The combat of Carpio of 25 September 1811 was a minor clash between Wellington’s cavalry screen and part of a French army under Marmont that had just raised the blockade of Ciudad Rodrigo. Having raised the blockade, Marmont decided to carry out a strong cavalry reconnaissance to discover if Wellington was preparing for a siege. One of these columns, containing two cavalry brigades under the command of General Wathier, was sent west from Ciudad Rodrigo to investigate the line of the Azaba (or Azava) River. This brought them up against Wellington’s left wing, where the 1st and 6th Divisions under General Graham were guarding the road to Almeida and the supply depot at Villa da Ponte, while Anson’s brigade was providing a cavalry screen across the Carpio road (a village just to the east of the Azaba).
Wathier’s advance forced Anson’s men to abandon their picket line, and pull back behind the Azaba. Wathier then left six of his squadrons at Carpio, and crossed the river with the remaining eight. Graham responded by moving the light companies of Hulse’s brigade to the edge of a line of trees just to the west of the river. Anson’s cavalry – the 14th and 16th Light Dragoons) also drew back to the edge of the trees.
The woods made Wathier nervous and he decided to send four of his eight squadrons forward to investigate. When the first of these squadrons came close to the woods, it was charged by one squadron from the 14th Light Dragoons and forced back onto the other three. All four of the French squadrons then continued their advance. As they came close to the woods, the three British light companies opened fire, and before the French could recover the British cavalry charged again. This time the French cavalry turned and fled, and were chased back to the river. The French lost 11 dead and 37 captured during this skirmish, while the British only lost 11 wounded and one missing. Although only a minor clash, the combat of Carpio did confirm that the British had infantry west of Carpio, and helped to built up Marmont’s picture of Wellington’s rather scattered disposition.
|A History of the Peninsular War vol.4: December 1810-December 1811 - Massena's Retreat, Fuentos de Onoro, Albuera, Tarragona, Sir Charles Oman. The main focus of this fourth volume in Oman's history of the Peninsular War is the year long duel between Wellington and the French on the borders of Portugal, which saw the British make a series of attacks across the border, most of which were repulsed by strong concentrations of French troops. Despite the apparent lack of progress, this was the period that saw the French lose the initiative to Wellington.|
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