Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Battle refused at El Bruc

Col of El Bruc, 19th August 1713

In the village of Castellolí few miles before the col of El Bruc, General Vallejo and a group of his officers are attentively watching the landscape before them, while patiently waiting for news from the scouting detachments sent for exploration of the area. Behind these men, the Spanish Army Group Centre is also expectantly waiting, standing along the main streets in town.

The small detachments soon start coming back, and on everyone's lips there is the same opinion: the col of El Bruc is a mousetrap. The valley is narrow and intensely wooded, with few open plains or crops, and is surrounded on either side by a cliff range not too high, but showing steep slopes that become vertical to the top. There is no other way to overcome the col apart from the road itself, which runs up to the valley bottom before abruptly climbing through a narrow passage, in an ininterrupted series of zigzags. A real mousetrap.

Even worse, most detachments have observed the presence of enemy troops on the cliffs. The Catalan army of General Bellver, whose forces are quite balanced with his own troops, have already occupied all the most strategic and well protected places. Vallejo understands that, if trying to cross the col under such circumstances, his troops would be decimated from the heights.

-We can not battle-thinking here. This damned col is closed to us -concludes the experienced general, who then adds: -This valley is a deadly trap, we risk losing our entire army if venturing into these badlands. As a matter of fact, I'm certain the longer we remain in this valley, the more risk we run of being encircled. We'll be getting back to Igualada.

His officers then stare at him with surprise: -But Sire, Duke of Popoli's orders are strict...

-...True but leave indeed some room for interpretation -Vallejo replies-. If we are to pass through this damned col, it must be following a different path. I assume responsibility for this. Back to Igualada.

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