Mar 01 2012
When Lieutenant-General Thomas Graham departed from Cadiz in July 1811, he left advice and instructions for his successor in command of the allied troops, Major-General Cooke. He pertinently pointed out that:
“In the intercourse with the Spanish authorities where it is not necessary to have the King’s Minister’s interference, much patience and perseverance are necessary. Nothing is to be gained without firmness tempered with address that may appear flattering to them.”
Graham himself had certainly displayed firmness and tact in his dealings with the Spanish but, good-tempered man that he was, even he could not stomach the libel which General La Peña, and his mouthpiece, General Lacy, had perpetrated against him. (See article: Siege of Cadiz, part 6)
Graham embarked on board the Latona on the 2nd July, accompanied by the many friends he had made in Cadiz, including Henry Wellesley, Wellington’s youngest brother. (Henry’s “uniform support and friendly attentions in every way never can be over-rated”, he wrote in his journal.) Early the following morning the Latona set sail for Lisbon.
There followed a frustrating voyage delayed by contrary winds, but on the 9th July Graham finally landed at Belem, although the transports conveying his horses and mules, as well as a detachment of the 3/95th and a dismounted cavalry squadron, were further delayed. In the meantime, Graham wrote to Wellington, possibly anxious to make his presence in Portugal known. He assured the commander-in-chief, “I shall be ready to set off at a moment’s notice, should your Lordships wish me to join” before the arrival of the transports.
In fact, there was little happening on the Spanish-Portuguese border, where most of the Anglo-Portuguese army was posted. In a letter written on the 21st, though, Wellington revealed to Graham that his next objective was French-held Ciudad Rodrigo. Nevertheless, there would be a delay while the siege train was brought up the Douro.
On the same day Wellington wrote a letter to Lord Liverpool, the prime minister, which implicitly conveyed his trust in Graham. Having outlined the previous situation, whereby the general officer in command at Cadiz reported directly to the secretary of state and received orders from Liverpool himself, he continued, “As long as there was in command at Cadiz an officer of the rank and character of General Graham I had no objection to this system.” Now, though, he insisted that he must be an intermediary to all future communication.
Graham was able to spend a period of pleasant relaxation in Lisbon, exploring the environs of the city and visiting friends. At the same time, as he confided to his nephew, Lieutenant-Colonel the Honourable Charles Cathcart, that he expected to be summoned to Portalegre, Wellington’s headquarters, and placed in command of the 1st division. This was disappointing because this division “is always I understand at head-quarters, but I came determined not to ask for anything, nor even make any observation.” Nor was he optimistic about the situation in the Peninsula. “In short, I never thought so ill of the affairs in the Peninsula as now, and indeed nothing can give a chance of going on but a total change of the military system in Spain, and their submitting to be under Lord Wellington, and our agreeing to pay them to a large amount.”
On the same day, the 27th, Wellington wrote to Graham in a similar vein: “from all I see and hear, I am very apprehensive that the affairs of Spain are nearly irretrievable. There is no money, and there are no means of getting any; and there are no disciplined troops. Even if we should strike a fortunate blow, I fear that we should do them no good.”
Finally, on the 30th July, Graham received a summons to join headquarters, as Wellington brought his army further north. By the 8th August he had joined Wellington at Sabugal, and three days later headquarters were established at Gallegos, not far from Ciudad Rodrigo.
Graham took the opportunity to reconnoitre the country around Ciudad Rodrigo during the following weeks, as the allies awaited some response from Marshal Marmont, in command of the now misnamed Army of Portugal. There were rumours that Marmont was receiving reinforcements from the Army of the North and even suggestions that Napoleon himself was about to come to Spain.
On the 28th Graham wrote to his nephew that there was no expectation of an imminent French attack, although it was known that Marmont was on the move. The following day, however, an intercepted letter from General Foy to General Girard claimed that Marmont was about to attack the Anglo-Portuguese with 40,000 men.
Until this point Graham had been “twiddling his thumbs” (so to speak) at headquarters, but on the 2nd September he was finally put in command of the 1st division, who were at Nave d’Aver and Fuentes de Oñoro. Four days later Graham had established his headquarters at Nave d’Aver. He now spent a week reconnoitring and visiting the troops under his command.
On the 22nd he was given additional command of the 6th division, Anson’s cavalry, MacMahon’s Portuguese brigade of infantry and Don Carlos de España’s troops, which together with the 1st division constituted the left wing of the allied army. Nor did Graham have to wait long to bring some of these troops into action.
Two days after taking up his new command,
“Between 6 and 7 a.m., two regiments of cavalry came by the Carpio and Espeja roads, pushing on at a trot with very little advanced guard. We were then quite on the left, crossed back towards Carpio, when on their gaining the summit, and seeing that we had only the piquets, we were obliged to gallop off and cross the Azava into the wood. General Anson had sent for a squadron, which went down the broad lane; the rest of the cavalry mounted and advanced across the open space, halting near where the lane comes up into it. Four squadrons advanced very boldly through the wood without any precaution, and after some skirmishing, and at the moment of their formation, were charged by Capt. Hay with the 16th Light Dragoons – very weak from detachments to watch the other roads, and the absence of so many men sick. This attack had complete success, the squadron of the Lanciers de Berg were completely broken, their chef d’escadron killed, and a captain wounded and taken with several men. A company of Light Infantry was sent down into the wood, and as the enemy, after rallying, was advancing again, a volley was given with great effect, a number of men and horses being killed and wounded. Three squadrons were charged again at that moment, and driven down to the Azava, and did not attempt anything more.” [Graham’s Journal]
The French were more successful at El Boden, however, where their attack on the 3rd division led to an allied withdrawal. On the 25th Graham received orders to return to Nave d’Aver from his more forward position at Espeja. There were further retrograde movements and by the 1st October his headquarters were at Lagiosa, between Celorico and Guarda.
On the 8th he wrote to his nephew
“I think the French never meant anything more than to bully a little for the sake of the Moniteur, otherwise they would have played the real game from their right over the finest cavalry country possible, which by a night march from Ciudad Rodrigo they might have gained unperceived…”
Graham’s supposition proved justified. There was no further French advance. The 1811 campaign was over for the main Anglo-Portuguese army (although General Hill, a former protégé of Graham’s, was still to give the French a sharp lesson at Arroyo dos Moliños).
General Graham in later years