Combat of Venta del Pozo and Villadrigo, 23 October 1812

The combat of Venta del Pozo and Villadrigo (23 October 1812) was a rearguard action during the retreat that followed the failure of the siege of Burgos, and saw the French fail to take advantage of their superior numbers.

During the first couple of days of the retreat Souham hadn't pressed Wellington very hard, but on the morning of 23 October he had around 6,000 cavalry ready to attack (4,300 from his own Army of Portugal, mad up of Curto's light horse, Boyer's dragoons and Merlin's brigade and 1,650 from the Army of the North, Laferrière's cavalry brigade).

The Allied rearguard was much weaker, with 1,300 British and German dragoons from Anson's and Bock's brigades and 1,000 Spanish lancers under Julian Sanchez. This limited force was supported by two horse artillery batteries and two light battalions from the King's German Legion.

The fighting began on the Hormaza stream, to the east of Celada. Anson and the light infantry held the line of the stream, with Sanchez on the right and a Spanish guerrilla band on the left. The French advance guard, made up of Curto's light cavalry and Maucune's division forced the Allies back after three hours of skirmishing. Once Curto's men were across the Hormaza, Anson retreated in good order down the valley of the Arlanzon.

After a running fight that lasted for five or six miles, Anson reached another suitable defensive position, a stream near a house called the Venta del Pozo. The French paused to regroup, while Anson joined Bock's heavy dragoons behind the stream.

By now Souham, Caffarelli  and the French cavalry reserve had arrived on the scene. Souham ordered the newly arrived cavalry to attack, with Faverot's brigade to launch a frontal attack across the bridge over the stream, while Boyer's dragoons attempted to outflank the Allies to the right.

The outflanking move soon stalled - Boyer failed to find any good crossing point within a mile of the bridge, and was soon out of contact with the main army. Faverot had more luck - he was able to get eight of his ten squadrons across the bridge before the British attempted to stop him. Bock and Anson then attacked, but after a hard fought melee were forced to retreat by the arrival of French reinforcements.

Bock and Anson attempted to rally half a mile behind the stream, but Boyer's dragoons arrived and forced them to retreat further. This time they didn't stop until they reached the support of the two battalions of light infantry. Boyer's dragoons attacked the 1st Battalion, but it formed square and repulsed the attack. The 1st Battalion then retreated to Villadrigo, joining up with the 2nd. Both then had to form squares, and both were able to repulse a second French attack. The French were preparing for a third attack when Bock and Anson finally restored order in their units and joined the infantry. After this the French were content to follow the Allies as they retreated to the bridge of Quintana del Puente, at Torquemada. The Allies suffered 230 casualties during the retreat, the French around 150-300.

Salamanca 1812 - Wellington's Year of Victories, Peter Edwards. A look at Wellington's campaigns of 1812, from the sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz to the triumph at Salamanca, the failure at Burgos and the retreat back to Portugal at the end of a year that saw the French permanently forced out of large parts of Spain. A good account of this campaign, copiously illustrated with carefully used eyewitness accounts. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (21 March 2018), Combat of Venta del Pozo and Villadrigo, 23 October 1812 ,

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