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retreat of the French from Santarem; transactions exhibiting on the part of the Spaniards, a strange mixture of indomitable bravery and disgraceful cowardice; the most heroic fidelity, and the basest treachery; wisdom and folly; conduct and incapacity; the noblest virtues, and the worst of vices : on the part of the French, valor, conduct, and masterly genius, sullied by the perpetuations of crimes revolting even to imagine, and for which the soldiery of France have by no means paid a sufficient penalty, although the vengeance of the nations whom they oppressed in the Peninsula, was as stern as the offences which called it forth were horrible. It is to the operations of the British army which we turn with feelings of almost unalloyed delight, guided by skill not equal to that of the French-acting with bravery far more conspicuous-displaying on almost every occasion a spirit of discipline, mercy, and justice, far superior to that of their opponents and allies. The pain occasioned to us by the perusal of the disasters which so long impeded their success, is alleviated by the moral satisfaction derived from the glorious light in which they appear, contrasted with the two nations whom they came to combat or assist.
We do not pretend to give any thing like an abstract of these events, but shall content ourselves with a few extracts relative to those occurrences which are the most interesting to Englishmen. The first chapter narrate the departure of Buonaparte from Spain, and the dispersion of the Spanish troops in Catalonia and Arragon. These melancholy details are enlivened by the following account of Lord Cochrane's defence of Fort Trinidad ; and it should be observed, to Dr. Southey's credit, that he gives the proper meed of applause to persons, whom, from his political prepossession, he might be suspected as willing to pass over :
“ The citadel was soon in a desperate state, and the fort might have been considered so; for it was at this time battered in breach, and a passage to the lower bomb-proof being nearly effected, the marines of the Fame were withdrawn. At this juncture Lord Cochrane arrived in the Imperieuse. During the month of September this gallant officer, with his single ship, had kept the whole coast of Languedoc in alarm, destroyed the newly-constructed semaphoric telegraphs (which were of the utmost consequence to the numerous coasting convoys of the French) at Bourdique, La Pinede, St. Maguire, Frontignan, Canet, and Foy; demolished fourteen barracks of the gens-d'armes; blown up a battery and the strong tower upon the lake of Frontignan ; and not only prevented any troops from being sent from that province into Spain, but excited such dismay there, that 2000 men were drawn from Figueras to oppose him. The coasting trade was entirely suspended during this alarm ; and with such consummate prudence were all his enterprises planned and executed, that not one of his men was either killed or hurt, except one, who was singed in blowing up the battery.
“ Lord Collingwood, with his wonted prudence, had entrusted Cochrane with discretionary orders to assist the Spaniards wherever could be done with most probability of success, and he hastened to the Bay of Rosas as soon as he knew of the siege,.. too late, and yet in time to signalize himself. Captain Bennett, though he had withdrawn his own men, did not alter Lord Collingwood's orders, and Cochrane threw himself into Fort Trinidad with eighty seamen and marines, at a time when the garrison, amounting to the same number, would else have surrendered, perceiving that further resistance had been thought unavailing by the English themselves. This garrison was changed, and the new men brought with them fresh hope and unexhausted strength. Cochrane formed a
rampart within the breach of palisadoes and barrels, ships' hammock-cloths, awning, &c. filled with sand rubbish ; these supplied the place of walls and ditches. Sanson, the commandant of the engineers, pronounced the breach practicable. His opinion was relied on with the more confidence because he was well acquainted with the place ; but the Captain who was ordered to lead the assault thought otherwise ; he had been in the Spanish service, and in garrison at that very fort, and he said that it was not possible to enter there : nevertheless he would make the attempt if he were ordered, with the certainty of perishing in it, and leading his party to destruction. Under such circumstances it requires more firmness to give the order than to obey,..but it is of a different kind. The order was given, and the officer perished as he had foreseen and foretold. Two of his companions escaped by the humanity of the English, who, instead of killing four men whose lives were at their mercy, suffered two to retire, while they drew up the others by a rope, to secure them as prisoners. When the breach had been rendered practicable, a more formidable assault was made. Lord Cochrane had prepared for it with that sportiveness by which English sailors are as much characterized as schoolboys. He not only stationed men with bayonets immediately within the breach, to give the assailants an immediate greeting, but he laid well-greased planks across the breach, upon which many of the French slipped and fell in endeavouring to pass : and he hung ropes there with fishhooks fastened to them, by which not a few were caught in their retreat. The enemy suffered a severe loss on this occasion. There was in Lord Cochrane's conduct here, and in all places, that contempt of danger which in former ages would have been imputed to a reliance upon charms, and which never fails to inspire confidence. Once, while the besiegers were battering the fort, the Spanish flag fell into the ditch: he let himself down by a rope through a shower of balls to recover it, returned unhurt, and planted it again upon the walls. The citadel at length having been battered in breach till it was no longer tenable, capitulated, and the garrison, marching out with the honors of war, were sent prisoners into France. Two thousand men, who had given proof of steadiness and courage, were thus lost to Spain. Lord Cochrane then saw that any farther resistance in Port Trinidad was impossible; and having maintained its shattered walls twelve days after they had been deemed untenable, he embarked all the men, and blew up the magazine.
The 17th chapter is an afflicting account of the dissensions and incapacity of the Spaniards, which led to the defeats at Ucles, and the disasters of Cuenea ;-the services of Sir Robert Wilson, and the jealousy of the Spaniards at Cadiz. The 18th contains the second siege and fall of Zaragoza, which is perhaps the most painfully interesting of the volume; the 19th, the second invasion of Portugal by Soult; the 20th, the total defeat of the Spaniards at Medellin ; the 21st is an abstract of the proceedings in England relative to the war, and brings us at last to the embarkation of Sir Arthur Wellesley for Portugal, whose coming was the harbinger of better and more successful days.
The following general observations are at this moment particularly interesting.
“ There were members who boldly asserted in Parliament that the Portugueze did not like the English. A more groundless assertion has seldom been hazarded there. The connection between England and Portugal was not an ordinary one, built upon immediate interests, and liable to change with the chance of circumstances. There were nations with whom, during the long struggle against Buonaparte, we were in league one day, and at war the next, the hostility being without anger, and the alliance without esteem. Our friendship with Portugal was like our enmity to France, founded upon something deeper. From the day when Portugal first became a kingdom, with the exception of that unfortunate period when the Philips usurped its crown, England had been its tried and faithful friend. When Lisbon was conquered from the Moors, English crusaders assisted at the siege; English archers contributed to the victory of Aljubarrota, which effected the first deliverince of Portugal from Castile; an English woman, VOL. II.
a Plantagenet, was the mother of that Prince Henry, whose name will for ever remain conspicuous in the history of the world; the Braganza family, when it recovered its rights, applied, and not in vain, to its hereditary ally ; and when Lisbon was visited by the tremendous earthquake of 1755, money was immediately yoted by the English parliament for the relief of the Portugueze people; 'and ships laden with provisions were dispatched to them in a time of scarcity at home*. These things are not forgotten-if there be a country in the world where the character of the English is understood, and England is loved as well as respected, it is Portugal. The face of its rudest mountaineer brightens when he hears that it is an Englishman who accosts him ; and he tells the traveller that the English and the Portugueze were always---always friends."
The arrival of the British troops was the warning to Soult at that time to evacuate Portugal; but his movements were hastened by a rapidity of evolutions on the part of the English general which he by no means expected or desired.
“ The enemy continued their retreat, and having crossed the bridge in the night, set fire to it, and completely destroyed it. At daybreak the British troops were again in motion, in full expectation and hope of again bringing the enemy to action; but before they could be reached there was a river to be crossed, more formidable than ever General had attempted to pass in the presence of a respectable foe.
“ The Douro, which has the longest course of any river in the Peninsula, and rolls a larger volume of waters than the Tagus to the sea, is about three hundred yards wide at Porto, its deep and rapid stream being contracted between high and rocky shores. Soult had prepared for leaving the city, but he did not dream of being driven out of it. Having stood upon the quay from midnight till four in the morning, and seen not only the breaking up of the bridge, but the pontoons consumed as they floated down, and having previously given orders that all boats should be brought to the Porto side of the river, and collected at one place, that they might be the better guarded, he is said to have supposed that the English would avail themselves of their maritime means, embark their troops, and attempt a landing near the mouth of the Douro; and in that belief he went to his head-quarters, which were between the city and the sea, expecting that he could remain another day in perfect safety, which would allow time for the movements of the troops from Viana. Franceschi was instructed to guard the coast with the rear-guard; Laborde was to support him; Mermet to station one brigade at Val-longo, and two at Baltar, and to have frequent parties on his right to observe the river, and destroy all boats that could be discovered. Orders were also dispatched to Loison, requiring him to keep his ground at Mezam-frio and at Pezo da Ragoa, to prevent the enemy from crossing at either of these points. Every thing was prepared for retreating, biscuit distributed to the troops, the money from the public treasury delivered over to the paymaster, and a battalion was stationed on the quay, with the artillery. But the French were so possessed with the notion that the English must make a maritime descent, that this whole battalion was stationed below the bridge, and not a single post placed above it.
“ Sir A. Wellesley knew how important it was, with reference to Beresford's operations, that he should cross the Douro without delay. In the morning he sent MajorGeneral Murray up the river, to send down boats if he could find any, and endeavour to effect a passage at Avintes, about five miles above the city, where it might be possible for the troops to ford. The Guards, under Lieutenant-General Sherbrooke, were to cross at the ferry below the city as soon as boats could be obtained, and he himself directed the passage of the main body from the Convent of S. Agostinho da Serra, which stands in the suburb of Villa Nova upon the most elevated spot on that side. It was certain that the enemy would have taken all common precautions for securing the boats, but it was equally certain that the inhabitants would do every thing in their power to assist their deliverers. Two boats were brought over by them to the foot of the eminence on which the Convent stands, and two more were sent down the stream to the same spot. There was a large unfinished building on the opposite side, designed for the bishop's
“ While the Americans carried over ready-built houses for sale; and the French sent a frigate, by which the Grand Monarque expressed his condolence for what had happened, and requested to know if he could be of any use."
palace, which afforded a good position for those who should land first till they could be supported ; and some guns were placed in the Convent garden, where they were masked by fir trees, in a situation to bear upon the enemy with effect.
“ Four boats only had been collected when the passage was begun; but more were presently on the way, for the inhabitants were on the alert to promote their own deliverance. Lieutenant-General Paget crossed in one of the first, and took up a position with the Buffs as fast as they landed, and reached the summit. They were attacked in great force, and stood their ground most gallantly till the 48th and 66th, and a Portuguese battalion, arrived successively to support them. General Paget lost an arm early in the action, and the command devolved upon Major-General Hill. The most strenuous exertions were made by the inhabitants for transporting the troops, while this contest was maintained, in which sure hope and British resolution counterbalanced the great inequality of numbers. About two hours after the commencement of the action, General Sherbrooke, with the Guards and the 29th, appeared on the enemy's right, having crossed at the lower ferry ; and about the same time General Murray was seen coming from the side of Avintes in the opposite direction. If any thing could be needed to animate the spirit of Englishmen at such a time, they had it that day. Hastening up the steep streets of Porto as fast as they could be landed and formed to support their countrymen, they were welcomed by the inhabitants with such demonstrations of joy as might have warmed colder hearts than those to which they were addressed. Handkerchiefs were waved from every balcony, and blessings breathed upon them, and shouts of triumphant gratulation and convulsive laughter mingled with the tears and prayers that greeted them.
“ The French had been completely surprised. The very boldness of the attempt, for history has recorded no passage of the kind so bold, was its security ; till they saw that it was accomplished, they did not believe it would be attempted. A chef de bataillon told one of the generals that the English were passing, and his report was disregarded. Soult was assured by the French governor of the city that it was only some stragglers' of their own people who had tarried behind till the bridge had been destroyed, and that the boatmen had gone to bring them across, but that he had forbidden the passage of boats on any pretext to the left bank. The Marshal was satisfied with this; and the report that the enemy were coming was not believed till General Foy, going upon the high ground opposite to the Convent, from whence Sir Arthur was directing the operations, saw the troops crossing, and Portugueze upon the walls making signals to them. In the confusion that ensued among the French, General Foy was wounded, and narrowly escaped being taken, for the enemy thought only of retreating as fast as possible, when they saw troops on either side arriving to support General Hill. It was about five in the afternoon when the action was terminated by their flight. The British were too much fatigued to follow up their victory that evening, when they might have completed the destruction of an enemy not less thoroughly dispirited than discomfited. But in the last four days they had marched over fourscore miles of difficult country. So complete and signal a success against an equal enemy was perhaps never before obtained at so little cost; the loss at Porto consisted only of twenty-three men killed, ninety-six wounded, and two missing, and in the preceding affairs at Albergaria and Grijo of 102 in all. That of the enemy was very considerable ; they left behind them five pieces of cannon, eight ammunition tumbrils, many prisoners, and about a thousand men in the hospitals.
“ Porto presented an extraordinary scene that night; every bouse was illuminated, while the gutters were still red with blood, and the streets strewn with dead bodies both of horses and men. There had been three hours' fighting in the suburbs, and before night the French who had fallen were stripped and left naked where they lay; they had their plunder about them for removal, and they had provoked by the most intolerable wrongs a revengeful people.
The disasters of Blake occupy the 23rd chapter; and in the 24th the reader will alternately be assailed by emotions of resentment, indignation, admiration, and pleasure, as he peruses the details of the absurd obstinacy, which, interfering with Sir Arthur Wellesley's plans, occasioned the loss of an opportunity of gaining a decisive victory, and substituted in its place, the doubtful, though well-fought, battle
of Talavera-This battle is too much a subject of national exultation to be passed over.
“ About eleven, the enemy having been baffled in all their attempts, intermitted the attack, rested their troops, and, it is said, cooked their dinners upon the field. Wine and a little bread were served out to the British troops. A brook which flows into the Tagus separated the French and English in one part of the field, and during this pause men of both armies went there to drink, as if a truce had been established. Their muskets were laid down and their helmets put off while they stooped to the stream, and when they had quenched their thirst, they rested on the brink, looking at each other. The heat and exasperation of battle were suspended; they felt that mutual respect which proofs of mutual courage had inspired, and some of them shook hands across the brook, in token that, although they were met to shed each other's blood, brave men knew how to value a brave enemy. At such a moment it was natural for Englishmen to have no other feeling: the atrocities by which Buonaparte's soldiers, in the Peninsula, had disgraced their profession, their country, and their nature, were for the time forgotten. This interval also was taken for bringing off the wounded, who lay intermingled as they had fallen. And here, also, a redeeming sense of humanity was manifested; all hostility being suspended among those who were thus employed, and each striving who should, with most alacrity, assist the other in extricating the common sufferers. About noon, Victor ordered a general attack along the whole line. His own three divisions were to attack the bill once more. Sebastiani was to form his first division in two lines on the left of Lapisse ; Leval, with a brigade just then arriving from Aranjuez, to be stationed to the left of this division, a little in the rear; still further left, Milhaud, with his dragoons, was to observe Talavera; Latour Maubourg's infantry, and Merlin's light-horse, formed in the rear of Victor to support his corps, and advance into the open ground now occupied by him, as soon as he should have won the hill. The reserve was placed in a third line behind Sebastiani's corps.
“ From the moment this general attack commenced, the firing of musketry was heard, on all sides, like the roll of a drum, with scarcely a moment's interruption during the remainder of the day, the deeper sound of a heavy cannonade rising above it like thunder. The operations of the French were deranged by a blunder of Leval's division, which they attribute to the ruggedness of the ground, and the impossibility of preserving the line among the olive trees and vines. Instead of forming in echellon in the rear, it advanced to the front, and, before it had finished deploying, it was attacked. Sebastiani sent a brigade to its support, and it fell back to the ground which it was designed to occupy. This occasioned some delay. When the line was formed, Sebastiani waited till Victor had begun the attack. Lapisse first crossed the ravine, supported by Latour Maubourg's cavalry, and by two batteries, each of eight pieces of cannon. Vilatte threatened the hills and covered the valley, and Ruffin, skirting the great chain of moun. tains to the left, endeavoured to turn the flank of the British army. The attack upon the hill was exceedingly formidable, but, like all the former, it failed. Lapisse was mortally wounded, his men were driven back, and Victor himself rallied them, and brought them once more to the contested point; their retrograde movement had exposed Sebastiani's right, and there also the French suffered considerably.
“While Victor led his trops once more to the foot of that hill which bad so often been fatal to the assailants, Vilatte with the columns in the valley advanced to his support. General Anson's brigade, consisting of the 1st German light dragoons, and the 23rd dragoons, with General Pane's heavy cavalry, were ordered to charge them. The French formed in two solid squares; they were protected by a deep ravine, which was not perceived till the horses were close to it; and they kept up a tremendous fire of artillery and musketry. This was the most destructive part of the whole action ; numbers of men and horse fell into the ravine-numbers were mown down. But the portion which got over were collected, as well as he could, by the Honorable Major Ponsonby, and led upon the bayonets of the enemy. They passed between two columns of infantry, against which they could effect nothing, then galloped upon the regiment of chasseurs which supported them. Here they were charged by some regiments in reserve, surrounded, broken, dispersed, and almost destroyed, losing two-thirds of their number. The rest (Lord William Russell was among them) passed through the intervals of the French columns, and retired within their own lines. Injudicious and unfortunate as the charge was, the desperate courage with which officers and men had advanced upon almost certain destruction astonished the enemy; it put an end to their efforts on that side, and