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Journal of the Eighty-third Regiment.
The villages of Outeito and Oite are pretty large and wealthy, being surrounded by vineyards, corn fields, and orchards, and built on gentle elevations.
Having received the general orders of the day, I returned by another road, though longer, somewhat better, being carried over a fine plain country, and reached Vendas Novas about eleven o'clock the game night.
Though fatigued I was not displeased at the excursion, as it gave me as opportunity of seeing that the soil around Pedreira, Graciosa, and Belais, 'was of a fertile kind, and capable of yielding abundance of every grain: jet notwithstanding the richness and the many fine crops of barley and Indian corn which appeared on each side the road, a farm house was not to be seen, nor do I recollect noticing a single hay tick or corn stack.
The following morning I left the brigade just without Vendas Novas, and struck across the country for Pedreira, intending thence to follow the high road to Albergaria, where head-quarters were to be established on the night of the lOtb.
At Oite I stopped at a vsnda to refresh myself and horse before the heat •/the day came on. But ere the people could serve,me, the Fidalgo (Lord of the Manor) entered the room where I was sitting, and in very handsome terms, invited me to his house, assuring me I should there fare much better. I accepted his friendly invitation, and had no cause to regret compliance; for the worthy seignior treated me with genuine hospitality, the value of which was further iuhanced by the gratifying attentions of an amiable hostess. After making a hearty repast of cakes, fruits, cold fowl, preserves, and wine, I took a grateful leave, and received my generous hosts hearty wishes of success and health.
In Oite, as indeed in almost every village, one particularly large stone building was always discernible. By its extent and respectable appearance, the traveller forms a just conclusion, that it is the residence of the Fidalgo. The windows, however, are commonly without panes of glass, and the rooms chiefly filled with antique furniture.
Bklais.— After crossing the Belais rivulet, the road enters the hamlet of that name, which is one of the poorest in this district. Thence to Sarda.% the road is very narrow, bordered by hedges or skirted by wooded heights, and throughout much wanting of repairs. It overlooks a level country, however, shaded in several places by forests of fir trees; other spots are converted into arable land, particularly in the neighbourhood of the dwellings.
After crossing the bridge of Vouga the road runs .over a tract of country agreeably diversified with hill and dale, studded with numerous groves of cork and fir trees, which pleasing appearance it has to the very entrance of Albergaria.
Alheruariavei.ua. — Albergari Velha is fl large straggling place, with some tolerable houses, and two churches; it is surrounded by vineyards, gardens, and arable land. Though the place could shelter a great body
^ Journal of the Eighty-third Regiment.
of troops, and though I arrived very early in the evening, every house was* occupied, and some were full of soldiers; so that I could not expect a billet, or even covering for the night. Fortune, however, favoured me, for she threw in my way the provost-marshal, who had been Serjeant in the regiment where I was ensign. He knew and accosted me, while in the street, undecided how to act. His billet, he told me, though in an empty building, was tolerable, and, as, he pressed me to use it, I shared it with him. He informed me a sharp skirmish had that same day taken place in the neighbourhood, between some of our cavalry and a party of French mounted riflemen, the result of which was highly creditable to our soldiers. It is nevertheless true, that a corps of Portuguese militia under Colonel Trant (having with it two light three- pounder mountain pieces, from which it kept up an incessant fire on the enemy hidden among the trees) assisted in expelling the French from die woods near the Vouga, who were there posted in considerable numbers, and to which, as cover, they had on the night of 'the 9th retreated from the Jeff bank.
This detachment of ours was only the advance of it more considerable body which passed the river very early in the morning, with the hope of surprising and intercepting such of the enemy as were stationed on the northern bank, under the command of General Franchesci, but it unfortunately effected only a very small part of its commission; for the French retired with a very trifling loss of men and horses, which they left in the woods and at Oliveira de Azemeis, whither our brave dragoons closely followed them.
Although my opinions of Success were never very sanguine, I firmly believe my heart was ever inclined to render justice to all; and I can honestly declare that my mind was neither biassed in favour of, nor prejudiced against any particular General; that my tongue was always ready to praise an officer whom I conceived merited approbation, and without vanity I can say, that no prayers could have been more sincere, nor zeal more active for the glory of the British army than what I, from my very soul, formed and felt.
When I wrote my remarks on the battle between Laborde and our army on the Monte St. Anna, Sir Arthur Wellesley was in England, and the British were under the command of that gentlemanlike officer Sir John Craddock. No motive, therefore, on my part existed either for flattery or spleen, with the same candour (and with feelings equally uninfluenced by any other motive than truth) I shall continue to register my observations; and it consequently behoves me to detail those remarks which occurred on hearing of the skirmish at Albergaria.
I always, though perhaps wrongly, regarded over sanguinity as Sir Arthur Wellesly's predominating characteristic. This affair in some measure confirmed the opinion I had formed. At all events I could not acquit Sir Arthur of some indiscretion, for permitting the officers of his personal staff to converse publicly on his future intentions, and to impart, unto all who Journal oftie Eighty-third Regiment.
chose to hear, that the French were to be attacked on the following day. HadSir Arthur kept this design within his own breast, or had he restricted his confidence to the Adjutant and Quarter-Master-Generals, the attack might have been more successful; and it is not improbable that the greater part of the enemy's force, cantoned in the neighbourhood of Albergaria, would have been surrounded and taken; whereas, by allowing the scheme to be the topic of table conversation, the plan was soon known to our vigilant adversary, who failed not under favour of night to withdraw.
It would be impossible to assign a cause for the liberty Sir Arthur then allowed to reign at his table. Convivial hospitality surely needed it not. And it has frequently been regretted that movements, which at the outset promised the completest success, have most unacountably miscarried in the execution. Whether these misfortunes may be ascribed to the public man'ner in which the schemes were often discussed, remains undecided. Be that as it will, a general officer must assuredly be blameable in permitting publicity being given those plans he has resolved on executing; it being a maxim with wise generals to studiously conceal their views, and endeavour to mislead their enemy by affecting to perform things never designed; for an enemy acquainted with his opponent's schemes is an overmatch for him, though the numerical forces of the two contending armies are equal; because, being prepared for the movements of his antagonist, he has time, so to distribute his forces, as to render all attacks unavailable.
Generals Sherbrooke and Paget's divisions slept at Albergaria Nova, Albergaria Velha, and the adjacent villages, during the night of the 10th' while a small detachment of light cavalry pushed on as far as Oliveira, in front of which was stationed a strong piquet of infantry from LieutenantGeneral Paget's wing. The same night General Hill's brigade lay at Ovar, and on the return of the boats which conveyed it, General Cameron's brigade followed across the bay of Aveiro, and up a branch of the Vouga to Ovar, where it arrived before day-break on the morning of the 11 th, and continued its march immediately, in support of General Hill, for Oporto, whither all the army was destined, and had been moving since the earliest dawn of light. At night-fall General Cameron's brigade bivouacqued in a fir grove, on the side of the Chamorro height, while General Hill was a little in front, and General Sherbrooke, with the reserve, in and around San Antonio de A rrifana. The advance under Lieutenant-General Paget occupied the ground between Grijo and Souto Kedondo.
Hitherto nothing had struck me beyond the ordinary attendants of war; but at Albergaria Velha the violent animosity which prevailed between the French and the Portuguese, appeared but too plainly in the treatment which the former had given this unfortunate village. Indeed the conduct of the enemy and the state of this place, which they had just quitted, was really painful to think upon. Every house had been broken open, and every piece of furniture destroyed; every cask of wiu« which they could discover had Journal of the E>g/iti/-t/iirfl Regiment.
been slaved, and the liquor wasted. All the fowls, pigs, and cattle had been killed, and several limbs were yet lying in various quarters of the streets. Such were the barbarous and revengeful acts the French had been guilty of before they retreated. The Portuguese in return had wreaked their vindictive hatred on the dead Frenchmen, and so completely had they disfigured the inanimated bodies, that it was not easy to distinguish any one human feature.
Alhekoaiua Nova.—Albergaria Nova bore a still more desolate appearance. The houses had been destroyed, the doors, tables, shelves; and other wood-work, broken or burnt. The straw had been torn off the roofs, put in heaps and wantonly set on fire. Ashes, fragments of timber, furniture, &c, covered the fields for some distance around the village. Dead cattle, sheep, pigs, fowls, &c, appeared in the adjoining enclosures, while many more had been trampled and crushed under foot in the road. The miserable inhabitants lined the walls of their ruined habitations, and with tears of joy welcomed our arrival, and offered earnest prayers for our successful encounter with their destroying enemy, whom they assured us were hardly three leagues in advance.
Beyond this, in the woods around Pinheiro, a light-company officer of the Foot Guards, pointed out to me several dead bodies. Some were mutii lated and naked, others had still a portion of covering; the former were French whom the Portuguese had found wounded, and before the arrival of our troops, had deprived of life and disfigured. The latter were peasants belonging to the militia, whom the enemy took prisoners, and had the atrocity, subsequently, to hang as rebels; their backs and heads bore evident marks of blows and other ill treatment. One more especially, who was said to have been a priest, from whose face and head the skin had been stripped off and left hanging down the neck.
At Oliveira de Azemeis I left the main body and cut across the country, for Ovar, where I expected to rejoin General Cameron, but was disappointed, for the brigade had moved onwards.
The country between Azemeis and Ovar was one of the most rich and agreeable I had observed since leaving Coimbra; though the road I jour* neyed over, was rough and intricate, it was, withal, skirted by well cultivated grounds'and comfortable looking villages, the view from it was also delightful. To the northward, extensive groves crowned the heights of Corvo, while the nearer declivities were diversified with groups of fir trees. Westward was a lively and rich vegetable carpet; beyond every opening of which; might be viewed the ocean, save where some thick groves'of olive trees, whose dark foliage finely contrasted the azure blue of the sea, occasionally interrupted the prospect. To the southward, some gentle heights clad with forests of chestnut and other majestic trees, contributed to relieve the dismal prospect afforded by the rugged Serra de Alcoba. •>
from Ovar a traok led through a well wooded country to Feira, which is Tot. IV. No. 21 c
Journal of the Eighty-third Regiment.
the chief place of the most northern canton of Beira. This track, though forming a narrow road, is pretty level and well shaded with trees of forest growth.
Feira is a neat borough town, and of some importance both as to size and wealth. It is built near the Custos rivulet, and on a table hill, a short distance off, stands a solid and respectable looking castle. The place likewise boasts a tine palace and several handsome stone houses.
It was on this day that the advanced division under Lieutenant-General Paget, fell in with the enemy on the heights of Grijo, a barren and wild range, whose summits have no other covering than a sickly yellow weed. Towards the east, another desolate chain of hills rear their lofty cragged summits. Westward is the sea, separated from this poor tract by some green plots of ground: in which direction, indeed, great part of the land appeared well cultivated, though a few shelvy heights planted with fir trees still broke the face of the tilled plain.
Notwithstanding that the encounter on the heights of Grijo was rather unexpected, the result was fortunate: and though this division, owing to the neglect of supplying the army with guides, wandered from the road destined for it, and had very nearly fallen on that of General Hill, it no sooner discovered the enemy, than it charged and routed them.
The force of this division, including the Portuguese regulars attached to it, consisted of about 6000 infantry, 800 cavalry, and two brigades of artillery; that of the French was nearly equal. . A squadron of the 20th Light Dragoons boldly pursued as far as the village of Grijo, and sabred several of the enemy. The 16th regiment of Portuguese infantry, commanded by Lieuttenant-Colonel Doyle, and a squadron of Portuguese cavalry gained credit by a, bold and dashing charge they respectively made on the enemy's line during this engagement. After the action the British advance occupied the skirts of Carvalhos.
This attack so discouraged the French, that they retired the same day on Oporto, and immediately set fire to the bridge of boats which communicated across the River Douro between Villa Nova and Oporto city.
There is nevertheless no doubt that had the enemy known our numbers were so near their own, they would have made a stouter resistance; and as the roads by which their troops retreated, and through which our cavalry pursued, were narrow and lined with high and thick hedges raised on solid embankments, they would either have placed an ambush or attacked our horse, in which case the squadron that charged up the road would most certainly havebeeu totally destroyed. On this account some have censured the officer who directed this apparently rash advance of the dragoons.
I know not exactly at whose door blame lies for suffering the army to move from Coimbra before guides were appointed to conduct the heads of columns; and it is not a little surprising that such inconvenience as the lost of roads was not provided against, when it might have been remembered that