Page:A book of the Pyrenees.djvu/71

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
49
SIEGE OF SAN SEBASTIAN

cent is a Gothic edifice of 1507. San Sebastian is memorable for its siege by Wellington. Mr. Ford says:—

"It was obtained in March, 1808, by Therenot, when the French got in under false pretences. They held it during the war, and being in the rear of the Duke when advancing in 1815 on the Pyrenees, it retarded his progress, and its possession became absolutely necessary. This was a work of great difficulty, for the naturally strong position was garrisoned by 3000 brave French veterans under General Rey, and the Duke, from the usual neglect of our Government, in spite of repeated applications to Lord Bathurst, was forced to wait from 25 July to 26 August for want of means even to commence operations, during which time the active enemy strengthened their defences, being supplied from France by sea.

"In vain the Duke had warned Lord Melville, under whose fatal rule the navy of England was first exposed to defeat, and who now did his best to ensure a similar misfortune to the army. And to make matters worse, Graham, to whom the siege was entrusted, neglected the advice of Sir C. Felix Smith and of Sir R. Fletcher. Graham having failed in a night attack on 24 August, the Duke was forced to come in person to set matters right. His arrival was, as usual, the omen of victory. Now the town was assaulted as it ought to have been at first, from the chafres or sand banks, and was taken on 31 August. The French, after a most gallant defence, retired to the upper citadel, on which, by the almost superhuman efforts of the engineers, backed by the bluejackets, guns were brought to bear, and it surrendered on 9 September, two-thirds of the valorous garrison having perished, while nearly 5000 English troops were killed and wounded."

Wellington—then only the Marquess Wellesley—had not bombarded the town, so as to spare the inhabitants, but General Rey himself had set fire to the town on 22 July, as is admitted by him in his own dispatch, and it was done for