Welcome to “D” in the A to Z Challenge 2017. The Duke of Wellington is my theme for this year’s Challenge.
Wellington and his heirs are sometimes called “Marquess of Douro.” Where did this name originate?
When Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington, arrived in Portugal in May 1809 as the new leader of the British forces, he was soon to face French forces led by Marshal Soult. This confrontation occurred only 5 months after the terrible Battle of Corunna, where the British, led by Sir John Moore, marched to Corunna in retreat and returned to England, unfortunately after Moore was killed.
Wellesley and more troops arrived in Lisbon in May, where a small British force still remained. Marshal Soult and his forces were holding the Portuguese city of Oporto to the north. Oporto (Porto in English) is situated on the banks of the Douro River and Soult and his troops were on the northern banks near the ocean to the west. Other French forces were present in the Spanish city of Mérida, near the border city of Badajoz.
Wellesley and his forces headed to Oporto and to a confrontation with the French. Soult was waiting for them, as well as waiting for an attack from the Royal Navy from the sea. The marshal had all boats on the river beached on the northern banks so the British could not cross. Fortunately, one of the British scouts, with the aid of local Portuguese, found a hidden boat and with more help from the locals, also found and brought three barges to the southern shore of the river. After multiple crossings and retention of an abandoned seminary, only then did the French realize the British were on the same side of the river. Soult sent some forces to fight at the seminary, keeping some of his troops with him near the sea, but even more British were across and at the seminary by the time they got to the site. The French lost many fighters causing Soult to send even more of his forces to the seminary and battle, giving the opportunity for more locals to take more boats away from the French and get more British troops fighting.
Soult and his soldiers had to retreat to Spain and suffered even more losses of men and equipment when intercepted by a British battalion just to the east of town.
Wellesley adopted “Douro” as part of his title due to his great success in Oporto and in crossing the Douro and defeating the French.
Sources: www.britannica.com, www.britishbattles.com, Wellington Society of Madrid, Wikipedia
Previous A to Z Challenge 2017 posts: