Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 04.djvu/335

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

the campaign, one was blown right through the straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean, and the rest into different English ports. The regiment was again reassembled by 1797, and then stationed at Jersey until 1799, when it was ordered to India, at the earnest request of Lord Mornington, to assist in the finial conquest of Tippoo Sultan. The 88th, however, did not arrive at Bombay till June 1800, after the fall of Seringapatam, and remained in garrison there until Lord Wellesley projected an operation to Egypt from India to co-operate with the force under Sir Ralph Abercromby. The expeditionary army, including the 88th, left Bombay in December 1800, under the command of Sir David Baird, but did not disembark at Cosseir, after a tiresome pasaage, until June 1801. It was immediately split up into four brigades, and Beresford received the command of the first brigade, consisting of his own fine regiment and some Bombay sepoys. Beresford's brigade had to lead the march across the desert. Baird's force arrived too late to be of any actual service, but the march across the desert had fascinated the imagination of the English people, and Beresford shared the popularity of Baird, Auchmuty, and George Murray. He remained in Egypt with his regiment till the evacuation of that country in 1803, when he returned to England with the brevet rank of colonel and a great military reputation, and at once received the command of a brigade at home.

When Baird was ordered to recapture the Cape in 1805, Beresford received the command of the first brigade, with Ronald Ferguson and Edward Yorke as his colleagues, and Robert Brownrigg as quarter-master-general. The expedition was completely successful; it disembarked on 6 Jan. 1806, defeated the Dutch general Janssens on 8 Jan., took Capetown on 10 Jan., and Baird received the surrender of the general and the whole colony on 18 Jan. This entire and rapid success induced Sir David Baird to listen to the tempting proposals of Sir Home Popham, the naval commander-in-chief, who, disregarding the fact that England was at peace with Spain, suggested that Baird should lend him a brigade to capture the important city of Buenos Ayres. Baird consented and lent him Beresford's brigade, consisting of his old regiment, the 88th, and the 74th. The detachment accordingly sailed with Popham. The sudden appearance of English ships and English soldiers took the Spanish garrison by surprise, and Beresford, though with only 1,200 men, was soon master of Buenos Ayres. Popham immediately went home with the tidings and was received with enthusiasm. But Beresford, deserted by Popham, soon found out the difficulty of his position. The population of the colony perceived the weakness of his little army, and, ashamed of being conquered by so few soldiers, banded together under a French emigrant, the Chevalier de Liniers, and attacked the English. The contest was an unequal one, and after three days' hard fighting Beresford and his army capitulated as prisoners of war. Auchmuty's capture of Monte Video and Whitelocke's failure before Buenos Ayres followed, and after a six months' imprisonment Beresford himself escaped and reached England in 1807. The incapacity of Whitelocke had only made the behaviour and military ability of Auchmuty and Beresford appear more prominent, and the latter was ordered to hold himself ready for further foreign service. This time he was sent to the island of Madeira, which he occupied on 24 Dec. 1807 in the name of the king of Portugal, who had, acting under the advice of the English ambassador, abandoned his capital to the French and sailed for Brazil.

In Madeira he remained as governor and commander-in-chief for more than six months, learning the Portuguese language, and obtaining a thorough knowledge of the Portuguese character. But Beresford soon tired of his peaceful life, and to his great content found himself ordered to proceed with one regiment to the assistance of the army despatched under Sir Arthur Wellesley to Portugal. He arrived at Lisbon in August 1808, just after the battle of Vimeiro, and in time to be appointed commandant of Lisbon. He then superintended the evacuation of the southern fortresses by the French garrisons, in conformity with the convention of Cintra, and it was only through his bold attitude that the garrison of Elvas surrendered that strong fortress without firing a shot. After the recall of Sir Arthur Wellesley, Sir Henry Burrard, and Sir Hew Dalrymple, Sir John Moore took command of the army of Portugal, and when he determined to advance into Spain he appointed Beresford, who had been promoted major-general in April 1808 during his residence in Madeira, to the independent command of a division of two brigades, which was to march by way of Coimbra and Almeida to the general rendezvous at Astorga. Beresford performed his task to Moore's satisfaction, and when the terrible winter retreat to Corunna was decided upon Beresford's division was ordered not to close the rear, as has been erroneously stated, but to march just in front of the reserve under