Battles of Bailen and Tudela 1808 – Napoleonic Wars DOCUMENTARY

Battles of Bailen and Tudela 1808 – Napoleonic Wars DOCUMENTARY

Although the French troops managed to take
over Spain and Portugal with a relative ease, the rebellions against them started immediately
and proved that the Peninsular War won’t be concluded as fast as Napoleon expected. While the siege of Zaragoza was ongoing, situation
was changing rapidly in the southern part of Spain and the iconic battle of Bailen was
soon to happen. Was it the time for Napoleon to step in? Previously, Napoleon dispatched General Pierre
Dupont to re-assert French control over the south of Spain. Dupont was a rising star, only recently promoted
to general. This was a huge task for such an untested
commander, and he was not given much to accomplish it. The core of his 13,000-man force was not even
French, but Swiss. These were experienced regular soldiers, but
had been forced into the Imperial army under duress, so their loyalty was dubious. The rest of Dupont’s force were mostly raw
recruits who had never seen action. Still, Dupont had success in the initial stage
of his campaign. On the June 7th 1808, he seized the strategically-important
city of Córdoba. However, the countryside behind Dupont’s
army began to rise in rebellion. Peasants formed guerrilla bands that attacked
French messengers and supply convoys. If the general did not act quickly, he would
be cut off. Dupont was forced to retreat beyond the Guadalquivir
river, but was extremely slow due to the loot his army took in Córdoba. Soon he was reinforced by two divisions sent
from Madrid which brought his troops to 22,000 men. At the same time Spanish regulars and rebels
have started to unite under the leadership of general of General Francisco Javier Castaños
and he had more than 30,000 under his command. Dupont needed to retreat to Madrid, but received
no such order. To prevent Castaños from crossing Guadalquivir,
he moved most of his troops to the place called Andújar, leaving smaller units to defend
the crossing at Mengíbar and the city of Bailén, which was crucial for the communications
with Madrid. Although Castaños was a novice and never
commanded an army, Dupont’s passivity allowed him to take the initiative. On the 16th of July he divided his army in
two and the smaller group attacked Dupont’s main force at Andújar. However, the primary point of attack was against
the Dupont’s left flank commanded by general Liger-Веlair. Although the crossing was tough, the Spaniards
under von Reding had the overwhelming numbers at this position and outnumbered the French
at least 3-to-1. Liger-Веlair sent messengers to the unit
in Bailen, commanded by general Gobert, asking for help. Despite the fact that Gobert moved fast, the
united French forces were drove back from Mengíbar and the Spaniards crossed the river. The French troops, covered by their cuirassiers
first retreated to Bailén and then to Guarromán and beyond in order to keep the passages across
the Sierra Morena mountains secured. Dupont who knew about the engagement and stopped
the false attack on his position with ease, sent one of his units under Vedel to assist
his left flank ea rly on the 17th. In order to move faster, Vedel decided to
use the road to and from Bailén. However, when he reached the town, he received
a false message, claiming that the Spanish are already at La Carolina, so he moved to
the north. The messengers he sent to Dupont were caught. As a result, already outnumbered French forces
were now divided into two groups separated by at least a day of heavy march. Von Reding either had a better reconnaissance
or was informed by the locals, but he used the distance between the French and took Bailén. By the night of the 18th Dupont started to
understand the danger of his current position and decided to move to the north, towards
the mountain passes. He forced marched his troops, which allowed
him to create some space with the troops of Castaños. However, he didn’t know that von Reading
is expecting him at Bailén. Dupont’s tired and battered troops reached
the stream near the town on the morning of the 19th. Although von Reding’s troops occupied an
elevation and had a very defensible position, which was only possible to attack from a narrow
front, Dupont decided to charge, knowing that there are more Spanish troops to the south. Dupont also hoped that Vedel’s troops will
come to his help hearing the fight. The French charged 7 times uphill and were
even able to break through the first line of the Spanish troops on a few occasions,
but his troops were forced to retreat each time. At the same time a few thousand of his Swiss
soldiers deserted him and joined von Reding, who was their compatriot. Light Spanish troops sent by Castaños started
to arrive on the battlefield and Dupont was now surrounded and offered von Reding to surrender. Vedel’s troops arrived from the north shortly
after and even destroyed a few Spanish units, but it was too late, as Dupont ordered Vedel
to surrender. More than 2000 French were killed and more
than 17 thousand became prisoners of war as the result of the battle of Bailén. When news of this catastrophe reached Zaragoza
in early August, Verdier destroyed his fortifications and began withdrawing from the city. The French fell back slowly, by August 17th,
they were gone. They had lost nearly four thousand men. The Spanish had won, but at a terrible cost,
perhaps as high as five thousand casualties. Palafox was hailed as a hero. Zaragoza had been saved in no small part by
the bravery and determination of her defenders, but none of it would have been possible without
the Spanish victory at the Battle of Bailén. A few weeks later French commander in Portugal
Junot lost to the allied Anglo-Portuguese forces at Vimiero and surrendered the country. Napoleon ordered all French troops in Iberia
to fall back to the Ebro river, abandoning most of the peninsula. At Bailén and Vimiero, Napoleon had lost
much more than his soldiers- the myth of invincibility which had surrounded the French army for nearly
a decade was shattered. But Napoleon was nowhere near giving up his
ambition to control Portugal and Spain and started to gather his forces, planning to
personally lead his forces. While Napoleon gathered his forces, the Spanish
attempted to continue the offensive, hoping to push the French entirely out. However, by the fall of 1808, they had lost
the momentum. The French had recovered from the initial
shock of the rebellion, and the inexperience and poor organization of the Spanish armies
was beginning to show. The French were able to hold onto their defensive
positions without too much trouble, while Napoleon took his time getting tsar Alexander’s
guarantees that Russia won’t attack France in his absence. By November, the French were ready. The Emperor decided on an audacious plan:
he would lure the Spanish forward by feigning weakness in the French center. Then, once the enemy was across the Ebro river
and over-extended, the French would strike them simultaneously on both flanks, trapping
the advancing Spanish between two pincers. If executed properly, all of Spain’s field
armies might be surrounded and destroyed in one fell swoop. Contrary to Napoleon’s orders, Lefebvre
ordered his corps forward early. On October 31st, Lefebvre’s 24,000 men encountered
a Spanish force of around 19,000 under General Joaquín Blake at the Battle of Pancorbo. The Spanish were surprised, but rallied for
a tenacious fighting retreat, preventing Lefebvre from completing the encirclement of their
army. General Blake had been tipped off to the precariousness
of his position, and with his lines of retreat still open, his army began to fall back. Napoleon ordered Lefebvre to pursue, supported
by another corps under Marshal Claude Victor. If Victor and Lefebvre were quick, there may
have still been time to pin Blake down before he could escape the trap. Napoleon’s offensive officially began on
November 6th. All along the front, the French suddenly sprung
into action, catching the Spanish off-guard and unprepared. Some Spanish units panicked and fled, others
resisted bravely, but all were ultimately forced to fall back. Napoleon had seized the initiative. The campaign was off to a promising start,
but the Emperor constantly harangued his commanders to move faster. Despite his entreaties, the French armies
were never able to achieve the level of speed Napoleon envisioned in his plans. Napoleonic strategy relied on rapid movement,
but what was possible in the plains of Germany or Austria often proved unworkable in the
rugged hills of Spain. Napoleon’s great pincers were to converge
on Tudela, a town in north-eastern Spain, site of one of the last bridges over the river
Ebro still open to the Spanish. If the French seized the bridge, the Spanish
field armies would be trapped. Marshal Jean Lannes, who was known as one
of the fastest and most aggressive of Napoleon’s commanders, arrived at Tudela on November
23rd with around 30,000 men. Lannes discovered the enemy had just barely
beaten him there. A Spanish army of around 33,000 had occupied
the town and begun to cross the river– it would only be a matter of time before they
were over the Ebro to safety. They were led by the victor of Bailén, General
Francisco Castaños, but unfortunately for the Spanish, Castaños was ill, so the inspiring,
but less capable General José de Palafox took command. Tudela could have been a strong defensive
position– the town is surrounded by hills, and protected on one side by the Ebro river,
but the Spanish army had only just arrived, and were still exhausted from their rapid
retreat. There had been hardly any time to set up a
strong perimeter, and Palafox had made little effort to do so. Marshal Lannes was outnumbered, but he sensed
the Spanish weakness, and understood the importance of engaging the enemy before they escaped. The two armies made contact in the early morning,
and Lannes ordered his advance guard to attack immediately. This was a small, haphazard assault, but the
Spanish were only able to hold them off with great difficulty. The French fell back, but this probe had laid
bare the vulnerabilities of the Spanish position. Marshal Lannes’s instincts had been correct,
and he prepared to pounce. There was no time to prepare any sophisticated
maneuvers; Lannes’s plan was simply to launch his army at the beleaguered, disorganized
Spanish, break them as quickly as possible, and trap them against the other wing of Napoleon’s
pincer before they could escape. The assault began in earnest with General
Antoine Morlot’s division moving directly against the heights at the Spanish center. Under normal circumstances, this would be
a careless, almost reckless maneuver. However, Lannes had confirmation from his
advance guard that the enemy positions were poorly-prepared; too far apart to support
each other, and that the Spanish troops were in no condition for a fight. Morlot’s men took the heights. As the rest of Lannes’s corps arrived on
the scene, he threw them against the unprepared Spanish lines. The French were successful all across the
front, and the enemy was forced to retreat. The Spanish attempted to bring up reinforcements,
but as they approached the battlefield, they found French troops standing between them
and Palafox’s embattled army. Lannes was too fast. It looked like the French might be on the
verge of a total victory. Lannes’s corps was only one half of Napoleon’s
great pincer maneuver. The second half was due to arrive in Tudela
at any moment– an entire fresh corps under Marshal Ney, aimed directly at the rear of
the Spanish army, cutting off any escape. But Marshal Ney never came. Napoleon’s plan had looked perfect on the
map at headquarters, but in practice, it had proved impossible for Ney’s corps to move
quickly enough to rendezvous with Lannes and take part in the battle. Without Ney’s corps to complete the pincer,
the shattered Spanish army was able to disengage and fall back. The French inflicted over four thousand casualties
on the Spanish, at the cost of fewer than seven hundred of their own men, but it was
not the devastating blow Napoleon had hoped for. Most of the Spanish forces escaped to fight
another day. Thanks to Marshal Lefebvre’s impatience,
much of General Blake’s army had escaped as well. The first phase of Napoleon’s offensive
was a success… but total victory had slipped through his fingers. In the space of just three weeks, Napoleon
and his armies had turned the tide of the war. Bonaparte now set his sights on the greatest
prize in Iberia—Madrid, but nothing in Spain was as easy as it seemed. Thank you for watching the third episode of
the second season of our series on the Napoleonic Wars. You can watch the whole first episode via
the link in the description. We would like to express our gratitude to
our Patreon supporters, who make the creation of our videos possible. Now, you can also support us by buying our
merchandise via the link the description. This is the Kings and Generals channel, and
we will catch you on the next one.


  1. Napeolan total war in the Spanish campaign has got to be one of the most annoying battles and conquest I have ever had to put myself through. Jesus the games hard when your units are and you have to complete said campaign in amount of time

  2. It seems like every french commander minus Napoleon 1(even he had a few hiccups himself) was a dumbass. How the hell france ever stayed independent let alone had an empire is beyond me. Seriously, who the hell charges up a hill, surrounded and outnumbered? Napoleon should have fired everybody in the military acadamy and burned it down. They only officers it produced couldn't poor beer out of a boot with instructions on the heel anyways.

  3. Please do a video on the Battle of Tunmen and Battle of Shancaowan (1521 -1522) where naval skirmishes occurred between the Kingdom of Portugal and the Ming Empire.

  4. The Spanish army at that moment was a disorganized and improvised mess mostly filled up with armed civilians trying to defend a headless state and by no means a threat for the French, however the victory of Bailén and the very first defeat of the Napoleonic army has to be presented as a piece of cake.

  5. This video proves that the Spanish forces were very effective during the Peninsular War, particularly those who served as guerrillas. Without the effective resistance given by the insurgents, with close operations conducted by the conventionally trained British, Portuguese, and Spanish troops, the Peninsular War might have been won by Napoleon's legions.

  6. Napoleon: If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself!

    (Bit of an exaggeration in this case as Napoleon had very capable generals under his command, but still, he also learned that no plan survives contact with the enemy, as when Ney was unable to link up with Lannes in time to prevent the Spanish from escaping.)

  7. Great Video on an relatively under studied part of the Napoleonic Wars and watching this reminded me a great book i read a few years back called "The Spanish Ulcer – A History of the Peninsula War"

  8. Napoleon Bonaparte did not consider the terrains though his tactical move was perfect. It is the rough Spanish terrain that delayed the French army

  9. Nice vid, but missing the names of the Corps commanders, division level would be nice too. I see a line of troops but don't know the commanders.

  10. One personally feels some of that intoxication of egotism that drove Napoleon all the time, while watching this.

    But how senseless is invading and usurping a country, just because you can and you feel like?

    He could have created a European Union in the 1810s itself, but instead he chose hubris

  11. I feel the need to mention what everybody else seems to ignore: Dupont was not a raising star, not alone, anyway. He had a friend that everybody though was the same guy, but Dupont was actually two people: Dupont and Dupond.

  12. I would like more information in future videos as to the extent and nature of the artillery presence in each battle. It is central to Napoleonic warfare, but often at odds with the swift encircling movements you point out in this video.

  13. There is no trace on YouTube of the remarkable battle of Agnadello (1509) (or Battle of the Ghiera d'Adda, or Battle of Vailà) in the context of the War of the League of Cambrai "commissioned" by the Pope against the Venetians.
    It's a pity ^^

  14. When napoleon and his generals are proud for routing aldeanos. Its like a noob in a boxer ring making a hard time for a veteran, ending to beat the champion

  15. That remembers me the Numantian wars, could you do something similar? It even gave to an expression "Numantine resistance"

  16. Interesting that this episode was released at almost the same time as the Epic History channel released their episode about the Peninsular War. The two best war history youtubers today.

  17. Dear Kings and Generals great that you make videos about Peninsular War while you're at it will you do one about Fuengirola? Please, please, please do make one, it was such a hilarious battle!

  18. Why did CA remove standardbearers and Musicians from the fucking Warhammer game? They are a big part of the damn tabletop

  19. "But nothing in Spain was as easy as it seemed." I like how you subtly put General Moore picture on the map as a teaser for the next video.

  20. If the french followed the Hun and Mongols way of invading and taking over other territories, there would never be a rebellion in the Iberian peninsula or any in place in Europe in particular, history would have been written by the French.

  21. According to my information there where no Swiss units "changing sides". Unter General Theodor Redding served the official Swiss regiment n. 3 "Redding" under the spanish flag. This regiment actually broke the french resistance by chasing them once the french line retreated. Please, let me know the source where from you have the information about the swiss units that supposedly changed sides during the battle.

  22. Marshal Jean Lannes was one badass commander!!! His untimely death had a huge adverse impact on Napoleon's later years. And looking at the photo of Lannes, the dude was a male super model.

  23. The army of Castaños was composed by a strong core of regiments of infantry, including swiss and irish troops and household troops, and cavalry of the line, plus the Guarde du Corps. New conscripts and units created by the Junta de Sevilla joined the army every day, plus the provincial militias.

    Altough the army was big and the regulars ensured some discipline and could perform complex maneuvers, the quality of the units ranged from good (like the artillery train, that could provide effective counterbattery fire against the imperial guns or some veteran swiss and spanish regiments of the line) to very poor, like the provintial militias, that couldn't hold the rearguard when the french force that came down from Sierra Morena entered the Battle.

    The Spanish fought well, but were very lucky.

  24. The unfortunate war in Spain ruined me. All my reverses originated there. The Spanish war destroyed my reputation throughout Europe Napoleon Bonaparte 1814
    But we have only heard about Russia and Waterloo lol
    The author said inexperienced soldiers… Spain's had probably the best infantry of the world at that time. Maybe not used to that kind of war, but definitely not begginers… Spain's had more wars than Great Britain and France together.

  25. I wonder why Napoleon sent in so many untested or underwhelming generals to Iberia when he had so many great Marshalls

  26. Dupont is decades ahead of his time by inventing the French ww2 strategy of Getting surrounded and encircled. Napoleon is ashamed of an idiot like him.

  27. The problem with many great Generals is if they dont do it themselves it wont get done… Napoleon relying on family members & other Generals to be able to subdue Spain & Portugal was a big mistake…

  28. Key TACTICAL concepts are missing. Start with Garrocheros, for once. Such tactical lacks of information diminish the value of the series. Extremely one-sided (Napoleon's)

    However, thank you for putting your efforts into this.

  29. Why couldn't Napoleon just join Spanish campaign earlier without preventing too many casualties

  30. Marshal Lannes was. A badass. Is it just me that thinks marshal ney was a weak marshal who keep bungling napoleons plans?

  31. I think I know what I’m going to do for Halloween, this year. I think I’m going to put a potato between my legs, and go as a dictator.

  32. These Napoleonic Wars DOCUMENTARY sequences are not numbered … is Battles of Somosierra and Corunna 1808-1809

  33. Attack a fortified position uphill without the other forces even knowing he is fighting… he had guns just start a shelling of the hills and wait for the forces in the north to arrive.

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