At this time the Army of the North was not so strong in numbers as it became a few weeks later, when Napoleon’s ‘divisions of Reserve’ began to cross the Pyrenees. In June 1811 it consisted of only four infantry divisions, those of Generals Bonnet, Serras, Roguet, and Dumoustier, and of two brigades of cavalry under Wathier and Lepic. Bonnet’s division had been holding the central region of the Asturias and the city of Oviedo since it had conquered them in January 1810. In addition it had occupied a string of ports from Gijon to Santander, in order to keep off the English cruisers from their communication with the guerrilleros of the Cantabrian hills. Bonnet had a strong force,长沙桑拿网论坛社区 four full regiments of infantry, making 8,000 men, yet could never complete the conquest of the Asturias. Wherever he struck with a strong force he could[p. 463] penetrate, but any move far from his base at Oviedo brought down the enemy upon some of his isolated posts, which he had then to rescue by a swift return. His enemies were on the left hand the relics of the old Spanish Army of Asturias, now under General Losada, who hung about the mountains on the Galician frontier—on the right the great partisan chiefs Porlier and Longa, whose beat was in the sierras above Santander.
On the left of Bonnet lay Bessières’s second division, that of Serras, which had originally been assigned to the Army of Portugal in 1810, but had 长沙桑拿休闲娱乐会所remained behind to watch the Galician Spaniards. Its head quarters were at Benavente; it held Astorga as an advanced post, and Leon as a flank-guard. From the latter place it communicated with Bonnet through the pass of Pajares. This was an enormous front for a division of 6,000 men to occupy, and that, too, one not composed of picked troops, but of miscellaneous units. For Serras had two Italian regiments (32nd Léger, 113th Line) and two Polish and two Swiss battalions, so that much the larger half of his men were auxiliary troops and not native French.
On the other hand, there was nothing left to be desired in the 长沙桑拿会 two divisions of Roguet and Dumoustier, which held the central position in Bessières’s cantonments: they were all troops of the Young Guard, eleven regiments of tirailleurs, chasseurs, and voltigeurs; attached to them were three composite regiments of guard cavalry and a proportion of artillery—the whole made up of 15,000 men of the best quality. Dumoustier’s division was cantoned within the provinces of Valladolid 长沙桑拿爽记 and Palencia, Roguet’s within that of Burgos. On the south they had no enemies save the guerrilleros of the Guadarama and the Avila and Soria sierras, tiresome and elusive but not formidable foes. On the north, in the Liebana and the Cantabrian hills, Longa and Porlier were much more troublesome and dangerous. Their bands were well armed, and organized on the principles of a regular army, yet had not lost the power of rapid movement which was the true strength of the partida system. The sierras in which they operated were, including their foot-hills, some fifty[p. 464] miles broad, a chaos of passes and ravines. Countless expeditions against them had led to no final result. Like the holy men of old, when persecuted in one region they merely fled to another. If the flying columns and petty garrisons were withdrawn for a moment,长沙桑拿洗浴按摩论坛 they would be at the gates of Burgos or Santander within two days, and the high-roads Burgos-Vittoria and Burgos-Valladolid, the main arteries of communication with France, would be cut.
There was soon to be a fifth division in Bessières’s army, but it had not yet arrived from France—that of Souham, which formed (along with the divisions of Caffarelli and Reille) the great reinforcement poured by Napoleon into northern Spain during the late summer of 1811. But in June it was only beginning to march up from Marseilles, Turin, and Spezia, the distant garrisons from which it was to be drawn. Before it arrived in Spain Bessières had ceased to command the Army of the North, and Dorsenne had taken his place. Hence (though Wellington was not aware of the fact) the months of June and July were exceptionally favourable for a move 长沙桑拿水疗会所体验against the French flank in this direction.
In addition to his four infantry divisions, Bessières possessed Wathier’s brigade of light cavalry, and Lepic’s brigade of guard cavalry, together with some unbrigaded units such as the 130th of the Line (the fixed garrison of Santander), the battalion of Neuchatel, which he had moved forward to Salamanca, a number of squadrons of gendarmes, and a quantity of drafts for the Armies of Portugal and the Centre, which had been stopped on their way south in a surreptitious fashion, by various post-commanders who wanted to strengthen their depleted detachments. In the autumn Marmont succeeded in extracting no less than 4,000 of his own men from the territories of the Army of the North, not without much friction with the local officers who wished to detain them.
[p. 465]The 长沙桑拿论坛吧 whole force between the borders of Navarre and those of Portugal was in June and July not less than 60,000 men, even before the three divisions of Souham, Reille, and Caffarelli came up from France. On the other hand, they had an enormous area to keep down, not less than a fifth of the whole surface of Spain. And if their regular enemies, the Armies of Galicia and Asturias, were weak, they had among the irregulars opposed to them the boldest and the most obstinate of all the guerrillero chiefs. Any serious move against a section of Bessières’s long line would cause disturbance over the whole of his viceroyalty, since to collect a serious force he would have to cut down the garrisons of many localities below danger-point.
It was on this fact that Wellington relied when he obtained Casta?os’s leave to set the Spanish Army of Galicia in motion. It was fortunately led at this moment by an active and enterprising chief, Santocildes, the hero of the defence of Astorga in 1810, who lent himself eagerly to the plan, though his army was not in good order. The cadres left behind in the north,
when del Parque moved into Estremadura in the winter of 1809-10, were the worst and weakest of the old Army of Galicia, and though they had been filled up with local recruits, till the whole force had a nominal strength of 21,000 men, the organization was bad, and the want of well-trained and capable regimental officers very noticeable. The Junta of Galicia had spent more energy in 1810 on quarrels with the Captain-General Mahy than on the equipment of its army. Its weakest point was that it possessed only 600 regular cavalry—a defect that must be fatal if it left the mountains to descend into the plains of Leon. It was for this reason that Wellington advised Santocildes to form the siege of Astorga, to harass Bonnet in the Asturias, but not to quit the skirts of the friendly sierras.
On taking over charge of the whole kingdom
of Leon from Marmont, Bessières came to the conclusion that he must draw in troops towards the south, lest he should be caught in a position in which he had no disposable central mass towards the Douro. Consequently on the 6th of June he sent orders to Bonnet to evacuate the Asturias and fall back by the pass of Pajares to Leon, in order to place himself in closer touch with Serras. On[p. 466] the 14th, therefore, Bonnet left Oviedo and came over the mountains with three of his regiments, while the fourth went eastward parallel to the coast, in the direction of Santander, picking up in its retreat all the small garrisons which had been left to dominate the Asturian ports, and to prevent communication between Longa and Porlier and the English cruisers. By the 17th Bonnet lay at Leon with 6,000 men: he was just in time to
support the scattered front line formed by Serras’s division against the attack which Wellington had planned. For Santocildes and the Army of Galicia had advanced against Astorga, quite without his knowledge, two days before he marched south from Oviedo.
The disposable force of the Spaniards consisted, after the weakest and least serviceable regiments had been told off for garrison duty at Corunna, Ferrol, Vigo, and other fortified places, of about 15,000 men. Santocildes brought his reserve from Lugo and the division of General Taboada, nearly 7,000 men and 600 horse, to Villafranca in the Vierzo, from which he advanced down the passes to Astorga on June 12th. A second division of 2,500 men under General Cabrera came forward at the same time from Puebla de Senabria, as far as the edge of the mountains above the Rio Tuerto, and demonstrated against La Baneza, the half-way post between Astorga and Benavente. The left wing, composed of Losada’s Asturians, was wanting: it had followed Bonnet when he began to retreat and had occupied Oviedo. Losada remained there himself, but sent one brigade to join the main army by a circuitous route, since the direct way by the pass of Pajares and Leon was blocked by Bonnet. This brigade under Casta?on did not get to the front till June 23rd.
On the 19th of June Santocildes found Astorga evacuated; the small garrison of 400 men had blown up part of the city walls, and absconded on that same morning. They fell back on Bonnet at Leon. Meanwhile Serras started to march northward from Benavente with 2,000 men, to ‘contain’ Santocildes, while Bonnet sent forward two regiments under his brigadier, Valletaux, to assist Serras. But their forces never met: the column[p. 467] from Benavente got engaged with Cabrera’s division near La Baneza, and could not push further forward. That from Leon found most of Taboada’s division placed across its path near Benavides, behind the river Orbigo, nine miles in front of Astorga (June 23). Valletaux, despising his enemy, crossed the stream and attacked, though the balance of numbers was against him. When the engagement had been for some hours in progress, Casta?on, with the brigade just arriving from Asturias, came down on his flank. The French were beaten: Valletaux fell, and his brigade lost over 300 men in the combat, which the Spaniards name from the village of Cogorderos and the French from that of Quintanilla de Valle. The defeated force fell back beyond the Orbigo, and was succoured by Bonnet, with the rest of his troops from Leon. Meanwhile Serras retired towards Benavente, and called loudly for help to his chief, Bessières.
Santocildes, seeing that Cabrera had now nothing in front of him at La Baneza, called up his division to Astorga, and uniting it with the troops of Taboada and Casta?on marched against Bonnet on July 2nd. The French general, after trying to defend for some time the bridge of the Orbigo, found himself so outnumbered that he must retreat towards Leon. But before he had been driven back so far, first Serras from Benavente, and then Bessières himself, with Dumoustier’s division from Valladolid, came up to join him. The French, now 13,000 strong, advanced to seek a general action (July 18). Santocildes, showing great prudence, refused to fight in the plain, hastily abandoned Astorga and the banks of the Orbigo, and withdrew into the mountains south-west of Astorga, where he took post at Torienzo. The enemy did not pursue, and only a party of light cavalry entered Astorga, which it abandoned next day. For Bessières had received intelligence that his head quarters at Valladolid, which was almost ungarrisoned in the absence of Dumoustier’s division, had been attacked by the partidas of the southern sierras (July 15). At the same time General Dorsenne[p. 468] reported from Burgos that Mina had crossed into his government, deserting his more usual haunts in Navarre, and had united with Longa and Porlier. They had a large force and had cut the communications with Santander. On returning to Valladolid with the Guard division, Bessières found waiting there on July 25 his letters of recall to Paris. The Emperor had deposed him, partly in consequence of complaints as to his intractability made by King Joseph, partly because he was dissatisfied at the hopeless tone of his dispatches, in which (to his master’s discontent) he kept setting forth the thesis that the war in Spain was being conducted on a wrong system, and that the Army of the North was helpless. His post was given to General Dorsenne, a man of inferior ability, though his operations prove him not to have been such a conceited imbecile as his jealous subordinate Thiébault alleges. Indeed, his record in the north compares not unfavourably with that of Bessières, and he was decidedly more ready to aid his neighbours than the Duke of Istria—which was the main thing necessary among French generals in Spain.
On the departure of Bessières for Valladolid, his subordinates Bonnet and Serras had halted behind the Orbigo, holding La Baneza as their advanced point. Santocildes, who showed as much enterprise as prudence during his short tenure of command, learning that there were now only 6,000 or 7,000 men in front of him, came down again from his mountains on July 28th with all his three divisions, and advanced against them: they were forced, after some slight skirmishing, to abandon La Baneza and the line of the Orbigo, and to fall back on Leon. Santocildes advanced to the Esla, and roving detachments sent out from his front pushed forward as far into Old Castile as Sahagun and Palencia. The partidas got possession of the whole country-side, and the French garrisons of Zamora, Toro, Benavente, and Salamanca were completely cut off from their communication with Dorsenne’s head quarters at Valladolid.[p. 469] There was equal trouble in the provinces of Burgos and Santander, where Longa and Porlier long held occupied the Guard division of General Roguet, evading him when necessary, and always returning to give trouble when he had passed by.
Unfortunately for the Spaniards, Santocildes was at this moment superseded by General Abadia, whom Casta?os had sent to take general command of the ‘6th Army’. He was in every way inferior to his junior and predecessor, being neither so alert nor so cautious, and having a craze for unnecessary innovation in matters of detail, which might have been harmless in time of peace, but was vexatious when carried out during a campaign. Wellington had at first conceived great expectations from his intelligence, but soon became entirely disappointed with him.
Just before Abadia replaced Santocildes, the position of Dorsenne was wonderfully improved by the arrival on the Ebro of the division of Souham, 7,000 strong, which had been promised