The Napoleonic Wars: The Peninsular Campaign (1807-14)


Figure 1.--.

The Peninsular Campaign was relatively small in terms of the sizes of the armies involved. It was, however, the turning point in the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon by this time had changed. His successes had changed his outlook. He no longer lisened to the council of his advisers. The French in 1807 began to give increasing attention to the Iberian Peninsula where Britain had an ally in Portugal that helped it circumvent Napoleon's Continental System. It soon became the "Spanish Ulcer". Spain had declined significantly in the 18th century and was becoming a backwater of Europe. King Charles IV granted French General Andoche Junot to cross Spain and attack Portugal. The French rapidly occupied Lisbon and the Portuguese Royal Family fled to Brazil (1807). Another French army entered Spain (March 1808). This French army headed for Madrid. Napoleon removed King Charles IV from power and replaced him with his brother Joseph. The Spanish reaction surprised the French. The Spanish people rose up against the French in a way that Napoleon had never encounteted in Germany. A large French force under General Dupont was defeated. (August 1808). This left Junot's army isolated in Portugal. The British landed an army under General Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington) in Portugal and rapidly defeated Junot. A quarel developed in the British command Wellesley returned to London. His army under Sir John Moore attacked the French in Spain. The French did not support him and he was defeated by a Napoleon who brought in a large French army. Moore's army was evacuated by the Royal Navy at Corunna, but he was killed in the process. Wellington was ordered back to Portugal and defeated French forces under Marshal Soult (May 1809). The French had by this time totally destroyed the Spanish Army. Wellington's British force in Portugal was the only remaining force opossing the French. Incoclusive engagements during the next 2 years (1810-11). The Peninsular War has a huge impact on Napoleon. While he and his Grand Armeé was eventually defeated in Russia, historians believe that Napoleon lost nearly 240,000 men in Spain and Portugal. Wellington's losses in cotrastv were only abouy 35,000. [Roberts] For nearly a decade, the only place in Europe where armies could stand against the French was on the Iberian Peninsula. Here Wellington's British troops and Spanish and Portuguese allies. After this fierce bloodletting, attention in 1812 shifted to Russia.

Importance

The Peninsular Campaign was relatively small in terms of the sizes of the armies involved. It was, however, the turning point in the Napoleonic Wars.

Napoleon

Napoleon by this time had changed. His successes had changed his outlook. He no longer lisened to the council of his advisers.

Portugal

The French in 1807 began to give increasing attention to the Iberian Peninsula where Britain had an ally in Portugal that helped it circumvent Napoleon's Continental System. It soon became the "Spanish Ulcer". Spain had declined significantly in the 18th century and was becoming a backwater of Europe. King Charles IV granted French General Andoche Junot permission o cross Spain and attack Portugal. The French rapidly occupied Lisbon and the Portuguese Royal Family fled to Brazil (1807).

Installing Joseph King of Spain

Another French army entered Spain (March 1808). This French army headed for Madrid. Napoleon removed King Charles IV from power and replaced him with his brother Joseph. Joseph was unable to deal with the situation in Spain. From the first he was considered an invader and his interest in prigressive reforms were to no avail.

Spanish Rising

The Spanish reaction surprised the French. The Spanish people rose up against the French in a way that Napoleon had never encounteted in Germany. The Spanish insurgency supported by the British turned the Penibnsular Campaign into a war of attrocities. It also proved to be a continuing drag on French resources.

French Defeat

A large French force under General Dupont was defeated. (August 1808). This left Junot's army isolated in Portugal.

British Intervention

The British landed an army under General Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington) in Portugal and rapidly defeated Junot. A quarel developed in the British command Wellesley returned to London. His army under Sir John Moore attacked the French in Spain. The French did not support him and he was defeated by Napoleon who brought in a large French army. Moore's army was evacuated by the Royal Navy at Corunna, but he was killed in the process. Wellington was ordered back to Portugal and defeated French forces under Marshal Soult (May 1809). The French had by this time totally destroyed the Spanish Army. Wellington's British force in Portugal was the only remaining force opossing the French. Incoclusive engagements during the next 2 years (1810-11).

Albuera (1811)

Albuera is a port in southwest Spain. Here a French force batteled an Allied (British, Spanish, and Portuguese) force (May 16, 1811). Marshal Willim Carr Beresford commanding the Portuguese Army claimed to have repulsed an attack by Marshal Jean Soult. The French has captured the allied fortress at Badajoz. Beresford beseiuged it. Soult moved to releave the seige and the two armies met at Albuera French struck at the Allied center, then moved at Beresford's right to attack the rear. Spanish units performed galantly. The French after encountering severe loses withderew. The Spanish achieved a victiory against thecFrench. It was a sound maptism of fire for the reconstructed Portuguese Army, The British began to see ther army as a "fighting force second to none". The French saw the battle as a a "sobering" demostration" of their limits. [Dempsey]

French Withdrawl

The British, Portuguese, and Spanish gradually wore down the French. With the French defeat at Vitoria (1813), Joseph returned to his estate in France. After Waterloo he sailed from Rochefort to America. Joseph offered his shio to his brother, but the Emperor decided to instead surrender to the British.

Importance

The Peninsular Campaign has a huge impact on Napoleon. While he and his Grand Armeé was eventually defeated in Russia, historians believe that Napoleon lost nearly 240,000 men in Spain and Portugal. Wellington's losses in cotrastv were only abouy 35,000. [Roberts] For nearly a decade, the only place in Europe where armies could stand against the French was on the Iberian Peninsula. Here Wellington's British troops and Spanish and Portuguese allies. After this fierce bloodletting, attention in 1812 shifted to Russia.

Sources

Dempsey, Guy. Albuera 1811: The Bloodiest Battle of the Peninsular War.






HBC









Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main Napoleonic war page]
[Return to Main military style page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]




Created: 9:54 PM 12/28/2008
Last updated: 9:54 PM 12/28/2008