Research Subjects: Miscellaneous

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

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

By Roberto A. Scattolin, Italy


Poignant, harrowing, inspiring.

The unexpectedly launched, resolute and determined Portuguese attack, o assalto ao grande parque de artilharia francesa[1] in September 1810, is the mesmerizing story of a remarkable mission.

An account of substantial bravery and self-sacrifice amid the most trying conditions.

The notability of this factually amazing epic, a toughly-disputed arms encounter, occurred in the environment of Tojal and can be considered a testament to the human spirit, honoured heritage and evocative liberating hymn in defence of the principled liberdades populares[2] for the auto-determinação política[3] and independência[4] of one invaded country: the Portuguese nation.

As an absorbing and elaborated chronicle of the ruthless, protracted Portuguese militia[5] units’ combat experiences under heavy fire, the documentary text offers a forgotten modern history page, an insightful and strikingly recounted narrative[6] by an exceptional French writer: Jean-Baptiste-Antoine-Marcelin de Marbot[7], a qualified veteran officer serving in the role and executive capacity of Maréchal Masséna’s second aide-de-camp.

Pinhel. General view of the town.

Cohesive profiling: plans of reported information

Marching in single file more than a league in length, the park was proceeding slowly and laboriously by difficult roads, when suddenly on its right flank appeared the English colonel Trant, with 4,000 or 5,000 Portuguese militia.

If the enemy, profiting by his superior strength, had surrounded the convoy and made a resolute attack, all the artillery, ammunition, and provisions of the army would have been captured or destroyed[8].

Comment: A couple of smoothly-written sentences; a terse morphological elaboration for a sixty-nine (37, 32) word grammar complement.

Definitely evident are clear-cut phrases, deepening the comprehension of the textual contents and the “frame of contextuality” – either hermeneutic at tactical and strategic level of inadequacies.

The substantial historic background and the later occurring military crisis focus on the critically befalling transition of operative order of the French arms, verging in dire constraints of advance through the depopulated territorial extensions of continental Portugal.

The recalled arguments are binding points of intelligibility open to a grading system of reflexive valuations.  

In the process of enhanced critical analysis, primarily scrutinized examinations are the subsequent matter of investigative study efforts. 

After an initial cursory view, the annotations provided by the French memorialist Jean-Baptiste-Antoine-Marcelin de Marbot have their own significant value, and the detailed pieces of information postulate a formal cadre of axiological synthesis.

After a cognitive survey of the expounded literary passages, it is worth punctuating the vitality and the patent punctiliousness inherent to the author’s reported plans of information.

It is a formalistic asseveration of logic to understand that the systemic elements which compose the narrative’s accuracy did form one heterogeneous component, a valuable an variegated collection of assorted data; more in evidence, clearly obtained exponential references of intelligence which ultimately reached Marbot’s absorbed attention through the counter-acting operative synergies applied by the French General-Staff.

In this organic cadre of effectual circumstances, a probative essentiality emerges: the full-blown retarding impediments in the progressive phase of mouvement avancé (advanced movement), that detrimentally played a major constrictive deficiency in conditioning the logistics and the tactical proficiency of the French artillery park.

The compelling causal motivations were therefore aggravating cumulative factors -- relating either to the recognized natural obstructions that were met on the ground and to the slackened locomotion of the heavy wheeled transports.

Worst of all, there were more calamitous uncertainties such as the “unexpected characters” of war’s vulnerability that were brutally tested by the audacious large scale assaults launched by the fiery determined Portuguese units – irrefutably, well aimed plans for organized offensive synchronicities and military escalation.

Celorico. Prospective view of the estrutura fortificada, properly indicated as castled complex. Overlooking the ridge, the imposing military construction was usually referred to with the specific terminology of “o castelo”. A mighty fortified, stone-built perimeter, its annexed strong points formed the proficient defensive elements that ensured the protective shield to the walled circuit. A significant point of effective strategic compensation either for the presidial garrison forces and for the local population, the site’s surroundings (nature, soil, water) were notably capitalized in the prospects of the recognized aims, and in the environmental incisiveness of dissuasão estratégica (strategic deterrence). The penetrability of the “local resources” gained here were remarkable: the full exploitation and deforestation of the natural hilly configuration -- which was caused by the inescapable transitions of conflict emergencies --, and the favorable raising net of local economies. Through the centuries, popular work brought consolidated commercial activities (in terms of salability, profit, success) and to monetary mobility for people’s welfare. An undeniably considered relevant factor is understanding how these modalities gradually cemented both the politics of the social life and the established defensive criteria to protect the whole town’s population.

Impedimenta exercitus

Marching in single file more than a league in length, […]”.

The expedient possibility to have obtained the specific indication concerning the single file movement and the actual length[9] of the echeloned wooden vehicles -- actually a pertinent confirmative statement in words, and not just an occasional appreciated estimation -- was a remarkable corroboration, a point of tactical necessity and evocative military analysis which only one first-hand direct eyewitness could have personally known and furnished.

Beyond the ascertained and clarifying pieces of detail enucleated in the first sentence, is confirmed the historic fact and consolidated the methodological view that Marbot’s reminiscence elements, due to their intrinsic specificity, could not otherwise have been obtained but by an accredited primary source (or even a higher level of intelligence, not to say a trustworthy principled military authority).

The constitutive level of the present descriptions firmly remained consistently knowledgeable.

To delve deeper into the complexity of the reported facts, three transpiring acquisitive elements have been counterchecked.

A) - The unequivocally assumed formation of movement of the French, one concurrent typology of chemin tortueux (hard passing through track, and winding line) that unravelled according to the interspreaded natural roughness and hydro-geomorphological discontinuities natural to the local territory.

B) - The serious and problematic length of the whole column of the wheeled transports.

C) - The severely hampered conditions of progressive mobility -- properly considered as ordered (on military dispositions) direction of march -- of the horse-trained carriages, and the seemingly disorganized tactical advance on foreign soil.

Most importantly is emphasized a matter of strict observation: the quite limited and still insurmountable confusion (abstracting from any topographical concern, and consequential mental ignorance) of the roads’ contingent practicability and systemic itinerary in one irrelative (id est, out the sphere of strategic domination of the French Empire) distant country, as was the referred case of the Portugal.

The ostensibly surprising knowledge gained post eventum[10] about the Anglo-Luso strategic threat (caught and evidenced as the direction of attack), mounted on a thereby lying vulnerable “sector of defence” supposedly left unguarded by the escorting French armed formations, is another constituent feature of unquestionable relevancy.

Beyond any pondered disquisitional analysis, its examination notably illustrates: firstly, the exposed right flank of the parc d’artillerie was obviously a derivative circumstantial causality -- originated by the unexpected lengthening of the column of the transports during the itinerary progression of the baggages.

Secondly, the nationality and army rank, inclusive of the specification of the family’s name of the commander of the Portuguese attacking units are punctuated details of refined stylistic form.

Thirdly, the numerical estimates on the manoeuvering Lusitanian combat units on ground are recalled (the full-strength effectives were in the order of some thousand men in arms), neither specification by which army branches, in terms of accompanying infantry, light cavalry squadrons and supporting artillery component.

The latest overlooked data seemed out-of-reach to the French service d’information.

The second formulation remarkably explored and summarized the concomitant course of action, the developing events and the acute risks that were incurred -- in their fatal compromising exposure, gravity and perilousness.

The austere conditional clause “If the enemy, profiting by his superior strength, had surrounded the convoy […]” asserted that the Lusitanian storm parties were superior in numbers to the standing French presence in arms; irrefutably, an incontrovertible proof: the cognitive binding of this statement lay in the fact that Marbot knew the particular coefficients of manoeuver and the fighting manpower of the supporting escort units.   

This cadre of strategic incidence could not pass unobserved; it seemed rather delineated, and correspondingly the recognized numerical disproportion and tactical imbalance inter-acting between the counter-opposed units in the field of armed contest.

What caused a sensation in terms of perceived reaction and disconcertion, was the indirect evidence that the column of the great artillery park had -- in the tactical transition -- its flanks “unprotected” by any national armed formation.

Searchingly, and more in-depth on the causative matter: worth mentioning is a supplementary “corroborative” point, that is to say that the “afore cited” infantry formations had lost ground on the itinerary path covered, due to their consuming physical exhaustion.

What else can be clearer on the unmentionable difficulties of the military march?

The harsh concurrences of practical order experienced on the ground were not at all an irrelevant admission of the author; these perilous aggravations were a contingent element of causality, and the seasoned French professional (Marbot) came to admittedly recognize the circonstanciée déchéance tactique<(circumstanced tactical comedown).

Analytic retrospection

“[…] and made a resolute attack, all the artillery, ammunition, and provisions of the army would have been captured or destroyed”.

A posteriori, this sentence must be subjected to a lenient textual interpretation.

This expository phraseological articulation does actually assume the inferential meaning that the shocking and damaging enemy assault was not an imperious as well as a resolute and unproductive military contingency.

Marbot’s formative and opinionated conceptualisation acquires significance: the case analyzed, if this stirring offensive manoeuver was obstinately pressed forwards (and protracted in the time period), it would have inexorably overwhelmed any armed resistance of the interposed French parties.

This literary segment has to be thoroughly examined.

The historically asseverative scheme of military convergencies and the validated “documentary contents” are not the author’s merely posed conjectural lucubration but projected the irreversible relevance of the enemy’s cunning strategic dynamics (aka operational threat).

The final capacity of strategic judgement -- apodictic implications of the cause that were discussed by the French high ranking-officers --, revealed the strident disconcertment in the chain of command.

More importantly, were noted the perturbing disquietude and the deplorable voices of contempt which passed throughout the ranks of the armée de Portugal concerning that latterly occurred danger – i.e., the vulnerability and defenceless exposition to the sudden breakouts of the intrepid Portuguese assaults and vigorous tactical counter-moves.

A further contextual question arises, an interrogative question: in the remembered circumstances, did any implicit or speculative allusion rest of the ultimate sort that would have met the French arms in the campaign of Portugal?

But Colonel Trant, as he himself said afterwards, could not suppose that a general of Masséna’s experience could have left unsupported a convoy so essential to the safety of his army, and supposing that a powerful escort must be close at hand, he dared to advance only with extreme caution[11].

Comment: A terse phonological composition; one phrase, and a fifty terms lexemic complementarity.

Sure matter of deep reflection, and pragmatic concern for Marbot’s investigative efforts.

The all daring and stout-hearted Colonel Trant[12] had been astonished by the stolid overconfidence of the French baggages’ progression march.

An indefatigable professional[13], the Portuguese commanding-officer[14] had himself wondered at the neglect of the French supporting units.

These obvious incongruities of military and tactical order were to constitute the detrimental constrictions in the close-in fighting-action.

Trant marvelled at the seemingly questionable cover that did not assure to the convoy a practical and efficient armed guard system.

However, in the afore cited literary quotation a remarkable point of analysis is that Maréchal Masséna was correlated to the rank of General; does it sound as if the French Commander-in-Chief of the armée de Portugal has been downgraded (aka devalued) after his mésaventure militaire (military misfortunate) if compared to Trant’s dashing capabilities?

Can Massena’s “captious decline” in the hierarchical scale be otherwise interpreted as an occasional and misleading lapsus calami (from the ancient Latin ethimology; trnsl.: lapse of the pen; literally meaning: a slip of the pen), or there is more to cogitate on this pre-supposed inaccuracy of reported rank?

Was that a “spurious” printing, an erratum standing for one editing typo?

No definite replies are searched for that singular case of incongruence[15]

A few circumstantial details should in addition be expressed on the climatic psychology of warfare[16].


[1] Trnsl.: the assault to the great park of French artillery.

[2] Trnsl.: popular liberties.

[3] Trnsl.: political auto-determination.

[4] Trnsl.: independence.

[5]The milícia forces. Just a tersely and briefly exposed annotation of conservative knowledge. By systemic appellation, through this accurate uni-nominal definition are recalled those armed formations created in the year 1801. These units replaced the old Terços de Auxiliares and were styled under the new denominative configuration of Regimentos de Milícias. In practical terms of reference, these effectually organized formations did not include individuals who were already enlisted with the regular effective forces. Its members were to notably discharge in the ranks active duty obligations for a 15-year period. As strong as forty-three regiments were counted, seven regimental units were placed in the comarca (county) of Beira. The unit ordered to provide adequate defensive security in the mighty fortified site of Trancoso was one of the most important, which was due to the inherent implications of high strategic order for border’s protection system. Presidial garrison forces in Beira were to receive pre-arranged strategic assignments in the towns of Castel Branco (1 Regt.), Coimbra (1 Regt.), Guarda (2 Regt.s), Lamego (1 Regt.), Trancoso (1 Regt.), Viseu (1 Regt.).  In 1811, the Portuguese army’s strength was structured in the dictates of the present organized compounds: infantaria (infantry), twenty-four regiments of two battalions each: 33,600 soldiers; chasseurs or light infantry: 6,000; cavalaria (cavalry): 3,000; engenheiros e artilharia (engineers and artillery): 3,000; Leal Legião Lusitana (Loyal Lusitanian Legion): 1,800. A total of 47,400 men, plus 50,000 militia. Grand total composed of 97,400 [for the discerned complexities of this topic 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. Detailed expository clarifications are quoted in: Chapter VI., Of the Portuguese Army, pp. 105-115. The above indicated army’ numerical specifications can instead be traced at p. 106, l. 19-27].

[6] The acute phases of the fierce combat action will be subjected to severe critical investigation in the Parts IV, V, VI. 

[7] A native of La Rivière à Beaulieu (Corrèze, France; August 18, 1782);  died in Paris, on November 16, 1854.

[8] 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. 33-34, p. 267, l. 1-6.

[9] League; a unit of distance equal to 3.0 statute miles (4.8 kilometers). It is important to confirm that this clarification of the unit of measure was the approximately reported indication on the ground. Certain terse consideration proved that the covered length and the wheeled transports’ echelon were not an inconsequential matter for active security duties and strict armed guards. Relatively speaking, a number of difficulties were encountered to assure any protective shield to the guns and heavy-loaded carriages.

[10] Trnsl.: after the fact. In proper temporal concatenation. It means: particularized, and chronicled in the almost general knowledge of the event had occurred.

[11] Marbot, Baron de. Adventures of General Marbot. Edited and illustrated by John W. Thomason Jr.. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, London, 1935, p. 267, l. 6-11.

[12] Major-General Sir Nicholas Trant (born in 1769-died at Baddow, in Essex, on the 16th of October, 1839, aged 70), K.C. and T.S..

Military synopsis. His family branch was of ancient Irish descent. His father: Thomas Trant; the mother: the daughter of James Trant. The family lived at Dingle, in Ireland; in his youth he was educated in France, in a military college. Because of the outburst of the French Revolution of 1789, he entered into British army service. 1792: served on active service as volunteer on the Staff of the Duke of Brunswick; 1793: actively employed in the Flanders campaign under the Duke of York; 1794, 31 May: Lieutenant, in the 84th foot; served at Flushing; 1795: went to service to the Cabo da Boa Esperança -- Cape of Good Hope; after coming back to England, was appointed to serve in the Irish Brigade, and was granted a company – his title commission dated October 1, 1794; 1796: Trant was sent to Portugal with the British auxiliary troops; 1798, November: took part in the expedition led by General Sir Charles Stuart, at the taking of Minorca; 1799, 17 January: fulfilled the obligations of  his military rank as a Major, in the Minorca regiment; had marriage tied with Sarah Georgina Horsington, who gave birth to Clarissa (Lisbon, 1800), and Thomas Abercombie (1805); 1801: to Egypt – he had the command of a regimental force, under General Ralph Abercrombie; after the Peace of Amiens (25 March 1802), Trant left the army; 1803, 25 December: entered as an Ensign in the Royal Staff Corps; served on the staff of H.R.H. the Duke of York; 1805, 28 November: appointed to the rank of lieutenant; 1808: sent to Portugal in the capacity of Military Agent, and transferred to service in the exército Português – was advanced in rank, Tenente-Coronel; August: General Bernardim Freire de Andrade did not interpose any obstacle to Trant’s active role, and to accompany Wellesley with a military formation counting 1,750 men (one Portuguese infantry battalion, plus cavalry); commanded the Portuguese troops which fought with the English army at Roliça and Vimeiro (he stood in reserve with Craufurd’s Irish brigade); after the Convention of Cintra Trant came back to England; 1809, 29 March: disaster of Porto; Trant raised a corps from the estudantes da Universidade (students of Coimbra University), the académicos, Batalhão Académico, i.e. the academic battalion; 3 April: promoted to the rank of Colonel; commander of the Province to the south of the Douro; he maintained his military position on the Vouga River and remained there all the time that Marshal Soult occupied Oporto; May: Wellington captures Oporto; June 1: promoted Captain (British army) in the Staff Corps; 1810, September: ambushed in a defile the French artillery train of the armée de Portugal; October 7: surprise of Coimbra; when Marshal Massena army’s corps left the town, Trant attacked by surprise and carried off some thousand prisoners (sick and wounded) to Oporto; appointed Governor of Oporto; 1811, March: the heroic days of Coimbra; April: charged with the mission to cut the communications of the Praça-forte de Almeida with Ciudad Rodrigo, ably coordinated with colonel Wilson; 8 May: Brigadier General of infantry; October: Cavaleiro (Knight) Commander of the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword, later a time, Conde de Montellegre; 1812, 14 April: at the battle of Guarda; 1814: carried out the executive functions of Governor of Coimbra, and Governor of the armaments (of Porto); 25 October: transferred – from the Staff Corps to the Portuguese service list; 1816, 25 December: on half pay; 1818, 20 July: retired.

Vide: Dictionary of national biography. 1900; Gates, D.. The Spanish ulcer: a history of the Peninsular War. 1986; Fletcher, I., Poulter, R.. Gentlemen’s sons: the Guards in the Peninsula and at Waterloo, 1808-1815. 1992; Glover, M.. Wellington as military commander. 1968; ––––– The Peninsular War, 1807-1814: a concise military history. Hamden: Archon Books, 1974; Haythornthwaite, P. J.. The Peninsular War. 2004; Luard, C. G. (edited by). The Journal of Clarissa Trant (1800-1852). London, John Lane the Bodley Head, 1925; Napier, W. F. P.. History of the war in the Peninsula and in the south of France. 1876; Oman, C. W. C.. A History of the Peninsular War. Oxford: The Claredon Press, 1902-1930; Peninsular War Letters, 1808-1813. MS 155 Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University; Soriano, L.. 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. Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional, 1866-1890; The Gentleman’s magazine, Volume 166. 1839; The United service journal, London: Henry Colburn, Great Malborough Street. Sold by all Booksellers, 1840; Weller, J.. Wellington in the Peninsula: 1808-1814. New York: A. S. Barnes and Co, 1963.


Is we believe, a native of Ireland, and entered as an ensign into the royal-staff corps in 1803. He went to Portugal with Sir Arthur Wellesley, and was one of the first Englishmen who joined in raising and training the Portugueze levies. In 1809 he commanded the Portugueze provinces south of the Douro. He took post on the Vouga, and remained there all the time Marshal Soult occupied Oporto. Being, in 1810, nominated governor of Oporto, he commanded 4000 of the militia, and attacked Massena’s park of artillery, and afforded time for Lord Wellington to take up his position at Busaco. In October he took the city of Coimbra, made 5000 prisoners in the hospitals there, and greatly contributed to Massena’s retreat. After the peace of 1814, Trant, then a Portuguese brigadier-general, went to France for the recovery of his wealth, and, in 1817, embarked, in the Portuguese service, for the Brasil” [vide: A New Biographical Dictionary, of 3000 Contemporary Public Characters, British and Foreign, of all ranks and professions, Second Edition, Vol. III, Part II, London: Printed for Gro. B. Whittaker, Ave-Maria Lane, 1825, pp. 517-518].   

                                                                                 *     *     *     *     *

Major-General Sir N. Trant.

Oct. 16. At Great Baddow, Essex, aged 70, Sir Nicholas Trant, K.T.S. formerly a Major-General in the Portuguese service. This officer was a native of Ireland. He entered the Royal Staff Corps as an Ensign Dec. 25, 1803; was made Lieutenant in 1805, and Captain 1809. He served on the staff as an assistant in the Quartermaster-general’s department; and was attached to the Portuguese army, in which he obtained the rank of Brigadier-General. He was for some time previously Governor of Oporto, and received the King’s licence to accept the insignia of a Knight Commander of the Tower and Sword, on the 18th Oct. 1811. His name frequently occurs in the despatches and memoirs of the Peninsular war. Of late years he was a great sufferer from an unextracted bullet lodged in his side. Sir Nicholas was a perfect and well informed gentleman. His daughter is married to the Rev. J. Bramston, Vicar of Great Baddow, brother to T. W. Bramston, esq. M.P. for South Essex” [vide: The Gentleman’s Magazine, by Sylvanus Urban, Gent., Volume XII., New Series, MDCCCXXXIX, July to December inclusive, London: William Pickering; John Bowyer Nicholas and Son, 1839, p. 653, l. 34-60].  

[14]Major-General Sir Nicholas Trant, K.C.T.S.

Sir Nicholas Trant, descended from an ancient family in Ireland, acted as a volunteer on the Staff of the Duke of Brunswick in 1792. He served the two following years under the Duke of York in Flanders, and was present at the capture of the Cape of Good Hope in 1795. In 1796, Major Trant went to Portugal with the British auxiliary troops: he was present at the taking of Minorca in 1798, and he went, in 1801, to Egypt, where he had the command of a regiment under Sir Ralph Abercrombie. After the peace of Amiens, Colonel Trant was serving on the Staff of H.R.H. the Duke of York, when he was sent to Portugal, preparatory to the landing of Sir Arthur Wellesley in that country. He was one of the British officers who took an active apart in the levy of Portuguese troops, and he commanded those which fought, in 1808, with the English army at Rolica and Vimeiro. The following year he had the command of the Province which lies to the south of the Douro, and taking up his position on the Vouga, with 1500 militia, and a corps of volunteers, consisting of the students of the University of Coimbra, he remained there during the whole time that Oporto was occupied by the army under Marshal Soult ––– named in 1809 Governor of Oporto. ––– Colonel Trant commanded a corps of 4000 militia; he attacked, in September, 1810, the artillery of Marshal Massena, near Viseu, during its march upon Lisbon, took several prisoners, and by embarrassing him in his operations, afforded time to Lord Wellington to occupy the position of Busaco, where, on the 27th of September, 1810, the latter defeated the French army. On the 7th of October following, General Trant, with a corps of 2000 militia, re-entered the city of Coimbra, made 5000 French prisoners, took possession of the hospitals of the army of Massena, and during the course of the winter occupied the line of the Mondego; and thus, depriving the French General of the resources which he might have drawn from this point, he contributed to accelerate his retreat. At the peace of 1814, General Trant, who preserved his rank in the Portuguese army, came to France to re-establish his health: lie went into Italy on the return of Buonaparte from Elba—returned to France after the battle of Waterloo; embarked for the Brazils in 1819, where he was offered, but declined, the command of a province by H.M. John VI. Sir Nicholas Trant was a most gallant soldier and warm-hearted friend. He died at Baddow, in Essex, on the 17th of October, 1839, aged 70” [vide: The United Service Journal and Naval and Military Magazine, 1840, Part I., London: Henry Colburn, Great Marlborough Street, pp. 99-100].

                                                                                 *     *     *     *     *

2494. Major Sir Nicholas Trant, KNT.

Ens. R’ staff corps, 25th Dec. 1803; Lieut. 28th Nov. 1805; Capt. 1st June, 1809; Capt. Portuguese service, 25th Oct. 1814; brev. Maj. 6th June, 1815: now on half-pay. Served on the staff as an Assist. in the Quar.-Mast.-Gen.’s department; served also in Portugal, and was attached to the Portuguese army, in which he obtained the rank of Brig.-Gen., and was appointed a Knight Commander of the Towe and Sword” [vide: The Royal Military Calendar, or Army Service and Commission book, Containing the services and progress of promotion of the Generals, Lieutenant-Generals, Major-Generals, Colonels, Lieutenant-Colonels, and Majors of the Army, according to seniority: with details of the principal military events of the last century, Third Edition, In Five Volumes, Vol. V., London: Printed by A. J. Valpy, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street, Sold by T. Egerton, Whitehall; Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, Paternoster Row, and all the booksellers, 1820, pp. 315-316].  

[15] Masséna had been promoted maréchal d’Empire (Marshallate of the Empire) on May 19, 1804. Although not a green hand while campaigning in Portugal, his strategic insipidness, the case considered, was anyhow a frustrating matter to many members of his mesnie militarire (Masséna’s household) -- not only to Marbot’s views and illuminative account. Therefore, did Marbot not know that Masséna had the rank of Maréchal while serving under him? More in rectitude of thinking: did anyone else, either native or of English extraction, precisely know about his services militaires during the quite long extraordinary military career under the hegemonic influences of the Empire?

[16] One would be prone to consider the immediate reaction of the French column that unexpectedly came under attack: the soldiers’ shocking perceptions of terror and the distressing expectations mixed with the steady spirit of determination and resistance. When the Anglo-Luso hostilities broke out, the showering of lead bullets abruptly harvested all around and created general confusion. The unabashed deafening clangor of the firing weapons and the protracted battle actions rapidly ensued in the “sector” of contest. Irreversible perceptions of havoc set the scene. Screams of pain. That was the brutal face of the war, staggering in the face of the French troops in a foreign land. What a frightful experience that became, abstracting from any further consideration and causal incidence, unbroken courage and indomitable valour coupled as synergistic impetus to the impavid Lusitanian combat formations. Another contrary element was the unsparing realism of the combat action, the stark reality of the strategic frame. Coronel Trant knew that well, and he acted accordingly – shrewdly testing beforehand the enemy’s reactions and sustainability on the ground. A considered observation is to understand that the stalwart officer had “inferred” the not far away presence of the supporting infantry units, gaining this knowledge by the audacious display of fiery martial stubbornness and pugnacity that his storming units were counter-opposed by the sturdy French combatants.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2011


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