|Battle of Maya|
|Part of the Peninsular War|
|French Empire||United Kingdom|
|Commanders and leaders|
|General d'Erlon||Lieutenant-General Stewart|
|Casualties and losses|
|2,000 dead or wounded||1,347 dead or wounded|
The Battle of Maya (25 July 1813) was a battle between French and British forces during the Peninsular War (1808-1814).
Background[edit | edit source]
While Wellington concentrated his efforts on capturing the strategically important port of San Sebastián, he sent 11,000 men under the Irish-Spanish General O'Donnell to blockade Pamplona. To prevent a French counter-attack over the Pyrenees Wellington positioned General Hill's Corps over a 50 mile (80 km) front, to cover the coastal road and the main passes over the mountains.
The battle[edit | edit source]
Having rapidly rebuilt and reorganised his forces after their defeat, the French under Marshal Soult launched an attack towards Pamplona through the passes of Maya and Roncesvalles. The French force at Maya consisted of three divisions, with additional units of National Guards, around 21,000 men in all, commanded by d'Erlon. The pass at Maya was defended by units of the British 2nd Division commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir William Stewart. The pass itself was held by the Lieutenant-Colonel John Cameron's 1st Brigade and the Brigadier-General Pringle's 3rd Brigade, while the remainder of the division were posted several miles further back.
The French advanced from Urdax at around 10:30. Stewart, having heard the sounds of gunfire from Roncevalles had ridden off earlier to investigate, and so command devolved to Brigadier-General Pringle, who had arrived in Spain just the day before.
Pringle was heavily outnumbered, and despite fierce resistance - particularly from a half battalion of the 1st/92nd, when only 400 Scotsmen held an entire French division at bay for twenty minutes before pulling back, having lost half their strength killed or wounded - and the gradual arrival of the rest of the Division, the British were slowly, but inevitably, pushed back.
At 14:00 Stewart returned and ordered the British to retreat to a better defensive position. An hour later, with the French on the cusp of a decisive victory, the arrival of three battalions, about 1,500 men, from the British 7th Division on the French flank made d'Erlon hesitate. Wary of walking into a trap, he disengaged, and the fighting subsided.
At 20:00 the British, having learned of the defeat at Roncesvalles, were obliged to retreat southwards towards Pamplona.
Aftermath[edit | edit source]
Later Wellington admitted that splitting his forces in order to besiege both San Sebastián and Pamplona simultaneously was "one of the greatest faults he ever committed in war".
Sources[edit | edit source]
- Chandler, David, Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars, Wordsworth Editions, 1999. ISBN 1-84022-203-4
- Longford, Elizabeth, Wellington: The Years of the Sword, Panther Books Ltd., 1971. ISBN 586 03548 6
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