Battle of Villafranca (1809)

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Battle of Villafranca del Bierzo
Part of the Peninsular War
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Villafranca del Bierzo
Battle of Villafranca (1809) (Spain)
Date17 March 1809
LocationNear Villafranca del Bierzo, Spain
Result Spanish victory
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg French Empire Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Spain
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg unknown Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg General La Romana
Strength
1,200 3,800-6,000
6 guns
Casualties and losses
700 killed
575 captured
Unknown

The Battle of Villafranca del Bierzo took place on 17 March 1809, during the French occupation of León in the Peninsular War. After a bloody four-hour siege the small and isolated French garrison at Villafranca surrendered to Spanish regulars under Brigadier José de Mendizábal and General Pedro Caro, 3rd Marquis of la Romana.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Military occupation effective provisional control of a certain power over a territory

Military or belligerent occupation is effective provisional control by a certain ruling power over a territory, which is not under the formal sovereignty of that entity, without the violation of the actual sovereign. The territory is then known as the occupied territory and the ruling power the occupant. Occupation is distinguished from annexation by its intended temporary nature, by its military nature, and by citizenship rights of the controlling power not being conferred upon the subjugated population.

Peninsular War War by Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom against the French Empire (1807–1814)

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.

Contents

Background

In 1809 Spanish military operations in northern Spain were marked by sporadic efforts to expel Marshal Ney's French VI Corps from the provinces it had overrun following the collapse of the Spanish armies the previous year. Fragments of the armies torn-apart by the French, operating in conjunction with some 30,000 guerrillas and militia, prowled the coasts of Galicia and Asturias, raiding and skirmishing with Ney's 17,000 troops. Garrisoning the hostile region ate up most of Ney's resources, and in March 1809, the French evacuated Vigo and Tuy and withdrew from guerrilla-infested southern Galicia. [1]

Michel Ney French soldier and military commander

Marshal of the Empire Michel Ney, 1st Duke of Elchingen, 1st Prince of the Moskva, popularly known as Marshal Ney, was a French soldier and military commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of the Empire created by Napoleon. He was known as Le Rougeaud by his men and nicknamed le Brave des Braves by Napoleon.

Galicia (Spain) Autonomous community of Spain

Galicia is an autonomous community of Spain and historic nationality under Spanish law. Located in the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula, it comprises the provinces of A Coruña, Lugo, Ourense and Pontevedra, being bordered by Portugal to the south, the Spanish autonomous communities of Castile and León and Asturias to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Cantabrian Sea to the north. It had a population of 2,718,525 in 2016 and has a total area of 29,574 km2 (11,419 sq mi). Galicia has over 1,660 km (1,030 mi) of coastline, including its offshore islands and islets, among them Cíes Islands, Ons, Sálvora, Cortegada, and—the largest and most populated—A Illa de Arousa.

Asturias Autonomous community and province of Spain

Asturias, officially the Principality of Asturias, is an autonomous community in north-west Spain. It is coextensive with the province of Asturias, and contains some of the territory that was part of the larger Kingdom of Asturias in the Middle Ages. Divided into eight comarcas (counties), the autonomous community of Asturias is bordered by Cantabria to the east, by Castile and León to the south, by Galicia to the west, and by the Bay of Biscay to the north.

One remaining Spanish formation, General Pedro Caro, 3rd Marquis of la Romana's division of regular infantry, established itself in Asturias and harassed the French in León and Galicia, capturing Imperial troops and supplies with impunity. In March, elements of the unit, armed with a French 12-pound gun and munitions recovered from an abandoned post at Ponferrada, struck at French communications with Madrid by attacking the French post at Villafranca.[ citation needed ]

Pedro Caro, 3rd Marquis of la Romana Spanish military personnel (1761-1811)

Don Pedro Caro y Sureda, 3rd Marquis of la Romana was a Spanish general of the Peninsular War.

Division (military) large military unit or formation

A division is a large military unit or formation, usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. Infantry divisions during the World Wars ranged between 8,000 and 30,000 in nominal strength.

Ponferrada Place in Castile and León, Spain

Ponferrada is the capital city of El Bierzo in the Province of León, Spain. It lies on Sil River and it is completely surrounded by mountains. It is the last major town on the French route of the Camino de Santiago before it reaches Santiago de Compostela. In 2008, it had a population of 69,769.

The battle

The vanguard of the attack was formed of some 1,500 men of the Zaragoza and Zamora regiments under Mendizábal. On the 17 March they entered the plaza at Villafranca and closed in on the French entrenched in the castle. A costly battle broke out that claimed the lives of several Spanish officers. After four hours of fighting the French agreed to surrender.[ citation needed ]

One authority credited General La Romana with 3,800 Spanish troops and six artillery pieces. This force included two battalions each of the Princesa and Asturias Infantry Regiments. The 1,200-man French force included one battalion of the 6th Light Infantry Regiment plus several hundred sick and wounded soldiers. The French lost 700 killed and wounded plus another 574 unwounded men captured. Spanish losses are not known. [2] A second historian wrote that the Spanish had 6,000 men. [1]

Notes

  1. 1 2 Gates, p. 146
  2. Smith (1998), p. 282

Bibliography

International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.

Digby Smith is a British military historian. The son of a British career soldier, he was born in Hampshire, England, but spent several years in India and Pakistan as a child and youth. As a "boy soldier," he entered training in the British Army at the age of 16. He was later commissioned in the Royal Corps of Signals, and held several postings with the British Army of the Rhine.

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