The combat of Aldaya of 26 December 1811 was a French victory during their crossing of the Guadalaviar River which saw them drive off most of General Blake’s Spanish cavalry. When the French under General Suchet invaded Valencia in the autumn of 1811, Blake had decided to defend the line of the Guadalaviar, and had built a line of fortifications from the coast to the village of Manises. Unfortunately for Blake, Suchet decided to take the obvious step of crossing the river to the west of this fortified line. Three of his divisions left their camps during the night of 25-26 December, and by dawn two infantry divisions and the cavalry under General Boussard were across the river.
Blake had spread his infantry out along his entire line, but he had concentrated his cavalry at the villages of Aldaya and Torrente, where they could move to any point that was threatened on the Spanish left. Instead it would be the Spanish cavalry that came under attack. Suchet’s biggest fear was that Blake would retreat to the south the moment he realised what was happening, and so he sent Harispe’s division, with a squadron of hussars in front, towards the road south from Valencia into Murcia. At Aldaya the French hussars ran into the main force of Spanish cavalry. Massively outnumbered, the hussars were overwhelmed. Boussard himself was left for dead, and his sword and decorations stolen.
The Spanish success was short-lived. More French cavalry, supported by Harispe’s infantry, soon reached Aldaya, and the Spanish cavalry was forced to retreat south, towards the Xucar River. At a crucial moment in the fighting Blake was thus denied any further cavalry support. By the end of the day he had been forced to retreat back into Valencia, with a large part of his army, where he would soon be besieged by the French.
|A History of the Peninsular War vol.5: October 1811-August 31, 1812 - Valencia, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Madrid, Sir Charles Oman Part Five of Oman's classic history of the Peninsular War starting with a look at the French invasion of Valencia in the winter of 1811-12, before concentrating on Wellington's victorious summer campaign of 1812, culminating with the battle of Salamanca and Wellington's first liberation of Madrid.|
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