OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 6

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 <6> 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

An attempt was again made to bring Grey and Grenville into the cabinet, but without effect. Overtures were then made to the marquis of Wellesley and Canning, who also both declined, alleging differences of opinion on the catholic claims and on the scale for carrying on the war in the Peninsula. In the house of commons, on the 21st of May, Mr. Stuart Wortley, afterwards lord Wharncliffe, moved and carried a resolution for an address to the regent, praying him to endeavour to form a coalition ministry. During a whole week there were such endeavours made, and various audiences had by lords Moira, Wellesley, Eldon, the chancellor of the exchequer, &c., and Moira was authorised to make proposals to Wellesley and Canning, to Grey and Grenville. But all these negotiations failed. Grey and Grenville refused to come in unless they could have the re-arrangement of the royal household - a most unreasonable demand, unless they had been succeeding as an entirely whig cabinet. But at the same time, without this, and, indeed, as a mixed administration at all, they could not have pursued any effectual policy. It was therefore much better that they should not come in at all.

On the 8th of June the earl of Liverpool announced to the house of lords that an administration was formed; that the prince regent had been pleased to appoint him first lord of the treasury, and to authorise him to complete the cabinet. Earl Bathurst succeeded Liverpool as secretary of the colonies and secretary at war; Sidmouth became secretary of the home department; the earl of Harrowby president of the council; Nicholas Vansittart chancellor of the exchequer; lord Melville, the son of the old late lord, first lord of the admiralty; the earl of Buckinghamshire President of the board of control; Castlereagh secretary of foreign affairs; Mulgrave master-general of the ordnance, Eldon lord chancellor; Mr. F. Robinson became vice- president of the board of trade and treasurer of the navy; lord Clancarty president of the board of trade; Sir Thomas Plumer was made attorney-general, and Sir William Garrow succeeded him as solicitor-general. In Ireland, the duke of Richmond became lord-lieutenant; lord Manners lord chancellor; and Mr. Robert Peel, who now first emerged into public notice, chief secretary. The cabinet, thus reconstructed, promised exactly the policy of the late premier, and, indeed, with increased vigour. On the 17th of June the new chancellor of the exchequer introduced the budget - professedly that of Spencer Perceval - which exceeded the grants of the former year by upwards of four millions - that having been fifty-six millions twenty- one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine pounds, this being sixty-two millions three hundred and seventy-six thousand three hundred and forty-eight pounds. New taxes were imposed, and two more enormous loans raised, and added to the debt.

The effects of the monstrous drain of the war on the revenues of the country were now beginning to show themselves in the manufacturing districts, and the workpeople had broken out in serious riots in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cheshire. Instead of attributing their distresses to the vast system of taxation, they attributed them to the increase of machinery, and broke into the mills in many places and destroyed it. This was only adding to the misery by destroying capital, and stopping the very machinery which gave them bread. A committee of inquiry was instituted, and the result allowed that the members of parliament were not a whit more enlightened than the artisans themselves. Instead of attempting to find some means of ameliorating the condition of the starving population - which, indeed, they could not do, for nothing but peace and reduction of taxation, and the restoration of the natural conditions of commerce could do it - they recommended coercion, and lord Castlereagh brought in a severe bill for the purpose - the first of many such insane bills of his, which nearly drove the people eventually to révolution, and, by a more fortunate turn, precipitated reform of parliament. This bill, the operation of which was limited to the following March, was carried by large majorities, and parliament, thinking it had done enough to quiet hungry stomachs in the north, was prorogued on the 30th of July, and on the 20th of September dissolved.

The changes in, and uncertainty about the ministry gave great uneasiness to lord Wellington, whose operations in Spain depended so much on earnest support at home. During the latter part of the autumn and the commencement of winter, whilst his army was in cantonments, he was actively preparing to surprise the French, and make himself master of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz. With much activity, but without bustle, he made his preparations at Almeida. Pretending to be only repairing the damages to its fortifications, he got together there ample stores and a good battering train. He prepared also a portable bridge on trestles, and regulated the commissariat department of his army; lie also had a great number of light, yet strong wagons constructed for the conveyance of his provisions and ammunition, to supersede the clumsy and ponderous carts of the Portuguese.

All being ready, on the 6th of January Wellington suddenly pushed forward to Gallegos, and on the 8th invested Ciudad Rodrigo. Nothing could be more unexpected by marshal Marmont, who had never suspected an y attack in winter, and had, therefore, placed his army in cantonments about Plasencia and Talavera, and had, more- over, sent several divisions to distant points. On the very first evening he stormed an external redoubt called the Great Teson, and established his first parallel. On the 13th he also carried the convent of Santa Cruz, and on the 14th that of San Francisco. He then established his second parallel, and planted fresh batteries. On the 19th ho made two breaches, and, hearing that Marmont was advancing hastily to the relief of the place, he determined to storm at once, though it would be at a more serious exposure of life. The assault was rapid and successful, but the slaughter on both sides was very severe. A thousand killed and wounded were reckoned on each side, and one thousand seven hundred prisoners were taken by the British. What made the English loss the heavier was that general Mackinnon and many of his brigade were killed by the explosion of a powder magazine on the walls. General Craufurd, of the light division, was killed, and general Vandeleur, colonel Colborne, and major Napier wounded. Much ammunition and a battering train were found in Ciudad Rodrigo. Marmont was astounded at the fall of the place. The Spanish cortes, who had been so continually hampering and criticising Wellington, now created him duke of Ciudad Rodrigo. He was also, in England, advanced to the dignity of an earl, and an annuity of two thousand pounds was voted him by parliament.

But Wellington was not intending to stop here. He immediately made preparations for the siege of Badajoz. He had artillery sent out to sea from Lisbon, as for some distant expedition, and then secretly carried, in small boats, up the Setubal, to Alcacer du Sal, and thence, by land, across/the Alentejo to the Guadiana. On the 16th of March, after a rapid march, he reached, with a strong body of troops, the Guadiana, crossed, and at once invested Badajoz. By the 26th he had carried the Pecurina and the advanced work separated from the city by the little river Ribillas, and made two breaches into the city itself. There were the same defects of besieging tools and battering trains which had retarded his operations before; but the m en worked well, and on the 6th of April, there being three breaches open, Orders were given to storm, for Soult was collecting his forces at Seville to raise the siege. One of the breaches had been so strongly barricaded by general Philippon, the governor of Badajoz, by strong planks bristled with iron spikes, and with chevaux-de-frise of bayonets and broken swords, that no effect could be produced on the obstruction; whilst the French, from the ramparts and the houses overlooking them, poured down the most destructive volleys. But the parties at the other two breaches were more successful, and their drawing away the French from this quarter, the spike-beams and chevaux- de-frise were knocked down, and our troops were soon masters of the place. Philippon endeavoured to escape with a number of men, but he was obliged to throw himself into fort St. Cristoval, on the other side the Guadiana, where he was compelled to surrender. The loss of the allies was nearly one thousand men killed, including seventy-two officers, and three hundred and six officers and three thousand four hundred and eighty men wounded. The French, though they fought under cover of batteries and houses, lost nearly one thousand five hundred men; they also delivered up upwards of five thousand prisoners of their own nation, and nearly four thousand Spaniards, English, and Portuguese, who had been kept at Badajoz as a safe fortress. The English soldiers fought with their usual undaunted bravery, but they disgraced themselves by getting drunk in the wine cellars during the night of the storming, and committed many excesses. Wellington, who was extremely rigorous in suppressing all such conduct, reduced them to discipline as quickly as possible, and on the 8th Badajoz was completely in his hands. Soult, who was at Villafranca when he received the news, immediately retreated again on Seville, briskly pursued by the British cavalry, who did much execution on his rear-guard at Villa Garcia.

Wellington proceeded to put Badajoz into a strong state of defence, but he was soon called off by the movements of Marmont, who, in his absence, had advanced and invested both Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida. Wellington left general Hill to watch the south, which was the more necessary as Soult was in strong force at Seville, and Victor before Cadiz. That general had made a vigorous attack on Tarifa towards the end of December, but was repulsed with much loss by colonel Skerrett. Hill, who had about twelve thousand men, made a successful attack on some strong forts near Almarez, on the Tagus, erected by the French to protect their bridge of boats there - thus closing the communication between Soult in the south and Marmont in the north. Under these satisfactory circumstances, Wellington broke up his cantonments between the Coa and the Agueda on the 10th of June, and commenced his march into Spain with about forty thousand men. Of these, however, one column consisted of Spaniards, on whom his lord-ship had little reliance, and his cavalry was small and indifferently officered in comparison with the infantry. Marmont had as many infantry as himself, and a much more numerous and better disciplined cavalry. As Wellington advanced, too, lie learned that general Bonnet, with a force upwards of six thousand strong, was hastening to support Marmont. That general abandoned Salamanca as Wellington approached, and on the 17th the British army entered the city, to the great joy of the people, who, during the three years which the French had held it, had suffered inconceivable miseries and insults; not the least of these was to see the usurper destroy twenty-two of the twenty-five Colleges in this famous seat of learning, and thirteen out of twenty-five convents. Troops were left in différent forts, both in the city and by the bridge over the river Tormes, which forts had chiefly been constructed out of the materials of the schools and monasteries. These were soon compelled to surrender, but not without heavy loss. Major Bowes and one hundred and twenty men fell in carrying those by the bridge. After différent manœuvres, Marmont showed himself on the British right, near San Cristoval, where he was met by a division under Sir Thomas Graham, who had beaten the French at Barossa. Fresh manoeuvres then took place: Marmont crossing and recrossing the

Duero, and marching along its banks, to cut off Wellington from his forces in Salamanca, and to enable himself to open the way for king Joseph's troops from Madrid. This being accomplished, and being joined by general Bonnet, he faced the army of Wellington on the Guarena. On the 20th of July lie crossed that river, and there was a rapid movement of both armies, each endeavouring to prevent the other cutting off the way to Salamanca and Ciudad Rodrigo. On that day both armies were seen marching parallel to each other, and now and then exchanging cannon - shots. The military authorities present there describe the scene of those two rival armies - making a total of ninety thousand men, and each displaying all the splendour and discipline of arms, each general intent on taking the other at some disadvantage - as one of the finest spectacles ever seen in warfare. The next day both generals crossed the river Tormes - Wellington by the bridge in his possession, the French by fords higher up. They were now in front of Salamanca, Marmont still manœuvring to cut off the road to Ciudad Rodrigo. On the morning of the 22nd Marmont, favoured by some woods, gained some advantage in that direction; but Wellington drew up his troops in great strength behind the village of Arapiles, and Marmont extending his left to turn the English right flank, Wellington suddenly made a desperate dash at his line, and cut it in two. Marmont's left was quickly beaten on the heights that he had occupied, and was driven down them at the point of the bayonet. Marmont was so severely wounded that he was compelled to quit the field, and give up the command to Bonnet; but Bonnet was soon wounded too, and obliged to surrender the command to general Clausel, who had just arrived with reinforcements from " the army of the north," of which Wellington had had information, and which induced him to give battle before he could bring up all his force.

Clausel reformed the line, and made a terrible attack on the British with his artillery; but Wellington charged again, though the fight was up-hill; drove the French from their heights with the bayonet once more, and sent them in full route through the woods towards the Tormes. They were sharply pursued by the infantry, under general Anson, and the cavalry, under Sir Stapleton Cotton, till the night stopped them. But at dawn the same troops again pursued them, supported by more horse; and, overtaking the enemy's rear at La Serua, they drove it in - the cavalry putting spurs to their horses, and leaving the foot to their fate. Three battalions of these were made prisoners. As the French fled, they encountered the main body of Clausel's army of the north, but these turned and fled too; and on the night of the 23rd the fugitives had reached Flores de Avila, thirty miles from the field of battle. The flight and pursuit were continued all the way from Salamanca to Valladolid.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 <6> 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 6

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About