Combat of Alba de Tormes, 10-11 November 1812

The combat of Alba de Tormes (10-11 November 1812) saw the British repel an attempt by Soult to capture the bridge over the Tormes at Alba de Tormes, and forced the French to cross the Tormes further from Wellington's position north of Salamanca.

In the aftermath of his victory at Salamanca, Wellington had liberated Madrid, and then moved north to try and inflict a second defeat on the Army of Portugal. General Rowland Hill had been left in charge of the troops defending Madrid. The campaign didn't go as Wellington had planned. He ended up being sucked into a poorly handled siege of Burgos, which gave the French time to recover from the shocks of the summer. Hill and Wellington were eventually forced to retreat back towards Salamanca to avoid being caught by the rather larger French armies of Soult, Souham and King Joseph. By 8 November Wellington was in a strong position at San Cristobal, north of Salamanca. Hill was posted at Alba de Tormes, to the south-east of Salamanca, with the task of preventing the French from crossing the river there.

On 10 November Soult decided to attack Alba de Tormes, to discover how seriously it would be defended. The town, on the eastern bank of the river, was defended by the three infantry battalions of Howard's brigade (2nd Division), with four Portuguese battalions on the west bank of the river. Two artillery batteries were also posted to the west, in positions to hit any French troops that reached the bridge.

Soult began with an artillery barrage that lasted from two until five. During this time he made three attacks with his skirmishers, but on each occasion they were repulsed. Two of the Portuguese battalions were moved into the town to support the British infantry.

The French opened fire again early on 11 November, and once again sent their skirmishers to attack the walls. Once again they were repulsed. After a few hours Soult cancelled the attack and withdrew, having convinced himself that it would be easier to cross the river elsewhere.

The British and Portuguese only lost 21 dead and 89 wounding during the two days of attacks. The French reported 2 officers dead and 6 wounded and 150 casualties in the  other ranks.

Salamanca 1812 - Wellington's Year of Victories, Peter Edwards. A look at Wellington's campaigns of 1812, from the sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz to the triumph at Salamanca, the failure at Burgos and the retreat back to Portugal at the end of a year that saw the French permanently forced out of large parts of Spain. A good account of this campaign, copiously illustrated with carefully used eyewitness accounts. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (12 April 2018), Combat of Alba de Tormes, 10-11 November 1812 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_alba_de_tormes.html

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