Wednesday 13 February 2013

Wellington's Plan for the Talavera Campaign

Wellesley's plan for what became the Talavera Campaign was relatively simple, though he knew it to be fraught with difficulties. The plan depended on the information that Wellesley had about the French armies being accurate and on the Spanish general Cuesta doing as he promised.
Wellesley knew that the French Marshal Ney had been defeated by the Spanish at Punto Sanpayo on 7 June and was retreating eastward across northern Spain. He himself had defeated Marshal Soult at Oporto on 12 May and believed that Soult was likewise heading eastward. However the precise location and direction of these two French armies was not entirely clear. A third French army, under Sebastiani was in Andalusia where it was thought to be engaged in operations against guerrilleros and against a small Spanish army under Francisco Venegas. A fourth, smaller than the rest, was in Madrid. Other French forces in Spain were too far away to be a consideration.
Wellesley had heard from the Spanish general Cuesta that he and his men were able to roam at will across most of Extramadura. He was securing the rule of the local anti-French Junta against that of the puppet regime in Madrid , and all the time the French Marshal Victor was keeping his army idle up the Tagus Valley. Victor and Cuesta had tangled earlier at the Battle of Medellin and although the Spanish had done well, the French had won the day. Cuesta was therefore unwilling to advance against Victor on his own, but would do so with British support.
The idea of joint operations was first broached in letters between Cuesta and Wellesley late in May, but there were problems. The key issue so far as Wellesley was concerned was food. The British army depended on supplies brought in via the port at Lisbon and then moved to the army on carts and pack mules. An attack on Victor would involve a long advance and Wellesley simply did not have enough animals and carts to transport the food all the way from Lisbon. Cuesta responded that there was plenty of food hidden from the French in Extramadura and that he would arrange for it to be brought to the British. It proved to be a rash promise for the food was under the control of the Junta, not of Cuesta.
Wellesley was also concerned about the other French armies. He was confident that he and Cuesta could thrash Victor, but if any of the other French marshals brought up their men the situation would be entirely different. His sources told him the marshals were far distant, but the information was old and not entirely reliable. Wellesley therefore detached a Portuguese-British force under Sir Robert Wilson to advance up the Tietar Valley, which ran parallel to the Tagus but some miles to the north. There he would be able to delay any French advance from the north, and report the move to Wellesley.
On 4 July Wellesley marched his army into Spain and five days later passed the town of Plasencia. On 10 July Wellesley and a few staff officers rode ahead to Almarez for a meeting with Cuesta to discuss the campaign. The meeting began badly when Wellesley arrived four hours late having got lost on the way, and was not helped by the fact that Cuesta spoke no English and Wellesley only poor Spanish. Nevertheless, both men agreed with the intelligence that Victor and his army was alone and camped at Talavera. A joint plan of operation was hammered out. The British and Spanish armies would meet at Oropesa, 30 miles west of Talavera, on the 21 July. Wilson and his men would form a flank guard to the north, while a Spanish army under Venegas would perform a similar duty to the south. Cuesta and Wellesley would then march rapidly east to attack Victor before news of the advance attracted other French troops. 

from "The Battle of Talavera"

Product Description

At 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.


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