DISPATCHES AND GENERAL ORDERS
THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON.
By LIEUT. COLONEL GURWOOD,
ESQUIRE TO HIS GRACE AS KNIGHT OF THE BATH.
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET.
To the Earl of Liverpool.
General Viscount Wellington, K.B., to the Earl of Liverpool,
Secretary of State.'
Quadrasais, 29th Sept. 1811.
The enemy commenced their movements towards Ciudad Rodrigo with the convoys of provisions from the Sierra de Bejar, and from Salamanca on the 21st instant, and on the following day I collected the British army in positions, from which I could either advance or retire without difficulty, and which would enable me to see all that was going on, and the strength of the enemy's army.
The 3rd division, and that part of Major General V. Alten's brigade of cavalry, which was not detached, occupied the range of heights which are on the left of the Agueda : having their advanced guard, under Lieut. Colonel Williams, of the 60th, on the heights of Pastores, within 3 miles of Ciudad Rodrigo ; the 4th division was at Fuente Guinaldo, where I had strengthened a position with some works ; the Light division on the right of the Agueda, having their right resting upon the mountains which separate Castille and Estremadura. Lieut. General Graham commanded the troops on the left of the army, which were posted on the Lower Azava ; the 6th division, and Major General Anson's brigade of cavalry, being at Espeja, and occupying Carpio, Marialva, etc. Don Carlos de España observed the Lower Agueda with Don Julian Sanchez's cavalry and infantry.
Lieut. General Sir S. Cotton, with Major General Slade's, and Major General de Grey's brigades of cavalry, were on the Upper Azava, in the centre, between the right and left of the army, with General Pack's brigade at Campillo ; and the 5th division was in observation of the Pass of Perales, in the rear of the right, the French General Foy having remained and collected a body of troops in Upper Estremadura, consisting of part of his own division of the army of Portugal, and a division of the army of the centre ; and the 7th division was in reserve at Alamedilla.
The enemy first appeared in the plain near Ciudad Rodrigo, on the 23rd, and retired again in a short time ; but on the 24th, in the morning, they advanced again in considerable force, and entered the plain by the roads of Santi-espiritus and Tenebron ; and before evening they had collected there all their cavalry, to the amount of about 6000 men, and 4 divisions of infantry, of which one division was of the Imperial Guard; and the remainder of the armies were encamped on the Guadapero, immediately beyond the hills which surround the plain of Ciudad Rodrigo.
On the morning of the 25th the enemy sent a reconnaissance of cavalry towards the Lower Azava, consisting of about 14 squadrons of the cavalry of the Imperial Guard. They drove in our posts on the right of the Azava, but having passed that river, the Lanciers de Berg were charged by 2 squadrons of the 16th, and one of the 14th light dragoons, and driven back; they attempted to rally and to return, but were fired upon by the light infantry of the 61st regt., which had been posted in the wood on their flank, by Lieut. General Graham ; and Major General Anson pursued them across the Azava ; and afterwards resumed his posts on the right of that river. Lieut. General Graham was highly pleased with the conduct of Major General Anson's brigade ; and Major General Anson particularly mentions Lieut. Colonel Hervey, and Captain Brotherton, of the 14th, and Captain Hay, and Major Cocks, of the 16th.
But the enemy's attention was principally directed during this day to the position of the 3rd division, in the hills between Fuente Guinaldo and Pastores. About 8 in the morning, they moved a column, consisting of between 30 and 40 squadrons of cavalry, and 14 battalions of infantry, and 12 pieces of cannon, from Ciudad Rodrigo, in such a direction, that it was doubtful whether they would attempt to ascend the hills by La Encina, or by the direct road of El Bodon, towards Fuente Guinaldo ; and I was not certain by which road they would make their attack, till they actually commenced it upon the last.
As soon as I saw the direction of their march, I had reinforced the 2nd batt. 5th regt., which occupied the post on the hill over which the road passes to Guinaldo, by the 71th regt., and the 21st Portuguese regt., under the command of Major General the Hon. C. Colville, and Major General V. Alten's brigade, of which only 3 squadrons remained which had not been detached, drawn from El Bodon; and I ordered there a brigade of the 4th division from Fuente Guinaldo, and afterwards from El Bodon, the remainder of the troops of the 3rd division, with the exception of those at Pastores, which were too distant.
In the mean time, however, the small body of troops in this post sustained the attack of the enemy's cavalry and artillery. One regiment of French dragoons succeeded in taking 2 pieces of cannon which had been posted on a rising ground on the right of our troops ; but they were charged by the 2nd batt. 5th regt, under the command of Major Ridge, and the guns were immediately retaken. While this operation was going on on the flank, an attack was made on the front by another regiment, which was repulsed in a similar manner by the 77th regt.; and the 3 squadrons of Major General V. Alten's brigade charged repeatedly different bodies of the enemy which ascended the hill on the left of the 2 regiments of British infantry, the Portuguese regiment being posted in the rear of their right.
At length, the division of the enemy's infantry which had marched with the cavalry from Ciudad Rodrigo, were brought up to the attack on the road of Fuente Guinaldo, and seeing that they would arrive and be engaged before the troops could arrive either from Guinaldo or El Bodon, I determined to withdraw our post, and to retire with the whole on Fuente Guinaldo. The 2nd batt. 5th regt., and the 77th regt., were formed into one square, and the 21st Portuguese regt. into another, supported by Major General V. Alten's small body of cavalry and the Portuguese artillery.
The enemy's cavalry immediately rushed forward, and obliged our cavalry to retire to the support of the Portuguese regiment ; and the 5th and 77th regts. were charged on 3 faces of the square by the French cavalry, but they halted and repulsed the attack with the utmost steadiness and gallantry. We then continued the retreat, and joined the remainder of the 3rd division, also formed in squares, on their march to Fuente Guinaldo, and the whole retired together in the utmost order, and the enemy never made another attempt to charge any of them ; but weTe satisfied with firing upon them with their artillery, and with following them.
Lieut. Colonel Williams with his light infantry, and Lieut. Colonel the Hon. R. Trench with the 74th regt., retired from Pastores across the Agueda ; and thence marched by Robleda, where they took some prisoners, and re-crossed the Agueda, and joined at Guinaldo in the evening.
I placed the 3rd and 4th divisions, and General Pack's brigade of infantry, and Major General V. Alten's, Major General de Grey's, and Major General Slade's brigades of cavalry in the position at Fuente Guinaldo on the evening of the 25th, and ordered Major General R. Craufurd to retire with the Light division across the Agueda, the 7th division to form at Albergueria, and Lieut. General Graham to collect the troops under his command at Nave d'Aver, keeping only posts of observation on the Azava ; and the troops were thus formed in an echelon, of which the centre was in the position at Guinaldo ; and the right upon the pass of Perales ; and the left at Nave d'Aver ; Don Carlos de España was placed on the left of the Coa ; and Don Julian Sanchez was detached with the cavalry to the enemy's rear.
The enemy brought up a second division of infantry from Ciudad Rodrigo in the afternoon of the 25th ; and in the course of that night, and of the 26th, they collected their whole army in front of our position at Guinaldo ; find not deeming it expedient to stand their attack in that position, I retired about 3 leagues, and on the 27th formed the army as follows : viz., the 5th division on the right, at Aldea Velha ; the 4th, and light dragoons, and Major General V. Alton's cavalry, at the convent of Sacaparte, in front of Alfayates ; the 3rd and 7th divisions in second line, behind Alfayates ; and Lieut. Ge neral Graham's corps on the left at Bismula, having their advanced guard beyond the Villar Mayor river ; and Lieut. General Sir S. Cotton's cavalry near Alfayates, on the left of the 4th division, and having General Pack's and General M 'Mahon's brigades at Rebolosa, on their left. The piquets of the cavalry 'were in front of Aldea da Ponte, beyond the Villar Mayor river, and those of General V. Alten's brigade beyond the same river, towards Forcalhos.
It had been the enemy's intention to turn the left of the position of Guinaldo by moving a column into the valley of the Upper Azava, and thence ascending the heights in the rear of the position by Castillejos ; and from this column they detached a division of infantry and 14 squadrons of cavalry to follow our retreat by Albergueria, and another body of the same strength followed us by Forcalhos. The former attacked the piquets of the cavalry at Aldea da Ponte, and drove them in ; and they pushed on nearly as far as Alfayates. I then made General Pakenham attack them with his brigade of the 4th division, supported by Lieut. General the Hon. L. Cole, and the 4th division, and by Sir S. Cotton's cavalry ; and the enemy were driven through Aldea da Ponte, back upon Albergueria, and the piquets of the cavalry resumed their station.
But the enemy having been reinforced by the troops which marched from Forcalhos, again advanced about sunset and drove in the piquets of the cavalry from Aldea da Ponte, and took possession of the village.
Lieut. General Cole again attacked them with a part of General Pakenham's brigade, and drove them through the village ; but night having come on, and as General Pakenham was not certain what was passing on his flanks, or of the numbers of the enemy, and he knew that the army were to fall back still further, he evacuated the village, which the enemy occupied, and held during the night.
On the 28th, I formed the army on the heights behind Soito; having the Serra de Mesas on their right, and the left at Rendo, on the Coa ; about a league in rear of the position which they had occupied on the 27th. The enemy also retired from Aldea da Ponte, and had their advanced posts at Albergueria ; and as it appears that they are about to retire from this part of the country, and as we have already had some bad weather, and may expect more at the period of the equinoctial gales, I propose to canton the troops in the nearest villages to the position which they occupied yesterday.
I cannot conclude this report of the occurrences of the last week, without expressing to your Lordship my admiration of the conduct of the troops engaged in the affairs of the 25th instant. The conduct of the 2nd batt. 5th regt., commanded by Major Ridge, in particular, affords a memorable example of what the steadiness and discipline of the troops, and their confidence in their officers, can effect in the most difficult and trying situations. The conduct of the 77th regt., under the command of Lieut. Colonel Hromhead, was equally good, and I have never seen a more determined attack than was made by the whole of the enemy's cavalry, with every advantage of the assistance of a superior artillery, and repulsed by these 2 weak battalions. I must not omit also to report the good conduct on the same occasion, of the 21st Portuguese regt., under the command of Colonel Bacellar, and of Major Arentschildt's artillery. The Portuguese infantry were not actually charged, hut were repeatedly threatened, and they showed the utmost steadiness and discipline, both in the mode in which they pre pared to receive the enemy, and in all the movements of a retreat made over 6 miles of plain, in front of a superior cavalry and artillery.The Portuguese artillerymen attached to the guns, which were for a moment in the enemy's possession, were cut down at their guns.
The infantry upon this occasion were under the command of Major General the Hon. C. Colville; Lieut. General Picton having remained with the troops at El Bodon ; and the conduct of Major General Colville was beyond all praise.
Your Lordship will have observed by the details of the action which I have given you, how much reason I had to be satisfied with the conduct of the 1st hussars and 11th light dragoons of Major General V. Alten's brigade. There were not more than 3 squadrons of the 2 regiments on the ground, this brigade having for some time furnished the cavalry for the outposts of the army, and they charged the enemy's cavalry repeatedly ; and notwithstanding the superiority of the latter, the post would have been maintained if I had not preferred to abandon it to risking the loss of these brave men by continuing the unequal contest under additional disadvantages, in consequence of the immediate entry of 14 battalions of infantry into the action, before the support which I had ordered up could arrive. Major General V. Alten, and Lieut. Colonels Cumming and Arentschildt, and the officers of these regiments, particularly distinguished themselves upon this occasion.
I have also to mention that the Adjutant General, Major General the Hon. C. Stewart, being upon the field, gave his assistance as an officer of cavalry with his usual gallantry.
In the affair of the 27th, at Aldea da Ponte, Brig. General Pakenham and the troops of the 4th division, under the orders of Lieut. General the Hon. G. L. Cole, likewise conducted themselves remarkably well.
H.S.H. the Hereditary Prince of Orange, accompanied me during the operations which I have detailed to your Lordship, and was for the first time in fire ; and he conducted himself with a spirit and intelligence which afford a hope that he will become an ornament to his profession.
The enemy having collected for the object of relieving Ciudad Rodrigo the army of the north, which were withdrawn from the attack they had commenced on General Abadia in Galicia, in which are included 22 battalions of the Imperial Guard, and General Souham's division of infantry, composed of troops recently arrived in Spain from the army of Naples, and now drawn from the frontier of Navarre, where they had been employed in operations against Mina, together with 5 divisions and all the cavalry of the army called ' of Portugal,' composing altogether an army of not less than 60,000 men, of which 6000 cavalry and 125 pieces of artillery, I could not pretend to maintain the blockade of Ciudad Rodrigo, nor could any effort which I could make prevent or materially impede the collection of the supplies or the march of the convoy for the relief of that place. I did all that I could expect to effect without incurring the risk of great loss for no object ; and as the reports as usual were so various in regard to the enemy's real strength, it was necessary that I should see their army, in order that the people of this country might be convinced that to raise the blockade was a measure of necessity, and that the momentary relief of Galicia, and of Mina, were the only objects which it was in my power immediately to effect.
I have had no reports from the north, since I addressed your Lordship last, nor from the south of Spain.
General Girard had collected at Merida a small body of troops, I believe with the intention of making an incursion into Portugal, under the notion that I had withdrawn Lieut. General Hill's corps from the Alentejo, for the purpose of maintaining the blockade of Ciudad Rodrigo. But I imagine that he will break up this collection again, as soon as he shall hear that General Hill is at Portalegre.
I have the honor to be, &c.
The Earl of Liverpool. -WELLINGTON.
I enclose a return of the killed and wounded on the 25th
and 27th instant.
Return of the Killed, Wounded, and Missing, of the Army under the
Command of General Viscount Wellington, K.B., in an affair with
the Enemy on the Heights of El Bodon, on the 25th, and near Aldea
da Ponte, on the 27th September, 1811.