« ZurückWeiter »
THE CONVENTION A POLITIC MEASURE.
vention was also loudly disapproved of by the Portuguese General Freire, and the stirring faction of which the Bishop of Oporto was the head, who could not be persuaded that it was a purely military arrangement between the British and French armies. When the latter looted the kingdom every edifice in Portugal, civil or religious, had been despoiled of all that was valuable and portable. Junot, who had entered the kingdom with scarcely a change of linen, demanded five ships to remove what he called his personal effects; and the plunder of all was in proportion to that of the chief. It was not, therefore, without immense difficulty that the two British commissioners appointed to carry out the Convention could resist the unblushing pertinacity with which the French officers endeavoured to claim public plunder as private baggage. The differences at length rose to such a height, that Lisbon became in a fearful state of bitterness against the French, and of reproach against the English for protecting them, so that at length the English Commander-in-Chief found himself obliged to declare martial law, without recognising the authority of the Juntas at all, but he finally re-established the Regency as appointed by the Prince Regent at his departure for the Brazils.
The Convention of Cintra was, notwithstanding all the obloquy that had been thrown upon it, a measure both politic and advantageous to the British under the circumstances. It delivered Portugal altogether from the French, and gave possession of fortresses, the acquisition of which would have cost much time and blood. The British army was at the moment in a very unorganised state — its horses were out of condition, and few in number; the siege train was still on board ship; the mouth of the Tagus was held by a Russian fleet; and Lisbon, saved from destruction, became an excellent place d'armes, the possession of which, by sea and land, secured the future operations against the enemy.
21. DE LA ROMAGNA ARRIVES IN SPAIN FROM DENMARK.
It will be remembered that part of the policy of Napoleon, in anticipation of the designs he was meditating against the Spanish kingdom, was to remove its military force from its defence. So far back as the battle of Eylau, a division of Spanish soldiers, under the command of the Marquis de la Romagna, was directed upon Hamburg, and, traversing France with that object, reached its destination just about the period of the seizure of Copenhagen by the British. It was at this time placed under the superior command of Marshal Bernadotte. When matters became matured for the French possession of the Peninsula, Napoleon advised the Prince of Ponte-Corvo to keep an eye upon this corps, consisting of about 20,000 men. The French authorities contrired to keep De la Romagna in complete ignorance of all that was occurring in Spain, but at length the British Government found a medium through which it could communicate with the Marquis. A Swedish clergyman, in whose honour and enterprise they could confide, contrived to gain access to the Spanish General by jostling him advisedly in
WAR IN SCANDINAVIA.
the street, and apologising for the misadventure in Latin. A conversation thence ensued in that language, in which De la Romagna became informed of what had happened, and of the readiness of the British authorities to assist him in the rescue of himself and his troops from French trammels. The Spaniards in Zeeland no sooner learned the atrocious aggression under which their native land was suffering than they cordially responded to their General's appeal, and he opened a communication with the British RearAdmiral Keats, who was in the Baltic with a squadron of three 74-gun ships, and five or six other smaller vessels. Accordingly, they took possession of the fort and town of Nyborg, in the Isle of Fünen, on the 9th of August, with 6,000 men. The Danish authorities, displeased at such a proceeding, moored a man-of-war brig, the “ Fama," and the cutter, “ Salornan,” 12, in front of the harbour, and would not listen to any remonstrances addressed to them by the British and Spanish Commanders. The boats and small vessels of the British squadron were therefore placed under the command of Captain Macnamara, of the “ Edgar," who attacked and captured both the brig and cutter the same night. It was now of first consequence to embark the Spanish army with all haste, and, accordingly, the Admiral, shifting his flag to the “ Hound," bomb-vessel, directed Macnamara to man 57 sloops or doggers found in the ports with the seamen of the squadron, and in the course of the following day a great part of the artillery, baggage, and stores belonging to the Spanish troops was carried on board, and removed to the port of Sleypsham, where on the 11th the troops were all embarked without an accident. About 1,000 more men joined the anchorage off the island of Sproe, in Jutland, and another 1,000 from Langeland; but two regiments quartered in the island of Zeeland were disarmed and made prisoners, after firing on the French General Frision, and killing one of his Aide-de-camps. Altogether about 10,000 men were carried off, and, with the gallant Marquis, safely landed at Corunna on the 30th of September.
22, WAR IN SCANDINAVIA. On the 9th of February, a Russian army 20,000 strong, under General Buxhowden, disregarding the rigours of a winter of unusual severity, entered Finland, heralded by a proclamation or Imperial ukase from the Czar, which bore “ that we unite Finland for ever to our Empire, and command its inhabitants to take the oath of allegiance to our throne.” The King of Sweden had made no preparations for the defence of Finland, and the few troops in that province, unable to make head against so formidable a force, were obliged to retreat. The important fortress of Helsingfors, and ultimately the capital city of the province, Abo, fell into the hands of the Russians. Sveaborg, the Gibraltar of the North, is situated on seven rocks separated from the mainland, flanking each other, casemated for the protection of their garrisons, and impervious to the attack of any land force. It was at this period strongly fortified with 700 pieces of cannon, and in the roads, which might
THE DEFENCE OF SVEABORG.
contain the fleets of the world, lay a fleet of Swedish galleys. It was garrisoned by 3,000 Swedish troops, commanded by Admiral Cronstadt, when on the 8th of March it was invested from the land side, but the frozen waters of the Baltic prevented effectually the sea face of the fortress from being surrounded. The orders to the governor were “ to defend the fortress to the last extremity.” Yet, although no landing had been attempted from the ice, and a very weak bombardment had been opened from the shore, the place was most shamefully surrendered on the 6th of April, under a strong suspicion of bribery.
The Swedish fleet consisted of 11 or 12 sail of the line, under Admiral Nauch hoff, and 6 or 7 frigates. Fortunately for Sweden, Denmark had at this time only two line of battleships left to oppose her, but Russia possessed a fleet far greater than Gustavus could send to sea. It was necessary, therefore, to look to Great Britain for assistance; but, with true Muscovite finesse, although the peace of Tilsit naturally suspended all friendly relations with England, she waited until the Baltic was frozen over before she declared war. However, as soon as the ice broke up, on the 17th of May, a British fleet assembled off Gottenburg under ViceAdmiral Sir James Saumarez, consisting of “Victory," 100, Captain George Hope, bearing the Admiral's flag, “ Centaur,” 74, Captain Webley, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood, “Superb,” 74, Captain Jackson, bearing that of Admiral Goodwin Keats, “ Implacable,” 74, Captain Bryan Martin, “ Brunswick,” Captain Graves, “Mars,” Captain Lukin, “ Orion,” 74, Captain Sir Archibald Dickson, “ Goliath,” Captain Paget, “ Vanguard,” Captain Baker, “ Dictator,” 64, Captain Donald Campbell, “ Africa,” 64, Captain Barrett; with the “ Africaine,” “ Euryalus," “Salsette,” “ Tribune,” and “ Tartar” frigates, besides sloops, gunbrigs, &c. About 200 sail of transports, having on board 12,000 men, under Lieutenant- General Sir John Moore, were with the fleet, ready for disembarkation. In the meanwhile, General Klingspor, at the head of the Swedish troops in Finland, after having fallen back as far as Ulenborg, boldly resumed the offensive on the 17th of May, and, aided by a gallant band of peasants, who rallied around the Swedish General, to avert the dreaded Muscovite yoke, had repeated success against the Russians, took from them 99 pieces of cannon, and expelled them from the whole of East Bothnia. In the same month of May the Swedish fleet recaptured the islands of Aland and Gottland, which had yielded to the Russian arms, and Admiral Bodikoff, with the Russian garrisons, were made prisoners.
The British repaired to Stockholm to concert measures with the King for the employment of this force in conjunction with His Majesty's army; but it was no easy matter to deal with the eccentric monarch. His mind, al hough he had scarcely strength enough to defend bis kingdom, was bent on conquest, and he first proposed the conquest of Zeeland. The British General represented to the King, that not only was the island strongly fortified, but full of
Danish troops, and that there was a strong force of French and Spanish in the adjoining island of Fünen. The next proposition made was, that the British troops should land in Finland, and take a position there; but it was shown him that the British army was wholly insufficient to make head against a Russian force that would assuredly march in strength against an enemy so near to their capital. The end of the conference was, that Sir John Moore adroitly managed to escape from the rash consequence of a total disagreement with Gustavus IV., and returned to Gottenburg, where, under the new phases of the contest, he received orders not to disembark his army, but to carry them to the Peninsula..
Whatever may have been the faults in the character of Gustavus IV. of Sweden, a disregard to solemn obligations was not one of them. He was proof against the wiles and threats of the French Generals, when, after Jena and Auerstadt, they strove to detach him from the cause of the Allies ; nor would he separate from the King of Prussia until Frederick-William wrote himself to him to say that his cause was hopeless; and when, after the battle of Friedland, the whole of Northern Europe came under the power of the Conqueror, that true Swedish truth and boldness, which showed him a legitimate descendant of so many heroes, kept him staunch to England, and ready to jeopardize his kingdom in fulfilment of his solemn engagement. He might have readily made peace at Tilsit with France and Russia, but he chose a braver but less politic part.
23. INTESTINE WAR AT CONSTANTINOPLE. The Russians, at the same time that they were engaged in war with Sweden, were also intent on establishing themselves in the Turkish provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia ; and troops to the number of 80,000 men were poured into these frontier provinces. In order to hold these in check, a great number of Turkish troops were assembled from time to time in Roumelia and Bulgaria, but important revolutions now took place in the turbulent populations of the Porte. The Sultan Mustapha, who had been raised to the throne on the deposition of Selim, was sensual, indolent, and ignorant, so that he gave up the entire conduct of affairs into the hands of the Kaimacan and Mufti ; and in the rivalry which occurred between these functionaries the former went to the wall. Mustapha Bairachdar was at this time collecting the disaffected to overturn the government. This man was of a bold and enterprising character, but of more enlightened views than were usual among his countrymen, for he had assisted in the organisation of a force upon the European model, called the Nizam-genites. At the head of 12,000 of these men, he now marched to Constantinople, bearing with them the Sandjak-Sheriff, or standard of Mahomet. On the 21st he entered the capital, and made known his conditions to Sultan Mustapha, but he negotiated craftily, with a view of restoring Selim to the throne. The enervated Mustapha, seeking his present ease and pleasure, gladly acceded to the demands of his powerful
1808.7 INFLEXIBLE CHARACTER OF SULTAN MAHMOUD.
subjects, and on the 28th of May he went, as was his custom, to pass the day with his women in one of his kiosks. Bairachdar marched to the Seraglio and demanded the release of Selim; but the black eunuchs in charge of this unhappy Prince asked a moment's delay, which being conceded, they put the deposed Sultan to death, and threw his body among the enraged soldiery. The Sultan Mustapha was then followed, seized, and imprisoned ; and his younger brother Mahmoud, the last of the royal and special race, was put on the throne, Bairachdar being at the same time installed as Grand-Vizier. For some months the vigour of this man's character produced a calm, and the best of the Nizam-genites were expedited to serve against the Russians. Bairachdar then, with unabated energy, turned his attention to the fleet, and crews were collected from trading vessels and other craft to strengthen and improve it. Both Sultan and Vizier proceeded with other innovations, notwithstanding the many examples before them of the danger of so doing ; and accordingly the jealousy of the Janissaries became soon awakened, and the Ulemas, the Mufti, and the leaders of former tumults, organised an insurrection against Bairachdar. On the 14th of November, a furious multitude surrounded the barracks of the new troops, fell upon the officers of the Nizamgedid, and massacred all the partisans of the Grand-Vizier that came in their way. Another column of insurgents marched to the palace of Bairachdar, who, finding his personal guards overpowered and himself on the point of becoming a prisoner, set fire to his powder magazine, and perished in the explosion. A strong column had attacked the Seraglio, but the Sultan, placing himself at the head of 4,000 faithful troops, defeated all the efforts of the insurgents. Mahmoud joined to a superior mind an inflexibility of character that now displayed itself. He ordered his brother Mustapha to be put out of the way, that he might obtain for himself all the advantage against his enemies of being the last of the sacred race, and he then sallied at the head of his troops from the Seraglio into the city, which for 48 hours was the scene of continual combat and unceasing horrors. At length the Sultan's enemies, the Janissaries, prevailed, and he was compelled to purchase peace by the sacrifice of all the ministers who had been agents in his reforms; but the force of old attachment to the race of Ottomar saved his life, and he became even an object of care and veneration to the very men who had subverted his government.
These repeated convulsions at Constantinople appeared admirably calculated for the success of the traditionary policy of Russia to get possession of this capital of the East, but the Czar had at this time more pressing objects of solicitude and ambition nearer home. The prosecution of the war in Scandinavia, which promised to gain Finland, so long an object of desire to the Cabinet of St. Petersburg, and so essential to the safety of that capital, deferred, of necessity, all immediate plans for southern acquisitions, till this province should have been annexed to the Russian Empire, and the state of affairs in Europe had become more settled.