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Item:  BSL - McGeachy JAN-MAR 1811-SET 7 - ELVAS


NAPOLEONIC & PENINSULAR WAR ARCHIVES

WITH THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PENINSULAR WAR CAMPAIGN UPON US - WELLINGTON LANDS IN PORTUGAL AT MOUTH OF THE MONDEGA ON THE 1ST OF AUGUST OF 1808 - WE ARE PRESENTING QUALITY ORIGINAL SOURCE DOCUMENTS THAT WILL JUMP START OR ENHANCE ANY BICENTENNIAL EXHIBIT, COLLECTION OR TRIP TO THE BATTLEFIELDS.

MAJOR ALEXANDER McGEACHY
SEVEN HANDWRITTEN AUTOGRAPH SIGNED PENINSULAR WAR LETTERS FROM ELVAS

AN EXEMPLARY AND POIGNANT SET OF LETTERS CONCERNING THE FRENCH SIEGE OF BADAJOZ & CAMPO MAIOR WITH DRAMATIC DETAILED ACCOUNTS OF THE ACTIONS INVOLVED THEREIN. WRITTEN BY AN OFFICER WHO WOULD LOSE HIS OWN LIFE SEVERAL MONTHS LATER WHILE STORMING BADAJOZ IN THE SECOND SIEGE.

THESE DOCUMENTS ARE COVERED BY OUR WRITTEN, SIGNED AND SEALED
LIFETIME GUARANTEE OF AUTHENTICITY


Major Alexander McGeachy was a Captain in the 11th Foot Regiment in British Forces and a Major of the 17th Regiment in the Portuguese Forces, he was killed storming Badajoz, 9th June 1811. Here is what a colleague, Colonel Barker of the 11th, had to say:

I was appointed by Sir William Carr Beresford to a Company in the 2nd Portuguese Caçadores along with Captain Stewart, (Lieut. 40th British), with whom I lived on the most intimate terms. which Battalion I immediately joined at Monte Rodiondo. It was Commanded by Lieut. Colonel Nixon, (Major 28th British). Our Brigade was an independent one, consisting of the 7th and 19th Regiments and our Battalion, under Brigadier General Coleman; but several Regiments having arrived from England, a 7th Division was formed, under the Command of the Earl of Dalhousie, of which we composed one Brigade. I was with this Battalion, at the Battle of Fuentes D'Oñoro on the 5th May 1811, when we lost a great many men, owing to French Cavalry coming unexpectedly upon our right flank, and obliging us to retire from Peya Velho. This in my opinion was in a great measure the fault of our Cavalry, who were not sufficiently on the alert. However the Victory was ours, and from this day I entertained a better opinion of the Portuguese Light Troops, and placed greater confidence in them. The middle of this month, we moved to the South of Portugal (Campo Mayor) and on the 25th we invested Badajoz again. On the night of the 29th we broke ground against the Fort of St. Christoval. I was this night on the covering party, and what is very extraordinary, all the officers of the 11th Regiment in the Portuguese Service were on duty this night, Major McGeachy Commanding 17th Portuguese Regt., Captain Armstrong and Shervington of the 7th, and myself. In this 24 hours we had but two, or three casualties. This Fort was twice stormed, and we were twice repulsed. The last time, I was on the covering party. Major McGeachy (Captain 11th British) commanded the storming party. He fell nobly when on the top of the ladder, and every officer of the party was killed, or wounded, except Ensign Dyas of the 51st. Light Infantry. We had a truce for two hours the next morning to bury the dead. I found poor McGeachy amongst them. He had been stripped naked. The man who shot him must have been very near, as his breast was burnt with gunpowder. He was carried home, and buried with all possible military honours, under the Colours of his Regiment, attended by all the officers who were not employed in the trenches. On the 18th June we were obliged again to raise the Siege and retire to Campo Mayor.

[extract from A Journal of My Service by Colonel Charles Barker Turner, 11th (The North Devonshire) Regiment

Letter #1 -- Elvas -- 28 January 1811 -- 1 page ALS

 

 

Sir,
     I had the honor of informing you on the 26th inst of the Surrender of Olivença (Olivenza), and of the advance of the enemy upon Badajoz. – In the course of Yesterday, they pushed a Corps of 5 or 600 Cavalry across the Caia (Caya River), and advanced their out post to within a League of this Town: another Corps of equal force occupied the left of the Caia, near the Badajoz & Campo Major (Maior) Road, their advance posts were also pushed forward on that side of the river; a Third Corps, occupied the Olivença (Olivenza) Road on the left of the Guadiana: The Spanish and Portuguese Cavalry formed a Junction on the Campo Major Road & took up a position about 1½ Leagues to the left from this; in the evening the Portuguese Entered the Town, & the Spaniards encamped in the Olive Groves.
      Today the Enemy occupy the same positions, excepting that they have drawn their out posts much closer in, they have today occupied the road between this & Campo Maior,-
     The Guadiana is now fordable. – The Enemy’s Infantry have not been seen on this Side, a deserter reports that they are on the Talavera side of Badajoz. The Frenchmen want for nothing either for man or horse.

     I have the honor to be
     Your Excellency’s Most Obt & Humble Svt
            A. McGeachy
          Major 17 Reg’t
    Elvas 28 January 1811

[To] His Excellency The British Minister, Lisbon

Letter #2 -- Elvas -- 9 February 1811 -- 2 page ALS

 

Sir,
     On the 4th Inst the Spanish Inf’ry arrived here & being joined by the Cavalry, marched on the morning of the 5th for Badajoz, in Consequence of the Heavy rain which has fallen, they proceeded by the Campo Maior road & were joined by 2000 Inf’ry from that Garrison – on the 7th an attempt was made to carry the Batteries on the Right of the Enemy’s line, the attack was made by Don Carlos d’Espagne, with about 1200 men, he soon gained possession of one, but not being supported in proper time, he was drove out by a Bat’n of Enemy, he returned in good order to the Town with the loss of 100 killed & about 200 wounded. The Portuguese Brigade of Cavalry under Gen’l Madden, & 1000 Inf’ry was placed in front of the Enemy’s left; to act in Support of the attacking Column, when it should succeed in forcing the Battery in the Center. These troops were so placed as to shew the heads of each Column, which in the early part of the day, attracted the attention of the Enemy, & occasioned them to fire a few shot amongst them – the total loss amounts to nearly 600 killed & wounded. – by some mistake the attacking column did not carry nails to spike the Guns – on the 8th every thing remained quiet, the Enemy was hard at work completing their third Parallel which touches the Glacis of the Picurina Battery (Fort defending Badajoz). – They have not yet attempted to Batter in breach, but they have thrown nearly 500 shells into the Town, with very little effect. – on the 7th the French Cavalry crossed the bridge of the Gevorah (Gebora River) & cut off the Communication with Elvas & Campo Maior – It was determined last night that the Cavalry and Inf’ry should withdraw to Campo Maior, leaving a sufficient garrison for the defense of the Town. – they accordingly marched out about 7 o’clock this morning, & were proceeding towards Campo Maior, but the Enemy Cav’ry (about 1000) appearing on the Rt of the Gevorah (Gebora), Gen’l Madden suggested the propriety of driving them over that river, in order to prevent their intercepting the March of the Convoy. This was done, the Enemy lost three or 4 Horses & three men killed four taken prisoner. At 12 o’clock I left Gen’l Madden with the Spaniards, destroying the arches of the bridge – He proposed marching for this Garrison, in order to recover both Men & Horses who have suffered very severely from the inclemency of the Weather & want of food – If the Command of the Army of the Left is not placed in stronger hands, Badajoz is lost – The Guadiana is now full in consequence of the rains, but the Enemy are building a Boat on the Bank of the river Above the Town, & it is said to be nearly complete –
     I have the honor to be
     Your Excellency’s Most Obt & Humble Svt
          A. McGeachy
    Elvas 9 February 1811

[To]   His Excellency The British Minister, Lisbon

Letter #3 -- Elvas -- 11 February 1811 -- 1 page ALS

 

Sir,
    The Spanish Army returned to Badajoz from Campo Maior Yesterday morning with a convoy of Provisions. & it is now Posted on the Heights in rear of St. Christopher’s (Cristobal): Tents were sent from the Garrison for their accommodations. –
     The Enemy has nearly complete a Battery on the left of their Parallel. - & in order to destroy the Bridge, they are throwing up another in the Olive Groves below the Town. - -
     I have the honor to be
    Your Excellency’s
    Most Obt & Humble Svt
        A. McGeachy
     Major 17 Reg’t
   Elvas 11 February 1811

[To]   His Excellency The British Minister, Lisbon

Letter #4 -- Elvas -- 16 February 1811 -- 1 page ALS

 

Sir,
    I have just been informed that the British Coms’ry (Commissary) who was employed to supply the Spanish army, has rec’d orders, not to furnish any thing further; the consequences to them under present circumstances must be fatal, as they are totally unprovided with any sort of Provisions, this I feel it proper to acquaint your Excellency with. –
     The Cause of this order is of course unknown to me, but it has been hinted that it is consequence of a report of this place – of the irregularity of the Spaniards whilst in the neighborhood, but it is but Justice to them to say that the Cavalry lay 4 days & nights, under the Walls of this Town without provision for either Man or Horse – which may account in some degree for any outrage they may have committed. - -
     I have the honor to be
    Your Excellency’s
    Most Obt & Humble Svt
       A. McGeachy
      Major 17 Reg’t
 Elvas 16 February 1811

To His Excellency The British Minister

Letter #5 -- Elvas -- 20 February 1811 --2 page ALS

 

Sir,
     It is with regret, I announce to your Excellency the defeat of the Spanish Army, under Gen’l Mendesabel (Mendizabal). –
     Yesterday before day, the Enemy Crossed the Gevorah (Gévora River) with 7,000 Inf’ry, all his Corp & some artill’ry. – The Spanish Corp who were formed in the plain in front of the Position, fled at the first onset; a strong column of Inf’ry pushed between Fort St Christopher (Cristobal) & the Spanish line, & attacked the division of Don Carlos d’Espagne, who met them with the Bayonet, but being overpowered he was obliged to retire, a reinforcement sent from the left wing to him in retreat, fled, the Inf’ry in the center all dispersed; a Square of 3000 Inf’ry & 6 pieces of artill’ry who were formed at the Atalaya on the left, maintained their ??? until the Enemy threw some shells amongst them on which they also dispersed. - On the Whole they are supposed to have lost 4,000 men, 1600 Inf’ry have reached this [place] & 5 or 600 entered Badajoz; - nearly the Whole of the Cavalry have escaped – 11 pieces of cannon have been lost – In the morning Gen’l Madden advanced with his Brigade against a Body of Corp who passing round the left of the position endeavoured to cut off the Baggage, & drove them back, he then returned to his original Position in rear of the Center, when he observed the French Corps – on his right, in pursuit of the Inf’ry who had been sent to reinforce Don Carlos, he inadvertently formed line and advanced against them, but they retired having skirted the foot of the hill on his left, he observed a Corps of Cavalry advancing which were incommoded by the retreat of the Squadrons which had been in pursuit; He put himself in front & ordered the Brigade to charge, but not a man would advance. The Enemy seeing them irresolute moved forward & the Brigade went to the Right about – they have lost very few men – Gen’l Virciais? was taken Prisoner, one got into Badajoz with the Inf’ry, & the rest are here.
     The French have constructed a raft on the Guadiana on which they passed over their Inf’ry in the night –
     The Garrison of Badajoz is now 9,000 effective. -
      I have the honor to be
     Your Excellency’s Most Obt & Humble Svt
          A. McGeachy
       Major 17 Reg’t
 Elvas 20 February 1811

     Lt. Col Brown of the 8th Reg’t has received 5 wounds but non-dangerous

[To]   His Excellency The British Minister

Letter #6 -- Elvas -- 4 March 1811 -- 1 page ALS

 

Sir,
     A corps of the enemies cavalry entered St. Olais last night and took prisoners the Greater part of the Reg’t of Sagunto/about 120 men/. – the whole were found asleep, -- Today the Garrison of Badajoz have made a Telegraphic Signal that the Enemy are Battering in Breach; but they don’t appear to have yet obtained a lodgement on the Cover’d Way. –
     Accredited Reports have been received from Olivença (Olivenza), that the day before Yesterday, one of Gen’l Soult’s Horses arrived there wounded, & that some Surgeons were sent for from the place, also that it was prohibited speaking of Soult being Wounded or dead. – A report also prevails that the Enemy have detached 3000 Inf’ry & 800 Corps to support Gasan (French General Gazan). -
     I have the honor to be
     Your Excellency’s Most Obt & Humble Svt
            A. McGeachy
          Major 17 Reg’t
    Elvas 4 March 1811

[To}    His Excellency The British Minister, Lisbon

Letter #7 -- Elvas -- 23 March 1811 -- 1 page ALS

 

Sir,
     The Enemy after battering in Breach for two days, took possession of Campo Maior Yesterday at 2 o’clock. The terms of capitulation are not yet known in this Garrison. –
     The arrival of His Excellency Marshall Beresford in this neighborhood from whom you of course receive every information makes it not only unnecessary, but probably indecorous in me to continue my communications, on which account I beg leave to finish for the present. –
     The Marshal was at Portalegre on the 20th. -
     I have the honor to be
   Your Excellency’s Most Obt & Humble Svt
        A. McGeachy
     Major 17 Reg’t
   Elvas 23 March 1811

To His Excellency The British Minister, Lisbon

 


Detail of Badajoz Region showing Elvas, Badajoz, the Caia and Gévora Rivers and the Talavera Road to Montijo


Showing Badajoz to the right on the main road west to Lisbon through Elvas ending at Aldeia Gallega
across the Tagus from Lisbon. At Elvas the Northwest Road runs to Abrantes also on the Tagus.


Rickard, J (31 March 2008), First British siege of Badajoz, 6-12 May 1811
http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_badajoz_1st.html

Notes:

     Elvas is a Portuguese fortress city about 230 km. east of Lisbon; the town is only 15 km. from the Spanish fortress of Badajoz. Origins of the town are traced back to the Roman establishment Alpesa, or Helvas. The town is dominated by a castle of Roman-Moorish origin and is particularly known for its Cemetery
   
General Leite - Major General Francisco de Paula Leite (1747-1833) who had spent much of his life as a naval officer but achieved distinction at the Massacre of Evora in 1808 commanding a ragtag army of Portuguese peasants and townspeople armed with pikes and knives and 3000 regular troops, most Spanish from Badajoz. Leite defended the town until it was overrun by superior French forces and managed to retreat to Olivenza saving the remainder of his force. By not agreeing to surrender to French Commander Loison, the French, upon taking the town in July of 1808, put all the inhabitants to the sword and sacked the city. This massacre had much to do with the subsequent Portuguese and Spanish hatred of the French. Leite was appreciated by Wellington and made Military Governor of the Elvas Fortress 1810-1811. [see Rene Chartrand's excellent Vimeiro 1808: Wellesley's First Victory in the Peninsular]

 

Document Specifications: A fine and unique collection of handwritten, autograph signed, letters by Alexander McGeachy as Major of the 17th Regiment of the Portuguese Forces in the Fortress at Elvas, Portugal and dated January through March 1811.

From the Sir Charles Stuart, Lord Rothesay, Correspondence. Stuart was His Britannic Majesty's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal during the greater part of the Peninsular War (10 January 1810 to 26 May 1814). He was a personal friend and confidante of the Duke of Wellington and Lord Horatio Nelson, as well as a member of the Portuguese Regency (the only British Subject in the war ever permitted to hold an official position in a foreign government while also representing Britain), and later ambassador to Netherlands & France. The most important foreign diplomat of the Peninsular War, his archive of diplomatic, military and intelligence dispatches are second only to Wellington's Dispatches.

 Offered by Berryhill & Sturgeon, Ltd.
Member: APS, BNAPS, CCNY, ICSC, DMSC & SPHS

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End of Item - BSL - McGeachy JAN-MAR 1811-SET 7 - ELVAS
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