The combat of Lerin (30 March 1813) was a major victory for the Spanish troops of Mina, and gave Mina control of large parts of Navarre for almost a month.
At the start of 1813 Francisco Espoz Ilundain, or Francisco Espoz y Mina had laid siege to Tafalla, twenty miles to the south of Pamplona. The governor of Pamplona, General Abbé, attempted to lift the siege, but he was defeated by Mina at Tiebas (9 February 1813) and forced to retreat back to Pamplona. Three days later the surviving garrison of Tafalla surrendered.
By this point Napoleon had already decided to detach troops from the Army of Portugal to try and restore French control of northern Spain. The first troops to arrive were those of Barbot’s division, which was then sent to Navarre.
After arriving in Navarre, Barbot was ordered to help Abbé regain control of the area between Pamplona and the Ebro to the south. On 30 March Barbot reached Lodosa on the Ebro, from where he sent two battalions north-east to Lerin, seven miles to the north-east.
Mina was close by with a large part of his army. As the two French battalions were sacking Lerin, two of Mina’s battalions supported by 200 lancers got between them and Lodosa, while two more battalions attacked the French. The French suffered heavy losses in the initial clash, but were then able to restore some order, rallied, and began to fight their way south-west back towards the other six battalions of Barbot’s division. They were able to make some progress, but were eventually forced to form square to repel Mina’s cavalry. Instead they were forced into a long musketry dual with Mina’s men, who had the advantage of being in a more effective formation. The French suffered heavy losses in this part of the battle, and as a result their square broke when the lancers finally charged.
The Spanish captured 28 officers and 635 men in this battle, and most of the rest of the French were killed or wounded. The French lost 8 officers dead and 23 wounded from the 25th Léger and 27th Line, representing three quarters of the total number of officers with the force. Colonel Gaudin, the commander of the detachment, managed to escape with a few of his officers.
General Barbot didn’t emerge from this fight with much credit. The final defeat of his detached force took place only two miles from Lodosa, but he did nothing to try and rescue his men. Instead he put his other six battalions into a defensive position, and remained at Lodosa, much to Mina’s surprise. Once the battle was over, he retreated to Pamplona with the remaining 3,000 men of his division.
This victory gave Mina conrol of much of Navarre for the next month. The French eventually moved Taupin’s division into Navarre, and by late April Clausel was approaching from the west, placing Mina in a potentially dangerous position.
A History of the Peninsular War, Volume VI: September 1, 1812 to August 5, 1813: Siege of Burgos, Retreat of Burgos, Vittoria, the Pyrenees