Siege of Olivenza
Soult, on his way to storming the stronger fortress at Badajoz was obliged to modify his original plans. Sending his light cavalry under Brigadier General André Briche to take Mérida and leaving four squadrons of dragoons at Albuera to watch the garrison at Badajoz, he marched with the remainder of his army to invest Olivenza.
Wellington had previously advised General Pedro de La Romana, commander of the Spanish Army of Extremadura, either to destroy the fortification at Olivenza or to repair its defences and fully garrison it; La Romana in turn had instructed Mendizabal to slight the fortress, but Mendizabal ignored this order and instead reinforced the garrison with four infantry battalions. Soult, arriving on 11 January, was therefore confronted with a strongly garrisoned, but untenable, fortress. The heavy French artillery finally began to arrive on 19 January, and by 22 January, a poorly repaired breach in the fortress's walls had been reopened. The garrison surrendered on 23 January, with over 4,000 Spanish troops from the Army of Extremadura taken captive.
Soult was now in a difficult position: although he had a large (4,000-strong) contingent of cavalry, deploying two battalions to escort the prisoners taken at Olivenza back to French-held Seville left him only 5,500 infantry with which to continue his campaign. Moreover, although his siege-train had begun to arrive, the continued absence of Gazan's infantry division left him with a weakened army. Despite these problems, Soult decided to besiege Badajoz in hopes that Wellington would send reinforcements to the Spanish fortress and thereby reduce the Allied forces facing Masséna at the Lines of Torres Vedras. On 26 January, Soult set off for Badajoz, sending General Latour-Maubourg with six cavalry battalions across the Guadiana to blockade the fortress's northern approach, and by 27 January, the first siege of Badajoz had commenced.
Notes and references
- Napier, Sir William (1831), History of the War in the Peninsula, III, Frederic Warne and Co, retrieved 9 October 2007
- Oman, Sir Charles (1911), A History of the Peninsular War: Volume IV, December 1810 to December 1811, Greenhill Books (published 2004), ISBN 978-1-85367-618-5