Battle of Bayonne

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Battle and Siege of Bayonne
Part of the Peninsular War
The Sortie from Bayonne, at 3 in the Morning, on the 14th April 1814 - Fonds Ancely - B315556101 A HEATH 012.jpg
"The Sortie from Bayonne, at 3 in the Morning, on the 14th April 1814" by Thomas Sutherland
Date14 April 1814
Location
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  France Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Flag of Portugal (1750).svg Portugal
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Spain
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Pierre Thouvenot
Flag of France.svg Louis Jean Nicolas Abbé
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Earl of Hopetoun   White flag icon.svg
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Andrew Hay  
Strength
14,000 19,550
Casualties and losses
910 killed, wounded or captured [1] 838 killed, wounded or captured [2]

The Battle of Bayonne of 14 April 1814 was a sortie by General Thouvenot's French garrison of Bayonne during the siege of that city conducted by Allied forces under Lieutenant General John Hope. The battle was the last of the Peninsular War and occurred as news of Napoleon's abdication was beginning to reach the opposing forces.

In siege warfare, a sortie, or sudden issuing of troops against the enemy from a defensive position, can be launched against the besiegers by the defenders. If the sortie is through a sally port, the terms either to sortie or to sally can be used.

Pierre Thouvenot French general

Pierre Thouvenot was a French Army officer who served with distinction in the American Revolutionary War. He fled from France during the revolution but returned under an amnesty and went on to serve in Napoleonic Wars. Thouvenot is most famous for his defence of Bayonne in 1814 and the sortie he made when the war was all but over, which drew criticism from both sides, particularly from the Duke of Wellington, who branded him a "blackguard".

Bayonne Subprefecture and commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Bayonne is a city and commune and one of the two sub-prefectures of the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of south-western France. It is located at the confluence of the Nive and Adour rivers in the northern part of the cultural region of the Basque Country, as well as the southern part of Gascony where the Aquitaine basin joins the beginning of the Pre-Pyrenees.

Contents

While the Siege of Bayonne was largely illusory, with French and British soldiers fraternizing and exchanging goods and letters, [3] the fighting of 14 April involved heavy hand-to-hand combat in which Lieutenant General Hope was captured with two of his staff, 276 men and a gun. Allied reinforcements however restored the situation and repelled further French attempts before Thouvenot retreated to the citadel with the loss of 910 men. [4]

Fraternization is "turning people into brothers" by conducting social relations with people who are actually unrelated and/or of a different class as if they were siblings, family members, personal friends, or lovers. To fraternize also means to become allies with someone, especially the enemy.

Hand-to-hand combat is a physical confrontation between two or more persons at very short range that does not involve the use of ranged weapons. While the phrase "hand-to-hand" appears to refer to unarmed combat, the term is generic and may include use of melee weapons such as knives, sticks, batons, spears, or improvised weapons such as entrenching tools. While the term hand-to-hand combat originally referred principally to engagements by combatants on the battlefield, it can also refer to any personal physical engagement by two or more people, including law enforcement officers, civilians, and criminals.

A military staff is a group of officers, enlisted and civilian personnel that are responsible for the administrative, operational and logistical needs of its unit. It provides bi-directional flow of information between a commanding officer and subordinate military units. A staff also provides an executive function where it filters information needed by the commander or shunts unnecessary information.

The siege continued and on 17 April, the main French body under Marshal Soult signed an armistice with Wellington; Thouvenot would continue to resist until direct orders from Soult compelled him to observe the ceasefire.

Jean-de-Dieu Soult Prime Minister of France

Marshal General Jean-de-Dieu Soult, 1st Duke of Dalmatia, was a French general and statesman, named Marshal of the Empire in 1804 and often called Marshal Soult. Soult was one of only six officers in French history to receive the distinction of Marshal General of France. The Duke also served three times as President of the Council of Ministers, or Prime Minister of France.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington British soldier and statesman

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, was an Anglo-Irish soldier and Tory statesman who was one of the leading military and political figures of 19th-century Britain, serving twice as Prime Minister. His victory against Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 puts him in the first rank of Britain's military heroes.

Ceasefire temporary stoppage of a war

A ceasefire, also called cease fire, is a temporary stoppage of a war in which each side agrees with the other to suspend aggressive actions. Ceasefires may be declared as part of a formal treaty, but they have also been called as part of an informal understanding between opposing forces. A ceasefire is usually more limited than a broader armistice, which is a formal agreement to end fighting. Successful ceasefires may be followed by armistices, and finally by peace treaties.

Background

After the Battle of the Nive, the Duke of Wellington mounted a surprise amphibious operation which crossed the Adour River estuary and isolated the French city of Bayonne. Wellington pressed east after Marshal Soult's French army, leaving the fortress to be invested on 27 February by Hope's corps. [5]

The Battles of the Nive were fought towards the end of the Peninsular War. Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington's Anglo-Portuguese and Spanish army defeated Marshal Nicolas Soult's French army in a series of battles near the city of Bayonne.

Hope's 19,550-man force included Kenneth Howard's 1st (6,800) and Andrew Hay's 5th (2,750) British Divisions, Lord Aylmer's Independent British Brigade (1,900), Thomas Bradford (1,600) and Archibald Campbell's (2,500) Portuguese Brigades, and Carlos de España's Spanish Division (4,000). Hope's corps was joined by 10,000 Spanish troops in the divisions of Marcilla, Espeleta and Pablo Morillo, but these soldiers were sent away to join Wellington's army in time to fight at the Battle of Toulouse on 10 April. [6]

Kenneth Alexander Howard, 1st Earl of Effingham, was a British peer and soldier.

1st Infantry Division (United Kingdom) British Army combat formation

The 1st Infantry Division was a regular army infantry division of the British Army with a very long history. The division was present at the Peninsular War, the Crimean War, the First World War, and during the Second World War and was finally disbanded in 1960.

Major General Andrew Hay was a British Army officer who served in the American Revolutionary, French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. He was mortally wounded at the siege of Bayonne on 14 April 1814.

Before retreating, Soult reinforced the garrison with the division of Abbé, raising its strength to 14,000 men. The regular infantry included the 5th and 27th Light, and the 64th, 66th, 82nd, 94th, 95th, 119th and 130th Line Regiments. [6]

Battle

Hope conducted the siege in a way that was "leisurely to the point of apathy." [7] On 10 April, the same day that Wellington battled Soult at Toulouse, Hope still had not begun regular siege approaches to the city. For his part, Thouvenot remained passive during the first six weeks his garrison remained besieged.

On 12 April Thouvenot received unofficial news of Napoleon's abdication. Even though this meant that the war was virtually over, the French governor decided to attack "in a fit of spite and frustration." [8] At 3:00 am on the morning of 14 April he attacked the British siege lines with 6,000 men in three columns. A feint attack was made against Anglet and Bellevue, while the main assault which numbered over 3,000 men, was launched northwards from the Citadel. The Allied picquets were taken by surprise and soon overwhelmed. The right-hand column captured the village of St Etienne, where Major-General Hay was killed near the church. [9] The other two French columns broke through, and confusion now reigned amongst the allies. The fight that followed was vicious - Sir John Hope in plain clothes was wounded and captured after he had galloped into a melee. [8]

Major-General Hinuber, who acted on his own initiative rallied the troops round St Etienne. He launched a counter-attack from St. Esprit with the support of two Portuguese battalions, and drove the French out and recaptured the village. [9] At the same time the left-hand French column supported by gunboats on the river, attacked St. Bernard. Colonel Peregrine Maitland of the 1st Guards Brigade however occupied the heights around the village and the convent. With a destructive fire from the Guards the French were repulsed and Maitland ordered a counter attack. [4]

The Allied counterattack soon intensified and the French bridgehead north of the Citadel was now under attack from both east and west. Men of Howard's 1st Division with the bayonet began to dislodge the French emplacements along the crossroads near St Etienne. At this point Thouvenot ordered his troops to withdraw. [4] By 8:00 am the Allies had recovered all lost territory with minimal damage to defences as the siege guns had not been deployed in the battery positions. [9] The French sortie was defeated with heavy losses on both sides. The brunt of the battle was borne by the Anglo-German units, including the 1/1st, 3/1st, 1st Battalion Coldstream and 1/3rd Foot Guards; the 3/1st, 1/9th, 1/38th, 2/47th and 5/60th Foot; the 1st and 2nd King's German Legion (KGL) Light battalions, and 1st, 2nd, and 5th KGL Line battalions. [6]

Aftermath

The Allies lost 838 men, 157 of whom were killed including Major General Andrew Hay, 455 wounded and 233 captured including Hope. [2] [10] French casualties totalled 905 men, including 111 killed, 778 wounded and 16 missing. Despite the news of Napoleon's abdication, the defence continued obstinately until 27 April when written orders from Marshal Soult finally compelled Thouvenot to hand the fortress of Bayonne over to the British. [11]

Total losses in the siege, including the battle on 14 April, were 1,600 French killed and wounded, plus 400 captured. The Allies lost a total of 1,700 killed and wounded, and 300 captured. [10]

Notes

  1. Castex (2013), p. 84
  2. 1 2 Esdaile p 79
  3. Castex (2013), p. 85
  4. 1 2 3 Fletcher pp. 293-94
  5. Glover, p 320
  6. 1 2 3 Smith, p 525
  7. Glover, p 335
  8. 1 2 Smith, p 524
  9. 1 2 3 Lipscombe p. 88
  10. 1 2 Clodfelter pp. 156-57
  11. Gates, p 467

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References

Coordinates: 43°20′00″N1°28′00″W / 43.3333°N 1.4667°W / 43.3333; -1.4667