Foz is the town of Foz do Douro
(known locally simply as Foz) and lies at the very mouth of the Douro
River just west of Oporto (Porto) Portugal. Most notable of its
structures is the famous Castello de São João da Foz. As this is where
ship's launches might land while the main vessel waited for the tide, it
is likely that Trant's information was indeed here "just now rec'd".
Viana is Vianna an anchorage north of
Oporto near the Spain-Portugal Border just south of the mouth of the
Dantzic and Rostoc are the Baltic port cities of Danzig and
Rostock in Northern Germany and which had been held by Napoleon for most
of a decade.
We have not yet identified the St. Jago Family or the Marquis of Campo
This letter is particularly interesting from a timing point of view.
Glover in his The Peninsular War notes that in late August 1813
Wellington was sitting in the Pyrenees trying to decide if he should
pursue Marshal Soult back into France, but was concerned that if the
Armistice of Pleischwitz (which had been extended to August 17th) had
resulted in Russia and Prussia making peace with Napoleon that he would
find the full weight of the French Imperial Army directed back towards
him. That being the case he resolved to invest and take the two frontier
fortresses of St. Sebastian and Pamplona to cover any retreat he might
have to make back into Portugal. In the event, not only did Russia and
Prussia not sue for peace, but Austria also declared war against
Napoleon and the war was back on in Germany. As Glover further notes,
"This news reached London on 27 August. Elaborate arrangements had been
made to pass the information quickly to Wellington, but the winds in the
Channel were persistently adverse." Wellington finally learned of
the news on September 11th through captured French newspapers.
Here it was September 26th and the news was just reaching Portugal with
Trant's note that "The wind is Southerly & the arrival of a Packet at
Lisbon may be delayed." Trant presumably sent this letter by overland
post. As an aside, Napoleon scampered out of Dresden, but the end was
BRIGADIER GENERAL SIR
Nicholas Trant was born in 1769, coming from an Irish family originally
of Danish origin. He was educated at a military college in France, but
in consequence of the French revolution, entered the British army and
was commissioned as Lieutenant in the 84th foot on 31 May 1794. He
served with that regiment at Flushing, and went with it to the Cape of
Good Hope in 1795. Returning to England, he obtained a company in one of
the regiments of the Irish brigade, his commission bearing date 1 Oct.
1794. His regiment was sent to Portugal where he took part in the
expedition under General Sir Charles Stuart, (father to Sir Charles
Stuart, British Minister in Lisbon during most of the Peninsular War and
to whom this letter was written) which captured Minorca in November
1798. There Trant was appointed Agent-General for Prizes, and helped to
organize the Minorca regiment, in which he was made Major on 17 Jan.
1799. He served in the expedition to Egypt, and his regiment was in
support of the 42nd and 28th in the battle of Alexandria. It was
disbanded after the peace of Amiens, and Trant left the army. Following
the resumption of hostilities Trant re-enlisted as an Ensign in the
Royal Staff Corps on 25 Dec. 1803. He was promoted Lieutenant on 28 Nov.
1805 and was sent to Portugal as a Military Agent in 1808, being given
the local rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.
When Sir Arthur Wellesley advanced from the Mondego in August of
1808 to challenge Junot in Lisbon, Portuguese General Freire with his
6000 man Portuguese Corps remained behind but permitted Trant to
accompany Wellesley with a Portuguese battalion of fifteen hundred foot
and 250 horse. At Roliça Trant was employed to turn the French left; at
Vimeiro he was in reserve with Craufurd's British brigade. Following the
Convention of Cintra, Trant returned to England but was soon sent back
to Portugal. Early in 1809 Trant raised a corps from the students of
After the Portuguese defeat at Braga and the French
capture of Oporto, fresh recruits flocked to him. With a force of about
three thousand men he boldly maintained himself on the Vouga River south
of Oporto until May. He took part in the advance of Wellesley's army to
the Douro, and was made Governor of Oporto when it was recovered. He was
promoted Captain in the Staff Corps on 1 June 1809, but soon afterwards
was told that he would be removed from that Corps unless he gave up his
employment in Portugal. He was saved from this by Wellington's
intervention, who wrote on 9 May 1810 : “There is no officer the loss of
whose services in this country would be more sensibly felt.” By this
time he held the Portuguese army rank of Brigadier-General.
In the autumn of 1810, while Wellington was falling
back on the Lines at Torres Vedras, Trant twice showed his “activity and
prudent enterprise” as Beresford described it. On 20 Sept., with a
squadron of cavalry and two thousand militia, he surprised the French
train of artillery in a defile; he took a hundred prisoners, and caused
a loss of two days to Massena. On 7 Oct he marched suddenly upon
Coimbra, where Massena had left his sick and wounded with only a small
guard and carried off five thousand prisoners to Oporto. He also held
off Massena's attempt to retreat across the Mondego and
re-provision, causing Massena to abandon all and run for Spain [see
below]. It was “the
most daring and hardy enterprise executed by any partisan during the
whole war” (see Napier). A letter of acknowledgment addressed to him by
some of the French officers who were taken is printed in the appendix to
Napier's third volume, and sufficiently refutes the charges made against
him by some French writers on account of the misbehaviour of some of his
men. In October 1811 he was made a Knight Commander of the Portuguese
Order of the Tower and Sword, and later the Conde de Montellegre.
In April 1812. when two French divisions were about to
storm Almeida, he succeeded in imposing on them a ruse de guerre by a
show of red uniforms and bivouac fires, inducing them to retire. On the
13th he was at Guarda with six thousand militia and laid a plan for
surprising Marmont in his quarters at Sabugal; but on that night he
himself narrowly escaped being surprised by Marmont in Guarda.
Wellington, while praising his action in the emergency, warned him not
to be too venturesome with his troops. Late in 1813 fresh difficulties
were raised about his drawing pay as an officer of the Staff Corps while
in the Portuguese service and he obtained leave to go to England.
Wellington wrote strongly in support of his claim, expressing once more
his sense of Trant's services and merits, saying that he had been
employed in a most important situation for the expenses of which his
allowances were by no means adequate (Wellington Despatches, x. 417). He
seems to have had no further part in the war, but suffered much for the
rest of his life from a bullet in his side. He died on 16 Oct. 1839 at
Great Baddow, Essex.
worth noting a section of Michael Glover's, The Peninsular War as
to Trant's heroics at Coimbra in March of 1811:
"The fate of the campaign, and probably of the
Peninsula, was decided in those five days. It was not the Light Division
which decided it but Colonel Nicholas Trant. Massena did not intend to
retreat into Spain but to cross the Mondego and wait, on the unravaged
foraging grounds north of Coimbra, until help reached him. Wellington
had no regular troops north of the Mondego but Coimbra was held by Trant
with six weak battalions of militia and six guns, at Penacova, the
southern end of the Busaco ridge, were four more battalions of militia.
in all there were 5,000 partially trained men to defend the river line.
Trant had orders to retire as soon as he was seriously threatened, and
as early as 8 March Wellington "concluded" that he had done so. he was,
however, a literal minded officer and determined to stay until the last
possible moment." Trant held out for four days until Wellington
could catch Massena's rearguard and turn him to Spain.