The whole struggle had occupied not more than four hours: when it was over Murat issued an ‘order of the day,’ sentencing all prisoners taken with arms in their hands, all persons discovered with arms concealed in their houses, and all distributors of seditious leaflets, ‘the agents of the English government,’ to be shot. It seems that at least a hundred persons were executed under this edict, many of them innocent bystanders who had taken no part in the fighting. Next morning Murat withdrew his Draconian decree, and no further fusillades took place. It is impossible, in the conflict of authorities, to arrive at any clear estimate of the numbers
slain on each side on May 2. Probably Tore?o is not[p. 62] far out when he estimates the whole at something over a thousand. Of these four-fifths must have been Spaniards, for the French only lost heavily at the arsenal: the number of isolated soldiers murdered in the streets at the first outbreak of the riot does not seem to have been very large.
Many French authors have called the rising a deliberate and preconcerted conspiracy to massacre the French garrison. On the other hand Spanish writers have asserted that Murat had arranged everything so as to cause a riot, in order that he might have the chance of administering a ‘whiff of grape-shot,’ after his master’s plan. But it is clear that both are making unfounded accusations: if the insurrection had been premeditated, the Spanish soldiery would have been implicated in it, for nothing would have been easier than to stir them up. Yet of the whole 3,000 only forty ran out to help the insurgents. Moreover, the mob would have been found armed at the first commencement of trouble, which it certainly was not. On the other hand, if Murat had been organizing a massacre, he would not have been caught with no more than two squadrons of cavalry and five or six companies of infantry under his hand. These might have been cut to pieces before the troops from outside could come to their help. He had been expecting riots, and was prepared to deal with them, but was surprised by a serious insurrection on a larger scale than he had foreseen, and at a moment when he was not ready.
For a few days after May 2, Murat at Madrid and his master at Bayonne were both living in a sort of fools’ paradise, imagining that ‘the affairs of Spain were going off wonderfully well,’ and that ‘the party of Ferdinand had been crushed by the prompt suppression of its conspiracy.’ The Grand-Duke had the simplicity or the effrontery to issue a proclamation in which he said ‘that every good Spaniard had groaned at the sight of such disorders,’ and another in which the insurrection was attributed to ‘the machinations of our common enemy, i.e. the British government.’ On May 4 Don Antonio laid down the presidency of the Junta without a word of regret, and went off to Bayonne, having first borrowed 25,000 francs from Murat. The latter, by virtue of[p. 63] a decree issued by Charles IV, then assumed the presidency of the Junta of Regency. The rest of the members of that ignoble body easily sank into his servile instruments, though they had at last received a secret note smuggled out from Bayonne, in which Ferdinand (the day before his abdication) told them to regard his removal into the interior of France as a declaration of war, and to call the nation to arms. To this they paid no attention, while they pretended to take the document of resignation, which Bonaparte had forced him to sign, as an authentic and spontaneous expression of his will. The fact is that twenty years of Godoy had thoroughly demoralized the bureaucracy and the court of Spain: if the country’s will had not found better exponents than her ministers and officials, Napoleon might have done what he pleased with the Peninsula.
At present his sole interest seems to have lain in settling the details of his brother Joseph’s election to the Spanish throne. Ferdinand’s final resignation of all his rights having been signed on May 10, the field was open for his successor. The Emperor thought that some sort of deputation to represent the Spanish nation ought to be got together, in order that his brother might not seem to receive the crown from his own hands only. Murat was first set to work to terrorize the Junta of Regency, and the ‘Council of Castile,’ a body which practically occupied much the same position as the English Privy Council. At his dictation the Junta yielded, but with an ill grace, and sent petitions to Bayonne asking for a new monarch, and suggesting (as desired) that the person chosen might be Joseph Bonaparte, King of Naples [May 13]. Murat had just been informed that as all had gone well with the Emperor’s plans he should have his reward: he might make his choice between the thrones of Naples and of Portugal. He wisely chose the former, where the rough work of subjection had already been done by his predecessor.
But resolved to get together something like a representative body which might vote away the liberty of Spain, Napoleon nominated, in the Madrid Gazette of May 24, 150 persons who were to go to Bayonne and there ask him to grant them a king. He named a most miscellaneous crowd—ministers, bishops, judges, municipal officers of Madrid, dukes and counts, the heads of the religious orders, the Grand Inquisitor and some of his colleagues, and six well-known Americans who were to speak for the colonies. To the eternal disgrace of[p. 64] the ruling classes of Spain, no less than ninety-one of the nominees were base enough to obey the orders given them, to go to Bayonne, and there to crave as a boon that the weak and incompetent Joseph Bonaparte might be set to govern their unhappy country, under the auspices of his brother the hero and regenerator. Long before the degrading farce was complete, the whole country was in arms behind them, and they knew themselves for traitors. The election of King Joseph I was only taken in hand on June 15, while twenty days before the north and south of Spain had risen in arms in the name of the captive Ferdinand VII.
It took a week for the news of the insurrection of May 2 to spread round Spain: in the public mouth it of course assumed the shape of a massacre deliberately planned by Murat. It was not till some days later that the full details of the events at Bayonne got abroad. But ever since the surprise of the frontier fortresses in February and March, intelligent men all over the country had been suspecting that some gross act of treachery was likely to be the outcome of the French invasion. Yet in most of the districts of Spain there was a gap of some days between the arrival of the news of the King’s captivity and the first outbreak of popular indignation. The fact was that the people were waiting for the lawful and constituted authorities to take action, and did not move of themselves till it was certain that no initiative was to be expected from those in high places. But Spain was a country which had long been governed on despotic lines; and its official chiefs, whether the nominees of Godoy or of the knot of intriguers who had just won their way to power under Ferdinand, were not the men to lead a war of national independence. Many were mere adventurers, who had risen to preferment by flattering the late favourite. Others were typical bureaucrats, whose only concern was to accept as legitimate whatever orders reached them from Madrid: provided those orders were couched in the proper form and written on the right paper, they did not look to see whether the signature at the bottom was that of Godoy or of the Infante Don Antonio, or of Murat. Others again were courtiers who owed their position to their great names, and not to any personal ability. It is this fact that accounts for the fortnight or even three weeks of torpor that followed the events of the second and sixth of May. Murat’s orders during that space travelled over the country, and most of the captains-general and other authorities[p. 65] seemed inclined to obey them. Yet they were orders which should have stirred up instant disobedience; the Mediterranean squadron was to be sent to Toulon, where (if it did not get taken on the way by the British) it would fall into the hands of Napoleon. A large detachment of the depleted regular army was to sail for Buenos Ayres, with the probable prospect of finding itself ere long on the hulks at Portsmouth, instead of on the shores of the Rio de la Plata. The Swiss regiments in Spanish pay were directed to be transferred to the French establishment, and to take the oath to Napoleon. All this could have no object save that of diminishing the fighting power of the country.
The first province where the people plucked up courage to act without their officials, and to declare war on France in spite of the dreadful odds against them, was the remote and inaccessible principality of the Asturias, pressed in between the Bay of Biscay and the Cantabrian hills. Riots began at its capital, Oviedo, as early as the first arrival of the news from Madrid on May 9, when Murat’s edicts were torn down in spite of the feeble resistance of the commander of the garrison and some of the magistrates. The Asturias was one of the few provinces of Spain which still preserved vestiges of its mediaeval representative institutions. It had a ‘Junta General,’ a kind of local ‘estates,’ which chanced to be in session at the time of the crisis. Being composed of local magnates and citizens, and not of officials and bureaucrats, this body was sufficiently in touch with public opinion to feel itself borne on to action. After ten days of secret preparation, the city of Oviedo and the surrounding country-side rose in unison on May 24: the partisans of the new government were imprisoned, and next day the estates formally declared war on Napoleon Bonaparte, and ordered a levy of 18,000 men from the principality to resist invasion. A great part of the credit for this daring move must be given to the president of the Junta, the Marquis of Santa Cruz, who had stirred up his colleagues as early as the thirteenth by declaring that ‘when and wherever one single Spaniard took arms against Napoleon, he would shoulder a musket and put himself at that man’s side.’ The Asturians had knowledge that other provinces would follow their example; there was only one battalion of regular troops and one of militia under arms in the province; its financial resources were small. Its only strength lay in the rough mountains that had once sheltered King Pelayo from the[p. 66] Moors. It was therefore an astounding piece of patriotism when the inhabitants of the principality threw down the challenge to the victor of Jena and Austerlitz, confiding in their stern resolution and their good cause. All through the war the Asturias played a very creditable part in the struggle, and never let the light of liberty go out, though often its capital and its port of Gihon fell into French hands.
One of the first and wisest measures taken by the Asturian Junta was an attempt to interest Great Britain in the insurrection. On May 30 they sent to London two emissaries (one of whom was the historian Tore?o) on a Jersey privateer, whose captain was persuaded to turn out of his course for the public profit. On June 7 they had reached London and had an interview with Canning, the Foreign Secretary of the Tory government which had lately come into power. Five days later they were assured that the Asturias might draw on England for all it required in the way of arms, munitions, and money. All this was done before it was known in England that any other Spanish province was stirring, for it was not till June 22 that the plenipotentiaries of the other juntas began to appear in London.
The revolt of other provinces followed in very quick succession. Galicia rose on May 30, in spite of its captain-general, Filanghieri, whose resistance to the popular voice cost him his popularity and, not long after, his life. Corunna and Ferrol, the two northern arsenals of Spain, led the way. This addition to the insurgent forces was very important, for the province was full of troops—the garrisons that protected the ports from English descents. There were eighteen battalions of regulars and fourteen of militia—a whole army—concentrated in this remote corner of Spain. Napoleon’s plan of removing the Spanish troops from the neighbourhood of Madrid had produced the unintended result of making the outlying provinces very strong for self-defence.
It is more fitting for a Spanish than an English historian to descend into the details of the rising of each province of Spain. The general characteristics of the outburst in each region were much the same: hardly anywhere did the civil or military officials in charge of the district take the lead. Almost invariably they hung back, fearing for their places and profits, and realizing far better than did the insurgents the enormous military power which they were challenging. The leaders of the movement were either[p. 67] local magnates not actually holding office—like the celebrated Joseph Palafox at Saragossa—or demagogues of the streets, or (but less frequently than might have been expected) churchmen, Napoleon was quite wrong when he called the Spanish rising ‘an insurrection of monks.’ The church followed the nation, and not the nation the church: indeed many of the spiritual hierarchy were among the most servile instruments of Murat. Among them was the primate of Spain, the Archbishop of Toledo, who was actually a scion of the house of Bourbon. There were many ecclesiastics among the dishonoured ninety-one that went to Bayonne, if there were others who (like the Bishop of Santander) put themselves at the head of their flocks when the country took arms.
It was a great misfortune for Spain that the juntas, which were everywhere formed when the people rose, had to be composed in large part of men unacquainted with government and organization. There were many intelligent patriots among their members, a certain number of statesmen who had been kept down or disgraced by Godoy, but also a large proportion of ambitious windbags and self-seeking intriguers. It was hard to constitute a capable government, on the spur of the moment, in a country which had suffered twenty years of Godoy’s rule.
An unfortunate feature of the rising was that in most of the provinces, and especially those of the south, it took from the first a very sanguinary cast. It was natural that the people should sweep away in their anger every official who tried to keep them down, or hesitated to commit himself to the struggle with France. But there was no reason to murder these weaklings or traitors, in the style of the Jacobins. There was a terrible amount of assassination, public and private, during the first days of the insurrection. Three captains-general were slain under circumstances of brutal cruelty—Filanghieri in Galicia, Torre del Fresno in Estremadura, Solano at Cadiz. The fate of Solano may serve as an example: he tried to keep the troops from joining the people, and vainly harangued the mob: pointing to the distant sails of the English blockading squadron he shouted, ‘There are your real enemies!’ But his words had no effect: he was hunted down in a house where he took refuge, and was being dragged to be hung on the public gallows, when the hand of a fanatic (or perhaps of a secret friend who wished to spare him a dishonourable death) dealt him a fatal[p. 68] stab in the side. Gregorio de la Cuesta, the Governor-General of Old Castile, who was destined to play such a prominent and unhappy part in the history of the next two years, nearly shared Solano’s fate. The populace of Valladolid, where he was residing, rose in insurrection like those of the other cities of Spain. They called on their military chief to put himself at their head; but Cuesta, an old soldier of the most unintelligent and brainless sort, hated mob-violence almost more than he hated the French. He held back, not from a desire to serve Bonaparte, but from a dislike to being bullied by civilians. The indignant populace erected a gallows outside his house and came to hang him thereon. It was not, it is said, till the rope was actually round his neck that the obstinate old man gave in. The Castilians promptly released him, and put him at the head of the armed rabble which formed their only force. Remembering the awful slaughter at Cabezon, at Medina de Rio Seco, and at Medellin, which his incapacity and mulish obstinacy was destined to bring about, it is impossible not to express the wish that his consent to take arms had been delayed for a few minutes longer.
All over Spain there took place, during the last days of May and the first week of June, scores of murders of prominent men, of old favourites of Godoy, of colonels who would not allow their regiments to march, of officials who had shown alacrity in obeying the orders of Murat. In the Asturias and at Saragossa alone do the new juntas seem to have succeeded in keeping down assassination. The worst scenes took place at Valencia, where a mad priest, the Canon Baltasar Calvo, led out a mob of ruffians who in two days [June 6-7] murdered 338 persons, the whole colony of French merchants residing in that wealthy town. It is satisfactory to know that when the Junta of Valencia felt itself firmly seated in the saddle of power, it seized and executed this abominable person and his chief lieutenants. In too many parts of Spain the murderers went unpunished: yet remembering the provocation which the nation had received, and comparing the blood shed by mob-violence with that which flowed in Revolutionary France, we must consider the outburst deplorable rather than surprising.
When the insurrection had reached its full development, we find that it centred round five points, in each of which a separate junta had seized on power and begun to levy an army. The most powerful focus was Seville, from which all Andalusia took its[p. 69] directions: indeed the Junta of Seville had assumed the arrogant style of ‘supreme Junta of Spain and the Indies,’ to which it had no legitimate title. The importance of Andalusia was that it was full of troops, the regular garrisons having been joined by most of the expeditionary corps which had returned from southern Portugal. Moreover it was in possession of a full treasury and a fleet, and had free communication with the English at Gibraltar. On June 15 the Andalusians struck the first military blow that told on Napoleon, by bombarding and capturing the French fleet (the relics of Trafalgar) which lay at their mercy within the harbour of Cadiz.
The second in importance of the centres of resistance was Galicia, which was also fairly well provided with troops, and contained the arsenals of Ferrol and Corunna. The risings in Asturias, and the feebler gatherings of patriots in Leon and Old Castile, practically became branches of the Galician insurrection, though they were directed by their own juntas and tried to work for themselves. It was on the army of Galicia that they relied for support, and 佛山桑拿美女2013体验 without it they would not have been formidable. The boundaries of this area of insurrection were Santander, Valladolid, and Segovia: further east the troops of Moncey and Bessières, in the direction of Burgos and Aranda, kept the country-side from rising. There were sporadic gatherings of peasants in the Upper Ebro valley and the mountains of Northern Castile, but these were mere unorganized ill-armed bands that half a battalion could disperse. It was the same in the Basque Provinces and Navarre: here too the French lay cantoned so thickly that it was impossible to meddle with them: their points of concentration were Vittoria and the two fortresses of Pampeluna and San Sebastian.
The other horn of the half-moon of revolt, which encircled Madrid, was composed of the insurrections in Murcia and Valencia to the south and Aragon 佛山夜生活哪里好玩 to the north. These regions were much less favourably situated for forming centres of resistance, because they were very weak in organized troops. When the Aragonese elected Joseph Palafox as their captain-general and declared war on France, there were only 2,000 regulars and one battery of artillery in their realm. The levies which they began to raise were nothing more than half-armed peasants, with no adequate body of officers to train and drill them. Valencia and Murcia were a little better off, because the arsenal of Cartagena and its garrison lay within[p. 70] their boundaries, but there were only 9,000 men in all under arms in the two provinces. Clearly they could not hope to deliver such a blow as Galicia or Andalusia might deal.
The last centre of revolt, Catalonia, did not fall into the same strategical system as the 佛山桑拿论坛有波推吗 other four. It looked for its enemies not at Madrid, but at Barcelona, where Lecchi and Duhesme were firmly established ever since their coup de main in February. The Catalans had as their task the cutting off of this body of invaders from its communication with France, and the endeavour to prevent new forces from joining it by crossing the Eastern Pyrenees. The residence of the insurrectionary Junta was at Tarragona, but the most important point in the province for the moment was Gerona, a fortress commanding the main road from France, which Napoleon had not had the foresight to seize at the same moment that he won by treachery Barcelona and Figueras. While the Spaniards could hold it, they had some chance of isolating the army of Duhesme from its supports. In Catalonia, or in the Balearic Isles off its coast, there were in 佛山桑拿按摩洗浴中心 May 1808, about 16,000 men of regular troops, among whom there were only 1,200 soldiers of the cavalry arm. There was no militia, but by old custom the levée en masse might always be called out in moments of national danger. These irregulars, somatenes as they were called (from somaten, the alarm-bell which roused them), turned out in great numbers according to ancient custom: they had been mobilized thirteen years before in the French War of 1793-5 and their warlike traditions were by no means forgotten. All through the Peninsular struggle they made a very creditable figure, considering their want of organization and the difficulty of keeping them together.
The French armies, putting aside Duhesme’s isolated force at Barcelona, lay compactly in a great wedge piercing into the heart of Spain. Its point was at Toledo, just 佛山桑拿休闲会所 south of Madrid: its base was a line drawn from San Sebastian to Pampeluna across the Western Pyrenees. Its backbone lay along the great high road from Vittoria by Burgos to Madrid. The advantageous point of this position was that it completely split Central Spain in two: there was no communication possible between the insurgents of Galicia and those of Aragon. On the other hand the wedge was long and narrow, and exposed to be pierced by a force striking at it either from the north-east or the north-west. The Aragonese[p. 71] rebels were too few to be dangerous; but the strong Spanish army of Galicia was well placed for a blow at Burgos, and a successful attack in that direction would cut off Madrid from France, and leave the troops in and about the capital, who formed the point of the intrusive wedge, in a very perilous 佛山桑拿网2019论坛 condition. This is the reason why, in the first stage of the war, Napoleon showed great anxiety as to what the army of Galicia might do, while professing comparative equanimity about the proceedings of the other forces of the insurrection.
Having thus sketched the strategic position of affairs in the Peninsula during the first days of June, we must set ourselves to learn the main characteristics of the military geography of Spain, and to estimate the character, organization, and fighting value of the two armies which were just about to engage. Without some knowledge of the conditions of warfare in Spain, a mere catalogue of battles and marches would be absolutely useless.
SECTION II THE LAND AND THE COMBATANTS CHAPTER I
MILITARY GEOGRAPHY OF THE PENINSULA: MOUNTAINS, RIVERS, ROADS
Of all the regions of Europe, the Iberian Peninsula 佛山桑拿qq possesses the best marked frontier. It is separated from France, its only neighbour, by one broad range of mountains, which defines its boundaries even more clearly than the Alps mark those of Italy. For the Alps are no single chain, but a system of double and triple chains running parallel to each other, and leaving between them debatable lands such as Savoy and the Southern Tyrol. Between Spain and France there is no possibility of any such claims and counter-claims. It is true that Roussillon, where the eastern end of the Pyrenean range runs into the sea, was Spanish down to 1659, but that was a political survival from the Middle Ages, not a natural union: there can be no doubt that geographically Roussillon is a French and not an Iberian land: the main backbone of the boundary chain lies south and not north of it.
The Pyrenees, though in height they cannot vie with the 佛山桑拿按摩感受 Alps, and though they are not nearly so jagged or scarped as the greater chain, are extremely difficult to cross, all the more so because the hand of man has seldom come to help the hand of nature in making practicable lines of access between France and Spain. In the whole length between the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean there are only two short fronts where intercommunication is easy, and these lie at the extreme east and west, where the mountains touch the sea. In the 250 miles which intervene there is hardly one good pass practicable for wheeled traffic or for the march of an army: most are mere mule-paths, rarely used save by smugglers and shepherds. The only one of these minor routes employed in the war was that which leads from Jaca in Aragon to Oloron in[p. 73] Béarn, and that was not much used: only on one single occasion in 1813 does it appear prominently in 东莞佛山桑拿按摩网 history, when Clausel’s French division, fleeing before Wellington and pressed up against the foot of the mountains, escaped across it with some difficulty.
The only passes that were systematically employed during the war were those which lie close to the water at each end of the Pyrenean chain. At the eastern end there are three which lead from Roussillon into Catalonia. One hugs the water’s edge, and crawls along under the cliffs from Perpignan to Rosas: this was not in 1808 the most important of the three, though it is the one by which the railway passes to-day. Inland there are two other roads over difficult crests—one ten, the other forty miles from the shore—the former from Bellegarde to Figueras, the other from Mont-Louis to Puycerda and Vich. The first was the pass most used in the war, being less exposed than the Rosas route to English descents from the sea: the coast road could actually be cannonaded by warships at 佛山桑拿按摩网论坛 some corners. It was blocked indeed by the fortress of Figueras, but that stronghold was only in Spanish hands for a very short period of the war. The inmost, or Mont-Louis-Puycerda road was bad, led into nothing more than a few upland valleys, and was very little employed by the French. It would have been of importance had it led down into the lowlands of Aragon, but after taking a long turn in the hills it harks back towards the Catalan coast, and joins the other two roads near Gerona—a fortress which is so placed as practically to command every possible access into Eastern Spain.
Taking all three of these paths into Catalonia together, they do but form a sort of back door into the Iberian Peninsula. They only communicate with the narrow eastern coast-strip from Barcelona to Valencia. There is no direct access from them into Castile, the heart of the country, and only a roundabout entrance by Lerida into Aragon. The great mass of the Catalan and Valencian Sierras bars them out from the main bulk of the Spanish realm. Catalonia and Valencia, wealthy and in parts fertile as they are, are but its back premises.
The true front door of the kingdom is formed by the passes at the other, the western, end of the Pyrenees. Here too we have three available routes, but they differ in character from the roads at the edge of the Mediterranean, in that they open up two completely separate lines of advance into Spain, and do not (like the[p. 74] Catalan defiles) all lead on to the same goal. All three start from Bayonne, the great southern fortress of Gascony. The first keeps for some time close to the seaside, and after crossing the Bidassoa, the boundary river of France and Spain, at Irun, leaves the fortress of San Sebastian a few miles to its right and then charges the main chain of the mountains. It emerges at Vittoria, the most northerly town of importance in the basin of the Ebro. A few miles further south it crosses that stream, and then makes for Burgos and Madrid, over two successive lines of Sierras. It opens up the heart of both Old and New Castile. The other two roads from Bayonne strike inland at once, and do not hug the Biscayan shore like the Irun-Vittoria route. They climb the Pyrenees, one by the pass of Maya, the other, twenty miles further east, by the more famous pass of Roncesvalles, where Charlemagne suffered disaster of old, and left the great paladin, Roland, dead behind him. The Maya and Roncesvalles roads join, after passing the mountains, at the great fortress of Pampeluna, the capital of Navarre. From thence several lines are available for the invader, the two chief of which are the roads into Old Castile by Logro?o and into Aragon by Tudela. Pampeluna is quite as valuable as Vittoria as the base for an attack on Central Spain.
The whole Iberian Peninsula has been compared, not inaptly, to an inverted soup-plate: roughly it consists of a high central plateau, surrounded by a flat rim. But no comparison of that kind can be pressed too hard, and we must remember that the rim is variable in width: sometimes, as on the north coast, and in the extreme south-east of the peninsula, it is very narrow, and much cut up by small spurs running down to the sea. But as a rule, and especially in Central Portugal, Andalusia, Murcia, and Valencia, it is broad and fertile. Indeed if we set aside the northern coast—Biscay, Asturias, and Galicia—we may draw a sharp division between the rich and semi-tropical coast plain, and the high, wind-swept, and generally barren central plateau. All the wealth of the land lies in the outer strip: the centre is its most thinly inhabited and worthless part. Madrid, lying in the very midst of the plateau, is therefore not the natural centre of the land in anything save a mathematical sense. It is a new and artificial town of the sixteenth century, pitched upon as an administrative capital by the Hapsburg kings; but in spite of the long residence of the court there, it never grew into a city of the first class. Summing[p. 75] up its ineligibilities, an acute observer said that Madrid combined ‘the soil of the Sahara, the sun of Calcutta, the wind of Edinburgh, and the cold of the North Pole.’ Though in no sense the natural capital of the country, it has yet a certain military importance as the centre from which the road-system of Spain radiates. There is, as a glance at the map will show, no other point from which all the main avenues of communication with the whole of the provinces can be controlled. An invader, therefore, who has got possession of it can make any combined action against himself very difficult. But he must not flatter himself that the capture of Madrid carries with it the same effect that the capture of Paris or Berlin or Vienna entails. The provinces have no such feeling of dependence on the national capital as is common in other countries. France with Paris occupied by an enemy is like a body deprived of its head. But for Andalusians or Catalonians or Galicians the occupation of Madrid had no such paralysing effect. No sentimental affection for the royal residence—and Madrid was nothing more—existed. And a government established at Seville or Cadiz, or any other point, would be just as well (or as ill) obeyed as one that issued its orders from the sandy banks of the Manzanares.
The main geographical, as well as the main political, characteristics of Spain are determined by its very complicated mountain-system. It is a land where the rivers count for little, and the hills for almost everything,
in settling military conditions. In most countries great rivers are connecting cords of national life: their waters carry the internal traffic of the realm: the main roads lie along their banks. But in Spain the streams, in spite of their length and size, are useless. They mostly flow in deep-sunk beds, far below the level of the surrounding country-side. Their rapid current is always swirling round rocks, or dashing over sandbanks: often they flow for mile after mile between cliffs from which it is impossible to reach the water’s edge. In the rainy season they are dangerous torrents: in the summer all save the very largest dwindle down into miserable brooks. A river in Spain is always a sundering obstacle, never a line of communication. Only for a few scores of miles near their mouths can any one of them be utilized for navigation: the Douro can be so employed as far as Freneda on the frontier of Portugal, the Tagus in good seasons as far as Abrantes, the Guadalquivir to Seville. For the rest of their long courses they are not available even for the lightest boats.
Spanish rivers, in short, are of importance not as lines of transit, but as obstacles. They form many fine positions for defence, but positions generally rendered dangerous by the fact that a very few days of drought may open many unsuspected fords, where just before there had been deep and impassable water. Rivers as broad as the Tagus below Talavera and the Douro at Toro were occasionally crossed by whole armies in dry weather. It was always hazardous to trust to them as permanent lines of defence.
It is the mountains which really require to be studied in detail from the military point of view. Speaking generally we may describe the Iberian system—as distinct from the Pyrenees—as consisting of one chain running roughly from north to south, so as to separate the old kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, while at right angles to this chain run a number of others, whose general courses are parallel to each other and run from east to west. There is no single name for the mountains which separate Castile and Aragon, nor do they form one continuous range. They are a number of separate systems, often divided from each other by wide gaps, and sometimes broadening out into high tablelands. The central nucleus, from which the rest run out, lies between the provinces of New Castile and Valencia, from Guadalajara in the former to Morella in the latter. Here there is a great ganglion of chaotic sierras, pierced by hardly a single practicable road. Northward, in the direction of Aragon, they sink down into the plain of the Ebro: southward they spread out into the lofty plateau of Murcia, but rise into higher and narrower ranges again as they get near the frontier of Andalusia.
This block of chains and plateaus forms the central watershed of Spain, which throws westward the sources of the Douro, Tagus, Guadiana, and Guadalquivir, and eastward those of the Xucar and Segura. The basins of these streams and their tributaries form three-fourths of the Iberian Peninsula. The rest consists mainly of the great valley of the Ebro: this hardly falls into the system, and is somewhat exceptional. It has been described as serving as a sort of wet-ditch to the main fortification of the peninsula. Starting in the western extension of the Pyrenees, quite close to the Bay of Biscay, it runs diagonally across Spain, more or less parallel to the Pyrenees, and falls into the Mediterranean between Catalonia and Valencia. It is more low-lying than the rest of the main valleys of Spain, is broader, and is not so much cramped[p. 77] and cut up by mountains running down to it at right angles to its course.
Behind the Ebro lie, chain after chain, the parallel sierras which mark off the divisions of the great central plateau of Spain. Arteche compares them to the waves of a great petrified sea, running some higher and some lower, but all washing up into jagged crests, with deep troughs between them.
The first and most northerly of these waves is that which we may call the range of Old Castile, which separates the basin of the Ebro from that of the Douro. At one end it links itself to the Pyrenean chain in the neighbourhood of Santander: at the other it curves round to join the more central sierras in the direction of Soria and Calatayud. It is the lowest of the chains which bound the central plateau of Spain, and is pierced by three practicable roads, of which the most important is that from Vittoria to Burgos.
Between this chain on the east and the Cantabrian mountains on the north lies the great plain of Old Castile and Leon, the heart of the elder Spanish monarchy, in the days when Aragon was still independent and Andalusia remained in the hands of the Moor. It is a fairly productive corn-producing land, studded with ancient cities such as Burgos, Palencia, Valladolid, Toro, Zamora, Salamanca. The Tierra de Campos (land of the plains), as it was called, was the granary of Northern Spain, the most civilized part of the kingdom, and the only one where there existed a fairly complete system of roads. For want of the isolated mountain chains which cut up most provinces of the Iberian Peninsula, it was hard to defend and easy to overrun. If the mountains that divide it from the Ebro valley are once passed, there is no way of stopping the invader till he reaches the border of Asturias, Galicia, or New Castile. The whole plain forms the valley of the Upper Douro and its tributaries, the Adaja, Pisuerga, Esla, Tormes, and the rest. It narrows down towards Portugal, as the mountains of Galicia on the one side and Estremadura on the other throw out their spurs to north and south. Hence the Lower Douro valley, after the Portuguese frontier has been passed, is a defile rather than a plain. Before Oporto and the estuary are reached, there are many places where the mountains on either side come right down to the river’s edge.
The second chain is much more important, and more strongly[p. 78] marked: it divides Old from New Castile, the valley of the Douro from that of the Tagus. In its central and western parts it is really a double range, with two narrow valleys between its chief ridges. These valleys are drained by the Zezere and Alagon, two tributaries of the Tagus which flow parallel for many scores of miles to the broad river which they feed. If we call this great system of mountains the chain of New Castile it is only for convenience’ sake: the Spaniards and Portuguese have no common name for them. In the east they are styled the Sierra de Ayllon; above Madrid they are known as the Guadarrama—a name sometimes extended to the whole chain. When they become double, west of Madrid, the northern chain is the Sierra de Gata, the southern the Sierra de Gredos. Finally in Portugal the extension of the Sierra de Gata is called the Sierra da Estrella, the southern parallel ridge the Sierra do Moradal. The whole system forms a very broad, desolate, and lofty belt of hills between the Tagus and Douro, through which the practicable passes are few and difficult. Those requiring notice are (1) the Somosierra Pass, through which runs the great northern road from Burgos to Madrid: its name is well remembered owing to the extraordinary way in which Napoleon succeeded in forcing it (against all the ordinary rules of war) in the winter of 1808. (2) There is a group of three passes, all within twelve miles of each other, across the Guadarrama, through which there debouch on to Madrid the main roads from North-western Spain—those from (a) Valladolid and Segovia, (b) from Astorga, Tordesillas, and Arevalo, (c) from Salamanca by Avila. After this group of passes there is a long space of impracticable hills, till we come to the chief road from north to south, parallel to the Portuguese frontier: it comes down the valley of the Alagon from Salamanca, by Ba?os and Plasencia, on to the great Roman bridge of Alcantara, the main passage over the Middle Tagus. This is a bad road through a desolate country, but the exigencies of war caused it to be used continually by the French and English armies, whenever they had to transfer themselves from the valley of the Douro to that of the Tagus. Occasionally they employed a still worse route, a little further west, from Ciudad Rodrigo by Perales to Alcantara. When we get within the Portuguese frontier, we find a road parallel to the last, from Almeida by Guarda to Abrantes, also a difficult route, but like it in perpetual use: usually, when the French marched from Salamanca[p. 79] to Alcantara, Wellington moved in a corresponding way from near Almeida to Abrantes. This road runs along the basin of the Zezere, though not down in the trough of the river, but high up the hillsides above it. Spanish and Portuguese roads, as we shall see, generally avoid the river banks and run along the slopes far above them.
The next great chain across the Peninsula is that which separates the barren and sandy valley of the Upper Tagus from the still more desolate and melancholy plateau of La Mancha, the basin of the Guadiana. Of all the regions of Central Spain, this is the most thinly peopled and uninviting. In the whole valley there are only two towns of any size, Ciudad Real, the capital of La Mancha, and Badajoz, the frontier fortress against Portugal. The mountains north of the Guadiana are called first the Sierra de Toledo, then the Sierra de Guadalupe, lastly on the Portuguese frontier the Sierra de San Mamed. Their peculiarity, as opposed to the other cross-ranges of the Peninsula, is that at their eastern end they do not unite directly with the mountains of Valencia, but leave a broad gap of upland, through which the roads from Madrid to Murcia and Madrid to Valencia take their way. When the Sierra de Toledo once begins roads are very few. There are practically only three—(1) Toledo by San Vincente to Merida, a most break-neck route winding among summits for forty miles; (2) Almaraz by Truxillo to Merida, the main path from Tagus to Guadiana, and the most used, though it is difficult and steep; (3) Alcantara by Albuquerque to Badajoz, a bad military road parallel to the Portuguese frontier, continuing the similar route from Salamanca to Alcantara.
Leaving the barren basin of the Guadiana to proceed southward, we find across our path a range of first-rate importance, the southern boundary of the central plateaux of Spain: dropping down from its crest we are no longer among high uplands, but in the broad low-lying semi-tropical plain of Andalusia, the richest region of Spain. The chain between the fertile valley of the Guadalquivir and the barren plateau of La Mancha is known for the greater part of its course as the Sierra Morena, but in its western section it takes the name of Sierra de Constantino. The passes across it require special notice: the most eastern and the most important is that of Despe?a Perros, through which passes the high road from Madrid to Cordova, Seville, and Cadiz. At its southern exit was fought the fight of Baylen, in which the armies[p. 80] of Napoleon received their first great check by the surrender of Dupont and his 20,000 men on July 23, 1808. Higher up the defile lies another historic spot, on which Christian and Moor fought the decisive battle for the mastery of Spain in the early years of the thirteenth century, the well-known fight of Las Navas de Tolosa. The Despe?a Perros has two side-passes close to its left and right: the former is that of San Estevan del Puerto: the latter is known as the ‘King’s Gate’ (Puerto del Rey). All these three defiles present tremendous difficulties to an assailant from the north, yet all were carried in a single rush by the armies of Soult and Sebastiani in 1810. The central pass of the Sierra Morena lies ninety miles to the left, and is of much less importance, as it starts from the most arid corner of La Mancha, and does not connect itself with any of the great roads from the north. It leads down on to Cordova from Hinojosa. Again sixty miles to the west three more passes come down on to Seville, the one by Llerena, the second by Monasterio, the third by Fregenal: they lead to Badajoz and Merida. These are easier routes through a less rugged country: they were habitually used by Soult in 1811 and 1812, when, from his Andalusian base at Seville, he used to go north to besiege or to relieve the all-important fortress of Badajoz.
Last of all the great Spanish chains is that which lies close along the Mediterranean Sea, forming the southern edge of the fertile Andalusian plain. It is the Sierra Nevada, which, though neither the longest nor the broadest of the ranges of the south, contains the loftiest peaks in Spain, Mulha?en and La Veleta. This chain runs from behind Gibraltar along the shore, till it joins the mountains of Murcia, leaving only a very narrow coast-strip between its foot and the southern sea. Three roads cut it in its western half, which, starting from Granada, Ronda, and Antequera all come down to the shore at, or in the neighbourhood of, the great port of Malaga. The parts of the coast-line that are far from that city are only accessible by following difficult roads that run close to the water’s edge.
We have still to deal with two corners of the Iberian Peninsula, which do not fall into any of the great valleys that we have described—Galicia and Northern Portugal in the north-west, and Catalonia in the north-east. The geographical conditions of the former region depend on the Cantabrian Mountains, the western continuation of the Pyrenees. This chain, after running for many[p. 81] miles as a single ridge, forks in the neighbourhood of the town of Leon. One branch keeps on in its original direction, and runs by the coast till it reaches the Atlantic at Cape Finisterre. The other turns south-west and divides Spain from Portugal as far as the sea. The angle between these forking ranges is drained by a considerable river, the Minho. The basins of this stream and its tributary the Sil, form the greater part of the province of Galicia. Their valleys are lofty, much cut up by cross-spurs, and generally barren. The access to them from Central Spain is by two openings. The main one is the high road from Madrid to Corunna by Astorga; it does not follow the course of either the Sil or the Minho, but charges cross-ridge after cross-ridge of the spurs of the Galician hills, till at last it comes down to the water, and forks into two routes leading the one to Corunna, the other to the still more important arsenal of Ferrol. The other gate of Galicia is a little to the south of Astorga, where a pass above the town of Puebla de Sanabria gives access to a steep and winding road parallel to the Portuguese frontier, which finally gets into the valley of the Minho, and turns down to reach the port of Vigo. It will be remembered that Sir John Moore, in his famous retreat, hesitated for some time at Astorga between the Vigo and Corunna roads, and finally chose the latter. His judgement was undoubtedly correct, but the best alternative was bad, for in winter even the Madrid-Corunna road, the main artery of this part of Spain, is distressing enough to an army. It does not follow any well-marked valley, but cuts across four separate ranges, every one of which in January was a nursery of torrents in its lower slopes, and an abode of snow in its upper levels. Besides the roads with which we have already dealt there is a third important line of communication in Galicia, that by the narrow coast-plain of the Atlantic, from Corunna by Santiago to Vigo, and thence into Portugal as far as Oporto. This would be a good road but for the innumerable river-mouths, small and great, which it has to cross: the road passes each stream just where it ceases to be tidal, and at each is fronted at right angles by a defensible position, which, if held by a competent enemy, is difficult to force from the front, and still more difficult to turn by a detour up-stream. Nevertheless it was by this route that Soult successfully invaded Northern Portugal in the spring of 1809. It must be remembered that he was only opposed by bands of peasants not even organized into the loosest form of militia.