Having landed his army near Coimbra in central Portugal, Major General Sir
Arthur Wellesley awaited the French Army of General Junot that was
marching north from Lisbon to tackle him.
Wellesley took up a position against the coast and awaited the expected
French assault, his army deployed on a hill to the landward side of the
town of Vimeiro and along a ridge stretching to the North of the town.
- Faneís and Anstrutherís brigades were positioned on the hill to the
east of the town.
A second mountain stretched from behind the town hill to the south curving
back to the coast, on the far side of the River Maceira.
- The French army marched in on the morning of 21st August 1808
heading along the road that led to the extreme left of the British
position. Several of the British brigades on the right were brought across
the intervening river and formed on the mountain stretching to the left of
the British position that the French were threatening to turn.
- French brigades commanded by Laborde and Brenier marched forward to
attack the British centre and left simultaneously supported by further
forces commanded by Kellerman and Loisin.
- Brenierís brigade became ensnared in a deep ravine that lay along
the front of the mountain on which the British left was positioned and his
troops drifted away to the French right.
- Labordeís and Loisinís attacks pressed on up the hill but were
subjected to heavy artillery fire. Reaching the summit they were attacked
and driven back down the hill by the 50th Foot and other regiments.
- Kellermanís grenadiers made some progress against Anstrutherís
2nd/43rd Foot at the top of the hill but in some hard hand to hand
fighting the 43rd drove the French grenadiers off the hill.
- The brigade of Solignac attacked the British left flank but was
driven back from the mountain by Fergusonís brigade which captured six
French guns. The 71st Highlanders and 82nd Foot were left to guard the
guns. These two regiments were surprised by Brenier, as he finally
developed his assault on the mountain, and driven off the guns. Rallying,
the regiments returned to the attack, recaptured the guns and inflicted
heavy casualties on Brenierís brigade. Brenier was wounded and captured.
Fergusonís brigade was well on the way to capturing numbers of the
defeated French troops when the brigade commander received an order not to
continue with the pursuit. Brenierís and Solignacís brigades had been
forced along the mountain ridge away to the North, while Loisin and
Laborde were driven due East. All along the line the pursuit was
- Sir Arthur Wellesleyís plan was to swing his unengaged right flank
forward across the road to Lisbon and the French Army would have been cut
off from its base.
- Had Sir Arthur Wellesley been permitted to continue it seems that
the French Army might have been compelled to surrender entirely.
- The Ďstopí order had been given by Sir Harry Burrard, an officer
senior to Wellesley, who had arrived from England and taken command.
720 British killed and wounded. The French casualties were around 2,000
including several hundred prisoners. 13 French guns were captured.