The Lines of Torres Vedras
October - November 1810.
In late 1809 Wellington ordered the construction of the Lines of Torres Vedras. These were to defend Lisbon against a French attack so large that he couldn't be certain of defeating in a conventional battle. They made use of two lines of mountains. A large number of strong points were constructed using existing structures, slopes were steepend and fields of fire were cleared.
In conjunction with this, the population north of them was cleared and sources of food were removed or destroyed.
Wellington's headquarters at Quinta dos Freixos (Ash Tree Manor), Pero Negro and a view towards the Lines.
The Moorish castle at Torres Vedras.
The castle wasn't used but a terrace around it was added as an artillery position.
We visited Forte de São Vicente, the principal fort near Torres Vedras.
This utilised a couple of existing windmill and a chapel. It comprised three separate bastions and a central area joining them.
Memorial plaque at entrance to fort.
The place seems to be rarely visited. There were wild flowers everywhere.
Massena recognised how formidable an obstacle the Lines were and, after a small skirmish on an advanced post, sent to Napaoleon in Paris for reinforcements.Eventually Massena had to withdraw from in front of the Lines as he couldn't feed his army and no significant reinforcements were forthcoming. He withdrew as slowly as he could but eventually left Portugal on 3rd April 1811. He had lost between 20,000 and 25,000 men.
The scorched earth policy and mass evacuations had caused tens of thousands of Portugeuse civilian deaths from stavation and disease and had devastated a large and previously fertile area. The effects were to be felt for decades.