Cazadores de Castilla in the village - they did well until the ammunition ran out
Marshal Marmont sent General Clauzel ahead to engage the Conde de España’s little force. Clauzel had his own (Second) Divn of the Armée de Portugal (10 battalions of infantry and a battery of 8pdr guns) – and was supported by Cavrois’ Division of 4 regiments of dragoons plus 2 foot batteries from Tirlet’s reserve artillery (a total of 10360 men with 24 guns).
España had 5 line infantry regiments, with 2 battalions of volontarios (militia), Sanchez’s 2 regiments of irregular lancers, and 2 field batteries (a total of 6140 men with 12 guns).
The Spanish troops took up position on a line of low hills behind the stream of Valparaiso, which was fordable but difficult to negotiate because of its position in a gully. Clauzel set his artillery on the highest ground he had available, and sent Berlier’s brigade forward over the bridge which carries the Salamanca-Zamora road over the stream, close to the small hamlet of Peleas de Arriba. His second brigade, with Barbot commanding, were committed to a feint against the stream on the French right. The dragoons were held in reserve behind the flanks.
A theme for the day was the desultory performance of the French artillery. Clauzel’s intention was to demoralise the Spanish infantry by sustained fire from his batteries. Some blamed problems with the quality of the powder, but – whatever the cause – the French guns caused very little damage throughout the action. If the banjo had existed in 1812, the French gunners could not have hit a cow on the backside with one on that day. The Spanish infantry kept up a surprisingly brisk and effective fire, especially around the bridge, and Berlier’s men were repeatedly driven back with heavy losses. Because the attack around the bridge gained so little ground, Barbot’s diversionary attack was switched to become the main assault, but with no better success. At one point the 2nd Princesa and the 1st Sevilla regiments made a bayonet charge – supported by the plucky volunteers of the Defensores de Fernando VII – and swept a large portion of Barbot’s command back into the arroyo in confusion. Eventually Clauzel broke off his attack and withdrew, but his losses were heavy, with many men missing or taken prisoner.
España won a remarkable and unexpected victory – his total loss by the end of the action was 1080 men, of whom many were expected to rejoin the colours, while the French lost over 4000, plus the eagle of the 2nd Bn of the 25e Leger. The Junta de Castilla had been so pessimistic about España’s chances prior to the action that they had been very reluctant to attach a militia battery to his force, since that would simply be another 6 guns lost if the French prevailed.
Marmont’s Chief of Staff, La Martinière, was given the challenging job of writing up his report of the battle in terms which would avoid bringing the wrath of the Minister of War down on their heads.
The French fell back in good order, and with all their guns, towards
, since the Spanish cavalry were not in a position to do them further damage. Salamanca
Orders of Battle
Spanish 3rd Army (part) – Conde de España
2nd Princesa, 1st Sevilla, 2nd
, Tiradores de Castilla, Cazadores de Castilla Jaen
1st & 2nd Lanceros de Castilla
2nd Loyales de Zamora, Defensores de Fernando VII
2 companies of foot artillery
French force (from Armée de Portugal ) – Gen de Divn Bertrand Clauzel
Berlier’s Bde – 25e Leger (3 Bns), 27e Ligne (2)
Barbot’s Bde – 50e Ligne (3), 59e Ligne (2)
15/3e Art à Pied
Dragoon Divn (Cavrois)
Picquet’s Bde – 6e & 11e Dragons
Boudinhon-Valdec’s Bde – 15e & 25e Dragons
Reserve artillery (Tirlet)
10/3e & 19/3e Art à Pied
Spanish position at the start
French starting position, from their left flank
Some of Espana's volunteer troops
French right flank - the quiet side
Berlier's attack - all they have to do is cross that bridge and keep marching...
Growing concern on the French left
Clauzel wants to be alone for a while
Espana (right edge of picture) played a conspicuous part in pushing back Barbot's attack
Getting desperate - bring up another reserve unit...