went vigorously forward, though a thick fog came on, the small breach had been opened and the place was summoned, without effect. A sharp fire of musketry was kept up at night against the great breach ; and the riflemen of the light division, from the pits, marked off the enemy's gunners. Next day the cannonade was very hot on both sides, and large masses of the wall came down ; but several of the British guns were dismounted, the batteries injured, and many men killed. The riflemen in the pits were also much annoyed by grape ; but towards evening they made their superiority felt, the French could only fire from the more distant embrasures. On the 18th the besiegers resumed their fire with great violence. The turret was shaken at the small breach, the large one was practicable in the middle, and the enemy began re-trenching it; little progress however was made in the sap. On the 19th, the breaches being practicable, a plan of attack was drawn out, after Major Sturgeon had closely examined the place ; the assault was ordered, and the battering guns directed against the artillery of the ramparts.

The arrangements for the assault were as follows -Picton's division, comprising M‘Kinnon's and Campbell's brigades, to attack the main breach, preceded by a storming party ; while, to divert the garrison, O'Toole, with five companies of the rifles and the light companies of two regiments, made a demonstration on the right. The light division, Vandeleur's, and Barnard's brigades, to assault the smaller breach, headed by Napier's storming party of 300 men. And Pack's brigade was to make a false attack on the outworks of St. Iago, and the convent of La Caridada, with instructions to turn it into a real one, should circumstances permit.

“All the troops reached their different posts without seeming to attract the attention of the enemy; and before the signal was given, as Lord Wellington, who in person had been pointing out the lesser breach to Major Napier, was still at the convent of St. Francisco, the attack on the right commenced, and was instantly taken up along the whole line. Then the space between the army and the ditch was covered with soldiers, and ravaged by a storm of grape from the ramparts. The storming parties of the 3rd division jumped out of the parallel when the first shout arose, but so rapid had been the movements on their right, that before they could reach the ditch, Ridge, Dunken, and Campbell, with the 5th, 77th, and 94th regiments, had already scoured the fausse braye,' and were pushing up the great breach, amidst the bursting of shells, the whistling of grape and muskets, and the shrill cries of the French who were driven fighting behind the intrenchments. There however they rallied, and aided by the musketry from the houses, made hard battle for their post : none could go back on either side, and yet the British could not get forward, and men and officers, falling in heaps, choked up the passage, which from minute to minute was raked with grape, from two guns, flanking the top of the breach at the distance of a few yards ; thus striving and trampling alike on the dead and the wounded these brave men maintained the combat.

Meanwhile the stormers of the light division, who had three hundred yards to clear, would not wait for the hay-bags, but with extraordinary swiftness running to the crest of the glacis, jumped down the scarp, a depth of eleven feet, and rushed up the "fausse braye' under a smashing discharge of grape

and musketry. The bottom of the ditch was dark and intricate, and the forlorn hope took too much to their left; but the storming party went straight to the breach, which was so contracted that a gun placed lengthwise across the top nearly blocked up the opening. Here the forlorn hope rejoined the stormers, but when two-thirds of the ascent were gained, the leading men, crushed together by the narrowness of the place, staggered under the weight of the enemy's fire ; and such is the instinct of self-defence, that although no man had been allowed to load, every musket in the crowd was snapped. The commander Major Napier, was at this moment stricken to the earth by a grape shot which shattered his arm, but he called on his men to trust to their bayonets, and all the officers simultaneously sprang to the front, when the charge was renewed with a furious shout, and the entrance was gained. The supporting regiments coming up in sections, abreast, then reached the rampart, the 52nd wheeled to the left, the 43rd to the right, and the place was won. During this contest which lasted only a few minutes, after the 'fausse braye’ was passed, the fighting had continued at the great breach with unabated violence, but when the 43rd, and the stormers of the light division, came pouring down upon the right flank of the French, the latter bent before the storm ; at the same moment, the explosion of three wall magazines destroyed many persons, and the 3rd division with a mighty effort broke through the intrenchments. The garrison indeed still fought for a moment in the streets, but finally fled to the castle, where Mr. Gurwood, who, though wounded, had been amongst the foremost at the breach, received the Governor's sword.

“ The allies now plunged into the streets from all

quarters, for O'Toole's attack was also successful, and at the other side of the town, Pack's Portuguese, meeting no resistance, had entered the place, and the reserves also came in. Then throwing off the restraints of discipline, the troops committed frightful excesses. The town was fired in three or four places, the soldiers menaced their officers, and shot each other ; many were killed in the marketplace. Intoxication soon increased the tumult; disorder every where prevailed, and at last, the fury rising to an absolute madness, a fire was wilfully lighted in the middle of the great magazine, when the town and all in it, would have been blown to atoms, but for the energetic courage of some officers and a few soldiers who still preserved their



“ Of the French, 300 had fallen, 1,500 were made prisoners, and besides the immense stores of ammunition, above 150 pieces of artillery, including the battering-train of Marmont's army, were captured in the place. The whole loss of the allies, was about 1,200 soldiers and 90 officers, and of these about 650 men and 60 officers had been slain or hurt at the breaches. General Crawford and General MʻKinnon, the former a man of great ability, were killed, and with thein died many gallant men. General Vandaleur, Colonel Colborne, and a crowd of inferior rank, were wounded; and unhappily the slaughter did not end with the battle, for the next day as the prisoners and their escort were marching out by the breach, an accidental explosion took place, and nurnbers of both were blown into the



The capture of Ciudad Rodrigo was undoubtedly a most brilliant and important exploit. It was ta

* Napier's Peninsular War, Vo


ken in the depth of winter, and with a celerity which much astonished Marmont, who was at the very time collecting 60,000 men for its relief, confident of success, when he heard that the British standard already floated above its raraparts, that the trenches were filled, and the breaches repaired. On the 16th of January, he had thus written to Berthier :-" I had collected five divisions for the purpose of throwing supplies into Ciudad Rodrigo ; but this force is now inadequate for the object. am therefore under the necessity of recalling two divisions from the army of the north, I shali then have about 60,000 men, with whom I shall march against the enemy. You may expect events as fortunate as glorious to the French arms.” Four days after, he again wrote to announce his blasted hopes. “On the 16th, the English batteries opened their fire at a great distance. On the 19th the place was taken by storm, and fell into the power of the enemy. There is something so incomprehensible in this, that I allow myself no observation. I am not yet provided with the requisite information." These extracts of themselves form a sufficient eulogium upon Lord Wellington's skill, activity, and boldness.

The Spanish people shewed their sense of gratitude for this great service rendered to the national

In the churches of Cadiz, Te Deum was sung ; a vote of thanks to the British commander carried by acclamation in the Cortes ; and as a more permanent testimony of his merits, he was made a grandee of the first rank, with the title of Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo. In his own country and by his own government, Lord Wellington's services were justly appreciated. The British people saw

[ocr errors]


« ForrigeFortsett »