Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Battles and Actions in the Tagus Valley, Part Two (Battle of Talavera) - Peninsular War Tour 2019

Corunna Retreat - Peninsular War Tour 2019
Battles and Actions in the Tagus Valley(Alcantara and Almaraz Bridges) - Peninsular War Tour 2019

As with my other tours of key battle sites where I chose a principle reference to guide me around, here, for our trip to Talavera I was relying on Andrew W. Field's excellent book, 'Talavera, Wellington's First Victory in Spain', looking at the battle and campaign together with a really helpful guide to touring the battlefield.

During my project to wargame the battle, this book was a constant reference and was instrumental in helping to produce the games that I have used to illustrate parts of the battlefield, photographed during our visit, that featured in them, so if you are interested in the battle it should really be included in your reading list.

In the summer of 1809, Portugal was free of French troops and the British were consolidating their defence of the country with the retraining of the Portuguese army to British methods and their gradual assimilation into the new divisional structure, with commands of units shared between Portuguese and British officers and NCO's.

Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley

All this activity was in line with the new commander of Anglo-Portuguese forces, Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley's, orders to clear the country of French forces and make it defensible against further French invasion attempts before turning his attention to aiding Spanish forces in the liberation of their homeland and the eventual invasion of France itself.

Although some units of the newly trained Portuguese army were involved in the march to Oporto, that saw Marshal Soult driven back into Galicia in May of 1809, the integration of all Portuguese forces was not yet a fact; and thus when Wellesley turned back to head south towards the Tagus Valley in late May early June, it was with a solely British army that he prepared to cooperate with General Cuesta in his campaign to attack and destroy Marshal Victor's I Corps (20,000 men), now fallen back to the River Alberche behind the town of Talavera.

As was described in my previous post, Battles and Actions in the Tagus Valley(Alcantara and Almaraz Bridges) - Peninsular War Tour 2019 , Wellesley rejoined with Major General Mackenzie and his corps of observation at Castello Branco and following the crossing into Spain rode ahead to meet with General Cuesta commanding the Spanish Army of Estremadura at Alcantara to agree their plan of campaign.

Marshal Claude Victor-Perrin, Duc de Belluno Commanding French I Corps

Their plan envisaged the two armies (56,000 men, combined)  marching parallel to one another along the northern bank of the Tagus from Arzobispo and jointly attacking Victor in his positions, taking advantage of the surprise that the French commander was not aware that Wellesley was in the Tagus Valley and that other French forces (Sebastiani, IV Corps 20,000 men, Joseph 12,000 men in Madrid), close by,  would be pinned by General Venegas commanding the 23,000 strong Army of La Mancha, around Toledo and thus unable to come to his support.

King Joseph Bonaparte

Once Victor had been destroyed, the combined Anglo-Spanish armies would turn north-east and liberate Madrid from the French occupation.

Unfortunately the plan had a simple fault at its heart in that the Allies assumed Sebastiani only commanded 10,000 men! In addition Wellesley decided to cooperate with the Spanish before he had gauged the quality of their forces and commanders; with the meeting at Alcantara coming as a shock to see the standard of the young and poorly equipped levies that populated the ranks together with many senior officers seemingly in place though seniority rather than any particular merit.

The final complications to any hopes Wellesley fostered for driving his campaign forward likely foundered on the fact that Cuesta, with whom he needed the utmost cooperation, was deeply suspicious and mistrustful of the younger British general; given that his name had been mentioned in Spanish political circles as a potential Spanish and Allied Generalisimo, a role that Cuesta himself rather saw as his inevitable position.

Perhaps it was this final miscalculation that ended up as being the most influential in the resulting battle of Talavera and the way it was fought and was to leave a deep impression on Wellesley about Spanish capabilities and his determination from then on not to be in a position where he had to place any reliance on them.

The map from Oman's history illustrating the area of campaign

The two allied armies arrived in front of Victor's position behind the Alberche river, about three miles east of Talavera, on the 22nd July 1809, having driven in the French cavalry pickets from first contact at Oropesa.

The proposal by Wellesley to attack the next day is reported to have been met coolly by Cuesta who apparently only agreed to consider the idea.

General Gregorio-Garcia de la Cuesta - Commander of the Army of Estremadura

Wellesley gave orders to his commanders to move their troops forward early on the 23rd July in preparation for a combined attack only to watch in frustration as a tardy Spanish deployment allowed the French to slip away, practically unmolested. An officer of the British Third Guards noted;

'the disappointment of the troops at not being led against the enemy, whom they had made so many harassing marches to come up with was very apparent.'

Cuesta wrote in his memoires that only a reconnaissance was planned for that day, and other commentators claimed that he refused to attack because it was a Sunday, but that was decidedly refuted by Wellesley himself ,stating

'he made many other foolish excuses, but that was not one of them.'

What followed next saw the Spanish general recover his indomitable spirit the next day, to press the offensive and pursue the French, but Wellesley refused to accompany him, stating that with his army on half rations, through the Spanish inability to supply the required food that was promised him, he would not extend his line of communications from Portugal and potential resupply; and would only support his ally by holding his position and search the local area for the best place to make a stand should the French decide to attack, stating that now he did not have a clear idea where the French were and what they intended to do.

Cuesta, furious at, as he saw it, the abandonment by his ally, determined to pursue the French and take Madrid alone, as he assumed the French would now abandon the capital. He set off in pursuit only to discover on the 25th that Victor had been joined by Sebastiani's IV Corps and King Joseph's Guard and finding that it was only Cuesta that was in pursuit turned on him as he made a rapid retreat back from whence he came; seeing his rearguard receive a severe mauling from the French cavalry until he was able to fall back on Generals Sherbrooke's and Mackenzie's British divisions holding the Alberche before Casa de Salinas.

Even at the last possible moment, Wellesly had to meet with Cuesta to persuade him to fall back behind the British divisions and pull his army into the line Wellesley had selected, anchored on Talavera, with the bulk of the Spanish army holding the town and its suburbs.

Early the next morning on the 27th July, Spanish columns filed over the Alberche bridge, covered by the two British divisions, with the French cavalry patrols following up as the British troops pulled back to the western bank at midday.

My rendition of Mackenzie's British 3rd Division and Anson's Light Cavalry Brigade as at Casa de Salinas. Mackenzie's brigade, left, Donkin's brigade right and Anson's at the back.
JJ's Wargames - British Units at Casa de Salinas

Sherbrooke's 1st Division then set off for the main Talavera line as Mackenzie's 3rd Division took post around the small farm of Casa de Salinas supported by Anson's Light Cavalry brigade to cover the Allied units as they took their place in the new position, setting up what was to become the first action in the two day battle of Talavera, with the surprise French attack at Casa de Salinas.

Map illustrating to the position of Casa de Salinas in relation to the Alberche river and Talavera

Having spent three years putting together a large collection of figures to refight Talavera at a 1:30 figure scale and documenting the progress and games that were fought, I have already written much about the battle that can be accessed in those previous posts, with the specific post to this action linked below.

JJ's Wargames - The Action at Casa de Salinas
JJ's Wargames - All Posts, Casa de Salinas
JJ's Wargames - All posts, Talavera

Thus I thought I would summarise the key events of this first action and others from sections taken from Oman's history and accounts from veterans who took part in the fighting.

Oman states the position thus;

'Wellington had examined the line of the Alberche upon the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth, and
had pronounced it absolutely untenable; 'no position could be worse,' he wrote to O'Donoju, but he had discovered one of a very different kind a little to the rear, and had already settled the way in which it was to be occupied. 

The start of the action of Casa de Salinas as the 16eme Legere led the French assault through the woods in front of the far, catching the British 3rd Division unprepared.

It presented so many advantages that even Cuesta had consented to accept it as a good fighting-ground, and the Estremaduran army was at this very moment occupied in arraying itself along that part of the line which had been allotted to it. Sherbrooke's division was retiring across the plain to fall into the section which Wellesley had chosen for it, and Hill's and Campbell's troops were moving to their designated ground. Only Mackenzie and the light cavalry had yet to be established in their post.

Casa de Salinas, now named 'Las Torres'. The open terrain in the foreground is where Anson's cavalry brigade covered the retreat of 3rd Division as it fell back from the position

In the act of withdrawing, this division became involved in an unfortunate combat, which bid fair for a moment to develop into a disaster. Its two brigades had been halted close to the ruined house called the Casa de Salinas, in ground covered partly with underwood and partly with olive groves. 

The cavalry had been withdrawn to the rear, as it was impossible to use it for vedettes in such a locality. The infantry was supposed to have a chain of pickets thrown out in its front, but it would appear that they must have been badly placed: as one eye-witness confesses, ' we were by no means such good soldiers in those days as succeeding campaigns made us, and sufficient precautions had
not been taken to ascertain what was passing in the wood,' and between it and the ford below Cazalegas. 

French cavalry alone had hitherto been seen, and from cavalry Mackenzie's troops were certainly safe in the tangled ground where they were now lying. But already Victor's infantry had reached the front, and its leading division, that of Lapisse, had forded the Alberche far to the north, and had entered the woods without being observed by the outlying pickets of Mackenzie's left brigade. 

It had even escaped the notice of Wellesley himself, who had just mounted the roof of the ruined Casa de Salinas, the only point in the neighbourhood from which anything like a general view of the country-side could be secured. While he was intent on watching the heights above the Alberche in his front, and the cavalry vedettes descending from them, the enemy's infantry was stealing in upon his left.

One of our several refights of the Casa de Salinas action, here showing Mackenzie's brigade and the 1/45th closest to camera in fierce combat before the farm, with the brigade light companies reforming behind, having been driven from the woods

Lapisse had promptly discovered the line of British outposts, and had succeeded in drawing out his division in battle order before it was observed. He had deployed one regiment, the 16th Leger, as a front line, while the rest of his twelve battalions were coming on in support.

While, therefore, Wellesley was still unconscious that the enemy was close upon him, a brisk fire of musketry broke out upon his left front. It was the French advance driving in the pickets of  Donkin's brigade. The division had barely time to stand to its arms—some men are said to have been killed before they had risen from the ground—and the Commander-in-chief had hardly descended from the roof and mounted his charger, when the enemy was upon them. 

The assault fell upon the whole front of Donkin's brigade, and on the left regiment (the 2/31 st)
of that of Mackenzie himself. So furious and unexpected was it, that the 87th, 88th, and 31st were all broken, and driven some way to the rear, losing about eighty prisoners.

The remains of the woodland that separated the old farm from the Alberche river can be seen to the rear of the buildings

It was fortunate that the French advance did not strike the whole line, but only its left and centre. The l/45th, which was just outside the limit of Lapisse's attack, stood firm, and on it Wellesley reformed the 31st, while, a little further to the north, the half-battalion of the 5/60th also held its ground and served as a rallying-point for the 87th and 88th. 

The steadiness of the l/45th and 5/60th saved the situation; covered by them the division retired from the woods and formed up in the plain, where Anson's light horsemen came to their aid and guarded their flanks. 

The French still pressed furiously forward, sending out two batteries of horse artillery to gall the retreating columns, but they had done their worst, and during the hours of the late afternoon Mackenzie's infantry fell back slowly and in order to the points of the position which had been assigned to them.

Donkin's brigade took post in the second line behind the German Legion, while Mackenzie's own three regiments passed through the Guards and formed up in their rear. 

Their total loss in the combat of Casa de Salinas had been 440 men—the French casualties must have been comparatively insignificant—probably not 100 in all.'

The fighting at Casa de Salinas was the first time that Victor's veterans had come up against British musketry

When looking at the action at Casa de Salinas, it should be remembered that Victor's troops were very much veterans in the truest sense of the word, but they had never faced British troops before.

In addition, the British troops in Wellesley's army were in the main untried and junior second battalions with a few exceptions among the rifleman of the 5/60th and the 'Old Stubborns' of the 1/45th, both present in this action and very much in the forefront of leading the recovery once the French attack had developed.

One thing that the French troops noticed on coming into contact with the redcoats for the first time was their musketry as noted by a commentator from the 9eme Legere, not involved in the action but marching close by and noting the sound of it in the distance;

"It was the first time we had heard the noise of an English fusilade .... indeed never had we heard a rolling fire as well fed as that."

The tower thought to have been used by Wellesley to observe French movements over the Alberche can be seen on the right of picture, with the top of the brown crenellated wall seen at the end of the roofed main building 

The action also came very close to changing the history of the Peninsular War and perhaps the wider Napoleonic conflict as it is reported that as Wellesley mounted his horse at the bottom of the tower from where he had been observing French movements the bridle was grabbed at by French voltiguers as he made good his escape.

Finally I decided to check out the veracity of Wellesley's comment to General O'Donojou that the position on the Alberche was untenable and that 'no position could be worse,' and think his description is reasonable with the river bed dry and open with no real barrier to prevent the movement of troops and no discernible terrain to offer added benefit to a defender under intense French artillery bombardment and skirmish attack.

Satellite photo of the Talavera position and Casa de Salinas in relation to the main battle line. Two hundred years of change has seen much of the woodland around Casa de Salinas between it and the Alberche, (extreme right), through which the French troops launched their surprise attack has gone, with just a small clump seen to the right of the farm.
The motorway travelling east-west (top left corner of picture) and the reservoir covering the broken ground up to the foothills of the Sierra de Segurilla are the major changes to the battlefield apart from encroaching building and construction

As with the other visits to battle sites posted so far in the series I will present Talavera in the order of the parts of the battlefield we visited rather than in an order of where the action occurred on the timeline of the battle.

For those that only have a passing acquaintance with the course of the battle, the allied armies successfully fell back onto the position identified by Wellesley, anchored between the town of Talavera on the River Tagus and a ridge running east-west with its highest peak on the left flank of the line, the Cerro de Medellin, opposite what would become the French held lower peak or plateau, the Cerro de Cascajal.

Beyond the two peaks, further north, the ground was broken and criss-crossed with gullies which carried water in the winter down from the mountains of the Sierra de Segurilla and rose northward into the foothills of these mountains.

The battle that took place started with a night attack on the 27th July as Victor attempted to compromise the whole position by capturing the key hill of the Cerro de Medellin before the battle could start the next day thus forcing the allies to fall back over open ground under attack from the superior French cavalry.

The night attack was successfully beaten off, only to see the same French forces under General Ruffin attempt the same attack up the Cerro de Medellin early the next morning, following a bombardment from a fifty gun grand battery opposite. This attack was bloodily repulsed and saw a pause in the battle as the French command reassessed their options.

At 14.00 the French attempted to break the British part of the line with multiple attacks along it designed to pin the line as the principle attack by Lapisse and Sebastiani's troops hit the centre of the line to be followed up by massed ranks of French dragoons.

Attacks on the Pajar de Vergara gun redoubt and another move by Ruffin to turn the northern slope of the Cerro de Medellin were designed to stretch the defence as the main attack hit, but all the assaults were driven off with heavy loss and by late afternoon the battle petered out with the French pulling off under the cover of darkness to fall back behind the Alberche river to the east.

A map of the battlefield of Talavera showing the position of the two forces in the late afternoon of the 28th July 1809 as the battle reached its climax. The numbers indicate where I took my pictures from.

Position 1. The Pajar Vegara Redoubt

The Pajar Vegara hill marks the junction between the two allied armies with the Spanish line deployed to the south of the position and leading down to Talavera on the River Tagus as shown on the map above.

The position was to become a battle within the larger battle of the main French attack that occurred on the afternoon of the 28th July 1809 after the French command gathered to decide their next plan of attack.

Oman recounts the story:

'The informal armistice which had followed the combat of the early morning had drawn to an end, when at about 10 o'clock the British observers on the Cerro de Medellin saw a large and brilliant staff riding along the French line from right to left. It finally halted, and took post on the most commanding point of the Cascajal heights. 

King Joseph and his entourage for Talavera 208

This was the entourage of King Joseph and Marshal Jourdan, who had determined to make a careful examination of the allied lines before committing themselves to any further action. When they halted on the summit of the hill, from which the best general view was obtainable, Victor
came to meet them, and a council of war was held.

It soon developed into a lengthy and animated dispute; lasting for more than an hour. Jourdan was of opinion that, considering the strength of the hostile position, and the decisive way in which the 1st Corps had been repulsed, it would be unwise to proceed with another attack. He pointed out that Wellesley would now be perfectly aware that his left was the point which must be assailed, and that movements visible behind the British line showed that it was already being reinforced.

The only good move now available was to endeavour to turn the Cerro by the little valley to its north-east, which separates it from the Sierra de Segurilla: but it was clear that the enemy realized this as well as themselves. A considerable body of cavalry was already appearing at its southern end....'

The small hump in the ground in the field beyond the road is the Pajar de Vergara, which at the time of the battle was occupied by Spanish and British gunners in a small partially completed redoubt. Slightly forward of the Allied line, the position marked the junction between the two armies with the Spanish line arrayed to the right of the picture leading into the built up areas of Talavera and the town.

Oman continues by outlining the French plan of attack for the afternoon;

'The King determined to assail the British centre and right with the infantry of Sebastiani's corps—twenty-three battalions in all, or some 14,000 men. Victor with the three infantry divisions of the 1st Corps—thirty-three battalions, still over 16,000 strong in spite of their losses—undertook to fall upon the English left, to storm the Cerro de Medellin and also to turn it on its northern side, so as to envelop Wellesley's flank. 

The Spaniards were to be left alone behind their walls and orchards—only Milhaud's dragoons were told off to watch the exits from Talavera. Of the rest of the cavalry a few could be utilized in Victor's turning movement in the valley below the Sierra de Segurilla: but the main body—all Beaumont's and Latour-Maubourg's eight regiments—were ranged in a second line, to act as a reserve for the frontal attack of the infantry, and to aid it if it were checked. 

The King's Guards and the brigade of Dessolles were to be kept back, and only utilized to clinch the victory or to retrieve a repulse.

The massed battalions of General Leval's 'German Division' that pressed the attack on the Pajar de Vergara - Talavera 208

The 30,000 men who were to deliver the grand assault on the allied position were drawn up as follows. Leval's Germans advanced on the left, taking as their objective the battery on the Pajar de Vergara. They faced Campbell's British division, and slightly overlapped it, so as to cover the three or four battalions on the extreme northern wing of Cuesta's line. 

The divisions of French I and IV Corps arrayed to make the main French attack at Talavera in the afternoon
of the 28th July 1809 with Leval's 'German Division' shown at the bottom of the plan with just the two Polish
battalions held back in reserve. This plan helps to visualise the mass of columns that hit the British line in the afternoon as described below by Oman.

In their rear as supports followed the two Polish battalions from Valence's division. On Leval's right, Sebastiani's four French regiments continued the line: this was the strongest division on the field and counted over 8,000 bayonets. It faced the Guards and the right battalion of Cameron's brigade. Here ended the troops of the 4th Corps: beyond them Victor's 2nd division, that of Lapisse, was about to assail the German Legion and Cameron's left-hand regiment, the 83rd....'

With their arrangements and deployments complete the French were ready to attack, Oman continues his account;

'When the whole of the French infantry was ready, at about two o'clock in the afternoon, the King gave orders for the artillery to open, and eighty guns of the 1st and 4th Corps began to play upon the British line. In some places the troops were only some 600 yards from the enemy's batteries, and the loss in many regiments was very appreciable before a single musket had been fired. 

The Pajar Redoubt - Talavera 208

Only thirty British and six Spanish pieces could reply: they were overwhelmed from the first by the
superior number of the French guns. It was therefore with joy that Wellesley's infantry saw that the artillery engagement was not to last for long. 

All along the hostile line the battalion-columns of Ruffin, Lapisse, Sebastiani, and Leval were moving up to the attack, and when they reached the front, and threw out their screen of tirailleurs, the guns grew silent...'

A close look at the Pajar from the position occupied by General Portago's Spanish division. Oman reported there was a farmhouse on top of the hill when he visited in 1903 and the farm is still standing to this day.

'The first troops to come into collision with the allies were Leval's Germans, upon the extreme left of the French line. This, it is said, was contrary to the King's orders; he had intended to hold this division somewhat back, as it was in danger of being outflanked by the Spaniards if it made a premature advance

But Leval had a tangled terrain of vines and olive groves in his front : when once he had entered
it he lost sight of the troops on his right, and fearing to be late on account of the obstacles in his front, committed the opposite fault. He came rushing in upon Campbell's outpost line half an hour before the other divisions had closed with the British centre, the time being then 2.30 in the afternoon.

Maps don't really help to give an impression of how noticeable this small hill is on the battlefield, which is why it is so helpful to a wargamer to actually see what this position looks like at ground level from the soldiers perspective. Apparently the slope is less pronounced from the French side.

The nine battalions of the German division were arrayed in a single line of battalion columns, with a thick screen of tirailleurs in their front. But their order had been so much broken up by the walls and thickets that the 4,500 bayonets appeared to the British like one confused mass of skirmishers.

The German Division advances through the tangled mass of trees in front of the Pajar redoubt - Talavera 208

They came on fast and furiously, chasing the pickets of the 7th and 53rd before them, till they emerged into the comparatively open ground in front of the Pajar de Vergara. Here the defence was standing ready for them: Campbell had brought up one battalion of his rear brigade into his front line, so that the 40th, as well as the 53rd and 7th, were facing the attack.

Our rendition of the Pajar de Vergara redoubt occupied by British 3 pounder guns of  Lawson's battery together with a half battery of Spanish 12 pounders. The divisions of Portago's Spanish 3rd Division and Campbell's British 4th Division are massed behind the position. - Talavera 208

On his right lay the redoubt with its ten guns: further to the south the two left-hand units of the French division were opposed to troops of Cuesta's army. Hence it came that while the Nassau and Dutch regiments faced the British infantry, the Baden regiment was in front of the guns, while the Hessians and the Frankfort battalion had to do with the Spaniards.'

Andrew Field's account of this same attack also mentions that the forward edge of the trees and broken ground through which Leval's soldiers advanced, brought them to within two-hundred yards of the British line and that, in an effort to buy time to reform, they are reported by a British observer to have attempted a ruse de guerre;

'they called out "Espanholas" wishing us to believe they were Spaniards. Our captain thought they were Spaniards, and ordered us not to fire, But they soon convinced us who they were with a rattling volley.'

Field suggests that the white and green uniforms worn by the Dutch and Nassau infantry may have confused the British troops into thinking the soldiers before them were indeed Spanish and it seems the fir from them achieved some surprise and 'staggered our line and even caused them (the British) to fall back'.

Oman continues his account

'When the Germans surged out from among the olive groves into the comparatively open ground in front of the Pajar de Vergara, the musketry opened along both lines at a distance of about 200 yards, the assailants delivering a rolling fire, while the defenders of the position answered with regular battalion volleys. 

Several times Leval's men advanced a few score paces, and the distance between the two divisions was growing gradually less. But the attacking force was evidently suffering more than the allies: in the centre especially, where the ten guns of the redoubt were firing canister into the disordered mass, the casualties of the Baden battalions were terriblethey could not bear up against the blasts of mitraille, and after their colonel, von Porbeck, had fallen, they broke and began to recoil. 

The Allied line prepares to engage the advancing German Division - Talavera 208

Seeing part of the enemy's line falling into disorder, General Campbell ordered his front line to charge. Then Colonel Myers of the 7th, seizing the King's colour of his regiment, ran out in front of the line and calling ' Come on, Fusiliers, led the advance. His own battalion, the 40th and the 53rd, at once closed with the Nassau and Dutch regiments, who shrank back into the thickets and melted away from the front. 

The victors pursued them for some distance, capturing in their onward career a whole battery of six guns, which was being brought forward to reply to the artillery of the redoubt, but had failed to reach the clearing before the line in front of them gave way. 

The three battalions on Leval's extreme left, which had the Spaniards in front of them, had been exchanging volleys with their opponents without notable advantage on either side, when the rest of the division broke. When their companions retired they also were forced to draw back, in order to prevent themselves from being turned on both flanks.

Campbell was cautious enough to stop his men before they had gone far forward among the thickets, and brought them back to their old position: he spiked the guns that he had taken, and left them in the clearing in front of the redoubt. 

His losses had been very small, owing to his admirable self-restraint in calling back his charging regiments before they got out of hand.

The view of the battlefield looking north from the Pajar with the Sierra de Segurilla mountains in the distance. This is the ground over which the divisions of Sebastiani (IV Corps) and Lapisse (I Corps) pressed the main attack, from right to left, in the afternoon of the 28th July 1809

Leval therefore was able to rally his division at leisure, upon the two Polish battalions which formed its supports. He had lost in the three-quarters of an hour during which he was engaged some six or seven hundred men. 

The battle was raging by now all down the line, and when the Germans were re-formed, they received orders to advance for a second time, to cover the flank of Sebastiani's division, now hotly engaged with Sherbrooke's right brigades.

One of the games from Talavera 208 with the 'battle raging' as described by Oman. The troops of Sebastiani and Lapisse press forward towards the Portina stream over the open ground seen in the picture above. - Talavera 208

Neglecting chronological considerations, in order to finish the narrative of the action in this quarter, it may suffice to say that Leval's second attack was made at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon: it was not delivered with so much energy as had been shown in his first. 

It encountered the same obstacles, and could not surmount them. Once more the advance rolled up through the olive groves, and reached the clearing in front of the battery. Again the head of the attacking masses withered away under the musketry fire and the salvos from the English and Spanish guns, and the whole finally went to the rear in disorder. 

Campbell, in repelling this attack, used his second brigade as well as his first, and pushed the enemy further back than he had done during the earlier fighting: the Spaniards also came out of their line and continued to flank the retreating enemy with two or three battalions and a half-battery

The Spanish El Rey Cavalry Regiment conducted the only successful cavalry charge at Talavera that completed the rout of Leval's troops in their second attack on the Pajar redoubt.

As the Hessians and Frankforters in their front began to give way, they were assailed by one of Henestrosa's cavalry regiments, the Regimiento del Rey which charged with great spirit, and cut up many men before they could form square. The bulk of the two battalions, however, clubbed together in a mass and retired into the woods, defending themselves as best they could. 

The victorious Spanish horsemen while following them, came upon a second French battery which (like that captured by the British brigade on their left) was being brought forward by a narrow lane between two olive groves. They cut down the gunners and took four pieces, which were dragged back into the redoubt. This was by far the best piece of work done by Spanish cavalry during the whole of the first years of the war, and did much to atone for the panic of the previous night in the eyes of the British observers upon the right wing.

The El Rey Cavalry Regiment - Talavera 208

The repulse of Leval's division was complete, and its wrecks, once more rallied upon the two Polish battalions in their rear, drew back into the plain, and were completely put out of action. In this attack they lost not only the four guns taken by the Spaniards, but seven more pieces of artillery. 

The Portina Stream that effectively marked the front of the British line beyond the Pajar redoubt has had its banks somewhat reinforced in the last two centuries

Convinced that he could not carry the Pajar de Vergara position unless he could bring guns to bear upon the redoubt, and check the ravages of its salvos of canister, Leval had tried to push his remaining two batteries into the firing line. Again, as in the first attack, they were left helpless when the infantry broke, and became the prey of the pursuers. It would seem that he lost on this day seventeen guns in all 

The total of the casualties in his division were 1,007, nearly a quarter of its force: the colonels of the Baden and Frankfort regiments and the major commanding the Dutch battery had been left on the field. Campbell had suffered on a very different scale—he had only lost 236 men, and it is improbable that the Spaniards on his right had more than 150 or 180 casualties, since they only fought with one wing of the attacking force. 

Wellesley, not without reason, gave the highest praise in his dispatch to Campbell, for the admirable and cautious defence which he had made.'

Position 2. The centre of the British line at the base of the Cerro de Medellin

It could be argued that this part of the Talavera battlefield is where the French came the closest to winning the battle and where Wellington displayed the attribute that he was to become more and more famous for as time went on - being in the right place at the right time and able to take the most appropriate decisions immediately that would determine the outcome of the battle.

It was at this point in the line that Lapisse's and Sebastiani's columns met the British line composed of soldiers from Low and Langwerth's KGL brigades, Cameron's brigade of the 1/61st and 2/83rd Foot and Campbell's brigade of 1st and 2nd Guards, all part of Lieutenant General Sherbrooke's British 1st Division.

C.C.P. Lawson's stirring depiction of the 3rd Guards in action at this point of the British line against the brigades of Sebastiani's IV Corps

Oman describes the attack on this part of the line;

'We must now turn to their doings—the most desperate fighting that occurred during the day. Sherbrooke's eight battalions had to endure the preliminary cannonade for more than half an hour after Campbell's men were closely engaged with the enemy.

It was not till three o'clock that the two French divisions opposed to them began to descend towards the Portina, in an orderly and imposing array. Each of the French generals had drawn up his twelve battalions in two lines—the front line deployed in column of divisions, the supporting line in solid column of battalions. 

The British line in the centre, with Campbell's two battalions of Guards, top right, Cameron's brigade 1/61st and 2/83rd to their left and the three battalions of Mackenzie's brigade, 3rd Division in support. Note further left from Cameron's brigade are the KGL battalions. - Talavera 208

But there was this difference in their arrangements, that Lapisse had placed his brigades one  behind the other, while Sebastiani had preferred to work his brigades side by side, each with one regiment in first and one in second line. The former therefore had Laplannes' brigade (16th Leger and 45th Line) opposed to Low's and Langwerth's regiments of  the German Legion and Cameron's 2/83rd. The latter had the 28th of Rey's and the 58th of Liger-Bellair's brigades ranged over against the 1/61 st and the British Foot-Guards. 

When the cannonade of the French batteries ceased, the twelve battalions of their first line, preceded by the usual swarm of tirailleurs, moved down toward the Portina. They crossed the brook and pressed on towards the red line that stood awaiting their approach, driving before them with ease the comparatively insignificant screen of light troops that lay in front of the British centre. 

The massed columns of IV Corps behind their gun line with the columns of Lapisse's 2nd Division I Corps extreme left. The whole attack supported by Latour Maubourg's 2nd Dragoon Division. - Talavera 208

Sherbrooke, who was responsible for the whole line of the defence, since his division exactly covered the ground on which the French attack was delivered, had issued orders that the troops were not to fire till the enemy came within fifty yards of them, and that they were then to deliver a single volley and charge. This programme was executed with precise obedience: though suffering severely from the enemy's musketry, the division held in its fire till the hostile columns were close upon them, and then opened with one tremendous discharge which crashed out simultaneously along the whole eight battalions.

The leading ranks of Lapisse's and Sebastiani's front line went down in swathes,—one French witness says that the infantry of the regiments of the 4th Corps lost a third of their numbers in less than ten minutes. When the charge which Sherbrooke had ordered followed close upon the blasting musketry fire, the enemy retired in disorder and fell back beyond the Portina.'

General Chambray described the attack

"The French charged with shouldered arms as was their custom.When they arrived at short range, the English line remained motionless, some hesitation was seen in the march. The officers and NCOs shouted at the soldiers, 'Forward March; don't fire'. Some even cried 'They're surrendering'.

The forward movement was therefore resumed; but it was not until extremely close range of the English line that the latter started a two rank fire which carried destruction into the heart of the French line, stopped its movement, and produced some disorder.

While the officers shouted to the soldiers 'Forward: Don't fire' (although firing set in nevertheless), the English suddenly stopped their own fire and charged with the bayonet. Among the French, on the the other hand, there was no longer any impetus, but disorder and surprise caused by the enemy's unexpected resolve. Flight was inevitable."

Just along from the Pajar you come to another road crossing the battlefield and passing just below the rising ground that forms the the Cerro de Medellin. It was here that Sherbrooke's Division almost lost the battle by charging after a defeated front line of French columns only to be repulsed themselves by the second line of oncoming French columns

Oman continues his account;

'The divisional general had apparently forgotten to caution his colonels against the danger of carrying their advance too far. Instead of contenting themselves with chasing the broken enemy as far as the brook, and then returning to their positions, the four brigades of the 1st division all crossed the water and pursued the French into their own ground; the German Legion on the left actually began to push them up the lower slopes of the Cerro de Cascajal, while the Guards on the right went forward far into the rolling plain in front of them. 

The French press their attack on Campbell's Guards brigade and Mackenzie's brigade closes up behind. - Talavera 208

Cameron halted his two battalions not far beyond the Portina; but on each side of him the pursuit was pressed with reckless energy, and without any remembrance of the fact that the enemy had strong reserves.

The ground in front of the British position looking towards the French lines is covered in light woods restricting the sight lines somewhat. The slope of the Cerro de Medellin can be seen rising up to the left of picture

Thus it came to pass that a disaster followed the first success of Sherbrooke's division. Both the Germans on the left and the Guards on the right found themselves in face of intact troops, behind whom the broken front line of the enemy took refuge.

They were in no condition to begin a new combat, for they were in complete disorder, and there was a broad gap on the inner flank of each brigade, owing to the fact that Cameron had halted and refused to push forward into danger. Hence came a perilous crisis: the French reserves moved forward, the guns on the Cascajal height enfiladed the German Legion, while two regiments of Latour-Maubourg's dragoons moved in upon the right flank of the Guards. The whole of the six battalions that had joined in the reckless advance were forced to recoil, fighting desperately but losing ground every moment, and pressed into clumps and masses that presented no trace of their former line of battle. 

When they fell back to the point where Cameron had stopped, the 61st and 83rd became involved in their retreat, and were forced to repass the Portina in their company.

The French followed with shouts of victory, pushing their advantage to the utmost and slaughtering the disordered battalions by hundreds. The disaster was worst on the left, where half the strength of the 2nd Line Battalion of the German Legion—387 men—was destroyed in twenty minutes, and the 5th battalion of that same corps lost over 100 prisoners. The Guards suffered almost as heavily: out of their 2,000 men 611 went down killed or wounded: but they left no prisoners behind.

Another restriction to the sight lines at this critical point in the British line is a motorway running east-west

It seemed that the day might well be lost, for Wellesley's reserves were small. Such as they were, however, they were at once put into action. Mackenzie brought forward his brigade to the ground which the Guards had originally covered, and drew them up to withstand the rush of Sebastiani's divisionthe 2/24th on the right, the 2/3lst on the left, with the l/45th between them. The  disordered household troops passed through their intervals, and rallied behind them with splendid promptness'their good humour and determination after such dreadful losses' says an eye-witness, 'was shown by their giving a loud hurrah as they took up their new ground'. 

The fighting in this central part of the British line was close up and bitter. Cotton's cavalry move up alongside Mackenzie's brigade to support the forward line as the French columns press forward - Talavera 208

At the same time Cotton brought up the single brigade of light cavalry which was in reserve, and drew them up on Mackenzie's right, so as to cover his flank. Sebastiani came up with great boldness against the fresh front thus presented to him, and for twenty minutes there was a furious musketry battle in the British right centre.

Mackenzie himself fell, and his three battalions lost 632 men out of about 2,000: but they held their own, and finally the enemy recoiled. They were helped somewhat in their inclination to retreat by a charge of the Light Dragoons upon the flank of their left-hand regiment, the 75th, which had about 150 men sabred.

Thus on this point the battle was saved: the main credit must go to Mackenzie's brigade, which has never received the praise that was its due, for its general was killed, and thus no report from the 3rd division was sent in to Wellesley, who omitted all mention of its doings in his Talavera dispatch.

It is never too late to do homage to forgotten valour, and to call attention to a neglected feat of arms. The services of the 24th, 31st, and 45th saved the day for Britain.

A little further along from the motorway flyover the ground opens up , but is still very overgrown. The British line is to the left and the French were attacking over the ground to the right of the car and over which the KGL pressed their pursuit too far.

Sebastiani therefore drew back terribly mauled: his division had lost all its four colonels, seven of its twelve battalion-chiefs, seventy other officers and 2,100 rank and file—including some sixty prisoners. There was no more fight left in them. They recoiled into the plain, and drew up at last not far from the wrecks of Leval's division, a full mile beyond the Portina.

Meanwhile, however great may have been the danger in the British right-centre, that in the left-centre was even greater. Cameron's, Low's, and Langwerth's brigades were all in the most desperate position: the former, not having pushed so far to the front as the four German battalions, had suffered least of the three—though it had lost 500 men out of 1,400.

But the Legionary troops were in far worse case—Langwerth had been killed, and his brigade was reduced from 1,300 to 650 bayonets—just fifty per cent, of the men had been lost.'

Captain Edward Cocks, 16th Light Dragoons

Captain Cocks wrote home with a description of the rout of the King's German Legion;

"For the Germans, they behaved in several instances extremely ill. At one period of the 28th the whole of their infantry ran fairly away. Poor Langwerth seized the colours and planting them, called to the men to form. He was killed in attempting to rally them.

Colonel Dereham was equally unsuccessful . He got 40 or 50 round the colours but the instant he went to collect others these set up. Had not the 16th been moved up opportunely there would have been a gap left in the line. The Germans formed in our rear...."

Oman continues;

'Low had gone into action with only 950 rank and file, owing to the heavy casualty-list of the preceding night. Of these he now lost 350, including 150 made prisoners in the disorderly retreat down the slope of the Cerro de Cascajal. That these troops ever rallied and made head at all, when they had recrossed the Portina, is much to their credit.

The situation was saved by Wellesley's own prescience. The moment that he saw the rash attack on the French line to which Sherbrooke had committed himself, he looked round for supports which might be utilized to stay the inevitable reaction that must follow. Mackenzie's brigade was available on the right-centre, and was used as we have seen. But there were no infantry reserves behind the left-centre: it was necessary to send down troops from the Cerro de Medellin. 

Villatte was then threatening its front, Ruffin was marching to turn its northern flank, and Wellesley did not dare to detach a whole brigade from the key of the position. He took, however, Richard Stewart's strongest battalion, the l/48th under Colonel Donnellan (which had still over 700 bayonets in line even after its losses in the morning) and sent it at full speed down the southern slope of the Cerro. 

The 1/48th under Colonel Donnellan 'arrived in time to take position on the old ground of the British line, at the moment that the retreating masses came rolling back across the Portina' . - Talavera 208

It arrived in time to take position on the old ground of the British line, at the moment that the retreating masses came rolling back across the Portifia. If the 48th had been carried away in the general backward movement, the day would have been lost: but the regiment stood firm, and allowed Cameron's and Langwerth's troops to pass by its flanks and form up in its rear. While it was holding back Lapisse's central advance, the defeated brigades rallied and re-formed with admirable celerity, and the battle was restored. 

Here, as further to the right, the fighting now resolved itself into a furious musketry-combat between enemies both of whom were now spent and weakened by their previous exertions.

The French, when once brought to a standstill by the 1/48th, lost their elan, and stood heaped together in disorderly masses, keeping up a rolling fire but gaining no ground. Howorth turned upon them the batteries on the Cerro de Medellin, which enfiladed their flank and added to their confusion. General Lapisse himself was killed at this moment, as he was trying to urge on his men to a final advance. It was probably, however, not his death—on which all the French accounts lay great stress—but rather the defeat of Sebastiani's division on their immediate right which finally shook the morale of the French regiments, and induced them to move back, first at a slow pace, then in undisguised retreat. 

The shattered remnants of the German Legion and of the 1/48th, 1/61st, and 2/83rd were in no condition to follow. Seldom have two combatants so thoroughly mauled each other as had the twelve French and the seven allied battalions which fought in this part of the field. 

Of the 6,800 men of Lapisse's division, the general, sixty-nine other officers, and 1,700 men were hors de combat. Of 4,300 British and German troops opposed to them almost exactly the same number had been lost—a general (Langwerth), seventy-seven officers, and 1,616 men.'

Position 3. The northern end of the British line below the Cerro de Medellin

The northern sector of the Talavera battlefield is easily the most changed part, being as it is now, submerged under a large reservoir that captures the melt waters and rainfall from the Sierra de Segurilla and its mountains beyond and covers up the low ground that was crisscrossed with the gullies that originally carried the water to the River Tagus via the Portina.

General Ruffin's division, part of Victors I Corps supported by Merlin's light cavalry and horse artillery prepare to advance along the northern valley - Talavera 208

It was in this area that General Ruffin was ordered to advance for the third time with his now rather battered division to assault the Cerro de Mellin along its norther slope, as part of the flanking pinning attacks made in the afternoon of the 28th to support the main attack in the centre.

Looking across the reservoir from Point 3 at the foot of the Cerro de Medellin towards the foothills of the Sierra de Segurilla. The French troops under General Ruffin advanced down what was this valley from the right of picture (see map above of the battle). The French squares formed to meet the advance of Anson's light cavalry would have been seen in the middle distance straight ahead and over which the 23rd Light Dragoons came to grief in a deep ravine.

Over this ground, now covered by water, lies the remains of the Valdefuentes farm mentioned in Lieutenant Girod's, of the 9eme Legere, account of the charge by the 23rd Light Dragoons together with the ravine that they careered into on the headlong charge across the valley.

When Oman visited the battlefield at the start of the last century the ravine could still be seen and he described it thus;

'In its upper part, where the German regiment (1st KGL Hussars) met it, the obstacle is practically unchanged, But nearer to the farm of Valdefuentes it has almost disappeared, owing to the extension of cultivation. There is only a four foot drop from a field to a piece of rough ground full of reeds and bent-grass, where the soil is a little marshy in April.'

Oman's account of the fighting in this sector;

'It only remains to tell of the combat to the north of the Cerro, in the narrow valley that separated the British position from the Sierra de Segurilla. Here the engagement began at a much later hour than in the centre. All the observers on the hill speak of the first contest of Campbell and Leval as being concluded, and of that of Sherbrooke and Sebastiani as being at its height, before the  rench right wing began to move.

The French troops in this direction, it will be remembered, were the three regiments of Ruffin, now mere wrecks of their former selves, and the first brigade of Villatte's division, that of Cassagne. The six battalions of the latter force were near the Cerro de Medellin, while Ruffin's men stood further to the north, under the Sierra de Segurilla. In support of them both lay Merlin's division of light cavalry.

At the moment when Victor had received permission to turn the flank of the Cerro, it had appeared that he would meet little opposition. But long ere the French were ready to advance, they had seen allied troops arriving in haste and taking up their position at the southern end of the valley. 

Allied reinforcements moved into the northern valley - top, Bassecourt's Spanish infantry, centre Albuquerque's Spanish cavalry and bottom Anson's and Fane's British cavalry - Talavera 208

First Fane's and Anson's cavalry had drawn up on the level ground, then Bassecourt's Spanish infantry had appeared on the rocky slopes of the Sierra, and had thrown out a long skirmishing line opposite Ruffin's right. Lastly Albuquerque's whole cavalry division had ridden round from the rear of the centre, and taken post behind Anson and Fane. There were now over 5,000  bayonets and 5,000 sabres in face of the French brigades.

It was clear that any attempt to storm the northern face of the Cerro would expose the troops that attempted it to a flank attack from the allied troops in the valley. It was this that made Ruffin and Villatte (who was present in person with Cassagne's brigade) very chary of molesting Hill's position.

General Hill's position highlighted in Oman's account with the Spanish and British guns, left, pointing into the valley below. Talavera 208

On the other hand if the French advanced up the valley to attack the cavalry at its southern end, they would expose themselves to a flanking fire from the guns on the Cerro and from Hill's right-hand infantry brigade. Nevertheless, when the roar of the invisible battle on the other side of the Cascajal height was at its loudest, the two French generals began a cautious advance towards the front.

They at once came under a tiresome flanking artillery fire from the Cerro: half Rettberg's battery of the German Legion had been placed on a spur from which it enfiladed Villatte's nearest regiment. Two heavy Spanish twelve-pounders opened from another part of the slope, and Albuquerque had also placed his horse-artillery guns in a position from which they bore up the valley. The pieces that accompanied the French advance, being in the trough of the depression, could do little harm in return.

After advancing as far as the path which leads from Talavera to Segurilla, Ruffin deployed his right regiment, the much depleted 9th Leger, and sent it up the Sierra to form a screen opposite Bassecourt's infantry. The other six battalions, the 24th and 96th, advanced in column along the valley, with the 27th from Cassagne's brigade on their left; presently the whole came level with the northern slope of the Cerro, just reaching the farm of Valdefuentes at its foot.

Officer of the 23rd Light Dragoons (left) in conversation - John Pimlott

At this moment Lapisse's attack had already been beaten off, and Wellesley was able to turn his attention from the centre to the flank of his line, Crossing the crest of the Cerro, he studied for a moment the situation of the French regiments, and then sent down orders for Anson's brigade of light dragoons to charge them, with Fane's heavy cavalry in support. 

The moment that the British horsemen were seen to be advancing the enemy hastily formed squares—the 24th and 96th slightly to the west of the Segurilla road, the 27th in a more advanced position just under the walls of the farm of Valdefuentes. A battalion of grenadiers reunis, and the 63rd of the Line, which formed Villatte's supports, also fell into square far to the rear.

The concentration of the French regiments in vast masses of three battalions each gave a great opportunity to the allied artillery, which found easy targets in the square blocks of men at their feet.

As Anson's brigade advanced, the right regiment, the 23rd Light Dragoons, found itself opposite the large square of the 27th Leger, while the 1st Light Dragoons of the German Legion faced the smaller masses of the 24th and 96th. The ground seemed favourable for a charge, and though an attack on unbroken infantry is always hazardous, the squadrons came on with great confidence and were soon closing in at headlong speed upon the hostile line.

An unforeseen chance of war, however, wrecked the whole plan. The long dry waving grass of the valley seemed to show a level surface, but the appearance was deceitful. About a hundred and fifty yards in front of the French squares was a narrow but deep ravine, the bed of a small winter-torrent which discharges its waters into the Portina during the rainy season. It was about fifteen feet broad and ten feet deep in the northern part of the field, a little narrower in its southern course. There were many places at which it could be crossed with ease by a horseman moving alone and at a moderate pace. But for squadrons riding knee to knee at headlong speed it was a dangerous obstacle, and indeed a trap of the most deadly sort. It was wholly invisible to the  horsemen till they came upon it. 

Colonel Elley, the second in command of the 23rd, who rode two lengths ahead of the front line of his regiment, mounted on a grey horse, and conspicuous to every observer on the Cerro de Medellin, was the first man to discover the peril. His charger cleared it at a bound; but knowing that the inferior mounts of the rank and file would certainly come to grief, he wheeled round on the further bank, threw up his hand and tried to wave back his followers. It was too late: the two squadrons of the front line were on the brink of the ravine before they could understand his action.

Some of the troopers cleared the obstacle in their stride; some swerved in time and refused to take the leapothers scrambled into and over the less difficult points of the ditch: but many fell horse and man into the trap, and were then crushed by the rear rank falling in on top of them. There were several broken necks, and scores of broken arms and legs in the leading squadrons. 

The second line got warning of the obstacle by seeing the inexplicable disorder into which their fellows had fallen. They slackened their pace, but were borne into the confused mass at the ravine before they could entirely bring themselves to a stand. Meanwhile the front face of the square formed by the 27th Leger opened fire on the unhappy regiment.'

The ground through which Ruffin's infantry advanced into the valley on the opposite shore line with the Segurilla hills beyond and where likely the 23rd Light Dragoons that survived falling into the ravine and the fire from French squares crashed into a solid line of French light cavalry.

Lieutenant Girod de l'Ain of the 9eme Legere was on the lower slopes of the Sierra de Segurilla, and had a perfect view of this charge and left an account of his impressions;

"this was a charge by some English cavalry, that we saw arrive from afar like a hurricane; it was a regiment of dragoons charging in order of battle and launched full tilt ... We observed this line of enemy cavalry, incapable of manoeuvre, following a single direction so blindly, that we shouted with one voice "They are deserting, they are deserting!" But soon saw one of our regiments of legere (the 27eme), which, marching in column close to an isolated house, found itself in the path of the path of this cavalry; not having time to form square; it threw itself around this house, with their backs against the four walls; the square thus found itself naturally formed, and more solid 

..... The English line extended well beyond both sides, to right and left ... the two wings no longer master of their horses ... continued on their course straight ahead, always flat out. We then saw a line of French cavalry, which stationed in the rear, came up at the 'petit trot' before the English cavalry; it was the brigade of General Stroltz composed of the 10eme and 26eme Chasseurs a Cheval.

We anxiously wondered what would happen when these two lines of cavalry met; but the shock did not last long: we saw the English line pass through the French line, without stopping or losing their formation; we only had time to notice a few sabres flash in the air and the smoke of some pistol shots ... but soon our chasseurs remounted and, a little shaken, launched themselves at the gallop in pursuit of the English dragoons, which only stopped in the waters of the Alberche, where they were all taken prisoner."

The 23rd Light Dragoons started the day 450 strong and their losses from the crash into the ravine and subsequent combat amounted to 207 killed, wounded or missing of whom 105 were captured.

The French attack in this sector petered out soon after the charge, as General Ruffin became aware of the failure of French attacks further down the British line.

Wellesley, who was not known for his support for his cavalry arm wrote rather positively about the charge to Lord Castlereagh, minister of war, soon after the battle;

'although the 23rd (light) dragoons suffered considerable loss, the charge had the effect of preventing the execution of that part of the enemy's plan.'

He also went on to thank Anson's brigade and his praise probably went some way to cover up his own involvement and responsibility for events that caused the cavalry to decide to charge in the first pace.

This action has curious echoes of a later action involving another British Light Cavalry brigade at a certain battle in the Crimea in 1854 with some strikingly similar command and control issues.

Position 4. On the forward slopes of the Cerro de Medellin

The Cerro de Medellin was the key position that anchored the Allied line in the north and its slopes and pinnacle dominate the surrounding battlefield offering commanding sight-lines now somewhat obscured by the growth of woodland up its forward sides; but offering glimpses of its former vistas through gaps in the trees looking towards the French positions in the valley below and on the opposite lower slopes and plateau of the Cerro de Cascajal.

The position was used by Wellesley throughout the battle to observe from and command his troops with seemingly no evidence to suggest he ever left this position during the 28th July.

Its slopes were assaulted twice by Victors I Corps and more precisely the soldiers of its 1st Division under the command of General Ruffin, first in an unusual night attack on the 27th and then a more conventional daylight attack at dawn the next morning, with the position and the line extending down its southern slopes coming under a massive amount of French artillery fire from a forty-gun grand battery amassed on the slopes opposite by Marshal Victor to precede his attack.
Amid the trees on the forward upper slope of the Cerro de Medelin at Point 4 occupied for most of the battle by Hill's division and supporting British/KGL artillery batteries of Retteberg and Heyse. The slope of the Cerro de Cascajal can just be made out between the trees and would have been lined with French guns with the massed ranks of Victor's I Corps behind.

Oman described Marshal Victor's night attack on the Cerro de Medellin;

'He had resolved to deliver a night attack on the key of the British position, when the whole of his corps should have reached the front. Having reconnoitred the allied lines, and noted the distribution of their defenders, he had determined to storm the Cerro de Medellin in the dark.

During his long stay at Talavera he had acquired a very thorough knowledge of its environs, and understood the dominating importance of that height. If he could seize and hold it during the night, he saw that the battle of the next day would be already half won. 

Accordingly, still without obtaining King Joseph's leave, he determined to assail the Cerro. He told off for the storm his choicest division, that of Ruffin, whose nine battalions were already ranged on the front of the Cascajal heights. At the same time Lapisse's division was to distract the attention of the British centre by a noisy demonstration against its front.

Night attacks are proverbially hazardous and hard to conduct, and it cannot be disputed that Victor showed an excessive temerity in endeavouring to deliver such a blow at the steady British troops, at an hour when it was impossible to guarantee proper co-operation among the attacking columns. But for an initial stroke of luck he ought not to have secured even the small measure of success that fell to his lot.

Major General Rowland Hill's 2nd Division occupies the forward slopes of the Cerro de Medellin - Talavera 208

At about nine o'clock, however, Ruffin moved down to the attack. Each of his three regiments was formed in battalion columns, the 9th Leger in the centre, the 96th on its left, the 24th on its right. The first-named regiment was to deliver a frontal attack, the other two to turn the flanks of the hill and attack over its side-slopes. At the appointed moment the three regiments descended  simultaneously into the ravine of the Portina, and endeavoured to carry out their respective sections of the programme.

The 9th, chancing on the place where the ravine was most easily negotiable, crossed it without much difficulty, and began to climb the opposite slope. On mounting half way to the crest, it suddenly came on Low's brigade of the German Legion, lying down in line, with its pickets only a very small distance in advance of the main body.'

The gradient up the forward slope of the Cerro de Medellin is steep and would have been open ground in 1809. The Portina stream runs along the base of the scrub and bushes before the ground climbs towards the French held Cerro de Cascajal in the background.

Oman continues;
'... taken wholly unprepared by the midnight attack of the French. His sentries were trampled down in a moment, and the 9th Leger ran in upon the Germans, firing into them point blank and seizing many of them as prisoners almost ere they were awake. The 7th K.G.L. was completely broken, and lost 150 men—half of them prisoners—in five minutes. The 5th, the right-hand battalion of Low's brigade, came off better, as it was not in the direct path of the French; but it was flung sideways along the southern slope of the hill, and could not be re-formed for some time. 

Meanwhile the three French columns, somewhat separated from each other in this first clash of arms, went straight on up the Cerro, and in a few minutes were nearing its crest. The two leading battalions actually reached and crowned it, without meeting with any opposition save from the outlying picket of Richard Stewart's brigade. The third was not far behind, and it seemed almost certain that the position might be won.'

Not all the battalions of the 9eme Legere escaped unscathed from the clash with Donkin's brigade as Oman suggests and as Lieutenant Girod of the regiment described, in an action with them as they fought to gain the summit;

"We had already reached two thirds up the height without meeting any enemy when we received a terrible discharge of musketry, that in an instant caused us to suffer a heavy loss: nearly 300 men and 13 officers, among which our Colonel, my Chef de Battalion, our two Adjutant-Majors  and our two Carabinier captains, in a nutshell, the principle commanders of our two columns were put hors de combat."

One of the Talavera 208 scenario planning maps showing here the relative positions of the participating forces in the night attack of the 27th July 1809. The Cerro de Medellin should have been occupied by Hill's 2nd Division, but they arrived late that evening having got lost falling back into the Allied line and seeing Hill lead the counterattack with Stewart's brigade to recover the summit after the 9eme Legere had pushed elements through, after confused fighting against Low's KGL brigade and Donkin's brigade.

Oman continues;

'At this moment General Hill, who was occupied in drawing out his division on the rear slope, but had not yet conducted it to its fighting-ground, interfered in the fight. He had seen and heard the sudden outbreak of musketry on the frontal slopes, as the French broke through Low's brigade. But when it died down, he was far from imagining that the cause was the complete success of the enemy. Nevertheless, he directed his nearest brigade, that of Richard Stewart, to prepare to support the Germans if necessary. 

He was issuing his orders to the colonel of the 48th, when he observed some men on the hill top fire a few shots in his direction. 'Not having an idea,' he writes, 'that the enemy were so near, I said to myself that I was sure it was the old Buffs, as usual, making some blunder.' 

The conglomeration of various battalions left stranded in Portugal after the Corunna evacuation led to Wellesley creating two Battalions of Detachments. This is the Ist Battalion, part of Stewart's Brigade that led the counterattack on the night of the 27th July - Talavera 208

Accordingly he galloped up the hill, with his brigade-major Fordyce, shouting to the men to cease firing. He rode right in among the French before he realized his mistake, and a voltigeur seized him by the arm and bade him surrender. Hill spurred his horse, which sprang forward and got clear of the Frenchman, who lost his hold but immediately raised his musket and fired at three paces' distance, missing the General but hitting his charger. Hill escaped in the midst of a scattering volley, which killed his companion Fordyce, and got back as fast as he could to Richard Stewart's brigade. 

Without delaying for a moment, even to change his wounded horse, he led on the nearest regiments to recover the hill top. So great was the confusion, owing to the sudden attack in the dark, that Stewart's men moved forward, not in their proper order, but with the 1st Battalion of Detachments on the right, the 29th in the centre, and the 1/48 on the left.

View from the forward slope of the Cerro de Medellin with the track in the distance leading up the forward slope of the Cerro de Cascajal from the Portina stream. The French grand battery would have been arrayed on the open ground to the right.

This arrangement brought the first named unit first into touch with the enemy. The Detachments
came into immediate collision with the leading battalions of the French, who were now somewhat in disorder, and trying to re-form on the ground they had won. 

Carabinier and Fusilier Chasseur of the 9eme Legere - Otto Manuscript 1807

The two forces opened a furious fire upon each other, and both came to a standstill. But Hill, coming up a moment later at the head of his centre regiment, cleared the hill top by a desperate charge: passing through the Detachments, the 29th delivered a volley at pointblank range and closed. The enemy broke and fled down the slope that they had ascended. The 29th wheeled into line and followed them, pouring in regular volleys at short intervals.

But before they had gone far, they became dimly conscious of another column to their left, pushing up the hill in the darkness. This was the rear battalion of the 9th Leger, which had fallen somewhat behind its fellows. It was moving up diagonally across the front of the British regiment, with drums beating and loud shouts of vive l'Empereur, Taken in flank by the fire of the right companies of the 29th, it could make no effective resistance, and ere long broke and rolled back in disorder into the bed of the Portina, where it met with the wrecks of the rest of the regiment, and retired in company with them up the slopes of the Cerro de Cascajal.'

The French admitted to losses of about 300, including 65 prisoners. The commander of the 9eme Legere, Colonel Meunier was struck three times in the encounter with the 7th KGL and taken prisoner, but was recovered after the battle when the French took Talavera hospital.

The British losses were higher with Wellesley reporting in his battle dispatch;

'We lost many brave officers in the defence of this point.'

Low's two KGL battalions lost 36 men, the Battalion of Detachments, 69 men; and the 29th Foot, 55 men. In total, British losses are estimated at nearly 400 but the cost had ensured the Allied line was intact for the coming day but with many of the soldiers on both sides of the line spending an uncomfortable night on high alert following the preceding action.

Position 5. The Portina Stream below the Cerro de Medellin and Cerro de Cascajal

The Portina stream or brook formed a natural forward line for the British position and in 1809 was described as being 'virtually dry, with pools of brackish water'.

The flow of water along its course has changed in the two-hundred plus years since the battle with the dam creating the reservoir to the north of the Cerro de Medellin markedly controling the flow and content of water even in the summer months.

As seen in my picture of the Portina near the Pajar de Vergara, lengths of its course have been regulated and reinforced with concrete walls along its banks, but it appears more as it would have been between the two areas of high ground in the northern sector, looking more like a free-flowing meandering brook with trees and undergrowth growing along its banks.

The darker shadow among these trees and grasses indicates the meandering path of the Portina stream here seen between the Cerro de Medellin and Cerro de Cascajal hills.  

Over this stream with the route now marked by an unsealed road, the French launched their two attacks to take the Cerro de Medellin and after the second attack at dawn of the 28th July saw the soldiers of both armies meet during an unofficial truce as both sides recovered their casualties and those able enough met in the waters of the Portina to refill canteens and exchange tobacco before being summoned back to respective lines by officers and NCO's.

A somewhat exaggerated and inaccurate portrayal of British and French troops refreshing themselves in the Portina
during a break in the fighting at Talavera. 

Sergeant Daniel Nicol of a detachment of the 92nd 'Gordon' Highlanders that formed part of the 1st Battalion of Detachments recalled;

"both armies went for water as if a truce was between us, looking at each other, drinking and wiping the sweat from their brows, laughing and nodding heads to each other; all thoughts of fighting for the time forgotten."

The unsealed road leading off up the Cero de Medellin with railing to the left amid the bushes indicating the passage of a small bridge constructed over the Portina taking the road up the Cerro de Cascajal.

Meanwhile, further up on the French held ridge above the stream, the French senior commanders were gathering to assess the results of the previous fighting now that daylight had revealed the extent of the Allied line and the British held sector particularly.

Looking up the road leading to the top of the French ridge of the Cerro de Cascajal and where the bulk of Victor's I Corps were arrayed during the battle

Talavera is not a typical defensive position that Wellesley, later Wellington, would have selected had the opportunity presented, as much of it is exposed to observation from the French higher ground and in particular the French artillery; and it requires little imagination to see why the main French attack was pressed towards the centre of the Allied line at the foot of the Cerro de Medellin to take advantage of the usual French tactic of bombarding an enemy position prior to its assault by skirmishers and massed columns.

The wider view from the small bridge across the Portina looking up the French  held ridge.
Following the track up from the Portina, I was really keen to see the vista offered to King Joseph Victor, Jourdan and Sebastiani as they gathered to plan the main attack on the afternoon of the 28th.

Position 6. The view from the top of the Cerro de Cascajal

The Cerro de Cascajal was occupied by Victor's I Corps and from where the senior French commanders were able to see the battlefield as a whole and observe the results of their attacks.

Access to the summit is easy and the views obtained are perhaps some of the best the battlefield today has to offer the modern visitor giving one an immediate and clear perspective of the opposing lines.

Wide angle view from the top of the French held Cerro de Cascajal with the higher British held Cerro de Medellin on the right close to the reservoir and the more open part of the British battle line to the left. In the left foreground is the open plateau of the French ridge where Victor's grand battery would have been deployed.

It was from this position that the two attacks against the Cerro de Medellin opposite were organised and also from where the French artillery was grouped to support both attacks on the 28th July.

Having looked at the main attack and night attack so far it leaves just the morning attack of the 28th to look at, initiated as it was by the firing of a single gun positioned here atop the French ridge at 05.00 which signaled the start of and opening of a forty five minute barrage from over fifty French cannon.

Oman began his account by describing the view of the French lines that greeted the British observers as the early morning light revealed the French positions;

'The dawn was an anxious moment: with the growing light it was possible to make out broad black patches dotting the whole of the rolling ground in front of the British army. Every instant rendered them more visible, and soon they took shape as French regiments in battalion columns, ranged on a front of nearly two miles, from the right end of the Cerro de Cascajal to the edge of the woods facing the Pajar de Vergara. 

One of our games recreating the morning attack at Talavera seen from the position pictured above. The right hand side of the table is the valley now under the water of the reservoir - Talavera 208

The object which drew most attention was an immense solid column at the extreme right of the hostile line, on the lower slopes above the Portina, with a thick screen of tirailleurs already thrown out in its front, and evidently ready to advance at the word of command. The other divisions lay further back: in front of them artillery was everywhere visible: there were four batteries on the  midslope of the Cascajal hill, and six more on the rolling ground to the south. In the far distance, behind the infantry, were long lines of cavalry dressed in all the colours of the rainbowfifteen or sixteen regiments could be counted—and far to the rear of them more black masses were slowly rolling into view.

It was easily to be seen that little or nothing lay in front of the Spaniards, and that at least five-sixths of the French army was disposed for an attack on the British front. There were 40,000 men visible, ready for the advance against the 20,000 sabres and bayonets of Wellesley's long red line.'

Marshal Victor and his staff - Talavera 208

Oman continues;

'At about five in the morning the watchers on the Cerro de Medellin saw the smoke of a gun curl up into the air from the central battery in front of Villatte's division. The ensuing report was the signal for the whole of Victor's artillery to open, and twenty-four guns spoke at once from the Cascajal heights, and thirty more from the lower ground to their right. The cannonade was tremendous, and the reply wholly inadequate, as Wellesley could only put four batteries in line, Rettberg's on the summit of the Cerro, Sillery's from the lower slope near Donkin's position, and those of Heyse and Elliott from the front of Sherbrooke's division. 

The French fire was both accurate and effective, 'they served their guns in an infinitely better style than at Vimeiro: their shells were thrown with precision, and did considerable execution. Wellesley, who stood in rear of Hill's line on the commanding height, at once ordered Richard Stewart's and Tilson's brigades to go back from the sky-line, and to lie down. But no such device was practicable in Sherbrooke's division, where the formation of the ground presented no possibility of cover, and here much damage was done. 

After a few minutes the English position was obscured, for the damp of the morning air prevented the smoke from rising, and a strong east wind blew it across the Portina, and drove it along the slopes of the Cerro. So thick was the atmosphere that the defenders heard rather than saw the start of Ruffin's division on its advance, and only realized its near approach when they saw their own skirmishers retiring up the slope towards the main line.'

A closer look at the position occupied by the massed French guns

Ensign John Aitchison of the 3rd Guards described the effect of the French barrage on the British troops unable to take cover from it other than to lie down;

"a tremendous cannonade - shots and shells were falling in every direction - but none of the enemy were to be seen - the men were all lying in ranks, and except at the very spot where a sot or shell fell, there was not the least motion - I have seen men killed in the ranks by cannon shots - those immediately around the spot would remove the mutilated corpse to the rear, they would then lie down as if nothing had occurred and remain in the ranks, steady as before.

The common men could be brought to face the greatest danger, there is a spirit which tells me it is possible, but I could not believe that they could be brought to remain without emotion, when attacked, not knowing from whence.

Such, however, was the conduct of our men I speak particularly of the Brigade on 28 July, and from this steadiness so few suffered as by remaining quiet the shots bounded over their heads."

My interpretation of the picture above with massed French artillery opening up one of our games recreating the battle - Talavera 208

Oman's account continues;

'The light companies of Hill's division came in so slowly and unwillingly, turning back often to fire, and keeping their order with the regularity of a field-day. The general, wishing to get his front clear, bade the bugles sound to bring them in more quickly, and as they filed to the rear in a leisurely way was heard to shout (it was one of the only two occasions on which he was known to swear),"D-—their filing, let them come in anyhow."
When the light companies had fallen back, the French were at last visible through the smoke. They had mounted the lower slopes of the Cerro without any loss, covered by their artillery, which only ceased firing at this moment. They showed nine battalions, in three solid columns: Victor had  arranged the divisions with the 24th in the centre, the 96th on the left, and the 9th Leger, which had suffered so severely in the night battle, upon the right. This arrangement brought the last named regiment opposite their old enemies of the 29th, and the Battalion of Detachments, while the l/48th and 2/48th had to deal with the French centre, and the Buffs and 66th with their left.' 

Ensign Clarke described the action of the 66th Foot as they engaged the French left;

"Our orders were to lie down behind the ridge until the enemy's column reached the top, then to rise, deliver a volley, and charge.

I was sent to the summit by the commanding officer to let him know where the enemy were and returned with the intelligence that a strong column was only fifty yards off.

The volley was delivered and we rushed on them with the bayonet. At first they appeared if they would stand the charge, but when we closed they wavered, and then turned and ran down the hill in the wildest confusion."

Oman continued;

'When Ruffin's columns had got within a hundred yards of the sky-line, Hill bade his six battalions stand to their feet and advance. As they lined the crest they delivered a splendid volley, whose report was as sharp and precise as that of a field-day. The effect was of course murderous, as was always the case when line met column. The French had a marked superiority in numbers; they were nearly 5,000 strong, Hill's two brigades had less than 4,000.'

Further back from the front of the French held ridge is plenty of open ground where the French reserve formations could stand relatively safely from fire from the British positions opposite.

The first volley brought them to a standstill—their whole front had gone down at the discharge—they lost the impetus of advance, halted, and kept up a furious fire for some minutes. But when it came to a standing fight of musketry, there was never a doubt in any Peninsular battle how the game would end. The French fire began ere long to slacken, the front of the columns shook and wavered. 

Just at this moment Sherbrooke, who had noted that the divisions in his own front showed no signs of closing, took the 5th battalion of the King's German Legion out of his left brigade, and sent it against the flank and rear of Ruffin's nearest regiment—the 96th of the line. When the noise of battle broke out in this new quarter, the French lost heart and began to give ground. 

Richard Stewart, at the northern end of the British line, gave the signal to his brigade to charge, and—as a participator in this fray writes, ' on we went, a wall of stout hearts and bristling steel. The enemy did not fancy such close quarters, and the moment our rush began they went to the right-about. The principal portion broke and fled, though some brave fellows occasionally faced about and gave us an irregular fire.' 

Nothing, however, could stop Hill's division, and the whole six battalions rushed like a torrent down the slope, bayoneting and sweeping back the enemy to the line of black and muddy pools that marked the course of the Portina. Many of the pursuers even crossed the ravine and chased the flying French divisions right into the arms of Villatte's troops, on the Cascajal Hill. When these reserves opened fire, Hill's men re-formed on the lower slope of the Cerro, and retired to their old position without being seriously molested, for Victor made no counter-attack.

Massed French columns press forward in one of the 'Dawn Attack' games played - Talavera 208

A French account of this attack tells of how;

'Colonel Jamin, commanding the 24eme Ligne shouted, 'Au revoir Messieurs les Anglais' as he retired with his survivors and receiving a mocking reply from a British officer of 'Au revoir Monsieur le Colonel; au revoir messieurs!'

The extent of the reservoir covering the northern valley to the hills of the Sierra de Segurilla is very evident from up here

Oman's account of the casualties in this action;

'Ruffin's three regiments had been terribly punished: they had lost, in forty minutes' fighting, 1,300 killed and wounded, much more than a fourth of their strength. Hill's brigades had about 750 casualties, including their gallant leader, who received a wound in the head, and had to go to the rear, leaving the command of his division to Tilson. The loss of the German battalion which had struck in upon the French rear was insignificant, as the enemy never stood to meet it.'

As well as General Hill, Lieutenant Colonel Mutter commanding the 3rd 'Buffs' Foot was wounded and died the following day.

The high point of the British held Cerro de Medellin is easily identified from here and Wellesley would have had a commanding view from which to direct his commanders.

Lord Munster recalled;

'The dead of the enemy lay in vast numbers on the face of the hill, and had been tall, healthy, fine young men, well-limbed, with good countenances; and as proof of their courage, (the head of their column having reached within a few yards of the top of the hill before being arrested,) the bodies lay close to our lines.'

Another bird species, new to me, graced our visit to Talavera - Iberian Magpies, which proved quite elusive, flying off as soon as they were aware we were near, but I managed to catch a quick picture along our walk.

Position 7. The Battlefield Monuments (Old and New) and the British Dressing Station

Position 7 is found well back behind the Allied line close to the motorway that bisects the battlefield and where the visitor can see the modern memorial to the battle together with the original now moved to the rear slopes of the Cerro de Medellin and placed on private land.

The old monument unceremoniously removed from its original place atop the Cerro de Medellin to make way for a privately owned house, here seen from the site of the new memorial to the battle.

The new memorial to the battle is certainly imposing in a very modern concrete kind of a way and as well as an attractive tiled map showing the battle positions one can see an incomplete list of the Regiments involved in the battle with the most notable exceptions of the 23rd Light Dragoons and 97th Foot.

This area also gives a very good view of the lower half of the battlefield occupied by Spanish troops down to Talavera.

The new memorial to the Battle of Talavera situated in a former lay by along the motorway that bisects the battlefield from east to west

A list of some of the British and KGL regiments that took part in the battle.

The tiled period style map of the battle positions was a nice touch and greatly added to the memorial

The Spanish regiments representing the Army of Estremadura under General Cuesta

The units making up King Joseph Bonaparte's army from his Guard, I Corps, IV Corps and Latour Maubourg's Dragoon Division.

Alongside the car park for the monument, lies a cluster of ruined buildings identified by Dr Martin Howard in his book 'Wellington's Doctors' as the area described where the British baggage was parked and a dressing station established.

Sergeant Nicol of the 1st Battalion of Detachments describes how after being wounded he hobbled back to a 'large white house where many wounded men were waiting to be dressed.'

This position and its proximity to the Spanish positions before it, also explains how it gets a mention from Wellesley in a letter to Lord Castlereagh when he described the four battalions of Spanish infantry firing a crashing volley to little effect against a reconnaissance patrol of French dragoons on the evening of the 27th July, as the two armies moved up into their respective lines;

'Two thousand of them ran off into the evening of the twenty-seventh, not 100 yards from where I was standing, who neither attacked or threatened with attack, and who were only frightened by the noise of their own fire.

The Spanish Volunteer Regiment, Imperial de Toledo, one of the four battalions the ran from the front line after firing a volley at French cavalry and then plundered the British baggage as witnessed by Wellesley atop the Cerro de Medellin. Talavera 208

They left their arms and accoutrements on the ground, their officers went with them, and they plundered the baggage of the British army, which had been sent to the rear. Many others went who I did not see.'

The ruins of the farm buildings and white house that was used by the British during the battle as dressing station and aid post can be seen close to memorial as well as suggesting the park used for the British baggage train.

Visiting Talavera was a real thrill particularly after having spent three years of my life getting to know it, very well, without ever having been there.

It was surprising how easy it was to recognise key features and orientate myself once they were identified, which speaks well of the multiple games we played over the model of this terrain.

This battlefield is already bearing up to encroachment from modern development and it would be a great shame if visitors one-hundred years on cannot still get a vivid impression of this place due to ever more building, grabbing yet more land. If more of us go and visit places like this, perhaps the Spanish authorities will make even greater efforts to restrict developments in a bid to gather in the riches from increased tourism and I hope this post in a small way will contribute to that cause.

Carolyn and I move on next from the Tagus Valley and continue south as the skies keep on getting bluer and the temperatures hotter and as we make our way via Elvas, Badajoz and Albuera.

Sources referred to in this post:
Talavera - Andrew W. Field
Talavera 1809 - Rene Chartrand & Graham Turner, Osprey Campaign
History of the Peninsular War Volume II, Sir Charles Oman
Intelligence Officer in the Peninsula, Edward Charles Cocks - Julia Page


  1. Another great chapter.

    The Spanish do not look after their historical sites, perhaps because they have so many of them. Throughout history many nations have fought over the Iberian Peninsula.

    I remember when the motorway was being built that there was an uproad in the UK, though not in Spain, because so many bodies were uncovered.

    We were also lucky to be able to visit the private house on the Medellin. On that visit we travelled with Holts Tours, who were well known for their battlefield tours. They had an arrangement with the owner to allow their tours to visit the monument, in return for a couple bottles of whiksy!

    Despite having a guide I found it quite difficult to orientate the ground, particularly because of the extensive road works. We were fortunate to have an extra guide in the person of the military attache from the consulate in Madrid. Whilst the rest of the coach went too to visit Toledo he spent the afternoon walking us around the not so obvious sights.

    Once more you have described the battle, and the battlefield, to perfection. And the mass of photos include many spots we did not visit.

    Well done

    1. Thanks Paul.
      I was really looking forward to seeing Talavera, as I had walked the battlefield in my mind so many times whilst working on my games it was really great to see it close up.

      I was so pleased to see what remains despite the encroachments and you can still get a great impression from walking the ground, but I hope it will be protected for future generations to see.

      All the best

  2. Talavera is now definitely a battlefield where you you need a good imagination! I was fortunate to first visit before the motorway and the flooding of the northern part was also less pronounced. I also visited the Casa de Salinas but haven't been able to find it again on my 2 subsequent visits!!! My excuse is that I didn't have as much in the way of maps on those occasions? I personally rather like the "new" monument - probably the most impressive on any of the Peninsular sites?

    1. Casa de Salinas is tricky to find even with the 1;25000 maps we had on hand so I'm not surprised to hear you struggled without.

      Yes I rather like the new monument and especially the map tiles illustrating the battle lines, but the absence of some very important units was disappointing and I hope they might remedy that at some stage.

  3. excellent as always

    1. Thank you Mark, I'm glad you enjoyed the read.


  4. A wonderful, informative, complete and splendid post...I'm speechless!

    1. Hi Phil, thank you for your comment, it's very much appreciated,