Ciudad Rodrigo - General Reixas checks that everything is ready
Week 13 - Narrative
Having received further prompts from Paris to carry the fight to the Allies, with the objective of invading Portugal, Marmont detached D’Armagnac, with two infantry brigades (6400 men) and the Italian foot artillery battery (8 guns), together with the siege train and engineers of the Armee de Portugal. This force marched to Zamora, where they joined with Clauzel’s command.
Jourdan, with his newly assembled force, carried out a splendid piece of forced marching, travelling from Toledo, via Madrid, to Avila without any straggling.
Karl, Baron Von Alten
Karl von Alten, with the Anglo-Portuguese Light Division, the KGL Hussars and Maceta’s Spanish volunteers, became aware that there were now French forces to the north and the south – Maceta’s contacts among the civilian population confirmed that the force at Avila (Jourdan – though the Allies did not have this information) was large enough to cause concern. The combined Allied force accordingly fell back to the area around Ciudad Rodrigo, since their relative lack of cavalry would make it impossible to withdraw if attacked.
Concerned about the possibility of sea-borne landings on the north coast, the French moved Barbot and his garrison troops at San Sebastian to Bilbao, replacing them at San Sebastian with a force of 4000 National Guard plus artillery from the Bayonne reserve.
Gregorio Cruchaga has been appointed in Navarra to lead the irregular partisans formerly commanded by the Gomez brothers.
With the Allied army occupying Galicia, the French cannot get into Portugal without getting past the fortresses at Almeida and/or Elvas.
Marmont is convinced that the Allies will not attack him across the mountains from Galicia. Since he is once again directed by the Minister of War to invade Portugal, he has detached his siege train and some of his infantry to join Clauzel to the south.
Jourdan has moved from Toledo to Avila, and the French now have some interesting possibilities:
(1) If Von Alten stands his ground at Salamanca, attack him with some combination of Clauzel’s and Jourdan’s forces – then move to lay siege to Ciudad Rodrigo, which would require two weeks march to receive support from Cotton (who is at Orense).
(2) If Von Alten sees the threat and retires back to Ciudad Rodrigo, there are choices – either pursue him and attack him there with the combined Clauzel/Jourdan force or (riskier but potentially more decisive) hold him there with Jourdan’s force while Clauzel (now reinforced by Armagnac’s 2 brigades), attacks Cotton and Espana at Orense. Defeat for Cotton would leave Wellington isolated in Galicia and allow more time for a siege at Rodrigo.
Either way, Rodrigo is the objective.
The roads from Lugo to Almeida are not good, even in decent weather, and it would be difficult for Wellington to support Rodrigo quickly or force a siege to be lifted. He is really obliged to move south now, back into Portugal, even though this may allow the French an alternative (tortuous) route to Lisbon, bypassing the border fortresses.
The situation of Maceta, whose Spanish troops are currently in Ciudad Rodrigo alongside Von Alten’s, is interesting. He and his troops belong to the Junta de Castilla, and will not serve in Portugal. If Von Alten is forced to retire into Portugal, Maceta may have to separate his forces and head for Caceres instead.