Sidebilder
PDF

five-and-twenty thousand men. Suchet laid siege to the castle of Murviedro (the ancient Saguntum) and Blake tried to relieve the castle by fighting a general battle with the enemy, in which he committed every sort of blunder, and was totally defeated. He retired towards Valencia, on which the French marshal advanced with rapidity—surprised and again defeated the Spaniards—cut off the retreat of Blake, and drove him into the city. Suchet pressed the siege—Blake made an abortive effort to escape with his army, and failing in this, ignominiously surrendered #. and his soldiers prisoners of war. Thus was the east of Spain overrun by the enemy, at the beginning of the present year. A desire to relieve this fine country, formed one great inducement to the British commander to open the campaign at an early period of the year, and with a spirit of enterprise which promised the greatest results. It was necessary to the plan of operations which Lord Wellington had formed, that he should first of all make himself master of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz. Early in the month of January, therefore, the army crossed the Agueda, and on the 8th, the first of these fortressess was invested. General Hill was in the meantime detached against Dombrowski, who was posted at Merida, and who retreated with precipitation on the approach of the British. General Hill next proceeded against Drouet, who commanded the fifth division at Almendralejo; but this officer having been apprised of the movements of the British, retired upon Zafra, leaving his stores and ammunition. By these operations, Marmont and Soult were effectually separated ; the country betwixt the Tagus and Guadiana was cleared of the enemy; Drouet was thrown back on Llerena, and Badajoz, which was soon to be attacked, was, by the occu

pation of Merida, reduced to the utmost extremity for want of provisions. Soult was placed in a state of complete inactivity; and Lord Wellington was left to pursue his operations against Ciudad Rodrigo and the army of Marmont.—The siege was pressed with extraordinary vigour, and with astonishing success. The place, indeed, had been greatly strengthened by the enemy; on the hill of St Francisco he had constructed a redoubt, which communicated with three fortified convents in the suburbs; and he had in all other respects discovered his usual skill and activity. Yet on the evening of the very day on which the siege was begun, a detachment of the division under Lieutenant Colonel Colbourne of the 52d, stormed and carried the redoubt on the hill, took some prisoners, and put their comrades to the sword. These important successes enabled the British to break ground near the works. On the evening of the 14th, a fire was opened from the first parallel with twenty-two pieces of ordnance and three batteries; and on the same evening, the , besiegers established themselves in the second parallel, and within 150 yards of the place. In ten days from the opening of the siege, the approaches were completed; several breaches were made in the wall; and the resolution was taken to carry the works by storm. As Lord Wellington did not find it convenient to advance his approaches so near as had been usual on former occasions, it re quired the highest efforts of gallantry to succeed in the assault. The storming parties, in five separate columns, composed of the third and light divisions of the army, and of Brigadier General Pack’s brigade, were ordered to advance ; that under General Pack was ordered to make a false attack. Lieutenant-General Picton, and Major-General Crawford, both offic cers of great talents, took a conspicuous part in the operations; and the efforts of all the columns were crowned with success.-It is a singular circumstance in this affair, that the ardour and impetuosity of the troops converted the false attack into a real one ; the enemy was charged in this direction—driven into his works, and speedily subdued. The second battalion of the 5th regiment, under Major Ridge, with the 94th regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel Campbell, gallantly stormed the principal breach in the body of the place. Major General M*Kinnon, with the brigade under his command, came up to their support; the defence was well maintained by the French; but all their efforts were unavailing. The besiegers bore down all resistance; but in the moment of victory, a very severe loss was sustained by the British army, in the death of Major General M*Kinnon, who fell at the head of his storming party. The loss of the British in this brilliant affair, amounted to about 1200 killed and wounded ; but the conquest was of great importance in the present state of the campaign, and reflected the highest honour on the British arms.-In the short space of ten days, one of the great fortresses on the Portugueze frontier, strengthened by all the resources of art, had, thus been wrested from the enemy, a fortress which, when in a state of Comparative weakness, and garrisoned by Spaniards, it had taken Massena a whole month to reduce, supported as he was by an army of 110,000 men. The satisfaction which this triumph diffused over the country, was enhanced by the favourable report which the British commander gave of the patriotism of the Spanish people, from whom therefore it was reasonable to expect in future more zeal than they had hitherto displayed. Marmont had established his can

tonments on the banks of the Tagus, with the view of ensuring supplies for his army, and supporting the operations against Valencia. He had detached General Montbrun, with 5,000 men, to take the army of Valencia in rear; but the general failed in this object as well as in a coup de main, which he attempted against Alicant.— Marmont, however, collected a large army from the north and centre of Spain; he advanced to Salamanca, and there he learned the fate of Ciudad Rodrigo, which struck him with astonishment. He knew that the garrison had been strong; that the fortifications were in the highest order, and had never imagined that the place could have been reduced with such rapidity. In the official account of this event, which he transmitted to his government, he expressed a degree of surprise, which implied the highest compliment to the skill and valour of his enemies. He advanced, however, and offered battle to Lord Wellington, in the vain hope that the British general, after having attained his object, would have turned aside to risk an engagement on terms so unequal. When he found that he had no hopes of success in this attempt, he retired, and placed his army in cantonments along the Tormes. The highest honour to which a British subject can aspire is to obtain the thanks of parliament; to be rewarded by the grateful applause of his country. The reduction of Ciudad Rodrigo was an exploit which well merited this honourable distinction; and the ministers accordingly hastened to call the attention of the legislature to the subject. In moving the thanks of the House of Lords to Lord Wellington and his gallant army, the Earl of Liverpool pointed out with great force and precision the distinguishing features of the late operations. He began by stating, That, “in the consideration of questions of this nature, there

were two points which more particularly called for attention, namely, the importance of the place wrested from the enemy, and the vigour of the effort used to obtain possession of it. He did not mean to say, that either of these might not, in some cases, be a sufficient ground for voting the thanks of the House, but, in the present instance, both considerations combined to call upon the House to confer that high honour. Of the importance of Ciudad Rodrigo there could be no doubt; it was the only fortress of note on the north-eastern frontier of Portugal, and on the north-western frontier of Spain. It was originally erected by the Spaniards as a point of defence against any invasion from Portugal, and also as a place of arms to facilitate offensive operations in that country, and the circumstances connected with the current of the river on which it was placed, rendered it in both points of view highly important. By its capture, the defence of Portugal was rendered complete, and at the same time a way was opened almost into the centre of Spain.—Having thus mentioned the importance of this fortress, he thought it necessary to state a few circumstances, to shew why the capture of it by the enemy in 1810 could not be prevented. It was well known, as stated by the French commander-in-chief himself, that the French force destined for the attack on Portugal was 110,000 men; of this force 27,000 laid siege to Ciudad Rodrigo. Lord Wellington at that time had only with him 17,000 British, and 14,000 Portugueze, the latter completely untried. The Bri. 'tish commander-in-chief never lost sight of the importance of relieving the place, if possible, and to the last moment had the object in view, but the Portuguese troops being then completely untried, it became a consideration of prudence how far it was

advisable to try them under circumstances peculiarly disadvantageous. It was also to be considered, that the allied army must have fought the enemy with the Agueda in their rear, and that even if they had defeated the

covering army, still, with the river in

their rear, and embarrassed as they necessarily would be with wounded, it was more than doubtful whether any advantage could thus be gained. The defence of Portugal was also of the fo importance ; it was not merey one point that was to be attended to, but the ultimate defence of the country ; and Lord Wellington being certain that he could effectually defend Portugal by having recourse to the lines of Torres Vedras, it was essential not to run the hazard of wasting unprofitably the troops through whom that defence was to be made. After Marshal Massena had retreated from Portugal, Lord Wellington’s attention was again called to Ciudad Rodrigo, but his operations in that quarter were interrupted by those of the enemy in Estremadura, to which province the pressure of the war was necessarily for a time removed. Subsequently to the cessation of these movements, other circumstances operated to delay the attack upon Ciudad Rodrigo. It was well known that there was no bridge over the Agueda near Ciudad Rodrigo, except the bridge of the place itself; and at certain seasons of the year, the river was so much swollen by the mountain torrents, that it became impracticable to throw any bridge over it. Lord Wellington also judged it, expedient, before laying siege to Ciudad Rodrigo, to have Almeida as a depot, for which purpose it was necessary that the fortifications should be restored, and he was happy to state that Almeida was now in a respectable state of defence.—In the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo there were many circumstances which must be highly satisfactory. When the enemy laid siege to it in 1810, they completed the investment on the 10th of June, and the lace did not surrender by capitulation till the 11th of July. Lord Wellington invested the place on the 8th of January, and this, it should be remembered, under all the disadvantages of a siege in the depth of winter, and the place was taken by storm on the 19th of that month. In recounting this, it was a subject of no ordinary satisfaction to observe the skill and ability manifested by the engineers and the artillery. Thus completing the proof that in every branch of our military service our superiority was decidedly manifest—our infantry, our cavalry, our engineers, our artillery, our commissariat, all were proved to be decidedly superior—a superiority resulting from a wise system at home carried into practice by the wisdom, the skill, and the exertions of our commander-in-chief in Portugal. The enemy no longer vaunted of superiority, no longer boasted of driving British troops into the sea, it being now apparent to all the world, that with British hearts in British bosoms we maintained a decided superiority on whatever element we fought.—The capture of Ciudad Rodrigo, whilst it was of essential importance to those great interests which we were engaged in supporting, was a blow to the enemy which he did not expect. It was not conceived possible that Ciudad Rodrigo could have been taken in eleven days. The calculation made upon scientific rules was, that it might hold out for twenty-four or twenty-five days. Lord Wellington, however, was aware of the importance of rapidity, and the most unparalleled exertions were made, which were happily crowned with success. The enemy had not the slightest expectation of such an event, and he knew that Mar

shal Marmont calculated on being in

good time on the 29th of January to relieve the place—for which purpose the French commander was collecting troops from different quarters, and to do this necessarily weakened the force in other parts.--Whether, therefore, they considered the importance of the place itself, the indefatigable exertions used to achieve its capture in so short a time, or the importance of the success with a view to further operations which were planned by Lord Wellington, he thought their lordships must agree that the commander and the army deserved their thanks. Whatever opinions there might exist as to the policy of our operations in Portugal, he thought there could be no differ. ence of opinion as to the skill and ability of the commander-in-chief, or the bravery and spirit of the army which he commanded. Justice, as well as policy, demanded that they should uphold the honour and the character of our commanders and our armies. To do this was true policy; for let it not be forgotten, that to our officers and to our army, who so skilfully and so bravely defended Portugal and defeated the enemy, we must be indebted, if the necessity should arise, for the defence of our own shores. His lordship concluded by moving the thanks of the House to General Lord Viscount Wellington, for the skill, ability, and indefatigable exertions, and consummate wisdom, manifested by him in the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo.”

When a similar vote was proposed in the House of Commons, General Tarleton, who had never been very forward to approve of the policy of the war in Spain, “begged to add a few expressions of admiration, flowing not merely from his lips, but dictated by his heart. It was impossible,” he said, “to add any thing, by brilliancy of description, to #. lustre of the late transaction ; but as the oldest general in that House,

he wished to point out in it some characteristic marks of British gallantry. Whether the skill of the commanderin-chief, or the bravery of his troops, were referred to, he defied any nation to produce an example of similar splendour, of troops so steady under arms, or so silent in attacks made under cover of the night. of our columns were disabled, the efforts of his troops were not relaxed. When what was technically called “the forlorn hope” was to be formed for the purpose of the assault, instead of 350 volunteers, which were required, no less than 700 men instantly offered themselves from only two regiments. He would not waste the time of the House by further dilation, since it was impossible for the genius, the eloquence, the research, or the memory, of all its members to produce an achievement, whose glory at all equalled the splendour of the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo.” The motions were agreed to mem. dis. But this was not the only form in which the gratitude of his countrymen towards the Earl of Wellington was expressed. A message from the Prince Regent was sent down to the House of Commons, recommending the grant of an annuity to this illustrious officer; and upon moving the resolution upon this message, Mr Perceval spoke in the following terms:—“ I cannot think that it will be necessary for me to trouble the committee with many observations in order to induce them to give their most cordial consent to the resolution which I shall have the honour to propose, in conformity to the gracious message of his royal highness the Prince Regent. It is, indeed, impossible that the House of Commons should fail to recollect, or that the nation at large should fail duly to appreciate, the various great and distinguished services which have marked the brilliant career of my Lord

If the leader of any

Wellington in the course of the late campaigns in Spain and Portugal. Although differences of opinion may ex

ist with respect to the expediency and

policy of the efforts which Great Britain has been, and is now making in the peninsula, I am persuaded, sir, that those differences of opinion will form no ground of dissent from the present motion. The question before usis, whether the officer selected in the first instance by his majesty, and subsequently confirmed by his royal highness the Prince Regent, to direct the military operations in the peninsula, has, or has not, conducted himself with such distinguished zeal, and such consummate professional ability, as, while it does infinite honour to himself, does inflnite honour to the country, whose armies he was appointed to command 2 Sir, the impression of the House on this subject is evident; and, under such an impression, I feel that it would be a gratuitous trespass on their time, to enter into any detail of those various achievements of the gallant earl, which have on former occasions received the distinct and repeated approbation of parliament. The circumstances under which his royal highness the Prince Regent has, for the last twelve months, exercised the royal authority, have prevented him at an earlier period from adequately marking the high sense which he entertained ; the merits of that disinguished general. His royal highness, however, has availed himself of the first opportunity of conferring on Lord Wellington the honours which are so justly his due. It is a singular coincidence, that as the services of the gallant earl were the latest object of reward to the royal authority, which for the last year has been in abeyance, so they are the first object of reward to the illustrious personage who has assumed the unrestricted exercise of that authority. Our own conviction of the merits of Lord

g

« ForrigeFortsett »