WAR IN THE PENINSULA
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.
IN THE PENINSULA
ALEXANDER INNES SHAND
Author of 1 The Life of Sir Edivard Ham/ey J
With Portraits and Plans
SEELEY AND CO. LIMITED
38 GREAT RUSSELL STREET
NECESSARILY this condensed narrative is based on Napier, the
historian of the War, and on the Wellington Despatches. Southey
and other English writers have been consulted, and references
will be found in the text to the Memoirs of French soldiers who
served in the campaigns, and to the observations of the Emperor
himself at St Helena. Perhaps I may add that I had the advantage
of talking over some of those ' Operations of War ' with the late
Sir Edward Hamley, though, as I must trust to memory for the
recollection of the conversations, he is not to be held responsible
for opinions expressed.
CHRONOLOGICAL SUMMARY OF
Nov. 21. Publication of the Berlin Decree First Step towards
establishing Continental System.
Oct. 1 8. Entrance of French Army into Spain for invasion of
Oct. 27. Secret Treaty of Fontainebleau for partition of Portugal.
Nov. 27. Junot enters Lisbon.
Jan. Spanish fortresses on frontier seized by the French.
Feb. 27. Napoleon demands cession of districts north of Ebro in
exchange for Portugal.
Mar. 1 8. Riots at Aranjuez and fall of Godoy.
19. Charles IV. abdicates in favour of his son.
23. French under Murat enter Madrid.
April n. Ferdinand leaves Madrid for France.
May 2. Insurrection at Madrid Massacre of the French re-
venged with great cruelty and summary military
4. Murat named Lieutenant-General of Spain.
5. Charles, by Treaty of Bayonne, surrenders Crown to
6. Ferdinand abdicates.
May 24. Insurrection of Asturias and establishment of Provincial
24. Gallician Junta proclaims war and sends deputies to ask
the assistance of England.
June 6. Napoleon bestows the Crown on his brother Joseph.
1 5. Beginning of first siege of Zaragoza.
22. Duhesme retreats from Gerona.
29. Moncey retreats from Valencia.
vi The War in the Peninsula
July 14. Battle of Rio Seco.
,, 20. Joseph enters Madrid as King.
20. Battle of Baylen.
30. Joseph leaves Madrid.
July 12. Expedition under Sir A. Wellesley sails for Corunna.
Aug. i. Landing of troops in Mondego Bay.
17. Battle of Roliga.
2 1 . Battle of Vimeiro.
30. Convention of Cintra signed at Torres Vedras.
Sept. 25. Central Junta assembles at Madrid.
Oct. 6. Despatch from London arrives in Lisbon with a plan
26 Moore marches from Lisbon The Marquis of Romana
and Mr Frere land in Gallicia.
Nov. 10. Battle of Gamonal.
ii Battle of Espinosa.
23. Battle of Tudela.
30. Forcing of the Somosierra Pass.
Dec. 4. Napoleon captures Madrid.
Jan. 14. Treaty of Alliance with the Supreme Junta.
16. Battle of Corunna.
Dec. 20. Beginning of second siege of Zaragoza.
Jan. 10. Bombardment begins.
22. Marshal Lannes takes command.
Feb. 21. The city surrenders.
Mar. 3. General Beresford arrives in Portugal to take command
of the native troops.
27. Sebastian! routs Cartoajula at Ciudad Real.
28. Victor routs Cuesta at Medellin.
Mar. 28. Soult storms Oporto.
May 6. Wellesley concentrates at Coimbra.
12. He crosses the Douro and takes Oporto.
Chronological Summary of Events vii
CHAPTER VI I
May 12. Sir Arthur Wellesley enters Spain.
July 27, 28. Battle of Talavera.
Aug. ii. Venegas routed at Almonacid.
Nov. 3. Areizaga begins his march.
16. Rout of Ocana.
28. Duke del Parque defeated at Alba de Tormes.
Dec. ii. Capitulation of Gerona.
Jan. 24. Seville revolts against the Junta.
April Massena appointed to command of army of Portugal.
French appear before Ciudad Rodrigo.
July n. Surrender of Ciudad Rodrigo.
Aug. 28. Surrender of Almeida.
Sept. 27. Battle of Busaco.
Oct. 12. Wellington enters the lines of Torres Vedras.
Mar. 6. Massena retreats from Santarem.
7. Battle of Barossa.
April i. Wellington following Massdna returns to the Coa.
Ma Y 3> 5- Battle of Fuentes d'Onoro.
1 6. Battle of Albuera.
Jan. 8. Wellington lays siege to Ciudad Rodrigo.
,, 19. He captures it.
Mar. 16. He lays siege to Badajoz.
April 6. Badajoz is stormed.
May 14. Suchet captures Lerida.
Jan. i. He captures Tortosa.
April 9. The Spaniards surprise Figueras.
June 28. Suchet captures Tarragona.
May 19. Hill captures Almaraz.
viii The War in the Peninsula
June 17. Wellington enters Salamanca, and the army passes the
Tormes to San Christoval.
27. The Forts of Salamanca are taken, and Marmont retires
behind the Douro.
July 1 6. Marmont recrosses the river.
17. Engagement on the Trabancos.
20. Marmont turns the Allies and returns to the Tormes.
21. Wellington passes the Lower Tormes.
22. Combats at the Arapiles.
July 22. Battle of Salamanca.
30. Wellington enters Valladolid.
31. He recrosses the Douro, and establishes his headquarters
Aug. 13. He enters Madrid.
24. Siege of Cadiz is raised.
Sept. i. Wellington leaves Madrid.
19. First attack on Burgos.
Oct. 21. Wellington retires from Burgos.
Nov. i. Madrid being evacuated, the French enter.
6. Wellington falls back on Salamanca.
1 8. He arrives at Ciudad Rodrigo.
Nov. 24. Miranda surrenders Alba de Tormes.
24. Wellington, having gone into winter quarters in Portugal,
issues his circular of reproof.
Dec. 3. Joseph recovers Madrid.
Wellington makes a journey to Cadiz and Lisbon.
April 10. The French again evacuate Madrid.
13. Battle of Castalla.
Chronological Summary of Events ix
CHAPTER XVII I
May 26. Wellington reappears before Salamanca.
June i. The Allies enter Zamora.
21. Battle of Vittoria.
June 25. Tolosa is taken.
July 10. Zaragoza is recovered.
13. Siege of San Sebastian begun.
,, 25. The assaults fail, and the siege is turned to a blockade.
July 13. Soult returns to Bayonne as Commander-in- Chief.
25. Beginning of the battles of the Pyrenees at Ronces-
valles and Maya.
27, 28. Battles of Sauroren.
30. Battle of Buenza.
Aug. 26. Second siege of San Sebastian.
31. Battle at San Marcial.
Sept. 10. The fortress surrenders.
12. Suchet defeats Lord William Bentinck at Ordal.
CH APTER XXI I
Oct. 7. Passage of the Bidassoa.
31. Surrender of Pamplona.
Nov. io. Battle of the Nivelle.
CHAPTER XXI I I
Dec. 8. The allies advance on the Nive.
9-11 Fighting before Bayonne.
ii. Treaty of Valangay.
12. Battle of St Pierre.
Feb. Surrender of the Eastern Fortresses through Van
Mar. 24. Ferdinand returns to Spain.
April 8. Suchet returns to France.
x The War in the Peninsula
Feb. 21-24. Passage of the Adour below Bayonne.
25. Bayonne invested.
27. Battle of Orthes.
Mar. 12. Bordeaux admits the allies.
Mar. 20. Battle of Tarbes.
April 10. Battle of Toulouse.
,, 14. Sortie from Bayonne.
19. Soult signs a Convention for the suspension of hostilities.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
PORTRAIT OF THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON . . Frontispiece
SKETCH MAP OF SPAIN AND PORTUGAL .... Page 9
MAP OF OPERATIONS IN PORTUGAL, 1808 . . . 16
PORTRAIT OF SIR JOHN MOORE . . . . . 48 '
OPERATIONS OF JULY, AUGUST 1809 .... 80
THE LINES OF TORRES VEDRAS ..... 104
PORTRAIT OF MARSHAL MASSENA . . . .112
MAP OF THE CAMPAIGN OF SALAMANCA . . . 154
MAP OF THE CAMPAIGN IN THE PYRENEES . . . 242
PORTRAIT OF MARSHAL SOULT ..... 248
The War in the Peninsula
THE dramas of great wars must always have an irre-
sistible fascination. Students who follow them intelli-
gently are absorbed even more in the results of well-
devised strategy or prompt decisions than in the swift
vicissitudes of thrilling episodes or eventful situations.
Moreover, combinations and events are always at the
mercy of Chance, and, as Napier says, in war Fortune will
assert her supremacy. It is true that in the wars of the
past the catastrophe is foreknown, which eliminates the
elements of suspense and expectation. But, on the other
hand, the subject has been flooded with light from a host
of historians, military and civil ; history has been as
thoroughly revised as can be reasonably expected, and
we have the feeling that we are dealing with actual facts
and not with probabilities or hazardous presumptions.
There is a remarkable variety of interests attaching to
the Peninsular War, and it must always have a special
attraction for Englishmen. It was the turning point of
the fortunes of Napoleon, and the conqueror of Europe
took the first step towards political suicide when he rashly
decided to pass the Pyrenees. Britain was supreme on
the seas; Buonaparte had made himself master of the
Continent. After the peace of Tilsit, it is impossible to
surmise how the map of Europe might have been re-cast
had he been satisfied to rest on the maxim, quieta non
movere. But his ambition was boundless as his self-
confidence was not unreasonably overweening. He could
feel himself neither satisfied nor safe so long as England
was prosperous and consequently formidable. While
circumstances gave her the monopoly of commerce, she
could subsidise his unwilling tributaries, and encourage
them to fresh efforts for independence. The fighting
which began at Vimeiro and ended at Waterloo was
really a prolonged battle for markets. The insurrections
in Spain and Portugal were merely episodes which
influenced the direction and course of operations. The
decree of Berlin, followed by the decree of Milan in
December 1807, had declared England in a state of
blockade. The immediate response was the Orders in
Council. France and the countries dependent on her
were to be blockaded in turn. All vessels trading be-
tween hostile or neutral ports, or under such a certificate
as was required by the decree of Berlin, were declared
liable to seizure ; and neutral ships, bound to or from any
hostile port, were required to touch and pay duties at
some port in Great Britain. Then the combatants found
themselves face to face. Buonaparte could close the
northern harbours, though smugglers and receivers drove
a thriving trade, but the prohibited goods were poured
into the Peninsula through the free port of Gibraltar,
and notably through Portugal ; in fact, Portugal, as
historians of the time have defined it, was but an out-
lying province of our own. Portuguese independence
must be suppressed if the continental system was to
be effectively carried out. Hence the secret treaty of
Fontainebleau, which tempted its author to the invasion
of Spain. We are far from asserting that our country,
and even our Cabinets, were not actuated by nobler
and more generous motives. They sympathised warmly
with the revolt of the Peninsular nations against un-
provoked invasion and intolerable oppression. They
were indignant at the arbitrary pressure put on their ally,
the Regent of Portugal, and shocked by the treachery
which, having secured the Spanish fortresses under the
guise of friendship, had ensnared the whole of the royal
family at Bayonne. But free commerce was the very
life-blood of the British Isles, and when they embarked
the first detachment of troops for the Peninsula, they
committed themselves to a death-struggle from which the
will and the victories of Wellington made it difficult and
well-nigh impossible to draw back.
Buonaparte's motives for the conquest of Portugal
were clear, and had he been content to stop there his
schemes might have been successful. But his aggression
on Spain was so ill-timed and ill-advised that it is difficult
to reconcile it with the far-sighted sagacity of his genius.
His warmest admirers have sought in vain to explain
his reasons or defend his policy. He appears to have
been drawn on, step by step, to take resolutions from
which he could not recede without compromising his
prestige and his reputation for infallibility. Warning
after warning came to him in vain, sign after sign was
disregarded. Segur marvels at the blindness which
failed to foresee that the rising of the 2d of May in
Madrid was the spark which could only be extinguished
beneath the ruins of his crumbling empire. Escoiquiz,
the able though servile envoy of Ferdinand and the
Council of Castille, summoned courage at the last to
speak out like a sage and a patriot. With rare prescience
he described all the difficulties and troubles which would
beset the invaders ; he predicted the consequences of the
inevitable interposition of the English, although he could
not foretell that they would be commanded by Welling-
ton. But when he spoke it was towards the eleventh
hour, and the autocrat refused to listen. Already Joseph
had peremptory orders to exchange the crown of Naples
for that of Spain, though Joseph knew he was being
sacrificed to his brother's ambition, and would have
refused had he possessed the nerve and wealth of his
brother, the Prince of Canino.
Had his statecraft not failed him for once, Na-
poleon might have governed Spain, for a time at least,
through the Bourbons, leaving Charles or Ferdinand
a shadowy supremacy. When they called him in to
arbitrate in the scandals of the palace, they had abdicated
all free will and placed themselves absolutely at his
disposition. The Prince of Peace, the all-powerful
favourite, trembling for the consequences of his con-
tumacy before the battle of Jena, was his obsequious
tool, ready to sell his master and the liberties of the
nation. Doubtless the prudent course was Napoleon's
first idea. But with more familiar knowledge his con-
tempt had increased for the senile king and the
hereditary prince. He saw that the courtiers and
aristocracy were corrupt to the core ; that the ministers
and place-hunters were venal as Godoy, and would have
been as base had they enjoyed Godoy 's opportunities.
It seemed well to get rid altogether of a dynasty, who
might easily be intimidated but were never to be
trusted. And it would be as gratifying to his ambition
as to his pride to succeed where Louis the Grand had
failed, to efface the Pyrenees and to annex another
kingdom for the aggrandisement of the Buonapartes.
He reckoned without the Spanish nation, and, strange
to say, he seems to have taken slight account of the
remarkable defensible capabilities of the country. He
told the Abb6 de Pradt that he would never undertake
the venture, were it likely to cost him 80,000 men ; but
that even if all Spain were to rise, the insurrection could
be suppressed at a sacrifice of 12,000 soldiers. The
Spaniards of the lower orders were ignorant and indolent,
but they were warlike, careless of life, passionate for their
independence, and vindictive as orientals. Sober and
frugal, they could sustain long fasts and endure extreme
privations. In their climate, through great part of the
year, the shelter of a roof was matter of indifference.
Living far away from the corruption of the Court, their
loyalty was a deep traditional sentiment, unshaken by
centuries of gross misgovernment. In short, the Spanish
people were still of the same stuff which had recruited the
armies of Cortez and Alva : and if anything was likely to
fire their pride, it was insolent aggression by their formid-
That Spain was an agglomeration of semi-independent
kingdoms was a source at once of weakness and of strength.
The jealousies were detrimental to any broad scheme of
regular warfare ; but, on the other hand, in a guerilla
insurrection, the Peninsula was like a steamship built in
compartments. One province might be swamped by the
rush of invasion, but the next, behind its mountain
barriers, was comparatively indifferent. The patriotism
was provincial, not national. As for those barriers, the
successive ridges of parallel sierras, traversed by few and
difficult roads ; the rivers, rarely bridged and seldom
fordable in flood ; the gorges through which those roads
are carried, were so many fastnesses or almost impregnable
lines of defence, assuming that they were held by resolute
men. Nor were the cities, as a rule, less defensible, thought
except on the northern frontiers, or on the borders of
Portugal, few were regularly fortified. The stubborn,
resistance of Zaragoza through the siege showed what
effective use might be made of the flat-roofed palaces and
massive convents, mutually supporting each other, and
only to be taken by sap or storm. The plazas were so
many rallying centres, where troops could bivouac or
deploy, and which, by simply barricading the issues, could
be turned into entrenched camps. In Portugal, a small
and narrow country, the isolated risings could be speedily
crushed by rapid concentration. In Spain, which could
only be comparatively weakly occupied, there were
vast distances to be traversed from the several head-
quarters, over barren mountains and inhospitable plains.
The Juntas had leisure to drill their levies, or they
could rally the fugitives after defeat in dehesas and
depoblados, heaths and wastes, which were practically
The first invasion, undertaken to escort Joseph to his
capital, was planned on the assumption of the acquiescence
of the nation, or at least in the belief that the French need
deal with nothing more serious than local emeutes, which
could be easily put down. Napoleon relied with reason
on the superiority of disciplined troops, under veteran
leaders, over raw levies wretchedly commanded. Never-
theless he knew that his own forces were chiefly composed
of conscripts who fell easy victims to disease, or of
foreigners pressed into the ranks and always ready to
desert. His grand plans were worthy of his genius; but
he had reckoned without the Spanish temperament, and
had forgotten to count with the chapter of accidents. His
generals would seldom act in concert, and his first and
best combinations were baffled by the unexpected disaster
of Baylen. The usurper fled from his capital to the
Ebro ; the army of invasion was standing on the defence ;
the Emperor's schemes were to be entirely remodelled,
and the occupation was to be recommenced more methodic-
ally and on an infinitely more formidable scale.
That brings us to the point where the English
ministers decided to assume the offensive on land. It was
no light undertaking, nor is it wonderful that the Cabinet
had hesitated. The difficulties were great and the cir-
cumstances discouraging. The Emperor had put forth
stupendous efforts. The numerical superiority of the
French was overwhelming, for Portuguese and Spaniards
were an undrilled rabble. Theirs was no longer an
army of conscripts. Eighty thousand veterans, habitu-
ated to victory, had been drawn from Germany, cele-
brating the victories to come in a triumphal progress
through France. In 1808 the conscription of 1810 had
been already anticipated, so behind these were practically
inexhaustible reserves. The advance was securely based
on the northern fortresses, where the magazines were
being filled to repletion. Eight corps darmee, each com-
plete in its several parts, were under the command of
eight distinguished generals ; above all, the Emperor was
at headquarters in person, to overrule their rivalries and
repair their mistakes.
The French generals had been schooled in war ; their
soldiers were flushed with conquest. The English Army
was under a cloud since the treaty of Utrecht ; ill-
planned expeditions, often under incompetent chiefs, had
damaged its reputation ; the nation, ever susceptible to
moods and fancies, had almost been brought to doubt its
fighting qualities. There were no leaders who loomed large
in the public eye like the French marshals, and the hero of
Assaye, of subordinate rank, was slightingly spoken of as
the Sepoy General. There was no master mind at the
War Office or the Horse Guards no organised plan.
The contingents were at first sent out in driblets. As
for the cavalry, it was a mere handful, whereas the French
were especially strong in that arm.
It might have been assumed that our forces would
have one great advantage, as they were operating in
friendly countries. That was far from being the case.
Napoleon, although never neglecting his magazines, made
the war, as far as possible, support itself, and his generals
were unsparing in levying contributions. The British
had to carry their supplies or buy them. Often their
allies not only refused to sell provisions or hire animals
for transport, but expected to be fed from the British
cruisers. The French were assured of effective mutual
support, when jealousy did not interfere. The British
generals must reckon with confederates who seldom
scrupled to play them false, and with shadowy corps
d'armde absurdly magnified, or sometimes existing only in
report. Far from getting reliable information, as might
have been expected, they moved in an atmosphere of
suspicion and mendacity, and the Government envoys
and official despatches were the least trustworthy of all.
Their communications rested on seas and sails, and on
a rocky coast-line which, through the prevalent winds
from the south-west, was always perilous and .often im-
practicable. The more we weigh the conditions of that
most unequal match, the more we marvel at the genius
which achieved such unparalleled results. But the
Austrian war withdrew Napoleon from Spain, and Pro-
vidence gave us a Wellington to direct the allied
INVASION OF PORTUGAL AND REVOLT OF MADRID,
November 1806 May 1808
WE retrace our steps to give a summary of the events
that led immediately to the great war. Effect had to be
given in the Peninsula to the oppressive Berlin decree,
and it was followed up by the treaty of Fontainebleau.
The Spanish Court, submissive to servility, had invited
the interposition of Napoleon in domestic affairs. There
was a shameful unveiling of the scandalous secrets of the
palace. The Prince of the Asturias had been charged
with conspiring against the lives of his royal parents.
His mother regarded him with undisguised malignity,
and Godoy, the Prime Minister and all-powerful
favourite, was his bitter enemy. Professing to believe
his life in danger, as indeed it probably was, he appealed
to Napoleon for protection. On his side, Godoy, Prince
of the Peace, was eager now to make any terms with
the French Emperor. By summoning the Spaniards to
arms on the Prussian declaration of war, he had provoked
an enemy apt to be implacable, and feared he had sinned
beyond forgiveness. To be restored to favour, to secure
his personal safety and have his ill-gotten fortune
guaranteed, he was willing to consent to any sacrifice.
Napoleon welcomed the opportunity of interposing as
mediator, for it precisely forwarded his views. With that
high-handed and flagitious treaty he began his course of
spoliation and treachery. That it deprived the House of
i o Invasion of Portugal and
Braganza of its ancestral dominions might be fair enough,
for undoubtedly had the Regent of Portugal been free
from French menaces and pressure he would have cast in
his lot unreservedly with the English. But the Queen
of Etruria, daughter of the Spanish King, was arbitrarily
expelled from the Tuscan territory with her infant son,
being promised compensation in Northern Portugal. As
to the semi-tropical province of Algarve in the south,
that was to be erected into a principality for Godoy. As
Napoleon robbed the Tuscan Queen, so from the first he
meant to befool his obsequious Spanish tool. It is as
clear that Godoy was effectually deceived as that the
autocrat had no intention of fulfilling his promises.
With the promptitude to which he had hitherto owed his
successes, the Emperor lost no time in carrying out his
decision. Nine days before the treaty was signed the
French had passed the frontier on their march to Lisbon.
The command was confided to Junot to console him
for the loss of his position on the Imperial staff a
general as audacious as he was ambitious ; easily elated