Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Battle of Albuera
The Battle of Albuera took place in Spain on May 16, 1811, between the French Army, under the command of Field Marshal Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult, and an Allied force of British, Spanish, and Portuguese troops. The combined forces were under the command of Lord William Beresford, Marshal of the Portuguese Army. The commander of the Spanish forces was General Joaquin Blake .
In the summer of 1810, French Field Marshal Andre Massena captured the main fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo y Almeida . On September 27, 1810, after heavy fighting at Buçaco, the Duke of Wellington, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied forces, withdrew to Lisbon where he established a line of fortification at Torres Vedras. Massena's forces were too weak to press an assault so he withdrew to Santander. He requested help from Marshal Soult, who commanded the French South Spanish Army with about 70,000 troops in Andalusia, Granada and Murcia.
In early January 1811, Massena marched to Estremadura, where he besieged Badajoz. Wellington sent a detachment of 10,000 troops to the southern bank of the Tag River, under the command of General Rowland Hill. He sent orders to the Spanish General Mendizabel to disrupt the French siege of Badajoz. A while later, Spanish and British troops began landing (by ship) near Cadiz. However, they lost the Battle of Barrosa on March 8, 1811, and the Allies lost the city of Badajoz. Massena's forces, however, were routed. The French V Corps , under the command of General Latour Mauborg , remained in Estremadura.
Wellington decided to recapture Badajoz. He sent General Hill's corps, together with more than 20,000 troops under command of William Beresford, to support the Spanish forces of Generals Blake and Castanos. Beresford was sure that he could easily capture Badajoz so he did not take his siege guns. Unfortunately, the French commander General Philippon had strongly fortified Badajoz. Beresford sent for siege artillery from Elvas, but the only available guns were so weak that they were a greater danger to the Allies than the French.
Meanwhile, Marshal Soult collected forces and went to support Badajoz. On May 11, a skirmish occurred between the French and Anglo-Spanish cavalry. On May 13, Beresford conferred with Spanish generals Blake, Ballasteros and d'Espana in Valverede . The Allies decided to fight a defensive battle at Albuera, which was 200km south east of Badajoz. They also dispatched 2,500 cavalry under the command of General Long to monitor the French movements.
The Allied forces consisted of 35,000 soldiers and 38 cannon, while the French force comprised 24,000 soldiers and 40 cannon. Soult's command included the Polish Onvistula Uhlan (Lancer) Regiment (minus one squadron) with 591 soldiers, and a regiment of Grenadiers formed from two Grenadier companies drawn from each of 4 infantry regiments from the Duchy of Warsaw. The composite Grenadier regiment was under the command of Colonel Varrere.
On May 15, General Briche's Hussar brigade of 800 men destroyed General Long's Allied cavalry force at Santa Martha and captured the right bank of the Albuera River . In response, Beresford's forces took their position in the hills on the left bank of that river.
Soult decided to attack. His plan was to feint an attack on the town of Albuera with one brigade, allowing the rest of his forces to outflank the Allied right wing.
Four platoons of Polish Uhlans crossed the Albuera. General Long responded by deploying two squadrons of the 3rd Dragoon Guards. The first squadron of this regiment was destroyed by two Polish platoons. When the second squadron attacked, the Poles retreated to the river. However, when the dragoons' fire became too intense, the Polish forces retreated across the river. As the Uhlans began to withdraw after crossing the river, they had to fight the British dragoons. Polish losses were 14 killed and 3 wounded. British losses were 20 killed and wounded.
Attack on Albuera
A brigade of infantry commanded by General Godin pushed back soldiers from a brigade of the King's German Legion (KGL) under the command of General Altena. They crossed the river at a bridge but took heavy losses from Portuguese artillery fire, which displaced some of the Germans from the village. Meanwhile, on the French right wing, V Corps under the command of General Girard begun its attack on three Spanish divisions under the command of Generals Zayas, Lardizabal, and Ballasteros. V Corps' flanks were covered by horse artillery . On the left flank of V Corps, a French dragoon division under the command of General Latour Mauborg took its position. On its right flank, General Werle's infantry division was deployed.
Beresford sent a Portuguese division to the village of Albuera. He concentrated all of his cavalry units against Mauborg's dragoon division. General Steward's 2nd Infantry Division, along with a battery from the KGL, moved to assist the Spanish. The 4th Division under General Cole remained in reserve. Soon, Spanish General Colborn's brigade began decimating the V Corps' left flank.
At this moment, General Latour Maubourg sent the Uhlan Regiment and the 10th Hussars Regiment against them. The Uhlans successfully destroyed the 3rd Infantry Regiment and some battalions from the 48th and 66th Infantry Regiments. They captured 5 regimental flags and also 5 cannons from the KGL battery. Meanwhile, some troops attacked a battalion of the 31st Infantry Regiment, but were repulsed. Next, the Uhlans attacked a Spanish Brigade commanded by General d'Espana and Beresford's staff. Some of the Spanish troops, mainly those from Ballesteros's and Lardizabal's divisions, successfully escaped. This portion of the battle was ended by the unsuccessful attack of the British 4th Dragoon Regiment, which lost 27 soldiers.
Meanwhile, French soldiers from V Corps tried to change face but were fired upon by a hidden British regiment nearby. Beresford decided to commit General d'Espana's brigade but he and his soldiers refused to attack. When he got information that the French had captured the village of Albuera he decided to retreat. Then, General Cole's division began its attack.
Marshal Soult sent a few divisions of dragoons and the Polish Uhlans. The lancers were ordered to attack 4 battalions of Portuguese infantry. The frontal ranks, kneeling, presented rows of deadly steel, while in the rear of these, the steady muskets of standing ranks were levelled at the devoted horsemen, and the deafening peal of musketry greeted the Poles.
Finally, Latour Maubourg's cavalry began the great movement which should have taken place earlier. Now it was too late and the momentum was lost. The mass of dragoons charged the British and KGL Division (I,II/7th "Royal Fusiliers", I/23rd "Royal Welch Fusiliers" and the I and II battalion of light inf. of the King's German Legion) commanded by Major General Galbraith Lowry Cole . The attackers were repulsed by musket volleys. Then Latour Maubourg ordered the tired Poles to charge one more time, this time against Cole's Division. The riders smashed the flank companies of the Fusiliers and sent the others into disorder. Then they attacked again the 4 battalions of stubborn Portuguese infantry and again were repulsed.
After that the cavalry withdrew. British and Portuguese infantry began their attack on the right wing of V Corps. Soldiers from this corps began retreating from the right bank of the Albuera River. The Anglo-Portuguese attack was slowed by Gen. Werle's division, until Werle was killed; afterwards, his forces began retreating also.
French artillery under the command of General Ruty began an artillery duel with the British, while the Polish grenadiers protected the artillery. Meanwhile, most of Soult's army began to withdraw. The 15-hour battle was finally finished.
- Allied forces (British, Spanish, Portuguese): 5,916 Soldiers.
- French forces: 7,000 soldiers. (British claim 8000).
- Polish forces (serving with the French): The Uhlans lost 130 soldiers killed, wounded, or captured by the Allied forces. Kajetan (Captain) Wojciechowski, who took part in the battle, reported that the Uhlans lost 16 officers and 200 soldiers. The Polish grenadiers, which had covered the French withdrawal, also took heavy casualties.
- Article from polish historical newspaper "Mówią Wieki" nr 8/2000. The author is: Andrzej Krzysztof Szymański. The Polish title is: "Albuera zapomniana karta z dziejów kawalerii polskiej". The English translation is: "Albuera: A forgotten charge in the history of the Polish cavalry"
- Information about this battle can be found at here
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details