previous next

Example of a battle of the offensive defense: battle of Talavera, July 28, 1809.

The battle of Talavera, fought by the French against the allied English and Spaniards, offers a very fine example of a defensive battle with offensive return in its own lines. The French army numbered 45,000 men, commanded by King Joseph Bonaparte. The allied army amounted to almost 20,000 English, and 35,000 Spaniards, commanded by Wellington. The Spanish position, forming the right wing of the allies, is covered by two redoubts, and the access to it is rendered so difficult that the French army does not even try an attack, but sends simply a body of dragoons to reconnoiter and observe this spot. The center, composed of four English brigades, is placed between the redoubt on the Spanish left wing and a hill lying in the same front as the two redoubts. The left wing is formed by the regiments defending the hill, by a body of Spanish cavalry under Bassancourt, and by a part of the English cavalry disposed in the valley between the hill and the opposite one. The remainder of the English cavalry, with a part of the Spanish, is formed as reserve behind the hill.

In looking at the line of the English defense, it is easy to see that the hill on the left and the redoubt on the right of the center form like two bastions; that the English center brigades, in retreating only fifty to a hundred yards behind the front line of those two bastions, form the curtain between them; and that, if the enemy advances in the free space left, he is assailed on his right by the fire from the hill, on his

Battle of Talavera. July 28, 1809.

[107] left by that from the redoubt, and in front by that of the brigades; besides, behind the redoubt cavalry is arranged to attack at any moment the flank of an advancing enemy.

The hill forms the key of the position; the French tried in vain to take it; their columns in the valley, in advancing, were exposed to the fire of the English as well as to the charges of their cavalry. In the center the French were more fortunate; the English line, first exposed to a destructive fire, and then attacked by the French columns, gave way, but, as soon as the French advanced, they felt the advantage of the position; attacked in flank by an English regiment descending the hill, exposed on all sides to a deadly fire, and charged by a body of cavalry, their advance was checked, and time was given to the English regiments in the center to form again. The loss on both sides was heavy, and the armies remained in presence of each other the whole night; the next morning the French retreated in complete order.

This example shows well that a defensive battle with offensive return, but with the attack taking place in its own lines, although gained, will defeat a part of the enemy's army, but never, or at least very seldom, his whole force.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Wellington (1)
English (1)
Joseph Bonaparte (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
July 28th, 1809 AD (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: