Battle of Pombal

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Battle of Pombal
Part of the Peninsular War
Pombal1.jpg
Date11 March 1811
Location Pombal, Portugal
Result

French tactical victory

  • British-Portuguese forces successfully driven out of Pombal
  • Marshal Masséna's forces saved from destruction
  • French forces continue their retreat east
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg French Empire Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Flag Portugal (1750).svg Portugal
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Michel Ney Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Viscount Wellington
Flag Portugal (1750).svg Luís do Rego Barreto
Strength
9,340 16,000
Casualties and losses
227 205

The Battle of Pombal (March 11, 1811) was a sharp skirmish fought at the eponymous town during Marshal Masséna's retreat from the Lines of Torres Vedras, the first in a series of lauded rearguard actions fought by Michel Ney. The French were pursued by Wellington and his British-Portuguese army but the Allied advance was energetically contested by Ney's efforts, preventing Wellington from crushing Masséna's army when it was critically vulnerable.

Pombal, Portugal Municipality in Centro, Portugal

Pombal is a city and a municipality in Leiria District in the sub region Pinhal Litoral in Portugal. The population in 2011 was 55,217, in an area of 626.00 km². The population of the city of Pombal proper is about 18,000 inhabitants.

André Masséna French military commander during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

André Masséna, 1st Duc de Rivoli, 1st Prince d'Essling was a French military commander during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original eighteen Marshals of the Empire created by Napoleon, with the nickname l'Enfant chéri de la Victoire.

Lines of Torres Vedras

The Lines of Torres Vedras were lines of forts built in secrecy to defend Lisbon during the Peninsular War. Named after the nearby town of Torres Vedras, they were ordered by Arthur Wellesley, Viscount Wellington, constructed by Sir Richard Fletcher, 1st Baronet, and his Portuguese workers between November 1809 and September 1810, and used to stop Masséna's 1810 offensive.

Contents

At the Battle of Pombal, Ney turned to face the larger Anglo-Portuguese forces and defeated their attack.

Background

Unable to break the Lines of Torres Vedras, Ney was given charge of the rear-guard while the main body of the French army withdrew from Portugal. The rear-guard consisted of Mermet's and Marchand's divisions.

Portugal Republic in Southwestern Europe

Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country located mostly on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It is the westernmost sovereign state of mainland Europe. It is bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north and east by Spain. Its territory also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments.

From the very beginning, Marshal Ney deceived the 'Iron Duke' (Wellington), manoeuvring his troops so that Wellington believed that the French were about to return to Torres Vedras, and thus he suspended an offensive operation for several hours, giving Masséna a huge running start.

When it became clear to Wellington that he had been deceived, the British-Portuguese left Torres Vedras and began a pursuit. The British-Portuguese caught up with Ney at the town of Pombal.

Torres Vedras Municipality in Centro, Portugal

Torres Vedras is a municipality in the Portuguese district of Lisbon, approximately 50 kilometres (30 mi) north of the capital Lisbon in the Oeste subregion of the Centro region. The population as of 2011 was 79,465, in an area of 407.15 square kilometres (157.20 sq mi).

Battle

A British advanced-guard much larger than that of the French, the latter consisting of only two battalions of the 6th Light Infantry, attacked the town of Pombal. The two French battalions were overwhelmed by numbers and, after a bitter struggle, the French were forced out of Pombal.

It was then that Ney rushed in and spoke to the 6th Light Infantry. [1] "Chasseurs," he said, "you are losing your beautiful reputation, and you will dishonour yourselves forever if you do not drive the enemy out of Pombal. Come on! Those who are brave, with me!" With these words he galloped towards Pombal and the sixteenth Chasseurs charged with great enthusiasm. The Anglo-Portuguese was driven out, all the way to the Arunca River where several allied soldiers drowned.

Arunca River is a river in Portugal. It is located in the municipalities of Soure and Montemor-o-Velho.

Aftermath

Despite his success, Ney promptly set fire to the town of Pombal and continued his retreat on the right bank of the Arunca. The next action would be the Battle of Redinha.

The Battle of Redinha was a rearguard action which took place on March 12, 1811, during Masséna's retreat from Portugal, by a French division under Marshal Ney against a considerably larger Anglo-Portuguese force under Wellington. Challenging the Allies with only one or two divisions, Ney's 7,000 troops were pitched against 25,000 men. In a typical rearguard action, Ney delayed the Allied advance for a day and bought valuable time for the withdrawal of the main body of the French army.

British general Sir Thomas Picton was impressed by Ney’s actions, as the former was able to observe the latter’s deceiving movements, claiming that it was a "perfect lesson in the art of war".

Thomas Picton Welsh general who served in the British Army

Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton, a Welsh officer of the British Army, fought in a number of campaigns for Britain in the Napoleonic Wars. According to the historian Alessandro Barbero, Picton was "respected for his courage and feared for his irascible temperament". The Duke of Wellington called him "a rough foul-mouthed devil as ever lived", but found him capable.

See also

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References

  1. Oman, Charles (1911). A History of the Peninsular War. IV. Oxford: Clarendon Press.[ page needed ]

Coordinates: 39°55′N8°37′W / 39.917°N 8.617°W / 39.917; -8.617