Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns


 


The French Order-of-Battle at Albuera: 16 May 1811

By Stephen Millar

 

The day was mine, and they [the British infantry] did not know it, and would not run.

-- MdE Soult on the Battle of Albuera

Another such battle will ruin us.

-- Viscount Wellington’s reported reaction to the Battle of Albuera

The Battle of Albuera came about as the result of MdE Nicholas-Jean-de-Dieu Soult’s attempt in May, 1811 to lift the siege of Balajoz. Located on the Spanish-Portuguese border, Balajoz had been invested by a British-Spanish-Portuguese army under LG Sir William Carr Beresford (and would eventually undergo a total of three sieges in 1811 and 1812). Albuera – one of the bloodiest battles of the Peninsular Campaign – is famous for the both the destruction of Lt.-Colonel John Colburne’s infantry brigade by the 1st [Polish] Vistula Lancer Regiment as well as the outstanding performance of the British infantry during the subsequent desperate tactical situation.

There is considerable disagreement over the names of Soult’s subordinate commanders in the Army of Andalusia, especially in V Corps’ infantry brigades. Two sources lists GdB Dominique Gereaux, GdB Auguste de Lecompte, GdB Andre Rochefort and GdB Adolphe Blum as brigadiers; another lists GdB Brayer, GdB Heilande, GdB Pepin and GdB Maradin [sp: Marasin]. Three of these officers can be confirmed: GdB Michel-Silvestre, Baron Brayer; GdB Joseph, Baron Pepin (who was killed-in-action at Albuera) and GdB Jean-Pierre, Baron Marasin.

It should also be noted that GdD Latour-Maubourg’s cavalry division consisted of three – not two – brigades and three attached regiments. Also, the surname of one of the cavalry brigadiers (GdB Joseph, Baron Bouvier des Eclaz) is often mis-spelled as “Bouvier des Eclat.”

Most sources state Soult’s command at Albuera consisted of between 23-25,000 men with 40 guns. About 6,500-7,000 French casualties were sustained during the battle (including two brigade commanders). Losses in Beresford’s British-Spanish-Portuguese army were also severe – British troops suffered 5,019 casualties (882 killed and 3,573 wounded, with 564 taken prisoner).

Researchers should treat the strength figures for French regiments as a general guide; additional data should be consulted.

Army of Andalusia

23,287 men and 38 guns

Commander: Soult, MdE Nicholas-Jean-de-Dieu (Duke of Dalmatia)

Infantry

19,112 men in 34 battalions

Cavalry

3,368 men in 48 squadrons*

Artillery

807 men in 5 batteries

Notes:

*MdE Soult probably had fewer cavalry squadrons at Albuera than is listed. Several regiments – the 26th Dragoon Regiment and the 4th [Spanish] Chasseur Regiment, for example – fielded less troopers on 16 May than other regiments.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: November 2004

 

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