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July 24 1812: Wellington Triumphant

On July 24, 1812 Wellington writes to the Earl of Bathurst to report on the Battle of Salamanca.  He describes in some detail the movements of the battle.  In particular, he describes the decisive attack on the French army`s left which completely succeeded. Wellington concludes with a list of individuals who acted with distinction. As for the French, he writes: It is impossible to form a conjecture of the amount of the enemy's loss in this action; but, from all reports, it is very considerable. We have taken from them 11 pieces of cannon, several ammunition waggons, 2 eagles, and 6 colors; and 1 General, 3 Colonels, 3 Lieut. Colonels, 130 officers of inferior rank, and between 6000 and 7000 soldiers are prisoners ; and our detachments are sending in more at every moment. The number of dead on the field is very largeWellington`s letter is reproduced below. 


General the Earl of Wellington, K.B., to the Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State.
Flores de Avila, 24th July, 1812.

MY LORD, My aide de camp, Captain Lord Clinton, will present to your Lordship this account of a victory which the allied troops under my command gained in a general action, fought near Salamanca on the evening of the 22nd instant, which I have been under the necessity of delaying to send till now, having been engaged ever since the action in the pursuit of the enemy's flying troops.

In my letter of the 21st, I informed your Lordship that both armies were near the Tormes; and the enemy crossed that river, with the greatest part of his troops, in the afternoon, by the fords between Alba de Tormes and Huerta, and moved by their left towards the roads leading to Ciudad Rodrigo.

 The allied army, with the exception of the 3rd division, and General D'Urban's cavalry, likewise crossed the Tormes in the evening by the bridge of Salamanca and the fords in the neighbourhood; and I placed the troops in a position, of which the right was upon one of the two heights called Dos Arapiles, and the left on the Tormes, below the ford of Sta Marta.

The 3rd division, and Brig. General D'Urban's cavalry, were left at Cabrerizos, on the right of the Tormes, as the enemy had still a large corps on the heights above Babila-fuente, on the same side of the river; and I considered it not improable that, finding our army prepared for them in the morning on the left of the Tormes, they would alter their plan, and manœuvre by the other bank.

In the course of the night of the 21st, I received intelligence, of the truth of which I could not doubt, that General Clausel had arrived at Pollos on the 20th, with the cavalry and horse artillery of the army of the North, to join Marshal Marmont; and I was quite certain that these troops would join him on the 22nd or 23rd at latest.

There was no time to be lost therefore, and I determined that if circumstances should not permit me to attack him on the 22nd, I would move towards Ciudad Rodrigo without further loss of time, as the difference of the numbers of cavalry might have made a march of manœuvre, such as we have had for the last four or five days, very difficult, and its result doubtful.

 During the night of the 21st, the enemy had taken possession of the village of Calvarassa de Arriba, and of the heights near it called Nuestra Senora de la Peña, our cavalry being in possession of Calvarassa de Abaxo; and, shortly after daylight, detachments from both armies attempted to obtain possession of the more distant from our right of the two hills called Dos Arapiles.

The enemy, however, succeeded; their detachments being the strongest, and having been concealed in the woods nearer the hill than we were; by which success they strengthened materially their own position, and had in their power increased means of annoying ours.

In the morning, the light troops of the 7th division, and the 4th Caçadores belonging to General Pack's brigade, were engaged with the enemy on the height called Nuestra Senora de la Peña, on which height they maintained themselves with the enemy throughout the day. The possession by the enemy, however, of the more distant of the Arapiles rendered it necessary for me to extend the right of the army en potence to the height behind the village of Arapiles, and to occupy that village with light infantry; and here I placed the 4th division, under the command of Lieut., General the Hon. L. Cole: and although, from the variety of the enemy's movements, it was difficult to form a satisfactory judgment of his intentions, I considered that upon the whole his objects were upon the left of the Tormes. I therefore ordered Major General the Hon. E. Pakenham, who commanded the 3rd division in the absence of Lieut. General Picton, on account of ill health, to move across the Tormes with the troops under his command, including Brig. General D'Urban's cavalry, and to place himself behind Aldea Tejada; Brig. General Bradford's brigade of Portuguese infantry, and Don Carlos de España's infantry, having been moved up likewise to the neighbourhood of Las Torres, between the 3rd and 4th divisions.

After a variety of evolutions and movements, the enemy appears to have determined upon his plan about two in the afternoon; and, under cover of a very heavy cannonade, which, however, did us but very little damage, he extended his left, and moved forward his troops, apparently with an intention to embrace, by the position of his troops, and by his fire, our post on that of the two Arapiles which we possessed, and from thence to attack and break our line, or, at all events, to render difficult any movement of ours to our right.

The extension of his line to his left, however, and its advance upon our right, notwithstanding that his troops still occupied very strong ground, and his position was well defended by cannon, gave me an opportunity of attacking him, for which I had long been anxious. I reinforced our right with the 5th division, under Lieut. General Leith, which I placed behind the village of Arapiles, on the right of the 4th division, and with the 6th and 7th divisions in reserve; and as soon as these troops had taken their station, I ordered Major General the Hon. E. Pakenham to move forward with the 3rd division and General D'Urban's cavalry, and two squadrons of the 14th light dragoons, under Lieut. Colonel Hervey, in four columns, to turn the enemy's left on the heights; while Brig. General Bradford's brigade, the 5th division, under Lieut. General Leith, the 4th division, under Lieut. General the Hon. L. Cole, and the cavalry under Lieut. General Sir Stapleton Cotton, should attack them in front, supported in reserve by the 6th division, under Major General Clinton, the 7th, under Major General Hope, and Don Carlos de España's Spanish division ; and Brig. General Pack should support the left of the 4th division, by attacking that of the Dos Arapiles which the enemy held. The 1st and Light divisions occupied the ground on the left, and were in reserve.

The attack upon the enemy's left was made in the manner above described, and completely succeeded. Major General the Hon. E. Pakenham formed the 3rd division across the enemy's flank, and overthrew every thing opposed to him. These troops were supported in the most gallant style by the Portuguese cavalry, under Brig. General D'Urban, and Lieut. Colonel Hervey's squadrons of the 14th, who successfully defeated every attempt made by the enemy on the flank of the 3rd division.

Brig. General Bradford's brigade, the 5th and 4th divisions, and the cavalry under Lieut. General Sir Stapleton Cotton, attacked the enemy in front, and drove his troops before them from one height to another, bringing forward their right, so as to acquire strength upon the enemy's flank in proportion to the advance. Brig General Pack made a very gallant attack upon the Arapiles, in which, however, he did not succeed, excepting in diverting the attention of the enemy's corps placed upon it from the troops under the command of Lieut. General Cole in his advance.

The cavalry under Lieut. General Sir Stapleton Cotton made a most gallant and successful charge against a body of the enemy's infantry, which they overthrew and cut to pieces. In this charge Major General Le Marchant was killed at the head of his brigade; and I have to regret the loss of a most able officer.

After the crest of the height was carried, one division of the enemy's infantry made a stand against the 4th division, which, after a severe contest, was obliged to give way, in consequence of the enemy having thrown some troops on the left of the 4th division, after the failure of Brig. General Pack's attack upon the Arapiles, and Lieut. General the Hon. L. Cole having been wounded.

Marshal Sir William Beresford, who happened to be on the spot, directed Brig. General Spry's brigade of the 5th division, which was in the second line, to change its front, and to bring its fire on the flank of the enemy's division; and, I am sorry to add that, while engaged in this service, he received a wound which I am apprehensive will deprive me of the benefit of his counsel and assistance for some time. Nearly about the same time Lieut. General Leith received a wound which unfortunately obliged him to quit the field. I ordered up the 6th division, under Major General Clinton, to relieve the 4th, and the battle was soon restored to its former success.

The enemy's right, however, reinforced by the troops which had fled from his left, and by those which had now retired from the Arapiles, still continued to resist; and I ordered the 1st and Light divisions, and Colonel Stubbs's Portuguese brigade of the 4th division, which was reformed, and Major General William Anson's brigade, likewise of the 4th division, to turn the right while the 6th division, supported by the 3rd and 5th, attacked the front. It was dark before this point was carried by the 6th division; and the enemy fled through the woods towards the Tormes. I pursued them with the 1st and Light divisions, and Major General William Anson's brigade of the 4th division, and some squadrons of cavalry under Lieut. General Sir Stapleton Cotton, as long as we could find any of them together, directing our march upon Huerta and the fords of the Tormes, by which the enemy had passed on their advance; but the darkness of the night was highly advantageous to the enemy, many of whom escaped under its cover who must otherwise have been in our hands.

I am sorry to report that, owing to this same cause, Lieut. General Sir Stapleton Cotton was unfortunately wounded by one of our own sentries after we had halted.

We renewed the pursuit at break of day in the morning with the same troops, and Major General Bock's and Major General Anson's brigades of cavalry, which joined during the night; and, having crossed the Tormes, we came up with the enemy's rear of cavalry and infantry near La Serna. They were immediately attacked by the two brigades of dragoons, and the cavalry fled, leaving the infantry to their fate. I have never witnessed a more gallant charge than was made on the enemy's infantry by the heavy brigade of the King's German Legion, under Major General Bock, which was completely successful; and the whole body of infantry, consisting of three battalions of the enemy's 1st division, were made prisoners.

The pursuit was afterwards continued as far as Peñaranda last night, and our troops were still following the flying enemy.

Their head quarters were in this town, not less than ten leagues from the field of battle, for a few hours last night; and they are now considerably advanced on the road towards Valladolid, by Arevalo. They were joined yesterday on their retreat by the cavalry and artillery of the army of the North, which have arrived at too late a period, it is to be hoped, to be of much use to them.

It is impossible to form a conjecture of the amount of the enemy's loss in this action; but, from all reports, it is very considerable. We have taken from them 11 pieces of cannon, several ammunition waggons, 2 eagles, and 6 colors; and 1 General, 3 Colonels, 3 Lieut. Colonels, 130 officers of inferior rank, and between 6000 and 7000 soldiers are prisoners ; and our detachments are sending in more at every moment. The number of dead on the field is very large.

I am informed that Marshal Marmont is badly wounded, and has lost one of his arms; and that four General Officers have been killed, and several wounded.

Such an advantage could not have been acquired without material loss on our side; but it certainly has not been of a magnitude to distress the army, or to cripple its operations.

I have great pleasure in reporting to your Lordship that, throughout this trying day, of which I have related the events, I had every reason to be satisfied with the conduct of the General Officers and troops.

The relation which I have written of its events will give a general idea of the share which each individual had in them; and I cannot say too much in praise of the conduct of every individual in his station.

I am much indebted to Marshal Sir William Beresford for his friendly counsel and assistance, both previous to, and during the action; to Lieut. Generals Sir Stapleton Cotton, Leith, and Cole, and Major Generals Clinton, and the Hon. E. Pakenham, for the manner in which they led the divisions of cavalry and infantry under their command respectively; to Major General Hulse, commanding a brigade in the 6th division; Major General G. Anson, commanding a brigade of cavalry; Colonel Hinde ; Colonel the Hon. William Ponsonby, commanding Major General Le Marchant's brigade after the fall of that officer; to Major General W. Anson, commanding a brigade in the 4th division; Major General Pringle, commanding a brigade in the 5th division, and the division after Lieut. General Leith was wounded; Brig. General Bradford; Brig. General Spry; Colonel Stubbs ; and Brig. General Power, of the Portuguese service; likewise to Lieut. Colonel Campbell of the 94th, commanding a brigade in the 3rd division; Lieut. Colonel Williams of the 60th foot; Lieut. Colonel Wallace of the 88th, commanding a brigade in the 3rd division; Lieut. Colonel Ellis of the 23rd, commanding Major General the Hon. E. Pakenham's brigade in the 4th division, during his absence in the command of the 3rd division; Lieut. Colonel the Hon. C. Greville of the 38th regiment, commanding Major General Hay's brigade in the 5th division, during his absence on leave; Brig. General Pack; Brig. General the Conde de Rezende of the Portuguese service; Colonel Douglas of the 8th Portuguese regiment; Lieut. Colonel the Conde de Ficalho of the same regiment; and Lieut. Colonel Bingham of the 53rd regiment; likewise to Brig. General D'Urban and Lieut. Colonel Hervey of the 14th light dragoons; Colonel Lord Edward Somerset, commanding the 4th dragoons; and Lieut. Colonel the Hon. F Ponsonby, commanding the 12th light dragoons.

 I must also mention Lieut. Colonel Woodford, commanding the light battalion of the brigade of Guards, who, supported by two companies of the Fusiliers, under the command of Captain Crowder, maintained the village of Arapiles against all the efforts of the enemy, previous to the attack upon their position by our troops.

In a case in which the conduct of all has been conspicuously good, I regret that the necessary limits of a dispatch prevent me from drawing your Lordship's notice to the conduct of a larger number of individuals; but I can assure your Lordship that there was no officer or corps engaged in this action who did not perform his duty by his Sovereign and his country.

The Royal and German Artillery, under Lieut. Colonel Framingham, distinguished themselves by the accuracy of their fire wherever it was possible to use them; and they advanced to the attack of the enemy's position with the same gallantry as the other troops.

I am particularly indebted to Lieut. Colonel De Lancy, the Deputy Quarter Master General, the head of the department present, in the absence of the Quarter Master General, and to the officers of that department and of the Staff corps, for the assistance I received from them, particularly Lieut. Colonel the Hon. L. Dundas and Lieut. Colonel Sturgeon of the latter, and Major Scovell of the former; and to Lieut. Colonel Waters, at present at the head of the Adjutant General's department at head quarters; and to the officers of that department, as well at head quarters as with the several divisions of the army; and Lieut. Colonel Lord Fitzroy Somerset, and the officers of my personal Staff. Among the latter I particularly request your Lordship to draw the attention of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent to His Serene Highness the Hereditary Prince of Orange, whose conduct in the field, as well as upon every other occasion, entitles him to my highest commendation, and has acquired for him the respect and regard of the whole army.

 I have had every reason to be satisfied with the conduct of the Mariscal de Campo Don Carlos de España, and of Brigadier Don Julian Sanchez, and with that of the troops under their command respectively; and with that of the Mariscal de Campo Don Miguel Alava, and of Brigadier Don Josef O'Lalor, employed with this army by the Spanish Government, from whom, and from the Spanish authorities and people in general, I received every assistance I could expect.

It is but justice likewise to draw your Lordship's attention upon this occasion to the merits of the officers of the civil departments of the army. Notwithstanding the increased distance of our operations from our magazines, and that the country is completely exhausted, we have hitherto wanted nothing, owing to the diligence and attention of the Commissary General, Mr. Bissett, and the officers of the department under his direction.

I have likewise to mention that, by the attention and ability of Dr. M'Grigor, and of the officers of the department under his charge, our wounded, as well as those of the enemy, left in our hands, have been well taken care of; and I hope that many of these valuable men will be saved to the service.

Captain Lord Clinton will have the honor of laying at the feet of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent the eagles and colors taken from the enemy in this action.

I enclose a return of the killed and wounded.

By letters received from Lieut. Colonel Sir Howard Douglas, I learn that General Santocildes had left 8000 men to carry on the siege of Astorga, and had joined General Cabrera's division at Benavente with about 3000; and that the whole 7000 were on their march along the Esla towards the Duero.

I have the honor to be, &c. WELLINGTON.



                              Killed   Wounded        Missing
Officers               41           252                 1
Serjeants               28           178                         1
Rank and File       625           3840                 254
Horses               114           133                        44
Total               694           4270                 256
British               388           2714                 74
Portuguese       304           1552                 182
Spanish               2           4                          -





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