Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Barba del Puerco - March 1810

This follows on from my reference to General Ferey a week or two ago.

John C was kind enough to send me some pics and a map for the action at Barba del Puerco, which was mentioned in the excerpt from George Simmons' memoirs.

I had a look at Simmons' A British Rifle Man, and checked out Oman Vol.III for details. The difficult pass between San Felices and Barba del Puerco crossed a narrow bridge some 90 metres long, over the Agueda. The pickets of Craufurd's Light Division and the French VI Corps maintained an informal truce along the Agueda into March, 1810. The following passage is from Oman:

The first test of the efficiency of Craufurd's outpost system was made on the night of March 19-20, when Ferey, commanding the brigade of Loison's division which lay at San Felices, assembled his six voltigeur companies before dawn, and made a dash at the pass of Barba del Puerco. He had the good luck to bayonet the sentries at the bridge before they could fire, and was half way up the ascent from the bridge to the village [of Barba del Puerco], when Beckwith's detachment of the 95th Rifles, roused and armed in ten minutes, were upon him. They drove him down the defile, and chased him back across the river with the loss of two officers and forty-five men killed and wounded. Beckwith's riflemen lost one officer and three men killed, and ten men wounded in the three companies engaged.

Craufurd now expected a full attack, but nothing further developed.

The first picture, at the top of this post, is a painting entitled Winter Cheer, by Christina Hook, and it shows a couple of riflemen of the 95th and a trooper of the KGL Hussars fraternising with a cantiniere and a couple of French soldiers on the bridge during the early months of 1810. I'm sure the other pictures here are copyright as well, so my thanks and humble appreciation to whoever owns the copyright. The pictures suggest that Craufurd had troops other than the 95th involved.

For the trainspotters, Ferey commanded the 2nd brigade of Loison's Division of (Ney's) VI Corps at this time, and the battalions from which his voltigeurs were borrowed were one of the 32eme Leger, three of the 66eme Ligne and two of the 82eme Ligne.

From a completely personal point of view, I was delighted to renew my acquaintance with Major Simmons. Of all the diarists and memoir-compilers of the 95th (of which there are a bewildering number), I have found him to be the most engaging. Harris's book is a collection of regimental anecdotes polished over many years of retelling; Kincaid is admirably cynical, but  almost to the point of detachment; Surtees comes across as a snivelling, self-righteous prude, and so on. Good old George Simmons was always in the thick of things, was wounded or caught fever on a regular basis, and spent the rest of his time sending money home to pay for his brothers' education. I like him. He has a surfeit of neither imagination nor self-esteem - he just tells it like it was.

Fraternisation is interesting, too. Wellesley would hang anyone found dealing with the French, yet the practice was general and inevitable. Again, we gain insight into an age and a military system which relied on the fact that the soldiers of both sides were more frightened of their own officers than they were of the enemy.

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