Vimeiro 21/8/1808

Battle of Vimeiro 21/8/1808


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Start page , North Hamptonshire Regiment (48th Regiment of Foot) , John Waddington
1807 marks an important watershed in the British military operations during the Napolionic campaigns, for
it saw the beginning of the Peninsular War, Britain's most sustained military effort of the era. A treaty was signed with the Ottoman Empire, that, against Denamrk, was to prevent French seizure of the powerful Danish fleet. An expidition of 27,000 men under the command of Lord Cathcart was sent to Copenhagen to pre empt Nepoleon . Amongst the subordinate commanders was Sir Arthur Wellesley. The Danish army was defeated, Copenhagen was bombarded and the fleet was captured.
Portugal refused to participtate in Napoleon's attempt to cripple the British economy and in retaliation he
invaded Portugal via his ally, Spain. Accordingly , General Jean Andoche Junot (1771-1813) was sent with 30,000 men to occupy Lisbon December 1st 1087. In March 1808 a further 100,000 French troops marched in to Spain. The throne was seized and the King interned in France. Napoleon's elder brother Joseph Bonapatre (1768-1844) was elected by pro French factions. Spanish resistance increased but was of no match for the French army. Britain responded to calls of help from the Spanish. Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Wellesley with 10,000 men and General Sir John Moore (1761-1809) were dispatched to the Peninsular. Lieutenant-General Sir Hew Dalrymple (1750-1830) was appointed Commander & Chief with Sir Harry Burrard (1755-1813) as his deputy in command Wellesley and his troops disembarked in August 1808, at Mondego Bay in Portugal.
Wellesleys' total force as he marched to Lisbon was 14,000 men. On August the 17th he encounted the
French General Henri Delaborde (1764-1833)with about 4,400 men at Rolica . Delaborde withdrew and Wellesley followed. During this Colonel Lake led the 1/29th Battalion into a gully which was assailed by the French from the rear, Colonel Lake was killed. The 1/29th Battalion was in danger of annihilation , to save them Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Wellesley ordered a general attack. General Henri Delaborde was driven from the heights,the British sustained 487 casualties but it was the first victory against the French Army. Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Wellesley continued his advance.
Junot was determined to crush the British landing , and led forward some 13,000 men and 24 guns from
Lisbon. His advance was observed by Wellesley who deployed his army along the crest of the Vimeiro Ridge in the early hours of August 21st . Junot launched two assaults on Vimeiro Hill , but steady musketery of the British army drove them back. The only British cavalry present were about 240 men of the 20th Light Dragoons, they counter charged the French army, but the initial success turned to disaster when they charged too far. Whilst still on the charge, the French Army attempted to out flank the British infantry but this was eventually driven back . During this battle the French Army lost 2,200 men and 14 guns . General Burrard refused to pursue despite the fact that Wellesley had 720 casualties.
Sir Harry Burrard and"Dowager"Lieutenant-General Sir Hew Dalrymple agreed to a convention with the
French General Junot on the 22nd August. General Junot signed his surrender and his remaining forces were evacuated on British ships to England . Lieutenant-General Sir Hew Dalrymple allowed the French army to retain all of its arms.Because of this, all three Generals were ordered back to England to face a court of enquiry . Only Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Wellesley was exonerated for the actions.


Excerpt from Philip J. Haythornthaite's book WELLINGTON'S MILITARY MACHINE published 1995
The information is intended for Historical Value only, far more information can be gained from the above Publication
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Last revised: 03/04/2017. .