A Conditioned Interaction of the Portuguese Military Campaign: the Lisbon Compromise
By Roberto A. Scattolin, Italy
August 2, 1808: a British army began landing north of Lisbon; small boats brought red-clad units near the cliffs overlooking the Rio Maciera, thus reaching the sandy spits at either side of the river’s mouth. The expeditionary-corps relied on the potential of 14,000 regular effectives. Troops had come to provide a military assistance to Portugal , Britain’s oldest ally, and to chase the French invaders from the country. They were commanded by a distinguished officer, Sir Arthur Wellesley.
The first skirmishing action took place at Obidos, on August 15th, 1808, against Delaborde’s division, a mobile force counting some 5000 men, and 5 guns, which was forced falling back to Rolica. After succesfully beating the French at Rolica (17 August), Wellesley moved on to the Maceira River, just west of Vimeiro; once there, more British troops were ordered ashore with horses and military equipment.
However, another battle loomed before the undanted British generalship.
A Most Glorious Day
The battle of Vimeiro, a strenous military encounter of the Peninsular War,
was fought on August 20, 1808, near the
On the night of August 20th, Wellesley ordered his troops to assume defensive positions on the ridges between the local village and the beach. At dawn, however, their élan was broken after suffering ineffective attacks. Although there was protracted combat and intensive hand-to-hand fighting, the French morale shackened.
To the north of town, Wellesley had stationed his troops out of enemy sight, and placed them behind the crest of a hill; then, favouring an indirect strategic pushing, he gave orders to wipe out the enemy parties as they came over the top. Due to this surprise, the French columns quickly recoiled. Thus circumstanced, heavy fighting resulted in the victory of the British under Major-General Wellesley.
French losses numbered 2,000 (killed, wounded, and missing, plus several hundred prisoners); 13 guns were lost to the Allies. Casualties to the British and Portuguese numbered 720 killed and wounded. Severely checked at Vimeiro, the French had no way carring out a protected withdrawal and were almost cut off.
Major Sir William Warre (1784-1853) wrote in his memoirs from the Peninsula a most stricking eyewitness narrative related to the sustained efforts and fighting against the gallant enemy host.
After the battle, the strategic situation compelled Junot to send General Kellermann to Wellesley’s Headquarters, and ask for a truce (22 August 1808). However, military contingencies were not so easy way at that moment; Wellesley had been superseded – in command– by the arrival of Sir Harry Burrard, and then by Sir Hew Dalrymple.
A rather furtuitous coincidence, which would have sensibly conditioned the events to come. British superior officers did not hesitate calling an end to firing. Both senior officers were affected by a strategic senility, and cautiousness was a distinguished feature of their coprehensive behaviour to the French. Displaying uncontained military determination, Wellesey advocated continuing the rout and driving the enemy host out of Portugal ; he sought to take control of Torres Vedras and cutting the French retreat, but was ordered to hold.
Overcoming Wellesley’s objections, and facing a strict strategic dicotomy
(offensive strategy, or strategic interlude), Hew Dalrymple resolved to offer
compensative terms to Junot, and to open negotiations. On August
23rd, Kellermann returned to the headquarters at Montachique, bearing the
terms of a suspension of arms. The French Commander-in chief acted on consequence;
he put the army in cantonments and repaired himself with an escort to Lisbon
(along with all the sick and wounded). The Lizandro
The Never Was Meeting of Cintra
Further talks between Dalrymple and François-Etienne Kellerman led to the signing of a Convention (A Lisbonne, le 30 août 1808 / Le général de division, Signé: Kellermann / Signé: Georges Murray, quartier-maître général). Ratified on August 31th, 1808 (Ratifié les articles ci-dessus de la convention, le 31 août 1808, Signé: Hew Dalrymple, commandant en chef les forces anglaises en Portugal ), the “Convention of Cintra” (aka Sintra) was a mutual agreement which denoted a peculiar character in political compromise and military strategy. The British took advantage of the following circumstances:
facilites were wrongly reported d to have been signed at the
After the emergency in Portugal, it can be emphasized that Dalrymple’s generous allowed terms evidenced peculiar similarities to the honours of war a garrison might receive after surrendering a valiantly disputed stronghold (by far, historic examples can be easily quoted; just one to be mentioned: the surrender of Huningue (Haut-Rhin) under Joseph Barbanègre (1772-1830) to the Austrians in 1815. Although Sir Arthur Wellesley advocated continuing offensive operations and voiced his objections, he had to sign the preliminary Armistice under orders.
The dispatches which arrived in England reported instead the role of the army, and the remarkable martial success gained over Napoleon’s troops. Uncontained enthusiasm broke out in the streets of London; the city’s church bells pealed, and cannons rounds were shot. However, when the Convention clauses were heard, they were firmly criticized; the unglorious signing turned into the fiercest display of anger and hot-tempers throughout the United Kingdom . The suppositive defeat of Junot’s divisional forces had been so transformed into a paradoxically accomplished French escape.
Because severe outrage broke out in all the social classes, Wellesley was
subsequently recalled from Portugal , together with Burrard and Dalrymple,
to face an official Board of inquiry into their conduct. Seemingly
disappointed, the King requested the Horse Guards to prosecute a judicial
the events leading to the Convention of Cintra. The Inquiry was held
in the Great Hall at the Royal
The three General officers were cleared; but while Wellesley soon returned to active military duty in Portugal , Burrard and Dalrymple were quietly pushed into retirement and removed from any further command.
All London remained in utter confusion becase it knew of Wellesley’s reluctance to accept the terms to the French; most probably, his determination to continue fighting the French after Vimeiro had spread quickly to the public. In appreciation of Wellington’s military accomplishments, he was voted the official thanks of the Parliament on January 27, 1809.
Sir John Moore commenting on the Inquiry, shared the popular sentiment of that time.
“Sir Hew Dalrymple was confused and incapable beyond any man I ever saw head an army. The whole of his conduct then and since has proved him to be a very foolish man.” The command in Portugal was then taken over by Lieutenant General Sir John Moore (1761-1809).
1808: a payment of 40 millions Francs is requested by Napoleon from Portugal ; this pretentious extortion was intended to amortize the financial costs of warfare.
9th February 1808: nine Portuguese are brutally executed in Caldas da Rainha; the order had been imparted by Général de division Louis-Henri Loison (born at Damvilliers, Meuse, on 13 May 1771 -- there is further evidence that this is the right term of the location).
15th February 1808: Junot is appointed Commandant en Chef of the Portuguese army contingents; the Marquis de Alorna retained the position of Inspector General.
7th March 1808: Dom João and his Court arrive in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil .
11th March 1808: the town of Elvas is occupied by invading French troops.
17th May1808: few hundred Portuguese leading heads started in Lisbon a farcical welcome: the homage to General Junot.
18th May1808: the new army model; French trained Portuguese units left the Country to reach metropolitan France ; they were to be incorporated in the French forces.
June1808: social uprising against the French broke out: a severe revolt easily spread throughout Portugal ; Northern Portuguese towns were involved, and, in particular, Oporto revolted against the occupying French forces.
5th June 1808: Loison occupies Almeida.
10th June1808: from Brazil , Dom João IV, Prince Regent of Portugal, declares war on France .
21st June1808: the forces under General Loison are attacked near Mesão Frio.
25th June1808: the occupying French army retakes the town of Coimbra.
July1808: the towns of Arronches, Elvas, Estremoz, Évora, Leiria, Nazaré, Portalegre and Tomar are sacked by the French.
16th July1808: the Fort of Almeida is facing a blockade by Loyal Portuguese forces.
30th July1808: combined Portuguese-Spanish forces are defeated near Évora by the army of General Loison.
1st August 1808: Brtish troops led by General Arthur Wellesley land near Figueira da Foz.
17th August 1808: Battle of Rolica.
21st August 1808: Battle of Vimeiro; on account of his brilliant services Wellesley is awarded the aristocratic title of Conde do Vimeiro.
30th August 1808: Treaty of Sintra.
15th September 1808: General Junot and his army sail from Lisbon back to France .
18th September 1808: General Dalrymple officially declares the reinstatement of the Royal Council.
2nd October1808: surrender of the French forces holding the Fort of Almeida.
Bibliography and further Reading:
Dalrymple, Hew, Sir. Memoir, written by General Sir Hew Dalrymple, Bart. Of His Proceedings as Connected with the Affairs of Spain , and the Commencement of the Peninsular War. London: Thomas And William Boone, Strand. MDCCCXXX.
Fortescue, J. W.. A History of the British Army. Macmillan & Co. 1912.
Glover, Michael. Britannia Sickens: Sir Arthur Wellesley and the Convention of Cintra. Leo Cooper, London 1970.
Glover, Michael. The Napoleonic Wars: an illustrated
history 1792-1815. Hippocrene Books, Inc.,
Hamilton, T.. Annals of the Peninsular Campaigns. Blackwood, Edimburgh 1829.
Havens, Raymond D.. A Project of Wordsworth’ s. Review of English Studies, Vol. 5, No. 19 (Jul., 1929), pp. 320-322.
Napier, William Francis Patrick, Sir. History of the war in the peninsula, and in the south of France , from the year 1807 to the year 1814. N. Y. Redfield, 1856.
Oman, Charles, Sir. A History of the Peninsular War. Volume One: 1807-1809 From The Treaty Of Fontainebleau To The Battle Of Corunna. Greenhill Books, 1995.
Schneer, R. M. Arthur Wellesley and the Cintra Convention: A New Look at an Old Puzzle. Journal of British Studies, 1980, 19: pp. 93-119.
Thomas, Gordon Kent . Wordsworth’ s dirge and promise: Napoleon, Wellington, and the Convention of Cintra. Lincoln, NE: Univ. Nebraska Press, 1971.
Warre, William, Sir. Letters from the Peninsula, 1808-1812. J. Murray, London, 1909. Edited by his nephew, the Rev. Edmond Warre.
Westmorland, John Fane, Earl of. Memoir of the early campaigns of the Duke of Wellington in Portugal and Spain by an officer employed in his army [i.e. J. F. Westmorland]. London, 1820.
Wordsworth, William. Wordsworth’ s tract on the Convention of Cintra (Published 1809) with Two Letters of Wordsworth wrtten in the year 1811 now republished.
With an Introduction by A.V. Dicey. London, Humphrey Milford, 1915.
Wordsworth, William. William Wordsworth’ s Convention of Cintra.
Harris. Recollections of rifleman Harris, (old 95th) with anecdotes of his officers and his comrads. By John Harris, H. Hurst, 1848.
Caustic War Poetry
NR. 1 – To Sir A. W., Anon, The Morning Chronicle (September 20, 1808).
JUNOT, we thought, was safe in hand:
You kindly send him home by sea.
* * *
NR. 2 – The Substance of a Long Convention, Anon, The Morning Chronicle (September 20, 1808).
Dialogue — Junot and Sir Hew.
JUNOT — Come, we will fight you once again;
* * *
NR. 3 – An Imitation, Anon, The Morning Chronicle (October 19, 1808).
"Oh! Imitatores serum pecus."— HOR.
"Where shall the lover rest, & c."— SCOTS MARMION.
Where shall the Hero rest,
Where shall the brave be laid,
Where thro’ groves soften’d gloom,
Sounds the far billow,
There, where the zephyr’s sigh,
There, deep in gentle sleep,
But where shall the traitor rest,
Who cou’d vauntingly lie,
Then blast them for ever.
Who cou’d shamelessly yield,
There, on the blasted heath,
There, where the bones of slain,
There, sharing one destiny
Shame and dishonour sit,
By their grave ever,
* * *
Nr. 4 – Catch, “A”, The Morning Chronicle (November 7, 1808).
Now singing by the People, the Ministers, and the
Who let the French escape? Was’t you, Sir, or you!
Sir HEW let the French escape, Sir HEW, Sir HEW.
What I, Sir? not I, Sir; you tell a cursed---, Sir,
What I, Sir? not I, Sir.
Of fighting you were shy, Sir.
Sir ARTHUR and Sir HEW.
‘Twas you that let the French escape, ‘twas you, Sir, you!
Come, come to trial; carry
You’ll discover at the Finis, Sirs,
What! we, Sir, we?
We heed you not a feather;
 French divisional forces (3 infantry divisions, and 1 cavalry division) counted 13050 men, plus a component of 23 artillery pieces.
 Junot was born on September 25th, 1771, at Bussy-le-Grand (Côte-d’Or). 1801, 20 November: appointed général de division; 1807, 18 October: entered Spain ; November: set out from Salamanca; early December: captured Lisbon, and was granted the ducal title of duc d’ Abrantès; 23 December: commandant en chef del’ armée du Portugal; 1808, 17 February: gouverneur-général du Portugal. British OOB.
Right wing: 1st Brigade, Major General Rowland Hill: 1/5th Foot, 1/9th Foot, 1/38th Foot, one Company 5/60 Regiment.
Centre: 6th Brigade, Brigadier General Henry Fane: 1/50th Foot 5 Companies,
5/60th Foot 4 Companies, 2nd/95th Foot; 7th Brigade, Brigadier General Robert
Anstruther: 2/9th Foot; 2nd/43rd Foot, 2nd/52nd Foot, 97th Foot.
Artillery: 18 guns (6 and 9 pounders), plus 660 all ranks.
Portuguese troops: Colonel Trant: Infantry 1,400; cavalry 250.
 London: 1909; specifications of the battle can be read at pp. 25-28.
“... To speak of the conduct of any body would in me seem presumptuous.
Every soldier seemed a hero. The fire for some time was tremendous, and the field strewed with our brave fellows in charging the guns. My horse, a beautiful, nice creature, I had received but a few days before from Porto, which cost me 38 Moidores, was shot in several places and fell dead. I got on another belonging to a Dragoon, but so tired he could not move; and when I had the cloak shot away from before me, I thought it high time to dismount and join the 36th, who were advancing, and with them I had the honour to remain during the rest of the action.
The loss of the French is very great, upward of 1200 killed and wounded left on the field, besides prisoners Our army lost about 500 in killed and wounded, and a good many Officers. The only one you know is little Ewart, shot through the leg, not dangerously I hope. The French army was commanded by Junot, Laborde, Loison, Charlot, Brennier. The two latter were taken with a great many Officers, and thirteen pieces of cannon. We could adore Ferguson for his bravery and skill and coolness in a fire like hail about him. His orderly, a very fine trooper of the 20th Drns., was shot close to me, and I fear cannot live. My poor friend Stuart of the 9th died two days ago, after the fight at Rolica, universally lamented-to me a loss I have not yet recovered. I was much attached to him.
I have not time to write any more particulars. I am very much fatigued, having been yesterday till past 5 PM collecting the wounded English and French, and conducting them to a place of safety from the Portuguese cowards, who won't fight a 1/16 of a Frenchman with arms, but plunder and murder the wounded, poor wretches.
Had I time I could tell you such things of these countrymen of mine, that you would not wonder at my despising them and having unpleasantly changed my opinion of their character. I am very happy to tell you none of our Staff were killed.
I have suffered a good deal all night and to-day from a bowel complaint, but am better.
I wish we had advanced to-day and followed up our victory, without giving them time to rally from a check they are so little used to.
Adieu; God bless you all.
Kindest love to them, from your most affectionate son.”
 François-Etienne Kellermann was born at Metz on August 4th, 1770. 1792, 10 May: lieutenant; 31 May: capitaine in the légion de Kellermann; 1793: appointed chef the bataillon in the chasseurs des Hautes Alpes; 1796, 15-17 November: served at Arcole; 1797, 14 January: at the battle of Rivoli; 16 March: at the crossing of the Tagliamento, where he receiced many sabre thrusts; 28 May: général de brigade; 1805, 2 December: wounded at the battle of Austerlitz; 1807, 2 August: under Junot in the armée du Portugal; 1808, 30 September: reimbarked to France.
 Sir Harry Burrard (1755-1813) was a seasoned veteran who had experienced extensive fighting in many British campaigns. He distinguished himself notably in America , Flanders and Denmark. In the Peninsula, because of his tactical immobilism and strategic inadequacy to engage the French, he got nicknamed Betty by his troops. It was Burrard who stopped Wellesley’s pursuit of General Junot forces after the crush at Vimeiro; this lenient strategy accounted for the only military disposition he issued in his one-day denigrated command of the army.
 Dalrymple, Hew Whitefoord (3 December 1750-9 April 1830). 1763: became an ensign of the 31st foot; 1779: was knighted; 1790: he obtained a colonelcy; 1794: major general; 1796: Lieutenant Colonel, 66th Foot; 1801: Lieutenant General; 1806-1808: Lieutenant Governor of Gibraltar; 1812: General; 1814: created a Baronet. Status of early services included Minorca (1768), Flanders (1793-1794), Guernsey (1796) and Home Staff (1795). A portrait of Sir Hew, Bt., by and published by Charles Turner (1773-1857; engraver), after John Jackson (1778-1831, portrait painter) mezzotint, was published on 24 January 1831. The second son of Sir Hew (Leighton Cathcart Dalrymple) was a lieutenant-colonel of the 15th King’s Hussars; at the head of his regiment he highly distinguished himself at the battle of Waterloo (1815). He had three horses killed under him, and his left leg was carried off by a cannon ball. In 1820, he died at Delrow House. Delrow House (a two-storied house of plastered brickwork, hamlet of Delrow, on the road to Stanmore) was in the possession of General Dalrymple. In 1830, he was succeeded by his brother (General Sir Adolphus Dalrymple, bart.).
 The British writer Lord Byron dilates on the charms of “Cintra’s glorious Eden” in his work Childe Harold’ s Pilgrimage (ref. Canto I, stanzas 18-21); further detail can be read in a letter he sent to his mother (11 Aug. 1809). At Elvas, the French commandant Girod de Novilais refused to yield the place; the garrison surrendered after the arrival of a British regimental force under Hope. Later (October 7th), this troop was put on board transports at Aldea Gallega. A comparative similarity happened to the garrison of Almeida, whose units did not want to leave the fortified structure. Under the direction of a monk – José de la Madre de Dios – the peasants poisoned the fountains by which many of the garrison were sick, and many of their cattle; thus compelled, the soldiers fell into severe want of provisions. The French force (amounting to 1,400 men) gave up the place to the English, and was conducted to Oporto for embarking.
 Over twenty thousand (20,900) French troops were evacuated from Portugal. French soldiers were allowed passage home retaining their personal equipment and individual properties (which was mostly looted Portuguese goods); because the baggage of an army commander was exceedingly cumbersome, Junot demanded five ships to remove his “personal effects”. Under the clauses (i.e. provisions) of the Cindra Convention, the troops were transported by the Royal Navy vessels to Rochefort. Junot landed at La Rochelle on 11 October 1808; he was accompanied by a couple of femmes de joie (i.e. mistresses).
 Nothwistanding all the obloquy that was later thrown upon it, a much careful specification is needed. The Convention was first negotiated at Lisbon, and then signed by the British commander at Torres Vedras; it obtained the name of the “Convention of Cintra” from Sir Hew Darlrymple’s dispatch accompanying this piece being dated from that place (Dalrymple ratified the treaty clauses at Cintra, a location which became his headquarters on September 2nd).
Byron, in his work Childe Harold’ s Pilgrimage (Stanza 24, line 1) wrote: “Behold the hall where chiefs were late convened!”.
He was led into thinking that the Convention of Cintra was signed in the palace of the Marchese Marialva.
“[...] on the 2nd, I established my head-quarters at Cintra.
[...] from Cintra, therefore, my despatches, giving an account of the recent transactions, were dated, and sent off” [Cfr. Sir Hew Dalrymple, Memoir; p. 71].
In a later passage, it is equally stated: “A name improperly and unluckily applied to this treaty; as it produced an opinion, that it was actually negotiated and concluded in that village, in a certain hall, in the Marialva Palace, whereas Cintra was in rear of the “formidable position”, the possession of which was obtained by the Convention” [Cfr. Sir Hew Dalrymple, Memoir; p. 71].
 Most shrewdly, Dalrymple’s reports were written to center any military responsability and subsequent criticism on Wellington, who still head a cabinet post in the government.
“Wellesley assisted in the discussions which took place upon this occasion; and I need urge no other reason for my assenting to the measure proposed than that it was recommended by Sir Arthur Wellesley, whose opinion, as being the most competent judge of the relative situations of the armies at this point of time, I should have thought it my duty to follow, even if his judgement had not been so particularly recommended to my attention by the Secretary of State.
Sir Arthur recommended the measure of allowing the French to evacuate Portugal with their arms and baggage, and that every facility for this purpouse should be afforded to them, [...]” [Cfr. Sir Hew Dalrymple, Memoir; p. 64].
 The Morning Post of September 2 headed: “Most Glorious News from Portugal , Complete Defeat of General Junot and Proposals for the Surrender of His Army”. The newspaper was mantained by the opposition; the journal, which published Wordsworth and Coleridge (plus a number of other poets), was put on the payroll of Carlenton House in 1789. Purchased in 1795 by Daniel Stuart (1766-1846), the Post was turned into a leading Whig journal. Stuart sold it in 1803.
 The political and social reaction in Britain was almost dramatic; it was sustained by the opposition to the government, and by the press. Mocking cartoons equally satirized the terms of the Convention. Apart from the glittering lights of inflammatory rhetoric, scathing articles were printed too. The strongest protest appeared in the Whig press. Scores of poems related to the events in Portugal were published in The Morning Chronicle, most of them, like Catch, were worst satires holding Wellesley, Dalrymple, and the entire ministry responsible.
Written in the form of a song (each verse is attributed to the People, Sir
Arthur, Sir Hew, and the Ministers), Catch let the People conclude:
“We heed you not a feather; You’re drivellers altogether!
And we’ll hang you altogether up; yes, you, Sirs, and you!”. To
the surprise of the Ministry, The Courier, a strong Tory
supporter in 1808, criticized the Convention. Simply-worded ballads like An
Imitation expressed the veil of sorrowful consternation surrounding Cintra: “There,
sharing one destiny Under a nameless stone, Let the Knights Cintra,
three, Mingle their dust alone.
 Sir David Dundas headed the Board of Inquiry; he was to act in the position and charge of presidency. Born on December 7th, 1749, he died on 10 January 1826. A native of Edinburgh, and the third son of a merchant.1770: major of the 15th dragoons, by purchase; 1774: went to Flanders to attend the French and Austrian military exercises; 1778: quarter-master-general, 1781: he was made a colonel by brevet; 1782: lieutenant-colonel of the 2nd regiment of horse; 1785: he attended the Prussian exercises at Berlin; 1788: adjutant-general in Ireland; 1790: major-general; 1801: colonel of the North British dragoons; 1802: attained the rank of general. A stern disciplinarian, he served as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces from 1809 to 1811. On 22 May 1815 he was created a baronet.
 Worth mentioning the case of Lord Byron’s satirical attitude. He too lamented the unfamous Convention: “And ever since that martial synod met, Britannia sickens, Cintra! at thy name; And folks in office at the mention fret, And fain would blush, if blush they could, for shame.How will posterity the deed proclaim!Will not our own and fellow-nations sneer, To view these champions cheated of their fame, By foes in flight o’erthrown, yet victors here, Where Scorn her finger points through many a coming year?” [ref. Childe Harold’ s Pilgrimage published in 1812, Canto I, xxxvi].
Laureate William Wordsworth, a famous British poet, wrote in 1808 a pamphlet – Concerning the Convention of Cintra – that was “composed while the author was engaged in writing a tract occasioned by it”. This was the most famous protest in its day. Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were by then determined supporters of active warfare operations against post-Revolutionary France . Coleridge helped writing the pamphlet, and Thomas De Quincey saw through the press. Its contents brightly remarked that the treatment accorded the French contingents was much detrimental to Spanish and Portuguese nationalism. It further suggested that the national feeling of these peoples had to be aroused in order to defeat the invading troops of the emperor Napoleon I. Worth mentioning that at the beginning of their careers Wordsworth and Coleridge had been considered sharing pro-Revolutionary and anti-war positions; after the events in Portugal (summer 1808), they become advocating multiply efforts of waging war.
Placed on the Napoleon Series December 2006
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