The combat of Granollers of 21-22 January 1810 was an opportunist Spanish victory in Catalonia, which saw a French detachment at Granollers cut to pieces by the Army of Catalonia. At the end of December the third siege of Gerona had finally ended in a French victory. This promised to open the road between France and Barcelona, where the French garrison had been virtually blockaded itself. Marshal Augereau, the current French commander in Catalonia, decided to concentrate on clearing the roads between Gerona and Barcelona. Two main roads were available to the French, one that passed the fortress of Hostalrich, and one that passed the town of Vich. These roads then joined at Granollers, twenty miles outside Barcelona.
Augereau decided to split his force in two. One column, under General Souham, was sent along the Vich road, while Augereau himself used the Hostalrich road. General Duhesme, commander of the garrison of Barcelona, was ordered to bring as many men as he could spare to Granollers, to rendezvous with the incoming columns. Souham’s route brought him into contact with the Army of Catalonia, 7,000 men under the command of General Henry O’Donnell. As the French approached he evacuated Vich, and retreated into the mountains. Souham followed, but failed to press O’Donnell and after a couple of days abandoned the pursuit and returned to his original road (12-13 January).
On 16 January Duhesme led three infantry battalions and 250 cavalry to Granollers. After waiting for four days, Duhesme returned to Barcelona, leaving General Guétry in command of the brigade at Granollers. The three French battalions were billeted in the villages of Santa Perpetua, Mollet and Granollers, in the belief that there were not Spanish forces in the area. This was a mistake. Souham’s decision not to press O’Donnell meant that the Army of Catalonia was free to attack Guétry’s men. At dawn on 21 January 4,000 Spanish troops under the command of the Marquis of Campo Verde attacked the three French detachments, catching them completely by surprise.
The battalion of the 112th Regiment at Santa Perpetua was completely destroyed - only two men escaped from the disaster. The 7th Regiment and the cavalry, billeted at Mollet, were able to escape from the trap, but only after suffering heavy casualties, and were forced to retreat back to Barcelona. The third battalion of the 5th Italian Line Regiment, at Granollers, managed to reach safety inside a fortified convent, where they were besieged for two days. This siege only ended when Marshal Augereau’s column arrived at Granollers and the Spanish retreated back into the hills.
The combat of Granollers had cost the French 1,000 men. General Guétry was amongst the prisoners. Duhesme could also be seen as a casualty of this disaster, for when Augereau reached Barcelona on 24 January his eighteen-month rule of the city came to an end, and he was sent back to France in partial disgrace (Augereau wanted him prosecuted for his behaviour at Barcelona, but his request was turned down by Napoleon). Augereau himself soon found that his supply situation was still poor, and was forced to return north to escort a supply convoy from France. This expedition saw Souham come close to defeat at Vich (20 February 1810), but did at least ease the supply situation for the French garrison of Barcelona, at least for the moment.
|A History of the Peninsular War vol.3: September 1809-December 1810 - Ocana, Cadiz, Bussaco, Torres Vedras, Sir Charles Oman. Part three of Oman's classic history begins with the series of disasters that befell the Spanish in the autumn of 1809 and spring of 1810, starting with the crushing defeat at Ocana and ending with the French conquest of Andalusia and capture of Seville, then moves on to look at the third French invasion of Portugal, most famous for Wellington's defence of the Lines of Torres Vedras.|
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