Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

1807.]

INVESTMENT OF BUENOS AYRES.

11

direction, the troops were embarked, and on the 28th a landing was effected, without any opposition, about 10 miles to the eastward of the town. The army was then put in motion, and reached Reduction, when the General determined to cross to the opposite bank of Rio Chuelo, on which the enemy had constructed a formidable line of defence. General Whitelocke determined to turn this position, leaving directions to Colonel Mahon with two regiments to remain with the heavy artillery at the village of Reduction. In this attempt, Major-General Leveson Gower, in command of the right column, fell in with a corps of the enemy, near the ford called Passe Chies, which he gallantly attacked and defeated, and on the 30th the army was united, and on the morning of the 5th of July, Buenos Ayres was completely invested. A summons was forth with sent in to Governor Liniers, who still remained in authority, and the amount of the force now brought against the place would, it is said, have induced that officer to surrender, but that General Elio, the last Governor of Monte Video, who was in the garrison, opposed it. Brigadier Sir Samuel Auchmuty, with the 38th and 87th Regiments, possessed himself of the strong post of the Residentia and Plaza del Toros, where he captured 600 prisoners and 32 guns, with a quantity of ammunition, and he placed the 5th in possession of the church and convent of St. Catalina. Brigadier Lumley, leading the 36th and 88th into the town, was so exposed to a heavy and continued musketry, and to a fire of grape from behind deep ditches which had been cut across the streets, that he could hardly get forward. The 36th, led by the General, overcame these obstacles, but the 88th were decimated, overpowered, and taken prisoners. The 36th found, in consequence, their flank compromised, but, nevertheless, the grenadier company, under Lieut.-Colonel Browne, gallantly charged and captured 2 guns, which they spiked, and then united themselves with Auchmuty at the Plaza de Toros. The carbiniers, led on by Lieut.-Colonel Kingston, failed in their charge, and fell back with most of their officers wounded. The division of Colonel Pack was yet more unfortunate, for, haying failed to obtain posses. sion of the Jesuits' College, they were surrounded and taken prisoners; and General Craufurd was, in like manner, foiled in the attempt to possess himself of the convent of San Domingo, and, being cut off from all communication with any of the other columns, found himself obliged, at 4 in the afternoon, to lay down his arms, as was also Lieut.-Colonel Duff, who was obliged to surrender with a detachment under his command. At the end of the day General Whitelocke found himself reduced 2500 men by these casualties, and no part of the town in his possession but the Plaza de Toros. Under these circumstances, he listened to the proposals of Colonel Liniers, the commandant of the town, to return all the prisoners in his possession, both from the affair of the morning and those that remained from Beresford's failure six months since, if he desisted from any further attack, and withdrew from the La Plata. These terms were immediately submitted to by General Whitelocke and

12

BLOCKADE OF THE DARDANELLES.

[A.D.

Admiral Murray, and a capitulation was signed on the 7th, by which the whole of the British troops were withdrawn from the Rio de la Plata, and Monte Video was restored, in the course of two months, to the state in which it existed.

The public indignation in England at this disgraceful termination of a campaign, begun under such very different hopes, and the gallant capture of Monte Video, obliged the Government to bring General Whitelocke to a court-martial, which sentenced him to be dismissed from His Majesty's service. It was clear that Whitelocke was utterly inefficient and inexperienced in the command to which he had been appointed, more by favour than for any merit of previous service, or he would not have hampered his attack by dividing his force and locking them up in the streets of an unknown city, in ignorance of its powers of defence, or of the impossibility of contending in streets, without fire-arms. He ought to have known that the city was prepared and barricaded for a desperate struggle, which, from the character of Colonel Liniers, and the failure of Beresford in the previous year, might have been foreseen, and the General should also have availed himself of the powerful train of artillery which Auchmuty had taken in Monte Video, and which was left idle in the rear, under Colonel Mahon, at Reduction. A previous bombardment would soon have overcome any attempts on the part of such a population as defended Buenos Ayres of the remotest chance of success. 5. THE RUSSIAN AND TURKISH FLEETS IN THE

MEDITERRANEAN. Emboldened by their success over the British, the Turks hastened to equip a fleet that might raise the blockade of the Dardanelles, which not only prevented their communications with the Greek islands, from whence they exclusively derived their sailors, but created serious symptoms of a coming scarcity in Constantinople, where commotions had, in consequence, already occurred. On the 19th of May, 8 sail of the line, 6 frigates, and some corvettes, with about 50 gunboats, passed the Dardanelles, and, finding nothing to oppose them, steered for Tenedos, in which was a ! Russian garrison. Here the Capudan-Pacha endeavoured to land a body of troops, but they were repulsed by the Russians, and he stood over with his fleet to the coast of Natolia. On the 22nd the Turks came across a Russian squadron under the command of RearAdmiral Greig. It consisted of “ Rafael,” 80,“ Tverday,” 74, flagship, “ Motchnoy,74,“ St. Cafael,” 74, “ St. Helene,” 74, “ Yiarrowflaul,” 74,“ Moscow,74, “Rawrigan,” 66, “ St. Petro,” 66, “Skoroy,” 60, “Kilduya,” 26, and " Venus,” 26. The Turks immediately crowded sail to escape to the Straits, but they were come up with by the enemy, and, after a running fight of two hours, they barely succeeded in sheltering their ships under the protection of the castles. In this hasty retreat, however, three of the vessels stranded upon Cape Janissary. On the 22nd of June, the Turkish fleet again sallied into the Archipelago, with 10 sail of

1807.]

ACTIVE OPERATIONS IN THE BALTIC.

13

the line (including one three-decker), 6 frigates, and 5 smaller vessels, and, steering now for Tenedos, they disembarked some troops there, and re-took the island. On the 1st of July, the two fleets encountered each other off the island of Lemnos, and an engagement ensued, which lasted the whole day. The ship of the Capudan-Bey, mounting 80 brass guns, and manned with 774 men, struck her flag to Admiral Siniavin; two other ships of the line and three of the frigates were driven on shore; the rest of the Turkish fleet saved themselves a second time in the Dardanelles, and the Russians then recaptured Tenedos. While the British ship “ Glatton,” Captain Seacombe, lay off this island, a Turkish ship was seen at anchor in the port of Sigre. The captain called to his assistance the “ Hirondelle” to cover an attack which he ordered to be made by the boats, which ran alongside, boarded the vessel, and took her out, but with the loss of Lieutenant Watson, who commanded them, and 4 seamen killed, and 9 wounded.

6. AFFAIRS IN THE BALTIC. Although our attention has been thus drawn to the naval affairs of the several Powers in the Mediterranean, England was at the same time keeping a watchful eye upon the Baltic Sea, on the shores of which the Emperor Napoleon was now warring with Russia, Prussia, and Sweden. Stralsund and Dantzic were already, at the beginning of the year, invested by Marshal Mortier with the 8th corps-d'armée. Several encounters by land had taken place during the winter, in one of which General Victor and his aide-de-camp had been taken prisoners near Stettin ; but no serious blockade was established at Stralsund by Mortier, or at Dantzig by Marshal Lefebvre, till towards the end of January. On the 1st of February General Essen, the governor of Swedish Pomerania, embarked a force of 3000 men in gun-boats, and incessantly disturbed the French invading force at Stralsund ; and on the 14th of March a rather considerable affair there ended to the disadvantage of the Swedes. On the 29th, however, Mortier was directed to place the blockading force under General Granjan, and to bring the rest of his corps to Wollin, to invest or restrain the garrison of Colberg.

The Baltic having thus become the scene of active operations, a British naval force was despatched, as soon as the weather permitted, to assist the Northern powers by sea in their continued conflict with the French armies; but, before the first division could reach Rügen, the aspect of affairs had materially changed. Nevertheless, on the 12th of April a squadron of 16-gun ship-sloops, under Captain Chetham, arrived off the harbour of Dantzig, and the Commodore placed himself in communication with General Kalkreuth, the Prussian governor. In order to prevent the besiegers from obtaining supplies from the sea, Captain Chetham detached the“ Charles," under Captain Clephane, to cruise outside, while he himself anchored in the “ Sally" in a basin formed between the two mouths of the

14

MILITARY REPUTATION OF BERTHIER AND DARU. [A.D.

Vistala, in order to flank the isthmus by which alone the French could attack the works of the place.

7. WAR IN POLAND. The pause of the great French army at Warsaw brought little rest to Napoleon. It was no easy task to provide subsistence for a multitude amidst the forests and marshes of Poland. Here it was that the wonderful ability, the admirable mind for organisation, and the indefatigable activity of the Emperor, shone quite as conspicuously as in the battle field. Innumerable orders are extant to show how all the resources of Germany were placed under embargo, and periodically brought up to the supply of the French army on the Vistula. Convoys from all quarters, not only of provision, but of the munitions of war, were transported in many thousand carriages, even from the distant districts bordering on the Rhine and Danube; and the roads through Prussia appeared never so alive with commerce in its most prosperous days. In the labours which attended the re-organisation, discipline, and supply of 60,000 men and 40,000 horses, the Emperor was ably seconded by his Major-General, Berthier, and by the intelligence and experience of the IntendantGeneral, Count Daru. This latter functionary had a wonderful capacity for the introduction of order into every branch of administration, military or civil. He was employed by the Emperor in the above office in the campaigns of Austria, Prussia, and Russia, and administered the military occupation of the country from the Rhine to the Vistula in 1806. He was also a man of great literary distinction, a poet, and a historian; and he became Minister of War under Louis XVIII., who created him a peer of France. Hospitals were established for the army at Thorn, Posen, and Warsaw, and especial attention was paid to what is called the ambulance, for the conveyance and care of the sick. These were all formed into set regular brigades, disciplined and commanded by officers of the line. Perhaps there is no incident in Napoleon's campaigns that is more deserving of deep study by all military leaders of every country than the organisation he gave to the civil departments of the service. It is a great mistake to regard him only as a strategist; he was infinitely greater as a military administrator.

But one branch of his duties did not divert his mind from the other. Formidable entrenchments were now raised as têtes-du-pont at Praga, Modlin, Thorn, and every point of passage across the Vistula. The pusillanimous surrenders to the French of Stettin and Custrin had been followed by that of Glogau and Breslau, so that there was no lack of military stores or siege equipage with which to arm these defences. Brieg and Kosel surrendered almost as soon as invested on the 7th of January, and Napoleon at this time despatched Vandamme with 12,000 men to besiege Schweidnitz. Neiss and Glatz were now the only remaining towns in Silesia which still hoisted the Prussian flag. He, therefore, made his brother Jerome governor of the whole of Silesia, and confided to his

1807. ) UNION OF CORPS OF BUXHOWDEN AND BENNINGSEN. 15

brother Louis the Electorate of Hanover, having Marshal Brune under him, to watch the mouths of the Elbe and Weser and the shores of Pomeramia against any hostile descent from the fleets of Great Britain.

While the French army was thus, by the superintending care of its chief, placed in cantonments, and had every material comfort provided for it, the situation of the Russian army was such that it could scarcely be said to have had a commander.

General Kamenskoi, who had quitted it at the battle of Pultusk, was found, after many days, at Grodno, in a state of hopeless derangement, and the two next in command, Buxhowden and Benningsen, acting with mutual jealousy, stood apart at the head of their respective corps-d'armée. Fortunately, at this juncture, the severity of the weather, the suspension of hostilities, and the separation of the hostile armies in their respective quarters, prevented the cause of the Czar from receiving any serious injury under such a state of paralysis in the supreme command. Alexander gave this, at length, to Benningsen, and ordered his generals to meet him at Novogorod, to determine on future operations. It was observed that the two corps of Marshals Bernadotte and Ney, which now formed the actual left wing of the French Grand Army, had been pushed forward so far as to menace Königsberg, the second city of the Prussian dominions; and it was thought in this council that, by resuming hostilities at once, the Russian forces might, by a rapid movement, cut off these detached corps-d'armée, and then, pushing across the Lower Vistula, raise the blockades of Dantzig, Graudentz, and Colberg, and so force back the theatre of war into Western Prussia.

In furtherance of the plan of the campaign here laid down, the two corps of Buxhowden and Benningsen were now united, and crossed the Narew on the 14th of January. The division of Essen was left on the banks of the Narew, where he was joined by two other divisions out of Moldavia, as well to mask the movement as to form a reserve; and the seven divisions of Benningsen's army, numbering 68,000 men, with a numerous artillery, were on the 15th-16th put in motion with great despatch. The lakes and forests which cover the country between the Narew and the Alle, and which were nearly impracticable in winter, could not be thoroughly watched by the French outposts. On thel7th, therefore, the Russian army having advanced 10 or 12 leagues, debouched upon Rhein, in East Prussia, where the Commander-in-Chief placed his head-quarters. Forty squadrons under Prince Gallitzin, forming the advanced guard, pushed on quickly and surprised and overwhelmed on the same day a portion of Ney's light cavalry, who had advanced as far as Schippenbeil, only 10 leagues distant from Königsberg. It appears that Ney had, with his characteristic impetuosity, in contravention of the orders of Napoleon, advanced his head-quarters from Neidenburg to Altenstein, supposing that he should thus better secure the flank of the corps of the Prince of Ponte-Corvo. The Emperor, on hearing of this advanced movement of the Marshal, sent him a peremptory order: “ De rentrer dans les positions qui lui avaient été indiquées

« ZurückWeiter »