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Wellington's Dispatches
May 8th, 1811


Lieut. General Viscount Wellington, K.B. to Marshal Sir W. C. Beresford, K.B.

' Villa Fermosa, 8th May, 1811.

'I enclose you a letter and a dispatch for my brother. The latter contains a copy of my dispatch on our affairs here, which I beg you to peruse.

' I heard yesterday from our friends at Salamanca, that the battalions of the 9th corps, belonging to regiments stationed in Andalusia, are to march to join their regiments under Drouet, who they say is to command the 5th corps; this must be a mistake, as it appears that Latour Maubourg commands it.

' My book is locked up in one of my boxes, of which I have lost the keys, and I cannot therefore tell you how many battalions there were in the 9th corps belonging to regiments in Andalusia. I saw them the other day, and I think they do not exceed four battalions, very weak ; they can scarcely be 2000 men. There is one of the 64th regiment, and one of the 100th, I know, but forget of what other regiments ; they are certainly not gone yet, and I will let you know when they do go. As the corps is broken up, you may depend upon their going, as Massena will have done with them. There is nothing particular this day: I think the French are going back ; some are certainly gone.

' Believe me. &ec. ' WELLINGTON.

Lieut. General Viscount Wellington, K.B. to Marshal Sir W. C. Beresford, K.B.

' Villa Fermosa, 8th May, 1811

' From the 5th to this day the two armies have been not only in sight, but literally within shot of each other. The French, however, withdrew in the night and this morning towards the Azava, and I cannot tell yet how far they are going, or what shape they will take. Almeida still holds.

' You cannot sign warrants for any extraordinaries, and the Commissary ought not to pay the veterinary surgeons' and farriers' bills without warrants.

' If General Houghton chooses to come here without a brigade, I have no objection, but I cannot with propriety remove his brigade at present.

' I will try to give you some money, but I am apprehensive that I shall find it difficult.

' Believe me, &c.; ' WELLINGTON.

Lieut. General Viscount Wellington, K.B., to C. Stuart, Esq.

' Villa Fermosa, 8th May, 1811.

' The enemy commenced their retreat last night, and I propose to send you my dispatches for Government to-morrow with the account of all the operations, and shall be obliged to you if you will detain the packet till they shall arrive.

' Believe me, &c.;' WELLINGTON.

Lieut. General Viscount Wellington, K.B., to the Earl of Liverpool, Secretary of State.

' Villa Fermosa, 8th May, 1811.

' My LORD,
' The enemy's whole army, consisting of the 2nd, 6th, and 8th corps, and all the cavalry which could be collected in Castille and Leon, including about 900 of the Imperial Guard, crossed the Agueda at Ciudad Rodrigo on the 2nd instant.

' The battalions of the 9th corps had been joined to the regiments to which they belonged in the other three corps; excepting a division consisting of battalions belonging to regiments in the corps doing duty in Andalusia; which division likewise formed part of the army.

' As my object in maintaining a position between the Coa and the Agueda, after the enemy had retired from the former, was to blockade Almeida, which place I had learned from intercepted letters, and other information) was ill supplied with provisions for its garrison, and as the enemy were infinitely superior to us in cavalry, I did not give any opposition to their march, and they passed the Azava on that evening, in the neighbourhood of Espeja, Carpio, and Gallegos.

' They continued their march on the 3rd, in the morning, towards the Dos Casas, in three columns; two of them, consisting of the 2nd and 8th corps, to the neighbourhood of Almeida and Fort Concepcion, and the third column, consisting of the whole of the cavalry, and the 6th and that part of the 9th corps which had not already been drafted into the other three.

' The allied army had been cantoned along the river Dos Casas, and on the Sources of the Azava, the Light division at Gallegos and Espeja. This last fell back upon Fuentes de Oñoro, on the DOS Casas, with the British cavalry, in proportion as the enemy advanced, and the 1st, 3rd, and 7th divisions were collected at that place; the 6th division, under Major General Campbell, observed the bridge at Alameda; and Major General Sir William Erskine, with the 5th division, the passages of the DOS Casas at Fort Concepcion and Aldea del Obispo. Brigadier General Pack's brigade, with the Queen's regiment from the 6th division, kept the blockade of Almeida; and I had prevailed upon Don Julian Sanchez to occupy Nave d'Aver with his corps of Spanish cavalry and infantry.

' The Light division were moved in the evening to join Major General Campbell, upon' finding that the enemy were in strength in that quarter ; and they were brought back again to Fuentes de Onoro on the morning of the 5th, when it was found that the 8th corps had joined the 6th on the enemy's left.

' Shortly after the enemy had formed on the ground on thie right of the Dos Casas, on the afternoon of the 3rd, they attacked, with a large force, the village of Fuentes de Oñoro, which was defended in a most gallant manner by Lieut. Colonel Williams of the 5th battalion 60th regiment, in command of the light infantry battalion belonging to Major General Picton"s division, supported by the light infantry battalion in Major General Nightingall's brigade, commanded by Major Dick of the 42nd regiment, and the light infantry battalion in Major General Howard's brigade, commanded by Major M'Donnell of the 92nd, and the light infantry battalion of the King's German legion, commanded by Major Aly of the 5th battalion of the line, and by the 2nd battalion 83rd regiment under Major Carr.

' The troops maintained their position ; but having observed the repeated efforts which the enemy were making to obtain possession of the village, and being aware of the advantage which they would derive from the possession in their subsequent operations, I reinforced the village successively with the 71st regiment under Lieut. Colonel the Hon. H. Cadogan, and the 79th under Lieut. Colonel Cameron, and the 24th under Major Chamberlain. The former, at the head of the 71st regiment, charged the enemy, and drove them from a part of the village of which they had obtained a momentary possession.

' Nearly at this time Lieut. Colonel Williams was unfortunately wounded, but I hope not dangerously; and the command devolved upon Lieut. Colonel Cameron of the 79th.

' The contest continued till night, when our troops remained in possession of the whole.

' I then withdrew the light infantry battalions, and the 83rd regiment, leaving the 71st and 79th regiments only in the village, and the 2nd battalion 24th regiment to support them.

' On the 4th, the enemy reconnoitred the position which we had occupied on the Dos Casas river ; and during that night they moved the Due d'Abrantes' corps from Alameda to the left of the position occupied by the 6th corps, opposite to Fuentes de Oñoro.

' From the course of the reconnaissance on the 4th, I had imagined that the enemy would endeavor to obtain possession of Fuentes de Oñoro, and of the ground occupied by the troops behind that village, by crossing the Dos Casas at Pozo Velho; and in the evening I moved the 7th division, under Major General Houstoun, to the right, in order, if possible, to protect that passage.

' On the morning of the 5th, the 8th corps appeared in two columns, with all the cavalry, on the opposite side of the valley of the Dos Casas and Pozo Velho ; and as the 6th and 9th corps also made a movement to their left , the Light division, which had been brought back from the neighbourhood of Alameda, were sent with the cavalry, under Sir Stapleton Cotton, to support Major General Houstoun ; while the 1st and 3rd divisions made a movement to their right, along the ridge between the Turon and Dos Casas rivers, corresponding to that of the 6th and 9th corps on the right of the Dos Casas.

' The 8th corps attacked Major General Houstoun's advanced . guard, consisting of the 85th regiment under Major Macintosh, and the 2nd Portuguese Caçadores under Lieut.. Colonel Nixon, and obliged them to retire ; and they retired in good order, although with some loss. The 8th corps being thus established in Pozo Velho, the enemy's cavalry turned the right of the 7th division, between Pozo Velho and Nave d'Aver, from which last place Don Julian Sanchez had been obliged to retire ; and the cavalry charged.

' The charge of the advanced guard of the enemy's cavalry was met by two or three squadrons of the different regiments of British dragoons, and the enemy were driven back; and Colonel La Motte, of the 13th Chasseurs, and some prisoners taken.

' The main body were checked and obliged to retire by the fire of Major General Hougtoun's division ; and I particularly observed the Chasseurs Britanniques under Lieut. Colonel Eustace, as behaving in the most steady manner; and Major General Houstoun mentions in high terms the conduct of a detachment of the Duke of Brunswick's light infantry.

' Notwithstanding that this charge was repulsed, I determined to concentrate our force towards the left, and to move the 7th and Light, divisions and the cavalry from Pozo Velho towards Fuentes de Oñoro, and the oilier two divisions.

' I had occupied Pozo Velho and that neighbourhood in hopes that I should be able to maintain the communication across the Coa by Sabugal, as well as provide for the blockade, which objects it was now obvious were incompatible with each other; and I therefore abandoned that which was the least important, and placed the Light division in reserve in the rear of the left of the 1st division, and the 7th division on some commanding ground beyond the Turon, which protected the right flank and rear of the 1st division, and covered the communication with the Coa, and prevented that of the enemy with Almeida by the roads between the Turon and that river.

' The movement of the troops upon this occasion was well conducted, although under very critical circumstances, by Major General Houstoun, Brig. General Craufurd, and Lieut. General Sir Stapleton Cotton. The 7th division was covered in its passage of the Turon by the Light division under Brig. General Craufurd ; and this last, in its march to join the 1st division, by the British cavalry.

' Our position thus extended on the high ground from the Turon to the Dos Casas. The 7th division, on the left of the Turon, covered the rear of the right; the 1st division, in two lines, were on the right ; Colonel Ashworth's brigade, in two lines, in the centre; and the 3rd division, in two lines, on the left ; the Light division and British artillery in reserve ; and the village of Fuentes in front of the left. Don Julian's infantry joined the 7th division in Freneda; and I sent him with his cavalry to endeavor to intercept the enemy's communication with Ciudad Rodrigo.

' The enemy's efforts on the right part of our position, after it was occupied as I have above described, were confined to a cannonade, and to some charges with his cavalry, upon the advanced posts. The regiments of the 1st division, under Lieut. Colonel Hill of the 3rd regiment of Guards, repulsed one of these; but as they were falling back, they did not see the direction of another in sufficient time to form to oppose it, and Lieut. Colonel Hill was taken prisoner, and many men were wounded, and some taken, before a detachment of the British cavalry could move up to their support.

' The 2nd battalion 42nd regiment, under Lord Blantyre, also repulsed a charge of the cavalry directed against them.

' They likewise attempted to push a body of light infantry upon the ravine of the Turon, to the right of the 1st division, which were repulsed by the light infantry of the Guards under Lieut. Colonel Guise, aided by five companies of the 95th under Captain O'Hare. Major General Nightingall was wounded in the course of the cannonade, but I hope not severely.

' The enemy's principal effort was throughout this day again directed against Fuentes de Oñoro ; and notwithstanding that the whole of the 6th corps were at different periods of the day employed to attack this village, they could never gain more than a temporary possession of it. It was defended by the 24th, 71st, and 79th regiments, under the command of Lieut. Colonel Cameron; and these troops were supported by the light infantry battalions of the 3rd division commanded by Major Woodgate; the light infantry battalions of the 1st division commanded by Major Dick, Major M'Donald, and Major Aly; the 6th Portuguese Cacadores commanded by Major Pinto; by the light companies in Colonel Champlemond's Portuguese brigade under Colonel Sutton; and those in Colonel Ashworth's Portuguese brigade under Lieut. Colonel Pynn, and by the piquets of the 3rd division under the command of Colonel the Hon. R. Trench. Lieut. Colonel Cameron was severely [Mortally] wounded in the afternoon, and the command in the village devolved upon Lieut.Colonel the Hon. H. Cadogan.

' The troops in Fuentes were besides supported, when pressed by the enemy, by the 74th regiment under Major Russell Manners, and the 1st batt. 88th regiment under Lieut. Colonel Wallace, belonging to Colonel Mackinnon's brigade; and on one of these occasions, the 88th, with the 71st and 79th under the command of Colonel Mackinnon, charged the enemy, and drove them through the village; and Colonel Mackinnon has reported particularly the conduct of Lieut. Colonel Wallace, Brigade Major Wilde, and Lieut. and Adjutant Stewart.

' The contest again lasted in this quarter till night, when our troops still held their post ; and from that time the enemy have made no fresh attempt on any part of our position.

' The enemy manifested an intention to attack Major General Sir William Erskine's post at Aldea del Obispo on the same morning, with a part of the 2nd corps, but the Major General sent the 2nd batt. Lusitanian Legion across the ford of the Dos Casas, which obliged them to retire.

' In the course of last night the enemy commenced retiring from their position on the Dos Casas; and this morning, at daylight, the whole was in motion. I cannot yet decide whether this movement is preparatory to some fresh attempt to raise the blockade of Almeida, or is one of decided retreat; but I have every reason to hope that they will not succeed in the first, and that they will be obliged to have recourse to the last. Their superiority in cavalry is very great, owing to the weak state of our horses, from recent fatigue and scarcity of forage, and the reduction of numbers in the Portuguese brigade of cavalry with this part of the army, in exchange for a British brigade sent into Estremadura with Marshal Sir William Beresford, owing to the failure of the measures reported to have been adopted to supply horses and men with food on the service.

' The result of a general action, brought on by an attack upon the enemy by us, might, under those circumstances, have been doubtful; and if the enemy had chosen to avoid it, or if they had met it, they would have taken advantage of the collection of our troops to fight this action, and throw relief into Almeida.

' From the great superiority of force to which we have been opposed upon this occasion, your Lordship will judge of the conduct of the Officers and troops. The actions were partial, but very severe, and our loss has been great. The enemy's loss has also been very great, and they left 400 killed in the village of Fuentes, and we have many prisoners. I particularly request your attention to the conduct of Lieut. Colonel Williams, and Lieut. Colonel Cameron, and Lieut. Colonel the Hon. H. Cadogan; and to that of Colonel Mackinnon and Lieut. Colonel Kelly, 24th regiment, of the several officers commanding battalions of the line, and of light infantry, which supported the troops in Fuentes de Oñoro. Likewise to that of Major Macintosh of the 85th, and of Lieut. Colonel Nixon of the 2nd Cacadores, and of Lieut. Colonel Eustace of the Chasseurs Britanniques, and of Lord Blantyre.

' Throughout these operations I have received the greatest assistance from Lieut. General Sir Brent Spencer, and all the General Officers of the army; and from the Adjutant and Quarter Master General, and the Officers of their several departments, and those of my personal staff.

' By intelligence from Sir William Beresford, I learn that he has invested Badajoz, on the left of the Guadiana, and is moving there stores for the attack of the place.

' I have the honor to inform you that the intelligence which I transmitted in my last dispatch has since been confirmed, and that King Joseph passed Valladolid, on his way to Paris, on the 27th of April. It is not denied by the French officers that he is gone to Paris.

' I have the honor to be, &c, ' WELLINGTON.

' Return of the Killed, Wounded, and Missing, of the Army under the Command of Lieut. General Viscount Wellington, K.B., in the affairs at Fuentes de Oñoro on the 3rd and 5th May, 1811.

Officers Serjeants Rank and File Horses Total loss of officers, Non-commissioned Officers, and Tank and File
Killed 11 16 208 49 235
Wounded 81 72 1081 101 1,234
Missing 7 10 300 5 317

The Portuguese killed, wounded, and missing are included in the above numbers.

Lieut. General Viscount Wellington, K.B., to the Earl of Liverpool, Secretary of State.

Villa Fermosa, 8th May, 1811.

' The attention of the British Government has been frequently drawn to the state of affairs in this country by the reports of Mr. Stuart and myself, particularly as that state affects the military departments and establishments; but as the success of the military operations has recently been much impeded by the defects of constitution, by the disobedience and neglect of those employed, and by the failure of all the departments of the Portuguese army, I consider it my duty to draw your Lordship's attention to the subject again in a particular manner.

' The Portuguese troops with this part of the army do not produce in the field half of their effective strength, because the soldiers have been ill fed and taken care of; and vast numbers of them are in hospitals. Before I broke up from the cantonments on the Rio Mayor river, I took upon me to make an arrangement by which the troops serving in the same divisions with British troops should be fed by the British Commissaries, of which I enclose a copy; under which arrangement five brigades of infantry of seven doing duty in this part of the army were taken charge of, and there remained but two, and one brigade of cavalry, to be taken care of by the Portuguese departments.

' These two brigades of infantry have been starving ever since; and whenever there is any call for the military service of the troops, they are obliged to call upon the British Commissariat for subsistence, thus reducing the quantity for the consumption of the British divisions.

' The Portuguese cavalry are so much reduced by want of food, that a regiment which I was desirous of employing in the recent affairs with the enemy, could produce in the field only sixty men.

' None of the Portuguese officers or troops are paid; and the consequence is that the officers are suffering the extremity of distress, and the soldiers desert in large numbers.

' The mules attached to the artillery not having been fed during the winter, were unable to perform service when the army broke up from the Rio Mayor river. After having reduced the quantity of ammunition drawn with each brigade, I have lately been obliged to send away two pieces of cannon belonging to one Portuguese brigade of artillery.

' In the actions of the 3rd and 5th, the quantity of ammunition expended by the Portuguese brigade of artillery engaged, very nearly amounted to the whole quantity they carried with them ; and I was obliged to have recourse to the expedient of picking up the enemy's shot which had been fired into our camp, and of making it up into ammunition with powder and materials drawn from the British artillery.

' The reserves of Portuguese ordnance and musket ammunition are at this moment not less than six marches from the army, owing to the want of means of transport to convey them ; and I have been obliged to order the Commissary General to use the means of transport destined to convey provisions for soldiers and forage for horses, to bring up the Portuguese ordnance and musket ammunition.

' The Portuguese wounded soldiers are taken care of in our hospitals, as they have none of their own.

'These are facts affecting our existing situation which press upon me at the moment; and I state them to your Lordship as instances of the description of inconvenience, which might amount to risk and danger, resulting from the defects, the neglects, and the ignorance of the Portuguese departments. It is obvious that no officer can venture to conduct any military operation against an active enemy with such means ; and I do not scruple to acknowledge that I have felt the greatest uneasiness respecting the success of the operations which I am now carrying on, on both sides of the Tagus, in consequence of the diminution of the numbers and of the efficiency of the Portuguese army, owing to the defects of all the departments attached to it..

' These defects have not been unnoticed by me in my communications with the Portuguese Government; and I enclose to your Lordship the extract of a private letter, of the 26th March, to Mr. Stuart, upon that subject; and the copy of a dispatch to that gentleman, of the 8th of April. Nothing has yet been done in consequence of the recommendations contained in these letters; and the Portuguese Secretary of State, in answer to Mr. Stuart, tells him that the local government have not the power from the Prince Regent to make the alterations suggested.

'My Lord, the state to which the enemy are reduced in the Peninsula may enable us to carry on our operations under all the disadvantages described in this and the enclosed letters; but your Lordship will judge for yourself of the consequences which might result from the facts which I have related. I think it proper, however, to inform your Lordship that if the enemy should be enabled to increase his force again in the Peninsula, the difficulties, which are the consequence of the defects in the Portuguese departments, will be vastly aggravated, and the danger increased to such a degree, that it may become a question whether His Majesty's troops ought to be exposed to it.

' I have the honor to be, &c.; ' WELLINGTON.

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