The Siege of Cádiz - Photos

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The Siege of Cádiz
After the events of 2nd May 1808 (see my section on Madrid), Cádiz was one of the few Spanish towns never to be occupied by the French and became the seat of the Spanish Government (the Cortes). The British helped defend the town and the Royal Navy kept it supplied.

The first French attempt to conquer Anadalusia ended in defeat at the Battle of Bailén on 19th July 1808. A largely fortuitous convergence of Spanish forces resulted in the French force under Dupont being surrounded and forced to surrender with about 18,000 men. Napoleon imprisoned Dupont and never forgave him or those who served under him. This victory attained legendary status in Spain and convinced the Spanish that they could defeat the French. They never did on that scale again but it motivated them to keep trying and this spirit tied up vast numbers of French troops in Spain until they were expelled after the Battle of Vitoria in 1813.

Seville became the home of the Supreme Junta, effectively the provisional government, and de-facto capital of Spain.



The surrender at Bailén by José Casado del Alisal, painted 1864, Prado Museum, Madrid.
In response to the loss of Madrid, Napoleon personally took command in Spain and re-occupied Madrid. Meanwhile Spain turned to its traditional enemy, Britain, asking for help. The British expedition sent to Portugal, the subsequent foray into Spain by Sir John Moore and the British victory at Talavera delayed the French operations and it was only after the Austrians were defeated at the Battle of Wagram in July 1809 that French reinforcements could be sent to Spain.

As the French forces were assembling in and around Madrid, the Spanish launched an assault on Madrid. They were decisively defeated at the Battle of Ocaña on November 19th. This opened the way to a second attempt to conquer Andalusia.

The siege of Cádiz started on 5th February 1810 when Marshal Victor arrived, only to discover that the Spanish General, the Duke of Albuquerque, acting without orders, had reached it two days earlier with enough troops to garrison it against him. This action probably saved Spain. Not only was it the new location of the government but Cádiz was the home of the Treasure Fleet and therefore the key to paying for continued resistance.
Excellent map of the siege that I photographed in the Chiclana Museum.

Chiclana was the location of the French Headquarters and main garrision.

The tongue of land with the Matagorda Fort (Spanish 15) is the Trocadero, now a heavily industrialised area. The fort was held for a while by Anglo-Spanish forces but was eventually lost.

Access along the coast to Cádiz was a bridge of boats across the Sancti Petri, the river next to Spanish point 3. This bridge was cut at the start of the siege.
Some photos of the land around the Isla de León showing it's still low lying and marshy, impassible to troops in any organised way.
After the Battle of Salamanca (22nd July 1812) King Joseph abandoned Madrid on 11th August. Marshal Soult, realising that he would be isolated in Andalusia if he stayed, lifted the siege on 24 August and withdrew to Valencia, on the Mediterranean coast, to join Joseph and other French forces. Although Wellington had to retreat to Portugal after an attempt to capture Burgos, the French never reconquered southern Spain.
In December 1812, the Duke of Wellington visited Cádiz and stayed here at No. 3 Calle Veedor.

This was when he was insisting that the condition for further cooperation with the Spanish Army was that he would be in charge. Not just of the field armies but everything, including promotions and organisation. He also insisted that all communications pass through his headquarters. After protest he got his way but many Spanish regarded this as unconstitutional and a surrender to British interests.

Although the building was refurbished later, the frontage is largely in the original style.
Memorial to the raising of the Siege of Cádiz in Horseguards, London. It sits on an ornamental base cast at Woolwich in 1814.

This was one of the mortars cast by the French in the Seville ironworks to bombard Cádiz. It was capable of throwing a shell over 4.5km but was fairly ineffective as the shell had to be so strong not to break up when fired that it contained little gunpowder. The rate of fire was also low. The defenders established spotters and, as the shell took about a minute in flight, there was time for the inhabitants to take cover.

(Photo from Wikipedia)
Text and photos copyright John Haines 2015-19.
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