The First Battle of Oporto
March 29th 1809.
After the British evacuation from Spain at Corunna, the next invasion of Portugal was launched by Marshal Soult from the north. There was very active guerilla groups in Galicia, northern Spain and the north of Portugal so, as he advanced south, his army was cut off from communication but there was little effective opposition to his advance until he reached Oporto.
The Portugeuse prepared a line of defenses north of the city but only had militia and volunteers to defend it.
The French attacked on 29th March. Resistance varied but before long soldiers and civilians were fleeing the city, heading for the only way to the south bank, a bridge of boats.
This was quickly overwhelmed. There are reports that a Portugeuse officer raised the section that allowed river boats to pass. Many drowned, possibly as many as 4,0000.
The memorial to the Bridge of Boats tragedy.
The bridge of boats was in about the same position as the magnificent bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel.
A diorama in the Oporto Museum of the sack of Oporto.
While Soult was now secure in Oporto, he was out of touch with other French forces in the Peninsula and he was unable to make use of the port for communication or re-supply because of the British domination of the sea. He sent forces north to try and restore communications. Other French forces crossed the Douro, now Soult was dependent on the bridge of boats.