Battle of Venta del Pozo


Battle of Venta del Pozo

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Venta del Pozo


caption=
partof=the Peninsular War
date=October 23, 1812
place=Venta del Pozo, Spain
result=Indecisive;
French tactical victory [Gates, p. 473]
combatant1=flagicon|France French Empire
combatant2=flagicon|United Kingdom United Kingdom
commander1=Pierre François Xavier Boyer,
Jean-Baptiste Théodore Curto
commander2=Stapleton Cotton
strength1=3,200 cavalry
strength2=2,800 infantry, cavalry, artillery
casualties1=200-300 killed and wounded
casualties2=165 killed and wounded,
65 captured

In the Battle of Venta del Pozo on October 23, 1812, an Anglo-German force led by Major-General Stapleton Cotton fought French cavalry under Major-Generals Curto and Pierre Boyer to a tactical draw.

Background

The Duke of Wellington's Anglo-Portuguese army gave up its unsuccessful Siege of Burgos on October 21, 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.

Forces

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 George 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 division was made up of the 3rd Hussars, and the 13th, 14th, 22nd, 26th and 28th Chasseurs. Boyer's dragoon division included the 6th, 11th, 15th and 25th Dragoons. Brig-Gen Faverot's brigade (15th Chasseurs, Duchy of Berg Light Horse and Gensdarmes) also rode with the advanced guard. The French force numbered 3,200 men.

Battle

On October 23, 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. The light dragoons stopped right in the way, blocking both Ramsay's guns and Bock's intended charge zone. The French cavalry boiled across the bridge and soon there was a static mass of horsemen hacking at one another. After a few minutes, Boyer's dragoons, which had crossed the streambed to one flank, swarmed into the melee. The British cavalry retreated in considerable disorder.

The French pursuit soon ran into Halkett's two battalions, formed in square. Curto and Boyer pressed their attack home, but the KGL infantry held firm and emptied many French saddles. Cotton's two cavalry brigades reformed behind the infantry and reentered the fray. For the rest of the day, it was touch and go for the retreating Anglo-German force, but they managed to hold off the French horsemen and escape intact. [Beamish p.111ff] 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 (Smith) and 300 (Glover) casualties.

Commentary

Venta del Pozo was an example of a disciplined and properly handled combined arms force (infantry, cavalry and artillery) being able to hold off a superior number of cavalry. The two German battalions wore the "Venta del Pozo" battle honour until 1918 in their subsequent service with the Hanoverian and then Prussian armies [Chapell p.5] .

References

Literature

* Beamish, N. Ludlow, "History of the King's German Legion Vol. 2". 1832-37 (reprint: Naval and Military Press 1997 ISBN 0-952201-10-0)
* Chapell, Mike, "The King's German Legion (2) 1812-1816" Osprey 2000 ISBN 1-85532-997-2
*Gates, David. "The Spanish Ulcer: A History of the Peninsular War." Da Capo Press 2001. ISBN 0-306-81083-2
* Glover, Michael, "The Peninsular War 1807-1814." Penguin, 1974.
* Smith, Digby, "The Napoleonic Wars Data Book." Greenhill, 1998.


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