Battles of the Fluvia (April–May 1795)
Fluvia, Battles of the (April–May 1795)
Following the battles of Figueras in November 1794, General Dominique-Catherine Perignon and his Army of the Eastern Pyrenees had the opportunity to push farther into northeastern Spain. The opposing Spanish forces were disorganized and short of equipment. Their commander had been killed at Figueras, and a new general had assumed command. However, instead of pushing on to Gerona and Barcelona, Perignon allowed himself to become involved in a siege of the small fortress at Rosas. The siege dragged on until 3 February 1795. Most of the garrison managed to escape, thanks to Spanish command of the sea. The delay allowed the Spanish to rebuild their army, call up militia units, and transfer regular units from other fronts. The spring of 1795 also saw the formation of volunteer units whose members fought out of patriotic and religious motives.
Disease and desertion had reduced the French Army of the Eastern Pyrenees. Animosity between Perignon and General Pierre-Francois-Charles Augereau, his most successful commander, also hampered operations. The French government decided to replace Perignon with a commander unacquainted with French forces in Spain. General Barthelemy Louis Joseph Scherer was thus transferred from command of the (French) Army of Italy to Spain during the spring of 1795. He was ordered not to take the offensive unless he believed he would achieve victory in any ensuing battles. Admonished by these orders, Scherer nevertheless decided to open an offensive at the end of April.
On 25 April Scherer launched his army against Spanish lines along the Fluvia River. One French column moved against the Spanish left to attract its attention and tie down the Spanish reserves. Scherer, personally leading the main body in two columns against the Spanish center, ran into two Spanish divisions conducting a reconnaissance in force north of the Fluvia. Fighting was heavy; the Spanish fought bravely and with some skill. Scherer managed to push them back but failed to force his way across the Fluvia that night. He resumed the attack the following morning, when his men managed to cross the Fluvia under fire before clearing both the northern and southern banks of the river during the morning. The Spanish responded with a heavy counterattack led by their cavalry against the French left. The French were particularly weak in that arm and were badly shaken. A follow-up attack by a Spanish division stopped any further advance by the French left. By the middle of the afternoon Augereau, on the right, had been halted by the Spanish reserves. During the evening, seeing no prospect of further progress, Scherer ordered his army to retire north of the Fluvia to his new base of operations at Rosas.
Final operations took place at the end of May, when Scherer decided to undertake a reconnaissance against the Spanish positions. The Spanish concentrated against the weak French center and nearly broke through, with only the arrival of reinforcements from the right under Augereau saving the day. Further operations by the French were hampered by the outbreak of malaria in the sickly atmosphere of the region. Both sides settled down to await the outcome of peace negotiations at Basle.
References and further reading
From: The Encyclopedia of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars
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Schérer Barthélemy-Louis-Joseph (1747-1804) by David Hollins