Siege of Valencia (1812)

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Siege of Valencia (1812)
Part of Peninsular War
Torres quart.jpg
One of Valencia's twelve old city gates
Date26 December 1811 9 January 1812
Location
Result French victory
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg French Empire Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Spain
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Louis Suchet Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Joaquín Blake
Strength
20,59533,000 28,044
Casualties and losses
2,000 20,281, 374 guns

The Siege of Valencia from 3 November 1811 to 9 January 1812, saw Marshal Louis Gabriel Suchet's French Army of Aragon besiege Captain General Joaquín Blake y Joyes' forces in the city of Valencia, Spain during the Peninsular War. The 20,000 to 30,000 French troops compelled 16,000 Spanish soldiers to surrender at the conclusion of the siege, although another 7,000 Spaniards escaped from the trap. Suchet quickly converted Valencia into an important base of operations after this Napoleonic Wars action. Valencia, modern-day capital of the Valencian Community, is located on the east coast of Spain.

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.

Napoleonic Wars series of wars between Napoleons French Empire and the 2nd to the 7th coalition of European powers

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict. The wars are often categorised into five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1805), the Fourth (1806–07), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813), and the Seventh (1815).

Valencian Community Autonomous community of Spain

The Valencian Community is an autonomous community of Spain. It is the fourth most populous autonomous community after Andalusia, Catalonia and Madrid with more than 4.9 million inhabitants. Its homonymous capital Valencia is the third largest city and metropolitan area in Spain. It is located along the Mediterranean coast on the east side of the Iberian peninsula. It borders with Catalonia to the north, Aragon and Castilla–La Mancha to the west, and Murcia to the south. The Valencian Community consists of three provinces which are Castellón, Valencia and Alicante.

Contents

Background

On July 8, 1811, Marshal Suchet received his baton, making him the only French general to be appointed Marshal of France for winning victories in Spain. He won this honor specifically for his victory in the Siege of Tarragona. [1] The port of Tarragona fell to the French on 29 June 1811 as a British naval squadron stood helplessly offshore. Suchet pressed the siege ruthlessly and lost 4,300 troops during the operation, but Spanish losses were far heavier. The loss of the port involved most of the Army of Catalonia and therefore left Spanish forces in the area gravely weakened. [2]

Siege of Tarragona (1811) siege

In the Siege of Tarragona from 5 May to 29 June 1811, Louis Gabriel Suchet's French Army of Aragon laid siege to a Spanish garrison led by Lieutenant General Juan Senen de Contreras. A British naval squadron commanded by Admiral Edward Codrington harassed the French besiegers with cannon fire and transported large numbers of reinforcements into the city by sea. Nevertheless, Suchet's troops stormed into the defenses and killed or captured almost all the defenders. The action took place at the port of Tarragona, Catalonia, on the east coast of Spain during the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars.

Tarragona Municipality in Catalonia, Spain

Tarragona is a port city located in northeast Spain on the Costa Daurada by the Mediterranean Sea. Founded before the 5th century BC, it is the capital of the Province of Tarragona, and part of Tarragonès and Catalonia. Geographically, it is bordered on the north by the Province of Barcelona and the Province of Lleida. The city has a population of 201,199 (2014).

Emperor Napoleon I of France ordered his newly minted marshal to capture Valencia. During the summer and fall of 1811, Suchet seized Montserrat, triumphed over Captain General Blake at Benaguasil, and captured the port of Oropesa del Mar. On 15 September, 25,000 French invaded Valencia and once again defeated Blake at the Battle of Sagunto on 26 October, where Suchet sustained a severe wound in his shoulder. Reinforced by two additional divisions, the French relentlessly advanced. [3]

Montserrat, Valencia Municipality in Valencian Community, Spain

Montserrat, also known as Montserrat d'Alcalà, is a municipality in the comarca of Ribera Alta in the Valencian Community, Spain.

Benaguasil Municipality in Valencian Community, Spain

Benaguasil is a municipality in the Valencian Community, Spain, situated in the Camp de Túria comarca.

Oropesa del Mar Municipality in Valencian Community, Spain

Oropesa del Mar is a municipality in the comarca of Plana Alta in the Valencian Community, Spain.

Siege

Suchet commanded 20,595 men in five infantry divisions under Generals of Division Louis François Félix Musnier, Jean Isidore Harispe, Pierre-Joseph Habert, Giuseppe Frederico Palombini, and Claude Antoine Compère, plus cavalry and artillerists. Musnier's 1st Division consisted of the 114th and 121st Line Infantry Regiments, three battalions each, and the 1st and 2nd Infantry Regiments of the Legion of the Vistula, two battalions each. Harispe's 2nd Division included the following infantry regiments, 7th Line, four battalions, 44th Line and 3rd Vistula Legion, two battalions each, and 116th Line, three battalions. Habert's 3rd Division comprised the 16th and 117th Line Infantry Regiments, three battalions each, and the 15th Line Infantry Regiment, two battalions. [4]

Louis François Félix Musnier de La Converserie became a general officer during the French Revolutionary Wars and led a division during the Napoleonic Wars. He joined the French Royal Army as an officer in 1781 after a spell in military school. Still a lieutenant in 1788, he enjoyed rapid promotion during the French Revolution. After serving as a general's aide, he was assigned to fight rebels in the Vendée. Later, he served as Adjutant General on two army staffs. In 1798 he was promoted to general of brigade for distinguished actions in Italy.

Jean Isidore Harispe French soldier

Jean Isidore Harispe, 1st Comte Harispe was a distinguished French soldier of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, as well as of the following period. Harispe was created a Marshal of France in 1851.

Pierre-Joseph Habert French general

Pierre-Joseph Habert enlisted in the French army at the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars and led a division during the Napoleonic Wars. After serving in the army from 1792 to 1797, he fought in Ireland and Egypt, rising in rank to become a colonel by 1802. Under Emperor Napoleon, he led his regiment in the 1805 campaign against Austria. In the 1806-1807 campaign he saw action at Jena, Golymin, Eylau, and Heilsberg and was wounded twice in the last-named battle.

Louis Gabriel Suchet Louis gabriel Suchet.png
Louis Gabriel Suchet

Palombini's Kingdom of Italy Division had the 2nd Light and 4th and 6th Line Infantry Regiments, three battalions each, and the 5th Line Infantry Regiment, two battalions. Compère's weak Kingdom of Naples Division consisted of the 1st Light and the 1st and 2nd Line Infantry Regiments, one battalion each. General of Brigade André Joseph Boussart led Suchet's cavalry, including the 13th Cuirassier, 4th Hussar, and Italian Napoleone Dragoon Regiments, four squadrons each, 24th Dragoon Regiment, two squadrons, and Neapolitan Chasseurs à Cheval, one squadron. [4] One authority asserted that Suchet had 30,000 men and added General of Division Honoré Charles Reille's infantry division to the French order of battle. [5] Another source gave Suchet 33,000 soldiers and the divisions of both Reille and General of Division Filippo Severoli. [6]

Kingdom of Italy (Napoleonic) kingdom on the Apennine Peninsula between 1805 and 1814

The Kingdom of Italy was a kingdom in Northern Italy in personal union with France under Napoleon I. It was fully influenced by revolutionary France and ended with his defeat and fall. Its governance was conducted by Napoleon and his step-son and viceroy Eugène de Beauharnais.

Kingdom of Naples former state in Italy

The Kingdom of Naples comprised that part of the Italian Peninsula south of the Papal States between 1282 and 1816. It was created as a result of the War of the Sicilian Vespers (1282–1302), when the island of Sicily revolted and was conquered by the Crown of Aragon, becoming a separate Kingdom of Sicily. Naples continued to be officially known as the Kingdom of Sicily, the name of the formerly unified kingdom. For much of its existence, the realm was contested between French and Spanish dynasties. In 1816, it was reunified with the island kingdom of Sicily once again to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

André Joseph Boussart French general

André Joseph Boussart or André Joseph Boussard was a French soldier and general. He enlisted in the army of Habsburg Austria as a youth. A Belgian by birth, he joined the Brabant Revolution against Austria and fled to France when the rebellion collapsed. He soon found himself fighting for France during the French Revolutionary Wars. Promoted to general officer during the French Campaign in Egypt and Syria, he returned to France where he held several non-combat posts.

Blake disposed of 28,044 soldiers for the defense of Valencia, organized in three groups, the Expeditionary Corps, the 2nd Valencian Army, and the 3rd Murcian Army. The Expeditionary Corps' included the infantry divisions of Generals Miguel Lardizabal y Uribe and José Pascual de Zayas y Chacón plus General Casimiro Loy's cavalry and two horse artillery batteries, a total of 6,041 men. The 2nd Army consisted of the infantry divisions of Generals Miranda, José Obispo, Villacampa, and Velasco, plus General San Juan's cavalry. The 2nd Army mustered 16,468 men, two foot and one horse artillery batteries. Counting 5,535 troops, the 3rd Army had the brigades of Generals Creagh and Montijo plus eight squadrons of cavalry and one horse artillery battery. [4]

Region of Murcia Autonomous community and province of Spain

The Region of Murcia, is an autonomous community of Spain located in the southeast of the state, between Andalusia and Valencian Community, on the Mediterranean coast.

José Pascual de Zayas y Chacón Spanish general

José Pascual de Zayas y Chacón (1772–1827) was a Spanish divisional commander of great skill and daring and a leading Spanish Army figure in the Peninsular War. He is renowned for his initiative at the Battle of Albuera.

Map of the Siege of Valencia, showing positions on 26 December 1811 Siege of Valencia - 26 Dec 1811.svg
Map of the Siege of Valencia, showing positions on 26 December 1811

Blake deployed his army facing generally north with his right wing on the coast, his right-center in Valencia, his left-center at Mislata, and his left at Manises. The divisions of Obispo and Villacampa, which had performed poorly at the Battle of Sagunto, held the left flank. To their right stood Creagh's brigade. Next in line were the good-quality divisions of Lardizabal and Zayas. Miranda's division occupied Valencia while some irregulars held the gap between the city and the coast. Blake posted his cavalry at Aldaia and Torrent, behind his left flank. Though the line as far as Manises was fortified and protected by canals and ditches, the left flank hung in the air. [5]

Joaquin Blake y Joyes El general Joaquin Blake y Joyes, por Manuel Ojeda.jpg
Joaquín Blake y Joyes

Suchet discerned that Blake's left flank was the weak point and determined to envelop it. He planned to take the divisions of Harispe, Musnier, Reille, and Boussart in a wide sweep around the open Spanish flank. Suchet directed Habert to break through along the coast, while Palombini attacked Mislata and Compère observed the Spanish lines. If all went well, Suchet might bag Blake's entire army. On the night of 25 December, Suchet led his main column across the Rio Túria at Riba-roja de Túria. [5]

At first, Habert's attack on his right flank fooled Blake into thinking it was Suchet's main effort. Then Palombini's attack at Mislata diverted his attention. Despite persistent assaults, the Italians failed to break through and suffered heavy losses. Suchet's main column reached Blake's left rear virtually unopposed. [5] As Harispe approached the village of Aldaia, he sighted the Spanish cavalry reserve. With a single squadron of the 4th Hussars, Boussart rashly attacked a vastly superior force. The handful of French horsemen were wiped out, while Boussart was cut down and left for dead, his sword and decorations pilfered. [7] The bulk of the French cavalry under General of Brigade Jacques-Antoine-Adrien Delort [8] soon came up and routed the Spanish troopers, driving them beyond the Rio Júcar and depriving Blake of much-needed cavalry support. [7]

General Nicolás de Mahy, in overall command of the left flank, realized that his troops were in danger of being encircled. He ordered an immediate retreat and the divisions of Obispo and Villacampa, as well as Creagh's brigade made their escape to the south. Blake ordered Lardizabal and Zayas to retire within Valencia. The veteran units cleanly disengaged but were doomed to be trapped in the city. Suchet rapidly ringed the city with his army. [5]

With a population of 100,000, a lack of food, and obsolete defenses, Valencia was in no condition to sustain a siege. On the night of 28 December, Blake tried to break out of the city. The attempt failed except for a spearhead of 500 troops which got away. Suchet wasted little time, digging the first siege parallels on 1 January and taking the outer defenses under fire three days later. As the bombardment intensified, Blake capitulated and handed over Valencia on 9 January. [5]

Results

Peniscola castle looms over the Mediterranean Peniscola.jpg
Peñiscola castle looms over the Mediterranean

For the loss of about 2,000 killed and wounded, Suchet succeeded in capturing 16,270 Spanish soldiers, 21 colors, and 374 guns. In addition, 4,011 Spanish troops died in battle or from disease. All of Blake's cavalry, plus the units of Obispo, Villacampa, and Creagh avoided capture, but his best troops became prisoners. Blake performed poorly throughout the siege and the citizens of Valencia despised him for his feeble efforts. The French held the Spanish general in prison near Paris until 1814. [4] Suchet levied an indemnity on the surrendered city of 53 million francs. [9] Boussart received a promotion to General of Division and would die from his many battle injuries in August 1813. [8]

Suchet continued to advance to the south, capturing the port of Dénia. However, with Napoleon transferring troops from Spain to support his upcoming invasion of Russia, operations soon ground to a halt due to a lack of soldiers. Suchet also fell seriously ill with a fever and was out of action for weeks. This allowed the remnants of Blake's army under Mahy to recover. In the meantime, Napoleon ennobled his victorious marshal with the title Duke of Albufera, [10] after the name of a lagoon south of Valencia. [3]

Far to the north, General Joaquín Ibáñez Cuevas y de Valonga, Baron de Eroles ambushed a French battalion at a place on the coast southwest of Tarragona called Col de Balaguer. On 18 January, 4,000 Spanish troops, including 250 cavalry and two cannons, captured one battalion of the 121st Line Infantry Regiment. Out of about 850 troops, only the governor of the fortress of Tortosa, General of Brigade Jacques Mathurin Lafosse and 22 dragoons escaped the trap. [11] General of Division Maurice Mathieu exacted revenge on Eroles less than a week later. In heavy fog, Eroles engaged what he thought was an enemy battalion on 24 January in the Battle of Altafulla. In fact, it was Mathieu's 8,000-strong division of six French and two German battalions. At the cost of a few casualties, the French crushed the outnumbered Spanish force, inflicting a loss of 2,000 killed, wounded, and captured as well as taking both cannons. [12]

On 20 January, Severoli laid siege to Peñiscola with his division of 3,000 men and six guns. The port, between Valencia and Tarragona, was known as "Little Gibraltar" because it seemed virtually impregnable. The Spanish commander General Garcia Navarro, however, was pro-French and quickly came to terms with Severoli, handing over the castle on 2 February and surrendering his 1,000 troops. [12]

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington's crushing defeat of Marshal Auguste Marmont at the Battle of Salamanca on 22 July 1812 caused King Joseph Bonaparte to abandon Madrid on 11 August. [13] Because Suchet had a secure base at Valencia, Joseph and Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan retreated there and were joined by Marshals Suchet and Nicolas Soult. Together, Joseph and the three marshals worked out a plan to recapture Madrid and drive Wellington from central Spain. Their subsequent counteroffensive caused the British general to lift the Siege of Burgos and retreat to Portugal in the autumn of 1812. [14]

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References

Footnotes

  1. Ojala, Jeanne A. "Suchet: The Peninsular Marshal". Chandler, David (ed.). Napoleon's Marshals. New York: Macmillan, 1987. ISBN   0-02-905930-5. p 497
  2. Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN   1-85367-276-9. p 365
  3. 1 2 Ojala, p 498
  4. 1 2 3 4 Smith pp 373-374
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Rickard, J. historyofwar.org Siege of Valencia 25 December 1811-9 January 1812
  6. Gates, David. The Spanish Ulcer: A History of the Peninsular War. London: Pimlico, 2002. ISBN   0-7126-9730-6. p 322
  7. 1 2 Rickard, J. historyofwar.org Combat of Aldaya 26 December 1811
  8. 1 2 Mullié, Charles. Biographie des célébrités militaires des armées de terre et de mer de 1789 a 1850. 1852. André Joseph Boussart
  9. Gates, 324
  10. Gates, p 325
  11. Smith, p 374
  12. 1 2 Smith, p 375
  13. Glover, Michael. The Peninsular War 1807-1814. London: Penguin, 2001. ISBN   0-14-139041-7. pp 207-208
  14. Glover, pp 210-212

Bibliography

Coordinates: 39°28′13″N0°22′36″W / 39.4703°N 0.3767°W / 39.4703; -0.3767