By Mike Phifer It had been a brutal winter for the French Army of Portugal. War and hunger had haunted the occupiers, causing their number to dwindle by the thousands. The army, under Marshal Andre Massena, had boasted 65,000 men when it set out during the previous summer of 1810 with orders from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to invade Portugal and drive the Duke of Wellington’s English army into the sea. This was the third French attempt to capture Portugal, and things had started well enough for the reluctant Massena, who had been called out of retirement by Napoleon to lead the Portuguese offensive. The formidable Spanish fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo, located near the border, fell in early July 1810. Almeida came under siege next and held out until a chance French shell blew up the ammunition magazine, forcing the fort to surrender on August 28. With these two key fortifications in French hands, the drive for Lisbon could begin in earnest. After gathering 15 days’ worth of rations, Massena got his army moving on September 15. It was a difficult advance. Plagued by peasants who had bitter memories of the last time the French were in their country and by the ordenança, local levies who constantly harassed them on the march, the French soldiers pushed on over rough roads that took a heavy toll on horses and gun carriages. On September 27, Massena attacked Wellington, whose roughly 50,000 British and Portuguese troops were positioned along the 10-mile-long Busaco Ridge, 100


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