The Battle of Talavera, 27th July 1809

This is the one post in a series documenting a number of battles fought by the Duke of Wellington and the Allied forces of Britain, Portugal and Spain during the Napoleonic Wars.

The object is a small brass box with a profile of Arthur Wellesley and ‘The Duke of Wellington’ inscribed on it. The reverse is inscribed with ‘By his consummate skill as a general he has raised the British Army to the highest excellences, & himself the most noble, & exalted hero, in the annals of history.’ Inside the box have there are handwritten discs with the names and dates of battles.

The Battle of Talavera, 75 miles Southwest of Madrid is a primary example of the issues surrounding the box. Following this battle, Wellesley was ennobled as Viscount of Wellington, which would suggest that he performed admirably. However, the allied Anglo-Spanish forces at his disposal suffered more casualties than the French in this fight. Similarly, Wellesley’s troops took French strategic positions and artillery during the fighting, yet they relinquished this and then withdrew back to Portugal for six months, which would suggest that it was not a complete success. The engagement of forces at Talavera was one of the first on Spanish soil and as it ended with the withdrawal of French troops by Joseph Bonaparte, it can be considered a positive for British forces, but by no means decisive.