Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

104

THE SUPREME JUNTA REFUSE TO RATIFY IT.

[A.D.

and he was preparing mines to destroy the road at Despena Penos, in order to render it impassable to his pursuers to follow him, when Castaños heard of his departure, and declared the convention violated, and altogether at an end, unless he halted; at the same time threatening to put the whole of Barbou's division to the sword, if the French General did not instantly stop his march and return. The consequence was that Vedel was overtaken, marched back to Guarroman, and submitted.

On the 23rd, the division Barbou, with Dupont at its head, defiled before General Castaños and De la Pena, and laid down their arms, to the number of 8,242 men. Vedel did the same at Baylen on the 24th, to the number of 9,393 rank and file; but, instead of laying down their arms, they adopted the mock heroic, and delivered them up in bundles to Spanish Commissioners. The insurgents now heaped every species of abuse upon the prisoners, and demanded back the sacred vessels which had been carried away from the churches of Cordova and Jaen. Castaños addressed a proclamation to the population to calm their fury, and, to prevent bad consequences, ordered the prisoners to be marched away in two columns to San Lucan and Rota, avoiding all great towns. By the terms of the capitulation, they were to be embarked on board Spanish ships at Cadiz and conveyed to France. By the same treaty, the Junta of Seville were declared the supreme authority, but its members, yielding to the clamour on every side, refused to ratify the capitnlation, and declared the whole of the French army prisoners of war. They were scarcely able to reach Cadiz in safety from the rage of the people, and many were destroyed by the inhabitants as they journeyed thither, and none but the officers were permitted to return to France. General Castaños, with perfect good faith, employed his influence to have justice done to those who had surrendered to him, but in vain. He then appealed to the British authorities, Lieut.-General Sir Hew Dalrymple, at Gibraltar, and Lord Collingwood, at Cadiz; but Morla, to retain his popularity, denounced the convention, and the Spanish people would listen to nothing short of absolute and unreserved surrender.

The capitulation of Baylen is one of the darkest incidents in the annals of the French army, and there is nothing but that of Pavia to compare with it. Napoleon was at Bourdeaux when the news reached him, and was, for the moment, completely overwhelmed by it. It was the first event in the career of his arms calculated to destroy the prestige of victory which had hitherto attended them. He said with bitterness that defeat was the occasional fate of all in the reverses of war, but to surrender 20,000 men with arms in their hands appeared a disgrace which admitted of no excuse: of course it was no mitigation of the evil in his eyes that Mack had surrendered to himself a greater force belonging to Austria in the campaign of 1805. Generals Dupont and Vedel were put in prison immediately on their return to France, and the Emperor ordered a process to be instituted against them, but nothing was done further, and they were still in prison when the Allies entered Paris in 1814. 1808.]

THE HEROIC MAID OF ZARAGOZA.

105

The former General took service subsequently under the Bourbons, and was War Minister to Louis XVIII.

17. FIRST SIEGE OF ZARAGOZA. General Verdier had been desired by the Emperor to endeavour to force his way into Zaragoza, and on the 29th of June had arrived before that city, bringing reinforcements to General LefebvreDesnouettes and all the guns which he could collect at Pampeluna. He now assumed the command, and gave the necessary orders to commence the siege. The city of Zaragoza may be almost called an open town. It is placed entirely on the right bank of the Ebro, and is completely enclosed by an old wall of brick, 10 feet high and 3 feet thick, without any suburbs, except the small fauxbourg called Arrabates, situated beyond the bridge, on the left bank, which is here commanded from the city side. Three large buildings, the residence of the Inquisition, in front of the gate del Portillo; the convent of Sta Engracia, at the entrance of the Camina reale from Madrid; and that of San José, on the great road to Valencia, were prepared by Palafox as so many great redoubts in front of the wall, where were many clive-yards, and a rather considerable stream, called La Huerba, which protected more than one-half of the enceinte to its junction with the Ebro. The whole town is overlooked by an elevated plateau, called Monte-Torrero, at the foot of which, about two miles distant, runs the great canal of Arragon. General Lefebvre had, as we have related, taken possession of Monte-Torrero on the 27th, which cut off all the communications of the city from the side of Madrid.

Colonel Lacoste, of the Engineers, who had been expressly sent by the Emperor to undertake the siege, carefully reconnoitred every side of Zaragoza; but all the siege materials were not arrived at the French Engineers' camp, when General Verdier opened fire on the night of the 30th of June. It is fairly established as a rule of military art, though it is constantly violated by the impatient spirit of military commanders, that men should never be employed against barricades of wood or stone until all the means of science shall be at hand to break down or damage the obstructions they offer. The guns were at once established on the side of the Castillo de la Aljaferia, called the palace of the Inquisition, which they battered in breach, while they bombarded the city on the side of Portillo. On the morning of the 2nd, preparations were made for an assault, but General Hubert, who commanded the false attacks on the side of San José, on arriving at the wall, found the ladders were too short, and met such a determined resistance as he did not expect. Palafox had established a battery of 40 guns, which resolutely replied to the French fire, and completely flanked the approach of the troops, who were ordered to assail it in 6 columns. It was here that Augustina, an enthusiastic young woman of the lower class, first showed herself, and seizing a port-fire from the hand of a dead gunner, she fired a 24-pounder from the Spanish battery, and jumping upon it. swore that she would never quit it but with her life.

106

ATTEMPT TO RETAKE THE MONTE-TORRERO.

[A.D.

The carnage now became terrible, but the defenders maintained their ground. The French General was at the end of his ammunition, and was not prepared for the necessity to which he was already reduced by the stubbornness of the defence as evinced at the first assault, notwithstanding the shower of shell and shot which he had poured upon the place during the first two or three nights. He saw the expediency of husbanding his means of attack, and demanded fresh troops; and Colonel Lacoste now determined to make new approaches against the place on the side of the Sta Engracia.

Palafox happened to have been absent from the city at the moment of the assault, and the command had devolved on the Intendant Calvo de Rozas and two plebeian chiefs, called Tio Martin and Tio Jorge. These men all resolutely exerted themselves under their energetic chief to keep up a powerful and continued resistance. The enemy succeeded in destroying the corn mills on the river by which the city was supplied with bread. Under this new infliction, all the horses and mules were collected and brigaded to work mills in the town. There was a reasonable apprehension lest their stock of gunpowder should fail, but the monks (for the credit of the order that had produced Friar Bacon) collected all the sulphur, cleansed the sewers to obtain saltpetre, and fabricated charcoal out of the hemp-stalks, which are here of such a size as to become ligneous, and the magazines were continually supplied. The bridge was still open, by which the insurgents from the open country still brought in supplies, but, by the 11th or 12th, the enemy had closed this communication, and the besieged were now reduced to their own resources. The side of the intended attack having been discovered, the convent of Sta Engracia was converted into a perfect citadel. Batteries of heavy guns were placed in the apartments below, and lighter artillery in the upper stories, while the very clock-tower was armed with falconets and what the Chinese call gingals. An épaulement was carried from the convent of the Capuchins on the right, towards the Puerto del Carmen; and the bed of the Huerba being dry at this season, was filled with obstructions of every kind. A reinforcement having reached the city from Estremadura, Palafox resolved upon an attempt to retake the Monte-Torrero; and, on the 17th, made a desperate sally at the head of 2,000 men, but these brave levies could not succeed against the disciplined valour of the besiegers. On the 23rd another vigorous sortie was made from the side of Arrabales, to bring in a force of Arragonese, expected to arrive from that side, but all their efforts were alike vain.

The French daily increased the number of their guns, and formed seven new batteries, some of them within 150 yards of the convent. They began to bombard again on the morning of the 31st, but, in the night of the 2nd of August, a furious cannonade opened on the devoted city, which was continued all through the 3rd ; 600 st ell are said to have been projected, which principally fell on the convents del Carmen and Sta Engracia. On the 4th, at mid-day, he breaches were pronounced practicable, and the besiegers advanced to the storm. Palafox took his place at an early hour near he

1808.7

INDIVIDUAL BRAVERY OF THE INHABITANTS.

107

Torre del Pino, against which two columns were in march, the right commanded by General Hubert, the left by General Grandjean. Nothing could resist the impulse of the French attack; they carried the convent, and pushed on to the Calle del Cosso, a broad street in the very midst of the city, where they planted the tricolor on the church of San Francisco. Scarcely, however, had the assailants time allowed them to consolidate their success, when, in their front, flank, and rear, every house vomited forth the fire of musketry. The Spanish account is most expressive --" Cada habitante era yo un leon feroz.” The assailants were obliged, therefore, to throw up parapets hastily for their protection, and, indeed, it was already necessary to lay siege to every house. The hospital of San Francisco and the madhouse, on the two sides of the street leading into the Cosso, offered such a resistance that the French troops commenced with this object to bring out of the houses, furniture, bedding, &c., to construct what are termed “blindages," a kind of temporary fireproof roofing for shelter. The bitterness of the individual fighting was almost unprecedented, for on the one side were men who fought for their household gods ; on the other, soldiers despising the antagonists who could not withstand them in skill, but brought sheer animal courage and bodily strength to resist them. Before night, the broad space of the Cosso divided the combatants; and the wretched inhabitants, though unhoused and exhausted by the fatigue of a seven hours' conflict, resolutely began to prepare fresh defences. Brigadier Torres was directed by Palafox to get into position fresh guns for the defence of the morrow. In the evening, General Verdier, thinking the besieged sufficiently cowed by the success of his troops, sent to Palafox this short summons,“ Se rende luego luego Zaragoza. The French Marshal sent in his terms more formally, “La paix et la capitulation;" to which the Spaniard instantly replied as curtly, “ Guerra a cuchillo.” Verdier had been himself wounded severely by a ball in the thigh, and Lefebvre-Desnouettes had received a grave contusion in the side, yet the French writers assert that their casualties in this night battle were only 300 killed and 900 wounded. It was probably thrice that number ; but no one knows correctly how many were Spanish and how many were French on the heaps that filled every street and every house in the portion of the city which was the scene of the combat.

Lefebyre-Desnouettes, who succeeded to the command in consequence of Verdier's wound, proposed to Lacoste to proceed by the more insidious mode of sap and mine, rather than incur all the casualties of street fighting; for the acrimony of the Spaniards was such that it would not even justify the concession of a truce to bury the dead, which, in the terrible heats of the season, soon became a source of as much danger to the inhabitants as the sword of the French. Palafox, in this emergency, harnessed the French prisoners to ropes, and made them drag away the dead out of the streets to cast them into pits, which were hastily dug to receive them, and, of course, the French did not fire on their comrades in the course of these sad duties.

108

ZARAGOZA A NOBLE EXAMPLE OF PATRIOTISM. | A.D.

On the evening of the following day, the 5th of August, Verdier received the account of the capitulation of Baylen and the order of King Joseph to raise the siege as soon as he could do so without risk, but to do his best to exhaust against the enemy all store of gunpowder which he could not bring away. While, therefore, the street firing was kept up continually, night and day, preparations were silently made for withdrawing the French army. The important intelligence of Dupont's surrender had also reached the garrison on the 9th, and was made known to the city by a public announcement. A reinforcement of 3,000 Arragonese, under Palafox's brother, had, in the meantime, come into Zaragoza on the evening of the 7th, and, on the 8th, a council of war declared unanimously that they were ready to defend the portion of the city they held as long as they could, and, if driven from their streets, could cross over to Arrabales, and defend themselves in that suburb to the last extremity. This determination of the citizens was shared in by the clergy, and even the women. Of the former, one Iago Saass has been noted for his enterprising character, so that his townsmen created him a Captain, and named him Chaplain-General to the army, for his services. Of the latter, the Countess Bureta, one of the most distinguished of the Arragonese nobility, sallied out of her mansion with a firelock in her hand at the head of a disciplined company of women, and led them into the midst of every danger, not only to carry succour to the wounded, but to resist the assailants in person. In expectation of the French departure, Palafox addressed a spirited proclamation from the “ Cuartel General de Zaragoza," complimenting both “ Arragoneses y Soldados” on their two months' noble resistance of the French armies, and the inhabitants forthwith illuminated their houses; but their liberation was not yet effected, and the most frightful explosions spread continual terror and alarm. In the night of the 14th many mines were sprung, but fires were seen with delight to arise from the engineer's park on MonteTorrero. The last blew up the Church of Sta Engracia, which was laid in ruins.* While the defenders were ready, on the morning of the 14th, to renew the resistance with undiminished rancour, word was brought that the French were marching away on the road to Pampeluna. In the midst of the desolation and misery, the first thought of the besieged was to proceed, in full procession, to the metropolitan church, Del Pilar, where Palafox, accompanied by the Conde de Montijo, the Correjidor, and Ayuntamiento, and crowds, civil and military, amid the sound of music and cannon, sung a solemn Te Deum before they returned to their ruined palaces and broken homes.

Honour, immortal honour to the name of Zaragoza ! The

* The subterranean church of Sta Engracia was, in the estimation of devotees of the Romish Church, one of the most sacred edifices of Spain. It was full of relics, and lighted up day and night with 30 lamps, which, although the roof was but 12 feet high, never sullied it with smoke. This was owing to the oil prepared by the monks of the Geronemite monastery attached to this church, and puzzled all who did not believe it to be miraculous.

« ZurückWeiter »