Mahy, who was only due on the 23rd. Meanwhile Palombini made
a rapid raid upon Segorbe: but Obispo, leaving two battalions only to
make a show of resistance, crossed the hills by by-paths and drew in
to Liria, on the flank of the main army, and in close touch with it.
He could have been used for a battle, if Blake had chosen to deliver
one upon the 22nd or 23rd. But the unlucky Spanish general did not so
choose: and Palombini--finding nothing serious in front of him, and
hearing that Teruel had been already relieved by Severoli--rightly
returned by forced marches to Saguntum, which he reached on the
afternoon of the 24th of October.

Meanwhile the long-expected Mahy arrived at Liria on the night of the
23rd, and found Obispo already lying there. The two forces united, and
marched on the 24th to Betera, but there again divided, the Murcians
going on to join Blake’s main body, while the Valencian division
received orders from the Commander-in-Chief to move as an independent
flanking column, and from Naquera to fall upon the flank or right rear
of Suchet’s position in front of Saguntum.

On the same day Blake himself broke out of the lines behind the
Guadalaviar, and after issuing a well-worded proclamation, in which he
said that Andriani’s gallant garrison must not perish unassisted, and
declared a confidence which he must have been far from feeling in the
resolution of his troops, advanced for some miles along the high-road,
so as to place himself at nightfall within striking distance of the
enemy.

His plan of operations, which was clearly set forth in his directions
to Mahy[25], was ambitious in the highest degree, and aimed at the
complete destruction of his enemy. Expecting to find Suchet drawn up to
meet him in the plain south of Saguntum, it appears that he intended
to fight a battle in which an immensely strong left wing was to turn
and break down Suchet’s right, while a weaker right wing (composed,
however, of his best troops) was to attack him frontally, and hold
his main body ‘contained,’ while the turning movement was delivered.
The left wing contained 26 battalions and nearly 20 squadrons, making
nearly 16,000 bayonets and 1,700 sabres[26]. The detached division of
Obispo, from Naquera, was to fall on the extreme French right from
the rear; the two other Valencian infantry divisions (Miranda and
Villacampa), led by Charles O’Donnell, were to tackle it in front.
Mahy’s Murcians were to support O’Donnell, at the same time reaching
out a hand towards Obispo--in order to do this Mahy was directed to
send out two battalions (under a Colonel O’Ronan) to Cabezbort, a
hillside intermediate between the point where Obispo was expected
and the left of the two other Valencian divisions. The left wing had
allotted to it the whole of the Murcian horse, 800 sabres, and one of
the two Valencian cavalry brigades, under General San Juan, which was
of about the same strength. It had also 18 guns.

  [25] Which may be read in full in Arteche, xi. pp. 157-9.

  [26] We are luckily in possession of the exact ‘morning state’
  of Blake’s army, which is printed in the rare Spanish government
  publication of 1822, _Estados de la Organizacion y Fuerza de
  los Ejércitos Españoles_, pp. 184-7. Obispo had 3,400 men,
  Miranda 4,000, Villacampa 3,350, Mahy 4,600 infantry, under
  Montijo and Creagh, and 830 horse. This wing had 2 horse- and 2
  field-batteries, 18 guns.

So much for the left wing. The right wing, conducted by Blake in
person, which had advanced up the high-road from Valencia towards
Murviedro, consisted of the two ‘Expeditionary Divisions’ of Zayas
and Lardizabal, both very weak because of the losses which they
had suffered in the campaign around Baza in August--each was eight
battalions strong; but the former had only 2,500, the latter 3,000 men,
so that the units averaged well under 400 bayonets. But these were good
old troops, which had greatly distinguished themselves at Albuera: they
were the only part of Blake’s army in which any real confidence could
be placed. In support of these veterans the Commander-in-Chief brought
up the Valencian ‘Division of Reserve,’ which consisted entirely of the
newly raised 3rd battalions of the regiments serving with Villacampa
and Miranda. They had only been under arms a few months, were not
fully equipped or clothed, and were dreadfully under-officered; for
five strong battalions, of over 700 bayonets each, there were only
75 officers in all--fifteen per battalion, where there should have
been thirty, and these were the mere leavings of the older units of
each regiment, or else newly gazetted ensigns. As a fighting force
these 3,500 men were nearly useless--and Blake put them where they
were least likely to get into trouble. They were divided into two
brigades: Brigadier-General Velasco seems to have been in command,
_vice_ Acuña, who had the division during the autumn. The right column
was accompanied by the handful of horse belonging to the ‘Expeditionary
Force’--300 sabres under General Loy--and by the second Valencian
Cavalry Brigade under General Caro, some 800 mounted men more. It was
accompanied, like the other wing, by three batteries. Thus, counting
its gunners and sappers, the right wing had under 10,500 men, while the
immensely strong left had over 17,000. But it is quality rather than
mere numbers which counts in war--the weak wing fought a good battle
against equal strength, and looked for a moment as if it might win. The
strong wing disgraced itself, and was routed by a fourth of its own
numbers.

Suchet had been somewhat troubled by the first news of Blake’s sudden
sally from Valencia, for though he desired a battle, wherein success
would probably win him the immediate surrender of the hard-pressed
garrison of Saguntum, yet he did not wish that matters should be forced
to a crisis in Palombini’s absence. It was only after the well-timed
return of that general to his camp, that he welcomed the approach of a
decisive action. But with Palombini at his disposition again, he was
eager to fight.

He had at this moment with him, in the lines before Saguntum, 35
battalions of foot (of which the three Neapolitan units under Compère
were mere skeletons, with little over a thousand men between them),
with 15 squadrons of horse and 36 field-guns. He left behind him, to
maintain the siege-works before the fortress, two battalions of the
117th line from Habert’s division, and Balathier’s Italian brigade,
making four battalions more. The weak Neapolitan brigade of Compère,
only 1,400 men, even with its cavalry included, was placed in support
of the blockading force, at Gillet and Petres, to watch the road from
Segorbe, by which some outlying Spanish detachment might possibly
attempt to communicate with the garrison of Saguntum. This left for the
line of battle 26 battalions--six of Habert’s, eleven of Harispe’s,
four of Palombini’s Italians, and five of Robert’s reserve brigade.
The total amounted to about 12,000 infantry, while the whole of the
cavalry, except the two Neapolitan squadrons, was put in the field
to the amount of some 1,800 sabres. Counting the gunners of the six
batteries of artillery, Suchet’s fighting force was not much over
14,000 men. He had left 4,000, besides the gunners of the siege-train
and the sappers, to deal with the garrison of Saguntum. This was little
more than half of Blake’s numbers, for the Spanish general--as we have
seen--was marching forward with 27,000 men in line. That Suchet gladly
took the risk sufficiently shows his opinion of the quality of the
greater part of the Valencian army. It seems, we must confess, rather
hazardous to have left 4,000 men in the blockading corps, when forces
were so unequal. In a similar case Beresford at Albuera took every
man out of the trenches, and fought with his whole army. Andriani’s
garrison was not numerous enough to execute any really dangerous sally
in the rear, and was so constricted, in its precipitous fastness, that
it could not easily come down or deploy itself. Perhaps Suchet may have
feared, however, that it would take the opportunity of absconding by
some postern, if it were not shut in upon all sides. But there were to
be moments during the battle when the Marshal would gladly have had the
assistance of two or three more battalions of steady troops.

Suchet had chosen for his fighting-ground the narrow plain south of
Saguntum, extending from the sea to the foot of the hills of the Sancti
Espiritus range--a space of less than three miles in very flat ground.
It was open for the most part, but sprinkled in certain sections with
olives and carob-trees, and contained one or two slight eminences or
mounds, which rose above the general surface, though only by a score
or two of feet, so that they had a certain command over the adjoining
flats. The left of the line, nearest to the sea, was formed of Habert’s
imperfect division, which, having detached two battalions for the
blockade of Saguntum, had only six left--2,500 bayonets--in line.
The right consisted of Harispe’s division, which was stronger than
Habert’s, as it had nine battalions in line, even after setting aside
one regiment (the 44th) for a flank-guard. Its force was about 3,600
bayonets. This division lay to the right of the road from Murviedro to
Valencia. The reserve consisted of the Italian brigade (that of Saint
Paul), which had not been told off for the siege, and of the three
French cavalry regiments, in all 2,000 bayonets and 1,300 sabres.
It was drawn up half a mile in rear of Habert and Harispe, ready to
support either of them. The batteries, horse and foot, accompanied
their respective divisions.

We have thus accounted for 10,000 men. The remainder of Suchet’s
fighting force constituted a flank-guard, to prevent his line from
being turned on its right, the side of the hills. It originally
consisted of Robert’s ‘reserve brigade,’ five battalions, or 2,500
bayonets, and of one cavalry regiment, Schiazzetti’s Italian
dragoons--450 sabres--with one battery. These troops were drawn up on
the higher slopes of the Sancti Espiritus hills, covering the pass of
the same name and the country road which goes over it. To these Suchet
added, at the last moment, one regiment from Harispe’s division, the
44th, under the Brigadier Chlopiski, who, being senior to Robert,
took command of the whole flank-guard. These two battalions--1,200
men--took post on the hill-slopes to the left of Robert, half-way
between his position and that of Harispe’s right. The whole force,
including the dragoons and the artillery, made about 4,300 men.
Compère’s Neapolitans were too far to their left rear to be reckoned an
appreciable support, and had their own separate task, though they were
never called upon to discharge it. The ground occupied by Chlopiski’s
4,300 men was exceedingly strong, and the Marshal hoped that they might
be relied upon to hold off the turning movement, which he was aware
was to be made against his inland flank. For he knew that Charles
O’Donnell was advancing from the direction of Betera, which could
only mean a projected attack on his own right. Had he realized that
not only O’Donnell, but also Obispo and Mahy’s Murcians, in all some
17,000 men, were about to operate against Chlopiski, he must surely
have strengthened his covering force, for the odds would have been
impossible if the Valencians had made any fight at all. But they did
not!

On the morning of the 25th of October Suchet was ready to receive the
attack which was impending. He could make out the general dispositions
of the enemy, and the concentric advance of Obispo’s, O’Donnell’s, and
Blake’s own men was duly reported to him. It was on receiving notice of
the heavy appearance of the second, or central, hostile column that he
detached Chlopiski’s two battalions to strengthen Robert’s flank-guard.
Presently, about 7 o’clock, the Spaniards came within touch; the left,
it would seem, somewhat before the right[27], the first shots being
interchanged between the two battalions which Mahy had sent towards
Cabezbort and Robert’s troops. This was only a trifling skirmish, the
Spaniards being completely checked. But soon after a serious attack was
delivered.

  [27] There are terrible difficulties as to the timing of the
  battle of Saguntum. Suchet says that the first engagement was
  between Obispo’s flanking division, coming over the hills on
  the west, and Robert. Schepeler says that Obispo arrived too
  late altogether, and was practically not in the fight (p. 472).
  I think that the explanation is that Suchet took O’Ronan’s two
  battalions for Obispo, because they came from the direction
  where he was expected. I follow, in my timing of the battle,
  the very clear narrative of Vacani (v. pp. 440-1), who seems
  to make it clear that the main fighting on the French right
  was well over before that in the centre, and long before that
  on the left. Schepeler (who rode with Blake that day) also
  makes it certain that Lardizabal and Zayas were fighting long
  after Miranda, Villacampa, and Mahy had been disposed of. But
  difficulties remain, which could only be cleared up if we had a
  report by Obispo. General Arteche thinks that the action began
  fairly simultaneously all along the line, and follows Schepeler
  in saying that Obispo was late (xi. p. 174), the very reverse of
  Suchet’s statement that he came, and was beaten, too early.

The next advance was that of the two Valencian divisions under Charles
O’Donnell, who were a long way ahead of the main body of Mahy’s
Murcians, their destined reserve. Blake’s intention was apparently
to strike with his left wing first, and to force in the French right
before his own column delivered its blow. Everything depended on the
successful action of the mass of Valencian and Murcian infantry against
the small hostile force posted on the slopes of the Sancti Espiritus
hills.

The divisions of Miranda and Villacampa duly descended from the lower
opposite heights of the Germanels, crossed the bottom, and began to
mount the opposing slope, Villacampa on the left, somewhat in advance,
Miranda a little to his right rear: behind them in support marched San
Juan’s Valencian cavalry. Beyond the latter there was a considerable
gap to the nearest troops of Blake’s own column, which had not yet
come into action. Mahy, whose orders definitely said that he was to
act as a reserve, and to protect O’Donnell’s flank if the latter were
checked, occupied the Germanels, when the Valencians had gone on, and
was still at the top of his own slope, having to his left front the
two detached battalions at Cabezbort under O’Ronan, when the clash
came. Waiting till the two Valencian divisions and the cavalry in
support were some little way up the hill, and had begun to drive in
his skirmishers, Chlopiski moved down upon them with the whole of his
modest force--Robert’s five battalions in front, to the right of the
pass and the road, his own two battalions of the 44th to its left and
somewhat on the flank. Meanwhile Schiazzetti’s regiment of Italian
dragoons charged down the gap between the two bodies of infantry. As
Villacampa was somewhat ahead of Miranda, the first crash fell upon
him. Robert’s infantry drove him without any difficulty right downhill,
while the Italian dragoons rode at Miranda’s battalions on his right.
Villacampa’s men fell into hopeless confusion, but what was worse was
that Miranda’s division, seeing their comrades break, gave way before
the cavalry without making any resistance whatever, apparently before
the French 44th had even got into touch with them on the flank. This
was a disgraceful business: the 7,000 Valencian infantry, and the
1,700 cavalry in support, were routed in ten minutes by half their own
numbers--one good cavalry regiment of 450 sabres sufficed to upset a
whole division of seven battalions--if a single one of them had formed
a steady square, the Italian horse ought to have been driven off with
ease!

But this was not the end of the affair. San Juan’s horse were close
behind the routed divisions--O’Donnell ordered them up to save the
wrecks of his infantry: at the same time Mahy hurried forward two
battalions of his Murcians[28] to support San Juan, and began to
advance with the rest of his division down the slope of the Germanels
hill.

  [28] Burgos and Tiradores de Cadiz.

After making havoc of the Valencian foot, Chlopiski had halted his
troops for a moment, wishing to be sure that matters were going well
with the French main body before he committed himself to any further
enterprise. But the temptation to go on was too great, for the routed
Spanish troops and their supports were weltering together in confusion
at the bottom of the hill. It is said that the dragoon colonel,
Schiazzetti, settled the matter for his superior, by charging at San
Juan’s horse the moment that he had got his squadrons re-formed. The
Valencian cavalry, though it outnumbered the Italians by two to one,
turned tail at once and bolted, riding over the two battalions of
Murcian infantry which were in its immediate rear, and carrying them
away in its panic. Chlopiski then led on his seven battalions against
the disordered mass in front of him, and swept the whole before him. It
gave way and fled uphill, horse and foot, the Murcian cavalry brigade
in reserve going off on the same panic-stricken way as the Valencian.
It was some time before Mahy could get a single regiment to stand--but
at last he found a sort of rearguard of two battalions (one of his
own, one of Villacampa’s[29]) which had kept together and were still
capable of obeying orders. The French were now exhausted; the infantry
could not follow in regular formation so fast as their enemy fled; the
handful of cavalry was dispersed, driving in prisoners on every side.
So Mahy and O’Donnell ultimately got off, with their men in a horde
scattered over the country-side--the cavalry leading the stampede and
the two rallied battalions bringing up the rear[30]. The Spanish left
wing lost over 2,000 prisoners, mainly from Miranda’s division, but
only some 400 killed and wounded; several guns from the divisional
batteries were of course lost. All this was over so early in the day
that the fighting on Blake’s right wing was at its hottest just when
the wrecks of his left were disappearing over the hills. Obispo, who
came up too late to help,[31] and the two detached battalions under
O’Ronan got off separately, more towards the north, retiring on Naquera.

  [29] Cuenca and Molina.

  [30] O’Ronan’s two battalions went off in a separate direction,
  unpursued, and joined Obispo, not being in the rout.

  [31] See above, page 36.

The tale of this part of the battle of Saguntum is lamentable.
There is no record so bad in the whole war: even the Gebora was a
well-contested fight compared with this--and at Belchite the army that
fled so easily gave way before numbers equal or superior to its own,
not inferior in the proportion of one to three. The fact was that the
Valencian troops had a long record of disasters behind them, were
thoroughly demoralized, and could not be trusted for one moment, and
that the Murcians (as Mahy confessed) were not much better. The defeat
was rendered more shameful by the fact that the smaller half of Blake’s
Army, the ‘Expeditionary Force,’ was at the same moment making head
in good style against numbers rather larger than its own, and seemed
for a moment about to achieve a splendid success. If the Spanish left,
17,000 strong, could have ‘contained’ half its own strength, if it
could have kept 8,000 instead of 4,000 French employed for one hour,
Blake might have relieved Saguntum and driven off Suchet. But the story
is disgraceful. Mahy wrote next morning to Blake, ‘I must tell you,
with my usual bluntness, that you had better sell the horses of this
cavalry, and draft the men into the infantry. I could not have believed
in the possibility of such conduct, if I had not seen it with my own
eyes take place and cost us so much[32].’ Blake actually gave orders
for one hussar regiment (a Murcian one) to be deprived of its horses
and drafted out. But did the infantry behave much better?

  [32] Quoted in Arteche, xi. p. 178.

We may now turn to a less depressing narrative, the story of the
operations of Blake’s own wing. The Commander-in-Chief, as it will
be remembered, had with him the ‘Expeditionary Divisions,’ the
Valencian Reserve Division, and Loy’s and Caro’s 1,100 cavalry. He took
post himself on the height called El Puig, with one brigade of the
Valencians, to the south of the ravine of the Picador, which crosses
the plain in a diagonal direction. The rest of the troops went forward
in two columns: Zayas formed the right near the sea; his flank was
covered by a squadron of gunboats, which advanced parallel with him,
as near the shore as their draught permitted. He was ordered to push
on and get, if possible, round Suchet’s flank, where Habert’s line
was ‘refused,’ because of the guns of the flotilla, whose fire the
French wished to avoid. If successful Zayas was to try to communicate
with the garrison of Saguntum. Further inland Lardizabal’s division,
accompanied by the 1,100 cavalry, and followed by the other brigade
of the Valencian reserve, crossed the Picador at the bridge on the
_chaussée_, and deployed in the plain, directly opposite Harispe’s
division. The whole force was about equal to the French opposed to it.

The two ‘Expeditionary Divisions’ went forward in good order and with
great confidence: Suchet remarks in his _Mémoires_ that in all his
previous campaigns he had never seen Spanish troops advance with such
resolution or in such good order[33]. Zayas, on the sea-flank, became
immediately engaged with Habert, before the village of Puzzol, in a
heavy fight, with exactly equal numbers--each had about 2,500 men.
Both sides lost heavily, and neither had any advantage: Suchet had
ordered Habert not to take the offensive till matters were settled in
the centre, but the defensive proved costly, and the Spaniards pushed
on--these were the same battalions which had behaved so well on the
hill of Albuera--Irlanda, Patria, and the Spanish and Walloon Guards.

  [33] _Mémoires_, ii. p. 182.

Further to the left Lardizabal had deployed, after crossing the ravine,
with his two weak brigades in line; the Valencian reserve remained
behind near the bridge, but Loy’s and Caro’s cavalry came forward on
the right in support. Opposite the front brigade (Prieto’s) was a long
low mound, the last outlying spur of the Sancti Espiritus range. This
was soon seen by both sides to be a point of vantage--the army that
could occupy it would have a good artillery position commanding the
hostile line. Suchet ordered up Harispe’s right battalions to seize
it, and galloped thither in person at the head of his escort of fifty
hussars. But the Spaniards had also marked it, and the Marshal had
hardly reached its top when he found Prieto’s skirmishers swarming up
the slope. He had to retire, and rode back to bring up his infantry;
but, by the time that they had come forward, the enemy had formed a
hasty line of battle along the mound, with a battery in its centre.
Suchet had therefore to attack--which he did in full force, the four
battalions of the 7th Line forming a heavy column in the centre, while
those of the 116th and the 3rd of the Vistula deployed on each side
somewhat to the rear--a clear instance of the use of the _ordre mixte_
which Napoleon loved. The left flank was covered by two squadrons of
the 4th Hussars and one of the 13th Cuirassiers, brought out from the
reserve.

This was bringing 3,600 bayonets to bear against 1,500, for Prieto’s
brigade counted no more upon the mound. The attack was successful, but
not without severe loss: General Paris, leading on the 7th regiment,
was wounded, as were both his aides-de-camp, and Harispe’s horse was
killed under him; the Spanish artillery fire had been deadly. When
the mound was stormed, the Spanish infantry were forced back, but by
no means in disorder. They formed up again not far from its foot,
and Lardizabal brought up his second brigade to support his first,
placed two batteries in line, and stood to fight again. Suchet, having
re-formed Harispe’s men, found that he had before him a second combat
on the flat ground. The infantry on both sides were heavily engaged,
and six French guns had been brought forward to enfilade Lardizabal’s
right, when a new turn was given to the battle. The Spanish general
ordered Loy’s and Caro’s 1,100 cavalry to charge in mass upon the three
squadrons of hussars and cuirassiers which covered Harispe’s left.
The move was an unexpected one, and was concealed for some time by
scattered carob-trees: the attack was well delivered, and the French
horse, outnumbered by more than two to one, were completely routed and
fled in disorder. Loy then wheeled in upon the French flank, captured
three guns of the battery there placed, and nearly broke the 116th of
the Line, which had only just time to fall back and form itself _en
potence_ to the rest of the division. The remainder of the Spanish
cavalry pursued the retreating hussars.

The moment looked black for the Marshal: he himself confesses in his
_Mémoires_ that if Harispe’s infantry had given way the battle might
have been lost[34]. But he had still a reserve: he sent back orders to
Palombini to bring up Saint Paul’s four Italian battalions into the
gap, and rode himself to the two squadrons of the 13th Cuirassiers
which had not yet advanced into the fight. They were only 350 sabres,
but the regiment was a fine one, and had won, at Margalef and other
fields, a great confidence in its ability to face long odds. They were
launched straight at the victorious Spanish cavalry, whose main body
was advancing in great disorder, and with its line broken by the groves
of carob-trees, while the remainder had turned inward against the
French infantry. The cuirassiers went straight through the squadrons
opposed to them, and swept them away: whereupon even those units of the
Spanish horse which had not been attacked wheeled round, and retreated
hastily toward the Picador ravine and its bridge. The cuirassiers
followed, upsetting everything in their front, and only halted on
the edge of the ravine, where they were checked by the fire of the
battery attached to the Valencian reserve, and the skirmishers of that
body, who had lined the farther edge of the depression[35]. Both the
Spanish brigadiers, Loy and Caro, had behaved very gallantly; both were
severely wounded, while trying to rally their men, and were left on the
field as prisoners.

  [34] _Mémoires_, ii. p. 185.

  [35] This account of the charge of the cuirassiers comes from
  the _Mémoires_ of Colonel de Gonneville, who commanded their
  leading squadron. There is a curious point to be settled here.
  Marshal Suchet says (_Mémoires_, ii. p. 185) that he rode in
  person to the head of the regiment, and harangued it shortly on
  Margalef and other ancient glories, before bidding it charge.
  While speaking he was struck by a spent ball on the shoulder.
  But de Gonneville (who had read Suchet’s book, as he quotes
  it in other places) says distinctly (p. 208 of his _Souvenirs
  militaires_) that he received no orders, and charged on his own
  responsibility. ‘N’ayant là d’ordre à recevoir de personne,
  mais comprenant la nécessité d’arrêter cette masse de cavalerie
  qui arrivait à nous, &c. ... je donnai le signal.’ Was Suchet
  romancing about his little speech? Or was de Gonneville, who
  wrote his _Mémoires_ forty years later, oblivious? Either
  hypothesis is difficult.

The defeat of the Spanish horse settled the day, which had for a moment
looked doubtful. At the sight of the French hussars breaking, and the
advance of their own line, the garrison of Saguntum, who had the whole
field in view from their lofty perch, had lined their walls, cheering
and waving their shakos in the air--despite of the shells from the
siege-batteries which continued to play upon them. The cheers died down
as the changed fortunes of the day became visible, and hearts sank in
the fortress. But the fighting was not yet concluded.

[Illustration: SAGUNTUM]

The rout of Loy’s and Caro’s horse had not directly affected
Lardizabal’s infantry, for the victorious cuirassiers had galloped
straight before them after the fugitives, though they had also ridden
over and captured a Spanish battery on the right of the line of
deployed battalions. The decisive blow in this quarter was given by
Saint Paul’s Italians, who, issuing from olive groves behind Harispe’s
left, came in upon the unprotected flank of Lardizabal’s troops, which
they rolled up, driving away at the same time a few squadrons which
had not been affected by the charge of the cuirassiers. These last
rode in among their own infantry, which was already hotly engaged
with Harispe’s battalions, and carried confusion down the line. The
division, which had hitherto fought most gallantly, gave way, and
retired in confusion towards the bridge over the Picador, and the
Cartuja where Lardizabal hoped to sustain himself by means of the
battery and the Valencian reserve battalions which he left there.

Meanwhile Blake, from the summit of the knoll of El Puig, had witnessed
with impotent grief the rout of his right centre. He had placed himself
so far to the rear that no orders which he sent reached Lardizabal in
time, and the reserve which he had kept under his own hand, three raw
Valencian battalions and a battery, would have been too weak to save
the day, even if it had not been so far--two miles--from the central
focus of the fight as to make its arrival in time quite impossible.
The General, from the moment that he had given the original order to
advance, exercised no influence whatever on the operations; one of his
staff says that he sat on his horse in blank and stupid amazement at
the rout, and that some of those who watched him thought him wanting in
personal courage no less than in decision[36]. But at last he roused
himself to issue orders for the retreat of his broken left and centre
towards Valencia, and for the instant withdrawal of his still intact
right wing.

  [36] Schepeler, p. 473.

Here Zayas’s division stood in a most difficult place, for though
it had been contending on equal terms with Habert’s in front of the
village of Puzzol, it is one thing to keep up a standing fight, and
another to withdraw from it with a victorious enemy pushing in upon the
flank. However, Zayas ordered his battalions back, and though pressed
by Habert, brought them in good order across the ravine and back to
the height of El Puig, where Blake stood waiting him with his small
reserve. Only one corps, the Walloon Guards, had thrown itself into
the houses of Puzzol, could not be extracted from them in time, and
was surrounded and captured. But this small disaster did much to save
the rest of the division, for so many of the French closed in upon the
village, where the Walloons made a good stand, that the pursuit was not
so hotly pushed as it might have been. If Suchet could have pressed
in upon Blake before Zayas joined him, the whole Spanish right column
might have been completely cut off from its retreat. But the Marshal
required some leisure to rearrange his line, after routing Lardizabal;
and by the time that he had sent off the rallied 4th Hussars to help
Chlopiski gather in prisoners, and had turned the Italians aside to
march against Blake, with Harispe in support, nearly two hours had gone
by, and the Spanish right, molested only by Habert, was drawing off
towards safety. Following the road along the sea-shore, it reached the
suburbs of Valencia without any further loss.

Not so the unfortunate remnant of Lardizabal’s troops. They had halted
at the Cartuja, behind the Picador, while their general strove to
rally them on the reserve there left. This delay, though soldier-like
and proper, enabled Suchet to catch them up: he charged them with his
last fresh regiment, the 24th Dragoons, which had been kept in hand,
apparently behind Habert’s position, till the retreat of the Spanish
right began. Then, attacking along the high-road, these squadrons broke
in upon the half-rallied troops, swept them away, and captured two
guns put in battery across the _chaussée_, and badly supported by the
Valencian reserve battalions. Lardizabal’s column went off in great
disorder, and was hunted as far as the Caraixet stream, losing many
prisoners to the dragoons, as well as four flags.

So ended the day; the loss of the Spaniards was not very heavy in
killed and wounded--about 1,000 it is said, mainly in Lardizabal’s
and Zayas’s divisions--for the others did not stand to fight. But
of prisoners they lost 4,641, including 230 officers and the two
wounded cavalry brigadiers. Miranda’s division contributed the
largest proportion to the captives, though Zayas lost 400 men of the
Walloon battalion, and Lardizabal a still greater number out of his
weak division of 3,000 bayonets[37]. Twelve guns were left behind,
seven captured in the hard fighting in the right centre, five from
O’Donnell’s easily-routed divisions. The French casualties are given by
Suchet at about 130 killed and 590 wounded--probably an understatement,
as the regimental returns show 55 officers hit, which at the ordinary
rate of casualties should imply over 1,000 rank and file disabled.
As a commentary on the fighting, it may be remarked that Chlopiski
and Robert, in dealing with Obispo, O’Donnell, and Mahy, had only 7
officers _hors de combat_, while Harispe and Habert lost 41 in the real
fight with Zayas and Lardizabal[38].

  [37] 2nd of Badajoz (two battalions) was almost exterminated,
  losing 17 officers, 21 sergeants, and 500 men, ‘mostly
  prisoners,’ out of 800 present. See its history in the Conde de
  Clonard’s great work on the Spanish army.

  [38] The 16th Line (three battalions) alone, in fighting Zayas,
  lost just double as many officers as the seven battalions of
  Chlopiski and Robert in their engagement with Mahy, Miranda, and
  Villacampa!

The actual losses in action were not the worst part of the battle
of Saguntum--the real disaster was the plain demonstration that the
Valencian troops could not stand even against very inferior numbers.
It was to no purpose that the two gallant ‘Expeditionary Divisions’
had sacrificed themselves, and lost one man in three out of their
small force of 5,500 men in hard fighting. They had been betrayed by
their worthless associates on the left. Blake’s generalship had not
been good--he dispersed his columns in the most reckless way, and kept
no sufficient reserves--but with the odds in his favour of 27,000
men to 14,000, he ought yet to have won, if the larger half of his
army had consented to fight. They did not: with such troops no more
could be hoped from further battles in the open field--whatever the
numerical odds might be. They could at most be utilized behind walls
and entrenchments, for purely passive defence. And this, as we shall
see, was the deduction that their general made from the unhappy events
of October 25.

Next morning Suchet sent in a summons to the garrison of Saguntum, and
the governor, Andriani, after short haggling for terms, surrendered.
He is not to be blamed: his garrison had seen the rout of Blake’s army
with their own eyes, and knew that there was no more hope for them.
They were, as we have seen, mainly raw troops, and their good bearing
up to this moment, rather than their demoralization after the battle,
should provoke notice. The French approaches were by this time within
a few yards of the Dos Mayo redoubt and its hastily patched breaches.
The artillery fire of the besiegers was rapidly levelling the whole
work, and the next storm, made on a wide front of shattered curtain,
must have succeeded. It is true that a governor of the type of Alvarez
of Gerona would then have held out for some time in the castle of San
Fernando. But Andriani’s troops were not like those of Alvarez, and he
himself was a good soldier, but not a fanatical genius. Two thousand
three hundred prisoners marched out on the 26th, leaving not quite 200
men in hospital behind them. The 17 guns of the fortress were many of
them damaged, and the store of shot and shell was very low, though
there were plenty of infantry cartridges left[39].

  [39] For details see Belmas, iv. pp. 140-3.



SECTION XXX: CHAPTER III

THE CAPTURE OF VALENCIA AND OF BLAKE’S ARMY. NOVEMBER 1811-JANUARY 1812


As the result of the disastrous battle of Saguntum Blake had lost the
fortress which had served him so well as an outwork: while his field
army was much decreased in numbers, and still more in self-confidence.
It was obviously impossible that he should ever again attempt to take
the offensive with it. But he was still in possession of Valencia
and all its resources, and his carefully fortified lines along the
Guadalaviar were so strong that even a defeated army could make some
stand behind them. He had still, after all his losses, more than 22,000
men under arms[40]. Yet it is doubtful whether a resolute push on the
part of the enemy would not have dislodged him, for more than half his
army was in a state of complete demoralization.

  [40] A battalion or two left in Valencia, when the rest of the
  army went out to deliver Saguntum, must be added to the 20,000
  men who came back from the battle. These corps were 2nd of Leon
  of Lardizabal’s division, and one battalion of Savoya belonging
  to Miranda.

Suchet, however, had made up his mind not to strike at once; and when a
few days had passed, and the Spaniards had been granted time to settle
down into the lines, it would undoubtedly have been hazardous to attack
them with the very modest numbers that the Army of Aragon had still
in line. The chance would have been to press the pursuit hard, on the
very day after the battle. But when the Marshal had counted up his
losses in the trenches and the field, had deducted a small garrison
for Saguntum, and had detached a brigade to escort to Tortosa his
numerous prisoners, he thought himself too weak for a decisive blow.
He would not have had 15,000 men in hand, unless he should call up
Ficatier’s brigade from Segorbe and Oropesa, and this he did not want
to do, as he was entirely dependent for food and stores on the line of
communication which Ficatier was guarding. Accordingly he resolved to
defer his next blow at Blake, till he should have summoned from Aragon
Severoli’s division, and Reille’s too, if the Emperor would give him
leave to requisition that force. He could not utilize Reille without
that leave; but Severoli’s troops belonged to his own army, and were at
his disposition, if he should judge it possible to draw them southward
without endangering the safety of Aragon. This he was prepared to do,
if a sufficient garrison for that province could be provided from
another source. And the only obvious source was the Army of the North:
if the Emperor would consent to order Dorsenne to find troops to make
Saragossa and the line of the Ebro secure, it would not be over rash to
borrow both Severoli and Reille for operations against Valencia. But it
was clear that it would take some weeks for the permission to be sent
from Paris, and for the troops of the Army of the North to be moved,
when and if the permission was granted. We shall see, as a matter of
fact, that it was not till the end of December, two full months after
the battle of Saguntum, that the two divisions were collected on the
desired ground, and the final blow against Blake was delivered.

Meanwhile Suchet could do no more than place his divisions in the
most favourable position for making the advance that would only be
possible when Severoli, and perhaps Reille also, should arrive. With
this object he pushed them forward on November 3 to the line of the
Guadalaviar, close in front of Blake’s long series of entrenchments.
Harispe on the right advanced to Paterna, Habert on the left to the
close neighbourhood of Valencia. He drove the Spanish outposts from
the outlying suburb of Serranos, which lay beyond the lines and on
the north side of the river, and also from the Grao, or port and mole
which forms the outlet of Valencia to the sea. It was most unlucky for
Blake, in the end, that his natural line of communication with the
Mediterranean and the English fleet lay north of the Guadalaviar, and
outside his line of fortifications. Indeed it looks as if there was a
cardinal fault in the planning of the defences when the Grao was left
outside them, for though rather remote from the city (two miles) it
would be of inestimable importance, supposing that the French were
to succeed in crossing the Guadalaviar and investing Valencia. With
the port safe, the defenders could receive succour and supplies to
any extent, and if finally reduced to extremity could retreat by sea.
Some of the energy which had been expended in throwing up the immense
fortified camp which embraced all the southern suburbs, and in lining
the river westward with batteries, might well have been diverted to
the fortification of the Grao and its connexion with the works of the
city. But probably Blake, in his looking forward to the possible events
of the future, did not contemplate among the contingencies to be faced
that of his being shut up with the greater part of his army within the
walls of Valencia. If he were forced from the lines of the Guadalaviar,
he must have intended to fall back inland or southward, and not to
allow himself to be surrounded in the capital. Otherwise it would
have been absolutely insane for him to leave unfortified, and abandon
without a struggle, Valencia’s sole outlet to the sea.

Meanwhile finding himself for week after week unassailed in his lines,
Blake had to take stock of his position, and see if there was anything
that he could do to avert the attack which must come one day, and
which would obviously be formidable. For it had become known to him,
ere long, that Severoli’s division, and probably other troops, were
working in towards Valencia, and would certainly join Suchet before
the winter was over. The only expedients of which Blake made use were
to keep masses of men continuously at work strengthening his lines,
and to renew the attempt, which he had made fruitlessly in September,
for loosing Suchet’s hold on Valencia by launching against his rear
the irregulars of Aragon--the bands of the Empecinado, Duran, and the
minor chiefs. To add some solidity to their hordes he detached from
his army the Conde de Montijo, with one of the two brigades which Mahy
had brought from Murcia. This turbulent nobleman, more noted for his
intrigues than for his fighting power, was given a general command
over all the bands, and marched to join them with three battalions[41]
and a few guns--the latter provision was intended to obviate the
difficulty which the irregulars had experienced in October from their
want of artillery. Blake intended to call up Freire from Murcia with
another draft from the depleted ‘Third Army,’ whose best troops Mahy
had already led to Valencia. But, as we shall see, this detachment
was presently distracted to another quarter, and never joined the
main force. The nominal strength of the mass of troops along the
Guadalaviar was, however, increased by degrees, owing to the filling
of the ranks of the divisions cut up at Saguntum by men from the
half-trained reserve and dépôts. Miranda’s division in particular,
which had lost so many prisoners in the battle, was completed to more
than its original strength by absorbing three raw ‘third battalions’
from the ‘Reserve Division,’ besides other drafts[42]. Blake also
endeavoured to make use of ‘urban guards’ and other levies of irregular
organization and more than doubtful value: the population in the north
of the kingdom, behind Suchet’s lines, were invited to form guerrillero
bands: but the Valencians never showed the zeal or energy of the
Catalans and Aragonese. The bands that appeared were few in numbers,
and accomplished nothing of note. Indeed, it appears that the patriotic
spirit of the province had run low. Mahy, in a letter to Blake of
this month, complains bitterly that the peasantry refuse to convey
letters for him, or even to give him information as to the position
and movements of the French, while he knew that hundreds of them were
visiting Suchet’s camps daily in friendly fashion[43]. It appears that
the people were sick of the war, and discontented with Blake, whose
conduct to the local authorities was even more injurious to him than
the uniform failure of all his military operations.

  [41] One battalion each of Badajoz, Burgos, and Tiradores de
  Cuenca--under 2,000 men in all.

  [42] Four thousand strong at Saguntum, it surrendered on January
  8th, 5,513 strong. Of its quality, the less said the better.

  [43] Mahy to Blake quoted at length in Arteche, xi. p. 196,
  footnote.

The diversion to be conducted by Montijo and the irregulars in Aragon
constituted the only real hope of salvation for Blake and the city of
Valencia. But it was, we may say, doomed from the first to failure,
unless some favourable chance should intervene. A couple of thousand
regulars, with the aid of guerrillero bands, hard to assemble, and not
mustering at any time more than 6,000 or 7,000 men collected on one
spot, were sent to paralyse the movements of more than 20,000 French.
For to that figure Reille’s and Severoli’s divisions, together with
the original garrison left in Aragon under Musnier, most certainly
amounted. It cannot be denied that the diversion gave much trouble to
the enemy, but it never prevented him from executing any operation of
primary importance. On October 27th the Italian general, Mazzuchelli,
with one of Severoli’s brigades, drove off the Empecinado, and relieved
the long-besieged garrison of Molina, which he brought off, abandoning
the castle. But as he was returning to his chief, who then lay at
Daroca, the Empecinado fell on his marching column in the Pass of
Cubillejo, and inflicted severe damage upon it[44]. Severoli then sent
out a second column of 800 men, to relieve Almunia, on the road to
Saragossa, another outlying garrison. But Duran surprised and scattered
this party just as it reached its destination, and then captured the
fort with its garrison of 140 men (October 31). This provoked the enemy
to march against him in force, whereupon, after fighting an obstinate
engagement with Mazzuchelli near Almunia, in which the Italians lost
220 men, he turned sideways, and descended upon Daroca, which his
adversary had left weakly manned; he stormed the town and laid siege to
the fort. This brought down upon him Pannetier, with one of Reille’s
brigades: thereupon, wisely refusing to fight, Duran went up into the
mountains of Molina (November 1811).

  [44] For details see Vacani, v. pp. 470-1.

Here he was joined some weeks later by the regular brigade under the
Conde de Montijo, which Blake had sent up from Valencia. This little
detachment had threaded its way among Reille’s columns, and had
narrowly escaped destruction near Albarracin. The Conde, assuming chief
command at the high-lying village of Mulmarcos, informed the Aragonese
guerrilleros that something desperate must be done, to relieve the
pressure on Valencia; and after sending for the Empecinado, who was
now beyond the mountains, in the province of Guadalajara, marched on
Calatayud. Unfortunately the Partida chiefs, accustomed to conduct
their expeditions on their own responsibility, viewed the advent of
Montijo, a stranger of no great military reputation, with jealousy
and dislike. Duran and the Conde having reached Ateca near Calatayud,
committed themselves to a serious combat with a column of 2,000 men
from its garrison, having every expectation of being succoured by the
Empecinado, who had reached their neighbourhood. He did not appear,
however, and they were repulsed. Thereupon the Spaniards parted, the
Conde and the regulars retiring to Torrehermosa, Duran to Deza, in the
province of Soria. The Empecinado, when all was over, sent in a letter
in which he explained that he had held off ‘because his officers and
soldiers had no confidence save in their own chief:’ but it was clear
that he himself wrecked the expedition out of self-willed indiscipline.

The month of December was now far advanced, and nothing effective
had been done to help Blake. The Aragonese bands had cost Reille and
Severoli many toilsome marches, and had inflicted on them appreciable
losses--Severoli’s division was now 2,000 men weaker than it had
been in September. But they had failed entirely to stop the larger
movements of the enemy, who was able to move wherever he pleased with
a column of 3,000 men, though any lesser force was always in danger of
being harried or even destroyed. When Suchet determined that he would
again risk trouble in his rear, and would bring both the divisions
from the Ebro down to Valencia, no one could prevent him from doing
so. It is true that Severoli and Reille were leaving behind them a
country-side still infested by an active and obstinate enemy. But if
their generalissimo judged that he was prepared to take this risk, and
was determined to crush Blake before he completed the subjugation of
Upper Aragon, there was nothing that could hinder him from carrying out
his intention. By the middle of December Severoli was on his way to
the Guadalaviar by way of Teruel, and Reille followed not far behind,
though one of his brigades (Bourke’s) had been distracted, by being
ordered to conduct the prisoners from Saguntum to the French frontier,
and the other (Pannetier’s) had been drawn so far northward in hunting
Montijo and Duran that it was several marches behind the leading
columns.

It was not, however, Reille and Severoli alone who were set in motion
for the ruin of Blake and Valencia. Nor was Suchet’s mind the final
controlling force of the operations which were to spread all over
eastern Spain in the months of December 1811 and January 1812. The
Emperor, when he hurried the Army of Aragon forward in September, had
explained that this was the crucial point of the war, and repeated in
November that ‘l’important, dans ce moment, est la prise de Valence.’
Portugal could wait--Wellington, with 18,000 men sick, and forced to
remain on the defensive,--was a negligible quantity during the winter:
he should be dealt with in the spring by a general combination of
all the French armies[45]. Acting on this comfortable but erroneous
hypothesis, Napoleon determined to shift eastward and southward not
only Reille and Severoli, but other troops from the armies which were
directly or indirectly opposed to Wellington, so as to alter for a
time the general balance of forces on the Portuguese side of the
Peninsula. On October 18th, before the battle of Saguntum had been
fought and won, Berthier had been directed to write to Marmont that,
for the support of the invasion of Valencia, King Joseph and the Army
of the Centre would be ordered to send troops to Cuenca, to take Blake
in the rear. In consequence the Army of Portugal must ‘facilitate the
task of the King,’ i. e. find detachments to occupy those parts of New
Castile from which Joseph would have to withdraw the normal garrison
for his expedition to Cuenca. But presently it became evident that the
Army of the Centre would have great difficulty in providing a column
strong enough to make this diversion, even if it were relieved in La
Mancha, or the province of Toledo, by units belonging to Marmont.
Napoleon then made the all-important determination to borrow troops
from the Army of Portugal for the Valencian expedition. By this time
he knew of the battle of Saguntum, and had received Suchet’s appeals
for reinforcements. His dispatch to Marmont of November 20th informs
the Marshal that he must provide a division of 6,000 men of all arms,
to join the disposable force which King Joseph can spare for the
assistance of Suchet. The still more important dispatch of the next day
varied the orders in an essential detail, by saying that the Marshal
must send not ‘a detachment of 6,000 men’ but _such a force as, united
to the column supplied by King Joseph, would provide a total of 12,000
men for the diversion_.’ And it was added that, in addition, the Army
of Portugal would have to find 3,000 or 4,000 men more, to keep up the
communications of the expeditionary force with its base in New Castile.
The detachment might be made without any fear of adverse consequences,
since Wellington had 20,000 men in hospital, and barely as many in
a state to take the field, so no risk would be run in depleting the
force opposed to him [46]. Napoleon, conveniently ignoring the exact
wording of his own dispatch, reproached Marmont (when evil results had
followed) for having detached ‘an army corps and thirty guns’ for the
diversion, instead of ‘a light flying column.[47]’ But it will be seen
that the Marshal was literally obeying the orders given him when he
moved 12,000 men towards Valencia. For the Army of the Centre provided
not much more than 3,000 men under General d’Armagnac for the Cuenca
expedition[48], and Marmont had, therefore, to find 9,000 men to bring
it up to the strength which the Emperor prescribed, as well as the
3,000-4,000 men to cover the line of communications.

  [45] _Correspondance de Napoléon_, 18,267, and cf. pp. 590-2 of
  vol. iv of this work.

  [46] See these dispatches printed in full in Marmont’s
  _Mémoires_, iv. pp. 256-8. This wording is most important and
  should be studied with care. Note that Wellington’s sick have
  gone up from 18,000 to 20,000 in twenty-four hours, to oblige the
  Emperor.

  [47] Berthier to Marmont, January 23, 1812. Printed in the
  latter’s _Mémoires_, iv. pp. 297-9.

  [48] Though King Joseph had said that if Marmont took over the
  whole of La Mancha, he could then reinforce d’Armagnac up to
  8,000 men. This he never really accomplished (Joseph to Berthier,
  Nov. 26).

All these dispatches reached Marmont’s head-quarters at Plasencia with
the tardiness that was normal in Spain, where officers bearing orders
had to be escorted by detachments many hundreds strong, supposing
that their certain arrival at their destination was desired. If they
travelled rapidly and unescorted, they became the inevitable prey of
the guerrilleros. The dispatch of October 18th, saying that Marmont
must replace King Joseph’s garrisons in La Mancha, came to hand on
November 11, and the Marshal accordingly directed Foy’s division, then
at Toledo, to break itself up and occupy the various posts which the
German division of the Army of the Centre had been holding. Foy set out
to fulfil these orders on November 22.

The Emperor’s second and third dispatches, those of November 20-21st,
turned up on December 13th[49], and Marmont found himself under orders
to find 9,000 men for the Cuenca expedition,--since d’Armagnac had
only 3,000 men to contribute--and in addition 3,000-4,000 more for
the line of communications. Now the Marshal was as fully convinced
as his master that Wellington was not in a condition to move, or to
do any serious harm, and under this impression, and being probably
stirred (as Napoleon afterwards remarked)[50] by the desire to increase
his own reputation by a dashing feat of arms, he resolved to take
charge of the expedition in person. He ordered that the divisions
of Foy and Sarrut--both weak units, the one of eight, the other of
nine battalions[51]--and Montbrun’s light cavalry should prepare to
march under his own charge to join d’Armagnac, and move on Valencia.
Another division should come into La Mancha to take up the cantonments
evacuated by Foy, and keep over the line of communications. Clausel
should be left in charge of the remainder of the army, and observe
Wellington.

  [49] Date fixed by Marmont’s letter to Berthier of Feb. 6.

  [50] ‘Sa Majesté (writes Berthier) pense que, dans cette
  circonstance, vous avez plus calculé votre gloire personnelle que
  le bien de son service,’ Jan. 23, letter quoted above on the last
  page.

  [51] Each division had about 4,000 or 4,500 men: the light
  cavalry about 1,700, so the whole would have made about 10,000
  sabres and bayonets.

This scheme was never carried out, for on December 20 Marmont received
another dispatch, ordering him to transfer his head-quarters to
Valladolid, and to move a large part of his army into Old Castile. Of
this more hereafter. But being thus prevented (for his own good fortune
as it turned out) from going on the expedition, he gave over Foy’s and
Sarrut’s divisions to Montbrun, and bade him execute the diversion. He
himself went, as ordered, to Valladolid. If he had received the last
dispatch a little later, or had started a little earlier, he would have
been put in the ignominious position of being absent from his own point
of danger, when Wellington suddenly struck at Ciudad Rodrigo in the
early days of January.

Montbrun, his substitute, had drawn together his forces in La Mancha by
the 29th of December, but receiving from d’Armagnac, who was already
on the move with 3,000 men, the assurance that the road from Cuenca to
Valencia was practically impassable at midwinter, and that he could
certainly get no guns along it, he resolved to take another route
towards the scene of active operations. Accordingly he set out to march
by the road San Clemente, Chinchilla, Almanza, which runs across the
upland plain of La Mancha and Northern Murcia, and does not cross rough
ground till it nears the descent to the sea-coast on the borders of
Valencia. The column did not leave San Clemente and El Probencio till
January 2, and (as we shall see) was too late to help Suchet, who had
brought matters to a head long before it drew near him.

Meanwhile d’Armagnac, though his force was trifling[52], had been of
far greater use. He had reoccupied Cuenca, but finding (as he had
informed Montbrun) that the roads in that direction were impracticable,
had swerved southward, avoiding the mountains, and getting to Tarazona
in La Mancha, marched towards the passes of the Cabriel River, and the
road on to Valencia by way of Requeña. His approach being reported to
Blake, who had no troops in this direction save two battalions under
Bassecourt, the Captain-General was seized with a natural disquietude
as to his rear, for he had no accurate knowledge of the French
strength. Wherefore he directed General Freire, with the succours which
he had been intending to draw up from Murcia, to abandon the idea of
reinforcing the main army, and to throw himself between d’Armagnac and
Valencia [November 20]. The French general, beating the country on
all sides, and thrusting before him Bassecourt’s small force and the
local guerrilleros, marched as far as Yniesta, and forced the passage
of the Cabriel at Valdecañas, but finding that he had got far away
from Montbrun, who did not march till many days after he himself had
started, and being informed that Freire, with a very large force, was
coming in upon his rear, he stopped before reaching Requeña and turned
back towards La Mancha[53]. He had succeeded, however, in preventing
Freire from reinforcing Valencia, and the Murcian succours never got
near to Blake. He even for a time distracted troops from the main
Spanish army, for Zayas was sent for some days to Requeña, and only
returned just in time for the operations that began on December 25th.
The net outcome, therefore, of Montbrun’s and d’Armagnac’s operations
was simply to distract Freire’s division from Valencia at the critical
moment--an appreciable but not a decisive result.

  [52] Apparently four or five battalions of the German division
  gathered from La Mancha, and a brigade of dragoons. Joseph calls
  it in his _Correspondance_ 3,000 men, when describing this
  operation (Joseph to Berthier, Nov. 12, 1811).

  [53] D’Armagnac’s obscure campaign will be found chronicled
  in detail in the narrative of the Baden officer, Riegel, iii.
  pp. 357-60, who shared in it along with the rest of the German
  division from La Mancha.

Meanwhile Suchet found himself able to deliver his decisive blow on the
Guadalaviar. By his orders Severoli and Reille had drawn southward by
way of Teruel, deliberately abandoning most of Aragon to the mercy of
the insurgent bands; for though Caffarelli had moved some battalions
of the Army of the North to Saragossa and the posts along the Ebro,
the rest of the province was left most inadequately guarded by the
small force that had originally been committed to Musnier’s charge,
when first Suchet marched on Valencia. Musnier himself accompanied
Severoli’s division, leaving his detachments under Caffarelli’s orders,
for he had been directed to come to the front and assume the command
of his old brigades, those of Ficatier and Robert, both now with the
main army. When Reille and the Italians marched south, Aragon was
exposed to the inroads of Montijo, Duran, the Empecinado, and Mina,
all of whom had been harried, but by no means crushed, by the late
marches and countermarches of the French. That trouble would ensue both
Napoleon and Suchet were well aware. But the Emperor had made up his
mind that all other considerations were to be postponed to the capture
of Valencia and the destruction of Blake’s army. When these ends were
achieved, not only Reille and Severoli, but other troops as well,
should be drawn northwards, to complete the pacification of Aragon, and
to make an end of the lingering war in Catalonia.

Severoli had reached Teruel on November 30, but was ordered to await
the junction of Reille’s troops, and these were still far off. Indeed
Reille himself only started from Saragossa with Bourke’s brigade on
December 10th, and Pannetier’s brigade (which had been hunting Duran in
the mountains) was two long marches farther behind. Without waiting for
its junction, Severoli and Reille marched from Teruel on December 20th,
and reached Segorbe unopposed on the 24th. Here they were in close
touch with Suchet, and received orders to make a forced march to join
him, as he intended to attack the lines of the Guadalaviar on the 26th.
To them was allotted the most important move in the game, for they were
to cross the Guadalaviar high up, beyond the westernmost of Blake’s
long string of batteries and earthworks, and to turn his flank and get
in his rear, while the Army of Aragon assailed his front, and held him
nailed to his positions by a series of vigorous attacks. The point on
which Reille and Severoli were to march was Ribaroja, fifteen miles
up-stream from Valencia.

When the two divisions from Aragon should have arrived, Suchet could
count on 33,000 men in line, but as Pannetier was still labouring up
two marches in the rear, it was really with 30,000 only that he struck
his blow--a force exceeding that which Blake possessed by not more
than 6,000 or 7,000 bayonets. Considering the strength of the Spanish
fortifications the task looked hazardous: but Suchet was convinced,
and rightly, that the greater part of the Army of Valencia was still
so much demoralized that much might be dared against it: and the event
proved him wise.

On the night of December 25th all the divisions of the Army of Aragon
had abandoned their cantonments, and advanced towards the Spanish
lines--Habert on the left next the sea; Palombini to the west of
Valencia, opposite the village of Mislata; Harispe and Musnier farther
up-stream, opposite Quarte. The cavalry accompanied this last column.
Reille and Severoli, on their arrival, were to form the extreme
right of the line, and would extend far beyond the last Spanish
entrenchments. The weak Neapolitan division alone (now not much over
1,000 strong) was to keep quiet, occupying the entrenched position in
the suburb of Serranos, which faced the city of Valencia. Its only duty
was to hold on to its works, in case Blake should try a sortie at this
spot, with the purpose of breaking the French line in two. That such
a weak force was left to discharge such an important function, is a
sufficient proof of Suchet’s belief in Blake’s incapacity to take the
offensive.

The lines which the French were about to assail were rather long than
strong, despite of the immense amount of labour that had been lavished
on them during the last three months. Their extreme right, on the side
of the sea, and by the mouth of the Guadalaviar was a redoubt (named
after the Lazaretto hard by) commanding the estuary: from thence a
long line of earthworks continued the defences as far as the slight
hill of Monte Oliveto, which guarded the right flank of the great
entrenched camp of which the city formed the nucleus. Here there was
a fort outside the walls, and connected with them by a ditch and a
bastioned line of earthworks, reaching as far as the citadel at the
north-east corner of the town. From thence the line of resistance
for some way was formed of the mediaeval wall of Valencia itself,
thirty feet high and ten thick. It was destitute of a parapet broad
enough to bear guns: but the Spaniards had built up against its back,
at irregular distances, scaffolding of heavy beams, and terraces of
earth, on which a certain amount of cannon were mounted. The gates were
protected by small advanced works, mounting artillery. Blake had made
Valencia and its three outlying southern and western suburbs of Ruzafa,
San Vincente, and Quarte into a single place of defence, by building
around those suburbs a great line of earthworks and batteries. It was
an immense work consisting of bastioned entrenchments provided with
a ditch eighteen feet deep, and filled in some sections with water.
From the city the line of defence along the river continued as far
as the village of Manises, with an unbroken series of earthworks and
batteries. The Guadalaviar itself formed an outer obstacle, being a
stream running through low and marshy ground, and diverted into many
water-cuts for purposes of irrigation.

The continuous line of defences from the sea as far as Manises was
about eight miles long. It possessed some outworks on the farther bank
of the Guadalaviar, three of the five bridges which lead from Valencia
northward having been left standing by Blake, with good _têtes-de-pont_
to protect them from Suchet’s attacks. Thus the Spaniards had the
power to debouch on to the French side of the river at any time that
they pleased. This fact added difficulties to the projected attack
which the Marshal was planning.

The troops behind the lines of the Guadalaviar consisted of some
23,000 regulars, with a certain amount of local urban guards and
armed peasantry whose number it is impossible to estimate with any
precision--probably they gave some 3,000 muskets more, but their
fighting value was almost negligible. The right of the line, near
the sea, was entirely made over to these levies of doubtful value.
Miranda’s division manned the fort of Monte Oliveto and the whole north
front of the city. Lardizabal garrisoned the earthworks from the end of
the town wall as far as the village of Mislata. This last place and its
works fell to the charge of Zayas. Creagh’s Murcians were on Zayas’s
left at Quarte: finally the western wing of the army was formed by
the Valencian divisions of Obispo and Villacampa; holding San Onofre
and Manises, where the fortifications ended. The whole of the cavalry
was placed so as to cover the left rear of the lines, at Aldaya and
Torrente. A few battalions of the raw ‘Reserve Division’ were held in
the city as a central reserve. The arrangements of Blake seem liable
to grave criticism, since he placed his two good and solid divisions,
those of Lardizabal and Zayas, in the strongest works in the centre of
his line, but entrusted his left flank, where a turning movement by
the French might most easily take place, to the demoralized battalions
of Villacampa and Obispo, who had a consistent record of rout and
disaster behind them. It is clear that lines, however long, can always
be turned, unless their ends rest, as did those of Torres Vedras, on
an impassable obstacle such as the sea. If the French should refuse
to attack the works in front, and should march up the Guadalaviar to
far beyond the last battery, it would be impossible to prevent them
from crossing, all the more so because, after Manises, the network of
canals and water-cuts, which makes the passage difficult in the lower
course of the river, comes to an end, and the only obstacle exposed to
the invader is a single stream of no great depth. Blake, therefore,
should have seen that the critical point was the extreme west end of
his lines, and should have placed there his best troops instead of his
worst. Moreover he appears to have had no proper system of outposts
of either cavalry or infantry along the upper stream, for (as we
shall see) the first passage of the French was made not only without
opposition, but without any alarm being given. Yet there were 2,000
Spanish cavalry only a few miles away, at Torrente and Aldaya.

Suchet’s plan of attack, which he carried out the moment that Reille
joined him, and even before the latter’s rearmost brigade had got up
into line, was a very ambitious one, aiming not merely at the forcing
of the Guadalaviar or the investment of Valencia, but at the trapping
of the whole Spanish army. It was conducted on such a broad front, and
with such a dispersion of the forces into isolated columns, that it
argued a supreme contempt for Blake and his generalship. Used against
such a general as Wellington it would have led to dreadful disaster.
But Suchet knew his adversary.

The gist of the plan was the circumventing of the Spanish lines by two
columns which, starting one above and the other below Valencia, were
to cross the river and join hands to the south of the city. Meanwhile
the main front of the works was to be threatened (and if circumstances
favoured, attacked) by a very small fraction of the French army. Near
the sea Habert’s division was to force the comparatively weak line of
works at the estuary, and then to cut the road which runs from Valencia
between the Mediterranean and the great lagoon of the Albufera. Far
inland the main striking force of the army, composed of the divisions
of Harispe and Musnier, with all the cavalry, and with Reille’s three
brigades following close behind, was to pass the Guadalaviar at
Ribaroja, three or four miles above Manises, and from thence to extend
along the south front of the Spanish lines, take them in the rear, and
push on so as to get into touch with Habert. Compère’s weak Neapolitan
brigade was to block the bridge-heads out of which Blake might make
a sally northward. Palombini’s Italians were to press close up to
Mislata, which Suchet judged to be the weakest point in the Spanish
lines, and to deliver against it an attack which was to be pushed more
or less home as circumstances might dictate. The whole force employed
(not counting Pannetier’s brigade, which had not yet joined Reille)
was just 30,000 men. Of these 25,000 were employed in the flanking
movements; less than 5,000 were left to demonstrate against Blake’s
front along the lines of the Guadalaviar.

The main and decisive blow was of course to be delivered by Harispe,
Musnier, and Reille, who were to cross the river at a point where the
Spaniards were unlikely to make any serious opposition, since it was
outside their chosen ground of defence, and was clearly watched rather
than held. If 20,000 men crossed here, and succeeded in establishing
themselves south of Valencia by a rapid march, Blake would find his
lines useless, and would be forced to fight in the open, in order to
secure a retreat southward, or else to shut himself and his whole force
up in the entrenched camp around the city. Suchet could accept either
alternative with equanimity: a battle, as he judged, meant a victory,
the breaking up of the Spanish army and the capture of Valencia. If,
on the other hand, Blake refused to fight a general engagement, and
retired within his camp, it would lead to his being surrounded, and
the desired end would only be deferred for a few days. There were only
two dangers--one was that the Spanish general might abscond southward
with the bulk of his army, without fighting, the moment that he heard
that his enemy was across the Guadalaviar. The second was that, waiting
till the French main body was committed to its flank march, he might
break out northward by the three bridges in his hands, overwhelm the
Neapolitans, and escape towards Liria and Segorbe into the mountains.
Suchet judged that his enemy would try neither of these courses; he
would not be timid enough to retreat on the instant that he learnt that
his left wing was beginning to be turned; nor would he be resourceful
enough to strike away northward, as soon as he saw that the turning
movement was formidable and certain of success. Herein Suchet judged
aright.

At nightfall on the 25th-26th of December two hundred hussars, each
carrying a voltigeur behind him, forded the Guadalaviar at Ribaroja,
and threw out a chain of posts which brushed off a few Spanish cavalry
vedettes. The moment that the farther bank was clear, the whole force
of Suchet’s engineers set to work to build two trestle-bridges for
infantry, and to lay a solid pontoon bridge higher up for guns and
cavalry. A few hours later Harispe’s division began to pass--then
Musnier’s, lastly Boussard’s cavalry. The defile took a long time,
and even by dawn Reille’s three brigades had not arrived or begun to
pass. But by that time ten thousand French were over the river. The
Spanish vedettes had reported, both to their cavalry generals at Aldaya
and to Blake at Valencia, that the enemy was busy at Ribaroja, but
had not been able to judge of his force, or to make out that he was
constructing bridges. Their commanders resolved that nothing could
be done in the dark, and that the morning light would determine the
character of the movement[54].

  [54] So Suchet’s narrative (_Mémoires_, ii. pp. 214-15). Belmas
  says that only one bridge was finished when Harispe and Musnier
  passed--the others after dawn only.

The late December sun soon showed the situation. Harispe’s division
was marching on Torrente, to cut the high-road to Murcia. The cavalry
and one brigade of Musnier were preparing to follow: the other brigade
of the second division (Robert’s) was standing fast by the bridges, to
cover them till Reille should appear and cross. But while this was the
most weighty news brought to Blake, he was distracted by intelligence
from two other quarters. Habert was clearly seen coming down by the
seaside, to attack at the estuary; and Palombini was also approaching
in the centre, in front of Mislata. The daylight was the signal for the
commencement of skirmishing on each of the three far-separated points.
Blake, strange as it may appear, made up his mind at first that the
real danger lay on the side next the sea, and that Habert’s column was
the main striking force[55]. But when it became clear that this wing
of the French army was not very strong, and was coming on slowly, he
turned his attention to Palombini, whose attack on Mislata was made
early, and was conducted in a vigorous style. It was to this point that
he finally rode out from the city, and he took up his position behind
Zayas, entirely neglecting the turning movement on his left--apparently
because it was out of sight, and he could not make the right deduction
from the reports which his cavalry had brought him.

  [55] For Blake’s opinions and actions see the record of his
  staff-officer, Schepeler (pp. 502-3).

Meanwhile Harispe’s column, pushing forward with the object of
reaching the high-road from Valencia to Murcia, the natural route
for Blake’s army to take, if it should attempt to escape southward,
ran into the main body of the Spanish horse, which was assembling in
the neighbourhood of the village of Aldaya. The French infantry were
preceded by a squadron of hussars, who were accompanied by General
Boussard, the commander of Suchet’s cavalry division. This small force
was suddenly encompassed and cut up by several regiments of Martin
Carrera’s brigade. Boussard was overthrown and left for dead--his sword
and decorations were stripped from his body. But more French squadrons
began to come up, and Harispe’s infantry opened fire on the Spaniards,
who were soon forced to retire hurriedly--they rode off southward
towards the Xucar river. They were soon completely out of touch with
the rest of Blake’s army.

Harispe’s column then continued its way, sweeping eastward towards the
Murcian _chaussée_ in the manner that Suchet had designed; but the rest
of the operations of the French right wing were not so decisive as its
commander had hoped. Mahy, learning of the movement of the encircling
column, and seeing Robert’s brigade massed opposite the extreme flank
of his position at Manises, while some notice of Reille’s near approach
also came to hand, suddenly resolved that he would not be surrounded,
and abandoned all his lines before they were seriously attacked. He
had the choice of directing Villacampa and Obispo to retire towards
Valencia and join Blake for a serious battle in the open, or of bidding
them strike off southward and eastward, and escape towards the Xucar,
abandoning the main body of the army. He chose the second alternative,
and marched off parallel with Harispe’s threatening column, directing
each brigade to get away as best it could. His force at once broke up
into several fractions, for the cross-roads were many and perplexing.
Some regiments reached the Murcian _chaussée_ before Harispe, and
escaped in front of him, pursued by the French cavalry. Others, coming
too late, were forced to forgo this obvious line of retreat, and to
struggle still farther eastward, only turning south when they got
to the marshy borders of the lagoon of Albufera. Obispo, with 2,000
of his men, was so closely hunted by the hostile cavalry that he
barely found safety by striking along the narrow strip of soft ground
between the lagoon and the sea. On the morning of the 27th he struggled
through to Cullera near the mouth of the Xucar: Mahy, with the greater
part of Villacampa’s division and some of Obispo’s and Creagh’s,
arrived somewhat earlier at Alcira, higher up the same stream, where
he found the fugitive cavalry already established. The divisions were
much disorganized, but they had lost very few killed or wounded, and
not more than 500 prisoners. Mahy rallied some 4,000 or 5,000 men at
Alcira, and Obispo a couple of thousand at Cullera, but they were a
‘spent force,’ not fit for action. Many of the raw troops had disbanded
themselves and gone home.

[Illustration: VALENCIA The Siege (Dec 1811-Jan 1812)]

Thus three-sevenths of Blake’s army were separated from Valencia
and their Commander-in-Chief without having made any appreciable
resistance. But it seems doubtful whether Mahy should be blamed--if he
had waited an hour longer in his positions his whole corps might have
been captured. If he had retired towards Valencia he would have been,
in all probability, forced to surrender with the rest of the army a
few days later. And in separating himself from his chief he had the
excuse that he knew that Blake’s intention had been to retire towards
the Xucar if beaten, not to shut himself up in Valencia. He may have
expected that the rest of the army would follow him southward, and
Blake (as we shall see) probably had the chance of executing that
movement, though he did not seize it.

Meanwhile the progress of the engagement in other quarters must be
detailed. Palombini made a serious attempt to break through the left
centre of the Spanish lines at Mislata. His task was hard, not so
much because of the entrenchments, or of the difficulty of crossing
the Guadalaviar, which was fordable for infantry, but from the many
muddy canals and water-cuts with which the ground in front of him
abounded. These, though not impassable for infantry, prevented guns
from getting to the front till bridges should have been made for
them. The Italians waded through the first canal, and then through
the river, but were brought to a stand by the second canal, that of
Fabara, behind which the Spanish entrenchments lay. After a furious
fire-contest they had to retire as far as the river, under whose bank
many sought refuge--some plunged in and waded back to the farther side.
Palombini rallied them and delivered a second attack; but at only one
point, to the left of Mislata, did the assault break into the Spanish
line. Zayas, aided by a battalion or two which Mahy had sent up from
Quarte, vindicated his position, and repulsed the attack with heavy
loss. But when the news came from the left that Harispe had turned the
lines, and when Mahy’s troops were seen evacuating all their positions
and hurrying off, Zayas found himself with his left flank completely
exposed.

Blake made some attempt to form a line _en potence_ to Zayas’s
entrenchments, directing two or three of Creagh’s battalions from
Quarte and some of his reserve from the city to make a stand at the
village of Chirivella. But the front was never formed--attacked by some
of Musnier’s troops these detachments broke up, Creagh’s men flying to
follow Mahy, and the others retiring to the entrenched camp.

Thereupon Blake ordered Zayas and Lardizabal, who lay to his right, to
retreat into Valencia before they should be turned by the approaching
French. The movement was accomplished in order and at leisure, and all
the guns in and about the Mislata entrenchments were brought away.
Palombini had been too hardly handled to attempt to pursue.

The General-in-Chief seemed stunned by the suddenness of the disaster.
‘He looked like a man of stone,’ says Schepeler, who rode at his side,
‘when any observation was made to him he made no reply, and he could
come to no decision. He would not allow Zayas to fight, and when a
colonel (the author of this work) suggested at the commencement of
the retreat that it would be well to burn certain houses which lay
dangerously close to the entrenched camp, he kept silence. Whereupon
Zayas observed in bitter rage to this officer: “Truly you are dull,
my German friend; do you not see that you cannot wake the man up?”’
According to the narratives of several contemporaries there would still
have been time at this moment to direct the retreating column southward
and escape, as Obispo did, along the Albufera. For Habert (as we shall
see) had been much slower than Harispe in his turning movement by the
side of the Mediterranean. Some, among them Schepeler, suggest that
the whole garrison might have broken out by the northern bridges and
got away. For Palombini was not in a condition to hinder them, and the
Neapolitans in front of the bridge-heads were but a handful of 1,200
men. But the General, still apparently unconscious of what was going on
about him, drew back into the entrenched camp, and did no more.

Habert, meanwhile, finally completed his movement, and joined hands
with Harispe at last. His lateness was to be accounted for not by the
strength of the opposition made by the irregular troops in front of
him, but by the fact that his advance had been much hindered by the
fire of the flotilla lying off the mouth of the Guadalaviar. Here
there was a swarm of gunboats supported by a British 74 and a frigate.
Habert would not commence his passage till he had driven them away, by
placing a battery of sixteen siege-guns on the shore near the Grao.
After much firing the squadron sheered off[56], and about midday the
French division crossed the Guadalaviar, partly by fording, partly
on a hastily constructed bridge, and attacked the line of scattered
works defended by irregulars which lay behind. The Spaniards were
successively evicted from all of them, as far as the fort of Monte
Oliveto. Miranda’s division kept within the entrenched camp, and gave
no assistance to the bands without; but it was late afternoon before
Habert had accomplished his task, and finally got into touch with
Harispe.

  [56] Napier says (iv. p. 30) that the gunboats fled without
  firing a shot. Suchet and Schepeler speak of much firing, as does
  Arteche.

Blake was thus shut up in Valencia with the divisions of Miranda,
Zayas, and Lardizabal, and what was left of his raw reserve battalions:
altogether some 17,000 fighting-men remained with him. The loss in
actual fighting had been very small--about 500 killed and wounded
and as many prisoners. The French captured a good many guns in the
evacuated works and a single standard. Suchet returned his total
casualties at 521 officers and men, of whom no less than 50 killed
and 355 wounded were among Palombini’s Italians--the only corps which
can be said to have done any serious fighting[57]. The Marshal’s
strategical combination would have been successful almost without
bloodshed, if only Palombini had not pressed his attack so hard, and
with so little necessity. But the Spanish army, which was drawn out on
a long front of nine miles, without any appreciable central reserve,
and with no protection for its exposed flank, was doomed to ruin the
moment that the enemy appeared in overwhelming force, beyond and behind
its extreme left wing. Blake’s only chance was to have watched every
ford with great vigilance, and to have had a strong flying column of
his best troops ready in some central position, from which it could be
moved out to dispute Suchet’s passage without a moment’s delay. Far
from doing this, he tied down his two veteran divisions to the defence
of the strongest part of his lines, watched the fords with nothing but
cavalry vedettes, and kept no central reserve at all, save 2,000 or
3,000 men of his untrustworthy ‘Reserve Division.’ In face of these
dispositions the French were almost bound to be successful. A disaster
was inevitable, but Blake might have made it somewhat less ruinous if
he had recognized his real position promptly, and had ordered a general
retreat, when Harispe’s successful turning movement became evident. In
this case he would have lost Valencia, but not his army.

  [57] No less than three of the Italian colonels were hit, and
  thirty-four officers in all.

As it was, a week more saw the miserable end of the campaign. Suchet’s
first precaution was to ascertain whether there was any danger from
the fraction of the Spanish army which Mahy and Obispo had carried
off. He was uncertain how strong they were, and whether they were
prepared to attack him in the rear, supposing that he should sit down
to the siege of Valencia. Accordingly he sent out at dawn on the 26th
December two light columns of cavalry and voltigeurs against Alcira
and Cullera, whither he knew that the refugees had retired. These two
reconnaissances in force discovered the enemy in position, but the
moment that they were descried Mahy retreated towards Alcoy, and Obispo
towards Alicante--both in such haste and disorder that it was evident
that they had no fighting spirit left in them.

Suchet, therefore, was soon relieved of any fear of danger from this
side, and could make his arrangements for the siege. He sent back to
the north bank of the Guadalaviar the whole division of Musnier, which
was there joined three days later by Reille’s belated brigade, that of
Pannetier. Harispe, Habert, Severoli, and Reille’s other French brigade
(that of Bourke) formed the investment on the southern bank. Palombini
lay astride of the river near Mislata, with one brigade on each bank.
The whole force of 33,000 men was sufficient for the task before it.
The decisive blow would have to be given by the siege artillery; the
whole train which had captured Saguntum had long been ready for its
work. And it had before it not regular fortifications of modern type,
but, in part of the circumference of Blake’s position, mediaeval walls
not built to resist artillery, in the rest the ditch and bank of the
entrenched camp, which, though strong as a field-work, could not be
considered capable of resisting a formal attack by a strong siege-train.

Blake was as well aware of this as Suchet, and he also knew (what
Suchet could not) that the population of 100,000 souls under his charge
had only 10 days’ provision of flour and 19 or 20 of rice and salt
fish. The city, like the army, had been living on daily convoys from
the south, and had no great central reserves of food. If he should sit
down, like Palafox at Saragossa, to make an obstinate defence behind
improvised works, he would be on the edge of starvation in less than
three weeks. But such a defence was impossible in face of the spirit
of the people, who looked upon Blake as the author of all their woes,
regarded him as a tyrant as well as an imbecile, and were as likely to
rise against him as to turn their energies to resisting the French.
Palafox at Saragossa accomplished what he did because the spirit of the
citizens was with him: Blake was despised as well as detested.

When he recovered his composure he called a council of war, which voted
almost unanimously[58] that the city was indefensible, and that the
army must try to cut its way out on the north side of the Guadalaviar.
If the sally had been made on the 27th it might have succeeded, for
it was not till late on that day that Suchet’s arrangements for the
blockade of the north bank were complete. But the investing line had
been linked up by the night of the 28th-29th, when Blake made his last
stroke for safety. At six in the evening the field army issued from
the gate of St. José and began to cross the bridge opposite it, the
westernmost of the three of which the Spaniards were in possession.
This led not to the great _chaussée_ to Saguntum and Tortosa, which
was known to have been cut and entrenched by the enemy, but to the
by-road to Liria and the mountains. Lardizabal headed the march, Zayas
followed, escorting the artillery and a considerable train, Miranda
brought up the rear. Charles O’Donnell was left to man the walls with
the urban guards and the ‘Reserve Division,’ and was given permission
to capitulate whenever he should be attacked.

  [58] Only Miranda voted against a sortie, and thought that
  nothing could be done, except to hold out for a while in the
  walls and then surrender. Arteche, xi. p. 241.

Lardizabal’s vanguard, under a Colonel Michelena, swerved from the
Liria road soon after passing the Guadalaviar, in order to avoid French
posts, and successfully got as far as the canal of Mestalla before it
was discovered or checked. The canal was too broad to be passed by
means of some beams and planks which had been brought up. But Michelena
got his men across, partly by fording and partly over a mill-dam, and
presently got to the village of Burjasort, where the artillery of
Palombini’s division were quartered. These troops, surprised in the
dark, could not stop him, and he pushed on through them and escaped
to the hills with his little force--one squadron, one battalion, and
some companies of Cazadores--some 500 or 600 men[59]. Lardizabal, who
should have followed him without delay, halted at the canal, trying
to build a bridge, till the French all along the line were alarmed by
the firing at Burjasort and began to press in upon him. He opened fire
instead of pushing on at all costs, and presently found himself opposed
by forces of growing strength. Blake thereupon made up his mind that
the sally had failed, and gave orders for the whole column to turn back
and re-enter Valencia. It seems probable that at least a great part of
the army might have got away, if an attempt had been made to push on
in Michelena’s wake, for the blockading line was thin here, and only
one French regiment seems to have been engaged in checking Lardizabal’s
exit.

  [59] Not 5,000 as Napier (probably by a misprint) says on page 31
  of his 4th vol. Apparently a misprint in the original edition has
  been copied in all the later fourteen!

Be this as it may, the sortie had failed, and Blake was faced by
complete ruin, being driven back with a disheartened army into a city
incapable of defence against a regular siege, and short of provisions.
Next morning the despair of the garrison was shown by the arrival of
many deserters in the French camp. The inevitable end was delayed for
only eleven days more. On January 1, most of the siege-guns having
been brought across the Guadalaviar, Suchet opened trenches against
two fronts of the entrenched camp, the fort of Monte Oliveto and the
southern point of the suburb of San Vincente, both salient angles
capable of being battered from both flanks. Seven batteries were built
opposite them by January 4th, and the advanced works in front were
pushed up to within fifty yards of the Spanish works. Thereupon Blake,
before the siege-guns had actually opened, abandoned the whole of his
entrenched camp on the next day, without any attempt at defence. The
French discovering the evacuation, entered, and found eighty-one guns
spiked in the batteries, and a considerable quantity of munitions.

Blake was now shut up in the narrow space of the city, whose walls
were very unsuited for defence, and were easily approachable in many
places under shelter of houses left undemolished, which gave cover only
fifty yards from the ramparts. For no attempt had been made to clear
a free space round the inner _enceinte_, in case the outer circuit of
the camp should be lost. While fresh batteries were being built in
the newly-captured ground, to breach the city wall, Suchet set all
the mortars in his original works to throw bombs into Valencia. He
gathered that the population was demoralized and probably the garrison
also, and thought that a general bombardment of the place might bring
about a surrender without further trouble. About a thousand shells
were dropped into the city within twenty-four hours, and Suchet then
(January 6th) sent a _parlementaire_ to invite Blake to capitulate.
The Captain-General replied magniloquently that ‘although yesterday
morning he might have consented to treat for terms allowing his army
to quit Valencia, in order to spare the inhabitants the horrors of a
bombardment, now, after a day’s firing, he had learnt that he could
rely on the magnanimity and resignation of the people. The Marshal
might continue his operations if he pleased, and would bear the
responsibility for so maltreating the place.’

As a matter of fact the bombardment had been very effective, numerous
non-combatants had perished, and the spirit of the population was
broken. Many openly pressed for a surrender, and only a few fanatical
monks went round the streets exhorting the citizens to resistance.
The bombardment continued on the 7th and 8th, and at the same time
Suchet pushed approaches close to the walls, and in several places
set his miners to work to tunnel under them. Actual assault was never
necessary, for on the 8th Blake held a council of war, which voted for
entering into negotiation with the enemy. The report of this meeting
sets forth that ‘it had taken into consideration the sufferings of the
people under these days of bombardment; the cry of the populace was
that an end must be put to its misery; it was impossible to prolong the
defence with any profit, without exposing the city to the horrors of an
assault, in which the besiegers would probably succeed, considering the
depressed condition of the garrison, and the feebleness of the walls.
The citizens had not only failed to aid in the defence and to second
the efforts of the regular troops, but were panic-stricken and demanded
a surrender. The army itself did not seem disposed to do its duty, and
after hearing the evidence of the commanders of different corps, the
council decided in favour of negotiating to get honourable terms. If
these were refused it might be necessary to continue a hopeless defence
and die honourably among the ruins of Valencia[60].

  [60] See the long _procès verbal_ of the Council’s proceedings
  translated in Belmas, iv. pp. 203-6.

It is probable that Blake would really have accepted any terms offered
him as ‘honourable,’ for he assented to all that Suchet dictated to
him. A feeble attempt to stipulate for a free departure for the field
army, on condition that the city and all its armaments and resources
were handed over intact, met with the curt refusal that it deserved. A
simple capitulation with the honours of war was granted: one clause,
however, was looked upon by Blake as somewhat of a concession, though
it really was entirely to Suchet’s benefit. He offered to grant an
exchange to so many of the garrison as should be equivalent man for
man, to French prisoners from the dépôts in Majorca and Cabrera, where
the unfortunate remnants of Dupont’s army were still in confinement.
As this was not conceded by the Spanish government, the clause had no
real effect in mitigating the fate of Blake’s army[61]. Other clauses
in the capitulation declared that private property should be respected,
and that no inquiry should be made after the surrender into the past
conduct of persons who had taken an active part in the revolution of
1808, or the subsequent defence of the kingdom of Valencia: also that
such civilians as chose might have three months in which to transport
themselves, their families, and their goods to such destination as they
pleased. These clauses, as we shall see, were violated by Suchet with
the most shocking callousness and shameless want of respect for his
written word.

  [61] The proposal of exchange came first to Mahy at Alicante; he
  called a council of generals, which resolved that the release of
  so many French would profit Suchet overmuch, because many of them
  had been imprisoned at Alicante and Cartagena, and had worked on
  the fortifications there. They could give the Marshal valuable
  information, which he had better be denied. The proposal must
  therefore be sent on to the Regency at Cadiz. That government,
  after much debate, refused to ratify the proposal, considering it
  more profitable to the enemy than to themselves.

On January 9 the citadel and the gate adjacent were handed over to the
French; Blake (at his own request) was sent away straight to France,
and did not remain to take part in the formal surrender of his troops
and of the city. It would seem that he could not face the rage of the
Valencians, and was only anxious to avoid even twenty-four hours of
sojourn among them after the disaster. Napoleon affected to regard him
as a traitor, though he had never done even a moment’s homage to Joseph
Bonaparte in 1808, and shut him up in close captivity in the donjon of
Vincennes, where he remained very uncomfortably lodged till the events
of April 1814 set him free[62].

  [62] Some notes about his captivity may be found in the
  _Mémoires_ of Baron Kolli, the would-be deliverer of King
  Ferdinand, who was shut up in another tower of the castle.

The total number of prisoners yielded up by Valencia was 16,270 regular
troops, of whom some 1,500 were sick or wounded in the hospitals. The
urban guards and armed peasants, who were supposed to be civilians
covered by the amnesty article in the capitulation, are not counted in
the total. The regulars marched out of the Serranos gate on January
10, and after laying down their arms and colours were sent prisoners
to France, marching in two columns, under the escort of Pannetier’s
brigade, to Saragossa. Twenty-one colours and no less than 374 cannon
(mostly heavy guns in the defences) were given over, as also a very
large store of ammunition and military effects, but very little food,
which was already beginning to fail in the city when Blake surrendered.

To prevent unlicensed plunder Suchet did not allow his own troops to
enter Valencia till January 14th, giving the civil authorities four
days in which to make preparations for the coming in of the new régime.
He was better received than might have been expected--apparently
Blake’s maladroit dictatorship had thoroughly disgusted the people.
Many of the magistrates bowed to the conqueror and took the oath of
homage to King Joseph, and the aged archbishop emerged from the village
where he had hidden himself for some time, and ‘showed himself animated
by an excellent spirit’ according to the Marshal’s dispatch.

This prompt and tame submission did not save Valencia from dreadful
treatment at the victor’s hands. Not only did he levy on the city and
district a vast fine of 53,000,000 francs (over £2,120,000), of which
3,000,000 were sent to Madrid and the rest devoted to the profit of the
Army of Aragon, but he proceeded to carry out a series of atrocities,
which have been so little spoken of by historians that it would be
difficult to credit them, if they were not avowed with pride in his own
dispatches to Berthier and Napoleon.

The second article of Blake’s capitulation, already cited above,
had granted a complete amnesty for past actions on the part of the
Valencians--‘Il ne sera fait aucune recherche pour le passé contre ceux
qui auraient pris une part active à la guerre ou à la révolution,’ to
quote the exact term. In his dispatch of January 12 to Berthier, Suchet
is shameless enough to write: ‘I have disarmed the local militia: all
guilty chiefs will be arrested, and all assassins punished; _for in
consenting to Article II of the Capitulation my only aim was to get
the matter over quickly_[63].’ ‘Guilty chiefs’ turned out to mean all
civilians who had taken a prominent part in the defence of Valencia:
‘assassins’ was interpreted to cover guerrilleros of all sorts, not
(as might perhaps have been expected) merely those persons who had
taken part in the bloody riots against the French commercial community
in 1808[64]. In his second dispatch of January 17 Suchet proceeds to
explain that he has arrested 480 persons as ‘suspects,’ that a large
number of guerrillero leaders have been found among them, who have
been sent to the citadel and have been already shot, or will be in
a few days. He has also arrested every monk in Valencia; 500 have
been sent prisoners to France: five of the most guilty, convicted of
having carried round the streets a so-called ‘banner of the faith,’
and of having preached against capitulation, and excited the people
to resistance, have been already executed. Inquiries were still in
progress. They resulted in the shooting of two more friars[65]. But
the most astonishing clause in the dispatch is that ‘all those who
took part in the murders of the French [in 1808] will be sought
out and punished. Already _six hundred_ have been executed by the
firmness of the Spanish judge Marescot, whom I am expecting soon to
meet[66].’ It was a trifling addition to the catalogue of Suchet’s
doings that 350 students of the university, who had volunteered to aid
the regular artillery during the late siege, had all been arrested
and sent off to France like the monks. Two hundred sick or footsore
prisoners who straggled from the marching column directed on Teruel
and Saragossa are said to have been shot by the wayside[67]. It is
probable that innumerable prisoners were put to death in cold blood
after the capitulation of Valencia, in spite of Suchet’s guarantee
that ‘no research should be made as to the past.’ Of this Napier says
no word[68], though he quotes other parts of Suchet’s dispatches, and
praises him for his ‘vigorous and prudent’ conduct, and his ‘care not
to offend the citizens by violating their customs or shocking their
religious feelings.’

  [63] See the dispatches printed in full in Belmas, Appendix, vol.
  iv, pp. 218-20, and 226-7 of his great work.

  [64] For which see vol. i. p. 68.

  [65] The names of all seven friars are given by Toreno and
  Schepeler.

  [66] Can the frightful figure of 600 be a mistake for 60?

  [67] See Toreno, iii. p. 28.

  [68] See his pages, iv. 33.



SECTION XXX: CHAPTER IV

SUCHET’S CONQUEST OF VALENCIA: SIDE-ISSUES AND CONSEQUENCES.
JANUARY-MARCH 1812


When once Suchet’s long-deferred movements began, on December 26, 1812,
his operations were so rapid and successful that the whole campaign
was finished in fourteen days. The unexpected swiftness of his triumph
had the result of rendering unnecessary the subsidiary operations
which Napoleon had directed the Armies of Portugal, the Centre, and
Andalusia, to carry out.

D’Armagnac, with his 3,000 men of the Army of the Centre, still lay
at Cuenca when Suchet’s advance began, hindered from further movement
by the badness of the roads and the weather. Opposite him were lying
Bassecourt’s small force at Requeña--not 2,000 men--and the larger
detachment of the Murcian army under Freire, which Blake had originally
intended to draw down to join his main body. This seems to have
consisted of some 4,000 foot and 1,000 horse[69] about the time of the
New Year.

  [69] On February 1st Freire’s infantry division, though it had
  suffered much from desertion in the meanwhile, still numbered
  3,300 men present, and his cavalry 850 sabres. See tables in _Los
  Ejércitos españoles_, pp. 149-50.

Far more important was the force under Montbrun, detached from the Army
of Portugal, which had moved (all too tardily) from La Mancha and the
banks of the Tagus, by Napoleon’s orders. Assembled, as we have already
shown[70], only on December 29th, it had started from San Clemente on
January 2 to march against Blake’s rear by the route of Almanza, the
only one practicable for artillery at midwinter. Thus the expedition
was only just getting under way when Suchet had already beaten Blake
and thrust him into Valencia. It consisted of the infantry divisions
of Foy and Sarrut, of the whole of the light cavalry of the Army of
Portugal, and of five batteries of artillery, in all about 10,000 men.
Of the succour which had been promised from d’Armagnac’s division,
to raise the force to the figures of 12,000 men, few if any came to
hand[71].

  [70] See above, p. 56.

  [71] According to Joseph’s letter to Montbrun (_Correspondence of
  King Joseph_, viii. p. 294) a battalion or two may have joined
  Montbrun, as he tells that general that he is glad to know that
  the troops of his army have given satisfaction.

Montbrun marched with Sarrut and the cavalry by Albacete and
Chinchilla, leaving Foy as a reserve échelon, to follow by slower
stages and keep up the communication with La Mancha. Between Chinchilla
and Almanza the advanced cavalry fell in with Freire’s Spanish
division, marching across its front. For on the news of Suchet’s
passage of the Guadalaviar on December 26, Freire had moved southward
from his position on the Cabriel river, with the intention of joining
Mahy, and so of building up a force strong enough to do something to
succour Blake and the beleaguered garrison of Valencia. On January 6th
Montbrun’s horse came upon one of Freire’s detachments, dispersed it,
and took some prisoners. But the greater part of the Murcians succeeded
in getting past, and in reaching Mahy at Alicante (January 9th).

So cowed was the country-side by the disasters about Valencia that
Montbrun at Almanza succeeded in getting a letter carried by one of
his staff to Valencia in two days[72]. It announced to Suchet his
arrival on the rear of the Spanish army, and his intention of pressing
on eastward so as to drive away Freire and Mahy and completely cut off
the retreat of Blake towards Murcia. But when the dispatch was received
Blake was already a prisoner, and his army had laid down its arms on
the preceding day. Suchet, therefore, wrote a reply to Montbrun to
thank him for his co-operation, to inform him that it was no longer
necessary, and to advise him to return as quickly as possible toward
the Army of Portugal and the Tagus, where his presence was now much
more needed than on the coast of the Mediterranean. The Army of Aragon
was strong enough to deal in due course with Mahy and Freire, and to
take Alicante.

  [72] Suchet, _Mémoires_, ii. p. 234, for dates.

Montbrun, however, refused to accept this advice. He was probably,
as his chief Marmont remarks, desirous of distinguishing himself by
carrying out some brilliant enterprise as an independent commander[73].
Knowing that Mahy’s and Freire’s troops were in a very demoralized
condition, and underrating the strength of the fortress of Alicante,
he resolved to march against that place, which he thought would make
little or no resistance. Accordingly he called forward Foy to Albacete
and Chinchilla, left the main part of his guns in his charge, and
marched on Alicante with the cavalry and Sarrut’s division, having only
one battery of horse artillery with him.

  [73] Marmont accuses Montbrun exactly as Napoleon accuses Marmont!

At the news of his approach Mahy, who had been at Alcoy since he
abandoned the line of the Nucar on December 27th, retired into Alicante
with Creagh’s and Obispo’s infantry. Bassecourt also joined him there,
while Freire with his own column, Villacampa’s division, and all the
Murcian and Valencian cavalry, occupied Elche and other places in
the neighbourhood. Over 6,000 regular infantry were within the walls
of Alicante by January 15th. Montbrun on the following day drove
Freire out of Elche westward, and presented himself in front of the
new fortification of Alicante, which had been much improved during
the last year, and included a new line of bastioned wall outside the
old mediaeval _enceinte_ and the rocky citadel. It is probable that
Montbrun had no knowledge of the recent improvements to the fortress,
and relied on old reports of its weakness. After advancing into the
suburbs, and throwing a few useless shells into the place, whose
artillery returned a heavy fire, he retreated by Elche and Hellin to
Albacete[74]. As he went he laid waste the country-side in the most
reckless fashion, and raised heavy requisitions of money in Elche,
Hellin, and other places. This involved him in an angry correspondence
with Suchet, who insisted that no commander but himself had a right
to extort contributions in the region that fell into his sphere of
operations.

  [74] On his first appearance he sent to summon Alicante, and
  received the proper negative answer. But Schepeler, who was in
  the place, says that the governor, General de la Cruz, showed
  signs of yielding. Fortunately the other generals did not. It
  would have been absurd to treat seriously a force of 4,000
  infantry and 1,500 horse with only six light guns! (Schepeler, p.
  520.)

Montbrun’s raid was clearly a misguided operation. Alicante was far too
strong to be taken by escalade, when it was properly garrisoned: the
only chance was that the garrison might flinch. They refused to do so,
and the French general was left in an absurd position, demonstrating
without siege-guns against a regular fortress. His action had two
ill-effects--the first was that it concluded the Valencian campaign
with a fiasco--a definite repulse which put heart into the Spaniards.
The second (and more important) was that it separated him from Marmont
and the Army of Portugal for ten days longer than was necessary. His
chief had given him orders to be back on the Tagus by the 15th-20th of
January, as his absence left the main body too weak. Owing to his late
start he would in any case have overpassed these dates, even if he had
started back from Almanza on January 13th, after receiving the news
of the fall of Valencia. But by devoting nine days to an advance from
Almanza to Alicante and then a retreat from Alicante to Albacete, he
deferred his return to Castile by that space of time. He only reached
Toledo on January 31st with his main column. Foy’s division, sent on
ahead, arrived there on the 29th. Montbrun’s last marches were executed
with wild speed, for he had received on the way letters of the most
alarming kind from Marmont, informing him that Wellington had crossed
the Agueda with his whole army and laid siege to Ciudad Rodrigo. The
Army of Portugal must concentrate without delay. But by the time that
Montbrun reached Toledo, Rodrigo had already been twelve days in the
hands of the British general, and further haste was useless. The troops
were absolutely worn out, and received with relief the order to halt
and wait further directions, since they were too late to save the
fallen fortress. It is fair to Montbrun to remark that, even if he had
never made his raid on Alicante, he would still have been unable to
help his chief. If he had turned back from Almanza on January 13th, he
would have been at Toledo only on the 22nd--and that city is nearly 200
miles by road from Ciudad Rodrigo, which had fallen on the 19th. The
disaster on the Agueda was attributable not to Montbrun’s presumptuous
action, but to the Emperor’s orders that the Army of Portugal should
make a great detachment for the Valencian campaign. Even if the
raiding column had started earlier, as Napoleon intended, it could not
have turned back till it got news of the capitulation of Blake, which
only took place on January 8th. And whatever might then have been its
exact position, it could not have been back in time to join Marmont
in checking the operations of Wellington, which (as we have already
stated) came to a successful end on January 19th. Wherefore, though
Montbrun must receive blame, the responsibility for the fall of Rodrigo
lay neither with him nor with Marmont, but with their great master.

Another diversion made by Napoleon’s orders for the purpose of
aiding Suchet was quite as futile--though less from the fault of the
original direction, and more from an unforeseen set of circumstances.
Like Marmont and King Joseph, Soult had also been ordered to lend
Suchet assistance against Valencia, by demonstrating from the side of
Granada against Murcia and its army. This order, issued apparently
about November 19, 1811[75]. and repeated on December 6th, reached
the Duke of Dalmatia just when he had assembled all his disposable
field-forces for the siege of Tarifa, an operation where preparations
began on December 8th and which did not end till January 5th.
Having concentrated 13,000 men in the extreme southern point of his
viceroyalty, Soult had not a battalion to spare for a sally from its
extreme eastern point. He could not give up a great enterprise already
begun; and it was only when it had failed, and the troops from Tarifa
were returning--in a sufficiently melancholy plight--that Soult could
do anything. But by this time it was too late to help Suchet, who had
finished his business without requiring assistance from without.

  [75] It is alluded to in a dispatch of the Emperor to Berthier on
  that day. ‘Le duc de Dalmatie a l’ordre d’envoyer une colonne en
  Murcie pour faire une diversion.’ St. Cloud, Nov. 19.

[Illustration: _Marshal Suchet, Duke of Albufera_

_from the portrait by Charpentier_]

Whether Soult was already aware of the surrender of Valencia or not,
when January 20th had arrived, he had before that day issued orders
to his brother, the cavalry general, Pierre Soult, to take the light
horse of the 4th Corps from Granada, and to execute with them a raid
against Murcia, with the object of drawing off the attention of any
Spanish troops left in that direction from Suchet. The General, with
about 800 sabres, pushing on by Velez Rubio and Lorca, arrived
before the gates of Murcia quite unopposed on January 25th. Freire had
left no troops whatever to watch the borders of Granada, and had drawn
off everything, save the garrison of Cartagena, toward the Valencian
frontiers. Pierre Soult summoned the defenceless city, received its
surrender, and imposed on it a ransom of 60,000 dollars. He entered
next day, and established himself in the archbishop’s palace; having
neither met nor heard of any enemy he was quite at his ease, and was
sitting down to dine, when a wild rush of Spanish cavalry came sweeping
down the street and cutting up his dispersed and dismounted troopers.
This was General Martin La Carrera, whose brigade was the nearest force
to Murcia when Soult arrived. Hearing that the French were guarding
themselves ill, he had resolved to attempt a surprise, and, dividing
his 800 men into three columns, assailed Murcia by three different
gates. His own detachment cut its way in with success, did much damage,
and nearly captured the French general. But neither of the other
parties showed such resolution; they got bickering with the French at
the entries of the city, failed to push home, and finally retired with
small loss. The gallant and unfortunate La Carrera, charging up and
down the streets in vain search for his reinforcements, was finally
surrounded by superior numbers, and died fighting gallantly.

His enterprise warned Soult that Spanish troops were collecting in
front of him, and indeed Villacampa’s infantry was not far off.
Wherefore he evacuated Murcia next day, after raising so much of the
contribution as he could, and plundering many private houses. The
Spaniards reoccupied the place, and Joseph O’Donnell, now placed in
command of the Murcian army in succession to Mahy, gave La Carrera’s
corpse a splendid funeral. Soult retreated hastily to the Granadan
frontier, pillaging Alcantarilla and Lorca by the way. This was the
only part taken by the French Army of Andalusia in the January campaign
of 1812. The siege of Tarifa had absorbed all its energies.

Montbrun’s and Pierre Soult’s enterprises had little effect on the
general course of events in eastern Spain. It was Suchet’s own
operations which, in the estimation of every observer from the Emperor
downwards, were to be considered decisive. When Valencia had fallen,
every one on the French side supposed that the war was practically
at an end in this region, and that the dispersion of the remnants of
Mahy’s and Freire’s troops and the capture of Peniscola, Alicante, and
Cartagena,--the three fortresses still in Spanish hands,--were mere
matters of detail. No one could have foreseen that the region south
of the Xucar was destined to remain permanently in the hands of the
patriots, and that Suchet’s occupation of Valencia was to last for
no more than eighteen months. Two causes, neither of them depending
on Suchet’s own responsibility, were destined to save the kingdom of
Murcia and the southern region of Valencia from conquest. The first was
Napoleon’s redistribution of his troops in eastern Spain, consequent
on the approach of his war with Russia. The second was the sudden
victorious onslaught of Wellington on the French in the western parts
of the Peninsula. How the former of these causes worked must at once
be shown--the effect of the latter cause did not become evident till a
little later.

Of the 33,000 men with whom Suchet had conquered Valencia and captured
Blake, no less than 13,000 under Reille had been lent him from the
Army of the North, and were under orders to return to the Ebro as
soon as possible. Indeed, till they should get back, Aragon, very
insufficiently garrisoned by Caffarelli’s division, was out of hand,
and almost as much in the power of the Empecinado, Duran, and Montijo,
as of the French. Moreover, so long as Caffarelli was at Saragossa,
and his troops dispersed in the surrounding region, both Navarre and
Old Castile were undermanned, and the Army of the North was reduced to
little more than Dorsenne’s two divisions of the Young Guard. To secure
the troops for the great push against Valencia, so many divisions
had shifted eastward, that Marmont and Dorsenne between them had, as
the Emperor must have seen, barely troops enough in hand to maintain
their position, if Wellington should make some unexpected move--though
Napoleon had persuaded himself that such a move was improbable. In
spite of this, he was anxious to draw back Reille’s and Caffarelli’s,
no less than Montbrun’s, men to more central positions.

But this was not all: in December the Emperor’s dispatches begin
to show that he regarded war with Russia in the spring of 1812 as
decidedly probable, and that for this reason he was about to withdraw
all the Imperial Guard from Spain. On December 15th a note to Berthier
ordered all the light and heavy cavalry of the Guard--chasseurs,
grenadiers à cheval, dragoons, Polish lancers--to be brought home, as
also its horse artillery and the _gendarmes d’élite_. All these were
serving in the Army of the North, and formed the best part of its
mounted troops. This was but a trifling preliminary warning of his
intentions: on January 14, 1812--the results of the Valencian campaign
being still unknown--he directed Berthier to withdraw from Spain
the whole of the Infantry of the Guard and the whole of the Polish
regiments in Spain. This was an order of wide-spreading importance,
and created large gaps in the muster-rolls of Suchet, Soult, and
Dorsenne. Suchet’s Poles (three regiments of the Legion of the Vistula,
nearly 6,000 men, including the detachments left in Aragon) formed
a most important part of the 3rd Corps. Soult had the 4th, 6th, and
9th Polish regiments and the Lancers, who had done such good service
at Albuera, a total of another 6,000 men. But Dorsenne was to be the
greatest sufferer--he had in the Army of the North not only the 4th
of the Vistula, some 1,500 bayonets, but the whole of the infantry
of the Young Guard, the two divisions of Roguet and Dumoustier,
twenty-two battalions over 14,000 strong. The dispatch of January 14
directed that Suchet should send off his battalions of the Legion
‘immediately after the fall of Valencia.’ Soult was to draft away
his Poles ‘within twenty-four hours after the receipt of the order.’
Dorsenne, of course, could not begin to send off the Guard Divisions
of infantry till the troops lent from the Army of the North (Reille
and Caffarelli) were freed from the duties imposed on them by the
Valencian expedition. A supplementary order of January 27th told him
that he might keep them for some time longer if the English took the
offensive--news of Wellington’s march on Rodrigo was just coming to
hand. ‘Le désir,’ says the Emperor, ‘que j’ai d’avoir ma Garde n’est
pas tellement pressant qu’il faille la renvoyer avant que les affaires
aient pris une situation nouvelle dans le Nord[76].’ As a matter of
fact some Guard-brigades did not get off till March, though by dint
of rapid transport, when they had once passed the Pyrenees, they
struggled to the front in time to take part in the opening of the great
Russian campaign in June. The fourth brigade, eight battalions under
Dumoustier, did not get away till the autumn was over.

  [76] Napoleon to Berthier, Paris, Jan. 27, 1812.

Thus the Emperor had marked off about 27,000 good veteran troops for
removal from the Peninsula, with the intention of using them in the
oncoming Russian war. The Army of the North was to lose the best of its
divisions--those of the South and of Aragon very heavy detachments.
Nothing was to come in return, save a few drafts and _bataillons de
marche_ which were lying at Bayonne. The Emperor in his dispatch makes
some curious self-justificatory remarks, to the effect that he should
leave the Army of Spain stronger than it had been in the summer of
1811; for while he was withdrawing thirty-six battalions, he had sent
into the Peninsula, since June last, forty-two battalions under Reille,
Caffarelli, and Severoli. This was true enough: but if the total
strength of the troops now dedicated to Spain was not less than it had
been in June 1811, it was left weaker by 27,000 men than it had been in
December 1811.

Now Suchet, when deprived of Reille’s aid, and at the same time
directed to send back to France his six Polish battalions, was left
with a very inadequate force in Valencia--not much more than half what
he had at his disposition on January 1. It would seem that the Emperor
overrated the effect of the capture of Blake and the destruction of his
army. At any rate, in his dispatches to Suchet, he seemed to consider
that the whole business in the East was practically completed by the
triumph at the New Year. The Marshal was directed ‘to push an advanced
guard towards Murcia, and put himself in communication with the 4th
Corps--the eastern wing of Soult’s army--which would be found at
Lorca[77].’ But the operations of the troops of the Army of Andalusia
in this quarter were limited to the appearance for two days at Murcia
of Pierre Soult’s small cavalry raid, of which Suchet got no news till
it was passed and gone. He was left entirely to his own resources,
and these were too small for any further advance: the Emperor not only
took away both Reille and the Poles, but sent, a few days later, orders
that Palombini’s Italian division, reduced by now to 3,000 men by its
heavy casualties on December 26th, should be sent into southern Aragon
against Duran and Montijo. The departure of Palombini (February 15th)
left Suchet with less than 15,000 men in hand. It must be remembered
that the conquest of a Spanish province always meant, for the French,
the setting aside of a large immobilized garrison, to hold it down,
unless it were to be permitted to drop back into insurrection. It was
clear that with the bulk of the kingdom of Valencia to garrison, not to
speak of the siege of the still intact fortress of Peniscola, Suchet
would have an infinitesimal field-force left for the final move that
would be needed, if Mahy and Freire were to be crushed, and Alicante
and Cartagena--both strong places--to be beleaguered.

  [77] See Suchet’s _Mémoires_, ii. pp. 237-8.

The Marshal had by the last week in January pushed Harispe’s division
to Xativa, beyond the Xucar, and Habert’s to Gandia near the sea-coast.
These 9,000 men were all his disposable force for a further advance:
Valencia had to be garrisoned; Musnier’s division had gone north,
to cover the high-road as far as Tortosa and the Ebro; some of the
Italians were sent to besiege Peniscola. Suchet might, no doubt, have
pushed Habert and Harispe further forward towards Alicante, but he
had many reasons for not doing so. That fortress had been proved--by
Montbrun’s raid--to be in a posture of defence: besides its garrison
there were other Spanish troops in arms in the neighbourhood. To the
forces of Freire, Obispo, Villacampa, and Bassecourt, there was added
the newly-formed brigade of General Roche, an Irish officer lent by
the British government to the Spaniards, who had been drilling and
disciplining the cadres of the battalions handed over to him[78],
till they were in a better condition than most of the other troops
on this coast. The muster-rolls of the ‘united 2nd and 3rd armies,’
as these remnants were now officially styled, showed, on February 1,
1812, 14,000 men present, not including Villacampa’s division, which
was moving off to its old haunts in Aragon. By March 1 this figure
had risen to 18,000, many deserters who had gone home after the fall
of Valencia having tardily rejoined the ranks of their battalions.
Over 2,000 cavalry were included in the total--for nearly the whole of
Blake’s squadrons had escaped (not too gloriously) after the disastrous
combats on December 26, 1812.

  [78] These were Chinchilla, 2nd of Murcia, and a new locally
  raised battalion called 2nd of Alicante. He was in March handed
  over also Canarias, Burgos, and Ligero de Aragon, which had
  belonged to Freire till that date.

If Suchet, therefore, had moved forward with a few thousand men at
the end of January, he would have risked something, despite of the
depressed morale of his enemies. But in addition there was vexatious
news from Catalonia, which presently caused the sending of part of
Musnier’s division beyond the Ebro, and it was reported (only too
correctly) that the yellow fever had broken out with renewed violence
at Murcia and Cartagena. An advance into the infected district might
be hazardous. But most of all was any further initiative discouraged
by the consideration that no help could be expected from Marmont or
Soult. By the end of January Suchet was aware of Wellington’s invasion
of Leon, and of the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo. Not only did this move
absorb all the attention of Marmont, Dorsenne, and King Joseph, but
Soult was convinced that it boded evil for him also, and that a new
attack on Badajoz was imminent. Hill’s manœuvres in Estremadura (of
which more elsewhere) attracted all his attention, and he let it be
known that he had neither the wish nor the power to send expeditions
eastward, to co-operate against Murcia. Last, but most conclusive, of
all Suchet’s hindrances was a grave attack of illness, which threw
him on a bed of sickness early in February, and caused him to solicit
permission to return to France for his convalescence. The Emperor
(with many flattering words) refused this leave, and sent two of his
body physicians to Valencia to treat the Marshal’s ailment. But it was
two months before Suchet was able to mount his horse, and put himself
at the head of his army. From February to the beginning of April
operations were necessarily suspended for the Army of Aragon, since its
chief was not one of those who gladly hand over responsibility and the
power of initiative to his subordinates.

Hence there was a long gap in the story of the war in south-eastern
Spain from January to April 1812. The only events requiring notice
during that period were the occupation by the French of Denia and
Peniscola. The former, a little port on the projecting headland south
of Valencia, was furnished with fortifications newly repaired during
Blake’s régime, and had been an important centre of distribution
for stores and munitions of war, after the Spaniards lost the Grao
of Valencia in November, since it was the nearest harbour to their
positions along the Guadalaviar. In the general panic after Blake’s
surrender Mahy withdrew its garrison, but forgot to order the removal
of its magazines. Harispe seized Denia on January 20, and found sixty
guns mounted on its walls, and forty small merchant vessels, some of
them laden with stores, in its port. He garrisoned the place, and
fitted out some of the vessels as privateers. Mahy’s carelessness in
abandoning these resources was one of the reasons which contributed
most to his removal from command by the Cadiz Regency. It was indeed
a gross piece of neglect, for at least the guns might have been
destroyed, and the ships brought round to Alicante.

The story of Peniscola, however, was far more disgraceful. This
fortress sometimes called ‘the little Gibraltar’ from its impregnable
situation--it is a towering rock connected with the mainland by a
narrow sand-spit 250 yards long--was one of the strongest places in all
Spain. It had appeared so impregnable to Suchet, that, on his southward
march from Tortosa to Valencia, he had merely masked it, and made no
attempt to meddle with it[79]. Peniscola had suffered no molestation,
and was regularly revictualled by Spanish and British coasting vessels
from Alicante, Cartagena, and the Balearic Isles. The governor, Garcia
Navarro, was an officer who had an excellent reputation for personal
courage--taken prisoner at Falset in 1811[80] he had succeeded in
escaping from a French prison and had reported himself again for
further service. The garrison of 1,000 men was adequate for such a
small place, and was composed of veteran troops. In directing it to be
formally beleaguered after the fall of Valencia, Suchet seems to have
relied more on the general demoralization caused by the annihilation of
Blake’s army than on the strength of his means of attack. On January
20th he ordered Severoli with two Italian and two French battalions to
press the place as far as was possible, and assigned to him part of the
siege-train that had been used at Saguntum. The trenches, on the high
ground of the mainland nearest the place, were opened on the 28th, and
on the 31st the besiegers began to sap downhill towards the isthmus,
and to erect five batteries on the best available points. But it was
clear that the fortress was most inaccessible, and that to reach its
walls across the low-lying sand-spit would be a very costly business.

  [79] See above, p. 14.

  [80] See vol. iii. pp. 503-4.

Nevertheless, when a summons was sent in to the governor on February
2nd, he surrendered at once, getting in return terms of an unusually
favourable kind--the men and officers of the garrison were given leave
either to depart to their homes with all their personal property, or
to enlist in the service of King Joseph. This was a piece of mere
treachery: Navarro had made up his mind that the cause of Spain
was ruined by Blake’s disaster, and had resolved to go over to the
enemy, while there were still good terms to be got for deserters. As
Suchet tells the story, the affair went as follows. A small vessel,
sailing from Peniscola to Alicante, was taken by a privateer fitted
out by Harispe at Denia. Among letters seized by the captors[81] was
one from the governor, expressing his disgust with his situation,
and in especial with the peremptory advice given him by the English
naval officers who were in charge of the revictualling service and
the communications. He went on to say that he would rather surrender
Peniscola to the French than let it be treated as a British dependency,
whereupon the Marshal asked, and obtained, the surrender of the place.
Napier expresses a suspicion--probably a well-founded one--that the
letter may have been really intended for Suchet’s own eye, and that
the whole story was a piece of solemn deceit. ‘Such is the Marshal’s
account of the affair--but the colour which he thought it necessary
to give to a transaction so full of shame to Navarro, can only be
considered as part of the price paid for Peniscola[82].’ The mental
attitude of the traitor is sufficiently expressed by a letter which
reached Suchet along with the capitulation. ‘I followed with zeal,
with fury I may say, the side which I considered the just one. To-day
I see that to render Spain less unhappy it is necessary for us all to
unite under the King, and I make my offer to serve him with the same
enthusiasm. Your excellency may be quite sure of me--I surrender a
fortress fully provisioned and capable of a long defence--which is the
best guarantee of the sincerity of my promise[83].’

  [81] Suchet says that the captain of the boat threw his letters
  overboard at the last moment, but that they floated and were
  picked up by the French. Was this a farce? Or is the whole story
  doubtful?

  [82] Napier, _Peninsular War_, iv. p. 38.

  [83] See letter printed in Belmas, iv. p. 248.

The most astounding feature of the capitulation was that Navarro got
his officers to consent to such a piece of open treachery. If they had
done their duty, they would have arrested him, and sent him a prisoner
to Alicante. Demoralization and despair must have gone very far in this
miserable garrison.

The capture of Peniscola was Suchet’s last success. He fell sick
not long after, and when he once more assumed the active command
of his troops in April, the whole situation of French affairs in
Spain was changed, and no further advance was possible. The results
of Wellington’s offensive operations in the West had begun to make
themselves felt.

Meanwhile the remains of the Valencian and Murcian armies were
reorganizing themselves, with Alicante as their base and central port
of supply. Joseph O’Donnell, though not a great general, was at least
no worse than Blake and Mahy--of whom the former was certainly the most
maladroit as well as the most unlucky of commanders, while the latter
had shown himself too timid and resourceless to play out the apparently
lost game that was left to his hand in January 1812. By March there was
once more an army in face of the French, and in view of the sudden halt
of the invaders and the cheerful news from the West, hope was once more
permissible. The main body of O’Donnell’s army remained concentrated
in front of Alicante, but Villacampa’s division had gone off early to
Aragon, to aid in the diversion against Suchet’s communications, which
was so constantly kept up by Duran and the Empecinado. This was a good
move: the weak point of the French occupation was the impossibility
of holding down broad mountain spaces, in which small garrisons were
useless and helpless, while heavy columns could not live for more than
a few days on any given spot.



SECTION XXXI

MINOR CAMPAIGNS OF THE WINTER OF 1811-12


CHAPTER I

CATALONIA AND ARAGON


The chronicle of the obstinate and heroic defence made by the Catalans,
even after the falls of Tarragona and Figueras had seemed to make all
further resistance hopeless, was carried in the last volume of this
work down to October 28, 1811, when Marshal Macdonald, like St. Cyr and
Augereau, was recalled to Paris, having added no more to his reputation
than had his predecessors while in charge of this mountainous
principality. We have seen how General Lacy, hoping against hope,
rallied the last remnants of the old Catalan army, and recommenced
(just as Macdonald was departing) a series of small enterprises against
the scattered French garrisons. He had won several petty successes
in evicting the enemy from Cervera, Igualada, and Belpuig--the small
strongholds which covered the main line of communication east and west,
through the centre of the land, between Lerida and Barcelona. The enemy
had even been forced to evacuate the holy mountain of Montserrat, the
strongest post on the whole line.

Hence when, in November, General Decaen arrived to take over
Macdonald’s task, he found before him a task not without serious
difficulties, though the actual force of Spaniards in the field was far
less than it had been before the disasters at Tarragona and Figueras.
Lacy had a very small field army--he had reorganized 8,000 men by
October, and all through his command the total did not grow very much
greater. When he handed over his office to Copons fifteen months after,
there were no more than 14,000 men under arms, including cadres and
recruits. On the other hand he had a central position, a free range
east and west, now that the line of French posts across Catalonia had
been broken, and several points of more or less safe access to the sea.
Munitions and stores, and occasionally very small reinforcements from
the Balearic Isles, were still brought over by the British squadron
which ranged along the coast. Some of the officers, especially the much
tried and never-despairing Eroles, and the indefatigable Manso, were
thoroughly to be relied upon, and commanded great local popularity.
This Lacy himself did not possess--he was obeyed because of his stern
resolve, but much disliked for his autocratic and dictatorial ways,
which kept him in constant friction with the Junta that sat at Berga.
Moreover he was a stranger, while the Catalans disliked all leaders who
were not of their own blood: and he was strongly convinced that the
brunt of the fighting must be borne by the regular troops, while the
popular voice was all in favour of the _somatenes_ and guerrilleros,
and against the enforcement of conscription. Much was to be said on
either side: the warfare of the irregulars was very harassing to the
French, and had led to many petty successes, and one great one--the
capture of Figueras. On the other hand these levies were irresponsible
and untrustworthy when any definite operation was in hand: they might,
or they might not, turn up in force when they were required: the frank
disregard of their chiefs for punctuality or obedience drove to wild
rage any officer who had served in the old army. With regular troops
it was possible to calculate that a force would be where it was wanted
to be at a given time, and would at least attempt to carry out its
orders: with the _somatenes_ it was always possible, nay probable,
that some petty quarrel of rival chiefs, or some rival attraction of
an unforeseen sort, would lead to non-appearance. To this there was
the easy reply that ever since Blake first tried to make the Catalans
work ‘_militarmente_ and not _paisanmente_’ the regular army for some
two years had never gained a single battle, nor relieved a single
fortress[84]. The best plan would probably have been to attempt to
combine the two systems: it was absolutely necessary to have a nucleus
of regular troops, but unwise to act like Blake and Lacy, who tried
to break up and discourage the _somatenes_, in order that they might
be forced into the battalions of the standing army. The constant
series of defeats on record had been caused rather by the unskilful
and over-ambitious operations of the generals than by their insisting
on keeping up the regular troops, who had behaved well enough on many
occasions. But too much had been asked of them when, half-trained
and badly led, they were brought into collision with the veterans of
France, without the superiority of numbers which alone could make up
for their military faults.

  [84] See notes on discussions of this sort in Sir Edward
  Codrington’s _Memoirs_, i. pp. 264 and 277. He had seen much of
  the evils of both kinds of organization, and leaned on the whole
  to the irregulars, from a personal dislike for Lacy.

Since the capture of Cervera, Belpuig, and Igualada in October, the
territories held by the French in Catalonia fell into two separate and
divided sections. On the western side, adjacent to Aragon, Frère’s
division, left behind by Suchet, garrisoned Lerida, Tarragona, and
Tortosa: though it was a powerful force of over 7,000 men, it could
do little more than occupy these three large places, each requiring
several battalions. At the best it could only furnish very small
flying columns to keep up the communication between them. It was hard
to maintain touch with the other group of French fortresses, along
the sea-coast road from Tarragona to Barcelona, which were often
obsessed by Spanish bands, and always liable to be molested by Edward
Codrington’s British ships, which sailed up and down the shore looking
for detachments or convoys to shell. The fort of the Col de Balaguer,
twenty miles north of Tortosa, was the look-out point towards Tarragona
and the sole French outpost in that direction.

In eastern Catalonia the newly-arrived commander, General Decaen (a
veteran whose last work had been the hopeless defence of Bourbon and
Mauritius, where he had capitulated in 1810), had some 24,000 men in
hand. But he was much hampered by the necessity for holding and feeding
the immense Barcelona, a turbulent city which absorbed a whole division
for its garrison. It was constantly on the edge of starvation, and was
only revictualled with great trouble by vessels sailing from the ports
of Languedoc, of which more than half were habitually captured by the
British, or by heavy convoys labouring across the hills from Gerona,
which were always harassed, and sometimes taken wholesale, by the
Spanish detachments told off by Lacy for this end. Gerona and Figueras,
both fortresses of considerable size, absorbed several battalions each.
Smaller garrisons had also to be kept in Rosas, Hostalrich, Mataro,
and Montlouis, and there were many other fortified posts which guarded
roads or passes, and were worth holding. It was with difficulty that
6,000 or 8,000 men could be collected for a movable field-force, even
by borrowing detachments from the garrisons. An additional nuisance
cropped up just as Decaen took over the command: Lacy, seeing that the
Pyrenean passes were thinly manned, sent Eroles with 3,000 men to raid
the valleys of Cerdagne on the French side of the hills. The invaders
beat two battalions of national guards near Puigcerda, and swept far
down the valley (October 29-November 2), returning with thousands
of sheep and cattle and a large money contribution levied from the
villages. This raid (which enraged Napoleon[85]) made it necessary to
guard the Pyrenees better, and to send up more national guards from the
frontier departments.

  [85] Who called the raid an ‘insult’--Napoleon to Berthier,
  Paris, Feb. 29, 1812, and compare letter of March 8.

Thus it came to pass that though Lacy had no more than 8,000 men
available, and no fortress of any strength to serve as his base
(Cardona and Seu d’Urgel, his sole strongholds, were mediaeval
strongholds with no modern works), he paralysed the French force
which, between Lerida and Figueras, could show more than three times
that strength. Such was the value of the central position, and the
resolute hatred of the countryside for its oppressors. Catalonia could
only be held down by garrisoning every village--and if the army of
occupation split itself up into garrisons it was helpless. Hence,
during the winter of 1811-12 and the spring and summer of the following
year, it may be said that the initiative lay with the Catalans, and
that the enemy (despite of his immensely superior numbers) was on the
defensive. The helplessness of the French was sufficiently shown by
the fact that from June to December 1811 Barcelona was completely cut
off from communication with Gerona and France. It was only in the
latter month that Decaen, hearing that the place was on the edge of
starvation, marched with the bulk of Lamarque’s division from Upper
Catalonia to introduce a convoy; while Maurice Mathieu, the governor of
Barcelona, came out with 3,000 men of the garrison to meet him, as far
as Cardadeu. Lacy, determined that nothing short of a vigorous push by
the enemy should make their junction possible, and relieve Barcelona,
offered opposition in the defile of the Trentapassos, where Vives had
tried to stop St. Cyr two years back, showing a front both to Decaen
and to Mathieu. But on recognizing the very superior numbers of the
enemy he wisely withdrew, or he would have been caught between the two
French columns. Decaen therefore was able to enter Barcelona with his
immense convoy. [December 3rd-4th, 1811.] The Spaniards retreated into
the inland; their headquarters on the first day of the New Year were at
Vich.

There being no further profit in pressing Barcelona for the time being,
Lacy, in January, resolved to turn his attention to the much weaker
garrison of Tarragona, which belonged to Frère’s division and Suchet’s
army, and was not under Decaen’s immediate charge. Its communications
with Lerida and Tortosa were hazardous, and its stores were running
low. The Spanish general therefore (about January 2) sent down Eroles’s
division to Reus, a few miles inland from Tarragona, with orders to
cut all the roads leading into that fortress. The place was already
in a parlous condition for want of food, and its governor had sent
representations to Suchet that he was in need of instant succour.
Therefore the moment that Valencia fell, the Marshal directed Musnier,
whose division he had told off to hold the sea-coast between the Ebro
and Guadalaviar, to march with the bulk of his men to Tortosa, to pick
up what reinforcements he could from its garrison, and to open the road
from thence to Tarragona.

Lafosse, the governor of Tortosa, was so impressed with the danger of
his colleague in Tarragona, that he marched ahead along the coast-road
before Musnier arrived, and reached the Col de Balaguer with a
battalion of the 121st regiment and one troop of dragoons on January
18. Here he should have waited for the main column, but receiving false
news that Eroles had left Reus and returned to the north, he resolved
to push on ahead and clear the way for Musnier, believing that nothing
but local _somatenes_ were in front of him. He had reached Villaseca,
only seven miles from Tarragona, when he was suddenly surprised
by Eroles descending on his flank with over 3,000 men. He himself
galloped on with the dragoons towards Tarragona, and escaped, with only
twenty-two men, into the fortress. But his battalion, after barricading
itself in Villaseca village and making a good resistance for some
hours, was forced to surrender. Eroles took nearly 600 prisoners, and
over 200 French had fallen. Lafosse, sallying from Tarragona with all
that could be spared from the garrison, arrived too late to help his
men, and had to return in haste [January 19][86].

  [86] There is an interesting account of the combat of Villaseca
  in Codrington’s _Memoirs_, i. pp. 254-6: he was present, having
  chanced to come on shore to confer with Eroles as to co-operation
  against Tarragona. An odd episode of the affair was that, when
  the French surrendered, they were found to have with them as
  prisoners Captains Flinn and Pringle, R.N., whom they had
  surprised landing at Cape Salou on the previous day.

Tarragona now seemed in imminent danger, and both Musnier at Tortosa
and Maurice Mathieu at Barcelona saw that they must do their best to
relieve the place, or it would be starved out. Musnier spent so much
time in organizing a convoy that he was late, and the actual opening
of the road was carried out by the governor of Barcelona. That great
city chanced to be crammed with troops at the moment, since Lamarque’s
division, which had escorted the December convoy, was still lying
within its walls. Maurice Mathieu, therefore, was able to collect 8,000
men for the march on Tarragona. Eroles, unfortunately for himself, was
not aware of this, and believing that the enemy was a mere sally of
the Barcelona garrison, offered them battle at Altafulla on January
24. The French had marched by night, and a fog chanced to prevent
the Catalans from recognizing the strength of the two columns that
were approaching them. Eroles found himself committed to a close
fight with double his own numbers, and after a creditable resistance
was routed, losing his only two guns and the rearguard with which he
tried to detain the enemy. His troops only escaped by breaking up and
flying over the hills, in what a French eye-witness described as _un
sauve-qui-peut général_. About 600 of them in all were slain or taken:
the rest assembled at Igualada three days later. Eroles blamed Lacy
and Sarsfield for his disaster, asserting that the Captain-General
had promised to send the division of the latter to his help. But his
anger appears to have been misplaced, for at this very time Decaen,
to make a division in favour of Maurice Mathieu’s movement, had sent
out two columns from Gerona and Figueras into Upper Catalonia. They
occupied Vich, Lacy’s recent head-quarters, on January 22, two days
before the combat of Altafulla, and Sarsfield’s troops were naturally
sent to oppose them. After wasting the upper valleys, Decaen drew
back to Gerona and Olot on the 29th, having sufficiently achieved his
purpose. Tarragona, meanwhile, was thoroughly revictualled by Musnier,
who brought up a large convoy from Tortosa. Reinforcements were also
thrown into the place, and a new governor, General Bertoletti, who was
to distinguish himself by a spirited defence in the following year.

In February the whole situation of affairs in Aragon and western
Catalonia (eastern Catalonia was less affected), was much modified by
the return from the south of the numerous troops which had been lent
to Suchet for his Valencian expedition. It will be remembered that
Napoleon had ordered that Reille should march back to the Ebro with his
own and Severoli’s divisions, and that shortly afterwards he directed
that Palombini’s division should follow the other two into Aragon. Thus
a very large body of troops was once more available for the subjection
of Aragon and western Catalonia, which, since Reille’s departure in
December, had been very inadequately garrisoned by Caffarelli’s and
Frère’s battalions, and had been overrun in many districts by the bands
of the Empecinado, Duran, Mina, and the Conde de Montijo. Napoleon’s
new plan was to rearrange the whole of the troops in eastern Spain.

[Illustration: CATALONIA]

Reille was to be the chief of a new ‘Army of the Ebro,’ composed of
four field divisions--his own, Palombini’s and Severoli’s Italians, and
a new composite one under General Ferino constructed from so many of
Frère’s troops as could be spared from garrison duty (seven battalions
of the 14th and 115th of the line), and six more battalions (1st Léger
and 5th of the line) taken half from Musnier’s division of Suchet’s
army and half from Maurice Mathieu’s Barcelona garrison[87]. This
last division never came into existence, as Suchet and Maurice Mathieu
both found themselves too weak to give up the requisitioned regiments,
which remained embodied respectively with the Valencian and Catalan
armies. Nevertheless Reille had more than 20,000 men actually in hand,
not including the fixed garrisons of Tarragona, Lerida, and the other
fortresses on the borders of Aragon and Catalonia. This, when it is
remembered that Caffarelli was still holding the Saragossa district,
seemed an adequate force with which to make an end of the guerrilleros
of Aragon, and then to complete, in conjunction with Decaen’s Corps,
the subjection of inland Catalonia. For this last operation was to be
the final purpose of Reille: while Decaen was to attack Lacy from the
eastern side, Reille (with Lerida as his base) was to fall on from the
west, to occupy Urgel and Berga (the seat of the Catalan Junta and the
centre of organized resistance), and to join hands with Decaen across
the crushed remnants of the Spanish army[88]. So sure did the Emperor
feel that the last elements of Catalan resistance were now to be
destroyed, that he gave orders for the issue of the proclamation (drawn
up long before[89]) by which the Principality was declared to be united
to the French empire. It was to be divided into the four departments
of the Ter [capital Gerona], Montserrat [capital Barcelona],
Bouches-de-l’Ebre [capital Lerida], and Segre [capital Puigcerda].
Prefects and other officials were appointed for each department, and
justice was to be administered in the name of the Emperor. The humour
of the arrangement (which its creator most certainly failed to see) was
that three-fourths of the territory of each department was in the hands
of the patriots whom he styled rebels, and that none of his prefects
could have gone ten miles from his _chef-lieu_ without an escort of 200
men, under pain of captivity or death.

  [87] Napoleon to Berthier, Paris, Jan. 25, after the receipt of
  the news of the fall of Valencia.

  [88] Details may be found in the dispatches of Feb. 29, and May
  1st and 8th.

  [89] See vol. iv. p. 215.

Reille’s start was much delayed by the fact that one of his French
brigades had been told off to serve as escort to the mass of Blake’s
prisoners from Valencia, and could not get quit of them till, marching
by Teruel, it had handed them over for transference beyond the Pyrenees
to the garrison of Saragossa. Of his two Italian divisions, Palombini’s
was instructed to devote itself to the clearing of southern Aragon,
and the opening up of the communications between the French garrisons
of Daroca, Teruel, and Calatayud. The other, Severoli’s, called off
from the siege of Peniscola, which had originally been entrusted to
it[90], marched for Lerida in two columns, the one by the sea-coast and
Tortosa, the other inland, by way of Morella and Mequinenza. When his
troops had begun to concentrate on the borders of Aragon and Catalonia,
in and about Lerida, Reille began operations by sending a column, one
French brigade and one Italian regiment, to attack the ubiquitous
Eroles, who, since his defeat at Altafulla a month before, had betaken
himself to the inland, and the rough country along the valleys of the
two Nogueras, with the object of covering Catalonia on its western
front.

  [90] See above, p. 88.

This expedition, entrusted to the French brigadier Bourke, ended in
an unexpected check: Eroles offered battle with 3,000 men in a strong
position at Roda, with a torrent bed covering his front (March 5).
Bourke, having far superior numbers, and not aware of the tenacity of
the Catalan troops, whom he had never before encountered, ordered a
general frontal attack by battalions of the 60th French and 7th Italian
line. It was handsomely repulsed, with such heavy loss--600 casualties
it is said--that the French retreated as far as Barbastro, pursued for
some distance by the troops of Eroles, who thus showed that their late
disaster had not impaired their morale[91]. This was a most glorious
day for the Baron, one of the few leaders of real capacity whom the
war in Catalonia revealed. He had been a civilian in 1808, and had to
learn the elements of military art under chiefs as incapable as Blake
and Campoverde. From a miquelete chief he rose to be a general in the
regular army, purely by the force of his unconquerable pertinacity and
a courage which no disasters could break. As a local patriot he had an
advantage in dealing with his Catalan countrymen, which strangers like
Reding, Blake, Lacy, or Sarsfield never possessed, and their confidence
was never betrayed. A little active man of great vivacity, generally
with a cigar in the corner of his mouth, and never long still, he
was not only a good leader of irregular bands, but quite capable of
understanding a strategical move, and of handling a division in a
serious action. His self-abnegation during his service under chiefs
whose plans were often unwise, and whose authority was often exercised
in a galling fashion, was beyond all praise[92].

  [91] The exact loss is uncertain, but Bourke himself was wounded,
  and Martinien’s lists show 15 other casualties among French and
  Italian officers: Vacani (vi. p. 65) says that the 7th Italian
  line alone lost 15 killed and 57 wounded. A loss of 16 officers
  implies _at least_ 300 men hit.

  [92] For numerous anecdotes of Eroles and lively pictures of his
  doings the reader may refer to the Memoirs of Edward Codrington,
  with whom he so often co-operated.

The check at Roda forced Reille to turn aside more troops against
Eroles--practically the whole of Severoli’s division was added to
the column which had just been defeated, and on March 13th such a
force marched against him that he was compelled to retire, drawing
his pursuers after him toward the upper course of the Noguera, and
ultimately to seek refuge in the wilds of Talarn among the foot-hills
of the higher Pyrenees. His operations with a trifling force paralysed
nearly half Reille’s army during two critical months of the spring of
1812. Meanwhile, covered by his demonstration, Sarsfield executed a
destructive raid across the French border, overran the valleys beyond
Andorra, and exacted a ransom of 70,000 dollars from Foix, the chief
town of the department of the Arriège (February 19). This was the best
possible reply to Napoleon’s recent declaration that Catalonia had
become French soil. The Emperor was naturally enraged; he reiterated
his orders to Reille to ‘déloger les insurgents: il n’est que trop
vrai qu’ils se nourrissent de France’--’il faut mettre un terme à ces
insultes [93].’ But though Reille pushed his marches far into the
remote mountainous districts where the borders of Aragon and Catalonia
meet, he never succeeded in destroying the bands which he was set to
hunt down: a trail of burnt villages marked his course, but it had
no permanent result. The inhabitants descended from the hills, to
reoccupy their fields and rebuild their huts, when he had passed by,
and the insurgents were soon prowling again near the forts of Lerida,
Barbastro, and Monzon.

  [93] Napoleon to Berthier, March 8th, 1812.

Palombini in southern Aragon had equally unsatisfactory experiences.
Coming up from Valencia by the high-road, he had reached Teruel on
February 19th, and, after relieving and strengthening the garrison
there, set out on a circular sweep, with the intention of hunting down
Gayan and Duran--the Conde de Montijo had just returned to the Murcian
army at this moment[94], while the Empecinado was out of the game for
some weeks, being, as we shall presently see, busy in New Castile.
But the movements of the Italian general were soon complicated by the
fact that Villacampa, with the remnants of his division, had started
from the neighbourhood of Alicante and Murcia much at the same time as
himself, to seek once more his old haunts in Aragon. This division had
given a very poor account of itself while serving as regular troops
under Blake, but when it returned to its native mountains assumed a
very different efficiency in the character of a large guerrilla band.
Appearing at first only 2,000 strong, it recruited itself up to a much
greater strength from local levies, and became no mean hindrance to
Palombini’s operations.

  [94] Apparently about the same time that Villacampa and his
  division came up to replace him in Aragon.

On the 29th of February the Italian general relieved Daroca, and a few
days later he occupied Calatayud, which had been left ungarrisoned
since the disaster of the previous October[95]. After fortifying the
convent of Nostra Señora de la Peña as a new citadel for this place,
he split up his division into several small columns, which scoured the
neighbourhood, partly to sweep in provisions for the post at Calatayud,
partly to drive off the guerrilleros of the region. But to risk small
detachments in Aragon was always a dangerous business; Villacampa, who
had now come up from the south, cut off one body of 200 men at Campillo
on March 5, and destroyed six companies at Pozohondon on the 28th of
the same month. Taught prudence by these petty disasters, and by some
less successful attacks on others of his flying columns, Palombini once
more drew his men together, and concentrated them in the upland plain
of Hused near Daroca. From thence he made another blow at Villacampa,
who was at the same time attacked in the rear by a column sent up
by Suchet from Valencia to Teruel. The Spaniard, however, easily
avoided the attempt to surround him, and retired without much loss or
difficulty into the wild Sierra de Albarracin (April 18th). Meanwhile,
seeing Palombini occupied in hunting Villacampa, the guerrillero Gayan
made a dash at the new garrison of Calatayud, and entering the city
unexpectedly captured the governor and sixty men, but failed to reduce
the fortified convent in which the rest of the Italians took refuge
[April 29th]. He then sat down to besiege them, though he had no guns,
and could work by mines alone: but Palombini soon sent a strong column
under the brigadiers Saint Paul and Schiazzetti, who drove off Gayan
and relieved Calatayud [May 9th].

  [95] See above, page 21.

Nevertheless three months had now gone by since the attempt to reduce
southern Aragon began, and it was now obvious that it had been wholly
unsuccessful. The hills and great part of the upland plains were still
in the possession of the Spaniards, who had been often hunted but never
caught nor seriously mishandled. Palombini owned nothing more than the
towns which he had garrisoned, and the spot on which his head-quarters
chanced for the moment to be placed. His strength was not sufficient
to enable him to occupy every village, and without such occupation
no conquest could take place. Moreover the time was at hand when
Wellington’s operations in the West were to shake the fabric of French
power all over Spain--even in the remote recesses of the Aragonese
Sierras. Palombini was to be drawn off in July to join the Army of the
Centre and to oppose the English. And with his departure such hold as
the French possessed on the rugged region between Calatayud, Saragossa,
and Teruel was to disappear.

It will be noted that during these operations of the spring no mention
has been made of the Empecinado, who had been so prominent in this
quarter during the preceding autumn and winter. This chief was now
at the bottom of his fortunes: raiding in New Castile after his
accustomed fashion, he had been completely defeated by General Guy
and a column of King Joseph’s army near Siguenza (February 7). He lost
1,000 men, only saved his own person by throwing himself down an almost
impracticable cliff, and saw his whole force dispersed. This affair
is said to have been the result of treachery: one of the Empecinado’s
lieutenants, a certain guerrillero leader named Albuir (better known
as El Manco from having lost a hand) being taken prisoner a few days
before, saved his neck by betraying his chief’s position and plans:
hence the surprise. El Manco entered the King’s service and raised a
‘counter-guerrilla’ band, with which he did considerable harm for a
space. The Empecinado had only collected 600 men even by April, when he
joined Villacampa and aided him in a raid round Guadalajara[96].

  [96] For all this see Schepeler, pp. 570-1; King Joseph’s Letters
  (Ducasse), viii. pp. 291 and 305; and Toreno, iii. pp. 81-2.

Mina, on the other hand, the greatest of all the partisans, was doing
some of his best service to the cause of liberty during the early
months of 1812. This was the period when he was conducting his bloody
campaign of reprisals against Abbé, the governor of Navarre, who had
published in December 1811 the celebrated proclamation which not only
prohibited any quarter for guerrilleros, but made their families
and villages responsible for them, and authorized the execution of
‘hostages’ levied on them, as well as the infliction of crushing fines.
Mina replied by the formal declaration of a ‘war of extermination
against all French without distinction of rank,’ and started the system
of shooting four prisoners for every Spaniard, soldier or civilian,
executed by the enemy. This he actually carried out for some months,
till the French proclamation was withdrawn. The most horrid incident
of this reign of terror was the shooting by the French, on March 21,
of the four members of the ‘insurrectional junta’ of the province
of Burgos, all magistrates and civilians, whom they had captured in
a raid, and the counter-execution of eighty French soldiers by the
Curate Merino, one of Mina’s colleagues, a few days later. This time of
atrocities ended shortly after, when Abbé withdrew his proclamation and
Mina followed his example.

On the departure of Reille’s troops from Valencia it will be
remembered that one of his French brigades, that of Pannetier, had
been sent as escort to the captive Spaniards of Blake’s army. While
the remainder of the new ‘Army of the Ebro’ went off in the direction
of Lerida, as has already been seen, this brigade was turned aside
against Mina. Dorsenne at the same time directed the greater part
of his available field-force to join in the hunt, and all such of
Caffarelli’s troops as were not shut up in garrisons were told off for
the same purpose. These detachments, when added to the normal force
of occupation in Navarre and Biscay, made up in all some 30,000 men.
Divided into many columns, each of which was strong enough to face
the 3,000 or 4,000 irregulars under Mina’s command, they endeavoured
to converge upon him, and to enclose him within the net of their
operations. The chase was very hot in March: on the first of that month
Caffarelli invaded the remote Pyrenean valley of Roncal, where it had
been discovered that Mina kept his dépôts, his ammunition factory, and
his hospitals. The valley was swept clean, but no appreciable number
of the guerrilleros were captured. On the 24th, however, it looked as
if disaster was impending, as three columns under Abbé, Dumoustier
(who had a brigade of the Young Guard), and Laferrière had succeeded
in disposing themselves around Mina’s main body, between Sanguessa and
Ochagavia. The guerrillero, however, saved himself by a night march
of incredible difficulty across impracticable hills, and got away
into Aragon. He was lost to sight, and was believed to have been too
harassed to be formidable for many a day.

Such was not the true state of affairs. Mina at once came back to his
old haunts, by a circuitous march through southern Navarre, and on
April 9th performed one of his most notable exploits. On that day he
surprised an immense convoy of convalescents, civilians, baggage, and
food-stuffs, which was marching from Vittoria to Mondragon, in the
Pass of Salinas (or Puerto de Arlaban). Though escorted by 2,000 men
(including the whole of the 7th Polish regiment just drawn off from
Soult for the Russian war), it was completely destroyed. Five hundred
of the Poles were slain, 150 captured, and an enormous booty, including
(it is said) several hundred thousand francs in cash, fell into Mina’s
hands. He also delivered 450 Spanish prisoners, who were being
conducted to captivity beyond the Pyrenees.

Such an exploit naturally drew down once more upon Mina the attention
of all the neighbouring French commanders: Dorsenne and Reille again
sent columns to aid the governor of Navarre, and from the 23rd to
the 28th of April Mina was being hunted by powerful detachments
converging on him from all sides[97]. He himself was very nearly
captured at Robres by General Pannetier--who surprised him at dawn,
helped by treachery on the part of a subordinate guerrillero chief,
and dispersed his followers for the moment[98]. But all who were not
slain or captured rallied around their indomitable leader, and followed
him in a hazardous retreat, in which he threaded his way between the
converging columns of the French and ultimately escaped to the Rioja.
He asserts in his Memoirs, and with truth, that he was at this time of
the highest service to Wellington’s main operations, since he attracted
and detained beyond the Ebro such a large proportion of Dorsenne’s Army
of the North, that in April and May it had not a man to spare to help
Marmont. Even Dumoustier’s Guard division, under orders to return to
France for the Russian war, was put into the pack of pursuers who tried
in vain to hunt him down.

  [97] There seems to be an error of dates in Napier, iv. p. 172,
  concerning Mina’s operations, as the surprise of the convoy at
  Salinas is put _after_ Mina’s escape from Pannetier at Robres.
  But Mina’s own Memoirs fix the date of the latter as April 23rd,
  1812, while the former certainly happened on April 7th. Toreno
  (iii. p. 87) has got the sequence right.

  [98] There is a curious and interesting account of this in Mina’s
  own Memoirs, pp. 31-2, where he relates his narrow escape,
  and tells how he had the pleasure of hanging his treacherous
  lieutenant, and three local alcaldes, who had conspired to keep
  from him the news of Pannetier’s approach.

To sum up the results of all the operations in Catalonia, Aragon,
and Navarre, which followed on the release of Reille’s troops from
the Valencian expedition, it may be said that Napoleon’s scheme for
the complete reduction of north-eastern Spain had completely failed
by April. Large forces had been put in motion; toilsome marches had
been executed over many mountain roads in the worst season of the
year; all the bands of the insurgents had been more than once defeated
and dispersed. But the country-side was not conquered: the isolated
garrisons were still cut off from each other by the enemy, wherever
the heavy marching columns had passed on. The communications were no
more safe and free than they had been in December. The loss of men
by sickness and in the innumerable petty combats and disasters had
been immense. The game had yet to be finished, and the spare time in
which it could be conducted was drawing to an end. For Wellington was
on the march, and ere long not a man from the Armies of the North or
the Centre was to be available to aid Reille, Suchet, and Decaen in
their unending and ungrateful task. Gone, too, were the days in which
reserves without end could be poured in from France: the Russian war
was about to open, and when once it began reinforcements were to be
drawn from Spain rather than sent into it. The invasion had reached
its high-water mark in January 1812 before the walls of Valencia and
Alicante.



SECTION XXXI: CHAPTER II

OPERATIONS OF SOULT IN ANDALUSIA: THE SIEGE OF TARIFA, DEC. 1811-JAN.
1812


In the south-west no less than in the south-east of Spain the month
of January 1812 was to witness the last offensive movement of the
French armies of invasion. But while Suchet’s advance ended, as we
have seen, in a splendid success, that of Soult was to meet with a
disastrous check. Neither marshal was to have another chance of taking
the initiative--thanks, directly or indirectly, to the working out of
Wellington’s great plan of campaign for the New Year.

In the previous volume the fortunes of Soult and the Army of Andalusia
were narrated down to the first days of November 1811, when Hill’s raid
into Estremadura, after the surprise of Arroyo dos Molinos, ended with
his retreat within the borders of Portugal. That raid had inflicted
a severe blow on Drouet’s corps of observation, which formed Soult’s
right wing, and covered his communications with Badajoz. But its net
result was only to restrict the activities of the French on this side
to that part of Estremadura which lies south of the Guadiana. Hill
had made no attempt to drive away Drouet’s main body, or to blockade
Badajoz, and had betaken himself to winter quarters about Elvas,
Portalegre, and Estremos. Consequently Drouet was able to settle
down opposite him once more, in equally widespread cantonments, with
his right wing at Merida, and his left at Zafra, and to devote his
attention to sending successive convoys forward to Badajoz, whenever
the stores in that fortress showed signs of running low. Drouet’s
force no longer bore the name of the ‘5th Corps’--all the old corps
distinctions were abolished in the Southern Army this autumn, and no
organization larger than that of the divisions was permitted to remain.
The troops in Estremadura were simply for the future Drouet’s and
Daricau’s divisions of the ‘Armée du Midi.’ The composition of this
‘containing force,’ whose whole purpose was now to observe Hill, was
somewhat changed after midwinter: for the Emperor sent orders that the
34th and 40th regiments, the victims of Girard’s carelessness at Arroyo
dos Molinos, were to be sent home to France to recruit their much
depleted ranks. They duly left Drouet, and marched off northward[99],
but they never got further than Burgos, where Dorsenne detained them
at a moment of need, so that they became attached to the ‘Army of
the North,’ and (after receiving some drafts) were involved in the
operations against Wellington in the valley of the Douro. Two regiments
from Andalusia (the 12th Léger and 45th Line) came up to replace them
in Drouet’s division, but even then the French troops in Estremadura
did not exceed 13,500 men, if the garrison of Badajoz (about 5,000
strong) be deducted. This constituted a field-force insufficient to
hold back Hill when next he should take the offensive; but all through
November and far into December Hill remained quiescent, by Wellington’s
orders, and his adversary clung to his advanced positions as long as he
could, though much disturbed as to what the future might bring forth.

  [99] Napoleon to Berthier, Dec. 30, 1811, speaks of the order
  to march having been _already_ given. The two regiments were
  in Castile by March: when precisely they left Drouet I cannot
  say--perhaps as late as February.

Of the remainder of Soult’s army, the troops in front of Cadiz,
originally the 1st Corps, had been cut down to an irreducible minimum,
by the necessity for keeping flank-guards to either side, to watch the
Spanish forces in the Condado de Niebla on the west and the mountains
of Ronda on the south. Even including the marines and sailors of the
flotilla, there were seldom 20,000 men in the Lines, and the Spanish
force in Cadiz and the Isle of Leon, stiffened by the Anglo-Portuguese
detachment which Wellington always retained there, was often not
inferior in numbers to the besiegers. The bombardment from the heavy
Villoutreys mortars, placed in the works of the Matagorda peninsula,
continued intermittently: but, though a shell occasionally fell in
the city, no appreciable harm was done. The inhabitants killed or
injured by many months of shelling could be counted on the fingers of
two hands. The citizens had come to take the occasional descent of a
missile in their streets with philosophic calm, and sang a derisive
street ditty which told how

    ‘De las bombas que tiran los Gavachos
    Se hacen las Gaditanas tirabuzones.’

‘The splinters of the bombs that the French threw served the ladies of
Cadiz as weights to curl their hair[100].’

  [100] See Schepeler, p. 172.

The Fort of Puntales, on the easternmost point of the isthmus that
links Cadiz to the Isle of Leon, felt the bombardment more severely,
but was never seriously injured, and always succeeded in keeping up
an effective return fire. With the artillery of those days--even when
mortars of the largest calibre, specially cast in the arsenal of
Seville, were used--Cadiz was safe from any real molestation.

Marshal Victor was still in command of the troops in the Lines at the
end of 1811, but the Emperor gave orders for his return to France,
when he ordered the Army of Andalusia to drop its organization into
army-corps, and replaced them by divisions. He directed that the
Marshal should set out at once, unless he was engaged in some serious
enterprise at the moment that the summons arrived. This--as we shall
see--chanced to be the case, and Victor was still hard at work in
January, and did not leave Spain till early in April.

The third main section of Soult’s troops consisted of the two infantry
and one cavalry divisions which had lately formed the 4th Corps, and
had, since their first arrival in the South, been told off for the
occupation of the kingdom of Granada. The whole of the coast and the
inland from Malaga as far as Baza fell to their charge. The corps had
been a strong one--16,000 foot and 4,000 horse--but was shortly to be
reduced; the order of December 30, recalling troops for the expected
Russian war, took off the whole Polish infantry division of Dembouski,
5,000 bayonets: the regiment of Lancers of the Vistula, who had won
such fame by their charge at Albuera, was also requisitioned, but did
not get off till the autumn. But in the last month of the old year
the Poles were still present and available, and Soult was far from
expecting their departure. Yet even before they were withdrawn the
garrison of the kingdom of Granada was by no means too strong for the
work allotted to it. The greater part of its available field-force
had been drawn to the south-west, to curb the insurrection of the
_Serranos_ of the Ronda mountains, and the inroads of Ballasteros.
The forces left in Granada itself and the other eastern towns were so
modest that Soult protested, and apparently with truth, that he could
not spare from them even a small flying column of all arms, to make the
demonstration against Murcia in assistance of Suchet’s operations which
the Emperor ordered him to execute. Nothing, as it will be remembered,
was done in this direction during December and January, save the
sending out of Pierre Soult’s raid[101], a mere affair of a single
cavalry brigade.

  [101] See above, p. 81.

The total force of the Andalusian army was still in December as high
as 80,000 men on paper. But after deducting the sick, the garrison
of Badajoz--5,000 men,--the troops of Drouet, entirely taken up with
observing and containing Hill, the divisions in the Lines before Cadiz,
and the obligatory garrisons of Granada, Malaga, Cordova, and other
large towns, the surplus left over for active operations was very
small. At the most ten or twelve thousand men, obtained by borrowing
from all sides, could be formed to act as a central reserve, prepared
to assist Drouet in Estremadura, Victor in the Cadiz region, or Leval
in the East, as occasion might demand. During the two crises when Soult
brought up his reserves to join Drouet, in the winter of 1811-12 and
the spring of 1812, their joint force did not exceed 25,000 men. The
Marshal was resolved to hold the complete circuit of Andalusia, the
viceroyalty which brought him so much pride and profit; and so long as
he persisted in this resolve he could make no offensive move, for want
of a field army of competent strength.

Soult made some effort to supplement the strength of his garrisons by
raising Spanish levies--both battalions and squadrons of regulars,
and units for local service in the style of urban guards. The former
‘Juramentados’ never reached any great strength: they were composed
of deserters, or prisoners who volunteered service in order to avoid
being sent to France. Occasionally there were as many as 5,000 under
arms--usually less. The men for the most part disappeared at the first
opportunity, and rejoined the national army or the guerrilleros: the
officers were less prone to abscond, because they were liable to
be shot as traitors on returning to their countrymen. Two or three
cases are recorded of such renegades who committed suicide, when they
saw themselves about to fall into the hands of Spanish troops[102].
The urban guards or ‘escopeteros’ were of a little more service,
for the reason that, being interested in the preservation of their
own families, goods, and houses, they would often prevent the entry
into their towns of any roving Spanish force which showed itself for
a moment. For if they admitted any small band, which went on its
way immediately, and could make no attempt to defend them on the
reappearance of the enemy, they were liable to be executed as traitors
by the French, and their town would be fined or perhaps sacked. Hence
it was to their interest, so long as Soult continued to dominate all
Andalusia, to keep the guerrilleros outside their walls. But their
service was, of course, unwilling; and they were usually ready to
yield on the appearance of any serious Spanish force, whose size was
sufficient to excuse their submission in the eyes of Soult. Often a
town was ostensibly held for King Joseph, but was privately supplying
recruits, provisions, and money contributions to the national cause.
Nevertheless there were real ‘Afrancesados’ in Andalusia, people who
had so far committed themselves to the cause of King Joseph that they
could not contemplate the triumph of the Patriots without terror. When
Soult evacuated Andalusia in September 1812 several thousand refugees
followed him, rather than face the vengeance of their countrymen.

  [102] One case is noted of a captain of the ‘Juramentado’
  detachment at Badajoz who blew himself from a gun when he saw
  the place taken (Lamare’s _Défense de Badajoz_, p. 260). Carlos
  de España shot the other five Spanish officers captured on that
  occasion (Belmas, iv. p. 362).

During the midwinter of 1811-12 Soult’s main attention was taken up by
a serious enterprise in the extreme south of his viceroyalty, which
absorbed all the spare battalions of his small central reserve, and
rendered it impossible for him to take the offensive in any other
direction. This was the attempt to crush Ballasteros, and to capture
Tarifa, which rendered his co-operation in Suchet’s Valencian campaign
impossible.

General Ballasteros, as it will be remembered, had landed from Cadiz
at Algeciras on September 4th, 1811, and had been much hunted during
the autumn by detachments drawn both from the troops in the kingdom of
Granada and those of Victor[103]. As many as 10,000 men were pressing
him in October, when he had been forced to take refuge under the cannon
of Gibraltar. But when want of food compelled the columns of Barrois,
Sémélé, and Godinot to withdraw and to disperse, he had emerged
from his refuge, had followed the retiring enemy, and had inflicted
some damage on their rearguards [November 5, 1811]. His triumphant
survival, after the first concentrated movement made against him, had
much provoked Soult, who saw the insurrectionary movement in southern
Andalusia spreading all along the mountains, and extending itself
towards Malaga on the one side and Arcos on the other. The Marshal,
therefore, determined to make a serious effort to crush Ballasteros,
and at the same time to destroy one of the two bases from which he was
wont to operate. Gibraltar was, of course, impregnable: but Tarifa, the
other fortress at the southern end of the Peninsula, was not, and had
proved from time to time very useful to the Spaniards. It was now their
only secure foothold in southern Andalusia, and was most useful as a
port of call for vessels going round from Cadiz to the Mediterranean,
especially for the large flotilla of British and Spanish sloops, brigs,
and gunboats, which obsessed the coast of Andalusia, and made the use
of routes by the seaside almost impracticable for the enemy. Soult
was at this time trying to open up communications with the Moors of
Tangier, from whom he hoped to get horses for his cavalry, and oxen for
the army before Cadiz. But he could not hope to accomplish anything
in this way so long as Tarifa was the nest and victualling-place of
privateers, who lay thick in the straits only a few miles from the
coast of Morocco.

  [103] See vol. iii. pp. 594-5.

The main reason for attacking Tarifa, however, was that it had recently
become the head-quarters of a small Anglo-Spanish field-force, which
had been molesting the rear of the lines before Cadiz. The place had
not been garrisoned in 1810, when Soult first broke into Andalusia:
but a few months after General Colin Campbell, governor of Gibraltar,
threw into it a small force, that same battalion of flank-companies
of the 9th, 28th, 30th, and 47th Foot, which distinguished itself so
much at Barrosa in the following year, when led by Colonel Brown of the
28th. This hard fighter had moved on with his regiment later in 1811,
but his place had been taken by Major King of the 82nd--a one-legged
officer of great energy and resolution[104]. The garrison was trifling
down to October 1811, when General Campbell threw into Tarifa a brigade
under Colonel Skerrett, consisting of the 2/47th and 2/87th, and some
details[105], making (with the original garrison) 1,750 British troops.
Three days later the Spaniards sent in from Cadiz another brigade[106]
of about the same strength, under General Copons. After the French
expedition against Ballasteros had failed, Copons and Skerrett went
out and drove from Vejer the southernmost outposts of Victor’s corps
in the Lines (November 6th). A fortnight later they marched across the
hills to Algeciras, and prepared to join Ballasteros in an attack on
the French troops in the direction of Ronda, but returned to Tarifa
on the news that Victor was showing a considerable force at Vejer,
and threatening to cut them off from their base[107]. Ballasteros by
himself was a sufficient nuisance to Soult, but when his operations
began to be aided by another separate force, partly composed of
British troops, the Duke of Dalmatia determined that a clean sweep must
be made in southern Andalusia.

  [104] After the 28th went off, the flank-companies were those of
  the 2/11th, 2/47th, and 1/82nd, two from each battalion.

  [105] 2/47th (8 companies) 570 men, 2/87th (560 men), 1 company
  95th (75 men), 70 2nd Hussars K.G.L., 1 field-battery (Captain
  Hughes) 83 men, or in all 1,358 of all ranks.

  [106] A battalion each of Irlanda and Cantabria, and some
  light companies of cazadores, with 120 gunners and 25 cavalry,
  amounting to about 1,650 men (sick included).

  [107] For details of these operations see the anonymous _Defence
  of Tarifa_ (London, 1812), and letters in Rait’s _Life of Lord
  Gough_, i. pp. 69-70.

The idea of capturing Tarifa did not appear by any means impracticable.
This little decayed place of 6,000 souls had never been fortified in
the modern style, and was surrounded by nothing more than a mediaeval
wall eight feet thick, with square towers set in it at intervals.
There was a citadel, the castle of Guzman El Bueno[108], but this,
too, was a thirteenth-century building, and the whole place, though
tenable against an enemy unprovided with artillery, was reckoned
helpless against siege-guns. It is described by one of its defenders
as ‘lying in a hole,’ for it was completely commanded by a range of
low heights, at no greater distance than 300 yards from its northern
front. In the sea, half a mile beyond it, was a rocky island, connected
with the mainland by a very narrow strip of sand, which was well
suited to serve as a final place of refuge for the garrison, and
which had been carefully fortified. It was furnished with batteries,
of which one bore on the sand-spit and the town: a redoubt (Santa
Catalina) had been erected at the point where the isthmus joined the
mainland: several buildings had been erected to serve as a shelter
for troops, and a great series of caves (Cueva de los Moros) had been
converted into casemates and store-rooms: they were perfectly safe
against bombardment. In the eyes of many officers the island was
the real stronghold, and the city was but an outwork to it, which
might be evacuated without any serious damage to the strength of the
defence. Nevertheless something had been done to improve the weak
fortifications of the place: the convent of San Francisco, seventy
yards from its northern point, had been entrenched and loopholed, to
serve as a redoubt, and some of the square towers in the _enceinte_ had
been strengthened and built up so as to bear artillery. The curtain,
however, was in all parts far too narrow and weak to allow of guns
being placed upon it, and there was no glacis and practically no
ditch, the whole wall to its foot being visible from the heights which
overlook the city on its eastern side. There were only twenty-six
guns available, and of these part belonged to the defences of the
island. In the town itself there were only two heavy guns mounted on
commanding towers, six field-pieces (9-pounders) distributed along the
various fronts, and four mortars. When the siege actually began, the
main defence was by musketry fire. It was clear from the topography of
Tarifa that its northern front, that nearest to and most completely
commanded by the hills outside, would be the probable point of attack
by the enemy; and long before the siege began preparations were made
for an interior defence. The buildings looking on the back of the
ramparts were barricaded and loopholed, the narrow streets were blocked
with traverses, and some ‘entanglements’ were contrived with the iron
window-bars requisitioned from all the houses of the town, which served
as a sort of _chevaux de frise_. The outer _enceinte_ was so weak that
it was intended that the main defence should be in the network of
streets. Special preparations were thought out for the right-centre of
the north front, where the walls are pierced by the ravine of a winter
torrent of intermittent flow, called the Retiro. The point where it
made its passage under the _enceinte_ through a portcullis was the
lowest place in the front, the walls sinking down as they followed
the outline of the ravine. Wherefore palisades were planted outside
the portcullis, entanglements behind it, and all the houses looking
down on the torrent bed within the walls were prepared with loopholes
commanding its course[109]. There was ample time for work, for while
the first certain news that the French were coming arrived in November,
the enemy did not actually appear before the walls till December 20. By
that time much had been done, though the balance was only completed in
haste after the siege had begun.

  [108] This was the famous knight who, holding the place for King
  Sancho IV in 1294, refused to surrender it when the Moors brought
  his son, captured in a skirmish, before the walls, and threatened
  to behead him if his father refused to capitulate. Guzman would
  not yield, saw his son slain, and successfully maintained the
  fortress.

  [109] For these precautions, the work of Captain Charles Smith,
  R.E., see the anonymous _Defence of Tarifa_ (p. 62), and Napier,
  iv. pp. 59-60.

The long delay of the enemy was caused by the abominable condition of
the roads of the district--the same that had given Graham and La Peña
so much trouble in February 1811[110]: moreover, any considerable
concentration of troops in southern Andalusia raised a food problem
for Soult. The region round Tarifa is very thinly inhabited, and it
was clear that, if a large army were collected, it would have to carry
its provisions with it, and secure its communication with its base,
under pain of falling into starvation within a few days. Heavy guns
abounded in the Cadiz lines, and Soult had no trouble in selecting a
siege-train of sixteen pieces from them: but their transport and that
of their ammunition was a serious problem. To complete the train no
less than 500 horses had to be requisitioned from the field artillery
and military wagons of the 1st Corps. While it was being collected,
Victor moved forward to Vejer, near the coast, half-way between
Cadiz and Tarifa, with 2,000 men, in order to clear the country-side
from the guerrillero bands, who made survey of the roads difficult
and dangerous. Under cover of escorts furnished by him, several
intelligence officers inspected the possible routes: there were two,
both passing through the mountainous tract between the sea and the
lagoon of La Janda (which had given Graham so much trouble in the last
spring). One came down to the waterside at the chapel of Virgen de
la Luz, only three miles from Tarifa, but was reported to be a mere
mule-track. The other, somewhat more resembling a road, descended to
the shore several miles farther to the north, and ran parallel with it
for some distance. But in expectation of the siege, the Spaniards, with
help from English ships, had blown up many yards of this road, where
it was narrowest between the water and the mountain. Moreover, ships
of war were always stationed off Tarifa, and their guns would make
passage along this defile dangerous. Nevertheless General Garbé, the
chief French engineer, held that this was the only route practicable
for artillery, and reported that the road could be remade, and that
the flotilla might be kept at a distance by building batteries on
the shore, which would prevent any vessel from coming close enough
to deliver an effective fire. It was determined, therefore, that the
siege-train should take this path, which for the first half of its way
passes close along the marshy borders of the lagoon of La Janda, and
then enters the hills in order to descend to the sea at Torre Peña.

  [110] See vol. iv. pp. 101-2.

On December 8th the siege-train was concentrated at Vejer, and in
the hope that it would in four days (or not much more) reach its
destination before Tarifa, Victor gave orders for the movement of the
troops which were to conduct the siege. Of this force the smaller
part, six battalions[111] and two cavalry regiments, was drawn from
Leval’s command, formerly the 4th Corps. These two divisions had also
to provide other detachments to hold Malaga in strength, and watch
Ballasteros. The troops from the blockade of Cadiz supplied eight
battalions[112], and three more to keep up communications[113]; one
additional regiment was borrowed from the brigade in the kingdom of
Cordova, which was always drawn upon in times of special need[114]. The
whole force put in motion was some 15,000 men, but only 10,000 actually
came before Tarifa and took part in the siege.

  [111] Two battalions each of 43rd Line and 7th and 9th Poles, and
  16th and 21st Dragoons.

  [112] Three of 16th Léger, two of 54th Line, one each of 27th
  Léger and 94th and 95th Line.

  [113] Two of 63rd and one of 8th Line.

  [114] 51st Line.

The various columns, which were under orders to march, came from
distant points, and had to concentrate. Barrois lay at Los Barrios,
inland from Algeciras, with six battalions from the Cadiz lines,
watching Ballasteros, who had once more fallen back under shelter of
the guns of Gibraltar. To this point Leval came to join him, with the
3,000 men drawn from Malaga and Granada. The third column, under Victor
himself, consisting of the siege-train and the battalions told off for
its escort, came from the side of Vejer. All three were to meet before
Tarifa: but from the first start difficulties began to arise owing to
the bad weather.

The winter, which had hitherto been mild and equable, broke up into
unending rain-storms on the day appointed for the start, and the sudden
filling of the torrents in the mountains cut the communications between
the columns. Leval, who had got as far as the pass of Ojen, in the
range which separates the district about Algeciras and Los Barrios
from the Tarifa region, was forced to halt there for some days: but
his rear, a brigade under Cassagne, could not come forward to join
him, nor did the convoy-column succeed in advancing far from Vejer.
Victor sent three successive officers with escorts to try to get into
touch with Cassagne, but each returned without having been able to push
through. It was not till the 12th that a fourth succeeded in reaching
the belated column, which only got under way that day and joined on
the following afternoon. The siege-train was not less delayed, and was
blocked for several days by the overflowing of the lagoon of La Janda,
along whose shore its first stages lay. It only struggled through to
the south end of the lagoon on the 14th, and took no less than four
days more to cover the distance of sixteen miles across the hills to
Torre Peña, where the road comes down to the sea. Forty horses, it is
said, had to be harnessed to each heavy gun to pull it through[115].
Much of the ammunition was spoilt by the rain, which continued to fall
intermittently, and more had to be requisitioned from the Cadiz lines,
and to be brought forward by supplementary convoys.

  [115] For details of this toilsome march see Belmas, iv. pp.
  15-17.

These initial delays went far to wreck the whole scheme, because of
the food problem. Each of the columns had to bring its own provisions
with it, and, when stopped on the road, consumed stores that had been
intended to serve it during the siege. The distance from Vejer to
Tarifa is only thirty miles, and from Los Barrios to Tarifa even less:
but the columns, which had been ordered to march on December 8th, did
not reach their destination till December 20th, and the communications
behind them were cut already, not by the enemy but by the vile weather,
which had turned every mountain stream into a torrent, and every
low-lying bottom into a marsh. The column with the siege artillery
arrived two days later: it had got safely through the defile of Torre
Peña: the sappers had repaired the road by the water, and had built
a masked battery for four 12-pounders and two howitzers, whose fire
kept off from the dangerous point several Spanish and English gunboats
which came up to dispute the passage. The column from the pass of Ojen
had been somewhat delayed in its march by a sally of Ballasteros, who
came out from the Gibraltar lines on the 17th-18th and fell upon its
rear with 2,000 men. He drove in the last battalion, but when Barrois
turned back and attacked him with a whole brigade, the Spaniard gave
way and retreated in haste to San Roque. Nevertheless, by issuing from
his refuge and appearing in the open, he had cut the communications
between the army destined for the siege and the troops at Malaga. At
the same time that Ballasteros made this diversion, Skerrett, with his
whole brigade and a few of Copons’s Spaniards, had issued from Tarifa
to demonstrate against the head of the approaching French column, and
advanced some distance on the road to Fascinas, where his handful of
hussars bickered with the leading cavalry in the enemy’s front. Seeing
infantry behind, he took his main body no farther forward than the
convent of Nuestra Señora de la Luz, three miles from the fortress. On
the 19th the French showed 4,000 men on the surrounding hills, and on
the 20th advanced in force in two columns, and pushed the English and
Spanish pickets into Tarifa, after a long skirmish in which the British
had 31, the Spaniards about 40 casualties, while the French, according
to Leval’s report, lost only 1 officer and 3 men killed and 27 wounded.
By four in the afternoon the place was invested--the French pickets
reaching from sea to sea, and their main body being encamped behind the
hills which command the northern side of Tarifa. They could not place
themselves near the water, owing to the fire of two British frigates
and a swarm of gunboats, which lay in-shore, and shelled their flanks
all day, though without great effect.

Copons and Skerrett had divided the manning of the town and island
between their brigades on equal terms, each keeping two battalions in
the town and a third in the island and the minor posts. Of the British
the 47th and 87th had the former, King’s battalion of flank-companies
(reinforced by 70 marines landed from the ships) the latter charge. The
convent of San Francisco was held by a company of the 82nd, the redoubt
of Santa Catalina on the isthmus by one of the 11th. Seeing the French
inactive on the 21st--they were waiting for the siege-train which was
not yet arrived--Skerrett sent out three companies to drive in their
pickets, and shelled the heights behind which they were encamped. On
the following day the sortie was repeated, by a somewhat larger force
under Colonel Gough of the 87th, covered by a flanking fire from the
gunboats. The right wing of the French pickets was driven in with some
loss, and a house too near the Santa Catalina redoubt demolished. The
besiegers lost 3 men killed and 4 officers and 19 men wounded, mainly
from the 16th Léger. The sallying troops had only 1 man killed and 5
wounded (2 from the 11th, 4 from the 87th). That night the siege-train
arrived, and was parked behind the right-hand hill of the three which
face the northern side of Tarifa.

The engineer officers who had come up with the siege-train executed
their survey of the fortress next morning, and reported (as might have
been expected) that it would be best to attack the central portion of
the north front, because the ground facing it was not exposed to any
fire from the vessels in-shore, as was the west front, and could only
be searched by the two or three guns which the besieged had mounted
on the towers of Jesus and of Guzman, the one in the midst of the
northern front, the other in a dominating position by the castle, at
the southern corner. However, the 24-pounders on the island, shooting
over the town, could throw shells on to the hillside where the French
were about to work, though without being able to judge of their effect.

On the night of the 23rd the French began their first parallel, on
their right flank of the central hill, at a distance of 300 yards from
the walls: the approaches to it needed no spadework, being completely
screened by a ravine and a thick aloe hedge. The besieged shelled it on
the succeeding day, but with small effect--only 3 workers were killed
and 4 wounded. On the 24th a minor front of attack was developed on
the left-hand hill, where a first parallel was thrown up about 250
yards from the walls. The gunboats on the southern shore fired on this
work when it was discovered, but as it was invisible to them, and as
they could only shoot at haphazard, by directions signalled from the
town, they generally failed to hit the mark, and did little to prevent
the progress of the digging. The besiegers only lost 4 killed and 25
wounded this day, and on the original point of attack were able to
commence a second parallel, in which there was marked out the place for
the battery which was destined to breach the town wall at the lowest
point of its circuit, just south of the bed of the Retiro torrent.

On the two following days the French continued to push forward with
no great difficulty; they completed the second parallel on the centre
hill, parts of which were only 180 yards from the town. On the left or
eastern hill the trenches were continued down the inner slope, as far
as the bottom of the ravine, so as almost to join those of the right
attack. On the 26th a violent south-east gale began to blow, which
compelled the British and Spanish gunboats to quit their station to
the right of Tarifa, lest they should be driven ashore, and to run
round to the west side of the island which gave them shelter from wind
coming from such a quarter. The French works were, therefore, only
molested for the future by the little 6-pounders on the north-east (or
Corchuela) tower, and the heavy guns firing at a high trajectory from
the island and the tower of Guzman.

But the gale was accompanied by rain, and this, beginning with
moderate showers on the 26th, developed into a steady downpour on the
27th and 28th, and commenced to make the spadework in the trenches
more laborious, as the sappers were up to their ankles in mud, and
the excavated earth did not bind easily into parapets owing to its
semi-liquid condition. Nevertheless the plans of the engineers were
carried out, and two batteries were finished and armed on the central
hill, one lower down to batter the walls, the other higher up, to deal
with the guns of the besieged and silence them if possible. The French
lined all the advanced parallel with sharpshooters, who kept up a heavy
fire on the ramparts, and would have made it difficult for the garrison
to maintain a reply, if a large consignment of sandbags had not been
received from Gibraltar, with which cover was contrived for the men on
the curtain, and the artillery in the towers.

At eleven o’clock on the morning of the 29th the two French batteries
opened[116], with twelve heavy guns. The weakness of the old town
wall at once became evident: the first shot fired went completely
through it, and lodged in a house to its rear. Before evening there
was a definite breach produced, just south of the Retiro ravine,
and it was clear that the enemy would be able to increase it to any
extent that he pleased--the masonry fell to pieces the moment that
it was well pounded. The two small field-guns on the tower of Jesus
were silenced by 3 o’clock, and the heavy gun on Guzman’s tower also
ceased firing--of which more anon. By night only the distant guns on
the island, and the ships in the south-western bay, were making an
effective reply to the French.

  [116] The breaching battery on the lower slope with four 16-
  and two 12-pounders: the upper battery with four howitzers
  for high-trajectory fire against the more distant guns of the
  besieged and the island, and two 12-pounders.

This, from the psychological point of view, was the critical day of the
siege, for on the clear demonstration of the weakness of the walls,
Colonel Skerrett, who had never much confidence in his defences,
proposed to evacuate the city of Tarifa. At a council of officers he
argued in favour of withdrawing the garrison into the island, and
making no attempt to hold the weak mediaeval walls which the French
were so effectively battering. This would have been equivalent, in the
end, to abandoning the entire foothold of the British on this point of
the coast. For there was on the island no cover for troops, save two
or three recently erected buildings, and the recesses of the ‘Cueva de
los Moros.’ Some of the inhabitants had already taken refuge there,
and were suffering great privations, from being exposed to the weather
in tents and hastily contrived huts. It is clear that if 3,000 men,
British and Spanish, had been lodged on the wind-swept rocks of the
island, it would soon have been necessary to withdraw them; however
inaccessible the water-girt rock, with its low cliffs, might be, no
large body of troops could have lived long upon it, exposed as they
would have been not only to wind and wet, but to constant molestation
by heavy guns placed in and about the city and the hills that dominate
it. Meanwhile the French would have possessed the excellent cover of
the houses of Tarifa, and would have effectively blocked the island
by leaving a garrison to watch the causeway, the only possible exit
from it. It is certain that the abandonment of the island would have
followed that of the town within a few days: indeed Skerrett had
already obtained leave from General Cooke, then commanding at Cadiz,
to bring his brigade round to that port as soon as he should feel it
necessary. He regarded the evacuation of the place as so certain, that
he ordered the 18-pounder gun on Guzman’s tower to be spiked this day,
though it was the only piece of heavy calibre in the city[117]--the
reason given was that one of its missiles (spherical case-shot) had
fallen short within the streets, and killed or wounded an inhabitant.
But the real cause was that he had fully decided on abandoning Tarifa
that night or the following day, and thought the moving of such a big
gun in a hurry impossible--it had been hoisted with great difficulty to
its place by the sailors, with cranes and tackle[118].

  [117] According to some authorities he also spiked a 32-lb.
  carronade. See _Defence of Tarifa_, p. 63.

  [118] The author of the _Defence of Tarifa_ pretends not to know
  the real story (p. 63), saying that the spiking caused much
  ‘indignation, apprehension, and discontent,’ and that ‘whence the
  order proceeded is unknown.’ For the explanation see the letter
  from an officer of the garrison in Napier, iv, Appendix, p. 438.

Skerrett stated his decision in favour of the evacuation at the
council of war, produced General Cooke’s letter supporting his plan,
and stated that Lord Proby, his second in command, concurred in the
view of its necessity. Fortunately for the credit of the British arms,
his opinion was boldly traversed by Captain C. F. Smith, the senior
engineer officer, Major King commanding the Gibraltar battalion of
flank-companies, and Colonel Gough of the 87th. The former urged that
the town should be defended, as an outwork of the island, to the last
possible moment: though the breach was practicable, he had already made
arrangements for cutting it off by retrenchments from the body of the
town. The streets had been blocked and barricaded, and all the houses
looking upon the back of the walls loopholed. Tarifa could be defended
for some time in the style of Saragossa, lane by lane. He pointed
out that such was the configuration of the ground that if the enemy
entered the breach, he would find a fourteen-foot drop between its
rear and the ground below, on to which he would have to descend under
a concentric fire of musketry from all the neighbouring buildings.
Even supposing that the worst came, the garrison had the castle to
retire into, and this was tenable until breached by artillery, while a
retreat from it to the island would always be possible, under cover of
the guns of the flotilla. There was no profit or credit in giving up
outworks before they were forced. Major King concurred, and said that
his battalion, being Gibraltar troops, was under the direct orders of
General Campbell, from whom he had received directions to hold Tarifa
till the last extremity. If Skerrett’s brigade should embark, he and
the flank-companies would remain behind, to defend it, along with
Copons’s Spaniards. Gough concurred in the decision, and urged that the
evacuation would be wholly premature and ‘contrary to the spirit of
General Campbell’s instructions’ until it was seen whether the French
were able to effect a lodgement inside the walls[119].

  [119] Gough speaks of his reply that ‘evacuation would be
  contrary to the spirit of General Campbell’s instructions,’ as
  if given at an earlier date, but, the 29th seems fixed by King’s
  letter to Napier in appendix to the latter’s _Peninsular War_,
  iv. pp. 443-4, quoted above.

Skerrett’s resolve was shaken--he still held to his opinion, but
dismissed the council of war without coming to a decision: he tried
to avoid responsibility by requesting the officers who voted for
further resistance to deliver him their opinions in writing. This
King, Smith, and Gough did, in the strongest wording. The first named
of these three resolute men sent that same night a messenger by boat
to Gibraltar, to inform General Campbell of Skerrett’s faint-hearted
decision, and to observe that, with a few companies more to aid his own
flank-battalion and the Spaniards, he would try to hold first Tarifa
and then the island, even if Skerrett withdrew his brigade. Campbell,
angry in no small degree, sent a very prompt answer to the effect
that the town should not be abandoned without the concurrence of the
commanding officers of artillery and engineers, while the Gibraltar
battalion should be concentrated in the island, in order to ensure its
defence even if Tarifa itself fell. Still more drastic was an order to
the officers commanding the transports to bring their ships back at
once to Gibraltar: this decisive move made it impossible for Skerrett
to carry out his plan[120]. A few days later Campbell sent two more
flank-companies to join the garrison--but they only arrived after the
assault.

  [120] See especially the notes from officers on the spot in
  Napier’s appendix to vol. iv. pp. 442-4.

The idea of evacuating the town without attempting any defence was
all the more ignominious because Copons had declared his intention of
holding it to the last, had protested against the spiking of the heavy
gun in Guzman’s tower, and next morning, when Leval summoned the place
to surrender, sent in a most unhesitating, if somewhat bombastic[121],
note of refusal. If Skerrett had withdrawn into the island, or taken to
his ships, and Copons had been overwhelmed, fighting in the streets,
the disgrace to the British flag would have been very great. As a
sidelight on the whole matter, we may remember that this was the same
officer who had refused to land his troops to defend the breach of
Tarragona six months before. He was no coward, as he showed in many
fights, and he died gallantly at Bergen-op-Zoom in 1814, but he was
undoubtedly a shirker of responsibilities.

  [121] ‘Sin duda ignorará V.S. que me hallo yo en esta plaza,
  cuando se prononce á su gubernador que admite una capitulacion.
  Á la cabeza de mis tropas me encontrará V.S. y entonces
  hableremos.’ See Arteche, appendix to vol. xi. p. 524.

On the morning of the 30th the besiegers’ batteries opened again,
and enlarged the breach to a broad gap of thirty feet or more; they
also dismounted a field-piece which the besieged had hoisted on the
Jesus tower, to replace those injured on the previous day. At midday
Leval sent in the summons already recorded, and receiving Copons’s
uncompromising reply, directed the fire to continue. It was very
effective, and by evening the breach was nearly sixty feet long,
occupying almost the whole space between the tower at the portcullis
over the ravine, and that next south of it. At dusk the garrison
crept out to clear the foot of the breach, and began also to redouble
the inner defences in the lanes and houses behind it. All work on
both sides, however, was stopped, shortly after nightfall, by a
most torrential downpour of rain, which drove the French from their
batteries and the English and Spaniards from their repairing. The sky
seemed to be falling--the hillsides became cataracts, and the Retiro
ravine was soon filled with a broad river which came swirling against
the walls, bearing with it fascines, planks, gabions, and even dead
bodies washed out of the French lines. Presently the mass of débris,
accumulating against the palisades erected in front of the portcullis,
and urged on by the water, swept away these outer defences, and then,
pressing against the portcullis itself, bent it inwards and twisted
it, despite of its massive iron clamps, so as to make an opening into
the town, down which everything went swimming through the ravine. The
flood also swept away some of the defensive works on each side of the
depression. When the hurricane was over, the rain still continued to
fall heavily, but the garrison, emerging from shelter, commenced to
repair their works, and had undone much of the damage by daylight[122].

  [122] For this, see Jones, _Sieges of the Peninsula_, ii. p. 477,
  from which Napier copies his narrative, iv. p. 55.

If the besieged had been sorely incommoded by the tempest, the
besiegers on the bare hillsides had been still worse tried. They had
been forced to abandon their trenches and batteries, of which those
high up the slope were water-logged, while those below had been largely
swept away by the flood. The breach had been pronounced practicable
by the engineers, and an assault had been fixed for dawn. But it
was necessary to put it off for some hours, in order to allow the
artillery to reoccupy their batteries, and recommence their fire, and
the infantry to come up from the camps where they had vainly tried
to shelter themselves during the downpour. Nevertheless the French
commanders resolved to storm as soon as the men could be assembled,
without waiting for further preparations. ‘The troops,’ says the French
historian of the siege, ‘unable to dry themselves, or to light fires
to cook their rations, loudly cried out for an assault, as the only
thing that could put an end to their misery.’ A large force had been
set apart for the storm, the grenadier and voltigeur companies of each
of the battalions engaged in the sieges, making a total of over 2,200
men. They were divided into two columns--the grenadiers were to storm
the breach; the voltigeurs to try whether the gap at the Portcullis
tower was practicable or not: they were to break in if possible, if
not, to engage the defenders in a fusilade which should distract their
attention from the main attack.

As soon as day dawned, the besieged could detect that the trenches
were filling, and that the storm was about to break. They had time to
complete their dispositions before the French moved: the actual breach
was held by Copons with a battalion of his own troops[123]: the 87th,
under Gough, occupied the walls both to right and left of the breach,
including the Portcullis tower, with two companies in reserve. Captain
Levesey with 100 of the 47th was posted in the south-eastern (Jesus)
tower, which completely enfiladed the route which the enemy would have
to take to the foot of the breach. The rest of the 47th was in charge
of the south front of the town.

  [123] Their part in the defence must not be denied to the
  Spaniards. Napier, with his usual prejudice, remarks (iv. p. 60)
  that Skerrett ‘assigned the charge of the breach entirely to the
  Spaniards, and if Smith had not insisted upon placing British
  troops alongside of them this would have ruined the defence,
  because hunger and neglect had so broken the spirit of these
  poor men that few appeared during the combat, and Copons alone
  displayed the qualities of a gallant soldier.’

At nine o’clock the column of French grenadiers issued from the
trenches near the advanced breaching battery, and dashed down the side
of the Retiro ravine towards the breach, while the voltigeur companies,
at the same time, running out from the approaches on the eastern hill,
advanced by the opposite side of the ravine towards the Portcullis
tower. Demonstrations to right and left were made by Cassagne’s brigade
on one flank and Pécheux’s on the other. The progress of the storming
column was not rapid--the slopes of the ravine were rain-sodden and
slippery; its bottom (where the flood had passed) was two feet deep
in mud. The troops were forced to move slowly, and the moment that
they were visible from the walls they became exposed to a very heavy
fire of musketry, both from the curtain and the enfilading towers on
each of their flanks. Of guns the besieged had only one available--a
field-piece in the northernmost (or Corchuela) tower, which fired
case-shot diagonally along the foot of the walls.

Nevertheless the French grenadiers pushed forward across the open space
towards the breach, under a rain of bullets from the 87th which smote
them on both flanks. The Fusiliers were firing fast and accurately,
to the tune of _Garry Owen_, which the regimental band was playing by
order of Gough just behind the breach, accompanied by bursts of shouts
and cheering. On arriving at the foot of the walls, in great disorder,
the French column hesitated for a moment; many men began to fire
instead of pressing on, but some bold spirits scaled the rough slope of
the breach and reached its lip--only to get a momentary glimpse of the
fourteen-foot drop behind it, and to fall dead. The bulk of the column
then swerved away to its right, and fell upon the palisades and other
defences in front of the Portcullis tower, where the hasty repairs
made after the flood of the preceding night did not look effective.
Apparently many of the voltigeurs who had been already engaged in this
quarter joined in their assault, which surged over the outer barricades
and penetrated as far as the portcullis itself. It was found too well
repaired to be broken down, and the stormers, crowded in front of it,
and caught in an angle between the front wall defended by the 87th, and
the flanking Jesus tower from which the 47th were firing, found the
corner too hot for them, and suddenly recoiled and fled. The officer
at the head of the forlorn hope gave up his sword to Gough through the
bars of the portcullis, which alone separated them, and many other
men at the front of the column also surrendered, rather than face the
point-blank fire at close range which would have accompanied the first
stage of their retreat.

This was a striking instance of an assault on a very broad breach, by
a strong force, being beaten off by musketry fire alone. The French
seem never to have had a chance in face of the steady resistance of
the 87th and their comrades. Their loss is given by the official
French historian at only 48 killed and 159 wounded, which seems an
incredibly low figure when over 2,000 men were at close quarters with
the besieged, in a very disadvantageous position, for some time[124].
The British lost 2 officers and 7 men killed, 3 officers, 2 sergeants,
and 22 men wounded: the Spaniards had a lieutenant-colonel killed and
about 20 men killed and wounded.

  [124] Skerrett and Copons estimated the loss of the enemy at
  nearly 500, no doubt an exaggeration. But Leval’s 207 seems far
  too few. The commanding officer of the 51st Ligne reports from
  his four flank-companies 7 officers and 81 men hit (Belmas, iv,
  Appendix, p. 58). Of the sapper detachment which led the column,
  from 50 men 43 were _hors de combat_ (Belmas, iv. p. 31). It
  seems incredible that when 23 companies took part in the assault
  5 of them should have suffered 131 casualties out of a total of
  207. Martinien’s tables show 18 officers killed and wounded on
  Dec. 31, a figure which proves nothing, for though at the usual
  casualty rate of 20 men per officer this would imply a total loss
  of 360, yet it is well known that in assaults the officers often
  suffer a loss out of all proportion to that of the rank and file.
  Eighteen officers hit might be compatible with a loss as low as
  200 or as high as 400 in such a case.

The assault having failed so disastrously, the spirits of the
besiegers sank to a very low pitch. The rain continued to fall during
the whole day and the following night, and the already water-logged
trenches became quite untenable. On New Year’s Day, 1812, the dawn
showed a miserable state of affairs--not only were the roads to the
rear, towards Fascinas and Vejer, entirely blocked by the swelling
of mountain torrents, but communications were cut even between the
siege-camps. All the provision of powder in the siege-batteries was
found to be spoilt by wet, and a great part of the cartridges of the
infantry. Nearly a third of the horses of the train had perished from
cold combined with low feeding. No rations were issued to the troops
that day, and on the three preceding days only incomplete ones had been
given, because of the impossibility of getting them up from the reserve
dépôt, and many of the men wandered without leave for three miles to
the rear in search of food or shelter. An exploring party of the 47th
pushing out into the trenches found them quite unguarded[125] and full
of water. Leval wrote a formal proposal for the abandonment of the
siege to his chief, Victor, saying that the only choice was to save
the army by retreat, or to see it perish in a few days if it remained
stationary[126]. The Marshal, however, refused to turn back from an
enterprise in which he considered his honour involved, and the tempest
having abated on the night of Jan. 2nd-3rd, ordered the batteries and
approaches to be remanned, and directed that an attempt should be made
to sap forward toward the Jesus tower from the left advanced trenches.
The work done was feeble--the batteries had fired only fifty shots by
evening, and the repairs to the damaged works were very incomplete.

  [125] _Defence of Tarifa_, p. 47.

  [126] See the letter in Belmas, iv. pp. 55-6.

Even Victor’s obstinacy yielded, however, when on the night of the
3rd-4th January another furious storm arose, and once more stopped all
possibility of continuing operations. No food had now come up from the
base for many days, and the stores at the front being exhausted, the
Marshal saw that it was necessary to march at once. An attempt was
made to withdraw the guns from the batteries, but only one 12-pounder
and two howitzers were got off--the horses were so weak and the
ground so sodden that even when 200 infantry were set to help, most of
the pieces could not be dragged more than a few yards. Wherefore the
attempt was given over, the powder in the batteries was thrown open to
the rain, the balls rolled into the Retiro ravine, the nine remaining
heavy guns spiked.

[Illustration: TARIFA]

On the night of the 4th-5th the army crawled off on the road to Vejer,
abandoning nearly all its material in its camps. An attempt was made
to fire a mass of abandoned vehicles, but the rain stopped it. Next
morning the French were passing the defile of Torre Peña, under the
not very effective fire of an English frigate, which kept as close
to the shore as was possible on a very rough day. The four guns from
the battery at this point were brought on, with much toil, and no
wounded were abandoned. On the 6th the column reached Tayvilla, where
it found a convoy and 100 horses, which were of inestimable value, for
those with the field-force were completely spent. Nevertheless the one
12-pounder brought off from Tarifa was abandoned in the mud. On the
7th Vejer was reached, and the expedition was at an end. The troops of
Victor’s division, after a short rest, went back to the Cadiz Lines,
those of Leval’s division marched for Xeres.

Thus ended the leaguer of Tarifa, which cost the besiegers about 500
lives, more by sickness than by casualties in the trenches. There
were also some deserters--fifteen Poles came over in a body and
surrendered to Captain Carroll on the 3rd[127], and other individuals
stole in from time to time. But the main loss to the French, beyond
that of prestige, was that the battalions which had formed part of the
expeditionary force were so tired out and war-worn, that for several
weeks they continued to fill the hospitals in the Lines with sick, and
were incapable of further active service. Wherefore Soult could not
send any appreciable detachment to help Suchet on the side of Valencia:
the cavalry brigade, which sacked Murcia on January 26 and killed La
Carrera,[128] was his only contribution to the operations on the east
side of Spain. The field-force which might otherwise have accompanied
Pierre Soult’s cavalry raid had been used up in the Tarifa expedition.

  [127] _Defence of Tarifa_, p. 75.

  [128] See page 8 above.

Another distraction had come upon Soult while the Tarifa expedition
was in progress. On December 27, six days after Victor and Leval
commenced the siege, General Hill had once more begun to move on the
Estremaduran side, after remaining quiescent for nearly two months
since the surprise of Arroyo dos Molinos. His advance was a diversion
made by Wellington’s direct orders, with the purpose of drawing Soult’s
attention away from the pursuit of Ballasteros and the molesting
of Tarifa[129]. It failed to achieve the latter purpose, since the
operations of Victor had gone so far, before Hill moved, that the
Marshal stood committed to the siege, and indeed only heard that Hill
was on the move after the assault of December 31st had been made and
beaten off. But it caused Soult to cut off all support from Victor,
to turn his small remaining reserves in the direction of Estremadura,
and to welcome as a relief, rather than to deplore as a disaster, the
return of the defeated expeditionary force to the Lines of Cadiz on
January 7th. For about that date Hill was pushing Drouet before him,
and the reserves from Seville were moving northwards, so that Soult
was pleased to learn that the 10,000 men from Tarifa had returned, and
that, in consequence of their reappearance, he could draw off more
men from the direction of Cadiz to replace the troops moved toward
Estremadura.

  [129] See Wellington to Hill, Dec. 18th, _Dispatches_, ix. pp.
  465-6.

Hill crossed the Portuguese frontier north of the Guadiana on December
27th, with his own division, Hamilton’s Portuguese, two British cavalry
brigades (those of Long and de Grey[130]) and one of Portuguese (4th
and 10th regiments under J. Campbell of the former corps), or about
12,000 men. The small remainder of his force[131] was left about Elvas,
to watch any possible movement of the French from the direction of
Badajoz. His objective was Merida, where it was known that Dombrouski,
with the greater part of the 5th French Division, was lying, in a
position far advanced from the main body of Drouet’s troops, who were
cantoned about Zafra and Llerena. There was some hope of surprising
this force, and a certainty of driving it in, and of throwing Drouet
and Soult into a state of alarm. Wellington directed Hill to keep
to the desolate road north of the Guadiana, because a winter raid
from this direction would be the last thing expected by the enemy. He
bade his lieutenant keep a wary eye in the direction of Truxillo and
Almaraz, from which the divisions of Marmont’s army then in New Castile
might possibly descend upon his rear. But the warning turned out to
be superfluous, since, before Hill moved, Marmont had been forced by
the Emperor’s orders to detach his troops on the Tagus for the ruinous
expedition under Montbrun to Alicante.

  [130] But the last-named officer was absent.

  [131] One Portuguese infantry and one Portuguese cavalry brigade.

Marching very rapidly Hill reached Albuquerque on the 27th, and La
Rocca, only twenty miles from Merida, on the 28th. On the next day[132]
the prospect of surprising Dombrouski came to an end by the merest of
chances. The French general had sent out that morning a small column
to raise requisitions of food in the villages on this road. A troop
of hussars at its head discovered Hill’s advanced cavalry, near Navas
de Membrillo, and alarmed the infantry, three companies of the 88th
regiment under a Captain Neveux, who formed up and began to retreat
hastily towards Merida. Hill sent two squadrons each of the 13th Light
Dragoons and 2nd Hussars of the King’s German Legion in pursuit, with
orders to head off and capture, if possible, these 400 men. The result
was a combat of the same sort as that of Barquilla in 1810, where
it had already been shown that steady infantry could not be ridden
down by cavalry save under very exceptional circumstances. Neveux,
seeing the dragoons hurrying forward, turned off the road, formed
his men in square, and made for a cork wood on a rising ground. The
cavalry overtook him, and delivered five determined charges, which
were all beaten off with heavy loss. We are told that their order and
impetus were both broken by scattered trees outside the wood, but the
main cause of their defeat was the impossibility of breaking into a
solidly-formed square of determined men, well commanded[133]. After the
final charge the squadrons drew off, and Neveux hastened on through
the wood, fell back again into the road, and reached Merida, though he
lost a few men[134] by shells from Hawker’s battery, which came up late
in the day. The K.G.L. Hussars had 2 men killed and 1 officer and 17
men wounded: the 13th Light Dragoons 1 killed and 19 wounded.

  [132] Napier (iv. 49) wrongly puts the combat of Navas de
  Membrillo on the 28th of December, not the 29th. The diaries
  of Stoltzenberg of the 2nd K.G.L. Hussars and Cadell of the
  28th prove that the second date is correct. No force could have
  marched from Albuquerque to Navas in one day.

  [133] Hill’s dispatch has a handsome but ungrammatical testimony
  to the enemy: ‘the intrepid and admirable way in which the French
  retreated, the infantry formed in square, and favoured as he was
  by the nature of the country, of which he knew how to take the
  fullest advantage, prevented the cavalry alone from effecting
  anything against him.’

  [134] Apparently two killed and nine wounded.

Dombrouski, warned of the approach of the allies in force, immediately
evacuated Merida, where Hill made prize of 160,000 lb. of wheat,
unground, and a large magazine of biscuit. He found that the French had
been fortifying the town, but the works were too unfinished to allow
them to defend it. On January 1st Hill, continuing his advance, marched
across the bridge of Merida on Almendralejo, thinking that Drouet might
possibly have come up to help Dombrouski, and that he might force him
to fight. This was not to be: the rearguard of the force from Merida
was discovered drawn up in front of Almendralejo, but gave way at the
first push: a small magazine of food was captured in the town.

It was now clear that Drouet did not intend to make a stand, but would
fall back towards the Andalusian frontier, and wait for aid from Soult.
Hill resolved to move his main body no further, but sent out a small
flying column under Major-General Abercrombie, with orders to press
the French rearguard as long as it would give way, but to halt and
turn back on finding serious forces in front of him. This detachment
(1/50th regiment, two squadrons 2nd Hussars K.G.L., two squadrons
10th Portuguese, three guns) passing Fuente del Maestre neared Los
Santos on January 3rd, and found Dombrouski, with a rearguard of all
arms, disposed to fight. This led to a sharp cavalry combat, between
two squadrons of the 26th French Dragoons and the allied horse. One
squadron of the hussars and one of the Portuguese, gallantly led by
Colonel Campbell, charged the enemy in front, the other squadrons
remaining in reserve. The dragoons, soon broken, lost 6 killed, many
wounded, and 2 officers and 35 men prisoners. Thereupon the French
infantry moved rapidly off southwards, making no attempt to stand. The
victors lost 1 man killed and 14 wounded from the hussars, 1 officer
and 5 men from the Portuguese.

Drouet was now concentrating at Llerena, and ready to give up all
Estremadura north of that point. He was sending daily appeals for
succour to Soult, who had little to give him, while Victor and the
expeditionary force were away at Tarifa. On January 5th the Duke of
Dalmatia wrote a dispatch which ordered that the siege should be
abandoned--but long ere it came to hand Victor had been forced to
depart, as we have seen, for reasons entirely unconnected with Hill’s
midwinter raid. Wellington’s plan would have worked if the weather had
not already driven Victor away, but had in actual fact no effect on his
proceedings.

Hill, having accomplished all that could be done in the way of alarming
Soult, held Merida and Almendralejo for a few days, with his advanced
cavalry about Fuente del Maestre: but retired on January 13th to
Albuquerque and Portalegre, to the intense relief of his enemy. The
raising of the siege of Tarifa being known, there was no further reason
for keeping Hill in an advanced position, which might have tempted
Soult to make a great concentration and take the offensive. Wellington
had no desire that he should do so, since the Army of Andalusia, while
dispersed, was harmless, but might become dangerous if it should
evacuate great regions, and so be able to collect in force. Soult did
not wish to make such sacrifices unless he were obliged, and on hearing
of Hill’s retreat countermanded all orders for concentration, and
contented himself with bringing back Drouet to Llerena and Zalamea, and
with reopening his communication with Badajoz, which had been cut while
the allies were at Fuente del Maestre. He did not at this time reoccupy
Merida, partly because the position had been demonstrated to be
dangerous by Hill’s recent raid, partly because its main importance was
that it covered the road to Truxillo and Almaraz and Marmont’s army.
But Marmont having, for the moment, no troops in this direction, owing
to the Alicante expedition, it was useless to try to keep in touch with
him.

Hill’s expedition, by driving Drouet for some time from the line of
the Guadiana, made possible a sudden irruption of the Spaniards into La
Mancha, where none of their regular troops had been since the battle
of Ocaña two years before. This raid was carried out by Morillo at the
head of a brigade of the Estremaduran army of Castaños. That general
had heard of the way in which the upper valley of the Guadiana had
been denuded of troops, in order that the Army of the Centre might
assist Suchet in the direction of Cuenca and Requeña[135]. Nothing
was left in La Mancha save a few battalions of King Joseph’s German
Division, and a brigade of Treillard’s dragoons, a force which could
only provide garrisons for a few large towns and watch the high-road
from Madrid to Andalusia. Morillo was directed to slip eastward through
the gap made by Hill between the Armies of the South and Portugal,
to endeavour to cut up the French posts, and to collect recruits and
contributions in the country-side. With luck he might even break the
line of communication between Soult and Madrid. His force of 3,000 men
was insufficient for anything more than a raid.

  [135] See page 56 above.

Starting from Montanches near Caçeres on December 30th--three days
after Hill’s expedition had begun--Morillo crossed the Guadiana, and
after making a fruitless dash at Belalcazar, the isolated French
garrison which protected the northernmost corner of Andalusia, marched
straight on by Agudo and Sarceruela into the heart of La Mancha, where
he seized Ciudad Real, its capital [January 15]. The small French force
quartered there fled at his approach, which was wholly unexpected--no
Spanish army had ever marched up the valley of the Guadiana before. On
the next day Morillo attacked Almagro, where there was a garrison of
500 men; but before he had made any impression he was surprised by the
arrival of General Treillard, with a column hastily gathered from the
posts along the high-road. The Spanish general refused to fight, and,
abandoning Ciudad Real, withdrew with little loss into the passes of
the Sierra de Guadalupe, where his enemy declined to follow. Since Hill
had by this time abandoned Merida and returned to Portugal, Morillo
felt his position to be uncomfortably isolated, and feared that French
troops from Estremadura or from the Tagus valley might intercept his
way homeward. The danger turned out to be imaginary, and on reaching
Truxillo on January 30 the column was able to rest unmolested for a
fortnight at that important strategical point, and then to retire at
leisure to Montanches, its original starting-point.

Thus ended an extraordinary raid, which, though it had no positive
results whatever, demonstrated two things clearly enough--one was
the marching power of the Spanish infantry, which between December
28 and January 30 covered 250 miles of vile mountain roads in bitter
weather, and came back intact with little loss[136], the other was the
slightness of the French hold on La Mancha, where the appearance of a
small brigade of 3,000 men upset the whole country-side. Morillo was
only driven off by a concentration of many small garrisons, and, when
they were withdrawn, the local guerrillero bands overran the land.
Their chiefs, El Medico [Palarea], Chaleco, and others, did an immense
amount of damage while the French were concentrated, and ravaged up
to the very gates of Madrid. Chaos reigned in New Castile till Foy’s
and Sarrut’s divisions came back from the Alicante expedition, and
dispersed themselves along the valley of the Tagus at the beginning of
February. For, as we have often had occasion to remark before, every
province of Spain required not only to be conquered but to be held
down by a permanent garrison. The moment that it was left too lightly
held, the guerrilleros came down from the hills, occupied all the open
country, and cut all communications.

  [136] Napier (iv. p. 50) overrates the damage that Morillo
  suffered. He was not ‘completely defeated’ by Treillard, because
  he absconded without fighting. In his elaborate dispatch he gives
  his whole loss as two killed and nine wounded. See his life by
  Rodriguez Villa, appendices to vol. ii, for an almost daily
  series of letters describing his march.



SECTION XXXI: CHAPTER III

POLITICS AT CADIZ AND ELSEWHERE


The military operations in the South during the winter of 1811-12
were inconclusive, and only important in a negative way, as showing
that the initiative of the French armies was spent in this direction.
But it must not be forgotten that while Soult had been brought to
a standstill, Suchet’s operations were still progressing: January,
indeed, saw the last great Spanish disaster of the war, the fall of
Valencia, so that the spirits of government and people still ran very
low. It was not till the sudden irruption of Wellington into the
kingdom of Leon had ended in the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo (January
19), that there was any great occasion for hopefulness. And for a long
time after that event its importance was not fully understood. That
the central turning-point of the war had come, that for the future the
allies were to be on the offensive, and the French on the defensive,
was not realized till Badajoz had fallen in April, a blow which shook
the whole fabric of King Joseph’s power throughout the regions where he
seemed to reign. Nor was it only the state of affairs in the Peninsula
which, during the winter of 1811-12, seemed sufficiently gloomy
both for the present and for the future. The news from the Spanish
colonies in America grew steadily worse: in most of the viceroyalties
of the Western world there was now a nucleus of trouble: the name of
Ferdinand VII was still used by the insurgents as a rallying cry,
except in Venezuela, where Miranda had proclaimed an independent
republic in July 1811. But in La Plata and Chili lip-loyalty to the
sovereign was accompanied by practical secession from the Spanish
state: the _Cabildos_ or Juntas paid no attention to orders received
from Cadiz. In Mexico, though the capital and the greater part of the
country were still in the hands of the constituted authorities, there
was a lively insurrection on foot since September 1810, under the
priest Hidalgo--he was captured and executed in 1812, but his death
did not crush his faction. The Viceroyalty of Peru was almost the
only part of Spanish America which still remained loyal. The Cortes
at Cadiz made elaborate attempts to conciliate the Americans, but was
unable to satisfy their expectations or to end their discontents. The
deeply-rooted belief of the Creoles that they and their country were
still being exploited for the benefit of Spain, could not be removed
by any declaration that they were now to be Spanish citizens with full
rights, or by giving them representation in the Cortes. The idea of
autonomy was already abroad in Spanish America, and in every quarter
ambitious men were quoting the precedent of the revolt of the Thirteen
United Colonies from Great Britain in the previous generation. Truly
Spain had committed an unwise act when she joined France in wrecking
the British domination in North America. She revenged an old grudge
successfully, but she taught her own colonists a lesson impossible to
forget and easy to copy.

The Peninsular War had hitherto been maintained in no small degree by
the money which kept flowing in from America: what would happen if
the treasure-ships with their regular supply of silver dollars from
the mines of Mexico and Peru ceased altogether to come in? Already
affairs were looking so threatening that, despite of all the needs of
the campaign at home, reinforcements were being sent out to the New
World from Cadiz and from Corunna: the Army of Galicia, as we shall
presently see, was nearly put out of action in the spring of 1812 by
the dispatch of an over-great proportion of its trained artillerymen to
America[137]. Some French observers of the situation formed the idea
that the Spaniards, if pressed to a decision between the possible loss
of their colonies and the chance of obtaining a free hand by peace with
Napoleon, might make the choice for empire rather than freedom. By
acknowledging Joseph Bonaparte as king, and coming into the Napoleonic
system, they might be able to turn their whole strength against the
discontented Americans. This idea had one fatal error: any Spaniard
could see that submission to France meant war with Great Britain:
and then the way across the Atlantic would be closed. The British
government would be forced into an alliance with the colonists; it
had already thought of this device in the old days before Napoleon’s
invasion of the Peninsula. Whitelock’s unhappy Buenos Ayres expedition
in 1807 had been sent out precisely to take advantage of the discontent
of the Americans, and in the hope that they would rise against the
mother country if promised assistance. The adventurer Miranda had
spent much time in pressing this policy on the Portland cabinet.
Whitelock’s descent on the Rio de la Plata, it is true, had been as
disappointing in the political as in the military line: he had got no
help whatever from the disaffected colonists. But feeling in America
had developed into much greater bitterness since 1807: in 1812 actual
insurrection had already broken out. British aid would not, this time,
be rejected: the malcontents would buy it by the grant of liberal
trading concessions, which the Cadiz government, even in its worst time
of trouble, had steadily refused to grant. There was every chance,
therefore, that a policy of submission to Napoleon would ensure the
loss of America even more certainly and more rapidly than a persistence
in the present war. It does not seem that any person of importance at
Cadiz ever took into serious consideration the idea of throwing up
the struggle for independence, in order to obtain the opportunity of
dealing with the American question.

  [137] See below, section xxxiii, page 337.

The idea, however, was in the air. This was the time at which King
Joseph made his last attempt to open up secret negotiation with
the patriots. His own condition was unhappy enough, as has been
sufficiently shown in an earlier chapter: but he was well aware that
the outlook of his enemies was no less gloomy. One of the numerous--and
usually impracticable--pieces of advice which his brother had sent him
was the suggestion that he should assemble some sort of a Cortes, and
then, posing as a national king, try to open up communications with
the Cadiz government, setting forth the somewhat unconvincing thesis
that Great Britain, and not France, was the real enemy of Spanish
greatness. The idea of calling a Cortes fell through: the individuals
whom Joseph could have induced to sit in it would have been so few,
so insignificant, and so unpopular, that such a body could only have
provoked contempt[138]. But an attempt was made to see if anything
could be done at Cadiz: the inducement which Joseph was authorized to
offer to the patriots was that immediately on his recognition as a
constitutional king by the Cortes--and a constitution was to be drawn
up in haste at Madrid--the French army should retire from Spain, and
the integrity of the realm should be guaranteed. Napoleon even made a
half-promise to give up Catalonia, though he had practically annexed it
to his empire in the previous year[139].

  [138] For all this scheme see the Memoirs of Miot de Melito, iii.
  pp. 215-16, beside the Emperor’s own dispatches. Note especially
  the instructions which the French ambassador, Laforest, was to
  set before Joseph.

  [139] See vol. iv. p. 215.

Joseph and his ministers had no confidence either in the Emperor’s
sincerity in making these offers, or in the likelihood of their
finding any acceptance among the patriots. He sent, however, to Cadiz
as his agent a certain Canon La Peña, a secret _Afrancesado_, but a
brother of Manuel La Peña, the incapable general who had betrayed
Graham at Barrosa. This officer was on his trial at the moment for his
misbehaviour on that occasion, and the canon pretended to have come
to assist him in his day of trouble on grounds of family affection.
It would seem that he sounded certain persons but with small effect.
Toreno, who was present in Cadiz at the time, and well acquainted
with every intrigue that was in progress, says that the Regency never
heard of the matter, and that very few members of the Cortes knew what
La Peña was doing. It seems that he had conversations with certain
freemasons, who were connected with lodges in Madrid that were under
French influence, and apparently with one member of the ministry. ‘I do
not give his name,’ says the historian, ‘because I have no documentary
proof to bear out the charge, but moral proof I have[140].’ Be this as
it may, the labours of La Peña do not seem to have been very fruitful,
and the assertion made by certain French historians, and by Napoleon
himself in the _Mémorial de Ste-Hélène_, that the Cortes would have
proceeded to treat with Joseph, but for Wellington’s astonishing
successes in the spring of 1812, has little or no foundation. As Toreno
truly observes, any open proposal of the sort would have resulted
in the tearing to pieces by the populace of the man hardy enough to
make it. The intrigue had no more success than the earlier mission
of Sotelo, which has been spoken of in another place[141]. But it
lingered on, till the battle of Salamanca in July, and the flight of
Joseph from Madrid in August, proved, to any doubters that there may
have been, that the French cause was on the wane[142]. One of the most
curious results of this secret negotiation was that Soult, hearing that
the King’s emissary was busy at Cadiz, and not knowing that it was at
Napoleon’s own suggestion that the experiment was being made, came to
the conclusion that Joseph was plotting to abandon his brother, and to
make a private peace with the Cortes, on condition that he should break
with France and be recognized as king. He wrote, as we shall presently
see, to denounce him to Napoleon as a traitor. Hence came no small
friction in the following autumn.

  [140] Toreno, iii. p. 100.

  [141] See vol. ii. p. 168.

  [142] Toreno says that the mistress of the Duke of Infantado was
  implicated in the negotiation, after he had become a regent, but
  that he himself had no treasonable intentions, being a staunch
  supporter of Ferdinand.

These secret intrigues fell into a time of keen political strife at
Cadiz--the famous Constitution, which was to cause so much bickering
in later years, was being drafted, discussed, and passed through the
Cortes in sections, all through the autumn of 1811 and the winter of
1811-12. The Liberals and the Serviles fought bitterly over almost
every clause, and during their disputes the anti-national propaganda of
the handful of _Afrancesados_ passed almost unnoticed. It is impossible
in a purely military history to relate the whole struggle, and a few
words as to its political bearings must suffice.

The Constitution was a strange amalgam of ancient Spanish national
tradition, of half-understood loans from Great Britain and America,
and of political theory borrowed from France. Many of its framers
had obviously studied the details of the abortive ‘limited monarchy’
which had been imposed on Louis XVI in the early days of the French
Revolution. From this source came the scheme which limited within
narrow bounds the sovereign’s power in the Constitution. The system
evolved was that of a king whose main constitutional weapon was that
right of veto on legislation which had proved so unpopular in France.
He was to choose ministers who, like those of the United States of
America, were not to sit in parliament, nor to be necessarily dependent
on a party majority in the house, though they were to be responsible
to it. There was to be but one Chamber, elected not directly by the
people--though universal suffrage was introduced--but by notables
chosen by the parishes in local primary assemblies, who again named
district notables, these last nominating the actual members for the
Cortes.

The right of taxation was vested in the Chamber, and the Ministry was
placed at its mercy by the power of refusing supply. The regular army
was specially subjected to the Chamber and not to the King, though the
latter was left some power with regard to calling out or disbanding
the local militia which was to form the second line in the national
forces--at present it was in fact non-existent, unless the guerrillero
bands might be considered to represent it.

The most cruel blows were struck not only at the King’s power but at
his prestige. A clause stating that all treaties or grants made by him
while in captivity were null and void was no doubt necessary--there
was no knowing what documents Napoleon might not dictate to Ferdinand.
But it was unwise to formulate in a trenchant epigram that ‘the nation
is free and independent, not the patrimony of any family or person,’
or that ‘the people’s obligation of obedience ceases when the King
violates the laws.’ And when, after granting their sovereign a veto on
legislation, the Constitution proceeded to state that the veto became
inoperative after the Cortes had passed any act in three successive
sessions, it became evident that the King’s sole weapon was to be made
ineffective. ‘Sovereignty,’ it was stated, ‘is vested essentially in
the nation, and for this reason the nation alone has the right to
establish its fundamental laws.’ But the most extraordinary attack on
the principle of legitimate monarchy was a highhanded resettlement
of the succession to the throne, in which the regular sequence of
next heirs was absolutely ignored. If King Ferdinand failed to leave
issue, the crown was to go to his brother Don Carlos: if that prince
also died childless, the Constitution declared that the infante Don
Francisco and his sister the Queen of Etruria were both to be passed
over. No definite reasons were given in the act of settlement for
this astonishing departure from the natural line of descent. The real
meaning of the clause concerning Don Francisco was that many suspected
him of being the son of Godoy and not of Charles IV[143]. As to the
Queen of Etruria, she had been in her younger days a docile tool of
Napoleon, and had lent herself very tamely to his schemes. But it is
said that the governing cause of her exclusion from the succession
was not so much her own unpopularity, as the incessant intrigues of
her sister Carlotta, the wife of the regent João of Portugal, who had
for a long time been engaged in putting forward a claim to be elected
as sole regent of Spain. She had many members of the Cortes in her
pay, and their influence was directed to getting her name inserted in
the list above that of her brother in the succession-roll, and to the
disinheritance of her sister also. Her chance of ever reaching the
throne was not a very good one, as both Ferdinand and Carlos were still
young, and could hardly be kept prisoners at Valençay for ever. It is
probable that the real object of the manœvres was rather to place her
nearer to the regency of Spain in the present crisis, than to seat her
upon its throne at some remote date. For the regency was her desire,
though the crown too would have been welcome, and sometimes not only
the anti-Portuguese party in the Cortes, but Wellington and his brother
Henry Wellesley, the Ambassador at Cadiz, were afraid that by patience
and by long intrigue her partisans might achieve their object.

  [143] See Villa Urrutia, i. p. 13 and ii. pp. 355-9.

Wellington was strongly of opinion that a royal regent at Cadiz
would be most undesirable. The personal influences of a _camarilla_,
surrounding an ambitious but incapable female regent, would add another
difficulty to the numerous problems of the relations between England
and Spain, which were already sufficiently tiresome.

This deliberate humiliation of the monarchy, by clauses accentuated
by phrases of insult, which angered, and were intended to anger, the
_Serviles_, was only accomplished after long debate, in which protests
of the most vigorous sort were made by many partisans of the old
theory of Spanish absolutism. Some spoke in praise of the Salic Law,
violated by the mention of Carlotta as heiress to the throne, others
(ignoring rumours as to his paternity) defended Don Francisco, as
having been by his youth exempted from the ignominies of Bayonne, and
dwelt on the injustice of his fate. But the vote went against them by a
most conclusive figure.

The majority in the Cortes, which made such parade of its political
liberalism, did not pursue its theories into the realm of religion.
After reading its fulsome declarations in favour of freedom, it is
astounding to note the black intolerance of the clause which declares
not only, as might naturally be expected, that ‘the religion of the
Spanish nation is, and ever shall be, the Catholic Apostolic Roman,
the one true faith,’ but that ‘the nation defends it by wise laws,
_forbidding the exercise of any other_.’ Schism and unorthodoxy still
remained political as well as ecclesiastical crimes, no less than
in the time of Philip II. The Liberals, despite of murmurs by the
_Serviles_, refused to recreate the Inquisition, but this was as far as
their conception of religious freedom went.

Contemplating this exhibition of mediaeval intolerance, it is
impossible to rate at any very high figure the ostentatious liberalism
which pervades the greater part of the Constitution. We are bound to
recognize in it merely the work of a party of ambitious politicians,
who desired to secure control of the state-machine for themselves,
and to exclude the monarchy from all share in its manipulation. No
doubt any form of limited government was better than the old royal
bureaucracy. But this particular scheme went much farther than the
needs or the possibilities of the time, and was most unsuited for
a country such as the Spain of 1812. When its meaning began to be
understood in the provinces, it commanded no enthusiasm or respect.
Indeed, outside the Cortes itself the only supporters that it possessed
were the populace of Cadiz and a few other great maritime towns.
Considered as a working scheme it had the gravest faults, especially
the ill-arranged relations between the ministers (who did not form
a real cabinet) and the Chamber, in which they were prohibited from
sitting. In 1814 Lord Castlereagh observed, with great truth, that he
could now say from certain experience, that in practice as well as in
theory the Constitution of 1812 was one of the worst among the modern
productions of its kind[144].

  [144] The best and most recent account of all this, explaining
  many contradictions and some insincere suppression of fact in
  Toreno’s great history, is to be found in chapter ix of vol. ii
  of Señor Villa Urrutia’s _Relaciones entre España y Inglaterra
  1808-14_.

Among the many by-products of the Constitution was a change in the
membership of the Regency. The old ‘trinitarian’ body composed of
Blake, Agar, and Cisgar, had long been discredited, and proposals for
its dissolution had been debated, even before its further continuance
was rendered impossible by Blake’s surrender to the French at Valencia
in the earliest days of 1812. A furious discussion in the Cortes had
ended in a vote that no royal personage should be a member of any
new regency, so that the pretensions of the Princess of Portugal
were finally discomfited. The new board consisted of the Duke of
Infantado, Joaquim Mosquera, a member of the Council of the Indies,
Admiral Villavicencio, military governor of Cadiz, Ignacio Rodriguez de
Rivas, and Henry O’Donnell, Conde de la Bispal, the energetic soldier
whose exploits in Catalonia have been set forth in the last volume of
this book. He was the only man of mark in the new regency: Infantado
owed his promotion to his rank and wealth, and the fact that he had
been the trusted friend of Ferdinand VII. He possessed a limited
intelligence and little education, and was hardly more than a cipher,
with a distinct preference for ‘Serviles’ rather than for Liberals.
Villavicencio had no military reputation, but had been an energetic
organizer, and a fairly successful governor during the siege of Cadiz.
Mosquera and Rivas were elected mainly because they were of American
birth--their choice was intended to conciliate the discontented
colonists. Neither of them was entitled by any great personal merit to
the promotion which was thrust upon him. Henry O’Donnell, now at last
recovered from the wound which had laid him on a sick bed for so many
months in 1811[145], was both capable and energetic, but quarrelsome
and provocative: he belonged to that class of men who always irritate
their colleagues into opposition, by their rapid decisions and
imperious ways, especially when those colleagues are men of ability
inferior to their own. The Duke of Infantado was absent for some time
after his election--he had been serving as ambassador in London. Of
the other four Regents two ranked as ‘Serviles,’ two as Liberals, a
fact which told against their efficiency as a board. They had little
strength to stand out against the Cortes, whose jealousy against any
power in the State save its own was intense. On the whole it may be
said that the substitution of the five new Regents for the three old
ones had no great political consequences. The destiny of the patriot
cause was not in the hands of the executive, but of the turbulent,
faction-ridden, and ambitious legislative chamber, an ideally
bad instrument for the conduct of a difficult and dangerous war.
Fortunately it was neither the Regency nor the Cortes whose actions
were to settle the fate of the campaign of 1812, but purely and solely
Wellington and the Anglo-Portuguese army. The intrigues of Cadiz turned
out to be a negligible quantity in the course of events.

  [145] See vol. iv. p. 240.

In Lisbon at this time matters were much more quiet than they had
been a little while back. The Portuguese government had abandoned any
overt opposition to Wellington, such as had been seen in 1810, when
the Patriarch and the President Souza had given him so much trouble.
The expulsion of Masséna from Portugal had justified the policy of
Wellington, and almost silenced his critics. He had not even found it
necessary to press for the removal of the men whom he distrusted from
the Council of Regency[146], in which the word of his loyal coadjutor,
Charles Stuart, who combined the rather incompatible functions of
British Ambassador and Regent, was now supreme. Open opposition had
ceased, but Wellington complained that while compliance was always
promised, ‘every measure which I propose is frittered away to nothing,
the form and the words remain, but the spirit of the measure is taken
away in the execution[147].’ This was, he remarked, the policy of the
Portuguese government: they no longer refused him anything; but if
they thought that any of his demands might offend either the Prince
Regent at Rio Janeiro or the popular sentiment of the Portuguese
nation, they carried out his proposals in such a dilatory fashion, and
with so many exceptions and excuses, that he failed to obtain what he
had expected.

  [146] Early in 1812, however, Wellington once more spoke of
  requiring Souza’s retirement from office. _Dispatches_, ix. p. 88.

  [147] Wellington to Charles Stuart, April 9, 1812. _Dispatches_,
  ix. p. 48.

In this there was a good deal of injustice. Wellington does not always
seem to have realized the abject poverty which four years of war had
brought upon Portugal. The Regency calculated that, on account of
falling revenue caused by the late French invasion, for 1812 they could
only count on 12,000,000 _cruzados novos_ of receipts[148]--this silver
coin was worth about 2_s._ 6_d._ sterling, so that the total amounted
to about £1,500,000. Of this three-fourths, or 9,000,000 cruzados, was
set aside for the army, the remainder having to sustain all the other
expenses of the State--justice, civil administration, roads, navy, &c.
The British subsidy had been raised to £2,000,000 a year, but it was
paid with the utmost irregularity: in one month of 1811 the Portuguese
treasury had received only £6,000, in another only £20,000, instead
of the £166,000 promised[149]. When such arrears accumulated, it was
no wonder that the soldiers starved and the magazines ran low. It
was calculated that to keep the army up to its full numbers, and to
supply all military needs efficiently, 45,000,000 cruzados a year were
required. Taking the British subsidy as equalling 16,000,000, and the
available national contribution at 9,000,000 cruzados, there was little
more than half the required sum available. This Portuguese calculation
appears to be borne out by the note of Beresford’s chief of the staff,
D’Urban, in February 1812. ‘The Marshal at Lisbon finds that, after a
perfect investigation, it appears that the expenditure must be nearly
£6,000,000--the means at present £3,500,000! _Nous verrons._’

  [148] Napier (iv. p. 212) says that Portugal raised 25,000,000
  cruzados this year. I cannot understand this, comparing it with
  Soriano de Luz, iii. p. 523, which quotes 12,000,000 cruzados as
  the total receipt of taxes for 1811. Does Napier include loans,
  and the inconvertible paper issued by the government?

  [149] See complaints of the Conde de Redondo, the Portuguese
  finance minister, in Soriano de Luz, iii. p. 520.

It is clear that the Portuguese government must have shrunk from many
of Wellington’s suggestions on account of mere lack of resources.
A third of the country had been at one time or another overrun by
the French--the provinces north of the Douro in 1809, the Beira and
northern Estremadura in 1810-11. It would take long years before
they were in a position to make their former contributions to the
expenses of the State. It was impossible to get over this hard fact:
but Wellington thought that a rearrangement of taxes, and an honest
administration of their levy, would produce a much larger annual
revenue than was being raised in 1812. He pointed out, with some
plausibility, that British money was being poured into Portugal by
millions and stopped there: some one--the merchant and contractor for
the most part--must be making enormous profits and accumulating untold
wealth. Moreover he had discovered cases of the easy handling of the
rich and influential in the matter of taxation, while the peasantry
were being drained of their last farthing. Such little jobs were
certain to occur in an administration of the _ancien régime_: fidalgos
and capitalists knew how to square matters with officials at Lisbon.
‘A reform in the abuses of the Customs of Lisbon and Oporto, a more
equal and just collection of the Income Tax on commercial property,
particularly in those large and rich towns [it is scandalous to hear
of the fortunes made by the mercantile classes owing to the war,
and to reflect that they contribute practically nothing to bear its
burdens], a reform of the naval establishment and the arsenal, would
make the income equal to the expenditure, and the government would get
on without calling upon Great Britain at every moment to find that
which, in the existing state of the world, cannot be procured, viz.
money[150].’ So wrote Wellington, who was always being irritated by
discovering that the magazines of Elvas or Almeida were running low, or
that recruits were not rejoining their battalions because there was no
cash to arm or clothe them, or that troops in the field were getting
half-rations, unless they were on the British subsidy list.

  [150] See tables on pp. 324-5 of Halliday’s _Present State of
  Portugal_, published in 1812.

No doubt Wellington was right in saying that there was a certain
amount of jobbery in the distribution of taxation, and that more could
have been raised by a better system. But Portuguese figures of the
time seem to make it clear that even if a supernatural genius had
been administering the revenue instead of the Conde de Redondo, all
could not have been obtained that was demanded. The burden of the war
expenses was too heavy for an impoverished country, with no more than
two and a half million inhabitants, which was compelled to import a
great part of its provisions owing to the stress of war. The state
of Portugal may be estimated by the fact that in the twelve months
between February 1811 and January 1812 £2,672,000 worth of imported
corn, besides 605,000 barrels of flour, valued at £2,051,780 more,
was brought into the country and sold there[151]. On the other hand
the export of wine, with which Portugal used to pay for its foreign
purchases, had fallen off terribly: in 1811 only 18,000 pipes were
sold as against an average of 40,000 for the eight years before the
outbreak of the Peninsular War. An intelligent observer wrote in 1812
that the commercial distress of the country might mainly be traced to
the fact that nearly all the money which came into the country from
England, great as was the sum, found its way to the countries from
which Portugal was drawing food, mainly to the United States, from
which the largest share of the wheat and flour was brought. ‘As we
have no corresponding trade with America, the balance has been very
great against this country: for the last three years this expenditure
has been very considerable, without any return whatever, as the money
carried to America has been completely withdrawn from circulation.’

  [151] Halliday’s _Present State of Portugal_, p. 320.

The shrinkage in the amount of the gold and silver current in Portugal
was as noticeable in these years as the same phenomenon in England,
and (like the British) the Portuguese government tried to make up the
deficiency by the issue of inconvertible paper money, which gradually
fell in exchange value as compared with the metallic currency. The
officers of the army, as well as all civil functionaries, were paid
their salaries half in cash and half in notes--the latter suffered a
depreciation of from 15 to 30 per cent. Among the cares which weighed
on Wellington and Charles Stuart was that of endeavouring to keep the
Regency from the easy expedient of issuing more and more of a paper
currency which was already circulating at far less than its face value.
This was avoided--fortunately for the Portuguese people and army, no
less than for the Anglo-Portuguese alliance.

After all, the practical results of the efforts made by the Portuguese
government were invaluable. Wellington could not have held his ground,
much less have undertaken the offensive campaign of 1812, without the
aid of the trusty auxiliaries that swelled his divisions to normal
size. Without their Portuguese brigades most of them would have been
mere skeletons of 3,000 or 4,000 men. Beresford’s army was almost up
to its full establishment in January 1812--there were 59,122 men on
the rolls, when recruits, sick, men on detachment, and the regiment
lent for the succour of Cadiz are all counted. Deducting, beyond these,
the garrisons of Elvas, Abrantes, Almeida, and smaller places, as also
the dismounted cavalry left in the rear[152], there were over 30,000
men for the fighting-line, in ten brigades of infantry, six regiments
of cavalry, and eight field-batteries. Beresford, lately entrusted
by orders from Rio Janeiro with still more stringent powers over the
military establishment, was using them to the full. An iron hand kept
down desertion and marauding, executions for each of those offences
appear incessantly in the _Ordens do Dia_, which give the daily
chronicle of the Portuguese head-quarters. In addition to the regular
army it must be remembered that he had to manage the militia, of which
as many as 52,000 men were under arms at one time or another in 1812.
Counting the first and the second line together, there were 110,000 men
enrolled--a fine total for a people of two and a half million souls.

  [152] The deductions were--sick, 7,500; untrained recruits,
  4,000; dismounted cavalry, 3,000; regiment at Cadiz, 1,500;
  garrisons (infantry and artillery) and men on detachment, 10,000;
  leaving some 33,000 for the field. By May the gross total had
  gone down to 56,674.

Putting purely Portuguese difficulties aside, Wellington was much
worried at this time by a trouble which concerned the British and not
the local finances. This was the delay in the cashing of the ‘_vales_’
or bills for payment issued by the Commissary-General for food and
forage bought from the peasantry. As long as they were settled at short
intervals, no difficulty arose about them--they were indeed treated
as negotiable paper, and had passed from hand to hand at a lesser
discount than the inconvertible Portuguese government papers. But all
through the year 1811 the interval between the issue of the ‘_vale_’
and its payment in cash at Lisbon had been growing longer, and an
uncomfortable feeling was beginning to spread about the country-side.
The peasantry were growing suspicious, and were commencing to sell
the bills, for much less than their face value, to speculators who
could afford to wait for payment. To recoup themselves for their loss
they were showing signs of raising prices all round. Fortunately they
were a simple race, and communication between districts was slow and
uncertain, so that no general tendency of this sort was yet prevalent,
though the symptoms were making themselves visible here and there.
Hence came Wellington’s constant applications for more cash from
England at shorter notice. Late in the spring he devised a scheme by
which interest at 5 per cent. was to be paid by the Commissary-General
on bonds or certificates representing money or money’s worth advanced
to the British army, till the principal was repaid--two years being
named as the period after which the whole sum must be refunded. This
was a desperate measure, an endeavour to throw forward payment on to
a remote future, ‘when it is not probable that there will be the same
difficulty in procuring specie in England to send abroad as there is
at the present moment.’ The plan[153] was never tried, and was not
good: for how could small creditors of the English army be expected
to stand out of their money--representing the price of their crops
or their cattle--for so long a period as two years, even if they
were, in the meantime, receiving interest on what was really their
working capital? Wellington himself remarked, when broaching the
scheme to Lord Liverpool, that there remained the difficulty that no
one could look forward, and say that the British army would still be
in the Peninsula two years hence. If it had left Portugal--whether
victorious and pushing towards the Pyrenees, or defeated and driven
back on to Great Britain--how would the creditors communicate with
the Commissary-General, their debtor? They could only be referred to
London, to which they would have no ready access: indeed many of them
would not know where, or what, London was. That such an idea should
have been set forward only shows the desperate financial situation of
the British army.

  [153] Set forth in detail, and with a sample bond for 1,000
  dollars added, in _Dispatches_, ix. pp. 104-5.

We shall have to be referring to this problem at several later points
of the history of the campaign of 1812[154]: at the opening of the
invasion of Leon in June it reached its worst point, just before
the great victory of Salamanca. But it was always present, and
when Wellington’s mind was not occupied with deductions as to the
manœuvres of French marshals, it may undoubtedly be said that his
main preoccupation was the normally depleted state of the military
chest, into which dollars and guineas flowed, it is true, in enormous
quantities, but only to be paid out at once, in settling arrears many
months old. These were never fully liquidated, and began to accumulate
again, with distressing rapidity, after every tardy settlement.

  [154] See especially below in chapter iii of section xxxiii. p.
  349.

Whig historians have often tried to represent Wellington’s financial
difficulties as the fault of the home government, and it is easy to
pick passages from his dispatches in which he seems to assert that
he is not being supported according to his necessities. But a nearer
investigation of the facts will not bear out this easy theory, the
product of party spite. The Whigs of 1811-12 were occupied in decrying
the Peninsular War as a failure, in minimizing the successes of
Wellington, and in complaining that the vast sums of money lavished on
his army were wasted. Napoleon was invincible, peace was the only way
out of disaster, even if the peace must be somewhat humiliating. It
was unseemly for their representatives, twenty years after, to taunt
the Perceval and Liverpool ministries with having stinted Wellington
in his hour of need. We have learnt to estimate at their proper
value tirades against ‘the administration which was characterized
by all the corruption and tyranny of Mr. Pitt’s system, without his
redeeming genius.’ We no longer think that the Napoleonic War was waged
‘to repress the democratic principle,’ nor that the cabinets which
maintained it were ‘the rapacious usurpers of the people’s rights[155].’

  [155] For these phrases and much more abuse, see Napier, iv. p.
  199, a most venomous and unjust passage.

Rather, in the spirit of Mr. Fortescue’s admirable volume on _British
Statesmen of the Great War_, shall we be prone to stand amazed at
the courage and resolution of the group of British ministers who
stood out, for long years and against tremendous odds, to defeat the
tyrant of Europe and to preserve the British Empire. ‘On the one side
was Napoleon, an autocrat vested with such powers as great genius
and good fortune have rarely placed in the hands of one man, with
the resources of half Europe at his disposition, and an armed force
unsurpassed in strength and devotion ready to march to the ends of
the world to uphold his will. On the other were these plain English
gentlemen, with not so much as a force of police at their back, with a
population by nature five times as turbulent as it is now, and in the
manufacturing districts inflamed alike by revolutionary teaching and by
real distress, with an Ireland always perilously near revolt, with a
House of Commons unreformed indeed, but not on that account containing
a less factious, mischievous, and obstructive opposition than any
other House of Commons during a great war. In face of all these
difficulties they had to raise armies, maintain fleets, construct and
pursue a military policy, and be unsuccessful at their peril. Napoleon
might lose whole armies with impunity: five thousand British soldiers
beaten and captured would have brought any British minister’s head
perilously near the block. Such were the difficulties that confronted
Perceval, Liverpool, and Castlereagh: yet for their country’s sake they
encountered them without flinching[156].’

  [156] Fortescue’s _British Statesmen_, pp. 277-8.

The winter of 1811-12 was not quite the darkest hour: the Russian war
was looming in the near future, and Napoleon was already beginning to
withdraw troops from Spain in preparation for it. No longer therefore,
as in 1810 and the earlier half of 1811, was there a high probability
that the main bulk of the French armies, under the Emperor himself,
might be turned once more against the Peninsula. It was all but certain
that England would soon have allies, and not stand practically alone
in the struggle, as she had done ever since Wagram. Nevertheless, even
with the political horizon somewhat brightened in the East, the time
was a sufficiently anxious one. In Great Britain, as in the rest of
Europe, the harvest of 1811 had been exceptionally bad, and the high
price of bread, coinciding with much unemployment, was causing not only
distress but wide-spread turbulence in the manufacturing districts.
This was the year of the first outbreak of the ‘Luddites,’ and of their
senseless exploits in the way of machine-smashing. The worst stringency
of domestic troubles coincided with the gradual disappearance of the
external danger from the ambition of Napoleon.

In addition it must be remembered that the Perceval cabinet, on which
all the responsibilities fell, was by no means firmly established in
power. When it first took office many politicians believed that it
could not last for a single year. All through 1811 the Prince Regent
had been in secret negotiation with the Whigs, and would gladly have
replaced his ministers with some sort of a coalition government. And
in January 1812 Lord Wellesley, by far the most distinguished man in
the cabinet, resigned his post as Foreign Minister. He asserted that
he did so because his colleagues had failed to accept all his plans
for the support of his brother and the Peninsular army: and no doubt
this was to a certain extent true. Yet it cannot be said that, either
before or after his resignation, the Ministry had neglected Wellington;
in 1811 they had doubled his force of cavalry, and sent him about a
dozen new battalions of infantry. It was these reinforcements which
made the victories of 1812 possible, and in that year the stream of
reinforcements did not cease--nine more infantry regiments came out,
mostly in time for the great crisis in June[157]. In the autumn the
dispatch of further succours had become difficult, because of the
outbreak of the American war, which diverted of necessity to Canada
many units that might otherwise have gone to Spain. It is impossible to
maintain that Wellington was stinted of men: money was the difficulty.
And even as regards money--which had to be gold or silver, since paper
was useless in the Peninsula--the resources placed at his disposal were
much larger than in previous years, though not so large as he demanded,
nor as the growing scale of the war required.

  [157] _Per contra_ five depleted second battalions went home.

It is difficult to acquit Wellesley of factiousness with regard to
his resignation, and the most damaging document against him is the
_apologia_ drawn up by his devoted adherent Shawe[158], in the belief
that it afforded a complete justification for his conduct: many of
the words and phrases are the Marquess’s own. From this paper no one
can fail to deduce that it was not so much a quixotic devotion to his
brother’s interests, as an immoderate conception of his own dignity
and importance that made Wellesley resign. He could not stand the free
discussion and criticism of plans and policies which is essential in
a cabinet. ‘Lord Wellesley has always complained, with some justice,
that his suggestions were received as those of a mere novice.... His
opinions were overruled, and the opposition he met with could only
proceed from jealousy, or from a real contempt for his judgement.
It seemed to him that they were unwilling to adopt any plan of his,
lest it might lead to his assuming a general ascendancy in the
Cabinet.... He said that he took another view of the situation: the
Government derived the most essential support from his joining it,
because it was considered as a pledge that the war would be properly
supported.... “The war is popular, and any government that will
support Lord Wellington properly will stand. I do not think the war
is properly supported, and I cannot, as an honest man, deceive the
nation by remaining in office.” ... It is needless to particularize all
the points of difference between Lord Wellesley and his colleagues:
Spain was the main point, but he also disapproved of their obstinate
adherence to the Orders in Council, and their policy towards America
and in Sicily’--not to speak of Catholic Emancipation.

  [158] Printed in Wellington’s _Supplementary Dispatches_, vii.
  pp. 257-88.

These are the words of injured pride, not of patriotism. The essential
thing at the moment was that the war in Spain should be kept up
efficiently. By resigning, Wellesley intended to break up the Ministry,
and of this a probable result might have been the return to office of
the Whigs, whose policy was to abandon the Peninsula and make peace
with Napoleon. Wellesley’s _apologia_ acknowledges that his influence
in the Cabinet had brought about, on more occasions than one, an
increase of the support given to his brother, e.g. his colleagues had
given in about additions to the Portuguese subsidy, and about extra
reinforcements to the army. This being so, it was surely criminal in
him to retire, when he found that some of his further suggestions were
not followed. Would the wrecking of the Perceval cabinet, and the
succession of the Whigs to power, have served Wellington or the general
cause of the British Empire?

Wellington himself saw the situation with clear eyes, and in a letter,
in which a touch of his sardonic humour can be detected, wrote in reply
to his brother’s announcement of his resignation that ‘In truth the
republic of a cabinet is but little suited to any man of taste or of
large views[159].’ There lay the difficulty: the great viceroy loved to
dictate, and hated to hear his opinions criticized. Lord Liverpool, in
announcing the rupture to Wellington in a letter of a rather apologetic
cast, explains the situation in a very few words: ‘Lord Wellesley
says generally that he has not the weight in the Government which he
expected, when he accepted office.... The Government, though a cabinet,
is necessarily _inter pares_, in which every member must expect to
have his opinions and his dispatches canvassed, and this previous
friendly canvass of opinions and measures appears necessary, under
a constitution where all public acts of ministers will be hostilely
debated in parliament.’ The Marquess resented all criticism whatever.

  [159] Wellington to Wellesley, camp before Badajoz,
  _Supplementary Dispatches_, vii. p. 307.

The ministers assured Wellington that his brother’s resignation would
make no difference in their relations with himself, and invited him to
write as freely to Lord Castlereagh, who succeeded Wellesley at the
Foreign Office, as to his predecessor. The assurance of the Cabinet’s
good will and continued confidence was received--as it had been
given--in all sincerity. Not the least change in Wellington’s relations
with the Ministry can be detected from his dispatches. Nor can it be
said that the support which he received from home varied in the least,
after his brother’s secession from the Cabinet. Even the grudging
Napier is forced to concede this much, though he endeavours to deprive
the Perceval ministry of any credit, by asserting that their only
chance of continuance in office depended on the continued prosperity
of Wellington. Granting this, we must still conclude that Wellesley’s
resignation, even if it produced no disastrous results--as it well
might have done--was yet an unhappy exhibition of pride and petulance.
A patriotic statesman should have subordinated his own _amour propre_
to the welfare of Great Britain, which demanded that a strong
administration, pledged to the continuance of war with Napoleon, should
direct the helm of the State. He did his best to wreck Perceval’s
cabinet, and to put the Whigs in power.

The crisis in the Ministry passed off with less friction and less
results than most London observers had expected, and Lord Liverpool
turned out to be right when he asserted that in his opinion[160]
it would be of no material prejudice to the Perceval government.
Castlereagh, despite of his halting speech and his involved phrases,
was a tower of strength at the Foreign Office, and certainly replaced
Wellesley with no disadvantage to the general policy of Great Britain.

  [160] Liverpool to Wellington, _Supplementary Dispatches_, vii.
  p. 257.

Here the jealousies and bickerings in London may be left for a space.
We shall only need to turn back for a moment to ministerial matters
when, at midsummer, the whole situation had been transformed, for
France and Russia were at last openly engaged in war, a great relief
to British statesmen, although at the same time a new trouble was
arising in the West to distract their attention. For the same month
that started Napoleon on his way to Moscow saw President Madison’s
declaration of war on Great Britain, and raised problems, both on
the high seas and on the frontiers of Canada, that would have seemed
heart-breaking and insoluble if the strength of France had not been
engaged elsewhere. But the ‘stab in the back,’ as angry British
politicians called it, was delivered too late to be effective.



SECTION XXXII

WELLINGTON’S FIRST CAMPAIGN OF 1812


CHAPTER I

THE CAPTURE OF CIUDAD RODRIGO


It is with no small relief that we turn away from the annals of the
petty warfare in the provinces and of the bickerings of politicians,
to follow the doings of Wellington. All the ‘alarms and excursions’
that we have been narrating were of small import, compared with the
operations on the frontiers of Portugal and Leon which began at the New
Year of 1812. Here we have arrived at the true backbone of the war, the
central fact which governed all the rest. Here we follow the working
out of a definite plan conceived by a master-mind, and are no longer
dealing with spasmodic movements dictated by the necessities of the
moment. For the initiative had at last fallen into Wellington’s hands,
and the schemes of Soult and Marmont were no longer to determine his
movements. On the contrary, it was he who was to dictate theirs.

The governing factor in the situation in the end of December 1811 was,
as we have already shown, the fact that Marmont’s army had been so
distracted by the Alicante expedition, undertaken by Napoleon’s special
orders, that it was no longer in a position to concentrate, in full
force and within a reasonably short period of time. It was on December
13th[161] that the Duke of Ragusa received the definitive orders,
written on November 20-1, that bade him to send towards Valencia, for
Suchet’s benefit, such a force as, when joined by a detachment from
the Army of the Centre, should make up 12,000 men, and to find 3,000
or 4,000 more to cover the line of communications of the expedition.
Accordingly orders were issued to Montbrun to take up the enterprise,
with the divisions of Foy and Sarrut, and his own cavalry; the
concentration of the corps began on December 15th, and on December 29th
it marched eastward from La Mancha[162] on its fruitless raid.

  [161] For this date see Marmont to Berthier, from Valladolid,
  Feb. 6, 1812.

  [162] For details, see chapter iii of section xxx above.

Wellington’s policy at this moment depended on the exact distribution
of the hostile armies in front of him. He lay with the bulk of his army
wintering in cantonments along the frontier of Portugal and Leon, but
with the Light Division pushed close up to Ciudad Rodrigo, and ready to
invest it, the moment that the news should arrive that the French had
so moved their forces as to make it possible for him to close in upon
that fortress, without the danger of a very large army appearing to
relieve it within a few days. On December 28th he summed up his scheme
in a report to Lord Liverpool, in which he stated that, after the El
Bodon-Aldea da Ponte fighting in September, he had ‘determined to
persevere in the same system till the enemy should make some alteration
in the disposition of his forces[163].’ In the meanwhile he judged that
he was keeping Marmont and Dorsenne ‘contained,’ and preventing them
from undertaking operations elsewhere, unless they were prepared to
risk the chance of losing Rodrigo. ‘It would not answer to remove the
army to the frontiers of Estremadura (where a chance of effecting some
important object might have offered), as in that case General Abadia
[and the Spanish Army of Galicia] would have been left to himself, and
would have fallen an easy sacrifice to the Army of the North[164].’
Therefore Wellington refused to take the opportunity of descending upon
Badajoz and driving Drouet out of Estremadura, though these operations
were perfectly possible. He confined himself to ordering Hill to
carry out the two raids in this direction, of which the first led to
the destruction of Girard at Arroyo dos Molinos in October, and the
second to the occupation of Merida and the expulsion of the French from
central Estremadura at midwinter [December 27, 1811-January 13, 1812].

  [163] _Dispatches_, viii. p. 516.

  [164] Wellington to Lord Liverpool, Dec. 28.

In October Wellington had hoped for some time that Rodrigo would be
gravely incommoded for lack of provisions, for it was almost cut
off from the army to which it belonged by the guerrillero bands of
Julian Sanchez, who dominated all the country between the Agueda
and Salamanca, while the Light Division lay on the heights close
above it, ready to pounce on any convoy that might try to pass in.
This expectation, however, had been disappointed, as a large amount
of food had been thrown into the place on November 2nd by General
Thiébault, the governor of Salamanca. This revictualling had only
been accomplished by a mixture of good management and good luck. The
governor saw that any convoy must have a large escort, because of the
guerrilleros, who would have cut off a small one. But a large escort
could not move very fast, or escape notice. Wherefore, taking no mean
risk, Thiébault collected 3,400 men for a guard, stopped all exit of
Spaniards from Salamanca two days before the convoy started, gave out
a false destination for his movement, and sent out requisitions for
rations for 12,000 men in the villages between the starting-place and
Rodrigo. Wellington had been on the look-out for some such attempt,
and had intended that the Light Division, from its lair at Martiago
in the mountain-valleys above the city, should descend upon any force
of moderate size that might approach. But receiving, rather late, the
false news that at least three whole divisions were to serve as escort,
he forbade Craufurd to risk anything till he should have received
reinforcements. The same day the Agueda became unfordable owing to
sudden rains, and no troops could be sent across to join Craufurd.
Wherefore Thiébault got by, ere the smallness of his force was
realized, and retreated with such haste, after throwing in the food,
that the Light Division could not come up with him[165]. Such luck
could not be expected another time!

  [165] For details of this operation see Thiébault’s _Mémoires_,
  iv. pp. 538-43, corroborated by Wellington’s _Dispatches_, viii.
  pp. 373-5 and 385-6.

Wellington had begun to hurry up the nearest divisions to support
Craufurd, and had supposed for two days that he would have serious
fighting, since he imagined that 15,000 or 18,000 men at least had been
brought up to guard the convoy. It was a grave disappointment to him
to find that he had been misled, for it was clear that Rodrigo would
not be straitened for food for many a day. He had now to fall back on
his original scheme of reducing the place by a regular siege, when the
propitious instant should come round.

Meanwhile, waiting for the moment when Marmont and Dorsenne should
disperse their troops into a less concentrated position, he took
preliminary measures to face that eventuality when it should occur.
The main thing was to get the battering-train, with which Ciudad
Rodrigo would have to be attacked, close up to its objective. As we
have already seen[166], it had been collected far to the rear, at the
obscure village of Villa da Ponte near Trancoso. Between that spot and
Rodrigo there were eighty miles of bad mountain roads: if Wellington
had waited till he heard that Marmont had moved, before he began to
bring up his heavy guns, he would have lost many days. Accordingly
he commenced to push them forward as early as November 12th: their
temporary shelter was to be in the fortress of Almeida, which was
already so far restored that it could be regarded as safe against
anything short of a regular siege. It was certain that Marmont would
not come forward at midwinter for any such operation, and against
raids or demonstrations the place was already secure. On December 4th
Wellington reported[167] to Lord Liverpool that it would be completely
‘re-established as a military post’ within a few weeks; and on the
19th he announced that it was now ‘a place of security,’ and could
be trusted to resist any attack whatever. But, long before even the
first of these dates, it was beginning to receive the siege-material
which Alexander Dickson was ordered to bring up from the rear. As
early as November 22nd the first division of heavy guns entered its
gates: it was given out--to deceive French spies--that the pieces
were only intended to arm the walls, and at the same time Dickson
was actively employed in mounting on them a number of guns of heavy
calibre, wrecked in the explosion when Brennier evacuated Almeida in
May 1811. Twenty-five of them were in position before Christmas Day.
The indefatigable artillery commandant had also hunted out of the
ruins no less than 8,000 round shot: it was originally intended that
they should go into the magazines of the garrison; but, when the time
for action came, Wellington sent the greater part of this stock of
second-hand shot to the front, because they were immediately available,
and ordered the Almeida stores to be replenished, as occasion served,
by the later convoys that arrived from Villa da Ponte.

  [166] See vol. iv. p. 549.

  [167] _Dispatches_, viii, Report of Dec. 28 to Lord Liverpool on
  the late campaign.

Nor was it in bringing forward guns and ammunition alone that
Wellington was busy during December: he caused a great quantity of
gabions and fascines to be constructed by the men of the four divisions
nearest the front, giving two vintems (2½_d._) for every fascine
and four for every gabion. He had a very strong trestle-bridge cast
across the Agueda at Marialva, seven miles north of Rodrigo and out of
the reach of its garrison, and he began to collect carts from every
direction. Not only were they requisitioned in Beira, but Carlos de
España, who was lying in a somewhat venturesome position within the
frontiers of Leon, ordered the Spanish peasantry, even as far as
Tamames, to send every available ox-wain west-ward--and many came,
though their owners were risking dire chastisement at the hands of the
governor of the province of Salamanca.

Marmont, as we have seen, began to move troops eastward for Montbrun’s
Valencian expedition about December 15th. The first news of this
displacement reached Wellington on the 24th, when he heard that
Brennier’s division had evacuated Plasencia and fallen back behind
the Tietar, taking with it all its baggage, sick, and stores. This
might be no more than a change of cantonments for a single division,
or it might be a part of a general strategical move. Wellington wrote
to Hill that evening, ‘some say they are going to Valencia, some that
they are to cross the Tagus. I will let you know if I should learn
anything positive. I have not yet heard whether the movement has been
general, or is confined to this particular division[168].’ The right
deduction was not drawn with certainty, because at the same time false
intelligence was brought that Foy had started from Toledo and gone into
La Mancha, but had returned again. This was a confused account of his
movement; but the rumour of his coming back discounted the certain
news about Brennier’s eastward move[169].

  [168] Wellington to Hill, _Dispatches_, viii. p. 482, compare
  Wellington to Liverpool, viii. pp. 485-6, of the next morning.

  [169] See _Dispatches_, viii. p. 520. See the Dickson MSS.,
  edited by Major Leslie, for letter from Almeida in December.

On the 29th came the very important additional information that on the
26th Clausel’s Division, hitherto lying on the Upper Tormes, above
Salamanca, had marched upon Avila, and that the division already at
Avila was moving on some unknown eastward destination. At the same time
Wellington received the perfectly correct information that all the
cavalry of the Imperial Guard in Old Castile had already started for
Bayonne, and that the two infantry divisions of the Young Guard, which
formed the most effective part of Dorsenne’s Army of the North, were
under orders to march northward from Valladolid, and had already begun
to move.[170] This was certain--less so a report sent in by Castaños to
the effect that he had learnt that the whole Army of Portugal was about
to concentrate at Toledo. On this Wellington writes to Graham that ‘he
imagines it is only a report from Alcaldes’--a class of correspondents
on whose accuracy and perspicacity he was not accustomed to rely
over-much[171].

  [170] Wellington to Lord Liverpool, Jan. 1, _Dispatches_, viii.
  p. 524.

  [171] See Wellington to Graham, Dec. 26, _Dispatches_, viii. p.
  521.

But enough information had come to hand to make it clear that a
general eastward movement of the French was taking place, and that
the troops immediately available for the succour of Ciudad Rodrigo
were both decreased in numbers and removed farther from the sphere of
Wellington’s future operations. He thought that the opportunity given
justified him in striking at once, and had drawn at last the correct
deduction: ‘I conclude that all these movements have for their object
to support Suchet’s operations in Valencia, or even to co-operate with
him[172].’ If Marmont were extending his troops so far east as the
Valencian border, and if Dorsenne were withdrawing divisions northward
from Valladolid, it was clear that they could not concentrate in any
short space of time for the deliverance of Rodrigo. It was possible
that the siege might linger on long enough to enable the Armies of
Portugal and the North to unite; Wellington calculated that it might
take as much as twenty-four or even thirty days--an estimate which
happily turned out to be exaggerated: in the end he stormed it only
twelve days after investment. But even if Rodrigo should resist its
besiegers sufficiently long to permit of a general concentration of
the enemy, that concentration would disarrange all their schemes, and
weaken their hold on many outlying parts of the Peninsula. ‘If I do not
succeed,’ wrote Wellington, ‘I shall at least bring back some of the
troops of the Army of the North, and the Army of Portugal, and shall
so far relieve the Guerrillas [Mina, Longa, Porlier] and the Spanish
Army in Valencia[173].’ The last-named force was, as a matter of fact,
beyond saving, when Wellington wrote his letter to Lord Liverpool. But
he could not know it, and if Blake had behaved with common prudence
and foresight in the end of December, his game ought not to have been
played out to a disastrous end early in January, just when the British
were moving out to the leaguer of Rodrigo.

  [172] Wellington to Lord Liverpool, _Dispatches_, viii. p. 524.

  [173] Another extract from the explanatory dispatch to Lord
  Liverpool, written on Jan. 1st, 1812.

All the divisions cantoned upon or behind the Beira frontier received,
on January 2nd-3rd, the orders which bade them prepare to push up to
the line of the Agueda. Only the 6th Division, which lay farthest off,
as far back as Mangualde and Penaverde near the Upper Mondego, was not
brought up to the front within the next few days. The 1st Division had
a long march from Guarda, Celorico, and Penamacor, the 4th and 5th
Divisions very short ones from Aldea del Obispo and Alameda, Villa de
Ciervo, and other villages near Almeida. The 3rd Division from Aldea
da Ponte and Navas Frias had a journey greater than those of the two
last-named units, but much less than that of the 1st Division. Finally
the Light Division was, it may be said, already in position: its
outlying pickets at Pastores and Zamorra were already within six miles
of Rodrigo, and its head-quarters at Martiago only a short distance
farther back.

By January 5th the divisions were all at the front, though their march
had been carried out in very inclement weather--heavy snow fell on
the night of the 1st-2nd of the month, and continued to fall on the
third; while on the 4th the wind shifted, the snow turned to sleet, and
the roads grew soft and slushy. The carts with stores and ammunition,
pushing forward from Almeida, only reached Gallegos--ten miles away--in
two days. The troops were well forward--the 1st Division at Espeja and
Gallegos, the 3rd at Martiago and Zamorra, the 4th at San Felices,
beyond the Agueda, the Light Division at Pastores, La Encina and El
Bodon. But Wellington nevertheless had to put off the investment for
three days, because the train was not to the front. On the 6th he
crossed the Agueda with his staff and made a close reconnaissance of
the place, unmolested by the garrison. But it was only on the 8th that
the divisions, who were suffering severely from exposure to the wintry
weather, received orders to close in and complete the investment.

Of the topography of Ciudad Rodrigo we have already spoken at some
length, when dealing with its siege by Ney in 1810. The French
occupation had made no essential change to its character. The only
additions to its works made during the last eighteen months were the
erection of a small fort on the summit of the Greater Teson, and the
reinforcing by masonry of the three large convents in the suburb of San
Francisco, which the Spaniards had already used as places of strength.
The first-named work was a redoubt (named Redout Renaud, from the
governor whom Julian Sanchez had kidnapped in October): it mounted
three guns, had a ditch and palisades, and was built for a garrison of
seventy men. Its gorge contained a sally-port opening towards the town,
and was closed with palisades only. Four guns on the stone roof of the
fortified convent of San Francisco, and many more in the northern front
of the _enceinte_, bore upon it, and were intended to make access to it
dangerous and costly.

The breaches made during Ney’s siege, in the walls facing the Tesons,
had been well built up: but the new masonry, clearly distinguishable
by its fresh colour from the older stone, had not set over well, and
proved less hard when battered.

The garrison, supplied by the Army of the North, was not so numerous
as it should have been, particularly when it was intended to hold not
only the _enceinte_ of the small circular town but the straggling
suburb outside. It consisted of a battalion each of the 34th Léger and
the 113th Line, from the division of Thiébault (that long commanded
in 1810-11 by Serras), making about 1,600 men, with two companies
of Artillery and a small detachment of sappers--the whole at the
commencement of the siege did not amount to quite 2,000 of all ranks,
even including the sick in the hospital. The governor was General
Barrié, an officer who had been thrust into the post much contrary
to his will, because he was the only general of brigade available at
Salamanca when his predecessor Renaud was taken by Julian Sanchez[174].
The strength of the garrison had been deliberately kept low by
Dorsenne, because of the immense difficulty of supplying it with
provisions. The first convoy for its support had only been introduced
by bringing up 60,000 men, at the time of the fighting about El Bodon
in September: the second only by Thiébault’s risky expedient on
November 2nd.

  [174] For details of this see Thiébault’s _Mémoires_, iv. p. 537,
  where Barrié’s frank dismay at his appointment, and the arguments
  used to overcome it, are described at length.

The one thing that was abundant in the garrison of Ciudad Rodrigo on
January 8th, 1812, was artillery. Inside the place was lying the whole
siege-train of the Army of Portugal, which Masséna had stored there
when he started on his march into Portugal in September 1811. No less
than 153 heavy guns, with the corresponding stores and ammunition, were
parked there. A small fortress was never so stocked with munitions of
war, and the besieged made a lavish and unsparing use of them during
the defence: but though the shot and shell were available in unlimited
quantities, the gunners were not--a fortunate thing for the besiegers.

The details of the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo are interesting. This was
the only one of Wellington’s sieges in which everything went without
a serious hitch from first to last--so much so that he took the place
in twelve days, when he had not dared to make his calculation for
less than twenty-four[175]. Even the thing which seemed at first his
greatest hindrance--the extreme inclemency of the weather--turned
out in the end profitable. The sleet had stopped on the 6th, and a
time of light frosts set in, without any rain or snow. This kept the
ground hard, but was not bitter enough to freeze it for even half an
inch below the surface; the earth was not difficult to excavate, and
it piled together well. A persistent north-east wind kept the trenches
fairly dry, though it chilled the men who were not engaged in actual
spade work to the very bones. The worst memory recorded in the diaries
of many of the officers present in the siege is the constant necessity
for fording the Agueda in this cold time, when its banks were fringed
each morning with thin ice. For the camps of all the divisions, except
the 3rd, which lay at Serradilla del Arroyo, some miles south-east of
the city, were on the left bank of the river, and the only bridge was
so far off to the north that it was little used, the short cut across
the ford to the south of the town saving hours of time: ‘and as we were
obliged to cross the river with water up to our middles, every man
carried a pair of iced breeches into the trenches with him[176].’ There
being very few villages in the immediate neighbourhood of Rodrigo, many
of the brigades had to bivouac on the open ground--life being only made
tolerable by the keeping up of immense fires, round which the men spent
their time when off duty, and slept at night. But for the troops in the
trenches there could be no such comfort: they shivered in their great
coats and blankets, and envied those of their comrades who did the
digging, which at any rate kept the blood circulating. It is said that
several Portuguese sentries were found dead at their posts from cold
and exhaustion each morning.

  [175] Wellington to Liverpool, _Dispatches_, viii. p. 536, Jan.
  7th, 1812, ‘I can scarcely venture to calculate the time that
  this operation will take, but I should think not less than
  twenty-four or twenty-five days.’

  [176] Kincaid, _Adventures in the Rifle Brigade_, p. 104.

Wellington’s general plan was to follow the same line which Ney had
adopted in 1810, i. e. to seize the Greater Teson hill, establish a
first parallel there, and then sap down to the lower Little Teson,
on which the front parallel and the breaching batteries were to be
established, at a distance of no more than 200 yards from the northern
_enceinte_ of the city. But he had to commence with an operation which
Ney was spared--there was now on the crest of the Greater Teson the
new Redout Renaud, which had to be got rid of before the preliminary
preparation could be made.

This little work was dealt with in the most drastic and summary way.
On the same evening on which the army crossed the Agueda and invested
the fortress, the Light Division was ordered to take the redoubt
by escalade, without any preliminary battering. In the dark it was
calculated that the converging fires from the convent of San Francisco
and the northern walls would be of little importance, since the French
could hardly shell the work at random during an assault, for fear of
hitting their own men; and the attacking column would be covered by the
night till the very moment when it reached its goal.

Colonel Colborne led the storming-party, which consisted of 450 men,
two companies from each British battalion, and one each from the 1st
and 3rd Caçadores[177]. His arrangements have received well-deserved
praise from every narrator of the enterprise. The column was conducted
to within fifty yards of the redoubt without being discovered; then the
two rifle companies and two of the 52nd doubled out to the crest of
the glacis, encircled the work on all sides, and, throwing themselves
on the ground, began a deliberate and accurate fire upon the heads of
the garrison, as they ran to the rampart, roused at last by the near
approach of the stormers. So close and deadly was the fire of this
ring of trained marksmen, that after a few minutes the French shrank
from the embrasures, and crouched behind their parapets, contenting
themselves with throwing a quantity of grenades and live shells at
haphazard into the ditch. Their three cannon were only fired once! Such
casual and ineffective opposition could not stop the veterans of the
Light Division. For three companies of the 43rd and 52nd, forming the
escalading detachment, came rushing up to the work, got into the ditch
by descending the ladders which were provided for them, and then reared
them a second time against the fraises of the rampart, up which they
scrambled without much difficulty, finding the scarp not too steep and
without a _revêtement_. The garrison flinched at once--most of them
ran into their guard-house or crouched under the guns, and surrendered
tamely. At the same time entrance was forced at another point, the
gorge, where a company, guided by Gurwood of the 52nd, got in at the
gate, which was either unlocked by some of the French trying to escape,
or accidentally blown open by a live shell dropped against it[178]. Of
the garrison two captains and forty-eight rank and file were unwounded
prisoners, three were killed, and about a dozen more wounded. No more
than four, it is said, succeeded in getting back into the town[179].
This sudden exploit only cost the stormers six men killed, and three
officers[180] and sixteen men wounded. Colborne remarks in his report
that all the losses were during the advance or in the ditch, not a man
was hurt in the actual escalade, for the enemy took cover and gave way,
instead of trying to meet the stormers with the bayonet.

  [177] I take Colborne’s own account (see letter in his life by
  Moore Smith, p. 166). There were two companies each from the
  1/43rd, 1/52nd, 2/52nd, and 95th, and one from each Caçador
  battalion. Jones wrongly says (p. 116) three companies of the
  52nd only, Napier (as usual) omits all mention of the Portuguese.
  Cf. Harry Smith’s _Autobiography_, i. p. 55.

  [178] In Moorsom’s _History of the 52nd_ it is stated that a
  sergeant of the French artillery, while in the act of throwing
  a live shell, was shot dead: the shell fell back within the
  parapet, and was kicked away by one of the garrison, on which it
  rolled down into the gorge, was stopped by the gate, and then
  exploded and blew it open (p. 152).

  [179] So Belmas, iv. p. 266. Barrié’s report says that there were
  60 infantry and 13 gunners inside altogether. It is an accurate
  and very modest narrative, in which there is nothing to correct.

  [180] Mein and Woodgate of the 52nd, and Hawkesley of the 95th.
  The last named died of his wounds.

The moment that the redoubt was stormed, the French gunners in the city
and the convent of San Francisco opened a furious fire upon it, hoping
to make it untenable. But this did little harm, for Colborne withdrew
the stormers at once--and the important spot that night was no longer
the work but the ground behind it, which was left unsearched. For here,
by Wellington’s orders, a first parallel 600 yards long was opened, and
approaches to it along the top of the Teson were planned out. So little
was the digging hindered, that by dawn the trenches were everywhere
three feet deep and four broad, sites for three batteries had been
marked out, and a communication had been run from the parallel up to
the redoubt, whose rear wall was broken down into the ditch, so as to
make it easily accessible.

It had been calculated that if the assault had failed, the redoubt
could only have been reduced by regular battering for five days--that
amount of time, therefore, was saved by the escalade. The operation
contrasts singularly with the fruitless assaults on Fort San Cristobal
at Badajoz during the summer months of the preceding year, to which
it bore a considerable similarity. The difference of results may be
attributed mainly to the superiority of the arrangements made by
Colborne, more especially to the great care that he took to keep down
the fire of the besieged by a very large body of marksmen pushed close
up to the walls, and to the way in which he had instructed each officer
in charge of a unit as to the exact task that was imposed on him.
At San Cristobal there had been much courage displayed, but little
management or intelligence in the command.

On the morning of January 9th, the first parallel, along the front
of the Great Teson, was not so far advanced as to afford good cover,
and the working parties were kept back till dark, and employed in
perfecting the approaches from the rear: only fifty men were slipped
forward into the dismantled Redout Renaud, to improve the lodgement
there. The garrison fired fiercely all day on the parallel, but as
there was little to shoot at, very small damage was done. At noon the
1st Division relieved the Light Division at the front: for the rest of
the siege the arrangement was that each division took twenty-four hours
at the front in turn, and then returned to its camp. The order of work
was:

Light Division 8th-9th January, 12th-13th, 16th-17th, and for the storm
on the 19th.

1st Division 9th-10th, 13th-14th, 17th-18th.

4th Division 10th-11th, 14th-15th, 18th-19th.

3rd Division 11th-12th, 15th-16th, and for the storm on the 19th.

The 1st Division had very responsible work on the second night of the
siege, for when darkness had set in the first parallel had to be made
tenable, and the three batteries in front of it developed. Owing to
the very powerful artillery of the besieged, it was settled that the
batteries were to be made of exceptional strength and thickness--with
a parapet of no less than 18 feet breadth at the top. To procure the
necessary earth it was determined that an exterior ditch should be dug
in front of them, and that their floor (_terre-plain_) should be sunk
3 feet below the level of the hillside within. A row of large gabions
was placed in front of the exterior ditch to give cover to the men
digging it.

Great progress was made with the work under cover of the night, but
when morning came the besieged, whose fire had been at haphazard during
the night, could see the works and commenced to shoot more accurately.
A curious _contretemps_ was discovered at dawn. By some miscalculation
the locality of the left-hand battery had been laid out a little too
far to the east, so that half its front was blocked by the ruins of
the Redout Renaud. This, of course, was the effect of working in pitch
darkness, when the outline of that work was invisible even from a score
or so of yards away. Possibly the error may have originated from the
fact that, early in the night, the directing engineer officer, Captain
Ross, was killed by a flanking shot from the convent of San Francisco.
Thus the men constructing the battery had been deprived of all superior
direction. In the morning Colonel Fletcher directed that the east end
of the battery should have no guns; the five which should have been
placed there were to be transferred to the right-hand battery, which
thus became designed for sixteen guns instead of eleven[181].

  [181] This mistake is acknowledged in Jones’s _Sieges_,
  i. p. 120, and much commented on by Burgoyne [_Life and
  Correspondence_, i. p. 161], who complains that an immense amount
  of work was wasted, two nights’ digging put in, the _terre-plain_
  levelled, and even some platforms laid, before the error was
  detected.

On the 10th-11th January, when the 4th Division had charge of the
trenches the first parallel was nearly completed, the batteries
continued to be built up, magazine emplacements were constructed in
them, and a trench of communication between them was laid out. When
daylight revealed to the French the exact situation of the three
batteries, which were now showing quite clearly, a very fierce fire
was opened on them, the rest of the works being neglected. The losses,
which had hitherto been insignificant, began to grow heavy, and so many
men were hit in the exterior trenches, which were being dug in front of
each battery, that Wellington and Colonel Fletcher gave orders that
they should be discontinued. Heavy damage was done to the batteries
themselves--the French adopted a system of firing simultaneous flights
of shells with long fuses at given points, ‘of which several falling
together upon the parapets blew away in an instant the work of whole
hours.’

On the 11th-12th, with the 3rd Division in charge, the work was
continued; the platforms were placed in the batteries, and the
splinter-proof timbers laid over the magazine emplacements. But half
the exertion of the men had to be expended in repairs: as each section
of the batteries was completed, part of it was ruined by the besiegers’
shells. ‘The nights were long and bitter cold, and the men could not
decently be kept working for twelve hours on end[182],’ especially
when it was considered that they had to march four or five miles from
their camps to the trenches before commencing their task of digging, so
that they did not arrive fresh on the ground. Reliefs were therefore
arranged to exchange duty at one hour after midnight, so that no man
was at work for more than half of the cold hours of darkness.

  [182] Burgoyne, i. p. 162.

On the 12th-13th, with the Light Division doing its second turn at
the front, the batteries were nearly completed, despite of much
heart-breaking toil at repairs. Wellington, before starting the task
of battering, put the problem to Colonel Fletcher as to whether it
would be possible to breach the walls with the batteries in the
first parallel, or whether these would only be useful for subduing
the fire of the besieged, and the actual breaching would have to be
accomplished by another set of batteries, to be placed in a second
parallel which was, as yet, contemplated but not begun. Fletcher,
after some cogitation, replied that he thought it could be done,
though Ney, in the siege of 1810, had failed in such a project, and
had breached the walls with batteries in situations much farther
forward. Wellington’s inquiry was dictated by his doubt as to whether
Marmont and Dorsenne might not be in a position to appear with a heavy
relieving force, before a second parallel could be thrown up. There
were, as yet, no signs of such a danger; the enemy having apparently
been taken completely unawares by the opening of the siege. But if
the second parallel advanced no faster in proportion than the first,
and had to be built on much more dangerous ground, it was clear that
there was a risk of its taking an inordinate time to complete. On
Fletcher’s conclusion being made, Wellington decided that he would try
to breach the walls with his original batteries, but would push forward
a second parallel also: if Marmont and Dorsenne showed signs of rapid
concentration, he would try to storm the place before the trenches were
pressed forward to the neighbourhood of the walls. If they did not, he
would proceed in more regular style, build a second and perhaps a third
parallel, with batteries close to the _enceinte_, and end by blowing in
the counterscarp, and assaulting from close quarters.

This resolution having been formed, Wellington ordered the second
parallel to be commenced on the night of the 13th-14th, with the 1st
Division in charge. Despite of a heavy fire from the French, who
discovered (by throwing fire-balls) that men were at work in front of
the first parallel, an approach by flying sap was pushed out, from
the extreme right end of the original trenches, down the slope which
separates the Great from the Lesser Teson, and a short length of
excavation was made on the western end of the latter height, enough to
allow of a small guard finding cover. This move brought the besiegers
very close to the fortified convent of Santa Cruz, outside the
north-western walls of the city, and lest it should give trouble during
the succeeding operations Wellington ordered it to be stormed. The
troops employed were 300 volunteers from the Line brigade of the German
Legion and one company of the 5/60th. They broke down the palisades
of the convent with axes, under a heavy fire, and as they entered the
small garrison fled with some loss. That of the stormers was 6 killed
and 1 officer and 33 men wounded[183]. Only by clearing the French out
of this post could the zig-zags leading down from the first to the
second parallel be completed without paying a heavy price in lives,
for the musketry of the convent would have enfiladed them in several
places. The same night the siege-guns, which had reached the camp on
the 11th, were moved into the three batteries.

  [183] See Schwertfeger’s _History of the German Legion_, i. p.
  353. Jones (_Sieges_, i. p. 125) is quite wrong in saying that
  the convent was carried ‘with no loss.’

Next day (January 14-15) was a very lively one. General Barrié was
convinced that the establishment of a second parallel on the Lesser
Teson, only 200 yards from his walls, must not be allowed at any cost,
and executed a sortie with 500 men, all that he could spare from the
garrison. He (very cleverly) chose for his time the hour (11 a.m.) when
the 4th Division was relieving the workmen of the First, for, as Jones
remarks, ‘a bad custom prevailed that as soon as the division to be
relieved saw the relieving division advancing, the guards and workmen
were withdrawn from the trenches, and the works were left untenanted
for some time during the relief, which the French could observe from
the steeple of the cathedral, where there was always an officer on the
look-out.’

The sortie recaptured the convent of Santa Cruz, swept along the second
parallel, where it upset the gabions and shovelled in some of the
earth, and then made a dash at the first parallel, where it might have
done much mischief in the batteries if General Graham and the engineer
officer on duty had not collected a few belated workmen of the 24th
and 42nd, who made a stand behind the parapet, and opened a fire which
checked the advance till the relieving division came running up from
the rear. The French then turned and retired with little loss into the
place.

The advanced parallel and Santa Cruz were not reoccupied while daylight
lasted, but at about 4.30 in the afternoon the three batteries opened
with the 27 guns, which had been placed in them. Two 18-pounders in the
left battery were directed against the convent of San Francisco, the
rest against the northern part of the city, on the same point where
Ney’s breach had been made in 1810. Of the gunners, 430 in number,
nearly 300 were Portuguese[184]. The fire opened so late in the day
that by the time that it was growing steady and accurate dusk fell, and
it was impossible to judge what its future effect would be.

  [184] See _Dickson Papers_, Jan. 1812.

Meanwhile, when the big guns were silent, the work of preparing for
the nearer approach was resumed after dark. The most important move
on the night of the 14th-15th was the storming of the convent of San
Francisco by three companies of the 40th regiment. The garrison made
little resistance, and retired, abandoning three guns and two wounded
men. Immediately afterwards the posts in the neighbouring suburb were
all withdrawn by Barrié, who considered that he could not afford to
lose men from his small force in the defence of outlying works, when
his full strength was needed for the holding of the town itself.
Santa Cruz, on the other side, though recovered in the morning, was
abandoned on this same night for identical reasons. The French general
was probably wise, but it was a great profit to the besiegers to be
relieved from the flanking fire of both these convents, which would
have enfiladed the two ends of the second parallel. That work itself
was reoccupied under the cover of the night: the gabions upset during
the sortie of the morning were replaced, and much digging was done
behind them. The zig-zags of the approach from the upper trenches on
the Great Teson were deepened and improved. All this was accomplished
under a heavy fire from the guns on the northern walls, which were so
close to the second parallel that their shells, even in the dark, did
considerable damage.

When day dawned on the 15th, the breaching batteries on the Great Teson
opened again with excellent effect. Their fire was concentrated on
the rebuilt wall of the _enceinte_, where the French breach of 1810
had been mended. It was necessary to batter both the town wall proper
and the _fausse-braye_ below it, so as to make, as it were, an upper
and a lower breach, corresponding to each other, in the two stages of
the _enceinte_. It will be remembered that, as was explained in our
narrative of the French siege[185], the mediaeval ramparts of the old
wall showed well above the eighteenth-century _fausse-braye_ which ran
around and below them, while the latter was equally visible above the
glacis, which, owing to the downward slope from the Little Teson, gave
much less protection than was desirable to the work behind it. The
French breach had been carefully built up; but, lime being scarce in
the neighbourhood, the mortar used in its repairs had been of inferior
quality, little better than clay in many places. The stones, therefore,
had never set into a solid mass, even eighteen months after they had
been laid, and began to fly freely under the continuous battering.

  [185] See vol. iii. p. 239. The illustration of Rodrigo on the
  morning after the storm, inserted to face page 186 of this
  volume, shows the facts excellently.

The breaching being so successful from the first, Wellington resolved
to hurry on his operations, though there were still no signs that
Marmont or Dorsenne was about to attempt any relief of the garrison.
Yet it was certain that they must be on the move, and every day
saved would render the prospect of their interference less imminent.
Accordingly it was settled that the second parallel should be
completed, and that, if possible, more batteries should be placed in
it, but that it was to be looked upon rather as the base from which
an assault should be delivered than as the ground from which the main
part of the breaching work was to be done. That was to be accomplished
from the original parallel on the Great Teson, and one more battery
was marked out on this hill, close to the Redout Renaud, but a little
lower down the slope, and slightly in advance of the three original
batteries. From this new structure, whose erection would have been
impossible so long as San Francisco was still held by the French,
Wellington proposed to batter a second weak point in the _enceinte_,
a mediaeval tower three hundred yards to the right of the original
breach. All the attention of the French being concentrated on the work
in the second parallel, this new battery (No. 4) was easily completed
and armed in three days, and was ready to open on its objective on
January 18th.

Meanwhile the completion of the second parallel proved a difficult
and rather costly business. By Wellington’s special orders all the
energies of the British batteries were devoted to breaching, and no
attempt was made to subdue the fire of those parts of the _enceinte_
which bore upon the trenches, but were far from the points selected
for assault. Hence the French, undisturbed by any return, were able
to shoot fast and furiously at the advanced works, and searched the
second parallel from end to end. It was completed on the 18th, and
two guns were brought down into a battery built on the highest point
of the Little Teson, only 180 yards from the walls. An attempt to sap
forward from the western end of the second parallel, so as to get a
lodgement a little nearer to the place, was completely foiled by the
incessant fire of grape kept up on the sap-head. After many workmen had
been killed, the endeavour to push forward at this point was abandoned,
such an advance forming no essential part of Wellington’s scheme. The
enemy’s fire on the second parallel was made somewhat less effective
on the 16th-18th by digging rifle-pits in front of the parallel,
from which picked marksmen kept up a carefully aimed fusillade on
the embrasures of the guns to left and right of the breach. Many
artillerymen were shot through the head while serving their pieces, and
the discharges became less incessant and much less accurate. But the
fire of the besieged was never subdued, and the riflemen in the pits
suffered very heavy casualties.

The 18th may be described as the crucial day of the siege. The new
battery (No. 4) on the Greater Teson opened that morning against the
tower which had been chosen as its objective. By noon it was in a very
ruinous condition, and at dusk all its upper part fell forward ‘like
an avalanche,’ as the governor says in his report, and covered all the
platform of the _fausse-braye_ below. Barrié remarks that this point
was admirably chosen by Wellington’s engineers, ‘it was unique in the
_enceinte_ for the facilities which it offered for breaching and the
difficulties for defence. This is the spot where the walls are lowest,
the parapet thinnest, and the platforms both of the ramparts and the
_fausse-braye_ narrowest. Moreover here had been situated the gun which
best flanked the original great breach[186].’

  [186] See Barrié’s report in appendix to Belmas, iv. p. 299.

The garrison found it impossible either to repair the breaches or to
clear away the débris which had fallen from them. All that could be
done was to commence retrenchments and inner defences behind them.
This was done with some effect at the great breach, where cuts were
made in the ramparts on each side of the demolished section, parapets
thrown up behind the cuts, and two 24-pounders dragged into position to
fire laterally into the lip of the easy slope of débris which trended
up to the ruined wall. At the second or smaller breach much less was
accomplished--the warning was short, for it had never been guessed that
this tower was to be battered, and the space upon which work could be
done was very limited. It was hoped that the narrowness of the gap
might be its protection--it was but a seam in the wall compared with
the gaping void at the first and greater breach.

[Illustration: CIUDAD RODRIGO]

On the morning of the 19th the fire was recommenced, with some little
assistance from the two guns which had now begun to work from the
advanced battery in the second parallel. The breaches continued to
crumble: that at the tower looked as easy in slope (though not nearly
so broad) as that at the original point of attack, and an incessant
fire all day kept the enemy from making any repairs. No more could be
done for the breaches, wherefore Wellington ordered that some of the
siege-guns should turn their attention to silencing the French fire
from the remoter points of the northern wall. Several of their guns
were dismounted: but even by dusk there were many still making reply.

There was now nothing to prevent the assault from being delivered,
since it had been settled that no attempt was to be made to sap up
nearer the walls, or to blow in the counterscarp. Wellington wrote his
elaborate directions for the storm sitting under cover in a trench of
one of the advanced approaches, to which he had descended in order to
get the closest possible view of the fortress[187].

  [187] Jones’s _Sieges_, i. p. 137.

The orders were as follows. The chosen time was seven o’clock, an hour
sufficiently dark to allow the troops to get forward without being seen
as they filled the trenches, yet soon enough after nightfall to prevent
the French from doing any appreciable repairs to the breaches under
cover of the dark.

The main assaults were to be delivered by the 3rd Division on the great
breach, and by the Light Division on the lesser breach. There were also
to be two false attacks delivered by small bodies of Portuguese troops,
with the purpose of distracting the attention of the besieged to points
remote from the main assault: either of them might be turned into
serious attempts at escalade if the circumstances favoured.

The two brigades of the 3rd Division were given two separate ways of
approaching the main breach. Campbell’s brigade [2/5th, 77th, 2/83rd,
94th], after detaching the 2/83rd to line the second parallel, and
to keep up a continual fire on the walls, was to assemble behind the
ruined convent of Santa Cruz. Debouching from thence, the 2/5th,
turning to the right, were to make for the place where the counterscarp
(covering the whole north front) joined with the body of the place,
under the castle and not far from the river. They were to hew down the
gate by which the ditch was entered, jump down into it, and from thence
scale the _fausse-braye_ by ladders, of which a dozen, 25 feet long,
were issued to them. It was probable that there would be few French
found here, as the point was 500 yards west of the main breach. After
establishing themselves upon the _fausse-braye_, they were to scour it
eastward, clearing off any parties of the enemy that might be found
upon it, and to push for the breach, where they would meet the main
assaulting column. The 94th were to make a similar dash at the ditch,
half-way between the point allotted to the 5th and the breach, but not
to mount the _fausse-braye_: they were to move to their left along the
bottom of the ditch, clearing away any palisades or other obstacles
that might be found in it, and finally to join the main column. The
77th was to form the brigade-reserve, and support where necessary.

Mackinnon’s brigade was to undertake the frontal storm of the great
breach. Its three battalions (1/45th, 74th, 1/88th) were to be preceded
by a detachment of 180 sappers carrying hay-bags, which were to be
thrown into the ditch to make the leap down more easy. The head of the
column was to be formed by 300 volunteers from all the battalions, then
came the main body in their usual brigade order, the 1/45th leading.
Power’s Portuguese (9th and 21st Line) formed the divisional reserve,
and were to be brought down to the second parallel when Mackinnon’s
column had ascended the breach.

A support on the left flank of the breach was to be provided by three
companies of the 95th, detached from the Light Division, who, starting
from beside the convent of San Francisco, were to carry out the same
functions that were assigned to the 94th on the other side, viz. to
descend into the ditch half-way between the two breaches, and proceed
along its bottom, removing any obstacles found, till they joined
Mackinnon’s brigade at the foot of the wall.

Craufurd, with the rest of the Light Division, which was to move
from the left of San Francisco, was to make the attack on the
lesser breach. The storming-column was to be formed of Vandeleur’s
brigade (1/52nd and 2/52nd, four companies of the 1/95th, and the 3rd
Caçadores). Barnard’s brigade was to form the reserve, and to close in
towards the place when the leading brigade should reach the ditch. The
division was to detach marksmen (four companies of the 95th) who were
to keep up a fire upon the enemy on the walls, just as the 2/83rd did
for the 3rd Division. A provision of hay-bags carried by caçadores was
made, in the same fashion as at the great breach.

The two subsidiary false attacks were to be made--one by Pack’s
Portuguese (1st and 16th regiments) on the outworks of the gate of
Santiago on the south-east side of the town, the other by O’Toole’s
Portuguese battalion (2nd Caçadores), headed by the light company of
the 2/83rd, on the outwork below the castle, close to the bank of the
Agueda. This column would have to rush the bridge, which the French had
left unbroken, because it was completely commanded by the castle and
other works immediately above it. Both the Portuguese columns carried
ladders, and were authorized to attempt an escalade, if they met little
or no resistance at points so remote from the breaches, as was quite
possible.

Both the Light and 3rd Divisions were fresh troops that night, as
the 4th Division had been in charge of the trenches on the 19th.
The stormers marched straight up from their distant camps to the
starting-points assigned to them in the afternoon. The news that the
Light Division had moved to the front out of its turn was the clearest
indication to the whole army that the assault was fixed for that night.

A few minutes before seven o’clock the storm began, by the sudden rush
of the 2/5th, under Major Ridge, from behind the convent of Santa
Cruz, across the open ground towards the ditch on their left of the
castle. The governor had expected no attack from this side, the troops
on the walls were few, and it was only under a very scattering fire
that the battalion hewed down the gate in the palisades, got down into
the ditch, and then planted their ladders against the _fausse-braye_.
They were established upon it within five minutes of their start, and
then, turning to their left, drove along its platform, chasing before
them a few small parties of the enemy. In this way they soon arrived
at the heap of ruins representing the spot where _fausse-braye_ and
inner wall had been wellnigh battered into one common mass of débris.
Here they found the 94th, who had entered the ditch at the same time
as themselves, but a little to their left, and had met with equally
feeble resistance, already beginning to mount the lower slopes of the
breach. Thus by a curious chance these two subsidiary columns arrived
at the crucial point a little before the forlorn hope of the main
storming-column. Mackinnon’s brigade, starting from the parallels, had
to climb over the parapets of the trenches, and to cross rougher ground
than the 5th and 94th: they were also hindered by the tremendous fire
opened upon them: all the attention of the French had been concentrated
on them from the first, as their route and their destination were
obvious. Hence, unlike Campbell’s battalions, they suffered heavily
before they crossed the glacis, and they were delayed a little by
waiting for the hay-bags which were to help their descent. When the
storming-party, under Major Manners of the 74th, reached the breach,
it was already covered by men of the 5th and 94th. The whole, mixed
together, scrambled up the higher part of the débris under a deadly
fire, and reached the lip of the breach, where they found before them
a sixteen-foot drop into the level of the city, on to ground covered
with entanglements, beams, _chevaux de frise_, and other obstacles
accumulated there by the prescience of the governor. On each flank, for
the whole breadth of the wall, was a cutting, surmounted by a parapet,
on which was mounted a 24-pounder firing grape downwards on to them.

The head of the column had scarcely gained the lip of the breach when
it was raked by the simultaneous discharge of these two guns, which
absolutely exterminated the knot of men at its head. At the same time
an explosion took place lower down, from some powder-bags which the
enemy had left among the débris and fired by means of a train. The
impetus of the column was checked, and it was some little time before
more men fought their way up to the summit: a second discharge from the
two flanking guns made havoc of these, and shut in by the cuts, upon a
space of about 100 feet wide, with the impracticable descent into the
town in front, the assailants came to a stand again. The only way out
of the difficulty was to cross the cuts, and storm the parapets behind
them. This was done at both ends: on the one side a small party of the
88th, throwing down their muskets, so as to have hands to climb with,
scrambled over the gap and slew with their bayonets the gunners at the
left-hand gun, before they could fire a third round: they were followed
by many men of the 5th, and a footing was gained on the ramparts behind
the obstacle[188]. On the right flank Major Wylde, the brigade-major of
Mackinnon’s brigade, found a few planks which the French had been using
to bridge the cut before the storm, and which they had thrown down but
neglected to remove. These were relaid in haste, and a mass of men
of the 45th rushed across them under a dreadful fire, and forced the
right-hand retrenchment. The garrison, giving way at both ends, fired a
mine prepared under a postern of the upper wall as they retired[189].
This produced an explosion much more deadly than the one at the
commencement of the storm; it slew among others General Mackinnon, the
senior brigadier of the 3rd Division, whose body was found thrown some
distance away and much blackened with powder.

  [188] For a lively account of this exploit see Grattan’s _With
  the Connaught Rangers_, p. 154.

  [189] Many narratives speak of General Mackinnon as being killed
  by the first explosion, and others (including Wellington’s
  dispatch) call the second explosion that of an expense magazine
  fired by accident. Barrié’s report, however, settles the fact
  that it was a regular mine: and for Mackinnon’s death _after_ the
  storming of the cuts I follow the narrative by an eye-witness
  appended at the end of the general’s diary.

Meanwhile, even before the fighting at the great breach was over, the
fate of Ciudad Rodrigo had been settled at another point. The storm
of the lesser breach by the Light Division had been successful, after
a shorter fight and with much less loss of blood. Vandeleur’s brigade
here conducted the assault, headed by 300 volunteers from the three
British regiments of the division under Major George Napier of the
52nd: Lieutenant Gurwood of the same regiment had the forlorn hope of
25 men. The column did not come under fire for some time after leaving
cover, but the assault had been expected, and a keen watch was being
kept. Nevertheless the ditch was reached without any great loss, and
the stormers leaped in, unaided for the most part by the hay-bags which
150 of Elder’s caçadores were to have cast down for them, for the
greater part of the Portuguese were late in arriving[190]. They then
began to plant their ladders, but the forlorn hope went wrong in an
odd way, for moving too far to the left along the _fausse-braye_ they
scrambled up and over a traverse[191] which had been built across it,
so finding themselves still on the same level. The head of the main
storming party was better directed, and poured up the breach, which
was very narrow but clean and clear: the only obstacle at its head
was a disabled gun placed horizontally across the gap. Another piece,
still in working order, had a diagonal view of the whole slope. The
first discharge of this gun, crammed with grape, shattered the head of
the column: Major Napier was dashed down with a mangled arm, Colonel
Colborne, who was leading the 52nd, got a ball in the shoulder, and
several other officers fell. At about the same moment General Craufurd,
who was standing on the glacis above the ditch, directing the movements
of the supports, received a bullet which passed through his arm, broke
two ribs, and finally lodged in his spine. By his mortal hurt and the
almost simultaneous wounding of his senior brigadier, Vandeleur, the
command of the Light Division passed to Andrew Barnard of the 95th, who
was leading the rear brigade.

  [190] Several narrators accuse them of shirking, but Geo. Napier
  writes (_Life_, p. 215), ‘Neither Elder nor his excellent
  regiment were likely to neglect any duty, and I am sure the blame
  rested elsewhere, for George Elder was always ready for any
  service.’ Compare George Simmons’s autobiography--possibly he
  put things out by ordering the Portuguese company to carry the
  ladders, which he clearly was not authorized to do. [_A British
  Rifleman_, p. 221.]

  [191] Some narrators say a low ravelin, but the best authority is
  in favour of its having been a traverse.

But the division had been started on its way up the breach, and the
gun on its flank got no second opportunity to fire. After its first
discharge the survivors at the head of the column, now led by Uniacke
and W. Johnston both of the 95th, dashed furiously up the remaining
few feet of débris and reached the summit. The voltigeurs facing them
broke before the onset, and since there were here no traverses or cuts
to prevent the extension of the troops to right or left as they reached
their goal, many hundreds were soon in possession of the ramparts
on each side of the breach. The men of the 52nd wheeled to the left
and swept the ramparts as far as the Salamanca gate, which they found
walled up: the 43rd and Rifles turned to the right, and came upon the
French retreating from the great breach, where the 3rd Division were
just bursting through. Some of them arrived just in time to suffer
from the final explosion which killed Mackinnon and so many of his
brigade[192].

  [192] The point has often been raised as to whether it was not
  the success of the Light Division at the lesser breach which
  enabled the 3rd Division to break through at the greater. Some
  Light Division diarists (e.g. Harry Smith) actually state that
  it was their attack on the rear of the defenders which made them
  flinch from a position which they had hitherto maintained. I
  think that the case is decided in favour of the 3rd Division by
  Belmas’s statement that the French fired the mine at the great
  breach only when the 3rd Division had got through, combined with
  the fact that the leading men of the Light Division reached
  the back of the great breach just in time to suffer from the
  explosion, which killed Captain Uniacke of the 95th and a few
  others. Apparently, therefore, the breach was forced before the
  head of the Light Division stormers had come up, but only just
  before.

With their line forced in two places simultaneously, the garrison could
do no more: there was a little fighting in the streets, but not much.
The majority of the garrison retired to the Plaza Mayor in front of the
castle, and there laid down their arms in mass. At the same time the
two Portuguese subsidiary attacks had succeeded. O’Toole’s caçadores,
headed by the light company of the 2/83rd, had not only captured by
escalade the outwork against which they were directed, but found and
hewed down its sally-port by which they got entrance into the town.
Pack’s brigade, on the other side of the place, stormed the redan in
front of the Santiago gate, and lodged themselves therein, capturing
its small garrison. The governor and his staff had taken refuge in
the castle, a mediaeval building with a lofty square tower commanding
the Agueda bridge. They had hardly any men with them, and wisely
surrendered at the first summons[193].

  [193] There is considerable controversy as to what officer
  received Barrié’s surrender. For the Gurwood-Mackie dispute see
  note in Appendix.

Seven thousand excited and victorious soldiers, with all traces of
regimental organization lost, were now scattered through the streets
of Ciudad Rodrigo. This was the first time on which the Peninsular
Army had taken a place by assault, and the consequent confusion does
not seem to have been foreseen by any one. But while the officers
and the steady men were busy in collecting the French prisoners,
throwing open the gates, and seeing to the transport of the wounded
into houses, the baser spirits--and in every battalion, as Sir John
Colborne remarks[194], there were in those days from fifty to a
hundred incorrigibles--turned to plunder. The first rush was to the
central brandy-store of the garrison, where hundreds got drunk in a
few minutes, and several killed themselves by gorging raw spirits
wholesale. But while the mere drunkards proceeded to swill, and
then turned out into the streets firing objectlessly in the air,
the calculating rascals set themselves to the plunder of private
houses, which was a more profitable task than rummaging the French
magazines. There was an immense amount of unlicensed pillage and
wanton destruction of property--inexcusable in a place where only a
small minority of the people were _Afrancesados_, and the majority
had been getting ready to welcome their deliverers. The officers did
their best to restore order, ‘the voice of Sir Thomas Picton was
heard with the strength of twenty trumpets proclaiming damnation
to all and sundry, while Colonels Barnard and Cameron with other
active officers, seized the broken barrels of muskets, which were
lying about in great abundance, and belaboured misdemeanants most
unmercifully[195].’ But active officers could not be everywhere--three
houses, including the spirit store in the great square, were set on
fire by drunken plunderers, and it was feared that a conflagration
might arise, which fortunately did not happen, for the solid stone
structures were not easily kindled. The disorder, however, did not
reach the shameful pitch which was afterwards seen at Badajoz and St.
Sebastian. A competent observer, present at all three sacks, remarks
that ‘no town taken by assault suffered less than Rodrigo. It is true
that soldiers of all regiments got drunk, pillaged, and made great
noise and confusion in streets and houses, despite of every exertion of
their officers to prevent it. But bad and revolting as such scenes are,
I never heard that either the French garrison, after its surrender,
or the inhabitants suffered personal indignities or cruelty from the
troops[196].’ There were apparently no lives lost, except those of a
few men shot accidentally by their drunken comrades, and of certain
drunkards who perished in the spirit store. The greater part of the
men were under control long before dawn, and were collected by their
officers on the ramparts: they marched out next morning, when the 5th
Division, newly arrived at the front from its distant cantonments in
Beira, came into the town. By an unfortunate accident an explosion
of an unsuspected magazine took place, just as the French prisoners
were being marched out, and some of them and of their escort were
killed[197]. The storming regiments made a strange spectacle as they
left the town. ‘As we marched over the bridge dressed in all varieties
imaginable, some with jack-boots on, others with white French trousers,
others in frock-coats with epaulettes, some even with monkeys on their
shoulders, we met the 5th Division on their way to repair the breaches.
They immediately formed upon the left of the road, presented arms, and
cheered us. I was afterwards told that Lord Wellington, who saw us
pass, inquired of his staff, “Who the devil are _those_ fellows[198]?”’

  [194] See his _Life and Letters_, p. 396.

  [195] Kincaid, _Adventures in the Rifle Brigade_, p. 117.

  [196] Leach’s _Sketches in the Life of an Old Soldier_, p. 250.
  For an amusing story about a plundering Connaught Ranger who came
  down a chimney, see Grattan, p. 162. He tried to propitiate the
  officer who found him by presenting him with a case of surgical
  instruments. Kincaid speaks of worse than plunder--armed violence
  and some cases of rape.

  [197] So Napier and most other authorities. John Jones, however,
  says that the explosion was not accidental, but deliberate--some
  English deserters had hidden themselves in a small magazine
  under the rampart. ‘These desperate men, on seeing an officer
  approach, deeming discovery and capture inevitable, and assured
  that an ignominious death would follow, blew themselves up in
  the magazine. The explosion first found vent through the door,
  and shot the refugees up into the street, some alive, but so
  mutilated, blackened, and distorted, as to be painful to behold.’

  [198] Costello (a Light Division narrator), pp. 151-2.

The garrison, out of a little under 2,000 men present when the siege
began, showed 60 officers and 1,300 rank and file of unwounded
prisoners. Eight officers had been killed, 21 wounded, and about 500
rank and file, mostly on the day of the assault. The artillery and
engineers suffered most--of 8 artillery officers in the place 5 were
killed or wounded, of three engineer officers two fell.

The British and Portuguese loss during the whole siege was 9 officers
killed and 70 wounded, and of other ranks 186 were killed and 846
wounded, with 10 missing--apparently deserters. Of these, 59 officers
and 503 rank and file fell in the actual storm. The tables appended at
the end of this volume demonstrate that the 3rd Division suffered far
more heavily than the Light--the battalions with the greatest losses
were the 2/5th and 94th, which were early on the great breach and got
the benefit of the explosion. Of the 9 officers killed or mortally hurt
two were generals, Craufurd and Mackinnon. The death of the former,
who lingered in great agony for four days, though shot through to the
spine, was no small event in the war: his talents were sadly missed in
its latter years: an outpost officer of his capacity would have been
invaluable to Wellington during the fighting in the Pyrenees in 1813,
when the Light Division, though regimentally as good as ever, much
lacked the skilful leading of its old chief. He was a man with many
friends and many enemies: of his merits and defects I spoke at length
in another place[199]. Here I feel compelled to quote nothing more than
the words of his friend, Lord Londonderry--the Charles Stewart of the
Peninsular War. ‘He was an officer of whom the highest expectation had
been formed, and who on every occasion found an opportunity to prove
that, had his life been spared, the proudest hopes of his country
would not have been disappointed, and he was a man to know whom in
his profession without admiring him was impossible. To me his death
occasioned that void which the removal of a sincere friend alone
produces. While the memory of the brave and the skilful shall continue
to be cherished by British soldiers, he will not be forgotten, and the
hand which scrawls this humble tribute to his worth must be cold as his
own, before the mind which dictates it shall cease to think of him with
affection and regret[200].’

  [199] See vol. iii. pp. 233-7.

  [200] Londonderry’s _Peninsular War_, ii. p. 268.

[Illustration: CIUDAD RODRIGO ON THE MORNING AFTER THE STORM FROM THE
ADVANCED BATTERY ON THE LESSER TESON

(A contemporary sketch.)]



SECTION XXXII: CHAPTER II

THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE FALL OF CIUDAD RODRIGO


The extraordinary speed with which Wellington had in twelve days
reduced Ciudad Rodrigo, a fortress that had held out for twenty-four
days of open trenches when besieged by Ney in 1810, surprised the
captor himself, who had reckoned on taking no shorter time in its
leaguer than had the French. But it absolutely appalled his two
adversaries, Marmont and Dorsenne, whose whole scheme of operations had
rested on the idea that they could count on some three weeks or more
for preparation, when the news that the place was invested got to their
hands.

Thiébault, the governor of Salamanca, had been warning both the
commander of the Army of the North and the commander of the Army of
Portugal for some weeks that Wellington might move at any moment[201].
But his reports to the effect that the British were making gabions
and fascines, preparing a bridge over the Agueda, and bringing up
siege-guns to Almeida, made little or no impression on his superiors,
because they had come to the conclusion that it was unlikely that
Wellington would undertake a siege at midwinter. His preparations, they
thought, were probably intended to force his enemies to concentrate, at
a time when roads were bad and food unprocurable: ‘ils n’ont d’autre
but que de nous faire faire de faux mouvements,’ said one of Marmont’s
aides-de-camp. It was only in the spring that the allied army would
become really enterprising and dangerous.

  [201] See Thiébault’s _Mémoires_, iv. pp. 551-2. Extracts from
  two of his letters are printed in Marmont’s _Mémoires_, iv. pp.
  280-1, and bear out all that he says in his own book.

Astonishing as it may appear, though Wellington’s troops started on
January 2nd, and though Rodrigo was invested and the Redout Renaud
stormed on January 8th, the definitive news that the siege had
actually begun only reached Salamanca on January 13th. No better proof
could be given of the precarious nature of the French hold on the
kingdom of Leon. The fact was that the guerrilleros of Julian Sanchez
so obsessed all the roads from Salamanca to Rodrigo, that no messenger
could pass without a very large escort. Barrié only got the news that
he was attacked to Thiébault by entrusting it to a Spanish emissary,
who carried his note in disguise, and by a long détour. Marmont and
Dorsenne only received it on the 14th: King Joseph at Madrid only on
the 25th. On the 13th Marmont was in such a state of blindness as to
the actual situation that he was writing to Berthier that ‘si l’armée
anglaise passait l’Agueda j’attendrais sur la Tormès la division du
Tage et les troupes que le Général Dorsenne pourrait m’amener, _mais
sans doute ce cas n’arrivera pas_. Ciudad Rodrigo sera approvisionné
jusqu’à la récolte, et à moins d’un siège il ne doit pas être l’objet
d’aucune sollicitude[202].’ Wellington, when this was written, had
already passed troops over the Agueda some ten days back, and had been
beleaguering Ciudad Rodrigo for five. Yet Marmont was dating from
Valladolid, which was not much over 100 miles from the hard-pressed
fortress. Truly, thanks to the guerrilleros, the ‘fog of war’ was lying
heavily round the Marshal.

  [202] Marmont to Berthier, Valladolid, Jan. 13, 1812.

Owing to a circumstance of which Wellington could have no knowledge,
the moment which he chose for his advance was even more propitious than
he guessed. He knew of the march of Montbrun towards Valencia, and had
made it the determining factor in his operations. But he was not, and
could not be, aware of another fact of high importance. On December
29th Marmont, then at Talavera, had received a dispatch from Paris,
dated on the 13th of the same month, informing him that the Emperor
had resolved on making a sweeping change with regard to the respective
duties and stations of the Armies of the North and of Portugal.
Hitherto Dorsenne had been in charge of the whole kingdom of Leon: the
troops stationed in it belonged to his army, and on him depended the
garrisons of Ciudad Rodrigo, Astorga, and its other fortresses. He was,
therefore, responsible for the keeping back of Wellington from all the
ground north of the Sierra de Gata. Marmont, with his Army of Portugal,
had to ‘contain’ the Anglo-Portuguese army south of that range, and had
charge of the valley of the Tagus--northern Estremadura and those parts
of New Castile which had been taken away from King Joseph’s direct
control. From this central position the Duke of Ragusa had hitherto
been supposed to be able to stretch out a hand to Dorsenne, in case of
Wellington’s making a move in the valley of the Douro, to Soult in case
of his showing himself opposite Badajoz. This indeed Marmont had done:
he had brought up his army to Dorsenne’s aid in September, at the time
of El Bodon and Aldea da Ponte: he had carried it down to the Guadiana
and assisted Soult to relieve Badajoz in June.

Berthier’s dispatch[203], received on December 29th--it had taken
sixteen days to reach its destination--informed Marmont that the
Emperor had resolved to place the task of ‘containing’ Wellington, when
he should operate north of the Tagus, in the hands of one instead of
two commanders-in-chief. ‘Considering the importance of placing the
command on the whole frontier of Portugal under a single general, His
Majesty has decided that the provinces of Avila, Salamanca, Plasencia,
Ciudad Rodrigo, the kingdom of Leon, Palencia, and the Asturias, shall
belong to the Army of Portugal.’ Along with them were to be handed
over to Marmont Souham’s division, then lying in the direction of
Zamora, Benavente, and La Baneza, and Bonnet’s division, then in the
Asturias--whose central parts (as it will be remembered[204]) that
general had reconquered in November 1811. The district of the Army of
the North was for the future to be limited to the eastern parts of
Old Castile, Santander, Biscay, and Navarre. The real cause of this
change, though Berthier’s dispatch lays no stress upon it, was the
order recently sent to Dorsenne, which bade him return to France the
two strong divisions of the Imperial Guard, which had hitherto formed
the most important and effective section of the Army of the North. They
were wanted for the probable Russian war, and without them Napoleon
rightly judged that Dorsenne would be too weak to ‘contain’ Wellington,
hold down all Leon, and observe the Galicians, in addition to hunting
Mina and curbing the incursions of Longa and Porlier. Wherefore he
resolved to confine the activity of the Army of the North to the lands
east and north of Burgos, where its main task would be the crushing of
Mina and his compatriots. Marmont should take upon his shoulders the
entire responsibility for holding back the Anglo-Portuguese.

  [203] Printed in full in Marmont’s _Mémoires_, iv. pp. 271-6.

  [204] See vol. iv. p. 586.

But, by the Emperor’s orders, the Army of Portugal, though now charged
with a much heavier task than before, was not to get any appreciable
increase in numbers. It is true that Marmont was to take over the
divisions of Souham and Bonnet, along with the regions that they were
occupying. These were strong units, and would have increased his
total strength by 16,000 men. But at the same time he was told that
Thiébault’s division[205], the other force in the kingdom of Leon, was
not to be given him, but to be withdrawn eastward and to remain under
Dorsenne. With it were to go other details belonging to the Army of
the North, employed in garrison duty in the valley of the Douro, such
as the Swiss battalions long garrisoning the city of Leon, Benavente,
and Valladolid[206]. Now it was clear that if these garrisons were
withdrawn, Marmont would have to find other troops from his own
divisions to replace them. Moreover, he was in addition instructed that
Bonnet’s division, though now to be regarded as under his command, was
not on any excuse to be moved out of the Asturias. ‘It is indispensable
that he should remain there, because in that position he menaces
Galicia, and keeps down the people of the mountains. You would have to
use more troops to guard all the edge of the plain from Leon to St.
Sebastian than are required for the Asturias. It is demonstrable in
theory, and clearly proved by experience, that of all operations the
most important is the occupation of the Asturias, which makes the right
of the army rest upon the sea, and continually threatens Galicia.’

  [205] 34th Léger, 113th Line, 4th Vistula, Neuchâtel.

  [206] Also two cavalry regiments, the 1st Hussars and 31st
  Chasseurs.

If, therefore, Marmont was forbidden to use Bonnet, and had to replace
all the existing garrisons of Leon (including that of Ciudad Rodrigo,
as he was specially informed) by troops drawn from his own force, he
was given a vast increase of territory to watch, but no appreciable
increase of numbers to hold it--no more in fact than the difference
between the strength of Souham’s division (placed on the side of gain)
and that of the new garrisons (placed on the side of loss). The net
profit would be no more than 3,000 or 4,000 men at the most.

In addition the Marshal was restricted further as to the way in which
he was to dispose of his army. He was told to leave one division (or,
if he chose, two) in the valley of the Tagus, about Plasencia and
Almaraz, for the purpose of keeping up his communication with Madrid
and Andalusia. The rest of his army was to be moved across the Sierra
de Gata into the valley of the Douro, and its head-quarters were to
be placed at Valladolid, or if possible at Salamanca. Therefore,
if Wellington advanced, only four and a half, or five and a half,
divisions out of the eight now comprising the Army of Portugal, could
be concentrated against him with promptitude: Bonnet and the troops
left in the Tagus valley would be long in arriving. So would the
nearest divisions of the Army of the North, of which the most westerly
would be as far off as Burgos, the rest still farther towards the
Pyrenees. Till he had received some of these outlying succours, Marmont
would be too weak to resist Wellington. Five divisions (say 30,000 men)
could not keep the Anglo-Portuguese contained--though eight might very
possibly suffice.

But on December 29, 1811, Marmont had not eight divisions at his
disposition. The Emperor’s misguided order for the Valencian expedition
was in progress of being executed, and it was precisely on that same
day that Montbrun with two divisions of foot and one of horse was
marching off eastward from La Mancha, in an excentric direction, which
took him to the shore of the Mediterranean.

Marmont’s available force, after this march began, was as follows:

  (1) Souham’s division at La Baneza, Benavente, and Zamora,
  watching Abadia’s Army of Galicia. This unit had yet to be
  informed that it had become part of the Army of Portugal.

  (2-3) Brennier’s and Maucune’s divisions at Almaraz and Talavera
  in the valley of the Tagus.

  (4) Clausel’s division at Avila.

  (5) Ferey’s division in La Mancha, keeping up communication with
  Montbrun’s expeditionary column.

The other three divisions of the Army of Portugal, as now constituted,
those of Bonnet in the Asturias, and of Foy and Sarrut in march for
Valencia, were hopelessly out of reach.

Being directed, in very clear and decisive terms, to transfer himself
in person to Valladolid or Salamanca, and to move the bulk of his
troops thither from the valley of the Tagus, the Marshal had to obey.
He directed Brennier’s division alone to remain behind at Almaraz and
Talavera. Maucune and Clausel, with Ferey presently to follow, began
a toilsome march across the mountains to Leon. They had to abandon
the magazines (such as they were) which had been collected for their
subsistence in winter-quarters, and to march across bad roads, in the
most inclement month of the year, through an unpeopled country, for
cantonments where no stores were ready for them.

While Marmont was marching up in the early days of January to occupy
his newly-designated positions, Dorsenne was employed in withdrawing
his troops eastward, away from the neighbourhood of Wellington, towards
the province of Burgos. He himself stopped behind at Valladolid, to see
Marmont and hand over in person the charge of the districts which he
was ordered to evacuate. His view of the situation at the moment may
be judged by an extract from a letter which he directed to Marmont on
January 5[207].

  [207] Marmont, _Correspondance_, book xv _bis_, p. 287.

‘I have the honour to enclose herewith two letters dated on the 1st and
3rd instant from General Thiébault at Salamanca. I attach no credence
to their contents, for during the last six months I have been receiving
perpetually similar reports.... If, contrary to my opinion, the English
have really made some tentative movements on Ciudad Rodrigo, and if
Julian Sanchez has tried to cut our communication with that place, I
can only attribute it to your recent movement on Valencia. In that
case, the unforeseen reappearance of your Excellency here may make the
enemy change his plan of operations, and may prove harmful to him.’

Thiébault had cried ‘Wolf!’ too often to please Dorsenne, and the
latter had no real apprehension that Wellington was already on the
move. No more had Marmont. On arriving at Valladolid on January 13th
he wrote to Berthier (five days after the trenches were opened at
Rodrigo!), ‘It is probable that the English may be on the move at the
end of February, and then I shall have need of all my troops: I have,
therefore, told Montbrun to start on his backward march towards me
before the end of January[208].’ By the end of January Rodrigo had
already been for twelve days in the hands of the British army.

  [208] Ibid., p. 291.

And if Dorsenne and Marmont were blind to the actual situation, so,
most of all, was their master. The dispatch which gave over the charge
of the kingdom of Leon to Marmont contains the following paragraph:

‘If General Wellington (_sic_) after the rainy season is over (i.
e. after February) should determine to take the offensive, you
can then unite all your eight divisions for a battle: General
Dorsenne from Burgos would support you, by marching up from Burgos
to your assistance. But such a move is not to be expected (_n’est
pas présumable_). The English, having suffered heavy losses, and
experiencing great difficulties in recruiting their army, all
considerations tend to make us suppose that they will simply confine
themselves to the defence of Portugal.... Your various dispatches
seem to prove that it is at present no longer possible for us to take
the offensive against Portugal, Badajoz being barely provisioned, and
Salamanca having no magazines. It is necessary, therefore, to wait till
the crops of the present year are ripe [June!], and till the clouds
which now darken the political situation to the North have disappeared.
His Majesty has no doubt that you will profit by the delay, to organize
and administer the provinces under your control with justice and
integrity, and to form large magazines.... The conquest of Portugal and
the immortal glory of defeating the English are reserved for you. Use
therefore all possible means to get yourselves into good condition for
commencing this campaign, when circumstances permit that the order for
it should be given.... Suggestions have been made that Ciudad Rodrigo
should be dismantled. The Emperor considers that this would be a great
mistake: the enemy, establishing himself in that position, would be
able to intercept the communications between Salamanca and Plasencia,
and that would be deplorable. The English know quite well that if they
press in upon Rodrigo, or invest it, they expose themselves to be
forced to deliver a battle--that is the last thing they want: however,
if they did so expose themselves, it would be your duty to assemble
your whole army and march straight at them[209].’

  [209] Berthier to Marmont, Dec. 13, as above.

Such being Napoleon’s views at midwinter, it is strange to find
Napier asserting that the disasters of the French at this time were
caused partly by the jealousies of his lieutenants, partly by their
failing to understand his orders in their true spirit, so that they
neglected them, or executed them without vigour[210]. Without denying
that Marmont, Dorsenne, and Soult were jealous of each other, we may
assert that the real fundamental origin of all their disasters was that
their master persisted in directing the details of the war from Paris,
founding his orders on data three weeks old, and sending those orders
to arrive another fortnight or three weeks after they had been written.
As a fair example of what was perpetually happening we may cite the
following dates. Wellington started to move on January 1st, 1812, as
Thiébault wrote to Dorsenne (on the report of a Spanish spy) on January
3rd: on January 27 the general information that the Anglo-Portuguese
army had crossed the Agueda, without any details, reached the Emperor,
and caused him to dictate a dispatch for Dorsenne, giving him leave to
detain the two divisions of the Imperial Guard under orders for France,
and to support Marmont with them: the Emperor added that he hoped that
by January 18th Montbrun would be nearing Madrid, and that by the end
of the month his column would have joined the Army of Portugal. Eight
days _before_ this dispatch was written Ciudad Rodrigo was already in
Wellington’s hands: the news of its fall on January 19th seems to have
reached Paris on February 11th[211], whereupon, as we shall presently
see, the Emperor dictated another dispatch to Marmont, giving elaborate
instructions on the new condition of affairs. This (travelling quicker
than most correspondence) reached Marmont at Valladolid on February
26[212]: but of what use to the Marshal on that day were orders
dictated upon the basis of the state of affairs in Leon on January
19th? ‘On ne dirige pas la guerre à trois ou quatre cents lieues de
distance,’ as Thiébault very truly observed[213].

  [210] _Peninsular War_, iv. p. 134.

  [211] Correspondence in King Joseph’s _Letters_, viii. pp. 306-7.

  [212] See Marmont’s letter acknowledging its receipt in his
  _Correspondance_, iv. pp. 342-3.

  [213] _Mémoires_, iv. p. 554.

It was precisely Napoleon’s determination to dictate such operations
as Montbrun’s Alicante expedition, or the transference of Marmont’s
head-quarters from the valley of the Tagus to Valladolid, without any
possible knowledge of the circumstances of his lieutenants at the
moment when his orders would come to hand, that was the fatal thing.
With wireless telegraphy in the modern style he might have received
prompt intelligence, and sent directions that suited the situation. But
under the conditions of Spain in 1812 such a system was pure madness.

‘The Emperor chose,’ as Marmont very truly observes, ‘to cut down
the numbers of his troops in Spain [by withdrawing the Guards and
Poles] and to order a grand movement which dislocated them for a time,
precisely at the instant when he had increased the dispersion of
the Army of Portugal, by sending a detachment of 12,000 men against
Valencia. He was undoubtedly aware that the English army was cantoned
in a fairly concentrated position on the Agueda, the Coa, and the
Mondego. But he had made up his mind--I cannot make out why--that the
English were not in a condition to take the field: in every dispatch
he repeated this statement.’ In fairness to his master, Marmont should
have added that he was of the same opinion himself, that Dorsenne
shared it, and that both of them agreed to treat the Cassandra-like
prophecies which Thiébault kept sending from Salamanca as ‘wild and
whirling words.’

Marmont reached Valladolid, marching ahead of the divisions of Clausel
and Maucune, on the 11th or 12th of January. He found Dorsenne waiting
for him, and they proceeded to concert measures for the exchange of
territory and troops which the Emperor had imposed upon them. After
dinner on the evening of the 14th arrived Thiébault’s definite and
startling news that Wellington, with at least five divisions in
hand, had invested Rodrigo on the 8th, and was bringing up a heavy
battering-train. The siege had already been six days in progress.

This was very alarming intelligence. The only troops actually in hand
for the relief of Rodrigo were Thiébault’s small division at Salamanca,
Souham’s much larger division about La Baneza and Benavente, and
Clausel’s and Maucune’s divisions, now approaching Valladolid from the
side of Avila. The whole did not make much more than 20,000 men, a
force obviously insufficient to attack Wellington, if he were in such
strength as Thiébault reported. Dorsenne at once sent for Roguet’s
division of the Imperial Guard from Burgos: Marmont ordered Bonnet to
evacuate the Asturias and come down by the route of Leon to join him:
he also directed Brennier to come up from the Tagus, and Ferey to hurry
his march from La Mancha. Aides-de-camp were sent to hunt for Foy, who
was known to be on the borders of the Murcian regions, where Montbrun
had dropped him on his march to Alicante. Montbrun himself, with the
rest of his column, was also to turn back as soon as the orders should
reach him.

By this concentration Marmont calculated[214] that he would have 32,000
men in line opposite Wellington by January 26 or 27th, as Bonnet,
Brennier, and Dorsenne’s Guards should have arrived by then. And by
February 1 Ferey and Foy ought also to be up, and more than 40,000 men
would be collected. Vain dates! For Wellington captured Rodrigo on the
19th, seven days before the Marshal and Dorsenne could collect even
32,000 men.

  [214] _Mémoires_, iv. p. 184.

Meanwhile Marmont pushed on for Salamanca, where the troops were
to concentrate, having with him only the divisions of Clausel and
Maucune. On January 21st he had reached Fuente Sauco, one march
north of Salamanca, when he received the appalling news that Ciudad
Rodrigo had been stormed by Wellington two days before. This was a
thunderstroke--his army was caught not half concentrated, and he
was for the moment helpless. He advanced as far as Salamanca, and
there picked up Thiébault’s division, but even so he had not more
that 15,000 men in hand, and dared not, with such a handful, march
on Rodrigo, to endeavour to recover it before Wellington should have
restored its fortifications. Bonnet had not yet even reached Leon:
Ferey and Dorsenne’s Guard division had not been heard of. As to where
Foy and Montbrun might be at the moment, it was hardly possible to
hazard a guess. The only troops that could be relied upon to appear
within the next few days were the divisions of Souham and Brennier.
Even with their help the army would not exceed 26,000 or 28,000 men.

Meanwhile Wellington, with seven divisions now in hand, for he had
brought up both the 5th and the 7th to the front, was lying on the
Agueda, covering the repairs of Ciudad Rodrigo. Marmont had at first
thought that, elated by his recent success, the British general might
push his advance towards Salamanca. He made no signs of doing so: all
his troops remained concentrated on the Portuguese frontier, ready
to protect the rebuilding of Rodrigo. Here, on the day after the
storm, all the trenches were filled in, and the débris on the breaches
removed. Twelve hundred men were then turned to the task of mending the
breaches, which were at first built up with fascines and earth only,
so as to make them ready within a few days to resist a _coup-de-main_.
In a very short time they were more or less in a state of defence, and
on February 15th Castaños produced a brigade of Spanish infantry to
form the new garrison of the place. The work was much retarded by the
weather. Throughout the time of the siege it had been bitterly cold
but very dry: but on the 28th the wind shifted to the west, and for
the nine days following there was incessant and torrential rain, which
was very detrimental to the work. It had, however, the compensating
advantage of preventing Marmont from making any advance from Salamanca.
Every river in Leon was over its banks, every ford impassable, the
roads became practically useless. When, therefore, on February 2nd[215]
the Agueda rose to such a height that Wellington’s trestle-bridge was
swept away, and the stone town-bridge of Rodrigo was two feet under
water, so that the divisions cantoned on the Portuguese frontier were
cut off from the half-repaired fortress, there was no pressing danger
from the French, who were quite unable to move forward.

  [215] Napier says Jan. 29. But Jones, then employed in repairing
  Rodrigo, gives Feb. 2 in his diary of the work.

Marmont, as we have seen, had reached Fuente Sauco on January 21st,
and Salamanca on January 22nd. On the following day Souham, coming in
from the direction of Zamora, appeared at Matilla, half way between
Salamanca and Ciudad Rodrigo, so that he was in touch with his chief
and ready to act as his advanced guard. But no other troops had come
up, and on the 24th the Marshal received a hasty note from Dorsenne,
saying that the division of the Young Guard from Burgos would not
reach the Tormes till February 2[216]. With only four divisions at his
disposition (Clausel, Maucune, Thiébault, Souham) Marmont dared not
yet move forward, since he knew that Wellington had at least six in
hand, and he shrank from committing himself to decisive action with
little more than 20,000 men assembled. On the 28th Dorsenne sent in a
still more disheartening dispatch than his last: he had now ordered
Roguet’s Guards, who had got as far forward as Medina del Campo, to
return to Burgos[217]. The reasons given were that Mina had just
inflicted a severe blow on General Abbé, the commanding officer in
Navarre, by beating him near Pampeluna with a loss of 400 men, that
the Conde de Montijo, from Aragon, had laid siege to Soria, and was
pressing its garrison hard, and that another assembly of guerrillero
bands had attacked Aranda del Duero, and would take it, if it were not
succoured in a few days. ‘I therefore trust that your excellency will
approve of my having called back Roguet’s division, its artillery, and
Laferrière’s horse, to use them for a _guerre à outrance_ against the
guerrillas.’ Nothing serious--he added--would follow, as all reports
agreed that Wellington was sitting tight near Ciudad Rodrigo, and would
make no advance toward Salamanca.

  [216] Dorsenne to Marmont, from Valladolid, Feb. 24.

  [217] Same to same, from Valladolid, Feb. 27.

No succours whatever, therefore, were to be expected from the Army of
the North: Bonnet had only just recrossed the Cantabrian mountains,
much incommoded by the bad weather in the passes, and Foy and Montbrun
were only expected in the neighbourhood of Toledo early in February.
Therefore Marmont abandoned all hope of attacking Wellington before
Ciudad Rodrigo should be in a state of defence. The desperately rainy
weather of January 28th to February 6th was no doubt the last decisive
fact in making the Marshal give up the game. Before the rain had ceased
falling, he concluded that all chance of a successful offensive move
was gone, for he returned from Salamanca to Valladolid on February 5th.

On February 6th he wrote to Berthier[218] that he had ordered Montbrun
and Foy, on their return from the Alicante expedition, to remain behind
in the valley of the Tagus, and not to come on to Salamanca. His reason
for abandoning all idea of a general concentration against Wellington
in the kingdom of Leon, was that he was convinced that the next move
of the British general would be to make a dash at Badajoz, and that he
wished to have a considerable force ready in the direction of Almaraz
and Talavera, with which he could succour the Army of the South,
when it should be compelled to march, as in 1811, to relieve that
fortress. His forecast of Wellington’s probable scheme of operations
was perfectly correct, and his idea that the best way to foil it would
be to hold a large portion of his army in the valley of the Tagus was
correct also. But he was not to be permitted to carry out his own plan:
the orders from Paris, which he so much dreaded, once more intervened
to prescribe for him a very different policy[219].

  [218] Marmont to Berthier, Valladolid, Feb. 6. Not in Marmont’s
  _Mémoires_, but printed in King Joseph’s Correspondance, viii. p.
  301.

  [219] I must confess that all Napier’s comment on Marmont’s
  doings (vol. iv. pp. 94-5) seems to me to be vitiated by a wish
  to vindicate Napoleon at all costs, and to throw all possible
  blame on his lieutenant. His statements contain what I cannot
  but call a _suggestio falsi_, when he says that ‘Bonnet quitted
  the Asturias, Montbrun hastened back from Valencia, Dorsenne
  sent a detachment in aid, and on Jan. 25 six divisions of
  infantry and one of cavalry, 45,000 men in all, were assembled
  at Salamanca, from whence to Ciudad is only four marches.’ This
  misses the facts that (1) Marmont had only _four_ divisions
  (Souham, Clausel, Maucune, and the weak division of Thiébault);
  (2) that Bonnet had not arrived, nor could for some days; (3)
  that Dorsenne sent nothing, and on Jan. 27 announced that nothing
  would be forthcoming; (4) that Montbrun (who was at Alicante on
  Jan. 16) was still far away on the borders of Murcia. With 22,000
  men only in hand Marmont was naturally cautious.

Wellington during the critical days from January 20th to February 6th
was naturally anxious. He knew that Marmont would concentrate against
him, but he hoped (as indeed he was justified in doing) that the
concentration would be slow and imperfect, and that the Marshal would
find himself too weak to advance from Salamanca. His anxiety was made
somewhat greater than it need have been, by a false report that Foy
and Montbrun were already returned from the Alicante expedition--he
was told that both had got back to Toledo by the beginning of
January[220]--a most mischievous piece of false news. An equally
groundless rumour informed him that Bonnet had left the Asturias,
many days before his departure actually took place. On January 21 he
wrote to Lord Liverpool that Bonnet had passed Benavente on his way
to Salamanca, and that ‘the whole of what had gone eastward’ [i. e.
Foy and Montbrun] was reported to be coming up from the Tagus to
Valladolid, so that in a few days Marmont might possibly have 50,000
men in hand[221]. To make himself strong against such a concentration
he ordered Hill, on January 22, to bring up three brigades of the 2nd
Division to Castello Branco, with which he might join the main army at
a few days’ notice[222]. At the same time he directed General Abadia to
send a force to occupy the Asturias, which must be empty since Bonnet
had evacuated it. It was not till some days later that he got the
reassuring, and correct, news that Foy and Montbrun, instead of being
already at the front in Castile, were not even expected at Toledo till
January 29th, and that Bonnet had started late, and was only at La
Baneza when February had already begun. But, by the time that he had
received this information, it had already become evident that Marmont
was not about to take the offensive, and Ciudad Rodrigo was already
in a condition to resist a _coup-de-main_; while, since the whole
siege-train of the Army of Portugal had been captured therein, it was
certain that the Marshal could not come up provided with the artillery
required for a regular siege.

  [220] See _Dispatches_, viii. p. 547.

  [221] I fancy that Wellington’s erroneous statement that Marmont
  had six divisions collected at Salamanca on the 23rd-24th
  [misprinted by Gurwood, _Dispatches_, viii. p. 577, as ‘the 6th
  Division!’] was Napier’s source for stating that such a force
  was assembled, which it certainly was not, Wellington reckoned
  that Marmont had Souham, Clausel, Maucune, Thiébault, and two
  divisions from the East, which last had not really come up--and
  never were to do so.

  [222] Wellington to Hill, Jan. 22, _Dispatches_, viii. p. 566.

By February 12th the real state of affairs became clear, ‘the enemy
has few troops left at Salamanca and in the towns on the Tormes, and
it appears that Marshal Marmont has cantoned the right of his army on
the Douro, at Zamora and Toro, the centre in the province of Avila,
while one division (the 6th) has returned to Talavera and the valley
of the Tagus.’ This was nearly correct: Marmont, on February 6th, had
defined his position as follows--two divisions (those just returned
from the Alicante expedition) in the valley of the Tagus; one, the
6th (Brennier), at Monbeltran, in one of the passes leading from the
Tagus to the Douro valley; one (Clausel) at Avila; three on the Douro
and the Esla (Zamora, Toro, Benavente) with a strong advanced guard at
Salamanca. The heavy detachment towards the Tagus, as he explained, was
to provide for the probable necessity of succouring Badajoz, to which
Wellington was certain to turn his attention ere long.

Marmont was perfectly right in his surmise. Ciudad Rodrigo had hardly
been in his hands for five days, when Wellington began to issue orders
presupposing an attack on Badajoz. On January 25th Alexander Dickson
was directed to send the 24-lb. shot and reserve powder remaining at
the artillery base at Villa da Ponte to be embarked on the Douro for
Oporto, where they were to be placed on ship-board[223]. Next day it
was ordered that sixteen howitzers of the siege-train should start
from Almeida overland for the Alemtejo, each drawn by eight bullocks,
while twenty 24-pounders were to be shipped down the Douro from Barca
de Alva to Oporto, and sent round from thence to Setubal, the seaport
nearest to Elvas[224]. On the 28th Dickson himself was ordered to start
at once for Setubal, in order that he might be ready to receive each
consignment on its arrival, and to make arrangements for its transport
to Elvas[225], while a dispatch was sent to Hill[226] definitely
stating that, if all went well, the siege of Badajoz was to begin in
the second week of March.

  [223] _Dickson Papers_, ii. p. 571.

  [224] Wellington, _Dispatches_, viii. pp. 568-9.

  [225] _Dickson Papers_, ii. p. 576.

  [226] Wellington to Hill, _Dispatches_, viii. p. 571.

These plans were drawn up long before it was clear that the army might
not have to fight Marmont on the Agueda, for the defence of Ciudad
Rodrigo. ‘If they should move this way, I hope to give a good account
of them,’ Wellington wrote to Douglas (the British officer attached to
the Army of Galicia)[227]: but he judged it more likely that no such
advance would be made. ‘I think it probable that when Marmont shall
have heard of our success, he will not move at all[228].’ Meanwhile
there was no need to march the army southward for some time, since
the artillery and stores would take many weeks on their land or water
voyage, when roads were bad and the sea vexed with winter storms.
So long as seven divisions were cantoned behind the Agueda and Coa,
Marmont could have no certain knowledge that the attack on Badajoz was
contemplated, whatever he might suspect. Therefore no transference
southward of the divisions behind the Agueda was begun till February
19th. But Wellington, with an eye on Marmont’s future movements,
contemplated a raid by Hill on the bridge of Almaraz, the nearest and
best passage which the French possessed on the Tagus. If it could be
broken by a flying column, any succours from the Army of Portugal to
the Army of the South would have to take a much longer route and waste
much time[229]. The project was abandoned, on Hill’s report that he
doubted of its practicability, since a successful _coup-de-main_ on
one of the bridge-head forts might not secure the actual destruction
of the boats, which the French might withdraw to the farther side of
the river, and relay at their leisure[230]. But, as we shall see, the
scheme was postponed and not entirely rejected: in May it was carried
out with complete success.

  [227] Wellington to Sir Howard Douglas, Jan. 22, _Dispatches_,
  viii. p. 568.

  [228] Wellington to Hill, _Dispatches_, viii. p. 567, same day as
  last.

  [229] Wellington to Hill, Jan. 28, _Dispatches_, viii. pp. 571-2
  and 586-7.

  [230] Wellington to Hill, Feb. 12, _Dispatches_. viii. p. 603.

While Wellington was awaiting the news that his siege artillery was
well forward on the way to Elvas, Marmont had been undergoing one of
his periodical lectures from Paris. A dispatch sent to him by Berthier
on January 23, and received at Valladolid on February 6th--fourteen
days only having been occupied by its travels--had of course no
reference to Wellington or Ciudad Rodrigo, the news of the investment
of that fortress having only reached Paris on January 27th. It was
mainly composed of censures on Montbrun’s Alicante expedition, which
Napoleon considered to have been undertaken with too large a force--’he
had ordered a flying column to be sent against Valencia, a whole army
corps had marched.’ But the paragraph in it which filled Marmont with
dismay was one ordering him to make over at once 6,000 men to the Army
of the North, whose numbers the Emperor considered to be running too
low, now that the two Guard divisions had been directed to return to
France.

‘Twenty-four hours after the receipt of this dispatch you will start
off on the march one of your divisions, with its divisional artillery,
and its exact composition as it stands at the moment of the arrival of
this order, and will send it to Burgos, to form part of the Army of
the North. His Majesty forbids you to change any general belonging to
this division, or to make any alterations in it. In return you will
receive three provisional regiments of detachments, about 5,000 men,
whom you may draft into your battalions. They are to start from Burgos
the day that the division which you are ordered to send arrives there.
All the Guards are under orders for France, and can only start when
your division has reached that place.... The Army of the North will
then consist of three divisions: (1) that which you are sending off;
(2) Caffarelli’s division (due at Pampeluna from Aragon); (3) a third
division which General Dorsenne will organize from the 34th Léger,
the 113th and 130th of the line and the Swiss battalions.... By this
arrangement the Army of the North will be in a position to aid you with
two divisions if the English should march against you[231].’

  [231] The ‘third division’ practically represented Thiébault’s
  old division of the Army of the North, which had long held the
  Salamanca district. This division was to be deprived of its
  Polish regiment (recalled to France with all other Poles) and
  to be given instead the 130th, then at Santander. But the 130th
  really belonged to the Army of Portugal (Sarrut’s division),
  though separated from it at the moment. So Marmont was being
  deprived of one regiment more.

Along with this dispatch arrived another from Dorsenne[232], clamouring
for the division which was to be given him--he had already got the
notice that he was to receive it, as he lay nearer to France than
Marmont. He promised that the three provisional regiments should be
sent off, as the Emperor directed, the moment that the ceded division
should reach him. The Duke of Ragusa could not refuse to obey such
peremptory orders from his master, and ordered Bonnet’s division, from
Benavente and Leon, to march on Burgos. His letter acknowledging the
receipt of the Emperor’s dispatch was plaintive. ‘I am informed that,
according to the new arrangement, the Army of the North will be in
a position to help me with two divisions if I am attacked. I doubt
whether His Majesty’s intentions on this point will be carried out, and
in no wise expect it. I believe that I am justified in fearing that
any troops sent me will have to be long waited for, and will be an
insignificant force when they do appear. Not to speak of the slowness
inevitable in all joint operations, it takes so long in Spain to get
dispatches through, and to collect troops, that I doubt whether I shall
obtain any help at the critical moment. ... The net result of all is
that I am left much weaker in numbers.’

  [232] Dorsenne to Marmont, from Uñas, Feb. 5.

Marmont might have added that the three provisional regiments, which he
was to receive in return for Bonnet’s division and the 130th Line, were
no real reinforcement, but his own drafts, long due to arrive at the
front, but detained by Dorsenne in Biscay and Old Castile to garrison
small posts and keep open communications. And he was not destined
to receive them as had been promised: Dorsenne wrote on February 24
apologizing for not forwarding them at once: they were guarding the
roads between Irun and Vittoria, and could not be spared till other
troops had been moved into their scattered garrisons to relieve them.

On January 27th the news of the advance of Wellington against Ciudad
Rodrigo had at last reached Paris--eight days after the fortress
had fallen. It caused the issue of new orders by the Emperor, all
exquisitely inappropriate when they reached Marmont’s hands on February
10th. The Marshal had been contemplating the tiresome results of the
storm of the fortress for nearly three weeks, but Napoleon’s orders
presupposed much spare time before Rodrigo would be in any danger:
Dorsenne is to stop the march of the Guards towards France, and to
bring up all the forces he can to help the Army of Portugal: Montbrun
will be back at Madrid by January 18 [on which day he was really in
the middle of the kingdom of Murcia], and at the front in Leon before
February 1st. After his arrival the Army of Portugal will be able to
take up its definitive line of action. Finally, there is a stab at
Marmont, ‘the English apparently have advanced in order to make a
diversion to hamper the siege of Valencia; they only did so because
they had got information of the great strength of the detachment which
the Army of Portugal made in that direction[233].’

  [233] Napoleon to Berthier, Jan. 27.

The Marshal could only reply by saying that the orders were all out of
date, that he had (as directed) given up Bonnet’s division to the Army
of the North, and that, Ciudad Rodrigo having fallen far earlier than
any one had expected, and long before any sufficient relieving force
could be collected, he had been unable to save it, and had now cantoned
his army (minus Bonnet) with four divisions in the valley of the Douro
and three in the valley of the Tagus, in expectation of an approaching
move on the part of Wellington towards Badajoz.

These dispositions had not long been completed when another dispatch
arrived from Paris, dated February 11th, in which the Emperor censured
once more all his lieutenant’s actions, and laid down for him a new
strategical policy from which he was forbidden to swerve.

‘The Emperor regrets that when you had the division of Souham and three
others united [i. e. on January 23] you did not move on Salamanca, to
make out what was going on. That would have given the English much
to think about, and might have been useful to Ciudad Rodrigo. The
way to help the army under the present circumstances is to place its
head-quarters at Salamanca, and concentrate your force there, detaching
one division to the Tagus valley and also reoccupying the Asturias.
[This concentration] will oblige the enemy to remain about Almeida and
in the North, for fear of an invasion of Portugal. You might even march
on Rodrigo, and, if you have the necessary siege artillery, capture the
place--your honour is bound up with it. If want of the artillery or
of food renders it necessary to put off such an operation, you could
at least make an incursion into Portugal, and advance towards the
Douro and Almeida. This menace would keep the enemy “contained”....
Your posture should be offensive, with Salamanca as base and Almeida
as objective: as long as the English know that you are in strength
at Salamanca they will not budge: but if you retire to Valladolid
yourself, and scatter divisions to the rear, and above all if you have
not got your cavalry effective by the time that the rainy season ends,
you will expose all the north of Spain to misfortunes.

‘It is indispensable to reoccupy the Asturias, because more troops are
needed to hold the edge of the plain as far as Biscay than to keep down
that province. Since the English are divided into two corps, one in the
South and the other opposite you, they cannot be in heavy strength: you
ought to outnumber them greatly.... I suppose that you consider the
English mad, for you believe them capable of marching against Badajoz
when you are at Salamanca, i. e. of allowing you to march to Lisbon
before they can get back. They will only go southward if you, by your
ill-devised schemes, keep two or three divisions detached on the Tagus:
that reassures them, and tells them that you have no offensive projects
against them.

‘To recapitulate, the Emperor’s intentions are that you should stop at
Salamanca, that you should reoccupy the Asturias, that your army should
base itself on Salamanca, and that from thence you should threaten the
English.’

It may seem profane to the worshippers of the Emperor to say that this
dispatch was purely wrong-headed, and argued a complete misconception
of the situation. But it is impossible to pass any other verdict
on it. Marmont, since Bonnet’s division had been stolen from him,
had seven divisions left, or about 44,000 men effective, including
cavalry and artillery. The Emperor tells him to keep one division on
the Tagus, to send a second to occupy the Asturias. This leaves him
about 34,000 net to concentrate at Salamanca. With this force he is
to attempt to besiege Rodrigo, or at least to execute a raid as far
as Almeida and the Douro. ‘The English are divided and so must be
much numerically inferior to you.’ But, as a matter of fact, the only
British detachment that was not under Wellington’s hand at the moment
was Hill’s 2nd Division, and he had just brought that up to Castello
Branco, and would have had it with him in five days, if Marmont had
advanced from Salamanca. The Marshal would have seen 55,000 men
falling upon his 34,000 if he had moved on any day before the 20th of
February, and Wellington was ‘spoiling for a fight,’ or, in his own
quiet phraseology, ‘if the French move this way, I hope to give a good
account of them[234].’ Supposing Marmont had, by some evil inspiration,
done what the Emperor had wished him to do before the orders came,
he would have been crushed by almost double numbers somewhere in the
neighbourhood of Rodrigo or Almeida. The battle of Salamanca would have
been fought six months too soon.

  [234] Wellington to Douglas, _Dispatches_, viii. p. 568.

This is the crucial objection to Napoleon’s main thesis: he underrated
Wellington’s numbers and his readiness to give battle. As to details
we may observe (1) that there was no siege-train to batter Rodrigo,
because the whole of the heavy guns of the Army of Portugal had been
captured in that fortress. (2) That Wellington was ‘mad’ enough to
march upon Badajoz with his whole army, precisely because he knew that,
even if Marmont should invade Portugal, he could never get to Lisbon.
He realized, as the Emperor did not, that an army of five or six
divisions could not march on Lisbon in the casual fashion recommended
in this dispatch, because it would starve by the way. Central Portugal,
still suffering from the blight of Masséna’s invasion, could not
have sustained 30,000 men marching in a mass and trying to live upon
the country in the usual French style. And Marmont, as his adversary
well knew, had neither great magazines at his base, nor the immense
transport train which would have permitted them to be utilized. The
best proof of the impracticability of Napoleon’s scheme was that
Marmont endeavoured to carry it out in April, when nothing lay in front
of him but Portuguese militia, and failed to penetrate more than a
few marches into the land, because he could not feed his army, and
therefore could not keep it concentrated.

The Marshal knew long beforehand that this plan was hopeless. He wrote
to Berthier from Valladolid on February 26th as follows:

‘Your Highness informs me that if my army is united at Salamanca the
English would be “mad” to move into Estremadura, leaving me behind
them, and free to advance on Lisbon. But they tried this precise
combination in May 1811, though all my army was then quite close to
Salamanca, and though the Army of the North was then twice as strong as
it is to-day, and though the season was then later and allowed us to
find provender for our horses, and though we were then in possession
of Ciudad Rodrigo. They considered at that time that we could not
undertake such an operation [as a march on Lisbon], and were perfectly
right. Will they think that it is practicable to-day, when all the
conditions which I have just cited are changed to our disadvantage, and
when they know that a great body of troops has returned to France?...
Consequently no movement on this side can help Badajoz. The only
possible course is to take measures directly bearing on that place, if
we are to bring pressure upon the enemy and hope to attain our end.
The Emperor seems to ignore the food question. This is the important
problem; and if it could be ended by the formation of base-magazines,
his orders could be executed with punctuality and precision. But we are
far from such a position--by no fault of mine.... When transferred to
the North in January, I found not a grain of wheat in the magazines,
not a sou in the treasury, unpaid debts everywhere. As the necessary
result of the absurd system of administration adopted here, there
was in existence a famine--real or artificial--whose severity was
difficult to realize. We could only get food for daily consumption in
our cantonments by using armed force: there is a long distance between
this state of affairs and the formation of magazines which would allow
us to move the army freely.... The English army is always concentrated
and can always be moved, because it has an adequate supply of money
and transport. Seven or eight thousand pack-mules bring up its daily
food--hay for its cavalry on the banks of the Coa and Agueda has
actually been sent out from England[235]. His Majesty may judge from
this fact the comparison between their means and ours--we have not
four days’ food in any of our magazines, we have no transport, we
cannot draw requisitions from the most wretched village without sending
thither a foraging party 200 strong: to live from day to day we have to
scatter detachments to vast distances, and always to be on the move....
It is possible that His Majesty may be dissatisfied with my arguments,
but I am bound to say that I cannot carry out the orders sent me
without bringing about a disaster ere long. If His Majesty thinks
otherwise, I must request to be superseded--a request not made for the
first time: if I am given a successor the command will of course be
placed in better hands[236].’

  [235] An exaggeration, but hay was actually brought to Lisbon and
  Coimbra, and used for the English cavalry brigades, which had
  been sent to the rear and cantoned on the Lower Mondego.

  [236] Marmont to Berthier, Valladolid, Feb. 26. Marmont’s
  _Mémoires_, iv. pp. 344-5.

[Illustration: _Marshal Marmont, Duke of Ragusa_]

This was an admirable summary of the whole situation in Spain, and
might have caused the Emperor to change his policy, if he had not by
this time so hardened himself in his false conceptions as to be past
conviction. As Marmont complains, his master had now built up for
himself an imaginary picture of the state of affairs in the Peninsula,
and argued as if the situation was what he wished it to be, not what
it actually was. ‘Il suppose vrai tout ce qu’il voudrait trouver
existant[237].’

  [237] Marmont’s ‘Observations on the Imperial Correspondence of
  Feb. 1812,’ _Mémoires_, iv. p. 512.

A subsequent letter from Paris, dated February 21st and received about
March 2nd, contained one small amelioration of Marmont’s lot--he
was told that he might take back Bonnet’s division, and not cede
it to Dorsenne, on condition that he sent it at once to occupy the
Asturias. But it then proceeded to lay down in the harshest terms the
condemnation of the Marshal’s strategy:

‘The Emperor charges me to repeat to you that you worry too much about
matters with which you have no concern. Your mission was to protect
Almeida and Rodrigo--and you have let them fall. You are told to
maintain and administer the North, and you abandon the Asturias--the
only point from which it can be dominated and contained. You are
getting into a state of alarm because Lord Wellington sends a division
or two towards Badajoz. Now Badajoz is a very strong fortress, and the
Duke of Dalmatia has 80,000 men, and can draw help from Marshal Suchet.
If Wellington were to march on Badajoz [he had done so the day before
this letter was written] you have a sure, prompt, and triumphant means
of bringing him back--that of marching on Rodrigo and Almeida.’

Marmont replied, with a suppressed rage that can be read between the
lines even more clearly than in his earlier letters, ‘Since the Emperor
attributes to me the fall of Almeida, which was given up before I had
actually taken over the command of this army[238], I cannot see what I
can do to shelter myself from censures at large: ... I am accused of
being the cause of the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo: it fell because it
had an insufficient garrison of inferior quality and a bad commandant.
Dorsenne was neither watchful nor prescient. Was it for me to take
care of a place not in my command, and separated from me by a chain
of mountains, and by the desert that had been made by the six months’
sojourn of the Army of Portugal in the valley of the Tagus?... I am
blamed for having cantoned myself in the valley of the Tagus after
repulsing Lord Wellington beyond the Coa [at the time of El Bodon],
but this was the result of the imperative orders of the Emperor, who
assigned me no other territory than the Tagus valley. Rodrigo was
occupied by troops of the Army of the North.... I have ordered General
Bonnet to reoccupy the Asturias at once, and quite see the importance
of the occupying of that province.... I am told that the Emperor thinks
that I busy myself too much about the interests of others, and not
enough about my own. I had considered that one of my duties (and one of
the most difficult of them) was to assist the Army of the South, and
that duty was formally imposed on me in some twenty dispatches, and
specially indicated by the order which bade me leave three divisions
in the valley of the Tagus. To-day I am informed that I am relieved
of that duty, and my position becomes simpler and better! But if the
Emperor relies with confidence on the effect which demonstrations
in the North will produce on the mind of Wellington, I must dare to
express my contrary opinion. Lord Wellington is quite aware that I have
no magazines, and is acquainted with the immensely difficult physical
character of the country, and its complete lack of food resources at
this season. He knows that my army is not in a position to cross the
Coa, even if no one opposes me, and that if we did so we should have to
turn back at the end of four days, unable to carry on the campaign, and
with our horses all starved to death[239].’

  [238] To be exact, it was on May 10 that Marmont took over the
  command from Masséna, and Almeida was evacuated by Brennier that
  same night.

  [239] I extract these various paragraphs from Marmont’s vast
  dispatch of March 2, omitting much more that is interesting and
  apposite.

This and much more to the same effect had apparently some effect on the
mind of the Emperor. But the result was confusing when formulated on
paper. Berthier replied on March 12:

‘Your letters of February 27 and 28 and March 2 have been laid before
the Emperor. His Majesty thinks that not only must you concentrate
at Salamanca, but that you must throw a bridge across the Agueda, so
that, if the enemy leaves less than five divisions north of the Tagus,
you may be able to advance to the Coa, against Almeida, and ravage all
northern Portugal. If Badajoz is captured by two divisions of the enemy
its loss will not be imputed to you, the entire responsibility will
fall on the Army of the South. If the enemy leaves only two, three, or
even four divisions north of the Tagus, the Army of Portugal will be
to blame if it does not at once march against the hostile force before
it, invest Almeida, ravage all northern Portugal, and push detachments
as far as the Mondego. Its rôle is simply to “contain” six British
divisions, or at least five: it must take the offensive in the North,
or, if the enemy has taken the initiative, or other circumstances
necessitate it, must dispatch to the Tagus, by Almaraz, the same number
of divisions that Lord Wellington shall have dispatched to conduct the
siege of Badajoz.’

This double-edged document reached Salamanca on March 27, _eleven days
after Wellington had invested Badajoz_. The whole allied field army had
marched for Estremadura in the last days of February, and not a single
British division remained north of the Tagus. In accordance with the
Emperor’s dispatches of February 11th and of February 18th, Marmont had
already concentrated the bulk of his resources at Salamanca, drawing
in everything except Bonnet (destined for the Asturias), Souham, who
was left on the Esla to face the Army of Galicia, and the equivalent of
another division distributed as garrisons in Astorga, Leon, Palencia,
Zamora, and Valladolid. With five divisions in hand, or just coming up,
he was on the move, as the Emperor had directed, to threaten Rodrigo
and Almeida and invade northern Portugal.

The Paris letter of March 12, quoted above, suddenly imposed on Marmont
the choice between continuing the attack on Portugal, to which he was
committed, or of leading his whole army by Almaraz to Badajoz--it must
be the whole army, since he was told to send just as many divisions
southward as Wellington should have moved in that direction, and every
one of the seven units of the allied army had gone off.

Since Badajoz was stormed on April 6th, only ten days after Marmont
received on March 27 the Emperor’s dispatch of March 12, it is clear
that he never could have arrived in time to help the fortress. In June
1811 he had accomplished a similar movement at a better season of the
year, and when some time had been allowed for preparation, in fifteen
days, but only by making forced marches of the most exhausting sort. It
could not have been done in so short a time in March or April, when the
crops were not ripe, the rivers were full, and the roads were far worse
than at midsummer. Moreover (as we shall presently see) Wellington had
placed a large containing force at Merida, half-way between Almaraz and
Badajoz, which Marmont would have had to drive in--at much expense of
time.

The Marshal’s perplexity on receiving the dispatch that came in upon
March 27 was extreme. ‘The instructions just received,’ he wrote
to Berthier, ‘are wholly contradictory to those of February 18 and
February 21, imperative orders which forced me, against my personal
conviction, to abandon my own plan, and to make it impossible to do
what I regarded as suitable to the interests of the Emperor. The
letters of February 18 and February 21 told me that his Majesty
thought me a meddler in matters which did not concern me: he told me
that it was unnecessary for me to worry about Badajoz, “a very strong
fortress supported by an army of 80,000 men.” ... He gave me formal
orders to abandon any idea of marching to succour it, and added that
if Lord Wellington went thither, he was to be left alone, because by
advancing to the Agueda I could bring him back at once. The letters of
the 18th and 21st made it quite clear that His Majesty freed me from
all responsibility for Badajoz, provided I made a demonstration on the
Agueda. ... To-day your Highness writes that I _am_ responsible for
Badajoz, if Lord Wellington undertakes its siege with more than two
divisions. The concluding paragraph of your letter seems to give me
permission to succour the place, by bringing up troops to the Tagus.
So, after imperative orders have wrecked my original arrangement, which
had prepared and assured an effective help for Badajoz, and after all
choice of methods has been forbidden to me, I am suddenly given an
option when it is no longer possible to use it.... To-day, when my
troops from the Tagus valley have repassed the mountains, and used up
the magazines collected there at their departure, when it is impossible
to get from Madrid the means to establish a new magazine at Almaraz, my
army, if it started from this point [Salamanca], would consume every
scrap of food that could be procured before it could possibly reach
Badajoz.... The movement was practicable when I was in my original
position: it is almost impracticable now, considering the season of the
year, and the probable time-limit of the enemy’s operations.... After
ripe reflection on the complicated situation, considering that my main
task is to hold down the North, and that this task is much greater
than that of holding the South, taking into consideration the news
that an English force is said to be landing at Corunna (an improbable
story, but one that is being repeatedly brought me), considering that
the Portuguese and Galician troops threaten to take the offensive from
Braganza, remembering that your letters of February 18 and 21 state
that Suchet’s Army of Aragon is reckoned able to reinforce the Army
of the South, and considering that my dispositions have been made (in
spite of immense preliminary difficulties) for a fifteen days’ march on
the Agueda, which is already begun, I decide in favour of continuing
that operation, though I have (as I said before) no great confidence in
its producing any effective result.

‘Accordingly I am putting the division that came up from the Tagus in
motion for Plasencia, with orders to spread the rumour that it is to
rejoin the army by the pass of Perales and enter Portugal; I start
from here with three more divisions for the Agueda; ... if I fought
on the Tormes I could put one more division in line, five in all: the
number of seven divisions of which the Emperor speaks could only be
concentrated if the Army of the North[240] could send two divisions to
replace my own two now on the lines of communications and the Esla.’

  [240] Marmont writes the Army of the Centre, evidently in
  confusion for the Army of the North. The nearest posts of the
  Army of the Centre were 150 miles away from the Esla, while
  the Army of the North at Burgos was much closer. Moreover, the
  Army of the Centre had not two infantry divisions, but only
  one--d’Armagnac’s--and some _Juramentado_ regiments.

The recapitulation of all this correspondence may seem tedious, but it
is necessary. When it is followed with care I think that one definite
fact emerges. Napoleon was directly and personally responsible for the
fall of Badajoz. Down to March 27th Marmont was strictly forbidden to
take any precautions for the safety of that fortress, and was censured
as a meddler and an alarmist, for wishing to keep a strong force in
the valley of the Tagus, ready to march thither. On March 27 he was
suddenly given an option of marching to Estremadura with his whole
army. It appears to be an option, not a definite order, for Berthier’s
sentence introducing the new scheme is alternative--the Army of
Portugal is ‘to take the offensive in the North _or_, under certain
circumstances, to march for Almaraz.’ But this point need not be
pressed, for if taken as a definite order it was impracticable: Marmont
received it so late that, if he had marched for Badajoz with the
greatest possible speed, he would have reached it some days after the
place was stormed. The fact that he believed that he would never have
got there at all, because lack of food would have stopped him on the
way, is indifferent. The essential point of Napoleon’s responsibility
is that he authorized the march too late, after having most stringently
forbidden it, in successive letters extending over several weeks.

That a march on Badajoz by the whole Army of Portugal (or so much of it
as was not required to contain the Galicians and to occupy Asturias),
if it had begun--as Marmont wished--in February or early March, would
have prevented Wellington from taking the fortress, is not certain.
A similar march in June 1811 had that effect, at the time of the
operations on the Caya. But Wellington’s position was much better
in February 1812 than it had been eight months earlier. This much,
however, is clear, that such an operation had a possible chance of
success, while Napoleon’s counter-scheme for a demonstration on the
Agueda and an invasion of the northern Beira had no such prospect.
The Emperor, for lack of comprehension of the local conditions,
misconceived its efficacy, as Marmont very cogently demonstrated in his
letters. Northern Portugal was a waste, where the Marshal’s army might
wander for a few days, but was certain to be starved before it was many
marches from the frontier. Napier, in an elaborate vindication of the
Emperor, tries to argue that the Marshal might have taken Rodrigo by
escalade without a battering-train, have assailed Almeida in similar
fashion, have menaced Oporto and occupied Coimbra[241]. He deliberately
ignores one essential condition of the war, viz. that because of the
French system of ‘living on the country,’ Marmont had no magazines, and
no transport sufficient to enable his army to conduct a long offensive
campaign in a devastated and hostile land. His paragraphs are mere
rhetoric of the most unfair kind. For example, he says, ‘Wellington
with 18,000 men[242] escaladed Badajoz, a powerful fortress defended by
an excellent governor and 5,000 French veterans: Marmont with 28,000
men would not attempt to escalade Rodrigo, although its breaches were
scarcely healed and its garrison disaffected.’ This statement omits the
essential details that Wellington had a large siege-train, had opened
three broad breaches in the walls of Badajoz, and, while the enemy
was fully occupied in defending them, escaladed distant points of the
_enceinte_ with success. Marmont had no siege-train, and therefore
could have made no breaches; he would have had to cope with an
undistracted garrison, holding ramparts everywhere intact. Moreover,
Ciudad Rodrigo and its outworks form a compact fortress, of not half
the circumference of Badajoz and its dependencies. If Ney and Masséna,
with an adequate siege apparatus, treated Rodrigo with respect in 1810,
and proceeded against it by regular operations, Marmont would have been
entirely unjustified in trying the desperate method of escalade in
1812. The fortifications, as Napier grudgingly admits, were ‘healed’:
an escalade against Carlos de España’s garrison would certainly have
met the same fate as Suchet’s assault on Saguntum, a much weaker and
unfinished stronghold. But it is unnecessary to follow into detail
Napier’s controversial statements, which are all part of a wrong-headed
scheme to prove Napoleon infallible on all occasions and at all costs.

  [241] See chapter vii of book iv, _Peninsular War_, iv. pp.
  138-40.

  [242] Why omit the 30,000 men of Graham and Hill?

The governing facts cannot be disputed: Marmont in February placed
three divisions on the Tagus, which were to form the advanced guard
of an army that was to march to the relief of Badajoz, whose siege he
foresaw. Napoleon told him not to concern himself about Badajoz, and
compelled him to concentrate his army about Salamanca. He instructed
him that the proper reply to an attack on Badajoz by Wellington was
an invasion of northern Portugal, and gave him elaborate instructions
concerning it. Marmont reluctantly obeyed, and was starting on such an
expedition when he was suddenly told that he might move on Badajoz.
But he only received this permission ten days before that fortress
was stormed: it was therefore useless. The Emperor must take the
responsibility.



SECTION XXXII: CHAPTER III

THE SIEGE OF BADAJOZ. MARCH-APRIL 1812


In narrating the troubles of the unlucky Duke of Ragusa, engaged
in fruitless strategical controversy with his master, we have been
carried far into the month of March 1812. It is necessary to return to
February 20th in order to take up the story of Wellington’s march to
Estremadura. We have seen that he commenced his artillery preparations
in January, by sending Alexander Dickson to Setubal, and dispatching a
large part of his siege-train southward, partly by sea, partly across
the difficult mountain roads of the Beira.

The Anglo-Portuguese infantry and cavalry, however, were not moved till
the guns were far on their way. It was Wellington’s intention to show
a large army on the frontier of Leon till the last possible moment. He
himself kept his old headquarters at Freneda, near Fuentes de Oñoro,
till March 5th, in order that Marmont might be led to persist in the
belief that his attention was still concentrated on the North. But,
starting from February 19th, his divisions, one by one, had made their
unostentatious departure for the South: on the day when he himself
followed them only one division (the 5th) and one cavalry brigade (V.
Alten’s) still remained behind the Agueda. The rest were at various
stages on their way to Elvas. Most of the divisions marched by the
route Sabugal, Castello Branco, Villa Velha, Niza. But the 1st Division
went by Abrantes, in order to pick up there its clothing for the new
year, which had been brought up the Tagus in boats from Lisbon to that
point. Some of the cavalry and the two independent Portuguese brigades
of Pack and Bradford, whose winter cantonments had been rather to the
rear, had separate routes of their own, through places so far west as
Thomar[243] and Coimbra. The three brigades of the 2nd Division, under
Hill, which had been brought up to Castello Branco at the beginning of
January, were at the head of the marching army, and reached Portalegre,
via Villa Velha, long before the rest of the troops were across the
Tagus. Indeed, the first of them (Ashworth’s Portuguese) started
as early as February 2nd, and was at Castello de Vide, near Elvas,
by February 8th, before the troops behind the Agueda had begun to
move[244].

  [243] This was the case with G. Anson’s brigade and Bradford’s
  Portuguese infantry. Pack went by Coimbra, Slade’s cavalry
  brigade by Covilhão, and the horse artillery of Bull and McDonald
  with it.

  [244] Nothing is rarer, as all students of the Peninsular War
  know to their cost, than a table of the exact movements of
  Wellington’s army on any march. For this particular movement the
  whole of the detailed orders happen to have been preserved in the
  D’Urban Papers. The starting-places of the units were:--

  1st Division--Gallegos, Carpio, Fuentes de Oñoro.

  3rd Division--Zamorra (by the Upper Agueda).

  4th Division--San Felices and Sesmiro.

  5th Division--Ciudad Rodrigo.

  6th Division--Albergaria (near Fuente Guinaldo).

  7th Division--Payo (in the Sierra de Gata).

  Light Division--Fuente Guinaldo.

  Bradford’s Portuguese--Barba del Puerco.

  Pack’s Portuguese--Campillo and Ituero.

  The marches were so arranged that the 7th Division passed through
  Castello Branco on Feb. 26, the 6th Division on Feb. 29, the
  Light Division on March 3, the 4th Division on March 5. All these
  were up to Portalegre, Villa Viçosa, or Castello de Vide, in
  touch with Elvas, by March 8. The 1st Division, coming by way of
  Abrantes, joined on March 10. Pack and Bradford, who had very
  circuitous routes, the one by Coimbra, the other by Thomar, were
  not up till several days later (16th). The 5th Division did not
  leave Rodrigo till March 9.

The lengthy column of infantry which had marched by Castello Branco and
the bridge of Villa Velha was cantoned in various places behind Elvas,
from Villa Viçosa to Portalegre, by March 8th: the 1st Division, coming
in from the Abrantes direction, joined them on March 10th, and halted
at Monforte and Azumar. Only the 5th Division and the two Portuguese
independent brigades were lacking, and of these the two former were
expected by the 16th, the latter by the 20th. With the exception of
the 5th Division the whole of Wellington’s field army was concentrated
near Elvas by the 16th. Only the 1st Hussars of the King’s German
Legion, under Victor Alten, had been left to keep the outpost line in
front of Ciudad Rodrigo, in order that the French vedettes in Leon
should not detect that all the army of Wellington had disappeared, as
they were bound to do if only Portuguese or Spanish cavalry showed at
the front[245]. Counting Hill’s corps, now long returned to its old
post in front of Badajoz, there were now nearly 60,000 troops nearing
Elvas, viz. of infantry, all the eight old Anglo-Portuguese divisions,
plus Hamilton’s Portuguese division[246], and Pack’s and Bradford’s
independent Portuguese brigades. Of cavalry not only were all the old
brigades assembled (save Alten’s single regiment), but two powerful
units now showed at the front for the first time. These were the
newly-landed brigade of German heavy dragoons under Bock[247], which
had arrived at Lisbon on January 1st, and Le Marchant’s brigade of
English heavy dragoons[248], which had disembarked in the autumn, but
had not hitherto been brought up to join the field army. Of Portuguese
horse J. Campbell’s brigade was also at the front: the other Portuguese
cavalry brigade, which had served on the Leon frontier during the
preceding autumn, had been made over to General Silveira, and sent
north of the Douro. But even after deducting this small brigade of 900
sabres, Wellington’s mounted arm was immensely stronger than it had
ever been before. He had concentrated it on the Alemtejo front, in
order that he might cope on equal terms with the very powerful cavalry
of Soult’s Army of Andalusia.

  [245] The other regiment of V. Alten’s brigade (11th Light
  Dragoons) was on March 12 at Ponte de Sor, on its way to the
  South.

  [246] Which lay at Arronches and Santa Olaya.

  [247] 1st and 2nd Heavy Dragoons K.G.L.

  [248] 3rd Dragoons, 4th and 5th Dragoon Guards. They had been
  lying during the winter in the direction of Castello Branco.

The Commander-in-Chief himself, travelling with his wonted speed, left
his old head-quarters at Freneda on March 5th, was at Castello Branco
on the 8th, at Portalegre on the 10th, and had reached Elvas, his
new head-quarters, on the 12th. Before leaving the North he had made
elaborate arrangements for the conduct of affairs in that quarter.
They are contained in two memoranda, given the one to Castaños, who
was still in command both of the Galician and the Estremaduran armies
of Spain, and the other to Generals Baccelar and Silveira, of whom the
former was in charge of the Portuguese department of the North, with
head-quarters at Oporto, and the other of the Tras-os-Montes, with
head-quarters at Villa Real[249].

  [249] Dated Feb. 24 and 27, _Dispatches_, viii. pp. 629 and 638.

It was a delicate matter to leave Marmont with nothing save the
Spaniards and Portuguese in his front. Of the former the available
troops were (1) the Army of Galicia, four weak field divisions, making
about 15,000 men, of whom only 550 were cavalry, while the artillery
counted only five batteries. There were 8,000 garrison and reserve
troops in Corunna, Vigo, Ferrol, and other fortified posts to the rear,
but these were unavailable for service[250]. Abadia still commanded
the whole army, under the nominal supervision of Castaños. He had one
division (3,000 men under Cabrera) at Puebla Senabria on the Portuguese
frontier, two (9,000 men under Losada and the Conde de Belveder) at
Villafranca, observing the French garrison of Astorga and Souham’s
division on the Esla, which supported that advanced post, and one
(2,500 men under Castañon) on the Asturian frontier watching Bonnet.
(2) The second Spanish force available consisted of that section of
the Army of Estremadura, which lay north of the Sierra de Gata, viz.
Carlos de España’s division of 5,000 men, of whom 3,000 had been thrown
into Ciudad Rodrigo, so that the surplus for the field was small, and
of Julian Sanchez’s very efficient guerrillero cavalry, who were about
1,200 strong and were now counted as part of the regular army and
formally styled ‘1st and 2nd Lancers of Castille.’

  [250] These figures are those of January, taken from the ‘morning
  state’ in _Los Ejércitos españoles_, the invaluable book of 1822
  published by the Spanish Staff.

The Portuguese troops left to defend the northern frontier were all
militia, with the exception of a couple of batteries of artillery and
the cavalry brigade of regulars which had been with Wellington in Leon
during the autumn, under Madden, but was now transferred to Silveira’s
charge, and set to watch the frontier of the Tras-os-Montes, with the
front regiment at Braganza. Silveira in that province had the four
local regiments of militia, of which each had only one of its two
battalions actually embodied. Baccelar had a much more important force,
but of the same quality, the twelve regiments forming the divisions
of Trant and J. Wilson, and comprising all the militia of the Entre
Douro e Minho province and of northern Beira. Three of these regiments
were immobilized by having been told off to serve as the garrison of
Almeida. Farther south Lecor had under arms the two militia regiments
of the Castello Branco country, watching their own district. The total
force of militia available on the whole frontier must have been about
20,000 men of very second-rate quality: each battalion had only been
under arms intermittently, for periods of six months, and the officers
were for the most part the inefficient leavings of the regular army. Of
the generals Silveira was enterprising, but over bold, as the record of
his earlier campaigns sufficiently demonstrated--Trant and Wilson had
hitherto displayed equal energy and more prudence: but in the oncoming
campaign they were convicted of Silveira’s fault, over-confidence.
Baccelar passed as a slow but fairly safe commander, rather lacking in
self-confidence.

Wellington’s very interesting memoranda divide the possibilities
of March-April into three heads, of which the last contains three
sub-sections:--

(1) Marmont may, on learning that Badajoz is in danger, march with
practically the whole of his army to succour it, as he did in May-June
1811. If this should occur, Abadia and Carlos de España will advance
and boldly take the offensive, laying siege to Astorga, Toro, Zamora,
Salamanca, and other fortified posts. Silveira will co-operate with
his cavalry and infantry, within the bounds of prudence, taking care
that his cavalry, which may support Abadia, does not lose communication
with, and a secure retreat upon, his infantry, which will not risk
itself.

(2) Marmont may leave a considerable force, perhaps the two divisions
of Souham and Bonnet, in Leon, while departing southward with the
greater part of his army: ‘this is the operation which it is probable
that the enemy will follow.’ What the Army of Galicia can then
accomplish will depend on the exact relative force of itself and of
the French left in front of it, and on the state of the fortified
places on the Douro and Tormes [Toro, Zamora, Salamanca] and the
degree of equipment with which General Abadia can provide himself for
siege-work. But España and Julian Sanchez must make all the play that
they can, and even Porlier and Longa, from distant Cantabria, must be
asked to co-operate in making mischief. Silveira and Baccelar will
support, but risk nothing.

(3) Marmont may send to Estremadura only the smaller half of his army,
and keep four or five divisions in the north, a force strong enough to
enable him to take the offensive. He may attack either (_a_) Galicia,
(_b_) Tras-os-Montes, or (_c_) the Beira, including Almeida and Ciudad
Rodrigo.

(_a_) If Marmont should invade Galicia, Abadia had better retreat, but
in the direction that will bring him near the frontiers of Portugal
(i. e. by Puebla Senabria) rather than on Lugo and Corunna. In that
case Silveira and Baccelar will be on the enemy’s flank and rear, and
will do as much mischief as they can on his communications, always
taking care that they do not, by pushing too far into Leon, lose their
communication with the Galicians or with Portugal. In proportion as the
French may advance farther into Galicia, Baccelar will take measures
to collect the whole of the militia of the Douro provinces northward.
Carlos de España and Julian Sanchez ought to have good opportunities of
making trouble for the enemy in the Salamanca district, if he pushes
far from his base.

(_b_) If Marmont should invade Tras-os-Montes [not a likely operation,
owing to the roughness of the country], Baccelar and Silveira should
oppose him in front, while Abadia would come down on his flank and
rear, and annoy him as much as possible. ‘Don Carlos and the guerrillas
might do a great deal of mischief in Castille.’

(_c_) If Marmont should attack Beira, advancing by Ciudad Rodrigo and
Almeida, both these fortresses are in such a state of defence as to
ensure them against capture by a _coup-de-main_, and are supplied with
provisions to suffice during any time that the enemy could possibly
remain in the country. Baccelar and Silveira will assemble all the
militia of the northern provinces in Upper Beira, and place themselves
in communication with Carlos de España. They will endeavour to protect
the magazines on the Douro and Mondego [at Celorico, Guarda, Lamego,
St. João de Pesqueira], and may live on the last in case of urgent
necessity, but not otherwise, as these stores could not easily be
replaced. An attempt should be made, if possible, to draw the enemy
into the Beira Baixa (i. e. the Castello Branco country) rather than
towards the Douro. Abadia will invade northern Leon; what he can do
depends on the force that Marmont leaves on the Esla, and the strength
of his garrisons at Astorga, Zamora, Toro, &c. Supposing Marmont takes
this direction, Carlos de España will destroy before him all the
bridges on the Yeltes and Huebra, and that of Barba del Puerco, and the
three bridges at Castillejo, all on the Lower Agueda.

It will be seen that the alternative (2) was Marmont’s own choice, and
that he would have carried it out but for Napoleon’s orders, which
definitively imposed upon him (3_c_) the raid into northern Beira.
With the inconclusive operations resulting from that movement we shall
deal in their proper place. It began on March 27th, and the Marshal
was over the Agueda on March 30th. The last British division had left
Ciudad Rodrigo three weeks before Marmont advanced, so difficult was
it for him to get full and correct information, and to collect a
sufficiently large army for invasion. On the 26th February he was under
the impression that two British divisions only had yet marched for
Badajoz, though five had really started. On March 6th, when only the
5th Division remained in the North, he still believed that Wellington
and a large fraction of his army were in their old positions. This
was the result of his adversary’s wisdom in stopping at Freneda till
March 5th; as long as he was there in person, it was still thought
probable by the French that only a detachment had marched southward.
Hence came the lateness of Marmont’s final advance: for a long time he
might consider that he was, as his master ordered, ‘containing’ several
British divisions and the Commander-in-Chief himself.

Meanwhile, on taking stock of his situation at Elvas on March 12th,
Wellington was reasonably satisfied. Not only was the greater part
of his army in hand, and the rest rapidly coming up, but the siege
material had escaped all the perils of storms by sea and rocky
defiles by land, and was much where he had expected it to be. The
material which moved by road, the sixteen 24-lb. howitzers which had
marched on January 30th, and a convoy of 24-pounder and 18-pounder
travelling-carriages and stores, which went off on February 2, had
both come to hand at Elvas, the first on February 25th, the second on
March 3, and were ready parked on the glacis. This was a wonderful
journey over mountain roads in the most rainy season of the year. The
sea-borne guns had also enjoyed a surprising immunity from winter
storms; Dickson, when he arrived at Setubal on February 10th, found
that the 24-pounders from Oporto had arrived thirty-six hours before
him, and on the 14th was beginning to forward them by river-boat to
Alcacer do Sal, from where they were drawn by oxen to Elvas, along
with their ammunition[251]. The only difficulty which arose was that
Wellington had asked Admiral Berkeley, commanding the squadron at
Lisbon, to lend him, as a supplementary train, twenty 18-pound ship
guns. The admiral sent twenty Russian guns (leavings of Siniavins’s
squadron captured in the Tagus at the time of the Convention of
Cintra). Dickson protested, as these pieces were of a different calibre
from the British 18-pounder, and would not take its shot. The admiral
refused to disgarnish his own flagship, which happened to be the only
vessel at Lisbon with home-made 18-pounders on board. Dickson had
to take the Russian guns perforce, and to cull for their ammunition
all the Portuguese stores at Lisbon, where a certain supply of round
shot that fitted was discovered, though many thousands had to be
rejected as ‘far too low.’ On March 8th the whole fifty-two guns of
the siege-train were reported ready, and the officer commanding the
Portuguese artillery at Elvas announced that he could even find a small
supplement, six old heavy English iron guns of the time of George II,
which had been in store there since General Burgoyne’s expedition of
1761, besides some Portuguese guns of similar calibre. The old brass
guns which had made such bad practice in 1811 were not this time
requisitioned--fortunately they were not needed. The garrison of Elvas
had for some weeks been at work making gabions and fascines, which
were all ready, as was also a large consignment of cutting-tools from
the Lisbon arsenal, and a train of twenty-two pontoons. Altogether the
material was in a wonderful state of completeness.

  [251] For details see Jones, _Sieges of the Peninsula_, Appendix
  in vol. i. pp. 421-5, and the _Dickson Papers_, ed. Leslie, for
  Feb. 1812.

For the service of the siege Wellington could dispose of about 300
British and 560 Portuguese artillerymen, a much larger force than had
been available at the two unlucky leaguers of 1811. Colonel Framingham
was the senior officer in this arm present, but Wellington had directed
that Alexander Dickson should take charge of the whole service of the
siege, just as he had been entrusted with all the preparations for
it. There were fifteen British, five German Legion, and seventeen
Portuguese artillery officers under his command. The Portuguese gunners
mostly came from the 3rd or Elvas regiment, the British were drawn from
the companies of Holcombe, Gardiner, Glubb, and Rettberg.[252] Under
Colonel Fletcher, senior engineer officer, there were 115 men of the
Royal Military Artificers present at the commencement of the siege, and
an additional party came up from Cadiz during its last days. But though
this was an improvement over the state of things in 1811, the numbers
were still far too small; there were no trained miners whatever, and
the volunteers from the line acting as sappers, who were instructed by
the Artificers, were for the most part unskilful--only 120 men of the
3rd Division who had been at work during the leaguer of Ciudad Rodrigo
were comparatively efficient. The engineer arm was the weak point in
the siege, as Wellington complained in a letter which will have to be
dealt with in its proper place. He had already been urging on Lord
Liverpool the absolute necessity for the creation of permanent units
of men trained in the technicalities of siege-work. Soon after Rodrigo
fell he wrote, ‘I would beg to suggest to your lordship the expediency
of adding to the Engineer establishment a corps of sappers and miners.
It is inconceivable with what disadvantage we undertake a siege, for
want of assistance of this description. There is no French _corps
d’armée_ which has not a battalion of sappers and a company of miners.
We are obliged to depend for assistance of this sort upon the regiments
of the line; and, although the men are brave and willing, they want
the knowledge and training which are necessary. Many casualties occur,
and much valuable time is lost at the most critical period of the
siege[253],’

  [252] For details see Duncan’s _History of the Royal Artillery_,
  ii. pp. 318-19.

  [253] Wellington, _Dispatches_, viii. p. 601.

The situation on March 12th, save in this single respect, seemed
favourable. It was only fourteen miles from Elvas, where the
siege-train lay parked and the material was ready, to Badajoz.
Sufficient troops were already arrived not only to invest the place,
but to form a large covering army against any attempt of Soult to
raise the siege. There was every reason to believe that the advance
would take the French unawares. Only Drouet’s two divisions were in
Estremadura, and before they could be reinforced up to a strength
which would enable them to act with effect some weeks must elapse.
Soult, as in 1811, would have to borrow troops from Granada and the
Cadiz Lines before he could venture to take the offensive. Unless he
should raise the siege of Cadiz or evacuate Granada, he could not
gather more than 25,000 or 30,000 men at the very most: and it would
take him three weeks to collect so many. If he approached with some
such force, he could be fought, with very little risk: for it was not
now as at the time of Albuera: not three Anglo-Portuguese infantry
divisions, but eight were concentrated at Elvas: there would be nine
when the 5th Division arrived. Not three British cavalry regiments
(the weak point at Albuera), but fourteen were with the army. If Soult
should push forward for a battle, 40,000 men could be opposed to him,
all Anglo-Portuguese units of old formation, while 15,000 men were
left to invest Badajoz. Or if Wellington should choose to abandon the
investment for three days (as Beresford had done in May 1811) he could
bring 55,000 men to the contest, a force which must crush Soult by the
force of double numbers, unless he should raise the siege of Cadiz and
abandon Granada, so as to bring his whole army to the Guadiana. Even if
he took that desperate, but perhaps necessary, measure, and came with
45,000 men, leaving only Seville garrisoned behind him, there was no
reason to suppose that he could not be dealt with.

The only dangerous possibility was the intervention of Marmont with
five or six divisions of the Army of Portugal, as had happened at the
time of the operations on the Caya in June 1811. Wellington, as we
have seen in his directions to Baccelar and Castaños, thought this
intervention probable. But from the disposition of Marmont’s troops
at the moment of his own departure from Freneda, he thought that he
could count on three weeks, or a little more, of freedom from any
interference from this side. Two at least of Marmont’s divisions
(Souham and Bonnet) would almost certainly be left in the North, to
contain the Galicians and Asturians. Of the other six only one (Foy)
was in the valley of the Tagus: the rest were scattered about, at
Salamanca, Avila, Valladolid, &c., and would take time to collect[254].
Wellington was quite aware of Marmont’s difficulties with regard to
magazines; he also counted on the roughness of the roads, the fact that
the rivers were high in March, and (most of all) on the slowness with
which information would reach the French marshal[255]. Still, here lay
the risk, so far as Wellington could know. What he could not guess
was that the movement which he feared had been expressly forbidden
to Marmont by his master, and that only on March 27th was permission
granted to the Marshal to execute the march to Almaraz. By that time,
as we have already seen, it was too late for him to profit by the
tardily-granted leave.

  [254] For Wellington’s speculations (fairly correct) as to
  Marmont’s distribution of his troops, see _Dispatches_, viii. p.
  618, Feb. 19, to Graham.

  [255] Wellington to Victor Alten, March 5, _Dispatches_, viii. p.
  649, makes a special point of ‘the difficulties which the enemy
  experiences in getting intelligence’ as a means of gaining time
  for himself.

But it was the possibility of Marmont’s appearance on the scene, rather
than anything which might be feared from Soult, which made the siege
of Badajoz a time-problem, just as that of Ciudad Rodrigo had been.
The place must, if possible, be taken somewhere about the first week
in April, the earliest date at which a serious attempt at relief was
likely to be made[256].

  [256] Napier (iv. p. 98) tries to make out that Wellington’s
  siege began ten days later than he wished and hoped, by the fault
  of the Portuguese Regency. I cannot see how Badajoz could have
  been invested on the 6th of March, when (as the route-directions
  show) the head of the marching column from the Agueda only
  reached Portalegre on the 8th. The movement of the army was not
  delayed, so far as I can see, by the slackness of Portuguese
  management at Lisbon or Elvas. But Wellington certainly grumbled.
  Did he intend that Hill alone should invest Badajoz, before the
  rest of the army arrived?

On March 14th, every preparation being complete, the pontoon train,
with a good escort, moved out of Elvas, and was brought up to a point
on the Guadiana four miles west of Badajoz, where it was laid without
molestation. On the next day Le Marchant’s heavy dragoons crossed, but
(owing to an accident to one of the boats) no more troops. On the 16th,
however, the 3rd, 4th, and Light Divisions passed, and invested Badajoz
without meeting any opposition: the garrison kept within the walls,
and did not even prevent Colonel Fletcher, the commanding engineer,
from approaching for purposes of reconnaissance to the crest of the
Cerro de San Miguel, only 200 yards from the _enceinte_. The investing
corps of 12,000 bayonets was under Beresford, who had just returned
from a short and stormy visit to Lisbon, where he had been harrying
the regency, at Wellington’s request, upon financial matters, and
had been dealing sternly with the Junta de Viveres, or Commissariat
Department[257]. The situation had not been found a happy one. ‘After
a perfect investigation it appears that the expenditure must be nearly
£6,000,000--the means at present are £3,500,000! A radical reform
grounded upon a bold and fearless inquiry into every branch of the
revenue, expenditure, and subsidy, and an addition to the latter
from England, can alone put a period to these evils. To this Lord
Wellington, though late, is now turning his eyes. And when the Marshal,
in conjunction with our ambassador, shall have made his report, it must
be _immediately_ acted upon--for there is no time to lose[258].’

  [257] D’Urban’s diary, Feb. 7-16: he accompanied Beresford, being
  his Chief-of-the-Staff.

  [258] I spare the reader the question of Portuguese paper money
  and English exchequer bills, which will be found treated at great
  length in Napier, iv. pp. 97-9. Napier always appears to think
  that cash could be had by asking for it at London, in despite of
  the dreadful disappearance of the metallic currency and spread of
  irredeemable bank-notes which prevailed in 1812.

The investment was only part of the general movements of the army on
the 16th. The covering-force was proceeding to take up its position in
two sections. Graham with the 1st, 6th, and 7th Divisions, and Slade’s
and Le Marchant’s horse, crossed the Guadiana, and began to advance
down the high road to Seville, making for Santa Marta and Villafranca.
Hill with the other section, consisting of his own old troops of the
Estremaduran army, the 2nd Division and Hamilton’s Portuguese, Long’s
British and Campbell’s Portuguese cavalry, marched by the north bank
of the Guadiana, via Montijo, towards Merida, which had not been
occupied by either party since January 17th. These two columns, the
one 19,000, the other 14,000 strong, were to drive in the two French
divisions which were at this moment cantoned in Estremadura--Drouet
was known to be lying about Zafra and Llerena, covering the Seville
_chaussée_, Daricau to have his troops at Zalamea and Los Hornachos,
watching the great passage of the Guadiana at Merida. As each division
with its attendant cavalry was not much over 6,000 strong, there was
no danger of their combining so as to endanger either of the British
columns. Each was strong enough to give a good account of itself. Hill
and Graham were to push forward boldly, and drive their respective
enemies before them as far as the Sierra Morena, so that Soult, when he
should come up from Seville (as he undoubtedly would in the course of a
few weeks), should have no foothold in the Estremaduran plain to start
from, and would have to manœuvre back the containing force in his front
all the way from the summit of the passes to Albuera.

In addition to these two columns and the investing corps at Badajoz,
Wellington had a reserve of which some units had not yet come up,
though all were due in a few days, viz. the 5th Division, Pack’s and
Bradford’s independent Portuguese brigades, and the cavalry of Bock and
Anson--about 12,000 men--: the last of them would be up by the 21st at
latest.

There was still one more corps from which Wellington intended to get
useful assistance. This was the main body of the Spanish Army of
Estremadura, the troops of Penne Villemur and Morillo, about 1,000
horse and 4,000 foot[259], which he destined to play the same part in
this campaign that Blake had played during the last siege of Badajoz.
By Castaños’s leave this little force had been moved from its usual
haunts by Caçeres and Valencia de Alcantara, behind the Portuguese
frontier, to the Lower Guadiana, from whence it was to enter the
Condado de Niebla. It passed Redondo on March 17th on its way towards
San Lucar de Guadiana, feeding on magazines provided by its allies;
Penne Villemur’s orders were that he should establish himself in the
Condado (where there was still a small Spanish garrison at Ayamonte),
and strike at Seville, the moment that he heard that Soult had gone
north towards Estremadura. The city would be found ill-garrisoned by
convalescents, and _Juramentados_ of doubtful loyalty: if it were not
captured, its danger would at any rate cause Soult to turn back, just
as he had in June 1811, for he dared not lose his base and arsenal. It
was hoped that Ballasteros with his roving corps from the mountain of
Ronda would co-operate, when he found that the troops usually employed
to ‘contain’ him had marched off. But Ballasteros was always a ‘law
unto himself,’ and it was impossible to count upon him: he particularly
disliked suggestions from a British quarter, while Castaños was always
sensible and obliging[260].

  [259] The Conde had 1,114 horse and 3,638 foot on Jan. 1, not
  including two of Morillo’s battalions then absent. The total
  force used for the raid was probably as above.

  [260] Details in a dispatch to Colonel Austin of March 15,
  _Dispatches_, viii, p. 666. General scheme in a letter to
  Castaños of Feb. 16. Ibid., p. 614.

Before dealing with the operations of the actual siege of Badajoz,
which require to be studied in continuous sequence, it may be well to
deal with those of the covering corps.

Graham marched in two columns, one division by Albuera, two by
Almendral. He ran against the outposts of Drouet at Santa Marta, from
which a battalion and a few cavalry hastily retired to Villafranca,
where it was reported that Drouet himself was lying. Graham judged
that the French general would probably retire towards Llerena by the
main road, and hoped to harass, if not to surprise him, by a forced
night march on that place. This was executed in the night of the
18th-19th, but proved a disappointment: the vanguard of the British
column entered Llerena only to find it empty--Drouet had retired
not southward but eastward, so as to get into touch with Daricau’s
division at Zalamea--he had gone off by Ribera to Los Hornachos. Graham
thereupon halted his main body at Zafra, with the cavalry out as far
as Usagre and Fuente Cantos. A dispatch from Drouet to his brigadier
Reymond was intercepted on the 21st, and showed that the latter, with
four battalions at Fregenal, had been cut off from his chief by the
irruption of the British down the high-road, and was ordered to rejoin
him by way of Llerena. Graham thought that he might catch this little
force, so withdrew his cavalry from Llerena, in order that Reymond
might make his way thither unmolested, and be caught in a trap by
several British brigades converging upon him by a night march. This
operation, executed on the night of the 25th, unfortunately miscarried.
The French actually entered Llerena, but as the columns were closing in
upon them an unlucky accident occurred. Graham and his staff, riding
ahead of the 7th Division, ran into a cavalry picket, which charged
them. They came back helter-skelter on to the leading battalion of
the infantry, which fired promiscuously into the mass, killed two
staff officers, and nearly shot their general[261]. The noise of
this outburst of fire, and the return of their own dragoons, warned
the 1,800 French in Llerena, who escaped by a mountain path towards
Guadalcanal, and did not lose a man.

  [261] ‘Something too like a panic was occasioned at the head of
  the 7th by the appearance of the few French dragoons and the
  galloping back of the staff and orderlies. A confused firing
  broke out down the column without object! Mem.--Even British
  troops should not be allowed to load before a night attack.’
  D’Urban’s diary, March 26.

Improbable as it would have been judged, Drouet had abandoned the
Seville road altogether, and gone off eastward. His only communication
with Soult would have to be by Cordova: clearly he had refused to
be cut off from Daricau: possibly he may have hoped to await in the
direction of Zalamea and Castuera the arrival of troops from the Army
of Portugal, coming down by Truxillo and Medellin from Almaraz. For
Soult and his generals appear to have had no notice of the Emperor’s
prohibition to Marmont to send troops to Estremadura. On the other
hand the Duke of Ragusa had written, in perfect good faith, before
he received the imperial rescript, that he should come to the aid of
Badajoz with four or five divisions, as in June 1811, if the place were
threatened.

On the 27th Graham resolved to pursue Drouet eastward, even hoping
that he might slip in to the south of him, and drive him northward
in the direction of Merida and Medellin, where he would have fallen
into the arms of Hill’s column. He had reached Llera and La Higuera
when he intercepted another letter--this time from General Reymond
to Drouet; that officer, after escaping from Llerena on the night of
the 25th-26th, had marched to Azuaga, where he had picked up another
detachment under General Quiot. He announced that he was making the
best of his way towards Fuente Ovejuna, behind the main crest of the
Sierra Morena, by which circuitous route he hoped to join his chief.

Graham thought that he had now another opportunity of surprising
Reymond, while he was marching across his front, and swerving southward
again made a second forced night march on Azuaga. It failed, like that
on Llerena three days before--the French, warned by _Afrancesados_,
left in haste, and Graham’s exhausted troops only arrived in time to
see them disappear.

Reymond’s column was joined next day at Fuente Ovejuna by Drouet and
Daricau, so that the whole of the French force in Estremadura was
now concentrated--but in an unfavourable position, since they were
completely cut off from Seville, and could only retire on Cordova if
further pressed. Should Soult wish to join them with his reserves, he
would have to march up the Guadalquivir, losing four or five days.

Graham and his staff were flattering themselves that they had won a
considerable strategical advantage in this matter, when they were
disappointed, by receiving, on March 30, a dispatch from Wellington
prohibiting any further pursuit of Drouet, or any longer stay on the
slopes of the Sierra Morena. The column was ordered to come back and
canton itself about Fuente del Maestre, Almendralejo, and Villafranca.
By April 2nd the three divisions were established in these places.
Their recall would seem to have been caused by Wellington’s knowledge
that Soult had by now concentrated a heavy force at Seville, and that
if he advanced suddenly by the great _chaussée_, past Monasterio and
Fuente Cantos, Graham might be caught in a very advanced position
between him and Drouet, and find a difficulty in retreating to join
the main body of the army for a defensive battle on the Albuera
position[262].

  [262] For details of this forgotten campaign I rely mainly on
  D’Urban’s unpublished diary. As he knew Estremadura well, from
  having served there with Beresford in 1811, he was lent to
  Graham, and rode with his staff to advise about roads and the
  resources of the country.

Meanwhile Hill, with the other half of the covering army, had been
spending a less eventful fortnight. He reached Merida on March 17
and found it unoccupied. Drouet was reported to be at Villafranca,
Daricau to be lying with his troops spread wide between Medellin, Los
Hornachos, and Zalamea. Hill crossed the Guadiana and marched to look
for them: his first march was on Villafranca, but Drouet had already
slipped away from that point, avoiding Graham’s column. Hill then
turned in search of Daricau, and drove one of his brigades out of Don
Benito near Medellin. The bulk of the French division then went off to
the south-east, and ultimately joined Drouet at Fuente Ovejuna, though
it kept a rearguard at Castuera. Hill did not pursue, but remained in
the neighbourhood of Merida and Medellin, to guard these two great
passages of the Guadiana against any possible appearance of Marmont’s
troops from the direction of Almaraz and Truxillo. Wellington (it will
be remembered) had believed that Marmont would certainly come down with
a considerable force by this route, and (being ignorant of Napoleon’s
order to the Marshal) was expecting him to be heard of from day to day.
As a matter of fact only Foy’s single division was in the Tagus valley
at Talavera: that officer kept receiving dispatches for his chief from
Drouet and Soult, imploring that Marmont should move south without
delay. This was impossible, as Foy knew; but he became so troubled
by the repeated requests that he thought of marching, on his own
responsibility, to try to join Drouet. This became almost impracticable
when Drouet and Daricau withdrew southward to the borders of Andalusia:
but Foy then thought of executing a demonstration on Truxillo, on his
own account, hoping that it might at least distract Wellington. On
April 4 he wrote to Drouet that he was about to give out that he was
Marmont’s advanced guard, and to march, with 3,000 men only, on that
point, leaving the rest of his division in garrison at Talavera and
Almaraz; he would be at Truxillo on the 9th[263]. If he had started
a week earlier, he would have fallen into the hands of Hill, who was
waiting for him at Merida with four times his force. But the news of
the fall of Badajoz on the 6th reached him in time to prevent him from
running into the lion’s mouth. Otherwise, considering Hill’s enterprise
and Foy’s complete lack of cavalry, there might probably have been
something like a repetition of the surprise of Arroyo dos Molinos.

  [263] The letter may be found in King Joseph’s _Correspondance_,
  viii. pp. 345-6. See also Girod de l’Ain’s _Vie militaire du
  Général Foy_, pp. 368-9.

So much for the covering armies--it now remains to be seen how
Wellington dealt with Badajoz, in the three weeks during which Graham
and Hill were keeping the peace for him in southern and eastern
Estremadura.

On surveying the fortress upon March 16th the British engineers found
that it had been considerably strengthened since the last siege in
June 1811. Fort San Cristobal had been vastly improved--its glacis
and counterscarp had been raised, and a strong redoubt (called by the
French the Lunette Werlé, after the general killed at Albuera) had been
thrown up on the rising slope where Beresford’s breaching batteries
had stood, so that this ground would have to be won before it could be
again utilized. On the southern side of the Guadiana the Castle had
been provided with many more guns, and some parts of the precipitous
mound on which it stood had been scarped. The breach of 1811 had been
most solidly built up. No danger was feared in this quarter--it was
regarded as the strongest part of the defences. The approach toward
the much more accessible bastions just below the Castle had been made
difficult, by damming the Rivillas stream: its bridge near the San
Roque gate had been built up, and the accumulated water made a broad
pool which lay under the bastions of San Pedro and La Trinidad; its
overflow had been turned into the ditch in front of San Pedro, and, by
cutting a _cunette_ or channel, a deep but narrow water obstruction had
been formed in front of the Trinidad also--the broad dry ditch having a
narrow wet ditch sunk in its bottom just below the counterscarp. This
inundation was destined to give great trouble to the besiegers. The
Pardaleras fort had been connected with the city by a well-protected
trench between high earthen banks. Finally the three bastions on the
south side next the river, San Vincente, San José, and Santiago, had
been strengthened by demi-lunes, which they had hitherto lacked, and
also by driving a system of mines from their counterscarps under the
glacis: these were to be exploded if the besiegers should push up their
trenches and breaching batteries close to the walls on this side,
which was one of the weakest in the city, since it was not covered,
as were the other fronts, by outlying works like the Pardaleras and
Picurina forts or the San Roque lunette. The existence of this series
of mines was revealed to the besiegers by a French sergeant-major of
sappers, a skilful draughtsman, who had been employed in mapping out
the works. Having been insulted, as he conceived, by his captain,
and refused redress by the governor, he fled to the British camp in
a rage, and placed his map (where the mines are very clearly shown)
and his services at the disposition of Wellington[264]. The identical
map, a very neat piece of work, lies before me as I write these lines,
having passed into the possession of General D’Urban, the chief of
the Portuguese staff. It was in consequence of their knowledge of
these defences that the British engineers left the San Vincente front
alone[265].

  [264] This man is mentioned in Wellington’s Dispatches, viii.
  p. 609: ‘The _Sergent-major des Sapeurs_ and _Adjudant des
  travaux_ and the French miner may be sent in charge of a steady
  non-commissioned officer to Estremoz, there to wait till I send
  for them.’

  [265] This renegade’s name must have been Bonin, or Bossin: I
  cannot read with certainty his extraordinary signature, with a
  _paraphe_, at the bottom of his map. The English engineers used
  it, and have roughly sketched in their own works of the third
  siege on top of the original coloured drawing.

The garrison on March 15th consisted of five battalions of French
regulars, one each from certain regiments belonging to Conroux,
Leval, Drouet, and Daricau (2,767 men), of two battalions of the
Hesse-Darmstadt regiment of the Rheinbund division of the Army of the
Centre (910 men), three companies of artillery (261 men), two and a
half companies of sappers (260 men), a handful of cavalry (42 men), a
company of Spanish Juramentados, and (by casual chance) the escort of
a convoy which had entered the city two days before the siege began.
The whole (excluding non-combatants, medical and commissariat staff,
&c.) made up 4,700 men, not more than an adequate provision for such
a large place. The governor, Phillipon, the commandants of artillery
and engineers (the last-named, Lamare, was the historian of the three
sieges of Badajoz), and nearly all the staff had been in the fortress
for more than a year. The battalions of the garrison (though not the
same as those who had sustained the assaults of 1811) had been many
months settled in the place, and knew it almost as well as did the
staff. They were all picked troops, including the German regiment,
which had an excellent record. But undoubtedly the greatest factor
in the defence was the ingenuity and resource of the governor, which
surpassed all praise: oddly enough Phillipon did not show himself a
very skilful mover of troops in the field, when commanding a division
in the Army of Germany in 1813, after his capture and exchange: but
behind the walls of Badajoz he was unsurpassable[266].

  [266] When he commanded the 1st Division of the 1st Corps
  under Vandamme, and was present when that corps was nearly all
  destroyed on Aug. 30, 1813, at Culm.

The scheme of attack which Wellington, under the advice of his
engineers, employed against Badajoz in March 1812 differed entirely
from that of May-June 1811. The fact that the whole was a time-problem
remained the same: the danger that several of the French armies might,
if leisure were granted them, unite for its relief, was as clear as
ever. But the idea that the best method of procedure was to assail
the most commanding points of the fortress, whose capture would make
the rest untenable, was completely abandoned. Fort San Cristobal and
the lofty Castle were on this occasion to be left alone altogether.
The former was only observed by a single Portuguese brigade (first
Da Costa’s and later Power’s). The second was not breached, or even
battered with any serious intent. This time the front of attack was to
be the bastions of Santa Maria and La Trinidad, on the south-eastern
side of the town. The reason for leaving those of San Vincente and
San José, on the south-western side, unassailed--though they were
more accessible, and defended by no outer forts--was apparently the
report of the renegade French sergeant-major spoken of above; ‘they
were countermined, and therefore three or four successive lodgements
would have to be formed against them[267].’ To attack Santa Maria
and the Trinidad a preliminary operation was necessary--they were
covered by the Picurina fort, and only from the knoll on which that
work stands could they be battered with effect. The Picurina was far
weaker than the Pardaleras fort, from whose site a similar advantage
could be got against the bastions of San Roque and San Juan. It must
therefore be stormed, and on its emplacement would be fixed the
batteries of the second parallel, which were to do the main work of
breaching. The exceptional advantage to be secured in this way was that
the counterguard (inner protective bank) within the _glacis_ of the
Trinidad bastion was reputed to be so low, that from the Picurina knoll
the scarp of the bastion could be seen almost to its foot, and could
be much more effectively battered than any part of the defences whose
upper section alone was visible to the besieger.

  [267] Jones, _Sieges of the Peninsula_, i. p. 163.

Despite, therefore, of the need for wasting no time, and of the fact
that the preliminary operations against the Picurina must cost a day or
two, this was the general plan of attack adopted. The investment had
been completed on the evening of the 16th: on the same day 120 carts
with stores of all kinds marched from Elvas, and on the 17th these were
already being deposited in the Engineers’ Park, behind the Cerro de San
Miguel, whose rounded top completely screened the preparations from the
sight of the garrison.

The besieged had no notion whatever as to the front which would, on
this third attempt, be selected for the attack of the British. The
elaborate fortifications and improvements made in the Castle and San
Cristobal tend to show that these old points of attack were expected
to be once more assailed. Hence the besiegers got the inestimable
advantage of an unmolested start on the night of March 17th. Colonel
Fletcher had risked the dangers of drawing the first parallel at a very
short distance from the Picurina fort. On a night of tempestuous rain
and high wind, a parallel 600 yards long was picketed out, on a line
ranging only from 160 to 200 yards from the covered-way of the work,
and 1,800 workmen in the course of the night threw up the parallel, and
4,000 feet of a communication-trench, leading backward to the head of
a ravine in the hill of San Miguel, which gave good cover for bringing
men and material up from the rear. Not a shot was fired by the French
all through the night, and at dawn the parallel and approach were
already 3 feet deep and 3 feet 6 inches wide--a good start.

With daylight the enemy discovered what had been done, and opened a
furious fire both of cannon and musketry upon the trenches. The three
nearest bastions of the fortress joined in with their heavy guns,
but the 18th was a day of such constant rain that even at a distance
of only 500 or 600 yards it was impossible to see much, or take
accurate aim at the trenches. The working parties went on deepening
and improving the parallel and the communication behind it, without
suffering any great loss.

During the night of the 18th-19th they were able to trace out and begin
two batteries, destined to breach the Picurina, in the line of the
parallel, and to extend it at both ends, from the Rivillas on one side
to the foot of the hill of San Miguel on the other.

This was visible on the following morning, and Phillipon thought the
prospects of the fort so bad that he resolved to risk a sortie, to
destroy at all costs the trenches which were so dangerously near to
their objective. At midday two battalions--1,000 men--starting from the
lunette of San Roque, dashed up the hill, got into the north end of the
parallel, and drove out the working parties for a distance of some 500
yards: they carried off many entrenching tools, for which the governor
had offered the _bonus_ of one dollar a piece. But they had no time to
do any serious damage to the parallel, for the guard of the trenches
and the working parties, rallying fifty yards up the hill, came down
on them in force, within a quarter of an hour, and evicted them again
after a sharp tussle. The loss on the two sides was very different--the
British lost 150 men, the besieged 304, of whom many were drowned in
the inundation, while trying to take short cuts through it to the
gates. The effect of the sortie had been practically _nil_, as far as
destroying the works went. During this skirmish Colonel Fletcher was
wounded in the groin by a ball, which hit his purse, and while failing
to penetrate further, forced a dollar-piece an inch into his thigh. He
was confined to his tent for some fourteen days, and his subordinates,
Majors Squire and Burgoyne, had to take up his duty, though Wellington
ordered that he should still retain nominal charge of the work, and
consulted him daily upon it.

On the next night (March 20th) the parallel and approach against the
Picurina being practically complete, and only the battery emplacements
in it requiring to be finished, the engineers of the besieging army
resolved to continue the line of trenches into the flat ground in
front of the Bastion of San Pedro and the Castle, it being intended
that batteries should be constructed here to play on the Trinidad and
the neighbouring parts of the fortress, when the Picurina should have
fallen. It would save time to have everything ready on this side, when
the fort should have been mastered. Trouble at once began--not only
from the enemy’s fire, which swept all this low ground, but still more
from the continuous bad weather. The rain which had easily run away
from the sloping trenches on the Cerro de San Miguel, lodged in the
new works, could not be drained off, and melted away the earth as fast
as it was thrown up. Mud cast into the gabions ran off in the form of
slimy water, and the parapets could only be kept upright by building
them of sandbags. The men were actually flooded out of the trenches
by the accumulated water, which was almost knee deep. In the rear the
Guadiana rose, and washed away the two bridges which connected the army
with its base at Elvas. The deluge lasted four days and was a terrible
hindrance, it being impossible to finish the parallel in the low
ground, or to begin moving the battering-guns, even those destined for
the long-completed batteries on the Cerro de San Miguel.

It was not till the afternoon of the 24th that fine weather at last
set in; this permitted the guns to be brought at once into the two
batteries facing the Picurina, and, after herculean efforts, into other
batteries (nos. 4 and 5) in the low ground also. Three days at least
had been lost from the vile weather.

On the morning of the 25th all the batteries opened simultaneously,
ten guns against the Picurina, eighteen against the parts of the
fortress behind it. The fort was completely silenced, as was the little
lunette of San Roque. Not much damage appeared to have been inflicted
on the Picurina beyond the breaking of many of its palisades, and the
degradation of its salient angle. But Wellington ordered that it should
be stormed that night, in order that he might make up for the lost time
of the 20th-24th.

The storm was duly carried out by General Kempt and 500 men of the
Light and the 3rd Divisions, at ten o’clock that night. It was a
desperate affair, for the ditch was deep, and not in the least filled
with rubbish, and the scarp was intact save at the extreme salient
angle. Though the garrison’s guns had been silenced, they kept up a
furious fire of musketry, which disabled 100 men before the stormers
reached the ditch. The main hope of the assault had been that two
turning columns might break in at the gorge: but it was found so
strongly closed, with a double row of palisades and a cutting, that all
efforts to force an entrance were repelled with loss. Baffled here,
one party tried the desperate expedient of casting three long ladders,
not into, but _across_ the ditch on the right flank of the fort, which
though deep was not so broad but that a 30-foot ladder would reach from
its lip to the row of fraises, or projecting beams, ranged horizontally
at the top of the scarp some feet below the brim of the parapet. The
ladders sagged down but did not break, and some fifty men headed by
Captain Oates of the 88th ran across on the rungs and got a lodgement
inside the fort. At the same moment General Kempt launched the reserve
of the storming party--100 men, mostly from the 2/83rd and headed by
Captain Powys of that regiment--at the exact salient of the fort, the
only place where it was seriously damaged, and succeeded in breaking
in. The garrison, who made a stubborn resistance, were overpowered--83
were killed or wounded, the governor, Colonel Gaspard-Thierry, and 145
taken prisoners, only 1 officer and 40 men escaped into the town. The
losses of the stormers had been over 50 per cent. of the men engaged!
Four officers and 50 rank and file were killed, 15 officers and 250 men
wounded, out of a little over 500 who joined in the assault. Phillipon
tried a sortie from the lunette of San Roque, just as the fort fell, in
hopes to recover it: but the battalion which came out was easily beaten
off by the fire of the men in the trenches to the right, and lost 50
killed and wounded.

The last stage of the siege had now been reached. By capturing
the Picurina on its commanding knoll, the British had established
themselves within 400 yards of the Trinidad and 450 yards of the Santa
Maria bastions, which they could batter with every advantage of slope
and ground. But it was a very costly business to make the necessary
lodgement in the ruined fort, to demolish it, and throw its earth in
the reverse direction, and to build in its gorge the two batteries
(nos. 8, 9), which were to breach the body of the place. The fire of
three bastions bore directly on the spot where the batteries were to
be placed, and there was also a most deadly enfilading fire from the
high-lying Castle, and even from the distant San Cristobal. Though the
three batteries in the flat ground (to which a fourth was presently
added) endeavoured to silence this fire, they only succeeded in doing
so very imperfectly, for the French kept replacing one gun by another,
from their ample store, when any were disabled. From the 26th to the
30th four days were employed in building the Picurina batteries, with
great loss of life all the time, which fell mainly on the engineer
officers who were directing the work and on the sappers under their
orders. The French covered the whole of the Picurina knoll with such
a hail of projectiles that no amount of cover seemed to guarantee
those labouring in it from sudden death. When the batteries had been
completed, the bringing forward of the guns and the ammunition cost
many lives more. Twice there were considerable explosions of powder,
while the magazines in the batteries were being filled.

At last, however, on March 30, one of the two new batteries in the
gorge of the Picurina was able to open, and on the 31st the other
followed suit, supported by a third supplementary battery (no. 7),
planned under the left flank of the fort. The practice was excellent,
but at first the effect was not all that had been hoped: the Trinidad
and the Santa Maria bastions were solidly built and resisted well. On
April 2, however, both began to show considerable and obvious injury,
and it was clear that a few days more would ruin them. But there was
one serious _contretemps_: the inundation between the Picurina and the
fortress showed no signs of going down--it had been swollen by the
rains of the 20th-24th, and could not flow away so long as the dam at
the lunette of San Roque kept it back. While the water was held up,
the breaches, soon about to develop, could only be got at by a narrow
and curved route, between the inundation and the steep slope on which
stands the Pardaleras. It had been intended that the assault should be
delivered from the trenches, but this was impossible till the Rivillas
should have fallen to its usual insignificant breadth and depth. Hence
efforts were made to burst the dam at all costs, but neither did
artillery fire suffice, nor a venturesome expedition on the night of
the 2nd of April by the engineer Lieutenant Stanway and 20 sappers, who
slipped down the ravine and laid powder-bags against the dam, despite
of the French fire. The powder exploded, but did not do its work. For
several days an attempt was made to sap down to the dam from the second
parallel. But it cost so many lives at the head of the sap, and the
zig-zags advanced so slowly, that on the 3rd of April the attempt was
given up, and it was determined that the breaches must be assaulted
from the west bank of the Rivillas only.

Meanwhile the two breaches, the larger one in the front of the Trinidad
bastion, the smaller in the flank of the Santa Maria, began to be very
apparent, and gave good hope to the besiegers. The French, however,
delayed their progress by the most gallant efforts: 200 men worked in
the ditch after dark, to clear away the débris that was falling into
it. This they did under constant artillery fire from the batteries,
which played on the ditch with grape at intervals in the night, and
killed scores of the workmen. They also deepened the ditch at the foot
of the counterscarp, till it was 18 feet from the covered-way to the
bottom of its level. The ruined parapets were built up every night
with earth and wool-packs, only to be destroyed again every morning.
The garrison began to feel uncomfortable, for not only was the loss of
life great, but the furious fire, by which they strove to keep down the
efficiency of the siege-batteries, had begun to tell so much on their
reserves of ammunition that, by April 3, there was no common shell
left, and very little grape--of the round-shot much more than half had
been expended. Phillipon was obliged to order the artillerymen to be
sparing, or a few days more would leave him helpless. As the French
fire slackened, that of the besiegers grew more intense, and Wellington
put forward the last twelve guns of his siege-park, hitherto reserved,
to form some new supplementary batteries on the right of his line [nos.
10, 11, 12].

On April 4th the breaches were both growing practicable, and news from
the South warned Wellington that he must hurry; Soult was at last over
the Sierra Morena with all the troops that he could scrape together
from Andalusia. It was lucky indeed that Marmont was not marching to
join Soult, but was executing a raid into central Portugal, not by
his own wish but by the special orders of the Emperor, as has already
been explained elsewhere. His irruption into the Beira was absolutely
disregarded by Wellington: for as long as the two French armies were
not united, the British commander did not much fear either of them.
Still, if Soult came close up to Badajoz, it would be necessary to send
part of the siege-troops to join the covering force--and this would be
inconvenient. Wherefore Wellington resolved to strike at once, while
Soult was still four or five marches away.

On the 4th the breaches, both in the Trinidad and in Santa Maria,
looked practicable--on the morning of the 5th they were certainly so.
But the question was raised as to whether the mere practicability of
the breaches was enough to ensure success--it was clearly made out that
the garrisons were building a semicircular inner retrenchment among the
houses of the town, which would cut off the breaches, and give a second
line of resistance. Moreover Colonel Fletcher, who was just out of bed,
his wound of the 19th March being on the mend, reported from personal
observation that it was clear that all manner of obstacles were being
accumulated behind both breaches, and every preparation made for a
desperate defence of them. Wherefore Wellington ordered the storm to
be put off for a day, and turned two batteries on to a new spot, where
Spanish informants reported that the wall of the curtain was badly
built, between Santa Maria and the Trinidad. So true was this report,
that a very few hours battering on the morning of the 6th made a third
breach at this point, as practicable as either of the others.

To prevent the enemy from getting time to retrench this third opening
into the town, the storm was ordered for 7.30 o’clock on the same
evening--it would have been well if the hour had been kept as first
settled.



SECTION XXXII: CHAPTER IV

THE STORM OF BADAJOZ. APRIL 6, 1812


The arrangements which Wellington made for the assault--a business
which he knew would be costly, and not absolutely certain of
success--were as follows.

The Light and 4th Divisions were told off for the main attack at
the three breaches. They were forced to make it on the narrow front
west of the Rivillas, because the inundation cramped their approach
on the right. The 4th Division, under Colville, was to keep nearest
to that water, and to assail the breach in the Trinidad bastion and
also the new breach in the curtain to its left. The Light Division
was to devote itself to the breach in the flank of Santa Maria. Each
division was to provide an advance of 500 men, with which went twelve
ladders and a party carrying hay-bags to cast into the ditch. For the
counterscarp not being ruined, it was clear that there would be a very
deep jump into the depths. The two divisions followed in columns of
brigades, each with a British brigade leading, the Portuguese in the
centre, and the other British brigade in the rear. Neither division was
quite complete--the 4th having to provide the guard of the trenches
that night, while the Light Division detached some of its rifles, to
distract the attention of the enemy in the bastions to the left, by
lying down on the glacis and firing into the embrasures when their
cannon should open. Hence the Light Division put only 3,000, the 4th
3,500 men into the assault. When the breaches were carried, the Light
Division was to wheel to the left, the 4th to the right, and to sweep
along the neighbouring bastions on each side. A reserve was to be left
at the quarries below the Pardaleras height, and called up when it was
needed.

In addition to the main assault two subsidiary attacks were to be
made--a third (as we shall see) was added at the last moment. The
guards of the trenches, furnished by the 4th Division, were to try to
rush the lunette of San Roque, which was in a dilapidated condition,
and were to cut away the dam if successful. A much more serious matter
was that, on the express petition of General Picton, he was allowed to
make an attempt to take the Castle by _escalade_. This daring officer
argued that all the attention of the enemy would be concentrated on
the breaches, and that the Castle was in itself so strong that it was
probable the governor would only leave a minimum garrison in it. He had
marked spots in its front where the walls were comparatively low, owing
to the way in which the rocky and grassy slope at its foot ran up and
down. The escalade was to be a surprise--the division was to cross the
Rivillas at a point far below the inundation, where the ruins of a mill
spanned the stream, and was to drag ladders up the steep mound to the
foot of the wall.

Two demonstrations, or false attacks, were to be made with the
intention of distracting the enemy--one by Power’s Portuguese brigade
beyond the Guadiana, who were to threaten an escalade on the fort
at the bridge-head: the other by the Portuguese of the 5th Division
against the Pardaleras. At the last moment--the order does not appear
in the full draft of the directions for the storm--Leith, commanding
the 5th Division, was told that he might try an escalade, similar to
that allotted to Picton, against the river-bastion of San Vincente, the
extreme north-west point of the defences, and one that had hitherto
been left entirely untouched by the besiegers. For this he was to
employ one of his two British brigades, leaving the other in reserve.

Every student of the Peninsular War knows the unexpected result of the
storm: the regular assault on the breaches failed with awful loss, but
all the three subsidiary attacks, on San Roque, the Castle, and San
Vincente, succeeded in the most brilliant style, so that Badajoz was
duly taken, but not in the way that Wellington intended.

The reason why the main assault failed was purely and simply that
Phillipon and his garrison put into the defence of the breaches
not only the most devoted courage, but such an accumulation of
ingenious devices as had never before been seen in a siege of that
generation--apparently Phillipon must share the credit with his
commanding engineer, Lamare, the historian of the siege. The normal
precaution of cutting off the breaches by retrenchments on both sides,
and of throwing up parapets of earth, sandbags, and wool-packs behind
them, was the least part of the work done. What turned out more
effective was a series of mines and explosive barrels planted at the
foot of the counterscarp, and connected with the ramparts by covered
trains. This was on the near side of the ditch, where there was dead
ground unsearched by the besiegers’ artillery. In the bottom of it,
and at the foot of the breaches, had been placed or thrown all manner
of large cumbrous obstacles, carts and barrows turned upside down,
several large damaged boats, some rope entanglements, and piles of
broken gabions and fascines. The slopes of the breaches had been strewn
with crowsfeet, and were covered with beams studded with nails, not
fixed, but hung by ropes from the lip of the breach; in some places
harrows, and doors studded with long spikes, were set upon the slope.
At the top of each breach was a device never forgotten by any observer,
the _chevaux de frise_, formed of cavalry sword-blades[268] set in
foot-square beams, and chained down at their ends. For the defence of
the three breaches Phillipon had told off 700 men, composed of the
light and grenadier companies of each of his battalions, plus the
four fusilier companies of the 103rd Line--about 1,200 men in all. A
battalion of the 88th was in the cathedral square behind, as general
reserve. The two Hessian battalions were on the left, holding the
Castle, the lunette of San Roque, and the San Pedro bastion. The three
other French battalions occupied the long range of bastions from San
Juan to San Vincente. As there had been many casualties, the total of
the available men had sunk to about 4,000, and since nearly half of
them were concentrated at or behind the breaches, the guard was rather
thin at other points--especially (as Picton had calculated) at the
Castle, which, though its front was long, was held by only 250 men,
mostly Hessians.

  [268] These swords were those of the large body of Spanish
  dismounted cavalry which had surrendered at the capitulation in
  March 1811.

It was a most unfortunate thing that the time of the assault,
originally fixed for 7.30, was put off till 10--and that the
siege-batteries slacked down after dark. For the two hours thus
granted to the besieged were well spent in repairing and strengthening
all their devices for defence. An earlier assault would have found the
preparations incomplete, especially in the matter of the combustibles
placed in the ditch.

It would be useless, in the narrative of the doings of this bloody
night, to make any attempt to vie with those paragraphs of lurid
description which make Napier’s account of the storm of Badajoz perhaps
the most striking section of one of the most eloquent books in the
English language. All that will be here attempted is to give a clear
and concise note of what happened between ten and one o’clock on the
night of April 6, 1812, so far as it is possible to secure a coherent
tale from the diaries and memoirs of a number of eye-witnesses.
Burgoyne and Jones of the Royal Engineers, Dickson the commander of the
Artillery, Grattan and McCarthy from the 3rd Division, Leith Hay of
the 5th, and Kincaid, Simmons, and Harry Smith of the Light Division,
along with many more less well-known authorities, must serve as our
instructors, each for the part of the storm in which he was himself
concerned.

It had been intended, as was said above, that all the columns should
converge simultaneously on their points of attack, and for that reason
the distances between the starting-point of each division and its
objective had been calculated with care. But, as a matter of fact, the
hour of 10 p.m. was not quite accurately kept. On the right Picton’s
division was descried by the French in the Castle as it was lining
the first parallel, and was heavily fired upon at 9.45, whereupon the
general, seeing that his men were discovered, ordered the advance to
begin at once--the 3rd Division was fording the Rivillas under a blaze
of fire from the Castle and the San Pedro bastion before 10 struck
on the cathedral clock. On the other hand, at the western flank, the
officer in charge of the ladder and hay-bag party which was to lead the
5th Division, lost his way along the bank of the Guadiana, while coming
up from the Park to take his place at the head of Leith’s men. The
column had to wait for the ladders, and was more than an hour late in
starting. Only the central attack, on the three breaches, was delivered
with exact punctuality.

It is perhaps best to deal with this unhappy assault first--it was a
horrible affair, and fully two-thirds of the losses that night were
incurred in it. The two divisions, as ordered, came down the ravine
to the left of the Pardaleras hill without being discovered: the line
of vision from the town was in their favour till they were actually
on the glacis, and heavy firing against Picton’s column was heard as
they came forward. The 4th Division was turning to the right, the Light
Division to the left, just as they drew near the ditch, when suddenly
they were descried, and the French, who were well prepared and had long
been waiting for the expected assault, opened on them with musketry
from all the breaches, and with artillery from the unruined flanking
bastions. The storm began as unhappily as it was to end. The advance
of the 4th Division bearing to the right, came on a part of the ditch
into which the inundation had been admitted--not knowing its depth,
nor that the French had made a six-foot cutting at the foot of the
counterscarp. Many men, not waiting for the ladders, sprang down into
the water, thinking it to be a mere puddle. The leading files nearly
all perished--the regimental record of the Welsh Fusiliers shows
twenty men drowned--that of the Portuguese regiment which was behind
the Fusiliers as many as thirty. Finding the ditch impassable here,
the rest of the 4th Division storming-party swerved to the left, and,
getting beyond the inundation, planted their ladders there: some came
down in this way, more by simply taking a fourteen-foot leap on to the
hay-bags, which they duly cast down. At the same moment the advance
of the Light Division descended in a similar fashion into the ditch
farther to the left, towards Santa Maria. Many men were already at the
bottom, the rest crowded on the edge, where the French engineers fired
the series of fougasses, mines, and powder-barrels which had been laid
in the ditch. They worked perfectly, and the result was appalling--the
500 volunteers who formed the advance of each division were almost all
slain, scorched, or disabled. Every one of the engineer officers set
to guide the column was killed or wounded, and the want of direction,
caused by the absence of any one who knew the topography of the
breaches, had the most serious effect during the rest of the storm. Of
the Light Division officers with the advance only two escaped unhurt.

There was a horrible check for a minute or two, and then the heads of
the main column of each division reached the edge of the ditch, and
began to leap down, or to make use of those of the ladders which had
not been broken. The gulf below was all ablaze, for the explosions had
set fire to the carts, boats, broken gabions, &c., which the French
had set in the ditch, and they were burning furiously--every man as
he descended was clearly visible to the enemy entrenched on the top
of the breaches. The troops suffered severely as they dribbled over
the edge of the counterscarp, and began to accumulate in the ditch.
From the first there was great confusion--the two divisions got mixed,
because the 4th had been forced to swerve to its left to avoid the
inundation, and so was on ground originally intended for the Light.
Many men mistook an unfinished ravelin in the bottom of the ditch for
the foot of the central breach, and climbed it, only to find themselves
on a mass of earth divided by a wide sunken space from the point
they were aiming at. To get to the foot of the largest breach, that
in the Trinidad bastion, it was necessary to push some way along the
blazing bottom of the ditch, so as to turn and get round the end of the
inundation. The main thrust of the attack, however, went this way, only
part of the Light Division making for the Santa Maria breach, on which
it had been intended that all should concentrate. As to the central
breach in the curtain, it seems that few or none made their way[269]
thither: the disappointment on reaching the top of the ravelin in front
of it, made all who got alive to that point turn right or left, instead
of descending and pushing straight on. Jones records that next morning
there was hardly a single body of an English soldier on the central
breach, while the slopes and foot of each of the two flank breaches
were heaped with hundreds of corpses. This was a misfortune, as the
curtain breach was the easiest of the three, and having been made only
that afternoon was not retrenched like the others.

  [269] This fact, much insisted on by Jones, is disputed by
  certain Light Division witnesses, but does not seem to be
  disproved by them.

From ten to twelve the surviving men in the ditch, fed by the coming up
of the rear battalions of each division, and finally by the reserve,
delivered a series of desperate but disorderly attacks on the Trinidad
and Santa Maria breaches. It is said that on no occasion did more
than the equivalent of a company storm at once--each officer as he
struggled to the front with those of his men who stuck to him, tried
the breach opposite him, and was shot down nearer or farther from its
foot. Very few ever arrived at the top, with its _chevaux de frise_ of
sword-blades. The footing among the beams and spikes was uncertain,
and the French fire absolutely deadly--every man was armed with three
muskets. Next morning observers say that they noted only one corpse
impaled on the _chevaux de frise_ of the Trinidad breach, and a few
more under it, as if men had tried to crawl below, and had had their
heads beaten in or blown to pieces. But the lower parts of the ascent
were absolutely carpeted with the dead, lying one on another.

More than two hours were spent in these desperate but vain attempts
to carry the breaches: it is said that as many as forty separate
assaults were made, but all to no effect--the fire concentrated on the
attacked front was too heavy for any man to face. At last the assaults
ceased: the survivors stood--unable to get forward, unwilling to
retreat--vainly answering the volleys of the French on the walls above
them by an ineffective fire of musketry. Just after twelve, Wellington,
who had been waiting on the hill above, receiving from time to time
reports of the progress of the assault, sent down orders for the recall
of the two divisions. They retired, most unwillingly, and formed up
again, in sadly diminished numbers, not far from the glacis. The only
benefit obtained from their dreadful exertions was that the attention
of the French had been concentrated on the breaches for two hours--and
meanwhile (without their knowledge) the game had been settled elsewhere.

The losses had been frightful--over one man in four of those engaged:
the Light Division had 68 officers and 861 men killed and wounded out
of about 3,000 present: the 4th Division 84 officers and 841 men out of
3,500. The Portuguese battalions which served with them had lost 400
men more--altogether 2,200 of the best troops in Wellington’s army had
fallen--and all to no result.

But while the main stroke failed, each of the subsidiary attacks,
under Picton and Leith, had met with complete success, and despite
of the disaster on the breaches, Badajoz was at Wellington’s mercy by
midnight. The success of either escalade by itself would have been
enough to settle the game.

Picton’s division, as already mentioned, had been detected by the
French as it was filing into the parallel below the Castle: and since
a heavy fire was at once opened on it, there was no use in halting,
and the general gave the order to advance without delay. The men
went forward on a narrow front, having to cross the Rivillas at the
ruined mill where alone it was fordable. This was done under fire, but
with no great loss. The palisade on the other bank of the stream was
broken down by a general rush, and the storming-party found itself
at the foot of the lofty Castle hill. To get the ladders up it was a
most difficult business--the slope was very steep, almost precipitous
in parts, and the ladders were thirty feet long and terribly heavy.
Though no assault had been expected here, and the preparations were
not so elaborate as at the breaches, yet the besieged were not caught
unprepared, and the column, as it climbed the hill, was torn by cannon
shot and thinned by musketry. The French threw fire-balls over the
wall, and other incandescent stuff (_carcasses_), so there was fair
light by which to see the stormers. Picton was hit in the groin down
by the Rivillas, and the charge of the assault fell to his senior
brigadier, Kempt, and Major Burgoyne of the Engineers. The narrow space
at the foot of the walls being reached, the ladders were reared, one
after the other, toward the south end of the Castle wall. Six being
at last ready in spots close to each other, an attempt was made to
mount, with an officer at the head of each. But the fire was so heavy,
that no man reached the last rungs alive, and the enemy overthrew
all the ladders and broke several of them. One is said to have been
pulled up by main force into the Castle! Meanwhile the besieged cast
heavy stones and broken beams into the mass of men clustering along
the foot of the wall, and slew many. But the 3rd Division was not
spent--Kempt’s brigade had delivered the first rush--Champlemond’s
Portuguese headed the second, when they had climbed the slope--but also
to no effect. Lastly the rear brigade--Campbell’s--came up, and gave
a new impetus to the attack. There was now a very large force, 4,000
men, striving all along the base of the wall, on a front of some 200
yards. Wherever footing could be found ladders were reared, now at
considerable distances from each other. The garrison of the Castle was
not large--two Hessian and one French company and the gunners, under
300 men, and when simultaneous attacks were delivered at many points,
some of them were scantily opposed. Hence it came that in more places
than one men at last scrambled to the crest of the wall. A private of
the 45th is said to have been the first man whose body fell inside,
not outside, the battlements--the second, we are told, was an ensign
(McAlpin) of the 88th, who defended himself for a moment on the crest
before he was shot. The third man to gain the summit was Colonel Ridge
of the 5th Fusiliers, who found a point where an empty embrasure made
the wall a little lower, entered it with two or three of his men, and
held out long enough to allow more ladders to be planted behind him,
and a nucleus to gather in his rear. He pushed on the moment that
fifteen or twenty men had mounted, and the thin line of defenders being
once pierced the resistance suddenly broke down--all the remaining
ladders were planted, and the 3rd Division began to stream into the
Castle. Picton was by this time again in command; he had recovered his
strength, and had hobbled up the slope, relieving Kempt, who was by now
also wounded. The time was about eleven o’clock, and the din at the
breaches down below showed that they were still being defended.

It took some time to dislodge the remainder of the garrison from the
Castle precinct; many took refuge in the keep, and defended it from
stair to stair, till they were exterminated. But by 12 midnight all
was over, and Picton would have debouched from the Castle, to sweep
the ramparts, but for the fact that all its gates, save one postern,
were found to have been bricked up--the French having intended to make
it their last point of resistance if the town should fall. The one
free postern being at last found, the division was preparing to break
out, when the head of its column was attacked by the French general
reserve, a battalion of the 88th, which Phillipon had sent up from the
cathedral square, when he heard that the Castle had been forced. There
was a sharp fight before the French were driven off, in which (most
unhappily) Ridge, the hero of the escalade, was shot dead. By the time
that this was over, Badajoz had been entered at another point, and
Picton’s success was only part of the decisive stroke. But as he had
captured in the Castle all the French ammunition reserve, and nearly
all their food, the town must anyhow have fallen, because of his daring
exploit. The loss of the division was not excessive considering the
difficulties they had overcome, about 500 British and 200 Portuguese
out of 4,000 men engaged.

Meanwhile, in the valley below the Castle, the guards of the trenches
had stormed the lunette of San Roque, and were hard at work cutting the
dam, so that in an hour or two the inundation was beginning to drain
off rapidly. This also would have been a decisive success, if nothing
else had been accomplished elsewhere.

The blow, however, which actually finished the business, and caused the
French to fail at the breaches, was delivered by quite another force.
It will be remembered that a brigade--Walker’s--of the 5th Division,
had been directed to escalade the remote river-bastion of San Vincente.
It was nearly an hour late, because of the tiresome mistake made by
the officer charged with the bringing up of the ladders from the Park.
And only at a few minutes past eleven did Leith, heading the column,
arrive before the palisades of the covered way, near the Guadiana.
Walker’s men were detected on the glacis, and a heavy artillery fire
was opened on them from San Vincente and San José, but they threw
down many of the palisades and began to descend into the ditch--a
drop of 12 feet. There was a cut in the bottom, to which water from
the Guadiana had been let in, and the wall in front was 30 feet high.
Hence the first attempts to plant the ladders were unavailing, and many
men fell. But coasting around the extreme north end of the bastion,
close to the river, some officers found that the flank sloped down
to a height of only 20 feet, where the bastion joined the waterside
wall. Three or four ladders were successfully planted here, while the
main attention of the garrison was distracted to the frontal attack,
and a stream of men of the 4th, 30th, and 44th began to pour up them.
The French broke before the flank attack: they were not numerous, for
several companies had been drawn off to help at the breaches, and the
bastion was won. As soon as a few hundred men were formed, General
Walker led them along the ramparts, and carried the second bastion,
that of San José. But the two French battalions holding the succeeding
western bastions now massed together, and made a firm resistance in
that of Santiago. The stormers were stopped, and an unhappy incident
broke their impetus--some lighted port-fires thrown down by the French
artillerymen were lying about--some one called out that they were the
matches of mines. Thereupon the advancing column instinctively fell
back some paces--the French charged and drove them in, and the whole
retired fighting confusedly as far as San Vincente. Here General Leith
had fortunately left a reserve battalion, the 2/38th, which, though
only 230 strong, stopped the panic and broke the French advance.
Walker’s brigade rallied and advanced again--though its commander was
desperately wounded--and once more the enemy were swept all along the
western bastions, which they lost one by one.

Some of the 5th Division descended into the streets of the town, and
pushing for the rear of the great breaches, by a long détour through
the silent streets, at last came in upon them, and opened a lively fire
upon the backs of the enemy who were manning the retrenchments. The
main body, however, driving before them the garrison of the southern
bastions, hurtled in upon the flank of the Santa Maria. At this moment
the 4th and Light Divisions, by Wellington’s orders, advanced again
towards the ditch, where their dead or disabled comrades were lying so
thick. They thought that they were going to certain death, not being
aware of what had happened inside the city. But as they descended
into the ditch only a few scattering shots greeted them. The French
main body--for 2,000 men had been driven in together behind the
breaches--had just thrown down their arms and surrendered to the 5th
Division. Even when there was no resistance, the breaches proved hard
to mount, and the obstructions at the top were by no means easy to
remove.

The governor, Phillipon, had escaped into San Cristobal with a few
hundred men, and surrendered there at dawn, having no food and little
ammunition. But he first sent out the few horsemen of the garrison to
run the gauntlet of the Portuguese pickets, and bear the evil news to
Soult.

Thus fell Badajoz: the best summary of its fall is perhaps that
of Leith Hay, who followed his relative, the commander of the 5th
Division, in the assault on San Vincente:--

‘Had Lord Wellington relied on the storming of the breaches alone, the
town would not have been taken. Had General Leith received his ladders
punctually and escaladed at 10, as intended, he would have been equally
successful, and the unfortunate divisions at the breaches would have
been saved an hour of dreadful loss. If Leith had failed, Badajoz would
still have fallen, in consequence of the 3rd Division carrying the
Castle--but not till the following morning; and the enemy might have
given further trouble. Had Picton failed, still the success of the 5th
Division ensured the fall of the place.’ The moral would seem to be
that precautions cannot be too numerous--it was the afterthoughts in
this case, and not the main design, that were successful and saved the
game.

Wellington himself, in a document--a letter to Lord Liverpool--that
long escaped notice, and did not get printed in its right place in
the ninth volume of his _Dispatches_[270], made a commentary on the
perilous nature of the struggle and the greatness of the losses which
must not be suppressed. He ascribed them to deficiencies in the
engineering department. ‘The capture of Badajoz affords as strong an
instance of the gallantry of our troops as has ever been displayed. But
I greatly hope that I shall never again be the instrument of putting
them to such a test as they were put to last night. I assure your
lordship that it is quite impossible to carry fortified places by _vive
force_ without incurring grave loss and being exposed to the chance of
failure, unless the army should be provided with a sufficient trained
corps of sappers and miners.... The consequences of being so unprovided
with the people necessary to approach a regularly fortified place are,
first, that our engineers, though well-educated and brave, have never
turned their minds to the mode of conducting a regular siege, as it
is useless to think of that which, in our service, it is impossible
to perform. They think that they have done their duty when they have
constructed a battery, with a secure communication to it, which can
breach the place. Secondly, these breaches have to be carried by _vive
force_ at an infinite sacrifice of officers and soldiers.... These
great losses could be avoided, and, in my opinion, time gained in every
siege, if we had properly trained people to carry it on. I declare that
I have never seen breaches more practicable in themselves than the
three in the walls of Badajoz, and the fortress must have surrendered
with these breaches open, if I had been able to “approach” the place.
But when I had made the third breach, on the evening of the 6th, I
could do no more. I was then obliged either to storm or to give the
business up; and when I ordered the assault I was certain that I should
lose our best officers and men. It is a cruel situation for any person
to be placed in, and I earnestly request your lordship to have a corps
of sappers and miners formed without loss of time.’

  [270] My attention was called to this letter, found among Lord
  Liverpool’s papers in 1869, by Mr. F. Turner, of Frome.

The extraordinary fact that no trained corps of sappers and miners
existed at this time was the fault neither of Wellington nor of the
Liverpool ministry, but of the professional advisers of the cabinets
that had borne office ever since the great French War broke out. The
need had been as obvious during the sieges of 1793-4 in Flanders as in
1812. That the Liverpool ministry could see the point, and wished to
do their duty, was shown by the fact that they at once proceeded to
turn six companies of the existing corps of ‘Royal Military Artificers’
into sappers. On April 23, less than three weeks after Badajoz fell,
a warrant was issued for instructing the whole corps in military
field-works. On August 4 their name was changed from ‘Royal Military
Artificers’ to ‘Royal Sappers and Miners.’ The transformation was
much too late for the siege of Burgos, but by 1813 the companies were
beginning to join the Peninsular Army, and at San Sebastian they were
well to the front. An end was at last made to the system hitherto
prevailing, by which the troops which should have formed the rank and
file of the Royal Engineers were treated as skilled mechanics, mainly
valuable for building and carpentering work at home stations.

[Illustration: BADAJOZ]

One more section, a most shameful one, must be added to the narrative
of the fall of Badajoz. We have already had to tell of the grave
disorders which two months before had followed the storm of Ciudad
Rodrigo. These were but trifling and venial compared with the
offences which were committed by the men who had just gone through the
terrible experiences of the night of April 6th. At Rodrigo there was
much drunkenness, a good deal of plunder, and some wanton fire-raising:
many houses had been sacked, a few inhabitants were maltreated, but
none, it is believed, were mortally hurt. At Badajoz the outrages of
all kinds passed belief; the looting was general and systematic, and
rape and bloodshed were deplorably common. Explanatory excuses have
been made, to the effect that the army had an old grudge against the
inhabitants of the city, dating back to the time when several divisions
were quartered in and about it, after Talavera. It was also said that
all the patriotic inhabitants had fled long ago, and that those who had
remained behind were mainly _Afrancesados_, traitors to the general
cause. There was some measure of truth in both allegations: it was no
doubt true that there had been quarrels in 1809, and that many loyalist
families had evacuated the city after the French occupation, and had
transferred themselves to other parts of Estremadura. The population
at the time of the British storm was not two-thirds of the normal
figure. But these excuses will not serve. There can be no doubt that
the outrages were in no sense reasoned acts of retribution, but were a
simple outburst of ruffianism.

Old military tradition in all the armies of Europe held that a
garrison which refused to surrender when the breaches had become
practicable was at the mercy of the conqueror for life and limb,
and that a town resisting to extremity was the natural booty of the
stormers. In the eighteenth century there were countless instances of
a fortress, defended with courage up to the moment when an assault
was possible, surrendering on the express plea that the lives of the
garrison were forfeit if it held out, when resistance could no longer
be successful. The attacking party held that all the lives which it
lost after the place had become untenable were lost unnecessarily,
because of the unreasonable obstinacy of the besieged: the latter
therefore could expect no quarter. This was not an unnatural view when
the circumstances are considered. The defender of a wall or a breach
has an immense advantage over the stormer, till the moment when the
latter has succeeded in closing, and in bringing his superior numbers
to bear. In a curious hortatory address which Phillipon published
to his garrison[271], the passage occurs, ‘realize thoroughly that
a man mounting up a ladder cannot use his weapon unless he is left
unmolested: the head comes up above the parapet unprotected, and a
wary soldier can destroy in succession as many enemies as appear at
the ladder-top.’ This is perfectly true: but Phillipon naturally
avoided stating the logical conclusion, viz. that when the stormers
finally succeed in crowning the ramparts, they will be particularly
ill-disposed towards the garrison who have, till the last moment, been
braining their comrades or shooting them through the head at small
risk to themselves. When the assailant, after seeing several of his
predecessors on the ladder deliberately butchered by a man under cover,
gets by some special piece of luck on a level with his adversary, it
will be useless for the latter to demand quarter. If it is a question
of showing mercy, why did not the other side begin? _Que messieurs
les assassins commencent_, as the French humorist remarked to the
humanitarian, who protested against capital punishment for murderers.
There is a grim story of a party of Tuscan soldiers of the 113th Line,
who were pinned into a ravelin on the flank of the lesser breach at
Rodrigo, and after firing to the last minute upon the flank of the
Light Division, threw down their arms, when they saw themselves cut
off, calling out that they were ‘_poveros Italianos_’--’So you’re not
French but _Italians_ are you--then here’s a shot for you,’ was the
natural answer[272]:--reflections as to the absence of any national
enmity towards the victors should have occurred to the vanquished
before, and not after, the breach was carried. The same thing happened
at the Castle of Badajoz to the companies, mainly Hessians, who so long
held down the stormers of the 3rd Division. If the defenders of the
breaches escaped summary massacre, it was because the breaches were not
carried by force, and the main body of the French surrendered some time
after the assault had ceased, and to troops of the 5th Division, who
had not been personally engaged with them.

  [271] Printed in Belmas, iv, Appendix, p. 369, and dated March 26.

  [272] The story may be found in Kincaid, p. 114, and in several
  other sources.

It was universally held in all armies during the wars of the early
nineteenth century that the garrison which resisted to the last moment,
after success had become impossible, had no rights. Ney wrote to the
governor of Ciudad Rodrigo in 1810, ‘further resistance will force
the Prince of Essling to treat you with all the rigour of the laws
of war. You have to choose between honourable capitulation and the
terrible vengeance of a victorious army[273].’ Suchet, in more brutal
words, told the governor of Tortosa that he should put to the sword a
garrison which resisted instead of capitulating ‘when the laws of war
make it his duty to do so, large breaches being opened and the walls
ruined[274].’ A very clear statement of this sanguinary theory is
found in a passage in the Memoirs of Contreras, the unlucky governor
of Tarragona in 1811[275]. ‘The day after the storm General Suchet had
me brought before him on a stretcher [he was severely wounded] and in
presence of his chief officers and of my own, told me in a loud voice
that I was the cause of all the horrors which his troops had committed
in Tarragona, because I had held out beyond the limit prescribed in
the laws of war, and that those laws directed him to have me executed,
for not capitulating when the breach was opened; that having taken the
place by assault he had the right to slay and burn _ad infinitum_.’
I replied that ‘if it is true that the laws of war state that, if
the besieger gets in, he may deliver to the sword and the flames
town and garrison, and if they therefore suggest as a proper moment
for capitulation that when an assault has become practicable, it is
nevertheless true that they do not prohibit the besieged from resisting
the assault, if he considers that he can beat it off: I had sufficient
forces to hold my own, and should have done so if my orders had been
properly carried out. Therefore I should have been called a coward if
I had not tried to resist, and no law prohibited me from repulsing an
assault if I could.’

  [273] Document in Belmas, iii. p. 287.

  [274] Ibid., p. 442.

  [275] Published in the collection of _Mémoires sur la guerre
  d’Espagne_ in 1821.

But, as has been pointed out recently[276], Wellington himself may be
quoted in favour of this theory. In a letter written to Canning in
1820 concerning quite another matter, he remarked, ‘I believe that it
has always been understood that the defenders of a fortress stormed
have no claim to quarter, and the practice which prevailed during the
last century of surrendering fortresses when a breach was opened,
and the counterscarp blown in, was founded on this understanding. Of
late years the French availed themselves of the humanity of modern
warfare, and made a new regulation that a breach should stand one
assault at least. The consequence of this regulation of Bonaparte’s
was the loss to me of the flower of my army, in the assaults on Ciudad
Rodrigo and Badajoz. I should have thought myself justified in putting
both garrisons to the sword, and if I had done so at the first, it is
probable that I should have saved 5,000 men at the second. I mention
this to show you that the practice which refuses quarter to a garrison
that stands an assault is not a _useless_ effusion of blood.’

  [276] By Colonel Callwell, in an article in _Blackwood’s
  Magazine_ for September 1913.

Comparatively few of the garrisons of Rodrigo and Badajoz were shot
down, and those all in hot blood in the moment after the walls were
carried. Suchet’s army was much more pitiless at Tarragona, where a
great part of the Spanish garrison was deliberately hunted down and
slaughtered. But there was, of course, a much more bitter feeling
between French and Spaniards than between English and French.

The only reason for enlarging on this deplorable theme is that there
was a close connexion in the minds of all soldiers of the early
nineteenth century, from the highest to the lowest ranks, between the
idea that an over-obstinate garrison had forfeited quarter, and the
idea that the town they had defended was liable to sack. This may be
found plainly stated in Lannes’s summons to Palafox at Saragossa in
January 1809[277], in the capitulation-debate before the surrender
of Badajoz in 1811, in Augereau’s address to the inhabitants of
Gerona[278], in Leval’s summons to the governor of Tarifa[279], and
with special emphasis in Suchet’s threatening epistle to Blake on the
day before the fall of Valencia: ‘in a few hours a general assault
will precipitate into your city the French columns: if you delay till
this terrible moment, it will not be in my power to restrain the fury
of the soldiery, and you alone will be responsible before God and man
for the evils which will overwhelm Valencia. It is the desire to avert
the complete destruction of a great town that determines me to offer
you honourable terms of capitulation[280].’ It was hardly necessary
in the Napoleonic era to enlarge on the connexion between storm and
sack--it was presupposed. Every governor who capitulated used to put in
his report to his own government a mention of his ‘desire to spare the
unfortunate inhabitants the horrors of a storm.’

  [277] See Belmas, ii. p. 381.

  [278] Ibid., ii. pp. 844-5.

  [279] Text in the _Defence of Tarifa_, p. 64, and in Arteche.

  [280] Belmas, iv. p. 202.

This idea, sad to say, was as deeply rooted in the minds of British as
of French soldiers. It is frankly confessed in many a Peninsular diary.
‘The men were permitted to enjoy themselves (!) for the remainder of
the day,’ says Kincaid in his narrative of the fall of Badajoz, ‘and
the usual frightful scene of plunder commenced, which officers thought
it prudent to avoid for the moment by retiring to the camp[281].’ ‘The
troops were, of course, admitted to the immemorial privilege of tearing
the town to pieces,’ says another writer on another occasion[282]. The
man in the ranks regarded the connexion of storm and sack as so close
that he could write, ‘the prisoners being secured and the gates opened,
we were allowed to enter the town _for the purpose of plundering
it_[283].’ But perhaps the most eye-opening sentence on the subject is
Wellington’s official order of April 7, 1812, issued late in the day,
and when the sack had already been going on for fifteen or eighteen
hours, ‘It is now full time that the plunder of Badajoz should cease;
an officer and six steady non-commissioned officers will be sent from
each regiment, British and Portuguese, of the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and Light
Divisions into the town, at 5 a.m. to-morrow morning, to bring away any
men still straggling there[284].’

  [281] Kincaid, p. 39.

  [282] Leith Hay, ii. pp. 256-7.

  [283] Memoirs of Donaldson of the 94th, p. 158.

  [284] Wellington, _Supplementary Dispatches_, vii. p. 311.

It was unfortunately the fact that Badajoz was a Spanish and not a
French town, and this adds a special shame to the lamentable outrages
which were perpetrated in its streets for many hours after the storm.
It is comparatively seldom in war that an army takes by assault a town
which does not belong to the hostile power. The only parallel of recent
years to the sack of Badajoz had been that of Lübeck in November
1806. Blücher’s Prussian corps, retiring before the pursuing French,
trespassed on neutral territory by seizing on the old Hanseatic city,
which lay in its way, and endeavouring to defend it. The magistrates
protested, but were powerless, as they had no armed force at their
disposition. Then the French came upon the scene, and, after a fierce
fight, won their way over wall and ditch and took the place. They
sacked it from end to end with every circumstance of atrocity[285]:
Marshal Bernadotte, when importuned by the Burgomaster to stay the
horrors, said that he was sorry, but that his troops only recognized
the fact that they were in a stormed town--he and his officers
could only succeed in calling them off after the city had been half
destroyed. This was sufficiently horrible; but to sack a town belonging
to a friendly nation is a shade worse than to sack a neutral place--and
this the British troops did.

  [285] It is said on good first-hand authority that all the
  inmates of an asylum for female lunatics were raped. See
  Lettow-Vorbeck, _Geschichte des Krieges von 1806-7_, ii. p. 384.

Two short quotations from eye-witnesses may serve to show the kind of
scenes that prevailed in Badajoz from the early hours of the morning on
April 7th down to the following night.

‘Unfortunate Badajoz,’ writes one narrator[286], ‘met with the usual
fate of places taken at the point of the bayonet. In less than an
hour after it fell into our possession it looked as if centuries had
gradually completed its destruction. The surviving soldier, after
storming a town, considers it as his indisputable property, and thinks
himself at liberty to commit any enormity by way of indemnifying
himself for the risking of his life. The bloody strife has made him
insensible to every better feeling: his lips are parched by the
extraordinary exertions that he has made, and from necessity, as well
as inclination, his first search is for liquor. This once obtained,
every trace of human nature vanishes, and no brutal outrage can be
named which he does not commit. The town was not only plundered of
every article that could be carried off, but whatever was useless or
too heavy to move was wantonly destroyed. Whenever an officer appeared
in the streets the wretched inhabitants flocked round him with terror
and despair, embraced his knees and supplicated his protection. But it
was vain to oppose the soldiers: there were 10,000 of them crowding
the streets, the greater part drunk and discharging their pieces in
all directions--it was difficult to escape them unhurt. A couple of
hundred of their women from the camp poured also into the place, when
it was barely taken, to have their share of the plunder. They were,
if possible, worse than the men. Gracious God! such tigresses in the
shape of women! I sickened when I saw them coolly step over the dying,
indifferent to their cries for a drop of water, and deliberately search
the pockets of the dead for money, or even divest them of their bloody
coats. But no more of these scenes of horror. I went deliberately into
the town to harden myself to the sight of human misery--and I have had
enough of it: my blood has been frozen with the outrages I witnessed.’

  [286] Hodenberg of the K.G.L. See his letters published in
  _Blackwood’s Magazine_ for March 1913, by myself.

Another eye-witness gives a passing glimpse of horrors. ‘Duty being
over, I chanced to meet my servant, who seemed to have his haversack
already well filled with plunder. I asked him where the regiment was:
he answered that he did not know, but that he had better conduct me to
the camp, as I appeared to be wounded. I certainly was hit in the head,
but in the excitement of the escalade had not minded it, nor had I felt
a slight wound in my leg: but, as I began to be rather weak, I took
his advice, and he assisted me on. In passing what appeared to be a
religious house I saw two soldiers dragging out an unfortunate nun, her
clothes all torn: in her agony she knelt and held up a cross. Remorse
seized one of the men, who appeared more sober than the other, and he
swore she should not be outraged. The other soldier drew back a step
and shot his comrade dead. At this moment we found ourselves surrounded
by several Portuguese: they ordered us to halt, and presented their
muskets at us. I said to my servant, “throw them some of your plunder:”
he instantly took off his haversack and threw it among them: some
dollars and other silver coin rolled out. They then let us pass--had
he not done so they would have shot us--as they did several others. We
got safe to the bastion, and my servant carried me on his back to the
camp, where I got a draught of water, fell asleep instantly, and did
not waken till after midday[287].’

  [287] _Recollections of Col. P. P. Nevill, late Major 63rd_ [but
  with the 30th at Badajoz], pp. 15-16.

‘In justice to the army’--we quote from another authority[288]--’I
must say that the outrages were not general: in many cases they were
perpetrated by cold-blooded villains who had been backward enough in
the attack. Many risked their lives in defending helpless women, and,
though it was rather a dangerous moment for an officer to interfere,
I saw many of them running as much risk to prevent inhumanity as they
did in the preceding night while storming the town.’ The best-known
incident of the kind is the story of Harry Smith of the 95th, who saved
a young Spanish lady in the tumult, and married her two days later,
in the presence of the Commander-in-Chief himself, who gave away the
bride. This hastily-wedded spouse, Juana de Leon, was the Lady Smith
who was the faithful companion of her husband through so many campaigns
in Spain, Belgium, and South Africa, and gave her name to the town in
Natal which, nearly ninety years after the siege of Badajoz, was to be
the scene of the sternest leaguer that British troops have endured in
our own generation. Harry Smith’s narrative of the Odyssey of himself
and his young wife in 1812-14, as told in his autobiography, is one of
the most romantic tales of love and war that have ever been set down on
paper.

  [288] Donaldson of the 94th, p. 159.

It was not till late in the afternoon of the 7th that Wellington, as
has been already mentioned, came to the rather tardy conclusion that
‘it was now full time that the plunder of Badajoz should cease.’ He
sent in Power’s Portuguese brigade to clear out those of the plunderers
who had not already gone back exhausted to their camps, and erected
a gallows in the cathedral square, for the hanging of any criminals
who might be detected lingering on for further outrages. Authorities
differ as to whether the Provost Marshal did, or did not, put his
power in action: the balance of evidence seems to show that the mere
threat sufficed to bring the sack to an end. The men were completely
exhausted: Napier remarks that ‘the tumult rather subsided than was
quelled.’



SECTION XXXII: CHAPTER V

OPERATIONS OF THE FRENCH DURING THE SIEGE OF BADAJOZ


Before proceeding to demonstrate the wide-spreading results of the
fall of the great Estremaduran fortress, it is necessary to follow
the movements of the French armies which had been responsible for its
safety.

Soult had been before Cadiz when, on March 11, he received news from
Drouet that troops were arriving at Elvas from the North, and on March
20 the more definite information that Wellington had moved out in
force on the 14th, and invested Badajoz on the 16th. The Marshal’s
long absence from his head-quarters at Seville at this moment, when
he had every reason to suspect that the enemy’s next stroke would be
in his own direction, is curious. Apparently his comparative freedom
from anxiety had two causes. The first was his confidence that Badajoz,
with its excellent governor and its picked garrison, could be relied
upon to make a very long defence. The second was that he was fully
persuaded that when the time of danger arrived he could count on
Marmont’s help--as he had in June 1811. On February 7 he wrote to his
colleague[289] that he had just heard of the fall of Rodrigo, that
Wellington’s next movement would naturally be against Badajoz, and that
he was glad to learn that Montbrun’s divisions, on their return from
Alicante, were being placed in the valley of the Tagus. ‘I see with
pleasure that your excellency has given him orders to get in touch
with the Army of the South. As long as this communication shall exist,
the enemy will not dare to make a push against Badajoz, because at
his first movement we can join our forces and march against him for
a battle. I hope that it may enter into your plans to leave a corps
between the Tagus and the Guadiana, the Truxillo road, and the Sierra
de Guadalupe, where it can feed, and keep in touch with the troops
which I keep in the Serena [the district about Medellin, Don Benito,
and Zalamea, where Daricau was cantoned]. I am persuaded that, when
the campaigning season begins, the enemy will do all he can to seize
Badajoz, because he dare attempt nothing in Castille so long as that
place offers us a base from which to invade Portugal and fall upon his
line of communications.... I am bound, therefore, to make a pressing
demand that your left wing may be kept in a position which makes the
communication between our armies sure, so that we may be able, by
uniting our disposable forces, to go out against the enemy with the
assurance of success.’

  [289] The letter is printed in Marmont’s _Correspondance_, iv.
  pp. 304-5.

This was precisely what Marmont had intended to do. He was convinced,
like Soult, that Wellington’s next move would be against Badajoz, and
he placed Montbrun and the divisions of Foy, Brennier, and Sarrut about
Talavera, Monbeltran, and Almaraz, precisely in order that they might
be in easy touch with Drouet. On February 22 he wrote to his colleague
explaining his purpose in so doing, and his complete acquiescence in
the plan for a joint movement against Wellington, whenever the latter
should appear on the Guadiana[290]. His pledge was quite honest and
genuine, and in reliance on it Soult made all his arrangements. These,
however, appear to have been rather loose and careless: the Marshal
seems to have felt such complete confidence in the combination that he
made insufficient preparations on his own side. No reinforcements were
sent either to Badajoz or to Drouet, whose 12,000 men were dispersed
in a very long front in Estremadura, reaching from Medellin and Don
Benito on the right to Fregenal on the left. This is why Graham, when
he moved forward briskly on March 17th, found no solid body of the
enemy in front of him, but only scattered brigades and regiments, which
made off in haste, and which only succeeded at last in concentrating
so far to the rear as Fuente Ovejuna, which is actually in Andalusia,
and behind the crest of the Sierra Morena. We may add that having been
advised by Drouet as early as March 11th[291] that British troops were
accumulating behind Elvas, Soult ought to have taken the alarm at once,
to have moved back to Seville from Santa Maria by Cadiz, where he lay
on that date, and to have issued orders for the concentration of his
reserves. He did none of these things, was still in front of Cadiz on
March 20[292], and did not prescribe any movement of troops till, on
that day, he received Drouet’s more definite and alarming news that
Wellington was in person at Elvas, and had moved out toward Badajoz on
the 16th. Clearly he lost nine days by want of sufficient promptness,
and had but himself to blame if he could only start from Seville
with a considerable field-force on March 30. All that he appears to
have done on March 11 was to write to Marmont that the long-foreseen
hypothesis of a move of Wellington on Badajoz was being verified, and
that they must prepare to unite their forces. Jourdan has, therefore,
some justification for his remark that he does not see why Soult should
have been before Cadiz, amusing himself by throwing shells into that
place[293] as late as March 20th.

  [290] This Soult quotes in his recriminatory letter to Marmont of
  April 8, and in his angry dispatch to Berthier of the same date
  (printed in King Joseph’s _Correspondance_, viii. p. 355).

  [291] The date is proved by the letter from Soult to Marmont of
  March 11, printed in Marmont’s _Mémoires_, iv. p. 359.

  [292] The date is proved by Soult’s letter to the Emperor of
  that date from Santa Maria, in which he announces his intention
  to start, and says that he is writing to Marmont, to get him to
  unite the armies as soon as possible.

  [293] See his _Mémoires_, p. 377.

From the 20th to the 30th of that month Soult was busily engaged in
organizing the relief-column which, after picking up Drouet on the
way, was to march to the succour of Badajoz. He could not venture
to touch the divisions of Conroux and Cassagne, which together were
none too strong to provide for the manning of the Cadiz Lines and the
fending off of Ballasteros from their rear. But he called off the
whole division of Barrois, nearly 8,000 strong[294], Vichery’s brigade
of infantry from Leval’s division in the province of Granada[295],
and six regiments of Digeon’s and Pierre Soult’s dragoons. This, with
the corresponding artillery, made a column of some 13,000 men, with
which the Marshal started from Seville on the 30th March, crossed
the Guadalquivir at Lora del Rio next day, and moved on Constantina
and Guadalcanal. An interesting complication would have been caused
if Graham had been allowed to stop with his 19,000 men at Azuaga and
Llerena, where he was directly between Soult and Drouet’s position at
Fuente Ovejuna, and if Hill from Merida had moved against Drouet’s
corps. But as Wellington had withdrawn Graham’s column to Villafranca
on March 31, there was nothing left to prevent Drouet from coming in
from his excentric position, and joining his chief at Llerena on April
4th, with the 12,000 men of his own and Daricau’s divisions. This
gave the Marshal some 25,000 men[296] in hand, a force which would be
manifestly incapable of raising the siege of Badajoz, for he knew that
Wellington had at least 45,000 men in hand, and, as a matter of fact,
the arrival of the 5th Division and other late detachments had raised
the Anglo-Portuguese army to something more like 55,000 sabres and
bayonets.

  [294] To be exact, 7,776 officers and men on March 1. He also
  brought with him some ‘bataillons d’élite’ of grenadier companies
  from Villatte’s division.

  [295] The 55th, three battalions about 1,500 strong, the fourth
  being left at Jaen. Soult says in his dispatch of April 8 that
  he took a whole _brigade_ from Leval, but the states of April 14
  show the 32nd and 58th regiments of Leval’s division, and three
  of the four battalions of the 43rd, all left in the kingdom of
  Granada. Apparently three battalions of the 55th and one of the
  43rd marched, about 2,200 strong.

  [296] Though he calls them only 21,000 in his dispatches. But the
  figures [see Appendix no. VIII] show 23,500. The total in the
  monthly reports indicate 25,000 as more likely.

Wellington’s orders, when he heard that Soult was in the passes, and
that Drouet was moving to join him, directed Graham to fall back on the
Albuera position, and Hill to join him there by the route of Lobon and
Talavera Real, if it should appear that all the French columns were
moving directly to the relief of Badajoz, and none of them spreading
out eastward towards the Upper Guadiana[297]. These conditions were
realized, as Soult moved in one solid body towards Villafranca and
Fuente del Maestre: so Hill evacuated Merida, after destroying its
bridge, and joined Graham on the old Albuera ground on April 6th. They
had 31,000 men, including four British divisions and four British
cavalry brigades, and Wellington could have reinforced them from the
lines before Badajoz with two divisions more, if it had been necessary,
while still leaving the fortress adequately blockaded by 10,000 or
12,000 men. But as Soult did not appear at Fuente del Maestre and
Villafranca till the afternoon of April 7th, a day after Badajoz had
fallen, this need did not arise. The Marshal, learning of the disaster,
hastily turned back and retired towards Andalusia, wisely observing
that he ‘could not fight the whole English army.’ It is interesting to
speculate what would have happened if he had lingered five days less
before Cadiz, had issued his concentration orders on the 14th or 15th
instead of the 20th March, and had appeared at Villafranca on the 2nd
instead of the 7th of the next month. His dispatch of April 17 states
that he had intended to fight, despite of odds, to save Badajoz: if he
had done so, and had attacked 40,000 Anglo-Portuguese with his 25,000
men, he must inevitably have suffered a dreadful disaster. He must
have fought a second battle of Albuera with much the same strength
that he had at the first, while his enemy would have had six British
divisions instead of two, and an equal instead of a wholly inferior
cavalry. The result of such a battle could hardly have failed to be
not only a crushing defeat for the French, but the prompt loss of all
Andalusia; for thrown back on that kingdom with a routed army, and
unable to gather in promptly reserves scattered over the whole land,
from the Cadiz Lines to Granada and Malaga, he must have evacuated his
viceroyalty, and have retreated in haste either on La Mancha or on
Valencia.

  [297] The orders to Hill issued by Wellington on April 4 and 5
  (_Dispatches_, ix. p. 30) contemplate two possibilities: (1)
  Soult is marching with his whole force on Villafranca, and Foy is
  remaining far away: in this case Hill is to move _en masse_ on
  Albuera. This is the case that actually occurred; (2) if Foy is
  moving toward the Upper Guadiana, and Soult is showing signs of
  extending to join him, Howard’s British and Ashworth’s Portuguese
  brigades and Campbell’s Portuguese horse will stay at Merida as
  long as is prudent, in order to prevent the junction, and will
  break the bridge at the last moment and then follow Hill.

  Wellington, when he wrote his first orders of the 4th to
  Hill, was intending to storm Badajoz on the 5th, and knew, by
  calculating distances, that Soult could not be in front of
  Albuera till the 7th. He ultimately chanced another day of
  bombardment, running the time limit rather fine. But there was no
  real risk with Graham and Hill at Albuera: Soult could not have
  forced them.

It is most improbable, however, that Soult would really have ventured
to attack the Albuera position[298], in spite of the confident
language of his ex-post-facto dispatches. His whole plan of operations
depended on his being joined by the Army of Portugal, in accordance
with Marmont’s promise of February 22nd. And he was well aware, by a
letter sent by Foy to Drouet on March 31st, and received on April 6th,
that he could expect no help from the North for many weeks, if any
came at all. That Badajoz was never relieved was due, not to Soult’s
delay in concentrating (though this was no doubt unwise), nor to his
over-confidence in Phillipon’s power of resistance, which was (as it
turned out) misplaced. He wrote to Berthier that ‘the garrison wanted
for nothing--it had still food for two months, and was abundantly
provided with munitions: its total strength was 5,000 men: it had
victoriously repulsed three assaults: the men were convinced that,
however great a hostile force presented itself before the breaches,
it would never carry them: Phillipon had been informed on March 28th
that I was marching to his help: the troops were in enthusiastic
spirits, though they had already lost 500 men in successful sorties: my
advanced guard was at only one long day’s march from the place, when it
succumbs!’ It was indeed an _évènement funeste_!

  [298] He says in his letter to Berthier of April 8 that he had
  intended (but for the fall of Badajoz) to move by his right that
  morning, to the lower course of the Guadajira river--which would
  have brought on an action near Talavera Real, lower down the
  stream of the Albuera than the battle-spot of May 1811.

But Soult’s late arrival and miscalculation of the time that the
siege would take, were neither of them the causes of the fall of
Badajoz. It would have fallen none the less if he had arrived on the
Albuera upon April 2nd. The fate of the place was really settled
by Napoleon’s dispatches to Marmont, with which we dealt at great
length in an earlier chapter[299]. The orders of February 11 and
February 21 (received by the Duke of Ragusa on February 26 and March
2 respectively) forbade him to worry about Badajoz, ‘a very strong
fortress supported by an army of 80,000 men,’ and told him to withdraw
to Salamanca two of the three divisions which he was keeping in the
valley of the Tagus, and to reply to any movement of Wellington into
Estremadura by invading Northern Portugal. The plan which Soult and
Marmont had concerted for a joint relief of Badajoz was expressly
forbidden by their master, on his erroneous hypothesis that a thrust at
Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida must bring Wellington home again. Marmont’s
promise of co-operation, sent off on February 22nd to Seville, was
rendered impossible--through no fault of his--by the imperial dispatch
received four days later, which expressly forbade him to stand by it.
‘The English will only go southward if you, by your ill-devised scheme,
keep two or three divisions detached on the Tagus: that reassures them,
and tells them that you have no offensive projects against them.’ So
Marmont, protesting and prophesying future disaster, was compelled to
withdraw two divisions from the central position on the Tagus, and to
leave there only Foy’s 5,000 men--a negligible quantity in the problem.
Nor was this all--he was not even allowed to send them back, since the
whole Army of Portugal was ordered to march into the Beira.

  [299] See chapter ii above, pp. 54, 55.

Soult, therefore, was justified in his wrath when he wrote to Marmont
that he had been given a promise and that it had been broken, ‘if there
had been the least attempt to concert operations between the armies of
Portugal and the South, the English army would have been destroyed, and
Badajoz would still be in the power of the Emperor. I deplore bitterly
the fact that you have not been able to come to an arrangement with me
on the subject.’ But the wrath should have been directed against the
Emperor, not against his lieutenant, who had so unwillingly been forced
to break his promise. The only censure, perhaps, that can be laid upon
Marmont is that he should have made it more clear to Soult that, by
the new directions from Paris, he was rendered unable to redeem his
pledge. Soult was not, however, without warnings that something of the
kind might happen: Berthier had written to him on February 11th, and
the letter must have arrived by the middle of March, that the Emperor
was displeased to find him appealing for troops of the Army of Portugal
to be moved to Truxillo, and that he ought to be more dependent on his
own strength[300]. It would have been better if the Emperor’s trusty
scribe had explained to Soult that Marmont was expressly forbidden, in
a dispatch written that same day, to keep more than one division on the
Tagus, or to worry himself about the danger of Badajoz.

  [300] Berthier to Soult, Feb. 11. The same date as the fatal
  dispatch sent to Marmont, who was given a copy of that to Soult
  as an enclosure.

Marmont’s original plan for joining Soult via Almaraz might have
failed--he himself confesses it in one of his replies to Berthier. But
it was the only scheme which presented any prospect of success. By
making it impossible Napoleon rendered the fall of Badajoz certain. For
it is no defence whatever to point out that his dispatch of March 12th,
which reached Salamanca on March 27, finally gave Marmont the option
of going southward. By that time it was too late to try the move:--if
the Duke of Ragusa had marched for Almaraz and Truxillo next morning,
he would still have been many days too late to join Soult before April
6th, the date on which Badajoz fell.

Summing up the whole operation, we must conclude that Wellington’s
plan, which depended for its efficacy on the slowness with which
the French always received information, and the difficulty which
they always experienced in concentrating and feeding large bodies of
troops in winter or early spring, was bound to be successful, unless
an improbable conjunction of chances had occurred. If Marmont and
Soult had both taken the alarm at the earliest possible moment, and
had each marched with the strongest possible field army, Soult with
the 25,000 men that he actually collected, Marmont with the three
divisions that lay on the Tagus on March 1st, and three more from
Castile[301], they might have met east of Merida somewhere about the
last days of March. In that case their united strength would have been
from 50,000 to 55,000 men: Wellington had as many, so that he would
not have been bound down to the mere defensive policy that he took
up on the Caya in June-July 1811, when his numbers were decidedly
less than now. But the chance that both Marmont and Soult would do
the right thing in the shortest possible time was unlikely. They
would have had terrible difficulties from the torrential rains that
prevailed in the last ten days of March, and the consequent badness of
the roads. Marmont’s (if not Soult’s) food-problem would have been a
hard one, as he himself shows in several of his letters. Soult got his
first definite alarm on March 11th: Marmont could hardly move till
he had learnt that Wellington had started for Estremadura in person:
till this was certain, he could not be sure that the main body of the
Anglo-Portuguese army was not still behind the Agueda. Wellington only
left Freneda on March 5th, and Marmont did not know of his departure
till some days later. If the two marshals had each issued prompt
concentration orders on March 11, it still remains very doubtful if
they would have met in time to foil Wellington’s object. As a matter of
fact Soult (as we have seen) delayed for nine days before he determined
to concentrate his field-force and march on Badajoz, and this lateness
would have wrecked the combination, even if Marmont had been more ready
than his colleague.

  [301] More probably he would have brought only _two_ divisions
  from north of the mountains, as he had to leave Bonnet to look
  after the Asturians, and Souham’s single division would hardly
  have sufficed to contain the Galicians, the Portuguese, and the
  Guerrilleros.

Still there was some chance that the armies might have joined, if
Napoleon had not intervened with his misguided refusal to allow Marmont
to keep three divisions in the valley of the Tagus or to ‘worry about
affairs that did not concern him.’ Wellington could not know of these
orders: hence came his anxieties, and his determination to hurry the
siege of Badajoz to a conclusion at the earliest possible date. He was
never--as it turned out--in serious danger, but he could not possibly
be aware of the fact that Marmont was fettered by his instructions. It
was only the gradual accumulation of reports proving that the Army of
Portugal was moving against Ciudad Rodrigo, and not on Almaraz, that
finally gave him comparative ease of mind with regard to the situation.
As to Soult, he somewhat over-estimated his force, taking it at 30,000
or even 35,000 men rather than the real 25,000: this was, no doubt,
the reason why he resolved to fight with his ‘covering army’ ranged on
the Albuera position, and not farther forward. If he had known that
on April 1 Soult had only 13,000 men at Monasterio, and was still
separated from Drouet, he might possibly have been more enterprising.

No signs of Marmont’s arrival being visible, Wellington could afford
to contemplate with great equanimity Soult’s position at Villafranca
on April 7th. If the Marshal moved forward he would be beaten--but it
was almost certain that he would move back at once, for, as it will
be remembered, precautions had been taken to give him an alarming
distraction in his rear, by means of the operations of Penne Villemur
and Ballasteros[302]. This combination worked with perfect success,
far more accurately than Blake’s similar raid on Seville had done in
June 1811. Ballasteros, it is true, did much less than was in his
power. He started from his refuge under the guns of Gibraltar, passed
down from the Ronda mountains, and reached Utrera, in the plain of the
Guadalquivir less than twenty miles from Seville, on April 4. But he
then swerved away, having done more to alarm than to hurt the French,
though he had a force of 10,000 infantry and 800 horse[303], sufficient
to have put Seville in serious peril. But Penne Villemur and Morillo,
though they had not half the numbers of Ballasteros, accomplished all
that Wellington required: having slipped into the Condado de Niebla
almost unobserved, they pushed rapidly eastward, and occupied San Lucar
la Mayor, only twelve miles from Seville, on April 4, the same day
that Ballasteros appeared at Utrera. Their cavalry pushed up so boldly
toward the suburbs that they had to be driven off by cannon-shot from
the _tête-de-pont_ at the bridge of Triana. General Rignoux, governor
of Seville, had a very motley and insufficient garrison, as Wellington
had calculated when he sent Penne Villemur forth. The only organized
units were a battalion of ‘Swiss’ Juramentados--really adventurers
of all nations--and a regiment of Spanish horse, making 1,500 men
altogether: the rest consisted of convalescents and weakly men
belonging to the regiments in the Cadiz Lines, and of 600 dismounted
dragoons. These made up some 2,000 men more, but many were not fit to
bear arms. In addition there were some companies of the recently raised
‘National Guards.’ The enormous size of Seville, and the weakness
of its old wall, compelled Rignoux to concentrate his force in the
fortified Cartuja convent, leaving only small posts at the gates and
the bridge. He sent at once, as Wellington had hoped, pressing appeals
to Soult, saying that he was beset by 14,000 men, and that the citizens
would probably rise and let in the enemy.

  [302] See above, p. 229.

  [303] Infantry divisions of Cruz Murgeon (5,400 men) and the
  Prince of Anglona (4,300 men) and five squadrons of horse,
  besides irregulars.

On the 6th Ballasteros received false news that Conroux was marching
against him with the troops from the Cadiz Lines, and drew back into
the mountains. It is said that he was wilfully deceived by persons in
the French interest; at any rate he must have been badly served by his
cavalry and intelligence officers, who ought to have been able to tell
him that there was no foundation for the report. Penne and Morillo,
however, though disappointed at failing to meet their colleague’s army,
made a great parade of their small force under the walls of Seville,
and skirmished with the French at the bridge-head of Triana, and under
the walls of the Cartuja, so boldly that Rignoux expected a serious
attack. They could only have accomplished something more profitable if
the people of Seville had risen, but no disturbance took place. After
remaining in front of the place all the 7th and 8th of April, they
disappeared on the 9th, having received news of the fall of Badajoz,
and drawn the correct deduction that Soult would turn back to hunt them
when freed from his other task. Wellington, indeed, had written to give
them warning to that effect on the very morning that they retired[304]:
but they anticipated the danger, and were safely behind the Rio Tinto
when Soult turned up in hot haste at Seville on the 11th, after four
days of exhausting forced marches.

  [304] Wellington to Col. Austin from Badajoz, April 9.

The Marshal had left the two divisions of Drouet and Daricau with
Perreymond’s cavalry in Estremadura, to act as an observing force,
and had marched with his remaining 13,000 men to save Seville, which
owing to Ballasteros’s timidity had never been in any real danger. But
the Spanish diversion had nevertheless had precisely the effect that
Wellington had expected and desired. During Soult’s short absence of
twelve days great part of the open country of Andalusia had fallen out
of his control, the communications with La Mancha and King Joseph had
been cut off, and the guerrilleros had blockaded all the smaller French
posts. The hold of the invaders upon the kingdom was never so secure as
it had been before the fall of Badajoz.

Ballasteros, after his fiasco in front of Seville, made two fruitless
attempts against isolated French garrisons. He failed at the Castle
of Zahara on April 11th. One of his columns in an assault on Osuna
two days later got into the town and killed or captured 60 of the
defenders, but failed to take the citadel, where the remainder defended
themselves till Pierre Soult was reported to be at hand, and the
Spaniards withdrew[305]. He ended his campaign of raids, however, with
a more successful stroke. Hearing that the brigadier Rey, with three
battalions and some dragoons, was marching from Malaga to relieve
the garrison of Ronda, he fell upon him at Alhaurin on the 14th with
his main body, encompassed him with fourfold strength, and drove him
in rout back to Malaga, capturing his two guns and inflicting more
than 200 casualties upon him[306]. Ballasteros then hoped to seize
on Malaga, where the French were much alarmed, and prepared to shut
themselves up in the citadel of Gibalfaro. But the news that Pierre
Soult and Conroux were approaching with a strong column caused the
Spaniards to retire to the mountains above Gibraltar [April 19th]. Thus
the operations in Andalusia, which had opened with Soult’s march to
Badajoz, came to an end, with no ruinous disaster to the French, but
with a diminution of their prestige, and a distinct weakening of their
hold on the kingdom. In the Condado de Niebla Soult made no attempt
to reoccupy lost ground, and east of Granada his line of posts had
recoiled considerably on the Murcian side: Baza and Ubeda had been
abandoned for good. It was but a vain boast when the Marshal wrote to
Berthier that, after he had set all things to rights in the central
parts of Andalusia, he intended to organize a general concentration to
crush Ballasteros, and that his next task would be to lay siege for a
second time to Tarifa, ‘the loss of which place would be more injurious
to the English and the Insurgents than that of Alicante, or even that
of Badajoz--against which last-named fortress I ought to make no
attack till I shall have finished matters on the Tarifa side, and so
have nothing to fear on my left flank[307].’

  [305] Napier, I know not on what authority, says that Osuna was
  only defended by ‘Juramentados’ who made a gallant resistance
  against their own countrymen. But Soult, in a letter to Berthier
  dated April 21 from Seville, says that Osuna was held by some
  companies of the 43rd Line and a detachment of the 21st Dragoons.
  He cannot be wrong. Moreover, the 43rd shows losses at Osuna,
  April 13, in Martinien’s tables.

  [306] Martinien’s tables show three officers killed and nine
  wounded at ‘Alora near Malaga’ on this date, in the 43rd, 58th
  Line, and 21st Dragoons. Soult’s dispatch makes out that only
  Rey’s advanced guard under Maransin was cut up, and that the
  main body defeated the Spaniards. If so, why did they retreat on
  Malaga?

  [307] Soult to Berthier from Seville, April 17, 1812.

To complete the survey of the fortunes of the Army of the South in
April, it only remains that we should mention the doings of Drouet,
now left once more with his two old divisions to form the ‘corps of
observation’ opposite the Anglo-Portuguese. Soult during his retreat
had dropped his lieutenant at Llerena, with orders to give back on
Seville without fighting any serious action, if the enemy should
pursue him in force, but if he were left alone to hold his ground,
push his cavalry forward, and keep a strong detachment as near the
Upper Guadiana as possible. For only by placing troops at Campanario,
Medellin, and (if possible) Merida, could communication be kept up via
Truxillo and Almaraz with the Army of Portugal.

As it turned out, Drouet was not to be permitted to occupy such a
forward position as Soult would have liked. He was closely followed
by Stapleton Cotton, with Le Marchant’s and Slade’s heavy and
Ponsonby’s[308] light cavalry brigades, who brought his rearguard
to action at Villagarcia outside Llerena on April 11th. This was
a considerable fight. Drouet’s horse was in position to cover the
retirement of his infantry, with Lallemand’s dragoons in first line,
and Perreymond’s hussars and chasseurs in support. Lallemand evidently
thought that he had only Ponsonby’s brigade in front of him, as Le
Marchant’s was coming up by a side-road covered by hills, and Slade’s
was far out of sight to the rear. Accordingly he accepted battle on an
equal front, each side having three regiments in line. But, just as the
charge was delivered, the 5th Dragoon Guards, Le Marchant’s leading
regiment, came on the ground from the right, and, rapidly deploying,
took the French line in flank and completely rolled it up[309]. The
enemy went to the rear in confusion, and the pursuit was continued
till, half-way between Villagarcia and Llerena, the French rallied on
their reserve (2nd Hussars) behind a broad ditch. Cotton, who had not
let his men get out of hand, re-formed Anson’s brigade and delivered
a second successful charge, which drove the French in upon Drouet’s
infantry, which was in order of battle to the left of Llerena town. It
was impossible to do more, as three cavalry brigades could not attack
12,000 men of all arms in a good position. But a few hours later the
whole French corps was seen in retreat eastward: it retired to Berlanga
and Azuaga on the watershed of the Sierra Morena, completely abandoning
Estremadura.

  [308] This officer was in command of the brigade of Anson, then
  absent on leave, which at this time consisted of the 12th, 14th,
  and 16th Light Dragoons.

  [309] There is a good account of all this in the admirable diary
  of Tomlinson of the 16th, which I so often have had to cite. He
  has an interesting note that the 16th in their charge found a
  stone wall in their way, and that the whole regiment took it in
  their stride, and continued their advance in perfect order (p.
  150).

The French (outnumbered, if Slade’s brigade be counted, but it was far
to the rear and never put in line) lost 53 killed and wounded and 4
officers and 132 rank and file taken prisoners. Cotton’s casualties
were 14 killed and 2 officers and 35 men wounded: he insisted that
his success would have been much greater if Ponsonby had held back a
little longer, till the whole of Le Marchant’s squadrons came on the
field--Lallemand would then have been cut off from Llerena and his line
of retreat, and the greater part of his brigade ought to have been
captured, though the light cavalry in the second line might have got
off[310]. However, the affair was very creditable to all concerned.

  [310] Soult only acknowledges a loss of three officers and
  about 110 men in his dispatch of April 21 to Berthier, adding
  the ridiculous statement that the British had 100 killed and
  many more wounded, and that the 5th Dragoon Guards had been
  practically destroyed. Martinien’s tables show four French
  officers wounded and one killed, but (of course) take no account
  of unwounded prisoners. The British lost two missing, men who had
  ridden ahead in the pursuit into the French infantry.

Hill’s infantry did not follow the retreating French, and had halted
about Almendralejo and Villafranca, only the cavalry having gone on in
pursuit to Llerena. The rest of the Anglo-Portuguese army was already
in movement for the North, as Wellington had given up the idea, which
had somewhat tempted him at first, of pursuing Soult to Seville and
trying to upset the whole fabric of French power in Andalusia. Of this
more in its due place. Suffice it to say here that he fell back on his
old partition of forces, leaving Hill in Estremadura as his ‘corps of
observation’, with precisely the same force that he had been given in
1811, save that one British cavalry brigade (that of Slade) was added.
The rest of the corps consisted of the 2nd Division, Hamilton’s two
Portuguese brigades, Long’s British and John Campbell’s Portuguese
horse[311]. The whole amounted to about 14,000 men, sufficient not
only to hold Drouet in check, but also to keep an eye upon the French
troops in the valley of the Tagus, against whom Wellington was now
meditating a raid of the sort that he had already sketched out in his
correspondence with Hill in February.

  [311] This was the brigade formerly under Barbaçena, 4th and 10th
  regiments.

So much for the Army of Andalusia and its fortunes in April 1812. We
must now turn to those of Marmont and the Army of Portugal during the
same critical weeks.

The Duke of Ragusa, as it will be remembered, had been caught at
Salamanca, on March 27th, by Napoleon’s dispatch giving him an
over-late option of detaching troops to the relief of Badajoz. But
being already committed to the invasion of Portugal prescribed by
the Emperor’s earlier letters, and having his field-force and his
magazines disposed for that project, he had resolved to proceed with
it, though he had no great belief in the results that would follow
from his taking the offensive[312]. As he informed his master, there
was nothing at which he could strike effectively. ‘It would seem that
His Majesty thinks that Lord Wellington has magazines close behind the
frontier of northern Portugal. Not so. These magazines are at Abrantes,
or in Estremadura. His hospitals are at Lisbon, Castello Branco, and
Abrantes. There is nothing of any importance to him on the Coa.’ And
how was Almeida or Ciudad Rodrigo to be assailed in such a way as to
cause Wellington any disquietude, when the Army of Portugal had not a
single heavy gun left? ‘General Dorsenne had the happy idea of leaving
in Rodrigo, a fortress of inferior character on the front of our line,
the whole siege-train prepared for this army at great expense, so that
new guns of large calibre must actually be brought up from France.’

  [312] Mes dispositions étant faites pour une marche de quinze
  jours sur l’Agueda, déjà commencée, je continue ce mouvement,
  sans cependant (je le répète) avoir une très grande confiance
  dans les résultats qu’il doit donner.’ Marmont to Berthier, March
  27.

Marmont’s striking force was not so large as he would have wished.
Bonnet was, by the Emperor’s orders, beginning his advance for the
reoccupation of the Asturias. Foy was in the valley of the Tagus.
Souham had to be left on the Esla, to observe the Army of Galicia.
This left five divisions for active operations: but the Marshal came
to the conclusion that he must split up one more (Ferey’s) to hold
Valladolid, Salamanca, Zamora, Toro, Avila, Benavente, and other
places, which in an elaborate calculation sent to Berthier he showed
to require 4,910 men for their garrisons. He therefore marched with
four infantry divisions only [Clausel, Maucune, Sarrut, Brennier]
and 1,500 light cavalry, about 25,000 men in all: his division of
dragoons was left behind in Leon, to keep open communication between
his various garrisons. A rather illusory help was sought by sending to
Foy, who then lay at Almaraz, orders to the effect that he might push
a detachment to Plasencia, and give out that he was about to join the
main army by the pass of Perales. But Foy’s real concern, as he was
told, was to keep up communication with the Army of the South, and to
give any help that was possible on the side of Truxillo, if (by some
improbable chance) the Army of the Centre should be able to lend him
the aid of any appreciable number of battalions.

On the 30th the French army appeared in front of Rodrigo, and Carlos
de España, leaving 3,000 men as garrison there, under General Vives,
retired with the small remainder of his division towards the Portuguese
frontier. He was pursued and molested by the enemy’s cavalry, not
having been covered or assisted, as Wellington had directed, by Victor
Alten’s regiment of German Hussars. That officer, neglecting his
orders in the most flagrant fashion, did not retire slowly and in a
fighting posture, when the French drove in his line of vedettes in
front of Rodrigo, but collected his regiment and rode hard for Castello
Branco, without concerning himself in the least as to the safety of the
Spanish and Portuguese forces in his neighbourhood, or the procuring of
intelligence as to the strength and the purpose of the French army. His
carelessness or shirking of responsibility, which was to be displayed
in still worse form as the campaign went on, drew on him such a sharp
and bitter rebuke from Wellington that it is a wonder that he was not
sent home forthwith[313].

  [313] Wellington to V. Alten, April 18, ‘You were desired “not to
  be in a hurry,” to give them (España and General Baccelar) your
  countenance so far as might be in your power, and to tell them
  that you were left in the front for a particular object.... I
  beg you to observe that if you had assembled the 1st Hussars at
  Pastores on March 30 and April 1, the Agueda being then scarcely
  fordable for cavalry, you could have kept open the communications
  between Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo.... You wrote on the seventh
  from Castello Branco that you knew nothing about the enemy! and
  instead of receiving from you (as I had expected) a daily account
  of their operations, you knew nothing, and, from the way in which
  you made your march, all those were driven off the road who might
  have given me intelligence, and were destined to keep up the
  communication between me and Carlos de España.’

Marmont looked at Rodrigo, but refused to attempt anything against
it, though he was informed that the garrison was undisciplined and
dispirited. Without siege artillery he held that it was useless
to attack the place. After sending in a formal summons to Vives
(who gave the proper negative answer in round terms), and throwing
into the streets a few shells from the howitzers attached to his
field-batteries, he told off Brennier’s division to blockade Rodrigo,
as also to guard a flying bridge which he cast across the Agueda at La
Caridad, a few miles up-stream.

His next move was to send forward Clausel with two divisions to
investigate the state of Almeida. He had heard that its walls were
unfinished, and thought that there might be some chance of executing a
_coup-de-main_ against it. The general, however, came back next day,
reporting that he thought the scheme impossible. He had apparently been
deterred from pressing in upon the place both by the defiant attitude
of the governor, Le Mesurier, whose outposts skirmished outside the
walls for some time before allowing themselves to be driven in, and
still more by the sight of a considerable force of Portuguese troops
encamped close to the town on the other side of the Coa. This was
Trant’s militia, the first detachment that had got to the front of the
various bodies of troops which Wellington had told off for the defence
of the Beira. They had taken up the strong position behind the bridge
of the Coa, which Craufurd had so obstinately defended against Ney in
July 1810.

On the alarm being given on March 29th that Marmont was marching
against that province, and not against Galicia or the Tras-os-Montes,
Wellington’s orders suiting that contingency were carried out with more
or less accuracy. Silveira, with the Tras-os-Montes militia and his
small body of regular cavalry, began to move on Lamego, where Baccelar,
the chief commander in the North, had concentrated the regiments from
the Oporto region and the Beira Alta, even before Marmont had left
Salamanca. General Abadia had been requested to press forward against
the French on the Esla, so as to threaten the flank and rear of the
invading army. He did not accomplish much, being convinced that the
forces left opposite him were too strong to be lightly meddled with.
But he directed a raid to be made from the Western Asturias towards
the city of Leon, and the division at Puebla de Senabria threatened
Benavente. Both movements were executed too late to be of any
importance in affecting the course of the campaign.

Baccelar had been ordered to avoid committing himself to a general
action with any large body of the enemy, but to show such a mass of
troops concentrated that Marmont would have to keep his main body
together, and to act cautiously on the offensive. His primary duty was
to cover, if possible, the large magazines at São João de Pesqueira and
Lamego on the Douro, and the smaller ones at Villa da Ponte, Pinhel,
and Celorico. To these Wellington attached much importance, as they
were the intermediate dépôts from which his army drew its sustenance
when it was on the northern frontier, and he knew that he would be
requiring them again ere many weeks had passed. As long as Marmont
remained near Almeida, it was necessary to keep a force as far forward
as possible, behind the very defensible line of the Coa, and Trant
was advanced for this purpose, though he was directed not to commit
himself. His presence so close to Almeida was very valuable, as he
would have to be driven off before the Marshal formally invested the
place. Le Mesurier, the governor, was not at all comfortable as to
his position: though he had a proportion of British artillery left
with him, the whole of the infantry of the garrison consisted of Beira
militia, who had no experience under arms. On taking over charge of the
place, on March 18, the governor had complained that though the walls
were in a sufficient state of repair, and there were plenty of guns
forthcoming, yet few or none of them were mounted ready for service,
the powder magazines were insufficiently sheltered, and many details
of fortification (palisades, platforms, &c.) had to be completed in a
hurry[314]. However, the place looked so sound for defence when Clausel
reconnoitred it, that--as we have seen--he made no attempt to invest
it, and promptly withdrew, reporting to his chief that Almeida was not
to be taken by a _coup-de-main_.

  [314] For complaints by Le Mesurier as to the defects of the
  place when he took over charge of it on March 18, see his letter
  of the 28th of the same month, to Wellington, in the Appendix to
  Napier, iv. pp. 450-1.

Marmont then made the move which Wellington had most desired, and
which in his dispatch to Baccelar he had specified as the happiest
thing that could come about. Instead of sitting down before Almeida or
Ciudad Rodrigo, or making a push against the dépôts on the Douro, he
turned southward towards the Lower Beira, and (leaving Brennier behind
to guard communications) marched with three divisions to Sabugal via
Fuente Guinaldo. This policy could have no great results--the Marshal
might ravage the country-side, but such a movement with such a force
could not possibly alarm Wellington overmuch, or draw him away from
the siege of Badajoz if he were determined to persevere in it. There
was nothing of importance to him in central Beira--only minor dépôts
at Celorico and Castello Branco, much less valuable than the larger
ones at Lamego and São João de Pesqueira on the Douro. ‘He can do no
more,’ as an acute observer on the Portuguese staff remarked, ‘than
drive off some cattle, burn some cottages, and ruin a few wretched
peasants[315].’ For the country about the sources of the Zezere and
round Castello Branco is one of the most thinly peopled districts of
Portugal.

  [315] The observation comes from D’Urban’s unpublished Journal.

To meet Marmont’s southern move Baccelar brought up Trant’s and
Wilson’s militia by a parallel march to Guarda, while Le Cor, with
the two regiments of the Beira Baixa, held on at Castello Branco till
he should be evicted from it. To Wellington’s intense disgust[316],
Victor Alten, whose orders directed him to fall back no farther than
that town, continued his precipitate retreat with the German Hussars
to the bridge of Villa Velha on the Tagus, and began to take measures
to destroy that all-important link of communications between north and
south. Fortunately he was stopped before he had done the damage. The
bridge was only taken over to the south bank, not committed to the
flames.

  [316] Wellington to Alten, _Dispatches_, ix. p. 69. ‘You were
  positively ordered by your instructions to go to Castello Branco
  and no farther. The reason for this instruction was obvious.
  First the militia of Lower Beira would be there in the case
  supposed [that of Marmont’s making an invasion south of the
  Douro], and they _were_ there. Secondly, as soon as I should
  be informed of the enemy’s approach to the Coa, it would be
  necessary for me to assemble a force at Castello Branco--of
  which the foundation would be the 1st Hussars K.G.L. Yet
  notwithstanding my orders you marched from Castello Branco on
  the 8th, and crossed the Tagus on the 9th. Till I received your
  letter I did not conceive it possible that you could so far
  disregard your instructions.’

Halting at Sabugal, on April 8th, Marmont sent out flying columns,
which ravaged the country-side as far as Penamacor, Fundão, and
Covilhão, and dispatched Clausel with a whole division against Castello
Branco, the one important place in the whole region. Le Cor evacuated
it on April 12th, after burning such of the magazines as could not be
removed in haste: and Clausel--who occupied it for two days--did not
therefore get possession of the stores of food which his chief had
hoped to find there. In revenge the town and the small proportion of
its inhabitants who did not take to the hills were badly maltreated:
many buildings, including the bishop’s palace, were burnt.

Hearing that Marmont had dispersed the larger portion of his army with
flying columns, and was lying at Sabugal, on the 12th, with only a few
thousand men, Trant conceived the rash idea that it would be possible
to surprise him, at his head-quarters, by a night march of his own
and Wilson’s combined divisions from Guarda. The distance was about
twenty miles over mountain roads, and the scheme must have led to
disaster, for--contrary to the information which the militia generals
had gathered--the Marshal’s concentrated main body was still stronger
than their own, despite of all his detachments[317]. ‘You could not
have succeeded in your attempt, and you would have lost your division
and that of General Wilson[318],’ wrote Wellington to Trant, when
the scheme and its failure were reported to him a week later. It was
fortunately never tried, owing to Baccelar’s having made objections to
his subordinate’s hare-brained plan.

  [317] I cannot resist quoting here, as an example of Trant’s
  over-daring and reckless temperament, his letter to Wilson,
  urging him to co-operate in the raid, which was lent me by
  Wilson’s representative of to-day:--

    GUARDA, 11th _April_, 1812.

  MY DEAR WILSON,--I arrived last night. Hasten up your division:
  there never was a finer opportunity of destroying a French corps,
  in other words and in my opinion, their 2nd Division: but I have
  no certainty of what force is the enemy. At any rate send me
  your squadron of cavalry, or even _twenty_ dragoons. I am very
  ill-treated by Baccelar in regard to cavalry. Push on yourself
  personally. You know how happy I shall be in having you once more
  as the partner of my operations. Order up everything you can from
  Celorico to eat: here there is _nothing_.--Yrs. N. T.

  The French 2nd Division was Clausel’s, as it chanced, the one
  that was precisely _not_ at Sabugal, but executing the raid on
  Castello Branco.

  [318] Wellington to Trant, _Dispatches_, ix. p. 73.

But the best comment on the enterprise is that on the very night
(April 13-14) which Trant had fixed for his march, he was himself
surprised by Marmont, so bad had been his arrangements for watching the
country-side. The Marshal had learnt that there was an accumulation
of militia at Guarda threatening his flank, and resolved to give it
a lesson. He started with a brigade each from Sarrut’s and Maucune’s
divisions and five squadrons of light cavalry--about 7,000 men--and
was, at dawn, on the 14th, at the foot of the hill of Guarda, where
he had the good luck to cut off all Trant’s outposts without their
firing a shot--so badly did the militia keep their look-out. ‘Had he
only dashed headlong into the town he might have captured Wilson’s and
my divisions without losing probably a single man,’ wrote Trant. But
the ascent into Guarda was long and steep, and Marmont, who had only
cavalry up, did not guess how careless were his adversaries. He took
proper military precautions and waited for his infantry: meanwhile the
Portuguese were roused, almost by chance as it seems. ‘My distrust of
the militia with regard to the execution of precautions,’ continues
Trant, ‘had induced me at all times to have a drummer at my bedroom
door, in readiness to beat to arms. This was most fortunately the case
on the night of April 13, 1812, for the first intimation that I had of
the enemy being near at hand was given me by my servant, on bringing me
my coffee at daybreak on the 14th. He said that there was such a report
in the street, and that the soldiers were assembling at the alarm
rendezvous. I instantly beat to arms, and the beat being as instantly
taken up by every drummer in the place, Marmont, who was at that very
moment with his cavalry at the entrance of the town, held back. I was
myself the first man out of the town, and he was not then 400 yards
away[319].’

  [319] Narrative of Trant in Napier’s Appendix to vol. iv. p. 451.

The Marshal, in his account of the affair, says that the Portuguese
formed up on the heights by the town, apparently ready to fight, but
drew off rapidly so soon as he had prepared for a regular attack on
the position. Wise not quite in time, the two militia generals sent
their men at a trot down the steep road at the back of the place, with
the single troop of regular dragoons that they possessed bringing
up the rear. It had now begun to rain in torrents, and Trant and
Wilson having obtained two or three miles start, and being able to
see no distance owing to the downpour, thought that they had got
off safe. This was not the case: Marmont realized that his infantry
could not catch them, but seeing their hurry and disorder ordered his
cavalry--his own escort-squadron and the 13th Chasseurs--to pursue
and charge the rearguard of the retreating column. They overtook it
by the bridge of Faya, three miles outside Guarda, where the road to
Celorico descends on a steep slope to cross the river. The leading
French squadron scattered the forty dragoons at the tail of Trant’s
division, and rode on, mixed with them, against the rearguard battalion
(that of Oporto). The militiamen, startled and caught utterly by
surprise, tried to form across the road and to open fire: but the rain
had damped their cartridges, and hardly a musket gave fire. Thereupon
the battalion went to pieces, the men nearest the French throwing
down their guns and asking for quarter, while those behind scattered
uphill or downhill from the road, seeking safety on the steep slopes.
The charge swept downhill on to the battalion of Aveiro, and the other
successive units of the Oporto brigade, which broke up in confusion.
Five of their six colours were taken, and 1,500 prisoners were cut off,
while some tumbled into the Mondego and were drowned, by losing their
footing on the steep hillside. Hardly a Frenchman fell, and not very
many Portuguese, for the _chasseurs_, finding that they had to deal
with helpless militiamen who made no resistance, were sparing with
the sabre[320]. The greater part of the prisoners were allowed, in
contempt, to make off, and only a few hundred and the five flags were
brought back to Marmont at Guarda. The pursuit did not penetrate so
far as Wilson’s division, which got across the Mondego while Trant’s
was being routed, and formed up behind the narrow bridge, where the
_chasseurs_, being a trifling force of 400 men, did not think fit to
attack them. The French infantry had marched over twenty miles already
that day, and were dead beat: Marmont did not send them down from
Guarda to pursue, in spite of the brilliant success of his cavalry.

  [320] There is an account of this rout from the French side in
  the _Mémoires_ of Parquin, of the 13th Chasseurs, an officer
  mentioned in Marmont’s dispatch as having taken one of the flags.
  Parquin calls it that of the regiment of _Eurillas_. There was
  no such corps: those which lost standards were Aveiro, Oliveira,
  and Penafiel. A lengthy account may be found also in Beresford’s
  _Ordens do Dia_ for May 7, where blame and praise are carefully
  distributed, and the curious order is made that the disgraced
  regiments are to leave their surviving flags at home, till they
  have washed out the stain on their honour by good service in the
  field.

The day after the ‘Rout of Guarda’ Marmont pushed an advanced guard
to Lagiosa, half-way to Celorico, where Trant and Wilson had taken
refuge, with their ranks short of some 2,000 men scattered in the
hills. Thereupon the militia generals set fire to the stores, and
evacuated Celorico, falling back into the hills towards Trancoso. But
finding that the French were not coming on, they halted; and when they
ascertained that the enemy was actually returning to Guarda, they came
back, extinguished the fires, and rescued great part of the magazines.
Marmont’s unexpected forbearance was caused by the fact that the news
of the fall of Badajoz reached him on the 15th, along with a report
from Clausel (who had just evacuated Castello Branco) that Wellington’s
army had already started northward, and that its advanced guard was
across the Tagus at Villa Velha.

This was startling, nay appalling, intelligence. Badajoz had been
reckoned good for a much longer resistance, and the news had come
so slowly--it had taken nine days to reach Marmont--that it was
possible that the British army was already in a position to cut off
his expeditionary force from its base on the Agueda. Wherefore Marmont
hastily evacuated Guarda, and was back at Sabugal by the 16th, where
Clausel and the other dispersed fractions of his army joined him. Here
he regarded himself as reasonably safe, but determined to retire behind
the Spanish frontier ere long, raising the blockade of Ciudad Rodrigo.
‘My troops,’ he wrote to Berthier on that day, ‘have used up the little
food to be gathered between the Tagus and the Zezere; and now that
the enemy is on the Tagus I cannot possibly remain on the Mondego, as
I should be leaving him on my line of communications. I shall fall
back to the right bank of the Agueda. If the enemy resolves to pursue
me thither I shall fight him. If not I shall fall back on Salamanca,
because of the absolute impossibility of feeding an army between the
Agueda and the Tormes.’

Marmont remained at Sabugal and its neighbourhood for nearly a week--by
the 22nd he had drawn back a few miles to Fuente Guinaldo--with about
20,000 men. His position was more dangerous than he knew; for on the
18th the heavy rains, which began on the day of the combat of Guarda,
broke his bridge over the Agueda at La Caridad, so that he was cut off
from Brennier and from Salamanca. He was under the impression that
Wellington had only brought up a couple of divisions against him, and
that these were still south of Castello Branco[321], whereas as a
matter of fact seven had marched; and on the day that he wrote this
incautious estimate Wellington’s headquarters were at Penamacor, the
Light and 3rd Divisions were closing in on Sabugal, the 4th and 5th
were a full march north of Castello Branco, and the 1st, 6th, and 7th
were at Losa, quite close to that city. Thirty-six hours more of delay
would have placed Marmont in the terrible position of finding himself
with a broken bridge behind him, and 40,000 enemies closing in upon his
front and flank.

  [321] Marmont to Berthier: Fuente Guinaldo, April 22. ‘Les
  rapports des prisonniers sont que trois divisions de l’armée
  anglaise reviennent sur le Coa. Mais cette nouvelle ayant été
  donnée avec affectation par les parlementaires, et n’ayant vu
  jamais autre chose que le seul 1er de Hussards Allemands, qui
  était précédemment sur cette rive, et point d’infanterie, ni rien
  qui annonce la présence d’un corps de troupes, je suis autorisé
  à croire que c’est un bruit qu’on a fait courir à dessein, et
  qu’il n’y a pas d’Anglais en présence. Je suis à peu près certain
  qu’il a parti de Portalègre deux divisions, qui se sont portées
  à Villa Velha: mais il me paraît évident qu’elles ne se sont
  beaucoup éloignées du Tage.’ The actual situation was 1st Hussars
  K.G.L. Quadraseyes in front of Sabugal: Light Division, Sabugal:
  3rd Division, Sortelha: 4th Division, Pedrogão, 5th Division,
  Alpedrinha; 1st, 6th, 7th Divisions, Losa: Pack’s Portuguese,
  Memoa. The map will show what a fearful situation Marmont would
  have been in had he halted for another day.

To explain the situation, Wellington’s movements after the capture
of Badajoz must now be detailed. It had been his hope, though not
his expectation, that Soult might have remained at Villafranca after
hearing of the disaster of the 6th April; in this case he had intended
to fall upon him with every available man, crush him by force of
numbers, and then follow up his routed army into Andalusia, where the
whole fabric of French occupation must have crumpled up. But Soult
wisely retreated at a sharp pace; and the idea of following him as far
as Seville, there to find him reinforced for a general action by all
the troops from the Cadiz Lines and Granada, was not so tempting as
that of bringing him to battle in Estremadura. On the day after the
fall of Badajoz Wellington formulated his intentions in a letter to
Lord Liverpool. ‘It would be very desirable that I should have it in
my power to strike a blow against Marshal Soult, before he could be
reinforced.... But it is not very probable that he will risk an action
in the province of Estremadura, which it would not be difficult for
him to avoid; and it is necessary for him that he should return to
Andalusia owing to the movements of General Ballasteros and the Conde
de Penne Villemur ... if he should retire into Andalusia I must return
to Castille[322].’

  [322] Wellington to Liverpool, April 7, _Dispatches_, ix. p. 43.

The reason given by Wellington for his resolve to turn north again was
that Carlos de España had informed him that Ciudad Rodrigo, though
otherwise tenable enough, had only provisions for twenty-three
days, partly from what Wellington called the general policy of
‘Mañana’[323]--of shiftless procrastination--partly from the definite
single fact that a very large convoy provided from the British
magazines on the Douro had been stopped at Almeida on March 30th. This,
in Wellington’s estimation, was the fault of Victor Alten, who, if he
had held the outposts beyond the Agueda for a day longer, might have
covered the entry of the convoy into Ciudad Rodrigo[324]. Marmont’s
operations on the Coa and the Agueda would have been quite negligible
from the strategic point of view but for this one fact. He might
ravage as far as Guarda or Castello Branco without doing any practical
harm, but it could not be permitted that he should starve Rodrigo into
surrender: even allowing for a firm resistance by the garrison, and a
judicious resort to lessened rations, the place would be in danger from
the third week of April onward. Wherefore, unless Marmont withdrew into
Spain by the middle of the month, he must be forced to do so, by the
transference of the main body of the Anglo-Portuguese Army to the North.

  [323] Wellington to Henry Wellesley, April 4, _Dispatches_, ix.
  p. 29.

  [324] Wellington to Alten, April 18, _Dispatches_, ix. p. 68,
  ‘I beg to observe that if you had assembled the 1st Hussars at
  Pastores on the 30th March and 1st April ... you would have kept
  open the communication between Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo, and
  the convoy would probably have got into the latter place.’

The Marshal, during the critical days following the fall of Badajoz,
showed no such intention. Indeed he advanced to Sabugal on the 8th,
seized Castello Branco on the 12th, and executed his raid on Guarda
upon the 13th-14th. Ignorant of the fall of Badajoz, he was naturally
extending the sphere of his operations, under the belief that no
serious force was in his front. While he was overrunning Beira Baixa,
Ciudad Rodrigo continued to be blockaded by Brennier, and its stores
were now running very low.

On April 11th[325] Wellington made up his mind that this state of
things must be brought to an end, and he determined that no mere
detachment should march, but a force sufficient to overwhelm Marmont
if he could be brought to action. The movement began with the march
of the 11th Light Dragoons and Pack’s and Bradford’s Portuguese to
Elvas on the afternoon of the 11th April, all being ordered to move
on Arronches and Portalegre. On the 12th a larger force started off
from the camps around Badajoz and on the Albuera position: the 3rd
and Light Divisions moved (following Pack and Bradford) on Portalegre
via Arronches, the 4th and 5th, making a shorter move, to Campo Mayor
on the same road, the 7th from Valverde to Elvas. The 1st and 6th
under Graham, bringing up the rear, went off on the 13th from Valverde
and Elvas northward. Orders were sent to Stapleton Cotton, then in
pursuit of Drouet in southern Estremadura, to come with Anson’s and Le
Marchant’s cavalry brigades to join the main army, leaving only Slade’s
and Long’s to Hill. Bock’s Heavy Dragoon brigade of the King’s German
Legion was also directed to take part in the general movement.

  [325] The date can be fixed from D’Urban’s Journal: ‘Marmont has
  blockaded Rodrigo, reconnoitred Almeida, and has now made an
  inroad as far as Fundão: all this obliges a movement toward him.
  April 11.’

Only Hill, with the troops that had served under him since the summer
of 1811, plus one new cavalry brigade, was left behind in Estremadura
to ‘contain’ Drouet. It was highly unlikely that Soult would be heard
of in that province, as he had his own troubles in Andalusia to keep
him employed. Indeed Wellington in his parting message to this trusty
lieutenant told him that it was ‘impossible’ that the enemy could
assemble enough troops to incommode him at present, and explained that
his chief duty would be to cover the repairing of Badajoz, into which
three Portuguese line regiments[326] under Power, hitherto forming the
garrisons of Elvas and Abrantes, were thrown, to hold it till Castaños
should provide 3,000 Spaniards for the purpose.

  [326] 5th and 17th from Elvas, 22nd from Abrantes.

The movement of the army marching against Marmont was rapid and
continuous, though it might have been even more swift but for the fact
that the whole long column had to pass the bridge of Villa Velha, the
only passage of the Tagus that lay straight on the way to the Lower
Beira: to send troops by Abrantes would have cost too much time. On
the 16th the Light and 3rd Divisions crossed the bridge, on the 17th
some cavalry and Pack’s and Bradford’s Portuguese, while the 4th, 5th,
and 6th Divisions were now close to the river at Castello de Vide and
Alpalhão, and only the 1st was rather to the rear at Portalegre[327].
Alten’s German Hussars, picked up at Castello Branco on the 18th by the
head of the column, were the only cavalry which Wellington showed in
his front. This was done on principle: Marmont knew that this regiment
was in his neighbourhood, and if it pressed in upon his outposts, it
told him nothing as to the arrival of new troops opposite him. As we
have already seen, when quoting one of his dispatches[328], he drew the
inference that Wellington intended, and so late as the 22nd believed
that his adversary’s main army was still behind the Tagus, and that at
most two divisions had come up to Villa Velha--but probably no further.

  [327] All these movements are taken from the elaborate tables in
  D’Urban’s Journal for these days.

  [328] See above, p. 288.

Steadily advancing, the column, with the 3rd and Light Divisions
leading, reached Castello Branco on the 17th. They found that it had
been reoccupied on the 15th by Alten’s Hussars and Le Cor’s militia;
but it was in a dreadful state of dilapidation owing to the ravages
of Clausel’s troops during the two days of their flying visit. Clear
information was received that Marmont was still at Sabugal, and his
vedettes lay as far south as Pedrogão. The British staff were in hopes
that he might be caught. ‘His ignorance (as we hope) of the real force
in march against him may end in his destruction,’ wrote D’Urban to
Charles Stewart on the 18th, ‘for he has put the Agueda in his rear,
which the late rains have made impassable: his situation is very
critical. If he discovers his error at once, he may get off by his
left down the Perales road, and so reach Plasencia: but if he does
not, and waits to be _driven_ out of the ground he holds, I don’t see
how he is to get away. Lord Wellington will be all closed up by the
21st; meanwhile he shows little to his front, and avoids giving serious
alarm: the fairest hopes may be entertained of a decisive blow[329].’

  [329] Letter in the D’Urban Papers.

It looked indeed as if Marmont was waiting over-long: on the 17th-18th
his exploring parties came as far south as Idanha Nova, where by an ill
chance they captured Wellington’s most famous intelligence-officer,
Major Colquhoun Grant, who there commenced that extraordinary
series of adventures which are told in detail in the life of his
brother-in-law, Dr. McGrigor, Wellington’s chief medical officer. He
escaped at Bayonne, and returned to England via Paris and the boat of a
Breton fisherman[330].

  [330] See the _Life of Surgeon-General Sir Jas. McGrigor_, pp.
  284-96. I have before me, among the Scovell papers, Grant’s
  original signed parole as far as Bayonne, witnessed by General
  Lamartinière, the chief of Marmont’s staff. It was captured by
  _Guerrilleros_ in Castile, and sent to Wellington. Accompanying
  it is the General’s private letter, commending Grant to the
  attention of the French police, with the explanation that he was
  only not treated as a spy because he was captured in British
  uniform, though far in the rear of the French outpost line.

The rear of the column had dropped behind somewhat, owing to the
incessant rains which had set in from April 14th, and which had broken
Marmont’s bridge four days later. Wellington had given the 4th Division
leave to halt for a day, because of the state of the roads and the
entire want of cover for the night in the desolate tract between
Villa Velha and Abrantes[331]. It reached Castello Branco, however,
on the 20th, on which day only (by some extraordinary mismanagement)
Wellington got the tardy news of Trant’s disaster at Guarda on the
morning of the 14th. And this news was brought not by any official
messenger, but by a fugitive ensign of militia, who garnished it with
all manner of untrue additions--whereupon Beresford had him tried
and shot, for deserting his troops and spreading false intelligence.
Clearly Trant, Wilson, and Baccelar between them should have got the
true narrative to head-quarters before six days had elapsed.

  [331] Wellington to Graham, Castello Branco, April 18,
  _Dispatches_, ix. p. 70.

The 21st April was the critical day of this campaign. Marmont was
still at Fuente Guinaldo, on the wrong side of the Agueda, and his
bridge at La Caridad was still broken and not relaid. Though unaware
that Wellington was close upon him with an overwhelming force, whose
existence he denied (as we have seen) in a letter sent off so late as
the 22nd, he was yet feeling uncomfortable, both because of his broken
communications, and because he had used up his food. Wherefore he gave
orders that his artillery, using very bad side-roads, should pass the
Agueda by the bridge of Villarubia, a small mountain crossing quite
near its source, which would take it, not by the ordinary route past
Ciudad Rodrigo, but by Robledo to Tamames, through a very difficult
country.[332] He himself with the infantry stood fast on the 21st and
22nd, unaware of his dangerous position.

  [332] Marmont to Berthier, Fuente Guinaldo, April 22 [original
  intercepted dispatch in Scovell Papers]: ‘J’ai eu la plus grande
  peine à faire arriver mon artillerie sur la rive droite de cette
  rivière. Les ponts que j’avais fait construire sur l’Agueda
  ayant été détruits par les grandes crues d’eau, et n’ayant pas
  la faculté de les rétablir, je n’ai su d’autre moyen que de la
  diriger par les sources de cette rivière, et les contreforts
  des montagnes.’ The wording of Wellington’s intercepted copy
  differs slightly from that of the duplicate printed in Ducasse’s
  _Correspondence of King Joseph_, viii. pp. 404-10.

For the allies were closing in upon him--the head-quarters of
Wellington were on the 21st at Pedrogão, the 1st German Hussars,
covering the advance, had reached Sabugal, and the Light and 3rd
Divisions were close behind, as were Pack’s and Bradford’s Portuguese,
while the 4th and 5th were both beyond Castello Branco. On the morning
of the 22nd the head of the infantry column had passed Sabugal, and the
Hussars were in front of them, pushing in Marmont’s vedettes. A delay
of twenty-four hours more on the part of the French would have brought
the armies into collision, when Marmont gave orders for his infantry
to retreat across the Agueda by the fords near Ciudad Rodrigo, where
the water on that day had at last fallen enough to render the passage
possible, though difficult and dangerous. The leading division marched
on the 22nd, the rest on the 23rd: by the night of the latter day all
were across the river, and retiring rapidly on Salamanca; for, as
Marmont truly observed, there was not a ration of food to be got out of
the devastated country between Rodrigo and the Tormes.

The odd part of this sudden, if long-deferred, retreat was that it
was made without the slightest knowledge that it was imperative,
owing to Wellington’s near approach; in the letter announcing it
to Berthier the Marshal reiterates his statement that he does not
believe that Wellington has a man north of Castello Branco save the
1st Hussars K.G.L. The retreat is only ordered because it is clear
that, with 20,000 men only in hand, it is useless to continue the
tour of devastation in the Beira. ‘Your highness may judge that the
result of the diversion which I have sought to make in favour of the
Army of the South has been practically nil. Such a movement could only
be effective if carried out with a force great enough to enable me
to march against the enemy with confidence, and to offer him battle,
even if he had every available man collected. With 18,000 or 19,000
men (reduced to 15,000 or 16,000 because I have to leave detachments
to keep up communications) I could not move far into Portugal without
risk, even if I have no one in front of me, and the whole hostile
army is on the farther bank of the Tagus. For if I passed the Zezere
and marched on Santarem, the enemy--master of Badajoz and covered by
the Guadiana--could pass the Tagus behind me, and seize the defiles
of Zarza Major, Perales, and Payo, by which alone I could return....
There are several places at which he could cross the Tagus, above and
below Alcantara, and so place himself by a rapid and secret movement
that my first news of him would be by the sound of cannon on my line of
communications--and my position would then be desperate[333].’

  [333] Intercepted dispatch in the Scovell Papers, Fuente
  Guinaldo, April 22, quoted above.

The real danger that was threatening him, on the day that he wrote this
dispatch, Marmont did not suspect in the least, indeed he denied its
existence. But he moved just in time, and was across the Agueda when,
on the 24th, Wellington had his head-quarters at Alfayates, and three
divisions at Fuente Guinaldo, which the French had only evacuated on
the preceding day, with three more close behind. Only the 1st and 6th,
under Graham, were still at Castello Branco and Losa. Evidently if the
fords of the Agueda had remained impassable for another twenty-four
hours, Marmont’s four divisions would have been overwhelmed by superior
numbers and driven against the bridgeless river, over which there would
have been no escape. As it was, he avoided an unsuspected danger, and
returned to Salamanca with his army little reduced in numbers, but with
his cavalry and artillery almost ruined: his dispatch of the 22nd says
that he has lost 1,500 horses, and that as many more needed a long rest
if they were ever again to be fit for service.

On the 24th Wellington bade all his army halt, the forced marches
which they had been carrying out for the last ten days having failed
to achieve the end of surprising and overwhelming Marmont, who had
obtained an undeserved escape. On the 26th he paid a flying visit to
Ciudad Rodrigo, whose safety he had at least secured, and commended
General Vives for his correct attitude during the three weeks of
the late blockade. The next movements of the allied army belong to
a different series of operations, and must be dealt with in a new
section.



SECTION XXXIII

THE SALAMANCA CAMPAIGN


CHAPTER I

KING JOSEPH AS COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF


On March 16, 1812, the day on which Wellington opened his trenches
before Badajoz, the Emperor Napoleon took a step of no small importance
with regard to the control of his armies in Spain. He had now made up
his mind that the long-threatened war with Russia must begin within a
few months, and that he must leave Paris ere long, and move forward
to some central point in Germany, from which he could superintend the
preparations for a campaign, the greatest in scale of any which he
had hitherto undertaken. He was persuaded that war was inevitable:
the Czar Alexander had dared to dispute his will; and in the state of
megalomania, to which his mind had now accustomed itself, he could
tolerate no opposition. Yet he was aware, in his more lucid moments,
that he was taking a great risk. On March 7th Colonel Jardet, Marmont’s
confidential aide-de-camp, was granted an interview, in which he
set forth all the difficulties of the Army of Portugal. The Emperor
heard him out, and began, ‘Marmont complains that he is short of many
resources--food, money, means, &c.... Well, here am I, about to plunge
with an immense army into the heart of a great country which produces
_absolutely nothing_.’ And then he stopped, and after a long silence
seemed suddenly to rouse himself from a sombre reverie, and looking
the colonel in the face asked, ‘How will it all end?’ Jardet, thrown
off his balance by such a searching query, stammered that it would of
course end in the best possible fashion. But he went out filled with
gloomy forebodings, inspired by his master’s evident lack of confidence
in the future[334].

  [334] See Marmont’s _Mémoires_, iv. p. 202. Jardet’s long report
  to Marmont was captured on its journey out to Salamanca from
  Paris, and lies among the Scovell Papers.

Some weeks were yet to elapse before the Emperor’s actual departure
from France; but, ere he went, he had to set in good working order the
conduct of his policy during his absence, and of all its complicated
machinery the Spanish section was one of the most puzzling and the
most apt to get out of order. It was clearly impossible that he should
continue to send from Dresden or Wilna elaborate orders every five
or ten days, as he had been wont to do from Paris. If it took three
weeks to get an order to Seville in February, it might take five or
six in July, when the imperial head-quarters might be in some obscure
Lithuanian hamlet. Something must be done to solve the problem of
continuous policy, and of co-operation between the five armies of
Spain, and after much consideration the Emperor dictated to Berthier
the solution which he thought least bad--’Send by special messenger a
dispatch to the King of Spain, informing him that I confide to him the
command of all my Spanish armies, and that Marshal Jourdan will serve
as his Chief-of-the-Staff. You will send, at the same time, a similar
intimation to that marshal. You will inform the King that I shall keep
him advised of my political intentions through my ambassador at Madrid.
You will write to Marshal Suchet, to the Duke of Dalmatia, and the
Duke of Ragusa that I have entrusted the King with the charge of all
my armies in his realm, and that they will have to conform to all the
orders which they may receive from the King, to secure the co-operation
of their armies. You will write, in particular, to the Duke of Ragusa
that the necessity for obtaining common action between the Armies of
the South, of Valencia, and of Portugal, has determined me to give
the King of Spain control over all of them, and that he will have to
regulate his operations by the instructions which he will receive.
To-morrow you will write in greater detail to the King, but the special
messenger must start this very night for Bayonne[335].’

  [335] King Joseph had been prepared for the formal proposal by a
  tentative letter sent off to him about three weeks earlier, on
  February 19, inquiring whether it would suit him to have Jourdan
  as his Chief-of-the-Staff, supposing that the Emperor went off to
  Russia and turned over the command in Spain to him. See Ducasse’s
  _Correspondence_, ix. p. 322.

Of the bundle of dispatches that for the King was delivered at Madrid
on March 28th, after twelve days of travel. Marmont got his a little
later, as he had started on his Portuguese expedition when it reached
Salamanca. Communication between his field-force and his base being
difficult, owing to the activity of Julian Sanchez, it appears to have
been on March 30, when before Ciudad Rodrigo, that he became aware
that he had a new commander-in-chief[336]. Soult was apprised of the
situation much later, because, when preparing for his expedition to
relieve Badajoz, he had ordered his posts in the Sierra Morena to be
evacuated, and the communication with La Mancha to be broken off for
the moment. It seems that he must have got Berthier’s dispatch quite
late in April, as on the 17th of that month he was only acknowledging
Paris letters of February 23rd[337], and the first courier from Madrid
got through only some time later. Suchet would appear also to have been
advised of the change of command very late--he published the imperial
decree in his official gazette at Valencia only on May 10, giving as
its date the 29th instead of the 16th of March[338], which looks as
if the first copy sent to him had miscarried, and the repetition made
thirteen days later had alone reached him. These dates are only worth
giving as illustrations of the extreme difficulty of getting orders
from point to point in Spain during the French occupation, even when
Andalusia and Valencia were supposed to be thoroughly subdued.

  [336] This is proved by Berthier’s letter to King Joseph of April
  16 (Ducasse’s _Correspondence of King Joseph_, viii. p. 382),
  which says that he has just received Marmont’s dispatch of March
  30 acknowledging his own of March 16, and that the Marshal now
  knows that he must obey orders from Madrid.

  [337] Soult to Berthier from Seville, April 17.

  [338] A copy of this print is among the Scovell Papers: it does
  credit to the Valencian press by its neat appearance.

It will be noted that in Napoleon’s instructions to Berthier no mention
is made of either the Army of Catalonia or the Army of the North[339];
and it might have been thought that, clinging to the theory of his
paper annexation of Spain north of the Ebro, he was deliberately
exempting from the King’s control the troops in the districts on which
he had resolved to lay hands for his own benefit. But a supplementary
dispatch of April 23rd placed Decaen and the garrison of Catalonia
under the general charge of Suchet, and as that marshal had been
directed to obey King Joseph’s military instructions, the four new
‘French’ departments on the Ebro were now theoretically under the same
general command as the rest of Spain. As to the Army of the North,
Dorsenne wrote (April 19th), with evident glee, to say that he was
exempted from obedience to the King, by not being included in the list
of recipients of the dispatch of March 16, and that he regretted his
inability to carry out a series of orders which Jourdan had sent him.
But he had not many more days to serve in his present capacity, and his
successor, Caffarelli, though equally recalcitrant in spirit, presently
received a formal notice that he was under King Joseph’s command.

  [339] The question about the Army of the North is a very curious
  one. The authorized copy of the dispatch of May 16, printed in
  Napoleon’s correspondence and in Ducasse’s _Correspondence of
  King Joseph_, certainly omits its name. But the King declared
  that in his original copy of it Dorsenne and his army were
  mentioned as put under his charge. In one of the intercepted
  dispatches in the Scovell Papers, Joseph writes angrily to
  Berthier, giving what purports to be a verbatim duplicate of the
  document, and in this duplicate, which lies before my eyes as I
  write this, the Army of the North _is_ cited with the rest.

Napoleon’s general policy in placing the supreme control of all the
Spanish armies in the hands of one chief, and bringing to an end (in
theory at least) the system of separate viceroyalties was undoubtedly
the right one. And it cannot be disputed that one second-rate
commander-in-chief is more effective than four good ones, working each
for his own private and local profit and glory. But in this particular
case the new arrangement was not likely to bring about any great change
for the better, owing to the personal equation. During the last three
years Napoleon had been inflicting affronts at short intervals upon his
brother, had annexed integral portions of his realm, had disregarded
most of his complaints and suggestions, and had allowed him to become
the butt of the viceroys, whose insults and injuries he had never
been allowed to resent. They had raided the districts assigned to his
personal governance[340], had plundered his magazines, imprisoned his
officials, and set up courts of justice of their own to supersede the
regular magistracy of the land. The Emperor had never punished such
proceedings; at the most he had ordered that they should cease, when
they were injurious to the progress of the French arms in Spain. It
was useless to issue a sudden order that for the future the marshals
were under Joseph’s control, and that ‘he must make them obey him,’
as the phrase ran in one letter to Madrid. As the King’s minister,
Miot de Melito, wrote, ‘What chance was there of success when all
the individuals concerned were at variance with each other? The
marshals had been accustomed for three years to absolute independence.
The new Chief-of-the-Staff, in spite of his acknowledged capacity,
was known to be out of favour with the Emperor, and in consequence
could exercise no moral authority over the masters of the armies.
The apparent testimonial of confidence which was given to the King,
by making him Commander-in-Chief, was a matter to cause disquietude
rather than satisfaction[341].’ The plain fact was that Napoleon was
over-busy, worried with other problems, and he merely took the easiest
and simplest method of throwing the burden of the Spanish war on to the
shoulders of another. The consequences, be they what they might be,
were now of little importance, compared with the success or failure of
the impending Russian campaign.

  [340] One of Marmont’s colonels in the province of Segovia was
  at this moment threatening to use armed force against the King’s
  troops for resisting his requisitions. See Miot, iii. p. 222.

  [341] See Miot de Melito’s _Mémoires_, iii. p. 215.

Jourdan sums up the situation in much the same terms. ‘The King
for two years had been allowed to have no direct relations with
the generals-in-chief: he had no exact knowledge of the military
situation in each of their spheres of command, nor was he better
informed as to the strength, organization, and distribution of the
troops under their orders. Unable to use his new authority till he had
got together detailed statements as to these data, he directed his
chief-of-the-staff to ask for reports. Dorsenne replied that he should
not send any at present, because Berthier, when announcing to him that
the Armies of the South, of Portugal, and of Aragon had been put under
the King’s orders, had informed him that the Emperor would let him know
in due course what was to be done with the Army of the North. Marshal
Suchet demonstrated that he had received special instructions from the
Emperor, which presently were seen to make the King’s authority over
the Army of Aragon quite illusory. Soult had removed all the posts
on the lines of communication when he marched to relieve Badajoz, and
showed so little zeal in reopening them, that even in May it was not
known at Madrid whether he was yet aware that he was under the King’s
orders. Marmont was the only one who sent without delay the report
which had been asked for--but he announced at the same time that, in
obedience to the Emperor’s earlier orders, he was already operating
beyond the Agueda, to make a diversion for the relief of Badajoz[342].’

  [342] Jourdan’s _Mémoires_, p. 384.

Of what use was it to send orders to the marshals, when they
could plead that the execution of them was rendered impossible by
instructions received directly from the Emperor, which prescribed a
different policy? Unfortunately for King Joseph each commander-in-chief
still preserved his direct communication with the Minister of War at
Paris: even after the Emperor had started for Poland in May, each
continued to send in his own plans, and to demonstrate how far superior
they were to those prescribed by King Joseph. Soult, in particular,
generally commenced a dispatch by demonstrating that the directions
received from Madrid could not possibly be executed, and then produced
an elaborate scheme of his own, which would be beneficial for the Army
of Andalusia, but impracticable for those of Portugal, Valencia, and
the Centre. When his suggestions were rejected, he wrote privately to
Paris, declaring that Joseph and Jourdan were absolutely incapable,
and sometimes adding that the King was trying to serve his private
interests rather than those of his brother and suzerain. It was the
accidental receipt by Joseph of an intercepted letter of Soult’s to the
Minister of War, in which he was accused of absolute treason to the
Emperor, that brought about the final rupture between the King and the
Marshal, and led to the recall of the latter to France[343].

  [343] Oddly enough this letter was in duplicate, and while
  one copy fell into Joseph’s hands, the other was captured by
  guerrilleros and sent to Wellington. The cipher was worked out
  by Scovell, and the contents gave Wellington useful information
  as to the relations between Soult and the King. See below, pages
  530-39.

King Joseph, though liable to fits of depression and despair, was, on
the whole, of a mercurial and self-sufficient temperament. A few weeks
before the receipt of the Emperor’s dispatch granting him the command
of the Spanish armies, all his letters had been full of complaints and
threats of abdication. But the decree of March 16th filled him with a
sudden confidence--at last his military talents should be displayed and
recognized; he would, as his brother desired, ‘make the marshals obey
him;’ for the future the armies should all act together for a single
end, and not be guided by the selfish interests of their leaders. He
accepted the position of Commander-in-Chief with undisguised pleasure,
and proceeded to draw out schemes of his own, with Jourdan as his
adviser in technical matters of military logistics.

It cannot be denied that the ‘_Mémoire_ of May 1812[344],’ in which
Jourdan set forth the situation after the fall of Badajoz, and
the policy which he considered that it demanded, is a document of
much greater merit than might have been expected. It is by far the
best summary of the position of the French power in Spain that was
ever drawn up, and it recognizes with great clearness the two main
limitations of that power, which were (1) that the imperial troops
were an army of occupation rather than a genuine field army, and (2)
that the Napoleonic system, by which hosts were supposed to ‘live
on the countryside,’ might be applicable for a short campaign in
Lombardy or Bavaria, but was impossible for protracted manœuvres in an
exhausted and thinly-peopled land like central Spain. Jourdan’s note
on the _Mémoire_ sums up the situation in a few lines--’Two measures
were indispensable: one was to render the army mobile, by giving it
ample transport, and by establishing large magazines on all lines of
communication: without these all permanent concentration of heavy
forces, and all continuous operations were impossible. The second was
to abandon the deplorable system of occupying as much territory as
possible--of which the real object was double: firstly, to enable the
armies to live on the country-side; secondly, to appear in the eyes of
Europe to be dominant over the whole of Spain.’

  [344] Printed whole in Jourdan’s _Mémoires_, pp. 386-94.

The _Mémoire_ itself is worth analysing. Its gist runs as follows:--

‘(1) The recent departure of the Imperial Guards, the Poles, and other
troops, and the lack of any adequate system of transport or magazines,
renders the Imperial Army--though still 230,000 men strong--incapable
of undertaking any offensive operations. The present situation is
exceptionally trying, because of the successes of Wellington, and the
deplorable effect on Spanish public opinion of the recent annexation
[Catalonia], the arbitrary government of the generals, and the famine
which has lately prevailed. The discontent thereby engendered has led
to the enormous increase in the number of the guerrillero bands. It has
also encouraged the government at Cadiz to multiply its levies and its
military energy.

(2) It is not yet certain whether the Emperor intends the Army of the
North to be at the King’s disposal. General Dorsenne refuses to send in
reports or to accept orders. But since its recent reduction in numbers
[by the departure of the Imperial Guard, and the transfer of Souham’s
and Bonnet’s divisions to the Army of Portugal] it is believed that
it has not more than 48,000 men under arms, and it appears to be a
fact that it can do no more than hold down the wide regions committed
to its charge, and guard the line of communications with France. Even
if placed at the King’s disposition, it can furnish no important
reinforcements to other armies. Nevertheless it should be put under his
control, as it might under certain circumstances be called upon to lend
a moderate force for a short time.

(3) As to the Army of Aragon [60,000 men, including the divisions in
Catalonia]: the King was informed that Marshal Suchet was placed under
his command, and that if he needed reinforcements he might draw on the
troops in Valencia. He therefore [during the siege of Badajoz] ordered
the Marshal to send a division to join the Army of the Centre for an
indispensable operation[345]. The Marshal sent a formal declaration in
reply, to the effect that he could not execute this order, and that
he was even about to withdraw from Cuenca the regiment that he had
placed there, as its absence imperilled the safety of Valencia. He
says that the Emperor has placed Catalonia under his charge, and that
he is authorized to employ his whole force for the protection of the
provinces entrusted to him. Apparently, then, the Army of Aragon cannot
co-operate in operations outside its own sphere, and the Marshal’s
special instructions place him in an exceptional position. His
relations with the King consist in a polite exchange of views, not in
the giving and taking of orders--his Majesty’s control over this army
is purely illusory.

  [345] i. e. for the collection of troops in the valley of the
  Tagus, to join Foy and operate for the relief of Badajoz.

(4) As to the Army of the South, Marshal Soult has about 54,000 men
effective [not including _Juramentados_, &c.]. The Cadiz Lines and the
garrisons pin down a large force to fixed stations. The Marshal has
also to keep a considerable flying column in hand, to hunt Ballasteros
and other partisans. For operations outside the bounds of Andalusia he
can only collect a field-force of 24,000 men; this is the total figure
of the corps that tried to relieve Badajoz, and in its absence Seville
was nearly lost. The posts in the Sierra Morena were called in at that
time, and have never come back: correspondence with the Army of the
South is therefore precarious and slow.

(5) The Army of Portugal has 52,000 men effective. It holds the front
line against Wellington; its divisions are much scattered, because it
has to live on the country, and has also to furnish several important
garrisons. One division of 6,000 men is fixed down in the Asturias by
the Emperor’s special orders. The garrisons of Astorga, Valladolid,
Salamanca, Leon, Palencia, &c., absorb 6,000 or 7,000 men more. Only
29,000 infantry [or a total of 35,000 of all arms] are available
as a field-force to use against the English, if they attack on the
front of the Tormes. If Marshal Marmont has to march out of his own
sphere, to join in a combined operation against Wellington [e. g. in
Estremadura], he can bring a still smaller force--say 25,000 men.
The Army of Portugal is many months in arrear of its pay, and has
hardly any transport or magazines: the troops have become terrible
marauders--largely from necessity.

(6) Lastly we come to the Army of the Centre. It consists of 9,500 men
borne on the Imperial muster-rolls, and 5,800 troops belonging to the
King [his Guards and Hugo’s _Juramentados_, horse and foot]. There
are also at present in Madrid 3,200 drafts for the Army of the South,
temporarily retained--so that the whole makes up 18,500 men. But only
15,000 are effective, the remainder consisting of dépôts, dismounted
cavalry, train, &c. Having to hold down the extensive provinces of
Madrid, Segovia, Guadalajara, Toledo, La Mancha, and Cuenca, this
force is a mere “army of occupation.” It can provide no troops for
expeditions outside its own territory, and is spread so thin that even
Madrid would be in danger without the Royal Guards. The pay is eight
months in arrear.

(7) Civil administration is still localized: the commanders of the
armies levy their own taxes, and nothing comes to Madrid. The King has
to feed the Army of the Centre, and to maintain his civil service,
from the revenues of New Castile alone. None of the marshals will help
another with money or stores. The claim of the King to rule all Spain
seems absurd to the people, so long as he cannot exercise any civil
control outside the _arrondissement_ of the Army of the Centre.

(8) Conclusion. All offensive operations are impossible, as long as
the imperial armies have to hold down the entirety of the occupied
provinces. If Lord Wellington concentrates all his forces, he can march
with 60,000 men [not including Spaniards] against either the Army of
Portugal or the Army of the South. Neither of them can assemble a
sufficient force to resist him, unless they abandon whole provinces.
The King has ordered Soult and Marmont to march to each other’s aid if
either is attacked. But they have to unite, coming from remote bases,
while the enemy can place himself between them and strike at one or the
other. The lines of communication between them are long and circuitous.
It is easily conceivable that one of them may be attacked and beaten
before the other is even aware of the danger. A catastrophe is quite
possible if Lord Wellington should throw himself suddenly, with his
whole force, upon either the Army of Portugal or that of the South.

The only possible way of dealing with this danger is to collect
a central reserve of 20,000 men at Madrid, which can be promptly
transferred to right or left, to join either Soult or Marmont as
the conditions of the moment dictate. The Army of the Centre cannot
serve this purpose--it is not a field-force, but an immovable army of
occupation. If the Emperor could send a new corps of this size from
France, Marmont could be reinforced up to a strength sufficient to
enable him to face Wellington, and to besiege Ciudad Rodrigo.

But the present posture of European affairs [the Russian war]
probably makes it impossible to draw such a corps from France. This
being so, the central reserve must be obtained from troops already
existing in the Peninsula. The only way to find them is for the Emperor
to consent to the evacuation of Andalusia. Thirty thousand men of the
Army of the South can then be placed to cover Madrid, in La Mancha:
this force would be ample against any Spanish levies that might come
up to the Sierra Morena from Cadiz and elsewhere. The remainder of
the Army of the South must form the central reserve, and prepare to
reinforce Marmont. The Army of Portugal would then be so strong that
Wellington could not dare to take the offensive--he would be hopelessly
outnumbered. If this scheme is approved by the Emperor, he may be
certain that, when he comes back from Poland, his Spanish armies will
be in the same secure defensive position in which he leaves them now.
The right wing rests on the Bay of Biscay in the Asturias: the left on
the Mediterranean in Valencia.

When Andalusia is evacuated, the remaining provinces in French
occupation will not be able to pay or feed the 54,000 men of the Army
of the South, in addition to the armies already stationed in them; a
liberal subsidy from Paris will be necessary. In addition the King
must, for the sake of his prestige, be given real civil authority over
all the provinces.

It will only be when all authority, civil, military, and
administrative, is concentrated in one hand, that of the King, and when
His Majesty shall have received from the Emperor instructions suiting
the present posture of affairs, that he can be fully responsible for
Spain.’

On the whole this is a very well-reasoned document. It was perfectly
true that the offensive power of the French in the Peninsula had shrunk
to nothing, because no province could be held down without a large
garrison. If left unoccupied, it would burst into revolt and raise an
army. This was the inevitable nemesis for a war of annexation directed
against a proud and patriotic people. There were 230,000 French
troops in Spain; but so many of them were tied down to occupation
duty, that only about 50,000 or 60,000 could be collected to curb
Wellington, unless some large province were evacuated. Either Andalusia
or else Valencia must be abandoned. The former was the larger and the
more wealthy; but it was more remote from the strategical centre of
operations in Madrid, much more infested by the bands of the patriots,
and it lay close to the sphere of operations of Wellington--the great
disturbing element in French calculations. Moreover its evacuation
would set free a much larger field army. Against this was to be set
the adverse balance in loss of prestige: as long as Cadiz appeared to
be beleaguered, the national government of Spain looked like a handful
of refugees in a forlorn island. To abandon the immense lines in front
of it, with their dependent flotilla (which must be burnt, since it
could not be removed), would be a conclusive proof to all Europe that
the main frontal offensive against the Spanish patriots had failed.
Seville and Granada, great towns of world-wide fame, would also have to
be abandoned. Andalusia was full of _Afrancesados_, who must either be
shepherded to Madrid, or left to the vengeance of their countrymen.

But to weigh prestige against solid military advantage, though it might
appeal to Napoleon--whose reputation as universal conqueror was part
of his political stock-in-trade--did not occur to the common-sense
intellect of Jourdan. He voted for the evacuation of Andalusia: so did
his friend and master, King Joseph. Possibly their decision was not
rendered more unwelcome by the fact that it would certainly be most
distasteful to Soult, whom they both cordially detested. The Viceroy
should pay at last for the selfish policy of the General: his realm,
for the last two years, had been administered with much profit and
glory to himself, but with little advantage to the King at Madrid, or
the general prosperity of the French cause in Spain. Whether personal
motives entered into the decision of Joseph and Jourdan we need not
trouble to consider: it was certainly the correct one to take.

Permission to evacuate Andalusia was therefore demanded from the
Emperor: King Joseph did not dare to authorize it on his own
responsibility. Meanwhile, long before the _Mémoire_ of May 1812 had
been completed or sent off, to Napoleon, he issued the orders which
he thought himself justified in giving in the interim, to act as a
stop-gap till the permission should be granted. Marmont was told to
fall back on his own old policy of keeping a large detachment in the
Tagus valley, in order that he might get into touch with Drouet and
Soult’s Estremaduran corps of observation. He was directed to send
two divisions of infantry and a brigade of light cavalry to join Foy,
who was still in the direction of Almaraz and Talavera. They were to
be ready to act as the advance of the Army of Portugal for a march on
Truxillo and Merida, if Wellington’s next move should turn out to be
an attack on Soult in Andalusia. In a corresponding fashion, Soult was
ordered to reinforce Drouet up to a force of 20,000 men, and to push
him forward to his old position about Almendralejo, Zalamea, Merida,
and Medellin, in order that he might march via Truxillo to join the
Army of Portugal, in case the Anglo-Portuguese army should choose
Salamanca, not Seville, as its next objective. The small part of the
Army of the Centre that could be formed into a field-force--three
battalions and two cavalry regiments, under General d’Armagnac--was
directed to move to Talavera, to relieve Foy there if he should be
called to move either north to join Marmont on the Tormes, or south
to join Soult on the Guadiana[346]. To replace these troops, drawn
from the provinces of Cuenca and La Mancha, Joseph--as we have already
seen[347]--requested Suchet to send ‘a good division’ from Valencia by
Cuenca, on to Ocaña in La Mancha[348]. In this way the King and Jourdan
thought they would provide for active co-operation between the Armies
of Portugal and Andalusia, whether Wellington should make his next move
to the South or the North.

  [346] See Jourdan to Berthier of April 3, 1812.

  [347] See Jourdan’s _Mémoire_, quoted above, p. 304.

  [348] Jourdan to Suchet, April 9, 1812.

It is curious, but perhaps not surprising, to find that these orders,
the first-fruits of Joseph’s new commission as Commander-in-Chief, were
obeyed neither by Suchet, by Soult, nor by Marmont.

The former, as we have already seen, when analysing Jourdan’s _Mémoire_
of May 1812, not only refused to send a division to Ocaña, but stated
that he should be obliged to withdraw the regiment that he was keeping
at Cuenca, because he was authorized by the Emperor to reserve all his
own troops for the defence of his own sphere of action, in Valencia,
Aragon, and Catalonia. Soult declared that it was impossible for him
to reinforce Drouet--‘he could not keep 20,000 men on the Guadiana
unless he received large reinforcements: all that he could promise
was that the force in Estremadura should move up again to Medellin
and Villafranca, possibly even to Merida, if Wellington had really
gone northward with his main army. Drouet, with his 10,000 or 12,000
men, might serve to “contain” Hill and the British detachment in
Estremadura, and his position would prevent the enemy from making any
important movement in the valley of the Tagus. Meanwhile he himself
must, as an absolute necessity, lay siege to Tarifa for the second
time, and make an end of Ballasteros: no more troops, therefore, could
be sent to Drouet: but when Tarifa and Ballasteros had been finished
off, the siege of Cadiz should be pressed with vigour.’ This reply
is not only a blank refusal to obey the King’s orders, but amounts
to a definite statement that the local affairs of Andalusia are more
important than the general co-operation of the French armies in Spain.
As we shall presently see, Soult was ready to formulate this startling
thesis in the plainest terms--he was, ere long, to propose that the
King and the Army of the Centre should evacuate Madrid and retire upon
Andalusia, when things went wrong with the Army of Portugal.

As to Marmont, his reply to King Joseph’s dispatch was couched in
terms of less open disobedience, but it was by no means satisfactory.
He wrote from Salamanca, on April 29th, after his return from the
raid to Sabugal and Guarda, that he had now learnt (what he did not
know ten days before), that Wellington had been pursuing him with
five divisions. This force was still in the Beira, and the British
general himself had been at Ciudad Rodrigo on the 26th. It was,
therefore, quite clear that Soult had not ‘the whole English army on
his shoulders.’ This being so, it was not necessary to send into the
valley of the Tagus such a large force as was asked. But one division
should move to Avila at once, and could drop down on to Talavera
in two days, if it turned out to be necessary. Two more should be
cantoned about Arevalo and the Pass of Piedrahita [20 miles north-west
of Avila] respectively, points from which they could be transferred
to the valley of the Tagus in a few days. Marmont then proceeded to
warn Jourdan against any scheme for concentrating any considerable
force in the direction of La Mancha, urging that he must be able to
collect as many of his divisions opposite Wellington as possible, in
case of an advance by the Anglo-Portuguese army towards the Tormes. All
that was necessary on the Tagus was to have the forts at Almaraz well
garrisoned and provided with stores, so that troops dropping down from
Avila on a southward march should find a base and magazines ready for
them. Summing up, he ends with a dictum that ‘if we defend Andalusia
by sacrificing the Army of Portugal, we may save that province for
the moment, but the North will be in danger: if a disaster occurs
there, Andalusia will soon be lost also. If, on the contrary, we make
its defence in the North, the South may be lost, but the North still
remains secure.’ By these somewhat cryptic words, Marmont seems to mean
that, looking at the affairs of Spain at large, Andalusia may be lost
without any shock to the imperial domination in Leon and Old Castile.
But a disaster in Leon or Old Castile entails inevitably the loss of
Andalusia also. This was true enough, though Soult refused to see it.

But the result of Marmont’s very partial fulfilment of Joseph’s
orders, and of Soult’s and Suchet’s entire neglect of them, was that
Jourdan’s main design of providing for close and speedy co-operation
between the Armies of Portugal and Andalusia was completely foiled.
When, on May 17th-19th, Hill made his celebrated irruption into the
valley of the Tagus, with the object of destroying the bridge and
forts of Almaraz, the point where the interests of Soult and Marmont
were linked together, he found no French troops within fifty miles
of his objective, save the single division of Foy and D’Armagnac’s
3,000 men from the Army of the Centre. Marmont’s nearest division in
support was at Avila, Soult’s in the Sierra Morena; both lay so far
off from Almaraz that Hill could not only deliver his blow, but could
depart at leisure when it was struck, without any risk of being beset
by superior forces. If King Joseph’s orders of April had been carried
out, Wellington’s stroke in May would have been impossible--or risky
to the verge of rashness. Indeed we may be certain, on Wellington’s
record, that he would not have made it, if three French divisions,
instead of one, had been about Talavera and Almaraz. We may add that
his self-reliance during the Salamanca campaign rested largely on the
fact that Soult could not succour Marmont, within any reasonable space
of time, even if he wished to do so, because the bridge of Almaraz was
broken. Wherefore Jourdan and King Joseph must be pronounced to have
been wise in their foresight, and the Dukes of Ragusa and Dalmatia
highly blameworthy for their disregard of the orders given them. They
looked each to their own local interests, not to the general strategic
necessities of the French position in Spain, which the King and his
Chief-of-the-Staff were keeping in mind.

So far their precautions were wise: to blame them for not taking the
tremendous step of evacuating Andalusia without the Emperor’s leave,
and concentrating such a force in central Spain as would have paralysed
Wellington’s offensive, would be unjust. They dared not have given such
an order--and if they had, Soult would have disobeyed it.

Napoleon himself, indeed, would have agreed with Soult at this time.
For not long after Jourdan’s _Mémoire_ of May 1812, with its request
for leave to abandon Andalusia, had started on its journey for Dresden,
there arrived at Madrid a dispatch from Berthier, setting forth the
final instructions left by the Emperor before he started from Paris
on May 9th. It was of a nature to strike dismay into the heart of the
level-headed and rather despondent Jourdan; for it ignored all the
difficulties which his recently dispatched appeal set forth with such
clearness. The King was directed to keep a grip on all the conquered
provinces of Spain, and to extend their limits till the enemy should
be extirpated. The conquest of Portugal might be postponed till ‘les
événements détermineraient absolument cette mesure.’ The region to
which the Emperor devoted most attention was the sphere of the Army of
the North. ‘This is the part on which it is indispensable to keep a
firm hold, never to allow the enemy to establish himself there, or to
threaten the line of communications. Wherefore a most active war must
be waged upon the “Brigands” [Mina, Porlier, Longa, &c.]: it is of
no use to hunt and scatter them, leaving them power to reunite and to
renew their incursions. As to the English, the present situation seems
rather to require a defensive posture: but it is necessary to maintain
an imposing attitude in face of them, so that they may not take any
advantage of our position. The strength of the forces at the King’s
disposition enables him to do, in this respect, all that circumstances
may demand. Such are the principal ideas which the Emperor, before
departing, has expressed on the Spanish problem.’

This was a heart-breaking document. Just when the King and Jourdan had
demonstrated that they had no available field army left to hold back
Wellington, they were informed that their forces were ample for the
purpose. When they had asked leave to evacuate Andalusia they are told
to ‘conserver les conquêtes et les étendre successivement.’ They had
been wishing to concentrate at all costs a central reserve--now they
were directed to spread the already scattered army of occupation over
a still greater surface--presumably the Emperor’s phrase meant that he
wished to see Murcia, the Catalonian inland, the whole of the Asturias,
and the Condado de Niebla garrisoned, in addition to all that was held
already. The one central problem to Joseph and Jourdan was how to face
Wellington’s expected onslaught by making the armies co-operate--the
Emperor forbids concentration, and recommends ‘the assumption of an
imposing attitude!’ As if Wellington, whose knowledge of the movements
and plans of his adversaries was beginning to appear almost uncanny to
them, was to be contained by ‘attitudes,’ imposing or otherwise.

The unhappy Commander-in-Chief and Chief-of-the-Staff of the united
armies of Spain were reduced to a sort of apathetic despair by the
Emperor’s memorandum. Jourdan, in his _Mémoires_, appears to shrug the
shoulders of resignation in commenting on its effect. ‘If only instead
of “hold all you have, and conquer the rest bit by bit,” we had been
told that we might evacuate some provinces and concentrate the troops,
there would have been much good in the instructions. The King might
have dared to abandon the South in order to keep down the North, if he
had not received this dispatch. But he could not take that portentous
step without the imperial permission. All that he could now do, was to
reiterate his directions to Soult and Marmont that they must so place
their troops as to be able to succour each other. We shall see how they
obeyed those orders[349].’

  [349] Jourdan’s _Mémoires_, pp. 395-6.

So, by the special and deliberate directions of the Emperor, the
230,000 effective men ‘present under arms,’ forming the five imperial
armies of Spain, were placed at the mercy of Lord Wellington and his
modest force of eight divisions of Anglo-Portuguese. In a flight of
angry rhetoric, Berthier, writing under Napoleon’s dictation, had once
asked whether it was reasonable ‘_que quarante mille Anglais gâtent
toutes les affaires d’Espagne_.’ The reply of the fates was to be that
such a contingency was perfectly possible, under the system which the
Emperor had instituted, and with the directions which he persisted in
giving.



SECTION XXXIII: CHAPTER II

THE BRIDGE OF ALMARAZ. MAY 1812


On April 24th Wellington halted his pursuing army at Fuente Guinaldo
and Sabugal, on hearing that Marmont had escaped him by a margin of
twenty-four hours. The French were in full march for Salamanca, and it
was impossible to pursue them any further, firstly because the allied
army needed a few days of rest after the forced march from Badajoz, and
secondly because its train had dropped behind, food was nearly out, and
convoys had to be brought up from Lamego and São João de Pesqueira.
There was, of course, nothing to be got out of the unhappy region in
which Marmont’s locusts had just been spread abroad. The only fortunate
thing was that the Duke of Ragusa had turned his raid against the Beira
Baixa, and left the great dépôts on the Douro unmolested. From them
ample sustenance could be got up, in a week, to the positions behind
the Agueda and Coa where the army had halted.

Wellington, as it will be remembered, had contemplated an attack on
Andalusia after Badajoz fell. But the necessity for seeing to the
relief and revictualling of Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo had brought
him up to the frontiers of Leon with the main body of his host. In
the position where he now lay, he was well placed for an advance
on Salamanca, and an attack on the Army of Portugal. To return to
Estremadura would involve a long and weary countermarch. Moreover
there was no doubt that operations in Leon would be more decisive
than operations in Andalusia. As Marmont was to write to Berthier a
few days later, a victory of the allies in the North would involve
the evacuation of the South by Soult, while a victory in Andalusia
would leave the French power in the valleys of the Douro and Tagus
unshaken[350]. Advancing from the line of the Agueda against Salamanca
and Valladolid, Wellington would have his base and his main line of
communications in his direct rear, safe against any flank attack. A
raid against Andalusia, even if successful, would separate him from
Lisbon, and compel him to take up a new base at Cadiz--a doubtful
expedient. But what seems, in the end, to have been the main cause for
Wellington’s choosing Leon rather than Andalusia as his next sphere of
operations, was that Marmont (as he judged) had the larger available
army for field movements outside his own ground. Soult was more pinned
down to his viceroyalty by local needs: he would not raise the siege of
Cadiz or evacuate Granada and Cordova. Therefore he could not collect
(as his movement at the time of the fall of Badajoz had shown) more
than 24,000 men for an offensive operation. This was the absolute limit
of his power to aid Marmont. But the latter, if he chose to evacuate
Asturias and other outlying regions, could bring a much larger force to
help Soult. Therefore an attack on Andalusia would enable the enemy to
concentrate a more numerous defensive force than an attack on Leon. ‘Of
the two armies opposed to us that of Portugal can produce the larger
number of men for a distant operation. Marmont has nothing to attend to
but the British army, as he has been repeatedly told in [intercepted]
time he may lose some plunder and contributions, but he loses nothing
that can permanently affect his situation, or which he could not
regain as soon as he has a superiority, particularly of cavalry, in
the open plains of Castille. Marmont’s, then, being what may be called
of the two the _operating_ army, the movement which I might make into
Andalusia would enable the enemy to bring the largest body of men to
act together on one point. It would be a false movement, and this must
by all means be avoided[351].’

  [350] See above, p. 311.

  [351] _Dispatches_, ix. p. 173.

This decision was not made immediately on Marmont’s retreat of April
24th: for some days after the British headquarters settled down at
Fuente Guinaldo, Wellington had not quite made up his mind between the
two operations: his letters to Lord Liverpool, to Hill, and Graham,
are full of the needs of the moment, and do not lay down any general
strategical plan. The staff, in their discussions with each other,
canvassed the situation. ‘While Marmont remains in Old Castile he
[Wellington] must leave a certain force near the frontier of the Beira.
But leaving the 3rd, 4th, 5th Divisions, and Pack’s and Bradford’s
Portuguese (perhaps 18,000 men) for that purpose, he can move upon
Andalusia, if he wishes, with the 1st, 6th, 7th, and Light Divisions,
afterwards picking up Power’s Portuguese brigade and all General Hill’s
_corps d’armée_--perhaps 36,000 infantry. This would do.’ So wrote
D’Urban the chief of the Portuguese staff in his private diary, on
May 5, evidently after discussion with Beresford, and others of those
who were nearest the centre of decision. Wellington, however, was
pondering over alternatives: he could not move for a week or two at the
best, for he had to replenish his stores at the front, and to see that
the repairs and revictualling of Almeida and Rodrigo were completed,
before he could start on any offensive movement. In that time, too,
he would be able to learn how Marmont was disposing of his army, and
whether Soult was showing any tendency to reinforce Drouet’s force in
Estremadura.

It seems that an insight into his enemies’ purposes was made specially
easy for Wellington at this moment by the successive capture of a
great deal of French correspondence. When Marmont was in Portugal,
between the 1st and 23rd of April, three of the duplicates of his
dispatches were captured, one by Portuguese Ordenança, the others by
Julian Sanchez between Rodrigo and Salamanca[352]. They were all in
cipher, but the ingenuity of Captain Scovell, the cipher-secretary at
head-quarters, was capable of dealing with them, and from them could
be made out a great deal about the strength of the Marshal’s army, and
his general views on the campaign. If they had been taken and sent in
a little earlier, they might have enabled Wellington to complete that
surprise and dispersion of the French expeditionary force which had
been in his mind.

  [352] The cipher-originals are all in the Scovell papers,
  worked out into their interpretation by that ingenious officer:
  Wellington only kept the fair copies for himself. The dispatches
  are dated Sabugal, 11 April (to Brennier about the Agueda
  bridge); Sabugal, April 16 (to Berthier); Fuente Guinaldo, April
  22 (to Berthier). The last two are full of the most acrimonious
  criticism of Napoleon’s orders for the invasion of Beira. Scovell
  made out much, but not all, of the contents of these letters.

But though they arrived too late for this purpose, they were valuable,
as showing Marmont’s dislike of the imperial orders that he had been
sent to carry out, and his preference for his own schemes. They were
also full of bitter complaints of the neglect in which the Army of
Portugal was left as to pay, stores, and transport. Wellington might
reasonably deduce from them that any reconcentration of that army would
be slow, and that if it had to march to reinforce Soult in the South,
the effort would be a severe one.

But shortly after Marmont’s return to Salamanca, his adversary got
an even more valuable insight into his plans. The guerrilleros
carried off, between Salamanca and Valladolid, an officer bearing
five dispatches, dated April 28 and April 30th. One was directed to
Dorsenne, two to Berthier, one to Jourdan, the fifth contained the
parole to Bayonne of the great scout, Colquhoun Grant[353]. The first,
couched in very peremptory terms, asked for food--the Army of Portugal
must absolutely receive 8,000 quintals of wheat, once promised,
without delay--it was in a state of danger and penury, and could not
keep concentrated to face the British. Of the letters to Berthier one
announced that Bonnet’s division was duly in march for the Asturias,
and that without it the Marshal thought his own strength dangerously
low. The other asked for 4,000,000 francs owing to the Army of Portugal
for pay and sustenance, and declared that, unless money came to hand at
once, it was impossible to see how the troops were to be kept alive in
the two months still remaining before harvest. A postscript asked for a
siege-train to be sent on at all costs--the Marshal had heard that one
was on the way from Bayonne: but nothing was known about it at Burgos.
The letter to Jourdan was the most important of all[354]: it was the
document, already quoted in the previous chapter, in which the Marshal
detailed his intentions as to the dispersion of his army, protested
against being obliged to send too many men into the valley of the
Tagus, and explained the importance of the bridge-forts and magazines
at Almaraz, by which his troops at Avila, &c., would debouch southward
whenever they were ordered to concentrate for a junction with Soult.
‘On ne peut agir que par Lugar Nuevo [the name by which Marmont always
designates the Almaraz forts] ... il faut bien se garder de jeter trop
de troupes sur le Tage, et se contenter de bien assurer une défense de
huit jours pour les forts de Lugar Nuevo et Mirabete, temps suffisant
pour que les troupes rassemblées à Avila débouchent.... Un dépôt de
400 à 500 mille fanegas (qui n’est pas au delà de ce que Madrid et La
Manche peuvent fournir) donnerait les moyens d’agir sans compromettre
la subsistance des troupes.’

  [353] All the originals are in the Scovell Papers.

  [354] It is the one printed in Ducasse’s _Correspondence of King
  Joseph_, viii. pp. 413-17.

Undoubtedly it was the deciphering of the greater part of this letter,
which set forth so clearly the importance of the Almaraz bridge,
and showed at the same time that only one French division [Foy’s at
Talavera] was anywhere near it, that determined Wellington to make the
sudden stroke at that central strategical point which he had thought
of in February[355]. At that time he had refused to try it, because
there were three French divisions on the Tagus. Now there was only one
at Talavera, two marches from Almaraz, and the nearest reinforcements
at Avila were two very long marches from Talavera. The possibility
presented itself that a column might strike at Almaraz from somewhere
on the Portuguese frontier, and take the place by a _coup-de-main_,
with or without first beating Foy, whose strength of 5,000 men was
perfectly known to Wellington.

  [355] See above, p. 202.

Hill could count on two or three days of undisturbed operations before
the nearest reinforcing division, that of Foy, could reach Almaraz: on
four or five more, before troops from Avila could come up. It must be
noted that everything would depend on the absolute secrecy that could
be preserved as to the start of the expedition: but on this Wellington
thought that he could count. The Spanish peasantry seldom or never
betrayed him: the French had no outlying posts beyond Almaraz which
might give them warning. The garrison was in a normal state of blockade
by guerrillero bands haunting the Sierra de Guadalupe.

It may be added that a blow at Almaraz was just as useful as a means
for keeping Soult from joining Marmont as Marmont from joining Soult.
It would be profitable if Wellington’s final decision should be
given in favour of an Andalusian expedition. But his mind was by now
leaning towards an attack on Leon rather than on the South. The final
inclination may have been given by the receipt of another intercepted
dispatch--Soult’s to Jourdan of April 17[356], sent in by guerrilleros
who had probably captured the bearer in the Sierra Morena about April
20th. This document, which we have already had occasion to quote for
another purpose[357], was full of angry denunciations of Marmont for
letting Badajoz fall unaided, and served to show that, if Soult had
to help the Army of Portugal, he would do so with no good will to
its commander. Moreover it was largely occupied by proposals for the
circumventing of Ballasteros and the siege of Tarifa--movements which
would disperse the Army of the South even more than it was already
dispersed, and would clearly prevent it from succouring Marmont within
any reasonable space of time.

  [356] Original in the Scovell Papers. Place of capture uncertain,
  but clearly taken by guerrilleros between Seville and Madrid.

  [357] See above, pp. 269-70.

The decision that Hill should make his long-deferred _coup-de-main_
upon Almaraz first appears in Wellington’s dispatches on May 4th[358],
but Hill had been warned that the operation was likely to be sanctioned
some days earlier, on April 24, and again more definitely on April
30th[359]. That the final judgement of Wellington was now leaning
in favour of the advance on Salamanca rather than the Andalusian
raid appears to emerge from a note of D’Urban dated May 6th--’The
retirement of Marmont within a given distance--the slow progress of the
Spaniards at Rodrigo, which renders it unsafe to leave that place and
this frontier--the retiring altogether of Soult, and the state of his
army not making him dangerous now--these and other combining reasons
determine Lord Wellington to make his offensive operation _north_ of
the Tagus, and to move upon Marmont. All necessary preparations making,
but secretly: it will be very feasible to keep the movement unforeseen
till it begins. Meanwhile General Hill is to move upon and destroy
everything at Almaraz[360].’

  [358] Wellington to Graham, Fuente Guinaldo, May 4, _Dispatches_,
  ix. p. 114.

  [359] Ibid., p. 101.

  [360] D’Urban’s unpublished diary, under May 6.

The orders for Hill’s move were given out on May 7th. He was to march
from his head-quarters at Almendralejo with two British brigades
(Howard’s and Wilson’s) of the 2nd Division, and the Portuguese brigade
attached to the division (Ashworth’s), one British cavalry regiment
(13th Light Dragoons), and to cross the Guadiana at Merida. Beyond the
Guadiana he would pick up Campbell’s Portuguese cavalry brigade, which
was lying at Arroyo dos Molinos. The march was then to be as rapid as
possible, via Jaraicejo and Miravete. The expeditionary force made up
7,000 men in all.

There were left in Estremadura to ‘contain’ Drouet the two English
cavalry brigades of Hill’s force (Slade’s and Long’s)[361], one British
infantry brigade (Byng’s) of the 2nd Division, Hamilton’s Portuguese
division, and Power’s unattached Portuguese brigade (late the garrison
of Elvas, and more recently acting as that of Badajoz). The whole would
make up 11,000 men. Power, or at least some of his regiments, was now
disposable, because the Spaniards destined to hold Badajoz had begun to
arrive, and more were daily expected[362].

  [361] Minus, of course, the 13th Light Dragoons.

  [362] Erskine was the senior officer left with the corps--a
  dangerous experiment. One marvels that Wellington risked it after
  previous experience.

But this was not the only precaution taken against Drouet, who had
recently been reported as a little inclined to move northward from
Fuente Ovejuna--detachments of his cavalry had been seen as far north
as Zalamea[363]. Wellington determined to move down towards the
Guadiana the southern or right wing of his main army--the 1st and 6th
Divisions under Graham. First one and then the other were filed across
the bridge of Villa Velha and sent to Portalegre. Here they would be
in a position to support the force left in front of Drouet, if Soult
should unexpectedly reinforce his Estremaduran corps. Wellington
acknowledged that he disliked this wide extension of his army, but
justified himself by observing that, if he had now his left wing almost
touching the Douro, and his right wing almost touching the Sierra
Morena, he might risk the situation, because he was fully informed as
to Marmont’s similar dispersion. The Army of Portugal was scattered
from the Asturias to Talavera, and from its want of magazines and
transport, which Marmont’s intercepted dispatches made evident, would
be unable to concentrate as quickly as he himself could.

  [363] Wellington to Graham, May 7, _Dispatches_, ix. p. 128.

The movement of Graham’s two divisions from the Castello Branco region
to south of the Tagus had an additional advantage. If reported to the
French it would tend to make them believe that the next offensive
operation of the allied army would be in the direction of Andalusia,
not towards the Tormes. If Soult heard of it, he would begin to prepare
to defend his own borders, and would not dream that Marmont was really
the enemy at whom Wellington was about to strike; while Marmont, on the
other hand, thinking that Soult was to be the object of Wellington’s
attentions, might be less careful of his own front. The expedition to
Almaraz would not undeceive either of them, since it was well suited
for a preliminary move in an attack on Andalusia, no less than for one
directed against Leon.

Hill’s column reached Merida on May 12th, but was delayed there
for some hours, because the bridge, broken in April, had not yet
been repaired, as had been expected, the officers sent there having
contented themselves with organizing a service of boats for the
passage. The bridge was hastily finished, but the troops only passed
late in the day; they picked up in the town the artillery and engineers
told off for the expedition, Glubb’s British and Arriaga’s Portuguese
companies of artillery, who brought with them six 24-pounder howitzers,
a pontoon train, and wagons carrying some 30-foot ladders for
escalading work. The importance attached to the raid by Wellington is
shown by the fact that he placed Alexander Dickson, his most trusted
artillery officer, in charge of this trifling detachment, which came up
by the road north of the Guadiana by Badajoz and Montijo to join the
main column.

Once over the Guadiana, Hill reached Truxillo in three rapid marches
[May 15], and there left all his baggage-train, save one mule for each
company with the camp-kettles. The most difficult part of the route had
now been reached, three successive mountain ranges separating Truxillo
from the Tagus. On the 16th, having crossed the first of them, the
column reached Jaraicejo: at dawn on the 17th, having made a night
march, it was nearing the Pass of Miravete, the last defile above the
river. Here, as Hill was aware, the French had outlying works, an old
castle and two small forts, on very commanding ground, overlooking the
whole defile in such a way that guns and wagons could not possibly
pass them. The British general’s original intention was to storm the
Miravete works at dawn, on the 17th, and at the same time to attack
with a separate column the forts at the bridge. With this purpose he
divided his troops into three detachments. Ashworth’s Portuguese and
the artillery were to keep to the _chaussée_, and make a demonstration
of frontal attack on the Castle: General Tilson-Chowne [interim
commander of the 2nd Division at the moment[364]] was, with Wilson’s
brigade and the 6th Caçadores, to make a détour in the hills to the
left and to endeavour to storm the Castle from its rear side. General
Howard, with the other British brigade, was to follow a similar bridle
path to the right, and to descend on to the river and attack the forts
by the bridge.

  [364] This was the Tilson of 1809: he had lengthened his name.

A miscalculation had been made--the by-paths which the flanking
columns were to take proved so far more steep and difficult than had
been expected, that by dawn neither of them had got anywhere near its
destination. Hill ordered them to halt, and put off the assault. This
was fortunate, for by a long and close reconnaissance in daylight it
was recognized that the Castle of Miravete and its dependent outworks,
Forts Colbert and Senarmont, were so placed on a precipitous conical
hill that they appeared impregnable save by regular siege operations,
for which the expeditionary force had no time to spare. The most
vexatious thing was that the garrison had discovered the main column
on the _chaussée_, and it could not be doubted that intelligence must
have been sent down to the lower forts, and most certainly to Foy
at Talavera also. After a thorough inspection of the ground, Hill
concluded that he could not hope to master Miravete, and, while it was
held against him, his guns could not get through the pass which it so
effectively commanded. It remained to be seen what could be done with
the forts at the bridge.

The Almaraz forts crowned two hills on each side of the Tagus. The
stronger, Fort Napoleon, occupied the end of a long rising ground,
about 100 yards from the water’s edge; below it, and connecting
with it, was a masonry _tête-de-pont_ covering the end of the
pontoon-bridge. The weaker work, Fort Ragusa, was on an isolated
knoll on the north bank, supporting the other end of the bridge. Fort
Napoleon mounted nine guns, had a good but unpalisaded ditch around
its bastioned front, and a second retrenchment, well palisaded, with
a loopholed stone tower within. Fort Ragusa was an oblong earthwork
mounting six guns, and also provided with a central tower. It had as
outwork a _flèche_ or lunette, commanding the north end of the bridge.
The small _tête-de-pont_ mounted three guns more. Half a mile up-stream
was the ruined masonry bridge which had formed the old crossing,
with the village of Almaraz on the north bank behind it. Between the
_tête-de-pont_ and the old bridge were the magazines and storehouses in
the village of Lugar Nuevo.

The garrison of the works consisted of a depleted foreign corps, the
_régiment de Prusse_ or 4th Étranger, mustering under 400 bayonets, of
a battalion of the French 39th of the Line, and of two companies of
the 6th Léger, from Foy’s division, with a company of artillery and
another of sappers. The whole may have amounted to 1,000 men, of whom
300 were isolated in the high-lying Castle of Miravete, five miles from
the bridge-head. The governor, a Piedmontese officer named Aubert,
had manned Fort Napoleon with two companies of the 6th and 39th. The
foreign corps and one company of the 6th were in Fort Ragusa and the
bridge-head; Miravete was held by the centre companies of the 39th.

Though delay after the French had got the alarm was dangerous, Hill
spent the whole of the 17th in making fruitless explorations for
vantage-ground, from which Miravete might be attacked. None was found,
and on the 18th he made up his mind to adopt a scheme hazardous beyond
his original intention. It would be possible to mask the Castle by a
false attack, in which all his artillery should join, and to lead part
of his infantry over the hills to the right, by a gorge called the Pass
of La Cueva, for a direct attack by escalade, without the help of guns,
upon the Almaraz forts.

The detachment selected for this purpose was Howard’s brigade (1/50th,
1/71st, 1/92nd), strengthened by the 6th Portuguese Line from
Ashworth’s brigade, and accompanied by 20 artillerymen in charge of the
ladders. So rough was the ground to be covered, that the long 30-foot
ladders had to be sawn in two, being unwieldy on slopes and angles, as
was soon discovered when they were taken off the carts for carriage
by hand. The route that had to be followed was very circuitous, and
though the forts were only five miles, as the crow flies, from the
place where the column left the road, it took the whole night to reach
them. An eye-witness[365] describes it as a mazy sheep-walk among
high brushwood, which could not have been used without the help of
the experienced peasant-guide who led the march. The men had to pass
in Indian file over many of its stretches, and it resulted from long
walking in the darkness that the rear dropped far behind the van, and
nearly lost touch with it. Just before dawn the column reached the
hamlet of Romangordo, a mile from the forts, and rested there for some
time before resuming its march.

  [365] Captain MacCarthy of the 50th.

The sun was well up when, at 6 o’clock, the leading company, coming
to the edge of a thicket, suddenly saw Fort Napoleon only 300 yards
in their front. The French had been warned that a column had crossed
the hills, and had caught some glimpse of it, but had lost sight of
its latest move: many of the garrison could be seen standing on the
ramparts, and watching the puffs of smoke round the Castle of Miravete,
which showed that the false attack on that high-lying stronghold
had begun. General Tilson-Chowne was making a noisy demonstration
before it, using his artillery with much ostentation, and pushing up
skirmishers among the boulders on the sides of the castle-hill[366].

  [366] The statement in Jones’s _Sieges_, i. p. 259, that the
  enemy were unaware of the turning column is disproved by the
  official reports of the surviving French officers Sêve and Teppe.

Hill was anxious to assault at once, before the sun should rise higher,
or the garrison of the forts catch sight of him. But some time had
to be spent to allow a sufficient force to accumulate in the cover
where the head of the column was hiding. So slowly did the companies
straggle in, that the General at last resolved to escalade at once with
the 50th and the right wing of the 71st, all that had yet come up.
Orders were left behind that the left wing of the 71st and the 92nd
should attack the bridge-head entrenchment when they arrived, and the
6th Portuguese support where they were needed.

At a little after 6 o’clock the 900 men available, in three columns of
a half-battalion each, headed by ladder parties, started up out of the
brake on the crest of the hillside nearest Fort Napoleon, and raced for
three separate points of its _enceinte_. The French, though taken by
surprise, had all their preparations ready, and a furious fire broke
out upon the stormers both from cannon and musketry. Nevertheless all
three parties reached the goal without any very overwhelming losses,
jumped into the ditch, and began to apply their ladders to such points
of the rampart as lay nearest to them. The assault was a very daring
one--the work was intact, the garrison adequate in numbers, the
assailants had no advantage from darkness, for the sun was well up and
every man was visible. All that was in their favour was the suddenness
of their onslaught, the number of separate points at which it was
launched, and their own splendid dash and decision. Many men fell in
the first few minutes, and there was a check when it was discovered
that the ladders were over-short, owing to their having been sawn up
before the start. But the rampart had a rather broad berm[367], a fault
of construction, and the stormers, discovering this, climbed up on
it, and dragging some of the ladders with them, relaid them against
the upper section of the defences, which they easily overtopped. By
this unexpected device a footing was established on the ramparts at
several points simultaneously--Captain Candler of the 50th is said to
have been the first man over the parapet: he was pierced by several
balls as he sprang down, and fell dead inside. The garrison had kept
up a furious fire till the moment when they saw the assailants swarm
over the parapet--then, however, there can be no doubt that most of
them flinched[368]: the governor tried to lead a counter-charge, but
found few to follow him; he was surrounded, and, refusing to surrender
and striking at those who bade him yield, was piked by a sergeant of
the 50th and mortally wounded. So closely were the British and French
mixed that the latter got no chance of manning the inner work, or the
loopholed tower which should have served as their rallying-point.
Many of the garrison threw down their arms, but the majority rushed
out of the rear gate of the fort towards the neighbouring redoubt
at the bridge-head. They were so closely followed that pursuers and
pursued went in a mixed mass into that work, whose gunners were unable
to fire because their balls would have gone straight into their own
flying friends. The foreign garrison of the _tête-de-pont_ made little
attempt to resist, and fled over the bridge[369]. It is probable that
the British would have reached the other side along with them if the
centre pontoons had not been sunk: some say that they were struck by
a round-shot from Fort Ragusa, which had opened a fire upon the lost
works; others declare that some of the fugitives broke them, whether by
design or by mischance of overcrowding[370].

  [367] The berm is the line where the scarp of the ditch meets
  the slope of the rampart: the scarp should be perpendicular, the
  rampart-slope tends backward, hence there is a change on this
  line from the vertical to the obtuse in the profile of the work.
  The berm should have been only a foot or so wide and was three.

  [368] The official report of the French captain, Sêve of the
  6th Léger, accuses the grenadiers of the 39th of giving way and
  bolting at the critical moment, and this is confirmed by the
  report of the _chef de bataillon_ Teppe of the 39th, an unwilling
  witness.

  [369] According to Teppe’s narrative they left the walls, and
  many hid in the bakehouses, while most of the officers headed the
  rush for the bridge.

  [370] Foy says that the centre link of the bridge was not a
  regular pontoon but a river boat, which could be drawn out when
  the garrison wanted to open the bridge for any purpose, and being
  light it collapsed under the feet of the flying crowd (p. 163).

This ought to have been the end of Hill’s sudden success, since passage
across the Tagus was now denied him. But the enemy were panic-stricken;
and when the guns of Fort Napoleon were trained upon Fort Ragusa by
Lieutenant Love and the twenty gunners who had accompanied Hill’s
column, the garrison evacuated it, and went off with the rest of the
fugitives in a disorderly flight towards Naval Moral. The formidable
works of Almaraz had fallen before the assault of 900 men--for the
tail of Hill’s column arrived on the scene to find all over[371].
Four grenadiers of the 92nd, wishing to do something if they had been
disappointed of the expected day’s work, stripped, swam the river,
and brought back several boats which had been left moored under Fort
Ragusa. By means of these communication between the two banks was
re-established, and the fort beyond the river was occupied[372].

  [371] The 92nd and the right wing of the 71st reached the
  _tête-de-pont_ just as the fugitives from Fort Napoleon entered
  it, and swept away the garrison. They only lost two wounded.

  [372] Gardyne’s history of the 92nd gives the names of two of
  these gallant men, Gauld and Somerville.

The loss of the victors was very moderate--it fell mostly on the 50th
and 71st, for Chowne’s demonstration against Miravete had been almost
bloodless--only one ensign and one private of the 6th Caçadores were
wounded. But the 50th lost one captain and 26 men killed, and seven
officers and 93 men wounded, while the half-battalion of the 71st had
five killed and five officers and 47 men wounded[373]. The 92nd had two
wounded. Thus the total of casualties was 189.

  [373] Hill’s total of casualties is 2 officers and 31 men killed:
  13 officers and 143 wounded. The second officer killed was
  Lieutenant Thiele of the Artillery of the K.G.L., accidentally
  blown up by a mine on the day of the evacuation. But two of the
  wounded officers died.

Of the garrison the 4th Étranger was pretty well destroyed--those who
were neither killed nor taken mostly deserted, and its numbers had gone
down from 366 in the return of May 15 to 88 in that of July 1. The
companies of the 39th and 6th Léger also suffered heavily, since they
had furnished the whole of the unlucky garrison of Fort Napoleon. Hill
reports 17 officers and 262 men taken prisoners, including the mortally
wounded governor and a _chef de bataillon_ of the 39th[374]. It is
probable that the whole loss of the French was at least 400.

  [374] Teppe by name, whose narrative, written in captivity, is
  our best source for the French side. It is a frank confession of
  misbehaviour by the troops--particularly the 4th Étranger.

The trophies taken consisted of a colour of the 4th Étranger, 18 guns
mounted in the works, an immense store of powder and round-shot,
120,000 musket cartridges, the 20 large pontoons forming the bridge,
with a store of rope, timbers, anchors, carriages, &c., kept for its
repair, some well-furnished workshops, and a large miscellaneous
magazine of food and other stores. All this was destroyed, the
pontoons, &c., being burnt, while the powder was used to lay many mines
in the forts and bridgehead, which were blown up very successfully
on the morning of the 20th, so that hardly a trace of them remained.
Thiele of the German artillery, the officer charged with carrying
out the explosions, was unfortunately killed by accident: a mine had
apparently failed; he went back to see to its match, but it blew up
just as he was inspecting it.

[Illustration: ALMARAZ]

Having accomplished his purpose with complete success, Hill moved
off without delay, and by two forced marches reached Truxillo and
his baggage on the 21st. Here he was quite safe: Foy, being too weak
to pursue him to any effect, followed cautiously, and only reached
Miravete (whose garrison he relieved) on the 23rd and Truxillo on the
25th, from whence he turned back, being altogether too late. He had
received news of Hill’s movement rather late on the 17th, had been
misinformed as to his strength, which report made 15,000 men instead
of the real 7,000, and so had been disposed to act cautiously. He had
ordered a battalion of the 6th Léger from Naval Moral to join the
garrison of Almaraz, but it arrived on the afternoon of the 19th,
only in time to hear from fugitives of the disaster[375]. He himself
was confident that the forts could hold out eight days even against
artillery, which was also Marmont’s calculation. Hence their fall
within 48 hours of Hill’s appearance was a distressing surprise: Foy
had calculated on being helped not only by D’Armagnac from Talavera but
by the division of Clausel from Avila, before moving to fight Hill and
relieve them.

  [375] D’Armagnac also sent the battalion of Frankfort for the
  same purpose, which arrived late with less excuse. See Foy, p.
  375.

Wellington appears to have been under the impression that this
expedition, which Hill had executed with such admirable celerity and
dispatch, might have been made even more decisive, by the capture of
the castle of Miravete, if untoward circumstances had not intervened.
In a letter to Lord Liverpool, written on May 28[376], he expresses
the opinion that Tilson-Chowne might have taken it on the night of the
16th--which must appear a hazardous decision to those who look at the
precipitous position of the place and the strength of its defences.
He also says that Hill might have stopped at Almaraz for a few days
more, and have bombarded Miravete with Dickson’s heavy howitzers, if
he had not received false news from Sir William Erskine as to Drouet’s
movements in Estremadura. There can be no doubt, as we shall see, about
the false intelligence: but whether the bombardment would have been
successful is another thing. Probably Wellington considered that the
garrison would have been demoralized after what had happened at Almaraz.

  [376] _Dispatches_, ix. p. 189.

As to Drouet’s movements, having received rather tardy notice of
Hill’s northward march from Merida, he had resolved to make a push to
ascertain what was left in his front. Lallemand’s dragoons, therefore,
pressed out in the direction of Zafra, where they came into contact
with Slade’s outposts and drove them in. At the same time Drouet
himself, with an infantry division and some light cavalry, advanced
as far as Don Benito, near Medellin, on the 17th May, from whence he
pushed patrols across the Guadiana as far as Miajadas. This movement,
made to ascertain whether Hill had departed with his whole corps, or
whether a large force had been left in Estremadura, was reported to Sir
William Erskine, the commander of the 2nd cavalry division, along with
rumours that Soult was across the Sierra Morena and closely supporting
Drouet. Erskine sent on the news to Graham at Portalegre, and to Hill,
who was then before Miravete, with assertions that Soult was certainly
approaching. This, as Wellington knew, was unlikely, for the Marshal
had been before Cadiz on the 11th, and could not possibly have crossed
the Sierra Morena by the 17th. As a matter of fact he only learnt on
the 19th, at Chiclana, that Hill had started, and Drouet’s move was
made purely to gain information and on his own responsibility. But
Graham, naturally unaware of this, brought up his two divisions to
Badajoz, as he had been directed to do if Estremadura were attacked
during Hill’s absence. And Hill himself was certainly induced to return
promptly from Almaraz by Erskine’s letter, though it is doubtful
whether he would have lingered to besiege Miravete even if he had not
received it. For Foy might have been reinforced by D’Armagnac and the
Avila division up to a strength which would have made Hill’s longer
stay on the Tagus undesirable.

Drouet did no more; indeed, with his own force he was quite helpless
against Hill, since when he discovered that there was a large body
of allied troops left in Estremadura, and that more were coming up,
it would have been mad for him to move on Merida, or take any other
method of molesting the return of the expedition from Almaraz. Though
Soult spoke of coming with a division to his aid, the succours must be
many days on the way, while he himself could only act effectively by
marching northward at once. But if he had taken his own division he
would have been helpless against Hill, who could have beaten such a
force; while if he had crossed the Guadiana with his whole 12,000 men,
he would have been cut off from Soult by the ‘uncontained’ allied force
left in Estremadura, which he knew to be considerable.

But to move upon Almaraz on his own responsibility, and without Soult’s
orders, would have been beyond Drouet’s power: he was a man under
authority, who dared not take such a step. And when Soult’s dispatches
reached him, they directed him not to lose touch with Andalusia, but to
demonstrate enough to bring Hill back. The Marshal did not intend to
let Drouet get out of touch with him, by bidding him march toward the
Tagus.

Hill’s column, then, was never in any danger. But Wellington, who had
for a moment some anxiety in his behalf, was deeply vexed by Erskine’s
false intelligence, which had given rise to that feeling, and wrote in
wrath to Henry Wellesley and Graham[377] concerning the mischief that
this very incapable officer had done. He was particularly chagrined
that Graham had been drawn down to Badajoz by the needless alarm, as he
was intending to bring him back to join the main army within a short
time, and the movement to Badajoz had removed him three marches from
Portalegre, so that six days in all would be wasted in bringing him
back to his original starting-point. It is curious that Wellington did
not harden his heart to get rid of Erskine after this mishap: but
though he wrote bitterly about his subordinate’s incapacity, he did
not remove him. ‘Influence’ at home was apparently the key to his long
endurance: it will be remembered that this was by no means the first of
Erskine’s mistakes[378].

  [377] To both on June 1. _Dispatches_, ix. p. 197. Erskine’s name
  is the blank to be filled up.

  [378] See vol. iv. pp. 133 and 191.

The fall of the Almaraz forts, as might have been expected, was
interpreted by Marmont and Soult each from his own point of view. The
former, rightly as it turned out, wrote to Foy that he must be prepared
to return to Leon at short notice, and that the Army of the Centre
and Drouet must guard the valley of the Tagus on his departure[379].
Soult, on the other hand, having heard of Graham’s arrival at Badajoz
and Hill’s return to Merida, argued that the allies were massing on
the Guadiana for an advance into Andalusia. He made bitter complaints
to Jourdan that he had violated the rules of military subordination by
sending a letter to Drouet warning him that he might be called up to
the Tagus. It was unheard of, he said, to communicate directly with a
subordinate, who ought to be written to only through the channel of
his immediate superior. He even threatened to resign the command of
the Army of the South[380]--but when Joseph showed no signs of being
terrified by this menace, no more was heard of it. The viceroyalty of
Andalusia was not a thing to be lightly given up.

  [379] Marmont to Foy, June 1.

  [380] See Jourdan’s _Mémoires_, pp. 399-400.

It soon became evident to Wellington that the surprise of Almaraz was
not to be resented by the enemy in any practical form. Foy was not
reinforced, nor was Drouet brought up to the Tagus: it was clear that
the French were too weak to take the offensive either in the North or
the South, even under such provocation. They could not even rebuild
the lost bridge: the transport from Madrid of a new pontoon train as a
substitute for the lost boats was beyond King Joseph’s power. One or
two boats were finally got to Almaraz--but nothing that could serve as
a bridge. Nor were the lost magazines ever replaced.

It was at this same time that Wellington took in hand a scheme for
facilitating his communications north and south, which was to have a
high strategical importance. As long as Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz
were in the enemy’s hands, the most eastern crossing of the Tagus
practicable for the Anglo-Portuguese army was the boat-bridge of Villa
Velha. But when these two fortresses were regained, it was possible
to open up a line farther east, which had not been available for two
years. Since Mayne blew up the ancient Roman bridge of Alcantara in
June 1809[381], the Middle Tagus had been impassable for both sides.
The allies had usually been in possession of both banks of the Tagus
in this direction, but so intermittently that it had never been worth
their while to restore the passage, which would have been lost to them
whenever the French (as not unfrequently happened) extended their
operations into the Coria-Zarza Mayor country on the north bank, or the
Caçeres-Albuquerque country on the other. But when the enemy had lost
both Badajoz and Rodrigo, and had no posts nearer to Alcantara than the
Upper Tormes, the forts of Miravete, and Zalamea, when, moreover, he
had adopted a distinctly defensive attitude for many months, Wellington
thought it worth while to recover possession of a passage which would
shorten the route from Estremadura to the frontiers of Leon by a
hundred miles, and would therefore give him an advantage of six marches
over the enemy in transferring troops from north to south. Whether
Almaraz were again seized and reoccupied by the French mattered little:
the restoration of Alcantara would be safe and profitable.

  [381] See vol. ii. p. 444.

Accordingly, on May 24th, Colonel Sturgeon[382] and Major Todd
of the Royal Staff Corps were sent to Alcantara to report on the
practicability of restoring the broken arch, which, owing to the
immense depth of the cañon of the Tagus, overhung the river by no less
than 140 feet. It was intended that if the engineering problem should
prove too hard, a flying bridge of rafts, boats, or pontoons should
be established at the water level[383]. But Sturgeon and Todd did
more than Wellington had expected, and succeeded in a very few days
in establishing a sort of suspension-bridge of ropes between the two
shattered piers of Trajan’s great structure. The system adopted was
that of placing at each end of the broken roadway a very large and
solid beam, clamped to the Roman stones, by being sunk in channels cut
in them. These beams being made absolutely adhesive to the original
work, served as solid bases from which a series of eighteen cables were
stretched over the gap. Eight more beams, with notches cut in them
to receive the cables, were laid at right angles across the parallel
ropes, and lashed tight to them. The long cables were strained taut
with winches: a network of rope yarn for a flooring was laid between
the eight beams, and on this planks were placed, while a screen of
tarpaulins supported on guide-ropes acted as parapets. The structure
was sound enough to carry not only infantry and horses, but heavy
artillery, yet could always be broken up in a short time if an enemy
had ever appeared in the neighbourhood[384]. Several times it was
rolled up, and then replaced.

  [382] An officer probably better remembered by the general reader
  as the husband of Sarah Curran, Robert Emmet’s sometime fiancée,
  than as the executor of some of Wellington’s most important
  engineering works. He fell before Bayonne in 1814.

  [383] See Wellington to Graham, 23rd and 24th May. _Dispatches_,
  ix. pp. 163-5.

  [384] The best and most elaborate account of this is in Leith
  Hay, i. pp. 300-1.

When the completion of the repairs of Alcantara and the destruction of
the French bridge of Almaraz are taken together, it must be concluded
that Wellington’s work in May gave him an advantage over the French of
at least ten or twelve marches in moving troops from north to south
or vice versa. For the route from Ciudad Rodrigo to Merida, now open
to him, had at least that superiority over the only itinerary of the
enemy, which would be that by Avila, Talavera, Toledo, and the eastern
passes of the Sierra Morena. Though the narrow bridge of Arzobispo on
the Middle Tagus still remained in French hands, it did not lead on to
any good road to Estremadura or Andalusia, but on to the defiles of the
Mesa d’Ibor and the ravines of the Sierra de Guadalupe. No large force
could march or feed in those solitudes.

All was now ready for the advance upon the Tormes, which Wellington had
made up his mind to execute.



SECTION XXXIII: CHAPTER III

WELLINGTON’S ADVANCE INTO LEON


It was not till June 13th that Wellington crossed the Agueda and began
his march upon Salamanca, the first great offensive movement against
the main fighting army of the French since the advance to Talavera in
1809. But for many days beforehand his troops were converging on Fuente
Guinaldo and Ciudad Rodrigo from their widely-spread cantonments.
Graham’s divisions quitted Portalegre on May 30th, and some of the
other troops, which had been left on the western side of the Beira,
had also to make an early start. Every available infantry unit of the
Anglo-Portuguese army had been drawn in, save the 2nd Division and
Hamilton’s Portuguese--left as usual with Hill in Estremadura--and
Power’s new Portuguese brigade--once the garrisons of Elvas and
Abrantes--which had become available for the field since the fall
of Badajoz made it possible to place those fortresses in charge of
militia. Its arrival made Hill stronger by 2,000 in infantry than he
had ever been before, and he was also left the three brigades (Long’s
and Slade’s British and John Campbell’s Portuguese) of Erskine’s
cavalry division. The total was 18,000 men. Wellington’s own main army,
consisting of the seven other infantry divisions, Pack’s and Bradford’s
Portuguese brigades, and the cavalry of Anson, Bock, Le Marchant,
and Victor Alten, made up a force of 48,000 men, of which 3,500 were
cavalry: there were only eight British and one Portuguese batteries
with the army--a short allowance of 54 guns.

But though these 48,000 men constituted the striking force, which was
to deal the great blow, their action was to be supported by a very
elaborate and complicated system of diversions, which were intended
to prevent the French armies of the South, North, Centre, and Aragon
from sending any help to Marmont, the foe whom Wellington was set
on demolishing. It is necessary to explain the concentric scheme
by which it was intended that pressure should be brought to bear
on all the outlying French armies, at the same moment at which the
Anglo-Portuguese main body crossed the Agueda.

Soult had the largest force--over 50,000 men, as a recently captured
morning-state revealed to his adversary[385]. But he could not
assemble more than some 24,000 men, unless he abandoned the siege of
Cadiz and the kingdom of Granada--half his army was pinned down to
occupation-work. Wherefore Wellington judged that his field-force
could be ‘contained’ by Hill, if only means were found of preventing
him from reinforcing Drouet’s divisions in Estremadura by any
appreciable succours. This means lay to hand in the roving army of
Ballasteros, whose random schemes of campaign were often irrational,
but had the solitary advantage of being quite inscrutable. He might do
anything--and so was a most tiresome adversary for Soult to deal with,
since his actions could not be foreseen. At this moment Wellington had
urged the Cadiz Regency to stir up Ballasteros to activity, and had
promised that, if Soult concentrated against him, Hill should press
in upon Drouet, and so call off the Marshal’s attention. Similarly
if Soult concentrated against Hill, Ballasteros was to demonstrate
against Seville, or the rear of the Cadiz Lines. There was always the
possibility that the Spanish general might refuse to obey the orders of
his Government, or that he might commit himself to some rash enterprise
and get badly beaten. Both these chances had to be risked. The one that
occurred was that Ballasteros took up the idea desired, but acted too
early and too incautiously, and sustained a severe check at the battle
of Bornos (June 1). Fortunately he was ‘scotched but not slain,’ and
kept together a force large enough to give Soult much further trouble,
though he did not prevent the Marshal from sending reinforcements to
Drouet and putting Hill upon the defensive. Of this more in its due
place.

  [385] See Wellington to Henry Wellesley at Cadiz, June 7.
  _Dispatches_, ix. p. 219.

So much for the diversion against Soult. On the other flank Wellington
had prepared a similar plan for molesting the French in the Asturias,
and threatening Marmont’s flank and rear, at the same moment that his
front was to be assailed. The force here available was Abadia’s Army of
Galicia, which nominally counted over 24,000 men, but had 6,000 of them
shut up in the garrisons of Corunna, Ferrol, and Vigo. About 16,000
could be put into the field by an effort, if only Abadia were stirred
up to activity. But there were many hindrances: this general was (like
most of his predecessors) at strife with the Galician Junta. He was
also very jealous of Sir Howard Douglas, the British Commissioner at
Corunna, who was in favour with the Junta and people, and was inclined
to resent any advice offered by him[386]. His army was not only (as in
1810-11) very short of cavalry--there were only about 400 effective
sabres--but also of artillery. For the Cadiz government, searching
for troops to send against the rebels of South America, had recently
drafted off several batteries, as well as several foot regiments, to
the New World. The most effective units had been taken, to the wild
indignation of the Galicians, who wanted to keep the troops that
they had raised for their own protection. There were only about 500
trained artillerymen left in Galicia, and when deduction was made for
the garrisons of Ferrol, Vigo, and Corunna, very few remained for the
active army. Abadia had, therefore, many excuses to offer for taking
the field late, and with insufficient equipment[387]. It was fortunate
that his superior, Castaños, who commanded (as Captain-General both
of Estremadura and Galicia) all the troops in western Spain, fell in
completely with Wellington’s plan, and brought pressure to bear upon
his subordinate, coming up to Santiago in person to expedite matters.

  [386] An extraordinary case of Abadia’s ill will occurred in this
  spring: a damaged transport, carrying British troops to Lisbon,
  having put in to Corunna to repair, permission was refused for
  the men to land: apparently it was suspected that they were
  trying to garrison Corunna.

  [387] For all this Galician business see the _Life of Sir Howard
  Douglas_, pp. 120-60.

The part which the Army of Galicia was to play in the general scheme
was that of marching upon Astorga, and laying siege to the considerable
French garrison which was isolated in that rather advanced position. If
Marmont should attempt to succour it, he would be left weak in front
of the oncoming British invasion. If he did not, its fall would turn
and expose his right flank, and throw all the plains of northern Leon
into the power of the allies. A move in force upon Astorga would also
have some effect on the position of General Bonnet in the Asturias, and
ought certainly to keep him uneasy, if not to draw him away from his
conquests.

It will be remembered that Bonnet had been directed to reoccupy the
Asturias by Napoleon’s special command, and by no means to Marmont’s
liking[388]. He marched from Leon on May 15, by the road across
the pass of Pajares, which he had so often taken before on similar
expeditions. The Asturians made no serious resistance, and on May 17-18
Bonnet seized Oviedo and its port of Gijon. But, as in 1811, when he
had accomplished this much, and planted some detachments in the coast
towns, his division of 6,000 men was mainly immobilized, and became
a string of garrisons rather than a field-force. It was observed
by Porlier’s Cantabrian bands on its right hand, and by Castañon’s
division of the Army of Galicia on its left, and was not strong enough
to hunt them down, though it could prevent them from showing themselves
anywhere in the neighbourhood of Oviedo.

  [388] See above, p. 210.

But if the Galicians should lay siege to Astorga, and push advanced
guards beyond it, in the direction of the city of Leon, it was clear
that Bonnet’s position would be threatened, and his communications with
his chief, Marmont, imperilled. Wellington, who knew from intercepted
dispatches the importance attached by the Emperor to the retention of
the Asturias, judged that Bonnet would not evacuate it, but would spend
his energy in an attempt to hold back the Galicians and keep open his
connexion with Leon. He thus hoped that the French division at Oviedo
would never appear near Salamanca--an expectation in which he was to
be deceived, for Marmont (disregarding his master’s instructions)
ordered the evacuation of the Asturias the moment that he discovered
the strength of the attack that was being directed against his front
on the Tormes. Hence Wellington’s advance cleared the Asturias of the
enemy, and enabled the Galicians to besiege Astorga unmolested for two
months--good results in themselves, but not the precise benefits that
he had hoped to secure by putting the Galician army in motion.

No item of assistance being too small to be taken into consideration,
Wellington also directed Silveira to advance from the Tras-os-Montes,
with the four militia regiments of that province[389], to cross the
Spanish frontier and blockade Zamora, the outlying French garrison on
the Douro, which covered Marmont’s flank, as Astorga did his rear.
To enable this not too trustworthy irregular force to guard itself
from sudden attacks, Wellington lent it a full brigade of regular
cavalry[390], which was entrusted to General D’Urban, who dropped the
post of Chief-of-the-Staff to Beresford to take up this small but
responsible charge. His duty was to watch the country on each side
of the Douro in Silveira’s front, so as to prevent him from being
surprised, and generally to keep Wellington informed about Marmont’s
right wing, when he should begin to concentrate. Toro, only 20 miles
farther up the Douro than Zamora, was another French garrison, and a
likely place for the Marshal to use as one of his minor bases. Silveira
being as rash as he was enterprising, it was D’Urban’s task to see that
he should be warned betimes, and not allowed to get into trouble. He
was to retreat on Carvajales and the mountains beyond the Esla if he
were attacked by a superior force.

  [389] Chaves, Braganza, Miranda, Villa Real.

  [390] Silveira already had Nos. 11 and 12, D’Urban brought up No.
  1, which had not hitherto operated on this frontier.

A much more serious diversion was prepared to distract the free
movement of the French Army of the North, from which Caffarelli
might naturally be expected to send heavy detachments for Marmont’s
assistance, when the British striking-force should advance on
Salamanca. Caffarelli’s old enemies were the patriot bands of Cantabria
and Navarre, who had given his predecessor, Dorsenne, so much trouble
earlier in the year. Mina, on the borders of Navarre, Aragon, and
Old Castile, was very far away, and not easy to communicate with or
to bring into the general plan, though his spirit was excellent. But
the so-called ‘Seventh Army,’ under Mendizabal, was near enough to be
treated as a serious factor in the general scheme. This force consisted
of the two large bands under Porlier in Cantabria, and Longa in the
mountains above Santander, each of which was several thousands strong:
these were supposed to be regular divisions, though their training
left much to be desired: in addition there were several considerable
guerrilla ‘partidas’ under Merino, Salazar, Saornil, and other chiefs,
who lived a hunted life in the provinces of Burgos, Palencia, and
Avila, and were in theory more or less dependent on Mendizabal. The
chief of the Seventh Army was requested to do all that he could to keep
Caffarelli employed during the month of June--a task that quite fell in
with his ideas--he executed several very daring raids into Old Castile,
one of which put the garrison of Burgos in great terror, as it was
surprised at a moment when all its better items chanced to be absent,
and nothing was left in the place but dépôts and convalescents[391].

  [391] See Thiébault, _Mémoires_, v. p. 561.

But the main distraction contrived to occupy the French Army of the
North was one for which Wellington was not primarily responsible,
though he approved of it when the scheme was laid before him. This
was a naval expedition to attack the coast-forts of Cantabria and
Biscay, and open up direct communication with Mendizabal’s bands
from the side of the sea. The idea was apparently started by Sir
Howard Douglas and Sir Home Popham, the former of whom was a great
believer in the _guerrilleros_, and the latter a strong advocate of
the striking power of the navy. Nothing serious had been done on the
Biscay coast since the two expeditions of 1810, of which the former
had been very successful, but the latter had ended in the disastrous
tempest which wrecked Renovales’s flotilla on that rocky shore[392].
Lord Liverpool consented to give Popham two battalions of marines and
a company of artillery, to add to the force provided by the crews of
the _Venerable_, his flagship, five frigates (_Surveillante_, _Rhin_,
_Isis_, _Diadem_, _Medusa_), and several smaller vessels. The plan was
to proceed eastward along the coast from Gijon, to call down Longa and
Porlier to blockade each isolated French garrison from the land side,
and to batter it with heavy ship guns from the water. The opportunity
was to be taken at the same time of making over to the Cantabrian bands
a large store of muskets and munitions which had been prepared for
them. The arrangements were made in May, and Popham’s squadron was
ready to move precisely at the same moment that Wellington crossed the
Agueda. Its first descent was made on June 17th, a day exactly suitable
for alarming the Army of the North at the same time that Marmont’s
first appeals for help were likely to reach Caffarelli. The plan, as
we shall see, worked exceedingly well, and the fact that the Army of
Portugal got no reinforcements from Burgos or Biscay was due entirely
to the dismay caused to Caffarelli by this unexpected descent on his
rear. He conceived that the squadron carried a large landing force, and
that he was about to see Biscay slip out of his hands. The tale of this
useful diversion will be told in its due place.

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

There was yet one more item in the long list of outlying distractions
on which Wellington relied for the vexing of the French. He was
strongly of opinion that Suchet would spare troops to reinforce King
Joseph at Madrid, if his own invasion of Leon had a prosperous start.
Indeed, he somewhat overvalued the Duke of Albufera’s will and power to
interfere in central Spain, his idea being that King Joseph had a much
more direct control over the Valencian and Aragonese armies than was
really the case. One of the king’s intercepted dispatches, directing
Suchet to send troops into La Mancha, had fallen into his hands, and
he was unaware that the Marshal had refused to obey it, and had found
plausible reasons to cloak his disobedience[393].

  [393] See above, p. 304. The intercepted cipher is in the Scovell
  Papers.

The opportunity of finding means to harass Suchet depended on the
general posture of affairs in the Mediterranean caused by the outbreak
of the Russian war. As long as Napoleon kept a large army in Italy,
there was always a possibility that he might some day try a descent on
Sicily, where the authority of King Ferdinand rested on the bayonets
of a strong British garrison. There were a dozen red-coated battalions
always ready in Sicily, beside the rather inefficient forces of King
Ferdinand. In September 1810 Murat had massed a Franco-Neapolitan army
at Reggio, and tried an actual invasion, which ended ignominiously in
the capture of the only two battalions that succeeded in landing. But
by the early spring of 1812 it was known that nearly all the French
troops in Italy had been moved northward, and a great part of Murat’s
Neapolitan army with them. By April, indeed, there was only one French
division left in the whole Peninsula, nearly all the old ‘Army of
Italy’ having marched across the Alps. Lord William Bentinck, the
commander of the British forces in Sicily, had early notice of these
movements, and being a man of action and enterprising mind, though
too much given to wavering councils and rapid changes of purpose, was
anxious to turn the new situation to account. He was divided between
two ideas--the one which appealed to him most was to make a bold
descent on the under-garrisoned Italian peninsula, either to stir up
trouble in Calabria--where the ruthless government of Murat’s military
satraps had barely succeeded in keeping down rebellion, but had not
crushed its spirit--or, farther away, in the former dominions of the
Pope and the small dukes of the Austrian connexion. But the memory
of the fruitless attempt against the Italian mainland in 1809 under
Sir John Stuart survived as a warning: it was doubtful whether the
occasional adventurers who came to Palermo to promise insurrection
in northern Italy had any backing[394], and though Calabria was a
more promising field, it was to be remembered that such troops as
the enemy still retained were mainly concentrated there. Thus it
came to pass that Lord William Bentinck at times despaired of all
Italian expeditions, and thought of sending a force to Catalonia or
Valencia to harass Suchet. ‘I cannot but imagine,’ he wrote, ‘that the
occasional disembarkation at different points of a large regular force
must considerably annoy the enemy, and create an important diversion
for other Spanish operations[395].’ But when he wrote this, early in
the year, he was hankering after descents on Elba and Corsica--the
latter a most wild inspiration! These schemes the ministry very wisely
condemned: Lord Liverpool wrote in reply that ‘though there might be a
considerable degree of dissatisfaction, and even of ferment, pervading
the greater part of Italy,’ there was no evidence of any systematic
conspiracy to shake off the yoke of France. Corsica and Elba, even if
conquered, would only be of secondary importance. A diversion to be
made upon the east coast of Spain would be far the best way in which
the disposable force in Sicily could be employed. Wellington had been
informed of the proposal, and might probably be able to lend part of
the garrison of Cadiz, to make the expedition more formidable. Sir
Edward Pellew, the admiral commanding on the Mediterranean station,
would be able to give advice, and arrange for the co-operation of the
fleet[396]. Lord Liverpool wrote on the next day (March 4) to inform
Wellington of the answer that had been made to Bentinck, but pointed
out that probably the aid could only be given from May to October, as
the expedition would depend on the fleet, and naval men thought that
it would be impossible to keep a large squadron in attendance on the
Sicilian force during the winter months. The troops would probably have
to return to their old quarters at the close of autumn[397].

  [394] See Lord Wellesley to Lord W. Bentinck, December 27, 1811,
  in Wellington’s _Supplementary Dispatches_, vii. p. 249.

  [395] Bentinck to Lord Liverpool, January 25, 1812, ibid., pp.
  290-1.

  [396] Liverpool to Bentinck, March 4. Wellington’s _Supplementary
  Dispatches_, vii. p. 300.

  [397] Liverpool to Wellington, March 5, ibid., p. 301.

Wellington, as it chanced, was already in communication with Bentinck,
for the latter had sent his brother, Lord Frederick, to Lisbon, with
a dispatch for the Commander-in-Chief in Portugal, in which he stated
that he leaned himself to the Corsican scheme, but that if the home
government disliked it, he would be prepared to send in April or May
an expedition of 10,000 men to operate against Suchet[398]. The letter
from London reached Wellington first, about March 20th[399], and was
a source of great joy to him, as he saw that the Cabinet intended to
prohibit the Italian diversion, and wished to direct Bentinck’s men
towards Spain. He wrote to London and to Palermo, to state that a
descent upon the coast of Catalonia seemed to him ‘the most essential
object.’ It should be aimed at Barcelona or Tarragona: it might not
succeed so far as its immediate object was concerned, but it would
have the infallible result of forcing Suchet to come up with all his
available forces from Valencia, and would prevent him from interfering
in the affairs of western and central Spain during the next campaign.
Ten thousand men, even with such aid as Lacy and the Catalan army
might give, were probably insufficient to deal with a place of such
strength as Barcelona; but Tarragona, which was weakly garrisoned,
might well be taken. Even if it were not, a great point would be gained
in opening up communication with the Catalans, and throwing all the
affairs of the French in eastern Spain into confusion. Bentinck was
advised in the strongest terms to land north of the Ebro, and not in
Valencia: an attack on Catalonia would draw Suchet out of Valencia,
which would then fall of its own accord. Wellington added, writing
to Lord Liverpool only, not to Bentinck, that he did not see how any
appreciable aid could be got from the Cadiz garrison, or those of
Tarifa or Cartagena[400]: the British regiments there had been cut down
to a necessary minimum, but there were 1,400 Portuguese and two foreign
regiments, of whom some might possibly be spared. The government must
give him a definite order to detach such and such battalions, and it
should be done--the responsibility being their own. Lord Frederick
Bentinck arrived from Palermo at Badajoz just after that place fell:
Wellington charged him with additional advices for his brother, to the
effect that he would send him a siege-train and officers and gunners
to work it, which might serve to batter Tarragona, if that proved
possible. Though he could himself spare no British troops, the Spanish
Regency should be urged to lend, for an expedition to Catalonia, two
divisions, one under Roche at Alicante, the other under Whittingham
in Majorca, which consisted each of 3,000 men recently entrusted
for training to those British officers. Their aid was hardly likely
to be refused, and they had been better trained, fed, and clothed
of late than other Spanish troops. Wellington was not deceived in
this expectation, the Regency very handsomely offered to place both
divisions at Bentinck’s disposition[401], and they turned out to have
swelled in numbers of late, owing to vigorous recruiting of dispersed
men from Blake’s defunct army. The available figure was far over the
6,000 of which Wellington had spoken.

  [398] Bentinck to Wellington, February 23, ibid., p. 296.

  [399] The answer to Lord Liverpool went off on March 20, that to
  Bentinck on March 24th.

  [400] Whither the 2/67th, a company of artillery, and five
  companies of De Watteville’s Swiss regiment had been sent, on the
  news of Blake’s disasters before Valencia. _Dispatches_, viii. p.
  448.

  [401] The best source of information about these subsidized
  corps is the life of Sir Samford Whittingham, who raised and
  disciplined one of them in Majorca, on the skeletons of the old
  regiments of Cordova, Burgos, and 5th Granaderos Provinciales.
  He had only 1,500 men on January 1, 1812, and 2,200 on February
  21, but had worked them up to over 3,000 by April. Roche, who
  had to work on the cadres of Canarias, Alicante, Chinchilla,
  Voluntarios de Aragon, 2nd of Murcia, and Corona, had 5,500 men
  ready on March 1, and more by May. Whittingham maintains that his
  battalions always did their duty far better than other divisions,
  commanded by officers with unhappy traditions of defeat, and
  attributes the previous miserable history of the Murcian army to
  incapacity and poor spirit in high places.

There seemed, therefore, in May to be every probability that a force of
some 17,000 men might be available for the descent on Catalonia which
Wellington advised: and both Admiral Pellew and Roche and Whittingham
made active preparations to be found in perfect readiness when Lord
William Bentinck should start off the nucleus of the expeditionary
force from Palermo[402]. Wellington had fixed the third week in June
as the date at which the appearance of the diversion would be most
effective[403]. On June 5th he was able to state that two separate
divisions of transports had already been sent off from Lisbon, one to
Alicante and one to Majorca, to pick up the two Spanish divisions.

  [402] Henry Wellesley to Wellington. _Supplementary Dispatches_,
  vii. p. 320.

  [403] See as evidence of eagerness Whittingham’s letter to Pellew
  of May 28 in the former’s _Memoirs_, p. 161.

Now, however, came a deplorable check to the plan, which only became
known to Wellington when he had already committed himself to his
campaign against Marmont. Bentinck could never get out of his head the
original idea of Italian conquest which he had laid before the Cabinet
in January. There was no doubt that it had been discouraged by the
home government, and that he had received very distinct instructions
that Spain was to be the sphere of his activity, and that he was to
take Wellington into his councils. But Lord Liverpool’s dispatch had
contained the unfortunate phrase that ‘unless the project of resistance
to the French power in Italy should appear to rest upon much better
grounds than those of which we are at present apprised,’ the diversion
to Catalonia was the obvious course[404].’ This gave a discretionary
power to Bentinck, if he should judge that evidence of discontent in
Italy had cropped up in unexpected quantity and quality since March.
It does not appear, to the unprejudiced observer, that such evidence
was forthcoming in May. But Bentinck, with his original prejudice
in favour of a descent on Italy running in his brain, chose to take
certain secret correspondence received from the Austrian general
Nugent, and other sources, as justification for holding back from
the immediate action in eastern Spain, on which Wellington had been
led to rely. No troops sailed from Palermo or Messina till the very
end of June, and then the numbers sent were much less than had been
promised, and the directions given to Maitland, the general entrusted
with the command, were by no means satisfactory[405]. The underlying
fact would appear to be that, since March, Bentinck had begun to be
alarmed at the intrigues of the Queen of Sicily, and feared to send
away British troops so far afield as Spain. That notorious princess and
her incapable spouse had been deprived in the preceding autumn of their
ancient status as absolute sovereigns, and a Sicilian constitution and
parliament, somewhat on the British model, had been called into being.
For some time it had been supposed that Caroline, though incensed,
was powerless to do harm, and the native Sicilians were undoubtedly
gratified by the change. But Bentinck presently detected traces of a
conspiracy fostered by the Queen among the Italian and mercenary troops
employed by the Sicilian government: and, what was more surprising,
it was suspected (and proved later on) that the court had actually
opened up negotiations with Napoleon and even with Murat, in order
to get rid of the English from Sicily at all costs[406]. In view of
the fact that there were 8,000 Italian and foreign troops of doubtful
disposition quartered in Sicily, Bentinck was seized with qualms
at the idea of sending away a large expedition, mainly composed of
British regiments. In the end he compromised, by detaching only three
British and two German Legion battalions, along with a miscellaneous
collection of fractions of several foreign corps, making 7,000 men in
all[407]. They only arrived off the coast of Catalonia on July 31st,
and Maitland’s freedom of operations was hampered by instructions to
the effect that ‘the division of the Sicilian army detached has for
its first object the safety of Sicily; its employment on the Spanish
coast is temporary.’ He was told that he was liable to be withdrawn at
any moment, if complications arose in Sicily or Italy, and was not to
consider himself a permanent part of the British army in Spain. Yet at
the same time that Bentinck had given these orders, the home government
had told Wellington to regard the expeditionary force as placed at his
disposal, and authorized him to send directions to it.

  [404] Liverpool to Bentinck, 4th March, quoted above.

  [405] See Wellington to Lord W. Bentinck in _Dispatches_, ix. pp.
  60-1.

  [406] That veritable ‘stormy petrel of politics,’ Sir Robert
  Wilson, was passing through Sicily in May, and seems to have
  acted a mischievous part in visiting the Queen, and allowing her
  to set before him all her grievances against Bentinck, and the
  ‘Jacobin Parliament’ that he was setting up. She told Wilson that
  Bentinck ‘went to jails and took evidence of miserable wretches,
  actual malefactors or suspects, inducing them to say what he
  wished for his plans, and acting without any substantiating
  facts.’ As to the army Wilson gathered that ‘the Neapolitan
  soldiery hate us to a man, the Germans would adhere to us, the
  native Sicilians at least not act against us.’ But there were
  only 2,000 Sicilians and 1,900 Germans, and 8,000 Neapolitans
  and other Italians, eminently untrustworthy. [So untrustworthy
  were they, indeed, that the Italian corps sent to Spain in the
  autumn deserted by hundreds to the French.] See Wilson’s _Private
  Diary_, 1812-15, pp. 35-62.

  [407] For details, see table in Appendix no. XIII.

All this worked out less unhappily than might have been expected; for
though Wellington got little practical military help from the Sicilian
corps, and though Maitland’s operations were most disappointing and
started far too late, yet the knowledge that great transport squadrons
were at Alicante and Majorca, and the rumour that a large force was
coming from Sicily, most certainly kept Suchet in a state of alarm,
and prevented him from helping Soult or King Joseph. It is interesting
to find from his correspondence[408] that in the earliest days of
July he was anxiously watching the ships at Alicante, and expecting a
descent either on Valencia or on Catalonia, though Maitland was yet
far away, and did not appear off Palamos till July 31. The fear of
the descent was an admirable help to Wellington--perhaps more useful
than its actual appearance at an early date might have been, since the
expeditionary troops were decidedly less in numbers than Wellington
had hoped or Suchet had feared. At the same time the news that the
Sicilian force had not sailed, and perhaps might never appear, reached
Salamanca at one of the most critical moments of the campaign, and
filled Wellington with fears that the Army of Valencia might already be
detaching troops against him, while he had calculated upon its being
entirely distracted by the projected demonstration[409]. The news that
Maitland had sailed at last, only came to hand some time after the
battle of Salamanca had been won, when the whole position in Spain had
assumed a new and more satisfactory aspect.

  [408] Suchet’s correspondence (in the Archives of the French War
  Ministry) begins to be anxious from July 6 onward. On that date
  he hears that ships are at Alicante to take Roche on board, who
  is to join a very large English force, and 15,000 (!) men from
  Majorca. On July 13th he hears that Maitland is to have 17,000
  men, though only 3,000 British regulars.

  [409] Wellington to Lord Bathurst, July 14: ‘I have this day
  received a letter from Lord W. Bentinck of the 9th of June, from
  which I am concerned to observe that his Lordship does not intend
  to carry into execution the operation on the east coast of the
  Peninsula, until he shall have tried the success of another plan
  on the coast of Italy. I am apprehensive that this determination
  may bring upon us additional forces of the Army of Aragon:
  but I still hope that I shall be able to retain at the close
  of this campaign the acquisitions made at its commencement.’
  _Dispatches_, ix. p. 285.

Such were the subsidiary schemes with which Wellington supported his
main design of a direct advance against Marmont’s army. Some of them
worked well--Hill, Home Popham, and Mendizabal did all, and more than
all, that had been expected of them, in the way of containing large
French forces. Others accomplished all that could in reason have been
hoped--such was the case with Silveira and Ballasteros. Others fell far
below the amount of usefulness that had been reckoned upon--both the
Galician army and the Sicilian army proved most disappointing in the
timing of their movements and the sum of their achievements. But on the
whole the plan worked--the French generals in all parts of Spain were
distracted, and Marmont got little help from without.

It is certain that, at the moment of Wellington’s starting on his
offensive campaign, the thing that gave him most trouble and anxiety
was not the timing or efficacy of the various diversions that he had
planned, but a purely financial problem. It was now a matter of years
since the money due for the pay and maintenance of the army had been
coming in with terrible unpunctuality. Officers and men had grown to
regard it as normal that their pay should be four or six months in
arrears: the muleteers and camp followers were in even worse case. And
the orders for payment (_vales_ as they were called) issued by the
commissariat to the peasantry, were so tardily settled in cash, that
the recipients would often sell them for half or two-thirds of their
face value to speculators in Lisbon, who could afford to wait many
months for the money.

This state of things was deplorable: but it did not proceed, as Napier
usually hints, and as Wellington himself seems sometimes to have felt,
from perversity on the part of the home government. It was not the case
that there was gold or silver in London, and that the ministers did
not send it with sufficient promptness. No one can be so simple as to
suppose that Lord Liverpool, Mr. Perceval, the Marquess of Wellesley,
or Lord Castlereagh, did not understand that the Army of Portugal must
have cash, or it would lose that mobility which was its great strength.
Still less would they wittingly starve it, when the fortunes of the
ministry were bound up with the successful conduct of the war.

But the years 1811-12, as has been already pointed out in the last
volume of this work, were those of the greatest stringency in the
cash-market of Great Britain. The country was absolutely drained dry
of metallic currency in the precious metals: no silver had been coined
at the Mint since the Revolutionary war began: no guineas since 1798.
England was transacting all her internal business on bank-notes, and
gold was a rare commodity, only to be got by high prices and much
searching. This was the time when the Jews of Portsmouth used to
board every home-coming transport, to offer convalescents or sailors
27_s._, or even more, in paper for every guinea that they had on
them. The Spanish dollar, though weighing much less than an English
five-shilling piece (when that valuable antiquity could be found[410]),
readily passed for six shillings in paper. And even this coin could
not now be got so easily as in 1809 or 1810, for the growing state of
disturbance in the Spanish-American colonies was beginning to affect
the annual import of silver from the mines of Mexico and Peru, which
had for a long time been the main source from which bullion for Europe
was procured. To buy dollars at Cadiz with bills on London was becoming
a much more difficult business. In May 1812 a special complication
was introduced--Lord William Bentinck wishing to provide Spanish coin
for the expedition which was about to sail for Catalonia, sent agents
to Gibraltar, who bought with Sicilian gold all the dollars that
they could procure, giving a reckless price for them, equivalent to
over six shillings a dollar, and competing with Wellington’s regular
correspondents who were at the same moment offering only 5_s._ 4_d._
or 5_s._ 6_d._ for the coin. Of course the higher offer secured the
cash, and Wellington made bitter complaints that the market had been
spoilt, and that he suddenly found himself shut out from a supply on
which he had hitherto reckoned with security[411]. But the competition
was only transient, though very tiresome at a moment when silver coin
was specially wanted for payments in Leon. For, as Wellington remarked,
the people about Salamanca had never seen the British army before,
and would be wanting to do business on a prompt cash basis, not being
accustomed to credit, as were the Portuguese.

  [410] No silver crowns had been coined since 1760 at the Mint.
  They weighed 463 grains: the Spanish dollar only 415 grains.

  [411] See Wellington to Lord Bathurst. _Dispatches_, vii. p. 370.

The army started upon the campaign with a military chest in the most
deplorable state of depletion. ‘We are absolutely bankrupt,’ wrote
Wellington, ‘the troops are now five months in arrears instead of one
month in advance. The staff have not been paid since February; the
muleteers not since June 1811! and we are in debt in all parts of
the country. I am obliged to take money sent me by my brother [Henry
Wellesley, British Minister at Cadiz] for the Spaniards, in order to
give my own troops a fortnight’s pay, who are really suffering for want
of money[412].’ Some weeks before this last complaint Wellington had
sounded an even louder note of alarm. ‘We owe not less than 5,000,000
dollars. The Portuguese troops and establishments are likewise in the
greatest distress, and it is my opinion, as well as that of Marshal
Beresford, that we must disband part of that army, unless I can
increase the monthly payments of the subsidy. The Commissary-General
has this day informed me that he is very apprehensive that he will not
be able to make good his engagements for the payment for the meat for
the troops. If we are obliged to stop that payment, your Lordship may
as well prepare to recall the army, for it will be impossible to carry
up salt meat (as well as bread) to the troops from the sea-coast....
It is not improbable that we may not be able to take advantage of
the enemy’s comparative weakness in this campaign _for sheer want of
money_[413].’ One almost feels that Wellington is here painting the
position of the army in the blackest possible colours, in order to
bring pressure on his correspondent at home. But this dismal picture
was certainly reflected in the language of his staff at the time: a
letter from his aide-de-camp, Colin Campbell, speaks (on May 30) of
the depleted state of the military chest being a possible curb to the
campaign: ‘Lord W. cannot take supplies with him to enable him to do
more than demonstrate towards Valladolid, when so good an opportunity
offers, and an inconsiderable addition would suffice. The harvest
is ripening, the country round Salamanca is full of all requisite
supplies, but they are not procurable without cash[414].’

  [412] Ibid., vii. p. 319.

  [413] Wellington to Lord Liverpool, April 22. _Supplementary
  Dispatches_, vii. p. 318.

  [414] Campbell to Shawe. _Supplementary Dispatches_, vii. p. 362.

Yet it is hard to be over-censorious of the home government. They were
in the most bitter straits for money. Gold and silver were simply
not to be got in the quantities that Wellington required. The amount
actually sent was very large: it would have been larger if economic
conditions had not been desperate. The rupture with the United States
of America which took place in June (fortunately too late to serve
Napoleon’s purpose), had just added a new source of anxiety to the
troubles of the Cabinet: both money and men were now wanted for Canada.
There can be no doubt that when Lord Bathurst wrote, in the middle
of the Salamanca campaign, that ‘£100,000 in cash, chiefly gold, had
been sent off,’ and that ‘I wish to God we could assist you more in
money,’ he was writing quite honestly, and amid most adverse financial
circumstances. Great Britain was at the most exhausting point of her
long struggle with Napoleon. The Russian war had begun--but there
was no sign as yet that it was to be the ruin of the Emperor: his
armies seemed to be penetrating towards Moscow in the old triumphant
style: many politicians spoke of a humiliating peace dictated to Czar
Alexander in the autumn as the probable end of the campaign, and
speculated on Napoleon’s appearance at Madrid in 1813 as a possible
event. Wheat had risen in this spring to 130_s._ the quarter. The
outbreak of the long-threatened but long-averted American war looked
like the last blow that was to break down the British Empire. It was no
wonder that the national credit was low in June 1812. There was nothing
to revive it till Wellington’s Salamanca triumph in July: nor did any
one understand that Napoleon’s star had passed its zenith, till the
news of the disasters of the Moscow retreat began to drift westward in
November and December.

[Illustration: CENTRAL SPAIN]

Meanwhile, if the financial outlook was gloomy, the actual military
situation was more promising than it had ever been before. Well aware,
from intercepted dispatches, of the quarrels of his adversaries,
and perfectly informed as to their numbers and their cantonments,
Wellington considered with justice that he had such a game in his hands
as he had never before had set before him. On June 13th he crossed
the Agueda with his army in three parallel columns. The left was
under charge of Picton, and consisted of the 3rd Division, Pack’s and
Bradford’s Portuguese, and Le Marchant’s brigade of heavy dragoons.
The centre, which Beresford conducted, was composed of the Light, 4th,
and 5th Divisions. It was preceded by Alten’s German hussars, and
accompanied by Bock’s dragoons. The right column, under Graham, had
the 1st, 6th, and 7th Divisions, with a regiment of Anson’s horse for
purposes of exploration. It is to be noted that both Picton and Graham
were destined to remain only a few weeks with the army: the former had
taken the field ere his Badajoz wound was properly healed: it broke
open again, he fell into a high fever, and had to be sent to the rear.
Wellington’s brother-in-law, Pakenham, took over charge of the 3rd
Division on June 28th. Graham had been suffering for some months from
an affection of the eyes, which the physicians told him might at any
time grow worse and threaten his sight. He persisted on staying with
the army till the last possible moment, but became more blind each day,
and was compelled to throw up his command on July 6th and to return to
England for skilled medical advice. Thus, during the greater part of
the Salamanca campaign, Wellington was working without his best-trusted
lieutenants--Craufurd was dead, both Picton and Graham invalided. In
consequence of Graham’s departure a very difficult point was raised.
If some illness or wound should disable the Commander-in-Chief, to
whom would the charge of operations fall[415]? Wellington considered
that Beresford was entitled to expect the succession, and deprecated
the sending out of some senior officer from England with a commission
to act as second in command. He observed that no one coming fresh from
home would have a real grasp of the conditions of the war: that he
would probably start with _a priori_ views, and have to unlearn them
in a time of imminent danger. Moreover, a second-in-command was, when
his superior was in good health, either an unnecessary person or else
a tiresome one, if he presumed on his position to offer advice or
remonstrances. Fortunately the question remained a wholly academic one,
since Wellington’s iron physique, and unbroken luck when bullets were
flying, never failed him. An understudy turned out to be superfluous.

  [415] Wellington to Bathurst. _Dispatches_, ix. p. 277.

The three columns of the allied army advanced on a very narrow front of
not more than ten miles, though the cavalry spread out considerably to
the flanks. On the 13th the columns bivouacked on the Guadapero river,
in front of Ciudad Rodrigo, between Santi Espiritus and Tenebron. On
the 14th they advanced four leagues to the Huebra, and camped on each
side of San Muñoz, with head-quarters at Cabrillas. On the 15th a
rather longer march took them to Matilla and Cayos. Nothing had yet
been seen of any enemy. It was only on the 16th, in the morning, that
the advanced cavalry of the centre column, after crossing the Valmusa
river, came into contact with two squadrons of French _chasseurs_, not
more than two leagues outside of Salamanca. These outposts gave way
when pushed, and retired across the Tormes. The British army bivouacked
in sight of Salamanca that night, and received the information that
Marmont had already evacuated the city, save for a garrison left in its
three new forts[416].

  [416] The itinerary of this march in detail may be found in the
  excellent Diary of Tomkinson of the 16th Light Dragoons.

The Army of Portugal had been caught, just as Wellington had hoped,
in a condition of wide dispersion. It was not that Marmont did not
expect the attack, but that, till the day when it should be actually
delivered, he dared not concentrate, because of his want of magazines
and the paucity of transport. He had resolved that he must be content
to abandon all the land west of Salamanca, in order that his point of
concentration should be out of reach of his enemy’s first stroke. It
was fixed at Bleines and Fuente Sauco, twenty miles north of Salamanca
on the road to Toro. On the morning of the 14th, when the news that
Wellington was over the Agueda first reached him, the Marshal issued
orders to all his divisions to march on this point, not even excepting
that of Bonnet in the Asturias. For, despite of the Emperor’s wish to
keep a hold upon that province, Marmont held, and rightly, that it
was more important to place in front of the Anglo-Portuguese every
possible bayonet, and he could not spare a solid division of 6,500
men. Unfortunately for him, however, it was clear that Bonnet could
not arrive for fifteen or twenty days. The other seven divisions were
concentrated by the fifth night from the giving of the alarm[417]. They
formed a mass of 36,000 infantry, with 80 guns, but only 2,800 horse.
This total does not include either Bonnet, nor three battalions of
Thomières’s division left to hold Astorga, nor small garrisons placed
in Toro, Zamora, the Salamanca forts, and certain other posts farther
east[418]. Nor does it take account of a dépôt of 3,000 men, including
many dismounted dragoons, at Valladolid. The total of the field army,
including artillery, sappers, &c., was about 40,000 of all arms.

  [417] Foy, who had been drawn away from the Tagus after the
  affair at Almaraz, had to march from Avila, Clausel from
  Peñaranda, Ferey from Valladolid, Sarrut from Toro, Maucune and
  Brennier had been at Salamanca, Thomières came from Zamora.
  Boyer’s dragoons were at Toro and Benavente, Curto’s light
  cavalry division had been with Maucune and Brennier at Salamanca.
  Valladolid, Avila, and Benavente were the most distant points:
  but the troops from them were all up by the 19th. Nor was it
  possible for Wellington to interfere with the concentration,
  though possibly he might have forced Foy from Avila to make a
  détour, if he had followed Marmont very close.

  [418] Nor do we reckon the regiment of Sarrut’s division (130th)
  permanently detached at Santander.

This force was distinctly inferior in number to that of the
Anglo-Portuguese, who, without counting three infantry battalions on
their way to the front from Lisbon, or D’Urban’s Portuguese horse
on the side of Zamora, had some 40,000 infantry in line, and 3,500
excellent cavalry, in which arm Wellington, for the first time in his
life, had a slight advantage over the enemy. Carlos de España was also
approaching, with the 3,000 Spanish infantry that were available after
the garrison of Ciudad Rodrigo had been completed, and in all the
allied army must have had 48,000 men at the front[419]. The balance
of numbers, of which each general was pretty well informed, was such
as to make both sides careful--Marmont was 8,000 men short of his
adversary’s power, and was particularly depressed by the knowledge of
his inferiority in cavalry, an arm on which the French had hitherto
relied with confidence. But the horse of the Army of Portugal had
never recovered from the consequences of Masséna’s retreat in the last
spring, and all the regiments were very weak: while Wellington was
at last profiting from the liberal way in which the home government
had reinforced his mounted arm during the autumn of 1811. He had ten
British regiments with him, whereas at Fuentes de Oñoro he had owned
but four.

  [419] See tables of the armies of both sides in the Appendix no.
  IX.

On the other hand Wellington, among his 48,000 men, had only 28,000
British; there were 17,000 Portuguese and 3,000 Spaniards with him, and
excellent though the conduct of the former had been during the late
campaign, it would be hypocrisy to pretend that their commander could
rely upon them under all circumstances, as he would have done upon a
corresponding number of British infantry. He was ready to give battle,
but it must be a battle under favourable conditions. Marmont felt much
the same: it was necessary to beat Wellington if the French domination
in Spain was to be preserved. But it would be rash to attack him
in one of his favourite defensive positions: there must be no more
Bussacos. And every available man must be gathered in, before a general
action was risked. The only justification for instant battle would be
the unlikely chance of catching the Anglo-Portuguese army in a state
of dispersion or some other unlucky posture--and Wellington’s known
caution did not make such a chance very probable.

Marmont’s main purpose, indeed, was to hold Wellington ‘contained’ till
he should have succeeded in bringing up Bonnet, and also reinforcements
from the Armies of the North and Centre--if not even from some distant
forces. On Bonnet’s eventual arrival he could rely--but not on any
fixed date for his appearance, for it was difficult to get orders
promptly to the Asturias, and there might be many unforeseen delays in
their execution. But Marmont was also counting on aid from Caffarelli,
which would presumably reach him even before Bonnet appeared. In
expectation of Wellington’s advance, he had written to the Commander
of the Army of the North on May 24th and 30th, and again on June
5th, asking for assurances of help, and reminding his colleague of
the Emperor’s directions. The answers received were, on the whole,
satisfactory: the last of them, dated at Vittoria on June 14th, said
that the disposable field-force was 8,000 men, including a brigade of
light cavalry and 22 guns. They should march from Vittoria as soon
as some troops of Abbé’s division arrived from Pampeluna to replace
them, and they should be écheloned along the high-road from Burgos
to Valladolid ready to move up when called upon[420]. It must be
remembered that on this date Caffarelli was answering a hypothetical
inquiry as to his exact power to help, not a definite demand for men,
since Wellington had only crossed the Agueda on the previous day, and
nothing was known at Vittoria of his actual start. But the dispatch was
encouraging, as it seemed to show a good spirit, and named the exact
force available, and the route that it would take. Marmont received
it upon the 19th, just as he had completed his own concentration at
Fuente Sauco. It seemed to justify him in believing that before July 1
he would have 8,000 men from Caffarelli at his disposition, including,
what was specially valuable, 1,000 horse.

  [420] See Caffarelli to Marmont of June 10 and June 14th in
  Marmont’s _Mémoires_, iv. pp. 408-10.

The dispatches from King Joseph and Jourdan were less satisfactory. At
this moment they were in a state of hesitation caused by contradictory
intelligence. ‘Your letter of June 6th,’ wrote Jourdan to Marmont,
‘says that Wellington will soon fall upon you. But we have similar
letters from Soult, declaring that the blow is to be delivered against
him: he encloses two notes of June 2nd and 5th from General Daricau
in Estremadura, declaring that 60,000 of the allies are just about
to begin an invasion of Andalusia. We are too far off from the scene
of operations to determine whether it is you or the Duke of Dalmatia
who is deceived. We can only tell you, meanwhile, not to be misled by
demonstrations, and to be ready to start off three divisions to Soult’s
help without a moment’s delay, if Lord Wellington’s real objective is
Andalusia. Similarly we have sent Soult express orders that he shall
move Drouet to the north bank of the Tagus, if Wellington has called up
Hill to join him, and is making the true attack on you. Caffarelli has
stringent orders to support you with what troops he can collect, when
you are able to tell him definitely that you are the person threatened,
not Soult[421].’

  [421] Jourdan to Marmont, June 14th, in _Mémoires_, iv. pp.
  411-12.

It is clear that the hallucinations of the Duke of Dalmatia were most
valuable to Wellington, who had foreseen them long ago by a study of
intercepted dispatches. Whatever happened, Soult could not refrain from
believing that he had the great rôle to play, and that his Andalusian
viceroyalty was the centre of all things. At this moment his picture
of Wellington about to move on Cordova with 60,000 men seems to have
been a belated conception caused by Graham’s march to Elvas on May 20.
He had not yet realized that ten days later Graham’s corps had gone
northward again, and had joined Wellington on the Agueda about the
time that he was writing his alarmist letters. There was nothing in
front of him save Hill’s 18,000 men: but he refused to see the facts,
and deceived Joseph and Jourdan for some days by the definite and
authoritative restatement of absolutely erroneous intelligence. Hence
it was not till Marmont was able to say, without any possible chance
of error, that Wellington was across the Agueda, and had advanced to
Salamanca at the head of at least 40,000 men, that the King and his
Chief-of-the-Staff at last recognized the true seat of danger. Long
after they had detected it, they continued (as we shall see) to receive
preposterous dispatches from Soult, still maintaining that they were
mistaken, and still discovering excuses for not obeying the peremptory
orders that they sent him.



SECTION XXXIII: CHAPTER IV

THE SALAMANCA FORTS. TEN DAYS OF MANŒUVRES, JUNE 20TH-30TH, 1812


Wellington’s conduct on reaching Salamanca was not that which might
have been expected. When a general has, by a careful and well-arranged
concentration, collected all his own troops into one solid mass, and
then by a rapid advance has thrown himself into the midst of the
scattered cantonments of an enemy who has no superiority to him in
numbers, it is natural for him to press his pursuit vigorously. Far the
most effective way of opening the campaign would have been to cut up
the two divisions which Marmont had just led out of Salamanca, or at
least to follow them so closely that they could be brought to action
before all the outlying divisions had come in. This would certainly
have been Napoleon’s method.

Wellington, however, wanted to fight a battle in one of his favourite
defensive positions, and he thought that he had a means of compelling
Marmont to attack him, by laying siege to the Salamanca forts. After
Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, no French marshal would like to see a
third important post captured ‘under his nose.’ The British general
judged that Marmont would fight him, in order to save his prestige and
his garrison. And since he believed that Bonnet would not evacuate
the Asturias, and that Caffarelli would send help late, if at all,
he thought that he could count upon a superiority of numbers which
rendered victory certain.

This seems to be the only rational way of explaining Wellington’s
conduct on June 17th. On arriving in front of Salamanca his army made
a majestic encircling movement, Picton’s column crossing the Tormes
by the fords of El Canto below the city, Beresford’s and Graham’s by
those of Santa Marta above it. The use of the unbroken town-bridge was
made impossible by Marmont’s forts. The heads of the two columns met
on the north side, and they then moved three miles on, and took up a
long position below the heights of San Cristobal, which lie outside
Salamanca on its northern and eastern front. These formed the chosen
defensive fighting-ground which Wellington had already in his mind.

Only the 14th Light Dragoons and Clinton’s infantry of the 6th Division
turned into Salamanca by the Toro gate, and acted as Wellington’s
escort, while he was received by the municipality and made his
arrangements for the attack on the forts, which, though they commanded
the bridge, had no outlook on the spacious arcaded Plaza Mayor, where
the reception took place. It was a lively scene. ‘We were received with
shouts and _vivas_,’ writes an eye-witness. ‘The inhabitants were out
of their senses at having got rid of the French, and nearly pulled Lord
Wellington off his horse. The ladies were the most violent, many coming
up to him and embracing him. He kept writing orders upon his sabretash,
and was interrupted three or four times by them. What with the joy
of the people, and the feeling accompanying troops about to attack a
fortress, it was a half-hour of suspense and anxiety, and a scene of
such interest as I never before witnessed[422].’

  [422] Tomkinson’s _Diary_, p. 162.

Head-quarters were established that night in the city, and Clinton’s
division invested the forts, which looked formidable enough to require
close study before they were attacked. The rest of the army took up
its bivouacs, with the cavalry out in front, and remained practically
without movement on the ground now selected, for the next two days,
till Marmont came to pay his expected visit.

The three Salamanca forts were built on high ground in the south-west
corner of the city, which overlooks the long Roman bridge. To make
them Marmont had destroyed a great part of the old University quarter
of the place, levelling the majority of the colleges--for Salamanca,
till 1808, had been a university of the English rather than the usual
continental type, and had owned a score of such institutions. Nearly
all the buildings on the slopes had been pulled down, leaving a wide
open glacis round three massive convents, which had been transformed
into places of strength. San Vincente occupied the crest of the knoll
overlooking the river, and lay in the extreme angle of the old city
wall, which enclosed it on two sides. The smaller strongholds, San
Cayetano and La Merced, were separated from San Vincente by a narrow
but steep ravine, and lay close together on another rising-ground of
about the same height. The three formed a triangle with crossing fires,
each to a large extent commanding the ground over which the others
would have to be approached. The south and west sides of San Vincente
and La Merced overhung precipitous slopes above the river, and were
almost inaccessible. The north sides of San Cayetano and San Vincente
were the only fronts that looked promising for attack, and in each
elaborate preparations had been made in view of that fact. Marmont
had originally intended to enclose all three forts and many buildings
more--such as the Town Hospital, the convent of San Francisco, and the
colleges of Ireland and Cuenca, in an outer _enceinte_, to serve as
a large citadel which would contain several thousand men and all his
magazines. But money and time had failed, and on the slopes below the
forts, several convents and colleges, half pulled to pieces, were still
standing, and offered cover for besiegers at a distance of some 250
yards from the works. The garrison consisted of six flank-companies
from the 15th, 65th, 82nd, and 86th of the line and the 17th Léger,
and of a company of artillery, under the _chef de bataillon_ Duchemin
of the 65th. They made up a total of 800 men, and had thirty-six guns
in position, of which, however, the greater part were only light
field-pieces: two guns (commanding the bridge) were in La Merced,
four in San Cayetano, the remaining thirty in San Vincente, the most
formidable of the three.

Wellington had come prepared to besiege ‘three fortified convents,’
and had been sent a confused sketch of them drawn by an amateur’s
hand[423]. They turned out much stronger than he had been led to
expect, owing to the immense amount of hewn stone from the demolished
colleges and other buildings that was available to build them up. The
walls had been doubled in thickness, the windows stopped, and scarps
and counterscarps with solid masonry had been thrown around them. The
roofs of the two minor forts had been taken off, and the upper stories
casemated, by massive oak beams with a thick coating of earth laid
upon them. This surface was so strong that guns, protected by sandbag
embrasures, had been mounted on it at some points. There was also an
ample provision of palisades, made from strong oak and chestnut beams.
Altogether it was clear that the works would require a systematic
battering, and were not mere patched-up mediaeval monasteries, as had
been expected.

  [423] Jones, _Sieges_, i. p. 269.

It was, therefore, most vexatious to find that the very small
battering-train which Wellington had brought with him from Ciudad
Rodrigo was obviously insufficient for the task before it; there were
no more than four iron 18-pounder guns, with only 100 rounds of shot
each, at the front; though six 24-pound howitzers, from the train that
had taken Badajoz, were on their way from Elvas to join, and were due
on the 20th. It was not, however, howitzers so much as more heavy 18-or
24-pounders that were required for battering, and the lack of them at
the moment was made all the more irksome by the known fact that there
were plenty of both sorts at Rodrigo and Almeida, five or six marches
away. The mistake was precisely the same that was to be made again at
Burgos in the autumn--undervaluation of the means required to deal
with works of third-class importance. Whether Wellington himself or
his artillery and engineer advisers were primarily responsible is not
clear[424].

  [424] At any rate Dickson was not, as he was with the howitzers
  that were coming up from Elvas, and had not started from Rodrigo
  with the army.

The responsibility for the working out of the little siege with
inadequate means fell on Lieut.-Colonel Burgoyne, as senior engineer
(he had with him only two other officers of that corps and nine
military artificers!), and Lieut.-Colonel May, R.A., who was in charge
of the four 18-pounders. The latter borrowed three howitzers from
field-batteries to supplement his miserable means, and afterwards two
6-pounder field-guns, which, of course, were only for annoying the
garrison, not for battering.

It looked at first as if the only practicable scheme was to build a
battery for the 18-pounders on the nearest available ground, 250 yards
from San Vincente to the north, and lower down the knoll on which
that fort stood. There was good cover from ruined buildings up to
this distance from the French works. On the night of the occupation
of Salamanca 400 workmen of the 6th Division commenced a battery on
the selected spot and approaches leading to it from the cover in the
ruins. The work done was not satisfactory: it was nearly full moon,
the night was short, and the enemy (who knew well enough where the
attack must begin), kept up a lively fire of artillery and musketry
all night. Unfortunately the 6th Division workmen had no experience
of sieges--they had never used pick or shovel before, and there were
only two engineer officers and nine artificers to instruct them. ‘Great
difficulty was found in keeping the men to work under the fire: the
Portuguese in particular absolutely went on hands and knees, dragging
their baskets along the ground[425].’ By daylight the projected line of
the battery was only knee-high, and gave no cover, so that the men had
to be withdrawn till dusk. An attempt had been made during the night to
ascertain whether it were possible to creep forward to the ditch, and
lay mines there, to blow in the counterscarp. But the party who tried
to reach the ditch were detected by the barking of a dog, who alarmed
the French out-picket, and the explorers had to retire with several men
wounded.

  [425] Burgoyne’s diary in his _Life_, i. p. 192.

Seeing that the fire of the garrison was so effective, the officers
in charge of the siege asked for, and obtained from Wellington, three
hundred marksmen to keep down the _tiraillade_. They were taken from
the Light Brigade of the King’s German Legion, and spread among the
ruins to fire at the embrasures and loopholes of the French. They also
hoisted, with some difficulty, two field-guns on to the first floor of
the convent of San Bernardo, which lies north-west of San Vincente,
and kept up a lively discharge ‘out of the drawing-room window, so to
speak. We fired for some hours at each other, during which time an
unlucky shot went as completely through my captain’s (Eligé’s) heart as
possible. But considering how near we were, I am much surprised that
our loss was so slight--one killed and one wounded at my own gun[426].’
But the fire of the San Vincente artillery was by no means silenced.

  [426] Letter of F. Monro, R.A., lent me by his representative.
  See _Fortnightly Review_ for July 1912.

On the night of June 18th-19th the working party of the 6th Division
succeeded in finishing the battery which was to breach the main fort,
and also commenced two smaller batteries, to right and left, in places
among the ruins, one by the College of Cuenca, the other below San
Bernardo[427]. On the morning of the 19th the four 18-pounders and
three howitzers opened, and brought down the upper courses of the
masonry of that part of San Vincente on which they were trained.
But they could not move its lower part, or reach the counterscarp.
Wherefore two howitzers were put into the second battery, near the
College of Cuenca, which could command the counterscarp. The play of
these guns proved insufficient, however, to shake it, and the garrison
concentrated such a fire upon them, mainly from musketry at loopholes,
that twenty gunners were killed or hurt while working the two howitzers.

  [427] Nos. 2 and 3 in the map respectively.

Next morning Dickson’s six howitzers from Elvas came up, and served to
replace those borrowed from the field companies, wherefore there was
only an addition of three pieces net to the battering-train. Two of the
18-pounders were moved round to the battery (No. 2) which had been so
hard hit on the preceding day: their fire proved much more effective
than that of the howitzers, and brought down an angle of the upper wall
of San Vincente and part of its roof, which fell on and crushed many of
the French.

But on the 21st it was impossible to continue the battering, for the
ignominious reason that there were hardly any more shot left to fire.
Only sixty balls remained in store for the 18-pounders, and a little
over one hundred for the howitzers[428]. The calculations of the
besiegers had been so erroneous that they had used up their stock just
as the critical moment had arrived. On the previous day Wellington,
seeing what was coming, had sent a hurried message to Almeida for more
shot and powder--but the convoy, though urged on with all possible
speed, did not arrive at Salamanca till the 26th.

  [428] Of course a few rounds more for the howitzers could have
  been borrowed from the field-batteries with the divisions. For
  the 18-pounders, the really important guns, there was no such
  resource for borrowing.

Meanwhile the general engagement for which Wellington had prepared
himself seemed likely to come off. Marmont had all his army, save
Bonnet alone, collected by the 19th, at Fuente Sauco. On the following
day he came boldly forward and drove in the British cavalry vedettes.
He showed three columns moving on a parallel front, which observers
estimated at 18,000 foot and 2,000 horse--but there were more behind,
still invisible. At four in the afternoon he was drawing so close that
Wellington assumed his battle position. Five divisions and the two
independent Portuguese brigades formed the fighting-line, from San
Cristobal southward to Cabrerizos on the bank of the Tormes: the order
was (from right to left) 1st-7th-4th-Light-3rd-Pack and Bradford. The
reserve was composed of the 5th Division, of Hulse’s brigade of the
6th (of which the remainder was left to blockade the Salamanca forts),
and of Carlos de España’s 3,000 Spaniards. Alten’s cavalry covered the
British right, Ponsonby’s[429] the left, Bock’s and Le Marchant’s heavy
squadrons were in reserve.

  [429] Acting vice G. Anson, absent.

It looked at first as though Marmont intended to force on the battle
that Wellington desired. Moving with great order and decision, his
three columns deployed opposite the heights, and advanced to within a
very moderate distance of them--not more than 800 yards at one point.
They were extremely visible, as the whole country-side below the
British position was a fine plain covered with ripening wheat. The
only breaks in the surface were the infrequent villages--in this part
of Spain they are all large and far apart--and a few dry watercourses,
whose line could be detected winding amid the interminable cornfields.
Warning to keep off the position was given to the French by long-range
fire from several of the British batteries on salient points of the
line. The enemy replied noisily and with many guns: Wellington’s
officers judged that he was doing his best to make his approach audible
to the garrison of the besieged forts.

At dusk the French occupied the village of Castellanos de Morisco, in
front of the right centre of the heights, and then advanced a regiment
to attack Morisco, which was absolutely at the foot of them, and had
been occupied by Wellington as an advanced post. It was held by the
68th regiment from the 7th Division, a battalion which had come out
from England in the preceding autumn, but had, by chance, never been
engaged before. It made a fine defence, and beat off three attacks
upon the village: but after dark Wellington called it back uphill to
the line of the position, abandoning Morisco[430]. Apparently he was
glad to see the French pressing in close, and looked for an attack upon
his position next morning. Standing on the sky-line above Castellanos
at dusk, with a map in his hand, he demonstrated to all the assembled
generals commanding divisions the exact part which they were to play,
till several French round-shot compelled him to shift his position a
little farther back[431]. The whole army slept that night in order of
battle, with strong pickets pushed down to the foot of the slopes.

  [430] The 68th lost four officers and 46 men killed and wounded,
  and one officer taken prisoner. For a good account of the fight
  see the Memoirs of Green of the 68th, pp. 89-90.

  [431] See Tomkinson’s _Diary_, p. 165.

There was, however, no attack at dawn. Marmont’s two rear divisions
(those of Foy and Thomières) and a brigade of dragoons were not yet on
the ground, and only got up in the course of the afternoon: hence he
was naturally unwilling to move, as he had a certain knowledge that
he was outnumbered. It would seem that Wellington had, that morning,
an opportunity of crushing his enemy, which he must have regretted to
have lost on many subsequent days of the campaign. Marmont’s position
was one of very great risk: he had pushed in so close to the British
heights, that he might have been attacked and brought to action in half
an hour, and could not have got away without fighting. His position
was visible from end to end--it had no flank protection, and its only
strong points were the two villages of Morisco and Castellanos de
Morisco on its left centre. Behind was an undulating sea of cornfields
extending to the horizon. Wellington (after deducting the two missing
brigades of the 6th Division) could have come down in a general charge
from his heights, with 37,000 Anglo-Portuguese infantry, and 3,500
horse--not to speak of Carlos de España’s 3,000 Spaniards. Marmont
had only five divisions of infantry (about 28,000 bayonets) on the
ground at daybreak, and less than 2,000 horse. He was in a thoroughly
dominated position, and it is hard to see what he could have done,
had Wellington strengthened his left wing with all his cavalry and
delivered a vigorous downhill assault on the unprotected French right.
The opportunity for an attack was so favourable that Wellington’s staff
discussed with curiosity the reasons that might be preventing it, and
formed varying hypotheses to account for his holding back[432]. As a
matter of fact, as his dispatch to Lord Liverpool explains[433], the
British Commander-in-Chief was still hoping for a second Bussaco. He
saw that Marmont was not going to attack till his rear had come up,
but hoped that he might do so that afternoon or next morning, when he
had all his men in hand. The daring way in which the Marshal continued
to hold on to an untenable position, within cannon shot of his enemy’s
line, seemed to argue an ultimate intention to bring on an action.

  [432] Tomkinson’s _Diary_, p. 166.

  [433] Wellington to Liverpool, Salamanca, June 25, in
  _Dispatches_, ix. p. 252.

Nor was Wellington very far out in his ideas: Marmont was in a state of
indecision. When the missing 10,000 men came up he called a council of
war--the regular resort of generals in a difficulty. We have concerning
it only the evidence of Foy, who wrote as follows in his diary.

‘At dusk on the 21st there was a grand discussion, on the problem as
to whether we should or should not give battle to the English. The
Marshal seemed to have a desire to do so, but a feeble and hesitating
desire. Remembering Vimeiro, Corunna, and Bussaco, I thought that it
would be difficult to beat the English, our superiors in number, on
such a compact position as that which they were occupying. I had not
the first word: I allowed Maucune, Ferey[434], and La Martinière to
express their views, before I let them see what I thought. Then Clausel
having protested strongly against fighting, I supported his opinion.
Because we had left a small garrison in the Salamanca forts, we were
not bound to lose 6,000 killed and wounded, and risk the honour of the
army, in order to deliver them. The troops were in good spirits, and
that is excellent for the first assault: but here we should have a long
tough struggle: I doubted whether we had breath enough to keep it up
to the end. In short, I saw more chances of defeat than victory. I
urged that we ought to keep close to the English, “contain” them, and
wait for our reinforcements; this could be done by manœuvring along the
left bank of the Tormes above and below Salamanca. Clausel and I set
forth this policy from every aspect. The Marshal was displeased: he
fancied that his generals were plotting to wreck his plan: he wanted to
redeem the blunder which he saw that he had made in leaving a garrison
in Salamanca: he dreads the Emperor and the public opinion of the army.
He would have liked a battle, but he had not determination enough to
persist in forcing it on[435].’

  [434] The first two were great fire-eaters, and always urged
  action.

  [435] Foy’s _Vie militaire_, ed. Girod de l’Ain, pp. 165-6.

It seems, therefore, certain that Wellington nearly obtained the
defensive general action that he had desired and expected, and was only
disappointed because Marmont was talked down by his two best divisional
generals. If the Marshal had made his attack, it is clear that his
disaster would have been on a far more complete and awful scale than
the defeat which he was actually to endure on July 22. For he would
have had behind him when repulsed (as he must have been) no friendly
shelter of woods and hills, such as then saved the wrecks of his army,
but a boundless rolling plain, in which routed troops would have been
at the mercy of a cavalry which exceeded their own in the proportion of
seven to five (or slightly more).

On the morning of the 22nd, the British general, who had now kept his
army in position for thirty-six hours on end, began to guess that he
was not to be attacked. Was it worth while to advance, since the enemy
refused to do so? The conditions were by no means so favourable as at
the dawn of the 21st, when Marmont had been short of 10,000 men. But
the allied army still possessed a perceptible superiority in numbers,
a stronger cavalry, and a dominating position, from which it would be
easy to deliver a downhill attack under cover of their artillery.

Wellington, however, made no decisive movement: he threw up some
_flèches_ to cover the batteries in front of the 1st and 7th Divisions,
of which the latter was pushed a little nearer to the Tormes. He
brought up the six heavy howitzers which had been used against the
forts, and placed them on this same right wing of his position. Then
he commenced a partial offensive movement, which was apparently
designed to draw Marmont into a serious bickering, if he were ready
to stand. The 7th Division began to make an advance towards Morisco:
the skirmishers of the Light Brigade of the King’s German Legion moved
down, and began to press in the pickets opposite them, their battalions
supporting. Soon after the 51st and 68th, from the other brigade of
the division, that of De Bernewitz, were ordered to storm a knoll
immediately above Morisco, which formed the most advanced point of the
enemy’s line. Wellington directed Graham to support them with the whole
1st and Light Divisions, if the enemy should bring up reinforcements
and show fight. But nothing of the kind happened: the two battalions
carried the knoll with a single vigorous rush, losing some 30 killed
and wounded[436]. But the French made no attempt to recapture it, drew
back their skirmishing line, and retired to the village, only 200 yards
behind, where they stood firm, evidently expecting a general attack. It
was not delivered: Wellington had been willing to draw Marmont into a
fight, but was not intending to order an advance of the whole line, and
to precipitate a general offensive battle.

  [436] The 51st lost 3 killed and an officer and 20 men wounded:
  the 68th 2 killed and 6 wounded, the K.G.L. Light Battalions 3
  killed and 3 officers and 17 men wounded. There are narratives of
  the combat in the Memoirs of Green of the 68th, and Major Rice
  and Private Wheeler of the 51st.

There was no more fighting that day, and next morning the whole French
army had disappeared save some cavalry vedettes. These being pressed
in by Alten’s hussars, it was discovered that Marmont had gone back
six miles, to a line of heights behind the village of Aldea Rubia, and
was there in a defensive position, with his left wing nearly touching
the Tormes near the fords of Huerta. Wellington made no pursuit: only
his cavalry reconnoitred the new French position. He kept his army on
the San Cristobal heights, only moving down Anson’s brigade of the
4th Division to hold Castellanos, and Halkett’s of the 7th Division
to hold Morisco. Hulse’s brigade of the 6th Division was sent back
to Salamanca, as were also Dickson’s six howitzers, and Clinton was
directed to press the siege of the forts--notwithstanding the unhappy
fact that there was scarcely any ammunition left in the batteries.

Marmont had undoubtedly been let off easily by Wellington: yet he
hardly realized it, so filled was his mind with the idea that his
adversary would never take the offensive. His report to King Joseph
shows a sublime ignorance of his late danger. As the document has never
been published and is very short, it may be worth quoting.

‘Having concentrated the greater part of this army on the evening of
the 19th, I marched on Salamanca the same day. I seized some outlying
posts of the enemy, and my army bivouacked within half cannon-shot of
the English. Their army was very well posted, and I did not think it
right to attack yesterday (June 21) without making a reconnaissance of
it. The result of my observations has convinced me that as long as my
own numbers are not _at least equal_ to theirs, I must temporize, and
gain time for the arrival of the troops from the Army of the North,
which General Caffarelli has promised me. If they arrive I shall
be strong enough to take an enterprising course. Till then I shall
manœuvre round Salamanca, so as to try to get the enemy to divide his
army, or to move it out of its position, which will be to my advantage.
The Salamanca forts are making an honourable defence. Since we came up
the enemy has ceased to attack them, so that I have gained time, and
can put off a general action for some days if I think proper[437].’

  [437] Marmont to Joseph, night of the 22nd June, from bivouac
  before San Cristobal. Intercepted dispatch in the Scovell Papers.

Marmont’s plan for ‘manœuvring around Salamanca’ proved (as we shall
see) quite ineffective, and ended within a few days in a definite
retreat, when he found that the succours promised by Caffarelli were
not about to appear.

Meanwhile the siege of the Salamanca forts had recommenced, on the
23rd, under the depressing conditions that the artillery had only
60 rounds (15 apiece!) for the four heavy 18-pounders, which were
their effective weapons, and 160 for the six howitzers, which had
hitherto proved almost useless. The two light field-guns (6-pounders)
were also replaced on the first floor of San Bernardo to shell the
enemy’s loopholes--they were no good at all for battering. This time
the besiegers placed one of their heavy guns in the right flanking
battery near San Bernardo, to get an oblique enfilading fire against
the gorge of the San Cayetano fort. The new idea was to leave San
Vincente alone, as too hard a nut to crack with the small supply of
shot available, and to batter the lesser fort from flank and rear with
the few rounds remaining. The entire stock, together with a hundred
rounds of shell, was used up by the afternoon, when no practicable
breach had been made, though the palisades of San Cayetano had been
battered down, and its parapet much injured. Nevertheless Wellington
ordered an attempt to storm (or rather to escalade) the minor fort at
10 p.m. on the same evening. It was to be carried out by the six light
companies of Bowes’s and Hulse’s brigades of the 6th Division, a force
of between 300 and 400 men. ‘The undertaking was difficult, and the men
seemed to feel it,’ observes the official historian of the Peninsular
sieges[438]. The major of one of the regiments engaged remarks, ‘the
result was precisely such as most of the officers anticipated--a
failure attended with severe loss of life.’ The storming-column,
starting from the ruins near the left flanking battery, had to charge
for the gorge of San Cayetano, not only under the fire of that work,
but with musketry and artillery from San Vincente taking them in the
rear. The casualties from the first moment were very heavy--many men
never got near the objective, and only two ladders out of twenty
were planted against the fort[439]. No one tried to ascend them--the
project being obviously useless, and the stormers ran back under cover
after having lost six officers and 120 men, just a third of their
numbers[440]. Among the killed was General Bowes, commanding the
second brigade of the division, who had insisted on going forward with
his light companies--though this was evidently not brigadier’s work.
Apparently he thought that his personal influence might enable his
men to accomplish the impossible. He was hit slightly as the column
started, but bound up his wound, and went forward a second time, only
to be killed at the very foot of the ladders, just as his men broke and
retired.

  [438] Jones, i. p. 281.

  [439] The regimental history of the 53rd says that the ladders
  were so badly made, of green wood, that many of them came to
  pieces in the hands of their carriers long before they got near
  the fort.

  [440] The loss has got exaggerated in many reports, because the
  casualties in the 7th Division at Morisco on the preceding day
  are added to the total.

This, as all engaged in it agreed, was a very unjustifiable enterprise;
the escalade was impracticable so long as San Vincente was intact, and
able to cover the gorge of San Cayetano with an effective fire from
the rear. The siege now had a second period of lethargy, all the shot
having been used up. It was only on the morning of the 26th, three
days later, that the convoy from Almeida, ordered up on the 20th by
Wellington, arrived with 1,000 rounds carried by mules, and enabled the
battering to begin once more.

Meanwhile Marmont had been making persistent but ineffective diversions
against Wellington. The advantage of the position to which he had
withdrawn was that it commanded the great bend, or elbow, of the
Tormes, where (at the ford of Huerta) that river turns its general
course from northward to westward. Troops sent across the river
here could threaten Salamanca from the south, and, if in sufficient
strength, might force Wellington to evacuate part of the San Cristobal
position, in order to provide a containing force to prevent them from
communicating with and relieving the besieged forts. The Marshal’s
own statement of his intention[441] was that he hoped, by manœuvring,
to get Wellington either to divide his army or to leave his strong
ground, or both. He aimed, no doubt, at obtaining the opportunity for
a successful action with some isolated part of Wellington’s force, but
was still too much convinced of the danger of fighting a general action
to be ready to risk much. Moreover he was expecting, from day to day,
the 8,000 men of the Army of the North whom Caffarelli had promised
him: and it would be reckless to give battle before they arrived--if
only they were really coming.

  [441] See above, p. 370.

Wellington could see, by his own eyes no less than by the map, for he
rode along Marmont’s new front on the 23rd, that the French position
gave good possibilities for a passage of the elbow of the Tormes at
Huerta: wherefore he detached Bock’s brigade of German Dragoons to the
south of the river, with orders to watch the roads debouching from the
fords, and to act as a detaining force if any hostile cavalry crossed
them. He also threw forward Alten’s hussars to Aldea Lengua, a village
and ford half-way between Cabrerizos and Aldea Rubia, with the object
of keeping a similar close watch on any attempt of Marmont’s to move
north of the river. One brigade of the Light Division came forward to
support Alten--the other was écheloned a little back, on hills above
Aldea Lengua.

On the late evening of the 23rd Marmont sent a squadron or two across
the Huerta fords, which turned back after running into Bock’s vedettes.
This was merely an exploring party to test the practicability of
the passage; but next morning, in a heavy fog, skirmishing fire and
occasional reports of cannon told Wellington that some more important
detachment was across the Tormes, and engaged with the Germans. The
British head-quarters staff rode to the hill above Aldea Lengua, which
commands a wide view over the south bank, and, when the morning vapours
rolled up at 7 o’clock, saw Bock retiring across the rolling plain in
very good order, pressed by a heavy force of all arms--two divisions
of infantry headed by a light cavalry brigade with a horse artillery
battery, which was doing some harm to the two dragoon regiments as they
retired in alternate échelons across the slopes.

Fortunately there was excellent defensive fighting-ground south of the
Tormes, in prolongation of the San Cristobal position north of it.
The ravine and brook[442] called the Ribera de Pelagarcia with wooded
heights above them, run in front of Santa Marta and its ford, for some
miles southward from the Tormes. There was a similar line of high
ground facing it, with the villages of Pelabravo and Calvarisa de Ariba
on its top, which the French might occupy, but on passing down from
them they would run against a formidable position. Along these hills,
indeed, Wellington’s first line of defence was to be formed a month
later, on the day of the battle of Salamanca. On seeing Bock’s careful
retreat in progress, the Commander-in-Chief ordered Graham to cross the
Tormes at Santa Marta with the 1st and 7th Divisions, and to occupy the
ground in front of him. This was a short move, and easily accomplished
while the French detachment was pushing the German dragoons slowly
backward. The 4th and 5th Divisions moved down to the north bank of the
Tormes, ready to follow if Marmont should support his advanced guard,
by sending more men over the Huerta fords. Le Marchant’s heavy brigade
crossed the river with a horse artillery battery, and went to reinforce
Bock, whom the French could now only push in by bringing forward
infantry. Their advance continued as far as the village of Calvarisa
de Abaxo, and a little beyond, where the whole 9,000 or 10,000 men
deployed, as if intending to attack Graham. But just as observers on
the Aldea Lengua heights were beginning to think that serious fighting
was probable[443], the whole fell back into column of march, and,
retiring to Huerta covered by their _chasseurs_, recrossed the river.

  [442] I find the name Ribera de Pelagarcia only in the more
  modern Spanish maps: contemporary plans do not give it.

  [443] Tomkinson, p. 170: ‘Just before they began to retire, I
  thought that their advance looked serious. Our position was good,
  and if they had fought with what had crossed, our force would
  have been the greater.’

The state of affairs at nightfall was just what it had been at dawn.
Graham and Le Marchant went back to their old ground north of the
river, and south of it cavalry alone was left--this time Alten’s
brigade, for Bock’s had had a heavy day, and needed rest. So ended a
spectacular but almost bloodless manœuvre--the German dragoons lost
three killed and two wounded: the French light horse probably no more.

In a dispatch written the same night Marmont frankly owns that he was
foiled by Wellington’s counter-move. This hitherto unpublished document
is worth quoting. It is addressed to General Caffarelli, and runs as
follows[444]. ‘The movement which I have made toward Salamanca has
caused the enemy to suspend his attack on the forts of that town. [An
error, as it was not the movement but the lack of ammunition which
stopped the bombardment.] This consideration, and the way in which I
found him posted to keep me off, and not least your assurance that your
powerful reinforcements would reach me very soon, have determined me
to suspend the attack which I was about to deliver against him. I stop
here with the object of gaining time, and in the expectation of your
arrival.’ From this it is clear that if Graham had not been found so
well posted, in a position where he could readily be reinforced from
San Cristobal, Marmont would have followed up his advanced guard with
the rest of his army, and have struck at Salamanca from the South. But
finding the ground on the left bank of the river just as unfavourable
to him as that on the north, he gave up the game and retired. He risked
a serious check, for Wellington might have ordered Graham to follow and
attack the retreating divisions, who would have had great difficulty
in recrossing the Tormes without loss, if they had been pursued and
attacked while jammed at the fords. But Wellington was still in his
defensive mood, and took no risks, contented to have foiled most
effectively his enemy’s manœuvre.

  [444] This is one of the many cipher dispatches in the Scovell
  Papers, which I have found so illuminating in a period when
  Marmont’s writings, printed or in the French archives, are very
  few.

On the 25th Marmont remained stationary, waiting for further advices
from Caffarelli, which failed to come to hand. Nor did Wellington make
any move, save that of sending orders that the siege of the forts was
to be pressed as early and as vigorously as possible. The guns were
back in their batteries, waiting for the ammunition which was yet to
appear. All that could be done without shot was to push forward a
trench along the bottom of the ravine between San Vincente and the
other two forts, to cut off communication between them. The French
fired fiercely at the workers, where they could look down into the
ravine, and killed some of them. But there was much ‘dead ground’ which
could not be reached from any point in the forts, and by dawn on the
26th the trench was far advanced, and a picket was lodged safely in it,
close under the gorge of San Cayetano.

On the morning of the 26th the convoy of powder and shot from Almeida
reached the front, and at three in the afternoon the besiegers
recommenced their fire. This time no guns were placed in the original
battery opposite the north front of San Vincente; the four 18-pounders
all went into the right flank attack, and were concentrated on the
gorge of San Cayetano. Four of the howitzers were placed in the left
flank battery, near the College of Cuenca, and directed to fire red-hot
shot into the roof and upper story of San Vincente. The field-guns in
San Bernardo, aided by one howitzer, took up their old work of trying
to keep down the fire of the forts.

The battering in of the gorge of San Cayetano made considerable
progress, but the most effective work was that of the red-hot shot,
which before night had set the tower of San Vincente and several points
of its roof in flames. By heroic exertions the garrison succeeded in
extinguishing them, but the besiegers’ fire was kept up all night, and
from time to time new conflagrations burst out. The governor afterwards
informed the British engineers that eighteen separate outbreaks were
kept down within the twenty-four hours before his surrender[445]. The
fort was very inflammable, owing to the immense amount of timber that
had been used for casemating, traverses, barricades, and parapets,
inside its walls. Still it was holding out at daybreak, though the
garrison was nearly exhausted: the governor signalled to Marmont that
he could not resist for more than three days--a sad over-estimate of
his power, as was to be shown in a few hours. As a subsidiary aid to
the work of the guns two mines were commenced, one from the ravine,
destined to burrow under San Cayetano, the other from the cliff by the
river, intended to reach La Merced. But neither was fated to be used,
other means sufficing.

  [445] Jones, _Sieges of the Peninsula_, i. p. 285.

After four hours’ pounding on the morning of the 27th, the gorge of San
Cayetano had been battered into a real and very practicable breach,
while a new fire had broken out in San Vincente, larger than any one
which had preceded it. It reached the main store of gabions and planks
within the fort, and threatened the powder magazine. The garrison were
evidently flinching from their guns, as the counter-fire from the
place, hitherto very lively, began to flag, and the whole building was
wrapped in smoke.

Thereupon Wellington ordered San Cayetano to be stormed for the second
time. The column charged with the operation crept forward along the
trench at the bottom of the ravine, fairly well covered till it had
reached the spot immediately below the gorge of the fort. Just as the
forlorn hope was about to start out of the trench, a white flag was
shown from the breach. The captain commanding in San Cayetano asked for
two hours’ truce, to enable him to communicate with his chief in San
Vincente, promising to surrender at the end of that time. Wellington
offered him five minutes to march out, if he wished to preserve his
garrison’s lives and baggage. As the Frenchmen continued to haggle and
argue, he was told to take down his white flag, as the assault was
about to be delivered. When the stormers ran in, San Cayetano made
practically no defence, though a few shots were fired, which caused six
casualties in the assaulting column: the greater part of the garrison
threw down their muskets and made no resistance.

[Illustration: SALAMANCA FORTS]

At the same moment the white flag went up on San Vincente also: here
the conflagration was now burning up so fiercely that the French had
been able to spare no attention for the storming-party that captured
San Cayetano. The governor, Duchemin, asked for three hours’ suspension
of arms, and made a proposal of terms of surrender. Wellington, here
as at the smaller fort, refused to grant time, as he thought that the
fire would be subdued and the defence prolonged, if he allowed hours
to be wasted in negotiations. He sent in the same ultimatum as at San
Cayetano--five minutes for the garrison to march out, and they should
have all the ‘honours of war’ and their baggage intact. Duchemin, like
his subordinate, returned a dilatory message, but while his white flag
was still flying, the 9th Caçadores pushed up out of the ravine and
entered the battery on the east side of the work. They were not fired
on, no one in San Vincente being prepared to continue the defence, and
the French standard came down without further resistance.

Not quite 600 unwounded men of the garrison were captured. They had
lost just 200 during the siege, including 14 officers[446]. The
casualties among the British were, as might have been expected, much
heavier, largely owing to the unjustifiable assault of June 23rd. They
amounted to 5 officers and 94 men killed, and 29 officers and 302
men wounded. A considerable store of clothing, much powder, and 36
guns of all sorts were found in the three forts. The powder was made
over to Carlos de España, one of whose officers, having moved it into
the town on the 7th July, contrived to explode many barrels, which
killed several soldiers and twenty citizens, besides wrecking some
houses[447]. The three forts were destroyed with care, when they had
been stripped of all their contents.

  [446] The total given by the governor to Warre of Beresford’s
  staff (see his _Letters_, ed. Dr. Warre, p. 270) were 3 officers
  and 40 men killed, 11 officers and 140 men wounded. Martinien’s
  lists show 12 officers hit, 5 in the 65th, 2 each in the 15th and
  17th Léger, 1 each in 86th, artillery, and engineers. But these
  admirable lists are not quite complete.

  [447] This is said to have been the result of the escort’s
  smoking round the store!

The fall of the Salamanca forts happened just in time to prevent
Marmont from committing himself to a serious offensive operation
for their succour. It will be remembered that, on June 24th, he had
used the plea that Caffarelli’s troops must be with him, ere many
days had passed, as a justification for not pushing on to attack the
British divisions in front of Santa Marta. And this expectation was
reasonable, in view of that general’s last dispatch from Vittoria of
June 14th[448], which spoke of his appearance with 8,000 men as certain
and imminent. On the 26th, however, the Marshal received another letter
from the Army of the North, couched in a very different tone, which
upset all his plans. Caffarelli, writing on the 20th, reported the
sudden arrival on the Biscay coast of Sir Home Popham’s fleet, whose
strength he much exaggerated. In co-operation with the English, Longa,
Renovales, and Porlier had all come down from their mountains, and
Bilbao was in danger from their unexpected and simultaneous appearance.
It would probably be necessary to march to drive off the ‘7th Army’ and
the British expedition without delay. At any rate the transference of
any infantry towards the Douro for the succour of the Army of Portugal
had become impossible for the moment. The brigade of light cavalry and
the guns might still be sent, but the infantry division had become
indispensable elsewhere. ‘I am sorry,’ ended Caffarelli, ‘but I could
not have foreseen this development, and when I spoke of marching
towards you I was far from suspecting that it could arise.’

  [448] Printed in Marmont’s _Mémoires_, iv. p. 410.

This epistle changed the whole aspect of affairs: if the infantry
division from Vittoria had been diverted into Biscay for an indefinite
period, and if even the cavalry and guns (an insignificant force so
far as numbers went, yet useful to an army short of horse) had not
even started on June 20th, it was clear that not a single man would
be available from the North for many days. Meanwhile the governor of
the forts signalled at dawn on the 27th that seventy-two hours was
the limit of his power of resistance. Thereupon Marmont came to the
desperate resolve to attempt the relief of San Vincente with no more
than his own 40,000 men. He tells us that he intended to move by the
south side of the Tormes, crossing not at Huerta (as on the 24th) but
at Alba de Tormes, seven miles higher up, where he had a small garrison
in the old castle, which protected the bridge. This move would have
brought him precisely on to the ground where he ultimately fought the
disastrous battle of July 22nd. He would have met Wellington with
7,000 men less than he brought to the actual battle that was yet to
come, while the Anglo-Portuguese army was practically the same in July
as it was in June[449]. The result could not have been doubtful--and
Marmont knew that he was taking a serious risk. But he did not fathom
its full danger, since he was filled with an unjustifiable confidence
in his adversary’s aversion to battle, and thought that he might be
manœuvred and bullied out of his position, by a move against his
communications[450]. He would have found out his error in front of the
Arapiles on June 29th if he had persevered.

  [449] If Marmont had marched for Alba de Tormes on the 28th, as
  he intended to do, Wellington would have had the 6th Division
  in hand, as well as the rest of his troops, for a battle on the
  29th: for the forts fell early on the 27th June.

  [450] See his explanation of his intentions in _Mémoires_, iv.
  pp. 219-20.

But he did not persevere: in the morning of June 27 the firing at
Salamanca ceased, and a few hours later it was known that the forts had
fallen. Having now no longer any reason for taking risks, the Marshal
changed his whole plan, and resolved to remove himself in haste from
Wellington’s neighbourhood, and to take up a defensive position till
he should receive reinforcements. Two courses were open to him--the
first was to retire due eastward toward Arevalo, and put himself in
communication, by Avila and Segovia, with the Army of the Centre and
Madrid. The second was to retire north-eastward toward Valladolid, and
to go behind the strong defensive line of the Douro. Taking this line
the Marshal would sacrifice his touch with Madrid and the South, but
would be certain of picking up the reinforcement under Bonnet which he
was expecting from the Asturias, and would also be able to receive
with security whatever succour Caffarelli might send--even if it turned
out to be no more than cavalry and guns.

This alternative he chose, probably with wisdom, for in a position on
the Douro he threatened Wellington’s flank if he should advance farther
eastward, and protected the central parts of the kingdom of Leon from
being overrun by the Army of Galicia and Silveira’s Portuguese, who
would have had no containing force whatever in front of them if he had
kept south of the Douro and linked himself with Madrid. His retreat,
commenced before daybreak on the 28th, took him behind the Guarena
river that night: on the 29th he crossed the Trabancos, and rested for
a day after two forced marches. On the 30th he passed the Zapardiel,
and reached Rueda, close to the Douro, on the following morning. From
thence he wrote to King Joseph a dispatch which explains sufficiently
well all his designs: it is all the more valuable because its details
do not entirely bear out the version of his plans which he gives in his
_Mémoires_.

‘The Salamanca forts,’ he said, ‘having surrendered, there was no
reason for lingering on the Tormes; it was better to fall back on his
reinforcements. If he had not done so, he would have been himself
attacked, for Wellington was preparing to strike, and pursued promptly.
He had detached one division [Foy] towards Toro and the Lower Douro to
keep off Silveira, who had passed that river at Zamora. Moreover the
Galicians had blockaded Astorga, and crossed the Orbigo. He felt that
he could defend the line of the Douro with confidence, being aided by
the line of fortified posts along it--Zamora, Toro, and Tordesillas.
But to take the offensive against Wellington he must have 1,500 more
cavalry and 7,000 more infantry than he actually had in hand--since
the Anglo-Portuguese army was nearly 50,000 strong, and included 5,000
English horse.’ This reinforcement was precisely what Caffarelli had
promised, but by the 28th not one man of the Army of the North had
reached Valladolid. ‘If the general can trump up some valid excuse
for not sending me the infantry, there is none for keeping back the
cavalry--which is useless among his mountains--or the artillery, which
lies idle at Burgos.’ Would it not be possible for the Army of the
Centre to lend the Army of Portugal Treillard’s division of dragoons
from the valley of the Tagus, since Caffarelli sent nothing? If only
the necessary reinforcements, 1,500 horse and 7,000 foot, came to hand,
the Army of Portugal could take the offensive with a certainty of
success[451]; in eight days Wellington’s designs could be foiled, and
Salamanca could be recovered. But without that succour the Marshal must
keep to the defensive behind the Douro--’I can combat the course of
events, but cannot master them[452].’

  [451] In this dispatch and that of July 6 following, Marmont
  seems to understate his own force at the moment, saying that
  he can dispose of only 30,000 infantry, and 2,000 cavalry or a
  trifle over. Allowing for the artillery, engineers and sappers,
  gendarmerie and train, which the monthly returns show, this would
  give an army of some 35,000 or 36,000 in all. But the returns
  (see Appendix) indicate a higher figure for the infantry; after
  all deductions for detachments, garrisons, and sick have been
  made, it looks as if there must have been 33,000 or even 34,000
  available. Generals with a ‘point to prove’ are always a little
  easy with their figures.

  [452] This is again one of the Scovell intercepted
  cipher-dispatches, captured and brought to Wellington a day or
  two after it was written. It was a duplicate, and presumably the
  other copy reached Madrid.

This interesting dispatch explains all that followed. Marmont was
prepared to fight whenever he could show a rough numerical equality
with Wellington’s army. He obtained it a few days later, by the arrival
of Bonnet with his 6,500 infantry, and the increase of his cavalry by
800 or 900 sabres owing to measures hereafter to be described. On July
15th he had got together nearly 50,000 men of all arms, and at once
took the offensive, according to the programme which he had laid down.
It is, therefore, unfair to him to say that he declared himself unable
to fight till he should have got reinforcements either from Caffarelli
or from Madrid, and then (in despite of his declaration) attacked
Wellington without having received them. He may have been presumptuous
in acting as he did, but at least he gave his Commander-in-Chief fair
notice, a fortnight beforehand, as to his intentions. It was the
misfortune of the French that some of their dispatches miscarried,
owing to the activity of the guerrilleros, while others came to
hand very late. Marmont and King Joseph--as we shall see--were very
imperfectly and intermittently informed as to each other’s doings. But
the Marshal cannot reasonably be accused of betraying or deluding
the King out of jealousy or blind ambition. When he had collected a
force very nearly equal to Wellington’s in numbers, and far superior
in national homogeneity, he cannot be blamed over-much for attacking a
foe whose fighting spirit and initiative he much undervalued. That his
conception of Wellington’s character and capacity was hopelessly wrong
cannot be denied: the estimate was to prove his ruin. But it had not
been formed without much observation and experiment: after what he had
seen on the Caya, and at Aldea da Ponte, and recently on the heights of
San Cristobal, he thought he could take liberties with his opponent. He
was to be undeceived in a very rude fashion before July was out.



SECTION XXXIII: CHAPTER V

MARMONT TAKES THE OFFENSIVE. JULY 1812


On July 2nd Wellington had arrived at the end of the first stage of
his campaign. He had cleared the French out of the whole of southern
Leon as far as the Douro, had taken the Salamanca forts, and had beaten
off with ease Marmont’s attempts to meddle with him. All this had been
accomplished with the loss of less than 500 men. But the success,
though marked, was not decisive, since the enemy’s army had not been
beaten in the open field, but only manœuvred out of the considerable
region that it had evacuated. The most tangible advantage secured was
that Marmont had been cut off from Madrid and the Army of the Centre:
he could now communicate with King Joseph only by the circuitous line
through Segovia. All the guerrilleros of Castile, especially the bands
of Saornil and Principe, were thrown on the Segovia and Avila roads,
where they served Wellington excellently, for they captured most of the
dispatches which were passing between King Joseph and Marmont, who were
really out of touch with each other after the Marshal’s retreat from
the Tormes on June 27th.

But till Marmont had been beaten in action nothing was settled, and
Wellington had been disappointed of his hope that the Army of Portugal
would attack him in position, and allow him to deal with it in the
style of Bussaco. The Marshal had retired behind the Douro with his
host intact: it was certain that he would be joined there by Bonnet’s
division from the Asturias, and very possible that he might also
receive succour from the Army of the North. The junction of Bonnet
would give him a practical equality in numbers with the British army:
any considerable reinforcement from Caffarelli would make him superior
in force. And there was still a chance that other French armies might
intervene, though hitherto there were no signs of it. For it was only
during the first fortnight of the campaign that Wellington could reckon
on having to deal with his immediate adversary alone. He was bound to
have that much start, owing to the wide dispersion of the French, and
their difficulty in communicating with each other. But as the weeks
wore on, and the enemy became more able to grasp the situation, there
was a growing possibility that outlying forces might be brought up
towards the Douro. If Marmont had only been defeated on June 21st this
would have mattered little: and Wellington must have regretted more
and more each day that he had not taken the obvious opportunity, and
attacked the Army of Portugal when it placed itself, incomplete and in
a poor position, beneath the heights of San Cristobal.

Now, however, since Marmont had got away intact, everything depended
on the working of the various diversions which had been prepared to
distract the other French armies. One of them, Sir Home Popham’s,
had succeeded to admiration, and had so scared Caffarelli that not
a man of the Army of the North was yet in motion toward the Douro.
And this fortunate expedition was to continue effective: for another
three weeks Marmont got no succours from the army that was supposed
to constitute his supporting force by the instructions of the Emperor
and of King Joseph. But Wellington--not having the gift of prophecy,
though he could see further into the fog of war than other men--was
unable to rely with certainty on Caffarelli’s continued abstinence from
interference. As to Soult, there were as yet no signs of any trouble
from Andalusia. The Duke of Dalmatia had somewhat reinforced D’Erlon’s
corps in Estremadura, but not to such an extent as threatened any
real danger to Hill, who reported that he could keep D’Erlon in check
on the Albuera position, and was not certain that he might not be
able to attack him at advantage--a move for which he had his chief’s
permission[453]. If only Wellington had been fortunate enough to
receive some of Soult’s letters to King Joseph, written in the second
half of June, he would have been much reassured: for the Marshal was
(as we shall see) refusing in the most insubordinate style to carry
out the orders sent him to move troops northward. Two minor pieces
of intelligence from the South were of no primary importance--though
vexatious enough--one was that Ballasteros had ventured on a battle at
Bornos on June 1, and got well beaten: but his army was not destroyed.
The second was that General Slade had suffered a discreditable check at
Maguilla on June 11th in a cavalry combat with Lallemand’s dragoons.
But neither of these events had much influence on Soult’s general
conduct at the time, as we shall show in the proper place.

  [453] See Wellington to Lord Liverpool, June 25. _Dispatches_,
  ix. pp. 253-4, and to Hill, ix. pp. 256-7, and again to Lord
  Liverpool, ix. pp. 261-2.

There remained one quarter from which Wellington had received
information that was somewhat disturbing. An intercepted letter from
King Joseph to D’Erlon showed that the latter had been directed to move
towards the Tagus, and that the King himself was evidently thinking of
bringing succour to Marmont, so far as his modest means allowed[454].
But since this projected operation seemed to depend on assistance being
granted by Soult, and since it was doubtful in the highest degree
whether Soult would give it, Wellington was not without hopes that it
might come to nothing. ‘I have requested the Empecinado,’ he writes
to Lord Liverpool, ‘to alarm the King for the safety of his situation
about Madrid, and I hope that Marshal Soult will find ample employment
for his troops in the blockade of Cadiz, the continued operations of
General Ballasteros, and those in Estremadura of Lieut.-General Hill,
whose attention I have called to the probable march of this corps of
the Army of the South through Estremadura.’ As a matter of fact Soult
prevented D’Erlon from giving any help to the King or Marmont; but a
contingency was to arise of which Wellington, on July 1st, could have
no expectation--viz. that, though refused all help from the South,
Joseph might come to the desperate but most soldier-like determination
to march with his own little army alone to the Douro, in order to bring
to bear such influence as he possessed on what was obviously a critical
moment in the war. The King and Jourdan were the only men in Spain who
showed a true appreciation of the crisis: but they made their move too
late: the fault was undoubtedly Soult’s alone. However, on July 1st,
Wellington was justified in doubting whether any danger would arise on
the side of Madrid. Joseph could not move the Army of the Centre to
the Douro, without risking his capital and abandoning all New Castile.
As late as July 11th Wellington suspected that he would not make this
extreme sacrifice, but would rather push a demonstration down the
Tagus to alarm central Portugal, a hypothesis which did not much alarm
him[455]. The King and Jourdan knew better than to make this indecisive
move, and marched where their 14,000 men might have turned the whole
course of the campaign--but marched too late.

  [454] See Wellington to Lord Liverpool, June 18. _Dispatches_,
  ix. p. 241, and June 25, p. 253. There was also in Wellington’s
  hands an intercepted letter of Joseph to Soult of May 26,
  distinctly saying that if Marmont is attacked in June, D’Erlon
  must pass the Tagus and go to his help. This is in the Scovell
  ciphers.

  [455] Wellington to Hill, July 11. _Dispatches_, ix. p. 281.
  The idea that Joseph might operate on his own account begins to
  emerge in the correspondence on the 14th. _Dispatches_, ix. p.
  283.

There was still a chance that Suchet might be helping the King--this
depended entirely on an unknown factor in the game, the diversion
which Lord William Bentinck had promised to execute on the coast of
Catalonia. If it had begun to work, as it should have done, by the
second half of June, there was little chance that any troops from the
eastern side of Spain would interfere in the struggle on the Douro. But
no information of recent date was yet forthcoming: it was not till July
14th that the vexatious news arrived that Lord William was faltering
in his purpose, and thinking of plans for diverting his expeditionary
force to Italy.

The situation, therefore, when Marmont went behind the Douro on
July 1st, had many uncertain points: there were several dangerous
possibilities, but nothing had yet happened to make ultimate success
improbable. On the whole the most disappointing factor was the conduct
of the Army of Galicia. It will be remembered that Wellington had
arranged for a double diversion on Marmont’s flank and rear. Silveira,
with the militia of the Tras-os-Montes and D’Urban’s Portuguese cavalry
brigade, was to cross the Esla and besiege Zamora. Santocildes, with
the Army of Galicia, had been directed to attack Astorga with part of
his force, but to bring the main body forward to the Esla and overrun
the plains of northern Leon. Silveira had but a trifling force, and the
task allotted to him was small: but on July 1st he had not yet reached
Zamora with his infantry, and was only at Carvajales on the Esla[456].
On the other hand D’Urban’s cavalry had pushed boldly forward in front
of him, had swept the whole north bank of the Douro as far as Toro,
and reported that all the French garrisons save Astorga, Zamora, and
Toro had been drawn in--that Benavente, Leon, and all the northern
plain were unoccupied. On July 2 D’Urban was at Castronuevo, north of
Toro, right in the rear of Marmont’s flank--a very useful position,
since it enabled him to keep up communication between Silveira and
the Galicians, as well as to report any movement of the French right.
Moreover, though his force was very small, only 800 sabres, it was
enough to prevent any foraging parties from Marmont’s rear from
exploiting the resources of the north bank of the Douro. Some such
appeared, but were driven in at once, so that the Marshal had to live
on his magazines and the villages actually within his lines: in the end
these resources would be exhausted, and the old choice--starvation or
dispersion--would once more be presented to the Army of Portugal[457].

  [456] By no fault of his own, according to D’Urban. The orders
  for him to move were, by some delay at head-quarters, only
  forthcoming on June 8th. Only two of the four Tras-os-Montes
  militia regiments were then mobilized, and it took a long time to
  collect the rest and the transport needed for moving across the
  frontier.

  [457] D’Urban’s manœuvres on both sides of the Douro are detailed
  at great length in his very interesting diary, and his official
  correspondence, both of which have been placed at my disposal. He
  worked on both sides of the Douro, but went definitely north of
  it after July 1.

But as a military body neither D’Urban’s 800 horse nor Silveira’s 4,000
militia had any threatening power against Marmont’s rear. They might
almost be neglected, while the real pressure which Wellington had
intended to apply in this quarter was not forthcoming. He had hoped
that, by the time that he and Marmont were at close quarters, the
Army of Galicia would have been taking a useful part in the campaign.
It was not that he intended to use it as a fighting force: but if it
could have appeared in the French rear 15,000 strong, it would have
compelled Marmont to make such a large detachment for the purpose of
‘containing’ it, that he would have been left in a marked numerical
inferiority on the Douro.

Unfortunately the Galicians moved late, in small numbers, and with
marked timidity. They exercised no influence whatever on the course of
the campaign, either in June or in July. Yet after Bonnet evacuated
the Asturias and went off eastward on June 15th, the Army of Galicia
had no field-force of any kind in front of it. The only French left in
its neighbourhood were the 1,500 men[458] who formed the garrison of
Astorga. Castaños, who had moved up to Santiago in June, and assumed
command, did not take the field himself, but handed over the charge of
the troops at the front to Santocildes. The latter sat down in front
of Astorga with his main body, and only pushed forward a weak division
under Cabrera to Benavente, where it was still too remote from Marmont
to cause him any disquiet. The siege of Astorga was only a blockade
till July 2nd, as no battering-train was brought up till that date.
First Abadia, and later Castaños had pleaded that they had no means for
a regular siege, and it was not till Sir Howard Douglas pointed out a
sufficient store of heavy guns in the arsenal of Corunna, that Castaños
began to scrape together the battering-train that ultimately reached
Astorga[459]. But this was not so much the weak point in the operations
of the Galician army, as the fact that, of 15,000 men brought together
on the Orbigo, only 3,800 were pushed forward to the Esla, while the
unnecessarily large remainder conducted a leisurely siege of the small
garrison of Astorga. Wellington had reckoned on having an appreciable
force, 10,000 or 12,000 men, at the front, molesting Marmont’s flank;
this would have forced the Marshal to make a large detachment to keep
it off. But not a man appeared on the east bank of the Esla, and the
operations of D’Urban’s small brigade were of far more service to the
main army than that of the whole of the Galicians. Marmont ignored the
presence of the few thousand men pushed forward to Benavente, and was
justified in so doing. Meanwhile Santocildes, with an optimism that
proved wholly unjustifiable, sent messages that Astorga would be taken
within a few days, and that he would then move forward with his main
body. As a matter of fact the place held out till the 18th of August.

  [458] Two battalions of 23rd Léger and one of 1st Line from
  Thomières’s division.

  [459] For the curious story of their ignorance of their own
  resources see Sir Howard Douglas’s _Life_, pp. 156-7.

Wellington, therefore, was building on a false hypothesis when he wrote
to Lord Bathurst, on July 7, that he was surveying all the fords of the
Douro, and waiting till the river should have fallen a little and made
them more practicable. ‘By that time I hope that the Army of Galicia
under General Santocildes will have been able to advance, the siege of
Astorga having been brought to a conclusion[460].’ Two days later he
added, ‘it would not answer to cross the river at all in its present
state, unless we should be certain of having the co-operation of the
Galician troops[461].’ His delay in making an attempt to force the line
of the Douro, therefore, may be attributed in the main to the tiresome
conduct of Santocildes, who played to him much the same part that
Caffarelli played to Marmont.

  [460] _Dispatches_, ix. p. 274.

  [461] Ibid., ix. p. 276.

While remaining in this waiting posture, Wellington placed his troops
opposite the various passages of the Douro, on a line of some fifteen
miles. His left, consisting of the 3rd Division, Pack’s and Bradford’s
Portuguese, and Carlos de España’s Spaniards, with Le Marchant’s and
Bock’s heavy dragoons, lay near the point where the Trabancos falls
into the Douro, holding the ford of Pollos, where the favourable
configuration of the ground enabled them to be sure of the passage, the
enemy’s line being perforce drawn back to some distance on the north
bank. It was always open to Wellington to use this ford, when he should
determine on a general advance. The Light, 4th, 5th, and 6th Divisions,
forming the right wing, lay opposite Tordesillas, with Rueda and La
Seca behind them. Their front was covered by Alten’s cavalry brigade,
their right (or outer) flank by Anson’s. The reserve was formed by the
1st and 7th Divisions quartered at Medina del Campo, ten miles to the
rear. The whole could be assembled for an offensive or a defensive move
in a day’s march.

Marmont was drawn up, to face the attack that he expected, in an almost
equally close and concentrated formation: his front, extending from the
junction of the Pisuerga with the Douro near Simancas on his left, to
the ground opposite the ford of Pollos on his right, was very thickly
held[462]; but on the 5th he rightly conceived doubts as to whether it
would not be easy for Wellington to turn his western flank, by using
the ford of Castro Nuño and other passages down-stream from Pollos. He
then detached Foy’s division to Toro and the neighbourhood, to guard
against such a danger: but this was still an insufficient provision,
since Toro is fifteen miles from Pollos, and a single division of 5,000
men would have to watch rather than defend such a length of river-line,
if it were attacked in force. Therefore when Bonnet, so long expected
in vain, arrived from the North on July 7th, Marmont placed him in this
portion of his line, for the assistance of Foy. He still retained six
divisions massed around Tordesillas, whose unbroken bridge gave him
a secure access to the southern bank of the Douro. With this mass of
35,000 men in hand, he could meet Wellington with a solid body, if the
latter crossed the Douro at or below Pollos. Or he might equally well
take the more daring step of assuming a counter-offensive, and marching
from Tordesillas on Salamanca against his adversary’s communications,
if the allies threatened his own by passing the river and moving on
Valladolid.

  [462] An interesting dispatch from D’Urban to Beresford describes
  the information he had got on the 5th by a daring reconnaissance
  along Marmont’s rear: there was not that morning any French force
  west of Monte de Cubillos, six miles down-stream from Pollos.

A word to explain the tardiness of Bonnet’s arrival in comparison with
the earliness of his start is perhaps required. He had evacuated Oviedo
and Gijon and his other posts in the Asturias as early as June 14th,
the actual day on which Wellington commenced his offensive campaign.
This he did not in consequence of Marmont’s orders, which only reached
him when he had begun to move, but on his own responsibility. He had
received correct information as to the massing of the allied army round
Ciudad Rodrigo, and of the forward movement of the Galicians towards
Astorga. He knew of the dispersed state of Marmont’s host, and saw the
danger to himself. Should the Marshal concentrate about Salamanca,
he could never join him, if the whole Army of Galicia threw itself
between. Wherefore not only did he resolve to retreat at once, but he
did not move by the pass of Pajares and Leon--the obvious route to
rejoin the Army of Portugal. For fear that he might be intercepted,
he took the coast-road, picking up the small garrisons that he had
placed in one or two small ports. He reached Santander on the 22nd,
not molested so much as he might have been by the bands of Porlier and
Longa (whose haunts he was passing), because the bulk of them had gone
off to help in Sir Home Popham’s raid on Biscay. From Santander he
turned inland, passed Reynosa, in the heart of the Cantabrian Sierras,
on the 24th June, and arrived at Aguilar del Campo, the first town
in the province of Palencia, on the 29th. From thence he had a long
march of seven days in the plains, before he reached Valladolid on the
6th, and reported himself at Marmont’s head-quarters on the 7th of
July. He brought with him a strong division of 6,500 infantry, a light
field-battery, and a single squadron of Chasseurs--even 100 sabres[463]
were a welcome reinforcement to Marmont’s under-horsed army. It was an
odd fact that Bonnet’s division had never before met the English in
battle, though one of its regiments had seen them during the last days
of Sir John Moore’s retreat in January 1809[464]. For the three years
since that date they had always been employed in the Asturias.

  [463] Ninety-four to be exact. See 28th Chasseurs in table of
  Marmont’s army in Appendix.

  [464] The 122nd Line had been in Mermet’s division, in January
  1809, but they had been in reserve at Corunna, and had not fired
  a shot in that battle.

The arrival of Bonnet brought up the total of Marmont’s infantry
to 43,000 men, and his guns to 78. The cavalry still remained the
weak point: but by a high-handed and unpopular measure the Marshal
succeeded, during his stay on the Douro, in procuring nearly 1,000
horses for the dismounted dragoons who were encumbering his dépôt
at Valladolid. In the French, as in the British, Peninsular army it
had become common for many of the junior officers of the infantry
to provide themselves with a riding-horse; most captains and many
lieutenants had them. And their seniors, _chefs de bataillon_ and
colonels, habitually had several horses more than they were entitled
to. Marmont took the heroic measure of proclaiming that he should
enforce the regulations, and that all unauthorized horses were
confiscated. He paid, however, a valuation for each beast on a moderate
scale--otherwise the act would have been intolerable. In this way,
including some mounts requisitioned from doctors, commissaries, and
suttlers, about 1,000 horses in all were procured. The number of
cavalry fit for the field had gone up by July 15th from about 2,200 to
3,200--a total which was only 300 less than Wellington’s full strength
of British sabres. It occurs to the casual observer that the horses,
having never been trained to squadron drill or to act in mass, must
have been difficult to manage, even though the riders were competent
horsemen. This may have something to do with the very ineffective part
played by the French cavalry in the next fortnight’s campaigning.

A quaint anecdote of the time shows us General Taupin, an old
Revolutionary veteran, with all the officers of his brigade called
together in a village church. ‘He ascended the pulpit and thundered
against the abuse of horses in the infantry: he would make an end of
all baggage carried on mules or asses, but most especially of the
officers’ riding-horses. “Gentlemen,” he cried, “in 1793 we were
allowed a haversack as our only baggage, a stone as our only pillow.”
Well--it was a long time since 1793: we were in 1812, and the speaker,
this old and gallant soldier, had _six_ baggage mules himself[465].’

  [465] _Mémoires_ of Lemonnier-Delafosse of the 31st Léger, pp.
  177-8.

During the first ten days after the deadlock on the Douro began, the
French were much puzzled by Wellington’s refusal to continue his
advance. Foy, the ablest of them, noted in his diary that he must
conclude either that the enemy was not numerous enough to take the
offensive--his strength might have been over-valued--or else that he
was waiting for Hill to bring up his corps from Estremadura. This last
idea, indeed, was running in the brains of many French strategists:
it obsessed Jourdan and King Joseph at Madrid, who were well aware
that Hill, marching by Alcantara and the passes of the Sierra de Gata,
could have got to the Douro in half the time that it would have taken
his opponent, D’Erlon, who would have had to move by Toledo, Madrid,
and Segovia. But the simple explanation is to be found in Wellington’s
dispatch to Lord Bathurst of July 13. ‘It is obvious that we could
not cross the Douro without sustaining great loss, and could not
fight a general action under circumstances of greater disadvantage....
The enemy’s numbers are equal, if not superior, to ours: they have in
their position thrice the amount of artillery that we have, and we are
superior in cavalry alone--which arm (it is probable) could not be used
in the sort of attack we should have to make[466].’ He then proceeds
to demonstrate the absolute necessity of bringing forward the Army of
Galicia against Marmont’s rear. Its absence was the real cause of the
deadlock in which he found himself involved. All offensive operations
were postponed--meanwhile the enemy might receive reinforcements and
attack, since he had not been attacked. ‘But I still hope that I shall
be able to retain, at the close of this campaign, those acquisitions
which we made at its commencement.’

  [466] Wellington to Bathurst. _Dispatches_, ix. p. 284.

Meanwhile Marmont, having had a fortnight to take stock of his
position, and having received reinforcements which very nearly reached
the figure that he had named to King Joseph as the minimum which would
enable him to take the offensive, was beginning to get restless.
He had now realized that he would get no practical assistance from
Caffarelli, who still kept sending him letters exaggerating the terrors
of Sir Home Popham’s raid on Biscay. They said that there were six
ships of the line engaged in it, and that there was a landing-force of
British regulars: Bonnet’s evacuation of the Asturias had allowed all
the bands of Cantabria to turn themselves loose on Biscay--Bilbao was
being attacked--and so forth. This being so, it was only possible to
send a brigade of cavalry and a horse artillery battery--anything more
was useless to ask[467]. This was written on June 26th, but by July
11th not even the cavalry brigade had started from Vittoria, as was
explained by a subsequent letter, which only reached Marmont after he
had already started on an offensive campaign[468]. As a matter of fact,
Caffarelli’s meagre contribution of 750 sabres[469] and one battery
actually got off on July 16th[470]. Marmont may be pardoned for having
believed that it would never start at all, when it is remembered that a
month had elapsed since he first asked for aid, and that every two days
he had been receiving dispatches of excuse, but no reinforcements. He
had no adequate reason for thinking that even the trifling force which
did in the end start out would ever arrive.

  [467] Caffarelli to Marmont, in the latter’s _Mémoires_, iv. p.
  417.

  [468] Ibid., pp. 421-2.

  [469] He sent finally only two regiments, not three as he had
  originally promised.

  [470] Caffarelli to Marmont, in the latter’s _Mémoires_, iv. p.
  425, announcing their departure.

Nor, as he demonstrates clearly enough in his defence of his
operations, had he any more ground for believing that Joseph and
Jourdan would bring him help from Madrid. They resolved to do so in
the end, and made a vigorous effort to collect as large a force as was
possible. But the announcement of their intention was made too late
to profit Marmont. The dispatch conveying it was sent off from Madrid
only on July 9th[471], and never reached the Marshal at all, for the
two copies of it, sent by separate messengers, were both captured by
guerrilleros between Madrid and Valladolid, and came into Wellington’s
instead of into Marmont’s hands. This was a consequence of the
insecurity of the communication via Segovia, the only one route open
when the Army of Portugal retired behind the Douro. On July 12th the
last piece of intelligence from Madrid which Marmont had received was a
dispatch from Jourdan dated June 30th--it had taken twelve days to get
150 miles, which shows the shifts to which its bearer had been exposed.
This letter is so important, as showing what the King and Jourdan
opined at the moment, that its gist is worth giving.

  [471] Original is in the Scovell ciphers. It seems to be
  unpublished.

Jourdan begins by complaining that on June 30 the last dispatch from
the Army of Portugal to hand was sixteen days old, of the date of
June 14th. It is clear, then, that no copies of the reports sent by
Marmont on June 22 and June 24 had got to Madrid--a circumstance to
be explained by the fact that Wellington had them instead of their
destined recipient[472]. Jourdan then proceeds to say that he is
informed that Wellington has 50,000 men, but only 18,000 of them
British. ‘The King thinks that if this is so, you are strong enough to
beat his army, and would like to know the motives which have prevented
you from taking the offensive. He charges me to invite you to explain
them by express messenger.’ In the South it was known that Hill, with
18,000 men, was advancing on June 18th against D’Erlon. That officer
was to be reinforced from Seville, and was probably at close quarters
with Hill. The King had sent orders that D’Erlon was to move northward
into the valley of the Tagus, if Hill marched up to join Wellington.
But, it being probable that the order would not be very promptly
executed, ‘his Majesty would like you to take advantage of the moment,
when Wellington has not all his forces in hand, to fight him. The King
has asked for troops from Marshal Suchet, but they will never be sent.
All that His Majesty can do at present is to reinforce the garrison of
Segovia, and order its governor, General Espert, to help the garrison
of Avila, if necessary, and to supply it with food.’

  [472] They are both in the Scovell ciphers, and quoted above, p.
  370.

This letter, which clearly gives no hope of immediate help for the
Army of Portugal from Madrid, and which might be taken as a direct
incitement to bring Wellington to action at once, must be read in
conjunction with the last epistle that Marmont had received from the
same quarter. This was a letter of the King’s dated June 18. The
important paragraph of it runs as follows:--

‘If General Hill has remained with his 18,000 men on the left (south)
bank of the Tagus, you ought to be strong enough to beat the English
army, more especially if you have received any reinforcements from the
Army of the North. You must choose your battlefield, and make your best
dispositions. But if Hill joins the main English army, I fancy they
are too strong for you. In that case you must manœuvre to gain time. I
should not hesitate to give you a positive order to defer fighting, if
I were certain that Count D’Erlon and his 15,000 men, and a division
from the Army of Aragon, were on their way to you: for on their arrival
the English army would be seriously compromised. But being wholly
uncertain about them, I must repeat to you that if General Hill is
still on the south side of the Tagus, you should choose a good position
and give battle with all your troops united: but if General Hill joins
Lord Wellington, you must avoid an action as long as possible, in
order to pick up the reinforcements which will certainly reach you in
the end[473].’

  [473] Joseph to Marmont, June 18, in Ducasse’s _Correspondance_,
  ix. pp. 28-39.

I think that there can be no doubt in the mind of any honest
critic that on the strength of these two dispatches from his
Commander-in-Chief, Marmont was justified in taking the offensive
against Wellington, without waiting for that help from Madrid which the
King had not offered him. Hill being far away, and Wellington having
no more than his own seven divisions of Anglo-Portuguese, Marmont is
decidedly authorized to bring him to action. The sole factor which the
second Madrid dispatch states wrongly, is the proportion of British
troops in the allied army: Jourdan guesses that there are 50,000 men,
but only 18,000 British. As a matter of fact there were 49,000 men at
the moment[474], but about 30,000 were British. This made a difference,
no doubt, and Marmont, if he had been determined to avoid a battle,
might have pleaded it as his justification. But he was not set on any
such timid policy: he had wellnigh attacked Wellington at San Cristobal
on June 21st, when he had not yet received his own reinforcements.
When Bonnet had come up, and the British had obtained no corresponding
addition to their strength, he was eager to take the offensive, and
Joseph’s and Jourdan’s dispatches distinctly authorized him to do so.

  [474] Two battalions, the 1/38 and 1/5th, joined before the
  battle of the 22nd, bringing up the total force by 1,500 bayonets
  more.

After the disaster of Salamanca, Napoleon drew up an indictment of
Marmont, of which the three chief heads were:

(1) He took the offensive without waiting for reinforcements which were
to join him.

(2) He delivered battle without the authorization of his
Commander-in-Chief.

(3) He might, by waiting only two days longer, before he committed
himself to a general action, have received at least the cavalry and
guns which he knew that Caffarelli had sent him[475].

  [475] See the letter of Clarke to Marmont enclosing the Emperor’s
  indictment, in Marmont’s _Mémoires_, iv. pp. 453-4.

The very complete answer to these charges is that:

(1) When the Marshal took the offensive he had no reason to suppose
that any reinforcements were coming. Caffarelli had excused himself:
the King had promised succour only if Hill joined Wellington, not
otherwise. Hill had never appeared: therefore no help was likely to
come from the southward.

(2) He had clear permission from Joseph to give battle, unless Hill
should have joined Wellington.

(3) The succours from Caffarelli, a weak cavalry brigade and one
battery, were so small that their arrival would have made no practical
difference to the strength of the army. But to have waited two days for
them, after the campaign had commenced, would have given Wellington
the opportunity of concentrating, and taking up a good position. It
was only after the manœuvring had begun [July 15th] that this little
brigade started from Vittoria, on July 16th. The Army of Portugal had
already committed itself to offensive operations, and could not halt
for two days in the midst of them, without losing the initiative.

From his own point of view, then, Marmont was entirely justified in
recrossing the Douro and assuming the offensive. He had got all the
reinforcements that he could count upon: they made his army practically
equal to Wellington’s in numbers: in homogeneity it was far superior.
If he had waited a little longer, he might have found 12,000 men of the
Army of Galicia at his back, setting all Old Castile and Leon aflame.
Moreover Astorga was only victualled up to August 1st, and might fall
any day. He could not have foreseen King Joseph’s unexpected march to
his aid, which no dispatch received before July 12th rendered likely.
His misfortune (or fault) was that he undervalued the capacity of
Wellington to manœuvre, his readiness to force on an offensive battle,
and (most of all) the fighting value of the Anglo-Portuguese army.

It cannot be denied that Marmont’s method of taking the offensive
against Wellington was neat and effective. It consisted in a feint
against his adversary’s left wing, followed by a sudden countermarch
and a real attack upon his right wing.

On July 15th Foy and Bonnet, with the two divisions forming the French
right, received orders to restore the bridge of Toro, to drive in
Wellington’s cavalry screen in front of it, and to cross to the south
bank of the Douro. At the same time the divisions of the French
centre, opposite the fords of Pollos, made an ostentatious move
down-stream towards Toro, accompanied by the Marshal himself, and those
on the left, near Tordesillas, shifted themselves towards Pollos.
Almost the whole French army was clearly seen marching westward, and
the two leading divisions were actually across the river next morning,
and seemed to be heading straight for Salamanca by the Toro road.

Wellington was deceived, exactly as Marmont had intended. He drew the
obvious conclusion that his adversary was about to turn his left flank,
and to strike at Salamanca and his line of communications. It would
have been in his power to make a corresponding move against Valladolid,
Marmont’s base. But his own line of communications meant much more
to him than did Marmont’s. There was a great difference between the
position of an army living by transport and magazines, and that of an
army living on the country by plunder, like that of the French marshal.
Wellington had always been jealous of his left wing, and as early as
July 12 had drawn up an elaborate order of march, providing for the
contingency of the enemy crossing the Douro at Toro and the ford of
Castro Nuño. If his entire force seemed on the move, the whole British
army would make a corresponding shift westward--if only a division
or two, the mass transferred would be less in similar proportion. He
had no idea of defending the actual course of the river: in a letter
written a few days later to Lord Bathurst, he remarked that ‘it was
totally out of my power to prevent the enemy from crossing the Douro
at any point at which he might think it expedient, as he had in his
possession all the bridges [Toro and Tordesillas] and many of the
fords[476].’ His plan was to concentrate against the crossing force,
and fight a defensive action against it, wherever a good position might
be available.

  [476] See _Supplementary Dispatches_, xiv. p. 68.

There were two reasons for which Wellington regarded a genuine
offensive move of Marmont by Toro and Castro Nuño as probable. The
first was that he had received King Joseph’s dispatch of July 9th,
captured by guerrilleros, which gave him the startling news that the
King had resolved to evacuate all New Castile save Madrid and Toledo,
and to march with his field-force of some 14,000 men to join the Army
of Portugal[477]. Wellington wrote to Graham (who was now on his way
home) early on the 16th, that either the Galicians’ approach on his
rear had induced Marmont to collect his troops near Toro, or he had
heard that Joseph was gathering the Army of the Centre at Madrid, and
was threatening the allied left ‘in order to prevent us from molesting
the King.’ It was clear that if Wellington had to shift westward to
protect his line of communications, he could make no detachment to
‘contain’ King Joseph, who would be approaching from the south-east.
Another letter, written an hour or so later, says, ‘these movements of
Marmont are certainly intended to divert our attention from the Army
of the Centre (which is collecting at Madrid), if he knows of this
circumstance, _which I doubt_[478].’ The doubt was well grounded.

  [477] See _Dispatches_, ix. p. 294.

  [478] Wellington to Clinton, July 16, 7 a.m. _Dispatches_, ix. p.
  291.

That the whole movement on Toro was a feint did not occur to
Wellington, but his orders of the 16th, given in the evening, after he
had heard that two French divisions were actually across the Douro on
his left, provide for the possibility that some serious force may still
remain at Tordesillas and may require observation.

The orders direct the transference of the great bulk of the allied
army to a position which will cover the road Toro-Salamanca. They were
issued in the evening to the following effect. The reserve (1st and
7th Divisions) was to march from Medina del Campo to Alaejos beyond
the Trabancos river, and subsequently to Canizal and Fuente la Peña
behind the Guarena river. The left wing, which was watching the fords
of Pollos (3rd Division, Bock’s cavalry, Bradford’s and Carlos de
España’s infantry), to Castrillo on the Guarena. Of the right wing
the 6th Division and two regiments of Le Marchant’s horse were to
move on Fuente la Peña, the 5th Division on Canizal. Alten’s cavalry
brigade was to follow the 1st Division. This left the 4th and Light
Divisions and Anson’s cavalry still unaccounted for. They were set
aside to act as a sort of rearguard, being directed to move westward
only as far as Castrejon on the Trabancos river, ten miles short of the
concentration-point on the Toro road, to which the rest of the army
was ordered to proceed. It is clear (though Wellington does not say
so) that they would serve as a containing force, if the enemy had left
any troops at Tordesillas, and brought them over the Douro there, or at
the fords of Pollos.

All these moves were duly executed, and on the morning of the 17th
Wellington’s army was getting into position to withstand the expected
advance of the enemy on Salamanca by the Toro road. This attack,
however, failed to make itself felt, and presently news came that the
two divisions of Foy and Bonnet, which had crossed the Douro at Toro,
had gone behind it again, and destroyed their bridge. What Marmont had
done during the night of the 16th-17th was to reverse the marching
order of his whole army, the rear suddenly becoming the head, and the
head the rear. The divisions to the eastward, which had not yet got
near Toro, countermarched on Tordesillas, and crossed its bridge,
with the light cavalry at their head. Those which had reached Toro
brought up the rear, and followed, with Foy and Bonnet, at the tail
of the column. This was a most fatiguing march for all concerned, the
distance from Toro to Tordesillas being about twenty miles, and the
operation being carried out in the night hours. But it was completely
successful--during the morning of the 17th the vanguard, consisting of
Clausel’s and Maucune’s divisions and Curto’s _chasseurs à cheval_,
was pouring over the bridge of Tordesillas and occupying Rueda and La
Seca, which the British had evacuated fifteen hours before. The rest
followed, the two rear divisions cutting a corner, and saving a few
miles, by crossing the ford of Pollos. This was a safe move, when the
cavalry had discovered that there were none of Wellington’s troops
left east of the Trabancos river. By night on the 17th the bulk of the
French army was concentrated at Nava del Rey, ten miles south-west
of Tordesillas. In the afternoon Wellington’s rearguard, the 4th and
Light Divisions, and Anson’s cavalry had been discovered in position at
Castrejon, where their commander had halted them, when he discovered
that he had been deceived as to his adversary’s purpose. The rest of
the British army had concentrated, according to orders, in the triangle
Canizal-Castrillo-Fuente la Peña, behind the Guarena river and in front
of the Toro-Salamanca road.

[Illustration: THE SALAMANCA CAMPAIGN]

Wellington’s first task was to drawback his rearguard to join his main
body, without allowing it to become seriously engaged with the great
mass of French in its front. This he undertook in person, marching at
daylight with all his disposable cavalry, the brigades of Bock and Le
Marchant, to join the force at Castrejon, while he threw out the 5th
Division to Torrecilla de la Orden to act as a supporting échelon on
the flank of the retiring detachment. The remaining divisions (1st,
3rd, 6th, 7th) took up a position in line of battle on the heights
above the Guarena, ready to receive their comrades when they should
appear.

The charge of the rearguard this day was in the hands of Stapleton
Cotton, the senior cavalry officer with the army, who outranked Cole
and Charles Alten, the commanders of the 4th and Light Divisions.
He had received no orders during the night, and his last, those of
the preceding afternoon, had directed him to halt, till his chief
should have discovered the true position and aim of the French army.
Wellington explained, in his next dispatch home, that the various
details of intelligence, which enabled him to grasp Marmont’s whole
plan, did not reach him till so late on the 17th that it was useless to
send Cotton orders to start. They could only be carried out at dawn,
and he himself intended to be present with the rearguard before the sun
was far above the horizon. He arrived at seven o’clock in the morning,
in time to find his lieutenant already engaged with the French van, but
not committed to any dangerous close fighting. Cotton had, very wisely,
sent out patrols before daylight to discover exactly what was in front
of him; if it was only a trifling body he intended to drive it in, and
advance towards La Nava and Rueda[479]; if Marmont was in force he
would take up a defensive position at Castrejon, and wait for further
orders.

  [479] See report of one of the officers commanding patrols,
  Tomkinson of the 16th L.D. in the latter’s _Memoirs_, p. 180.

The patrols soon ran into French cavalry advancing in force, and were
driven back upon Anson’s brigade, which was drawn up on a long front in
advance of the village of Castrejon. On seeing it, the enemy brought up
two batteries of horse artillery, and began to play upon the scattered
squadrons. Bull’s and Ross’s troops[480] were ordered out to reply, and
did so with effect, but the total strength of the French cavalry was
too great, and Anson’s regiments had presently to give way, though not
so much owing to the pressure on their front as to the sight of a large
column of French infantry turning the left of their line, and marching
on Alaejos, with the obvious intention of getting round to their left
rear and molesting their retreat towards the Guarena, where the main
body of the British army was awaiting them.

  [480] Belonging one to the cavalry, the other to the Light
  Division.

Wellington was involved in person in the end of the cavalry bickering,
and in no very pleasant fashion. He and Beresford, with their staffs,
had arrived on the field about seven o’clock, in advance of the two
heavy cavalry brigades, who were coming up to reinforce Cotton. He
rode forward to the left of the skirmishing line, where two squadrons,
one of the 11th and one of the 12th Light Dragoons, were supporting
two guns of Ross’s troop, on high ground above the ravine of the
Trabancos river. Just as the Commander-in-Chief came on the scene,
a squadron of French cavalry, striking in from the flank, rode at
the guns, not apparently seeing the supporting troops. They met and
broke the squadron of the 12th Light Dragoons, which came up the hill
to intercept them. ‘Some of Marshal Beresford’s staff, seeing this,
and conceiving the guns to be in danger, rode up to the retiring
squadron calling “Threes about[481]!”’ This unfortunately was heard by
the supporting squadron of the 11th, who, imagining the order to be
directed to themselves, went about and retired, instead of advancing
to relieve their broken comrades above. Therefore the mass of pursuers
and pursued from the combat on the flank, came hurtling down on the
guns, and on the head-quarters staff just behind them. Wellington and
Beresford and their followers were swept away in the rout, and had to
draw their swords to defend themselves. Fortunately the misdirected
squadron of the 11th soon saw their mistake; they halted and turned,
and falling on the scattered and exhausted French dragoons drove them
back with great loss; few, it is said, except their _chef d’escadron_,
who showed uncommon gallantry, got away[482]. It was a dangerous moment
for the allied army--a chance thrust in the _mêlée_ might have killed
or disabled Wellington, and have thrown the command into the hands of
Beresford or Stapleton Cotton.

  [481] Tomkinson, p. 188.

  [482] Compare Tomkinson’s narrative of this incident (pp.
  180-1) with Napier’s vivid and well-told tale (iv. pp. 254-5).
  Both agree that the French were inferior in numbers to the two
  squadrons, and that there was deplorable confusion.

Wellington had no sooner detected the flank movement of Marmont’s
infantry towards Alaejos, than he ordered the 4th and Light Divisions
to retire towards the Guarena, covered by G. Anson’s brigade, while
Bock’s and Le Marchant’s heavy dragoons, farther to the left, drew
up in front of the infantry of the turning column, and detained it,
retiring, when pressed, by alternate brigades. Marmont’s whole army was
now visible, moving on in two long columns, of which the more southern
followed the 4th and Light Divisions, in the direction of Torrecilla
de la Orden, and tried to come up with their rear, while the other,
passing through Alaejos, made by the high-road for Castrillo on the
Guarena, where the British reserves were posted.

There was a long bickering fight across the eight miles of rolling
ground between the Trabancos and the Guarena, not without some exciting
moments for Wellington’s rearguard. After passing Torrecilla de la
Orden, and picking up there the 5th Division, which had been waiting
as a supporting échelon to cover their southern flank, all the British
infantry had to march very hard, for troops diverging from the northern
French column got close in upon their right, and, moving parallel with
them, bid fair to reach the Guarena first. In the retreat the 4th
Division moved on the right, and was therefore most exposed, the Light
Division next them, the 5th Division farther south and more distant
from the turning column of the French. The cavalry pursuit in the rear
of the retreating force was never really dangerous: it was held off
by Le Marchant’s Heavy and Anson’s Light Dragoons without any great
difficulty, and the 5th and Light Divisions only suffered from some
distant shelling by the French horse artillery. But the 4th Division,
though covered from the pursuit in their direct rear by Bock’s German
squadrons, found a dangerous point about a mile on the near side of
the Guarena, where two batteries from the French turning column had
galloped forward to a knoll, commanding the ground over which they
had to pass, and opened a teasing fire upon the flank of the brigades
as they marched by. General Cole, however, threw out his divisional
battery and all his light companies to form a screen against their
attack, and moved on, protected by their fire, without turning from
his route. The covering force fell in to the rear when the defiling
was over, and the division suffered small loss from its uncomfortable
march[483].

  [483] See Vere’s _Marches and Movements of the 4th Division_, p.
  28. Napier’s statement that the Light Division was more exposed
  than the 4th or 5th during the retreat, seems to be discounted
  by the fact that it had not one man killed or wounded--the 5th
  Division had only two (in the 3rd Royal Scots), the 4th Division
  over 200; and though most of them fell in the last charge, a good
  number were hit in the retreat.

Wellington allowed all the three retreating divisions to halt for a
moment on the farther side of the stream, at the bottom of the trough
in which it runs. ‘The halt near the water, short as it was, gave
refreshment and rest to the troops, after a rapid march over an arid
country in extremely hot weather[484].’ But it could not be allowed
to last for more than a very few minutes, for the pursuing enemy soon
appeared in force at several points on the heights above the eastern
bank of the Guarena, and many batteries opened successively on the
three divisions, who were of necessity compelled to resume their march
up the slope to the crest, on their own side of the water. Here they
fell into position on Wellington’s chosen defensive fighting-ground,
the 4th Division forming the extreme northern section of the battle
array, by the village of Castrillo, the Light and 5th Divisions falling
in to the line of troops already drawn up in front of Canizal, while
the 1st and 7th Divisions were extended to the south, to form the new
right wing, and took their place on the heights of Vallesa, above the
village and ford of El Olmo.

  [484] Vere’s _Marches and Movements of the 4th Division_, p. 28.

Some anxious hours had been spent while the retreat was in progress,
but Wellington was now safe, with every man concentrated on an
excellent position, where he was prepared to accept the defensive
battle for which he had been waiting for the last month. It seemed
likely at first that his wish might be granted, for the French made a
vigorous attack upon his left wing, almost before it had got settled
down into its appointed ground. It would appear that General Clausel,
who commanded the more northerly of the two great columns in which the
French army was advancing (while Marmont himself was with the other),
thought that he saw his chance of carrying the heights above Castrillo
and turning the allied left, if he attacked at once, before the 4th
Division had been granted time to array itself at leisure. Accordingly,
without wasting time by sending to ask permission from his chief, he
directed a brigade of dragoons to outflank Cole’s left by crossing the
Guarena down-stream, while Brennier’s division passed it at Castrillo
and assailed the front of the 4th Division. Clausel’s own division
advanced in support of Brennier’s.

This move brought on very sharp fighting: the turning movement of the
French dragoons was promptly met by Victor Alten’s brigade [14th Light
Dragoons, 1st Hussars K.G.L.], whose squadrons had been watching the
lower fords of the Guarena all day. Alten allowed the hostile cavalry
to cross the river and come up the slope, and then charged suddenly,
in échelon of squadrons, the left squadron of the 1st Hussars K.G.L.
leading[485]. The enemy had only begun to deploy when he was attacked,
Alten’s advance having been too rapid for him. The two French regiments
(15th and 25th Dragoons) were, after a stiff fight, completely routed
and driven downhill with great loss, till they finally found refuge
behind a half-battery and an infantry battalion which formed their
supports. General Carrié, commanding the two regiments, was taken
prisoner by a German hussar, having got cut off from his men in the
flight. The French lost in all 8 officers and more than 150 men, of
whom 94 were prisoners--mostly wounded. How sharp the clash was may be
seen from the fact that Alten’s victorious brigade had not much fewer
casualties--the 14th Light Dragoons lost 75 killed and wounded, the
German hussars 60[486]. But no doubt some of these losses were suffered
not in the cavalry combat, but a little later in the day, when Alten
charged the French infantry[487].

  [485] Brotherton of the 14th L.D. says with the _right_ échelon
  advanced (Hamilton’s _History of the 14th_, p. 107), but I fancy
  that the German Hussars’ version that the _left_ échelon led is
  correct, as the right squadron of their regiment would have been
  in the middle of the brigade, not on a flank. See narrative in
  Schwertfeger, i. pp. 368-9.

  [486] These are the official returns. The regimental histories
  give only 45 and 56 respectively.

  Martinien’s lists show six casualties in officers in the two
  French regiments, and two more were taken prisoners, General
  Carrié and a lieutenant of the 25th Dragoons.

  [487] Brotherton says that the first two squadrons which charged
  the French dragoons made no impression, and that it was the
  impact of the third, led by himself, which broke them.

While this lively fight was in progress on the flank, Brennier’s
division had crossed the Guarena in a mass, and on a very short front,
apparently in three columns of regiments, battalion behind battalion.
They were ascending the lower slopes below Cole’s position, when
Wellington, who was present here in person, suddenly took the offensive
against them, sending W. Anson’s brigade (3/27th and 1/40th) against
them in line, with Stubbs’s Portuguese (11th and 23rd regiments)
supporting, in columns of quarter distance. The French division halted,
apparently with the intention of deploying--but there was no time for
this. The line of Anson’s brigade enveloped both the hostile flanks
with its superior frontage, and opened fire: after a short resistance
the French gave way in great disorder, and streamed down to the
Guarena. As they fled Alten let loose part of his brigade against their
flank: the horsemen rode in deep among the fugitives, and cut off 6
officers and 240 men as prisoners. Clausel had to bring up a regiment
of his own division to cover the broken troops as they repassed the
river; it suffered severely from Cole’s artillery, losing 6 officers
killed and wounded, and many men[488].

  [488] This was the 25th Léger.

The attempt to take liberties with Wellington’s army, when it had
assumed the defensive on favourable ground, had thus failed in the
most lamentable style, and with very heavy loss--at least 700 men
had been killed, wounded, or taken in Marmont’s army that day, and
all but a few scores belonged to the four infantry and two cavalry
regiments which Clausel sent to attack the heights by Castrillo[489].
The corresponding British loss that day was 525, including about 50
stragglers taken prisoners during the retreat from the Trabancos to
the Guarena, because they had fallen behind their regiments--foot-sore
infantry, or troopers whose horses had been shot. The cavalry, which
had so successfully covered the long march across the open, had a
certain amount of casualties, but the only units that had suffered
heavily were the four regiments--horse and foot--that dealt with
Clausel’s attack, who lost 276 men between them.

  [489] The exact figures, save for officers, are as usual missing.
  But Martinien’s invaluable lists show that of 41 French officers
  killed, wounded, or taken that day, 35 belonged to the four
  infantry regiments (17th and 25th Léger, 22nd and 65th Line) and
  the two cavalry regiments (15th and 25th Dragoons) which fought
  at Castrillo.

Wellington must have felt much disappointment at seeing Clausel’s
offensive move at Castrillo unsupported by the rest of the French
divisions, who were lining the farther bank of the Guarena parallel
with the whole of his front. But Marmont, unlike his venturesome
subordinate, nourished no illusions about the advisability of attacking
a British army in position. He made no move in the afternoon; in his
memoirs he points out that the infantry was absolutely exhausted,
having been continuously on the march for three days and one night.

This day had been a disappointing one for the French marshal also. He
had failed to cut off Wellington’s two detached divisions, so that all
the advantage which he had obtained by his marches and countermarches
between Toro and Tordesillas was now exhausted. The allied army
had succeeded in concentrating, and was now drawn up in his front,
covering Salamanca and its own line of communications in a very tenable
position. Napier truly remarks that, since the attempt to isolate and
destroy Cotton’s detachment had miscarried, Marmont had gained no more
by his elaborate feint and forced marches than he would have obtained
by continuing his original advance across Toro bridge on the 16th. He
had got the whole Anglo-Portuguese army arrayed in a defensive position
in front of him, on the line of the Guarena, instead of somewhere in
the neighbourhood of Fuente Sauco, a few miles farther east.

On the morning of the 19th July it seemed as if a new deadlock was
to bring the campaign to a standstill, for the two armies continued
to face each other across the Guarena, Wellington hoping rather than
expecting to be attacked, Marmont looking in vain for a weak point
between Castrillo and Vallesa, where it would be worth while to try a
forward thrust. While he was reconnoitring, his weary infantry got a
much-needed rest. At about four o’clock in the afternoon, however, the
whole French army was seen falling into column, and presently edged off
southward till it lay between Tarazona and Cantalapiedra. Wellington
thereupon made a corresponding movement, evacuating Castrillo to
the north, and extending his line of battle beyond Vallesa to the
south. There was a little distant cannonading across the valley of
the Guarena, and some of the shells set fire to the vast fields of
ripe wheat which covered the whole country-side in this region. The
conflagration went rolling on for a long way across the plain, leaving
a trail of smoke behind.

The situation on this evening had nothing decisive about it. It was
clear that neither side intended to fight save at an advantage. Marmont
had shown himself more cautious than had been expected. Wellington
had at this moment every motive for risking nothing, unless the
enemy proved more obliging than he had shown himself hitherto. He
had reasons for self-restraint at this moment of which his adversary
knew nothing. The first was that he was aware (from intercepted
dispatches) of King Joseph’s intention to march from Madrid to join
the Army of Portugal: with a possible 15,000 men about to appear on
his flank, he must look to the future with care. The second was that
he had received a few days before the untoward news that Lord William
Bentinck’s long-promised expedition to Catalonia might not ever take
place. The Commander-in-Chief in Sicily wrote that he had found new
opportunities in Italy, which it might be his duty to seize. His troops
had been embarked, but they were not to be expected for the present off
the coast of Spain. This was a disheartening piece of intelligence:
Wellington had been told to count upon this support both by Bentinck
himself and by the Home Government. If it should fail, Marshal
Suchet, left undisturbed by this diversion, might send considerable
reinforcements to Madrid[490].

  [490] For dismay expressed by Wellington at this news see
  dispatches to Henry Wellesley dated Rueda, July 15, and to Lord
  Bathurst (_Dispatches_, ix. pp. 285 and 287).

As a matter of fact he did not--being, like Soult, a general of much
too self-centred a type of mind to help a neighbour if he could avoid
it. Only one regiment of the Valencian army ever got to Madrid, and
that came too late for King Joseph’s purpose. But so far as Wellington
could guess on July 19, it was quite possible that Suchet might find
10,000 men, to add to the disposable 15,000 of the Army of the Centre.

There was also the possibility that D’Erlon, obeying the orders which
King Joseph kept sending to him, might make up his mind to cross the
Guadiana and Tagus, and come north by Arzobispo and Madrid. If so, Hill
was to make a parallel march by Alcantara, and would certainly arrive
many days before D’Erlon. This was a mere possibility; there were good
reasons for holding that Soult might forbid any such move; and till
D’Erlon started northward, Hill must remain behind to contain him. The
problem was not pressing: it could not develop for many days[491].

  [491] See Wellington to Hill, _Dispatches_, ix. p. 290.

On the other hand there was news that the Galicians were at last on
the move. Santocildes had been prevailed upon to leave a smaller force
to besiege Astorga, and had come down with a second division to join
Cabrera at Benavente. This force, advancing up the Douro valley, would
find absolutely no enemy in front of it, and must obviously disturb
Marmont’s operations, since it might be at the gates of Valladolid,
his base and storehouse, in a few days. He would then be forced to
detach a division or so to save his dépôts, and he could not spare
even a brigade if he wished to continue on the offensive. Certain
intelligence that there was not a Frenchman left behind on the Douro,
save the trifling garrisons of Toro, Zamora, and Tordesillas, had been
brought in by General D’Urban. That officer, after conducting a very
daring exploration round the rear of Marmont’s army, almost to the
gates of Valladolid, had recrossed the Douro by Wellington’s orders
at the ford of Fresno de Ribera, and fell in upon the left flank of
the allied army near Fuente Sauco on July 18th[492]. For the rest of
the campaign his 700 sabres were at Wellington’s disposal[493]. His
report showed that Marmont’s rear was absolutely undefended, and that
the Galicians could march up the Douro, if desired, without finding any
opponents: it would be perfectly possible for them to cut all Marmont’s
communications with Valladolid and Burgos, without being in any danger
unless the Marshal detached men against them.

  [492] Not July 17th, as Napier says. D’Urban’s diary proves that
  he recrossed the Douro on the 18th.

  [493] He left one squadron near Zamora, to serve as covering
  cavalry for Silveira’s militia, who remained waiting for
  Santocildes’s advance, which they were to observe and support.
  His force was therefore reduced to 700 men.

The 20th of July proved to be a most interesting day of manœuvring,
but still brought no decisive results. Early in the morning the whole
French army was seen in march, with its head pointing southward,
continuing the movement that it had begun on the previous day. Marmont
had made up his mind to proceed with the hitherto unsuccessful scheme
for turning his adversary’s right wing[494], in the hope of either
cutting him off from his communication with Salamanca, or of catching
him with his army strung out on too long a line from continuous and
rapid movement. The character of this day’s march differed from that
of the 19th, because the single well-marked Guarena valley ceased
after a time to separate the two hostile armies. That little river is
formed by three tributaries which meet at and above the village of
El Olmo: each of them is a paltry brook, and their courses lie along
trifling irregularities of the broad tableland from which they descend.
It is only after their junction that they flow in a deep well-marked
valley, and form a real military obstacle. Of the three brooks, that
which keeps the name of Guarena lies most to the east: up its right
bank and towards its source Marmont’s march was directed. Wellington’s
parallel movement southward, on the other hand, was directed along the
left bank of the Poreda, the middle brook of the three. Between them
there was at first a narrow triangular plateau, on which neither party
trespassed save with cavalry scouts.

  [494] He adds in his _Mémoires_, iv. pp. 251-2, that if he had
  not succeeded in getting ahead of Wellington’s van, he had a
  counter-project of trying to get round his rear, but the British
  marched so exactly parallel with him that he got no chance of
  this.

After a few miles of marching Marmont ordered his advanced guard to
cross the Guarena, which they could do with ease, no British being
near, save a few cavalry vedettes. He then turned the head of his
column south-westward, instead of keeping to his original direction
due south. Having crossed the Guarena he came in sight of the British
column marching on the other side of the Poreda brook from Vallesa. The
movements of the two armies tended to converge, the point on which both
were moving being the village of Cantalpino. It seemed likely that the
heads of the marching columns must collide, and that a combat, if not
a general action, would ensue. Each army was marching in an order that
could be converted into a battle line by simply facing the men to right
or to left respectively. Wellington had his troops in three parallel
columns, the first one, that nearest to the French, being composed
of the 1st, 4th, 5th, and Light Divisions, the second, which would
have formed the supporting line if the army had fronted and gone into
action, contained the 6th and 7th and Pack’s and Bradford’s brigades:
the 3rd Division and España’s Spaniards formed a reserve, moving
farthest from the enemy. The light cavalry were marching ahead of the
column, the heavy cavalry and D’Urban’s Portuguese brought up their
rear. Marmont was clearly seen to be moving in a similar formation,
of two columns each composed of four infantry divisions, with Curto’s
_chasseurs_ ahead, and Boyer’s dragoons at the tail of the line of
march[495].

  [495] Marmont describes the formation (_Mémoires_, iv. p. 252) as
  ‘gauche en tête, par peloton, à distance entière: les deux lignes
  pouvaient être formées en un instant par _à droite en bataille_.’

The day was warm but clouded, so that the sun did not shine with full
July strength, or the long march which both armies carried out would
have been brought to an end by exhaustion at a much earlier hour than
was actually the case. As the long morning wore on, the two hostile
forces gradually grew closer to each other, owing to the new westward
turn which Marmont had given to his van. At last they were within
long artillery range; but for some time no shot was fired, neither
party being willing to take the responsibility of attacking an enemy
in perfect order and well closed up for battle. Either general could
have brought on a fight, by simply fronting to flank, in ten minutes;
but neither did so. Marmont remarks in his _Mémoires_ that in his long
military service he never, before or after, saw such a magnificent
spectacle as this parallel march of two bodies of over 40,000 men each,
at such close quarters. Both sides kept the most admirable order, no
gaps occurred in either line, nor was the country one that offered
advantage to either: it was very nearly flat, and the depression of the
Poreda brook became at last so slight and invisible that it was crossed
without being noticed. The ground, however, on which the French were
moving was a little higher than that on which the allies marched[496].

  [496] There is an excellent description of the parallel march in
  Leith Hay, ii. pp. 38-40, as well as in Napier.

The converging lines of advance at last almost touched each other at
the village of Cantalpino: the light cavalry and the 1st Division, at
the head of Wellington’s front (or eastern) column of march had just
passed through it, when Marmont halted several batteries on a roll of
the ground a few hundred yards off, and began to shell the leading
battalions of the 4th Division, which was following closely behind the
1st. Wellington ordered Cole not to halt and reply, nor to attack, but
to avoid the village and the French fire by a slight westerly turn, to
which the other divisions conformed, both those in the first and those
in the second line[497]. This amounted to the refusing of battle, and
many officers wondered that the challenge of Marmont had been refused:
for the army was in perfect order for fighting, and in excellent
spirits. But Wellington was taking no risks that day.

  [497] This swerve and its consequence are best stated in Vere’s
  _Marches of the 4th Division_, p. 30.

The slight swerve from the direct southerly direction at Cantalpino
made by the allied army, distinctly helped Marmont’s plan for turning
its right, since by drawing back from its original line of movement it
allowed the enemy to push still farther westward than his original
line of march had indicated. This meant that he was gradually getting
south of Wellington’s vanguard, and would, if not checked, ultimately
arrive at the Tormes river, near the fords of Huerta, from which he
would have been edged off, if both armies had continued in their
original direction. During the early afternoon the parallel move
continued, with a little skirmishing between cavalry vedettes, and an
occasional outbreak of artillery fire, but no further developments. The
baggage in the English rear began to trail behind somewhat, owing to
the long continuance of the forced marching, and D’Urban’s Portuguese,
who shepherded the stragglers, had great difficulty in keeping them
on the move. A few score sick and foot-sore men, and some exhausted
sumpter-beasts, fell behind altogether, and were abandoned to the
French[498].

  [498] Marmont says that if he had possessed a superior cavalry
  he could have made great captures, but he dared attempt nothing
  for want of sufficient numbers: he alleges that he took 300
  stragglers--certainly an exaggeration as the British returns show
  very few ‘missing.’ _Mémoires_, iv. p. 233.

Late in the afternoon the armies fell further apart, and all save the
outlying vedettes lost sight of each other. This was due to the fact
that Wellington had made up his mind to settle down for the night
on the heights of Cabeza Vellosa and Aldea Rubia, where Marmont had
taken up his position a month before, when he retired from before San
Cristobal. This was good fighting-ground, on which it was improbable
that the French would dare to deliver an attack. The 6th Division and
Alten’s cavalry brigade were detached to the rear, and occupied Aldea
Lengua and its fords.

This had been a most fatiguing day--the British army had marched,
practically in battle formation, not less than four Spanish leagues,
the French, by an extraordinary effort, more than five. When the
camp-fires were lighted up at night, it was seen that the leading
divisions of the enemy were as far south as Babila Fuente, quite
close to the Tormes and the fords of Huerta: the main body lay about
Villaruela, opposite the British bivouacs at Aldea Rubia and Cabeza
Vellosa. An untoward incident terminated an unsatisfactory day:
D’Urban’s Portuguese horse coming in very late from their duty of
covering the baggage-train, were mistaken for prowling French cavalry
by the 3rd Division, and shelled by its battery, with some little loss
of men and horses. The mistake was caused by a certain similarity in
their uniform to that of French dragoons--the tall helmets with crests
being worn by no other allied troops[499].

  [499] The heavy cavalry in the British army were still wearing
  the old cocked hat, the new-pattern helmet with crest was not
  served out till 1813. The light dragoons were still wearing the
  black-japanned leather headdress with the low fur crest: in 1813
  they got shakos, much too like those of French _chasseurs_.

The net result of the long parallel march of July 20th was that
Marmont had practically turned Wellington’s extreme right, and was
in a position to cross the Upper Tormes, if he should choose, in
prolongation of his previous movement. The allied army was still
covering Salamanca, and could do so for one day more, if the marching
continued: but after that limit of time it would be forced either to
fight or to abandon Salamanca, the main trophy of its earlier campaign.
There remained the chance of falling upon Marmont’s rear, when his army
should be occupied in crossing the Tormes, and forcing him to fight
with his forces divided by the river. If this offensive move were not
taken, and the parallel march were allowed to continue, the next day
would see the armies both across the Tormes, in the position where
Graham and Marmont had demonstrated against each other on June 24th.
Wellington could not, however, begin his southward move till he was
certain that the enemy was about to continue his manœuvre on the same
plan as that of the last two days. If he started too early, Marmont
might attack the San Cristobal position when it was only held by a
rearguard, and capture Salamanca. Till an appreciable fraction of the
French were seen passing the Tormes it was necessary to wait.

It appeared to Wellington that his adversary’s most probable move would
be the passage of the Tormes by the fords at and just above Huerta.
That he would abandon his previous tactics, and attack the British
army, was inconsistent with the caution that he had hitherto displayed.
That he would continue his march southward, and cross the river
higher up, was unlikely; for the obvious passage in this direction,
by the bridge of Alba de Tormes, was commanded by the castle of that
town, which had been for some time occupied by a battalion detached
from Carlos de España’s division. Wellington looked upon this route
as completely barred to the French: he was unaware that the Spanish
general had withdrawn his detachment without orders on the preceding
afternoon. This astonishing move of his subordinate was made all the
worse by the fact that he never informed his chief that he had taken
upon himself to remove the battalion. Indeed Wellington only heard
of its disappearance on the 23rd, when it was too late to remedy the
fault. He acted on the 21st and 22nd as if Alba de Tormes were securely
held. It would appear that Carlos de España thought the castle too weak
to be held by a small force, and moved his men, in order to secure
them from being cut off from the main army, as they clearly might be
when the French had reached Babila Fuente. But the importance of his
misplaced act was not to emerge till after the battle of Salamanca had
been fought.

At dawn on the 21st Wellington withdrew his whole army on to the San
Cristobal position[500], and waited for further developments, having
the fords of Aldea Lengua and Santa Marta conveniently close if Marmont
should be seen crossing the Tormes. This indeed was the move to which
the Marshal committed himself. Having discovered at an early hour that
Alba de Tormes was empty, and that there was no allied force observing
the river bank below it, he began to cross in two columns, one at the
fords of Huerta, the other three miles higher up-stream at the ford of
La Encina. Lest Wellington should sally out upon his rear, when the
greater part of his army had got beyond the Tormes, he left a covering
force of two divisions in position between Babila Fuente and Huerta.
This, as the day wore on, he finally reduced to one division[501] and
some artillery. As long as this detachment remained opposite him,
Wellington could not be sure that the French might not attack him on
both sides of the Tormes.

  [500] Napier says that this move was made on the night of the
  20th, under cover of the smoke of the already-lighted camp-fires
  of the army. This is contradicted by Vere’s journal of march of
  the 4th Division, by Leith Hay’s Journal [’at daylight we marched
  to the Heights of San Cristoval’], by Tomkinson’s diary, and
  D’Urban, Geo. Simonds, and many others who speak of the move as
  being early on the 21st.

  [501] This was the division of Sarrut.

The defile of the French army across the fords naturally took a long
time, and Wellington was able to allow his weary infantry some hours
of much-needed rest in the morning. Only cavalry was sent forward at
once, to form a screen in front of the hostile force that was gradually
accumulating on the near side of the fords. In the afternoon, however,
when the greater part of the French were over the water, nearly the
whole allied army received orders to cross the Tormes, and occupy the
heights to the south of it. It moved practically in battle order,
in two lines, of which the front passed by the ford of Cabrerizos,
the second by that of Santa Marta. Only a reserve, now consisting
of the 3rd Division and D’Urban’s Portuguese horse, remained on the
north side of the river near Cabrerizos, to contain the French force
which was still visible at dusk on the slopes by Babila Fuente. Till
this detachment had disappeared, Wellington was obliged to leave a
corresponding proportion of his men to contain it, lest the enemy
might try a dash at Salamanca by the north bank. Marmont made no such
attempt, and in the morning it was obvious that this rearguard was
following the rest of his army across the Tormes.

During the night the French advanced cavalry were holding Calvarisa
de Ariba on their left and Machacon on their right: the infantry
were bivouacked in a concentrated position in the wooded country
south of those villages. The British cavalry screen held Calvarisa de
Abaxo[502], Pelabravo, and the height of Nuestra Señora de la Peña,
close in to the corresponding front line of the enemy’s vedettes. The
infantry were encamped in two lines behind the Ribera de Pelagarcia,
the ravine, which runs north from Nuestra Señora de la Peña to the
Tormes, between Santa Marta and Cabrerizos. This was Graham’s old
position of June 24th, and excellent for defence. The right was on
well-marked high ground, the centre was covered by woods. Only the
left, near Santa Marta, was on lower slopes.

  [502] That the British cavalry were still at dawn so far forward
  as Calvarisa de Abaxo is shown by Tomkinson’s diary (p. 185),
  the best possible authority for light cavalry matters. The 4th
  Division camped in the wood just west of Nuestra Señora de la
  Peña (Vere, p. 31), the 5th on high ground in rear of Calvarisa
  de Ariba (Leith Hay, p. 45), the 7th a little farther south, also
  in woody ground (diary of Wheeler of the 51st).

About an hour after nightfall the hills where French and English
lay opposite each other were visited by an appalling tempest. ‘The
rain fell in torrents accompanied by vivid flashes of lightning, and
succeeded by instantaneous peals of thunder:’ writes one annalist:
‘a more violent crash of the elements has seldom been witnessed: its
effects were soon apparent. Le Marchands brigade of cavalry had halted
to our left: the men, dismounted, were either seated or lying on the
ground, holding their horses’ bridles. Alarmed by the thunder, the
beasts started with a sudden violence, and many of them breaking loose
galloped across the country in all directions. The frightened horses,
in a state of wildness, passing by without riders, added to the awful
effect of the tempest[503].’ The 5th Dragoon Guards suffered most by
the stampede--eighteen men were hurt, and thirty-one horses were not
to be found. Another diarist speaks of the splendid effect of the
lightning reflected on the musket-barrels of belated infantry columns,
which were just marching to their camping-ground. Before midnight the
storm had passed over--the later hours of sleep were undisturbed, and
next morning a brilliant sun rose into a cloudless sky[504]. The last
day of manœuvring was begun, and the battle which both sides had so
long avoided was at last to come.

  [503] Leith Hay, ii. p. 46.

  [504] Diary of Green of the 68th, p. 98.



SECTION XXXIII: CHAPTER VI

THE BATTLE OF SALAMANCA, JULY 22, 1812. THE EARLY STAGES


The decisive moment of the campaign of 1812 had now been
reached--though Marmont was wholly unaware of it, and was proposing
merely to continue his manœuvring of the last five days, and though
Wellington hardly expected that the 22nd of July would turn out
more eventful than the 21st. Both of them have left record of their
intentions on the fateful morning. The Duke of Ragusa wrote to Berthier
as follows: ‘My object was, in taking up this position, to prolong
my movement to the left, in order to dislodge the enemy from the
neighbourhood of Salamanca, and to fight him at a greater advantage. I
calculated on taking up a good defensive position, against which the
enemy could make no offensive move, and intended to press near enough
to him to be able to profit from the first fault that he might make,
and to attack him with vigour[505].’ He adds in another document, ‘I
considered that our respective positions would bring on not a battle,
but an advantageous rearguard action, in which, using my full force
late in the day, with a part only of the British army left in front
of me, I should probably score a point[506].’ It is clear that he
reckoned that his adversary would continue his policy of the last five
days; Wellington, if his flank were once more turned, would move on as
before--always parrying the thrusts made at him, but not taking the
offensive himself.

  [505] Marmont to Berthier, July 31, printed in _Mémoires_, iv. p.
  443.

  [506] Marmont, _Mémoires_, iv. p. 237.

Nor was he altogether wrong in his expectation. Writing to Lord
Bathurst on the evening of July 21st, the British Commander-in-Chief
summed up his intentions in these words. ‘I have determined to cross
the Tormes, if the enemy should: to cover Salamanca as long as I
can: and above all not to give up our communication with Ciudad
Rodrigo: and not to fight an action unless under very advantageous
circumstances, or if it should become absolutely necessary[507].’ This
determination is re-stated in a dispatch which Wellington wrote three
days later, in a very different frame of mind. ‘I had determined that
if circumstances should not permit me to attack him on the 22nd, I
should move toward Ciudad Rodrigo without further loss of time[508].’
Wellington was therefore, it is clear, intending simply to continue
his retreat without delivering battle, unless Marmont should give him
an opportunity of striking a heavy blow, by putting himself in some
dangerous posture. He desired to fight, but only if he could fight
at advantage. Had Marmont continued to turn his flank by cautious
movements made at a discreet distance, and with an army always ready
to form an orderly line of battle, Wellington would have sacrificed
Salamanca, and moved back toward the Agueda. He was not prepared to
waste men in indecisive combats, which would not put the enemy out of
action even if they went off well. ‘It is better that a battle should
not be fought, unless under such favourable circumstances that there
would be reason to hope that the allied army would be able to maintain
the field, while that of the enemy would not[509].’ For if the French
were only checked, and not completely knocked to pieces, Wellington
knew that they would be reinforced within a few days by the 14,000 men
whom King Joseph (unknown to Marmont) was bringing up from Madrid.
Retreat would then again become necessary, since the enemy would be
superior in numbers to a hopeless extent. Wellington added that the
22nd was his best day of advantage, since within thirty-six hours
Marmont would have been reinforced by the cavalry brigade under General
Chauvel, which Caffarelli had at last sent forward from Burgos. It
had reached the Douro at Valladolid on the 20th, and would be up at
the front on the 23rd: this he well knew, and somewhat overrated its
strength[510].

  [507] _Dispatches_, ix. p. 299, July 21st.

  [508] Wellington to Bathurst, July 24. _Dispatches_, ix. p. 300.

  [509] Again from dispatch to Bathurst, July 21st. _Dispatches_,
  ix. p. 296.

  [510] Supposing it, apparently, to be over 1,000 strong, while it
  was really not 800 sabres.

But though ready to take his advantage, if it were offered him,
Wellington evidently leaned to the idea that it would not be given.
He prepared for retreat, by sending off his whole baggage-train on
the Ciudad Rodrigo road at dawn, escorted by one of D’Urban’s three
Portuguese cavalry regiments. This was a clear expression of his
intention to move off. So is his letter of July 24 to Graham in which,
writing in confidence to a trusted subordinate, he remarks, ‘Marmont
ought to have given me a _pont d’or_, and then he would have made a
handsome operation of it.’ Instead of furnishing the proverbial bridge
of gold to the yielding adversary, the Marshal pressed in upon him in
a threatening fashion, yet with his troops so scattered and strung
out on a long front, that he was not ready for a decisive action when
Wellington at last saw his opportunity and dashed in upon him.

At dawn on the 22nd each party had to discover the exact position of
his adversary, for the country-side was both wooded and undulating.
Wellington’s army, on the line of heights reaching southward from Santa
Marta, was almost entirely masked, partly by the woods in the centre of
his position, but still more by his having placed all the divisions far
back from the sky-line on the reverse slope of the plateau. The front
was about three miles long, but little was visible upon it. Foy, whose
division was ahead of the rest of the French army, describes what he
saw as follows:--

‘The position of San Cristobal had been almost stripped of troops:
we could see one English division in a sparsely-planted wood within
cannon-shot of Calvarisa de Ariba, on the Salamanca road: very far
behind a thin column was ascending the heights of Tejares: nothing more
could be made out of Wellington’s army: all the rest was hidden from
us by the chain of heights which runs from north to south, and ends
in the high and precipitous knolls of the Arapiles. Wellington was on
this chain, sufficiently near for us to recognize by means of the staff
surrounding him[511].’

  [511] _Vie militaire_, edited by Girod de l’Ain, p. 173.

All, then, that Foy, and Marmont who was riding near him, actually
saw, was the 7th Division in the wood opposite Nuestra Señora de la
Peña, and the distant baggage-column already filing off on the Ciudad
Rodrigo road, which ascends the heights beyond Aldea Tejada four miles
to the rear.

The French army was a little more visible to Wellington, who could not
only make out Foy’s division behind Calvarisa de Ariba, but several
other masses farther south and east, in front of the long belt of
woods which extends on each side of the village of Utrera for some
two miles or more. It was impossible to see how far the French left
reached among the dense trees: but the right was ‘refused:’ no troops
were opposite Wellington’s left or northern wing, and the villages of
Pelabravo and Calvarisa de Abaxo, far in advance of it, were still
held by British cavalry vedettes. In short, only the allied right and
centre had enemies in front of them. This indicated what Wellington
had expected--an attempt of Marmont to continue his old policy of
outflanking his adversary’s extreme right: clearly the British left was
not in danger.

Marmont, as his exculpatory dispatch to Berthier acknowledges, was
convinced that Wellington would retire once more the moment that his
flank was threatened. ‘Everything led me to believe,’ he writes,
‘that the enemy intended to occupy the position of Tejares [across
the Zurgain] which lay a league behind him, while at present he was a
league and a half in front of Salamanca[512].’ Foy’s diary completely
bears out this view of Marmont’s conception of the situation. ‘The
Marshal had no definite plan: he thought that the English army was
already gone off, or at least that it was going off, to take position
on the heights of Tejares on the left [or farther] bank of the river
Zurgain. He was tempted to make an attack on the one visible English
division, with which a skirmishing fire had already begun. He was
fearing that this division might get out of his reach! How little
did he foresee the hapless lot of his own army that day! The wily
Wellington was ready to give battle--the greater part of his host
was collected, but masked behind the line of heights: he was showing
nothing on the crest, lest his intention should be divined: he was
waiting for our movement[513].’

  [512] Correspondence in _Mémoires_, iv. p. 254.

  [513] Foy, p. 174.

The skirmish to which Foy alludes was one begun by the _voltigeurs_
of his own division, whom Marmont had ordered forward, to push back
the English pickets on the height of Nuestra Señora de la Peña. These
belonged to the 7th Division, which was occupying the wood behind. Not
wishing his position to be too closely examined, Wellington sent out
two whole battalions, the 68th and the 2nd Caçadores, who formed a
very powerful screen of light troops, and pushed back the French from
the hill and the ruined chapel on top of it. Marmont then strengthened
his firing line, and brought up a battery, which checked the further
advance of the allied skirmishers. The two screens continued to
exchange shots for several hours, half a mile in front of Wellington’s
position. The _tiraillade_ had many episodes, in one of which General
Victor Alten, leading a squadron of his hussars to protect the flank
of the British skirmishers, received a ball in the knee, which put him
out of action, and threw the command of his brigade into the hands of
Arentschildt, colonel of the 1st Hussars K.G.L. After much bickering,
and when noon had long passed, the 68th and Caçadores were relieved
by some companies of the 95th from the Light Division, as Wellington
wished to employ the 7th Division elsewhere. He had at first thought
it possible that Marmont was about to make a serious attack on this
part of his front; but the notion died away when it was seen that
the Marshal did not send up any formed battalions to support his
_voltigeurs_, and allowed the light troops of the allies to cling to
the western half of the slopes of Nuestra Señora de la Peña.

[Illustration: THE GREATER OR FRENCH ARAPILE SEEN FROM THE FOOT OF THE
LESSER ARAPILE.]

[Illustration: GENERAL VIEW OF THE BRITISH AND FRENCH POSITIONS, TAKEN
FROM THE REAR OF THE FORMER, THE NEARER HILL WAS THE POSITION OF THE
5TH DIVISION. THE VILLAGE OF ARAPILES TO THE LEFT. THE DISTANT RIDGE,
ALONG WHICH SMOKE IS ROLLING, IS THE FRENCH POSITION.

From photographs by Mr. C. Armstrong.]

It was soon evident that the French were--as so often before during the
last six days--about to extend their left wing. The right or southern
flank of Wellington’s line rested on the rocky knoll, 400 feet high,
which is known as the ‘Lesser Arapile.’ Six hundred yards from it,
and outside the allied zone of occupation, lay the ‘Greater Arapile,’
which is a few feet higher and much longer than its fellow. These two
curious hills, sometimes called the ‘Hermanitos’ or ‘little brothers,’
are the most striking natural feature in the country-side. They rise
a hundred and fifty feet above the valley which lies between them,
and a hundred feet above the heights on either side. Their general
appearance somewhat recalls that of Dartmoor ‘Tors,’ rough rock
breaking out through the soil. But their shapes differ: the Greater
Arapile shows crags at each end, but has a comparatively smooth ascent
to its centre on its northern front--so smooth that steep ploughed
fields have been laid out upon it, and extend almost to the crest. The
Lesser Arapile is precipitous on its southern front, where it faces its
twin, but is joined at its back (or northern) side by a gentle slope
to the main line of the heights where Wellington’s army lay. It is in
short an integral part of them, though it rises far above their level.
The Greater Arapile, on the other hand, is an isolated height, not
belonging to the system of much lower knolls which lies to its south.
These, three-quarters of a mile away, are covered with wood, and form
part of the long forest which reaches as far as the neighbourhood of
Alba de Tormes.

Wellington had left the Greater Arapile outside his position, partly
because it was completely separated from the other heights that he
held, partly (it is said) because he had surveyed the ground in the
dusk, and had judged the knoll farther from the Lesser Arapile than
was actually the case; they were within easy cannon-shot from each
other[514]. At about eight o’clock, French skirmishers were observed
breaking out from the woods to the south of the Arapile and pushing
rapidly toward it. They were followed by supporting columns in
strength--indeed Marmont had directed the whole of Bonnet’s division
to move, under cover of the trees, to the point where the woods
approach nearest to the hill, and from thence to carry it if possible.
Wellington, now judging that it was uncomfortably near to his right
flank, ordered the 7th Caçadores--from the 4th Division, the unit that
lay nearest--to race hard for the Greater Arapile and try to seize it
before the French had arrived. They made good speed but failed: the
enemy was on the crest first, and repulsed them with some loss. They
had to fall back to behind the Lesser Arapile, which was held by the
first British brigade of their division (W. Anson’s).

  [514] So says Vere, in his _Marches of the 4th Division_, p. 31.

Marmont had seized the Greater Arapile, as he tells us, to form
a strong advanced post, behind which he could move his main body
westward, in pursuance of his old design of turning Wellington’s right.
It was to be the ‘pivot on which the flanking movement should be made,’
the ‘_point d’appui_ of the right of his army’ when it should reach
its new position[515]. Bonnet’s troops being firmly established on
and behind it, he began to move his divisions to their left. On his
original ground, the plateau of Calvarisa de Ariba, he left Foy’s
division in front line--still bickering with the skirmishing line of
the allies--Ferey’s division in support, and Boyer’s dragoons to cover
the flank against any possible attack from the British cavalry, who
were in force on Wellington’s left, and still had detachments out on
the plateau by Pelabravo, beyond Foy’s extreme right. Having made this
provision against any possible attempt to attack him in the rear while
he was executing his great manœuvre, Marmont marched his five remaining
divisions[516], under cover of Bonnet’s advanced position, to the edge
of the wooded hills in rear of the Great Arapile, where they remained
for some time in a threatening mass, without further movement.

  [515] Marmont, _Mémoires_, iv. p. 255.

  [516] Clausel, Brennier, Maucune, Thomières, and Sarrut also,
  when the latter arrived late from Babila Fuente, and joined the
  main body.

Wellington, clearly discerning from the summit of the Lesser Arapile
this general shift of the enemy to the left, now made great alterations
in the arrangement of his troops, and adopted what may be called
his second battle-position. The 4th Division, about and around that
height, was placed so as to serve for the allied army the same purpose
that Bonnet was carrying out for the French on the other Hermanito.
Of Cole’s three brigades, that of Anson occupied the Arapile--the
3/27th on the summit, the 1/40th in support on the rear slope. Pack’s
independent Portuguese brigade was placed beside Anson. The Fusilier
brigade (under Ellis of the 1/23rd) and Stubbs’s Portuguese, the
remaining units of the 4th Division, were formed up to the right of the
hill, extending as far as the village which takes its name of Arapiles
from the two strange knolls. Two guns of Cole’s divisional battery
(that of Sympher[517]) were hoisted up with some difficulty to the
level of the 3/27th. The other four were left with the Fusiliers near
the village[518]. Thus the little Arapile became the obtuse angle of a
formation ‘en potence,’ with Pack and two brigades of the 4th Division
on its right, and the 7th Division (still engaged at a distance with
Foy) and the 1st and Light Divisions on its left. At the same time
Wellington moved down the troops which had originally formed his
left wing (5th and 6th Divisions, España’s Spaniards, and Bradford’s
Portuguese) to a supporting position behind his centre, somewhere near
the village of Las Torres, where they could reinforce either his right
or his left, as might prove necessary in the end. As a further general
reserve G. Anson’s and Le Marchant’s cavalry brigades, and the greater
part of Victor Alten’s, were brought away from the original left, and
placed in reserve near the 6th Division; but Bock and two of Victor
Alten’s squadrons[519] remained on the left, opposite Boyer’s dragoons.

  [517] A K.G.L. unit--the only German artillery present at
  Salamanca.

  [518] All this from Vere’s _Marches of the 4th Division_, p. 32.

  [519] From the 14th Light Dragoons.

In connexion with this same general move, Wellington sent a most
important order to the troops which he had left till this moment on
the north bank of the Tormes, covering Salamanca, in the position by
Cabrerizos. These consisted of the 3rd Division--which was under the
temporary command of Edward Pakenham (Wellington’s brother-in-law)
during Picton’s sickness--and the 500 sabres that remained of
D’Urban’s Portuguese horse, after one regiment had been sent off on
escort-duty with the baggage-train. These corps were directed to march
over the town-bridge of Salamanca, and take up a position between
Aldea Tejada and La Penilla, to the east of the high-road to Ciudad
Rodrigo. There placed, they were available either as a reserve to the
newly-formed right wing, or as a supporting échelon, if the whole
army should ultimately fall back for a retreat along the high-road,
or as a detached force placed so far to the right that it could
outflank or throw itself in front of any French troops which might
continue Marmont’s advance from the Arapiles westward. It is probable
that Wellington, at the moment when he gave the orders, would have
been quite unable to say which of these three duties would fall to
Pakenham’s share. The 3rd Division marched from Cabrerizos at noon,
passing through the city, which was at this moment full of alarms and
excursions. For the sight of Marmont close at hand, and of the British
baggage-train moving off hastily toward Rodrigo, had filled the
inhabitants with dismay. Some were hiding their more valuable property,
others (who had compromised themselves by their friendly reception of
the allied army) were preparing for hasty flight. Some used bitter
language of complaint--the English were retreating without a battle
after betraying their friends.

Pakenham and D’Urban reached their appointed station by two
o’clock,[520] and halted in a dip in the ground, well screened by
trees, between La Penilla and Aldea Tejada, where they could barely
be seen from the highest slopes of Wellington’s position, and not at
all from any other point. For some time they were left undisturbed,
listening to a growing noise of artillery fire to their left front,
where matters were evidently coming to a head.

  [520] The hours are taken from D’Urban’s diary.

At about eleven o’clock Marmont had climbed to the summit of the French
Arapile, from whence he obtained for the first time a partial view into
the British position; for looking up the dip in the ground between the
Lesser Arapile and the heights occupied by the Fusilier brigade of the
4th Division, he could catch a glimpse of some of the movements that
were going on at the back of Wellington’s first line. Apparently he saw
the 1st and Light Divisions behind the crest of their destined fighting
position, and the 5th and 6th and Bradford’s Portuguese taking ground
to their right. Pack’s Portuguese on the flank and rear of the British
Arapile must also have been visible at least in part. The conclusion to
which he came was that his adversary was accumulating forces behind the
Lesser Arapile with the object of sallying out against Bonnet, whose
post was very far advanced in front of the rest of the French army, and
against Foy and Ferey, who were left in a somewhat isolated position on
the plateau by Calvarisa, when the main body of the army had moved so
far to the west.

Some such intention seems for a moment to have been in Wellington’s
mind, though he says nothing of it in his dispatch. ‘About twelve
o’clock,’ writes one of the most trustworthy British diarists, ‘the
troops were ordered to attack, and the 1st Division moved forward
to gain the other Arapile, which the French had taken.... There was
something singular, I think, in Lord Wellington’s ordering the 1st and
Light Divisions to attack early in the day, and then counter-ordering
them after they had begun to move. Marshal Beresford, no doubt, was the
cause of the alteration, by what he urged. Yet at the same time Lord
W. is so little influenced (or indeed allows any person to say a word)
that his attending to the Marshal was considered singular. From all I
could collect and observe “the Peer” was a little nervous: it was the
first time he had ever attacked. When he _did_ finally determine on the
attack it was well done, in the most decided manner. There was possibly
some little trouble in arriving at that decision[521].’ Oddly enough
this contemporary note is exactly borne out by Marmont’s statement in
his _Mémoires_, that meeting Wellington years after, he inquired about
the point, and was frankly told that an attack had been projected
at this moment, but that it had been put off in consequence of the
representation of Beresford, who had counselled delay[522]. There was
a heavy mass of troops available behind the Lesser Arapile and to both
sides of it--the 4th Division, Pack’s Portuguese, and the 1st, 7th, and
Light Divisions, with the 5th and 6th and Bradford and the cavalry in
reserve. The blow might have succeeded--but undoubtedly that delivered
four hours later was much more effective.

  [521] Tomkinson’s _Diary_, pp. 187-9.

  [522] Marmont, _Mémoires_, iv. p. 256.

The idea of an attack at noon having been finally rejected Wellington
turned his mind to another possibility. If Marmont should commit no
blunders, and should continue his turning movement at a safe distance,
and with his whole army well concentrated, it was quite possible that
a retreat might become necessary. The Commander-in-Chief called up
Colonel Delancey, then acting as Adjutant-General[523], and directed
him to draft a comprehensive scheme for the order in which the troops
should be withdrawn, and the route which each division would take in
the event of an evacuation of the position. The next stand was to be
made, as Marmont had supposed, on the heights above Aldea Tejada,
behind the river Zurgain[524]. Such a move would have involved the
abandonment of the city of Salamanca to the French. The news spread
from the staff round the commanding officers of divisions, and so
downwards to the ranks, where it caused immense discontent. Every one
was ‘spoiling for a fight,’ and the cautious tactics of the last six
days had been causing murmurs, which were only kept from becoming acute
by the long-tried confidence that the army felt in its chief.

  [523] Charles Stewart (Lord Londonderry), who had held the post
  for the last three years had just gone home, and his successor
  had not yet come out to Spain.

  [524] The note concerning Delancey is from Vere’s _Marches of the
  4th Division_, p. 31.

At this very moment Marmont began to act in the fashion that Wellington
most desired, by making an altogether dangerous extension of his left
wing, and at the same time pressing in so close to his adversary
that he could not avoid a battle if it were thrust upon him. His own
explanation is that he took the putting off of Wellington’s tentative
movement against Bonnet as a sign that the allied army was actually
commencing its retreat. ‘Wellington renounced his intention of
fighting, and from that moment he had to prepare to draw away, for if
he had remained in his present position I should from the next day
have threatened his communications, by marching on to my left. His
withdrawal commenced at midday.... He had to retreat by his right, and
consequently he had to begin by strengthening his right. He therefore
weakened his left, and accumulated troops on his right. Then his more
distant units and his reserves commenced to move, and in succession
drew off towards Tejares [Aldea Tejada]. His intention was easy to
discern.... The enemy having carried off the bulk of his force to
his right, I had to reinforce my left, so as to be able to act with
promptness and vigour, without having to make new arrangements, when
the moment should arrive for falling upon the English rearguard[525].’

  [525] _Mémoires_, iv. p. 257.

It is clear that the Duke of Ragusa had drawn his conclusion that
Wellington was about to retreat at once, and had argued, from
partly-seen motions in his adversary’s rear, that the whole allied
army was moving off. But this was not yet the case: Wellington was
taking precautions, but he was still not without hope that the French
would commit themselves to some unwise and premature movement. He had
still every man in hand, and the supposed general retreat on Aldea
Tejada, which the Marshal thought that he saw, was in reality only the
shifting of reserves more to the right.

Unwitting of this, Marmont, a little before two o’clock, began his
extension to the left. To the westward of the woods on whose edge the
five divisions composing his main body were massed, is a long plateau
facing the village of Arapiles and the heights behind it. It is about
three-quarters of a mile broad and three miles long, gently undulating
and well suited for marching: in 1812 it seems to have been open
waste: to-day it is mainly under the plough. Its front or northern
side slopes gently down, toward the bottom in which lies the village
of Arapiles: at its back, which is steeper, are woods, outlying parts
of the great forest which extends to Alba de Tormes. It ends suddenly
in a knoll with an outcrop of rock, called the Pico de Miranda, above
the hamlet of Miranda de Azan, from which it draws its name. Along
this plateau was the obvious and easy route for a force marching to
turn Wellington’s right. It was a very tempting piece of ground, with
a glacis-like slope towards the English heights, which made it very
defensible--a better artillery position against a force advancing
from the village of Arapiles and the ridges behind it could not be
conceived. The only danger connected with it seemed to be that it was
over-long--it had more than two miles of front, and a very large force
would be required to hold it securely from end to end. From the Pico
de Miranda, if the French should extend so far, to Foy’s right wing by
Calvarisa de Ariba was a distance of six miles in all--far too much for
an army of 48,000 men in the battle-array of the Napoleonic period.

Marmont says that his first intention was only to occupy the nearer end
of the plateau, that part of it which faces the village of Arapiles.
In his apologetic dispatch to Berthier, he declares that he wished to
get a lodgement upon it, lest Wellington might seize it before him,
and so block his way westward. ‘It was indispensable to occupy it,
seeing that the enemy had just strengthened his centre, from whence he
could push out _en masse_ on to this plateau, and commence an attack
by taking possession of this important ground. Accordingly I ordered
the 5th Division (Maucune) to move out and form up on the right end of
the plateau, where his fire would link on perfectly with that from
the [Great] Arapile: the 7th Division [Thomières] was to place itself
in second line as a support, the 2nd Division (Clausel) to act as a
reserve to the 7th. The 6th Division (Brennier) was to occupy the high
ground in front of the wood, where a large number of my guns were still
stationed. I ordered General Bonnet at the same time to occupy with the
122nd regiment a knoll intermediate between the plateau and the hill
of the [Great] Arapile, which blocks the exit from the village of the
same name. Finally, I directed General Boyer to leave only one regiment
of his dragoons to watch Foy’s right, and to come round with the other
three to the front of the wood, beside the 2nd Division. The object of
this was that, supposing the enemy should attack the plateau, Boyer
could charge in on their right flank, while my light cavalry could
charge in on their left flank[526].’

  [526] Dispatch to Berthier, _Mémoires_, iv. pp. 445-6.

All this reads very plausibly and ingeniously, but unfortunately
it squares in neither with the psychology of the moment, nor with
the manœuvres which Maucune, Thomières, and Clausel executed, under
the Marshal’s eye and without his interference. He had forgotten
when he dictated this paragraph--and not unnaturally, for he wrote
sorely wounded, on his sick-bed, in pain, and with his head not too
clear--that he had just before stated that Wellington was obviously
retreating, and had begun to withdraw towards Aldea Tejada. If this
was so, how could he possibly have conceived at the moment that his
adversary, far from retreating, was preparing an offensive movement
_en masse_ against the left flank of the French position? The two
conceptions cannot be reconciled. The fact was, undoubtedly, that he
thought that Wellington was moving off, and pushed forward Maucune,
Thomières, and Clausel, with the object of molesting and detaining what
he supposed to be the rearguard of his adversary. The real idea of the
moment was the one which appears in the paragraph of his _Mémoires_,
already quoted on an earlier page: ‘I hoped that our respective
positions would bring on not a battle but an advantageous rearguard
action, in which, using my full force late in the day, with a part
only of the British army left in front of me, I should probably score
a point.’ Jourdan, a severe critic of his colleague, puts the matter
with perfect frankness in his _Guerre d’Espagne_. After quoting
Marmont’s insincere dispatch at length, he adds, ‘it is evident that
the Marshal, in order to menace the point of retreat of the allies,
extended his left much too far[527].’ Napoleon, after reading Marmont’s
dispatch in a Russian bivouac[528], pronounced that all his reasons and
explanations for the position into which he got himself had ‘as much
complicated stuffing as the inside of a clock, and not a word of truth
as to the real state of things.’

  [527] Jourdan’s _Mémoire sur la Guerre d’Espagne_, p. 418.

  [528] ‘Il y a plus de fatras et de rouages que dans une horloge,
  et pas un mot qui fasse connaître l’état réel des choses.’ For
  more hard words see Napoleon to Clarke, Ghiatz, September 2.

What happened under the eyes of Marmont, as he took a long-delayed
lunch on the top of the Greater Arapile[529], was as follows. Maucune,
with his strong division of nine battalions or 5,200 men, after
breaking out from the position in front of the woods where the French
main body was massed, marched across the open ground for about a mile
or more, till he had got well on to the central part of the plateau
which he was directed to occupy. He then drew up opposite the village
of Arapiles, and sent out his voltigeur companies to work down the
slope toward that place, which lay well in front of the British line.
The position which he took up was on that part of the plateau which
sweeps forward nearest to the opposite heights, and is little more
than half a mile from them. A fierce artillery engagement then set in:
Maucune’s divisional battery began to shell the village of Arapiles.
Sympher’s battery, belonging to the 4th Division, replied from the
slope behind the village and from two guns on the Lesser Arapile. The
French pieces which had been dragged up on to the Greater Arapile then
started shelling the Lesser, and silenced the two guns there, which
were drawn off, and sent to rejoin the rest of the battery, on a less
exposed position. The 3/27th on the hilltop had to take cover behind
rocks as best it could. Soon after at least two more French batteries,
from the artillery reserve, took ground to the right of Maucune, and
joined in the shelling of the village of Arapiles. Wellington presently
supported Sympher’s battery with that of Lawson, belonging to the
5th Division, which turned on to shell Maucune’s supporting columns
from ground on the lower slopes, not far to the right of Sympher’s
position. The effect was good, and the columns shifted sideways to get
out of range. But one [or perhaps two] of the French batteries then
shifted their position, and began to play upon Lawson diagonally from
the left, so enfilading him that he was ordered to limber up and move
higher on the hill behind the village, from whence he resumed his fire.
Wellington also, a little later, brought up t