Battle of Badajoz - Conflict:
The Battle of Badajoz was part of the Peninsular War, which was in turn part of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).
Battle of Badajoz - Dates:
The Earl of Wellington invested Badajoz on March 16, 1812, and then stormed the city on April 6.
Armies & Commanders:
- Earl of Wellington
- 25,000 men
- Major General Armand Philippon
- 4,742 men
Battle of Badajoz - Background:
Following his victories at Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo, the Earl of Wellington moved south towards Badajoz with the goal of securing the Spanish-Portuguese frontier and improving his lines of communication with his base at Lisbon. Arriving at the city on March 16, 1812, Wellington found it held by 5,000 French troops under the command of Major General Armand Philippon. Long aware of Wellington's approach, Philippon had significantly improved the Badajoz's defenses and had laid in large supplies of provisions.
Battle of Badajoz - The Siege Begins:
Outnumbering the French nearly 5-to-1, Wellington invested the city and began construction of siege trenches. As his troops pushed their earthworks towards Badajoz's walls, Wellington brought up his heavy guns and howitzers. Knowing that it was only a matter of time until the British reached and breached the city's walls, Philippon's men launched several sorties in an attempt to destroy the siege trenches. These were repeatedly beaten back by British riflemen and infantry. On March 25, General Thomas Picton's 3rd Division stormed and captured an outer bastion know as the Picurina.
The capture of the Picurina allowed Wellington's men to expand their siege works as his guns pounded away at the walls. By March 30, breaching batteries were in place and over the next week three openings were made in the city's defenses. On March 6, rumors began to arrive in the British camp that Marshal Jean-de-Dieu Soult was marching to relieve the beleaguered garrison. Wishing to take the city before reinforcements could arrive, Wellington ordered the assault to commence at 10:00 PM that night. Moving into position near the breaches, the British waited for the signal to attack.
Battle of Badajoz - The British Assault:
Wellington's plan called for the main assault to be made by the 4th Division and Craufurd's Light Division, with supporting attacks from the Portuguese and British soldiers of the 3rd and 5th Divisions. As the 3rd Division moved into place, it was spotted by a French sentry who raised the alarm. With the British moving to attack, the French rushed to the walls and unleashed a barrage of musket and cannon fire into the breaches inflicting heavy casualties. As the gaps in the walls filled with British dead and wounded, they became increasingly impassable.
Despite this, the British kept swarming forward pressing the attack. In the first two hours of fighting, they suffered around 2,000 casualties at the main breach alone. Elsewhere, the secondary attacks were meeting a similar fate. With his forces halted, Wellington debated calling off the assault and ordering his men to fall back. Before the decision could be made, news reached his headquarters that Picton's 3rd Division had secured a foothold on the city walls. Connecting with the 5th Division which had also managed to scale the walls, Picton's men began pushing into the city.
With his defenses broken, Philippon realized that it was only a matter of time before British numbers destroyed his garrison. As the redcoats poured into Badajoz, the French conducted a fighting retreat and took refuge in Fort San Christoval just north of the city. Understanding that his situation was hopeless, Philippon surrendered the following morning. In the city, British troops went wild looting and committed a wide array of atrocities. It took nearly 72 hours for order to be completely restored.
Aftermath of the Battle of Badajoz:
The Battle of Badajoz cost Wellington 4,800 killed and wounded, 3,500 of which were incurred during the assault. Philippon lost 1,500 dead and wounded as well as the remainder of his command as prisoners. Upon seeing the piles of British dead in the trenches and breaches, Wellington wept for the loss of his men. The victory at Badajoz secured the border between Portugal and Spain and allowed Wellington to begin advancing against the forces of Marshal Auguste Marmont in Salamanca.