Napoleonic Wars Forum

The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Invasion of Buenos Aires

For all discussions relating to the War between Britain and others (including France, Spain, Holland, Denmark etc.) of 1803-1814. Please see below for the Peninsular War.

Invasion of Buenos Aires

Postby Connaught » August 30th, 2011, 12:55 pm

On the 21 September 1806 eight wagons trundled into London under military escort. Cheering crowds watched from the streets; some brave souls peered down from windows overhead. Blue silk banners emblazoned with ‘Buenos Aires, Popham, Beresford, Victory’ in gold thread were presented to the column in St James’ Square. On the front of each wagon was painted the word ‘Treasure’. Later that day over a million dollars in Spanish gold and silver (roughly equivalent to £300,000 sterling at 1806 rates or £18,000,000 today) was deposited in the vaults of the Bank of England.

All in all not a bad day for empire one might think. However by the time this news and booty had arrived in London the ‘Beresford’ referred to on the banner was being held captive and ‘Popham’ was impotently witnessing a grand scheme unravel. A grand scheme he had done perhaps the most to bring about.

Commodore Home Riggs Popham was born in Gibraltar in 1762. His father, Joseph Popham, from a family based in Co Cork, Ireland, served as British consul to Morocco. Home’s brother Stephen became a successful official with the East India Company and supported his brother’s education. Joining the Royal Navy at fifteen, Home Popham served in a number of postings in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Working frequently with the army he developed a reputation as an officer skilled in amphibious operations during the Napoleonic wars.

Encountering would be Venezuelan rebel Francisco de Miranda in London, Popham became interested in schemes for attacking the Spanish Empire in South America. The two men presented a plan for a British expedition to South America in 1804. Miranda hoped to drive the Spanish from their South American colonies and achieve independence; Popham’s motives may have been more mixed – commercial opportunities in the continent’s ports were valued at millions of pounds per annum and his contacts among the merchant community were very good.

Little came from the 1804 plan. However Popham was assigned as naval commander to an expedition to the Cape of Good Hope in late 1805. The overall mission chief was General David Baird, an old friend of Popham from their days together on campaign in Egypt in 1801. The Cape in 1806 was held by Dutch military units allied to Napoleon. British forces landed with modest opposition in January 1806 and captured Cape Town with little difficulty. Popham and his small squadron remained cruising on patrol duty offshore but the tedium of the endeavour soon led to a new undertaking. Popham proposed an audacious enterprise to Baird – the invasion of Buenos Aires, capital of the Spanish province of River Plate, some 4000 miles to the east. Influenced by his previous close association with the Irishman, Baird agreed to let Popham ‘borrow’ 1400 soldiers, many of whom were also Irish. The army officer chosen to command the troops was Brigadier General William Carr Beresford, another Irishman who had also served in Egypt in 1801. Popham sidestepped any suggestions of contacting London by saying that Napoleon’s relentless progress (news of crushing French victories at the battles of Austerlitz and Ulm had just arrived) made speed of action imperative. So the first step in an attempt to wrest control of South America from Spain began without any official sanction whatsoever


http://www.historytimes.com/fresh-perspectives-in-history/british-and-irish-history/451-pirates-or-liberators-the-british-invasion-of-buenos-aires-in-1806?showall=1
Quis Separabit

Image
User avatar
Connaught
New Member
 
Posts: 88
Joined: August 24th, 2011, 11:14 pm
Location: US

Re: Invasion of Buenos Aires

Postby Connaught » September 2nd, 2011, 10:25 pm

Having heard from the master of an American merchantman that the inhabitants of the cities of the Rio de la Plata were 'so ridden by their government' that they would willingly join the British, Commodore Sir Home Popham took it upon himself to organise an expedition. On 14 April 1806 Popham's entire squadron of nine warships, together with a small invasion force under Major-General William Carr Beresford (later 1st Viscount Beresford), sailed from Cape Town. Buenos Aires, even then a substantial city, with a population of over 70,000, surrendered on 2 July. According to Fortescue in his History of the British Army: 'Sir Home Popham, for his part, took the extraordinary step of sending a circular round the leading merchants of London, reporting that he had opened a gigantic market for their goods and inviting them to take advantage of it.' In response to Beresford's urgent appeal for reinforcements, two battalions, including all the members of the 54th Foot still fit for duty - two officers and 110 men, Cornelius Kerley among them - found a safe anchorage on the south side of the Rio de la Plata, within striking distance of Montevideo, on 4 October. Before they even arrived, however, things had already begun to go badly awry: Beresford and his men had been forced to surrender, after a three-day insurrection on 12 August, having suffered heavy casualties.

It wasn't until Brigadier-General Sir Samuel Auchmuty, with an additional 4,000 troops - together with numbers of merchants, speculators and opportunists - arrived in January 1807 that the British force was strong enough to invest and assault the city of Montevideo. The small party of the 54th Foot were assigned the role of the 'forlorn hope': while they had the honour of being the first through the 'practicable' breach in the city walls, there was little expectation that many would survive the ordeal. Storming through the breach three abreast in the early hours of 3 February, the 54th's 'forlorn hope' played a full part in the capture of the city, which surrendered the same day. One participant later wrote: 'We drove the enemy from the batteries, and massacred with sword or bayonet all whom we found carrying arms - the general's orders had been not to plunder or enter any house, or injure any woman, child, or man not carrying arms. When we reached the gunwharf, we found some twenty or thirty negroes chained to the guns. We spared them and later found them useful for burying the dead.'[12] Four regiments - the 38th, 40th, 87th and 95th Foot - were awarded the battle honour 'Monte Video'. The British then made a crucial mistake by publishing a bilingual newspaper, La Estrella del Plata, in which they demanded that the colonists should agree to become part of the British Empire, which served only to alienate most of them. It did not help that the British also turned 14,000 inhabitants out of their houses.

By 1 April the 'forlorn hope' duties, coupled with frequent clashes with skilled native horsemen and the depredations of the climate, had reduced the strength of the 54th's detachment to just 87 and the decision was taken to draft the men to other units. Having served with the colours of the 54th Foot for 9 years and 182 days, Private Cornelius Kerley joined Captain John Evans's Company of the 1st Battalion, 87th Regiment of Foot (later the Royal Irish Fusiliers) on 18 May 1807, one of twenty-one members of the 54th Foot to do so. The 54th Foot Description Book simply states of Cornelius Kerley: 'Transferred to 87th Regt in South America.'


http://www.keepmilitarymuseum.org/private_kerley.php?&dx=3&ob=3&rpn=empire

http://cementeriobritanico.org/Prueba/71sthighlandersregiment.html
Quis Separabit

Image
User avatar
Connaught
New Member
 
Posts: 88
Joined: August 24th, 2011, 11:14 pm
Location: US


Return to War between Britain and Others 1803–1814

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest