The Battle of Barossa War: Peninsular War
Date: 5th March 1811
Place: Outside Cadiz in Southern Spain
Combatants: British, Portuguese and Spanish against the
Generals: The nominal commander of the British, Portuguese
and Spanish was General La Peña. A British officers, Lieutenant
General Thomas Graham conducted the battle. The French were commanded
by Marshal Victor.
The Battle of Barossa
Size of the armies: The total British, Portuguese and
Spanish force was 15,000 men. Graham commanded 5,200 British and
Portuguese. There were 9,600 Spanish. The French force that attacked
the British and Portuguese contingent was around 7,000.
Uniforms, arms and equipment: Uniforms, arms, equipment and training:
The British infantry wore red waist jackets, white trousers, and
stovepipe shakos. Fusilier regiments wore bearskin caps. The rifle
regiment wore dark green jackets.
The French army wore a wide variety of uniforms. The basic infantry
uniform was dark blue.
The French artillery dressed in uniforms similar to the infantry, the
horse artillery in hussar uniform.
The standard infantry weapon across all the armies was the musket. It
could be fired three or four times a minute, throwing a heavy ball
inaccurately for a hundred metres or so. Each infantryman carried a
bayonet that fitted on the muzzle of his musket.
The British rifle battalion carried the Baker rifle, a more accurate
weapon but slower to fire, and a sword bayonet.
Field guns fired a ball projectile, by its nature of limited use
against troops in the field, unless closely formed. Guns also fired
case shot or canister which fragmented, but was effective only over a
short range. Exploding shells fired by howitzers, as yet in their
infancy, were of particular use against buildings. The British had
‘shrapnel’ a fragmenting form of shell, used against troops.
Winner: The aim of the raid, which was to destroy the French
siege works, was not achieved, but heavy casualties were inflicted on
the two French divisions and the British, Portuguese and Spanish force
was able to return to Cadiz unimpeded. The British consider the battle
In January 1810 Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Soult advanced south into
Andalusia and captured Seville, the city from where the Spanish Cortes
had been attempting to direct the war against the French. Soult
delayed to continue the French advance on the important port of Cadiz,
giving time to the Duke of Albuquerque to slip into the city and hold
it against the French. Cadiz reached by an isthmus, was impregnable
when fully garrisoned. Joseph left Soult to begin a desultory siege of
the city and returned to Madrid.
Map of the Battle of Barossa 5th March 1811
The garrison of Cadiz was increased by further Spanish, British and
Portuguese troops brought in by sea, the British and Portuguese
contingent commanded by Lieutenant General Thomas Graham.
In early 1811 Soult took a substantial part of his Andalusian army
north to Badajoz. It was decided to seize the opportunity to disrupt
the French siege works outside Cadiz by an attack from the rear.
Graham and the British and Portuguese contingent took ship along the
coast, ending in Algeciras, across the bay from Gibraltar. Graham was
joined by troops from the Gibraltar garrison, in particular a
battalion formed from the flank companies of the garrison, commanded
by Major Brown of the 28th Foot.
La Peña arrived and, having a larger contingent, took command. La Peña
ordered the army to march along the coast to the West, towards Cadiz.
Criticism is mounted against La Peña that he marched the troops too
hard and kept changing their destination.
Sergeant Masterman of the 87th Irish Foot capturing the eagle of the
8th of the Line at the Battle of Barrosa: the first eagle captured
by the British Army
Rather than fulfilling the purpose of the expedition, which was to
destroy as much of the French siege works as possible, La Peña
resolved to march along the coast and hurry back into Cadiz with the
assistance of the Spanish force waiting on the far side of the San
The French were moving south to intercept La Peña’s force. Graham
intended to hold a position on the Barossa Ridge, an area of high
ground leading to the coast, some 3 miles short of the San Petri River
crossing, but La Peña ordered him to march on, leaving a rear guard of
a battalion and the few cavalry he had, while five Spanish battalions
would join them to hold off the French. Graham gave this job to Brown
with his battalion of flank companies and marched on to the West.
Soon Brown found himself threatened by two French divisions. He
hastened to leave the ridge sending a message to Graham. Graham turned
his British Portuguese column about and hurried back, sending on an
order to Brown to recover his position on the Barossa Hill.
Graham led his battalion of flank companies into the attack up the
hillside, suffering 236 casualties in his assault on the French.
Coming up on Brown’s right, Colonel Dilkes’ brigade of Foot Guards
attacked up the hill. The French sent down two counter-attacks, both
of which were beaten off, the Foot Guards and Brown’s battalion
forcing their way to the summit.
Wheatley’s brigade (1st/28th Foot (less flank cos), 2nd/67th Foot,
2nd/87th Foot) assaulted Laval’s division on Brown’s left, his 2,600
men pitted against 4,000 French. Laval sent his division against the
British in four columns. The British battalions waited until the
French were within 50 yards and firing from line, two deep, decimated
the French columns. The final blow was a charge by a squadron of
King’s German Legion Hussars. The battle had lasted just one and a
Throughout, La Peña and his Spanish troops held aloof, leaving the
British and Portuguese to fight alone. Had, at the very least, the
Spanish cavalry joined the German Hussars the French losses would have
Once the French had been driven off Graham’s force resumed their march
along the coast and crossed the river back into Cadiz. No attempt was
made to destroy any of the French siege works.
1st Guards, the Grenadier Guards *
Coldstream Guards *
3rd Guards, the Scots Guards *
9th Foot, from 1882 the Norfolk Regiment and now the Royal Anglian
28th Foot, from 1882 the Gloucestershire Regiment and now the Royal
Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment *
47th Foot, from 1882 the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) and now the
Queen’s Lancashire Regiment
67th Foot, from 1882 the Hampshire Regiment and now the Princess of
Wales’s Royal Regiment *
82nd Foot, from 1882 the South Lancashire Regiment and now the Queen’s
87th Foot, from 1882 the Royal Irish Fusiliers and now the Royal Irish
95th Rifles, from 1882 the Rifle Brigade and now the Royal Green
* These regiments have Barossa as a battle honour.
British order of battle:
General Officer Commanding: Lieutenant General Thomas Graham
1st Brigade: commanded by Brigadier General Dilkes
2nd/1st Guards, 2nd/Coldstream Guards (2 Cos), 2nd/3rd Guards (3 Cos),
3rd/95th Rifles (2 Cos).
2nd Brigade: commanded by Colonel Wheatley
1st/28th Foot (less flank cos), 2nd/67th Foot, 2nd/87th Foot
Gibraltar Flank Battalion formed from 1st/9th Foot, 1st/28th Foot,
Cadiz Light Bn. Formed from 2nd/47th Foot, 3rd/95th Rifles.
Portuguese Flank Battalion formed from 1st/20th and 2nd/20th Line
Artillery: commanded by Major Duncan
10 guns of Hughes’ and Shenley’s batteries.
1st Guards lost 10 officers and 210 soldiers killed and wounded
The Coldstream Guards lost 3 officers and 54 soldiers killed and
3rd Guards lost 2 officers and 99 soldiers killed and wounded
The Royal Artillery lost 8 officers and 46 soldiers killed and wounded
9th Foot lost 4 officers and 64 soldiers killed and wounded
28th Foot lost 8 officers and 151 soldiers killed and wounded
47th Foot lost 2 officers and 69 soldiers killed and wounded
67th Foot lost 4 officers and 40 soldiers killed and wounded
82nd Foot lost 2 officers and 97 soldiers killed and wounded
87th Foot lost 5 officers and 168 soldiers killed and wounded
95th Rifles lost 4 officers and 62 soldiers killed and wounded
French Casualties: The French lost 3,500 against the 1,200
Follow-up: Graham was furious at the failure of La Peña to
support him and the way in which the Spanish general had conducted the
raid. The Spanish Cortes awarded Graham the position of Grandee of the
First Class which he refused, resigning his post as commander of the
British and Portuguese forces in Cadiz and returning to the main army
Anecdotes and traditions:
- Lieutenant General Thomas Graham of Balgowan was a Scottish
Landowner and keen cricket player. While in France after the
Revolution Graham’s wife died. A French mob treated his wife’s coffin
with considerable disrespect. Enraged, Graham at the age of 45 raised
a regiment at his own expense in his home county of Perthshire, the
90th Foot, becoming its colonel. The 90th became a light infantry
regiment and was known as the “Perthshire Grey Breeks” from the colour
of the soldier’s trousers. Prevented from further promotion by the
Duke of York’s regulations any earlier, Graham became a Major General
at the specific dying wish of Sir John Moore. Graham subsequently
became Wellington’s second in command and a peer as Lord Lyndoch.
- At Barossa Sergeant Patrick Masterson captured the first French
eagle to be taken in battle, from the 8th of the Line, and was
commissioned. One of the French regiments to take a prominent part in
the battle was the 45th of the Line, which was to lose its eagle to
the Royal Scots Greys at Waterloo.
- Masterson’s regiment, the 87th Foot, were known in the Peninsular
for their battle cry “Faugh a Ballagh”, the Irish for “Clear the way”.
Following Barossa the regiment was “recommended to the Prince Regent”
who awarded them the title of “Prince of Wales’ Own Irish Regiment”
and directed that they wear an eagle on their colours and
- Major Brown led his battalion into the attack singing his
favourite song “Hearts of Oak”, or so it is said.
- After the battle only two officers from the 28th Foot remained
unwounded. See the picture by Matania of those officers toasting the
King at supper that evening.