DIARY OF MAJOR GENERAL JOHN RANDOLL MACKENZIE OF SUDDIE.
Embarked at Falmouth in the fleet carrying the army under the command of Sir David Baird. The army was then brigaded as follows:
Lieutenant General Sir David Baird† commanding :-
Royals [1st Foot] 3rd Battalion, 14 th, 23rd, 26th, 31st, 81st – Major General Manningham†
[1st] Guards 1st Battalion and 3rd Battalion – Major General Warde†
51st, 59th 1st Battalion, 76th – Major General Mackenzie
43rd, 95th 8 companies, 60th 2nd Battalion† – Brigadier General Crawfurd†
Besides 6 brigades of artillery and 4 troops of the waggon train.
Sir David Baird embarked on board of the Loire frigate†, Captain Schomberg †, our commodore, and Generals Massingham and Warde on board the Amelia†, Honourable Captain Irby†, and General Crawfurd and myself on board the Champion of 24 guns†, Captain Coutts Crawford†. These three ships formed our convoy†.
The Champion being ordered to see the whole convoy under weigh and out of the harbour we were not able to stand to sea till late in the evening. Nothing material occurred during our passage to Corunna which took up the 10th, 11th, and 12th, and on the forenoon of the 13th we anchored in Corunna harbour. The first days of the passage there was a very heavy sea, and the wind rather scant, but the swell abated on the 2nd day and the wind became favourable terminating at last almost astern of our course. Upon the whole there was never so large a fleet, about 150 sail, conducted to so great a distance in so short a time without a single accident. On our passage we met the Resistance, Captain Adams†, having under convoy a part of Junot’s army from Lisbon for [La] Rochelle. On our arrival at Corunna we found the Honourable Rear Admiral de Courcy in the Tonnant of 80 guns†. Sir David Baird landed immediately with him and waited on the Junta, when to our surprise we were informed the army could not be landed until an answer was received from the Supreme Junta of government at Madrid. The reason assigned was, that the powers of the provincial Juntas had ceased, except as a subordinate body. Even on the supposition that the establishment of a Supreme Junta would deprive the Inferior Juntas of much of the power they formerly exercised, yet at this moment the supreme Junta had not actually assumed the government. It was therefore evident to us that there existed no great inclination for our reception. This must appear an extraordinary proceeding towards an army come for the express purpose of rendering them assistance and, as we had always understood, at their earnest request. About seven days past before we could receive any return from Madrid, we had some time to form some Idea of the views of the Junta of Corunna. There seemed great jealousy of our being cantoned in Galicia and more particularly of our getting into Ferrol with any part of our force. When at last the orders of the Supreme Junta arrived to permit us to land (a strange expression) the anxiety expressed for our being pushed forward with the greatest expedition into Castile was seized upon by the Corunna Junta with avidity and they pressed our moving on without any equipment at all or any preparation for feeding our men or horses. This Sir David Baird could not consistently with his orders or his duty comply with, and it was at last agreed on to land the army by corps and push them on as fast as possible to Lugo and St Jago [Santiago] de Compostella, at which places they might be expected as well as at Corunna to procure the necessary equipment. The army had by this time been weakened by detaching two battalions, the 3rd Battalion 27th and the 2nd of the 31st to Portugal and after two changes the brigades stood as follows:-
Royals 3rd Battalion, 26th, 81st 2nd Battalion Major General Massingham
1st Guards, 1st Battalion and 3rd Battalion Major General Warde
51st, 59th 2nd Battalion, 76th, 60th 2nd Battalion Major General Mackenzie.
14th, 23rd, 43rd ,95th 8 Companies, Brigadier General Crawfurd.
It was at this time I learnt my appointment to the Staff of Portugal. [A] circumstance which distressed me beyond description and for which I was altogether unprepared by any former hint or communication. In this situation, Sir David Baird thought it right to keep me in command of my present brigade until we should meet with Sir John Moore’s army now upon its march from Portugal with which we were to form a Junction somewhere in Leon or Castile. Sir David Baird was the more inclined to keep me in this manner as there appeared some chance that I may not be the person intended for the Staff of Portugal there being already two of my name on the Staff in the Mediterranean.
On the 24th October the army commenced its debarkation by the 43rd and 95th of General Crawfurd’s Brigade and then the Guards, to go on different routes for Lugo and St Jago. The order of March was as follows:-
For Lugo The 43rd, 95th,14th, 23rd; Brigadier General Crawfurd.
The Royals, 26th and 81st, Major General Massingham.
For St Jago The Guards, Major General Warde
The 51st, 59th and 76th, Major General Mackenzie
The 60th being intended to be left at Corunna.
On the 3rd November I left Corunna for St Jago having previously seen the 51st and 59th on different days as far as Carral, the 1st stage to St Jago. The 2nd stage is Ordenes, both miserable villages particularly the last. It was intended that the division of the army which was ordered for St Jago should proceed by the Orense road to Astorga but a reconnaissance of that road produced so unfavourable a report that it was determined the junction should be made by a cross road at Lugo, and the 76th Regiment was stopt [sic] altogether from proceeding to Lugo and was directed to follow the other column on the great road for Lugo. The road from Corunna to St Jago is excellent.
The difficulties attending the movements of an army in this country can scarcely be conceived by any officer accustomed to the operations of war in most other countries, and these difficulties were considerably increased by our being in a friendly country where we were obliged to be extremely cautious of giving the least offence or laying hands on anything however essentially wanted without the previous consent of the different departments of their police, which is complicated and slow in its operation to a degree the most distressing and tending to cramp every attempt at a quick movement such as we had always been accustomed to.
The three days march to St Jago were consequently attended with more absolute distress to the men both as to want of provisions and accommodation than would be credited in any other country, and what rendered this the more provoking was, that arrangement only was wanting, the district being capable of easily supplying a much larger force. If we had been permitted to supply ourselves by means of a commissariat, our difficulties would have very soon vanished. In that case all we wanted from the Junta was their recommendation or commands to the different magistrates. The detail would have been easily managed. But this would not satisfy the Junta. With great appearance of eagerness they insisted on supplying us with everything, proposing to settle the prices and payments afterwards with the British government. This appeared so fair and their promises were made with such confidence it was impossible to resist the offer. But when we came to the trial, their contractors failed in every instance and threw up their engagements. Against such a failure we had no redress and a scene now was discovered not at all to the honour of the Spanish character. When we first arrived at Corunna there were many mercantile people in the town and its vicinity who had a view to supply of the army with the different articles it might want and were making their arrangements. The Junta of Finance, a body inferior to and under the orders of the Junta of government, wishing to establish a monopoly in their own favour, proposed to the Junta of government the plan of supplying our army in the manner I have above stated, with a view of throwing all competition out of the market. The consequences in the first instance answered their expectation. Private adventurers withdrew. The Junta of Finance by their own agents affected to proceed to execute the promises for our supply, but (under the expectation of raising the prices and of course making an infamous job) when it came to the moment of execution these agents flew off, asserting the prices were too low and must be advanced. A private communication made to me by a respectable merchant of the whole proceeding of this nefarious transaction, had however the effect of bursting the bubble and in the end the Finance Junta did not reap the advantage they expected. Sir David Baird being now aware of the whole cheat, took the best steps in his power – remonstrated with the Junta and proceeded at last (as we ought to have done at first had we been permitted) to supply ourselves through our commissariat.
I do not believe the Junta of government had any share in this Job, but that they were the dupes as well as ourselves of the Finance Committee. But the effect of this proceeding as well as our detention in our transports was the loss of three weeks of the most precious time when the rainy season was about to set in and would most likely retard our operations and render our movements not only difficult but injurious to the health of our men.
To drop this unpleasant subject. We found the people at Corunna and everywhere else very kind and civil and though it does not appear to be the characteristic of the Spaniards to be lavish in their expressions of joy, yet they were evidently glad to see us and expressed on all occasions much anger at the cold reception we received from the Junta. It would not be fair to form an estimate of the Spanish character from the inhabitants of Corunna, but even then it would not be unfavourable. They seem an honest honourable race – much behind in the arts of civilised life and to our ideas filthy in their houses and mode of living. Their customs and manners, so different from any, will require some time to study and examine.
Before I left Corunna, the Marquis Romana† arrived in the Semiramis frigate†, with Mr Frere of Suiti† as British Ambassador to the Supreme Junta of Madrid, with a million of dollars for their use. They were received with every mark of attention and from the people with every demonstration of affection and joy.
The town of Corunna is situated on a peninsula which joins a pretty large headland to the continent. It is built from sea to sea. The bay formed on the west side is open to the ocean and has generally a tremendous surf. But the bay to the east is completely landlocked and will contain in perfect safety between two and three hundred vessels. In the middle of the entrance is a rock which has been fortified and is much neglected. If properly repaired, the entrance is completely commanded by it. There are several other batteries on the shore all round, but completely neglected. On the headland above mentioned is the Tour de Fer, a light house most completely planned but not quite finished. There are high grounds near it which command the town. Unless they are occupied, Corunna cannot be defended.
The trade of this place may and must recover by a connection with England, but by its long estrangement from us it has at present little or no commerce. It is said to contain (including the contiguous village of St Lucia) about 25,000 inhabitants – certainly above double the number that would be contained in an English town covering the same extent of ground.
During my residence at Corunna I was accommodated in lodgings at the house of Mr Barrie, a Frenchman by birth, who is married to a woman I at first understood to be a Spaniard but I have since heard to be an Italian. Be this as it may, he has so long resided in Corunna as to be in effect a Spaniard and my being placed in his house was pleasant as I could not only make myself understood in French but I found he understood English also.
At the commencement of the glorious endeavour in Spain to throw off the French yoke, Mr Barrie’s being a Frenchman by birth occasioned his being thrown into prison, though there was no other reason whatever to suspect his attachment to the Spanish cause, and I understood he owed his liberty to the humane intercession of General Brodrick†, Colonel Kennedy† and some of the English gentlemen who came to Corunna on diplomatic and military missions.
On my arrival at St Jago I found Major General Warde settled in very comfortable quarters. The 1st Battalion of the Guards in the barracks near the town, the 2nd Battalion in the Convent of San Domingo, and the 2nd Battalion 59th divided between two convents of Franciscans. Of all these the 1st Battalion of the Guards were the worst lodged, the barracks being indifferent and the situation disagreeable. Nothing could be better than the accommodation in the convents. I found myself fixed as a lodger with the old Count de Taborada, a most respectable nobleman of above 80 years of age but healthy and stout. He has the appearance of great strength and I understand has been an active and vigorous young man, of several sons only one was at home who speaks French fluently. Of his other sons, one is with the army, a colonel under Blake †, and another is married and settled at Lima in South America where his uncle, the old count’s brother, was formerly viceroy. The count’s only unmarried daughter is now of a certain age but has had resolution to avoid a nunnery, the general receptacle of most women of her rank who are not married in due time. She was the only female resident in the family besides a niece who lives in it during the absence of her father with the army; but there were generally three or four present at dinner, and in the evening there was always a party of relations and friends generally consisting of the same persons with now and then occasional visitors, this being the accustomed mode of living in this part of Spain where the habit of visiting between families, at least among the higher classes, is scarcely ever known. This custom has undoubtedly the pride of family for its origin and it agrees well with the indolence and state of the Spanish character. To a stranger, it is more inconvenient in appearance than in fact, for as when you are introduced to the different families they are always glad to see you, it is easy to visit as many of them and as often as you please; your company instead of being an intrusion is always received as a favour.
The kindness of this family who insisted that I, my aide de camp and brigade major, should accept the hospitalities of their table while we remained at St Jago, made me soon forget the disappointment I felt at first at not having been placed in a house where I could have been my own master and lived in my own way. For I was much disinclined to the idea of living in the Spanish fashion altogether, a circumstance however in which I found myself much mistaken. The count’s table was not only plentiful, but a great part of it much to my taste and there was a degree of kindness and good humour throughout in the conduct of it that soon set us all at our ease. The usual dinner hour was one o’clock which was changed to 4 o’clock to suit my convenience without even a hint on the subject. A great number of our officers of all ranks were accommodated in this manner in the houses of the inhabitants of the first rank, who seemed to vie with each other in their attentions to them. Among the female relations of the family, a widow, Madame Rita, seemed pleased with the attentions of Major McGregor of the 59th Regiment† who was recommended to the count by a friend at Corunna. The major could talk a little Spanish and Madame Rita’s conversation gave him opportunities of improving; there was also a very pretty niece of the count’s, mother of five children, who did not appear to be above 19. She was married to a little man, not much different in face or figure from a monkey, and one not of the most agreeable physiognomy. The custom of calling each other by the christian name was to us at first a little strange and is certainly a ridiculous custom; but we got into it by degrees in spite of the smothered laugh it originally occasioned.
We had great difficulty in procuring forage for our horses, etc. although the number we brought was very limited indeed. On the 5th of November orders arrived for moving the Guards in 4 divisions for Lugo on succeeding days commencing on the 7th. General Warde and myself found no small difficulty in enabling them to move in so short a notice, on so bad a road and so destitute of the means of supply and conveyance. It was however at last arranged in the best manner we could – fortunately the roads, bad as they were, were just passable for the country carts. These carts are drawn by oxen and are of the most clumsy figure and workmanship that can be well conceived and scarcely travel above 2 miles an hour.
The Guards (1st Division)† accordingly marched on the 7th and General Warde proceeded with them. The route to Lugo being (in 4 days) by San Grigorio, Sobrado, Friol, to Lugo. The distance is about 15 leagues, or above 60 English miles.
The 2nd division of the Guards moved on, and the route arrived for the march of the 51st and 59th Regiments of my brigade on the same road, on the 12th and 13th. Every preparation is accordingly making. After every exertion the purchase of mules for our equipment goes on but slowly.
The 3rd division of the Guards, marched, on rather a better day than the former two who were deluged with rain. On this day I paid my respects to the archbishop and was requested by him to be present at the ceremony of swearing the Junta of St. Jago (of which he is the head) to its allegiance to the Supreme Junta of Madrid, acting for Fernando 7th†. This ceremony I accordingly witnessed, which was sufficiently solemn without any useless forms.
I rode this day in different directions about this city, which is very compact and seems closely inhabited. It contains several fine churches, convents and hospitals of good architecture. The church of St Martin’s is magnificent and though not quite so large as that of St Jago appears to me of a more elegant structure. Both are however superb buildings and have chasteness surpassed by nothing I have ever seen in the gothic taste. There is a hospital in this town for a certain disorder so famous throughout Spain that patients flock to it from all quarters. The consequence is that there are more horrible objects from the cruel effects of that dreadful disease than probably in any other part of the world. At night there was a musical serenade sent to me at the Count Taboadas by the archbishop consisting of the best musicians of the cathedrals of the town. There were a number of fireworks let off on the tops of the houses opposite. All this was in consequence of my presence at the ceremony of swearing the Junta in the morning. Upwards of 5 or 6 thousand people collected in the streets shouting the most loyal expressions of attachment to Fernando, of respect for the King of Britain and praying for an eternal continuation of the connexion between the countries.
Went today to visit the university and more particularly the library, a most beautiful room, admirably calculated for its purpose, but filled with books not the most useful in all languages consisting principally of the works of the fathers of the different proceedings of the councils of the church and other theological works. The building is a very simple elegant structure. Young Count Taboada informs me that the population of St Jago is from 30 to 40 thousand and this is not remarkable if we consider it in proportion to that of Corunna, otherwise I would think it exaggerated.
Dined this day with the archbishop. We had a most magnificent and sumptuous repast, in the Spanish manner, but much better dressed and more elegantly disposed than anything I have yet seen in Spain. The entertainments given by the Junta at Corunna were left far behind. The dishes were extremely good and agreeable to an English palate, without being overloaded with oil or garlic. Above an hundred persons sat down to dinner, among whom there were above 30 British officers, in whose honour the dinner was given. There were 4 complete courses, with a great many more entremets than I could count and we continued at table above 4 hours, everything being produced that could please or provoke the appetite. We had above 20 different kinds of Spanish wine, but the sherry pleased me best though there were several others very pleasant, both white and red. Punch was made in a delicious stile superior to anything I had ever seen, fined with eggs and iced. There was much of patriotic conversation and many toasts favourable to growing connexion between Spain and England A sister of the archbishop, who lives with him, was loud in her praises of the English and in expressing her horror of the atrocities of the French, of which she was an eyewitness at Madrid on the memorable 2nd of May. This lady has taken a great antipathy against General Blake; she inveighed bitterly against him but I could not understand the grounds of her abuse, or indeed that she had any grounds at all. After all, the archbishop’s principles are suspected, it is certain he owes his preferment to the Prince of Peace and was Father Confessor to the Queen of Charles the 4th †. Be this as it may, he professes cordial attachment to Fernando and his cause. He is a man of pleasant appearance and his address very much that of a man of the world.
Nothing extraordinary occurred today. The 51st Regiment marched for Lugo. My baggage went on with it, my intention being to follow it tomorrow. Rode this day on the Orense road, which is in most shocking order. It has formerly been made with large stones of different sizes and seems to have been for years quite neglected and is of course worse than if it had never been paved at all – equally bad and unsafe for horses or carriages. This ride cost me a set of shoes for my horse. From a hill on the left of the road I had a very good view of the town which is surrounded by hills on all sides, of different dimensions. The place itself is totally incapable of defence, but an army might take post on the hills and prevent the approach of the enemy from any direction. But the defending army must be very strong and would have the disadvantage of being much subdivided so that a single failure might expose the whole to destruction from a superior enemy. My observation relative to the Orense road only applies to the distance of a few leagues, but I heard that the continuation is almost as bad.
The kindness and hospitality we met with in the family of Count Taboada has been unaffected and constant. It is generally supposed that the heart of the soldier is steeled (from the frequent changes of situation his wandering life exposes him to, and the other vicissitudes of his profession) to those sensations of regret which are the natural consequence, among others, of parting from friends however suddenly acquired. I do not believe the observation is without foundation, but like most others of the same kind, is apt to be considered in the extreme. I can only say that I part from this family with very sincere regret and shall not easily forget the attentions which made my time pass so pleasantly in this place.
The Spanish character begins daily to open upon us and appears more and more to advantage. It assimilates very much to the English if we make allowances for the small degree of commerce they have with the world:- the consequent confinement in their stock of knowledge- their great backwardness in the arts and comforts of life, and the bars thrown in the way of their emancipation from ignorance by the clergy. These circumstances abundantly account for the filth and want of neatness in their domestic habits. The dress of this part of Spain is in no respect what I have been taught to expect from the costume used on our stage to represent that of the Spaniards. The men in general dress in a loose coat nearly as large as a great coat. In other respects they seem to follow the English and commonly wear boots -indeed very little attention seems to be paid either by ladies or gentlemen to their dress. That of the ladies seems not far distant from the English but they do not change their fashions so often.
Took leave of my worthy and estimable friends the Taboada family, and proceeded through a hilly country but little cultivated, though capable of much improvement, to San Giorgio, a miserable village, the first stage to Lugo. Proceeded to the second stage, the Convent of Sobrado, where I found the 51st Regiment in comfortable quarters and was hospitably entertained by the monks. This is a very large convent, consisting of three squares, one of which is not quite finished. The oldest part of the convent was begun early in the 9th Century so that it is near a thousand years old. The church is a beautiful piece of architecture, surpassing anything I had seen even at St Jago. Some idea may be found of the immense size of this convent when it is stated that 4,000 infantry might be lodged in it without inconvenience to its present inhabitants. The 59th Regiment which follows the 51st are to take their quarters here tomorrow night.
This day I went to the next stage only. Friol and Santal [Santa Marta?], contained the whole of the 51st. I went on to the latter place about half a league beyond Friol where my quarters were allotted at the house of Escrirando, or notary public. But strange to tell, when I asked for pen, ink and paper to write a note on some public business, the house could not produce one of these ingredients for a letter. It must not be supposed from hence that the Gallicians having nothing litigious in their disposition furnish no employment for the retainers of the law. On the contrary, they are much inclined to quibble and quirk as in most other countries, but as they have no money to expend in law papers, their disputes and processes are carried on almost entirely Viva Voce and in tones sufficiently loud to crack the nerves of a common ear. With the appearance of stupidity, few people have more mother wit, and if one may judge from appearances, there is little chance of carrying a point with a low Galigo but by the Argumentum Bacculinum [fear of force]. They are crafty though apparently heavy and I am informed it is very difficult to procure honest servants in Gallicia, although they are noted to a proverb, when out of their own country, for honesty and attachment, and it is computed that there are at least 40,000 Galigo’s in other different parts of Spain and in Portugal in the character, generally, of confidential servants. This is a curious circumstance and might give much room for speculation on the effects of habit and situation on human nature.
Arrived at Lugo, a pretty large town, not much different in appearance and character from the other two of Corunna and St Jago. The conveniences of life seem rather better understood, but not much more cleanliness. The approach to the town from Friol over the River Minho is beautiful. The country is fertile and well cultivated. Sir David Baird arrived this night at Lugo on his way to Astorga.
This morning arrived a letter for me from Sir Harry Burrard† commanding in Portugal, containing the disagreeable and unwelcome intelligence to me, that there was no mistake but that I am undoubtedly the person appointed to the Staff of that kingdom, and peremptorily ordering me immediately to Lisbon to assume the command of the troops in Portugal as he was ordered immediately home. It may be more easily conceived than expressed how much this order has mortified and disappointed me. I have however no alternative but to obey, and that in the most expeditious Manner. After consulting with Sir David Baird and Colonel Bathurst I have therefore determined to set off immediately for Corunna to endeavour to procure a sea passage from Admiral de Courcy in some armed ship, or if that should fail, to proceed by land. I set out accordingly at 4 o’clock p.m. after waiting more than two hours for the post horses. Leaving Mr Stewart, my aide de camp, to follow with my baggage. Captain Roberts, my Brigade Major, remains attached to the brigade, to which Colonel Cheney of the Guards is appointed. Slept this night at Guttarity [Guitiriz], the second stage towards Corunna. This is the first Spanish inn I have been under the necessity of putting up at for a night. I am told it is one of the best; but though a well built house, nothing can to an Englishman but experience convey an idea of its inconveniences, filth, or the boorish habits of the host and his servants. With difficulty I procured a few eggs in the village, and from some officers of our 7th light dragoons who were on their march, quartered here for the night, I got a little cold meat. Bread and bad wine was all the house afforded, but my bedroom and bed were not quite so bad as I expected.
Proceeded for and arrived at Corunna about 7 o’clock in the evening, after posting on miserable horses the whole day; having made about 10 Spanish leagues or about 40 English miles in 11 hours. Immediately after taking a little refreshment with my worthy old host, Mr Barrie, I went on board Admiral de Courcy’s flag ship, the Tonnant, when I had the mortification to find there was not a single ship of war in the harbour, except one appointed absolutely a convoy for England with the returning transports. He however informed me, he expected 3 cruisers in immediately, and promised to call on me next day on shore. Came then on shore and slept at Mr Barrie’s who insisted on my living with him during my stay. I had met a family occupying two coaches on the road who I found afterwards to be Lord and Lady Holland† on their way for Madrid.
Saw Admiral de Courcy today and had a conversation with him on the subject of my journey to Lisbon, which must be very tedious and uncertain by land at this season. He expects every hour three different ships of war (one of which my old friend Captain Crawford of the Champion) and advises my waiting till Monday or Tuesday, the 21st or 22nd, when he thinks it almost certain some of the cruisers expected must appear. The great saving of time if this should happen; added to the impossibility of my getting away till late tomorrow or Sunday morning at any rate has induced me to follow his advice, and in the meantime I am preparing to start by land if the sea conveyance fails.
Waited on the Junta of Corunna to take my leave. News arrived today of General Brodrick, left in charge of the depot at Corunna of the defeat of Blake’s army, the particulars not given, nor are they known to the Junta or any person here. The account, however, comes with such authenticity, from the Grand army, and communicated by one of Sir D. Baird’s confidential Staff. If the French advance rapidly, according to their usual plan, it is difficult to say whether Sir D. Baird will be able to join Sir John Moore at Salamanca, for the French may interpose between that place and Astorga where Sir David’s force is assembling.
No further accounts from the armies today, and no ship has yet appeared to carry me to Lisbon. Wrote to Sir H. Burrard the day before yesterday, by the Lisbon post through Madrid and sent a duplicate by the post for Lisbon by Oporto which went out this day. Wrote yesterday also publickly and privately to Colonel Gordon†, requesting H.R.H. to send a senior officer to supersede me in the command in Portugal (to which I do not consider myself equal) and permit me to join my brigade in Sir John Moore’s Army.
Having determined to go with my own horses as fast and as far as they can carry me (no ship of war having yet appeared) and as they did not arrive last night according to my expectation, I am necessarily detained till tomorrow morning.
The particulars of Blake’s disasters are received today from the same source by General Broderick. They are as bad as possible and place both Sir D. Baird and Sir John Moore in a critical situation.
Left Corunna this morning at 8 o’clock and arrived at St Jago at 8 at night. Saw my worthy friends of the Taboada family but could not make them miserable by telling them the fatal news of Blake’s defeat which they know scarcely anything of.
Arrived this night at Pontevedra, at the head of that bay of the sea in which Vigo harbour is formed. The valley from St Jago to this place is rich and cultivated, in some places very broad, in one or two others narrowing and forming strong passes. Many beautifully romantic situations with several small streams -cross the small river Ulla at El Padron [Padron]. Just after passing Caldus de Reis [Caldas de Reyes], 3 leagues short of Pontevedra, are some romantic hills, covered with large stones as if they had been raised from the heavens. Pontevedra is a pretty large place – seems to have been formerly fortified and a place of some note.
Proceeding from Pontevedra, the vineyards are very thickly planted, and there appear a much greater number for some distance than in any previous part of the road from Corunna. The only gentleman’s seat I have yet seen from the road in Spain was close to Pontevedra; I regret I had not time to pay it a visit, to see something of the internal economy, for I believe I should have been welcome as an Englishman. From the outward appearance I judge that the same filthy custom prevails in the country as in the town houses, of devoting the ground floor to stables, and often offices connected with them. The Spaniards affect to despise the ground floor and have all their suites of best apartments on the first and second floors. But the consequence of this arrangement is, that all kinds of insects are bred in the filth below, which (particularly in the warmer season) become a nuisance scarcely to be borne, filling the whole upper apartments in a manner that even the active cleanliness of an English family could not prevent. Much less is it likely to be overcome by the supine apathy of the Spaniard.
Passed St Paio, a miserable village about a league and a half from Pontevedra where the Vigo river falls into another branch of the same bay. Stopt to breakfast at Redondela, about a league and a half from St Paio, a pretty large place and well situated, but the most miserable inn I have yet stopped at. The road all the way from Corunna to this place is excellent, with very little exception. From Redondela it is very bad for near two leagues and passes over a very high hill, both the ascent and descent very steep and rugged. The road to Vigo turns off at Redondela. As one proceeds for Tuy the large stones scattered over some of the hills are still more extraordinary than those I saw yesterday. Surely this must have been the scene of some of the combats of Typhon, Briarius and the other giants with Jove. For the force of man could not disjoin such extraordinary, misshapen pieces of rock. Arrived at Tuy the last town in Spain, fortified and situated on a hill which you descend to the River Minho, which here forms the boundary with Portugal. Crossed to the opposite side into Portugal and arrived at Valentia do Minho [Valenca], also fortified and situated on a hill – not a mile from Tuy. Both seeming to frown with majestic indignation at each other.
Thus I have left Spain for the present with many mixed sentiments- mostly of regret at quitting a situation I so much desired for one which I enter upon with much diffidence, to which I do not consider myself at all adapted. In a time of such difficulty and danger, to be placed as the responsible commander of a force so great in a foreign country, would be of itself more than equal to the abilities I possess. But to that is added the delicate conduct necessary to be observed to the Portuguese, who are dissatisfied with us, for reasons of which at present I know but little. My total ignorance of the manners, language and customs of these people and also of the intrigues of the different parties in the country, of which I understand no country has a greater share. All these circumstances I confess make me enter into this territory with much of unpleasant feeling and a persuasion that I now take my leave of the comforts of my pillow as long as this command lasts.
Left Valentia for Barcelos, stopt at Ponte do Lima, half way, a very hilly and bad stage. Ponte do Lima is a very pretty town on the Lima River. Arrived late at Barcelos, which seemed to be a town of some consequence. But my guide carried me to a wretched inn, without the walls, and on the opposite side of the river which runs past it.
Proceed for Oporto. The country now improves very much and from the enclosures and quantity of wood takes much of an English summer appearance. Arrived at Oporto about 4 o’clock p.m. This is without doubt the handsomest and most commodiously built city I have seen out of England. It has a singularly clean appearance and probably owes much of this to its long connexion with England. It is situated on a hill rising suddenly from the Douro. The town is completely commanded by another hill on the opposite side of the river near where the Villa Nuova is built, a poor dirty place. I found Sir Robert Wilson† here as also Lieutenant Colonel Guard of the 45th Regiment† having his own regiment, the 22nd and 97th Regiments under his command.
Remained this day at Oporto in order to pay my respects to the bishop, the truest friend of the interests of his prince and his country in Portugal. I was highly satisfied with our interview. In consequence of the present crisis, I have ordered the 82nd and 97th Regiments to march as soon as they can be moved with convenience on Lamego for Almeida. The bishop engages that all the Portuguese troops in the northern provinces shall move to the frontier. Looked at a great deal of wood all the way I have come from Corunna; principally oak, chestnut and a few pines almost the same as a Scotch fir in Spain. The same kinds continue still through Portugal but the quantity of chestnuts decrease while the woods of natural pines increase. There are also a great many cork trees after you enter Portugal, very few before. From Oporto to Coimbra the bishop had given notice of my coming so that we found something ready for our different meals wherever we halted. Coimbra is a large place which I regretted I had not time to look at more minutely – it is famous for its university.
Breakfasted at Condeixa [a-velha]. The two first leagues have been paved and neglected but still it is better than the horrible road we passed from Oporto to Coimbra. We now enter on a very good road, which a little attention would render almost equal to an English turnpike. It continued so with little exception until we came to Pombal where we dined, and afterwards to Leyria [Leiria] where we slept. This is a pretty large city and has a bishop.
Breakfasted at Carvalhos, a most superb house for an inn, but ill kept. There is no other house near it, if we except a convent and a church. Dined at Rio Maior, a miserable place, and slept at Alcoentre, a poor village with an indifferent inn. The road still good. Most of the country from Coimbra is but thinly populated and ill cultivated. Great extent of barren hills on all sides, which do not abound either in horned cattle or sheep. There are a few goats and a great many pigs
After passing Alcoentre the country improved. Breakfasted at Castanheira [do Ribatejo]. The cultivation now becomes much more expensive and the country rich. My mules were completely knocked up when I arrived at Villa Franca [de Xira] where we got fresh means of conveyance, and I was now mounted on a bad horse which was nevertheless a great relief to me, being completely tired of the mule pace. Passed through Alhandra and several smaller places – crossed the Sacavem River, at the place of the same name, about a league and a half from Lisbon. Found here a dragoon to lead me to my quarters, where I found Brigadier General Stuart who waited dinner for me and sat down to an excellent repast, to which I have been for some time unaccustomed.
Having by an unfortunate mistake burnt my memorandum made generally from day to day since my arrival in Lisbon to the 11th of January, 1809, I am under the necessity of endeavouring to supply this deficiency by occasional notes and recollections, which must of course be very defective, and indeed the more so that circumstances once committed to writing are not apt to leave so strong an impression on the memory as when that faculty is entirely trusted to. This mistake of my lucubrations for waste paper may be considered no mistake at all, and probably they deserved no better fate, but they were valuable to me for one reason and the accident has suggested to me the necessity of entering my detached notes in a book, no small labour now, but which I undertake in the hope they may one day afford some amusement to the only person I am solicitous to please.
On my arrival in Lisbon in the evening of the 2nd December, I sent an immediate message to the Secretary to the Regency for the Home Department to announce my arrival and my anxious desire to pay my respects as soon as they thought proper to receive me. Next day, the 3rd, was accordingly appointed and I was introduced in due form by General Stuart†. No business is ever done on these State occasions and indeed very seldom at any time by the Regency as a body. The ministers act in their several departments and report to the Regency for their approbation, the result of which was that from his own confession they had nothing that could be called an army. The whole time since the establishment of the Regency by Sir Henry Dalrymple had been lost – not a step taken to re-establish their army – to raise men – to prepare clothing, arms or officers. In short, nothing could be more deplorable than the state he exhibited with all the gloss he endeavoured to throw over it. He complained of the complete want of money resources. This I believe to a great extent was true, but it was represented worse than reality in order to cover the misapplication of the means they possessed, and as an excuse for the neglect of every attempt at establishing a national defence. This day arrived the most afflicting intelligence from Sir John Moore of the defeat and dispersion of Blake’s and Castanos’ armies and the consequent necessity of his retreat without further attempting a junction with Sir D. Baird whom he ordered to fall back on Corunna, to re-embark and proceed to the Tagus, while Sir John himself was to retire on the frontier of Portugal, which he was determined to defend. Sir John called on me to make all the arrangements for this event – to prepare depots – to procure information of the proper positions and points of defence, and make such dispositions of the forces in Portugal as would be most conducive to support and co-operate with him; looking ultimately to the means of embarkation [sic] if pressed by superior numbers. In the various occupations forced on me by this dreadful change in the position of affairs in Spain, my time was so completely filled that for several days I did not pass the door of my house except on business with the different ministers, whose conduct and capacity have every day lessened them in my opinion – confined and selfish in their ideas – without energy and devoting that time to paltry intrigue which ought to be exerted in reparation of their past errors. The Bishop of Oporto, the only man of the Regency who seems to possess any boldness or strength of character, has been deterred from quitting his home to join his colleagues by the jealousies they have shown, and the opposition he expects from their selfish views. Much might have been done had he been at first placed at the head of the government, and something may still be expected if he can be induced to assume his functions and feels himself properly supported by the British government. Even without power, as a private individual, his directions are obeyed, in the district of Oporto where he resides, with a promptness unknown to the commands of the Supreme Government, and of this influence they are jealous.
My days and nights are at present busily employed, dispatches of various kinds fill every hour not engaged in arrangements with different departments, which are all now set at work. Depots forming – surveys of different parts of the country – movements of troops – naval preparations concerting. There is little time for sleep and less inclination. In a country to which I am a total stranger, as well as its language, its customs its people and its topography, all these preparations and arrangements were doubly intricate. Fortunately, I found all the departments very ready to execute their various duties, and the whole machine was soon in motion. I have reason to believe that if Sir John Moore retires through Portugal he will find everything prepared for him as well as he could have expected.
It is scarcely to be credited how small the portion was of useful information which we could collect from the Portuguese government, or any of their officers, as to the state of the country, its roads, positions, etc.; and yet I believe they denied us none which they possessed. This ignorance and indolence is most inexcusable in a country which has been for centuries in a state of constant dread of attack from its neighbours. Every foot of its territory ought to be perfectly known and every means of defence adapted to every emergency laid down. But no such thing. A few heavy memoirs, too general to admit of practical benefit, were all we could procure. The really useful information we were left to find for ourselves and I do not doubt, when this crisis is past, but a far more complete collection of materials for the defence of Portugal will be found in the office of our Quarter-Master General in London than with the government of this country.
On my arrival here, I found Brigadier General Stewart in the command, and Cameron of the 79th a Brigadier of the Staff and Commandant at Lisbon†. Brigadier General Sontag left Sir John Moore’s army to take charge of the sick and recovering men of that army. Brigadier Generals Drieberg † and Langwerth commanding two brigades of the King’s German Legion. The whole British force in Portugal consisted of about 8,000 effectives, including the garrison of Elvas and Almeida, and those regiments I ordered to Almeida when at Oporto, as well as the German brigade. So that at Lisbon we had not 5,000 effectives. That the whole of this force ought to have advanced with Sir John Moore there can be little doubt. With him they would have been useful. At Lisbon they are useless; but we seem determined not to learn from our enemy any of his useful maxims. He thinks but of one object at a time and sets his whole force to it. While we fritter away our means, in attempting various points at the same time, and are thus beaten in detail, or our efforts rendered nugatory.
About the 9th or 10th December, I received intelligence from Sir John Moore of a nature somewhat more favourable. The French, instead of advancing on him as might have been expected, turned off towards Madrid, forced the Pass of Somoseirra and the Guadarama and advanced to that capital. While they were thus engaged, Sir John called back Sir D. Baird, gave up the idea of retreat for the time and has now every prospect of uniting with Sir David. His junction with General Hope’s † column is almost certain. Still our preparations for his reception must not be relaxed. At this time I also heard to my great joy of the appointment of Sir John Cradock† to the chief command in Portugal. Various are the reports as to the proceedings of the French at Madrid. Some say the people are determined to resist to the last – others that a capitulation has been entered into. The French prisoners remaining of Junot’s army on the capitulation giving at this time much uneasiness to the Portuguese government, it has been determined between Admiral Sir Charles Cotton and myself to send them off to France immediately.
On the 12th, Sir Charles Cotton informed me that Sir John Craddock was off the Tagus in [the] Lavinia frigate†, and on the next day the ship came in, when I waited on him on board and laid before him the state of affairs – very different from the complexion they were when he left England. On the 14th he landed and I introduced him on the following day to the Regency.
Thus terminated my short command, and I believe no man ever panted more to be placed in authority than I did to be relieved from it. During the time it lasted I mixed but little with society and was so little out of doors that I can say but little of the people or the country, unconnected with its government. I had heard much of the gaiety and sociability of Lisbon and I believe much did exist in former and better times. Now the scene seems greatly altered, and it is not to be wondered at. The terrors of another French invasion, which if it should be successful must overwhelm this city, as well as the whole kingdom, in such an abyss of misery, cannot but occupy the minds of the unfortunate Inhabitants and fill them with apprehensions, little short of reality itself. If such an event should take place (and at present it seems by no means improbable) the disgrace the French arms suffered here some months ago, though inflicted by the English, will be revenged on the poor Portuguese. I do not doubt but Junot, or some other favourite of the arch disturber of the peace of the world, is at this moment feasting in idea on the spoils of this poor city and Oporto. In such a situation can it be a matter of surprise that the manners of the people, their feelings and their conduct, should have undergone a change; At least that they should appear in a very different light from their real character while this crisis exists. Indeed, I cannot but sympathise with them, and deplore that horrible system of universal pillage with which they are threatened. I cannot at the same time profess any respect for the Portuguese character, particularly that of the higher classes, who are a trifling race without energy or any of the manly virtues. Their system of government has tended to depress the lower classes, who are, notwithstanding the tyranny and oppression of their superiors, the best and soundest part of the state. They are labouring and obedient, and if the higher classes could furnish good officers they might yet form a good army. But there is the radical defect, and Portugal must fall under the dominion of France if Spain cannot arrest her course.
Having on my first arrival from absolute necessity declined any private engagements, I have not had a single opportunity of witnessing the amusements or entertainments of a private family either in the day or evening. I feel so little inclination to enter into that mode of spending my time, that unless from mere curiosity I do not think I shall make any advance towards it. My observations on the appearance of the ladies are therefore entirely confined to the casual meeting them in their carriages, on the streets, or seeing them at the theatres where I sometimes go. Their complexions are generally approaching the olive – the fairest among them are what we should call in England, brunettes. They have generally black eyes, sometimes pretty, but the other features are seldom agreeable and I cannot say I have yet seen a woman who would be called handsome in our country. Of public amusements, I know none except the three theatres, St Carlos, Salitre and Rua das Condas. The first is an Italian Opera with ballets, much on the same principle as that of London. The Salitre is a National Opera with dancing also. The third theatre is for National plays and farces. Their music seems pretty good but I believe little of it is native Portuguese. There are some tolerable singers at the Italian Opera and three or four pretty good dancers. Madame Tinti, the first female dancer, who was induced to come here by Junot, would make a figure even on an Italian stage. The audience seem to be so much better pleased with agility than grace that even the best performers are obliged to exert themselves in jumping and twirling round like a top, to the manifest destruction of everything like elegance or gracefulness. Madame Tinti, though obliged to give in also to this prevailing taste, still possesses a small share of ease and grace.
I am but little qualified to judge of the performances at the national theatres, being totally ignorant of the language, but their Buffoon parts seem well acted. In all these Theatres they have the same defect, of being totally unprepared with their parts, so that you may hear the whole from the prompter, who is head and shoulders above the stage, and is obliged to read so loud as is quite offensive to an English eye and ear, and destroys everything like scenic deception. Of the manners of the women it would be presumptuous in me to speak until I have a better acquaintance with them.
In my intercourse with the men, ceremony appears to be their principal study. To neglect one bow out of three or four, where due, or the attendance either to the door, or out of the room, or to the head of the stairs, or to the carriage, with the number of prescribed bows, according to the rank of the visitors, would be a most unpardonable omission and not easily forgiven. Even at that time, when matters of the most serious importance press upon them, their ceremonials are most carefully attended to, even among those who ought to possess sufficient sense to despise them. And I am persuaded a Minister of State who asked a favour would feel less mortified at a refusal than at a neglect of the least of the marks of compliment considered due to his rank. Among people of such frivolous minds, how can any great exertion be expected? Indeed, they are totally unequal to the task which the present times imposes on them.
For some days after the arrival of Sir John Cradock we have had various accounts of the proceedings at Madrid. The French have most likely got possession of it, for the supreme Junta who at first retired to Truxillo have now fallen back to Seville. About the 17th or 18th we heard that a French corps of cavalry was advancing towards the Bridge of Almarez and Arzobispo on the Tagus. It was about this time thought advisable to send Brigadier General Stuart on towards the frontier to encourage the Portuguese to advance thither. The general was to take with him the 29th and 31st Regiments and Brigadier General Drieberg’s Brigade, consisting of two line battalions of the German legion. This brigade would ultimately, if circumstances permitted, advance to join Sir John Moore’s army. After General Stuart’s march, General Cameron became most uneasy at his situation here, and pressing to be permitted to go to Almeida, to proceed if circumstances would allow, with the 97th and what else could be spared to join Sir John Moore. All these movements I have seen with unconcern as I cannot but think that in the present position of Sir John Moore’s army any reinforcements should be sent by sea to Corunna or Vigo. And in the present state of affairs I cannot but look on Cameron’s scheme as a wild one. By our latest accounts Sir John Moore had advanced northwards to Benavente in order to join Sir David Baird. Of course his communication with Almeida and the frontier of Portugal must soon be intercepted, for the French will naturally advance from Madrid in the direction of Salamanca.
Some days previous to the departure of General Stuart, Mr Villiers† arrived as Minister to the Court of Portugal. It will require all the abilities he possesses to elicit a spark of energy from the councils of this kingdom, and I fear now his exertions will be made too late. Lord and Lady Holland have also arrived from the north of Spain, having travelled all the way from Vigo on mules, in the manner of the country. Their carriages have come round by sea, along with Mr Stuart my aide de camp who met them at Vigo. He was sent there from Corunna and waited nearly a fortnight before he could be sent in his transport to Lisbon, in consequence of the uncertain state of affairs in Sir John Moore s army. Lord Holland is accompanied by his son and Lord John Russell, second son of the Duke of Bedford, and a Mr Allen. The Honourable Mr Wyndham, formerly Minister at Florence, and Mr Wynne (brother to Sir Watkin) have also been here for some time. These, except Mr Wyndham, who is just come from there, are bound for Seville and Cadiz. Mr Wellesley, son of the Marquis, is also anxious to go there, as are several others. Mr Bailie, son of the late Mr James Baillie of Bedford Square, and a young Norwegian his travelling companion, of the name of Knudtson, are looking for a passage by sea.
Being assured that I shall be sent with the first reinforcements from England which may come to this place for Sir John Moore, or which may be sent to him by sea from home, I am perfectly at my ease with the advance made by Stuart and Cameron, being more and more convinced that the only rational means of sending assistance to Moore’s army from hence is by sea to Vigo. On General Cameron’s departure I was appointed commandant at Lisbon on the 27th December.
General Stuart’s corps is advancing on Castelo Branco, while there are various reports flying about of the advance of the French. After forcing the bridge of Almaraz, where the Spaniards scarcely made any resistance, they crossed and advanced to Trujillo where they levied contributions. They then suddenly retired, re-crossed the bridge of Almaraz and advanced on the other side to Plasencia, which is in the direct road for an attack on Portugal, by the line of the right bank of the Tagus. The corps which crossed and re-crossed the Tagus at Almaraz is said to have consisted only of cavalry to the number of about 2,000, but that which was assembled at Plasencia had about 6,000 infantry already there. If this corps were destined against Portugal it would undoubtedly be increased without delay. It was therefore desirable to collect our scattered forces about Lisbon, it being impossible to defend the frontier with our limited numbers. General Stuart was therefore ordered to fall back with his corps, and a position was fixed at Sacavini River to be defended in case the enemy should advance that way. The line of the Sacavini River is very strong but rather too extensive for our numbers. Still if the enemy advanced by that road, which is the best to Lisbon, we could have given him a strong opposition. It was however not likely he would advance on a line so well defended, and it was to be expected he would endeavour to turn our left; we were therefore prepared to take another position towards Lumiar and dispute the ground inch by inch. This was all under the Idea that the enemy advanced in a force not greatly exceeding our own. But as it was more probable, if he made us a visit, it would be with overpowering numbers, we are preparing for the worst by embarking our women, sick and all remains of our heavy baggage and useless stores. So that a re-embarkation of the troops may be made with as little confusion as possible. Various are the accounts we hear daily of Sir John Moore’s army.
About the end of December Major General Cotton† arrived in the Tagus with the 14th Light Dragoons which were landed on New Year’s day, with the intention of proceeding to join that army if a communication could by any means be found, or to assist in the defence of Portugal should the enemy advance from Plasencia. On this subject, of the advance of the French at this time to Portugal, I always had strong doubts, although the information received made it a matter of prudence, if not of necessity, to take the precautions we have done of drawing our troops as much as possible to one front.
Nothing else than his having such an army as to numbers as would enable him to overwhelm Moore and us at the same time, would induce Bonaparte to make so large a diversion, and in spite of the positive information of their advancing on Portugal, I have daily looked to find that the corps at Plasencia would ultimately act against Sir John Moore. Early in January the movements of this corps, as directed against Portugal, began to slacken, and in a few days more Lieutenant Colonel D’Urban †, who followed and watched them, has ascertained that the whole of this force, composed of a part of Marshal Lefebvre’ s Corps (The Duke of Danzig)† and were advancing to Avila to act on the right and rear of Sir John Moore’s army. Our accounts now daily give us reason to believe that Sir John Moore will be obliged to retreat, being, it is said, out-numbered by above three to one. The whole of his force cannot exceed twenty-six thousand men. The report of the strength of Romana’s army are, it is to be feared, exaggerated greatly if not fabulous.
The weather here is very mild, but the rainy season is at its height and the torrents which have fallen have so broken the roads and swelled the rivers and streams that our troops have been harassed in their march both to and from Castelo Branco in a manner scarcely to be described. A very large proportion have fallen sick in consequence, indeed more than I ever remember from the effect of any march in any climate, in so short a time. The River Douro has swelled to such a degree that the navigation of it, from Lamego to Oporto, is too dangerous to permit the stores etc. from Almeida to be forwarded in that way. At Oporto it to impossible to embark anything, so that the state of the troops and stores there is critical, as well as these of those inhabitants and merchants who wish to retire with their property to avoid another French visit.
On the 6th of January the 2nd Battalion of the 9th, and the 3rd Battalion 27th, with a troop of the 14th Dragoons and 100 men of the 5th Battalion 60th Regiment took up a part of the Sacavem position, under my command, which will be completely occupied on the return of Brigadier General Stuart’s corps. From that time, till the 11th inclusive, I have gone out daily to Sacavem to regulate the details of duty, during which time little extraordinary has occurred.
I am now enabled to continue my Journal.
The accounts of Sir John Moore’s situation occasioned a proposition from the minister, Mr Villiers, to detach immediately to Vigo the 14th Light Dragoons with the 2nd Battalion of the 9th and the 3rd Battalion of the 27th infantry to support him. This is the whole British force of British regiments in or near Lisbon. General Cotton and myself are ordered to proceed with them. Lisbon and the forts will now be left in charge of two battalions of the King’s German Legion and have five companies of the 5th Battalion of the 60th. This service has given a fillip to my spirits and those of everyone concerned.
The embarkation of the dragoons requires more time than is consistent with our impatience to be off. The infantry cannot therefore be embarked till tomorrow. Various reports from different quarters of actions between Sir John Moore and the French, all in favour of the British. It is certain however the army from Madrid is advancing against him and the corps which lately threatened us from Plasencia, of which I have before remarked, has certainly advanced in the same direction. This last is ascertained to be a part of Lefebvre’s (The Duke of Danzig’s) Corps. An intercepted letter from Marshal Berthier (Duke of Neufchatel)† throws a light on the movement of this corps to Plasencia. It seems the Duke (Neufchatel) commands the advance of the forces against Moore. The orders to Lefebvre were to reconnoitre towards Plasencia. Lefebvre went beyond his instructions and advanced a large corps there, pushing on an advance towards Coria. This Berthier blames strongly – so that it appears now to have been a false and injudicious movement, having in fact no object and only tending to defer the operations against Sir John Moore. This explanation acquits Bonaparte of making the false step which it seems lies with Lefebvre. All this however will only delay Moore’s retreat a little. If the Spanish troops under Romana are not very strong, it seems impossible the British can maintain their ground against such a force as is advancing to attack them. Bonaparte is said to be at the head of the army from Madrid. Soult commands at Valladolid.
This morning the 9th, 2nd 27th embarked from Buckley Stairs in Lisbon, having marched in from Sacavem. The 27th at 10 o’clock and the 9th at 12. The news this day from the north of Spain, casts a gloom everywhere. Sir John Moore has found himself in danger of being encompassed by such superior numbers that no alternative is left but a retreat. The only action of consequence we have heard details of, was between the cavalry and that of the enemy on the 29th December near Benavente. General Lefebvre (nephew to the marshal) was taken prisoner with about 200 cavalry and a great number were drowned in endeavouring to save themselves by swimming a river †. In all the affairs of posts, as well as this, the British have maintained their usual superiority. How mortifying that so fine an army should be so unfortunately placed.
Further confirmation of Sir John Moore’s retreat, which suspends our sailing for Vigo, and I fear we may now drop all hope of supporting that army in the north of Spain. The situation of affairs in this country becomes now very critical and embarrassing. The dispersed state of our little force will require efforts of the promptest kind to prevent their falling by detail into the enemy’s hands. General Cameron with the 97th, now on his march from Almeida for Spain, is in imminent hazard. Lieutenant Colonel Guard with the 5th at Almeida must fall back on Oporto and endeavour to save as much as possible of the stores, ammunition, etc. Colonel Kemmis † with the 40th at Elvas, must retreat on Seville. This country is indefensible without a large army. The Portuguese are but just beginning to reorganise – without order, without officers, without money. The British troops are a mere handful. I therefore look to the evacuation of this country as a measure that will very speedily become necessary. The last stake we will have to play in favour of the Spaniards must be at Cadiz or Barcelona and there our small force ought to unite with Sir John Moore’s. If the Spaniards behave as ill there they have done in the north they are not to be saved. I have just heard that 5,000 troops are coming from England to the Tagus with an ultimate destination according to circumstances for Cadiz. The number is too small to be of any service here. But if they and troops idling their time in Sicily, with us, were added to Sir John Moore and sent to one point, something may yet be done. All will however depend on Sir John Moore’s retreat being successfully accomplished.
It was this day proposed by Sir John Cradock to Mr Villiers to send the two infantry battalions now embarked with the other two British battalions now under General Stuart (on their way from Santarem to Sacavem) the whole under my command, to Cadiz. This seems to me a most desirable object, but unfortunately Mr Villiers did not think himself authorised by the instructions and orders he has received from home, to give his approbation to it as a political measure – without which consent Sir John Cradock cannot be answerable for carrying the plan into execution. It appears to me that Sir John Moore’s movement must be to Cadiz after he re-embarks – that the 5,000 men must also go there who are coming from England – in short that every man he can muster in every part of Europe should go there. And I have therefore no hesitation in saying that our proceeding there immediately would be a most desirable commencement. It is now understood that Sir John Moore’s force will embark from Betanzos Bay, lying between Corunna and Ferrol. Probably this may be with a view to assisting Romana in embarking at Ferrol and carrying off the shipping.
It has rained from morning to night with a violence and continuance I have never witnessed out of a tropical climate. This is the second day of the same sort I have seen in Lisbon since the rainy season commenced, which may be dated this year from the middle of December, nearly a month later than usual. It has however been sufficiently heavy since it has begun, and the only advantage appears to be that the dirty streets of Lisbon are less offensive. Lord Holland has sent me a Seville Gazette in which are published the terms of the capitulation of Madrid, with a most insidious letter from Morla who is the principle traitor in this business. He endeavours to give a distrust of the designs of the English. His letter and conduct are properly commented on by the Supreme Junta – but the affairs of Spain wear a most unpromising aspect.
No other news from Spain today than a report from Colonel Kemmis at Elvas. Captain Ellis † whom he sent on for intelligence reports that there are no French troops nearer in that quarter than Toledo. Captain Ellis speaks of the bridge of Almaraz as a very strong post– though the Spaniards ran away from it the moment it was threatened by the French cavalry some weeks ago. The Duke of Infantado, according to the Seville Gazette, has gained a trifling advantage over some French cavalry.
This being the anniversary of our queen’s birthday, Mr Villiers gave a grand dinner to all the principal British officers. Lord and Lady Holland were present. Admiral and Lady Berkeley also. The Admiral arrived two days ago to take the command of the fleet in the Tagus. The lady seems a very agreeable, sensible woman -is in very delicate health, which has occasioned her risking a visit to this place in these perilous times in search of its beneficent climate. There is a report today that Sir John Moore means to make a stand at Lugo, but I give no credit whatever to it.
Another letter from Colonel Kemmis at Elvas. Captain Ellis has been as far as Talavera la Reina. Reports that there are certainly no troops at present nearer on that side than Toledo. In consequence of this Lord and Lady Holland intend setting off for Seville as soon as possible by Elvas and Badajoz. Colonel Kemmis is directed to retire to Seville with his corps from Elvas. There is a letter also from Sir Robert Wilson stating his intention of defending the frontier of Portugal and giving all the assistance in his power to Ciudad Rodrigo. His intentions seem greatly to surpass his means. We are in great anxiety and expectation relative to Sir John Moore’s proceedings. General Cameron has retired on Lamego and is therefore safe for the present.
Scarcely anything has occurred this day worth remark. The 29th Regiment marched into Lisbon on its return from its expedition under General Stuart. It has taken the old quarters of the 27th in St Domingo Convent. The rest of General Stuart’s corps are taking up the position at Sacavem. There is almost a deluge of rain again today.
A lugger has arrived from Vigo after nine days passage. A column of about 3,500 of Sir John Moore’s army had arrived there the morning the lugger sailed and were immediately embarked. Sir John meant to proceed with the rest of the army to Betanzos Bay, or Corunna, or both, Sir Samuel Hood with all the empty transports had accordingly sailed from Vigo for those places. Still uncomfortable, wet weather but extremely mild.
The lugger from Vigo further states that Sir John Moore meant to fortify a position to cover the embarkation at Betanzos. This looks as if he expected to be pressed by the enemy and of course makes us uneasy as to his fate. I have written by the lugger to General M. Fraser † – the first since I came to Portugal. I have also had opportunity of writing a few lines to the agent Mr Donaldson† by a vessel for England.
No further accounts from Spain. By a letter from General Cameron it is probable he is now on his march with the Buffs, 45th and 97th to join us here. At this I am very well pleased, as I hope it will not only ensure their safety but it will certainly add considerably to our strength if we are obliged to make a stand here. From a short conversation this morning with Sir J. Cradock, he seems determined to take a position at Belas. This looks like an intention of making a stand. Everything however must depend on our next account from Sir John Moore and England. This evening Mr Villiers gave a grand ball which was very numerously attended, and was the first opportunity I had of seeing any collection of Lisbon Belles. I cannot say my opinion of their beauty has been much altered by it – there were only two or three tolerably pretty, and the eldest of Admiral Berkeley’s daughters was by far the finest girl present. The dancing was in the English contra dance style – two or three Gavots † were danced by two or three pairs of young ladies, between the dances, and very prettily executed. The Portuguese ladies have generally well turned ankles and walk well, which is rather extraordinary considering how little use they make of their legs in that sort of exercise. It is reckoned quite improper for any lady of rank or fashion to walk in the streets, and indeed they walk very little anywhere out of doors. The sort of ball or assembly we had tonight is a thing very rare in Lisbon. Their sociability as in Spain is very much confined to family parties, with the occasional visits of acquaintances and friends in the evening, without regular invitations. I am told this mode of society is very pleasant, but I have yet to learn the experience of it and it would be unfair even then to pass judgement upon it in the present distracted state of affairs which cannot but affect every individual of the higher classes. Everyone seemed satisfied with the ball and we had an excellent supper. I left them dancing at 3 o’clock in the morning.
Went today to Belem and visited the tower, the Church of the Irish Convent. The great convent and Church of Belem, the old and new palaces and the museums. The tower as a place of defence is but ill adapted, but the Fort of Bom Successo † and a battery built by the French have given the position a strong command of the navigation of the river above Fort St Julian and assisted by the Fort of Torre Velha on the opposite side of the river must make any naval attempt to pass up abortive. The church of the Irish Convent is tolerably handsome. I conversed with an Irish nun at the gate of the convent, who proved her parentage by assuring me she was an Irishwoman born in Lisbon. The Convent of Belem is a very fine old gothic structure, but the church no person who goes to Lisbon ought to neglect seeing. It is not on so great a scale as some of the churches I have seen in Spain but it surpasses them all in the beautiful symmetry of its pillars and dome, all of very fine marble, carved with exquisite taste. The old palace is in a delightful situation commanding a fine view of the bay and shipping down to the bar. The new palace, of which only a small part is built, was intended to be carried on to connect with the old one, in which last Junot was making extensive alterations and fitting up an elegant suite of apartments where all the scaffolding is still standing though the work is suspended. Nothing can be more magnificent than the plan of the new palace, which was to have been entirely (like the part finished) of polished marble. Some of the pictures in the old palace are valuable and narrowly escaped the grasp of the French during their visit. There is a small museum at the entrance of the gardens, near the palace, extremely well arranged, containing specimens of various minerals and fossils, a very fine collection of shells – of birds – of a few beasts – and savage armour, principally Brazilian. In the gardens are the only public botanical collection in this country. It may have been valuable but is now much neglected so as to require more knowledge of the science than I possess to discover the plants from the weeds. Besides these at Belem, I have seen in Lisbon the foundation and commencement of the intended treasury which, to prevent the chances of accident by earthquake was to have been built with a solidity of which there is no example in the world. The earth has been removed for the depth of about one hundred feet for the whole surface of the foundation in order to get at a rock, and upon that, in solid masonry, is built up as a foundation the same thickness as had been removed of earth. The whole of this Herculean labour appears, for the building had advanced no further than a few feet of the intended walls when the scourge which has desolated this and other countries came and forced the sovereign to fly. Who can contemplate the grandness of these scenes and reflect on the sad change which a few short months have worked on this once rich, happy and peaceful country without a feeling of horror at its cause. How long this fiend may be permitted to blast the fairest works of nature and of art, as it were, with a pestilential breath, it is not permitted to us to scan; but the consideration of it is always attended with the most melancholy reflection in my mind, and the objects which give rise to these reflections are almost every minute before my eyes in this interesting city.
Took a ride this day with Sir John Cradock to look at the position of Belas. It is very strong, part of the great line for the defence of Lisbon, and is generally considered the left point, the right being at Sacavem. But without examining more minutely than one day’s ride would permit, I cannot help thinking the line would be incomplete without a post towards Cintra. This line would take at least twenty-five thousand men to defend it properly. Lumiar should be about the centre of it. As I mean to visit Cintra soon, I shall then have a better idea of it. We returned through Queluz where there is an unfinished palace of the Prince Regent’s.
It is worthy of remark, that scarcely any public building or establishment begun or planned of late years in this kingdom, has been finished or brought to maturity – a strong proof of the vacillating councils and unstable disposition of the reigning family. This trifling and unsteady turn is not peculiar to royalty here; it seems to be a national characteristic except where the influence of the church reaches; and that influence is never exerted but for its own aggrandisement. In this point the perseverance of the Portuguese is never suffered to relax and accordingly we see almost all these ecclesiastical and monastic establishments perfect.
The beauty of this day’s ride cannot be surpassed. It is melancholy to see so fair a position of the globe, blessed with the finest climate and the richest soil – producing everything man can desire – to see such a country so neglected, and by the iron hand of despotism, its inhabitants so greatly debased. But it is still more melancholy to reflect how great a chance there is that it may again fall under the rod of a barbarian crew whose aim seems to be to renew the ages when the Goths and Vandals buried the learning of ages in the dust and establish dark ignorance over a civilised world. The issue of the present contest will probably determine how far this dreadful prognostic will be realised. I sincerely hope there will never be occasion for making a comparison at a nearer point of resemblance.
Crossed the Tagus and had a beautiful view of Lisbon from the height of Almada on the opposite side. The rains have ceased for some days and the country looks beautiful and smiling in every direction. We were much disappointed today -two frigates arrived; of course we looked for English or Corunna news. But one is from Madeira, the other from Cadiz – so that neither could bring anything new or interesting.
The weak government of this country has been endeavouring to arm the people in the best they can. In this town there are above twenty thousand pike men. I do not blame this; but the Regency seem to have abandoned the policing of the town to the mob. Some time ago they encouraged the arresting of Frenchmen, or people supposed in that interest. Now this is increased to an alarming degree. Those cowardly fellows who would pass through the eye of a needle to escape an armed Frenchman are now very bold in arresting every harmless, unarmed creature who is only called after by a child, or any idle person, by the name of Frenchman or Jacobin, which last word they have no definite meaning for. The government seem afraid to interfere, but I think it will be necessary for our minister and commander in chief, if an immediate stop is not put to these dastardly and cruel proceedings, to make some declaration to exculpate the British name from any participation in these contemptible and shameful proceedings. Several innocent people, totally unconnected with France or French principles, have already been maltreated, abused, and confined by this mob government. A little vigour for a day or two would soon make these cowardly wretches shrink within their shells, from which they have just emerged for a moment.
Nothing extraordinary has occurred today except an order to disembark the cavalry. This was owing to the representation of Colonel Hawker† who found they were falling sick. Went to a musical party at Dr Hume’s where I saw some of the Portuguese ladies and gentlemen. Few young ladies were present, it being contrary to the general practice of the Portuguese to permit them to visit before marriage. The custom is however sometimes dispensed with, as was the case at the ball given by Mr Villiers.
General Cotton, Captain Neville of the 14th Dragoons† and myself took a ride to Cintra intending to sleep there and return next day by Mafra. We took an extensive ride to see all worth seeing about Cintra on asses. It is impossible for language to describe the effect of the scenery of this extraordinary place. It is rich, grand, romantic, rugged, in such variegated beauty as I never before saw united. All the nobility, gentry and rich people of Lisbon, are anxious to possess quintas, or country houses, here where they retire to in the summer from the heats of Lisbon, and no place can be better adapted. We found an excellent inn here, the landlady an Irishwoman married to an Italian of the name of Dega. It is to her management that Portugal may boast of one good inn. She is very communicative and in a very few hours we had more anecdote of Portuguese nobility than in all our residence here. Just on our return from our ride I found an express calling me back to Lisbon immediately on urgent service – accordingly returned by 12 at night and found that a detachment under my command was to be sent to Cadiz without delay.
The force which I am to carry to Cadiz is fixed for four British battalions and a brigade of artillery. I am to be joined there by the 40th Regiment which marches from Elvas so that the whole force will consist of nearly four thousand men. Brigadier General Stuart will go with me. General Cameron is on his return from his expedition, and has now under his command the Buffs, 45th and 97th, besides some recovered men of Sir John Moore’s army who were sent back sick. The recovered men of that army who were at Elvas are marching for Lisbon also. General Cameron will be at Torres Vedras this day. Nothing but vague accounts of the situation of Sir John Moore. He is stated to be at Corunna and that a large French force is near to him.
No news received today, except of a report of a column of the enemy being at Monterey, a frontier town of Portugal, on the Minho. I have been busy in preparing for embarkation tomorrow.
The 2nd Battalion 31st Regiment marched in today from Sacavem and took up the barracks of the 29th who embarked in the morning. The force to go with me are now all embarked except the 31st. viz:- the 2nd Battalion 9th Regiment, 3rd Battalion 27th and 29th Regiments with a company of artillery. The ship intended to carry the 31st (one of the Russians) not being quite ready, I apprehend she must be left to follow us.
General Cameron arrived with his command. About 2 o’clock p.m. I embarked on board the Semiramis, 36 gun frigate, Captain Granger, who is to be our convoy to Cadiz – a very fine ship, almost new. Major Tidy as Assistant Adjutant General † and Captain Kelly Deputy Assistant Quarter Master General †, besides Captain Balneavis†, Brigade Major and Mr Stewart, A.D.C †. were the party – were received most cordially and hospitably by Captain Granger.
Sailed from the Tagus at daybreak with light breezes, tolerably fair, but made little way – were off St Ubes (or Setubal) at night.
We continued our course, nothing extraordinary occurring.
The breeze freshened this morning, but rather scanty; spoke some vessels but none that gave us any news. Hailed the William and Elizabeth on board of which General Stewart and his Staff are embarked. All well.
Arrived in Cadiz Bay about 6 o’clock p.m. after a very fine passage. The town looks beautiful as it is approached and has a singular appearance being built on a point of land, connected with Cadiz island by a long neck of land. Waited on Rear Admiral Purvis † immediately after anchoring. His flag is flying on board the Atlas of 74 guns. Afterwards we went on shore and saw Sir George Smith who has a diplomatic mission to Cadiz. Mr Frere, the British Minister to Spain, is at Seville. Mr Stuart is acting at Cadiz for him. Many difficulties appear as to our place of landing and from the usual slowness of the Spanish proceedings they are not likely to be speedily removed. There seems to be a fatal security here. They either do not know or will not believe the reverses their army have suffered, are buoying themselves up with chimeras and I fear will be surprised by their indefatigable enemy before they are in any condition to receive him.
Went on shore again this morning. The Marquis de Villel is here (in Cadiz) with certain powers which supersede those of the governor in everything not purely regarding the duty of the garrison. The Marquis is one of the Supreme or Central Junta which is now at Seville. General Jones, of English extraction, is Governor of Cadiz. I waited this morning on them both. After explaining to the Marquis the object of our coming and expressing a wish to be immediately landed at Cadiz, he regretted he could not permit it without orders from the Central Junta, but considered himself authorised to permit our landing at Pont St Mary’s on the opposite side of the bay. This I positively objected to, as inconsistent with my orders. A reference is of course made to the Central Junta and I have written to Mr Frere whose instructions I am bound to obey. The present Spanish Government seem very weak and timid, and it is evident the objection to our occupying Cadiz arises from their uncertainty how it might be received by the populace. Sir George Smith, Mr Stuart (who is acting here by authority from Mr Frere) Brigadier General Stuart and Mr Duff the Consul General, accompanied me on these visits. That to General Jones was merely a visit of ceremony. I dined afterwards, with all my Staff, General Stuart and his Staff, and Captain Granger of the Semiramis, on board the Atlas with Admiral Purvis. Cadiz is certainly the most beautiful and clean town I have ever seen. In this last respect it is a perfect contrast to dirty Lisbon. Slept on board the Semiramis.
Went on shore this morning. Received a message from Marquis Villel to desire to see me. Waited on him with Mr Stuart. The marquis informed us he had received a dispatch from the Central Junta intimating that we might be permitted to land, to march to Pont St Mary’s [El Puerto de Santa Maria], Xeres [Jerez de la Frontera], or any other place that might be fixed on, but that we could not be permitted to occupy the barracks in Cadiz as two thousand men were intended to come from Seville besides some troops from other places. Thus, they have given us to understand that we shall neither now nor at any future period occupy Cadiz. I have not yet received my answer from Mr Frere for which I must wait. Went to see the new work carrying on upon the isthmus, about two miles advanced from the Landport Gate. It is very well placed but will take years to finish it in the substantial way they are proceeding and the small number of workmen. A field work would be much better suited to the pressure of the present times.
Spent the whole day on shore in making up dispatches for Lord Castlereagh and Sir John Cradock. It being now resolved that we are not to occupy Cadiz, I have determined to remain on board our transport for further orders from Sir John Cradock or from England. A very stormy day with a gale from the south west. Slept on shore.
Nothing extraordinary this day. The wind has moderated. Got on board to dinner. Slept there.
Very bad weather. Have arranged for landing the sick in the Royal Hospital. The Elvin sloop of war† arrived from England, but brings no news, having left on the 17th January. Reports of Austria having taken [up] arms. The Saracen† has passed the Straits with a treaty of peace between England and the Porte, signed on the 5th January at Constantinople.
Nothing extraordinary today. Dined on board the Invincible man of war, Captain Donelly †.
This day has passed like the preceding – still in anxious suspense as to the fate of our friends at Corunna and for our own future proceedings. Nothing is suffered to transpire by this foolish government that can be construed into anything like ill fortune to their arms. This is the most absurd system to be followed. The people are deceived and no exertion is made to resist the enemy. The precious time procured by the diversion made by Sir John Moore’s army is absolutely lost and whenever the French turn their arms to this side I fear they will meet with as little resistance from the Spaniards as in the north.
Dined this day on board the Fishguard Captain Bolton†. We had a long and curious conversation for the meridian of a man of war, on religion, every man ended in the persuasion he was right and every other person wrong.
Dined today with Admiral Purvis on board the Atlas. Sir George Smith who was rather better today has had a relapse and is in great danger.
This morning about 3 o’clock died Sir George Smith†, a man for whom I had contracted a higher esteem and regard than almost any I have known on so short an acquaintance. This death at this time is a public misfortune. The barbarous custom of Catholic countries to refuse the rites of burial to all without the pale of their church renders it necessary that his remains should be sent for interment to Gibraltar, for which purpose Admiral Purvis has ordered a sea conveyance. After much difficulty I have at last got a lodging on shore. Billets are not granted in this town as in every other part of Spain. Last night slept at our worthy Consul’s, Mr Duff, who has now lived 55 years in Spain and is attached to the character and manners of the Spaniards, more probably than they deserve. But this at his advanced age can scarcely be called a fault. He is universally and unaffectedly kind and hospitable to all his countrymen, and his strict honor [sic] and integrity have gained him the respect and esteem of all ranks of Spaniards.
The occasion of Lent has shut up all the public places of entertainment, indeed during the carnival that preceded it, these amusements were but few and by a silly interference on the part of the Marquis Villel (the deputy from the supreme Junta) they were considerably curtailed. The public theatre and assemblies for dancing constituted the whole of the public diversions. The assemblies were latterly prohibited on account of the bad aspect of public affairs. Such is the folly and inconsistency of this silly government. While they affect to be successful against the enemy and shut up every channel of information, they betray the falsehoods of their own gazettes and throw a gloom precisely where they ought to encourage every kind of mirth and hilarity. It is by these public meetings in times when popular enthusiasms begins to flag, that it is again roused and brought into action. But in this strange nation we are doomed to see every axiom that regulates other states, reversed.
Today the remains of Sir George Smith, deposited in a leaden coffin, were embarked in a schooner commanded by a lieutenant in the navy, to sail tomorrow morning for Gibraltar. Captain Stewart† of the 82nd Regiment accompanies them. A funeral party consisting of the grenadier company of the 9th without arms to carry the corpse were landed with the band of the 29th Regiment. All the officers of the navy and army and almost every British subject here attended the procession as did some noblemen and gentlemen of the first rank in Spain. Minute guns were fired from the time of the embarkation of the body in the boat, until its reception on board the schooner.
By a courier from Mr Frere I have received a proposition to march with my detachment to the frontier of Estremadura leaving a small part in Cadiz. I believe this proposition to have arisen from the fears of the Central Junta at Seville. I do not approve this movement but I am ready to execute it if Mr Frere determines on it.
Dined today with Mr Duff† and went in the evening to the party of a Mrs Strange. Both she and her husband are of English extraction and speak English pretty well. She has never been out of Cadiz. There were a good many ladies but a small share of beauty. As few of them spoke French I had not much conversation except with two or three who spoke English. The Duchess of Hicar [?] was there, a good figure and fashionable manners, with the countenance of a creole. She claims a descent from one of the branches of our Stewart family. The Spaniards seem very fond of gaming. Men, women and children have a rage for it. A game somewhat like Lansquenet † was the favourite this evening. The prettiest woman there I found to be an Englishwoman. I did not know that, nor her history till she had gone. When the war with Spain was announced by the unjustifiable act of attacking their four frigates laden with treasure, her present husband was captain of one of them and had his wife and ten children (three of whom they say were very beautiful young women) and almost all his fortune on board. From some disorder appearing on board one of the other ships, he found it necessary to quit his own to assume the command of it. He had not left his own ship above ten minutes when it blew up and every creature on board perished. Ultimately the other three ships surrendered and a case so deplorable could not fail to interest the British government. As some compensation, they restored to him all that he claimed as his personal property in the ship blown up, amounting to about forty thousand pounds. He was carried prisoner into Plymouth where his singular misfortune occasioned much sensation in his favour. A Miss Ward in particular seemed to sympathise in his loss and before he left England she consented to repair that part of it that the government could not. They were married, have now two children and she seems in the fairest way to giving him a third.
Nothing extraordinary this day. Paid a few morning visits and dined with Major Doyle†.
Went to see the Caraccas, the great dockyard of Cadiz and the Isla, as it is commonly called, properly the Island of Leon. The dockyard is very extensive and commodious, with plenty of storehouses, but at present very empty. It would appear that the poverty of its present aspect occasions the disinclination to shewing it to strangers. However, this is equally forbidden in all dockyards. The Isla has a very large, well-built town upon it. It is capable of strong defence, and should be disputed before the enemy is suffered to approach the isthmus that connects it with the town of Cadiz. We had a fine ride of about twenty miles out and home. The isthmus which connects the isle with Cadiz cannot be less than four miles in length, probably five.
This morning a most sudden and unexpected popular commotion broke out – a kind of revolutionary scene which had not been acted here for centuries, except in the case of Solano last year. I shall give its whole progress from notes I took as circumstances passed.
At half past ten o’clock in the morning Mr Duff informed me of the commencement of the tumult, which took its rise from the determination of the government to introduce a corps composed of Poles, Swiss and other foreigners (lately raised from among the French prisoners) into the town of Cadiz, which the people were resolved to resist and took up arms and assembled for that purpose. The people also complained that the men raised for the army in Cadiz were to be sent away to make room for these Poles; that they were given to understand also, that it was intended to take away the arms from the volunteers of Cadiz, as had been proposed at Port St Mary’s; all which they were resolved to resist. Mr Duff also heard they had stopped a courier with dispatches for the Marquis de Villel from Seville.
In consequence of this information I sent an order to prohibit all officers and men of the British detachment from coming on shore and I instructed all those who were already in the town not to interfere in any manner with the people. I also sent immediate notice to the admiral who recalled the Abuscade frigate which was still in the offing, to give notice to Mr Stewart then on board going on a secret mission. About half past one, I heard from Mr Duff that the populace had arrested the Marquis de Villel and were carrying him to the Castello. At the same time a message was brought to me from General Jones, the governor, requesting a British officer might be sent to his house to satisfy the people that the British took no part in the differences subsisting in the town. I accordingly sent my aide de camp, and the Vice Consul, Mr Archdeacon. The a.d.c. delivered a message from me to General Jones, ‘That he might assure the people that the British troops were ready to defend the town against the common enemy, but would by no means take any part in what related to their interior or domestic concerns’. This message was interpreted by Mr Archdeacon to one of the principal Capuchin friars, Padre Maguier, who was then present and promised to convey it to the people. A short time afterwards, in order to prevent the Marquis de Villel from being sent to the common jail, the same Friar, Padre Maguier, took on himself to be responsible for his appearance, in case, upon the examination of his papers, he should prove to be a traitor. All these particulars I sent my a.d.c. to inform the admiral and about 3 o’clock I went to dine at Mr Duff’s. About half past four (soon after dinner) four friars, with other persons, came to Mr Duff’s and one of the friars said the people were extremely tumultuous in the town from the apprehension of its being betrayed, and that the only way to appease them would be a declaration from the British general, ‘That the British would assist in the defence of the town against the common enemy and appoint two officers in the preparations for this purpose.’ To this, I repeated the message I had sent to the governor in the morning and consented to send two of the British officers to the governor to receive his instructions, along with two Spanish officers for examining the defences of the place and give their assistance and advice for placing them in a situation to resist the common enemy. The friars then went onto the balcony and harangued the populace under the window in my presence and the officers of the British Staff whom they had requested to attend. The purport of the harangue was to repeat my promise the good wishes of the British nation to the country at large, and to beg the populace to go home; which they did after giving some huzzas.
I, in consequence, sent Captain Landmann of the Royal Engineers †, and Lieutenant Wills of the Royal Artillery†, to the governor about nine o’clock in the evening, who thanked them for this further proof of the goodwill of the British nation and requested them to come back next morning at ten o’clock.
In addition to the reasons stated above for this commotion, there seem to have been others, personal towards the Marquis de Villel such as his having released five or six persons arrested and confined for their attachment to the French cause, and having declared that the rest had only to petition to be allowed the same indulgence. He had also interfered very injudiciously in the private amusements and concerns of the people. He had even confined some ladies in the Hospicio (or house of industry) threatening others with the same disgraceful punishment. These I heard from common report.
In the morning. There is a report that Count Montigo arrived here two days ago incognito from Algeziras, and remained here three hours. This is the Great Apostle of the Revolution in Spain. If his visit be true, it may account for what has happened.
This morning a proclamation was posted up on the walls to quiet the people – promising a withdrawal of the regiment whose approach gave offence and appointing the Guardia one of the Capuchins and General Jones, Government pro-tempore of Cadiz. About 12 o’clock I received a message from the governor, requesting two British officers (one of whom understood the Spanish language) would endeavour to pacify the populace who had proceeded to the castle of Santa Catarina and demanded General Caraffa†, late 2nd in command of the Spanish troops in Portugal, and some other prisoners who they were resolved to put to death. I sent Colonel Roche†, who had just arrived from Seville and another officer. They succeeded in appeasing the people. Indeed, it was now evident that the people were anxious for the admission of the British troops into Cadiz, and if I had been inclined to take advantage of the moment I might have landed and taken possession. This would have however been considered in such a light by those whose business it would be to misrepresent British proceedings, that I thought it most honourable and prudent to decline the opportunity. Shortly afterwards, before British officers could be found to interfere and save him, Don Joseph Herradia, who had been just displaced from this office (Commandant of the Rents, or excise) was seized by the populace as he was getting into a boat to cross to St Mary ‘s, and killed on the spot. This was the single instance of bloodshed during the whole commotion, which I think was very much owing to the interference of the British officers and the deference paid to them by the populace. The priests and friars were busy all this afternoon and evening in preaching and exhorting the people to order, and they at last succeeded so effectually that I did not hear of a single instance of outrage during the whole night of so tempestuous a day.
A degree of calm seems to have succeeded the storm. I have had today a long conversation with Colonel Roche on the subject of my mission hither, and he goes off tomorrow to Mr Frere with a proposition from me, to march myself with one regiment to join the 40th at Seville, provided the other two are admitted into the town of Cadiz to occupy the barracks.
Colonel Roche set off early this morning and in the afternoon Captain Kelly returned with a verbal message from Mr Frere, purporting that Soult was on his march for Portugal from Galicia, in three columns, but promising to write more particularly.
This night about 10 o’clock received Mr Frere’s letter enclosing the intercepted letter from Soult, stating the particulars of his proceedings and intended march into Portugal. He purposed being in Oporto on the 22nd and spoke with as little Idea of opposition as if he had been in France. I have determined now to return to Lisbon the instant I receive the decision on my proposition, if it is not accepted.
Have given the necessary orders and hold everything prepared for Colonel Roche’s return. Dined today with the admiral. Went in the evening to Mrs Strange’s.
Waiting in anxiety for the arrival of Colonel Roche, having written a letter on the 26th and sent an express yesterday on the same subject. Dined today at Mr Duff’s.
Still in anxiety about my negotiation at Seville.
This morning received a letter from Colonel Roche; my proposition was to be taken into immediate consideration. He would himself return with the answer if favourable, at any rate would write by next post. He expresses some doubts of the success of the measure.
This day Colonel Roche has not appeared, nor have I received any answer to my proposition as he gave me reason to expect. I am in the utmost anxiety and have dispatched another courier to Mr Frere by the colonel. But in the afternoon of today I received letters by a courier from Mr Frere and from Colonel Roche by post. The colonel’s letter tells me of the failure of my proposition. Mr Frere’s gives me a very full and satisfactory account of the Spanish cause -mentions the failure of Soult’s attempt to enter Portugal and the great improbability that he will persist in it and recommending in the strongest terms my proceeding with my detachment to Tarragona where it will be of the utmost use to the Spanish cause. I take this night to consider of the proposition which seems supported by such strong reasoning that as he considers my detachment will not be wanted in Portugal I am much inclined to accede to it, great as is the responsibility.
I have dispatched the courier to Mr Frere, acquainting him of my resolution to accede to his proposal and that I shall proceed without the least delay to Tarragona. Every preparation is therefore made to proceed thither. But this evening arrives Captain Cooke of the Coldstream Guards† with dispatches from England for General Sherbrooke† who sailed from Portsmouth about six weeks ago with about five thousand men – but it seems his convoy has been dispersed. Captain Cooke touched at Lisbon and brings me the most pressing directions from Sir John Cradock to return thither, he having received orders and being determined to defend Portugal as long as possible. That Soult is on the borders and expected to enter immediately.
Detained by contrary winds from sailing for Lisbon as I determined on receiving Captain Cooke’s message. Have written to Mr Frere expressing my concern that this forces me back to Lisbon and prevents my being of that use which I intended to the cause in the eastward. But as the enemy is to be opposed, it matters little whether in Spain or Portugal.
Sailed this morning with a fair wind from the east; as we proceed it trends more to the northward.
At sea, the wind still north.
The wind still north and blows pretty fresh. This night appearance of a westerly wind.
Still at sea. The wind more westerly and we are enabled to stand our course for the Tagus.
Still at sea, baffling and contrary winds, very much unsuited to the impatience with which I desire to revisit Lisbon.
Beating off the Rock at Lisbon, fell in with a fleet from England of merchantmen, under convoy of the Endymion and other frigates. Got into the Tagus this evening with a pleasant breeze and sailed up to Belem. Nothing could be more beautiful than the banks of this delightful river.
Landed this morning and saw Sir John Cradock who was rejoiced to see us. Found that General Sherbrooke was before us in the Tagus. It seems that he arrived at Cadiz the day after we left it, so that we must have passed his fleet in the night as we stood more to sea than his fleet, our missing each other was not wonderful. On receiving his despatches, he turned about and followed us to the Tagus, but keeping nearer the shore, contrary to all expectation, he got a fairer breeze and outstripped us completely. Dined today in the gun-room of the Semiramis.
We are obliged (that is to say our troops) to remain on board this day, the boats being occupied in the landing of General Sherbrooke’s corps, consisting of a brigade of Guards under Brigadier General Campbell and the 87th and 88th Regiments under Major General Tilson†. The enemy are still on the borders, not having actually entered Portugal. The spirits of the people of Lisbon are better than when I left it. The prospect of our defending the country has given them this fillip but I fear they will give us little assistance in this defence. Major General Beresford† is here with the rank of lieutenant general in Portugal, to command their army. He has several British field officers with him, and had this been done three or four months ago some good might have followed- now it is I fear too late.
The troops under my command landed this day. I have got the quarters at Fereira’s house lately occupied by General Cotton who has taken the field.
I find I am appointed to a new brigade, to consist of the 27th and 45th who are to take the field on the 17th to be quartered at Frielas, Apalgao and Camarate, about the centre of the position reaching from Sacavem by Lumiar to Belas.
The climate is now most delightful – nothing can be more congenial to a British constitution, and I am told it will continue for two or three months.
The 45th Regiment marched today for Frielas. The march of the 27th is suspended until tomorrow to ascertain the quarters.
The 27th Regiment marched this morning. I have been the whole of this day engaged in making up dispatches for England to go by the Iris, commanded by my old friend Captain Macleod†. Bad news from the north. Chaves taken with some part of General Silviera’s army by Soult’s Corps.
Further accounts of a disagreeable complexion from the north of Portugal. Silviera’s army very much reduced and dispirited. Fears entertained for Oporto. Our army now fresh brigaded.
Came today to my station at Camarate. My brigade is quartered there and at Apalacao – Frielas – Ponte de Frulas – and other villages on towards Lumiar. It consists of the 27th (3rd Battalion), 45th (1st Battalion) and the 1st Battalion formed from the detachments of Sir John Moore’s army. Also 5 companies 5th Battalion 60th Regiment.
The place where I am quartered is very pleasant. The country at this season particularly, very picturesque and beautiful. Rode round before breakfast Frielas, Apalacao, etc. Sat [on] a General Court Martial of which I am president on Lieutenant Keating of the 45th for ungentlemanly conduct †. Adjourned at 12 o’clock till tomorrow. Rode again through a great part of the country, examining positions, etc. The country delightful. The more I see of it the more I am inclined to defend it against the rapacious enemy that invades it. I shall be disappointed indeed if we fail in preserving it from his atrocious grasp.
Yesterday as well as today has been in great measure taken up with the General Court Martial. Lieutenant Keating’s trial is over today, but we are directed to try a deserter from the German Legion tomorrow. A report today gains ground, that Marshal Ney † command in the north of Portugal, instead of Soult†, and that he has advanced to Braga within eight leagues of Oporto – and that General Bernadin Frere having refused to march from Oporto with his Portuguese troops to meet and fight Ney, has been murdered by the people, who are determined to resist.
Reports from the north are very unfavourable and so contradictory it is more difficult than usual to glean anything like truth. It does not appear that Marshal Ney is with the army. Soult has still the chief command, but who commands the advance at Braga is uncertain- some say General Laborde † who was formerly governor of Lisbon.
The reports are still more unfavourable. Baron Eben† who was forced by the people to take the command, on the murder of Bernardin Frere, marched them against the enemy, but they were so unruly the baron could not restrain their foolish impetuosity. They engaged, in contradiction to his advice, to great disadvantage and were consequently an easy prey to their better disciplined enemy. The Portuguese army in that quarter have consequently been dispersed.
Accounts have arrived that the French are in possession of Oporto. We have further learnt the disagreeable news that Cuesta’s army has been obliged to quit the Tagus and retire upon the Guadiana. This throws the frontier of Portugal open to Victor† who has been joined by Sebastiani† with 15,000 men. It will now be seen whether Victor will come down upon us, or follow Cuesta to Seville. If he prefers the first, the French will now be advancing in three columns, by Oporto, Almeida and the Tagus against our small force. These three columns will consist of at least forty thousand infantry and seven or eight thousand cavalry – Great odds against 14,000 infantry and cavalry of ours united. Our cavalry is not 800.
General Hill’s reinforcement is looked for every hour. He brings above 5,000 infantry, but if that is not followed speedily by more and a large reinforcement of cavalry we shall be overpowered. For notwithstanding the exertions of General Beresford, the Portuguese army is so completely in its infancy that we cannot yet place the least reliance upon its cooperation. The part of the great position our little army at present occupies, reaches from Sacavem to Lumiar, crowning a chain of hills and covered for above half way by the Sacavem River. Our advanced posts are on the other side of the Sacavem, reach from Loures by Cabeco da Montachique to Freixial – Bucelas, and some smaller posts on to Alhandra and Alverca on the Tagus. What we have already taken up is too extensive for our numbers, so that all to the left of Lumiar is unoccupied. The very essential post of Belas – the command of the Mafra and Cintra roads, etc. It would take at least thirty thousand men to occupy the whole.
The accounts from the north, of Soult, are very contradictory. Some make his force in Portugal not above six thousand men. He seems to be advanced within four leagues of Oporto, which the people have resolved to defend. Thus it appears that the report of his having got possession of that place is false. Our situation seems embarrassing; if we move forward towards Oporto we leave Lisbon and the Tagus completely open to Victor’s army. If we lie still here, Soult will undoubtedly make himself master of Oporto.
Accounts are received that General Silveira who commands the Portuguese in the north, when the French advanced from Chaves to Braga on Oporto, returned from the hills to Chaves and has retaken it with some loss to the French, and has shut up the remainder of the French garrison in the citadel where he conceives they must surrender for want of provisions.
A packet from England this morning. Instead of thinking on the vital Interests of the country and supporting the contest with every nerve, the whole of the papers and debates in parliament are filled with the Duke of York’s amours†. Will it be believed at a subsequent period that such an insanity should have seized the country?
A dreadful storm last night and this morning – gives us no small apprehension about General Hill’s army which ought now to be near the Tagus. Went into Lisbon today, where the commander in chief has been for some days. He had some discussions on the present position of affairs. General Beresford, as Marshal and commanding the Portuguese forces, wishes the united armies to march to the relief of Oporto. I cannot think this has the sanction of his own judgement but has been suggested by the Regency to quiet the clamours of the people of Oporto and the north. Unquestionably, if we had nothing to fear from Marshal Victor for Lisbon, the march to Oporto would be most advisable. But to undertake a march of 200 miles and leave Lisbon open to the enemy would be from the frying pan, etc. And I have no doubt but Soult is again a trap for such an operation. Sir J. Cradock seems determined not to risk the loss of Lisbon and the country in a fruitless attempt to save Oporto. No man certainly had ever a more difficult card to play. It may be truly said he has only a choice of difficulties.
The storm continued all yesterday, last night, and is still violent—the wind higher than before. Of course, our apprehensions for General Hill are not abated. This is called in Portugal their second rainy season or winter. It is more violent this year than usual, which they say arises from the unusual shortness of the first or proper winter that we have last had. It is probable this weather may continue some days longer. In some respects it answers to our equinoctial storm, but (as in everything that appertains to seasons or weather) it can be calculated upon with more certainty in this climate than in ours.
The storm has this day much abated and as nothing has been seen off the coast of any collection or fleet of ships previous or during its continuance, we have hopes General Hill may have escaped it, particularly as it is not usual for the effects of these storms to be felt at any distance from the coasts of Portugal, and it very generally happens that with the wind at south west here, it blows from the north in the Bay of Biscay. Had some conversation today with Sir John Cradock on the state of affairs, who intends calling a council of war tomorrow.
This day a council of war was assembled by Sir John Cradock, consisting of the general officers in Portugal who all appeared, except Brigadier General Cameron and Brigadier General Drieberg, King’s German Legion, who were both sick. There were present: Marshal Beresford, Brigadier Generals Sontag †, Campbell (Frederick), Richard Stewart and Langworth of the King’s German Legion. The questions were,
1st ‘whether the ultimate defence of Portugal, under existing circumstances, will be best secured by the movement of the British forces to the northward, with the view to regain Oporto and expel the enemy from that quarter.’ Or,
2nd, ‘Does it appear preferable to place the British army in the best position the vicinity of Lisbon affords, and for the present direct our operations of the capital and the Tagus.’
On the 2nd question – Brigadier Generals Langworth, Stewart, Campbell, Sontag, Major Generals Tilson and Murray were ‘for remaining in our present position for the defence of the Tagus and the capital.’ I was the first who proposed, ‘to move to an advanced position, but not farther than we are determined to engage the enemy in, – keeping in view the defence of the Tagus and the capital under the present circumstances.’
As this opinion was adopted, with some shades of difference, by Major Generals Cotton and Sherbrooke and seemed to meet the ideas of the Commander in Chief, I stated the grounds of my opinion in a letter.
1st. ‘That a movement of the British troops towards the enemy would have a good effect on the Portuguese army and nation.’
2nd. ‘That on the same principle, and considering the great inferiority of our numbers to those of the enemy, the ill consequences of a retrograde movement should be avoided. Our advance should therefore be no further than the ground we had determined to dispute. At present while the army of Marshal Victor is near Badajoz, with the Alentejo open to him, this advance ought not to be distant from Lisbon.’
3rd. ‘That as we must look to the Tagus for reinforcements and supplies, and even subsistence, it is indispensable that our communication with it should be kept open, particularly from Lisbon to the sea.’
That, ‘These Ideas are of course only suited to our present circumstances. reinforcements from England, or changes in the situation of the enemy, particularly in Marshal Victor’s army, will naturally lead to different measures and may enable us to advance against Soult without endangering the safety of the capital.’
Marshal Beresford, arguing as a Portuguese rather than a British officer, wished for a more rapid forward movement, as he finds the Portuguese troops in a very insubordinate state – indeed mutinous and disorderly and he hopes the vicinity of a British army might enable him to make some reformation in their system.
On the whole, I think a forward movement of the army will take place immediately. Various reports of the situation of the enemy. The Commander in Chief seems determined to move the army forward as soon as the means can be procured. It is now certain, Oporto has been some days in possession of Soult’s army. The populace were mutinous, resolute to defend the place until the enemy appeared, but then made no resistance. It is also certain Cuesta has received a severe overthrow from Marshal Victor on the Guadiana, and his army has been almost dispersed. Our situation becomes thus more and more critical.
Preparations for our taking the field are making, in which we found many difficulties. A fleet in the offing, supposed to be General Hill’s corps.
General Hill’s arrival announced. His force consists of about 4,000 men. Brigadier General Alexander Campbell comes with him. This reinforcement adds to the activity of our equipment, and I believe we shall soon advance with as little delay as possible towards Leiria. Soult, it is said, is pushing forward from Oporto towards Coimbra. It would certainly be desirable to bring him to action alone, I hope we shall be able to add another trophy to the British army.
In consequence of General Hill’s arrival, the army is newly brigaded. Mine is now composed of the 3rd Battalion 27th, 2nd Battalion 31st and 1st Battalion 45th.
Received orders to move my brigade on the 8th which day the general movement of the army commences.
The 27th Regiment moved today to Tojal [Sao Juliao do Tojal] – the 45th to the same place; the 31st to Bucelas.
The three regiments moved today to Sobral [de Monte Agracal], where I have joined them. The army moves in three columns. The right consist of the Guards and a brigade of the line, under the command of the two Brigadier Generals Campbell. The centre consists of Major General Cotton’s, Hill’s, Mackenzie’s, Sontag’s and Cameron’s . And the left of General Murray’s (German Legion) and Major General Tilson’s. General Sherbrooke as second in command of the army has no particular command, but takes a general superintendence and moves with the centre column.
Halted today at Sobral, or rather at a small village near it, where my quarters are. We have come through a very barren country and the weather is at present extremely cold. This is so much the better for marching, as long as we can procure quarters for our men. But I fear we must soon bivouac.
Moved today my quarters into the town of Sobral, being succeeded in my former ones by Brigadier General Stewart whose brigade has marched into the villages adjacent to Sobral. Have received my orders for my brigade to move at a moment’s warning.
The 27th moved today to Curguza [Carvoeira?] and Quinta de Marialva where I accompanied them. The 45th to San Domingo [de Carmoes] and La Reinha [?]; the 31st to Freiria. They were all very short marches.
The brigade moved to Vila Verde and adjacents. A convent on a high hill received 500 men.
The whole brigade marched to Caldas [da Rainha], through Obidos – passed the scene of the first action of our troops with the French in August last †. It happened on the 17th of that month. Obidos is a strong hill fort. Caldas a large well built town. Our quarters last night at Vila Verde, where General Sherbrooke and I inhabited the same house, were most wretched. At Caldas we are very well lodged although there is now a pretty large army in it. The place is famous for its warm and mineral baths and waters. I presume we must halt here a day or two for supplies.
Halted here today, and it is probable we must remain here for some days. General Hill’s brigade and the cavalry (14th Dragoons) are under orders to march tomorrow. Victor is said to be near Badajoz, and Soult advancing to Coimbra. I wish this last may be true. If he is advancing he will soon be placed in an awkward dilemma, either to fight us, or retreat. But I apprehend our information is not to be relied on.
The dragoons and General Hill’s brigade marched this morning for Alcobaca, about 4 Portuguese leagues in advance. The commander in chief, Sir J. Cradock is expected immediately. The 11th Dragoons have arrived at Lisbon and are ordered to join the army with all expedition. I hope they will come before we meet Soult. We shall then bid defiance to his numerous cavalry. This is a very pleasant town, and the establishment of the baths on a very handsome and liberal scale. There is a large bath for the general use of the people, and smaller baths for private use. The privacy is the only difference, for they are supplied from the same springs of warm water, and are constantly kept running off, so that the water never cools much and the impurities it acquires from bathing are carried off imperceptibly. The water is strongly mineral, smells like those of Harrogate and Strathpeffer †, but is more like the latter, containing a portion of salt. Wonderful cures are related, of almost all diseases – but chiefly rheumatism, gout, and all impurities of the blood, and I believe they may safely be tried in almost all other cases, for where they do not act very efficiently as a cure, they have never been known to do any mischief.
I have received lately some letters from Seville through Estramadura by the common post, which throws rather a doubt upon the reported situation of the French armies. The people in Andalusia are not at all dismayed at Cuesta’s defeat, nor has he lost any credit with them for it. On the contrary, he has been appointed to the chief command of the armies as well in Estramadura as in Andalusia and La Mancha, in consequence of the conduct of General Urbino (Conde di Cortyal) which has been very reprehensible. The commander in chief, Sir John Cradock, joined the army here this day. The scarcity of forage will soon force us to move from this place and Alcobaca and I presume our next step will be towards Leiria – two days march farther on than Alcobaca. The ignorance of the people even in the highest as well as most active situations in Portugal, is not to be credited. We were assured that here and at Alcobaca we should find plenty of corn and straw, in both of which we find them almost entirely deficient. And what adds to the probability of our being soon without resource here, is the refusal of Admiral Berkeley to send a victualler to Peniche, alleging its being unsafe. This is the first instance of an unwillingness of co-operation shown by any naval commander of recent years. His predecessor, S C. Cotton, was extremely ready to promote the views of the army. The army is now disposed as follows:- Major General Cotton with the 14th Dragoons and a brigade of light 3 pounders. Major General Hill with the Reserve Brigade at Alcobaca. The three brigades commanded by Major General MacKenzie, Brigadier General Stewart and Brigadier General Sontag, with the park of artillery, at Caldas. The whole of the above belong to the centre column. The German two brigades with their artillery are at Obidos, as also Major General Tilson’s Brigade. Brigadier General Cameron’ s Brigade at a village about three miles in rear of Obidos. The right column, consisting of the brigade of Guards, under Brigadier General Frederick Campbell, and the brigade under Brigadier General A.Campbell, are at Rio Maior and adjacent.
There is reason to believe the army will move in a day or two; the troops at Rio Maior to Santarem, where they will be joined by the 11th Light Dragoons. All the rest of the army to Leiria and Batalha – Santarem will be under General Sherbrooke. These positions are well chosen for the defence of the Tagus, in case of an attempt to force a passage or to seize on Abrantes, but they are not so convenient for operation against Soult, Santarem being too far in the rear of Leiria. I have just heard that it is probable some of our infantry will remain at Alcobaca. This I suppose for the convenience of subsistence – otherwise they are too far distant from Leiria and Abrantes
The intention of sending a part of our force to Santarem is altered and the whole will now proceed to Leiria and Batalha in consequence of dispatches from General Beresford, who seems extremely anxious for a united move against Soult. I do not believe this gentleman will wait for us, and probably his army is at this moment in retreat from Oporto. I am not therefore very easy at the idea of running so far from Lisbon as to leave it in danger from Victor, in quest of an enemy we have no chance of coming up with. I wish I may be wrong.
I have received my orders to move in command of a column consisting of my own and General Stuart’s Brigade, with the artillery of the centre column, for Alcobaca tomorrow – the next day for Batalha – the following for Leiria. Had my brigade out this morning and manoeuvred them for the first time. Various circumstances had prevented and disappointed me before this morning from having this satisfaction. Considering how long they have been without a field day, they behaved extremely well and are ready to meet the enemy.
Marched this morning for Alcobaca at 5 in the morning, arrived there about 2 o’clock p.m. – and dined with the monks. The commander in chief was there. The country between Caldas and Alcobaca is rich and tolerably cultivated. The Convent at Alcobaca is very handsome and extensive. Its establishment very much favoured by the different monarchs since the reign of John the 4th by whom it was founded about four hundred years ago. The revenues are said to be nearly thirty thousand pounds sterling per annum. The library is a most beautiful and well proportioned room – and the kitchen the most convenient and extensive I have ever seen. My whole brigade, officers and men, were accommodated within the walls of this convent. Our entertainment was most sumptuous. The distance from Caldas is 4 Leagues, nearly eighteen miles,
Marched this morning for Batalha at 5 o’clock in the morning. A steep hill with a horrible road over it, within a mile of Alcobaca, retarded our march greatly. Arrived at Batalha, where some of our men were quartered – indeed more than two thirds of our whole number. There is an unfinished part of this convent of very a beautiful architecture. In the church, the greatest curiosity is the body of one of the Johns – King of Portugal – in great preservation, above three hundred years old. We are entertained with great good will by the monks, who are poor compared with their neighbours at Alcobaca, but were equally the objects of the rapacity of the French last year. They were plundered of everything that contained any of the precious metals. When the French officers dined with them, they pocketed the silver forks and spoons.
Marched this morning at the usual hour for Leiria – an excellent road. Arrived at Leiria about half past nine o’clock,, where I found an excellent breakfast prepared for me by my friends, Colonel Darroch† and Major Tidy. The difficulty of procuring forage and provisions here has induced the commander in chief to send forward the 14th Dragoons and the reserve to Pombal, on the route to Coimbra, and the accounts of the approach of the enemy from Oporto make it probable the whole army may soon move in that direction.
I am again appointed commandant of the troops collected together – troublesome office which I however have no objection to as employing my time professionally. The difficulties of provisioning an army in this country appear every day more serious and render our situation the more precarious. We are however in an excellent position for moving against the enemy, whether it shall be ultimately determined to attack Soult or Victor first. News has arrived this morning of General Sir Arthur Wellesley, who has come out to take command of this army in the room of Sir John Cradock, who is appointed to the command at Gibraltar. This removal has been softened by every expression of kindness by ministers, but must be severely felt by Sir John, who has conducted himself with great propriety in very difficult circumstances -has suffered great anxiety of mind in the various arrangements that have taken place, and the various tempers and obstacles he has had to manage and remove. The treatment he has received is unfair and he leaves this army with the love and affection, I believe, of every individual in it. His conciliatory manners and kindness of disposition, -have enabled him to work through a most unpleasant time without creating an enemy of any description in any rank. His successor I have the highest esteem and respect for. But this tribute of justice to Sir John Cradock is due from everyone who, like me, have witnessed his exertions and felt his worth.
Today our worthy commander in chief left us. I rode with him, as did most of the general officers, to Cavalhos, about three leagues towards Lisbon, where we took leave of him with great regret. The 16th Light Dragoons has advanced to Santarem. Generals Sherbrooke and Tilson dined with me today when we had much and serious conversation on our present situation. With a good British army I think it is not a difficult task to drive the French out of Spain in this campaign under such an active commander in chief as Sir Arthur Wellesley whom we expect to join us in a few days.
Nothing extraordinary has occurred today. General Sherbrooke has determined to have the whole line out tomorrow morning if the weather permits, which from present appearances is uncertain. There is an excellent situation about a mile and a half from this place for drawing up our whole force here in one line. There are now here (in Leiria) about 9,000 men, at Batalha about 5,000 – and at Pombal about 3,000 of which we could bring about 16,000 fairly into action.
This morning has been so rainy and tempestuous, the design of having the line out under arms on the ground proposed yesterday has been postponed. I wished to have devoted this day to writing to my friends in the Strath and Black Isle, but have been prevented by the necessity of examining many prisoners and deserters brought in – a part of the duty attached to my situation.
This morning arrived a sudden order for the army to march immediately, the whole except my brigade are ordered to Coimbra with a view of advancing immediately on Soult. My brigade is ordered to Ourem and then to Tomar so that I suspect I am to be left to watch the Tagus at Abrantes in case of Victor’s advancing from the side of Badajoz. This movement has disappointed and distressed me. I dare say, it will be accompanied with all those expressions that can gild the pill, but being the first act of Sir Arthur Wellesley’s command, I do not bode much of the favourable kind from it. I dare say I shall be told of the importance of the post entrusted to my charge and that the situation is honourable to me. This is a sort of reasoning easily applied and most fallacious. I would be sorry to suppose that my political connexions have occasioned any of the rubs I have met with in the line of my profession. Time will shew. My brigade marched for Ourem at half past one o’clock with a brigade of five light six pounders and a howitzer attached to it under the command of Captain Henry Baynes of the R.A †. We arrived at Ourem (four long Portuguese leagues from Leiria – near 18 miles) at nine o’clock at night. Ourem is a singularly situated place on the summit of a high hill. A Moorish fort commanded it, now in ruins. Besides Ourem, the town of Aldea da Cruz near it, and some scattered houses covered the brigade for the night.
Halted here today, to learn whether the Portuguese troops have left Leiria for Coimbra finding they have, we shall march tomorrow for Tomar.
This morning at 3 o’clock I received an express from Sir A. Wellesley wishing me to halt my brigade till the 3rd, to avoid meeting two squadrons of the 16th Light Dragoons who are to be at Tomar on the 2nd. In consequence of which I have countermanded our march till the 3rd. My conjectures are but too true. I am to be left to watch Victor and the passes of the Tagus. I have this afternoon received my instructions, in consequence of which I shall proceed early tomorrow to Tomar, to have a conference with Marshal Beresford as I find I am to have a large Portuguese force attached to me, at least it appears large on paper. I have not the least confidence in it, but I find I am to have two regiments of English dragoons and another battalion of infantry which I like well. This command is represented of great importance and it undoubtedly may become so. I do not like having anything to do with the command of Portuguese troops, and I wish I were with the main army, at the head of my brigade, instead of this important but certainly troublesome command, in which there is much reputation to be lost, little to be acquired.
Unfortunately, his later journal up to the period of his death at the Battle of Talavera on 28 July 1809 has been lost.