Combat of Baza, 4 November 1810

The combat of Baza was a French victory won on the borders of Murcia and Granada, which ended a Spanish attempt to threaten the French position in Granada. In later August a French army under General Sebastiani had invaded Murcia, but General Joachim Blake, then commander of the Spanish Army of Murcia, had prepared a strong defensive position around the city, and Sebastiani had withdrawn back into Granada. During his absence the Spanish guerrillas had captured the ports of Almunecar and Motril, and even threatened the city of Granada. Sebastiani was forced to concentrate most of his available troops to deal with this threat, leaving the border with Murcia lightly defended.

As Sebastiani retreated, Blake advanced, taking up a position on the border of Murcia, where he remained for seven weeks before decided to move across the border into Granada. On 2 November Blake lead 8,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry across the border, occupying the town of Cullar, on the road to the city of Granada on the first day. This should have been a strong enough force to allow Blake to attack the weakened French garrison of eastern Granada in safety, although if Sebastiani concentrated against him Blake would have had to retreat. The nearest French troops to Blake were 2,000 infantry in the town of Baza, his next target, and 1,300 cavalry under General Milhaud.

On 3 November Blake continued to move west along the road towards Granada, but he allowed his small army to become dangerously stretched out. On 3 November his advance guard reached Baza, but on 4 November, when the French attacked, his army was split into three. The cavalry and one division of infantry were in the lead, at Baza. A second division of infantry was a few miles to the east, while a rearguard 2,000 strong was still at Cullar. Blake’s 8,000 infantry were thus spread out along eleven miles of roads, with perhaps 3,000 men supporting the cavalry.

Milhaud arrived at Baza on the morning of 4 November, and decided to take advantage of Blake’s poor deployment. The French cavalry charged along both sides of the main road and quickly swept aside the Spanish cavalry. Milhaud’s French Dragoons and Polish Lancers then hit the first Spanish infantry division while it was still disordered by its own retreating cavalry. As virtually always happened when cavalry hit unprepared infantry, this first Spanish division broke. The French took 1,000 prisoners and killed or wounded 500 men, almost all from that first Spanish infantry division. Only the rocky terrain prevented the French from taking more prisoners.

Despite smashing this first division, Milhaud was not strong enough to risk attacking Blake’s second division, which was now alerted to the presence of cavalry and in a relatively strong position in hilly country. Blake retreated back to the east of Cullar and took up his old position on the Murcian border, while Sebastiani continued to concentrate on restoring the situation in Granada.

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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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 June 2008), Combat of Baza, 4 November 1810 ,

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