Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The first siege of Olivenza

The siege of Olivenza of 11-22 January 1811 was an early success for the French during Marshal Soult’s invasion of Extremadura.
Olivenza had been Portuguese until the war of 1801 (the War of the Oranges), when it had been taken by siege. The breach made during that siege had only been partly repaired by 1811 and the town city only contained eight serviceable guns during the siege, and the southern defences were dominated by a ruined lunette 300 yards south of the town. The city was protected by one battalion of infantry, under the command of the Swiss General Manuel Herck, and 2,400 infantry from the Mendizábal's Army of Extremadura.
Soult arrived outside Olivenza on 11 January at the head of Girard’s infantry division and one cavalry regiment. Initially he was lacking siege guns but he began the siege using the Girard’s divisional guns. One battery was placed in the southern lunette, while two more batteries were placed opposite the old breach in the north west corner of the city. The light guns in the southern battery opened first on 12 January, while to the north the French began to dig regular parallels.
The first heavy guns arrived on 19 January opening fire on 22 January. The earth banks, that had been used to block the old breach, collapsed almost immediately and the governor raised the white flag. On the next day 4,161 Spanish soldiers surrendered.The French lost 15 dead and 40 wounded, while the Spanish suffered 200 casualties during the siege. Olivenza would only remain in French hands for ten weeks, before falling to Beresford in a second short siege (9 April-15 April 1811).

Taken from
Military History Encyclopedia on the Web

Incidentally, Olivenza was, along Almeida, the inspiration for my home-made Vauban fortress (see the corresponding page in the main web-site)

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