Salamanca Battlefield - History and Facts | History Hit

Salamanca Battlefield

Arapiles, Castile and Leon, Spain

The Salamanca Battlefield was the site of a major victory by the Duke of Wellington in 1812 during the Peninsular Wars.

Peta Stamper

01 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Salamanca Battlefield

The Salamanca Battlefield was the site of the 1812 Battle of Salamanca, a major clash in the Peninsular Wars, part of the Napoleonic Wars led between Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington. There is a small monument on the Salamanca Battlefield commemorating this historic event.

Salamanca Battlefield history

In April 1812, the Duke of Wellington lead the Anglo-Portuguese Army north to expel Marshal Auguste Marmont’s French army who had invaded Portugal. Marmont retreated to Slaamanca, near Arapiles, in Spain as. Wellington shortly after ordered the destruction of the bridge at Almaraz, severing the only direct contact between Marmont and another French commander, Jean-de-Dieu Soult.

By June, Wellington had crossed the Agueda and advanced east to Salamanca – a major supply town for the French army. The French had converted three convents into fortresses to defend the town, but in little over a week, two of the fortresses were in flames.

For weeks, Wellington found his movements blocked by Marmont, who was increasingly gaining reinforcements. By the day of the battle on 22 July, Wellington had decided to withdraw his troops back into Portugal. However, without realising Marmont had stretched out his army, separating his left flank from the rest of the army. Wellington immediately took this opportunity to attack the left French wing.

Marmont could see some of Wellington’s troops on the ridge of the Arapiles, and from a dust cloud assumed the British continued retreating. He was wrong: most of Wellington’s forces sat behind the ridge. Marmont was wounded early in the battle and argued his broken arm and ribs came before the attack, at which point he had no time to correct the French plan. The French escaped due to a miscommunication between a nearby Spanish fort and Wellington, but the commander was established an a tactical offensive general.

The Battle of Salamanca was fought in Napoleonic Spain on 22 July 1812, during the Peninsula War. Despite being one of the lesser discussed Napoleonic battles, Salamanca defined Wellington's reputation as a defensive general and shattered French dominance on the Iberian peninsula.
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Salamanca Battlefield today

The Battle of Salamanca took place at the great plain near the Arapiles, six miles from the city of Salamanca. The best viewpoint to see what was once a bloody battlefield is from Calvarassa de Arriba – the view Marshal Marmont would have seen the morning of 21 July 1812 as his troops raced down the left-hand side to beat Wellington along the right to the Greater Arapiles.

Getting to Salamanca Battlefield

You can view from the ridge the battlefield from either the village of Calvarrasa de Arriba or Los Arapiles, both a 15 minute drive from Salamanca. For those prepared, you can also hike the Via Verde Salamanca-Alba from the city across the plain in 2 and a half hours.

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