The Army of Galicia (in Spanish, Ejército de Galicia) was a Spanish military unit that took part in the Peninsular War against Napoleon’s French Grande Armée.
The Peninsular War (1807–1814) was a military conflict between Napoleon's empire and Bourbon Spain, 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.
Napoléon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.
The Grande Armée was the army commanded by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars. From 1805 to 1809, the Grande Armée scored a series of historic victories that gave the French Empire an unprecedented grip on power over the European continent. Widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest fighting forces ever assembled, it suffered terrible losses during the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and never recovered its tactical superiority after that campaign.
Created by the Supreme Junta towards the end of June 1808to hold the Spanish left wing along the Cantabrian mountains against Napoleon's forces, it had a paper force of 43,000 regulars. Command was first given to General Blake, and then, in November 1808, to General La Romana.
In the Napoleonic era, junta was the name chosen by several local administrations formed in Spain during the Peninsular War as a patriotic alternative to the official administration toppled by the French invaders. The juntas were usually formed by adding prominent members of society, such as prelates, to the already-existing ayuntamientos. The juntas of the capitals of the traditional peninsular kingdoms of Spain styled themselves "Supreme Juntas", to differentiate themselves from, and claim authority over, provincial juntas. Juntas were also formed in Spanish America during this period in reaction to the developments in Spain.
Cantabria is an autonomous community in northern Spain with Santander as its capital city. It is recognized as a historic community and is bordered on the east by the Basque Autonomous Community, on the south by Castile and León, on the west by the Principality of Asturias, and on the north by the Cantabrian Sea.
A regular army is the official army of a state or country, contrasting with irregular forces, such as volunteer irregular militias, private armies, mercenaries, etc. A regular army usually has the following:
Following the defeat of General Gregorio García de la Cuesta’s small and inexperienced Army of Castile at the Battle of Cabezón, which had forced Cuesta to abandon his seat of command at Valladolid to General Lasalle and escape to Benavente, Blake was ordered to combine the troops of his newly formed army with what was left of Cuesta’s forces. Blake had initially turned down a request to do so as the troops were still undergoing training and far short of their full numbers. Setting off with 27,000 foot soldiers and 150 cavalrymen, and after having left troops at different garrisons along the way, especially to guard the gorges,by the time Blake met up with Cuesta at Benavente, their combined forces totalled 22,000 men.
Gregorio García de la Cuesta y Fernández de Celis was a prominent Spanish general of the Peninsular War.
The Battle of Cabezón was an engagement early in the Peninsular War on 12 June 1808 between a small Spanish militia force, based in Valladolid, and a detachment of Marshal Bessières' French Army Corps under General Lasalle.
Benavente is a town and municipality in the north of the province of Zamora, in the autonomous community Castile and León of Spain. It has about 20,000 inhabitants.
Moreover, imposing his seniority against the younger Blake's objections, Cuesta claimed supreme command and insisted on a foolhardy march on Valladolid to reclaim his lost city.Setting his columns marching on July 12, he laid his new, combined force vulnerable to a French counterattack. Paralyzed by disunity of command, the Spanish troops were defeated on 14 July at the Battle of Medina del Rio Seco, mainly due to Cuesta having failed to close the gap between his troops and Blake's.
On 11 October 1808, Blake personally entered Bilbao, forcing General Merlin 32 kilometres (20 mi) up the valley of Durango to Zornosa. Merlin had entered the city the previous August to suppress the revolt against King Joseph and in doing so, had, in the words of the king himself, ensured that the "fire of insurrection was quenched with the blood of twelve hundred men". These numbers were likely exaggerated as according to the source cited they fire bombed Bilbao port and took vessels from the city.to retreat
Christophe Antoine Merlin became a French division commander during the Napoleonic Wars. He joined a volunteer regiment in 1791 and fought against the Kingdom of Spain in the War of the Pyrenees. After becoming an officer in the 4th Hussar Regiment, he participated in the Rhine and Italian campaigns. In 1805 he was promoted general of brigade and fought in Italy and in the 1806 Invasion of Naples. Later he became an equerry to Joseph Bonaparte when that individual headed the Kingdom of Naples.
Durango is a town and municipality of the historical territory and province of Biscay, located in the Basque Country, Spain. It is the main town of Durangaldea, one of the comarcas of Biscay. Because of its economical activities and population, Durango is considered one of the largest towns in Biscay after the ones that compose the conurbation of Greater Bilbao.
Following the French retreat from the disaster at the Battle of Bailén (16–19 July 1808), Blake took up positions opposite the enemy on the banks of the Ebro. On 31 October, the 24,000 men of Marshal Lefebvre's IV Corps attacked Blake's 19,000 men at Pancorbo. By retreating swiftly, Blake was able to prevent being trapped by Napoleon's planned envelopment and annihilation of the Spanish flank.
The Battle of Bailén was fought in 1808 by the Spanish Army of Andalusia, led by Generals Francisco Castaños and Theodor von Reding, and the Imperial French Army's II corps d'observation de la Gironde under General Pierre Dupont de l'Étang. This battle was the first ever open field defeat of the Napoleonic army. The heaviest fighting took place near Bailén, a village by the Guadalquivir river in the Jaén province of southern Spain.
The Ebro is a river on the Iberian Peninsula. It is the second longest river in the Iberian peninsula after the Tagus and the second biggest by discharge volume and by drainage area after the Douro.
The IV Corps of the Grande Armée was a military unit during the Napoleonic Wars. It consisted several different units and commanders.
Napoleon, reaching Vitoria on 8 November,to take matters in hand personally, had dispatched Lefebvre and Victor in pursuit of Blake, with Victor having orders to outmanoeuvre Blake and sweep across his line of retreat. The French were careless and allowed their forces to disperse during the pursuit. On 5 November, Blake surprised his enemies again when, at Valmaseda, he suddenly turned on his pursuers and attacked the French vanguard, inflicting a defeat on the leading division. When another French corps approached, Blake went west once more to evade encirclement.
Having successfully managed, with the help of the Royal Navy, to reach Santander with 9,000 men, of the 15,000-strong Division of the North stationed in Denmark, Romana was given command of the Army of Galicia on 11 November 1808.
However, that same day, still effectively under Blake, the Army of Galicia was severely beaten at Espinosa de los Monteros, 100 kilometres (62 mi) away in the Cantabrian Mountains, where Blake had chosen to make another stand on 10 November. Victor, trying to avenge himself for his earlier humiliations at the hands of Blake, spent the day recklessly flinging his divisions against the Spanish troops without success. The next day, however, a well-coordinated French attack shattered Blake's centre and routed his army.
Blake lost 3,000 men in the battle, and many thousands more were dispersed in the confusion of retreat. Knowing his Army of Galicia to be irreparably shattered, Blake marched west into the hills, outdistancing his pursuers, under Soult, and managing to carry out important rearguard actions to help General Moore's retreat to Corunna.
Blake reached Léon on 23 November with only 10,000 men and command was then passed to General La Romana, who took command of the new Ejército de la Izquierda on 26 November. The following year, in July 1809, this army would also incorporate the Asturian regiments under Francisco Ballesteros.
On 17 March 1809, De la Romana’s troops defeated the French at the Battle of Villafranca, a garrison at Villafranca del Bierzo.
Following the defeat of Marshall Ney at the Battle of Puente Sanpayo (7–9 June 1809), Marshal Soult abandoned his attempts to re-establish French rule in Galicia, and when Soult moved against the British on the Portuguese frontier, Romana was able to drive the French from Asturias as well.
At the Battle of San Marcial (31 August 1813), the IV Ejército (IV Army), also known as the Army of Galicia, and under the orders of General Manuel Freire de Andrade, defeated Marshal Soult in what would be his last major offensive against the allied forces led by Wellington. Freire, promoted to general, succeeded Castaños, who had been called to the Cortes, at the beginning of August 1813.
The Battle of Espinosa de los Monteros was a battle of the Napoleonic Wars, fought on 10 and 11 November 1808 at the township of Espinosa de los Monteros in the Cantabrian Mountains. It resulted in a French victory under General Victor against Lieutenant General Joaquín Blake's Army of Galicia.
The Battle of Tudela saw an Imperial French army led by Marshal Jean Lannes attack a Spanish army under General Castaños. The battle resulted in the complete victory of the Imperial forces over their adversaries. The combat occurred near Tudela in Navarre, Spain during the Peninsular War, part of a wider conflict known as the Napoleonic Wars.
Marshal General Jean-de-Dieu Soult, 1st Duke of Dalmatia, was a French general and statesman, named Marshal of the Empire in 1804 and often called Marshal Soult. Soult was one of only six officers in French history to receive the distinction of Marshal General of France. The Duke also served three times as President of the Council of Ministers, or Prime Minister of France.
Joaquín Blake y Joyes was a Spanish military officer who served with distinction in the French Revolutionary and Peninsular wars.
The Battle of Valmaseda took place on 5 November 1808, during Lieutenant-General Blake's retreat from superior French armies in northern Spain. Reinforced by veteran regular infantry from General La Romana's Division of the North, Blake's force suddenly turned on its pursuers and ambushed General Victor's errant vanguard under Général de division Villatte.
Don Pedro Caro y Sureda, 3rd Marquis of la Romana was a Spanish general of the Peninsular War.
The Battle of Medina de Rioseco, also known as the Battle of Moclín, was fought during the Peninsular War on 14 July 1808 when a combined body of Spanish militia and regulars moved to rupture the French line of communications to Madrid. General Joaquín Blake's Army of Galicia, under joint command with General Gregorio de la Cuesta, was routed by Marshal Bessières after a badly coordinated but stubborn fight against the French corps north of Valladolid.
The Battle of San Marcial was a battle fought during the Peninsular War on 31 August 1813. The Spanish Army of Galicia, led by Manuel Freire, turned back Marshal Nicolas Soult's last major offensive against the army of Britain's Marquess of Wellington.
Manuel Alberto Freire de Andrade y Armijo was a Spanish cavalry officer and general officer during the Peninsular War, and later Defense Minister.
Francisco Ballesteros emerged as a career Spanish General during the Peninsular War.
The Division of the North was a 19th-century Spanish infantry division.
The Battle of Puente Sanpayo or Battle of San Payo took place at Ponte Sampaio, Pontevedra, between 7–9 June 1809 during the Peninsular War. The Spanish forces commanded by Colonel Pablo Morillo defeated the French forces of Marshall Michel Ney. Ney and his forces were forced to retreat and the French offensive to re-capture the cities of Vigo and Pontevedra was a failure. The battle marked the final evacuation of Galicia by the French army and the creation of a new front.
In the Battle of Zújar of the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars, on 9 August 1811 an Imperial French division from Nicolas Soult's army attacked a Spanish division belonging to Manuel Alberto Freire de Andrade y Armijo's Army of Murcia. The French division, led by Nicolas Godinot, defeated Joseph O'Donnell's Spanish division with heavy losses. Zújar is located on Route 323, 13 kilometres (8 mi) northwest of Baza, Granada in Spain.
In the Battle of Mansilla or Battle of Mansilla de las Mulas on 30 December 1808 an Imperial French corps led by Nicolas Soult caught up with a Spanish corps commanded by Pedro Caro, 3rd Marquis of la Romana. Soult's cavalry under Jean Baptiste Marie Franceschi-Delonne overran la Romana's rear guard led by General Martinengo. Mansilla de las Mulas is a town located 17 kilometres (11 mi) southeast of León, Spain. The combat occurred during the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars.
The Evacuation of La Romana's division in August 1808 was a military operation in which a division of troops belonging to the Kingdom of Spain and commanded by Pedro Caro, 3rd Marquis of la Romana defected from the armies of the First French Empire. The Spanish troops were part of the Imperial forces in Denmark, which were under the leadership of Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. Most of the Spanish troops were successfully spirited away by the British navy and shipped to Santander, Spain to fight against France in the Peninsular War.
The Battle of Arzobispo on 8 August 1809 saw two Imperial French corps commanded by Marshal Jean-de-Dieu Soult launch an assault crossing of the Tagus River against a Spanish force under José María de la Cueva, 14th Duke of Alburquerque. Alburquerque's troops rapidly retreated after suffering disproportionate losses, including 30 artillery pieces. El Puente del Arzobispo is located 36 kilometres (22 mi) southwest of Talavera de la Reina, Spain. The action occurred during the Peninsular War, part of a larger conflict known as the Napoleonic Wars.
The Spanish Army of the Peninsular War refers to the Spanish military units that fought against France's Grande Armée from 2 May 1808 (the Peninsular War began 27 October 1807 with the Franco-Spanish invasion of Portugal) to 17 April 1814) a period which coincided with what is also termed the Spanish War of Independence.