SECTION XIII SOULT’S INVASION OF PORTUGAL CHAPTER I
SOULT’S PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS IN GALICIA
(JANUARY 19-MARCH 6, 1809)
After the departure of Bonaparte for Paris there were, as we have already shown, only two points in the Peninsula where the strength of the French armies was such as to allow them to continue the great movement of advance which their master had begun. We have already seen how Victor, after advancing from the Tagus to the Guadiana, found his initiative exhausted, even after his victory at Medellin. He had halted, and refused to take the offensive against Lisbon or Andalusia till he should 杭州夜生活指南 be heavily reinforced.
It remains to be seen how the other French army available for immediate field operations had fared. Moore’s daring march and the ensuing retreat had drawn up into the extreme north-west of the Peninsula the 2nd, 6th, and 8th corps d’armée. Of these the last-named had been dissolved at the new year, and the bulk of its battalions had been transferred to Soult’s corps, which on January 20 had a nominal effective of more than 40,000 men. Ney’s Corps, the 6th, was much smaller, and does not seem to have amounted to more than 16,000 or 18,000 sabres and bayonets. But between Astorga, the rearmost point occupied by Ney, and Corunna, which Soult’s vanguard had entered on January 19, there were on paper 60,000 men available for active operations. Nor had they to guard their own communications with Madrid or with France. Lapisse’s numerous division had been 杭州水磨iso全套 left at Salamanca; there was a provisional[p. 171] brigade at Leon; Bonnet held Santander with another division; there were detachments in Zamora, Valladolid, and the other chief towns of the Douro valley. Somewhat later, in April, the Emperor moved another whole army corps, that of Mortier, into Old Castile, when it became available after the fall of Saragossa. Even without this reinforcement he thought that the rear of the army in Galicia was adequately covered. The parting instructions of Bonaparte to Soult have already been cited: when the English should have embarked, the Duke of Dalmatia was to march on Oporto, and ten days later was to occupy Lisbon. We have already seen that the scheme of dates which Napoleon laid down for these operations was impossible, even to the borders of absurdity: Oporto was to be seized by February 1, and Lisbon by February 10! But 杭州约口spa联系方式 putting aside this error, which was due to his persistent habit of ignoring the physical conditions of Spanish roads and Spanish weather, the Emperor had drawn up a plan which seemed feasible enough. Ney’s corps was to move up and occupy all the chief strategical points in Galicia, taking over both the garrison duty and the task of stamping out any small lingering insurrections in the interior. This would leave Soult free to employ the whole of his four divisions of infantry and his three divisions of cavalry for the invasion of Portugal. Even allowing for the usual wastage of men in a winter campaign, the Emperor must have supposed that, with a nominal effective of 43,000 men, Soult would be able to provide more than 30,000 efficients for the expedition against Lisbon. Considering that the Portuguese army was still in the making, and that no more than 8,000[p. 172] British troops remained in and about Lisbon, the task 杭州足浴店大保健 assigned to the Duke of Dalmatia did not on the face of it appear unreasonable.
But in Spain the old saying that ‘nothing is so deceptive as figures—except facts,’ was pre-eminently true. No map—those of 1809 were intolerably bad—could give the Emperor any idea of the hopeless condition of Galician or Portuguese mountain-roads in January. No tables of statistics could enable him to foresee the way in which the population would receive the invading army. We may add that even an unrivalled knowledge of the realities of war would hardly have prepared him to expect that the campaign of Galicia would, in one month, have worn down Soult’s available effectives to a bare 23,000 men. Such was the modest figure at which the 2nd Corps stood on January 30, for it had no less than 8,000 men detached, and the incredible number of over 10,000—one man in four—in hospital. For this figure it was not the muskets of Moore’s host which were responsible: it was the cold and misery of the forced marches from Astorga to Corunna, which seem 杭州保健 to have tried the pursuer even more than the pursued. The 8,000 ‘detached’ were strung out in small parties all the way from Leon to Lugo—wherever the Marshal had been obliged to abandon stores or baggage that could not travel fast, he had been forced to leave a guard: he had also dropped small garrisons at Villafranca, Lugo, and Betanzos, to await Ney’s arrival; but the most important drain had been that of his dismounted dragoons. In his cavalry regiments half the horses had foundered or perished: the roads so deadly to Moore’s chargers had taken a corresponding toll from the French divisions, and at every halting-place hundreds of horsemen, unable to keep up[p. 173] with the main body, had been left behind. In any other country than Spain these involuntary laggards would have found their way to the front again in a comparatively short time. But Soult was commencing to discover that one of the main features of war in the Peninsula was that isolated men, or even small parties, could not move about in safety. The peasantry were already beginning to rise, even before Moore’s army took its departure; they actually cut the road between Betanzos and Lugo, and between Lugo and Villafranca, within a few days after the battle of Corunna. This forced the stragglers to mass, under pain of being assassinated. Hundreds of them were actually cut off: the rest gathered in small wayside garrisons, and could not get on till they had been formed into parties of considerable strength. The rearmost, who had been collected at Astorga by General Pierre Soult, the Marshal’s brother, did not join the corps for months—and this body was no less than 2,000 or 2,500 strong. The other detachments could not make their way to Corunna even when Marshal Ney had come up: it was only by degrees, and after delays covering whole weeks, that they began to rejoin. The only solid reinforcement received by Soult, soon after the departure of the English army, consisted of his rear division, that of Heudelet, which came up from Lugo, not many days after the battle of January 16.
Soult was still far from suspecting the full difficulty of the task that was before him. He had been much encouraged by the tame way in which the Governor of Corunna had surrendered on January 19. If Alcedo had made the least semblance of fight he could have detained the Marshal before his walls for an indefinite time. The city was only approachable by a narrow and well-fortified isthmus, and the French could not have battered this formidable front to any effect with the six-pounders which formed their only artillery. The surrender of the place gave Soult some food, the considerable resources of a rich harbour town, and (most important of all) a large number of guns of position, suitable for use against the other fortress which he must take ere he moved on against Portugal.
This place was Ferrol, the second naval arsenal of Spain, which faces Corunna across the broad inlet of Ares Bay—only thirteen miles distant by water, though the land road thither[p. 174] by Betanzos, round the head of the fiord, is forty miles long. To make sure of this place was obviously Soult’s first duty: if left unmolested it would prove a dangerous nucleus round which the Galician insurgents could concentrate. For it contained a regular garrison, consisting of the dép?ts and half-trained recruits of La Romana’s army, and of 4,000 or 5,000 sailors. There were lying in the harbour, mostly half-dismantled and unready for sea, no less than eight line-of-battle ships and three frigates. Their crews, much depleted, but still numerous, had been landed to assist the soldiers in garrisoning the forts. In addition several thousand citizens and peasants had taken arms, for muskets abounded in Ferrol, from the stores lately received from England. With these resources it is clear that a governor of courage and resolution might have made a long defence; they were far greater than those with which Palafox had preserved Saragossa; and Ferrol was no open town, but a fortress which had been kept in good repair for fear of the English. But, for the misfortune of Galicia, the commander of Ferrol, Admiral Melgarejo, was a traitor at heart. He was one of the old bureaucrats who had only followed the patriotic cause because it seemed for the moment to be in the ascendant; if patriotism did not pay, he was perfectly prepared to come to terms and to do homage to Joseph Bonaparte.
On January 23 Soult marched against Ferrol with the infantry division of Mermet, the dragoons of Lorges, and the heavy guns which he had found in Corunna. He left Delaborde in garrison at the latter place, posted Merle at Betanzos, a half-way house between the two fortresses, and directed Franceschi’s cavalry division on Santiago and Lahoussaye’s on Mellid, in order to see whether there was any Spanish field-force visible in western Galicia. On the twenty-fifth the Marshal presented himself in front of Ferrol, and summoned the place to surrender. Melgarejo was determined not to fight, and several of his chief subordinates supported him. The[p. 175] armed citizens persisted in their idea of defending the place, but when the French broke ground in front of the walls and captured two small outlying redoubts, they allowed themselves to be overpersuaded by their treacherous chief. On January 26 the place surrendered, and on the following day Soult was received within the walls. The capitulation had two shameful clauses: by the first the civil and military authorities undertook to take the oath of allegiance to King Joseph. By the second the splendid men-of-war in the harbour were handed over intact, a most valuable acquisition for the Emperor if Galicia was to remain under his control. Any one but a traitor would have burnt or scuttled them before surrendering. But Melgarejo, after receiving high testimonials from Soult, hastened up to Madrid and took office under the Rey Intruso. Along with the squadron 1,500 naval cannon, an immense quantity of timber, cordage, and other stores, and 20,000 muskets newly imported from England, fell into the hands of the French.
On the day after Ferrol was occupied, Soult received the last communication from the Emperor which was to reach him for many a day. It was dated from Valladolid on January 17. We have already had occasion to refer to it more than once, while dealing with the controversies of King Joseph and Marshal Victor. This dispatch repeated the Emperor’s former orders, with some slight concession in the matter of dates. Instead of reaching Oporto on February 1 the Marshal was to be granted four extra days, and after taking Oporto on February 5, he was to reach Lisbon on the sixteenth instead of the tenth. Soult was also told that he would not have to depend on his own resources alone: Victor with the 1st Corps would be at Merida by the time that the 2nd Corps was approaching the Portuguese capital: he would be instructed to send a column in the direction of Lisbon, to make a diversion in favour of the attack from the north, and at the same time Lapisse from Salamanca should move on Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida. Bessières was, so the Emperor said, under strict orders to send Lapisse forward into Portugal the moment that the news should reach him that the[p. 176] 2nd Corps had captured Oporto. This combination sinned against the rules of strategy, as they had to be practised in Spain. The Emperor had yet to realize that in order to make operations simultaneous, when troops starting from bases several hundred miles apart are to co-operate, it is necessary that their generals should be in free communication with each other. But Soult, when he had advanced into Portugal, was as much out of touch with the other French corps as if he had been operating in Poland or Naples. It was literally months before accurate information as to his situation and his achievements reached Salamanca, Merida, or Madrid. The movements of Victor and Lapisse being strictly conditioned by the receipt of news concerning Soult’s progress, and that news being never received, or received too late, the combination never did and never could take place. Napoleon had forgotten to reckon with the ubiquitous Spanish insurgent: here, as in so many cases, he was unconsciously assuming that the bearer of dispatches could ride freely through the country, as if he were in Saxony or Lombardy; and that Soult could make known his movements and his desires as often as he pleased. French critics of the Emperor generally confine themselves to censuring him for sending the 2nd Corps to attempt unaided a task too great for it; this is not quite fair, for he had intended to support Soult by two strong diversions. The real fault lay in ignoring the fact that in Spain combined operations, which presuppose constant communication between the participants, were practically impossible. The same error was made in 1810, when Drouet was told to co-operate in Masséna’s invasion of Portugal, and in 1811 when Soult was directed to lend a helping hand to that same invasion. It is impossible to give effective aid to a colleague whose condition and whose whereabouts are unknown.
On January 29 the Duke of Dalmatia set to work to reor[p. 177]ganize his army for the great expedition that had been assigned to him. It was impossible to march at once, as the Emperor had commanded, because Ney had not yet arrived at the front, and it was necessary to turn over the charge of Corunna and Ferrol to him before departing further south. Moreover, there were many other arrangements to be made: a base hospital had to be organized at Corunna for the thousands of sick and wounded belonging to the 2nd Corps. Its transport had to be reconstructed, for most of the animals had died during the forced marches in pursuit of Moore. A new stock of munitions had to be served out from the stores so fortunately captured at Ferrol. The military chest of the corps had been left behind at Astorga, and showed no signs of appearing: to provide for the more urgent day-by-day needs of the army, the Marshal had to squeeze forced contributions out of the already exhausted towns of Corunna, Ferrol, and Santiago, which had long ago contributed all their surplus resources to the fitting out of Blake’s army of Galicia. These same unhappy places had to submit to a heavy requisition of cloth and leather, for the replacing of the garments and boots worn out in the late marches. But even with the aid of 2,500 English greatcoats discovered in store at Corunna, and other finds at Ferrol, the wants of the army could not be properly supplied; it started on the campaign in a very imperfectly equipped condition. The most dangerous point in its outfit was the want of mules: most of the valleys of inner Galicia and northern Portugal are destitute of carriage roads. To bring up the food and the reserve ammunition pack-animals were absolutely necessary, and Soult could only collect a few hundreds. Even if his men should succeed in living on the country, and so solve the problem of carrying provisions, they could not hope to pick up powder and lead in the same way. When, therefore, the heavy baggage on[p. 178] wheels had to be left behind, the 2nd Corps was only able to carry a very insufficient stock of cartridges: twice, as we shall see, it almost exhausted its ammunition and was nearly brought to a standstill on the way to Oporto.
It was not till February had already begun that Soult was able to move forward the whole of his army, for he refused to withdraw Delaborde’s division from Corunna and Mermet’s from Ferrol, till Ney should have brought up troops of the 6th Corps to relieve them. The Duke of Elchingen, though apprised of the Emperor’s orders, lingered long at Lugo, and it was not till he came down in person to the coast that Soult could call up his rear divisions. Meanwhile a small exchange of troops between the two corps was carried out: Ney, being short of cavalry, received a brigade of Lorges’ dragoons to add to his own inadequate force of two regiments of light horse. In return he made over to the 2nd Corps three battalions of the 17th Léger, which had accompanied him hitherto. They were added to Delaborde’s division, which had been only eight battalions strong.
Even before the troops from Ferrol and Corunna were able to move, Soult had put the rest of his army on the march for Portugal. On January 30 Franceschi’s light horsemen started along the coast-road from Santiago to Vigo and Tuy, while further inland Lahoussaye’s division of dragoons, quitting Mellid, took the rough mountain path across the Monte Testeyro, by Barca de Ledesma and Cardelle, which leads to Rivadavia and Salvatierra on the lower Minho. Merle’s and Heudelet’s infantry started several days later, and were many miles behind the advanced cavalry.
Lahoussaye’s division met with no opposition in the rugged region which it had to cross, and occupied Salvatierra without difficulty. Franceschi scattered a few peasants at the defile of Redondela outside Vigo, and then found himself at the gates of that harbour-fortress. The governor, no less weak and unpatriotic than those of Ferrol and Corunna, surrendered without firing a shot. His excuse was that he had only recruits, and armed townsfolk, to man his walls and handle his numerous artillery. But his misconduct was even surpassed by that of the Governor of Tuy, who capitulated to Franceschi’s 1,200 horsemen three days later in the same style, though he was in[p. 179] command of 500 regular troops, and was implored to hold out by the local junta. Throughout Galicia, in this unhappy month, the officials and military chiefs showed a most deplorable spirit, which contrasted unfavourably with that of the lower classes, both in the towns and the country-side.
The way to the frontier of Portugal had thus been opened, with an ease which seemed to justify Napoleon’s idea that the Spaniards would not hold out, when once their field armies had been crushed. Franceschi and Lahoussaye reported to the Duke of Dalmatia that they had swept the whole northern bank of the Minho, and that there was nothing in front of them save the swollen river and a few bands of Portuguese peasantry, who were observing them from Valenza, the dilapidated frontier fortress of the neighbouring kingdom.
Both the French and the Galicians of the coast-line might well have forgotten the fact that there was still a Spanish army in existence within the borders of the province. It is long since we have had occasion to mention the fugitive host of the Marquis of La Romana. After being hunted out of Ponferrada by Soult on January 3, he had followed in the wake of Craufurd’s brigades on their eccentric retreat down the valley of the Sil. But while the British troops pushed on to Vigo and embarked, the Spaniards halted at Orense. There the Marquis endeavoured to rally his demoralized and starving host, with the aid of the very limited resources of the district. He had only 6,000 men left with the colours, out of the 22,000 who had been with him at Leon on December 25, 1808. But there were several thousands more straggling after him, or dispersed in the side valleys off the road which he had followed. Most of these men had lost their muskets, many were frost bitten, or suffering from dysentery. The surviving nucleus of the army was composed almost entirely of the old regulars: the Galician militia and new levies had not been able to resist the temptation to desert, when they found themselves among their native mountains. The Marquis hoped that, when the spring came round, they would find their way back to the army: in this expectation, as we shall see, he was not deceived. For nearly a fortnight the wrecks of the army were undisturbed, and La Romana was able to collect enough efficients to constitute[p. 180] two small corps of observation, one of which he posted in the valley of the Sil, to watch for any signs of a movement of the French from the direction of Ponferrada, while the other, in the valley of the Minho, kept a similar look out in the direction of Lugo. The latter force was unmolested, but on January 17 General Mendizabal, who was watching the southern road, reported the approach of a heavy hostile column. This was Marchand’s division of Ney’s corps: the Marshal had divided his force at Ponferrada; he himself with Maurice Mathieu’s division had kept the main road to Lugo, while Marchand had been told off to clear the lateral valleys and seize Orense. La Romana very wisely resolved that his unhappy army was unfit to resist 8,000 French troops. On January 19 he evacuated Orense, and fled across the Sierra Cabrera to Monterey on the Portuguese frontier. Here at last he found rest, for Marchand did not follow him into the mountains, but, after a short stay in Orense, marched to Santiago, where he was directed to relieve Soult’s garrison.
The Marquis was completely lost to sight in his frontier fastnesses, and was able to do his best to reorganize his battered host. By February 13 he had 9,000 men under arms, nearly all old soldiers, for the Galician levies were still scattered in their homes. His dispatches during this period are very gloomy reading: he complains bitterly of the apathy of the country-side and the indiscipline of his officers. What could be expected of subalterns, he asks, when a general (Martinengo of the 2nd division) had absconded without asking leave or even reporting his departure? ‘I know not where the patriotism, of which every one boasted, is now to be found, since on the smallest reverse or misfortune, they lose their heads, and think only of saving themselves—sacrificing their country and compromising their commander.’ Much harassed for want of food, La Romana kept moving his head quarters; he was sometimes at Verin and Monterey, sometimes at Chaves just inside the Portuguese frontier, more frequently at Oimbra. He had only nine guns left; there was no reserve of ammunition, and the soldiers had but few cartridges remaining in their boxes. The strongest battalion left in the army had only 250 bayonets—many had but seventy or eighty, and others (notably the Galician local[p. 181] corps) had completely disappeared. He besought the Central Junta to obtain from the British money, muskets, clothing, and above all ammunition, or the army would never be fit to take the field. A similar request in the most pressing terms was sent to Sir John Cradock at Lisbon.
Soult could not but be aware that La Romana’s army, or some shadow of it, was still in existence: but since it sedulously avoided any contact with him, and had completely evacuated the coast-land of Galicia, he appears to have treated it as a ‘negligible quantity’ during his first operations. Its dispersion, if it required any further dispersing, would fall to the lot of Ney and the 6th Corps, not to that of the army sent against Portugal.
Franceschi and Lahoussaye, as we have already seen, reached the Minho and the Portuguese border on February 2. It was only on the eighth that the Duke of Dalmatia set out from Santiago to follow them, in company with the division of Merle. Those of Delaborde and Mermet, released by the arrival of Ney,
took the same route on the ninth and tenth respectively. The rear was brought up by the reserve and heavy artillery, and by that brigade of Lorges’ dragoons which had not been handed over to the 6th Corps. The coast-road being very good, Soult was able to concentrate his whole army within the triangle Tuy, Salvatierra, Vigo by the thirteenth, in spite of the hindrances caused by a week of perpetual storm and rain.
It was the Marshal’s intention to enter Portugal by the great coast-road, which crosses the Minho at Tuy and proceeds to Oporto by way of Valenza and Braga. But as Valenza was a fortress, and its cannon commanded the broad ferry at which the usual passage was made, it was clearly necessary to choose some[p. 182] other point for crossing the frontier river. After a careful survey Soult fixed on a village named Campo Saucos, only two miles from the mouth of the Minho, as offering the best starting-point. He established a battery of heavy guns on his own side of the river, and collected a number of fishing-boats, sufficient to carry 300 men at a voyage. As he could not discover that the Portuguese had any regular force opposite him, he resolved to attempt the passage with these modest resources.
There would have been no great difficulty in the enterprise during ordinary weather. But the incessant rains had so swelled the Minho that it was now a wild, ungovernable torrent, which it was hard to face and still harder to stem. When the heavy Atlantic surf met the furious current of the stream, during the rising of the tide, the conflict of the waters made the passage absolutely impossible. It had to be attempted at the moment between the flow and the ebb—though there was at that hour another danger—that the boats might be carried past the appointed landing-place and wrecked on the bar at the mouth of the river. But this chance Soult resolved to risk: on February 16, long before daybreak, his twenty or thirty fishing-boats, each with a dozen men on board, launched out from the northern shore, and struck diagonally across the stream, as the current bore them. They were at once saluted by a heavy but ill-directed fire from the Portuguese bank, where hundreds of peasants were at watch even during the hours of darkness. The soldiers rowed and steered badly—Soult had only been able to give them as guides a mere handful of men trained to the water. The furious current swept them away: probably also their nerve was much tried by the fusillade, which, though more noisy[p. 183] than dangerous, yet occasionally picked off a rower or a helmsman. The general result was that only three boats with thirty-five or forty men got to the appointed landing-place, where they were made prisoners by the Portuguese. The rest were borne down-stream, and came ashore at various points on the same side from which they had started, barely avoiding shipwreck on the bar.
The attempt to pass the Minho, therefore, ended in a ridiculous fiasco: it showed the limitations of the French army, which among its numerous merits did not possess that of good seamanship. Soult was deeply chagrined, not because of the insignificant loss of men, but because of the check to his prestige. He resolved that he would not risk another such failure, and at once gave orders for the whole army to march up-stream to Orense, the first point where there was a bridge over the Minho. This entailed a radical change in his general plan of operations, for he was abandoning the good coast-road by Tuy and Valenza for a very poor mountain-way from Orense to Chaves along the valley of the Tamega. There was another important result from the alteration—the new route brought the French army down upon La Romana’s camp of refuge: his cantonments in and about Monterey lay right across its path. But neither he nor Soult had yet realized the fact that they were about once more to come into collision. The Marshal did not know where the Marquis was; the Marquis did not at first understand the meaning of the Marshal’s sudden swoop inland. Some of the Spanish officers, indeed, were sanguine enough to imagine that the French, after their failure on the lower Minho, would abandon Galicia altogether!
The whole French army had now made a half-turn to the left, and was marching in a north-easterly direction. Lahoussaye’s dragoons, starting from Salvatierra, led the advance, Heudelet’s division marched at the head of the infantry; Delaborde, Mermet, and Merle, each at a convenient interval from the preceding division, stretched out the column to an interminable length. The heavy artillery and wagon train brought up the rear. Nine hundred sick, victims of the detestable weather[p. 184] of the first fortnight of February, were left behind at Tuy under the guard of a half-battalion of infantry.
It was on the march from Tuy to Orense that Soult began to realize the full difficulties of his task. He had already met with small insurgent bands, but they had been dispersed with ease, and he had paid little attention to them. Now however, along the steep and tiresome mountain road above the Minho, they appeared in great force, and showed a spirit and an enterprise which were wholly unexpected by the French. The fact was that in the month which had now elapsed since the battle of Corunna, the peasantry and the local notables had found time to take stock of the situation. The first numbing effect of the presence of a large hostile army in their midst had passed away. Ruthless requisitions were sweeping off their cattle, the only wealth of the country. Although Soult had issued pacific proclamations, and had tried to keep his men in hand, he could not restrain the usual plundering propensities of a French army on the march. Enough atrocities had already been committed to make the Galicians forget the misconduct of Moore’s men. La Romana, from his refuge at Monterey, had been dispersing appeals to the patriotism of the province, and sending out officers with local knowledge to rouse the country-side. These probably had less effect on the Galicians—the Marquis was a stranger and a defeated general—than the exhortations of their own clergy. In the first rising of the peasantry most of the leaders were ecclesiastics: in the region which Soult was now traversing the peasantry were raised by Mauricio Troncoso, Abbot of Couto, and a friar named Giraldez, who kept the insurgents together until, some weeks later, they handed over the command to military officers sent by La Romana or by the Central Junta. In the valley of the Sil, beyond Orense, it was Quiroga, Abbot of Casoyo, who first called out the country-side. Every narrative of the Galician insurrection, whether French or Spanish, bears witness to the fact that in almost every case the[p. 185] clergy, regular and secular, were the earliest chiefs of the mountaineers. It was characteristic of the whole rising that many of the bands took the field with the church-banners of their parishes as substitutes for the national flag.
This much is certain, that as soon as the violent February rains showed signs of slackening, the whole of rural Galicia flew to arms. From Corcubion on the surf-beaten headland of Finisterre, to the remote headwaters of the Sil under the Sierra de Penamarella, there was not a valley which failed to answer the appeal which La Romana had made and which the clergy had circulated. From the weak and sporadic movements of January there sprang in February a general insurrection, which was all the more formidable because it had no single focus, was based on no place of arms, and was directed not by one chief but by fifty local leaders, each intimately acquainted with the district in which he was about to operate.