Commentary Explorer Results
Commentary for Volume 1, Chapter 21 : Preparing for the Storm (December 1809–June 1810)
Wellington’s decision to withdraw into Portugal:
Wellington’s decision to withdraw was not primarily a reaction to Ocaña and Alba de Tormes. It was an inevitable consequence of the decision to concentrate on the defense of Portugal rather than attempt that of southern Spain as well. Wellington told Burghersh in December 1809 ‘The last events in Castile, coupled with those in la Mancha, have induced me to make the movement with the British army which I had projected to carry into execution in the fine weather in December, as soon as I heard of the conclusion of the peace with Austria.’ (Wellington to Burghersh 17 December 1809 Correspondence of Lord Burghersh p 38-9). Wellington learnt of the Austrian peace in mid November – though at first he was sceptical about it (Wellington to Beresford 15 November 1809 WD III p 588-90) – the timing suggests a causal link, but this was not the critical element in his decision.
Wellington pleased with the conduct of the march into Portugal:
Wellington was delighted with the good conduct of the troops and wrote to Colonel Stopford, who commanded the brigade of Guards which led the march praising their ‘orderly and regular behaviour’ which ‘set the example to the other troops.’ As a reward he asked for the name of a worthy sergeant from each battalion of the Guards who he would recommend for a vacant ensigncy in the army. (Wellington to Stopford 13 Jan 1810 Maurice History of the Scots Guards vol 1 p 313 not in WD).
The Portuguese welcomed the troops, with the government paying for the soldiers to be given a double issue of wine on the 18th, 21st and 28 January. (Robinson Bloody Eleventh p 350; General Orders 12 Jan 1810 General Orders 1810 p 4-5).
Wellington does not tolerate soldiers abusing the local population:
The ordinary soldiers generally behaved well while with their regiments, but there were many complaints of misbehavior from detachments, particularly groups of convalescents returning to their units from hospital, who might belong to a dozen different regiments and be placed under an officer who had never seen them before, and who had no NCOs on whom he could rely to maintain his authority. Even good soldiers in such a position would give way to temptation as Edward Costello of the 95th did on this march when he shared a pig skin of wine his comrades had stolen. Unfortunately for Costello he was caught in the act by a party of the 16th Light Dragoons and imprisoned with his fellow offenders for two days. Edward Pakenham, the acting Adjutant-General of the army then visited them, assured them had he had, with great difficulty, saved them from being hanged, and ordered the officer in charge of the detachment to ensure that the provost gave them two-dozen lashes each morning until they reached their regiments, a week’s march away. However the officer was a German who disliked flogging and Costello escaped with his skin intact, a fixed resolve to avoid trouble, and an unbounded admiration of German officers! (Costello Peninsular and Waterloo Campaigns p 23-25).
Not all offenders were so lucky. On 28th February Wellington issued a General Order drawing the army’s attention to the Courts Martial of Privates Cornelius M’Guire of the 3/27th and George Chambers of the 1/88th both of whom had been convicted of robbing and ill-treating Portuguese civilians on the highway, and who had been sentenced to death. Wellington commented that, ‘The soldiers of the army have been invariably well-treated by the inhabitants of Portugal; and the frequent instances which have occurred of their being robbed and ill-treated, and of murders being committed, by soldiers who straggle from their detachments on a march, are a disgrace to the character of this army, and of the British nation.’ Therefore he would not grant clemency in this or any other instance of violent crime against the Portuguese, and the two soldiers were duly hanged as were several other soldiers, convicted of similar offences a month later. (General Orders 28 Feb and 25 March 1810 General Orders 1810 p 30-33, 46-50).
Throughout his career Wellington was insistent that armies under his command protect, not prey upon, the local population and it is strange that this eminently liberal and civilized resolution should have come to be viewed principally as evidence that he was a harsh and unfeeling disciplinarian. Yet the soldiers as well as the civilians would suffer far more if discipline was relaxed and the sympathy of the population was lost. And although Wellington acknowledged that the army had greatly improved since the march to Abrantes the previous June he remained apprehensive that ‘notwithstanding all the precautions which I have taken, and shall take, they will slip through my fingers, as they did through Sir J. Moore’s, when I shall be involved in any nice operation with a powerful enemy in my front.’ (Wellington to Liverpool 24 Jan 1810 WD IV p 698-700).
Pessimism in the Army and the Opinions of Wellington:
One reason for the pessimism which pervaded the army was a widespread exaggeration of the strength of the French. John Carss of the 2/53rd took this further than most officers when he anticipated that the French would advance with an army of 200,000 men. Not unnaturally he concluded, ‘In that case we have no chance to keep Portugal, but the end will be another very hard fought battle – more severe, very likely, than the hard contested field of Talavera; and if we do not succeed in that contest our embarkation will be a deplorable one; but we must hope for the best.’ (Johnston (ed) ‘The 2nd/53rd in the Peninsular War’ p 9, letter of 6 May 1810).
The pessimism seems to be more universal than the admiration of, or trust in, Wellington. Charles Gordon told his sister Alicia on 12 January 1810
Alex is here, very well and much pleased with Lord Wellington, though everyone else that I have seen thinks very lightly of him as a general and particularly the last movement, if it is intended, as is said, that we are to defend Portugal to the last against the immense force which is seems Boney means to bring against us. All allow that it would be a mere sacrifice of men for a possession which would be of very short duration and that of little or no consequence and which must ultimately be lost. (Gordon At Wellington’s Right Hand p 81; see also Alexander Gordon to Aberdeen 13 December 1809 ibid p 75-77 – good on the dismay in the army – cry that it is being sacrificed etc.)
Ralph Heathcote’s letters are full of comments such as, ‘I believe there is but one opinion in the army, namely, that the sooner we leave Portugal the better … entre nous, I believe our Commander-in-Chief is only waiting for an opportunity to embark with good grace.’ (20 January 1810 p 212 Heathcote Letters of a Young Diplomatist and he continued to write in the same vein as late as 20 May (ibid p 222).
Charles Cocks’ servant wrote home that ‘It is the opinion of most people that we shall not be able to stay long in this country.’ (24 February 1810 Page Intelligence Officer in the Peninsula p 57). And Liverpool later told Wellington ‘that all the officers in the army who were in England, whether they had served in Portugal or not, entertained and avowed the most desponding views as to the result of the war in that country. Not one officer, as far as I recollect, expressed on the occasion [of the debate in Parliament on the Portuguese subsidy] any confidence as to the probable success, and not a mail arrived from Lisbon which did not bring letters at that time from officers of rank and situation in the army (many of which were communicated to me), avowing their opinions as to the probability and even necessity of a speedy evacuation of the country.’ (Liverpool to Wellington 10 September 1810 WSD vol 6 p 591-3). These letters may well have included those from George Murray and even those Rowland Hill quoted in Ch 20 written in late 1809. They were less pessimistic in 1810, although Picton was very gloomy.
On the other hand letters from Lowry Cole, Alexander Campbell and Edward Pakenham show some confidence in Wellington and the campaign in the spring of 1810.
Wellington’s underlying optimism:
Wellington certainly had need of ‘firmness of mind’ in these months, and there were moments when his confidence wavered or the strain showed in intemperate, irritated language. But such doubts were rare and short-lived, and he generally expressed a calm and reasoned confidence in the state of the war. At the beginning of March, after the fall of Andalusia, he told Liverpool that while the French might over-run Spain and defeat her armies, they would gain little obedience from the populace and a ‘universal disposition to revolt’ would remain, especially if encouraged by continued resistance at Cadiz, and other coastal strongholds. Seven weeks later he repeated the point even more positively: ‘I have no doubt that the spirit of resistance to the French is general throughout all the provinces; that it breaks out into open acts of violence whenever an opportunity offers; that instances of its existence have been frequent lately; and that the confidence of the Spaniards, and of the people of Portugal, in the final success of their exertions, has lately become greater than it had been.’ (Wellington to Liverpool 1 March 1810, 19 April 1810 WD III p 759-62; WD IV p 25). And as early as June 1809 he identified one of the great underlying mechanisms of the war when he wrote that, ‘In proportion as the French spread themselves, they certainly do mischief in the country, which is always to be regretted, but they at the same time weaken themselves.’ (AW to Lieutenant-Colonel Bourke, Abrantes, 8 June 1809 WD III p 278-80). In retrospect the truth of these views appears almost self-evident, but it was far from obvious in the spring of 1810 when most observers could see nothing but an inexorable tide of French conquest sweeping over the Peninsula and overcoming a resistance which was sputtering forlornly before its final extinction. Wellington saw beyond this because he studied the problem coolly and attended to details which were unknown to more superficial observers; because he was never intimidated by the French, nor believed that their army was invincible; and because he had great faith in his army, in the plans he had made to defend Portugal and in his own ability. And there was something more, lying beyond any rational calculation of resources and objectives, he had an inner confidence of ultimate success which almost suggests comparison with Mr Micawber. At the end of March he assured one of his subordinates,
The affairs of the Peninsula have invariably had the same appearance since I have known them; they have always appeared to be lost; means have always appeared inadequate to object; and the sole dependence of the whole has apparently been upon us. The contest, however, still continues, and is in its third year; and we must continue it as long as we can with the means which the country affords … (Wellington to William Stewart 27 March 1810 WD III p 798-99).
William Warre wrote on 6 February 1810 of Beresford’s ‘unremitted exertions, and Herculean labour’. ‘There exists not a more honourable, firm man, or a more zealous Patriot. His failings are mere foibles of a temper naturally warm and hasty, and a great zeal to have everything right, without much patience. Those who accuse him of severity are either those who have felt it because they deserved it, their friends, or people willfully ignorant of the state in which he found the army.’ Goes on to describe his leniency and mercy. (Letters from the Peninsula p 69 new ed.).
Michael Glover quotes another (unnamed) British officer in the Portuguese service:
He is a very brave officer and with a greater share of talent than our generals probably average, and the spirit with which he embarked, and the firmness which he displayed in this nation’s service cannot be too highly commended. Faults, grievous faults, it cannot be denied he possesses, of which ungovernable temper and obstinacy are the most prominent. These are two traits which would even lead one to doubt the goodness of his heart, which on the other hand is manifested by many examples of his private kindness and unsolicited benevolence.’ (Wellington’s Army p 121).
Beresford’s letters to Lady Anne Beresford give few details of his work and are better for his first months in Portugal than late 1809-10 (only three letters from July 1809 to the end of 1810) but they show him to be positive, hard working and energetic – rather too confident too soon, but good on the chaos and confusion when he first took command.
British officers in the Portuguese Army and the case of Nicholas Trant:
When Beresford arrived there were already some foreign officers (British and German) in the Portuguese army, including Baron Eben, Victor von Arentschild, Nicholas Trant, William Cox and Sir Robert Wilson and his colleagues in the Loyal Lusitanian Legion. Beresford brought out his personal staff (William Warre was one of his ADCs), and six other officers among whom were Richard Blunt and Archibald Campbell. Orders were also given permitting officers serving in the British army in Portugal to volunteer into the Portuguese service, and twenty-one did so, although most of these were very junior: eighteen were lieutenants or ensigns. However these officers, unlike those from home, were only granted one step of promotion: they received no promotion in the British army. This decision led to much vexation and greatly impeded the recruitment of additional British officers until it was softened by a compromise later in the year, with Sir David Dundas promising to take particular note of service under Beresford in deciding British promotions. Even so, a good deal of discontent remained, with many new arrivals being unhappy that they failed to match the meteoric rise of Nicholas Trant. However Trant was always a special case. He had arrived in Portugal in 1808 in advance of Wellesley’s army and although only a lieutenant in the British army the Portuguese made him a lieutenant-colonel. He commanded the Portuguese troops attached to Wellesley’s army in 1808 and played a useful role in the operations around Oporto in 1809. By 1810 he was a Portuguese brigadier and still only a captain in the British army. Officially he held a permanent position in the Quartermaster General’s department in the Horse Guards, and continued to draw its pay. When this arrangement was threatened Wellington twice wrote home on his behalf, declaring ‘that there is no officer the loss of whose service in this country would be more sensibly felt than those of Col. Trant.’ Wellington’s intervention succeeded and Trant remained in the Peninsula until 1813 playing a prominent role in several campaigns. (Wellington to Liverpool 9 May 1810 WD IV p 58; see also Wellington to Castlereagh Lisbon 20 October 1809 WD III p 561. There is a good article on Trant in the ODNB; Vichness ‘Marshal of Portugal’ p 267 for the jealousy this aroused. On the general question of British officers in the army see Vichness p 157-60, 208-15; Dundas’s order is printed in Dickson Manuscripts vol 2 p 179 – gives terms on which British officers can in future join Portuguese army.
Promotion of British Officers Serving in Portuguese Army:
According to Michael Glover four British majors and twenty captains were employed ‘for a particular service in Portugal’ and were given one British step and one Portuguese, so that Capt Havilland Le Mesurier, became a British Major (army, not regimental rank) and a Portuguese lieutenant-colonel.
A much larger number of British officers – up to 200 at any one time – received just one step up in the Portuguese army, while retaining their position in their British regiment while serving with the Portuguese.
Both groups were entitled to both British and Portuguese pay. Of 350 British officers who served in the Portuguese army 40 were killed in action, 13 died of other causes and 2 were cashiered for misconduct.
Many of the British sergeants employed to drill the Portuguese were given commissions in Portuguese army, and 23 subsequently granted commissions in British army.
(All this from Glover Wellington’s Army p 123; a full study of the Portuguese army based on Portuguese sources, would be most welcome. As it is there are very few Portuguese voices to balance the myriad of British first hand accounts of the war).
On 23 April Beresford wrote home:
I am getting on pretty fast and in truth all is going on as well as possible in my Command and officers in abundance are volunteering to serve under me in the Portuguese service, nay even from the Guards, two Colonels of which have offered their services. As usual however at home after agreeing to everything before I left them, and directing Craddock to give me in officers every assistance he could, they now throw some doubt on the propriety of my having officers from Regiments on service and propose to send them to me from England, alias they propose making it a business of patronage and they have thereby put a very great delay in my advancing the discipline of the Portuguese troops. (Typescript of Beresford to Lady Anne Beresford, Thomar, 23 April 1809 BC 919 Beresford Papers Biblioteca de Artes, Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon.
The Francisco de Mello Affair:
Beresford signalled his intentions clearly in early April 1809 when he issued orders that officers who were absent without leave would be demoted to the ranks, while these applying for sick leave would have to submit to an examination by a board of physicians. (Vichness ‘Marshal of Portugal’ p 155-6 Orders of 6 and 7 April 1809). But these were only the first steps in a long struggle which reached a climax in December 1809 when Major Francisco de Mello informed Beresford that he was quitting the army. Beresford responded that Major de Mello had no right to resign and that permission to do so was refused, and then insisted that his decision be supported by Wellington, by Dom Miguel Forjaz, the minister for war in the Regency, and by Prince João in Rio de Janeiro. It was a symbolic triumph that secured Beresford’s authority in the army: de Mello was humbled, restored to the position he wished to leave, served bravely and was killed at Salamanca. (Vichness ‘Marshal of Portugal’ p 279-81).
Wellington evidently believed that if de Mello’s resignation was accepted there was a risk of a concerted campaign by a large number of Portuguese officers to resign as a way of sabotaging Beresford’s reform. He told Admiral Berkeley:
I am glad that you concur in the measures which were adopted respecting De Mello. I think that we have put an end to all plans for resigning commissions by common consent &c &c, and that we shall go on very quietly in the future. The Marquez das Minas is much mistaken if he supposes that anything he can do can shake the English in Portugal … the benefit of the King’s protection is too well appreciated by the Portuguese in general, and the general confidence in us is too strong, to be shaken by any line he can take; and he had much better take care of himself, than attempt to injure Marshal Beresford, or the English interest.’ (Wellington to Admiral Berkeley Coimbra 3 January 1810 WD III p 671-2).
Although British officers were able to resign at will from their own army, Wellington did not believe that they should be able to do so from the Portuguese, writing to Liverpool on 7 June:
I have already taken the occasion to draw the attention of your Lordship to the necessity that the officers, employed by His Majesty to serve with the Portuguese troops, should be obliged to perform the engagement into which they voluntarily entered when they accepted this employment, and should not be allowed to resign when it should suit their convenience or their inclination, in which principle your Lordship concurred by your letter of 7 November 1809.’ (Wellington to Liverpool 7 June 1810 WD IV p 107-8) [Liverpool’s letter is not in WSD].
Even British officers may have been surprised at Beresford’s position in this dispute, for it was taken for granted than an officer in the British army was free to sell his commission (if he had purchased it) or resign at any time. But Portugal was no longer an untroubled backwater of Europe and, as Wellington pointed out, she had no choice but to become a military nation, for if she did not do so in her own defence, the French would certainly force her to contribute to their armies after she was conquered. (Wellington to Villiers Badajoz 24 September 1809 WD III p 519-20. The tens of thousands of Dutch, Italian, German and Polish soldiers who fought and died for Napoleon – willingly or unwillingly – in the Peninsula, the War of 1809 against Austria, and above all in Russia in 1812 shows that Wellington’s remark was not unjustified).
Wellington’s letter of 21 December 1809 to Forjaz actually suggested that de Mello’s resignation be accepted but that he be publicly named and shamed for quitting the army. It also contains a strong statement that de Mello’s birth should not exempt him from the laws of the nation. (Samuel E. Vichness ‘Lord Wellington and the Francisco de Mello Affair’ J.S.A.H.R. vol 53 Spring 1975 p 22-25).
Pay of Portuguese officers:
Major Havillard le Mesurier, serving in the Portuguese 14th Line Regiment records that ‘The pay of the lieutenant is 12 dollars a month, that of a captain about 22, and even this they are obliged to receive in paper money which loses 30%! This brings the daily pay of lieutenant to 1/6d, that of a captain to something less than 3/0d per day! I receive the pay of a British major which is literally more than double that of my [Portuguese] colonel.’ (Quoted in Glover Wellington’s Army p 122).
Efffect of the Oporto Campaign on the Portuguese Army:
Beresford had scarcely begun his reforms before Sir Arthur Wellesley arrived in Portugal and prepared to move against Soult. The Portuguese army played an important part in the Oporto campaign. Silveira’s remarkable success at Mezãofrio and subsequent recapture of the bridge at Amarante blocked Soult’s preferred line of withdrawal, while the four battalions of the 10th and 16th Portuguese Line, which were added to British brigades, impressed Wellesley with their performance. Nonetheless the army was far from ready for active service and the aftermath revealed the price it had paid for its premature commitment. In mid-June 1809 Lieutenant-Colonel James Douglas wrote that two thirds of the officers of the 16th Line had gone on leave to recover from their exertions, while large numbers of the men were in hospital: a period of rest and recuperation was essential before the regiment could be fit to take the field again. (Vichness ‘Marshal of Portugal’ p 219). This helps to explain Wellesley’s decision to leave the Portuguese army behind when he advanced into Spain, although other factors (logistical problems and the prospect of co-operating with the Spanish army) were equally important. Beresford guarded the north-eastern frontier of Portugal in case a resurgent Soult should try to avenge his defeat. When Wellesley was fighting at Talavera the bulk of the Portuguese army was concentrated around Almeida, training hard. Reports arrived that the French were marching south to cut Wellesley’s lines of communication and Beresford pushed his army a short distance into Spain in the hope of protecting the British flank. The manoeuvre failed and the Portuguese were fortunate to avoid coming into contact with the enemy, but their commissariat, which had been unreliable even at Almeida, broke down completely and the army suffered greatly with a sharp increase in the number of sick and in insubordination and desertion. (Vichness ‘Marshal of Portugal’ p 222-3, 251-3; D’Urban Journal p 70 suggests that Beresford contributed to the problems by making unrealistic demands of his troops). By early September 1809 the army had been withdrawn to Thomar in central Portugal and the sustained programme of retraining began without the distraction of active operations.
Portuguese recruitment and manpower:
The Portuguese army was maintained by conscription, but it proved increasingly difficult to keep it up to strength in the last years of the war. Even in the second half of 1811 Swabey describes seeing conscripts arriving chained together, and later his role in collecting them, (Swabey Diary p 20, 42). Oman vol 3 p 171-2 has some useful material on this.
Did the Portuguese fight in two deep line?:
Certainly they must have. Oman vol 3 p 175 says they did and it defies common sense to suppose anything else. But it is difficult to find proof. Jeff Lewis, on the Napoleonic Discussion Forum, quotes an order from Beresford dated 28 May 1810 (significantly late) which permits the troops to form two deep and implies that this should be used in presence of the enemy – and that is probably as good as we will get.
Major-General John Hamilton:
In October 1809 Beresford appointed Major-General John Hamilton as Inspector General of the infantry with direct responsibility for the close supervision of the training programme.
Hamilton was a family connection of Beresford and was very odd, even a little mad (according to Colville as well as Wellington) but apparently effective in supervising the repetitive work of training. ‘I cannot be answerable for a madman. We sent the orders to the caçadores as stated to you. General Hamilton got hold of them; and you know the consequence’ (Wellington to Fane 3 November 1810 WP 1/318 – printed with Hamilton’s name suppressed in WD IV p 387).
Torrens to Wellington 30 December 1813 WO 3/606 p 218-20:
I am quite aware of Sir John Hamilton’s malady, though I was not equally so of its being to any extent that could endanger the Service. It is quite right however that he should be removed in the manner you propose. He is brave and zealous and I believe the Duke is well disposed towards this claim to a better Regiment.
For his ill-health and incapacity to command in 1813 see: Wellington to Beresford 5 Oct, 16 and 27 Nov 1813 WD VII p 38-40, 142-3, 163. Wellington told Torrens on 4 December 1813 WD VII p 180-1: Sir John Hamilton ‘has always been a little mad.’ Beresford was his relative (all names deleted and from WP 1/377 October, 1/381 November/December).
Wellington disagrees with Beresford’s method of using British officers:
Wellington disagreed with Beresford’s policy of employing his British officers inside Portuguese regiments, and in late August and early September 1809 made a determined effort to change his mind. Wellington argued that many of the British officers who had taken service in the Portuguese army are ‘not worth the expense, and that as the Portuguese will have become acquainted with their ignorance and inefficiency, their respect for them will diminish.’ (Wellington to Beresford 26 Aug 1809 WD III p 454-5). The alternative Wellington proposed was that a smaller number of very capable British officers be employed in a supervisory capacity with wide powers far exceeding their nominal rank. They would not serve as regimental officers, but as a special type of staff officer and while they were attached to a senior Portuguese officer they would exercise the real power, although orders would continue to be issued in his name. Wellington argued that,
We are mistaken if we believe that what these Portuguese and Spanish armies require is discipline, properly so called. They want the habits and spirit of soldiers; the habits of command on one side, and of obedience on the other; mutual confidence between officers and men; and, above all, a determination in the superiors to obey the spirit of the orders they receive, let what will be the consequence, and the spirit to tell the true cause if they do not. In short, the fact is, there is so much trick in the Portuguese army, and the kind of subaltern character they have given you as officers is so little likely to check it, or to make you acquainted with the true state of things, that I despair of seeing matters upon a proper footing till you shall be able to superintend almost personally all branches of the service. (Wellington to Beresford 8 Sept 1809 WD III p 484-6).
Beresford responded with some tact, not disputing the merits of Wellington’s suggestions, but arguing that it was too late to alter the whole basis of British involvement in the Portuguese army; that he had to make do with the officers sent out by the Horse Guards to assist him; and that relatively few capable officers were willing to join the Portuguese service. He noted Wellington’s anxiety that when it came to a crisis some Portuguese generals might not obey orders, and in March 1810 he sent one of his best officers, Colonel John Wilson to General Silveira ‘as second in command of the Tras os Montes with positive orders to Silveira to follow his opinion upon all occasions of importance.’ (D’Urban commented in his journal, ‘this is a delicate and arduous Service, but Wilson will do it well, if any officer can.’ Both quotes from D’Urban Journal 22 March 1810 p 94; see also Wellington to the Adjutant General of the Forces 27 Oct 1810 WD IV p 360-1. Colonel John Wilson should not be confused with the much less reliable Sir Robert Wilson). But he defended the employment of British officers in Portuguese regiments arguing that ‘I should not otherwise have got even a knowledge of many habits and tricks that it has been necessary to get the better of, and particularly a knowledge of the character and conduct of the officers; and British officers being attached to regiments, and thus continually eye-witnesses to the sentiments and behavior of the Portuguese is, I find, an amazing check over them.’ He also claimed that the presence of British officers would help inspire confidence in the Portuguese officers as well as their men when the time came for the regiments to go into action. (Beresford to Wellington 3 Sept 1809 WSD vol 6 p 345-8; see also D’Urban’s views which support Beresford quoted in Oman vol 3 p 173-4). Returning to the subject a few days later he insisted that everything ‘depends upon the officers: where they are willing to attend to their duty and [are] determined to command, the soldiers will not neglect theirs, and will ever obey; but have long habits of disregard to duty and of consequent laziness make it not only difficult but almost impossible to induce the senior officers of the service to enter into any regular and continued attention to the duties of their situations … I am fast getting rid of the most ancient, and placing young men in their posts, who enter the service that much will be required of them … but you are aware that a regeneration of this nature cannot here be made but by degrees, and that in not a few months.’ (Beresford to Wellington 12 Sept 1809 WSD vol 6 p 561-3).
This was an argument likely to appeal to Wellington who frequently blamed the misconduct of his men on the inattention of their officers, but it risked returning the discussion to his original concern, that many of the junior British officers introduced into Portuguese regiments were of poor quality and unlikely to do much to improve their new units. But Wellington let it pass: he had made his point and would not insist upon it in the face of Beresford’s opposition, even though he had the overriding authority if he chose to use it. In fact Wellington and Beresford appear to have worked well together. Wellington gave Beresford a great deal of autonomy in devising and introducing his reforms, and consistently supported him when he encountered opposition from within the Portuguese army or from the government. In return Beresford seems to have been completely loyal to Wellington and accepted his paramountcy with good grace. (Beresford to Wellington 2 Oct 1809 WSD vol 6 p 384-5). There is an unconfirmed report of a heated argument in December 1809 after which Beresford offered to resign, but if this occurred it seems to have been an isolated dispute without lasting consequences. (The only source of this story that I have been able to identify is Fortescue vol 7 p 420 and even he concedes that the ‘subject at issue is obscure.’ The published correspondence of the period does not suggest serious differences between them).
Arguments for British officers serving in Portuguese regiments:
D’Urban, as quoted by Oman, agreed with Beresford’s thinking:
The English captains will be found invaluable, especially in the hands of an English commandant. Their example is infinitely useful. The Portuguese captains are piqued into activity and attention, when they see their companies excelled in efficiency by those of the English, and they do from emulation what a sense of duty would perhaps never bring them to. There are a variety of by-paths and oblique means by which the parts of a Portuguese corps are constantly, and almost insensibly endeavouring to return to the old habits that they are so much attached to. To nip this, from time to time, in the bud, it is necessary to be aware of it: without the faithful surveillance of English subordinate officers (who, ever mixing with the mess of the men, can’t well be ignorant of what is going on) the commanding-officer can rarely be warned in time. (Oman vol 3 p 174).
Yet he also agreed with Wellington on the quality of some of the British officers in the Portuguese army: ‘We have many drills, they are easily replaced if we lose them. [John] Wilson is a Soldier – they are not so easily got again.’ (D’Urban Journal 7-15 March 1810 p 93).
Neither Wellington nor Beresford think British intrinsically superior:
It is worth noting that neither Wellington nor Beresford felt that there was any intrinsic superiority of a British compared to a Portuguese officer. British officers simply had the advantage of coming from an army which had already benefited from years of reform and active service, while the Portuguese army had been neglected and allowed to acquire bad habits.
Wellington and Beresford:
Wellington wrote of Beresford in 1810 ‘It is impossible for two people to understand each other better than Beresford and I do.’ (Wellington to Charles Stuart, 11 Sept 1810, WD IV p 273-5).
The basis for Fortescue’s story of a quarrel is obscure, but there must be some foundation to it. The only hint in that direction I can see is rather earlier, at the beginning of October 1809 when Beresford seems to have felt hurt and slighted by changes to the Regency and Wellington’s appointment as Marshal-General. See his letter to Wellington (2 October 1809 WSD vol 6 p 384-5) and his letter to Lady Anne Beresford (Typescript; Beresford Papers, Gulberkian Foundation BL919 p 19-20) in which he hints at the possibility of resignation. Both show that he felt that he had been completely subordinated to Wellington; and it came less than a month after their disagreement over the best way to use British officers.
See also Wellington to Villiers 1 October 1809 WD III p 533-4 where he says that he thinks recent changes to Portuguese regency, were designed to provoke quarrels. His appointment as Marshal-General only confirms his powers and he won’t change the way he does business.
Wellington inspects the Portuguese Army at the end of 1809:
At the end of the year Wellington joined Beresford in a further round of inspection and again the results were favourable. Charles Boutflower has preserved a glimpse of Wellington on the last day of this tour:
The morning we quitted Coimbra I saw him in his full dress uniform as Captain General of Portugal, accompanied by Marshal Beresford and a numerous staff, going to review some Portuguese Regiment. The inhabitants were running out in crowds in [order] to see him, indeed he is perfectly idolized by the Portuguese nation. On this day he proposed quitting Coimbra for Viseu which is to be Head-Quarters. I am informed by an Officer who dined with him at Coimbra, that they never saw him in such spirits. (Boutflower Journal p 32).
Wellington told Liverpool that he had inspected fifteen Portuguese regiments and ‘that the progress of all these troops in discipline is considerable; that some of the regiments are in very good order; and that I have no doubt that the whole will prove a useful acquisition to the country.’ He praised the pains taken by Beresford and his officers and suggested that they receive some mark of official approbation. (Wellington to Liverpool Coimbra 4 Jan 1810 WD III p 675-6). He had already publicly signaled his own approval by making Colonel Archibald Campbell a Colonel on the Staff – ‘to the great satisfaction of all people’ in D’Urban’s words. (D’Urban Journal p 78).
Among the ‘numerous staff’ who accompanied Wellington on this tour of inspection was his ADC Alexander Gordon. A few weeks before, in the middle of December, Gordon had felt that the attempt to defend Portugal was doomed, despite having ‘the greatest confidence’ in Wellington. But by the time he reached Coimbra he had changed his mind: ‘I have a much better opinion of the cause … from having seen the Portuguese Army … I assure you their improvement has been very great & rapid. They will have in two months 20,000 effective men almost as well disciplined as any British troops and I have not a doubt incorporated with them they will fight … General Beresford deserves the greatest credit for the manner in which he has already brought about the Army of this Country.’ (Alexander Gordon to Aberdeen 13 Dec and 3 Jan 1810 At Wellington’s Right Hand p 75-77, 79-81, ‘brought about’ here probably means ‘turned around’, as in nautical parlance. See also Burgoyne Journal 5 Jan 1810 Wrottesley Life of Burgoyne vol 1 p 65). Gordon’s conversion was not typical of officers in the British army who generally remained dismissive of the Portuguese, if only because they had seen little of them, but the long process of disproving these doubts had at least begun.
Progress of Beresford’s reforms, early 1810:
From the outset of his command Beresford concentrated his attention on the Portuguese infantry: the artillery was already relatively efficient, while the cavalry would require even more sustained work than the infantry before it was reliable, besides it was expensive and hampered by a severe shortage of horses. After the New Year inspections, Beresford concluded that sixteen of the twenty-four regiments of line infantry and five of the six battalions of caçadores were fit to co-operate in the field with the British army. (A further six battalions of caçadores were raised in 1811 otherwise this remained the official strength of the Portuguese army throughout the war – Ward ‘Portuguese Infantry Brigades’ p 103). At full strength this would amount to some 28,000 men, although in practice it might not much exceed 20,000 all ranks, excluding the sick. (Wellington to Liverpool 20 Feb 1810 WD III p 745-6 says that the Portuguese army might put 20,000 men in the field, certainly not more. Oman vol 3 p 547 says that at Busaco Wellington had c27,000 British and 25,000 Portuguese – includes a few militia and artillery. But he lists 17 regiments of line infantry (one of which had only one battalion) plus the Loyal Lusitanian Legion (three battalions), five battalions of caçadores, part of the Thomar Militia and 880 artillerymen. Add to this the Portuguese regiment at Cadiz and we can see that Beresford actually used more of the army than he expected).
Incorporation of the Portuguese army with the British:
Beresford seems to have been happy with the way Wellington proposed doing this – see Beresford to Wellington 16 December 1809 WSD vol 6 p 443-6. He wanted to be with the main part of the army (ibid). It is possible that he wanted some specific command in relation to the Portuguese troops, and that this lay behind his quarrel with Wellington – the timing is right, but the letter mentioned above does not suggest this, quite the reverse.
D’Urban was unhappy in April 1810 that Wellington was taking the Portuguese army piecemeal and leaving no grand command for Beresford: he thought Beresford should have left Lisbon sooner and joined Wellington’s headquarters. (D’Urban Journal p 97).
Evacuation of the Portuguese Army:
The question of what would happen to the Portuguese army if Wellington was forced to evacuate the country was given a good deal of thought. There was some fear that all the hard work training and disciplining the army might rebound on the British if the Portuguese troops ended up serving Napoleon. But at the same time there were doubts if they would be willing to embark leaving their families and country to the mercy of the French. Also the British could not afford to maintain sufficient transports for the entire army and Liverpool could only hope that the Portuguese would cross the Tagus and maintain themselves in the south of the country. (Liverpool to Wellington 4 January 1810 WSD vol 6 p 466-7; see also Wellington to Liverpool 24 and 31 January 1810 WD III p 698-700, 722-4, Liverpool to Wellington 13 February 1810 WSD vol 6 p 483-4, Wellington to Charles Stuart 1 March 1810 WD III p 758-9.
Even the Portuguese cavalry was showing signs of improvement. Henry Fane, who had been given command of a brigade of dragoons, reported that ‘they are really better than I expected to find them. The horses are all in good condition, the men are perfectly well clothed, armed and equipped, and fit in all these respects to take the field. A good deal has been done in the way of discipline, tho’ there is room for considerable improvement.’ (Fane to Wellington 20 June 1810 quoted in Vichness ‘Marshal of Portugal’ p 335. Fane’s brigade consisted of the 1st, 4th, 7th and 10th Dragoons together with the British 13th Light Dragoons. Oman vol 3 p 364 states that the four Portuguese regiments amounted to 1,400 sabres).
Wellington to Hill, 11 May 1810 (WD IV p 58): ‘I have desired Fane to go into Alentejo to take command of the English and Portuguese cavalry in that province, which arrangement will, I hope, be agreeable to you.’
Improvement in the Portuguese Army:
William Warre told his father on 21 March 1810
I am anxious that the campaign should begin; and to be able to judge of what our Portuguese will in reality do. I confess I have very great hopes of them. Their discipline is most wonderfully improved, perhaps fully good as necessary for active service, and only wants confirming. I fear their relaxing, when they get out of the immediate control of British Officers, before the enemy, and the class of their own Officers, though very much improved and mostly young men, have scarce experience and firmness enough to control them as we would wish. Their pay, which in some cases has been more than doubled, gives them the means now of living like gentlemen and with respectability. In some cases it is better than ours in proportion, and since the service becomes an object, they will, we must hope, exert themselves, that they may not be deprived of it, if they misbehave at all.’ (Warre Letters from the Peninsula p 73-4).
Importance of the Portuguese Army:
In January Wellington told Villiers that their performance would decide the campaign: ‘I think that if the Portuguese do their duty, I shall have enough [men] to maintain it [Portugal, the struggle]; and if they do not, nothing that Great Britain can afford can save the country…’ (Wellington to Villiers 14 January 1810 WD III p 684-6).
Wellington and Richard Fletcher:
Wellington treated Fletcher with confidence, but there are hints that Fletcher was uncomfortable with Wellington; and it is possible that he resented Wellington’s interference in details, or even that he disliked the whole project of the Lines. Yet they co-operated effectively: Fletcher frequently drew attention to weak points in the line – often where an otherwise strong position might be turned – and suggested remedies, most of which Wellington approved without hesitation. He was the same age as Wellington.
Wellington had praised him in the Talavera dispatch; but see Fletcher’s sharp comment to Rice Jones on 12 August 1812 in a letter written from Badajoz: ‘You will observe that Lord W. had not mentioned the Engineers in the late actions; how I hate such capriciousness. I can only say that I am truly glad I was not there.’ (‘Letters from the Peninsula during 1812-13-14’ edited by H. N. Shore J.R.U.S.I. vol 61 Feb 1916 p 98 – not included in An Engineer Officer under Wellington).
Fletcher got on well with his subordinates – for example see Rice Jones. Fletcher wanted to join the field army as early as Dec 1809 and may have been frustrated that Wellington kept him so far to the rear; but there can be no doubt that he was playing a more important role at Torres Vedras than he could have at headquarters (Rice Jones Engineer Officer under Wellington p 48).
The Lines of Torres Vedras:
The main Lines worked by blocking the four principal routes south through the extremely rough ground, with the intervening country only needing to be lightly held or a little strengthened. Quite similar to four passes in the mountain chain – with the eastern most pass along the Tagus rather broader but able to be defended in other ways. This emerges clearly from Jones Journal of the Sieges vol 3 p 7-13 esp p 7. This Line was eventually occupied by 59 redoubts mounting 232 pieces of artillery and requiring garrisons totaling 17,500 men (ibid p 13).
The ‘redoubts were generally made of a field profile of a size to require from 150 to 250 and 300 men for their defense, and were armed, according to the importance of their fire, with three, four, five, or six pieces of artillery.’ (ibid p 16).
‘The main works at Torres Vedras, Monte Agraça above Sobral, and Oeyros, being considered independent forts, or rather species of petty fortresses, were made larger and stronger than the works at other places; particularly those of Torres Vedras, which, blocking up the most direct road to the point of embarkation, and being moreover on the spot of former enterprises, were regarded with particular jealousy: they were of a trace to be tolerably flanked, and of a magnitude to require a garrison of 2,200 men with 40 pieces of cannon…’ (ibid p 16).
These three main forts were equipped with 160 rounds per gun of which 30 were grape, and 200 hand grenades; lesser works had 60 rounds per gun (8 of which were grape) and 12-16 hand grenades. (ibid p 17)
The guns were generally 12, 9 and 6 pounders and a few howitzers: all Portuguese iron ordnance on primitive carriages. All fired through embrasures (ibid p 17).
Jones gives details if which works were begun when on p 18.
Fletcher handed over to Jones on 6 July 1810 (p 19).
Orders given on 17 July for the expansion of the forward outlying strong points into a complete new Line – the First (ibid p 20).
The Eastern End of the Lines:
The extreme eastern end of the line, where it reached the Tagus, caused considerable trouble for Wellington originally intended to fortify the line of the River Castanheira, a tributary of the Tagus. Considerable effort was spent here, but the results were never satisfactory and in February the position was abandoned in favour of a naturally strong position a little to the rear of Alhandra
The First Line:
James Stanhope explained the advantage of the First Line in his journal: ‘I have heard that at first Lord Wellington’s intention was not to have occupied the First Line otherwise than as a kind of outwork to the Second one, but the more it came to be examined, the greater appeared its advantages. The most important one it possessed over the Second Line was the position of Monte Junto which gave the defenders all the advantages of the interior line of operations, by obliging the assailants to concentrate on one side or the other or by remaining on both, to be exposed to certain destruction…’ (Stanhope Eyewitness p 39).
The Third Line:
See Fletcher to Wellington 15 October 1809 WSD vol 6 p 403-5 for a description of what was intended. Fletcher says the bay was 4,000 yards broad, immediately east of Fort St Julian’s. Norris and Bremner The Lines of Torres Vedras p 11 give the name of the beach as São Julião da Barra.
Jones Journal of the Sieges vol 3 p 4-5 says the bay was ‘not two hundred yards in length’.
Difficulties of Embarking from St Julian’s:
According to Sir John Jones the embarkation was not as secure from St Julian’s as has sometimes been said: ‘even at that spot, at intervals, such a sea rolls in for days together that no boat can with safety approach the shore.’ (Journal of the Sieges vol 3 p 5). And he expands on this in a note:
Even in the advanced season, between the end of April and middle of June, 1810, at the large fishing town of Ericeira, such a surf prevailed that the boats could not be launched for a single morning.
In 1811, four jetties, to cover the place of embarkation at St Julian, were constructed by Captain Holloway, at the expense of £15,000, which, notwithstanding every local and nautical opinion being unfavourable to their stability, resisted the most furious gales of wind throughout the war, and rendered an embarkation practicable in all seasons and weather.’ (Journal of the Sieges vol 3 p 5n).
This statement should be authoritative, but if we accept it, it follows that Wellington undertook the campaign of 1810 with only a precarious and uncertain means of withdrawing his army if necessary; and nothing in his correspondence gives any credence to this idea. Perhaps the explanation is that the surf was less of a problem in autumn or that it was a problem, but Wellington was unaware of it. After all boats can operate in rougher than ideal waters if the need is pressing. Think of the disembarkation of Wellesley’s army at Mondego Bay in 1808.
When Fletcher first reported on St Julian’s he wrote that it ‘appears favourable for beaching boats, and I should imagine there would never be much surf, unless with a strong wind from about S.S.W. to S.’ (Fletcher to Wellington 15 October 1809 WSD vol 6 p 403-5).
Wellington expressed his preference for St Julian’s over Peniche: ‘When we do go, I feel a little anxiety to go, like gentlemen, out of the hall door … and not out of the back door, or by the area.’ And he assured Liverpool that the weather was no more likely to be a problem at St Julian’s than at Peniche. (Wellington to Liverpool, 2 April 1810 WD III p 809-12).
Garrison of the Lines:
Jones Journal of the Sieges vol 3 p 26, 125-7 gives a full and detailed statement showing that the bulk of the garrisons were Militia infantry (8,170 men) supplemented by Ordenanza artillery (1,940), Portuguese regular artillery (710) and British artillery (260).
The totals don’t agree with those he gives elsewhere for the garrisons of the Lines, but the proportions should be about right. Probably a few battalions of Portuguese regular infantry were used to man particularly important posts.
Constructing the Lines:
One young Engineer officer recorded in his diary ‘Picked out the Redoubts near the 3 Mills above Carvoeira, in readiness for the 2 Companies of the Militia of Figueira to begin tomorrow; tasked the men in parties of 8 each; they work extremely hard and willingly; reduced the parties to 5; the ground at the Redoubts begins to be very hard and rocky.’ (Rice Jones diary 18 Feb 1810 Engineer Officer under Wellington p 51-2). While another wrote ‘Our working party consists of a regiment of Portuguese Militia, half naked it is true, but a fine able bodied, willing, good humoured set of fellows.’ (John Squire to Henry Bunbury 7 April 1810 BL Add Ms 63,106 f 1-2 courtesy Mark Thompson). Not everything went quite as smoothly as this suggests: in November some militia went on strike because they had not been paid; (Vichness ‘Marshal of Portugal’ p 311) while others could not be employed because they had no tools or the weather was too inclement. (Rice Jones Engineer Officer under Wellington p 52 for both). Some militia regiments suffered a high level of absenteeism – the worst case seems to have been the regiment employed to construct the defensive works at St Julian’s, which, Fletcher reported at the end of 1809, mustered only 300 of its 1,200 men. (Fletcher to Wellington 31 Dec 1810 WSD vol 6 p 459-62). Such hiccups were inevitable in a series of works on this scale, and did not seriously threaten its progress, although they draw attention to the fact that its success was entirely dependent on the ready co-operation of the Portuguese government and people.
Labour force on the Lines:
Fletcher’s reports seem to speak almost exclusively of militia regiments but Jones (Journal of the Sieges vol 3 p 15) refers to both Portuguese militia and peasants, and a letter from Capt Dickinson RE to Capt Jones 9 August 1810 (Jones Journal of the Sieges vol 3 p 241) refers clearly to Ordenanza.
What is possible that in the early months when Jones was in charge the work was done by militia and some civilians (who would have been liable for service in Ordenanza, but had not been called out). Then when the campaign began most of the militia was used elsewhere, and the work, now supervised by Jones, was done by Ordenanza. But this is speculation.
Jones says that when news reached Lisbon in August that Almeida had fallen ‘The conscription for labour was extended to a distance of more than 50 miles around; no excuse was admitted for withholding personal service – even women and boys took their share in the labour – and at one period, although the middle of harvest, the workmen on the lines were augmented to more than seven thousand.’ (Jones Journal of the Sieges vol 3 p 24).
The labour available was, firstly, that of the Lisbon militia regiments, who were brought up by alternate pairs, and paid an extra 4d a day for their services; secondly, that of hired volunteers from the peasantry of the district, of whom from 5,000 to 7,000 were generally in hand; they received 1s, afterwards 1s 8d a day; and lastly of a conscription from the whole of southern Estremadura, for a circuit of forty miles around. The forced labour was paid at the same rate as that freely hired.’ (Oman vol 3 p 420-1).
The ground required for the site of works, roads, abattis, scarps, &c, &c was taken possession of without a reference to or complaint from the owner or occupier, or any estimate being made of its value, which, however, was seldom considerable. Compensation was paid to the proprietors for the olive-trees cut down; also for trees felled in private woods, and for crops destroyed before the advance of the invaders. The owners of mills dismantled in consequence of being on knolls selected for the site of works had a monthly payment equivalent to their previous average gains, and also a sum of money for the restoration of the machinery; but otherwise, the principal injury sustained by private property being inflicted when the lines became the seat of war, the loss fell on individuals. (Jones Journal of the Sieges vol 3 p 90).
The cost of the Lines to July 1810 was about £60,000 rising to nearly £100,000 when the army occupied them in October. This figure had doubled before the end of the war. (ibid p 92).
The Tagus itself would be defended by a flotilla of gunboats manned by the Royal Navy. Admiral Berkeley, commander of the Lisbon station, was an enthusiastic supporter of the project and deluged Wellington with suggestions how it might be improved. Indeed he was rather too helpful and Wellington felt obliged to explain ‘to him more than once that I am responsible, & not he, for all the Military concerns in this Country. But still he bores me, & the Heads of all the Departments to death; & more than one of them has expressed a wish that the Admiral was not so great a General.’ As a result of Wellington’s private complaints, Berkeley was offered a better command at home, but nobly sacrificed his interests so that he could remain in Portugal and assist the army! And no one – least of all Wellington – was willing to hurt his feelings by ordering him home and explaining why, partly because he so obviously meant well, and partly because he had excellent political connections, thanks to family ties to Lord Buckingham, the Duke of Richmond and Lord Bathurst. (Wellington to William Wellesley-Pole, Viseu 6 August 1810 ‘Letters to Pole’; Pole to Wellington ‘Confidential’ 7 March 1810 Raglan Mss no 101; Thorne History of Parliament vol 3 p 191-3; Wellington to Berkeley 8 May 1810 WD IV p 57).
Berkeley was sixteen years older than Wellington. The entry in the ODNB by Brain de Toy is interesting but wholly uncritical, quoting only Wellington’s later compliments.
Naval co-operation on the Lines:
At least Berkeley’s enthusiasm meant that Wellington need have no hesitation in asking for assistance from the navy. In early March he explained that there was a shortage of heavy guns for the Forts in the Lines and asked for those left over from the Russian naval squadron that had been in Lisbon in 1808; and in June he requested the loan of some naval officers and men to man the series of semaphore stations which were to run along the Lines. (Wellington to Berkeley 6 March and 15 June 1810 WD III p 765-66, WD IV p 120-1). The sailors were in position by the middle of July but complained that the semaphores were too far apart, that the masts were too light for the yards and that the telescopes were of poor quality. The long-suffering engineers who received these complaints set about strengthening the masts and obtaining better telescopes and the semaphore seems to have worked well when it was needed. (Captain J. T. Jones to Colonel Fletcher 18 July 1810 quoted in Jones Journal of the Sieges carried on by the Army under the Duke of Wellington in Spain vol 3 p 238).
Two letters of Fletcher to Jones (7 and 11 September 1810 in Jones Journal of the Sieges vol 3 p 232-233) refer to the Admiral’s intention of removing naval personnel from the signal stations. ‘Lord Wellington says that he will not part with the seamen now, if they are not gone.’ (Fletcher to Jones 6 October 1810 Jones p 236). ‘Taking away the seamen form the signal-posts will be a misfortune, as they have just become thoroughly expert at passing the signals.’ Doubt we could easily replace them (Jones to Fletcher 12 September 1810 ibid p 250-1). Jones’s text (vol 3 p 26) clearly implies that the seamen continued to man the telegraph stations (stated explicitly p 90).
Admiral Berkeley threatened to withdraw them when Wellington would not grant them an additional allowance: Wellington to Berkeley 9 September 1810 WD IV p 269.
The works on the Heights of Almada:
Wellington did not originally intend to construct any works on the south bank of the Tagus near Lisbon. He felt that even if a subsidiary French attack penetrated so far (which was far from impossible), it would not be able to achieve much for the river was much too wide for an opposed crossing. But in March, with work on the main Lines progressing well, the question was revived by Forjaz, the Portuguese minister for war, who pointed out that the French presence within sight of Lisbon might provoke riots in the capital. Taking the hint, Wellington gave orders for the construction of a line of defenses on the heights of Almada which eventually amounted to seventeen redoubts and a number of lesser works on a line extending for almost five miles. (Grehan The Lines of Torres Vedras p 139). However this was never treated with the urgency of the main works and was still unfinished – although serviceable – in January 1811. (Grehan The Lines of Torres Vedras p 153).
Inability of informed observers to grasp the strategic significance of the works:
Consider the comments of two intelligent officers who each made a careful tour of the line and who were not disposed to find fault. Alexander Gordon wrote home on 14 February 1810 after accompanying Wellington in an inspection of the lines, ‘Having seen all these places as well as the works already constructed, I can speak confidently with respect to their strength, but it is quite impossible with our force to hinder the Enemy from turning them, the roads are so numerous in every direction.’ (Alexander Gordon to Aberdeen 14 Feb 1810 At Wellington’s Right Hand p 83-85). And at the end of May Captain John Squire, a shrewd engineer who had supervised the works at St. Julian’s for several months, told his good friend Henry Bunbury, under-secretary of state for the War Department, that he could not ‘understand our defensive operations in the interior of the country.’
I understand that this is intended to collect the main body of the army on the heights of Alhandra and there to offer battle to the enemy, while the redoubts garrisoned by Portuguese troops shall defend the other parts of the position. This I confess appears to me a most extraordinary arrangement. While we are anxiously expecting the glories of a fight at Alhandra; will not the enemy penetrate by way of Mafra – or between Mafra and the sea, march direct upon St Julian and perhaps cut off two thirds of the army from its shipping? All this appears to me so very obvious that I feel persuaded that this extraordinary line will never be defended; and that our own redoubts and entrenchments with about 300 pieces of artillery will only serve to swell out a French Bulletin, and to expose use to the ridicule of both our friends and enemies. (Squire to Bunbury 27 May 1810 BL Add 63,106 f 3-4 courtesy Mark Thompson. Two other engineers, Captain George Ross and Captain Henry Goldfinch were equally sceptical: see their comments quoted in Grehan Lines of Torres Vedras p 65 and 67).
Wellington and the Secrecy of the Lines:
According to Robert Bremner (‘The Building and Manning of the Lines of Torres Vedras’ in New Lights on the Peninsular War p 116) ‘Wellington went to considerable lengths to prevent knowledge of the lines from leaking out.’
Wellington to Colonel Peacocke, Gouveia, 9 September 1810 WD IV p 267 Jones vol 3 p 124 orders that no one can go into or inspect fortifications at St Julian’s except engineers and those acting on their orders.
But this was all designed to prevent spies (or Portuguese traitors) getting detailed drawings etc of individual works. The fact of the lines’ existence could hardly be concealed, and yet, to very large extent, it was. Grehan has a good anecdote which fits here: ‘One day Fletcher saw a plan of one of the works under construction lying on a table while he was having lunch. “Ah! This is nicely drawn, but plans are very dangerous things,” he said as he tore it to pieces!’ (Grehan Lines of Torres Vedras p 65). Again the plan would show the detail not the overall view.
Jones says ‘Secrecy with respect to the extent and nature of works going forward was enjoined, and it is highly creditable to all concerned that scarcely a vague paragraph respecting the lines found its way into the public prints; and, notwithstanding the magnitude of the work, the invaders remained ignorant of the nature of the barrier raising against them, till they found the army arrayed on it to stop their further advance.’ (Jones Journal of the Sieges vol 3 p 91).
Role of the Ordenanza:
Wellington spelt this out in a ‘Confidential Memorandum’ for General Leite, who commanded at Elvas on 28 February 1810:
I expect that the Capitãos Mór will be prepared with their several companies of the Ordenanza to do the enemy all the mischief in their power if he should invade the country; not by assembling in large bodies, but by impeding his communications, by firing upon him from the mountains and strong passes with which the whole country abounds, and by annoying his foraging and other parties he may sent out. (WD III p 753-4).
Oman vol 3 is very good on the Portuguese militia (p 178-81) and the Ordenanza and the use of starvation (p 182-7). Starvation and stripping the countryside had been used as recently as 1762 – though of course was easier and more suited to the barren frontier provinces. On Portuguese militia see also Beresford to AW 12 September 1809 WSD vol 6 p 361-3.
Wellington and Portuguese politics:
Some problems were created by rivalries within the Portuguese Regency council, which reflected longstanding factionalism within Portuguese politics; or, as Wellington put it, ‘I was aware that the Patriach and Forjaz hated each other’ (Wellington to Stuart 8 April 1810 WD IV p 10-11). Jockeying for position continued with appeals to the Court in Rio de Janeiro – whose decisions took months to reach Lisbon. Wellington’s attitude was pragmatic and sensible, accepting the realities of Portuguese politics and working with the men in office. He argued against a proposal that the Council should itself fill a vacancy in its numbers, pointing out that the court would not be pleased to find its prerogative pre-empted, and that the Council’s authority depended upon its legitimacy. (Wellington to Stuart 17 March 1810 WD III p 784-5). But in general he preferred to play a more passive part, writing to Stuart in early April,
The Patriach and Forjaz have their faults as well as other men, but I am convinced that we cannot change either excepting for the worse; and if you should have any opportunity, I shall be obliged to you if you will assure either or both, not only that I will not be any party to the promotion of any change in the government, but that I shall do everything in my power to prevent it, and to support their authority and the continuance of the government in their hands. (Wellington to Stuart 8 April 1810 WD IV p 10-11).
This forbearance did not always extend to more practical matters, when Wellington became frustrated and annoyed over the delays and prevarication which often met his proposals to reform the Portuguese commissariat, or other civil departments involved in the defense of the country. Yet even here his language was more restrained than one might expect, possibly because Beresford and Stuart bore the brunt of the problem. (For an exception see Wellington to Admiral Berkeley 23 March 1810 WD III p 793-5). One difficulty which could not be overlooked was the refusal of some magistrates to co-operate with the British army by supplying hay or other forage, and by requisitioning bullocks and carts for the army’s transport. The problem was not widespread – most magistrates recognized the need to co-operate even if their hearts sank when they saw the scale of the army’s demands – but it had to be checked or it would spread, and Wellington was not satisfied with the initial response from Forjaz. (Wellington to the Corregidor of Aveiro 26 Feb 1810 WD III p 745-6; ‘Memorandum for the Corregidor of Aveiro’ 3 March 1810 WD III p 762; Wellington to Charles Stuart 1 May 1810, 11 May 1810 and 11 June 1810 WD IV p 42-43, 59-61, 113-114).
Wellington and relations with Portugal:
Fortescue (vol 7 p 433) is inclined to be critical, suggesting that Wellington treated the Portuguese regency like ‘a parcel of naughty but repentant children’. And ‘it cannot be said that the tone and method of Wellington were conciliatory. Still, the times were full of difficulty; the weight of responsibility which lay upon the Commander-in-Chief was very heavy, and large allowances must be made for him, as for all parties.’ This is a damning defense, but closer scrutiny suggests that it is hardly justified. Wellington’s letters were sometimes intemperate, but all one of those cited by Fortescue were written to Beresford or Villiers not to Portuguese authorities, and the letters he did write to the Portuguese were certainly not as offensive, rude or patronizing as Fortescue suggests.
Charles Stuart’s performance as British minister to Lisbon:
There seems little reason to doubt that Stuart was efficient, capable and hard-working at Lisbon. Fryman’s detailed study supports this conclusion, and Wellington was happy to rely on Stuart (Mildred L. Fryman ‘Charles Stuart and the “Common Cause”: the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, 1810-1814’ unpublished PhD thesis Florida State University, 1974 passim). The only reason to raise any doubt is that Stuart’s performance in later roles, particularly in Paris after the war, attracted a great deal of criticism, some of it bordering on ridicule, from contemporaries. Some of this may have had a party edge (Canning and the Whigs preferred Granville Leveson Gower for the Paris post), but this does not explain it all, and Wellington was clearly not happy with Stuart in the later role. But the most likely explanation is simply that Stuart suited the work in Lisbon better, or even that he tried harder.
Wellington insists his army respect local sensibilities:
Wellington went out of his way to avoid offending Portuguese sensibilities. When he was in Lisbon in October 1809 he learnt that British officers were earning a bad reputation by their rowdy – if generally good humoured – behavior at the theatre. Orders were promptly issued:
The officers of the army can have nothing to do behind the scenes, and it is very improper that they should appear upon the stage during the performance. They must be aware that the English public would not bear either the one or the other, and I see no reason why the Portuguese public should be worse treated. (Wellington to Colonel Peacocke, Lisbon, 26 October 1809 WD III p 544-5).
A few months later he learnt that British officers had gone through the streets of Lisbon in a Masonic procession. Although Wellington was, or had been, a Mason himself, and was the son of an enthusiastic Mason, his reaction was immediate and unequivocal. Such processions were illegal in Portugal and the procession had caused considerable disquiet – only the fact that it was obviously composed of British officers had prevented a riot. The laws of Portugal must be obeyed; there were to be no more processions, indeed there should be no Masonic meetings, or wearing of Masonic emblems so long as the army remained in Portugal. (Wellington to Colonel Peacocke 4 Jan 1810 and GAO 5 Jan 1810 WD III p 675, 676). It seems unlikely that many other British – let alone French – generals of the period would have shown such respect for local feelings and prejudices. There has always been a tendency, especially in wartime, to expect local populations – whether allied or conquered – to adapt to the ways of a foreign army in their midst rather than require the army to change its behavior to conciliate the locals.
Wellington prepares memorandum for William for use in Parliament:
In October 1809 Wellington drew his brother William’s attention to Cuesta’s report on the battle which ‘gives the lie direct to Cobbett & others. Indeed Cobbett & these fellows who pretend to publish everything ought to be attacked for not publishing this document.’ (Wellington to William Wellesley-Pole 22 October 1809 ‘Letters to Pole’ p 26-27). A month letter he announced that he was preparing his own account of the campaign, based on official documents ‘from which you can get the truth upon everything.’ The result was a twelve page Memorandum describing the whole campaign and justifying his conduct which he finished in early December. This was intended to assist his brothers defend his reputation in Parliament for ‘I think it probable that some of the Wise Gentlemen in the Debating Society will attack many of my measures.’ (Wellington to William Wellesley-Pole 29 Nov 1809 ‘Letters to Pole’ p 29; ‘Memorandum of Operations in 1809’ Badajoz 9 Dec WD III p 631-43). He suggested that it might form the foundation of a published account but was anxious that his involvement be concealed, ‘pray let it be so disguised that it cannot be supposed to come from me.’ Initially he did not even intend that Liverpool should receive a copy but changed his mind when the minister wrote asking for something similar before the meeting of Parliament. (Wellington to B. Sydenham, Badajoz, 9 and 19 Dec 1809 WSD vol 6 p 434-5, 450-1).
The Common Council of the City of London’s call for an Enquiry:
This was not aimed exclusively, or even primarily at Wellington – the ministers and Walcheren were both more prominent in a sweeping indictment:
Resolved unanimously, That the enormous waste of treasure, and unprofitable loss of lives, in the late military enterprises in which his majesty’s forces have been unfortunately employed, have excited mingled feelings of compassion, disappointment, indignation, and alarm, among all classes of his majesty’s subjects.
Resolved, That the whole military strength and resources of this Kingdom have been drawn forth to an extent unparalleled in its history, and have been most improvidently applied, and fatally consumed, in unconnected and abortive enterprises, attended with no permanent advantage to Great Britain, without effectual relief to her allies, and distinguished only by the unprofitable valour displayed, and immense sacrifice of blood and treasure.
Resolved unanimously, That during these unprecedented failures and calamities, our misfortunes have been highly aggravated by the imbecility and distraction in the cabinet, where it appears his majesty’s confidential servants have been engaged in the most despicable intrigues and cabals, endeavouring to deceive and supplant each other, to the great neglect of their public duty, and scandal of the government.
Resolved unanimously, That we are of opinion, that in the present arduous struggle, in which we are engaged, the safety of the British empire can alone be preserved by wise and honest councils to direct the public force; and that such councils can alone be upheld by the energies of a free and united people.
Resolved unanimously, That such calamitous events imperiously call for a rigid and impartial inquiry; and that on humble address be presented to his majesty to institute such inquiry. (Annual Register 1809 Appendix to the Chronicle p 590).
Wellington’s reaction to the Common Council’s call and other radical attacks:
Wellington’s reaction was melodramatic, if understandable. At the beginning of 1810 he wrote to Liverpool:
I cannot expect mercy at their hands, whether I succeed or fail; and if I should fail, they will not inquire whether the failure is owing to my own incapacity, to the blameless errors to which we are all liable, to the faults or mistakes of others, to the deficiency of means, to the serious difficulties of our situation, or to the great power and abilities of our enemy. In any of these cases, I shall become their victim; but I am not to be alarmed by this additional risk, and whatever may be the consequences, I shall continue to do my best in this country. (Wellington to Liverpool 2 Jan 1810 WD III p 671).
His experiences over Cintra explain this sensitivity, but it does make a striking contrast to the Victorian image of the cold, reserved, stoical ‘Iron Duke’.
Wellington’s assessment of political prospects:
Wellington was generally inclined to take the gloomiest view of the government’s chances of survival. On 1 March he wrote to Liverpool,
In respect to home politics, I acknowledge that I do not like them much, and I am convinced that the government cannot last. I do not think any government can stand after an inquiry into an important measure by a Committee of the House of Commons. However I am of the opinion that the King has a right, and must be supported in the exercise of the right, to choose his own Servants, as long as he thinks it proper to persevere in retaining those whom he prefers in his service; and if no other advantage shall have been gained by the formation of the existing government, it has at least drawn from Lord Grenville opinions which will render the employment of him not inconsistent with the King’s ease, if he should think proper to call him to his service. (Wellington to Liverpool 1 March 1810 WD III p 759-62).
This can have given little comfort or encouragement to Liverpool, and Wellington was no more positive in letters to others. On 4 April he told Craufurd:
The government are terribly weak, and I think it probable will be beaten upon the Walcheren question. It is impossible to say what will be the consequence. I think the King may be able to form a government without having recourse to Lord Grenville; but there will be no strength in that government and the members will have no satisfaction in conducting public affairs. (WD IV p 1-2).
While even when the ministry had clearly survived its torrid baptism of fire, Wellington was hardly any more cheerful, telling Pole,
I think that Govt and Country are going to the Devil as fast as possible; & I expect every day to hear the Mob of London are masters of the Country. I see that fellows are confoundedly frightened after the vigorous step they took in sending Burdett to the Tower. Let them take care that they don’t set fire to the extinguisher, or that the soldiers don’t join the Mob. (Wellington to William Wellesley-Pole 9 May 1810 ‘Letters to Pole’ p 33-34).
Cabinet and the War in early 1810:
Most of the ministers (except Lord Wellesley) shared Harrowby’s view expressed on 22 January 1810 that no great exertion could win the war or even clear the Peninsula. All the government could do was to maintain the war in Portugal, hold onto Sicily etc, and ride out the storm. But if they were taking a long view like this they needed to be economical. (Harrowby to Perceval 22 Jan 1810 Harrowby Papers vol XVIII f 94).
Lord Wellesley loses credibility:
William Wellesley-Pole wrote to Wellington on 7 March deploring their brother’s folly,
We should have something to look to if Wellesley had exerted himself or behaved with common prudence or given his mind up to the affairs of the Public – But I understand that he hardly does any business at his Office, that nobody can procure access to him, and that his whole time is passed with Moll, for whom I fear he has bought Henry’s House, and whom it is said is rapidly ruining W__. His colleagues never name him to me, and it is obvious are much disappointed about him – all this goes on as I tell you, and his speaking in the House of Lords, shirked as we formerly remember it, and yet wonderful to relate – everybody that it is not … [intimately?] acquainted with his proceedings [is] loudly calling for his being put at the Head of Affairs – You will perceive by my letter to the Duke [of Richmond] the State to which things are reduced, and there is no doubt but that if W__ had not thrown away his cards that he would now have been Minister by acclamation – But his habits are now beginning to be universally known, and there are Persons in his Office who have informed every man alive who has ever filled it of all his proceedings, or rather of all his omissions and neglect. You may easily imagine what pain all this has given me – but I cannot help it – I have no power to attempt to change him – His whole life with the exception of an Hour at the Office and a few hours occasionally at the House of Lords, is passed with Forbes, Shaw[e], Sydenham & Moll … (William Wellesley-Pole to Wellington ‘Confidential’ 7 March 1810 Raglan Mss no 101).
Lord Wellesley’s behaviour improves:
In April Pole reported an improvement in the Foreign Secretary’s behavior: ‘Wellesley … has been more attentive to his Office lately (and who by the by made a most admirable Speech the other night in reply, without the smallest preparation to Lord Grenville whom he completely defeated).’ And in the middle of May Pole could announce ‘Wellesley has parted with Moll[;] and Sydenham … [assures me] that she has no successor. Moll has tried a thousand schemes to get back but without effect – She is now, as I understand under the protection of Lord Yarmouth – It will be a most fortunate circumstance if this event induces Wellesley to give himself up wholly to his business – Whether it has yet produced that effect I do not know.’ (William Wellesley-Pole to Wellington 5 April, 30 April and 13 May 1810 Raglan Papers no 102 and 103).
But long before this, Wellesley’s inattention to business had cost him the influence he expected to wield by right in the cabinet.
Wellington and debates in Parliament:
Liverpool wrote to Wellington on 13 February, ‘You must have expected from the character of our opponents some share in the general attack, but I can assure you that the impression which has been made in your favour has been most satisfactory to your friends.’ (WSD vol 6 p 483-6).
Wellington replied on 1 March that he didn’t like the state of home politics and didn’t think that any government could stand an inquiry into its conduct like that into Walcheren, but that it was necessary to support the King. He then went on:
I assure you that what has passed in Parliament respecting me has not given me one moment’s concern as far as I am personally concerned; and indeed I rejoice at it, as it has given my friends an opportunity of setting the public right upon some points on which they had not been informed, and on others on which the misrepresentations had driven the truth from their memories. But I regret that men like Lord Grey and others should carry the spirit of party so far as to attack an officer in his absence, should take their ground for attack from Cobbett and the Moniteur, and should at once blame him for circumstances and events over which he could have no control, and for faults which, if they were committed at all, were not committed by him.’ (Wellington to Liverpool 1 March 1810 BL Loan Ms 72 vol 20 f 65ff printed in WD III p 759-62 with Lord Grey’s name suppressed).
The Debate on Wellington’s Pension, 16 February 1810:
A fortnight later on 16 February the Commons considered Wellington’s pension. This was naturally more favourable ground for the Opposition and the radicals, especially as earlier controversies had already created a perception that the Wellesley family had greatly enriched itself from the public purse. Wellington anticipated trouble and suggested to William Wellesley-Pole that ‘it might not be useless to mention that although I am Marshall-General of the Armies of Portugal, which is by no means a sinecure Office, & Captain General in Spain I have refused to receive and do not receive any Salary or emolument from either Country.’ (Wellington to William Wellesley-Pole, Lisbon, 22 October 1809 ‘Letters to Pole’ p 26-27). When Perceval introduced the motion he pointed out that the pension (£2,000 per annum) was the same as that which had previously been granted to Lord Lake, Lord Hutchinson, Admiral Lord Duncan, Admiral Lord Collingwood and the widow of Sir Ralph Abercromby in recognition of their victories. The Opposition attack was led by an obscure member, William Howard (younger son of the Earl of Carlisle) who declared that ‘the battle of Talavera was followed by none of the consequences of victory, and rather displayed ill-judged rashness on the part of Lord Wellington, than deliberate and skillful valour.’ (Parliamentary Debates vol 15 col 440-444; Thorne History of Parliament vol 4 p 255-6. Although he was to sit in Parliament for over twenty years this was his only recorded speech). He was supported by John Calcraft – an active, independently-minded Whig who spoke at length: ‘if it had not been for the steadiness, bravery, and discipline … [of the troops, Wellington] could never have escaped with an army … It was in truth no victory. It had been swelled into a victory only by the influence of political connection in order to get Lord Wellington advanced to the peerage. It was a piece of ministerial foppery… in the services performed by Lord Wellington in Europe he could not discover anything to merit the honours he had received.’ (Parliamentary Debates vol 15 col 444-8; Thorne History of Parliament vol 3 p 355-9). This went too far and alienated undecided members of the House – although it shows that intense hostility to Wellington was not limited to the small number of committed radicals. Major-General Charles Craufurd, whose brother Robert was commanding the Light Division in Portugal, defended Wellington’s operations at Oporto and Talavera, then went on ‘Lord Wellington had been adored in every country which had been the seat of war, and was it only in his own country he should be refused a reward?’ (Parliamentary Debates vol 15 col 451-2; Thorne History of Parliament vol 3 p 521-22). William Loftus, who had been a fellow ADC at Dublin Castle twenty years before, told the House ‘Lord Wellington he believed also was far from rich; he had always been one of the most liberal men that ever existed, and the state of his circumstances was, he imagined, far from adequate to the support of the high dignity to which he was elevated.’ Unfortunately this opened subject of Wellington’s financial affairs to discussion, until William Wellesley-Pole felt it necessary to put on record a brief statement concluding that Wellington’s capital did not amount to much over £40,000. This was hardly poverty, but nor was it much of a fortune for a landless earl and it paled beside the fortunes of the radical leaders Whitbread, Burdett and Lord Milton, who were all extremely rich. The pension was passed by 213 votes to 106 despite ‘the greatest exertions’ by the Opposition to collect its members. It was a remarkably comfortable majority at a time when the government had yet to establish itself. (William Wellesley-Pole to Richmond n.d. quoted by Aspinall Later Correspondences of George III v 5 p 516 n; Parliamentary Debates vol 15 col 440-67).
The debate on the Portuguese subsidy, 9 March 1810:
On 9 March the Commons had the chance to give its opinion on the coming campaign when it debated the Portuguese subsidy. The Opposition was determined and united, including moderate Whigs such as George Tierney and the highly respected independent Henry Bankes. Nor did the Opposition speakers equivocate: Sir J. Newport declared that ‘the contest [in the Peninsula] was now hopeless,’ while Curwen ‘could not imagine that there was any rational hope of success,’ and believed that the notion ‘of our driving the French out of Spain … was absurd.’ More influential was probably the opinion of General Ferguson, who had served with such distinction in the Vimeiro campaign, but who now rose to deride the Portuguese army which Parliament was being asked to subsidize. (Parliamentary Debates vol 16 p 9xxx-10xxx (Newport), p 10xxx-11xxx (Curwen) and 15xxx (Ferguson)).
On the Government’s side, after Perceval had introduced the motion, its advocacy was largely left to obscure and inept speakers. Canning had intended to speak but was pre-empted by Huskisson and chose not to follow him. According to Canning ‘the House [was] jaded – and the debate the dullest that I had almost ever heard.’ Yet 346 members stayed until the House divided at around 2am, with the government securing a comfortable majority of 204 votes to 142. (Canning to Mrs Canning 10 March 1810 quoted in Later Correspondences of George III vol 5 p 539n and Perceval’s reports on the debate in ibid. Villiers spoke in this debate giving high praise to Beresford’s work (Parliamentary Debates vol 16 p 10xxx)).
General Ferguson on the Portuguese Army:
‘General Ferguson rose to make a few observations upon the subject under discussion. Much had been said by the right hon. gent. who brought forward the Resolution, of the importance of taking 30,000 Portuguese troops into British pay. As he had been in that country, he thought it his duty to tell the House what he had reason to believe on the subject. In the first place, then, he did not think there were 30,000 soldiers in Portugal: those that were there, had, certainly, by the exertions and skill of general Beresford, and other British officers, attained an appearance of discipline; but he feared that an army adequate to the task of now defending Portugal, must be able to make a stand in the first instance, and if obliged to retreat, must still, as opportunity offered, return to the charge, and thus make resistance after resistance. He was very decidedly of opinion, from what he had seen and heard of them, that on the very first defeat, the little discipline of the Portuguese army would vanish, and a dispersion would be the consequence.’ (Parliamentary Debates vol 16 p 15xxx)
The Radicals and the defense of Portugal:
The Whigs, and particularly the radicals, were made more hostile to the defense of Portugal by Sir Robert Wilson, who quit the Portuguese army without leave in October 1809 (Glover Very Slippery Fellow p 79 says he did have eight weeks leave to go home. He grossly over-stayed his leave before resigning ibid p 85-86) and when home he shamelessly exaggerated the significance of the part he had played in 1809 and denounced Beresford’s incompetence. Wilson already had ties to the Opposition and Lord Grey now took him up, while it was obvious to the radicals that he was a brilliant soldier whose advancement had been thwarted by the conservative and aristocratic prejudices of Beresford – whose family background ensured that he was an object of their dislike and distrust. They even mooted moving a special Vote of Thanks to Wilson – provoking some scathing comments from William Warre (Warre to his father 3 May 1810 Letters from the Peninsula p 77). See also Colchester Diary of Charles Abbott vol 2 p 240; Wellington to William Wellesley-Pole 23 April 1810 ‘Letters to Pole’ p 32-33; Roberts Whig Party p 150 ff; Glover Very Slippery Fellow p 81-83.
Debate on the Portuguese Subsidy:
Wellington told Charles Stuart on 3 March: ‘I am positively certain that the ministers will be unwilling to go to Parliament to ask for more money for Portugal, and the Parliament will not grant a larger sum, even if the ministers should ask for it.’ (WD III p 762-3).
In fact though the ministers did increase the subsidy to Portugal in late April. They did not take it to Parliament, so I presume it was paid for from the Vote of Credit. (The budget was presented after this decision was made – Perceval made his speech on 16 May – but only included £950,000 for Portugal – Smart Economic Annuals vol 1 p 213).
Support for the War in Portugal in Parliament:
These three debates show that Britain’s commitment to the defense of Portugal enjoyed the support of many members of Parliament who did not owe their allegiance to Perceval’s government. Only three days before the last vote the ministry had been defeated in the Commons by a substantial majority on the censure of Lord Chatham, but it could still secure a majority of 3:2 for the subsidy of Portugal. Castlereagh and Canning both advocated vigorous measures and warmly praised Wellington. Sidmouth argued that ‘Our honour, and our own immediate interests impose upon us the obligation of affording to Portugal all the assistance in our power for the purpose of delaying its final subjugation.’ (Sidmouth to Grenville 10 Feb 1810 HMC Dropmore vol 10 p 12). Even within the Opposition some of the Buckingham connection retained their high regard for Wellington. Lord Temple privately indicated that he supported the Vote of Thanks to Wellington and his father told Grenville, that ‘though I have no confidence in saving Portugal by 24,000 English troops and 30,000 Portuguese, yet I think it a very great question whether it may not be wise to endeavour to save it for one campaign; and my partiality as well as my cooler judgment led me to think that Lord Wellington would be usefully and well employed in this object.’ (Buckingham to Grenville 15 Feb 1810 HMC Dropmore vol 10 p 11-12. On Temple’s support for the Thanks see Creevey Papers p 126).
But this support was not very firm. Neither Buckingham nor Sidmouth had much confidence that Portugal could be successfully defended in the long run, let alone that the tide of the war in the Peninsula could be reversed, and many of the government’s own supporters privately shared their view. If the campaign went badly political support for Wellington, and for the government, would rapidly evaporate.
Liverpool later told Wellington that:
It is certainly true that in the House of Commons the Portuguese subsidy was carried by a small and unwilling majority; and I believe that if the House had been left to act upon their own feelings, they would in the month of February, when the subsidy was voted, have decided for withdrawing the army from Portugal. (Liverpool to Wellington 10 September 1810 WSD vol 6 p 591-3).
This was certainly inaccurate, though it is as likely that Liverpool was genuinely mistaken in his recollection as that he consciously tried to deceive Wellington. He was not in the Commons, and the prevailing mood in early 1810 was most pessimistic – even though it did not favour an immediate withdrawal.
Wellington resents the need for economy:
William Wellesley-Pole added to Wellington’s irritation telling him ‘Here we are completely paralysed nobody seems to think of exertion – the whole cry is Oeconomy, and that of the meanest kind – Huskisson has done infinite mischief by his statement respecting our finances, and too much weight has been given to his Authority – If his principles were to be acted upon, there is an End of us as a great or warlike nation.’ (William Wellesley-Pole to Wellington 5 April 1810 Raglan Papers Mss no 102). The combination of petty economies and political weakness aroused Wellington’s contempt and he wrote to Pole that, ‘if Mr Pitt was alive, or if there was anything like a Govt. in England, or any publick Sentiment remaining there, Bonaparte would yet repent his invasion of Spain … But it appears to me that we have lost our Spirit at the moment we most want it; & that we are thinking of our shillings & sixpence instead of opposing the Enemy as the circumstances of the World enable us to oppose him, & as we ought to oppose him.’ (Wellington to William Wellesley-Pole, 6 April 1810 ‘Letters to Pole’ p 31-32).
Some of the economies do seem very petty: Henry Goulburn – the Under Secretary at the Home Office – complained a few months later that his office had just lost all the newspapers it subscribed to; while Liverpool informed Graham in November that the government would no longer re-imburse the travelling expenses of officers sent home with routine dispatches (i.e. officers coming home anyway and taking letters with them). (Goulburn to Palmerston nd [September 1810] Palmerston Papers GC/GO/77 and Liverpool to Graham 8 November quoted in Aspinall-Oglander Freshly Remembered p 215).
To be fair to the government Wellington’s estimates of the cost of the war rose steeply and constantly (see Gray Perceval p 346-9). This was not due to extravagance or unconcern for economy, but it was generally true that throughout the war the cost of the Peninsula commitment kept one – or at times two – steps ahead of the government, despite the government succeeding in finding ever greater resources for it.
Wellington and the Specie shortage:
A recurrence of the specie shortage added greatly to this ill-feeling, but for some time Wellington made an effort to conceal his irritation and remain on good terms with Liverpool. As early as the middle of December he asked the government to send £100,000 to Portugal in cash, with a similar sum to follow almost at once. (Wellington to Liverpool 13 Dec 1809 WD III p 647). However the government had been distracted by the political crisis and had failed to build up its reserves of foreign coin in the autumn – even refusing an offer of 100,000 dollars (about £20,000) – and now found its cupboards bare. (Gray Perceval p 345-6). It was not until February that a consignment of specie could be collected and sent, and when it reached Lisbon on board the Clyde Wellington was dismayed to find that it amounted to only 500,000 dollars, half the sum he had been promised. To make matters even worse he was told – whether accurately or not – that the rest of the money had been available but had been disembarked at Portsmouth. Wellington’s response was carefully muted – a dull official letter referring Liverpool to his previous dispatches and requesting him to send more money as soon as possible; even though he had been privately telling Villiers for weeks that ‘It is very obvious to me that Great Britain has undertaken more than she can afford in this country.’ (Wellington to Villiers 6 Jan 1810; Wellington to Liverpool 21 Feb 1810 WD III p 677-8, 741; see also Wellington to Villiers 28 Jan 1810 ibid p 710-11 – Gray Perceval says that the 500,000 was shipped on the Comus not the Clyde).
By the middle of March the problem had grown worse and there were no fresh supplies of specie on the horizon. The pay of the British army and the subsidy to Portugal had both fallen into arrears and Wellington feared that the lack of money would encourage misbehavior among his British troops and retard the improvement of the Portuguese. His patience was wearing thin, and he told Liverpool on 14 March that ‘It becomes every day more difficult to procure in this country the supplies and means required by the army without paying for them in ready money; and there is a monthly demand for the Portuguese government amounting to £80,000, without the payment of which their army must disband.’ (Wellington to Liverpool 14 March 1810 WD IV p 781). A week later he added ‘You cannot conceive how much the want of money distresses us; and I cannot imagine why the Treasury cannot purchase bullion in London, and send it to Lisbon, as well as the merchants, who make an enormous profit on the trade.’ (Wellington to Liverpool 20 and 21 March 1810 WD III p 787-8, 791-2 (quote from the second letter).).
Even such limited moderation did not come easily to Wellington, especially on the subject of money; and it was not produced by an appreciation of the great efforts ministers and officials were making to meet his needs. Rather he was anxious not to demand too much lest he frighten the ministers into re-considering their commitment to Portugal, or give their successors an excuse to withdraw his army. That at least is the reason he gave Villiers in January when he explained why he had not demanded a large army
I will neither endeavour to shift from my own shoulders on[to] those of the ministers the responsibility for failure, by calling for means which I know they cannot give, and which, perhaps, would not add materially to the facility of attaining our object; nor will I give to the ministers, who are not strong, and who must feel the delicacy of their own situation, an excuse for withdrawing the army from a position which, in my opinion, the honor and interest of the country require they should maintain as long as possible. (Wellington to Villiers 14 Jan 1810 WD III p 684-6; see also Wellington to Villiers 6 Dec 1809 WD III p 624-6).
Significantly this unwonted consideration disappeared as soon as the government’s position was secure.
Effects of the Specie Shortage on the Army and Commissariat:
Charles Leslie remembered that at the beginning of the year in cantonments ‘Supplies of all kinds, and even luxuries, were to be had here, as boats were daily arriving from Lisbon. But the difficulty was to get money to purchase them; of that commodity we had little or none. Our pay, instead of being paid a month in advance, as is usually the case, was now nearly three months in arrear, and it was only by borrowing from richer friends that we could get any. Very few could afford the serious loss attending getting cash for a bill on England, because the paymasters and commissaries, instead of paying the dollars at four shillings and two pence, their current value, changed them from five shillings to seven shillings and sixpence, and we, although fighting, bleeding, and starving for our country, were subjected to a deduction of ten per cent income tax, stopped out of our pay. This seemed too bad.’ (Leslie Military Journal p 183-4).
Leslie goes on to accuse at least one commissary of growing rich by paying for supplies by bills payable on Lisbon, which he would then buy back at a hefty discount in the ‘private’ capacity. (ibid p 184).
Alexander Dickson described how the Portuguese commissariat was hamstrung by lack of cash: ‘The farmers and country people have not confidence in the Government to advance anything on credit, and therefore conceal their stock to secure it from being embargoed by the civil power. With money I am satisfied supplies would soon appear, by without it nothing short of violence can draw them forth …’ (Dickson to Major-General John Hamilton 22 April 1810 Dickson Manuscripts vol 2 p 192-3).
And Wellington told Liverpool:
The people of Portugal and Spain are tired out by requisitions not paid for, of the British, Spanish, Portuguese, and French armies; and nothing can now be procured without ready money. I hope, therefore, not only that every facility will be given to our getting money by bills upon England, but that some money will be sent out according to the request for it which I have made to your Lordship. (Wellington to Liverpool 24 January 1810 WD III p 698-700).
The government’s view of the specie shortage:
A letter from Liverpool to Lord Wellesley gives some idea of the difficulties facing the ministers and the precarious, hand-to-mouth state of the nation’s financial reserves: ‘I understand that the Bank [of England] are almost destitute of specie and we have been disappointed within these few Days of a large supply from Buenos Ayres: Instead of a million of Dollars which we had reason to believe would arrive from that Quarter only two hundred thousand have been received.’ (Liverpool to Lord Wellesley 15 June 1810 BL Add Ms 37,295 f 312-13).
Solution to the Specie Problem:
Redgrave suggests that the specie problem was solved – for some months at least – when the exchange rate was put up in May (‘Wellington’s Logistical Arrangements’ p 113 and ‘From 68d per milrei (1,000 reis) the rate rose to 69d and 70d in successive weeks in the middle of May.’ (p 114n).
Lord Wellesley, Henry Wellesley and funding the War:
It is a pity our sources do not reveal more about the cabinet discussions which must have preceded the decision to increase the subsidy to Portugal. The obvious presumption that Lord Wellesley championed the increase, possibly reacting to lobbying from Villiers who seems to have been back in England by early March (see Thorne History of Parliament for how he was snubbed).
On the other hand, Lord Wellesley’s enthusiasm for a much greater commitment to Spain threatened to divert resources from Wellington. This came to a head in the middle of the year when Henry Wellesley lent the Spanish government £400,000 without demanding concessions on trade, or access to specie from Spanish America in return. Perceval was horrified, telling Lord Wellesley:
With respect to your brother’s drawing upon us from Cadiz for £400,000 for the Spanish Government, my fear is (and a most alarming one) that Lord Wellington’s army will feel the effect of it by being deprived of the supply which the same £400,000 to be raised upon British credit would have afforded it. I tremble for the effect of such a diversion of supplies, at the command of the British credit, from the service of our own army in Portugal, and from the payment to the subsidy to the Portuguese Government. In every other view of the subject I shall be glad that the Spanish Government should be so accommodated.’ (Perceval to Lord Wellesley 14 July 1810 Walpole Life of Perceval vol 2 p 124-5 also Perceval to Lord Wellesley 23 July 1810 ibid p 126-8).
However Lord Wellesley refused to censure Henry Wellesley, and it is not entirely clear if Perceval’s fears of the effect of the loan were justified or not. (For the background from Henry Wellesley’s point of view see Severn A Wellesley Affair p 140-1 but unfortunately this gives little or nothing about the final outcome).
The Rising cost of the War in 1810:
The actual cost of the war in 1810 far exceeded Wellington’s highest estimates. In the middle of the year Perceval admitted that if he had known how the costs would escalate, he would not have dared to agree to undertake the defense of Portugal, but that he now rejoiced that he had done so. (Perceval to Wellington 5 July 1810 Walpole Life of Perceval vol 2 p 129-133). By then the ministers were gaining confidence that Huskisson’s warnings had been over-stated. It was true that the economy was showing signs of strain and that British trade had been dislocated by the tightening of the Continental System after the defeat of Austria. Other problems would emerge: at the end of September a leading financier, Abraham Goldsmid committed suicide when faced with bankruptcy, and only Perceval’s cool handling of the affair prevented a run on government stock (Gray Perceval p 377-8); while manufacturing was depressed, which in turn led to the Luddite disturbances in 1811 and 1812. But Perceval’s budget in 1810 had surprised both friends and critics by meeting the government’s needs without new taxes, while including a Vote of Credit of £3 million for unforeseen additional expenditure, much of which was used for the Peninsula. (Smart Economic Annuals vol 1 p 213-217; Gray Perceval p 388-9; William Wellesley-Pole to Wellington 30 April 1810 Raglan no 103). Perceval and his colleagues had succeeded in striking a balance between the limitless demands of the war, and the need for financial prudence so as to be able to carry on the struggle for years to come.
This generous increase in funding did little to appease Wellington. Partly this was because the increases were always a step or two behind the army’s needs, so that he continued to be harassed by financial pressures and the commissary’s debts continued to grow. But also it was because the government’s support appeared reluctant and grudging. For example, on 24 April Liverpool told Wellington that the government recognized that the £980,000 subsidy to Portugal was proving insufficient and agreed to increase it to almost £1.5 million. But any goodwill this might have created was lost by the tone and language of the letter in which the minister complained at the inaccuracy of Wellington’s estimates, insisted that the increase could not be provided in specie, and enclosed a letter from a Treasury official, George Harrison, which blamed Wellington for all the difficulties which the Treasury had faced in funding the war in Portugal. (Liverpool to Wellington 24 April 1810 PRO WO6/34 p 155-167; George Harrison to Lt-Col Bunbury 24 April 1810 WP 1/276). Not surprisingly Wellington reacted with fury, disputing Harrison’s claims, and issuing dire warnings of his inability to carry on the war without more specie. (Wellington to Liverpool 16, 23 and 30 May 1810 WD IV p 72-3, 87, 95-6). Privately he was bitter, writing, ‘What can be done for such a Govt & such people … We have immense means, but for want of money we cannot use them as we ought.’ (Fragment of a letter signed by Wellington and annotated in another hand ‘21 June 4th, 1810’ in Wellesley Papers BL Add Ms 37,415 f 57; see also Wellington to William Wellesley-Pole 6 April 1810 ‘Letters to Pole’ p 31-32 – many of the same phrases but clearly not the same letter). News of his discontent evidently reached the ministers and Perceval wrote a long personal letter clearly intended to soothe and placate him. However even this was so full of qualifications, self-justifications and lawyerly language that it is unlikely that it did much good. (Perceval to Wellington 5 July 1810 Walpole Life of Perceval vol 2 p 129-33 Wellington’s reply, 29 July 1810 is in ibid p 134 (part only)).
Wellington’s crisis of confidence and Liverpool’s hint:
Other factors played an equally important part in Wellington’s disenchantment with the ministers. The most important of these was the issue of confidence, or more specifically Wellington’s perception that the ministers lacked confidence in him, and in the success of the campaign in Portugal. The problem began with Wellington’s first reaction to the news of the French invasion of Andalusia, which contained a most untypical hint of panic. He wrote to Liverpool on 31 January predicting that the French would overrun all of southern Spain except possibly Cadiz. Although ‘the war of partisans may continue,’ Wellington feared that the French would be able to turn an overwhelming force against Portugal, and he could not be sure that the Portuguese army would fight. Given this prospect he asked for fresh instructions whether ‘an effort should be made to defend this country to the last; or whether, as soon as I shall find affairs in Spain in the state in which I have above described I shall turn my mind seriously to the evacuation of the country.’ (Wellington to Liverpool 31 Jan 1810 WD III p 719-22). Wellington soon recovered his nerve. His next letter to Liverpool, written on 9 February, was much calmer and more confident. He was pleased at the reaction of the Portuguese Regency to events in Spain, and now emphasized that there was no immediate danger: the French reinforcements had yet to enter Spain and it would take them a considerable length of time to prepare for an invasion of Portugal. He no longer wanted fresh instructions, arguing on the contrary that he should be left the discretion to make the judgment when the time came according to the many circumstances likely to affect a campaign. (Wellington to Liverpool 9 Feb 1810 WD III p 729-31).
The ministers in London would not have been human if they had not been troubled by Wellington’s moment of doubt. They had undertaken the defense of Portugal on his advice against the almost universal opinion of senior soldiers in Britain and his own army, and now, at the first sign of trouble, he appeared to be developing cold feet. Nonetheless their trust in him seems to have been ruffled rather than seriously shaken. They readily granted him the discretion he had sought while making plain that they had no interest in risking their army if the struggle was hopeless. Liverpool wrote officially on 27 February that, ‘the safety of the British Army in Portugal is the first object which His Majesty has in view. But as far as is consistent with this object His Majesty would be unwilling that His Army should evacuate Portugal before circumstances should render it absolutely necessary.’ (Liverpool to Wellington 27 Feb 1810 WO 6/50 p 40-43). And a fortnight later he elaborated in a private letter,
I should apprise you, however, that a very considerable degree of alarm exists in this country respecting the safety of the British army in Portugal; and as it is always some advantage to know on a question of doubtful policy on which side it may be best to err, I have no difficulty in stating that, under all the circumstances, you would rather be excused for bringing away the army a little too soon than, by remaining in Portugal a little too long, exposing it to those risks from which no military operations can be wholly exempt. I do not mean by this observation that you would be justified in evacuating Portugal before the country was attacked in force by the enemy; but whenever this event shall occur, the chances of successful defence are considered here by all persons, military as well as civil, so improbable that I could not recommend any attempt at what may be called desperate resistance.’ (Liverpool to Wellington 13 March 1810 WSD vol 6 p 493-4. The manuscript in BL Add 38,325 f 27-31 is marked ‘Private & Confidential.’).
In reply Wellington assured Liverpool that ‘whatever people may tell you, I am not so desirous, as they imagine, of fighting desperate battles: if I was, I might fight one any day I please.’ But insisted that,
I am perfectly aware of the risks which I incur personally, whatever may be the result of the operations in Portugal. All I beg is, that if I am to be held responsible, I may be left to the exercise of my own judgment; and I ask for the fair confidence of government upon the measures which I am to adopt.
If government take the opinions of others upon the situation of affairs here, and entertain doubts upon the measures which I propose to adopt, then let them give me their instructions in detail, and I will carry them strictly into execution.
I may venture, however, to assure you, that, with the exception of Marshal Beresford, who I believe concurs entirely in all my opinions respecting the state of the contest, and the measures to be adopted here, there is no man in the army who has taken half the pains upon the subject that I have.’ (Wellington to Liverpool 2 April 1810 WD III p 809-12. See also Wellington to Charles Stuart, 21 April 1810 WD IV p 27-9).
In other words, if the ministers chose to employ him they must either trust him with a free hand, or take the entire responsibility for the campaign upon themselves.
Privately he expressed his irritation much more frankly, for example, telling Admiral Berkeley,
The government are terribly afraid that I shall get them, and myself, into a scrape. But what can be expected from men who are beaten in the House of Commons three times a week? A great deal might be done now, if there existed in England less party, and more public sentiment, and if there was any government. (Wellington to Berkeley 7 April 1810 WD IV p 7-8).
This irritation and annoyance with the government was much increased by a letter he received from his brother William. ‘I hear,’ Pole wrote,
that your Instructions, direct you not to risk your Army. I hope in God you will strictly obey them, for be assured in the present state of the Public Mind here, you will not be safe if you fight a bloody Battle, and are afterwards obliged to evacuate Portugal – I cannot bring myself to believe, that the French are not moving upon you with Gigantic Strides – and I am impressed with a strong conviction that as the Summer advances they will bring against you an overwhelming force. (William Wellesley-Pole to Wellington 5 April 1810 Raglan Papers, Wellington B no 102).
Wellington answered this with the appearance of complete self-confidence – ‘you may depend upon it that I shall not get myself into any scrape’, but also with a sense of grievance:
I don’t think however that Govt. have behaved very fairly by me. I inclose their last Instructions from which you will observe that their first object in keeping the Army in Portugal is the safety of the British Army; which is ludicrous enough, & would be well worked up by the opposition if ever this Instruction should come before Parlt. You will also observe that I am not to evacuate before circumstances should make it absolutely necessary. I was very well satisfied with these Instructions which left matters very much at my own discretion & responsibility. But shortly after I received them, I received a Private or rather demi Official letter from Lord Liverpool stating that the Opinion in England was against fighting a Battle to save Portugal…
I consider the opinion of a Minister in a demi Official letter to be Law; but I won’t have publick Instructions which authorize a fair manly line, & private hints which direct one that would disgrace us forever; & then I should be responsible for all the consequences of attending to the latter. I have therefore called for specifick Instructions which I expect immediately. (Wellington to William Wellesley-Pole 9 May 1810 ‘Letters to Pole’ p 33-34).
In principle, Wellington was quite right. There was a potential danger in Liverpool’s attempt to supplement official instructions with private hints whose exact status was ambiguous. But there is no reason to doubt that Liverpool had simply tried to provide the guidance and clarification which Wellington had sought in his letter of 31 January. Liverpool wrote to a trusted friend and colleague, but Wellington’s response, especially his letter to Pole, suggests that he had far less faith in the minister than the minister had in him. Perhaps it was the memory of the controversy over Cintra, where the ministers had left Wellington to defend himself; or perhaps he simply felt less personal confidence in Liverpool than in Castlereagh; whatever the reason it is clear that Liverpool had lost Wellington’s trust, and he regained it only slowly. (See Wellington to William Wellesley-Pole 11 Jan 1811 and Pole’s letters of 1 Feb and 20 April 1811 discussed in later chapters).
Reaction to Wellington’s moment of panic:
Col J. W. Gordon told Lord Grey on 18 February 1810, Cabinet today on our policy in Portugal:
Lord Wn has demanded specific instruction either to stay or embark. This shakes my opinion a little of his judgment & decision, as, as far as his Corps is concerned, his situation with respect to Spain, & with respect to French invasion, is the same as it was after the Battle of Ocana: he could not hope that the French would attack him till they had collected a force competent to beat him, and the Battle of Ocana left them leisure to bring their plans to maturity: – Lord Wn wrote soon after that battle that he could defend Portugal; – he now demands direct orders to do so: – This is not a proof of a comprehensive or firm mind.
It will be a good stiff problem for the Cabinet to resolve before dinner!’ (Earl Grey Papers, Durham University Library GRE/B19/42).
Wellington, responsibility and the defense of Portugal:
Towards the end of April, Wellington tool advantage of a letter of recommendation to give Huskisson an overview of his position:
I am fully sensible of the critical situation in which I am placed in this Country, & I hope that I am not unequal to its difficulties. The Honour and Interest of the Country require that I should not come away one moment too soon; & its safety as far as that depends upon the return of this Army is involved in my not attempting to stay one moment too long. With these main considerations are involved others connected with the state of the Public Mind particularly respecting the continuance of the Contest in the Peninsula, & with the weakness of the Govt; & upon the whole I don’t know of an Instance in which an officer has been involved in more difficult circumstances.
However nothing should tempt me to endeavour to withdraw from them; & conceiving the Honour & Interest of the Country [to be] materially involved in maintaining our Army in the Peninsula, till it is necessary to evacuate it, I should be sorry to receive Orders which should relieve me from all difficulty by directing a premature evacuation.
If we had a strong Govt in England, & the Command of Money, & of Arms, I think we might still oblige the French to evacuate the Peninsula. As it is I don’t despair … the French have made no progress since January … they have much to do before they can oblige us to quit the Peninsula; & the Bonapartes will more than once repent their Invasion of Spain before they will make the complete conquest of the Country.’ (Wellington to Huskisson 26 April 1810 BL Add Ms 38,738 f 24-25).
See also Wellington to William Wellesley-Pole 6 April 1810 ‘Letters to Pole’ p 31-32 for similar, slightly more confident, comments.
The weakness of the government and the hostility of the Opposition added to the pressure on Wellington, as he told Admiral Berkeley: ‘In case of the occurrence of a great disaster, it will be no justification for me to say that the plan was that of the Portuguese government, and that I would not oppose it, or that you approved and urged it. In the existing temper of the times, and for me particularly, such a justification will not be allowed.’ (Wellington to Admiral Berkeley 23 March 1810 WD III p 793-5).
Opinion in England:
One exception to the general gloom needs to be mentioned – the King appears to have somewhat overcome his hostility to Wellington, at least according to a letter from Colonel Taylor which Liverpool forwarded to Portugal. Taylor had read the King the correspondence between Liverpool and Wellington and,
the King observed that the arguments and remarks which this letter contains, the general style and spirit in which it is written, and the clearness with which the state of the question and of prospects in Portugal is exposed, have given His Majesty a very high opinion of Lord Wellington’s sense and of the resources of his mind as a soldier; and that he appears to have weighed the whole of his situation so coolly and maturely, and to have considered so fully every contingency under which he may be placed, not omitting any necessary preparation, His Majesty trusted that his ministers would feel with him the advantage of suffering him to proceed according to his judgment and discretion in adherence to the principles which he as laid down, unfettered by any particular instructions which might embarrass him in the execution of his general plan of operations. (Taylor to Liverpool 21 April 1810 enclosed in Liverpool to Wellington 25 April 1810 WSD vol 6 p 515).
A cynic might question if this can be taken at face value, but the King’s opinion was probably still too weighty a matter to be artificially invoked.
Opinion in Britain gradually improves:
The alarm in Britain reached its peak in March and early April then gradually subsided as the French delayed their attack and Wellington’s more confident letters of February and March had an effect. William Wellesley-Pole for one felt greatly reassured, telling his brother at the end of April, ‘you give a much more promising account of your situation than anybody expected, and I hope that every exertion will be made to supply you with money and to attend to all your suggestions. I hear this is to be the case.’ (William Wellesley-Pole to Wellington 30 April 1810 Raglan Papers Wellington B no 103). However the new-found confidence was fragile: a thin veneer that did not extend to the Opposition or its supporters, and which would crack at even a light blow inflicted by bad news. Wellington appreciated the danger, telling Villiers ‘I wish that ministers could strengthen their government; and that somebody would take pains to inform the public and guide their opinion, and not allow every newswriter to run away with the public mind, upon points essential to the interests of the country. (Wellington to Villiers 5 June 1810 WD IV p 103-4). However nothing but success in the field could convince the army, or the public at home, that Wellington’s plans would work.
Wellington’s distrust of Liverpool:
Charles Stewart was, of course, biased and unreliable, but nonetheless his comments are interesting:
From what I see the game now is here where the responsibility shall rest. The W[ar] Department throws everything on Lord Wn’s shoulders. He returns everything on the W[ar] Deapartment.
He certainly also looks to Lord W[ellesley] being minister, and has a perfectly contemptible opinion of things as they stand … He declares that the business of the office in D[ownin]g Street is not done half so well as when you were there, that Lord Liverpool seems to decide on nothing, that he writes him a public instruction one day and in a private letter the next, he puts a different bearing in the same circumstances … [Also equipment not forwarded promptly and evident laxity in conduct of office business]. (Stewart to Castlereagh [23 May 1810] D 3030/P/8).
Wellington’s discontent with Liverpool:
The strongest expression of Wellington’s discontent at this time (mid 1810) survives only in a fragment of a letter in the Wellesley papers – it is not clear whether the original was addressed to William Wellesley-Pole, Lord Wellesley or some third party, though Pole is most likely to have been the recipient:
You will hear from other quarters how we are going on here. Massena the Spoilt Child of Victory is in our front; but I feel no uneasiness. Nay … [?] if Mr Pitt was alive , if there was any Govt. [underlining in another ink, as is all subsequent underlining] or any publick Sentiment in England, if we thought of any thing excepting the saving of our Shillings, & sixpences, if I could expect anything but the Gallows for making an exertion in which 5 lives should be lost, & which should not be followed by the immediate evacuation of the Peninsula by the French, I should say that we would yet make Boney repent of his invasion of Spain. But alas! What can be done for such a Govt. & such a people? However we are not off the Peninsula yet; & please God as long as it is safe [Wellington’s underlining] (for that is our word) to delay our evacuation I will do so. We have immense means, but for want of money We cannot use them as we ought; nor can we … [wield?] them to the degree to which they are capable of being Carried [?] for want not only of this but other necessary assistance, which Great Britain … [?] any other Require [?] and [?] would supply. But its useless to lament what cannot be avoided, & now must be reserved [?]. We must do our best under the circumstances & … [?] for better times. (BL Add Ms 37,415 f 57).
Some phrases in this letter (for example, ‘If Mr Pitt was alive’, ‘we are thinking of our shillings & sixpences’ etc) are the same or very similar to Wellington to William Wellesley-Pole 6 April 1810 (‘Letters to Pole’ p 31-32), but Wellington often did repeat phrases to different correspondents.
Moore’s opinion on the defence of Portugal:
As late as 29 July 1810 Charles Stewart (hardly a devoted admirer of Moore) wrote to Castlereagh from Wellington’s headquarters: ‘Many of poor Sir J. Moore’s ideas were sound and showed cool judgment, and no one more than that this country is not defensible, Spain being in the hands of France, if vigorously and formidably attacked.’ (D 3030/P/18).
Informing the Public about Portugal:
There were some attempts to do so, including a pamphlet A Sketch of the Campaign in Portugal which was written by Frederick Robinson (who had been Under-Secretary in the War and Colonial Department from May to November 1809 under Castlereagh) in collaboration with probably J. W. Croker. However this was dated 1810 and probably appeared in about November and described the Busaco campaign rather than anticipated it. See Jones Prosperity Robinson p 28 and Brightfield Croker p 79 (I have not seen a copy of this pamphlet).
Idea of transferring army to Cadiz, if forced to abandon Lisbon:
Wellington had already made clear his dislike for the idea of moving the bulk of the army to Cadiz if it was forced to leave Portugal. On 1 March he told Liverpool that a voluntary shift would be followed by the immediate fall of Portugal; while the British army would not be welcome at Cadiz (WD III p 759-62). And on 27 March he told Henry Wellesley that Cadiz would not hold out for a month if he was forced out of Portugal even if he took his whole army there, as the French would concentrate all their efforts against it (Wellington to Henry Wellesley 27 March 1810 WD III p 799-802). That was stretching the long bow. But the ministers continued to want him to take a large part of his army around to Cadiz if forced to leave Lisbon, at least as late as 26 June (WSD vol 6 p 547-8). Wellington reiterated his dislike on 30 May (Wellington to Liverpool 30 May 1810 WD IV p 98).
Reinforcements and the effective strength of Wellington’s Army:
High levels of sickness among Wellington’s troops in the autumn undermined the benefit of the large number of reinforcements who joined the army between August and November. But not all of those listed as ‘sick’ were really ill.
An order issued on October 23 commented on the fact that the number of men shown as sick in regimental returns was more than double those on the hospital books at Lisbon. Soldiers supposed to be sick had been seen walking about the town perfectly well. Orders must been enforced ‘Medical Officers are on no account to be allowed soldiers as batmen. A board is to be assembled under Colonel Peacocke with a view to cutting down the number of soldiers employed as clerks, storekeepers, wardmasters and orderlies and to advert to the necessity of Officers of the Medical Department attending themselves to the wards, and not employing NCO’s as wardmasters at a time when the whole Army are left at their posts day and night. The Commander of the Forces must insist on Officers of the Medical Department being at all times in the wards of the hospitals. Soldiers sent to the Convalescent Barracks at Belem are not sent for their amusement, but for the benefit of their health. There is no occasion for them to be in the streets and public houses at all hours of the day and night. They are not to leave the barrack yard except under an officer or NCO.’ (Kempthorne ‘The Medical Deaprtment of Wellington’s Army’ p 141). Despite these measures the problem of malingering, and the ‘Belem Rangers’ as they were sarcastically known in the army, grew steadily throughout the war.
Wellington’s Second-in-Command after Sherbrooke:
The need to garrison Cadiz also complicated the question of Wellington’s second-in-command. On 21 December 1809 Wellington told Liverpool that Sherbrooke’s health was giving way and that he wished to go home before the following summer. Looking at the Army List Wellington suggested Thomas Graham, Hildebrand Oakes or Sir George Prevost as Sherbrooke’s successor. These three officers were all senior to William Payne who, it was felt, could not be left as second-in-command of the army, because his only experience was in handling cavalry. If Payne was recalled, Wellington went on to add Lord William Bentinck, Edward Paget and Sir Brent Spencer to the list. (Wellington to Liverpool ‘Private and Confidential’ 21 Dec 1809 BL Loan Ms vol 20 f 36 printed with a number of deletions in WD III p 659-60). Liverpool, his under-secretary Henry Bunbury, and the Commander-in-Chief’s military secretary Henry Torrens, had already given the question some thought and had decided that Graham was the most suitable choice. He was approached and agreed to go, but Wellington, anxious that Sherbrooke’s feelings not be hurt, asked that Graham wait until Sherbrooke was on the point of leaving Portugal. Before this happened Liverpool was faced with the sudden need to send troops to Cadiz and asked Graham to command them. He became second-in-command in the Peninsula, and would have sailed round to Portugal and taken command of the army if Wellington was incapacitated, but Liverpool indicated that the government would prefer that he remain at Cadiz if possible. (Liverpool to Wellington __ April 1810 WSD vol 6 p 517). It was an awkward compromise which created more problems than it solved, for there would have been a dangerous hiatus before Graham could arrive, and he would then have been thrown at once into an unfamiliar command probably facing a crisis.
With Graham at Cadiz, Wellington still needed a senior officer to take Sherbrooke’s place in the army. Prevost was already employed in North America and Oakes at Malta and the government preferred to leave them where they were. Bentinck proved unwilling to serve in Portugal, and Edward Paget declined because of the state of his health and the condition of his family, while assuring Liverpool that ‘he would otherwise have gone out third as soon as second, and fifth as soon as third.’ This left only Spencer, who accepted the offer with pleasure. He made no objection to Graham’s position although he hinted that if he actually was superseded by Graham he might ask to come home at the end of the campaign. (Liverpool to Wellington 4 May 1809 WSD vol 6 p 520-1). Wellington told Liverpool that Spencer’s appointment ‘is very satisfactory to me.’ (Wellington to Liverpool 23 May 1810 WD IV p 87). He had not forgotten Spencer’s evidence to the Cintra Enquiry, but put it behind him, although his relations with Spencer were probably never as cordial as in the campaign of 1808. Spencer’s limitations would be revealed over the next fifteen months, but his reputation in the spring of 1810 stood high: Liverpool declared that ‘as a practical officer Sir Brent Spencer is one of the best in our service’, while Charles Stewart welcomed his arrival: ‘I am very much rejoiced that Spencer is arrived. He is a steady determined man, will act up to the ideas Lord Wellington inspires his mind with, in case, God forbid, any accident was momentarily to deprive us of his superintending direction.’ (Liverpool to Wellington 4 May 1810 WSD vol 6 p 520-1; Charles Stewart to Castlereagh 30 May 1810 PRONI D 3030/P/9). Spencer’s appointment made Payne’s recall necessary. Liverpool had accepted that this would probably be necessary as early as December, and some of Payne’s friends believed that he wished to come home, but evidently they were wrong and it was left to Wellington to break the bad news, which he did with some delicacy and every appearance of regret. (Wellington to Liverpool 14 and 23 May 1810 WD IV p 69, 87; Wellington to Payne 28 May 1810 WD IV p 91-2; Charles Stewart to Castlereagh n.d. c21 May 1809 PRONI D 3030/P/3). Payne’s shoes were filled by Cotton who had his faults, and was never popular with the heavy cavalry, but Wellington found him efficient and reliable and it is most unlikely that Payne, Bentinck or even Lord Paget would have served him better. (On Cotton’s unpopularity with the heavy cavalry, see Muir Salamanca p 126, 136-7).
Wellington’s suggestions for brigade and divisional commanders:
Wellington also wanted some more junior generals to command brigades and divisions and to replace those who went home on leave or were ill. He suggested Generals Dyott, Leith, Picton, Meade, Houston and Nightingall as those ‘I should like to have’, but knew that Meade was employed elsewhere and suspected that Houston and Nightingall would not wish to come. (Wellington to Liverpool 21 Dec 1809 WD III p 659-66 BL Loan Ms 72 vol 20 f 36; Fortescue vol 7 p 416-19 is interesting on the reasons behind these suggestions). These suggestions were not ignored, but only Leith and Picton joined the army in the first half of 1810. Dyott was a capable officer with an excellent record of active service: he had been at both Coruña and Walcheren; on his return to England in November 1809 he had fallen ill with fever and his wife then gave birth to a sickly child and when he was ordered to Portugal in January he asked to be excused. (Dyott’s Diary 1781-1845 edited by Reginald W. Jeffery 2 volumes (London: Archibald Constable, 1907) vol 1 p 290-1). Meade was commanding the British garrison at Madeira, but Houston and Nightingall should have been available for service – possibly Torrens had already approached them and discovered that they were reluctant. Both joined Wellington’s army at the end of 1810 or early 1811 although neither lasted more than a year.
Major-General James Leith:
Major-General James Leith proved one of the ablest of Wellington’s divisional commanders. He was six years older than Wellington and had joined the army as early as 1780, but although he came from an old Scottish family, he lacked the influence or wealth for rapid promotion, and only commanded a brigade in the Coruña and Walcheren campaigns. William Gomm, who served on his staff described him as ‘a most excellent man … a higher gentleman or a better soldier I believe is not to be found among us’, while in The Military Adventures of Johnny Newcome he is introduced as,
‘Bold, Active, Mild, Intelligent and Pleasant,
Liked by his charge, from Henderson to the Peasant’
(The Military Adventures of Johnny Newcome p 195
Gomm Letters and Journals p 189)
Unfortunately he had no sooner arrived in Lisbon in early April than he suffered a severe attack of intermittent fever – probably a recurrence of Walcheren fever. Wellington kept him at Lisbon presiding over court-martials until he had fully recovered, and then gave him the command of a brigade which soon grew into the Fifth Division which he was to command for as much of the rest of the war as recurrences of fever and two serious wounds would permit. (Leith Hay Memoir of Leith p 40; General Orders 11 April 1810).
Leith was appointed to the command of Tilson’s brigade in the Second Division on 20 June, but was removed on 8 July and replaced by W. Stewart on 27 July without even having taken up the command. From 8 July he commanded a brigade consisting of 3/1st, 1/9th and 2/38th and this became the Fifth Division on 8 August. (All dates from Oman Wellington’s Army p 347-9).
Major-General William Stewart, the 36 year old younger son of the Earl of Galloway was eager to see action. He had already served in many campaigns in Europe and the West Indies, including the 1799 campaign in Switzerland attached to the Austrian and Russian armies. He played an important role in the formation and training of the 95th Rifles, had advanced views on the role of light infantry and on discipline. He was outstandingly brave, frequently exposed himself in action and was wounded on many occasions, while his care and attention to his men made him extremely popular. Unfortunately these virtues were off-set by rather poor judgment both in battle and on campaign, so that he got himself – and his men – into a number of scrapes, and more than once encountered Wellington’s ire. Yet providing that he was properly supervised he was an excellent and useful officer. Wellington sent him straight round to Cadiz when he reached Portugal, and tried to discourage his return to the main army in July, possibly fearing that he had pretensions to displace Craufurd in command of the Light Division. But the Horse Guards intervened and Wellington accepted him, and gave him command of the Second Division under Hill could keep a close eye on him and prevent him getting into a scrape. (ODNB; Fry and Davies ‘Wellington’s Officers in the DNB’ J.S.A.H.R. vol 33 Autumn 1955 p 129; Sherer Recollections of the Peninsula p 166; Eadie On Campaign with 79th Highlanders p 13-14; Wellington to Craufurd ‘Private’ 20 June 1810 in Craufurd General Craufurd and His Light Division p 108).
Picton and his men:
At the very first parade of his new command he apprehended two stragglers of the 88th returning with a stolen goat. A drumhead court-martial resulted in their being flogged in front of the whole division whose new general proceeded to lash their regiment with his tongue, abusing both their religion and their homeland and giving them the sobriquet the ‘Connaught footpads!’ (Havard Wellington’s Welsh General p 115). Picton was not the most loved officer in the army, nor was he suited to a large command, but as a divisional commander he was excellent. Hercules Pakenham, Wellington’s brother-in-law, served on the staff of the Third Division and wrote home in August 1811 ‘I am as well as possible, but much distressed at the indisposition of My Good General Picton. He had been this week past confined by the Ague, being decidedly the best executive Officer in the Army, should he be obliged to go home, his loss would be much felt, by those about him particularly.’ (Hercules Pakenham to Lord Longford 27 August 1811 Pakenham Papers p 123).
Other changes to the senior ranks of the army:
A number of senior officers who had visited England in the winter returned during the spring giving Wellington a fair pool of talent among his subordinates. Charles Stewart reluctantly resumed his desk job at headquarters, while Cotton took command of the cavalry, and Henry Fane was given the command of a brigade of Portuguese dragoons in Alentejo to which the 13th Light Dragoons had been added. Alexander Campbell returned early in February having been given the colonelcy of the York Light Infantry. Wellington welcomed him warmly but was unable to give him a divisional command again: he returned to his old brigade in the Fourth Division under Cole. (Wellington to Alexander Campbell 14 Feb 1810 WD III p 734). By mid-summer the army had settled into promising shape: the First Division was commanded by Sir Brent Spencer; the Second by William Stewart under Hill’s close supervision; the Third had been given to Picton; the Fourth was led by Cole; the Fifth, still not fully formed, by Leith; and the Light Division – not much more than a strong brigade – by Craufurd. (Wellington continued to feel short of officers to command brigades, however. See his letter of 14 July 1810 to Liverpool WD IV p 168-9). Beresford had administrative responsibility for the whole Portuguese army but no field command of his own. The largest single body of Portuguese troops was the division led by John Hamilton, which formed part of Hill’s detached crops. George Murray and Charles Stewart headed the Quartermaster-General’s and Adjutant-General’s department, but Commissary-General John Murray had been recalled and replaced by Robert Kennedy. This change was not instigated by Wellington. Although he had severely criticized the commissaries in 1809 he blamed their lack of training and experience, and the way they were appointed, not John Murray for their faults. Indeed he gave Murray a surprisingly warm testimonial and might have fought to retain him if he had not known that Murray was happy to go home. (Wellington to Colonel [J. W.] Gordon 30 Jan 1810 WSD vol 6 p 482-3; Wellington to J. Murray 19 June 1810 WD IV p 126).
Fortunately Wellington soon had every reason to be satisfied with Murray’s replacement. S. G. P. Ward, the authority on the inner workings of Wellington’s army, has described Kennedy as ‘a man of boundless energy and enterprise uncoupled, however, with any desire to usurp for himself or his department any powers beyond his own, yet in whose eye there occasionally burned an ungovernable temper.’ (Ward Wellington’s Headquarters p 74). One of Kennedy’s subordinates wrote that his ‘excellent example on service was a main incitement to his inferiors in the performance of their duty, while his private sterling worth commanded their respect and admiration.’ (Head Memoirs of an Assistant-Commissary p 350-1). And in the spring of 1811 Picton privately declared that ‘The Commissary-General Mr Kennedy, has, however done wonders; what we all thought impossible, in enabling us to do what we have done.’ (Picton to [Mr Flanagan?] 11 April 1811 ‘Some Unpublished Letters of Sir Thomas Picton’ p 162).
Alexander Campbell’s return to the Army:
Liverpool told Wellington on 9 January ‘Campbell has promised to return now he is gratified by the regiment.’ (WSD vol 6 p 468).
Wellington welcomed him back on 14 February (WD III p 734).
Wellington warns Campbell that his regiment (the one of which he had been made Colonel) was recruiting French prisoners of war – absolutely not allowed WD IV p 8-9 8 April 1810.
Wellington and his subordinates:
Wellington’s relations with his subordinates were generally pleasant and friendly though not intimate. Those with the main body of the army appear only occasionally in his correspondence. Routine business was conducted through the headquarters departments, (even on campaign the Quartermaster-General issued the movement orders for each division), or through general orders to the whole army. More particular business seems normally to have been done face to face: Wellington would visit a subordinate, inspect his division or brigade and perhaps stay to dinner. Although he could, at times, be harsh or rude to incompetent subordinates or those who challenged his authority, he was much more commonly pleasant and obliging. Whenever possible he tried to ensure that officers were happy with their commands. He consulted Hill before appointing him to command the detached corps in Alentejo, and, when re-organizing the divisions in February 1810, wrote to Cole, ‘You will see the arrangement which I have made of the divisions upon Gen. Picton’s joining the army, which I hope will be satisfactory to you. I have got 2 dozen of excellent port for you, which I do not know how to send you.’ (Wellington to Cole, 22 Feb 1810 WD III p 743; Wellington to Hill 18 Dec 1809 WD III p 652; reply 19 Dec 1809 WSD vol 6 p 451). He gave Hill detailed instructions to cover any likely eventuality and begged him to ask for any further guidance he needed, but at the same time assured him, ‘if you are obliged to act in any manner without waiting for my opinion, do so with confidence that I have every disposition to approve of everything you do.’ A fortnight later he was even more explicit, ‘I am convinced that whatever you decide will be right.’ (Wellington to Hill 3 and 17 May 1810 WD IV p 48, 73-4). Wellington’s trust was not misplaced, for Hill proved an exceptionally dependable subordinate, but the letters suggest that Wellington was quite willing to grant capable subordinates considerable discretion, however hard he might be on those who willfully disobeyed his orders.
On the whole, Wellington’s handling of his generals was remarkably successful. His own authority was unchallenged and the ‘spirit of party’ was kept out of the army. He told Craufurd, ‘I consider that a part of my business, and perhaps not the most easy part, is to prevent discussions and disputes between the officers who may happen to serve under my command.’ (Wellington to Craufurd 29 May 1810 WD IV p 93). He refused to countenance open rivalry, let alone feuds, between the ambitious and often hot-tempered men under his command, and while he could not prevent jealousy or ill-feeling arising he succeeded in keeping them within safe bounds. It was no small achievement as any comparison with Napoleon’s marshals, or with British generals in other campaigns, makes clear.
Wellington and Craufurd:
Throughout these months Robert Craufurd commanded the army’s outposts along the Agueda – the Portuguese frontier near Almeida. Wellington wrote more to Craufurd than to any of his other subordinates (except Beresford) and the tone of the letters was surprisingly warm and flattering. When the 1st and 2nd Caçadores proved unfit for active service, an unexpected note of apology was added to the mixture: ‘Since you have joined the army, I have always wished that you should command our outposts, for many reasons into which it is unnecessary to enter; and I was in hopes that I had made up for you a corps which would answer tolerably well, of which I could give you the command without interfering with the claims of others. But the state of these corps disappoints me much; and I can devise no means of accomplishing what I wish.’ (Wellington to Craufurd 9 April 1810 WD IV p 12-13). Apparently Craufurd felt aggrieved at having lost the command of a full division when Wellington re-organized the army; but with Picton’s arrival and the return of other senior officers Wellington could not let him retain a second brigade of British troops and tried to make up the difference with the caçadores, some German hussars, and the important role he was asking Craufurd to play. (See Wellington to Craufurd 9-15 and 20 April 1810 WD IV p 12-13, 17, 26-7). The gentle handing had the desired effect; and indeed far from having a real grievance Craufurd still held the best command of anyone of his rank in the army. In May a fresh problem arose when Craufurd was offended and Wellington again was conciliatory: ‘I am really concerned that you should believe that I had any such feeling as disapprobation towards you in consequence of our late discussions upon Commissariat concerns. You and I necessarily take a different view of these questions …’ (Wellington to Craufurd 5 and 29 May 1810 WD IV p 52-3, 95). At the same time Wellington wrote quite freely to Craufurd on the political situation in England, and passed on the latest reports of the health of William Windham, Craufurd’s old patron, who was dying. (Wellington to Craufurd 30 March and 4 April 1810 WD III p 804-5, 1-2 (re politics); 12, 19, 22 June 1810 WD IV p 116, 124-5, 134-5 (re Windham)). In June the prospect of William Stewart’s return from Cadiz again threatened Craufurd’s position, but Wellington wrote assuring him that he would do everything possible ‘to preclude the necessity of My displacing you … [which would] be very disagreeable to me, and, in my opinion, disadvantageous to the service.’ (Wellington to Craufurd, ‘Private’, Celorico, 20 June 1810 in Craufurd General Craufurd and His Light Division p 108). Clearly Wellington set a particularly high value on Craufurd’s talents at this time.
Craufurd had evidently anticipated problems with the Caçadores for Wellington wrote hoping that he would find them better than expected and explaining why he was not getting Elder’s 3rd Caçadores. (Wellington to Craufurd 20 March 1810 WD III p 788-9).
And Wellington backed down very quickly – the apology and withdrawal of the 1-2 Caçadores was on 9 April – only three weeks later (WD IV p 12).
Wellington to Craufurd 15 April 1810:
You feeling respecting your command is exactly what is ought to be, and what might be expected from you. As long as I could make up a division of the proper strength for the service, with your brigade, and the Portuguese troops and cavalry, nobody would have had reason to complain; but a Lieut-General, and the senior Major-General of the army recently arrived, are with commands [Cotton and Leith?], and it would not answer to throw more English troops into your division, leaving them unemployed. You may depend upon it, however, that whatever arrangement which I shall make, I wish your brigade to be in the advanced guard. (WD IV p 17).
William Tomkinson wrote in his diary, c19 June 1810: ‘General Anson arrived from England, and as it was necessary to relieve part of the Hussars with General Craufurd, two squadrons of the 16th were ordered up. This I heard on dining at Headquarters on the 20th, and that the whole brigade would have gone up, had General Anson been junior to Craufurd.’ (Tomkinson Diary p 24).
Years later Wellington told Croker that Craufurd ‘was a dissatisfied troublesome man’ who had been led into intrigues against Wellington by Charles Stewart for which he begged forgiveness on his deathbed – Croker Papers vol 1 p 347 (1826).
Improvement in Wellington’s position:
On 19 April 1810 Wellington told Lord Burghersh:
We are gaining strength every day. I have now got a stronger and more efficient British army than I have had yet, which a short time will increase still further. The troops are remarkably healthy and in good order, and the cavalry horses improving. The Portuguese will improve in discipline and equipment daily; and if I can keep matters quiet for another month, we shall really be in a great situation in this country. I therefore don’t propose to move unless the French should weaken themselves so much in my front as to enable me to strike some blow of importance. (Correspondence of Lord Burghersh p 44-5).
And on 27 May Brigadier Alexander Campbell told Alexander Hope: ‘For my own part I do not fear the result, our Army is in general I better order than it was last year, & the Portuguese troops are to all outward appearance in a most respectable state, & I really have strong hopes they will fight, when countenanced [?] by the British Army.’ (Hope of Luffness Papers GD 364/1/1200). Beresford was also optimistic while acknowledging that others did not share his view: ‘I am not so confident as my dear Anne … that at last the French will drive us out of this Kingdom, as I think the undertaking is more difficult than people expect or think, and we mean to be a little obstinate. However all things in war are very uncertain …’ (Beresford to Lady Anne Beresford, Fornos, 13 June 1810 Typescript. Beresford Papers BC 919 Biblioteca de Arte, Gulbenkian Foundation Lisbon).
© Rory Muir