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Thread: Napoleonic guerilla warfare in Spain

  1. #1
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    Default Napoleonic guerilla warfare in Spain

    Napoleon´s Nightmare: Guerrilla Warfare in Spain (1808-1814)

    Entry Excerpt:

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  2. #2
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Default Suchet in Spain

    "The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon", Gunther E. Rothenberg, 1978 p.157
    (about the guerilla war in Spain)

    Only Suchet, commanding in Aragon, had success against the guerillas, combining military action with political reform. He sent out strong columns to search and destroy the bands, but he rigorously suppressed all looting and plundering by his men. He provided an efficient and honest administration in the cities and security in the countryside. Gradually the guerrillas lost ground; they became isolated from popular support, and some villages even took up arms against them. Aragon was pacified and it was the only area in Spain where French soldiers could move about alone and unarmed.

    Suchet, Marshal Duke D'Albufera Memoirs of the War in Spain Pete Kautz, 2007, 2 volumes: ISBN 1-85818-477-0 & ISBN 1-85818-476-2
    Last edited by Fuchs; 03-26-2014 at 07:48 PM.

  3. #3
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Aragon at war

    I had to check the location, hence the map below.

    Wiki also points out that "all was not well":
    During the Peninsular War, the Aragonese capital was the site of two fierce sieges. During the siege in 1808, the Spanish under General Palafox defeated a superior French force. In 1809, during a particularly bloody siege, the Spaniards were overwhelmed by superior enemy forces. Almost 30,000 of the garrison and citizens of Zaragoza (from a total of 32,000) perished rather than surrender the city. Two weeks after they breached the walls, the French were still forced to fight for each house, square, church and convent.

    The early period of the Peninsular War in Spain is very interesting, in part due to the early French success, using treachery and coup d'main. As illustrated by this passage:
    Under the pretext of reinforcing the Franco-Spanish army occupying Portugal, French imperial troops entered Spain, where they were greeted with enthusiasm by the populace despite growing diplomatic unease. In February 1808, Napoleon turned on his ally and ordered French commanders to seize key Spanish fortresses.
    Or some planning to invade and reduce beforehand the 100k Spanish army:
    15,000 of its finest troops—Pedro Caro, 3rd Marquis of la Romana's Division of the North—had been lent to Napoleon in 1807 and remained stationed in Denmark under French command.
    From a lengthy, detailed Wiki:

    Napoleon decided as the Peninsular War came to an end, with the Anglo-Portuguese army on the French frontier (Bay of Biscay end), to retain a large garrison @ Pamplona, to secure a point of re-entry! I have friends preparing to visit the city and region this year, to inspect the fortifications.

  4. #4
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Clausewitz had certainly also Spain in mind when he wrote his chapter 'Arming the nation':

    It follows from the very nature of the thing that defensive means thus widely dispersed, are not suited to great blows requiring concentrated action in time and space. Its operation, like the process of evaporation in physical nature, is according to the surface. The greater that surface and the greater the contact with the enemy's army, consequently the more that army spreads itself out, so much the greater will be the effects of arming the nation. Like a slow gradual heat, it destroys the foundations of the enemy's army. As it requires time to produce its effects, therefore whilst the hostile elements are working on each other, there is a state of tension which either gradually wears out if the people's war is extinguished at some points, and burns slowly away at others, or leads to a crisis, if the flames of this general conflagration envelop the enemy's army, and compel it to evacuate the country to save itself from utter destruction.

    In order that this result should be produced by a national war alone, we must suppose either a surface-extent of the dominions invaded, exceeding that of any country in Europe, except Russia, or suppose a disproportion between the strength of the invading army and the extent of the country, such as never occurs in reality. Therefore, to avoid following a phantom, we must imagine a people-war always in combination, with a war carried on by a regular army, and both carried on according to a plan embracing the operations of the whole.

    The conditions under which alone the people's war can become effective are the following—

    1. That the war is carried on in the heart of the country.

    2. That it cannot be decided by a single catastrophe.

    3. That the theatre of war embraces a considerable extent of country.

    4. That the national character is favourable to the measure.

    5. That the country is of a broken and difficult nature, either from being mountainous, or by reason of woods and marshes, or from the peculiar mode of cultivation in use.
    Democracy at home and a different set of values should make it harder to sustain the fight against 'guerillas' in a foreign nations.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  5. #5
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Denver on occasion


    This is a book about the French in Aragon.

    If I remember my reading of it correctly, Suchet did well but he was no miracle worker and his enlightened attitude was more one of degree than of kind. He was also only there for a short time.

    The interesting thing about the book is how so many things about small war never change. The importance of sanctuary and unified command for example. The French would do well in Aragon and the opposing forces would just go across the border to another province where the French weren't so energetic to recuperate.

    Suchet's memoir which is available for free on the net, has a great story in it about a siege of a French post by some insurgents that went on for some period of time. It is amazing, like a movie script and it was led by on French sapper Sgt who was sort of a Gallic Rifleman Dodd.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  6. #6
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    I had to check the location, hence the map below.

    That's only modern Aragon, the core. Historical Aragon, the Kingdom of Aragon, was much larger and covered the East coast of Spain. I'm not sure which area he was actually posted to, but it may have included Catalonia.

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