Siege of Cádiz

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Siege of Cádiz
Part of the Peninsular War
Map of Cádiz in 1813
Date5 February 1810 – 24 August 1812
Cádiz, Spain

Coalition victory [1]

Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg  Spain
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Flag Portugal (1750).svg Portugal
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg France
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Manuel la Peña
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg José de Zayas
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Duke of Alburquerque
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Thomas Graham
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Claude Victor
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Nicolas Jean-de-Dieu Soult
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Baron de Sénarmont  
  • 17,000–18,000 Spanish
  • 3,000–4,000 British
  • 1,700 Portuguese
  • 16 warships
  • 60,000–70,000
  • 30–35 warships
Casualties and losses
896 dead
3,706 wounded [3]
4,500–5,500 dead or wounded [4]
30 ships destroyed [5]

The Siege of Cádiz was a siege of the large Spanish naval base of Cádiz [6] by a French army from 5 February 1810 to 24 August 1812 [7] during the Peninsular War. Following the occupation of Seville, Cádiz became the Spanish seat of power, [8] and was targeted by 70,000 French troops under the command of the Marshals Claude Victor and Nicolas Jean-de-Dieu Soult for one of the most important sieges of the war. [9] Defending the city were 2,000 Spanish troops who, as the siege progressed, received aid from 10,000 Spanish reinforcements as well as British and Portuguese troops.

Cádiz Municipality in Andalusia, Spain

Cádiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the Province of Cádiz, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia.

First French Empire Empire of Napoleon I of France between 1804–1815

The First French Empire, officially the French Empire, was the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte of France and the dominant power in much of continental Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Although France had already established an overseas colonial empire beginning in the 17th century, the French state had remained a kingdom under the Bourbons and a republic after the Revolution. Historians refer to Napoleon's regime as the First Empire to distinguish it from the restorationist Second Empire (1852–1870) ruled by his nephew as Napoleon III.

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.


During the siege, which lasted two and a half years, the Cortes Generales government in Cadiz (the Cádiz Cortes) drew up a new constitution to reduce the strength of the monarchy, which was eventually revoked by Fernando VII. [10]

Cortes Generales legislature of Spain

The Cortes Generales are the bicameral legislative chambers of Spain, consisting of two chambers: the Congress of Deputies and the Senate. The members of the Cortes are the representatives of the Spanish people.

Spanish Constitution of 1812 primer constitushon in españia conoced whit ¨la pepa

The Political Constitution of the Spanish Monarchy, also known as the Constitution of Cádiz and as La Pepa, was the first Constitution of Spain and one of the earliest constitutions in world history. It was established on 19 March 1812 by the Cortes of Cádiz, the first Spanish legislature. With the notable exception of proclaiming Roman Catholicism as the official and sole legal religion in Spain, the constitution was one of the most liberal of its time: it affirmed national sovereignty, separation of powers, freedom of the press, free enterprise, abolished feudalism, and established a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. It was one of the first constitutions that allowed universal male suffrage, through a complex indirect electoral system. It was repealed by King Ferdinand VII in 1814 in Valencia, who re-established absolute monarchy.

In October 1810 a mixed Anglo-Spanish relief force embarked on a disastrous landing at Fuengirola. A second relief attempt was made at Tarifa in 1811. However, despite defeating a detached French force of 15,000–20,000 under Marshal Victor at the Battle of Barrosa, the siege was not lifted.

Battle of Fuengirola

The Battle of Fuengirola was an engagement between a small Army of the Duchy of Warsaw garrison of a medieval Moorish fortress in Fuengirola against a much larger Anglo-Spanish expeditionary corps under Andrew Blayney. Blayney led an amphibious assault on Sohail Castle under heavy bombardment. The defenders, fighting with the First French Empire, were men from the 4th Regiment of the Duchy of Warsaw. Under ferocious attack from sea and on land from the British and Spanish forces from the inland, about 300 Polish troops ultimately routed the assaulting forces, inflicting heavy losses on the highly reputed British 89th Regiment of Foot among others and even captured Blayney himself, who was a very distinguished general. Several of the Polish officers were awarded the Legion of Honour by Napoleon himself.

Tarifa Municipality in Andalusia, Spain

Tarifa is a small town in the province of Cádiz, Andalusia, on the southernmost coast of mainland Spain. It is primarily known as one of the world's most popular destinations for wind sports. The town is located on the Costa de la Luz and across the Strait of Gibraltar facing Morocco.

Battle of Barrosa 1811 battle in Spain between the British and French

The Battle of Barrosa was part of an unsuccessful manoeuvre to break the siege of Cádiz in Spain during the Peninsular War. During the battle, a single British division defeated two French divisions and captured a regimental eagle.

In 1812 the Battle of Salamanca eventually forced the French troops to retreat from Andalusia, for fear of being cut off by the Coalition armies. [11] The French defeat contributed decisively to the liberation of Spain from French occupation, due to the survival of the Spanish government and the use of Cádiz as a jump-off point for the Coalition forces. [1]

Battle of Salamanca battle

In Battle of Salamanca an Anglo-Portuguese army under the Duke of Wellington defeated Marshal Auguste Marmont's French forces among the hills around Arapiles, south of Salamanca, Spain on 22 July 1812 during the Peninsular War. A Spanish division was also present but took no part in the battle.

Andalusia Autonomous community of Spain

Andalusia is an autonomous community in southern Spain. It is the most populous and the second largest autonomous community in the country. The Andalusian autonomous community is officially recognised as a "historical nationality". The territory is divided into eight provinces: Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and Seville. Its capital is the city of Seville.


In the early 19th century, war was brewing between French emperor Napoleon and the Russian Tsar Alexander I, and Napoleon saw the shared interests of Britain and Russia in defeating him as a threat. Napoleon's advisor, the Duke of Cadore, recommended that the ports of Europe be closed to the British, stating that "Once in Cadiz, Sire, you will be in a position either to break or strengthen the bonds with Russia". [12]

Napoleon 18th/19th-century French monarch, military and political leader

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 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 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.

Russian Empire Former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire, also known as Imperial Russia or simply Russia, was an empire that existed across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

Tsar title given to a male monarch in Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia

Tsar, also spelled czar, or tzar, is a title used to designate East and South Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers of Eastern Europe, originally Bulgarian monarchs from 10th century onwards. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism. The term is derived from the Latin word Caesar, which was intended to mean "Emperor" in the European medieval sense of the term—a ruler with the same rank as a Roman emperor, holding it by the approval of another emperor or a supreme ecclesiastical official —but was usually considered by western Europeans to be equivalent to king, or to be somewhat in between a royal and imperial rank.

Soult and his French army invaded Portugal in 1809 but were beaten by Wellesley at Oporto on 12 May. The British and Spanish armies advanced into mainland Spain, however the difficulties that the Spanish army bore forced Arthur Wellesley to retreat into Portugal after Spanish defeats in the battles of Ocaña and Alba de Tormes. By 1810 the war had reached a stalemate. Wellesley strengthened Portuguese and Spanish positions with the construction of the Lines of Torres Vedras, and the remainder of the Spanish forces fell back to defend the Spanish government at Cádiz against Soult's Army of Andalusia.

Second Battle of Porto battle of the Peninsula War

The Second Battle of Porto, also known as the Battle of the Douro, was a battle in which General Arthur Wellesley's Anglo-Portuguese Army defeated Marshal Nicolas Soult's French troops on 12 May 1809 and took back the city of Porto. After taking command of the British troops in Portugal on 22 April, Wellesley immediately advanced on Porto and made a surprise crossing of the Douro River, approaching Porto where its defences were weak. Soult's late attempts to muster a defence were in vain. The French quickly abandoned the city in a disorderly retreat.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington British soldier and statesman

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, was an Anglo-Irish soldier and Tory statesman who was one of the leading military and political figures of 19th-century Britain, serving twice as Prime Minister. His victory against Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 puts him in the first rank of Britain's military heroes.

Battle of Ocaña battle

The Battle of Ocaña was fought on 19 November 1809 between French forces under Marshal Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult, Duke of Dalmatia and King Joseph Bonaparte and the Spanish army under Juan Carlos de Aréizaga, which suffered its greatest single defeat in the Peninsular War. General Juan Carlos de Aréizaga's Spanish army of 51,000 lost nearly 19,000 killed, wounded, prisoners and deserters, mostly due to the French use of their cavalry. Tactically, the battle was a Cannae-like encirclement of the Spanish army. The strategic consequences were also devastating, as it destroyed the only force capable of defending southern Spain; the area was overrun over the winter in the Andalusia campaign.


Nicolas Soult, Duke of Dalmatia Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult.jpg
Nicolas Soult, Duke of Dalmatia
Portrait of General Manuel la Pena, commander of the Coalition forces that attempted to relieve the siege Manuel Lapena, Marquis of Bondad Real by Goya.jpg
Portrait of General Manuel la Peña, commander of the Coalition forces that attempted to relieve the siege

The port of Cádiz was surrounded on land by the armies of Soult and Victor, in three entrenched positions at Chiclana, Puerto Real and Santa Maria, positioned in a semicircle around the city. [13] In the case of the former position, only an area of marshland separated the forces. [14] The French initially sent an envoy with a demand for surrender, which was refused. [8] The fortress of Matagorda, north of Cadiz, was bombarded by the French. When the fort became untenable, it was evacuated by the defending 94th Regiment of Foot. The last person to leave was to be Maj Lefebure of the Royal Engineers, whose job was to fire a mine to destroy the fort, but he was killed by a cannon shot. [15] The French forces now had access to the coast close to Cadiz. The ensuing bombardment of the Spanish coastal city involved some of the largest artillery pieces in existence at the time, including Grand Mortars, which were so large they had to be abandoned when the French eventually retreated, and fired projectiles to distances previously thought impossible, some up to 3 miles in range. [5] (The Grand Mortar was placed in St. James's Park in London as a gift to the British in honour of the Duke of Wellington. [16] ) The French continued to bombard Cadiz until the end of 1810, but the extreme distance lessened their effect. [17]

Portrait of Thomas Graham. Thomas Graham Lord Lynedoch.jpg
Portrait of Thomas Graham.

The terrain surrounding the strong fortifications of Cádiz proved difficult for the French to attack, and the French also suffered from a lack of supplies, particularly ammunition, and from continuous guerrilla raiding parties attacking the rear of their siege lines and their internal communications with Andalusia. [13] On many occasions, the French were forced to send escorts of 150–200 men to guard couriers and supply convoys in the hinterland. So great were the difficulties that one historian judges that:

The French siege of Cadiz was largely illusory. There was no real hope that they would ever take the place. Far more real was the siege of the French army in Andalusia. Spanish forces from the mountains of Murcia constantly harried the eastern part of the province. They were frequently defeated but always reformed. A ragged army under General Ballesteros usually operated within Andalusia itself. Soult repeatedly sent columns against it. It always escaped ... French dominion was secure only in the plains of the Guadalquivir and in Seville. [18]

French reinforcements continued to arrive through to 20 April, and the capture of an outer Spanish fort guarding the road through to the Puerto Real helped to facilitate the arrival of these forces. This captured fort also provided the French with a vantage point from which to shell ships coming in and out of the besieged Spanish port. [13]

During 1811 Victor's force was continually diminished by requests for reinforcement from Soult to aid his siege of Badajoz. [19] This reduction in men, which brought the French numbers down to between 20,000–15,000, encouraged the defenders of Cádiz to attempt a breakout. [20] A sortie of 4,000 Spanish troops, under the command of General José de Zayas, was arranged in conjunction with the arrival of an Anglo-Spanish relief army of around 16,000 troops that landed 50 miles to the south in Tarifa. This Anglo-Spanish force was under the overall command of Spanish General Manuel la Peña, with the British contingent being led by Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Graham. On 21 February 1811 the force set sail for Tarifa, and eventually landed at Algeciras on 23 February. [20] Eventually marching towards Cádiz on 28 February, the force met a detachment of two French divisions under Victor at Barrosa. The battle was a tactical victory for the Coalition force, [21] with a French regimental eagle captured, [22] but it was strategically indecisive. [23]

Smaller sorties of 2,000–3,000 men continued to operate out of Cadiz from April to August 1811. [24] On 26 October British naval gunboats from Gibraltar destroyed French positions at St. Mary's, [25] killing French artillery commander Alexandre-Antoine Hureau de Sénarmont. An attempt by Victor to crush the small Anglo-Spanish garrison at Tarifa over the winter of 1811–1812 was frustrated by torrential rains and an obstinate defence, marking an end to French operations against the city's outer works.

On 22 July 1812, Wellesley won a tactical victory over Auguste Marmont at Salamanca. The Spanish, British and Portuguese then entered Madrid on 6 August and advanced towards Burgos. Realising that his army was in danger of being cut off, Soult ordered a retreat from Cádiz set for 24 August. After an overnight artillery barrage, the French intentionally burst most of their 600 guns by overcharging and detonating them. The Coalition forces captured many guns, 30 gunboats and a large quantity of stores. [5]

In literature

See also


  1. 1 2 Rasor 2004, p. 148.
  2. Payne 1973, p. 432.
  3. Clodfelter 2002, p. 174.
  4. Napier 1840, p. 100.
  5. 1 2 3 Southey 1837b, p. 68.
  6. "The Spanish Ulcer: Napoleon, Britain, and the Siege of Cádiz". Humanities, January/February 2010, Volume 31/Number 1. Retrieved 2010-07-05.
  7. Fremont-Barnes 2002, p. 12–13.
  8. 1 2 Russell 1818 , p. 306.
  9. Fremont-Barnes 2002, p. 26.
  10. Noble 2007, p. 30.
  11. Napoleonic Guide Cadiz 5 February, 1810 – 24 August, 1812 retrieved 21 July 2007.
  12. Napoleonic Guides Franco-Russian Diplomacy, 1810–1812 retrieved 21 July 2007.
  13. 1 2 3 Burke 1825, p. 169.
  14. Napier 1840, p. 169.
  15. Porter, Whitworth (1889). History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. London: Longmans. p. 270.
  16. St. James's Park, London Ancestor, retrieved July 21, 2007.
  17. Burke 1825, p. 170.
  18. Glover p. 120.
  19. Southey 1837, p. 165.
  20. 1 2 Southey 1837, p. 167.
  21. Southey 1837, p. 179.
  22. History of the Corps of Royal Engineers Volume I by Maj Gen Porter |page=272
  23. Southey 1837, p. 180.
  24. Burke 1825, p. 172.
  25. Burke 1825, p. 174.
  26. Sharpe's Fury summary for the British Council. Retrieved July 23, 2007.

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A monument in Cadiz to the Cortes and the constitution drawn up during the siege. Cadizplazaespana.jpg
A monument in Cádiz to the Cortes and the constitution drawn up during the siege.

Printed Sources


Coordinates: 36°31′54″N06°18′07″W / 36.53167°N 6.30194°W / 36.53167; -6.30194