Battle of Peyrestortes

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Battle of Peyrestortes
Part of the War of the Pyrenees
Rempartsaujourd'hui.jpg
Some parts of Perpignan's ramparts survive today. Rather than attack the fortress directly, the Spanish tried to surround it with fortified camps.
Date17 September 1793
Location Peyrestortes, Pyrénées-Orientales, France
Result French victory
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg France Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Spain
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Eustache d'Aoust
Flag of France.svg Jacques Goguet
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Antonio Ricardos
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Marquis Amarillas
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Juan de Courten
Strength
8,000 6,000–12,000
Casualties and losses
200–300, unknown 1,702–3,500, 26–46 guns, 7 colors

The Battle of Peyrestortes (17 September 1793) saw soldiers of the First French Republic fighting troops of the Kingdom of Spain during the War of the Pyrenees. Forces from the French Army of the Eastern Pyrenees, temporarily commanded by Eustache Charles d'Aoust and Jacques Gilles Henri Goguet, defeated two divisions of the Army of Catalonia led by Juan de Courten and Jerónimo Girón-Moctezuma, Marquis de las Amarillas. This Spanish setback in an attempt to capture Perpignan marked the high point of their invasion of Roussillon.

War of the Pyrenees conflict

The War of the Pyrenees, also known as War of Roussillon or War of the Convention, was the Pyrenean front of the First Coalition's war against the First French Republic. It pitted Revolutionary France against the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal from March 1793 to July 1795 during the French Revolutionary Wars.

Army of the Eastern Pyrenees

The Army of the Eastern Pyrenees was one of the French Revolutionary armies. It fought against the Kingdom of Spain in Rousillon, the Cerdanya and Catalonia during the War of the Pyrenees. This army and the Army of the Western Pyrenees were formed by splitting the original Army of the Pyrenees at the end of April 1793 soon after the war started. Shortly after the Peace of Basel on 22 July 1795, the fighting ended and the army was dissolved on 12 October that same year. Many of its units and generals were transferred to join the Army of Italy and fought under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796.

Eustache Charles Joseph d'Aoust was a general officer during the French Revolutionary Wars.

Contents

The Spanish army of Antonio Ricardos had occupied part of Rousillon and made an abortive attempt to seize the fortress of Perpignan in July 1793. At the end of August, the Spanish commander sent two divisions on a sweep around the western side of Perpignan in an attempt to isolate the fortress and choke it off from resupply. After an initial Spanish success, the French army commander Hilarion Paul Puget de Barbantane, lost his nerve and fled from the area. D'Aoust and Goguet stepped into the command vacuum and led their troops to attack and rout the two Spanish divisions from their fortified camps. After the battle, the Army of Catalonia found itself back in its original positions. Ricardos successfully defended a Spanish foothold in France during the remainder of 1793. Peyrestortes is located 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) northwest of Perpignan.

Antonio Ricardos Spanish general

Antonio Ricardos Carrillo de Albornoz was a Spanish general. He joined the army of the Kingdom of Spain and fought against Habsburg Austria, the Portugal, and the First French Republic during a long military career. By embracing the Spanish Enlightenment, he earned the displeasure of conservative elements of society. He played an active role in reforming the Spanish military. Upon the outbreak of the War of the Pyrenees in 1793, the king sent him to command in Catalonia. He invaded Rousillon where he won several victories over the French. After his death in early 1794, the war went badly for Spain.

Hilarion-Paul-François-Bienvenu du Puget de Barbantane disgraced himself during the French Revolutionary Wars by abandoning the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees during a crisis. A nobleman, he was made colonel of the Aunis infantry regiment in 1788. He was promoted general of brigade in 1791 and general of division the following year. He intrigued to obtain command of the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees and got his wish when Louis-Charles de Flers was dismissed in August 1793. When the Spanish commander Antonio Ricardos surrounded Perpignan with a chain of fortified camps, Barbantane panicked and fled the city, going absent without leave.

Peyrestortes Commune in Occitanie, France

Peyrestortes is a commune in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France.

Background

Positions

Beginning in April 1793, Captain General Ricardos and his Spanish army brushed aside the badly trained French armies in the department of Pyrénées Orientales. Ricardos defeated General of Division Louis-Charles de Flers at the Battle of Mas Deu on 19 May. The Siege of Bellegarde concluded with the Spanish capture of the important Fort de Bellegarde on 24 June. [1] Ricardos and de Flers fought again on 17 July in the Battle of Perpignan and this time the 12,000 French troops repulsed a 15,000-strong Spanish assault. [2] However, even a victory was not enough to satisfy the all-powerful and high-handed Representatives-on-mission. They arrested de Flers on 7 August on the charge of "having lost the confidence of the citizen-soldiers". The general was sent to Paris and eventually executed by guillotine. [3]

Louis-Charles de La Motte-Ango, vicomte de Flers joined the French Royal army and rose in rank to become a general officer in the French Revolutionary Wars. After serving in the Austrian Netherlands, he was appointed to command the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees. His army suffered several defeats in May and June 1793, but he rallied his troops to win a defensive victory at the Battle of Perpignan in July. The all-powerful Representatives-on-mission arrested him in August 1793 for a minor setback and sent him to Paris under arrest. The Committee of Public Safety executed him by guillotine on trumped up charges in the last days of the Reign of Terror. De Flers is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe.

Battle of Mas Deu

The Battle of Mas Deu or Battle of Mas d'Eu on 19 May 1793 saw the French Revolutionary Army of the Eastern Pyrenees under Louis-Charles de Flers fighting Bourbon Spain's army of Catalonia led by Antonio Ricardos.

Siege of Bellegarde (1793) siege

The Siege of Bellegarde commenced on 23 May 1793 and ended on 24 June 1793 when Colonel Boisbrulé's French garrison surrendered the Fort de Bellegarde to a Spanish army under the command of Antonio Ricardos. The capture of the fort gave Spain control of an important road through the Pyrenees. The siege took place during the War of the Pyrenees, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. Fort de Bellegarde is on a height overlooking the border town of Le Perthus, which lies on the modern A9 autoroute and Autovía A-7.

The representatives-on-mission appointed General of Division Barbantane as de Flers' successor as army commander. [3] Barbantane had been one of the generals critical of de Flers. [4] At the same time de Flers was sacked, the representatives-on-mission sent General of Division Luc Siméon Auguste Dagobert and 3,000 troops to carry out an independent operation in the Cerdagne. [5] On 28 August, Dagobert would win a victory over General Manuel la Peña at Puigcerdà. [6] Meanwhile, the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees had been left by de Flers in the fortified Camp de l'Union under the walls of the fortress of Perpignan, the capital and defensive key to the Pyrénées Orientales department. [7]

Luc Siméon Auguste Dagobert French general

Luc Siméon Auguste Dagobert de Fontenille was a French general of the French Revolutionary Wars.

Puigcerdà Municipality in Catalonia, Spain

Puigcerdà is the capital of the Catalan comarca of Cerdanya, in the province of Girona, Catalonia, northern Spain, near the Segre River and on the border with France.

Perpignan Prefecture and commune in Occitanie, France

Perpignan is the prefecture of the Pyrénées-Orientales department in Southwest France. Perpignan was the capital of the former province and County of Roussillon and continental capital of the Kingdom of Majorca in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Ricardos responded to the situation by establishing his own fortified camp at Ponteilla on the southwest side of Perpignan. [3] The Spanish commander also built fortified camps at Argelès-sur-Mer to the southeast of Perpignan and Olette on the Têt River to the west. [5] Ricardos directed Lieutenant General Marquis de las Amarillas and his division to cross the Têt and attack the French camps on the north side between Millas and Perpignan. Amarillas scored an initial success, driving the French from Corneilla-la-Rivière on 31 August and gaining a foothold on the north bank. [8] Elements of the 61st and 79th Line Infantry Regiments carried out a rearguard action as they withdrew north to Rivesaltes. [9] At this time the French still controlled Collioure on the Mediterranean coast well to the south of Perpignan. [10]

Ponteilla Commune in Occitanie, France

Ponteilla is a commune in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France.

Argelès-sur-Mer Commune in Occitanie, France

Argelès-sur-Mer is a commune in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France.

Olette Commune in Occitanie, France

Olette is a commune in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France.

Plans

War of the Pyrenees, Eastern Pyrenees Eastern Theater Pyrenees War 1793 to 1795.jpg
War of the Pyrenees, Eastern Pyrenees

On 3 September, a Spanish probe was turned back at the Mill of Orles near Perpignan by Colonel Charles-Louis Gau de Fregeville's 2nd Hussar Regiment and other troops under Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Banel's command. The next day, [11] Barbantane suddenly withdrew his headquarters and one division from Perpignan north to Salses-le-Château, turning over command of Perpignan to General of Division d'Aoust. When the representatives-on-mission demanded answers, Barbantane insisted he was commander of the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees and not of Perpignan. [5]

Colonel is a senior military officer rank below the brigadier and general officer ranks. However, in some small military forces, such as those of Monaco or the Vatican, colonel is the highest rank. It is also used in some police forces and paramilitary organizations.

Hussar light cavalry originally from Hungary

A hussar was a member of a class of light cavalry, originating in Central Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries. The title and distinctive dress of these horsemen were subsequently widely adopted by light cavalry regiments in European armies in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Salses-le-Château Commune in Occitanie, France

Salses-le-Château or just Salses is a commune in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France. It is located north of the city of Perpignan.

Finally, the thoroughly panicked Barbantane abandoned his army altogether, dashing off to Narbonne supposedly looking for reinforcements. In his letter of resignation to the War Minister, he wrote, "The situation is beyond my powers", and he was dismissed. The government named Louis Marie Turreau as the new army commander, but it would be some time before he arrived from the Vendée. In the meantime, the representatives chose Dagobert as Barbantane's successor. Pending Dagobert's arrival from the Cerdagne, the representatives appointed d'Aoust to assume temporary command and named General of Brigade Goguet to lead the 4,000-man division at Salces. [10]

Hearing of Barbantane's unmilitary behavior, Ricardos determined to take advantage of the disarray in the French high command. The Spanish commander ordered Amarillas to march to Peyrestortes via Baixas. On 8 September, Amarillas occupied Peyrestortes, northwest of the provincial capital. That day, he attacked d'Aoust's Camp of the Union at Rivesaltes and drove the French away after a tough fight. Meanwhile, D'Aoust and General of Brigade Louis Lemoine constructed redoubts to defend Perpignan. [11] The Spanish set up a fortified camp at Peyrestortes and defended it with 12,000 soldiers. [10] The Spanish pushed forward a column from Peyrestortes to Vernet (a suburb 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) north of Perpignan). [4] This was Lieutenant General Juan de Courten's division, which took position behind an irrigation canal, with 24 cannon covering the road leading north to Salces. [11] This last move was a blunder because Ricardos did not mount a serious enough threat to d'Aoust's forces from the south at the same time. [4]

Battle

A scale model shows the fortress of Perpignan with the bridge pointing north. Le Vernet is just to the left across the bridge. Plan relief Perpignan.jpg
A scale model shows the fortress of Perpignan with the bridge pointing north. Le Vernet is just to the left across the bridge.

At 2:00 am on 17 September, José de Iturrigaray's Spanish artillery brought Perpignan under a heavy bombardment from the direction of Cabestany to the southeast. Ricardos deployed 6,000 troops to support the gunners on the south and west sides of the fortress. At 4:00 am that morning, d'Aoust fell upon de Courten's division at Vernet in four columns. Lemoine led the left column, Colonel Catherine-Dominique de Pérignon commanded the center column including some cavalry under Banel, and General of Brigade Antoine Soulérac directed the right column. An observation force that included Lieutenant Jean Lannes moved to the far left. One of the French columns managed to turn de Courten's flank. After a stubborn fight, the French captured all of de Courten's artillery. [11]

At 10:30 am d'Aoust hesitated, worried that Ricardos might assault Perpignan from the south. However, a crowd of citizens from Perpignan had watched the fight and they demanded more action. Urged on by the representatives-on-mission, d'Aoust reformed his soldiers and prepared to attack Peyrestortes. Representative Joseph Cassanyes galloped away to Salces-le-Château to bring Goguet into the fight. In the improvised battle plan the two divisions would attack together at 5:00 pm. [4] D'Aoust had no authority over Goguet and his division, but the two agreed to cooperate. [11] D'Aoust attacked at 5:00 pm with 4,000 men, but was driven off. Because of bad staff work, Goguet's 3,500-man division was late and only joined the battle at 7:00 pm. [12]

The Salses-le-Château column was led by Goguet and General of Brigade Pierre Poinsot de Chansac. [11] Guided by Cassanyes who was familiar with the area, the French found a gap in the Spanish defenses. [12] Amarillas neglected to post troops to defend a ravine, and Goguet exploited this blunder to push his soldiers into a hand-to-hand fight where Spanish firepower counted for little and French élan for much. As the day wore on, French reinforcements kept arriving from Salses, giving their attack ever increasing momentum. [11] The fighting went on even as daylight faded. Soulérac's column joined the attack on Peyrestortes hill. In the confusion and darkness, Rafael Adorno's Spanish cavalry panicked and withdrew. By 10:00 pm, French soldiers broke into the Spanish positions and forced both Amarillas and de Courten into a disorderly retreat back to Trouillas and Mas Deu. [11]

Results

Historian Ramsay Weston Phipps stated that the French captured 500 Spanish soldiers, 43 guns and seven colors, but did not list the killed and wounded. [12] Digby Smith gave Spanish losses as 52 officers and 1,150 rank and file killed, wounded, and missing out of 6,000 engaged. In addition, the French captured 500 men, 26 cannon, and seven colors. French losses were given as 200 killed and wounded out of a total of 8,000 troops involved in the fighting. [13] Another source listed Spanish casualties as 800 killed and 1,500 wounded, while the French captured 1,200 prisoners, 40 cannons and six howitzers. [9] During the action, Pérignon was wounded in the thigh and he received promotion to general of brigade the following day. [14] The next action was the Battle of Truillas on 22 September 1793. [13]

The heroes of Peyrestortes fared poorly. In late December, the French suffered a costly defeat at the Battle of Collioure. At the end of 1793, the only French soil held by her enemies was in Roussillon. Even though the representatives-on-mission shared a large part of the responsibility for failure, d'Aoust was arrested [15] and sent to the guillotine on 2 July 1794 during the Reign of Terror. [16] On 21 April 1794, Goguet's division was defeated during an abortive attempt to break the Siege of Landrecies. During the retreat some mutinous soldiers shot down their general. Though the fatally wounded Gouget begged Jean Baptiste Bernadotte to keep calm, Bernadotte harangued the troops until they seized the assassins. Ultimately an officer was sentenced to die for inciting his soldiers. [17]

In spite of his strange defection, Barbantane managed to avoid the guillotine. He was imprisoned at Toulouse but later freed. Maximilien Robespierre put him in prison again but he survived the Reign of Terror. Later on, Napoleon instructed that Barbantane be left at home because he was useless at Paris. [10]

Monument

A battle memorial commemorating the victory is 1 kilometre (0.6 mi) southeast of the village, near the Perpignan–Rivesaltes Airport. The monument has the following inscription, A la mémoire de l'armée des Pyrénées-Orientales qui combattirent à Peyrestortes sous la conduite des conventionnels Cassanyes, Fabre, des généraux Daoust et Goguet. (To the memory of the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees which fought at Peyrestortes under the direction of deputies Cassanyes, Fabre, of generals Daoust and Goguet.) [18]

Notes

  1. Smith 1998, p. 46.
  2. Smith 1998, p. 49.
  3. 1 2 3 Phipps 2011b, p. 153.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Phipps 2011b, p. 156.
  5. 1 2 3 Phipps 2011b, p. 154.
  6. Smith 1998, p. 53.
  7. Phipps 2011b, p. 152.
  8. Rickard 2009.
  9. 1 2 Munier 2002.
  10. 1 2 3 4 Phipps 2011b, p. 155.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Prats 2007a.
  12. 1 2 3 Phipps 2011b, p. 157.
  13. 1 2 Smith 1998, p. 57.
  14. Ostermann & Chandler 1987, p. 406.
  15. Phipps 2011b, pp. 166–167.
  16. Broughton 2006.
  17. Phipps 2011a, p. 286.
  18. Prats 2007b.

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References

Coordinates: 42°45′18″N2°51′09″E / 42.7550°N 2.8525°E / 42.7550; 2.8525