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The combat of Astorga of 9 October 1809 was a minor French setback in the autumn of 1809. The French troops in northern Leon and Old Castile were under the command of General Kellerman. He had a small force, containing three battalions of Swiss infantry and four or five French battalions, most of which were tied up in garrisons – of his 3,500 infantry he could only find 2,000 for a field army, supported by his own division of dragoons, 3,000 strong.
In the autumn of 1809 both the Asturias and Galicia were free of any French presence, in the aftermath of Soult’s failure in Portugal and the withdrawal of French troops to the south during the Talavera campaign. The Asturians had taken advantage of this time to fortify and garrison the town of Astorga, on the edge of the mountains bordering the Asturias, but the French were apparently unaware of this.
Despite the failure of the Talavera campaign, the Spanish Junta was determined to mount a new campaign in the autumn of 1809. Their plan required the formation of a new Army of the Left, based around Ciudad Rodrigo, and the Junta ordered the Asturians to provide troops for this new order. Kellerman detected this movement, and decided to occupy Astorga, in the hope that he could block this movement.
Unaware that the town was now defended, Kellerman sent 1,200 infantry and two regiments of dragoons, all under the command of General Carrié, to attack the town. On 9 October the French reached the now fortified town. Even though Astorga was much more strongly defended than he had expected, Carrié still launched an attack on the town, which was easily repulsed. Carrié also detected strong Spanish forces in the mountain passes behind Astorga, and decided to withdraw back to Leon.
|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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