Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Coa

The bridge over the river Coa is about a mile from Almeida. You go down a steep and curving road and cross the dry river bed of the Coa on a new road bridge. However a few hundred yards away is the original bridge, where Crauford almost lost the Light Division on that fateful morning of 24th July 1810.

The Light Division was deployed on the right bank of the river Coa maintaining contact with the garrison of Almeida. Wellington suggested that they withdraw to the left bank, but Crauford was confident he could remain a little longer. On the morning of 24th July he was suddenly confronted by the 24,000 men of Marshal Ney's VI corps.

The Light Division were bundled down the road and nearby hill towards the river, hotly pursued by the numerous French. When they reached the bridge, they realised that part of 52nd were still on the French held bank, so they had to recapture a hill overlooking the bridge.

Once they retreated over the bridge they were safe. The French lost heavily in attack after attack over the narrow bridge, which was easily defended by the riflemen scattered over the rocky hill on the left bank.

It was not a battle, only a Combat of the Coa. It could easily have resulted in the destruction of the famous Light Division. There was much criticism of Crauford, but Wellington defended him as "his intentions were good".

Like many rivers in Portugal and Spain, the Coa is dry for much of the year. When it does rain, it quickly fills and becomes a raging torrent. You can see from this photograph how wide the river is at this point. At the time of the battle the river was in full flow

We only had half an hour to explore the area around the bridge. Because the new road is out of sight, it is very quiet around the bridge now, and possible to explore as much as you like. Even with the river bed dry it was very difficult to cross other than by the bridge.


  1. My favourite "engagement". You do not happen to have the scale for that nice little map. It is the best one I have seen.



  2. Hello John

    Sorry, I have no idea of the scale. I can't even remember where I got the map!

    Its a lovely spot to visit. Jan and I visited it again and spent an afternoon there. She likes drawing, and sat with a pad and pencil. I climbered all over the area, then we sat and I read her an extract from a description of the combat. On a warm afternoon it was very easy to sit there and be tranported back in your mind to 1810.

    Do visit if you ever get the chance.