Following the capture by the British and Portuguese of Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo, Lord Wellington advanced into Spain. Marshal Marmont commanded the French forces, known as the “Army of Portugal”, which lay across his path between Toros and Tordesillas to the East of Salamanca. The armies were of much the same size. Marmont was under pressure from Joseph Napoleon, King of Spain and the Emperor Napoleon’s brother, to attack Wellington’s army. His own troops also agitated for an offensive move.
On 15th July 1812 Marmont began his offensive against Wellington’s right and Wellington, who was caught off guard, fell back on Salamanca. On 16th July 1812 a letter from Joseph to Marmont fell into Wellington’s hands. The letter stated that Joseph was marching to join Marmont with 13,000 men. Another French general, Cafferelli, with a force of cavalry and guns was due to join Marmont in the next few days.
The two opposing armies marched on Salamanca, crossing the River Tormes on 21st July. Wellington was resolved to avoid action other than under the most advantageous of circumstances. Marmont was anxious not to engage in full battle but felt constrained to fight some sort of engagement.
On 22nd July Marmont thought he had the right opportunity. Dust clouds beyond the hills to the South of Salamanca suggested that Wellington was retreating. British troops could be seen in the hills opposite the French positions, but Marmont assumed this was a rearguard. His ideal opportunity had arisen whereby he could engage a small force and achieve success, thereby satisfying the demands of his army and his commander, King Joseph.
Although Wellington had sent his heavy baggage on the road to Ciudad Rodrigo, not a rear guard but his whole army still lay concealed in the hills before the French.
French troops advanced and fighting took place around the chapel of Nostra Señora de la Peña. Assuming that two divisions was all he faced, Marmont resolved to engage these troops while his army marched off to the left and came in behind the British, cutting them off from the rest of Wellington’s army which he took to be retreating in the distant dust cloud.
During the day Wellington moved his hidden divisions into positions facing to the South. At about 2pm Wellington saw the nature of Marmont’s move around his flank. The French divisions were marching along the British and Portuguese front, dangerously strung out and exposing their flanks.
Wellington galloped to his extreme right, where Pakenham’s Third Division was arriving from Salamanca with D’Urban’s Portuguese Cavalry. He ordered an immediate attack on the head of the French column. Wellington then crossed the hills to his centre and directed the Fifth and Fourth Divisions to attack the French column, supported by the Sixth and Seventh Divisions and two Portuguese infantry brigades.
D’Urban’s cavalry and the infantry of the Third Division began the battle, charging Thomières’ Division at the head of the French column. After heavy fighting involving Lieutenant Colonel Wallace’s First Brigade the French gave way.
The 12th Light Dragoons of Salamanca
The Battle of Salamanca
Further to the left the British Fifth Division advanced down the hillside towards Maucune’s Division, isolated by the extended French column. Maucune formed his battalions in square under the threat of the advancing British cavalry and were attacked by the infantry of the Fifth Division. The British and Portuguese charged the squares and the French were driven back.
The next phase of the battle was the attack by Le Marchant’s brigade of heavy cavalry between the Third and Fifth Divisions. The cavalry struck Maucune’s retreating infantry and overran them. The charge was continued until the cavalry encountered a steady French brigade of infantry in squares and the dragoons were brought to a halt, loosing casualties including General Le Marchant who was killed.
The French divisions of Thomières and Maucune had been forced out of the battle and the division of Brennier had suffered heavy casualties. At the beginning of the fighting Marshal Marmont was wounded as was his deputy, General Bonnet. Taking command, General Clausel launched a counter attack on the open flank of the Fourth Division with considerable effect, until Beresford brought up a Portuguese Brigade from the second line of the Fifth Division and halted the French assault. The arrival of the Sixth Division, advancing in support of the Fourth Division, drove back the French.
By this time night was well advanced and the French Army of Portugal was streaming back to the Tormes River to escape the British and Portuguese assault. The battle had ended with a complete victory for Wellington.
5th Dragoon Guards, in 1922 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, now Royal Dragoon Guards *
3rd Dragoons, later 3rd King’s Own Hussars, then Queen’s Own Hussars, now Queen’s Royal Hussars *
4th Dragoons, *
11th Light Dragoons, later 11th Hussars, then the Royal Hussars and now the King’s Royal Hussars *
12th Light Dragoons, now 9th/12th Royal Lancers
14th Light Dragoons, later 14th Hussars, then 14th/20th King’s Hussars, now King’s Royal Hussars. *
16th Light Dragoons, later 16th Lancers, then 16th/5th Queen’s Royal Lancers now the Queen’s Royal Lancers. *
Coldstream Foot Guards
3rd Foot Guards
1st Foot, the Royal Scots *
2nd Foot, the Queen’s Regiment and now the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment *
4th Foot, the King’s Own Royal Regiment and now the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment *
5th Foot, later the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and now the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers*
7th Foot, the Royal Fusiliers and now the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers *
9th Foot , the Norfolk Regiment and now the Royal Anglian Regiment *
11th Foot, the Devonshire Regiment and now the Devon and Dorset Regiment *
23rd Foot, the Royal Welch Fusiliers*
24th Foot, the South Wales Borderers and now the Royal Regiment of Wales *
27th Foot, Inniskilling Fusiliers and now the Royal Irish Regiment*
30th Foot, the East Lancashire Regiment and now the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment *
32nd Foot, the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and now the Light Infantry *
36th Foot, the Worcestershire Regiment and now the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment *
38th Foot, the South Staffordshire Regiment and now the Staffordshire Regiment *
40th Foot, the South Lancashire Regiment and now the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment *
42nd Foot (Highlanders), the Black Watch (the Royal Highland Regiment)
43rd Foot, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and now the Royal Green Jackets *
44th Foot, the Essex Regiment and now the Royal Anglian Regiment*
45th Foot, the Sherwood Foresters and now the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment *
48th Foot, the Northamptonshire Regiment and now the Royal Anglian Regiment *
51st Foot, the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and now the Light Infantry *
52nd Foot, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and now the Royal Green Jackets *
53rd Foot, the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry and now the Light Infantry*
58th Foot, the Northamptonshire Regiment and now the Royal Anglian Regiment *
60th Foot, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and now the Royal Green Jackets *
61st Foot, the Gloucestershire Regiment and now the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment *
68th Foot, the Durham Light Infantry and now the Light Infantry *
74th Foot (Highlanders), the Highland Light Infantry and now the Royal Highland Fusiliers *
79th Foot (Highlanders), the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, then the Queen’s Own Highlanders and now the Highlanders *
83rd Foot, the Royal Irish Rifles and now the Royal Irish Regiment *
88th Foot, the Connaught Rangers, disbanded in 1922 *
94th Foot, the Connaught Rangers, disbanded in 1922 *
95th Rifles, the Rifle Brigade and now the Royal Green Jackets *
* These regiments have Salamanca as a battle honour.
British order of battle:
Commander: Lieutenant General (local General) the Earl of Wellington
Cavalry: commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Stapleton Cotton
1st Brigade: commanded by Major General Gaspard Le Marchant: 5th Dragoon Guards, 3rd and 4th Dragoons
2nd Brigade: commanded by Major General George Anson: 11th, 12th and 16th Light Dragoons
3rd Brigade: commanded by Major General Victor von Alten: 14th Light Dragoons and 1st Hussars, King’s German Legion
4th Brigade: commanded by Major General Baron Bock: 1st and 2nd Dragoons, King’s German Legion
Portuguese Brigade: commanded by Brigadier General D’Urban: 1st, 11th and 12th Portuguese Dragoons.
1st Division: commanded by Major General Henry Campbell
1st Brigade: commanded by Colonel Fermor: 1st/Coldstream, 1st/3rd Guards, Co 5th/60th Foot
2nd Brigade: commanded by Major General Wheatley: 2nd/24th, 1st/42nd, 2nd/58th, 1st/79th Foot and Co 5th/60th Foot.
3rd Brigade: commanded by Major General Baron Löw: 1st, 2nd and 5th Line Battalions, King’s German Legion.
3rd Division: commanded by Colonel (local Major General) Packenham
1st Brigade: commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Wallace: 1st/45th, 74th, 1st/88th and 3 Cos 5th/60th Foot.
2nd Brigade: commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Campbell: 1st/5th, 2nd/5th, 2nd/83rd and 94th Foot.
Portuguese Brigade: commanded by Colonel Manley Power: 1st and 2nd/9th, 1st and 2nd/21st Portuguese Line and 12th Caçadores.
4th Division: commanded by Major General (local Lieutenant General) Lowry Cole
1st Brigade: commanded by Major General William Anson: 3rd/27th, 1st/40th, Co 5th/60th Foot.
2nd Brigade: commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Ellis: 1st/7th, 1st/23rd, 1st/48th and Co Brunswick Oels.
Portuguese Brigade: commanded by Colonel George Stubbs: 1st and 2nd/11th and 1st and 2nd/23rd Portuguese Line and 7th Caçadores.
5th Division: commanded by Major General (local Lieutenant General) Leigh.
1st Brigade: commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Greville: 3rd/1st, 1st/9th, 1st and 2nd/38th Foot and Co Brunswick Oels.
2nd Brigade: commanded by Major General Pringle: 1st and 2nd/4th, 2nd/30th, 2nd/44th Foot and Co Brunswick Oels.
Portuguese Brigade: commanded by Brigadier General Spry: 1st and 2nd/3rd, 1st and 2nd/15th Portuguese Line and 8th Caçadores.
6th Division: commanded by Major General Clinton.
1st Brigade: commanded by Major General Hulse: 1st/11th, 2nd/53rd, 1st/61st and Co 5th60th Foot.
2nd Brigade: commanded by Colonel Hinde: 2nd, 1st/32nd and 1st/36th Foot.
Portuguese Brigade: commanded by Brigadier General de Rezende: 1st and 2nd/8th, 1st and 2nd/12th Portuguese Line and 9th Caçadores.
7th Division: commanded by Major General Hope.
1st Brigade: commanded by Colonel Colin Halkett: 1st and 2nd Light Battalions King’s German Legion, 7 Cos Brunswick Oels.
2nd Brigade: commanded by Major General von Bernewitz: 51st, 68th Foot and Chasseurs Britanniques.
Portuguese Brigade: commanded by Colonel Collins: 1st and 2nd/7th, 1st and 2nd/19th Portuguese Line and 2nd Caçadores.
Light Division: commanded by Lieutenant General Charles, Baron von Alten.
1st Brigade: commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Barnard: 1st/43rd Foot, 2nd/95th Rifles (4 Cos), 3rd/95th Rifles (5 Cos) and 3rd Caçadores.
2nd Brigade: commanded by Major General Vandeleur: 1st/52nd Foot, 1st/95th Rifles (8 Cos and 1st Caçadores.
1st Brigade: commanded by Brigadier General Pack: 1st and 2nd/1st, 1st and 2nd/16th Portuguese Line and 4th Caçadores.
2nd Brigade: commanded by Brigadier General Bradford: 1st and 2nd/13th, 1st and 2nd/14th Portuguese Line and 5th Caçadores.
Spanish Division: commanded by Major General De España: 2nd/Princesa, Tiradores de Castilla, 2nd/Jaen, 3rd/1st Seville and Caçadores de Castilla.
Artillery: Lieutenant Colonel Hoylet Framingham: 54 guns
Troops of Ross, Bull and Macdonald, Royal Horse Artillery.
Batteries of Lawson, Gardiner, Greene, Douglas, May and Arriaga (Portuguese).
On 12th August the British, Portuguese and Spanish army marched into Madrid. The effect of Salamanca was to convince the British Government finally that the war in Spain should be continued. Wellington obtained a moral ascendancy over his French opponents that he did not lose. This aggressively conducted battle dispelled Wellington’s reputation for being a cautious general who only fought defensive actions from positions of overwhelming strength.
The Capture of 62nd French Regiment’s Eagle
On 22nd July 1812 The Duke of Wellington with 65,000 men encountered Marshal of France Marmont with 49,000 troops. For seven days previously Marmont had manoeuvred to cut off Wellingtons troops from their base in Salamanca (Spain), but Wellington gave ground and prevented the attempt. On July 22nd, believing Wellington was retreating, Marmont sent his leading Division ahead, to envelope the right of the British Army. When it was a mile ahead of the French Army, Wellington ordered the 3rd Division to attack it. Surprised on the march, the French Army were driven back in confusion. Meanwhile the 4th and 5th Divisions in the centre of Wellington’s line were ordered to attack the rest of Marmont’s Army.
The 44th of Foot, part of the 5th Division, were on the right of the line on a slope on one of the two heights before Salamanca. As the Division advanced on the east side of the hill, which was thickly covered with flax and evergreen trees, the French were unexpectedly seen no more than twenty yards away. Both sides opened fire at the same time and then the British charged, supported by cavalry, cutting through the French, capturing the whole opposing Regiment, the 62nd French Regiment, with their eagle and two standards.
The French officer who was carrying the eagle wrenched it from the standard, but it was seen by Lieutenant William Pearce of the 44th trying to conceal it under his grey greatcoat. Lt Pearce, aided by Pte Finley, tried to get possession of it and in the struggle was attacked by a French rifleman. The French soldier was shot dead by Pte Murray of the 44th Light Company and the Eagle was placed on a Sergeant’s halberd.
The French Army was routed. The French lost 15,000 killed or wounded. The Eagle was put into the keeping of the Regimental Quarter Guard for the night. The next day and night it was carried by Lt Pearce on the march and it was eventually handed over to Wellington’s headquarters. Before handing it over, however Lt Pearce scratched his name on the pedestal with a nail to mark its identity.
Wellington’s headquarters brought the Eagle back to London as part of the ‘spoils of war’. At that time captured trophies were regarded as part of the spoils of war and property of the crown and not property of the Regiment responsible for their capture. In 1835 King William IV directed that trophies such as the Eagle were to remain at the Royal Hospital Chelsea as ‘memorials of valour and discipline of His Majesty’s Land Forces’. The Eagle was returned to the Essex Regiment in 1947 by approval of King George VI.
Today the 62nd Regiment’s Eagle is held in the Essex Regiment’s museum at Chelmsford.
The Eagle became the emblem of the Essex regiment and was carried on by the 3rd Bn of the Royal Anglian Regiment where it was worn as a collar badge.
The Eagle now remains part of the uniform of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Royal Anglian Regiment, worn as a shoulder badge on the left arm of service dress and number 2 dress.