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Drapeau du royaume d'Espagne

The wars of Portugal and Spain ( 1808-1814 )  Machine translation

The overthrow of Napoleon

Having concludes to Tilsitt a temporary peace with the Czar of Russia, the Emperor had become allied with king of Spain Charles IV to establish(constitute) a French-Spanish expeditionary force which went to occupy Portugal ally of England. Under excuse to strengthen his troops of activity(occupation), Napoleon made an overthrow against Spanish garrisons then forced king of Spain to the abdication for the benefit of his brother Joseph Napoleon. In front of these actions, the population from Madrid rebelled on May 8th, 1808, at the beginning of the fight of Spanish liberation against the French troops.

This situation provokes the desertion of the Spanish contingent under command of the general Junot with which the troops are harassed from July by a Portuguese insurection bound(connected) to the Spanish troops. July 21st, 1808, general Dupont of the Estang capitulates at a Spanish army, to Bailen, in Spain while he went to the south of Portugal. Then on August 1st, an English expeditionary force commanded(ordered) by Sir Arthur Wellesley, the future duke of Wellington, lands in Portugal to support Portuguese and gathered(reunited) Spanish.

In front of this local military coalition, the French troops are beaten first time to Evora then one second on August 21st, 1808 to Vimeiro. His(her) decimated army, Junot has to capitulate and signs in Arched an agreement with the English which allows him(her) to return by sea its troops deprived of materials to Rochefort and Quiberon. From this double surrender, Portugal will act as back base for the English army provided by its fleet.

Napoleon increases the number of pontonniers

From April and to be close to military actions engaged(opened), the Emperor had settled down in Bayonne and visited on Thursday, April 21st, 1808 the deposit(warehouse) of the military materials of this city. He(it) found the material there - pontoons and easels built in 1794, for the pontonniers of the army of Western Pyrenees and apparently not used. He(it) made recondition this material (Conference of Jean-Claude Lorblanches for the Napoleonic Recollection) and gave the following order kept(preserved) in the minutes of Secrétairerie of State dated July 13th, 1808 1 in Bayonne. « The 1st battalion of pontonniers will henceforth consist of 10 companies. 2 ème will consist of 6 companies ". Following this decree, 2nd and 5th companies of the 2nd battalion which were in Austria pass to the 1st battalion following 8 affected companies. They take the naming of 9 ème and 10 ème companies.

Creation of the army of Spain and affectation(appointment) of pontonniers.

Then Napoleon created on September 7th, 1808 the army of Spain, which contained the already spot troops, with as additional help the 1st armed force of the marshal Victor come directly from the army of the Rhine, with 6 ème company of pontonniers and its material, which was incorporated into him(her).

So at the beginning of October, 1808, 180.000 foot soldiers, artillerymen and gunners subdivided into 6 armed forces parked in Spain.
The companies of pontonniers arrived to Bayonne in the course of October, via Strasbourg where their workforce had been completed. It was a question 2 ème and 4 ème company of the 1st battalion comings without material of passage of river, their individual armaments and 5 horses. From their arrival they joined the armed force to whom(which) they were allocated.

So from October 1808, the 1st battalion of pontonniers included the following companies which will stay in Spain until the pension of 1813:

The first fights in Spain took place in the North of Spain where were several strengthened places in which the Spanish troops had taken refuge. It was the case to Sarragosse where the fortress resisted triumphantly from June 29th till August 14th, 1808 to a first seat led by the general Jean Antoine Verdier. Then the seat was abandoned, fault of pontonniers to make cross(exceed) the river Ebre in the heavy artillery intended to break the defences of the city.

6 ème company of pontonniers to Espinosa

At instigation of the Emperor who enters personally Spain, the general Soult pushes the Spanish troops to Burgos (in November 7th and 10th, 1808). ON THE WEST, the general Victor, is victorious to Espinosa (in November 11th), fights in which one(which) participated 6 ème company of pontonniers, the first one in étre arrived on the spot. In the North, the general Lannes beats the Spanish troops which take refuge in the city strengthened to Tudela (in November 23rd) while the general Moncey pushes away(repels) the Spanish army of Aragon which take refuge in the flat-strong of Saragossa (in November 30th).

The Emperor takes the direction(management) of the operations before leaving Spain definitively.

So the Spanish armies keep(preserve) 2 bridges of important supports which threaten the lines of communication between Madrid and Perpignan and keep(guard) the control of Ebre and canal of Aragon which connects these two cities. The victories of Burgos and Espinosa having dessérées the English-Spanish embrace, the Emperor takes with the 1st armed force the road of Madrid, forces the parade of Somo-Sierra (in December 3rd, 1808), and returns Joseph Napoleon in the Spanish capital on December 13th.

The general Soult, the successor of Lefèvre commanding(ordering) of the 2nd armed force of Spain, finishes the operation by beating on January 19th, 1809 the troops of Wellington which went back up(raised) of Portugal northward by the valley of Douero. In crushing defeat, the English troops rembarquent in Corogne, in the Northwest of Spain, abandoning their material of which a crew of bridge they brulèrent and killed the horses which they could not embark.
Satisfied of the situation the Emperor leaves definitively Spain on January 19th, 1809 for Bayonne then Mont-de-Marsan, He will never return on this theatre of operation, already worried by Austria which prepares one 5 ème coalitions. But before leaving he orders to take necessarily the control of the city strengthened by Saragossa where took refuge the Spanish army of Aragon.

The war of seats 2 ème and 4 ème companies on the Mediterranean rib(coast)

.After the departure of the Emperor, it is king Joseph Napoleon who took the direction(management) of the operations and collected the workforce of two armed forces to besiege, for 2 ème time, the entrenched camp of Sarragosse.

The seat began on November 28th with 3 ème body of the general Moncey the sector of which was, strengthened by the infantry and the cavalry of 6 ème body of Ney and finally 5 ème body of Mortar. It was necessary to wait for the arrival of park of seat and its heavy artillery and the crew of bridge come from Bayonne with 2 ème and 4 ème companies of the 1st battalion. Finally the convoy which extended over more than 10 kilometres arrived by February 15th having crossed(gone through) 350 kilometres on mountainous ground.

Immediately pontonniers is put in the work and took a decisive part by throwing(launching) with the Genius four bridges which allowed the clearing of the river 60 details(rooms) of heavy artillery and the infantry. It was the worst seat of the war of Spain that ended on February 21st, 1809. He(it) cost the life to 3.100 French servicemen of whom a majority of Polish of the regiment of the Vistula and to 54.000 civilians and Spanish soldiers.

The conquered city, 4 ème company of pontonniers and part(party) of the crew of bridge get back to the base of the army of the North to Pampelune, while 2 ème company stays in Saragossa with 3 ème body which passes under command of the general Suchet.
It is the only one of four companies who will participate in the great majority of the seats of strengthened cities or fortresses while the other companies participated in the pitched or retired battles. She(it) will finish the campaign of France in 1814 in Toulouse, always in the orders of Suchet then duke of Albuféras.

During this time, the war of Spain continues and in February, 1809, the marshal Soult penetrates again to the North of Portugal. He(it) gains a victory in Port on March 29th but has to abandon the ground in May to return in Spain. From this time the dissensions were daylight between generals because new king of Spain tried(felt) difficulties being obeyed. In fact, every commander(major) of armed force fought(disputed) according to his appropriate(clean) interests and no action plan was coordinated on the whole theatre of operation.

map Spain

Card of the routes of the companies of pontonniers during the war of Spain

The evolution of the general situation, always more troops.

From 1809, the victories and the military lapels(reverses) balance each other. The engaged(opened) workforce was on July 1st, 1809 of 288.766 men(people) and 36.050 horses, - according to Jean Still, in May, 2006, sources state of situation C 8 436 SHD-. This considerable figure of troops of activity(occupation) is going to create a strong Spanish nationalist feeling which is going to express itself in a new war shape - the guerrilla warfare which will cost to the imperial army more men(people) than the fights. Indeed, the losses reached(affected) 100 men(people) by days is some 180.000 men(people) for all the campaigns of Spain. From their part, the insurgents, as we said until 1812,  lost approximately 25.000 men(people).

The misfortunes of the pontonniers of the general Eblé in Portuga

 In 1810 the status as regards military service requires reinforcements that we made come from Germany. Among these represented 10 ème company of the 1st battalion of pontonniers arrived with the artillery of the army of Portugal confided(entrusted) to the general Masséna. This army took away(gained) a series of success. But to arrive near Torrès Vedras to the South of Portugal where the English troops had taken refuge, it was necessary to build for a unity of artillery of the general Tirlet a bridge of rope which turned out effective because it supported(bore) a detail(room) of 8 with 4 horses and 2 artillerymen. It was near Punhete on the right bank of the river Zézére. It is in this region that Masséna avid to facilitate its communications, asked Eblé his(her,its) general commanding(ordering) the artillery to throw(launch) a bridge across the river the Tagus 23. But its 10 ème company of pontonniers was endowed only from 5 to 6 boats. It was necessary to build on the spot about forty boats by the genius and the pontonniers, and réquistionner or to buy so much. Pontonniers made a lot of effort to throw(launch) this bridge which required approximately 80 boats and was to Pinhette. But the French troops were able to cross(exceed) the defences English which received reinforcements by sea. The status as regards military service deteriorated and the received general Eblé the order to destroy(annul) this magnificent bridge which was burned on March 5th, 1811 not to be taken by the enemy. It was also necessary to destroy(annul) 2 stealing bridges and tub, 8 nacelles and another bridge with easel. All its bridges were destroyed(annulled) behind her, the army was able to sound the retreat and return in Spain where it arrived to October. Masséna will pay this lapel(reverse) by his disgrace and will be replaced by the general Marmont.

The defeat of Vitoria in 1813 begins the pension towards France.

There will not be attempt anymore to invade Portugal because the situation deteriorates for the imperial armies on her(it) almost totality of the Iberic peninsula, except on the Mediterranean rib(coast) held by the army of Aragon. 10 ème company of pontonniers will follow the lot(fate) of three other companies and will be a part of armies of Noon then of Andalusia and finally Pyrenees.

From the beginning of year 1812 the status as regards military service quickly degrades in Spain, as far as workforce and numerous officers are taken to strengthen the "Grande Armée" which gets ready in Germany and in Poland because Napoleon had indeed decided to open a second forehead(front) and to invade Russia. This perspective consolidates the English-Spanish troops which force our troops to break the fight in Arapiles on July 22nd l812, on the road of Madrid, what obliges king Joseph to evacuate the Spanish capital with its yard. His(her,its) pension covered by the marshal Soult the ménera in Valencia, on the Mediterranean rib(coast). The army of Aragon cannot feed this influx of servicemen and people of yard and the royal caravan will re-hang the coastal road France. But the Spanish encerlait army Barcelona and it was necessary to wait that she(it) is pushed away(repelled) so that king can cross(spend) and join Pampelune then Bayonne.

Then on October 5th the English vessels off-loaded troops and some details(rooms) of artillery in the South of Denia but were pushed away(repelled) by the army of Aragon. To have protected effectively the pension of king Joseph, the marshal Soult is named(appointed) by the Emperor to the command of the army of Spain but the imperial troops will be beaten by the duke of Wellington on June 21st, 1813 to Vitoria.

This battle lost after the flight(leak) of king is significant and was the signal  of the general pension. Indeed, the city was the knot of the Pyrenean roads. And opened the road of the Basque country to the English-Spanish and Portuguese troops. This defeat without appeal demoralized some 197.000 men(people) still in Spain, who have only a haste, return in France. Only Suchet resists to Tarragone with the fragments of his(her) army of Aragon, and beats the English on June 12th, always with 2 ème company of pontoniers in its workforce. It is one of the last starts because on June 25th the imperial army leaves definitively Pampelune in the direction of France, by the road of Bayonne. The last units to leave Spain will be those of the marshal Suchet who goes back up(raises) towards Barcelona from July 5th with its materials and by following the Mediterranean Sea.

Grip of Bayonne by the English troops and the impact of Berezina in Russia

On the other side, on the Atlantic facade, the English-Spanish and Portuguese are victorious in Level November 10th whereas they take Bayonne after a seat.

At the same time, the general Eblé commanding(ordering) 2 battalions of pontonniers saved from the destruction the "Grande armée» in the passage of Bérézina. This defeat also marks the end of the Spanish theatre of operation because on December 11th, 1813, the Emperor returns the throne of Spain to king Ferdinand VII who belonged under house arrest to Valencay.
Of this fact and in spite of internal dissensions, the majority of the Spanish troops get back to their country but the English troops pursue their advance in France from Pyrenees. France weakened by the loss in Russia of its Big-armed is now invaded on all sides.

Pontonniers in the battle of France ( 1814 )

The battle of France begins with fights retarding as in the battle of Orthez of January in 27 fevrier 1814 on the Atlantic quotation then in Toulouse where took refuge the ex-army of Aragon of Suchet. But the advance of the English troops is irresistible and on April 10th they take Toulouse. From their part, the Prussian and Russian troops walk(work) on Paris, taking the troops of the Emperor in pliers.
It is the beginning of the end for the campaign of France that was going to bring Napoleon's fall.

vers le haut
modifié 30 juillet 2008

1-Archival Note National, put into series 384 AP 106 File Suchet.
2-2 ème company was originally allocated to 6 ème body of Ney but was transferred to 3 ème body of Moncey when Ney left Sarragosse to join king Joseph Napoleon in Madrid.
3-According to the memories(reports) of the Colorful General, the aid-de - camp of king Joseph Napoleon ( 1775-1813 ) Paris Kolb 1893 p. 278.
4-Newspaper of the military Sciences, 2 ème put into series, volume XXI, by J. Corréard