Research Subjects: Miscellaneous

Ethics and Warfare in the 1811 Peninsular War: a Story of Military Honour

By Roberto A. Scattolin, Italy



The ancient Greek critic, philosopher, scientist and physician ριστοτέλης (384 BC- March 7, 322 BC) of Stagira, wote in his work Nichomachean Ethics an amazing reflection for the classical civilization; the statement, which has survived through the passing of time, has a literary magnitude which has its own peculiarity: “We make war that we may live in peace” – Aristotle.

Things never change, do they? Brave men who have given their lives in a cause they believed in. 

We are reminded of XXth Century combatants, who have been sacrificed on the altar of some higher officer’s ego and reputation. 

British Army Field-Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO, PC (November 17, 1887 - March 24, 1976) was so very stubborn; U.S. Army General George Smith Patton Jr. (November 11, 1885 - December 21, 1945) ran circles around him. 

However, both had their strengths and weaknesses.

It matters not what year, era, epoch that battles are fought, lost, and won.  They all have a common thread: bravery, memorials, and histories written to preserve the memory of great deeds.

One never knows when one will stumble across a significant historic site.

Almost forgotten by the passing of time, the British cemetery at Elvas remembers the valor and honor that soldiers exhibit in times of great conflict.

In my Portuguese trilogy related to strategic emergencies in the Iberian peninsular front (early XIXth Century), I have written an essay about little known events on the Portuguese-Spanish theater; battles and heroism whose cognizance outside the immediate area is almost neglected, and featuring the valiantness in action of British, French, and Portuguese military personalities.

Even after two centuries, lessons from the military experience of the past are beneficial to preserving the values of peace and civilization, and people are still learning from them. Lieutenant Colonel Bevan   (1811) did what many honorable professional did during that period: their honor and integrity to the cause of liberty was more important than their lives.

Those days of chivalry seem to be long past, until we heard of incidents coming out of Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s always the non-coms or lower echelon of officers who seem to make the supreme sacrifice.  They endure and do their duty.

The essayist, poet and novelist Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana (Madrid, December 16, 1863 - Rome, September 26, 1952) said it best: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

To ensure that British soldiers who gave their lives for Portuguese and Spanish political sovereignty - in the Napoleonic Wars (1808-1814) - are remembered by post-modern generations to come, it is important to recall their sacrifices. It is only through the research and tireless efforts of historians to preserve, that notable figures and events are not forgotten.

Remembering that the blood shed for a nation’s protection and honor is one of the highest sacrifices. In this final study of my Portuguese trilogy I will focus on a new topic of research. This new text, which continues the examination about the forgotten British graves in the cemetery of Elvas ( Portugal ), will provide further historical material and data about the Peninsular War.

Almeida: profile of a fortressed site

The town of Almeida, a small municipality of Portugal, is located in the district of Guarda. During the Middle Ages, it was a major strong point[1]  in the region of Beira and assured the defence of the villa, and granted the physical safety of the inhabitants.  On 12 September 1297, by the ratification of the Tratado de Alcanizes,[2] the site became Portuguese territory.  Through time, the town and its impressive fortification were to receive constant care and architectutal improvements.

In the XVIth Century, the castle presented double waistline battlements with a trapezoidal form; furthermore, the construction was surrounded by a moat, and protected by four round-shaped towers standing in the angles at the external wall of the fortressed circuit. A mighty quadrangular donjon – which was built in the interior – permitted a panoramic view of  the neighbouring area, including views of the eleven bishoprics of Spain and Portugal Because of the growing power of military innovations, in particular fire-arms, the fortress was provided with bastions in the XVIIth Century.[3]  The structural modification (twelve star-shaped fortified walls) was carefully projected, using innovations by the military engineer Antonio Deville.[4] The strategic role of the Praça Fort of Almeida was tested in 1663, and with a remarkable success over the besieging Castilian troops.

The Bridge at Barba del Puerco

After the British troops on the Spanish-Lusitanian border had narrowly gained victory over the French at the battle of Fuentes de Oñoro  (3 – 5 May 1811), Marshal André Massena gave strict orders to the senior commander[5] in the fortress of Almeida; he had evacuate the position, and to break out, thus rejoining the major deployment of the French corps.

The French units escape was therefore carefully planned in order to carry out a strategic withdrawal, and passing the stone bridge over the River Agueda.  This area was named in the Spanish idiom Barba del Puerco.[6] Sir Arthur Wellesley) had possibly forseen with strategic insight this final move of the French, and was ready to react to the sortie de guerre (9).

At about midnight (10 May 1811), the garrison of Almeida (about 1400 men) succeeded in slipping through the siege lines and eluding the allied units vigilance; for the deployment of the 2nd Regiment of Foot and the Portuguese pickets proved ineffectual in containing the enemy’s strong push.

“11th. The governor of Almeida (disappointed of the relief which the battle of Fuentes was intended to afford), had formed a plan for dismantling the fortress, and the escape of his troops; in pursuance of which the garrison (by three separate detachments) left the town in the night, and conducted this march so quietly, that before their flight was discovered, they had nearly joined the French army beyound the Agueda”.[7]

Harry Smith, in his autobiography (campaign of 1811) annoted the following passage:

“Now occured the dreadful disaster of the escape of the French garrison of Almeida. I shall never forget the mortification of our soldiers or the admiration of our officers of the brilliancy of such an attemt, the odds being a hundred to one against success. My long friend Ironmonger, then of the Queen’ s, into whose face George Simmons threw the bucket of water when marching, as before described, from Belem, was grievously to blame”.[8]

A French author exposed with consumed analytical experience that

“. . . Almeida, dont le déblocus formait le but des derniers mouvements, était désormais perdue pour le Français.

Fortement intéressé néanmoins à ce que la possession prochaine de cette place ne soit d’ aucune utilité à l’ ennemi, Masséna expédie, le 7, au général Brennier, gouverneur d’ Almeida, l’ ordre d’ en renverser les fortifications, et de se faire jour au travers de l’ armée coalisée.

Cet ordre, d’ une exécution si périlleuse et d’ un succès si incertain, est reçu comme par miracle, et rempli avec une étonnante exactitude par l’ intrépide Brennier.

Dans la nuit du 10 au 11 Mai, tandis que l’ effroyante explosion des fourneau de mine jette autant d’ inquiétude que de surprise dans le camp ennemi, Brennier s’ y précipite avec sa faible colonne; parvient, sans essuyer de grandes pertes, à repasser l’ Agueda sur le pont de San Felices, et opère sa jonction avec le corps du général Régnier, le second jour de cette merveilleuse expédition.[9]

Notwithstanding the tactical impasse, the French troops were pursued by Pack’s and  Campbell’s Brigades towards the bridge at Barba del Puerco. Unexpectedly hearing the late gunfire, a resourceful British officer – Lieutenant Colonel Charles Bevan[10] – perceived the enemy ruse de guerre.   Orders were given to his regiment to quickly move towards the bridge. Time of reaction – momentum – was lost, and the French units hastened their march to  cross  the bridge, joining the French forces on the hilly grounds above the river; the second contingent (the second column of march) was  slowed down while descending the mountainous steep road which lead to the stony-built structure.

British attacks onto the bridge were to meet the same fate. Neither Lieutenant Colonel Cockrane’s determination – partially supported by a force of the 36th Regiment of Foot – nor the 4th Foot rushing proudly onward were successful; quite the contrary, British columns were met by a whitering enemy fire. Compelled to recoil, severe losses were suffered in the intensive fire fight.An excellent narrative of the escape of the French garrison from Almeida can be read in the work of Robert Southey.[11]

Unaccustomed to defeat, and on hearing the conflicting evidence arriving to his headquarters, Lord Wellington became angry.  Irritated by the failure to block the French escape he was unable to contain his temper after having been informed about the bloody attempts to cross the bridge.

This is the reason why, in a dispatch ultimately sent to General Campbell (May 15th, 1811), Sir Arthur Wellesley threatened severest dispositions and court-martial to any officer guilty of misconduct. In one dispatch sent instead to the Earl of Liverpool, then Secretary of State, Wellesley unfairly considered that the 4th Regiment had been ordered to occupy Barba del Puerco; and that this troop, having missed the road, did not arrive on location to cut off the enemy withdrawal.

Responsability denied

His Lordship equally ignored his responsabilities and the inadequacies of his chain of command recalling that “. . . the enemy are indebted for the small part of the garrison which they saved principally due to the unfortunate mistake of the road to Barba del Puerco by the 4th Regiment”.

A second despatch went still further; it related that orders were received by General Erskine (about 4 p.m.), and that he had promptly sent them.

Annoying considerations were reversed on the lateness in movement of the 4th Foot.

“. . . the 4th Regiment, which it is said did not receive their orders before midnight, and had only two and a half miles to march, missed their road and did not arrive, at Barba del Puerco till after the French”.

In short, Wellesley still considered that his strategy was winning beyond any time and fortuitous circumstance; furthermore, he considered “he” had not lost at Almeida, and at Barba del Puerco.

“Thus your Lordship will see, that, if the 4th Regiment had received the orders issued at 1 p.m. before it was dark at 8 o’ clock at night, or if they had not missed their road, the garrison must have lain down its arms. . .”

Wellesley’s statement indicates that the British commander’s strategy illustrated only one side of the issue.

This vision implied that the enemy  troops would have been immobile awaiting for Wellington’s strategic magnitude; but there is a discrepancy between his  strategic thinking and  the reality of warfare and sudden military emergencies as they happened in May 1811.

After the stroke at Almeida, Bevan’s behaviour is more significant.

The tactical flexibility of the 4th Foot still teaches about prompt reactions at night time (operative mobility) and against unexpected operations of the enemy.

Good soldiers never die

Under the circumstances, Lieutenant Colonel Bevan felt that his honour had been stained.

Perceiving that his regimental force and his military leadership had been subjected to blameworthy comments – spiteful remarks had appeared in the official despatches – he did not hesitate pursuing an ultimate step to have the truth of the event preserved. Wellington was asked to formally hold a court of inquiry for prosecution into the affair.

The request was not granted (an investigation would have shown Erskine’s incompetence, thus questioning the credibility of the army, and failed to inspire confidence in the command structure), and Bevan was deprived of this right.

Bevan could not tolerate this stain on honor shot himself.  It was 8 July 1811, a most sad day for the British army. The funeral service – which was attended by all the officers of the division  -- was held on 11th July in the country town of Portalegre. It was in this very location, in the castle yard, that the gallant officer was buried. A memorial stone was engraved with words of honour:

“This stone is erected to the memory of Charles Bevan Esquire. Late Lieutenant Colonel of the 4th or King’ s  Own Regiment with intention of recording his virtues.  They are deeply engraven on the hearts of those who knew him and will ever live in their remembrance”.

To soften the episode, his family was told that he had died of fever. Only in 1843, Bevan’s eldest son (Charles) received a more accurate account by his uncle (Admiral James Richard Dacres). Further information was provided in a letter recalling that the 4th Regiment of Foot had received their orders too late ; consequently, neither Bevan nor his Regiment were at fault with duty and bravery.

Instrumental at truth: a critical assessment in the chain of command

The Bevan incident was certainly a much painful affair.

It is known that one time Lord Stanhope asked indelicately to Lord Wellington a straight question: “How came the French garrison (under Brennier) at Almeida to escape?” The Duke’s reply was severe in tone: “That was the fault of our Colonel Bevan, who afterwards shot himself when he had found out what he had done.” Almost paradoxally, it seemed to have happened that Sir William Erskine kept an important order in his pocket, and forgot to send it to the commanding officer of the 4th Foot.  The army’s theoretic proposition was that Bevan had been the scapegoat of Wellington’s failures (inadequacies of command), and that the officer had been sacrificed to the hierarchical military establishment. This widely known circumstance had been equally considered by Napier as well; he wrote that “Erskine sent no order to the Fourth Regiment”; and “. . .  had Erskine obeyed his orders about the Fourth Regiment Brennier would have been lost.”

A new piece of information is presented in a letter dated Villar Formoso, 15th May, 1811.

Wellesley wrote To the Right Hon. W. W. Pole:

“MY DEAR WILLIAM, . . . I was then quite sure of having Almeida; but I begin to be of opnion, with you, that there is nothing on earth so stupid as a gallant officer.

They had about 13,000 men to watch 1400; and in the night of 10th, to the infinite surprise of the enemy, they allowed the garrison to slip through their fingers and to escape, after blowing up some of the works of the place! There they were all sleeping in their spurs even; but the French got off. Pray read my despatch and letter to Lord Liverpool on this subject. We have taken, killed, and wounded, however, about three-fourths of the vagabonds”.[12]

The context of the French escape from Almeida is affirmed in its shear reality.

Memories of time

Time has rapidly passed, and so have elapsed nearly a couple of centuries. At Elvas, the memory of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Bevan is not estinguished. Thanks to the solicitous caring and nobility of many hearts, the devotion and valiantness of a stern military professional are preserved to his country. In the British cemetery – bastion of São João da Carujeiro – the following words are inscribed on a white marble plate:


Nothing seems more appropriate to the truth than this remarkable memento.

All around is silence, and in the garden of peace the memory of the gallant soldier still lives.

Historiographical note

On May 10th, orders had reached Erskine’s headquarters by about 4 p.m. Oman , quoting Tomkinson (16th Light Dragoons), wrote they reached about 2 p.m. Although Erskine claimed to have immediately sent the despatch to the 4th Regiment of Foot positioned at Val de Mula, it did not arrive at the battalion headquarters until around midnight, or even later (between 1 and 2 a.m.). When Lord Wellington asked him for an explanation about the recent military activities, he replied that the 4th Regiment had missed its way reaching the Agueda River.

The  theory that a superior officer (a General) must be believed before a subordinate (a Lieutenant-Colonel) gained a most detrimental ascendacy on the role of honour and gentlemanship in the early XIX century.

General Sir W. Erskine of Torry, 2nd Bt., was born on 30 March 1770. He was the son of General Sir William Erskine of Torry, 1st Bt., and Lady Frances Moray. Before being appointed together with Sir Arthur Wellesley to the Iberian operative theater, Sir William Erskine had already been confined to a lunatic asylum twice. His appointment to the position of one of his senior commanders was consequentially objected to by Wellington, but the Military Secretary replied in tone: “No doubt he is a little mad at times, but in his lucid intervals he is an uncommonly clever fellow; and I trust that he will have no fit during the campaign, though I must say he looked a little mad as he embarked”.

Another major grievance regarded Erskine’s eyesight. The visual perception of his eyeball was not good; and before battle action, he needed someone’s assistance to point out to him which direction the enemy was located. At the clashing of Sabugal (1811), the British General’s services had given rise to much dissatisfaction, as he had ordered his troops in the wrong direction; at the time of the escape of the French presidial garrison from Almeida, he was instead enjoying a dinner party.

On this causal motivation, he forgot to send the new dispositions to his troops until it was too late. After a nervous breakdown (taking a fever), he eventually threw himself out of his bedroom window in a fit of delirium at Lisbon (February 1813).  Found dying on the ground, and coming to his senses, he uttered words of serene consciousness: “Why on earth did I do that?”. He died three days afterwards, and was 47 years old.

Captain Eckersley (Royal Dragoons), his aide-de-camp, thoughtfully arranged his funeral; the ceremony was attended by the brigade of Major-General Slade. It is known that a Latin inscribed tablet was erected to perpetuate his memory.

Chronological table (1811)

11 January: French troops engage the Portuguese army near Montalegre (battle of Vila de Ponte).

19 January: the French forces engage the Portuguese army under the command of General Campbell at the battle of Rio Maior.

4 March: the French start withdrawing from Portugal .

5 March: the French army is defeated near Cadiz (battle of Barrosa, Spain ). A single British battalion of 470 men drove back two French regiments and captured a regimental eagle.

8 March: Campo Maior is besieged by Marshal Mortier’s troops; on March 21st, the town surrenders to the victors.

10 March: Badajoz ( Spain ) falls to the French (11th March).

11 March: battle of Pombal.  Led by Duke of Wellington the Anglo-Lusitanian army engaged Marshal Ney’s forces.

12 March: combat of Redinha.

13 March: Marshal Soult rejoins his army contingents at Badajoz.

14 March: battle of Casal Novo; the French under Ney are engaged by Sir Arthur Wellesley.

15 March: the French troops occupy the towns of Albuquerque and Valencia de Alcantara.  

16 March: battle of Foz de Arouce; the Anglo-Portuguese army under Duke of Wellington defeats the French army, which is compelled to retreat.

22 March: orders are imparted by Marshall Massena to concentrate the army around Guarda and Belmonte.

23 March: Marshal Massena orders are opposed by Marshal Ney; his troops are ordered out of Portugal .

25 March: Campo Maior is taken by General Beresford.

3 April: battle of Sabugal; the French troops under Marshal Messena are defeated by Wellesley; his contingents are given orders to move out of Portugal .

10-19 April: siege of Figueras.

3 May: battle of Figueras.

11th May: the French garrison troops defending the fortress of Almeida escape at nightime.

13 May: the aristocratic title of Conde de Trancoso is granted to General Beresford.

16 May: battle of Albuera; conjoined Portuguese-Spanish-English troops led by General Beresford succeeed defeating the French army under Marshal Soult.

19 May: Anglo-Lusitanian troops encircle the stronghold of Badajoz.  However, this military action is abandoned (17th of June).

Bibliography and further reading:

1. English works:

Aldington, Richard. The Duke: Being an Account of the Life & Achievements of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. The Viking press, 1943.

Cannon, Richard. Historical Records of the Fourth, or King’s Own Regiment of Foot. Longman, Orme, 1839.

Cole, John William. Memoirs of British Generals Distinguished during the Peninsular War. London: Richard Bentley, 1856.

Cowper, Julia Margaret. The King’ s Own. The Story of a Royal Regiment. Printed for the Regiment at the University Press, 1957.

Daniel, John Edgecombe. Journal of an Officer in the Commissariat Department of the Army: Comprising a Narrative of the Campaigns under His Grace the Duke Of Wellington, in Portugal , Spain , France , and the Netherlands , in the Years 1811, 1812, 1813, 1814, & 1815; and a Short Account of the Army of Occupation in France , during the Years 1816, 1817, & 1818. London: Printed For The Author, By Porter And King, Walbrook. 1820.

Duncan, Francis. History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. J. Murray, 1879.

D’Urban, Benjamin (Major-General, Sir). The Peninsular Journal, 1808-1817. Greenhill Books, 1988.

Glover, Michael. The Peninsular War 1807-1814. A Concise Military History. London: David & Charles: 1974.

Gomm, William Maynard, Sir. Letters and Journals of Field Marshal Sir William Maynard Gomm from 1799 to Waterloo, 1815. J. Murray, 1881.

Hamilton, Thomas. Annals of the Peninsular Campaigns: from MDCCCVIII to MDCCCXIV. William Blackwood, Edinburgh: And T. Codell, Strand, London. MDCCCXXIX.

Hayward Stocqueler, Joachim. The Life of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington. Ingram, Cooke, and co., 1853.

Jones, John T., (Colonel). Journal of Sieges Carried on by the Army under the Duke of Wellington in Spain , between the Years 1811 and 1814. With Notes. London: Printed For T. Egerton, Bookseller To The Ordonance, Military Library, Whitehall 1827.

Napier, William Francis Patrick, Sir. History of the War in the Peninsula, and in the South of France , from the Year 1807 to The Year 1814. N. Y. Redfield, 1856.

Philippart, John (c.o.). The Royal Military Calendar, or Army Service and Commission Book: Containing the Services and Promotions of the [...]. London: Printed by A. J. Valpy, Red Lion court, Fleet Street, 1820.

Smith, Harry George Wakelyn, Sir. The Autobiography of Lieutenant General Sir Harry Smith, Baronet of Aliwal on the Sutlej, G.C.B. Edited with the addition of some supplementary chapters by G. C. Moore Smith. London: John Murray, 1901.

Southey, Robert (ESQ. LL.D.). History of the Peninsular War. London: John Murray, Albemarle Street. MDCCCXXXVII.

Supplementary Despatches, and Memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur Duke of Wellington, K.G.. Edited by His Son, the Duke of Wellington, K.G.. Volume The Seventh. Peninsula [December, 1810, To June, 1813]. London: John Murray, Albemarle Street. MDCCCLX.

Tomkinson, William (Lieutenant-Colonel). The Diary of a Cavalry Officer in the Peninsular War and Waterloo Campaign 1809-1815. London: S. Sonnenschein & co.: 1894. Edited by His Son, James Tomkinson. 

Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of. The Dispatches of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington, K.G. during His Various Campaigns in India , Denmark , Portugal , Spain , The Low Countries, and France , from 1799 To 1818.  Compiled from Official And Authentic Documents, by Lieut. Colonel Gurwood, Esquire to His Grace As Knight Of The Bath. Volume The Seventh. London: John Murray, Albermarle Street. MDCCCXXXVII.

2. French works:

Gignet, P.  Histoire Militaire de la France. Paris. Librairie De L. Hachette et Cie., 1849.

Lagarde, Pierre Denis, de (Nicole Gotteri). La Mission de Lagarde, Policier de l’ Empereur, pendant la Guerre d’ Espagne (1808-1809). Publisud, 1991.

Lapène, Édouard. Conquête de l’ Andalousie, Campagne de 1810 Et 1811 dans le Midi de l’ Espagne. A Paris, Chez Anselin et Pochard (successeurs de Magimel), libraires, rue Dauphine, n° 9; [...]. 1823.

Sarramon, Jean. Campagne de Fuentes de Onoro. Paris, 1962.

Extrait du Carnet de la Sabretache, n° 425, année 1962.


The author would like to express his thanks to Mrs. M. Whitehead.


[1] The building, and its fortified work, are attributed to King Diniz. However, documentary eveidence corroborates that the castled structure already existed since the reign of King Alfonso Henrique.

[2]The treaty was signed by Dinis, King of Portugal, and Fernando IV, King of Leon and Castile .

[3] In the XVIIIth and XIXth Centuries, the fortress of Almeida went through several changes which resulted in the hexagonal square, with six bulwarks, and six curtains, armed with artillery pieces. The walled perimeter of the fortress was built with squared stone; four gates allowed  easy access into town, and communications with the exterior were provided through wooden drawbridges.  The square is surrounded by moats, and the battlements totally encircle the Villa.   The fort represents the military architecture of Portugal .  Among its distinguishing features can be seen the Portas de São Francisco (St. Francis gate); the Quarterel das Esquadras (former military quarter for infantry squads); the Igreja da Misericórdia (XVIIth century); the Câmara Minicipal (it was the former General-Headquarter); the Palácio da Justiça (XVIIth century; former site of the military governor of the Praça); the Portas de Santo António; the Ruínas do Castelo; the Picadeiro d’ El Rey (former arsenal of the Praça); the Porta Nova; the Casamatas; the Igreja Matriz (former ancient convent of Our Lady of Loreto).

[4] Antoine Deville (1596-1657) was a prominent military engeneer born in France (town of Toulouse). King Louis XIII entrusted to his talents the military defence of the strongholds in Picardy against the Spanish host. A talented writer, he left many works; among them is a summa (1672) on the fortifications. The text is beautifully illustrated with 63 plates. Vide: Ville, Antoine, De. Les Fortifications du Chevalier Antoine de Ville, contenans La manière de fortifier toute sorte de places tant regulierement, q’ irregulierement en quelle assiete qu’ elles soient; comme aussi les Ponts, passages, entrées de riuieres, Portes de mer: La construction de toutes sortes de Forts & Citadelles; le moyen facile de tracer sur le terrain. Lyon, Philippe Borde, 1640.

[5] General Brenier de Montmorand. Antoine-François Brenier de Montmorand was born at Saint Marcelin ( Isère, France ) on November 12th, 1767. 1781: cadet in Spain service; 1786, 13th June: he entered the ranks of the compagnie des gendarmes ordinaires du roi; 1791, 10 October: capitaine aide de camp of General Crillon; 1792, 27 May: aide-de-camp of Général d’Albignac; 1793, 19 June: promoted to the rank of chef de brigade in the Armée des Pyrénées orientales; 1795, 1 September: serving in the 14e de ligne; 1797, 1 January: in the ranks of 63e de ligne; 1798: served in Holland; 1799: served with distinction in the armée d’ Italie; 4 April: wounded at Verona; 27 April: wounded at the Adda; 15 June: appointed provisional général de brigade by the général en chef Moreau; 19 October: confirmed in the rank of général de brigade by the Executive Directory; 1800, May: division Chabran; 26 May-1 June: served at the conquest of fort of Bard; 1801, 16 September: in the 20e division militaire; 1803, 22 September: in the 11e division militaire; 1808, 17 August: served at Roliça (Portugal); 21 August: wounded and captured by the British in the battle of Vimeiro; 1809, April: returned (exchanged) from captivity; 1810, 29 June: followed the French troops to Portugal; 15 August: appointed gouverneur of Almeida; May 10: he blew up the fortifications of Almeida and rejoined the troops of Marshal Massena; 1811, 26 March: promoted to the rank of général de division; 1813, 1 May: wounded at Weissenfels; 2 May: severely wounded at Lützen, Saxony; 19 October: commander of the 16e division militaire at Lille; 18 December: grand officier of the Légion d’ honneur. Died on 8 October 1832.  His name is inscribed on the western façade on the Arc de Triomphe de l’ Etoile in Paris.

[6] Sir Benjamin D’Urban provides in his work the following description: “The passage of the Agueda at Barba de Porco is quite impracticable for anything but Infantry; horses may be led down the Zig-Zag, and the bridge when arrived at is a good one. St. Felices will make a very good left for the intended position; to be occupied with light Troops, holding too the passage of the bridge”.   The Peninsular Journal, 1808-1817, p. 64.

[7] Written orders were directed to General Sir William Erskine. He had to extend the 5th Division units northward, thus covering the line up to bridge of Barba del Puerco.  The 4th Regiment of Foot had to be sent to the mountainous defile which covered the bridge.  Further active forces ( Campbell’s 6th Division; Pack’s Brigade) were to continue the blockade of Almeida.

[8] Smith, Harry George Wakelyn, Sir. The Autobiography of Lieutenant General Sir Harry Smith, Baronet of Aliwal on the Sutlej, G.C.B. pp. 53-54.

[9] Lapène, Édouard, Conquête De L’andalousie, [...], pp. 215-216.

[10] Charles Bevan was born in 1778. He was commissioned into the 28th Regiment of Foot and experienced extensive campaigning in Egypt , at Copenhagen, and Walcheren.  1810, 18 January: promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel; appointed to command the 2nd Battalion 4th Foot (then stationed at Colchester with the 1st Battalion); 21 March: the 2nd/4th embarked for North Africa, reaching the location of Ceuta, just opposite to the rock of Gibraltar.During the sea passage a severe storm drove some transports ashore, near Cadiz; because of this, nearly three hundred men of the regiment became prisoners of the French. Early in January 1811 Bevan was appointed to command the 1st/4th; he took the place of Lieutenant Colonel James Wynch.

[11] History of the Peninsular War, pp. 228-231. This author reports that “. . . the whole way to the Agueda, 490 of his men –General Brenier – were brought in prisoners, and the number of killed and wounded could not have been inconsiderable”; p. 230.

[12] Supplementary Despatches, and Memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur Duke of Wellington, K.G.. p. 123.



Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2007

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