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Meanwhile an affecting incident, strongly contrasting with the savage character of the preceding events, added to the interest of the day. A poor orphan Portuguese girl, about seventeen years of
handsome, was seen coming down the mountain and driving an ass, loaded with all her property, through the midst of the French army. She had abandoned her dwelling in obedience to the proclamation, and now passed over the field of battle with a childish simplicity, totally unconscious of her perilous situation, and scarcely understanding which were the hostile, and which the friendly troops, for no man on either side was so brutal as to molest her.'- vol. ii.
334. The proclamation here alluded to, was one that had been issued by the English general and the Portuguese regency, for laying waste every part of the country which was likely to fall into the power of the enemy. This dreadful mandate formed as necessary a part of the plan for the defence of Portugal, as the lines of Torres Vedras; and we may easily conceive the horrors with which its execution, though partial, was attended. Mothers with children of all ages; the sick, the old, the bedridden, and even lunatics went or were carried forth; the most part, with little hope and less help, to journey for days in company with contending armies.' This was not all. Upon the approach of the French to Coimbra, the light division of our troops marched hastily through the city, in order to gain the defiles of Condeixa, which commence at the end of the bridge. Immediately • all the inhabitants who had not before quitted the place rushed out, each with what could be caught up in the hand, and driving before them a number of animals loaded with sick people or children. At the entrance to the bridge, the press was so great that the troops halted for a few moments, just under the prison; the jailor had fled with the keys, the prisoners, crowding to the windows, were endeavouring to tear down the bars with their hands, and even with their teeth, and bellowing in the most frantic manner, while the bitter lamentations of the multitude increased, and the pistol-shots of cavalry, engaged at the ford below, were distinctly heard.'
Colonel Napier's description of the celebrated lines of Torres Vedras, is so lucid and free from technicality, that any reader may easily understand the great military objects which they were so well and so successfully calculated to accomplish. It is sufficient for us here to notice, that they comprised fifty miles of fortification, and one hundred and fifty forts, and that they were defended by six hundred pieces of artillery. Massena upon approaching them, and examining them every where, like a bull going round the arena to see where he might hope to leap over the barrier, found that they were utterly impregnable. Nevertheless, the state of affairs now became extremely critical. The army and a great part of the fugitive population being compressed within a few leagues of country, found the greatest difficulty in procuring subsistence. The most desponding letters were written home by several officers, especially by Generals Charles Stewart and Spencer.
The Souza faction again lifted its clamorous voice against the Commander, who,' thus beset on every side,' as the author expresses it,' rose like a giant.' The epistles from the two officers just mentioned having been referred to him by Lord Liverpool, who earnestly demanded an opinion upon their contents,
• He took a calm historical review of the grounds upon which he had undertaken the defence of Portugal, and which he had before pointed out to the minister he was addressing; then shewing that, up to that period, his views had been in every instance borne out by the results, he demonstrated that it was reasonable to confide in his judgment of what was to come. Having thus vindicated his own prudence and foresight by irresistible facts, he proceeded to trace the probable course of future events, entered largely into both his own and the enemy's designs, and with such a judgment and sagacity that the subsequent course of the war never belied his anticipations. This remarkable letter exists, and were all other records of Lord Wellington's genius to be lost, it would alone suffice to vindicate his great reputation to posterity.'
We must mention a curious revelation which was made at the time by Baron Eben and the editor of a Lisbon newspaper, who had previously belonged to the Souza faction, from which the reader may infer the extent and nature of the intrigues that were carried on against the English General.
• Those persons abandoning the faction, asserted that the Patriarch, the Souzas, and (while he remained in Portugal) the ex-plenipotentiary, Mr. Villiers, were personally opposed to Lord Wellington, Marshal Beresford, and Mr. de Forjas, and had sought to remove them from their situations, and to get the Duke of Brunswick appointed generalissimo in Portugal; that they had also endeavoured to engage the Duke of Sussex to take a leading part, but that his Royal Highness had repulsed them at the outset; that their plan was to engage a newspaper to be their organ in London, as the Brazilienza was to have been in Lisbon ; that in their correspondence, Lord Wellington was designated under the name of Alberoni ; Lord Wellesley, Lama; Beresford, Ferugem ; Mr. Stuart, Labre; the Patriarch, Saxe; Antonio Souza, Lamberti ; Colonel Bunbury and Mr. Peel, then under secretaries of state, as Thin and By-Thin. That after Mr. Villier's departure, the intrigue was continued by the Patriarch and the Souzas, but upon a different plan; for, overborne by the rigour of Mr. Stuart in the council, they agreed to refrain from openly opposing either him or Forjas, but resolved to write down what either might utter, and transmit that which suited their purpose to the Conde de Linhares and the chevalier Souza ; these persons undertaking to represent the information so received, after their own fashion, to the cabinets of St. James' and Rio Janeiro.'- vol. iii. pp. 370, 371.
It is unnecessary for our purpose to pursue the course of these miserable intrigues, or to take any connected view of the progress of the war. From Corunna to Cadiz the allied armies presented a kind of crescent, and in order to remove the pressure
of the enemy at its convex before Lisbon, a squadron of frigates was established at the former extreme, and an army and a fleet at the latter. Soult
having been baffled in all his efforts against Cadiz, was directed by Napoleon to assist Massena. The battle of Barosa, the commencement of the siege of Badajos, the combat of Sabugal, one of the most bloody fights that took place during the war, that of Fuentes Onoro, another desperate contest, and the battle of Albuera, served as so many fields of exercise, in which the British troops were disciplined and steeled for the more important engagements, in which they were afterwards destined to overthrow the ascendancy of Napoleon. A short sketch from the author's account of the latter battle, will shew how much of the fate of armies may sometimes depend on the incompetency, or the daring, courage, of their leaders. We behold here the scales balanced in the hands of Fortune, and almost accidentally inclined in favour of the British troops by the impulse of a single individual!
• During the night, Blake and Cole, as we have seen, arrived with above sixteen thousand men; but so defective was the occupation of the ground, that Soult had no change to make in his plans from this circumstance, and a little before pine o'clock in the morning, Godinot's division issued from the woods in one heavy column of attack, preceded by ten guns. He was flanked by the light cavalry, and followed by Werlé's division of reserve, and making straight towards the bridge, commenced a sharp cannonade, attempting to force the passage; at the same time Briché, with two regiments of hussars, drew further down the river to observe Colonel Otway's horse.
• The Allies' guns on the rising ground above the village, answered the fire of the French, and ploughed through their columns, which were crowding without judgment towards the bridge, although the stream was passable above and below. But Beresford observing that Werlé's division did not follow closely, was soon convinced that the principal effort would be on the right; and, therefore, sent Blake orders to form a part of the first and all the second line of the Spanish army, on the broad part of the hills, at right angles to their actual front; then drawing the Portuguese infantry of the left wing to the centre, he sent one brigade down to support Alten, and directed General Hamilton to hold the remainder in columns of battalions ready to move to any part of the field. The thirteenth dragoons were posted near the edge of the river, above the bridge; and, meanwhile, the second division marched to support Blake. The horse artillery, the heavy dragoons, and the fourth division, also took ground to the right, and were posted; the cavalry and guns on a small plain behind the Aroya, and the fourth division in an oblique line about half musket-shot behind them. This done, Beresford galloped to Blake, for that General bad refused to change his front; and, with great heat, told Colonel Hardinge, the bearer of the order, that the real attack was at the village and bridge. Beresford had sent again to entreat that he would obey, but this message was as fruitless as the former, and when the Marshal arrived, nothing had been done. The enemy's columns were, however, now beginning to appear on the right, and Blake, yielding to this evidence, proceeded to make the evolutions, yet with such pedantic slowness, that Beresford, impatient of his folly, took the direction in person.
Great was the confusion and the delay thus occasioned ; and ere the
troops could be put in order, the French were amongst them. For scarcely had Godinot engaged Alten's brigade, when Werlé, leaving only a battalion of grenadiers and some squadrons to watch the thirteenth dragoons, and to connect the attacks, countermarched with the remainder of his division, and rapidly gained the rear of the fifth corps as it was mounting the hills on the right of the Allies. At the same time the mass of light cavalry suddenly quitted Godinot's column, and crossing the river Albuera, above the bridge, ascended the left bank at a gallop, and sweeping round the rear of the fifth corps, joined Latour Manbourg, who was already in face of Lumley's squadrons; thus, half an hour had sufficed to render Beresford's position nearly desperate. Two-thirds of the French were in a compact order of battle, on a line perpendicular to his right; and his army, disordered, and composed of different nations, was still in the difficult act of changing its front. It was in vain that he endearoured to form the Spanish line sufficiently in advance to give room for the second division to support it; the French guns opened, their infantry threw out a heavy musketry, and the cavalry outflanking the front and charging here and there, put the Spaniards in disorder at all points; in a short time the latter gave way, and Soult, thinking the whole army was yielding, pushed forward his columns, while his reserves also mounted the hill, and General Ruty placed all the batteries in position.
• At this critical moment General William Stewart arrived at the foot of the height with Colonel Colborne's brigade, which formed the head of the second divison. The Colonel, seeing the confusion above, desired to form in order of battle previous to mounting the ascent, but Stewart, whose boiling courage overlaid his judgment, led up without any delay in column of companies, and attempted to open out his line in succession, as the battalions arrived at the summit. Being under a destructive fire, the foremost charged to gain room, but a heavy rain prevented any object from being distinctly seen, and four regiments of hussars and lancers, which had passed the right flank in the obscurity, came galloping in upon the rear of the line at the instant of its development, and slew, or took, twothirds of the brigade. One battalion only (the thirty-first) being still in column, escaped the storm, and maintained its ground, while the French horsemen, riding violently over every thing else, penetrated to all parts. In the tumult a lancer fell upon Beresford, but the Marshal, a man of great strength, putting his spear aside, cast him from his saddle, and a shift of wind blowing aside the mist and smoke, the mischief was perceived from the plains by General Lumley, who sent four squadrons out upon the lancers, and cut many of them off.
• During this first unhappy effort of the second division, so great was the confusion, that the Spanish line continued to fire without cessation, although the British were before them; whereupon Beresford, finding his exhortations to advance fruitless, seized an ensign and bore him and his colours, by main force, to the front; yet the troops would not follow, and the man went back again on being released. In this crisis, the weather, which had ruined Colborne's brigade, also prevented Soult from seeing the whole exteot of the field of battle, and he still kept his heavy columns together. His cavalry, indeed, began to hem in that of the Allies, but the fire of the horse-artillery enabled Lumley, covered as he was by the bed of the Aroya, and supported by the fourth division, to check them on
the plain, while Colborne still maintained the heights with the thirty-first regiment; the British artillery, under Major Dickson, was likewise coming fast into action, and William Stewart, who had escaped the charge of the lancers, was again mounting the hill with General Houghton's brigade, which he brought on with the same vehemence, but instructed by his previous misfortune, in a juster order of battle. The weather now cleared, and a dreadful fire poured into the thickest of the French columns, convinced Soult that the day was yet to be won.
• Houghton's regiments soon got footing on the summit; Dickson placed the artillery in line, the remaining brigade of the second division came up on the left, and two Spanish corps at last moved forward. The enemy's infantry then recoiled, yet soon recovering, renewed the fight with greater violence than before; the cannon on both sides discharged showers of grape at half range, and the peals of musketry were incessant, and often within pistol-shot; but the close formation of the French embarrassed their battle, and the British line would not yield them one inch of ground, nor a moment of time to open their ranks: their fighting was, however, fierce and dangerous. Stewart was twice hurt, Colonel Duckworth, of the forty-eighth, was slain, and the gallant Houghton, who had received many wounds without shrinking, fell and died in the act of cheering his men. Still the struggle continued with unabated fury; Colonel Inglis, twenty-two other officers, and more than four hundred men, out of five hundred and seventy that had mounted the hill, fell in the fifty-seventh alone, and the other regiments were scarcely better off, not one-third were standing in any. Ammunition failed; and as the English fire slackened, the enemy established a column in advance upon the right flank; the play of Dickson's artillery checked them a moment, but again the Polish Lancers charging, captured six guns: and, in this desperate crisis, Beresford, who had already withdrawn the thirteenth dragoons from the banks of the river, and brought Hamilton's Portuguese into a situation to cover a retrograde movement, wavered; destruction stared him in the face, his personal resources were exhausted, and the unhappy thought of a retreat rose in his agitated mind; as yet no order to that effect was given, and it was urged by some about him that the day might still be redeemed with the fourth division. While he hesitated, Colonel Hardinge boldly ordered General Cole to advance, and then riding to Colonel Abercrombie, who commanded the remaining brigade of the second division, directed him also to push forward into the fight. The die being thus cast, Beresford acquiesced, and this terrible battle was continued.
• The fourth division had only two brigades in the field ; the one Portuguese, under General Harvey; the other, commanded by Sir W. Myers, and composed of the seventh and twenty-third British regiments, was called the fuzileer brigade. General Cole directed the Portuguese to move between Lumley's dragoons and the hill, where they were immediately charged by some of the French horsemen, but beat them off with great loss; meanwhile, he led the fuzileers in person up the height.
"At this time six guns were in the enemy's possession, the whole of Werlé's reserves were coming forward to reinforce the front column of the French, and the remnant of Houghton's brigade could no longer maintain its ground. The field was heaped with carcases, the lancers were riding furiously about the captured artillery on the upper part of the hill, and on