Friday, 6 April 2012

The Siege of Badajoz (16 March – 6 April 1812)

Today is the bicentenary of the end of the siege of Badajoz (16 March – 6 April 1812) when the Anglo-Portuguese Army, under the Earl of Wellington, forced the surrender of the French garrison.
Badajoz was one of the key fortresses in the Portuguese-Spanish border possessed much stronger fortifications than either Almeida or Ciudad Rodrigo. Located in the highway Madrid-Lisbon, Badajoz was fundamental for the British army and had already faced two unsuccessful sieges during the Peninsular War. In 1812 the French garrison amounted to some 5,000 soldiers under General Philippon. The town and was well prepared for a third attempt, having its walls strengthened and covered by numerous strongpoints and bastions and with some areas around the curtain wall flooded or mined with explosives.

The Allied army, some 27,000 strong after encircling the town, began to lay siege by preparing trenches, parallels and earthworks to protect the heavy siege artillery, work made difficult by prolonged and torrential rainfalls and by the French. The Allies began an intense bombardment of the town's defenses and took the Picuriña and the San Roque forts. By April 5 two breaches had been made in the curtain wall and the soldiers readied themselves to storm Badajoz at 22:00 on April 6.
Main attack
The first men to assault the breach were the Forlorn Hope, leading the main attack by the 4th Division and Craufurd's Light Division while diversionary attacks were to be made to the north and the east by Portuguese and British soldiers of the 5th Division and Picton's 3rd Division. The French raised a furious resistance killing and wounding some 2,000 men at the main breach, with countless men of the 3rd Division shot down at the diversionary assault. The carnage was so immense that Wellington was just about to call a halt to the assault when the diversionary attack of the Picton's 3rd Division finally managed to reach the top of the wall and simultaneously link up with men of the 5th Division. Once they had a foothold, the British and Portuguese soldiers were at an advantage and General Philippon withdrew from Badajoz to the neighboring outwork of San Cristobal but he surrendered shortly after the town had fallen.
Diversionary attack
With success came mass looting and disorder as the redcoats turned to drink and it was some 72 hours before order was completely restored. The assault and the earlier skirmishes had left the allies with some 4,800 casualties, whereas the French soldiers and the Spanish civilians suffered around 4,000 dead.
With the fall of Badajoz, Wellington had secured the Portuguese–Spanish frontier anf he could now move against Marshal Marmont at Salamanca.

Taken and extracted from Wikipedia

The pictures and the map are taken from a masterly post in the blog of Miguel Angel Garcia.

The map itself is from the Cartografía de la Guerra de la Independencia, edited in 2008 by the Spanish Ministerio de Defensa. The site allows the 'Search' ('Búsqueda') of any map of the printed work. Try with 'Badajoz' in the 'Title' ('Título') box.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that account Rafa and especially for the photos of the fort with the indication of the direction of the attacks. Badajoz is one of those amazing examples of luck having a huge impact in war!