17 May 1813 – North Spain – Day 7
Soult must concentrate his army Santander-Medina-Soncillo
10th army retreat to Torrelavega to avoid being surrounded
11th army retreat to Medina having lost battle of Reinosa
12th army attack Aguilar to disrupt allied advance
Wellington captures 8 days French supplies at Reinosa
1st army prepare to attack Comillas
4th army occupy Reinosa
2nd army hold Aguilar
Second Battle of Aguilar
The second battle of Aguilar is decided by fighting in and around the town
The town is held by 2 British and 1 Spanish brigade
It is attacked by four elite French and Italian brigades
The garrison is routed, and the British unable to retake the town
The French lose 3 infantry and 1 cavalry (1300 casualties)
The British lose 7 infantry and 1 cavalry (2900 casualties)
Marshal Soult has accepted that he cans no longer hope to take the city of Llanes, the French campaign objective.
All three of his armies have retreated into Santander district, and two of the three Anglo/Spanish armies have followed them. His personal objective now is to drive Wellington back into Llanes district and secure the border. This would return to the position at the start of the campaign.
To stand any chance of achieving this aim he must win the second battle of Aguilar. This would force 2nd British army to retreat into Llanes district, and he would then only have to force 4th Spanish army to do the same.
However if he loses the battle Wellington will be able to move his whole army into Santander district, and be in a good position to take Santander itself.
He learned a painful lesson having lost the battle of Reinosa, namely that possession of the town is more important than defeating the whole enemy army.
Observing that the British only had two British and one Spanish infantry brigades at Aguilar, he concentrated four of his best infantry brigades to attack the town. This meant that 23rd corps in the north, and 24th corps in the south, were both outnumbered. They were both ordered to pin 3rd and 4th British corps, whilst he attacked in the centre.
The battle opened badly, when both French corps lost cavalry melee. This made any attempt to threaten the British flanks impossible. Worst still it left the British artillery covering the approach to the town.
When the situation is desperate a wise man will retreat. Soult ordered an attack. By sheer determination, and good luck with the dice, he pulled it off. In just one hour of fighting he had taken the town and routed all three defending brigades.
At last some good news for the French!