Iberian Peninsula

Napoleonic Wars in the Iberian Peninsula: Battles in Spain during 1809

Other battles and skirmishes fought in the Iberian Peninsula

The battles discussed below are those fought outside the areas of the British/Portuguese thrusts or focus. Most are those with only Spanish and French troops involved. The Spanish had from 100,000 to 160,000 men under arms during this period. Their activities, defensive, as siege troops, and on offense, allowed the British and Portuguese allies to take the field as an effective offensive force.

It is difficult to notice from a simple tally of battles the actual situation in the Iberian peninsula. The French often overwhelmed or scattered Spanish forces of various sizes. These forces nearly as often reformed right behind the marching French, not always to harass rearguard and baggage, but often to cut their communications. The allies (British, Portuguese, and Spanish) were nearly always better informed than the Imperial forces. Captured couriers and dispatches gave the British enough examples that they were often able to decipher French codes and signals.

This is the war where the term and fighting style Guerilla ( pronounced Gway-ree-ya, Spanish for little War) was developed. The Spanish guerillas allowed the numerically inferior British to meet the French on a more equal footing on the large battlefields.

The Uclés campaign, January 13th 1809 -- French victory

Napoleon Left Madrid with most of his troops to pursue Moore's British. The Spanish Duke of Infantado formed the design of retaking the capital. He marched from New Castille with 20,000. He was met at Uclés by Marshal Victor, Duke of Belluno. He was utterly crushed, 1,500 slain, 9,000 captured, all stores and guns taken.

The Spaniards had hanged some captured French. This provided cause, or excuse, for the French to murder some of the captured Spanish prisoners in their care, and commit atrocities on the citizens of Uclés.

The 2nd Siege of Saragossa, December 20th 1808 - February 20th 1809 -- French victory

The siege of the city was renewed on December 20th by Marshal Moncey and Marshal Mortier with 35,000. The city was defended by General Palafox who fell back from a defeat at Tudela at the end of November, and a dedicated citizenry. In fact it was the inhabitants attitudes that induced Palafox to remain instead of exiting the back gates.

The city had its own ordnance and powder mills, and destroyed and barricaded roads and buildings for the defense. The city had 30,000 regular troops, 3,000 artillerymen, and some 20,000 citizens able to fight. The citizenry had an almost superstitious faith in the impregnability of Saragossa. An attack was repelled the morning of the 21st, and the city completely "invested" by the 24th.

Trenches were completed by the 30th and a surrender was refused by Palafox. Many Spanish sallies were defeated and St. Joseph convent taken by January 11th. Marshal Lannes, Duke of Montebello arrived to take the French command, and breaches in the city walls were widened and approaches pushed forward. Each house became a fort fiercely defended by the Spanish. On February 18th a large assault was made by the French and most of the city taken, but terms of capitulation, offered by the city, were refused by Lannes.

Bombardment continued February 19th, and surrender made by a fever stricken Palafox on February 20th, 1809. The Spanish lost 54,000 to guns and disease, the French 4,000 killed in action, and 6,000 to fever. The city was a smoking ruin.

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