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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 2

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While this was going on, the town of San Sebastian was stormed by the British. Sir Thomas Graham conducted the assault, which was led on by the brigade of general Robinson, bravely supported by a detachment of Portuguese under major Snodgrass. The place was taken; the French driven through it to the Castle, standing on a height, in which they took refuge. They had seven hundred prisoners taken. The English lost two thousand men in the assault - a loss which would have been far greater had a mine, containing one thousand two hundred pounds of gunpowder, exploded, but which was fortunately prevented by the falling in of a succession. Many less would have fallen, however, had general Graham allowed shells to be thrown into the town, which he would not, on account of the inhabitants. But the French had not only prepared this great mine, but exploded various other preparations for setting the town on fire. In fact they showed no care for the people or the town. When driven to the Castle, after a murderous street fight - in which they picked off our men from behind walls and windows, killing Sir Richard Fletcher, the commanding engineer, and wounding generals Robinson, Leith, and Oswald, besides slaughtering heaps of our men - they continued to fire down the streets, killing great numbers of the inhabitants besides our soldiers. Yet, after all, they charged lord Wellington with not only throwing shells into the town, but with setting it on fire, and plundering it. His lordship indignantly repelled these accusations in his letter to his brother, Sir Henry Wellesley. He declares that he himself had been obliged to hasten to his head-quarters, at Lezaco, on the morning of the 31st of August, but that he saw the town on fire in various places before our soldiers entered it; in fact, the French had set it on fire in six différent places, and had their mine exploded, scarcely a fragment of the town would have been left, or a single inhabitant alive. Lord Wellington vindicates the humanity of Sir Thomas Graham, who refused to throw a single shell into the place, and is very indignant at the Xefe Politico, and other Spanish papers of the bigoted and anti-English party, which joined in the cry.

Lord Wellington did not attempt to deny that there had been plundering by both English and Portuguese soldiery, but he lays it down as one of the shocking inevitabilities of war, that all stormings are attended by plunder; that it is impossible to prevent it during the fury of the assault. But he says, and all the world now will believe him, that throughout the whole war he and his chief officers did all in their power to discourage, to repress, and to punish such outrages, whilst the French everywhere and in all their wars encouraged and practised, not only plunder, but every possible species of outrage. It was not for them to make this outcry; but suffering, as they now were, every day nothing but defeat and shame, they were only too glad to raise a clamour against the English. Lord Wellington says that, had not almost every officer at the storming been killed or disabled, much of this disorder would have been prevented.

The lenity shown to the town by Wellington and Graham, who acted for him, was not used towards their calumniators in the Castle. It was stoutly bombarded, and being soon almost battered to pieces about the ears of the defenders, they surrendered on the 8th of September, two thousand five hundred in number; but the siege of both town and fort had cost the allies four thousand men in killed and wounded. Had the town been, as the French represented, bombarded like the Castle, some thousands of English and Portuguese lives would have been spared, but at the expense of the inhabitants.

Lord Wellington, early in October, called down his troops from their cold and miserable posts in the mountains, and marched them over the Bidasoa, and encamped them amongst the French hills and valleys of La Rhune. The last division moved across on the 10th of November, the town of Pamplona having surrendered on the 31st of October. This was a very agreeable change to the troops; but, before crossing, his lordship issued the most emphatic Orders against plundering or ill-using the inhabitants. He told them, and especially the Spanish and Portuguese, that though the French had committed unheard-of barbarities in their countries, he would not allow of retaliation and revenge on the innocent inhabitants of France; that it was against the universal marauder, Buonaparte, and his system, that the English made war, and not against the people of France. But the passions of the Portuguese and Spaniards were too much excited against their oppressors, and they burnt and plundered whenever they had opportunity. On this, Wellington wrote sternly to the Spanish general, Freyre. " Where I command," he said, " no one shall be allowed to plunder. If plunder must be had, then another must have the command. You have large armies in Spain, and, if it is wished to plunder the French peasantry, you may then enter France; but then the Spanish government must remove me from the command of their armies. It is a matter of indifference to me whether I command a large or a small army; but, whether large or small, they must obey me, and, above all, must not plunder." To secure the fulfilment of these Orders, he moved back most of the Spanish troops to within the Spanish frontiers. The strictness with which lord Wellington maintained these sentiments and protected the inhabitants produced the best results. Ail these southern provinces, being well inclined to the Bourbons, and heartily wearied of seeing their sons annually dragged away to be slaughtered in foreign countries for Buonaparte's ambition, soon flocked into camp with ail sorts of provisions and vegetables; and they did not hesitate to express their wishes for the success of our army.

Under sharp fighting, Wellington crossed the Nivelle on the 10th of November, and proposed to go into cantonments at St. Jean de Luz, on the right bank of the Nivelle; but he did not find himself in a position to obtain supplies there, and he therefore crossed the Nive, and occupied the country betwixt that river and the Adour. Soult made desperate efforts to drive the enemy back; but he was compelled to fall back on his intrenched camp in front of Bayonne; and Wellington went into winter-quarters about the middle of December, buo quarters extremely uncomfortable. Their late conflicts, betwixt the 9th and 13th of December, had been made in the worst of weather, and they had marched over the most terrible roads. During these conflicts, they had lost six hundred and fifty killed, and upwards of one thousand wounded and five hundred missing. The French had lost three times that number. But the French were at home amid their own people; while the allies were in a hostile country, suffering every species of want. At this moment we were sending clothes, arms, and ammunition to the Germans, the Sclavonians, and Dutch; but our own gallant army, which had chased the French out of Spain, and which had to maintain the honour of the country by advancing towards Paris, was suffered to want everything, especially great-coats and shoes, in that severe season. Wellington had earnestly implored a reinforcement of twenty thousand men, but it did not arrive.

In the south-east of Spain our motley army of English and Sicilians had done sufficient to keep the attention of Suchet engaged, so that he could not quit that post to follow and assist Soult against the main British army. Lord Wellington had instructed Sir John Murray to embark his troops at Alicante, and, sailing to Tarragona, endeavour to make himself master of it; if he found, however, the French too strong in that quarter to enable him to effect his purpose, to re-embark, return to Valencia, and then attack the French lines on the Xucar before Suchet could make the long march which would be necessary to support them. Murray had had his army weakened by the withdrawal of two thousand troops by lord William Bentinck, very unnecessarily, to Sicily; but he undertook these manœuvres, and might have succeeded in capturing Tarragona, but, alarmed at a rumour of Suchet and general Mathieu having combined their forces, and being in march against him, he abandoned the place panic-stricken, and, in spite of the indignant remonstrances of admiral Hallowell, embarked his troops in the utmost precipitation. Lord William Bentinck arrived on the 17th of June, immediately after the embarkation, but not in time to save nineteen pieces of artillery, which Murray had abandoned in the trenches. Lord Bentinck battered down fort Balaguer, and then sailed away to Alicante, leaving the Spanish general exposed to the enemy, but who saved himself by escaping into the mountains. For this conduct, Sir John Murray on his return to England was tried by court-martial, and gently reprimanded, but nothing more.

Lord William Bentinck, after having retired to Alicante, once more returned to Tarragona, and made himself master of that place. Attempting further advantages in this country, he was compelled to fall back on Tarragona with considerable loss. He then returned to Sicily, and general Clinton took the command of the forces, and strengthened the defences of the post. At the same time news arrived of the retreat of Buonaparte from Russia and the rising of Germany, which compelled Suchet to disarm his German regiments, and march them into France under guard. He had also to send some of his best French troops to recruit Buonaparte's decimated army, and the Italian ones to resist the Austrians in Italy, who were once more in motion through the Alps. Under these circumstances the campaign in the south-east of Spain closed for the year.

During the winter of 1812 and the spring of 1813, Buonaparte was making the most energetic exertions to renew the campaign against Russia and the German nations that were now uniting with the czar. He called out new conscriptions, and enforced them with the utmost rigour; the militia were drafted extensively into the regular army, and the sailors, whose service had been annihilated by the victorious seamen of England, were modelled into regiments, and turned into soldiers. He sent for part of his forces from Spain; and in the spring he was enabled to present himself in Germany at the head of three hundred and fifty thousand men. But this was a very different army from that which he had led into and lost in Russia - an army of practised veterans, familiar with victory through a hundred fights. It was necessarily but ill-disciplined, and much more full of the sense of wrong in having been dragged from home and its ties than of any thirst of glory. The cavalry was especially defective, and had lost the commander who gave it such spirit by his own example. Disgusted by the insolence and sarcasms of Buonaparte, and believing that his career was about to end, Murat quitted his command on the 16th of January, 1813, and hastened to Naples, where he was not long in opening negotiations with England and the other powers for the acknowledgment of his kingdom as one independent of France, and ranking with the other established powers of Europe. Buonaparte, exasperated at his desertion, announced the appointment of Eugene Beauharnais to his command in these words: - " The viceroy of Italy is appointed commander-in-chief of the imperial forces in Germany. He is more accustomed to the management of military affairs on a large scale, and, besides, enjoys the full confidence of the emperor." Not satisfied with this cutting remark, he wrote to his sister, the queen of Naples - " Your husband quitted the army on the 16th. He is a brave man on the field of battle; but he is more cowardly than a woman or a monk when not in the presence of the enemy. He has no moral courage."

Stung by these bitter words, Murat wrote in the most blunt style of plain-speaking to the emperor: - " The wound on my honour is inflicted, and it is not in the power of your majesty to heal it. You have insulted an old companion in arms, faithful to you in danger, not a small means of your victories, a supporter of your greatness, and a reviver of your wandering courage on the 18th of Brumaire. Your majesty says that when one has the honour to belong to your illustrious family, one ought to do nothing to hazard its interests or obscure its splendour. And I, sire, tell you that your family received from me quite as much honour as it gave in uniting me in matrimony with Carolina. A thousand times, though a king, I sigh after the days when, as a plain officer, I had superiors, but no master. Having become a king, but finding myself in this supreme rank tyrannised over by your majesty, and domineered over in my own family, I have felt more than ever the need of independence - the spirit of liberty. Thus you afflict, thus you sacrifice to your suspicion the men most faithful to you, and the men who have served you in the stupendous road of your fortune. Thus Fouché has been immolated to Savary, Talleyrand sacrificed to Champagny, Champagny himself to Bassano, and Murat to Beauharnais - to Beauharnais, who has with you the merit of mute obedience, and that other merit, more gratifying to you because servile - of having cheerfully announced to the Senate of France your repudiation of his own mother. I can no longer deny to my people some restoration of commerce, some remedy for the terrible evils inflicted on them by maritime war. From what I have said of your majesty and myself, it results that our mutual old confidence and faith are gone. Your majesty will do what you most like, but whatever may be your wrongs towards me, I am still your brother, and faithful brother-in-law, "Joachim."

The truths in this letter must have been very cutting to Napoleon.. But many other circumstances were torturing him. Bernadotte was at the head of an army of Swedes against him - Bernadotte whom he had driven by the same insolent and unbearable domination into the arms of his enemies, and whom he now denounced as a renegade Frenchman who had renounced his country. The truth, however, was that Bernadotte had been adopted by a new country, and was bound to defend it.

Next came the declaration of war by the king of Prussia, which Buonaparte styled a treachery; but, on the contrary, the king of Prussia had only preserved faith towards his oppressor and insulter too long. Not only all Prussia, but all Germany was on fire to throw off the detested yoke of the oppressor, and Frederick William would have been a traitor to his people and to common sense to have hesitated. Yet he proposed terms of a mutual settlement. To place himself in a position of independent treaty, he suddenly left Berlin on the 22nd of January, and made his way to Breslau, where he was out of the reach of French arms, and in certainty of the arrival, at no very distant date, of Russian ones. He invited, however, the French ambassador to follow him, and he there proposed an armistice, on the conditions that the French should evacuate Dantzic and all the other Prussian fortresses on the Oder, and retire behind the Elbe, on which the czar had promised that he would stop the march of his army beyond the Vistula. But Buonaparte treated the proposition with contempt; he was determined to give up nothing - to recover everything.

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