Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

On the 8th October, Lord Wellington went to Lisbon, and was absent from Badajos till the end of the month. This visit had an important object in view :, he carefully examined and surveyed the country in front of the capital, for the purpose of constructing the famous lines of Torres Vedras, by which he was enabled, with very inferior forces, to beat back the French, and stem the tide of invasion. He returned to head-quarters without disclosing his intention at that period, and soon after made another short journey. He accompanied Marquis Wellesley to Cadiz, on his embarkation for England. His remonstrances were now more effectual ; supplies and clothing were conveyed to the army : the weather also, though cold, was much improved, and the soldiers generally enjoyed good health. Their commander was much occupied at this perlod, by civil and other business ; yet he was duly careful of his own health, took relaxation and diversion, and daily went out to shoot upon the plains. One day of almost princely sport was held in the park of Villa Viciosa, a hunting place of the Portuguese kings ; one wild boar and twenty-five head of deer was the proceeds of the amusements. “ Lord Wellington,” says an observer," was always gay and good-humoured with those about him, inspiring others with the same confidence which he evidently felt himself.”

On the 15th December the army broke up its cantonments on the Guadiana, and removed to near the Coa. The French were now evidently preparing to invade Portugal, and already threatened the frontier fortress of Cuidad Rodrigo. While the army crossed the Tagus, Lord Wellington again visited Lisbon, and inspected the positions near the capital, and gave his final orders for the construc.

tion of the works, riding over the range of hills to select his line of defence. Having fixed the general points, and marked the outline, he cornmitted the execution of his plans to Lieutenant Colonel Fletcher, a competent and able officer. The headquarters of the army was established at Vizen.

CHAPTER IX.

British head-quarters fixed at Vizen-Arrangement of the

forces-Motions of Beresford and Hill--Junot advances upon Astorga--Battle of Busaco—Movements of the opposing armies-Portugal abandoned by the French-March to Lisbon--Sufferings of the Portuguese. A ROYAL decree issued at Lisbon on the 23rd of November, 1809, and dated at Rio Janeiro, the July preceding, appointed Lord Wellington Marshal-Ġeneral of the Portuguese army-enjoining the Regency to consult with him on important matters-and giving him the chief authority in military arrangements, together with considerable influence in civil and financial affairs. No chief had ever before shewn himself more deserving of such confidence from a foreign government ; none, by the moral influence of his character, had given such security that it would be used aright. Throughout all his varied life, Wellington's conduct has ever been a model of perfect disinterestedness ; his greatest opponent could never lay to his charge one act of rapacity, or needless severity ; his virtues have been followed by blessed results—his laurels are pure and unstained.

With the confidence of a great mind, he took

upon himself the charge and heavy responsibility of defending Portugal, looking forward without dismay to the issue of the contest. He had the satisfaction to find that his suggestions were adopted, and that he enjoyed the good-will, and respect of all classes.

The Portuguese army, in all other respects but the commissariat, was rapidly assuming a new appearance, under the instructions of British officers —but that one evil was nearly enough to paralyze the efficiency of the whole ; yet by Wellington's anxious endeavours, much was done to correct and ameliorate it.

We have already mentioned that the British head-quarters were at Vizen, on the 10th of January, 1810. The army was so stationed as to occupy the strong and rugged line of the Beira frontier ; the troops were placed in cantonments with an especial view to the preservation of their health and discipline. In Catalonia, the Spaniards still met with reverses ; Blake was defeated by Suchet with great loss—his artillery being taken, and 4,000 prisoners made. Gerona, however, sustained a noble defence against its beseigers ; after six months' endurance of grievous suffering from famine, sickness, and the sword, its brave garrison were compelled to submit. The Spaniards had suffered more from the misfortune of Ocana, than from any previous defeat. The French were pressing vigorously upon them ; they had forced the passes of the Sierra Morena, almost without resistance ; occupied Andalusia, made their way into Seville, and had only been prevented from seizing Cadiz, by the able movements of the Duke de Alberquerque. The supreme junta had become highly unpopular, and were at length compelled to resign ; they did not, however, vacate their office until they had appointed a regency, and called upon the Cortes to assemble. The seat of the new government was necessarily fixed at Cadiz, almost the last asylum of Spanish liberty, and its authority scarcely extended beyond the isle of Leon ; for with the exception of Gallicia in the north, and Valencia in the south, and Catalonia, where the enemy were seizing fortress after fortress, the French were, at least nominally, in possession of the Peninsula. Things might have been otherwise, if the English army, so ignobly and unprofitably wasted at Walcheren, had been sent to Spain.

We extract from Captain Sherer's work, the following clear account of the position of the British and Portuguese

“ While Wellington’sown quarters were at Vizen, his advance division lay in front of Almeida, and patroled as far as Ciudad Rodrigo. His cavalry, with the exception of the brigade furnishing relief to the outposts, lay in good cantonments in the rear ; while the other divisions of infantry were so disposed, that the two great roads that pierce the mountainous regions of Beira, were effectually guarded ; and these divisions were placed moreover, in so clear and judicious a connection, that they could readily be assembled at any point which the enemy should seriously menace, or which the general might choose for a demonstration on the frontier. The park of artillery was at head-quarters. All these troops were comfortably quartered, the weather was favourable, and provisions wholesome and abundant. While Lord Wellington, with the main body of his forces, observed all the country between the Douro and the Tagus, General Hill was posted south of this last river, with a di

vision of infantry, and another of Portuguese, to watch the corps of Mortier and Regnier, who held the upper Estråmadura, having their head-quarters at Merida, and patroled in force towards the frontier of Alentejo. Romana, who, withdrawing from Seville when the French passed the Sierra Morena, had thrown himself into Badajos, just in time to save it from the corps of Mortier, was still in that place, and in regular communication with Hill. Elvas was respectably garrisoned ; but though General Hill kept his head-quarters usually at Portalegre, having a battalion advanced towards Albuquerque, and patroling to the Spanish frontier, yet his main position was at Abrantes.

“ The head-quarters of Marshal Beresford, and the Portuguese, were at Thomar ; they consisted of twenty-four regiments of the line, six of light infantry, and ten of cavalry, with a due proportion of artillery. Their effectivestrength was about 31,000 ; but of this number many regiments were not yet sufficiently trained to act with the army, and remained therefore in garrison. Such brigades as were best disciplined, were placed in British divisions ; where, among English troops, it was rightly judged, they would feel a greater confidence, and a more noble emulation Lord Wellington's personal activity, both of body and mind, during the long period in which the troops lay still and undisturbed, was incessant. Early in February, having visited his advanced divisions, he went to Lisbon, and again examined his lines with care. Ten thousand labourers were at work upon them. He returned about the middle of the month, in high health and spirits, spoke not a word about the lines, only there went forth a report, which was not of course discouraged by the general, that the idea of forming

« ForrigeFortsett »