The fight at the River Cabriels, 21 June 1808, saw a French army under Marshal Moncey sweep aside part of a small Spanish force that had been left to watch the northern route between Madrid and Valencia. Moncey had been dispatched from Madrid towards Valencia at the head of a column of 9,000 men, with orders to put down what was believed to be a minor insurrection. In fact most of Spain had risen against the French. A Spanish army of between 7,000 and 8,000 regulars under the Conde de Cervellon, supported by much larger numbers of levies, was available to oppose Moncey.
Not realising this, Moncey had chosen to take a quick but mountainous route to Valencia. Cervellon believed that the French would take the easier route via Almanza, and so had moved the bulk of his army in that direction. A small detachment under Don Pedro Adorno had been sent to guard the mountain route. Adorno had further weakened his position by basing most of his force at Requeña, leaving a key bridge over the River Cabriel defended by one battalion of Swiss mercenaries (the first battalion of Traxler’s Regiment, 1,000 strong) and 500 new levies.
When Moncey reached the river he realised that it could be forded at a number of places. Accordingly, on 21 June he sent a small detachment to cross at each ford, while two battalions attacked across the bridge. A number of the detached columns were able to cross the river and attacked the Spanish from their flanks, at which point the levies fled. The Swiss mercenaries attempted to withdraw with their four guns. During this effort they were split in half. Half were captured by the French, and only 300 made their way back towards Valencia.
On hearing of the defeat at the Cabriels, Don Pedro Adorno fled back towards Cervellon at Almanza, leaving the route to Valencia almost entirely unguarded. An attempt was made to defend the Cabrillas Defile (24 June), but this too ended in a quick defeat, and on 26 June Marshal Moncey reached Valencia.
|History of the Peninsular War vol.1: 1807-1809 - From the Treaty of Fontainebleau to the Battle of Corunna, Sir Charles Oman. The first volume of Oman's classic seven volume history of the Peninsular War, this is one of the classic works of military history and provides an invaluable detailed narrative of the fighting in Spain and Portugal. This first volume covers the initial French intervention, the start of the Spanish uprising, the early British involvement in Spain and Portugal and Napoleon's own brief visit to Spain.|
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