Confederation of the Rhine
Duchy of Warsaw
Commanders and leaders
John Moore †
Juan Martín Díez
Gregorio de la Cuesta
Miguel Álava Esquivel
Bernardino Freire †
Francisco da Silveira
Jean de Dieu Soult
Louis Gabriel Suchet
Auguste de Marmont
Casualties and losses
25,000 guerrillas killed
December 1810 – May 1814:
24,053 died of disease
1,000,000+ military and civilian dead
First invasion of
Invasion of Portugal
Padrões de Teixeira
Spanish uprising 1808
La Romana's Escape
Medina de Rioseco
Napoleon's campaign 1808–09
Molins de Rey
Second invasion of
Portugal and northern Spain, 1809
Castile and Andalusia 1809–10
Alba de Tormes
Aragón and northeast
Massanet de Cabrenys
Third Invasion of
1st Ciudad Rodrigo
Fuentes de Oñoro
Siege of Cádiz
Siege of Cádiz 1810–12
Castile and northern
Riego de Ambrós
Arroyo dos Molinos
Navas de Membrillo
2nd Ciudad Rodrigo
Venta del Pozo
Vitoria and the
1st San Sebastián
2nd San Sebastián
French invasion of Russia
Campaign in north-east France
Campaign in south-west France
Minor campaigns of 1815
West Indies Campaign
The Peninsular War[c] (1807–1814) was a military conflict between
Napoleon's empire (as well as the allied powers of the Spanish
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the
Kingdom of Portugal, for control of the
Iberian Peninsula during the
Napoleonic Wars. The war began when the French and Spanish armies
invaded and occupied
Portugal in 1807, and escalated in 1808 when
France turned on Spain, previously its ally. The war on the peninsula
lasted until the
Sixth Coalition defeated
Napoleon in 1814, and is
regarded as one of the first wars of national liberation, significant
for the emergence of large-scale guerrilla warfare.
War overlaps with what the Spanish-speaking world calls
the Guerra de la Independencia Española (Spanish
Independence), which began with the
Dos de Mayo Uprising
Dos de Mayo Uprising on 2 May 1808
and ended on 17 April 1814. The French occupation destroyed the
Spanish administration, which fragmented into quarrelling provincial
A reconstituted national government, the
Cádiz Cortes—in effect a
government-in-exile—fortified itself in
Cádiz in 1810, but could
not raise effective armies because it was besieged by 70,000 French
troops. British and Portuguese forces eventually secured Portugal,
using it as a safe position from which to launch campaigns against the
French army and provide whatever supplies they could get to the
Spanish, while the Spanish armies and guerrillas tied down vast
numbers of Napoleon's troops. These combined regular and irregular
allied forces, by restricting French control of territory, prevented
Napoleon's marshals from subduing the rebellious Spanish provinces,
and the war continued through years of stalemate.
The British Army, under the then Lt. Gen. Arthur Wellesley the Duke of
Portugal and campaigned against the French in
Spain alongside the reformed Portuguese army. The demoralised
Portuguese army was reorganised and refitted under the command of Gen.
William Carr Beresford, who had been appointed commander-in-chief
of the Portuguese forces by the exiled Portuguese royal family, and
fought as part of a combined Anglo-Portuguese army under Wellesley.
In 1812, when
Napoleon set out with a massive army on what proved to
be a disastrous campaign to conquer Russia, a combined allied army
under Wellesley pushed into Spain, defeating the French at Salamanca
and taking Madrid. In the following year Wellington scored a decisive
victory over King Joseph's army at Vitoria. Pursued by the armies of
Spain and Portugal, Marshal Jean-de-Dieu Soult, no longer
able to get sufficient support from a depleted France, led the
exhausted and demoralized French forces in a fighting withdrawal
Pyrenees during the winter of 1813–1814.
The years of fighting in
Spain were a heavy burden on France's Grande
Armée. While the French were victorious in battle, their
communications and supplies were severely tested and their units were
frequently isolated, harassed or overwhelmed by partisans fighting an
intense guerrilla war of raids and ambushes. The Spanish armies were
repeatedly beaten and driven to the peripheries, but they would
regroup and relentlessly hound the French. This drain on French
resources led Napoleon, who had unwittingly provoked a total war, to
call the conflict the "Spanish Ulcer".
War and revolution against Napoleon's occupation led to the Spanish
Constitution of 1812, later a cornerstone of European liberalism.
The burden of war destroyed the social and economic fabric of Portugal
and Spain, and ushered in an era of social turbulence, political
instability and economic stagnation. Devastating civil wars between
liberal and absolutist factions, led by officers trained in the
Peninsular War, persisted in Iberia until 1850. The cumulative crises
and disruptions of invasion, revolution and restoration led to the
independence of most of Spain's American colonies and the independence
Brazil from Portugal.
1.1 Portuguese negotiations
1.2 Spanish situation
1.3 Invasion of Portugal
2.1 Iberia in revolt
2.2 French counterattack
2.3 British intervention
2.4 Napoleon's invasion of Spain
2.5 Corunna Campaign, 1808–1809
3.1 Spanish campaign, early 1809
3.1.1 Fall of Zaragoza
3.1.3 Liberation of Galicia
3.1.4 French advance in Catalonia
3.2 Second Portuguese campaign
3.3 Spanish campaign, late 1809
3.3.1 Talavera campaign
4.1 Joseph I's régime
4.2 Emergence of the guerrilla
4.3 Revolution under siege
4.4 Third Portuguese campaign
5.1 Stalemate in the west
5.2 French conquest of Aragon
6.1 Allied campaign in Spain
6.2 French autumn counterattack
7.1 Defeat of King Joseph
7.2 End of the war in Spain
8 Invasion of France
8.1 Battles of the
Nivelle and the Nive, November–December 1813
12 Further reading
13 Other media
Princesa Line Infantry Regiment (left) and
Catalonia Light Infantry
The Treaties of Tilsit, negotiated during a meeting in July 1807
Alexander I of Russia
Alexander I of Russia and Napoleon, concluded the War
of the Fourth Coalition. With Prussia shattered, and Russia allied
Napoleon expressed irritation that
Portugal was open to
trade with the United Kingdom. Pretexts were plentiful; Portugal
was Britain's oldest ally in Europe, Britain was finding new
opportunities for trade with Portugal's colony in Brazil, the Royal
Navy used Lisbon's port in its operations against France, and he
wanted to deny the British the use of the Portuguese fleet.
Furthermore, Prince John of Braganza, regent for his insane mother
Queen Maria I, had declined to join the emperor's Continental System
against British trade.
Events moved rapidly. The Emperor sent orders on 19 July 1807 to his
Foreign Minister, Talleyrand, to order
Portugal to declare war on
Britain, close its ports to British ships, detain British subjects on
a provisional basis and sequester their goods. After a few days, a
large force started concentrating at Bayonne. Meanwhile, the
Portuguese government's resolve was stiffening, and shortly afterward
Napoleon was once again told that
Portugal would not go beyond its
Napoleon now had all the pretext that he needed,
while his force, the First
Corps of Observation of the Gironde with
General of Division
Jean-Andoche Junot in command, was prepared to
march on Lisbon. After he received the Portuguese answer, he ordered
Junot's corps to cross the frontier into Spain.
While all this was going on, the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau had
been signed between France and Spain. The document was drawn up by
Napoleon's marshal of the palace
Géraud Duroc and Eugenio Izquierdo,
an agent for Manuel de Godoy, Prince of the Peace. The treaty
proposed to carve up
Portugal into three entities.
Porto (Oporto) and
the northern part was to become the Kingdom of Northern Lusitania,
under Charles Louis of Etruria. The southern portion, as the
Principality of the Algarves, would fall to Godoy. The rump of the
country, centered on Lisbon, was to be administered by the French.
According to the Treaty of Fontainebleau, Junot's invasion force was
to be supported by 25,500 Spanish troops. On 12 October, Junot's
corps began crossing the
Bidasoa River into
Spain at Irun. Junot
was selected because he had served as ambassador to
Portugal in 1805.
He was known as a good fighter and an active officer, although he
never exercised independent command.
Further information: Enlightenment in Spain
By 1800, the Kingdom of
Spain was in a state of social unrest.
Townsfolk and peasants all over the country, who had been forced to
bury family members in new municipal cemeteries, took back their
bodies at night and tried to restore them to their old resting-places.
In Madrid, the growing Francophilia of the court was opposed by the
majos—shopkeepers, artisans, taverners and labourers who dressed in
traditional style, and took pleasure in picking fights with
Spain was an ally of Napoleon's First French Empire; however, defeat
Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805 had removed the reason for
alliance with France. Godoy—who was a favourite of King Charles IV
of Spain—began to seek some form of escape. At the start of the War
of the Fourth Coalition, which pitted the
Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia against
Napoleon, Godoy issued a proclamation that was obviously aimed at
France, even though it did not specify an enemy. After Napoleon's
decisive victory at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, Godoy quickly
withdrew the proclamation. However, it was too late to avert the
Napoleon planned from that moment to deal with
his inconstant ally at some future time. In the meantime, the Emperor
dragooned Godoy and Charles IV into providing a division of Spanish
troops to serve in northern Europe. The Division of the North
spent the winter of 1807–1808 in Swedish Pomerania,
towns of the old Hanseatic League. Spanish troops marched into Denmark
in early 1808.
Invasion of Portugal
Main article: Invasion of
The Portuguese royal family escapes to Brazil.
Concerned that Britain might intervene in
Portugal or that the
Portuguese might resist,
Napoleon decided to speed up the invasion
timetable, and instructed Junot to move west from
Alcántara along the
Tagus valley to Portugal, a distance of only 120 miles
(193 km). On 19 November 1807, Junot set out for
occupied it on 30 November.
The Prince Regent John escaped, loading his family, courtiers, state
papers and treasure aboard the fleet. He was joined in flight by many
nobles, merchants and others. With 15 warships and more than 20
transports, the fleet of refugees weighed anchor on 29 November and
set sail for the colony of Brazil. The flight had been so chaotic
that 14 carts loaded with treasure were left behind on the docks.
As one of Junot's first acts, the property of those who had fled to
Brazil was sequestrated and a 100-million-franc indemnity
imposed. The army formed into a Portuguese Legion, and went to
northern Germany to perform garrison duty. Junot did his best to
calm the situation by trying to keep his troops under control. While
the Portuguese civil authorities were generally subservient toward
their occupiers, the common people were angry. Nevertheless, the
harsh taxes caused bitter resentment among the population. By January
1808, there were executions of persons who resisted the exactions of
the French. The situation was dangerous, but it would need a trigger
from outside to transform unrest into revolt.
Iberia in revolt
Further information: Dos de Mayo Uprising
Second of May 1808: the defenders of Monteleón make their last stand
Francisco de Goya
Francisco de Goya painting,
Tres de Mayo
Tres de Mayo (1814), depicting French
soldiers executing civilians defending Madrid, would help make the
uprising of May 2–3, 1808, a touchstone event of the Peninsular War.
Notice how the painting emphasizes the man in white striking a
In mid-March 1808, Godoy fell from power in the
Mutiny of Aranjuez and
Ferdinand VII came to the Spanish throne following the abdication of
Charles IV. In its aftermath, attacks on godoyistas were frequent.
By the beginning of May 1808, rumours were spreading that the Junta de
Gobierno—the council of regency left behind by Ferdinand—was being
pressured into sending the last members of the royal family to
On 2 May, the citizens of
Madrid rebelled against the French
occupation; the uprising was put down by Joachim Murat's elite
Imperial Guard and
Mamluk cavalry, which crashed into the city and
trampled the rioters. The next day, as immortalized by Francisco
Goya in his painting The Third of May 1808, the French army shot
hundreds of Madrid's citizens. Similar reprisals occurred in other
cities and continued for days. Bloody, spontaneous fighting known as
guerrilla (literally "little war") broke out in much of
the French as well as the ancien regime's officials. Although the
Spanish government, including the Council of Castile, had accepted
Napoleon's decision to grant the Spanish crown to his brother Joseph,
the Spanish population rejected Napoleon's plans. The first wave
of uprisings were in Cartagena and
Valencia on 23 May;
Murcia on 24 May; and the province of Asturias, which cast out its
French governor on 25 May and declared war on Napoleon. Within weeks,
all the Spanish provinces followed suit. After hearing of the
Portugal erupted in revolt in June. A French
Louis Henri Loison
Louis Henri Loison crushed the rebels at Évora on 29
July and massacred the town's population.
The deteriorating strategic situation led France to increase its
military commitments. By 1 June, over 65,000 troops were rushing
into the country to control the crisis. The main French army of
80,000 held a narrow strip of central
Pamplona and San
Sebastián in the north to
Madrid and Toledo in the centre. The French
Madrid sheltered behind an additional 30,000 troops under Marshal
Bon Adrien Jeannot de Moncey. Jean-Andoche Junot's corps in Portugal
was cut off by 300 miles (480 km) of hostile territory, but
within days of the outbreak of revolt, French columns in Old Castile,
New Castile, Aragon and
Catalonia were searching for the insurgent
Valencians prepare to resist the invaders in this 1884 painting by
Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida.
To defeat the insurgency,
Pierre-Antoine, comte Dupont de l'Étang
Pierre-Antoine, comte Dupont de l'Étang led
24,430 men south toward
Seville and Cádiz; Marshal Jean-Baptiste
Bessières moved into Aragon and Old Castile with 25,000 men, aiming
to capture Santander and Zaragoza. Moncey marched toward
29,350 men, and
Guillaume Philibert Duhesme marshalled 12,710 troops
Catalonia and moved against Girona.
At the two successive
Battles of the Bruch
Battles of the Bruch outside Barcelona,
Schwarz's 4,000 troops were defeated by local Catalan militia, the
Miquelets (also known as sometents). Duhesme's Franco-Italian division
of almost 6,000 troops failed to storm
Girona and was forced to return
to Barcelona. 6,000 French troops under Charles, comte
Zaragoza and were beaten off by José
Palafox's militia. Moncey's push to take
Valencia ended in
failure, with 1,000 French recruits dying in an attempt to storm the
city. After defeating Spanish counterattacks, Moncey retreated. At
Medina del Rio Seco on 14 July, Bessières defeated Cuesta and Old
Castile returned to French control. Blake escaped, but the Spaniards
lost 2,200 men and thirteen guns. French losses were minimal at 400
men. Bessières's victory salvaged the French army's strategic
position in northern Spain. Joseph entered
Madrid on 20 July; and
on 25 July he was crowned King of Spain. On 10 June, five French
ships of the line anchored at
Cádiz were seized by the Spanish.
Dupont was disturbed enough to curtail his march at Cordoba, and then
on 16 June to fall back to Andujar. Cowed by the mass hostility of
the Andalusians, he broke off his offensive and was then defeated at
Bailén, where he surrendered his entire Army
Corps to Castaños.
The Spanish Army's triumph at Bailén was the French Empire's first
land defeat. Painting by José Casado del Alisal
The catastrophe was total. With the loss of 24,000 troops, Napoleon's
military machine in
Spain collapsed. Stunned by the defeat, on 1
August Joseph evacuated the capital for Old Castile, while ordering
Verdier to abandon the siege of
Zaragoza and Bessières to retire from
Leon; the entire French army sheltered behind the Ebro. By this
Girona had resisted a second siege. Europe welcomed this first
check to the hitherto unbeatable Imperial armies—a Bonaparte had
been chased from his throne; tales of Spanish heroism inspired Austria
and showed the force of national resistance. Bailén set in motion the
rise of the Fifth Coalition.
Further information: British Army during the Napoleonic Wars
Portuguese and British troops fighting the French at Vimeiro.
Britain's involvement in the Peninsular
War was the start of a
prolonged campaign in Europe to increase British military power on
land and liberate
Spain from the French. In August 1808, 15,000
British troops—including the King's German Legion—landed in
Portugal under the command of
Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Wellesley,
who drove back Henri François Delaborde's 4,000-strong detachment at
Roliça on 17 August and smashed Junot's main force of 14,000 men at
Vimeiro. Wellesley was replaced at first by Sir Harry Burrard and then
Sir Hew Dalrymple. Dalrymple granted Junot an unmolested evacuation
Portugal by the
Royal Navy in the controversial Convention of
Sintra in August. In early October 1808, following the scandal in
Britain over the
Convention of Sintra
Convention of Sintra and the recall of the generals
Dalrymple, Burrard, and Wellesley, Sir John Moore took command of the
30,000 man British force in Portugal. In addition, Sir David
Baird, in command of an expedition of reinforcements out of Falmouth
consisting of 150 transports carrying between 12,000 and 13,000 men,
convoyed by HMS Louie, HMS Amelia and HMS Champion, entered Corunna
Harbour on 13 October. Logistical and administrative problems
prevented any immediate British offensive.
Meanwhile, the British had made a substantial contribution to the
Spanish cause by helping to evacuate some 9,000 men of La Romana's
Division of the North
Division of the North from Denmark. In August 1808, the British
Baltic fleet helped transport the Spanish division, with the exception
of three regiments that failed to escape, back to
Spain by way of
Gothenburg, Sweden. The division arrived in Santander in October
Napoleon's invasion of Spain
La bataille de Somosierra by Louis-François, Baron Lejeune
(1775–1848). Oil on canvas, 1810
After the surrender of a French army corps at Bailén and the loss of
Napoleon was convinced of the peril he faced in Spain. With
his Armée d'Espagne of 278,670 men drawn up on the Ebro, facing
80,000 raw, disorganized Spanish troops,
Napoleon and his marshals
carried out a massive double envelopment of the Spanish lines in
Napoleon struck with overwhelming strength and the
Spanish defense evaporated at Burgos, Tudela, Espinosa and Somosierra.
Madrid surrendered itself on 1 December.
Joseph Bonaparte was restored
to his throne. The Junta was forced to abandon
Madrid in November
1808, and resided in the Alcázar of
Seville from 16 December 1808
until 23 January 1810. In Catalonia, Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr's
Corps besieged and captured Roses from an
Anglo-Spanish garrison, destroyed part of Juan Miguel de Vives y
Feliu's Spanish army at Cardedeu near
Barcelona on 16 December and
routed the Spaniards under Conde de Caldagues and Theodor von Reding
at Molins de Rei.
Corunna Campaign, 1808–1809
Death of Sir John Moore, 17 January 1809.
By November 1808, the British army led by Moore was advancing into
Spain with orders to assist the Spanish armies' fight against
Napoleon's forces. Moore decided to attack Soult's scattered and
isolated 16,000-man corps' at Carrión, opening his attack with a
successful raid by
Lieutenant-General Paget's cavalry on the French
picquets at Sahagún on 21 December.
Abandoning plans to immediately conquer
Seville and Portugal, Napoleon
rapidly amassed 80,000 troops and debouched from the Sierra de
Guadarrama into the plains of Old Castile to encircle the British
Army. Moore retreated for the safety of the British fleet at La Coruna
and Soult failed to intercept him. The rearguard of La
Romana's retreating force was overrun at Mansilla on 30 December by
Soult, who captured León the next day. Moore's retreat was marked by
a breakdown of discipline in many regiments and punctuated by stubborn
rearguard actions at Benavente and Cacabelos. The British troops
escaped to the sea after fending off a strong French attack at
Corunna, in which Moore was killed. Some 26,000 troops reached
Britain, with 7,000 men lost over the course of the expedition.
The French occupied the most populated region in Spain, including the
important towns of
Lugo and La Corunna. The Spanish were shocked
by the British retreat.
Napoleon returned to France on 19 January
1809 to prepare for war with Austria, giving the Spanish command back
to his marshals.
Spanish campaign, early 1809
Fall of Zaragoza
Saragossa: The assault on the Santa Engracia monastery. Oil on canvas,
Zaragoza, already scarred from Lefebvre's bombardments that summer,
was under a second siege that had commenced on 20 December. Lannes and
Moncey committed two army corps of 45,000 men and considerable
artillery firepower. Palafox's second defence brought the city
enduring national and international fame. The Spaniards fought
with determination, endured disease and starvation, entrenching
themselves in convents and burning their own homes. The garrison of
44,000 left 8,000 survivors—1,500 of them ill— but the Grande
Armée did not advance beyond the Ebro's shore. On 20 February 1809,
the garrison capitulated, leaving behind burnt-out ruins filled with
64,000 corpses, of which 10,000 were French.
The Junta took over direction of the Spanish war effort and
established war taxes, organized an Army of La Mancha, signed a treaty
of alliance with Britain on 14 January 1809 and issued a royal decree
on 22 May to convene a Cortes. An attempt by the
Spanish Army of the
Center to recapture
Madrid ended with the complete destruction of the
Spanish forces at Uclés on 13 January by Victor's I Corps. The French
lost 200 men while their Spanish opponents lost 6,887. King Joseph
made a triumphant entry into
Madrid after the battle. Sébastiani
defeated Cartaojal's army at Ciudad Real on 27 March, inflicting 2,000
casualties and suffering negligible losses. Victor invaded southern
Spain and routed Gregorio de la Cuesta's army at Medellín near
Badajoz on 28 March. Cuesta lost 10,000 men in a staggering
defeat, while the French lost only 1,000.
Liberation of Galicia
On 27 March, Spanish forces defeated the French at Vigo, recaptured
most of the cities in the province of
Pontevedra and forced the French
to retreat to Santiago de Compostela. On 7 June, the French army of
Michel Ney was defeated at Puente Sanpayo in
Spanish forces under the command of Colonel Pablo Morillo, and Ney and
his forces retreated to
Lugo on 9 June while being harassed by Spanish
guerrillas. Ney's troops joined up with those of Soult and these
forces withdrew for the last time from Galicia in July 1809.
French advance in Catalonia
In Catalonia, Saint-Cyr defeated Reding again at Valls on 25 February.
Reding was killed and his army lost 3,000 men for French losses of
Girona was put under siege by Saint-Cyr on 6 May and the city
finally fell on 12 December. Louis-Gabriel Suchet's III
defeated at Alcañiz by Blake on 23 May, losing 2,000 men. Suchet
retaliated at María on 15 June, crushing Blake's right wing and
inflicting 5,000 casualties. Three days later, Blake lost 2,000 more
men to Suchet at Belchite. Saint-Cyr was relieved of his command in
September for deserting his troops.
Second Portuguese campaign
Jean-de-Dieu Soult at the
First Battle of Porto
First Battle of Porto by Joseph
After Corunna, Soult turned his attention to the invasion of Portugal.
Discounting garrisons and the sick, Soult's II
Corps had 20,000 men
for the operation. He stormed the Spanish naval base at Ferrol on 26
January 1809, capturing eight ships of the line, three frigates,
several thousand prisoners and 20,000
Brown Bess muskets, which were
used to re-equip the French infantry. In March 1809, Soult invaded
Portugal through the northern corridor, with Francisco da Silveira's
12,000 Portuguese troops unraveling amid riot and disorder, and within
two days of crossing the border Soult had taken the fortress of
Chaves. Swinging west, 16,000 of Soult's professional troops
attacked and killed 4,000 of 25,000 unprepared and undisciplined
Portuguese at Braga at the cost 200 Frenchmen. In the First Battle of
Porto on 29 March, the Portuguese defenders panicked and lost between
6,000 and 20,000 men dead, wounded or captured and immense quantities
of supplies. Suffering fewer than 500 casualties Soult had secured
Portugal's second city with its valuable dockyards and arsenals
intact. Soult halted at
Porto to refit his army before
advancing on Lisbon.
Wellesley returned to
Portugal in April 1809 to command the British
army, reinforced with Portuguese regiments trained by General
Beresford. These new forces turned Soult out of
Portugal at the Battle
of Grijó (10–11 May) and the
Second Battle of Porto
Second Battle of Porto (12 May), and
the other northern cities were recaptured by General Silveira. Soult
escaped without his heavy equipment by marching through the mountains
Spanish campaign, late 1809
Battle of Talavera
Battle of Talavera by William Heath
Portugal secured, Wellesley advanced into
Spain to unite with
Cuesta's forces. Victor's I
Corps retreated before them from
Talavera. Cuesta's pursuing forces fell back after Victor's
reinforced army, now commanded by Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, drove
upon them. Two British divisions advanced to help the Spanish. On
27 July at the Battle of Talavera, the French advanced in three
columns and were repulsed several times, but at a heavy cost to the
Anglo-Allied force, which lost 7,500 men for French losses of 7,400.
Wellesley withdrew from Talavera on 4 August to avoid being cut off by
Soult's converging army, which defeated a Spanish blocking force in an
assault crossing at the River
Tagus near Puente del Arzobispo. Lack of
supplies and the threat of French reinforcement in the spring led
Wellington to retreat into Portugal. A Spanish attempt to capture
Madrid after Talavera failed at Almonacid, where Sébastiani's IV
Corps inflicted 5,500 casualties on the Spanish, forcing them to
retreat at the cost of 2,400 French losses.
Supreme Central and Governing Junta of the Kingdom was
forced by popular pressure to set up the
Cádiz Cortes in the summer
of 1809. The Junta came up with what it hoped would be a war-winning
strategy, a two-pronged offensive to recapture Madrid, involving over
100,000 troops in three armies under the Duke del Parque, Juan Carlos
de Aréizaga and the Duke of Albuquerque. Del Parque
defeated Jean Gabriel Marchand's VI
Corps at the
Battle of Tamames on
18 October 1809. and occupied Salamanca on 25 October.
Marchand was replaced by François Étienne de Kellermann, who brought
up reinforcements in the form of his own men as well as General of
Brigade Nicolas Godinot's force. Kellermann marched on Del Parque's
position at Salamanca, who promptly abandoned it and retreated south.
In the meantime, the guerrillas in the
Province of León
Province of León increased
their activity. Kellermann left VI
Corps holding Salamanca and
returned to León to stamp out the uprising.
Aréizaga's army was destroyed by Soult at the
Battle of Ocaña
Battle of Ocaña on 19
November. The Spanish lost 19,000 men compared to French losses of
2,000. Albuquerque soon abandoned his efforts near Talavera. Del
Parque moved on Salamanca again, hustling one of the VI
Alba de Tormes
Alba de Tormes and occupying Salamanca on 20 November.
Hoping to get between Kellermann and Madrid, Del Parque advanced
towards Medina del Campo. Kellermann counterattacked and was repulsed
Battle of Carpio on 23 November. The next day, Del Parque
received news of the Ocaña disaster and fled south, intending to
shelter in the mountains of central Spain. On the afternoon of
28 November, Kellermann attacked Del Parque at
Alba de Tormes
Alba de Tormes and
routed him after inflicting losses of 3,000 men. Del Parque's army
fled into the mountains, its strength greatly reduced through combat
and non-combat causes by mid-January.
Joseph I's régime
Main article: Kingdom of
Joseph I of Spain
Joseph contented himself with working within the apparatus extant
under the old regime, while placing responsibility for local
government in many provinces in the hands of royal commissioners.
After much preparation and debate, on 2 July 1809
Spain was divided
into 38 new provinces, each headed by an
Intendent appointed by King
Joseph, and on 17 April 1810 these provinces were converted into
French-style prefectures and sub-prefectures.
The French obtained a measure of acquiescence among the propertied
classes. Francisco de Goya, who remained in
Madrid throughout the
French occupation, painted Joseph's picture and documented the war in
a series of 82 prints called Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters
of War). For many imperial officers, life could be comfortable.
Among the liberal, republican and radical segments of the Spanish and
Portuguese populations there was much support for a potential French
invasion. The term afrancesado ("turned French") was used to denote
those who supported the Enlightenment, secular ideals, and the French
Napoleon relied on support from these afrancesados
both in the conduct of the war and administration of the country.
Napoleon removed all feudal and clerical privileges but most Spanish
liberals soon came to oppose the occupation because of the violence
and brutality it brought. Marxians wrote that there was a positive
identification on the part of the people with the Napoleonic
revolution, but this is probably impossible to substantiate by the
reasons for collaboration being practical rather than ideological.
Emergence of the guerrilla
Juan Martín Díez, El Empecinado, a key guerrilla leader.
War is regarded as one of the first people's wars,
significant for the emergence of large-scale guerrilla warfare. It is
from this conflict that the English language borrowed the word.
The guerrillas troubled the French troops, but they frightened their
own countrymen with forced conscription and looting.
Many of the partisans were either fleeing the law or trying to get
rich. Later in the war the authorities tried to make the guerrillas
reliable, and many of them formed regular army units such as Espoz y
Mina's "Cazadores de Navarra". The French believed that enlightened
absolutism had made less progress in
Portugal than elsewhere
and that resistance was the product of a century's worth of
backwardness in knowledge and social habits as well as Spain's
Catholic obscurantism, superstition and counter-revolution.
The guerrilla style of fighting was the Spanish military's single most
effective tactic. Most organized attempts by regular Spanish forces to
take on the French ended in defeat. Once a battle was lost and the
soldiers reverted to their guerrilla roles, they tied down large
numbers of French troops over a wide area with a much lower
expenditure of men, energy, and supplies and
facilitated the conventional victories of Wellington and his
Anglo-Portuguese army and the subsequent liberation of
Spain. Mass resistance by the people of
Spain inspired the war
efforts of Austria, Russia and Prussia against Napoleon.
Hatred of the French and devotion to God, King and Fatherland were not
the only reason to join the Partisans. The French imposed
restrictions on movement and on many traditional aspects of street
life, so opportunities to find alternative sources of income were
limited—industry was at a standstill and many señores were unable
to pay their existing retainers and domestic servants, and could not
take on new staff. Hunger and despair reigned on all sides.
Because the military record was so dismal, many Spanish politicians
and publicists exaggerated the activities of the guerrillas.
Revolution under siege
Further information: Siege of Cádiz
Cádiz in 1813
The French invaded Andalusia on 19 January 1810. 60,000 French
troops—the corps of Victor, Mortier and Sebastiani together with
other formations—advanced southwards to assault the Spanish
positions. Overwhelmed at every point, Aréizaga's men fled eastwards
and southwards, leaving town after town to fall into the hands of the
enemy. The result was revolution. On 23 January the Junta Central
decided to flee to the safety of Cádiz. It then dissolved itself
on 29 January 1810 and set up a five-person Regency Council of Spain
and the Indies, charged with convening the Cortes. Soult cleared
all of southern
Spain except Cádiz, which he left Victor to
blockade. The system of juntas was replaced by a regency and the
Cádiz Cortes, which established a permanent government under the
Constitution of 1812.
Cadiz was heavily fortified, while the harbour was full of British and
Spanish warships. Alburquerque's army and the Voluntarios Distinguidos
had been reinforced by 3,000 soldiers who had fled Seville, and a
strong Anglo-Portuguese brigade commanded by General William Stewart.
Shaken by their experiences, the Spaniards had abandoned their earlier
scruples about a British garrison. Victor's French troops camped
at the shoreline and tried to bombard the city into surrender. Thanks
to British naval supremacy, a naval blockade of the city was
impossible. The French bombardment was ineffectual and the confidence
of the gaditanos grew and persuaded them that they were heroes. With
food abundant and falling in price, the bombardment was hopeless
despite both hurricane and epidemic—a storm destroyed many ships in
the spring of 1810 and the city was ravaged by yellow fever.
Cádiz was secured, attention turned to the political situation.
The Junta Central announced that the cortes would open on 1 March
1810. Suffrage was to be extended to all male householders over 25.
After public voting, representatives from district-level assemblies
would choose deputies to send to the provincial meetings that would be
the bodies from which the members of the cortes would emerge. From
1 February 1810, the implementation of these decrees had been in the
hands of the new regency council selected by the Junta Central.
The viceroyalties and independent captaincies general of the overseas
territories would each send one representative. This scheme was
resented in America for providing unequal representation to the
overseas territories. Unrest erupted in
Quito and Charcas, which saw
themselves as the capitals of kingdoms and resented being subsumed in
the larger "kingdom" of Peru. The revolts were suppressed (See Luz de
América and Bolivian
War of Independence). Throughout early 1809 the
governments of the capitals of the viceroyalties and captaincies
general elected representatives to the Junta, but none arrived in time
to serve on it.
Third Portuguese campaign
Further information: Lines of Torres Vedras
The Battle of Chiclana, 5th March 1811 (1824) captures the fight
between British redcoats and the French troops for Barosa Ridge.
Convinced by intelligence that a new French assault on
imminent, Wellington created a powerful defensive position near
Lisbon, to which he could fall back if necessary. To protect
the city, he ordered the construction of the Lines of Torres Vedras—
three strong lines of mutually supporting forts, blockhouses,
redoubts, and ravelins with fortified artillery positions—under the
supervision of Sir Richard Fletcher. The various parts of the lines
communicated with each other by semaphore, allowing immediate response
to any threat. The work began in the autumn of 1809 and the main
defences were finished just in time one year later. To further hamper
the enemy, the areas in front of the lines were subjected to a
scorched earth policy: they were denuded of food, forage and shelter.
200,000 inhabitants of neighbouring districts were relocated inside
the lines. Wellington exploited the facts that the French could
Portugal only by conquering Lisbon, and that they could in
Lisbon only from the north. Until these changes
occurred the Portuguese administration was free to resist British
influence, Beresford's position being rendered tolerable by the firm
support of the Minister of War, Miguel de Pereira Forjaz.
As a prelude to invasion, Ney took the Spanish fortified town of
Ciudad Rodrigo after a siege lasting from 26 April to 9 July 1810. The
Portugal with an army of around 65,000, led by
Marshal Masséna, and forced Wellington back through Almeida to
Busaco. At the
Battle of the Côa
Battle of the Côa the French drove back Robert
Light Division after which Masséna moved to attack the
held British position on the heights of Bussaco—a 10-mile
(16 km)-long ridge—resulting in the
Battle of Buçaco
Battle of Buçaco on 27
September. Suffering heavy casualties, the French failed to dislodge
the Anglo-Portuguese army. Masséna outmaneuvered Wellington after the
battle, who steadily fell back to the prepared positions in the
Lines. Wellington manned the fortifications with "secondary
troops"—25,000 Portuguese militia, 8,000 Spaniards and 2,500 British
marines and artillerymen—keeping his main field army of British and
Portuguese regulars dispersed to meet a French assault on any point of
Masséna's Army of
Portugal concentrated around Sobral in preparation
to attack. After a fierce skirmish on 14 October in which the strength
of the Lines became apparent, the French dug themselves in rather than
launch a full-scale assault and Masséna's men began to suffer from
the acute shortages in the region. In late October, after holding
his starving army before
Lisbon for a month, Masséna fell back to a
position between Santarém and Rio Maior.
Stalemate in the west
Joaquín Blake y Joyes.
During 1811, Victor's force was diminished because of requests for
reinforcement from Soult to aid his siege of Badajoz. This
brought the French numbers down to between 20,000 and 15,000 and
encouraged the defenders of
Cádiz to attempt a breakout, in
conjunction with the arrival of an Anglo-Spanish relief army of around
12,000 infantry and 800 cavalry under the overall command of Spanish
General Manuel La Peña, with the British contingent being led by
Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Graham. Marching towards
28 February, this force defeated two French divisions under Victor at
Barrosa. The Allies failed to exploit their success and Victor soon
renewed the blockade. From January through March 1811, Soult with
20,000 men besieged and captured the fortress towns of Badajoz and
Olivenza in Extremadura, capturing 16,000 prisoners, before returning
to Andalusia with most of his army. Soult was relieved at the
operation's speedy conclusion, for intelligence received on 8 March
told him that Francisco Ballesteros' Spanish army was menacing
Seville, that Victor had been defeated at Barrosa and Masséna had
retreated from Portugal. Soult redeployed his forces to deal with
In March 1811, with supplies exhausted, Masséna retreated from
Portugal to Salamanca. Wellington went over to the offensive later
that month. An Anglo-Portuguese army led by the British Marshal
William Beresford and a Spanish army led by the Spanish generals
Joaquín Blake and Francisco Castaños, attempted to retake Badajoz by
laying siege to the French garrison Soult had left behind. Soult
regathered his army and marched to relieve the siege. Beresford lifted
the siege and his army intercepted the marching French. At the Battle
of Albuera, Soult outmaneuvered Beresford but could not win the
battle. He retired his army to Seville.
In April, Wellington besieged Almeida. Massena advanced to its relief,
attacking Wellington at Fuentes de Oñoro (3–5 May). Both sides
claimed victory but the British maintained the blockade and the French
retired without being attacked. After this battle, the Almeida
garrison escaped through the British lines in a night march.
Masséna was forced to withdraw, having lost a total of 25,000 men in
Portugal, and was replaced by Auguste Marmont. Wellington joined
Beresford and renewed the siege of Badajoz. Marmont joined Soult with
strong reinforcements and Wellington retired.
Wellington soon appeared before Ciudad Rodrigo. In September, Marmont
repelled him and re-provisioned the fortress. Sorties continued to
be made out of
Cádiz from April to August 1811, and British
naval gunboats destroyed French positions at St. Mary's. An
attempt by Victor to crush the small Anglo-Spanish garrison at Tarifa
over the winter of 1811–1812 was frustrated by torrential rains and
an obstinate defence, marking an end to French operations against the
city's outer works.
French conquest of Aragon
After a two-week siege, the French Army of Aragon under its commander,
General Suchet, captured the town of
Tortosa from the Spanish in
Catalonia on 2 January 1811. MacDonald's VII
Corps was defeated in a
vanguard skirmish at El Pla. The Spanish commander Francisco Rovira
captured in a coup-de-main the key fortress of
Figueres with the help
of 2,000 men on 10 April. The French Army of
Catalonia under MacDonald
blockaded the city to starve the defenders into surrender. With the
help of a relief operation on 3 May, the fortress held out until 17
August, when lack of food prompted a surrender after a last-ditch
breakout attempt failed.
On 5 May, Suchet besieged the vital city of Tarragona, which
functioned as a port, a fortress, and a resource base that sustained
the Spanish field forces in Catalonia. Suchet was given a third of the
Catalonia and the city fell to a surprise attack on 29
June. Suchet's troops massacred 2,000 civilians. Napoleon
rewarded Suchet with a Marshal's baton. On 25 July, Suchet drove the
Spanish out of their positions on the Montserrat mountain range. In
October, the Spanish launched a counterattack that recaptured
Montserrat and took 1,000 prisoners from scattered French garrisons in
the area. In September, Suchet launched an invasion of the province of
Valencia. He besieged the castle of
Sagunto and defeated Blake's
relief attempt. The Spanish defenders capitulated on 25 October.
Suchet trapped Blake's entire army of 28,044 men in the city of
Valencia on 26 December and forced it to surrender on 9 January 1812
after a brief siege. Blake lost 20,281 men dead or captured. Suchet
advanced south, capturing the port town of Dénia. The redeployment of
a substantial part of his troops for the invasion of Russia ground
Suchet's operations to a halt. The victorious Marshal had established
a secure base in Aragon and was ennobled by
Napoleon as the Duke of
Albufera, after a lagoon south of Valencia.
The war now fell into a temporary lull, with the superior French
unable to find an advantage and coming under increasing pressure from
Spanish guerrillas. The French had over 350,000 soldiers in L'Armée
de l'Espagne, but over 200,000 were deployed to protect the French
lines of supply, rather than as substantial fighting units.
Allied campaign in Spain
British infantry attempt to scale the walls of Badajoz, 1812
The Battle of Salamanca
The Proclamation of the Constitution of 1812 by Salvador Viniegra
Wellington renewed the allied advance into
Spain in early 1812,
besieging and capturing the border fortress town of Ciudad Rodrigo by
assault on 19 January and opening up the northern invasion corridor
Portugal into Spain. This also allowed Wellington to proceed to
move to capture the southern fortress town of Badajoz, which would
prove to be one of the bloodiest siege assaults of the Napoleonic
Wars. The town was stormed on 6 April, after a constant artillery
barrage had breached the curtain wall in three places. Tenaciously
defended, the final assault and the earlier skirmishes left the allies
with some 4,800 casualties. These losses appalled Wellington who said
of his troops in a letter, "I greatly hope that I shall never again be
the instrument of putting them to such a test as that to which they
were put last night." The victorious troops massacred about 4,000
The allied army subsequently took Salamanca on 17 June, just as
Marshal Marmont approached. The two forces met on 22 July, after weeks
of maneuver, when Wellington soundly defeated the French at the Battle
of Salamanca, during which Marmont was wounded. The battle established
Wellington as an offensive general and it was said that he "defeated
an army of 40,000 men in 40 minutes." The
Battle of Salamanca
Battle of Salamanca was
a damaging defeat for the French in Spain, and while they regrouped,
Anglo-Portuguese forces moved on Madrid, which surrendered on
14 August. 20,000 muskets, 180 cannon and two French Imperial
Eagles were captured.
French autumn counterattack
After the allied victory at Salamanca on 22 July 1812, King Joseph
Madrid on 11 August. Because Suchet had a
secure base at Valencia, Joseph and Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan
retreated there. Soult, realising he would soon be cut off from his
supplies, ordered a retreat from
Cádiz set for 24 August; the French
were forced to end the two-and-a-half-year-long siege. After a long
artillery barrage, the French placed together the muzzles of over 600
cannons to render them unusable to the Spanish and British. Although
the cannons were useless, the Allied forces captured 30 gunboats and a
large quantity of stores. The French were forced to abandon
Andalusia for fear of being cut off by the allied armies.
Marshals Suchet and Soult joined Joseph and Jourdan at Valencia.
Spanish armies defeated the French garrisons at Astorga and
As the French regrouped, the allies advanced towards Burgos.
Wellington besieged Burgos between 19 September and 21 October, but
failed to capture it. Together, Joseph and the three marshals planned
Madrid and drive Wellington from central Spain. The
French counteroffensive caused Wellington to lift the Siege of Burgos
and retreat to
Portugal in the autumn of 1812, pursued by the
French and losing several thousand men. Napier wrote that about
1,000 allied troops were killed, wounded and missing in action, and
that Hill lost 400 between the
Tagus and the Tormes, and another 100
in the defence of Alba de Tormes. 300 were killed and wounded at the
Huebra where many stragglers died in woodland, and 3,520 allied
prisoners were taken to Salamanca up to 20 November. Napier estimated
that the double retreat cost the allies around 9,000, including the
loss in the siege, and said French writers said 10,000 were taken
between the Tormes and the Agueda. But Joseph's dispatches said the
whole loss was 12,000, including the garrison of Chinchilla, whereas
English authors mostly reduced the British loss to hundreds. As a
consequence of the Salamanca campaign, the French were forced to
evacuate the provinces of Andalusia and Asturias. For Napoleon, losing
Spain in 1812 or 1813 would have meant little if a decisive victory
had occurred in Germany or Russia.
Defeat of King Joseph
Vitoria and the Pyrenees, 1813–1814
1st San Sebastián
2nd San Sebastián
By the end of 1812, the
Grande Armée that had invaded the Russian
Empire had ceased to exist. Unable to resist the oncoming Russians,
the French had to evacuate
East Prussia and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.
With both the
Austrian Empire and the
Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia joining his
Napoleon withdrew more troops from Spain, including
some foreign units and three battalions of sailors sent to assist with
the Siege of Cádiz. 20,000 men were withdrawn; the numbers were not
overwhelming, but the occupying forces were left in a difficult
position. In much of the area under French control—the Basque
provinces, Navarre, Aragon, Old Castile, La Mancha, the Levante, and
Catalonia and León—their presence was a few scattered
garrisons. Trying to hold a front line in an arc from
Valencia, they were still vulnerable to assault, and had abandoned
hopes of victory. According to Esdaile, the best policy would have
been to have fallen back to the Ebro, but the political situation in
1813 made this impossible;
Napoleon wanted to avoid being seen as weak
in the face of German princes watching the advancing Russians and
wondering whether they should change sides. French prestige
suffered another blow when on 17 March el rey intruso (the Intrusive
King, a nickname many Spanish had for King Joseph) left
Madrid in the
company of another vast caravan of refugees.
The following year, Wellington marched 121,000 troops (53,749 British,
39,608 Spanish, and 27,569 Portuguese) from northern Portugal
across the mountains of northern
Spain and the Esla River, skirting
Jourdan's army of 68,000 strung out between the Douro and the Tagus.
Wellington shortened his communications by shifting his base of
operations to the northern Spanish coast and the Anglo-Portuguese
forces swept northwards in late May and seized Burgos, outflanking the
French army and forcing
Joseph Bonaparte into the Zadorra valley.
Map of the Battle of Vitoria
Battle of Vitoria
Battle of Vitoria on 21 June, Joseph's 65,000-man army were
decisively defeated by Wellington's army of 57,000 British, 16,000
Portuguese and 8,000 Spanish. Wellington split his army into four
attacking "columns" and attacked the French defensive position from
south, west and north while the last column cut down across the French
rear. The French were forced back from their prepared positions, and
despite attempts to reform and hold were driven into a rout. This led
to the abandonment of all of the French artillery as well as King
Joseph's extensive baggage train and personal belongings. The latter
led to many Anglo-Allied soldiers halting the pursuit to loot the
wagons; as a result they could not complete the pursuit and this,
along with the French managing to hold the east road out of Vitoria
towards Salvatierra, allowed the French to partially recover. The
Allies chased the retreating French, reaching the
Pyrenees in early
July, and began operations against San Sebastian and Pamplona. On 11
July Soult was given command of all French troops in
Spain and in
consequence Wellington decided to halt his army to regroup at the
The war was not over. Although Bonapartist
Spain had effectively
collapsed, most of France's troops had escaped and fresh troops were
soon gathering beyond the Pyrenees. By themselves, such forces were
unlikely to score more than a few local victories, but French troop
losses elsewhere in Europe could not be taken for granted. Napoleon
might yet inflict defeats on Austria, Russia and Prussia, and with the
divisions between the allies there was no guarantee that one power
would not make a separate peace. It was a major victory and gave
Britain more credibility on the continent, but the thought of Napoleon
descending on the
Pyrenees with the grande armée was not regarded
End of the war in Spain
In August 1813, British headquarters still had misgivings about the
eastern powers. Austria had now joined the Allies, but the Allied
armies had suffered a significant defeat at the Battle of Dresden.
They had recovered somewhat, but the situation was still precarious.
Edward Pakenham wrote, "I should think
that much must depend upon proceedings in the north: I begin to
apprehend ... that Boney may avail himself of the jealousy
of the Allies to the material injury of the cause." But the
defeat or defection of Austria, Russia and Prussia was not the only
danger. It was also uncertain that Wellington could continue to count
on Spanish support.
The summer of 1813 in the Basque provinces and
Navarre was a wet one,
and with the army drenched by incessant rain and the decision to strip
the men of their greatcoats was looking unwise. Sickness was
widespread—at one point a third of Wellington's British troops were
hors de combat—and fears about the army's discipline and general
reliability grew. By 9 July, Wellington reported that 12,500 men were
absent without leave, while plundering was rife. Major General Sir
Frederick Robinson wrote, "We paint the conduct of the French in this
country in very ... harsh colours, but be assured we injure
the people much more than they do ... Wherever we move
devastation marks our steps". With the army established on the
borders of France, desertion had become a problem. The Chasseurs
Britanniques—recruited mainly from French deserters—lost 150 men
in a single night. Wellington wrote, "The desertion is terrible, and
is unaccountable among the British troops. I am not astonished that
the foreigners should go ... but, unless they entice away
the British soldiers, there is no accounting for their going away in
such numbers as they do." Spain's "ragged and ill-fed soldiers"
were also suffering with the onset of winter, the fear that they would
likely "fall on the populace with the utmost savagery" in revenge
attacks and looting was a growing concern to Wellington as the Allied
forces pushed to the French border.
Battle of the Pyrenees, 25 July 1813
Marshal Soult began a counter-offensive (the Battle of the Pyrenees)
and defeated the Allies at the
Battle of Maya
Battle of Maya and the Battle of
Roncesvalles (25 July). Pushing on into Spain, by 27 July the
Roncesvalles wing of Soult's army was within ten miles of
found its way blocked by a substantial allied force posted on a high
ridge in between the villages of Sorauren and Zabaldica, lost
momentum, and was repulsed by the Allies at the
Battle of Sorauren
Battle of Sorauren (28
and 30 July) Reille's right wing suffered further losses at Yanzi
(1 August); and the Echallar and Ivantelly (2 August) during its
retreat into France. Total losses during this
counter-offensive being about 7,000 for the Allies and 10,000 for the
With 18,000 men, Wellington captured the French-garrisoned city of San
Sebastián under Brigadier-General
Louis Emmanuel Rey
Louis Emmanuel Rey after two sieges
that lasted from 7 July to 25 July (While Wellington departed with
sufficient forces to deal with Marshal Soult's counter-offensive, he
left General Graham in command of sufficient forces to prevent sorties
from the city and any relief getting in); and from 22 August to 31
August 1813. The British incurred heavy losses during assaults. The
city in turn was sacked and burnt to the ground by the
Anglo-Portuguese: see Siege of San Sebastián. Meanwhile, the French
garrison retreated into the Citadel, which after a heavy bombardment
their governor surrendered on 8 September, with the garrison marching
out the next day with full military honours. Upon the day that
San Sebastián fell Soult attempted to relieve it, but in the battles
of Vera and San Marcial was repulsed by the
Spanish Army of
Galicia under General Manuel Freire. The
Citadel surrendered on 9
September, the losses in the entire siege having been about—Allies
4,000, French 2,000. Wellington next determined to throw his left
across the river
Bidassoa to strengthen his own position, and secure
the port of Fuenterrabia.
The Battle of the Bidassoa, 1813
At daylight on 7 October 1813 Wellington crossed the
Bidassoa in seven
columns, attacked the entire French position, which stretched in two
heavily entrenched lines from north of the Irun-
Bayonne road, along
mountain spurs to the Great
Rhune 2,800 feet (850 m) high.
The decisive movement was a passage in strength near
the astonishment of the enemy, who in view of the width of the river
and the shifting sands, had thought the crossing impossible at that
point. The French right was then rolled back, and Soult was unable to
reinforce his right in time to retrieve the day. His works fell in
succession after hard fighting, and he withdrew towards the river
Nivelle. The losses were about—Allies, 1,600; French,
1,400.[contradictory] The passage of the
Bidassoa "was a general's not
a soldier's battle".
On 31 October
Pamplona surrendered, and Wellington was now anxious to
drive Suchet from
Catalonia before invading France. The British
government, however, in the interests of the continental powers, urged
an immediate advance over the northern Pyrennes into south-eastern
Napoleon had just suffered a major defeat at the Battle
of Leipzig on 19 October and was in retreat, so
Wellington left the clearance of
Catalonia to others.
In the northern Mediterranean region of
Spain (Catalonia) Suchet had
defeated Elio's Murcians at
Villena (11 April 1813), but was
subsequently routed by Lieutenant General Sir John Murray at the
battle of Castalla (13 April), who then besieged Tarragona. The siege
was abandoned after a time, but was later on renewed by Lieutenant
General Lord William Bentinck. Suchet, after the Battle of Vitoria,
Tarragona (17 August) but defeated Bentinck in the battle of
Ordal (13 September).
Early in 1814 at the
Battle of Molins de Rey
Battle of Molins de Rey (16 January) Sir William
Clinton attacked Suchet and then blockaded
Barcelona on 7 February.
The French posts of Lerida,
Mequinenza and Monzon had also been
yielded up, and Suchet, on 2 March 1814, crossed the
Invasion of France
See also: 1814 campaign in north-east France
Battles of the
Nivelle and the Nive, November–December 1813
The Battle of Nivelle
On the night of 9 November 1813 Wellington brought up his right from
the Pyrenean passes to the northward of Maya and towards the Nivelle.
Marshal Soult's army (about 79,000), in three entrenched lines,
stretched from the sea in front of
Saint-Jean-de-Luz along commanding
Amotz and thence, behind the river, to Mont
the Nive. Wellington on 10 November 1813 attacked and drove the
French to Bayonne. The allied loss during the
Battle of Nivelle
Battle of Nivelle was
about 2,700; that of the French 4,000, 51 guns, and all their
magazines. The next day Wellington closed in upon
Bayonne from the sea
to the left bank of the Nive.
After this there was a period of comparative inaction, though during
it the French were driven from the bridges at Urdains[e] and
Cambo-les-Bains.[f] The weather had become bad, and the Nive
unfordable; but there were additional and serious causes of delay. The
Portuguese and Spanish authorities were neglecting the payment and
supply of their troops. Wellington had also difficulties of a similar
kind with his own government, and also the Spanish soldiers, in
revenge for many French outrages, had become guilty of grave excesses
in France, so that Wellington took the extreme step of sending 25,000
of them back to
Spain and resigning the command of their army (though
his resignation was subsequently withdrawn). So great was the tension
at this crisis that a rupture with
Spain seemed possible, but this did
Battle of St Jean de Luz, 10 December 1813 by Thomas Sutherland.
Wellington occupied the right as well as the left bank of the
9 December 1813 with a portion of his force only under Rowland Hill
Ustaritz and Cambo-les-Bains, his loss being slight,
and thence pushed down the river towards Villefranque, where Soult
barred his way across the road to Bayonne. The allied army was now
divided into two portions by the Nive; and Soult from
Bayonne at once
took advantage of his central position to attack it with all his
available force, first on the left bank and then on the right.
Desperate fighting now ensued, but fortunately for the British, owing
to the intersected ground, Soult was compelled to advance slowly, and
in the end, Wellington coming up with Beresford from the right bank,
the French retired baffled. Renewed French attacks on 13 December
were also stopped. The losses in the four days' fighting in the
Bayonne (or battles of the Nive) were-Allies about
5,000, French about 7,000.[h]
Operation resumed in February 1814 and Wellington quickly went over to
the offensive. Hill on 14 and 15 February, after a battle of Garris,
drove the French posts beyond the Joyeuse; and Wellington then pressed
these troops back over the Bidouze and
Gave de Mauleon
Gave de Mauleon to the Gave
d'Oloron.[i] An amphibious landing with 8,000 troops at the mouth of
Adour secured a crossing over the river as a preliminary to the
siege of Bayonne. On 27 February, Wellington attacked Soult at
Orthez and forced him to retreat towards Saint-Sever, which he reached
on 28 February. The allied loss was about 2,000; the French 4,000 and
6 guns. Beresford, with 12,000 men, was now sent to Bordeaux,
which opened its gates as promised to the Allies. Driven by Hill from
Adour on 2 March 1814, Soult retired by Vic-en-Bigorre,
where there was a combat (19 March), and Tarbes, where there was a
severe action (20 March), to
Toulouse behind the Garonne. He
endeavored also to rouse the French peasantry against the Allies, but
in vain, for Wellington's justice and moderation afforded them no
The sortie from the besieged city of Bayonne, on 14 April 1814
On 8 April, Wellington crossed the
Garonne and the Hers-Mort,[j] and
attacked Soult at
Toulouse on 10 April. Spanish attacks on Soult's
heavily fortified positions were repulsed but Beresford's assault
compelled the French to fall back. On 12 April Wellington entered
the city, Soult having retreated the previous day. The Allied loss was
about 5,000, the French 3,000.
On 13 April 1814 officers arrived with the announcement to both armies
of the capture of Paris, the abdication of Napoleon, and the practical
conclusion of peace; and on 18 April a convention, which included
Suchet's force, was entered into between Wellington and Soult.
Toulouse had fallen, the Allies and French, in a sortie from
Bayonne on 14 April, each lost about 1,000 men, so that some 10,000
men fell after peace had virtually been made. The Peace of Paris
was formally signed at Paris on 30 May 1814.
See also: Mid-nineteenth century Spain
French victories of the Peninsular
War inscribed on the Arc de
At the end of the Peninsular War, British troops were partly sent to
England, and partly embarked at
Bordeaux for America for service in
the final months of the American
War of 1812. The Portuguese and
Spanish recrossed the
Pyrenees and the French army dispersed
Louis XVIII was restored to the French throne; and
Napoleon was permitted to reside on the island of Elba, the
sovereignty of which had been conceded to him by the allied powers.
King Joseph had been welcomed by Spanish afrancesados (Francophiles),
who believed that collaboration with France would bring modernisation
and liberty; an example was the abolition of the Spanish Inquisition.
After the war, the remaining afrancesados were exiled to France.
The whole country had been pillaged, the Church had been ruined by its
losses and society subjected to destabilizing change. After
the Peninsular War, the pro-independence traditionalists and liberals
clashed in the Carlist Wars, as King
Ferdinand VII ("the Desired One";
later "the Traitor King") revoked all the changes made by the
independent Cortes in Cádiz. The experience in self-government led
Libertadores (Liberators) to promote the independence of the
Spain's American colonies. Portugal's position was more favorable than
Spain's. Revolt had not spread to Brazil, there was no colonial
struggle and there had been no attempt at political revolution.
The Portuguese Court's transfer to Rio de Janeiro initiated Brazil's
state-building that produced its independence in 1822.
^ Some accounts mark the Franco-Spanish invasion of
Portugal as the
beginning of the war (Glover 2001, p. 45).
^ Denotes the date of the general armistice between France and the
Sixth Coalition (Glover 2001, p. 335).
^ Other names:
Basque: Iberiar Penintsulako Gerra ("Iberian Peninsular War") or
Espainiako Independentzia Gerra ("Spanish
War of Independence")
Catalan: Guerra del Francès ("
War of the Frenchman")
French: Guerre d'Espagne et du
Spain and in
Portugal") or Campagne d'Espagne ("Spanish Campaign")
Galician: Guerra da Independencia española ("
War of Spanish
Portuguese: Invasões Francesas ("French Invasions") or Guerra
Peninsular ("Peninsular War")
Spanish: Many names, including the la Francesada, Guerra de la
Independencia ("Independence War"), Guerra Peninsular ("Peninsular
War"), Guerra de España ("
War of Spain"), Guerra del Francés ("War
of the French"), Guerra de los Seis Años ("Six Years' War"),
Levantamiento y revolución de los españoles ("Rising and Revolution
of the Spaniards")
^ The young class who styled themselves with French fashion and
^ The bridge crosses the Urdains brook (a tributary of the Nive) just
north of the Château d'Urdain.
^ George Bell, then a junior British officer in the 34th Foot
recounted in his biography that the period of inaction in this area of
an "Irish sentry who was found with a French and an English musket on
his two shoulders, guarding a bridge over a brook on behalf of both
armies. For he explained to the officer going the rounds that his
French neighbour had gone off on his behalf, with his last precious
half-dollar, to buy brandy for both, and had left his musket in pledge
till his return. The French officer going his rounds on the other side
of the brook then turned up, and explained that he had caught his
sentry, without arms and carrying two bottles, a long way to the rear.
If either of them reported what had happened to their colonels, both
sentries would be court-martialled and shot. Wherefore both subalterns
agreed to hush up the matter".
^ On 11 December, Napoleon, beleaguered and desperate, agreed to a
separate peace with
Spain under the Treaty of Valençay, under which
he would release and recognize Ferdinand in exchange for a complete
cessation of hostilities. But the Spanish had no intention of trusting
Napoleon and the fighting continued.
^ On the evening of 10 December, some 1,400 troops from three German
battalions deserted in response to a secret message from the Duke of
Nassau—one of the many German rulers who had surrendered following
the Battle of Leipzig—ordering them to surrender to the Allies. In
addition, Soult and Suchet lost the rest of their German
units—another 3,000 men—as it was felt that they became
unreliable. This left the Adour's defenders much depleted and
incapable of further offensive action.
^ "Gave" in the
Pyrenees means a mountain stream or torrent.
^ Contemporary British military sources and some secondary sources
call this river the "Ers" (Robinson 1911, p. 97).
^ a b c d e Clodfelter 2017, p. 153.
^ a b Clodfelter 2017, p. 156.
^ Clodfelter 2017, p. 154.
^ a b c Clodfelter 2017, p. 155.
^ a b c d e Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of
Casualty and Other Figures, 1492-2015. p. 157.
^ a b c Clodfelter 2017, p. 157.
^ Chandler, David. The Art of Warfare on Land. p. 164. [full
^ Fletcher 2003a, p. [page needed].
^ a b c d Hindley 2010.
^ (Ellis 2014, p. 100) cites Owen Connelly (ed), "peninsular
War", Historical dictionary, p. 387.
^ Payne 1973, pp. 432–433.
^ Chandler (1966), 588
^ Chandler (1966), 596
^ Chandler (1966), 597
^ a b Oman (2010), I, 7
^ a b Oman (2010), I, 8
^ Oman (2010), I, 9
^ Oman (2010), I, 26
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 22.
^ Gates (2002), 6-7
^ Oman (2010), I, 367
^ Oman (2010), I, 27
^ Oman (2010), I, 28
^ Oman (2010), I, 30
^ Chandler (1966), 599
^ a b c Oman (2010), I, 31
^ a b Oman (2010), I, 32
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 37.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 38.
^ Chandler 1995, p. 610.
^ Esdaile 2003, pp. 302–303.
^ Gates 2009, p. 12.
^ Gates 2002, p. 162.
^ Chandler 1995, p. 611; Gates 2002, pp. 181–182.
^ Gates 2002, p. 61.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 67.
^ Chandler 1995, p. 614.
^ a b Esdaile 2003, p. 73.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 74.
^ Glover 2001, p. 53.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 77.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 84.
^ Chandler 1995, p. 617.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 87.
^ Richardson 1920, p. 343.
^ Gay 1903, p. 231.
^ Chandler 1995, p. 628.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 106.
^ Oman 1902, pp. 367–375.
^ Glover 2001, p. 55.
^ Chandler 1995, p. 631.
^ a b Martínez 1999, p. [page needed].
^ Oman 1902, p. 492.
^ Gates 2002, p. 108.
^ Fremont-Barnes 2002, p. 35.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 146.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 150.
^ Fletcher 1999, p. 97.
^ a b Gates 2002, p. 114.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 155.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 156.
^ a b Glover 2001, p. 89.
^ Bell, David A. "Napoleon's Total War". TheHistoryNet.com. Archived
from the original on 2009-10-06.
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War in Spain: Napoleonic Wars: Peninsula Campaign: Wellington".
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^ Gates 2001, p. 138.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 178.
^ Gates 2001, p. 142.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 179.
^ Gates 2002, p. 177.
^ Guedalla 2005, p. 186.
^ Gates 2002, p. 94.
^ Gates 2002, pp. 194–196.
^ Gates 2002, p. 494.
^ Smith 1998, pp. 333–334
^ Gates 2002, pp. 197–199.
^ Gates 2002, p. 199.
^ Oman 1908, pp. 97–98.
^ Smith 1998, p. 336
^ Oman 1908, p. 98.
^ a b Oman 1908, p. 99.
^ Gates 2002, p. 204.
^ Oman 1908, p. 101.
^ Brandt 1999, p. 87.
^ a b McLynn 1997, pp. 396–406.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 239.
^ Laqueur 1975, pp. [page needed].
^ Rocca & Rocca 1815, p. [page needed].
^ Glover 2001, p. 10.
^ Chandler 1995, p. 746.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 270.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 271.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 280.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 220.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 282.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 283.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 284.
^ Argüelles 1970, p. 90.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 217.
^ Grehan, John. The Lines of Torres Vedras: The Cornerstone of
Wellington's Strategy in the Peninsular
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^ Esdaile 2003, p. 327.
^ Weller 1962, p. 144.
^ Gates 2001, pp. 32–33.
^ Weller 1962, pp. 145–146.
^ a b Southey 1837, p. 165.
^ Southey 1837, pp. 165, 170.
^ Southey 1837, pp. 172–180.
^ Gates 2001, p. 248.
^ Southey 1837, p. 241.
^ Anonymous 1825, p. 172.
^ Anonymous 1825, p. 174.
^ Rousset 1892, p. 21.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 360.
^ Weller p 204
^ Fletcher p 81
^ "Siege of Badajoz". Encyclopaedia Britannica.
^ Military General Service Medal, with bars for Roleia, Vimiera,
Busaco, Salamanca, Vittoria & St Sebastian, inscribed to Pvt.
Joseph Weller, 1848
^ Porter 1889, p. [page needed].
^ Glover 2001, pp. 207–208.
^ Southey 1837b, p. 68.
^ Moore, Richard (1999). "Cadiz 5 February 1810 – 24 August
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^ Esdaile 2003, p. 428.
^ a b Esdaile 2003, p. 429.
^ a b Gates 2002, p. 521.
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 454.
^ Pakenham, Edward Michael; Pakenham Longford, Thomas (2009). Pakenham
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^ Robinson 1956, p. 165.
^ Wellington to Bathurst, 18 August 1813, WD, vol. VI, p. 690.
^ The Peninsular War: A New History by Charles Esdaile, pg 457
^ Esdaile 2003, p. 462.
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^ COS staff (November 2014), Battle Name:Yanzi,
clash-of-steel.com .[better source needed]
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^ Napier 1879, pp. 334–343.
^ Glover 2001, pp. 280–287.
^ Robinson 1911, pp. 95–96.
^ Napier 1879, p. 367.
^ a b c d e f g h i Robinson 1911, p. 96.
^ Commander of a British expedition from the Mediterranean islands
(Robinson 1911, p. 96).
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^ (Oman 1930, p. 295) cites Memoirs of Sir George Bell', i. p 133
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^ Robinson 1911, pp. 96–97.
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