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Spencer, commanding the four flank companies of the 40th regiment, and forming part of the reserve under the immediate command of Major-General Moore. During the whole of that campaign, the conduct of Colonel Spencer was marked by the highest military talent, and he continued throughout it to receive the warmest eulogiums, both from Sir Ralph Abercrombie and Lord Hutchinson. In the celebrated landing of the army on the coast, opposed to a large entrenched force, he obtained not only the approbation of the Commander-in-chief, but the admiration of the whole army. MajorGeneral Moore commanded that division of the army; and after much loss, and the most serious opposition, that gallant officer saw that the landing would most probably fail, and with consequences, perhaps, of the most disastrous nature, unless a post of the enemy, situate on a high sand-hill, the'fire from which was of the most destructive kind, were silenced. Colonel Spencer had just then made good his landing, at the head of his flank companies, to whom Major-General Moore communicated his fears that all would be lost unless possession were taken of that hill. Colonel Spencer having been joined by the 23d regiment, which had just landed on the beach, immediately rushed up the hill, with an impetuosity almost incredible, and carried the entrenchment by the bayonet. On that achievement probably hung the fate of the expedition. It was a moment of the most awful suspense; the troops paused to behold the effect of the attack; and those only who witnessed it, can describe the sensation produced by such a scene.* That hill being gained, the greatest difficulty was removed, and the troops afterwards made good their landing without much farther loss. It was observed in Sir Ralph Abercrombie's despatch —" They made good their landing with an intrepidity scarcely to be paralleled, and forced the enemy to retire. The troops that ascended the hill were the 23d regiment and the four flank companies of the 40th regiment, under the command of Colonel Spencer, whose coolness and good conduct Major-General Moore has mentioned to me in the highest terms of approbation."
* This hill was pointed out to Dr. Clarke during his travels in Egypt, and its attack described to him; and though he is incorrect as to the troops employed on the occasion, he says its ascent was nearly impracticable, and he seems almost disposed to doubt its truth. Such a remark, from so learned and reflecting an observer, is the highest eulogium that can be bestowed on the skill and judgment «f its commander, and on the brare men that followed him.
Colonel Spencer was in the actions of the 13th and 21st of March; he commanded the attack, and succeeded, against Rosetta. He was also honoured with the thanks of the Commander-in-chief for his conduct in a brilliant affair on the 5th of September, in front of Alexandria, which Lord Hutchinson has thus recorded : — " The action afforded one more opportunity to display the promptness of British officers, and the heroism of British soldiers. A part of General Doyle's brigade, under the immediate command of Colonel Spencer, had taken possession of a hill in front of the enemy's right. General Menou, who was in person in that part of the camp directly opposite our post, ordered about 600 men to make a sortie, to drive us from our position. The enemy advanced in column with fixed bayonets, and without firing a shot until they got very close to the 80th regiment, to whom Colonel Spencer gave an immediate order to charge, though they did not consist of more than 200 men. He was obeyed with a spirit and a determination worthy the highest panegyric. The enemy were driven back to their entrenchments in the greatest confusion, had many killed and wounded, and several taken prisoners."
The expedition to Egypt, independent of its success, and its political influence, was of the highest importance in a military point of view. It was the first effort of the British troops against that formidable power which had almost taught the world to believe that it was invincible and irresistible, and it served to give that confidence to the officer and s'oldier in the skill and judgment of their commanders, which afterwards led to those brilliant achievements and victories, that raised the British character to the highest pinnacle of military fame. The peace of Amiens soon followed the conclusion of this campaign.
In the year 1805, Colonel Spencer obtained the rank of Major-General. The military operations undertaken at this period were both unimportant and disastrous. The administration of the time had formed a determination not to interfere with the affairs of the Continent, which no political event, however interesting, was to alter; and they saw one great military power after another, the bulwarks of Europe for ages, annihilated with the utmost indifference. The succeeding administration judged it necessary to adopt a different plan of proceeding; and in the early part of the year 1807, troops were assembled on the coast, to take advantage of any favourable opportunity to harass the enemy, and a considerable force was in the summer of that year sent to the Baltic, to co-operate with our allies in that quarter. They arrived, however, too late, and found the Continent completely subdued. In this situation of affairs in that part of the world, it became a measure of the most imperious necessity, either to make Denmark our ally, or to get immediate possession of its fleet. The policy of that Court compelled this country to adopt the latter alternative, and a large armament, under the command of Lord Cathcart, was sent out for that purpose. MajorGeneral Spencer was appointed to the staff of this expedition. The military operations of the siege of Copenhagen were carried on with the greatest vigour, every officer and soldier felt himself engaged on a service which the peculiar difficulties of his country had forced on him, and the ardour displayed in the accomplishment of this object was of the most determined and irresistible character. It was impossible for the force of Denmark to resist so impetuous an attack, and every thing their country required was soon effected by the joint efforts of the navy and army. The post of honour, in covering the embarkation of the army, was entrusted to Major-General Spencer. Some anxiety was on this occasion felt, from the expectation of resentment from an enraged people; but every thing was regulated with so much skill and discipline, that the Danes beheld the departure of the last of our troops from their shores, without offering them the least molestation.
Early in the following year, Major-General Spencer was appointed to the command of an expedition consisting of 6000 men. The direct object of this armament was never perfectly known ; but its equipment, and the choice made of its commander, marked it for some bold enterprise. Public rumour assigned its destination for the attack of Ceuta, on the coast of Africa, and there is every reason to suppose that to have been its real destination. On its arrival at Gibraltar, and whilst the necessary measures were maturing for its execution, the resistance of the Spanish nation to the domination of the French Emperor broke forth; and the armament now so opportunely situated, and whose objects were thus so singularly changed, was ordered to render them all the assistance possible. This offer, however, was refused by the high national, once dignified, pride of the Spaniards. Major-General Spencer, therefore, after having given all the assistance in his power to the operations of the Spaniards, by some joint movements with the navy on the coast, was soon afterwards ordered to join Sir Arthur Wellesley, with all the troops under his command, in Portugal.
On the junction of these forces, operations were immediately commenced against the French army; the celebrated battles of Vimiera and Roleia were fought, and the surrender of all the French troops in Portugal soon followed, in all which services Major-General Spencer was particularly engaged; and for his advice and assistance he was thanked in the most warm and friendly manner by Sir Arthur Wellesley. After the convention of Cintra, Major-General Spencer returned to England, and was a material witness on the military inquiry relating to that measure. His evidence was marked by great circumspection and delicacy, and did him the greatest credit and honour. In the following year, 1809, his Majesty conferred on Major-General Spencer the honourable distinction of a Knight of the Bath.
In May, 1810, Sir Brent Spencer was appointed second in command to the army in Portugal, under Lord Wellington, with the rank of Lieutenant-General. The state of Portugal at that period was extremely precarious: the force of the enemy was accumulating to a degree truly alarming; and Massena, esteemed the second General of the age, was appointed to its command. The most sanguine scarcely ventured to think favourably of the situation of our army in that country, and the public opinion went to the length of the most gloomy despondency. At this critical juncture, Sir Brent Spencer accepted this appointment. The discrimination of the Government in this selection was for many reasons highly judicious; it served to animate the army, and they welcomed his return. The overwhelming force of Massena soon compelled the Commander-in-chief to take measures for his retreat, and the lines of Torres Vedras were then contemplated and finished, as the last resource of the British army. During this retreat, the battle of Busaco was fought; planned and undertaken by the Commander-in-chief, more, perhaps, for the purpose of trying the Portuguese troops, and to give an iclat to his proceedings and to the valour of the army, before it was doomed to retrace its steps to the shores of Portugal, than for any other effect it might have produced.*
The position taken for this fight was most admirably chosen, and its results manifested the deep and comprehensive mind of its commander. The Portuguese troops, linked in line with the British, fought and charged with equal bravery. He obtained a complete victory; and, animated by their success, and confident in the skill of their great commander, the army began their retreat towards those celebrated intrenchments, to defend the interests of their country, and their own honour. In this battle, and during the retreat of the army, LieutenantGeneral Sir Brent Spencer had an opportunity of rendering essential service, and received the warmest thanks from the Commander-in-chief on the occasion. The army was followed by the enemy with a force truly alarming. But, notwithstand
* Tin.- Commander-in-chief had, perhaps, other reasons for making this stand at Busaco; he had many detachments around him to withdraw and extricate from their positions: but whatever were his reasons, it is impossible not to admire and appreciate the consummate skill with which all their manoeuvres were executed.