Throughout Spain bands of local men armed with whatever they could find by way of weapons embarked on a campaign of sustained and determined resistance to the French. These guerilleros did not wear uniforms and did not form an orderly army, instead they emerged from the local population to fight when an opportunity offered then melted back into the population afterwards. Most bands were small and drawn from rural areas, only a few being larger than a couple of dozen men and even fewer being based in urban areas. Some of the guerrilla leaders were regular army officers who had taken to the hills rather than surrender to the French.
The rise of the guerilleros was aided by the behaviour of the French troops. The supply system of the French army was never very good, and in the rugged countryside of Spain frequently broke down entirely. French troops were forced to steal food from the locals, who then went hungry. Looting of things other than food was frequent, while rapes and murders were not unknown. These early outrages by the French spurred the guerrillas to reprisals, not only refusing to take prisoners but frequently torturing any Frenchmen they could get hold of. The French responded in kind so that large swathes of the Spanish countryside became abandoned by all except the dead.
It was a savage war with high casualty rates, the guerrillas killing far more French soldiers than did the regular Spanish army. The guerrilla war had a wider impact on the French army than mere casualties. Because small French patrols were likely to be ambushed, the French could not move except in large numbers. In some areas a messenger would not get through unless escorted by at least 300 men. That meant not only that the French generals were often ignorant of what each other were doing, it also restricted the French to main roads where they could move in safety. The more rural areas gradually became off limits to the French, allowing Spanish forces to move unseen across Spain.
from "The Battle of Talavera"
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Product DescriptionAt Talavera a British army under Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) tried to link up with a Spanish army under General Cuesta to ambush a French corps under Marshal Victor. But things went wrong and the British had to fight their way to safety.
This book forms part of the Bretwalda Battles series on The Peninsular War.
The book outlines the Peninsular War up to the start of the Talavera Campaign. It then analyses the careers of the commanders and explains the tactics and weapons of the time together with any differences between the practices of the armies involved in the battle. The book then describes the action in detail before moving on to outline events after the battle.
Written by a military author of great experience, this book explains the way battles were fought two centuries ago and explains the course of the action in an accessible but authoritative style.
This lavishly illustrated ebook is a must for anyone interested in the Peninsular War in general or the Battle of Talavera in particular.