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The battle of Villagarcia of 11 August 1810 was a French victory that ended a Spanish attempt to liberate Seville, but that also demonstrated the vulnerability of the French position in Andalusia. Up until July 1810 the main Spanish army in the area, the Army of Estremadura under the command of the Marquis La Romana, had been facing Reynier’s 2nd Corps, with its main bases at Merida and Medellin, just to the east of La Romana at Badajoz. Seville itself was protected by most of one French division, under General Gazan, while the majority of Marshal Soult’s troops in Andalusia were concentrated close to the coast, either besieging Cadiz or dealing with Spanish forces in the Ronda to the east and the Condado de Niebla to the west.
La Romana realised that he had a very good chance to threaten the French grip of Seville. He was able to gather a field army of 10,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry for this expedition, more than enough to deal with Gazan’s isolated division, and advanced down the road from Badajoz into Andalusia. Soult discovered that La Romana was on the move in time to recall General Girard from Ronda, sixty miles to the south east of Seville. On his arrival back at Seville, Girard was given command of part of Gazan’s division, giving him a total of 7,000 infantry and 1,200 cavalry, and was then sent out to intercept the Spanish before they could threaten Andalusia.
The clash came at Villagarcia, just to the north west of Llerida, just inside Estremadura. Unaware that he was facing such a large French force, La Romana was willing to fight. In the resulting battle the Spanish suffered 600 casualties, and were forced to retreat back to the north west. The French only lost 200 men, and were preparing for a major expedition into Estremadura when news reached Soult that another Spanish army, under General Lacy, had landed on the coast of Seville. The French were forced to abandon their plans to deal with this new threat. This illustrated Soult’s main problem in Andalusia. With Cadiz and Gibraltar in Spanish and British hands he needed to keep a large number of men in the south, especially in the lines around Cadiz. The allies always had the option to land armies anywhere on the coastline, and there were normally Spanish armies active around the borders. Soult could fend off the British and Spanish attacks, but never had the men to take the offensive.
|A History of the Peninsular War vol.3: September 1809-December 1810 - Ocana, Cadiz, Bussaco, Torres Vedras, Sir Charles Oman. Part three of Oman's classic history begins with the series of disasters that befell the Spanish in the autumn of 1809 and spring of 1810, starting with the crushing defeat at Ocana and ending with the French conquest of Andalusia and capture of Seville, then moves on to look at the third French invasion of Portugal, most famous for Wellington's defence of the Lines of Torres Vedras.|
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