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

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We left Wellington occupying his impregnable lines at Torres Vedras during the winter, and Massena occupying Santarem. Buonaparte thought he could suggest a mode of putting down the provoking English general which Massena did not seem able to conceive. After studying the relative situations of the belligerents, he sent word to Soult to make a junction with Massena by crossing the Tagus, and then, as he would be much superior in strength, to continually attack Wellington, and cause him, from time to time, to lose some of his men. He observed that the English army was small, and that the people at home were anxious about their army in Portugal, and were not likely to increase it much. Having thus weakened Wellington, as soon as the weather became favourable, they were to make an attack from the south bank of the Tagus. But there were two difficulties to overcome of no trivial character in this plan. Wellington was not the man to be drawn into the repeated loss of his men, and the Tagus was too well guarded by our fleet and by batteries for any chance of taking him in the rear. However, Napoleon sent Massena a reinforcement, under general Drouet, who carried along with him a great supply of provisions; he assembled an army in the north of Spain, under Bessières, of seventy thousand men, and Soult moved from Cadiz, leaving Sebastiani to continue the blockade, and advanced to make the ordered junction with Massena. But he deemed it necessary, before crossing into Southern Portugal, to take possession of Badajoz. In his advance, at the head of twenty thousand men, he defeated several Spanish corps, and sate down before Badajoz towards the end of February. Could Massena have maintained himself at Santarem, this junction might have been made; but, notwithstanding the provisions brought by Drouet, he found that he had no more than would serve him on a retreat into Spain. He had ten thousand of his army sick, and therefore, not waiting for Soult, he evacuated Santarem on the 5th of March, and commenced his march Spain-ward. Wellington was immediately after him, and the flight and pursuit continued for a fortnight. To prevent Massena entering and finding a temporary refuge in Coimbra, Wellington ordered Sir Robert Wilson and colonel Trant to destroy an arch of the bridge over the Mondego, and thus detain him on the left bank of that river till he came up. But Massena did not wait; he proceeded along a very bad road on the left bank of the river to Miranda, on the river Coira. Along this track Massena's army was sharply and repeatedly attacked by the English van under Picton, and suffered severely. Ney commanded the rear-division of the enemy, and, to check the advance of the English, he set fire to the towns and villages as he proceeded, and, escaping over the bridge on the Coira, he blew it up. But before this could be affected, Picton was upon him, accompanied by Pack's brigade and a strong body of horse, and drove numbers of the French into the river, and took much baggage. Five hundred French were left on the ground, and to facilitate their flight from Miranda, which they also burnt, they destroyed a great deal more of their baggage and ammunition. Lord Wellington was detained at the Coira, both from want of means of crossing and from wait of supplies; for the French had left the country a black and burning desert. The atrocities committed by the army of Massena on this retreat were never exceeded by any host of men or devils. The soldiers seemed inspired with an infernal spirit of vengeance towards the Portuguese, and committed every horror and outrage that language has a name for. The Portuguese, on the other hand, driven to madness, pursued them like so many demons, cutting off and destroying all stragglers, and shooting down the wing files as they hurried through the woods and hills. The whole way was scattered with the car cases of the fugitives.

For most of these abominations Massena himself was answerable. He expressly ordered the firing and destruction of the towns and villages, and, amongst the rest, of Leiria and the abbey of Alcobaza, the most splendid abbey in Portugal, and standing in a terrestrial paradise, which he left a hell. For the sanguinary cruelty with which their sick and wounded were dispatched by the Portuguese peasantry, men and women, with knives, clubs, and stones, the French were indebted to their own cruelties, not only on the flight, but during the whole winter. Lord Wellington, in his dispatches, declared that the brutality of the French had seldom been equalled and never surpassed; and he expressed a hops that it would teach the Portuguese never again to rely on the delusive promises of the French, and show them there was no security for life, nor for anything which gives value to it, but unwavering resistance to them.

A quarrel took place between Massena and Ney on the subject of attacking the English and Portuguese which invested Almeida, where was a French garrison, and Ney threw up his command, and retired to Salamanca. Massena was daily expecting the junction of Soult, who had taken Badajoz; but Wellington did not give time for this junction. He attacked Massena at Sabugal on the 2nd of April, and defeated him with heavy loss. Massena then continued his retreat for the frontier of Spain, and crossed the Agueda into that country on the 6tli. Wellington then placed his army in cantonments between the Coa and the Agueda, and made more rigorous the blockade of Almeida. He calculated that Massena had lost on the retreat not less than forty-five thousand men - his army being reduced from ninety thousand to forty-five thousand men. No words could describe the scenes of horror and misery which had attended his flight, and which were perpetrated with equal fury by French and Portuguese. An officer has described the insults to the wounded French by the Portuguese - their kicking them and knocking out their brains, which was always done before the English could come up, for they put a stop to all such barbarities.

The labours of lord Wellington during this pursuit were inconceivable; for a number of his general officers pleaded private business at home - as some in the later war of the Crimea did - and no entreaties or commands could induce them to stay. In consequence, his lordship had, he tells us, to be general of cavalry, general of the advanced guard, and leader of two or three columns sometimes on the same day. He expresses his satisfaction at seeing these gentlemen roughly handled by the newspapers at home. Such desertions of their posts on such most important occasions are scarcely credible in Englishmen. Lord Wellington begged that the commander-in-chief would not allow any generals to go out who had private business in such a crisis, but who would engage to remain till the end of the war in the Peninsula.

Having, for the third time, expelled the French from Portugal, with the exception of the single fortress of Almeida, he proceeded to reconnoitre the situation of affairs in Spain. Whilst on his march after Massena, he had sent word to general Menacho to maintain possession of Badajoz, promising him early assistance. Unfortunately, Menacho was killed, and was succeeded in his command by general Imaz, who appears to have been a regular traitor. Wellington, on the 9th of March, had managed to convey to him the intelligence that Massena was in full retreat, and that he should himself very soon be able to send or bring him ample assistance. Imaz had a force of nine thousand Spaniards, and the place was strong. He was only besieged by about the same number of French infantry and two thousand cavalry, yet the very next day he informed Soult of Wellington's news, and offered to capitulate. Soult must have been astonished at this proceeding, if he had not himself prepaid it in French money - the surrender of Badajoz, under the imminent approach of Wellington, being of the very highest importance. On the 11th, the Spaniards were allowed to march with what are called the " honours of war," but which, in this case, were the infamies of treachery, and Soult marched in. He then gave up the command of the garrison to Mortier, and himself marched towards Seville. During his absence from the extreme south, general Graham, with about four thousand English and Portuguese, had quitted Cadiz by sea, and proceeded to Algeciras, where he landed, intending to take Victor, who was blockading Cadiz, in the rear. His artillery, meantime, was landed at Tarifa; and on marching thither by land, over dreadful mountain roads, he was joined, on the 27th of February, by the Spanish general Lapena, with seven thousand men. Graham consented to the Spaniard taking the chief command - as ominous concession; and the united force - soon after joined by a fresh body of about one thousand men, making the whole force about twelve thousand - then marched forward towards Medina Sidonia, through the most execrable roads. Victor was fully informed of the movements of this army, and advanced to support general Cassagne, who held Medina Sidonia. No sooner did he quit his lines before Cadiz than the Spanish general de Zogas crossed from the Isle de Leon, and menaced the left of the French army. On this Victor halted at Chiclana, and ordered Cassagne to join him there. He expected nothing less than that Lapena would manage to join de Zogas, and that fresh forces, marching out of Cadiz and the Isle of Leon, would cooperate with them, and compel him to raise the siege altogether. But nothing so vigorous was to be expected from a Spanish general. Lapena was so slow and cautious in his movements, that Graham could not get him to mate any determined advance; and, on arriving at the heights of Barossa, which a Spanish force had been sent forward to occupy, this body of men had quitted their post, and Victor was in possession of these important positions, which completely stopped the way to Cadiz, and, at the same time, rendered retreat almost equally impossible. Lapena was skirmishing, at about three miles distance, with an inconsiderable force under general Villatte, and the cavalry was also occupied in another direction. Seeing, therefore, no prospect of receiving aid from the Spaniards, general Graham determined to attack marshal Victor, and, if possible, drive him from the heights, though he had double the numbers of himself. This he accomplished after a most desperate struggle, killing generals Bellegarde and Rousseau, and taking general Ruffin prisoner. The loss of the French was estimated, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, at three thousand; that of the allies, one thousand two hundred and forty-three. Had Lapena shown any vigour or activity whatever, the retreating army of marshal Victor might have been prevented regaining its old lines; but it was in vain that Graham urged him to the pursuit, and Graham therefore threw himself into the isle of Leon in disgust. Lapena then professed a readiness to follow the French, but Graham considered it too late, and so Lapena joined him in the isle of Leon, and broke down after him the temporary bridge which De Zogas had erected. Such was the end of this abortive expedition - a result certain from the command being presented to a Spaniard. Lord Wellington eulogised the brilliant action of the heights of Barossa, in a letter to Graham, in the warmest terms, declaring that, had the Spanish general done his duty, there would have been an end of the blockade of Cadiz. As it was, Victor returned to his lines, and steadily resumed the siege. In the meantime, admiral Keats, with a body of British sailors and marines, had attacked and destroyed ail the French batteries and redoubts on the bay of Cadiz, except that of Catina, which was too strong for his few hundred men to take.

Another attempt of the French to draw the attention of Wellington from Massena was made by Mortier, who marched from Badajoz, of which Soult had given him the command, entered Portugal, and invested Campo Mayor, a place of little strength, and with a very weak garrison. General Beresford hastened to its relief at the head of twenty thousand men, and the Portuguese commandant did his best to hold out till he arrived; but he found this was not possible, and he surrendered on condition of marching out with all the honours of war. Scarcely, however, was this done when Beresford appeared, and Mortier abruptly quitted the town, and made all haste back again to Badajoz, pursued by the English cavalry. Mortier managed to get across to Guadiana, and Beresford found himself stopped there by a sudden rising of the water, and want of boats. He had to construct a temporary bridge before he could cross, so that the French escaped into Badajoz. Mortier then resigned his command to Latour Maubourg, and the English employed themselves in reducing Olivença, and some other strong places on the Valverde river, in the month of April. Lord Wellington made a hasty visit to the head-quarters of marshal Beresford, to direct the operations against Badajoz, but he was quickly recalled by the news that Massena had received reinforcements, and was in full march again to relieve the garrison in Almeida. Wellington, on the other hand, had reduced his army by sending reinforcements to Beresford, so that, while Massena had forty thousand foot and five thousand cavalry to enter Portugal with, Wellington had, of English and Portuguese, only thirty-two thousand foot and about one thousand two hundred horse. This force, too, he had been obliged to extend over a line of seven miles in length, so as to guard all the avenues of access to Almeida. The country, too, about Almeida was particularly well adapted for cavalry, in which the French had greatly the superiority. Not- withstanding, Wellington determined to dispute his passage. He had no choice of ground; he must fight on a flat plain, and with the river Coa flowing in his rear. He had his centre opposite to Almeida, his right on the village of Fuentes de Onoro - the Fountains of Honour - and his left on fort Concepcion.

On the 3rd of May, towards evening, Massena attacked the English right, posted in Fuentes de Onoro, with great impetuosity, and the whole fury of the battle, from beginning to end, was concentrated on this quarter. At first the English were forced back from the lower part of the town, and driven to the top, where they retained only a Cluster of houses and an old chapel. But Wellington pushed fresh bodies of troops up the hill, and again drove down the French at the point of the bayonet, and over the river Das Casas. The next day the battle was renewed with the greatest desperation, and again the English, overwhelmed with heavy columns of men, and attacked by the powerful body of cavalry, seemed on the point of giving way. The cannonade of Massena was terrible, but the British replied with equal vigour, and a Highland regiment, under colonel Mackinnon, rushed forward with its wild cries, carrying all before it. The battle was continued on the low grounds, or on the borders of the river, till it was dark, when the French withdrew across the Das Casas. The battle was at an end. Massena had been supported by marshal Bessières, but the two marshals had found their match in a single English general, and an army as inferior to their own in numbers as it was superior in solid strength. Four hundred French lay dead in Fuentes de Onoro itself, and the killed, wounded, and prisoners amounted, according to their own intercepted letters, to upwards of three thousand. The loss of the English was two hundred and thirty-five killed - amongst whom was colonel Cameron - one thousand two hundred and thirty-four wounded, and three hundred and seventeen missing, or prisoners. Almeida was at once evacuated; the garrison blowing up some of the works, and then, getting across the Agueda, joined the army of Massena, but not without heavy loss of men, besides all their baggage, artillery, and ammunition.

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