Battle of Garris

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Battle of Garris
Part of Peninsular War
Date15 February 1814
Result Allied victory
Flag of France.svg French Empire Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Flag Portugal (1750).svg Portugal
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Spain
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Jean-de-Dieu Soult
Flag of France.svg Jean Isidore Harispe
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Marquess Wellington
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Rowland Hill
Flag Portugal (1750).svg Carlos Lecor
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Pablo Morillo
7,000 11,000
Casualties and losses
500 170

The Battle of Garris (Basque Garrüze) or Battle of Saint-Palais (February 15, 1814) saw an Allied force under the direct command of General Arthur Wellesley, Marquess Wellington attack General of Division Jean Harispe's French division. The French defenders were driven back into the town of Saint-Palais in confusion. Because of this minor victory, the Allies were able to secure a crossing over the Bidouze River during this clash from the final stages of the Peninsular War.

Basque language language of the Basque people

Basque (; euskara[eus̺ˈkaɾa]) is a language spoken in the Basque Country, a region that straddles the westernmost Pyrenees in adjacent parts of northern Spain and southwestern France. Linguistically, Basque is unrelated to the other languages of Europe and is a language isolate to any other known living language. The Basques are indigenous to, and primarily inhabit, the Basque Country. The Basque language is spoken by 28.4% (751,500) of Basques in all territories. Of these, 93.2% (700,300) are in the Spanish area of the Basque Country and the remaining 6.8% (51,200) are in the French portion.

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.

Jean Isidore Harispe French soldier

Jean Isidore Harispe, 1st Comte Harispe was a distinguished French soldier of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, as well as of the following period. Harispe was created a Marshal of France in 1851.


In the Battle of the Nive on 9–13 December 1813, Marshal Jean-de-Dieu Soult's army failed to drive Wellington's forces away from Bayonne. After the Nive, bad weather imposed a 2-month pause in military operations, during which time the French confined the Allied forces to an area south and west of the fortresses of Bayonne and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. To break out of the region, Wellington launched an offensive toward the east in February, pressing back Soult's left wing. A column under Rowland Hill encountered Harispe's division at Garris. The next action was the Battle of Orthez.

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.

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.

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.


In the Battle of the Nive near Bayonne on 9–13 December 1813, Wellington with 36,000 British and 23,000 Portuguese defeated Soult with 65,933 troops. French casualties were 5,947 and 16 guns while Allied losses numbered 4,662. [1] Another authority placed Allied losses at 5,000 while pointing out that the French lost 2,000 allied German troops who defected to the Allies. [2] This action marked the end of the fighting for the year. Soult had found Wellington's army divided by the Nive River but failed to inflict a crippling blow. Afterward, the French withdrew into Bayonne and winter quarters. [3]

Nive river in France

The Nive is a French river that flows through the French Basque Country. It is a left tributary of the river Adour. The river's source in the Pyrenees in Lower Navarre. The river Nive was made famous by the Le petit Nicolas series.

Jean Isidore Harispe General Jean Isidore Harispe.png
Jean Isidore Harispe

Bad weather prevented Wellington's army from moving for the next two months. [2] Heavy rains began soon after the fighting stopped, rendering the roads impassable and washing away the Allies' temporary bridges across the Nive. The Coalition allies begged the British commander to continue his campaign but Wellington politely declined to mount an offensive when the weather was so bad. He explained it would ruin his army to no purpose. [4] After the Battle of Nivelle on 10 November 1813, Wellington's Spanish troops had run amok in captured French villages. Not wishing to provoke a guerilla war by French civilians, the British commander rigorously discouraged his British and Portuguese troops from plundering and sent most of his Spanish soldiers home. Only Pablo Morillo's Spanish division was retained since the men were regularly paid and fed by the British government. [5] Wellington's policy soon paid off when his soldiers found it unnecessary to guard the roads in his army's rear areas. [6]

Battle of Nivelle

The Battle of Nivelle took place in front of the River Nivelle near the end of the Peninsular War (1808–1814). After the Allied siege of San Sebastian, Wellington's 80,000 British, Portuguese and Spanish troops were in hot pursuit of Marshal Soult who had 60,000 men to place in a 20-mile perimeter. After the Light Division, the main British army was ordered to attack and the 3rd Division split Soult's army into two. By 2 o'clock, Soult was in retreat and the British in a strong offensive position. Soult had lost 4,351 men to Wellington's 2,450.

Pablo Morillo General español

Pablo Morillo y Morillo, Count of Cartagena and Marquess of La Puerta, a.k.a. El Pacificador was a Spanish general.

In January 1814, Soult's army was reduced by three divisions and one brigade when Napoleon demanded reinforcements to help defend eastern France. Transferred to the Campaign in Northeast France were the 5,428-man 7th Infantry Division led by Jean François Leval, the 5,587-strong 9th Infantry Division commanded by Pierre François Xavier Boyer, a 2,866-man dragoon division under Anne-François-Charles Trelliard and a 554-man dragoon brigade directed by Louis Ernest Joseph Sparre. [7]

Campaign in north-east France (1814)

The 1814 campaign in north-east France was Napoleon's final campaign of the War of the Sixth Coalition. Following their victory at Leipzig (1813), Russian, Austrian and other German armies of the Sixth Coalition invaded France. Despite the disproportionate forces in favour of the Coalition, Napoleon managed to inflict many defeats, especially during the Six Days Campaign. However, the Coalition kept advancing towards Paris, which capitulated in late March 1814. As a result, Napoleon was deposed and exiled to Elba and the victorious powers started to redraw the map of Europe during the First Treaty of Paris and during the early stages of the Congress of Vienna.

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.

Pierre François Xavier Boyer French soldier

Pierre François Xavier Boyer became a French division commander during the Napoleonic Wars. He joined a volunteer regiment in 1792. He fought in the Italian campaign of 1796 and participated in the French invasion of Egypt in 1798. He became a general of brigade in 1801 and took part in the Expedition to Saint-Domingue in 1802. While sailing back to France he was captured by the British. After being exchanged, he fought at Jena and Pultusk in 1806, Friedland in 1807 and Wagram in 1809. Transferred to Spain, Boyer led a dragoon division at Salamanca and Battle of Venta del Pozo in 1812 and Vitoria in 1813. He earned the nickname "Pedro the Cruel" for brutal actions against Spanish partisans. He led an infantry division at the Nivelle and the Nive in late 1813. His division was transferred to the fighting near Paris and he was promoted general of division in February 1814. He led his troops at Mormant, Craonne, Laon and Arcis-sur-Aube.

Remaining with Soult were the 4,600-man 1st Division under Maximilien Sébastien Foy, the 5,500-man 2nd Division led by Jean Barthélemy Darmagnac, the 5,300-man 3rd Division commanded by Louis Jean Nicolas Abbé, the 5,600-man 4th Division directed by Eloi Charlemagne Taupin, the 5,000-man 5th Division commanded by Jean-Pierre Maransin, the 5,200-man 6th Division under Eugène-Casimir Villatte, the 6,600-man 8th Division led by Jean Isidore Harispe and the 3,800-man cavalry division under Pierre Benoît Soult. Marshal Soult's command also included 7,300 gunners, engineers and wagon drivers plus the 8,800-strong garrison of Bayonne and the 2,400-strong garrison of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. The original 8th Division was suppressed after the Battle of Nivelle. It was reconstituted by adding the brigade of Marie Auguste Paris, borrowed from Marshal Louis-Gabriel Suchet's army, to two brigades from Villatte's Reserve. [8]

Maximilien Sébastien Foy French military leader, statesman and writer

Maximilien Sébastien Foy was a French military leader, statesman and writer.

Louis Jean Nicolas Abbé became a French general during the Napoleonic Wars. He enlisted as a foot soldier in the royal army in 1784 and was a non-commissioned officer by 1792. He spent most of the French Revolutionary Wars fighting in Italy. In 1802 he joined the Saint-Domingue expedition. He was appointed colonel in command of the 23rd Light Infantry Regiment in 1803 and led the unit at Caldiero, Campo Tenese, Maida, and Amantea. Promoted to general of brigade in 1807, he led a brigade in 1809, fighting at Sacile, Caldiero, the Piave, Tarvis, Raab, and Wagram.

Eloi Charlemagne Taupin French military officer

Eloi Charlemagne Taupin became a French soldier before the French Revolution and was killed in 1814 leading his division in battle against the British and the Spanish in southern France. After fighting in the French Revolutionary Wars, he was promoted to command an infantry regiment at the beginning of the First French Empire. He led the unit during the War of the Third Coalition in 1805. The following year he fought in the War of the Fourth Coalition. The year 1808 found him at Zaragoza in Spain where he was wounded. In 1809 he led a brigade during the War of the Fifth Coalition at Gefrees.

Map of Pyrenees-Atlantiques department shows Bayonne on the coast at left, Saint-Palais on the Bidouze at lower center and Soult's headquarters at Peyrehorade at upper center. Pyrenees-Atlantiques-fr-cropped.png
Map of Pyrenées-Atlantiques department shows Bayonne on the coast at left, Saint-Palais on the Bidouze at lower center and Soult's headquarters at Peyrehorade at upper center.

Wellington's army included the 6,898-man 1st Division under Kenneth Howard, [9] [10] the 7,780-man 2nd Division led by William Stewart, the 6,626-man 3rd Division commanded by Thomas Picton, the 5,952-man 4th Division directed by Lowry Cole, [11] the 4,553-man 5th Division under Andrew Hay, [10] the 5,571-man 6th Division led by Henry Clinton, the 5,643-man 7th Division commanded by George Townshend Walker, the 3,480-man Light Division directed by Charles Alten, the 4,465-man Portuguese Division under Carlos Lecor [11] and the 4,924-man Spanish Division led by Morillo. [12] Stapleton Cotton commanded three light cavalry brigades under Henry Fane, 765 sabers, Hussey Vivian, 989 sabers and Edward Somerset, 1,619 sabers. [11] In addition there were three independent infantry brigades, 1,816 British under Matthew Whitworth-Aylmer, 2,185 Portuguese led by John Wilson [10] and 1,614 Portuguese directed by Thomas Bradford. [13]

Soult established his headquarters in Peyrehorade [14] and posted his divisions in a line running from the fortress of Bayonne on the west to the fortress of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the southeast. He believed that Wellington would try to surround Bayonne by crossing the Adour River east of the city. To prevent this, the French marshal assigned three divisions to hold the line of the Adour River from Bayonne to Port-de-Lanne. Facing southeast, four divisions defended the Joyeuse River from the Adour to the village of Hélette. [6] Cavalry outposts covered the gap between Hélette and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, which was blockaded by Spanish guerillas under Francisco Espoz y Mina. Soult planned to strike the Allies when they tried to push across the Adour, but Wellington had other plans. The British commander planned to use the corps of John Hope, 4th Earl of Hopetoun against Bayonne, while pressing east with his other two corps in an effort to draw Soult's army away from Bayonne. [14]

Soult could muster 60,000 soldiers and 77 guns while Wellington was able to put more than 70,000 into the field. [15] The rains stopped in the second week of February and Wellington's began his offensive on 14 February. On the right flank was Rowland Hill's 20,000-man corps, including the 2nd Division, the Portuguese Division, Morillo's Spaniards and Fane's cavalry brigade. Hill was temporarily assigned the 3rd Division. [14] On Hill's left was the 25,400-man corps of William Beresford with the 4th, 6th, 7th and Light Divisions plus the cavalry brigades of Vivian and Somerset. [16] Hill's main column headed east for Hélette while Picton's 3rd Division marched toward Bonloc on the north and Morillo's division moved through the foothills farther south. In the face of this threat, Harispe's division at Hélette abandoned the line of the Joyeuse and fell back toward the Bidouze River at Saint-Palais. With his left flank uncovered, Villatte, facing Picton's 3rd Division, also backpedaled to the Bidouze. [14]


Rowland Hill Roland Hill 1819.jpg
Rowland Hill

Just west of Saint-Palais, Harispe found a defensible position at Garris. He deployed his division on a long ridge and awaited the Allied onset. The only escape route was the single bridge over the Bidouze at Saint-Palais. Late in the afternoon of 15 February, William Henry Pringle's brigade at the front of Hill's corps, [14] came up to the position but merely skirmished with the French. The soldiers were tired from their long march and looked forward to camping for the evening. Suddenly, an aide-de-camp of Wellington galloped up and demanded, "Take that hill before dark". The troops quickly formed into close column and advanced toward the French. [16]

Harispe deployed about 7,000 troops. They were two battalions each of the 9th, 25th and 34th Light Infantry and one battalion each of the 45th, 81st, 115th 116th and 117th Line Infantry Regiments. Against them, Wellington and Hill brought about 11,000 men, including two battalions of Pringle's brigade, the 1st Battalions of the 28th Foot and 39th Foot. In addition, there were Lecor's two Portuguese brigades under Hippolita Da Costa and John Buchan. Da Costa's brigade consisted of two battalions each of the 2nd and 14th Portuguese Infantry Regiments while Buchan's brigade was made up of two battalions each of the 4th and 10th Portuguese Infantry Regiments and the 10th Caçadores (light) Battalion. [17]

Stewart's 2nd Division included three British and one Portuguese brigades, the 1st under Edward Barnes, the 2nd under the Earl of Strafford, the 3rd under Pringle and the Portuguese under Henry Hardinge. Barnes led the 1st Battalions of the 50th Foot, 71st Highlanders and 92nd Highlanders. Byng was in charge of the 1st Battalions of the 3rd Foot, 57th Foot and 66th Foot and the 2nd Battalion of the 31st Foot. [18] Hardinge directed two battalions each of the 6th and 18th Portuguese Infantry Regiments and the 6th Caçadores Battalion. [19] Another source stated that in Pringle's brigade the 39th Foot was absent drawing new uniforms and that the 2nd Battalion of the 34th Foot and the 1st/28th Foot were the only units present. [16]

Pringle's battalions quickly fought their way to the crest of the ridge. The French defenders gamely counterattacked but failed to drive away their enemies. As this combat was going on, Morillo's Spanish and Lecor's Portuguese began to envelop the flanks of the outnumbered French division. Seeing the threat, Harispe ordered a withdrawal. With the Portuguese closing in on the bridge, the French retreat soon became a stampede to safety. Most made it across the bridge but the Allies captured some men on the east bank. [16] The French lost 300 men killed and wounded and 200 prisoners. The Allies suffered 170 casualties, including 40 Portuguese. In a melee with the 81st Line, the 1/39th lost 43 men. [17] The rout so demoralized Harispe's division that their general was unable to rally his soldiers in Saint-Palais and had to retreat west to Domezain-Berraute. Though the French engineers managed to set off demolition charges on the bridge, the work was done poorly and the Allies soon had the bridge back in operation. [16]


The Anglo-Allied army breached the line of the Bidouze. On 16 February, Soult recalled two of his divisions from north of the Adour [16] leaving Abbé's division in Bayonne to make up a very powerful 14,000-man garrison. [20] The French marshal assembled a field army with 32,000 infantry and 3,800 cavalry. He began reforming his line behind the Gave d'Oloron and Saison Rivers, from Peyrehorade through Sauveterre-de-Béarn and Navarrenx. Facing Soult were Wellington's 42,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry. Beresford's corps moved to Bidache on the lower Bidouze. [16] By 18 February, Soult's units were all on the Gave d'Oloron line as Hill probed at Sauveterre and Beresford reconnoitered Hastingues, a French bridgehead on the south bank. That night it began to snow and sleet, causing Wellington to suspend operations for four days. [20]

Meanwhile, the British carried a bold plan to surround Bayonne by crossing the Adour below the fortress. [21] Since the river is 300 yards (274 m) across with a tidal rise of 14 feet (4.3 m), the French never suspected their enemies would attempt it and left no forces to guard the Adour below Bayonne. [20] On 23 February, Hope sent eight companies across to set up a bridgehead. That evening 700 French troops sent to investigate were dispersed by Congreve rockets. The next day, 34 coasting vessels sailed into the channel and a bridge was constructed using the vessels as pontoons. Five cables were secured to the opposite bank by attaching each of them to a heavy 18-pounder cannon barrel. When the vessels and cables were in place, a roadway was built of planks. [21] British troops poured across the span and by 27 February the city of Bayonne was completely invested by Hope's corps. [22] On that day Battle of Orthez was fought. [23]


  1. Smith 1998, pp. 483–484.
  2. 1 2 Glover 2001, p. 308.
  3. Gates 2002, pp. 448–449.
  4. Glover 2001, p. 311.
  5. Glover 2001, p. 293.
  6. 1 2 Glover 2001, p. 312.
  7. Nafziger 2015, p. 568.
  8. Glover 2001, pp. 393–394.
  9. Smith 1998, p. 477.
  10. 1 2 3 Glover 2001, p. 385.
  11. 1 2 3 Smith 1998, p. 501.
  12. Glover 2001, p. 387.
  13. Glover 2001, p. 386.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Glover 2001, p. 313.
  15. Gates 2002, p. 452.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Glover 2001, p. 314.
  17. 1 2 Smith 1998, p. 497.
  18. Smith 1998, pp. 501–502.
  19. Glover 2001, p. 382.
  20. 1 2 3 Glover 2001, p. 315.
  21. 1 2 Glover 2001, pp. 316–317.
  22. Glover 2001, p. 320.
  23. Smith 1998, p. 500.

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Coordinates: 43°20′36″N1°03′36″W / 43.34333°N 1.06000°W / 43.34333; -1.06000