terça-feira, 1 de outubro de 2013

Voices from Vitoria: José Correia de Melo

«…had a horse wounded, who soon died, and my hat pierced; however, better that than the individual.»

Moisés Gaudêncio

Another personal account on the battle of Vitoria is that of major José Correia de Melo. This officer lead the 2nd battalion of the 11th Infantry Regiment into battle, which together with Infantry 23 and the 7th Caçadores Battalion, were the Portuguese brigade, commanded by colonel Thomas Stubbs, integral part of the allied 4th division.
José Correia de Melo, nephew of both marechal de campo (major general) José Correia de Melo and lieutenant general Florêncio José Correia de Melo, was only 26 years old in 1813, but already a veteran of the war in the Peninsula, having been present in the battles of Buçaco and of Salamanca, where he was severely wounded.

The Portuguese units in Stubb’s brigade distinguished themselves in Vitoria, having suffered considerable casualties while leading the advance of the allied 4th division in the attack of the center of the French position. These losses occurred mainly from the fire of the French artillery.
The Infantry regiments nº 11 and 23 were particularly praised by the commander of the Portuguese army, marshal William Beresford, in the Ordem do Dia (order of the day) of 1 July 1813.

(Battle of Vitoria, after William Heath)

José Correio de Melo kept a journal during the Peninsular campaigns, which Claudio de Chaby, Portuguese historian of the Peninsular War, was able to read and which he quoted frequently in his classic work Excerptos Históricos.
One of the excerpts quotes by Chaby is precisely the entry of 21 June, the day when the Battle of Vitoria was fought. It is this brief testimony we leave you:

«June, 21: Having Wellington made his reconnaissance of the position of the French army, commanded in person by the famous king Pepe [king Joseph], he ordered all divisions to motion early in the morning, in order to offer him an action; and so it came to be, having lasted the fight from eight in the morning till nine in the evening. Because of the great darkness, the enemy was not pursued beyond two leagues [1] from the city. The French left an immensity of baggage, much wealth, many prisoners, one hundred and fifty one artillery pieces, four hundred and eighty carriages, immense ammunition, at last, it’s incredible the defeat we inflicted on them! I commanded the second battalion of my regiment during the action, had a horse wounded, who soon died, and my hat pierced; however, better that than the individual.
I’ll report on what was told to me and what came to be: when king Pepe saw that lord Wellington was working on cutting his retreat, having occupied the royal chaussée of Bayonne, from a map he decided with his generals to retreat immediately by the track of Pamplona, the only one left to him; and so he took it taking with him only two pieces and a howitzer!»

Claudio de Chaby, Excerptos Historicos e Collecção de Documentos relativos à Guerra denominada da Península…., 1863-1882.
Generais do Exército Português, coord. Coronel António José Pereira da Costa, 2008.
Mendo Castro Henriques, Vitoria e Pirinéus -1813- O exército português na libertação de Espanha, 2009.

Original Portuguese post here. Translation by Jorge Quinta-Nova.

[1] A league is an archaic unit of length, very common in Europe and Latin America. The Portuguese league is about 6 kilometers, and was much later substituted by the metric league (5 km).
[2] Excerptos Históricos e Collecção de Documentos relativos à Guerra denominada da Península… por Claudio de Chaby, volume 4, p. 707-708.

Sem comentários:

Enviar um comentário