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Wellington Against Junot The First Invasion of Portugal 1807–1808

David Buttery


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First published in Great Britain in 2011 by Pen & Sword Military an imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd 47 Church Street Barnsley South Yorkshire S70 2AS Copyright # David Buttery 2011 ISBN 978-1-84884-142-0 The right of David Buttery to be identified as Author of this Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the Publisher in writing. Typeset in 11/13 Ehrhardt by Concept, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire Printed and bound in England by CPI UK Pen & Sword Books Ltd incorporates the imprints of Pen & Sword Aviation, Pen & Sword Maritime, Pen & Sword Military, Wharncliffe Local History, Pen & Sword Select, Pen & Sword Military Classics, Leo Cooper, Remember When, Seaforth Publishing and Frontline Publishing. For a complete list of Pen & Sword titles please contact PEN & SWORD BOOKS LIMITED 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S70 2AS, England E-mail: enquiries@pen-and-sword.co.uk Website: www.pen-and-sword.co.uk


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Contents

Chronology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii List of Plates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvii List of Maps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xix Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

xx

1. House of Braganc¸a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

1

2. The Tempest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

14

3. Junot’s March on Lisbon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

33

4. Brought Before Maneta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

47

5. The Lion Awakes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

71

6. ‘One of our most important affairs’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

86

7. The Lion and the Eagle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 8. A Tainted Victory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123 9. An Infamous Act . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134 10. Europe in Flames . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149 11. Touring the Peninsula . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160 Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199


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Now the Tyrant stubbornly insists, With rights violated at his behest, What will Britain do against this beast, Who would fly at Heaven itself if he could? The Canto Patriotico Elman Solitaire1


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Maps

Map 1: The Iberian Peninsula 1807–1808 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Map 2: The French Invasion of Portugal 1807 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

7 35

Map 3: The Insurgency June–July 1808 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

59

Map 4: The Allied Campaign in Portugal 1808 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

91

Map 5: Battle of Rolic¸a, 17 August 1808 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

94

Map 6: Rolic¸a – Delaborde’s second position . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

98

Map 7: The Battle of Vimeiro, 21 August 1808 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109 Map 8: Vimeiro – Second French Assault . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118


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Preface

Surprisingly there are few recent books dealing specifically with the Duke of Wellington’s first Peninsular War campaign. Although it is often alluded to in general works about the war, subsequent campaigns are usually covered in far greater depth. Yet this great commander’s entry into the conflict, which made his name a household word in Britain, is of considerable interest as it reveals much about his strategic and tactical thought during the first stages of the war. One reason for its relative obscurity is perhaps the manner in which it ended with the controversial Convention of Sintra, which illustrated the weaknesses of Britain’s antiquated military command system and tested the strength of the Anglo-Portuguese relationship. Yet the first French invasion of Portugal is even more obscure, at least in English language books about the Napoleonic Wars. This invasion, the rebellion of the Portuguese that followed and French moves to repel British intervention in Iberia have received little recent coverage and the enthusiast is obliged to refer mainly to primary source material with so few recent studies available. Though Junot is known as one of Napoleon’s closest friends and fought in many campaigns, his tenure as the de facto ruler of Portugal has attracted little attention in English language studies. I hope to address these omissions and shed some light on what was undoubtedly an interesting and remarkable campaign. In this prequel to Wellington Against Massena, it should be borne in mind that Sir Arthur Wellesley had yet to assume the ducal title by which he is commonly known. Nevertheless, in keeping with the spirit of the series of which this book is a part, he is referred to as Wellington in the title. To give the author further excuse there are other precedents such as Jac Weller’s Wellington in India, Charles Grant’s Wellington’s First Campaign in Portugal, Ian C Robertson’s Wellington at War in the Peninsula 1808–1814 and others, detailing events prior to Wellesley becoming the Great Duke. Regarding the interpretation of foreign words and spelling, I have tried to use modern Portuguese words in preference and discard Anglicization when possible. For example, instead of referring to the River Tagus I have adopted the Portuguese spelling of Tejo. In similar fashion, Oporto becomes Porto and Cintra becomes Sintra; being more akin to Portuguese usage. Nonetheless, I have left such words unaltered in contemporary quotations as their writers intended.


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Preface

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I have received valuable assistance from many individuals and organizations during the writing of this book and would like to thank the following. Even the best of manuscripts is prone to errors and inaccuracies so I would like to thank Pamela Covey of Pen & Sword Books Limited, who not only checked through this text but assisted me during the proofreading process for my previous books. Having worked in advertising for many years, I appreciate the work of good proofreaders, whose efforts go a long way to ensuring accuracy and quality. I would also like to thank Pauline Buttery, A E Godley and Stuart Hadaway, who also checked through this script for me. Stuart’s knowledge and enthusiasm about the Napoleonic period has also been of particular value during our frequent discussions and I am grateful for the loan of several useful volumes from his collection. I am grateful to Cynthia Howell who helped with the translation of French sources and to Patricia Richards who assisted with the translation of Portuguese material, notably the Canto Patriotico. This songbook, published in 1812, is written in a very old style of Portuguese which made translation particularly difficult, so I am doubly grateful to Patricia in that regard. Jorge Estrela, Architect and Museum Director of the Casa Museu – Centro Cultural Joa˜o Soares in Leiria, kindly gave me a copy of the Canto Patriotico during my second visit to Lisbon, which was much appreciated. Many libraries and archives have been used in this study and I would like to acknowledge the assistance of David Charlton and the staff of the University of Leicester’s David Wilson Library in particular. I also thank the staff of the National Army Museum, British Library, Colindale Newspaper Archive and Worcester Regiment Museum for their co-operation. I am obliged for the support that I received at Lisbon’s famous Museu Militar. I particularly thank the Director, Lieutenant Colonel Alberto Borges da Fonseca who carried out a search for relevant material prior to my arrival including several Portuguese and French sources. I would also like to give my special thanks to Maria Fernana Nunes whose patience and excellent English language skills in the Arquivo Histo´rico Militar proved invaluable. I must thank my travelling companions on my last two forays into Iberia including Sharon Whitmore, who helped record the events around the release of Wellington Contra Massena, the Portuguese language version of my first book. David Williams of the CWRS also deserves my gratitude for driving us around central Portugal on my last trip, which involved some locations that were difficult to reach. Finally, many thanks to all those wonderful people I met in Portugal who gave me an insight into the Portuguese view of the Peninsular War. Foremost among these are Jorge Estrela, Rodolfo Beghona, Helena Rafael, Joa˜o MacDonald (whose skill as interpreter proved invaluable), Jose´ Sardica, Rui Ribolhos Filipe


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Wellington Against Junot

(of the Battlefield Centre at Vimeiro) and his partner Dina Spencer da Grac¸a along with many others. Their hospitality and kindness made my research visits to Portugal a great pleasure. I hope that they enjoy this book and feel that I have shown their nation and people due respect in this work. David Buttery April 2010


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Chapter 1

House of Braganc¸a

Towards the end of the eighteenth century French society was convulsed by the Revolution that overthrew the Bourbon monarchy and saw King Louis XVI executed on the guillotine. Appalled by the anarchy and violence in France, and fearful that radicalism might spread, the foremost European powers gathered to avenge the Bourbons and crush the young French republic emerging in their midst. Yet the Revolutionaries not only withstood military efforts to oust them but went on to take the offensive against the old monarchies who hoped to destroy them. Republicanism had taken root and Europe would never be the same again. Napoleon Buonaparte was the most important figure to rise from the turmoil of the Revolution. He was born in 1769 on the isle of Corsica, which had only become part of France the year before. The Buonaparte family were impoverished but respectable, if not as highly placed in Corsican society as some would later claim. In the absence of aristocratic patronage, Napoleon’s rise to power was due to his own exceptional talents and the opportunities that, but for the Revolution, would have been denied to him. His brilliance as a general made him very useful to a succession of revolutionary governments, though his popularity, determination and ambition soon began to trouble his contemporaries. Being both a natural leader and politically adept, Buonaparte rapidly overtook his rivals and seized power. After the coup d’e´tat of Brumaire, Bonaparte (who had changed the spelling of his name to appear more French) became the First Consul of France in 1799. Briefly sharing power with two other consuls, he swiftly gained ascendancy – the French being prepared to tolerate a dictatorship due to a widespread desire for stability after revolutionary chaos. A remarkable series of military triumphs secured Bonaparte’s position sufficiently for him to be crowned Emperor Napoleon I on 2 December 1804. While the French were momentarily satisfied with their new Continental status, much of Europe was appalled by the sight of a military adventurer ruling France, many condemning him as a usurper. Observers had been stunned by the success of the French revolutionary armies. With unusually large numbers of men raised through conscription, their use of massed infantry columns against mostly linear defensive formations proved very effective. The sight of these huge columns often had a ruinous


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Wellington Against Junot

effect on enemy morale and the sound of their advance was intimidating as soldiers roared revolutionary slogans in time to the drummers beating a steady rhythm to inspire and drive them onwards. This was one of the first occasions when common men strove for a cause in which they had a clear personal interest and they often fought with fanatical courage. A cannonade usually prepared the ground for their assault and columns were preceded by lines of skirmishers who would try to unsettle the defenders’ lines before the main body came into contact with the enemy. Only well trained and disciplined infantry were able to resist these shock tactics. Napoleon inherited an efficient military machine from the Revolutionary armies and perfected it to form his own Grande Arme´e during the Imperial period. Although Napoleon was effectively a monarch and rapidly created a new royal dynasty, France still represented a radical new ideology that terrified the old order who felt their social hierarchy was menaced. Therefore, despite a brief pause with the Peace of Amiens 1802–1803, the French would remain at war for over twenty years during 1792–1815. Most influential states were unwilling to make a permanent settlement until the balance of power in Europe was restored and the threat of revolutionary change subsided. In 1806 when Prussia declared war against France, Napoleon conducted a lightning campaign that devastated the Prussian army and appalled those who witnessed it. Considered one of the foremost military forces in Europe, the twin victories of Jena and Auersta¨dt were so complete that they crushed the Prussian will to resist and Napoleon entered Berlin less than two weeks later on 27 October. On 21 November 1806, Napoleon issued the Berlin Decrees, announcing the start of commercial sanctions against Great Britain. The land war continued against Russia, who enjoyed limited Prussian support, and hostilities spread into Poland. The battle of Eylau 7–8 February 1807 saw the first check to Napoleon’s run of success as both sides fought to a bloody stalemate amidst great slaughter. In contrast, the battle of Friedland on 14 June was a conclusive French victory, forcing Tsar Alexander I of Russia to seek terms with Napoleon. Napoleon met the Tsar on 25 June 1807 aboard a raft moored symbolically in the middle of the river Niemen. The subsequent Treaty of Tilsit was negotiated between 7–9 July, which saw the Russians abandon former allies such as Britain. Since the collapse of Prussia, Russia had faced the military might of France almost single-handed. Alexander published statements announcing his dismay at the way the British had acted, claiming that they had failed to fulfil their obligations in the Coalition against France.1 During years of conflict, Britain had largely confined her efforts to naval warfare and financial support for her allies. Beyond limited coastal incursions, her actual military commitment had been small.


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