The combat of Manresa of 5 April 1810 was the second of two defeats that ended a French attempt to capture the city of Tarragona, the last major fortress in Catalonia to remain in Spanish hands. Despite having received orders from Napoleon to take part in the siege of Lerida, Marshal Augereau, commander of the French troops in Catalonia, decided to attack Tarragona. At the end of March he moved a large part of his army to the town of Reus, twelve miles north west of Tarragona, leaving a battalion and a half of troops at Villafranca, half way between Tarragona and Barcelona, and a brigade of infantry at Manresa, to the north of Barcelona.
By 1810 Tarragona was surrounded by strong defences, while its garrison had just been strengthened by the 6,000 men of Henry O’Donnell’s Army of Catalonia. When the French summoned the city to surrender, the demand was refused. Rather than thinking of surrender, O’Donnell was actually planning to attack the isolated French detachments at Villafranca and Manresa. Before the French could establish a blockade of the city, O’Donnell dispatched a column under General Juan Caro to carry out this mission. On 30 March Caro captured the French garrison of Villafranca but was wounded during the fighting, and was forced to hand command over the Marquis of Campo Verde.
From 2 to 4 April Campo Verde advanced towards Manresa, skirmishing with French outposts all the way. The garrison was made up of just over 1,200 men of Schwartz’s brigade of Rouyer’s Division, a unit that had only recently arrived in Catalonia. On 5 April this force was attacked by Campo Verde’s larger force, and after a heavy fight was defeated, loosing over 800 men. More were lost during the retreat back to Barcelona, and by the end of the day only one third of the brigade was left.
The defeats at Manresa and Villafranca isolated the French troops at Reus. Marshal Augereau was forced to recall them to Barcelona. On 7 April they began their retreat, reaching the city on 9 April. Despite having 20,000 men at Barcelona, Augereau seems to have lost his nerve, for on 11 April he left Barcelona for Gerona, taking with him the division commanded by his brother and an enormous convoy said to have carried his loot away the city. Although Barcelona remained in French hands, Napoleon was furious with Augereau, and on 24 April decided to replace him with Marshal MacDonald.
|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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