The Battle of Benavente (29 December 1808) was a cavalry clash in which the British cavalry of Lord Paget defeated the elite Chasseurs à cheval of the French Imperial Guard during the Corunna Campaign of the Peninsular War. The French chasseurs were broken and forced into the River Esla; their commanding officer, General Lefebvre-Desnouettes, was captured. The action was the first major incident in the British army's harrowing retreat to the coast and ultimate evacuation by sea.
Field Marshal Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey,, styled Lord Paget between 1784 and 1812 and known as the Earl of Uxbridge between 1812 and 1815, was a British Army officer and politician. After serving as a Member of Parliament for Carnarvon and then for Milborne Port, he took part in the Flanders Campaign and then commanded the cavalry for Sir John Moore's army in Spain during the Peninsular War; his cavalry showed distinct superiority over their French counterparts at the Battle of Sahagún and at the Battle of Benavente, where he defeated the elite chasseurs of the French Imperial Guard. During the Hundred Days he led the charge of the heavy cavalry against Comte d'Erlon's column at the Battle of Waterloo. At the end of the battle he lost part of one leg to a cannonball. In later life he served twice as Master-General of the Ordnance and twice as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
The Imperial Guard was originally a small group of elite soldiers of the French Army under the direct command of Napoleon I, but grew considerably over time. It acted as his bodyguard and tactical reserve, and he was careful of its use in battle. The Guard was divided into the staff, infantry, cavalry, and artillery regiments, as well as battalions of sappers and marines. The guard itself as a whole distinguished between the experienced veterans and less experienced members by being separated into three sections: the Old Guard, Middle Guard and Young Guard.
The Battle of Corunna took place on 16 January 1809, when a French corps under Marshal of the Empire Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult attacked a British army under Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore. The battle took place amidst the Peninsular War, which was a part of the wider Napoleonic Wars. It was a result of a French campaign, led by Napoleon, which had defeated the Spanish armies and caused the British army to withdraw to the coast following an unsuccessful attempt by Moore to attack Soult's corps and divert the French army.
Sir John Moore led a British army into the heart of northwestern Spain with the aim of aiding the Spanish in their struggle against the French occupation. However, Napoleon had entered Spain at the head of a large army in order to retrieve French fortunes. This, together with the fall of Madrid to the French, made the position of the British army untenable. The British army had begun their retreat and were being pursued by the main French army led by Napoleon; the cavalry under Henry, Lord Paget were performing an effective screening role to cover them. On Christmas Day the 10th Hussars had taken 100 enemy cavalrymen prisoner, and on 27 December the 18th Hussars had been attacked no less than six times, on each occasion they countercharged successfully. On the 28th the British cavalry were acting as a rearguard posted on the River Esla, to cover the army's withdrawal to Astorga.
Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore, was a British Army general, also known as Moore of Corunna. He is best known for his military training reforms and for his death at the Battle of Corunna, in which he repulsed a French army under Marshal Soult during the Peninsular War. After the war General Sarrazin wrote a French history of the battle, which nonetheless may have been written in light of subsequent events, stating that "Whatever Buonaparte may assert, Soult was most certainly repulsed at Corunna; and the British gained a defensive victory, though dearly purchased with the loss of their brave general Moore, who was alike distinguished for his private virtues, and his military talents."
Astorga is a municipality and city of Spain located in the central area of the province of León, in the autonomous community of Castilla y León, 43 kilometres (27 mi) southwest of the provincial capital. It is located in the transit between the Páramo Leonés and the mountains of León and acts as the backbone of the shires of Maragatería, La Cepeda and the Ribera del Órbigo. The city is the head of one of the most extensive and oldest dioceses of Spain, whose jurisdiction covers half of the province of León and part of Ourense and Zamora. It is also head of the judicial party number 5 of the province of León.
The French force consisted of four squadrons of the Chasseurs à cheval of the Imperial Guard, plus a number of Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard.
The Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard was a cavalry squadron of Napoleon I's Imperial Guard.
The British forces were drawn from the brigades of John Slade: 10th Hussars and the 18th Hussars and of Charles Stewart (later took the surname Vane): pickets of the 7th Hussars and 3rd Hussars of the King's German Legion (KGL).
General Sir John "Black Jack" Slade, 1st Baronet, served as a general officer in the British Army during the Peninsular War. He lacked talent as a combat leader. Though Slade was praised in official reports, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington criticized his actions privately and finally replaced him with a more efficient officer. Despite this, he attained high rank after the war. His descendants include two admirals.
Charles William Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry was an Irish soldier in the British army, a politician, and a nobleman. As a soldier he fought in the French Revolutionary Wars, in the suppression of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, and in the Napoleonic wars. He excelled as a cavalry commander on the Iberian Peninsula under John Moore and Arthur Wellesley.
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.
Outlying pickets of the British cavalry were stationed along the western bank of the River Esla, which was swollen with rain. The bridge at Castrogonzalo had been demolished by British engineers early on the 29th, and it was not until about 9:00 in the morning that Lefebvre-Desnouettes, a noted favourite of Napoleon, was able to ford the river with three strong squadrons of his chasseurs and a small detachment of Mamelukes.The French forced the outlying pickets of the British cavalry back onto the inlying picket commanded by Loftus Otway (18th Hussars). Otway charged, despite heavy odds, but was driven back for 2 miles towards the town of Benavente. In an area where their flanks were covered by walls the British, now reinforced by a troop or squadron of the 3rd Hussars KGL and commanded by Brigadier-General Stewart, counter-attacked and a confused melee ensued. The French, though temporarily driven back, had superior numbers and forced the British hussars to retreat once more, almost back to Benavente. Stewart knew he was drawing the French towards Paget and substantial numbers of British reserves.
General Sir Loftus William Otway, CB was an experienced and professional cavalry commander of British forces during the Peninsula War who saw extensive service under Sir John Moore in the Corunna Campaign and Wellington in the remainder of the campaign. He also worked training Portuguese troops and spent time serving in Ireland during the 1798 rebellion and Canada. Otway retired after the Peninsula War and was honoured several times for his war service by both the British and Spanish royal families.
Benavente is a town and municipality in the north of the province of Zamora, in the autonomous community Castile and León of Spain. It has about 20,000 inhabitants.
The French had gained the upper hand in the fight and were preparing to deliver a final charge when Lord Paget made a decisive intervention. He led the 10th Hussars, with squadrons of the 18th in support, around the southern outskirts of Benavente. Paget managed to conceal his squadrons from French view until he could fall on their left flank.The British swords, often dulled by their iron scabbards, were very sharp on this occasion. An eyewitness stated that he saw the arms of French troopers cut off cleanly "like Berlin sausages." Other French soldiers were killed by blows to the head, blows which divided the head down to the chin.
The Pattern 1796 Light Cavalry Sabre is a sword that was used primarily by British Light Dragoons and hussars, and King's German Legion light cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars. It was adopted by the Prussians and used by Portuguese and Spanish cavalry.
The French made a fighting withdrawal back to the river, though their squadrons were eventually broken and a running fight ensued. The chasseurs were forced into and across the river, those who were left on the western bank were either cut down or made prisoner. Lefebvre-Desnouettes' horse was injured and he could not cross the river; he was then made prisoner, either by Levi Grisdale of the 10th Hussars or Johann Bergmann of the King's German Legion hussars, opinions differed at the time.As the chasseurs swam their horses across the river the British troopers fired on them with their carbines and pistols. The French cavalry re-formed on their side of the river and opened carbine fire on the British, though they were subsequently dispersed by the fire of British horse artillery.
The victory gained over the elite of the French light cavalry raised the morale of the British hussars; it underlined the moral ascendancy they had achieved over the French cavalry at the earlier Battle of Sahagún. The retreat of the British army, however, continued. Napoleon had viewed the action from a height overlooking the river;his reactions were rather muted and he made light of the losses to, and humbling of, his "Cherished Children." That evening Lefebvre-Desnouettes, who had suffered a superficial head wound, was entertained at the table of the British commander-in-chief Sir John Moore; Moore gave him his own sword to replace the one taken when he surrendered. The French general was imprisoned in England where he eventually broke his parole, an unpardonable sin according to English public opinion, and escaped back to France, whereupon Napoleon reinstated him to his former command of the guard chasseurs.
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in Belgium, part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands at the time. A French army under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by two of the armies of the Seventh Coalition: a British-led allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington, and a Prussian army under the command of Field Marshal Blücher. The battle marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
The Battle of Neuwied saw Lazare Hoche lead part of the French Army of Sambre-et-Meuse against Franz von Werneck's Austrian army. The French attack surprised their enemies and broke through their lines. Aside from 1,000 men killed and wounded, Austrian losses included at least 3,000 prisoners, 24 artillery pieces, 60 vehicles, and five colors. For their part, the French lost 2,000 men killed, wounded, and captured. The losses were in vain because Napoleon Bonaparte signed the Preliminaries of Leoben with Austria the same day. The armistice halted the fighting so that both sides could negotiate a peace. The action occurred during the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars.
The Battle of Balaclava, fought on 25 October 1854 during the Crimean War, was part of Siege of Sevastopol (1854–55) to capture the port and fortress of Sevastopol, Russia's principal naval base on the Black Sea. The engagement followed the earlier Allied victory in September at the Battle of the Alma, where the Russian General Menshikov had positioned his army in an attempt to stop the Allies progressing south towards their strategic goal. Alma was the first major encounter fought in the Crimean Peninsula since the Allied landings at Kalamita Bay on 14 September, and was a clear battlefield success; but a tardy pursuit by the Allies failed to gain a decisive victory, allowing the Russians to regroup, recover and prepare their defence.
Charles, comte Lefebvre-Desnouettes or Lefèbvre-Desnoëttes became a French officer during the French Revolutionary Wars and a general during the Napoleonic Wars. He later emigrated to the United States.
The Battle of Sahagún was a cavalry clash at Sahagún, Spain, in which the British 15th Light Dragoons (Hussars) defeated two regiments of French cavalry during the Corunna Campaign of the Peninsular War. Losses to one of the French regiments were so heavy that it was subsequently disbanded. The action marked the final phase of the British army's advance into the interior of Spain, before they began their harrowing retreat to the coast and ultimate evacuation by sea.
The Battle of Golymin took place on 26 December 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars at Gołymin, Poland, between around 17,000 Russian soldiers with 28 guns under Prince Golitsyn and 38,000 French soldiers under Marshal Murat. The Russian forces disengaged successfully from the superior French forces. The battle took place on the same day as the Battle of Pułtusk.
The 15th The King's Hussars was a cavalry regiment in the British Army. First raised in 1759, it saw service over two centuries, including the First World War, before being amalgamated with the 19th Royal Hussars into the 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars in 1922.
Claude-Étienne Guyot, count of the Empire, (1768–1837) was a French general of the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars, noted for commanding cavalry.
The Chasseurs à Cheval de la Garde Impériale constituted a light cavalry regiment in the Consular, then Imperial Guard during the French Consulate and First French Empire respectively. They were the second senior "Old Guard" cavalry regiment of the Imperial Guard, after the Grenadiers à Cheval. The regiment had its origins in the Guides raised by General Bonaparte during his Italian Campaign of 1796. It was the Chasseurs that usually provided personal escort to Napoleon, and he often wore the uniform of the regiment in recognition of this service. The regiment was not only known for its lavish uniform, but its combat history as well.
II Cavalry Corps was a French military formation during the Napoleonic Wars. It was first formed in December 1806, but only enjoyed a brief existence under Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières. The II Cavalry Corps was reconstituted for the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and commanded by General of Division Louis-Pierre Montbrun who was killed in battle, as was his successor a few hours later. In the War of the Sixth Coalition, General of Division Horace François Bastien Sébastiani de La Porta led the corps in 1813. General of Division Antoine-Louis Decrest de Saint-Germain directed the corps in 1814. During the Hundred Days, Napoleon raised the corps again and entrusted it to General of Division Rémi Joseph Isidore Exelmans.
In the Battle of Mansilla or Battle of Mansilla de las Mulas on 30 December 1808 an Imperial French corps led by Nicolas Soult caught up with a Spanish corps commanded by Pedro Caro, 3rd Marquis of la Romana. Soult's cavalry under Jean Baptiste Marie Franceschi-Delonne overran la Romana's rear guard led by General Martinengo. Mansilla de las Mulas is a town located 17 kilometres (11 mi) southeast of León, Spain. The combat occurred during the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars.
The III Cavalry Corps was a French military formation that fought during the Napoleonic Wars. The corps was created in 1812 and reconstituted in 1813 and 1815. Emperor Napoleon first mobilized the corps for the French invasion of Russia. Commanded by General of Division Emmanuel Grouchy, two divisions of the corps fought at Borodino, Tarutino, and Vyazma. A third division fought at First and Second Polotsk and the Berezina. During the War of the Sixth Coalition in 1813, General of Division Jean-Toussaint Arrighi de Casanova led the corps at Grossbeeren, Dennewitz, Leipzig, and Hanau. During the Hundred Days in 1815, Napoleon reorganized the corps and appointed General of Division François Étienne de Kellermann to lead it. One brigade of the corps was engaged at Quatre Bras and both divisions fought at Waterloo.
Sir Joseph Thackwell was a lieutenant general in the British Army. He served with the 15th Hussars in the Peninsular War at the Battle of Sahagún in 1808 and the Battle of Vitoria in 1813, and he lost his left arm at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He commanded the regiment from 1820 to 1832. He then served in India, commanding the cavalry in the First Anglo-Afghan War of 1838–89, and at the Battle of Sobraon in the First Anglo-Sikh War of 1845–46, and at the Battle of Chillianwala and Battle of Gujrat in the Second Anglo-Sikh War of 1848–9. He also commanded the 3rd The King's Own Dragoons, was colonel of the 16th Lancers, and was appointed Inspector-general of cavalry.
Paul-Alexis Dubois commanded French divisions during the War of the First Coalition and was killed in action fighting against Habsburg Austria. He enlisted in a French infantry regiment in 1770 and transferred into the cavalry in 1776. Thereafter he served in several different cavalry and infantry regiments. From sous-lieutenant in 1791, he served in the Army of the Moselle and was rapidly promoted to general of brigade by August 1793. After briefly commanding an infantry division in the Army of the Rhine at Wissembourg he switched back to the Army of the Moselle to fight at Kaiserslautern before being wounded at Froeschwiller in December 1793.
After the fighting at Quatre Bras the two opposing commanders Marshal Ney and the Duke of Wellington initially held their ground while they obtained information about what had happened at the larger Battle of Ligny. They received intelligence that the Prussian army under the command of Prince Blücher had been defeated by the French Army of the North under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Charles Claude Jacquinot commanded a French cavalry division at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He joined a volunteer battalion in 1791 and transferred to a light cavalry regiment as a junior officer in 1793. He earned promotion to squadron commander and was acting commander of his regiment at Hohenlinden in 1800. After serving in a staff position at Austerlitz in 1805, he led a light cavalry regiment at Jena in 1806. Promoted to general of brigade he led his horsemen at Abensberg, Raab and Wagram in 1809. During the French invasion of Russia he fought at Ostrovno, Smolensk and Borodino in 1812. During the 1813 German Campaign he led a cavalry brigade at Dennewitz and Leipzig. After being appointed general of division he fought at Second Bar-sur-Aube and Saint-Dizier in 1814. During the Hundred Days he rallied to Napoleon and led a light cavalry division in the Waterloo campaign. After 15 years of inactivity, he was restored to favor in the 1830s. Thereafter he held a number of commands and was appointed to the Chamber of Peers. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 20.