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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 3

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The fame of this battle, thus fought without any advantage of ground, and with such a preponderance on the side of the French, produced a deep impression both in England and France. The greater part of the British side was com- posed of British troops, the Portuguese, for the most part, having been sent to general Beresford, and this gave a vivid idea of the relative efficiency of English and French troops. Buonaparte had already satisfied himself that Massena was not the man to cope with Wellington, and marshal Marmont was on the way to supersede him when this battle was fought, but lie could only continue the flight of Massena, and take up his head-quarters at Salamanca. With Massena returned to France also Ney, Junot, and Loison; king Joseph had gone there before; and the accounts which these generals were candid enough to give, in conversation, of the State of things in Spain, spread a very gloomy feeling through the circles of Paris.

On the return of Wellington to the north, Beresford strictly blockaded Badajoz, and made all the preparations that he could for taking it by storm. But he was almost wholly destitute of tools for throwing up entrenchments, and of men who understood the business of sappers and miners. He was equally short of artillery, and the breaching-guns which he had had no proper balls. The howitzers were too small for his shells, and he had few, if any, well -skilled officers of artillery. Besides this, the ground was very rocky, and the enemy, owing to their slow progress in the works, were able to make repeated sorties, so that they had killed four or five hundred of our men. In this situation, on the 12th of May, Beresford received the intelligence that Soult was advancing against him with nearly thirty thousand infantry and four thousand horse. Soult had been set at liberty to leave Seville by the conclusion of Graham and Lapena's expedition, and he had received reinforcements both from Sebastiani and from Madrid. Beresford immediately raised the siege, but instead of retiring from, he advanced against Soult to give him battle. Beresford had about twenty-five thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry, but unfortunately ten thousand of these were Spaniards, for Castanos had joined him. Castanos was one of the best and most intelligent generals of Spain, and had a mind so far free from the absurd pride of his countrymen that he was willing to serve under Beresford. Blake was also in his army with a body of Spanish troops; but Blake was not so compliant as Castanos, and their troops were just as undisciplined as ever.

On the morning of the 16th of May, Beresford fell in with the French at Albuera, a ruined village, standing on ground as favourable for cavalry as that at Fuentes de Onoro. Blake's corps occupied the right wing of the allied army, the British the centre, opposite to the village and bridge of Albuera. Soult advanced in great strength towards the centre; but Beresford soon saw that the attack was not intended to be made there, but on the division of Blake on the right. He sent to desire Blake to alter his front so as to face the French, who would else come down on his right flank; but Blake thought he knew better than the English general, and would not move, declaring that it was the British centre where the blow would fall. But a little time showed the correctness of marshal Beresford's warning, and Blake, attempting to change his front when it was too late, was taken at disadvantage, and rapidly routed. Probably, under any circumstances, this would have have been the case, as it always was with the Spaniards, but the hurried movement hastened the catastrophe.

By this dispersion of the Spaniards, the English battalions were wholly exposed, and the whole might of Soult's force was thrown upon them. A tremendous fire from the hills, where the Spaniards ought to have stood, was opened on the English ranks, and several regiments were almost annihilated in a little time. But the 31st regiment, belonging to Colborne's brigade, supported by Horton's brigade, stood their ground under a murderous fire of artillery, and the very charge of both horse and foot. They must soon have fallen to a man, but Beresford quickly sent up a Portuguese brigade, under general Harvey, to round the hill on the right, and other troops, under Abercrombie, to compass it on the left; while, at the suggestion of colonel, since lord Hardinge, he pushed forward general Cole with his brigade of fusiliers right up the face of the hill. All these three divisions appeared on the summit of the hill simultaneously. The advance of these troops through the tempest of death has always been described as something actually sublime. Moving onward, unshaken, undisturbed, i though opposed by the furious onslaught of Soult's densest centre, they cleared the hill-top with the most deadly and unerring fire; they swept away a troop of Polish lancers that were murderously riding about goring our wounded men, as they lay on the ground, with their long lances, nearly exterminating the savages. Colonel Napier, in his " History of the Peninsula," describes this scene with the enthusiasm of a soldier: - " Such a gallant line issuing from the smoke, and rapidly separating itself from the confused and broken multitude, startled the enemy's heavy masses, which were increasing and pressing onwards as to an assured victory. They wavered, hesitated, and then, vomiting forth a storm of fire, hastily endeavoured to enlarge their front, while a fearful discharge of grape from all their artillery whistled through the British ranks. Sir William Myers was killed; Cole, and three colonels - Ellis, Blakeney, and Hawkshawe - fell wounded; and the fusilier battalions, struck by the iron tempest, reeled and staggered like sinking ships. Suddenly and sternly recovering, they closed on their terrible enemies, and then was seen with what a strength and majesty the British soldier fights. In vain did Soult, by voice and gesture, animate his Frenchmen; in vain did the hardiest veterans, extricating themselves from the crowded columns, sacrifice their lives to gain time for the mass to open out on such a fair field; in vain did the mass itself bear up, and, fiercely arising, fire indiscriminately on friends and foes, while the horsemen, hovering on the flank, threatened to charge the advancing line. Nothing could stop that astonishing infantry. No sudden burst of undisciplined valour, no nervous enthusiasm, weakened the stability of their order. Their flashing eyes were bent on the dark columns in their front; their measured step shook the ground; their dreadful volleys swept away the head of every formation; their deafening shouts overpowered the dissonant cries that broke from all parts of the tumultuous crowd, as foot by foot, and with a horrid carnage, it was driven by the incessant vigour of the attack to the farthest edge of the hill. In vain did the French reserves, joining with the struggling multitudes, endeavour to sustain the fight; their efforts only increased the irremediable confusion, and the mighty mass, giving way like a loosened cliff, went headlong down the ascent. The rain flowed after in streams discoloured with blood, and one thousand five hundred unwounded men - the remnant of six thousand unconquerable British soldiers - stood triumphant on the fatal hill."

The loss on both sides was fearful, for no battle had ever been more furiously contested. The French are said to have lost nine thousand men; the allies, in killed and wounded, seven thousand, of whom two-thirds were English. The French had two generals killed and three wounded. Some persons were inclined to blame marshal Beresford for risking a battle under the circumstances; but Wellington gave him the highest praise, and declared that the frightful loss was owing to the utter failure of the Spaniards; that their discipline was so bad that it was found impossible to move them without throwing them into irremediable confusion; that at both Talavera and Albuera the enemy would have been destroyed if the Spaniards could have been moved; and that the same course had prevented Lapena from supporting colonel Graham at Barossa.

Beresford maintained his position for two days in expectation of a fresh attack by Soult; but, no doubt, that general had heard that Lord Wellington was rapidly advancing to support Beresford; and, on the morning of the 18th, Soult commenced his retreat to Seville. With his small handful of cavalry, Beresford pursued him, and cut off a considerable number of his rear, and, amongst them, some of the cavalry itself at Usagne, taking about a hundred and fifty of them prisoners. Had we had a proper body of horse, the slaughter of the flying army would have been awful. Soult did but quit the ground in time; for, the very day after, Wellington arrived at Albuera with two fresh divisions.

The siege of Badajoz was again resumed, but with the same almost insurmountable obstacle of the deficiency of the requisite material for siege operations; and, on the 10th of June, learning that Marmont, the successor of Massena, was marching south to join Soult, who was also to be reinforced by Drouet's corps from Toledo, Wellington fell back on Campo Mayor, gave up the siege of Badajoz, and gathered all his forces together, except a considerable body of English and Portuguese, whom he left at Alentejo. Marmont, observing Wellington's movement, again retired to Salamanca. Some slight manoeuvring followed between the hostile commanders, which ended in Wellington resuming his old quarters on the river Coa. On this, Soult also retired again to Seville. On the 28th of October general Hill surprised a French force, under general Girard, at Arroyo Molinos, near Caceres, and completely routed it, taking all the baggage, artillery, ammunition, and stores, with one thousand five hundred prisoners. By this action the whole of that part of Estremadura except Badajoz was cleared of the French. This done, general Hill went into cantonments, and the British army received no further disturbance during the remainder of the year. Thus Wellington had completely maintained the defence of Portugal, and driven back the French from its frontiere. Wherever lie had crossed the French in Spain, he had severely beaten them too.

But the most discouraging feature of this war was the incurable pride of the Spaniards, which no reverses, and no example of the successes of their allies could abate sufficiently to show them that, without they would condescend to be taught discipline, as the Portuguese had done, they must still suffer ignominy and annihilation. Blake, who had been so thoroughly routed on every occasion, was not content, like the English and Portuguese, to go into quarters, and prepare, by good drilling, for a more auspicious campaign; but he led his rabble of an army quite away to the eastern borders of Spain, encountered Suchet in the open field, on the 25th of October, was desperately beaten, as usual, and then took refuge in Valencia, where he was closely invested, and compelled to surrender in the early part of January, with eighteen thousand men, twenty-three officers, and nearly four hundred guns. Such, for the time, was the end of the generalship of this wrong-headed man. Suchet had, before his encounter with Blake, been making a most successful campaign in the difficult country of Catalonia, which had foiled so many French generals. He had taken one fortress after another, and in June he had taken Tarragona, after a siege of three months, and gave it up to the lust, rapine, and plunder of his soldiery. Amongst the scenes of hell enacted by them over nearly the whole of the European continent, none can present more revolting horrors than these of Tarragona. Amid the cries and deeds of devils, the French troops slaughtered six thousand people in that city. During the siege of Valencia, Suchet was also active in other quarters, and reduced Murviedro and other for tresses. He seemed to avenge himself, by his con- quests and his cruelties, for the disgraces which the French arms suffered from the British in the west of the Peninsula.

Whilst our armies were asserting their pre-eminence in Spain, our fleets were the masters of all seas. In the north, though Sweden was nominally at war with us, in compliance with the arrogant demands of Buonaparte, Bernadotte, the elected crown prince, was too politic to carry out his embargo literally. The very existence of Sweden depended on its trade, and it was in the power of the British blockading fleet to prevent a single Swedish vessel proceeding to sea. But in spite of the angry threats and reviling of Napoleon, who still thought that Bernadotte, though become the prince and monarch elect of an independent country, should remain a Frenchman, and, above all, the servile slave of his will, that able man soon let it be understood that he was inclined to amicable relations to England; and Sir James Saumarez, the admiral of our Baltic fleet, not only permitted the Swedish merchantmen to pass unmolested, but on various occasions gave them protection. Thus the embargo system was really at an end, both in Sweden and in Russia; for Alexander also refused to ruin Russia for the benefit of France, or, rather, of Buonaparte, and both of these princes were in a secret league to support one another. Denmark, or, rather, its sovereign, though the nephew of the king of England, remained hostile to us, remembering, not only the severe chastisements our fleets had given Copenhagen, but also the facility with which Napoleon could, from the north of Germany, overrun Denmark, and add it to his now enormous empire. In March of this year the Danes endeavoured to recover the small island of Anholt, in the Categat, which we held; but they were beaten off with severe loss, leaving three or four hundred men prisoners of war.

In the East Indies we this year sent over from Madras an army and reduced Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East India Settlements, and the island of Java, as well as the small island of Madura, so that the last trace of the Dutch power was extinguished in the East, as it was at home by the dominance of Buonaparte. In the West Indies we had already made ourselves masters of all the islands of France, Denmark, and Holland; and our troops there had nothing to do but to watch and keep down the attempts at insurrection which French emissaries continued to stir up amid the black populations. We had some trouble of this kind in St. Domingo and in Martinique, where the negroes, both free and slaves, united to massacre the whites, and set up a black republic like that of Hayti. But the French settlers united with the English troops in putting them down, and a body of five hundred blacks, in an attempt to burn down the town of St. Pierre, were dispersed with great loss, and many were taken prisoners, and fifteen of them hanged.

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