Battle of Almonacid

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Battle of Almonacid
Part of the Peninsular War
Almonacid de Toledo.png
Date11 August 1809
Result French victory
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  France Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg  Spain
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Horace Sébastiani Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Francisco Javier Venegas
26,000 infantry
4,000 cavalry
40 guns
23,000 infantry
3,000 cavalry
29 guns
Casualties and losses
2,400 [1] 3,500 killed & wounded
2,000 captured
20 guns lost
5,500 [2]

The Battle of Almonacid was fought on 11 August 1809 during the Peninsular War between Sébastiani's IV Corps of the French Peninsular Army, which had withdrawn from the Battle of Talavera to defend Madrid, and the Spanish Army of La Mancha under General Venegas. After the decisive charges of Polish uhlans, the battle resulted in a French victory.

Peninsular War War by Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom against the French Empire (1807–1814)

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.

Horace François Bastien Sébastiani de La Porta soldier, diplomat

Horace François Bastien Sébastiani de La Porta was a French soldier, diplomat, and politician, who served as Naval Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of State under the July Monarchy.

Battle of Talavera battle

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.



After the battle of Aranjuez, General Venegas was encouraged by the small advantage he had gained. Assuming that the French did not have more than 14,000 men, he led the La Mancha army towards Toledo, combining all the forces on 10 August at Almonacid. The army consisted of 22,000 infantry, more than 3,000 horses and 29 pieces of artillery, and was organized in five divisions commanded respectively by Luis Lacy, Gaspar de Vigodet, Pedro Agustín Girón, Francisco González de Castejón and Tomás de Zeraín. Miguel de los Ríos and the Marquess of Gelo served as Majors General of the cavalry and the infantry, while Brigadiers Antonio de la Cruz and Juan Bouligni were Commanders-in-chief of Artillery and Engineers. They were so confident of victory that they disregarded all the established rules for camping out during times of military conflict, especially being so close to the enemy, who, the previous day, had crossed the Tagus River at Toledo and the Añover de Tajo fords, settling that same day, 10 August, in the nearby town of Nambroca, a league away from Almonacid.

Mutiny of Aranjuez

The Mutiny of Aranjuez was an uprising led against King Charles IV that took place in the town of Aranjuez, Spain on 17–19 March 1808. The event, which is celebrated annually in the first week of September, commemorates the fall of the monarch and the subsequent accession of his son Ferdinand VII.

Toledo, Spain City in Castile–La Mancha, Spain

Toledo is a city and municipality located in central Spain; it is the capital of the province of Toledo and the autonomous community of Castile–La Mancha. Toledo was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive monumental and cultural heritage.

Almonacid de Toledo municipality in Castile-La Mancha, Spain

Almonacid de Toledo is a municipality located in the province of Toledo, Castile-La Mancha, Spain. It is located off the Autovía de los Viñedos.


Sebastiani Sebastiani, Horace - 4.jpg

The Spanish commander, after hearing the opinion of the other generals, who agreed with him despite being aware of the retreat of the allied army from Talavera de la Reina towards Extremadura, had decided to attack the French on 12 August in order to rest his troops. The French army anticipated this and appeared in front of the Spanish positions at half past five in the morning of 11 August, with 14,000 [3] troops of the IV Corps commanded by Sebastiani, who attacked the Spanish immediately without waiting for the reserve under the command of Dessolles and King Joseph Bonaparte in person to come up.

Talavera de la Reina Municipality in Castile-La Mancha, Spain

Talavera de la Reina is a city and municipality in the western part of the province of Toledo, which in turn is part of the autonomous community of Castile–La Mancha, Spain. It is the second-largest population center in Castile-La Mancha. Its population of 83,303 makes it the fourth largest town in the region of Castilla-La Mancha, after Albacete, Guadalajara and Toledo.

Extremadura Autonomous community of Spain

Extremadura is an autonomous community of the western Iberian Peninsula whose capital city is Mérida, recognised by the Statute of Autonomy of Extremadura. It is made up of the two largest provinces of Spain: Cáceres and Badajoz. It is bordered by the provinces of Salamanca and Ávila to the north; by provinces of Toledo and Ciudad Real to the east, and by the provinces of Huelva, Seville, and Córdoba (Andalusia) to the south; and by Portugal to the west. Its official language is Spanish.

Joseph Bonaparte elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte

Joseph-Napoléon Bonaparte, born Giuseppe di Buonaparte was a French diplomat and nobleman, the older brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, who made him King of Naples and Sicily, and later King of Spain. After the fall of Napoleon, Joseph styled himself Comte de Survilliers.

The La Mancha army hastily positioned itself in front of Almonacid and on both sides in the following formation: Vigodet's division, a little behind, on the far right, with much of the cavalry; continuing to the left, Castejón's division was established on the Utrera hill, Zerain's division beside it covering the Santo hill, and Lacy's division closer at the Guazalate stream; the 3rd division, Girón's, acting as reserve, was spread between the heights of Cerrojones, on the extreme left and the key to the entire line of battle, and the Cerro de la Cruz or Castillo hill, named for the castle ruins on its summit.


First attacks

After intense artillery fire, returned in kind by the Spaniards, Jean François Leval with Polish and German-Dutch divisions attacked the Spanish left wing. The Bailén and Jaén battalions of the 3rd Division twice repelled the Poles, but received no reinforcement from the reserve. With the Polish division encouraged by the Germans coming up to their left, the French army was able to storm the vital position of the Cerrojones, even though at great cost (the three Polish regiments making up the division lost 47 officers). The French right was supported by a large body of troops advancing over the level ground at the foot of that hill, carrying out an envelopment on the extreme left, not stopped by a cavalry charge by the horsemen of Fernando VII and Granada, led by Colonel Antonio Zea and Commander Nicolás Chacón (Captain Francisco Soto died in this charge). The 1st division, in order to confront the Germans, had to withdraw somewhat and to reposition itself diagonally to the rearguard. However, as the centre and right were now retreating as well, under attack by the remaining enemy forces supported by the reserve which had just arrived under Dessolles and Joseph Bonaparte, this division was itself forced to take refuge on the Castillo hill.

Jean François Leval was promoted to general officer during the French Revolutionary Wars and led a division in a number of battles during the Napoleonic Wars. He rapidly rose in rank during the French Revolution. Appointed to command a demi-brigade beginning early in 1793, by the end of the year he was a general of brigade. He led a brigade at Fleurus in 1794 and in the campaign of 1795. In 1799 he became a general of division. He commanded a division in Napoleon Bonaparte's Grand Army at the battles of Jena and Eylau. Later he transferred to Spain where he fought in numerous actions including Talavera, Ocaña, Barossa, Vitoria, and the Nive. The only action in which he commanded an army was the Siege of Tarifa, which was a failure. In 1814, he led his division in eastern France. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 7.

Dutch Brigade (Peninsular War)

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.

Bailén Municipality in Andalusia, Spain

Bailén is a town in the province of Jaén, Spain.

Start of the battle

The 4th division was heavily attacked by numerous enemy artillery and could only respond with one horsedrawn battery. Their chief Lieutenant-Colonel, captain of the Artillery, Jose Chacón, soon fell mortally wounded and died from these injuries on 13 August in Tembleque. Lieutenant-Colonel Alvaro Chacón from this same Corps also died on the battlefield. The regiments of Jerez de la Frontera, Córdoba and the Spanish Guards distinguished themselves through their calmness and courage, the second under the command of its colonel Brigadier Francisco Carvajal. The cavalry on the right did not pursue the charge launched to contain the French, and thus the French were able to press their attack with continued vigour. The 5th division also yielded the field in a similar manner and it was not long before the enemy also occupied the town and the Castillo hill. There, the Spanish troops were unable to resist the terrible rain of projectiles that the French artillery aimed at them from all sides.


Tembleque is a coconut dessert pudding from Puerto Rico.

Jerez de la Frontera Municipality in Andalusia, Spain

Jerez de la Frontera, or simply Jerez, is a Spanish city and municipality in the province of Cádiz in the autonomous community of Andalusia, in southwestern Spain, located midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cádiz Mountains. As of 2015, the city, the largest in the province, had a population of 212,876. It is the fifth largest in Andalusia, and has become the transportation and communications hub of the province, surpassing even Cádiz, the provincial capital, in economic activity. Jerez de la Frontera is also, in terms of land area, the largest municipality in the province, and its sprawling outlying areas are a fertile zone for agriculture. There are also many cattle ranches and horse-breeding operations, as well as a world-renowned wine industry (Xerez).

Córdoba, Spain Municipality in Andalusia, Spain

Córdoba, also spelled Cordova in English, is a city in Andalusia, southern Spain, and the capital of the province of Córdoba. It was a Roman settlement, taken over by the Visigoths, followed by the Umayyad Caliphate in the eighth century. It became the capital of a Muslim emirate, and then the Caliphate of Córdoba, which encompassed most of the Iberian Peninsula. During this period, it became a centre of education and learning, and by the 10th century had grown to be the largest city in Europe. It was recaptured by Christian forces in 1236, during the Reconquista.

Vigodet's division intervened in time to prevent an immediate and disastrous defeat, speedily and skilfully carrying out a change of front, protected by lively fire from the Spanish guns. This manoeuvre contained the pursuit of the disorganised forces of the centre and also restored order on the left, where the Polish and German divisions threatened to surround the line completely and to cut off its retreat. There the 2nd division mounted renewed resistance to the advance of the victors, who then tried everywhere to break through this unexpected obstacle that was preventing them making the most of their victory. A large mass of Milhaud's much-feared dragoons charged towards the left, and in that last period of the battle the troops of Vigodet covered themselves in glory. All fought with courage and self-sacrifice: the artillery, firing during withdrawal, covering with shrapnel the heads of the imperial columns; the cavalry, formed by riders of different Corps that went about reuniting the dispersed troops, its steadfastness impressing the very top ranks of the enemy; and the infantry remaining imperturbable amidst the intense fire and the prevailing confusion and disorder. A squad of grenadiers of the Provincial of Ronda sent by Lieutenant Antonio Espinosa, approaching the enemy horsemen with fixed bayonets, was able to stop them and even to pull away a cannon, which was spiked by their leader. The second lieutenant of artillery, Juan Montenegro, also managed to save a gun of his battery, sacrificing himself for his comrades-in-arms. Only the unfortunate accident of an explosion among the ammunition carts, frightening the horses, produced some disorder of which the enemy took advantage, harassing and hounding more closely on the final ascents, to stab a few soldiers and to take some of the guns.

Gaspar de Vigodet Spanish military officer and colonial governor

Gaspar de Vigodet (1747–1834) was a Spanish military officer with French roots who served as last Royalist Governor of Montevideo.

Édouard Jean Baptiste Milhaud French politician and general

Édouard Jean-Baptiste, comte Milhaud was a French politician and Général de Division. He is considered one of the best generals of cavalry of Napoleon's army.

End of the battle

The French had already taken 2,500 losses and did not continue active pursuit beyond Mora. The defeated Spanish army was able to take the Andalusia highway and arrive in good order at Manzanares. However, on arriving there, false rumours that enemy forces were in Valdepeñas (Ciudad Real) caused many of the Spanish to disperse, not stopping until they got to the Sierra Morena. Spanish losses did not exceed 4,000 men, including those who were killed, wounded and imprisoned. However, among the dead was the commander of the infantry regiment of the first division, Colonel Vicente Martínez, and among the wounded was the colonel of the Granada dragoons, Diego Ballesteros, who remained a prisoner.


To commemorate this military feat, a royal decree of 30 May 1816 created a military medal with the following inscription in the centre: "From Fernando VII", and around the edge: "In Almonacid, 11th August 1809").

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  1. Gates, p. 190.
  2. Gates, p. 190,
  3. Gates, p.190.


See also