In the Battle of García Hernández on 23 July 1812, two brigades of Anglo-German cavalry led by Major-General Eberhardt Otto George von Bock defeated 4,000 French infantry led by Major-General Maximilien Foy. In what would otherwise have been an unremarkable Peninsular War skirmish, the German heavy dragoons achieved the unusual feat of breaking three French squares, those of the 6th, 69th and 76th Line,routing the entire French force with heavy losses.
Cavalry or horsemen are soldiers or warriors who fight mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the most mobile of the combat arms. An individual soldier in the cavalry is known by a number of designations such as cavalryman, horseman, dragoon, or trooper. The designation of cavalry was not usually given to any military forces that used other animals, such as camels, mules or elephants. Infantry who moved on horseback, but dismounted to fight on foot, were known in the 17th and early 18th centuries as dragoons, a class of mounted infantry which later evolved into cavalry proper while retaining their historic title.
Baron Eberhardt Otto George von Bock was a Hanoverian born major-general in the British army during the Napoleonic Wars.
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.
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The previous day, the Allied army commanded by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington had won a decisive victory over a French army led by Marshal Auguste Marmont in the Battle of Salamanca. Foy's division was the only French unit not engaged in the battle and it was acting as rearguard on 23 July.
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.
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. He won a notable victory against Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
The Battle of Salamanca on 22 July 1812 was a battle in which an Anglo-Portuguese army under the Duke of Wellington defeated Marshal Auguste Marmont's French forces at Arapiles, south of Salamanca, Spain, during the Peninsular War. A Spanish division was also present but took no part in the battle.
Bock's 770-strong heavy cavalry brigade, consisting of the 1st and 2nd King's German Legion (KGL) Dragoons, led the pursuit of the French. In support of Bock were the 1,000 troopers of George Anson's British light cavalry brigade (11th and 16th Light Dragoons).As the Anglo-Germans approached, Maj-Gen Curto's French cavalry fled. Foy arranged his eight battalions on a hill in square near Garcihernández in Salamanca province in Spain. He had two battalions each of the 6th Light, and the 39th, 69th and 76th Line Infantry Regiments.
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of three to six battalions plus supporting elements. It is roughly equivalent to an enlarged or reinforced regiment. Two or more brigades may constitute a division.
The King's German Legion 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.
A battalion is a military unit. The use of the term "battalion" varies by nationality and branch of service. Typically a battalion consists of 300 to 800 soldiers and is divided into a number of companies. A battalion is typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel. In some countries, the word "battalion" is associated with the infantry.
Bock's dragoons charged a square belonging to a battalion of the 6th Light. The French held their fire too long. Their volley killed a number of horsemen, but a mortally wounded horse carrying a dead dragoon crashed into the square like a battering ram.The horse fell, kicking wildly, knocking down at least six men and creating a gap in the square. Captain Gleichen rode his horse into the gap, followed by his troopers. The square broke up and most of the men surrendered.
A second square farther up the hillside was soon charged. Shaken by the first square's disaster, the men flinched when the dragoons rode into them. Soon the men in the second square were running for their lives, except those who surrendered. Foy quickly pulled back the rest of his troops. Anson's horsemen mopped up the battlefield.
Foy lost 200 killed and wounded, and 1,400 captured. Bock lost 54 killed and 62 wounded. The very high proportion of killed to wounded was due to the "deadly effect of musketry at the closest possible quarters."Another authority gives 52 Germans killed, 69 wounded and 6 missing and 1,100 total French casualties.
The breaking of a steady square was a rare event. A French infantry battalion in square formed up in a bayonet-studded hedgehog either 3-ranks or 6-ranks deep. (A British square was 4-deep.) If a square stood its ground without flinching and fired with effect, it could withstand the best cavalry. When infantry squares were broken by cavalry in the Napoleonic Wars, it was usually because:
The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict. The wars are often categorised into five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1805), the Fourth (1806–07), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813), and the Seventh (1815).
At García Hernández, the last event occurred with the first square, leading to the extraordinary accident of a mortally wounded horse and rider smashing into the square making a gap which was then exploited by the following cavalry. The second square likely panicked at the extraordinary sight of the first square being torn apart.
Marcel was an officer in the 69th Ligne and gives a very different perspective. According to his account (pp170–173) the battalion of the 76th were caught with the men having broken ranks to drink in the stream. The 6th Leger were partially dispersed seeking food in the nearby hamlets with the officers seeking to rally them when they were overtaken by the cavalry. Marcel's battalion was in close column when it was attacked by the cavalry who failed to break the column. The second battalion of the 69th saw off the attacking cavalry by volley fire from its square.
This skirmish is depicted in Bernard Cornwell's novel, Sharpe's Sword .
The battle was also shown in Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell , while Jonathan Strange is serving under the Duke of Wellington.
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 Albuera was a battle during the Peninsular War. A mixed British, Spanish and Portuguese corps engaged elements of the French Armée du Midi at the small Spanish village of Albuera, about 20 kilometres (12 mi) south of the frontier fortress-town of Badajoz, Spain.
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 Coalition Forces of the Napoleonic Wars were composed of Napoleon Bonaparte's enemies: the United Kingdom, the Austrian Empire, Kingdom of Prussia, Kingdom of Spain, Kingdom of Naples and Sicily, Kingdom of Sardinia, Dutch Republic, Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, Kingdom of Portugal, Kingdom of Sweden, various Confederation of the Rhine and Italian states at differing times in the wars. At their height, the Coalition could field formidable combined forces of about 1,740,000 strong. This outnumbered the 1.1 million French soldiers. The breakdown of the more active armies are: Austria, 570,000; Britain, 250,000; Prussia, 300,000; and Russia, 600,000.
The Battle of Orthez saw the Anglo-Portuguese Army under Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington attack an Imperial French army led by Marshal Nicolas Soult in southern France. The outnumbered French repelled several Allied assaults on their right flank, but their center and left flank were overcome and Soult was compelled to retreat. At first the withdrawal was conducted in good order, but it eventually ended in a scramble for safety and many French soldiers became prisoners. The engagement occurred near the end of the Peninsular War.
The Combat of the Côa was a skirmish that occurred during the Peninsular War period of the Napoleonic Wars. It took place in the valley of the Côa River and it was the first significant battle for the new army of 65,000 men controlled by Marshal André Masséna, as the French prepared for their third invasion of Portugal.
In the Battle of Alba de Tormes on 26 November 1809, an Imperial French corps commanded by François Étienne de Kellermann attacked a Spanish army led by Diego de Cañas y Portocarrero, Duke del Parque. Finding the Spanish army in the midst of crossing the Tormes River, Kellermann did not wait for his infantry under Jean Gabriel Marchand to arrive, but led the French cavalry in a series of charges that routed the Spanish units on the near bank with heavy losses. Del Parque's army was forced to take refuge in the mountains that winter. Alba de Tormes is 21 kilometres (13 mi) southeast of Salamanca, Spain. The action occurred during the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars.
The Battle of Venta del Pozo, also known as the Battle of Villodrigo by the French and Spanish, was a rear-guard action fought as part of the Peninsular War on 23 October 1812 between an Anglo-German force led by Major-General Stapleton Cotton against French cavalry under Major-Generals Jean-Baptiste Curto and Pierre François Xavier Boyer. The result was a French tactical victory.
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 Majadahonda saw an Imperial French cavalry division led by Anne-François-Charles Trelliard attack two brigades of cavalry under Benjamin d'Urban and forming the advance guard of Arthur Wellesley, Earl of Wellington's army. Trelliard's leading brigade routed d'Urban's Portuguese horsemen and overran three British cannons. King's German Legion (KGL) cavalry led by Eberhardt Otto George von Bock intervened to halt the Imperial French horsemen, but were finally compelled to withdraw when Trelliard committed his second and third brigades to the contest. The Imperial French cavalry was unable to cope with a KGL infantry battalion defending a village and they withdrew at the approach of additional British cavalry and infantry. This Peninsular War action was fought near Majadahonda, which is located 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) northwest of Madrid.
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.
Jean-Pierre-Antoine Rey commanded a famous French infantry regiment during the Napoleonic Wars and became a general officer in 1808. He led an infantry brigade in a number of actions in Spain. His brother Louis Emmanuel Rey was a French general of brigade who also served in Spain during the Peninsular War. Since most sources do not distinguish between the generals named Rey, the two are easily confused.
The Combat of Barquilla was a minor skirmish between British and French forces two days after the Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, in which Robert Craufurd attacked French grenadiers covering a foraging party. The French grenadiers, formed in a single square, made a fighting withdrawal, fending off British cavalry and escaping unscathed.
In the Battle of Campo Maior, or Campo Mayor, on 25 March 1811, Brigadier General Robert Ballard Long with a force of Anglo-Portuguese cavalry, the advance-guard of the army commanded by William Beresford, clashed with a French force commanded by General of Division Marie Victor de Fay, marquis de Latour-Maubourg. Initially successful, some of the Allied horsemen indulged in a reckless pursuit of the French. An erroneous report was given that they had been captured wholesale. In consequence, Beresford halted his forces and the French were able to escape and recover a convoy of artillery pieces.
The Battle of Tolosa saw a British-Portuguese-Spanish column led by Thomas Graham attempt to cut off a retreating Franco-Italian force under Maximilien Sébastien Foy. Assisted by Antoine Louis Popon de Maucune's division, which fortuitously appeared, the French parried Graham's initial attacks then slipped away when threatened with envelopment. The town of Tolosa is located about 20 kilometres (12 mi) south of San Sebastián. The clash occurred during the Peninsular War, part of the wider Napoleonic Wars.
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.