A Strategic Syllogism of the 1810 Portuguese Campaign: a Day of Wrath, A Day of Death: Tojal, 20 September 1810 – Part XI
History and Strategic Applications: Studies for the Bicentenary, 1810-2010
By Roberto A. Scattolin, Italy
Please, for accurate historic and literary comprehension the readers are first invited to read the Part X.
Critical commentary: A lengthy textual extrapolation is evident.
Two distinguished sentences (49, 15) constitute the core of the historic narration, a dense lexemic structure which does not exceed a pre-ordered scheme of sixty-four terms.
Condensed significations, in the order of defined strategic applications and extensive tactical controls of geographical areas are expounded.
The cadre is quite incisive; none-the-less, the acquired informative supports need concrete comprehension.
The writer who is compiling this important relation is coronel Nicholas Trant, a reputable Anglo-Luso veteran commander who by then was assigned to a perilous mission in Beira Alta.
A man of proven valour and unrestricted attitudes of personal determination, he was tasked with a forcibly active and possibly contrasting action to delay the advancing French troops of the expeditionary armée de Portugal.
Trant’s reported specificities are mostly referred in appraising the actual numerical composition of the military corps he was assigned in view to adapt long-range operative aims.
Robust forces of infantry, in particular a couple of thousand milicianos, and regular light cavalry squadrons -- Dragões -- are explicitly mentioned.
The infantry units which belonged to the division of the milíciafrom Oporto, had to be integrated into the corps’ composite ranks by means of an additional brigade from Moncorvo.
Apparently, in the order of the causes (i.e., constrictive factors of complication), the above-indicated brigade was retarded, and the formation units did not reach the military quarters established at Moimenta da Beira.
It is axiomatic through this report that we discern an important element of valuation.
The initial composite military organization related to Trant’s corps had been constructed and subsequently subdivided -- on paper -- in three main distinct forces: the infantry, the cavalry, and the artillery.
Almost surprisingly, the corps had a reduced force of maneuver -- due to the patent, incurred “tactical passivity” of the brigade which had to move from a distant location, Moncorvo.
Did Trant lament over this organizational deficiency, for the functional breach of the missed time synchronicities which were detrimental to the troops’ final regrouping?
Effectively, this diminished tactical coordination conditioned his attitudes of command, which converged to assure maximum flexibility level and precautions of the sort not to irreversibly endanger his mobile units.
To order his corps’ backs “covered” before any suitably scheduled advance on ground, thus leaving a detachment in strength to garrison and guard Moimenta da Beira, and its surroundings, can be seen as a fundamental prerequisite, a capable measure of caution, and a “symptomatic” prudential attitude.
The importance of the estrada de Lamego (road of Lamego) was appropriately recognized.
In terms of practical proficiency, that rough itinerary could assure strategic adaptabilities and safe moving (i.e., protected movements, as well as retreat) for the Portuguese units in the case of unexpected contingencies of conflict.
After evaluating more in-depth projections and reflections of a strategic course, the progressed line of march of the Portuguese armed units was submitted to accurately ordered dispositions; that was a clever tactical anticipation, a shrewd, preventive protection enacted through the recourse to visual systemic control and conducive military advantages.
Undeniably, sagacious applications occurred, by placing mobile compounds of infantry and light cavalry pickets -- detached in observation -- at the most vulnerable points and road intersections of the itinerary.
Trant’s zealous caution was consequently “substantial” as it conformed to the fact of the coordinates assumed for the main country route’s controlled patrolling.
Through these artifices, the Anglo-Lusitanian commander correspondingly gained control of the principal inhabited rural locations.
Prudential convergences: the territorial control
Under primary, ineludible contingencies of strict military order, an important element should be capitalized and carefully considered.
Trant’s proven attitudes of concern, not to definitely mention his recognizable prudential afflatus, are within reason relevant.
It should not escape proper analysis and criteria of evaluation the fact how Trant had organized an articulated system of mobile supports; his compounds constituted an agile tactical “infra-structure” ready to perform any ordered operational necessities.
Quite simply defined in terms of military equilibrium, this “flexible net” was properly fitted through the rapid employment and recourse to infantry sections which were pre-ordinately assigned to guard the most vital rural aggregations through the country.
Therefore, the control of the territory proved a precondition, a mandatory strategic vitality in case of sudden, raised armed contrast, or unpredictable withdrawal against uncontainable, overwhelming French troops.
From Moimenta da Beira up to Lamego, and from Lamego up to the actual line of forward movement, Trant’s efficient, methodized procedures of advance through “unknown” territories were aptly recognized as the resources of a shrewd, far-sighted, perceptive commander.
Beyond any pragmatic consideration, deploying some detached infantry in the local villages and ensuring (i.e., covering) any long distance communications through cavalry sections, coronel Trant’s granted effectual protection to his corps’ backs.
Thus calculated precautionary measures were assured to shield any operational emergency case and hostile recrudescence of warfare against the French foreign host.
Critical commentary: One singular, terse phraseology.
A semantic complex for a fifty-three worded composition.
Strict specifications are explicated by Trant, in particular the documentary passages are focused on the presence of the artillery pieces and their manning crews, which had indefatigably followed the mobility of coronel Trant’s armed corps of manoeuver.
In this instance, the connotative term “[…] artillery […]” is reported with a generalized overview in the order of the reason, in fact, no number of the available pieces has been clarified.
That makes no detail of importance, as, in a prospective attack on the French marching line, the Anglo-Lusitanian commanding-officer had sagaciously resolved to allocate the “heavy fire articulation” -- id est, the peças de artilheria -- in a pre-selected strong position, of resistance, and supporting fields of fire.
That circumstantial adaptability, a location of containment, was prepared and armed near the hamlet of Castello; a high ground emplacement which could make the difference in that resort, in confronting whatever contingency might be necessary in case of rapid withdrawal against numerically prevailing French forces.
To probe deeper into the detailed text of the historic narration, the fact emerges that the actual evidence of an inspired strategic resolution, a “linha conformada”, a “setor de defesa”, had been planned and fortified in major strong points.
Not bypassing that provided literary reference, it seemed like a strategic salient had been thoughtfully constructed, a sector of arrest, “to contain” any susceptible enemy offense and strategic backlash.
Also worth considering was the presence of vigorous infantry numbers pre-assigned to support the mobile artillery pieces, and to man the fortified emplacements which were swiftly being organized and constructed.
In evaluating the systemic cadre, if the Portuguese wheeled artillery pieces would have been ordered into supporting fire, their thundering detonations would have detrimentally caused concern and given rise to an urgent security alert on the French garrison troops stationed at Viseu.
A deteriorating, perilous implication would subsequently have been the reactive counter-action of the régiments réguliers de ligne (regular infantry regiments of the Line), in a progressed march from Trancoso.
In this critical situation, not only the sound of the loudly discharged cannons would have signaled their position on ground – as well as by the residual emissions of toxic gas and rising plumes of black smoke -- but, if left unprotected without any combined infantry cover, their crews would have been delivered to the ferocity of the enemy.
Setting the scene: combat action at Aderosomil
Critical commentary: A three sentences enucleation, a determinant exposé.
The fluency, and captivating reading of the narrative passages envisages a defined semantic complex, a settled composite structure (52, 19, 58) of one hundred twenty-nine terms.
The profitable advance into operative context of the Portuguese troops had been thoughtfully planned by coronel Nicholas Trant; in that motivating sequence, stringent, actual orders had been imparted to his receptive subordinate units’ commanders.
Almost surprisingly, a capricious anomaly: one effectual deformity is checked in noticing the way how “some” light cavalry compounds had not yet assumed their fixed positions to confront what was expected to be a readily enacted tactical proficiency.
Missing that pre-figured configuration on ground, the enfolding combat action was thus conditioned.
By evaluating the assessed logic of Trant’s reported account, it seemed an irrefragable matter of consideration that the Anglo-Luso senior commander had decided beforehand to potentially envelop the rural village of Aderosomil.
Oddly enough, under in-depth, thorough documentary report scrutiny, no palliating explications are offered, neither on the causal intricacies nor on the occurred delay which caused a relenting tactical impasse before reaching the neighbourhood of Aderosomil.
The supposition raises higher, to the level that the author has instead written this cognizant, clear-sighted report, the contents of which have instead appeased as intentional an “effective” choice designedly operated.
No reluctance is observed.
Coronel Trant, having previously considered catching the French unaware by surprise, had sensibly resolved to launch a striking movement of attack to the afore-indicated position -- without tempering anymore for the “retardada mobilidade” of part of the Portuguese cavalry forces.
Under compelling circumstances, any detrimental temporary procrastination would have proved a fatally grievous incongruity to the Lusitanian units’ systemic organization.
Worst of all, in a reversed process of inaction this calamitous inconvenience, an impasse, a situação crítica da guerra, would have increasingly benefitted the adversarial parties, by then largely implementing theirs numbers and active combat man-power.
Under conditioned restriction, therefore in sequential “logics” of strategic conceptualization, Trant was “admirably” obliged to force his hand on the affair, by then acquiescing on the most favorable course of action -- seemingly not to lose the overloaded enemy wagons.
The circumstantial dynamics of conflict, which converged into a fiery attack launched on the inhabited site (uma aldeia rural, i.e., a rural village), are not best clarified on the basis of the documentary data.
It is, however, ascertained that an enveloping movement on the terrain was set to be the eventual solution; under crude fighting, part of the French, notably including the caisse militaire’s carriages, succeeded anyway in a tough withdrawing from the threatened area of contest.
Critical commentary: The temporal concatenation of the above-stated phraseology is convenient to an in-depth cogitation, as it occurred in a subsequent time, in an organic causal context after the tough combat and effectually leveled the capture of Aderosomil.
It seems that the three impavid officiers were foreign-born French.
What is the effective contingency these adversaries noted on the ground?
Were those cavaliers perceived by promptitude, by factual means of telescope?
Were those military individuals detected far off, in the remote visual perception?
Did they shoddily uncover themselves and recklessly betray their position, was that an inexpedient, incurred mistake?
Stringent questions are prevalent in the order of the historic investigation.
Ergo: were those horsemen discerned while placed on active duty, performing in the practical capacity and assumed functions of a parti exploratif (exploring party)?
Undeniably relevant is noted their laborious presence and caustic practicality; further, a consequential confirmative point appears in the “substantiation” that these men were vedettes (sentinels), none-the-less the truth lies beyond any apparent credibility.
That was a transient concertation de guerre (consultation of war); first the French officers wanted to acquire by firm examination if the adversarial Portuguese infantry forces marched to an advance, and correspondingly to evaluate the numerical estimation of their antagonists in arms.
Trant, in order to avert the daring behavior and applied tactical foresight of the French observers, immediately and expeditiously reacted to their témérité (temerity), to befuddle their commutative attention, so ordered into action Colonel Wilson with a few riders of the Dragoons’ mobile section.
An acute counter-move, arguably aimed to annoy, to definitely imperil and to clear out the audacious French.
It is equally inferred that the French were not at such a long, safe distance of contact – as, in fact, they ran back at full gallop, without opposing any restraining armed reaction to the oncoming mounted adversaries.
Dare to know: Colonel Wilson
Critical commentary: It is a straightforward corroborative observation that Colonel Wilson’s assigned task -- coordinately assumed in terms of missão exploratória -- was effectually sensible to the objects it had determinately to fulfill.
Moving into action with alacrity, the small Portuguese formation was instrumental in an artificial counter-move, and soon acquired fresh intelligence on the harried, prudent backward withdrawal by the elongated French column.
A significant and timely action de désengagement (action of disengagement) had therefore been contemplated; quite a difficult display of tactical expediency, enacted under severe constriction of an adversarial threat.
Through an unspecified period of time, Wilson succeeded in catching sight -- without any formal enemy opposition -- of the hastily disengaged French horse-drawn carriages, and located the line of movement of the enemy column.
Worth considering is, in the envisaged military priorities of safeguard and security of the sector of intervention, the reported distance of the French troupes d’appui, a precise, well-balanced estimation, not far off from the area of Aderosomil.
Role of command
Critical commentary: One intense semantic articulation.
A cogent reading; a one hundred nineteen (71, 48) lexemic narrative structure.
The unyielding coronel Trant, having been informed by firm, conspicuous details about the actual position of the colonne de bagages, quickly resolved to assault the great convoy.
Under evolving circumstances, he decided to vigorously assume the tactical initiative, and hereinafter a newly designed strategic coordination.
The Anglo-Luso commanding officer promptly ordered forward the esquadrões de cavalaria ligeira.
After thoughtfully evaluating the lively prospective for offensive maneuvering, the infantry formations were correspondingly quickly moved forward, to reach a new configurative combat asset on ground -- and to provide preparation into the line to man the operative front.
Restrained and obstructed by the incredible mass of the compacted volumes and densely packed baggages, the French were forced to halt, and resolved, on a fortuitous defensive scheme, a steadily enacted display of military determination and gallantry.
After strict analysis and documentary assessment of the Portuguese primary source, the processed key of reading (and formal historic interpretation) is contemplated in terms of perspicuity: id est, the Luso cavalry sections had impetuously to charge the surprised elongated French column, at the exposed head, and subsequently to shake and collapse its whole march movement.
This strenuously proficient attack had been conceived in the prerequisite essentiality of an “isca estratégica”.
In this adequately shrewd time management, the oncoming Portuguese infantry units would have had to materialize an overwhelming enveloping attack on the exposed adversarial flank.
A double, corollary operative had accordingly to engage the winning part.
That congenial strategy quality would had eroded the potential for French armed resistance.
However the conflict emergency was considered, there were none-the-less elements of elision which did not favour the Portuguese: first, the restriction of time; second, the imponderable factor of the tactical mutability, which was conditioned by the susceptible French reinforcements reaching back from the area of Viseu – in addition to the advancing robust French troops escorting the grand parc d’artillerie (great artillery park).
No doubt this is so far illusory.
The unexpected appearance of fresh French units on the fiery struggled scenario of war would have appeared as a quivering, precipitating factor.
Documentary Appendix, Piece I – Primary Source, Portuguese Text
Historiographical reference and literary text quotation extracted from: Luz Soriano, Simão José, da. História da Guerra Civil e do estabelecimento do governo parlamentar em Portugal comprehendendo a história diplomática militar e política d’este reino desde 1777 até 1834. Segunda Epocha. Tomo V – Parte II. Lisboa, Imprensa Nacional, 1893, p. 213, l. 36, p. 214, l. 1-37. Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal.
 Original script, Portuguese documentary source: “Eu tinha apenas commigo dois mil homeñs de milicias da divisão do Porto e duzentos dragões, porque a brigada que eu esperava de Moncorvo ainda me não tinha chegado, tendo alem d’isto sido obrigado a deixar um destacamento em Moimenta da Beira, para me proteger o caminho para Lamego. Tamben tinha outros destacamentos em differentes postos de pracaução, bem como alguns piquetes de cavallaria”[vide: Luz Soriano, Simão José, da. História da Guerra Civil e do estabelecimento do governo parlamentar em Portugal comprehendendo a história diplomática militar e política d’este reino desde 1777 até 1834. Segunda Epocha. Tomo V – Parte II. Lisboa, Imprensa Nacional, 1893, p. 213, l. 36, p. 214, l. 1-7. Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal].
 I.e., militiamen.
 In Trant’s documentary report there are not no further specific details on the motives which produced this lamentable, unexpected delay. After proper analysis of historic context, it is possible to consider that this mobile corps was confronted with sensible retards which remained, however, of unspecified nature.
 It is considered that the definition and the concurrent application of cognizance related to the term “deficiency” are, with particular attention to detail, connected to the incidental delayed mobility of the afore indicated military formation (i.e., the brigade, to which orders had been imparted to leave from Moncorvo). Shortly afterwards, the numerical equivalences of these milícianos could not be incorporated in Trant’s mobile corps, thus affecting the effectual composition of the mobilized corps’ units.
 Primary source text: “Como o fogo da minha artilheria deveria necessariamente excitar o alarme em Vizeu e entre os batalhões em marcha de Trancoso, julguei conveniente postal-es sobre uma elevação do terreno perto de Castello, guardada por trezentos homens, para me poder abrigar debaixo do fogo das peças no caso de desgraça” [vide: Luz Soriano, Simão José, da. História da Guerra Civil e do estabelecimento do governo parlamentar em Portugal comprehendendo a história diplomática militar e política d’este reino desde 1777 até 1834. Segunda Epocha. Tomo V – Parte II. Lisboa, Imprensa Nacional, 1893, p. 214, l. 7-12. Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal].
 In this case, it is worth considering that there were in addition the horse-drawn carros de munições (i.e., the caissons).
 The military control of this inhabited site proved essential and a determined effort in strategic reasoning. Seminal reasons are thus far specifically concerned and motivated by the fact that the infantry platoons could aptly man its defense, on the pre-existing habitations that would have been a valuable defensive asset-- quite an “obstacle”, even to superior attacking numbers.
 Id est, conformed line.
 I.e., sector of defense.
 Undeniably, a factor is that any direct assault results would have been predictably bloody for the French.
 Historic source quotation: “Logo que me chegou a minha cavalleria dirigi-me sobre Adesoromil, povoação que tomei, fazendo alguns prisioneiros, apprehendendo alguns carros de viveres e alguns carros de bagagem pessoal; mas eu descobri-me durante a demora de que acima fiz menção, e a caixa militar foi retirada antes da minha chegada. Tres officiales montados perceberam o meu reconhecimento, e os mandei perseguir pelo coronel Wilson e tres ou quatro dragões; mas ainda que este official as não pôde alcançar, teve occasião de se certificar da posição sobre a qual se tinha retirado a escolta, e não pôde duvidar dos esforços que ella fazia para operar uma juncção come as tropas que conduziam o parque de artilheria, e que não estava senão meia legua para a retaguarda de Adesoromil” [vide: Luz Soriano, Simão José, da. História da Guerra Civil e do estabelecimento do governo parlamentar em Portugal comprehendendo a história diplomática militar e política d’este reino desde 1777 até 1834. Segunda Epocha. Tomo V – Parte II. Lisboa, Imprensa Nacional, 1893, p. 214, l. 13-26. Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal].
 The clear reference to this operational branch, a cavalaria ligeira (the light cavalry), appears generalized in this report; however considered, its level of responsibility is evidenced. Has that “unmentioned” capacity of roles to be intended as the whole active compound of the Portuguese cavalry, or does it partially penetrate the meaning of some detached squadrons (or mobile sections)?
 The location was occupied by the French, forces. Neither units nor their numbers consistency are specified in the documentary report.
 I.e., delayed mobility.
 I.e., critical situation of war.
 In this perspective of pre-figured audacities, the spoils of war would have undeniably formed an alluring loot.
 This is a very interesting matter, worthy of further interpretation. A specif remark: these “elements of adversity” were observed as a mounted group of observaterurs avancés (forward observers). Their negligible numerical consistency reached the equivalency of a small reconnaissance party. These men were, by closed hypothesis, officiers des équipages (commissioned officers of the transports).
 This is a revealing aspect. In fact, they had somehow noted the absence of mounted units. Was the evidence equally noted beforehand at Aderosomil, and then subsequently “partially” reconfirmed through telescopic observation?
 Having been taken by surprise by the hastily approaching enemy threat, the French were preparing for active defensive efforts. They rapidly deployed on the ground. The ordered measures of security would have caused the reaction by the French arms, beyond any yet existing tactical distance of the Portuguese parties.
 A shrewd choice must be observed. Colonel Wilson’s presence had exactly the same prerequisites of the French sagacity; he too had to evaluate the adversarial forces’ numerical capacities (discerning infantry, cavalry, and any different branches).
 Nota bene. After reflection, why should the French have so recklessly exposed themselves, thus jeopardizing their own lives, if not for a major purpose of responsibility (i.e, to save their fellow countrymen)? It is patent, that they did not futilely conform themselves to this extreme behavior. Trant was not hesitant to define them in the corresponding military hierarchy as that of officers. What has to be comprehended behind this substantiation of fact? Why is Trant so sure on this acquired confirmation?
 I.e., exploratory mission.
 I.e., supporting troops.
 Half a league, a measure of length. It is correspondingly calculated to 2.4 kilometres.
 Primary source, text reference: “Apressei então a marcha do meu corpo, e avançando com a minha cavalleria pude obrigar a fazer alto este comboio e a acautelar-se; mas ainda que chegado au ponto que tanto tinha ambicionado, a minha experiencia diminuiu pela approximação da noite, não só porque já o sol se começava a pôr , mas porque tamben a minha infanteria ainda não tinha chagado depois da minha marcha a Adesoromil. N’estes termos conclui, pois, que se o inimigo ainda não tinha sido reforçado, elle incessantemente o seria, e por conseguinte esperei que a todo o momento viesse a ser atacado pela retaguarda por algum destacamento de Vizeu; um sóexpediente me restava, e eu o adoptei” [vide: Luz Soriano, Simão José, da. História da Guerra Civil e do estabelecimento do governo parlamentar em Portugal comprehendendo a história diplomática militar e política d’este reino desde 1777 até 1834 . Segunda Epocha. Tomo V – Parte II. Lisboa, Imprensa Nacional, 1893, p. 214, l. 26-37. Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal].
 I.e., light cavalry squadrons.
 I.e., strategic bait: to abruptly collide with the French, by deceiving them into believing that the main offensive thrust was launched against the vulnerable tête de colonne (head of the column). In the context of war however, the documentary evidence is exposed to the point that the threatened French firmly reacted, opposing a display of endurance and a résistance opiniâtre to the fiery assaulting Portuguese regular cavalry squadrons.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: September 2013
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