Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Louis XIV and Signal Redoubts

The Signal Redoubt overlooking Sare

I suspect that when most people think about a Napoleonic battlefield they conjure up a picture of an area 2-4 miles where the commander in chief can see most, if not all, of the field whilst sitting on his horse on a suitable hill. Indeed they would not be wrong, for this does describle Waterloo, Jena, Austerlitz and many more.

However the battle of the Nivelle fought between Wellington and Soult on 10 November 1813 does not fit this picture at all. The French held a fortified position between St Jean du Luz on the coast and Urdax some 20 miles inland. Marshal Soult commanded 63,000 men, who were spread along this front. The distances involved caused him considerable command and control problems. Wellington commanded 82,000, and he could choose where to concentrate his attack. Not surprisingly he won!

Along the 20 miles the French had built a series of defensive positions. There were fortified villages and a line of redoubts. The centre of the line was the the Rhune mountain, the village of Sare and the hills behind.

In 1996 my wife and I spent 15 days walking this area and my blog Walking the Pyrenees recalls our experiences. The latest entry concerns our exploration of Louis VIV and The Signal redoubts on the hills behind Sare.


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