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4 SECTION XIII.
Campaign of 1813—Battle of VUtoria—Siege of St Sebastian— Pyrenees—Succession of battles—France—Bidassoa—Bayonnt —Series of desperate actions—Battle of Orthes—Bourdeaux— Bayonne—Ayre—Tarbes—Toulouse—Peace 1814—War 1815 Quatres Bras—Waterloo—Peace.
The successful campaign of 1812 led to another of equal difficulty and enterprise, in which the consummate talents of the Commander-in-Chief had ample scope for exertion. The troops were soon refreshed after their fatigues, and being reinforced from England, and supplied with the necessary equipments for the field, active operations commenced by a forward movement to Salamancha, which was now occupied by the British for the third time, on the 24th of May, and that celebrated city once more delivered from a foreign yoke. Sir R. Hill's division was stationed between the Tormes and the Douro, Sir Thomas Graham commanding the left wing at Miranda de Douro. The enemy gave way to the progress of the Allies, and Valladolid was evacuated on the 4th June. On the 12th General Hill attacked and defeated, with little loss on his part, the division under General Reille, General Ponsonby at the same time turning the right of the French. These manoeuvres quickened the retreat of the enemy, who, in his progress, blew up the works of the castle of Burgos, on which they had bestowed so much labour in the preceding year, and which they had so gallantly defended.
Thus the able dispositions and movements of the Commander-in-Chief of the Allies, and the improved state of his army, had completely turned the course of events. The enemy directed their march on Vittoria, their central depot in the frontier provinces, occasionally skirmishing with the advanced guards; and on the 20th, Lord Wellington made a disposition of his army on the river Bayas, separated by some high grounds from Vittoria. Here the enemy made a stand, seemingly with an intention of resisting the farther progress of the Allies.
On this march and pursuit of the enemy, the influence of hope, and the prospect of success on the minds of the soldiers, were strongly exemplified; for while, on the retreat from Burgos, they desponded and were disorderly, having become carelessof their character, and regardless of theorders of their officers,—now, in pursuit of the same enemy, the most perfect regularity and the greatest cheerfulness prevailed, the buoyancy of the mind invigorating the body, and no privation or fatigue being thought or complained of. In a long march of more than 250 miles, (frequently extending to 60 miles in three days,) under the burning sun of a Spanish summer, and although the soldiers were loaded with arms, ammunition, and necessaries, to the weight of three and four stones, yet, as an example of the condition of the troops, Lord Dalhousie's division, consisting of 6000 men, arrived at Vittoria with less than 150 sick.
Such was the perfect state of this high-spirited army, when, on the morning of the 21st of June, they marched, in three columns, to take possession of the heights in front of Vittoria; the right being commanded by General Hill, the centre by Lord Dalhousie and General Cole, and the left by General Graham. From thence the French army, under the command of Joseph Buonaparte and Marshal Jourdan, was seen drawn up, with their right supported by Vittoria, and destined to defend the passages of the river Zadorra, the centre on a height commanding the valley of that stream, and the left resting on the heights between Arunez and Puebla de Arlanzon. The hostile armies amounted to about 70,000 men each. General Hill commenced the operations of this memorable
day by an attack on the heights of Puebla, on which, as already stated, the enemy's left rested, and which he speedily carried; but the enemy being reinforced from the centre, the Honourable Lieutenant-Colonel Cadogan, * with the 71st regiment, and the light infantry battalion of General Walker's brigade, were sent to the support of the troops who had already gained the heights. The contest at this point was peculiarly obstinate, as the enemy discovering, when it was too late, the importance of the position which they had lost, and which they had not strengthened with the necessary care, made the most strenuous and persevering efforts to regain possession of it . At length, however, they were forced back at all points, and pursued across the Zadorra, which, from the melting of the snows on the Pyrenees at that season of the year, was not fordable. The enemy having neglected to destroy the bridges, Sir Rowland Hill passed over at that of La Puebla, attacked and carried the village of Sabijana de Alava, and retained possession of it in defiance of repeated attempts to regain it. Immediately subsequent to the gaining of this advantage by Sir Rowland Hill, the fourth and light divisions crossed the Zadorra at two different points; and almost at the same instant the column under Lord Dalhousie reached Mendonza, while the third under Sir T. Picton, followed by the seventh division, crossed a bridge higher up. These four divisions forming the centre of the army, were destined to attack the right of the enemy's centre on the heights, while General Hill pushed forward from Alava to attack the left. These combined movements, admirably planned, and gallantly executed, completely neutralized and defeated the combinations and manoeuvres of the enemy, who, dreading the consequences of an attack on his centre, which he had already weakened to strengthen his posts on the heights, abandoned his position, and commenced a rapid but orderly retreat to Vittoria. During this proceeding, Sir Thomas Graham, who commanded the left, drove the enemy's right from the hills above Abechuco and Gamarra, which nearly intercepted their communication with Bayonne. To preserve this passage, the enemy had occupied the villages of Gamarra Mayor, and Menor, near which the great road touches the banks of the Zadorra. To dispossess the enemy of these positions, which covered the only road by which they could retreat to Bayonne, Colonel Longa, with a Spanish division, and General Pack, with the Portuguese, supported by General Anson's cavalry brigade, and the 5th division of infantry under General Oswald, were ordered to force these two points, while General Graham attacked the village of Abechuco. All these attacks were completely successful; the Spanish and Portuguese conducting themselves with great gallantry.
* This brave young man was mortally wounded in Sir Rowland Hill's attack on the heights on the enemy's left. Finding his end approaching, he directed that he should be carried to a height, that he might contemplate, to the last moment, the scene in which he had borne so honourable a part.
While these operations were going on at Abechuco, the enemy made every effort to regain the village of Gamarra Mayor, but they were repulsed by General Oswald's division at every point; and, as soon as the centre of the Allies had penetrated to the town of Vittoria, the enemy retreated with great precipitation. The success of the troops under General Graham having cut off the retreat by the great road to France, the enemy saw that all was lost, and fled towards Pampluna, the only other road left open,—a difficult and circuitous route, on which they had no fortified positions to cover their retrograde movement. The different French corps being thus beaten and thrown back on one another, they got into inextricable confusion; and, as the pressure increased by the precipitation of the retreat, the greatest part must either have surrendered or been cut to pieces, if the difficult nature of the broken country, intersected by hills, small ravines, and ditches, had not prevented the artillery from being brought forward, and the cavalry from acting with effect.
As it was, they abandoned all their baggage and artillery, except one gun and one howitzer, which those who were foremost on the retreat were able to carry off, but the gun was taken on the following day; so that one howitzer was all that remained of 151 pieces of cannon, protected by an army of upwards of 70,000 men, now completely scattered, broken down, and beaten, leaving behind them all their stores and baggage, both public and private,—every thing, in short, that constitutes the materiel of an army.*
It is impossible, for those interested in the honour of these kingdoms, to contemplate this complete overthrow of a great hostile army without sentiments of unmixed pleasure and exultation, heightened, as these feelings must be, by the consideration, that the influence of former victories, and an increasing respect for the discipline and courage of the army, began to be displayed; for, although both wings of the enemy's line fought with great desperation, the usual impetuosity of the French in attack was, on the whole, much abated. Their former confidence had been considerably subdued by what they had already seen and heard of the superior military talents of the British Commander, nobly supported as he was by his brave army.
On reaching Pampluna, and being refused admittance, such was the panic of the enemy, that they attempted to force into the garrison by scaling the walls, and were only prevented by the guns being turned upon them. This caused so much delay, that the rear of the flying army was in sight when General Hill's division approached. His pursuit in that direction was momentarily checked by a fire from the town; but, leaving this fortress to its fate, he pushed through the Pyrenees, driving the French from one position to another till the 7th of July, when he reached and
* It is singular that England has twice triumphed almost on the same spot. In the proudest days of her martial fame in former times, a great victory was achieved by Edward the Black Prince, near the same spot, where he defeated the usurper of the Spanish throne, who was also supported by the troops of France.