Napoleon in Spain

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PUBLICATION DATE FEBRUARY 2021

A series of defeats provoked Napoleon to lead 200,000 men into the Peninsula. The British attacked near Burgos but were soon forced into a long retreat punctuated by the battles of Sahagún, Benavente and Cacabelos, ending in an evacuation from Coruña in January, 1809. Moore was mortally wounded while directing the defence of the town in the Battle of Coruña. After only two months in Spain, Napoleon handed command over to Marshal Soult and returned to France, to prepare for renewed hostilities against Austria.

Battles simulated

Battle of Vimeiro, 21 August 1808

Image: Portuguese and British troops fighting the French at Vimeiro

Espinosa de los Monteros, 10 November 1808

A Spanish army under General Joaquin Blake advanced, hoping to cut the French lines of communication back to Bayonne, but instead was defeated by a French army under Marshal Lefebvre at Zornoza on 31 October, and retreated back to Bilbao. Blake then turned at bay to rescue one of his divisions trapped in the mountains (5 November), before resuming his retreat.

Image: The Cantabrian Mountains 

Battle of Tudela, 23 November 1808

On 21 November Castaños was between Logroño and Tudela. The French III Corps had crossed the Ebro at Logroño, heading east towards Calahorra, while Marshal Ney’s column had reached the upper Douro valley and was headed in the direction of Tudela. This left Castaños’s army in serious danger of being trapped between two French corps.

Image: Battle of Tudela, January Suchodolski, National Museum in Warsaw

Battle of Coruña, 16 January 1809

After a desperate retreat across the mountains of north western Spain, the British army had reached the coast at Betanzos by the morning of 10 January 1809.

Image: Death of Sir John Moore at the Battle of Corunna, derived from an engraving by Thomas Sutherland and aquatint by William HeathImage