Combat of the Bridge of Ceret, 26 November 1793

The combat of the bridge of Ceret (26 November 1793) was a Spanish victory on the Eastern Pyrenees front during the War of the Convention that prevented the French from taking advantage of a winter storm that had swept away all but one bridge across the River Tech. Despite defeating a French attempt to force him away from Perpignan (battle of Truillas (22 September 1793), the Spanish commander, General Ricardós, decided that his camp close to the city was too vulnerable to attack. He decided to retreat south to La Boulou, on the River Tech, closer to the Spanish border. The new Spanish line ran along both sides of the Tech. La Boulou itself was on the north bank of the river. To the west the Spanish held the town of Cerét, on the southern bank of the river, and had a defended bridgehead on the north bank. The French built a fortified camp at Saint-Fariol, to the north-east of the town, under the command of General Solbeauclair.

In October the French made two unsuccessful attacks on the Spanish camp, which cost General Turreau his command. He was replaced by General Doppet, who wanted to pull back into winter quarters around Perpignan but was overruled by the representatives of the Convention in Paris. In late November the representative's attitude seemed to have been proved correct when heavy rain caused a flood that swept away every bridge across the Tech apart from the one at Cerét. Both commanders realised that this was now a vital position, but it was the Spanish who responded in the greatest strength. Doppet sent 1,500 reinforcements to Solbeauclair, and ordered him to capture the bridge, but Ricardós sent 7,000-8,000 men under General La Union, to capture the French camp.

The two forces set off on the morning of 26 November, on different roads. The French captured the bridgehead at Cerét, which was defended by a force of Portuguese troops. La Union was less successful. His route towards Saint-Fariol was blocked by a flooded ravine, and he was forced to retrace his steps. He was then informed of the fall of the bridgehead, and ordered General Viance to retake the bridge using the Spanish Guards. The Spanish counterattack was a success, and when La Union reached the town the bridge was in Spanish hands. The Spanish then advanced towards Saint-Fariol, where they captured the camp and the guns that had been defending it.

Their failure at Cerét would be very costly for the French. With his left flank now secure, Ricardós was free to move General Courten with 10,000 men to his right, where on 7 December he captured the camp at Villelongue, the first of a series of victories that would see the French left wing forced to abandon its positions along the coast. 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 March 2009), Combat of the Bridge of Ceret, 26 November 1793 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_ceret.html

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