Combat of Villa Muriel, 25 October 1812

The combat of Villa Muriel saw the French cross the Carrion River at Villa Muriel and Palencia, ending Wellington's attempt to hold the river and forcing him to resume the retreat from Burgos.

Wellington had been forced to lift the siege on 21 October, when it became clear that General Souham's Army of Portugal was preparing to attack. On 24 October Wellington's men crossed the Carrion River, which he intended to defend for a few days. The new Allied line began at Palencia, on the Carrion River, which was held by a Galician division. A second Galician division held the line as far as Villa Muriel, where the 5th Division took over. The 1st, 6th and 7th Divisions held the line south as far as Duenas, on the Pisuerga River. Wellington's plan was for all of the key bridges over both rivers to be destroyed.

Souham decided to attack in two places. Foy and Bonté's divisions were to attack at Palencia, while Maucune, Gauthier and the advance guard were to attack at Villa Muriel and San Isidro.

The attack on Palencia was a total success. The town was on the eastern side of the river, but the Spanish commander had decided to try and defend it. The French quickly burst into the town, and the Spanish retreated so quickly that the British engineers were unable to blow the bridge. Ponsonby's heavy dragoons slowed the French cavalry, but the French were across the river.

Maucune's attack was less successful. He attacked at Villa Muriel, while Gauthier was sent to attack San Isidro. In both places the British blew the bridges before the French could cross, and then stopped them from fording the river. Guathier eventually forced his way across the Pisuerga at Tariego, but this was some way from the rest of the French force, and he was unable to make any more progress. Maucune brought up his artillery and began an artillery duel across the river. He then found a number of fords across the river, and at about 3pm managed to get his first troops across. He soon established a strong position on the British side of the river, but then paused.

Wellington decided that he had to push Maucune back, and at about 4pm Losada's Spanish brigade and Pringle's British brigade attacked. Losada's troops, on the left, made little progress, and had to be supported by Barnes's brigade. Pringle and Barnes eventually managed to force Maucune out of Villa Muriel and back across the river.

Despite this success, by the end of the day the French were across the river. Wellington was forced to change his position. He crossed the Pisuerga, and prepared to defend the left bank of the river, from Valladolid upwards. This plan also came to nothing, after a small party of French troops managed to swim the Douro at Tordesillas, giving them a foothold across the river and threatening Wellington's left flank. Once again he was forced to continue the retreat.

Salamanca 1812 - Wellington's Year of Victories, Peter Edwards. A look at Wellington's campaigns of 1812, from the sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz to the triumph at Salamanca, the failure at Burgos and the retreat back to Portugal at the end of a year that saw the French permanently forced out of large parts of Spain. A good account of this campaign, copiously illustrated with carefully used eyewitness accounts. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 April 2018), Combat of Villa Muriel, 25 October 1812 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_villa_muriel.html

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