Battle of the Lines of Elvas


January 27, 2022

The Battle of the Lines of Elvas, was fought on January 14, 1659, in Elvas, between Portuguese and Spanish.


In 1659, the Spanish army, commanded by D. Luís de Haro, encamped on the frontier of the Caia, with 14,000 men of infantry, 5,000 of cavalry, 19 cannons (in fact only 18 entered the battle, as one lost a wheel in the halfway) and 3 mortars (155 mm.) Some days were spent in preparations either on the Spanish side for the siege of Elvas, or on the part of the Portuguese to defend the city. D. Luís de Haro distributed his troops along the entrenchments surrounding the square, giving the order that close surveillance be exercised in order to prevent Elvas from receiving supplies or any other kind of assistance from outside, in such a way that only the arrival of a real army could sooner or later avoid the capitulation of the square. Queen D. Luísa decided to call D. António Luís de Meneses, Count of Cantanhede, to give him the general command of the Portuguese troops in Alentejo, and transfer D. Sancho Manuel to the same theater of operations, who was to assume the functions of Master -of-field-general. Spanish troops installed on the two nearest hills began to bomb Elvas square, causing panic and heavy casualties in the population. But the greatest danger was the plague which caused about 300 deaths a day. Due to this situation, the Count of Cantanhede, D. António Luís de Meneses gathered an army in Estremoz to rescue that square from the Spanish siege. Despite great difficulties, which forced him to organize recruitment in Viseu and on the island of Madeira, and to gather the garrisons of Borba, Juromenha, Campo Maior, Vila Viçosa, Monforte and Arronches, the Count of Cantanhede managed to form an army of eight thousand infantry. , two thousand nine hundred knights garrisoned by seven cannons. Having agreed, between the Count of Cantanhede and D. Sancho Manuel, that the attack on the lines of Elvas would be made through the place known as Murtais, the Portuguese army left Estremoz and marched on the surrounded square. The Brigantis occupied the hills of Assomada, from where the city of Elvas and the enemy lines could be seen, the latter in a majestic village. On the 14th of January, around eight-fifteen in the morning, the Portuguese launched the attack as predicted by the Murtais site. The victory remained undecided for some time, as the Spaniards responded with vigorous defense to the attack, but at a certain point the troops of the Count of Cantanhede managed to irrevocably break through the Spanish trench lines, who began by yielding ground and soon disbanded. . Although the Spaniards were occupying redoubts and entrenched ring lines, the troops were dispersed over several kilometers around the Elvas square. Furthermore, the Spaniards, even with the arrival of the Portuguese army, did not believe that it would attack them. Thus, D. Luís de Haro did not immediately order a concentration of his forces in Murtais. All this contributed to the initial resistance of the defenders being ineffective. The losses suffered by Filipino troops in the lines of Elvas were enormous. Of the nineteen thousand men commanded by D. Luís de Haro, only about five thousand infantry and three hundred knights (not counting deaths from infection or disease) managed to reach Badajoz. In this battle, the Count of Cantanhede was distinguished, who received, among other favors, the title of Marquis of Marialva, by letter of law of June 11, 1661.

Images of the commemorative pattern

The Battle of the Lines of Elvas in Literature

“The Ancestral House of L.”, by José Gonçalves Gomes – Eucleia Editora, 2011


External links

The Battle of the Lines of Elvas, Restored Portugal (Excerpt from Documentary), by José Hermano

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