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Mayor; and the reserve under Sir R. Spencer, remained at Portalegre. Meantime Blake threatened Seville and the French rear ; but Soult having sent a detachment against him, he embarked with his artillery for Cadiz, whence he sailed to join Freire's Spanish army in Granada. Lord Wellington, conscious that the enemy could not long provide for their forces in a state of concentration, resolved to await the period when they would be obliged to break up from the frontier of the Alentejo ; this they did about the middle of July, when Soult returned to Seville, and Marmont, re-crossing the Tagus, marched on Salamanca. Lord Wellington therefore, leaving Hill with the 3rd British, and a Portuguese division, and two brigades of cavalry, to guard the Alentejo—crossed the Tagus with the rest of his army, and fixed his head-quarters at Fuente Guinaldo. The troops remained in cantonments for a month, without being molested by the French.
But it is time now to give our readers an idea of the state of affairs in Spain. During the summer of 1811, that country seemed more quiescent and resigned to French rule. Joseph remained at Madrid, but all his efforts to reconcile the people to his usurped sway, were vain. Oppression ground them down, and Joseph, having none of his brother’s genius and firmness, could not put a stop to the course of cruelty and rapine carried on by his generals. The efforts of Suchet, now chief commander in Spain, seemed to be attended with temporary success. Arragon appeared quiet ; Tarragona, the last fortress of Catalonia, had fallen-its garrison had fled from the assault, and Suchet, under the pretext of terrifying the insurgents by a fierce example, committed the most atrocious enor
mities. Conceiving that Catalonia was now subjugated, though the guerilla bands still lurked in the mountain fastnesses, and the bold and able Sarsfield was watching for an opportunity of directing them against the French troops,-Suchet next advanced into Valencia, defeated several detachments of the Spanish army, and on the 16th of October besieged Murviedro. At this stage, he was placed in a difficult position, for Blake, with a still numerous army was in front, and Muia, with other irregular chiefs, having entered Arragon, were cutting off the detachments in his rear. But disunion and jealousy prevented the guerilla chieftains from giving much trouble ; and Blake, having accepted battle on the 25th, was defeated, after the Spanish army had manifested more vigour and perseverance than usual in the field. Murviedro capitulated ; and Suchet, having been reinforced, compelled Blake's army to surrender. The French had now subdued Valencia and Estramadura, but still their condition was precarious ; every where the irregular chiefs surprised their detachments, and cut off their communications. The mountains of Catalonia were still held by a patriot army under Erolles, which even dared to penetrate beyond the French frontier, and raise contributions. Marmont had been compelled to recall Dorsenne from the invasion of Gallicia, in consequence of Lord Wellington's demonstrations against Ciudad Rodrigo. Victor was still besieging Cadiz ; and Ballasteros aided by a few British under Colonel Skerret, and protected by the guns of Gibraltar, after repeated failures, at length defeated a division of Soult's army, under General Godinot, with such disgrace, that that commander, rather than encounter the reproaches of his Emperor, put an end to his life.
All this while, the Cortes, instead of endeavouring to take active measures, wasted much precious time in useless wranglings, and speculative discussions. It was a fortunate thing that this imbecile, conceited, and almost useless collection of individuals had little weight throughout the country; for in most cases, their interference produced much more harm than good.
Lord Wellington having collected his army on the Coa, resolved to blockade Ciudad Rodrigo. The enemy hastened to concentrate their forces for its relief, by which the English commander gained two important objects ; Gallicia was freed from the enemy, and the French corps which had been sent into Navarre to put down the guerillas, from whom they still experienced much loss and annoyance, withdrawn. These had been Lord Wellington's main inducements to enter upon the blockade ; he was not yet prepared to besiege the fortress ; and on hearing of Marmont's approach, he prepared to abandon it, and assume a defensive position, which would give him time to ascertain the enemy's force, and so to regulate his future movements. As a point of support, therefore, whereby he might keep up a strong advanced corps as long as possible, he strengthened by field-works the heights before Guinaldo, and arranged his troops in such a manner that, if necessary, they might be readily concentrated in that position. The combined French force now amounted to 60,000 men, 6,000 of whom were horse ; while the allied army did not exceed 40,000, including 4,000 cavalry. On the 23rd September the enemy were seen near Ciudad Rodrigo, but again retired ; the next day a large convoy entered the town under their protection.
The allied army still remained in its position, and Marmont had no certain knowledge of the intentjons of the English commander, On the 25th, twenty squadrons of French cavalry, with a division of infantry and twelve guns, were seen in motion along the great road leading to Guinaldo. To meet these General Colville's brigade had scarcely taken up its position, when the enemy's guns opened a fierce cannonade, and the cavalry succeeded in driving back the Portuguese gunners from their posts. Their success lasted but a moment, for the 5th regiment, pouring in a brisk fire as they advanced, made a bayonet charge when within a few yards of the enemy; the guns were regained, and the French cavalry chased down the slope of the height, and across the ravine. The French, however, again charged the position of the 5th and 77th regiments ; but being met by a volley within a few paces, were driven off in confusion. In another part of the field, a few British and German squadrons of dragoons successfully opposed greatly superior numbers; but Lord Wellington having no desire that a general engagement should then take place, had ordered the divisions if hard pressed to retire on Guina!do ; a measure which was hastened by the sudden appearance of a column of French, who, hid by the inequality of the ground, had almost succeeded in turning the British right. Orders were therefore issued that the heights should be abandoned. As the troops proceeded, they were repeatedly charged by the French cavalry, who were on each occasion defeated. At one time two regiments were charged on three faces of the square at the same moment; but these, along with a Portuguese regiment, though repeatedly enveloped by the hostile cavalry, steadily con
tinued to retreat. Lord Wellington, whose purpose in fortifying Guinaldo had been fully answered, would now, but for various circumstances, one of which was a mistake in transmitting orders to the light division, have abandoned it. Picton and Cole were stationed there to protect the junction of Crawford's force ; and dispositions were made to receive Marmont, should he venture to attack the position. The whole of next day, however, he remained quiet, occupying himself in putting his troops through a variety of military evolutions, which they performed with such quickness and regularity as to excite the admiration of the British. Lord Wellington now withdrew his army to Alfayates, leaving his rear-guard at Aldea de Ponte.
Next day the enemy attacked this village, and twice succeeded in gaining it, but were as often driven back by the 4th division, who remained masters of this disputed post. At night the British retired farther back to a position on the heights beyond Soito, where the winding of the Coa gave protection to both flanks. Here Lord Wellington having attained stronger ground, offered battle ; but though the position was strong, and both flanks as we have observed, secured, still there was no avenue which permitted retreat, and had the enemy gained, their success must have been fatal to the British. Marmont, however, retired to Ciudad Rodrigo, where his army was separated into two divisions, one of which, under Dorsenne, returned to the north, while the other was in motion towards the pass of Banos and Pacentia. The British were cantoned, the head-quarters being at Frenada. While in the position we have noticed, Lord Wellington had the most serious difficulties to contend against. The Portuguese government entirely