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The Battle of Almaraz was a battle of the Peninsular War which took place on 18/19 May 1812, in which the Anglo-Portuguese Army under Lord Hill destroyed a French pontoon bridge across the River Tagus, in Almaraz, Spain. The bridge was protected by two French garrisons at either end.
The Peninsular War (1807–1814) was a military conflict between Napoleon's empire and Bourbon Spain, for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when the French and Spanish armies invaded and occupied Portugal in 1807, and escalated in 1808 when France turned on Spain, previously its ally. The war on the peninsula lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814, and is regarded as one of the first wars of national liberation, significant for the emergence of large-scale guerrilla warfare.
The Anglo-Portuguese Army was the combined British and Portuguese army that participated in the Peninsular War, under the command of Arthur Wellesley. The Army is also referred to as the British-Portuguese Army and, in Portuguese, as the Exército Anglo-Luso or the Exército Anglo-Português.
General Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill, was a British Army officer who served in the Napoleonic Wars as a trusted brigade, division and corps commander under the command of the Duke of Wellington. He became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in 1828.
The action was swift-moving, deceptive, and daring. The decisive result produced a substantial improvement in the Allied position by keeping French forces separated ahead of the imminent Battle of Salamanca.
In Battle of Salamanca an Anglo-Portuguese army under the Duke of Wellington defeated Marshal Auguste Marmont's French forces among the hills around Arapiles, south of Salamanca, Spain on 22 July 1812 during the Peninsular War. A Spanish division was also present but took no part in the battle.
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By late April 1812, the Duke of Wellington had successfully captured the strategic border fortresses of Badajoz and Cuidad Rodrigo, commanding the two major routes between Spain and Portugal. He now prepared to advance into Spain with the largest army he had commanded to date, which was strong enough to take on any French army. There were two French armies in Spain, however: Marmont’s Army of Portugal, garrisoned near Salamanca, and Soult’s Army of the South. The Tagus River separated the two armies.
The only bridges over the Tagus were at Toledo, Talavera, Arzobispo, Almaraz, and Alcántara. The Alcántara Bridge was destroyed by the Portuguese, under Col. Mayne, on 14 May 1809. The bridges at Toledo, Talavera, and Arzobispo were under French control but, according to Napier, the left bank of the Tagus at Talavera and Arzobispo was "so crowded by the rugged shoots of the Sierra de Guadalupe, that it may be broadly stated as impassable for an army". Any artillery and heavy baggage moving between the two armies would have to cross at Toledo or Almaraz.
Alcántara is a municipality in the province of Cáceres, Extremadura, Spain, on the Tagus, near Portugal. The toponym is from the Arabic word al-QanTarah (القنطرة) meaning "the bridge".
The Alcántara Bridge is a Roman bridge at Alcántara, in Extremadura, Spain. Alcántara is from the Arabic word al-QanTarah (القنطرة) meaning "the bridge". The stone arch bridge was built over the Tagus River between 104 and 106 AD by an order of the Roman emperor Trajan in 98.
The latter bridge, built by the city of Plasenciaunder the reign of Emperor Charles V in the 16th Century and known by the local people as the Albalat Bridge, was partially destroyed by the Spanish on 14 March 1809, to prevent its use by the French. The Portuguese under Colonel Mayne destroyed the bridge at Alcantara on 14 May 1809, for the same reason. The French built a pontoon bridge in the autumn of 1809, just west of the Albalat bridge. It was about 200 metres long and built with heavy pontoons. The central span was a light boat, designed to be removed at night for security.
Plasencia is a walled market city in the province of Cáceres, Extremadura, Western Spain. As of 2013, it has a population of 41,047.
Charles V was Holy Roman Emperor (1519-1556), King of Spain and ruler of the Spanish Empire, Archduke of Austria, and ruler of the Habsburg Netherlands (1506-1555). The Spanish conquest of the Aztecs and Incas, and the German colonisation of Venezuela both occured during his reign. Charles V revitalized the medieval concept of the universal monarchy of Charlemagne and travelled from city to city, with no single fixed capital: overall he spent 28 years in the Habsburg Netherlands, 18 years in Spain and 9 years in Germany. After four decades of incessant warfare with the Kingdom of France, the Ottoman Empire, and the Protestants, Charles V abandoned his multi-national project with a series of abdications between 1554 and 1556 in favor of his son Philip II of Spain and brother Ferdinand I of Austria. The personal union of his European and American territories, spanning over nearly 4 million square kilometres, was the first collection of realms to be defined as "the empire on which the sun never sets".
A pontoon bridge, also known as a floating bridge, uses floats or shallow-draft boats to support a continuous deck for pedestrian and vehicle travel. The buoyancy of the supports limits the maximum load they can carry.
General Rowland Hill was detached with a small force to attack the pontoon bridge over the Tagus. His force, numbering around 6000 men with nine guns, was virtually the same as that which surprised Jean-Baptiste Girard at the Battle of Arroyo dos Molinos, in 1811. The task facing Hill was a considerable one as the bridge of boats was protected on both banks by strong earthworks. The southern end of the bridge was protected by a bridge-head that was overlooked by Fort Napoleon.
Jean-Baptiste Girard, was a French soldier, général and baron d'Empire, who fought in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.
The Battle of Arroyo dos Molinos took place on 28 October 1811 during the Peninsular War. An allied force under General Rowland Hill trapped and defeated a French force under General Jean-Baptiste Girard, forcing the latter's dismissal by the Emperor Napoleon. A whole French infantry division and a brigade of cavalry were destroyed as viable fighting formations.
Fort Napoleon was a strong fort, capable of holding 450 men and situated atop a hill above a steep embankment. It was not a difficult climb for any attacking troops, however, and entry into the fort was eased slightly by two large scarps, rather like steps, which led onto the fort's ramparts. The rear of the fort sloped down to the bridge-head and was protected by a palisaded ditch and loop-holed tower that would act as the last place of refuge should Hill's men gain entry into the fort. On the northern bank of the Tagus stood Fort Ragusa, in which was stored all the garrison's supplies and ammunition. This five-sided fort also had a 25-foot high, loop-holed tower that was to be the last place of defence. This fort was also covered by a field work close to the bridge.
The French had further strengthened the position at the bridge by securing the main road from Trujillo at a point about six miles south of the bridge. Here, where the road ascends the Sierra de Mirabete, the pass was commanded by a castle around which the French had built a 12-foot-high (3.7 m) rampart that housed eight guns. This was connected to a fortified house close to the road by two small works, Forts Colbert and Senarmont. The mountains were impassable to any wheeled vehicles, and the only other pass through the mountains, La Cueva, was two miles to the east of Mirabete. The road on the southern side of the mountains was passable to vehicles, but once through the pass the road deteriorated into little more than a footpath.
Hill's plan involved dividing his force into three columns. The first, comprising the 28th, 34th, and the 6th Caçadores, under Chowne, was to storm the castle of Mirabete. The second, or centre column, comprising the 6th and 18th Portuguese infantry along with all the artillery, was to proceed along the main road and attack the works defending the pass. The third column, Kenneth Howard's brigade comprising the 50th, 71st, 92nd and a single company of the 5/60th, and commanded by Hill himself, was to climb the road leading through the pass of La Cueva and approach Almaraz via the path. The three columns set off at nightfall on 16 May, but at dawn all three were far from their objectives due to the rough nature of the terrain.
It was clear to Hill that there was little chance of being able to surprise the garrison at the bridge. Therefore, he sought another way to get his guns through the mountains. The French garrison was still unaware of Hill's force, and Hill thought he might succeed if he attacked Fort Napoleon and the bridge using only his infantry.
On the evening of May 18, Howard's brigade proceeded through the pass of La Cueva, reinforced by the Portuguese Caçadores. By dawn on 19 May, Hill's men had reached a point just half a mile from Fort Napoleon, but they were seen that morning as they crossed the mountains. The garrison inside Fort Napoleon, commanded by Colonel Aubert, was alerted, and the two centre boats of the bridge were removed.
The attack on the bridge at Almaraz began at dawn on 19 May, when Chowne's guns opened up against the castle at Mirabete. The defenders of Fort Napoleon, warned of the presence of Hill's troops, were prepared for the assault but were still taken by surprise when the 50th and part of the 71st burst from their cover and charged up towards the fort in the face of fire from the defenders and from the guns in Fort Ragusa. British troops were struck down as they dashed forward, but some reached the top of the hill and flung their ladders against the scarp. The men pulled themselves onto the first of the two steps and drew their ladders up. They placed the ladders on the step, climbed to the top of the ramparts, and were soon engaged in hand-to-hand fighting with the defenders along the ramparts.
First up was Captain Candler of the 50th, who leapt over the parapet and was struck by several French musket balls. His men followed him, and the defenders soon began to retreat to the bridge-head. The commander of the fort, Colonel Aubert, refused to run and put up a gallant fight. He refused the offer of surrender, and a sergeant of the 50th ran him through with his pike. French troops tried to get to safety inside the tower but were forced to surrender. The guns of Fort Ragusa were unable to fire for fear of hitting their own men fleeing to the river.
The defenders of the bridge-head joined in the retreat across the pontoon bridge. The guns inside Fort Ragusa fired briefly against Fort Napoleon until answered by the captured guns. The action had lasted just 40 minutes. Four grenadiers of the 92nd swam to Fort Ragusa and brought back some boats to repair the pontoon bridge. Soon the rest of Hill's force arrived to find the French abandoning all their works on both sides of the river. Hill had these works blown up and the bridge burned.[ citation needed ]
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The castle at Mirabete remained in French hands after Sir William Erskine, 2nd Baronet spread a rumour that Soult's entire force was approaching. This caused Hill, who had intended to level the castle, to retire to Trujillo and lose the chance to achieve complete success. The raid on the bridge at Almaraz cost the British 33 killed and 148 wounded, of which 28 of those killed and 110 of those wounded belonged to the 50th Regiment. French losses were estimated at about 400, 259 of whom were prisoners.
In 1813, the Duke of Wellington sent Lieutenant Colonel Henry Sturgeon of the British Royal Staff Corps to repair the bridge. Sturgeon constructed a suspension bridge, similar to the one he built at Alcántara. The Spanish built the present bridge between 1841 and 1845.
The Battle of Uclés saw an Imperial French corps led by Marshal Claude Perrin Victor attack a Spanish force under Francisco Javier Venegas. The French easily crushed their outnumbered foes, capturing over half of the Spanish infantry. Uclés is located in the province of Cuenca 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) east of Tarancón and 100 kilometres (62 mi) southeast of Madrid. The action occurred during what is called the Peninsular War in English-speaking countries and the Spanish War of Independence in Spain. The war was part of a larger struggle known as the Napoleonic Wars.
The Lines of Torres Vedras were lines of forts built in secrecy to defend Lisbon during the Peninsular War. Named after the nearby town of Torres Vedras, they were ordered by Arthur Wellesley, Viscount Wellington, constructed by Sir Richard Fletcher, 1st Baronet, and his Portuguese workers between November 1809 and September 1810, and used to stop Masséna's 1810 offensive.
The Battle of Toulouse was one of the final battles of the Napoleonic Wars, four days after Napoleon's surrender of the French Empire to the nations of the Sixth Coalition. Having pushed the demoralised and disintegrating French Imperial armies out of Spain in a difficult campaign the previous autumn, the Allied British-Portuguese and Spanish army under the Marquess of Wellington pursued the war into southern France in the spring of 1814.
The Battle of Talavera was fought just outside the town of Talavera de la Reina, Spain some 120 kilometres (75 mi) southwest of Madrid, during the Peninsular War. At Talavera, an Anglo-Spanish army under Sir Arthur Wellesley combined with a Spanish army under General Cuesta in operations against French-occupied Madrid. The French army withdrew at night after several of its attacks had been repulsed.
The Battle of Ratisbon, also called the Battle of Regensburg, was fought on 23 April 1809, during the Napoleonic Wars, between the army of the First French Empire, led by Napoleon I, and that of the Austrian Empire, led by Archduke Charles. Scene of the last engagement of the Bavaria phase of the campaign of 1809, the brief defense of the city and installation of a pontoon bridge to the east enabled the retreating Austrian army to escape into Bohemia. During the assault, Marshal Jean Lannes led his troops up ladders onto the walls, and Napoleon was wounded in his ankle by a small artillery round. The shot had been fired at great distance and did not severely hurt the Emperor, but caused a contusion.
The Second Siege of Zaragoza was the French capture of the Spanish city of Zaragoza during the Peninsular War. It was particularly noted for its brutality.
The Battle of Ebelsberg, known in French accounts as the Battle of Ebersberg, was fought on 3 May 1809 during the War of the Fifth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars. The Austrian left wing under the command of Johann von Hiller took up positions at Ebersberg on the Traun river. The French under André Masséna attacked, crossing a heavily defended 550-meter-long bridge and subsequently conquering the local castle, thus forcing Hiller to withdraw. Ebelsberg is now a southern suburb of Linz, situated on the south bank of the Traun, a short distance above the place where that stream flows into the Danube River.
Almaraz is a town in Cáceres Province, Extremadura, Spain. As of 2005, its population is 1,295. It is on the European route E90. It is the home of the Almaraz Nuclear Power Plant. A solar power macroplant is being built in the town.
At the Siege of Burgos, from 19 September to 21 October 1812, the Anglo-Portuguese Army led by General Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington tried to capture the castle of Burgos from its French garrison under the command of General of Brigade Jean-Louis Dubreton. The French repulsed every attempt to seize the fortress, resulting in one of Wellington's rare withdrawals, as he went on to defeat the army sent to flank him at the Lines of Torres Vedras, pursued them and then returned to complete the siege of Burgos and capture the city. The siege took place during the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars. Burgos is located about 210 kilometres (130 mi) north of Madrid.
In the Battle of Maguilla a British cavalry brigade led by Major General John Slade attacked a similar-sized French cavalry brigade commanded by General of Brigade Charles Lallemand. The British dragoons scored an initial success, routing the French dragoons and capturing a number of them. The British troopers recklessly galloped after their foes, losing all order. At length, the French reserve squadron charged into the British, followed by the French main body which rallied. With the tables turned, the French dragoons chased the British until the horses of both sides were too exhausted for the battle to continue. The action took place during the Peninsular War, near Maguilla, Spain, a distance of 17 kilometres (11 mi) northeast of Llerena.
The Battle of Garris or Battle of Saint-Palais saw an Allied force under the direct command of General Arthur Wellesley, Marquess Wellington attack General of Division Jean Harispe's French division. The French defenders were driven back into the town of Saint-Palais in confusion. Because of this minor victory, the Allies were able to secure a crossing over the Bidouze River during this clash from the final stages of the Peninsular War.
The Battle of Tarvis from 16 to 17 May 1809, the Storming of the Malborghetto Blockhouse from 15 to 17 May 1809, and the Storming of the Predil Blockhouse from 15 to 18 May saw the Franco-Italian army of Eugène de Beauharnais attacking Austrian Empire forces under Albert Gyulai. Eugène crushed Gyulai's division in a pitched battle near Tarvisio, then an Austrian town known as Tarvis. At nearby Malborghetto Valbruna and Predil Pass, small garrisons of Grenz infantry heroically defended two forts before being overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The Franco-Italian capture of the key mountain passes allowed their forces to invade Austrian Kärnten during the War of the Fifth Coalition. Tarvisio is located in far northeast Italy, near the borders of both Austria and Slovenia.
The Invasion of Portugal saw an Imperial French corps under Jean-Andoche Junot and Spanish military troops invade the Kingdom of Portugal, which was headed by its Prince Regent João of Bragança. The military operation resulted in the almost bloodless occupation of Portugal. The French and Spanish presence was challenged by the Portuguese people and by the United Kingdom in 1808. The invasion marked the start of the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars.
The Battle of Alcantara saw an Imperial French division led by Marshal Claude Perrin Victor attack a Portuguese detachment under Colonel William Mayne. After a three hours skirmish, the French stormed across the Alcántara Bridge and forced the Portuguese to retreat. The clash happened during the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars. Alcántara, Spain is situated on the Tagus river near the Portuguese border, 285 kilometres (177 mi) west-southwest of Madrid.
The Siege of Ragusa was fought between Austrian Croat troops allied with the British Royal Navy under Captain William Hoste against a French garrison under Joseph de Montrichard between 19 and 27 January 1814 during the Adriatic campaign of the Napoleonic Wars. The siege was fought on the coast of the Adriatic Sea for possession of the strategically important fortified town of Ragusa.
The Dutch Brigade was a unit of the Royal Army of the Kingdom of Holland. It was sent out in September 1808, by King Louis Bonaparte at the request of his brother Emperor Napoleon of France, to take part in the Peninsular War on the French side. The brigade, under the command of Major-General David Hendrik Chassé, was made part of the so-called "German Division". The Division also consisted of units from the Nassau, the Baden and other German allies of the French empire under command of the French general Leval. It was, in turn, part of the IVth French Corps under command of Marshals Lefebvre and Sébastiani, and was later part of the Ist Corps of Marshal Victor. The brigade distinguished itself initially in several major battles, and was later employed mainly in counter-guerrilla warfare. After the annexation of the Kingdom of Holland by the French empire in 1810, the brigade was formally decommissioned and its personnel, now French subjects, absorbed into the French 123rd Line Infantry Regiment, and later into the 130th Line Infantry Regiment, the other battalions of the 123rd back home being reassigned to the Russian campaign of 1812.
The Battle of Arzobispo on 8 August 1809 saw two Imperial French corps commanded by Marshal Jean-de-Dieu Soult launch an assault crossing of the Tagus River against a Spanish force under José María de la Cueva, 14th Duke of Alburquerque. Alburquerque's troops rapidly retreated after suffering disproportionate losses, including 30 artillery pieces. El Puente del Arzobispo is located 36 kilometres (22 mi) southwest of Talavera de la Reina, Spain. The action occurred during the Peninsular War, part of a larger conflict known as the Napoleonic Wars.
The battle of Miajadas took place on 21 March 1809 in Miajadas, Spain, and saw the Spanish cavalry led by General Don Juan de Henestrosa ambushed the 10th French Horse Chasseurs Regiment commanded by Colonel Jacques Gervais Subervie. The French troopers suffered heavy losses when the two Spanish cavalry regiments charged them by the flank.
The Fort of São Vicente is located in the town and municipality of Torres Vedras, in the Lisbon District of Portugal. In 1809 it was the first of 152 forts, redoubts and other defences to be developed as part of three defensive lines between the Atlantic Ocean and the River Tagus that were designed by the Duke of Wellington to protect the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, from possible invasion by French troops during the Peninsular War. These came to be known as the Lines of Torres Vedras. Together with the Fort of Alqueidão, it is considered the most important fortress of those constructed for the Lines.