Crossing of the Douro 12th May 1809

Also known as the Battle of the Douro or the Second Battle of Porto, was a battle in which General Arthur Wellesley’s Anglo-Portuguese Army defeated Marshal Nicolas Soult’s French troops and took back the city of Porto. After taking command of the British troops in Portugal on 22 April, Wellesley (later named 1st Duke of Wellington) immediately advanced on Porto and made a surprise crossing of the Douro River, approaching Porto where its defences were weak.

The 29th Regiment of Foot crossing the Douro during the 2nd Battle of Porto. From a print in the museum Collection

The 29th Regiment of Foot formed part of the 6th Brigade in Lt. General Edward Paget’s Division. The French having collected all the boats to their side of the river, failed to either guard them or destroy them.  This being observed signs were made to the inhabitants, who availing themselves of the confusion in the French army, instantly brought over several boats, into which the 29th jumped, and pushing across, succeeded in gaining the opposite shore.  Having landed and formed, the regiment moved up the main street and the grenadiers opened fire on the retreating enemy.

Soult’s late attempts to muster a defence were in vain. The French quickly abandoned the city in a disorderly retreat.

This battle ended the second French invasion of Portugal. Soult soon found his retreat route to the east blocked and was forced to destroy his guns and burn his baggage train.  Wellesley pursued the French army, but Soult’s army escaped annihilation by fleeing through the mountains.