The Battle of Vimeiro
Patrick Harris -After Wellington's (or at the time Sir Arthur Wellesley's) landing at Mondego Bay on 1 August 1808, he marched his army towards Lisbon. After narrowly winning at Rolica on 17 August, he continued towards Lisbon, and towards a French army of 13,000 under Junot. Wellesley decided to face him at a village called Vimeiro, 40 miles North of Lisbon. Wellesley reached Vimeiro and waited for Junot, and was promptly relieved of command by his superior, Sir Harry Burrard. However, Sir Harry decided to spend on more night on the ship that had brought him to Vimeiro bay, an stroke of luck that would put Wellesley in command where it really counted, in battle. When Wellesley arrived back on shore from Sir Harry's ship, he was told that the French were advancing. Vimeiro was to be a night action. Wellesley called his men to arms, quietly. Wellesley put 5000 men and a bunch of guns on the backside of Vimeiro hill, a tactic that would become Wellesley's style in the future. These men and guns would not be seen until the French were literally on top of them. Wellesley placed his riflemen and skirmishers in front of the hill and in the undergrowth. Almost immediately after the rifles were in position, the French arrived. The British pickets fell back, but the British artillery began raining death upon the approaching French columns. As soon as the French column reached the top of the hill, the British infantry sprang up, recking havoc upon the dense mass of men of the columns. The 50th regiment charged the deflated columns, and the first French attack was finished.Junot ordered three more attacks on Vimeiro hill, and they all faired the same way. The last was even subject to a British cavalry charge as it fled in disarray. Junot was not done yet, and he sent another mass of men to outflank Wellesley, but he was ready. As the flanking attacks climbed another hill, they met with the same fate as the previous attacks. Wellesley was about to pursue when Sir Harry finally got off his ship and cancelled the order. On 30 August the Convention of Cintra was signed, which allowed the defeated French to return home in British ships. This caused uproar in Britain, and Sir Harry, Wellesley, and another general were recalled to London for a court of inquiry. Eventually they were cleared an Wellesley headed home, he could not tolerate fighting a war as a subordinate.
|The charge of the 20th Light Dragoons at Vimeiro|