Battle of Majadahonda

Last updated
Battle of Majadahonda
Part of the Peninsular War
Bataille de Majadahonda Deuxieme phase.svg
Date11 August 1812
Location Majadahonda, Spain
Result Tactical draw [1]
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg French Empire
Flag of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy.svg Kingdom of Italy
Flag of the Kingdom of Westphalia.svg Kingdom of Westphalia
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Flag of Portugal (1750).svg Portugal
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Gen Trelliard Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Brig-Gen D'Urban
Strength
2,000 2,300
Casualties and losses
200 casualties 176–200 killed, wounded and captured

The Battle of Majadahonda (11 August 1812) 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.

First French Empire Empire of Napoleon I of France between 1804–1815

The First French Empire, officially the French Empire, was the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte of France and the dominant power in much of continental Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Although France had already established an overseas colonial empire beginning in the 17th century, the French state had remained a kingdom under the Bourbons and a republic after the Revolution. Historians refer to Napoleon's regime as the First Empire to distinguish it from the restorationist Second Empire (1852–1870) ruled by his nephew as Napoleon III.

Anne-François-Charles Trelliard French general of division

Anne-François-Charles Trelliard or Treillard or Treilhard, born 7 February 1764 – died 14 May 1832, joined the cavalry of the French Royal Army as a cadet gentleman in 1780. During the French Revolutionary Wars he fought in Germany and Holland, eventually rising in rank to become a general officer in 1799. He led a corps cavalry brigade at Austerlitz in the 1805 campaign. In the 1806-1807 campaign he fought at Saalfeld, Jena, and Pultusk.

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.

Contents

Battle

After General Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington's great victory at the Battle of Salamanca, the Anglo-Portuguese Army moved on Madrid from the northwest. On 11 August, the 1st, 11th and 12th Dragoons of D'Urban's Portuguese brigade formed Wellington's advanced guard. Behind them was Bock's brigade under Colonel de Jonquières, consisting of the 1st and 2nd King's German Legion (KGL) Dragoons. Farther back in the column, Colonel Colin Halkett led the 1st and 2nd KGL Light Infantry battalions, plus 7 companies of the Brunswick Oels battalion.

Battle of Salamanca battle

In Battle of Salamanca an Anglo-Portuguese army under the Duke of Wellington defeated Marshal Auguste Marmont's French forces among the hills around Arapiles, south of Salamanca, Spain on 22 July 1812 during the Peninsular War. A Spanish division was also present but took no part in the battle.

Anglo-Portuguese Army

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.

Colin Halkett British Army general

General Sir Colin Halkett (1774–1856) was a British Army officer who became Lieutenant Governor of Jersey.

D'Urban's troopers were surprised by Trelliard's division, which included the 13th, 18th, 19th and 22nd Dragoons, plus the Westphalian Chevau-légers and the Italian Napoleone Dragoons. The Portuguese horsemen were routed and three cannons were lost. A frustrated D'Urban wrote of his troopers,

"At Salamanca they followed me into the enemy's ranks like British dragoons; yesterday they were so far from doing their duty that in the first charge they just went far enough to land me in the enemy's ranks. In the second, which (having got them rallied) I rashly attempted, I could not get them within 20 yards of the enemy – they left me alone, and vanished before the French helmets like leaves before the autumn wind." [2]

Bock's heavy dragoons soon arrived and the Portuguese horsemen rallied behind them. With the help of the 1st KGL Light Infantry battalion, the combined British-Portuguese force managed to halt the French advance. Trelliard withdrew after hearing of additional allied reinforcements. The next morning the allies entered Majadahonda and discovered the lost cannons.

Result

All told, 2,300 British-Portuguese troops were engaged against about 2,000 Frenchmen. Trelliard lost about 200 casualties, compared to 176 British-Portuguese losses. Bock lost 14 killed, 40 wounded and 7 captured. D'Urban reported 33 killed, 52 wounded and 23 captured. The KGL infantry had 7 men wounded. [3] Treilliard's report of the battle led to King Joseph Bonaparte's hasty withdrawal from Madrid the next day. The next action was the Siege of Burgos.

Joseph Bonaparte elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte

Joseph-Napoléon Bonaparte, born Giuseppe di Buonaparte was a French diplomat and nobleman, the older brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, who made him King of Naples and Sicily, and later King of Spain. After the fall of Napoleon, Joseph styled himself Comte de Survilliers.

Siege of Burgos 1812

At the Siege of Burgos, from 19 September to 21 October 1812, the Anglo-Portuguese Army led by General Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington tried to capture the castle of Burgos from its French garrison under the command of General of Brigade Jean-Louis Dubreton. The French repulsed every attempt to seize the fortress, resulting in one of Wellington's rare withdrawals, as he went on to defeat the army sent to flank him at the Lines of Torres Vedras, pursued them and then returned to complete the siege of Burgos and capture the city. The siege took place during the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars. Burgos is located about 210 kilometres (130 mi) north of Madrid.

The British-Portuguese advance guard was severely mauled at Majalahonda. In less than an hour, they lost 200 men killed and wounded, 3 guns captured, while one of their two brigade commanders (Colonel de Jonquiéres), and two of their five regimental commanders (Visconde de Barbaçena and Colonel Lobo) were made prisoners. The French abandoned the 3 guns after burning the carriages. French casualties were probably half that, with one officer killed and 15 wounded, including Colonel Reiset.

Marie Antoine de Reiset French general

Marie-Antoine, vicomte de Reiset was a French general during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, serving from 1793 to 1830.

The KGL Dragoons covered themselves with glory, while the Portuguese dishonored themselves in the eyes of the army. Their performance at Majadahonda erased the laurels they had won at Salamanca. Marshal Beresford, the commander of the Portuguese Army, thought the Portuguese dragoons should be punished and proposed the following to Wellington: "I have ordered that they should not again mount a horse or wear a sword till they may, by coming near the enemy, have an opportunity of redeeming their credit... till then, hanging their swords on their saddles, they lead their horses, marching themselves. The Portuguese have a good deal of feeling and pride, and it is the only way to work on them..."

Wellington, however, thought differently: "As for sending the cavalry to the rear that is impossible at the present. We have still a good deal upon our hands, and we are worse provided with cavalry than our neighbours; and a body commanded by such a man as D'Urban, even though they will not fight, are better than none. In fact, they behaved infamously, and they must not be employed again alone, or with our cavalry, who gallop too fast for them."

Footnotes

  1. Smith, p 385
  2. Oman, p 235
  3. Smith, p 385

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References

Coordinates: 40°28′00″N3°52′00″W / 40.4667°N 3.8667°W / 40.4667; -3.8667