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Peninsular War

Peninsular War, 1808–14, fought by France against Great Britain, Portugal, Spanish regulars, and Spanish guerrillas in the Iberian Peninsula.

Origin and Occupation

The conflict was precipitated when Portugal refused to comply with Napoleon's Continental System. By a secret convention reached at Fontainebleau (Oct., 1807) Spain agreed to support France against Portugal. A French army under Andoche Junot occupied (Nov., 1807) Portugal, and King John VI and his family fled to Brazil without resisting. Napoleon then began a series of maneuvers to secure Spain for France. On the pretext that they were reinforcements for Junot, large numbers of French troops entered Spain and seized Pamplona and Barcelona (Feb., 1808). On Mar. 23 French marshal Joachim Murat entered Madrid.

Meanwhile, a palace revolution (Mar. 19) had deposed King Charles IV and his favorite, Godoy, and had placed Ferdinand VII on the throne. However, Charles and Ferdinand were called to Bayonne by Napoleon, and coerced to abdicate (May 5–6) in favor of Napoleon's brother Joseph Bonaparte. A bloody uprising in Madrid (May 2)—immortalized in Francisco de Goya's paintings—was put down by Murat and on June 15 Joseph was proclaimed king of Spain.

The War Continues

The Spanish rose in revolt throughout the country. When the insurrectionists captured (July 23) a French force dispatched to seize Seville, King Joseph evacuated Madrid (Aug. 1) and withdrew beyond the Ebro. Another French force was repelled by José de Palafox in his heroic defense of Zaragoza (June–Aug.). In Portugal, where revolt had also broken out, a British expeditionary force under Arthur Wellesley (later duke of Wellington) landed in Aug., 1808, and defeated Junot at Vimeiro (Aug. 21). Cut off from Joseph's army, Junot negotiated a convention at Cintra (Aug. 30), surrendering Lisbon in return for repatriation of his troops by British ships.

With Sir John Moore as commander in chief, the British invaded Spain, thus beginning a long series of seesaw campaigns. Napoleon hastened to Spain, stormed Madrid (Dec. 3, 1808), had Marshal Lannes lay siege to Zaragoza, and ordered Marshal Soult to pursue Moore, who had retreated into Galicia. Soult was stalled long enough at A Coruña (Jan. 16, 1809) to permit the British to embark. Zaragoza, which Palafox had held for two months at a huge cost in lives, fell in Feb., 1809. In April, Wellesley arrived in Lisbon to take charge of the British and Portuguese forces there. He drove the French out of Portugal, invaded Spain, and with the help of a Spanish army defeated the French under Joseph at Talavera (July 27–28).

Driven back into Portugal by André Masséna at Bussaco (Sept., 1810), Wellesley retired behind a strong fortified line centered at Torres Vedras, which Masséna's forces attempted to penetrate (Oct.–Mar., 1811). Lacking supplies, Masséna retreated into Spain (Mar.–Apr., 1811); meanwhile Soult had marched north from Cádiz to join Masséna, but their junction was prevented by Wellesley and William Carr Beresford at Fuentes de Oñoro and at Albuera (May, 1811). Nevertheless, the French controlled all of Spain in 1811, with the exception of the numerous guerrilla bands operating out of the mountains, which continuously sapped French forces. There were atrocities on both sides.

Wellesley's Victories and War's End

Early in 1812 Wellesley attacked once more, and on July 22 he defeated the French under Marmont at Salamanca. He briefly occupied Madrid (Aug.–Oct., 1812), but retreated to Ciudad Rodrigo when the French, who had time to consolidate their armies, counterattacked from three directions. Placed in command of all the allied forces in the peninsula, Wellesley took the offensive in May, 1813, routed the French under Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Jourdan at Vitoria (June 21), and pushed them back into France. In October Wellesley invaded France. He laid siege to Bayonne, heroically defended by Soult, and had reached Toulouse when, on Apr. 12, 1814, news of Napoleon's abdication arrived; the Peninsular War was ended.

Results of the War

The Peninsular War immeasurably raised Britain's military prestige and contributed heavily to Napoleon's downfall. The "guerrilla" warfare carried out by irregular Spanish forces added a new term to the military vocabulary and served as a model for future insurgencies. In Latin America the war served as detonator for the independence revolutions of the Spanish colonies.

Bibliography

There are histories of the Peninsular War by W. F. P. Napier (rev. ed. 1856, repr. 1970), H. R. Clinton (3d ed. 1890), C. W. C. Oman (7 vol., 1902–30), M. Glover (1974).

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"Peninsular War." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Peninsular War." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/peninsular-war

Peninsular War

Peninsular War, 1808–14. Provoked by Napoleon's intervention in Portugal and his imposition of his brother Joseph on the throne of Spain, the war in the Iberian peninsula marked a turning point in the Napoleonic War. By closing Spanish and Portuguese ports to British trade Napoleon had hoped to compel Britain to sue for peace, but his intervention aroused massive popular hostility in Spain and Portugal. Although they were often defeated, the Spanish armies continued to defy the French, while Spanish guerrillas held down large numbers of French troops. When the Spaniards asked Britain for assistance the decision to commit an expeditionary force was a bold one. Initially British opinion exaggerated the likelihood of early success, and only in 1809 did the British accept that the war would be long and arduous. Under Wellington the British collaborated effectively with the Portuguese, whose army was retrained by British officers. In the winter of 1810–11 Masséna's attempt to drive the British into the sea was thwarted by the lines of Torres Vedras, a masterpiece of military engineering and a tribute to Anglo-Portuguese co-operation. Thereafter Wellington regularly challenged the French, knowing that his Portuguese base was secure. In 1812 he won the dramatic battle of Salamanca, and in 1813 he exploited British sea power to conduct a brilliant campaign in northern Spain which reached its climax at the battle of Vitoria. After expelling the French from Spain, Wellington invaded southern France in 1814. Throughout the Peninsular War, Wellington used the ‘reverse slope defence’ to establish the superiority of the line over the column. Choosing his ground carefully, he drew up his main force behind a ridge, while light infantry impeded the French advance. The French were handicapped by their lack of artillery and cavalry, which had ensured the success of the column elsewhere. The war in Spain sapped the energies of the French military machine and encouraged the Russians, Prussians, and Austrians in their resistance to Napoleon. It established Wellington's renown as a general and restored the reputation of the British army in the field.

John W. Derry

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"Peninsular War." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Peninsular War." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/peninsular-war

Peninsular War

Peninsular War (1808–14) Campaign of the Napoleonic Wars in Portugal and Spain. It began as a popular revolt in Spain against Napoleon I's imposition of his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, as king of Spain. It flared into a bloody guerrilla war and British troops, led by the future Duke of Wellington, landed in Portugal to support the expulsion of the French (August 1808). The major turning point was the repulsion of Massena's offensive aganist Lisbon (1810–11). Wellington's forces then gradually drove the French from the Iberian peninsula and, after the victory of Vitoria (1813), invaded s France. Napoleon's abdication (1814) brought the campaign to an end.

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"Peninsular War." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Peninsular War." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/peninsular-war

Peninsular War

Peninsular War a campaign waged on the Iberian peninsula between the French and the British, the latter assisted by Spanish and Portuguese forces, from 1808 to 1814 during the Napoleonic Wars. The French were finally driven back over the Pyrenees in an expedition led by Wellington.

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"Peninsular War." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/peninsular-war