Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

dered useless, by the peevish and ob- approached Valladolid, and a sharp stinate folly of a Spanish general; affair occurred at Torquenada, which that the plans of the campaign were ended in the repulse of the enemy. thus deranged by - his frowardness; It would be difficult to describe the that time was afforded to the French feelings of the British people when they to rally, and come down on the allies were first informed of these eventsin numbers, which rendered success when they learned that the Spanish for the present wholly unattainable, capital was again in possession of the will think, perhaps, that the punish. enemy, and that the siege of Burgos ment of Ballasteros did not equal his had been raised by an army which had offence; and how much soever they so lately been broken and dispersed by may commiserate his folly, they can the besiegers. The most violent indignot surely regret his fate.

nation was expressed ; reproaches were In consequence of these untoward cast on the ministry, and even upon accidents, the inaction of the Anglo. Lord Wellington himself. A few Sicilian expedition, the inefficiency of profligate persons treated with derision the Spanish army of Gallicia, and the all the hopes which had been raised insanity of General Ballasteros, Lord as to the ultimate issue of the contest, Wellington found his situation very while good men of all parties felt the different from what he had been deepest regret at the unexpected turn led to expect. The French army which affairs had taken, and which of Portugal, greatly reinforced, was threatened to deprive the allies of the advancing under Souham, who had fruits of so many great achievements. now taken the command, with the The ministers were loudly censured view of either raising the siege of for a starving the war in Spain," (to Burgos, or forcing the British to fight use the very classical form of expresat disadvantage. On the 15th of Oc- sion which was current at this time,) tober they attacked the British out for sending out reinforcements in numposts, but were repulsed with great bers so small, and at seasons so unsuitspirit ; and on the 19th, their whole able, that they were of no real service force had approached the vicinity of to the cause of Spain. It was forgot. Burgos. The movements of Souham ten that England was not the princiand Soult were nearly simultaneous, pal in the Spanish war, and that her and formed part of the same plan whole resources could not, with any which the latter general had adopted regard to prudence, have been hastily for recovering Madrid. On the 21st, directed to this object alone. Those Lord Wellington received information who disliked Lord Wellington, bethat the whole French forces under cause his victories had thwarted their Soult, Suchet, and Joseph Buona narrow views, cast

many reflections on parte, amounting to 70,000 men, his rashness in advancing so far into were fast approaching the passes, and Spain, without providing for the secu. threatened General Hill, who had no rity of his previous acquisitions, and adequate force to oppose to them. the safety of his retreat ; they predictThis intelligence deternsined Lord ed the most disastrous consequences Wellington to raise the siege of Bur. to the Spanish cause from the dejecgos, and to march to the support of tion into which the minds of the peothe allied army in Madrid ; and he ac- ple would be suddenly precipitated cordingly retired towards the Douro, from that height of confidence to which closely followed by the French under they had been raised, and they pro. Souham. On the 23d, the British phesied the ruin of the army from a

retreat, which is always so repugnant difference to human suffering when he to the feelings of British soldiers, and uses his best efforts to execute their so destructive of their discipline. They designs. It was for such reasons that forgot the unexpected disappointments Lord Wellington carried Ciudad Rod. which Lord Wellington had suffered, rigo and Badajoz by storm ; and, influ. and described that conduct as the off- enced by the same motives, he comspring of a wild temerity, which in menced the siege of Burgos, and would other

circumstances would have been have brought it to a conclusion no less applauded as a master-piece of wise fortunate, had he not been called by and prudent daring.-- Lord Wellington other events to change for a season was also censured for remaining inac. the whole plan of his operations. tive at Madrid by those who thought The British army, threatened as it now not of the fatigues which the army was by the united forces of the enemy, had already undergone, or the neces- began its retreat. Lord Wellington sity of ascertaining the real extent of knew well what a scene an army prethe co-operation which was to be re sents on such an occasion, and how ceived from the Spaniards, before the much the talents of a consummate ulterior movements were determined officer are required to maintain disci. upon. He was charged also with ha- pline and subordination. Arduous and ving undertaken the siege of Burgos, delicate in the highest degree, there. when his means were wholly inadequate fore, was the task which he had to to such an enterprise, and with trust- perform ; and nothing could have ani. ing too much to the bravery of his mated him in the execution of it but troops, at the hazard of sacrificing the hope that he might again be able many valuable lives. Yet was it ma to turn upon the enemy, and, profiting nifest to any person capable of a mo by their errors, give full scope to the ment's reflection, that without the re. bravery of his soldiers. The late Sir duction of this fortress, nothing far. John Moore, who had experienced all ther could have been done in the cam the difficulties of a situation similar in paign; that the ultimate success of some respects to that in which Lord the siege would have been assured, if Wellington was now placed, had recircumstances, beyond the control of marked of his army, that he had nothe British general, had proved fa. thing to say in its praise, unless when vourable ; and that, as in the cases of a chance of meeting the enemy preBadajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo, an im- sented itself; and the great secret, mediate sacrifice of the soldiers to a therefore, in conducting the retreat, certain extent, becomes, in truth, a was to profit by such chances as might sacrifice to humanity, and saves the occur, and to encourage in the minds lives of thousands who must perish in of the soldiers the hope that they were the course of protracted operations. retiring only to fight at greater adIt may seem unfeeling in military men vantage. During the whole retreat, thus to make the lives of their fellow the British army displayed, under its creatures an affair of dry calculation : illustrious leader, its wonted steadiness it must be remembered, however, that and bravery; and, although closely war cannot be conducted at all with. pressed at different points by very suout such sacrifices, and that when a perior numbers, retired in the finest government and people resolve on hos- order. On one occasion, indeed, the tilities, the military leader to whom French overtook a part of the retreatthey entrust the execution of their ing army with so very superior a force, counsels, cannot be charged with in- that they compelled it to change its

[ocr errors]

route, which was accomplished with. Wellington immediately put his whole out loss or confusion. On the 27th of forces in motion, and retired on SaOctober the allies were posted on the lamanca, where he hoped to be able left of the Pisuerga. The French to establish himself, and to maintain crossed the river on the same day, the heights of St Chrystoval in front and formed on the heights opposite of the city. But the united forces of to the British position. The next the enemy were too numerous and day the enemy attempted to gain pos- powerful, and he was obliged to evasession of the bridges, and came down cuate this city, and continue his retreat. in such force that it was deemed ex As he did not, however, despair of pedient to blow up one of them ; to finding a favourable opportunity for abandon the Pisuerga and cross the bringing the French to action, he careDouro,ma movement which was effect fully watched all their movements. ed without loss. The French, how They had taken post at Alba ; and he ever, still continued to press hard on believed for a moment that here he the retreating army; they dislodged a should at last be enabled to inflict that German regiment which was posted chastisement which he had so long on the ruins of the bridge of Torde meditated. He reconnoitred their

posillas, and advanced with their whole sition with great care, but he found it force upon the city. No time was to so strong both by nature and art, that be lost; and it became necessary that it would have indicated the greatest Lord Wellington should either secure temerity to attack it. The French, in for himself a position, in which he the meantime, had moved their cavalry could give battle to the enemy, or

forward in such a direction as to hasten his retreat. He of course pre

threaten the British communications ferred the first of these alternatives, with the fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo. and resolved to occupy some heights Lord Wellington, however, disconbetween Rueda and Tordesillas, op certed their plans, and effected his own posite the ruins of the bridge. While retreat without material loss, if we exthese movements were executed by cept one singular casualty which hep

part of the army under the im. pened about this period. Sir Edward mediate command of their great lead- Paget, a brave and able officer, comer, orders were dispatched to General manded the centre columns during the Hill to break up from his position on movement which has just been descrithe Jacuma, and to reach the Aduga bed; the roads had become so bad by by the 3d or 4th of November. These the heavy and incessant rains, that orders were strictly obeyed, and by an interval occurred betwixt the fifth the 3d of that month the whole Bri-' and seventh divisions of infantry, and tish army

was once more united.-The Sir Edward rode alone to the rear to French under Soult and Souham had discover the cause why the latter divi. also an opportunity of joining. Soult sion had not come up. He missed his had already abandoned Madrid with a way, and fell into the hands of the determination to employ the whole enemy. The accident was somewhat French forces in driving the British singular, but was of 10 other importback to Portugal. The enemy en ance than as it deprived the service for deavoured to turn the Aanks of the re a time of the aid of a distinguished tiring army; their main body advan- soldier, and

gave

the French an oppor ced to Toro and Zamora to threaten tunity of boasting that they had made its left, and Soult marched on Avila, prisoner a British officer of such rank in hopes of turning the right, Lord and consequence. --The allies, in the

that

[ocr errors]

meantime, continued their retreat with quarters. The whole allied force, scarcely any other inconvenience than therefore, which could be rendered ef. what was experienced from the badness fective, did not at the period of this of the roads, tilł they reached the Por- retreat exceed 52,000, exclusive of the tugueze frontier, where they were dis- reinforcement latterly sent out, and tributed in extensive cantonments; and the Alicant expedition, so that the as the season of the year no longer ad means at Lord Wellington's disposal, mitted of military movements, the con- although undoubtedly sufficient for the querors of Salamanca were allowed to great objects in view, had the Spaniards enjoy the repose necessary to prepare done their duty to their country, were them for the toils of another cam. still very limited.—Let us now enpaign, which was to be scarcely more quire what the French had to oppose glorious, but far more decisive. to this force, according to the state

This memorable retreat, which dis- ments which were given by themselves. appointed so much the hopes and ex. They had, first of all, very consipectations of the British nation, was derable detachments under Caffarelli, distinguished by circumstances pecu- Decaen, and others, who were occuliarly honourable to the British arms. pied with the irregular warfare mainThe first circumstance of this kind tained by the Spaniards in Navarre, which demands attention, is the com. Arragon, Biscay, and Catalonia ; but parative numbers of the forces on as these troops were not at present each side ; and it is fortunate, that, employed against the regular armies of in this instance, we have the means the allies, we shall leave them wholly of ascertaining the strength of the al out of account. But the French forces lies and of the enemy with more than opposed to the armies under Lord ordinary precision. The whole of the Wellington' were numerous and well allied forces in the peninsula, British, appointed ; and nothing can tend more Portugueze, and Ġermans, did not to illustrate the talents of this great exceed in number 66,000 men, who officer than a faithful display of the were thus distributed :-Lord Wel. numbers of the hosts which, with the lington and General Hill had under comparatively small force above de. them 31,000 British and Germans, of scribed, he contrived to set at defiance. whom 27,000 were infantry and 4000 Soult alone, who had now assumed the cavalry ; and, in addition to these, they chief command of the armies of Souhad 21,000 Portugueze, who had be. ham and Joseph Buonaparte, had uncome,under British officers, nearly equal der him no less than 75,000 infantry to the troops by whose side they had so and 12,000 cavalry, making in all a often fought. The expedition which force of 87,000 men, that is, almost had been sent to Alicant consisted of double the numbers of his antagonista a considerable body of British and Si. In addition to these, Suchet still had cilians ; a Spanish army of 12,000 or in the east of Spain about 20,000 in15,000 was expected to join it, but fantry and 5000 cavalry, thus raising had been dispersed by the enemy be- the whole disposable French force emfore the junction became practicable. ployed in the peninsula against the At the close of the campaign, how. British armies alone, to 112,000 men, ever, 8000 British troops were on well equipped and in the highest state their way to join the grand army ; but of discipline. In the number of his the fate of Spain, for the present year cavalry in particular, the enemy was at least, had been decided before it very superior; but in its quality it was possible for them to reach heade could bear no sort of coinparison

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

with the British. In artillery, the pised all scruples of this kind, seized French were very powerful. Soult without hesitation the property of the alone carried with him about 200 Spaniards. These circumstances, when pieces of cannon; and in this manner duly considered, will convey some idea had greatly the advantage of his an of the different situations of the contagonist in the strength of one mighty tending armies,—they will shew how arm, of which the English have never inferior the resources of all kinds were perhaps sufficiently availed themselves. with which the British general was

In another circumstance, and that called upon to resist the enemy, and not the least material to the efficiency will go farther to explain the obstacles of an army, the French, from a poli which he surmounted, and the talents cy not very honourable, had many

ad. which he displayed in this retreat, than vantages,—we allude at present to the the most laboured panegyric. Let it commissariat. It is remarkable, that be remembered, that with means so although the British entered Spain for unequal he set the enemy at defiance, the avowed purpose of saving it from and conducted the retreat of his army the most cruel of all tyrannies, and al in safety; that the French, with all though they had performed the most their advantages, never ventured to signal exploits to secure this great ob. attack him, and seldom took up a poject, their armies never were so well sition which they were not careful to supplied with provisions as those of secure by all the resources of the milithe

enemy: The Spaniards were will. tary art. This was destined to be the ing enough that the English should last trial of that admirable self.comfight for them, but they seem never to mand by which Lord Wellington kept have been very willing to make any the natural boldness of his character considerable sacrifice to the cause of in subordination to the maxims of prunational independence. The English 'dence; the remainder of his career in were too honourable to take any thing the peninsula was to be illuminated by by violence, and they were therefore one constant blaze of glory. ill supplied ; but the French, who des

« ForrigeFortsett »