History of War

SOMOSIERRA

“WHAT WAS LEFT OF THE SHATTERED SPANISH FORCES RETREATED SOUTH TOWARDS MADRID WITH NAPOLEON HIMSELF IN VIGOROUS PURSUIT AT THE HEAD OF A 45,000-STRONG VANGUARD”

SOMOSIERRA PASS, SEGOVIA, SPAIN 30 NOVEMBER 1808

In June 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte installed his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne as a way of securing French control of the Iberian Peninsula. It turned out to have the opposite effect. The Spanish people disliked their feckless Bourbon monarchs, but they absolutely hated the meddlesome French. Within weeks, violent revolts sprang up across the country, and the overextended French forces found themselves isolated in hostile territory. In August, having resided in Madrid for only ten days, Joseph was forced to abandon his riotous capital and flee to the French border. To make matters worse, during this time the British Expeditionary Force under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley landed in Portugal, beginning the six-year-long Peninsular War.

When Napoleon learned of what had transpired in Spain, he was irate and berated his generals for their incompetence. “I realise I must go there myself to get the machine working again,” he announced, and on 4 November 1808 he crossed the Pyrenees with an army of 130,000 men, mostly veterans of previous campaigns. His arrival in Spain immediately tipped the scales back in favour of the French. On 10 November he won a crushing victory at the Battle of Gamonel, and

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from History of War

History of War7 min read
Decoding D-day
At the end of May 1944, the headquarters of the Luftwaffe’s signals intelligence regiment at Asnières, outside Paris, issued a direct invasion warning, “All preparations by the British and American air forces are complete. Two British and two America
History of War13 min read
Air Power And The Battle For Normandy
On Monday, 22 May 1944, 16 P-47 Thunderbolt fighter planes of the 61st Fighter Squadron were speeding towards the north German city of Bremen led by Lieutenant-Colonel Francis “Gaby” Gabreski, one of the originals of Colonel Hub Zemke’s 56th Fighter
History of War4 min read
The Black Prince Chivalrous Hero Or Embodiment Of “Ultraviolence”?
The camera sweeps across the chaos of battle. Volleys of arrows are unloosed. Horses roll on the ground in agony. Newsreel type headings flash across the screen. This is “the war of the century”, and “God is on our side”. We are transported back to 1