Battle of Venta del Pozo
|Battle of Venta del Pozo|
|Part of the Peninsular War|
|French Empire||United Kingdom|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Pierre Boyer,
|3,200 cavalry||2,800 infantry, cavalry, artillery|
|Casualties and losses|
|200-300 killed, wounded or captured||165 killed and wounded,
In the Battle of Venta del Pozo on 23 October 1812, also known as the battle of Villodrigo by the French, an Anglo-German force led by Major-General Stapleton Cotton fought a rear-guard action against French cavalry under Major-Generals Jean-Baptiste Curto and Pierre Boyer.
The Duke of Wellington's Anglo and Portuguese army gave up its unsuccessful Siege of Burgos on 21 October 1812 and withdrew southwest toward Torquemada. Wellington's 35,000-man army was pursued by Maj-Gen Joseph Souham's heavily reinforced Army of Portugal with 53,000.
Cotton's rearguard included Colonel Colin Halkett's King's German Legion (KGL) brigade (1st and 2nd KGL Light battalions), Maj-Gen George Anson's light cavalry brigade (11th, 12th and 16th Light Dragoons), Maj-Gen Eberhardt von Bock's heavy cavalry brigade (1st and 2nd King's German Legion Dragoons) and Norman Ramsay's RHA troop of six cannons. Cotton's strength was 2,800 men.
Curto's light cavalry brigade was made up of the 3rd Hussars, and the 13th, 14th, 22nd, 26th and 28th Chasseurs. Boyer's dragoon brigade included the 6th, 11th, 15th and 25th Dragoons. Colonel Faverot in charge of the 15th Chasseurs and Duchy of Berg Light Horse Lancers and Colonel Béteille head of the Gendarmes, also rode with the advanced guard. The French force numbered 3,200 men.
On 23 October, Cotton drew up his cavalry where the main highway crossed a deep, dry streambed at a stone bridge. He planned to ambush the French advanced guard. Anson's cavalry would file across the bridge and presumably the French would follow. After a couple French squadrons crossed, Ramsay's guns would open fire and Bock's dragoons would charge them.
The plan miscarried when Anson's brigade turned the wrong direction after it crossed the span. This was due to the fact that meanwhile on the British left flank, Curto's hussars had crossed the dry streambed further upstream and attacked mounted Spaniards under the command of M.Marquinez posted on hills overlooking the battlefield. As the Spaniards came pouring down the hills closely pursued by the French hussars, the whole mass fell upon the 16th light dragoon, who was charged at the same moment by French dragoons having crossed the bridge.
The 16th L.D. fell back in complete confusion, blocking both Ramsay's guns and Bock's intended charge zone. The Lancers of Berg, 15th Chasseurs and Gendarmes then arrived in line towards the streambed which they found impassible. Then quickly turned right by squadrons, trotted over the bridge, turned left and then calmly formed line in front of Bock's heavy cavalry brigade : the Berg lancer squadron closest to the bridge, followed by the 15th hussars's five squadrons and finally the four Gendarme squadrons.
At five PM, before the last two Gendarme squadrons had finished positioning themselves, Bock's Dragoons finally attacked in two lines. The first line, made up of three squadrons, were reeling back when the second line entered the melee. However just before this charge, the last two Gendarme squadrons managed to place themselves in such a way as to attack both KGL lines on their flank. Eight to ten minutes of bitter fighting ensued, overlooked by both armies occupying the surrounding heights.
Bock's men retreated in disorder, followed by Anson's brigade. They soon became outflanked on both sides as more French dragoons which had also turned the British left flank by the hills, came racing down upon them, causing the British cavalry to break in complete confusion.
They finally rally behind Halkett's two KGL infantry battalions in square, as the Gendarmes, 15th Chasseurs and Berg Lancers halt to rally themselves. Boyer's Dragoons charge in their turn and break Bock's Dragoons a second time
Wellington, arriving on the field, then directed Halkett's squares to fire at the French Dragoons, which unsucessfully charged the squares three times before pulling away.
The arrival of French infantry then forced the Anglo-German force to retreat, but in good order. Cotton greatly distinguished himself by his "coolness, judgment and gallantry."
The Allies lost 165 killed and wounded and 65 captured. The French lost between 200 and 300 casualties. Other sources state 250 killed and wounded for the Allies and 85 prisoners, five of which were officers, while the French had 7 killed and 134 wounded, one of them Colonel Béteille of the Gendarmes which was left for dead on the field after receiving 12 sword wounds (8 to the head, one of which cracked his skull open and 4 to his left hand). French surgeons managed to save him. Several months later he was made brigadier general and officer of the Legion d'Honneur.
Venta del Pozo was an example of how ambushes don't always go according to plan. Bock's cavalry should have attacked before the opposing French cavalry force could change formation. Colonel Béteille's skillful placing of his Gendarme squadrons managed to win the cavalry combat by attacking Bock's Dragoons on two fronts. The two well disciplined KGL battalions in square saved the day by driving off the French Dragoons, until the French infantry arrived. These two German battalions wore the "Venta del Pozo" battle honour until 1918 in their subsequent service with the Hanoverian and then Prussian armies.
- Gates, p. 473
- Smith, p 397
- Glover, p 215
- Glover, p 214
- Chapell p.5
^ Gates, p. 473 ^ a b c d Smith, p 397 ^ Glover, p 215 ^ Glover, p 214 ^ Martin, p 325 ^ Tranié, p. 190 ^ Chapell p.5
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- Tranié J, Carmigniani J.B, " Napoleon - La Campagne d'Espagne" Copernic, 1978,