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Mar.] AT THE CAPTURE OF OPORTO. 117 artillery. But want of discipline and subordination again proved fatal. Several of the superior officers, who endeavoured to restore obedience, were murdered by the soldiers, under charge of trcason. No further efforts were made to regulate the defence. During two days an useless fire was kept up on the enemy, while busied in preparations for the assault. The soldiers acted on the impulse of individual courage, but without concert or obedience.
Thus was it that the second city of the kingdom fell, almost without a struggle, into the hands of the enemy. But Soult, notwithstanding his success, did not deem it prudent to advance immediately on Lisbon. The hostility of the natives rendered the communication between the French corps destined for the reduction of Portugal, at once difficult and precarious; and before quitting Oporto, he wished to receive intelligence of the movements of Victor and Lapisse, the latter of whom, with a corps of five thousand men, was directed to threaten the frontier between the Douro and Almeida ; and subsequently to join Victor whenever Soult should have advanced on the capital. No intelligence, however, of either of these leaders reached Oporto; and Soult, averse to commit his army by any uncombined movement, applied himself to secure and conciliate the portion of the kingdom already overrun by his armies.
In the meanwhile, the division of native troops, under General Silveira, were not idle. That General had succeeded in regain
[Mar. 25. ing possession of Chaves, and capturing about thirteen hundred of the garrison. He then made every effort to cut off the communication of the French ar
with Spain, by securing the bridge of Amarante, and strengthening the line of the Tamega. The activity of Silveira, who succeeded in repulsing the enemy in several attacks, tended greatly to raise the hopes of the Portuguese. The peasantry again took arms, and came in crowds to the field. Colonel
118 CONDUCT OF THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT. [1809. Trant, who commanded at Coimbra, took the field at the head of a body of militia and volunteers; and Romana, who had received a reinforcement of three thousand men, already threatened the enemy's communications in Asturias.
We must now turn to England. The disasters attendant on the retreat of Sir John Moore, and the wretched condition to which his army had been reduced, materially deranged the projects of the British government. The troops embarked at Corunna, instead of sailing direct for Lisbon or the south of Spain, had been under the necessity of returning to England, and the hope of successful resistance to the French power in the Peninsula had become more feeble in the minds of all.
The British ministry, however, were not disheartened by the reverses of the preceding campaign. They served only to stimulate them to renewed exertions, and, at the close of February, Sir Arthur Wellesley, then Chief Secretary for Ireland, resigned his office and seat in Parliament, to assume the command of the British forces in the Peninsula. It was determined to reinforce the army in Portugal; and in March the expedition with Sir Arthur Wellesley sailed for Lisbon. His instructions were, in case that city should have been evacuated by Sir John Cradock, to proceed to Cadiz, and land there, if the government would consent to the admission of British troops into the garrison. The contemplated alternative, however, did not occur.
Sir John Cradock had been engaged in preparations for the defence of the city; and that officer, on being superseded by Sir Arthur Wellesley, was appointed governor of Gibraltar.
In Spain, the current of events had been unfavourable to the patriots. In La Mancha, the Duke del Albuquerque had distinguished himself in some affairs, of which the results would have been greater, but for the ill-judged interference of Cartoajal, in
BATTLE OF CIUDAD REAL.
119 whom the chief command was vested. The utter incompetence of this person was fully evinced at the battle of Ciudad Real, where his army was completely routed by Sebastiani.
In this en
(Mar. 27. gagement no strenuous resistance appears to have been made. The Spaniards were at once driven from their position in utter confusion. Three thousand of their number were killed in the pursuit, and four thousand prisoners and eighteen guns were captured by the enemy.
On the day following, a disaster still more fatal befel the Estramaduran army, under Cuesta. On the eighteenth, Victor had succeeded in forcing the defences of the Puente del Arzobisbo, and drove back the troops, which had been posted there, to Miravete. He then succeeded in re-establishing the bridge at Almaraz, which, owing to the cowardice or treachery of Henestrosa, who commanded at that point, was effected without difficulty. Victor was thus enabled to pass over his artillery, and collect his whole army at Truxillo, where he gained possession of the magazines of the Spanish army.
Cuesta, having retired to Santa Cruz, was reinforced by a detachment of about four thousand men, under the Duke del Albaquerque, and at length determined to give battle. With this view, he took up a position near Medellin, forming his whole force in a single line, about a league in extent, without any
The ground thus occupied, was singularly ill-chosen. It consisted of a wide and open plain, without cover of any kind ; and the same unhappy qualities which had distinguished Cuesta at Rio Seco, were again conspicuously displayed at Medellin.
The Spanish army consisted of about twenty thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry. The left wing was commanded by Henestrosa, which occupied ground somewhat higher than the rest of the position. The centre was commanded by Don Fran
BATTLE OF MEDELLIN : [1809. cisco Trias; the right by Don Francisco de Equia. The cavalry were on the left, where the enemy presented the greatest force.
The army of Victor, though infinitely superior in the quality of the troops, was somewhat numerically inferior. It consisted of about eighteen thousand foot and two thousand five hundred horse, and was formed in an arc, extending between the Guadiana and a cultivated ravine, which reaches from Medellin to the village of Mengabril. Victor placed his cavalry on the right, and the front was covered by six batteries, each of four guns.
The action commenced by an attack on Mar. 28.] the Spanish centre, supported by a brigade of cavalry. This was gallantly repulsed, and the Spanish line advancing, succeeded in taking one of the enemy's batteries on the left. The French left wing gave way, and was followed with effect for two hours. The cavalry was ably maneuvred by General Lasalle, who retired slowly, and having gained a favourable position, turned on the Spanish horse, and put them to the rout. The attack on the centre was ihen renewed, and the infantry disheartened gave way. Panic spread through the ranks, and the soldiers, casting away their arms, sought safety in flight. Every effort of Cuesta to restore order proved abortive. The French followed up their success, giving no quarter in the pursuit.
In this disastrous battle the loss of the Spaniards was very great. It has been stated at twelve thous sand killed, and seven or eight thousand prisoners; but this is probably an exaggeration. Nineteen pieces of cannon were taken by the French, whose loss in the action amounted, by their own account, to four thousand.
Calamitous as the battles of Medellin and Ciudad Real unquestionably were, neither the Supreme Junta nor the people were disheartened by the misfortunes of their armies. The proceedings of the for
121 mer evinced no symptom of alarm or despondency; a vote of thanks was passed to Cuesta and his army; and so little had that General declined in the opinion of his countrymen, that he speed ly received the appointment of Captain-General of the province. In the meanwhile, he retired to Almandrelejo, where he succeeded in collecting a force nearly as imposing as that with which he had encountered the enemy at Medellin.