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CHAP. XI.

Affairs of the Peninsula... Retrospect of the War in that part of the World.

Projects of Lord Wellington. Ca
Z)estruction of the Bridge of Almarez.

The war in Spain exhibited at its commencement a favourable view of the Spanish character, and seemed to open very brilliant prospects for the continent of Europe. When the power of France over the surrounding nations seemed to mock all resistance; when her armies had humbled some of the greatest monarchies, and blotted others from the list of independent states; when a general feeling of submissive terror seemed to fill the minds of the continental rulers, the patriots of Spain broke the deadly spell, and bade defiance to their oppressors. The folly of Buonaparte in provoking a resistance of this character and magnitude will be very generally acknowledged. Spain he already retained in real vassalage ; her fleets, her armies, her resources of all kinds, were at his disposal ; the decrepid and pusillanimous despotism which enslaved this fine country knew no law but his will. While he transacted with such a government he was safe; but by an undisguised outrage on all laws, he made his criminal views manifest to Europe, and raised in the Spanish people that patriotism, of which the other continental nations no longer gave an example. By appointing the lowest minion of his tyranny to govern Spain,

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he could not have expected more entire submission, than he already received from the government which he thus risked every thing to supersede ; while by an act of violence so palpable he could not fail to alarm the pride and excite the indignation of the meanest Spaniard. #. preferred, however, the gratification of his arrogance to the stability of his power; he insulted and outraged the people of Spain beyond all endurance, and called forth in a bold, but undisciplined peasantry, a spirit which, in the first instance, overthrew the finest of his legions. The enthusiasm of the Spaniards was warmly seconded by the generosity of the British nation. It is scarcely too much to say that a determination to support this people in their honourable struggle was universal among Englishmen, since the few who hesitated were of a character that deprived their opinions of all title to regard. To what extent such support might be required, and in what shape it might be most prudent to afford it, were questions on which, some difference of opinion did arise, and which it was difficult to settle, till the character and prospects of the war should be developed. But that

every nerve should be strained to promote this glorious contest, and to take advantage of the spirit which the madness of the enemy had created, was the sentiment of every British statesman of any eminence, and the enthusiastic desire of the British people. The English saw with indignation, scarcely inferior to that of the sufferers, the base and profligate schemes by which the enemy sought to subject a great nation; they recogmised in the triumph of the Spanish cause, that of justice and morality throughout Europe; they looked forward to the deliverance of Spain, as the emancipation of a fine people from tyranny both foreign and domestic, and the re-establishment of a powerful state, which might restrain the overweening ambition of France upon the continent. Such were the views, equally magnanimous and solid, which in this country created a deeper interest in Spanish affairs, than had before been felt in the transactions of any foreign state. Great reliance was at first placed on the efforts of the Spaniards themselves; and it must be owned that the overwhelming burst of patriotism which, in the first campaign, seemed to carry every thing before it, might have justified this confidence. These expectations, however, were sadly disappointed ; no vigorous or efficient system was pursued by the Spanish authorities ; no men of such talents, as revolutions have called forth in other countries, appeared, to guide the destinies of Spain. The Spanish armies have never borne any proportion to the population and resources of the country; they have been uniformly defective in discipline; while their of. ficers have in general been deficient in all the qualities of the military charac. ter, courage alone excepted. The Spanish armies, hastily enlisted, were too often led by their inexperienced

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officers into battle long before they had been prepared by a previous course of discipline; and they have with wonderful facility been routed and dispersed. Down to the period of which we are now to give an account, the regular armies of Spain had done little towards the expulsion of the enemy; while the government had discovered but a slender portion of that wisdom and vigour, which were so loudly called for by the awful circumstances of the crisis in which they were destined to act. The character of the Spanish revolution will account, in some measure, for this deplorable inactivity, which has astonished all Europe. The Spaniards were not roused to action by the desire of enjoying more liberty than they already possessed under their old government—they were not animated by these extravagant aspirations, which had given a character of ferocious energy to the revolutionary career of their neighbours. An attachment to their ancient rulers, and to the independence of their country, formed the basis of their revolution; the wild enthusiasm of individual ambition had little or no share in their efforts. The principle of the Spanish revolution was the most honourable which can animate a people—love for their country and hatred of its oppressors; but this principle is never so lively and active as that which aspires to individual aggrandizement and glory. Fighting for the restoration of a go. vernment which systematically checked the growth of talents, the Spanish patriot could have no hope that his most distinguished services would ever se.

cure for him the highest rewards : such reflections might not damp the

honest ardour of real patriotism, but

must have repressed that exuberance

of genius which the difiiculties of the country so imperiously demanded. The ultimate triumph of the cause

for which so many exertions were required, must at once have reduced the most aspiring to something like his original obscurity, and defrauded him of the high rewards to which he would naturally look forward. Had the revolution in Spain resembled that of France—had the convulsion been so great as to resolve society into its elements, and cast the chances of future rank and pre-eminence on the decision of the sword, the military genius of Spain might have been developed, and that country mighthave passed through a scene of horrors to a higher rank among the European states than she seems for the present destined to attain. But there is no chance that even in the most favourable circumstances she could have rivalled revolutionary France in a display of talent; for the thick darkness which had obscured her ancient glory, could not have been instantaneously dissipated even by the most fiery revolution. The circumstances, however, in which she was called upon to resist a powerful invader, were altogether most unpropitious to the evolution of her natural energies; and the consequence has been, that, although the Spanish peasantry are both brave and patriotic, they have too often been doomed to perish by the ignorance and folly of their leaders. It was in the irregular warfare which was now carried on with such zeal by the Guerillas, that the national qualities of the Spaniards were displayed to the greatest advantage. This species of warfare required no very high talents for its management; it demanded but the local knowledge, the courage and constancy of the Spanish peasantry, and the resolute and daring spirit of enterprise which prevailed among their chiefs. Formidable indeed were these unexpected and invisible enemies to the French, of whom incredible numbers became victims to their fury. It has been said VOL. V. PART I.

with truth, that if the defence of Spain had been committed to the Guerillas alone, although they might have been unable to expel the invader, they would never have ceased to disturb him; and Spain, by their irregular efforts, made the only compensation, which in her circumstances could be expected, for that want of system and genius which were to be supplied by the generosity of her allies. In the Marquis of Wellington, who had already become illustrious by his talents, and renowned for his exploits, the Spanish nation were destined to find their deliverer. This great man, before his appointment to the command of the British armies in the peninsula, had distinguished himself as an able and enterprising officer; but the field on which he acted was narrow in comparison, and the events in which he bore so conspicuous a part, were not much regarded in Europe. His friends, however, to whom the extent and fertility of his genius were in some measure known, hesitated not to predict something great and extraordinary from his future career; and one of his political enemies (but that one distinguished alike by his penetration and magnanimity) made an honourable confession in the British senate of the profound respect and entire confidence with which this young soldier had inspired him. Little was it imagined, however, with what splendid rapidity these fond anticipations were to be fulfilled. The mind of Lord Wellington, equally solid and comprehensive, his genius at once prudent and daring, was soon to find ample scope in the affairs of Spain. He was sent out with a handful of men to defend Portugal against the overwhelming host of the enemy; with a fine sagacity he seized and fortified a position, which in the meantime saved that country; and he calmly waited for an opportunity, which he foresaw mus; T

sooner or later occur, to make the enemy repent of his usurpation. When he took the command in the peninsula, he found the economy of the army in a state of great confusion; in an instant he remedied everything, and raised the discipline of his troops to as high a superiority as their valour. He discovered, through the mist of prejudice, the true character of the Portugueze people; he saw that they had the materials of military excellence; and, in spite of clamour and faction, he had them turned into soldiers, and rendered worthy of fighting by the side of British troops. He comprehended at once the character of the Spanish war in all its bearings; he observed that the numbers of the French armies must, in circumstances which he himself could create, only ensure their speedy destruction ; he drew them round him in a country which famine compelled them to abandon; and he seized the opportunity to destroy them in their retreat. Not dismayed by the prodigious advantages which his enemy possessed over him in the numbers of his troops, in the resources, almost unlimited, which enabled him to supply his losses with the greatest rapidity, and in the possession of all the strong places of Spain, he seems, at an early period, to have formed the gigantic project of destroying the French power, and expelling the invader from the eninsula. He knew the disposition of #. government, and the ardour of his country to support him in his grand enterprise ; but he knew also, that the military resources of England, which could be conveniently devoted to the war in this quarter, were necessarily limited ; and he was sensible of the difficulties which he should have to encounter in the ignorance, the false pride, and the prejudices of the Spanish government. He was sometimes unavoidably circumscribed, and often mis. chievously thwarted in his high ca

reer, yet did he continue on all occasions to add to the splendour of his own reputation, and the glory of the British empire. The battles which he had hitherto fought had been brilliant, and it was not the fault of his character, but of his situation, that they had not proved decisive; he had acted with boldness and resolution, and had displayed a quality which seems essential to British commanders—a confidence in the valour of his troops, of which he has never had cause to repent. He entered on the campaign of this year with greater advantages than he had ever before possessed—his army was more numerous, and in a higher state of discipline—the irregular efforts of the Spaniards promised a more active co-operation than they had hitherto afforded, and a prospect begun to open that the strength of France and her tributary states might find employment in the north of Europe. Yet were the difficulties which presented themselves of a magnitude to have appalled any other general; for not only were there large French armies in the north, south, centre, and east of Spain, but fortresses to reduce, which the enemy had strengthened by all the ingenious resources of art. But this great commander was not to be dismayed; he formed the bold plan of advancing into the centre of Spain, with an army, to which even one of the enemy’s was a match in point of numbers—of storming and reducing the strongest for

tresses, and of driving out the invaders

in the course of one brilliant campaign,

It is the highest praise which can be

bestowed on Lord Wellington to say,

that even in the course of this year he

nearly accomplished his object, and

failed at last by accidents for which he

was in no way responsible. But the

character of this illustrious warrior,

who rises above his contemporaries not

more by the endowments of his mind

than the virtues of his heart, will be

best understood by a simple narration of his exploits, which have filled all Europe with astonishment and admiration. The events of the preceding year, although highly honourable to the British arms, were not attended with consequences of much importance. The fine position which Lord Wellington had selected in the neighbourhood of Lisbon, and which his judicious exertions had rendered almost impregnable, destroyed the hopes of Massena, who commanded a large army, and had promised to drive the English into the sea. The French remained before the British position, but did not venture on an attack, while the British general, with admirable self-command, waited for the moment when the difficulties of the enemy should compel him to retreat. Massena commenced a precipitate retreat accordingly in the spring of the preceding year. The British followed him, and invested Almeida, the northern barrier of Portugal, which they reduced, after having gloriously repulsed the enemy, who had hastened to its relief.-In the south, the Spaniards had been singularly unfortunate. The death of Romana—the appointment of Mendizabal, a weak and contemptible person, to succeed him—the consequent loss of a considerable detachment already thrown into Olivenza, and, above all, the treacherous and cowardly surrender of Badajoz, had occasioned great confusion. The recovery of this fortress, which had been so basely given up, was of great importance in the estimation of Lord Wellington; and he began the siege with vigour—defeated Soult, who tried to relieve it, in the memorable battle of Albuera, but was at last compelled to abandon the enterprise, by the advance of the collected forces of the enemy, which it would have been madness to oppose. A similar

result followed an attempt made in the end of the year to reduce Ciudad Rodrigo, when Marmont, after evacuating the whole north of Spain, pressed down with a very formidable army. Little, therefore, had been gained by either party in the campaign of 1811. On the western frontiers of Spain, the British had won nothing but glory, with which they were already covered, and had succeeded in affording opportunities to the Spaniards, of which the latter were in no haste to avail themselves. In the east of Spain, however, the most unexpected misfortunes had befallen the Spaniards, and those provinces which had been the theatre of the bravest resistance to the invader, were almost entirely subjugated. Suchet, who had been appointed by Buonaparte to conduct the war in this quarter, where Spaniards alone, and Spaniards commanded by the most unfortunate of captains, were to be opposed, was successful in all his enterprises. He entirely defeated Blake in the neighbourhood of Zaragoza; he captured Lerida and Tortosa, and after an obstinate defence, reduced Tarragona to ashes. For a moment the Catalans were struck with consternation, produced not more by the misfortunes which they had suffered, than by the savage and vindictive cruelty with which their virtue had been persecuted. They still retained, however, the islands of Las Medas on the eastern coast; they could find positions on the Pyrenean frontier, and, above all, they retained their former spirit of patriotism and revenge. New armies were speedily raised ; their formation and discipline were favoured by the eagerness of Suchet to press forward on Valencia; and the province of Catalonia was once more in arms. Blake, whose very name was ominous to the army which he commanded, got into Valencia with

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