Napoleonic War


Buenos Aires (1806-1807)


On 27 June 1806 a British force of 1,500 men under the command of Colonel William Carr Beresford landed near Buenos Aires as part of an ambitious strategy to seize the Spanish colonies in Latin America. Despite an occupation of both Buenos Aires and Montevideo, the force was far too small to carry out its task. A Spanish counter-attack in early 1807 left Beresford with no choice but to surrender.

By then, however, the British government had decided to reinforce the expedition and, unaware of Beresford’s fate, 10,000 men under Lieutenant-General John Whitelocke were on their way across the Atlantic. They landed close to Montevideo before marching towards Buenos Aires, only to find that the region was now well defended. After an abortive attack on Buenos Aires on 5 July 1807, in which small parties of British troops were cut off and annihilated in the streets of the city, Whitelocke withdrew, abandoning all operations in exchange for a cease-fire.

The remains of his army were lucky to be allowed to leave Latin America, but Whitelocke himself was less fortunate. When he returned to Britain, he was court-martialled and cashiered, taking the blame for what had been poor strategic plan.