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OBSERVATIONS ON ITS POLICY.

255

CHAP.VII.

1809,

under the most favourable circumstances, have resulted from the execution of a project so rash and precarious. Fortunately there was no concert in the operations of the adverse Generals. The battle of Talavera was fought by the enemy, in utter recklessness and ignorance of the advantages they possessed. Had Lord Wellington been induced to proceed another march towards Madrid, and had the advance of Soult been accelerated by a single day, the retreat of the British army would have been cut off, and the most fatal consequences must have ensued.

In all the details of the campaign, however, abstracted from the error of its general conception, we find the same skill, promptitude, and unhesitating self-reliance, by which the character of Lord Wellington has been uniformly marked. The ground which he selected to receive the enemy's attack was admirably chosen. His manæuvres during the battle were those of a great general, at once perceiving and preserving the full advantages of his situation. His subsequent determination of attacking Soult, while Cuesta should keep Victor in check, was one which could have originated only in a mind of the

256

OBSERVATIONS.

CHAP. VII. highest energy and vigour. All these things

are admirable ; yet it may be safely asserted, 1809.

that but a small part of Lord Wellington's mil-
itary reputation, will be found eventually to rest
on the campaign of Talavera.

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CHARACTER OF CUESTA.

257

CHAPTER VIII.

OPERATIONS OF THE SPANISH ARMIES.

The utter incapacity of Cuesta had been CHAP.VIII strongly represented to the Spanish govern

1809. ment, and that officer was at length removed from his command. He was a man of strong passions and of narrow mind, who too often mistook rashness for courage, obstinacy for firmness, and procrastination for prudence. Buoyed up under every reverse by the most overweening self-confidence, he was disqualified, by narrow bigotry of opinion, from profiting even by the dear-bought lessons of experience. His measures uniformly failed, because they were uniformly adopted on the dictates of temporary impulse, rather than of any patient calculation of probabilities. Yet with all his defects, Cuesta was a man of upright intentions

258

CUESTA SUPERSEDED BY EGUIA.

CHAP.VIII and untarnished honour.

While too many of his associates were disposed to truckle to the 1809. October. usurper, Cuesta trod steadily in the path of pa

triotism and honour. He adhered to the cause of his country through every misfortune; and the sincerity of the zeal with which he laboured to promote its success,

has

never, we believe, been questioned by friend or enemy.

On the retirement of Cuesta, the command of his army was assumed by General Eguia, who, in conjunction with Vanegas, could bring into the field an army of about fifty thousand men. Blake, after bis defeat at Belchite, had only been able to re-assemble a corps of about six thousand men, with which his main object was to relieve Gerona. There were in Gallicia about fifteen thousand men, under Noronha, but without cavalry or artillery. The Duke del Parque had nine thousand, at Ciudad Rodrigo.

Such was the disposition and strength of the Spanish armies. The disposable force of the French amounted to about one hundred and twenty-five thousand men, exclusive of garri

Of these about thirty-five thousand were occupied in Arragon and Catalonia; the remainder were in the two Castilles and Estramadura.

sons.

POSITION OF THE ARMIES.

259

Ney's head-quarters were at Salamanca ; and CHAP.VIII part of his corps was stationed at Ledesma and

1809. Alba de Tormes. Soult's were at Placentia ; October. and he occupied Coria, Galesteo, and the banks of the Tietar and the Tagus, to the bridge of Arzobisbo. The corps of Mortier was at Talavera, Oropesa, and Naval Moral. Victor's headquarters were at Toledo, his advanced posts at Daymiel. The corps of Sebastiani extended from Aranjuez to Alcala. Marshal Jourdan had been recalled, and Soult appointed MajorGeneral of the armies. This appointment gave offence to Ney, who, in consequence, solicited leave to quit the army; and the command of his corps was assumed by General Marchand.

It was in this state of things, when the enemy had a force of above seventy thousand men immediately disposable for its defence, that the Junta adopted the insane project of advancing on Madrid, with the arinies of Vanegas and Eguia. The former leader had been superseded by General Arisaigo, a very young man, without talent or experience; and to this person the command of this perilous enterprize was entrusted. In Arisaigo the Supreme Junta calculated on finding a submissive instrument of their schemes; and by

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