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Wellington's Dispatches
July 21st -25th, 1808


Lieut. General the Hon. Sir A. Wellesley, K.B., to Viscount Castlereagh, Secretary of State.

' Coruna 21st July, 1808.


' 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 coast.

' 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 Lisbon.

' 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 adopt.

Believe me, &c., ' ARTHUR WELLESLEY.

Lieut. General the Hon. Sir A. Wellesley, K.B., to Mr. Stuart.

H.M.S.Crocodile, off Cape Finisterre, 23rd July, 1808.


' 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 Ireland.

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.


' 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 believe.

'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 arm them.

' Believe me, &c. ' ARTHUR WELLESLEY.

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