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The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 13


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At first, victory seemed to attend the French. Lefebvre- Desnouettes defeated the Spaniards at Arragon, on the 9th of June, and general Bessières beat the insurgents, in several partial actions, in Navarre and Biscay. But his great success was over the united forces of generals Cuesta and Blake, on the 14th of June, at Medina del Rio Seco, a few leagues from the city of Valladolid. Cuesta was a deter- mined old Spaniard, who commanded the forces of Castile and Leon - men so impatient to engage the French, that they had tossed their former general, Filangieri, in a blanket, letting him fall on their spears stuck in the ground point upwards, and there left him to die. He had been joined by Blake, with a body of Gallicians, at Burgos, and they were divided in their opinions whether they should attack the French at once or not. Cuesta, like his men, was for immediate battle; Blake deemed it imprudent, on account of the superior French discipline. But Bessières determined the question for them by falling on them, at Medina del Rio Seco, with twenty-five thousand men, where he gave them a terrible defeat, no less than six thousand Spaniards being killed or wounded. The French, too, suffered very severely. They were fired at from almost every door and window in the little town of Medina, and filled the streets with their slain. Cuesta retired into Gallicia with the remains of his army, and Bessières was prevented following him by a summons to defend king Joseph in Madrid, whom this victory had enabled to reach his new capital, where he was received with an ominous silence on the part of the Spaniards - the very money thrown the populace in the streets being picked up only by the French soldiers, the Citizens not deigning to stoop for it. Yet Buonaparte hailed the battle of Medina del Rio Seco as a proof how soon the insurrection would be quelled.

The relative situation of the French and Spanish armies at the opening of the war was this: - Castanos, the Spanish general, had mustered twenty thousand men at Utrera, near Seville, where he was joined by captain Whittingham. Opposed to him was the French general Dupont, who had advanced as far as Cordova to attack him, but there made a pause. At Bayonne lay general Drouet with an army of twenty thousand strong, with another French army in his 'rear, ready to follow when he should march into Spain - this was called the army of the Western Pyrenees; while general Duhesme lay in Catalonia with thirteen thousand men - this being called the army of the Eastern Pyrenees. Junot had an army of thirty thousand men in Portugal. This, and the troops in and around Madrid, amounted in all to about one hundred thousand men, but a great number were in the hospitals. The Spaniards had, altogether, about the same number, but of these twenty thousand were with Junot in Portugal, and of the eighty thousand, thirty thousand were militia and eleven thousand Swiss infantry, - brave and disciplined troops. Besides these there were a considerable number of Los Urbanos, or town militia, which were miscellaneous and rude bodies, capable of little in the field, but useful in supplying the place of more disciplined men in the towns.

Duhesme thought lie should be able to send reinforcements to assist in reducing Valencia and Arragon; but he soon found that he had enough to do in his own district. The Catalans, who are an active and hardy race, accustomed to the gun, seized on the defiles of the mountains, attacked him in every direction in a desultory but destructive war- fare, and made him glad to confine himself to the walls of Barcelona and Figueros, which he had so treacherously seized. In this contest Gerona had made a brave defence against Duhesme, whilst general Reille, his second in command, was equally unsuccessful against Rosas, where the Spaniards were assisted by British marines landed by lord Collingwood, and headed by captain Otway of the Montague. Reille, on returning from Rosas, went to support Duhesme at Gerona; but, with twelve thousand men, one thousand cavalry, and a strong battery, they were compelled to make their retreat to Barcelona, pursued by the Spanish general, Caldagues, and had to make their way over rough mountains to avoid the English fleet on the shore. When he reached Barcelona itself, lie found it blockaded by lord Cochrane, who kept him in continual jeopardy.

Marshal Moncey, all this time expecting the co-operation of Duhesme, had advanced into Valencia. For a time, lie found the country deserted, but, as he advanced, he found the hills and rocks swarming with armed people, and he had to force his march by continual fighting. There were Swiss troops mingled amongst the Spanish ones opposed to him, and whilst they attacked him in front, the Spaniards assaulted his flanks and rear. When he arrived before the city of Valencia, on the 27th of June, he found the place well defended. The whole population was in arms, and he had no battering train. To use Buonaparte's own words, " a city of eighty thousand inhabitants, barricaded streets, and artillery placed at the gates, cannot be taken by the collar." The Citizens eagerly manned the walls; monks, with a crucifix in one hand, and a sword in the other, stimulated the people to resistance, and the women were enthusiastically carrying ammunition and refreshments. On the 29th Moncey retired from before the walls, despairing of the arrival of Duhesme. He left, however, a detachment in the Cuença, which was surprised and cut to pieces. Savary sent Caulaincourt to avenge the slaughter of the French troops in the Cuença, and he performed his mission with a terrible atrocity, burning the town of Cuença, and massacreing the inhabitants indiscriminately. But this only roused the Spanish peasantry to double fury. They pursued Moncey's retreating troops, hanging on their flanks and rear, and killing every Frenchman that they could reach. Moncey, like Bessières, now found himself called to Madrid to defend the new king, who, it was clear, could not long remain there; and already the British were landing on the shores of the Peninsula, to bring a formidable aid to the exasperated inhabitants.

But the most important operations were at this moment taking place in the south betwixt Dupont and Castanos. We have seen that Castanos was quartered at Utrera with twenty thousand men. Dupont had been ordered by Murat to march from Madrid into the south-west, and make him- self master of the important post of Cadiz. After a countermand, ha again advanced in that direction, and had crossed the Sierra Morena, so celebrated in the romance of " Don Quixote." and reached the ancient city of Cordova. There he received the news that Cadiz had risen against the French, and had seized the French squadron lying in the bay, and, at the same time, that Seville was in the highest state of insurrection. Whilst pausing in uncertainty of what course to pursue, Castanos advanced from Utrera towards the higher part of the Guadalquiver. If Dupont had rushed forward to attack Castanos at Utrera, he would have done it under great disadvantages. He was cut off from the main French army by the Sierra Morena, and these mountains being occupied by the insurgent inhabitants, he would have no chance of falling back in case of disaster. He was waiting for reinforcements from Castile, under generals Gobert and Vedel. He now advanced to Andujar, which he reached on the 18tli of June, having had to fight his way through bands of fiery patriots. They had destroyed his outposts, killed the sick in his hospital, and driven him out of Baylen and the old Moorish town of Jaen. From Andujar Dupont wrote to Savary, in Madrid, praying that the reinforcements might be hasten ed, and describing his critical situation, surrounded by furious peasants, who had. deserted their harvest-work to exterminate the French; and that he had no provisions except corn, which he had seized, and which the soldiers had to reap, grind, and bake for themselves.

Whilst lying at Andujar, waiting for his reinforcements, the soldiers cried for vengeance on Jaen, where they had been so severely treated, and Dupont sent a captain Baste, a furious fellow, who had formerly been a sea-officer, to put the place to fire and sword. Baste executed his commission with all the atrocities of French vengeance. This only excited the fury of the people the more, and they took ample recompense from the French by cutting off and killing every one of his foragers and outposts that they could surprise. The war was carried on both sides with demoniacal savagery. At length Vedel cut his way through the mountains. On the 10th of July general Gobert also arrived with a considerable body of both infantry and cuirassiers. Dupont had now about twenty thousand men, and Castanos, who had posted himself on the opposite bank of the Guadalquiver, had twenty-five thousand infantry, two thousand horse, and there were, at least, twenty-five thousand armed peasantry, but with regular officers, having also some artillery, who were gathering towards Dupont's position on every side.

On the evening of the 16th of July Castanos appeared on the Argonilla, directly opposite to Andujar; the river was fordible in many places from the drought, and the different divisions of the Spaniards crossed in the night, and, in attempting to prevent the transit of one of these bodies near Baylen, general Gobert was killed. Vedel, seeing the critical situation of the French army, made a rapid movement to regain and keep open the mountainous defile by which he had arrived, but Dupont remained at Andujar till the night of the 18th. Vedel remaining at the pass for Dupont, the latter found himself intercepted by the Swiss general, Reding, and, whilst engaging him, his own Swiss troops

The French piled their arms on the 22nd of July, the prisoners amounting to between eighteen and nineteen thousand. They gave up also thirty pieces of cannon; and the country people, who had no notion of allowing the marauders to carry off any of the wealth pillaged from their churches and the houses of the gentry, very soon relieved them, on their march towards the sea-coast of all that Castanos had very weakly left them. But this was far from the worst: the enraged peasantry and the people of the towns, all along the road to the coast, insulted them, and killed numbers of them in retaliation for the cruelties they themselves had practised. When they arrived at Cadiz, instead of San Lucar and Rota, there were no vessels to carry them home, according to contract. Dupont and his officers complained vehemently of this breach of faith, but the governor of Cadiz only reminded them of the utter breach of all faith by which they found themselves in Spain. " What right have you," he said, " to exact the impossible execution of a capitulation with an army which has entered Spain under the veil of friendship and intimate alliance, which has imprisoned our king and his royal family, sacked his palaces, assassinated and robbed his subjects, destroyed his country, and torn from him his crown? " He advised them to keep quiet, lest the people should avenge on them the horrors they had perpetrated at Cordova; and he informed Dupont that there was no chance whatever of their being sent out by sea, for the English were in possession, and had refused them pass- ports, because, if they were sent home, they would be immediately employed somewhere else against Britain or her allies. They were therefore detained in the hulks - a fate which, considering the manner in which they had conducted themselves in the country, was no more than they deserved. They had acted as robbers, and they were treated as such; and the breach of faith on the part of the Spaniards, which would have been infamous towards honourable enemies, is much mitigated by these considerations. Castanos was, from a high sense of honour, however, anxious that the convention should be faithfully carried out, but Morla, the governor of Cadiz, as strongly opposed it, declaring that the Spaniards did not break the convention, simply because it was au impossibility to execute it; that they had conveyed the French to the port, but the English, who were no parties to the treaty, would not allow them to pass by sea. Lord Collingwood declared that he could not undertake to convey eighteen or nineteen thousand inimical prisoners by sea to their homes without the authority of his government, which they were not at all likely to send. Therefore, " an engagement to do an impossibility dissolved itself."

The news of this great victory, which at once freed from the French armies the rich province of Andalusia and the cities of Cadiz and Seville, spread joy and exultation ever all Spain, and filled Buonaparte, who received it at Bourdeaux, with the deepest anxiety. He began already to perceive the furcae Caudinae in which he had involved himself; and the Spaniards were led into a confidence which brought its subsequent chastisement. " The moral effect of the battle of Baylen," says Napier, "on the Spaniards was instantaneous. Every man conceived himself a Cid, and saw, in the surrender of Dupont, not simply the deliverance of Spain, but the very conquest of France. ' We are much obliged to our good friends, the English,' was a common phrase amongst them, when conversing with the officers of Sir John Moore's army; ' we thank them for their good-will, and we shall have the pleasure of escorting them through France to Calais.'" A very little time served to disperse these glorious visions of Spanish pride.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 13

Hall of the council
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General Murat
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Royal shield of Spain
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