The skirmish of Barba del Puerco of 19-20 March 1810 was a minor clash between part of Craufurd’s line of outposts on the Portuguese border and part of the French army gathering in preparation for Massena’s invasion of Portugal. In the spring of 1810 Craufurd’s Light Division was watching the line of the Agueda River. Most of his infantry was pulled back from the river, but four companies of Beckwith’s 95th Rifles were close to the river, watching the bridge of Barba del Puerco (north west of Ciudad Rodrigo). This was a strong position in a difficult pass, and Craufurd felt that the rifles would be able to hold off any force small enough to surprise them.
This was put to the test on the night of 19-20 March. Loison’s division had taken up a position facing the northern stretch of the Agueda, with Ferey’s brigade at San Felices. Ferey decided to make an attempt to capture the pass of Barba del Puerco by surprise. He gathered the six voltigeur companies of his brigade, and before dawn on 20 March surprised the sentries of the bridge, who were bayoneted before they could raise the alarm.
The French then began to climb up out of the river valley towards the village, but not without being detected. Craufurd’s men took pride in the speed with which they could come to arms, and within ten minutes of the alarm being raised three companies of the 95th Rifles were in place to attack the French. Ferey’s men were driven back across the bridge, losing two officers and forty five men during the fighting. Beckwith’s rifles suffered four dead and ten wounded during the clash. For the next few days Craufurd was on alert, expecting a general French advance, but nothing happened until later April, when the French finally moved up towards Ciudad Rodrigo.
|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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