Research Subjects: Miscellaneous

A Strategic Syllogism of the 1810 Portuguese Campaign: a Day of Wrath, A Day of Death: Tojal, 20 September 1810 Part II

History and Strategic Applications: Studies for the Bicentenary, 1810-2010

By Roberto A. Scattolin, Italy


September 1810, military campaign of Portugal.

Trancoso. Undeniably having an atmosphere of the Middle Ages, and equivalent similarities with the history of Portugal, Trancoso was stoutly protected by a powerful recinto amuralhado (encircling walled perimeter). Due to its conferred high character of strategic defence at the border with Spain, the town was a valuable and important deterrent as an inhabited fortressed site. The imposing majestic entrance named Portas d’El Rei, is the principal access in the constructed fortified system. The recognized elements of structural architecture are a couple of mighty towers integrated by an ogival arch. A consolidated strong point is here capitalized.

Obscure events of war, cloudy tactical dysfunctions in one unconquered country of the Continent, not yet under the aggrandizement politics and annexed domination of the Empire.  During a lax perfunctory movement of advance to gain reach to the town of Viseu, the grand parc d’artillerie of Masséna’s French lead invading army fell into a cunningly lied ambush carried out by consistent Lusitanian armed forces.

The commemorative evocation of this dramatic war occurrence, thereafter referred to with the nominal definition of combat of Tojal, has been vividly handed down in his mémoires d’épopée by a stouthearted impavid French officer: Jean-Baptiste-Antoine-Marcelin de Marbot[1].

Extensively compiled as significant historic narration of an age of upheaval, Marbot’s detailed documentary material does not permit excessive knowledge to establish the true correspondent site where this vigorous fact of arms was cruelly disputed.  This enthralling European modern history investigation proposes subsequent elaborations of case study to examine in-depth Marbot’s telling textual passages; and taking into account the technical and functional and military viewpoints which allow an accurate reconstruction more logical and plausible of the wild-fought martial encounter.

The evaluation of the rough road itineraries and the consequentiality of the events have not been omitted.

Marching in a foreign land did the French regiments’ characters of mobility and tactical flexibility assure adequate and practicable protection to the grand parc d’artillerie? From which place did it come, and where was transported all the matériel (materials) and the ressources supplémentaires d’équipement (supplementary resources of equipment) that composed the great artillery park? How many French soldiers were counted in the ranks and effectively involved, entrapped in the contrariety of the arms?  How did the fiery-determined Anglo-Luso combat ground formations deployed upon their man-power? Under severe adverse circumstances, were the French escort units able to react to the unexpectedly launched Portuguese threat? Why did the hastily-gathered infantry formations not surrender to the overwhelming attacking forces?

Trancoso - Egreja de Santa Luzia, a XIIth Century Holy Church.

Spurring interrogatives will not be left without proper corroborated replies. These scholarly dissertations[2] recount the clash at Tojal, a forgotten military history and retentissante matière disquisitive (resounding disquisitional theme), by means of an authoritative voice: the French memorialist Marbot, Maréchal Masséna’s second aide-de-camp.

Austere combatant’s voice, factually oriented polarization of a glorious past time.

Documentary piece

He made his artillery park march on the extreme right of the column outside the masses of infantry, its only escort being an Irish battalion in the French service and a company of French grenadiers[3].

Comment: An articulated terminology, for a thirty-five terms count. This straightforward sentence contains a few important specifications, on the tactical order of advance of the Armée de Portugal (French army of Portugal)[4], and in a similarly significant manner on the march dispositions assigned to the grand parc d’artillerie (great artillery park)[5].

Details on the supporting units are equally exposed.

Firstly: it is well evidenced that the third person singular “He […], […]”, is having reference to the commanding General-Officer of the French Army force in Portugal – the Maréchal d’Empire André Masséna.  On making unfailingly clear this first affirmation, the author sustained “his personal view”: that it was under Monsieur le Maréchal’s responsibility, and on the peremptory orders he issued, that the artillery park followed a “forwards movement”.

However, neither affirmation specified – in the literary memoir – which Army corps, nor which was the assigned line of march (consequential to an ordre de marche), by country roads, villages, and depopulated rural districts.

Almost inexplicably, these generally exposed details, essential to the points, are dry, tight of further éclaircissements corroborés (corroborated elucidations; clarifications), and do outline a kind of cognitive vacuity provided by Marbot.

Rather surprisingly, a prudential attitude is carefully needed.
Trancoso – Prospective view of the city walls
Relying upon this formative context, one question does parenthetically arise: what were the reasons that Marbot was so sparing with his information in his Memoir?  

Why did he so marginally trace the circumstantial elements of this episode?  Perhaps, had the young aide-de-camp wished to hide some outlines on the military matter? Did he cover someone’s executive role and direct implications? Another matter of relevancy which ensued is that the artillery park followed in the march on the extreme right of the main column of the French troops.  This assertion implied that the grand parc outflanked the main force, and was therefore unprotected by the régiments réguliers de ligne (regular infantry regiments of the Line).  What was the reason behind this tactical heterogeneity? Some substantial replies and analytical considerations can be duly discerned and promptly examined.

It seems evident and purely deductive that there were some causes which affected the principles of causal motivations and which forced the choice.  A few weighted contingencies were conditioning factors.

A) - In primis, the slowdown of the infantry units – caused by the mobile artillery pieces -- re-directed on obliged itinerary; and the continued time constraints and delays, the build-ups that these limiting factors were to cause to the advance.

B) - The hard-pressed difficulties traversing the rugged and rocky ground[6] which was experienced in the progression phase of march – a landscape interspersed with natural obstacles that were unfamiliar along the march, and scarcely suited to the advancing French.      

C) - The serious lack of foresight in recognizing the crucial necessity of viable country roads[7] and the consistently inadequate intelligence on the terrain, so all the critical deficiencies of the movement[8] were caused by the acrimonious complications of the asperous terrain; in many instances, these shortcomings were engendered by irresponsible and ineffectively executed reconnaissance missions – as well as miserably failing to acquire trustworthy information on the topographical features of the country[9].

Was that méconnaissance du terrain (ignorance of the ground) sheer incompetence and crude blameworthy laziness?

D) - The fact that where the infantries could pass with great difficulty, the carriages and artillery pieces[10] could by no means pass over the terrain[11] and scraggy slopes.

This was the burdensome trick.  In order not to retard the march of the troops, some unnamed officiers généraux (general officers) took responsibility: to order the great park to move on one new single track-line, an alternative to the échelonnement (spacing) and congested, over-crowding movement of the troops, but not to the general advance, transit activity, and mobility of the army.

From the deductive elements gathered from reading the text and in the intelligibility process, one new preferential option remarkably stands out in the proficiency of “an artificial spaciousness” which had been created to permit the easy passage of the artillery pieces. Consequently, this innovative contrived itinerary was appropriate to facilitate the march and the advancement of the pieces -- the creation of one space, interposed between the marching regiments, and the artillery pieces.

A space that permitted the transport of guns, wagons, and horse-drawn caissons chests, and one march conveniently aimed to release the prospective obstacles to be met. Did this practical expedient create a tactical innovation to the French advancing troops? Whatever the circumstances, was that space of march out-distanced as regards to the movements of the army corps? From the acknowledged difficulties on the ground, it was clear that the infantry units could not continue to accompany the artillery pieces, and that the latter had found themselves at a distance – of visual magnitude, as well as support.

Third: as concerns the auxiliary squads, the author points to a couple of infantry formations.

A military unit at Company level – nominally, composed of Grenadiers –, plus one infantry battalion of Irish extraction, stood as complements; these fighting troops were capable of accomplishing and ready to move in case of   any emergency of a strategic nature. These soldats were not conjoined, but had been assigned positions of march, and tactical order – to develop convenient applications of duty and security efforts – and attempting to avert hostile incursions of the enemy parties (a matter of concern were the much feared Anglo-Lusitanian light cavalry squadrons).

The Grenadiers “covered” (although a rather restricted definition, it well explains the assumed significance which was entrusted to this regular unit) in “the head” of the “march force” (id est, artillery pieces, plus annexed parks, and ammunitions chests).  Under this convenient tactic, one would be prone to think that this unit acted à l’avant - garde (in the vanguard), within visual distance of the pieces.  This head detachment certainly numbered seasoned veterans in the Company ranks. To entrust them this role they were acting through necessity; military experience was a fundamental requisite – opposed to recrues inexpérimentés (inexperienced raw recruits) scarcely trained, and detached to service in a foreign land that was vehemently hostile to the French invaders.

It did not appear to be the case that the French were so unprepared and fearless to face hostile acts opposing green soldiers; quite the contrary, they chose seasoned and hard-experienced veterans.

At any rate, this was a difficult position, which implied heavy responsibilities in the operative field.

A further observation: after an in-depth reading of the text, one “casual reader” would think that the support units to the artillery convoy were somewhat scarce, inadequate for the consigns, with reduced numbers of soldiers.

To this primary observation, it must be added that this is a “reverse telling” -- which meant that because of the difficult terrain, its roughness seemed to offer more consistent natural protection to the advancing park, carriages, and mobile pieces.

Therefore, it was no longer a question of effectifs réguliers (regular effectives), but a question of the inherent sustainability of the natural environment, in addition to the protection afforded by the ground, a question going hand in hand with the hardships and inconveniences of the same march.  All told, in this instance, there were recognized the disadvantages which precluded the mobility on account of the intricacies of the ground; and the pros, the advantages of the terrain (confined to the protection offered by the natural configuration: hills, brushes, tangled woods).  In evaluating the complex situation with a combination of variables (the wide natural extensions which had to be traversed, the significant time delays, and the generally related difficulties and unexpected complications), hopes were harboured that by hard work and a personal sense of duty the French would be able to pass through it; and be ready in arms to face major inter-active necessities (the civilian uprisings, and hostile attacks of the Anglo-Lusitanian troops).


1810, 19 February: Portugal and England sign a further Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Trade.

June: Third invasion of the French army this time led by Maréchal Massena.

English reinforcements arrive by boat from England.

24 July: Battle of Bridge of Côa. The English forces under General Robert Craufurd create severe casualties and delay the advance of the French troops led by Marshal Michael Ney.

1 August: Declaration by Marshal Massena that a large French army was invading Portugal from Ciudade Rodrigo, in Spain, to fight the English army and not the Portuguese.

15 August: Siege of Almeida – English forces forced to surrender on the 18th of August after heavy bombardment from French forces.

10 September: Fifty leading Portuguese liberals are exiled to the Island of Terceira, in Azores, for promoting the policies.

18 September: The French army occupies Viseu.

27 September: Battle of Buçaco – The French army led by Marshal Masséna suffers a serious defeat against an inferior number of English and Portuguese troops.

1 October: The French army occupies Coimbra and sacks the town.

7 October: Portuguese troops led by Coronel Trant retake Coimbra.

Wellesley awarded title of Marquês de Torres Vedras.

14 October: The French army led by Masséna tries to penetrate without success the Linhas de Torres fortifications at Sobral – the foreign troops also attempt to cross the river by boat but the Chamusca boatmen burn many of their boats.

29 October: General Francisco da Silveira Pinto da Fonseca Teixeira, Conde de Amarante encircles the Fort of Almeida; he retreats on the 13th as superior French reinforcements arrive.

15 November: The French army short of supplies withdraws to Santarém.

30 December: Battle of Bridge of Abade – General Silveira engages with the French army led by General Clarapède near Lamego.

Bibliography and further reading

Primary Sources

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Gifford, C. H. (Esq.). History of the wars occasioned by the French Revolution, from the commencement of hostilities in 1792, to the end of the year 1816. Volume I. London: Printed and Published by W. Lewis, St. John’s Square. 1817.

Gifford, C. H.. THE LIFE OF THE MOST NOBLE ARTHUR, DUKE OF WELLINGTON; FROM HIS EARLIET YEARS, Down to the Treaty of Paris in 1815: Comprising Particular Details of the great Battles of VIMIERA, TALAVERA, SALAMANCA, VITTORIA AND THE PYRENEES; An historical View of the Origin, Progress, and Termination of the Peninsular War. VOL. I. London: Printed and Published by W. Lewis, 22, St. John’s Square; and sold by all the Booksellers. 1817.

Granville Eliot, William. A treatise of the defence of Portugal, with a military map of the country; to which is added, a sketch of the manners and customs of the inhabitants, and principal events of the campaigns under Lord Wellington. London: Printed for T. Egerton, Military Library, Whitehall. 1811.

Marbot, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine-Marcellin (Baron de). The Memoirs of Baron De Marbot, late Lieutenant-General in the French Army. Translated from the French by Arthur John Butler late fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. London, Longmans, Green, and Co.; and New-York: 1892. Vol. II, Chapter XII.

Marbot, (Baron de). Adventures of General Marbot. Edited and illustrated by John W. Thomason Jr.. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, London, 1935.

Pelet, Jean-Jacques-Germain (Baron). The French Campaign in Portugal 1810-1811: An Account. Edited, translated, and annotated by Dr. Donald Horward. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, University, 1973.

Wellesley Wellington, Arthur (1st Duke of). The dispatches of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington, K.G. during his various campaigns in India, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, The Low Countries, and France, from 1799 to 1818. Compiled from official and authentic documents by Lieut. Colonel Gurwood, Esquire to His Grace as Knight of the Bath. Volume the Sixth. London: John Murray, Albemarle Street. 1836.

Stothert, William (captain; adjutant Third Foot Guards). A narrative of the principal events on the campaigns of 1809, 1810, & 1811, in Spain and Portugal; interspersed with remarks on local scenery and manners. In a Series of Letters. London: Printed for P. Martin, (late of the Firm of Cuthell & Martin) corner of Orchard Street, Oxford Street; by W. Smith and Co. King Street, Seven Dials. 1812.

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Almanach Impérial pour l’année 1810, présenté à S. M. l’Empereur et Roi. À Paris, Testu, s.d..

Beaujot (Capitaine). Relation de captivité. Éditions Historiques Teissèdre, Paris, 2001.

Beauvais du Preau, Charles-Théodore. Annales des faits et des sciences militaires, faisant suite aux victoires et conquêtes des Français de 1792 à 1815. Paris, Panckoucke, 1818-1819.

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Belmas, Jacques Vital (chef de bataillon du Génie). Journaux des siéges faits ou soutenus par le français dans la péninsule, de 1807 à 1814; rédigés, d’après les ordres du Gouvernement, sur les documents existant aux archives de la Guerre et au dépôt des fortifications. Tome Premier. Paris, Chez Firmin Didot Frères et Cie, Rue Jacob, N° 24. M DCC XXXVI. Tome Deuxième. Paris, Chez Firmin Didot Frères et Cie, Rue Jacob, N° 56. M DCC XXXVI. Tome Deuxième. Paris, Chez Firmin Didot Frères et Cie, Rue Jacob, N° 56. M DCC XXXVII.

Collectif. Victoires, conquêtes, desastres, revers et guerres civiles des français, de 1792 à 1815. Tome XX. C. L. F. Panckoucke, Paris, 1820.

Delagrave, André. Campagne de l’armée française en Portugal, dans les années 1810 et 1811. Avec un précis de celles qui l’ont précédée. Par Mr. A.D.L.G., officier supérieur employé dans l’État-Major de cette armée. Paris, J. G. Dentu, Imprimeur-Libraire, Rue du Pont de Lodi, n° 9, près le Pont-Neuf. 1815.

––––––– (Colonel). Mémoires du colonel Delagrave, Campagne du Portugal (1810-1811). Avertissement et notes par Édouard Gachot. Paris, Ch. Delagrave, 1902.

Foy, Maximilien Sébastien (Général). Histoire de la guerre de la péninsule sous Napoléon précédée d’un tableau politique et militaire des puissances bélligérantes. Publiés par madame la comtesse Foy. Paris, Baudouin Frères, éditeurs, 1827.

–––––––. Histoire des guerres de la péninsule sous Napoléon précédée d’un tableau politique et militaire des puissances bélligérantes. Paris, Houdaille, 1834.

Fririon, François Nicolas. Journal historique de la campagne de Portugal, entreprise par les français, sous les ordres du maréchal Masséna, prince d’Essling, du 15 septembre 1810 au 12 mai 1811. Leneveu, Paris, 1841.

Guingret, P.-F. (Chef de bataillon, en demi-activité, et Officier de l’Ordre Royal de la Légion d’honneur). Relation historique et militaire de la campagne de Portugal, sous le Maréchal Masséna, Prince d’Essling; contenant les opérations militaires qui se rapportent à l’expédition de Masséna, et les divers faits de l’Armée de Portugal, jusqu’à la fin de la Guerre d’Espagne. Limoges, chez Bargeas, Imprimeur-Libraire, rue Ferrerie, Mai, 1817.

Hulot, Jacques Louis. Souvenirs militaires du baron Hulot, génèral d’artillerie, 1773-1843. Paris, Spectateur militaire,1886.

Koch, Jean-Baptiste (Général). Mémoires de Masséna. Rédigées d’après les documents qu’il a laissés et sur ceux du dépôt de la guerre et du dépôt des fortifications. Paulin et Lechevalier, Paris, 1848-1850.

Lamare (colonel). Relation des sièges et défenses d’Olivença, de Badajoz et de Campo-Mayor en 1811 et 1812. Paris : Anselin et Pochard, 1825.

Lemonnier-Delafosse, Jean-Baptiste (Lieutenant-Colonel en retraite, Officier de la Légion d’Honneur). Campagnes de 1810 à 1815. Souvenirs Militaires faisant suite à ceux des Première campagne et deuxième campagnes de St-Domingue, de 1801 à 1809. Havre, Imprimerie du Commerce – Alph. Lemale. 1850.

Marbot, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine-Marcellin (Baron de). Mémoires du Général Baron de Marbot. Paris, Librairie Plon, E. Plon, Nourrit et Cie, Imprimeurs-Éditeurs, Rue Garancière, 10, 1891.  Vol. II, pp. 378-380.

Marcel, Nicolas (Capitaine). Campagnes du Capitaine Marcel du 69e de ligne en Espagne et en Portugal (1808-1814). Mises en ordre, annotées et publiées par le Commandant Var. Paris, Librairie Plon, Plon-Nourrit et Cie., Imprimeurs-Éditeurs, 1913.

Marmont, Auguste-Frédéric-Louis Viesse (de, Maréchal Duc de Raguse). Mémoires du Maréchal Marmont Duc de Raguse de 1792 à 1841. Imprimés sur le manuscript original de l’auteur. Paris, Perrotin, 1857.

MÉMOIRES D’ANDRÉ MASSÉNA - DUC DE RIVOLI - PRINCE D’ESSLING - MARÉCHAL D’ EMPIRE. Rédigés d’après les documents qu’il a laissés et sur ceux du dépôt de la guerre et du dépôt des fortifications recueillis par le Général Koch. Avec un atlas. Tome septième.  A Paris au 7 du faubourg St-Honoré près la nouvelle église de La Madeleine CHEZ JEAN DE BONNOT tenant négoce de libraire à l’enseigne du canon. 1967.

Naylies, M. (de). Mémoires sur la Guerre d’Espagne, pendant les années 1808, 1809, 1810 et 1811. Paris, Chez Magimel, Anselin et Pochard. 1817.

Noël, Jean Nicolas Auguste (Colonel). Souvenirs militaires d’un officier du premier empire (1795-1832). Publié par Lucien Noël. Berger-Levrault et Cie, Paris, 1895. 

–––––––. Souvenirs militaires d’un officier du Premier Empire. Paris, À la Librairie des Deux Empires, 1999.

Pelet-Clozeau (Général). Mémoires sur ma campagne du Portugal (1810-1811). Édition établie par Christian Schneider. Éditions Historiques Teissèdre, Paris, 2003.

Peltier, Jean-Gabriel. La Campagne de Portugal, en 1810 et 1811; ouvrage imprimé à Londres, qu’il étoit défendu de laisser pénétrer en France, sous peine de mort; dans lequel les jactances de Bonaparte sont appréciées, ses mensonges dévoilés, son caractère peint au naturel, et sa chute prophétisée. Seconde édition. Paris, chez A. Eymery-Le Normant, 1814.

‎Péreuse, Bauyn (de). Campagne de Portugal (1810-1811). Souvenirs d’un lieutenant d’artillerie. Revue rétrospective, 1889, vol. X, pp. 1-25.

Rocca, Albert Jean Michel (De). Mémoires sur la guerre des français en Espagne; par M. (De) Rocca, officier de hussards et chevalier de l’ordre de la Légion d’Honneur. De l’Imprimerie de J. Gratiot. Paris, Gide Fils, Libraire, Rue Saint-Marc, N°. 20; H. Nicolle, à la Librairie Stéréotype, Rue de Seine, N°. 12. M. DCCC. XIV.

–––––––. Mémoires sur la guerre des français en Espagne. Genève: Imprimerie Jules-Guillaume Fick, 1886.

–––––––. Mémoires sur la guerre des français en Espagne. Troisième édition. Genève: Cherbulliez, & P. Fischbacher, 1890.

Sarrazin, Jean. Histoire de la Guerre d’Espagne et de Portugal de 1807 à 1814 par M. Sarrazin, maréchal de camp, un des commandants de la Légion d’Honneur et ancien chef d’Etat-major du prince royal de Suède aux armées d’Allemagne et d’Italie. Ornée de la carte d’Espagne et de Portugal, où sont tracées les marches des armées française, anglaise et espagnole, dressée par M. Lapie. Paris: J. G. Dentu, imprimeur-libraire, rue du Pont de Lodi, n.° 9, près le Pont Neuf, 1814.

Sprünglin (Colonel). Souvenirs des campagnes d’Espagne et de Portugal. Paris, Librairie Historique F. Teissèdre, 1998.

Secondary Publications

1. English works:

Chartrand, René. Bussaco 1810: Wellington defeats Napoleon’s Marshals. Campaign Series 97. Osprey Publishing Ltd., Oxford, 2001.

Gallaher, J. G.. Napoleon’s Irish legion. Southern Illinois University Press, 1993.

Glover, Michael. The Peninsular War, 1807-14: a concise history. David & Charles, Newton Abbot; Archon Books, New York, 1974.

–––––––. The Napoleonic Wars: an illustrated history 1792-1815. Hippocrene Books, New York, 1979.

Horward, Donald D.. The Battle of Bussaco: Masséna vs. Wellington. Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1965.

–––––––. Napoleon and Iberia: The Twin Sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida, 1810. Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1984.

–––––––. The French campaign in Portugal 1810-1811. An account by Jean Jacques Pelet. Edited, annotated, and translated by Donald D. Horward. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1973.

Marshall-Cornwall, James. Marshal Massena. Oxford University Press, 1965.

Napier, William Patrick (Major-General, Sir, K.C.B.). History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France, from the year 1807 to the year 1814. London: Thomas and William Boone, New Bond Street. MDCCCLXVII. Vol. III. Book XI.- Chap. 6., p. 17, l. 1-23.

Oman, Charles William Chadwick (Sir). A History of the Peninsular war. Oxford: The Claredon Press, 1902-1930. Vol. I: 1807-1809 (1902); Vol. II.: Jan. 1809-Sep. 1809 (1903); Vol. III: Sep. 1809-Dec. 1810 (1908); Vol. IV: Dec. 1810-Dec. 1811 (1911); Vol. V: Oct. 1811-Aug. 1812 (1914); Vol. VI: Sep. 1812-Aug. 1813 (1922); Vol. VII: Aug. 1813-Apr. 1814 (1930).

Trant, Nicholas. The Journal of Clarissa Trant 1800‑1832. Ed. by C. G. Luard, London, 1925.

2. French works

Audebaud, Christian. Le général baron Pelet-Clozeau. La science et la gloire. Préface de Roger Dufraisse. Éditions S.P.M., 1999.

Bonnal, Henri (Général). La vie militaire du maréchal Ney, duc d’Elchingen, prince de la Moskowa. Paris, Librairie militaire R. Chapelot et cie,  1910-14. 

Do Nascimento, Manuel. Troisième invasion napoléonienne au Portugal (Bicentenaire 1810-2010). L’Harmattan, 2010.

Fieffé, Eugène. Histoire des troupes étrangères au service de la France  depuis leur origine jusqu’à nos jours et de tous les régiments levés dans les pays conquis sous la première République et l’Empire. Paris, Librairie Militaire Dumaine, 1854.

Mullié, Charles. Biographie des célébrités militaires des armées de terre et de mer de 1789 à 1850. Paris, Poignavant et Compagnie, 1852.

Vane, Charles William (marquis de Londonderry). Histoire de la Guerre de la Péninsule, (années 1808 et suivantes). Paris, Bossange, 1828.

3. Portuguese works

Bento Da Guia, A.. As vinte freguesias de Moimenta da Beira. Eden Gráfico, S.A., Viseu, 2001.

Costa, Fernandes. Memórias de um Ajudante de Campo, Crónica Pitoresca da Terceira Invasão Francesa. Tomo I. Lisboa, M. Gomes, Editor («Biblioteca Militar Ilustrada, vol.III»), 1896.

Luz Soriano, Simão José (da). História da Guerra Civil e do estabelecimento do governo parlamentar em Portugal comprehendendo a história diplomática militar e politica d’este reino desde 1777 até 1834. Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional, 1866-1890.

Peres, Damião António. História de Portugal.  Palestras na Emissora Nacional. Porto: Portucalense Editora, 1951-1952.

Ribeiro, Arthur.  A Legião Portugueza ao serviço de Napoleão (1808-1813). Lisboa, Livraria Ferin, 1901.

Tomás, Anibal Fernandes. Episódios da Terceira Invasão Francesa. Diário do General Manuel Inácio Martins Pamplona (Maio a Setembro de 1810). Figueira, Imprensa Lusitana, 1896.

Vincente, Antonio Pedro. Um Soldado da Guerra Peninsular - Bernardim Freire de Andrade e Castro. Boletim do Arquivo Histórico Militar, 40.º volume, 1970.

Vitoriano, José César. Invasões Francesas em Portugal. Tip. Cooperativa Militar, Lisboa, 1904-1910.

Vitoriano, José César. Batalha do Buçaco. Lisboa, Imprensa da Armada, 1930.

Vitorino, Pedro. Invasões Francesas (1807-1810). Liv. Figueirinhas, Porto, 1945.


[1] The son of général de division Jean-Antoine Marbot (Altillac, December 7, 1754-Genova, April 19, 1800). A native of La Rivière à Beaulieu (Corrèze, France), on August 18, 1782 – died in Paris (November 16, 1854).

[2]The researched studies follow the logic lexemic adequacy and concatenation of Marbot’s settled narrative scheme. To penetrate the literary text’s transcription is a pondered and constructive nécessité structurelle (structural necessity) in order to evaluate all the reminiscent annotations provided by the author. The recollection starts by taking into anticipation, and then into examination, the battle, first of all on the base of conventionally established criteria of comprehension: the French troops in the field, their tactical movements, the challenging topographic intricacies of the country, the predominantly exposed strategic cadre, and the tactics. Persevering through his efficacious chronicled efforts, Marbot presents the counter-opposed deployments – the Portuguese, the French –, with the aim to comprehend the salient moments and how the antagonists rivalled in the surroundings of Tojal. Marbot further discerns on the causal motivations why the interacting circumstances permitted this embuscade (ambush), an étonnant événement tactique (amazing tactical event), and the vibrant collision on ground. The French officer’s conclusive views are illuminative; in a similar manner, the influence developed by the respective commanders acquired relevance. Their personal incidence had a resolving outcome on the combat. The most affectionate purists of the “military Art” will have patiently to wait reading the parts numbered IV, V, VI; the mentioned dissertations will be focused on the true complementarity of causes and on a lengthy analytical description of the tough-contested combat action nearby Tojal. The whole series combine a surprisingly and unique new look at this singularly neglected facet of Napoleonic military history.  

[3]Marbot, Baron de. Adventures of General Marbot. Edited and illustrated by John W. Thomason Jr.. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, London, 1935, p. 266, l. 29-33.    

[4] Deducting the garrisons left at Rodrigo, Almeida, and Salamanca, with the sick, the total number  of the combatants amounted to 50,000, with sixty guns and a great quantity of ammunition chests. This was far too large a train for a rough country like Portugal, where there were scarcely any high roads. Almost the only communications are narrow, rocky paths, often very steep, and everything is transported on mule-back. There are even districts where roads are absolutely unknown. Lastly, except in certain valleys, the soil is most arid, and offers insufficient resources for maintaining an army” [vide: Marbot, Baron de. Adventures of General Marbot. Edited and illustrated by John W. Thomason Jr.. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, London, 1935, p. 265, l. 6-8, p. 266, l. 1- 8].  

[5]À propos, delving deeper on this delicate subject-matter of analysis, a military history case study open to ancillary notes of reference, research and uniformology, it is a substantial opportunity to signal a beautifully rendered polychromatic effort executed by the accomplished and discriminative French artist Lucien Rousselot (1900-1992). Remarkably, a fine work. For practical facilities of consultation, vide: Rousselot, Lucien.  L’Armée Française.  Planche No. 55 :  Train d’Artillerie 1800-1815. Èdition 1965.  Further thematic readings of consultation: Charmy, G.. Splendeur des uniformes de Napoléon. Marine-Gendarmerie-Artillerie-Génie-Écoles. Éditions Charles Hérissey, 2005; L’armée française par Lucien Rousselot. Le Livre chez Vous, Paris, 2008; Rousellot, Lucien. Napoleon’s army: 1790-1815. Casemate Publishers, 2010.

[6]Le Portugal est une des contrées les plus montagneuses et les plus pittoresques; arrosé et fécondé par plusieurs fleuves majestueux, orné de bois et de forêts, il est aussi coupé par beaucoup de petites rivières et de torrens qui grossissent prodigieusement aux moindres pluies. On y voit souvent les sites les plus riants et les plus féconds, auprès des aspects les plus arides. Les routes, étroites, irrégulières et montueuses, sont presque impraticables pour d’autres voitures que celles du pays, qui sont traînées par des boeufs. La grande route de Badajoz à Lisbonne fait exception; elle est fort belle. Les chemins de traverse ne sont que des sentiers, qui gravissent des montagnes escarpées pour descendre ensuite dans des ravins profonds. La configuration du sol fait donc du Portugal un théâtre peu propre à la guerre, et semble défendre les habitans de toute invasion. Aussi les portugais ont toujours résisté aux espagnols, plus nombreux et plus aguerris qu’eux. Vers le nord et même vers l’est, les difficultés et les obstacles naturels suffiraient pour arrêter une armée ennemie; les indigènes seuls, déployant leur caractère belliqueux, lui feraient éprouver de grandes pertes, et parviendraient peut-être à la détruire” [vide: Guingret, P.-F.. Chef de bataillon, en demi-activité, et Officier de l’Ordre Royal de la Légion d’honneur. Relation historique et militaire de la campagne de Portugal, sous le Maréchal Masséna, Prince d’Essling; contenant les opérations militaires qui se rapportent à l’expédition de Masséna, et les divers faits de l’Armée de Portugal, jusqu’à la fin de la Guerre d’Espagne. Limoges, chez Bargeas, Imprimeur-Libraire, rue Ferrerie, Mai, 1817, p. 2, l. 7-25, p. 3, l. 1-11].

Trnsl.: “Portugal is one of the most mountainous countries and most picturesque; watered and fertilized by several majestic rivers, adorned of woods and of forests, it is also cut by many small rivers and by torrents which swell prodigiously to the slightest rainfalls. One often sees there the sites the most pleasant and the most fruitful, near some aspects the most arid. The roads, narrow, irregular and hilly, are nearly impracticable for others vehicles than those of the country, who are drawn by oxen. The main road from Badajoz to Lisbon makes exception; it is very beautiful. The side roads are not but tracks, that climb some steep mountains then to descend into deep ravines. The configuration of the soil makes therefore of Portugal a theater ill-suited to war, and seems to defend the inhabitants from any invasion. Also the Portuguese have always resisted the Spanish, more numerous and more fierce than them. To the north and even to the east, the difficulties and the natural obstacles would be enough to stop a foreign army; the natives themselves, displaying their warlike character, would make her to experience great losses, and may be would succeed to destroy her”.    

[7]The indefatigable chef de bataillon Jean Jacques Germain Pelet-Clozeau (a native of Toulose, July 15, 1777), Maréchal Masséna’s first aide-de-camp, focused in his reminiscent narrative strict consequential passages on the serious rising difficulties. At the état-major général of the armée de Portugal those were due to a concatenation of cause for the negligent attitudes to acquire trustworthy topographical cognitions (and printed sources) on the actual configuration of the territory of Portugal. The considered pre-arranged availability of a map, and its readable “practical utilization” (did the under cited indication signify that that printed “paper source” could be trusted with a pro tempore official character?), revealed a seemingly conditioning illusory and inadequate view on the country’s geographical comprehension and natural territorial morphologies. As matter of fact, this incidental causality lied into considering that the locations’ nominal references were defectively transcribed, and partially annoted; the inhabited places incorrectly drawn, the interrelated distances on road asset were inadequately reported as well. A detrimental factor is observed: it appeared that these precocious errata mined the tactical reliability and functionality of the road itineraries, and any expounded amplitude (i.e., distance)  in kilometres.

“[...]. at the beginning of September, when we decided on the plans for entering Portugal. Like everyone else I found myself delayed because of the shortages we experienced in obtaining every kind of information. I worked until the last moment to collect all available materials. I had to begin by correcting the map, or rather by drawing a new one based on the confused and often contradictory notes. Then, with little information, I had to learn the military topography of the kingdom in order to draw up some kind of description; to gather the most certain and probable data on the movements and dispositions of the enemy; to establish a general plan of operation from all of this; and finally to detail the particulars of the marches, day by day or in series” [vide: Horward, Donald D.. The French campaign in Portugal 1810-1811. An account by Jean Jacques Pelet. Edited, annotated, and translated by Donald D. Horward. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1973, p. 152, l. 1-12].

The unstable and evolving operative scenario was to assume critical consequences and unexpected compromises for caused delayed mobility to the French army’s corps in a foreign distant country. Undeniably, deplorable adverse concomitant effects occurred, and time constraints were at the practical ordinary effect of the days of campaign.

[8]“Nimbed” with solicitous rectitude, Pelet soberly annoted in his memorial script: “[...], I formulated the General Order of March, checking it carefully because of its importance. And I was sure that it would be carefully picked over by the commanders. I also prepared copies of the itinerary map I had drawn. They were sent to each corps commander with orders to modify or correct the mistakes on the map which they already had. We sent a schedule of the marches for each column and unit, clearly showing the day-by-day situation of each army corps, the advance guard, the grand parc, and the general headquarters, with the distances to be traveled, the distance between the columns, the roads to be followed, and observations on the principal modifications in the orders. I had never known such procedures to be employed before in the états majors. Nevertheless, carelessness can result in very dangerous accidents. These methods should be followed especially in countries where good maps are lacking. In other countries it is necessary first to agree on the map to be used in the correspondence, and then always to use copies of it for fixing the disposition of troops in a more precise manner or particular way. I strongly regret that nothing remains of my little map” [vide: Horward, Donald D.. The French campaign in Portugal 1810-1811. An account by Jean Jacques Pelet. Edited, annotated, and translated by Donald D. Horward. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1973, p. 152, l. 37, p. 153, l. 1-18].

[9]Jean-Jacques Germain Pelet-Clozeau was not recalcitrant to a severe analysis of fact. Maréchal Masséna’s first aide-de-camp bitterly admitted and complained and piercingly ascertained the practical utility and the effective dissimilarity of the would-be topographic support (id est, map) with which the French troops had been endowed. However laboriously prefigured at the état-major général, a number of the drawn natural elements were antithetic, in elision, and “foreign” to their correct emplacement configuration. These incongruities appeared well-known, recognized in their limitations and as an unavoidable direct cause of major difficulties – of the march, and relative movement on ground. In all, the implications of cause recorded serious inadequacies and inefficiencies on the plan of the tactical mobility, either for the infantry, cavalry, and artillery army’s branches. The difformities engendered by the “utilization” of the “map” could not be avoided if not by the straight detailing experience à la campagne

As we entered Portugal our poor opinion of the maps was confirmed. In effect, many of the villages were not shown and a very large number were incorrectly placed. The rivers, the roads, and, even more, the contours of the terrain were inaccurately shown. However, despite the imperfections in the map, drawn according to our information, it was infinitely superior to that of the printed maps. Still it was necessary to use them for the country we crossed between Viseu and Coimbra. This work was not enjoyable for anybody, and it was impossible for me to apply myself as much as I would have wished. In fact, it must be acknowledged that we did it in a very tiresome manner. Our French-speaking Portuguese had nothing to teach us about these districts or the other areas. We had to use their translations to obtain any information and then unscramble the many variations and obscurities of the translators and obtain details that were difficult to grasp and express. The Marquis d’Alorna brought us many people – the governor, priests, hunters, and smugglers – and they all worked with us” [vide: Horward, Donald D.. The French campaign in Portugal 1810-1811. An account by Jean Jacques Pelet. Edited, annotated, and translated by Donald D. Horward. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1973, p. 168, l. 9-25].  

A relevant point of inductive reflection acquires signification: the “superiority of the map”, if compared to the printed ones, enlightened Pelet’s merely opinionated conceptualization. However recalled, this affirmed subjective view must be clarified. The advantageous final superiority of topographic product had been proved in the long elaborated profusion of work necessary to gather all the possible useful details – and to update any actual printed source. A question is posed: is superiority the correctly used terminology? Improvement and modernization are the denominations to be interpreted in an agile manner under this proficient cadre of definition. The new adaptation, reworking and updating of the “old maps” which were actually to constitute the base for the works of modification, was a demanding study work, an informative progress in constant evolution and slowly assuming definite contours. The variegated Português cooperação (Portuguese concurrence; this is to mean “Portuguese touches”) and Marquis d’Alorna’s* influential and effective proficiency, added more challenges to a fictitious evocative “panorama” that hardly emerged from the recesses of the memory of heterogeneous Lusitanian social classes: the nobreza (nobility), the eclesiásticos (ecclesiastics), and the pessoas comuns (commoners).   

* A distinguished aristocrat -- Don Pedro de Almeida, Marquis d’Alorna (Lisbon, 16 January 1754-Koenigsberg, 26 January, 1813). In 1806, he was expelled from the Portuguese court. At the time Jean-Andoche Junot’s French troops invaded Portugal (1807), d’Alorna, envisaging new political solutions for the interests of the country, matured and favored lenient views towards the collaborationist regime. Appointed governor of Alentejo, and assumed the functions (22 December 1807) of inspector general and commander of the Portuguese troops in Northern Portugal (provinces of Beira, Trás-os-Montes, Estrémadure), he participated with Maréchal Masséna in the 1810 military campaign with numerous accompanying entourages. Most of them were high-ranking officers, not aligned with the tradition and the monarchical establishment. Never-the-less, the elusive plan to exploit and “to legitimate” by their presence a system of credible references and social changes by an armed invasion to dominate the country, turned into a complete failure.  D’Alorna had been notably the comandante em chefe (commander in chief) of the Legião Portuguesa , id est, French Légion Portuguese [vide: Banha, Theotónio, Chaby, Cláudio, de (ed). Apontamentos para a história da Legião Portuguesa ao serviço de Napoleão I, mandada sair Portugal em 1808. Narrativa do tenente Theotonio Banha, comettida ao capitão Cláudio de Chaby. I. N., Lisboa, 1863; Boppe, P.. La Légion Portuguese 1807-1813. Paris, Berger-Levrault, 1897; Ribeiro, Artur. Legião Portugueza ao serviço de Napoleão (1808-1813) . Lisboa, Livraria Férin, 1901].  

[10]On this topic (to have a substantial exampled reference made), one of the most enthralling and documented reminiscent accounts related to the 1810 campaign and tactical complexities in Portugal is offered by the principled and resolute French artillery officer Noel (a native of Saint-Dié, 3 January 1778). The plain descriptive textual passages concerning the severe and protracted hardships faced by the artillery services are numerous. One of them quotes:

Nous passons près de la petite ville de Trancoso, fermée d’un mur flanqué de tours. Tout ce pays est montagneux, rocheux; il  n’y a pas de routes, mais des chemins rocailleux, étroits, dangereux, que l’artillerie a toutes les peines du monde à franchir sans accidents. Ce ne sont que montées escarpées et descentes à pic. Je suis forcé de me faire précéder de cannoniers armés de pics, de pioches, pour frayer le passage. Un soldat marche en avant, portant une barre de fer ayant la longueur de la voie de nos voitures, pour indiquer les passages à élargir. Aussi, comme en marche chaque arme ne s’occupe que d’elle-même, l’artillerie reste en arrière, dépassée par l’infanterie et la cavalerie; elle n’arrive que très tard au gîte, fatiguée, éreintée, officiers et soldats ne pouvant songer à eux qu’après avoir soigné leurs chevaux, réparé leurs voitures, remisé leurs munitions, et lorsque les meilleurs ou les moins mauvais logements ont étè pris et les vivres enlevés. En champagne, le fantassin est le moins malheureux, il n’à qu’à penser à lui. Le cavalier a de plus son cheval, et l’artilleur, outre sa bête, a encore ses canons, ses caissons à remettre en état” [vide: Noël, Jean Nicolas Auguste, Colonel. Souvenirs militaires d’un officier du premier empire (1795-1832). Paris, À la Librairie des Deux Empires, 1999, p. 77, l. 8-19].

Trnsl.: “We pass near the small town of Trancoso, closed by a wall flanked by towers. The whole country is mountainous, rocky; there are no roads, but paths rocky, narrow, dangerous, that the artillery has all the trouble of the world to pass without accidents. These are just steep climbs and descents to the bottom. I am forced to have myself preceded by gunners armed with picks, with pickaxes to open the passage. A soldier marches in front, bringing an iron bar with the length of the path of our carriages, to indicate the passages to widen. Also, as in march each army branch only deals with itself, the artillery remains behind, overtaken by the infantry and the cavalry; she arrives only very late at the resting-place, tired, worn out, officers and soldiers cannot but to think to them only after having cared their horses, repaired their carriages, put away their ammunitions, and when the best or the less wretched lodgings have been taken and the supplies removed. In campaign, the infantryman is the less unhappy, he has only to think to him. The rider has additionally his horse, and the artilleryman, beyond his animal, has still his guns, his wagons to restore”.

                                                                               *     *     *     *    *

A further important passage recites: “Nous marchons sur Viseu, en suivant les escarpements coupés de ravins de la Sierra-Caramula, qui encaisse à droite la profonde et belle vallée du Mondego, que nous apercevons par échappées. Nous marchons, l’artillerie presque toujours isolée, abandonée par les autres troupes, ne sachant souvent quelle route suivre, le passage de l’armée ne laissant d’autre trace que quelques traînards, qui eux-mêmes ne savent pas la direction suivie; pas d’habitants pour renseigner. Je n’ai, pour me diriger, que les cartes incomplètes de Lopes et de Mentelle que j’ai eu soin de me procurer” [ibidem, p. 77, l. 25-30].

Trnsl.: “We marched on Viseu, following the steep slopes cut off by ravines of the Sierra-Caramula, that cuts deep right into the deep and beautiful valley of the Mondego, that we catch sight of by fits and starts. We marched, the artillery almost always isolated, abandoned by the other troops, often not knowing which road to follow, the passage of the army leaving no trace but a few stragglers, who themselves do not know the direction taken; no inhabitants to inform. I have only, to direct myself, that the incomplete maps of Lopes and of Mentelle that I took care to get me”.

                                                                                *     *     *     *     *

On the 16th of September the French army broke up from Almeida, taking the direction of Guarda and Celorico; afterwards crossing the Mondego by the bridge of Fornos, the three corps d’armée, consisting of the divisions of Ney, Junot, and Regnier, and commanded by Marshal Massena, united on the 21st to Vizeu, where they halted for two days in order to bring up their artillery, which had been delayed by the badness of the roads” [vide: Granville Eliot, William. A treatise of the defence of Portugal, with a military map of the country; to which is added, a sketch of the manners and customs of the inhabitants, and principal events of the campaigns under Lord Wellington. London: Printed for T. Egerton, Military Library, Whitehall. 1811. Quoted in: Chapter XIV, The Campaign of 1810, p. 257, l. 14-24].   

[11] For copious additional details, vide: Noël, Jean Nicolas Auguste (Colonel). Souvenirs militaires d’un officier du premier empire (1795-1832). Paris, À la Librairie des Deux Empires, 1999, p. 77, l. 31-32, p. 78, l. 1-30.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: September 2011


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