Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/264

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58 SIR JOHN MOORE.


as far as Valladolid, and had frequent and successful skirmishes with the enemy. On the 20th, Sir John Moore formed a junction with Sir David Baird ; the head-quarters of the army being at Majorga, but the cavalry and horse artillery were at Monastero Milgar Abaxo, three leagues from Sahagun, where a division of the enemy's cavalry were posted. The weather was extremely cold, and the ground covered with snow, yet lord Paget set out at two o'clock of the morning to surprise the French position. General Slade, with the 10th hussars, ap- proached the town along the Cea, while his lordship, with the 15th dragoons and some horse artillery, approached from another direction. Reaching the town by the dawn, they surprised a piquet; but one or two escaping, gave the alarm, and enabled the enemy to form outside the town. The ground was at first unfavourable to the British, but the superior skill of lord Paget overcame the difficulty. The French having wheeled into line, to receive the shock of the British charge, were overthrown in a moment, and dispersed in all direc- tions. The 1 5th hussars, only four hundred strong, encountered seven hundred French, and completely routed them. Many of the French were killed, and one hundred and fifty-seven, including two lieutenant-colonels, were taken prisoners. Sir John Moore reached Sahagun on the 21st, where the troops were halted for a day, to recover the fatigue of the forced marches they had made. On the 23d, every arrangement was completed for attacking the duke of Dalmatia, who, after the defeat of his cavalry at Sahagun, had concentrated his troops, to the amount of eighteen thousand, behind the river Carrion ; seven thousand being posted at Saldanha, and five thousand in the town of Carrion. Detachments were also placed to guard the fords and the bridges. The corps of Junot, Sir John Moore was aware, had also its advanced posts between Vit- toria and Burgos. The spirit and the feeling under which he was now acting, were not at all enviable. " The movement I am making," he writes, " is of the most dangerous kind. I not only risk to be surrounded every moment by superior forces, but to have my communication intercepted with the Galicias. I wish it to be apparent to the whole world, as it is to every individual of the army, that we have done everything in our power in support of the Spanish cause, and that we do not abandon it until long after the Spaniards had aban- doned us." As already said, however, the preparations, for attacking the duke of Dalmatia, were completed. The generals received their instructions, and the army, burning with impatience, was to march to the attack at eight o'clock in the evening. Unfavourable reports through the day, and a letter from the marquis <le la Romana, confirming these reports, led to an opposite line of conduct The march to the Carrion was countermanded, and immediate steps taken for retreating upon Astorga. The duke of Dalmatia had been dai- ly receiving strong reinforcements for some time, and his army was already greatly superior to the British. The duke of Abrantes had advanced from Burgos to Valencia, and threatened the right flank of the British. Bonaparte himself had left Madrid on the 18th, with thirty-two thousand infantry, and eight thousand cavalry, part of which had reached Tordesillas on the 24th, and before the British had begun to retreat from Sahagun, they were moving with all haste upon the same point with the latter on Benevente. The duke of Dantzic, too, was recalled from his march towards Badajns, and ordered for Salamanca; and even the duke of Treviso, sent to take vengeance on Saragossa, was ordered to join in the pursuit of the British. Every preparation .having been made, general Frazer, followed by general Hope, marched with their divi- sions on the 24th of December to Valdinas and Majorga, and Sir David Baird to Valencia. This movement was concealed by lord Paget, who pushed strong patrols of cavalry up to the advanced posts of the enemv. The reserve followed