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The combat of Mora of 18 February 1809 was an inconclusive clash between a Spanish raiding party under the Duke of Albuquerque and a brigade of French dragoons under the command of General Digeon. At the start of February 1809 General Cartaojal, commander of the Spanish army guarding the passes between Andalusia and La Mancha, decided to make an attempt to push the French out of La Mancha. He believed that the only French troops in the area were three brigades of dragoons, based in the northern part of La Mancha, and so decided to cross the mountains and advance towards Toledo. His aim would seem to have been to force the French to abandon their campaigns in Estremadura and Portugal, but he had actually misjudged the strength of the French in the area – there were actually two infantry divisions just to the north of the cavalry screen, while Marshal Victor’s corps was close by at Talavera.
Cartaojal’s first step was to send an advance guard under the Duke of Albuquerque to attack the French cavalry outposts. Albuquerque was given 9,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry, just over half of Cartaojal’s army. His first target was a brigade of dragoons under General Digeon based at Mora, twenty miles south east of Toledo. Albuquerque’s plan relied on surprise, and came close to success. After a speedy march across La Mancha, he reached Mora on 18 February. He then sent his cavalry on a wide outflanking manoeuvre, hoping to get it behind Digeon’s cavalry before the French commander realised what danger he was in. Meanwhile the Spanish infantry would attack the French position, in the hope that the French would stay to fight for long enough for the Spanish cavalry to complete their move.
The plan failed when Digeon discovered the outflanking manoeuvre. The French retreated at speed, leaving behind a small number of prisoners and part of their baggage, but they had escaped the trap. Digeon was able to call for help, and was soon reinforced by the 1st division of infantry of the 4th corps and two more brigades of cavalry. It was now Albuquerque’s turn to retreat. He had to fight one costly rearguard action at Consuegra, but was then able to escape to safety on the south bank of the Guadiana, taking up a position at Manzanares.
This setback did not deter Cartaojal, who had now reached Ciudad Real with the rest of his army. Despite losing Albuquerque and 4,500 infantry when they were ordered away to reinforce the Army of Estremadura, he remained at Ciudad Real until 26 March, when he was forced to retreat after an almost bloodless battle.
|A History of the Peninsular War vol.2: Jan.-Sept. 1809 - From the Battle of Corunna to the end of the Talavera Campaign, Sir Charles Oman. Part two of Oman's classic history falls into two broad sections. The first half of the book looks at the period between the British evacuation from Corunna and the arrival of Wellesley in Portugal for the second time, five months when the Spanish fought alone, while the second half looks at Wellesley's campaign in the north of Portugal and his first campaign in Spain. One of the classic works of military history.|
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