Saturday, 5 March 2011

200 years ago: the battle of Barrosa/Chiclana

Cádiz had been invested by the French in January 1810 by a 25,000-strong French army commanded by Victor, but in March of 1811 a reduction in the besieging army (caused by the march of almost a third of Victor's troops accompanying Soult in his assault on Badajoz) gave its garrison of Anglo-Spanish troops an opportunity to lift the siege. Their plan was to ship an expeditionary force 100 km south along the coast from Cádiz so as to launch an attack against Victor from inland.
The force comprised 4,000 men British under Graham, 8,000 men of two Spanish divisions led by Lardizabal and the Prince of Anglona, four squadrons of cavalry under Col. Samuel Ford Whittingham - an English officer serving with the Spanish army - 1,000 infantry from Gibraltar and 1,600 Spaniards from an irregular force led by Beguines. The overall command was given to Lapeña, the senior officer at Cádiz.

After several chaotic night marches, Lapeña diverted from his original intention deciding instead to march by the coast road towards Cádiz. Victor prepared a trap in the plain between the town of Chiclana and Barrosa Hill (known now as the Loma de Sancti-Petri). Using one division under Villatte to block the road into Cádiz, Victor kept two divisions under Leval and Ruffin out-of-sight in readiness to make a surprise flank attack that fell on the single Anglo-Portuguese rearguard division under the command of Sir Thomas Graham.
Following a fierce battle on two fronts, the British succeeded in routing the attacking French forces. Although some Spanish units also participated in the fight. The French fled towards Chiclana.

In the other side of the field, Lapeña was fighting another combat against Villatte. This last, with his rearguard menaced by Zayas's forces (from Cadiz) and Lapeña, retreated behind the Almansa stream and after towards Chiclana.

Lapeña refused to follow the French retreat so these were able to regroup and reoccupy their siege lines so the Graham's tactical victory proved to have little strategic effect and the siege remained until finally being lifted on 24 August 1812.

- Fortescue, J.W. (1917) 'A History of the British Army', Volume 8 (a 'googled' book downloaded some years ago)

- Lipscombe Nick (2010), 'The Peninsular War Atlas', Osprey
- López Fernández, JA (2010)' Chiclana 1811. La defensa de Cádiz' Guerreros y Batallas nº 65, Almena Editorial
- Martínez Valverde, Carlos (1961) 'El movimiento envolvente contra la línea francesa frente a Cádiz en 1811 y la batalla de Chiclana',
Revista de Historia Militar, nº 8, pp 65-112
- Napier, W.F.P. (1833) 'History of the war in the Peninsula and in the south of France, from the year 1807 to the year 1814',
Volume 3
- Oman, Charles (1911), 'A History of the Peninsular War: Volume IV', Greenhill Books 2004
- Queipo de Llano y Ruiz de Saravia, José María, Conde de Toreno (1835), 'Historia del levantamiento, guerra y revolucion de España,
Volumen 4
- Sañudo, J.J. 'Base de Datos sobre las Unidades Militares en la Guerra de la Independencia', Ministerio de defensa, Madrid, 2007

For a refight of the battle (the British zone) with Lasalle, you can see the previous posts about Chiclana/Barrosa and the AAR and pictures in the
main web-site. The result was similar to the historical one, so Graham could be appointed Duke of Boar's Head Hill by the grateful Spanish Cortes!.

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