War on the Iberian Peninsula


July 5, 2022

War on the Iberian Peninsula (French: Guerre d'indépendance espagnole; Spanish: Guerra de la Independencia Española; Catalan: Guerra del Francès; port: Invasões Francesas; English: The Peninsular War) - a conflict that began after the conclusion of the Great Triple Alliance Britain with Spain and Portugal against France. It took place on the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The conflict began with the occupation of Portugal by the French army in 1807 and Spain in 1808; it lasted until the defeat of Napoleon in 1814. The struggle of the Spaniards became the first national liberation and guerrilla war in modern history. Spain and Portugal owed their victory in this war to a large extent to their guerrilleros (partisans), whose resistance made it impossible for the great Napoleonic armies to pacify the peninsula. 1/3 of the French forces could fight a real enemy; the rest struggled with the guerrillas for fear of cutting off key communication lines. In the last two years of the conflict, after the weakening of France as a result of the Napoleonic expedition to Moscow, the allied armies led by the Duke of Wellington pushed the French beyond the Pyrenees, finally liberating the entire peninsula. The war damaged the traditional social order and economy of Portugal and Spain, resulting in a long period of political and social conflicts. Devastating civil wars between liberal and conservative groups, led by officers trained during the Napoleonic Wars, continued in the Iberian Peninsula until the 1850s. Conflict also accelerated the liberation of the former Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Central and South America.

Background of the conflict

In 1806, in Berlin, Napoleon Bonaparte announced a continental blockade, banning the import of British goods into Europe. Two neutral states - Sweden and Portugal - allied with England from 1773, did not comply. Therefore, after concluding a peace treaty with Russia in Tylża in 1807, Napoleon decided to seize Danish and Iberian ports. Spain initially offered Portugal an alliance against the future invader, but soon it made a secret agreement with France, which in return for cooperation promised it part of the Portuguese territories. Spain was most anxious to occupy its neighbor's fleet, so it sent two divisions to help the French in Portugal. On October 27, 1807, Spain and France signed the Treaty of Fontainebleau, which divided Portugal into three states: the kingdom of Northern Lusitania, the Algarve (enlarged by Alentejo) and the truncated kingdom of Portugal. In November, after the blockade by Prince Regent John VI, Napoleon sent the Gironde Observation Corps (24,000 men) to the Iberian Peninsula under the command of General Jean Andoche Junot with the task of seizing Portugal. At the same time, General Dupont was sent south to Cádiz, and Marshal Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult north to Coruna. The Portuguese army was supposed to defend only the ports and the coast, and therefore Junot stood near Lisbon on November 29, 1807. The Portuguese army, losing heart, dispersed. The flight (November 29) of Queen Maria and the Prince Regent with the entire government and court (about 10,000 people - not counting 9,000 sailors - on 23 ships and 31 merchant ships) to Brazil allowed John VI to reign uninterrupted based on the colonies overseas. It was a serious blow to Napoleon, who wrote years later: C’est ça qui m’a perdu ("With This They Defeated Me").

Course of the war

The Silent Invasion (February – July 1808)

Under the pretext of strengthening the Franco-Spanish occupation army in Portugal, imperial troops began to enter Spain