Following the capture of Corunna in January of 1809, Soult received orders to undertake the invasion of Portugal and occupy Lisbon. After regrouping his forces in Galicia, Soult had on paper 60,000 men available for the upcoming campaign. The Emperor’s instructions were explicit, Soult was to march on Oporto (February 1) and ten days later occupy Lisbon. . Leaving Ney’s smaller corps to garrison duty and suppress guerilla activity, Soult had four divisions of infantry and three of cavalry for the invasion of Portugal, yet no one, including the Emperor was prepared for the difficulties posed by the winter period and the Portuguese countryside.
I hinted in a previous post an interest in writing a few historical scenarios based on Soult’s campaign in Northern Portugal. There are a number of reasons for this, the Portuguese play a prominent role as defender and the terrain which Soult’s army had to negotiate, both of which make interesting ingredients for Peninsular War battles.
Our club members have enjoyed many of the scenarios designed for the ancient and medieval period and now that my interests have returned to the Napoleonic period, I would do a similar project. The ancient battles were a challenge to write scenarios for as most lacked essential details such as battlefield location, terrain and numbers of troops involved; yet despite the obstacles the end result did render a reasonable of interpretation the historical event. For this project this should prove less a problem as vital information can be sourced from official archives, personal journals and diverse military studies.
The next post will give a timeline of Soult’s campaign in Northern Portugal. I have found this a useful tool to orientate my thoughts before making a final selection, as there are possibilities for interesting scenarios between major combats.
Next post: Timeline
. C. Oman, vol. II, p. 171