Action of the Cabrillas Defile, 24 June 1808

The fight at the Cabrillas Defile, 24 June 1808, saw the defeat of the last Spanish attempt to stop a French army under Marshal Moncey from reaching Valencia. Moncey had been dispatched from Madrid at the head of a column of 9,000 men, with orders to put down what was believed to be a minor insurrection. Instead, he would be faced by a general uprising, supported by a sizable Spanish army. Fortunately for Moncey, the Conde de Cervellon, the commander of the Spanish army, had assumed that the French would use the long but easy route from Madrid to Valencia via Almanza. Instead Moncey had chosen to take a shorter but mountainous route, in the belief that he would not face regular military opposition. On 21 June the French had swept aside a small Spanish force at the River Cabriels.

The next obstacle that faced the French was the Cabrillas Defile, a very strong position that Moncey believed 6,000 steady troops could defend against Napoleon and the Grand Army. Fortunately for Moncey he was only facing two regiments of raw recruits and 300 Swiss mercenaries who had escaped from the defeat at the Cabriels. One of the Spanish regiments was so new that it was said to have first exercised on the day before the battle. Even if this force had been made up of experienced troops, it was too small to defend the pass at Cabrillas. Moncey was able to outflank it on both wings, before smashing the Spanish centre. The Spanish lost 500 men killed and captured, and the road to Valencia was open.

Although the easy victories at the River Cabriels and the Cabrillas Defile meant that Moncey had reached Valencia without suffering significant losses, they appear to have raised expectations of an equally easy victory at Valencia. Instead, when Moncey attacked Valencia on 28 June he discovered that the Spanish could be very determined defenders of fortified positions and was forced to retreat after suffering over 1,000 casualties.

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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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (15 January 2008), Action of the Cabrillas Defile, 24 June 1808 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/action_cabrillas_defile.html

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