21 June, 1813
Battle Tour Guides
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.
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.
remaining men would shepherd King Joseph and Marshal
Jourdan's force of 50,000 towards their own border.
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
there the British began flank attacks on the French defenders,
pushing them slowly back towards the village of Vitoria.
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.
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
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
British lost some 5000 men, while 7500 Frenchmen became
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