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Letter from the Lines Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 22 January 2008
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Letter from the Lines

William Warre, later Major-General Sir William Warre, was born in Oporto on 15 April 1784, the eldest son of James Warre who was brother to William, senior partner in Warre & Co, wine shippers.

After an english education and some interesting adventures, a captaincy in the 23rd Dragoons and a time at the Royal Military College, High Wycombe, William came back to Portugal as ADC to Major-General Sir Ronald Ferguson. He was present at the combat of Rolica, at the Battle of Vimeiro, Corunna, the passage of the Duoro and, in a remarkable series of fortunately preserved letters, wrote home to his family frequently, leaving a unique record of  campaign life and the country. A bout of enteric fever forced him back to Lisbon in 1810, from where he recovered sufficiently to rejoin Field-Marshall Bereseford at his HQ near Enxara.


William Warre, , 1817Hd. Qrs., P.A., Casal Eschin,
a mile to the eastward of Enxara dos Cavaleiros,
5 Lgs. from Lisbon,
Oct. 20, 1810.

My Dearest Father

You will see from the date that I am quite recovered, and have joined the Army and my excellent friend the Marshal, who, to my great joy I found on my return two or three days ago, quite well notwithstanding the fatigue he has undergone, I was in such a constant fidget in Lisbon, and so uncomfortable that I could not remain any longer, particularly as the weather did not admit of my sea-bathing, which was my principal object in going to Belem.


On my return I found our Army in a position as strong as anything can well be imagined, studded with Redoubts and Batteries, extending from the front of Torres Vedras to the Tagus at Alhandra, by Bucellas, on the chain of hills which runs behind Sobral, nearly from the sea to the river. It is rather an extended one, but a part is so strong by nature, and by art, that the troops can with great safety in great part be spared to repel the enemy wherever he may attack, and I feel not a doubt of his being forced to abandon the enterprise and retreat, or that if he attack us, scarcely a more desperate measure than the other, he will be completely defeated and destroyed.

Masséna, as far as my very slender knowledge of these matters goes, is in a most desperate scrape,[3] and I scarce see how it is possible to get out of it without the loss of a great part of his army. I cannot account for his incautious advance, for he has little reason to doubt the conduct of the Portuguese after the Bussaco business, and could scarce be such a fool as to imagine that because we retired, we were hurrying to embark without fighting a battle, after having so completely beaten him at Bussaco. I dare say he had no idea of the great strength of these lines.[4] I had none myself, though I had seen parts of them. But now that he is close to us, I cannot see how he can avoid fighting us. Even though we should be unfortunate, we have other strong lines to retire to, and we must fight him again. As for embarking, I do not see how that is to be accomplished, if we are defeated, and did I feel less confident of victory, and less fearful that they will not attack us, I should think the game as desperate for us as for them. However, nothing can exceed the confidence and spirit of our army, who are very well provided, while we know for certain the French want entirely for bread, and must soon for meat.

At present they have enough. Their Officers tell them they are to be in Lisbon in a fortnight, but the reports of the deserters, and their number, sufficiently prove how little they are believed.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 22 January 2008 )
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