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Battle of the Baztan Valley

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Battle of the Baztan Valley

Battle of the Baztan Valley
Part of the War of the Pyrenees

Doneztebe-Santesteban in the Baztan valley
Date 23 July - 1 August 1794
Location Baztan Valley, Spain
Result French victory
Belligerents
French Republic  Spain
French Émigrés
Commanders and leaders
Bon-Adrien Moncey
Jacques Muller
Don Ventura Caro
Marquis Saint-Simon
Col. Gabriel de Mendizábal Iraeta
Strength
3 divisions[1] Not known
Casualties and losses
Over 600[1] Over 2,000, 300 cannons[1]

The Battle of the Baztan Valley was fought between 23 July and 1 August 1794 during the French Revolutionary War, between a French force from the Army of the western Pyrenees commanded by Bon-Adrien Jeannot de Moncey and the Spanish forces led by Don Ventura Caro. The French army drove the Spanish from their defenses, then followed the valley northward to the Atlantic coast. The Spanish forces holding the coastal defenses were compelled to surrender or flee.

Background

Sans Culotte Camp

General of Division (MG) Jacques Léonard Muller was appointed commander of the French Army of the western Pyrenees on 5 October 1793. The year 1793 saw no major battles in the western Pyrenees, though a number of skirmishes occurred between French and Spanish forces. On 5 February 1794, Lieutenant General (LG) José Urrutia y de las Cases attacked the Sans Culottes Camp, a fortified hilltop near Hendaye. A French division led by MG Louis Dubouquet repelled the 13,000 Spanish infantry, and their 700 supporting cavalry and artillery. Spanish casualties numbered 335 while French losses were unknown.[2][3]

June operations

On 3 June, a 2,300-man French brigade led by General of Brigade (BG) Lavictoire stormed Casa Fuorte, a position at the Izpegi Pass (Col d'Ispeguy), 13.5 km airline km west of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. The 1,000 defenders, including a battalion of the Spanish Zamora Infantry Regiment, three companies of the Aldudes Rifles, and the French Émigré Légion Royal, lost 94 killed and wounded, plus 307 captured. Other Spanish defenses on Izpegi Ridge and the Maya Pass were also overrun that day.[4] On 23 June, Captain General Don Ventura Caro with 8,000 infantry and 500 cavalry and artillery unsuccessfully assailed Mount Calvari near Bera (Vera). The Spanish lost 500 killed and wounded, plus 34 captured. The French defenders lost 30 killed and 200 wounded.[5]

Battle

Monte Argintzo

The June fighting gave the French army a foothold in the Baztan Valley. Muller ordered the Spanish positions in the Baztan to be assaulted and assigned MG Moncey to carry out the operation. On 10 July, BG Antoine Digonet and 4,000 French troops attacked the Zamora Infantry and the Légion Royal on Monte Argintzo (Mont Arquinzu). The peak is located at , 10 km south of Elizondo in the Baztan. The outnumbered defenders lost 314 casualties including LG Marquis of Saint-Simon badly wounded. After the battle, the republican French massacred 49 royalist French prisoners.[6]

Baztan

War of the Pyrenees, Western Theater

Moncey had his own and two other divisions under his supervision.[1]

  • MG Bon-Adrien Jeannot de Moncey
    • 13 infantry battalions, 800 cavalry, 14 4-pdr cannons, 4 heavier cannons
  • MG Henri Delaborde
    • 9 infantry battalions
  • MG Jean Henri Guy Nicolas de Frégeville
    • 9 infantry battalions, 2 squadrons light cavalry

Beginning on 23 July, Moncey's divisions attacked the Spanish entrenchments in the Baztan. The valley includes the towns of Elizondo, where the Baztan river turns from southwest to west and Doneztebe where the river turns north and becomes known as the Bidasoa. By between 27 and 30 July, the Spanish defenses were overcome and Moncey turned his divisions northward to follow the Bidasoa to the Atlantic coast. The number of French and Spanish killed and wounded is unknown, but the French captured 200 Spaniards and four artillery pieces. Emerging from the mountains on 1 August, Moncey fell upon the Spanish coastal defenses from the flank and rear with 12,000 men, capturing the San Marcial heights southeast of Irun and Hondarribia (Fuenterrabia). Trapped by the French maneuver, LG Don Vicente de los Reyes surrendered with 2,000 Spanish soldiers, 300 cannon, and five colors. The French suffered 600 casualties.[1][7]

Result

Moncey's offensive completely unhinged the Spanish defensive position behind the Bidasoa River. The French went on to seize the port of Pasaia (Pasajes) on 2 August. A bigger prize fell on 3 August when San Sebastián surrendered to the French with 1,700 Spanish prisoners and 90 cannon. French losses were negligible. The town of Tolosa fell to Moncey soon afterward.[1][7]

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b c d e f Smith, p 88
  2. ^ Smith, p 72. Smith gives all details except the location.
  3. ^ Beckett-Chandler, p 299. Beckett names Hendaye as the location.
  4. ^ Smith, p 83
  5. ^ Smith, p 85
  6. ^ Smith, p 87. Smith gives the location of "Mount Arquinzu" as 24 km northeast of Pamplona.
  7. ^ a b Beckett-Chandler, p 300

References

Printed materials

  • Beckett, Ian F. W. "Moncey: An Honest Man". Chandler, David (ed.). Napoleon's Marshals. New York: Macmillan, 1987. ISBN 0-02-905930-5
  • Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-276-9
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