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On the 25th September 1808, a dispatch was written by Lord Castlereagh to Sir John Moore at Lisbon, communicating to him the intelligence of his appointment to the command of an army of not less than 30,000 infantry and 5000 cavalry,' to be employed in the North of Spain. Of this force, from 10 to 12,000 men were yet to be sent from England, under Sir David Baird, to be landed at Corunna, but the larger proportion was to be taken by Sir John from the army in Portugal. The dispatch was received by the General on the 6th of October; and after having experienced great difficulties in forwarding the equipment of the troops, particularly from the inexperience of the Commissariat, he thus writes on the 27th: Every thing is now clear of Lisbon, except two regiments, which march to-morrow and the day following; and I shall myself leave it in a couple of hours.' He had before stated that his intention was to intrust the conduct of the marches to the Generals conducting columns, and to proceed himself direct to Almeida; and he now says:
"I am under the necessity of sending General Hope with the artillery, cavalry, and a corps of infantry, in all about 6,000 men, by the great road leading from Badajos to Madrid; as every information agreed, that no other was fit for the artillery, or could be recommended for the cavalry. This is a great round, and will separate the corps for a time, from the rest of the army: but there is no help for it; the road turns to the left a short distance from Madrid, and leads upon Espinar, from whence it can be directed on Valladolid and Burgos, or whatever other place may be judged hereafter best for the assembling of the army.
"Sir David Baird arrived at Corunna on the 13th instant. I have written to him to march upon Astorga as soon as his corps is equipped. With the infantry which marched from this direct upon Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo, I shall not advance beyond Salamanca; until the corps under Baird and Hope approach Astorga and Espinar, but shall collect them in Almeida, Ciudad Rodrigo, and Salamanca. This, at least, is my intention at present; and I shall consider myself fortunate if they reach those places before the first rains, which, in general, last six or eight days, and fall so heavy,, that, during their continuance, the troops must halt."
Early obstacles were experienced, from a want of money, (which was throughout the case,) from a difficulty of obtaining provisions, from the badness of roads, and from the ignorance of the Portuguese themselves on this latter point. It was afterward discovered that the representation respecting the roads through the north of Portugal was erroneous; and that the important delay, which subsequently arose in the junction of General Hope with the Commander in Chief, might have been avoided by his column having marched with the rest of the
army. As to provisions, it was found that the whole army could not be subsisted on the road by Elvas; no magazines having been formed for such a body of troops. When the Spanish Commissary General was consulted on this subject, and when the quantity of meat required by the British army was explained to him, he computed, that were they to be supplied with the rations specified, in three months all the oxen would be consumed, and very few hogs would be left in the country.'
On the general question, moreover, of the abilities and energy of the Spaniards themselves, an unfavourable idea was soon communicated by Lord William Bentinck, who had been residing in Spain on a diplomatic mission. In a dispatch about the beginning of October, he observes with a melancholy presage: "I am every moment more and more convinced, that a blind confidence in their own strength, and natural slowness, are the rocks upon which this good ship runs the risk of being wrecked."
An English officer, Captain Whittingham, also writes thus
to Lord W. B.:
"Head Quarters, Calahorra, 28th Oct. 1808.
"On the 25th General Castanos left this place for Logrono. We arrived about four in the evening. 1 he army of Castile was drawn up to receive the General. Its strength about 11,000 men. But to form any idea of its composition, it is absolutely necessary to have seen it. It is a compelete mass of miserable peasantry, without clothing, without organization, and with few Officers that deserve the
The General and principal Officers have not the least confidence in their troops; and, what is yet worse, the men have no confidence in themselves.
"This is not an exaggerated picture; it is a true portrait," &c. &c.'
On the 8th of November, Sir John arrived at Almeida, and on the 13th with his advanced guard at Salamanca; and a few hours afterwards he wrote a letter to Lord W. Bentinck at Madrid, in which we find these remarkable passages:
“I have no objection to you, or Mr. Frere, representing the necessity of as many more British troops as you think proper. It is certain, that the agents, which our Government have hitherto employed, have deceived them. For affairs here are by no means in the flourishing state they are represented and believed to be in England; and the sooner the truth is known in England, the better. But you must observe, my Lord, that whatever is critical must now be decided by the troops which are here; the French, I suspect, are ready, and will not wait. I differ only with you in one pointwhen you say, the chief and great obstacle and resistance to the French will be afforded by the English Army. If that be so, Spain
is lost. The English Army, I hope, will do all which can be expected from their numbers; but the safety of Spain depends upon the union of its inhabitants, their enthusiasm in their cause, and in their firm and devoted determination to die, rather than submit to the French; nothing short of this will enable them to resist the formidable attack about to be made upon them. If they will adhere, our aid can be of the greatest use to them; but, if not, we shall soon be out-numbered, were our force quadrupled.
"I am, therefore, much more anxious to see exertion and energy in the Government, and enthusiasm in their Armies, than to have my force augmented. The moment is a critical one-my own situation is particularly so-I have never seen it otherwise; - but I have pushed into Spain at all hazards- this was the order of my Government-and it was the will of the people of England. I shall endeavour to do my best, hoping that all the bad that may happen, will not happen; but that with a share of bad, we shall also have a portion of good fortune."
With regard to Mr. Frere, it is observed by the Editor:
Mr. Frere arrived at Aranjuez at the beginning of November, as Minister Plenipotentiary of Great Britain. He of course superseded Lord William Bentinck and Mr. Stuart; who, from having resided some time in Spain, and from personal qualifications, had got acquainted with many of the leading men, and had acquired a clear insight into the state of affairs.
Mr. Frere unfortunately had acquired his notions of Spanish politics in London; and his prepossessions were much too strong to be effaced by the observations of his predecessors, or even to be altered by the most opposing facts.'
Consistently with this representation, so early as Nov. 13, Mr. Frere writes in reply: The fixed spirit of resistance which, without calculation of danger or of means, seems to have rooted itself in the minds of the people, appears superior to any reverses.'
Nov. 19, Sir J. Moore again addresses Mr. Frere, and his letter contains these paragraphs:
"The scenes which Colonel Graham describes, in his letters, as passing at the Head Quarters of the Central Army, are deplorable. The imbecility of the Spanish Government exceeds belief. The good-will of the inhabitants, whatever it may be, is of little use whilst there exists no ability to bring it into action.
"I am in communication with no one Spanish army; nor am I acquainted with the intentions of the Spanish Government, or of any of its Generals. Castanos, with whom I was put in correspon dence, is deprived of his command at the moment 1 might have expected to hear from him; and La Romana, with whom I suppose I am now to correspond (for it has not been officially communicated to me) is absent God knows where. In the mean time the French are within four marches of me, whilst my army is only as
sembling in what numbers they are, I cannot learn. No channels of intelligence have been opened to me; and I have not been long enough in the country to procure them myself. I state these par ticulars to you. I wish it were in my power to go myself to Aranjuez, or Madrid, to represent them; for really if things are to continue in this state, the ruin of the Spanish cause, and the defeat of their armies, is inevitable; and it will become my duty to consider alone the safety of the British army, and to take steps to withdraw it from a situation, where, without the possibility of doing good, it is exposed to certain defeat."
Similar representations were made to Lord Castlereagh in a dispatch of the 24th; and it is remarked:
"Your Lordship must be prepared to hear that we have failed; for situated as we are, success cannot be commanded by any efforts we can make, if the Enemy are prepared to oppose us. I am without a shilling of money to pay the army their subsistence, and I am in daily apprehension that from the want of it, our supplies will be stopped. The 500,000 dollars your Lordship mentions, Sir David Baird considered as sent to him; he detained them, and has nearly expended them. The money which it is possible to procure at Madrid and in other towns of Spain is quite trifling, and it is impossible to describe the embarrassment we are thrown into from the want of this essential article; nothing but abundance of money, and prompt payments, will compensate, when we begin to move, for the want of experience and ability of our Commissariat."
In a private letter to one of his brothers, dated the 26th, the state of his mind is thus expressed:
Upon entering Spain I have found affairs in a very different state from what I expected, or from what they are thought to be in England.
"I am in a scrape from which God knows how I am to extricate myself. But, instead of Salamanca, this army should have been assembled at Seville. The poor Spaniards deserve a better fate, for they seem a fine people; but have fallen into hands who have lost them by their apathy and ******?
Pray for me that I may make right decisions: if I make bad ones, it will not be for want of consideration.
"I sleep little, it is now only five in the morning; and I have concluded, since I got up, this long letter.'
Sir David Baird's sentiments thus appear in a letter to the General in Chief, dated Astorga, Nov. 23:
"As it could never be intended by the British Government that our army should engage in the defence of this Country unaided and unsupported by any Spanish force, I confess, my dear Sir John, I begin to be at a loss to discover an object at this moment in Spain: it being very evident that the Spaniards are not at this moment in a situation to be capable of assembling a force competent to offer any serious resistance to the progress of the French arms."
At this period, Sir John also writes in his Journal:
"I see my situation as clearly as any one, that nothing can be worse; for I have no Spanish army to give me the least assistance, only the Marquis Romana is endeavouring to assemble the fugitives from Blake's army at Leon.
"Yet I am determined to form the junction of this army, and to try our fortune. We have no business here as things are; but, being here, it would never do to abandon the Spaniards without a struggle."
A want of necessary and accurate information was severely felt by all the British officers, civil and military; and Mr. Frere (from Aranjuez, Nov. 25.) explicitly states this grievance, which he ascribes in part to mistaken notions of secrecy and mystery,' in part to a jealousy of Great Britain,' and
most of all to the confusion of their own system of intelligence, or more properly speaking, want of system.'--Blake's army had now been dispersed, and the French were threatening Madrid.
The several columns of British troops not having yet assem. bled together, Sir John writes again on the 27th Nov. to Mr. Frere; repeating his sentiments on the cheerless prospect of affairs, and observing: "This is a state of things quite different from that conceived by the British Government, when they determined to send troops to the assistance of Spain."
"It becomes, therefore, a question, whether the British Army should remain to be attacked in its turn, or retire from a country where the contest, from whatever circumstances, has become unequal.
I wish to throw no responsibility off myself, which properly belongs to me.
"The question is not purely a military one. It belongs at least as much to you, as to me, to decide upon it. Your communications with the Spanish Government, and the opportunities you have had of judging of the general state of the Country, enable you to form as just an estimate of the resistance that is likely to be offered.
"You are, perhaps, better acquainted with the views of the British Cabinet; and the question is, What would that Cabinet direct, were they upon the spot to determine? It is of much importance that this should be thoroughly considered; it is comparatively of very little, on whom shall rest the greatest share of responsibility. I am willing to take the whole, or a part; but I am very anxious to know your opinion.
"The movements of the French give us little time for discussion.”
On the 28th, the General received accounts of the defeat of the Spanish army under Castanos, and consequently decided on retreating to the banks of the Tagus. He sent orders to Sir D. Baird to retire on Corunna, and to Gen. Hope to join