A History of the Peninsular War. Volume II:January-September 1809. From the Battle of Corunna (Coruña) to the End of the Talavera Campaign
AFTER CORUÑA (JAN. – FEB. 1809)
IThe Consequences of Moore's Diversión: Rally of the Spanish Armies: Battle of Ucles.1
II Napoleon's departure from Spain: his plans for the Termination of the War: the Counter-Plans of the Junta: Canning and Cadiz. 15
THE AUTUMN AND WINTER CAMPAIGN IN CATALONIA
I.The Siege of Rosas. 37
II.St. Cyr relieves Barcelona: Battles of Cardadeu and Molins de Rey.58
III. The Campaign of February: Battle of Valls. 76
THE SECOND SIEGE OF SARAGOSSA (DEC. 1808-FEB. 1809)
I. The Capture of the Outworks. 90
II. The French within the Walls: the Street-fighting: the Surrender. 115 . 115
THE SPRING CAMPAIGN IN LA MANCHA AND EXTREMADURA
I. The Rout of Ciudad Real.143
II. Operations of Victor and Cuesta: the Battle of Medellin. 149
SOULT'S INVASION OF PORTUGAL
I. Soult's Preliminary Operations in Galicia (Jan.-March 1809). 170
II. Portugal at the moment of Soult's Invasion: the Nation, the Regency, and Sir John Cradock).196
III. The Portuguese Army: its History and its Reorganization.208
IV. Combats about Chaves and Braga: Capture of Oporto (March 10-29).223
V. Soult's halt at Oporto: Operations of Robert Wilson and Lapisse: Silveira's defence of Amarante.250
VI. Intrigues at Oporto: the Conspiracy of Argenton. 273
WELLESLEY'S CAMPAIGN IN NORTHERN PORTUGAL (MAY 1809)
I. Sir Arthur Wellesley: the general and the man. 286
II. Wellesley retakes Oporto.312
III. Soult's Retreat from Oporto. 343
OPERATIONS IN NORTHERN SPAIN (MARCH-JUNE 1809)
I. Ney and La Romana in Galicia and the Asturias. 367
II. The French abandon Galicia. 390
III. Operations in Aragon: Alcañiz and Belchite (March- June 1809).406
THE TALAVERA CAMPAIGN (JULY-AUG. 1809)
I.Wellesley at Abrantes: Victor evacuates Extremadura. 433
II. Wellesley enters Spain.449
III. Wellesley and Cuesta: the interview at Mirabete.463
IV. The March to Talavera: Quarrel of Wellesley and Cuesta.483
V. Concentration of the French Armies: the King takes the offensive: Combats of Torrijos and Casa de Salinas.494
VI. The Battle of Talavera: the Preliminary Combats (July 27-28).507
VII. The Battle of Talavera: the Main Engagement. 526
VIII. The Retreat from Talavera.559
IX. The end of the Talavera Campaign: Almonacid.599
I. The Spanish Army at the Battle of Ucles.621
II. The Garrison of Saragossa.622
III: The French Army in Feb. 1809.624
IV. The Spanish Army at Medellín. 627
V. The Portuguese Army in J 809: organization and numbers. 629
VI. Papers relating to the intrigues at Oporto, April-May1809.632
VII. Strength of Wellesley's Army, May 6, 1809.640
VIII. Soult's Report on Galicia.642
IX. Suchet's and Blake's Armies, May and June 1809.643
X. Papers relating to the Talavera Campaign: strength and losses of the British, Spanish, and French Armies.645
XI. The British Artillery in the Peninsula, 1809.654
XII. The Army of La Mancha in June-July 1809.655
MAPS AND PLANS
1. Ucles. To face 54
2. Rosas. To face 55
3. General Map of Cataluña. To face 88
4. Battle of Valls. To face 89
5. Zaragoza, The Second Siege. Between 135 and 136
6. Medellín Between 167 and 168
7. Lanhozo To face 248
8. Oporto. To face 249
9. Northern Portugal, Showing Soult's and Wellesley's Campaigns of 1809.Between 361 and 362
10. Alcañiz . To face 426
11. María. To face 427
12. Talavera. Between 551 and 552
13. Central Spain, Showing the Localities of the Talavera Campaign.Between 597 and 598
JOSEPH PALAFOX, EQUESTRIAN PORTRAIT BY GOYA.
A PORTUGUESE INFANTRY SOLDIER, AND A MAN OF THE ORDENANZA.To face 210
A PORTUGUESE CAVALRY SOLDIER, 1809. To face 212
THE DOURO ABOVE OPORTO, THE LOCALITY OF WELLESLEY'S CROSSING.To face 336
COINS STRUCK IN SPAIN DURING THE PENINSULAR WARTo face 478
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 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-(l) Soult's campaign against Wellesley in Northern Portugal, (2) Ney's invasion of the Asturias, (3) Victor's and Cuesta's movements in Extremadura, (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 be comes 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 Extremadura 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 Cataluña) 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 battlefield, 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 discovered 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 historian who have dealt with it has taken the trouble to mention that the crossing was effected at a point where the Douro runs between 10ft y 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 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 be 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
whom (just as these pages are going to press) I have received some additional figures relating to the Army of Extremadura in 1809.
Finally, as in my first volume, I must make special acknowledgement of the assistance of two helpers in Oxford - the indefatigable compiler of the Index, and Mr. C. E. Doble, whose corrections and suggestions have been as valuable in 1903 as in 1902.