« ForrigeFortsett »
cause of Spain-while the authorities even France has produced. King Joseph's cabinet had, it seems, proposed to order one of its armies to occupy a position at a place called Milagro-no, says the Emperor,
at Madrid were more alarmed about Dupont in Andalusia-and Buonaparte is very angry that some reinforcements had been sent to the latter which might have reached the former.
You should occupy Tudela, because it is an honourable position, and Milagro is an obscure one.'-p. 331.
If General Dupont were to suffer a check, it would be of little consequence, and could have no other effect than obliging him to recross the mountains; whereas a blow directed against Bessières would strike the heart of the army, and be felt like a tetanus to all its extremities.
This anxiety about the moral character
The true way to reinforce General Dupont [in the south] is not to send him troops, but to send troops to Marshal Bessières [in the north]. General Dupont and Verdier have troops enough to maintain themselves in their intrenched positions; and if Bessières were reinforced, and the of a military position would seem extraSpaniards routed in Gallicia, Dupont would find himself in the best possible position, both by the vagant in any other man; but the truth reinforcements which might then be sent to him, is, that Buonaparte was well aware how and still more by the moral situation of affairs. much his reputation, and, consequently, There is not a citizen of Medina-not a peasant his power, were dependent on prestige, of the valleys, that does not feel that the whole delusion and stage-effect, and he was fate of Spain is to-day in the operations of Mar- anxious that despatches dated from im
shal Bessières. How unfortunate it is that in
this great concern you should have gratuitously given twenty chances against us!'-vol. i. p. 320.
portant places, such as Burgos and Tudela, should keep up in France, and throughout Europe, the idea that his position in Spain was firm and commanding.
And again he desires another army to take up a position at Burgos rather than Trevino, which had been proposed, be
Burgos is a position threatening, offensive,
honourable, whilst that of Trevino would be blind
and shameful (honteux et borgne.)'—p. 334.
We will here observe that Buonaparte Another paragraph of these notes is was in the habit of estimating the total important to a just appreciation of the chances of any object-say, at one hun-share which the British army had in the dred, and of proportioning off the chances subsequent successes. After recapitulatof success or failure at so much per cent.,ing all the events, the numbers and poin a style that seems to us somewhat pe-sitions of the French and Spanish armies, dantic, and, in spite of its affected preci- he concludes by saying, sion, very vague-as in this very instance: Bessières, he says, at Rio-Seco, had 75 chances for, and 25 against him: while Dupont, he says, with 21,000 men, would have 80 chances for, and only 20 against him.
What I have thus stated proves that the forces united would not be capable of defeating Spaniards are not to be feared: all the Spanish 25,000 French in a tolerable position.'-p. 338.
Now the result was the very reverse of Buonaparte's opinions, predictions, and calculations. Bessières, with 15 or 16,000 men, had more than enough; for Buonaparte afterwards admits that he had employed but 8000 in winning the great battle of Rio-Seco-which, though the success was more complete than could be ceedings in Spain these volumes contain hoped for, had very limited results: while only two documents, both dated from the Dupont, with more than the specified obscure position' of Chamartin, near force, instead of being in the best possible shal Ney, and the other to Mortier, in the 8th one to Marposition, was beaten, and, instead of re- which he criticises rather severely the crossing the Sierra, was forced to surren
At last, however, in November, 1808, the great man came to Spain himself, 'to. purge the Peninsula of the hideous presence of the leopards'-je les chasserai," said he, de la Péninsule!' but he soon abandoned that chasse to his lieutenants, his third Austrian war. and returned suddenly to Paris to conduct Of his own pro
der to Castaños-the single event which conduct of both, and particularly that of had the greatest influence on the ultimate Ney, with whom, says M. Belmas, he was destinies of the war. We are amused 'fort mécontent. In this letter he tells with a couple of instances of what the Ney, that
French used to call the 'lofty concep-the English are flying as fast as they can (@ tions of the Emperor,' but which seem to toutes jambes); but we have been for a moment us less characteristic of le plus grand Capin a serious position.'-p. 348. itaine, than of le plus grand charlatan that!
This 'serious position' must have been
the situation of the French prior to the tracing a plan for the ensuing campaign, passage of the Somo Sierra, when Ney had made a movement, with which Buonaparte now reproached him as a blunder which compromised for a moment the safety of the whole army. M. Belmas throws no light on a question which has always interested us, namely, why, just as Buonaparte had enveloped, as it were, Sir John Moore with three armies, each considerably greater than ours, and all capable of being united with an overwhelming superiority,, and with every prospect of a brilliant success against the English-why he should at that moment The loss of the Spaniards was so great that (1st January, 1809) have suddenly given it must be seen to be believed. I myself have over the command to Soult, and hastened gone over the field of battle to ascertain the facts. away to Paris. It is everywhere stated All the Spanish battalions which General that this was in consequence of intelli-line or in columns, are still lying there in the same Cuesta had stationed to oppose us, whether in gence received at that date of the prepa- order. Every man, officer, and soldier was rations of Austria; but pressing as that killed! I at first stated their loss at from 10,000 danger might be, it does not appear to to 12,000 killed; I now believe it was more. have been so extremely urgent as not to All my staff have seen it as well as myself. But have allowed him a week or ten days for you must not suppose that this was a massacre of an object of such importance to his cause, last extremity, exclaiming No quarter. prisoners; no, they defended themselves to the The and such éclat to his personal glory as a sight of the field of battle is really frightful.'-victory over the English army would p. 372. have been, particularly as we find that he did not leave Paris for the Austrian campaign before the 18th February. Our conjecture is, that he foresaw that he could not force the British to a battle before they reached Corunna, and that there he could be by no means sure of a victory, and was therefore not unwilling to escape, de sa personne, from a doubtful operation, in which he could not count upon having ninety-nine chances' for himself. Yet if he had persevered and succeeded, it might have had a more lasting influence on his fortunes than even the wonderful triumphs of that Austrian campaign-England would probably have abandoned the Peninsula, and WELLINGTON not have marched from Lisbon to Paris!
In a letter, dated Paris, 31st August, 1809, Buonaparte criticises pretty severely the conduct of Soult, Victor, Jourdan, and, in short, of every body in the campaign of Talavera, and disapproves, of course, not only the mode in which that battle was fought, but its being fought at all, when there were only '50,000 French to 30,000 English, who have thus been allowed to brave the whole French army. A battle never should be fought unless you have three-fourths of the chances in your favour.'-p. 405.
In a letter of the 31st January, 1810, in
The Emperor considers that there is nothing in Spain dangerous but the English; that all the rest is canaille, that can never keep the field.'p. 423.
We find, however, in these volumes one instance, at least, of a pitched battle, in which the Spaniards, though miserably beaten, deserve more honourable mention. Marshal Victor, two or three days after his victory of Medellin (28th March, 1809), writes to King Joseph :
Such steady bravery is admirable; but much more astonishing is the alleged fact, that the death of these 12,000 heroes, the capture and utter dispersion of the rest of the Spanish army, cost the French but 340 men killed and wounded!
But though the Spaniards were thus powerless in the field, their defences of their towns exhibit the highest degree, not merely of courage and enthusiasm, but of skill and ability. The details given by M. Belmas of the well-known sieges of Saragossa and Girona are exceedingly interesting, and raise, if possible, the reputation of those wonderful defences; and particularly that of Don Mariano Alvarez, the Governor of Girona, whose resistance, though less romantic, and therefore less celebrated, was even more obstinate, and, in the loss incurred by the French, more important, than that of Saragossa. It lasted nine months, during which the French fired 11,910 bomb-shells, 7984 howitzershells, and 80,000 cannon-balls. Of a garrison of 10,000, and a population of 20,000, one-half perished by famine, sickness, and the sword.
The siege cost the French at least as dear. M. Belmas admits their loss to have been 15,000; but this must be far short of the mark, for we have the evidence of General Verdier, commanding
the besieging army himself, that on the fused, he gives him notice that 'rather than continue in a command where his honour and character are compromised, he will go into the hospital as a private soldier.' But a wound in an officer's character not being an hospital case, he could not, we presume, find refuge there; and we see by Gouvion's report to the minister of war, that the dissatisfied general took French leave, and quitted the Gouvion writes to the
21st of September, three months before the capture of the place, his own division of the army, which was specially employed in the siege, had already lost 12,000 men (Vol. ii. p. 769); and this is subsequently repeated by Augereau :
• This division has suffered greatly, as well by the enemy's fire as by sickness, to such a degree, that, of 17,000 men, with which it began the siege, it has to-day (28th September) but 5,000 army altogether. left.'-Augereau to the Minister of War, vol. ii. minister of war:— p. 810.
• Fornells, 24th September, 1809. I have the honour to announce to your ex
But we notice this siege more particu-cellency, and with the greatest regret, the delarly as exhibiting some instances of that parture of General Verdier, in spite of everything incredible insubordination which Buona- I could do to retain him, in order to avoid the ill parte seems to have tolerated (and tole- effects which this evidence of his discouragement ration with him was encouragement) might have on the troops of his division; as had amongst his generals. The fact is so cu- been the case on the retirement of Generals Ma rious, that every fresh example which rio and Lechi, who have left the army during the siege, and whose departure has been as pernicious emerges is worth notice. are gradually increasing. It was in vain that I on the spirit of the army as the diseases which earnestly pressed Generals Verdier, Sanson, and Taviel to continue at least the appearance (simulacre) of a siege,' &c.-vol. ii. p. 787.
This command before Girona was very
The general of division, Count Gouvion St. Cyr, commanded in chief the army, under whose protection the first corps, headed by the general of division, Count Verdier, was charged with the immediate operations against the town. Verdier, however, began by declaring (28th March) unpopular; for Marshal Augereau, who that he could not undertake the siege with had been nominated to relieve Gouvion, so small an amount of force as Gouvion was detained at Perpignan by a fit of the had assigned to him, and he appealed to gout, which Gouvion, no doubt, thought Buonaparte direct against the decision of to be a pretence; for he-Gouvion-also the commander-in-chief. Buonaparte di- left his army without leave or licence, rected that Verdier's demand should be and came to Perpignan to hasten his succomplied with, and the siege proceeded; cessor, which, not being able to do so by but this appeal of Verdier's produced fur- persuasion, he at length was obliged to ther differences, which, Verdier alleged, constrain him (le contraindre) to proceed went so far, that Gouvion wished to pre- to the army by suddenly (brusquement) vent the capture of the place; but this quitting Perpignan on the 5th of October, charge was, we suppose, unfounded. At and withdrawing (se refugiant) to his own length, on the 19th September, after six home in the interior of France, as a primonths of operations, and after one hun-vate gentleman-leaving the marshals, dred and five days of open trenches, an as- the generals, the besiegers, and the besault was made, but so gallantly and effect- sieged to settle their matters as they best ually repulsed, that the French were for- might. ced to turn the siege into a blockade, and once Augereau's gout and Verdier's fever, trust to the powerful' auxiliaries of time, and they both immediately joined the fever, and famine' for the eventual cap-months' further siege and blockade, took army before Girona, and, after a three ture of the place. Upon this
Gouvion's secession cured at
the town by famine and capitulation. We General Verdier, who had been already in. have no trace of the Emperor's decision disposed with a fever (?), and was desperately on this series of squabbles, and we supmortified, both by this failure and by his differ- pose he treated them as he did the disences with General Gouvion, withdrew himself sensions between Massena and Ney in (se refugia) to Perpignan, and the two generals the campaign of 1811, of which M. Belmade mutual complaints to the emperor.'-vol. ii. p. 612. mas gives the following account :
'Marshal Ney, who had been from the com(scission) with the general-in-chief (Massena), mencement of the campaign in open difference positively refused to obey his orders, for mainon's permission to retire, and being re-taining a menacing position at Guarda] preferring
Verdier not only withdrew himself without leave but against orders; for he asked, under colour of his fever, Gouvi
Celorico, 22d March, 1811, eleven at night. 'Monseigneur,-I find myself reduced at last to an extremity which I have long endeavoured to avoid. The Marshal Duke of Elchingen [Ney] has put the finishing stroke to his preceding insubordination. As this disobedience might have results disastrous to the Emperor's armies, I have ordered the generals of the several divisions of his army no longer to obey any other orders than mine. It is, Monseigneur, very afflicting to an old soldier so long in the command of armies, and so honoured with the Emperor's confidence, to be forced to such extreme measures with respect
to one of his colleagues. But the Marshal Duke of Elchingen has not ceased since my arrival at the army to thwart me in all my military operations. I have been, perhaps, too patient; but I was far from supposing that he would abuse my forbearance to such a scandalous extremity as he has now done. But the Duke of Elchingen's character is well known; and I shall say no more about it. I have ordered him to return into Spain, there to await his Majesty's orders.'-vol. i. p. 509.
killed and 3000 wounded in this actionbut he soon after admits that, when Massena arrived before the lines of Torres Vedras, his army had lost no less than 7000 men hors de combat.
Of the military foresight, skill, and courage which designed, executed, and defended these lines, the following summary from the official mouthpiece of the enemy is worth the attention of our read
Such a mass of troops (English, Portuguese, and Spanish) intrenched in positions so formidable, having in their rear the safe and spacious harbour of Lisbon, and affording the opportunity for bringing the maritime power and wealth of England to support her soldiers on the field, offers to the attention of mankind the most wonderful combination of circumstances that can be found in the military annals of the world.'-vol. i. p. 135.
No doubt M. Belmas means, by attributing so much of this success to a wonderful combination of circumstances, to diminish the personal glory of the Duke of Wellington. But what is military genius, but the faculty of preparing and combining circumstances? And when it is recollected that Sir Arthur Wellesley, in his defence of the Cintra Convention in 1808, when there was no prospect of his ever having anything to do with them, foretold, as it were, the capabilities of the position of Torres Vedras, and when we find him on his return to Portugal, and during his advance into Spain in 1809, preparing this barrier against future possibilities, it cannot be denied that it was indeed a wonderful combination of circumstances,' in which genius did all, and left nothing to accident or chance.
In the retreat which followed, Ney commanded the rear-guard with skill and
The truth is, all went on smoothly with these gentlemen as long as they were victorious, and had nothing to do but to divide the spoils of the conquered and the rewards of their master; but as soon as the tide began to turn, and when they had nothing to share but Wellington's blows and Napoleon's censures, every French army exhibited the discord of Agramant's camp. In this instance, the bravery, but without success, and was so real cause of dissension was, not so much dispirited, that, as we have seen, he inthe natural ill-temper of Ney, as the bat-sisted on retreating farther than Massena tle of Busaco, the estoppel put upon the at first thought of going; but Wellington French at Torres Vedras, and their disas- soon forced Massena to be of Ney's trous retreat from Portugal. In all these opinion (vol. i. p. 171), and after a series operations, though Massena had the chief of unfortunate' affairs, they were at last direction, Ney, as second in command, driven back upon Salamanca. had the main share of the execution; and certainly there was nothing in the result of these campaigns to put either of the heroes into a very good humour. At Busaco, M. Belmas states (vol. i. pp. 123, 130) Wellington's force at 27,000 English, and 13,000 Portuguese (such as the Portuguese were, at this stage of the war), while Massena and Ney had 62,000 men. The French lost, says M. Belmas, 1800
It was in the course of this retreat that Berthier wrote from Paris a private letter to Massena-in which, after stating the Emperor's criticisms on Massena's conduct in Portugal, he adds a remarkable assertion:
We are perfectly informed-indeed better than you are of the movements of the English by the English themselves. The Emperor reads
This additional proof of the British spirit and true patriotism of the OPPOSITION of that day needs no comment!
the London newspapers, and every day a great da, which they left to its fate-one single number of letters from the OPPOSITION; some of soldier only contriving to get in with orwhich accuse Lord Wellington, and speak in de-ders to the Governor to blow it up and tail of your operations. England trembles for her abandon it, which orders were obeyed; army in Spain,' &c. and the French army never stopped their retrogade movement till they reached Salamanca, where the unlucky Massena, covered as he was with 'the glory of the day,' was deprived of the command, and Buonaparte sent a new Marshal-Marthe armies in any degree clear of the ha-mont-to try his luck with the terrible bitual falsehood of the French bulletins; Buonaparte, who knew at least his own force, states in one of his confidential instructions dictated to Berthier on the night between the 29th and 30th of March,
We are always glad when we can find any statements of the relative forces of
The head-quarters of the army of Portugal [Massena's] remain at Coimbra. This army has 70,000 men under arms. It has orders to fight a battle, if Lord Wellington should attempt to pass the river-but Lord Wellington has under his orders (altogether) but 32,000 English.-After the harvest, Lisbon will be attacked by these 70,000 men of the army of Portugal, and by from thirty to thirty-five thousand of the army of the south, under the Duke of Dalinatia-in all 100,000 men, which, resting on Coimbra and Badajos, must insure the conquest of Portugal,' &c. vol. i. p. 523.
We wonder that these magnificent reveries were not a little disturbed by the recollection that this very army of 70,000 French had been for the last two months retreating-always beaten-before as many of these 32,000 English as were not in garrisons, hospitals, &c., and their Portuguese allies.
In these same notes, Buonaparte orders Bessières to send Massena 8,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry. On the 1st of May, Marshal Bessières himself joined Massena with his advanced guard-the rest joined in a day or two-and then Massena, at the head of, according to Buonaparte's own calculation, 80,000 men, attacked the allied army, which even he does not rate higher than 50,000 (say 30,000 British and 20,000 Portuguese)-in a position which bore the (to the allies) auspicious
name of Fuentes d'Onor-the Fountains of Honour. This engagement lasted the 3d, 4th, 5th of April, 1811; and Massena says that he had all the glory of the day, having killed or wounded 2,000 of the allies, and taken about 1,000.' No very great result, even if it were true, considering the superiority of his forces: but, in fact, the French were entirely defeated-of which the best proof is, that they fell back in such haste that they could not even communicate with Almei
After the battle of Fuentes d'Onor, Bessières went back to his own headquarters of Valladolid, where, however, he soon received, like the others, some tokens of his master's good temper. Berthier writes to him from Rambouillet, 19th May, 1811:
1. There shall be made out lists of all persons who have quitted their habitations.
2. Every such person shall return within a month, and if they do not, they shall be reputed shall be confiscated, and their tenants or debtors to have joined the insurgents-their property shall pay the amount of their respective debts into the hands of the government.
3. The fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children and nephews of any such person shall be held responsible in property and person for any act of violence by such person committed.
4. If any inhabitant be carried off from his residence, all the relatives, in the aforesaid de grees, of any known insurgent, shall be immediately arrested as hostages; and if any inhabitant so carried off should be put to death by the insurgents, the hostages [fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children, or even nephews, of any insurgent, and who may have had no connection whatsoever with the offending parties] shall be shot to death on the spot, and without any form of trial.' vol. i. p. 563.
Then follow eight other articles in the