Battle of Venta del Pozo

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Battle of Venta del Pozo
Part of the Peninsular War
Date23 October 1812
Location Villodrigo, Province of Palencia, Castile and León, Spain
42°09′N4°06′W / 42.150°N 4.100°W / 42.150; -4.100 Coordinates: 42°09′N4°06′W / 42.150°N 4.100°W / 42.150; -4.100
Result Indecisive;
French tactical victory [1]
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg French Empire Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Pierre Boyer
Flag of France.svg Jean-Baptiste Curto
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Stapleton Cotton
Strength
3,200 cavalry 2,800 infantry, cavalry, artillery
Casualties and losses
200–300 killed, wounded or captured 165 killed and wounded,
65 captured [2]

The Battle of Venta del Pozo, also known as the Battle of Villodrigo by the French, was a rear-guard action fought as part of the Peninsular War on 23 October 1812 between an Anglo-German force led by Major-General Stapleton Cotton against French cavalry under Major-Generals Jean-Baptiste Curto and Pierre François Xavier Boyer. The result was a French tactical victory.

Peninsular War War by Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom against the French Empire (1807–1814)

The Peninsular War (1807–1814) was a military conflict between Napoleon's empire and Bourbon Spain, for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when the French and Spanish armies invaded and occupied Portugal in 1807, and escalated in 1808 when France turned on Spain, previously its ally. The war on the peninsula lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814, and is regarded as one of the first wars of national liberation, significant for the emergence of large-scale guerrilla warfare.

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.

Contents

Background

The Duke of Wellington's Anglo and Portuguese army gave up its unsuccessful Siege of Burgos on 21 October 1812 and withdrew southwest toward Torquemada. Wellington's 35,000-man army was pursued by Maj-Gen Joseph Souham's reinforced Army of Portugal of 53,000 soldiers.

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.

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.

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.

Forces

Major-General Stapleton Cotton's rearguard included Colonel Colin Halkett's King's German Legion (KGL) brigade (1st and 2nd KGL Light battalions), Major-General George Anson's light cavalry brigade (11th, 12th, and 16th Light Dragoons), Major-General Eberhardt von Bock's heavy cavalry brigade (1st and 2nd King's German Legion Dragoons), and Norman Ramsay's RHA troop of six cannons. The total strength was 2,800 men. [2]

Colin Halkett British Army general

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

Kings German Legion military unit

The King's German Legion (KGL) was a British Army unit of mostly expatriate German personnel during the period 1803–16. The Legion achieved the distinction of being the only German force to fight without interruption against the French during the Napoleonic Wars.

Baron Eberhardt Otto George von Bock was a Hanoverian born major-general in the British army during the Napoleonic Wars.

Curto's light cavalry brigade was made up of the 3rd Hussars and the remnants of the 13th, 14th, 22nd, 26th, and 28th Chasseurs. Boyer's dragoon brigade included the 6th, 11th, 15th, and 25th Dragoons. Colonel Faverot, in charge of the 15th Chasseurs and Duchy of Berg Light Horse Lancers, and Colonel Béteille, head of the élite Gendarmes, also rode with the advanced guard. The French force numbered 3,200 men. [2]

Battle

On 23 October, Cotton drew up his cavalry in front of a stone bridge where the main highway crossed a deep, dry streambed. He planned to ambush the French advanced guard. As the French approached, Anson's cavalry would file across the bridge and presumably the French would closely follow. After the French had crossed, Ramsay's guns would open fire on them and Bock's dragoons would then charge them.

Meanwhile, on the British left flank, Curto's hussars had crossed the dry stream bed further upstream and attacked mounted Spaniards under the command of Marquinez posted on the hills overlooking the battlefield. As the Spaniards came pouring down the hills, closely pursued by the French hussars, the whole mass fell upon the 16th Light Dragoon, which was simultaneously charged by French dragoons that had crossed the bridge.

The 16th Light Dragoon fell back in complete confusion and turned the wrong way, blocking both Ramsay's guns and Bock's intended charge zone. The Lancers of Berg, 15th Chasseurs, and Gendarmes then arrived in line towards the stream bed, which they found impassable. They quickly turned right, trotted over the bridge, turned left, and formed a line in front of Bock's heavy cavalry brigade. The Berg lancer squadron posted itself closest to the bridge, followed by the five squadrons of the 15th Hussars, and finally the four Gendarme squadrons.

At 17:00, before the last two Gendarme squadrons had finished positioning themselves, Bock's Dragoons attacked in two lines. The first line of three squadrons was reeling back when the second line entered the melee. Just before this charge, the last two Gendarme squadrons had managed to place themselves in such a way as to attack both Dragoon lines on their right flank. Eight to ten minutes of bitter fighting ensued, overlooked by both armies on the surrounding heights.

Bock's men retreated in disorder, followed by Anson's brigade. They soon became outflanked on both sides as more French dragoons came racing down upon them, causing the British cavalry to break in complete confusion. They finally rallied behind Halkett's two KGL infantry battalions as the Gendarmes, 15th Chasseurs, and Berg Lancers halted to also rally themselves. Boyer's Dragoons charged and broke Bock's dragoons a second time. Wellington, arriving on the field, then directed Halkett's squares to fire at the French Dragoons, which unsuccessfully charged the squares three times before pulling away. The arrival of French infantry then forced the Anglo-German force to retreat, but in good order. Cotton greatly distinguished himself by his "coolness, judgment, and gallantry." [3]

The Allies lost 165 killed and wounded and 65 captured. The French lost between 200 [2] and 300 [4] casualties. Other sources [5] [6] state 250 killed and wounded for the Allies and 85 prisoners, five of which were officers, while the French had 7 killed and 134 wounded. One of them was Colonel Jean-Alexis Béteille, who was left for dead on the field after receiving twelve sword wounds (eight to the head, one of which cracked his skull open, and four to his left hand). French surgeons managed to save him. Several months later he was made brigadier general and officer of the Légion d'honneur by Napoleon himself.

Battle honours

The German 1st and 2nd KGL Light battalions wore the "Venta del Pozo" battle honour until 1918 in their subsequent service with the Hanoverian and Prussian armies. [6]

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References

  1. Gates 2001, p. 473.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Smith 1998, p. 397.
  3. Glover 2001, p. 215.
  4. Glover 2001, p. 214.
  5. Tranié & Carmigniani 1978, p. 190.
  6. 1 2 Chapell 2000, p. 5.

Sources

Further reading