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XI.

ble of distributing, even to the British troops, CHAP. the ample supplies which had been procured for them. Freire's conduct was imputed to an

1808.

August. opinion that the English were too weak for the service upon which they were advancing; it was not suspected that he had received intelligence which alarmed him, and which he had withheld from the British commander. He was, however, wise enough to follow the advice which he had at first refused, and remained at Leiria. On the 14th, Sir Arthur reached Alcobaça, Skirmisk

near Caldas. from which the French fell back the preceding night: the next day he arrived at Caldas. Laborde and Thomieres were now at Roliça, about ten miles off, and their advanced posts were within a league of the Caldas. Four companies of riflemen were ordered to drive them back; they were tempted to an incautious pursuit; a superior body of the enemy endeavoured to cut them off, and would have succeeded, had not General Spencer come to their support. A trifling loss was sustained in this affair, but the village was won, and the French retired entirely from the neighbourhood; their picquets having been driven from Obidos.

The country between the Caldas and Obidos Laborde is a sandy level, with an open pine wood. Obidos sition ał

Roliça. attributed to the nature of our consisted in the inexperience of political situation, which pre- almost every individual belongvents us from undertaking great ing to the commissariat, of the military operations, in which the mode of procuring, conveying, subsistence of armies becomes a . and distributing supplies." He subject of serious consideration requested that this explanation and difficulty, and these evils might stand upon the minutes.

takes a po

XI.

August.

CHAP. itself stands finely upon an insulated hill, and

a little beyond a mountainous or hilly region 1808. begins, the ascent from the low country being

abrupt and difficult. Laborde had retired thither, knowing the strength of the ground, and expecting to be joined there by Loison, who, he knew, would make every exertion to effect his junction in time. That junction had once already been prevented by the timely arrival of the British

at Leiria, and Sir Arthur now advanced for the August 17. purpose of a second time preventing it. The

enemy were drawn up at the foot of the hill, in front of their position; they retired to the heights, and Sir Arthur, having reconnoitred the ground, and seen how difficult the attack in front would be, determined to attack both flanks. He therefore directed Major-General Ferguson, with 3000 men, to turn the enemy's right, and Major-General Hill to attack the left, while the Portugueze troops, under Colonel Trant, by a wider movement on that side, were to penetrate to his rear. Meanwhile columns under Major-Generals Crawford, Nightingale, and Fane, were to assemble in the plain, ready to force their way up the passes as soon as it should be seen that the enemy were shaken. This plan, which would have ensured success with the least possible loss, was frustrated by some mistake in the delivery of an order. Ferguson's brigade was, in consequence of this error, brought into the plain to support the central movement; and the attack was made in front, upon the strength of the

XI.

1808. August.

position, before the enemy apprehended any CHAP. danger on the flanks or in the rear, and consequently while they were able to apply their whole force and undivided attention where they were strongest.

Roliça was at that time a large and beautiful village, with more appearanoe of comfort and welfare about it than was usual in Portugueze villages. The place, with its five dependent hamlets, contained about three hundred families, the larger half of the population being in Roliça itself. Most of the houses had an inclosed garden or orchard, and the country is full of olive grounds, vineyards, and gardens, with stone inclosures. A little beyond Roliça is the hamlet of N. Senhora de Misericordia, a place of fewer houses, but of the same description: just without this village the British artillery was well placed, on a rising ground, where there stood some of those strong and well-built windmills which are common in Portugal; below were olive grounds, and an open grove of ilex or cork, under cover of which our troops were enabled to approach and deploy with little loss, though the French kept up a constant fire from the heights. Laborde had planted his eagle on the highest point of Monte S. Anna, near a wooden cross, which marked the spot of some murder or accidental death. The view from those heights is singularly beautiful, presenting just such objects as Gaspar Poussin delighted in painting, and in such combination as he would have placed them; rocks and

XI.

1808. August.

Chap. hills rising in the valley, open groves, churches

with their old galilees, and houses with all the picturesque varandas and porticos which bespeak a genial climate; Obidos with its walls and towers upon an eminence in middle distance, and its aqueduct stretching across the country as far as the eye could follow it; Monte Junto far to the east, and on the west the Atlantic. And till the iniquitous invasion of the country by France, there had been something in the condition of the people here which accorded with the loveliness of the scene wherein they were placed. Such as their lot was, they were contented with it; three and even four generations were found under the same roof: like plants, they grew, and seeded, and decayed, and returned to earth upon the spot where they had sprung up. If this state of things be not favourable to commercial prosperity and the wealth of nations, it is far more conducive to individual virtue and happiness

than the stage by which it is succeeded. Roliça.

Upon this beautiful ground it was that the British troops were first to be tried against the soldiers of Buonaparte in the Peninsula. The strength of the enemy's position fully compensated for their inferiority in numbers. The way by which the assailants had to ascend was up ravines, rather than paths, more practicable for goats than men, so steep, that in many parts a slip of the foot would have been fatal, in some parts overgrown with briars, and in others impeded by fragments of rock. Three of these

Battle of

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1808.

dry water-courses, which appeared the least dif- CHAP. ficult, were attempted; that in the centre was the most promising, and this the 9th and 29th

August. regiments attacked. They were protected in their advance by the fire of our artillery. The way would not admit more than three or four men abreast, in no place more than six. Near the top there was a small opening, in the form of a wedge, overgrown at the point with a thick coppice of myrtle, arbutus, arborescent heath, and those other shrubs which in this part of Portugal render the wild country so beautiful. An ambush of riflemen had been posted here, and here Colonel Lake, of the 29th, fell, with many of his men. When they had reached the summit, they were exposed to a fire from the vineyards, while they could not form a front to return it. The grenadier company, by a brave charge upon that part of the enemy who were in the open ground, won for them time to form; and though Laborde, with great promptitude, rallied the French as soon as they gave way, and brought them thrice to the charge, they kept their ground. This severe contention had continued two hours, when Brigadier-General Fane, with the light troops, appeared on the right, and Major-General Hill on the left. Laborde then deemed it necessary to abandon his first line and retire into the hamlet of Azambugeira, which was in the rear. Throughout the action this General had shown that the high military reputation which he enjoyed was well founded;

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