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"'Napoleon was not defeated by the guerilleros'" Topic


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42flanker22 Jun 2022 11:45 a.m. PST

'Diez errores históricos sobre España'
link

7. 'Napoleon was not defeated by the guerilleros'
Napoleon Bonaparte in exile on St Helena reflected on the mistakes that had caused his military failure: "All the circumstances of my disasters come to be linked to this fatal knot; the Spanish war destroyed my reputation in Europe, entangled my difficulties, and opened a school for English soldiers. It was I who trained the British Army in the Peninsula."

…With regard to the weight of the British in the war, Luis Sorando Muzas states that, although the British tipped the balance, "they were not as indispensable as we have been told. In most parts of the Peninsula there was only material assistance, not troops as such. Only in the Extremadura area were there British troops".
("El Ejército español de José Napoleón")

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2022 12:30 p.m. PST

And he'd have no agenda, of course.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2022 12:40 p.m. PST

With all due respect, the historical record of guerilla conflict especially pre-20th century is pretty clear; without external support in the presence of a remorseless enemy (and Bonaparte was nothing if not remorseless), the guerillas were almost universally crushed

Regicide164922 Jun 2022 12:43 p.m. PST

I can't read Spanish, but I am guessing that this argument is part of a wider historiographical revanche in Spanish academia that's been going on for a couple of decades. What the English call the 'Peninsular War' is now the 'War of Liberation' in Spain, in which the British and Portuguese contribution is at best, a sideshow to the main event: a mythical nationalist awakening. It's total BS, of course (at least, it's politics rather than history). The Peninsular War was a war of 'liberation' in a sense, in that it secured the liberation of Portugal from Spain, who had agreed with the French to annex it in 1807 (treaty of Fontainbleau). It's why Sir John Moore was there. There is every evidence that Soult, Junot and the rest denuded every little garrison in the country to put together field armies to combat Wellington and allied contingents. These commanders were not total idiots.

Michman22 Jun 2022 2:10 p.m. PST

For what it's worth ….

Classical (pre-Soviet) and modern (post-Soviet) Russian writers on 1812/1813 tend to de-emphasize the rôle of actual "partizans" (civilian and by-passed military acting detached in the enemy rear) in favor of :
--- on the defensive : Cossack and Native cavalry acting around the French front and forward flanks to stymie their foraging and reconnaissance
--- on the defensive : effective withdrawal of useful resources, including the population that might have become "partizans", followed by scorched earth within 50 km of the enemy line of advance
--- on the counter-attack : the use of multi-regiment "flying detachments" of Cossack and Native cavalry stiffened by Hussars and sometimes Dragoons and Jäger 50-250 km in the enemy rear areas to seize depots, fortified places and road junctions
--- on the counter-attack : littoral naval warfare and amphibious raids, in consort with the Royal Navy, to deny the French use of waterbourne supply routes, while using sea/river lines of communication to marshal troops and supplies.

It is now also usually noted that much of the fabled "partizan" activity actually involved populations that were ethnically Polish, Lithuanian and Belarusian – with less than total loyalty and support for the Russian régime.

42flanker22 Jun 2022 3:05 p.m. PST

I am fairly certain that Salamanca (or Los Arapiles- which was a Spanish victory, btw) and Vittoria, not to mention Fuentes D'Oñoro, Talavera and Chiclana, are none of them in Estremadura.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2022 7:29 p.m. PST

"It was I who trained the British Army in the Peninsula."

But hasn't His Imperial Majesty assured us that Wellington was a bad general and the British bad troops?

42flanker23 Jun 2022 1:58 a.m. PST

"But hasn't His Imperial Majesty assured us that Wellington was a bad general and the British bad troops?"

Hence the need for a thorough training regime, n'est-ce pas?

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2022 2:23 a.m. PST

@ regicide: excellent post

it's politics rather than history

Yep. As George Orwell put it,

"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

The past can be changed to suit a present political purpose.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jun 2022 6:01 a.m. PST

I thought this was an excellent book on the subject:

link

MightyOwl23 Jun 2022 8:34 a.m. PST

Having read books and articles by Luis Sorando Muzas I would say that he is not an author with any axe to grind. His expertise is uniformology.

My own opinion is that all three elements: the British Army, Spanish regulars and guerrillas were all necessary to force the French from Spain. The British could no more have forced the French from Spain without Spanish support than the Spanish without British support.

42flanker23 Jun 2022 11:16 a.m. PST

The difference being, perhaps, that one reason the British were in the Peninsula was precisely to support the Spanish.

Au pas de Charge Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2022 11:37 a.m. PST

The difference being, perhaps, that one reason the British were in the Peninsula was precisely to support the Spanish.

The same Spanish whose colonies they were trying to take over a year before?

It's amazing how everyone has an "agenda" except the good people of King and Parliament.


"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
Are we talking about the Peninsular past controlled by British authors for 200+ years with the British at the center of the Peninsular universe?

One can only control the past if the people that read about it are clowns without the ability to investigate, analyze and conclude on their own. Thus, for that quote to ring true, it would need an audience that just accepts what is handed to them…which is a bigger problem.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2022 12:14 p.m. PST

@42F

Exactly – Napoleon had offered Britain a winnable campaign so it would have been rude not to.

Regicide164923 Jun 2022 12:18 p.m. PST

I think the British were in the Peninsular initially to support the Portuguese against the threat of Spanish invasion. It's a fact.

'The good people of King and Parliament' were honouring a treaty signed in the 17th Century; they could do so because they didn't have a change of governmental system every decade and so a Parliament of 1807 could feel obliged to honour a commitment made by a Parliament of the 1690s. In English law, it was obliged to do so.

The idea that an 'invader' – in fact initially an ally – was driven out of the country by the barbaric murder of stragglers, the wounded, and small garrisons of starving conscripts ought to inspire national shame, rather than neo-Francoist BS.

Lilian23 Jun 2022 12:35 p.m. PST

Nada de nuevo bajo el sol Caballeros, claro que si Napoléon was not defeated by the romantized "guerrillas" – even such term not appearing among French 'invaders' themselves before the last months of the Peninsular War – Guerre d'Espagne – Guerra de Independencia, to say the least, nor by the small limited british participation who came but didn't forget to take the credit and kidnapp the historiography for 200 years ignoring to not say despising the Spanish military

Regicide164923 Jun 2022 1:01 p.m. PST

Please explain how historiography can be kidnapped for 200 years. How it can be kidnapped at all. What legal sanction existed in Spain that prevented anyone writing on the subject until the 200 years was up or the ransom paid? What was the ransom? The 'small limited British participation' secured Portugal against Spanish aggression; that was the aim of the Peninsular War. It then pursued the French main field army, by hook and crook and with reverses, across the Pyrenees. Look at the military facts, particularly as presented in the correspondence between Soult and Napoleon.

Au pas de Charge Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2022 1:06 p.m. PST

The good people of King and Parliament' were honouring a treaty signed in the 17th Century; they could do so because they didn't have a change of governmental system every decade and so a Parliament of 1807 could feel obliged to honour a commitment made by a Parliament of the 1690s. In English law, it was obliged to do so.

Thanks for reminding me that the longstanding aristocracy in the UK is a self perpetuating form of legitimacy. Everything else is illegitimate and needs to be harassed.

The good people of King and Parliament were lining their own feudal pockets. It was a fight for empire and although there seems to be some vocal few on here that think Britain fought a crusade against Napoleon. The result was the rise of the British Empire. In eliminating Napoleon, no one seems to be able to point out the vastly superior qualities the British Empire offered in his place.

Ruchel23 Jun 2022 1:20 p.m. PST

I can't read Spanish

So, if you can't read Spanish, how can you know anything about Spanish historiography?

Is it a joke? It is hilarious and Kafkaesque.

Historiography, as a concept, is related to works (books, articles, PhD theses, …) written by historians. Spanish historiography consists in works written by Spanish historians, primarily in Spanish language. If you can't read Spanish, you can't know anything about Spanish historiography. It is evident.

but I am guessing that this argument is part of a wider historiographical revanche in Spanish academia that's been going on for a couple of decades

The ‘wider historiographical revanche in Spanish academia' does not exist. Or maybe it only exists in your imagination.

The Spanish academia does not exist either. Spanish historiography is very diverse. There are many Universities, Colleges, Cultural institutions, and, consequently, there are many different historiographical tendencies and schools.

Military historiography is a minority. It is almost marginal and not well considered. Even political historiography is not the preferred one. Spanish historiography is focused on social and economic matters, and it prefers regional, provincial and local approaches, including Microhistory.

Of course, some isolate historians, especially amateur historians, may defend every hypothesis they want to, but they do not belong to a supposed Spanish academia which only exists in your imagination.

What the English call the 'Peninsular War' is now the 'War of Liberation' in Spain

The concept ‘War of Liberation' is not used by Spanish historiography, and it is not used by the educational and cultural institutions in Spain. The accepted Spanish historiographical concept is ‘War of Independence'.

a mythical nationalist awakening

The concept ‘mythical nationalist awakening' does not exist in Spanish historiography either. The accepted concepts are very diverse: popular uprisings, social riots, rural rebellions, aristocracy's disaffection, and so on. And they are not mutually exclusive.

The Spanish historiography, although it is not very interested in the Napoleonic Wars, uses to offer balanced views regarding Spanish, Portuguese and British contributions, but, obviously, it is focused on Spanish involvement and struggle.


It's total BS, of course (at least, it's politics rather than history)

All BS you have mentioned is your own BS. It is your creation. Congratulations. It has nothing to do with the Spanish historiography.

Some historians like to use historiography in order to achieve political aims. This is true in every country around the world, not just in Spain. But you are wrong again because that kind of supposed historians is focused on Spanish Civil War. For better or worse, nowadays the Peninsular War, or the War of Independence, is historiographically irrelevant in Spain.

Lilian23 Jun 2022 1:21 p.m. PST

Regicide1649 a good lecture for you below about the Guerra de Independencia as repeated, War of Liberation is indeed rather german

About How the British distorted the Peninsular War History
TMP link
and
TMP link
including one post I translated from
link

Regicide164923 Jun 2022 1:29 p.m. PST

Dear Aus pas de Charge,

Aristocracy is nothing to do with it. The decision to go to war in the Peninsular was taken by the elected chamber, not the hereditary one. Legal obligation is a form of legimitacy in any society. Your 'self-perpetuating' point is obscure: clearly you think the English are Bleeped texters.

Feudalism ceased to function in England certainly by 1450; many scholars would say 1350. England did fight and fund a number of coalitions against Napoleon; it is the only European power never to have become an ally of convenience. In fact they had funded coalitions to maintain the balance of power in Europe since the Protectorate of Cromwell. The British Empire existed long before Napoleon was significant; in fact it had lately shrunk by a third with the loss of American colonies.

Napoleon had many admirable qualities that Wellington lacked; in fact I despise Wellington for his domestic politics and detest imperialism in any guise. Relevant here is that Portugal was not a colony in 1807 but an ally of longstanding. Had England not gone to war, Portugal would have become a province of Spain, backed up by the Corsican tyrant.

Government by consent of the people is the only self-perpetuating legitimacy, n'est pas?

Au pas de Charge Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2022 2:00 p.m. PST

Aristocracy is nothing to do with it. The decision to go to war in the Peninsular was taken by the elected chamber, not the hereditary one. Legal obligation is a form of legimitacy in any society. Your 'self-perpetuating' point is obscure: clearly you think the English are Bleeped texters.

Only 5% of the UK population could vote. Nothing feudal about that.huh?

The British Empire existed long before Napoleon was significant; in fact it had lately shrunk by a third with the loss of American colonies.

The British Empire expanded a great deal as a direct result of the Waterloo campaign and ouster of you-know-who. In fact Napoleon was the last casualty in a 150 year struggle between Britain and France for global colonial supremacy. Does anyone dispute this?

Napoleon had many admirable qualities that Wellington lacked; in fact I despise Wellington for his domestic politics and detest imperialism in any guise.

I dont usually care about either man except for their approach to war. I have an interest in Napoleon's other talents but only because he seems to have had some creativity.

Worse than imperialism are apologists who pretend that it isnt what it was.


Relevant here is that Portugal was not a colony in 1807 but an ally of longstanding. Had England not gone to war, Portugal would have become a province of Spain, backed up by the Corsican tyrant.

It was a good strategy to boot. Frankly, it would've been more interesting if the British hadn't been so miserly with the good Duke.

Government by consent of the people is the only self-perpetuating legitimacy, n'est pas?

cher monsieur, je suis complètement d'accord

Regicide164923 Jun 2022 2:11 p.m. PST

Dear Ruchel,

I studied under your professor Alonso at King's College, London round about 20 years ago. The entire first year was about Spanish historiography and the lectures/seminars were conducted entirely in English. I disagree with you profoundlly: you can know about any historiography if it is translated into your native tongue.

The ‘wider historiographical revanche in Spanish academia' does exist. Alonso and others are saying something entirely new, it just so happens that I don't agree with it. 'Spanish academia' also does exist, as does that of any other nation. I work as an academic myself: the idea that colleagues and institutions in Spain don't exist is absurd. I am not mad. I recieve emails from them.

I accept your correction about the 'war of independence' rather than 'liberation.' I have heard it called both, but I think Alonso usually went with 'independence.' Somewhere I have notes from his lectures but for ease I'll concede the point. It is irrelevant anyway.

The term 'mythical national awakening' is my own; it should not surprise that it is not used in Spanish historiography. I question also your assertion that the Spanish angle on the 'war of independence' is not a live topic – or perhaps it only is on TMP (see Lillian's post). Alonso certainly thought it was a live topic and made a career of lecturing about it at universities around Europe.

Ultimately, I stand by what I said. It's politics rather than history. No apology forthcoming, for all my studied and considered BS.

BillyNM23 Jun 2022 10:47 p.m. PST

Why is it so necessary to rank everyone's contribution towards Napoleon's defeat? It pretty much took all of Europe combined to overthrow French dominance. All the above seems to ignore the fact that Wellington and his allies really only made progress in Spain once he was inextricably over-committed in Russia.
As for Anglo-centric historiography, it's only natural for each nation to write up its history rather than another's. I suspect that if I could read every language I would find every country assigning itself the lion's share of the credit for saving Europe from Imperial oppression.
Personally I find the persistence of the Spanish armies and government in the face of so many setbacks fascinating and praiseworthy.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP24 Jun 2022 2:05 a.m. PST

All the above seems to ignore the fact that Wellington and his allies really only made progress in Spain once he was inextricably over-committed in Russia.

The only reason he was in either Spain or Russia in the first place was that he'd been defeated by Britain at Trafalgar.

This meant he was fighting a naval war against a power that had repeatedly and comprehensively defeated his own navy plus that of every country he co-opted.

The contribution of nations other than Britain to this total naval defeat of France was nil, at all times.

Having no navy, he attempted instead to defeat a naval power economically. This required him to invade and subdue every other European country.

So he was in Spain because he'd been defeated by Britain at Trafalgar, he was in Russia because he'd been defeated by Britain at Trafalgar, he couldn't supply his armies in either theatre by sea, and he was beaten in Russia in large measure because he had already lost or would lose half a million men in Spain either tied up or KIA/WIA there.

If you doubt that, ask yourself how 1809 would have gone for Austria with a quarter of a million 1805-7 Grande Armee veterans in Germany. Could it even have happened? Consider 1812 likewise.

The victory that enabled all others was the victory at sea. Plucky Spanish guerilleros liquidating conscript replacement platoons and then disembowelling them was a step towards the same goal but it was never going to be enough.

To the OP, the quoted claim that British troops "were not as indispensable as we have been told. In most parts of the Peninsula there was only material assistance, not troops as such" invites an obvious rejoinder. If this is so, it must be possible to identify areas of Spain that Spanish troops liberated by themselves, and to show that given time, they'd have done the same everywhere without Anglo-Portuguese assistance. Given that they only won three battles I'd be interested to see that analysis.

forrester24 Jun 2022 2:16 a.m. PST

We seem to be having this argument every couple of weeks.

It is inevitable that countries focus on and emphasise their own activities. I wouldn't be surprised if Austrian Prussian and Russian literature is similarly "centric" It doesn't mean its an evil plot.
Wider angle views are available. I have "The Spanish Ulcer" by David Gates which is specifically aimed at that wider angle.
As noted by BillyNM above, the defeat of Napoleon was a joint effort, both within Spain and Portugal and Europe generally. That shouldn't be controversial. What happens at one end of Europe resonates at the other end.
No need to have a "who's best" league table, especially when contributions were often of a different nature .

Ruchel24 Jun 2022 3:53 a.m. PST

you can know about any historiography if it is translated into your native tongue.

The problem is that very few Spanish books, articles and PhD theses on Napoleonic Wars are actually translated into English.

If you can't read Spanish, you have very few sources at your disposal. Please, be humble. With such limited and reduced sources you should not make harsh judgements about the whole Spanish historiography. We should be honest and reasonable.

The ‘wider historiographical revanche in Spanish academia' does exist

It is your subjective perception, or personal conception. Or some isolate historian's hypothesis. But It does not exist in Spanish historiography as a whole. There is no such debate, no such historiographical controversy, inside Spanish historiography. As I said before, Napoleonic Wars are not relevant for Spanish historiography.

'Spanish academia' also does exist, as does that of any other nation

It does not exist as a monolithic structure, with only one opinion, only one approach, and only one perverse agenda. Spanish historiography is very diverse, with many different tendencies and schools of thought, even with divergent views.

I question also your assertion that the Spanish angle on the 'war of independence' is not a live topic

Well, you should live in Spain. The war of independence is not a live topic. Very few academic people are really interested in it. And very few books on it are published every year, especially if you compare with other topics (Spanish Civil War, social history, economic history, …)

Spanish historians focused on the War of Independence are a tiny minority, sometimes with divergent points of views between them. And they are not well considered in comparison with more 'serious' historians (those focused on great social and economic monographs).

Ultimately, I stand by what I said

It is your subjective choice. It is a pity because your opinions are based on your own creations, that is, on nothing historiographically relevant.

It's politics rather than history

In your case it is absolutely true.

42flanker24 Jun 2022 4:19 a.m. PST

"The same Spanish whose colonies they were trying to take over a year before?
It's amazing how everyone has an "agenda" except the good people of King and Parliament."

Do you mean to suggest that the Spanish Empire was some form of a victim, one moment being despoiled abroad by despicable Albion, and then, when down on its luck, being invaded by rapacious British armies with ulterior motives?

The colonising powers had been rivals for control of the lucrative Caribbean islands the length of the C18th. In successive wars, the islands had been objectives of British operations either for simple commercial gain, military advantage or as bargaining points at the negotiating table; ditto Spain; ditto France; ditto the Netherlands. Not sure about Denmark.

One might as easily comment as to how the Spanish, or certain parties in the kingdom, were content to ally themselves with a power with which they had been at war only a year before, and had been happy to pillage during the previous American war, when Britain' attention was elsewhere.

There is nothing new to see here. Spain's empire was three hundred years old. They knew the score, although their star had indeed been waning.

Of _course_ British armies fought in the Peninsula to serve the government's military and commercial objectives, and in compliance with the treaty with Portugal, as has been pointed out.

My point was the British army took part in ejecting the French army from Spain because the Spanish had difficulty mustering the resources to do so unaided. The notion that the British ‘needed' Spanish support to achieve this end is contradictory. The British didn't have to be there. Why wouldn't the Spanish, or at least the anti-French parties, co-operate with allies fighting to repel the invader of their soil? Obviously, proposing that the British could have defeated the French without Portuguese and Spanish involvement is not only myopic but illogical. Victory, however, was achieved under the overall command of a British general. There's the rub.

"Control of the peninsular past" – By what magnetic, planetary force? The nationalistic interest of C19th British military historians in the successes of the Peninsula campaign is hardly surprising given the dominant position in which Britain found itself at the end of the long French war. This was the imperial age and the narrative of how the nation gradually raised itself from reversal after abject reversal to being a leading power in the the defeat of Napoleon on land and sea was understandably a source of pride. The British authors wrote for a British audience, as the OP Spanish author in the OP writes for a Spanish audience, ditto in France.

We are now in a position to assess events from a wider, ideally less nationalistic perspective, even if there are sentimental folk who drag their feet somewhat and like to bask in the sun of imperial nostalgia.

As for the Estremadura assertion, well, that was just silly.

"One can only control the past if the people that read about it are clowns without the ability to investigate, analyze and conclude on their own."

Fortunately, there are those standing by, ready to put them right, n'est ce pas?

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP24 Jun 2022 9:05 a.m. PST

I think it's about time to make my regular pilgrimage to my bookcases to apologize to Cyril Kornbluth for ever doubting him.

Au Pas, whether one views the Napoleonic Wars as a struggle for colonial territories or as a struggle to prevent the rule of Europe by an autocrat, Colonel di Buonoparte was very far from the last casualty. He was perhaps half-way through, if we assume both struggles are in fact over.

As for the kidnapping of history, one needn't go so far away as Spain. But I'm afraid it's pretty much like the Lindbergh case: we might pay the ransom, but the victim is already dead.

Au pas de Charge Supporting Member of TMP24 Jun 2022 10:13 a.m. PST

Au Pas, whether one views the Napoleonic Wars as a struggle for colonial territories or as a struggle to prevent the rule of Europe by an autocrat…

Not much of a choice there considering Europe was ruled by Monarchies. Unless, we are reinventing history, the aristocracies of Europe were mostly, if not always uniformly opposed to the French Revolution and Napoleon because of threats to the established order.

MightyOwl25 Jun 2022 2:05 a.m. PST

"To the OP, the quoted claim that British troops "were not as indispensable as we have been told. In most parts of the Peninsula there was only material assistance, not troops as such" invites an obvious rejoinder. If this is so, it must be possible to identify areas of Spain that Spanish troops liberated by themselves, and to show that given time, they'd have done the same everywhere without Anglo-Portuguese assistance. Given that they only won three battles I'd be interested to see that analysis."

Three battles – this is obviously incorrect if one only counts Bailén, Alcañiz, Tamames and San Marcial this would be wrong, then there are battles such as Second Castalla, where it was Spanish troops who did most of the fighting and a host of smaller actions such as Cogorderos, La Bisbal, Azcain or Astorga.

Spanish troops liberated Galicia in 1809 with no help from British troops. Andalucía, Asturias and Cantabria in 1812 and Aragon in 1813. Large portions of Castilla y León, Castilla La Mancha, Valencia and Catalunya were also recaptured with no involvement by British soldiers.

From late 1812 this is obviously due in part to the siphoning of French troops to Germany after the Russian campaign but there were large parts of Spain that never saw a single British or Portuguese soldier and yet the French were forced from those regions in campaigns that receive little or no recognition from some historians.

Had Napoleon not been defeated in Russia, would the Spanish have been able to force the French from Spain, it's unilikely. Would the British have been able to force the French from Spain in the same situation, also highly unlikely.

Lilian25 Jun 2022 4:47 a.m. PST

The English have cowardly and shamefully abandoned the Spaniards; we pursue them vigorously. It seems that the English had brought 10 000 horses to save themselves more quickly

Napoleon to Fouché on January 1st, 1809

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP25 Jun 2022 7:19 a.m. PST

The resentment of the British for a perceived bias in assessing their role in the Napoleonic wars seems to come up here fairly often. The debate itself is a learning experience, maybe because I am am guilty of not really following the Peninsula campaign, have read almost no history, have never painted my 6mm British army, even after reading all of Sharpe.

I think it was a shared goal to prevent the rule of Europe by a SINGLE autocrat and that it what Robert meant, AuPas. The British were always about trade and sea power and fighting the French in a long natural rivalry. They were not about to tolerate a Europe controlled by a single dynamic French dictator.

Au pas de Charge Supporting Member of TMP25 Jun 2022 7:20 a.m. PST

Three battles – this is obviously incorrect if one only counts Bailén, Alcañiz, Tamames and San Marcial this would be wrong, then there are battles such as Second Castalla, where it was Spanish troops who did most of the fighting and a host of smaller actions such as Cogorderos, La Bisbal, Azcain or Astorga.

Some here have constructed a plumbo jumbo machine of phony milestones and reverse engineered statistics to prove it was the British that did everything. All one has to do is feed in self serving definitions, carefully selected factoids and meticulously invented statistics, press the button and voila! Plumbo Jumbo, the British win!

Thus, battles arent really battles if the Spanish fought them or they aren't listed in their "Sharpe conquers Napoleon" graphic novel and statistics about percentages of battles won are more important than the result of a battle, like Wellington having to scramdoodle after Talavera.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP25 Jun 2022 3:37 p.m. PST

@ MightyOwl – interesting, thanks. To what extent was Spanish success in these areas attributable to the locale having been stripped of French troops to fight the Anglo-Portuguese? Were the Spanish victories accomplished only with significant numerical superiority, like Prussia's?

von Winterfeldt26 Jun 2022 6:07 a.m. PST

I agree absolutely with Ruchel, in case you cannot read Spanish, don't even dream that you have a deep understanding of their histiography.

I see those identical cases for lack of reading German or French and yes still people think they have a profound ideas about their histiography or military history.

Yes translastions are good but they scratch only the surface and can never be a substitude for learing a language and exploiting the numerous non translated works.

As for hate of imperialism – Boney tried this for Europe but thankfully he failed abysmally in that.

Au pas de Charge Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2022 7:18 a.m. PST

As for hate of imperialism – Boney tried this for Europe but thankfully he failed abysmally in that.

This board is becoming something of a ironic quasar. Oh yes, thank goodness that the Imperial households saved Europe from Napoleon's imperialism.

MightyOwl26 Jun 2022 7:30 a.m. PST

@ 4th Cuirassier

In some cases Spanish troops were able to make breakthroughs as French troops were moved to deal with Wellington.

For example Soult's defeat in Portugal allowed the Spanish to take on Ney in Galicia without Soult's help. The relationship between Ney and Soult did not help the French either. The Spanish were also able to make progress in Andalucía in 1812 due to troops being removed from the region.

But that also worked both ways I think. Ney being tied up in Galicia allowed Wellington to take on Soult in isolation. Santocildes' campaign in León in 1812 allowed Wellington to take on Marmont without him being supported by some of the troops in northern Spain.

As for numerical superiority you would have to take that on case to case basis but my own research suggests that there are many brigade level actions mentioned in Spanish sources that were fought with more or less equal numbers. Especially in Cataluña where the fighting was constant.

forrester26 Jun 2022 12:39 p.m. PST

MightyOwl, brigade size battles sounds interesting.
Especially as my next plan may be to start on a Spanish brigade.
Id be happy to hear some more about that in another thread.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2022 1:45 p.m. PST

My strong suspicion is that when you get down to battalion on battalion action it probably is true that the national characteristics reduced in significance. One bloke with a musket is much the equal of another. As you move up in formation size, the differences start to manifest, perhaps.

Nine pound round26 Jun 2022 3:06 p.m. PST

One thing that's getting overlooked is that, its empire aside, Spain was an underdeveloped country in 1808. The nation was dry, mountainous, and poorly connected; most of its agriculture was bare subsistence. Without the revenues from New Spain, the nation could not have fielded the armies or fleets of a first-rank power, and never again did so after the rebellions in the 1820s stripped away that empire.

Prior to 1808, she had no land threat, and her fungible resources were devoted to the navy she needed to fight Britain from 1795 to 1808. When Napoleon invaded, her army was in bad shape, and she had a hard time reversing that situation under occupation.

Wellington, to his credit, realized that didn't necessarily matter. Spain was a hard country for the French to concentrate troops in, because food was scarce. As long as centers of existence fought on in the Spanish provinces, the French army in Spain would be semi-dispersed, and the comparatively small land force Britain could muster initially would suffice to keep the war going until the attrition burned out the French. That's what he planned to do, and it's what he did- and the Spanish forces were always a part of his plan, and often a part of his forces (although they often struggled against the disabilities their government had inadvertently bequeathed them).

I think any serious historian understands the range of forces Wellington had to balance, and they understand that it was at least as important that he was a skilled diplomat and a first rate logistician as it was that he was a great captain in the field. There are plenty of British historians who will tell you this- Nick Lipscomb's recent Atlas of the Peninsular War, which is an outstanding book, spends a great deal of time and effort on the Spanish land campaigns. They were not always stunning successes, but that army had a lot of structural issues to overcome, and the strategy that won the war took that successfully into account.

ConnaughtRanger26 Jun 2022 11:39 p.m. PST

Nine pound round
Far too balanced and well argued an assessment for this forum.
Thank you.

42flanker27 Jun 2022 1:53 a.m. PST

Well put, 9lb.

Nine pound round27 Jun 2022 4:26 a.m. PST

Thx, but just to add one thing I think I implied but need to state: Wellington's strategy depended in part on the presence of active Spanish forces in the field. As long as Spain and Portugal fought, and Britain supported it, the war could continue. Remove either of these conditions, and the French had a path to victory.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP27 Jun 2022 1:50 p.m. PST

Or Richard Sharpe.

Well done nine pound, this is what I suspected and wanted to know. Thanks.

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