Combat of Torrijos, 26 July 1809

The combat of Torrijos of 26 July 1809 was a clash between the Spanish rearguard and advancing French cavalry, fought two days before the battle of Talavera. On 22 July the Allied armies of Wellesley and Cuesta had found Marshal Victor’s 1st Corps isolated just to the east of Talavera, but on the following day Cuesta had refused to attack, and when he was finally ready on the following morning the French had retreated towards Toledo. Furious with his ally’s failure on 23 July, Wellesley refused to advance any further until promised supplies reached his army, but Cuesta was now determined to chase the French. On the afternoon of 24 July the Spanish army crossed the Alberche, and began to follow Victor’s retreating columns.

What Cuesta did not realise was that Victor was moved towards reinforcements. By the morning of 25 July he had joined with General Sebastiani’s 4th Corps and King Joseph’s reserve, and the French had 46,000 men around Toledo. Cuesta was outnumbered by two-to-one, and once he realised this began a rapid retreat back towards Wellesley, leaving Zayas’s infantry division and two cavalry regiments to act as a rearguard.

When they realised that Wellesley was not with Cuesta, the French prepared to launch an attack on the isolated Spanish army, with Marshal Victor’s 1st Corps in the lead position. As they approached the Spanish position at Torrijos, it became clear that Cuesta was not there. The only fighting that took place on 26 July was thus between Cuesta’s rearguard and the French cavalry. General Merlin’s chasseurs and General Latour-Maubourg’s dragoons soon drove off the Spanish cavalry, nearly destroying one regiment when it became trapped amongst high stone walls. This fight gave Zayas’s infantry time to retreat towards the main Spanish army. At the same time Cuesta detached the Duke of Albuquerque’s cavalry to support the rearguard. The French did not pursue with any vigour, and by the end of the day Cuesta’s army had reached the eastern banks of the Alberche.  

 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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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 March 2008), Combat of Torrijos, 26 July 1809 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_torrijos.html

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