Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The French Invasion of Spain, 1823

Battle of Trocadero, 1823
From author Shannon Selin:
The 100,000 sons of Saint Louis – otherwise known as the Army of the Pyrenees, mobilized for the invasion – actually numbered around 60,000. The problem of ensuring soldiers’ loyalty without compromising their efficiency was dealt with by giving primary commands to former Napoleonic generals (who had the necessary experience) and secondary commands to royalists (who were unlikely to mutiny). Louis XVIII’s nephew, the Duke of Angoulême was made commander-in-chief, despite his lack of military experience. He was not keen on the appointment, but agreed to it as an honourary post, leaving the army’s actual military direction to General Armand Guilleminot, who had served under Napoleon.

The government hoped that victory over the revolutionary forces in Spain would break the spirit of those who were conspiring against the Bourbons in France. Many French political refugees, including some who had fled to the United States and participated in the Vine and Olive Colony or the Champ d’Asile, fought on the side of the Spanish constitutionalists. Among them was the indomitable Charles Lallemand, who organized a Legion of French Refugees in Spain.
At the beginning of February 1823, police spies reported they had heard that:
Before the end of the month, Spain will have organized an army of one hundred and eighty thousand men to oppose the French invasion; this army will have for its vanguard a French legion, which will march under tri-coloured flags; this legion will nominate a French regency with Prince Eugène Beauharnais at its head….
The French army will be the scorn of all Europe; it can hope for no success when commanded by a prince…who has no claim on the confidence of true Frenchmen….
The first shot fired at the Pyrenees shall be the signal for the downfall of the Bourbons in France, Spain and Naples. Such are the hopes and prayers of the liberals in all countries. (2)
On April 6, 1823, the question of the army’s allegiance was answered. Just as happens in Napoleon in America, a group of insurgents led by Colonel Charles Fabvier (subject of a future post) tried to subvert the French forces at the Bidassoa River who were preparing to enter Spain. Fabvier’s group hoisted the tricolour flag, sang “La Marseillaise” and urged the soldiers to desert the Bourbons. Instead the French troops obeyed General Louis Vallin’s orders to open fire on Fabvier and his men. (Read more.)

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