Battle Honour on The Royal Green Jackets Cap Badge
The Battle of Salamanca saw an Anglo-Portuguese army under the Duke of Wellington defeat Marshal Auguste Marmont’s French forces among the hills around Arapiles, south of Salamanca, Spain on 22nd of July in 1812 during the Peninsular War. A Spanish division was also present but took no part in the battle.
The battle involved a succession of flanking manoeuvres in oblique order, initiated by the British heavy cavalry brigade and Pakenham’s 3rd division, and continued by the cavalry and the 4th, 5th and 6th divisions. These attacks resulted in a rout of the French left wing. Both Marmont and his deputy commander, General Bonet, received shrapnel wounds in the first few minutes of firing. Confusion amongst the French command may have been decisive in creating an opportunity, which Wellington successfully seized and exploited.
General Bertrand Clausel, third in seniority, assumed command and ordered a counterattack by the French reserve toward the depleted Allied centre. The move proved partly successful but with Wellington having sent his reinforcements to the centre, the Anglo-Portuguese forces prevailed.
Allied losses numbered 3,129 British and 2,038 Portuguese dead or wounded. The Spanish troops took no part in the battle as they were positioned to block French escape routes and as such suffered just six casualties. The French suffered about 13,000 dead, wounded and captured. As a consequence of Wellington’s victory, his army was able to advance to and liberate Madrid for two months, before retreating to Portugal. The French were forced to abandon Andalusia permanently while the loss of Madrid irreparably damaged King Joseph’s pro-French government.
The battle followed a frustrating six weeks for Wellington. As he advanced into central Spain, the Duke had been blocked by Marmont’s army, which was constantly swelled by reinforcements. Wellington withdrew as the odds turned against him, with his armies often marching close together and Marmont repeatedly threatening Wellington’s supply line. By the day of the battle Wellington had decided to withdraw his army all the way back to Portugal, but observed that Marmont had made the tactical error of separating his left flank from the main body of his army. Wellington’s reaction has been differently reported, with little emphasis that both he and Marmont had been looking for an opening for weeks. The Duke immediately ordered the major part of his army to attack the overextended French left wing.
Marshal Marmont’s 50,000-man Army of Portugal contained eight infantry and two cavalry divisions, plus 78 artillery pieces. The infantry divisions were Maximilien Sebastien Foy’s 1st (4,900), Bertrand Clausel’s 2nd (6,300), Claude François Ferey’s 3rd (5,400), Jacques Thomas Sarrut’s 4th (5,000), Antoine Louis Popon de Maucune’s 5th (5,000), Antoine François Brenier de Montmorand’s 6th (4,300), Jean Guillaume Barthélemy Thomières’s 7th (4,300), and Jean Pierre François Bonet’s 8th (6,400). Pierre François Joseph Boyer led 1,500 dragoons and Jean-Baptiste Theodore Curto commanded 1,900 light cavalry. Louis Tirlet directed 3,300 artillerymen and there were also 1,300 engineers, military police and wagon drivers.
Wellington’s 48,500-man army included eight infantry divisions and two independent brigades, five cavalry brigades and 54 cannons. The infantry divisions were Henry Campbell’s 1st (6,200), Edward Pakenham’s 3rd (5,800), Galbraith Lowry Cole’s 4th (5,191), James Leith’s 5th (6,700), Henry Clinton’s 6th (5,500), John Hope’s 7th (5,100) and Charles Alten’s Light (3,500). Carlos de España commanded a 3,400-man Spanish division, while Denis Pack (2,600) and Thomas Bradford (1,900) led Portuguese brigades.
Stapleton Cotton supervised the cavalry brigades. These included 1,000 British heavy dragoons (1st Cavalry Brigade) led by John Le Marchant, 1,000 British light dragoons (2nd Cavalry Brigade) under George Anson, 700 Anglo-German light horse under Victor Alten, 800 King’s German Legion (KGL) heavy dragoons led by George Bock and 500 Portuguese dragoons under Benjamin d’Urban. Hoylet Framingham commanded eight British (RHA: Ross, Bull, Macdonald; RA: Lawson, Gardiner, Greene, Douglas, May) and one Portuguese (Arriaga) six-gun artillery batteries.
Marmont’s army moved south early on the 22nd of July, its leading elements reaching an area southeast of Salamanca. To the west, the Marshal could see Wellington’s 7th Division deployed on a ridge. Spotting a dust cloud in the distance, Marmont assumed that most of the British army was in retreat and that he faced only a rearguard. He planned to move his French army south, then west to turn the British right flank.
This was a mistake as Wellington had most of his forces hidden behind the ridge, while his 3rd and 5th Divisions were en route from Salamanca. Wellington had planned to retreat if outflanked, but waited to see if Marmont would make a blunder.
The Marshal’s army planned to move along an L-shaped ridge, with its angle near a steep height known as the Greater Arapile. That morning, the French occupied only the short, north-pointing part of the L. For his flanking move, Marmont marched his divisions west along the long side of the L. The Anglo-Allied army lay behind another L-shaped ridge, inside and parallel to the French L, and separated from it by a valley. Unseen by the French, Wellington assembled a powerful striking force along the long side of the British L.
As Marmont moved westward, the French became strung out along the long side of the L. Thomières’s division led the way, supported by Curto’s cavalry. After that Maucune, Brenier, and Clausel. Bonet, Sarrut and Boyer advanced close to the Greater Arapile, while Foy and Ferey held the short side of the L.
When the British 3rd Division and D’Urban’s brigade reached the top of the French L, they attacked Thomières. At the same time, Wellington launched the 5th and 4th Divisions, backed by the 7th and 6th Divisions, at the long side of the French L.
The 3rd Division came at the head of Thomières’s division in a two-deep line. Despite its deployment in column formation, the French division initially repulsed its attackers, but was then charged and routed by a bayonet charge. Thomières was killed. Seeing British cavalry in the area, Maucune formed his division into squares, the standard formation to receive a mounted attack, but a poor choice when defending against infantry. With their two-deep line, Leith’s 5th Division easily defeated Maucune in a musketry duel. As the French foot soldiers fell back, Cotton ordered Le Marchant’s brigade (5th Dragoon Guards, 3rd and 4th Dragoons) to attack them. Maucune’s men were cut to pieces by the heavy cavalrymen’s sabres. Many of the survivors surrendered.
Le Marchant hurriedly reformed his troopers and sent them at the next French division, which was winded from a rapid march. The heavy dragoons mauled Brenier’s hastily formed first line, but Le Marchant pressed his luck too far. He was killed trying to break a French square in Brenier’s second line. William Ponsonby succeeded to command of the brigade.
During this crisis, the French army lost its commander. As Pakenham’s 3rd Division prepared to attack Thomières, Marmont finally woke up to his army’s peril. He dashed for his horse, but was caught in a British shellburst which broke his arm and two ribs. His second-in-command, Bonet, was wounded very soon afterwards. Records conflict however, with Marmont claiming that he was wounded as his wing became overextended, and his incapacitation led to the error not being corrected before Wellington attacked. His enemies place the time of his wounding as during Wellington’s attack. For somewhere between 20 minutes and over an hour, the Army of Portugal remained leaderless.
Cole’s 4th Division attacked Bonet’s division while Pack’s Portuguese assaulted the Greater Arapile. With the help of a 40-gun battery firing from the Greater Arapile, both attacks were repulsed by the French.
Assuming command, general Clausel did his best to salvage the dire situation. He committed Sarrut’s division to shore up the wrecked left flank, then launched a dangerous counterattack at Cole’s 4th Division using his own and Bonet’s divisions, supported by Boyer’s dragoons. This attack brushed aside Cole’s survivors and struck the 6th Division in Wellington’s second line. Marshal Beresford reacted promptly to the developing threat and immediately sent Spry’s Portuguese brigade of the 5th Division to engage the French infantry, while Wellington moved the 1st and 7th Divisions to assist. After bitter resistance, the divisions of Clausel and Bonet were defeated and the French army began to retreat.
As the rest of the French army streamed away, Ferey formed his division into a single three-deep line, with each flank covered by a battalion in square. Led by Clinton’s victorious 6th Division, the British came up to this formation and were initially repulsed. After ordering his artillery to crossfire through the centre of the French line, Wellington ordered a second assault. This attack broke Ferey’s division and killed its commander.
Foy’s division covered the French retreat towards Alba de Tormes, where there was a bridge they could use to escape. Wellington, believing that the Alba de Tormes crossing was blocked by a Spanish battalion in a fortified castle, directed his pursuit along a different road. De Espana, however, had withdrawn the unit without informing Wellington, which allowed the French to escape. The Army of Portugal suffered 7,000 killed and wounded and 7,000 captured. Besides Marmont’s severe wounding, two divisional commanders were killed and another wounded. Half of the 5,214 Anglo-Allied losses came from the 4th and 6th Divisions. Cotton, Cole, and Leith were all wounded.
The battle established Wellington as an offensive general. It was said that he “defeated an army of 40,000 men in 40 minutes.” Six days after the battle, Foy wrote in his diary,
“This battle is the most cleverly fought, the largest in scale, the most important in results, of any that the English have won in recent times. It brings up Lord Wellington’s reputation almost to the level of that of Marlborough. Up to this day we knew his prudence, his eye for choosing good positions, and the skill with which he used them. But at Salamanca he has shown himself a great and able master of manoeuvring. He kept his dispositions hidden nearly the whole day: he allowed us to develop our movement before he pronounced his own: he played a close game: he utilized the oblique order in the style of Frederick the Great.”
The Battle of Salamanca was a damaging defeat for the French and while they regrouped, Anglo-Portuguese forces entered Madrid on 6th of August. The Siege of Burgos ensued, then in the autumn the Anglo-Portuguese retreated to Portugal when renewed French concentrations threatened to trap them.
A failure by Spanish troops to guard a crucial escape route over the bridge at Alba de Tormes tainted the victory. This may have resulted from a misunderstanding between Spanish and British commanders. Subsequent pursuit failed to destroy or to capture the fleeing French.
Action at Garcia Hernandez
The following day, Wellington’s King’s German Legion (KGL) heavy dragoons performed the astounding feat of “breaking a square” and overrunning a portion of the French rearguard at the Battle of Garcia Hernandez. Moreover, they accomplished this twice within a few minutes.
Two Imperial Eagles were captured at Salamanca. Ensign John Pratt of the Light Company of the 2nd Battalion 30th Foot took the Eagle of the 22nd Line Regiment, which is today on display in the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment Museum at Fulwood Barracks in Preston, Lancashire. The Eagle of the French 62nd Line (Thomières) was captured by Lieutenant Pearce of the 2nd Battalion 44th East Essex Regiment, a part of Lieutenant General Leith’s 5th Division.
The battle is mentioned in Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace, Book 3 Chapter XXVI. Prior to the Battle of Borodino, Tolstoy describes Napoleon as receiving an aide-de-camp, Fabvier, who has just arrived with news of the Battle of Salamanca. “Fabvier told him of the heroism and devotion of his troops fighting at Salamanca, at the other end of Europe, but with one thought – to be worthy of their Emperor – but with one fear – to fail to please him. The result of that battle had been deplorable. Napoleon made ironic remarks during Fabvier’s account, as if he had not expected that matters could not go otherwise in his absence”.
The battle features in Sharpe’s Sword by Bernard Cornwell, in which Richard Sharpe helps Wellington bring the French to battle by feeding a known French spy false information. Cornwell also duplicated Wellington’s tactics in this battle, in his retelling of Arthur’s victory at the Battle of Mount Badon, in The Warlord Chronicles.
The battle is described in Suzanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, during the time that Jonathan Strange served under Lord Wellington.
Salamanca Place, in Hobart, Tasmania, commemorates the battle. Mount Wellington is nearby.
Division Brigade Regiments and Others
Maj Gen Henry Campbell
Col Thomas W. Fermor
1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards
1st Battalion, 3rd Guards
5th Battalion, 60th Foot (1 company)
Maj Gen William Wheatley
2nd Battalion, 24th Foot
1st Battalion, 42nd Foot
2nd Battalion, 58th Foot
1st Battalion, 79th Foot
5th Battalion, 60th Foot (1 company)
Maj Gen Baron Lowe (or von Löw)
1st Line Battalion, King’s German Legion
2nd Line Battalion, King’s German Legion
5th Line Battalion, King’s German Legion
Maj Gen Edward Pakenham
Lt Col Alexander Wallace
1st Battalion, 45th Foot: Lt Col Forbes (w), Maj Greenwell (w)
1st Battalion, 88th Foot: Maj Murphy (k)
5th Battalion, 60th Foot (3 companies): Lt Col Williams (w), Maj Galiffe (w)
J. Campbell’s Brigade
Lt Col James Campbell (w)
1st Battalion, 5th Foot
2nd Battalion, 5th Foot: Lt Col Bird (w)
2nd Battalion, 83rd Foot
Power’s Portuguese Brigade (8th Brigade)
Col Manley Power
9th and 21st Line, 12th Caçadores
Lt Gen Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole (w)
W. Anson’s Brigade
Maj Gen William Anson
3rd Battalion, 27th Foot
1st Battalion, 40th Foot
5th Battalion, 60th Foot (1 company)
Lt Col Henry W. Ellis
1st Battalion, 7th Foot
1st Battalion, 23rd Foot: Maj Dalmer (w)
1st Battalion, 48th Foot
Brunswick Oels (1 company)
Stubbs’ Portuguese Brigade (9th Brigade)
Col George Stubbs
11th and 23rd Line, 7th Caçadores
Lt Gen James Leith (w)
Maj Gen William H. Pringle
Lt Col James Greville
3rd Battalion, 1st Foot: Lt Col Barnes (w)
1st Battalion, 9th Foot
1st Battalion, 38th Foot: Lt Col Miles (w)
2nd Battalion, 38th Foot
Brunswick Oels (1 company)
Maj Gen William H. Pringle
1st Battalion, 4th Foot
2nd Battalion, 4th Foot
2nd Battalion, 30th Foot
2nd Battalion, 44th Foot: Lt Col Barlow (k)
Brunswick Oels (1 company)
Spry’s Portuguese Brigade (3rd Brigade)
Brig Gen William F. Spry
3rd and 15th Line, 8th Caçadores
Maj Gen Sir Henry Clinton
Maj Gen Hulse
1st Battalion, 11th Foot: Lt Col Cuyler (w), Major McGregor (w)
2nd Battalion, 53rd Foot: Lt Col Bingham (w)
1st Battalion, 61st Foot
5th Battalion, 60th Foot (1 company)
Col Samuel Hinde
2nd Foot: Lt Col Kingsbury (w)
1st Battalion, 32nd Foot
1st Battalion, 36th Foot
Rezende’s Portuguese Brigade (7th Brigade)
Brig Gen Conde de Rezende
8th and 12th Line, 9th Caçadores
Maj Gen John Hope
Col Colin Halkett
1st Light Battalion, King’s German Legion
2nd Light Battalion, King’s German Legion
Brunswick Oels (7 companies)
De Bernewitz’s Brigade
Maj Gen J.H. de Bernewitz (or von Bernewitz)
Collins’ Portuguese Brigade (6th Brigade)
7th and 19th Line, 2nd Caçadores
Maj Gen Charles Baron von Alten
Lt Col Andrew Barnard
1st Battalion, 43rd Foot
parts of 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 95th Foot (4 companies)
Maj Gen John O. Vandeleur
1st Battalion, 52nd Foot
1st Battalion, 95th Foot (8 companies)
Pack’s Brigade (1st Brigade)
Brig Gen Denis Pack
1st and 16th Line, 4th Caçadores
Bradford’s Brigade (10th Brigade)
Brig Gen Thomas Bradford
13th and 24th Line, 5th Caçadores
Maj Gen Carlos de Espana
2nd Battaion, Regiment Princesa
Tiradores de Castilla
Caçadores de Castilla
2nd Battalion, Regiment Juan
3rd Battalion, 1st Seville
one battery of 6-pounders
Lt Gen Sir John Stapleton Cotton (w)
Le Marchant’s Brigade
Maj Gen John Gaspard Le Marchant (k)
Col William Ponsonby
5th Dragoon Guards: Col William Ponsonby
4th Dragoons: Col Lord Edward Somerset
G. Anson’s Brigade
Maj Gen George Anson
11th Light Dragoons
12th (Prince of Wales’s) Light Dragoons
16th (Queen’s) Light Dragoons
von Alten’s Brigade
Maj Gen Victor von Alten (w)
14th Light Dragoons: Lt Col Hervey
1st Hussars, King’s German Legion
Maj Gen Baron Bock
1st Dragoons, King’s German Legion
2nd Dragoons, King’s German Legion
D’Urban’s Portuguese Brigade
Brig Gen Benjamin D`Urban
1st Portuguese Dragoons
11th Portuguese Dragoons
Julian Sanchez’s Brigade
Col Julian Sanchez
1st Lanceros Castilla
2nd Lanceros Castilla
two 4-pounders cannons
Artillery (54 guns)
Lt Col Hoylet Framingham
Ross´ Troop, Royal Horse Artillery
Bull´s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery
MacDonald´s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery
Lawson´s Battery, Field Artillery
Gardiner´s Battery, Field Artillery
Greene´s Battery, Field Artillery
Douglas´s Battery, Field Artillery
May´s Battery, Field Artillery
Sympher´s Battery, King’s German Legion Artillery
Arriaga Battery, Portuguese Artillery
Marshal Auguste de Marmont, Commander-in-Chief (w)
GD Jean Pierre François Bonet (w)
GD Bertrand Clausel (w)
Chief of Artillery: GB Louis Tirlet
Division BrigadeRegiments and Others
GB Maximilien Sebastien Foy
6th Leger, two battalions
69th Ligne, two battalions
GB Francois-Ganivet Desgraviers-Berthelot (mw)
39th Ligne, two battalions
76th Ligne, two battalions
GD Bertrand Clausel
25th Leger, three battalions
27th Ligne, two battalions
50th Ligne, three battalions
59th Ligne, two battalions
GD Claude François Ferey (k)
31st Leger, two battalions
26th Ligne, two battalions
47th Ligne, three battalions
70th Ligne, two battalions
GD Jacques Thomas Sarrut
2nd Leger, three battalions
36th Ligne, three battalions
4th Leger, three battalions
130th Ligne (absent)
GD Antoine Louis Popon de Maucune
15th Ligne, three battalions
66th Ligne, two battalions
82nd Ligne, two battalions
86th Linge, two battalions
GD Antoine François Brenier de Montmorand
17th Leger, two battalions
65th Ligne, three battalions
22nd Ligne, three battalions
Regiment de Prusse (remnants)
GB Jean Guillaume Barthélemy Thomières (k)
1st Ligne, three battalions
62nd Ligne, two battalions
101st Ligne, three battalions
23rd Leger (absent)
GD Jean Pierre François Bonet
118th Ligne, three battalions
119th Linge, three battalions
120th Ligne, three battalions
122nd Ligne, three battalions
Light Cavalry Division
GB Jean-Baptiste T. Curto
3rd Hussars, two squadrons
22nd Chasseurs, two squadrons
26th Chasseurs, two squadrons
28th Chasseurs, one squadron
13th Chasseurs, five squadrons
14th Chasseurs, four squadrons
GB Pierre T.J. Boyer
6th Dragoons, two squadrons
11th Dragoons, two squadrons
15th Dragoons, two squadrons
25th Dragoons, two squadrons
Sourced from Wikipedia