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Item:  BSL - STOPFORD-1814-MARCH 7TH - BAYONNE

LIEUTENANT GENERAL THE HON SIR EDWARD STOPFORD - (ALS)

SCARCE WARDATE LETTER FROM THE PENINSULAR WAR
DATELINE: CAMP BEFORE BAYONNE  -  MARCH 7TH 1814
1 page Autograph Letter Signed (ALS) with integrated address panel also signed

General Edward Stopford is encamped with the Left Corps maintaining the siege of Bayonne as Wellington seals the deal at Toulouse. His short but poignant letter sets forth their mission of blockading Bayonne, but clearly his eyes are on Paris. It is ironic that Stopford, who here accurately anticipates the coming peace, was then injured in the last action of the Peninsular War on April 14th, after Napoleon's abdication.

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"Here we are blockading Bayonne much to the annoyance of His Majesty's Guards who are up to their knees in dirt"

"The Report here is that we are certainly to have Peace - in the mean time however every body is marching on Paris"

 

Transcription:
Camp before Bayonne
March 7th 1814


My dear Sir Charles

     I am told there is a chance of this reaching you before you leave Lisbon, I therefore have ventured to send it & I trust to your kindness to deliver it as before –
     Here we are blockading Bayonne much to the annoyance of His Majesty's Guards who are up to their knees in dirt. -
     The Report here is that we are certainly to have Peace - in the mean time however every body is marching on Paris.
      believe me yours very sincerely 

                                                          E[dward] Stopford
We are in a sad dilemma about our letters - who to trust them to -

[To] His E[xcellen]cy Cha[rle]s Stuart


NOTES

     Lieutenant General the Honourable Edward Stopford was commander of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division (1st/Coldstream, 1st/3rd Guards, Coy 5/60th Foot) at Buçaco (as Colonel) in September 1810, Fuentes de Oñoro May 1811, to Vitoria (as Major General under General Graham Left Column) June 1813, and on through the Pyrenees campaigns at San Sebastián, the Nive, Nivelle and Bayonne. In the latter campaigns he served as 2nd Brigade Commander of the 1st Division, Left Corps under General John Hope.

     As Wellington pressed on into France, he left Lt. General the Hon Sir John Hope (Left Corps) and the 5th Division behind to besiege Bayonne. Wellington had invested Soult at Toulouse when word came that Napoleon had abdicated on April 12th 1814 and the war was over. [Paris fell to the Fourth Coalition Allied Army on the 31st of March, Napoleon abdicated in favor of his son on April 6th] However, in the last engagement of the Peninsular War, Thouvenot, Governor of Bayonne, who already knew of Napoleon's abdication, launched a major sortie of 6,000 men to break the siege. And on April 14th, although the sortie was driven back, Major General Andrew Hay (commanding 5th Division) was killed and Hope wounded and captured.

     There is a certain irony regarding those who were delegated by Wellington to remain and invest Bayonne so that the final push could be made on Toulouse. As Stopford here indicates, they believed that they were out of the final fight - and yet - it was the same trio of Hay, Hope and Stopford who, had slugged their way up the coast from San Sebastián, pinned the French rearguard at the Fortress of Bayonne, and were significantly involved in the last action of the Peninsular War.

     During the night of the 11th of April, 1814 the French troops evacuated Toulouse and a white flag was hoisted. On the following day the Marquis of Wellington entered the city, amidst the acclamations of the inhabitants. In the course of the afternoon of the 12th of April, intelligence was received that Napoleon had already abdicated, and had not the express been delayed on the journey by the French police, the sacrifice of many valuable lives would have been prevented. Yet, a disbelief in the truth of this intelligence occasioned much unnecessary bloodshed at Bayonne, the garrison of which made a desperate sortie on the 14th of April, and Lieut.-General Sir John Hope (afterwards Earl of Hopetoun) was taken prisoner, Major-General Andrew Hay was killed, and Major-General Edward Stopford was wounded. This was the last action of the Peninsular war.

     A well travelled letter from the front at Bayonne back to Lisbon. A fine example of how the written content is compressed in the middle to allow for the fact that the wax seal tear will likely obliterate a section of the enclosed letter. This is sometimes, but not often, found on single page folded letters where the address panel is integral to the main letter sheet. In the usual instance the letter is written on a separate piece of paper enclosed within an outer addressed cover sheet. Stopford's dilemma about who to trust with their letters derived from the fact that as news of Wellington's and the Allies advances began to ensure a victory, many of the military and diplomatic establishment still left in Lisbon were leaving for England, or for Paris, to be there for the victory. In fact Sir Charles Stuart left Lisbon on April 2nd, 1814, and rode by horseback all the way to join Wellington at Toulouse on the 17th, arriving three days too late for the Toulouse surrender,
and possibly a witness to the sad scene at Bayonne as he would have passed.

Biographical Note

Lieutenant General Sir Edward Stopford

(28 September 1766-14 September 1837)

     The Hon. Sir Edward Stopford GCB, was an Anglo-Irish soldier and politician. Stopford was the second son of James Stopford, 2nd Earl of Courtown. James Stopford, 3rd Earl of Courtown, was his elder brother and Admiral the Hon. Sir Robert Stopford his younger brother. He served in the British Army and achieved the rank of Lieutenant-General. In 1810 he succeeded his elder brother as Member of Parliament for Marlborough, a seat he held until 1818. He was honoured when he was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. Stopford died in September 1837, aged 70, having never married.



Delightful Integrated Address Panel marked "Private" and frank signed again "Major General Stopford"


Document Specifications:  A fine handwritten ALS letter signed by Major General Stopford and datelined "Camp before Bayonne", March 7th 1814." Folded letter measures 9⅞" tall x 8" wide (252mm x 203mm). On a single sheet of wove paper, watermarked "H WILLMOTT 1808", with a wax seal tear, toning and evidence of rain damage. A rare written letter by Major General Stopford as he must hold the investment at Bayonne while "everybody is marching on Paris". A bittersweet moment for a military commander, but the optimism that at last they were "certainly to have Peace". Generals Stopford, Andrew Hay and John Hope would in fact participate in the last action of the Peninsular War, when the commander of Bayonne Fortress, even knowing that Napoleon had abdicated and peace was at hand, decided to launch a vicious and pointless attack on April 14th of 1814. This is a very late letter from Bayonne during the final month of the War and written by one of the key participants to the final action.

From the Sir Charles Stuart, Lord Rothesay, Correspondence. Stuart was His Br
itannic 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 Wellington and Nelson, a sitting 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.

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