Battle of Valmaseda

Last updated
Battle of Valmaseda
Part of the Peninsular War
Date5 November 1808
Location
Result Spanish victory
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg French Empire Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Spain
Commanders and leaders
Eugene-Casimir Villatte Joaquín Blake
Strength
13,000 24,000
Casualties and losses
300 killed or wounded
300 captured
baggage train captured
50 killed or wounded

The Battle of Valmaseda (or Balmaseda) took place on 5 November 1808, during Lieutenant-General Blake's retreat from superior French armies in northern Spain. Reinforced by veteran regular infantry from General La Romana's Division of the North (Spanish : Division del Norte), Blake's force suddenly turned on its pursuers and ambushed General Victor's errant vanguard under Général de division Villatte.

Division of the North

The Division of the North was a 19th-century Spanish infantry division.

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian, is a Western Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

The vanguard is the leading part of an advancing military formation. It has a number of functions, including seeking out the enemy and securing ground in advance of the main force.

Contents

Background

The French defeat had its roots in Marshal François Lefebvre's earlier failure to destroy the Spanish army at the Battle of Pancorbo, where Blake had shaken off the premature French assault and escaped with his army intact. Further mistakes were made in the French pursuit, namely when Victor carelessly allowed his Army Corps to spread out in its search for an enemy he regarded as beaten.

François Joseph Lefebvre Marshal of France

François Joseph Lefebvre, Duc de Dantzig, was a French military commander during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and one of the original eighteen Marshals of the Empire created by Napoleon.

The Battle of Pancorbo, fought on 31 October 1808, was one of the opening engagements in Napoleon's invasion of Spain.

Forces

Major-General Eugene-Casimir Villatte commanded the 3rd Division of Lefebvre's IV Corps. This oversized unit included three battalions each of the 27th Light, 63rd, 94th and 95th Line Infantry Regiments, plus two foot artillery batteries. [1]

Blake's Army of Galicia contained five infantry divisions, a vanguard and a reserve.

General Figueroa commanded the 1st Division [Hibernia, Santiago, Mallorca, Mandoñedo, Rey].

Gen Martinengo the 2nd Division [Segovia, Victoria, Voluntarios de Navarra, Pontevedra] (5,100)(7 Battalions).

Gen Riquelme the 3rd Division [Compostela, Gerona, Sevilla, 6th Marina](7 Battalions).

Gen Carbajal the 4th Division [Granaderos](10 Battalions, 1 present).

Gen La Romana the 5th Division [Barcelona, 1st Cataluña, 1st & 2nd Zamora, Princesa] (5,300)(7 Battalions).

Gen Mendizabal the vanguard [Aragon, 2nd Cataluña, Leon, Navos] (5 Battalions)

Gen Mahy the reserve [Granaderos, Battalion de General, Corona, Galica, Guardas Nacionales de Galica] (5 Battalions).

Asturian Division [Conges de Tineo, Salas, Siero, Villivicioa, Lena, Oviedo, Castropol] (10 Battalions).

There were 1,000 gunners manning 38 cannon and only 300 cavalry. [2]

Battle

Victor tried to trap Gen Acevedo's Asturian Division, which had separated from Blake's army. Instead, Blake was able to draw the French into a trap of his own, and on 5 November Villatte's division, operating ahead of the other French formations, blundered into a brusque attack. This attack drove the French out of Valmaseda.

But while their leaders had erred badly, the iron discipline of the French soldiers did not fail them. Villatte, refusing to surrender, formed his troops into squares and managed to claw his way out of the Spanish encirclement. Even so, the Spaniards captured 300 men and one gun.

During the French retreat, Acevedo's errant division bumped into Villatte's baggage train and captured most of it. On 8 November a resurgent Victor recaptured Valmaseda, killing and wounding 150 and capturing 600 men from Blake's rearguard. [3]

Upon learning of the battle, Napoleon, shocked that his Grande Armée should suffer even a minor defeat by "an army of bandits led by monks," severely reprimanded Victor for his imprudence. Victor redeemed himself two weeks later when he finally defeated Blake at the Battle of Espinosa.

The Grande Armée was the army commanded by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars. From 1805 to 1809, the Grande Armée scored a series of historic victories that gave the French Empire an unprecedented grip on power over the European continent. Widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest fighting forces ever assembled, it suffered terrible losses during the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and never recovered its tactical superiority after that campaign.

Monk religious occupation

A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate his life to serving all other living beings, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live his or her life in prayer and contemplation. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.

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References

Footnotes

  1. Smith, pp 268–269. French and Spanish orders of battle.
  2. Colonel Lipscombe, Nick (2014). The Peninsular War Atlas (Revised). London: Osprey Publishing. p. 73. ISBN   9781472807731.
  3. Smith, p 269