Download e-book for iPad: Oldest Allies - Alcantara 1809 by René Chartrand


By René Chartrand

Osprey Raid sequence #34

During the struggle for Spanish independance from Napoleonic France, Portuguese and British troops introduced a bold raid into southern Spain, siezing the traditional urban of Alcantara.

Napoleon had left his brother Joseph as King of Spain with a few 300,000 French troops to place down the Spaniards, the majority of whom had revolted opposed to French rule. first and foremost of 1809, British forces held such a lot of Portugal, whereas Marshal Soult attacked the north. Porto and many of the top Douro River basin have been taken by means of the French, yet they met with stiff resistance from semi-regular and guerrilla-like Portugese troops led via basic Silveira within the northeast. Taking the struggle to the French, a part of the British-led unswerving Lusitanian Legion, in addition to numerous Portuguese troops, raided deep into Spain.

Both British and Portuguese leaders (including the warrior-like Bishop of Porto!) initiated raids into Spain. while Soult occupied Porto in January 1809, Sir Robert Wilson was once extra east with a part of his green-uniformed dependable Lusitanian Legion on the fort of Almeida, having led quite a few hundred males into Spain, to be joined through hundreds of thousands of patriots, and at last attaining the outskirts of Salamanca. in the meantime, in Lisbon, command of the British military handed to Wellington. In may perhaps 1809, he marched north to disencumber Porto whereas Silveira's levies pressed the French within the northeast.

While Wellington and Silveira attacked Porto and northern Portugal, it was once vital to maintain the French occupied somewhere else in Spain, to avoid their large armies in Spain converging on northern Portugal and helping Soult. To this finish, Marshal Beresford, commanding the reorganized Portuguese military, indifferent a wide a part of his optimal troops - the British-led dependable Lusitanian Legion - to raid the Spanish province of Estramadura, some distance to the south.

1,800 males of the dependable Lusitanian Legion, besides different Portuguese troops, lower than the command of Lieutenant Colonel Mayne crossed the mountains into Estarmadura and raided the French border posts. The French quickly fled, and the raiders fast occupied Alcantara (the seat of the Medieval knightly order that bears its name). From the following, a few raiding events went extra east into Spain to reason as a lot hassle as attainable to draw the eye of the French. This new Raid name will aspect all facets of this compelling conflict of forces.

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In general, mules and donkeys were the best means of transport in the mountain ranges of both countries and were widely used by armies criss-crossing the Iberian Peninsula. This was likely how the Loyal Lusitanian Legion moved its supplies and mountain guns through the mountains. (Period print after Foulquier. Private collection. com Oldest Allies – Alcantara 1809 Napoleon in his imperial coronation robes, 1804. (Painting on porcelain after Jacques-Louis David. Porcelain Museum, Florence, Italy.

But even it does not usually give dates or much details on the actions; they are often mentioned almost in passing as one raid leads to another, the number of men engaged is usually not mentioned, and neither, in most cases, are the officers’ names. It is now next to impossible to even know the week or even the month when the event occurred, and details are minimal. It is also obvious that many engagements were not recorded. On the other hand, one thing is certain: there were a lot of raids and they were obviously carried out OVERLEAF: Loyal Lusitanian Legion surprises French troops, 1809 Although the background here is the superb San Benito Monastery, seat of the Order of the Knights of Alcantara, this type of scene occurred dozens of times in Spanish villages and small towns going from the Portuguese border to as far east as the area of the Escorial, close to Madrid.

Apart from Andalucia, most of which remained under the realm of the patriots, other areas in Spain might also be without sizeable contingents of French troops, but none of them were within reach of a base such as Almeida, from where one could organize sizeable raids. This is not to say that the area was barren of French troops. There were over 300,000 French or French-allied troops in Spain. The French forces in central and south-western Spain were substantial. In February 1809, the musters of the French army for effective men-under-arms in their regiments and corps (excluding the sick, wounded or detached) numbered about 28,000 men.

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Oldest Allies - Alcantara 1809 by René Chartrand

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