John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

Joseph Bonaparte online

. (page 14 of 19)
Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottJoseph Bonaparte → online text (page 14 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

fiends could scarcely exceed. Tortosa, Tarra-
gona, Mauresa, Saguntum, Valencia, Badajoz,
Ciudad Rodrigo, and a score of other places,
testified to the bravery, often the tiger-like
ferocity, of the contending parties, and to the
misery which man can inflict upon his brother-

Physical bravery is the cheapest and most
vulgar of all earthly virtues. The vilest rab-
ble gathered from the gutters of any city can,
by a few months of military discipline and ex-
perience in the horrors of war, become so reck-
less of danger that bullets, shells, and grape-
shot are as little regarded as snowflakes. Rob-
ber bands and piratic hordes will often fight
with ferocity and desperation which can not
be surpassed. It is the cause alone which can
ennoble the heroism of the battle-field. ID


Destitution of the Army.

these terrific conflicts, especially when the
French and the British troops were brought
into contact, there often were exhibited all the
energy and desperation of which human nature
is capable.

As the Emperor set out on the Eussian
campaign, he invested Joseph with the coni'
mand of the armies in Spain. These troops
were widely dispersed, to protect different points
in the kingdom. But few could be promptly
rallied upon any one field of battle. The Em
peror, burdened with the expense of his im-
mense army, and far away amidst the wilds of
Russia, could give but little attention to the af-
fairs of Spain, and could send neither money
nor supplies to his brother, who was so uneasi-
ly settled upon an impoverished throne. As
days of darkness gathered around the Emperor,
a sense of honor prevented Joseph from aban-
doning his post. His troops were everywhere
in a state of great destitution and suffering.
His humane heart would not allow him to wrest
supplies from the people, who were often in a
still greater state of poverty and want.

Marshal Massena had entered Portugal with
an army of seventy-five thousand men. Re-
duced by sickness and destitution, he was com-


Ciudad Rodrigo.

pelled to withdraw with but thirty-five thou-
sand men. Thus the English army, no longer
held in check, occupied Ciudad Rodrigo and
Badajoz. 1

Three thousand men were left in garrison
at Ciudad Rodrigo. Forty thousand men un-
der Wellington besieged it. After opening
two practicable breaches, "Wellington summon-
ed a surrender. The French general, Barrie,
replied :

" His Majesty, the Emperor, has intrusted
me with the command of Ciudad Rodrigo. I
and my garrison are resolved to bury ourselves
beneath the ruins."

The place was taken by assault, the British
troops rushing into the breaches with courage
which could not have been surpassed. The
French, after losing half their number, were
overpowered. The victorious British soldiers,
forgetting that the inhabitants of the city were
their allies, pillaged the houses and the shops,
and committed every conceivable outrage upon
the inhabitants. Sir Archibald Alison thus de-
scribes the scene :

"The churches were ransacked, the wine
and spirit cellars pillaged, and brutal intoxica-

* Encyclopaedia Americana, article Joseph Bonaparte.



tion spread in every direction. Soon flames
were seen bursting in several quarters. Some
houses were burned to the ground, others al-
ready ignited. By degrees, however, the drunk-
en men dropped down from excess of liquor,
or fell asleep ; and before morning a degree
of order was restored."

Advancing from Ciudad Eodrigo, Welling-
ton, at the head of a force then numbering six-
ty thousand men, laid siege to Badajoz, cross-
ing the Guadiarra above and below the city.
The garrison in the city consisted of but forty-
five hundred combatants. The trenches were
opened upon the night between the 17tb and
18th of March. There was no more desperate
fighting during all the wars of Napoleon than
was witnessed within and around the walls of
Badajoz. The British lost five thousand offi-
cers and men ere the city was captured. Again
had the Spaniards bitter cause to mourn over
the victory of those who called themselves their
allies. As the British troops rushed into the
streets of this Spanish city which they had
professedly come to rescue from the govern-
ment of Joseph Bonaparte, Alison says:

" Disorders and excesses of every sort pre-
vailed, and the British soldiery showed, by


Famine in Spain.

their conduct after the storm, that they inher-
ited their full share of the sins as well as the
virtues of the children of Adam. The dis-
graceful national vice of intemperance, in par-
ticular, broke forth in its most frightful colors.
All the wine shops and vaults were broken
open and plundered. Pillage was universal.
Every house was ransacked for valuables, spir-
its, or wine ; and crowds of drunken soldiers
for two days and nights thronged the streets,
while the breaking open of doors and win-
dows, the report of casual muskets, and the
screams of despoiled citizens resounded on all

The throne of Joseph was now enveloped
in gloom. To add to his trouble and anguish
of spirit, a dreadful famine afflicted Spain. But
the British fleet, in undisputed command of
the seas, could convey ample supplies to the
army of Wellington, and British gold was lav-
ished in keeping alive the flames of insurrec-
tion. Troops were landed at various points,
and resistance to the French was encouraged
by every means in the power of the British
Government. At Madrid every morning there
were found in the streets many dead bodies of
those who had perished during the night The



Desperate Condition of Joseph.

French in the capital, animated by the benevo
lent spirit of Joseph, imposed upon themselves
the severest sacrifices to succor the perishing.
The situation of Joseph had become deplora-
ble. The best troops were withdrawn for the
Russian campaign. Those which remained
were starving, and without means of transport.
A new government, under the protection of
the English, was organized at Cadiz, and guer-
rilla bands were springing up in all directions.
Joseph had but about twenty thousand
troops in the vicinity of Cadiz, with which
force he could be but little more than a spec-
tator of events as they should occur. Wel-
lington had a highly-disciplined army of six-
ty thousand men, independent of the guerrilla
bands whom he could summon to his aid.


Increasing Gloom.



JOSEPH was much embarrassed. Should
he leave his scattered forces in the south
of Spain, there was danger that they would be
attacked and destroyed piecemeal by Welling-
ton. Should he withdraw them, and concen-
trate his forces in the north, the whole south
of Spain would be instantly overrun by the
English, and Joseph would lose one-half of his
kingdom. His total force in Spain, garrison-
ing the forts and composing his detached bands
in the south, the centre, the north, and the west,
amounted to a little over two hundred and
thirty thousand men.

In the early part of May of this year, 1812,
the English, having taken the defenses which
were erected for the fortification of the Tagus,
became dominant in that region. Disaster fol-
lowed disaster. The King's couriers were cap-
tured, so that his orders did not reach the mar-
shals. It is hard to be amiable in seasons of


Defeat of MannonL

adversity, and the marshals reproached each
other. Supplies and communications were cut
off, and women and children were dying of
famine. The deadly warfare of guerrilla bands
increased rapidly. The most atrocious acts of
vengeance and atrocity were multiplied, and
Joseph had no power to prevent them. As
Marmont was in danger of being cut off by
Wellington, Joseph, leaving a small garrison
behind him, took all the troops that could be
spared, and marched rapidly to the relief of
the marshal. Leaving the Escurial on the 23d
of July, he reached Peneranda on the 25th,
where he learned that Marmont had attacked
Wellington on the 23d at Arapiles, and, after
a desperate conflict, had been repulsed. Mar-
mont was severely censured for not awaiting
the arrival of Joseph, whom he knew to be at
hand. He was accused, perhaps without rea-
son, of precipitating the conflict from fear that
Joseph might take the command and gain the
renown. Marmont reported his total loss in
the battle to have been about six thousand
men and nine guns, which were left because
their carriages were knocked to pieces. Wel-
lington reported his own loss at five thousand
two hundred and twenty.


Retreat of Joseph.

Marmont retreated to Valladolid, to meet re-
enforcements which would join him there. Jo-
seph returned to Madrid, entering the city on
the 2d of August. As the English approach-
ed, Joseph, with two thousand horse, met their
advance-guard, and, with the courage of de-
spair, drove them back in the wildest confusion.
He then, at the head of but twelve thousand
troops, commenced his retreat toward Valence.
Twenty thousand Spaniards, men and women,
dreading the vengeance of their enemies, fol-
lowed, in his retreat, the King whom they had
much cause to love. It was a mournful spec-
tacle. Nobles of the highest rank, and the
most intelligent and opulent of the city, toiled
along in their weary march, the women and the
children often unable to restrain their tears and
sobs. The partisans of the English, who
crowded into the city, received Wellington
and his troops with every demonstration of
joy. The friends of the new regime who re-
mained behind, crushed in all their hopes,
closed the shutters of their houses, retired to
the remote apartments, and buried their griefs
in silence.

Into whatever city the English or the French
entered, they were alike received with unbound*


Retreat of Joseph. Spanish Exiles.

d enthusiasm. In every large city there is a
throng ready to shout hosanna to the conquer-
or, whoever he may be. When Wellington and
his squadrons entered a Spanish city, the friends
of the old regime gathered around them. And
so it was with the French and their friends
when they were the victors. Thus at Valence,
where Joseph arrived on the 31st of August,
he was received with all the honors which
could be conferred upon the most beloved
sovereign. An immense crowd thronged the
streets, and lavished upon him every demon-
stration of gratitude. The devout King, much
moved by this exhibition of popular affection
in these dark hours of defeat and humiliation,
repaired at once to the cathedral, and in a sol-
emn Te Deum gave expression to his gratitude
to God.

Joseph's first care was for the unhappy fugi-
tives who, dreading the vengeance of the foe,
had abandoned home and all, to accompany
him in his flight. He had neither money, food,
nor shelter to give them. He therefore sent
this sorrow-stricken band, counting over twen-
ty thousand, under an escort across the Pyre-
nees into France, where they would be protect-
ed and provided for.


Return to Madrid.

At Valence Joseph concentrated his scatter-
ed forces, and early in November commenced
his march back to Madrid. It is very difficult
to ascertain the precise number of the forces
on each side. Wellington's army was estima-
ted at ninety-two thousand men. Joseph had
collected superior numbers, and marched ea-
gerly to attack him. Wellington rapidly re-
treated toward Ciudad Rodrigo, and on the 3d
of December Joseph entered Madrid again in

Conciliation, kindness, deference to the wish-
es of others are not characteristic virtues of the
English. They had long assumed, and with
no little semblance of reason, that in wealth,
power, arts, and arms they were the leading
nation upon the globe. This assumption has
made them unpopular as a people. They are
so honest and plain-spoken that they never
attempt to disguise their contempt for other
nations. The victorious soldiers of Welling-
ton particularly despised the Spaniards. This
contempt neither officers nor soldiers attempt-
ed to conceal.

It is just the reverse with the French. The
characteristic politeness of the nation leads
them to compliment others, and to pay them


Difference between the French and English.

especial deference. They conceal the sense of
superiority which they may perhaps cherish.
It is frequently said, as characteristic of the two-
nations, that the stranger in London gets the
impression that every Englishman he meets
has taken a special dislike to him personally ;
in Paris, on the other hand, he receives the
impression that every Frenchman with whom
he is brought into contact has a special fancy
for him, perceiving in him virtues and excel-
lences which he never supposed that he pos-

The Duke of Wellington himself was a
haughty, overbearing man. No soldier loved
him, but all bowed submissive to his inflexi-
ble will. The deportment of the British troops
in the Spanish capital was such as to alienate
those who at first welcomed them, and they
soon became universally disliked. The Span-
iards are proud, proverbially proud ; and they
could not endure this contemptuous assump-
tion of superiority. So great became the dis-
satisfaction that many of the Spanish generals
proposed to unite their troops with those of
King Joseph if he would grant them independ-
ent commands.

Exultantly the English on the Peninsula


Withdrawal of the French Troops from Spain.

heard the tidings of the terrible disasters Na-
poleon was encountering in Bussia. They
could scarcely exaggerate them. It was mani-
fest that for a long time, at least, Joseph could
receive no assistance from France ; on the con-
trary, many regiments of infantry and caval-
ry, and a number of companies of artillery, re-
ceived orders immediately to leave Spain, and
to hasten to the aid of the Emperor. Joseph,
thus hopelessly crippled, was directed by the
Emperor to concentrate his enfeebled forces
upon the line of the Douro. Leaving a garri-
son of ten thousand men in Madrid, Joseph,
with the remainder of his troops, retired toward
the north.

In Wellington's retreat from Madrid, his
troops committed all imaginable outrages. In
his dispatch to his officers commanding his
divisions and brigades, he said :

" From the moment the troops commenced
their retreat from the neighborhood of Madrid
on the one hand, and Burgos on the other, the
officers lost all command over the men. Irreg-
ularities and outrages of all descriptions were
committed with impunity, and losses have been
sustained which ought never to have occurred.
The discipline of every army, after a long and


Outrages of the Knglish.

active campaign, becomes in some degree re-
laxed ; but I am concerned to observe that the
army under my command has fallen off in this
respect, in the late campaign, to a greater degree
tJian any army with which I have ever been, or of
which I have ever read." 1

Thus terminated the year 1812. The disap-
pointment of the British Government, in view
of the discomfiture and retreat of Wellington,
was very great, arid the indignation of that por-
tion of the English people who were opposed
to this interminable warfare against the new
regime in France knew no bounds. That the
English army had, through a long line of dis-
astrous retreat, according to the testimony of
its commander, inflicted outrages upon the
Spanish people, its allies, greater than that com-
mander had ever read of in history, koenly
wounded the national pride.

As fresh tidings arose of the disasters which
had befallen Napoleon in the north, the Brit-
ish Government renewed their zeal to assail
him from the south. Large re-enforcements
were sent out during the winter with such
abundant supplies as to enable Wellington to

1 Wellington to Officers commanding Division* ai tidy
ades, ix. 574, 575.


Welling uu iutiu^eil with the supreme Command.

commence the spring campaign with every as-
surance of success. The Cortes in Cadiz, with
ever-varying policy, much to the disgust of
many of the Spanish generals, invested the
British duke with the supreme command. The
opposition, however, was so great that the
duke's brother, Mr. Henry Wellesley, who was
then British ambassador at Cadiz, advised him
not to accept the office. But the energetic
duke was confident that, by combining the
whole military strength of the Peninsula with
the army and fleet of England, he could drive
the feeble remnants of the French from the
kingdom. He therefore undertook the com-

The Cortes was led to this decisive measure
from the fact that there was a strong and in-
creasing party of their own number in favor
of rallying to the support of Joseph. Their
only choice lay between Joseph or Ferdinand,
or the experiment of a democratic repub-
lic. Wellington's visit to Cadiz, says Alison,
" brought forcibly under his notice the misera-
ble state of the Government at that place, ruled
by a furious democratic faction, intimidated by
an ungovernable press, and alternately the prey
of aristocratic intrigue and democratic fury.


Battle of Villon*.

He did not fail to report to the Government
this deplorable state of things."

In the beginning of May Wellington was
prepared to take the field with an allied army
of two hundred thousand men. The navy of
England actively co-operated with this im-
mense force, conveying supplies and protecting
the extreme flanks of the line, which stretched
across the kingdom. The storm of war burst
forth again in all its fury. Manfully Joseph
contended to the last. In the vicinity of Val-
ladolid he had concentrated fifty thousand men,
and hoped to be able there to give battle. But
Wellington came upon him with an army one
hundred thousand strong, which was reported
to be one hundred and ninety thousand.

The French on the 14th of June retreated
to Tittoria. The garrison in Madrid and the
civil authorities now abandoned the capital and
took refuge with the army. Here a short but
terrible battle ensued. The English had eighty
thousand combatants on the field ; the French,
according to their statement, had but half as
many. Alison states their force at sixty-five
thousand. It was an awful battle. Both par-
ties fought desperately. The loss of the French
was six thousand nine hundred and sixty ; that


Victory of the British.

of the English five thousand one hundred and
eighty. 1 The French army was impoverished
after weary months of warfare, in a land stricken
by famine, and wasted by the sweep of armies
and the plundering of banditti. It was with
very great difficulty that Joseph could support
his destitute troops. Yet Alison, in that strain
of exaggeration which sullies his often eloquent
pages, writes r

"Independent of private booty, no less than
five millions and a half of dollars in the mili-
tary chest of the army were taken ; and of pri-
vate wealth the amount was so prodigious that
for miles together the combatants may almost
be said to have marched upon gold and silver,
without stooping to pick it up."

In the hour of victory Wellington seemed
to have no control over his soldiers, whom his
pen describes as drunken and brutal. Eeeling
in intoxication, they wandered at will. Wel-
lington states that three weeks after the bat-
tle above twelve thousand of his soldiers had
abandoned their colors. " I am convinced," he

1 King Joseph, writing to Clarke, under date of July 6,
1813, says : " Our army at Vittoria was but thirty-five thou-
sand. That fact can not be contested. The pnemy had cer-
tainly seventy thousand combatants. I can not be deceived
when I say that hiB force was double of ours. "


Retreat of the French. San Scbastlaa

says in a dispatch to Lord Bathurst, " that we
have out of our ranks doubled our loss in the
battle, and have lost more men in the pursuit
than the enemy have."

The retreat of the French was conducted
with the firmness and admirable discipline
characteristic of French soldiers. As the
troops slowly and sullenly retired toward the
French frontier, pressed by superior numbers,
they turned occasionally upon their pursuers,
and the advance-guard of the foe encountered
several very bloody repulses.

We have not space to allude to these various
conflicts, which only checked for a moment the
enrolling tide of the victorious allied army.
Wellington's troops took the town of San Se-
bastian by storm. This was a beautiful Span-
ish city, through which the French retreated,
and where they made a short and desperate
stand. We will leave it to Mr. Alison to de-
scribe the conduct of Lord Wellington's troops.

"And now commenced," writes Alison, "a
scene which has affixed as lasting a stain on
the character of the English and Portuguese
troops, as the heroic valor they displayed in
the assault has given them enduring and ex-
alted fame. The long endurance of the assault


Excasses of the British Troops.

had wrought the soldiers up to perfect mad-
ness. The soldiers wreaked their vengeance
with fearful violence on the unhappy inhabi-
tants. Some of the houses adjoining the
breaches had taken fire from the effects of the
explosion. The flames, fanned by an awful
tempest which burst on the town, soon spread
with frightful rapidity. The wretched inhabi-
tants, driven from house to house as the con-
flagration devoured their dwellings, were soon
huddled together in one quarter, where they
fell a prey to the unbridled passions of the sol-

" Attempts were at first made by the Brit-
ish officers to extinguish the flames, but they
proved vain among the general confusion which
prevailed. The soldiers broke into the burn-
ing bouses, pillaged them of the most valuable
articles they contained, and rolling numerous
casks of spirits into the streets, with frantic
shoutd, emptied them of their contents, till vast
numbers of them sank down like savages, mo-
tionless, some lifeless, from the excess.

" Carpets, tapestry, beds, silks and satins,
wearing apparel, jewelry, watches, and every
thing valuable, were scattered about upon the
Woody pavements, while fresh bundles of them


Destruction of St. Sebastian.

were thrown from the windows above to avoid
the flames, and caught with demoniac yells by
the drunken crowds beneath. Amidst these
scenes of disgraceful violence and unutterable
woe, nine-tenths of the once happy, smiling
town of St. Sebastian were reduced to ashes.
And what has affixed a yet darker blot on the
character of the victors, deeds of violence and
cruelty were perpetrated hitherto rare in the
British army, and which causes the historian
to blush, not merely for his country, but for his

The account which is given by Spanish his-
torians of these transactions is even far more
dreadful than the above; so revolting that we
can not pain our readers by transcribing it
upon these pages. A document issued by
the Constitutional Junta, after describing
crimes as awful as even fiends could commit,

" Other crimes more horrible still, which our
pen refuses to record, were committed in that
awful night, and the disorders continued for
some days after without any efficient steps
being taken to arrest them. Of above six
hundred houses, of which St. Sebastian con-
sisted on the morning of the assault, there


Joseph abandons Spain.

remained at the end of three days only thirty-
si Y m

The Duke of Wellington, in his dispatch to
the Spanish Minister of War, said, in reference
to these excesses, that it was impossible for him
to restrain the passions of his soldiers, that he
and his officers did their utmost to stop the
fire and to avoid the disorders, but that all
their efforts were ineffectual.

Joseph, in his retreat, threw three thousand
men into the citadel of St. Sebastian. They
held back the British army sixty days. Their
skill and valor extorted the commendation of
their foes. The siege cost the allied army
three thousand eight hundred men, and delay-
ed for three months the invasion of the south-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottJoseph Bonaparte → online text (page 14 of 19)