Bussaco Battlefield - History and Facts | History Hit

Bussaco Battlefield

Carvalho, Centro, Portugal

Bussaco Battlefield was the site of a victory by Wellington during the Peninsular War.

Peta Stamper

31 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Bussaco Battlefield

Bussaco or Buçaco Battlefield in Portugal was the site of a British-Portuguese victory against the French during the Peninsular War. Visitors can see the headquarters of the French Marshal André Masséna and also visit the nearby military museum.

Bussaco Battlefield history

Fought on the 27 September 1810 marking the beginning of the three-year Peninsular War, the Battle of Bussaco saw the defeat of French forces by Lord Wellington‘s Anglo-Portuguese army. Emperor Napoleon had ordered his marshal Masséna to drive back the British from Portugal, who began the Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo in April of 1810. The garrison held until it was exploded by the magazine on 26 August, allowing the French to march to Lisbon, although their advance was slowed by Wellington having destroyed bridges en route.

At the end of September 1810, the French met Wellington’s army of 50,000 on the ridge of Bussaco which rises to 509 metres, overlooking the road to Lisbon the French marched. Masséna underestimated Wellington’s numbers, as they hid out of sight behind the ridge and were ordered not to start cooking fires.

Wellington was attacked five times by 65,000 French, yet despite fierce fighting they were driven off. However, Wellington, after a night in the nearby convent, was forced to withdraw to the Lines of Torres Vedras after being outflanked by Masséna’s troops. The British and Portuguese both lost exactly 626 men.

Deprived of food for his men and harried by Anglo-Portuguese hit-and-run tactics, he lost a further 25,000 men captured or dead from starvation or sickness before he retreated into Spain early in 1811. This finally freed Portugal from French occupation except for the fortress of Almeida.

Bussaco Battlefield today

Today, visitors can stroll along the battle ridge lines marvelling at the incredibly steep climb the attacking French made. There is a small museum on the battlefield’s southern end displaying period weapons and mapping the battle.

For those wishing to relive the battle, you can stay at the welcoming Grand Palace Hotel situated in the verdant  Bussaco Forest, originally the 17th century monastery where Wellington rested the night before returning to the battle’s crescendo. The area is also known for its fine wine.

Getting to Bussaco Battlefield

Located along the rural mountain’s slopes, you can reach the Bussaco Battlefield via car by heading for the Museu Militar do Buçaco along the IC2 and N234 from Coimbra city. There is parking on site.

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