Wellington: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview

20 From Vitoria to the Frontier 1812-13

'No officer dared to interfere.'

WELLINGTON left for the Spanish frontier in May 1813, turning in his saddle as he rode across it and waving his hat -- in one of those theatrical gestures to which he was occasionally and unexpectedly prone -- as he called out, 'Farewell, Portugal I shall never see you again.'1

As the French withdrew across the Douro, his men marched into Spain, greeted excitedly in village after village where church bells pealed, flowers were scattered on the soldiers' heads from windows and balconies, girls beat tambourines, young men stamped their heels as they kept pace with the soldiers down the streets, performing fandangos and boleros as accompaniments to the rhythmical tramp of the marching feet.

The tiring march went on through Zamora and Léon towards the fast-flowing river Esla, a tributary of the Douro. This was a formidable obstacle, and several men were swept away in the torrent as they tried to cross the ford of Almendra before a pontoon bridge was erected for the rest of the British force. But soon after the last man was across the entire British army -- which Wellington had divided so that the French might be left in doubt as to which of the two columns was the main thrust -- was reunited near Tordesillas and ready to march together for Burgos, supplied now through the port of Santander on Spain's northern coast.

The enemy, having evacuated Valladolid and Palencia, were prepared to make a stand here; but Wellington saved himself a siege by manoeuvring them out of the town and obliging them to blow up the castle which was destroyed in a thunderous explosion that blew out the windows of the white Gothic Cathedral, founded in the thirteenth century by Ferdinand III of Castile.

Over the Ebro the British troops tramped and into the small Basque province of Alava, through fertile valleys, beneath mountains clothed

-133-

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Wellington: A Personal History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Author's Note and Acknowledgements xi
  • I - 1769-1815 1
  • 1 - Eton, Dublin and Angers 1769-87 3
  • 2 - An Officer in the 33rd 1787-93 9
  • 3 - The First Campaign 1794-5 13
  • 4 - A Voyage to India 1796-8 17
  • 5 - The Tiger of Mysore 1799 23
  • 6 - The Governor of Mysore 1799 30
  • 7 - The Sultan's Palace 1800-1 36
  • 8 - Assaye 1802-5 41
  • 9 - Return to London 1805-6 47
  • 10 - Kitty Pakenham 1790-1806 54
  • 11 - Ireland and Denmark 1806-7 58
  • 12 - Portugal 1808 66
  • 13 - Board of Enquiry 1808 77
  • 14 - Across the Douro 1809 82
  • 15 - 'A Whole Host of Marshals' 1809 - 10 92
  • 16 - From Bussaco to El Bodon 1810-11 101
  • 17 - Life at Headquarters 1810-12 108
  • 18 - Badajoz, Salamanca and Madrid 1812 117
  • 19 - Retreat to Portugal 1812 126
  • 20 - From Vitoria to the Frontier 1812-13 133
  • 21 - St Jean De Luz 1813 144
  • 22 - In London Again 1814 151
  • 23 - Paris and Vienna 1814-15 160
  • 24 - Brussels 1815 167
  • 25 - Waterloo 1815 174
  • II - 1815-52 187
  • 26 - The Ambassador 1815 189
  • 27 - Cambrai and Vitry 1815-18 202
  • 28 - Stratfield Saye 1818-20 213
  • 29 - King George IV and Queen Caroline 1820-1 220
  • 30 - Husband and Wife 1821 226
  • 31 - Vienna and Verona 1822-4 241
  • 32 - St Petersburg and the Northern Counties 1825 - 7 251
  • 33 - The Prime Minister 1828-9 264
  • 34 - Battersea Fields and Scotland Yard 273
  • 35 - The Death of the King 1829-30 278
  • 36 - Riots and Repression 1830-2 287
  • 37 - A Bogy to the Mob 1832 296
  • 38 - Oxford University and Apsley House 1832-4 306
  • 39 - Lady Friends 1834 313
  • 40 - The Foreign Secretary 1834-6 319
  • 41 - Portraits and Painters 1830-50 326
  • 42 - Life at Walmer Castle 1830-50 338
  • 43 - The Young Queen 1837-9 348
  • 44 - Grand Old Man 1839-50 357
  • 45 - The Horse Guards and the House of Lords 1842-50 367
  • 46 - Hyde Park Corner 1845-6 373
  • 47 - Disturbers of the Peace 1846-51 378
  • 48 - Growing Old 1850-1 385
  • 49 - Last Days 1851-2 394
  • 50 - The Way to St Paul's 1852 399
  • References 405
  • Sources 426
  • Index 439
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