The combat of Peso de Regoa of 10 May 1809 was a relatively minor Portuguese victory over a French column under General Loison that very nearly resulted in the capture of Marshal Soult’s entire army. After nearly a month Loison had finally captured the bridge over the River Tamega at Amarante on 2 May. He had then been ordered to cross the river, and while staying within two days march of Amarante, to clear a path through the province of Tras-os-Montes towards the Spanish frontier.
Loison did not begin his expedition across the Tamega until 7 May, by which time a strong Portuguese army under General Beresford was approaching the Douro from the south. On 10 May at Lamego Beresford met up with General Silveira and the survivors of the force that had defended Amarante for so long. Hearing that Loison had not made much progress since leaving Amarante, Beresford ordered Silveira to cross the bridge at Peso de Regoa, where the road from Lamego to Vila Real crossed the Douro. Beresford’s men would cross on the next day, and attempt to block Loison’s progress.
On the afternoon of 10 May Loison reached Peso de Regoa, only to find Silveira firmly entrenched on the northern bank of the river, with Beresford’s men visible over the river. Loison decided to attack Silveira before he could be reinforced, but the French attack failed. Discouraged by this reverse, Loison began to retreat back towards Amarante.
On 11 May Loison reached Amarante. Silveira’s men forced him to retreat across the river, but the bridge remained in French hands. On the same day the last French troops south of the Douro retreated into Oporto, cutting the bridge behind them. Marshal Soult began to plan to make a leisurely withdrawal east via Amarante.
By the end of 12 May these plans were in tatters. Wellesley’s army managed to find a way across the Douro east of Oporto, forcing Soult to flee from the city. By the end of the day he was at Baltar, and was planning to retreat across the bridge at Amarante, but that morning Loison abandoned his positions on the west bank of the Tamega, and retreated north west towards Braga. Soult would not learn of this move until the early morning of 13 May.
Loison’s decision to abandon the bridge at Amarante left Soult with no choice but to abandon all of his heavy baggage and attempt to escape north across the mountains into Galicia.
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