Author Topic: Back to the Peninsular Wars, events in Portugal and beyond  (Read 146671 times)

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Offline Lt. Campers

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Almeida, August 25th 1810

Following the arrival of heavy siege guns at Marsall Ney's camp before Almeida, the
french have been busy constructing eleven gun batteries with which to bombard
the fortress walls.
The presence of heavy artillery has given Neys troops a new purpose, to break up the
daily routine of digging entrenchments and sniping at the enemy. Within Almeida,
the garrison are making good any improvements to the walls facing the new
batteries and placing their cannon accordingly.
So far no messengers or couriors have broken through the french lines, since
the departure of Crauford's division, following the Combat on the Coa.

Colonel Cox knows that its imperative to hold Almeida for as long as possible, as
Wellington makes good the first line of his three line defense system, that will
become known as the Lines of Torres Vedras. So far none of Massena's french agents
and spies have realised the significance of Wellington's defensive works.

From the following Website - click on the Bicentennial celebrations
of the siege of Almeida - under Schedule of Events, for the complete
program.


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Portuguese press report on the third invasion of Portugal by Napoleon's
troops and the defense of Almeida


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Mounted french officer accompanied by a dragoon, deliver a message
to the Governor of Almeida




French troops exchange fire with the Portuguese garrison



French cannon being manhandled into position at Almeida

« Last Edit: 04:18 07-Sep-2010 by Lt. Campers »
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Almeida Besieged

Headline in Nova Guarda

To mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Coa and Siege of Almeida, the
City will provide four days of historical recreation, on 26-29 this month
with military ceremonies, patrols and lookouts, Sentinels, assaults on
the fortress of Almeida and artillery fire.



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Radio Fronteira will hopefully be carrying live coverage of the Siege of
Almeida


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Almeida - Localvisao Internet TV

Throughout the day and through into the evening, I'm told video clips of the event will be
broadcast on Localvisao Internet TV.

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« Last Edit: 08:06 28-Aug-2010 by Lt. Campers »
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Battle of the Coa followed by the Siege of Almeida



Well what an eventful weekend that was, as expats know both the Battle of the Coa and
the Siege of Almeida were recreated over a bright sunny weekend. As Napoleon's troops
clashed once more with Crauford's light division defending the bridge on the Coa.
For the purposes of the battle over the weekend, highlights of which were broadcast by
Almeida - Localvisao, with further contributions from Bloggers and Podcasts. I've repeated
the outline of the battle as follows.

Combat on the Coa, the french attack

So it was that during the early hours of 24th July, that Ney sent forward two french
divisions commanded by Major Generals Mermet and Loison backed by cavalry
 against Craufords troops. Opposing them over a 3 kilometer front
are 5 battalions of the 43rd foot, the 1st & 3rd Portuguese Cacadores and
elements of the 52nd regiment supported by the 95th Rifles.
Shortly after daybreak Craufords 5 battalions come under determined attack
from 13 battalions of Loisons division but no sooner had this first attack been
checked by intense musketry and rifle fire from Craufords men, than several
hundred troopers of the 3rd Hussars charged into Craufords left flank,
practically annihilating a company of chosen men from the 95th Rifles.

With his line in danger of being rolled up by the French attack from the left,
Crauford orders an immediate retreat to the bridge over the Coa; while
3 battalions of british troops strived to hold back the French, the retreat was
badly delayed by an overturned wagon which necessitates abandoning some
of Crauford's guns to the French.
Nevertheless thanks to resolution of his rear guard, Craufords men make
it safely across the Coa.

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British troops defending the approach road to the bridge from the French




Brigadier General Crauford is seen withdrawing his troops back across the Coa



The Battle for the bridge over the Coa - as recreated last weekend

Having secured their side of the river, the French are in a strong position to
complete their encirclement of Almeida. But Ney, not content with seeing
off the british, is determined to give chase and embarks on a costly attack
on the bridge over the Coa.
Here Craufords troops stand their ground and as Ney sends his best men
forward to clear the bridge, each of the three assaults by Grenadiers and his
elite Chasseurs de la Siege are beaten off with heavy casualties.

The battle ends with both sides licking their wounds and although Ney fails
to encircle and completely defeat Craufords Light Division, he has nevertheless
won the battle by securing the ground needed for Massena to commence
the siege of Almeida.
Meanwhile Crauford continues his withdraw from Almeida after midnight,
completely unmolested by the french.

Exploring officer with his scout, return safely to British lines




British & Portuguese troops fire on French troops approaching the bridge




Marshall Ney's troops exchange fire with the British & Portuguese



A French officer directs fire on the British



French troops mount the bridge and open fire on british troops holding the
other end




Marshall Ney's troops advance as they come under withering fire




They shall not pass, Crauford deploys the 95th Rifles to snipe at the
French crossing the bridge




Crauford's Highlanders return fire on the french



The French attack, falters under the crossfire from British & Portuguese
troops





The French are held back. Crauford has successfully repulsed three
determined attacks across the bridge. The british will now hold their ground
before withdrawing to safety under cover of darkness







British troops executing a perfect fighting withdrawl, when suddenly french
troops attack while theyre falling back & reloading



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Is it a Bridge too far for the French, the Battle of the Coa 1810


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Battle is Joined, elite troops of Loison's division engage Highlanders, Riflemen and
Portuguese troops for control of the Bridge over the Coa


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« Last Edit: 23:53 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Almeida besieged - August 1810



Marshall Ney leads his troops forward to Almeida



French cannon ready to open fire on Almeida




Following the French victory on the Battle of the Coa, the British & Portuguese make ready
to defend Almeida against the french, who have acquired the necessary siege guns to
reduce the fortress.
Again good weather continues as the french complete their encirclement of the fortress
before approaching the bridges over the moats and redoubts.

French infantry backed by cannon, approach the fortress walls



Portuguese troops and militia exchange fire with the french




Colonel Cox reviews the British & Portuguese troops defending Almeida




Colonel Cox orders his men out to confront the french on the fortress walls and redoubts





British open fire on French troops storming the first rampart




More french troops are sent to secure the bridges and approach roads into
Almeida which are hotly contested by the garrison of Almeida





Opening rounds of the artillery barrage on Almeida, August 1810

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The siege drags on through the evening, with the french contesting
the walkway to the main gate


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Siege of Almeida 1810, as presented by Portuguese television

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« Last Edit: 23:54 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Offline Rifleman Plunket

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Sir, I am most impressed with your work, keep up the good work.

Tom
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Powder magazine explosion, forces Governor of Almeida to Surrender

The siege of Almeida ended dramatically last weekend for on the 26th August, at
6am, Ney opened fire with eleven of his heavy siege gun batteries. After a couple
of hours the town was ablaze, with three of the Portuguese bastions pinned down by
such a heavy bombardment, they were unable to return fire. But the walls remained
intact.

That evening, an inexplicable event happened that dashed all hopes of prolonging the
siege much longer. The main powder magazine for the garrison was being held within
an old medieval castle within the fortress walls. At about seven in the evening
the main door to the magazine was open, with a powder convoy about to leave to
resupply the guns on the southern walls. According to the sole survivor of the
disaster. A french shell landed in the castle courtyard, igniting a trail of powder that
led from the wagons leaking barrel, back to the powder magazine door within the castle.
A second barrel, just inside the door exploded, with the blast ignited the main powder
magazine below.
The resulting explosion not only obliterated the old castle but also destroyed the
cathedral nearby and subsequently removed the roofs of all but five houses within
the town.
Over 500 members of the garrison were killed, half of them gunners of the Portuguese
artillery. Some of the stones being blown so far that they killed a number of troops
manning the french siege trenches.

The force of the blast engulfs many of the Portuguese gun emplacements
on the ramparts




The defence of Almeida was effectively over. The only way to move around the town
was on the ramparts, as the interior was completely blocked by ruins. Only 39 barrels
of powder and a few hundred rounds, distributed to the troops manning the ramparts
had survived. Enough for one days fight but no more.

Cox was determined to fight on, or at least long enough to give Wellington a chance
to relieve the garrison, if he can. But this was always a forlorn hope for Wellington
had no intention of attacking Massena's army on the Portuguese border.
Unsurpringly the explosion had totally demoralised the Portuguese garrison, especially
some of the officers. Although Cox attempted to bluff the French, holding a conference
with French officers in a closed casement to hide the damage. Some Portuguese
officers told the French exactly what had happened. When Cox sent Major Barreiros
of the artillery to negotiate with the French, he changes sides and told Mass?na that
there would be no further resistance from the Portuguese.

Reassured by this, Mass?na turned down all of Coxs requests for delays, and at
seven on the evening of the 27th August renewed the bombardment. A delegation of
Portuguese officers then informed Cox that if he did not surrender, they would
open the gates. Cox had no choice but to capitulate. The very next morning 4,000
survivors of the garrison marched out of the town. Under the terms of the surrender
Mass?na had agreed to allow the militia to go home on parole while the regulars were
to be taken to France as prisoners of war.
Mass?na broke this agreement with breathtaking speed, and instead attempted to
recruit these Portuguese prisoners into the french army.

Most of the surviving regulars and 600 of the militia immediately enlisted with the
French giving Wellington a real scare.  If he could not rely on the Portuguese, then
his entire plan of campaign was in jeopardy.
He need not have worried. Over the next few days most of the three batallions
Massena though he had recruited absconded, often in large parties, and made their
way back to the Allied lines. At first Wellington was worried about employing officers
who had theoretically broken their parole, but the Portuguese government had no
such concerns, and as Mass?na had broken his word first Wellingtons concerns
were short-lived.

Portuguese press report on the dramatic explosion at Almeida, followed by the
inevitable surrender by Cox. Of course the presence of the 95th rifles, has led
to some wild speculation about Sharpe but I prefer to ignore them


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Brigadier General William Cox awaits the arrival of Massena, as his troops
surrender to the French at Almeida



    
« Last Edit: 11:56 19-Sep-2010 by Lt. Campers »
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The Napoleonic Invasion continues

Bussaco 1810 - 2010

With Almeida falling to the french. Massena's campaign in Portugal will be
moving swiftly on, as the French general takes a westerly route towards
Lisbon, north of the Mondego river from Almeida to Coimbra and then
onwards down to Lisbon. Blocking Massena's advance to Coimbra will
be the Anglo Portuguese army under the command of Wellington, who will
be concentrating his forces near the village of Bussaco.

Naturally any expats keen to keep abreast of the latest developments on the
Spanish Peninsular, need do no more than mark the following dates in their
diary. Namely that the Battle of Bussaco will be refought over the weekend
of the 25th & 26th September. Although I doubt that it will as big as the
affair at Almeida, it should neverthless prove interesting.
As Sir Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington will be concentrating
his army on the ridge above Bussaco, ready to stop the french march on
Lisbon, dead in its tracks.

Details on the next battle at Bussaco

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Photo's of the 95th Rifles harrasing the French at the Combat on the Coa,
pics courtesy of 95th Rifles


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Once more northern Portugal will be the scene of yet another Napoleonic battle,
as the french invasion continues




« Last Edit: 23:56 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Hungarian Hussars cross southern France

As you know the Hungarian Hussars have moved on since their encounter with the
French 1er regiment de hussards in Tarbes. Latest media reports put them some 25
kilometers north east of Montpellier, at the village of Aimargues.
As they make their way rapidly across southern France towards their next
destination in Italy.

The Hungarian Hussars are receiving the the kind of logistical support and backup
team that Wellington's troops could scarcely dream of back in 1810.

NATO backup team give the Hussars an edge



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Report from the 1er regiment de hussards, regimental journal on
their encounter with the Hungarian hussars


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Hungarain Hussar riding along the river bank - photo courtesy
Int. Hussar patrol




Hussar horses taking a drink in the river, following a long ride
- photo courtesy Int. Hussar patrol




Hussars also taking refreshment after a long day in the saddle
- photo courtesy Int. Hussar patrol





Heres a good Hungarian Hussar film - where we see the Hungarians
fighting the Austrians, during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848


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« Last Edit: 23:57 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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The French are coming

With Almeida garrisoned, Massena's troops have been advancing along the River
Mondego with all the triumphal air of a victory march on Lisbon.
For all looks well for the french, with the border fortresses of Ciudad Rodigo and
Almeida secured to their rear. All that remains to be done is to vanquish Wellington
in battle before pursuing the rest of the british back to their warships on the
Tagus. For how could it be otherwise with the cream of Napoleon's troops at their
disposal, how can Wellington's troops fare any better than the Austrians at
Wagram.

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While his men are dreaming of the plunder to be had in Portugal, their commander
was dreaming of accumulating more gold from his conquests, with which to finance
his amourous conquests in the bedchamber.
Therefore the Portuguese palaces and royal residences are just the sort of
venues for entertaining his ever demanding mistress.

So confident is Massena of obtaining the victory he craves in Portugal, that
hes thrown caution to the wind and smuggled his favourite mistress
into the french army of Portugal, disguised as a Hussar.

Massena's mistress accompanies the french Marshall on campaign




While marching along the Mondego river, Massena's patrols find that
Wellington has set up a fortified position on the south bank. Here the french
were to run into a set of field fortifications on the line of the Alva river,
where the british & Portuguese hoped to delay the french for some
time.
This left Massena with two choices, either he could continue along
the relatively easy route down the Mondego river and assail the
field fortifications, or he could take the northern route over the Mondego
river to Coimbra.
Much to Wellington's surprise, Massena chose the northern route that
 would lead him towards a high ridge that crosses the northern route, at
the village of Bussaco.
Here Wellington, hopes to challange the french in open battle and makes
his dispositions accordingly.

Finally as Massena continues his advance. Wellington and the Portuguese regency
impose a scorched earth policy, by persuading the Portuguese peasents
and labourers to abandon all villages in the invaders path. By removing all livestock
and destroying the harvest. In short, nothing should be left for the enemy, as the
people are told to seek refuge behind the Lines of Torres Vedras.

Newspaper article on the scorched earth policy of denying sustenance
to the enemy


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Portuguese troops supported by camp followers, stand guard
over a Mondego river crossing





Latest news from the Hungarian hussars as they press on through Italy
towards their next destination in Slovenia, along the way they visited a
couple of Napoleon's old battlefields


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« Last Edit: 01:15 26-Sep-2010 by Lt. Campers »
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Offline Rifleman Plunket

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Excellent photos Sir, looking forward to Bussaco.  I am working on my commemoration of that battle too.  See my website???  Tom
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Excellent photos Sir, looking forward to Bussaco.  I am working on my commemoration of that battle too.  See my website???  Tom

Atten ......... shun, Rifleman. There is no problem providing a direct link to your website:


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"When surrounded by the dark void of the wilfully blind, it does not excuse those that are a spark of light their duty to shine" - Pompey Nik

Offline Lt. Campers

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Quite right Carl,

As theirs quite a following by other interested people and groups in the Peninsular
War. I might as well mention the other groups and individuals I've corresponded with
concerning events on the Spanish Peninsular.

Memorials and Re-enactment

Also ( for the benefit of the wider audience ) please bear in mind that many of the
battle re-enactments are recreated ( whenever possible ) on the actual battlefield.
The Napoleonic Wars like many wars, is a human tragedy in terms of the grevious loss
of life suffered by both sides during the Napoleonic conflict.
Many of the battle re-enactments like the recent Combat on the Coa are followed by
a memorial service and wreath laying. In memory of the fallen on both sides.

So in a sense you can call them memorial battles but at least their sacrifice is not
forgotten in the wider conflict that is the Napoleonic Wars.
For as you know historians tend to concentrate on the big battles and the turning point
event in many wars and forget about the other campaigns and battles that are 'in their
minds' only periphery to the crucial stages of the war.
For Spain and Portugal the Peninsular Wars was the main event, against french domination
by Napoleon. As Spain always refers to the Peninsular Wars as their War of Independence
against the French.
Of course Britain was involved but only initially in response to a request for help from
Spain and Portugal. The request from Portugal being especially poignant as Portugal has
and always will be Britains oldest ally in Europe, with bi-lateral trading ties dating back to
medieval times. Hence Portugals refusal to join a trade embargo on Britain.

Portsmouth Napoleonic Society

Anyway the other groups and parties that are following the Peninsular Wars are the
Portsmouth Napoleonic Society. An historical model soldier and wargaming club who
have moved into historical research on the period. With Portsmouths association with
the Royal Navy, Nelson & Trafalgar its no surprise theirs an active Napoleonic club
their. But with the Peninsular War re-enactments taking place in Span & Portugal their
interests have moved onto other Napoleonic conflicts and to this end, they are flying
out a party of enthusiasts to observe the Napoleonic re-enactment at Bussaco this
weekend.



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They have also presented a very imaginative diorama of the Dos de Mayo - the
Spanish uprising in Madrid 1808. Which they displayed at a recent exhibition in
the UK.

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Portuguese commemorative stamps of the Peninsular War





Ties of Blood trilogy

A new set of Napoleonic War novels set during the Peninsular Wars, could this
be the start of another set of adventures like the Sharpe series ?
The stories are by a new author Peter Youds whose first novel. Alone with
Glory, introduces the main characters to his book.

Introduction to first book - Alone with Glory

It is 1808 and Napoleon commands mainland Europe. The Grande Armie is in
the process of conquering Spain and Portugal, a final piece in the Emperors jigsaw.
The British send help. Despite being confronted by the threat of Napoleon himself,
backed by a huge army of veterans, Sir John Moore bravely decides to head into
Spain and face the French.

Two of Moores officers on this campaign are the half-brothers Tom Herryck and
Robert Blunt, the one a Royal Engineer, the other an experienced light infantry
officer. Different kinds of men, but fiercely loyal to the army and to one another,
these two become caught up in the gripping events that lead to the
excitement and tragedy of Corunna.
 
The story is the first in the Ties of Blood series which follows the adventures of
a colourful cast of characters, both real and imagined, through the gripping drama
of the Peninsular War. Featuring sieges and battles, love and death, honour and
betrayal, a continuing drama which would take its final curtain some seven years
later, on the bloody fields of Waterloo.

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I've yet to read any of his books but they are sure to be of interest to anyone who
loves reading historical adventure novels set during the Napoleonic Wars.
« Last Edit: 04:53 26-Sep-2010 by Lt. Campers »
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The French score a naval victory over the British

Although perhaps of little consequence to expats, news has been trickling through
of a disaster in British naval operations against a fast frigate squadron under the
command of Commodore Jacques Hamelin at Grand Port in Mauritius.

Background to the Indian Ocean campaign

The Indian Ocean formed an essential part of a network of trade routes that
connected the British Empire. Heavily laden East Indiamen travelled from
British Indian port cities such as Bombay or Calcutta to the UK carrying
millions of pounds worth of goods. From Britain, the ships returned on
the same routes, often carrying soldiers for the growing British Indian Army.

The French held a number of islands in the Indian Ocean, the largest of which is
Mauritius ( Ile de France ) and Reunion ( Ile Bonaparte )
The French recognised the importance of these islands as a base of operations for
French privateers and warships to raid the British East India trade routes and convoys.
Therefore early in 1809, the french naval authorities, ordered five large modern
frigates to sail to IIe de France under the command of Commodore Jacques
Hamelin.
Four of these ships broke through the British blockade of the French coast,
arriving in the Indian Ocean by the spring of 1809, where Hamelin dispersed them
into the Bay of Bengal with orders to intercept, attack, capture or destroy the
many heavily armed but extremely valuable convoys of the British East India company.
The British responded by sending Commodore Josias Rowley to take command of the
of a hastily assembled force comprised mainly of old warships, that were gathered
at the Cape of Good Hope.

Indian Ocean campaign in fiction

The conflict has been covered by one Napoleonic Wars author Patrick O'Brian, in
his Jack Aubrey book - The Mauritious Command.
Note: Jack Aubrey was the same fictional hero in the film Master & Commander.

Part of the French squadron at Grand Port




British defeat at the Battle of Grand Port, August 1810

As always, news is slow concerning the other theatres of war during the
Napoleonic Wars with the naval conflict in the Indian Ocean being but a
sideshow in the greater european conflict. A situation thats exasperated by
the great distances involved for fast packet ships and schooners carrying
dispatches to reach european waters.

Of course when the news reached Admiralty house in London, you can be sure
the Sea Lords of the Admiralty choked on their morning coffee, as they read
with disbelief at the unprecedented losses suffered by the Royal Navies, Indian
Ocean squadron. A total of four frigates and their entire crew, either killed or captured
in what was to prove to be the bloodiest frigate battle of the Napoleonic Wars.

Following Nelson's naval victory over the french at Trafalgar in 1805, the british have
become accustomed to total naval supriority over the french, with whats left of
the Emperor's grand fleet being bottled up in the French naval ports of Boulogne,
Brest, La Rochelle and Toulon.
The only issue that ever arises when the french do venture out to fight is,
how best to split the prize money amoungst the various competing Captains, eager
to board the striken french ships after being suitably peppered by a full timber
shattering british broadside.

With the army enjoying only mixed fortunes against the French on the Peninsular.
The navy are keen to safeguard their untarnished reputation and choose to
supress the report, hoping to keep things under wraps until such time as
the British naval commander in the Indian Ocean, can turn the tables on
Commodore Jacques Hamelin and his french naval squadron in Mauritius.

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Of course in France, the news is met with rapturous celebrations, particularly in
french naval circles where the french could scarcely dream of naval success
until the news from Mauritius.

The British tradition of keeping our naval reverses under the pillow, continues to
this day where the 200 anniversary of Napoleons naval victory at the Battle
of Grand Port has barely been mentioned, except as an aside in some british
newspapers.

Recent celebrations in Paris & Mauritious

The same can not be true in France where the Battle of Grand Port is included
amoungst the list of French victories on the Arc de Triomphe. The Mauritius
government has also been celebrating the Battle of Grand Port and on the
31st August. Prime minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam was invited to Paris
by President Nicholas Sarkozy, to attend a special wreath laying ceremony at the
Arc de Triomphe, in honour of the French naval victory in Mauritius.

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Of course one can only imagine how the French celebrated the
rarest of naval victories over the british royal navy. But I can do
better than that and include a Radio RFI France english broadcast of
the victory celebrations at the Arc de Triomphe.

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French celebrations spark Mauritius debate

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Not a pretty sight for the Admiralty, british ships surrendering to the
French - how can it be ?


« Last Edit: 06:33 28-Sep-2010 by Lt. Campers »
The first in the field and the last from the Taverna.

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Massena's army face Wellington at Bussaco

Luso, Portugal - Saturday 25th September 1810

A large force of 65,000 French troops under the command of Marshall Andre Massena
have been marching along the road to Coimbra when his advance guard encounters
Field Marshall Beresford's, Portuguese Cacadores ( light infantry ) before the villages
of Luso, Moura and Sula.
Here a fire fight develops as more french troops arrive on the scene. The Portuguese are
soon forced to retire to Luso, where Wellington has deployed the 44th East Essex, to
stiffen the Portuguese resolve. As Ney moves more men forward, a street battle
develops as the british contest the road to Bussaco.

British & Portuguese troops fight Massena's men, in the streets of Luso

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But for the british this is a rearguard action designed to slow down and impede the
French, as Wellington makes good his dispositions on the ridge of Bussaco. So the
british & portuguese fall back leaving the french to secure Luso, followed by Moura 
and Sula. Massena is happy to take these villages, as he deploys Ney's Corps along the
side of the road facing the high ridge commanding the road through to Coimbra.

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Portuguese infantry, led by mounted british officers, exchange fire
with the french as they fall back to the ridge at Bussaco





The Ridge at Bussaco

These are just the preliminery rounds of the battle thats sure to develop over the
weekend. As Wellington's army look down from their prepared positions ( along the ridge )
onto Massena's army deploying in the valley below.
Here the british position was a strong one as thanks to Wellington's gift for working out
the lie of the land to his advantage. He determined that the ridge was a strong natural
feature, that should be defended. Its certainly an imposing feature starting from the
Mondego river, its a long narrow, steep sided ridge that rises to its highest point at
Bussaco at an altitude of 560m. The ridge then turns north and losses some of its
height but not its steep sides, as it continues through into the mountains.

The main road to Coimbra crosses the ridge at a height of 400m,  north of Bussaco.
If  Massena were continue along the road up the ridge, he would soon come under
heavy fire from the British & Portuguese troops enscounced on the ridge. As the main
road turns right, to run north below the ridge before reaching its crossing point
over the ridge, just north of Bussaco.

The position of the Anglo-Portuguese army at Bussaco

Although Wellington was surprised by the French taking the northern route to
Lisbon via Coimbra. He wasn't unprepared for it and therefore prepared his
ground accordingly. The biggest problem with the ridge being that it extended
for nine miles, either side of Bussaco and therefore his 51,000 troops would be
stretched rather thinly. He therefore ordered his engineers to construct a
lateral communications road along the ridge ( in the time leading upto the
invasion ) in order that his men can be concentraed quickly at likely points of
attack.




Massena's army deploys at Bussaco

On the morning of the 26th September, Massena deployed his army below the ridge,
with Ney's Corps on the right, Junot's Corps in the centre and Reyniers Corps on
the left.
With the ridge obscuring most of Wellington's army, Massena and his officers could
only guess where his weakest position could be and therefore much of the day was
spent probing the Anglo Portuguese position.
The initial assesment by Ney was that the british might only have left a
covering force ( a rearguard ) on the ridge and that it could be easily driven off by
a full frontal assualt. Massena came forward and agreed with this, ordering
the assualt for tomorrow morning.
As for Wellington, he was keen to keep most of his army, out of sight of the
french and therefore positioned his infantry accordingly, on the reverse slope of
the ridge.
From his position at Bussaco, Wellington noted that the lowest part of the ridge was
crossed by a minor road from Santo Antonio do Cantaro to Palheiros, and it
was here that Wellington expected the french to strike first.
At daybreak on the 27th Wellington positioned himself above the
Palheiros road. Although the valley floor and the lower slopes of the ridge were
shrouded by early morning mist, the enemy could clearly be heard stiring as first
the sound of drums & fifes and then the heavy tread of french boots could
be heard pounding in the valley below.

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« Last Edit: 23:58 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
The first in the field and the last from the Taverna.

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Monday morning coverage on the Battle of Bussaco




As expats know today marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bussaco, that was
refought some 16km north, north east of Coimbra yesterday.
As usual early reports from the battlefield are sketchy, with the best account coming
from the Diario de Coimbra, who's intrepid reporters brought back this account of
the french assualt on Wellington's position at Bussaco.

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An account of the Battle of Bussaco

The first attack was carried out by Reyniers corps, advancing up the minor southern
road, Massena?s assumption being that this would take the French behind the British
right flank.
Once Reynier was established on the crest Neys corps would advance up the main
road to Busaco at the northern end of the ridge. But far from being held by a rearguard,
on the ridge they encountered the entire Anglo-Portuguses army of 50,000 British and
Portuguese infantry supported by 60 guns.

Reynier's troops struck in the early morning mist. Heudelet sent his leading brigade
straight up the slope in a formation one company wide and eight battalions deep.
When the leading regiment reached the top of the ridge, they found themselves facing
the 74th Foot and two Portuguese battalions in line, plus 12 cannon.
The French tried to change formation from column into a line. Pelet says, "The column
began to deploy as if at an exercise. But the Allies brought intense musketry to bear.
Soon, the French infantrymen were thrown into confusion. However, they clung to a
precarious toehold on the ridge.

Several hundred yards to the north, Merle's division thrust up the ridge in a similar
formation. Picton hurriedly massed his defenders by utilizing the ridgetop road.
Met at the crest by the 88th Foot and the 45th Foot and two Portuguese battalions in
a concave line, the French tried unsuccessfully to deploy into line. Crushed by
converging fire, the French fled down the slope.

Seeing Heudelet's second brigade standing immobile at the foot of the ridge, Reynier
rode up to Maximilien Foy and demanded an immediate attack. With the Allies out
of position after defeating the first two attacks, Foy hit a weak spot in their defences.
Fortuitously, the French struck the least prepared unit in the Allied army a Portuguese
militia unit and routed it.
But the morning mist cleared, revealing no enemies in front of the British right flank.

Hearing gunfire, Ney assumed Reynier's men were enjoying success and ordered an
attack. In this quarter, the main highway climbed a long spur past the hamlets of Moura
and Sula to reach the crest at the Convent of Bussaco.
Against a very heavy British skirmish line, Loison's division fought its way forward.
Near the crest, 1,800 men of the 1/43rd and 1/52nd Light Infantry battalions lay down
waiting. As Loison's leading brigade approached the convent grounds, the two British
units stood up, fired a terrific volley at point blank range and charged with the bayonet.
The French brigade collapsed and fled leaving Edouard Simon, their commander,
wounded and a prisoner.

A short time later and slightly further south, Loison's second brigade under Claude
Ferey ran into close-range fire from two batteries plus Anglo-Portuguese musketry.
This unit was also routed. A final thrust by Antoine Maucune's brigade of Marchand's
division met defeat when it ran into Pack's Portuguese brigade. The two sides then
spent the rest of the day in skirmishing, but the French did not try to attack in
force again.


Film of the french assualts on the Ridge of Bussaco


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Yes the french are getting pretty thin on the ground in the final assualt


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Theirs also these video accounts of the battle on sunday

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The Battle was also reported on Portuguese National TV channel - RTP

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The French turn Wellington's flank

Although Wellington beats off the French assualt on the ridge at Bussaco, leaving the
french to recoil back down the valley with heavy casulties. The french had failed miserably
to dislodge Wellingtons troops with both left & right flank attacks being beaten off
decisively.
The following day sees Massena trying to find a way around the allied position, so sending
out scouts his patrols soon find a suitable pass round the ridge, only nine miles to the
north.
So by the end of the 28th Setptember, the first french troops are marching down the
northern pass. With his left flank turned, Wellington has no choice but to fall back to
Coimbra and back towards his prepared position along the Lines of Torres Vedras.

The final video sees Massena's troops securing the now vacant ridge above Bussaco
( following the allied withdraw ) where they raise a cheer for the Emperor, Napoleon
Bonaparte.

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Portuguese artillery about to open fire at Bussaco



« Last Edit: 00:01 29-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
The first in the field and the last from the Taverna.