After the escape from Zornoza, General Joaquín Blake y Joyes’s army was still in trouble. Marshal Victor was pressing forward through the mountains and in position to cut off one of Blake’s divisions under the command of General Pedro Caro y Sureda, III marqués de La Romana, but Blake halted his retreat and turned to join Romana at Espinosa. The 23,000 Spaniards occupied a strong position. Romana’s division, composed entirely of regular Spanish regiments, held the Spanish right flank. After defeating the Prussians in 1806, Napoleon demanded and received this division to garrison the Baltic coast area. Upon learning of Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, the entire division boarded Royal Navy ships and returned to Spain to fight. On the first day of battle, they repulsed General Villatte’s advance division of Victor’s corps. When Victor arrived later in the day with the rest of his corps, he launched a second attack on Romana’s division, but once again the French were driven back with heavy losses on both sides, including Romana himself, killed leading his troops.
Victor was no Napoleon, but he realized the day’s attacks had forced Blake to weaken his center and left to shore up Romana’s weakened division on the right. The following day Victor ordered Lapisse’s division to attack on the Spanish left at Las Peñucas ridge. It was a fortunate decision. General Acevedo’s division held this ground, but most of his troops were newly raised, inexperienced and untrained. After a short struggle, the Spanish left flank broke and fled. With Lapisse in firm control of the heights above Espinosa, Victor ordered a general advance and the Spanish army collapsed. After the battle over 8,000 Spaniards drifted away to return home rather than reform with Blake’s shattered army at Reinosa.
The Spanish had deployed in front of the town of Espinosa de los Monteros in what would have been a strong position except that to their back was the River Trueba. In the middle of the Spanish line was Espinosa de los Monteros and in the middle of the French line was Quintana de los Prados.
|View of the battlefield from the South: showing French left and Spanish right.|
|The Game Layout|
The First French Attack:
The Spanish seemed to have deployed their right wing in a back position with their backs to the river. This tempted the French to attack as hastily as possible before they could rectify their "mistake".
|Ruffin's French left wing preparing to advance.|
|Romana's Spanish right wing waiting to receive the French attack.|
The French advanced quickly performing a bayonet charge with their first line. This was done so quickly that their second line remained stationary and failed to support, only some cavalry from the reserve advanced in support. The terrain broke up the advance of the columns and a fierce fight ensued with the Spanish on the hills.
|The French attack|
With no way to retreat, the Spanish fought bravely but lost many casualties. The French columns charged home bravely, supported by their skirmishing light infantry. The French cavalry did serious damage to the Spanish who had no cavalry of their own in support, and when they went into square made a good target for the French infantry. However the French had been over confident, and had not brought up their second line, so the could not force the Spanish off the heights and thus the French attack was not a success and the French retired.
|The Spanish forced the French to retire. The French second line look on passively.|
The Second French Attack:
Having been stumped on the right wing, the French looked around for a better place to continue the fight.
|The Spanish centre|
In the centre, the Spanish had placed a large artillery battery which was far from a tempting target for the French.
|The Spanish left|
However the Spanish left looked rather strung-out on the ridge and gave the impression of not being very confident. So the French decided to attack here.
|Lapisse's French right wing prepare to advance|
Thinking the poorly trained Spanish to be an easy target, the French advanced rather rashly and opened fire with their supporting artillery. This caused the Spanish to retire into cover behind the ridge leaving a gap in their line. An enterprising Spanish cavalry commander jumped at the chance, and charged through the gap and surprised the French artillery. Taking courage from this, the Spanish recruits foolishly advanced again where they were destroyed by the superior French infantry.
|The French right advances|
|The Spanish line had been thinned out|
The Spanish Counterattack:
But the counterattack was stopped by Villatte's division and the Spanish morale was broken. Defeated on their right, then left and now their centre they retreated hastily from the field.
Yet again, Commands & Colors delivered a scenario which played out like the historical battle. It was however a closer run thing than the original and the Spanish had caused the French to take heavy losses. It is a scenario that either side could have won, but this time Lady Luck was on the side of the French.