This was the first battle on a large scale ever fought by Wellington.

The Honour is borne on the Guidon of the 3rd Hussars.


When dawn broke on the 22nd, the armies were drawn up less than two miles apart, with most of the British hidden behind a range of low hills.

About nine o’clock Le Marchant’s brigade left their bivouac and formed in rear of the infantry in the centre, and at midday, they advanced to support the light dragoons who were skirmishing on the right with the French cavalry. It seemed that Marmont was as reluctant as Wellington to force a general battle, and the morning passed while the enemy slowly manoeuvred south-westwards, round the British right flank.

Then the French Marshal made his fatal mistake: in the early afternoon, thinking that Wellington was already withdrawing towards Ciudad Rodrigo, he ordered his advanced divisions to race ahead and cut the British line of retreat.

The British however, were not retreating, and by ‘that extraordinary extension of his line of march’ Marmont divided his army and gave his opponent the chance for which he had been waiting.

The attack began at a quarter to six in the evening: forty minutes later, 40,000 Frenchmen were vanquished.

Major Clowes, who led the King’s Own Dragoons, made the following entry in his diary:

‘received orders for an attack which commenced with the 3rd Division on the Enemy’s left which was turned by them in the most gallant style’, and that Le Marchant’s brigade then ‘made a determined and effectual charge against the Enemy’s Infantry’, which resulted in their taking seven guns and about 1,400 prisoners, ‘exclusive of killed’

The battle of Salamanca was over, Wellington had lost 5,000 men, of whom 700 were killed: the French had suffered over 15,000 casualties; 7,000 of them were taken prisoner; their Marshal was wounded, as were two of his divisional generals and three were slain.

The losses of the King’s Own Dragoons were small, compared to their success: one officer, Lieutenant Selby, was killed, and seventeen sergeants and privates were killed or wounded.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 3rd Hussars
  2. The Peninsular War 1808-14 timeline