« PreviousContinue »
ately, and proudly, knelt down, prayed to God and the Virgin Mary, and thus awaited his death. We raised him, and at night he was sent to head-quarters. If these men had known how to fight as well as how to die, we should not so easily have passed the Pyrenees.” P. 48.
Another obstacle, which presented itself at every step, was the difficulty of marching through a country abounding in dea files, without a single guide to give information concerning the road, or the position of the enemy. Believing theinselves to be close upon the rear of the Spanish forces, the French frequently marched night and day without stopping, in a directly contrary direction to that which would have led them
their enemies, who once met in open field, were always defeated. Sometimes obliged to search for their cantonments by the aid of defective maps, they marched and counter-marched in mist and darkness and silence, halting at every hundred paces, while those who were at the head of the column, groped their way between the rocks : presently alighting and proceeding in file, they repeated by turns the warnings of holes or precipices, given in an under voice, in order not to awake a corps, whose half-extinguished fires appeared on the other side of a deep ravine, till at last the rising of the moon shewed thein that they were nearly in the place from which they had set out thirty hours before, and they at length saw at the bottom of the valley, the village where they should have passed the night. Sometimes the
children were trained to mislead them. boy of eight years old was playing about among the horses ; he offered himself as a guide, and led a small party of hussars straight to an ambuscade. When he reached it, he suddenly ran off towards the rocks, throwing up his bonnet in the air, and crying with all his might, “ Long live our King, Ferdinand VII!" and the firing instantly commenced. Once a peasant was seen sitting in an olive tree, busily cutting the branches with a hatchet; the French were about two musquet shots from a dangerous pass, and M. Rocca galloped on before the detachment to ask him if he had not seen the Serranos ; he answered, still eagerly continuing his work, that his employment did not leave him leisure to attend to what passed around him. They afterwards learned that he was one of them, and was cutting those branches to bar
Five minutes afterwards, in passing along a narrow and slippery path, bounded by very thick garden hedges, and where they were obliged to march one by one, the Serranos suddenly started from their ainbuscade of brushwood, killed some of the detachment, and severely wounded in two places M. Rocca himself. At another time, the clergy and alcades of the villages through which they
passed VOL. IV. NOVEMBER, 1815.
A young passed, brought them refreshinents with feigned zeal, in order to delay their march. There was not a peasant, of whatever age, who did not endeavour to deceive them, by declaring they had seen wone of their partizans, while thousands were lying hid around them, wherever the nature of the ground favoured their concealment, ready to start up, like the ambushed warriors of Rhoderic Dhu, at the first instant which promised them a successful attack.
Miseries of another kind were presented by the difficulty of procuring forage. At the approach of the French, every village was deserted, and before the departure of the peasants, they walled up all that they could not carry away with them. In time the soldiers became expert at discovering the biding places of their retreating and invincible foe: they were in the habit of measuring the outer dimensions of the empty houses, and then the inner apartments, to discover if any space had been taken from them. Whenever the doors, which were always carefully tocked, resisted the foree of great stones or hatchets, the grenadiers fired pointblapk into the keyholes. Sometimes they discovered provisions, or jars of wine, buried deep in the earth; but more commonly, to use their own expressions, “ the mills were destroyed, the wine-casks stove in the streets, the corn burned, and even the furniture broken; they saw neither horse, por mule, nor ass, nor cow, 11or goat.” Moniteur, Nov. 30, 1810. Thus they lived by chance as it were, passing whole weeks without bread, and without being able to procure barley for their horses, or even straw, without sending parties of thirty or forty hussars, three or four times a week, to cut it several leagues from their cantonment; and as their weakness did not permit them to escort the foragers, they were obliged te elude the vigilance of the peasantry, either by taking a different road every day, or by going a great way about, to avoid the dangerons bill passes. At one time they fed upon the beasts of burthen which carried the baggage and biscuit with which they had been served for a limited number of days before they entered Portugal; and at Olbera, when the inhabitants were ordered to prepare rations for the troops, they brought an ass cut up in quarters, instead of a young ox;-the hussars thought the veal, As they called it, tasted very flat, but it was not till long afterNards that they learnt the trick from the mountaineers themselves, who used to ciy out, as they fired at them from their inaccessible fastnesses, Vous uvez mangé de l'áne à Olberu the greatest affrout, in their opinion, that could be offered to Christians. The apparent good will of the peasants were even still more dangerous than their declared enmity : they would sometimes invite the French to a feast at their arrival in a town,
and would endeavour to intoxicate the soldiers : they then called in the partizans, and pointed out during the night ihe houses in which their enemies had imprudently trusted themselves. At Moron, says M. Rocca,
“ Nous prîmes le parti de nous loger tous ensemble dans trois auberges voisines. Si nous nous étions dispersés, pour passer là nuit dans les maisons des habitans, comme nous pouvions le faire avec sûreté dans les plaines, nous aurions probablement été tous égorgés pendant la nuit.”
Lord Wellington did not fail to profit by this spirit of the insurgents, as they were insolently called by men, who, in the strong and indignant language of the Junta, judging of the Spapiards by " their own degraded hearts, found nothing in them but baseness when they were weak, and atrocity when they were strong.
He left the French to the vengeance of the invaded people, and by following a plan well and deeply calculated, made them struggle with hunger and disease, the eternal scourges of conquering armies, when they are not called upon and seconded by the wishes of the nation they invade.
Not unfrequently the French would recognize among their unceasing annoyers, their hosts of the preceding night, for no sooner had the trumpets sounded the reveillée at suprise, than the shepherd's horn was heard rousing the mountaineers on the tops of the neighbouring hills; these were soon joined by the inhabitants of the villages in the valley, who would go out of the town with their tools, as if they were going to work in the fields; and as soon as they were secure from observation, they sought their guns, which were buried, or safely hid in the farm-houses, would make use of them all day, and at night returned again to the town, and slept quietly in the midst of their unwelcome guests. This plan of burying their arms was universally practised; whenever the alcades were ordered to disarm a village, the useless weapons were readily given up, but such as were serviceable were carefully secreted and manfully used at the first favourable opportunity. The husbandman always guided his plough with one hand, and held his unsheathed sword in the other; and the popular pastime among the labourers of Ronda was to sit among the rocks in the olive groves at the end of the suburb, and smoke segars while they fired upou the French videttes. In Biscay and Navarre, the alcades, with the women and children, came out of the towns to meet them, as if all had been at peace, and no noise was heard but that of tbe smiths' hammers; but the moment they departed, all labour ceased, and the inhabitants seized their arms to harass the detachments among the rocks, and attack the stragglers and rear
guards. This mode of warfare, and their incessant incursions, procured them the appropriate name of mountain flies.
The animosity of the women was of a still more ferocious character than that of the men; and another proof is thus added, if proof was wanting, that the deadliest and fiercest, as well as the softest and tenderest passions, can alike be pursed and ripened in the female breast. The Spanish womeir dreadfully exemplified this truthi ; and not even the sacredness of their cause can prevent our disgust, when we hear of their throwing themselves with horrible shrieks upon the wounded, disputing who should kill them by the most cruel tortures, stabbing their eyes with knives and scissars, and exulting with ferocious joy at the sight of their blood. The conscience of M. Rocca makes him remark too mildly : “L'excès de leur juste furente contre ceux qui venaient envahir leur pays, les avait entièrement dénaturées.” What must be the fearful respon. sibility of that man, whose proud and guilty ambition has been the spring and source of every species of crime, round whom revolve the wicked of every nation on the continent, as the centre of demoralization and enormity; to submit to whom, was to become the associate and partaker of his guilt, while to resist him, was to degenerate into furies and ministers of blood. Sometimes, however, the women are represented as performing a part less unsuited to their character: they would dress themiselves in English stuffs, on which the pictures of Ferdinand VII. and the Spanish generals most distiuguished in the war, were painted; or placing themselves on the rocks to see the French pass below them, they sung patriotic songs, in which they wished destruction to all the French, the Grand Duke of Berg, and to Napoleon. The burden of the song was always the crowing of a cock, which they considered as the emblem of France. At a village near Campillos, the women dressed according to the custom of the country, in pale blue and red clothes, and seated themselves, as usual, on the heights, to witness a battle which was expected to take place in the plains below : on the approacb of the French riflemen, they all rose at once, and sung the hymn to the Virgin Mary : at this signal, the Spaniards, from their thousand retreats, fired a shower of balls, and upon the retreat of the French, the women came down from the rocks, tore the guns from their busbauds hands, and placed themselves before them, to force them to advance and pursue the enemy beyond a wooden bridge, which it was necessary for them to pass. As might be imagined, the sight of the French wheeling about and facing them, made them return precipitately to the top of their hills. This fermentation, which was general throughout the coun
try, and equally pervaded all sexes, ages, and professions, men, women, children, and monks, was kept alive by ihe hands of Serranos or Guerrillas, who scoured the provinces from the mountains to the coast, and at one time were essentially useful, by keeping up the communications between Cadiz and the interior of Spain. These hordes, always undisciplined and unaccoutred, and for the most part unarmed, or furnished with whatever weapon chance might supply, sometimes three or four hundred, sometimes three or four thousand strong, or even more numerous, were led by those of their own body, who had given the greatest proofs of zeal, or addrexs, or animosity to the French ; and that they might present the idea of regularly organised troops, these chiefs were always invested with the title of general, brigadier general, or commander in chief of the mountain army. Such men were Francisquito, or little Francis, Ventura Ximenez, who spread terror from Badajos to Toledo, Don Julian Sanchez in Old Castile and Leon, Longa in Arragon, and the well known Mina in Navarre. They were sometimes known by the name of their profession, as el pastor, el medico, el contacero the potter. The Empecinado is well known, and the explanation of his name is given in the Edinburgh Annual Register for 1810. This man, after his whole family liad been murdered by the French, and the women had endured horrors worse than death, smeared himself in the first agony of his grief with pitch, (pez) as the Jews used to throw ashes on their heads, and vowed never to cease from seeking vengeance while a a single Frenchman remained alive in Spain. M. Rocca gives the following account of another chief of less notoriety,
“ L'homme qui exerçait le plus d'influence sur ces hordes indisciplinées, était un nommé Cura, natif de la Valence, où il avait été professeur de mathématiques. Forcé de s'exiler de sa patrie, après avoir tué un homme par jalousie, il s'était réfugié chez les contrebandiers pour échapper aux poursuites de la justice. Il avait répandu sourdement qu'il était de la plus haute, naissance, et que des raisons de politique le forçaient à rester inconnu. Les montagnards l'avaient surnommé l'inconnu au grand bonnet, parcequ'il affectait de porter un bonnet à la mode du pays, d'une grandeur démesurée, afin d'attirer sur lui l'atten, tion. Cette espèce d'existence mystérieuse lui donnait un grand empire sur les esprits. L'inconnu au grand bonnet leva un mois après de fortes contributions sur divers villages des montagnes, sous le prétexte d'aller acheter des armes et des munitions ; il essaya d'échapper avec l'argent qui lui avait été confié, mais il fut pris et puni.” P. 299.
These disorderly troops were contemptuously styled robbers by the French, and sometimes a deep defile or the whole side