« ZurückWeiter »
On the night of the 28th, a powder-magazine blew up, which destroyed fourteen houses and killed two hundred men ; and in the morning, the fire of the French artillery demolished a sand-bag battery erected for the defence of one of the gates.
“Here the carnage was excessive. The battery' which had been reconstructed) was repeatedly cleared of its defenders; and so vehement and overwhelming was the fire of the enemy, that the citizens at length stood aghast at the slaughter, and recoiled froin entering a scene already glutted with victims.
" At this moment it was, that a young female, named Augustina, of the lower class of the people, arrived at the battery with refreshments. She read the prevailing consternation in the countenances of those around her; and snatching a match from the hand of a dead artilleryman, she sprung forward among the bodies of the dead and dying, and fired off a twenty-six pounder; then mounting the gun, made a solemn vow, never, during the siege, to quit the battery alive. This animating spectacle revived the drooping courage of the people. The guns were instantly re-manned, and pointed with such effect, that the French were repulsed with great slaughter; and having suffered severely at other points, Verdier at length gave orders for retreat." vol. i. p. 130.
Frequent sorties were inade by the besieged to open a communication with the adjoining country, and to obtain supplies. 'These failed in their object; and the inhabitants, hopeless of external succour, resolved to remain within their walls, and, if necessary, to perish amid the ruins of their city.
“ The efforts of the besiegers did not slack. On the fourth of August, at day-break, they began battering in breach, and by nine o'clock the troops in two columns advanced to the assault. One of these made good its entrance near the Convent St. Engracia, the other by the Puerta del Carmen, which was carried by assault. The first obstacle overcome, the French took the batteries in reverse, and turned the guns on the city. A scene of wild havoc and confusion ensued. The assailants rushed through the streets, and endeavoured to gain possession of the houses. The Convent of St. Francisco and the general hospital took fire, and the flames spread on all bands. Many cast themselves from the windows on the bayonets of the soldiers; and the madmen escaping from the hospital, added to the horrors of the scene, by mingling with the combatants-shouting, shrieking, or laughing, amid the carnage.” vol. i. p. 132. *
* * “ War was waged from every house; the street was piled with dead, and an incessant fire was kept up by both parties. The batteries of the Zaragozans, and those of the French were frequently within a few yards of each other. At length the ammunition of the city was nearly expended, yet even this circumstance induced no thought of surrender. As Palafox rode through the streets, the people crowded round VOL. VIII.-NO. 15.
him, and declared, that if ammunition failed they were ready to resist the enemy with their knives. Towards sunset, however, their hopes were cheered by the unexpected arrival of Don Francisco Palafox, the brother of their heroic leader, with a reinforcement of three thousand men.
“ Eleven days passed, during which this murderous contest was continued, and new horrors were gradually added to the scene. The bodies of the slain which were left unburied in the streets, had become putrid, and tainted the atmosphere with pestilential odours. * *
“ On the eighth of August a council of war was held in the garrison, and in that assembly no voice was heard for surrender. It was determined to maintain those quarters of the city still in their possession with unshaken resolution; and should the fortune of war be eventually unfavourable to their cause, to retire across the Ebro, and, destroying the bridge, to perish in defence of the suburbs. There is a moral sublimity in the courage of the unfortunate, in that patient and unshrinking fortitude of the spirit, which enables the sufferer to stand fearless and unsubdued amid the fiercest storms of fortune. The devotion and patriotism of the Zaragozans had been tried by fire, and they came forth pure and unsullied from the ordeal.” vol. i. pp. 133-4. * *
“ The conflict was continued from street to street, from house to house, from room to room, and with renewed spirit on the part of the defenders. They gradually beat back their opponents, and regained the greater portion of the city. In the meanwbile, Verdier being wounded bad retired from the command, and Lefebvre received orders from Madrid to raise the seige, and take up a position at Milagro. On the night of the thirteenth, a destructive fire was opened by the enemy from all their batteries, and many parts of the city were set on fire. The Church of St. Engracia was blown up, and that venerable fane of ancient religion was levelled with the dust. But the night of terror was followed by a dawn of joy. In the morning the inhabitants beheld the distant columns of their enemy retreating discomfited, from one of the most murderous and pertinacious struggles of which history bears record.
“ Thus concluded the ever memorable siege of Zaragoza, and thus was achieved the brightest and most honourable triumph of a people struggling for freedom.” vol. i. pp. 134-5.
The reward which the inhabitants of Zaragoza received for their gallant devotion to the cause of Ferdinand, is characteristic of the government and of the people :--they were to be perpetually exempt from disgraceful punishment for any crime, excepting treason and blasphemy.
We fully concur with our author in the eulogies which he has bestowed upon the unshrinking firmness of the Zaragozans, amidst all the miseries and calamities of pitiless war, and upon their heroic courage, which ultimately enabled them to repel the veteran bands of their assailants; but when he ascribes their fortitude and daring to the spirit of frecdom, he certainly
has mistaken the impulse by which they were animated. From numerous facts and observations, in his volumes, and in the writings of others who have treated upon the Peninsular campaigns, it is evident that the idea of freedom, in the ordinary and correct meaning of that term, never entered into the conception of the Spaniards. They would have enjoyed more of that blessing, and a more efficient security of their personal rights under king Joseph, than they expected, or even hoped for from the re-establishment of their ancient dynasty. They were urged on by prejudices against innovation, by aversion to foreign rule, by indignation against the fraud and violence which had been practised upon their sovereign, and by a patriotism, which by them was resolved into the abstraction of national independence. These were their excitements, which operating upon proud, fiery and vindictive temperaments, rendered them im patient of any other control than that to which they bad been accustomed, to the evils and oppressions of which they were blinded by ignorance and superstition.
A British army of 30,000 men, under Sir Arthur Wellesley, landed in Portugal, in July, 1808, to assist the Portuguese, in expelling their invaders. Junot advanced from Lisbon to meet them, and, on the 21st of August, he was defeated at Vimiere. By the convention of Cintra, which followed this battle, the French evacuated Portugal. From this time, the war in the Peninsula was prosecuted by the Spaniards and Portuguese, and by the British as their allies. As soon as the latter took the field, the Spaniards, with the exception of the Catalans, exhibited little of that energy and enthusiasm with which they were inspired at the commencement of hostilities. They almost ceased to act as principals in a contest carried on in their own country, and involving their existence as an independent nation. This is glossed over and, indeed, grossly misrepresented by Mr. Southey, who pourtrays the Spaniards, as'if they were still conspicuous for the chivalry, and prowess, and daring spirit of adventure, which distinguished the conquerors of Granada; but he who will read the history before us, and that of Napier, and the accounts of the French, will be satisfied that the liberation of the Peninsula from the domination of Bonaparte, is chiefly to be ascribed to the valour and persever. nre of the British and Portuguese, and the extraordinary civil and military qualities of Lord Wellington. Sir John Moore, in his advance towards Madrid, and in his retreat upon Corunna, was not joined by a single battalion of Spaniards. Lord Wellington was more frequently thwarted and opposed than aided by their leaders. Their soldiers never acquired that organization
and discipline which were essential to render them efficient in the field against regular troops ; and excepting O'Donnel and some of their Guerilla chiefs, no one of their generals displayed either talent or military enterprise. The Portuguese, on the contrary, though oppressed for centuries by a wretched government, were formed into excellent soldiers; they fought side by side with the British ; and so conducted themselves, that Lord Wellington declared, after their gallant bearing at Busaco, in which they charged the French with the bayonet, that he reposed entire confidence in their steadiness and bravery.
Reasoning upon general principles, we should conclude that the British, Spanish and Portuguese forces, under the Duke of Wellington, would have been vanquished by the French. Supposing that the individuals in the contending armies were upon a fuoting in personal courage (which we believe to have been the case,) the Spaniards and the Portuguese, at the commencement of the struggle, were undisciplined and ignorant of tactics; but had they not been deficient in these essential requisites, the details of wars, both in ancient and modern times, demonstrate that the result of campaigns depends as much upon stategy, as upon tactics and discipline. It is in strategy, that the mind of the commander is exhibited. Carrying on his operations upon an extended scale, he has numerous combinations to form, and numerous dangers to guard against. His plans must be regulated with the utmost exactness and foresight, not only as they relate to his own movements, but to those of the enemy. A defect in their theory or their execution may be attended with the most fatal consequences; whereas by a skilful and comprehensive strategy, the superior numbers of an adversary, equal in tactics and discipline, may be rendered unavailing. The great principle in strategy is, so to distribute military bodies upon one or inore lines of operation, as to enable their commander, with the utmost possible rapidity, to concentrate them upon the decisive point, as contingencies may require. Simple as is this proposition in its terms, its execution demands the highest grade of military talent. It was owing to the masterly selection of his line of operations, that Bonaparte, in his first Italian expedition, divided the Austrians and Piedmontese into two exterior lines, and was enabled to defeat them, separately, at Mondovi and Lodi. In 1800, the French armies forming two exterior lines, reciprocally, sustaining each other, compelled the Austrians to take a still more exterior direction, by which the French reserve cut off the communications of Melas with his base, whilst it preserved its own communication with its secondary line. A reference to the map of that seat of war will show Moreau posted at Stobach and Zurich, and Kray facing him, on the North side of the Danube. In Italy, Bonaparte on the Po, at Pavia and Tortona, with a corps at Verceil, completely insulated Melas at Alexandria, whilst the French, in case of a check, had open to them all the gorges of Switzerland, the St. Bernard, Simplon, the St. Gothard and Splugen. The victories of the French, at that period, offer convincing proofs of the decisive effect of a judicious strategy. In 1812, Bonaparte trusting to his fortune, rashly invaded Russia, with his lines of operations at too great a distance from each other. His secondary base upon the Vistula bore no relation to the depth of his line of operations, intersected by the Niemen, the Dwina, and endless wastes of forests and heaths. Although he acted on a simple line, the immense distance from his base, left him without communications. The extremes of bis secondary base were already turned and broken, when Kutusoff moved to the rear of bis flank upon Kaluga, towards the Berezina, and destroyed the greatest army recorded in modern history. In the next year, though the lines of Bonaparte were shorter, circumstances were different. He operated with an ability never surpassed, in mass; but being very inferior in cavalry, and the allies likewise moving in mass, the first battles were unattended with any marked results, until his adversaries operating upon double exterior lines, (on this occasion applicable from their superiority in numbers and in cavalry) moved again round the flank, compressed the French army into a small area, placed it between two fires, and decided the campaign at Leipzig.
These sketches of operations conducted by celebrated officers exemplify the principles and consequences of strategical science. Whatever may be the natural endowments of an individual, it is to be be presumed, that they must be improved by practice and experience, in which the French marshals Masséna, Ney, Soult and Marmont must have possessed great advantages over the Duke of Wellington. They had been accustomed to war, upon its largest scale, against skilful generals, and soldiers trained in the best schools of European tactics. He, before the Peninsular war, had never commanded in chief, excepting in the East Indies, where military operations bore little resemblance to those which prevail in Europe. He, nevertheless, by the resources of his own mind, compensated for his want of experience, and displayed a strategical comprehension and profoundness, as it appears to us, of a higher order than his renowned opponents. In a few months after the command had devolved upon him in