The Duke Of Wellington: Warrior of the Empire: Part 5
Patrick Harris -
Upon his victory at Talavera, Lord Wellington was forced back into Portugal, faced with a massive army of French troops under Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother who had been granted the throne of Spain. Wellington retreated into Portugal. There he began one of the biggest military engineering projects ever, the Lines of Torres Vedras. This defensive line of forts was built without the knowledge of the British government in complete secrecy (for the accompanying Sharpe adventure, see Sharpe's Escape). The line was meant to be unbreakable, and had to be, for Marshal Massena attacked in 1810.
After baiting Massena at the Battle of Bussaco, Wellington used a scorched earth policy as he withdrew behind his formidable lines. Massena was forced to attack with his starving army, and they easily broke under the well fed redcoats. After six months, into 1811, The French retreated, with Wellington in pursuit. The British were checked by Marshal Ney's brilliant rearguard action. Massena decided to invade again later that year in order to relieve the city of Almeida from a British siege, though his forces were stopped at the Battle of Fuentes d'Onoro.
Casualties at Fuentes d'Onoro were relatively light for a battle of that time period, though it lies at the center of the eventual outcome of the Peninsular War. If Almeida had been relieved, it may have set Wellington's eventual final invasion of Spain back at least a year. For his services, Wellington was made a full General. The French abandoned Almeida, though they still held Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz. There was much campaigning ahead.
I'm really having fun writing the Duke of Wellington series, but due to a deployment with the RCN, I will not be able to continue it until August. Until then I have a few posts which should interest you for the next few weeks.