Siege of Astorga

The Siege of Astorga was an attempt by French forces to capture Astorga, Spain in a campaign of the Peninsular War. Astorga was located on the flank of the French invasion of Spain and Portugal, and was meant to be used as a headquarters during the campaign. For several weeks no attack took place, as neither side had artillery enough to fight well. Shortly after the French guns arrived, however, a hole was made in the wall and the city fell shortly thereafter. The French overpowered the Spanish garrison inside and took the city on April 20, 1810; with a loss of 160 men.

Siege of Astorga
Part of the Peninsular War
Astorga muralla JMM

The walls of Astorga
Date21 March – 22 April 1810
42°27′30″N 6°3′30″W / 42.45833°N 6.05833°W
Result French victory
Astorga, Spain
 France  Spain
Commanders and leaders
France André Masséna
France Jean-Andoche Junot
Flag of Spain (1785–1873, 1875–1931).svg José María Santocildes
10,800 infantry,
1,200 cavalry,
18 guns
2,700 infantry
Casualties and losses
160 dead,
400 wounded
51 dead,
109 wounded


Astorga is located in the province of León, in northwest Spain.[1] Because of its location, it sat on the flank of the French army as they advanced into Spain, and then invaded Portugal.[2] The city was built into a hill, part of the Manzanal mountains;[1] and therefore was provided with natural defenses.[3] The French had already been defeated once trying to take the city, in September 1809,[4] after which General La Romana repaired the walls of the city and built up its defenses.[5]


The French forces, part of André Masséna's army, were led by Jean-Andoche Junot.[3] Junot arrived at Astorga on March 21 with Napoleon's 8th corps, consisting of 12,000 men, including 1,200 cavalry forces.[4] Junot's forces included the Irish Legion; they had joined earlier that month.[2] Astorga would be the first action for the Second Battalion of the Legion.[2] Junot placed Bertrand Clausel's division in the position Loison had held,[6] with Solignac in support, and St. Croix to watch the rear.[3]


General Loison attempted to take the city in February 1810, as it was meant to be his headquarters during the invasion of Portugal; but was unprepared to attack the defenses he found there, and was forced to retreat.[5] Junot's troops came to assist Loison, but brought no siege guns with them; It took Junot weeks to gather enough artillery to assault the town.[7] In the meantime, the French forces dug trenches to besiege the town.[7] Incidentally, the English and Spanish troops under Wellington had the same troubles when they recaptured the city in 1812.[8] The garrison in Astorga had no siege guns, either: for several weeks there was a standoff.[7] During these weeks, Santocildes emptied the town of 3,000 of its residents and stocked up on supplies for the siege,[3] which began on March 21 of 1810.[9] The Spanish could expect no hope from Wellington's forces, which remained in Portugal.[10] Until the siege guns arrived, there was no action except nuisance fire from what little artillery Junot had,[6] and skirmish parties sent out from Astorga.[3]

Junot's 18 siege guns arrived on April 15 from Valladolid,[6] and by the 20th, the wall of the city was breached.[11] The French stormed the city the next evening;[2] however, their first attack was repulsed at the cost of 300 men.[11] Those of the storming company who were not killed holed up just inside the wall and held the position for the night.[3] The next morning, Santocildes surrendered as the French were preparing for another attack.[11]


Santocildes was almost out of ammunition when he surrendered: he had fewer than 30 rounds of ammunition left per man, and only 8 rounds of artillery.[4] He gave the French 2,500 prisoners and the city, but cost the French 160 men, with 400 wounded.[3] His garrison lost only 51 dead and 109 wounded.[3] Most of the French casualties came in the assault on the breach.[11] The Irish Legion led the charge over the wall, and suffered heavy losses: Captain John Allen's company's drummer boy continued to beat the charge after having lost both legs, for which he was given the French Legion of Honor.[2]


  1. ^ a b Goldberg, Maren (2008-04-28), "Astorga", Encyclopædia Britannica Online, Encyclopædia Britannica, retrieved 2009-08-29
  2. ^ a b c d e Medlen, Virginia (2007), Napoleon's Irish Legion: La Legion Irlandaise 1803 - 1815, The Napoleonic Historical Society, retrieved 2009-08-29
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Rickard, John (2008-04-09), Siege of Astorga, 21 March-22 April 1810, retrieved 2009-08-28
  4. ^ a b c Southey, Robert (1828), History of the Peninsular War, 4, London: John Murray
  5. ^ a b Fortescue, John William (1912), A History of the British Army, 7, Macmillan Publishers
  6. ^ a b c Oman, Sir Charles William Chadwick; Hall, John Alexander (1908), A History of the Peninsular War, 4, Clarendon Press
  7. ^ a b c Gates, David (2001), The Spanish Ulcer: A History of the Peninsular War, Da Capo Press, p. 576, ISBN 0-306-81083-2
  8. ^ Esdaile, Charles J. (2003), The Peninsular War: A New History, Palgrave Macmillan, p. 587, ISBN 1-4039-6231-6
  9. ^ Jones, John Thomas (1821), Account of the War in Spain, Portugal, and the South of France (2nd ed.), T. Egerton
  10. ^ Esdaile, Charles J. (1988), The Spanish Army in the Peninsular War, Manchester University Press ND, p. 232, ISBN 0-7190-2538-9
  11. ^ a b c d Napier, Sir William (1882), History of the War in the Peninsula & in the South of France, 2, G. Routledge & Sons
Afonso I of Portugal

Afonso I (European Portuguese: [ɐˈfõsu]; 25 July 1106 / 1109 or August 1109 / 1111 – 6 December 1185), nicknamed the Conqueror (Portuguese: O Conquistador), the Founder (O Fundador) or the Great (O Grande) by the Portuguese, and El-Bortukali [in Arabic البرتقالي] ("the Portuguese") and Ibn-Arrink [in Arabic ابن الرَّنك or ابن الرَنْق] ("son of Henry", "Henriques") by the Moors whom he fought, was the first King of Portugal. He achieved the independence of the southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia, the County of Portugal, from Galicia's overlord, the King of León, in 1139, establishing a new kingdom and doubling its area with the Reconquista, an objective that he pursued until his death in 1185, after forty-six years of wars against the Moors.

Astorga, Spain

Astorga (Spanish pronunciation: [asˈtoɾɣa]) is a municipality and city of Spain located in the central area of the province of León, in the autonomous community of Castilla y León, 43 kilometres (27 mi) southwest of the provincial capital. It is located in the transit between the Páramo Leonés and the mountains of León and acts as the backbone of the shires of Maragatería, La Cepeda and the Ribera del Órbigo. The city is the head of one of the most extensive and oldest dioceses of Spain, whose jurisdiction covers half of the province of León and part of Ourense and Zamora. It is also head of the judicial party number 5 of the province of León.Astorga lies in the area of the Maragatos, a small ethnic and cultural community with distinctive customs and architecture. The town lies at the junction of the French route, the most popular path and Vía de la Plata route, an alternative path of the Way of St. James (Spanish: Camino de Santiago). Saint Turibius of Astorga was bishop of the city in the 5th century.

Flight of the Wild Geese

The Flight of the Wild Geese was the departure of an Irish Jacobite army under the command of Patrick Sarsfield from Ireland to France, as agreed in the Treaty of Limerick on 3 October 1691, following the end of the Williamite War in Ireland. More broadly, the term Wild Geese is used in Irish history to refer to Irish soldiers who left to serve in continental European armies in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.An earlier exodus in 1690, during the same war, had formed the French Irish Brigade, who are sometimes misdescribed as Wild Geese.

Gendarmes d'élite de la Garde Impériale

The Gendarmes d'élite de la Garde impériale (English: "élite gendarmes of the Imperial Guard") was a gendarmerie unit formed in 1801 by Napoleon as part of the Consular Guard which became the Imperial Guard in 1804. In time of peace, their role was to protect official residences and palaces and to provide security to important political figures. In time of war, their role was to protect the Imperial headquarters, to escort prisoners and occasionally to enforce the law and limit civil disorder in conquered cities. The unit was renamed Gendarmes des chasses du roi during the First Bourbon Restoration but was disbanded in 1815 during the Second Restoration.

Irish Legion

Napoleon's Irish Legion (French: Légion irlandaise) was a French light infantry battalion established in 1803 for an anticipated invasion of Ireland. It was later expanded to a four battalion regiment with a depot and won distinction in the Walcheren Expedition and the Peninsular War. It was disbanded in 1815.

Jean-Pierre Ramel (the younger)

Jean-Pierre Ramel (the younger) (1768 in Cahors – 15 August 1815 in Toulouse) was a French general during the French Revolutionary Wars and the First French Empire. Following the defeat of Napoleon I, he was assassinated by royalists in Toulouse during the Second White Terror. His older brother, Jean-Pierre Ramel (the elder), born in 1761, had been a deputy of the French Parliament and had worked on the Constitution.

Ramel entered a French infantry regiment as a volunteer at the age of fifteen. In 1791 he became adjutant-Major in the Legion of Lot. In 1792 he was promoted to Captain and the next year he became a battalion Commander. After being imprisoned, he obtained his liberty due to the efforts of General Dugommier and in 1796 he was promoted to adjutant-General in the army of the Rhin-et-Moselle. Charged with the defense of Kehl he successfully repulsed the attack of the Archduke Charles.

The same year he was made commander of the Guard of the Legislature in which capacity he denounced the royalist conspiracy of Brottier (30 January 1797). Being suspect of royalist sympathies himself, he was disarmed by Augereau during the Coup of 18 fructidor an V (4 September, 1797). Following his arrest he was conveyed to the Temple where he was imprisoned. The next day he and Pichegru, Barthélémy, Laffon de Ladebat, Barbé-Marbois were condemned and deported to the penal colonies in Guiana. In June 1798 Ramel escaped from the penal colony to Paramaribo and then to London.

After receiving permission to return to France, he was reinstated into the Consular Army and assigned to the expedition to Saint-Domingue under Rochambeau. There he was wounded and evacuated back to France. He served in the 1805 campaign under Massena in Italy and was given the command responsible for defending the Mediterranean coast. In 1809 he was employed in the gendarmerie and in 1810-1811 he fought in the campaigns in Spain and Portugal, where he distinguished himself at the siege of Astorga.

After the Bourbon Restoration, Ramel was made Maréchal de camp (major general) and awarded the Order of Saint Louis. He was given command of the department of Haute-Garonne, where he attempted to moderate the influence of reactionary political elements. Suspected of being a loyalist of the now deposed Napoleon Bonaparte, the reactionaries had him assassinated in Toulouse on 15 August 1815.

List of battles involving France in modern history

This is a chronological list of the battles involving France in modern history.

For earlier conflicts, see List of battles involving France. These lists do not include the battles of the French civil wars (as the Wars of Religion, the Fronde, the War in the Vendée) unless a foreign country is involved; this list includes neither the peacekeeping operations (such as Operation Artemis, Operation Licorne) nor the humanitarian missions supported by the French Armed Forces.

The list gives the name, the date, the present-day location of the battles, the French allies and enemies, and the result of these conflicts following this legend:

French military victory

French military defeat

Indecisive or unclear outcome

Ongoing conflict

List of sieges

A siege is a prolonged military assault and blockade on a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by force or attrition. A chronological list of sieges follows.

List of wars involving Spain

This is a list of wars fought by the Kingdom of Spain or on Spanish territory.

Siege of Astorga (1812)

The Siege of Astorga of 1812 took place between 29 June and 19 August 1812, at Astorga, León, Castile-León, Spain, during the Peninsular War. On 29 June, the Spanish troops of Lieutenant-General Francisco Gómez de Terán y Negrete, Marquess of Portago, started the operations, and laid siege to Astorga. The siege was part of the Allied offensive in the summer of 1812. The Spanish VI Army led by General José María Santocildes, by order of General Francisco Castaños, take the measures necessary for the recovery of Astorga. On 18 August, after a hard resistance, the French garrison surrendered to the Spaniards. During the siege, part of the Spanish troops marched towards Salamanca to join the Allied army under Arthur Wellesley, commanded by General Santocildes, and contributed successfully in the campaign with the capture of Tordesillas, blocking Toro and Zamora, and occupying Valladolid.

Siege of Burgos

At the Siege of Burgos, from 19 September to 21 October 1812, the Anglo-Portuguese Army led by General Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington tried to capture the castle of Burgos from its French garrison under the command of General of Brigade Jean-Louis Dubreton. The French repulsed every attempt to seize the fortress, resulting in one of Wellington's rare withdrawals, as he went on to defeat the army sent to flank him at the Lines of Torres Vedras, pursued them and then returned to complete the siege of Burgos and capture the city. The siege took place during the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars. Burgos is located about 210 kilometres (130 mi) north of Madrid.

After crushing Marshal Auguste Marmont's French army at the Battle of Salamanca in July 1812, Wellington exploited his great victory by advancing on Madrid. King Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan retreated to Valencia where they sought refuge with Marshal Louis Gabriel Suchet. The magnitude of Wellington's triumph also compelled Marshal Nicolas Soult to evacuate Andalucia in the south and withdraw to Valencia. The combined armies of Soult and Joseph soon posed a serious menace to Wellington's grasp on Madrid. The recently defeated French army in the north also built up its strength. Wellington made plans to counter the southern French threat while hoping to quickly capture the strategically important Burgos position, which was an important French supply base.

Instead, Dubreton led a masterful defense, thwarting Wellington's assaults time after time. The British commander's hopes were blasted when his attempts to contain the twin French counteroffensives failed. With large French relief armies approaching Burgos from the northeast and Madrid from the southeast, the British commander withdrew to the west, abandoning large areas of Spain that had been recently liberated. That fall the French lost an opportunity to defeat Wellington's army. Nevertheless, during the withdrawal to Portugal the Anglo-Portuguese army lost many men to pursuing French cavalry and starvation.

Timeline of the Peninsular War

The following table shows the sequence of events of the Peninsular War (1807–1814). It includes major battles, smaller actions, uprisings, sieges and other related events that took place during that period.

For ease of reference using modern maps, the provinces/regions given for Spain and Portugal are those that correspond to the 20th century, that is, resulting from the 1976 Constitution of Portugal and the processes of devolution of Spain's transition to democracy (1979), which created 17 autonomous communities (regions) and 2 autonomous cities. This affects, in particular, the historical regions and provinces of León and Old Castile (Spanish: Castilla la Vieja), constituted in 1983 as Castile and León. Events in Portugal and France are specified.

VIII Corps (Grande Armée)

The VIII Corps of the Grande Armée was the name of a French military unit that existed during the Napoleonic Wars. Emperor Napoleon formed it in 1805 by borrowing divisions from other corps and assigned it to Marshal Édouard Adolphe Casimir Joseph Mortier. Marshal André Masséna's Army of Italy was also reorganized as the VIII Corps at the end of the 1805 campaign. The corps was reformed for the 1806 campaign under Mortier and spent the rest of the year mopping up Prussian garrisons in western Germany.

After Jean-Andoche Junot's Army of Portugal was repatriated after the Convention of Cintra in 1808, it was reconstituted as the VIII Corps. However, Junot's command was broken up before the end of the year. In 1809, the soldiers from the Kingdom of Württemberg were formed into a new VIII Corps under the leadership of Dominique Vandamme. After seeing a few battles, they were used to protect Napoleon's rear areas. By January 1810 a new VIII Corps was created in Spain and placed under Junot. This unit participated in Masséna's invasion of Portugal before being discontinued in 1811.

A new VIII Corps was formed from Westphalians for the 1812 French invasion of Russia and placed under Junot's command. The corps was effectively destroyed during the retreat. The following year, the corps was rebuilt with Polish units and assigned to Józef Poniatowski. The VIII Corps fought in the fall 1813 campaign and ceased to exist after the Battle of Leipzig.

Peninsular War
Invasion of Portugal, 1810–1811

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