Peninsular War

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,719
Spain
I have not all the numbers of actions in Peninsular War.. but I have counted 112 actions for 1808 (battles, sieges, skirmishes, storming, ambushes etc etc).

The first action in the War.. was the second of May uprising in Madrid. (1808/05/02). A clash between the Imperial Army and the Madrid population. I think
It was not a spontaneous incident, but the result of a conspiracy carried out to provoke the incident ...A kind of March 19th replay... Of course, the consequences caused by the plot it hardly were foreseen by anyone. I think it was the Ferdinand´s Party that organized the rebellion to put pressure on Napoleon ... as it usually happens the incident got out of hand and escaped to the control of its promoters. It was a French Victory but... caused a war.

Much it has been exaggerated the losses of that day .. that if 2,000 French .. that if 1,000 Spanish etc. The "romantic" Spanish writers in 19th Century wrote about...2.500 French Killed!!!!:zany::zany: Also the French exaggerated. Napoleon wrote to his brother Gèrome that 2.000 Spanish out 40.000 rebels were killed. Murat in his record wrote 600 espagnols tué....Arteche wrote about 1.200 killed in each side (too exaggerated for me)... As I always said... best the official sources.. not 100% truth but most accurated. The Spanish casualties were (about this people we know names, surnames, ages and we have certificate of death):

Killed in action: 134 men, 15 women and 4 children (under 18yo): 153 Killed
Death of wounds: 135 men, 39 women and 9 children (under 18yo): 183 death of wounds.

Total: 336 killed.

If we add the people killed by shot the third of May:

Executed by firing: 82 men and 1 child (under 18 yo): 83 executed.

Total people killed between 2nd and 3rd May: 419 killed.

Wounded in hospital: 171 men, women and children.

Source: Pérez Guzmán y Gallo, J. (1908): El Dos de Mayo en Madrid. Relación histórica documentada (...).

French Imperial casualties:

Murat wrote 31 killed and 114 wounded. However Martinien in his "Tableaux par Corps..." gives us the name of 3 officers Killed and 31 wounded... but not soldiers... if we calculate a proportion 1 to 15.... it should be around 500 French casualties... too much, I think.

However in the French Archives the record Corps d´Observation des Côtes de l´Océan. Situation summaire et rapport detaillé de 24 heures. mai 1808 - mai 1809... gives us figures not only officers but soldiers. According with this report, the French Imperial Casualties suffered in Madrid, May 2nd, 1808...

French killed in Action: 3 officers and 36 soldiers. Total: 39
French Wounded in Action: 31 officers and 146 soldiers. Total: 177

Total casualties: 216.

As we can see... nor 2.000 deaths in any side... nor "exaggerated figures"....Reality is better than fiction... 460 deaths are not 2.000 ... but they are too much for a "furious morning" in Madrid.
 
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Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,040
Portugal
Dear Tulius..Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe... you can find mountains in North-South-East...as you can see here



Higher mountais are in the Southern: Veleta-Mulhacen...and in Northern: Monte Perdido, Aneto etc

About Peninsular War begun in 1808 although it took place the invasion of Portugal in 1807 but the war just begun with the uprising in Madrid second of May, 1808.
About weather you know... from + 47,3ºC (in the shadow) in Montoro, Córdoba, - 39º below Zero (Lérida) or - 52º Below Zero (February 6th, 1956 in Aiguestortes, Pyrenees). I think 50% area is rouged and mountainous.
Indeed, you are right, my reference to the mountain place unable for cavalry was indirectly to the one in the video, near Coruña, when the French needed to dismount. I should have been clear. The point was that even with all that mountains (we give it to the kids in the 5th grade, in the discipline “History and Geography of Portugal, where there is a chapter for the geography of the Iberian Peninsula), it is a overgeneralization to say that the territory is no adequate to cavalry. Not that the Peninsula has the traditions of the steppes, but there is plenty of use and tradition of its use in Spain, and in the Peninsula since ancient times.
 

Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,522
Japan
It is not an overgeneralisation.
It was pretty much a given that Spain being hilly or mountainous did not allow for large cavalry warfare. It was not cavalry country.

This does not mean the Spanish did not have cavalry.
Or that cavalry was useless.
But it did mean large cavalry action were none existent. Spain couldn’t not sustain large mounted formations with forage, few battlefields allowed cavalry room to manoeuvre as it could in Germany or Russia.
France sent very few heavy cavalry to Spain. Only one composite cuirassier regiment.

Cavalry actions in Spain were much smaller than in Europe. The British and Spanish were both “infantry” armies, and by this I mean their infantry was better than their cavalry.... France’s cavalry was much better at large multi formation actions.. which it rarely got to do in Spain.
This this is what “not cavalry country” means. That large cavalry battles are not possible..

One of France’s strengths was negated by the terrain and style of warfare it dictated, while it was able to play to some of Britain’s strengths. Spain of course was operating on its own soil, among its own people.
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,140
Canary Islands-Spain
Edrid Streona you're right on the operational sense, since the French cavalry could not be the key factor to win the war. Sieges were the crucial elements of the war.

However, you're wrong on the tactical side of the issue. The French cavalry was devastating, in spite of the comparatively weakness of it in comparation with units deployed in other European fronts. The French cavalry was a key factor in open battles, totally crushing its Spanish enemies in Medellín, Ocaña etc

However, battles weren't as decissive as in other countries
 

Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,522
Japan
French cavalry were good. But even in the battles were they outclassed the enemy they were still being used on a smaller scale than they would have been... at Medellín both French cavalry successes were single brigades charging... compare these to Leiberwolkwitz or Borodino which see cavalry being used in divisions...

I don’t deny French cavalry could ever charge... they did. But that they could never be used in they way the French had a clear advantage over the Spanish and British, because they could never bring that number of horsemen to bear .... Spanish terrain made it difficult, units were weaker, cavalry was harder to supply, while regiments were lost to escort duty through miles of hostile territory. But even if Spain was friendly and food for horses abundant, the hills and mountains would still make deploying whole cavalry divisions unlikely.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,040
Portugal
It is not an overgeneralisation.

It was pretty much a given that Spain being hilly or mountainous did not allow for large cavalry warfare. It was not cavalry country.

This does not mean the Spanish did not have cavalry.

Or that cavalry was useless.

But it did mean large cavalry action were none existent. Spain couldn’t not sustain large mounted formations with forage, few battlefields allowed cavalry room to manoeuvre as it could in Germany or Russia.

France sent very few heavy cavalry to Spain. Only one composite cuirassier regiment.

Cavalry actions in Spain were much smaller than in Europe. The British and Spanish were both “infantry” armies, and by this I mean their infantry was better than their cavalry.... France’s cavalry was much better at large multi formation actions.. which it rarely got to do in Spain.

This this is what “not cavalry country” means. That large cavalry battles are not possible..

One of France’s strengths was negated by the terrain and style of warfare it dictated, while it was able to play to some of Britain’s strengths. Spain of course was operating on its own soil, among its own people.
Note that I am not denying that the French cavalry was decisive in many Battles during the Napoleonic Wars. And that happened inclusively in Spain. I just don’t agree with the idea that it is not “a cavalry country” or that the whole territory is not suitable for cavalry. Especially with the “traditions” that exist in the territory since ancient times (Lusitanians, Celts, Iberians and Celtiberians fough on horse and were used as mercenaries both by Carthaginians and Romans), through the medieval period when Cavalry was essential, used both by Muslims and Christians, until the 20th century, in the Civil War, and that today still can be see in the bull fights (that are also made on horses with the “picador”), and a territory that often saw used mounting techniques different from the other places in Europe, such as to mount at the ginete/jinete style, with a short stirrup.

Back to the Napoleonic period, at Bailén there was a unit of “garronchistas” that fought against the French cavalry (both dragons and cuirassiers, if I am not mistaken), it was a while that I read this: Los garrochistas en Bailén : (19 de julio de 1808) : Gómez Imaz, Manuel, 1844-1922 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive (it is an old work, some parts can be outdated).

Anyway, like Martin said, Spain is a country full of Mountains, that doesn’t invalidate the existence of extensive plains and plateaus quite suitable for cavalry actions.
 

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,719
Spain
I personally agree with Edric. Of course, there were charges in Peninsular War but as Edric said in smaller scale than in Europe. And dear Tulius. you are right about there were horses in Spain.... and a beautiful horse... Cartujano used in Ausria- Hungary (K und K Spanische Hofreitschule ) and in USA.. the Mustang is a Spanish horse... but I think Edric is right... Spain was not a Cavalry country... as it was France, Austria - Hungary, Prussia, Russia, Poland...I would say also British and USA Calvary was better...Peninsula was famed because the Infantry.... the Spanish (Hispanii) mercenaries in Carthago, Rome... later Almogávares, later Tercios... I think a long, very long infantry tradition from Cannae till Krasný Bor in Russia in 1943... in 16th and 17th Centuries was said.. Infantry? The Spanish one... Artillery? Turk!

And yes, not even in the Empire days... the Spanish Cavalry was "good"... because Spaniards used the Infantry as the best weapon (as the British the Navy).. The nobility prefered Infantry as the British nobility prefered the Navy. In fact, the Spanish cavalry in those days consisted by Hungarians, Albanian, Croatian, German etc etc... Portuguese, Castilian, Aragonese, Navarran etc integrated in the Infantry..and that infantry was the best infantry in the world in those centuries.
Maybe I am wrong But I can´t see tradition in cavalry as in Poland, Russia, Hungary, Croatia, Austria etc etc.



Cartujano... a Spanish race


The Cavalry was one the weakest weapon in Sp. Army in 1808. it consisted in 16.623 horsemen and only 10.643 horses... most of them very bad horse.Through 18th Century, the breeders had neglected the animals, for the benefit of the mules, more useful for tillage. Spain was not threatened and from 1715 to 1808.. not war in the Spanish Peninsula..so.. they prefered to produce good mules than horses. (Source: Góme de Arteche. Guerra de la Independencia. Historia militar de España (1808 - 1814), 1868-1903, 14 vols. Tomo I. Page 479.)

But what you say dear Tulius in your post it is right.. From Garrochistas in Bailen to Civil War.... but I trust more in the Spanish infantry than in the Cavalry.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,244
Sydney
the charge of the polish lancers at the battle of Somosierra was described as "acrobatic"
 

Kevinmeath

Ad Honoris
May 2011
14,063
Navan, Ireland
I seem to remember that the French had a very large force of cavalry, as pointed out only one regiment of heavy Cuirassiers --the 13th? that wore brown not blue?--- but lots of regiments of lighter cavalry especially dragoons whose 'quasi-cavalry' origins made them well suited to the role of convoy/courier/vip guard and as anti-guerrilla troops.