Siege of Astorga

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This article is about the French victory in 1810. For the Spanish victory in 1812, see Siege of Astorga (1812).
Siege of Astorga
Part of the Peninsular War
Stone walls of the city of Astorga
The walls of Astorga
Date 21 March — 22 April 1810
Location Astorga, Spain
42°27′30″N 6°3′30″W / 42.45833°N 6.05833°W / 42.45833; -6.05833
Result French victory
Territorial
changes
Astorga, Spain
Belligerents
 France  Spain
Commanders and leaders
France André Masséna
France Jean-Andoche Junot
Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg José María Santocildes
Strength
10,800 infantry,
1,200 cavalry,
18 guns
2,700 infantry
Casualties and losses
160 dead,
400 wounded
51 dead,
109 wounded

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.

Location[edit]

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]

Forces[edit]

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]

Campaign[edit]

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 mean time, 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]

Aftermath[edit]

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]

References[edit]

  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