The Battle of Barrosa - Introduction
March 5th 1811
The Battle of Barrosa was the culmination of an attempt to lift the Siege of Cádiz. A combined Anglo-Spanish force, under the command of Spanish General Manuel la Peña was transferred by sea to near Tarifa, south east of Cádiz. The aim was to march back towards Cádiz and, by co-ordinating with a sortie from Cádiz, to trap the French forces of Marshal Victor, defeat them and destroy the French siege lines and supplies. Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Graham commanded the British contingent.
It didn't go to plan.
Initially delayed by bad weather, then by problems finding acceptable routes through the coastal zone, the force reached the Barrosa ridge. By this time the Spanish wanted to get back to Cádiz. A sortie from the town had pushed back the French division blocking the route and la Peña pushed forward the meet them. He then called the British forces forward and they started to move.
Graham left five Spanish battalions and Browne's battalion (2 companies from each of the 9th, 28th and 82nd) to hold the ridge. A cavalry force under Colonel Samuel Whittingham followed a road along the coast to safeguard the flank and protect the baggage taking this road. However, Victor was an experienced soldier and had hidden his other two divisions north of the Anglo-Spanish line of march waiting for the force to be vulnerable to attack and saw his moment. As soon as Graham was told that Victor's troops were emerging from the woods which had concealed them he realised that the ridge was key to the safety of his force and turned them around. Browne was nearest and he attacked against nearly 10:1 odds to win time. The five Spanish battalions of the rearguard ran away. The rest of Dilkes Brigade followed and, after hard fighting, pushed Ruffin's Division off the ridge.
Meanwhile, Wheatley's Brigade were partly in the trees on flatter ground to the north. They faced Leval's Division and pushed them back, aided by well placed artillery under Major Duncan. A French Eagle was captured by the 87th, the first such in the Peninsular War.
A lack of cavalry meant that the French were not pursued by the British. It was alleged that the Spanish near Cádiz could have pressed the advantage, but failed to. The dispute nearly led to a duel between Graham and one of the Spanish commanders. Shortly after Graham was transferred to Wellington's main army as second-in-command. La Peña was brought before a court-martial, largely for failing to pursue the French. He was acquitted but stripped of command.
Losses were heavy. The British lost about 1240 men out of 5,200. The French some 2,380 out of 10,160. The Spanish lost 300-400 out of about 10,000.
The siege was not lifted. This may actually have been a good thing. It diverted considerable French resource away from the fight against Wellington.
Places can be referred to by different names. This is not just an English / Spanish translation issue. The following shows equivalents.
Boars (wild pigs) were common in the area. It was also considered that the shape of the ridge resembled a boar's leg.
Battle of Barrosa
|Batalla de Chiclana / Batalla de Cerro del Puerco||Barrosa can be translated as red mud.|
The French also refer to it as the Bataille de Chiclana
|Barrosa Ridge / Hill||Cerro de Puerco / Lomo del Puerco||Hill of the Pig / Leg (loin) of the Pig|
Laguna del Puerco / Laguna de Campano
|Lake of the Pig / Lake of the Plain|
|Barrosa Tower||Torre Barrosa / Torre del Puerco||Barrosa Tower / Tower of the Pig|
The beaches south of Cádiz are wonderful so it's no suprise that the area between Barrosa Ridge and the Sancti Petri is heavily developed with hotels, apartments, restaurants car parks and golf courses. The positive aspect for me was that two bus routes serve the area.