« ZurückWeiter »
Life of Lord Willington.
In the execution of this service, the Prince had a broad and deep river to pass. He had ng means of transporting his men but a single float, so that a loug time must necessarily have been spent in getting them over. He had made use of this float but a few times, when a. sudden rising of the wind rendered it unserviceable, and totally cut off all present communication between the Prince and the part that had passed with him, and the more considerable part of his force on the other side of the river. The prince had now to chuse between the value of celerity in the attack, and the importance of waiting till his other force could effect their passage over. The party he was going to attack was much superior to him, had his whole body been together. In these circumstances, the Prince came to a resolution which most assuredly Lord Wellington would take in the same exigence. He resolved not to lose any time'in attempts to bring over the rest of his troops, much less to make any attempt to return; but to urge on boldly, in such a manner as to possess the enemy with an opinion of his strength, and to attack them briskly, and bring the matter to a conclusion before they should be undeceived. Between four and five, therefore, of the following morning, he marched with the utmost speed, directly upon the town. When they approached within a mile and a half of the place, an accident happened which had nearly defeated the whole enterprise. Their detachment fired by mistake on some dragoons of the enemy who were patrolling; the firing was caught from one to another, and at length became general. The Prince remedied tbis accident by a double diligence; he soon reached the town, and encountered the enemy on the bridge.
The Prince now made a discovery that it was necessary to change his ground and proposed mode of attack. This he immediately executed in a way as judicions as it was resolute. Having forced the bridge, he made a complete circuit round the town, and turned the enemy by attacking ibem in the rear. Every thing succeeded. The attack on the rear was made with bayonet fixed. The French fled into the castle with precipation. This was what the Prince was endeavouring to effect. He knew that the castle could neither contain nor supo port such a multitude. Accordingly the Count de Chabot was shortly. compelled to capitulate, and did not discover, till the signature of the Vol. I. No. 1.
Journal of the Operations in Portugal.
articles, to what an inferior force he had submitted. Such are occasionally the effects of confidence in the attacking party, and a panic in the defenders; and such are frequently the fruits of promptitude, decision, and of that resolute courage, which, making a due calculation of the value of its own skill and efforts, attempts the boldest enterprises, with apparently the most inadequate means; and which not being able to have all that it wishes, makes the best use of all that it bas.
(To be concluded in our next.)
JOURNAL OF THE PRESENT OPERATIONS OF THE
ARMY IN PORTUGAL.
GENERAL PLAN OF THE CAMPAIGN. By the unfortunate loss of all the letters by the Marlborough, we are necessarily precluded from the due execution of this part of our subject, and must therefore throw ourselves upon the indulgence of our military readers. Our purpose under this bead, is to give, not merely a detailed narrative, but an intelligible, and explanatory statement, of all the military movements, accompanied occasionally by plans and military drafts, without which it is sometimes impossible that the objects and designs of the contending parties can in any degree be understood. It is not in battles alone, nor indeed in battles principally, that the talents of great generals and their military skill are best exhibited. The two greatest generals in modern times, the King of Prussia, and Marshal Daun, repeatedly, and almost alternately defeated each other in their pitched battles; each exhibited their admirable talents in their positions, manoeuvres, mutual foresight, and prevention of the designs of the other; and still more in their incredible dexterity in repairing by their extraordinary judgment, the effects of their misfortunes. In our journal of the campaigns of Lord Wellington, it will be our main effort to do justice to these kinds of military movements of both armies; to explain the plan and design of the campaign on the part of both parties, and to unfold the connection, which the particular motions, and single operations both of Lord Wellington and
Journal of the Operations in Portugal. Massena, bear either to heir own general design, or to the counteraction of that of their enemy. It is in this manner only, that such a journal can either be interesting or useful, and it is the omission of these points, which renders the narrative of battles so generally uninteresting.
Not having been able, therefore, in the present number, to procurs early enough the necessary materials, we shall defer the journal of present operations till our next; and in the mean time, as a preparatory step, endeavour to exhibit before the eyes of our readers, some precise plan, and brief military draft of the scene and field of action. A due and accurate notion of these localities, will render what will be related bereafter more distinct and intelligible. The most important movements have frequently no other reason than the nature of the ground taken up, or occupied by the enemy. And with respect to military positions, the circumstances which renders them eligible, and thosp which neutralize an apparent uatural strength; the comparative value of them, and in what degree they may be depended upon against any given superiority of force; in all these points the present campaign in Portugal is so calculated for a perpetual lesson to all military men, that the due explanation of them, if executed with the care for which we will answer, and with the ability which we will endeavour to supply from the judgment of others, cannot but be eminently useful.
The scene of present operations is the mountains and plain of the province of Beira, bounded by Estramadura on the east, and extending to the sea on the west. It is the central district of Portugal, and is fenced in on three parts by an immense wall of mountains, which open only towards the south-west to the sea. On the side of Spain and Almeida, this wall is of immense height, and in parts craggy, perpendicular, and absolutely impassable. On the north, the east, and the south, the same chain continues, and cuts off the interior, i. e, the plain of Beira, from Lisbon and the Tagus. When the enemy, therefore, shall even have passed the mountains on the Spanish side, and have thus descended into the plain of Beira, they are still on y(to employ a familiar but simple illustration) in the hollow of the bason; and they must re-ascend its perpendicular sides on another extremity, and thence descend again, before they can reach either Lisbon, or the roads an the Tagus.
Journal of the Operations in Portugal. Such is the general character of the scene of operations. To have it still more distinctly before his mind, let the reader imagine himself standing with his face to the south, in the midst of a plain surrounded by a semi-circular range of mountains. On the north, on the east, and on the south, the chain is complete, being without an opening, and almost without a pass. On the west, the chain, instead of joining 'with the south, runs into the sea, and thereby leaves an opening. The southern range, however, still continues, and in a long oblique line, runs nearly two hundred miles, parallel to the sea, still intercepting the province of Beira, from Lisbon and the Tagus.
The road from Spain into this province is by Almeida, from which last part Guarda is distant about eighteen miles. Almeida, however, is rather a strong out-post than a pass, as after an enemy shall have possessed themselves of it, they have still to make their way to the mountains, and to ascend them, Almeida being on the Spanish side of them.
A very false opinion has gone abroad, with respect to the importance of Almeida in the general defence of Portugal. What we have above said, might almost be a sufficient answer to this apprehension; Almeida being only an outwork, and no part of the line of defence. The strength or weakness of Almeida is very little to the question of the general defence. If Almeida, indeed, had held out, it would have consumed the time and strength of the enemy, and led them deep into the autumn, perhaps into the winter. It was amply provisioned; its fortifications well repaired, and very formidable in themselves; it had, moreover, a numerous garrison, and an English Governor. From one of those accidents which defy all previous calculation, and sometimes render war a game of chance, it has been compelled to surrender. Its loss is most certainly the very material loss of the advantage above mentioned; it has given, moreover, to the enemy, a shelter for his army, and a depôt for his provisions and ammunition. But here the effects of its capture stop. The enemy is still on the other side of the mountains, and for some time at least, perhaps for the whole winter, eanonly make a circular march around their foot, without attempting their ascent.
If the enemy, however, contrary to all reasonable expectation,
Journal of the Operations in Portugal.
should effect his passage over the mountains; that is to say, should elude Lord Wellington; or force a way by his superiority of number and ferocious sacrifice of his owo men, (and this certainly may occur), under these circumstances Lord Wellington will necessarily have to abandon his present line of defence on the tops and in the defiles of the mountains, and to take up another suited to the change of the relative positions of the armies. In other words, Lord Wellington must then seek to cover Lisbon and the interior. In doing this be will have to fall back on the strongest line of defence in Europe. It is important, therefore, to consider what this line is.
The first point of this line of defence is Guarda. This is one of the main positions for the defence of Portugal. It is admirably situated for checking an advancing enemy, and for cutting off any supplies to him after he has advanced. The town is very imperfectly fortified, and has received these fortifications only since the present campaign. Some part of its ancient wall continues, but is totally without any military use. From Guarda rises the river Mondego, which, flowing first through clefts of the mountains and a deep trench in a northerly direction, and thence to the south-west, enters the sea by Mondego Bay.
The part of the povince of Beira included between the course of the Mondego and the southern mountains, is the first strong military position if the enemy should pass the mountain. Belmonte, about twelve miles from Guarda, is the next. The road for nearly the whole
way is through a deep ravine; the sides consist of inaccessible mountains. It would take very little trouble to render them impassable by an enemy's army. The ground of itself is a fortification, and it would require but very little effort to break it up, so as to preclude the possibility of the advance of artillery. These mountain roads are the best defence of the country.
From Belinonte, the next march is to Atalaya, a distance of fifteeu miles; the road the same as above described. Atalaya is a village.
From Atalaya, the march is to Castello Branco, a town of more reputation than actual strength. It is fifteen miles distant from Atalaya, and the road to it is equally craggy and difficult. Its fortifica