James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert Montgomery, 6 August 1808

Alicante 6 August 1808.


We have had no conveyances direct Since my respects Pr Capt Bradford of the Mercury dated 19 June (of which Copy herewith) ⟨a⟩nd the disturbed State of Affairs in this Country has prevented risking ⟨Le⟩tters by Post to any Quarter.

In my Letter above mentioned I explained as far as I was ⟨a⟩ble, the Generous efforts of the populace to free themselves of the Corsican ⟨yo⟩ke and drive the French troops out of Spain. The Captain Generalship ⟨of⟩ all Spain (not immediately in possession of the French) formed ⟨th⟩emselves into a Junto Supreme in which were admitted members ⟨who⟩ represent every Class of People viz: Military, Merchants, Artizans ⟨   ⟩ from this wise measure every order from the Junto was obeyed ⟨wi⟩thout Complaint. Generals were appointed and vast Armys ⟨Ignorant poor men⟩ were Sent to the field. The Duke of Berg ⟨on⟩ the other hand found it important to lose no time and immediately dispatched General Dupont towards Seville with 30,000 ⟨m⟩en General Monsac towards Valencia with 15,000 and Genl. ⟨Le⟩febvre to Zaragoza with 15,000 while Besieres Kept his head Q’rs ⟨at⟩ Burgos with 20,000. Monsac in forced Marches arrived at ⟨   ⟩una and continuing his rout was met at the Cabrillas ⟨(a⟩ pass of importance) by the undisciplined Spaniards almost ⟨w⟩ithout Arms but Supported by [  ] Thousand regulars. They ⟨ki⟩lled nearly three thousand French and retired on which ⟨Mo⟩nsac Continued his March to Valencia where he arrived on ⟨the⟩ night of the 27 June. The next morning he Summoned the ⟨Garris⟩on to Surrender immediately, that he came to make them ⟨ha⟩ppy and was determined to do so, but if they refused to open ⟨th⟩eir Gates he would assault the Town and use the utmost ri⟨gour⟩ of the laws of War upon it, that his Victorious Army ⟨ha⟩d defeated the rebels at the Cabrillas and every other place ⟨an⟩d they had now Nothing to expect but from the Mercy of the ⟨Fre⟩nch who were Still determined to make them happy.The reply of the inhabitants was Short but negative and the ⟨mo⟩st vigorous attack Commenced at about 1/2 past two and ⟨   ⟩ tho with little interruption till near nine that Evening. In the adjacent Fields being Cover’d with Slaughterd French ⟨the Co⟩mmander made a precipitate retreat. Thus the town of Valencia Surrounded by a miserable mud Wall and a very p⟨oor⟩ Cannon hastily brought together, by the bravery of its virtuous in⟨h⟩abitants, have beaten off and disgraced those invincible Conq⟨uerors⟩ of the World. Monsac returned to Madrid harrassed, by the Spani⟨sh⟩ Peasantry and a climate dreadfully hot, that he has not bro⟨ught⟩ in two thousand of his whole Army.

Lefebvre on his march to Zaragoza had Several Skirmis⟨hes⟩ but the Peasantry always gave way, yet, not without Killing numbers of his Men. He arrived at Zaragoza and order’d it to open its gates on the 15 June. General Palafox who Command⟨ed⟩ and almost the only Military Man in the place, determin⟨ed⟩ to defend it and from that day till the 20 July, the French h⟨ad⟩ made Eleven attempts to assault the Town, which with a poor Wall and a few Cannon have by the Courage of their in⟨h⟩abitants alone beaten him off in every attack with monstro⟨us⟩ loss. Reinforcements were expected of 4,000 regulars from Ma⟨drid.⟩ These had already landed at Tortosa, and in all probability w⟨ould⟩ arrive in time to frustrate every other attempt of Lefebvr⟨e⟩.

Dupont on his march to Seville must have learnt the Capture of the whole French Fleet in Cadiz. He was attacked in Sierra by General Chaviri, who, like the Hot weathe⟨r⟩ only Served to harrass and incommode him. He continu⟨ed⟩ His rout to Cordova, where he entered without resistance and agreeable to the French (in this Country) plunder’d the Chu⟨rches⟩ and inhabitants of every thing valuable, but on the appearan⟨ce of⟩ General Castanos with a formidable Army of regulars an⟨d⟩ Peasantry he evacuated Cordova and endeavoured to ma⟨ke⟩ himself Strong in Andujar, but he had already between ⟨the⟩ Climate and the Enemy lost a vast number of his Men. In this Situation cutt off in his retreat to Madrid by Char⟨   ⟩, Castanos arrives at Andujar and demands his Surrend⟨er⟩ at discretion, which being refused an Engagement took pl⟨ace⟩ on the 20th. Ulto. Seven thousand French are left dead on t⟨he⟩ field, and about 17,000 made Prisoners with all their plu⟨nder⟩ ⟨   ⟩ &c. Not one man has escaped. Thus the laurels won by in⟨   ⟩ and artifice at Marengo, Jenna &c. are become the property of Spaniards, Supported by Virtue and Courage alone.

General Besieres posted with more than twenty thous⟨and⟩ Men at Burgos in order to maintain a Communicati⟨on⟩ with France, has had a Battle with General La Cuesta at the ⟨   ⟩d of the Peasantry of Old Castile. This Action took place som⟨e time⟩ last Month and appears to have been indecisive as both parties ⟨cl⟩aim the Victory.

The French Garrison of Barcelona under the Generals D⟨   ⟩ and Sabran, have made Several Sorties in order to coll⟨ect pro⟩visions, and if possible intimidate the People of the adjacent ⟨Co⟩untrys, but they on every occasion been beaten by the ⟨   ⟩ ⟨ir⟩regular Catalans, whose enthusiastic bravery is exemplary. ⟨A⟩ very large detachment from Barcelona attempted to storm Gerona defended by Peasantry and 300. Men of ⟨the⟩ Regiment Ultonia (Irish). The attack was in the ni⟨ght of⟩ the 17 July when after having Scaled the wall the French ⟨we⟩re obliged to retire with the loss of two thousand Men. We ⟨   ⟩ at this moment that their whole loss in Spain within ⟨le⟩ss than 3 months by Climate, desertion, and the Sword ⟨w⟩as One hundred thousand Men.

On the 21st: July, Joseph Napoleon arrived in Madrid ⟨a⟩nd was proclaimed King of Spain and Indias and on the 2nd August the whole French Army of about 25,000 ⟨M⟩en, decamped and marched towards the Pyrennes ⟨it wa⟩s Said on Account of Some disorders in France; ⟨   ⟩ ⟨I bel⟩ieve without that Circumstance they must have ⟨   ⟩ the victorious Spaniards from Andalusia and Val⟨encia who a⟩re pressing forward with a vast Army to attack them. The Garrisons of Barcelona, Figueras and Pampelona ⟨   ⟩ now the only very Strong holds the French have in ⟨thi⟩s Country.

On the 12th. July ultimo arrived here the Ship An⟨n⟩ ⟨   ⟩ ⟨from⟩ Alexandria district of Columbia Charles Bradford M⟨aster, an⟩d the Adamant of Weymouth State Massachusetts Mr. ⟨Re⟩uben Allen Master, both Captured by the English Privateer ⟨   ⟩ Ferros of Malta Captain Nicholas de Candia. This Man proposed taking a ransom of $1500 for the Brig and ⟨wo⟩uld I Suppose have done the Same by the Ship, but as I ⟨dec⟩lined paying attention to any Such proposals he deter⟨mined to⟩ Carry them both off. However as I beleive his intentions ⟨we⟩re to intimidate the Masters and induce them to give any ⟨   ⟩ to get out of his hands. He in the Evening of the 13th. Order’d ⟨a m⟩an belonging to the Ship Ann called William Cha⟨se abo⟩ard the Privateer and put him in Irons. The next ⟨mor⟩ning Captain Bradford and others of his Men were a⟨   ⟩lt on board the Privateer to be witness of the Punishm⟨ent inflic⟩ted on said Chase, which in fact was So brutally bar⟨baric and⟩ offensive to think of. I shall beg leave to refer you to ⟨the statemen⟩ts made on the occasion and Sworn by the masters ⟨of the⟩ Vessels of which you have Copies herewith. I applied ⟨to the⟩ Governor of this place for justice against the inhum⟨an condu⟩ct of De Candia, but as he was under the British ⟨Flag (tho n⟩ot one on board his Vessel Could Speak English) h⟨e was⟩ Suffered to go off with his two Prizes. The Masters Brad⟨ford and⟩ Allen made their escape on Shore but none of th⟨e A⟩merican Seamen were on any Account Suffer’d ⟨to go.⟩ These Masters have Since gone to Malta in Qu⟨est of the⟩ir Property on board of another Vessel.

We are now at the 11 August, and in expectation of important n⟨ews from⟩ Saragosa. If it arrives in time I shall add it. If not shall write by next ⟨   ⟩ Respect I have the honor to be truly Sir Your Obedt. Servt.

Robt. Montgomery

DNA: RG 59—CD—Consular Despatches, Alicante.

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