Peninsular War

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Spanish uprising, 1808

Napoleon's campaign, 1808–1809

Portugal and northern Spain, 1809

Castile and Andalusia, 1809–1810

Aragón and Catalonia, 1809–1814

Invasion of Portugal, 1810–1811

Castile, 1811–1812

Vitoria and the Pyrenees, 1813–1814

The Peninsular War[3] was a war between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when French armies crossed Spain and invaded Portugal in 1807 and then in 1808 turned on its ally, Spain. The war lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814.

Spain's liberation struggle marked one of the first national wars[4] and the emergence of large-scale guerrillas, from which the English language borrowed the word.[5] While the French occupation destroyed the Spanish administration, which fragmented into quarrelling provincial juntas. In 1810, a reconstituted national government fortified itself in Cádiz and proved unable to recruit, train, or equip effective armies due to being under siege. British and Portuguese forces secured Portugal, using it as a secure position from which to launch campaigns against the French army while Spanish guerrilleros bled the occupiers.[6] Combined, the regular and irregular allied forces prevented Napoleon's marshals from subduing the rebellious Spanish provinces.[7]

The many years of fighting in Spain gradually wore down Napoleon's famous Grande Armée. While the French armies were often victorious in battle, their communications and supplies were severely tested and their units frequently cut off, harassed, or overwhelmed by partisans. The Spanish army, though beaten and driven to the peripheries, could not be stamped out and continued to hound the French relentlessly.[8]

The constant threatening presence of a British force under Arthur Wellesley, which became the most experienced and steady force in the British army, guarded Portugal and campaigned against the French in Spain alongside the reformed Portuguese army. Allied to the British, the demoralised Portuguese army underwent extensive reorganising, retraining and refitting under the command of British General William Carr Beresford,[9] appointed commander-in-chief of the Portuguese forces by the exiled Portugese Royal family, and fought as part of a combined Anglo-Portuguese army under Wellington.

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