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Home arrow Historical arrow Battles arrow 1810 arrow Buçaco Ridge

Buçaco Ridge Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 18 August 2010
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Buçaco Ridge
A French soldiers account
Precursor and prelude.

Although there are many excellent accounts and analyses1 of the action on the 27th September 1810, would seem inappropriate to let the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Buçaco pass without some comment here.

Almeida had fallen abruptly on 28th August after the fortress town's main magazine blew up, and Masséna then pressed on towards Coimbra at the head of 65,000 men. Ahead of him lay the Buçaco ridge, where Wellington, pressed by members of the Regency Council who were unhappy with his apparent unwillingness to fight, had already prepared to make a stand with 51,000 British and Portuguese troops.
His preparations for a defensive battle along the line of the Buçaco ridge were, in extent and nature, hardly comparable with those of the Lines, but had gone as far as the construction of a lateral communications road behind the crest. Although Wellington's forces were concentrated at the likely points of attack within the northern half of the 16km-long ridge, this road allowed troops to be moved quickly from one point to another.
 Massena's orders to his Corps commanders late in the evening of the 26th were brief but flawed by inadequate intelligence:

"II Corps will attack the enemy's right; it will endeavour to break through the enemy's line, after scaling the most accessible point of the mountain. It will reach its objective in one or two columns pre-ceded by skirmishers. Once it has reached the crest at the point selected for attack, it will form up in close column and cross thé mountain ridge to the Coimbra road and beyond. It will hait at the Busaco monastery.

VI Corps will attack by the two tracks leading to the Coimbra road; one of its divisions will be held in reserve, and its artillery will be distributed so as to give support as needed. Marshal Ney will dispose his two assault columns so as to launch them as soon as Général Reynier has captured the ridge, and he will then advance on the Busaco monastery. It will be Marshal Ney's duty to press home his attack if he sees the enemy either trying to counter Général Reynier or retiring .. . His attack will be preceded by skirmishers. On reaching the crest he will reorganise his troops in order to conform to the further movements of the army."

So two unco-ordinated attacks were launched, without the possibility of proper artillery support, not against weak flanks but against the strongest part of the defender's line...



What if Masséna had had Google..?

A "helicopter view" of the Ridge and the II Corps attacks from above the French encampment. Spencer and Picton's divisions line the summit (red) and Caçadores (orange) and  Rifles (green) dot the slopes. Wellington's initial command position is the triangle and the Mortágoa - Coimbra Road  through Sula (where Ney attacked), behind the shoulder on the right.

(click image for an enlargement )


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