Monday, 9 January 2012

200 years from the Fall of Valencia

The operations of Suchet against Valencia, designed as a first order strategic objective by Napoleon himself, started immediately after the take of Sagunto.
Marshall Suchet commanded 20,595 men in five infantry divisions under Generals of Division Meunier, Harispe, Habert, Palombini and Compère, plus cavalry and artillerists. Some authors also count the divisions of Reille and Severoli until a total of 33,000 men.
Blake disposed of 28,044 soldiers organized in three groups, the Expeditionary Corps with the divisions of Lardizabal and Zayas (6,000 men), the 2nd Valencian Army , divisions Miranda, Obispo, Villacampa y Velasco (16,500 men), and the 3rd Murcian Army, brigades Creagh and Montijo (5,500 men).
Blake deployed his army facing generally north with his right wing on the coast, his right-center in Valencia, his left-center at Mislata, and his left at Manises. The divisions of Obispo and Villacampa, which had performed poorly at the Battle of Sagunto, held the left flank. To their right stood Creagh's brigade. Next in line were the good-quality divisions of Lardizabal and Zayas. Miranda's division occupied Valencia while some irregulars held the gap between the city and the coast. Blake posted his cavalry at Aldaia and Torrent, behind his left flank. Though the line as far as Manises was fortified and protected by canals and ditches, the left flank hung in the air.
Suchet discerned that Blake's left flank was the weak point and determined to envelop it. He planned to take the divisions of Harispe, Meunier, Reille, and Boussart in a wide sweep around the open Spanish flank. Suchet directed Habert to break through along the coast, while Palombini attacked Mislata and Compère observed the Spanish lines. If all went well, Suchet might bag Blake's entire army. On the night of 25 December, Suchet led his main column across the Rio Túria at Riba-roja de Túria.
At first, Habert's attack on his right flank fooled Blake into thinking it was Suchet's main effort. Then Palombini's attack at Mislata diverted his attention. Despite persistent assaults, the Italians failed to break through the Spanish and suffered heavy losses. Meanwhile, Suchet's main column reached Blake's left rear virtually unopposed. As the French approached the village of Aldaia, the Spanish cavalry reserve was sighted. After a first setback the French cavalry routed the Spanish troopers, driving them beyond the Rio Júcar and depriving Blake of much-needed cavalry support.

Immediately after, the Spanish left, in danger of being encircled retreated and the divisions of Obispo and Villacampa, as well as Creagh's brigade made their escape to the south. Blake ordered the veteran divisions of Lardizabal and Zayas to retire around Valencia.
Suchet rapidly ringed the city with his army. With a population of 100,000, a lack of food, and obsolete defenses, Valencia was in no condition to sustain a siege. On the night of 28 December, Blake tried to break out of the city. The attempt failed except for a spearhead of 500 troops which got away. Suchet wasted little time, digging the first siege parallels on 1 January and taking the outer defenses under fire three days later. As the bombardment intensified, Blake capitulated and handed over Valencia on 9 January.
For the loss of about 2,000 killed and wounded, Suchet succeeded in capturing 18,000 Spanish soldiers, 23 generals, 22 colors, and 374 guns. In addition, 4,011 Spanish troops died in battle or from disease. All of Blake's cavalry, plus the units of Obispo, Villacampa, and Creagh avoided capture, but his best troops, Zayas’s and Lardizabal’s divisions, became prisoners. The fall of Valencia was one of the worst Spanish defeats in the Peninsular War.

Tomado de/Taken from Wikipedia

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