The combat of Aranjuez of 5 August 1809 was an inconclusive skirmish between the armies of King Joseph and General Venegas, fought towards the end of the Talavera campaign. A key part of the Allied plan for that campaign had involved the Army of La Mancha under Venegas. He was meant to threaten Madrid to prevent General Sebastiani’s 4th Corps from moving west to aid Marshal Victor, but after a good start Venegas had been inactive during the most important days of the campaign. Sebastiani had been able to move to Talavera. Despite receiving these reinforcements the French were unable to break the Allied line at Talavera on 27-28 July, but Wellington had also been prevented from fighting the aggressive battle against one isolated French corps that he had been hoping for.
Soon after winning at Talavera, the British and Spanish had been forced to retreat by the arrival of a large French army from the north west of Spain, under Marshal Soult. Sebastiani’s 4th Corps, along with King Joseph’s Royal Reserves, was free to turn east to deal with Venegas. Despite his lack of activity, Venegas was not lacking in courage. After receiving the news of Wellington and Cuesta’s retreat on the night of 4 August, he decided to fight, and ordered his army to concentrate on the south bank of the Tagus, at Aranjuez.
On 5 August the French reached the Tagus opposite Aranjuez. Sebastiani, whose men were in the lead, attacked the Spanish outposts north of the river, and drove them back across the Tagus. The Spanish destroyed the bridge behind them, and then joined the rest of Venegas’s army, drawn up in order of battle beyond the river. Sebastiani was not discouraged by this. Finding two good fords across the Tagus, he sent his men across the river, and launched an attack on the Spanish position, in the hope that their line might break. Instead, the Spanish held firm, and so Sebastiani called off the attack.
King Joseph then arrived, and decided not to press the attack at Aranjuez. Instead he decided to march west to Toledo, and cross the Tagus there. Venegas soon realised what the French were doing, and responded by moving his own army west along the opposite bank of the river, but the French won this race, and on 9 August crossed to the southern bank of the river. Two days later the two armies would meet at Almonacid, where the French would win a relatively costly victory.
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