Lieut. General the Hon. Sir A. Wellesley, K.B., to Viscount
Castlereagh, Secretary of State.
' Coruna 21st July, 1808.
MY DEAR SIR,
' I arrived here yesterday, and I propose to go to sea again
this day, to meet the fleet, which however has not yet appeared off the
' Since my arrival I have had frequent conversations with
the Junta; and Mr. Stuart, who arrived also yesterday, will send by this
conveyance to Mr. Canning an account of all the intelligence which we have
received from them respecting the present situation of affairs in Spain. The
general result, however, appears to me to be, that the whole of the Spanish
nation, with the exception of the provinces of Biscay and Navarre, and those in
the neighbourhood of Madrid, are in a state of insurrection against the French:
that several French detachments in different parts of the country had been
destroyed; viz., a corps under Lefebvre, which has been attacked four times,
near Zarragoza, in Arragon, particularly on the 16th and 24th of June: a corps
which I believe to have been under the command of Dupont; and it is said that
Dupont was taken prisoner in an action fought between Andujar and la Carolina,
before the 23rd of June; and two corps defeated in Catalonia before the 19th of
June, one on its march to Montserrat, and the other to Zarragoza. The
Catalonians have also got possession of the fort of Figueras, in the neighbour
of Rosas, and have blockaded the French troops in Barcelona.
' As however the communication, which was never very perfect
between one province and the others, has been impeded by the march and position
of the French armies, and particularly by their late success at Rio Seco, to
which I shall presently refer, the Junta have no official accounts of any of
these accounts; But they give credit to those they have received, copies of
which will be transmitted to Mr. Canning by Mr. Stuart. He will also send the
account which the Junta have received of the action at Rio Seco.
' The army of Castille and Galicia united was posted at that
place, which is in the province of Valladolid, and their intention, as is
stated, was either to have attacked the French corps under Marshal Bessieres at
Burgos, or to have marched upon Madrid. But I suspect that they would have
confined their operations to the arrangement of the insurrection towards
Madrid, and to cutting off the communication between the French troops
stationed there, and in Biscay and Navarre. ' It is said that they intended to
attack Marshal Bessieres on the 16th, ----- he attacked them on the 14th: his
infantry was at first defeated by the Spaniards with the loss of 7000 men; but
afterwards his cavalry fell upon the left wing of the Spanish army, which
consisted of the peasants of Castille, and defeated it.
' I understand that the Spanish army, which consisted of
50,000 men, lost about 7000 men and two pieces of cannon; and they had taken
and still retain six pieces belonging to the French.
' The Spaniards retired either on that night or on the next
day to Benevente on the Esla. The worst of this action is, that it has given
the French possession of the whole course of the Douro, and by obliging the
Galician troops to retire from Rio Seco, it has interrupted the communication
between this province and those to the southward and eastward.
' I understood that the Junta were much alarmed when they
received the account of this defeat, but the arrival of the money yesterday has
entirely renewed their spirits; and I did not see either in them or in the
inhabitants of this town any symptom either of alarm or doubt of their final
success. The capture of Santander by the French is not considered an event of
any importance; and it is said here that a corps was actually on its march from
the Asturias to retake that place.
' It is impossible to convey to you an idea of the sentiment
which prevails here in favor of the Spanish cause. The difference between any
two men is whether the one is a better or a worse Spaniard, and the better
Spaniard is the one who detests the French most heartily. I understand that
there is actually no French party in the country; and at all events I am
convinced that no man now dares to show that he is a friend to the French.
' The final success must depend upon the means of attack and
defence of the different parties, of the amount of which it is impossible for
me at present to form an opinion. If it be true that the several French corps
which I have above enumerated have been cut off, it is obvious that Buonaparte
cannot carry on his operations in Spain, excepting by the means of large
armies; and I doubt much whether the country will afford subsistence for a
large army, or whether he will be able to supply his magazines from France, the
roads being so bad and the communications so difficult.
' If this be true, his object must be to gain possession of
the northern provinces, and this can be done only by the invasion and
possession of the Asturias. I think, therefore, that our Government ought to
direct its attention particularly to that important point, and to endeavor to
prevail upon the Asturians to receive a body of our troops.
' I consider this point so important, that I should not be
surprised if Buonaparte, finding that he cannot penetrate by land, should make
an effort to reach the Asturias by sea; and I should therefore recommend to you
to reinforce the squadron which is here, and let it cruise between Cape Ortegal
and Santander It might come here in case of a gale from the northward.
' I suggested to the Junta to fit out the ships at Ferrol
for this service, but they said it would divert their attention and their means
from other more important objects; and that although they were aware of its
importance, they would prefer relying, for the naval defence which they might
require, on the assistance to be received from Great Britain.
' It will be necessary that you should assist all the
Spanish provinces with money, arms, and ammunition. Notwithstanding the recent
defeat of the Galician army, the Junta have not expressed any anxiety to
receive the assistance of British troops; and they again repeated this morning
that they could put any number of men into the field, if they were provided
with money and arms; and I think that this disinclination to receive the
assistance of British troops is founded in a great degree on the objection to
give the command of their troops to British officers.
' The Junta here have expressed a great wish to unite in a
general Cortes with the other provinces; but in addition to the difficulties
which must attend the adoption of this measure, from the position of the French
armies, I understand that there are others referable to the desire which each
of the kingdoms of which Spain is composed has that the Cortes should be
established within itself.
' If the French should be obliged to quit Madrid, it is
probable that this difficulty would be overcome; and till that period, or until
the strength of the French army shall have been driven from the centre of
Spain, I am not quite certain that it is not as well that each of the kingdoms
should be governed by its own Junta. I am convinced that the general zeal and
exertion of each are greater, at present, than would be manifested if the whole
kingdom were under the direction of one body.
' In respect to my own operations, I find that Junot has
collected, it is supposed, 12,000 men at Lisbon; and the French still hold
Almeida and other points in Portugal, with 8000 more. The three northern
provinces of Portugal are in a state of insurrection, and there is a Portuguese
army at Oporto, to join which 2000 Spanish troops have marched from Galicia,
and they will arrive there about the 24th or 25th.
' From the intelligence which I have received here, I can
form no opinion whether I shall be joined by General Spencer or not. Mr. Stuart
heard from the Brilliant, on his passage, that General Spencer had left Cadiz,
after the Spaniards had got possession of the French fleet, and had gone to
Ayamonte, at the mouth of the Guadiana, to stop the progress of a French corps
which was coming by that route from Portugal into Andalusia. They had heard
nothing here of this movement, but they had heard a report that 5000 British
troops had been in General Castanos' army, and had behaved remarkably well, but
on what occasion and what troops they did not know.
' I understand that there is a Spanish corps of 20,000 men
in Estremadura, at Almaraz, on the Tagus, which corps will impede the
communication between Junot and the army at Madrid; and it may be reasonably
expected that the number of French now in Portugal will be the number which we
shall have to contend with. The Junta express great anxiety respecting my
operations in Portugal, and have strongly recommended me not to attempt to land
at Lisbon, or in the neighbourhood of the French army. They urge as an
objection to this measure that I shall thereby entirely lose the advantage of
the cooperation of the Spanish and Portuguese forces at Oporto, who will not be
able to approach Lisbon till they have heard that I have disembarked; and they
recommend that I should disembark at Vigo or Oporto, and bring the allies with
me to Lisbon.
' It is impossible for me to decide upon this or any other
measure, till I shall know more of the situation of affairs. I should have no
doubt of success, even without General Spencer's assistance, or that of the
allies, if I were once ashore; but to effect a landing in front of an enemy is
always difficult, and I shall be inclined to land at a distance from
' I now intend to look for the fleet this night, and if we
should not find it, I shall leave one of Captain Hotham's squadron upon the
rendezvous, with directions for Malcolm to follow me, and go in the Crocodile
to Oporto, where I shall be able to decide upon the measures which I shall
Believe me, &c., ' ARTHUR WELLESLEY.
Lieut. General the Hon. Sir A. Wellesley, K.B., to Mr.
H.M.S.Crocodile, off Cape Finisterre, 23rd July, 1808.
MY DEAR SIR,
' I find that the two ships which I imagined contained the
stores for the Asturias are not in the fleet, notwithstanding that they were
reported to me at Cork by the Commanding Officer of my artillery. I conclude
therefore that they have really arrived at Gijon, and that the Officer is not
so correct as the Editor of the Oviedo Gazette.
' I hear that the actions at Zarragoza were an attack upon
the place by the French, who have been frequently repulsed. I hear also that
the French have concentrated their force at Lisbon, and that the insurrection
has extended itself to that city. The French troops cannot show themselves
outside of it.
' We hear from San Sebastian, that King Joseph has entered
Spain, and had passed that fortress. He was received by the constituted
authorities, but not by the people.
' Believe me, &c. ' ARTHUR WELLESLEY,
Lieut. General the Hon. Sir A. Wellesley, K.B., to General
Sir James Pulteney, Bart., Secretary at War.
'H.M.S. Donegal, at Sea, 25th July, 1808.
' I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter
of the 5th instant, communicating to me his Majesty's appointment to serve as a
Lieutenant General on the Staff, with two aides de camp, upon a particular
service, from the 23rd instant; and I beg leave to acquaint you that His
Majesty's Commission to serve as Commander of the Forces upon the service in
which I am at present engaged, is dated the 14th of June, 1808, from which
period the Staff of the army have been appointed and doing duty. I therefore
request that you will transmit to me, at your earliest convenience, an
authority to issue pay to the Staff of the army from that date; or to inform me
in what manner those are to be paid, who were not before upon the Staff in
I have the honor to be, &c. ' ARTHUR WELLESLEY.
Lieut. General the Hon. Sir A. Wellesley, KB., to Viscount
Castlereagh, Secretary of State.
H.M.S. Crocodile, off Oporto, 25th July. 1808.
MY DEAR LORD,
' I avail myself of the opportunity of the return of the
Peacock to England, to inform you that I sailed from Coruna, as I told you I
should, on the night of the 21st, and joined the fleet the next day, and
arrived here yesterday, in the Crocodile: the fleet are now coming on.
' All the provinces to the north of the Tagus, with the
exception of the country immediately about Lisbon, are in a state of
insurrection against the French, and the people are ready and desirous to take
arms, but, unfortunately there are none in the country; indeed, I may say, none
to arm the troops which the Bishop of Oporto and the Junta of this place have
assembled. They have at present a corps of about 5000 men, regular troops and
militia, including 800 cavalry at Coimbra, armed with 1000 muskets got from the
fleet, fowling pieces, &c., and 12,000 peasantry, mostly unarmed, I
'The regular troops are composed of detachments of different
corps, and cannot in any respect be deemed an efficient force. Besides these,
there are 800 Spanish infantry, about 1500 regular Portuguese infantry, and
some militia volunteers and peasantry here.
' The corps of Spanish infantry, which had commenced its
march from Galicia, as I informed you in my last letter, is not yet arrived. It
was stopped on the frontier, because there were no orders at Braganza to allow
it to enter the country; and although the Bishop expects it, the Portuguese
officers appear to think that the success of the French against the Spanish
army on the 14th has diverted this corps from the cause in this country. Under
all the circumstances, I have determined to take forward the Portuguese corps
now at Coimbra, and to collect every thing else upon this place.
' The Bishop is much alarmed respecting the success of the
French in the province of Valladolid in Leon. It is reported here, that there
has been a second action; and I saw a letter last night from the Bishop of St.
Iago, stating that General Cuesta, the Castillian Commander in Chief, had
informed him that he had gained a victory in this action, and had actually in
his camp 1500 horses taken from the French cavalry; and it is, at the same
time, reported that the French are actually in Benevente. It is impossible to
learn the truth.
' I have received a letter from Sir Charles Cotton, of the
9th instant, in which he advises me to leave the fleet to wind ward, and to go
down to the Tagus to confer with him. He has occupied a post with 400 marines
at Figueira on the. Mondego, in front of Coimbra, at which place, or at Peniche
he thinks it will be most advisable for me to land. I therefore. propose to
send the fleet to the Mondego to make all the arrangements for landing; to go
down to communicate with the Admiral; and by the time I shall have returned,
all will be ready to go on shore, either at the Mondego or Peniche, or farther
to the southward if the Admiral think it advisable.
' I have heard nothing positive of General Spencer,
excepting that he was with Sir Charles Cotton in the beginning of this month,
his corps having been landed merely to pre serve the health of the men near
Cape St. Mary's. I conclude, therefore, that I shall find him with the fleet
off the Tagus.
' The French corps is concentrated at or about Lisbon, and
is said to consist of from 13,000 to 14,000 men. Sir Charles Cotton says they
are adding to the fortifications of the town, a citadel within the town, and of
fort St. Julien.
' The measures to be adopted for this country are to supply
it with arms and money. I saw a statement last night, from which it appears
that they could get together 38,000 men with ease, if they had arms or money to
pay them. If I should find the troops at Coimbra to be worth it, I propose to
' Believe me, &c. ' ARTHUR WELLESLEY.