Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/265

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SIR JOHN MOORE. 09


from Snhagun on the morning of the 25th ; and lord Faget, in company with Sir John Moore, with the cavalry, followed in the evening. On the 24th of December, the advanced guard of Bonaparte marched from Tordesillas, which is a hundred and twenty miles from Madrid, and fifty from Benevente. Strong detachments of artillery had been pushed forward on the road to Villalpando arid Majorga, one of which lord Paget encountered at the latter place, on the 26th. Colonel Leigh, with two squadrons of the 10th hussars, was ordered to charge this corps, which he did, and completely routed it, taking more than one hundred prisoners. Nothing could exceed the coolness and gallantry displayed by the British cavalry on this occasion. The 10th dragoons had already sig- nalized their valour, and been victors in six several attacks. At Valencia, cap- tain Jones, with only twenty men, charged a hundred French dragoons, killed fourteen of them, and made six prisoners. Generals Hope and Frazer reached Benevente on the night of the 26lh. On the 27th, the rear-guard crossed the Eslar, blew up the bridge, and followed the same route. After resting a short time at Benevente, and publishing general orders to the troops, whose conduct, since the commencement of the retreat, had assumed a disgraceful character, the army moved for Astorga on the 28th. Lord Paget, being left with the cavalry to bring up the rear, observed some of the enemy's horse attempting a ford be- low the bridge which had been blown up, and between five and six hundred of Bonaparte's imperial guards dashed into the river, and passed over. The piquets, who had been divided to watch the ford, amounting only to two hun- dred and twenty men, retired slowly before such superior numbers, disputing every inch of ground, till lord Paget, with the 10th hussars, coming up, they wheeled round, and plunged into the water, leaving behind them fifty-five men killed and wounded, and seventy prisoners, among whom was general Le Febvre, the commander of the imperial guard. Some doubt, it would appear, hung upon the general's mind, whether Vigo or Corunna was the most eligible place for the embarkation of the troops ; and wishing to have either of them still in his choice, he sent general Crawford, with three thousand men, lightly equipped, on the road to Orenge, so far on the way to Vigo. With the rest of the troops he proceeded to Astorga. The marquis de la Romana had been left to destroy the bridge of Mansilln ; and after having performed that duty, had been desired to turn to Asturias, in the fortresses of which he might find safely, and at the same time make some small diversion in favour of the British army: but he had left the bridge in charge of a small guard, which delivered it up to the cavalry of Soult; and he possessed himself here of a great part of the accom- modations which were intended for the British troops. His half naked troops carried away a part of the stores which had been collected at this place, a great part of which had to be destroyed for want of means to remove them. At Astorga, another general order was issued, respecting the moral conduct of the troops, which had not improved since they left Benevente. The advanced guard, and the main body of the British army, marched on the 30th for Villa Franca ; Sir John Moore, with general Paget, and the reserve, followed on the 31st The cavalry reached Camberas at midnight, when the reserve proceeded, and arrived next morning, January 1 , remaining at Bembilene,as the preceding divisions were marching oft* to Vil4a Franca. Here an unparalleled scene of debauchery pre- sented itself. The stragglers from the preceding divisions so crowded the houses, that there was not accommodation fcr the reserve, while groups of the half naked wretches belonging to the marquis of Romana, completed the confusion. The French were following so close, that their patrol* during the night fell in with the cavalry piquets. When Sir John Moore, with the reserve and the cavalry, marched for Villa Franca, on the 2d of January, he left colonel Ross, with the