Tag Archives: Battle of Salamanca

Sir Denis Pack: a Wellington ally

As we enjoy this year’s annual Wellington Lecture today, it is fitting that we announce the acquisition of a new collection of material relating to the career of Sir Denis Pack, one of Wellington’s generals. The collection, which includes maps relating to military actions in which Pack fought, complements both the current collection of his papers held by the Division (MS296) and material within the Wellington Archive (MS61).

Sir Denis Pack [MS296 A4298]

Sir Denis Pack [MS296 A4298]

Major General Sir Denis Pack, K.C.B (d.1823) entered the army in 1791. He served in Flanders, 1794-5, Cape of Good Hope, 1806, and subsequently in South America. He fought at Roliça and Vimeiro, 1808 and Corunna, 1809. Having served on the Walcheren expedition and at the siege of Flushing in 1809, he returned to the Iberian Peninsula to serve with the Duke of Wellington. He commanded a Portuguese brigade, part of Marshal Beresford’s Portuguese forces, at Busaco in 1810 and Almeida in 1811.

Detail from map of Battle of Busaco [MS296 A4298]

Detail from map of the battle of Busaco [MS296 A4298]

Pack took part at the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo and the battles of Salamanca, Vitoria and Orthes. In 1815, he commanded a brigade of Sir Thomas Picton’s Fifth Division at the battles of Quatre Bras and of Waterloo. Pack was Lieutenant Governor of Plymouth, serving alongside Wellington as Governor, from 1819 until his death in 1823.

Pack served with distinction at the Battle of Salamanca, 22 July 1812, and was mentioned in the official despatch of the battle written by Wellington to Lord Bathurst of 24 July. He also honourably mentioned for his part in the operations against Burgos later in 1812.

Amongst the maps in the new acquisition is a hand drawn one of the battle of Salamanca, with handwritten notes, providing us with a valuable new resource to supplement and illustrate the written descriptions of this battle.

Manuscript map of the battle of Salamanca, 1812 [MS296 A4298]

Manuscript map of the battle of Salamanca, 1812 [MS296 A4298]

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Reflections on war and warfare: Week 33 (13 – 19 October 2014)

Today sees the opening of the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’ at the Special Collections Gallery. The exhibition forms part of the special events taking place across campus to mark the anniversary of the First World War. In conjunction with these events we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home.

15 October 1812 In praise of Wellington
The diary of John Holt Beaver charts his travels in Portugal and Spain in the aftermath of the Battle of Salamanca. While crossing the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range he lodges in a house belonging to the alcalde of the village of Guadarrama. During their conversation his host praises Wellington for his decisive victory over the French at Salamanca.

“He is a young man and told us that the French had destroyed 5 houses that he had in the village, the one we were in being the only one habitable, and this was no better than an English barn […] Our host was loud in praise of the English nation, and Lord Wellington he said was the saviour of Spain, which had been ruined by a bad government and betrayed by those leading men, who ought to have defended her.”

MS 362 Diary of John Holt Beaver, 15 October 1812


16 October 1851 Operations in Kroome Forest
In 1851 the heavily outnumbered British forces began to receive reinforcements which enabled them to sweep through the Cape region. On 14 October, the first two-pronged assault was undertaken by Major General Henry Somerset and Colonel Fordyce in the Kroome Forest area which was used as a base by their opponents. Ultimately the mission was aborted as dense fog made it difficult for the forces to meet up.

“We have as yet not been able to attack from the paucity of our numbers and vast extent of forest to be cleared, where Macomo a chief of the Gaikas is located, a clever and influential man with some two or three thousand followers and Major General Somerset is about to attack him having been strongly from here. If he succeeds well it may have an important effect on the termination of the war.”

MS 63 A904/3/9 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother, Richard, 16 October 1851


17 October 1918 The Battle of Courtrai
The Battle of Courtrai began early in the morning of 14 October 1918 with an attack from the Groupe d’Armées des Flandres and the French Sixth Army. Located at the Lys river at Comines towards Dixmude, the group comprised of twelve Belgian divisions and ten divisions of the British Second Army. While the British forces had conquered Werviq, Memnin, Morslede, Gulleghem and Steenbeck, Belgian troops had reached Iseeghem and Coretemarck. On 15 October Roulers fell to the French Army, and by the 17 October, Thourout, Ostend, Lille and Douai had been recaptured. As a result of the British Second Army crossing the Lye and capturing Coutrai, German troops retreated on the front of the Fifth Army, who encircled Lille on 18 October.

“Yesterday’s rumours were baseless but during the day enough good news came up; Ostend occupied by the British – Lille taken!…We must be careful or we’ll miss a victory or two.”

MS 168 AJ 217/14 Journal of Samuel Rich, 17 October 1918


18 October 1939 War time necessitates economies in lighting for the University College
A meeting of the Senate held on 18 October 1939 the Senate considered various suggestions for effecting an economy in lighting.

Resolved: “(a) That the start of the Easter term be deferred a week, and begin on 15 January instead of the 8th, and that the summer term be brought forward a week, and begin on 15th April instead of the 22nd April.

(b) That heads of departments be authorised to start the afternoon session at 1.30 p.m. instead of 2 p.m. if they so desire.”

MS 1/MBK/2/1/6 University College Southampton Senate minutes 1937-45, p. 77

The current exhibition forms part of the University of Southampton’s Great War: Unknown War programme – a series of events, talks, workshops and conferences taking place in 2014-15 across campus, as part of the wider global WW1 commemoration. A full programme of events can be found at: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/greatwar_unknownwar

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 29 (15 – 21 September 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home.

15 September 1939 Business as usual the University College, Southampton
As this special meeting of the Council shows, at this early stage, the war had not yet had a big impact on academic life in the University – previous Council and Senate minutes do indicate that the institution had accepted refugee scholars. As the war progressed, however, Army and Senior Training Corps were based at Southampton; both staff and students enlisted and, as the port of Southampton became a target for German bombs, the College looked at alternative student accommodation and the possibility of evacuating whole the institution.

The Council considered the recommendation of the General Purposes Committee and Senate with regard to the policy to be adopted by the College in the view of the outbreak of war.  It was pointed out that at the present stage it was impossible to say to what extent the number of available staff and students would be reduced. The Principal explained that the Government had left it to the College Authorities to decide whether or not the work of the College should proceed at Southampton. After careful consideration of all the circumstances involved, it was resolved:

“(a) That Council approve that the work of the College should continue as usual, and that the Autumn term should begin on 2nd October.

(b) That the position be revised from time to time in the light of subsequent events, and that the Principal be authorised in the meantime to negotiate with other university institutions  as to the possibility of their accommodating students of this College should circumstances arise to make this necessary.”

MS 1/MBK1/8 Council minute book: University College of Southampton 1938-51, p.34


16 September 1939 The invasions on Poland

On 1 September 1939 German troops invaded Poland, on the pretext of protecting Germany from a Polish invasion. On 17 September Russia invaded from the east, having signed a secret pact with Germany.

“Russia is an enigma. The poor Poles are bearing the brunt of this barbaric attack on civilisation. I went into England’s garden to inspect progression of their dug-out – a living grave!’’

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 16 September 1939


18 September 1916 Battle of Flers-Courcelette

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette marked the third phase of the Somme offensive and signified the first use of the tank in warfare. Built in secrecy, the armoured vehicle was developed with the objective of breaking the gridlock of armed conflict. The first prototype was produced in January 1916. Despite mechanical failings and the trouble the tanks had with the terrain of the Somme, Sir Douglas Haig wished to use them to support the 41st Division in the attack on Flers-Courcelette. Whilst only 32 of 43 available tanks managed to reach the starting line for attack, the Allies advanced two kilometres and gained control of the villages of Fler, Courcelette, Martinpuich and High Wood.

“We’re training like the Devil! Up at 4.30am when a narrow little band on the horizon proclaims the coming of dawn, and with a break for brekker, it’s parade work until the weather gets too hot at 11am and from 3.30pm until dusk. It makes a long day for all, but we seem to be standing the strain well.”

MS 116/8 AJ 14 Volume of typescript ‘excerpts’ from letters from H.D. Myer, 18 September 1916


September 1852 Waterkloof is taken

Waterkloof, which has been the stronghold of the Xhosa leader Maqoma, was finally taken by the British in September 1852.

“On the 15th the Waterkloof was assailed for the third time and the operations have been so far quite successful, about 100 Kafirs are reported to have been killed, 200 women and children (miserable starved objects) taken prisoners.”

MS 63 A904/3/ Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother Richard, 20 September 1852


21 September 1812 Attitudes of French prisoners
The diary of John Holt Beaver charts his travels in Portugal and Spain in the aftermath of the Battle of Salamanca, from August to November 1812. In the below passage he notes the attitudes of French soldiers taken prisoner during the battle.

“There are 5 convents converted into hospital for the British, and 2 for the Portuguese and a college is made an hospital for the wounded French prisoners…Many of them were taken at the Battle of Salamanca and are terribly cut about the head by our cavalry, some have lost their noses or ears and even eyes. The British sergeant who has charge of the prison said some of them were glad to have become our prisoners and others thought their Emperor the greatest hero in the world…”

MS 362 Diary of John Holt Beaver, 21 September 1812

Reflections on war and warfare: week 21 (21 – 27 July 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home.

21 July 1808 Beginning of British intervention in the Peninsular War
On 14 July 1808 Arthur Wellesley was formally appointed to command an expedition to support the Spanish in the fight against French forces in the Iberian Peninsula. Arriving in Coruña on 20 July, Wellesley attempts to convey the prevailing sentiment felt in favour of the Spanish cause.

“It is impossible to convey to you an idea of the sentiment which prevails here in favor of the Spanish cause. The difference between any two men is whether the one is a better or a worse Spaniard; and the better Spaniard is the one who detests the French most heartily.”

WP1/209 Letter from Lieutenant General Arthur Wellesley, Coruña, to Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, 21 July 1808


22 July 1812 Battle of Salamanca

For several weeks following their advance into Spain in 1812, Wellington’s Anglo-Portuguese army was shadowed by French forces led by Marshal Auguste Marmont. The two armies finally engaged each other to the south of Salamanca on 22 July 1812. Thanks to a series of flanking manoeuvres the battled ended in a decisive allied victory, enabling Wellington to advance and capture Madrid on 6 August. Though he was forced to abandon the Spanish capital two months later, the victory convinced the British government to continue the war in Spain.

“A few shells most judiciously thrown made the enemy give way, and our light troops and line hurried on and gained the heights. A very heavy firing now took place, the enemy giving way. At this instant our Heavy Brigade, led by my poor friend Le Marchant, rushed on and penetrated the enemy’s line. All was instantly confusion, and their left fled precipitately to a sort of second line, leaving behind them guns, eagles and immense quantity of prisoners. The troops now nearest the centre were engaged, and Lord Wellington ordered on our left, who were all evidently gaining ground, when night put an end to the battle and saved the enemy from total destruction…”

MS 300/7/1 Transcript by S.G.P.Ward of Scovell’s Peninsula diary, 22 July 1812


23 July 1917 Desertion amongst the Russian forces

After the abdication of Nicholas II in March 1917, Alexander Kerensky held the position Minister of Justice in the Provisional Government, going on to become Minister of War in May, and Prime Minister in July. Despite opposition due to the Russian army weakened by the military disasters at the Masurian Lakes and Tannenburg, and to food supplies being dangerously low, Kerensky ensured Russia stayed in the First World War. This led to a drop in morale amongst the Russian soldiers and an increasing problem of desertion.

“The war bids fair to go on forever; now Russian units are deserting wholesale and Kerensky in premier. Can he save the situation?”

MS 168 AJ 217/13 Journal of Samuel Rich, 27 July 1917

Reflections on war and warfare: week 20 (14 – 20 July 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home.

17-20 July 1812 Prelude to the Battle of Salamanca
Following the capture of Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo in 1812, Wellington advanced into Spain where he was confronted by Marshal Marmont, commanding the army known as the “Army of Portugal”. In the weeks and days leading up to their engagement at the battle of Salamanca, on 22 July, the two armies often marched close together with Marmont continually outmanoeuvring Wellington’s forces and threatening the Allied supply line.

17 July 1812 – “The Army concentrated near Fuetelapeña. In the evening of this day it was discovered that we had been outmanoeuvred and the enemy had actually crossed a great force at the bridge of Tordesillas and the ford of Pollos. Marmont deserves great credit for the way in which he carried out the deception. For along time he kept constantly moving troops to his right, repaired the bridge at Toro and made good the ford at that place, crossed over small bodies constantly towards our left and kept us in alarm for our communications that way.”

18 July – “The enemy advanced in force, our troops retiring and concentrating near Cañin in some irregular strong ground. They advanced with great spirit taking care never to commit their cavalry supporting them (and they supporting each other) with artillery and infantry.”

19 July – “Towards evening the enemy made a move to the left which obliged us to take the ground to our right, and the next morning we offered him battle and expected an attack.”

20 July – “To Cabezavellosa. The enemy again moved to the left and we made a very long march, both armies moving in parallel lines, the enemy keeping the heights and cannonading our people with little effect.”

MS 300/7/1 Transcript by S.G.P.Ward of Scovell’s Peninsula diary, 17-20 July 1812


19 July 1918 Resentment over conscription legislation
As a result of numbers of volunteers falling to approximately 80,000 per month after the Dardanelles expedition, the government felt forced to intervene. Initially the ‘Derby scheme’ was introduced, which involved door-to-door visits to gather men to serve if needed, with assurance that bachelors would be called up before married men. However, this measure proved inadequate and in January 1916 the Military Service Act was introduced. It introduced conscription of single men aged 18-41, extended to married men in May of that year.

“I sat down to a half hour talk in which I did not get my way, namely to see that English born Jews be allowed the option of not joining the Jewish Regiment, and that a chaplain be approached to the Jewish Battalion.”

MS 132 AJ 322 1/4 Letter from Basil Henriques to his mother, 19 July 1918


20 July 1852 The Cape frontier wars

In December 1850 there was another outbreak of hostilities in the ongoing Cape frontier wars, in this case created in part by the policies imposed by the British Governor Sir Harry Smith. Chief Maqoma of the Xhosa led a guerrilla campaign in the valleys and forested mountains of Waterkloof against the British. From this base he was able to plunder surrounding farms and torch homestead. Maqoma inflicted heavy losses on forces under Sir Harry Smith’s command, notably that of the 74th Highlanders. By early 1852 George Cathcart was sent to replace Smith, taking up command in March. His brief was to crush the insurgents, a task he applied himself to with dedication and by February 1853 the chiefs surrendered. Captain Edward Wellesley’s letters give insights into the way the realities of warfare in the Cape.

“A large assemblage of Kafirs having been reported at Auckland the site of one of the destroyed military villages, the Governor sent a force and went himself; we found a number of huts which were destroyed but the Kafirs and any cattle they may have had escaped… On the 7th of this month a movement was made against the Kafirs under Macomo [Maqoma] in the Waterkloof, we left this and formed a camp on the Kroome river under the Kroome range from whence we ascended the Kroome and united with the Rifle Brigade at the tope and bivouacked on the heights. On the following day, we passed through a forest which divides the Waterkloof from Fuller’s Hoek and reached an open space familiarly called the Horseshoe, this is an open plateau something the shape of what it is termed and the best fighting ground I have seen for Kafirs… It is a melancholy spot, the graves of many poor soldiers dotted about, and you are pointed out the spot where many officers fell amongst them being Fordyce who commanded the 74th Highlanders and was a brave and distinguished officer. We however met with no opposition either passing through the Forest or emerging on the plain and having joined another column which had been operating on this side, in concert destroyed a large number of huts on the edge of the Waterkloof and in a skirmish one man of the Rifle Brigade was killed… The next day we returned to Fort Beaufort.”

MS 63 A904/3/19 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother Richard, 20 July 1852