Battle of Albuera - Aftermath


On the morning of 17 May both sides formed up again. Beresford was preparing for another defensive battle, but Soult was only holding his ground long enough to arrange for transportation of his wounded to Seville. There was little chance of Soult resuming hostilities, since Kemmis's 1,400 strong brigade (previously stranded on the north bank of the Guadiana) joined the Allied army on the battlefield at dawn. Beresford also had the relatively unscathed Portuguese division, Alten's KGL and several Spanish battalions ready for duty; Soult, in contrast, only had Godinot's brigade and Latour-Maubourg's cavalry in a fit state to fight. News that Wellington was marching to Elvas with a further two divisions hastened the Marshal's decision to retreat, as well as persuading Beresford not to launch a premature offensive against Soult's superior artillery and cavalry.

Soult marched away before dawn on 18 May, leaving several hundred wounded behind for the Allies to treat. So many were injured in the battle that two days later British casualties were still waiting to be collected from the field. The chapel at Albuera was filled with wounded Frenchmen, and the dead still lay scattered across the ground. In proportion to the numbers involved, the Battle of Albuera was the bloodiest of the whole Peninsular War.

The losses on both sides were horrific, and while Soult had failed in his aim of relieving the siege of Badajoz, neither side had demonstrated the will to press for a conclusive victory. Allied losses amounted to 5,916: 4,159 British, 389 Portuguese and 1,368 Spaniards. In his despatch of 21 May 1811, Soult estimated British casualties as 5,000 with 800 to 1,000 captured; Spanish as 2,000 with 1,100 captured; Portuguese as 700 to 800. French casualties are harder to ascertain—Soult initially declared 2,800 in his dispatch to Napoleon, but the official figure drawn up on 6 July revised that number upward to 5,936. British historians dispute this, comparing Soult's figure of 241 officer casualties with regimental returns that total 362. Sir Charles Oman extrapolated this figure to come up with the total number of French casualties, which he puts at approximately 7,900. In comparison, the French historians Belmas and Lapène place Soult's losses at 7,000. Some of the British dead from the battle, including Major General Daniel Hoghton, are buried in the British Cemetery, Elvas.

Reviewing Beresford's after action report, Wellington was unhappy with its despondent tone and commented to a staff officer "This won't do. It will drive the people in England mad. Write me down a victory." The report was duly rewritten, although Wellington privately acknowledged that another such battle would ruin his army. Soult, on the basis of higher allied casualties, also claimed "a signal victory". He generously paid tribute to the steadfastness of the allied troops, writing "There is no beating these troops, in spite of their generals. I always thought they were bad soldiers, now I am sure of it. I had turned their right, pierced their centre and everywhere victory was mine – but they did not know how to run!"

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