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Salamanca, 1812

Salamanca, 1812

Rory Muir
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Salamanca, 1812
    Book Description:

    July 22, 1812. Salamanca, Spain. Frustrated at their first advance, British forces under Wellington's command have spent the last four days maneuvering and retreating from the French army. Patient and cautious, Wellington is determined not to make a fatal mistake. He glimpses a moment of opportunity and grasps it, committing all of his troops to a sudden devastating attack. At the end of the day, the French army is broken, panic-stricken, and reeling; Wellington has achieved the finest victory of his brilliant military career.This book examines in unprecedented detail the battle of Salamanca, a critical British victory that proved crushing to French pride and morale in the Peninsular War (1808-1814). Focusing on the day of the battle, award-winning author Rory Muir conveys the experience of ordinary soldiers on both sides, dissects each phase of the fighting, and explores the crucial decisions each commander made. Muir employs wide-ranging British and French sources-many unpublished or obscure-to reconstruct every aspect of the battle. Having walked the battlefield itself, a site which remains today much as it was in 1812, he relates the ebb and flow of the battle with particular vividness. Muir also discusses in separate commentary sections his sources of information and explains how he has dealt with the inevitable contradictions and gaps in evidence that emerged during his research. Complete with maps, battleground plans, and other illustrations, this compelling book focuses long overdue attention on a single day in Salamanca that changed European history.Rory Muir is visiting research fellow in the department of history, University of Adelaide. His previous books includeTactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon and Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807-1815,both published by Yale University Press.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17715-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. List of Maps and Plans
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  6. Preface
    (pp. x-xiv)
  7. Chapter One The Campaign
    (pp. 1-22)

    By the end of 1811 the Peninsular War had lasted for three and a half years, and no end was in sight. Napoleon’s lightning campaign in late 1808 had driven the Spanish armies from the Ebro in disarray and led to the capture of Madrid, but it had not broken the Spanish will to resist: the war continued and more than 200,000 – at times more than 300,000 – French troops were tied up south of the Pyrenees. Unlike in central Europe, conquered provinces required large permanent garrisons to prevent them bursting into insurrection, while in the more remote regions, which had...

  8. Chapter Two Armies and Generals
    (pp. 23-46)

    The two armies camped by the Tormes on the night of 21 July 1812 were almost equal in strength. The allied force was somewhat larger: 51,937 officers and men according to a return of 15 July, adjusted to include some reinforcements which arrived before the battle. But from this total about 1,200 men should be deducted for casualties suffered on the 18th, and men who had fallen out during the long hot marches since the army left the Duero. This gives a nominal strength of about 50,700 men, although the actual fighting strength would have been considerably less, for the...

  9. Chapter Three Preliminary Manoeuvres and Skirmishing: Morning and Early Afternoon
    (pp. 47-83)

    Well before dawn on Wednesday 22 July 1812, the hundred thousand men and ten thousand horses of the two armies were stirring after their wet and uncomfortable night. The troops stood to arms an hour before break of day as a routine precaution against a surprise attack, necessary when their opponents were so close. But there was no immediate violence and, as the sun rose, promising a fine, hot day, the men were dismissed to clean their weapons and prepare their breakfast, while parties were sent out to gather wood and water. A corporal in the allied Fifth Division, John...

  10. Chapter Four Pakenham and Thomières
    (pp. 84-104)

    As soon as Wellington had decided to attack, he set off at a gallop to the far right of his army to instruct D’Urban and Pakenham on their part in the coming battle. By doing this in person he minimized the risk of confusion or misunderstandings – he could point out exactly where he wanted the allied troops to go, and answer any doubts or hesitation. D’Urban noted in his journal that ‘Lord Wellington came down from the neighbourhood where he had been examining the Enemy’s left, at a rapid gallop accompanied only by Col. Delancey (but followed immediately afterward by...

  11. Chapter Five Leith and Maucune
    (pp. 105-123)

    The Fifth Division under Lieutenant-General James Leith was the strongest in Wellington’s army, with some 6,700 men in eight British and five Portuguese battalions. It had begun the day as part of the mass of troops which Wellington kept in reserve, hidden in the low ground between Carbajosa and Las Torres; but during the morning it had been brought into the front line, occupying a space immediately north of the Lesser Arapile, which had previously been held by Pack’s Portuguese brigade. Here it could see French troops moving south in the skirts of the forest as they followed the advance...

  12. Chapter Six Le Marchant and the Destruction of the French Left
    (pp. 124-145)

    Wellington did not ride straight from Pakenham to Leith: on the way he stopped near Las Torres, where Le Marchant’s formidable brigade of heavy cavalry was waiting. He told Le Marchant

    that the success of the movement to be made by the Third Division would greatly depend on the assistance they received from the cavalry; and that he must therefore be prepared to take advantage of the first favourable opportunity to charge the enemy’s infantry. ‘You must then charge,’ said Lord Wellington, ‘at all hazards.’ After some brief remarks on the chances of the day, Lord Wellington rode towards the...

  13. Chapter Seven Collapse and Recovery in the Centre
    (pp. 146-164)

    While the French left was being so comprehensively routed, the battle in the centre was hard-fought, with fluctuating fortunes. Here, Wellington’s front line consisted of Cole’s Fourth Division and Pack’s Independent Portuguese brigade, supported by the Sixth Division with the First Division further back in reserve. Cole’s division was one of the weakest in the allied army: some 5,200 officers and men on 15 July, while the week’s campaigning and the fighting on the 18th, in which it played a prominent part, had probably reduced it to just under five thousand men. Half of these were Portuguese in Stubbs’s brigade;...

  14. Chapter Eight Pack’s Attack on the Greater Arapile
    (pp. 165-175)

    Cole’s initial defeat was not the only setback suffered by the allies in the centre: Pack’s independent Portuguese brigade had made a bold attack on the Greater Arapile and had been repulsed with heavy losses. Fortunately, we have an excellent account of this operation in a lively personal narrative by Captain Charles Synge, Pack’s aide-de-camp, which also sheds much light on the experience of the battle.

    Pack’s brigade consisted of the 1st and 16th Portuguese line regiments (two battalions each) and the 4th Caçador battalion: 2,607 officers and men on 15 July. It was the second strongest Portuguese brigade in...

  15. Chapter Nine Ferey and the French Last Stand
    (pp. 176-191)

    The defeat of the divisions of Clausel and Bonnet left no doubt that the French had lost the battle. More than half of Marmont’s army had been broken; thousands of French troops had been captured and the remainder were streaming to the rear in great disorder, even panic. But there was still a large number of men – almost half the infantry in the army – who had yet to be seriously engaged, and who remained in good order. With skill and luck these units might be salvaged from the wreck, but first they were needed to check the allied pursuit of...

  16. Chapter Ten Foy and the French Retreat
    (pp. 192-207)

    The battle was almost over, and yet many thousands of allied soldiers, and even some thousands of French, had not fired a shot, or made a charge or confronted an enemy face to face. The Spanish contingent – Carlos de Espaňa’s division and Julián Sánchez’s lancers – lost only two men killed and four wounded in the whole day. This produced a rather sour reproach from a Scottish sergeant in one of Pakenham’s regiments:

    During the battle, the Spanish army, under Don Carlos d’Espagne, had remained at a respectable distance on a height in our rear without having been engaged; they seemed...

  17. Chapter Eleven The Victory
    (pp. 208-218)

    The battle of Salamanca was the greatest French defeat for over a decade. Other reverses had cost more men, for example, the capitulation of Bailen, or the failure of Massena’s invasion of Portugal; or had involved Napoleon more closely, such as the repulse suffered at Aspern-Essling. But not since the dark days of 1799 had a French army of almost fifty thousand men been broken in open battle and fled into the night. Equally, it was the greatest British victory, not just of the Peninsular War, or even of the whole Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars to date, but for more...

  18. Chapter Twelve The Aftermath
    (pp. 219-227)

    Three days after the battle Sergeant Richard Davey, of the Royal Artillery Drivers, wrote home to his wife and children:

    The engagement then begun to be very heavy. I expected my ammunition would be wanted, as they was firing so fast, so I marched up to them, and such a sight I never saw for the ground was strew’d with Heads, Arms, Legs, Horses. Wounded men lay bleeding and groaning, women screaming and crying for the loss of their husbands, guns roaring and the shot flying about our heads in such a manner, seemed to me a most dreadful spectical...

  19. Chapter Thirteen Consequences
    (pp. 228-237)

    On the morning after the battle the French army continued its hasty and disordered flight east, towards Peňaranda, which it reached that evening. Clausel had left Foy’s division at Alba to act as a rearguard, but, although Foy’s men had seen little fighting and suffered few casualties, their confidence had been shaken by the defeat. Wellington resumed the pursuit early on the 23rd. Bock’s heavy dragoons crossed the Tormes at the fords of Huerta,¹ Anson’s brigade at Alba, and they were closely followed by the Light and First Divisions, the rest of the army advancing more slowly in their wake....

  20. Appendix I Casualties Suffered on 18 July 1812
    (pp. 238-239)
  21. Appendix II Allied Strength and Losses
    (pp. 240-252)
  22. Appendix III French Strength and Losses
    (pp. 253-264)
  23. Appendix IV Letter Describing the Battle, Possibly Written by Major-General Henry Campbell
    (pp. 265-269)
  24. Appendix V The Battlefield Today
    (pp. 270-273)
  25. Notes
    (pp. 274-295)
  26. Bibliography
    (pp. 296-307)
  27. Index
    (pp. 308-322)