Spanish Army of Estremadura
3rd Division: Major-General Marquis de Portago
1st Battalion Badajoz Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Line Infantry
2nd Battalion Badajoz Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Line Infantry
2nd Antequera Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Light Infantry in Shakos
Imperial de Toledo - Volunteer Line Infantry in Shako
Provincial de Badajoz - Militia Infantry
Provincial de Guadix - Militia Infantry
Rey Cavalry Regiment - Regular Line
Having covered the activities of the Badajoz Regiment leading up to Talavera in my post about the first battalion, I thought, with the completion of the second battalion, it would be interesting to look at the fighting during the battle and one of the actions that occurred in the area around the Pajar de Vegara.
Field states, at about 2.00pm the French artillery opened a tremendous barrage across the whole British front with virtually all their guns.......As Joseph's troops were concentrated almost exclusively against the British part of the allied line, he was aware that those on the left of his assault would have their flank somewhat in the air and be vulnerable to a Spanish counterattack if they were to venture from their strong defensive positions. His plan, therefore, was for Leval's attack to be held back somewhat in echelon from Sebastiani's division in order to "refuse its left" to protect against that possibility. As it turned out, Leval's division was the first to come into contact with the allied line.
Laval's German Division at Talaveral
General Leval had several problems to overcome with the ground he had to cross to reach the allied positions. Between him and the enemy line were olive groves, vines, patches of undergrowth and stone walls. These meant that he could not get a clear idea of his enemy's locations and strengths and his movement would be difficult to maintain strict control, forcing his division to advance in a much looser order and make his evolutions less precise.
|The map shows the relative positions of the divisions involved in the afternoon main attack|
The olive groves also made it impossible for Leval to deploy his artillery into a position to be able to fire on the allied line prior to his attack and thus the Anglo-Spanish troops would not be discomforted by a preliminary bombardment as normal doctrine dictated.
Leval had two battalions of Poles in support of his line (see the map above) but again, strangely, didn't bring these units up in support of his attack, but instead left them on his start line as a rallying point if the need arose. Both these decisions would have serious consequences.
With no preliminary bombardment, and with the closeness of the country blocking his view of the rest of the battlefield, Leval's division, struggling to maintain its orientation and order, launched its attack prematurely.
As the British skirmish line was pushed back, with some reports of some British groups being surprised and captured, the disrupted columns emerged in front of the allied line. With two hundred yards of open ground and no time to reform and redress the ranks, the Nassau troops called out "Espanholas" trying to fool the allied line to hold its fire. The ruse enabled the green clad Nassau troops and the white clad Dutch to get close enough to get in a half decent volley and push the British line back. Several times the Nassau and Dutch troops advanced a short way towards the British line loading as they went and then delivering a volley, with the situation hanging in the balance for some while.
Lieutenant Colonel Sir George Ridout Bingham of the 2/53rd admitted that the 2/7th were driven back by an attack on their flank and some Nassauers "penetrated nearly to the work (the Pajar) in front", The 2/24th of Mackenzie's brigade that was standing in reserve was ordered forward to support the front line in this area. Advancing into the gap between Campbell's and Sherbrooke's brigades it was able to get on the flank of the Nassauers and with its volley fire cause them to flinch away.
Further south the Spanish infantry was locked in an indecisive engagement with the Hessian and Frankfurt troops. Here the Spanish volleys were not so effective and the Germans were able to hold their own. However the outcome of this attack was decided in the centre where the unfortunate Baden battalions found themselves looking down the barrels of ten artillery pieces at very short range. With six British three pounders and four Spanish twelve pounders, the effect of the grapeshot fired from behind the protection of the earthwork was terrible. The brave Badeners were mown down, and when Colonel Porbeck fell, it proved to be the last straw and the Badeners melted away.
Judging the moment perfectly, Brigadier General Campbell ordered the first line to charge, with Colonel Myers of the 2/7th Fusiliers, having just rallied his men and seeing the hesitation in his inexperienced battalion, grabbing the King's Colour and calling out, "Come on the Fusiliers" as he led his men forward.
The sudden charge caused the Nassau and Dutch to fall back with the Badeners to the cover of the olive groves, which broke the momentum of the British charge, but led to them coming up to a French battery of six guns abandoned by their crews. The guns were spiked and dragged to the edge of the clearing.
The German troops facing the Spanish and seeing their flanks turned by the British had no choice but withdraw also.
The men of Laval's German Division had given a good account of themselves in this attack and had pressed the allied line bravely. Falling back on the two Polish battalions they were soon rallied and ready to attack again later that afternoon. However in this first attack, lasting about 45 minutes, the division had suffered between 600-700 casualties with over half of them from the Baden Regiment.
There are no detailed breakdowns of the casualties suffered by specific Spanish units in the battle. In one of his dispatches Cuesta states that the total Spanish casualties were 1,021, but given the low level of Spanish involvement in the fighting, most modern estimates suggest that casualties probably didn't exceed 400-500 men and that this number would also include the men that fled on the evening of the 27th July.
Whatever the scale of losses suffered, it might be a safe bet that many of the casualties suffered by the Spanish probably fell on the units involved in or near the British and General Portago's division and the Badajoz regiment certainly fulfilled that criteria.
My "Badajoz Boys", and I suspect quite a few of them were boys, are composed of figures from AB with the Colours fom GMB Flags. My second battalion is carrying the regiment's "Ordenanza" or Regimental Colour with the Cross of Bourbon emblazoned across its centre. You may have noticed that neither regiment has skirmish elements. This is representative, in that, the Spanish line troops of this period would have relied on their massed volley fire to keep enemy skirmishers at bay.
Sources used in this post:
Talavera - Wellington's First Victory in Spain, Andrew W Field.
Next up, the boys from Toledo and some veteran Roman legionaries painted by Tom.