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work was desirous that all which these letters themselves, or other sources of information, furnished to mitigate and contradict Sir J. M.'s opinions-should be laid before the public: but being himself at a great distance from London, and not having within his reach all the documents necessary for this purpose he has honoured the friend, who corrects the press errors, by making over that task to him; and the reader is therefore apprised, that the Author is not responsible for any thing which follows.
Those, who have not examined these letters for themselves, will have collected enough of their general import, from conversation and the public prints, to know that they pronounce an opinion unfavourable to the Spaniards. They will perhaps have yet to learn that this opinion is not supported by any body of facts (for of facts only three are given; and those, as we shall see, misrepresented); but solely by the weight of Sir John Moore's personal authority. This being the case, it becomes the more important to assign the value of that authority, by making such deductions from the present public estimate of it, as are either fairly to be presumed from his profession and office, or directly inferred from the letters under consideration.
As reasons for questioning à priori the impartiality of these letters,—it might be suggested (in reference to what they would be likely to omit)—first—that they are the letters of a soldier ; that is, of a man trained (by the prejudices of his profession) to despise, or at least to rate as secondary, those resources which for Spain must be looked to as supreme;—and, secondly, that they are the letters of a general; that is, of a soldier removed by his rank from the possibility of any extensive intercourse with the lower classes; concerning whom the question chiefly But it is more important to remark (in reference to what they would be likely to mis-state)—thirdly—that they are the letters of a Commander-in-chief; standing—from the very day when he took the field-in a dilemma which compelled him to risk the safety of his army by advancing, or its honour by retreating; and having to make out an apology, for either issue, to the very persons who had imposed this dilemma upon him.--The reader is requested to attend to this. Sir John Moore found himself in Leon with a force "which, if united," (to quote his own words) " would not exceed 26,000 men. Such a force, after the defeat of the advanced armies, he was sure-could effect nothing; the best result he could anticipate was an
inglorious retreat. That he should be in this situation at the very opening of the campaign, he saw, would declare to all Europe that somewhere there must be blame: but where? with himself he knew that there was none: the English Government (with whom he must have seen that at least a part of the blame lay-for sending him so late, and with a force so lamentably incommensurate to the demands of the service) it was not for him-holding the situation that he did-openly to accuse (though, by implication, he often does accuse them); and therefore it became his business to look to the Spaniards; and, in their conduct, to search for palliations of that inefficiency on his part-which else the persons, to whom he was writing, would understand as charged upon themselves. Writing with such a purpose—and under a double fettering of his faculties; first from anxious forebodings of calamity or dishonour; and secondly from the pain he must have felt at not being free to censure those with whom he could not but be aware that the embarrassments of his situation had, at least in part, originated -we might expect that it would not be difficult for him to find, in the early events of the campaign, all which he sought; and to deceive himself into a belief, that, in stating these events without any commentary or even hints as to the relative circumstances under which they took place (which only could give to the naked facts their value and due meaning), he was making no misrepresentations,—and doing the Spaniards no injustice.
These suggestions are made with the greater earnestness, as it is probable that the honourable death of Sir John Moore will have given so much more weight to his opinion on any subject— if these suggestions be warranted, it is entitled on this subject to less weight-than the opinion of any other individual equally intelligent, and not liable (from high office and perplexity of situation) to the same influences of disgust or prejudice.
That these letters were written under some such influences, is plain throughout: we find, in them, reports of the four first events in the campaign; and, in justice to the Spaniards, it must be said that all are virtually mis-statements. Take two instances:
1. The main strength and efforts of the French were, at the opening of the campaign, directed against the army of Gen. Blake. The issue is thus given by Sir J. M. :-"Gen. Blake's army in Biscay has been defeated-dispersed; and its officers
and men are flying in every direction." Could it be supposed that the army, whose matchless exertions and endurances are all merged in this over-charged (and almost insulting) statement of their result, was, "mere peasantry" (Sir J. M.'s own words) and opposed to greatly superior numbers of veteran troops? Confront with this account the description given by an eye-witness (MajorGen. Leith) of their constancy and the trials of their constancy; remembering that, for ten successive days, they were engaged (under the pressure of similar hardships, with the addition of one not mentioned here, viz.- -a want of clothing) in continued actions with the French :-" Here I shall take occasion to state another instance of the patience (and, I will add, the chearfulness) of the Spanish soldiers under the greatest privations.— After the action of Soronosa on the 31st ult., it was deemed expedient by Gen. Blake, for the purpose of forming a junction with the second division and the army of Asturias, that the army should make long, rapid, and continued marches through a country at any time incapable of feeding so numerous an army, and at present almost totally drained of provisions. From the 30th of October to the present day (Nov. 6), with the exception of a small and partial issue of bread at Bilboa on the morning of the Ist of November, this army has been totally destitute of bread, wine, or spirits; and has literally lived on the scanty supply of beef and sheep which those mountains afford. Yet never was there a symptom of complaint or murmur; the soldiers' minds appearing to be entirely occupied with the idea of being led against the enemy at Bilboa." "It is impossible for me to do justice to the gallantry and energy of the divisions engaged this day. The army are loud in expressing their desires to be led against the enemy at Bilboa; the universal exclamation is-The bayonet! the bayonet! lead us back to Soronosa."
2. On the 10th of November the Estramaduran advanced guard, of about 12,000 men, was defeated at Burgos by a division of the French army selected for the service—and having a vast superiority in cavalry and artillery. This event, with the same neglect of circumstances as in the former instance, Sir J. M. thus reports :-"The French, after beating the army of Estramadura, are advanced at Burgos.' Now surely to any unprejudiced mind the bare fact of 12,000 men (chiefly raw levies) having gone forward to meet and to find out the main French army-under all the oppression which, to the ignorant of the upper and lower classes throughout Europe, there is in
the name of Buonaparte-must appear, under any issue, a title to the highest admiration, such as would have made this slight and incidental mention of it impossible.
The two next events-viz. the forcing of the pass at Somosierra by the Polish horse, and the partial defeat of Castanos-are, as might be shewn even from the French bulletins, no less misrepresented. With respect to the first, Sir J. Moore, overlooking the whole drama of that noble defence, gives only the catastrophe; and his account of the second will appear, from any report, to be an exaggeration.
It may be objected that—since Sir J. M. nowhere alleges these events as proving any thing against the Spaniards, but simply as accounting for his own plans (in which view, howsoever effected, whether with or without due resistance, they were entitled to the same value)—it is unfair to say that, by giving them uncircumstantially, he has misrepresented them. But it must be answered, that, in letters containing elsewhere (though not immediately in connection with these statements) opinions unfavourable to the Spaniards, to omit any thing making for them-is to misrepresent in effect. And, further, it shall now be shewn that even those three charges—which Sir J. M. does allege in proof of his opinions—are as glaringly mis-stated.
The first of these charges is the most important: I give it to the reader in the words of Sir John Moore :-"The French cavalry from Burgos, in small detachments, are over-running the province of Leon; raising contributions; to which the inhabitants submit without the least resistance." Now here it cannot be meant that no efforts at resistance were made by individuals or small parties; because this would not only contradict the universal laws of human nature,—but would also be at utter variance with Sir J. M.'s repeated complaints that he could gain no information of what was passing in his neighbourhood. It is meant therefore that there was no regular or organised resistance; no resistance such as might be made the subject of an official report. Now we all know that the Spaniards have every where suffered deplorably from a want of cavalry; and, in the absence of that, hear from a military man (Major-Gen. Brodrick) why there was no resistance :-"At that time I was not aware how remarkably the plains of Leon and Castille differ from any other I have seen; nor how strongly the circumstances, which constitute that difference, enforce the opinion I venture to express." (He means the necessity of cavalry reinforcements from England.) 'My road from Astorga lay through a vast
open space, extending from 5 to 20 or more miles on every side; without a single accident of ground which could enable a body of infantry to check a pursuing enemy, or to cover its own retreat. In such ground, any corps of infantry might be insulted, to the very gates of the town it occupied, by cavalry far inferior in numbers; contributions raised under their eyes, and the whole neighbourhood exhausted of its resources, without the possibility of their opposing any resistance to such incursions."
The second charge is made on the retreat to Corunna : "The Gallicians, though armed," Sir J. M. says, "made no attempt to stop the passage of the French through the mountains." That they were armed--is a proof that they had an intention to do so (as one of our journals observed): but what encouragement had they in that intention from the sight of a regular force-more than 30,000 strong-abandoning, without a struggle, passes where (as an English general asserts) "a body of a thousand men might stop an army of twenty times the number?"
The third charge relates to the same Province: it is a complaint that "the people run away; the villages are deserted" and again, in his last letter,—“They abandoned their dwellings at our approach; drove away their carts, oxen, and every thing which could be of the smallest aid to the army.' To this charge, in so far as it may be thought to criminate the Spaniards, a full answer is furnished by their accuser himself in the following memorable sentence in another part of the very same letter:"I am sorry to say that the army, whose conduct I had such reason to extol in its march through Portugal and on its arrival in Spain, has totally changed its character since it began to retreat." What do we collect from this passage? Assuredly that the army ill-treated the Gallicians; for there is no other way in which an army, as a body, can offendexcepting by an indisposition to fight; and that interpretation (besides that we are all sure that no English army could so offend) Sir J. Moore expressly guards against in the next
The English army then treated its Ally as an enemy: and, -though there are alleviations of its conduct in its great sufferings, yet it must be remembered that these sufferings were due-not to the Gallicians-but to circumstances over which they had no controul-to the precipitancy of the retreat, the inclemency of the weather, and the poverty of the country; and that (knowing this) they must have had a double sense of