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Edict against deserters.
CHAP. hands they had made themselves obnoxious to the
laws. Whom too could they trust, whom were December. they to obey?. Instead, therefore, of forming a
new army, as they had designed, at Talavera, they dispersed again, not having now any rallying place appointed, but each man going whither he thought best. Some took the road to Andalusia, some to Avila : the Extremadurans, who were the most numerous, went to their homes.
The dispersion of the soldiers called forth a severe edict. It began by stating, that the martial laws of Spain had affixed no punishment for officers who deserted their colours or stations, it never having been supposed that men of such rank could possibly be guilty of such a crime. But now it had unhappily been seen that many officers, forgetful of all honour and duty, had fled, scattering disorder and terror wherever they went, and pretending treason in their generals as an excuse for their own conduct; whereas they themselves had been the worst enemies of their country, by abandoning their generals in the most critical moments. The Junta, therefore, pronounced sentence of death against every officer who absented himself from his colours without permission, and confiscation of his property for the relief of the widows and orphans of soldiers in his parish. Soldiers were made liable to the like penalty; any person who harboured a deserter was to be punished by confiscation of his property, and the same penalty was denounced against all magistrates who suffered
deserters to remain within their jurisdiction. But CHAP.
XIV. all who, within fifteen days, should present themselves to the nearest authority in order to rejoin the army, were exempted from the pains in this decree. Four days after the murder of San Juan, and A few En.
glish stragthe dispersion of his army, two divisions of French
glers butch. cavalry, under Milhaud and Lasalle, entered Tala-ered by the vera. They found the body of the Spanish Ge- cavalry. neral still on the gibbet, and this murder furnished Buonaparte with a new subject of invective against the Spaniards; though this, and the thousand deaths, and all the untold crimes, and all the unutterable miseries with which the peninsula was filled, were the consequences of his own single conduct, the fruits of his individual wickedness. Lasalle fell in with sixteen Englishmen upon the road, stragglers from General Hope's detachment, and it was related in the bulletins * of Buonaparte, as an exploit worthy of remembrance
* This part of the bulletin under which it was perpetrated, was officially transmitted by Lord if perpetrated at all. If it shalí Castlereagh to Sir John Moore, upon investigation appear to be with the following instructions: founded, I am to desire you will -"
-“ His Majesty cannot overlook cause a protest to be made by you this account, descriptive, accord, to the nearest head-quarters of ing to the obvious sense of it, of the French army, and that you the murder of some unresisting will take such measures as shall stragglers of his army, although appear to you most expedient for his Majesty is disposed to dis- the protection of the troops under believe a transaction, however your orders against conduct so sufficiently recorded, which is so barbarous and so disgraceful.”utterly repugnant to the usual No such measures were taken, in laws of war, and to every princi- consequence of Sir John Moore's ple of humanity. His Majesty retreat. This instruction, howtherefore desires that you will ever, exculpates the British gotake the earliest means of ascer- vernment from any charge of intaining the truth of the fact so difference upon the subject. recorded, and the circumstances
CHAP. and commendation, that a division of French
cavalry, falling in with sixteen Englishmen who 1.808.Cr, had lost their way, put them to the sword. This
was but a small part of the force which was destined to proceed in this direction. As soon as Madrid had been delivered up, Lefebvre was ordered to advance from Valladolid towards Lisbon. First he advanced to Segovia, which he entered unresisted. The people were dispirited by the panic and flight of their armies; but it should not be forgotten for their exculpation, that the more generous and heroic spirits, having flocked to their country's standard among the foremost levies, had already received their crown of martyrdom, or were clinging to the wreck of the two great armies of the north and the centre, or were consummating the sacrifice of duty in Zaragoza. In one place only between Valladolid and the capital did this part of the French army experience any opposition. The pass of Guadarrama was open to them: General Hope had been stationed there, but was recalled by Sir John Moore, and there were no native troops
to supply his place. But when the enemy deThe French scended upon the Escurial, and proceeded to take possession of the take possession of that palace, the magnificent
monument of a victory which Spain had achieved over France in open, honourable war, and in a fair field, they found the peasantry assembled to defend the seat and sepulchres of their kings. Undisciplined as they were, ill-armed, and with none to direct their efforts, they stood their
ground till they were overpowered by practised CHAP. troops, superior in numbers as well as in arms; and the French, after the slaughter of these brave peasants before the gates, took up their quarters in the palace of the Philips. He who founded that stately pile, could he then have beheld from his grave what was passing around him, would have seen the consequences of that despotic system which he and his father established upon the ruins of the old free constitution of Spain.
It was a noble feeling which led these peasants to sacrifice themselves in defence of the Escurial, and the action did not pass unnoticed by those able and enlightened Spaniards whose patriotic writings at this time did honour to themselves and to their country. “ Nothing,” said Don Isidro de Antillon, “ is more worthy of public interest, and nothing will more excite the admiration of posterity, than a deed like this. If indeed we had only armies to oppose to Buona. parte, infallibly we should become his slaves; the victory would be the usurper's beyond all resource. But it is the collective strength of our inhabited places, the defence of our walls, the obstinate and repeated resistance of the people in the streets and gateways, along the roads and upon the heights, wherever they can cut off or annoy the detachments of the enemy,.. the universal spirit of insurrection, now become as it were the very element of our existence; this it is which disconcerts his plans, which renders his
CHAP. victories useless, and after a thousand vicissiXIV.
tudes and disasters, will finally establish the in1808. dependence and the glory of Spain.”
Lefebvre entered Madrid on the 8th of DeErcesses of the French. cember. Buonaparte reviewed his division in the
Prado, and dispatched it to Toledo, while Sebastiani with another division marched for Tala
In that city, by the 19th, about 25,000 French were assembled, including 5000 cavalry. The wiser inhabitants fled before their arrival, preferring the miseries of emigration to the insults and atrocities which they must otherwise have endured: for the exaction of heavy contributions, which reduced half the people to beggary, was the least evil those towns endured that fell under the yoke of the French. Every where the soldiers were permitted to plunder ; no asylum could secure the women from their unrestrained brutality; churches and convents were profaned with as little compunction as dwellinghouses were broken
many instances, the victims were exposed naked in the streets. The Spanish government exclaimed loudly against these enormities. “ In other times,” they said, “ war was carried on between army and army, soldier and soldier; their fury spent itself upon the field of battle; and when courage, combined with fortune, had decided the victory, the conquerors behaved to the conquered like men of honour, and the defenceless people were respected. The progress of civilization had tempered the evils of hostility, till a nation which so
open; and in