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of right and wrong depend on precedent. But it was not merely
to avoid a civil war,' that Marlborough left his old master,-a motive, by the way, which might justify the dignified neutrality of Marshal Macdonald, but by no means extenuate the active cooperation of Marshal Ney with an usurper, whom he had so lately sworn to bring to Paris as his prisoner. But Marlborough had better grounds to plead, inasmuch as he left King James in consequence of a long series of attempts on the public liberty, and after having publicly and privately remonstrated against those attempts, so far as to have declared to King James himself his resolution not to fight against the Prince of Orange. Nor did Marlborough desert at the head of an army. He seceded, on the contrary, betraying no post, nor doing any thing more than withdrawing himself with some few officers ;* yet whoever reads the historians of that period will find that even this was regarded as an act of very doubtful morality, and one which bis warmest admirers have been considerably perplexed to defend. But, had Marlborough accepted the command of the troops which were to act against William ; had he publicly, and with tears, made the strongest asseverations of fidelity to James, and issued, some few days after, a proclamation inviting his soldiers to join the invader; we still should not say that Marshal Ney was on that account less criminal, but we do not think that Churchill would have found an apologist among the Major-Generals of the last century. Surely it is among the most unhappy symptoms of the present time, that brave and high-minded men have been induced, by party-spirit or overstrained generosity, to extenuate or defend a line of conduct, from the remotest approach to which they would, in their own persons, have recoiled with abhorrence and indignation !
We wish we could have excused ourselves from pursuing the examination of Sir Robert Wilson's military details: but the claims which he has advanced are, in themselves, of a nature not to be received without inquiry: and as, not content with establishing his own renown, he has, on more than one occasion, invaded the equally hard-earned fame of other officers, we are constrained to call the notice of the public to certain dates and details which, in the present animated narrative, he has, apparently, overlooked or forgot ten. He has called for investigation, and he shall have it.
Sir Robert Wilson commences the narrative of his services in the Peninsula wlth stating that he was appointed, without any solicitation of his own, to raise a Portugueze legion, and that he subsequently refused the pay of £1000 per annum, which was offered to him by the Regency of Oporto. Now we must first beg leave to remark that there was, at that time, no regency, or government, or legal governor at Oporto. The regency was then established at Lisbon, and the Bishop of Oporto could neither have had the authority to confer, nor the means to make good, such a grant as is here spoken of. But, we would also request Sir Robert Wilson to explain on what grounds this pay was offered. If as military pay, we happen to know that the pay of a Lieutenant-General in that service is about £300 a year ;-that of a Major-General about £250;—while, we believe that we are not mistaken in asserting that Sir Robert was a Brigadier-General only. And on these particulars the public have a right to be informed, in order to appreciate duly the degrees of disinterestedness displayed by him on this occasion,
* Hume, indeed, tells us, that he carried with him some troops of dragoons. But as the contrary is stated by all contemporary historians—Burnet, Rapin, Ralph, and the author of King James's Reign in Kennet's compilation, we must impute this charge to carelessness in Hume, or to his known political
' bias in favour of the House of Stuart.
It is next stated that the corps, having been found efficient by Sir John Cradock, it moved from Oporto, within six weeks from its formation, and entered the Spanish territory to make a diversion in favour of Sir John Moore, and to save Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida.' At what precise time the legion left Oporto, is of little consequence; but, if Sir Robert Wilson means, as is the natural construction of his words, that it entered the Spanish territory within six weeks from its formation, we have pretty good grounds for affirming that it is a point on which his memory has deceived him, His corps began its formation in September, (we believe in the early part of that month,) and it had not moved from Portugal until the latter end of December, which is nearer four months than six weeks from the time of its being formed. But, let us examine, by the same test of those dates which are almost uniformly omitted in Sir Robert's Letter, how far he could, under the circumstances of the case, produce the effects to which he lays claim. Sir John Moore, it is well known, commenced his retreat from Sahagun on the 24th of December: he reached Benevente on the 27th of the same month, and Coruña on the 10th of January. Sir Robert Wilson was still in Portugal at the first of these periods, and did not reach Ciudad Rodrigo till within two or three days of the last of these dates; and we will ask any person, however moderately versed in military affairs, whether it is possible that, by entering the Spanish territory at this time, he could have made a diversion in favour of Sir J. Moore'?
But Sir Robert Wilson proceeds to state that the protection of the fortresses and the important and extensive line of country between the Agueda and the Tormes, became then the objects of the service in which he resolved to engage, which undertaking appeared so hazardous to people in authority at a distance, that he was enjoined to quit his corps, and provide for his own safety.'-And thus,
he under my
he continues, " by successfulmanœuvre and unremitting activity, the feeble corps
command maintained an extensive and important territory;
-reanimated the drooping spirits of the inhabitants in the Portugueze and Spanish provinces which were menaced by invasion ; kept open the gates of retreat for the Marquis de Romana escaping from Gallicia; influenced, as acknowledged by General Cuesta, by the Spanish authorities, and by the British ambassador, the preservation of Seville at the most critical juncture, prevented the union of General Lapisse from Castile with Marshal Soult at Oporto, and paralyzed that marshal's operations until Sir Arthur Wellesley arrived with fresh troops from England.'-p.9.
It would, certainly, be difficult to conceive a more magnificent spectacle than that of Sir Robert Wilson thus bestriding the ample fields of the Peninsula; with one hand covering the capitals of Portugal and Andalusia ; and paralyzing, with the other, the combined efforts of the armies of France under some of her most distinguished generals, at a distance of 400 miles from each other. Nor will the admiration and astonishment of his readers be diminished when we inform them that the army with which he was enabled to achieve these most important services, consisted of from 600 to 800 raw Portugueze troops, with a few worse disciplined Spaniards whom he occasionally drew from Ciudad Rodrigo. But, when the traits of the picture are examined a little in detail, we are much mistaken if it will not serve as a tolerable specimen of that accuracy of recollection and modesty of assumption which pervade the letter before us. • Protected the fortresses'!—The fortresses of Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo require, at least, 6000 men to defend them at all; it is clear, then, that, unless they had other garrisons, Sir Robert Wilson's corps could not even have manned their walls, and must, therefore, have been still more ludicrously inapplicable to the purposes of a covering army.
• Protected an important and extensive territory between the Agueda and the Tormes.'- This is the first time that we ever understood that this tract was worth protecting. Its general sterility, its want of population and means of subsistence have, instead of calling for defence, been the protection of Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida, when attacked from the side of Salamanca. It was in consequence of these deficiencies that Massena, when he attacked them, was obliged to leave behind him a considerable part of his army, and it was in passing through this region, only fertile in acorns, that the army of the Duke of Wellington suffered so much during his retreat from before Burgos.
But, further, we are told that the gallant author' kept open the gates of retreat for the Marquis of Romana's army.'—Will Sir R. Wilson have the goodness to explain where those gates were situated ? Certainly not on the same side of a deep and rapid river with the officer who thus kept them open. The Marquis of Romana was moving from Leon, through Gallicia, into Tras os Montes, on the right bank of the Douro, and the corps of Sir Robert Wilson did not extend even to the left bank of that river, so that it was impossible for a much more considerable force than that under Sir Robert Wilson to influence in the slightest degree the operations in Tras os Montes. There was, however, at the same time, a much larger force on the right bank of the Duero, which has somewhat singularly escaped the observation of the gallant author. General Silveira, at the head of a considerable Portugueze army, did actually keep open the gates of retreat for Romana; and, besides observing Soult, retake Chaves, and make its garrison prisoners. Sir Robert Wilson cannot surely ascribe these services to his co-operation.
Again, he prevented the union of General Lapisse from Castille with Marshal Soult at Oporto.' Sir R. Wilson's corps, as we have stated, did not amount to so many as 800 men. General Lapisse had from 4000 to 5000, and Marshal Soult about 22,000. Are we reading the campaign of Cortez among the naked Mexicans ? or what tribute of admiration can be too great for that generalship which, without any superiority either of arms or discipline, could thus render numbers not only comparatively but absolutely unimportant! But can Sir R. Wilson have forgotten what actually took place when General Lapisse advanced towards Portugal? Can it have escaped his memory that after a skirmish at the strong pass of Barba del Puerco, he very properly and judiciously threw himself into Ciudad Rodrigo; and, instead of being able to protect these fortresses, sought protection for himself and his corps within the walls of one of them ?-or, with all the activity which so eminently belongs to Sir R. Wilson, or even with the ubiquity which is implied in this statement, will he say that, while locked up in Ciudad Rodrigo, he was the cause of Almeida being saved ?-or that, while thus situated, he could impede any junction or paralyze any operation which Generals Lapisse and Soult might have judged expedient? But, at least,' it will doubtless be contended, he saved the town within whose walls he found a shelter.' We have no wish to deprive him of any possible merit of this kind: but the degree of such merit must depend on the extent of the danger to which the place was exposed; and we have good reason to believe that General Lapisse had neither the means nor the inclination to attack it. His object was a junction with Marshal Victor. That object he effected without molestation, and it was only in passing that he tried the effect of a summons on Ciudad Rodrigo.
But what shall we say to the gallant general's next assertion, that he suspended the evacuation of Lisbon until the arrival of Sir A. Wellesley with fresh troops from England ? That all dates should VOL. XIX. NO. XXXVII.
here, as elsewhere, be omitted, is no fresh cause of wonder :* but it is really something singular that, during the only period to which, as we conceive, he can refer, there were never less than 12,000 or 15,000 British troops in Portugal, while the new organization of the Portugueze army was already in its progress. Whether there were any persons (excepting always the English opposition) who, under such circumstances, contemplated the evacuation of Lisbon, we cannot say: but certain it is that the British army, instead of making any preparations for such a measure, were, at the moment of Sir Arthur Wellesley's arrival, already advanced about eighty miles, from Lisbon towards Oporto, to Leiria and Thomar. And it is also somewhat singular that the same person in authority at a distance,' (which may be Englished by saying the commander of the forces,) should have, at one moment, esteemed Sir Robert Wilson's corps so nugatory as to desire its commander “to quit and consult his own safety, and at the next, should derive from its existence, at the distance of three hundred miles, a degree of confidence with which he was not inspired by a strong British force under his command, and the honour of the British name under his guardianship. Above all, however, Sir Robert Wilson has strangely forgotten, that, when, at last, Sir Arthur Wellesley came, he absolutely brought no troops with him : that he was immediately followed by no more than a single regiment of cavalry,—and that the glorious passage of the Douro, and the expulsion of Marshal Soult with 02,000 French from Oporto, were effected with that very army wbich, but for the magical effect of Sir Robert Wilson's manoeuvres, would have fled from Portugal without striking a blow!
But these are not the only, we may say, these are not the greatest merits laid claim to by Sir Robert Wilson's corps. The disci. pline,' he says, “and the organization which had been commenced in my legion were successfully introduced into the whole army by Marshal Beresford.'—p. 9.
We are sorry to observe, that this is not the first attempt which has been made to deprive that officer, to whom Portugal owes ber military character, of the merits which are exclusively his own; and we are, therefore, the more anxious to remind Sir Robert that so far was that officer from building on his foundation, or adopting on a larger scale the system of organization previously applied to his legion, that the first act of General Beresford was to change it altogether, and, in fact, to break up the corps whose claims we are now
We really must be excused for expressing a hope that, if Sir R. Wilson should be pleased to favour the public with any further communications on the merits of his services, he would condescend to specify the time, the place, the duration, and the result of each affair, respectively, and not compel us to explore our way through such an indistinct and dateless narrative, as (with one exception) it has here been our duty to review.