The Combat on the Coa
24th July 1810.
In April 1810 Marshal Massena was appointed to command of the Army of Portugal, the French Army assigned to invade Portugal. The invasion route was to take the route guarded by the fortresses of Cuidad Rodrigo in Spain and Almeida in Portugal.
Cuidad Rodrigo was besieged by the French and fell on 9th July. Masena then crossed the border to Almeida.
The Light Division, under General Robert Cruafurd, was posted on the east bank of the River Coa, close to Almeida. The rest of the British Army was on the west side of the river which ran in a deep ravine, with a single bridge.
As the French approached, Craufurd delayed withdrawing his baggage and artillery and had to fight a delaying action to give them time to cross the bridge.
A model of Almeida and the River Coa from the Almeida Museum.
The river runs roughly north-south, west of the fortress.
The River Coa.
The bridge over the River Coa.
The memorial, looking east from the bridge.
During the action the 52nd was isolated to the south of the bridge. The French had coptured the knoll overlooking the bridge from where they could block their withdrawal. The 43rd and 95th Rifles acting together on the initiative of their commanders, seized the knoll and covered the 52nd. The entire force them withdraw to the west bank.
Marshal Ney, in command of the action, tried to take the bridge but the British position on the west bank was too strong. After taking heavy losses he withdraw.
The French then set to capture the fortress of Almeida.