The combat of Bornos of 5 November 1811 was the only fighting to take place during one of Marshal Soult’s repeated attempts to catch the Spanish General Ballasteros, who had proved himself to be a master of small scale warfare in the south of Andalusia.
In the autumn of 1811 Marshal Soult sent three columns to catch Ballasteros, one from the direction of Seville under the command of General Godinot, and two from the siege lines around Cadiz, under Generals Barrois and Sémelé. Soult hoped that these three columns would be able to surround Ballesteros, but instead all they achieved was to push him south to the safety of Gibraltar. For two days (14-15 October) 10,000 French troops faced the defences of Gibraltar, before a lack of supplies forced them to retreat. Godinot then made an attempt to capture the town of Tarifa, but a squadron of British warships caught him on the coastal road and forced him to abandon this plan.
Running short of supplies, the French were forced to abandon the expedition. Godinot made his way safely back to Seville (where he would be blamed for the failure of the entire expedition, and committed suicide). Sémelé and Barrois made their separate ways back toward Cadiz.
Sémelé’s column contained 1,500 men of the 16th Léger and a battalion of Juramentado troops (Spanish soldiers fighting for King Joseph). Ballasteros decided to attack this column, and on 5 November managed to surprise Sémelé at Bornos, nearly fifty miles to the north west of Gibraltar.
The men of the 16th Léger fought their way through the Spanish lines, although at a cost of 100 casualties, but the entire Juramentado battalion surrendered without a fight. Ballasteros would continue to be a thorn in the French sides in southern Andalusia until his dramatic fall from power late in 1812.