Sack of Cordova, 7 June 1808

The sack of Cordova of 7 June 1808 was an early indication of the ferocity which would be a distinguishing feature of the Spanish uprising against French Rule (Peninsular War). At the start of the uprising the French armies, which were concentrated around Madrid, were largely dispersed to deal with what Napoleon at first believed to be a series of isolated revolts. One column, under the command of General Dupont, was sent south west to deal with the revolt in Andalusia. His first target was the city of Cordova (Córdoba).

The defence of Cordova was led by Don Pedro de Echavarri, a retired colonel who had been placed in charge of the local levies. His army was about the same size as Dupont’s, but while both armies contained raw recruits, the French had at least undergone some basic training before marching into Spain, while the Spanish were completely inexperienced. On 7 June Echavarri attempted to stop the French at Alcolea, but his army was swept aside after a short battle. The Spanish suffered 200 casualties, the French only 30 dead and 80 wounded, in a battle that had seen over 20,000 involved. The retreating Spanish army fled past Cordova, and made no attempt to defend the city.

After the short battle Dupont rested his men, and then later on the same day made the six mile march to Cordova, where he expected to have to fight again. Instead he found the walls deserted. The gates were barred against him, but only to give the city government time to negotiate a formal surrender. During these negotiations a few scattered shots appear to have been fired at the French from the vicinity of the city. Dupont used this as an excuse to break off the negotiations. Instead he used his cannons to blow open one of the gates, and then sent his troops storming into the city.

Once inside they found nobody to fight – the total French casualties during the storm of Cordova were reported as two dead and seven wounded, indicating that no street-fighting took place. Despite this lack of resistance, the city was thoroughly sacked. When the French left nine days later they took 500 wheeled vehicles full of plunder with them (their unwillingness to abandon this plunder would soon contribute to their disastrous defeat at Baylen on 19 July). Dozens of Spanish civilians were killed, but the main focuses of the marauding French troops were women, wine and plunder. The wealthy churches of Cordova appear to have come in for particular attention losing much of their silver.

As news of the sack of Cordova spread through the surrounding countryside the Spanish guerrillas responded with their own series of atrocities. One French general was said to have been thrown into a vat of boiling water, and over the next few days every isolated French detachment within 150 miles of Cordova was overwhelmed and the survivors massacred. The sack of Cordova and the Spanish reaction set the tone for the rest of the war, which would be unusually bitter.

History of the Peninsular War vol.1: 1807-1809 - From the Treaty of Fontainebleau to the Battle of Corunna, Sir Charles Oman. The first volume of Oman's classic seven volume history of the Peninsular War, this is one of the classic works of military history and provides an invaluable detailed narrative of the fighting in Spain and Portugal. This first volume covers the initial French intervention, the start of the Spanish uprising, the early British involvement in Spain and Portugal and Napoleon's own brief visit to Spain.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 February 2008), Sack of Cordova, 7 June 1808,

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