Inquiry into the Convention of Cintra
The French had occupied Portugal for eight months. A rising against the French presence in Spain encouraged the British to send an expeditionary force to the Peninsula. The battle of Vimeiro was fought on 21 August 1808. The French Commander, Gen. Andoche Junot, had according to the reports of the état-majors for each division a total of 11,807 men (Oman gives the total as 13,056). The French had about 15,000 men. The battle ended by noon of that day with a British victory, the first of many major victories by the British in the Peninsula. The French lost 1,800 men killed, wounded or missing. Junot sent Gen. Kellermann, no more than two hours after the arrival of Dalrymple, to Sir Arthur Wellesley's (the future Duke of Wellington) headquarters to ask for an armistice. By this time Wellesley had been superseded as commander first by Sir Harry Burrard and then by Sir Hew Dalrymple.
The first despatches from Wellington that arrived in Britain spoke of a great victory over the whole of Junot's army. Bells pealed and cannons fired. The Morning Post headlined its story of 2 September, "Most Glorious News from Portugal, Complete Defeat of General Junot and Proposals for the Surrender of His Army." When news of the Convention arrived the government blundered, trying to put the best face on the bad news and again church bells were rung and the cannons thundered. (The foreign minister, George Canning, wrote, on second thought, "The bell-ringing here [at his local seat] has cost me a guinea...which I grudge more than any guinea that I have ever expended." But elation turned to anger and recriminations. To avoid further political embarrassment Wellesley (a member of the government himself as chief secretary for Ireland and a leading military adviser to the secretary for war), Burrard and Dalrymple were called back to Britain for an inquiry into their conduct. As Canning wrote to Lord Castlereagh, "This Convention must be distinctly ours, or our Commanders. We must judge them...or the public will judge us... I shall not be prepared to consent to take an atom of the responsibility for this work."
The 25,747 French (of whom 20,900 were under arms) were transported in English ships under the provisions of the Convention of Cintra. Junot landed at La Rochelle on 11 Oct. 1808 with his two mistresses on his arms. Junot's men were back in Spain, fighting to put down the Spanish uprising, as late November, early December. By 13 December elements of Delaborde's division entered Vitoria. Although displeased with Junot's performance Napoleon eventually wrote to Junot, "You have done nothing dishonorable; you have returned my troops, my eagles and my cannons, but I certainly hoped you would do better...you have won this convention by your courage, not by your dispositions; and it is with reason that the English complain that their generals signed it..."
The Inquiry into the Convention of Cintra was held at the Royal College at Chelsea, London from 14 November to 27 December 1808. The board of inquiry consisted of Generals David Dundas (President), the Earl of Moira, Peter Craig and Lord Heathfield; Lieutenant Generals the Earl of Pembroke, Sir George Nugent and Oliver Nicholls. The three generals were exonerated, but Burrard and Dalrymple never received another field command. The government issued a formal denunciation of Dalrymple. Wellington alone was voted the thanks of Parliament on 27 January 1809 for the victory at Vimeiro.
By Tom Holmberg
The King's order convening the inquiry into the signing of the Convention of Cintra.
Whereas We were pleased in the month of July, 1808, to constitute and appoint Lieut. General Sir Hew Dalrymple, Knight, to the command of a body of our forces employed to act on the coasts of Spain and Portugal, or in such other part of the Continent of Europe as he might afterwards be directed to; and the said Lieutenant General did, pursuant to our instructions transmitted to him, proceed to Portugal, and did on the 22d of August, 1808, land in that country, and take upon himself the command of the said body of our forces accordingly; and, whereas it appears that on the same day (22d August), and subsequently to his having assumed the command, an armistice was concluded, —
We think it necessary that an inquiry should be made, by the General Officers after named, into the conditions of said Armistice and Convention, and into all the causes and circumstances (whether arising from the previous operations of the British army or otherwise) which led to them, and into the conduct, behaviour, and proceedings of the said Lieut. General Sir Hew Dalrymple, and of any other Officer or Officers, who may have held the command of our troops in Portugal, and of any other person or persons, as far as the same were connected with the said Armistice and Convention, in order that the said General Officers may report to us touching the matters aforesaid, for our better information.
Our will and pleasure therefore is, and we do hereby nominate and appoint the General Officers of our army whose names are respectively mentioned in the list annexed, to be a Board, of which we do hereby appoint General Sir David Dundas, K.B., to be President, who are to meet accordingly for the purposes above mentioned. And you are hereby required to give notice to the said General Officers, when and where they are to meet for the said examination and inquiry; and you are hereby directed to summon such persons as may be judged necessary by the said General Officers (whether General Officers employed in the expedition or others) to give information touching the said matters, or whose examination shall be desired by those employed in the said expedition. And the said General Officers are hereby directed to hear such persons as shall offer to give information touching the same; and they are hereby authorized, empowered, and required, strictly to examine into the matters before mentioned, and to report a state thereof as it shall appear to them, together with their opinion thereupon; and also with their opinion whether any and what further proceedings should be had thereupon. All which you are to transmit to our Commander in Chief, to be by him laid before us for our consideration. And for so doing this shall be, as well to you as to our said General Officers and all others concerned, a sufficient warrant.
Given at our Court at St. James's, this first day of November, 1808, in the forty-ninth year of our reign.
By His Majesty's command,
Our right trusty and well beloved
Councillor, the Hon. Richard
Ryder, Judge Advocate General
Of our Forces, or his Deputy.
Address and Narratives delivered to the Court of Inquiry into the Convention [of Cintra], &c. [by Sir Arthur Wellesley], in Portugal
At a Meeting of the Board of General Officers appointed to inquire into the Convention, &c. in Portugal, by His Majesty's Warrant bearing date the 1st day of November, 1808, at the Great Hall in Chelsea College, on Monday the 14th day of the same month.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
I may have been mistaken in my speculations upon this subject; but, in point of fact, the Spanish nation do now enjoy the very advantages from the Convention to which I have above referred, and which I had in contemplation at the time the Armistice was negotiated; ...and not a man of the French army which evacuated Portugal under the Convention has yet been brought, or can be brought for some time, upon the frontiers of Spain.
In reference to political and military objects, then, at least in my view of them, the measure of allowing the French to evacuate Portugal was an advantage. If I was mistaken in my view of this advantage, it was a mistake into which I fell with the Spaniards themselves; for the army of Dupont, which was really in a situation to be obliged to surrender, was allowed to evacuate Andalusia by sea, and to serve again, under the Convention made by the Spanish General Castanos. If, however, it was an advantage, there is another question attending it, which is, was it disgraceful per se? I am not now discussing the detail of the Convention; but the mere measure of allowing the French to evacuate Portugal.
Those who argue upon this part of the subject contend, that the French ought to have been forced to lay down their arms. It is certainly a very desirable object, at all times, to oblige the army of an enemy to lay down its arms; but the question here was one of means. I wish that those who think that the French ought to have been obliged to lay down their arms had reviewed the history of all or of any of the armies which have been forced to adopt that extremity, and had compared their situation with that of the French army in Portugal. Those armies have invariably been surrounded by bodies superior in numbers, in equipments, or in efficiency; and have been distressed, or in the utmost danger of immediate distress, for the want of provisions, and without hope of relief. I need not point out to this Board that the French army in Portugal were not in that situation, and were not likely to be in such a situation. In fact, they had the military possession of Portugal; ...but we, who were to oblige them to lay down their arms, did incur that risk, till we should obtain possession of the Tagus. But this is not all. Let the measure of allowing the French to evacuate Portugal be compared with other measures of the same description which have been not only approved, but deservedly, in my opinion, extolled in this country. Let the situations of the garrisons of Cairo and Alexandria be compared with the situation of the French army in Portugal: and I believe it will be admitted that the latter possessed advantages which the former did not; ...
General Kellermann arrived at the advanced sentries of the British army between 1 and 2 o'clock of the 22nd, and sent in a flag of truce to announce that he wished to speak to me, who, of course, he supposed commanded the army. ... Shortly after his arrival, Sir Hew sent for me into the room in which they were, and communicated to me the object of General Kellermann's mission, which was repeated by Kellermann in my presence, and he afterwards read from a paper a memorandum of the wishes of the French Commander in Chief.
Sir H. Dalrymple, Sir H. Burrard, and I withdrew into an inner room to deliberate upon Kellermann's propositions; ... When we had gone into the inner room, I told Sir H. Dalrymple that I considered that it was advisable to allow the French to evacuate Portugal, for reasons upon which I am afraid I have already delayed the Court too long; and I said that I did not conceive that there existed any objections at that moment to granting the French a suspension of hostilities for 48 hours, for the purpose of negotiating a Convention for the evacuation of Portugal. Whether Sir Hew acquiesced in my opinion upon this subject, or I in his, I do not recollect, nor is it material; but I know that we all agreed that there was no objection to allow the French to evacuate by sea.
I consider it proved and admitted that I recommended on the evening of the 20th August that the army should not halt, and that the proposed disposition for Sir J. Moore�s corps should not be altered; that the enemy were completely defeated in the action of the 21st August, on all points of attack, and that I proposed to Sir H. Burrard the pursuit of them. ...
Although I am decidedly of opinion that the most decisive consequences would have resulted from the march as proposed, and the pursuit of the enemy on the 21st August after the battle, yet it does not follow that the measure of allowing the French to evacuate Portugal was not right on the evening of the 22nd. On the 21st August the enemy were defeated and in confusion; and I have explained the grounds which I have for thinking that the most advantageous consequences would have resulted from a pursuit. On the 22nd, in the evening, when the question of the evacuation was considered and decided, the enemy was no longer in confusion, and they had resumed the position of Cabeca de Montachique, between us and Lisbon. ...
A paper containing questions prepared by the Board having been delivered to Sir A. Wellesley at their last meeting, Sir A. Wellesley now returned the same with his answers in writing. The questions, with the answers, were then read, viz. -
Q. When did you receive orders to take the command of a considerable body of troops assembled at Cork?
A. I received the orders of His Royal Highness the Commander in Chief in the 15th of June. I received the instructions of the Secretary of State, of the 30th of June, in Dublin, on the 3d of July, and I set out from thence on the 5th, and arrived at Cork on the 6th of July.
Q. When did you sail from Cork, and with what numbers?
A. I sailed from Cork on the 12th of July, with about 9064 men, including the 4th Royal Veteran Battalion, 275 artillery and drivers, and about 300 cavalry, of which 180 were mounted.
Q. What were the orders and instructions under which you sailed, and the principal objects of your expedition?
A. The orders and instructions which I received are before the Court; from the Commander in Chief, of the 14th of June, and from the Secretary of State, of the 30th of June. I have not copies of the instructions from the Secretary of State: I gave the originals to Lieut. General Sir Harry Burrard, and he returned me copies, which I have by some accident mislaid. The general object of the expedition was to aid the Spanish and Portuguese nations; the principal object was to attack the French in the Tagus. But I considered myself authorized by my instructions to pursue any other object, if I thought it more likely to conduce to the benefit of the Spanish and Portuguese nations.
Q. What orders and instructions relative to your proceeding did you receive from England, from the 9th of August to the 21st?
A. I did not receive any orders or instructions from England relative to my proceeding between the 9th and the 21st of August.
Q. When did you give up the command of the army to Lieut. General Sir Harry Burrard?
A. Sir Harry Burrard assumed the command of the army on board His Majesty's sloop the Brazen, when I went on board that vessel on the evening of the 20th of August to report to him.
Q. What position do you understand did the enemy take on the evening of the 21st of August?
A. I understand that the enemy spent the evening of the 21st of August in endeavoring to form the different corps of their army again, and to regain Torres Vedras; some of their corps arrived at Torres Vedras at about 12 o'clock at night of the 21st; others did not until late in the day of the 22d of August. When the French retired from the field at Vimeiro, they drew off to the northward towards Lourinha; and from thence they got into the road to Torres Vedras.
Q. What were the numbers of the enemy�s cavalry at the battle of Vimeiro?
A. As far as I could judge and learn, they had from 1200 to 1400 cavalry.
Q. What were the numbers of British and Portuguese cavalry in said battle?
A. We had about 210 mounted men of the 20th dragoons, and 260 of Portuguese cavalry.
The Board now proceeded further to examine Sir A. Wellesley.
Q. Is the inference accurate that you thought the army under your immediate command adequate to the expulsion of Junot's force from the positions at Lisbon, when you, in a letter dated the 10th of August, advised Sir Harry Burrard to march with the expected reinforcements to Santarem to cut off the enemy's retreat?
A. I did consider the force which marched from Lavaos under my command to be sufficient to deprive the French of Lisbon and of the forts upon the Tagus.
Q. What alteration, if any, took place in that opinion in consequence of the actual arrival of Lieut. General Sir John Moore with the division under his orders?
A. No alteration whatever in respect to the actual capacity of the army, from its strength, to obtain possession of Lisbon and of the forts upon the Tagus.
Q. You have stated that you would have undertaken the supply of the Portuguese troops had it not been for the insufficient construction of the British Commissariat. Is this conclusion from that statement just - that the country afforded considerable supplies of provisions, if due means could be applied to collect them?
A. The country afforded us no provisions excepting beef and wine, and I believe that from the time I landed in Portugal to the time I quitted the army on the 20th of September, the troops only received biscuit from the ships. As I have stated in my narrative, a small quantity of bread was left behind by the French at Alcobaca, and a small quantity at Caldas, and besides this, after I had given up the command when the army arrived in the neighbourhood of Torres Vedra, a small quantity of flour was got, which had likewise been left behind by the French. While I commanded the army this bread supplied the consumption of the Portuguese troops, 1650 in number, who were with me, and afterwards I believe that the Officers of the army received some baked bread from the Commissariat. But I am of the opinion that no exertion would have drawn from Portugal a supply of bread sufficient for that army. My opinion, as stated in my letter, and in my explanation of my letter, went to the arrangement and distribution of supplies was well as to the collection of them.
Q. The Portuguese general, Freire, in his letter of the 2d September to Sir Hew Dalrymple, states that the fort of Peniche had been on the point of surrendering to him - How was the fact?
A. I never heard of it; it could not have occurred during the time I commanded the army, as neither that general nor his corps were near that fort.
Q. Did you understand that the Juntas in Spain were in general at first averse to a British force landing in Spain?
A. I did understand that the Junta of Galicia were not desirous of having the co-operation of a British army with their own troops under command of a British army with their own troops under the command of General Blake. They were averse to our landing in Spain, as they consented to my landing in Vigo, if I should find it convenient, and indeed recommended that measure, as Vigo was the only port which could afford protection to our transports on the west coast of the Peninsula, Excepting the Tagus. I also understood that the Junta of Seville, and the persons in authority in Andalusia, had no very great desire that General Spencer's corps should co-operate with General Castanos, although they were desirous that General Spencer's corps should land at Puerto S Maria, and eventually cover General Castanos retreat, in case he should have been defeated by Dupont. I wish to explain to the Court, that this opinion is formed from my communications with the Junta of Galicia as far as respects them; and in those communications they expressed a most anxious desire that we should carry on our operations in Portugal, and drive the French out of that kingdom, and that afterwards the British army should not be the point of connection between the northern and southern armies of Spain.
Q. Did you receive communications of similar wishes from any other of the chief Juntas or persons in authority in Spain?
Q. Was the expulsion of the French from Portugal, in your opinion, of essential service to the Spaniards: and had the British force, in the first instance, landed in Spain, might not the French force under Junot have been employed against Spain?
A. I consider the expulsion of the French from Portugal as an object of the greatest consequence to the Spanish nation. There is no doubt whatever, that if the apprehension of the employment of the disposable force of Great Britain in Portugal had been removed from the mind of the French General, in Portugal, he might have moved a large proportion of his army into Spain.
Sir Arthur Wellesley now read the following address:
General Sir David Dundas, My Lords and Gentlemen,
The Court will permit me, I hope, to begin the address with which I have to trouble them with some few observations upon that part of Lieut. General Sir Hew Dalrymple�s narrative which refers to the operations of the army under my command in Portugal, in which, of course, I feel much interested.
It appears that the General had at a very early period conceived an opinion that I had undertaken an operation of extreme difficulty and hazard; and et he entertained the intention of leaving me to conclude it as I could, and of joining at the Mondego the reinforcements expected from England. Indeed, he states that he acted upon this intention, and that he communicated it to me by his aide de camp; but I can assure the Court that yesterday was the first time I heard of it.
I do not mean to extenuate the difficulty and the hazard of the enterprise which I undertook when I commenced my march from the Mondego; I am addressing myself to persons too well acquainted with the operations of the war not to appreciate them; but I contend for it, notwithstanding the opinion as at present stated, of an Officer of so much more experience than myself, that the means which I had in my power, those which I expected, and the measures which I adopted and recommended, were more than adequate to overcome the difficulties, and remove the risks of the operations which I conducted, excepting those inseparable from all military operations.
The Court have already before them, in my dispatches to the Secretary of State, to Sir Harry Burrard, and my narrative, the reasons which induced me to land, and to march without waiting for further reinforcements; upon which I would wish to rely. But what has fallen from Sir Hew Dalrymple renders it necessary for me to trouble them with something further upon this part of the subject.
The questions, as arising out of his statement, are, whether I was in the first instance sufficiently strong to get the better of the enemy in the field; and if I were, whether I adopted the best means of getting the better of him.
In respect to my strength, in comparison of the army of the enemy, I do not desire to be judged by the result of the campaign, as far as it was conducted by me, but by the commencement, at which time the measures were adopted, from which, as it was truly stated, it would not have been easy, and I certainly had no inclination to withdraw.
My strength then consisted of nearly 13,000 British troops, and I had the assistance of 6000 Portuguese troops, from whose co-operation I expected to derive advantages; in which expectation, I admit, I was subsequently disappointed. But I will ask this Court, what would have been said, and deservedly said, and felt of me, throughout the army and the country, and by the government by which I was intrusted, if with such a force I had hesitated to advance upon the enemy? I have already told the Court, in my narrative, that I did not believe his force was more than 16,000 to 18,000 men, only 14,000 of which number could be disposable in the field. The largest account we received, which was deemed an exaggerated one, of the strength of the enemy, made them 20,500, and even admitting those numbers to be correct, the troops disposable for the field could not have equalled in numbers those which I had under my command and co-operating with me.
It appears that I was not mistaken upon this subject, for, in point of fact, the largest number at which I have ever heard the French force estimated in the battle of the 21st of August was 16,000 men; and I, who saw them, did not think they had more than 14,000; every man of which, excepting the cavalry, who remained untouched, were actually engaged, and particularly General Kellermann's reserve.
Now if all this be true I may fairly conclude, that if the enterprise was hazardous and difficult, I was not without means of bringing it to a fortunate conclusion.
The next question is, whether, having adequate means in my power, I adopted proper measures to effect my object. Sir Hew Dalrymple says, that, by the line of march I adopted, all the strong positions were in the hands of the enemy; but I can assure him that he will find it very difficult to adopt any line of march in Portugal which will not afford strong positions to an enemy acting on the defensive. But there was one advantage attending the line which I adopted, which was, that it rendered the enemy's superior cavalry useless, in the way in which he ought and would have employed it, if I had adopted any other line.
If I had adopted the line by the high road from Lisbon, to the north by Santarem, I must have kept up my communication with Mondego; which would have weakened my force for operations in the field, and after all, the enemy with his cavalry must have broken in upon it. By adopting the line by the sea coast, and depending for my supplies upon the shipping, my communication was so short that it defended itself; I was enabled to keep my force collected in one body; and I had my arsenals and magazines close to me whenever I required to communicate with them.
Having taken this line myself, I proposed that by Santarem to Sir Harry Burrard, for Sir John Moore's corps; by which it might have been adopted with safety, as I was upon the sea line.
The Lieutenant General has stated, that by the line I adopted I left all the strong positions in the enemy's hands. I do not know what positions were in the enemy�s hands of which I could have deprived him, or he could have been deprived by the adoption of any other line of march.
If the march had been made, as I had ordered it on the 21st of August in the morning, the position at Torres Vedras would have been turned; and there was no position in the enemy's possession excepting that in our front at Cabeca de Montachique and those in the rear of it; and I must observe to the Court, that if Sir John Moore's corps had gone to Santarem as proposed, as soon as it disembarked in Mondego, there would have been no great safety in these positions, if it was, as it turned out to be, in our power to beat the French in the field.
I will not follow the example of Sir Hew Dalrymple in entering into a discussion on the probable effects of the battle of the 21st of August, if a certain line of action had been adopted, because an Officer supposed to be concerned in that question is not present; and I dare say that opportunities will not be wanting of entering into that part of the subject.
It has been my misfortune to have been accused of temerity and imprudence, as well as of excess of caution, in the late transactions in Portugal; but without appealing to the result of what happened at the moment I gave over the command of the army, I may safely assert, that whatever might be the difficulty of the operation I had undertaken, means existed to bring it to a fortunate conclusion; that there was no ground for the apprehension for my safety, which Sir Hew Dalrymple seems to have entertained; and that under the instructions which I had received, I should have been blamed deservedly if I had not commenced my operations as soon as I thought I had a sufficient force.
The next point to which I shall take the liberty of drawing the attention of the Court is the share which I am supposed to have had in the negotiation of the Armistice and the Convention. In that part of the question which I have discussed hitherto, I am wholly and solely responsible; in that part which follows, I am held responsible for the advice I am supposed to have given in character, at least, if not in person and in my profession. It is important for me, therefore, to show what advice I really did give, in what view I gave it, and what would have been the result, if the measures which I recommended had been pursued. I did recommend and concur in the measure of allowing the French to evacuate Portugal with their arms and baggage; and here I must observe, that it was particularly understood in the negotiation of the Armistice, that the words "property of all descriptions," was to be included only military baggage and equipment; that this understanding was carried into execution by a separate article of the Convention; and that the commissioners for executing the Convention acted upon this principle.
When the measure of allowing the French to evacuate Portugal was to be taken into consideration, viz., on the evening of the 22nd, it was necessary to review the situation, the means, and the resources of the two armies, and our own objects. The enemy had collected their forces after the defeat of the 21st, and were about to resume the position of Cabeca de Montachique, from whence their retreat was open to other positions in front of Lisbon, and from thence across the Tagus into Alentejo. They had all the facilities in their power to make these movements; and when they should have reached Lisbon, the possession of that river by the forts and by the Russian fleet, and the great number of boats of which they would have had the use, would have enabled them to cross in one body, covered by the citadel and the high grounds; and they would scarcely have lost their rear guard. In Alentejo they had provided ample supplies.
As I have stated in my narrative of my proceedings from the 12th July to the 20th August, Loison had re-established the French authority in that province, during his expedition towards Elvas in the month of July, and the grain which it had produced was purchased for the use of the French army. I know this circumstance, not only from the reports of the country, but from intercepted letters written to Loison by the French agents in Alentejo, which were shown to me.
Lieut. Colonel Torrens was examined by Sir Arthur Wellesley's desire: —
Q. Do you recollect my having had a conversation with you on the night of the 22d of August, or the morning of the 23d, respecting my having signed the Armistice?
A. At daylight on the morning of the 23d, Sir Arthur Wellesley mentioned to me the occurrences which had taken place the evening before; and mentioned that he had signed the Armistice by the desire of Sir Hew Dalrymple, although he totally disapproved of many points in it, and of the tone of the language in which it was drawn up.
Q. Did I state to you what parts of it I disapproved of?
A. You principally stated that you disapproved of the article that provided for the neutrality of the Russians, and of the forty eight hours which had been given to the enemy, from the termination of the Armistice, before hostilities should again commence.
Q. Do you recollect my having expressed to you great uneasiness on the 22d, upon finding that I did not possess the confidence of the Commander in Chief?
A. I do recollect that Sir Arthur Wellesley did express, after he had had a meeting with the Commander of the Forces upon his landing at Maceira, that he had to regret that it was apparent that he had not the confidence of the Commander of the Forces, or words to that effect.
Q. Did I state to you my reasons?
A. You did.
Q. State them?
A. Sir Arthur Wellesley told me, that upon the landing of Sir Hew Dalrymple, he had gone to him to represent to him the necessity of an advance, and that he stated his reasons for thinking it necessary. Sir Hew Dalrymple replied, that he had just arrived, and was consequently unable to form any judgment upon the matter; upon which, an Officer of the Staff spoke apart to Sir Hew Dalrymple, and then followed Sir Arthur Wellesley, and told him, it was the desire of the Commander of the Forces that he should make preparations for the march of the army, and give what orders he thought necessary for it.
Q. Did I state to you my reasons?
A. You did.
Q. State them?
A. Sir Arthur Wellesley told me, that upon the landing of Sir Hew Dalrymple, he had gone to him to represent to him the necessity of an advance, and that he stated his reasons for thinking it necessary. Sir Hew Dalrymple replied, that he had just arrived, and was consequently unable to form any judgment upon the matter; upon which, an Officer of the Staff spoke apart to Sir Hew Dalrymple, and then followed Sir Arthur Wellesley, and told him, it was the desire of the Commander of the Forces that he should make preparations for the march of the army, and give what orders he thought necessary for it.
Q. Was that Officer of the Staff Lieut. Colonel Murray?
Q. Do you recollect that I told you that Lieut. Colonel Murray had spoken to the Commander of the Forces upon the necessity of marching, in consequence of my having urged that necessity upon him (Lieut. Colonel Murray) after the Commander of the Forces had declined to attend to my recommendation?
A. I certainly did understand from Sir Arthur Wellesley that Lieut. Colonel Murray had urged the necessity of an advance to the Commander of the Forces, in consequence of having had a conference with him, Lieut. Colonel Murray, on the subject; but I cannot recall to my recollection whether, or not, Sir Arthur Wellesley told me that he had had this conference with Lieut. Colonel Murray after he had urged the matter himself to the Commander of the Forces.
Captain Malcolm was again examined by Sir Arthur Wellesley's desire: —
Q. Do you recollect to have waited upon the Commander in Chief, Sir Hew Dalrymple, in company with me on the morning of the 25th August?
A. I do.
Q. Do you recollect Sir Arthur Wellesley having recommended to the Commander in Chief, to announce to General Junot the termination of the suspension of hostilities in forty eight hours, without references to the detail which had been received of the sentiments of the Admiral, respecting the article of the Armistice regarding the Russians, and to leave to General Junot to renew the negotiation if he thought proper?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Will you state what passed?
A. On my going into the room, Sir Hew Dalrymple informed Sir Arthur, that the Admiral would not agree to that part of the Armistice that regarded the Russian fleet; Sir Arthur replied that he thought so. Sir Hew asked Sir Arthur for his opinion as to what steps ought to be taken; Sir Arthur said, he thought it most advisable to inform General Junot in general terms that the Admiral disapproved of the Armistice; that he saw no necessity for pointing out the particular article which he disapproved, and proposed that General Junot should be told that the suspension was to be at an end in forty eight hours, as had been agreed upon by the Armistice, and to leave it to General Junot to propose terms again if he thought proper.
Sir Arthur Wellesley now read an extract of a General Order of the 27th of August last, (1808,) which was admitted by Sir Hew Dalrymple, viz. -
Extract from General Orders, by Lieut. General Sir Hew Dalrymple, &c.
Parole - Portugal.
Head Quarters, Ramalhal, 27th August, 1808.
The rapid and skilful march, performed by the army commanded by Lieut. General Sir Arthur Wellesley, marked in its progress by the talent of the General and the gallantry of the troops, and terminated by a victory greatly glorious to both, seemed to have accomplished the immediate object in view, without further operation in the field.
Should that expectation be disappointed, the army will again advance, greatly augmented by the arrival of troops much more valuable from their composition than their numbers; and if by this means there will remain less opportunity for the army at large to acquire renown by the encounter of an army so greatly inferior in force, there will be greater occasion to display patience and cheerfulness under such privations as the exhausted state of the country and other circumstances must necessarily produce.
H. Clinton, Adjutant General.
Sir Harry Burrard now read a narrative of his proceedings, from which the following is extracted: —
About the close of the action, when it was evident that the enemy must be everywhere repulsed, Sir Arthur came up to me and proposed to advance: I understood he meant the movement to be from our right and towards Torres Vedras, with some circumstances I cannot now relate, as they are imperfect in my memory, it not having struck me at the time, or till very lately, that it would be necessary for me to account for every thing that passed on this subject: I answered that I saw no reason for altering my former resolution of not advancing, and as far as my recollection goes, I added that the same reasoning which before determined me to wait for the reinforcements had still its full force in my judgment and opinion.
I am certain Brig. General Clinton and Lieut. Colonel Murray were with me at the time, (with others of my Staff,) for they both immediately assured me, that in their opinion I had well decided.
Q. (By the desire of Sir Arthur Wellesley to Sir Harry Burrard.) - Did you ever hear that it was a standing order of the army when under my command, that the troops, when ordered to march, should cook a day�s provision?
A. I think I have.
Q. The troops having on the 20th had orders to march on the 21st, the provision for that day?
A. Certainly, if they had received orders to march.
Q. Did I not inform you on the evening of the 20th that I had ordered the army to march on the following morning?
A. I understood from Sir Arthur that he intended to march, and very probably he told me that he had ordered it.
Q. Having stated to the Board that I proposed to you on the field of battle to pursue the enemy - upon one occasion, do you recollect my having proposed it to you a second time, in consequence of a message which I had received from General Ferguson?
A. I do remember that Sir Arthur did mention something of the kind to me, and, if I understood him right, it was to pursue on the left where there was open ground, and where the enemy's cavalry might have acted: General Ferguson's brigade was then much in advance.
Q. Do you recollect that the ground in front of the position of General Fane's and General Anstruther's brigade was bounded by a hill covered with pine, to which the right flank of those brigades would have been exposed, if they had pursued that part of the enemy's army engaged with and defeated by them?
A. I know there was a hill in their front, and some pine wood on it.
Q. Do you recollect that in describing to you the dispostion I had made of the army, and the orders which I had given to the different corps, I informed you that I had ordered General Fane and General Anstruther not to be induced to quit their position on any account, without receiving orders from me?
A. I was informed that General Fane's and General Anstruther's brigades were not to advance to follow the enemy; but I did not understand that it was an order that had been given to them before they were engaged. Whether Sir Arthur told me, or somebody else, I do not recollect.
Q. Do you recollect that the plan according to which I proposed to you to follow up our advantages was to move the brigade upon the right wing, General Hill's, General Fane's, and General Anstruther's upon Torres Vedras by the high road, and to follow the beaten enemy with the other five brigades and the Portuguese troops?
A. I did not understand it in that detail: I understood that Sir Arthur Wellesley intended to march the brigades from his right upon Torres Vedras. The rest I do not recollect as part of the plan mentioned to me.
Q. Do you recollect the first time I proposed to you to pursue the enemy, I mentioned the plan of the march to Torres Vedras, and the second time the pursuit of the left to what you consider open ground?
A. I did not consider them as one and the same plan; I thought that General Ferguson's brigade was getting too far, and I wished it to be stopped; but I do not know that Sir Arthur Wellesley mentioned it as the plan of the pursuit of the enemy by the right to Torres Vedras, and in front, with the other brigades.
Q. Was the period, at which you state that you saw one of the corps of General Ferguson's brigade in advance, and in a run, before or after you had decided that the enemy should not be pursued, and before or after the last attack made by a corps of French infantry upon the 71st and 82d regiments?
A. I think the attack made upon the two corps last mentioned was the very last of the action. What I have before said of the 71st must have happened prior to that.
Q. Were not the 36th and 40th regiments in the same brigade with the 71st, and on the same ground, and this brigade supported by the 29th regiment, and in the rear by the brigades of General Bowes and General Acland, in column of brigades, throughout the action; and, at its close, by that of General C. Craufurd and the Portuguese detachment close on the left?
A. I believe they were. The exact situation of the Portuguese, and the brigade with them, I cannot speak to so well.
Sir Arthur Wellesley, by the Board: —
Q. Was the high road which our right must have taken to Torres Vedras nearer to it than that which the enemy, who was engaged on our left, must have taken, to have reached that place?
A. I should think it was; the enemy must have gone by the road which falls into the high road from Lourinha to Torres Vedras. Our right would have marched by the direct road from Vimeiro to Torres Vedras.
Sir Arthur Wellesley was further questioned by the Board: —
Q. Had our troops followed promptly their first success, was there in your opinion a probability of our being able to have intercepted a great part of the French army that had been repulsed by out left wing, and who were retiring and in confusion?
A. The enemy's left, which was engaged with our right, retired by a road which leads along the heights towards Lourinha, on a different side of the valley from that on which our left stood, and it began to retire at much about the same time that the attack began upon the left, consequently the left could not have been engaged on our right. Those troops I believe continued in confusion in the woods which were on that side of the valley during a considerable part of the day, and this confusion was considerably increased, and its duration lengthened, by the attack made by our cavalry. I certainly think that if the left wing of the army had followed up its advantages as I proposed, not only many prisoners would have been taken belonging to the left wing of the French army, but likewise belonging to the right, and that the whole of them were in such confusion, that, giving them full credit for great facility and discipline in forming after having been broken, it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to form again.
Q. From the suggestion mentioned by you as having come from Major General Ferguson, for following the French on the left, it should appear that some pause, if not a close of the action had then taken place: whence did that cessation occur?
A. When the enemy were beaten on the left, I went to Sir Harry Burrard, who was on the field of battle, and proposed to him the pursuit of the enemy. I did it in the way of a continuance or a renewal of the discussion I had had with him in the Brazen on the preceding evening, and I told him that that was his time to advance; that he ought to move the right wing to Torres Vedras, and pursue the beaten enemy with the left. I also stated to him that we had twelve days' provisions in camp, and plenty of ammunition for another battle. Sir Harry Burrard was of the opinion that our advantages ought not to be followed up, much for the same reasons as he had stated the night before, and he desired that I woult halt the troops on the ground which they then occupied; at this time the 71st and 82d were in a valley, the 40th and 36th immediately in their rear on the side of the valley, and the other troops formed in succession for their support. Nearly about the same time the last attack was made by a body of the enemy's infantry upon the 71st and 82d, and was repulsed, as is stated in my report to Sir Harry Burrard; and it was after that, as well as I can recollect, that General Ferguson sent his aide de camp, Captain Mellish, to inform me that great advantages might be derived from the continuance of our advance; and I took Captain Mellish to Sir Harry Burrard to endeavor again to prevail upon him to allow us to continue in the pursuit of our advantages.
Q. Then it was not exactly the pursuit of fugitives, but a movement after a repulsed enemy, which you recommended to Sir Harry Burrard?
A. Certainly; the second proposition did not go to the pursuit of the French army in the shape of fugitives, although they were still in great confusion.
Q. At the close of the action on our left, was any considerable part of the enemy that had engaged our right then in sight?
Q. [By desire of Sir Harry Burrard to Sir Arthur Wellesley.] If our army had preserved their order in pursuing, must not the French have gained ground of them in retiring in very loose order; and if our infantry broke in their pursuit, would not the enemy have had a good opportunity of acting with their cavalry?
A. In order to answer that question, I must state to the Court what I conceive would have been the operations of the two armies if the plan proposed had been adopted. By the march of the right to Torres Vedras, the enemy would have been cut off from Lisbon by the nearest road to that place; if they had retired upon Torres Vedras in the state of confusion supposed by the question, they would have been between two bodies of our troops. If they had chosen to go round by the other road to Lisbon, by Villa Franca and Alemquer, it is perfectly true that infantry not formed would have got faster over the country than infantry which would have been under the necessity of preserving its order; but I conceive that an army in that situation, followed even at a slower rate by a victorious enemy, is absolutely incapable of forming or of appearing again in the shape of an army. There is no doubt but that our infantry must have kept its order and the connection between one corps and another in this proposed pursuit; but by its order I do not mean at all times a formation in line.
Q. Do you know what number of guns the enemy retreated with?
A. According to their order of battle, they had twenty one guns in the action: we took thirteen and a great number of ammunition waggons; and if the statement of the order of battle is correct, which I believe it is, they had eight left.
Q. How do you know that the reserve infantry of the enemy were engaged?
A. I know it from several circumstances; first I saw them engaged; secondly, several prisoners belonging to the reserve were taken, and are now in England; thirdly, General Kellermann, who commanded the reserve, told me they were engaged, and General Junot, who commanded the army, told me that he attributed the loss of the battle to the impetuosity of the reserve, whom he could not restrain; and lastly, I heard from many French Officers that every corps in the army, excepting the cavalry, was engaged.
Q. Having said you saw the reserve engaged, how did you know that it was the reserve engaged at the time?
A. I knew it from the period at which they were introduced into the action; I knew it also from the circumstances of the line of march by which they approached to the attack of our troops; and by comparing what I saw with the accounts given to me by the French Officers, of the line of attack adopted by that corps of the French army.
Q. Might not there have been a second line of infantry, as well as a reserve, in an attack of that sort?
A. Such was the nature of the country, that any number of troops might have been concealed in it, and it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for us to see them: but I had seen nearly the whole, if not the whole, of the French troops on their march in columns in the morning, and, judging from the numbers I saw, and comparing those numbers with those which I conceived to be the numbers of their disposible troops for action in the field, I did not conceive that they had any second line besides the reserve, although it might have been possible to conceal such a body of troops in the hills. I must also mention that I saw the tails of their columns.
Q. What was the distance of the right of General Hill's brigade from the left of General Ferguson's at the close of the action?
A. I should think nearly three miles. I must however observe that, from the nature of this action, the right and left wings of both armies were disconnected; that there was a valley which ran from the point near where the action finished to Vimeiro, which separated the left wing of the British army from the right wing, and also disconnected the two wings of the French army. At the same time, such was the nature of the ground, and it was so completely occupied by the troops which were on it, which troops were so completely supported by those in their rear, that we could feel no inconvenience from this circumstance.
Major General Spencer was further questioned by the desire of Sir Arthur Wellesley, —
Q. Were you present when I recommended to Sir Harry Burrard to continue the pursuit of our advantages on the field of battle on the 21st of August?
A. I was not.
Q. Did you, as second in command to Sir Arthur Wellesley in that action, consider the defeat of the enemy to be so decided as to warrant his pursuit?
A. I considered the enemy as beaten in the centre and left, and should have supported Sir Arthur Wellesley in that opinion.
Major General Ferguson was further questioned, by desire of Sir Arthur Wellesley: —
Q. Were you present when I proposed to sir Harry Burrard, on the field of battle, on the 21st of August, to continue the pursuit of our advantages?
A. I was not; I was with my brigade.
Q. Do you recollect, that after you had received an order to halt, you sent Sir Arthur Wellesley a message by Captain Mellish, to inform him that, if allowed to continue to advance, you could gain important advantages?
A. I did send such a message.
Q. Describe to the Court what those advantages were.
A. A column of the enemy completely broken, and consisting, in my opinion, of from 1,500 to 2,000 men, had, in their confusion, gone into a hollow, and were thereby placed in a situation to have been cut off from their main body, by a movement in advance by the corps under my command.
Q. Did you consider that part of the enemy with which the troops under your command were engaged on the 21st of August to be so beaten as to render it expedient to continue the pursuit of our advantages?
A. As they had lost all their artillery, and were retiring in the utmost confusion, it certainly was my opinion that our army should have continued to advance.
Q. Did you see any troops formed at the end of the action, excepting cavalry?
A. None regularly formed; some battalions of their infantry occasionally halted, in my opinion, for the purpose of carrying off their wounded.
Q. (By the Board.) From whom did you receive the order to halt which has been alluded to by Sir Arthur Wellesley?
A. I understood from Sir Harry Burrard.
Q. Under what circumstances did that order find you?
A. With one battalion in front of the village of Pereganza, and another battalion in the rear of it to support the advance. The village of Pereganza was the last hollow where the enemy made a stand, and were driven out of it by the 71st regiment, which is the battalion alluded to in the advance of the village; the enemy were then retiring in the greatest confusion.
Q. (By the Board.) Had you had heavy artillery on the travelling carriages, with proper horses, would the nature of the roads have allowed you to carry them forward with the army by Torres Vedras to Lisbon; or could such guns have been transported by the draught oxen of the country?
A. In my opinion, certainly not.
Lord Burghersh, a Captain in the 3d regiment of dragoon guards, was examined by desire of Sir Arthur Wellesley: —
Q. Was your Lordship present when I recommended to Sir Harry Burrard, on the field of battle, on the 21st of August, to continue the pursuit of our advantages?
A. I was.
Q. Was your Lordship also present during the conversation I had with Sir Harry Burrard in the Brazen, on the evening of the 20th of August?
A. I was.
Q. Does your Lordship recollect Sir Arthur Wellesley having on that occasion recommended to Sir Harry Burrard to continue our operations, according to the plan on which they had been conducted by Sir Arthur Wellesley till that moment, and his having pointed out to sir Harry Burrard, particularly, the inconveniences and disadvantages which would result from his bringing Sir John Moore's corps from Mondego to join our army?
A. I remember Sir Arthur Wellesley having recommended to Sir Harry Burrard to allow the army to move forwards on the morning of the 21st, as it had been ordered; as a reason for that, that the army was so near the French army as to make it no longer doubtful that one of the two must attack; and that by advancing, the British army would act on the offensive, and, in Sir Arthur Wellesley's opinion, reach Mafra before he should be forced to a general engagement; and, by reaching that position, he should have turned the French positions, and come more immediately in front of Lisbon, with which ground he was so acquainted as to make him anxious to meet the enemy upon it. As An objection to waiting for General Sir John Moore's corps, he thought it must be at least ten days before they could be landed and become serviceable at Vimeiro.
Q. Does your Lordship recollect, that, when I urged Sir Harry Burrard, on the field of battle, on the 21st of August, to continue the pursuit of our advantages, I began the conversation by reference of our discussion of the preceding evening?
A. I do not perfectly remember the manner in which Sir Arthur Wellesley pressed it to Sir Harry Burrard. I remember him urging him to advance, giving as a reason, that his right was some miles nearer to Torres Vedras than the enemy; and that Torres Vedras was the pass by which the enemy must retire to Lisbon.
Sir Arthur Wellesley was also asked by the Board: —
Q. How is this conclusion to be resisted; that General Junot thought the conditions of the Convention more advantageous to the French than the protracting the campaign in the manner which is represented to have been in his power?
A. When I considered the expediency of allowing the French to evacuate Portugal by sea, I took into consideration the British interests and British objects only, and the objects of their allies, as connected with those of Great Britain. I considered that the French army, from the relative situation of the two armies in Portugal, and from its having the military possession of the country, had a fair military right to withdraw by sea with their arms and baggage; I do not think it necessary for me to account for the motives of General Junot in preferring to evacuation by sea to another line of operation; which, without wishing to say anything personally disrespectful of him, might have bad or unworthy motives, as well as views for the interests of his country.
Sir Arthur Wellesley was asked by Sir Harry Burrard:
Q. Had not the British army the same means of advancing by Mafra on the morning of the 23d, when Sir Hew Dalrymple ordered it to march, as it had on the 20th, when Sir Arthur Wellesley intended it should march; and does Sir Arthur Wellesley know that the French would not have risked another battle, nor attempted his flank upon his march, or been at Mafra before him?
A. I do think the army might have marched to Mafra with as much facility on the 23d as I thought it might on the 21st. There was this difference, however, that on the 23d I believe Mafra was occupied by a French corps, and there was none there on the 21st. I must also state to the Board, that the object of the march to Mafra would on the 23d have been defeated, because, as I have just informed them, there was no chance of bringing the French to another action. — They would have acted, according to my opinion, in Portugal as they did in Egypt; they tried their strength once in the field, and, having failed, they would in Portugal have continued to retreat until they could have got into safety. I do not believe that any corps could have fallen on the flank of the march on the 23d, because no Frenchman remained in Torres Vedras, or nearer than Cabeca de Montachique, on the evening of the 22d.
Q. Did the French corps that was at Mafra retreat from Torres Vedras, and was that the nearest way to Lisbon, or to go up the country?
A. That French corps must have been in the action, and must have retreated through Torres Vedras. The shortest road from Torres Vedras to Lisbon, and of course up the country, is not through Mafra, but it is in my opinion entirely consistent with an intention to cross the Tagus, and retreat up the country, to occupy all the forts which were likely to impede or delay the advance of the British troops.
Q. (By the Board to Sir Arthur Wellesley.) — Would your occupation of Torres Vedras on the evening of the 21st have prevented the French from gaining the Cabeca de Montachique?
A. Our occupation of Torres Vedras on the evening of the 21st would have placed us on the shortest road from the position of the two armies to Cabeca de Montachique, as we should have been in a situation, by subsequent movement, to occupy, not only Cabeca de Montachique, but the other positions in front of Lisbon, before the French could have reached them.
Q. Would not the French, in the course of the retreat from the field of battle, have passed through Torres Vedras previous to the time that the British army could arrive there?
A. The French, as I explained in my evidence yesterday, retreated from all points of attack to the northward, apparently with an intention of falling in with the road from Torres Vedras to Lourinha, by which they had advanced to the attack. I conceive that, after the action was over, the right of our army in particular was nearer to Torres Vedras than the enemy, and therefore I should think that the right of our army would have been in Torres Vedras before any part of the enemy could have reached that town in their retreat.
Q. General Spencer yesterday described a line of the enemy at the distance of three miles; was that corps further from Torres Vedras than the right of the British army?
A. I cannot say that I recollect to have seen that corps. According to General Spencer's description, he saw it formed about an hour after the enemy had been defeated upon our left, and, as he said, to the northward and upon the road to Torres Vedras. If that is an accurate description of the position of that corps, it must have been much about the same distance from Torres Vedras as our right was.
Sir Harry Burrard now addressed the Board as follows:
I trust the Board of Inquiry will not think it improper to grant me the liberty to offer a few observations upon what happened on the 21st of August, when it was my opinion (unswayed, I trust, by any unworthy motives) that it was not expedient to follow the enemy towards Torres Vedras.
In the first place, I did not believe that the enemy's whole force was engaged in that action; neither do I think that it is proved it was known to have been so in fact, when it was proposed to me to advance from the right.
I very freely acknowledge that I did not understand that a corps of such considerable numbers as is stated was cut off from the main body of the enemy on the left of our position; but it was impressed upon my mind that they were towards Major General Ferguson�s front, inclining towards their own force; and I considered it improper to attack them in that situation.
This appeared so much the more necessary to me, as I had determined, from the situation our right appeared to me to be in, not to advance to Torres Vedras, and I still think that I determined properly.
The extensive line the British army occupied was not in favor of our advancing. The distance from right to left was, I still think, four miles.
The centre of the enemy had been necessarily disengaged an hour and a half; time enough for them to have formed a line near three miles distant in our front, with eight pieces of cannon, and a large body of cavalry, of which we had none.
At the time Sir Arthur Wellesley came up to me, and publicly proposed to me to advance, I felt the situation it placed me in, and that it was not likely my determination should please a British army, who had so much signalized itself; that will, I believe, be sufficient proof that I acted to the best of my judgment, and those who know me will be convinced, very much against my feelings.
My entiments on the uncommon situation in which I then stood were well known to those of my staff about me. The want, at this moment, of every one of those gentlemen who were with me on the 21st of August, I sincerely feel and regret, and am convinced the Board will also feel for the person who stands in so unusual predicament; at the same time, if there has been any error in judgment, it is all my own; I decided for myself, from what I saw and heard, and take most decidedly the whole responsibility upon myself.
But I trust that the Board, upon a review of the whole case, will have sufficient reason to be convinced that it would have been unwise to have risked much, when so superior a force was at hand to reinforce the British arm, which must have rendered vain the future efforts of the enemy, and have decided the contest with less loss to the public service that by what I conceive a precarious operation. Sir Arthur Wellesley again addressed the Board, viz. -
I trust that the Court will permit me to address a few words to them upon this occasion.
Although I did differ, and do still differ, in opinion with Lieut. General Sir H. Burrard, respecting the measures adopted immediately after the battle of the 21st August, I hope it will not be deemed presumptuous in me as an inferior Officer to declare to the Court and to the public the opinion which I have always entertained, that Sir H. Burrard decided upon that occasion upon fair military grounds, in the manner which appeared to him to be most conducive to the interests of the country; and that he had no motive for his decision which could be supposed personal to me, or which as an Officer he could not avow.
Sir Harry Burrard was further examined by Sir Hew Dalrymple: —
Q. Was not Sir Harry Burrard present at the conference with General Kellermann at Vimeiro, on the subject of an Armistice on the 22d of August?
A. I was called in by Sir Hew Dalrymple.
Q. Had I not, in your opinion, reason to presume, from what passed on that occasion, that both Sir Arthur Wellesley and yourself cordially approved the Convention for the evacuation of Portugal by the French troops, as a general measure, and that both of you seemed to acquiesce in the several arrangements ultimately settled for the Armistice?
A. I did, and I thought Sir Arthur did so generally: there were a great many objections stated at times, which upon conversation were given up.
Q. Did I not send for you and Sir Arthur Wellesley on the morning of the 25th of August, after the arrival of Lieut. Colonel Murray from on board the British Admiral�s ship, to consider upon the measures next to be pursued, and again on the morning of the 27th, for a similar purpose?
A. I was sent for, I believe, on both those occasions; but I made no memoranda of the dates.
Q. Was not a treaty signed by Lieut. Colonel Murray, but which I refused to ratify, read article by article, in presence of yourself, Sir John Moore, Lieu. Generals Hope, Mackenzie Fraser, and Sir Arthur Wellesley; and were not the observations and proposed alterations on each article written down by Sir Arthur Wellesley?
A. The whole of that is true, to the best of my knowledge and recollection.
Q. Was not the definitive Convention ratified in your quarters at Torres Vedras, in presence of yourself, Sir John Moore, Lieut. General Hope, and Lieut. General Mackenzie Fraser; and have I not just grounds to believe that none of those Lieutenant Generals disapproved of the measures of ratifying that treaty?
A. They were present at the time, called in by Sir Hew Dalrymple, and I saw him sign it; and from the characters of such men, I do not suppose that they would have allowed him to do so, without stating their objections, if they had any. Of their sentiments I know no further.
Gurwood, J. Selections From the Dispatches and General Orders of...The Duke of Wellington. London: John Murray, 1851.
Gurwood, J. The Dispatches Of Field Marshal The Duke of Wellington... London: John Murray, 18
The Annual Register, in discussing the events leading to the convention wrote:
Sir Arthur Wellesley had strenuously recommended a pursuit of the French; and great pains was taken by his friends at home, to screen him from the odium of both the armistice and convention; with which Sir Arthur appears indeed to have expressed much dissatisfaction to his friends in private, though he had not hinted any disapprobation when in consultation with the other generals. But the board unanimously approved the judgment of Sir Harry Burrard, in abstaining from pursuit. "A superior cavalry," they observed, "retarding our advance, would have allowed the enemy's infantry, without any degree of risk, to continue their retreat in the most rapid manner,... nor did Sir A. Wellesley, on the 17th of August, when the enemy had not half the cavalry he had on the 21st, pursue a more inconsiderable and beaten army, with any marked advantage."
In short, the report of the board was an indirect censure on Sir Arthur; for if Sir Harry Burrard was justified under all circumstances in not advancing until the arrival of the reinforcements under Sir John Moore, Sir Arthur Wellesley, who knew that he must be speedily reinforced, judged ill in pushing forward and exposing himself to an attack, from which the enemy could only experience, at the worst, the disadvantage of a repulse, instead of waiting for a day or two, for such an augmentation of numbers as would have ensured the ruin of the enemy, notwithstanding the superiority of cavalry. It is generously believed, and it was probably the truth, that Sir Arthur, confiding in the bravery of his troops, burned with a desire to have a brush with the French, before he should be superceded in the command by the arrival of Sir John Moore.
Sir John Moore wrote:
Quelus Camp, 2nd October. — A few days ago we received letters and newspapers from England as late as the 21st September. The disapprobation of the public at the terms of the Convention seems to be at least equal to that expressed at the defeat at Buenos Ayres. I thought it would not be much approved of, but I did not expect it would have been so generally reprobated. The expectation of the public had been much raised by Sir Arthur's despatches, which lead to a belief that the French forces had been beaten in two successive actions, whereas the first affair, that of the 17th August [Rolica], was the repulse of a small corps, from two to three thousand men, sent to occupy a strong pass with a view to impede our march. The attack on this post was certainly mismanaged; for though by dint of great superiority of numbers we gained the pass, yet we lost a great number of men, above 500, with some valuable officers. The French said truly on this occasion that our soldiers were brave, but that our Generals showed little conduct or experience.
The action of the 21st was stated by Sir Arthur's despatch to have been fought against the collected force of the French in Portugal, commanded by Junot in person. It is true that they were commanded by Junot, but the number was from 12,000 to 14,000, whereas it was then known that they had 20,000 men in Portugal. It has since been known that they had from 23,000 to 24,000. Whether we should have been more successful had the victory on the 21st been immediately followed up, it is impossible for a person not present to decide. Every one understands that a victorious army knows no difficulties, and that against a beaten army much may be risked; but by following at that moment we removed from our ships and our supplies; the enemy had superior cavalry unbroken, and we had difficult country ahead, known to the enemy, unknown to us. The least check would have proved fatal to us, though the pursuit might, if unchecked, have led at once to Lisbon.
It was for those present to weigh and determine. Sir Harry Burrard arrived after the action had commenced. Nothing could be more unpleasant than his situation; whatever happened afterwards, the merit, if successful, would be given to Sir Arthur; the blame, if otherwise, be imputed to him. He decided to halt. To Sir Arthur, therefore, are attributed all the advantages which might have ensued from a successful pursuit. It is said that if Sir Harry had not arrived, Sir Arthur would have pursued, and we should have been in Lisbon in three days, and the French would have been prisoners. Nobody considers that it is possible that if Sir Arthur had continued in command he might not have pursued, for people often propose when second what they would not undertake if first; but if he had he might have been checked in passing through a difficult country, and the enemy's cavalry, acting in his rear, might have cut in between him and his resources, destroyed his baggage, &c.
There is no doubt that Sir Arthur was superseded at a most fortunate moment for him, after a successful action, but just as his difficulties were about to commence. Hitherto his march had been unimpeded. The north of Portugal had been open for the arrival of supplies, and the country supplied his corps as he passed with every refreshment. All this was at an end at the moment when Sir Harry Burrard arrived. The proof that what remained to be done did not appear to him so easy is that he approved, recommended, and signed the preliminary articles, which I never thought justifiable, for they were far more unfavourable to us than the final convention.
He was perhaps in some degree induced to recommend the preliminaries from an eagerness to have everything settle before the landing of my corps. This, however foolish, certainly had weight with him. When I joined the army on the 25th the negotiation was in some forwardness. The question was no longer whether to treat, or upon what basis; what remained was to get the articles to be as little objectionable as possible. I thought this was in a great degree accomplished when the French were not allowed to treat for the Russian ships; for it followed, when they gave up the harbour, that the Russian and all other ships fell to us as a thing of course, and we might give them terms or no terms as we thought proper. I was surprised to see the terms which they obtained; but I understood the Admiral, Sir Charles Cotton, acted upon instructions sent to him on a former occasion, which he thought analogous to this.
After the negotiation had commenced, the French, instead of being followed, were allowed to recover from their panic and to collect in force at Torres Vedras and the strong country behind it. We depended for daily subsistence on our fleet at anchor on an open coast, where the difficulty was great even in good weather to land anything. The possibility of the ships keeping their anchorage was becoming, as the season advanced, daily more doubtful. Thus situated, it required an officer of decision and talents to surmount the difficulties with which we were surrounded. An officer of this description at the head of a spirited army would certainly have advanced and never would have listened to such terms; but we had no such commander.
Sir Hew Dalrymple was confused and incapable beyond any man I ever saw head an army. The whole of his conduct then and since has proved him to be a very foolish man. I had always before given him credit for some degree of sense and understanding, but I see I was mistaken, so little can men be judged in ordinary intercourse or until they are placed in situations of difficulty. Sir Hew Dalrymple being our commander, I am quite convinced that the best thing to do was to treat on almost any terms. Government may thank themselves for what has happened, since they chose an officer to command of no military experience. They are fortunate that he did not arrive sooner, or we should not, as we did, have beaten the French in the field, nor be at this moment in possession of Portugal. Sir Hew has received orders to return to England to explain, and to give up the command to the officer next in rank, viz. Sir Harry Burrard. Sir Hew resigned the command to Sir Harry Burrard on the 3rd, and this afternoon he is to embark on board the Phoebe for England.
The Diary of Sir John Moore. 2 Vols. Ed. by Major-General Sir J. F. Maurice. London: Edward Arnold, 1904.
Report of the Board of Inquiry.
May it please your majesty,
We the under written general officers of the army, in obedience to your majesty's warrant, which bears date the 1st day of November, 1808, commanding us strictly to enquire into the conditions of a suspension of arms, concluded on the 22d of August, 1808, between your majesty's army in Portugal, and the French force in that country -and also into a definitive convention, concluded with the French general commanding on the 31st August following -also into all the causes and circumstances (whether arising from the previous operations of the British army, or otherwise, which led to them) -and into the conduct, behaviour, and proceedings of lieutenant-general sir Hew Dalrymple, and such other commander or commanders of your majesty's forces in Portugal, and of any other person or persons, as far as the same were connected with the said armistice, suspension of arms, and convention -and to report to your majesty a statement thereof, as it shall appear, together with our opinion, whether any, and what, further proceedings should be had thereupon.
We have, at several meetings, perused and considered your majesty's orders and instructions, so transmitted to us by the right hon. Lord Castlereagh, your majesty's principal secretary of state, together with sundry letters, and other papers, therewith transmitted. -And have heard and examined lieutenant-general sir Hew Dalrymple, sir Harry Burrard, and sir Arthur Wellesley, and other principal officers employed on the said expedition, with such witnesses as any of them desired -and also such other persons as seemed to us most likely to give any material information. -And in order that your majesty may be fully possessed of every circumstance which has appeared in the course of this enquiry, we beg leave to lay before your majesty the whole of our examinations and proceedings to this our report annexed. -And upon the most diligent and careful review of the whole matter, we do, in further obedience to your royal command, most humbly report to your majesty, that it appears, &c. &c.
[Here follows a statement of facts relative to the arrival in Portugal of sir Arthur Wellesley's expedition from Cork -to the appearance of general Spencer off the Tagus, his return to Cadiz, and his arrival again in Portugal -to the operations of the army up to the battles of the 17th and 21st -to the junction of general Ackland and general Anstruther's brigades -to the arrival of sir Harry Burrard and sir Hew Dalrymple -to the arrival and landing of sir John Moore; all of which have already been given in the official dispatches published in the Gazette, in the narratives of sir A. Wellesley, sir H. Burrard, and sir Hew Dalrymple, and in the evidence which was detailed during the sitting of the Board of Enquiry.]
After a description of the battle of Vimeira, the report proceeds thus: —Soon after twelve, the firing had ceased, and the enemy's cavalry was seen from our left, in bodies of about 200, by general Ferguson; and about the same time general Spencer saw a line formed, about three miles in front of our centre. About half past twelve, sir Arthur Wellesley proposed to sir Harry Burrard to advance from his right, with three brigades, upon Torres Vedras, and with the other five brigades to follow the enemy, who had been defeated by our left.
It appears that the situation of the army at this moment was -on the right, major-general Hill's brigade, which had not been engaged, was on the height behind Vimeira, and at a distance of above three miles from those of generals Ferguson and Nightingale on the left. In front of Vimeira and in the centre, were the brigades of Anstruther and Fane, which had been warmly engaged. Brigadier-general Bowes's and Ackland's brigades were advanced on the heights, towards the left, in support of generals Ferguson and Nightingale. Brigadier-general Craufurd's brigade was detached rather to the rear of the left, about half a mile from major general Ferguson, to support the Portuguese troops, making front in that direction. It appears, that although the enemy was completely repulsed, the degree of expedition with which a pursuit could be commenced, considering the extended position of the army at the time, and the precaution to be taken against the superior cavalry of the enemy, must have depended on various local circumstances only to be calculated by those on the spot.
This very circumstance of a superior cavalry retarding our advance, would allow the enemy's infantry, without any degree of risk, to continue their retreat in the most rapid manner, till they should arrive at any given and advantageous point of rallying and formation; nor did sir A. Wellesley, on the 17th August, when the enemy had not half the cavalry as on the 21st, pursue a more inconsiderable and beaten army with any marked advantage. (Here passages are quoted from sir A. Wellesley�s dispatches in the Gazette, in support of this statement.) It may also be considered, that as the attack on our centre had been repulsed long before that on our left had, the attacking corps, which, as had been observed, was not pursued (but by the 20th dragoons, not exceeding 150), had time (above an hour) to re-assemble, and to occupy such ground as might afterwards facilitate the retreat of their right, and that the enemy were actually and visibly formed in one or more lines, at about three miles in front of the centre.
From these and other fair military grounds, as allowed by sir A. Wellesley; from those that occurred in sir H. Burrard's first interview with sir A. Wellesley; from the utmost certainty of the immediate arrival of sir John Moore's corps, which, if they had not stopped at Mondago Bay, would have been at Maceira on the 21st; sir H. Burrard declined making any further pursuit that day, or ordering the army to march the next morning early. -(In this opinion sir H. Burrard states, brigadier-general Clinton and colonel Murray concurred.)
[Here follows an account of the appointment of sir Hew Dalrymple; his assuming the command; the negociation of the armistice; objections of sir C. Cotton, and final conclusion of the armistice; all the particulars of which have already been laid before the public.]
It appears that when the proposed treaty (ratified by general Junot) of the 28th August, was brought by captain Dalrymple on the 29th to head-quarters at Ramalhal, all the lieutenant-generals (Burrard, Moore, Hope, Fraser, Wellesley) were present, lord Paget excepted, because not long previously summoned. The proposed treaty was, however, formally discussed. Minutes of proposed alterations were taken by sir A. Wellesley, as laid before the Board, and the commander of the forces has no reason to believe that sir J. Moore, or any of the lieutenant-generals that came to him, expressed any disapprobation of the state and terms of the negotiation.
The treaty with the alterations proposed were re-transmitted to lieutenant-general Murray. It appears when the treaty concluded by lieutenant-general Murray on the 30th, was brought by him to Torres Vedras on the 31st for ratification, the lieutenant-generals present were convened, and sir A. Wellesley was sent for. Lord Paget, who was at a distance, did not come, nor did sir A. Wellesley, his corps having marched that morning. The other lieutenant-generals met, (Burrard, Moore, Fraser, Hope) the alterations made by lieutenant-colonel Murray were approved, and the treaty then ratified by the commander of the forces (sir H. Dalrymple) with the approbation of the lieutenant-generals present. Some of the articles of the treaty of the 28th, before objected to by the lieutenant-generals, were altered in that of the 30th, and some other good alterations had been inserted, not before suggested. A comparison of the treaty of the 28th, and that ratified, will shew the alterations. The meetings of the lieutenant-generals, the commander of the forces did not call, or consider as regular councils of war. He sought to benefit from their talents and experience, by consulting then on exigent cases, and by pursuing the measure he might himself deem most for the god of your majesty�s service, after availing himself of the advantage he might draw from their reasonings, and he does not recollect there was any dissentient opinion on the 31st, as to the ratification of the convention. It appears that sir J. Moore's corps having arrived at Mondego Bay on the 20th of August, began to disembark; that they re-embarked, and arrived off Maceira Bay on the 24th; that from the 25th to the 29th, they landed under considerable difficulties, and successively joined the army at Torres Vedras. It appears that some of the principal advantages to arise from the convention were in the contemplation of the generals. That it immediately liberated the kingdom of Portugal from the dominion of the French, thereby restoring to the inhabitants their capital and fortresses, the principal sea-ports, their personal liberty, property, religion, and established government. That it relieved a great extent of the Spanish frontier from all apprehensions of an enemy, and the whole of Spain from that of having an enemy behind them, and allowed all parts of Spain to take more effective measures for its defence; as well as permitted Portugal immediately to contribute for their mutual support. That it enabled the British army immediately to enter Spain, if required, by central routes, while it transported the French force to a very distant part of their own coast, far removed from the Spanish frontier. That it immediately released 4000 Spanish soldiers, and sent them to the defence of Catalonia; it also released from the Portuguese frontier another body of 2000 Spanish troops. The Portuguese army also became disposable for the common cause. To the men of war and transports, which at this season of the year with great difficulty could keep their station near the coast, and on whose presence the supplies and operations of the army depended, the opening of the Tagus afforded immediate shelter. It is further urged by the generals, as much more than probable, that if the enemy had been required to lay down their arms, and would surrender prisoners of war, that they would not have complied; but if driven to extremity, that they would have retired upon Lisbon, reinforced by 6000 Russians, who must have been thus compelled to share their fate; and in the temporary attack of this city, much calamity and destruction must have ensued. Also, that masters of the Russian fleet, and of boats and shipping in the Tagus, the passage to the river was ensured to them; that they could have defended, for a considerable time, its east bank, and prevented the occupation of the Tagus by our fleet; that, with the strong fortresses of Alentejo in their possession, they could have protracted a destructive war, to the great detriment of Portugal and the Spanish cause, finding employment for the greater part of the British army, for the remainder of the year, and whose difficulties and losses in such operation must have been very considerable. It appears, that the forts on the Tagus were taken possession of on the 2d of September, by the British troops, and the port was then opened to our shipping. That on the 5th the army had its right at St. Juliens, and its left on the heights of Bellas; that on the 8th or 9th, a British corps marched into Lisbon, to ensure the tranquillity of that city, during the embarkation of the enemy, who were all sent off (except the last division, who were purposely detained) before the end of the month, and part of the army was then actually on its route towards the Spanish frontier. -It appears, that during the discussion, and afterwards during the execution of the convention, much firmness was shewn in resisting the pretensions and interpretations of the enemy; every stipulation being restricted to its fair, honourable, and grammatical meaning, and the French not allowed to carry off, but obliged to disgorge plunder, which they affected to consider as private property. It appears that pains were taken to misrepresent and raise a clamour in Portugal against this convention; but when it was generally known, and its effects felt, the people of Lisbon, and of the country, seem to have expressed their gratitude and thanks for the benefits attending it. It has been urged by sir Hugh Dalrymple, and allowed by major-general Spencer, that in Egypt, in 1801 (after the victory of the 21st of March, the French having thrown their whole force into Alexandria and Grand Cairo, about 10,000 men in each place), that at the siege of Alexandria, in August, the country was in full possession of the British and Turks. The garrison, cut off from every possibility of relief, and could only have held out some days, when a capitulation was granted to it, September the 2d, as favourable as the convention of Cintra to the army of Junot (of 24,000 French and 6000 Russians), and perfectly similar in all the chief articles of men, baggage, artillery, conveyance, &c., also, that the same terms had been previously granted to the garrison of Cairo, under much the same circumstances. By these two conventions, or capitulations, above 20,000 French evacuated Egypt, and the British army was left disposable for other purposes. On the whole, it appears, that the operations of the army under sir Arthur Wellesley, from his landing in Mondego Bay the 1st of August, until the conclusion of the action at Vimeira, the 21st of August, were highly honourable and successful, and such as might be expected from a distinguished general, at the head of a British army of 13,000 men, augmented on the 20th and the 31st to 17,000, deriving only some small aid from a Portuguese corps (1600 men) and against who an enemy not exceeding 14,00 men in the field was opposed; and this before the arrival of a very considerable reinforcement from England, under lieutenant-general sir John Moore, which, however, did arrive and join the army, from the 25th to the 30th of August. It appears a point on which no evidence adduced can enable the board to pronounce, with confidence, whether or not a pursuit after the battle of the 21st, could have been efficacious; nor can the board feel confident to determine on the expedience of a forward movement to Torres Vedras, when sir Harry Burrard has stated weighty considerations against such a measure. Further, it is to be observed, that so many collateral circumstances could not be known in the moment of the enemy's repulse, as afterwards became clear to the army, and have been represented to the board. And considering the extraordinary circumstances under which two new commanding generals arrived from the ocean, and joined the army (the one during, and the other immediately after, a battle, and these successively superseding each other, and both the original commander within the space of 24 hours), it is not surprising that the army was not carried forward, until the second day after the action, from the necessity of the generals being acquainted with the actual state of things, and of their army, and proceeding accordingly.
It appears that the convention of Cintra in all its progress and conclusion, or at least all the principle articles of it, were not objected to by the five distinguished lieutenant-generals of the army; and other general officers who were on that service, whom we have had an opportunity to examine, have also concurred in the general advantages that were immediately gained, to the country of Portugal, to the army and navy, and to the general service, by the conclusion of the convention at that time. -On a consideration of all circumstances, so set forth in this report, we most humbly submit our opinion, that no further military proceeding is necessary on that subject. Because, howsoever some of us may differ in our sentiments respecting the fitness of the convention in the relative situation of the two, it is our unanimous declaration, that unquestionable zeal and firmness appear throughout to have been exhibited by lieutenant-general sir Hew Dalrymple, sir Harry Burrard, and sir Arthur Wellesley, as well as that the ardour and gallantry of the rest of the officers and soldiers, on every occasion during this expedition, have done honour to the troops, and reflected lustre on your majesty's arms. All of which is most dutifully submitted.
23d Dec. 1808.
Judge-Advocate-General's Office, Dec. 27, 1808.
In consequence of the following letter from his royal highness the commander in chief to sir David Dundas, as president, viz.
Horse Guards, Dec. 25, 1808.
Sir -The judge-advocate-general having delivered to me, to be laid before his majesty, the several paper and documents, containing all the examinations and proceedings taken before the board of enquiry, of which you are president, together with your report and opinion upon the whole of the late operations of his majesty's forces in Portugal, as connected with the armistice and subsequent convention of Cintra, I think it incumbent on me to state to you, that although the report is fully detailed, and perfectly explanatory of all the transactions as they appeared in evidence before you; yet upon a due consideration of the whole matter, it certainly appears that your opinion upon the conditions of the armistice and convention, which the words of his majesty�s warrant expressly enjoin should be strictly examined, enquired into, and reported upon, has been altogether omitted. I feel it my duty, therefore, to call your attention to these two principal features of this important case, the armistice and convention, and to desire that you may be pleased to take the same again into your most serious consideration, and subjoin to the opinion which you have already given upon the other points submitted to your examination and enquiry, whether, under all the circumstances which appear in evidence before you, on the relative situation of the two armies, on the 22d of August, 1808, it is your opinion that an armistice was advisable, and if so, whether the terms of that armistice were such as ought to have been agreed upon; and whether upon like consideration of the relative situation of the two armies subsequent to the armistice, and when all the British forces were landed, it is your opinion that a convention was advisable, and if so, whether the terms of that convention were such as ought to have been agreed upon. - I am the more desirous that you should resume the consideration of these two points, the armistice and convention, as it appears upon the face of your report, that a difference of opinion exists among the members of the board, which may probably produce a dissent from the majority upon these very questions. You will be pleased, therefore, to desire such of the members as may be of a different opinion from the majority upon these two questions, to record upon the face of the proceedings their reasons for such dissent.
I am, Sir, yours,
General Sir D. Dundas, K. B.
The board met this day at the judge-advocate-general's office, when the aid letter having been read, they agreed that the following questions should be put to each of the members of the board:
Do you, or do you not approve of the armistice as concluded upon the 22d of August, 1808, in the relative situation of the two armies?
Earl of Moira.
Do you, or do you not approve of the convention as concluded upon the 31st of August, 1808, in the relative situation of the two armies?
Lt.-gen. Sir G. Nugent.
[signed] David Dundas, President.
My reason for considering the armistice as advisable on the 22d of August was, because the enemy had been able to retire after the battle of the 21st, and take up a strong defensive position.
Ol. Nicolls, L.G.
I think, considering the great increase of our force from the first suspension of hostility to the definitive signing of the convention, added to the defeat the enemy had suffered, sir H. Dalrymple was fully entitled to have insisted upon more favourable terms.
Ol. Nicolls, L.G.
I approve of the armistice, after a due consideration of the relative situations of the two armies on the evening of the 22d of August, but I cannot fully approve of the whole of the convention, after a due consideration of the relative situation of the two armies at that time; because it does not appear to me that, in the progress of the negotiation, sufficient stress was laid upon the great advantages which had resulted, or were likely to result, from the former successful operations of the British army in the field -from the considerable reinforcements which had joined it, subsequent to the commencement of the negotiation -from the cause in which the British army was engaged being the cause of Portugal, which gave good reason to reckon upon the good will, if not upon the active assistance, of the majority of the inhabitants; and also, from the unusual readiness which, as it appears to me, was manifested by general Junot to enter into negotiation, and by the French negotiator to accede to terms as they were proposed, and to such construction as lieut.-gen. Sir Hew Dalrymple put upon them in some instances, where they might have borne a difference of interpretation. I therefore think it probable, for the above reasons, that if less favourable terms to the French had been insisted upon, they would have been acceded to.
I feel less awkwardness in obeying the order to detail my sentiments on the nature of the convention, because that I have already joined in the tribute of applause due in other respects to the officers concerned. My opinion, therefore, is only opposed to theirs on a question of judgment, where their talents are likely to have so much more weight, as to render the profession of my differences, even on that point, somewhat painful. The duty is however, imperious on me not to disguise or qualify the deductions which I have made during this investigation. �An armistice simply might not have been objectionable, because sir Hew Dalrymple, expecting hourly the arrival of sir John Moore's division, might see more advantage for himself in a short suspension of hostilities, than what the French could draw from it; but as the armistice involved, and in fact established the whole principle of the convention, I cannot separate it from the latter. -Sir A. Wellesley has stated, that he considered his force, at the commencement of the march from the Mondego river, as sufficient to drive the French from their positions on the Tagus. That force is subsequently joined by above 4000 British troops, under generals Anstruther and Ackland. The French make an attack with their whole disposable strength, and are repulsed with heavy loss, though but part of the British army is brought into action. It is difficult to conceive that the prospects which sir A. Wellesley entertained could be unfavourably altered by these events, even had not the certainty of speedy reinforcements to the British army existed. -It is urged, that had the French been pushed to extremity, they would have crossed the Tagus, and have protracted the campaign in such a manner as to have frustrated the more important view of the British generals. -namely, sending succours into Spain. -This measure must have been equally feasible for the French if no victory had been obtained over them; but I confess that the chance of such an attempt seems to me assumed against probability. Sir Hew Dalrymple notices what he calls "the critical and embarrassed state of Junot," before that general has been pressed by the British army; and, in explanation of that expression, observes, that the surrender of Dupont, the existence of the victorious Spanish army in Andalusia, which cut off the retreat of the French in that direction, and the universal hostility of the Portuguese, made the situation of Junot one of great distress. No temptation for the translation of the war into Alentejo presents itself from this picture; nor does any other representation give ground to suppose that Junot could have contemplated the measure as holding forth any prospect but ultimate ruin, after much preliminary distress and disgrace. The strongest of all proofs as to Junot's opinion, arises from his sending the very morning after the battle of Vimeira, to propose the evacuation of Portugal; a step which sufficiently indicated that he was satisfied he could not only make no effectual defence, but could not even prolong the contest to take the chance of accidents. He seems, indeed, to have been without any real resource. It appears in evidence, that of the troops left by him in Lisbon and the forts, a considerable proportion were of very doubtful quality. Those troops on whose fidelity he could confide, had been dismayed by a signal defeat, and they were sensible that they had no succour to look to from abroad. To the British generals it was known, when the armistice was granted, that 10,000 men under sir J. Moore, as well as the 3d and 42d regimens of foot, with the 18th dragoons, might be immediately reckoned upon; and although much advantage had not been drawn from the Portuguese troops, their support and the general violence of the country against the French, cannot be laid out of this calculation.
The disparity of force and of circumstances was, then, such as could leave no doubt that the issue must be favourable to us. I do not omit advertence to the difficulties urged as possible to occur in furnishing the British army with bread. But, putting aside the obvious solution, that such a temporary privation is not ruinous to an army where cattle can be procured in the country, this difficulty cannot be well pleaded, if admission is to be given to the speculation, that the heavy cannon necessary for battering forts St. Julien and Calcaes were to be got ashore in the Bays of the Rock of Lisbon. The question then comes to this: whether the convention did (as has been asserted) secure all the objects which were proposed in the expedition? If it did not, it was not what his majesty was entitled to expect from the relative situation of the two armies.
I humbly conceive it to have been erroneous to regard the emancipation of Portugal from the French, as the sole or principal object of the expedition. Upon whatever territory we contend with the French, it must be a prominent object in the struggle to destroy their resources, and to narrow their means of injuring us, not those whose cause we are supporting. This seems to have been so little considered in the convention, that the terms appear to have extricated Junot�s army from a situation of infinite distress, in which it was wholly out of play, and to have brought it, in a state of entire equipment, into immediate currency, in a quarter too where it must interfere with our most urgent and interesting concerns.
Had it been impracticable to reduce the French army to lay down its arms unconditionally, still an obligation not to serve for a specified time, might have been insisted upon, or Belleisle might have been prescribed as the place at which they should be landed, in order to prevent the probability of their reinforcing (at least for a long time) the armies employed for the subjugation of Spain. Perhaps a stronger consideration than the merit of those terms presents itself. Opinion relative to the British arms was of the highest importance, as it might influence the confidence of the Spaniards, or invite the nations groaning under the yoke of France, to appeal to this country, and co-operate with it for their deliverance. The advantages ought, therefore, to have been more than usually great, which should be deemed sufficient to balance the objection of granting to a very inferior army, hopeless in circumstances, and broken in spirit, such terms as might argue, that notwithstanding its disparity in numbers, it was still formidable to its victors. No advantages seemed to have been gained that would not have equally followed from forcing the enemy to a more marked submission. The gain of time as to sending succours into Spain cannot be admitted as a plea, because it appears that no arrangements for the reception of our troops in Spain had been undertaken previous to the convention; and this is without reasoning on subsequent facts. The convention in Egypt, which has been advanced as a parallel case, appears to me inapplicable. No object beyond the dislodgment of the French from Egypt was there in question. In the present instance, the operation of the convention upon the affairs of Spain was a consideration of primary interest; and in that view the inevitable effect of some of the articles offers itself to my mind as liable to material objection. I trust that these reasons will vindicate me from the charge of presumption, in maintaining an opinion contradictory to that professed by so many most respectable officers; for, even if the reasons be essentially erroneous, if they are conclusive to my mind (as I must conscientiously affirm them to be), it is a necessary consequence that I must disapprove the convention.
December 27, 1808.
Convention of Cintra.The following formal declaration of his majesty's disapprobation of the armistice and convention in Portugal, has been officially communicated to sir Hew Dalrymple: —
The king has taken into his consideration the report of the board of enquiry, together with the documents and opinions thereunto annexed. While his majesty adopts the unanimous opinion of the board, that no farther military proceeding is necessary to be had upon the transactions referred to their investigation, his majesty does not intend thereby to convey any expression of his majesty's satisfaction at the terms and conditions of the armistice and convention.
When those instruments were first laid before his majesty, the king, reserving for investigation those parts of the definitive convention, in which his majesty's immediate interests were concerned, caused it to be signified to sir Hew Dalrymple, by his majesty's secretary of state, that his majesty, nevertheless, felt himself compelled at once to express his disapprobation of those articles, in which stipulations were made, directly affecting the interests or feelings of the Spanish and Portuguese nations.
At the close of the enquiry, the king, abstaining from any observations upon any other parts of the convention, repeats his disapprobation of those articles; his majesty deeming it necessary that his sentiments should be clearly understood, as to the impropriety and danger of the unauthorised admission, into military conventions, of articles of such a description, which, especially when incautiously framed, may lead to the most injurious consequences.
His majesty cannot forebear farther to observe, that lieutenant-general sir Hew Dalrymple's delaying to transmit for his information the armistice concluded on the 22d August, until the 4th September, when he, at the same time, transmitted the ratified convention, was calculated to produce great public inconvenience, and that such inconvenience did in fact result therefrom.
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