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Vitoria

21 June, 1813

Spanish Battle Tour Guides

Vitoria was the battle that broke the back of the French occupation of Spain and led to common Allied soldiers becoming wealthy men overnight, as they looted a baggage train containing some 5.5 million francs worth of treasure.

In the lead up to Vitoria, the Duke of Wellington split his army of some 70,000 men in two and sent the majority of them (40,000 under General Graham) on a series of hook marches that would force the French to continually look at their defensive flanks.

The remaining men would shepherd King Joseph and Marshal Jourdan's force of 50,000 towards their own border.

At Vitoria, the sides collided and a series of French errors - most crucially not guarding a key bridge at Tres Puentes - allowed Wellington to cross the major Zadorra River with several divisions.

From there the British began flank attacks on the French defenders, pushing them slowly back towards the village of Vitoria.

The French fought with great courage in an attempt to allow the massive baggage trains enough breathing space to get a head start on their journey back to France.

The French line of communications now came under threat from Graham's late-arriving troops, who seized heights overlooking a crucial position at the village of Gamarra Mayor and quickly occupied the hamlet itself.

Desperate to win back Gamarra Mayor, the French launched several ferocious counterattacks, but these were all beaten off.

Continuing his advance, Graham found himself unable to cross the Zadorra in the face of exceptionally positioned French troops, who only took a step backwards after the battle was won by Wellington finally breaking their army's central position.

The British lost some 5000 men, while 7500 Frenchmen became casualties.

Fleeing to the east, the French soldiers officially abandoned the treasure wagons and, while occasionally stopping to help British troops loot them, ran to avoid capture.

The Allied mopping-up operation was ruined by the wealth on offer to poorly paid soldiers and a furious Wellington found himself with only some 250,000 francs to bolster his war chest.

 

 
 
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