Iberian Peninsula

Napoleonic Wars in the Iberian Peninsula: Battles during 1811

Other battles and skirmishes fought in the Iberian Peninsula

The battles discussed below are usually smaller skirmishes, or sometimes battles fought outside the main areas of conflict between the French and the Allied Armies.

The French often overwhelmed or scattered Spanish forces of various sizes. These forces nearly as often reformed right behind the marching French, not always to harass rearguard and baggage, but often to cut their communications. The allies (British, Portuguese, and Spanish) were nearly always better informed than the Imperial forces. Captured couriers and dispatches gave the British enough examples that they were often able to decipher French codes and signals.

French Siege of Olivenza January 11 - 23, 1811

This was a minor fortress, rather over-garrisoned by the Spanish, that Marshal Soult had to take while on his way to lay siege to the Border fortress of Badajoz.

Battle of Villanueva de los Castillejos January 24 1811

The prelude to this battle actually began before the siege of Olivenza mentioned above. Soult left Seville Dec 31, 1810 with 20,000 heading toward Badajoz. After crossing the Sierra Moreno Spanish General Ballesteros appeared from the south. Soult dropped 1/2 of his forces with General Gazan to persue Ballesteros and himself moved on toward Olivenza.

Gazan brought the Spanish to battle a few days later at Villnueva de los Castillejos. Ballesteros was badly defeated and retreated to Portugal.

Battle at Saguntum

Spanish General Blake was attempting to stop the march of General Suchet toward Valencia. He called on help from guerilla forces, and deployed a garrison in the Roman ruins of Saguntum. Tese ruins wer atop a steep rocky hill above the town of Sagunto. He patched the walls and set artillery in place.

The fort was invested on the Sept 23rd 1811, and an assault mde the night of the 27th of September. This was beaten back by heavy fire. Siege guns did not arrive until October 12th. Breaches were made, and another assualt made which was again beaten off. With other battles, and forces, Blake found he had to move to relieve Saguntum and moved the 24th arriving on the 25th.

Blake attempted to drive Suchet to the sea, but on difficult ground was attacked. Olly a few men were killed, several hundred taken and the rest put to flight. Blake's 27,000 lost to Suchet's 14,000.

This check had rather far reaching consequences. Napoleon reached the conclusion that Suche needed more forces to overcome forces and take Valencia. He sent orders that troops should be reapportioned to aid in taking Valencia. This left those facing Wellingtons British with too few to fill all of their commitments.

Battle at Sabugal, April 3rd, 1811

Massena's army of Portugal was exhaused, of men and supplies after the winter or 1810-1811. They had since attempted to reenter Portugal farther south, but were defeated by the barren terrain. The were ready to fall back into Spain by March 27th.

Wellington arrived in the area on the 29th of March. The french quickly left, in a line north from Sabugal. Wellington left 8,000 to keep the French attention. He took 30,000 to surprise the French south.

His attack began in the morning fog on April 3rd, 1811. The Light Division and 2 cavalry brigades were to turn the French flank. They got lost in the fog, and arrived in the midst of Reynier's Corp, to the surprise of both sides. The French were driven back but returned with reserves. After a bitter fight, the British began to gain a dominance, when the fog cleared, alerting Ney to his peril. He quickly began a retreat to the North and Massena.

Massena, with his flank turned was forced abandon the position along the Coa River and retreat onto Cuidad Rodrigo. There, he increased the garrison at the Fortress to 3,000 man, and himself fell back to Salamanca, arriving there on April 11th.

Napoleon was soon to give defeat its reward, and replace Massena with Marshal Marmont as the commander of the Army of Portugal.

Skirmish at el Bodon September 25th 1811-- French victory

The British were falling back from Cuidad Rodrigo from a superior French force arriving to relieve and resupply the fort during a siege by Wellington's British/Portuguese troops. The British were forming a new headquarters at Fuente Guinaldo. Wellington did not expect any pursuit or battle.

About 1/2 way to Fuente Guinaldo, on the day after they began the retreat, 2,500 French Cavalry caught up to several British battalions. There followed fighting for about 2 hours with the British able to fall back under their sabres.

Marmont was not able to proceed and make it a general attack between armies.

Battle at Arroyo de Molinos October 28, 1811

Marmont was ordered to send 12,000 of the men from his Army of Portugal to Marshal Suchet near Valencia. Marmont sent the 2 Divisions under Drouet's command, withdrawing them from the area around Trujillo.

General Rowland Hill, at Elvas, saw an opportunity this as an opportunity and moved on the French. He found the them at Arroyo de Molinas. Blocking every road out of the town, and covered by fog, the British charged into the town before the French realised that there were enemy toops near.

In the confused battle, the French were badly beaten. The French formed line to resist the British , and, for one of the few times in the Peninsula, the British cavalry was able to force the French cavalry from the field. The British infantry resisted a charge, counter-charged and routed the French pushing them up the rocky Sierra de Montánchez.

The French left behind 300 dead and some 1300 prisoners. Hill's toll was 71 casualties, with seven men killed. General Girard was recalled to Napoleons's presence and suffered the wrath of his emperor.

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This site last updated March 2006 by babbage