Monday, January 26, 2009


I was recently pointed to the Battle of Barrosa by my good friend Malcolm Davidson. I would like to pretend that I was already aware of this set to between Anglo-Spanish and French troops as part of the Peninsular War in 1811 but have to hold my hands up and say I didn’t even know that it had taken place. I have looked up some basic facts that I share with you now. However before I proceed let me say that in my experience there are as many versions of historic events as the number of people that took part so please do not bombard me with variations.

The Battle of Barrosa was fought on March 5 1811.It was an unsuccessful French attack on a larger Anglo-Spanish force attempting to lift the siege of Cádiz during the Peninsular War . During the battle, a single British division defeated two French divisions and captured a regimental eagle. I understand it was the first French eagle to be taken in battle and as a result Sergeant Patrick Masterson was commissioned.

Cádiz had been put under seige by the French in early 1810, but in March of the following year a reduction in the besieging army gave its garrison of Anglo-Spanish troops an opportunity to lift the siege. A large Allied strike-force was shipped south from Cádiz to Algeciras where they were joined by English troops from Gibraltar, and moved to engage the siege lines from the rear. The French, under the command of Marshal Victor, were aware of the Allied movement and redeployed to prepare a trap. Victor placed one division on the road to Cádiz, blocking the Allied line of march, while his two remaining divisions fell on the single Anglo-Portuguese rearguard division under the command of Sir Thomas Graham. Following a fierce battle on two fronts, the British succeeded in routing the attacking French forces. A lack of support from the larger Spanish contingent commanded by General La Peña prevented an absolute victory, and the French were able to regroup and reoccupy their siege lines. Graham’s tactical victory proved to have little strategic effect on the continuing war, to the extent that Victor was able to claim the battle as a French victory since the siege remained in force until finally being lifted on 24 August 1812.

Graham was furious at the failure of La Peña to support him and the way in which the Spanish general had conducted the raid. The Spanish Cortes awarded Graham the position of Grandee of the First Class which he refused, resigning his post as commander of the British and Portuguese forces in Cadiz and returning to the main army in Portugal.

Malcolm tells me his writing about the Battle of Barossa so I look forward to featuring some of his more detailed findings in the future. He says it is quite difficult to identify the site “amidst all those golf courses around Santi Petri!” Indeed I wonder how many of today’s golfers realize that they are playing on an historic battle field. Until now I certainly wouldn’t have.


Justin Roberts said...

There's a great book by Bernard Cornwell called "Sharpe's Fury". It's set in Cádiz and at the Battle of Barossa.

Malcolm Davidson said...

One strategic importance of Barossa was that it reversed Soult's plan (he was living it up in Seville) to march northwards and assist the French against Wellington on the Portuguese front.