On May, the 16th, 1809, the French II Army of Marshal Soult while fleeing Wellington's combined Portuguese and English armies found itself stuck at the Misarela bridge,

Crossing never ending mountain ranges through heavy rain, the wet, tired, cold and hungry 20.000 French soldiers and civilians (wifes, children, whores and servants) were at that day faced with the unsurmountable white rapid flowing Rabagão river.

Their only escape to Galicia: crossing the Misarela bridge, reputedly built by the Devil during the Early Middle Age.

Unfortunately for the French, 800 Portuguese militiamen from the Ruivães Ordenanças had destroyed the bridge's rails, blocked it with a pile of timber logs and were firing potshots at them from an overlooking ridge on the opposite riverside.

During a whole day of fighting, more than a 1.000 French soldiers met their demise by either being shot at or by falling off the Misarela bridge in the ensuing panic.

Their bones were carved into buttons by the Portuguese peasant and used in their Sunday Mass attire. Also, for years onward, local boys would dive the river a fish for gold coins and silver jewellery: the remnants of the Oporto ransacking.

This week, the Misarela Bridge was finally dived. Two centuries after this event, answers are now being sought: who really fought and died there? Where are they buried?

What did really happened at the Misarela bridge?

Answers to follow.

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