Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

the voice of the country: £100,000 were voted for the relief of the suffering Portuguese, and large private subscriptions raised for the same purpose ; by which timely aid the lives of thousands were preserved, many of whom fought in their country's cause, and contributed to repel the invader. In Portugal, Lord Wellington issued a proclamation warning the people to prepare against further efforts of the French-recommending that each man should accustom himself to the use of arms—that places of safety and refuge be prepared in each district-that all valuables be concealed-and such stores of provisions as could not be removed, or secreted, destroyed. If these instructions should be faithfully adhered to, he told them that no doubt would exist as to the issue of the contest.

After defeating Mendizabal, Soult pressed the siege of Badajos with increased vigour. It was garrisoned by 9,000 men; but General Menacho who had conducted the defence with much energy, was killed by a cannon-shot ; and his successor was a man of less bravery and decision. Soult at length succeeded in taking the place ; the garrison surrendered as prisoners of war. Campo Mayor and Albuquerque next fell.

Meanwhile active operations took place in the south west of Spain. A combined body of Spaniards and British, marching northward from Gibraltar, approached the south-western extremity of the line occupied by the French in the siege of Cadiz. This force was commanded by General Graham. At noon, on the 5th of March, after a long march, intelligence was received of the advance of a French corps. General Graham knew that the heights of Barrossa, which he had just left, were the key of the position, he immediately countermarched his troops, and had gone but a little distance, when he found himself close upon the enemy, whose left division was seen ascending the hill of Barrossa, while their right stood on the plain exposed to artillery. Retreat was impossible; Graham resolved, though unsupported by the Spaniards, and inferior in numerical strength to the enemy, immediately to attack the French, who suffered considerably from a battery which opened upon their right division ; still they continued to advance, but a bayonet charge drove them back with great slaughter. A similar conflict with the like successful issue took place with the other division on the ascent of the hill; both sides fought with courage, and both sustained a great loss ; the British 1,200, the French nearly double. The action lasted an hour and a half.

During this engagement the Spaniards under La Pena, remained inactive; had they pushed on, Victor must have been compelled to retreat. Graham was so enraged at this conduct that he crossed the Santi Petri next morning, resolving to proceed no farther. During this period the marines and seamen succeeded in dismantling the sea defences of the enemy from Rota to Santa Maria. Victor marched to Seville for reinforcements, leaving his force concentrated at Xeres ; and, in consequence of the supineness of the Spaniards, the want of harmony and union among the French generals alone afforded to the British an opportunity of escaping serious peril. His own countrymen disgusted at La Pena's conduct, appointed a Court of Inquiry, who convicted him of incapacity and want of enterprise.

The French, however, were now about to meet with more formidable opposition ; for Marshal Beresford was advancing with 22,000 men, directed to invest Badajos, before the garrison could complete their defences. He advanced on Campo Mayor which he reached by the 25th March ; and from a height

; at the distance of a mile, the French were observed running from the town, and hastily forming themselves into marching order, while a convoy of provisions and stores were seen approaching Badajos. Brigadier-General Long moved on the right flank of the enemy, while the 13th light dragoons, under Colonel Head, with some squadrons of Portuguese cavalry, drove back the French horse upon their infantry, which halted, formed a square, and compelled Head to retire. Both parties had a favourable ground for the exercise of military skill. Colonel Head even captured part of the convoy, but, wanting support, was compelled to relinquish it ; his men, who pursued the French to the walls of Badajos, sustained considerable loss by the fire of the cannon. Beresford now prepared to cross the Guadiana, which he did on rafts, and established his head quarters at a small village on the left of that river, where his troops we almost surprised by the French. He then took Olivença. Soon afterwards Lord Wellington arrived, reconnoitred Badajos, and ordered active operations to commence, for its recapture seemed essential to the success of his future plans, since it afforded protection to the French in the southern provinces, giving them the command of the most fertile part of Portugal, Nor could the British enter Spain in safety while the enemy held this formidable post on their flank. Wellington was now recalled to the north by Massena's movements, and Beresford commenced operations against Badajos on the 8th May. A breaching battery was erected, which produced little effect, as the guns being of brass, were made useless by the firing in a few hours. Fresh artillery was sent for ; but Soult's advance, at the head of a con. siderable force, compelled Beresford to relinquish the siege. Soult's object was to relieve Badajos, and he had drafted from various quarters large reinforcements. Nevertheless Beresford awaited him on the heights of Albuera. Of this battle, important in itself and in its consequences we shall extract Colonel Napier's animated and picturesque account.

“ The hill in the centre, commanding the Valverde road, was undoubtedly the key of the position, if an attack was made parallel to the front ; but the heights on the right presented a sort of table-land, bending backwards towards the Valverde road, and looking into the rear of the line of battle. Hence it was evident that, if a mass of troops could be placed there, they must be beaten, or the right wing of the allied army would be rolled up on the centre, and pushed into the narrow ravine of the Aroya. The Valverde road could then be seized, the retreat cut off, and the powerful cavalry of the French would complete the victory. Now the right of the allies, and the left of the French, approximated to each other, being only divided by a wooded hill, about cannon-shot distance from either, but separated from the allies by the Albuera, and from the French by a rivulet called the Feria. This height, neglected by Beresford, was ably made use of by Soult. During the night, he placed behind it the artillery under General Ruty, the fifth corps under Girarde, and the heavy dragoons under Latour Maubourg ; thus concentrating 15,000 men and 40 guns, within ten minutes' march of Beresford's right wing, and yet that general could neither see a man,

nor draw a sound conclusion as to the real plan of attack.

“ The light cavalry, the division of the 1st corps under General Werle, Godinot's brigade, and 10 guns, still remained at the French Marshal's disposal. These he formed in the woods extending along the banks of the Feria, towards its confluence 'with the Albuera ; and Godinot was ordered to attack the village and bridge, and to bear strongly against the centre of the position, with a view to attract Beresford's attention, to separate his wings, and to double up his right at the moment when the principal attack should be developed.

“ During the night, Blake and Cole arrived with above 16,000 men ; but so defective was the occupation of the ground, that Soult had no change to make in his plans from this circumstance, and a little before nine o'clock in the morning, Godinot's division issued from the woods in one heavy column of attack, preceded by ten guns. He was flanked by the light cavalry, and followed by Werle's division of reserve, and making straight towards the bridge, commenced a sharp cannonade, attempting to force the passage ; at the same time, Briche, with two regiments of hussars, drew further down the river, to observe Colonel Otway's horse.

“ The allies' guns on the rising ground above the village, answered the fire of the French, and ploughed through their columes, which were crowding without judgment towards the bridge, although the stream was passable, above and below. But Beresford, observing that Werle’s division did not follow closely, was soon convinced that the principal effort would be on the right ; and therefore sent Blake orders to form a part of the first and all the second line of the Spanish army on the broad part

« ForrigeFortsett »