Iberian Peninsula

Napoleonic Wars in the Iberian Peninsula: Battle at Sahagun


Introduction

After what seemed like weeks of marching and counter-marching both Baird's and Moore's forces concentrated at Mayorga on December 20th and the following morning the first of Paget's two fine cavalry actions was fought. An enemy force of light cavalry, acting as a screen for the main French army, lay at Sahagun, just a tempting nine miles beyond the British piquets.

Current Situation in the Peninsula

Moore has marched, and countermarched into western Spain, hoping to participate with the Spanish armies in a march on Madrid. There are Spanish and British who want a battle badly enought to misinform him about both the resolve of the Spanish people, and the numbers of the French troops.

Moore believes that there are 80,000 French in Spain, but with Napoleon and his additions, there are over 200,000.

Preliminaries

The British have managed to consolidate many of their forces near Salamanca. They gained som information about the location or Soult's French forces to their north, and intend to march and meet him in battle.

Terrain

Sahagun is on the northern Spanish plains, near the border between the provinces of Leon and New Castile.

Participants

General Paget, elder brother to , and heir to , in command of the 15th and 10th Hussars led at the head of the 15th Hussars. The French cavalry was led by Debelle, who did not expect the British to move so early or to be quite so aggressive.

The battle

The prospect of a daring surprise attack on the French cavalry was enough to warm the blood of many a freezing British trooper and long before dawn on the morning of December 21st Paget was in the saddle along with the 10th and 15th Hussars bound for Sahagun.

The French cavalry commander, Debelle, had neglected to post any vedettes other than a guard on the main road. The guard was quickly surrounded and taken before it realised what was happening although one French trooper did manage to escape and rode hell for leather back to Sahagun to raise the alarm. Within minutes the place was a hive of activity as trumpets stirred the shivering French troopers into life.

Paget immediately ordered General Slade to charge into the town with the 10th Hussars while he himself took the 15th Hussars and dashed round to the rear of the place in order to block the French cavalry's route for escape or communication with the rest of the French troops. Paget waited for a time, while on the opposite side of Sahagun General Slade gave a long winded speech to his troops to raise their, and his own, courage for the charge.

Paget began to become concerned that with more time, the French might become better informed as to his presence, and better prepared. Paget formed his own troopers and with a cheer charged straight into the town. The two French regiments, the 8th Dragoons and 1st Provisional Chasseurs, were still in the act of forming and the sudden appearance of Paget's sabre-wielding troopers had an unsettling effect on them. Debelle's forces numbered twice those of Paget but this counted for nothing as the 15th Hussars crashed into the chasseurs, hurling them backwards and causing the French dragoons to turn and run.

Anecdotes and ancilliary events

Results

The British charge cost the French cavalry thirteen officers - including two lieutenant colonels - and 157 men killed, wounded or taken prisoners at a cost to themselves of just fourteen casualties. This was to be one of very few cavalry matches in Spain at which the British overmastered the French. Of those, the next was to be a rearguard action in a few days, again led by Paget.

 



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