Battle of Ocaña in the Peninsular War

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19 November 1809 marks the Battle of Ocaña in the Peninsular War when Marshal Jean Soult’s 24-27,000 French, Polish & German infantry & 5-6,000 cavalry smashed General Juan Carlos de Aréizaga’s 44-45,000 Spanish infantry & 6-7,000 cavalry. Aréizaga, advancing on Madrid, found his way blocked. He retreated. Soult cut him off. On 18 November, Freire’s 4,000 Spanish cavalries tried to cut through 2,800 French cavalries. Paris’ div. (1,000 horse, 10e & 26e Chasseurs à Cheval, Westphalian Lancers) He charged, breaking Freire’s 1st line. Freire’s reserves halted him. Milhaud’s div. (1,800 horse, 5e, 12e, 16e, 20e & 21e Dragons) charged Freire’s right. He broke. The French lost under 100 men. Freire lost several hundred dead/wounded and 80 captives.

Battle map of the Battle of Ocaña

With Soult now behind him, Aréizaga had to fight. He deployed near Ocaña, which anchored his left flank. His infantry held the left & centre in 2 lines. Further left, on Ocaña’s far side, Gen. Zayas’ 6,000 man vanguard stood. The remaining cavalry had his open right. Soult attacked. Sebastiani’s IV Corps (2 divisions, 7 German, 6 Polish, 2 Dutch battalions) attacked Lacy’s div. (7,700 feet) on Aréizaga’s centre-right, driving him back. Lacy’s counterattack nearly broke Sebastiani. Soult sent Girard’s div. (16 bns), stabilising his left. His other men attacked Aréizaga’s centre, helped by a 30 gun battery.

Milhaud as a comissar

At this time, Milhaud, supported by Paris & Woirgard’s div. (1,500 horse, 10e Hussards, 21e Chasseurs à Cheval, 13e & 22e Dragons), reached Aréizaga’s right. Olive groves hid them until they charged Freire, breaking him. The French cavalry then charged Aréizaga’s right, breaking one division after another. Soult ordered his whole line forward. Finally, Dessolles’ reserve (7,000 feet) seized Ocaña, splitting Aréizaga’s left. His whole army broke. Zayas covered the retreat. French cavalry broke him later that day. Soult lost 2,000 dead/wounded. Aréizaga lost 1,800 dead, 2,700 wounded, 14-17,000 captive, 40-50 guns, 30 flags & all his baggage. Ocaña was Spain’s greatest defeat of the war.

Garrett Anderson

Garrett Anderson
Garrett has a long interest in military history. His interest in Napoleonic era warfare came after a chance exposure to the Richard Sharpe series. Initially writing about British victories, he expanded to covering all theaters of the Napoleonic Wars, as well as the 7 Years War, the South American rebellions and Nader Shah’s campaigns. He lives in the U.S.

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