Captain Mrozinski

An Account by Captain Mrozinski of the 1st Regiment of the Vistula Legion

We had hardly left Gratallops when we came under musketery fire. Soon, bands of armed men could be seen gathering on the slopes to our right and their fire enfiladed the road along which we would have to pass. It became apparent that we would have to flush them out of their position and to this effect we clambered up the slope and charged the enemy. However, when we reached the plateau, we realised that these troops had been but the vanguard of a detachment offrom five to six hundred men issuing out of Povoleda. These troops were already in range. Some of our men deployed and took up a defensive position to cover the retreat of the rest. The enemy advanced to the attack; our troops pushed them back with the bayonet whilst the rest clambered up the mountain.

The enemy, confident of success with overwhelming numbers, pressed its attacks without interuption. They sent some troops out on our right to harry us whilst sending their main body against our left. They attacked three times in quick succession and each time were bravely repulsed. Even so, the Spanish sharpshooters and armed peasants had pretty much surrounded us and we had suffered more than seventy casualties – that is, more than half of our force. Captain Dulceron, of the 115th Line and Lieutenant Barthaire of the same regiment, and Lieutenant Suchodolski of the 1st Regiment of the Vistula Legion, were amongst the wounded. We thought Lieutenant Leclerc of the 1st Regiment of the Vistula Legion had been killed, but we later learnt that he had advanced too far on the right, got cut off, wounded and made prisoner.

Night put an end to the combat. It would have been impossible to continue the retreat on account of having no means to transport the wounded. Our mules had been lost even before we left the main road. In addition all the roads to Mora had been cut by the guerrillas, who were increasing in numbers by the minute.

I do not know the name of the guerrilla chief whose bands we fought; but I have subsequently heard that el Cura de la Palma was in their ranks and Colonel Villamil was their commander.

That night we sheltered in a hermitage; we made loopholes with our bayonets in its walls and we barricaded the doors. Our men were utterly exhausted. There was a little rain water in a trough but this was not even sufficient for the wounded. I had to ration it strictly to guard this limited resource. The officers, most of whom were wounded, took charge of the different parts of the hermitage.

Having seen to our defence, we thought of how we might alert the garrison at Mora as to our plight. In our ranks were five Spanish soldiers, in King Joseph’s service, from the company based at Mora. I had hoped one of these men would have volunteered to go. I told them, ‘should we be obliged to surrender we French and Poles would become prisoners of war. You, on the other hand, can only expect a cruel death. You know the region and the language and it will be easy for you to get to Mora; you have to do it – for your own sakes’ at least.’ They replied that it would be impossible to get through the guerrilla’s lines and that if fate decreed they were to be massacred they would prefer that to be later rather than sooner. Any possibility of getting word to Kousinowski seemed to be rapidly disappearing. The locals we had taken hostage from Gratallops had all escaped during the battle; except for three who we had managed to drag with us to the hermitage. I had them kneel before the altar and had them swear on the cross that they would go to Mora. I thought that my little talk on the enormity of the crime of perjury had touched their religious sentiments not a little, and so I sent them off at half-hour intervals, in three separate directions. Not one of them reached Mora.

The Spanish troops had been considerably augmented during the night: fifty cavalry were based on the Mora road; their infantry surrounded us; their posts were pushed forward and reached almost to our walls. In order to preserve ammunition I had forbidden firing except in the case of an attack. We turned away an emissary who had ridden forward with a trumpet. The Spanish had been busy gathering wood and straw and were now stacking it up against the walls of the hermitage with the intention of burning us all to cinders. We sent a few men up onto the roof to fire at the enemy – they wounded a few of the guerrillas and drove the rest off. Two more emissaries came forward and were turned away in the same style.

That evening, we were desperate and we doubted that we would ever be relieved. Help should have arrived that morning. We thought hard about cutting our way through the enemy lines that night and taking with us those wounded able to keep up. Suddenly however we caught sight of a body of troops marching down the Mora road – it was Colonel Dupeyroux with the 115th Line. The Spanish fell back in retreat before them and our troops leapt over the walls to give chase. The 115th greeted us with extreme joy; the soldiers offered us wine and food and the officers gave us their horses and mules to carry our wounded. Colonel Dupeyroux accompanied us to Falcet.

The evening before, the commandant at Falcet had heard firing from the direction of Gratallops and had despatched a spy. He had come back and given a full report into what had happened. The commandant sent word to Kossinowski at Mora. As it happened, the 115th were just then passing through Mora en route for Reuss. Kousinowski informed Dupeyroux of our situation. Dupeyroux, without wasting any time, set off for Gratallops. As all was quiet and the sound of firing had died away, he thought things were all over with us and it was only when he stumbled upon the Spanish astride the Mora road that he realised we were still defending ourselves – although by then almost out of ammunition.


Captain Mrozinski

1st Regiment of the Vistula Legion