25 June, 1806
5 July, 1807

Britain made two unsanctioned attempts to lessen the grip of France's ally Spain on South America with two ill-prepared missions.

The first was in 1806 when the then Colonel William Beresford was sent from the Cape Colony with only 1500 men to capture Buenos Aires.

The plan was thought up by Sir Home Popham, a noted naval commander, but was badly flawed.

Although Beresford did manage to capture Buenos Aires, his force was to weak to hold it for long and when the Spanish eventually counterattacked he was forced to surrender.

The next attempt was in 1807 when reinforcements belatedly sent to assist Beresford finally arrived and set out to capture Montevideo. After a fierce fight, General Sir Samuel Auchmuty's 8000 men took the city on 3 February, but then a new British commander entered the stage.

General John Whitelocke was not a talented soldier and upon receiving new reinforcements - including General Robert Craufurd's Light Brigade - he decided to march on Buenos Aires.

Whitelocke's hare-brained plan was to move on Buenos Aires without transport or a strong cavalry force and he greatly weakened his troops by leaving behind his most effective soldiers as a garrison in Montevideo.

Arriving at Buenos Aires in a shocking state, the British found many of their weapons unuseable but, despite the obstacles, performed very well. Unfortunately, Whitelocke divided his force into small units and many were overpowered by greater numbers.

With some 3000 casualties, the British leader requested a truce and in return for leaving Buenos Aires was granted a peace treaty.

Both Popham and Whitelocke faced inquiries for their parts in the operation. The former received an official reprimand and Whitelocke was sacked.



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