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


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There was immediately another charge brought against lord Castlereagh, in company with the honourable Henry Wellesley, the brother of general Wellesley, and late secretary of the treasury, for corrupt practices in the election of members of parliament; but the ministerial majority outvoted Mr. Madox, the mover. About the same time Mr. Curwen brought in a bill to prevent such practices, and to obtain purity of parliament by extinguishing bribery, and this was suffered to pass when all vitality had been taken out of it. On the 15th of June Sir Francis Burdett also made a motion for extensive parliamentary reform; but the greater part of the members of parliament had already left town, and the motion was rejected by seventy-four against fifteen. On the 21st the session was closed with a speech which took a hopeful view of the war in Spain, and also of that which Austria had again commenced. We may now return to the details of these great contests.

We have stated that the spirit rising again in Germany called Buonaparte suddenly from Spain, even before Soult had pursued Sir John Moore to Corunna. He travelled with such rapidity, that many thought, and amongst these was the shrewd Fouche, that, besides the rising in Austria, he suspected a conspiracy against him in Paris. At Valladolid he met the abbé de Pradt, who had risen high in Buonaparte's favour, and had been made by him archbishop of Malines and member of the legion of honour. To do Pradt, lie said he began to suspect that he had made his brother Joseph a grander present in Spain than he was aware of. " I did not know," he said, " what Spain was; it is a finer country than I imagined. But you will see that, by-and-by, the Spaniards will commit some folly which will place their country once more at my disposal. I will then take care to keep it to myself, and divide it into five great viceroyships." Such were the soaring notions of Napoleon at the very moment that the man was ready who was to drive the French from Spain for ever. In England, at last, almost every one had now awaked to the consciousness that Sir Arthur Wellesley was the only man to cope with the French on the peninsula. There were a few individuals, like lord Folkestone, who were blinded enough by party to oppose this general conviction; but before the close of March Sir Arthur was selected by the government for this command. On the 15th of April he sailed from Portsmouth, and on the 22nd he arrived safely at Lisbon. Some regiments of both horse and foot soon followed him, and he assumed the command of the British army in Portugal, which had been some time in the hands of general Sir J. Cradock. The command of the Portuguese troops had been placed in the hands of general Beresford, who had been actively drilling them; and general Wellesley found himself at the head of an effective army of British and Portuguese of twenty-five thousand men.

Soult, on the retreat of Sir John Moore, had taken possession of Ferrol, Bilboa, and the other principal towns in the north of Spain. He had then entered Portugal, and had marched to Oporto, which he took after a resistance of only a couple of days; and Sir J. Cradock had retired to Lisbon. Soult was prevented advancing further by the rising of the Spaniards behind him in Gallicia, who retook Vigo and other places, whilst Silviera, the Portuguese general, advancing from Chaves to the bridge of Amarante, interposed betwixt him and Gallicia, and formed a junction with the Spaniards.

Wellesley determined to expel Soult from Oporto, and did not hesitate to say that the French general could not long remain in Portugal. Leaving a division in Lisbon to I guard the eastern frontiers of Portugal against the forces of. Victor, who lay in Spanish Estremadura, Sir Arthur advanced; towards Oporto with a celerity that astonished the French. He quitted Lisbon on the 28th of April, reached Coimbra, driving the French before him, and, on the 9th of May, he was advancing from that city on Oporto. By the 11th ho was occupying the southern bank of the Douro, opposite to that city. Soult had broken down the bridges and sent away the boats, so that he might be able to retire at leisure into Gallicia; but Sir Arthur managed to send across general Murray, with a brigade, a few miles above Oporto, and a brigade of guards also passed at the suburb of Villanova, and he discovered sufficient boats to carry over his main army just above the town. The French commenced a fierce attack on the British forces as they landed; but the first battalion, the Buffs, got possession of a large building called the seminario, and held it till the other troops arrived. Major-general Hill soon brought up the 48th and 66th regiments; general Sherbrooke, who crossed the river below the town with the brigade of guards and the 29th regiment, entered the town amid the acclamations of the people, and charged the French in the rear; and general Murray, about the same time, showed himself on the French left, above the town. Soult fled, leaving behind him his sick and wounded, and many prisoners, besides much artillery and ammunition, and made his way with as much celerity as Sir John Moore had done before him, taking the route of Amarante, intending to pass through Tras-os-Montes into Spain.

This taking of Oporto, in the face of a French force of ten thousand men, coupled with his having to cross the broad Douro, and that with very defective means of transit, was one of the most brilliant affairs in any war; and the most astonishing thing was, that Wellesley lost only twenty-three killed and ninety-eight wounded, whilst Soult's troops suffered severely. Seven hundred sick and wounded were left in Oporto, and Sir Arthur immediately issued a proclamation, calling on the inhabitants to do these no injury, declaring that, by the laws of war, they were under his protection, and that ho was determined to defend them. This was very necessary, for the troops of Soult, on taking the city, had committed the most diabolical atrocities. "It was in vain," says Savary, " that Soult strove with all his power to stop the slaughter. The frightful scenes of rape, pillage, and murder, closed not for many hours; and, what with those who fell in battle, those who were drowned, and those sacrificed to revenge, ten thousand Portuguese are said to have died that day." Wellesley consented to no such deeds in retaliation, but wrote to Soult to send over army surgeons to attend to the sick and wounded, as he had not surgeons enough for his own need; and he proposed a mutual exchange of prisoners, so as to diminish as much as possible the suffering on both sides. But, spite of the utmost vigilance and resolution of the English general, such was the fury of the outraged inhabitants, that they fell on the French when they could, and killed them.

Whatever might be the causes which, independent of the war declared by Austria, had hurried Buonaparte with so much precipitation from Spain, there is no doubt that the French nation was becoming greatly discontented with the wild ambition of Buonaparte, which was draining France every year so enormously of money and of men. Buonaparte had calculated that, if he could have got the royal families of both Spain and Portugal into his hands, he could command all the wealth of their transatlantic colonies, which would enable him to subdue the whole European continent. But in this he was completely disappointed. The Portuguese family escaped; the Spanish one he entrapped - but in both cases the revenues of the colonies remained beyond his reach. The Portuguese court received their colonial revenues in the Brazils; the Spanish nation revolted; and, instead of receiving, Buonaparte was continually called on by king Joseph and the armies in the peninsula to pay large sums for their support. This was a source of deep irritation to Buonaparte, especially as, from the Austrian campaign, lie could not himself go and finish, as he believed he could, the war in Spain. But beyond the war, the spirit of discontent was there too fast pervading his army. It appeared, from information that came into Sir Arthur Wellesley's hands, that Junot, and afterwards Soult, were tempted to seize on Portugal as a separate kingdom, to be ruled by them under the suzerainty of Buonaparte; that certain officers encouraged this in Soult, intending, as soon as he had committed himself, to seize him, and march back the army into France. Soult issued an address to this effect to his generals of division, inclosing a proclamation to be put into the general order of the day; but the generals refused, and wrote to inform Napoleon, now engaged in the campaign in Germany, of this conspiracy. A French officer, supposed to be the adjutant-major d'Argenton, had several secret interviews with Sir Arthur on his march to Oporto, in which he informed him of these particulars. The army had been and was suffering so much, that it was ripe for a revolt, and he obtained passports for him from the English admiral to go by sea to France, to concert matters with some general officers there. This conspirator gave Sir Arthur very important information regarding Soult's intended route and views; and his plan of getting to France being cut off by a premature discovery, Sir Arthur sent him to England.

Sir Arthur determined to give Soult as sharp a chase as lie had given Sir John Moore. He wrote to general Beresford to hold Villa Real, if possible, whilst he pressed on the heels of Soult. On the 16th of May he came up with Soult's rear, near Salamonde, defeated the rear-guard, killed and wounded a great number of men, and Sir Arthur wrote that, had they had half an hour's more daylight, he should have taken the whole of his rear-guard. He added: " I shall follow him to-morrow. He has lost everything - cannon, ammunition, baggage, military chest - and his retreat is in every respect, even in weather, a pendant for the retreat to Corunna." In truth, had Sir John Moore sent a Nemesis to avenge himself, it could not have executed a more complete retribution. All the horrors of Sir John's retreat, and far worse, were repeated. The French had exasperated the population here, as everywhere, by their reckless cruelties and rapacity, and they surrounded the flying army, and killed every man that they could find straggling, or who was left exhausted on the road. On the other hand, the French tracked their retrograde path with equal fury. " Their route," says Sir Arthur, " could be traced by the smoke of the villages that they set on fire." Sir Arthur, in his dispatches, also says that, during their abode in the country, they had murdered people simply because they did not like their seizure of their country; and that he saw men hanging on trees by the road-side, whom they had executed for no other reason. So the scene of Soult's retreat was now one long picture of Pandemonium - the whole way scattered with dead men, horses, and mules, a wasted country, and infuriated peasantry seeking to wreak their vengeance.

Sir Arthur stopped his pursuit at Montealegre, near the frontiers of Spain. He could not overtake Soult, who fled flinging away every impediment, whilst he was compelled to carry his supplies and artillery along with him. Besides, the French, since the defeat of the Spaniards at Tudela, had entered Andalusia in great force, where there was no army to oppose them except the ill-equipped one of the proud and unmanageable general Cuesta; and marshal Victor, who commanded in Estremadura, might readily have made a descent on Lisbon, had Wellesley gone far into Spain. He therefore resolved to return to Oporto, to make necessary inquiries as to the roads into Spain; to improve his commissariat; and then, forming a junction with Cuesta, to advance against marshal Victor. "Whilst at Oporto he had the satisfaction to learn that Frere was superseded by his own brother, the marquis of Wellesley, as ambassador for Spain, a circumstance of immense importance to the cause.

Towards the end of May Wellesley commenced his march over the Spanish frontiers; his force being about twenty thousand infantry and three thousand cavalry. He fell in with the old Spanish general, Cuesta, at Oropesa, on the 20th of July, who was at the head of thirty thousand men, but miserably equipped, discouraged by repeated defeats, and nearly famished. Sir Arthur was woefully disappointed by this first view of a Spanish army in the field, and here, indeed, all his difficulties began. The general was a regular Spanish hidalgo - proud, ignorant, and pig-headed. He received Wellesley with immense stiffness and ceremony, as if somebody immeasurably his inferior; and, though he knew no English, nor Sir Arthur any Spanish, he would not condescend to speak French with him. His army collected supplies from all the country round; and, though the English were come to fight for them, the Spaniards expected them to provide for themselves, and there was the greatest difficulty in inducing the country people to sell the English anything except for those fabulous prices which, all over the continent, it is thought right to demand of the rich English. Still worse, Sir Arthur found it impossible to get Cuesta to co-operate in anything. He fancied that he knew a great deal more about military affairs than the Sepoy general, as Wellesley was termed, and that he ought to direct in everything, though he had done nothing but get well beaten on every occasion. It required the patience of Job, or of general Wellesley. to endure the wrong-headedness of this stupid old Spaniard. And yet, if we take a glance at the French forces now in Spain, against whom they had to make head, the utmost harmony and co-operation were necessary.

The French army in Spain numbered more than two hundred thousand men, and of these more than one hundred and thirty thousand lay in the provinces bordering on Portugal, or betwixt it and Madrid. Victor had thirty-five thousand in Estremadura; and close behind him, in La Mancha, Sebastiani had twenty thousand more. North- ward, in Old Castile, Leon, and the Asturias, Kellermann and Bonnet had ten thousand. Soult, in Galicia, was joined by Ney and Mortier, making his army again upwards of fifty thousand, with which he contemplated returning into Portugal. General Dessolles had fifteen thousand men at Madrid to protect the intrusive king Joseph; and Suchet and Augereau, in Aragon and Catalonia, commanded fifty thousand. Almost all the strong fortresses in the country were in their hands. The only circumstances favourable to the allies were that the French generals were at variance amongst themselves; that none of them paid any deference to the commands of king Joseph, who was nominally generalissimo; and that the Spaniards were, everywhere where woods and mountains favoured them, harassing the French in a manner that made them very sick of the country, and that often reduced them to a State of severe privation.

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