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Operations of Sir David Baird's Division.
allowances were obtained with tbe greatest difficulty. Different reasons were assigned for the tardiness in granting the supplies; some reported that our Spaniards did not want British infantry, only the cavalry, but that our government objected to send the latter alone. Others reported, that the Spaniards never required any military aid from us of men ; others, that Sir Thomas Dyer was told by the Junta of Oviedo to send them men; but as there did not then exist any Supreme Junta, the other Juntas were not consulted, and a British army was in the country perfectly unknown to them, and totally unexpected.
The army with Sir David Baird reached Lugo on the 15th of November, after a tedious march of four days, and then continued moving forward to Astorga, which was considered as the advanced post. Lord Paget and the cavalry had also arrived at Com una, and were proceeding to the body of the army; the different columns passed Lugo, and the cavalry aud artillery were on the way to it. At this time there ■was no spare ammunition with the advanced corps, a most unpardonable negligence. Sir John Moore had reached Salamanca with his advanced guard on the 13th of November, and by occupying Zamora, approached the Corunna army.
The road from Lugo was the great line of communication to Madrid, and of course generally good. Difficulties, however, increased. The English horses, from bad management, or some other cause, were unable to drag the waggons over the roads, and dead horses continually presented themselves on the road side. On commencing these remarks, I had determined to have avoided entering into circumstances which might attach blame to any particular individuals, but I really should consider myself an unfaithful narrator if I omitted the following obserration, which was made by a Staff-Officer on his march from Lugo to Villa Franca. "As our army advanced towards the em my, it was essentially necessary there should be abundance of ammunition. This was neglected, and the officer under whose cognizance this duty was placed, in an explanation, stated that he thought the ammunition had been pushed forward long since; he had been told so, but they deceived him. The insufficiency of the Commissariat Department in the march from Lugo was most conspicuous: Lugo was, on account of its situation and size, fixed upon as a depot for horse*, and a halting place for troops to recover themselves from the fatigues of a march. This depAt was left without a regular Commissary, without any, except Medical, Staff Officer, either to direct in quartering the troops, or to find tlieirt provision. Early after, part of the army landed at Corunna ; officers who could speak the Spanish language were appointed as interpreters to the Commissaries. An Officer, a Captain of grenadiers, was put in orders, and hurried away by the Assistant-Commissary-General to St. Jago with vague instructions. On his arrival at St. Jago he was ordered across the conutry to Lugo, and this gentleman continued at Operations of Sir David Baird's Division.
that place, and was the only person who directed the issue of provisions and forage, and the quartering of the troops; fortunately he was an active intelligent Officer, and acquitted himself highly to his credit; but although he affected improbabilities, much was left undone. I am not willing to accuse any body individually for the misconduct, ignorance, and imbecility of a part; but the Commissariat Department was eertaiuly ill managed. At the halting places, where the wearied soldier expected to find some little comfort, some provision reac|y on his arrival after a long march, was obliged frequently to go without, and lay himself down any where. If arrangements had been made, no one was. present to see them executed. All was left to the alcade,—the furnishing provisions to hungry soldiers, the forage for the cattle,—all was left to a slothful, ignorant, and frequently knavish Spaniard. It appears to me that they have acted on theoretic knowledge."
Part of the road from Lugo to Villa Franca is hilly. On leaving Con•tantine, a small village about half way, the troops had to ascend a hill, at least four miles in length, aud generally steep. Eight horses were "obliged to be yoked to each artillery and ammunition waggon, and, by dint of exertion and time, contrived to reach Herrereas, a small village, four leagues distant from Constantine.
About the 18th of November 'the position of the army, with the advance somewhat beyond Astorga, and a tail of troops reaching to Corunna (upwards, of one hundred miles), became a matter of serious moment. No accounts had for some time been received from General Blake; and the British army had reason to expect he would not merely maintain his situation, having got Burgos and Bilboa, but act offensively against the French army. On this day an express arrived from the advanced post, with information that the French, with 23,000 infantry, and 2,000 cavalry, had, by a forced march, attacked Blake, and completely defeated him, dispersed his army, and were in possession both of Burgos and Bilboa, and that the French vyere pushing for Yalladolid, seventy miles from Salamanca. On the 13th Sir John Moore was informed that the French had possession of the last-mentioned city; on the 15th he had learnt the defeat of Count Belvedera's army, amounting to upwards of IS.OOO men; on the loth that of General Blake, and on the iilst the remaining Spanish army under General Custanos wati routed at Tuilela. The French forces in Spain, at this period, amounted to "3,000 men, and great reinforcements were expected.
■ About the 24th, a sudden change took place ; the retreat of Sir David Baird's army was hastily formed from Astorga. The next day all description of troops and stores were halted, and directed to continue in statu quo; another twenty-four hours brought directions for the cavalry to advance, and take up, by forced marches, their original route. Sir John Moore had received intelligence that the French were advancing on Madrid, and that the capital had taken up arms, and refused to capis Operations of Sir David Baird's Division.
filiate. He therefore directed Sir David Baird to discontinue his retreat, and to send on cavalry to Zancora. The intention of Sir John Moore was to relieve Madrid; and, on the 13th of December, he commenced his march from Salamanca, hoping, by this movement, to threaten the communication between France and Madrid. On the following day some intercepted dispatches from Buonaparte to Marshal Sotflt informed him of the surrender of Madrid, which induced Sir John Moore to an immediate change of his route. He had directed Sir David Baird to proceed to Benevento, and, instead (sc marching to Valladolid, Sir John moved.on to Toro, where he arrived on the l6th. Sir David Baird was now but thirty miles distant. On the '20th Sir John arrived at Maynga, and a junction with Sir David Baird was formed the same day. The forces amounted to 24,000 infantry, and about 2,500 cavalry. On the 21st, after a gallant attack made on 700 French cavalry, at Sahagun, by the 7th dragoons, in which Lord Paget particularly distinguished himself, the army proceeded to Sahagun. Sir John Moore's first intention was to attack Snult, who had concentrated himself at Saldana, with a very inferior force, and which was much wished for by the Marquis de la Roinana, who was at Leon. During the night of the 23d, when every preparation was made fora march, and for an attack on the following morning, information was received of reinforcements, to a great amount, having arrived at Carrion; that a French corps had halted at Salamanca: and that the enemy were advancing from the side of Madrid. Immediate orders were issued for the retreat: Sir David Baird's army was directed to retreat by Valencia de St. Juan, but, owing to the want of sufficient boats to transport the troops across the river, at a ferry near that place, he was obliged to retreat by Bcnevente. Generals Hope and Fraser reached the lastmentioned place on the 26th, and Sir John Moore, with the remainder of the forces, followed the route of those two Generals, viz. through Mayorga and Valderas.
'The retreat ofthe enemy continued with great rapidity, and brigade* progressively retraced their route towards Corunua. Frequently marches iff six or seven leagues were made in a day, by divisions of from seven to ten thousand men, a distance nearly equal to ^thirty-two miles, in bad weather, and in horrid roads. The money in casks was bandied about, under any sort of guard ;—casks broken,—no one to take charge, no one knowing the contents, and casks marked 5,000 containing 5,300. It was considered most convenient to embark at Vigo, and to that place, through St. Jago, it was proposed to make the line of march: but very different was the reception the troops received on returning to their former quarters, to that which they experienced whilst on the advance. The slothful luxurious monks of Sobrado turned their backs upon them, and forgot all the respect due to strangers, and to men who, from the motives of their visiting Spain, were entitled to attention, hospitality, and Operations of Sir David Baird's Division.
respect from the nation. At St. Jago the reverse was, if possible, 'still greater: with difficulty billets 1>~ officer* were obtained; and frequently the fatigued and wearied officers, after a long- march, were driven from the inhospitable roof with insult; the doors that flew open to receive them 011 the advance were closed with sullen violence.
The credulous Spaniards were accustomed, in the streets and in their houses, to assemble in parties, and, whilst one read the Madrid or Corunna Gazette, which contained more of invention than matter of fact, the rest laid down positions for their nominal armies, generally amounting to 400,009 men; and the French army, which they never admitted to exceed 50.000, were always being surrounded and annihilated. If the British officers attempted to describe the true state, they were disbelieved, and the Spaniards would only admit as fact such intelligence as was acceptable, and in their own favour.
The hasty order of retreat obliged the army to make some sacrifices: horses and ammunition were, in a great measure, destroyed; and although both Sir John Moore and Sir David Baird had given every' necessary order for the removal of the sick, it was found impossible, mA numbers were left behind.
The French pressed very hard on the rear of the forces at Astorga and Villa Franca, and some skirmishing took place. The British cavalry had a very contemptuous opinion of the French horse, and were continually anxious, and proposing to their officers to attack them. On the 4th of January the army retired to Lugo. The division which had marched for St. Jago were ordered to return, and the idea' was, that the army were to retire in one body. Sir John Moore's intention was, to assemble the whole army at this place; but Lieutenant-General Fraser's division, being the most in advance, did not arrive till the 7th, when the French were rapidly approaching, and the commissary stores were completely ex.. hausted. Sir John Moore, however, offered the enemy battle on the following day, but could not bring them to an action. The distresses of the troops, in having no supplies, obliged him to proceed on his rv» treat, and on the eighth, at night, it again commenced. Vigo and Corunna were alternately fixed upon as the places of embarkation. At the former the transport: awaited for the troops, but its distance from, Lugo being much greater than that of Corunna, and the impossibility of retreating with the artillery much farther, obliged Sir John Moore, who expected an attack before he could embark,-to fix upon Corunna. An immediate order was dispatched, directing the 'transports to remove to that harbour. They arrived on the evening oftl.e 14th, and the embarkation was to have commenced the next day. In the. morning the movements ofthe French indicated their intention of attacking us, and to prevent our embarkation. Sir John Moore immediately determined to give them battle, and the whole day was spent in arrangements for that purpose. On the lCth the attack v, as made by the enemy, who Operations of Sir David Baird's Division.
were most gallantly repulsed, but not without much loss on our side. Sir John Moore fell a sacrifice, at the head of his troops, whilst nobly conducting the affair; and Sir David Baird, who had taken up a position on the outskirts of Corunna, had his arm shattered to pieces. The command now devolved upon General Hope, and the troops were directed immediately to embark, which the greater part of them effected during the same night, and the remainder early on the following morning.
To enter into the particulars of the brave and gallant Sir John Moore, and his last engagement, would be unnecessary. Details have been published, calculated to explain every action which guided his movements in the advance and retreat. I have no hesitation in saying, that such is my estimation of the abilities of Sir John Moore, that every thing which could be done for the honour of the country was; and I lament that this ill-fated expedition may, in some degree, diminish the lustre of his military character in the opinion of a few, who condemn the hasty retreat.
The conduct of the Spaniards .was generally inhospitable; but, on finding we had given up the affair, they were hostile. Much allowance may, however, be made. From the offensive conduct of some of our troops, individuals suffered; but the unanimous sentiment of antipathy, unci the> general disgust that was expressed, certainly must have arisen from the selfish, and, in many instances, inhuman treatment, from a part of our allies. Fearful of being obliged to receive the wet, hungry, wearied soldier, after a long march, they shut up their windows, and barred their doors; nor would they "reply to the in treaties of the poor soldiers, until they were forced, with their musquets, to force open the doors.
On the conduct of Sir David Baird, throughout this expedition, too great praise could not be bestowed; but I am well aware that any commendation I might make use of cannot add to the general approbation he has unequivocally acquired, or to the love borne to him both by officers and soldiers of the British army.
JOURNAL OF THE CAMPAIGN OF 1809.
May, 1809.—THE English army was assembled in Coimbra on the 1st and'3d of May, and it was generally given out that operations would immediately commence on the arrival of Sir Arthur Wellesley from England. He arrived about the noon of the 4d, and was received with the joy which his abilities and success had so well merited. All