All things atrocious and shameless flock from all parts to Rome. — Tacitus

Peninsular Wars (part of the Napoleonic Wars)

1808-1814
France — versus — Spain, Portugal, Britain

First Portugal Campaign — Feb-July 1808      French Invasion — Oct 1808-1809     
Allied Campaign in Portugal — 1809-1812      Allied Offensive in Spain — 1813     

peninsular
THE TOWN OF CINTRA, PORTUGAL, IN 1808
The Peninsular Wars were an important part of the Napoleonic Wars, but they occurred on the Iberian Peninsula and were separate from the Coalition based wars fought in Western Europe. While the armies raised in Western Europe were national armies under monarchical governments, the Spanish did not rise up against Napoleon until he deposed their king, and put his own brother on the Spanish throne. This occurred shortly after the French invaded Spain on the pretext of conquering Portugal, but took over numerous Spanish fortifications in the process. This caused a wide-spread rebellion, not among the aristocracy, but among common people throughout Spain. The fact that the rebellion was disorganized and decentralized made it difficult for the Spanish to coordinate their efforts enough to actually drive the French from Spain, but it also made it nearly impossible for the French to effectively squelch the rebellion. The term "guerrilla warfare" was first used to describe how the Spaniards fought the French during the Peninsular war, and it was very effective in terms of tying up enormous numbers of French troops without engaging in open battle. On the negative side, the Spanish infrastructure suffered greatly from the war, both from the scorched earth tactics of the Spanish themselves, and from the severe bombings of the French.

The Peninsular wars were also the primary front in which the British land forces were engaged against Napoleon. Britain had long been an ally of Portugal, and lent both naval and land support to resist the French conquest of Portugal in 1808. The British aid, however, was at first disorganized. It was not until Wellington returned to Portugal in 1809, after the French offensive was over, that the British and Portuguese established a permanent front. Although Wellington had considerable success at driving the French from Portugal and Southern Spain, no great progress was made in dislodging the French from Northern Spain until 1813, after Napoleon's catastrophic retreat from Russia. In order to fend off his enemies in the east, the emperor needed to draw off troops from Spain and at that point Wellington led an offensive that succeeded in driving the French from Spanish soil.

First Portugal Campaign and Invasion by Stealth : Feb-July 1808

For most of the French Revolutionary Wars, Spain had been an ally of France, but was governed independently. In 1807 Napoleon insisted that all European countries refrain from trading with Britain. Spain complied, but Portugal refused. A plan was made for French armies to pass through Spain on their way Portugal, but instead, the French armies seized important Spanish fortresses. At the same time, the Spanish king was forced from the throne, and Napoleon appointed his brother Joseph king of Spain. This caused widespread rebellions within Spain, but they were not well coordinated. Madrid rose up in rebellion, but was put down brutally. The town of Saragossa was besieged by the French, but resisted heroically. Finally at the Battle of Baylen, a force of Spaniards defeated and captured an army of 20,000 Frenchmen under Dupont. Meanwhile, the British helped drive the French out of much of Portugal. Within a few months all of Spain was in confusion, and Napoleon himself resolved to bring things to order.



DateBattle Summary
1808  
Battle of Rio Seco (Stealth War ) French victory
Fought July 14, 1808, when Marshal Bessieres, with about 14,000 French, defeated 26,000 Spaniards, under Cuesta. The Spaniards lost about 6,000, while the French loss was only 370 killed and wounded. Following upon this victory, Joseph entered Madrid.
  
1808  
Battle of Baylen (Babylonian Revolt ) Spanish victory
Fought July 19, 1808, between 15,000 Spaniards under Castaflos, and 20,000 French under Dupont. The French were totally defeated with a loss of over 2,000 men, and Dupont surrendered with his whole army.
  
1808  
Battle of Rolica (First British ) Portuguese victory
Fought August 17, 1808, when Wellington, with 14,000 British and Portuguese, of whom only 4,000 came into action, attacked the French, 3,000 strong, under Laborde, and after a half-hearted resistance drove them from their position, with a loss of 500 men. The allies lost about 400.
  
1808  
Battle of Vimiera (French Invasion ) Portuguese victory
Fought August 21, 1808, between 18,000 British and Portuguese, under Sir Arthur Wellesley, and 14,000 French, under Junot. The French were signally defeated, losing 2,000 men and 13 guns, but the victory was not followed up by Sir Harry Burrard, who was in supreme command, and the French were allowed to evacuate Portugal unmolested, under the Convention of Cintra. The British lost 720 killed and wounded.
  


Commander
Short Biography
General Francisco Castanos Spanish general who won a great victory over the French at Baylen in 1808. Later served under Wellington.
Marshall Pierre Dupont French General who was defeated at Baylen and spent the rest of the war in disgrace.
Duke of Wellington Napoleonic war general who fought in Spain and Portugal. Defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.


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Book Links
Exile and Return of the Spanish Court in  The Romance of Spanish History  by  John S.C. Abbott
Spain Under the Bourbons  in  Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain  by  Charles F. Horne


French Invasion : Oct 1808-1809

peninsular
THE MAID OF SARAGOSSA
Napoleon had underestimated the resistance he was likely to get from Spain, for his coup de main. In October 1808 he personally led an army into Spain to put down resistance and secure Joseph's place on the throne. Fortunately for Napoleon, the resistance was disorganized, and was relatively easily overcome. The Spanish army was broken down into several factions which did not coordinate well with each other, and Napoleon marched straight through the center of Spain, encountering little resistance. The one hold-out was again Saragossa, which put up a marvelous resistance to the bitter end, although a great many of the patriots and heroes involved in its defense were eventually killed. Napoleon returned to France after only a few months, relying on his marshals to finish the job. The British sent an army to aid the Spanish under Sir John Moore, but they arrived too late to be of great service and had to beat a hasty retreat to the coast. At the Battle of Corunna, the British fought off the French in order to gain time to retreat to their waiting ships. By early 1909 most of Spain was in the hands of the French, and by the end of the year, most of the organized resistance had been crushed. Portugal however, was not taken, and there were a great many pockets of 'disorganized' resistance still in effect.



DateBattle Summary
1808  
Battle of Espinosa (French Invasion ) French victory
Fought November 10, 1808, between 18,000 French under Victor, and 30,000 Spaniards under Blake. The Spaniards were routed, and Blake's army scattered. The French lost about 1,100 men.
  
1808  
Battle of Tudela (French Invasion ) French victory
Fought November 23, 1808, between 30,000 French, under Lannes, and 45,000 Spaniards, under Castanos and Palafox. The Spaniards were totally defeated, with a loss of about 9,000 killed and wounded, 3,000 prisoners and 30 guns. The French losses were small.
  
1808  
Battle of Moline del Rey (French Invasion ) French victory
Fought December 21, 1808, between 26,000 French, under General St. Cyr, and the Spaniards, about equal in strength, under Reding. The Spaniards were routed with a loss of 10,000 killed, wounded and prisoners, and 50 guns, at very slight cost to the victors.
  
1808  
Siege of Saragossa (French Invasion ) French victory
In June, 1808, siege was laid to this city by the French, under Marshal Lefebvre. A successful defense was made, and the marshal's forces being insufficient to effect a prompt capture, he raised the siege in August. In December of the same year it was again besieged by the French, under Moncey and Mortier, and defended by a Spanish garrison, under Palafox. A most heroic defense was made, notable for the bravery of Agostina, the maid of Saragossa, who took the place of her wounded lover on the ramparts, and helped to serve the guns, but despite all the efforts of Palafox, the place was stormed, and, after very severe house to house fighting, captured, February 21, 1809.
  
1809  
Battle of Coruna (French Invasion ) British victory
Fought January 16, 1809, between 14,000 British under Sir John Moore, and 20,000 French under Soult, who was endeavoring to prevent the British from embarking. The French attacks were uniformly repulsed, and the troops safely embarked, with a loss of about 800, including Sir John Moore. The French lost about 2,000.
  
1809  
Battle of Medellin (French Invasion ) French victory
Fought March 28, 1809, between the French, under Marshal Victor, and 30,000 Spaniards, under Cuesta. The Spaniards soon gave way, and were mercilessly sabred in the pursuit by the French cavalry, losing, it is said, 18,000 killed and wounded. The French lost 300 only.
  
1809  
Battle of Oporto (French Invasion ) French victory
Fought March 28, 1809, when the French, under Soult, completely defeated the Portuguese under Lima and Pareiras, outside the city of Oporto. Soult followed up his success by storming Oporto, with horrible slaughter, it being computed that 10,000 of the inhabitants perished. The French lost 500 only.
  
1809  
Battle of Douro (French Invasion ) Allies victory
Fought May 12, 1809, when 12,000 British under Wellesley (the Duke of Wellington) crossed the Douro and drove the French under Soult out of Oporto. The French numbered about 24,000, of whom 5,000 were killed, wounded or captured, mainly during the pursuit. In the action itself, the French lost 500, the British, 116.
  
1809  
Siege of Gerona (French Invasion ) French victory
This fortress, held by 3,000 Spanish regulars, under Mariano Alvarez, was besieged, June 4, 1809, by General Verdier, with 18,000 French. Though ill-provided with food, medicines, and money, and receiving but little assistance from outside, Alvarez held out gallantly till December 10, when he capitulated, and the garrison marched out with the honours of war.
  
1809  
Battle of Talavera (French Invasion ) Allies victory
Fought July 28, 1809, between 19,000 British and 34,000 Spaniards, under Sir Arthur Wellesley, and 50,000 French, under Marshals Jourdan and Victor, with Joseph Buonaparte in nominal command. The British repulsed all the attacks on their position, at a cost of 6,200 killed and wounded. The Spanish losses were returned at 1,200, but the figures are doubtful, as they took practically no part in the fighting. The French lost 7,389 killed, wounded and missing, and 17 guns.
  
1809  
Battle of Ocana (Spainish Resistance ) French victory
Fought November 19, 1809. In this action, at which Joseph Buonaparte was present, Soult, with 30,000 French, defeated 53,000 Spaniards, under Areizaga, with a loss of 5,000 killed and wounded, 26,000 prisoners, including 3 generals, 45 guns, and all their baggage and transport. The French only lost 1,700 men.
  


Commander
Short Biography
Jose de Palafox Spanish noble from Aragon who courageously defended Saragossa from a French siege during Napoleonic Wars.
Agustina de Aragon Heroine of the siege of Saragossa. Behaved heroically under fire. Later joined Wellington's troops as an officer.
Napoleon Victorious general who rose to power during the French Revolution. Crowned himself Emperor and restored France to greatness.
General Francisco Castanos Spanish general who won a great victory over the French at Baylen in 1808. Later served under Wellington.
John Moore Napoleonic War hero who died at the Battle of Coruna.
Joseph Bonaparte Older brother of Napoleon who was crowned first, King of Naples, and then later, King of Spain.
General Garcia Cuesta Spanish general who did not get along well with the British, and suffered numerous defeats.


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Story Links
Book Links
King Joseph  in  A Child's History of Spain  by  John Bonner
Napoleon in Spain  in  The Story of Napoleon  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Siege of Saragossa  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris
Defense of Saragoza  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge
Sir John Moore at Coruna  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge
Victory of Talavera  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge


Allied Campaign in Portugal and Western Spain : 1809-1812

Wellington
THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON
Wellington had taken over command in Portugal in mid 1809, but it took him some time to consolidate his position, secure his supply lines, and prepare for an offensive. His experience working directly with the Spanish army was not always a good one, since there were considerable differences in discipline between the two. Wellington intended to lead an allied army that included British, Portuguese, and several Spanish units. Instead of joining Wellington, however, much of the Spanish army devolved into guerrilla fighters, who were supplied by the British and were very effective in tying up the French supply lines, and generating general confusion among Napoleon's troops.

In 1810 the French attempted to retake Portugal, but were repulsed by the allies. Over the next few years, Wellington succeeded in pushing the French out of additional territory in southern and western Spain, but there was no hope of a major offensive to recapture central Spain until Napoleon withdrew many of his troops for the campaign to Russian in 1812. At that point, Wellington, who had been building up his forces in Portugal, took advantage of French weakness in the region, and in 1812 captured several more important towns in Western Spain.



DateBattle Summary
1810  
Battle of Busaco (British Second ) Allies victory
Fought by Wellington, September 29, 1810, to secure his retreat to Torres Vedras. He occupied the heights of Busaco with 25,000 men and was attacked by 40,000 French under Massena. The actual assault was delivered by the corps of Ney and Reynier, but they could make no impression, and were repulsed with a loss of about 4,500. The British lost 1,300 killed and wounded.
  
1811  
Battle of Gebora (Spanish Resistance ) French victory
Fought February 19, 1811, between 8,000 French, under Marshal Soult, and 12,000 Spaniards, under Mendizabal, The Spaniards were routed with a loss of 2,000 killed and wounded, 5,000 prisoners and all their guns.
  
1811  
Battle of Barosa (British Second ) Allies victory
In the course of the operations for the relief of Cadiz, General Graham, with 4,000 British troops, defeated Marshal Victor with 9,000 French, March 5, 1811. The French lost 2,000 killed and wounded, including two generals, 6 guns, 2 eagles, and 400 prisoners. The British losses amounted to 50 officers and 1,160 rank and file. A large Spanish force under La Pena stood idly by, and took no part in the action.
  
1811  
Battle of Sabugal (British Second ) Allies victory
Fought April 3, 1811, between three British divisions, under Wellington, and the French, consisting of Reynier's corps. Reynier held the salient angle of the French position on the Coa, and was driven back after less than an hour's fighting, with a loss of about 1,500. The British lost 200 only.
  
1811  
Battle of Fuentes d'Onoro (British Second ) Allies victory
Fought May 5, 1811, in the course of Massena's attempt to relieve Almeida. Wellington, with 34,000 men, occupied a position behind Fuentes d'Oiloro, which was attacked by Massena with 34,000 troops and 36 guns. He failed to capture the position, and finally retired, in good order. The British lost 1,200 killed and wounded, and 300 prisoners. The French losses are variously estimated, but were certainly heavier.
  
1811  
Battle of Albuera (British Second ) Allies victory
Fought May 16, 1811, between the allied British, Portuguese and Spanish forces, numbering 46,000, of whom 7,000 only were British infantry, the whole army being under the command of Marshal Beresford, and 33,000 French under Marshal Soult. The French attacked Beresford's position, and the Spaniards offering but a poor resistance, defeat was only averted by the extraordinary valour of the British troops, especially of the Fusilier Brigade, which came into action when the day seemed lost, and drove the French from the field. Of the 7,000 British, but 1,800 were left standing. The French lost over 8,000, including five generals.
  
1811  
Siege of Sagunto (Spanish Resistance ) French victory
This fortress, held by a Spanish garrison, was besieged by the French, 22,000 strong, under Soult, September 23, 1811. Built on the heights above Murviedro, the place was accessible on one side only, and an attempt to escalade this was repulsed September 28. A regular siege was then commenced, and a second unsuccessful assault was made on October 18. On the 25th General Blake, with 30,000 Spaniards, made an attempt to relieve the place, but was defeated with a loss of 1,000 killed and wounded and 4,000 prisoners. the victory costing the French about 800 men. On the following day the garrison surrendered.
  
1812  
Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo (British Second ) Allies victory
This town was invested by Wellington January 8, 1812, and carried by assault twelve days later. The besiegers lost during the siege 1,290 killed and wounded, of whom 710, including Generals Craufurd and Mackinnon, fell in the storm. The French lost 300 killed and wounded, 1,500 prisoners, and 150 guns.
  
1812  
Siege of Badajos (British Second ) Allies victory
On March 17, 1812, this fortress, held by a garrison of French, Hessians and Spaniards, 5,000 strong, under Phillipon, was invested by Wellington. The breaches were declared to be practicable on April 5, and an assault was ordered. After terrible slaughter, the town was taken, with a loss to the assailants of 3,500, the total British losses during the siege exceeding 5,000. Fearful excesses were committed after the assault, and for two days the troops were completely out of hand.
  
1812  
Battle of Salamanca (First British ) Allies victory
Fought July 22, 1812, when Wellington, with 46,000 British and Spanish troops, encountered 42,000 French, under Marmont. The battle was forced on by Marmont, who was endeavoring to interrupt Wellington's retreat, but the Marshal was severely wounded early in the day, and the conduct of the action was in the hands of General Bonnet. The result was a signal victory for the British, the French losing 12,500 killed, wounded and prisoners, and 12 guns. The British and Spanish loss amounted to about 6,000. These figures include the skirmishes of the days preceding the battle, during which the armies were in touch.
  


Commander
Short Biography
Duke of Wellington Napoleonic war general who fought in Spain and Portugal. Defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.
William Beresford Commander of combined Anglo-Portuguese army during the Peninsular War.
Joaquin Blake Spanish General who served in the Peninsular War.
Marshall Soult French Marshall during the late Peninsular Wars in Spain.
Massena French-Italian General who distinguished himself in Napoleon's Italian Campaign.


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Story Links
Book Links
The French in Spain  in  A Child's History of Spain  by  John Bonner
From Lisbon to the Pyrenees  in  Stories from English History, Part Third  by  Alfred J. Church
Peninsular War  in  The Hanoverians  by  C. J. B. Gaskoin
Story of Wellington  in  Back Matter  by  books/lord/stpauls/_back.html
Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington  in  Great Englishmen  by  M. B. Synge
Wellington's Victories in Spain  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge
Spain for the Spaniards  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge


Allied Offensive in Spain : 1813

peninsular
SIR THOMAS PICTON, WELLINGTON'S RIGHT-HAND MAN IN THE PENINSULAR WAR
Napoleon's disastrous retreat from Moscow led directly to a successful offensive in Spain because by early 1813 he was compelled to withdraw additional troops from Spain in order to meet the Prussians and Russians threatening his eastern border. This was exactly the opportunity Wellington needed and he conducted a successful offensive lasting from the spring of 1813 to April 1814. By the time Napoleon resigned his command in April of 1814, the Anglo-Spanish forces had pushed across the French borders all the way into Toulouse.



DateBattle Summary
1813  
Battle of Castalla (British Offensive ) Allies victory
Fought April 13, 1813, between 17,000 allied troops under Sir John Murray, and 15,000 French under Suchet. The French were defeated. The allies lost 600 killed and wounded; the French, according to Suchet, 800 according to Murray, 3,000, but the former figure is probably nearer to the truth.
  
1813  
Battle of Vittoria (British Offensive ) Allies victory
Fought June 21, 1813, between 80,000 British, Portuguese and Spanish troops, under Wellington, and about 70,000 French, under Joseph Buonaparte. After severe fighting the French were defeated at all points and made a somewhat disorderly retreat, losing 6,000 killed, wounded, and prisoners, 143 guns, and almost all their baggage and treasure. The allies lost 5,000. This battle finally closed the era of French domination in Spain, and opened to Wellington the road to the Pyrenees.
  
1813  
Siege of San Sebastian (British Offensive ) Allies victory
This town was besieged July 10, 1813, by the British, under General Graham, and was defended by a French garrison, under General Rey. An assault on July 25 was repulsed, and pending the arrival of heavy guns from England, the siege resolved itself into a blockade. Active operations were resumed, and on the 31st the town was taken by storm. Rey, however, still held out in the citadel, and it was only after further bombardment that he surrendered on September 9. The besiegers' losses amounted to over 2,500 killed and wounded.
  
1813  
Battle of Maya (British Offensive ) French victory
Fought July 25, 1813, between a British division, under General Stewart, and the French divisions of d'Armagnac, Abbe and Maransin. The French, at a cost of 1,500 men, forced the pass of Maya, driving back the British with a loss of 1,400 men and 4 guns.
  
1813  
Battle of Roncesvalles (British Offensive ) Allies victory
One of the actions known as the "Battles of the Pyrenees," fought July 25, 1813. Soult, at the head of Clauset's division, attacked the British, consisting of three brigades, under General Byng, but was unable to carry their position, and after severe fighting was repulsed with a loss of 400. The British lost 181 killed and wounded.
  
1813  
Battle of Pyrenees (British Offensive ) Allies victory
The engagements fought between Wellington's lieutenants and Soult's army, which was endeavoring to relieve San Sebastian, are known as the Battles of the Pyrenees. They include the fighting from July 25 to August 2, 1813, and specially the actions of Roncesvalles, Maya, Santarem and Buenzas. The British loss in these battles amounted to 7,300, while the French lost fully double that number.
  
1813  
Battle of Nivelle (British Offensive ) Allies victory
Fought November 10, 1813, when the French, under Soult, were driven from a very strong position by the British, under Wellington, and forced to retire behind the Nivelle. The French lost 4,265, including about 1,200 prisoners, 51 guns, and all their field magazines. The British lost 2,694 killed and wounded.
  
1813  
Battle of Nive (British Offensive ) Allies victory
Fought December 13, 1813 between 35,000 French, under Soult, and 14,000 British and Portuguese, under Wellington. Having crossed the Nive on the 10th, Wellington took up a strong position on the heights near the village of St. Pierre. Here he was attacked by Soult, but repulsed him, and occupied the French position in front of the Adour. The French losses in this battle and the combats which preceded it, amounted to 10,000 men. The British lost 5,019 killed and wounded.
  
1814  
Battle of Orthez (British Offensive ) Allies victory
Fought February 27, 1814, between the British under Wellington, and the French, under Soult. The French were driven out of Orthez and across the Luy de Warn, with a loss of 4,000 killed and wounded, and 6 guns.
  
1814  
Battle of Toulouse (British Second ) Allies victory
Fought April 10, 1814, between 38,000 French, under Soult, and 24,000 British and Spaniards, under Wellington. The French entrenchments in front of Toulouse were attacked by the British, who after severe fighting captured some of the outworks. The victory, however, was incomplete, and was in effect of no value, as Napoleon had on this date already surrendered to the allies in Paris. The French lost about 3,000 killed and wounded, the allies, 4,659, of whom 2,000 were Spaniards.
  


Commander
Short Biography
Marshall Soult French Marshall during the late Peninsular Wars in Spain.
Duke of Wellington Napoleonic war general who fought in Spain and Portugal. Defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.


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Image Links


Sack of Ciudad Rodrigo
 in Joseph Bonaparte

The town of Cintra, Portugal, in 1808
 in The Hanoverians

Sir Thomas Picton, Wellington's right-hand man in the Peninsular War
 in The Hanoverians

Lord Beresford, Commander of the Portuguese troops
 in The Hanoverians

The Defense of Saragossa
 in Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain

An episode of the siege of Saragossa
 in Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain

The storming of Badajoz
 in Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain

The Battle of Salamanca
 in Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain

The Maid of Saragossa
 in The Story of Napoleon