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112

WAR BETWEEN FRANCE AND AUSTRIA. [1809.

CHAPTER IV.

CAPTURE OF OPORTO BY SOULT.-BATTLES OF

CIUDAD REAL, AND MEDELLIN.

WHILE the arms of France were thus successful in Spain, the Court of Vienna issued a protest against the unjustifiable treatment of the Spanish princes.

Napoleon cherished views of ambition to Jan.)

the realization of which the subjugation of Austria was essential, and, therefore, probably was not averse from availing himself of the plea thus afforded, for declaring war against that power. Leaving instructions to his marshals to finish the conquest of the Peninsula by the occupation of Lisbon, Cadiz, and Valencia, he accordingly returned to Paris, in order to enforce, by his presence, the increased exertions which circumstances had rendered necessary.

The campaign had been disastrous to the Spaniards. The defeat and dispersion of their armies, the submission of Madrid, the capture of Zaragoza, and the embarkation of the British, contributed to

spread panic and alarm throughout the Feb.]

kingdom. These reached even to Lisbon. Sir John Cradock, on whom the command of the British army had devolved, made every preparation to embark his forces, whenever Victor-then at Alcantara-should advance against the capital. This movement, however, did not take place. Victor waited to receive intelligence of Soult; and the as

Feb.]

BRITISH AND SPANISH TREATY. 113 pect of affairs in Portugal was soon destined to undergo a striking change.

The current of evil fortune, which had threatened to overwhelm the cause of liberty and justice in the Peninsula, did not dispose the British government to shrink from further exertions in its behalf. At the very time when the French armies were.in full career of success, a treaty was signed at London, between Great Britain and ihe existing government of Spain, acting in the name and on behalf of Ferdinand. By this it was stipulated that the contracting powers should make common cause against France; that Great Britain should acknowledge no sovereign of Spain but Ferdinand VII., or his lawful heirs; and the Spanish government engaged never to cede to France any portion of the territory or possessions of Spain.

Notwithstanding this treaty, the Spanish government and people were by no means satisfied with the degree of zeal which Great Britain had manifested in opposing the invader. The Convention of Cintra had left an unfavourable impression on the people, which the subsequent operations of Sir John Moore had contributed still further to strengthen and diffuse. England, even in her most generous exertions, was considered only as pursuing a cold and selfish policy. Spain had not forgotten the base seizure and robbery of her treasure ships; and it is the natural consequence of such acts, that the offending should become to the injured nation, at once the object of suspicion and dislike.

These feelings were evinced, when, after the retreat of Sir John Moore, a corps, under Major-General Sherbrooke, was directed to proceed to Cadiz, to secure that important strong-hold, and sustain the efforts of the patriotic forces in the south.

Seville, The Supreme Junta, on their

arrival, posi

Mar. 1. tively refused to admit the British within the walls of the city, alleging that, though their own

VOL. II.

10*

SERVICES OF SIR ROBERT WILSON.

114

[1809. feelings would have led them unhesitatingly to rely on British honour, yet the confidence of the people in their ally was so entirely overthrown, that the presence of an English force could not but be productive of the worst consequences. General Sherbrooke, therefore, after much fruitless negotiation, returned to the Tagus, and the views of the British government became principally directed to the defence of Portugal.

The government of that kingdom, conscious of their own limited resources, had thrown themselves in sincerity and good faith on the protection of England. Under her influence and guidance much had been done to model and discipline the Portuguese army. General Beresford was appointed Marshal and Commander-in-chief of the whole forces of the kingdom; a body of ten thousand men had already been regimented under the direction of British officers, and half that number of recruits were in

process of discipline at the different depots.

The services rendered by Sir Robert Wilson, at the head of a small band of volunteers, gave flattering promise of what might be expected from a Portuguese army when regularly disciplined and equipped. While affairs were at the lowest ebb in Spain, that enterprizing officer advanced to the frontier; and, acting in conjunction with the Spaniards beyond the Agueda, by a series of spirited and judicious movements, kept open the communication with Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida, and held in check the enemy's force in that neighbourhood. In the meanwhile the French had been forced to recross the Tagus; and a division of Cuesta's army, under the Duke del Albuquerque, having gained considerable advantages over Victor's force at Consuegra 'and Mora, the career of that leader was for a moment checked. These events tended greatly to revive the confidence of the Portuguese people. Twenty thousand of the native troops were taken in

Mar.] ROMANA DEFEATED AT MONTERREY. 115 to the pay of England; the raising of fresh levies went on with increased vigour ; and Sir John Cradock's force having been augmented to seventeen thousand men, the people once more began to regard the future fortunes of their country with confidence and hope.

On the northern frontier, however, the prospect had been gradually darkening. On the twenty-seventh of February, Soult crossed the Minho at Orense ; and a few days afterwards, attacked Romana in the neighbourhood of Monterrey, killed and made prisoners a large portion of his army, and captured the greater part of his baggage and

[March. artillery. Soult then prepared to enter Portugal, leaving Ney in Gallicia. The French bulletins had announced that his army would cross the Minho from Tuy on the eleventh of February, and marching direct on Oporto and Lisbon, would reach the former city on the twentieth, and enter the capital by the end of the month. But though his progress was unopposed by any force but that of militia and the surrounding peasantry, his army had suffered too severely in the winter campaign, to enable him to realize the expectations of Napoleon. Provisions, too, were deficient, the hospitals were filled, and so limited were the means of overcoming the various impediments, to the immediate invasion of Portugal, that it was not till the twentysixth of March that Soult appeared before [Mar. 26. Oporto.

His march had not been accomplished without opposition. Several engagements took place; and the peasants, flocking from all quarters, joined the militia, and demanded to be led against the enemy. This, however, was not the policy of General de Freire. He determined to retire before the French, and occupy a strong position in the neighbourhood of Oporto. A mutiny was the consequence. De Freire was suspected of treason, and brutally mur

ATROCITIES OF THE FRENCH

116

[1809. dered by the troops ; and Baron D’Eben, a German officer in the service of England, was appointed his successor. With about twenty-three thousand men, of whom two thousand were regulars, this officer endeavoured to oppose the advance of Marshal Soult. The attempt was a vain one. The Portuguese force, undisciplined, and without subordination, was speedily routed ; and the French having found one of their fellow-soldiers horribly mutilated by the natives, no mercy was shown in the pursuit.

Baron D’Eben vainly endeavoured to rally the fugitives, and embody them for the defence of Oporto. An army composed of such materials, though it may be dispersed at a breath, can only with extreme difficulty be rallied. Soult experienced little further opposition till he reached Oporto; and that city was

carried by assault, on the the twenty-ninth Mar. 29.]

of March. A scene of dreadful carnage ensued. The cavalry charged through the streets, slaughtering the inhabitants without discrimination of age, sex, or party. Terrified by the sight of such horrors, the people fled in crowds to the bridge, but were encountered there by showers of grape-shot and musquetry.

Others endeavoured to cross in boats ; these, too, were fired on; and above three thousand of the inhabitants were either drowned or shot in this quarter of the city. Altogether, the slaughter was very great, and would undoubtedly have been still greater, had not Marshal Soult exerted himself with honourable zeal to put a stop to the excesses of his troops.

Oporto, which had thus easily been occupied by the enemy, might, under a better organized system of defence, have opposed a very formidable obstacle to the French armies. The garrison consisted of about twenty thousand men, and the city had recently been covered by a line of detached works, extending from the Douro to the sea, on which were mounted about two hundred pieces of

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