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Journal of the Eighty-third Regiment.
Alcantara. There was likewise a brigade of Portuguese militia and ordenanza assembled at Vizeu, under the command of that indefatigable and enterprising officer, Sir Robert Wilson, while another corps of a similar kind, in the woods of Sardao, and on the banks of the Agueda, was acting under the direction of Colonel Trant, than whom a braver and more accomplished officer never lived. These two last mentioned corps very much harrassed the flanks of the enemy's advanced guard, which lay at Albergaria, besides greatly impeding the movements of convoys and escorts.
By half past six o'clock, A. M. the line was drawn up nearly parallel to the high-road, but with part of the left wing thrown back, forming a crochet almost perpendicular to the remainder. The whole extent of the front might exceed two miles and an half, English measure. Sir Arthur Wellesley was received with presented arms. He soon passed in front and inspected the whole line. On his approach to General Cameron's brigade, I was flattered by General Sherbrooke's say ing," The 83d, Sir Arthur, one of the finest body of men in the field.” "Very handsome corps indeed," replied the Commander of the Forces. Having examined the entire, Sir Arthur ordered the line to break into column left in front, march past, sulute, and, by brigades, to filé off by sections to their respective quarters.
The Portuguese regiments, brigaded with the British, had entered Coimbra on the 4th. The first battalions of the 4th, 10th, and 16th regiments, were really fine corps, and tolerably disciplined. The first battalion, 20th regiment, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Bushe, was also a very soldier-like and promising body of men. Indeed, I thought them, at first sight, hardy veterans. The 2d battalion 10th regiment, which was brigaded with us, was, however, far less advanced ia discipline, and composed of men shorter in stature, and weaker in appearance than either of the former battalions. The officers were also very inexperienced, and, with the exception of the Lieutenant-Colonel and the Major, totally incapable of guiding their men. One captain only was present with the battalion, and that one was blind of an eye. There were five lieutenants and two ensigns present, and doing duty with the corps; these made the total number of officers with the regiment amount to ten, exclusive, however, of a standard bearer. God forbid that I should, by this statement, convey any censure on the commanding officer. No person can more highly esteem or value another man than I do Lieut. Colonel Rezende de Luiz, with whom I had much conversation, and very frequent intercourse, and than whom, it is but justice to say, I never found a braver soldier, a better informed officer, or a more accomplished gentleman. Nor ought I to pass without notice the excellent assistant he had in the Major, who, though still a young man, had seen a great deal of service, and passed a very different life from that led by
Journal of the Eighty-third Regiment.
many Portuguese officers. In the Roussillon, where the French themselves joined their tribute of applause to the well-deserved admiration which the Spaniards expressed of the bravery and discipline of their Portuguese allies, Major's courage and prudence were strongly noticed by the General of division to which he belonged.
One circumstance, however, ought to be related, as it shews how unjustly, many persons accuse general-officers of not displaying a greater spirit of enterprize when such a numerical force is under their command, as that borne ou the embarkation or marching returns. The establishment of the 2d battalion, 10th Portuguese regiment, was 850 men, and as it was necessary, previous to entering the review-field, to have a return of its true and effective strength (in order that a proper space of ground might be taken for it in line), I called on the Adjutant for such document, and though 800 men were accounted for on paper, not more than 387 could be brought for inspection. I could not with-hold my astonishment, nor avoid expressing my ideas on this great dimunition of numbers. Count Rezende and the Major both spoke French, and very readily explained the cause, for fifteen men per company were, by the permission of the general-officer (who lately commanded the brigade towhich the 2d battalion, 10th Portuguese regt. was attached) on furlough, the remainder were sick, on command, or absent without leave, under which head, it is but justice to say, there were very few indeed. The Count added, that my remarks no ways surprised or hurt him, as he was himself astonished that the War Minister, circumstances considered, could invest any General-Officer with a power of making such a reduction to the effective regular force; for surely, continued he, every one must admit that it now behoves Portugal to strain every nerve to enlarge the standing army.
No one but those who have been in the environs of Coimbra can conceive how beautiful they are; for it requires the opportunity of examining the never-ceasing novelty of the charming prospects, which every where gratify the eye of a stranger, to appreciate the delightful scenery. The country, though mountainous, is well cultivated, while the olive, the orange, and the cypress, which abound in this district, add further variety to the landscape; and, indeed, the aspect of these wooded heights, and the picturesque form of the hills themselves, are truly enchanting. The higher town is not less attractive from the fine perspective it affords; so that the vicinity of Coimbra will bear comparison with the handsomest spot in the whole kingdom. Rivulets, descending through meandering clefts, adorn the face of the heights, empty themselves into the Mondego. Other streams, in their several courses to the same receiver, form agreeable vallies, which, in their turn, become fruitful gardens, orchards, or meadows, whose borders are lined with poplars, while the rising grounds which confine them are cloathed with spreading trees. VOL. IV. No, 20.
Journal of the Eighty-third Regiment.
The vallies in the immediate neighbourhood of the city, which are of an extremely productive nature, at all times appear covered with a rich vegetation.
The mountains around Coimbra are of a coarse-grained sand-stone, mixed with slate and calx; there are, however, much greater proportious of calcareous rock to the southward than to the northward of the Mondego, where the mountains have a connection with the Louzao,' and those again fall within the more important range of the Estrella.
Below Coimbra the Mondego divides itself into several branches, and during the winter season swells so considerably, that it inundates a very great extent of land, which it renders fertile, but, at the same time, very unwholesome; because the water stagnates and forms marshes, whence, in the great heats, banefui exhalations arise and infect the air.
Like almost all the great towns of Portugal, Coimbra is built on the slope of a very escarped height, with a large river winding along the base. The city is not seen, oa coming from Leiria, before reaching the verge of the height beyond Cruz de Marocos; thence the sight, as it very suddenly opens, is magnificent and surprising; for, in addition to local advantages, it is adorned with numerous monastries and churches; but the interior of the town does by no means answer the idea, which persons, from its external appearance, are tempted to form of it :-quite the contrary; for the streets are narrow, uneven, winding, badly paved, dirty, and many of them so steep, that it is difficult to ascend them in rainy weather.
There are no other squares in this city than the small one in front of the Corregidor's palace, and that still smaller in front of the Dominican convent; nor is there any public walk but that on the terrace of the Augustin convent.
Coimbra, which, in 415, was founded on the rains of a Roman station, is a very large city, and, from various inscriptions on the walls of several ancient structures, appears to have supported repeated sieges before Portugal recovered its independence from the Moors; it was also the second residence of the Kings, Guimaraes being the first. In very early times it was fortified in the Gothic manner, of which the walls, gates, and a few towers, are still existing, though in a very ruinous condition. At present it cannot be regarded as a strong position, although some advantage might be taken of it to defend the passage of the Mondego, as the banks of that river, just here, rise very suddenly, and are, in many spots, particularly shelvy aud difficult of access. Now the Mondego rises in the easternmost branch of the Sena de Estrella, which skirts the lofty flat of Guarda; thence it passes by Faya, Celorico, Fornos, Mengualde, and Azere. The current throughout is rapid, and, after heavy rains, the bed is very wide. It is navigable from the junction of the Alva to its embouchure, near Figueira, where it forms a spacious open bay.
Journal of the Eighty.third Regiment.
Coimbra is the capital of Beira, and a bishopric. It contains nine parishes, eleven convents, eighteen collegiate endowments, a Caza de Miserecordia, an hospital, 3000 houses, aud about 10,000 inhabi tants. It is the residence of a Provedor, Corregidor, and a Juiz de Fora. It has linen and woollen manufactories, besides a great number of potteries. Many toys and utensils are likewise made by its inhabitants out of bone or horn, which soon find way into the most remote corners of the kingdom; yet, notwithstanding these resources, its centrical position, and its navigable river, the trading part of the towu's-people are far from wealthy.
The most remarkable buildings at Coimbra are the churches of Santa Fe and Santa Cruz; the first is the cathedral; the second was built by Alonso the First, in 1159, and contains the tombs of the two earliest Kings of Portugal. The monastry of St. Francis, and the nunnery of Sta. Clara, are likewise handsome structures. The university, which is the only only one in the kingdom, is in the upper part of the town; attached to it is an observatory, a botanical garden, a valuable collection of surgical instruments, a chemical laboratory, a school of anatomy, and a cabinet of natural history. The university is indebted to the great Marquis of Pombal for its best regulations, and it was also that nobleman who had the Jesuits' college given to it.
The library, containing numerous voluminous works, is in an adjoining church, and has suffered very little, notwithstanding the various changes and revolutions which this unhappy kingdom has lately experienced.
The botanical garden, though small, is in excellent order, all the -plants being picketted and labelled.
Independent of the population of Coimbra may be reckoned the students, who, in peaceable times, average 1500 yearly. When the French seized the country, the university was deserted, nor had it on our march through re-established itself. A short time previous to the landing of Sir A. Wellesley, at Maceira, the students assembled in tolerable numbers, and formed themselves into a military corps, which has been uniformly distinguished by a neatness of dress while in garrison, as well as by a conspicuous bravery and loyalty when in the field. Part of them
were at the battles of Roliça and Vineira. Many also accompanied the army in the present campaign, and the brigade of artillery attached to their corps, and, served by the students themselves, marched with the advance. Such of them as had been in the first engagements received appropriated medals, struck by the Portuguese Government for the express purpose.
In 1291, sixteen years after the first establishment of the university, it was transferred, by King Don Dinez, from Lisbon hence. It was subsequently removed back again to Lisbon, but in 1537, King John the Third restored it to Coimbra, where it has remained ever since.
Journal of the Eighty-third Regiment.
The establishment consists of a rector, chosen by the King from among the ecclesiastics, and who, in course of time, is generally created a bishop. This rector presides in the college of deans, to whom are added two sindics, called Conservador and Orividor; there is likewise a secretary attached to them, as well as a committee of finance, composed of a professor of theology, a professor of law, and a professor of mathe matics, independent of the treasurer, the clerk, and three deputies.
At the head of every brauch of instruction presides the Chancellor of the university; which last high office is always possessed by the Prior of the Convent of Augustin monks at Coimbra; this Chancellor awards the different degrees of classic honour, inspects the classes, and attends at the examination of students. The course of studies used to be nine months, namely, from September to May inclusive, and all jurisconsults, according to the letter of the law, must have studied at Coimbra, without which no person can exercise even the functions of a common justice of the peace.
From the movements of the army on the 7th of May, it became no longer doubtful whether we should soon be engaged in active operations, though the ultimate issue and object of the campaign was not so clearly known. Marshal Beresford directing the Portuguese army towards the province of Tras os Montes, and the river Douro, however, sufficiently indicated that the first intention of our Chief was to dislodge the enemy from Oporto.
The French, by their position at that city, and possession of the town and bridge of Amarante, together with the several garrison-towns along the river Lima, insured themselves not only full power over the province of Douro é Minho (a district fertile and rich in every article requisite for the support of an army) but also the perfect command over the whole line of the Douro and the Tamega, as well as a certain communieation with Gallicia, together with an open good road to enter Tras os Montes, or penetrate into Beira, whenever the occasion might appear favourable to the plans of Marshal Soult, who was, however, just now obliged to scatter his forces very much to insure quiet possession of the province: so that, though the main body of his army was in Oporto, his numbers were, in fact, but small, as a very large corps had been detached from it under Loison, to retain the bridge of Amarante, and the fórd of Canavezes, on the river Tamega, while another brigade was distributed in Vianna, Ponte de Lima, and Braga, to secure the bridges, and maintain a communication over the Lima river with the fortress of Tuy on the Minho, which was occupied by a French battalion.
To snatch from the enemy these advantages was a matter of such difficulty, that the English army itself could, at first, scarcely believe that their General's design was to execute such a plan. The manner in which it was effected, and the success which attended the effort, however, merits the warmest and sincerest admiration.