Siege of Cádiz

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Siege of Cádiz
partof=the Peninsular War

caption=Map of Cádiz in 1813.
date= 5 February, 1810 – 24 August, 1812
place= Cádiz, Spain
result=Siege lifted, Allied victory
flagicon|UK United Kingdom,
flagicon|Portugal|1707 Portugal
combatant2=flagicon|France French Empire
commander1=Manuel La Peña
Duke of Alburquerque
Thomas Graham
commander2=Claude Victor
Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult
strength1=13,000 Spanish
4,000 Anglo-Portuguese
casualties1=896 dead,
3,706 woundedClodfelter p. 174]
casualties2=4,000–5,000 dead or woundedNapier p. 100]

The siege of Cádiz was a siege of the large Spanish naval base by the French army from 5 February 1810 to 24 August 1812Fremont-Barnes p. 12–13] during the Peninsular War. Following the occupation of Madrid on March 23 1808, Cádiz became the Spanish seat of power,Russell p. 433] and was targeted by 60,000 French troops under the command of Marshal Claude Victor for one of the most important sieges of the war.Fremont-Barnes p. 26] Defending the city were 2,000 Spanish troops who, as the siege progressed, received aid from 10,000 Spanish reinforcements as well as British and Portuguese troops.

During the siege, which lasted two and a half years, the Cortes Generales government in Cadiz (the Cádiz Cortes) drew up a new constitution to reduce the strength of the monarchy, a constitution eventually revoked by Fernando VII.Noble p. 30] In October 1810 a mixed Anglo-Spanish relief force embarked on a disastrous landing at Fuengirola. A second relief attempt was made at Tarifa in 1811; however, despite defeating a detached French force of 15,000-20,000 under Marshal Victor at the Battle of Barrosa, the siege was not lifted.

In 1812, the Battle of Salamanca eventually forced the French troops to retreat from Andalusia, for fear of being cut off by the allied armies.Napoleonic Guide [ "Cadiz 5 February, 1810 - 24 August, 1812"] retrieved July 21 2007] Defeat at Cádiz contributed to the liberation of Spain from French occupation, due to the survival of the Spanish government and the use of Cádiz as a jump off point for the Allied forces. [Rasor p. 148]

Prelude to the battle

In the early 1800s, war was brewing between Napoleon I and the Russian Tsar Alexander I, and Napoleon saw the shared interests of Britain and Russia in defeating him as a threat. Napoleons advisor, the Duke of Cadore, recommended that the ports of Europe be closed to the British, stating that "Once in Cadiz, Sire, you will be in a position either to break or strengthen the bonds with Russia."Napoleonic Guides [ "Franco-Russian Diplomacy, 1810-1812"] retrieved July 21 2007]

Soult and his French army invaded Portugal in 1809, but were beaten by Wellesley at Oporto on May 12. The British and Spanish armies advanced into mainland Spain, however a lack of faith in the Spanish army forced Arthur Wellesley to retreat back into Portugal after Spanish defeats in the Battle of Ocana and Battle of Alba de Tormes. By 1810, the war had reached a stalemate. Portuguese and Spanish positions were strengthened by Wellesley with the construction of the Lines of Torres Vedras, and the remainder of the Spanish forces was forced back to defend the Spanish government at Cádiz against Soult's Army of Andalusia.


The port of Cádiz was surrounded on land by the armies of Soult and Victor, in three entrenched positions at Chiclana, Puerto Real and Santa Maria, positioned in a semi-circle around the city. In the case of the former position, only an area of marshland separated the forces.Napier p. 169] The French initially sent an envoy with a demand for surrender, however this was refused. The resulting bombardment of the Spanish coastal city involved some of the largest artillery pieces in existence at the time, including "Grand Mortars", which were so large they had to be abandoned when the French eventually retreated, and fired projectiles to distances previously thought impossible, some up to 3 miles in range.Southey p. 68] The "Grand Mortar" was placed in St. James's Park in London as a gift to the British in honour of the Duke of Wellington. [ [ "St. James's Park"] , London Ancestor, retrieved July 21 2007]

The terrain surrounded the strong fortifications of Cádiz proved difficult for the French to attack, and the French also suffered from a lack of supplies, particularly ammunition, and from continuous guerrilla raiding parties attacked the rear of their siege lines.Edmund Burke p. 169] On many occasions, the French were forced to send escorts of 150–200 men to guard couriers and supply convoys in the hinterland. French reinforcements continued to arrive through to April 20, and the capture of an outer Spanish fort guarding the road through to the Puerto Real regiment helped to facilitate the arrival of these forces. This captured fort also provided the French which a vantage point to shell ships coming in and out of the besieged Spanish port. The French continued to bombared Cadiz through to the end of 1810, however the extreme distance lessened their effect.Edmund Burke p. 170]

During 1811, Victor's force was continually diminished because of requests for reinforcement from Soult to aid his siege of Badajoz.Southey p. 165] This reduction in men, which brought the French numbers down to between 20,000–15,000, encouraged the defenders of Cádiz to attempt a breakout. A sortie of 4,000 Spanish troops, under the command of General Zayas, was arranged in conjunction with the arrival of an Anglo-Spanish relief army of around 16,000 troops that landed 50 miles to the south in Tarifa. This Anglo-Spanish force was under the overall command of Spanish General Manuel La Peña, with the British contingent being led by Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Graham. On February 21 1811 the force set sail for Tarifa, and eventually landed at Algeciras on February 23 due to poor weather.Southey p. 167] Eventually marching towards Cádiz on February 28, the force met a French detachment of two French regiments at Barrosa. While the battle was a tactical victory for the Allied force, with a French regimental eagle captured, it was strategically indecisive. Smaller sorties of 2–3,000 men continued to operate out of Cadiz from April to August 1811.Edmund Burke p. 172] On October 26, British naval gunboats from Gibraltar also destroyed French positions at St. Mary'sEdmund-Burke p. 174] killing French artillery commander Alexandre-Antoine Hureau de Sénarmont.

On July 22, 1812, Wellesley won a tactical victory over Auguste Marmont at Salamanca. The Anglo-Portuguese army then entered Madrid on August 6 and advanced towards Burgos. Realising that his army was in danger of being cut off, Soult ordered a retreat from Cádiz set for August 24. After a long artillery barrage, the French placed together the muzzles of over 600 cannons in order to destroy them. While these guns were rendered unusable to the Spanish and British, the Allied forces did capture 30 gunboats and a large quantity of stores.

In literature

* The siege of Cádiz features prominently in Bernard Cornwell's "Sharpe's Fury", in which Richard Sharpe is forced to help defend the city from the French. Before going on to take part in the Battle of Barrosa. [ [ "Sharpe's Fury"] summary for the British Council. Retrieved July 23 2007]
* Henry Clay also spent the siege in Cádiz, importing up to 7 million dollars worth of port, and later attacked his treatment by the Spanish government following the lifting of the siege in his Presidential Papers. [Clay p. 370]



Printed Sources:

* Burke, Edmund "The Annual Register", 1825
* Clay, Henry "Papers of Henry Clay: Presidential Candidate, 1821-1824", published 1963 ISBN 0813100534
* Clodfelter, Michael "Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Reference to Casualty and Other Figures, 1500-2000", 2002 ISBN 0786412046
* Fremont-Barnes, Gregory "The Napoleonic Wars: The Peninsular War 1807-1814", 2002 ISBN 1841763705
* Napier, William Francis P. "History of the war in the Peninsula, and in the south of France from 1807 to 1814", 1840
* Noble, John "Andalucía", 2007 ISBN 174059973X
* Rasor, Eugene L. "British Naval History to 1815: A Guide to the Literature", 2004 ISBN 0313305471
* Russell, William "The History of Modern Europe", 1837
* Southey, Robert "History of the Peninsular War", 1837


* Napoleonic Guide [ádiz.htm "Cádiz 5 February, 1810 - 24 August, 1812"] retrieved July 21 2007
* [ "St. James's Park"] , London Ancestor, retrieved July 21 2007

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