Crossing the Douro

Wellington managed to trick Soult as to where he would cross the Douro. This print shows a wine barge full of soldiers in the process of crossing the river. The large white building on the opposite bank is the Bishop's Seminary which was occupied and defended by the Buffs. It is surrounded by countryside which suggests that it is some distance from Oporto and would thus not be as closely watched by the French as the town itself. This may explain how it was possible for Wellington's large Anglo-Portuguese army to assemble itself on the south bank of the river without alerting the French. The print shows the crossing taking place in daylight when in fact the Buffs initial crossing must have occurred in the early hours of the morning. What is depicted here may be the later crossings after the French had retreated as we can see cavalry horses and artillery being taken on board a boat in the foreground. Soult's hasty retreat was harried by the 14th Light Dragoons and the French had to destroy or abandon huge amounts of treasure and baggage.

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by Stephen Luscombe