In the meantime the French had taken up their position in front, and a splendid view we had of their encampment from Busaco heights for a time; but it was not destined to be for long that we were to witness this fine sight, without mingling some of their best blood with ours, for early on the morning of the 27th they were in active stir, evidently in the full intention of storming our heights.
After dealing the staggering blow of Busaco at that presumptuous Marshal, our great leader fell back, through a tract which he swept bare of supplies, on this sure bulwark, and there watched the French host of some 65,000 men waste away amidst the miseries of hunger and the rains and diseases of autumn.
It was necessary that he should earn his living in some way, but he could not see what he was to do, and things were so uncomfortable at home that he wished to leave it as soon as possible. Happily he had not long to wait, for William, who had joined the 43rd Regiment and fought at Busaco and Salamanca and Waterloo, came home on leave, and solved the puzzle.
They lay across the whole Peninsula, and our army was so far from home that we did not dare to risk a reverse, and we had already learned at Busaco that it was no child's play to fight against these people. What could we do, then, but sit down in front of these lines and blockade them to the best of our power?
The lieutenants of Massena, as bold and more youthful, estimated as he did the disastrous chances of the campaign. "Do not stand haggling with the English," replied Napoleon. He was obeyed. Lord Wellington remained in his retreat upon the heights of Busaco, above the valley of Mondego, in front of Coimbra; he barred the passage to Marshal Massena, who resolved to give battle.
It was not until the 18th of September that Massena fairly commenced his march, having chosen the road from Visen through Martagoa, and the next day the news reached the Rangers that the British army was to concentrate on the heights of Busaco.
The ground chosen by Wellington to oppose Massena's advance was on the edge of the Sierra Busaco; which was separated, by a deep and narrow valley, from the series of hills across which the French were marching. There were four roads by which the French could advance. The one from Mortagao, which was narrow and little used, passed through Royalva.
By the addition of Portuguese troops who had been trained under British officers, his army was now raised to fifty thousand men; and though his inferiority in force compelled him to look on while Massena reduced the frontier fortresses of Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida, he inflicted on him a heavy check at the heights of Busaco, and finally fell back in October 1810 on three lines of defence which he had secretly constructed at Torres Vedras, along a chain of mountain, heights crowned with redoubts and bristling with cannon.
But we were fairly thrashed at Busaco and Salamanca. Albuera we claimed as a drawn fight, but such a drawn fight I never wish to share in again. The day had been going well. The Spaniards of course bolted, horse and foot. But at last matters cleared up, and we advanced against them in heavy columns. Soult called up all the reserves. We had captured six of their guns.
The regiment billeted at Olivencia Curious astronomical conjunction Lawrence exemplifies the truth of an old proverb at the expense of his hosts, and draws down the wrath of the church on himself Succeeds more satisfactorily in the case of his comrade The army shifted to the valley of the Mondego Lord Wellington's hopes in Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo being disappointed, it falls back still further to Busaco Battle of Busaco Lawrence makes a capture, which may be regarded by some readers as emblematic.