It was arranged that the army should march on Tarragona by two separate routes; while the divisions of Frère and Harispe started from Lerida by the road of Momblanch, the third division, that of Habert, was to move from a separate base—Tortosa, where had been collected the heavy artillery and the munitions of the siege. The guns which had taken Tortosa were still lying there, with all the artillery reserve, and it was to escort them that Habert was detailed to take the southern 长沙桑拿论坛sn route along the sea-coast by the Col de Balaguer. From this direction too were to come the provisions of the army, which had been brought down by water from Saragossa and Mequinenza while the Ebro was in flood, and deposited at Mora—the nearest point on the river to Tarragona. This division of forces was perhaps necessary, but appeared dangerous; if Campoverde, when the French commenced their movements, had thrown himself[p. 488] with all disposable forces upon the weak division of Habert—only six battalions—and had wrecked the battering-train, there could have been no siege of Tarragona for many a month to come.
But before the two columns had started from Lerida and Tortosa, and while part of Harispe’s division was out on a final cattle-hunt up the valley of the Noguera, before the Commander-in-Chief had even come up to the front to join his army, a message arrived from the north which might well have stopped the whole expedition. On April 21st Suchet, still at Saragossa, received the astounding news that the Spaniards had captured Figueras, the bulwark of northern Catalonia, and the most important place (with the exception of Barcelona) which belonged to the French in the whole principality. The disaster had happened on the night of the 9th-10th, and the news of it had been brought by a spy paid by Macdonald, across the territory occupied by the Spanish army: otherwise it would have taken still longer to travel, by the circuitous route through France, which was the only way by which news from Upper Catalonia could reach Aragon. Macdonald and Maurice Mathieu, the governor of Barcelona, who added his supplications to those of the Marshal, begged Suchet to abandon for the moment the projected siege of Tarragona, and to march to their aid with every man that he could spare. For they must collect as large a force as possible to recover Figueras, and a field army could not be got together from the much-reduced 7th Corps, which had to find a garrison of 6,000 men for Barcelona, and similar, if smaller, detachments for Gerona, Rosas, Hostalrich, Mont Louis, Palamos, and other smaller places. If Campoverde should march northward, with the bulk of his regular divisions, to succour Figueras, there would be little or nothing to oppose to him.
Suchet weighed the petition of his colleague with care, but refused to assent to it. His decision was highly approved by the Emperor when he came to know of it, and the reasons which he[p. 489] gave for his answer seem convincing. It would take, as he calculated, twenty-five days to move a division, or a couple of divisions, from Lerida to Figueras across the hostile country-side of Catalonia; and since the disaster was already eleven days old when the news came to hand, there must be over a month of delay between the moment when the Spaniards had taken the fortress and that at which the Army of Aragon could intervene. In that month the fate of affairs in the Ampurdam would have been already decided. The succours for the garrison of northern Catalonia must come from France, not from Aragon. Figueras lies only twenty miles from the French frontier, and Baraguay d’Hilliers could be helped far more readily from Perpignan, Toulouse, or Narbonne than from Lerida. National Guards and dép?t troops could be hurried to his aid in a few days. As to Campoverde, he would be called home at once by a blow delivered against Tarragona, his capital and chief arsenal. He must infallibly hurry back to defend it, at the head of his field army, and Macdonald and Baraguay d’Hilliers would then have nothing but the miqueletes opposed to them. If the 7th Corps, with the reinforcements from France which it must infallibly receive, could not deal with Rovira, Manso and the rest, it was time to abandon the Peninsular War! The crisis, whichever way its results might lean, was bound to have come and passed before the Army of Aragon could be of any use. It would almost certainly have ended in a check for the Spaniards, since the Emperor could pour as many men into the Ampurdam as he pleased. At the worst Figueras would be beleaguered so soon as the reinforcements arrived from France, and all the best of the Spaniards in northern Catalonia would be shut up in the place and kept out of mischief. It was entirely to the advantage of the Imperial arms that the enemy should lock up his men in garrisons, for they were much more troublesome when acting as partisans in the mountains.
Accordingly, on April 24th, Suchet, having sent a direct refusal to Macdonald’s petition, came up to Lerida, and on the 28th[p. 490] Harispe’s and Frère’s divisions started off for Tarragona by the shortest road, that through Momblanch. At the same time Habert with the siege artillery moved out from Tortosa for the same destination along the coast-road by the Col de Balaguer and Cambrils. On May 2 both columns were near Tarragona, having met with very little opposition by the way, for Campoverde, with the larger part of his field army, had gone off a fortnight before to the north, with the intention of succouring Figueras, and the rest of his regulars had retired into Tarragona to form its garrison.
Before dealing with the long and bitterly contested struggle at Tarragona, it is necessary to explain how Figueras had come into the hands of the Spaniards. This place was a new and well-designed eighteenth-century fortress, built sixty years back by Ferdinand VI, to supplement the defences of the Catalonian frontier. Thus it had not the weaknesses of old-fashioned strongholds like Gerona or Lerida, where the scheme of the fortifications dated back to the Middle Ages. Close to the high-road from Perpignan to Barcelona, and only twenty miles from the frontier, stands an isolated hill with a flat top, at whose foot lay the original village or small town of Figueras. Ferdinand VI had fortified this hilltop so as to form a circular bastioned enceinte, and thus created a most formidable citadel, which he named after himself San Fernando. It dominated the little town below, and the whole of the surrounding plain of the Ampurdam. The slopes below the wall are steep, even precipitous in some places, and there is only one road leading up into the place by curves and zigzags, though there are several posterns at other points. San Fernando had been one of the fortresses which Napoleon seized by treachery in 1808—a French detachment, ostensibly marching through the town towards Barcelona, had fallen upon and evicted the Spanish garrison. Since then it had formed the most important base for operations in northern Catalonia, and had been the magazine from which the sieges of Rosas and Gerona had been fed. A long possession of three years had made the Imperial generals careless, and the garrison had gradually dwindled down to a provisional battalion of 600 or 700 men, mainly composed at this moment of drafts for the Italian and[p. 491] Neapolitan divisions of Pino and Compère, detained on their way to the front, according to the usual system. The governor was a Brigadier-General Guillot, who seems to have been a negligent and easy-going officer. The rocky fortress was so strong that it never entered into his head that his restless neighbours the miqueletes might try a blow at it. It was a mere chance that on the day when the assault was delivered a marching battalion of Italian drafts, escorting General Peyri, who was coming up to take command of Pino’s late division, happened to be billeted in the town below—next day they would have been gone.
It was clearly Guillot’s carelessness, and the small numbers of his garrison, which inspired the miquelete chiefs with the idea of making an attack by surprise on this almost impregnable citadel. Rovira, the most active of them, got into communication with three young Catalans who passed as Afrancesados and were employed by the commissary Bouclier, who had charge of the magazines. One, Juan Marquez, was his servant, the other two, Pedro and Ginés Pons, were under-storekeepers. All three were mere boys, the oldest not twenty-one years of age. Marquez got wax impressions of various keys belonging to his master, including those of the store-vaults and of a postern gate leading into them from the foot of the ramparts, and made false keys from them. It was determined that a picked band of miqueletes should attempt to force their way into the place through the postern on the midnight of April 9th-10th. Rovira sent the details of his scheme to Campoverde, who, despite of his late fiasco at Barcelona, was delighted with the plan, and offered to come up with his field army to the north if the attempt should succeed.
The miquelete chiefs conducted their enterprise with considerable skill. On the 7th of April Rovira collected some 2,000 men at the foot of the Pyrenees, north of Olot, and threatened to make a descent into the French valleys beyond, in order to distract the attention of the enemy. On the 9th he counter-marched for Figueras, and at dusk got within nine miles of it. At one in the morning his forlorn hope, 700 men under two captains named Casas and Llovera, came up under the ramparts, found their confederates waiting for them at the postern, and[p. 492] were admitted by means of the false keys. They burst up out of the vaults, and caught the garrison mostly asleep—the governor was captured in his bed, the main-guard at the great gate was surprised, and the few men who came straggling out of the barracks to make resistance were overpowered in detail. Only thirty-five men were killed or wounded on the part of the French, not so many on the Spanish side, and in an hour or less the place was won. The captors promptly admitted their friends from without, and ere dawn over 2,000 Catalans were manning the walls of the fortress. The material captured was immense—16,000 muskets, several hundred cannon, a great store of boots and clothing, four months’ provisions for a garrison of 2,000 men, and 400,000 francs in the military chest. General Peyri, with the Italian bataillon de marche which was sleeping in the town below, was unable to do anything—there had been very little firing, and when some fugitives ran down from San Fernando, it was to tell him that the place was completely mastered by the enemy. He put his troops under arms, and drew off at daylight to Bascara, half-way to Gerona, with his 650 men, after having sent off the bad news both to Baraguay d’Hilliers on one side and to the governor of Perpignan on the other. The former sent him out a battalion and a squadron, and told him to return towards Figueras and to place himself in observation in front of it till he was succoured. All the disposable troops in northern Catalonia should join him within two days. Peyri therefore[p. 493] reoccupied Figueras town, and barricaded himself in it with 1,500 men—being quite unable to do more; he had to watch the Catalans introducing reinforcements into San Fernando without being able to molest them. Baraguay d’Hilliers did not come to his succour for some days, being unable to leave Gerona till he had called in some dangerously exposed outlying posts, and had strengthened Rosas, which was threatened by some English frigates, who showed signs of throwing a landing-party ashore to besiege it. He then came up with 2,000 men to join Peyri, while a more considerable force arrived from Perpignan under General Quesnel, who had charge of the Pyrenean frontier, and appeared with three line battalions, and two more of National Guards of the Gers and Haute-Garonne. Having 6,500 infantry and 500 cavalry concentrated, d’Hilliers was able to throw a cordon of troops round San Fernando and to commence its blockade on April 17th.
The place, however, was now fully garrisoned. Rovira had thrown into it, during the week when free entry was possible, miqueletes to the number of some 3,000, making a brigadier named Martinez, one of his most trusted lieutenants, the governor. On the 16th a reinforcement of regular troops arrived—part of the division of Baron Eroles, which had the most northern cantonments among the units of Campoverde’s field army. Eroles had marched from Martorel by Olot, and had captured on his way the small French garrisons of that place and of Castelfollit, making 548 prisoners. Campoverde sent messages to say that he would arrive himself with larger forces in a few days. Having thrown Courten’s division into Tarragona, he would bring up the rest of his available troops—Sarsfield’s division and the remainder of that of Eroles, with all the miqueletes that he could collect. Meanwhile the local somatenes of central Catalonia pressed in close upon Gerona and Hostalrich, and kept Baraguay d’Hilliers in a state of great anxiety, for he feared that they might capture these places, whose garrisons had been depleted to make up his small field force.
The opportunity offered to the Spaniard was not one that was likely to last for long, since Napoleon, on hearing of the fall of Figueras, had issued orders for the concentration of some 14,000 troops from Southern France, a division under General Plau[p. 494]zonne from Languedoc and Provence, and five or six odd battalions more. When these should arrive, in the end of April or the first days of May, the French in northern Catalonia would be too strong to fear any further disasters. But meanwhile Macdonald and Baraguay d’Hilliers had a fortnight of doubt and danger before them. The former proposed to march himself to Figueras, with what troops he could spare from Barcelona, but since its garrison was only about 6,000 strong, and the place was large and turbulent, it was clear that he could bring little with him. It was for this reason that he wrote to Suchet in such anxiety on April 16th, and begged for the loan of one or two divisions from the Army of Aragon. Till he got his answer, he did not himself move forth. Hence d’Hilliers alone had to bear the brunt of the trouble.
There is no doubt that Campoverde had a fair chance of achieving a considerable if temporary success; but he threw it away by his slowness and want of skill. Though aware of the capture of Figueras on April 12th, he did not start from Tarragona till the 20th, nor reach Vich in northern Catalonia till the 27th. He had then with him 6,000 infantry, mostly of Sarsfield’s division, and 800 horse. Rovira drew near to co-operate, with those of the miqueletes of the Ampurdam who had not already thrown themselves into the fortress. The force collected ought to have sufficed to break through the thin blockading cordon which Baraguay d’Hilliers had thrown round the fortress, if it had been properly handled. But Campoverde was no general. On May 3rd the relieving army approached the place, the miqueletes demonstrated against the northern part of the French lines, while Sarsfield broke through at a point on the opposite side, near the town, and got into communication with Eroles, who came down with 2,000 men to join him. They fell together upon the French regiment (the 3rd Léger) on this front, which took refuge in the barricaded town and defended itself there for some time. According to all the Spanish narratives the three battalions in Figueras presently offered to surrender, and wasted time in negotiations, while Baraguay[p. 495] d’Hilliers was collecting the main body of his forces in a solid mass. Screened by an olive wood in his march, the French general suddenly fell on Sarsfield’s flank and rear, while he was intent on the enemy in the town alone; a charge of dragoons cut up two of the Spanish regiments, and the rest gave way in disorder, Sarsfield falling back towards the plain, and Eroles retiring into the fortress. The reserve of Campoverde and the miqueletes were never seriously engaged. If they had been used as they should have been, the fight might have gone otherwise than it did, for counting the garrison of San Fernando and the irregulars, the Spaniards had a considerable superiority of numbers. They lost over 1,000 men, the French about 400. During the time while the blockading line was broken, Sarsfield had introduced into San Fernando some artillerymen (much needed for the vast number of guns in the place), and part of a convoy which he was conducting, but the greater portion of it, including a great drove of sheep, was captured by the enemy at the moment of the rout.
If Campoverde and his army had been given no other task save the relief of Figueras, it is probable that this combat would have been but the commencement of a long series of operations. But he received, immediately after his check, the news that Suchet had marched from Lerida on April 28th, and had appeared in front of Tarragona on May 3rd. The capital of Catalonia was even more important than Figueras, and it was necessary to hasten to its aid, for no regular troops had been left in the southern part of the principality, save the single division of Courten, which had hastened to shut itself up in the city. Accordingly Sarsfield was directed to take 2,000 infantry and the whole cavalry of the army, and to march by the inland to threaten Suchet’s rear, and his communications with Lerida, while Campoverde himself came down to the coast with 4,000 men, embarked at Mataro, the nearest port in Spanish hands, and sailed for Tarragona, where he arrived in safety, to strengthen the garrison. Eroles came out of San Fernando with a few[p. 496] hundreds of his own troops, before the blockade was fully re-established, and joined Rovira in the neighbouring mountains, leaving the defence of the fortress to Martinez with five regular battalions and 3,000 miqueletes. Eroles and Rovira were the only force left to observe Baraguay d’Hilliers, and since they had only a few thousand men, mostly irregulars, they were able to do little to help the place. For the besieging force was strengthened in May by the arrival of Plauzonne’s division from France, while Macdonald came up from Barcelona with a few battalions, and took over the command from Baraguay d’Hilliers. By the end of the month he had over 15,0
00 men, and had begun to shut in the fortress on its height by an elaborate system of contravallations, which he compares in his memoirs to Caesar’s lines around Alesia. Martinez made a most obstinate and praiseworthy defence—of which more hereafter—and the siege of Figueras dragged on for many months, till long after the more important operations around Tarragona had come to an end. But after Campoverde’s departure for the south there was never any hope that it could be relieved: all that its defenders accomplished was to detain and immobilize the whole 7th Corps, which, when it had garrisoned Barcelona and Gerona, and supplied the blockading force for San Fernando, had not a man disposable for work in other quarters. Thus Suchet had to carry out his operations against Tarragona without any external assistance, whereas, if Figueras had never been lost, he might have counted on much incidental help from his colleague Macdonald. This much was accomplished by the daring exploit of April 10th: if Campoverde had been capable of utilizing the chance that it gave him, its results might have been far more important.
SECTION XXVIII: CHAPTER II
THE SIEGE AND FALL OF TARRAGONA. MAY-JUNE 1811
Suchet had marched, as has been already mentioned, from Lerida, with Harispe’s division, on April 28th, Frère’s division following. On the 29th the head of the column reached Momblanch, where half a battalion was left behind in a fortified post, to keep open the Lerida road. On May 2nd the large manufacturing town of Reus, only ten miles from Tarragona, was occupied: on May 3rd the French advanced guard, Salme’s brigade, approached the city, and drove in the Catalan advanced posts as far as the river Francoli. But the siege could not begin till Habert’s force, escorting the battering-train, should come up from Tortosa; and this all-important column was much delayed. Its road ran along the seaside from the Col de Balaguer onward, and Codrington’s squadron of English frigates and gunboats accompanied it all the way, vexing and delaying it, by bombarding it whenever it was forced to come within gunshot of the beach. This was practically all the opposition that Suchet met with: a few miqueletes had shown themselves in the hills between Reus and Momblanch, but they were too weak to fight. Campoverde had carried off the best both of regulars and irregulars to the relief of Figueras, and Courten, who had barely 4,500 men in his division, had wisely shut himself up in Tarragona, where every man was wanted: for the enceinte was very long, and the sedentary garrison consisted of only five or six battalions. The troops inside the walls did not amount, when the siege began, to 7,000 men: hence came the weakness[p. 498] shown in the early days; it was not till Campoverde’s army came back from the north (May 10) that an adequate defensive force was in existence for such a large fortress.
Tarragona, though some of its fortifications were not skilfully planned, was a very strong place. The nucleus of the works was the circuit of the old Celtiberian town of Tarraco, which afterwards became the capital of Roman Spain. This forms the upper city in modern times. It is built on an inclined plane, of which the eastern end (530 feet above sea-level), where the cathedral lies, is the higher side, and the slope goes downhill, and westward: the southern face, that towards the sea, is absolutely precipitous, the northern one hardly less so. Large fragments of the Cyclopean walls built by the Celtiberians, or perhaps by the Carthaginians, are visible along the crest on both of these sides. On the west, the lowest part of the old town, a line of modern fortifications divided the upper town from the lower; there was a sharp drop along this line: in most places it is very steep, and the road of to-day goes up the hillside in zigzags, to avoid the break-neck climb. Below the fortifications of the upper city, and divided from them by a broad belt of ground free of houses, lay the port-town or lower city, clustering around the harbour, which is an excellent roadstead shut in by a mole 1,400 feet long, which runs out from the south-west corner of the place. The lower city was enclosed on its northern and western sides by a front of six bastions; its southern side, facing the port and the open sea, had not, and did not need, any great protection; it could only have been endangered by an enemy whose strength was on the water, and who could bring a fleet into action. There was a sort of citadel in the port-town, a work named the Fuerte Real, which lies on an isolated mound inside the north-west angle of the walls. About 400 yards west of the most projecting bastion of[p. 499] the place the river Francoli flows into the sea, at the western end of the harbour. In the angle between the river and the port was an outlying work, Fort Francoli, destined to keep besiegers away from the shipping, which they might easily bombard from this point, if it were not occupied. This fort was connected with the lower town by a covered way protected by a long entrenchment containing two lunettes.
Notwithstanding the great strength of the high-lying upper city, it had been furnished with a second line of defence, outside its old Roman walls. Low down the hillside five forts, connected by a wall and covered way, protected its whole eastern front from the edge of the heights as far as the sea. The Barcelona road, crawling along the water’s edge, enters the place between two of these forts, and goes to the Lower, after sending a steep bypath up to a gate in the Upper, city.
On the west and north-west the high-lying fortress commands all the surrounding country-side. But to the due north there is a lofty hill about 800 yards from the walls, called Monte Olivo. This dominates the lower town, since it is 200 feet high, or more, though it is itself dominated by the upper town. An enemy in possession of it has every advantage for attacking the north front of the lower town. Wherefore, during the course of the last two years, the summit of the hill had been entrenched, and a very large hornwork, the Fuerte Olivo, constructed upon it. This was a narrow fort, following the shape of the crest of the hill, with a length of 400 yards, and embrasures for forty-seven guns. Its outer front was protected by a ditch hewn in the solid rock: its rear was only slightly closed with a low wall crowned by palisades, so as to leave it exposed to the fire of the upper city, if by any chance the enemy should get possession of it. Such an extensive work required a garrison of over 1,000 men—a heavy proportion of the 6,500 which formed the total force of the Spaniards at the commencement of the siege.
When Suchet arrived in front of Tarragona, and had driven the Spaniards within their works (May 3rd-4th), his chief engineer and artillery officers, Rogniat and Vallée, had to conduct a long and careful survey of the fortifications opposed to them.[p. 500] They concluded that the northern front of the city was practically impregnable, from its precipitous contours, and that the eastern front, though a little less rocky, was equally ineligible, because of the trouble which would be required to transport guns first across the high ground to the north-east, and then down to the seashore. The south front, being all along the water’s edge, was inaccessible. There remained only the western front, that formed by the lower city, where the defences lay in the plain of the Francoli, and had no dominance over the ground in front of them. There was an additional advantage for the besieger here, in that the soil was partly river sand, partly the well-broken-up loam of suburban market gardens, and in all cases very easy to dig. But if they were to attack the west front, the engineers required the General-in-Chief to accomplish two preliminary operations for them. He must take Fort Olivo, which commanded with its flanking fires much of the ground on which they intended to work, and he must drive away from the northern side of the harbour the Anglo-Spanish squadron which lay there, since its heavy guns would enfilade all works started for the purpose of approaching the western front of Tarragona in the neighbourhood of the mouth of the Francoli.
This being the programme laid down, Suchet took up his positions round the fortress—Harispe’s division had charge of the main part of the northern front, its French brigade (Salme) occupying the ground in front of Fort Olivo, while its two Italian brigades stretched eastward along the distant heights, curving round so as to cut the Barcelona road along the sea-coast with their extreme detachment. Frère’s division had the central part of the lines, and lay on both sides of the course of the Francoli river, its main force, however, being on the left bank. Habert’s division, which had just come up from Tortosa, was placed near the mouth of the river, and facing towards the port; it formed the right wing of the army, and covered the siege-park, which was established at the village of Canonge, about a mile and a half from the walls of Tarragona. The magazines and hospitals were fixed at the large town of Reus, nine miles to the rear, under a considerable guard; for though the road from thence to the French lines ran over the gentle undulations of the coast plain, yet there was always danger that bands of miqueletes might[p. 501] descend from the hills for some daring enterprise. Several of the intermediate villages were fortified, to serve as half-way refuges for convoys and small parties on the move.
Some days were lost to the French in completing the survey of Tarragona, in settling down the troops into their permanent camps, and in bringing up from the rear, along the Tortosa road, the remainder of the battering-train and its munitions. It was not till May 8th that serious operations began. Suchet’s first object was to drive away from the northern end of the harbour the English and Spanish ships, 长沙桑拿全套 whose fire swept the ground about the mouth of the Francoli, across which his siege-works were to be constructed. With this object a large fort was constructed on the shore, in which very heavy guns, fatal to shipping, were to be placed. Commodore Codrington, who was lying in the harbour with a small squadron of two 74’s and two frigates, assisted by several Spanish gunboats, bombarded the fort incessantly, but what he destroyed in the day the French rebuilt with additions every night, and on May 13th the fort was sufficiently completed to receive its armament of 24-pounders. The ship-guns were unable to cope with them, and the vessels of the Allies during the rest of the siege were compelled to keep to the south end of the port, and could only vex the besieger’s subsequent trench-building by a distant and ineffective fire. On 长沙桑拿洗浴中心 the 16th a first parallel, directed against the most advanced Spanish work, Fort Francoli, was begun in the low ground beside the new fort.
Before this check to the squadron had been completed a great change in the situation was made by the arrival of Campoverde on May 10, with 4,000 regular troops brought by sea from Mataro—fractions of the divisions of Eroles and Sarsfield, though neither of these generals had come in person. The garrison being strengthened up to 10,000 men, and raised in morale by the reinforcement, became very bold and enterprising. Sorties began almost at once: Harispe’s division having seized on the[p. 502] 13th May two slight outlying entrenchments below Fort Olivo, three battalions sallied out on the 14th and made a desperate attempt to retake them. It failed, but on the 18th an equally vigorous sortie was made against the fort beyond the Francoli, 长沙桑拿按摩贴吧 and the first parallel near it, by about 2,000 men, who drove in the trench-guards and destroyed a section of the works, but were finally thrust back into the lower city by the arrival of reinforcements led by General Habert. How hot the fighting had been here is shown by the fact that Suchet’s dispatch owns to a loss of over 150 men, with three officers killed and eleven wounded. The sallying force lost 218, a figure which Suchet enlarges in his report to 250 killed and 600 wounded. On the 20th the Spaniards made a third sally, on a different front, far to the north-east, across the high ground north of the Barcelona road, and tried to break through the line of blockade kept up by Harispe’s Italian brigades. This was on a smaller scale, and had no luck; it was apparently intended to open up communication with Sarsfield, who (marching by circuitous ways across central 长沙桑拿 Catalonia) had reached Valls and Alcover, only ten miles from Tarragona, on the upper Francoli, with 1,200 men. This trifling force was to be the nucleus of an ‘army of relief’ which was to be collected from all quarters to threaten Suchet’s rear. Sarsfield made his appearance known to his chief in Tarragona by lighting beacons on the mountain tops. Learning that the Spanish force was insignificant, Suchet detached two battalions and some cuirassiers to drive Sarsfield further away from Alcover, and did so with small loss, forcing him to retire to the mountains above Valls.
About this time the French artillery and engineer commanders reported to their chief that it would be at least ten days before they were in a position to begin a serious attack against the western front of the city, and Suchet resolved that the enforced delay should be utilized for an attack on Fort Olivo, whose capture would sooner or later be a necessity, if 长沙桑拿攻略 the main operations against the city were to prosper.
Accordingly, while the approaches against the west front went steadily on, a separate offensive advance against the Olivo was prepared. Between the 22nd and the 28th of May trenches were pushed towards the fort, and batteries containing thirteen[p. 503] guns erected to bear upon it. Their fire had effected serious damage on the parapets and the artillery of the fort by the 29th, yet the engineers reported that they could not fill the ditch, which was dug in the solid rock, and could not promise to make accessible breaches beyond it. But they reported that the rear face of the work, which the French artillery could not reach, was very weak, the low wall and palisade closing the gorge being no more than nine feet high. There was also a gap in the front protection caused by the entry, into the right end of the fort, of an aqueduct which carried water down into Tarragona. This structure made a sort of bridge across the ditch; it had not been cut, but only closed with palisades, which were being rapidly demolished by the French cannonade.
On the night of the 29th Suchet made the rather rash venture of trying to escalade Fort Olivo at the two weak points. One column was to turn the work under cover of the darkness, and to endeavour to break in at the gorge in its rear. The other was to try the imperfect breach in the right front, by crossing the aqueduct, though it was only seven feet broad, if it should be found that the ditch was impassable. Meanwhile a general demonstration was to be made by scattered tirailleurs against the whole face of the Olivo, so as to distract the attention of the enemy, and the batteries down by the Francoli were to bombard the lower city with the same purpose. Both attacks were successful—more by luck than by their deserts, for the plan was most hazardous. The column which had gone round to the rear of the fort ran in upon a Spanish regiment which was coming up the hill to relieve the garrison. The two forces hustled against each other in the dark, and became hopelessly mingled in a close combat just outside the postern gate of the gorge. The garrison was unable to fire upon their enemies, because they were intermixed among their friends, and, when the fight surged against the postern and the palisades, the French succeeded in[p. 504] entering the gorge, some by scrambling up the low and weak defences, others by bursting in at the gate along with the Spanish reinforcements with whom they were engaged. They might have been checked, for the defenders were fighting fiercely, if the other attack had not also succeeded. But at the right front of the fort, where the second assault was made, though many of the forlorn hope fell into the ditch, a desperate charge took the storming-party across the seven-foot gangway of the aqueduct, and over the shattered palisades that blocked it. The garrison could tell by the noise of the musketry that the enemy had entered both in front and in rear, and were stricken by despair. But the greater part of them clubbed together and continued a desperate resistance, which was only subdued when Suchet sent in all his reserves and the trench-guards to back the stormers. They were then beset on all sides, and finally overwhelmed.
The losses of the garrison were terrible—of the five battalions of Iliberia and Almeria, and the two companies of artillery which had been engaged—some 3,000 men in all—very nearly one-third, as it would appear, were slain or captured. The pri[p. 505]soners were about 970 in number, many wounded, including the commander of the fort, Colonel Gomez, who had received no less than ten bayonet stabs. Three or four hundred men had been killed—the French had given little quarter during the earlier part of the fighting. The remainder of the garrison had escaped into the city, by climbing over the low wall of the gorge and running down the slopes, at the moment of the final disaster. The French loss, according to Suchet, was only about 325 killed and wounded, and probably did not greatly exceed that figure. The assailants had, it must be confessed, extraordinary luck. If the turning column had not become mingled with the Spanish reinforcements it might never have been able to break into the gorge; while the other attack could not have succeeded if the governor had taken the proper precaution of cutting the aqueduct, which served the stormers as a bridge—for the ditch proved wholly impracticable, and the breach could not be approached.
On the morning after the assault the spirit of the Spaniards was so little broken that a sortie was made with the purpose of retaking the Olivo, the survivors of the two regiments which had lost it volunteering to head the attack. Campoverde thought that the French might be caught before they had made new defences to protect the weak rear face of the fort, but they had built up the entry of the gorge with sandbags, and the assault—led by Colonel O’Ronan, a Spanish-Irish officer—was beaten off with loss, though a few daring men not only reached the gorge, but scrambled in through its broken palisades to die inside the work. All the guns of the upper city were then turned upon the Olivo, and reduced its rear to a shapeless mass of earth. But this did not seriously harm the French, who burrowed into its interior and made themselves strong there. They only wanted to be masters of the hill because it flanked their projected approaches in the low ground, and did not intend to use it as their base for any further active operations.