|Blockade of Almeida 1811|
|Part of Peninsular War|
Fortress of Almeida in Portugal
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
In the Blockade of Almeida (14 April – 10 May 1811) a French garrison under Antoine François Brenier de Montmorand was surrounded by approximately 13,000 Anglo-Allied soldiers led by Generals Sir Alexander Campbell, 1st Baronet and Sir William Erskine, 2nd Baronet. After a French relief attempt failed, Brenier and his troops broke out at night after blowing up portions of the fortress. To the fury of the British army commander Arthur Wellesley, Viscount Wellington, most of the French escaped due to their commander's single-minded determination, British fumbling, and remarkably good luck. The action took place during the Peninsular War portion of the Napoleonic Wars. Almeida, Portugal is located near the Spanish border about 300 kilometres (186 mi) northeast of Lisbon. The town was originally captured from a Portuguese garrison during the 1810 Siege of Almeida.
Antoine-François Brenier de Montmorand served as a French general of division during the period of the First French Empire and became an officer of the Légion d'honneur.
Lieutenant-General Sir Alexander Campbell, 1st Baronet, was a senior officer of the British Army during the early nineteenth century. His long and varied career saw extensive action, including engagements in Europe during the American Revolutionary War, in India during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War and subsequently in the Peninsular War as one of the Duke of Wellington's generals. Badly wounded during the Peninsular campaign, Campbell was rewarded with a knighthood and a baronetcy, later holding a number of prestigious military commands.
Major-General Sir William Erskine, 2nd Baronet was an officer in the British Army, served as a member of Parliament, and achieved important commands in the Napoleonic Wars under the Duke of Wellington, but ended his service in insanity and suicide.
On 11 October 1810, Marshal André Masséna's French army found itself confronted by the elaborately built and well-defended Lines of Torres Vedras in its invasion of Portugal. Foiled by the virtually impregnable defenses, the French commander halted to wait for reinforcements. Unable to secure enough food, the French army wasted away from starvation and illness. By 1 January 1811, the 65,000-strong army had shrunk to 46,500. Massena reluctantly retreated from Portugal beginning on 6 March.The British army of Viscount Wellington beat the French II Corps of General of Division Jean Reynier at the Battle of Sabugal on 3 April 1811. The next day, the British invested the fortress of Almeida.
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.
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.
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.
After Marshal André Masséna's retreat from Portugal, the French installed a garrison of 1,400 men under Brenier in the fortress. These troops were blockaded in the town by forces under Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Since the Anglo-Portuguese Army had no heavy guns to breach the walls, they were forced to starve the garrison out. Because of this, this operation was technically a blockade rather than a siege.
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.
A blockade is an effort to cut off supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade. It is also distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually directed at an entire country or region, rather than a fortress or city. While most blockades historically took place at sea, blockade is still used on land to prevent someone coming into a certain area.
A siege is a military blockade of a city, or fortress, with the intent of conquering by attrition, or a well-prepared assault. This derives from Latin: sedere, lit. 'to sit'. Siege warfare is a form of constant, low-intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static, defensive position. Consequently, an opportunity for negotiation between combatants is not uncommon, as proximity and fluctuating advantage can encourage diplomacy. The art of conducting and resisting sieges is called siege warfare, siegecraft, or poliorcetics.
From 3 to 5 May 1811, Masséna failed to relieve Almeida in the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro. During this time, the blockade was maintained by Major General William Erskine's 5th and Major General Alexander Campbell's 6th Divisions, plus Count Barbacena's 300-man Portuguese cavalry brigade. Campbell guarded the south and west sides of the fortress with too many soldiers and placed his men too far from the city. Though instructed by Wellington to block the Barba del Puerco bridge on the afternoon of the 10th, Erskine neglected to forward the necessary orders in time.
In the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro, the British-Portuguese Army under Lord Wellington checked an attempt by the French Army of Portugal under Marshal André Masséna to relieve the besieged city of Almeida.
With great skill, Brenier slipped his men through the Anglo-Portuguese lines on the night of 10–11 May. The fortifications were rigged with explosives and blew up after the French cleared out. After overrunning a Portuguese outpost, Brenier headed northwest toward the Barba del Puerco bridge. Campbell and Brigadier General Denis Pack gave chase with some troops, but a British colonel whose regiment was stationed near the breakthrough failed to pursue. Another regiment arrived at the Barba del Puerco, but since the French had not gotten there yet, the unit marched to another location. The French were intercepted just as they reached the bridge and numbers of them were killed or captured. A total of 360 Frenchmen became casualties during the night. An unwise attempt by the 36th Foot Regiment to storm the bridge was repelled with 35 casualties by the French 31st Light Infantry Regiment from Reynier's II Corps.
The 36th (Herefordshire) Regiment of Foot was an infantry regiment of the British Army, raised in 1701. Under the Childers Reforms it amalgamated with the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment of Foot to form the Worcestershire Regiment in 1881. Its lineage is continued today by the Mercian Regiment.
An enraged Wellington later wrote,
They had about 13,000 to watch 1,400. There they were all sleeping in their spurs even; but the French got off. I begin to be of the opinion that there is nothing on earth so stupid as a gallant officer.
The Battle of Buçaco or Bussaco, fought on 27 September 1810 during the Peninsular War in the Portuguese mountain range of Serra do Buçaco, resulted in the defeat of French forces by Lord Wellington's Anglo-Portuguese Army.
General Julien Augustin Joseph Mermet fought in the Napoleonic Wars as a division commander in Italy and in the Peninsular War.
Jean Louis Ebénézer Reynier rose in rank to become a French army general officer during the French Revolutionary Wars. He led a division under Napoleon Bonaparte in the French Campaign in Egypt and Syria. During the Napoleonic Wars he continued to hold important combat commands, eventually leading an army corps during the Peninsular War in 1810-1811 and during the War of the Sixth Coalition in 1812-1813.
The Battle of Sabugal was an engagement of the Peninsular War which took place on 3 April 1811 between Anglo-Portuguese forces under Arthur Wellesley and French troops under the command of Marshal André Masséna. It was the last of many skirmishes between Masséna's retreating French forces and those of the Anglo-Portuguese under Wellington, who were pursuing him after the failed 1810 French invasion of Portugal.
In the Siege of Almeida, the French corps of Marshal Michel Ney captured the border fortress from Brigadier General William Cox's Portuguese garrison. This action was fought in the summer of 1810 during the Peninsular War portion of the Napoleonic Wars. Almeida is located in eastern Portugal, near the border with Spain.
General Sir Brent Spencer was an Anglo-Irish officer in the British Army, seeing active service during the American Revolutionary War and the French Revolutionary Wars. During the Peninsular War he became General Wellesley's second-in-command on two occasions. He fought at Vimeiro and testified in Wellesley's favor at the inquiry following the Convention of Cintra. He led a division at Bussaco and two divisions at Fuentes de Onoro. After the latter action, he had an independent command in northern Portugal. Wellesley, now Lord Wellington, was not satisfied that Spencer was up to the responsibilities of second-in-command and he was replaced by Thomas Graham. Miffed, Spencer left Portugal and never returned. He became a full general in 1825.
Nicholas Trant (1769-1839) was a British Army officer who led Portuguese irregular troops in several actions during the Peninsular War. His best known exploits were the recapture of Coimbra from the French in October 1810 and the successful defense of the line of the Mondego River in March 1811.
The First siege of Badajoz was a siege carried out during the Peninsular War on the Spanish town of Badajoz, by the French general Soult.
Antoine Louis Popon de Maucune led a French division against the British in 1811–1813 during the Peninsular War. He is referred to as Maucune in English-language sources. He joined the pioneer corps of the French army in 1786 and was a lieutenant by the time the French Revolutionary Wars broke out. He fought in the north in 1792 and in the Alps in 1793. Afterward he served in Italy through 1801. During this period, he fought at Arcole in 1796 and at the Trebbia, Novi and Genola in 1799. He was appointed to command the 39th Line Infantry Demi-Brigade and led it in the 1800 campaign.
In the Siege of Pamplona a Spanish force led by Captain General Henry O'Donnell and later Major General Carlos de España blockaded an Imperial French garrison under the command of General of Brigade Louis Pierre Jean Cassan. At first, troops under Arthur Wellesley, Marquess Wellington surrounded the city, but they were soon replaced by Spanish units. In late July 1813, Marshal Nicolas Soult attempted to relieve the city but his operation failed in the Battle of the Pyrenees. Cassan capitulated to the Spanish after the French troops in the city were reduced to starvation. The surrender negotiations were marred by French bluffs to blow up the fortifications and Spanish threats to massacre the garrison, neither of which occurred. Pamplona is located on the Arga River in the province of Navarre in northern Spain. The siege occurred during the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars.
François Nicolas Mathus Fririon joined the French army and rose through the ranks during the French Revolutionary Wars to become a general officer by 1800. After commanding a brigade with distinction during the War of the Fifth Coalition at Aspern-Essling and Wagram he was promoted and made chief of staff to Marshal André Masséna. He served in this role during Masséna's 1810–1811 invasion of Portugal. His history of that campaign was published posthumously by his son. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 16.
The Second Siege of Badajoz saw an Anglo-Portuguese Army, first led by William Carr Beresford and later commanded by Arthur Wellesley,The Viscount Wellington, besiege a French garrison under Armand Philippon at Badajoz, Spain. After failing to force a surrender, Wellington withdrew his army when the French mounted a successful relief effort by combining the armies of Marshals Nicolas Soult and Auguste Marmont. The action was fought during the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars. Badajoz is located 6 kilometres (4 mi) from the Portuguese border on the Guadiana River in western Spain.
Jacques Thomas Sarrut joined the French army and became a division commander in the First French Empire of Napoleon. He led a regiment at Hohenlinden, a brigade at Jena, Bussaco, and Fuentes de Onoro, and a division at Salamanca. He was mortally wounded while leading his soldiers against the Anglo-Allied army at the Battle of Vitoria. Sarrut is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe on Column 21.
Jean Guillaume Barthélemy Thomières was killed in action at Salamanca while commanding an Imperial French infantry division. He joined the army of the First French Republic in 1793 and fought the Spanish. He transferred to the Army of Italy in 1796 and was present at the battles of Dego, Mondovi, Lodi, Bassano, and Arcole. In 1800 he fought at Montebello and Marengo as an aide-de-camp to Claude Perrin Victor.
Pierre Hugues Victoire Merle was a French general during the First French Empire of Napoleon. He joined the French army as a private in 1781 but after the French Revolution, the pace of promotion quickened. He was appointed a general officer in 1794 for distinguishing himself during the War of the Pyrenees. After leading a brigade at Austerlitz in December 1805, he was promoted again. His division was in the first wave of the 1808 invasion of Spain, which precipitated the Peninsular War. In Spain, he led his division at Medina de Rioseco, Corunna, First and Second Porto, Bussaco, Sabugal, and Fuentes de Onoro. After being sent home from Spain, Merle was assigned to lead a division in the French invasion of Russia. He led his troops at First and Second Polotsk. He embraced the Bourbon cause in 1814, retired from the army in 1816, and died at Marseilles in 1830. Merle is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe on Column 35.
This is the order of battle for the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro, which took place on 3–6 May 1811.
The fortress of Real Fuerte de la Concepción is a star fortress built in the Vaubanesque style. It is located 0.6 miles (0.97 km) west of the village of Aldea del Obispo in the province of Salamanca, western Spain, part of the autonomous community of Castile and León. The fortress was constructed there because of its position of great strategic significance due to its proximity to the border between Spain and Portugal which lies 0.4 miles (0.64 km) to the west of the fortress. The Fortress of the Concepcion is also opposite the Portuguese castle fortress of Almeida which lies 5.5 miles (8.9 km) west-north-west of the fortress. In 2006, the derelict fortress was sold privately and the site was renovated into a luxury hotel which opened in 2012.
Michael Glover (1922–90) served in the British army during the Second World War, after which he joined the British Council and became a professional author. He has written many articles and books on Napoleonic and Victorian warfare.
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.