Battle of Arroyo dos Molinos

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Battle of Arroyo dos Molinos
Part of Peninsular War
Date28 October 1811
Location Arroyo dos Molinos, Extremadura, Spain
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Britain
Flag Portugal (1750).svg Portugal
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Spain
Flag of France.svg France
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Rowland Hill Flag of France.svg Jean-Baptiste Girard
Strength
9,000 British, Portuguese and Spanish 6,000
Casualties and losses
80 dead or wounded 1,000 dead or wounded
1,400 and 3 guns captured

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.

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.

Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill British Army general

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.

Jean-Baptiste Girard (soldier) French general

Jean-Baptiste Girard, was a French soldier, général and baron d'Empire, who fought in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.

Contents

Background

In the middle of October, 1811 a French division under the command of Jean-Baptiste Girard crossed the River Guadiana at Mérida and campaigned in Northern Extremadura. [1] Major-General Rowland Hill consulted with General Wellington and received permission to pursue Girard with his Second Division. Upon learning that the French had halted at the village of Arroyo dos Molinos, near Alcuéscar, Hill force-marched his troops for three days in poor weather so as to catch the French before they moved on.

French Army Land warfare branch of Frances military

The French Army, officially the Ground Army to distinguish it from the French Air Force, Armée de l'Air or Air Army, is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces. It is responsible to the Government of France, along with the other four components of the Armed Forces. The current Chief of Staff of the French Army (CEMAT) is General Jean-Pierre Bosser, a direct subordinate of the Chief of the Defence Staff (CEMA). General Bosser is also responsible, in part, to the Ministry of the Armed Forces for organization, preparation, use of forces, as well as planning and programming, equipment and Army future acquisitions. For active service, Army units are placed under the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff (CEMA), who is responsible to the President of France for planning for, and use, of forces.

Mérida, Spain Municipality in Extremadura, Spain

Mérida is the capital of the autonomous community of Extremadura, western central Spain. The population is 60,119 in 2017. The Augusta Emerita has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993.

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.

By the evening of the 27 October, Hill's forces had reached a point four miles from the French at Arroyo dos Molinos, and had the area around the enemy surrounded. The 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot was ordered to occupy the village of Alcuéscar, three miles from Arroyo. During the night there was a violent hail-storm, and on the following morning the weather was still so foul that the French pickets on duty had their backs turned so as to gain some reprieve from the wind and rain - it was from this direction that Hill's forces attacked at dawn on the 28th. [2]

71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot

The 71st Regiment of Foot was a Highland regiment in the British Army, raised in 1777. Under the Childers Reforms it amalgamated with the 74th (Highland) Regiment of Foot to become the 1st Battalion, Highland Light Infantry in 1881.

Alcuéscar Place in Extremadura, Spain

Alcuéscar is a municipality located in the province of Cáceres, Extremadura, Spain. The town is on the Silver Route branch of the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage trail to the burial place of St. James the Apostle.

Rowland Hill General Sir Rowland Hill (1815).jpg
Rowland Hill

The French 34th and 40th Regiments suffered extremely heavy losses during the battle, although to Marshal Soult's relief the eagle standards of the two regiments were not lost to the British. He wrote to Napoleon: L'honneur des armes est sauvé; les Aigles ne sont pas tombés au pouvoir de l'ennemi. [The honour of the army is saved; the Eagles did not fall into the hands of the enemy.] [3]

Long's cavalry charged, the 2nd Hussars King's German Legion particularly distinguishing themselves, and broke the French cavalry. Over 200 of them were captured plus three pieces of artillery. [4]

Robert Ballard Long officer of the British and Hanoverian Armies

Lieutenant-General Robert Ballard Long was an officer of the British and Hanoverian Armies who despite extensive service during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars never managed to achieve high command due to his abrasive manner with his superiors and his alleged tactical ineptitude. Although he remained a cavalry commander in the Peninsular War between 1811 and 1813, the British commander Wellington became disillusioned with Long's abilities. Wellington's opinion was never expressed directly, though when the Prince Regent manoeuvred his favourite, Colquhoun Grant into replacing Long as a cavalry brigade commander, Wellington conspicuously made no effort to retain Long. Other senior officers, including Sir William Beresford and the Duke of Cumberland, expressed their dissatisfaction with Long's abilities. The celebrated historian, and Peninsula veteran, Sir William Napier was a severe critic of Beresford's record as army commander during the Albuera Campaign; in criticising Beresford he involved Long's opinions as part of his argument. The publication of Napier's history led to a long running and acrimonious argument in print between Beresford and his partisans on one side, with Napier and Long's nephew Charles Edward Long on the other. Recently Long's performance as a cavalry general has received more favourable comment in Ian Fletcher's revisionist account of the British cavalry in the Napoleonic period.

Kings German Legion military unit

The King's German Legion (KGL) was a British Army unit of mostly expatriate German personnel during the period 1803–16. The Legion achieved the distinction of being the only German force to fight without interruption against the French during the Napoleonic Wars.

On 5 November a jubilant Hill (who would be made a Knight of the Bath for Arroyo dos Molinos) wrote to his sister;

Order of the Bath series of awards of an order of chivalry of the United Kingdom

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate medieval ceremony for appointing a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as "Knights of the Bath". George I "erected the Knights of the Bath into a regular Military Order". He did not revive the Order of the Bath, since it had never previously existed as an Order, in the sense of a body of knights who were governed by a set of statutes and whose numbers were replenished when vacancies occurred.

The French eagles may "not have fallen into the hands of the enemy", however, the 34th [Cumberland] Regiment captured six side-drums of the 34e Régiment d'Infanterie together with the Drum-Major’s staff, which seized by Sergeant Moses Simpson of the 34th’s Grenadier Company. Included in the haul was the French grenadier company drum, the shell of which was emblazoned with three 'flaming grenade' emblems. The drums and drum majors staff are on display in The Border Regiment museum, Carlisle Castle.

Order of battle

British

In no order;

French

Artillery: one 8 pdr, one 4pdr, one Lgt Howitzer.

Citations

  1. Robinson. Wellington's Campaign. p. 201.
  2. 1 2 3 Robinson. Wellington's Campaign. p. 202.
  3. Fraser. The War Drama of the Eagles. p. 262.
  4. Beamish, pp. 22-24
  5. Stanley. The Life of Lord Hill. p. 172.
  6. Cannon. Historical Record of the Ninth. p. 134.
  7. Smith, p 368

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References