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On the liberation of Portugal, by the Conven- CHAP. I. tion of Cintra, it was determined by the British

1808. government to despatch an expedition to the

October. north of Spain. Preparations for this purpose were immediately set on foot by Sir Hew Dalrymple, and continued by Sir Harry Burrard, without any considerable progress being made in the equipment of the army for active service.

It was not till the sixth of October that Sir





CHAP. I. John Moore received official information of his

being appointed to command the troops des-

tined for this service. The despatch stated,
that the officer commanding the forces of his
Majesty in Portugal, was directed to detach a
corps of twenty thousand infantry, with two re-
giments of German light cavalry, and a suitable
body of artillery, to be placed under his orders,
and that this force would be joined by a corps
of above ten thousand men, then assembling at
Falmouth, under.command of Sir David Baird.

Sir John Moore was directed to proceed,
with the troops under his more immediate com-
mand, without any avoidable delay; and was in-
structed to fix on some place of rendezvous for
the whole army, either in Gallicia or on the
borders of Leon. The specific plan of opera-
tions to be subsequently adopted, he was to con-
cert with the commanders of the Spanish ar-

Sir John Moore had no sooner assumed the command, than he found he had considerable difficulties to

Few effective preparations had been made for the equipment of the troops by his predecessors in command. Magazines were to be formed, and


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means of transport to be provided, in an impov- CHAP. I. erished and exhausted country. The approach

1808. of the rainy season rendered it, above all things,

October. desirable, that the army should, as soon as possible, set forward on its march ; yet all the complicated preliminaries, necessary for this purpose, were still to be accomplished. These formidable difficulties were overcome by the energy

of Sir John Moore ; and, in less than a fortnight from the period of his assuming the command, the greater part of the army was on its march to the frontier.

It formed part of the instructions of Government, that the cavalry should proceed by land; but a discretionary power was, vested in the commander, to move the infantry by sea or land, as he might judge most advisable. Sir John Moore preferred the latter, because, at that season of the year, a coasting voyage was uncertain and precarious, and because he was informed that, at Corunna, there were scarcely means of equipment for the force under Sir David Baird, already destined for that port.

Considerable difficulties occurred in ascertaining the state of the roads; and, deceived by er



CHAP. I. roneous information on that point, Sir John

Moore determined on dividing his army, a 1808. October. dangerous arrangement, and one by which the

period of concentration would of necessity be retarded. In consequence of this decision, the troops were ordered to march in three col


A corps of six thousand men, composed of the cavalry, four brigades of artillery, and four regiments of infantry, under command of Lieutenant-General Hope, were directed to pass through the Alentejo, and proceed by the route of Badajos, Merida, Truxillo, Talavera de la Reyna, and the Escurial.

Three brigades, under Lieutenant-General Fraser, marched by Abrantes and Almeida.

Two brigades, commanded by Major-General Beresford, were sent by Coimbra and Almeida. As it was deemed imprudent, by Sir John Moore, that the two latter columns should be without artillery, a brigade of light six-pounders was likewise directed on Almeida.

The different corps of the army having commenced their march, Sir John Moore quitted

Lisbon on the twenty-seventh of October. On Nov. 8. the eighth of November he was at Almeida.



On the thirteenth he arrived at Salamanca, CHAP. I. where he received intelligence of the defeat and

1808. dispersion of Belvidere's army before Burgos. November. This event seems to have inspired the British general with melancholy forebodings of the fate of the contest in which he was about to engage. On the second night after his arrival, he was awakened by an express from General Pignatelli, conveying intelligence that the enemy had pushed on a body of cavalry to Valladolid, a city not above three marches from Salamanca.

The situation of Sir John Moore had thus suddenly become one of extreme peril. The enemy were in his front; and he had in Salamanca only three brigades of infantry, and not a single gun. In these circumstances, he contemplated again retiring on Portugal. He assembled the Junta of Salamanca ; and laying before them the information he had received, stated, that, should the enemy continue their advance on his front—now wholly uncoveredthe British

army had no option but retreat. On the arrival of intelligence, however, that the French troops had been withdrawn to Palencia, he determined on continuing his head-quarters at Salamanca ; and directed Generals Baird

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