HC Deb 05 May 1809 vol 14 cc400-5

No. I.—Copy of a DISPATCH from the right hon. J. H. Frere, to Mr. Secretary Canning, dated Aranjuez, Nov. 24th, 1808.

Sir; The inclosed Note which I took occasion to send yesterday to M. Garay, the secretary of the Junta, contains the recapitulation of a conversation which I had with him the evening before, in consequence of a very urgent representation which I had received from Sir John Moore, complaining of the inattention and negligence which the army under his command had experienced from the Spanish government, and declaring that in case of their continuance, he should conceive it his duty to withdraw a force, whose safety was exposed to imminent hazard, without the possibility of rendering themselves useful. This Note contains so exact a statement of what passed on this subject, that it is hardly necessary to add any thing, except that M. Garay deprecated, in the most earnest terms, the retreat of our troops upon Portugal, as a measure which must ensure the ruin of their cause; an opinion in which I could not help agreeing with him; but which (having no means of obviating such a step) I could only press as an additional reason for desisting from a line of conduct, ruinous and absurd in itself, and obviously leading to the result which he most dreaded.—M. Garay likewise informed me, that an enquiry was to be instituted into the causes of the disaster at Burgos. I have the honour to be, &c.



Translation of a NOTE from the right hon. J. H. Frere, to M. de Garay, dated Aranjuez, 23rd Nov. 1808.

Sir; I have thought it incumbent on me to address to your excellency, as member and secretary of the Supreme Central Junta, a representation which appeared to me too important not to be communicated to that assembly by one of its individuals, distinguished by its confidence, and charged with its most important functions.—Letters which have reached me from sir John Moore have occasioned my recapitulating to you the complaints which he addressed to me, and which he regretted, he said, it was not in his power personally to make at Aranjuez.—He complains first of the state of uncertainty in which he finds himself as to the numbers and positions of the enemy, and even as to the projects and events of the campaign, to such a degree, he says, that at the time of the unmilitary evacuation of Valladolid by general Pignatelli, that officer did not think proper to send him intelligence of it. The details of the flight, and of the effective state of the army of Estremadura, were likewise long unknown to him; the defeat of general Blake, and his retreat upon Reynosa, were likewise unknown to him, until at length he received an account of it from Madrid.—He proceeds in these terms: "I have no communication with any of the Spanish armies, neither am I acquainted with the intentions of the Spanish government, nor with those of any of its generals. Castanos, with whom I had been directed to correspond, is deprived of his command, at the moment when I might have expected some accounts from him; and Romans, with whom I am now, I suppose, to enter into a correspondence, is absent. In the meanwhile, the French are only four days march from my army, which is but now assembling; and I cannot yet learn the state of their force; no channel of information has been opened to me, and I have not yet been long enough in the country to find them out myself. I acquaint you with these particulars; I wish it were in my power to go to Aranjuez or Madrid, in order to make a representation of them in person; for truly, if matters remain in this state, the ruin of the cause of Spain, and the defeat of her armies, cannot fail to take place; and it will become my duty to look to the safety of the British forces alone, and to take measures for extricating them from a situation, where, without the possibility of being useful, they are exposed to certain defeat."—In answer to these observations relative to general Castanos and the marquis de la Romana, your excellency informed me, to my very great surprise, that it was about ten days since orders had been dispatched to the marquis de la Romana, that he should take the command of thy army of the centre, leaving that of the north and of the Asturias under the orders of general Blake.—A secret, common to an assembly of thirty-two persons, might, it seems to me, have been confided to the minister of his Britannic majesty, even though there had not been an interesting fact in question, the knowledge of which was necessary towards carrying on that correspondence on which the safety of the English army might depend. I conceived that your excellency would not be insensible to the justice of this remark; to which I might have added, that the news of the entry of the French into Valladolid was concealed from me.—The intelligence of the defeat of general Blake (which might have occasioned the total defeat of the two divisions, which were beginning to form themselves under generals Moore and Baird) was indeed communicated to me, but not till the evening of the day after that on which the courier had arrived.—I am very far from feeling the least sentiment of personal resentment towards those respectable persons, who have only followed a system which has been prescribed to them, as well with regard to their answers as to their silence; but it is my duty loudly to protest against the continuance of a system, which, without ensuring secrecy with respect to the enemy, establishes distrust and mystery, instead of that confidence which should serve as a basis to those combinations on which the fate of the present war must depend.—I have learnt, with much pleasure, the recal of the commission sent to the army of the centre, as well as the account of the nomination of M. de Morla, with full powers to confer and conclude with our officers, on all subjects relative to a system of efficacious co-operation; and I hope that these powers will be augmented, as well in what relates to execution, as deli- beration.—The courier dispatched to the marquis de la Romana will, doubtless, have conveyed to him, agreeably to the intentions of your excellency, an order, to open a communication with general sir John Moore. I cannot conclude without thanking your excellency for the attention with which you listened, in my first conference, to the details of a representation necessarily irksome. I entreat you at the same time to accept the assurances, &c.



No. II.—Extract of a DISPATCH from the right hon. John Hookham Frere, to Mr.Secretary Canning; dated Aranjuez, 26th November 1808.

I send inclosed a Note from M. Garay, in answer to the one which I addressed to him in consequence of the verbal remonstrances, which I had made, founded upon the representation of sir John Moore.

Copy of a NOTE from M. Garay, to the right hon. John Hookham Frere; dated Aranjuez, 24th November 1808.

(Translation.) Most Excellent Sir; I have laid before the Supreme ruling Junta of the kingdom, the Note your excellency was pleased to address to me yesterday, relative to the complaints made to you by sir John Moore, with regard to the state of ignorance in which he was kept with respect to the number and positions of the enemy, and to the events and operations of our armies.—Of the evacuation of Valladolid, which was not a military movement, the Supreme Junta knows nothing, neither of the particulars of an action in which one of the divisions of the army of Estramadura was concerned; the same was the case with regard to the details of the operations of general Blake, who states that he has had two engagements, the one of which was in favour of our arms, and the other, though of no great advantage to the enemy, obliged him to retreat to Reynosa.—Each of the generals had received positive orders from the Junta, which are now reiterated to them by extraordinary couriers, to communicate with the English general, and to act in concert with him. His majesty would receive the highest satisfaction if sir John Moore could appear personally at Aranjuez, or at Madrid, to make such observations, and to adjust those points which he thinks might conduce to the removal of those circumstances which appear contrary to good understanding, and which might produce all the effect that may be expected from our union with the great power, which with such generosity affords us assistance, and which the Junta could not see disappointed, without the greatest regret. This however could not happen, if, acting in concert and with a perfect harmony, we avail ourselves of a speedy union of the forces, to complete the destruction of the enemy and of his plans; if, the English troops forming a junction with the left of our army, we compose a formidable body of seventy thousand infantry and six thousand cavalry, a force with which we should be certain of the blow, and which we never could be by any different conduct. Then the generous efforts of our ally, England, would complete the work, under whose happy and auspicious commencement the eternal friendship and alliance by which the two nations are for ever to be connected, began; so that neither interest nor policy shall ever break the bonds by which they are united.—When I spoke to your excellency with regard to general Castanos, I had the honour to explain to you the strong political motives that existed for acting as we had done. Your excellency was convinced, and it was then determined, that he should not quit the command until the arrival of the marquis de la Romana. In this there has been no secret, nor should there be any, however important it may be, with regard to the minister of a friendly nation, towards whom the Junta feels the greatest personal esteem and consideration, independent of his official character.—The Junta knew of the enemy's entry into Valladolid, and afterwards of the evacuation of that city by the French troops, who made but a very short stay there.—General Morla is appointed to treat with the English generals, to agree upon the necessary plans and operations, and to give information of them to the Supreme Junta: proceeding immediately to the execution of those measures which are urgent and necessary.—I have now only to assure your excellency of the particular satisfaction and pleasure I derived from hearing your remarks upon those matters, which led to this our first conference. I shall be ready to repeat it, with pleasure, as often as your excellency may think proper, either at your house, or wherever else you may choose to appoint. In the mean time, I am, &c.



No. 3.—Substance of a COMMUNICATION from lieutenant general Sir John Moore, to Charles Stuart, esquire; dated Salamanca, 29th November 1808.

I had determined to unite the army if possible, and to try what could be done for the Spaniards; though I own, I saw but little chance of doing much good. I had ordered Baird, though ail his corps could not be at Astorga until the 4th, to march with such part as already was there, to Benevente on the 1st December; and on that day I was to march myself with a corps from this to Toro, and to send another to Zamora. Hope was to have inarched to Tordecillas; and we should thus have taken up a line upon the Douro, to cover the arrival of our stores, &c. and then to have acted according to circumstances. But this destruction of Castanos's army, announced by your letter, which Mr. Vaughan brought me yesterday afternoon, changes the case. My junction with Baird is no longer practicable. But if it was, the little resistance made by the Spanish armies gives no hope of our doing any good. We should soon have the greatest force of the enemy to encounter single handed, and this we are not equal to; I have therefore come to the determination to retire. I have ordered Baird to fall back on Corunna. I shall endeavour to unite with Hope, and retire upon the frontier of Portugal. I shall be at hand to return, if affairs take a more favourable turn; or the army may be transported by me to some other point, where they may still be useful, if this government be overset, and another rises up directed by men of more ability.