free ebooks

A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

To keep the peninsula under control


English writer (Oman) has expressed

it: "The movement was spontaneous, unselfish, and reckless; in its wounded pride, the nation challenged Napoleon to combat, without any thought of the consequences, without counting up its own resources or those of the enemy." _Juntas_, or governing groups, for the various provinces hastily constituted themselves and prepared for the conflict. There were some 100,000 widely scattered Spanish troops, between men of the regular army and the militia, but they were almost wholly unfit to take the field, and as events proved were badly officered. Against them were about 117,000 French soldiers in the peninsula (including 28,000 in Portugal), and though these were far from equalling Napoleon's best military units they were vastly superior in every technical respect to the Spaniards. If it had been a mere question of armies in the field there could have been no doubt as to the outcome in the shape of a decisive French victory, but something was going on in Spain which Napoleon had never dreamed of and seemed unable to understand; in a land stirred by the furor of patriotism such as had permeated all Spain the ordinary rules of military science had to be left in abeyance. Napoleon thought that all was over, when things were just about to begin; flying patrols here and there, a species of mounted police, would be enough, he believed, in addition to the existing garrisons, to keep the peninsula under control. It was of a piece with this estimate that he should send General Dupont with a
column of 13,000 men, later reinforced up to 22,000, to effect the conquest of Andalusia. Dupont found, what other French commanders were to learn after him, that the only land he could conquer was that actually occupied at a given time by his soldiers; the country in his rear rose behind him as surely as the armies before him stood ready at the first opportunity to oppose his advance. Getting into a difficult position at Bayl?n, he surrendered to the Spanish general, Casta?os, on June 23, with 18,000 men. In less than two months the disorganized Spanish forces had been able to strike a blow such as French arms had not received for nine years. Meanwhile, Joseph Bonaparte, who had been designated by Napoleon for the crown of Spain as early as in the month of March, had been offered the throne on May 13 by the French-dominated _Junta_ of the Regency, of Madrid, and on June 15 at Bayonne by a deputation of Spanish nobles who had been ordered to go there for precisely that purpose. Joseph had entered Madrid in July, but the capitulation of Bayl?n caused him to leave that city and retire with most of his forces behind the Ebro. Thus had the patriots won in their first trial of arms, and the moral effect of the victory made it certain, henceforth, that the Spaniards would fight to the end.

[Sidenote: The Spanish War of Independence.]

It is not necessary to go into the details of the six year conflict, which ended only with the fall of Napoleon in 1814, although the French had been expelled from Spain by the close of the preceding year. English historians, with a pardonable pride, have been wont to make it appear that this achievement was primarily a British feat of arms under the leadership of Sir Arthur Wellesley, the later Duke of Wellington, and, to be sure, English history does not record a more brilliant series of campaigns than that of the so-called Peninsula War. It is unlikely that the Spaniards, unaided, could have driven the French from Spain, for their armies almost invariably proved unable to defeat the enemy in the open field, even though they displayed fanatical courage in the defence of their homes,--as witness the two sieges of Saragossa, desperately resisted by General Palafox, and the stubborn opposition of General ?lvarez in Gerona to the


eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us

freefictionbooks.org is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 freefictionbooks.org - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us