Wellesley then ordered Stapleton Cotton up with his light cavalry, sending to Colonel Donellan to bring the 48th Foot from the hill; and soon their broad buff regimental banner was seen approaching side by side with the King’s colour, as the Northamptons marched proudly into the disorder, wheeling back by companies to let the retiring jumble through and then resuming their steady line, shoulder to shoulder.
Gallant Lapisse lay dying on the grass, his life-blood welling out over the general’s gold aiguillette; but his column, hot with victory, had penetrated the British centre, and were making the most of a triumph destined to be short. The sun was now behind the British, for it was afternoon and the band of purple shadow that preceded the scarlet line of the 48th Foot was ominous of the disaster about to fall on the Frenchmen.
Taking the column on its right, the Northamptonshire poured a tremendous volley into it and closed with the bayonet. Colonel Donellan fell mortally wounded near the gruesome masses of dead guardsmen, 600 of whom were slaughtered there; but even in his agony the fine old man remembered his regiment, and raising his distinctive three-cornered Nivernois hat he desired Major Middlemore to take command, sinking back with dimmed eyes as the stout fellows faded from his sight for ever.
Like an avalanche the 48th fell on the column and checked its progress, giving the Guards and the Germans time to rally; then another hand-to-hand struggle began, fiercer if possible than the last, for the British were fighting desperately to recover lost ground.
Those who could not get to the front held aloof, and fired shot after shot wherever they saw an enemy; men wrestled and rolled over, clutching at each other; fists were used when weapons were broken; bearded Sapeurs in bearskin caps and white leather aprons hewed with their axes; officers in topboots shouted themselves hoarse; and Dermoncourt’s 1st Dragoons slashed and pointed in the most frantic attempt to break the British; but order was restored to the British Guards by the example of the Northamptonshire, and Cotton's cavalry came up at a trot with sabres in hand just in time.
Nearly all the staff were either unhorsed or wounded, and Wellesley himself was hit on the shoulder, but not seriously. Ruffin hesitated beyond the valley, and was lost; Lapisse lay dead, and Sebastiani was in disorder. King Joseph’s reserves and his Guard had not been engaged, but the French morale was shaken and the British infantry began to cheer - a pretty sure sign that they considered themselves to be conquering.
The artillery still continued; but little by little the French retreated to their own side of the plain, and about six o’clock the battle was over.
from "The Battle of Talavera" by Oliver Hayes
Product DescriptionAt Talavera a British army under Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) tried to link up with a Spanish army under General Cuesta to ambush a French corps under Marshal Victor. But things went wrong and the British had to fight their way to safety.
This book forms part of the Bretwalda Battles series on The Peninsular War.
The book outlines the Peninsular War up to the start of the Talavera Campaign. It then analyses the careers of the commanders and explains the tactics and weapons of the time together with any differences between the practices of the armies involved in the battle. The book then describes the action in detail before moving on to outline events after the battle.
Written by a military author of great experience, this book explains the way battles were fought two centuries ago and explains the course of the action in an accessible but authoritative style.
This lavishly illustrated ebook is a must for anyone interested in the Peninsular War in general or the Battle of Talavera in particular.