The plan, despite of some checks at the commencement, worked in a satisfactory fashion. The German and Polish[p. 94] divisions of Leval and Werlé attacked Lacy’s and Castejon’s divisions, which gave back some little way, in order to align themselves with Vigodet who was sheltered by the slight eastern end of the ravine. The enemy followed and brought up six guns to the point to play upon the new position which the Spaniards had taken up. The forward movement was continuing, when suddenly to the surprise of the French, Lacy’s, Castejon’s, and Giron’s men, leaving their places in the line, made a furious counter-charge 杭州保健按摩技师 upon the Poles and Germans, drove them back for some distance, and threw them into disorder. This movement was no result of Areizaga’s generalship: he had betaken himself to the summit of the church-tower of Oca?a, an inconvenient place from which to issue orders, and practically left his subordinates to fight their own battle. Mortier was forced to bring forward Girard’s division to support his broken first line. It was hotly engaged with Lacy and Giron, when suddenly it felt the Spaniards slacken in their fire, waver, and break. This was the result of the intervention of a new force in the field. The great mass of French 杭州没有桑拿了 squadrons, which had been sent under Sebastiani to turn the Spanish right, had now come into action. Arriving close to Freire’s cavalry before it was discovered, it fell on that untrustworthy corps, and scattered it to the winds in a few minutes. Then, while three or four regiments followed the routed horsemen, the rest turned inwards upon the hostile infantry. The flanks of the first and second lines of Areizaga’s 杭州不正规的足浴店还有吗 right were charged simultaneously, and hardly a regiment had time to get into square. Brigade after brigade was rolled up and dispersed or captured; the mass of fugitives, running in upon the troops that were frontally engaged with Girard, wrecked them completely. Of the five divisions of the Spanish left, a certain number of steady regiments got away, by closing their ranks and pushing ahead through the confusion, firing on friend and foe alike when they were hustled. But many corps were annihilated, and others captured wholesale. The last seems to have been the fate of nearly the whole of Jacomé’s division of the second line, as hardly a single unit from it is reported as rallied a month later, and the French accounts speak of a whole column of 6,000 men which 杭州水疗按摩 laid down its arms in a mass before the light cavalry of the 4th Corps. Just as the Spanish right broke up,[p. 95] Dessolles with his two brigades, followed by the King’s reserve, crossed the ravine and attacked the town of Oca?a, and the two divisions—Vigodet and Copons—which lay in first and second line immediately to the east of it. These retired, and got away in better order than their comrades to the right. Of all the Spanish army only Zayas’s vanguard division, on the extreme left, now remained intact. Areizaga had sent it an order to cross the ravine and attack the French right, when he saw his army beginning to break up. Then, a few minutes later, he sent another order bidding it close to the right and cover the retreat. After this the Commander-in-Chief descended from his tower, mounted his horse, and fled. Zayas carried out the second order, moved to the right, and 杭州水疗会所丽池 found himself encompassed by masses of fugitives from Giron’s, Castejon’s, and Lacy’s broken divisions, mixed with French cavalry. He sustained, with great credit to himself and his troops, a rearguard action for some miles, till near the village of Dos Barrios, where his line was broken and his men at last mixed with the rest of the fugitives.
Map of the battle of Oca?a
Enlarge BATTLE OF OCA?A.
Nov. 19, 1809.
The whole routed multitude now streamed wildly over the plain, with the French cavalry in hot pursuit. Thousands of prisoners were taken, and the chase only ended with nightfall. The fugitives headed straight for the Sierra Morena, and reached it with a rapidity even greater than that which they had used in their outward march a fortnight before. Victor’s cavalry arrived in time to take up the pursuit next morning: they had on their way to the field captured 杭州不正规足浴名字 the whole of the trains of the Spanish army, on the road from Noblejas to Oca?a. The losses of Areizaga’s army were appalling; about 4,000 killed and wounded and 14,000 prisoners. Thirty flags and fifty out of the sixty guns had been captured. When the wrecks of the army had been rallied in the passes, three weeks after the battle, only some 21,000 infantry and 3,000 horse were reported as[p. 96] present. The divisions of Lacy, Jacomé, and Zerain had practically disappeared, and the others had lost from a third to a half of their numbers. The condition of the cavalry was peculiarly disgraceful; as it had never stood to fight, its losses represent not prisoners, for the most part, but mere runaways who never returned to their standards. The French had lost about 90 officers and 1,900 men, nearly all in the divisions of Leval, Werlé, and Girard. The cavalry, which had delivered the great stroke and won the battle, 杭州滨江kb suffered very little. Mortier had been slightly wounded, Leval and Girard severely.
Even allowing for the fact that Areizaga had been the victim of the Junta’s insensate resolve to make an offensive movement on Madrid, it is impossible to speak with patience of his generalship. For a combination of rashness and vacillation it excels that of any other Spanish general during the whole war. His only chance was to catch the enemy before they could concentrate: he succeeded in doing this by his rapid march from the passes to La Guardia. Then he waited three days in deplorable indecision, though there were only 10,000 men between him and Madrid. Next he resumed his advance, but by the circuitous route of Villamanrique, by taking which he lost three days more. Then he halted again, the moment that he found Victor with 20,000 men in his front, though he might still have fought at great advantage. Lastly he retreated, yet so slowly and unskilfully that he was finally brought to action at Oca?a by the 34,000 men of Mortier and Sebastiani. He was sent out to win a battle, since Madrid could not be delivered without one, and knew that he must fight sooner or later, but threw away his favourable opportunities, and then accepted an action when all the chances were against him. For he must have known by this time the miserable quality of his cavalry, yet gave battle in a vast plain, where everything depended on the mounted arm. In the actual moment of conflict he seems to have remained in a hypnotized condition on his church-tower, issuing hardly an order, and allowing the fight to go as it pleased. Yet he was, by all accounts, possessed[p. 97] of personal courage, as he had proved at Alca?iz and elsewhere. Apparently responsibility reduced him to a condition of vacillating idiocy. Perhaps the most surprising fact of the whole business is that the Junta retained him in command after his fiasco, thanked him for his services, and sent him an honorary present—as it had done to Cuesta after Medellin with somewhat better excuse. He was its own man, and it did not throw him over, even when he had proved his perfect incompetence.
To complete the narrative of the deplorable autumn campaign of 1809, it only remains to tell of the doings of Albuquerque and Del Parque. The former played his part with reasonable success; he was ordered to distract the attention of the enemy from the army of La Mancha, and did what he could. Having got some 10,000 men concentrated at Almaraz, he sent one column over the Tagus to demonstrate against the 2nd Corps from beyond the river, and with another threatened the bridge of Talavera from the near side. But Heudelet, now in command of the 2nd Corps, soon found that
there was no reality in his demonstration, and that he was not supported by the English, though he had given out that Wellington was close in his rear. After skirmishing around Talavera from the 17th to the 22nd of November, the Duke hastily recrossed the river on hearing the news of Oca?a, and resumed his old positions.
Del Parque’s campaign was more vigorous and more unfortunate. While he lay in the passes above Bejar and Ba?os, he got early news of the withdrawal of Godinot’s and Marcognet’s troops toward Madrid, when Soult summoned them off to reinforce the main army. He reasoned that since he had now only the 6th Corps, shorn of one of its brigades, in his front, he might repeat the success of Tamames, for Marchand was weaker than he had been in October, while he himself was far stronger. Accordingly he disregarded an order from the Junta to extend his operations southward, and to join Albuquerque in the valley of the Tagus. Instead, he marched once more upon Salamanca on November 18, the day before the disaster of Oca?a. He drove in an outlying brigade of Marchand’s force from Alba de Tormes, and pressed it vigorously back towards the main body. Conscious that with his 10,000 men[p. 98] he could not hope to face 30,000, Marchand promptly evacuated Salamanca on December 19, and retired, just as he had done in October, behind the Douro, concentrating his whole corps at Toro. He sent urgent demands for help both to Kellermann at Valladolid, and to Soult at Madrid. By the time that they arrived Areizaga had been dealt with, and the army in New Castile could spare as many reinforcements as were required. Marcognet’s brigade, the one which had been borrowed from the 6th Corps, was first sent back from Segovia, the point which it had reached in its southward march, and Gazan’s division of the 5th Corps was ordered by Soult to follow.
Meanwhile Del Parque, still ignorant of the disaster in the south, had occupied Salamanca on November 20, and on the following day moved out towards Cantalapiedra and Medina del Campo, with the object of throwing himself between Marchand and Kellermann and the capital. This was an excellent move, and, but for what had happened at Oca?a, might have had considerable results, since the Army of the Left ought to have made an end of the small French force in Old Castile.
Kellermann, however, had seen the danger of Marchand’s retreat to Toro, and had directed him to close in towards the east, and to occupy Medina del Campo, as the strategical point that must be held in order to maintain touch with Madrid. Thus it chanced that on November 23 Labassée’s brigade and four regiments of cavalry, coming from Tordesillas, reached Medina del Campo just as Marcognet’s brigade, returning from Segovia, came into the town from the other side. They had hardly met when the approach of Del Parque’s army along the Salamanca road was reported. The two French brigadiers thought for a moment of fighting, and the cavalry was ordered to press back the Spanish advanced guard. They drove off with ease Anglona’s horsemen, who rode at the head of the long column, but were repulsed by Ballasteros’s infantry, which formed square in good style, and drove them off with a rolling fire of musketry. Seeing that the whole Spanish army was coming up, Marcognet and Labassée then evacuated Medina del Campo, and retired to Valdestillas. With one push more the Spaniards could have cut the line between Valladolid and Madrid.
On November 24 the whole 6th Corps and Kellermann[p. 99]’s dragoons, with a battalion or two from the garrisons of Old Castile, were concentrated at Puente de Duero, with their van at Valdestillas. If attacked, they must have gone behind the Douro and abandoned all touch with Madrid; for there were not more than 16,000 men in line, and they were forced to take the defensive. But, to their surprise, Del Parque made no advance. He had heard on that morning of the disaster of Oca?a, and guessed that reinforcements for Kellermann must already be on the march. Wherefore he resolved to regain the mountains without delay, and to give up Salamanca and his other conquests. With this prudent resolve he broke up from Medina del Campo, and marched hastily away in retreat, making, not for Salamanca, which was too much in the plains to please him, but for Alba de Tormes. He had gained a day’s start by his prompt action, but on the twenty-sixth Kellermann set off in pursuit, leaving orders for the troops that were expected from Madrid to follow him.
On the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh the French cavalry failed even to get in touch with Del Parque’s rearguard, and found nothing but a few stragglers on the road. But on the afternoon of the twenty-eighth the leading squadrons reported that they had come upon the whole Spanish army encamped in a mass around the town of Alba de Tormes. The duke had flattered himself that he had shaken off his pursuers, and was surprised in a most unfortunate position. Two of his divisions (Ballasteros and Castrofuerte) were beyond the Tormes, preparing to bivouac on the upland above it. The other three were quartered in and about the town, while the cavalry was watching the road, but had fallen in so close to the main body that its vedettes gave very short notice of the approach of the enemy. Kellermann was riding with the leading brigade of his cavalry—Lorcet’s chasseurs and hussars; the six regiments of dragoons were close behind him, so that he had over 3,000 sabres in hand; but the infantry was ten miles to the rear. If he waited for it, Del Parque would have time to cross the river and take up a defensive position behind it. The French general, therefore, resolved to risk a most hazardous experiment, an attack with unsupported cavalry upon a force of all arms, in the hope of detaining it till the infantry should come up. The Spaniards[p. 100] were getting into line of battle in a hurry, Losada’s division on the right, Belveder’s and La Carrera’s on the left, the cavalry—1,200 sabres at most—in their front. The divisions beyond the river were only beginning to assemble, and would take some time to recross the narrow bridge: but 18,000 men were on the right bank prepared to fight.
Without a moment’s delay Kellermann ordered Lorcet’s brigade to charge the Spanish right and centre: it was followed by the six regiments of dragoons in three successive lines, and the whole mass came down like a whirlwind upon Del Parque’s front, scattering his cavalry to the winds, and breaking the whole of Losada’s and the right of Belveder’s divisions. A battery of artillery, and nearly 2,000 prisoners were taken. The wrecks of the broken divisions fell back into Alba de Tormes, and jammed the bridge, thus preventing the divisions on the further side from recrossing it. Kellermann then rallied his squadrons, and led them against La Carrera’s division and the remaining battalions of that of Belveder. These troops, formed in brigade-squares upon a rising ground, held out gallantly and repulsed the charge. But they were cut off from the bridge, which they could only reach by a dangerous flank movement over rough ground. By continually threatening to repeat his attacks, Kellermann kept them from moving off, till, two hours and a half after the action had begun, the French infantry and guns commenced to come up. La Carrera saw that it would be fatal to await them, and bade his division retreat and reach the bridge as best it could. This was naturally done in disorder, and with some loss; but it was already growing dusk, and the bulk of the Spanish left got away.
While the Spaniards were defiling over the bridge, Marchand’s leading brigade attacked Alba, out of which it drove some rallied troops of Losada’s division, who held the town to cover La Carrera’s retreat. This was done with ease, for Del Parque had not brought over his two intact divisions, preferring to use them as a second line behind which the others could retire. Alba was stormed, and two guns, which had been placed behind a barricade at its main exit, were taken by the French.
Here the fighting stopped: the Spaniards had lost five flags,[p. 101] nine guns, most of their baggage, and about 3,000 killed or taken—no very ruinous deductions from an army of 32,000 men. The French casualties were less than 300 in all. Del Parque was determined not to fight again next morning, and bade his army make off under cover of the night. The disorder that followed was frightful: the three divisions that had been in the battle dispersed, and went off in all directions, some towards Ciudad Rodrigo, others towards Tamames, others by the hill-road that leads towards Tala and the Pass of Ba?os. Many of the raw Leonese troops, though they had not been engaged, also left their colours in the dark. It was a full month before Del Parque could collect his whole army, which, when it had been reorganized, was found to number 26,000 men, despite all its misfortunes. It would seem, therefore, that beside the losses in the battle some 3,000 men must have gone off to their homes. The duke fixed his head quarters at San Martin de Trebejos in the Sierra de Gata, and dispersed his infantry in cantonments about Bejar, Fuenteguinaldo, and Miranda de Castanar. Having only the ruined region around Coria and Plasencia, and the small district about Ciudad Rodrigo, to feed them, these troops suffered dreadful privations during the winter, living on half-rations eked out with edible acorns. By the middle of January they had lost 9,000 men from fever, dysentery, and starvation.
Despite all this, it is fair to say that Del Parque’s campaign contrasts most favourably with that of Areizaga. He showed a laudable prudence when he twice evacuated Salamanca rather than fight a battle in the plain. His victory of Tamames was most creditable, showing that when prudently conducted, and ranged in a well-chosen hill-position, his army could give a good account of itself. But for the disaster of Alba de Tormes his record might be considered excellent. There, it is true, he committed a grave mistake, by separating his army into two halves by the river when his enemy was in pursuit. But in his[p. 102] defence it may be urged that his cavalry ought to have had vedettes out for ten or fifteen miles to the rear, and to have given him long warning of the approach of the French. And when the enemy’s horse did make its sudden appearance, it was contrary to the laws of probability that it would attack at once, without waiting for its infantry and guns. Kellermann’s headlong charge was a violation of all rules, a stroke of inspiration which could not have been foreseen. If the Spanish cavalry had been of any use whatever, and if Losada’s division had only known how to form square in a hurry, it ought to have been beaten off. But the resisting-power of a Spanish army was always a doubtful quantity. Kellermann resolved to take the risk of attacking, and was rewarded by a victory on which he was not entitled to reckon. He would probably have justified his tactics by urging that failure could have no severe penalty, for the Spaniards could not pursue him if he were repulsed, while success would bring splendid results. This was true: and if his infantry had been five miles more to the front, he might have captured the whole of La Carrera’s division.
SECTION XVIII THE CONQUEST OF ANDALUSIA CHAPTER I
THE CONSEQUENCES OF OCA?A. DECEMBER 1809-JANUARY 1810
The news of the disaster of Oca?a gave a death-blow to the Central Junta. Its attempt to win back its lost credit by an offensive campaign against Madrid having ended in such a lamentable fashion, there was nothing left for it but to acquiesce in its own supersession by the oft-discussed national Cortes. But that assembly was not to meet till March 1, 1810—a date still four months in the future,—and even its form and constitution had not yet been settled. For it would have been absurd to have called it together in the ancient and unrepresentative shape,—a legacy from the time of Charles V,—in which it had been wont to meet under the Bourbon kings. Many regions had few or no members; decayed mediaeval towns of Old Castile had more deputies than the most populous provinces. Moreover, it had yet to be settled how that larger half of the realm which was now occupied by the French was to elect its representatives. The commission was still sitting to determine these vital points, and in this moment of dismay the day of the assembly of the Cortes seemed very far distant. The French might be following hard on the heels of Areizaga’s broken host, and might enter Seville, long before it had been decided what sort of a Cortes was to take over the power from the hands of the discredited Central Junta.
That most unhappy government, therefore, had to face both an acute constitutional crisis and an acute military crisis. Something had to be done without delay to satisfy public opinion concerning the convocation of the Cortes, or the revolution which had been checked by Wellesley’s aid in September would certainly burst forth again. But even more pressing was the necessity for rallying and reinforcing the army which had been[p. 104] crushed at Oca?a, before the French should resume their advance. The actual administrative power was for the moment in the hand of the first of those temporary executive committees to which the Junta had agreed to delegate its authority by the decree of September 19. This body, composed of six members, among whom La Romana was numbered, had come into office on November 1. The rest of the Junta were only too eager to throw on their comrades the weight of the responsibility which should have fallen upon them all. The executive committee was accused on all sides of slow and feeble action. It published, as soon as possible, the details concerning the constitution of the forthcoming Cortes, which (in pursuance of the recommendation of the commission of inquiry) was to consist of two classes of members, elected representatives who were to be allotted in due proportion to all the provinces of the realm, and ‘privilegiados’ or chosen individuals from the nobility and the higher clergy. The American colonies were to be given members no less than the mother country, but their numbers were to be small. Such an arrangement seemed to foreshadow a double-chambered legislature, resembling that of Great Britain, and British precedents had no doubt been running in the minds of the framers of the constitution. But—as we shall see—the Cortes, when it actually met, took no such shape. The mandate for the election of the assembly was duly published; and so far public opinion was to a certain extent satisfied, for it was clear that the Central Junta was at last about to abdicate. But though the majority of the Spanish people were contented to wait, provided that the executive committee should show signs of rising to the occasion, and doing its best as an interim government, there were some politicians who saw in the crisis only an opportunity for pushing their private ambitions. Those veteran intriguers, the Conde de Montijo and Francisco Palafox, undismayed by the failure of the September plot, began to make arrangements with the Seville demagogues for a fresh attempt at a coup d’état. Their plots seem to have distracted Romana and his colleagues from their obvious military duties—the conspirator at home is always the enemy who looms most large before the eyes of a weak government. But after some search both were discovered, arrested and imprisoned.