The Duke of Wellington: Warrior of the Empire, Part 4
Patrick Harris -
Sir Arthur Wellesley had returned to Great Britain to face a court of inquiry over the controversial Convention of Sintra. Later in 1808 he was cleared of all charges, and remained in Britain as he had no command at the time. In January 1809 this changed. Sir John Moore, while achieving victory over the French at the Battle of Corunna, was killed in the heat of battle. Suddenly, the British Army in the Iberian was leaderless. Wellesley immediately wrote to Lord Castlereagh (The Secretary of War and later The British Foreign Secretary), stressing the importance of the defence of Portugal. Castlereagh agreed, and Wellesley was appointed Commander of all British forces in Portugal.
|The death of Sir John Moore|
Upon arriving in Lisbon, Wellesley went on the offensive, crossing the Douro behind Marshal Soult's Corps in the Second Battle of Oporto. Wellesley's men secured the Seminary at Oporto, using it as a bastion to bring French columns under the punishing bombardment of the newest advancement in British artillery, shrapnel. Soult was forced to flee in disarray, his army smashed. Portugal was secured.
Wellesley advanced into Spain. He united with a Spanish army General Cuesta, though they weren't much help. In the following Battle of Talavera, the inexperienced Spanish troops fled in disarray, leaving the British to fend off the French columns. Though several attacks were repulsed by the thin red line, the two day battle was not over until a wild British cavalry charge mauled the French cavalry. The British suffered badly, and even though the British won the day, Wellesley retreated into Portugal for the winter. For this action, he was created Viscount Wellington of Talavera and of Wellington.