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CAMPAIGN OF SIR JOHN MOORE.

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danger which the British were certain to incur CHAP. I. in the attempt of bringing him to action. Indeed

1809. it was to the Spanish General alone that the

January British army was indebted for its safety. Had Romana not communicated the information that the

enemy, under Napoleon, were in full march from Madrid, the advance on Carrion and Saldanha would have taken place, and the retreat of the army would, in all probability, have been cut off. As it was, Sir John Moore was barely able to extricate himself from the danger he had so imprudently courted, by a rapid and precipitate movement. But the very letters of the General afford abundant proof, that, even in his own opinion, the advance on Saldanha could be productive of no beneficial result. Why then was it undertaken? Why was a gallant army thus ingloriously perilled, and subsequently compelled to seek safety in one of the most calamitous retreats of which history bears record ? Not with the hope of animating and invigorating the spirit of the Spanish nation, because that spirit was believed by Sir John Moore to have been utterly broken and subdued, but because it was considered necessary to risk the

army, to convince the people of England, as well as

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OBSERVATIONS ON THE

CHAP. I. the rest of Europe, that the Spaniards had

neither the power nor the inclination to make 1809. January. any efforts for themselves!"

Such was the object, for the attainment of which alone, the misfortunes attendant on the retreat to Corunna were inflicted on the British army and nation. Thank God that object was not attained. Had it been so, history would have been deprived of one of its most memorable lessons, and the brightest records of British glory would have been excluded from her annals.

Having said thus much on the previous operations of the army, we would say little of the retreat. That it was conducted with unnecessary rapidity, and that to this circumstance is attributable the greater part of its concomitant misfortunes, are points, we believe, on which the great majority of military authorities are agreed. Had the information of the General, with regard to the country traversed by his army, been more accurate and extensive, he would have known that there was no road leading to Betanzos and Corunna, by which the enemy could at any season have advanced with rapidity sufficient to have endangered his communications. In

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1809.

fact, the roads on the right and left of that oc- CHAP. I. cupied by the British, most difficult at any season, must, at the period in question, when co

January vered with deep snow, and intersected by swollen torrents from the mountains, have been utterly impracticable. At all events, no measures were taken to ascertain whether these roads were occupied by detachments of the enemy or not. Sir John Moore relied only for safety on the celerity of his marches; no attempt was made to impede the progress of the pursuers, by destroying the bridges which led across the numerous ravines; the soldiers, worn by incessant privation and fatigue to the lowest pitch of exhaustion compatible with life, became utterly demoralized; and all the proud attributes of a British army, save that of innate and indefeasible courage, were unnecessarily sacrificed.

We feel it to be superfluous to enter on more detailed criticisms on the minuter features of the retreat. Whatever

may

have been the errors of Sir John Moore, it must be admitted that fortune also was against him. The elements were his opponents ; and those most deeply conversant in warlike operations, will be the first to acknowledge how easily the wisest calcula

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OBSERVATIONS ON THE

CHAP. I. tions may be overthrown by the occurrence of

contingencies which human prudence could nei1809.

ther foresee nor avert. During his retreat, Sir January

John Moore lost no trophy in fight. He led his army to their ships. He declined to sacrifice the honour of his country by proposing a convention. He closed a life of honourable and distinguished service on the field of battle; and his reward was the shout of victory which met his dying ear.

From the moment he entered Spain, Sir John Moore was surrounded by difficulties. He saw at once that the British Government were deceived with regard to the state of the peninsula. He was directed to co-operate with armies which seemed to melt at a breath, and retain nothing of material existence. He was thwarted in his schemes by those on whose opinion he had injudiciously been made dependent. He received no support from the authorities of the country. He felt it to be impossible to realize the expectations of the British Government and nation. His spirit, almost morbidly sensitive, shrank from the breath of censure which even blameless failure, for a time, might draw on his fair fame. Unfortunately, such feelings—the

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feelings of a generous and proud soul-gathered CHAP. I. force as the prospect darkened around him, and

1809. disposed his mind to despondency. Something

January perhaps he wanted of fitting confidence in his own great powers; something too of that elastic buoyancy of spirit, which danger and difficulty tend rather to stimulate than depress.

But enough. Such as Moore was, England is proud of him ; and the moral perceptions of her people must indeed be blunted, when they shall cease to regard his memory with love and honour.

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