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Suchet: War in Spain
Chapter 8b
Description of Tortosa. – Investment of the fortress. – Opening of the trenches. – Operations of the breaches. – Occupation of the tete-de-pont. – Descent of the ditch. – The fortress offers to capitulate. – The firing re-commences. – General Suchet enters the town, and compels the governor to capitulate.

On the 22nd the parallel of fort Orleans being in a great measure finished, we debouched by a passage of twenty-five toises in length, executed by flying sap with an amorce of the second parallel on the edge of the ravine. We attempted to debouch in a similar manner on the right, but the ground was so difficult and so bare of earth that during the day the guns of the fort destroyed the works, and compelled us to abandon them. In the attack on Saint Peter we opened two trenches, by which to push forward, the one. opposite the half moon of the temple, where we gained about thirty toises in advance, by means of a zig-zag of eighty ; and the other, which was forty toises, and which lay opposite to the demi-bastion of San Pedro. By these several approaches, we got within forty toises of the place of arms. During the night the enemy threw a number of fire balls on our men, and kept harassing us by showers of grape and musketry from the covered ways. On the right we were obliged to suspend our operations in consequence of these interruptions and in the centre, several attempts at sorties were repelled. The labourers of the 2nd and 3rd of the Vistula rendered themselves conspicuous for their bravery on these occasions. and fought under the command of the captains of engineers, Hudry and Foucauld, as guards of the trenches. The two sides of the second parallel were amorced at thirty toises only from the demi-bastion, but at fifty toises from the half moon, in order to protect it, in the latter case, from the destructive fire of the castle of Orleans.

On the left bank the enemy attempted a sortie by means of the tete-de-pont, but were checked by the 114th and 115th. As the left of our trench admitted of being turned, it was strengthened with a redoubt; and in the meantime the erection of the batteries was carried on with the utmost activity. Those on the right had to be established on a piece of rocky ground, and frequently on the rock itself, and thus demanded much painful labour; a great number of our men were wounded in the course of their erection, as the Spaniards did not fire less than 1,000 or 1,200 balls in the course of a day.

On the night of the 25th, about eleven o'clock, a tremendous fire opened from the fortress, and under cover of it a sortie was directed against the second parallel of attack at San Pedro's battery. This sortie was met and repulsed by the soldiers of the 44th. The fire then re-commenced, and our trenches were inundated with showers of grape, grenades and stones, and at one o'clock in the morning another sortie was made. But the enemy was hemmed in by our works, and found it impossible to open his ranks; the guards of the trenches in consequence, and the labourers themselves, repulsed his attempts and compelled him once more to enter the fort. The captain of engineers, Poussin, took advantage of this moment to advance by sap from the second parallel, and pushing forward upon the place of arms of the demi-bastion of San Pedro, succeeded in arriving within twelve toises of the palisadoes. We debouched also upon the capital of the half moon of the Temple by a double sap, the one straight and the other traversing; in front of the fort Orleans also, we lengthened the second parallel as far as the reverse of the plateaux, and continued to work it deeper in the rock on the right bank : in the meanwhile we had finished the parallel and the redoubt on the left. At day-break on the 26th, the fire of the enemy was much less brisk than usual, in consequence of the second parallel being lined with sharp-shooters, stationed behind bags of earth with loop-holes, who, by the uninterrupted fire kept up, very much annoyed the Spanish gunners, and compelled them to close their embrasure. General Valee, who had charge of the construction of the batteries, distributed the command of them according to the number of points to be attacked between the chefs-de-bataillon, Ricci, Capelle and Ducbaud ; Ricci taking those on the right, Capelle the centre, and Duchaud the left, which were situated on the right bank of the Ebro. The batteries Nos. 1, 2 and 3 were intended for the attack on fort Orleans and the works of the place which lay in the rear of it; Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7 were directed against the town, but principally against the demi-bastion of San Pedro, which was the real object of our attack; Nos. 8, 9, 10 were to second the attack on the demi-bastion and to fire at the same time on the bridge and quays of the town. The battery No. 1 could not be commenced until after the labours of the engineers had advanced to the very spot fixed on, and it was commenced in open day and without any cover, at length within fifty toises of fort Orleans.

These various works were prosecuted with the constancy that is peculiar to the artillery. The gunners set the example, and the officers and chiefs who conducted the attack, excited to the utmost the zeal of every one engaged, while the commander-in-chief sustained the spirits of the men by his presence and the encouragement he held out to them. The advance upon the place of arms of the demi-bastion of San Pedro, was continued by sap from the 26th till the 27th. The enemy, who had thrown an immense number of grenades from the salient angle of the demibastion suddenly passed through the palisadoes of the covered way, and falling pell-mell on the head of the sap, threw our workmen Into confusion.

Clause, a sergeant of the sappers, a brave fellow who bore the cross of the legion of honour, stood firm as a rock, and kept the Spaniards that charged him at bay by his solitary opposition, until he was struck down severely wounded. The captain of the sappers, Foucauld, with his customary activity, placed himself at the head of the troops of the trenches, drove the Spaniards back to the place of arms, followed them thither, and chased them from it. We made immediately every exertion to finish, by flying sap, a communication as far as the salient angle of the place of arms, where our brave fellows had effected a lodgment. In this sharp action captain Foucauld was struck by a ball, and Lemercier, the lieutenant of engineers, received one through his arm ; we had, besides two officers, twenty-five men - infantry - killed, and a number of others, as well as many of our sappers, wounded. The work was, notwithstanding, finished and the enemy finally driven from the place of arms. The advance on the capital of the half moon was prosecuted during the same night, and we gained about fourteen toises; but at day-light, the artillery of the enemy so harassed the heads of our sap that we were compelled to suspend our labours.

Next day we followed up the crown-work of the place of arms by flying sap, but our workmen were in so doing, received by so sharp a fire of musketry, that they first hesitated and then fell back in disorder, although the captain of engineers, Tardivi, by his firmness, and the officers of infantry, by their example, at length succeeded in restoring order among, them. We did not, however, push this crown-work farther, lest we should impede the fire of the artillery, which was then ready to open against the place. The advance upon the half-moon was continued for ten toises farther, and we amorced a demi-place of arms in order to support, if necessary, the heads of our saps, which were now at a considerable distance from the second parallel.

The Spaniards, alarmed at the increasing rapidity of our works, and perceiving our batteries rising all along the front of attack, determined to prevent their effect. On the 28th, about four o'clock in the afternoon, they made a sortie by the gate of Rastro to the number of 3,000 men, who advanced to attack our works on the height, whilst other columns in the plain marched directly up our central intrenchments. A shower of bullets, bombs, and howitzer shells preceded the attack, by one of which we lost the brave captain of engineers, Ponsin, an officer of great merit. In an instant they darted forward against our works and burst into them, and in the first moment of the assault we were completely driven from the crown of the covered way. It was in vain that the lieutenant of engineers, Jaquard, attempted to withstand their fury with a handful of his sappers; this gallant young officer, whom nothing could induce to abandon his post, was killed by a bayonet wound. A few of the Spaniards even penetrated as far as the second parallel, where they were immediately cut down. Our labourers had now assumed their arms and rushed forward to the point where the enemy was making a grand effort; a general Abbe had put himself at the head of the reserves of the 44th, who formed the guard of the trenches, on observing the Spaniards arrive at the parallel, boldly quitted the trenches, marched directly upon them with fixed bayonets, and first checked and then drove them back. In the mean time, general Habert on the right took the select companies of the 5th light infantry and of the 1 16th, and without a moment's hesitation, threw himself on the flank of the Spanish columns that had issued by the gate of Rastro. A most sanguinary melee was the consequence, and at length the enemy, who was routed before he was able to attain his object, retired towards the town in the greatest disorder. Captain Bugeaud, of the grenadiers of the 116th, and captain Guillemin, of the engineers, rendered themselves particularly conspicuous by the intrepidity with which they followed the flying foe to the last moment.

The Spaniards at length got back to the town again, leaving about 400 dead and wounded in the fosse and upon the glacis. During the short period they had possession of our trenches, they had been busily employed in setting fire to our gabions, and had succeeded in overturning a portion of the works, principally in the crown of the place of arms ; the night of the 28th was set apart for the repair of the damages. At this point a second communication was formed parallel with the first, and a trench was opened from the extremity of the approach against the half-moon as far as the place of arms at San Pedro, which trench became the third parallel ; the object of this was to shut up the enemy within the half-moon, and thus to guarantee the safety of the crown-work of the place of arms that projected from the covered way.

The moment so impatiently expected by the whole of the army, and which the commander-in-chief had daily, by every means in his power, endeavoured to accelerate, at length arrived. Our batteries, on both banks of the stream, were finished and armed; forty-five pieces of cannon were now in a condition to commence the work of destruction ; and, on the 29th of December, at day-break, the fire opened, The demi-bastion of San Pedro, was in a few hours reduced to silence, as was also the half-moon. The fort, and advanced batteries of Orleans, still retained a few serviceable pieces, and the bastion of San Juan possessed

one, and one only, in its flank; but the embrasures of the demi-bastion were destroyed, and there was an open breach in the curtain. If our batteries on the right bank bad not been very solidly constructed, they would, doubtless, have been destroyed by the combined effects of the whole fire of the castle, of the quays, and of the tete-de-pont, but they withstood all. Our artillery men succeeded, in the meantime, in sinking five of the boats of the bridge, the floor was in consequence detached, and floated on the water, but it still afforded a road to individual passengers.

Taking advantage of the tenth night, namely that of the 29th, a double crown-work of the covered way was formed in the place of arms, and a lodgment effected in the plain of that work, on a line of twenty-nine toises. The parallel begun the evening before, was also completed, and this communication, which was one ,hundred toises in length, completely secured us against sorties, and also connected our different points of attack. The superintendent of the attack, had in tracing these works, never failed to display the most eminent proofs of talent and intrepidity.
On the 30th, at day-light, our batteries recommenced firing, and soon almost silenced the few pieces of the front attacked, which had still continued to be served. The artillery of fort Orleans was rendered completely useless, the breach which had been begun in the body of the place was rendered practicable, and the parapets on the two faces of the demi-bastion, were entirely destroyed. The site of a new battery which formed No. 11, was traced out that same day in the rear of the battery No. 8 ; it was composed of a couple of mortars, and was designed to play on the castle only. It was finished by the next morning, and its fire at break of day was conjoined with that of the batteries previously erected.
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