The Waterloo Association: Members Area

From Marshal William Carr Beresford


Leiria 3 October 1810

My dear Sir

In correspondence I am, I believe, a good deal in your debt but I am sure that, with you, the circumstances of bustle etc in which we have of late been so constantly will plead my excuse. I learn that the accounts of our success over the enemy at Bussaco has considerably elated the feelings & imaginations of the Lisbon people, perhaps more than it need to have done though in truth it has been to us not less useful than glorious, and I hope the Lisbonites will not be much cast down on hearing of the after advance of the enemy, and our retiring towards them. You will have heard of the good countenance of the Portuguese troops in the business of Bussaco and I will not therefore repeat what you already must have heard. I have for some time past wished to answer more of your letters on the subject of the embarkation of those that wish to emigrate at least as far as it related to those of my family who have that inclination. In respect to all others though I think my opinion equally applicable to them, yet I have no business to meddle myself in what does not immediately concern me, but I am sure in the regulations & arrangements what they may, if the people & families to go are not embarked previous to the decision between the two armies should the result be unfortunate to us, few of them would be embarked at all, and the whole would be one scene of confusion. I am therefore sending Arbuthnot to Lisbon to endeavour to make some arrangements for those families of any staff who are determined to go away, and I cannot but wish they should be embarked as soon as the French approach our position and if that is not conformable to the general regulations, to which every individual must submit, at least that they should leave Lisbon for some place down the river and near the vessels on which they are to embark. I have done everything I could to persuade them not to emigrate, though I think that may be a thing of necessity to my Adjutant General & Military Secretary, certainly to the former. The Count d’Alva it is quite useless arguing with, and I have this day again had a long conversation with the Count of Lumieres pointing out to him that at least he ought by all means to persuade his mother (to whom personally belongs the greatest part of the property of the family) and his uncle who is married to her to stay, they can fear nothing beyond the loss of their property, and which their going away will absolutely insure. I think it quite insanity in those two going, as he has never taken any part military or civil, and they will scarcely inquire into his desires. Then would I mean to let the married men of my family go into town in a day or two, that they may be enabled to make some little arrangements respecting their families, and be back to me before any action takes place though they will all of course call upon you, yet to save you trouble I send Arbuthnot to make what arrangements can be made for them, and I will feel particularly obliged to you for what assistance you can give in the business. This is a melancholy subject & though I am convinced there will be no necessity for emigration yet I cannot help feeling for those that have to fear it.
Yesterday morning the enemy had not advanced from Coimbra, indeed his advance guard had rather fallen back, as a patrol of ours did not find it in the place it had been in the preceding night. I suppose he must want some aid and some arrangement after his march, this possible from Almeida. It is I think one of the most extraordinary enterprises known in modern times, He has given up all his communications and leaves not even a rear guard, so that the country between Almeida & Coimbra has no other trace of an enemy than the devastation he has occasioned. I cannot comprehend how he can long exist under such circumstances, I am sure we could not, it is quite indifferent to him (Massena) whether he is on the mountains, in the plains, or in cities, every place is to him a desert, there is not about stays. I do not think 20 people stayed in Coimbra & at this time the inhabitants of this town have everyone abandoned their houses, not even a servant remaining. I trust ere very long to have the pleasure of seeing you after our works & labours are well over. Lord Wellington is in excellent health & spirits which I very sincerely hope he will long enjoy. Believe me to be my own dear sir, yours most sincerely W. C. Beresford

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