Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Battle of Guarda - Part 2

From: Marshal, Prince d'Essling, Duc de Rivoli,Andre Massene, commanding 'lArmee du Nord' in Portugal and Spain;
To: Napoleon, Emperor of the French, King of Italy etc etc

Sire -
I have the honour and pleasure to beg to report upon the recent victory by French arms over the forces and allies of the Perfidious Albion. After much manoeuvring, marches and countermarches, the larger portion of the Corps of the Duc d'Elchingen, Marshal Ney, brought to bay at the town of Guarda in north central Portugal that part of the Allies known as the Army of Portugal, under command of a Marshal Beresford of England. Owing to the difficulties of the terrain, the Duc d'Elchingen was instructed to take 3rd and 5th Divisions - the latter in brigade strength only - preceded by Lorges's Dragoons in a sweep into the right rear of the Guarda town, whilst 4th Division and P.Soult's light cavalry conducted a holding action in front. The latter was to become an all out assault if the opportunity presented itself.

The early attacks upon Guarda rapidly spread to both flanks. Soult uncovered a pair of Portuguese battalions in the North Woods; Guarda itself was strongly garrisoned, though a preliminary bombardment by the 12pr guns of the Reserve artillery somewhat reduced the strength of the buildings as strongpoints; the lead elements of 3rd Division ran into an English battalion and a battery flanking the south side of the town. There they discovered elements of another Brigade extending the enemy line into the South Woods.

With the action becoming general along the line, most of 6th Brigade of Marchand's Division, and all of Loison's and Lorges's commands were free to carry on their march deep into the enemy's southern flank. When it became apparent that 26eme Legere (9th Bde, 5th Div.) had swung north prematurely to engage the south face of the woods on their right, I felt it necessary to send to remind their commander of his instructions, which indeed he carried out much to my satisfaction thereafter.
Progress upon Guarda hill and the woods to the north was necessarily slow, given the difficulties of the ground even to light infantry. I and III battalions, 25th Legere (7th Bde) attacked the town itself...

...whilst their companion battalion (II/25eme legere) engaged the Portuguese Brigade to their right,...
...and II and III/6eme Legere attacked along the southern slopes of Guarda Hill.

With parts of 5th and 6th Brigades gradually driving back the enemy, and the rough going on the enemy flank found to be clear of the enemy, Marshal Ney could be seen resolutely striking out with his troops for the distant ridge.

Our earlier appreciation having determined there must be at least as many more enemy foot troops hidden as had already been disclosed, plus his horse and much of his artillery yet to be developed, we had some reason to apprehend what might lie upon the further side of that long and lofty eminence guarding the Anglo-Portuguese right rear...
When at last the lead elements of Ornano's Brigade (15eme Regiment de Dragons)crested the heights, the sight that greeted them was such as to afford considerable relief from the tension of not knowing what lay on the far side of the hill.
A whole brigade was found on the near bank of a stream, hastily forming square. Some distance to the Dragoons' left front, and on the far bank, a redoubt had been built that contained a battery of guns, sited, fortunately for us, facing due south, and so unable to quite to bring the dragoons under fire. Also upon the far side of the stream, could be seen the mass of General Grant's Division of Dragoons, more infantry at least another brigade, and a gun battery that caused some damage to our 15th Dragoon regiment before it could retire behind the crest.

Altogether, what had been disclosed gave us confidence that this action would end favourably to us...

To be continued...