Battle of Arroyo dos Molinos

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Battle of Arroyo dos Molinos
Part of Peninsular War
Date 28 October 1811
Location Arroyo dos Molinos, Extremadura, Spain
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
United Kingdom Britain
Portugal
Spain Spain
France France
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Rowland Hill France Jean-Baptiste Girard
Strength
9,000 British, Portuguese and Spanish 6,000
Casualties and losses
80 dead or wounded 1,000 dead or wounded
1,400 and 3 guns captured

The Battle of Arroyo dos Molinos took place on 28 October 1811 during the Peninsular War. An allied force under General Rowland Hill trapped and defeated, a French force under General Jean-Baptiste Girard, forcing the latter's dismissal by the Emperor Napoleon. A whole French infantry division and a brigade of cavalry were destroyed as viable fighting formations.

Background[edit]

In the middle of October, 1811 a French division under the command of Jean-Baptiste Girard crossed the River Guardiana at Mérida and campaigned in Northern Extremadura.[1] Major-General Rowland Hill consulted with General Wellington and received permission to pursue Girard with his Second Division. Upon learning that the French had halted at the village of Arroyo dos Molinos, near Alcuéscar, Hill force-marched his troops for three days in poor weather so as to catch the French before they moved on.

By the evening of the 27 October, Hill's forces had reached a point four miles from the French at Arroyo dos Molinos, and had the area around the enemy surrounded. The 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot was ordered to occupy the village of Alcuéscar, three miles from Arroyo. During the night there was a violent hail-storm, and on the following morning the weather was still so foul that the French pickets on duty had their backs turned so as to gain some reprieve from the wind and rain - it was from this direction that Hill's forces attacked at dawn on the 28th.[2]

Rowland Hill

The French 34th and 40th Regiments suffered extremely heavy losses during the battle, although to Marshal Soult's relief the eagle standards of the two regiments were not lost to the British. He wrote to Napoleon: L'honneur des armes est sauvé; les Aigles ne sont pas tombés au pouvoir de l'ennemi. [The honour of the army is saved; the Eagles did not fall into the hands of the enemy.][3]

Long's cavalry charged, the 2nd Hussars KGL particularly distinguishing themselves, and broke the French cavalry. Over 200 of them were captured plus three pieces of artillery.[4]

On 5 November a jubilant Hill (who would be made a Knight of the Bath for Arroyo dos Molinos) wrote to his sister;

The French eagles may "not have fallen into the hands of the enemy", however, the greatest prize for the 34th [Cumberland] Regiment, (who harboured a long held ambition to take on their opposite French number) was the capture of six side-drums and the French Drum-Major’s staff which, after a tustle, was taken from the French Drum-Major by Sergeant Moses Simpson of the 34th’s Grenadier Company. Included in the haul was the French grenadier company drum, the shell of which is emblazoned with three grenadier ‘ball and flame’. These magnificent trophies of war had been presented to the 34e Regiment d'Infanterie de Ligne by none other Napoleon himself when the French regiment was founded in 1796. The drums and drum majors staff are on display in The Border Regiment museum, Carlisle Castle.

Order of battle[edit]

British[edit]

In no order;

  • Cavalry: 'D Brigade' (Long's)
    • 9th Light Dragoons
    • 13th Light Dragoons
    • 2nd Hussars King's German Legion

French[edit]

  • Division Girard (4000)[7]
    • Brigade Dombrowski
      • 34th Ligne Infantry Regiment (3 battalions)
      • 40th Ligne Infantry Regiment (3 battalions)
    • Brigade Bron
      • 27th Chasseurs à Cheval (light cavalry)
      • 10th Hussars
      • 20th Dragoons

Artillery: one 8 pdr, one 4pdr, one Lgt Howitzer.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Robinson. Wellington's Campaign. p. 201. 
  2. ^ a b c Robinson. Wellington's Campaign. p. 202. 
  3. ^ Fraser. The War Drama of the Eagles. p. 262. 
  4. ^ Beamish, pp. 22-24
  5. ^ Stanley. The Life of Lord Hill. p. 172. 
  6. ^ Cannon. Historical Record of the Ninth. p. 134. 
  7. ^ Smith, p 368

References[edit]

  • Beamish, N.L, History of the King's German Legion, Vol. II, London (1837).
  • Cannon, Richard (1848). Historical Record of the Ninth, or East Norfolk, Regiment of Foot. London: Parker, Furnivall, & Parker. 
  • Fraser, Edward (1912). The War Drama of the Eagles. London: John Murray. 
  • Gardyne, Lt.-Col. C. Greenhill (1901). The Life of a Regiment: the History of the Gordon Highlanders from its Formation in 1794 to 1816. Edinburgh: David Douglas. 
  • Robinson, Charles Walker (1907). Wellington's Campaigns, Peninsula-Waterloo, 1808-15: Also Moore's Campaign of Corunna. London: Hugh Rees, Ltd. 
  • Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-276-9
  • Stanley, Rev. Edwin (1845). The Life of Lord Hill. London: John Murray.