Commentary Explorer Results

Commentary for Volume 1, Chapter 28 : Salamanca (April–July 1812)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The political crisis following Perceval’s assassination:

After Perceval’s assassination the surviving ministers agreed to the Regent’s request that they attempt to carry on under one of their number.  They were well aware of their weaknesses in the Commons, but none was willing to serve under Lord Wellesley, the obvious alternative.  Liverpool was chosen as the new Prime Minister and he offered the War Department to William Wellesley-Pole, but Pole refused and resigned his Irish Office. (William Wellesley-Pole to Liverpool n.d. May 1812 The Wellesley Papers vol 2 p 96-98).  At the same time an overture to Canning and Wellesley was also rejected, so that the new ministry faced Parliament without any additional strength.  Dissatisfied with the outcome James Stuart Wortley, a supporter of the government who described himself as a ‘fervent friend’ of Perceval, proposed a motion for an address to the Prince Regent calling for the formation of a ‘stronger and more efficient administration’ which was carried by 174 to 170 votes on 21 May. (Thorne History of Parliament vol 3 p 311 for Stuart Wortley; for the debate see Parliament Debates vol 23 col 249-286).  The ministers resigned and the Regent invited Lord Wellesley to attempt to form a government.  Wellesley declared that he would accept support from both sides of politics and base his ministry on two principles: the vigorous prosecution of the war in the Peninsula and the immediate consideration of the Catholic claims.  He asked Canning to approach Liverpool and the out-going ministers, but they would have nothing to do with him, having taken offense at a posthumous attack on Perceval which appeared in The Times on 20 May. (The attack was certainly written by Lord Wellesley, but he claimed it was published without his consent).  Wellesley himself approached the main opposition leaders, Grey, Grenville, Lansdowne and Holland, but they disliked coalitions and saw no reason why they should submit to Wellesley’s leadership.  Only the small Carlton House Party loyal to the Prince himself – Moira, Erskine and Sheridan – were willing to enrol under Wellesley’s banner and this was clearly no basis on which to form a government.

The Prince put considerable pressure on the ministers to accept Wellesley even summoning them to give individual explanations of their refusal.  Finding them adamant he gave Wellesley a few more days to bring the Opposition round, and when that failed, he withdrew the commission, and turned to his old friend Lord Moira on 4 June.  Moira made two overtures to the Opposition without much hope of success – he should have been personally acceptable to them, but there was now such ill-feeling and distrust between the Prince and the Opposition leaders that it is unlikely that they would have been satisfied with anything less than carte blanche.  Nor would Wellesley take office under Moira, although it was possible that he might have agreed to serve as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.  Canning however accepted with alacrity and soon became the mainstay of the proposed ministry.  Liverpool would not take office immediately but was willing to give the ministry his support and possibly join it later.  A few of the ministers agreed to serve, including Melville at the Admiralty, but it was evident that the new ministry would be very weak – no stronger and less coherent than the old one.  At the last minute Erskine and the Duke of Norfolk could not bring themselves to break with their friends in the Opposition and withdrew, and Moira, with a mixture of feelings in which relief was at least as evident as regret, accepted defeat.

Government business was now becoming pressing and the Prince turned back to Liverpool appointing him Prime Minister on 8 June.  Liverpool asked Sidmouth to take the Home Office, signalling a firm line on the Catholic Question, and made Vansittart Chancellor of the Exchequer.  Wellesley-Pole was once again offered the War Department, but again declined from new-found loyalty to his eldest brother and a sudden conversion to support for Catholic Emancipation. (Liverpool to Wellington 10 June 1812 BL Add Ms 38, 326 f 32-33).  Liverpool fell back upon the genial Lord Bathurst who was to prove the model of good-humoured efficiency, whose talents were not widely appreciated at the time and have now been largely forgotten.  (Despite an admirable biography by Neville Thompson, Earl Bathurst and the British Empire).   Stuart Wortley presented a fresh motion of no confidence to Parliament on 11 June, but this time the government comfortably survived 289 votes to 184.  Evidently the members accepted that every attempt had been made to form a stronger ministry and shrank from the alternative of forcing the Prince to ask the Opposition to from a government.  Nonetheless the ministry remained very weak and was not helped by Castlereagh’s inexperience and ineptness in handling the Commons, which soon led Charles Arbuthnot, the Treasury Secretary to warn that without Canning the government could not survive another session.  (Thorne History of Parliament vol 5 p 289: entry on Castlereagh).   Liverpool did not need to be prompted; he was an old friend and admirer of Canning’s and had always regretted his exclusion from office.  He now made a determined effort to recruit him, persuading Castlereagh and Sidmouth to forgo long cherished animosities so that he could offer Canning the Foreign Office and places for all his supporters.  In the most disastrous misjudgement of his career Canning declined so long as Castlereagh retained the leadership of the Commons.  It was too much to ask: Castlereagh had swallowed his pride by agreeing to serve with Canning, and swallowed it again by offering to give up the Foreign Office to his rival, to yield anymore would be to accept humiliation and Liverpool would not press him.

No single secondary source gives a full account of the political negotiations of mid 1812.  Robert’s ‘The Ministerial Crisis of May-June 1812’ English Historical Review vol 51 1936 p 466-87 and The Whig Party 1807-1812 p 382-405 are excellent, but naturally concentrate on the Opposition.  For the point of view of the ministers, Lords Wellesley and Moira and Canning, Roberts’s work needs to be supplemented by other sources including The Letters of King George 1V (with invaluable notes by Aspinall), Thorne The History of Parliament, The Wellesley Papers, HMC Hastings and letters printed in biographies of Eldon, Sidmouth and others, as well as unpublished sources.

Henry Wellesley on the Political Crisis:

Henry Wellesley was noticeably warmer in his feelings towards Lord Wellesley than was Wellington, writing to Arbuthnot on 5 July 1812: ‘I cannot think the Ministers justifiable in their conduct to Lord Wellesley, nor should anything induce me to remain here after the treatment he was met with at their hands, were I not apprehensive that my sudden resignation might be attended with inconvenience both to the public service and to Lord Wellington personally.’ (Correspondence of Charles Arbuthnot p 7).

Wellington’s wish to attack Soult: 

Fortescue (vol 8 p 445-6) argues that there were so many difficulties with an advance into Andalusia, that Wellington may not really have intended it.

In spite of his bitter railing against Carlos d’España and the Spanish Government for their neglect (which was culpable enough) to repair and revictual Ciudad Rodrigo, it may be doubted whether he had ever seriously contemplated the invasion of Andalusia at all.  The risk of such an operation even in the most favourable circumstances must have been very great, while avowedly the only object that would be attained by it was the raising of the siege of Cadiz and the evacuation of Andalusia by Soult.  But such an evacuation would naturally have tended to concentrate the French armies, whereas Wellington’s sole hope of success lay in keeping them dispersed.

This is clever but unconvincing.  Ever since 1810 Wellington had shown that he appreciated the British government’s concern for Cadiz and as late as 16 August when in Madrid he wrote that if Soult entirely evacuated Andalusia ‘my object is gained’. (Wellington to HW 16 August 1812 WD VI p 31).  The loss of Andalusia would be a near-irreparable blow to French credibility in the Peninsula and would create severe logistical and financial problems; the French armies could not support themselves for long if they were concentrated (see Oman vol 5 p 307 paraphrasing Jourdan).

It seems most likely that Wellington’s expressed desire to attack Soult was genuine, but that it was rather left over from an expectation that he would fight and defeat Soult and Marmont in a battle covering the siege of Badajoz.

It is rather less plausible that the harvest (the reason advanced in Wellington’s letter) was as vital as he implies.  No one suggests that Marmont could not move south to relieve Badajoz because of lack of supplies, and it is not clear that this would have kept him from either marching to Soult’s assistance or marching across Wellington’s lines of communication if Wellington had invaded Andalusia.

The march north:

John Cooke, a young officer of the 43rd, recalled the scene.

     On 11 April, the Light and 3rd Divisions crossed the fine stone bridge to the right bank of the Guadiana, and entered Campo Maior.  The march of the troops presented the most warlike appearance for many of their uniforms were blood-stained, torn, and discoloured from explosions.  Numbers of the soldiers held their arms in slings, and carried their firelocks and caps slung on their knapsacks.  Others had bandaged heads, or were lame from wounds inflicted by the iron crows’ feet with which the enemy had strewed the ditch of Badajoz.  All those gallant soldiers who were able to join their ranks, trudged along for ten days in this manner.  (Cooke True Soldier p 129-30).

Despite the losses suffered at Badajoz the army was in high spirits and Charles Cocks told his mother, ‘If you have any commission for Madrid pray send it soon lest it should not arrive till we are on the other side.’ (Cocks to his mother, 15 April 1812 Page Intelligence Officer in the Peninsula  p 174; cf Boutflower Journal p 131 of same date, but Boutflower was a surgeon in the Fourth Division and as such had been more affected by the casualties suffered in the storm).  And a few weeks later Edward Pakenham wrote home that the move north had been beneficial for Wellington personally, assisting him to throw off a slight fever that had been caused by over work and the rainy weather of Badajoz.  (Pakenham to his mother, 9 May 1812 Pakenham Letters p 159).

Could Marmont have achieved more in his incursion into northern Portugal?

Oman gives the distinct impression that Marmont might have been bolder and attempted a coup de main against Almeida or Ciudad Rodrigo (vol 5 p 280-3).  And Tomkinson reports that, ‘At headquarters they spoke very slightingly of Marmont’s diversion, and thought he might have done more.’ (26 April 1812 Diary p 156).  However on the information available to him, Marmont would not really have been justified in attempting to escalade either fortress: both were significant places demanding to be treated with respect, and if an attempt had been made, and had failed, Marmont would have been harshly criticised.

What he might have done with ease was to destroy the commissariat depots near the Douro, but evidently he did not know of them.  Indeed he wrote to Napoleon ‘It would seem that His Majesty thinks that Lord Wellington has magazines close behind the frontier of northern Portugal.  Not so.  These magazines are at Lisbon, Castello Branco, and Abrantes.  There is nothing of any importance to him on the Coa.”’ (quoted in Oman vol 5 p 279).     

Guerrilla war flourishing  

It was at this time that Longa sent Wellington a present of 1,000 bottles of claret that he had captured from the French near Vitoria (Wrottesley Life of Burgoyne vol 1 p 187 Burgoyne’s journal for 13 May 1812). Presumably they came by sea, not overland, but even so it shows a remarkable confidence and assurance on the part of the Spanish guerrillas.

Wellington has the strategic initiative:

There was a lull in major operations in May and early June 1812 while each side made plans and preparations.  It was clear that the initiative now lay with Wellington and that he would dictate where and when the next campaign was fought, while the French could not look to do much more than hold their existing positions.  War with Russia was no longer a distant prospect but imminent, and all the resources Napoleon could collect were heading east not south: the French armies in Spain would have to tighten their belts in 1812 and hope for better times when the Russian war was over. Wellington recognized the opportunity and was keen to take full advantage of ‘the enemy’s comparative weakness in this campaign.’ (Wellington to Liverpool 22 April 1812 WD V p 606-8).   Wellington spelt out his intentions to Liverpool on 26 May:

I purpose, therefore, as soon as ever the magazines of the army are brought forward … to move forward into Castille, and endeavour, if possible, to bring Marmont to a general action.  I think I can make this movement with safety, excepting always the risk of the general action.  I am of opinion also that I shall have the advantage in the action, and that this is the period of all others in which such a measure should be tried. (Wellington to Liverpool 26 May 1812 WD V p 670-3).

Hill and Drouet

On 19 May Hill had attacked and destroyed the bridge at Almaraz, breaking the shortest line of communication between Soult and Marmont.  The operation was not easy – the defences of the bridge were well designed – but Hill’s men were well-led and full of confidence and stormed the fortifications with élan.  Before the end of the month the allies had improved their own communications by the ingenious repair of the bridge at Alcantara by Major Sturgeon.  If the need arose Hill could join Wellington several days before Drouet could reach Marmont, even if Drouet moved fast. (Oman vol 5 p 318-334).  To further reduce the risk of interference from Soult, Wellington asked Ballesteros to take the field, which he did rather too soon, and was caught and beaten, though not destroyed, at Bornos on 1 June.  Ten days later Hill’s cavalry got out of hand and suffered an unpleasant little defeat at Maguilla, but neither Soult nor Drouet were able to take advantage of their successes or look beyond their immediate opponents to interfere with Wellington’s operations.

Fortescue (vol 8 p 457-9) makes the point that Drouet was much weaker than Hill and criticizes Soult for not reinforcing him.

Jourdan’s overview of the state of the war in Spain:

Even Napoleon recognized that he could not provide an effective oversight of the war in the Peninsula from Poland or beyond, so in March 1812 he appointed Joseph as Commander in Chief of all the French forces in Spain, with Marshal Jourdan as his chief of staff.  Joseph’s authority was weak – French generals had been defying him for years with Napoleon’s blessing, and even now he could not rely upon his brother for reliable support.  Nor did Jourdan have sufficient standing to exact obedience from independent-minded equals like Soult, Suchet and Marmont.  This was a pity, for while Jourdan lacked dynamism and confidence he had a fine appreciation of the strategic balance in the Peninsula, and was less parochial in his judgement than any of the other French commanders.  On taking up his post in May he drew up an interesting analysis of the state of the war in the Peninsula.  There were still almost 300,000 French soldiers in the Peninsula, of whom some 230,000 were effective (the remainder included sick and convalescents and other detachments).  This was far stronger than any force the allies could hope to put into the field, but the French forces were over-stretched occupying large tracts of country without effectively pacifying it or gaining lasting control.  There were no signs of an end to the guerrilla war: on the contrary there had been a noticeable increase in attacks, while Spanish armies continued to take advantage of any French weakness, as Soult had just found in Andalusia.  Each French army occupied as much territory as it could, partly to deny the insurgents safe havens, but also to draw supplies and money from as broad a tract of country as possible, for all the armies suffered from a lack of funds.  However this meant that none had a substantial reserve ready to take the field without first giving up territory.  The Army of Portugal was something of an exception to this, for Marmont had been able to put four divisions into the field without calling in his garrisons, but it may be no coincidence that his troops were notorious plunderers particularly short of transport and behind in their pay (Oman vol 5 p 305, 318).  Nor was there any central reserve either under Joseph’s command at Madrid or even held back at Bayonne, ready to intervene if necessary.  The approximate strength of the army was:


Army of the North                                               48,000 effectives

Suchet (Catalonia, Aragon and Valencia)   60,000 effectives

Soult                                                                         54,000 effectives

Marmont                                                                52,000 effectives

Centre                                                                      15,000 effectives

   229,000 effectives


Jourdan’s conclusion was that the French armies were so over-stretched as to invite disaster, and to recommend the evacuation of Andalusia in order to create a powerful reserve which would enable them to maintain their position until the war with Russia was decided. (Jourdan’s memorandum is paraphrased and discussed in Oman vol 5 p 303-8).  This was clearly unrealistic – it was almost inconceivable that Napoleon would agree to abandon such a large and valuable part of Spain simply to insure against the possibility of defeat; and even if he did so, it would create immense logistical and financial problems: Soult’s army was in Andalusia because Andalusia could feed and pay it, while central Spain could not support an extra 50,000 French troops.  But if the specific proposal was impractical, the principle was surely right: the time had come not merely for the French to stand on the defensive but to yield some territory in order to concentrate their forces a little more.  An obvious example was the Asturias which Napoleon had insisted should be re-occupied by Bonnet’s division.  The strategic advantages of doing so were negligible, while it cost Marmont the use of his strongest division and left him too weak to face Wellington on equal terms even if the rest of his army was concentrated.  Similarly Soult could well afford to abandon some outlying parts of his viceroyalty, although there was probably no choice but to maintain the notional siege of Cadiz – giving it up would be an enormous fillip to the Spanish cause, and would create as many strategic problems as it solved.  But Napoleon was not interested in giving up territory and Joseph was unable to ensure that even Jourdan’s more modest, obviously sensible recommendations – that Soult reinforce Drouet, and Marmont move more troops into the Tagus valley to facilitate co-operation against Wellington, while Suchet would contribute a strong division to a central reserve – was implemented. (This whole paragraph based on Oman vol 5 p 297-308).

Preparations for the advance into Spain:

Wellington made his plans on the assumption that he would be ready to advance in the second or third week of June.  The six week delay from his arrival in northern Portugal was not primarily to give his troops a rest, valuable though that would prove.  The time was needed to re-supply Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida – he had been furious that neither fortress had had sufficient stockpiles to sustain them in the face of a long blockade when Marmont advanced in April – and to build up large forward magazines to support the army in its advance. (Wellington to Liverpool 26 May 1812 WD V p 670-3).  This had been made easier by improvements to the navigation of the Douro (including the destruction of mill dams for which the owners had to be compensated) undertaken on Wellington’s orders by Captain Ross of the Engineers in late 1811 (Wellington to Pimentel 28 Nov 1811 WD V p 384).  This enabled vessels to carry supplies all the way up the river to Barca d’Alva on the on the Spanish frontier some 40 miles north of Almeida where a large commissariat depot was soon established.  From here the carts and mules of the commissariat could take the supplies south to the troops in their cantonments or, later, east to Salamanca and beyond.  (There were problems with the navigation of the river in the spring of 1812 which Burgoyne was sent to investigate: Wellington to Fletcher 13 May 1812 WD V p 648-9 Wrottesley Life of Burgoyne vol 1 p 189-90 see also Daniel Journal of Commissariat Officer p 105 – 12 June 1812).

Shortage of specie:

However carrying supplies over the seas, then up the Douro and so overland to the army was an inefficient and expensive way of proceeding if they could be requisitioned or purchased locally.  Wellington would not requisition supplies if he could avoid it – he knew that constant French exactions were a major grievance in fuelling the resistance – and his supply of specie was running critically low in the spring of 1812.  This was a worldwide problem demand was increased by the prospect of war in northern Europe and with the United States, while instability in Spanish America sharply curtailed fresh supplies coming to the Peninsula, and the attempt of the British government to seek alternative supplies from India proved fruitless.  The average price of gold bars in the London market rose from £4 7s 6d per ounce in 1810, to £4 15s 6½d in 1811; £5 1s 3d in 1812 and went even higher (£5 6s 6d) in 1813 (Herries Memoir of John Charles Herries vol 1 p 84n).  Foreign gold coin was in even greater demand, selling at one point in 1812 for £5 11s 0d, or 43 per cent above the mint price (Clapham History of the Bank of England vol 2 p 35).  Yet Wellington made no allowance for this, and wrote as if he believed that the ministers were choosing to withhold the money that he needed.  It was his principal grievance at this time and he worried it like a bone repeating the same arguments and complaints to Liverpool and to Bathurst, to his brothers Henry and William, and to Charles Stuart. (Wellington to Liverpool 2 and 22 April 1812, 12 May WD V p 569-70, 606-8,645-7; to HW 10 May WD V p 642-3; to William Wellesley-Pole 29 June 1812 Raglan Wellington A no 47; to Liverpool 30 June 1812 WD V p 728-9; to Bathurst 4 and 28 July WD V p 733, 766).  The army would be advancing into fresh country where the peasants could not be expected to understand to value of the receipts or promissory notes issued by the British commissaries, and some ready money at least was needed to establish British credit and bona fides.  The shortage was increased by the selfish and irresponsible purchase of dollars at Gibraltar by Lord William Bentinck’s agent who paid well above the prevailing market price. (Wellington to Stuart 14 July 1812 WD V p 745).  When Bathurst took office in June he recognized that more needed to be done, and with Liverpool’s support forced the reluctant Bank of England to make heavy inroads into its reserves: first its bars and foreign coin, but then even guineas, which could only be sent to Wellington under a legal loophole.  As Bathurst only half joked to a colleague, ‘For this I shall have my Head off, if we should not succeed’ (Bathurst to Harrowby 16 Sept 1812 Harrowby Papers vol XIV f 59-60).  Even such extreme measures could only provide a fraction of the army needs, but that little was a valuable lubricant which helped keep the whole machine working – and eased Wellington’s irritation.  In 1811 the army had received £450,000 in specie from England; thanks to Bathurst this rose in 1812 to £600,000 almost all in the last four months of the year.  Yet the army continued to run on credit, and its total debts rose from $3.75 million at the beginning of the year to $11 million in the autumn.  (Redgrave ‘Wellington’s Logistical Arrangements’ p 122 and note.  There were approximately 4½ Spanish dollars to the pound: Sherwig Guineas & Gunpowder p 198n, so that the army’s debts rose from over £800,000 to over £2.4 million).

Why Marmont’s army was dispersed:

Marmont had expected to be attacked, but lack of transport and magazines, and the need to keep the countryside quiet, led him to leave his army in widespread cantonments for as long as possible.  On 14 June he ordered his divisions to march, and expected to have his whole army – except Bonnet’s division – united by the 19th.  Bonnet would not arrive until the beginning of July, (Marmont had wisely ignored Napoleon’s wishes and recalled him from the Asturias on first receiving intelligence of the allies’ advance), and by then Marmont also hoped to receive a strong division of infantry and a brigade of cavalry which Caffarelli, Dorsenne’s successor as commander of the Army of the North, had promised to send if they were needed.  Marmont calculated that in five days he should have rather more than 40,000 men in hand, rising to well over 50,000 in the first week of July.  That ought to be enough to keep Wellington in check, but he still took the precaution of appealing to King Joseph for further assistance.  (Oman vol 5 p 354-7).

The fortified convents in Salamanca:

The three fortified convents had a garrison of some 800 men, and their guns commanded the main bridge over the Tormes.  Wellington knew of the convents: he had even been sent drawings of them by his clandestine correspondents in the town (Wrottesley Life of Burgoyne vol 1 p 191-2), but he had not appreciated the extent of the work the French had done in reinforcing their walls and making them capable of withstanding an attack.  He had come ill-prepared for a siege, with only four iron 18 pounders accompanying the army (although six 24 pounder howitzers were on the road from Elvas).  It is not surprising that he had not wished to encumber the army with a heavy, slow-moving siege train at the outset of a campaign on the open plains of Leon, especially when he expected to encounter nothing more serious than ‘fortified convents’ – a phrase suggesting posts designed to withstand nothing more serious the attacks of guerrillas or at most a few field guns.  But he should have been quicker to recognize his mistake and to summon heavy guns from the large depot at Almeida only a few marches away.  Instead he, and John Burgoyne who was acting as Chief Engineer with the army while Fletcher recovered from his wound and supervised the repairs in Badajoz, endeavoured to take the convents with the resources they had at hand.  Their task was not made easier by the decision to employ the Sixth Division, which had no experiences of sieges, but it is evident that Wellington intended to share the burden of this dangerous and unpopular work throughout the army, rather than always leave it to the same few divisions.  Then the heavy guns ran out of ammunition and were silent for several days before a fresh supply arrived from Almeida.  Lieutenant Pitts of the engineers gave an idea of the difficulties of the operation:

 I am certain that we deserve a great deal of credit.  Our batteries were made with large flour sacks, scarce movable, and into the bottom of the parapets we put beds got out of the French hospital.  The unwieldiness of such articles under a heavy fire of musketry and grape, with soldiers who had never been in action, without a sapper, and only two officers of Engineers for detail duties, are difficulties which would make a Vauban stare. (Quoted in Porter History Royal Engineers vol 1 p 314)

When did Marmont’s two additional divisions arrive?

Oman vol 5 p 366 says only on the afternoon of 21st.  Fortescue vol 8 p 463n discusses disagreement among the sources but is inclined to put it as the night of 20th-21st.  That certainly makes Wellington’s refusal to attack a little easier to understand; but the difference may simply be what is meant by arrival in the area and actually join?

Wellington’s refusal to attack on 20 or 21 June:

James Stanhope wrote in his journal for 21 June: ‘The army was under arms an hour before daylight expecting to be attacked, but no such thing occurred.  Marmont rode along the front in the day & looked at us & so did Lord Wellington at them, but no firing on either side.  We threw up flesches [sic] along the position for our artillery, our 18 pdrs & howitzers were moved into battery.  Our position is very strong, but has the disadvantage of being joined on the right by a narrow plateau to a hill too far to be maintained by us in a general action, too near to permit them to occupy it & from which in an action their artillery would have terrible effect.  Our position was also intersected on the right with several ravines; but in the event of an enemy gaining the plateau it was possible to throw the right back en potence towards Salamanca on a ridge of hill, but by so doing we should give up the communication with our ford at Santa Marta [de Tormes], in short our part of the position was the most attackable.’

And on the 23rd he added: ‘Much conversation has taken place in the army about this singular incident of two armies being so close & separating without an action & many regrets having been expressed that Lord Wellington did not attack them on the night of the 20th or the morning of the 21st when their masses were huddled together and when our columns of attack could have been all concealed behind the hill.  The partisans of this side say that Marmont had only 20,000 men (as it was afterwards proved) and that with the plain in his rear and our power of manoeuvring round him, he must have been quite annihilated.  I have no doubt all this would have happened had Lord Wellington attacked, but it is judging in an ex post facto manner, for it is very difficult to judge the number of troops in masses and it was reasonable to believe that Marmont would not expose his army so near except he felt himself strong, for what could bring him to so forward a position, but to attack us.  Everything bore the appearance of it and had they attacked us, which Lord Wellington had every reason to believe was their intention, their destruction would have been affected with much less loss. … The possibility of defeat should be always taken into consideration and had Lord Wellington been defeated with one bad deep ford in his rear & the enemy commanding the bridge, it would not have been pleasant; still one must regret not having fought.’  (Stanhope Eyewitness 82-84).

The Stalemate on the Duero:

The lull in active operations was much appreciated by the soldiers of both armies, for the weather was very hot and the country little ravaged by war with plentiful supplies of food and wine.  Wellington however was less happy than his men.  He was surprised by the strength of Marmont’s army and dismayed that Bonnet had been recalled from Asturias.  Intercepted dispatches also informed him – what Marmont did not know – that King Joseph was preparing to march to the assistance of the Army of Portugal.  On 13 July he told Hill, ‘I am apprehensive that, after all, the enemy will be too strong for me’, while on the following day he was dismayed to learn that Bentinck had abandoned his expedition to the East Coast of Spain warning Henry Wellesley that this would be ‘fatal to the campaign’. (Wellington to Hill 13 July 1812 WD V p 741-2, Wellington to HW 15 July 1812 WD V p 745)

In early July, when General Graham was going home, Wellington told James Stanhope (Graham’s ADC) that there was no reason he should not accompany Graham: ‘ “No, I think you have seen the end of it; if he [Marmont] destroys the bridges and throws back his right on Pisuerga he is safe unless I can cross at Tudela de Duero.  I shan’t fight him without an advantage nor he me I believe, therefore go and if you choose to come out again I will take care of you.  Which department would you like to be in? or what would you like to be?” ‘  (Stanhope Eyewitness p 86).

Battle of Salamanca:

All the issues relating to the battle of Salamanca are discussed fully in Muir Salamanca.  But since this study was published I have discovered that the first edition of D’Urban’s Peninsular War Journal includes an important sketch map of the battle (opposite p 274) which is not reproduced in the Greenhill reprint that I relied upon in writing my account of the battle.   This sketch appears to have been drawn thirty years after the battle, but it adds an interesting new ingredient to the puzzle which surrounds the details of the initial advance of the Third Division and D’Urban’s Portuguese dragoons in the first phase of the battle.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

© Rory Muir

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.