Battle of Valmaseda

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.

Battle of Valmaseda
Part of the Peninsular War
Date5 November 1808
Location43°11′N 3°11′W / 43.183°N 3.183°W / 43.183; -3.183Coordinates: 43°11′N 3°11′W / 43.183°N 3.183°W / 43.183; -3.183
Result Spanish victory
Belligerents
First French Empire French Empire Spain Spain
Commanders and leaders
First French Empire Eugene-Casimir Villatte Spain Joaquín Blake
Strength
13,000 24,000
Casualties and losses
300 killed or wounded
300 captured
baggage train captured
50 killed or wounded
  current battle

BackgroundEdit

Napoleon's invasion of Spain had started with the Battle of Zornoza, where Marshal François Lefebvre's failed to destroy the Spanish army, as Blake had shaken off the premature French assault and escaped with his army intact.[1] 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.[2]

ForcesEdit

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.[3]

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.[4]

BattleEdit

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.[5]

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.

AftermathEdit

Napoleon's invasion of Spain proceeded with the Siege of Roses.

ReferencesEdit

  • Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-276-9

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ "Battle of Zornoza, 31 October 1808". www.historyofwar.org. Retrieved 2022-08-09.
  2. ^ "Skirmish at Valmeceda, 8 November 1808". www.historyofwar.org. Retrieved 2022-08-09.
  3. ^ Smith, pp 268–269. French and Spanish orders of battle.
  4. ^ Lipscombe, Nick (2014). The Peninsular War Atlas (Revised). London: Osprey Publishing. p. 73. ISBN 9781472807731.
  5. ^ Smith, p 269

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Battle of Zornoza
Napoleonic Wars
Battle of Valmaseda
Succeeded by
Battle of Burgos