10 April 1814

The last major battle of the Peninsular War was fought over the important southern French city of Toulouse and - like many of the Duke of Wellington's attacks on fortified strongholds - proved a bloody affair.

It was also an unnecessary battle as Napoleon Bonaparte had abdicated four days earlier.

However, the protagonists Wellington and Marshal Soult were not to know of the end of the war and so went about their duties. The former to push further into France, and the latter to hold the British at bay.

Soult had some 42,000 men to defend Toulouse and he had organised them well in tough-to-crack positions. Wellington led just under 50,000 soldiers, a fifth of them Spanish.

The main British battle plan was to take the heights overlooking the city from the east and make the defenders' position untenable.

To do this Marshal William Beresford was given the unenviable task of moving against the heights under heavy enemy fire for two miles (3 km).

Simultaneously, General Rowland Hill would attack the western suburbs in a diversionary assault.

Beresford's attack did not run smoothly as mud initially delayed his force and then severely hampered his troops' ability to progress up the steep slope of the eastern ridge.

They were repelled by the defenders, but a second attack - followed by desperate fighting - managed to force the French from their positions.

Wellington then ordered guns dragged to the heights, an operation that was difficult in the extreme, but one that eventually forced Soult to withdraw his army.

He did so having given the Allies another hard fight.

Soult's casualties were 3200 men, while Wellington lost 4500 dead and injured.



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