Skirmish at Valmeceda, 8 November 1808

The skirmish at Valmeceda on 8 November 1808 was a minor French victory in the aftermath of their victory at Zornoza on 31 October 1808. That battle had seen the army of General Joachim Blake forced out of their position at Zornoza, east of Bilbao by a slightly larger French army under Marshal Lefebvre. Blake’s army had escaped to the west of Bilbao, but 8,000 men under General Acevedo had been trapped in the mountains to the south of Bilbao by the French advance. Blake had then turned back and attacked the French advance guard, forcing them to retreat just far enough to allow Acevedo to escape (5 November). On the same day Lefebvre had returned to Bilbao, having abandoned his pursuit of Blake. Hearing of the fighting to the west, he advanced back towards Blake, but having successfully rescued his trapped division, Blake was not interesting in risking another battle, and so began to retreat towards Espinosa de los Monteros.

The only significant fighting during the retreat came at Valmeceda on 8 November 1808. Here Lefebvre caught part of Blake’s rearguard, and forced them out of the town with heavy losses – the Spanish lost 150 dead and wound and 600 missing, more men than they had lost in the full scale battle at Zornoza. The Spanish continued to retreat until they reached Espinosa de los Monteros. By then the pursuit was being conducted by Marshal Victor, while Lefebvre had been sent on a flanking march towards Reynosa, further to the west. This outflanking move would come to nothing, for although Blake was defeated at Espinosa de los Monteros on 10-11 November 1808, the retreated Spanish armies were able to reach Reynosa before the French, and eventually made their way to relative safety in Leon.

History of the Peninsular War vol.1: 1807-1809 - From the Treaty of Fontainebleau to the Battle of Corunna, Sir Charles Oman. The first volume of Oman's classic seven volume history of the Peninsular War, this is one of the classic works of military history and provides an invaluable detailed narrative of the fighting in Spain and Portugal. This first volume covers the initial French intervention, the start of the Spanish uprising, the early British involvement in Spain and Portugal and Napoleon's own brief visit to Spain.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (28 February 2008), Skirmish at Valmeceda, 8 November 1808 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/skirmish_valmeceda.html

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