and Memory of the Peninsular War: a Cognitive Survey of the British
Graves at Elvas
By Roberto A. Scattolin,
A flowering Portuguese municipality, Elvas is a natural milieu located nearly 15
km. west of the Spanish fortress of
Badajoz. Its peculiar location, a hilly site northwest of
River, gave it a strategic fame throughout the centuries.
The quite impressive Auqueduto de Amoreira (whose
origins trace back to the 15th Century, the year 1498) easily supplied waters
to the city; remains of this 8 km. long composite structure do include
tiers and 843 arches.
The town is dominated by a castle of Roman-Moorish origin, a
fortified structure which underwent further improvements and renovations
until the end of the XVth Century.
Elvas encompasses the Pra ça da Republica, with its beautiful mosaic paving in stone and marble. Here one
can see the XVIth Century Câmara Municipal,
Nossa Senhora da Assunção, which was erected on a previous
Roman-Gothic building of the XIIth century. The
Nossa Senhora da Consolação is most surprising for the
great quantity of color azulejos which are mounted on the walls,
reaching up to the vault of the dome. Worth mentioning is the library
of the Archaeological and
Museum, a cultural establishment which is enriched by an outstanding
collection of over 50,000 volumes.
Due to the fertile lowlands, olives and plums are distinguishing features
of Elvas agriculture; production is abundant, and quantities fairly
In the neighbouring area lies Campo Maior, a fortress which
was besieged during the Napoleonic invasion by the French; in
1811, under the sound leadership of Sir William Carr Beresford
(Marshal of the Portuguese Army), the position was relieved by a contingent
of British and Lusitanian troops. On account of its fearlessness the
town earned the title of
Vila Leal e Valorosa. This resolute exploit de
guerre was commemorated in a ballad by the Scottish historical novelist
and poet Sir Walter Scott (15 August 1771- 21 September 1832).
Death of a Proud Professional
At the battle of Albuhera (May 16, 1811) (western
) which was fought against the French army contingents led by Marshal
Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult, Major General Daniel Hoghton (57th
Foot Regiment) was shot at the head of his brigade. While under
intense fire, the gallant British officer tried to re-mount, but was
shot again. He fell back from his mount, and was carried
to the rear to receive immediate treatment. Hoghton’s qualities
of leadership definitely emphasized his promptitude to the callings
of personal transcendency and martial duty.
So far, it is easy to affirm with hindsight that his added display
of determination on the line of fire (with his boldness, and breath
of vision) proved a spurring to the severely tested troops to opposing
French superior mobility on ground. When his blood stained jacket
was removed, it was discovered it had been penetrated by over ten musket
shots. That was the death of a proud military professional, (and
his standard of duty), which caused grief and consternation amid his
The Brigade of Major General Daniel Hoghton relied on the fighting
capabilities of the following combat units: 29th Foot; 48th Foot, 1st
Btn.; 57th Foot, 1st Btn. Totalling 1651 men in 30 companies.
While defending against protracted French efforts, the Brigade suffered
appalling losses (63.36 % of the effectives). The 57th Foot Regiment,
a combat man power of 647 units, was literally mowed down by the withering
enemy fire. Two officers (Major J. McKenzie Scott and Captain
Ralph Fawcett) and 87 men were killed; 21 officers and 318 were seriously
wounded (i.e. a tribute of 52.39 %). The force had 13.75 % of
its men either killed or died of wounds.
After the major engagement was over, orders were imparted to have
Hoghton buried at Elvas, and his resting place was properly arranged
in the fortressed town (via General Leite’s supervision). A
most vivid description (year 1812) of the exact location where the
body was buried is presented by the narrative of John Edgecombe Daniel.
Details are very accurate, and sustained by objective evidence; we
are provided a number of distinguishing elements:
- military rank of the deceased;
- location of the tomb;
- place of resting;
- town location; |
- description of the grave;
- words inscribed on the memorial stone.
I had almost forgot to mention that in the walking round the ramparts
of Elvas one evening, I came to the grave of Major-General Hoghton,
who (it will be remembered) fell in the battle of Albuera. He is buried
on one of the highest batteries of Elvas, which commands a most extensive
view of the surrounding country, particularly over the plains of Badajos,
extending even to the field of Albuera.A stone laid flat over the grave
bears the following simple inscription:
It can be easily noted that there are further specifications:
the cause of death (military action); the location where he perished;
the date of death.
All told, 32 words were engraved on this epithaph of bravery and valour in action.
Beneath this stone is deposited / THE BODY / of / MAJOR-GENERAL
HOGHTON / of the English Army / He was killed at the head of his
Brigade / In the Battle of Albuhera, / 16th May 1811.
The battle of Albuera, a rather disputed victory on ground, had resounding
effects in England.The martial confrontation gained over the Napoleonic troops
lifted the spirits, engendered waves of enthusiasm and unrestrained joy amid
the people. In the Parliamentary debate, a “Vote of Thanks” was
expressed to the army, and a number of specific considerations to duly honour
the military success attained in the Iberian conflict. The Chancellor
of the Exchequer expecially recalled the sacrifice of Hoghton, whose death
in the field contributed to wresting the laurels of victory from the pugnacious
French units. Sensibly conditioned by emotion, he proposed to erect
a monument in memoriam of the British commander, thus honouring his
bright mark of valour (Hoghton had stood without hesitation sacrificing his
life for the country).
The Chancellor of the Exchequer next moved, “That an humble Address
be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, that he will be
graciously pleased to give directions, that a Monument be erected in
the cathedral church of Saint Paul, London, to the memory of major-general
Daniel-Hoghton, who fell gloriously on the 16th of May last in the battle
of Albuhera, which terminated in the signal defeat of the enemy’ s
forces; and to assure his royal highness, that this House will make good
the expense attending the same.[2}
Thus circumstanced, a commemorative plate was placed in
St. Paul’s cathedral, in
St. Paul’ s is a monument to Maj.-General Hoghton, who received a
mortal wound in the very moment of victory, and expired on the field.
The inscription is: -
“Erected at the public expense, to the memory of Major-General
Daniel Hoghton, who fell gloriously, 16th May, 1811, at Albuera”
Graves of Peninsular War veterans can be found in the British cemetery at
). The cemetery (Cemitério dos Ingleses) is located in the
bastion of São João da Carujeiro. The site
is located just on the eastern wall of the fortress.
On location, the tomb of Hoghton can be easily noticed; however, it can
equally be found the stone of another distinguished British officer: Lieutenant
Colonel White. Daniel White was the commander of His Majesty’s
29th (Worcestershire) Regiment of Foot, and had died
of wounds at Elvas (3 June 1811). At the fighting of Albuhera, the
regimental force which counted a strenght of 507 equivalents (31 officers,
and 476 ranks), suffered heavy casualties (74.95 %) under hard pressing French
attacks. A total of 17 officers and 363 men were killed, wounded, and
On his stone are inscribed the following words of honour:
HERE LIES THE BODY / OF / LIEUTENANT COLONEL DANIEL WHITE / WHO DIED
IN ELVAS ON 3RD JUNE 1811 / OF WOUNDS RECEIVED / WHILE LEADING
THE 29TH FOOT / AT THE
BATTLE OF / ALBUHERA.
All around is silence; and the immobility of history can still be perceived.
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 O\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.
Gale, Richard. The Worcestershire Regiment: the 29th and 36th Regiment
London: Leo Cooper Ltd, 1970.
Huge, Everard, Major. History of the 29th (or Worcestershire)
Regiment of Foot 1694 to 1891. Published by Littlebury &
Worcester Press 1891.
Tissington, Silvester. A Collection of Epithaphs and Monumental Inscriptions,
on the most Illustrious Persons of All Ages and Countries.
London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co., Stationers’
Hall Court; Keene,
Ipswich; and By Order through every Bookseller. 1857.
The Parliamentary Debates from the Year 1803 to the Present Time.
Published Under the Superintendence of T. C. Hansard. Vol. XX.
London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, And Brown; [...]. 1812.
 Daniel, John Edgecombe, Journal [...],
 The Parliamentary Debates [...], p. 530; Vote of
Thanks-Battle of Albuera, June 7, 1811.
 Tissington, Silvester, A Collection of Epithaphs[...], p.
 The regimental force was active from 1694 to 1881.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: January 2007
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