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"To Conquer and to Keep:- Suchet and the War for" Topic

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Tango0114 May 2023 8:45 p.m. PST

… Eastern Spain, 1809-1814 (Volume 1)

"Napoleon once famously remarked ‘If I had had two Marshals like Suchet I should not only have conquered Spain, but have kept it'. Louis-Gabriel Suchet was one of the few French commanders to leave the Peninsular War with his reputation enhanced, and the only one to win his marshal's baton in that war. When Suchet was first appointed to take command of French forces in Aragon in 1809 as a général de division, the French were on the verge of losing control over that province. Through a string of brilliant battlefield victories and sieges against Spanish regular forces as well as an initially successful counter-guerrilla campaign, Suchet managed to not only secure French control of Aragon, but moved on to conquer Lower Catalonia and Valencia as well. Like all French commanders in the Peninsular War, Suchet was faced with the challenges of Spanish popular resistance, but stood out above his colleagues for his notable success in pacifying Aragon. Yet despite initial triumphs in 1809-1811 against the ‘traditional guerrilla', Suchet's counter-guerrilla policies were less successful than is often popularly perceived. As the war went on, French resources became thinly stretched, while conversely, the guerrilla war was increasingly spearheaded by Spanish regular forces to great efficiency, which contributed to the eventual collapse of French control in Eastern Spain…."


Main page


I'm going for this one…


Tango0117 May 2023 12:04 p.m. PST

Seems that there are not many fans of Suchet here…


ConnaughtRanger17 May 2023 2:06 p.m. PST

Perhaps the subtitle explains why there are so few fans? Between 1809-1814 the rest of the French Army were fighting and dying in Portugal, North, South and Central Spain. Suchet's lacklustre sojourn in Eastern Spain did the square root of *** all to support his colleagues.

Tango0117 May 2023 3:22 p.m. PST

Agree… but have to admit I'm fan of Suchet… not so popular in many books about Napoleon Era…


Brechtel19818 May 2023 3:38 a.m. PST

Suchet was the one completely successful marshal in Spain. Perhaps someone can explain with his relatively small army, how was he supposed to support the French armies (plural) in western Spain? His string of successes in eastern Spain was an outstanding achievement. And his artillery chief and engineer chief worked together very well in the string of successful sieges in eastern Spain.

Perhaps the opposite question should be asked, as to why Wellington did nothing to support the allied operations in eastern Spain when they had one failure after another.

Suchet was one of the best French commanders of the period and the only French general to be made a marshal in Spain.

I'm certainly going to get the two volumes of this study.

Suchet and Prince Eugene are two of the most underrated general officers of the period in any army and two of the most capable.

Suchet's mission was in eastern Spain, and the fault of not having a unified command in Spain was Napoleon's, not Suchet's.

ConnaughtRanger18 May 2023 12:59 p.m. PST

Let me guess….
'Suchet was the Second Greatest General in the history of Life on Planet Earth.'
'Oh, did I mention the Brits were completely useless?'
'And the 6 years of campaigning in the Peninsula didn't matter anyway.'
God Bless TMP's Stifle Function.

Tango0118 May 2023 3:54 p.m. PST

Thanks Kevin…


Dave Jackson Supporting Member of TMP19 May 2023 11:25 a.m. PST

this volume is on its way to me…Along with VOl I of Bennigsen's memoirs

Tango0119 May 2023 3:46 p.m. PST

Happy I'm not alone now… (smile)


Prince of Essling20 May 2023 12:53 p.m. PST

Geography was a great constraint on Suchet's ability to assist anyone – there were very few East to West main routes. See "Carte des routes de postes de l'Empire français, du Royaume d'Italie et de la Confédération du Rhin" – the main routes are shown as the lines in dashes link

To get anywhere in a reasonable time, all roads from Suchet's theatre of operations appear to go via Saragossa (that is until Valencia was captured)!

Apart from Geography, Suchet also had to comply with Napoleon's orders.

The detachment of Montbrun's cavalry from the Army of Portugal to assist Suchet demonstrated the time required to move from one part of Span to another – it resulted in Montbrun neither assisting Suchet nor helping Marmont resist Wellington.

Suchet also had to be wary of the Allies ability to transport reasonable numbers of troops by sea and land them anywhere along the East coast of Spain.

Under the circumstances with the numbers of troops available to him, I would have to conclude he did a reasonable job – with the area he was required to maintain control of, he did not have spare troops to assist anyone. To do more he would have required a sizable uplift of men – probably circa 50,000 which would have enabled him to have captured Cartagena, Alicante etc, but with the requirements of the Russian campaign that was never a possibility.

Memoirs of the war in Spain, from 1808 to 1814
by Suchet, Louis-Gabriel, duc d'Albufera, 1770-1826
Publication date 1829
Publisher London : H. Colburn
Volume 1 PDF link
Volume 2 PDF link
Atlas (from Gallica): link

Brechtel19820 May 2023 1:35 p.m. PST

There is also this by Nick Lipscombe:

Wellington's Eastern Front: The Campaigns on the East Coast of Spain 1810-1814.

An interesting mention in the Conclusion on page 192:

'Two more French officers capture the selector's eye-Suchet's artillery commander, General Sylvain-Charles Valee and his engineer commander, General Joseph Rogniat. Their siege record was unequalled in the war with eight successful sieges; only Sagunto eluded them that fell the day after the battle. Wellington's best engineer commander, Richard Fletcher and his best artillery siege commander, Alexander Dickson, do not even come close to this record. The fact that Valee went on to become the Inspector General of Artillery, while Rogniat became the Inspector General of Engineers speaks volumes. To have had both working together for most of the campaign was fortunate indeed.'

It should also be noted that Valee designed the new artillery system named after himself that replaced the venerable Gribeauval System in 1827-1829. Valee copied the British block trail gun carriage and the new caisson.

Tango0120 May 2023 3:25 p.m. PST

The Guerrilla work against Suchet was one of the most remarcable also…


Gazzola23 May 2023 4:50 a.m. PST

Some book sellers are showing the 2nd Volume as being available on 15th June. So that's two more titles to buy, eventually, which means two more titles to add to my yet-to-read list. Still, better more Nap titles appearing rather than none.

Tango0123 May 2023 3:24 p.m. PST

You really have a long list now my good friend (smile)


138SquadronRAF08 Jun 2023 10:19 a.m. PST

I rate Suchet as an underrated French General. He held eastern Spain, managed some success against the British and the Alies,

If I would fault him, he didn't support some of the other commanders in Spain when they asked him for help, Oman quotes a number of examples. He was not alone in this fault, it seems to be systemic within the French army in Iberia.

Gazzola11 Jun 2023 9:12 a.m. PST


I'm finding it hard just to read in this heat, which doesn't help reduce my yet-to-read list, which always seems to grow rather than be reduced.

Funds are really low at the moment so I'm trying to use that reality to help resist buying a copy. However, I think new-Nap-books-over-bills logic is starting to win again. LOL

Tango0117 Jun 2023 4:29 p.m. PST



Ammianus19 Jun 2023 12:26 p.m. PST

Given the origins of III Corps/Army of Aragon* & what he accomplished; conventional combat, multiple sieges, & counterinsurgency, I'd rate him a successful commander.
Certainly took better care of his men than many French commanders. Look forward to both volumes (fingers crossed).

*the many original provisional regiments.

Ereimover02 Aug 2023 8:27 a.m. PST

I noticed that there are two volumes (1809-1811) and (1811-1814), but I also saw another cover with the same title and author that seems to be a single volume (1809-1814). Can someone shed a light on this? Thanks.

Lilian02 Aug 2023 10:17 a.m. PST

because initially it was planned only one-volume-book subsequently divided in two as it can happen with several Helion books when it is possible to extend them

Contents & sample pages

43 pages of the Volume 1

49 pages of the Volume 2

Helion website :



Ereimover02 Aug 2023 2:39 p.m. PST

Thanks Lilian!

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