The siege of Hostalrich of 16 January-21 May 1810 was just about the only significant success achieved by the French during Marshal Augereau’s brief time in charge of the 7th Corps in Catalonia. The castle of Hostalrich overlooked the main road from Gerona to Barcelona, and after the fall of Gerona was the only fortress in central Catalonia still held by the Spanish. It was held by two battalions of Spanish infantry, one from the regular army and one from the local levies, a total of 1,200 men under the command of Colonel Juliano Estrada. Although there was an active Spanish army under General Henry O’Donnell operating in Catalonia, Hostalrich was too far into French held territory for O’Donnell to be able to resupply the place.
During the third siege of Gerona the French garrison of Barcelona had been effectively blockaded themselves, and so in the aftermath of the siege one of Marshal Augereau’s first priorities had been to reopen communications between Barcelona and France. The road from Gerona into France was now reasonably clear, so in January 1810 Augereau split his force in two, and marched down the two main roads that linked Gerona to Barcelona. He accompanied Pino’s Italian division on the road that passed Hostalrich, while Souham was sent on the road that passed Vich.
When Augereau reached Hostalrich he expected the place to surrender quickly, but when it did not he left Mazzuchelli’s Italian brigade to blockade the castle, and continued on towards Barcelona. After a short stay at Barcelona, he was then forced to return to Gerona to escort a badly needed supply convoy coming from France. On his return journey in March, Augereau collected Mazzuchelli’s brigade, and replaced it with a mixed detachment of two brigades under General Devaux. On 11 April Devaux was replaced by General Severoli, who would see the siege through to its end.
By early May the garrison of Hostalrich were running desperately short of supplies. The local levies (the miqueletes) had made too attempts to get supplies into the castle, without success. Finally, on the night of 12 May Estrada made an attempt to break through the French lines and escape to safety. At the head of the 1,100 able bodied men left in the castle, he managed to break through the French lines, but his guides soon got lost in the local mountains. The French reacted quickly, and Severoli’s two brigades were soon close behind the Spanish. Eventually they managed to capture Estrada and 300 of his men, but another 800 escaped across the mountains to Vich, from where they were able to rejoin the Army of Catalonia. By the time Hostalrich fell, so had Augereau. On 11 April he had moved his headquarters from Barcelona back to Gerona, taking a vast amount of loot with him. This move angered Napoleon, and on 24 April Augereau was replaced by 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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