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202

OBSERVATIONS.

CHAP. V. gligence of his opponent. That Marshal Soult

should have suffered himself to be taken by sur1809. May. prise, and that the requisite precautions were

not adopted for the safety of his army, must remain a blot on his military reputation. From the commencement of his retreat, however, all his operations are marked by talent and decision. A commander of lower qualities would probably have sunk under the difficulties by which he was environed ; Soult rose and overtopped them. He unhesitatingly adopted the only measure by which his army could be rescued from their danger; and by the prompt sacrifice of his artillery and baggage he succeeded in evading his pursuers.

CAPTURE OF VIGO.

203

CHAPTER VI.

OPERATIONS IN GALLICIA AND

CATALONIA.

The expulsion of the enemy from Portugal CHAP. VI. was followed up by successes almost of equal

1809. magnitude in Gallicia.

March. Soult had no sooner entered Portugal, than Romana, who had succeeded in recruiting a considerable force, put himself in motion against the corps of Ney. Towards the end of March Mar. 27. a force, under Murillo, with a body of Portuguese, invested Vigo ; and with the assistance of a British frigate, succeeded in forcing the garrison to surrender. It amounted to thirteen hundred men. On the day following, Mar. 28. a French battalion, that approached the town in ignorance of its surrender, was attacked, and nearly the whole of its number perished. Roma

204

ROMANA ENTERS ASTURIAS.

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CHAP. VI. na likewise, by a successful movement, surprised

a body of the enemy in Villa Franca ; and two bat1809.

talions, which attempted to maintain the palace
April.
Apr. 17. of the Duke of Alva, were made prisoners. He

then crossed into Asturias; and, leaving his
army

under the command of Don Nicholas
Mahy, he proceeded in person to Oviedo, for the
purpose of dissolving the Junta, whose imbecili-
ty had become apparent, and appointing a coun-
cil more competent to the administration of
affairs.

On learning this movement, a scheme of combined operations was concerted by Marshal Ney and the French commanders in Leon, for the purpose of surrounding him. The former had assembled about twelve thousand men at Lugo, and entered Asturias by routes almost impassable, in expectation of surprising the Spanish army, General Bonnet, at the same time, advanced along the coast from the East; and Kellerman, with about six thousand men, entered by Pajares.

The scheme, however well concerted, did not succeed. Maly, fortunately apprised in time of the enemy's approach, retired into Gallicia. The French then advanced on Oviedo, occupying all

MOVEMENTS OF THE FRENCH ARMIES.

205

the avenues to that city, with the view of securing CHAP. VI. the person of Romana. That leader, however,

1809. succeeded in effecting his escape, and reached

May. Gijon, where he embarked for Gallicia.

Some skirmishes took place between the Asturian troops, under Ballasteros, and the French, in the course of which the city of St. Andero was taken, and almost immediately retaken, with considerable loss on both sides.

In the meanwhile, Mahy, with the Gallician army, had made a rapid march on Lugo. Some skirmishes took place between the garrison and the besiegers, which terminated in favour of the latter; and the place would probably have fallen, had not Soult unexpectedly appeared with May 22. his army, and compelled the Spaniards to retire.

Alarmed by these indications of nascent vigour in his opponents, Ney resolved to attempt the re-capture of Vigo, and then forming a junction with Soult's force at Orense, to endeavour by a combined attack to effect the destruction of Romana's army. With this intention, he moved on Santiago, with eight thousand infantry and two thousand five hundred horse. On his approach, a corps of Romana's army, under General Noronha, fell back on Caldas and Ponte

206

NEY AND SOULT RETIRE FROM GALLICIA.

June 8.

CHAP.VI, vrada, where they passed the river Sotomayor,

and formed on the other side, having previously 1809. June.

destroyed the bridge at St. Payo. During the whole of the seventh of June, the French made vigorous efforts to effect the passage of the river, but their attempts uniformly encountered repulse. The attack on the bridge was renewed on the day following, but with similar success; and Ney, at length, found himself compelled to retreat, under circumstances which not only precluded his proposed junction with Soult, but rendered it necessary to take measures for

the evacuation of Gallicia. June 21. Accordingly, on the twenty-first, Ney gave

up Corunna and Ferrol, and retired from the province through Lugo, Villa Franca, and Astorga.

Soult had not been more successful. Though almost daily within sight of Romana's army, the superior activity of his opponent, and his more accurate knowledge of the country, defeated all his efforts to bring him to battle. army harassed and exhausted by three weeks of

incessant marching, Soult at length gave up his June 24. abortive pursuit, and retreated to Sanabria,

where having recruited the worn strength of

With an

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