Soult, when he found that the British had withdrawn, sent up some field-pieces to the heights above Fort San Diego, on the southern end of the bay. Their fire could reach the more outlying transports, and created some confusion, as the masters hastily[p. 596] weighed anchor and stood out to sea. Four vessels ran on shore, and three of them could not be got off: the troops on board were hastily transferred to other ships, with no appreciable loss: from the whole army only nine men of the Royal Wagon Train are returned as having been ‘drowned in Corunna harbour,’ no doubt from the sinking of the boat which was transhipping them. General Leith records, in his diary, that on the vessel which took him home there were fragments of no less than six regiments: we can hardly doubt that this must have been 长沙桑拿按摩论坛网 one of those which picked up the men from the stranded transports.
Beresford’s brigade embarked from a safe point behind the citadel on the eighteenth, leaving the town in charge of the small Spanish garrison under General Alcedo, which maintained the works till all the fleet were far out to sea, and then rather tamely surrendered. This was entirely the doing of their commander, a shifty old man, who almost immediately after took service with King Joseph.
The returning fleet had a tempestuous but rapid passage: urged on by a raging south-wester the vessels ran home in four or five days, and made almost every harbour between Falmouth and Dover. Many transports had a dangerous passage, but only two, the Dispatch and the Smallbridge, came to grief off the Cornish coast 长沙桑拿会所推荐 and were lost, the former with three officers and fifty-six men of the 7th Hussars, the latter with five officers and 209 men of the King’s German Legion. So ended the famous ‘Retreat from Sahagun.’
Moore’s memory met, as he had feared, with many unjust aspersions when the results of his campaign were known in England. The aspect of the 26,000 ragged war-worn troops, who came ashore on the South Coast, was so miserable that those who saw them were shocked. The state of the mass of 3,000 invalids, racked with fever and dysentery, who were cast into the hospitals was eminently distressing. It is seldom that a nation sees its troops returning straight from the field, with the grime and sweat of battle and march fresh upon 长沙桑拿洗浴全套价格 them. The impression made was[p. 597] a very unhappy one, and it was easy to blame the General. Public discontent was roused both against Moore and against the ministry, and some of the defenders of the latter took an ungenerous opportunity of shifting all the blame upon the man who could no longer vindicate himself. This provoked his numerous friends into asserting that his whole conduct of the campaign had been absolutely blameless, and that any misfortunes which occurred were simply and solely the fault of maladministration and unwise councils at home. Moore was the hero of the Whig party, and politics were dragged into the discussion of the campaign to a lamentable extent. Long years after his death the attitude of the critic or the historian, who dealt with the Corunna retreat, was invariably coloured by his Whig or Tory predilections.
The accepted view of the present generation is (though most men are entirely unacquainted with the fact) strongly coloured by the circumstance that William Napier, whose eloquent history has superseded all other narratives of the Peninsular War, was a violent enemy of the Tory ministry and a personal admirer of Moore. Ninety years and more have now passed since the great retreat, and we can look upon the campaign with impartial eyes. It is easy to point out mistakes made by the home government, such as the tardy dispatch of Baird’s cavalry, and the inadequate provision of money, both for the division which started from Lisbon and for that which started from Corunna. But these are not the most important causes of the misfortunes of the campaign. Nor can it be pleaded that the ministry did not support Moore loyally, or that they tied his hands by contradictory or over-explicit orders. A glance at Castlereagh’s dispatches is sufficient to show that he and his colleagues left everything that was possible to be settled by the General, and that they approved each of his determinations as it reached them without any cavilling or criticism.
Moore must take the main responsibility for all that happened. On the whole, the impression left after a study of his campaign is very favourable to him. His main conception when he marched from Salamanca—that of gaining time for the rallying of the Spanish armies, by directing a sudden raid upon the Emperor’s communications in Castile—was as sound as it was enterprising. The French critics who have charged him with rashness have never[p. 598] read his dispatches, nor realized the care with which he had thought out the retreat, which he knew would be inevitable when his movement became known at Madrid. He was never for a moment in any serious danger of being surrounded by the Emperor, because he was proceeding (as he himself wrote) ‘bridle in hand,’ and with a full knowledge that he must ‘have a run for it’ on the first receipt of news that Napoleon was upon the march. His plan of making a diversion was a complete success: he drew the Emperor, with the 70,000 men who would otherwise have marched on Lisbon, up into the north-west of the Peninsula, quite out of the main centre of operations. Napoleon himself halted at Astorga, but 45,000 men marched on after the British, and were engulfed in the mountains of Galicia, where they were useless for the main operations of the war. Spain, in short, gained three months of respite, because the main disposable field-army of her invaders had been drawn off into a corner by the unexpected march of the British on Sahagun. ‘As a diversion the movement has answered completely,’ wrote Moore to Castlereagh from Astorga, and with justice. That the subsequent retreat to Corunna was also advisable we must concede, though the arguments in favour of attempting a defence of Galicia were more weighty than has generally been allowed.
But when we turn to the weeks that preceded the advance from Salamanca, and that followed the departure from Astorga, it is only a very blind admirer of Moore who will contend that everything was arranged and ordered for the best. That the army, which began to arrive at Salamanca on November 13, did not make a forward move till December 12 is a fact which admits of explanation, but not of excuse. The main governing fact of its inactivity was not, as Moore was always urging, the disasters of the Spaniards, but the misdirection of the British cavalry and artillery on the roundabout route by Elvas, Talavera, and the Escurial. For this the British general was personally responsible: we have already shown that he had good reasons for distrusting the erroneous reports on the roads of Portugal which were sent in to him, and that he should not have believed them. He ought to have marched on Almeida, with his troops distributed between the three available roads, and should have had a compact[p. 599] force of all arms concentrated at Salamanca by November 15. Even without Baird he could then have exercised some influence on the course of events. As it was, he condemned himself—by the unmilitary act of separating himself from his guns and his horsemen—to a month of futile waiting, while the fate of the campaign was being settled a hundred and fifty miles away.
The chance that Napoleon turned his whole army upon Madrid, and did not send a single corps in search of the British, gave Moore the grand opportunity for striking at the French communications, which he turned to such good account in the middle of December. But, though he so splendidly vindicated his reputation by this blow, we cannot forget the long hesitation at Salamanca by which it was preceded, nor the unhappy project for instant retreat on Portugal, which was so nearly put into execution. If it had been carried out, Moore’s name would have been relegated to a very low place in the list of British commanders, for he would undoubtedly have evacuated Lisbon, just as he had prepared to evacuate Corunna on the day before he was slain. We have his own words to that effect. On November 25 he put on paper his opinion as to the defence of Portugal. ‘Its frontier,’ he wrote, ‘is not defensible against a superior force. It is an open frontier, all equally rugged, but all equally to be penetrated. If the French succeed in Spain, it will be vain to attempt to resist them in Portugal. The British must in that event immediately take steps to evacuate the country.’ It is fortunate that Sir Arthur Wellesley was not of this opinion, or the course of the Peninsular War, and of the whole struggle between Bonaparte and Britain, might have been modified in a very unhappy fashion.
So much must be said of Moore’s earlier faults. Of his later ones, committed after his departure from Astorga, almost as much might be made. His long hesitation, as to whether he should march on Vigo or on Corunna, was inexcusable: at Astorga his mind should have been made up, and the Vigo road (a bad cross-route on which he had not a single magazine) should have been left out of consideration. By failing to make up his mind, and taking useless half-measures, Moore deprived himself of the services of Robert Crawfurd and 3,500 of the best soldiers of his army. But, as we have shown elsewhere, the hesitation was in its origin the result of the groundless hypothesis which Moore had formed—[p. 600]one knows not from what premises—that the French would not be able to pursue him beyond Villafranca.
Still more open to criticism is the headlong pace at which Moore conducted the last stages of the retreat. Napier has tried to represent that the marches were not unreasonable: ‘in eleven days,’ he wrote, ‘a small army passed over a hundred and fifty miles of good road.’ But we have to deduct three days of rest, leaving an average of about seventeen miles a day; and this for January marching, in a rugged snow-clad country, is no trifle. For though the road was ‘good,’ in the sense that it was well engineered, it was conducted over ridge after ridge of one of the most mountainous lands in Europe. The desperate uphill gradients between Astorga and Manzanal, and between Villafranca and Cerezal, cannot be measured in mere miles when their difficulty is being estimated. The marching should be calculated by hours, and not by miles. Moreover, Moore repeatedly gave his men night-marches, and even two night-marches on end. Half the horrors of the dreadful stage between Lugo and Betanzos came from the fact that the army started at midnight on January 8-9, only rested a few hours by day, and then marched again at seven on the evening of the ninth, and through the whole of the dark hours between the ninth and tenth. Flesh and blood cannot endure such a trial even in good weather, and these were nights of hurricane and downpour. Who can wonder that even well-disposed and willing men lagged behind, sank down, and died by hundreds under such stress?
All this hurry was unnecessary: whenever the rearguard turned to face the French, Soult was forced to wait for many hours before he could even begin an attempt to evict it. For his infantry was always many miles to the rear, and he could not effect anything with the horsemen of his advanced guard against Paget’s steady battalions—as Cacabellos sufficiently showed. Napier urges that any position that the British took up could be turned by side-roads: this is true, but the flanking movement would always take an inordinate time, and by the moment that the French had started upon it, the British rearguard could have got off in safety, after having delayed the enemy for the best part of a day. If, instead of offering resistance only at Cacabellos, Constantino, and Lugo, Moore had shown fight at three or four other places—e.g. at[p. 601] the narrow pass of Piedrafita, the passage of the Ladra, and the defile of Monte Falqueiro—he need not have hurried his main body beyond their strength, and left the road strewn with so many exhausted stragglers. French and English eye-witnesses alike repeatedly express their surprise that such positions were left undefended. While not disguising the fact that a great proportion of the British losses were due to mere want of discipline and sullen discontent on the part of the rank and file, we cannot fail to see that this was not the sole cause of the disasters of the retreat. The General drove his men beyond their strength, when he might, at the cost of a few rearguard skirmishes, have given them four or five days more in which to accomplish their retreat. Moore arrived at Corunna on January 11: it was January 16 before Soult had so far collected his army that he could venture to attack. At any other point, the result of offering battle would have been much the same. No excuse for Moore can be made on the ground of insufficient supplies: at Villafranca, Lugo, and Betanzos he destroyed enormous quantities of food, and often so imperfectly that the French succeeded in living for several days on what they could save from the flames.
In making these criticisms we are not in the least wishing to impugn Moore’s reputation as a capable officer and a good general. He was both, but his fault was an excessive sense of responsibility. He could never forget that he had in his charge, as was said, ‘not a British army, but the British army’—the one efficient force that the United Kingdom could put into the field. He was loth to risk it, though ultimately he did so in his admirably conceived march on Sahagun. He had also to think of his own career: among his numerous friends and admirers he had a reputation for military infallibility which he was loth to hazard. Acting under a strong sense of duty he did so, but all the while he was anxiously asking himself ‘What will they say at home?’ It was this self-consciousness that was Moore’s weak point. Fortunately he was a man of courage and honour, and at the critical moment recovered the confidence and decision which was sometimes wanting in the hours of doubt and waiting.
Few men have been better loved by those who knew them best. To have served in the regiments which Moore had trained at Shorncliffe in 1803-5, was to be his devoted friend and admirer for life and death. Handsome, courteous, just, and benevolent,[p. 602] unsparing to himself, considerate to his subordinates, he won all hearts. ‘He was a very king of men,’ wrote Charles Napier; and Charles’s more eloquent brother has left him a panegyric such as few generals have merited and fewer still obtained.
Vol. II, Jan. – Sep. 1809.PREFACE
Vol. II, Jan. – Sep. 1809. From the Battle of Corunna to
The End of the Talavera Campaign
The second volume of this work has swelled to an even greater bulk than its predecessor. Its size must be attributed to two main causes: the first is the fact that a much greater number of original sources, both printed and unprinted, are available for the campaigns of 1809 than for those of 1808. The second is that the war in its second year had lost the character of comparative unity which it had possessed in its first. Napoleon, on quitting Spain in January, left behind him as a legacy to his brother a comprehensive plan for the conquest of the whole Peninsula. But that plan was, from the first, impracticable: and when it had miscarried, the fighting in every region of the theatre of war became local and isolated. Neither the harassed and distracted French King at Madrid, nor the impotent Spanish Junta at Seville, knew how to combine and co-ordinate the operations of their various armies into a single logical scheme. Ere long, six or seven campaigns were taking place simultaneously in different corners of the Peninsula, each of which was practically independent of the others. Every French and Spanish general fought for his own hand, with little care for what his colleagues were doing: their only unanimity was that all alike kept urging on their central governments the plea that their own particular section of the war was more critical and important than any other. If we look at the month of May, 1809, we find that the[p. iv] following six disconnected series of operations were all in progress at once, and that each has to be treated as a separate unit, rather than as a part of one great general scheme of strategy—(1) Soult’s campaign against Wellesley in Northern Portugal, (2) Ney’s invasion of the Asturias, (3) Victor’s and Cuesta’s movements in Estremadura, (4) Sebastiani’s demonstrations against Venegas in La Mancha, (5) Suchet’s contest with Blake in Aragon, (6) St. Cyr’s attempt to subdue Catalonia. When a war has broken up into so many fractions, it becomes not only hard to follow but very lengthy to narrate. Fortunately for the historian and the student, a certain amount of unity is restored in July, mainly owing to the fact that the master-mind of Wellesley has been brought to bear upon the situation. When the British general attempted to combine with the Spanish armies of Estremadura and La Mancha for a common march upon Madrid, the whole of the hostile forces in the Peninsula [with the exception of those in Aragon and Catalonia] were once more drawn into a single scheme of operations. Hence the Talavera campaign is the central fact in the annals of the Peninsular War for the year 1809. I trust that it will not be considered that I have devoted a disproportionate amount of space to the setting forth and discussion of the various problems which it involved.
The details of the battle of Talavera itself have engaged my special attention. I thought it worth while to go very carefully over the battle-field, which fortunately remains much as it was in 1809. A walk around it explained many difficulties, but suggested certain others, which I have done my best to solve.
In several other chapters of this volume I dis[p. v]covered that a personal inspection of localities produced most valuable results. At Oporto, for example, I found Wellesley’s passage of the Douro assuming a new aspect when studied on the spot. Not one of the historians who have dealt with it has taken the trouble to mention that the crossing was effected at a point where the Douro runs between lofty and precipitous cliffs, towering nearly 200 feet above the water’s edge! Yet this simple fact explains how it came to pass that the passage was effected at all—the French, on the plateau above the river, could not see what was going on at the bottom of the deeply sunk gorge, which lies in a ‘dead angle’ to any observer who has not come forward to the very edge of the cliff. I have inserted a photograph of the spot, which will explain the situation at a glance. From Napier’s narrative and plan I am driven to conclude that he had either never seen the ground, or had forgotten its aspect after the lapse of years.
A search in the Madrid Deposito de la Guerra produced a few important documents for the Talavera campaign, and was made most pleasant by the extreme courtesy of the officers in charge. It is curious to find that our London Record Office contains a good many Spanish dispatches which do not survive at Madrid. This results from the laudable zeal with which Mr. Frere, when acting as British minister at Seville, sent home copies of every Spanish document, printed or unprinted, on which he could lay his hands. Once or twice he thus preserved invaluable ‘morning states’ of the Peninsular armies, which it would otherwise have been impossible to recover. Among our other representatives in Spain Captain Carroll was the only one who possessed to a[p. vi] similar degree this admirable habit of collecting original documents and statistics. His copious ‘enclosures’ to Lord Castlereagh are of the greatest use for the comprehension of the war in the Asturias and Galicia.
Neither Napier nor any other historian of the Peninsular War has gone into the question of Beresford’s reorganization of the Portuguese army. Comparing English and Portuguese documents, I have succeeded in working it out, and trust that Chapter III of Section XIII, and Appendix No. V, may suffice to demonstrate Beresford’s very real services to the allied cause.
It is my pleasant duty to acknowledge much kind help that I have received from correspondents on both sides of the sea, who have come to my aid in determining points of difficulty. Of those in England I must make particular notice of Colonel F. A. Whinyates, R.A., a specialist in all matters connected with the British artillery. I owe to him my Appendix No. XI, which he was good enough
to draw up, as well as the loan of several unpublished diaries of officers of his own arm, from which I have extracted some useful and interesting facts. I must also express my obligation to Mr. E. Mayne, for information relating to Sir Robert Wilson’s Loyal Lusitanian Legion, of which his relative, Colonel W. Mayne, was in 1809 the second-in-command. The excerpts which he was kind enough to collect for me have proved of great service, and could not have been procured from any other quarter. Nor must I omit to thank two other correspondents, Colonel Willoughby Verner and the Rev. Alexander Craufurd, for their notes concerning the celebrated ‘Light Division,’ in which the one is interested as the historian of the old 95th, and[p. vii] the other as the grandson of Robert Craufurd, of famous memory.
Of helpers from beyond the Channel I must make special mention of Commandant Balagny, the author of Napoléon en Espagne, who has supplied
me with a great number of official documents from Paris, and in especial with a quantity of statistics, many of them hitherto unpublished, which serve to fix the strength and the losses of various French corps in 1809. I also owe to him my Appendix VI (iii), a most interesting résumé of the material in the French archives relating to the strange ‘Oporto conspiracy’ of Captain Argenton and his confederates. This obscure chapter of the history of the Peninsular War is, I think, brought out in its true proportions by the juxtaposition of the English and French documents. It is clear that Soult’s conduct was far more sinister than Napier will allow, and also that the plot to depose the Marshal was the work of a handful of military intriguers, not of the great body of highly-placed conspirators in whose existence the mendacious Argenton has induced some historians to believe.
At Madrid General Arteche placed at my disposal, with the most bountiful liberality, his immense stores of knowledge, which I had learnt to appreciate long before, as a conscientious student of his Guerra de la Independencia. He pointed out to me many new sources, which had escaped my notice, and was good enough to throw light on many problems which had been vexing me. For his genial kindness I cannot too strongly express my obligation.
Of the officers at the Madrid Deposito de la Guerra, whose courtesy I have mentioned above, I must give special thanks to Captain Emilio Figueras, from[p. viii] whom (just as these pages are going to press) I have received some additional figures relating to the Army of Estremadura in 1809.