The combat of Barquilla of 10 July 1810 was one of the few failures for General Craufurd and the Light Division during Marshal Masséne’s invasion of Portugal. Since the start of 1810 Craufurd had been watching the French along the line of the Agueda River. During the French siege of Ciudad Rodrigo (5 June-10 July 1810) he had been pushed back to Fort Concepcion, close to Almeida, but was still keeping an active watch on the French.
On 10 July Craufurd decided to attack some of the French foragers who were attempting to find food between the Azava and Dos Casas Rivers. Taking six squadrons of cavalry, six companies from the Rifles and the 43rd Foot, one battalion of Portuguese light infantry (the Caçadores) and two guns, he soon found a small party of French troops close to the village of Barquilla.
This French force was very badly outnumbered, and consisted of two troops of cavalry and 200 men from the 22nd Regiment of Junot’s corps. As the British approached, the French began to retreat back towards their main lines. Craufurd ordered one squadron from the German Hussars and one from the 16th to attack the retreating French infantry.
The French responded by forming a small square. As nearly always happened, the cavalry were unable to break into this square, despite its small size. The first two squadrons failed to even attack the square, instead charging around its sides before heading off the chase the French cavalry. Craufurd then sent a squadron from the 14th Light Dragoons to attack the French square. This time the British cavalry closed with the French, but were repulsed by close-range musket fire. The colonel of the 14th and seven of his men were killed. Before Craufurd could bring up his next squadron, the French managed to escape into the next village. By now the first two cavalry squadrons were returning from their charge, and it is said that the British mistakenly believed them to be French cavalry.
Although Craufurd’s men took 31 prisoners, they lost nine dead and twenty three wounded. Craufurd was much criticized for failing to bring his infantry up in time, and for allowing a smaller French force to escape from him, while the commander of the French square (Captain Gouache) was promoted and decorated for his skilful handling of affair.
|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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