The Irish “Hibernia” regiment and other Irish units of Spain fight at the Battle of Brihuega on December 8, 1710 in the War of the Spanish Succession, during the allied retreat from Madrid to Barcelona. The British rearguard under James Stanhope, 1st Earl Stanhope, is cut off within the town of Brihuega and overwhelmed by a Franco-Spanish army under Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme. Brihuega with other events brings an end to the British participation in the war.
The Duke of Vendôme sets out from Talavera de la Reina with his troops and pursues the retreating British army with a speed perhaps never equalled in such a season and in such a country. The middle-aged Frenchman leads his Franco-Spanish army day and night. In typical Vendôme style, he swims, at the head of his cavalry, the flooded Henares and in a few days overtakes Stanhope, who is at Brihuega with the left wing of the Grand Alliance army.
“Nobody with me,” said the British general, “imagined that they had any foot within some days’ march of us and our misfortune is owing to the incredible diligence which their army made.” Stanhope has barely enough time to send off a messenger to the centre of the army, which is some leagues from Brihuega, before Vendôme is upon him on the evening of December 8. The next morning the town is invested on every side.
Blasting the walls of Brihuega with heavy cannon, a mine is sprung under one of the gates. The British keep up a terrible fire until their powder is spent. They then fight desperately against overwhelming odds as Vendôme’s men storm the city with bayonets fixed and begin to take the town by bloody close quarters fighting, street by street. The British set fire to the buildings which their assailants have taken but in vain. The British general sees that further resistance will produce only a useless carnage. He concludes a capitulation and his army becomes prisoners of war on honourable terms.
Scarcely had Vendôme signed the capitulation, when he learns that General Guido Starhemberg is marching to the relief of Stanhope. On December 10 the two meet in the bloody Battle of Villaviciosa, after which Starhemberg continues the allied retreat.
The British troops do not remain in captivity for very long before they are exchanged and sent home in October 1711.
The defeat helps justify the Harley ministry‘s plan to agree to a compromise peace with France at the Treaty of Utrecht. Opponents of the deal protest on the grounds of “No Peace Without Spain.” Nonetheless Allied forces are withdrawn, with the final action taking place at the Siege of Barcelona in 1714.