Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

here notice, that from the beginning of the Peninsular war, Lord Wellington had uniformly refused to accept the emoluments attached to the dignities conferred on him by the Spanish and Portuguese governments, though these amounted to upwards of 17,000 dollars a year. The value of this honourable sacrifice, and disinterestedness, will be better understood when we mention that his pay as commander of the forces did not defray his expenses, while he had a family to maintain in England ; till the Parliament voted him the income and the grant to support his titles, he was really the poorer for having served. Nor must we omit to mention that he spent a great deal of money in charity ; and that during the invasion of Portugal in 1810, he contributed most liberally from his private resources to the relief of distress and misery. It is therefore satisfactory to find that in January, 1813, his income was materially enlarged by the appointment of Colonel of the Blues, or Royal Horse Guards ; which, like all his other honours and emoluments, was unsolicited, and afforded him peculiar pleasure.“ So far," says one of his biographers, was he from making a high and vain estimate of his services and claims, that, when he announced his appointment at his own table, he exclaimed with the liveliest joy, “I am the luckiest fellow in the world, I must have been born under some extraordinary planet.”

During the winter, some reinforcements arrived from England, particularly cavalry, of which there was great want. At this time, with providence and forethought, Wellington bent his attention to the better equipment and organization of his army. He caused the large iron camp kettles to be disused, and the mules employed in their carriage to be appointed to the conveyance of three tents for a company ; so that the men off duty had provided for them a cover in the field ; speed and comfort also were gained in preparing the food, by issuing to the men small tin kettles, one to each six, which could be carried in turn on the top of a knapsack, and dividing the companies into small messes ; alterations which conduced much to the health and comfort, and consequent efficiency of the troops. A pontoon train was likewise prepared to accoinpany the army on its line of march the following campaign. We mention these things as illustrating the constant attention paid by Wellington to the interests and efficiency of his soldiers.

To facilitate necessary arrangements, Marquis Wellington went to Cadiz to communicate in person with the Spanish government. Here he was received in a becoming manner. In the first instance, he was waited upon by a deputation from the Cortes ; and when he afterwards entered their hall in the Spanish uniform, they greeted him with loud acclamations ; and shewed the greatest joy and satisfaction when he replied to their address in their own language. His visit appeared to succeed in promoting that good understanding and cordial union between himself and the Spanish executive, which were of so much consequence to the common cause ; and they promised him the co-operation of 50,000 Spanish soldiers. He returned to the army by Lisbon, where he had also a most distinguished reception ; as he rode along the streets, the greatest enthusiasm was manifested. The city was illuminated for three nights. He was received with every possible mark of respect by the Lords and Regent of the Kingdom, in the palace of government, where an entertainment was given him. He appeared in the great theatre of San Carlos, crowded to the roof with spectators, and the applause and shouts were almost unbounded.

CHAPTER XII.

Napoleon's declining power—Movements of the Allies

Passages of the Carrion and the Ebro--Battle of Vittoria --Its results-Siege of St. Sebastian-Soult's endeavours to relieve Pampeluma-Operations among the Pyrenees

-Storming of St. Sebastian-Operations on the Frontier. Upon reflection, it will appear probable, that even though Napoleon, at peace with the other nations of Europe, had been able to bend his whole attention to the subjugation of the Peninsula, he would not eventually have succeeded in his object. The resources of the seat of war were so exhausted as not to furnish subsistence either for the invading, or the defending army. The provinces were no longer tilled by the agriculturalists, when the fruit of his labours was wrested from him by armed men; the cattle had been driven away up the mountains, the great mass of the population had seized the musket and the knife, to wage a war of extermination against the invader.

It was absolutely necessary for the security of the French, to employ numerous armies, to keep up a strong unbroken line of communication throughout the country and Bayonne ; so long as they could. do this, the British army did not seem to have made much progress towards the liberation of Spain. But their diffusion of force was pregnant with in

jury to the French--of course the wider they extended their line, it was proportionably weakened. They could not be present at all points in sufficient force to put down resistance ; no sooner was the insurrection crushed in one district, than it burst forth in another. To procure sustenance also, they were compelled to diminish their forces, and narrow their schemes of conquest. The British, however, --no doubt at great trouble and cost-by having Lisbon and Oporto open, could procure supplies. Wellington, therefore, saw that if the contest was prolonged, the time would come when he should meet his opponent on more equal terms, conduct his manoeuvres on a larger scale, and enter upon a course of more brilliant and extended operations. That period came at last. The recent events in Europe, the wreck of Napoleon's army in the Russian retreat-had shaken his empire ; and the hour of Spanish deliverance was nigh. For the main obstacle against which the British had struggled so nobly was the constant influx of reinforcements, which made up to the French for the loss of each successive' defeat—like the fabulous Hydra,—no sooner was one head cut off than another grew. One disastrous defeat sustained by Wellington might not have been remedied by the whole available resources of England ; while fresh supplies of what the unfeeling Corsican called “food for cannon,” could be poured by thousands into Spain. But these supplies were now closed up, and so far from being able to send reinforcements, Napoleon's necessities compelled him to withdraw 20,000 of the troops already in Spain. The vengeance he had so richly merited, overtook him amidst the flames of Moscow; and leaving the relics of his gallant army to fall among the snows, with only a single attentdant, he fled in a sledge from the scene of horror. Prussia seized the opportunity to throw off his yoke; all the strength he could collect was needed for the struggle in Germany.

But though Soult had been recalled to Germany, there were still above 150,000 French troops in Spain ; and though a great number of these were dispersed in garrisons, and throughout Catalonia and Valencia, a force of 70,000 was ready to take the field against the allied army in the spring of 1813. Marshal Jourdan commanded it; and King Joseph, who did not judge it safe to remain in his capital, accompanied him. The head-quarters were at Valladolid. Towards the end of May, Marquis Wellington, who had received large reinforcements and supplies from England, including several regiments of cavalry, took the field at the head of the allied army of 80,000 men; but of these the Spaniards were still in a state of the most wretched equipment and discipline. “The position of the allies,” says an able military writer, - thus formed an extensive semicircle around that of the enemy, and the latter perhaps conceived that by the rapid movements of their concentrated forces, they would be enabled for a time at least, to baffle the manouvres of an enemy acting on a line so extended. It was evident, however, from the preparatory arrangements of the French during the past winter, that their views were chiefly directed to the defence of the Douro. The ground on the northern bank of that river, naturally strong, had been fortified at every assailable point by works and intrenchments; and with such advantages of situation, with a deep and rapid river covering their front, little doubt was entertained that an insuperable

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »