The combat of Poza de la Sal (10-11 February 1813) saw the Spanish guerrillas of Longa ambush the headquarters of Palombini’s division, which held out until reinforcements arrived and forced the Spanish to retreat.
Early in 1813 General Palombini’s Italian division, part of the French army in Spain, was ordered to move from Old Castile to join the Army of the North, in order to allow Dumostier’s brigade from the Young Guard to return to France to take part in the upcoming campaign in Germany. Palombini began to move in January 1813, and he reached Burgos on 28 January. From there he escorted a convoy heading back to France to Vittoria. Once there he discovered that the guerrilla bands of Longa and Mendizabal had cut the road behind him. Palombini was forced to turn back to try and reopen the important road from Vittoria to Burgos.
Palombini failed to find the Spanish on the road, and decided to pursue them into the countryside of the north. By the end of 10 February he had reached the town of Poza de la Sal, just over 20 miles to the north/ north-east of Burgos. Not expecting any trouble, he posted his HQ and 500 men in the town, while the rest of the division was sent out into the surrounding countryside to gather supplies.
Palombini was facing one of the most able of the Spanish guerrilla commanders, Francisco Anchia y Urquiza, also know as Francisco de Longa. By 1812 he had been made a colonel, and commanded the Iberian Division, operating in the Cantabrian mountains, and he went on to become a brigadier general in 1814 and eventually a Field Marshal, as well as fighting at Vitoria.
Longa decided to take advantage of Palombini’s dangerous isolation. He split his force into three columns, which then advanced towards the town, passing between the various Italian regiments out foraging. Longa achieved total surprise, and captured a number of prisoners in his initial assault. However Palombini didn’t panic. He gathered his remaining troops into a single position, and managed to hold out throughout the night. On the following morning his absent troops came to his rescue, and Longa was forced to retreat.
After this near disaster Longa gave up the pursuit of the Spanish, and resumed his march to join the Army of the North. He rescued an isolated French garrison at Domingo Calzada, and eventually reached Bilbao, where he was able to relieve Dumoustier. This also allowed the outgoing commander of the army, Generael Caffarelli, to return to France, and General Clausel to take up his new post as commander of the Army of the North.
A History of the Peninsular War, Volume VI: September 1, 1812 to August 5, 1813: Siege of Burgos, Retreat of Burgos, Vittoria, the Pyrenees