The Spanish letters

Resistance, Cape Machichaco SW 6 or 7 leags,1 2 March 1809

The Hnble W.W. Pole

Sir, I enclose for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty a letter from Le Prince de Neuchatel to General Bonnet who commands the French Troops in the Province of St Andero. This letter with another of the same tenor, directed to Genl Soult, who commands the Town of St Andero (which I have forwarded to Admiral Lord Gambier) were found among the papers of some Chase Marees, laden with Biscuit, and Brandy, from Bayonne for St Andero; which were cut out of the Harbour of Ondarroa,2 on the coast, by the Boats of the Resistance, and Arethusa, in the night of the 27th ult. A detail of which service, as well as a relation of the capture of the French Imperial Schooner La Mouche No 4 by two boats from this Ship on the 26th, I have forwarded to the Commander in Chief

I am Sir your most obedt serv, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/138

Sadly, we do not know the content of the captured letter. Well done to Charles Adam on so casually mentioning that he had been engaged in a cutting-out action. This action would presumably have been Joseph Humphries’ first experience of naval warfare.

Resistance at Anchor off Gijon, 21 March 1809

The Right Honble Lord Gambier, Admiral of the Blue & Commander in Chief

My Lord, I communicated with Lt Col Carrol yesterday and am informed by him that the following is the State of the Army in the Province of Asturias.

At Colombres, a strong pass at the Eastern extremity of the Province & near St Andero, there are about 5000 Men under the command of Don Francisco Ballesteros. At Rivia deo the western bank of which river (the boundary of the Province to the West) is in possession of the French, there are about 6000 Men, under command of Genl Vorster. At Oviedo there are about 2000 & at the Pass of Pax ares on the Southern frontier about the same number. Don Diaz Porlier a nephew of the Marquis de la Romana has a few hundred Men, Asturians, Leoneses, and Castillians in the Mountains on this side of Leon where he has lately defeated a party of French who had been levying contributions in the vicinity. On the Western frontier they have not been so fortunate, for part of the Troops under Genl Vorster, having taken possession of a village which the Enemy had withdrawn from were surprised by a corps of 700 French & altho’ he had upward of 2000 Men with him he met with a severe defeat.

On the whole there are upwards of 20,000 Men on foot in the province, tho’ a large part of them are in want of Arms, & many of them particularly those under Genl Ballesteros are sadly in want of cloathing as your Lordship will observe by the enclosed translation of a letter from that Officer to Lt Col Carrol.

The Cloathing brought by the Racoon has been since forwarded, but I believe they are more in want of Shirts than any other Species of Cloaths.

With the above mentioned force Lt Col Carrol seems to think that there is little doubt of the Patriots being able to defend the very strong passes against the Enemy unless they make the province a particular object of attack and bring a considerable force against it. At present they no not appear to have it in their powers to do so & if Asturia has declared against France (which the Newspapers brought by [Lt] Cadmus give every reason to believe and which intelligence has been received with great satisfaction here) a rallying point in the Asturias may be of considerable importance & at all events it keeps alive a spirit of Resistance to the French which is very satisfactory.

I think it my duty to make known to your Lordship the state of affairs here; And I take for granted you will approve of my doing every thing our means will allow to assist the Cause. Under that impression I have thought it right to comply with the request contained in the enclosed copy of a letter from the Lt Colonel & have supplied 20 Barrels of Powder for the use of the Troops in Leon. As to the Junta’s request for a Convoy for the French Prisoners, I have answered that I would submit it to your Lordship, but it does not appear to me, that any Vessels here could carry the number of Prisoners stated to be at Oviedo; And sending them to Cadiz must be out of the question, as I understand the French Prisoners from Cadiz have been sent to Minorca. 

Mr Kelly British Consul at Gijon takes a passage in the Bonne Citoyenne being charged with dispatches form the Junta of Oviedo & Lt Col Carrol he will be able to give His Majesty’s Ministers every information as to the State of the Province.

I have the honor to be My Lord, Your Lordship’s most Obed humble Serv, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/140

There are two attachments. The first is a letter to Lt Col Carrol from General Balesteros, in the original Spanish but also helpfully translated Charles Adam.

Translated Copy of a letter from General Balesteros, addressed to Colonel Carrol

Head Quarters a Pella Neuva, 16 March 1809 

My dear Friend, I had much pleasure in receiving your esteemed favour, and hope you will not forget this division, which without dispute from its necessities and merits, is worthy of the care& attention of its friends. I might enumerate to you those things which it actually stands in need of, but those may be comprehended in stating to you that for more than three months this army has not received a shirt, a pair of shoes, or any kind of necessary whatever; that the Caps and cloathes which the peasants brought from their houses with them have been entirely worn out, to which cause may be attributed the great sickness that prevails among the Troops, added to these causes the almost total want of shirts to keep the men clean, and their being obliged to dress their victuals in untinned vessels, in consequence of not having any other sort of pots. Whenever an opportunity offer of affording some cloathing and relief to my poor Soldiers, I rely upon your kindness to order a proportion to be sent to me.

I wish you all health and happiness and request on all occasions command your sincere friend, J Ballesteros

PS I beg to repeat to you that I wish that all articles of cloathing you may be kind enough to send me may be directed to myself, in order that I may distribute them under my own direction.

Copy Chas Adam

Also attached is a letter from Col Carrol to Charles:

Gijon 18th March 1809

To Charles Adam Esq, Captain of H.M.Ship Resistance 

Sir, In consequence of an official application from the Juntas of Oviedo and Leon stating that the Troops in the respective Provinces are in the greatest want of Musquet cartridge Powder; I have the honor to communicate the same to you and beg leave to add that it is of the greatest importance that an immediate supply of Powder should be afforded to the Troops now collected in the Mountains of Leon and who are solely prevented from attacking the Enemy for want of ammunition, I therefore trust that you may be pleased to order such quantity of fine Powder as you can conveniently spare to be landed for the said Troops.

I have the honor to acquaint you the Supreme Junta of Oviedo have requested that I would apply to you in their name soliciting that you would be pleased to order a Ship of War to convoy Transports with 400 French Prisoners from this Province to a regular Depot of Prisoners, is an object of great importance.

I have the honor Sir to be you most Obedt Serv, Signed Wm Parker Carrol, Captain 88th Regt, Lt Col Spanish Service Commissioned by the H.B.M.

Copy endorsed by Chas Adam

ADM 1/1452/139

Never one to miss an opportunity to keep the Admiralty informed, Charles copied all of this to William Wellesley-Pole.

Resistance at Anchor off Gijon, 21 March 1809

The Honble W.W. Pole

Sir, I enclose for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty a copy of my letter to Admiral Gambier, containing the information I have been able to obtain of the situation of affairs in the Province of Asturias.

And I request you will move their Lordships to notify to the Board of Ordnance their approbation of my having supplied the Seventy Barrels of Powder as mentioned in my said letter to the Commander in Chief.

I have also to acquaint you for their Lordships information that a French National Schooner with a Chase Maree under her protection were destroyed by the boats of the Resistance in the Pier Harbor of Anchové to the Eastward of Cape Machechaco on the 9th instant.

I am Sir your most obedient humble Servant, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/139

The same sequence occurred three days later. Once again, he writes formally to Lord Gambier but sends copies to the Admiralty.


Resistance off Gijon, 24 March 1809

The Right Honble Lord Gambier, Admiral of the Blue, Commander in Chief

My Lord, The Bonne Citoyenne having been detained for the dispatches from the Junta of Oviedo, I have an opportunity of enclosing your Lordship some intelligence transmitted to me by Lt Col Carrol. It appears that the Marquis de la Romana occupies a position between Astorga & Villa Franca which cuts off the communication between the interior and the French Troops in Galicia.

Thirty English Soldiers taken by the French having at different times escaped & reached Gijon I shall at the request of Lt Col Carrol receive them on board the Ships & Vessels of the Squadron to be conveyed to England as opportunity offers.

I understand the Junta of Oviedo have ordered many French Prisoners to Gijon with a view of their being embarked.

I stated in a former letter that the Vessels at this place are incapable of carrying them, even if a Convoy were appointed so that if His Majesty’s Government determined to assist in conveying them from the Province it will be necessary to send Vessels for them to embark in.

I consider it proper to mention this in case the Junta have applied to Government on the subject.

I have the honor to be My Lord, Your Lordships most Obed humble Servt.

Chas Adam, Captain 

PS As the Soldiers are in general much debilitated in consequence of the fatigue they have undergone, I shall direct them to be borne as super-numeraries that they may receive whole allowances of provisions.

A schooner is just arrived from Cadiz with 105,000 Dollars for the use of the Army in Asturias

C. Adam 

Attached to this is the following:

Advices received from the Deputies of the constituted authorities of the […] or Consegos Lazeana Sil and others, Don Francisco Balanal. And Don Ginaro Antonio Valcarjel


That several armed peasants of Bierzo, a province in the Kingdom of Leon, on the frontier of Galicia, took 7 French men on the Bridge of Congosts who were conducting 30 horses laden with shoes from Pamplona for the army of Galicia. This party were also escorting 30 English Prisoners, all of whom were rescued, and conducted to this principality, at the disposal of the Supreme Junta of Leon.

That Signor de La Milla, native of the village of Baldeorra, having united 5000 peasants in his March by Villa Franca took a French spy who was conveying dispatches to the French General who commanded in the valley of Inerroja.

By the dispatches it appears that this General was to advance with 7000 men for the purpose of intercepting the passage of the Marquis of Romana’s army, in consequence of which information the said Signor de la Milla advanced with his division and having completely surprised the Enemy, defeated them, having killed 2000 men.

The loss sustained by the patriots amounting to 300 men. This action took place on the 17th of the previous month.

That on the same day the Marquis of Romana with 14000 men entered Pomfarada on the 18th of this month 10 French Prisoners of Cavalry have been sent to the Principality which were brought from Bierzo.

Signed, Francisco Balarial, Genaro Antonio Valcazo

Copy – Chas Adam

NB The Thirty Soldiers mentioned above are immediately expected at Gijon – CA

ADM 1/1452/140 

Resistance off Gijon, 24 March 1809

The Honble W.W. Pole, Admiralty Office, London

Sir, I enclose for their Lordships information a copy of my letter of this date to Admiral Lord Gambier with its enclosure.

I am Sir Your most Obed Serv, C Adams, Captain

ADM 1/1452/140

This has what appears to be a covering summary:

Capt Adam, H.M.S. Resistance, Off Gijon, 24 March 1809

Inclosing Copy of a Letter to Admiral Lord Gambier stating that the Marquis de la Romana occupies a position between Astorga & Villa Franca which cuts off the communication between the interior of the Enemy in Galicia, and that 30 English Soldiers had reached Oviedo to be conveyed home.

Also enclosing Intelligence that a French Spy with dispatches had been intercepted, in consequence of which Signor de la Mella had advanced with 5000 peasantry against the enemy & having surprised them defeated them with the loss of 2000 Men, and that the Marquis de la Romana was on the 18th at Pomfarada with 14000 Men.

It does seem as though Charles prefers to address Wellesley-Pole on general military matters and Lord Gambier on matters naval.

Resistance off Gijon, 23 April 1809

The Hon W.W. Pole 

Sir, I send the Favourite Hired Cutter to Plymouth Sound with dispatches for His Majesty’s Ministers from His Excellency the Marquis de la Romana & Lieut Col Carrol His Majesty’s […] to the Asturian Army.

I saw the Marquis de la Romana at Oviedo yesterday & offered him every assistance His Majesty’s Ships & Vessels on this Coast can afford. His Excellency has detailed all his wants to His Majesty’s Government so that I need not enter into the subject, indeed I have not time to do so, as I am anxious to send away the Cutter as the dispatches have been a considerable time ready & the weather has not permitted my getting them on board. 

The Racoon has arrived with Money, some musquest & other Arms, & Powder from Cadiz. It has not been able to land them. I hope it will be practicable to do so tomorrow. And that Sloop will convey any further dispatches His Excellency may have to send.

I have the honor to be Sir you very obedt Serv, Chas Adam

ADM 1/1452/141

We then have a lovely historical cross-reference:

Resistance off Cape Ponas, 24 April 1809

The Honble W.W. Cole, Admiralty Office, London

Sir, Lieut Joseph Bazalgette, second of His Majesty’s Ship under my command, was severely wounded by a Musquet ball which passed through the upper part of his left thigh; while employed in the boats of Resistance, in cutting out three Chase Marees laden with supplies for the French Army from under the batteries in the Harbour of Ondarrua on the Coast of Biscay, in the night of the27th February last. 

His Wounds have been healed some weeks, but he is totally deprived of the use of his left leg, & a considerable time must elapse before he can in any degree recover the use of it.

I therefore take the opportunity of the Racoon going to Spithead, to send Lieut Bazalgette to Haslar Hospital; as the regular mode of discharging him from the Resistance; but as he does not require surgical assistance his stay there will not be requisite.

I cannot however expect that he will be able to rejoin this Ship, & therefore request that you will move the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to appoint a Lieutenant in his place

I have the honor to be Sir Your very obedt servt, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/142

Lt Bazalgette recovered from his wound and a year later was Lieutenant on HMS Leonidas a 36-gun frigate. He left the Navy in 1815 and married the following year.

Bazalgette is an unusual name and sure enough, this Joseph Bazalgette turns out to have been the father of Joseph William Bazalgette who would become one of the great engineers of the Victorian Age. He was responsible, among other things, for designing the London sewage system. It is thanks to him that we have the Victoria Embankment in London and that the Thames started to change from being an open sewer to a river once again.

No 19, Resistance off Cape Ponas, 24 April 1809

The Right Honble Lord Gambier, Admiral of the Blue, Commander in Chief 

My Lord, On the 20th instant the day after I dispatched the Black Joke I landed at Gijon & visited the Marquis de la Romana at Oviedo, the state of the Weather prevented my sending away His Excellency’s dispatches by the Favourite Hired Cutter till yesterday as she parted from us on the 14th & did not join again till the 22nd. By them His Majesty’s Government will be put in possession of the state of the Marquis’s Army and his future intention. Your Lordship will have learnt by the Copy of a letter from the Marquis to Lt Col Carrol which Capt Burton of the Wild Boar transmitted to Plymouth by the Attack & of which I now send a duplicate of his motives for retreating on Asturias.

The Marquis’s Army was nearly dispersed on his marching through Galicia, but having advanced to Chaves in Portugal he collected 15000 & had frequently a considerable number of Peasants with him. He detached one Regiment about 1000 Strong towards Tuy & left a number of his most able officers to endeavour to raise the Peasantry of Galicia in which it appears they have been very successful as I take for granted the Capture of Vigo, Tuy etc may be attributed to their exertions.

The Marquis brought 14,000 Men with him to the borders of Asturias but he informs me that at least 7000 of them are without Arms and there is a great want of Ammunition particularly Cartridge paper & they are also much in want of Cloathing. He seems particularly anxious that all his Men should have a Soldiers dress as the French give no quarter to the Peasantry who they find in Arms & they treat those [..] who are not in Military dress as Peasants. Indeed the Peasantry carry on a most happy Warfare against the French who have lost a number of Men. It appears that Marshall [Soult] lost 5000 Men by the Peasants in the North of Portugal who stopt the march of his whole force for four or five days. The Marquis had some intelligence that General Loison has entered Oporto with part of the Soult Corps but in a distressed state.

I understand it is His Excellency’s intention to join 10,000 of the Asturians to His […] Corps & that he proposed to advance into Galicia in which province the French have not above 8000 Men by the intelligence he has received and which I before informed your Lordship I had heard was the amount of their force. Of course, this movement cannot take place till he receives a supply of Arms. They are using every means possible to cloath the Troops, but there is a very small quantity of Cloth in the Province.

H.M. Sloop Racoon arrived off Gijon two days ago from Cadiz with a supply of Arms, Ammunition & Money, sent by the Central Junta. She brings only 1900 Musquets but a considerable number of Pikes. And about 400,000 Dollars a most seasonable supply as the Army has been long without Pay. Unfortunately the state of the Weather has prevented Captain Welsh from landing any part of the supplies as yet & it has much the appearance of continuing unfavourable for that purpose.

I found a considerable number of French Prisoners embarked at Gijon & the Marquis de la Romana is most anxious they should have Convoy on their way to Cadiz but the Mercurius parted from me on the 15 inst & has not rejoined & as her provisions will only last till the 3rd May I must send her to Plymouth when she does join, so that I shall not have it in my power to afford any protection to the Vessels on board which the French Prisoners are, as I proposed in my letter No 17.

I enclose the Copy of the Memorandum which I received from Mr Willm Dickinson, an English Gentleman, who belongs to a Mercantile house at St Andero but who is now established at Gijon & to whom I alluded in my letter No 17. The Marquis de la Romana has promised to grant a passport to the vessel named in that Memo. & to any others employed in the same way. […] to load Wool & Iron at either of the places mentioned and return with it to Gijon, the Wool being intended for England, the Iron for the Manufacture of Arms at Oviedo & in Andalusia.

I shall give information of the vessel named (& any others when I receive an account of them) to the Cruizers under my Orders, that they may not be molested as I consider the Marquis de la Romana’s passport a sufficient guarantee of the propriety of the measure. And I have been fully informed on the subject by Mr Dickenson & that it will be the means of getting a large quantity of Wool & other Goods belonging to the Merchants out of the Power of the Enemy.

As soon as I receive a list of the other vessels to be employed in this way, I will transmit it to your Lordship that you may give such directions on the subject as may be necessary.

I have the honor to be My Lord your Lordship’s most Obedt Servt, Chas Adam  

Copy of a memorandum received from Mr William Dickenson British Merchant at Gijon relative to Vessels sailing to and from the Bay of Biscay

Chase Maree named Neustra Senora de Begona Captain Mariano Tano burthen 35 tons. Crew five men including the Captain. Bound to Santander, Bilbao, or San Sebastian, with Passport from the Marquis de la Romana.

Other Vessels of the same descriptiAgaon may probably be sent to some one of the said Ports also with Passport of the Marquis

Gijon 23rd April

Copy: Chas Adam

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Again, he cannot resist passing on the news to the Admiralty:

Resistance off Gijon, 27 April 1809

The Hon W.W. Pole 

Sir, I enclose for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty a copy of my letter of the 24th instant, to Admiral Lord Gambier.

I have to inform you that the Wild Boar Sloop joined me this morning, Captain Bustou informs me that he captured the French Imperial Schooner La Verite from Corunna to Bayonne, on the 12th instant.

The Wild Boar saw the Hope & her convoy of Transports with supplies for this place, so that I am in hourly expectation of their arrival.

The Racoon has landed the supplies from Cadiz.

I am Sir your very obedt servt, Chas Adam

ADM 1/1452/143

We almost end this run with a letter which shows Charles, yet again, leaping to the defence of a brother officer:

No 22, Resistance off Corunna, 10 May 1809

The Right Honble, Admiral Lord Gambier

My Lord, Captain Wyreter of HM Sloop Cadmus has this day transmitted to me the enclosed copy of a letter which he sent to the Secretary of the Admiralty on the 19th ult.

As Captain Wyreter did not receive an answer, before he sailed from Plymouth, and as both himself & Officers were put to a considerable expense by supplying the poor people who embarked with Major Napier, with the refreshments their situation required, I readily comply with Captain Wyreter’s wishes in requesting your Lordship to forward his letter to the Admiralty.

I have the honor to be My Lord, your Lordship’s most Obed Servt, Chas Adam

ADM 1/1452/144

And, as coda, a letter he wrote in November as he was about to embark the future Queen of France aboard Resistance:

His Majesty’s Ship Resistance, Messina 25 November 1809

The Honble W.W. Pole, Admiralty Office, London

Sir, Having received on board His Majesty’s Ship Resistance under my command, the Duchess of Orleans, her Family & Suite for a passage from Mahon to Palermo V order of Vice Admiral Lord Collingwood.3 

I request you will move the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to allow me the usual remuneration for the expense I have been at.

I have the honor to be Sir your most obed humble servt, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/203

It is good to think that Joseph Humphries, who would leave the Resistance on 29th December 1809 ‘Discharged HMS Spider for a passage to England‘,4 would have one more story to tell when he got home: he had been on board with the Duchess of Orleans who would become Queen of France in 1830.5

  1. Cape NE of Bilbao in Spain
  2. Near Bilbao, Spain
  3. Admiral Collingwood who commanded the Mediterranean fleet had only a few months to live. See here
  4. HMS Resistance Muster Rolls ADM 37/2642
  5. Princess Maria Amalie of Naples and Sicily was married at Palermo on the day of this letter