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mend itself to your excellency's attention, if you will give yourself the trouble of coming to take it, it will be much at your service. “ Your excellency's very devoted humble servant, (Signed)
“ Thomas Picton. “ The Governor of Guayana.”
How often is it the case that naval and military men, who know no other party than that of the country for which they are recklessly staking their lives, are made a sacrifice to the caprice, the pique, or the vindictiveness of faction! No one ever suffered from this injustice more than Picton. They not only attempted insult, but inflicted injury. We have neither space nor patience to dwell upon this persecution, which brought him before a British jury, enlisted against him the vilest popular passions, and thus wheedled them by administering to their prejudices, into giving a verdict of guilty against him, and which originated in ministerial revenge. Those who will trouble themselves to examine the documents and the evidence in the able work that we are reviewing, can come to no other conclusion.
Notwithstanding all this ill usage, the patriotism of Picton could not be quenched. It was an essential principle of his very existence; and even while he was labouring under the unjust stigmas of private malice, disgracefully fostered by official protection, he addressed a long and
elaborate communication on the best means of putting the country in an effectual state of defence against the threatened invasion of 1803.
Before we take leave of the subject of this disgraceful prosecution, disgraceful only to the parties who instituted and abetted it, we will mention that, from no less than three quarters, were all the legal expenses of General Picton solicited to be defrayed. Without ever having seen him in his life, the Duke of Queensbury tendered him a gift of ten thousand pounds, a munificent offering of indignation for oppression at the shrine of justice. His uncle also acted in a similar manner. On this, of course, we do not place so much stress, as we can suppose any gentleman of high feeling would be most anxious to vindicate the family honour.
But the crowning triumph of all is to be found in the conduct of the inhabitants of that very island, whom he was accused of having outraged by cruelty, oppressed with tyranny, and almost ruined by exactions. They sent him over four thousand pounds to meet the expenses of his trial, and a magnificent sword, with a memorial to the Duke of York, begging him to present it in their name to their late and much-respected governor, with which request the royal duke most handsomely complied.
Nor were there wanting to him many, and sincere, and valuable friends in this country. Mr. Gifford, the editor of the Anti-Jacobin, and Mr. Marryat, the member for Sandwich, were his most powerful supporters, both by their influence and their pens; and we are surprised that Mr. Robinson should have been so ill-informed as not to have applied to these quarters for the voluminous information which might have been gained.
But we are now approaching more stirring scenes. The wronged by his country is about to repay injury with services as brilliant as
they were essential, and win a renown that his vicious enemies could neither emulate nor duly appreciate. But all who were intimate with him knew that the arrow still rankled in his heart, and he, in all his after life, strove, by making it swell to the impulses of glory and patriotism, to feel that the barb would in time become less poignant. He went to the field, not only with the spirit of a true British soldier, but also with something of the abandonment of the martyr.
At the unfortunate affair of Walcheren we find Major-General Picton in the staff of the Commander-in-Chief. We will
from the book before us, his letter to Colonel Pleydel on the subject.
Flushing, 20th August, 1809. “ MY DEAR COLONEL, “ I have to acknowledge your very kind letter of the 15th, which was particularly agreeable, as it contained such satisfactory information of the general's health. The letter which you allude to as having appeared in ' The Times' I never heard a word of before; nor have I received a line from either of those gentlemen since I left England.
“ I perfectly agree with you in opinion, that the obstacles to our farther advance towards Antwerp are nearly insurmountable ; and I may with very little qualification say, wholly so. In my opinion, we shall not attempt anything further ; although we make great demonstrations, as if we were determined to proceed immediately. According to the accounts we have here, a very respectable force has been collected at Antwerp; and all the country through which we must unavoidably pass has been completely flooded. Under such circumstances, I trust we are too wise to commit the safety of the fleet and army; and that we shall prudently content ourselves with the laurels which we have already gathered.
“ Marshal Bernadotte has arrived on the opposite shores of Cadsand, and is now busily employed in erecting mortar batteries, for the annoyance of Flushing, and of our squadron which rides at mchor in its vicinity. The distance between the two islands is barely three miles, and it is apprehended that their large mortars will range that distance.
“I have the command in Flushing and the neighbouring country, with four regiments. The town is a perfect heap of ruins, exhibiting a state of misery not easily conceivable. Every house has been materially damaged, and not one in twenty is in any degree habitable, or capable of affording protection against either the rain or climate. The best thing we can do will be to destroy the military defences, naval arsenal, and basin, and then withdraw our army and squadron as soon as possible.
“ I have fallen in with an excellent manuscript plan of Flushing, which will give you a good idea of the place and our proceedings, when I have the pleasure of meeting you; and I rather think that period is at no great distance. “ With my best wishes for your health, believe me, &c.
« THOMAS Picton.”
This subject also, we shall hastily dismiss, as it is one on which a writer, jealous of the honour of his country, would not much care to dwell. We have only to deplore that from this marsh of pestilence, that engulfed so many of the bravest men that ever faced the enemy, General Picton returned to England, wasted by fever, almost unto death; that his recovery was extremely tedious, if that can be called recovery that leaves a noble constitution shattered for ever.
Long before Picton bad regained sufficient health and strength at Cheltenham, the ministry requiring courage, energy, and intellect ; and they found them all in the highest degree in the character of Major-General Picton, whom they appointed to command the third division of the army under Wellington, who had just constructed the impregnable lines of Torres Vedras.
We will quote from Mr. Robinson's work the following passage, as it throws much light upon the character of the general.
“ General Picton's anxiety to reach the field of operation made him facilitate his arrangements at home, with a noble anxiety, as he wrote to an old and esteemed friend, 'to convince the people of England, that if ever he was guilty of an act injurious to the interests or honour of his country, it was the fault of his judgment, and not in accordance with the dearest wishes of his heart. I will,' he adds, show them that my only desire for fame is, that by deserving it I may benefit my country; that if I obtain honour, it may be to her glory; and if my life is shed in her service, that she will do my memory justice. The remains of the deadly complaint which he had imbibed at Walcheren still lurked about his system ; but his was not a spirit to be restrained by bodily infirmity. Regardless of every selfish consideration, he embarked with feelings cer. tainly soured by the persecution and injustice to which he had been exposed, but still ardent in the cause for which he was about to fight, and ambitious to distinguish himself in the coming struggle.”
Picton joined the army when the Duke's head quarters were at Viseu, and the French were preparing, under Massena, to fulfil his miserably disappointed vaunt of driving the English out of Portugal into the sea. We have no space to trace all the mutual operations of the contending armies. The enemy came on splendidly, and, at first, scemed by his acts to be about soon to justify his boastings. He took Ciudad Rodrigo, and subsequently Almeida, and advancing into Portugal, caused our army to make a continuation of splendid manæuvres on the retreat. We now proceed to give the first of our own original letters, from the theatre of war.
Linheres, 8th August, 1810. “ MY DEAR SIR, “ In consequence of the surrender of Ciudad Rodrigo, and the advance of the enemy, with very superior forces, we have withdrawn from the line of the Coa, which was no longer defensible, and the army is now cantonned about thirty-five miles in the rear of that river, in the neighbourhood of Alenio. By this movement we have gained two objects: we have transferred the theatre of operations to a more enclosed country, where numbers will lose many of their advantages; and we have secured the re-union of the different corps of the army whenever events may render such a measure desirable.
“ The enemy, certainly, show little disposition to force us to a general action : by a rapid movement, immediately after the surrender of Ciudad Rodrigo, they might have compelled us to fight upon ground much less advantageous to us than that which we now occupy. They advance with great caution, and leave as little as possible to fortune. This campaign will be spun out for some months yet, and there will probably be a good deal of hard fighting before the enemy will be able to reach the neighbourhood of Lisbon : but as their losses will be supplied by continual reinforcements, and we shall be daily diminishing in numbers, without any hopes of succour, it is clear that they must eventually succeed. With this view of the subject we are throwing away immense sums of money to no useful purpose ; and all we can expect are a few barren sprigs of laurel for our labours and treasures. I have not heard a word from Trinidad since I have been in this miserable country, and I am, in consequence, desirous of knowing how my affairs are going on there.
“ The troops in general are now much exposed to slight fevers, and, I may assert, fully ten per cent. of them are now hors de combat in consequence. I hope Mrs. M. and all your family have had good health to enjoy the air and amusements of the country: pray offer them my best wishes.
“My dear Sir,
“ T. Picton. “ J. Marryat, Esq."
The reader will perceive that the gallant general took but a gloomy view of our affairs ; but though one so desponding, it was, nevertheless, judicious. At that period, no one could have foreseen, much less have expected, the cordial co-operation that the Duke of Wellington afterwards found from the government at home, nor could have anticipated the diversion that was soon to be made in his favour by the mad ambition, and the reverses consequent upon it, of Napoleon in the north.
The first serious affair, and it was a most serious one, in which the high qualities of General Picton were tested, was the battle of Busaco. Of this battle we will quote the general's own account from Mr. Robinson's book.
Cadaceira, 3rd November, 1810. “ MY DEAR COLONEL, “ To give you some idea of the affair of Busacos, which took place on the 27th September, I enclose you a sketch of the relative situation of the two armies, taken at the time, by the assistant quartermaster-general of the third division. It is merely a rough draught, but conveys a sufficiently strong representation as well of the position of Busacos as of that of Murcella, where it was Lord Wellington's original intention to concentrate his army and oppose the further advance of the enemy: but General Massena, after following us for some time on that road, suddenly crossed the river Mondego, and endeavoured by forced marches to cut us off from the city of Coimbra, where we had considerable depôts. To counteract this movement, Lord Wellington passed the Mondego on the 20th and 21st of September with the whole of the army, except Lieutenant-General Hill's and Major-General Leith's divisions, and occupied the position where the action took place. I had been ordered on the 25th to detach Major-General Lightburne's brigade to reinforce the division under Sir
Brent Spencer, and there remained with me only three British and two Portuguese regiments to defend the ridge from Saint Antonio de Cantara to the hill of Busacos, a space of above a mile and a half. The enemy was so concentrated on the 26th, as equally to threaten the right, left, and centre of our position; and from their apparent combinations, it was uncertain against which point they would direct their principal attack.
“On the evening of the 26th I detached the strongest regiment of the division, the 88th, nearly a mile to the left of the pass of St. Antonio, to communicate with Sir Brent Spencer, and observe that part of the line which was not occupied by any troops. The 74th regiment and the two Portuguese battalions, with twelve pieces of cannon, were stationed for the immediate defence of the pass; and the 45th regiment was kept in
A sharp fire of musketry was heard on the left a short time before daylight, and immediately after fourteen pieces of cannon, from an opposite height, opened upon the pass, and a large column attempted to force it in mass; but so incessant and destructive a fire was kept up by the light corps of the division on their flank, and by the 74th and a Portuguese battalion on their front, that, though they long persisted with great gallantry and perseverance, they never were able to gain an inch of ground, and were ultimately compelled to abandon the attempt in great confusion.
" During this time a very heavy column penetrated, on the left of my position, close to the hill of Busacos, occupied by the 88th regiment, and four companies of the 45th regiment, which appeared to be engaged in an unequal contest with very superior numbers. These regiments, after the enemy had completely gained the summit of the hill, most gallantly attacked them with their bayonets, and drove them off with great slaughter. Convinced that the enemy would make no impression upon the pass of St. Antonio, from which they were completely repulsed, I galloped to. wards the left, to join the 45th and 88th regiments, who still continued engaged, and, to my great surprise, found the enemy in possession of a strong rocky point in the centre of my line, and the light infantry companies of the 74th and 88th regiments (who had been stationed with the light corps in advance) driven in and retreating before them in disorder. With some difficulty I rallied them, drove the enemy from the rocky point with the bayonet, and with the assistance of a Portuguese battalion, which opportunely came up at the moment, I succeeded in forcing them to abandon the hill, and cross the ravine in great confusion.
“There was another feeble attempt made by the enemy to force the hill; but this was easily repulsed by Major-General Leith, who joined the army at that moment with the 1st, 9th, and 38th regiments: Lieutenant-General Hill also joined the army about an hour after, with ten British, and, I believe, eight Portuguese regiments. The evening of the 27th was employed by the enemy in a variety of movements and fresh combinations, and we fully expected a renewal of the attack on the following morning. Unfortunately we were disappointed: the enemy appeared in movement the whole of the 28th, as if concentrating for the purpose of attacking the left of the hill and convent of Busacos; but towards the evening very considerable columns were discovered filing off through the mountains on our left, towards the main road leading from Oporto to Coimbra and Lisbon, and it became apparent that they had given up all hopes of forcing our position, and were endeavouring, by a circuitous march, to turn our left, and occupy Coimbra before us. Lord Wellington, in consequence, marched in three columns, at two o'clock in the morning of the 29th, and took up a position to cover Coimbra on the same evening. Coimbra at this season, when the river Mondego is everywhere fordable, has no advantages of a defensive position; it became, therefore, necessary to retreat, and occupy the great line which covers Lisbon, at the distance of about thirty miles, with the right of the army resting upon the Tagus at Alhandra, and its left on the sea near Torres Vedras, where we have been since the 7th of October.
“ Massena's army has its head-quarters at the village of Sobral, about two miles in front of the position occupied by the third division; and his army is cantoned in the villages in his rear, and extending towards the