The French capture of Pamplona, 16 February 1808, was one of a series of surprise attacks on Spain’s border fortifications that marked the beginning of the French invasion of Spain. At the start of 1808 France and Spain were officially allies, but after the easy conquest of Portugal Napoleon had turned his attentions to Spain, which he believed would fall equally easily. A large number of French troops were already in Spain, but the Spanish had a series of strong fortifications on their border with France, which would endanger any further French campaign in Spain.
One of those fortresses was located at Pamplona, guarding the northern entrance to the Ebro valley. Spanish troops held the citadel, while French troops were garrisoned in the town. On the morning of 16 February unarmed French troops congregated outside the gates of the citadel, as if waiting for a distribution of rations. Under the cover of a snowball fight they rushed the gates, overpowering the guards and seizing their muskets. They were followed in by a company of armed grenadiers and then by a battalion of French troops. The Spanish garrison was unarmed, surprised and overwhelmed, and within a short time had been ejected from the fortress.