Author Topic: Back to the Peninsular Wars, events in Portugal and beyond  (Read 154663 times)

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Re: Back to the Peninsular Wars, french attack Amarante
« Reply #45 on: 12:01 19-Apr-2009 »
French troops storm Amarante

Despite the rainy weather which threatened to dampen Marshall Soult's
attack on the town of Amarante yesterday. French troops managed to
keep their powder dry, amid heavy fighting around the outskirts of
Amarante. The Portuguese had prepared their positions well.
The orderly attack by Soult's battalions soon broke down into a series of
street fights, as french platoons stormed the barricades, only to be cut
down by musketeers and sharp shooters hidden amoungst the buildings.

Below I go through the sequence of events that leads us to last weekends
Battle of Amarante - which you can watch on Video by the link below

Portuguese troops under the command of General Silveira

French troops under the command of General Henri Loison take their
postion facing the Portuguese

Defending Amarante against the French - 7th April to 2nd May 1809

Having captured Oporto, Marshal Soult needed to reopen communications
with the army of General Lapisse, supposed to be supporting him from
around Salamanca. But with Portuguese guerrillas harrying his rear,
Soult had to send a brigade of infantry supported by cavalry, under
the command of General Loison, towards the Portuguese border in an
attempt to find Lapisse.
The expedition came to a halt at Amarante, for following his defeat at the
border town of Chaves, the portuguese General Francisco Silveira had
retreated down the Tamega River, keeping most of his army intact.
So when Soult left Chaves to continue his march onto Oporto, Silveiro was
able to retake the town with ease, five days later.
Then he took up a strong defensive position around Amarante, where he
was able to build up his strength from 6,000 to 10,000 men. The backbone
of his army were 2 regular regiments of infantry 2,000 strong. supported by
a mass of Portuguese levies ( the Ordenanza )

Campaign map of Northern Portugal 1809

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On 7 April Loison's two brigades attempted to force their way across the
Tamega at Amarante and a little further south, at Canavezes. Both
attacks failed, and so Loison called for reinforcements.

Silveira made the next move. Realising that he outnumbered Loison's
force, on 12 April the Portuguese cross the Tamega and attacked the
French. This time it was Silveira's turn to suffer a defeat, but not a major
one, and he was able to return to his defensive positions at Amarante.
On the same day Soult finally learnt of the fall of Chaves, and decided
to send a second infantry brigade to support Loison. This gave Loison
6,500 men, a third of Soult's entire army.

Soult's troops storm a portuguese stronghold in Amarante

Progress is slow, as Soults troops edge towards the bridge of Amarante

A Portuguese fusilier takes cover - as the french advance down the
side streets

On 18 April the two sides clashed again, this time on the heights of
Villamea west of Amarante. Once again Silveira had come out of his
defensive positions, but this time he paid for his bravardo and was badly
defeated. For a moment it looked like the French would be able to chase
the defeated Portuguese army back through Amarante and capture the
bridge, but at a crucial moment Colonel Patrick, a British officer
commanding part of the Portuguese 12th Regiment of the Line, rallied his
battalion and organised a defence of a convent at the head of the bridge.
Patrick was mortally wounded, but his efforts gave Silveira time to restore
order and put his men into strong positions on the left (east) bank of the
river, from where his artillery could dominate the bridge.

On 19 April Loison was able to finally capture the convent, but could not
force his way across the barricaded bridge while under fire from the
Portuguese guns. Soult sent another brigade of infantry to reinforce
Loison, who now had 9,000 men at Amarante, nearly half of Soult's army.

Das Invasoes Francesas 1809 - Video of the battle of Amarante

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The Portuguese have erected barricades across the road leading to
bridge which is soon attacked by the french

French cannon ready to fire on the Portuguese holding the bridge

General Loison giving orders as french troops take up their positions
around the bridge

A period of stalemate followed. The river was in flood, so it was impossible
to ford. The Portuguese had destroyed every nearby bridge, so the French
had no choice but to attack Amarante, or to wait for better weather. To
make matters worse the Portuguese had mined the bridge, so there was a
real chance that the French would capture the bridge only to have it
destroyed beneath them.

The french blow up a barrier, before rushing forward to capture
the bridge

Portuguese cannon fires on french troops moving onto the bridge

More Portuguese cannon open fire on french soldiers trying to cross
the bridge

French soldiers line up on the bridge parapet, ready to return fire

Portuguese soldiers firing their muskets at the french across the river

An attempt to approach the bridge using regular siege works failed, as did
an attempt to build a trestle bridge downstream of the town (25 April).
Eventually Captain Bouchard, one of Loison's engineers noticed a potential
flaw in the firing mechanism of the Portuguese mine. This consisted of a
musket hidden in a box close to the mine and connected to the Portuguese
held bank by a long cord. To explode the mine, the Portuguese had to pull
the cord, firing the musket into the mine and triggering the explosion.
Bouchard realised that a small explosion under the cord would cut it
without triggering the musket. The Portuguese would be unable to fire the
mine and the French might be able to storm the bridge in the aftermath
of the explosion.

The fighting continues throughout the evening, as French and Portuguese
troops exchange fire across the Tamega, with Soult's troops unable
to secure the bridge thanks to persistant fire from the south bank

Early in the morning of 2nd May, under cover of a dense fog, Bouchard put
his plan into effect. Four out of five sappers managed to get their
explosives in place un-noticed, and then the charge was set off. As
predicted the cord was cut and the mine made ineffective. In the
immediate aftermath of the explosion the leading French troops were able
to storm across the bridge. Once on the far side, the French discovered
that most of the Portuguese defences were unmanned, and the soldiers
were sleeping in their camps. Silveira and most of his men managed to
escape, although the French captured all ten Portuguese guns and
several hundred prisoners.

Although Silveira's men were eventually forced away from the bridge,
they had delayed the French for almost a month. During this time the
strategic situation in Portugal had shifted away from Soult, for on 22nd April
Sir Arthur Wellesley had arrived in Lisbon, at the head of a new British

Eight minute Portuguese video on the Battle of Amarante, includes
scenes from the evening attacks across the bridge with barrels of

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Finally the British, French, Spanish and Portuguese governments, come
together to formulate a joint strategy on the Napoleonic campaigns
currently taking place on the Iberian Peninsular.

The Peninsular Wars 200 - Committee

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Sunday Telegraph article - British & Portuguese unite to honour Napoleonic
War heroes

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« Last Edit: 13:18 07-Mar-2011 by Lt. Campers »
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Re: Back to the Peninsular Wars, events in Portugal
« Reply #46 on: 15:50 03-May-2009 »
Wellesley arrives in Portugal with reinforcements

The 22nd April saw the arrival of Sir Arthur Wellesley in Lisbon, accompanied by more
British troops for the peninsular. Accompanying Wellesley was General Beresford who's
task is to reform the Portuguese army along british lines.
After assuming command of the british army from Craddock, the military situation looks
dire. To the east is Marshal Victor, who having won his victory at Medellin on 28 March,
was waiting to capture Badajoz, ready to advance into Portugal.
To the northeast is General Lapisse, who was meant to have advanced
into Portugal from Salamanca to join up with Soult at Oporto. Finally,
further north in Galicia we have Marshal Ney, whose initial orders are to
suppress the Galician uprising but could turn south, if he was able to
do so while quelling the spanish uprising.

French cannon firing across the Tamega

Portuguese troops standing firm behind the barricade

French dragoons passing through a town, near Oporto

Just before leaving Britain, news had reached him of Soult's victory at Oporto, along with
rumours that Victor had been reinforced by Sebastiani and laid siege to Badajoz.
Therefore during the sea voyage he was making plans for a defensive campaign
to be fought around Lisbon.
Wellesley would only discover that these rumours were false, for upon his arrival
in Lisbon on 22nd April, the only French troops on Portuguese soil was Soult's army
of 20,000 men around Oporto.

When Wellesley reached Portugal his predecessor, General Cradock had already moved the main
field army to Leiria, 75 miles north of Lisbon. Upon his arrival, Wellesley spent the first five days
in Lisbon accessing the situation, during which the army began to move to their advance position
at Coimbra, another 37 miles up the coast from Leiria. Wellesley himself, left Lisbon on the
29th April, reaching the field army stationed at Coimbra on 2nd May.
At this point Soult's 20,000 men was dangerously divided. Small numbers of men were still
scattered in garrisons north of Oporto. The French advance guard some 5000 strong was
stretched out between Oporto and the river Vouga, thirty miles to the south.
About 9000 men under General Loison were at Amarante, where on the morning of
the 2nd May, they had finally managed to push the Portuguese force under
General Silveira, away from the bridge.
This disrupted Wellesley's plans, for he had intended to send Beresford's
column to join up with Silveira to block the line of Soult's retreat. This left
around 6,000 men at Oporto.

One of Wellesley's British soldiers, clearing customs

Wellesley had a total of 25,000 British and 16,000 Portuguese troops at his disposal.
The reform of the Portuguese army had only just got under way by April 1809,
and most of Wellesley's British troops were inexperienced, only five of his
twenty-one battalions had fought the French at Vimiero, for many of the
best British units in Portugal had followed Sir John Moore to Corunna, and
then been evacuated back to Britain. Some were on their way back, but
they would not arrive until June.

Wellesley's advance on Oporto

Wellesley split his army into three columns. The main force, 18,200 strong and under his own
command, would attack Soult at Oporto. A smaller force under General Beresford (5,800 strong)
was sent further east, to block the French if they attempted to retreat along the
Duoro, but only if Soult did not appear in force; Beresford was under orders not to try
and stop the entire French army if it attacked him.
Finally, the third force was sent east to protect Lisbon against any move by
Marshal Victor.

French artillery crew manhandling their cannon

French troops engaged in a street battle, fire a volley

The conflict returns to Oporto next weekend - as seen in the Portuguese

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« Last Edit: 12:53 07-Mar-2011 by Lt. Campers »
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Re: Back to the Peninsular Wars, french defend Oporto
« Reply #47 on: 15:57 03-May-2009 »
The French secure the bridge at Amarante - amid conspiracy and intrigue in Oporto

Yesterday the French finally secured both banks of the bridge at Amarante. As the
heroic resistance of the Portuguese breaks down and General Silveira withdraws his
troops a safe distance from the French in order to regroup and await the arrival of the

French troops crossing the bridge at Amarante

With Wellesley on the march to Coimbra this couldn't have come at a worst time.
For with the crossing secured and Silveira's troops brushed aside; theirs nothing to
stop Soult resuming his march on Lisbon.

French officers salute their victorious troops

In fact its a mystery why Soult dithered in Oporto for so long following the fall of
the city on 28th March. Obviously he was well aware that the british had only a
token force of 10,000 men in Portugal and the Portuguese relied heavily on the
Ordenance to make up for a chronic shortage of regular troops. Naturally the uprising
in Galicia and mushrooming of resistance groups of partisans and guerrillas to his
rear came as a shock to the french ( giving rise to a number of atrocities on both sides )
But the French lived off the land while on campaign and it only needed the other
marshall?s in Spain to play their part which they were reluctant to do while Soult
remained idle.

French military band marching through the city

To understand what went on, is to delve into the conspiracy and intrigue that
surrounded the French high command in Oporto. Soult, one of Napoleon's most able
officer's and a Marshall of France, longed for the rewards and titles being parcelled
out to many of Napoleon's other marshall's; some of whom were rewarded with
kingdom's within Napoleon's empire.
Soult therefore reckoned he was perfectly entitled to claim the vacant Portuguese
throne or at least a principality of it, namely the Kingdom of Northern Lusitania.
This idea was encouraged by his aides, who tried to drum up support amongst the
civic dignitaries and nobles of northern Portugal. But this went against the grain
of Soult's general of division Louis-Henri Loison who together with other
senior bonapartist officers were opposed to it at all costs.
In the midst of all this was a third element of lower ranking officers, led by Captain
Philippe-Charles Argenton of the 18th dragoons, known as the Porto conspirators.
Although few in number, they aimed to take advantage of the dissention within the
high command for their own ends. For being unashamed republicans at heart, many
of their supporters felt Napoleon had betrayed the revolution.
Upon Soult proclaiming himself king, chaos and confusion would lead to open
hostilities within Soult's army, as Loison's Bonapartist officers in the east would
declare their continued loyalty for Napoleon.
At this point Argenton's group would make their regiments available to Soult's
supporters in return for a promise from the Marshall, to lead an anti-Bonaparte
coalition of French troops to restore the French republic. To this end Captain
Argenton had been holding secret meetings with the british and had even been
interviewed by General Wellesley himself to obtain an armistice for the French
army in Oporto, should the plot succeed.
As usual the world of fiction adds its own twist to the plot in Sharpes Havoc, where
an unscrupulous british exploring officer called Lieut Colonel Christopher is
implicated in the Argenton plot.
For while assisting in the negotiations between the British and French conspirators,
Colonel Christopher was secretly ingratiating himself with Soult for his own ends.
Where, in return for the names of the conspirators and the French and Portuguese
dispositions in Portugal, a grateful Marshall Soult would confer the entire british and
Portuguese wine franchise on Colonel Christopher.
Naturally in betraying his own side, he also betrays Sharpe and his riflemen who
have been lying low in a summer house, east of Oporto.
Finally all these plots and intrigues fall apart with Wellesley deciding to
press ahead with his march on Oporto which comes none too soon for
Sharpe. With the french bearing down on his makeshift hilltop stronghold,
resulting in a desparate fight for survival.

Wellesley's surprise attack on the french advance guard

In the meantime Wellesley continues his march north, with the two armies
likely to clash over the weekend. Along the way Wellesley hoped to surprise
the french advance guard, commanded by General Franceschi at Albergaria
Nova, close to the river Vouga ( 30 miles to the south )
To accomplish this, Wellesley sends two infanty brigades by sea, to land at
Ovar before Wellesley's main army, surprises the french by making an night march
on Albergaria Nova.

British marines accompany Hill's troops following the naval landing at

Hoping to trap Franceschi between himself and Hill's two brigades, cutting
off the French retreat to Oporto.
But Soult is tipped off about the planned attack when on the 8th May,
Captain Argenton is betrayed and reveals all about Wellesley's surprise
attack on Franceschi's advance guard.
Of course its a mystery how Argenton learned of Wellesley's plans, despite
his secret meetings with the british, unless theirs some truth in the
Sharpe's Havoc rumours of a renegade english officer.
Naturally british plans of trapping the french advance guard is foiled and
Argenton is thrown in jail awaiting a court martial.

Most of General Franceschi's force is french cavalry

French advance guard becomes embroiled in street fights as they exchange
fire with Wellesley's Anglo-Portuguese army, approaching Oporto

Map of Oporto - with the Auto estrada do Norte, from where Wellesley's
Anglo-Portuguese army will march through Vila Nova de Gaia to Soult's
position at Mafamude guarding the crossing of the Douro at Ponte dom

Although intelligence sources are thin on the ground, the likely fall back
positions of the french are as follows.

The full details of this weekends operation can be found on the following
AMP website with a PDF for further info.

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Latest news from Oporto - as the French engage the Anglo-Portuguese
army through the streets of Oporto, saturday night

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« Last Edit: 13:27 07-Mar-2011 by Lt. Campers »
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Re: Back to the Peninsular Wars, british enter Oporto
« Reply #48 on: 22:57 09-May-2009 »
British attack Soult's french troops holding Oporto

The british along with their Portuguese allies have entered Oporto where
they have encountered stiff resistance from the French hoping to hold up
Wellesley's army on the south bank of the Douro.

With the french deployed at several strongpoints throughout the city, the
british can expect some determined resistance from Soult's troops.
For the latest news reports, see the end of my last post.

French troops falling back, before the British advance on Oporto

Sunday 10th May

By sunday morning, Wellesley and the Anglo-Portuguese army should
have cleared the french from the south bank of the Douro, although with
the last of the french crossing by boat to the north bank. Wellesley is
left with a major river obstacle to cross, as the nearest bridge is some
miles to the east.
As luck would have it the patriotic Portuguese, living on the south bank
have been hiding a few wine barges from the prying eyes of the
french; which they reveal to the british, who greatfully press them into
service for a forthcoming river crossing.
Therefore the british hope to send a regiment or two of british troops
across the Douro, establishing a bridgehead, while Wellesley sends the
rest of his troops to take the bridge to the east and fight thier way
back into Oporto to relieve the bridgehead.
In tomorrows battle the bridge to the east, will be the modern day bridge
only some 600 or 700 yards from the british right flank.

Marshall Soult's, french troops of the 3eme de Ligne ( in their distinctive white uniforms )
parading through the main square of Oporto

Timetable of Sunday's operation

11am - British and Portuguese troops assume their positions on the
south bank of the Douro. While the french take up a corresponding position
on the north bank.
The british start to load some of their troops onto the barges. The french
reply by opening fire with their cannon, hoping to disrupt the
embarkation and subsequent crossing.
British and Portuguese cannon respond by firing back at the french on
the north shore.

11:30 am to 1pm
The british row their barges across the Douro, landing a little way to the
west of the french right flank at Cais da Ribeira da Estiva Port,
where they rapidly deploy to engage the french which Soult has sent in to crush
the british beachhead.
Meanwhile Wellesley with the rest of the army takes the bridge to the
east, crossing it before engaging the french along the north bank
eventually reaching the beachhead after some tough street fighting along
the way.
With the british securing the north bank, the french fall back to the
to the Rua da Praca do Infante, where the battle should end by 1pm.
By which time British and Portuguese troops would have siezed the last
of the french barricades, before the french withdraw from the city, then
start their retreat to Spain.

Journal de Noticias - reports on saturday evenings clash between the
two napoleonic armies on the ( south bank ) streets of Oporto

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« Last Edit: 01:38 17-Feb-2010 by Lt. Campers »
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Re: Back to the Peninsular Wars, Battle of Oporto 1809
« Reply #49 on: 12:36 14-May-2009 »

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Battle of Oporto 12th May, 1809

The Anglo-Portuguese army led by General Sir Arthur Wellesley, has been split into
three forces. The first under General Mackenzie holds Lisbon with 12,000 men,
another army 6,000 strong under General Beresford marches east to join forces with
Silveira, hoping to block any attempt by Soult to link up with Victor or Lapisse.
While the rest of the army, 18,000 strong marches directly on Oporto where Soult
hopes to stage an orderly withdrawal, safe in the knowledge that the only bridge at
Oporto was demolished and that his men had destroyed every boat they could find
on the south bank of the Douro.

British troops, from Hill's brigade march through the outskirts of Oporto

Accompanied by the 95th Rifle's and sailors from the naval landing at Ovar

On the night of the 11th and 12th May, they had pulled back from the south bank
completely, blowing up the bridge of boats that connected Vila Nova de Gaia to
Porto around about 2 o'clock.

As the british marched into Vila Nova de Gaia in the early hours of 12th May,
Wellesley surveyed the French dispositions on the opposite bank. As expected
most the French troops occupying the north bank were thinly deployed.
So while supervising the disposition of his troops, Wellesley received encouraging
news. First his scouts, scouring the south shore, found an abandoned ferry boat 5kms
upstream at Avintes. Second, one of his intelligence officers, Colonel Waters was
approached by an enthusiatic barber from Porto, desperate to inform the british of
four wine barges ( hidden from the French ) along the north shore.

French Grenadiers marching through Oporto to meet the british at
Vila Nova de Gaia

British troops move forward in Vila Nova de Gaia

French Grenadiers making an orderly withdrawal from Vila Nova de Gaia
to the bridge of boats before its blown up

British and Portuguese troops exchange fire with Napoleon's men

Video of Wellesley's british troops, firing volley's as they advance through
Vila Nova de Gaia to secure the south bank of the Douro

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The British and Portuguese continue to push the french back

A French officer is wounded during the night fighting

Portuguese Video showing British & Portuguese troops securing the south bank
of the Douro

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Video of last weekends night fight - Battle of Oporto, May 1809

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Wellesley had already noted a large isolated stone building that stood on the
opposite bank, outside the eastern suburbs of the city. This was the Bishop's
Seminary, that looked unguarded by the French.
Waters crossed the Douro with the barber in his row boat to the north shore and
Soon returned with the wine barges and confirmation that the Seminary was indeed

British officers lead their troops out to face the french lined up on the
opposite side of the Douro

French infantry marching down to take their positions on the north
bank of the Douro

Therefore Wellesley put in motion one of his most audacious attacks of his career.
About 10 o?clock, two regiments from Hill's brigade began boarding the barges,
that would ferry them across the river in full daylight. After a few minutes of
rowing across the Douro, a platoon of the Buffs had clambered upto the Seminary
and secured the gate.
As more men reached the Seminary it was gradually turned into a fortress and
although the crossing point, was out of sight of most French troops, it seems
incredible that a full hour elapsed before the alarm was raised. By this time
600 troops were holding the Seminary.

Portuguese artillery, ready to provide covering fire for the british crossing

British infantry lining the quayside ready to board their boats

Video of the British taking their postions along the riverside

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British troops begin their hazardous crossing of the Douro in the
commandered wine barges

French artillery opens fire on the british troops and Portuguese artillery

Soult keeps his best troops in reserve, ready to cover his retreat

Wellesley realized how precarious his troops were in the Seminary and had positioned
his cannon accordingly ( on the south bank ) to cover the approaches to the building.
Soult soon ordered three battalions of the 17th Leger to begin the attacking the building
But the French assaults faltered under the heavy bombardment of the artillery and the
Steady volleys of musket and rifle fire from the garden wall, window's and roof of
makeshift garrison.
Soult's guns, deployed on the north bank, fires back at the Portuguese cannon trying
to knock out Wellesley's battery.

In the meantime, the britsh continued to reinforce the bridgehead. After a short lull in
fighting, Soult's officers sends in the 70th line regiment into the fray, amid ever more
desperate attacks on the Seminary.

In the re-enactment, Wellesley's troops manage to secure the bridge intact
before the french can blow it up. Therefore Wellesley orders his
Portuguese infantry forward across the bridge and into Oporto

Here the French 3eme de Ligne,  prepare to meet the Portuguese attack

Battle of Oporto - as shown on Portuguese TV

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Slideshow of the battle through the streets of Oporto

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Following close behind the Portuguese ( after they storm the bridge ) are
Wellesleys Scottish highlanders, who fire at the retreating french as
they fall back through the streets of Oporto

The 3eme de Ligne fire one last volley at the british, as french troops
are seen retiring in the background. Ready for their retreat from Oporto

At this point Soult makes a terrible blunder by withdrawing the troops guarding the
quayside. This was the signal for the local Portuguese boatmen to take as many boat
as they can find to ferry the rest of the British and Portuguese troops across the river.
In no time at all, infantry of the 29th Foot and Brigade of Guards are swarming up
the steep streets and onwards into the heart of Oporto.
With a second british force crossing the Douro, using the recently repaired ferry at
Avintas, Soult is faced by a sudden overwhelming flank attack. Therefore he
abandons his attack on the Seminary and orders a general retreat from Oporto,
along the road to Valongo.

In the real battle, the French lost 300 killed or wounded in Oporto with 300 more
taken prisoner. As as many as 1500 sick and wounded were left in the city hospitals
along with some 70 abandoned guns. British losses amounted to 123 killed
wounded or missing.

The second, Battle of Oporto on Wikipedia

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Video of British and Portuguese soldiers, paying homage in front of a
memorial to the fallen, in the Peninsular Wars

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« Last Edit: 22:56 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Re: Back to the Peninsular Wars, french retreat
« Reply #50 on: 02:33 31-May-2009 »
Wheres the British, over the hills and far away

Judging by the number of hits on this thread - it looks like the Chosen men
are keen to hear more news on the Napoleonic conflict in northern Portugal.
Well the good news is Marshall Soult's withdrawl turned into a hasty
retreat. As Wellesley's generals and his portuguese allies, left no
stone unturned in cutting off all the main roads to Spain. Leaving Soult
no other choice but to slip across a mountain pass ( north of the Douro )
to avoid being trapped by Wellesley advancing from Oporto and Beresford
and the Portuguese, who retake the bridge at Amarante.
The decision to take the treacherous mountain pass, cost the french all their
heavy baggage and artillery, plus much of the profit Soult had acquired
in plunder from his campaign in Portugal.
Although Soult escaped encirclement by taking the mountain road
towards Braga, the British and Portuguese were in hot pursuit with the
Portuguese levies ( the Ordenanza ) challanging the retreating French at
every major river crossing between Braga and the Spanish border.
Therefore their were a number of rearguard actions fought against the
British and Portuguese before the French made good their escape to
Spain arriving at Orense on 19th May.

Online map of Northern Portugal, May 1809 with details on the
pursuit of the French by General Sir Arthur Wellesley

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Of course the adventures of Richard Sharpe, immortalize the hardships
of the British Army in Portugal and Spain as they pursue the french
'over the hills and far away'

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So whats next, just watch this space.
« Last Edit: 22:55 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Re: Back to the Peninsular Wars, events in Portugal
« Reply #51 on: 00:06 04-Jun-2009 »
While my ( Chosen men ) expat fan club have been thoroughly engrossed in Boney's
efforts on the Spanish peninsular.
They might have taken their eyes off the ball, on the threat from Napoleon's troops
closer to home, as they continue their preperations for the 1812 March on Moscow.

French troops undertaking drill practice at an undisclosed location in Russia

Well looks like the french marched into Russia sooner than I thought, judging by last
weekends news report from Moscow. Fortunately it turned out to be only a bold
foray by Napoleons men, in order to keep the russians in check.  ;)

Napoleonic battle near Moscow on TV

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Fortunately the Russians have been preparing for this since the days of the Soviet
Union. Here we see Soviet Army troops posing alongside, Russian Imperial army soldiers
of the 1812 campaign.

« Last Edit: 02:54 06-Feb-2010 by Lt. Campers »
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Re: Back to the Peninsular Wars, events in Portugal
« Reply #52 on: 20:04 07-Jul-2009 »
The battle of Corunna to be refought - AGAIN !

For those regulars who missed out on the Bicentennial events surrounding
the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Corunna. The good news is the
battle is to be refought again over the weekend on friday, saturday and
sunday from the 31st July until the 2nd August 2009.
Friday and saturday will feature parades with the battle re-enactment on
sunday 2nd August.

Program of events

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Although their will be a good turnout of Spanish, Portuguese and Russian
re-enactors. The british will be somewhat thin on the ground due to
commitments elsewhere.
Nevertheless a good chance to see the russian expeditionary force in action.
« Last Edit: 02:55 06-Feb-2010 by Lt. Campers »
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Re: British landings in Holland
« Reply #53 on: 12:16 15-Jul-2009 »

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British naval ship and support craft off Walcheren island

British naval ship, surrounded by boats prepares to disembark the troops

British troops climb into their landing craft

British soldiers being rowed to shore

British troops prepare to disembark

French skirmish line facing the british

French and british infantry exchange fire as the battle unfolds

French cavalry charge the british troops


British expedition to Holland, July 1809

On the 30th July 1809, an army of 39,000 men commanded by General John Pitt, 2nd Earl of
Chatham landed near Veere on Walcheren island.
The primary purpose of the expedition being to destroy a french fleet sheltering in the Dutch
port of Flushing and divert french troops away from Britains hard pressed allies in Europe.
Together with 15,000 cavalry and two siege trains, Pitt hoped to lay siege
and capture Flushing within a week of the landing. But stubborn
resistance by the French and their Dutch allies bogged down the british to
a formal siege of Flushing.
Here Dutch and French forces succeeded in defying the british bombardment of Flushing,
long enough to transfer the french fleet to Antwerp. So despite Pitt capturing Flushing
and all surrounding towns by the 15th August, the fleet had gone.
Following this Pitt moved his forces onto South Beveland Island, in order
to move onto to his second objective, Antwerp.
But upon approaching the city, he found the port and all approaches to
Antwerp had been heavily reinforced by French troops led by Marshall
Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, recently recalled from Paris to deal with
the crisis.
Here General Pitt judged the french position too strong, to take by frontal
assualt and therefore a stalemate ensued, during which the british soldiers
encircling Antwerp, succumbed to the summer heat of flies and pestilence that plague
the Sheldt estuary, bringing many troops down with malaria.
Having lost their prize, the british called off the expedition in September
and withdrew all but 12000 troops which it left garrisoning Walcheren island
until 9th December 1809.
Of all the troops returned returned to England only 5,500 men remained fit for service.
The rest took months to recover from ill health.

Map of the Walcheren campaign, July to September 1809

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The British landings at Veere, 1809 - Event Guide

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News of the British invasion - as seen on Duth TV, report is from the Franco - Dutch side

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With the 95th Rifles forming the forlorn hope. Here we have 2 video's
of the 44th foot, together with the 92nd Highlanders and flanked by
German Jagers, attacking the french bastion at Walcheren.

Videos of the British attack on the French bastion

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Dutch historical documentary on the British invasion of Holland, part 1

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Dutch historical documentary on the British invasion of Holland, part 2

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« Last Edit: 23:00 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Austrians defeated by Napoleon, near Vienna
« Reply #54 on: 12:06 25-Jul-2009 »

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Once more the sound of cannon and musketfire was heard across the Danube, in fields
east of Vienna ( last weekend ) as Napoleon Bonapartes, grande armee engages the
Austo-Hungarian army of Archduke Charles. What follows are the highlights of a 3 month
campaign with battles and skirmishes along the way.

Background to the Austrian conflict

Following her defeat at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805. The Austro-Hungarian Empire,
under Francis II signed a humiliating treaty with the French at Pressburg.
The terms of which proved unbearable to the Austrian leadership who saw
large parts of the empires territory, seceded to Napoleon's, german allies in the
newly formed Confederation of the Rhine.
The Austrians who had been busy re-organising their army under the Archduke sought
allies abroad but found only the British willing to support their cause.
Britain, already fully commited in the Spanish peninsular, promised to launch a
diversionary attack in Northern Europe; the aforementioned Walcheren
expedition to Holland.

The Austrian campaign begins

On April 9 1809, armies under the overall command of Archduke Charles invaded
Bavaria and northern Italy. There was no declaration of war. Only a simple message
from Charles conveyed to all outlying outposts of the French
army - "I have orders to  advance with my forces and to treat as enemies
any who oppose me" - and hours later the Austrian army attacked.
Although Napoleon anticipated the Austrians would go to war. The attack
came sooner than he expected. As he was still tied up with other affairs in Paris.
Though slow-moving, the Austrian attack was initally successful, capturing Munich and
almost splitting the French army in Bavaria in two.
However the picture soon changed when Napoleon arrived on the scene
with the Imperial Guard from Paris. Counter-attacking vigorously he defeated various
Austrian columns at Abensberg, Landshut, Eggmuhl and Ratisbon.
Charles was soon retreating along the north bank of the Danube with Napoleon in pursuit.

Campfires, drums, battles and drill practice, life on campaign with soldiers of the
French 8eme demi brigade

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Battle of Eggmuhl, 1809

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German TV reporters follow the French and Austrian armies. before they clash in one
of the decisive battles of the 1809 campaign in Bavaria. With Napoleon taking
personal command of the Grande Armee. The Austrian invasion is soon turned into
a retreat. As the Archduke loses the first of four battles in Bavaria.

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Four weddings and a battle - bride & groom get a french salute from Napoleons troops
involved in this years 1809 campaign

Siege of Pressburg ( Bratislava ) 27th June to 14th July 1809

During the long march along the Danube, the french encountered defiance from the
Austrains garrisoning the Slovak city of Pressburg ( modern day Bratislava )
Consequently Napoloen orders a siege of the city which lasted 2 months until her final
surrender on the 14th July.
The french continued their march on Vienna without waiting for the city to fall.

French troops besiege Pressburg ( Bratislava ) - Slovak Spectator

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Siege and battle of Bratislava, 27th to 28th June

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French artillery bombarding Bratislava

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Battle of wits across the Danube

On 12th May the French captured Vienna, on the Danube's south bank. The Austrians
shrugged off the loss of their capital, for with Charles's army still intact, north-east of
Vienna, they were still undefeated.
Therefore to bring the Austrians to battle, Napoleon needed to cross the Danube but
with all major bridges blown up or wrecked by the retreating Austrians.
The French had to wait for their pontoon bridges and other bridging equipment to
arrive in Vienna on the 20th May.
The following day, Napoleon launched a major offensive against the Archduke across
the Danube, sending reinforcements via a newly erected pontoon bridge. But the
Archduke anticipated this move and attacked the bridgehead across the Danube
around the villages of Aspern and Essling.
With the French trapped in the villages the Archduke cut off all reinforcements by
smashing the pontoon bridges, using stone laden barges as battering rams.
After a two day battle, Napoleon was forced to abandon the bridgehead to
the Austrians.

Austrian infantry marching towards Wagram

French artillery deployed for battle

Battle of Wagram, 5th to 6th July 1809

Having learnt from his previous mistake of trying to move across the Danube with just
a single bridge as a precarious lifeline, Bonaparte ensured his base, Lobau Island,
was well fortified and linked to the south bank of the river by three guarded spans.
Next a pontoon bridge was used to bridge the river to the enemy-held north bank
and, taking advantage of the bad weather, the French vanguard moved
across only a few kilometres to the east of Aspern-Essling.
The move caught the over-confident Austrians napping and they failed to use their
numbers, some 155,000 men, against the French bridgehead.

Within hours, Bonaparte had a massive area under his control and it would have been
even bigger had not a counterattack from Archduke Charles and his grenadiers
halted French progress.
But Charles had his tail up and early the next morning attacked a key position at Anderklaa,
pushing back Marshal Bernadotte's Saxons. A furious Bonaparte sacked the marshal
on the spot and sent him away from the army. The next time they met on a
battlefield would be on opposite sides.

More Austrian attacks had the vital bridges to Lobau under threat and it was looking
as if once again, Bonaparte had manouevred his men into a very sticky situation.
But reinforcements under Marshal Massena and artillery fire support from the
grand batteries on Lobau stemmed the Austrian advance and then the battle
swung France's way with Marshal Davout pushing back the Austrian left wing.

French & Austrian lines firing

The decisive attack was then unleashed against the Austrian centre by Marshal Macdonald
and, after ferocious fighting, finally broke through Charles' lines, splitting the army and
winning the day for Bonaparte.
The 80,000 killed and wounded were evenly divided between the two armies, but
it was a heavy defeat for the Austrians who sued for peace four days later.

Infantry drill in the French camp

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The Battle of Wagram, 1809

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French cavalry attacking Austrian infantry

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Vienna during the French occupation of 1809

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French cannon firing across the Danube

« Last Edit: 23:03 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Re: Tyrolean peasents revolt against Napoleon
« Reply #55 on: 12:07 10-Sep-2009 »
Tyroleon peasents revolt against Napoleon

You might think its all over for the Austrians but instead we find the
war rumbles on in the Alps. Last weekend french troops, together
with their Bavarian allies endeavoured to hold the Lueg Pass from a
Tyrolean uprising which has been rumbling on for months in the Alps
round Saltzburg.

With pitchforks against bayonets and guns - Saltzburger Nachrichten
newspaper article with video

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Since April, 1809 Anreas Hofer has been the leader of a peasents revolt
against Bavarian rule, following the acquisition of the Tyrolean Alps by
Bavaria ( from Austria ) following the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805.
When Austria attacked Bavaria, the tyrolean rebels enthusiastically rose
up against Franco- Bavarian rule and attacked various french garrisons in
the Alps. Their greatest success being the defeat of Marshall Lefebvre at
the battle of Bergisel on August 14th.

Austrian TV coverage of the Battle of Lueg Pass

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But the Tyrolean rebels found the Austrians were once more, losing the
war against Napoleon. As the french threw the Austrians out of
Bavaria, following it up with a crushing defeat of the Austrain army at
Wagram, near Vienna.
With the Austrains defeated the Tyrolean rebels found themselves isolated
around Saltzburg with the only reinforcements being some 2000 Austrian
regular troops that survived defeat at Wagram.
Undaunted by their precarious position, Andreas Hofers rebels go on the
offensive and backed by regular troops, they attack a French force
holding the Lueg Pass on 25th September, near the town of Golling.
       The rebels led by one of Hofers ablest officers, Joseph Struber moved
his troops across the steep Tennengebirge range, skirting the entrance to
the pass and attacking the Franco-Bavarian force on their flank. The enemy
finding themselves outmanouvered were obliged to make a steady
withdrawl to Hallein.
       By forcing the french to retreat, they relived the city of Saltzburg from
an impending attack from the French. But their defiance didn't last long as
the Austrians were forced to sue for peace at the Treaty of Schonbrunn on
October 14th, which again ceded the Tyrol to Bavaria.

The Battle of Lueg Pass, September 1809 - the complete event program

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Battle of Lueg Pass website:

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TV documentary on the Tyrolean revolt against Napoleon, 1809

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Austrian troops prepare to confront the french in the pass

French infantry regiments forming line in the Tyrol

Austrain troops attacking a French outpost in the Tyrol

The french preparing to lay down their arms and surrender

« Last Edit: 23:04 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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The French invade Slovenia
« Reply #56 on: 11:48 26-Sep-2009 »

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French troops march towards the mountainous passes of Slovenia

French invasion of Austrian Slovenia

In May 1809 a french brigade, under Marshall Macdonald, marched from the french dolomite
states of northern Italy, into the Austrian province of Slovenia, in order to sieze Austria's
adriatic provinces, hoping to cut off all trade and communications with the British in the
Opposing the french battalions, was a much smaller force of 2000 Austrian troops commanded
by General Zach. Who finding that the cream of of the Austrain forces are with the
Archduke Charles, opposing Napoleon.
Zach decides to defend Slovenia against the french as best he can, taking advantage of the
mountainous terrain, that separate the Italian plains from Slovenia.
As Zach's troops retreat before the french into Slovenia, the Austrians decide to
defend the pass of Razdrto, near Pivka astride the all important road to the provincial capital
Ljubljana and onwards to Vienna.
Fortunately for Zach, the austrians had previously fortified the pass with earthworks and redoubts,
followed by an incomplete fort back in 1805.
Therefore Zach stations his men in the redouts with a reserve holding the village of
Razdrto where he awaits the arrival of the french.

French Officers survey the Austrian positions

French cannon fires on the Austrians defending the pass

Austrian troops attacking french infantry

Battle of Razdrto pass

On the morning of the 17th May, battle commenced as french troops under Marshall
MacDonald advanced through the Razdrto pass, led by the 84th & 92nd regiments
of the Broussier division.
The french suffered heavy casulties as they attacked uphill, determined to
capture the strategic heights of Mount Nanos, which commands the mountain pass.
But despite bitter resistance from the Austrians, the french prevailed siezing Mount Nanos.
With Nanos taken, Zach's forces are split in two with himself and the reserve seperated
from the rest of his troops entrenched in the redoubts above Razdrto pass.
Leaving his second in command, Major Cazzon to carry on the fight against
the french in the pass, Zach withdraws his reserve to Ljubljana abandoning the village.
Their now follows three days of heavy fighting as Cazzon's troops, surrounded by the
french in the pass, fight on to retain their entrenched positions.
Finally on the 21st May 1809, Cazzon decides to surrender, having run out of food and water.

Last weekends:
French invasion of Slovenia, Battle of Razdrto Pass, as seen on Slovenian TV

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French cannon being limbered forward to engage the Austrains holding out
in the redoubts

Austrian troops manning the barricades, come under fire

A French infantry column assualts the barricades

French take casualties as they near the Austrian positions

French break through as they assualt the Austrain postions

Historical note - Slovenia, just like Poland, has a certain affection for Napoleon for
freeing them from the Austrians and establishing the first state of Slovenia from 1809 to 1813.

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Slovenian Government Communications office - announces the 200th
anniversary of the arrival of Napoleon's troops to Slovenia

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Slovenian defence minister - Ljubica Jelusic sees last weekends Napoleonic festival

Napoleonic Festival in Pivka - with early 19th century town market and battle preperations

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The Battle of Razdrto pass, May 1809 recreated

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« Last Edit: 23:05 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Re: Back to the Peninsular Wars, Lines of Torres Vedras
« Reply #57 on: 12:08 19-Oct-2009 »

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British & Portuguese position in the autumn of 1809

As expats are aware, the war against Napoleon has had mixed fortunes in Europe.
Following the disastrous retreat through Spain, where the british army only narrowly escaped
capitivty by throwing off the french at Corunna.
Their valiant commander, Sir John Moore was killed in the battle but he bought his troops
enough time, to be evacuated by sea. By the time they reached England, it was a bedraggled
emaciated army that stepped ashore, in testament to the suffering endured during their long
Napoleon's troops, commanded by Soult, didn't rest too long on their laurels in Corruna before
marching into Portugal from the north, securing Oporto by the 28th March.
But Napoleon's hopes of recapturing Lisbon within a month are dashed by the wretched
condition of the roads and the fury of the guerilla war that flares up behind Soult's army.
With Portuguese troops under Francisco Silveira, threatening Soult's left flank at Amarante.
The french invasion grinds to a halt, long enough for british reinforcements under Wellesley to
engage the french at Oporto and drive Soult's troops back across the spanish frontier.
Despite further success in Spain, neutralising the second french force led by Marshall Victor at
The fortunes of war swing once more in Napoleon's favour, as yet another victory against the
Austrians at Wagram, frees more french troops for the spanish campaign.
With Napoleon about to appoint another french marshall, Andrea Massena ( a man famed more
for his greed & letcherous conquests of women, than for his exploits in battle ) who would lead
the next napoleonic invasion of Portugal.

Clickable Map of Spain and Portugal during the Peninsular Wars

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The British army withdraws to Portugal

With the british falling out with their Spanish allies over their conduct at Talavera in July 1809.
Wellesley withdraws to Oroposa, where under threat from a new french force advancing
from Salamanca, under Soult. The British fall back on the fortress border town of Badajoz
before finally retiring into winter quarters in Portugal between October and December 1809.

British general leading his troops out of Spain

With the Napoleon's forces fully engaged on a brutal suppresion of the Spanish revolt, spanish
troops are desperately trying to contain the french reconquest of Spain by holding out for as long
as possible in towns and cities across Spain, with the centre of resistance being Seville
in Andalusia.
No doubt expats have been watching these desparate struggles against Napoleon's troops, as
seen on Spanish news reports, early this month.

Spanish tv news report on Napoleon's troops quelling the spanish uprising

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More film coverage of the War in Spain

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Wellesley orders the construction of the Lines of Torras Vedras

With the military situation deteriorating rapidly in Spain, the british needed to put in place some
means of defence against the next invasion.
Here both the British general Arthur Wellesley and the Portuguese under Major Jose Maria
das Neves Costa, have been surveying the range of hills, north of Lisbon.
Costa submitted his ideas for a line of defence to the Portuguese regency, in the spring of !809.
These ideas were examined and improved upon by Wellesley, who also saw the potential for
setting up a line of forts and redoubts, either side of a range of hills eminating from Torres Vedras.
In October 1809, Wellesley ordered his chief engineer Colonel Sir Richard
Fletcher to survey the area with a view to establishing a couple of defence
lines round the Lisbon peninsular.
On the 20th October a memorandum was issued for the construction of mutually supporting
redoubts and earthworks around the Lisbon peninsular, the work to be carried out with
the utmost secrecy from the outside world.

Lisbon lies at the southern end of a peninsular formed by the Atlantic to the west and the
Tagus to the east. Further north the terrain is mountainous, but the area south of Torres Vedras,
where the defences were built, is hilly, reaching a high point of just over 410m (1,350ft) south of Sobral.
On a detailed map the hills north of Lisbon look to be a complex mess, but in fact the general topography
of the area is quite straightforward. The highest ground is on the western side of the peninsula,
reaching close to the Tagus around Alverca. From that point two lines of higher ground
stretch out towards the Atlantic, one running north west towards Sobral and another running west,
past Bucellas and towards Mafra. This second line is the stronger of the two, with higher
ground most of the way to the Atlantic, and the gap filled by the valley of the River San Lourenco.
The first line (to Sobral) is longer, and its western half is much lower lying.
The valley of the River Zizandre reaches as far as Sobral, but to reach this area the French would
have had to march around the Serra de Monte Junta, which stretches fifteen miles north of the Zizandre
without being crossed by a single good road. The eastern part of the valley was defended by
strong fortifications based around Torres Vedras, while the western part was carefully flooded,
creating an impassable bog.

The Lines of Torres Vedras

Clickable map of the area where the Lines of Torres Vedras was built

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When work first began on the defences of Lisbon, the plan was to build two full lines,
one close to Lisbon to act as a point of final refuge and the second across the peninsula from Alverca
through Mafra, reaching the Atlantic along the River San Lourenco. Further north the line from Alverca
to Sobral, and then on to Torres Vedras was seen as a line of outposts, to be held for as long as possible
and then abandoned, with its defenders falling back to the main line.
When work began on the lines, Wellington expected the French to turn against him at any
moment but instead they invaded Andalusia, and Wellington?s engineers gained an extra year to build
their defences. By the time Wellington finally retreated back into the lines, the first line was
so strong that Wellington decided to make it his main line of defence.

Despite their name, the Lines of Torres Vedras were actually made up of a series of separate
fortifications, carefully placed to provide each other with covering fire.
These forts varied in size from the massive fort at Torres Vedras, designed to hold 5,000 men,
down to small gun emplacements designed to mount three guns and 200 men.

Hundreds of tons of earth were moved in front of the lines. Some of this work was done to remove blind
spots, where the French could have hidden from gunfire from the forts, while in other areas
the hills were cut away to create virtual cliff faces, that the French would have to climb before
they could reach the forts (one of the longest stretches saw a 2000 yard long cliff created near Alhandra).
Sunken roads were filled up and houses demolished to deny the French any cover. In some areas valleys
ran through the lines, and these were filled with an abattis made up of entangled olive trees.
These were very difficult to remove, impossible to actually move through, but did not block grapeshot.

The defensive work continued north of the lines themselves. Wellesleys engineers made preparations to
destroy every road and bridge that the French might use to approach the

The western end of the first line was defended by building dams to block the River Ziznadre.
These created a flooded area several miles long, surrounded by bogs. The dams themselves were
protected by forts that were out of range of any guns in the French field army.

Built in relative secrecy

One of the most impressive things about the construction of the Lines of Torres Vedras
was that their existence was kept almost completely secret from the French, and even to a certain
extent from the British and Portuguese armies. Even some of Fletcher?s engineers are said
not to have realised exactly what they had built. Therefore the French would be in for an
uncomfortable surprise when they finally confront the Lines of Torres Vedras.

Fort de Sao Vincente on the Torres Vedras lines

Here I attach a map showing the four Lines of Torres Vedras - which clearly show that
if Napoleon's troops had broken through the first line, their was a still a second line to
delay the french. Finally if both the first and second lines were to be breached.
Then the british third and fourth lines are positioned to deny the french the high ground
and uninterrupted cannon fire of Lisbon harbour. Thus giving the navy ample
time to evacuate Wellesley's army, as the french begin to encircle the city.

Points of interest, Pero Negro is Wellesleys headquarters behind the lines and Sobral
marks the spot where Massena's army attempted to breach the lines, defended by
the Great Redoubt.

Map of the Four Lines of Torres Vedras

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« Last Edit: 23:08 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Re: Telegraph system on the lines
« Reply #58 on: 20:41 26-Oct-2009 »
Communications on the Lines of Torres Vedras

As work began on the Lines of Torres Vedras, the sheer scale of the defensive positions being
established either side of Torres Vedras and in fall back positions to the south were becoming
Measuring thirty miles in length, the british and portuguese planned to erect 152 forts and
redoubts armed with 534 guns; trenches, escarpments and indentations. Costing 200,000
pounds by the time it was completed in 1812 and garrisoned by 34,000 men.
Because it would be impossible to adequetely defend all areas at once, an effective and
speedy means of communications was required to defend the lines.
For years the army have relied on messengers and dispatch riders ( called gallopers ) to
relay messages to other armies on campaign or troops on the battlefield.
But the poor roads and undulating nature of the ground would make it impossible to
deliver an urgent message in time, if one area of the lines was facing a full scale attack,
while another area was only being threatened by a diversionary assualt.
To this end General Sir Arthur Wellesley ( later Duke of Wellington ) planned to establish a
system of telegraphs. The telegraph, a system of telegraph poles ( on  hills ) with railway
signal type boards to relay messages, invented by the british in 1680 but only really developed
by the french following the french revolution.
The British naval officer defending the Portuguese coast, Admiral George Berkeley took a keen
interest in the debate, as to what sort of telegraph system should be established on the lines
and made his own proposal.

Wellesley's headquarters at Pero Negro

The Optical Telegraph or Semaphore

For more than 200 hundred years the navy have been using a combination of flags, lights and
guns for communicating with other ships at a distance. With flags and pennants being the
preferred methed of relaying messges to other ships in the navy.
Quite recently the Royal Navy had been encountering the Optical telegraph in their war
against Denmark ( 1807 - 1814 ) as the Danes installed an Optical Telegraph system
along the Oslo fjord, to warn their gunboats of the approach of british warships to the port
of Oslo. ( Norway being part of the Danish empire at the time )

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Danish and Norwegian coastguards, scan the horizon for British warships

Danish Optical Telegraph System, guarding the approaches to Oslo

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Therefore Wellesley took on board the Admiral's suggestions and announced a
compromise solution, called the Optical Telegraph, incorporating Pennants and balls.
As illustrated by this fine model that can be found in the museam of Torres Vedras.

Messages were sent in prearranged numerical codes (using Home Popham's
Marine Vocabulary) the numbers being formed through various combinations of balls and flags.
Five signal stations were to be established along the Lines, manned by a team of
british naval officers and sailors, supported by Portuguese soldiers and militia.
The five stations were placed, from east to west, on the heights of Alhandra, the great redoubt
of Sobral, Monte Socorro, in Torres Vedras and at Ponte do Rol. The station in the great redoubt
of Sobral would maintain communication with Lisbon and the English fleet.

The Optical Telegraph re-established on top of Mount Socorro

By early July 1810, the stations were duly completed and manned by sailors. The first trials,
however were not a success. The masts were discovered to be too light for the arms and two
of the masts were pulled over by the weight of their yards. The seamen also found that the
distance between the signal stations was too great for the messages to be easily read and at
Ponte do Rol the signals blended into the background and could not be seen. Stronger masts
therefore had to be erected at each station, better quality telescopes were purchased in
Lisbon and at Ponte do Rol a pinewood was cut down to give a clearer backdrop.

A dispatch rider arrives with news for the Telegraph officer

By 3rd August, Captain J.T. Jones was able to report that he had sent a message from Alhandra
to Mafra in clear weather with no difficulty. Eventually it was found that a message could be sent
twenty-nine miles from the Tagus to the sea in just seven minutes and from Monte Socorro to either
end of the Line in four minutes. Fletcher also ordered Portuguese designed "arm" telegraphs to be
sent to each signal station.
These were simpler to operate and were to constitute a back-up system in case the sailors had
to be recalled to their ships.
« Last Edit: 20:13 01-Jun-2013 by Lt. Campers »
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Offline Lt. Campers

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Re: Defending Lisbon against the French
« Reply #59 on: 01:35 04-Nov-2009 »
Defending Lisbon from Napoleon

As Wellesley's engineers start digging the foundations, for the elaborate series of forts,
redoubts and escarpments, that would become known as the Lines of Torres Vedras.
Some of you have expressed concern about the vulnerability of Wellesley's, Optical Telegraph
posts, to sabotage or surprise attack from the french.
As you rightly point out ( no matter how advanced the telegraph stations are for their time )
the break down or disablement of any one signalling station, could spell disaster for
the british & Portuguese troops defending the lines.

Heres a fine example of a Royal navy landing party attacking a french
Semaphore Station, near Brest

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British use of rockets, during the Napoleonic Wars

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Portuguese documentary on The Lines of Torres Vedras

No doubt Wellesley's troops will not leave the Optical Telegraph stations,
unprotected when the french invade Portugal next year and as if to reassure
the public.
The Portuguese have produced a documentary on the Lines of Torres Vedras,
going into some detail on the mobilisation of troops along the lines; the evacuation
plans in place and the scorched earth policy of denying all food and forage for
Napoleon's french troops, once the refugees have found shelter behind the Lines.
As can be seen from the documentary, Portuguese military officials and historians
have gone into some detail on how they propose to halt Massena's invading army,
long before they reach Lisbon.
Although they envisage much suffering amoungst the people during the invasion,
they are encouraged by the British commitment to Portugal and the Spanish
Peninsular under their commander, Sir Arthur Wellesley.

Portuguese TV documentary, Invasion defending Portugal 1809 - 1810

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Of course all these preperations are being made under some secrecy, so not a word
to anyone.
« Last Edit: 23:10 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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