Wellington vs Massena  

Logical planning & Genius strategy's

Portugal, an Atlantic and commercial country and historical allied of England, was unable to accomplish the continental blockade imposed by Napoleon's France. From the declaration of war to the invasions, was only a short step.

The French army invaded Portugal on 3 occasions and the Bussaco Battle on the 27th September 1810 marks the beginning of the end of the war by imposing large casualties to the French with minor losses to the Portuguese and British.


Landing its troops at Figueira da Foz, Wellington organized a defensive line in Bussaco and destroyed all the bridges over the river Mondego, so that the French Army would be forced to take the Bussaco position in order to get to Coimbra and Lisbon


Massena was at the head of three corps, totalling 65,500 men and 114 guns. Wellingtons army comprised seven divisions and 60 guns consisting of 26,843 British troops and 25,429 Portuguese troops well positioned on the crest of the Bussaco ridge.



Informed by the French intelligence that dense fog was (and still is) common in September in that area, Massena was counting on that fact to overcome the advantage of the British and Portuguese defensive lines, due to the impossibility of use of artillery and allowing the French army to climb the hill without being seen.

His military genius almost succeeded against the meticulous defence plan of Wellington: but the fog dissipated too soon in the morning and the British and Portuguese soldiers were able to open fire again from the top of the hill.

Massena launched simple frontal attacks throughout September 27th and made small damage over the defensive lines before retiring and finding an alternative route to Coimbra at the end of the day.

The evacuation of Coimbra and the French conquest of the city, took place with only one day of delay from what had been planned by the French army, but the severe casualties suffered during the Battle of Bussaco would reveal determinant for the overcoming battles.

Bussaco "hit-and-run" was the only possible strategy of the British and Portuguese against what was at the time, the most important land army force in the world.

Much more could be said about the battle, namely that there were also Portuguese (Jacobin’s) serving in the French army, that because of the injured that stayed behind and married with local girls, there is a large genetics heritage in the zone or that, the Chanfana (one of the most famous dishes of the centre of Portugal) is said to be a French army invention.



Having inflicted damage on his enemy at little cost to his own strength, Wellington resumed his retirement towards defences in the Torres Vedras hills, where he was able to finally stop the French army during the winter of 1810.

The genius of André Massena wasn't enough against Sir Arthur Wellesley (duke of Wellington) logical and rational defensive plan.