Vimeiro 1808: Wellesleys first victory in the Peninsular

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On 10th August they gathered in Leiria with the Portuguese forces which were under the command of Bernardim Freire de Andrade.

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The strategy adopted was one of marching quickly to Lisbon along the coast. Arthur Wellesley advanced with his troops with the support of several Portuguese units and Bernardim isolated the powerful forts of Almeida and Elvas, which were held by the French.

Vimeiro 1808: Wellesley’s first victory in the Peninsular

Hearing of the English advance on Lisbon, Junot marched with the bulk of his army to meet the English troops. Meanwhile Wellesley received reinforcements of 4. In the dawn of 21 st August, the French arrived in Vimeiro ready to go do battle.

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Taking advantage of the lie of the land, Wellesley set up defensive positions on the highest points of Vimeiro and Ventosa. Junot divided his army into two fronts of attack, one against Vimeiro hill, the right flank of Luso-British forces, and the other against Ventosa, their left flank.

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Wellesley also used a counter-crest tactic, which led the French to climb the hills thinking that they could easily defeat the units present at the top, when at the last moment, forces which had lain in hiding behind the crest, sprang into action. That the brigades had lost contact with each other merely compounded the problems of an already disjointed attack; whereas Solignac chose to climb the slope below Ventosa, Brennier continued to move northwards in search of an easier route.

Right: View from the head of the ravine close to Ventosa. Entering Vimeiro on the Torres Vedras road, turn immediately right following the signpost to the monument. After a few hundred metres, turn right again signposted and climb Vimeiro Hill to find the monument to the battle at the crest.

Vimeiro 1808: Wellesley's first victory in the Peninsular

A fine map of the battlefield, drawn on ceramic tile, stands close-by. Although the ground over which the French columns advanced is still largely clear, housing developments are beginning to encroach onto the slopes where the fighting took place. Left: The monument on Vimeiro Hill.