What Was The Peninsular War?

A monument to the Peninsula War in Cascais, Portugal. Editorial credit: Benny Marty / Shutterstock.com.
A monument to the Peninsula War in Cascais, Portugal. Editorial credit: Benny Marty / Shutterstock.com.

The Peninsular War was a battle fought from 1807 to 1814. The continuous military conflict was between Napoleon’s empire, the Kingdom of Portugal, and the United Kingdom. The center of interest was the control of the Iberian Peninsula. The Peninsular War was sparked by the invasion of Portugal by Spanish and French forces in 1807. Warfare engagement escalated when the French army turned against their ally Spain. On the other hand, the British army supported Portugal and opposed French and Spain.

The War Begins

On July 7, 1807, Napoleon made a treaty with Russia to end the War of the Fourth Coalition. With the Pact, Napoleon embarked on a mission to make economic war against the British by striking at its trade base. The Portuguese were to close the British ports. Portuguese did not comply making Napoleon order General Andoche Junot mobilize an army of 30,000 to march through Spain into Portugal. Napoleon and his army occupied Spain appointed his brother Joseph Bonaparte as the ruler. However, the Spanish rose against the invaders in Madrid leading to the commencement of Spanish Independent War. The rebellion proved fatal to Napoleon’s control. Frenchmen ruthlessly suppressed the Madrid revolt. Spaniards resulted in guerilla warfare and succeeded in expelling Joseph Bonaparte in August.

Defeat of Joseph Bonaparte

In December 1808, the French recaptured Madrid. By January 1810, General Nicolas de Dieu Soult conquered Andalusia. The Peninsula could have finally submitted at that time were it not for guerillas and dissensions among the French. The British forces had by then conquered Lisbon. 1813 saw the defeat of King Joseph’s army at Vitoria by a combined effort of soldiers from Britain, Portugal, and Spain led by Commander Wellington. Joseph Bonaparte’s artillery was captured. Wellington led more successful combats through Northern Spain and entered France. The Battles of Nivelle and Nive between November and December 1813 led by Wellington, further weakened the French army.

End Of The War

In Early 1814, Sir William Clinton, at the Battle of Molins de Rey, invaded Suchet and Barcelona. By March 1814, French army which by now had lost many soldiers and other resources was defeated. On April 13, 1814, report of the capture of Paris and abdication of Napoleon reached the already demotivated soldiers. On April 18, Wellington and Soult signed a convention. Peace negotiations started taking place leading to the signing of the Peace of Paris agreement on May 30, 1814.

Aftermath Of The War

All the countries involved in the war had been pillaged and ruins were all over. There was political, economic, and social turbulence. The French Empire lost an estimated 916,000 men. The allies which include Italians, Russians, Prussians, Australians, Spanish, Portuguese, and Britain lost 2,380,000-5,925,084 men. King Joseph was welcomed by the Spanish who wanted to work with him to bring liberty and modernization. The Portuguese Court was transferred to Rio de Janeiro thereby initiating Brazil’s State-building process that brought independence in 1822.

Significance And Legacy Of The War

The Peninsula War is referred to as one of the first wars of national liberation. The war led to emergence of large-scale guerrilla warfare tactic. For the first time, the British troops were involved in the war on land. The consequence of the war led to the Spanish Constitution of 1812.The resultant revolution and crisis led to the independence of a majority of Spain’s American colonies. Brazil also gained independence from Portugal. A stage that led to the rise of the Duke of Wellington to prominence nationally and internationally was set.


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