Thursday, 5 May 2011

74th and 79th Highlanders hold Fuentes de Oñoro - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1811

In one of the finest actions of the Peninsular War two Scottish regiments in the army of Viscount Wellington replused repeated French attacks on the village of
Fuentes de Oñoro on this day two hundred years ago.

After finally retreating from the Lines of Torres Vedras in early 1811 the French 'Army of Portugal' left a strong garrison at the Portuguese town of Almeida.

Wellington followed the French and laid siege to Almeida in the hope it would force Marshal Massena to attack him, but on Wellington's choice of battlefield.

On 3rd May the French attacked the British positions around Fuentes de Oñoro and the battle ebbed and flowed until the 5th of May.

On that day the 74th Highlanders and 79th Highlanders were occupying the village of Fuentes de Oñoro. Wellington's other troops were drawn out to fight the French which left the village and the Scottish troops exposed.

Marshal Messana sent forward columns of infantry from his IX Corps to take the village and fierce hand to hand fighting took place in the streets and houses which saw the Highland regiments suffer great losses.

The fighting almost saw the Scots forced from the village until a last ditch charge led by the 88th Connaught Rangers cleared the French from the village and saved the day.

The defence of the village against overwhelming odds by the two Scottish regiments was probably their finest moment in the Peninsular campaign and both regiments were later awarded the battle honour Fuentes d'Onor

Also present at the battle were the 42nd Highlanders, 71st Highland Light Infantry and 92nd Highlanders; over the three days of battle all the Highland regiments involved in the battle suffered heavy casualties

42nd Highlanders - 1 officer and 32 soldiers killed and wounded
71st Highland Light Infantry - 11 officers and 133 soldiers killed and wounded
74th Highlanders - 4 officers and 66 soldiers killed and wounded
79th Highlanders - 14 officers and 224 soldiers killed and wounded
92nd Highlanders - 3 officers and 50 soldiers killed and wounded

Fuentes de Oñoro was the last battle for Marshal Massena, he had failed to drive the British out of Portugal and he was now replaced by Marshal Marmont.

Portugal was safe but Wellington and the thousands of Scots in his army now faced a long campaign through Spain.

No comments:

Post a Comment