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OPERATIONS OF THE FRENCH ARMIES.
CORUNNA capitulated on the twentieth of January, and was immediately occupied by the French troops. A division of the army was detached against Ferrol, which, notwithstanding its extreme strength, was treacherously surrendered.
In these places the French became masters of an immense supply of arms, artillery, ammunition, and stores of all descriptions, which enabled them to overrun the remainder of the province. Soult was then ordered to advance into Portugal, leaving the corps of Ney to secure the subjugation of Gallicia. But it is necessary we should now turn our attention to the events passing in the interior of Spain.
The advance of the French armies had compelled the supreme Junta to retire from Aranjuez to Talavera, and subsequently to Seville, in which city they assembled on the seventeenth of Decem
(Dec. 17. ber. A strong edict was issued, pronouncing sentence of death against every officer or soldier who should fail immediately to rejoin his colours. All who harboured them were declared liable to confiscation of property ; but amnesty was offered to those who, within fifteen days, should present themselves to the nearest authority, with the view of being forwarded to the army.
This decree was not without effect. A considerable number of the fugitives, from the Spanish armies on the Ebro, were again collected under General VOL. II.
78 THE FRENCH CROSS THE TAGUS. [1809. Galluzo, on the south of the Tagus, who made dispositions for defending the four bridges, by which alone the river can be crossed from the side of Talavera. Of these communications, that of Almaraz is the most important. On the approach of Lefebvre's corps, Galluzo attempted to destroy the bridge, but without success; and the French, under a demonstration of crossing at Arzobisbo, effected their passage at Almaraz ; and, taking the Spanish divisions, too much separated, in detail, drove them as far as Merida. There the progress of Lefebvre was arrested, by an order to march northward in pursuit of Sir John Moore. Galluzo, whose incapacity had already been sufficiently established, was superseded in command by Cuesta.
Towards the close of January, the Es
tramaduran army, having greatly recruitJan.
ed its strength, was enabled to assume the offensive. It was posted with its van-guard on the left branch of the Alamonte, between Truxillo and Xaraicejo, about half a league to the south-west of the latter place. The French had pushed their advanced parties close to the Spanish army; but they were repulsed and driven beyond Miravete. Cuesta then took possession of the pass upon that mountain; and the French, not being in sufficient force to maintain their position on the left of the Tagus, crossed the river, and fell back on Talavera.
While these events were passing in Estramadura, the Duke del Infantado, with the wreck of the army of Gastanos, augmented by the levies recently raised in Granada and Andalusia, advanced from Cuenca, in hope of surprising a body of French cavalry at Aranjuez and Tarancon. Information of this movement no sooner reached Victor at Toledo, than he set out with his corps in search of Infantado and his army. The French directed their march on Ocana, and reached that town without gaining any intelligence relative to the object of their pursuit.
Dec.] THE DUKE DEL INFANTADO'S ARMY. 79 the morning of the thirteenth, either by
[Dec. 13. accident, or by some blunder of the guides, the French suddenly found themselves in front of a body of the Spanish army, under Venegas, which occupied the crest of a hill near the village of Ucles. The Spaniards were driven from their position by the bayonet, and fled in great disorder towards Alcazar. Here again fortune was against them. The division of General Ruffin had accidentally deviated from the line of march, and, unawares, had gained the rear of the enemy. The retreat of the fugitive Spaniards was thus cut off. The consequences were disastrous. Several thousands were made prisoners. The loss, in killed and wounded, was very great, and forty guns were captured by the enemy. The small remnant which escaped, throwing away their arms, dispersed in various directions. Had Latour Maubourg's division of cavalry, which had been in march from day-dawn, not been prevented by fatigue from following up the pursuit, the consequences would have been still more fatal.
The inhuman barbarity with which the prisoners, made in this unfortunate battle, were trcated, merits record. These unhappy wretches were marched to Madrid. Many of them sank under their fatigueothers died of inanition.
(Rocca. could proceed no farther, they were shot without mercy. The inhabitants of Ucles had taken no part in the action, yet their town was made the theatre of atrocities which humanity shrinks from relating. Plunder, murder, torture, and violation, were ainong the evils inflicted on this unhappy people.
Immediately after the defeat of Ucles, Victor, with his corps, entered the province of Cuenca; and, after some operations, terminating in no marked result, retired to Madrilejos and Consuegra, where his troops went into cantonments.
We now turn to the operations in Catalonia.
(1808. At this period, the events in that principality may rather be considered as an important episode, in the general progress of the war, than as influencing, in any very powerful degree, the general fate of the kingdom. Still, it cannot be denied, that its possession would have eminently contributed to the consolidation of the French power in Spain; and it is the opinion of a high authority, that, at the commencement of the war, Napoleon would have acted more
wisely had the greater proportion of his forces St. Cyr.] been employed for the reduction of Catalonia.
No part of Spain, perhaps, opposes so many obstacles to an invading army.
Its general character is rugged and mountainous; the plains are of small extent; and it abounds in regularly fortified places of great strength. Catalonia, therefore, was geographically strong, and yet stronger in the courage, hardihood, and fine spirit of her population. The prospect of becoming a province of France was one most repugnant to the pride of the Catalans,—and they were prepared by every sacrifice to avert the advent of so dreaded a misfortune. That Napoleon contemplated the dismemberment of Catalonia from Spain there can be no doubt. Its acquisition would have been most favourable to the augmentation of the commerce and naval power of France in the Mediterranean. With this view, he forbade his geneSeptember.]
rals in the principality, to correspond with
Joseph or his ministers, though he deemed it prudent to refrain from any public annunciation of his design.
The efforts hitherto made for the reduction of Cat. alonia had signally failed. At the end of August the French only retained possession of Barcelona and Figueras. By the Marques Palacio new levies were organized with all possible rapidity. The leading Junta of the province had issued an ordinance, directing forty tercios or battalions of Miquelets to be embodied; and part of these were already in the
Sept.] VIGOROUS MEASURES OF THE JUNTA. 81 field. Reinforcements had been received from Majorca, Minorca, and Granada; and these, with the four thousand troops which had recently arrived from Portugal, augmented the regular army in Catalonia to about twenty-eight thousand men, exclusive of the garrisons of Hostalrich, Rosas, and Gerona.
The chief object of the Catalans was to recover Barcelona; and the attention of Palacio was exclusively occupied with preparations for a siege. With this view he collected magazines at different points on the Llobregat; and, in order to secure their safety, he took up an intrenched position on a mountain, in rear of San Boy. Duhesme, alarmed by these measures, determined on driving the army of Palacio from the Llobregat. With this purpose, on the night of the first of September, he marched out from Barcelona; and on the morning of the second commenced an attack on the line occupied by the enemy. A severe engagement ensued.
The progress of the assailants was repeatedly checked by the courage of the Miquelets; but the camp of San Boy was carried, and three guns, with a considerable quantity of provisions, clothing, and other stores, fell into the hands of the French.
The Catalan army were far from being dispirited by this misfortune ; and Palacio, having determined to proceed by blockade, took up a new position on the mountains in rear of St. Vicensa and Molino del Rey, which commanded the point of junction of the roads to Lerida and Tarragona. There are only two other principal debouches from the plain of Barcelona. To guard these a division was encamped on the mountains in front of St. André. The other roads which traverse the high chain which extends from the Besos to the Llobregat, are impassable for carriages; but, in order to guard them, posts were established at suitable distances along the
[October. ridge, and along the two rivers, to the points at which they disembogue into the sea.