quinta-feira, 5 de setembro de 2013

Voices from Vitoria: José Jorge Loureiro

José Jorge Loureiro, a Portuguese officer in the battle of Vitoria

Moisés Gaudêncio

«All were maneuvers and skirmishers»

In the campaign which started in May 1813, and which would lead the Anglo-Portuguese army to the borders of France, José Jorge Loureiro was an alferes (ensign) of the Infantry Regiment n.º 4 and aid de camp to the British brigadier, on the service of Portugal, Archibald Campbell, and it was as such that he was present in the decisive battle of Vitoria, fought in June 21, 1813.

Brigadier Campbell commanded the Portuguese brigade made up of the Infantry Regiments n.º 4 and 10 and by the Caçadores Battalion n.º 10, part of the Portuguese Division commanded by General Francisco da Silveira, Count of Amarante.

The Portuguese Division was part of the corps commanded by general Rowland Hill, which constituted the right wing of the allied army.
Campbell’s brigade stood throughout the battle in reserve in the right wing of the allied line.

During this period of his life, Loureiro kept correspondence with his brother-in-law and friend Ernesto Biester, and it’s precisely in one of those letters that Loureiro gives his account of the events of Vitoria. It was originally published by Mendes Leal Junior in the Revista Contemporânea de Portugal e Brazil, segundo ano, april 1860, I, Lisboa, p. 100 ff.

We transcribe, with modern orthography, this rare eyewitness testimony of a Portuguese officer.

Field next to Salvaterra, June 23, 1813

Dear Ernesto

I hurry in reporting to you the events of the 21st instant, the most glorious day that until now the allied armies have had. As you should want to know what happened, I will tell you what I have witnessed, and what I have heard after.

On the 21st all the army advanced from the banks of the Bayas in different columns on Vitoria. General Hill’s corps was the right of all the army, and as it had less to march, it was the first to encounter the left of the enemy, which was on a mountain, and made an oblique line with the right covering Vitoria. On other mountains, next to the royal road of Bayonne the whole enemy army was in position. It had, to the front of its left, dense woods, which it wanted to dispute with the caçadores. As soon as we arrived, the attack began with an English brigade, and my division as reserve. The other brigades slowly climbed a steep mountain in order to flank the enemy.

As the rest of the army hadn’t yet arrived to the established points, our attack was much delayed and a demonstration. The French, with courage and success, defended the woods only with skirmishers, supported by some artillery on the road, which did us no damage. The attack went on like this for two hours, until General Graham, having flanked the enemy on our left, began also his own attack. Then the general action came about. The French, who expected the full attack on their left, seeing themselves flanked, began retreating their right in much confusion.

At this time, our right had already advanced too much on the mountain, and the enemy seeing their left almost being equally flanked, began also with much hast and confusion their own retreat. My brigade, who protected the English brigade who made the attack, marched in reach of the French, as did all the army. As the field was all cultivated and with many ditches, to mark the lands and wash way the mountain waters, we could never go with the necessary speed; and they took advantage of the order by which we marched, to flee and regroup at another point. The field was so much to their advantage, which presented at each point small positions, from where they were dislodged by skirmishers, and maneuvers, with which they were always in danger of being cut off by both flanks. The chase lasted all day till dark night and in the space of two [Portuguese] leagues and a half, counting from where the action began. They left open the Bayonne road, and retreated on the Pamplona royal road, where we are today on their trail. They lost 105 artillery pieces with all its equipment, and more than 2000 baggage carts, almost all of the army. King Joseph lost all its own baggage inside Vitoria, as well as 24 servants. Only the horses escaped by hand. We made from 700 to 800 prisoners, and 180 officers. General Sourry and Grenier dead and 2 prisoners (I ignore their names). Our soldiers are filled with riches from the plunder. Our loss in dead and injured is greater than that of the enemy; however the wounded are all slightly so. There is no general of ours injured. The way the enemy retreated is quite shameful. The position they took, and the way by which they allowed themselves to be flanked gives no credit to their generals. My brigade, though it didn’t fire, did no small service, as it marched with incredible speed, threatened always very close the enemy’s left.
We march for 23 days without halting, and I believe we shall not do it before going to Pamplona.
The action began at 11 am, became general by two, and ended at night.
There was no regular attack. All were maneuvers and skirmishing.

Goodbye Friend


(Jorge Quinta-Nova, translation)
Original Portuguese text in url

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