Military Wiki
Battle of Arlabán 1811
Part of the Peninsular War
Date25 May 1811
LocationMountain pass between Álava and Guipúzcoa, Spain
Result Spanish victory
France French Empire Spain Kingdom of Spain
Commanders and leaders
France Colonel Laffitte  (POW) Spain Francisco Espoz y Mina
1,600 regulars[1] 3,000–4,500 militia[1]
Casualties and losses
700–1,000 dead or wounded[2]
200 captured (40 officers)[2]
Unknown: Minimum

The Battle of Arlabán, also known as the First Surprise of Arlabán, took place at the heights of Arlabán, the mountain pass that separates the Basque provinces of Guipúzcoa and Álava, on 25 May 1811, during the Peninsular War. At eight o'clock in the morning, a Spanish guerrilla force numbering between 3,000 and 4,500 men, led by Francisco Espoz y Mina, ambushed and captured the central part of a convoy made up of 150 wagons and 1,050 prisoners, escorted by 1,600 French troops led by Colonel Laffitte and spread out over 5 km.[3] Seven hours later, the French finally surrendered. The Spanish captured all kinds of supplies and weapons (the convoy was valued at 4 million reales), and 1,042 British, Portuguese and Spanish prisoners were released. The convoy became known as the convoy de los Ingleses because most of the prisoners were British.[2]

Aided by local guerrilla groups that knew the terrain well, Espoz y Mina had positioned his guerrilleros on both sides of the pass, on the route to France, some 20 km north of Vitoria, at four o'clock in the morning.[1]

This was the last action that Espoz y Mina led as a guerrilla leader in Navarre. On 5 June, his forces, the División de Navarra, were integrated into the regular Army of Spain, but he would continue to lead his troops into battle against the French, including at the Second Suprise of Arlabán, on 9 April 1812.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 (Spanish) "La sorpresa de Arlabán" El Correo. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Francisco Espoz e Ilundain" Euskomedia Fundazioa. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  3. (Spanish) "La 'Sorpresa' de Arlabán" Noticias de Gipuzkoa. Retrieved 23 September 2013.


  • Francisco Espoz y Mina at the Classic Encyclopedia, based on the 1911 Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • Esdaile, Charles J. The Spanish Army in the Peninsular War. Manchester University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-7190-2538-9.
  • Fraser, Ronald. Napoleon's Cursed War: Spanish Popular Resistance in the Peninsular War 1808-1814. Brooklyn Verso, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84467-082-6

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