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Journal of the Operations in Portugal.
Massena, bear either to heir own general design, or to the counteraction of that of their enemy. It is in this manner only, that such a journal can either be interesting or useful, and it is the omission of these points, which renders the narrative of battles so generally uninteresting.
Not having been able, therefore, in the present number, to procure early enough the necessary materials, we shall defer the journal of present operations till our next; and in the mean time, as a preparatory step, endeavour to exhibit before the eyes of our readers, some precise plan, and brief military draft of the scene and field of action. A due and accurate notion of these localities, will render what will be related bereafter more distinct and intelligible. The most important movements have frequently no other reason than the nature of the ground taken up, or occupied by the enemy. And with respect to military positions, the circumstances wbich renders them eligible, and thosp which neutralize an apparent natural strength; the comparative value of them, and in what degree they may be depended upon against any given superiority of force; in all these points the present campaign in Portugal is so calculated for a perpetual lesson to all military men, that the due explanation of them, if executed with the care for which we will answer, and with the ability which we will endeavour to supply from the judgment of others, cannot but be eminently useful.
The scene of present operations is the mountains and plain of the province of Beira, bounded by Estramadura on the east, and extending to the sea on the west. It is the central district of Portugal, and is fenced in on three parts by an immense wall of mountains, which open only towards the south-west to the sea. On the side of Spain and Almeida, this wall is of immense height, and in parts craggy, perpendicular, and absolutely impassable. On the north, the east, and the south, the same chaiu continues, and cuts off the interior, i. e, the plain of Beira, from Lisbon and the Tagus. When the enemy, therefore, shall even have passed the mountains on the Spanish side, and bare Thus descended into the plain of Beira, they are still on-y (to employ a familiar but simple illustration) in the hollow of the bason; and they must re-ascend its perpendicular sides on another extremity, and thence descend again, before they can reach either Lisbon, or the roads on the Tagus.
Journal of the Operations in Portugal. Such is the general character of the scene of operations. To have .it still more distinctly before his mind, let the reader imagine himself standing with his face to the south, in the midst of a plain surrounded by a semi-circular range of mountains. On the north, on the east, and on the south, the chain is coinplete, being without an opening, and almost without a pass. On the west, the chain, instead of joining 'with the south, runs into the sea, and thereby leaves an opening. The southern range, however, still continues, and in a long oblique live, runs nearly two hundred miles, parallel to the sea, still intercepting the province of Beira, from Lisbon and the Tagus.
The road from Spain into this province is by Almeida, from which last part Guarda is distant about eighteen miles. Almeida, however, is rather a strong out-post than a pass, as after an enemy shall have possessed themselves of it, they have still to make their way to the mountains, and to ascend them, Almeida being on the Spanish side of them.
A very false opinion has gone abroad, with respect to the importance of Almeida in the general defence of Portugal. What we have above said, might almost be a sufficient answer to this apprehension; Almeida being only an outwork, and no part of the line of defence. The strength or weakness of Almeida is very little to the question of the general defence. If Almeida, indeed, had held out, it would have consumed the time and strength of the enemy, and led them deep into the autumn, perhaps into the winter. It was amply provisioned; its fortifications well repaired, and very formidable in themselves; it had, moreover, a numerous garrison, and an English Governor. From one of those accidents which defy all previous calculation, and sometimes render war a game of chance, it has been compelled to surrender. Its loss is most certainly the very material loss of the advantage above mentioned; it has given, moreover, to the enemy, a shelter for his army, and a depôt for his provisions and ammunition. But here the effects of its capture stop. The enemy is still on the other side of the mountains, and for some time at least, perhaps for the whole winter, eanonly make a circular march around their foot, without attempting their ascent.
If the enemy, however, contrary to all reasonable expectation,
Journal of the Operations in Portugal.
should effect his passage over the mountains; that is to say, should elude Lord Wellington; or force a way by his superiority of number and ferocious sacrifice of his own men, (and this certainly may occur), under these circumstances Lord Wellington will necessarily have to abandon his present line of defence on the tops and in the defiles of the mountains, and to take up another suited to the change of the relative positions of the armies. In other words, Lord Wellington must then seek to cover Lisbon and the interior. In doing this be will have to fall back on the strongest line of defence in Europe. It is important, therefore, to consider what this line is.
The first point of this line of defence is Guarda. This is one of the main positions for the defence of Portugal. It is admirably situated for checking an advancing enemy, and for cutting off any supplies to him after he has advanced. The town is very imperfectly fortified, and has received these fortifications only since the present campaign. Some part of its ancient wall continues, but is totally without any military use. From Guarda rises the river Mondego, which, flowing first through clefts of the mountains and a deep trench in a northerly direction, and thence to the south-west, enters the sea by Mondego Bay.
The part of the povince of Beira included between the course of the Mondego and the southern mountains, is the first strong military position if the enemy should pass the mountain. Belmonte, about twelve miles from Guarda, is the next.—The road for nearly the whole say is through a deep ravine; the sides consist of inaccessible mountains. It would take very little trouble to render them impassable by an enemy's army. The ground of itself is a fortification, and it would require but very little effort to break it up, so as to preclude the possibility of the advance of artillery. These mountaiu roads are the best defence of the country,
From Belinonte, the next march is to Atalaya, a distance of fifteeu miles; the road the same as above described. Atalaya is a
From Atalaya, the march is to Castello Branco, a town of more reputation than actual strength. It is fifteen miles distant from Atalaya, and the road to it is equally craggy and difficult. Its fortificaJournal of the Operations in Portugal. tions are not calculated to oppose an enemy who should have surmounted the difficulties of the road. But if Lord Wellington possessed an army which could afford detachments, such a road might be defended against a very great superiority of force. Unhappily, the numerous demands on our military force, the necessities of Sicily, and the calls of our colonies, have cramped our vigour in Portugal. With an army of thirty thousand men, Lord Wellington can do little. With an army of seventy-five thousand men, he might again awaken the continent, and revive the days of Malborough and Eugene.
Villa Velha is another military station, about ten miles from Castello Branco. It commands a passage over the river. The country in its vicinity, moreover, consisting of steep mountains, is very favourable for military operations; the roads about it are rugged to a degree, and when an army is once stationed in it, it has an infinite advantage against an advancing enemy. There is another road more to the right by Sazedas, which is the same distance from Castello Branco. The latter, indeed, being the better road, is the more probable course of the enemy. The roads, however, are all mountainous, rugged, and narrow; very difficult even without opposition and in the best seasons; and in autumn and winter, against a defending army, impassable either by artillery or cavalry. From Sazedas, the march is to Villa de Rey, a distance of twenty-one miles. The road is the same; it would require an army almost to drag along their own artillery. The country is likewise fertile to a degree. From Villa de Rey to Abrantes is fifteen miles farther.
Abrantes is distant about seventy miles from Lisbon, and one hundred miles from Guarda. It is considered, and very justly so, as the key of the Tayus. Abrantes was a Roman station, and this circumstance alone might be an argument of its natural strength. A small force might here defy a very large army. In General Moore's expedition, the English made use of it. Its defence are the Tagus on the right; and on the front and left a very strong mountainous country. The river is crossed by a bridge of boats.
The river Zezere is six miles from Abrantes, on the road to Lisbon. Punhete is the first town on this river. The road thence proceeds to Golegao, a distance of nine miles, and thence to Santarem, twelve
Journal of the Operations in Portugal.
miles beyond Golegao. The writer of the Treatise on the Defence of Portugal makes mention, that between Golegao and Santarem is an extensive plain on the banks of a small river which crosses the road, and which is chiefly worthy of remark, inasmuch as being the first spot of ground after leaving Almeida in which a body of caa valry could act with any advantage
Santarem is a very important station, being a most commanding garrison tow., and so highly estimated by Lord Wellington, that in the former expedition to Portugal, it was bis advice that Santarem should be first occupied. It is forty-five miles from Lisbon, and very strongly situated as lo its locality. It commands the great eastern road, and is one of the main defences of Lisbon, under the supposition that there is a sufficient force to occupy its grounds. It is therefore one of the most essential fortresses on the line of defence or retreat, and an army of Lord Wellington's, under a commander like Lord Wellington, might for a long time keep the enemy at bay, on a station of such natural strengh, and of such military aptitudes. Santarem is flanked on the south-east by the Tagus, and on the north-west by very steep hills. The great eastern road on which Santarem is situated, is therefore between the bills and the river. The magnitude of Santarem may be conjectured from this circumstance, that it contains seventeen churches. The French arınies invariably entered Portugal by this road, and the town to this day bears melancholy marks of their devastations. The churches, convents, &c. were all pillaged by Junot and bis army. Nothing was left behind which was worth carrying away.
Azambuja is the next town from Saotareni to Lisbon. It is about thirteen miles from Santarem, and the road, though not very difficult, is not very favourable for a hostile army. There are one or two possitions in which a defending army could act to great advantage. About four miles from Santarem is one of these positions. A river runs in front, crossing the road. Behind is a plain. A small body defended by this river in front, inight for some time cover the retreat of a main army.
From Azambuja to Villa Franca is nine miles. On this road is another good military position; a river crossing the road, and on the