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For this purpose he detached General Hill to destroy the bridge of Almarez
across the Tagus, on the eastern fron
tier of Estremadura, which formed their only remaining line of communication. —General Hill, on his approach, found the bridge strongly protected; both sides of the river were defended with works, which the enemy had thrown up ; while the castle and redoubts of Mirabete, situated at a short distance, added much to the difficulties of his enterprise. He determined, however, to carry his object at all hazards; in the expectation that he might arrive at the point of attack before day-light, and take the enemy by surprise, he ordered that the flank column of his army should be provided with ladders, and should attempt the forts by escalade. The extreme badness of the roads prevented him from arriving so soon as he expected; and he therefore resolved to penetrate by the mountain path, leading through the village of Romangordo, although he thus lost the benefit of his artillery. He could not form his columns before day-break; the French were of course fully apprised of his intentions, and opened a heavy fire on the advancing columns; the British disregarded their utmost efforts, and advanced to the assault of the fort which protected the left bank of the river. The works were in a moment escaladed at three different points; the garrison still continued their fire ; the British had recourse to the bayonet, and quickly settled the affair. The enemy fled in all directions, and attempted to escape by the bridge; but their comrades on the other side of the river had already destroyed it. Those who escaped destruction by the bayonet perished in the stream ; the garrison which occupied Fort Ragusa on the opposite bank were panic-struck, and fled with precipitation towards Naval Moral ; and the enterprise of General Hill was
crowned with complete success. The British lost in this brilliant affair about 30 killed, and 130 wounded; the loss of the enemy was much greater, exclusive even of the prisoners, who, to the number of 300, fell into the hands of the conquerors.—The capture of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, and the destruction of the bridge of Almarez, do immortal honour to the British arms. In these memorable contests the enemy had every advantage of position which nature and art could give him ; yet was he subdued in a shorter space than other generals with other troops require to make preparations for the protracted labours of a siege. The French, by their ingenuity in for. tifying places which were so soon to be reduced, established the most formidable barriers for the future defence of the peninsula against invasion. The bridge of Almarez formed al. most the only communication below Toledo, by which a large army could cross the Tagus; and the French ge. nerals were of course fully aware of its importance. When Marmontheard of the movements of General Hill, he broke up from Salamanca, and moved to the south-east as far as Fort Veras, where he heard of the British success. es, and again retired upon Salamal' ca. Here he employed himself ill throwing up additional fortifications; the late events appear to have so much intimidated him, that he thought no works strong enough for the protection of his army.—In all the opera. tions of the French generals, they
grossly miscalculated the enterprise of .
their enemy; they made movemeno in defence of fortresses which had already fallen, and after a short advance, were uniformly compelled to retrao their steps. vance to the relief of Ciudad Rodrigo, when he was astonished by the intelligence, that the British had already reduced it; thus also did Soult mo"
Thus did Marmont ad
forward to the relief of Badajoz, when the intelligence reached him at Villa Franca, that it was already in possession of the enemy; and thus did Marmont move tardily to protect the bridge of Almarez, when it was already taken, after which he was obliged to retire, and amuse himself in strengthening the
fortifications of Salamanca. These unprofitable movements, which seemed the effect of distraction rather than of system, proved the entire dependence of the French operations on those of their enemies, while they evinced the paramount genius of the British commander.
Progress of the Campaign.
The British advance upon Salamanca.
carry by Storm the Forts which the French had constructed in that Place.
Marmont retires, but on being reinforced, resumes the Offensive.
Burgos. Causes of the Failure of this Enterprise, and of the subsequent Re
treat of the Allies.
EveRx preparation having been made for the advance of the British into Spain, they crossed the Agueda on the 13th June, and on the 16th reached Salamanca. It was supposed that Marmont would have attempted to defend this city; but on the advance of the British cavalry, the French troops which had been left before it, retired, and crossed the Tormes.—The enemy had fortified some convents in Salamanca, and had left about 800 men for their defence, with whom Marmont’s army still endeavoured to keep up a communication . Major-General Clinton, with the sixth division of the British army, was ordered to reduce them, while the rest of the British troops were kept in readiness to oppose the army of Marmont, should it attempt the recapture of the town. This attempt was accordingly made; the French having collected their whole force, moved forward on the 20th, but found Lord Wellington so advantageously posted, that they hesitated about offering battle. They were soon attacked, however, by a division of the army under Sir Thomas Graham, and forced to retire. The enemy still kept up a com
munication, however, with the forts in Salamanca; but Lord Wellington, by a masterly manoeuvre, at last compelled him to abandon them to their fate.—The forts had been finely constructed, and were well defended; they
had been established in such a manner as to support each other, and the dif
ficulties which opposed their reduction were very considerable. In one of them, however, a practicable breach was effected; but this fort could not be taken till another which protected it had been reduced ; an attempt was therefore made to carry the latter by assault. This enterprise was unsuccessful, and Major-General Bowes, a very gallant officer, fell while leading on the storming party.—The conduct of this officer was very gallant, and deserves to be remembered. So eager was he for the success of the enterprise for which he had been selected, that he advanced in person at the head of the storming party and was wounded; but no sooner was his wound dressed than he returned to the post of honour, and gloriously perished at the head of his brave soldiers. The reduction of the forts had hitherto proved a work of greater diffi
culty than was at first expected ; but success was now to crown the efforts of the army. On the 27th of June, a practicable breach was made in one of the principal forts, and at the same time, the other which protected it was discovered to be on fire. The assault was immediately ordered; but before the troops had advanced, a proposal was received from the French governor, offering to capitulate after the lapse of some hours. Lord Wellington was not to be deceived by an . 50 insidious ; he knew that it had no other object but to gain time for extinguishing the flames; and he returned for answer, that the garrison must surrender immediately. The governor made another trial of artifice; Lord Wellington answered him, by ordering the troops to advance to the assault. So much were they accustomed to enterprises of this character, that they received this order with the utmost joy; advanced with a resistless impetuosity; drove the French before them, and made themselves masters of the fort with very little loss. The governor saw that all further resistance must be vain, and capitulated on the terms which were dictated to him by the British general.—For three years had the French been employed in constructing these fortifications; and so j did they consider them, that they had formed them into a depot for stores of all kinds, which noy fell into the hands of the British. Lord Wellington himself, when he examined the forts, is said to have expressed surprise At the rapidity with which they had been carried; and the French marshal was, as usual, filled with astonishment.
Some doubts have been insinuated as to the policy of Lord Wellington, in waiting for the reduction of these forts, by which he was prevented for a time from following up the advantages which he had gained over Marmont. The French marshal, it is
said, was at this time separated both from Bonnet, who occupied the Asturias, and from the army of the centre; and the opportunity ought to have been seized of bearing down upon him, before he could receive reinforcements. When supported by the other armies, he once more became superior in numbers to the British, and was enabled to turn upon his pursuers. The great victory which was afterwards gained must be ascribed chiefly, we are told, to the errors committed by the French marshal, at a time when all the chances of war were in his favour ; chances which had arisen during the time employed in reducing the forts at Salamanca. These forts could not, even in the most unfavourable circumstances, have offered any considerable obstacle to the British army, and it would have been more prudent, therefore, it has been said, to have left a small force to blockade them, and to have hastened the pursuit of Marmont, while he was in no condition to have offered a serious resistance.—In these speculations, however, it seems to be forgotten, that the forts were found to be much stronger than had been anticipated; that there would have been scarcely any delay in taking them, strong as they were, but for an accidental scarcity of ammunition, which suspended the operations for some days; that the French considered Salamanca, with its forts, as of sufficient importance to induce them to risk a battle in its defence, and that in the condition to which the French armies might have been reduced, the considerable depot established at Salamanca was an object, of which it was important that Lord Wellington should deprive them —But it is time to return from these idle criticisms, to the narration of the events of the campaign. So soon as the forts were reduced, Lord Wellington put the army in motion, and Marmont hastily retired across the Douro ; destroyed the bridges, and concentrated his forces at Tordesillas. He left his rear-guard at Rueda; Sir Stapleton Cotton, with his cavalry, attacked it with great impetuosity, and drove it in confusion upon the main body. The whole French army immediately took up a strong position on the Douro. A series of brilliant manoeuvres succeeded. Lord Wellington thought it would be imprudent to attack the enemy in his strong position ; and instead of advancing upon Valladolid, he threatened the Spanish capital. Marmont, who had been joined by Bonnet, and whose army had thus become superior in numbers to that of his antagonist, determined to undertake offensive operations. He extended his right as far as Toro, repaired the bridge at that place, and ordered a part of his army to cross the river, as if to turn the British left—He hastily withdrew these troops; made a rapid march with his whole army thirty miles up the river to Tordesillas; crossed at that point, and succeeded in turning the flank of the allied army at Castregon. This brilliant movement threatened for a moment to change the aspect of the campaign ; it re-established the communications of the French marshal with Madrid, and enabled the armies of the north and centre of Spain to unite, and bear down with an overwhelming superiority on the British. But Lord Wellington was not to be easily disconcerted; he made arrangements for the retreat and junction of the different divisions of his army, and took up a position, in which he offered battle to the enemy. This Marmont wisely declined ; but instead of waiting for the arrival of the reinforcements which were hastening to his support, he persever, d in his manoeuvres to turn the British flanks, and incautiously exposed himself to attack,
When he perceived that his efforts to turn the left of the British had been counteracted, he made a similarattempt on the opposite flank, which met with the same result. Had he acted wisely, he would have waited till the army of the centre, and the other succours, which were advancing, had given him so decided a superiority, as must have left his adversary no choice in his movements; but, elated as he was by the partial success which for a time had attended his plans, he forgot, or despised, all the ordinary rules of prudence. Lord Wellington was in no condition to hazard a battle unnecessarily ; his army was inferior in numbers to that of the enemy, and was but ill supplied with stores and ammunition: although he did not decline an engagement, therefore, neither did he court it. While he provided for the retreat of his own army, he kept a watchful eye on the movements of his adversary; and with that admirable presence of mind, which nothing could confound, he prepared to take advantage of any error which the French marshal might commit. Several days were thus spent in a succession of movements than which modern warfare can boast nothing more brilliant, and neither party appeared to have gained any advantage over the other. It is true, that by threatening the British communications with Portugal, the French had succeeded in accelerating the retreat of their enemy; but it is no less certain, that all the skilful attempts made to turn the British flanks, and to compel Lord Wellington to fight at disadvantage, had proved abortive. By the 21st of July the allied army was concentrated on the Tormes; and on the same day the French also crossed the river, and again appeared to threaten Ciudad Rodrigo.
That great event, so long expected, was now approaching; but a new series of manoeuvres was first to be exe