Battle of Sorauren
The Battle of Sorauren was part of a series of engagements in late July 1813 called the Battle of the Pyrenees in which a combined British and Portuguese force under Sir Arthur Wellesley held off Marshal Soult's French forces attempting to relieve Pamplona.
With sizable Anglo-Portuguese forces tied up in assaulting San Sebastián and besieging Pamplona, the new French commander Marshal Soult launched a counterattack with the Armée d'Espagne through Maya and Roncesvalles. Although the French initially enjoyed local superiority, the tough terrain combined with stubborn British and Portuguese resistance slowed the French advance to a crawl.
The main French column of about 40,000 men under Clausel and Reille marched to attack Sorauren. On the 27 July the heavily outnumbered British forces there were drawn up on the Oricain Ridge. Wellesley made a dramatic ride along the ridge in front of the cheering British and Portuguese troops and Soult postponed the attack until the next day. By the time the French attack was launched, reinforcements had arrived, bringing the total allied force to about 24,000 men.
On the 28th the fighting at the top of the ridge was bitter and bloody, but the defenders held the French off. About midday, the 6th Division arrived and Wellesley sent them to assault the French right flank. More fresh units reached the field and Soult soon ordered a withdrawal. The French suffered 4,000 casualties, while Wellesley's army lost 1,500 British, 1,000 Portuguese and 1000 Spaniards.
On the 30 July the retreat from Sorauren cost the French 3,500 casualties, as they tried to get between Wellesley's army and San Sebastián. At Beunza, 5100 Portuguese and 4000 British fended off another attempt.
With his momentum lost, Soult withdrew into France to prepare his defence against the imminent Allied offensive. In European military history, Sorauren is renowned for two things. The Soult offensive is compared to the Ardennes Offensive in 1944. Both were last desperate attempts to ward off the enemy and both exhausted the last military resources of Napoleon and Hitler respectively. It was also the crowning achievement of the Portuguese Army in the Peninsular War, which became Wellington's work horse as "the fighting cocks of the army" (Letter to Lord Liverpool, 25 July, Lesaka.)
- Oman, Charles (1922), "Section XXXVIII: Chapter V: Soult's Retreat, July 30–31. The second battle of Sorauren", History of the Peninsular War, VI, Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 681–706
- Napier, Sir William Francis Patrick (1879), "Second Battle of Sorauren", English battles and sieges in the Peninsula, London: J. Murray, pp. 315–317
- Weller, Jac (1992), Wellington in the Peninsula