Benito de San Juan

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Benito de San Juan (before 1775 – 7 January 1809) was a Spanish military officer and a notable commander of the Spanish forces during the Peninsular War. He was commanding officer of the Spanish forces during the Battle of Somosierra.


Benito de San Juan started his military career as a Lieutenant Colonel of the hussars of Estremadura during the War of the Oranges (1801). Noticed by Manuel Godoy, he was promoted to colonel and in 1802 was named commander of Godoy's personal guard. He was promoted to Brigadier followed by his promotion in 1805 to the rank of Mariscal (field marshal). He then became general inspector of Spanish infantry and line cavalry.

During the Peninsular War he assumed command over the major portion of the Spanish forces defending Madrid. Knowing the weakness of his forces, much inferior to the French army (considered the best fighting force of its time), he prepared a plan of indirect defence of the Spanish capital by defending the road leading to the Somosierra Pass. At the resulting battle of Somosierra he lost most of his artillery and his force was dispersed. San Juan himself was wounded several times during the charge of the Polish cavalry.

He managed to withdraw with the remnants of his routed forces to Talavera de la Reina, where he attempted to rally his army. However, the demoralisation of the Spanish army, composed in a large part of untrained conscripts and peasant volunteers, led to a mutiny. On 7 January 1809, the mutineers captured San Juan and executed him.


  1. "Benito San Juan – nieszczęsny generał (Benito San Juan, the Unfortunate General)". Rzeczpospolita (in Polish). 123 (2006-05-27). May 2006.