The War of Independence in Aragon

The first siege of Zaragoza

The uprising in Zaragoza on 24th May was the cause of a tremendous outburst of military activity in the first year of the war. This energy can be seen in the capacity of the city of Zaragoza to withstand two full scale sieges. The first started on 15th July after the defeats of the Aragonese at Tudela, Mallén and Alagón, and lasted until 15th August when the French lifted the siege after receiving news of their defeat at Bailén.

The second siege of Zaragoza

The second began on 20th December, a consequence of the defeat of the Army of Aragón at Tudela on 25th November. The siege was terrible and the fight merciless, sometimes taking days for a single building. During the heroic resistence some persons catch the popular imagination, like Agustina de Aragón, portrayed by Goya in his Disasters of War.

Finally, the general Palafox, severly ill and resourceless, surrendered the exhausted and destroyed city. More than six thousand unburied corpses were lying dead in the streets.

Agustina de Aragón

Goya could personally appreciate the horrible effects of the artillery. The resistence of Zaragoza became famous in Europe, and it was remembered by contemporary writers. A French official, after coming into Zaragoza, wrote: "What a war! Victory gives fear!"


General Palafox

Occupation of Aragon

The French temporarily occupied Tarazona, Daroca and Calatayud but did not establish complete territorial control. Outside the besieged city the Aragonese controlled a large part of Aragon with positions of support in Zuera, Leciñena and Alcubierre in the North, and the cordón de Samper, in the South.

1809 began with strong French pressure on the capital (which capitulated on the 21st of February) and on other strategic points: Calatayud on 4th January; the battle of Leciñena on 24th January; Wattier arrived in Samper on 19th January and Elola withdrew to Alcañiz; Mortier entered Huesca on 4th February; the city of Jaca fell on 22nd March; In May and June Blake attempted to recover Zaragoza and his failure led to the defeats at Maria de Huerva (15th June), Belchite (18th June) and Alcaniz (19th June). The South also fell (Teruel, 23rd December; Abarracín, 26th December).

The guerrilla war

The new phase of the war was characterized by French control of the areas surrounding the cities, and of strategically located strong points for the transport of troops and supplies. The Aragonese reorganised the army into a series of mobile guerrilla groups which enabled them to ceaselessly harrass the enemy and maintain large areas of the territory under their control for long periods.

In 1810, Pedro Villacampa harassed the enemy in Teruel and the area around Calatayud. Felipe Perena stayed in the area near the River Cinca until he was captured in Lerida on 14th May. Mequinenza fell into French hands on 8th June. Almost entirely independent guerrilla groups (Borrás, Abian, Rambla) operated in the area around Beceite throughout the summer. In 1811, the divisions of Durán and Juan Martín 'the Stubborn', attacked Calatayud on 25th September. In the North, Espoz y Mina replaced Perena and moved from Cinco Villas to the river Gallego, occupied Ayerbe and broke the French lines of communication between Huesca and Zaragoza.

In 1812, Villacampa continued his activity in Calatayud, went on to Teruel and then retreated to La Almunia. On 2nd October he recovered Calatayud.

The Liberation War

1813 and 1814 were years of Spanish offensives, which saw the recovery of Zaragoza (July 1813), Daroca (August), Mequinenza, Jaca and Monzon (Feb. 1814), Benasque (Apr. 1814). The War had effectively finished in Spain.

Pilar Rivero

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