Siege of Bellegarde (1793)

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Siege of Bellegarde (1793)
Part of the War of the Pyrenees
Bellegarde02.JPG
Bellegarde fortress chapel
Date23 May to 24 June 1793
Location Le Perthus, Pyrénées Orientales, France
Result Spanish victory
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg France Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Spain
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg French Émigrés
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Colonel Boisbrulé Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Antonio Ricardos
Strength
1,536, 48 guns 6,000, 34 guns
Casualties and losses
1,536 unknown

The Siege of Bellegarde commenced on 23 May 1793 and ended on 24 June 1793 when Colonel Boisbrulé's French garrison surrendered the Fort de Bellegarde to a Spanish army under the command of Antonio Ricardos. The capture of the fort gave Spain control of an important road through the Pyrenees. The siege took place during the War of the Pyrenees, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. Fort de Bellegarde is on a height overlooking the border town of Le Perthus, which lies on the modern A9 autoroute and Autovía A-7.

Colonel is a senior military officer rank below the brigadier and general officer ranks. However, in some small military forces, such as those of Monaco or the Vatican, colonel is the highest rank. It is also used in some police forces and paramilitary organizations.

Fort de Bellegarde

The Fort de Bellegarde is a 17th-century bastion fortification located above the town of Le Perthus, in the Pyrénées-Orientales département of southern France.

Antonio Ricardos Spanish general

Antonio Ricardos Carrillo de Albornoz was a Spanish general. He joined the army of the Kingdom of Spain and fought against Habsburg Austria, the Portugal, and the First French Republic during a long military career. By embracing the Spanish Enlightenment, he earned the displeasure of conservative elements of society. He played an active role in reforming the Spanish military. Upon the outbreak of the War of the Pyrenees in 1793, the king sent him to command in Catalonia. He invaded Rousillon where he won several victories over the French. After his death in early 1794, the war went badly for Spain.

Contents

Background

King Louis XIV of France built Fort de Bellegarde after 1678 according to a plan drawn up by Sébastien de Vauban. This strong masonry fortress defended the Col de Le Perthus which crosses the Pyrenees at an altitude of 305 metres (1,001 ft). The pass is the most important route from Spain into France in the eastern Pyrenees. As Vauban noted, "Nothing overlooks this place", and the fortress is situated on the highest ground in the area. [1]

Louis XIV of France King of France and Navarra, from 1643 to 1715

Louis XIV, known as Louis the Great or the Sun King, was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who reigned as King of France from 1643 until his death in 1715. Starting on 14 May 1643 when Louis was 4 years old, his reign of 72 years and 110 days is the longest recorded of any monarch of a sovereign country in European history. In the age of absolutism in Europe, Louis XIV's France was a leader in the growing centralisation of power.

When Spain went to war with revolutionary France in mid-April 1793, Captain General Antonio Ricardos faced a strategic problem. With Bellegarde dominating the main road into France, the Spanish commander had to surround, besiege, and capture the place before he could use the main road as a supply route for his invading army. Accordingly, Ricardos crossed the Pyrenees 20 km to the southwest with 4,500 soldiers and descended on the village of Saint-Laurent-de-Cerdans. In the first skirmish of the War of the Pyrenees, the Spanish evicted the 400 French defenders. Continuing his left hook, Ricardos' 4,400 troops fell upon a French force at the town of Céret on the Tech River. The French, 800 regulars and 1,000 National Guards with 4 cannon, panicked and fled. Between 100 and 200 Frenchmen became victims of Spanish musketry and steel, while another 200 drowned trying to cross the Tech. Ricardos reported only 17 men wounded. [2] During the initial operations, the Spanish commander placed a detachment near Bellegarde to keep Boisbrulé and his garrison from raiding Spanish supply convoys. [3]

Saint-Laurent-de-Cerdans Commune in Occitanie, France

Saint-Laurent-de-Cerdans is a commune in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France.

Céret Subprefecture and commune in Occitanie, France

Céret is a commune in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France. It is the capital of the historic Catalan comarque of Vallespir.

National Guard (France) 1789–1872 military reserve and police branch of Frances military

The National Guard is a French military, gendarmerie, and police reserve force, active in its current form since 2016 but originally founded in 1789 after the French Revolution.

With the seizure of Céret, Ricardos placed his army nearly in the rear of Bellegarde. After receiving some reinforcements, he advanced farther to the northeast to the vicinity of Trouillas. At this location, the 7,000 Spanish troops were confronted by the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees led by General of Division Louis-Charles de Flers. At the Battle of Mas Deu on 19 May, Ricardos defeated de Flers with the loss of 150 killed, 280 wounded, plus three cannons and six ammunition wagons captured. The Spanish lost 34 killed and an unknown number of wounded. The demoralized French soldiers retreated north to the department capital of Perpignan, where a battalion of National Guard mutinied and had to be disbanded. Rather than press on, Ricardos turned back to besiege Bellegarde, which overlooked his main supply route back to Barcelona. [4]

Trouillas Commune in Occitanie, France

Trouillas is a commune in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France.

Army of the Eastern Pyrenees

The Army of the Eastern Pyrenees was one of the French Revolutionary armies. It fought against the Kingdom of Spain in Rousillon, the Cerdanya and Catalonia during the War of the Pyrenees. This army and the Army of the Western Pyrenees were formed by splitting the original Army of the Pyrenees at the end of April 1793 soon after the war started. Shortly after the Peace of Basel on 22 July 1795, the fighting ended and the army was dissolved on 12 October that same year. Many of its units and generals were transferred to join the Army of Italy and fought under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796.

Louis-Charles de La Motte-Ango, vicomte de Flers joined the French Royal army and rose in rank to become a general officer in the French Revolutionary Wars. After serving in the Austrian Netherlands, he was appointed to command the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees. His army suffered several defeats in May and June 1793, but he rallied his troops to win a defensive victory at the Battle of Perpignan in July. The all-powerful Representatives-on-mission arrested him in August 1793 for a minor setback and sent him to Paris under arrest. The Committee of Public Safety executed him by guillotine on trumped up charges in the last days of the Reign of Terror. De Flers is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe.

Siege

Antonio Ricardos Portrait of General Antonio Ricardos by Goya.jpg
Antonio Ricardos

Concurrent with the siege of Bellegarde, Spanish General Antonio Ricardos attacked two French fortresses along the Tech River associated with Fort de Bellegarde, Fort les Bains at Amélie-les-Bains-Palalda 16 kilometers to the northwest and Fort de la Garde at Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste 31 kilometers to the west. Fort les Bains was sieged on 23 May and the garrison of 350 men surrendered on 3 June after bombardment. The 200 man garrison of Fort de la Garde surrendered on 5 June after the fort's water supply was cut off. [5]

The siege of Bellegarde and its garrison of 1,536 French soldiers began on 23 May. The garrison's firepower included at least 41 cannon and seven mortars. For several weeks the Spanish siege guns pounded Fort de Bellegarde until a breach was made in the main wall. By this time, 42 of the 50 French artillery pieces were dismounted. [6] Facing the prospect of an assault with his defenses compromised, Boisbrulé formally surrendered Bellegarde on 24 June. The remaining soldiers of the garrison marched into captivity. During the month-long siege, the French suffered losses of 30 killed, 56 wounded, and 1,450 captured. Spanish losses are not known. [7]

Results

With the Fort de Bellegarde secured, the Spanish army became able to use the Col de La Pertus as a supply route. Ricardos lunged at the capital of Rousillon but suffered a stinging repulse at the Battle of Perpignan on 17 July 1793. De Flers' French suffered 800 casualties out of a total of 12,000 troops. The French also lost one cannon and had 600 desertions. Out of 15,000 soldiers, [8] the Spanish lost approximately 1,000 casualties. De Flers had used the month in which Ricardos reduced Bellegarde to train his green recruits and surround Perpignan with field fortifications. [9] The French turned back Ricardos again in the Battle of Peyrestortes on 17 September, but the Spanish turned the tables on their opponents in the Battle of Truillas five days later. [10]

Footnotes

  1. Goode, Bellegarde
  2. Smith, p 45
  3. Rickard, Siege of Bellegarde
  4. Smith (1998), 46
  5. Smith (1998), 47
  6. Rickard, Siege of Bellegarde. Rickard and Smith differ over the total of French guns.
  7. Smith (1998), 48
  8. Smith (1998), 49
  9. Rickard, Battle of Perpignan
  10. Smith (1998), 56-57

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References

Coordinates: 42°27′31″N2°51′33″E / 42.45861°N 2.85917°E / 42.45861; 2.85917