Combat of Peyrestortes, 17 September 1793

The combat of Peyrestortes (17 September 1793) was a French victory that ended a short-lived blockade of Perpignan in the early phases of the War of the Convention. Although it was the French who declared war, the Spanish had moved first. An army under General Ricardós crossed the Pyrenees in mid-April, and won a number of minor victories over the French, but Ricardós didn't attempt to capture Perpignan until mid-July. His first attempt, an elaborate advance in five columns, failed on 17 September (battle of Perpignan).
Ricardós's next plan came closer to success. He decided to capture the French positions on the Tet, which runs through Perpignan, and onthe L'Agly, which runs from west to east just to the north of the city. This would allow him to blockade Perpignan, and hopefully force the surrender of the city. On 31 August the Marquis de Las Amarillas led an attack that forced the French out of their fortified camp at Corneilla-la-Rivière, on the Tet west of Perpignan, and on 8 September the Marquis continued his advance, capturing Peyrestortes and Rivesaltes on the L'Agly.

This Spanish success split the French army in two, with half isolated in Perpignan under the command of General d'Aoust and half further up the coast at Salses. It also resulted in the removal of General Barbantane from command of the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees. General Dagobert was called back from the Cerdanya, where he had been conducting a successful small scale campaign, to replace him.

By the time Dagobert reached the coast the immediate crisis had passed. Cassàigné and Fàbre, the representatives of the Convention in Perpignan, were determined to reopen communications between the two forces, and together with Generals d'Aoust and Bonnet they came up with a plan for a concerted attack on the Spanish position at Peyrestortes.

The new Spanish line ran from Le Vernet, on the northern outskirts of Perpignan, north to Peyrestortes, where they had built a fortified camp, and then up to Rivesaltes on the River L'Agly. The French plan was for d'Aoust to attack north from Perpignan, drive the Spanish out of Le Vernot, and then advance towards Peyrestortes. Two columns were to advance south from Salses. General Perignon, with one division, was to advance to the right of the camp at Peyrestortes, while General Goguet, with three brigades and some national guards, was to advance towards Rivesaltes.

The plan was a complete success. The three French columns began their advance on the evening of 17 September. D'Aoust quickly captured Le Vernet, and when the sound of his cannons indicated that he was approaching Peyrestortes from the south Perignon and Goguet launched their attacks. The Spanish defenders of Peyrestortes were overwhelmed. With their front and right under attack and their rear threatened they had no choice but to retreat. By the time that retreat stopped the Spanish had been driven back onto the south bank of the Tet, and their new line was based around the town of Trouillas.

The French captured 26 cannons and 6 flags and claimed to have inflicted 2,000 casualties on the Spanish. When General Dagobert finally arrived to take up his command the Representatives, confident in their military ability, forced him to make a frontal assault on the new Spanish line, but this attack ended in a costly French defeat (battle of Truillas, 22 September 1793) and Dagobert resigned from his new command.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 February 2009), Combat of Peyrestortes, 17 September 1793 ,

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