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The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 14


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The news no sooner reached Madrid than the king ceased to feel himself safe there, He determined to retire to Vittoria, which was at a convenient distance from the French frontier. On the 3rd of July he quitted the city by night, and, guarded by French troops, took the road to Vittoria, leaving Grouchy and marshal Bessières to cut off any pursuit of the Spaniards. Grouchy then sent a dispatch, ordering him to send an officer to take charge of the city, and to protect the French invalids in the hospitals. Castanos sent general Moreno, and himself arrived to hold the city on the 23rd of August. Such of the Spanish grandees as had encouraged the French fled, with Joseph, for safety, and obtained the name of " Josepinos," or " Infrancsados:" the rest joined the Spanish cause.

But the event which, far more than the battle of Baylen, showed Buonaparte and the world the sort of war he had provoked, was the siege of Zaragossa. This ancient city, the capital of Aragon, stands on the right bank of the Ebro, with a suburb on the left bank connected with it by a bridge. Another river, a small one, called the Cozo, flowed into the Ebro, close under the city walls. The immediate neighbourhood of Zaragossa is flat, and, on one side of the river, marshy; but its wall was only of brick, about ten feet high, old and ruinous. In places, the walls only were of mud. It might seem that there could be no strong defence of such a place made against an army of thirteen thousand men - veterans who had served in Germany and Poland, and who were furnished with battering trains, and every means of assault. But the streets of the city were narrow and crooked, the houses strong and lofty, the rooms being almost all vaulted, and, therefore, almost impervious to shell. The inhabitants were sixty thousand. Zaragossa raised the fl ig of resistance the moment that Murat issued his proclamation on the 20th of May, informing the Spanish people of the abdication of Charles and Ferdinand, and calling on the Spaniards to submit to the new government.

No city could be more unprepared for a resistance. There ware in it only about two hundred soldiers; the city chest contained only about twenty pounds, and the neighbouring provinces of Navarre and Catalonia were in the hands of the French; whilst the roads and the passes of the Pyrenees were all open for fresh accessions of French troops. But, nothing daunted, the Zaragossans appointed don José Palafox - a young nobleman of high family, but who, hitherto, had chiefly spent his time at the court, like other indolent young men - captain-general of Aragon, and he set about to prepare defences, and to call in armed people from the country. All classes participated in the same spirit: the rich gave money; the monks and friars excited the people by their words and example; and every exertion was made to cut loop-holes in the houses, and to fill the breaches in the dilapidated walls with sand-bags, as well as to throw up earthworks. On the 16fch of June general Lefebvre-Desnouettes commenced the attack by driving in Palafox's outposts, and establishing strong guards before the gates. He then paused for the coming of general Verdier with reinforcements. Palafox, instead of employing this interval in still further strengthening the defences of the city, most imprudently went out with his undisciplined volunteers to attack the disciplined French, with about eight thousand men. He was murderously routed, as he was sure to be. He retired again within the protection of his walls, and his colleague, general Versage, marched into the country to collect fresh volunteers. General Lefebvre then, being reinforced, pushed on the siege with effect. He had now nearly thirteen thousand men. On the 15th of June he made an attempt to carry the place by a coup-de-main, but failed. He, however, forced an entrance into some of the streets, and did great damage to the Spaniards by setting fire to a powder-magazine. He then carried by storm a fortified bill outside of the town, called the Monte Torrero. On the 2nd of July he carried the strong convent of San José, and some other houses. Having now established a footing in the city, the French threw a bridge over the Ebro, and attacked from-nt both the city and suburbs at once, with cannon, mortars, and howitzers. As fast as they knocked down the walls and scattered the sandbags, they were repaired again by the Spaniards. At this stage of the siege, Augustina Zaragoza, a handsome woman of the lower class, of about twenty-two years of age, arrived on one of the batteries with refreshments, and found every man who had defended it lying slain. The fire was so tremendous that the citizens hesitated to re-man the guns. Augustina sprang forward over the bodies of the dead and dying, snatched a mate! from the hand of a dead artilleryman, and fired off a six- and-twenty-pounder. She then jumped upon the gun, and vowed never to quit it alive during the siege. Such an example added new courage to the defenders; and the siege proceeded with incessant fury. At this juncture, Buonaparte withdrew a part of the troops, ordering Lefebvre to join Bessières with them, and Verdier was left to continue the siege with about ten thousand men. The Zaragossans, encouraged by this, and assisted by some regular troops, not only defended the town more vigorously than ever, but sent out detachments to cut off Verdier's supplies. Verdier was compelled to march detachments against them, who dispersed them, and, in return, reduced the city to near starvation by stopping all introduction of provisions. Ammunition also failed; but the besieged managed to make gunpowder by procuring saltpetre and sulphur by various devices. Verdier, towards the end of July, received considerable reinforcements, made a determined assault on the place, burnt the splendid convent of Santa Engracia, and took a considerable part of the city. Thinking that the besieged must now submit, Verdier sent a note to Palafox, bearing merely the words, " Santa Engracia, - Capitulation! " To which Palafox replied only in the same laconicism, " Zaragossa. - Guerra al cuchillo! " - that is, "war to the knife." The conflict was resumed - the combatants fighting from street to street, and from house to house. Amongst these combatants, ever conspicuous, was the father Santiago Sass, the curate of one of the parishes. Sometimes he was fighting in the thickest mêlée, at others he was administering the sacrament to the dying. If a deed of desperate bravery was to be done, Palafox selected for it Santiago Sass; and he succeeded in bringing a quantity of powder into the city when no one else could.

The French soldiers began to droop under the beat of the dog-days and the incessant exertion; the besieged from famine and toil; but they did not for a moment relax their fighting. Convent after convent, house after house, was battered or burnt down. The public asylum was set on fire, and the lunatics, let loose, mingled in the horrible scenes around them, muttering, singing, shouting, according to the character of their frenzy. To add to the horror, the streets were filled with heaps of the slain French and Spanish, and the heat made the stencil terrible, and threatened a pestilence. The Spaniards could not advance to bring them away for burial, for the French shot them down instantly, though they saw the business on which they were employed. They therefore tied ropes to the French prisoners, and drove them forward to bring away the dead; and when the French saw their countrymen, they ceased to fire. The siege appeared to grow every day more terrible, when, on the 13th of August, the French blew up the splendid church of Santa Engracia, in the vaults of which were deposited the remains of many distinguished patriots and martyrs of the times of the Moorish wars, and then suddenly evacuated the place. They had, some time before, received the news of the surrender of Dupont, and now there was imminent peril of their being themselves reduced to the same necessity. The Valencians and the Aragonese were approaching in strong force, whilst their own troops were worn out by heat and over-exertion. The Zaragossans made haste to bury the dead and to clear the streets of the ruins, and then proclaimed Ferdinand, with ail due ceremonies, in the great square of Zaragossa. The brave Augustina, thence called the maid of Zaragossa, became a national heroine, received the highest distinctions, and lord Byron states that, when he was at Seville, she was daily seen walking on the Prado, decorated with medals and orders by command of the junta. Certainly, there is no siege in ail history, except that of Numantia by their ancestors, or that of Londonderry, during the British révolution, where more courage and address were displayed.

The success of the revolt against the French in Spain was certain to become contagious in Portugal. Junot was holding the country with an army of thirty thousand men, amongst whom there was a considerable number of Spanish troops, who were sure to desert on the first opportunity after the news from Spain. "What Buonaparte intended really to do with Portugal did not yet appear. The conditions of the treaty of Fontainebleau remained a dead letter. He had neither established the queen of Etruria nor the prince of the Peace in their kingdoms there. The probability was that, as soon as Spain was secure, he would incorporate Portugal with it. This seemed very probably his intention, from words that he let fall at an assembly of Portuguese notables, whom he had summoned to meet him at Bayonne. He there talked of Portugal in the flippant and contemptuous tones of a man accustomed to toss about crowns as a huckster does potatoes. The count de Lima,- the président of the assembly, opened it with an address to Napoleon, who listened with great nonchalance, and then' said, " I hardly know what to make of you, gentlemen; it must depend on the events in Spain. And, then, are you of consequence sufficient to constitute a separate people? Have you enough of size to do so? What is the population of Portugal V Two millions, is it? " " More than three, sire," replied the count. " Ah, I did not know that. And Lisbon - are there a hundred and fifty thousand in- habitants? " " More than double that number, sire." " Ah, I was not aware of that. Now, what do you wish to be, you Portuguese? Do you desire to become Spaniards? " " No! " said the count de Lima, bluntly, and drawing himself up to his full height. And Buonaparte broke up the conference.

The Spanish junta sent an officer to Lisbon to consult with general Caraffa, the commander of the Spanish auxiliaries, on the best means of withdrawing the troops from that city. Caraffa, who was an Italian, did not seem to fall into the proposal; but this was of less consequence, for his men took the liberty of deserting, first in small numbers and secretly, but soon by a whole regiment at a time, and openly. Junot sent out six hundred men to stop them; but they attacked, killed, and wounded nearly half of the detachment, and pursued their march. General Bellesta, who commanded the Spanish troops at Oporto, seized the French general, Quesnel, who had but a small number of men, and marched away for Corunna, carrying Quesnel and his few soldiers prisoners with him. No sooner were the Spaniards gone, however, than the cowardly governor of Oporto put down the rising, and declared for the French. But the fire of revolt was frying too fast all over the kingdom for this to succeed. In a few days the people rose again, seized on the arsenal, and armed themselves. They were encouraged by the monks, who rang their bells to call the people out, and by the bishops, who blessed the banners, and offered up public prayers, for the enfranchisement of the country, in the cathedrals. There was a similarly successful outbreak at Braganza. From one end of the country to the other, the rising was complete and enthusiastic. Deputies were dispatched to England to solicit assistance and arms. For a time, Junot managed to keep down the population of Lisbon by collecting troops into it, seizing, altogether, four thousand five hundred of the Spaniards, and making them prisoners. Alarmed, however, at his position, and fearing to move any of his forces from the capital, he ordered Loison, who lay at the fortress of Almeida, on the frontiers, to march to Oporto, and put down the revolt; but general Silviera, a Portuguese nobleman, put himself at the head of the armed population, and successfully defended Oporto. At Beja, Leiria, Evora, and other places, the French managed to put down the insurgents, but not without much bloodshed, and severe military executions. The French, both officers and men, plundered the inhabitants most unmercifully. Every outrage was perpetrated; the houses were burnt, the women dishonoured, the shrines pillaged. Loison himself, at Evora, acted like the lowest bandit. He jobbed the convents with his own hands. He ransacked the bishop's library, with some of his officers, to discover concealed valuables behind the books, tore off the gold and silver clasps, and, on finding but little treasure, wantonly destroyed a whole pile of manuscripts. They took away gold and silver coin out of his cabinet of medals, and the jewels which adorned statues and relics; and Loison even filched the archbishop's ring from his table. Never was there a nation, calling itself civilised, which so universally carried robbery and licentiousness into the countries which they wantonly invaded.

Whilst Loison and his soldiers were thus perpetrating burglary and personal violence on a wholesale system at Evora, general Margaron was butchering the inhabitants of Leiria. There they not only killed all that they could find - men, women, and children - but they tore open the very graves in search of pillage. Scenes of equal abomination were enacted at Guarda, in the north, and at Beja and Villaviçosa, in the south. In fact, wherever they appeared, they appeared as devils of lust, rapine, and destruction, and the peasantry, roused by their conduct to a fury of vengeance, fell on them wherever they could find them, and massacred them without mercy. But the hour of retribution was fast approaching. Spanish, as well as Portuguese, deputies appeared in London soliciting aid. They did not ask for men; for, in the pride of their temporary success, they imagined themselves amply able to drive out the French; but they asked for arms, clothes, and ammunition; and they prayed that an army might be sent to Portugal, which would act as a powerful diversion in their favour.

Both the government and people of England responded to these demands with enthusiasm. War with Spain was declared to be at an end; all the Spanish prisoners were freed from confinement, and were sent home in well-provided vessels. The ministers, and Canning especially, avowed their conviction that the time was come to make an effectual blow at the arrogant power of Buonaparte. Sir Arthur Wellesley was selected to command a force of nine thousand infantry and one regiment of cavalry, which was to sail immediately to the peninsula, and to act as circumstances should determine. This force sailed from Cork on the 12 th of July, and was to be followed by another of ten thousand men. Sir Arthur reached Corunna on the 20th of the same month, and immediately put himself in communication with the junta of Gallicia. All was confidence amongst the Spaniards. They assured him, as the deputies in London had assured the ministers, that they wanted no assistance from foreign troops; that they had men to any amount, full of bravery; they only wanted arms and money. He furnished them with a considerable sum of money, but his experienced mind foresaw that they needed more than they imagined to contend with the troops of Buonaparte. They wanted efficient officers, and thorough discipline, and he felt confident that they must, in their overweening assurance, suffer severe reverses. He warned the junta that Buonaparte, if he met with obstructions in reaching them by land, would endeavour to cross into the Asturias by sea, and he advised them to fit out the Spanish ships lying at Ferrol, to prevent this; but they replied that they could not divert their attention from their resistance by land, and must leave the protection of their coasts to their British allies.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 14

Hall of the council
Hall of the council >>>>
Chateau of Fontainebleau
Chateau of Fontainebleau >>>>
Napoleon extricating artillery
Napoleon extricating artillery >>>>
Turkish vessels
Turkish vessels >>>>
Attack on Seraglio
Attack on Seraglio >>>>
General Murat
General Murat >>>>
Napoleon and Alexander
Napoleon and Alexander >>>>
General Junot
General Junot >>>>
Ancona
Ancona >>>>
Borghese
Borghese >>>>
Royal shield of Spain
Royal shield of Spain >>>>
Ferdinand of Spain resigning his crows
Ferdinand of Spain resigning his crows >>>>
Dangan Castle
Dangan Castle >>>>
Sir Arthur Wellesley
Sir Arthur Wellesley >>>>
Marshal Soult
Marshal Soult >>>>
The defiles of Corunna
The defiles of Corunna >>>>
Burial of Sir John Moore
Burial of Sir John Moore >>>>

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