The Duke of Wellington, Warrior of the Empire, Part 3
Patrick Harris -
Sorry for the lack of posts! Been a bit busy working on a new feature for N & N.Sir Arthur Wellesley had taken some time off from the army to go into politics. Through his ample political connections, he became an MP for several boroughs, some of them rotten. Later, he was made the Chief Secretary of Ireland and a Privy Counselor. He heard of a coming British campaign on Denmark, and he wished to be a part. He was appointed to lead a brigade in the Second Battle of Copenhagen (August 1807). He fought at the battle of Køge, his brigade took 1,500 prisoners. Upon his return from this campaign, he was promoted to Lt. General and accepted the command of an expedition of 9000 men. Originally routed to South America, they were instead deployed to Portugal. It would be the start of Wellington's long campaign in the Iberian.
Wellesley left Cork on July 12th 1808, arriving at Modego Bay in Portugal in August. It took almost a fortnight to unload the ships, in very heavy swells, which the land loving soldiers were not accustomed to. Sir Arthur persevered, and the army was soon marching south towards Lisbon, and the French general Junot. They met first at Rolica, which Wellington barely won.
Wellesley reached the village of Vimeiro and waited for Junot, and was promptly relieved of command by his nominal superior, Sir Harry Burrard. However, Sir Harry decided to spend on more night on the ship that had brought him to Vimeiro bay, a 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, springing 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 and Wellesley headed home, he could not tolerate fighting a war as a subordinate.