Research Subjects: Miscellaneous

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

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

By Roberto A. Scattolin, Italy

 

Introduction

In his passionate conceptualisations, a respected Portuguese historian[1] unwaveringly accounted that “as Invasões Francesas foram a mais dura e sangrenta guerra travada em toda a História no território nacional” (trnsl.: the French invasions were the hardest fought and bloodiest war in all the history in the national territory).

The peculiarly offered case study to examine the relevant text contents that affected Continental Portuguese territory[2] and its people -- implications of major cause were detrimentally originated by the oppressive offense and territorial invasion by the foreign French invaders[3] --, do constitute essentials, motives of cultural definition for a purely refined historic research.

Primarily intended, the constitutive motivation is to firmly approach and to elaborate the construction of the historic critic of the following documentary piece.

Other impervious grounds are concerned with the necessity to save from the waters of the oblivion, from the harsh temporal snares, from the blind carelessness and from the forgetfulness and superficiality of the past memory works, that pervading sense of intrinsic wonder capable of restoring dignity and respect to the overlooked memoirs that make significant reading, that failed to be taken into account those documentary sources.

The rich evocative cadre that is here passed through a strict methodological process of analysis belongs to the classification and category of eye-witnesses that the historiographers would be conditioned to define as “microhistories” or “daily histories”.

Regrettably, this limited definition neither envisages nor supports the cultural properties of these studies.

In actual terms, a more extensive significance has to be contemplated.

After aptly sifting and assessing through dense, in substance forgotten first-hand documentary piece, the Italian historian has selected and officialized stirring events of the past, conferring upon them a touch that makes them unique in rendering an historic perspective.

This process of selection, production, and transmission of an epic permits the function of a wider project of sensibility and cultural education, reasonably beyond two centuries; it establishes what is memorable, making sacred the future preservation of a Nation’s heritage and its enduring struggles of liberty and political independence.

Relative to the present cultural investigation and pre-defined researched elaborations there is in fact, the categorization of historical information that is emphasized as a priority key of comprehension: it provides XXIth century polemologists descriptions in strategic scenarios that have hitherto remained desconhecido (unknown, id est, remote) when not mentioned in the lettered official historiography of the past.

The concurrent equalization is correspondingly oriented: to preserve the written memories, to honourably defend the value of history and enhance the authentic comprehension of the past heritage.

The Portuguese axiom: implications of honour

One of the most relevant cognitive features of the contraposição armada (armed contraposition) and harshly-disputed contest[4] which fiercely raged in the surroundings of Tojal[5] on September 20, 1810, is to closely scrutinize the development and the impacted strategy of the above-indicated fatos de armas (facts of arms), considered through the primary support of documentary material sources, more importantly, the Anglo-Lusitanian viewpoint.

In effective terms of evaluation, this elaborate cultural determination is actualized, it translates, projects, and qualifies, the “impresses relatadas” (reported impressions) of the Portuguese command.

Pertinent to this title of documentary research, an accredited major historic source is constituted by the relação memorial (memorial relation) remitted by the commanding-officer of the Portuguese operative militias, coronel Nicolas Trant[6].

A stout-hearted, indefatigable military commander, this veteran officer of proven valor[7] reminisced tense pages related to the dire straits inherent to the military mission to which he was assigned in the south-eastern Beira Alta.

The perilous, unpredictable war circumstances which unexpectedly precipitated into the fury of combats against the unyielding French fighting groups, form the core of a vividly recounted narration.

On focus are the clear-cut detailed specifications of the same chronicled narrative.

Properly intended as a substantial as well as an official piece of writing, the relation[8] was recorded by Colonel Trant; it was later forwarded by courier to General Manuel Pinto Bacellar.

An observation: effectively, these composite escritos informativos[9] do constitute the foundational nucleus, the vitality and the epic of this lettered piece have a well-defined titulation: Office of Colonel Trant to General[10] Manuel Pinto Bacellar[11].

Since this first reading, these peculiar terms punctuate a precise hierarchical ascendency[12], mirrored reflex of a cohesive military organization, structured through Headquarters activities at territorial level -- synergic efforts, for the troops’ operative modalities.

Documentary text

Moimenta da Beira, September 22, 1810.

My General: - Having received permission to attack the enemy’s line of communication, I marched on the afternoon of the 19th, by Segões, on the road to Viseu, which stands 3 leagues from Moimenta da Beira and 4 from Vizeu. I could not get there with my corps before 3 o’clock on the morning of the 20th, and because I still had one and a half leagues to go, or just over three hours time before reaching the Royal [= main] road from Trancoso to Vizeu, by which the French 8th Army Corps had marched on the previous days, I had to suspend my operations for that night. I took advantage, however, of the following day to reconnoitre, by which I drew my troops close to the hamlet of Castello[13].

Comment: Fresh, tensely compiled annotations; a four sentences memoir.

A well-developed semantic complex and detailed expository cadre are expounded through a one hundred and thirty-two (6, 38, 66, 22) worded articulation.

The first sentence clarifies, in specific detail, significant elements of chronological order.

Clearly reported are the actual geographical location[14] and inhabited site where the principais quartéis militares (this distinct territorial coordination and military functionality had to be read in the complementarity of Headquarters) of Trant’s heterogeneous unidades portugueses (Portuguese units) had been installed, and organized in terms of armed security[15].

Basically recognized are three parts of intelligence: the month, day, and the year -- to which the given data and the piece of information applied.

The addressing formalities and firm disciplined tone, as well as the obsequious, deferent colloquialism inherent to the verbalized formulation -- “[…] My General: - […]”[16]--, definitely pointed to Trant’s superior commanding-officer, General[17] Bacellar.

Since its very beginning, Colonel Trant’s report seems to conciliate and to adapt the contents toward the corresponding responsibilities of military rank, and parenthetically the practical proficient assumptions of the acquired operative results.

A line of motivational intents and strict adherence to the imparted orders (id est, executive duties) cannot escape an inquiring glimpse by the contemporary military history researcher.

What emerges from the agile and cursory view of the documentary piece, is this fact: the objective view that Trant’s corps had been tasked with an important mission[18] against the invading French troops in the Beira Alta -- is an acquired confirmation.

His thoughtful specifications, pregnant of geographical contours are of exceptional value in understanding the characters of conformed mobility of his units, “fixed” in a declared context of hostilities and conflict emergency against the fiery advancing foreign host -- the French 8e corps d’armée[19].

The accurately posed geographical coordinates and nominal references which have been pointed out, permit the seizure of complicated obstructions met in the current march progression effectuated between Moimenta da Beira and the hamlet of Segões.

That distance was estimated to be not under the three leagues[20].

Abstracting from the compendiary impact in reading the disquisitional text passages, there are ancillary elements to be considered that permit a deeper probe into Trant’s eyewitness account[21].

After a pondered processing, pure intelligibility, information of prime significance is extracted.

In sequential order: first, the Portuguese units’ commanders had been imparted dispositions to cover the pre-defined road, under the cover of night, so as not to be detected at any distance[22].

Second: the march would have required, in variable time, a six hours minimal period, in addition to the accorded stops and rest (unspecified time).

Third: taking into consideration the possible rests[23] every two hours[24], the discriminating history researcher gains the intermediate average speed of the troop movements[25].

Attention must, however be paid, to the fact of a pre-arranged tactical adaptability, that all the units were not ordered into active mobility at the same time.

This inspired recourse would have thus avoided futile jams and consistent delays on the itinerary which had been scheduled; in a proceeding argumentation, the artillery pieces were the last to be moved ahead.

Under these circumstances the troops emerged physically exhausted once they reached the rural site of Segões.

To expeditiously move the milícianos (militiamen) and the tropas regulares (regular troops) by the hundreds into early nighttime, had effectively proven to be a demanding enterprise.

It was a cogent, conditioned necessity, to immediately compensate the growing physical disharmonies (caused by overwhelming fatigue) by a restorative night-rest.

That was an unavoidable forced choice, as, in fact, recovering fresh energies and personal determinations were deemed necessary to continue the area approaching to the estrada real[26].

More in-depth is the subsequent consideration: Segões had been established as ponto de encontro (rallying point), a site where all the armed compounds (either infantry, cavalry or artillery forces) had to convene despite any impediment and raised tactical complications on rugged ground.

Not to be overlooked from the reflexive inquiry and in the penetrating analytical survey that concerned about Trant’s corps’ units, are the similarly related impedimenta exercitus (i.e., objects, such as provisions or baggage and equipment, that impede or encumber an army).

Almost considered and consistent as serviceable locomotion means (i.e., horse drawn carriages)[27], these conveyances would have implied covered transports for the troops’ supplies – victuals, in addition to provenders, replenishments of ammunitions, general utilities and working tools.

On one side, were part and counted the practical waggons for the artillery pieces, powders and cannon balls.

No doubt that context of logistics was a continued severity.

The long march: military territorialization and armed mobility

I took advantage, however, of the following day to reconnoitre, by which I drew my troops close to the hamlet of Castello[28].

Comment: The laconicism of this articulated phraseology hid untold complexity and grave meaning; this terse semantic expressed the critical views Colonel Trant had effectually matured on the hardships sustained during 19 September, and the night of the 20th.

No reticence is observed.

It was convincingly argued that no advantages of any sort were recognized by the “advancing” Portuguese corps; quite the contrary.

Difficulties in mobility and complex itinerary had to be surmounted.

Proof is given that only for 20 September, the Lusitanian troops had assumed the required organization, and the formations had differently completed their tactical concentration in the area.

Ranks order and corps order had therefore to be rearranged well before laying claim to any armed intervention and capable manoeuvering.

Trant’s steadiness of character and resolução tático (tactical resolution) are steadily observed: his determination of command and prompt coordination of the troops are a fairly effective valorization of his executive role of coronel comandante (Colonel commander)[29].

A substantial documentary corroboration: Nicholas Trant had the capacity to be a responsible, a principled and effective leader of men.

This sagacious behaviour was revealed, and conformed in the constitutive traits of Trant’s assumed functions; none-the-less, the Anglo-Luso officer’s self-discipline was not restricted to that corresponding ability.

The pre-adapted planning resolved upon by his units’ commanders showed a cautious military methodology, a profitable “mechanism” for aptly coordinated strategic initiative and conjoined efforts in tactics.

In a stringent situation of war, inter-active modalities were the basic key in evaluating Trant’s newly pre-ordered operative lines.

Units’ profiled security

Thus his major preoccupations were to re-consider and to re-assert his actual military configuration on ground, in a no man’s land.

As a capable, experienced commander, Trant worried about the fact that in his position he could meet the adversarial parties, the French invaders, at any possible moment; under transitions of troops tactics, the Anglo-Lusitanian officer had correspondingly to be expectant (i.e., anticipative, a far-sighted mind) to face unexpectedly raised conflict contingencies.

The favourable proficiency in reconnoitering[30] the rough, natural territorial extensions ahead of his approaching march, was largely inspired to ensure the protection (armed guards) and security measures (mounted escorts) to his infantry soldiers and light artillery crews, while marching forward to a new position and the consolidation of the area.

It seemed that practically assured compatibility when reaching the location of Castello.

Another element of consideration arose from constrictive precautionary measures which were ordered; these prescriptions, opportunely applied for a robust vanguard formation -- to adroitly prevent being outflanked by the French and the will not to risk all that is precious for the love of country.

*Notes at hand, the Portuguese units were approximately at 1,5 leagues from the dal Royal road. This indicates a valuated distance of 7,2 kilometres.

In its final stage, the whole consolidated distance from Moimenta da Beria is thus given at 21,6 km. (14,4 + 7,2).

Tactical adjustment and sectors of intervention

Having been informed on the movements of the enemy, I knew that a considerable train of baggage with much artillery (the army’s reserve park) was approaching from Trancoso[31].

Comment: One sentence.

A twenty-eight term succinct lexemic composition.

After the Lusitanian units had reached the area of Castello, undetected, and consolidated a state of adapted defense and renewed ground position, brief-range explorations were neatly launched.

Pieces of information were provided after having gained “contact” -- id est, distância visual  (visual distance) -- with the adversarial forces.

Convenient tactics; the Dragoons’ light cavalry exploring parties proved effective with their ordered tasks.

In this prospect, however, the impression cannot be detracted that the support and back cover of the sympathetic população autóctone (autochthonous population) was a trusty factor of indulgent collaboration to get the better hand.

Relevant confirmation was offered -- effectual popular aid and synergic collaboration -- to check the movements of the enemy, observed within range of telescope. .

The concealed observation of the road and the sensible movements of the French column’s units from Trancoso to Viseu, appeared to be a distinctly ordered exploratory mission.

In this process of analytical evaluation, there is no other way that could explain the refined description which enucleated[32] a comboio de bagagem (train of baggage) whose length was estimated to be considerable, and the further detection of the French army’s parque da artilharia de reserva (reserve artillery park).

Vulnerable objectives were included in the systematized organization of the armée de Portugal.

Relatively speaking, it is not possible to consider the precise control of the distant road, effectuated by the courageous Portuguese observers employed in mission.

A strenuous attack: missing synchronicities and endured gallantry

So I decided to attack it frontally. Therefore I formed an avant-garde of my Grenadiers and thirty Dragoons, advancing ahead of the column and the rest of the cavalry; but unfortunately, the officer commanding the 6th squadron chose a different route than the one by which I had advanced, and was followed by the infantry, a circumstance that caused a delay of over an hour’s time, and frustrated this most important engagement, which would have resulted in the entire deprivation of Marshal Massena’s monetary resources, because that train contained the army’s military treasure chest. It was accompanied by all the personal baggage of the command-in chief, as well as that of Marshal Junot and of many other senior officers[33].   

Comment: Three plain fluent sentences; a syntactic complex (7, 87, 26) of structured one hundred-twenty terms.

These memorial passages are of consequential importance to obtain suitable understanding in relation to the first Portuguese attack, which was ordered against the advancing French column’s carriages.

It is axiomatic; Trant, having determined to assault the French column, had issued proper orders to his subordinates in rank, and decided to stop the enemy column by a straight frontal assault.

In this process, the first objective evidence is gained: it illuminates that the offensive modalities were a specifically and shrewdly planned ataque de surpresa (surprise attack).

More importantly to the point, a specific element is inferred: the ambush terrain was a locus forte, a congenial natural position[34] well-fitted to the advantageous finalizations of the main forward assault.

Cicero pro domo sua[35], the different phases of the attack were neither conveniently detailed nor copiously reported.

The pre-established enveloping manoeuver which was to affect the exposed side of the French column, proved instead a staggering factor.

In observation: it is admittedly stated that part of the light cavalry sections (the 6th squadron force) and numerous compounds of infantry were retarded in reaching their pre-assigned positions on ground; therefore, these units were unable to finally enter into armed contest and join the toughly-disputed combat.

In practical words, and under considerations of tactical intelligibility, the pre-figured Portuguese attack on the flank was delayed – under adversities of sort, and it did not actually materialize for more than an hour.

That incidental, unexpected contretemps, originated a stringent temporal procastination; a crucial conjuncture, which added intensity to the growing acrimony of the military operations then being fought.

The mutability of war: missing objectives, and circumstantial adaptability

A debatable subject-matter which appears in the literary narration, however needs a proper perspective view and clarity of specification.

Trant’s recollection requires critical consideration using causal induction and the transport of the monetary resources of the armée de Portugal.

Trant lamented and acknowledged unequivocally a factual discrepancy, that significant objectives were “missing in action”.

In this case, the Anglo-Lusitanian commander notably reported that amid the failed conquests there were the French army’s caisse militaire (military chest), not to mention, in subsequent terms of explication, part of Marshal’s Masséna’s own private baggages, and, in a similarly related manner, Maréchal Jean Andoche Junot’s personal belongings.

A posteriori, a cogitative question arises: did Trant’s annotations stand correspondingly for unfulfilled projections of glorious and capricious ambitions?

Quite detailed expositions of reference, which have to be contextualized objectively, are in fact that distinct march groups (id est, organized units of movement) of the French column partially succeeded in evading the fiery attack launched by the Portuguese troops.

Practical safety measures were quickly enacted and assured the French a hastily regrouping to their most near armed escort formations in the area.

As intense and grievous combat circumstances, conditions unfolded, it can be discerned how this measure proved to be an effective tactic: in the toughly-fought scene, as the incessant clangour of the arms blasted all around the area and some groups “disengaged” and hotly detached their équipages from the main convulsive action.

Not badly, a forced exit from the contested area of armed attrition, but from Trant’s psychological and behavioural pattern emerged; on the other hand a fundamental facet: the variety of the afore-indicated pieces of intelligence had none-the-less been extracted at a time after this crucial combat, by submitting the French prisoners o. w. to the compelling procedures and to the constrictions of interrogation.

The contextualized strategic cadre was commensurately evident: the contrast of conflicts actually neither tallied nor lived up to the hoped for projections of “martial glory”.

This declination in terminology may be considered a generous lexical euphemism.

The case considered, the penetrating assumption of meaning is referencing the unaccomplished gains of a monetary nature; therefore, in a progressive critical analysis, to defective, although not the exiguous compensations of pecuniary resources (i.e., in particular, the scarce spoils of war, and the materials which were conquered by the French as depredated loot).

French fighting units: abnegation, and duty of the arms

Its immediate escort was of three hundred infantry men, and more or less one hundred imperial gendarmes; but the escort of the reserve artillery, that followed one league at the rear, consisted of ten infantry battalions, and was followed, according to prisoners, by a reserve of two thousand cavalry, commanded by General Montbrun[36].   

Comment: One eloquent sentence.

A fifty-three words styled composition.

In evidence, are offered the numeric capabilities of the French armed formations accompanying the column of the carriages.

In this perspective, some hundreds of French soldiers were assigned to active duties and armed escort service to the advancing horse-drawn wagons.

Regular infantry formations were easily discerned, as well as a robust man-power of mounted gendarmes[37].

What has not been taken into consideration were the équipages (crews) mounted on board of the wagons, and the accompanying troopers.

Worth mentioning is that these teams of soldats and charretiers (carters) driving their attelages[38] were of perspicuous order.

And their effectives had pertinently to be added to the men under active service duties, and in arms.

The remarkable aspect was constituted by the slow-moving French régiments and bataillons which were to cover the artillery park, and were in the proximity, within a league distance.

A relevant force of arms, confirmed as cavalerie de réserve (reserve cavalry), counting some thousand men under Général Louis Pierre de Montbrun[39], followed in the track.

Documentary Appendix, Piece I – Primary Source, Portuguese Text

Officio do coronel Trant ao general Manuel Pinto Bacellar

Moimenta de Beira, 22 de setembro de 1810

Meu General: - Tendo a permissão de atacar a linha de communicação do inimigo, marchei na tarde 19 por Segões, sobra o caminho de Vizeu, distante de Moimenta da Beita 3 leguas e de Vizeu 4. Não pude ali chegar com o meu corpo antes das tres horas de manha de 20, e tendo ainda legua e meia de marcha, ou pouco mais ou menos tres horas de tempo antes de alcançar a estrada real de Trancoso a Vizeu, por onde o oitavo corpo do exercito frances tinha marchado nos precedentes dias, fui obrigado a suspender as minhas operações par esta noite. Aproveitei-me, entretando, do seguiente dia para fazer um reconhecimento, pelo qual approximei as minhas tropas ao logar de Castello. Informado dos movimentos do inimigo, pude saber que um consideravel comboio de bagagens com muita artilheria (o parque de reserva do exercito) se approximava, vindo de Trancoso. Decide-me, pois, a atacal-o de frente. Formei, pois, uma vanguarda dos meus granadeiros e de trinta dragões, e antecipei-me á columna e ao resto da cavallaria; mas desgraçadamente o commandante do esquadrão n.° 6 tomou un caminho contrario áquelle pelo qual me adiantei, e foi seguido pela infanteria, circumstancia que occasionou uma demora de mais de uma hora de tempo, e fez mallograr a mais importante empreza, da qual teria resultado uma inteira privação de recursos pecuniarios ao marechal Massena, porque este comboio continha a caixa militar do exercito, e era acompanhado de toda a bagagem pessoal do general em chefe, do marechal Junot e de muitos outros officiaes superiores. A sua escolta immediata era de trezentos homens de infanteria, e pouco mais ou menos cem gendarmes imperiaes; mas a escolta da reserva da artilheria, e que estava uma legua á retaguarda, consistia em dez batalhões de infanteria, e era seguida, segundo affirmam as prisioneiros, de uma reserva de dois mil homens de cavallaria, commandados pelo general Montbrun”.

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. 1-36. Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal.

Notes:

[1] Luís António de Oliveira Ramos, former Rector of the Universidade do Porto; and Emeritus Professor of the Faculdade de Letras do Porto. Author of the work entitled Le Portugal et la Révolution Française, P.U.B., Bordeaux, 1989.  

[2] The chronological data referrs to the early XIXth century’s conflicts, of the years 1810-1811; those were tragic times of grievous social afflictions, and strenuously armed resistance to the aggressive push for annexations by the French Empire.  

[3] A distinguished French veteran officer recalled: “[…] l’Empereur voulant tenter une troisième fois la conquête du Portugal ordonna qu’une nouvelle armée dont le commandement en chef fut confié à Masséna, se rassemblât dans le courant de juin 1810 à Salamanque et aux environs. Elle était composée du 6e corps sous les ordres du maréchal Ney, du 8e corps commandé par le duc d’Abrantès et du 2e corps sous les ordres du général Reynier. En outre, une forte réserve de cavalerie commandée par le général Montbrun faisait partie de l’armée expéditionnaire; l’artillerie obéissait au général Eblé” [vide: Béchet de Léocour, Général. Souvenirs. Publiés et annotés par Christian Schneider, préface par Jean Tulard.Paris, Librairie Historique F. Teissèdre, 1999, p. 336, l. 10-17]. A native of Rüderswyl (1773, Bern Kanton; his father: Emmanuel-Frédéric Sprünglin; the mother: Marie-Catherrine Hemmann), the SwissofficerSprünglin (who was promoted chef de bataillon adjoint à l’Etat-major général du 6e corps) annotated in his extensive chronicle:“Mai. – Dans les premiers jours de mai on apprit la formation de l’armée de Portugal, créée par décret impérial du 17 avril, et composée des 2e, 6e, et 8e corps d’armée. Le 2e corps ne devait en faire définitivement partie que lorsqu’il aurait passé sur la rive droite du Tage.[…]. […]. […]. M. le maréchal Masséna, prince d’Essling, avait le commandement en chef de cette armée. Il y fut devancé par sa vieille reputation et la renommée de ses nouveaux exploits à Essling et à Wagram. Mais on ne tarda pas à s’apercevoir qu’il avait survécu à lui-même et que l’enfant gâté de la Victoire avait été délaissé par l’inconstante déesse. Epuisé au physique comme au moral, Masséna n’avait conservé de toutes ses héroïques qualitié qu’une fermeté dégénérée en entêtement sourd à toute representation”  [vide: Sprünglin, Emmanuel-Frédéric, Colonel. Souvenirs des campagnes d’Espagne et de Portugal. Paris, Librairie Historique F. Teissèdre, 1998, p. 146, l. 14-30].

[4] The terms and the practicability of impacted strategy and precise tactics are strictly implied in the concrete context of the armed contraposition.

[5] This area of geographical reference is located in the distrito (district) of Viseu, in Portugal territory.

[6] A commissioned British officer who, by new applied service modalities, had passed and was transferred  into Portuguese service.

[7] In this reference, a synonymic terminology is open, which either couples an associated meaning with gallantry and indomitability of character. 

[8] The comprehension is refined to the complementary terminology of relação. Relatively speaking, its extension was the text of an expository despatch.

[9] Informative writings.

[10] William Carr Beresford, the marechal commandante en chefe, specified that Bacellar retained the rank of tenente general. The honeyed, magniloquent handhold used by Trant is fertile; evidence is understood: the styled conformity of this rank title was a colloquial address, a diplomatic formality.  

[11] Original Portuguese text: “Officio do coronel Trant ao general Manuel Pinto Bacellar. Manuel Pinto de Morais Bacelar, 1st visconde de Monte Alegre. His father: Lázaro Pinto de Morais Bacelar. His mother: Inês Bernarda Pessoa Teixeira. Manuel was born at Vilar de Ossos, on 4 September 1741 – and died in Lamego (1 May 1816). In June 1810, this raking officer had been appointed Comandante of the Milícias da Beira, Trás-os-Montes e Douro.  

[12] A distinct and professional cadeia de comando (chain of command) is evidenced. The apex of the hierarchical military establishment was the prominent figure of Marshal Carr Beresford, and the descending mobility lied in the responsibilities of Manuel Pinto de Morais Bacelar, via Nicholas Trant – via subordinates of arms.

[13] Original script, Portuguese documentary source: “Officio do coronel Trant ao general Manuel Pinto Bacellar. Moimenta de Beira, 22 de setembro de 1810. Meu General: - Tendo a permissão de atacar a linha de communicação do inimigo, marchei na tarde 19 por Segões, sobra o caminho de Vizeu, distante de Moimenta da Beita 3 leguas e de Vizeu 4. Não pude ali chegar com o meu corpo antes das tres horas de manha de 20, e tendo ainda legua e meia de marcha, ou pouco mais ou menos tres horas de tempo antes de alcançar a estrada real de Trancoso a Vizeu, por onde o oitavo corpo do exercito frances tinha marchado nos precedentes dias, fui obrigado a suspender as minhas operações par esta noite. Aproveitei-me, entretando, do seguiente dia para fazer um reconhecimento, pelo qual approximei as minhas tropas ao logar de Castello” [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. 1-14. Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal].    

[14] A mild natural environment surrounded by lofty prominences, the far-reaching hamlet of Moimenta da Beira was located in the district of Viseu (Portugal).

[15] This consideration well implied the mentioned country village and his natural approaches, therefore the priority to gained control of the roads’ system and area itineraries.

[16] Observation: a deferential title has been used. Through a styled writing, it was addressed in saluting a Portuguese commander, however without being prefixed to his name. The hierarchical procedures are conventionally noted; especially the emphatic formalities used when speaking to an elder and superior in rank. 

[17] For explanatory purposes, a differentiation of rank has to be discerned; please, view note number nine.  

[18] In reality, Trant had been placed at the head of a mobile corps composed of several thousand  troops. Infantaria (infantry), cavalaria (cavalry), and artilharia (artillery) formations were at his orders.

[19] On 17 April 1810, the creation of the armée de Portugal was ordered by a decree issued by the Empereur Napoleon I. In his recollections, Béchet de Léocour annoted that: “Cependant l’Empereur voulant tenter une troisième fois la conquête du Portugal ordonna qu’une nouvelle armée don’t le commandement en chef fut confié à Masséna, se rassemblât dans le courant de juin 1810 à Salamanque et aux environs. Elle était composée du 6e corpsè sous les orders du maréchal Ney, du 8e corps commandé par le duc d’Abrantès et du 2e corps sous les ordres du général Reynier. En outre, une forte réserve de cavalerie commandée par le général Montbrun faisait partie de l’armée […]: l’artillerie obéissait au général Eblé” [vide: Béchet de Léocour, Général. Souvenirs. Librairie Historique F. Teissèdre, Paris, 1999, p. 336, l. 10-17]. Colonel Emmanuel- rédéric Sprünglin, a native of Rüderswyl (a parish of the canton of Berne, Emmenthal), in his Memoir recalled: “Mai. – Dans les premiers jours de mai on apprit la formation de l’armée de Portugal, créée par décret imperial du 17 april, et composée des 2e, 6e, et 8e corps d’armée. […]. […]. […]. M. le maréchal Masséna, prince d’Essling, avait le commandement en chef de cette armée. Il y fut devancé par sa vieille réputation et la renommée de ses nouveaux exploits à Essling et à Wagram. Mais on ne tarda pas à s’apercevoir qu’il avait survécu à lui-même et que l’enfant gâté de la Victoire avait été délaissé par l’inconstante déesse. Epuisé au physique comme au moral, Masséna n’était plus que l’ombre de lui-même et n’avait conservé de toutes ses héroïques qualités qu’une fermeté dégénérée en entêtement sourd à toute représentation” [vide: Sprünglin, Emmanuel-Frédéric, Colonel. Souvenirs des Guerres d’Espagne et de Portugal. Paris, Librairie Historique F. Teissèdre, 1998, p. 146, l. 14-30]. A non negligible point is pointed, and focused by the fact that the monetary assets (i.e., finances) of this armée expéditionnaire would have been organized and separatedly administered from the funds availabilities of the armée d’Espagne. Jean Andoche Junot’s corps belonged to the armée de Portugal – and it was placed under Maréchal Masséna’s formal command authority. A Portuguese army officer, and autor da história militar  (author of military history), Vitoriano José César (Cartaxo, 18 January 1860 - Lisbon, 3 January 1939) appropriately annoted: “O 8.° corpo, sob o comando de Junot, com um efectivo de 16.772 homens e 3.652 cavalos, passou o Côa no dia 16 em Porto de Vide, estacionando o corpo principal em Pinhel e a vanguarda em Valbom. Este corpo de. exército marchou pela estrada de Pinhel – Trancoso – Tojal e Viseu. Por esta mesma estrada marchou o parque de artilharia, formando um extenso comboio, e levando na sua retaguarda a cavalaria de reserva, sob o comando do general Montbrun, e cujo efectivo era de 3.651 homens e 3.822 cavalos. Todas estas forças constituíam a coluna da direita que marchava pela pior estrada. [...]. [...]. [...]. O 6.° e 8.° corpos marcharam, a partir de Viseu, pela mesma estrada – Faial – Tondela – Santa Comba Dão. A demorada e difícil marcha do parque de artilharia, não só pela natureza dos caminhos, mas porque fora atacado nas proximidades de Decermilo pelas milícias de Trant, obrigara Massena a permanecer alguns dias em Viseu, o que veio sobremaneira favorecer o plano de Wellington” [extraplations adapted from: Batalha do Buçaco. 1. A preparação. 3.ª Edição, Lisboa, Imprensa da Armada, 1930; 1.ª Edição, 1910]. Vitoriano had been promoted coronel in 1914, and General, in 1926. He authored the work Invasões Francesas em Portugal -- 3 volumes, Tipografia da Cooperativa Militar, Lisboa, 1903, 1907, 1910.  

[20] More appropriately, what is the terminologic definition of league? A measure of length or distance, varying in different countries (from about 2.4 to 4.6 English statute miles of 5.280 feet each). This system conformability was used as a land measure, chiefly in continental Europe. In this convenience, and effective use, it was an obsolete unit of measurement for distance of variable length. It usually equaled to 3.0 statute miles, corresponding to 4.8 kilometers. With these constitutive parameters, we are given quite an important detail: the Lusitanian forces had to cover a difficult march of 14,4 kilometers to reach Segões.    

[21] Despacho (written relation; i.e., a personal eyewitness account).

[22] Significantly, the soldiers had to avoid making noises, to create inconveniences, and to observe a neat march; that far-sightedness eliminated any conversational course thus keeping the thoughts in obmutescence.

[23] In this case, we can arguably and reasonably consider a temporal assumption of nearly thirty minutes. 

[24] In a speculative cogitation, if three periods of rest are considered, we obtain the differential time (3 x 30 = 90 minutes) that has to be added to the computed hours of march. 

[25] The acquired results become a matter for serious study. Assuming Trant’s trustworthy words, a table calculation gives a two hour time to cover a league (4.8 kilometers). More specific: 25 minutes (120 minutes : 4.8) were necessary to cover a single kilometer. There is consistent “probable” evidence that Colonel Trant had cunningly resolved to leave Moimenta da Beira by a sagaz iniciativa tática (sagacious tactical intiative) – by moving his troops by cover of the night. One question quickly arises: can we know the time when the Portuguese forces departed from the village? Reasonably, yes. A further element is inferred, thus exponentially presented: around 07,30 p.m. This conciliatory assessment is drawn  by detracting the march time for 1.5 leagues and adding an increment of 1.30 h. for possible rest (h. 12,00 p.m.  - 3 h. - 1,30 h.).

[26] Id est, the Royal [= main] road -- from Trancoso to Viseu.  For a quick survey of the roads, readers are invited to consult the text of William Granville Eliot [vide: 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, pp. 286-302].   

[27] For this practical reason, donkeys and jackasses were not to be excluded from the transports’ facilitations and compatibilities.     

[28] For the primary source text, 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. 12-14. Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal].    

[29] In correlative terms, official no comando (id est, commanding-officer).    

[30] The profitability of the Portuguese light cavalry is emphasized, notably the Dragões (dragoons), the esquadrões de cavalaria ligeira (light cavalry squadrons) whose unpredictable tactical ground mobility (i.e., conversions) and their persevering bravery in action were to be feared.

[31] Original Portuguese text: “Informado dos movimentos do inimigo, pude saber que um consideravel comboio de bagagens com muita artilheria (o parque de reserva do exercito) se approximava, vindo de Trancoso” [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. 15-18. Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal].

[32] The peculiarity of this specially-used verbal form retains the distinct meaning of “to clarify”, “to evidence”, to effectually discern the composition of the advancing French column.

[33] Primary source text: “Decide-me, pois, a atacal-o de frente. Formei, pois, uma vanguarda dos meus granadeiros e de trinta dragões, e antecipei-me á columna e ao resto da cavallaria; mas desgraçadamente o commandante do esquadrão n.° 6 tomou un caminho contrario áquelle pelo qual me adiantei, e foi seguido pela infanteria, circumstancia que occasionou uma demora de mais de uma hora de tempo, e fez mallograr a mais importante empreza, da qual teria resultado uma inteira privação de recursos pecuniarios ao marechal Massena, porque este comboio continha a caixa militar do exercito, e era acompanhado de toda a bagagem pessoal do general em chefe, do marechal Junot e de muitos outros officiaes superiores” [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. 18-30. Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal]. 

[34] That was an advantageous position. A défilé, definitedly suitable to the strategic aims of the pre-defined Portuguese attack. Its executive incisiveness made it all on the results which were to be achieved.  

[35] A Latin locution. In translation: “Cicero in favour of his house”. It derives from a fervid oration of Marcus Tullius Cicero against Publius Clodius Pulcher. In this stirring harangue (De domo sua ad pontifices), Cicero requested to be returned the area and the funds to re-build his house which has been confiscated during his exile, as well as a part of the properties located on the Palatino hill and which were consecrated to the goddess Libertas. This vivid locutory expression is usually used to the address of someone who fervently perorated his cause.

[36] Portuguese text: “A sua escolta immediata era de trezentos homens de infanteria, e pouco mais ou menos cem gendarmes imperiaes; mas a escolta da reserva da artilheria, e que estava uma legua á retaguarda, consistia em dez batalhões de infanteria, e era seguida, segundo affirmam as prisioneiros, de uma reserva de dois mil homens de cavallaria, commandados pelo general Montbrun” [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. 30-36. Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal].

[37] Does this seemingly relevant specification acquire a connotation for mounted troop? Or, has its meaning to be interpreted in the complexity of either mounted and foot elements?    

[38] These included the chevaux d’attelage (harness horses), plus the chariots and the voitures à cheval (wheeled wagons, and horse-drawn carriages).  

[39]Le comandant général de la Cavalerie était le général de division Montbrun [vide: Sprünglin, Emmanuel-Frédéric, Colonel. Souvenirs des Guerres d’Espagne et de Portugal. Paris, Librairie Historique F. Teissèdre, 1998, p. 147, l. 12-13].

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2012, updated May 2013

 

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