The most deplorable thing about these losses was that all the evacuation and destruction was carried out under difficulties, owing to the gross state of disorder and indiscipline into which the army was falling. The news that they were to retreat once more without fighting had exasperated the men to the last degree. Thousands of them got loose in the streets, breaking into houses, maltreating the inhabitants, and pillaging the stores, which were to be aban[p. 558]doned, for their private profit. The rum was naturally a great attraction, and many stragglers were left behind dead drunk, to be beaten out of the place by the cavalry when they left it on the night of the thirty-first. La Romana had to make formal complaint
to Moore of the misbehaviour of the troops, who had even tried to steal his artillery mules and insulted his officers. There can be no doubt that if the rank and file had been kept in hand many valuable stores could have been distributed instead of destroyed, and the straggling which was to prove so fatal might have been nipped in the bud. But the officers were as discontented as the men, and in many regiments seem to have made little or no effort to keep things together. Already several battalions were beginning to march with an advanced guard of marauders and a rearguard of limping stragglers, the sure signs of impending trouble.
By the thirty-first, however, Astorga was clear of British and Spanish troops. Moore marched by the new high-road, the route of Manzanal: La Romana took the shorter but more rugged defile of Foncebadon. But he sent his guns along with the British, in order to spare the beasts the steeper ascents of the old chaussée. The terrible rain of the last week was just passing into snow as the two columns, every man desperately out of heart, began their long uphill climb across the ridge of the Monte Teleno, towards the uplands of the Vierzo.
This account of the retreat from Sahagun is constructed from a careful comparison of the official documents with the memoirs and monographs of the following British eye-witnesses:—Robert Blakeney (of the 28th), Rifleman Harris and Sergeant Surtees (of the 2/95th), Lord Londonderry, and Lord Vivian of the Cavalry Brigade, Leith Hay (Aide-de-Camp to General Leith), Charles and William Napier, T.S. of the 71st, Steevens of the 20th, the Surgeon Adam Neale, and the Chaplain Ormsby. Bradford, another chaplain, has left a series of admirable water-colour drawings of the chief points on the road as far as Lugo, made under such difficulties as can be well imagined. Of French eye-witnesses I have used the accounts of St. Chamans, Fantin des Odoards, Naylies, De Gonneville, Lejeune, and the detestably inaccurate Le Noble.
SECTION VIII: CHAPTER V
SOULT’S PURSUIT OF MOORE: ASTORGA TO CORUNNA
When he found that Moore had escaped from him, Napoleon slackened down from the high speed with which he had been moving for the last ten days. He stayed at Benavente for two nights, occupying himself with desk-work of all kinds, and abandoning the pursuit of the British to Bessières and Soult. The great coup had failed: instead of capturing the expeditionary force he could but harass it on its way to the sea. Such a task was beneath his own dignity: it would compromise the imperial reputation for infallibility, if a campaign that had opened with blows like Espinosa, Tudela, and the capture of Madrid ended in a long and ineffectual stern-chase. If Bonaparte had continued the hunt himself, with the mere result of arriving in time to see Moore embark and depart, he would have felt that his prestige had been lowered. He tacitly confessed as much himself long years after, when, in one of his lucubrations at St. Helena, he remarked that he would have conducted the pursuit in person, if he had but known that contrary winds had prevented the fleet of British transports from reaching Corunna. But of this he was unaware at the time; and since he calculated that Moore could be harassed perhaps, but not destroyed or captured, he resolved to halt and turn back. Soult should have the duty of escorting the British to the sea: they were to be pressed vigorously and, with 杭州龙凤酒店 luck, the Emperor trusted that half of them might never see England again. But no complete success could be expected, and he did not wish to appear personally in any enterprise that was but partially successful.
Other reasons were assigned both by Napoleon himself and by his admirers for his abandonment of the pursuit of Moore. He stated that Galicia was too much in a corner of the world for him to adventure himself in its mountains—he would be twenty days journey from Paris and the heart of affairs. If Austria began to move again in the spring, there would be an intolerable delay[p. 560] before he could receive news or transmit orders. He wished to take in hand the reorganization of his armies in Italy, on the Rhine, and beyond the Adriatic. All this was plausible enough, but the real reason of his return was that he would 杭州保健按摩信息 not be present at a fiasco or a half-success. It would seem, however, that there may have been another operating cause, which the Emperor never chose to mention; the evidence for it has only cropped up of late years. It appears that he was somewhat disquieted by secret intelligence from Paris, as to obscure intrigues among his own ministers and courtiers. The Spanish War had given new occasions to the malcontents who were always criticizing the Empire. Not much could be learnt by the French public about the affair of Bayonne, but all that had got abroad was well calculated to disgust even loyal supporters of the Empire. The talk of the salons, which Napoleon always affected to despise, but which he never disregarded, was more bitter than ever. It is quite possible that some hint of the conspiracy of the ‘Philadelphes,’ 杭州夜生活红灯区 which four months later showed its hand in the mysterious affair of D’Argenteau, may have reached him. But it is certain that he had disquieting reports concerning the intrigues of Fouché and Talleyrand. Both of those veteran plotters were at this moment in more or less marked disgrace. For once in a way, therefore, they were acting in concert. They were relieving their injured feelings by making secret overtures in all directions, in search of allies against their master. Incredible as it may appear, they had found a ready hearer in Murat, who was much disgusted with his brother-in-law for throwing upon him the blame for the disasters of the first Spanish campaign. Other notable personages were being drawn into the cave of malcontents, and discourses of more than doubtful loyalty were being delivered. Like many other cabals 杭州龙凤论坛lanwashe of the period, this one was destined to shrink into nothingness at the reappearance of the master at Paris. But while he was away[p. 561] his agents were troubled and terrified: they seem to have sent him alarming hints, which had far more to do with his return to France than any fear as to the intentions of Austria.
An oft-repeated story says that the Emperor received a packet of letters from Paris while riding from Benavente to Astorga on January 1, 1809, and, after reading them by the wayside with every sign of anger, declared that he must return to France. If the tale be true, we may be sure that the papers which so moved his wrath had no reference to armaments on the Danube, but were concerned with the intrigues in Paris. There was absolutely nothing in the state of European affairs to make an instant departure 杭州哪里有特殊洗浴 from Spain necessary. On the other hand, rumours of domestic plots always touched the Emperor to the quick, and it must have been as irritating as it was unexpected to discover that his own sister and brother-in-law were dabbling in such intrigues, even though ostensibly they were but discussing what should be done if something should happen in Spain to their august relative.
Already ere leaving Benavente the Emperor had issued orders which showed that he had abandoned his hope of surrounding and crushing Moore. He had begun to send off, to the right and to the left, part of the great mass of troops which he had brought with him. On December 31 he wrote to Dessolles, and ordered him to give his division a short rest at Villacastin, and then to return to Madrid, where the garrison was too weak. On January 1, the whole of the Imperial Guard was directed to halt and return to Benavente, from whence it was soon after told to march back to Valladolid. Lapisse’s division of Victor’s corps, which had got no further than Benavente in its advance, was turned off to subdue the southern parts of the kingdom of Leon. To the same end were diverted D’Avenay’s and Maupetit’s brigades of cavalry. Quite contrary[p. 562] to Moore’s expectations and prophecies, the people of this part of Spain displayed a frantic patriotism, when once the enemy was upon them. Toro, an open town, had to be stormed: Zamora made a still better resistance, repulsed a first attack, and had to be breached and assaulted by a brigade of Lapisse’s division. The villagers of Penilla distinguished themselves by falling upon and capturing a battery of the Imperial Guard, which was passing by with an insufficient escort. Of course the guns were recovered, and the place burnt, within a few days of the exploit.
Having sent off the Guards, Lapisse, Dessolles, and Maupetit’s and D’Avenay’s cavalry, the Emperor had still a large force left in hand for the pursuit of Moore. There remained Soult’s and Ney’s corps, the horsemen of Lahoussaye, Lorges, and Franceschi, and the greater part of Junot’s 8th Corps. The Emperor had resolved to break up this last-named unit: it contained many third-battalions belonging to regiments which were already in Spain: they were directed to rejoin their respective head quarters. When this was done, there remained only enough to make up two rather weak divisions of 5,000 men each. These were given to Delaborde and Heudelet, and incorporated with Soult’s 2nd Corps. Loison’s division, the third of the original 8th Corps, was suppressed. Junot himself was sent off to take a command under Lannes at the siege of Saragossa. When joined by Delaborde and Heudelet, Soult had a corps of exceptional strength—five divisions and nearly 30,000 bayonets. He could not use for the pursuit of Moore Bonnet’s division, which had been left to garrison Santander. But with the remainder, 25,000 strong, he pressed forward from Astorga in pursuance of his master’s orders. His cavalry force was very large in proportion: it consisted of 6,000 sabres, for not only were three complete divisions of dragoons with him, but Ney’s corps-cavalry (the brigade of Colbert) was up at the front and leading the pursuit. Ney himself, with his two infantry divisions, those of Maurice Mathieu and Marchand, was a march or two to the rear, some 16,000 bayonets strong. If Soult[p. 563] should suffer any check, he was sure of prompt support within three days. Thus the whole force sent in chase of Moore mustered some 47,000 men.
The head of the pursuing column was formed by Lahoussaye’s dragoons and Colbert’s light cavalry: in support of these, but always some miles to the rear, came Merle’s infantry. This formed the French van: the rest of Soult’s troops were a march behind, with Heudelet’s division for rearguard. All the 2nd Corps followed the English on the Manzanal road: only Franceschi’s four regiments of cavalry turned aside, to follow the rugged pass of Foncebadon, by which La Romana’s dilapidated host had retired. The exhausted Spaniards were making but slow progress through the snow and the mountain torrents. Franceschi caught them up on January 2, and scattered their rearguard under General Rengel, taking a couple of flags and some 1,500 men: the prisoners are described as being in the last extremity of misery and fatigue, and many of them were infected with the typhus fever, which had been hanging about this unfortunate corps ever since its awful experience in the Cantabrian hills during the month of November.
Moore’s army, as we have already seen, had marched out from Astorga—the main body on December 30, the rearguard on the thirty-first. After determining that he would not defend the passes of Manzanal and Foncebadon, the general had doubted whether he should make his retreat on Corunna by the great chaussée, or on Vigo, by the minor road which goes via Orense and the valley of the Sil. It is strange that he did not see that his mind must be promptly made up, and that when once he had passed the mountains he must commit himself to one or the other route. But his dispatches to Castlereagh show that it was not till he had[p. 564] reached Lugo that he finally decided in favour of the main road. He must have formed the erroneous conclusion that the French would not pursue him far beyond Astorga: he thought that they would be stopped by want of provisions and by fatigue. Having formed this unsound hypothesis, he put off the final decision as to his route till he should reach Lugo. Meanwhile, to protect the side-road to Vigo he detached 3,500 of his best troops, Robert Crawfurd’s light brigade [the 43rd (1st batt.), 52nd (2nd batt.), and 95th (2nd batt.)], and Alten’s brigade of the German Legion. They diverged from the main road after leaving Astorga, and marched, by Ponferrada and La Rua, on Orense. How much they suffered on the miserable bypaths of the valley of the Sil may be gathered in the interesting diaries of Surtees and Harris: but it was only with the snow and the want of food that they had to contend. They never saw a Frenchman, embarked unmolested at Vigo, and were absolutely useless to Moore during the rest of the campaign. It is impossible to understand how it came that they were sent away in this fashion, and nothing can be said in favour of the move. Unless the whole army were going by the Orense road, no one should have been sent along it: and the difficulties of the track were such that to have taken the main body over it would have been practically impossible. As it was, 3,500 fine soldiers were wasted for all fighting purposes. The duty of covering the rear of the army, which had hitherto fallen to the lot of Crawfurd, was now transferred to General Paget and the ‘Reserve Division.’ One regiment of hussars [the 15th] was left with them: the other four cavalry corps pushed on to the front, as there was no great opportunity for using them, now that the army had plunged into the mountains.
Colbert and Lahoussaye took some little time, after leaving Astorga, before they came upon the rear of Moore’s army. But they had no difficulty in ascertaining the route that the English had taken: the steep uphill road from Astorga into the Vierzo was strewn with wreckage of all kinds, which had been abandoned by the retreating troops. The long twelve-mile incline, deeply covered with snow, had proved fatal to a vast number of draught animals, and wagon after wagon had to be abandoned to the pursuers, for want of sufficient oxen and mules to drag them further forward. Among the derelict baggage were lying no small number of exhausted stragglers, dead or dying from cold or dysentery.
The whole morale of Moore’s army had suffered a dreadful deterioration from the moment that the order to evacuate Astorga was issued. As long as there was any prospect of fighting, the men—though surly and discontented—had stuck to their colours. Some regiments had begun to maraud, but the majority were still in good order. But from Astorga onward the discipline of the greater part of the corps began to relax. There were about a dozen regiments which behaved thoroughly well, and came through the retreat with insignificant losses: on the other hand there were many others which left from thirty to forty per cent. of their men behind them. It cannot be disguised that the enormous difference between the proportion of ‘missing’ in battalions of the same brigade, which went through exactly identical experiences, was simply due to the varying degrees of zeal and energy with which the officers kept their men together. Where there was a strong controlling will the stragglers were few, and no one fell behind save those who were absolutely dying. The iron hand of Robert Crawfurd brought the 43rd and 95th through their troubles with a loss of eighty or ninety men each. The splendid discipline of the Guards brigade carried them to Corunna with even smaller proportional losses. There is no mistaking the coincidence when we find that the battalion which Moore denounced at Salamanca as being the worst commanded and the worst disciplined in his force, was also the one which left a higher percentage of stragglers behind than any other corps. The fact was that the toils of the[p. 566] retreat tried the machinery of the regiments to the utmost, and that where the management was weak or incompetent discipline broke down. It was not the troops who had the longest marches or the most fighting that suffered the heaviest losses: those of Paget’s division, the rearguard of the whole army, which was constantly in touch with the French advance, compare favourably with those of some corps which never fired a shot between Benavente and Corunna. It is sad to have to confess that half the horrors of the retreat were due to purely preventible causes, and that if the badly-managed regiments had been up to the disciplinary standard of the Guards or the Light Brigade, the whole march would have been remembered as toilsome but not disastrous. Moore himself wrote, in the last dispatch to which he ever set his hand, that ‘he would not have believed, had he not witnessed it, that a British army would in so short a time have been so completely demoralized. Its conduct during the late marches was infamous beyond belief. He could say nothing in its favour but that when there was a prospect of fighting the men were at once steady, and seemed pleased and determined to do their duty.’ This denunciation was far too sweeping, for many corps kept good order throughout the whole campaign: but there was only too much to justify Moore’s anger.