Chapter 5 - The Spanish Army
Chapter 6 - The British Army
Chapter 7 - The Portuguese Army
Chapter 8 - The Battle of the Pyrenees
Chapter 9 - After the Pyrenees
The Pyrenees was a battle, or rather a series of battles, fought near the end of the Peninsular War, the struggle that wracked the Iberian Peninsula from 1808 to 1814. That war was but one part of the wider Napoleonic Wars that engulfed Europe in a series of wars and campaigns that lasted almost 20 years and stretched from the Atlantic to Moscow and reached overseas to India, the Caribbean and the Near East. But although the Peninsular War was a part of the wider conflict, it had some unique characteristics that made it a peculiarly savage and hard-fought conflict.
In the earlier stages of the Napoleonic Wars, Spain had remained neutral or actively taken the side of France against the various coalitions that sought to crush Napoleon, the self-proclaimed Emperor of the French. Spain saw the opportunity to make gains for herself, while the French had no ambitions south of the Pyrenees. The situation began to change in 1807. Napoleon stood triumphant in Europe having defeated Prussia, Austria and Russia on the battlefield and having cowed the smaller states into submission. His only remaining enemy was Britain, and there he had a problem.
In 1805 Britain's Admiral Nelson had crushed the combined fleets of France and Spain at the Battle of Trafalgar. As a result, Napoleon had no chance of invading Britain with his magnificent army. Instead he sought to bring Britain to peace talks by crippling her trade. By blocking every European port to British merchant ships, Napoleon believed, he would do so much damage to British wealth that peace on his terms would be inevitable. Not all the European countries wanted to join such a blockade, but one by one they succumbed to Napoleon's threats and bluster. By October 1807 only Portugal still refused to join this Continental System, as it was known.