Battle of Pombal

Battle of Pombal
Part of the Peninsular War
Date11 March 1811
LocationPombal, Portugal
Result French victory
France French Empire United Kingdom United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
France Michel Ney United Kingdom Viscount Wellington
Luís do Rego Barreto
9,340 16,000
Casualties and losses
227 205

The Battle of Pombal (March 11, 1811) was a sharp skirmish during Marshal Masséna's retreat from the Lines of Torres Vedras, the first in a series of lauded rearguard actions fought by Michel Ney. The French were pursued by Wellington and his British-Portuguese but the Allied advance was energetically contested by Ney's efforts, preventing Wellington from crushing Masséna's army when it was critically vulnerable.

At the Battle of Pombal, Ney turned to face the larger Anglo-Portuguese forces and defeated their attack.


Unable to break the Lines of Torres Vedras, Ney was given charge of the rear-guard while the main body of the French army withdrew from Portugal. The rear-guard consisted of Mermet's and Marchand's divisions.

From the very beginning, Marshal Ney deceived the 'Iron Duke' (Wellington), manoeuvring his troops so that Wellington believed that the French were about to return to Torres Vedras, and thus he suspended an offensive operation for several hours, giving Masséna a huge running start.

When it became clear to Wellington that he had been deceived, the British-Portuguese left Torres Vedras and began a pursuit. The British caught up with Ney at the town of Pombal.


A British advanced-guard much larger than that of the French, the latter consisting of only two battalions of the 6th Light Infantry, attacked the town of Pombal. The two French battalions were overwhelmed by numbers and, after a bitter struggle, the French were forced out of Pombal.

It was then that Ney rushed in and spoke to the six[1] th Light Infantry. “Chasseurs,” he said, “you are losing your beautiful reputation, and you will dishonour yourselves forever if you do not drive the enemy out of Pombal. Come on! Those who are brave, with me!” With these words he galloped towards Pombal and the sixteenth Chasseurs charged with great enthusiasm. The Anglo-Portuguese driven out, all the way to the river Arunca. Several allied soldiers drowned.


Despite success, Ney promptly set fire to the town of Pombal and continued his retreat on the right bank of the river Arunca. The next action would be the Battle of Redinha.

General Picton was very impressed by Ney’s actions, as the former was able to observe the latter’s deceiving movements, claiming that it was a ‘perfect lesson in the art of war’.


  1. Oman: A History of the Peninsular War. VolIV

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