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The achievements of the British army, during that momentous period when Napoleon Bonaparte had extended his conquests over nearly the whole of Continental Europe, form one of the brightest portions of our military annals. Never before had Britain grappled with so formidable a foe; and neverwas a long and sanguinary contest brought to a more triumphant conclusion. On the Continent, throne after throne had been overturned, nation after nation swallowed up in the gigantic empire which was the favourite aim of the Imperial ravager; but England, seated securely amid the waves, never for a moment acknowledged his supremacy, nor ceased to assail his power, wherever it promised to prove vulnerable. In Egypt, Italy, the West Indies, South America, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, Bel
gium, and, finally, on what the Imperial braggarts styled the inviolable soil of France, the rapacious Eagle had to struggle for his prey with the British Lion. When the war commenced, our military force was far inferior to the enemy in organization, in tactics, and, in short, in every thing but valour. But, long before the contest terminated, our soldiers had in every respect become matchless; and the British arms had acquired a renown which never before belonged to them.
The Navy—the noblest and surest bulwark of Old England-led the van in this protracted warfare. In the course of a few eventful years, it swept from the seas every hostile flag; and the gigantic power of France could only be farther assailed by granting military succour to those countries in which a latent spirit of resistance to usurpation still slumbered, and promised speedily to awake. Portugal, and Spain in particular, stood in this predicament. Partly by craft, and partly by violence, Napoleon had succeeded in obtaining military possession of the whole of Arragon and Castile. Charles IV., intimidated by menaces, and perplexed by machinations, had abdicated in favour of his son Ferdinand ; and scarcely had the latter commenced his reign, when, by a scheme as artful as it was infamous, he and all his kindred were decoyed into captivity, and a member of his betrayer's family imposed upon the Spaniards as their King. In Portugal a revolution scarcely less disastrous had been accomplished. Napoleon, even before his legions passed the Spanish frontiers, had declared, in his favourite oracular style, that the House of Braganza had ceased to reign. It was well understood that he contemplated the partition of Portugal; and the Prince of Brazil, anticipating no mercy at the hands of one, whose pastime it was to dethrone kings and extirpate dynasties, prudently retired, with his family, to his transatlantic dominions, leaving the Portuguese nation to the fortune that might befall it.
It was at this epoch, so pregnant with woe to the Peninsula, that the mountaineers of Asturia and Gallicia rose against the invaders, and, by their brave defiance, set an example which was speedily followed by the whole of Spain. That moral pestilence which French artifice and French gold had rendered but too general among the wealthier orders, had not yet corrupted the great body of the people; and the moment when they found resolute and patriotic men to head them, they flew to arms. A strong French force was overthrown in the mountains of Andalusia; and the city of Zaragoza was defended by the brave Palafox and his fellow-citizens, with an obstinacy, to which modern history furnishes no parallel. The Portuguese, too, though, in many respects, a less noble race, remained but a short time tranquil, under the military chief whom 6 the Arbiter of Destinies” had sent to coerce them. After a brief but ineffectual struggle, they appealed for succour to Britain, their ancient and staunch ally. That appeal was not made in vain. It was equally in accordance with the pride and the policy of England, to give it attention. An armament was instantly fitted out, and ten thousand men were soon afterwards landed at the mouth of the Mondego.