Battle of Evora, 29 July 1808

Battle of Evora, 29 July 1808

Battle of Evora, 29 July 1808

The battle of Evora of 29 July 1808 was a French victory during the Portuguese rebellion of 1808. A French army under Marshal Junot had invaded Portugal in 1807, and quickly overrun the country. Over the winter of 1807-1808 the French appeared to be in a strong position, but in the spring of 1808 the Spanish uprising began. Junot was soon cut off from the remaining French armies in Spain, while his forces were weakened when his former Spanish allies returned home, leaving him with 26,500 men to hold down the entire country.

As the news spread around Portugal a limited uprising began. The Portuguese were in a much weaker position than their Spanish neighbours – the French held most of the main fortresses, and the Portuguese army had been disarmed – but despite this a revolt did break out around Oporto in the north of the country. Junot responded by concentrating his scattered garrisons in the south of the country to avoid the risk of having them defeated piecemeal. While this did mean that he soon had 24,000 men under his direct control, it also gave the rebels control of a large part of Portugal. What the rebels lacked was the strength to take on Junot’s powerful army.

As in Spain, a series of separate juntas were formed in different parts of Portugal. To the east of Lisbon was the junta of the Alemtejo, with its headquarters at Evora. Its small army, under the command of Francisco Leite, threatened Junot’s lines of communication with Elvas and Badajoz, his escape route if he had to evacuate Portugal. Accordingly, at the end of July Junot sent out a 7,000 strong flying column, under the command of General Loison. His orders were to attack the junta at Evora, and then march on to Elvas.

Leite now had a force of 3,000 men. His own forces amounted to a battalion and a half of newly formed infantry and 120 cavalry. He had also been joined by a Spanish force which contained a similar number of infantry, one regiment of regular cavalry (the Hussars of Maria Luisa) and seven guns, all under the command of Colonel Moretti. He also had a large number of poorly armed volunteers.

As the French column approached Evora on 29 July, Leite decided to offer battle outside the city walls. This was an inexplicable decision. It exposed his weak, inexperienced force to an attack by a French army twice its size, and meant that he could make no use of the volunteers, who were used to man the walls of Evora.

The battle was over in minutes. The first French charge drove away both the Spanish cavalry and General Leite. Most of the infantry retreated into Evora and attempted to defend the town, but the French broke through the walls at four or five places, overwhelmed the defenders and sacked the town. The Portuguese and Spanish were said to have lost between 2,000 and 8,000 men in the battle and the sack, while French casualties amounted to 90 dead and 200 wounded. Loison spent three days at Evora before marching on to Elvas, where he lifted a blockade of the place. He was then prepared to move towards Badajoz, when orders reached him recalling him to Lisbon. A British army under Sir Arthur Wellesley had landed in Mondego Bay, and the French army in Portugal was in real danger.

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Évora is a city and a municipality in the district of Évora, in the Alentejo region of southern Portugal. Due to its well-preserved old town centre, still partially enclosed by medieval walls, and many monuments dating from various historical periods, including a Roman Temple, Évora is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network.

Évora (/ˈɛvuɾɐ/, EH-voo-ruh) is a pleasant medium-sized city and has numerous monuments. The many monuments erected by major artists of each period of the city's history testify to Évora's lively cultural and rich artistic and historical heritage. The variety of architectural styles (Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, Baroque), the palaces and the picturesque labyrinth of squares and narrow streets of the city centre are all part of the rich heritage of this museum-city.

History Edit

Évora has a history dating back more than five millennia. It was known as Ebora by the Celtici, a tribal confederacy, who made the town their regional capital.

The Romans conquered the town in 57 BC and expanded it into a walled town. Vestiges from this period (city walls and ruins of Roman baths) still remain. The city grew in importance because it lay at the junction of several important routes. The monumental Corinthian temple in the centre of the town dates from the first century AD and was probably erected in honour of emperor Augustus.

During the Barbarian invasions, Évora came under the rule of the Visigothic king Leovigild in 584. The town was later raised to the status of a cathedral city. Nevertheless, this was a time of decline and very few artifacts from this period remain.

In 715, the city was conquered by the Moors under Tariq ibn-Ziyad. During the Moorish rule (715–1165), the town began to prosper again and developed into an agricultural centre with a fortress and a mosque. The present character of the city is evidence of the Moorish influence.

The town came under the rule of the Portuguese king Afonso I in 1166. It then flourished as one of the most dynamic cities in the Kingdom of Portugal during the Middle Ages, especially in the 15th century. The court of the first and second dynasties resided here for long periods, constructing palaces, monuments and religious buildings.

It particularly thrived during the Avis Dynasty (1385–1580). Évora became a major centre for the humanities and artists, such as the sculptor Nicolau Chanterene and the painters Cristóvão de Figueiredo and Gregório Lopes. Évora also held a large part of the slave population of Portugal.

The Battle of Évora was fought on 29 July 1808 during the Peninsular War. An outnumbered Portuguese-Spanish force of 2,500, assisted by poorly armed peasant militiamen, tried to stop a French-Spanish division but it was routed. Breaking into the town, the attackers slaughtered combatants and non-combatants before thoroughly pillaging the place. The French inflicted as many as 8,000 casualties while suffering only 290 of their own.

Climate Edit

Évora being inland leads it to being one of Portugal's hottest cities prone to strong heat waves. Even so, it is milder than areas farther inland across the Spanish border.

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Battle Notes

British Army
• Commander: Wellesley
• 6 Command Cards
• Move First

Allies Corps Commanders
Right Center Left
Command 2 3 2
Tactician 3 3 3
13 2 2 3 2 2 2 1 5 2 1 2 2 1

French Army
• Commander: Marmont and Clausel
• 6 Command Cards

French Corps Commanders
Right Center Left
Command 3 3 3
Tactician 3 4 3
16 3 6 4 4

15 Banners

Special Rules
The Azan River is impassable except at the bridge.

The Pela Gracia River is fordable in all hexes. In addition, a unit or leader’s movement is not stopped when moving onto a river hex.

Commentary Explorer Results

Among the officers and men of the expedition waiting at Cork was the 24 year old Captain William Warre who spent his time ‘in perfect idleness, though very gaily.’ Warre and his comrades amused themselves with boating parties, buying horses and attending the society of the town. A play was put on by the officers of HMS Resistance for the benefit of the poor of Cove, which ‘went off very well’ being exceedingly crowded. Not to be outshone by the navy, the army officers organised a ball ‘in a storehouse fitted up with flags’ for the ‘relief of the distressed soldiers’ wives’ who had lost the ballot to select those permitted to accompany the army. This made a clear profit of £50, although Warre admitted that this was ‘little enough among so many objects.’ Still its success encouraged a second ball a few nights later for the Dutch crew of the Guelderland frigate which had recently been captured with heavy casualties by the British frigate Virginie. How the young ladies of Cork must have sighed when the expedition finally sailed! (Warre’s letters to his father and mother, 17, 22 and 27 June 1808 Letters from the Peninsula p 4-9).

The Spanish uprising caused considerable excitement among the officers of the army and they had little doubt that this would be their destination. William Gomm, a young staff officer, told his sister ‘The astonishing news we have lately received from Spain has set us all agog and I may safely venture to assure you that Spain is going to import a whole family of Don Quixotes with the English army.’ (Gomm [to his sister Sophia?], Cove, 9 July 1808, Letters and Journals p 99).

AW’s reputation, accusations of indulging his troops, and perceived rivalry with Sir John Moore:

The accusation of indulging his troops appears in three sources: William Clinton’s diary in July 1808, Lady Hester Stanhope’s passing comment, and, most surprisingly, in a vituperative letter from Thomas Graham written on 20 September 1808 who accuses AW not only of spreading discontent with Dalrymple, but courting popularity with the army and showing extreme familiarity with every rank in order to achieve it (T. Graham to R. Graham Lisbon 20 Sept 1808 HMC Graham of Fintry p 150).

It is not hard to see that such ardent advocates of Sir John Moore as Lady Hester Stanhope and Thomas Graham would resent AW’s rise to prominence, but it was an odd accusation to make against AW, and even Graham says that reports of AW in India said rather that he was aloof and cold than overly familiar. Perhaps Graham was simply looking for any stick to beat AW with, and as he couldn’t say that AW was unpopular with the army, he attempted to make a vice out of it. In the same letter he also accuses AW of “having artfully laid the foundation of being called on on some future occasion to command … by his success” – which comes close to suggesting that if AW had been honest he would have let the French win!

As for Clinton, while not one of Moore’s inner circle, he was an admirer, and the passage quoted explicitly contrasts Moore and Wellesley:

I conclude now that Sir John Moore is certainly intended for Spain. If a British army is to go there it cannot go in safer hands, but in the meantime much mischief may be done to the cause by the landing of a corps under such a man as Sir A. Wellesley, who, though I believe is a very gallant man, has not hitherto shewn judgement in his military career in any instance and who, I fear, would not advert to the grand requisite of the strictest discipline being maintained by any troops of ours who should set foot on the Spanish shore. (Clinton Diary vol 47 p 50, London, Sunday, 3 July 1808, Ward Papers 300/7/1 p 50).

Great hopes had rested on Moore for years as the most promising talent in the army, and only a few of the most perceptive and well-placed critics shared Anstruther’s doubts or understood the ministers’ distrust of him. Six weeks before Captain Gomm had welcomed Wellesley’s appointment, he had written, ‘There is … no general under whom I am so desirous of serving, as Sir John Moore’, and this was probably still the common feeling in the army, and although the change of sentiment had already begun, it would take several years – until the spring of 1811 at least – for it to be completed. (Gomm to his sister, 1 May 1808, Letters and Journals p 95 for Anstruther, see p 228 of the main text).

Wellesley had asked that Anstruther be given one of the key staff appointments as either Adjutant-General or Quartermaster-General of the army, but Anstruther privately indicated that he would prefer a substantive appointment in command of troops, and the Horse Guards, which recognized his ability, obliged, giving him the command of a strong brigade of infantry which was being prepared at Ramsgate. (AW to J. W. Gordon, 5 July 1808, BL Add Ms 49,480 no folio in Ward Papers Mss 300/3/1 Murray review of Napier Quarterly Review April 1836 p 192). In the end, Wellesley received Lieutenant-Colonel George Tucker at the head of his Adjutant-General’s department, and Lieutenant-Colonel James Bathurst at the head of his Quartermaster-General’s department (both with the rank of Deputy). There seems to have been some awkwardness in these appointments, for both Tucker and Bathurst were serving with Spencer’s corps, and so were unable to join the army until after it had disembarked in Portugal. Nonetheless, they both then made a good impression, and Wellesley went on to employ Bathurst as his military secretary in 1809. Bathurst’s quick temper made that appointment rather unfortunate, but he was an experienced and efficient staff officer, who played his part effectively in the 1808 campaign. Tucker died in a shipwreck on the way home from Coruña. (For Bathurst see Ward Wellington’s Headquarters p 60-61 and AW to Spencer, 26 July 1808, WD III p 38 The Times 16 July 1808 lists Major Arbuthnot as senior AG officer. For Tucker see Proceedings of the Cintra Inquiry p 226, and a brief obituary of him in the Gentleman’s Magazine February 1809 p 185).

Somerset owed this first appointment on Wellington’s staff to the Duke of Richmond who had written in June, ‘[General] O’Hara used to say that he had rather have a wife recommended to him than an aide-de-camp. Notwithstanding this, I will venture to say that FitzRoy Somerset is an active and intelligent fellow, and is anxious to go on service.’ (Richmond to AW, 11 June 1808, WSD vol 5 p 452-3). Somerset was the eighth and youngest son of the Duke of Beaufort and his brother Edward was one of Richmond’s ADCs, and would later serve in the Peninsula. He had accompanied Sir Arthur Paget on an unsuccessful diplomatic mission to Constantinople in 1807, and had been in the army, nominally at least, since 1804, but this would be his first campaign.

Wellesley’s nephew, William Wellesley-Pole was gazetted an ensign in the 29 th Foot in June 1808 and resigned his commission and left the army on 6 December that year (information supplied by Ron McGuigan, e-mail 7 August 2007 – he does not appear in the annual Army List). He had just turned twenty and had yet to settle on a career, although he had travelled to Turkey with Charles Arbuthnot’s embassy in 1805. Wellesley found him a puzzle: there ‘is a mixture of steadiness & extreme Levity, of sense and folly in his composition such as I have never met with in any other instance.’ The experiment was not a success, and early in September Arthur was forced to write to his brother William, the young man’s father,

I have been obliged to speak to him pretty sharply once or twice principally relating to his want of care of himself when he was sick & now he is as much afraid of me as he is of you … I see clearly that he is heartily tired of his new line of Life that his is dying to return to England, & that he will make use of any pretext to get away. (AW to William Wellesley-Pole, 6 Sept 1808, ‘Letters to Pole’ p 8-9).

Evidently the failure was not entirely unexpected, and in the following year Lord Wellesley took up the task, employing his nephew on his staff during his mission to Cadiz. This was rather more successful – young William was ‘very diligent’ and ‘improved’, but he had no sooner returned home than he offended Arbuthnot who had previously treated him with ‘cordial affection’. (Lord Wellesley to William Wellesley-Pole, 30 Oct 1808 quoted in Butler Eldest Brother p 433 Arbuthnot to Lord Wellesley, ‘Private’, 12 Dec 1809 Wellesley Papers vol 1 p 291). He became famous in 1812 by marrying the fabulously rich heiress Catherine Tylney Long and changed his own name to the much ridiculed mouthful: William Pole Tylney Long Wellesley. The marriage was not happy and his later life was beset by debts and scandal, but for a few years he cut a colourful figure in Parliament and society. (Thorne History of Parliament vol 4 p 847-8 see also Complete Peerage vol 9 p 240-1 (Mornington) which quotes the Morning Chronicle’s obituary: ‘Redeemed by no single virtue, adorned by no single grace, his life has gone out without even a flicker of repentance his “retirement” was that of one who was deservedly avoided by all men.’).

Henry Torrens, AW’s Military Secretary:

Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Torrens, was twenty-nine years old, the orphaned son of an Irish clergyman, who had already spent half his life in the army, and survived the rigours of Abercromby’s campaign in the West Indies. In Holland in 1799 Torrens was wounded for the second time and attracted notice for his gallantry, while he later served in Baird’s terrible march from the Red Sea to the Nile, which left him with sunstroke. He was on Whitelocke’s staff at Buenos Ayres but emerged with his reputation unscathed, even enhanced by the manner in which he gave evidence at Whitelocke’s trial. (Annual Obituary vol 13 p 62).

His relations with Wellesley were excellent and when his son was born in the following year Wellesley agreed to be the boy’s godfather, and he was christened Arthur Wellesley Torrens. Wellesley and Torrens both expected to renew the connection in 1809, but Torrens was instead asked to accept the post of military secretary to the Commander-in-Chief at the Horse Guards. This was not an offer which could easily be refused, and he remained in the post, serving Sir David Dundas and the Duke of York, until 1820. His position was not easy, especially given the tension which often existed between Wellesley in the Peninsula and the Horse Guards in London, and the pressure created by the conflict of loyalties sometimes became evident, but it is likely that these problems would have been much worse with a less sympathetic figure acting as intermediary. (Annual Obituary vol 13 p 62-63 says that he was to have returned to the Peninsula in 1809 DNB says that he was not appointed Military Secretary until October 1809, but it is likely that this had been arranged some months in advance. The Mary Anne Clarke scandal and the Duke of York’s resignation naturally complicated such appointments. The Annual Obituary points out that Torrens as the father of a young family found it difficult to refuse a secure desk job for an uncertain one in the field but the Clarke scandal would have made it seem almost more cowardly to go to the Peninsula than to stay in London. According to the Royal Military Calendar (vol 3 p 390-2) he was Assistant Military Secretary before and after the 1808 campaign).

Civilians accompanying AW’s party:

Wellesley may also have been accompanied by a civil secretary, a Mr Williams, selected for ‘his particular acquaintance with the language and habits of Spain’ (The Times 17 June 1808), although little trace of his presence survives, and he may have been left at Coruña, or even been given up entirely when Portugal was confirmed as the destination of the expedition. One civilian who did find a niche at headquarters was Mr Barrington Pope Blachford, a member of Parliament and supporter of the government who was caught up in the popular enthusiasm for the Spanish cause and even considered joining the army. Wellesley warned against this, pointing out that it might be difficult for him to resign on active service if he found that he disliked the life, and offering to look after him if he came out simply as a traveller: ‘I shall take care of him, and [see] that he shall have his dinner and forage for his horse, and shall see everything that there is to be seen.’ (AW to Sturges Bourne, 23 June 1808, WSD vol 5 p 461-2). This was remarkably accommodating, and Blachford evidently enjoyed his expedition and was highly impressed with Wellesley, whom he praised in Parliament in January 1809, and whom he rejoined for a second visit to the Peninsula in the summer of 1809. (Thorne History of Parliament vol 3 p 210-11 AW to Blachford, 20 Oct 1808, WSD vol 6 p 165 AW to Lord Wellesley, 8 Aug 1809, ibid p 325).

MPs visiting the Peninsula:

As well as Blachford, there was Viscount Ebrington, son of Lord Fortescue and a member of the Grenville-Buckingham connection. Ebrington obtained an ensign’s commission in the 9th Foot and looked to Buckingham’s friendship with Sir Arthur Wellesley to secure him a place as a supernumerary ADC. This may have been accomplished, for he returned from Portugal with Wellesley and Ferguson in 1808, but went back to the Peninsula either later in the year or in 1809, and is said to have been at the Battle of Almonacid (in which the Spanish army was defeated) on 11 Aug 1809. (Tom Grenville to Buckingham, 1 Aug 1808, Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George III vol 4 p 237-9 ‘An Account of the Extraordinary Expenses of the Army incurred and paid by the Right Honourable the Paymaster General of His Majesty’s Forces from 25 December 1808 to 24 December 1809’ Parliamentary Papers 18 April 1810 p 5, for his return from Portugal with AW (courtesy Ron McGuigan) Thorne History of Parliament vol 3 p 791-3).

AW transfers to the Crocodile:

The Crocodile was commanded by the Hon. Captain George Cadogan, whose sisters had married Gerald and Henry Wellesley. While this, and Pulteney Malcolm’s role as senior naval officer, may have been coincidences, it seems likely that William Wellesley-Pole used his position at the Admiralty to ensure that Arthur Wellesley would be met by friends and connections, and, perhaps as a result, the two services co-operated remarkably well throughout the campaign. (O’Byrne Naval Biographical Dictionary vol 1 p 159, vol 2 p 714n).

Charles Stuart told his mother:

Illuminations in the Town, rejoicings among the troops, and an enormous crowd to meet us on the beach in fact, the celebrations in honour of this great event have been so excessive that I have not had a moment’s peace – a guard of honour with a band of music at my door stun me when I am at home, deputations from everybody I ever heard of come every half hour, and artillery salutes me when I stir. (Quoted in Stuart Wortley Highcliffe and the Stuarts p 119).

The Spanish authorities granted Wellesley permission to shelter the expedition at Vigo, and even to land the troops, if he was forced to delay his attack on Portugal, although it is clear that they thought that this would be unnecessary.

Fitzroy Somerset wrote home from Oporto: ‘We slept last night in a house belonging to the British Consul, who is not yet returned, but we found Colonel Brown[e] there, who furnished us all with beds.’ And ‘the Bishop, who at seventy years [?] old is turned General, & has embodied all his priests and I understand it is extremely ludicrous to see the fat fellows mount guard, going [at] a funeral pace, & carrying their swords erect as if they were Tapers.’ (Fitzroy Somerset to his brother, Oporto, 25 July 1808, Badminton Muniments 4/1/4/1).

AW told the Cintra Inquiry that he joined the Admiral off the Tagus:

I there received letters from Gen. Spencer, at Puerto de Sta Maria, in which he informed me that he had landed his corps in Andalusia, at the request of the Junta of Seville, and he did not think it proper to embark it again till he should receive further orders from me and he appeared to think that my presence in Andalusia, and the assistance of the troops under my command, were necessary to enable Gen. Castaños to defeat Gen. Dupont.

As I was of opinion that the most essential object for the Spaniards, as well as for us, was to drive the French from Portugal, and that neither his corps nor mine was sufficiently strong, when separate, to be of much service anywhere, and that when joined they might effect the object which had been deemed of most importance in England, and in Galicia, I immediately dispatched orders to Gen. Spencer to embark his troops, unless he should be actually engaged in an operation which he could not relinquish without loss to the Spaniards, and to join me off the coast of Portugal. (WD III p 137-8, Narrative of the Proceedings of an Inquiry p 24).

When AW learnt that the government were sending out reinforcements, his reaction may have been tempered by the fear that the ministers would disapprove of his recall of Spencer. Fortunately news arrived that day that the Spanish army commanded by General Castaños had defeated the French army in Andalusia and forced it to capitulate at Bailen, removing any threat to Cadiz and freeing the whole of southern Spain, while making Junot more isolated than ever. (News of Dupont’s surrender: AW to Castlereagh, 1 Aug 1808, WD III p 42-6 and postscripts AW to Richmond and AW to Castlereagh, 1 Aug 1808, ibid p 46, 46-7).

The news of Wellesley’s supersession was brought by Lord Burghersh, the eldest son of Lord Westmorland (a member of the cabinet), who arrived to join Wellesley’s staff. It is probable that Burghersh was able to explain the background to the cabinet’s decision more frankly than any minister could put on paper, and that he brought a letter on the subject from William Wellesley-Pole. No letter from Pole survives, but AW told Castlereagh ‘Pole and Burghersh have apprised me of the arrangements for the future command of this army and the former has informed me of your kindness towards me.’ (AW to Castlereagh, 1 Aug 1808, WD III p 46-7).

AW’s Proposal for re-building the Portuguese Army:

AW first mentioned this idea when he wrote to Castlereagh from Oporto, telling him that the Portuguese could raise ‘38,000 men with ease, if they had arms or money to pay them.’ (AW to Castlereagh, 25 July 1808 WD III p 36-37). Wellesley’s idea was not entirely original, for a similar scheme had been floated some years before by Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Stewart, when he was sent to Portugal by the British government in 1803. Stewart concluded that while Portugal had great potential, Britain would need to make a large commitment and a core of troops of her own if it was to harness it. This is not to suggest that Wellesley was simply regurgitating Stewart’s ideas – there was much more to his plan than that, and it was his vision which applied it to the very different circumstances of 1808 – but it Stewart’s paper was evidently the source of his data, and perhaps also of the central concept. This excuses AW from the accusation that he was rash in making such a proposal when he knew very little about the state of Portugal. For Stewart’s mission to Portugal see Martin Robson ‘British Intervention in Portugal, 1793-1808’ Historical Research vol 76 2003 p 97-98. This was the same Richard Stewart who had been AW’s 2inC in Denmark, and who was, in 1808, with Moore’s Baltic expedition.

AW’s decision to land and begin the campaign:

As well as Spencer’s corps, AW expected Acland’s brigade to arrive any day – he had been told that it would sail on 19 July. He also knew that Loison had been detached by Junot, which reduced the risk of the French attacking him soon after he had landed his force. See AW’s Narrative to the Court of Inquiry Proceedings p 25 (also in WD III p 138).

What date did AW land at Mondego Bay?

Roderick Murchison and the 36 th landed on 1 August, so his description of AW’s landing establishes that AW landed then, as one would expect. However AW told Lord Burghersh, in a letter dated 3 August, that ‘I landed this day, the infantry and artillery having nearly completed their disembarkation.’ (AW to Burghersh, Lavos, 3 Aug 1808 Correspondence of Lord Burghersh p 12-13). The most plausible explanation of the discrepancy is that AW landed on the 1 st , but spent that night back on board, and only fully disembarked on the 3 rd . (An added complication is that the version of AW’s letter printed in WD III p 51 reads ‘I have heard this day [not ‘landed this day’] that the infantry and artillery have nearly completed their embarkation’. But give that AW was on the spot, this makes no sense at all, and the reading in Burghersh’s correspondence is much more credible.)

My thanks to Arthur Murchison for helping to untangle this puzzle.

No lives lost in the disembarkation:

The whole army seems to have landed without any lives being lost, except possibly one or two horses. Oman Hisotry of the Peninsular War (henceforth cited simply as Oman) vol 1 p 229 and Fortescue History of the British Army (henceforth cited simply as Fortescue) vol 6 p 203 both say that a few lives were lost, but this is directly contradicted by Geike Life of Murchison vol 1 p 27 Leach Rough Sketches p 42 and Warre Letters from the Peninsula p 15-16. Of course these eye-witnesses may not have known of some deaths, but there are signs that Oman and Fortescue have been influenced by firsthand accounts of the landing of Acland’s and Anstruther’s brigades and other later arrivals, which proved more costly. See Capt Pultney Malcolm’s evidence to the Cintra Inquiry Narrative of Proceedings p 36, and H. N. Shore ‘The Navy in the Peninsular War. Naval Operations during Sir A. Wellesley’s First Campaign’ United Service Magazine new series vol 47 1913 p 153-6.

In the introduction to the one volume edition of Wellington’s General Orders, Gurwood claims that: ‘When Sir Arthur Wellesley first landed in Portugal he was in command of a disjointed army, consisting of a few sturdy regiments, well nigh in rags, the greater part having just returned from the expedition to Buenos Ayres, – two weak squadrons of cavalry, indifferently mounted on foreign horses, and a small force of artillery…’ (p liii-liv). However this does not seem to be correct. The regiments from Buenos Ayres got home at the end of 1807 (Soldier of the 71st p 14) and it would be very surprising if they were not refitted and – if necessary – reclothed in the five months they spent in Ireland.

The general view (e.g. Glover Britannia Sickens p 46-47) has always been that the individual regiments in this army were very good, although the supporting services were inadequate, and that it lacked the coherence of a properly formed army.

The artillery crews were competent and their weapons effective. They were equipped with light 6 pounders, 51/2 inch howitzers, and 9 pounders. (See T. H. McGuffie ‘British Artillery in the Vimeiro Campaign’ J.S.A.H.R. vol 23 no 94 summer 1945 p 80-81 on the strength and composition of Wellesley’s artillery).

Artillery horses from the Irish Commissariat:

The Irish horses were better than nothing, but they were far from ideal as Wellesley made clear to Castlereagh: ‘Our artillery horses are not what we ought to have. They have great merit in their way as cast horses of dragoons, and Irish cart horses, bought for £12 each! but not fit for an army that, to be successful and carry things with a high hand, ought to be able to move.’ (AW to Castlereagh, Caldos, 16 Aug 1808, WD III p 80).

The horses and their drivers belonged to the Corps of Waggoners, which was part of the Irish Commissariat, and quite separate from the Royal Waggon Train, although the men who volunteered to serve in the Peninsula were later incorporated into the Royal Waggon Train. (Information from Ron McGuigan).

AW wrote to Pole about the artillery horses: ‘I think Lord Chatham will repent that he did not allow me to have Artillery Horses. Those we have are very fair, & good of their kind. But marching as we do every day we ought to have the best horses the Army could afford, instead of the worst & likewise a regt. of mounted Cavalry.’ (AW to William Wellesley-Pole, Vimiero, 19 Aug 1808, ‘Letters to Pole’ p 4-5). Southey (History of the Peninsular War vol 1 p 554-5n) prints a partial defence of the horses which matches well with AW’s comments – they were fine for every day employment at home, but were not up to the rigours of active service.

See also Chatham to the King, 29 Jan 1809 and enclosure Later Correspondence of George III vol 5 p 181-3 where he claims that Wellesley was offered but refused artillery horses and defends the performance of the Ordnance. Against this, see AW to Castlereagh, 29 June 1808, WSD vol 6 p 86-87 AW to Hill, 3 July 1808, WD III p 22 and AW to William Wellesley-Pole, 19 Aug 1808 ‘Letters to Pole’, p 4-5.

The Commissariat in Vimeiro Campaign:

The traditional view of the commissariat in the 1808 campaign is highly unflattering, and generalized references are made to the lack of training of its members and the ease with which anyone could become a commissariat officer: corruption and inexperience are added for good measure. No doubt some of this is justified: the commissariat certainly was inexperienced, and the shortage of transport caused problems for the army. Yet there were relatively few complaints, while there are a number of comments (some quoted later in the chapter) praising the commissariat arrangements so long as the army was commanded by Wellesley and noting how rapidly they deteriorated once Dalrymple took command (and the arrival of reinforcements added to the number of mouths to be fed, while the army stopped moving into new country).

In general the army drew on local supplies for meat, wine, and extras such as fruit, but depended on the fleet for most of its bread and some other provisions, such as oats for the horses. (See AW’s narrative to the Cintra Inquiry Narrative of Proceedings p 27 (WD III p 141) and several interesting answers to questions ibid p 31-33 (WD III p 143-5). For AW’s high praise of Mr Walsh, the contractor who supplied the army with beef, see AW to Murray, 15 Sept 1808, WD III p 122-123).

Major-General Brent Spencer was Wellesley’s second-in-command. Officially his authority encompassed the whole army for he was to ‘give such orders to the troops, from time to time, as he may judge necessary, reporting them to the Lieut. General when he finds it convenient and the Major General’s orders are at all times to be obeyed, although they may be contradictory to those previously issued by the Lieut. General.’ (GO 7 Aug 1808, WD III p 55n). A few years later Wellesley wrote,

I have always felt the inutility and inconvenience of the office of second in command. It has a great and high sounding title, without duties or responsibility of any description at the same time that it gives pretensions, the assertion of which is, and I believe you know I found them in one instance to be, very inconvenient. Every officer in an army should have some duty to perform, for which he is responsible…. The second in command has none that anybody can define excepting to give opinions for which he is in no manner responsible, and which I have found one at least most ready to relinquish, when he found that they were not liked in England. (Wellington to Beresford, 2 Dec 1812, WD IV p 188-9).

This clearly refers to Spencer, and in particular his evidence to the Cintra Inquiry when he failed to give Wellesley the support which Wellesley had a right to expect. Up till then, Wellesley had been willing to overlook Spencer’s faults, had sympathized with his unhappiness at coming under Dalrymple’s command (with whom he had quarrelled at Gibraltar), and had even urged Castlereagh to give him a mark of official favour, writing ‘There never was a braver officer, or one who deserves it better.’ (AW to Castlereagh, 23 Aug 1808, Castlereagh Correspondence vol 6 p 410-12 Spencer’s supplementary evidence to the Cintra Inquiry given on 13 Dec 1808 Narrative of Proceedings p 95-6 which stands in sharp contrast to his letter to AW written on 30 Sept 1808 and printed in WSD vol 6 p 142-3. The change explains AW’s subsequent disenchantment with him, for which see Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 11 May 1823 vol 1 p 234 and Croker Papers 25 May 1831 vol 2 p 123).

Spencer was a gallant officer, but nothing more. He was almost ten years older than Wellesley, had seen a wide variety of service and was a great favourite of the Royal Family – there are even suggestions that in 1812 he secretly married Princess Augusta Sophia, George III’s second daughter. (D. M. Stuart The Daughters of George III p 118-119). Wellesley was not predisposed in his favour by Spencer’s high estimate of the French strength, nor by his failure to wait with Cotton off the Tagus, and closer acquaintance did not improve his opinion. After enduring Spencer as second-in-command not just in 1808 but also in 1810-11 Wellesley finally complained,

The person who is sent here as Second in Command is very unfit for his situation. He is a good executive Officer but has no mind and is incapable of forming an opinion of his own and he is the centre of all the vulgar & foolish opinions of the day. Then you are aware that from former experience, I cannot depend upon him for a moment for anything. He gives his opinion upon every subject Changes it with the Wind, and if any misfortune occurs, or the act recommended by him is disapproved of, there is no support to be looked for from him. On the contrary the Royal Family at their dinners or their Card Parties would make him say what they please, & he would swear to it afterwards. (Wellington to William Wellesley-Pole, 5 Sept 1810, Wellington A no 34, Raglan Papers, Gwent Record Office – passage suppressed in version of the letter published in WSD but partly quoted in Oman vol 4 p 552n and Fortescue vol 7 p 499 with minor variations and the last sentence omitted).

The other brigadiers in Wellesley’s army:

Hill and Ferguson were the most senior and important brigade commanders: the remaining brigades were commanded by more junior officers who held the temporary local rank of brigadier. Miles Nightingall was the illegitimate sone of Lord Cornwallis who had greatly assisted his early career. He evidently impressed Wellesley in 1808, but when he returned to the Peninsula in early 1811 his health and spirits were both poor and he only stayed a few months before taking a command in Bengal. In 1809 he at first accepted, and then declined, Castlereagh’s offer that he succeed Captain Bligh as Governor of New South Wales, thus opening the way for his intended deputy, Lachlan Macquarie, who was to prove the most successful of all Australia’s early colonial governors. (‘The Nightingall Letters. Letters from Major-General Miles Nightingall in Portugal, February to June 1811’ edited by Michael Glover J.S.A.H.R. vol 51 autumn 1973 p 129-54, esp p 129-30 Glover Wellington as Military Commander p 195-7 Royal Military Calendar vol 2 p 379-85 Castlereagh to the King, 8 April 1809, Castlereagh Correspondence vol 8 p 200). The 4th brigade was commanded by Brigadier Barnard Foord Bowes, who Wellesley praised in 1810 as ‘an officer with whom I am well acquainted … highly deserving of the confidence you are disposed to place in him.’ (Wellington to Maj-Gen W. Stewart, 27 Feb 1810, WD III p 748). He was killed in the attack on the Salamanca forts in June 1812. Catlin Craufurd – not to be confused with the more famous Robert Craufurd – returned to Portugal but died of a fever at Abrantes on 25 September 1810. He left a widow ‘with a large family in very bad circumstances’ and Wellesley urged the government to grant her a pension – something which was evidently not common practise where an officer had not fallen in action. (Wellington to Liverpool, 30 Nov 1810, WD IV p 438). The 6th or Light Brigade was commanded by Henry Fane, the nephew of the Earl of Westmorland, an MP, and an ADC to the King. This was his first campaign, so it is not surprising that Roderick Murchison thought him ‘fidgety’ when the troops first landed, but he soon settled and was praised by his troops and his staff. He went on to serve throughout the Peninsular War, generally commanding a brigade of cavalry attached to Hill’s force, and proving efficient and reliable. (DNB Thorne History of Parliament vol 3 p 723 Geike Life of Murchison vol 1 p 25 Recollections of Rifleman Harris p 13, 35 Landmann served on Fane’s staff during the campaign and writes of him with a mixture of admiration and affection: Landman Recollections vol 2 p 93ff on later campaigns see Tomkinson Diary of a Cavalry Officer p 235 and Glover Wellington as Military Commander p 218).

Wellesley’s instructions to the army:

As the army prepared to begin the campaign, Wellesley issued a series of detailed orders governing the routine of daily life on campaign. For example, meat was to be issued to soldiers in advance, so that they could cook it and carry it with them on the following day, while officers were repeatedly forbidden from using the army’s carts and mules to carry their baggage. (GO 8 Aug 1808, WD III p 57n). Wellesley’s instructions for his light infantry are particularly interesting. Fane’s brigade consisted on the 5/60th and four companies of the 2/95th, both units of green clad riflemen skilled in the art of skirmishing in open order and taking advantage of cover, and Wellesley ordered that it should lead the advance, whether the army marched by its right or left while if the army was forced to retreat, it would cover the rear. Meanwhile the light companies of the line battalions in each brigade were combined under the command of a field officer in order to provide a skirmishing screen for the brigade. This system was modified on 18 August when Wellesley attached a company of the 5/60th to each line brigade to assist the less specialized light companies, and compensated Fane with the 1/50th from Craufurd’s brigade. (GO 3 Aug 1808, GO 8 Aug 1808, MGO 18 Aug 1808, WD III p 50n, 68n, 84n). Thus from the very outset of the war in the Peninsula Wellesley showed himself keenly aware of the importance of light infantry and devised a system which would provide both for a concentrated force of specialist skirmishers, and still protect the rest of the army. With some adaption to allow for the creation of divisions and the presence of Portuguese caçadores, this system would be employed, most successfully, in all his campaigns. Wellesley was not, of course, the only general in the British army to utilize light infantry – the subject had been a fashionable topic of experiment and discussion in military circles for years – but his success in turning theory into practise, and unwavering support for his ‘light bobs’ has often been rather overlooked.

See also AW’s exceptionally warm tribute to Major Travers and the 95th Rifles after the campaign: (AW to Lt-Col Gordon, 29 Oct 1808, WSD vol 6 p 178).

AW’s General Order of 3 Aug 1808 (WD III p 50) includes the statement: ‘The order of battle of the army is to be 2 deep’ – there is no elaboration, and it is not quite certain that this refers to the number of ranks in a battalion in line, rather than to a higher formation. Curiously, this appears to be the only order issued by AW which might refer to the subject – which suggests that by 1808 it was the generally accepted practise throughout the army.

Date the army began its advance:

AW told the Cintra Inquiry that the advance of the main body was delayed until the 10th (presumably from the 9th) at the request of the Portuguese commanders Proceedings p 25 WD III p 139.

The soldiers’ day on campaign:

The soldiers’ day began early: they were assembled in their ranks before first light as a routine precaution against a surprise attack. The day’s march usually commenced between 4 and 5 am and the troops would reach their campsite by the middle of the day, so that they did not have to march through the heat of the afternoon. (GOs 13-17 Aug 1808, WD III p 73n-81n.). This pattern was followed throughout the war and Kincaid records that young soldiers were often so exhausted by the march that they would go straight to sleep and only wake when it was growing dark with no comforts about them, while tougher veterans would have collected water, built a fire, cooked their meat and often contrived some rough shelter, none of which luxuries they were likely to share with their ‘new chums’. (Kincaid Random Shots p 209-10 (combined edition)). But as yet the whole army was unused to campaigning, and its commonplace discomforts still had novelty: Captain J. M. Wynyard of the Coldstream Guards, serving on the Adjutant-General’s staff, noted tersely in his diary for 10 August, ‘I slept in the yard of a farm hut. Devoured by fleas.’ (Wynyard, John M. ‘From Vimeiro to Corunna. An Eyewitness Account’ edited by S. G. P. Ward J.R.U.S.I. vol 114 Dec 1969 p 35). And after three weeks ashore, Fitzroy Somerset wrote home to his brother, the Duke of Beaufort, ‘I am in perfect health though I have only slept three times in a bed since I landed. The only thing that annoys me, is, the quantity of flies & Bugs which meet one everywhere, whether laying on a mattress, or on the floor.’ (Somerset to the Duke of Beaufort, Vimeiro, 22 Aug 1810, Badminton Muniments 4/1/4/3).

Oman (vol 1 p 233) accepts AW’s account of his quarrel with Freire without hesitation and condemns Freire’s conduct in the strongest terms. But Southey suggests that Freire had been alarmed for the safety of Coimbra by reports that the French were planning to repeat the massacre of Evora there (vol 1 p 539), and even if this is not accepted, it does not seem that Freire’s behaviour was so unreasonable. He suggested advancing via Santarem because supplies would be more easily obtained on that route, but was willing to go via the coast road if the British overcame this problem. What was so ‘absurd and impudent’ about that? (Oman vol 1 p 233) Still, he aroused Wellesley’s suspicion and it is not unlikely that he was intimidated by the French and anxious to find an excuse to avoid battle.

Dom Miguel Forjaz was on Freire’s staff at the time, and De La Fuente says:

Forjaz, in a letter of August 16, 1808, clearly indicates [that] the Portuguese refusal to join Wellesley on his march to Lisbon did not stem entirely from the inability of the Portuguese to secure provisions along the British route, as Freire had originally stated. Nor was it from fear of meeting the French or jealousy of command, as some historians have speculated. The refusal was based upon the opinion that the main objective of the Portuguese army could not be solely to occupy Lisbon while the strong possibility existed that there would be a need to protect the provinces from the ravages of the French army, should it withdraw from the capital. (Francisco A. De La Fuente ‘Dom Miguel Pereira Forjaz: his early career and role in the Mobilization and Defence of Portugal during the Peninsular War, 1807-1814’ (unpublished PhD thesis presented to Florida State University 1980) p 72-73).

Loison’s column was of particular concern, but if Freire did not understand that the best way to bring Loison back to Lisbon was to attack Junot, then he was a fool, and Wellesley’s irritation with him was quite reasonable.

Loison marched from Lisbon on 25 July on the 29 th (or 30 th : Foy and Oman say the 29 th but Victories, Conquetes and Martinien both say 30 th ) he broke through a courageous but ill-judged attempt to block his path and ruthlessly sacked the town of Evora, inflicting an estimated 2,000 casualties, most of them civilians for the loss of fewer than one hundred killed and two hundred wounded. He paused for a day or two at Evora and then marched on the Elvas and even crossed the border into Spain summoning Badajoz to surrender, when he received messages from Junot urgently recalling him.

Hercules Pakenham’s wound: AW’s private letters home:

Wellesley broke the news of Pakenham’s wound in a letter to Lord Longford and sent Richmond a letter to Kitty to be delivered if she was likely to hear the news before Longford could tell her. This was very considerate – Pakenham’s wound was not at all serious – but it is singular that the only letter from Wellesley to Kitty to be recorded should be sent via a third party with the hope that it not need be delivered. Presumably there were other letters, (Wellesley had written frequently from Copenhagen), but they have disappeared without trace. (AW to Lt.-Col J.W. Gordon 18 Aug 1808 WD III p 84-85 (Pakenham continues to serve with regiment) AW to Richmond 16 Aug 1808 WD III p 80 (enclosing letter to Kitty – not printed) Wilson Soldier’s Wife p 111-12 (implication no other letters have survived) AW to Castlereagh 18 Aug 1808 WD III p 85 states that he encloses another letter to Longford ‘to tell him that his brother is quite well’).

Ferguson’s column at Roliça:

AW told William Wellesley-Pole:

Three mistakes prevented it [the battle] from producing the entire destruction of La Borde’s Corps. The first that General Ferguson was ordered to descend the heights instead of continuing his march to turn the Enemy’s left in the Mountains. This was not committed by me. [AW to Pole, 19 Aug 1808, Letters to Pole p 4-5]

In his official despatch he makes clear that Ferguson had left the hills before the attack on the main French position, and does not subsequently mention him, except to thank him for his role:

Major Gen Hill and Brig. Gen. Nightingall advanced upon the enemy’s position, and at the same moment Brig. Gen. Fane’s riflemen were in the hills on his right, the Portuguese in a village upon his left, and Major Gen. Ferguson’s column was descending from the heights into the plain. From this situation the enemy retired by the passes into the mountains with the utmost regularity and the greatest celerity …. It was then necessary to make a disposition to attack the formidable position which he had taken up.

Brig. Gen. Fane’s riflemen were already in the mountains to his right and no time was lost in attacking the different passes, as well to support the riflemen as to defeat the enemy completely.

…. expressing my acknowledgements for the aid and support I received from all the General and other officers of this army: I am particularly indebted to Major Gen. Spencer for the advice and assistance I received from him to Major Gen. Ferguson, for the manner in which he led the left column and to Major Gen Hill, and Brig. Gens Nightingall and Fane, for the manner in which they conducted the different attacks which they led

(AW to Castlereagh, Villa Verde, 17 Aug 1808 WD III p 80-83)

Capt J. M. Wynyard was serving as a staff officer (DAAG) in the campaign. His diary reads:

The 2nd & 4th Brigades under General Ferguson were ordered to take a circuitory route to the left by Bombarral, which was effected with great difficulty. On approaching the village, a signal was made by the advance parties of an enemy discovered. The Line was immediately formed with the 40th in column on the left leading to form in line or en potence as might be required. The Brigades advanced and in a quarter of an hour, the enemy was discovered in front of our right flank retreating before Sir Arthur Wellesley in very good order, frequently and regularly forming to the front. At this time, Colonel Tucker, Adjutant-General came to us from the Commander-in-Chief with an order to post the troops in the rear of the rising ground on our front, and expressing an opinion at the same time that the enemy’s flank would be completely turned by our movement. This unfortunately however was not the case for a message from Sir A. Wellesley obliged General Ferguson to take a direction more to the right, and the right flank of the enemy remained during the retreat unmolested except by the Light Corps, and after passing the heights completely so. After showing every inclination in the plain to give us battle, the enemy retired to the heights between Sal Alameda and Zambujeira where their guns were very advantageously posted. On our joining the four Brigades under Sir Arthur, but few shot had been fired by the troops of the Line. At that moment, however, the Light Infantry Companies were ordered to advance, which they did under very heavy and well directed fire. Whenever their troops met the French, the latter retired and upon observing this, the 29th & 9th Regiments were ordered to advance up a gulley [sic], where the fire was tremendous in the extreme…… [Goes on to describe Lake’s death etc, but this must be secondhand] (From Vimeiro to Corunna. A Eyewitness Account J.R.U.S.I. vol 114 Dec 1969 p 35).

Looking through this closely, we see that the first part refers to the early part of the day: the march around the French flank. Colonel Tucker comes and then a second, unnamed messenger – whom Wynyard thinks came from AW, though AW’s flat denial to Pole shows he was mistaken. (Or, the messenger did come from AW, but his message was mistaken?) As a result of this second message, Ferguson descends to the plain, abandoning his turning manoeuvre and arriving in front of, not in the rear of, the French. They arrive before more than a few shots had been fired. Wellesley then orders a frontal attack.

Colonel Landmann, writing years later, tells a more elaborate if less reliable tale, which is not incompatible with the contemporary evidence of AW and Wynyard:

[On the 16th, the day before the battle, arriving at Obidos] My first object was to reconnoitre the whole of the surrounding country. Having very quickly inspected the ground on the West, I crossed the valley to the Eastward of the town by following the side of the aqueduct, where there is a good road leading over the hills by some windmills, and in a direction which I suspect might again join, or in some way communicate, with the more direct road to Lisbon, which is by Roliça. Having questioned several of the country people to that effect, they confirmed me in my conjecture, assuring me that this road rejoined the high road to Lisbon, at some distance beyond the tops of the hills of Columbeira, on which the enemy was then posted. (p 126)

[He saw AW reconnoitring the country from the Moorish tower of Obidos on the morning of the 17th and told him the results of his exploring (p 134-5)]. Sir Arthur Wellesley appeared to be satisfied with my communication, and not displeased at the liberty I had used in making the above suggestion for he immediately ordered Major-General Ferguson and Brigadier-General Bowes, with their brigades, and the artillery of the Light Brigade, to march by the road I had spoken of to him and then said to me “As you have reconnoitred that country, you will go with Ferguson.”

I departed accordingly, bounding with joy at my recommendation having been adopted and in half-a-minute was out of the town to place myself by the side of Ferguson, at the head of the only portion of the army, as I fully expected, which had any chance of being that day engaged for we were to do all before the others could possibly arrive in time to share in the laurels I had planned. (p 136-7)

I went on across the valley with Ferguson, sometimes conversing with Geary, and sometimes with Bowes, always in good spirits for I now regarded my fortune as secured, having directed the movement which Ferguson and Bowes, and many others, thought must terminate in the capture of the whole of Laborde’s division before the other portion of the enemy could come up.

We thus continued to advance about four miles by the road, which was sufficiently retired from the edge of the hills to conceal our line of march, no one daring to go to the right on the crest of the range of hills we were on, lest the enemy should see us. On one occasion, with the General’s permission, I reconnoitred on foot to the distance of half a mile with one pistol in my hand and the other in my sash, I crept along amongst the bushes, and looked over into the valley, where I saw our main body considerably in the rear of us, which I hastened back to report to Ferguson.

Just as I had communicated my information, I observed an Aide-de-camp with two epaulettes, the distinction worn by those attached to His Royal Highness the Duke of York only. This officer came up at a hand gallop, with a fine white sheep-skin covering to his saddle, and extending much beyond it, and ordered General Ferguson to descend from the heights, and join the main body in a front attack adding, that he had ascertained the road we were following would not lead us to turn the right flank of the enemy, as had been misrepresented, but lead away to our left. I was never more vexed in my life, as I was on hearing Colonel Brown[e]’s order. Down we all went, by a winding, steep, and almost impassable road for artillery, and so with much unnecessary fatigue joined the central column of attack, near the four windmills, on a sandy plain covered with pine and olive trees….

A few months after this, I was so anxious to know the fact as to the course of the road we had followed in part only, that I availed myself of an opportunity that presented itself, on my return from Peniche, for carefully examining into the truth, and thus to determine if I really had misinformed Sir Arthur, when I reported my reconnaissance as above stated and I had the satisfaction of ascertaining that had we followed that road, it would have lead us round the flank of Laborde’s position, as I had reported to Sir Arthur not to the left, as had been asserted by Colonel Brown[e]. I have never ceased to lament the loss of such an opportunity. (Recollections vol 2 p 138-40)

Landmann’s account is certainly circumstantial, and some of the details can be verified, for example Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Browne, the officer Castlereagh had sent to Oporto, had been appointed Assistant Secretary and ADC to the CinC in Dec 1806 and was present as a volunteer at the battle of Roliça (Royal Military Calendar vol 4 p 186-7).

Which raises the interesting question of whether Browne was acting on his own authority (as Landmann implies) or conveying orders from someone else (Wynyard’s version). There are difficulties with either possibility: if the former, why did Ferguson accept his opinion and deviate from his orders? If the latter, who gave the order: the only real possibilities are AW himself – which he explicitly denies – or Spencer. And why did AW not blame anyone for it, publicly at least? He recommended Spencer to Castlereagh at the close of the campaign, and was evidently on good personal terms with Ferguson (they travelled home together), and if Browne was to blame, why let him off without a public rebuke? (Possibly because he was one of York’s ADCs and had been sent out by Castlereagh… It is possibly significant that he did not serve again in the Peninsula).

It is impossible to be sure exactly what happened and why, but the combined testimony of AW, Wynyard and Landmann does hang together and suggest that the out-flanking march was mistakenly aborted, and not resumed

Map of Roliça published in contemporary pamphlet by Stockdale, (A Narrative of the Campaign, which preceded the Convention of Cintra…, London, Stockdale, 1809) very closely based on a plan prepared by the QMG’s department in London from a sketch made on the ground by Lieutenant-Colonel Brown[e] which shows that Ferguson’s column (marked C on the map) descended onto the plain in front of the main French position and did not outflank it. A manuscript copy of the QMG’s department map is in the Holworthy Collection CKS-U929 at the Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone.

Roliça: AW’s plans for a second attack

Wellesley had to rearrange his troops for an attack on the second position, and half the morning had been wasted to no effect. He resolved, however, to repeat his original manoeuvre. Trant and the Portuguese once more made a long sweep to the right: Ferguson’s column mounted the foot-hills of the Sierra de Baragueda and commenced a toilsome detour to the left. In the centre two batteries had formed up near a windmill…

Wellesley had not intended to assault the Columbeira heights till the turning movements of Trant and Ferguson should be well developed. But, contrary to his intention, part of his centre pushed forward at once…

Fortescue (vol 6 p 211) and Glover Britannia Sickens p 82 follow this closely, but there is no evidence in any of the sources that AW attempted to repeat the morning’s manoeuvre or, more specifically, that Ferguson’s column was sent back into the hills once it had descended, although certainly it did not come into action until the very end of the battle, and then but slightly.

Napier says much the same as Oman: ‘To dislodge him fresh dispositions were necessary. Trant continuing his march, was to turn his left, Ferguson and Fane united, were directed through the mountains to turn his right’ (vol 1 p 129). Oman disputes in a footnote the linking of Fane and Ferguson, and certainly Fane’s riflemen were heavily engaged and Ferguson’s troops were not but the explanation may be that Ferguson was employed in supporting the light infantry on the British left.

Wynyard’s diary is not absolutely conclusive, but it strongly suggests that there was no attempt to resume the flanking movement, and that Ferguson’s troops were used to support the light infantry:

General Ferguson’s Corps, the Artillery and Cavalry were then ordered up the hill. On our arrival there, the enemy had been driven from the village, and were continuing their retreat, frequently however showing front and evincing the most perfect order and discipline. (From Vimeiro to Corunna. A Eyewitness Account J.R.U.S.I. vol 114 Dec 1969 p 35-36)

AW wrote in his official despatch

The Portuguese infantry were ordered to move up a pass on the right of the whole. The light companies of Major Gen. Hill’s brigade, and the 5th regt., moved up a pass next on the right and the 29th regt., supported by the 9th regt., under Brig. Gen. Nightingall, a third pass and the 45th and 82d regts, passes on the left. These passes were all difficult of access, and some of them were well defended by the enemy, particularly that which was attacked by the 29th and 9th regts. These regiments attacked with the utmost impetuosity, and reached the enemy before those whose attacks were to be made on their flanks.

The defence of the enemy was desperate…

(AW to Castlereagh, Villa Verde, 17 Aug 1808 WD III p 80-83)

But in his confidential letter to Pole he said:

The second [mistake] was that Lake went up the wrong pass he ought to have gone up that on his right he hurried his Men, did not clear the pass of the Enemy by his Light Infantry before he entered with his column & he hurried his attack before the 5th regt. or any of the other troops ascended the other passes to support him.

This I did all I could to prevent…

[AW to William Wellesley-Pole, 19 Aug 1808, Letters to Pole p 4-5]

Napier’s account agrees with this:

the ardour of the 9th and 29th English regiments favoured [Delaborde’s] skilful conduct. It was intended, they should take the right-hand path of two leading up the same hollow, and thus have come in upon Laborde’s flank in conjunction with Trant’s column but the left path led more directly to the enemy, the 29th followed it, the 9th was close behind, and both regiments advanced so vigorously as to reach the plain above before the lateral movements of Trant and Ferguson should shake the credit of the position. [vol 1 p 130 (Bk 2 ch 4)]

And both Thomas Gell and Colonel Leslie are consistent with the idea that Lake attacked up the wrong pass, and with too much eagerness, but not that he brought on the whole battle prematurely.

The Ravine we had to ascend was worse than a forlorn hope [?], for then you can shew some front, but we put [?] advanced in some places only in Rank Entire. It was not at all the intention of Sir Arthur that we should have gone up there. … [small tear from seal: probably ‘I am’] afraid it was thro’ Col Lake’s [bold/rash]ness. He was a most brave soldier, and was beloved by his Men & Officers as much as any Man could be. He is a very severe loss to the Regt. [Thomas Gell to his Brother, [Robert Gell] Vimiero Monday 22nd August 1808 10 o’clock, AM, Gell Papers, Derbyshire Record Office: D 3287/Box 1040/1]

We afterwards understood that it was not intended the 29th should have so soon attacked the strong pass, nor penetrate so far as we did, but were merely in the first instance to have occupied the village of Columbeira, and make a demonstration on the enemy’s centre, whilst General Ferguson on the left, and General Hill on the right, should attack and turn his flanks. By some mistake, however, the order was misunderstood, and our gallant Colonel pushed on. [Military Journal of Colonel Leslie of Balquhain p 44-45].

This is probably the origin of Oman’s idea that Colonel Lake had attacked prematurely, against Wellesley’s wishes, and while the flanking marches were still underway. But as we’ve seen, Ferguson’s march had been cut short, and AW does not make this complaint against Lake.

After Ferguson’s march was aborted, AW saw no alternative but a direct attack on the French position, but he did not intend it to be quite as direct as Lake made it. AW wanted to first clear the gullies with light infantry, and when the moment to press forward came, to push up gullies on the flanks. Lake sent his men up the wrong gully, and too soon, as a result suffering more heavily than was necessary, but also inflicting heavy losses on the French. Although AW believed that it might still have been possible to cut off Delaborde’s retreat, this seems excessively optimistic – Delaborde seems to have been too capable to risk that, witness his skilful withdrawal in the morning. Lake’s over-eagerness was the sort of thing which happened in most battles, though it probably strengthened AW’s inclination to curb his subordinates’ room for displaying initiative.

It may be significant that no one mentions his brigadier – Nightingall – but there is not enough evidence to judge. Everard (History of Thos. Farrington’s Regiment p 281-2) says that Colin Campbell was near Lake when he fell, which prompts thoughts as to whether he had been sent to restrain him or find out what was going on, but again this is no more than speculation.

Battle of Evora, 29 July 1808 - History

Tippecanoe County, on Ind. 225, about 7 miles northeast of Lafayette.

Ownership and Administration. State of Indiana Department of Conservation.

Significance. Although the Battle of Tippecanoe (November 7, 1811) did not destroy the power of Tecumseh or quell the Indian threat in the old Northwest, it strengthened American morale and helped make Harrison a national hero. The battle was followed by increased Indian depredations along the frontier and led the Indians to a closer alliance with the British in the War of 1812. During the war, at the Battle of the Thames (1813), Harrison decisively defeated the Indians and British and left Tecumseh dead on the battlefield.

In the first part of the 19th century, as settlement was spreading westward from the Appalachians, the powerful and resourceful Shawnee Tecumseh began uniting the tribes of the old Northwest. Driven into present Indiana by the advance of white settlement, he and his half-brother, "The Prophet," in 1808 founded a stronghold named Prophet's Town near the mouth of Tippecanoe Creek. From this base Tecumseh attempted to ally Indians in the North and South against the white invaders. While he faced the practical realities of resistance, "The Prophet" preached of visions that foretold the doom of all white men who ventured into Indian lands.

Tippecanoe Battlefield State Memorial, Indiana. At this site in 1811 Gov. William Henry Harrison defeated a party of Indians led by "The Prophet," half-brother of the Shawnee chief Tecumseh. Harrison's success in quelling the Indian threat in the old Northwest helped win him the Presidency.

In the Treaty of Fort Wayne (1809) the Delaware and Potawatomi Indians ceded about 3 million acres of land to the United States for a pittance. The following year Tecumseh traveled to Vincennes to discuss the matter of Indian lands with William Henry Harrison, Governor of Indiana Territory. Tecumseh promised peace if white men made no further advances into Indian lands, but Harrison told him that such advance was inevitable. Harrison, also rebuffing Tecumseh's assertion that land cessions made by one tribe could not be binding on all tribes, warned that the newly acquired lands would be settled by force if the Indians resisted. By autumn the frontier was ablaze. British agents in Canada, aware of the increasing tension between Great Britain and the United States, stepped up their aid to the Indians, though probably not to the degree that the Americans believed. After the failure of a last-minute conference in July 1811 at Vincennes, Tecumseh departed for the South with a warning to Harrison that he would invite Southwestern tribes to join the Indian confederacy.

Harrison immediately initiated a campaign against Tecumseh's base at Tippecanoe Creek. In September he mobilized 900 men, consisting of the Indiana Militia, reinforcements from the 4th U.S. Infantry Regiment, and a few Kentucky volunteers, and marched northward to Terre Haute. There he spent most of October building Fort Harrison to serve as an advance base. Late in the month the march resumed. On the night of November 6 he camped near the Indian base. Shortly before dawn about 600 or 700 Indians, who during the night had been incited by "The Prophet," attacked—but without the leadership of Tecumseh. Harrison beat them off three times and ordered a countercharge. The Indians broke and fled. The next day Harrison marched to the deserted village of Prophet's Town, destroyed it, and then marched back to Fort Harrison and Vincennes.

Although people in the West regarded the Battle of Tippecanoe as a major victory, it was dearly bought and not decisive. One-fourth of Harrison's army was dead or wounded. Harrison disbanded the survivors at Vincennes. The Indians soon rebuilt Prophet's Town and increased their attacks on white settlers. The frontier became as defenseless as before. Nevertheless, Harrison dispatched to the East an exaggerated account of the battle. Its impression on the frontier mind is evidenced by the campaign slogan of about 30 years later, "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too," when Harrison won the Presidency. Because of the Battle of Tippecanoe, Tecumseh and his followers allied themselves with the British the following summer, when the War of 1812 broke out. In the Battle of the Thames (1813), Harrison finally struck a fatal blow to the Indians. With Tecumseh's death in the battle, the Indian threat in the old Northwest subsided.

Medina De Rioseco – The Commanders – Part 1 – General Gregorio García de la Cuesta

Good afternoon, with my refight of the Battle of Medina De Rioseco looming, the purpose of my next few posts is to focus on the key commanders in the battle. This first blog post deals with the Commander of the Spanish Army at the Battle

General Gregorio García de la Cuesta

One of the Peninsular War’s most well known, but polarising Spanish Generals, the Spanish Army at Medina De Rioseco was led by General Cuesta.

Born in La Lastra, Cantabria, to a family of petty nobles, Cuesta entered military service in 1758 as a member of the Spanish Royal Guards Regiment. He saw several successes as a Lieutenant General during the War of the Pyrenees in the years 1793 to 1795.

Following the uprising against the French in 1808, Cuesta was approached, at the age of 68, by the local citizenry and was asked to take command of the forces being raised to take on the French. Cuesta refused, not wishing to take orders from ordinary citizens. However, the hasty construction of a gallows outside his house, and the threat of hanging soon convinced him to change his mind (legend has it Cuesta refused until his head was inside the noose)

Cuesta took control of Spanish forces, and suffered a heavy defeat at the Battle of Cabezon in June 1808ón

You can see the AAR for my refight of the battle on the link below

Credit for this image goes to the re-enactment group “Volunteers of Leon” and their excellent website, which holds even more information on General Cuesta (in Spanish) –

Cuesta remained control of Spanish forces for the Battle at Medina De Rioseco (July 1808) and also led a Spanish Army in early 1809, reclaiming the Badajoz region from the French. In March 1809, his army was heavily defeated at the Battle of Medellin, where he was badly wounded and trampled by Cavalry, continuing to fight the war as a near invalid.

Map showing the initial dispositions at the Battle of Medina De Rioseco.

Cuesta noticeably commanded the Spanish forces at Talavera (July 1809) where his relations with his British and Portuguese allies were strained. Cuesta had an extreme dislike of Arthur Wellesley, and felt he was angling to take command over the Spanish forces, a fact that Cuesta found unacceptable, and he failed to provide promised supplies to his allies on a number of occasions as a result.

My representation of General Cuesta for the Wargame. Cuesta from Stonewall Figures. Aide from QH Miniatures.

In 1810, Cuesta suffered a severe stroke, which left him incapacitated and led to his retirement. He died shortly afterwards in 1811.

Views of Spanish and British Historians

Areilza (1985) stated that at the time of his appointment in 1808, Cuesta was already quite ill, and he walked with a limp, and required lifting onto his horse.

He goes on to describe Cuesta as “Violent Tempered and Headstrong” and that he apparently had “no idea of Military Strategy and Tactics”

Rojo Vega (2000) simply calls him “useless”

Gonzalez De Sasamo (1850) is of the opinion that he showed a “considerable lack of skill” at the Battle of Cabezon, and repeated the same errors at Medina De Rioseco

Stuart (1829) describes Cuesta as “lacking in talent” but calls him “brave and just, and above all a man of his word”

Napier (1832 / 1840) criticises Cuesta for “improvisation” which he states is “so typical of the Spaniards” and was highly critical of his initial dispositions in the battle.

General Cuesta and Aides. All figures from Stonewall Figures apart from the Aide on foot with the map who is from QH Miniatures

You can see part two by following the link below

Albi de la Cuesta. “Guerra de la Península y de la Independencia: Dos Guerras Distintas.” Researching & Dragora 17 (2002).
Areilza, J. M. “El nombre de Wellington.”

Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) was a Mexican War hero, U.S. senator from Mississippi, U.S. secretary of war and president of the Confederate States of America for the duration of the American Civil War (1861-1865). Prior to the start of the war, Davis had argued against secession, but when Mississippi seceded he resigned from the U.S. Senate. In February 1861 he was elected president of the Confederacy. Davis faced difficulties throughout the war as he struggled to manage the Southern war effort, maintain control the Confederate economy and keep a new nation united. Davis’ often contentious personality led to conflicts with other politicians as well as his own military officers. In May 1865, several weeks after the Confederate surrender, Davis was captured, imprisoned and charged with treason, but never tried.

Davis had an impressive political career before he became president of the Confederacy, but he was appointed, not elected, to many of the offices he held in his antebellum career. His limited experience with electoral politics was a handicap to his presidency, and, perhaps more important, he lacked the personal qualities that made Abraham Lincoln a successful president.

Did you know? An 18-year-old Jefferson Davis was placed under house arrest while at West Point for his role in the 1826 Eggnog Riot, which started after cadets were caught smuggling whiskey into their barracks.

Raised on the Mississippi frontier, Davis’s life was shaped by his brother Joseph, who was twenty-four years his senior. Joseph Davis made a fortune as a lawyer and planter, and he played a paternal role in Jefferson’s life for many years. After Jefferson graduated from West Point and served in the army, Joseph gave him a plantation and the slaves to farm it. In the 1840s, Joseph managed the plantation so that Jefferson could go into politics.

Jefferson Davis became a staunch states’ rights Democrat and champion of the unrestricted expansion of slavery into the territories. He was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1845-his only successful electoral campaign-and then was appointed to the Senate after he became a hero while serving in the army during the Mexican War. In the Senate he opposed the Compromise of 1850, particularly the admission of California as a free state. In 1851 he resigned from the Senate to run unsuccessfully for the Mississippi governorship. In 1853, President Franklin Pierce appointed Davis secretary of war. Davis served ably in this office and in 1857 reentered the Senate, where he continued to advocate the spread of slavery into the territories. During the secession crisis, he resigned from the Senate and in 1861 was chosen by acclamation to be the Confederate president.

Davis worked very hard at his presidential duties, concentrating on military strategy but neglecting domestic politics, which hurt him in the long run. He could not manage congressional opposition as successfully as Lincoln, nor could he inspire the southern public as Lincoln did his public in the North. Davis was also a poor judge of people, unlike Lincoln. The Confederate president protected incompetents, such as Braxton Bragg, and he did not make use of talented men he disliked, such as Joseph E. Johnston. In April 1865 the Union armies finally surrounded Richmond, and Davis and his family fled the city for the Deep South, only to be captured in Georgia in May.

Davis’s life after the war was bleak. Charged with treason, he went to prison in Fort Monroe, Virginia, where he remained for two years. In prison his physical and emotional health deteriorated, and he was never the same after he was released in May 1867. He and his family traveled abroad for two years. When he returned to America, he had trouble making a living. He worked for an insurance company in Memphis, but the company went bankrupt, and when he published a history of the Confederacy, it did not sell well. He lived off the charity of friends and relatives until his death in New Orleans in 1889. He refused to take the oath of allegiance to regain his citizenship, which was restored only posthumously by the U.S. Congress in 1978.

The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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Wayne County Wooster March 1, 1808 From non-county area
Williams County Bryan April 1, 1820 Darke County
Wood County Bowling Green April 1, 1820 Refactored from non-county territory
Wyandot County Upper Sandusky February 3, 1845 Marion, Crawford, and Hardin Counties

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The Location of the Battle Was Significant, Though Accidental

Against the advice of his superiors, including the president of the C.S.A., Jefferson Davis (1808–1889), Robert E. Lee chose to invade the North in the early summer of 1863. After scoring some victories against the Union’s Army of the Potomac that spring, Lee felt he had a chance to open a new phase in the war.

Lee’s forces began marching in Virginia on June 3, 1863, and by late June elements of the Army of Northern Virginia were scattered, in various concentrations, across southern Pennsylvania. The towns of Carlisle and York in Pennsylvania received visits from Confederate soldiers, and northern newspapers were filled with confused stories of raids for horses, clothing, shoes, and food.

At the end of June the Confederates received reports that the Union's Army of the Potomac was on the march to intercept them. Lee ordered his troops to concentrate in the region near Cashtown and Gettysburg.

The little town of Gettysburg possessed no military significance. But a number of roads converged there. On the map, the town resembled the hub of a wheel. On June 30, 1863, advance cavalry elements of the Union Army began arriving at Gettysburg, and 7,000 Confederates were sent to investigate.

The following day the battle began in a place neither Lee nor his Union counterpart, General George Meade (1815–1872), would have chosen on purpose. It was almost as if the roads just happened to bring their armies to that point on the map.

Watch the video: Refight of the battle of Evora part 1