6 de julho de 2020

The Life and Times of Carlos Frederico Lecor


* Honorary Grand Cross of the Military Order of the Tower and the Sword (Portugal)
* Officer of the Imperial Order of the Southern Cross (Cruzeiro) (Brazil)
* Commander of the Royal Order (Portugal) and the Imperial Order of St. Benedict of Aviz (Brazil)
* Medal fo Distinction of Command of the Peninsular War, for 4 actions (Vitoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle e Nive) (Portugal)
* Peninsular War Cross, 1st class, Gold, for 6 campaigns (Portugal)
* Army Gold Cross (Vitoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle e Nive) (United Kingdom)
* Medal for Distinction in the Army of the South (Brazil)

I. Childhood and Youth (1764-1793)

CARLOS FREDERICO LECOR, the first son of Luiz Pedro Lecor and D. Quitéria Luísa Marina Lecor, was born on 6 October 1764, in Santos-o-Velho, Lisboa, in the Pé de Ferro St., next to the Convent of the Trinas do Mocambo. He moves, along with his family to Faro somewhere in the 1770s.

After his initial studies, he may have worked as a clerk in his uncle's commercial company, as well as traveled to northern Europe, but, at 29, he decided to enlist in the royal service, as a Gunner, in the Fortress of São João, in Tavira, 13 October 1793. 

II. Subaltern (1794-1797)

On 17 March 1794, already a Sargeant, he is promoted to Adjutant in Portimão, his first position as a commissioned officer. That same year, 5 October, he is admitted to the Navy Royal Academy (Real Academia de Marinha), as a first-year disciple, having been 'fully approved' in the admission exam.  At the end of the year, 2 December, he became the First Lieutenant of the 8th company of Gunners of the Algarve Artillery Regiment.

Between the Algarve and Lisbon, he concludes the 1st year in the Royal Academy, being approved in the final exam, around June1795, thus being entitled to attend the 2nd year. That is not to happen, as he embarks on the Príncipe Real, in late December, to Brazil, with a detachment of his regiment to serve in the ship's complement. The fleet travels from Lisbon to Salvador, and returns to Lisbon around July 1796. According to some sources, Lecor takes a leave from service, and it is possible that he may have attended the 2nd year courses of the Royal Academy.

III. Captain in the Light Troops (1797-1805)

On 1 March 1798, Lecor is promoted to captain of the 8th infantry company of the Light Troops Legion (LTL), the first permanent light unit in the Portuguese army. He participates in the 1801 campaign, in Zibreira, in the Castelo Branco frontier. A year later, 13 May 1802 (anniversary of the Prince Regent), he is promoted to major (sargento mor) of LTL.

IV. Aid de Camp (1805-1808)

Three years on, 1 August 1805, he is promoted to lieutenant colonel of the legion, but exercising as the Aid of Camp (AdC) of the newly appointed Vice King of Brazil, the 3rd marquis of Alorna. Although Alorna is not to take possession of his office, Lecor remains as his AdC when he becomes Governor at Arms (Governador de Armas) of the Alentejo province.
Before uniting his general in the Alentejo, he remains as caretaker commander of the Legion, until Baron of Wiederhold finally assumes his command.

In 1807, it is Lecor the one who identifies the French already well inside Portugal, in Vila Velha de Ródão, on the 2 November, running to warn the Minister of War, António de Araújo Azevedo, and the Prince Regent João which he is able to do by the morning of the 23rd, in Lisbon. His report and further reconnoiter in the Cartaxo and Golegã areas were essential to assure the full security of the Court's boarding.

After 29 November, he remains aid de camp to the marquis of Alorna, cooperating with the French occupation, until he flees, on Easter 1808, towards the British fleet, commanded by Admiral Sir Sidney Smith, taking exile in Plymouth. After the revolt and the creation of the Oporto Junta, lieutenant colonel Lecor arrives at Oporto, with the task of promoting the formation of the 2nd Battalion of the Lusitanian Loyal Legion, which he had helped to create in England.

V. Peninsular War (1808-1812)

On 20 November 1808, during the process of reforming the Army, he is promoted to Colonel commanding the Infantry Regiment nr. 23, in Almeida. On 2 February next year, he is appointed brigade commander of the forces present in the Beira Baixa province, with his headquarters first at Idanha a Nova and then in Castelo Branco.

Lecor participates in the August 1809 campaign, commanding the brigade made up of the Caçadores Battallions nr. 3 and 4, at one point, and 4 and 6, on a later one, together with the 2nd Battalion of the Infantry Regiment nr. 9. In February 1810, the Lecor Brigade, (made of the Infantry Regiments nr. 12 and 13) is positioned in Muradal Heights, forming a second line to Robert Wilson's command in Castelo Branco. The following month, Lecor takes his brigade to Castelo Branco, replacing the Wilson Brigade.

In 1810, the Lecor Brigade, with the addition of a battalion each from the Militia Regiments of Castelo Branco, Idanha and Covilhã, is made subordinate to general Hill's command, the campaign culminating in the battle of Buçaco, 27 September, where he doesn't engage in combat, retreating then with the rest of the army until the first days of October to the extreme right of the defensive lines, in Alhandra, by the Tagus.

On 5 March 1811, Lecor is appointed commanding officer of the Portuguese brigade of the newly formed 7th Division, but in April that year, before Fuentes de Honor, he is again appointed the military governor of the Castelo Branco area, with the Militia regiments of the area. Two months later, on 8 May, he is promoted to brigadier. In 1812, he reacts with the utmost judgment and firmness to the Marmont's incursion of April, complying to the letter with Beresford's orders and evacuating Castelo Branco calmly and without casualties.

VI. Campaigns of Spain and France (1813-1814)

On March 1813, on the verge of the new campaign, Lecor is again appointed commanding officer of the Portuguese brigade of the 7th Division, participating in Vitoria and the Pyrenees. On 10 July, he is promoted to major general (marechal de campo). On 10 November 1813, he is the interim commanding officer of the 7th Division in the battle of Nivelle, the only Portuguese general who ever commanded a division made up of both British and Portuguese units in battle. In early December, with the appointment of George Walker to the divisional command, Lecor resumes the command of the 6th Portuguese Brigade, but is almost immediately appointed commanding officer of the Portuguese Division, part of general Hill's corps.

On 13 December that year, in St. Pierre's battle, the last day of the Nive, commands the Portuguese Division, mainly the Algarve Brigade (Infantry Regiments nr. 2 and 14) in the centre, even ordering himself a charge of the Infantry 14's 2nd Battalion to disentangle the 1st  Battalion which were enveloped by French voltigeurs. He is lightly wounded that day.

He commands the division until the end of the war, returning to Portugal the following month, as the most senior Portuguese officer of the Army at Operations. Shortly after arriving in Lisbon, on 28 August, he is appointed the governor of the Elvas fortress.

VII. The Royal Volunteers (1815)

In June 1815, some months after becoming Elva's Governor, Carlos Fredrico is promoted to Lieutenant General and appointed commanding officer of the Prince's Royal Volunteers Division (Divisão dos Voluntários Reais do Príncipe), a grand unit with a little under 5000 men, destined for Brazil. His name was chosen by the Rio Government in December 1814, when the orders were signed and sent to Lisbon.

From July to December, Lecor was in Belém, supervising the training and equipping of the new grand unit, leaving Lisbon in early 1816, with most of it (mainly the infantry). Among the many concerns regarding the training of the military force, Lecor worried also with the health of his men having vaccinated them, with himself being vaccinated in public for all to see. For that, he was made a correspondent of the Royal Academy of Sciences.

He arrives at Rio de Janeiro in early April 1816, receiving then the news that queen Maria had died a few days before. Despite the sad news, these are moments of great joy in Rio. Among the many moments of pomp, like the parade and the exercise on 13th May, immortalized in a painting by Debret, royal receptions and diplomatic dinner parties, the Division was under almost daily training.

Finally, on 12 June the Division, now called King's Royal Volunteers Division, as João VI became king, embarked once more on the fleet and sailed from Rio towards Santa Catarina, arriving at the island in early July. By this time, the Division's objective is perfectly clear and defined: taking Montevideo and the Banda Oriental province and the creation of a general-captaincy under the leadership of Carlos Frederico Lecor.

VIII. Montevideo Campaign (1816-1821)

Upon arrival in July, the Division started disembarking the first detachment of many that were to march the around 700 kilometers between S. Catarina and the Rio Grande town.

By this time the Division was wholly on enemy territory, the action had already begun in the Rio Grande's southwest theater, with the battle of Carumbé, on 27 October. After the battle of India Muerta, on 19 November, in which major general Sebastião Pinto de Araújo Correia, Lecor's nr. 2, destroyed the only threat in eastern Banda Oriental, the road to Montevideo was wide open, with Lecor trying to obtain political compromises more than an armed domination.

On 20 January 1817, six months after initially predicted, and after negotiations with the municipal council, Lecor and the Royal Volunteers peacefully enter Montevideo, received by the majority of the Cabildo. To the north, two weeks earlier, the marquis of Alegrete destroyed Artigas' forces at Catalán. Thus starts what Falcão Espalter calls the Lecor Vigil (Vigia Lecor), the 9-year period of Lecor as the captain-general of the Banda Oriental. The refined, tall, blonde and blue-eyed general cultivated social relations with the city's bourgeoisie and surrounded himself with local allies of great worth, which in turn allowed for more alliances. 

On 6 February 1818, Carlos Frederico is made Baron of the Laguna, on occasion of the acclamation of the new king João VI (Portuguese kings were not crowned since around 1660). On 3 December the same year, he marries Rosa Maria Josefa Deogracias de Herrera y Basavilbaso, a 18-year-old Montevidean.

After the end of the conflict, in 1820, with the battle of Tacuarembó, won under the command of the count of Figueira, in the border with Rio Grande, the federalist opposition by Artigas ends. In a year's time, Lecor obtains the full integration of the Banda Oriental into the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves, under the name of Cisplatina. It is the last acquisition of land by the Portuguese empire.
He is made Honorary Grand Cross of the Order of the Tower and the Sword on 15 November 1820.

IX. The Brazilian Liberty (1822-1828)

Lecor follows the evolution of the political situation in Rio, since king João VI returns to Portugal, and when the independence finally comes, he supports Pedro, exits Montevideo to Canelones, just two days after the 7 September, under the pretence of reviewing troops and assumes command of the Brazilian forces, hailing the new empire. In December 1822 he is made Officer of the Imperial Order of the Southern Cross. In early 1823, his title of baron of the Laguna is confirmed, also receiving the honours of Grand of the Empire.

Lecor maintains a prolonged siege of his old conquest, Montevideo, and by the end of 1823 he reaches a peace arrangement with what is left of the Royal Volunteers, thus concluding the last act of the Brazilian War of Independence. The Portuguese evacuate the city in 1824, and are the last forces to do so.

In 1825, Lecor's title is raised to Viscount of the Laguna, and Grand of the Empire, equivalent to count. That same year, the 33 Orientales disembark in Cisplatina with the aim to restart the struggle and liberate once and for all the Banda Oriental of the Uruguay, in order to bring it back to Argentina. In April 1826, Lecor is appointed commander in chief of the Army of the South and travels to Porto Alegre later that year, in August. Despite being received as a hero and a saviour, is work is cut short when the emperor Pedro exonerates him a month after, in an audience in Porto Alegre in which the emperor (then visiting Rio Grande) shows him nothing but coldness and spite.

Hurt, Carlos Frederico travels to Rio de Janeiro, thinking it would be the end of his military career. However, the army is defeated in Itazuangó (or Passo do Rosário) in February 1827, under the command of the marquis of Barbacena. By August, the emperor felt the need to reinstate the old general. Lecor arrived from Rio de Janeiro, but assumes command only in January 1828. The now 63-year-old general faces the double task of caring for a tired and demoralised army and avoiding more unnecessary battles, against the backdrop of peace negotiations already taking place in London. Finally, the peace comes in late 1828 and Lecor's military career, despite this brief second wind, is over.

X. Old Soldiers never die... (1829-1836)

In 1829, Lecor embarks to Rio de Janeiro where he will live until the end of his life. He is subjected to a Justificative Court Martial, much in response to a conflict he maintained with his number 2 in the Army of the South, Gustavo Braun (or Brown). He is acquitted, congratulated and retires as a Marshall of the Army, the highest rank in the Brazilian army.

The Viscount of the Laguna with Greatness resided in the Aterrado Street by the bridge, then in the outskirts of Rio, with his young wife. He kept away from politics, but remained in the confidence of the regency governments, after the abdication of Pedro in 1831. In 1835, that same regency appointed him Superior Commander of the newly created National Guard in Rio de Janeiro. The appointment was clearly honorary, but a proof that the old general had still the confidence of his country.

On 2 August 1836, not even a year later, Carlos Frederico Lecor died in his home, with the age of 71 years and 10 months. The cause of death is not known, but may have been result of a prolonged disease. He left no descendency.

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