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Siege Badajoz 1812

Following the fall of Rodrigo, Marmont suggested he move to help Soult protect Badajoz against the
British, for who this was the next target. The French command stated he was not to entertain the thought as it was Soult's to look after. Wellington was short of engineer's but was determined to let nothing stop his advance and subsequent Siege. It was to be one of the blackest days in British Army annals.
Badajoz was very strongly fortified and well garrisoned by French forces . Wellington learned of the
existence of mines that had been laid by the French force. Ironically the information came from a French sergeant-major of engineer's who decided to just change side because his Captain had insulted him. The commander of the fortress of Badajoz was Governor Armand Phillip on (1761-1836), a more than capable commander. Wellington attacked Fort Picurina on the 25th of March 1812. Its capture allowed Wellingtons siege guns to fire upon the weakest sections of Badajoz's defence's. Wellingtons guns comprised of 16, 24pounders, ..20, 18 pounders, ...and 16 , 24 pound howitzers. . As many as 1,800 men worked at night in the construction of the breaches. Total ammunition expended was 35,346 rounds,18,832 from the 24 pounders, 1,826 shell and 2,659 rounds of anti personnel shot. News came on the 4th of April Soult was approaching with his army , Breaches began to open under the heavy British bombardment . On the 6th of April the 4th and the light divisions advance on one of the larger breaches (Trinidad and Santa Maria) while the 5th division attacked the San Vincente bastion. At Phillip on had at hand 157 officers and 3,921 troops. The French expecting the British to rush the breaches hade place traps with in them such as ditches filled with entanglements to swords rammed through timber . These were only some of the items that awaited the British.. The French had built within the breaches a series of walls intended to lead the British soldiers to a position of the French choice . The trenches the French had dug were filled with water, spikes as well as the items above. The British delayed the attack from 7pm till 10 pm this gave the French time to fill the trenches with combustibles to illuminate the attackers, The 4th Division forces attacked unawares of what the French had in store for the. Wave after wave were massacred. Downing in the trenches and being impaled on the spikes and the swords. From ten until midnight 40 seperate attacks took place. The dead and wounded laid piled deep in the French trenches.
The 1/48th were part of the 4th division and again suffered massive losses form the entire 48th only 35 men
and three officers survived.
Wellington finally recalled his troops. Wellington had lost in two hours one third of his troops. The 5th
division had advance with far less resistance at San Vincente. While the Picton's 3rd Division at the castle met with also minimal resistance. Phillip on retreated to the citadel and soon surrendered. He and his two daughters narrowly escaped being murdered by the British troops who were enraged due to the carnage they were forced to endure. British officers had to slash at their own troops to keep the at bay.
It was in these times that the victorious Army could plunder the deposed fortress .The British Army did
not condone this but in fact did everything in its power to prevent such a practice. But at the fall of Badajoz all hell broke loose with the British troops on a rampage of pillage and murder of the civilian population. Wellington understood the furry of his men but many soldiers were appalled by these actions . Late on the afternoon of April the 7th Wellington despatched Powers Portuguese Brigade into Badajoz to end the destruction and murder. The provost Marshal erected gallows in the main square. This had the effect and the troops returned to normality.
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    Copyright B & M Chapman (QLD) Australia
    Last revised: May 17, 2007.