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 to him in June, and had been marching up from Marseilles for five weeks. The commander of the Army of the North at once turned over the province of Burgos to Souham, and moved forward from it the greater part of the Guard division of Roguet, which thus became free for operations in the open field. Caffarelli’s and Reille’s divisions were now also present in Biscay and Navarre, so that the available strength of the French in northern Spain was higher than it had been since the summer of 1810, and Dorsenne thought that his rear was adequately covered. He therefore marched with the two divisions of the Young Guard and his two cavalry brigades, to link his operations with those of Bonnet on the Esla. Dorsenne started from Valladolid on August 9th, marching in two columns, Dumoustier’s division by Mayorga and Valencia de Don Juan, Roguet’s by Villalpando and Benavente, so as to converge on La Baneza. Bonnet, strengthened by some reinforcements, advanced at the same time from Leon against the bridges of the Orbigo and Astorga, and Dorsenne, with a small reserve, followed by the road Valladolid-Valderas. It was evidently intended that Roguet’s division should turn the Spanish right, and drive the[p. 470] whole army northward, and away from Galicia, while it was attacked in front by Bonnet and Dumoustier.
Fortunately for his army, which was now about to be attacked by nearly 30,000 men, Abadia listened to the advice of Santocildes, and withdrew hastily to the hills when, on August 17th, his outposts were attacked. Cabrera’s division retired on its old post of Puebla de Senabria, and got into communication with Silveira’s Portuguese, who had come up to Braganza. Casta?on and the Conde de Belveder (who had just relieved Taboada in command of the 2nd Division) were drawn back to the two passes above Astorga, those of Manzanal and Fuencebadon. Dorsenne, dividing his troops, attacked both, and carried them, not without severe fighting, on July 27th. The Spanish detachment in the Manzanal pass was badly cut up: that before Fuencebadon suffered less. The French lost General Corsin. Behind the passes there are two lines of retreat into Galicia, the northern and more obvious is the great chaussée to Corunna, via Villafranca and Lugo, which Sir John Moore followed in January 1809. The southern and more rugged is that by Ponferrada, Domingo Flores, and the Val de Orres to Orense, which La Romana took in that same historic retreat. This last road was now chosen by Abadia, for two reasons: the first was that by taking it he placed himself upon the flank of Dorsenne’s advance against the heart of Galicia, and forced the enemy either to turn against him, and follow him into a remote and desolate country, or (if he pressed on) to expose his communication with Astorga and Leon. The second reason was that he knew that Dorsenne had come lightly equipped, intending rather to drive his army out of the Astorga region than to conquer the whole province of Galicia; the French would not, therefore, be able to feed on the desolate route between Ponferrada and Orense, and would probably turn back, content with having cleared the plains of Leon.
This argument was correct. Dorsenne went no further on the great chaussée than Villafranca, which he sacked on August 29th, and then turned on his heel, refusing to press deeper into Galicia, or to pursue Abadia’s army. He marched back to[p. 471] Astorga on the 30th-31st, burning every village of the Vierzo on his way, and descended into the plains of Leon. Abadia followed cautiously, reoccupied Villafranca and Ponferrada, and pushed his outposts forward again to the edge of the mountains. It was found that the French were repairing Astorga, which they once more garrisoned, and held as an outpost till the next year. The ground occupied by the Army of Galicia was exactly the same on the 10th of September as it had been on the 10th of June, save that all Asturias was still clear of invaders. It was not till the late autumn that Bonnet once more made his appearance in that oft-invaded province.
The reasons of Dorsenne’s sudden retreat from the borders of Galicia were many and various. It must not be supposed that his expedition had been taken in hand with the object of conquering that province, as Napier seems to suggest. Such a task would have required much longer preparation than he had been able to make: he had neither collected the stores and munitions that would have been required for so great an enterprise, nor made the necessary dispositions for the protection of the vast space behind him. When he marched against Abadia, he left nothing between the Ebro and the border of Portugal save Souham’s newly arrived division and a few of Serras’s battalions scattered in small garrisons at Leon, Benavente, Valladolid, &c. His movement of advance had been made to chase the Army of Galicia out of the plains, where it had been showing itself so persistently since June, and to relieve the pressure which it had brought upon Bonnet and Serras. There was no purpose of conquest underlying his march, only a desire to scour the valleys of the Orbigo and the Esla of tiresome intruders. The Spaniards were wholly mistaken in supposing that he retired from Villafranca because Abadia had shown a disposition to make a long resistance, or because the Junta had called out the alarmas, or general levée en masse of the province, raised on the principle of the Portuguese Ordenan?a. He could have gone on further if that had been his intention—but he had no such desire.
[p. 472]Not only were his munitions exhausted, but all the news behind him was unsatisfactory. Though the reinforcements from France had arrived on the Ebro, Old Castile was in the most disturbed condition. There had been a notable disaster at Santander on August 14th-15th, when Porlier, by a sudden concentration, had stormed the town, dispersing General Rouget’s garrison, and had then swept away most of the minor posts around it; only Torrelavega had succeeded in beating off his assault. But when reinforcements came flocking in, the Spaniards had retired to the hills with 300 prisoners, and were threatening other points. The gates of Palencia and Valladolid had been insulted by partidas, who showed themselves boldly in sight of the walls, and established a loose blockade, which could only be pierced by the movement of considerable columns. But the most pressing point was Ciudad Rodrigo: Julian Sanchez had cut its communications with Salamanca, and had defeated small bodies of 300 or 400 men which had been sent to reopen them. A much larger force had to be detailed to throw provisions into the place in July, but by the end of August stores were again running low, and General Reynaud, the governor, whenever he could pass an emissary through the lines of the partidas, kept asking for help of all kinds.
But since Dorsenne started for his expedition against Astorga, the problem of getting food into Rodrigo had been complicated by the appearance of Wellington’s army on the Coa and the Agueda. On August 12th the head quarters of the Anglo-Portuguese army had been moved up from the south to Fuente Guinaldo, in the immediate neighbourhood of the blockaded fortress, and already on August 8th the garrison had detected British outposts—from the Light Division—in their immediate neighbourhood. Now, since Marmont and the Army of Portugal were still in the valley of the Tagus, and all Leon was still in the charge of the Army of the North, Dorsenne found himself responsible for the revictualling, indeed for the relief from blockade, of a fortress which might be beset by 40,000 men. It was absolutely necessary for him to return from the border of[p. 473] Galicia, and to concert matters with Marmont for a common movement against Wellington. For the field force of the Army of the North, which had just driven Abadia into the hills, was not over 28,000 strong, and obviously could not succour Rodrigo by its own unaided strength.
Returning to Valladolid early in September, with the two Guard divisions, and leaving Bonnet once more to observe the Galicians, Dorsenne opened pourparlers with Marmont for a general concentration against Wellington. Of this effort we must speak in its due place.
Meanwhile matters settled down in the northern field of operations. Bonnet was too weak to move, or to think of reoccupying his old post in the Asturias. Abadia’s army was much reduced in numbers, both by privations and by desertion: the last days of the late campaign, spent in the desolate Val de Orres, had been particularly trying to the troops. An English observer who saw them at Ponferrada described them as ‘in even worse condition than might be expected—half the soldiers without trousers, and wearing only capotes—while the clothing of the rest shows great need for improvement. They are a fine body of men, standing well, though deeply marked by privation, and as badly trained as equipped. The best corps can only man?uvre singly, not attempting movements of the line; the Toledo battalion broke down in attempting to change front en échelon. The cavalry are on a level with the infantry, move with wide gaps between squadrons, and cannot go accurately through the sword exercise. The horses might each be a Rosinante—the artillery as badly manned as horsed.’ The numbers were terribly low: it was doubtful whether the whole field force could produce 10,000 men, and they had started on the June campaign with 15,000.
Dilapidated, however, as the Army of Galicia might be at the end of its operations, it had done well, having kept the French Army of the North ‘contained’ for the many weeks during which Wellington was absent on the Guadiana. Bessières and Dorsenne had accomplished nothing positive during that time; and the territory held down by the invaders in September[p. 474] was less than it had been in June by the whole extent of the Asturias. It is absurd of Napier to state that ‘Galicia with its lordly Junta, its regular army, fortified towns, numerous population, and constant supplies from England, had less weight in the contest than the 5,000 Portuguese militia conducted by Trant and Wilson.’ The province, so far from being of no weight in the contest, did Wellington most useful service. The two diversions carried out by Santocildes, which twice compelled the Army of the North to mass all its available field troops on the Orbigo, were operations of the most profitable sort, and since the Galician always retired in time, led to no disasters of the kind that too often happened when a Peninsular general was overdaring. But while paying his just due to Santocildes, we must praise even more the unwearied activity of the chiefs of the Cantabrian bands and the guerrilleros of Old Castile and Leon. It was Longa and Porlier, and Julian Sanchez, who, with forces that were never very great in numbers, paralysed by their ubiquity and their unceasing enterprise the greater part of Bessières’s and Dorsenne’s troops. If they had not been in existence, the French might have found men enough to conquer Galicia, or to attack north-eastern Portugal in force. This was true throughout the whole of 1810 and 1811, and was a governing fact in the history of the Peninsular War. Even though the Emperor pushed 30,000 fresh infantry (the divisions of Souham, Reille, and Caffarelli) into northern Spain in July and August 1811, he was never able to make the communication between Bayonne and Madrid absolutely safe, or to call any region subdued which was not held down by a garrison altogether out of proportion 长沙桑拿攻略 to its population.
SECTION XXVII: CHAPTER IV
SOULT’S TROUBLES IN ANDALUSIA. JULY-SEPTEMBER 1811