General Carlos Areizaga was an unsuccessful Spanish general during the Peninsular War. He first rose to prominence as the commander of a division in the Army of the Right under General Blake during 1809. In the summer of 1809 Blake led that army towards Saragossa, hoping to liberate the city. Areizaga was absent during the battle of Maria of 15 June, which saw Marshal Suchet win a victory that forced Blake to retreat, but he was present at the battle of Belchite on 18 June 1809 which ended in something of a Spanish rout after a stray French shell detonated the main Spanish ammunition dump.
Areizaga was then promoted to command one of two new Spanish armies being created to carry out a two-pronged assault on Madrid. In the north General Del Parque was given command of the “Army of the Left”, with the job of drawing the French reserves away from Madrid. In the south Areizaga formed a new Army of La Mancha from the remnants of the armies previous commanded by Generals Cuesta and Venegas. Eventually this new army contained 50,000 men, including 6,000 cavalry, and was one of the best armies fielded by the Spanish during the entire war. Areizaga’s role would be to attack Madrid from the south once the reserves had been pulled away to deal with Del Parque.
The plan came close to success. On 8 November Areizaga’s army suddenly appeared south of Ocaña, putting him within striking distance of King Joseph at Madrid. Unfortunately Areizaga then paused for three days, allowing the French to concentrate their forces to protect Madrid. On 19 November 1809 Areizaga suffered a crushing defeat at Ocaña, losing half of his army. The French captured 14,000 men, fifty cannon and thirty standards and probably inflicted 12,000 casualties on the Spanish. When Areizaga was finally able to muster the survivors, he only had 24,000 men left.
Nine days after the disaster at Ocaña, Del Parque’s army was defeated at Alba de Tormes. The two defeats led to the fall of the Central Junta, which had been formed during 1808, and its eventual replacement with a new National Cortes, although it would take until September 1810 for the Cortes to hold its first meeting. By then Areizaga had suffered more defeats. At the start of 1810 the French decided to invade Andalusia, the richest province in Spain, and the seat (at Seville) of the Junta. Areizaga, with 19,000 men, was given the task of protecting the thirty mile long line from La Carolina to Montison.
In January 1810 the French launched a two pronged assault on the weak Spanish lines. To the west Marshal Victor reached Almaden on 12 January, heading for Cordova. On 18 January King Joseph, at the head of 40,000 men, attacked Areizaga’s position at La Carolina, while another French force attacked the Spanish right. Both flanks soon crumbled. Areizaga’a reserve division was forced to surrender at Linares, while Areizaga himself attempted to retreat south towards Granada. On 23 January the remnants of his army was dispersed by General Sebastiani close to Jaen. On 1 February Seville fell to the French, and the Junta was forced to flee to Cadiz. Areizaga escaped from the rout, but was replaced by General Manuel Freire.
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