Louis Henri Loison 1771-1816

Louis Henri Loison
Louis Henri Loison was typical of those who entered the military for personal advancement and enrichment. He is calculated to have peculated 290,000 francs of Imperial revenue, to which Napoleon turned a blind-eye, possibly because he acted as ‘talent scout’ for the Emperor’s dalliances.
Of all the Generals who served in Portugal, Louis Henri Loison earned the greatest hatred from the Portuguese for the savagery with which he suppressed the rebellion against Napoleonic rule in Évora.

After the establishment of the Junta do Porto (June 1808), Louis Henri Loison, was ordered North with a force of 4,000 men to re-impose French rule. He crossed the Douro at Peso de Régua, and while proceeding in the direction of Amarante, was confronted with determined resistance from popular militia, forcing him to retreat to Lamego. Given the inclement terrain and the ferocity of the attacks against his columns, he abandoned his mission.

At an early stage of the 2nd Invasion, an episode during the assault on Oporto demonstrates the execration with which O Maneta (for having lost a hand in a hunting accident) was held by the Portuguese. General Foy was made prisoner and taken to the city centre to face popular justice. Knowing that he was a high-ranking French officer, the people began to shout “String him up! Death to O Maneta!”. On hearing this, Foy raised up his two good hands for the crowd to see and thereby saved his life.

As commander of the Second Infantry Division, Louis Henri Loison was entrusted with the task of securing the line of retreat towards Spain, across the River Tâmega.

From the 19th of April to the 2nd of May the forces commanded by Franciso Pinto de Silveira withstood French efforts to force the passage, with heavy losses amongst the attackers until the defenders were finally dislodged.

Wellesley retook Oporto in a surprise attack on the 12th of May, putting Soult to flight. The bridge at Amarante, which Louis Henri Loison had direct orders to hold at all costs, was now indispensable for the French retreat. He disobeyed these instructions, cutting the army’s line of retreat.

On the night of 8th of May, General Lefebvre had advised Soult of a conspiracy to negotiate surrender to the British. Major Argenton of the Dragoons, captured in the possession of treasonable correspondence, denounced various senior officers, including Louis Henri Loison, as the instigators of the plot. Argenton was later tried and executed in Paris. General Foy, who was to give evidence against the conspirators, was captured in Spain, where he died, enabling Louis Henri Loison to escape the consequence of his actions.

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Arriving in Oporto to select a port wine for his college, Englishman Horace Grimpil soon finds himself embroiled in the conflicting interests of the British and Portuguese communities, where he is an ignorant outsider.

This Portuguese city - a turbulent place of ambition and defiance fought over by the French and British during the Napoleonic wars - is emerging from political turmoil that left the city and its people with their wealth and society destroyed.

Mr Grimpil, however, is about to experience personal turmoil of his own. Little does he know how the passions aroused during his journey of discovery will affect his own character, or how his presence will bring to a conclusion the relentless pursuit of a political revenge spanning generations.

Read more about the book here

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